A Letter to Penny: Oh How I Love Blackout Curtains


-photo from our fabulous family session with Cling & Peck

Dear Penny,

You are so cool.  Way too cool.  You make me laugh all day every day.  Your laugh is the cutest thing I’ve ever heard.  Your smile is this goofy, crinkly cute thing that is impossible not to smile at.

You’ve been a breeze to raise.  And, really, even the challenging moments haven’t been all that challenging.  Our battle for naps was one such challenge.

Shortly after you turned one you were seemingly unable to take two naps.  You were willing and wanting to go down for your morning nap but then couldn’t not let sleep overtake you for the usual second nap.  And yet, I would still try for both every single day.  Why?  Because, sweet girl, you were so tired!  I’m just thankful that you wear tired so well.  Sure, you were grumpy and clingy, but still hilarious and jovial all at the same time.

And then we traveled to Minnesota for Thanksgiving with my family.  You struggled for sleep as usual for the first couple of days and then suddenly you went out like a light for both naps and requested slightly earlier bedtimes every night too.

Then the minute we get home you’re back to fighting naps.  In that first afternoon of a sleepless you a little idea popped into my head, “I think this sweet baby has become too sensitive to the daylight to shut her little eyes for naps.”  So I ordered blackout curtains and anxiously awaited their arrival.

A few days ago they came and I put them up right away.  And, wouldn’t you know it, I have a whole different story on my hands!  You don’t even make a peep every time I lay you down for a nap and for bed.  I’ve never loved a few pieces of fabric so much in my life!  I borderline idolize those light blocking curtains.  Wow, what a gift!

Needless-to-say, I’m overjoyed to report that my sweet and spunky you is back to your usual well-slept self.  This means no whining, grumpiness, or crying.  Seriously, you’re the most laid back and hilarious baby I’ve ever known.  I love you to pieces Penny and I’m so thankful that we were able to crack this nap code together and get you some much needed rest!

With all my heart,



A Letter to Maisy: That’s a Lot of Questions


Dearest Maisy,

You are sweet, smart, and very social.  My life is all butterflies, flowers, dresses, singing and dancing.

Oh, and a lot of question-answering.

Growing up, I remember asking my dad questions and getting answers every time.  I remember him telling me why the sky is blue in particular.  So, before signing up to be a parent I committed in my heart to honoring your curiosity and respecting your words the same way I like mine to be heard and respected.  And it’s been a great road to walk on for over 3 years with you.  Until about 1 month ago or so.  Either I’ve reached my maximum of answer giving power or you’ve upped it up a notch.  Now all I hear are endless streams of whines, “why”s, and repetitive questions.  I truly am still more than happy to answer your question the first time.  I’m even more than happy to answer to “why” several times in a row before tiring.  But when you ask me the exact same question 3+ times right in a row, ask “why” so many times I can’t keep count, or whine… girl, I’m finished.

It’s a mentally exhausting season with you.  And though I find myself frustrated with the annoyance of it all sometimes, I also get equally as frustrated with myself for not being just a little more patient.  If I think about this question-asking business in the long term I think it points to a very smart woman.  An inquisitive nature is a very good thing and I hope I never make you feel otherwise.

So Maisy, please keep asking me questions and learning about your world.  And keep giving me the grace I need in the moments when I’ve run out of answers or perseverance.



Life is Pain

A LITTLE BACKSTORY (pun intended):   My diagnosis via MRI is that my L4 and L5 discs are bulging.  The bulges likely started during my first birth (a hard, back labor).  Then got worse during the second (another hard, back labor).  The symptoms blindsided me Thanksgiving day 2016 and we’ve been working on it ever since.  I’ve tried most of my options excluding surgery and some other more aggressive manual manipulation back maneuvers (which we can’t even try until the bulges are more controlled).  I’ve done heat, ice, acupuncture, chiropractic care, yoga, stretching, physical therapy, exercise.  I have a spine specialist, primary care physician, and pain doctor all working with me to fix this.  I’m currently still being treated.

Life is Pain

A story about back pain and all the layers that come with it.

Life is pain.  For me.  I have a new, unfortunate, understanding about those that suffer physical ailments.  I find myself thinking about the elderly, paralyzed, deformed, or otherwise incapacitated individuals and count my blessings.  But that’s not enough to transform my trials into triumphs.  I still hurt.

What’s worse, I’m unable to stomach being anything other than the picture of strength.  I’ve always taken pride in being strong, both physically and emotionally.  So, my pride is damaged due to my emotions being damaged by my physical state.  I’m a mess because I’m a mess because I’m a mess.

Physically I’m in pain every waking moment (and often in too much pain during the night to find sleep) and on strict orders to not lift anything.  My physical pain runs in shoots and daggers all down the lower left side of my body while my foot is left numb and tingling from the intensity.  I can’t sit.  I can’t bend over.  Sometimes laying down or standing up is too much to bear but what other options do I have?

Emotionally I’m a wreck due to a trifecta of issues: one, this crippling physical state leaves me constantly emotionally frustrated; two, I’m trying to raise a baby and a very emotional and headstrong 3 year old; three, my pain is so fierce that my emotional state withers to a state of constantly on the end of tears… all while also wearing the hats of freelance photographer, day care provider, small business owner, and wife.

Since I was born, I’ve been strong.  I could hold my own big head up the minute I took my first breath.  As a kid, I climbed trees and frolicked among the grass all day. Through all of my school age years I played sports (basketball, lacrosse, soccer, volleyball, softball, track…) and roughhoused with the guys.  I did not cry.

Now-a-days, I find it a fierce and losing inner battle to keep my tears from spilling over.  I so desperately want to keep all my feelings to myself.  Not because I need to look strong to those around me, but because letting them go doesn’t make me feel any better.  In fact, it just makes me feel worse.  I need to move on before they’ve manifested themselves.  I need to turn around and skip the other direction and put a smile on my face.

This morning, I struggled to pick myself up off the ground and take a hike back towards the path of sunshine and rainbows that is my, usual, constant companion called optimism.  Even on days like today I can’t deny how life-giving the sunshine is, how perfectly crisp the fall weather is, and how undeniably miraculous and special my two daughters are.  But that doesn’t change that I woke at 5 to the baby, then 6 to the husband leaving for church, then 6:30 to the toddler, then 7:30 to the baby again.  It doesn’t change that the baby was soaked in her own pee from head to toe due to a faulty diaper. It doesn’t change that I am in constant pain from my back.  It doesn’t change that I’m about to get my period so I’m also experiencing all the grumpy feelings that come with that.  It doesn’t change that I didn’t get to go on that morning walk due to the baby, though I need it so desperately to set my back pain in the best order I can for the day.  It doesn’t change that that same baby chose not to take her morning nap, but to chat and poop instead.  It doesn’t change that when I went to go get that baby to go to church that I stuck my finger in this poop.  It doesn’t change that I screamed at the air around me in an effort to blow all the frustrated feelings out of my body.

I never want to feel this way again or to act poorly in the face of frustrations like this.  I admit, I’m a perfectionist when it comes to my emotions.  I firmly believe I should be able to control my feelings to stay within the perfect bubbliness that is the Kaia I’ve known for so long and yet seen so infrequently since my back pain became too much for too long some months ago now.

In truth, I’m writing this blog in hopes of coming to a better understanding about to better control myself.  And I’m definitely writing it to explain myself and apologize to any of you innocent souls that may come across me while I’m entirely unable to paste a smile on my face and greet you warmly. But now I find myself at the end of my thoughts and still no wiser.  So at least I got to explain myself and apologize right?

Cheers to a better tomorrow,


Love and Logic: Getting Your Kid to Clean Up

Love and Logic

Getting Your Kid to Clean Up


Some months ago Maisy made a habit of saying “no” every time it was time to clean up.  I would count to three and she still would say “no.”  So I’d put her in time out.  For weeks.  And for weeks, while she was in time out, all the other kids cleaned up.  That didn’t sit right.  So I started doing some research and came up with this, and it worked!  Granted, I did fill two laundry baskets of toys before she understood that her “no” was losing her all her favorite toys.

At lunch time she said no.  Toys went into a laundry basket and into time out.

Before bed she said no.  Toys went into another laundry basket and into time out.

The next day before lunch I counted to two and she said “yes mommy” and got to work on the mess.  After she finished cleaning up all the toys I gave back all the time out toys and we celebrated!

Now all I usually have to do is ask.  Sometimes I have to start counting.  And then random days like today, I have to pull out the laundry basket again.  But I’ve only had to pull out a laundry basket a handful of times in the last 9 months since I started this.  Yes, that means Maisy has cleaned up all her toys all by herself for the last 9 months!  At least, so long as I remember to ask her to clean them up before she goes to bed.

I don’t require my kids and day care kids to clean up their own toys to be lazy.  No, my goal is to teach the kids responsibly and how to respect the space they play in.

You can do this too!

  1. She says no or does anything other than start cleaning up.
  2. Count 1… 2… 3…
  3. If you get to three, silently go get a laundry basket and start quietly putting all the toys in the basket.  If your kid asks what you’re doing you say, “this is so sad but because you chose not to clean up your toys now mommy has to put them in time out.”
  4. Set the basket on a shelf or surface within plain sight, but out of reach.  A basket with holes is more effective for this consequence because then your kid can easily see the toys they’ve lost.
  5. You choose when your kid may or may not be worthy to get the toys back.  Maybe the punishment is a whole day.  Or maybe you wait until the next time it’s time to clean up.  If your kid cleans up, awesome!  Give the other toys back too and celebrate with your kid.  If not, silently pick up the latest batch of toys by yourself and add them to the time out hamper.  Your kid may start to run out of toys before they understand what’s going on and you may have to use more than one hamper for the toys if she takes a long time to learn.  But it’s worth it!

Good luck!  And feel free to comment below with any questions, concerns, or even tactics of your own that have worked well 🙂

A Letter to Maisy: Feeding the Dog




Dear Maisy,

Several weeks ago I unknowingly handed over the feeding the dog responsibility.  One morning, just like all the others, you were following me around from room to room as I got ready to the sound of your endless (and repetitive) question asking.  Each morning I’d cycle through my options by answering each and every question as they came, ignoring you briefly to see if you realized you already knew the answer, redirecting by trying to make toys or crafts sound more appealing, asking you oh-so-nicely to please stop asking me questions and do anything else, lecturing you about how big girls entertain themselves and sometimes finally getting so fed up that I’d ultimately end up yelling at you to please do anything else but continue your attack of questions.  This particular morning my tactic changed.  As your steady stream of gibber gabber attacked my ears, I spotted the hungry dog before my eyes.

Me, in that over-exaggeratedly, beyond excited parent tone, “Maisy, I have a great idea, do you want to feed Haley?”


And I struck gold!  I have fed Haley maybe 3 times in the last 6 weeks!  You are all over it and loving the responsibility!

I’m also very proud of you.  What a big girl thing to do and you’ve taken so much ownership of it.  You fill her dish with the proper portions at breakfast and dinner (and they are different), you stand, tell Haley to stay, then say “ok” just the way I taught you.  I love that this small task not only relieves me from answering questions for a breath but that it has created a special bond between you and Haley and that you are saving me the trouble of the task.  In fact, you are such a reliable dog caretaker that I don’t even think about feeding Haley anymore.

I love you Maisy, you’re awesome.