Hitting Toddlerhood, Literally

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Rylan…99% smiles, but with a growing slice of attitude.

Parenting a budding toddler is marked by extreme highs and maddening lows. I am grateful to be surrounded by friends and family who don’t mind my endless texts with questions and venting sessions about eating strikes and teething mayhem. Molars suck! But lately there is one behavior that is coming out more and more, and we will not tolerate it.

Hitting.

“Hands are not for hitting.” It is a book we read and, unfortunately, a phrase we’re using more and more with Rylan.

At 20 months Rylan is expressing frustrating and seeking attention through hitting. His teachers reassure me it is normal and so far he is responding well to discipline at school. There has only been one day where a teacher said he had more “calm your body” time outs than normal, and the next day he was much more gentle and cooperative. Currently, Rylan hits me more than he hits Mike, which drives me nuts. I also probably say no more often than Mike does and have a very low tolerance for tantrum-like outbursts.

I can usually anticipate what will trigger a hitting tantrum. Transitions from something Rylan likes to the next activity, even if he likes what is coming, triggers hitting at home and as of this weekend, in public. The worst! For example, if we need to end playing in the backyard for a bath, he will raise his arm and go to hit me when I pick him up. On Saturday he came with me to the car wash. He loved watching the cars and was happily eating snacks as my car was dried. When it was time for us to leave, he first threw his body onto the ground screaming. Then when I picked him up he proceeded to try and hit me. He was still swinging as I fastened him into his car seat! I was mortified and sad. Mainly, I wanted to turn around and tell everyone around me that he’s an incredibly well-behaved and happy dude.

My mom says I remind her a lot of herself as a mother of a toddler. She expected a great deal out of me, and I feel the same about Rylan. When he hits I am simply blown away. I can’t believe the same toddler who smiles 99% of the time can turn so quickly into those screaming kids I used to stare at in Target or a restaurant. I too find myself sometimes being the mother who is trying desperately to squeeze more applesauce out of the pouch before Ry’s world falls apart in the beauty aisle.

While hitting is a “normal” phase of toddlerhood, we’re unwilling to look the other way. I am about halfway through the book 1,2,3 Magic and need to get serious about trying the counting method it outlines. Hitting is an automatic “3” according to this philosophy…so multiple times on Saturday when Rylan hit I firmly told him “that’s a three” and we went into his room to calm down. His teachers also have us act very dramatic and say, “ouch!! That hurt mommy when you hit me. Is that a safe choice?” Depending on his mood, this reaction can make him very sad or he laughs at our antics. Ugh!!!!

But the biggest problem for me is consistency in public. He hit me in church on Easter and I just tried to have him keep it together since mass was almost over. I didn’t give him a “three count” and he wasn’t reprimanded. It was the same scenario at the carwash since we needed to get into the car and move out of the lane.

I am reassured by the fact that we are very mindful of his hitting already and that we’re being proactive now instead of in preschool or later when it can become a serious issue.

But my heart hurts every single time he hits.

Please let me know if you have any advice, tips or insights to share from the trenches. I appreciate it.

When Did…

When did Rylan become much more boy than baby?

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When did he learn to grab a hand and lead a person to exactly where he wants them to go? 

When did running replace walking? 

When did he start to sit in a regular chair and have a snack with me at coffee shops?

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When did he start truly enjoying the company of having his littlest pals over to play? 

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Of course I know the answers. It has happened little by little every day. But days and weeks are busy and this mama knows so much goes unseen when we are away at work five days a week. Let’s also be brutally honest. No matter how much I try to be 100% present at night after work or on the weekends, there are emails to be answered, dishwashers to be emptied and laundry to be folded. There are errands to run and the Instagram and Pinterest itches to be scratched. There are workouts to do and cleaning that never ends. I try to save all of these things (and so much more) for after he goes to bed. I try, I really do. And sometimes I succeed while many other days and nights I fail.

I also know he’s my first and I baby him way too much. “Can he eat that?” “Cut it smaller.” “Mama will carry you.” “He’s too little for that.” “Be careful, Ry!” I may give the poor little dude a safety complex.

But in March we had a tremendous amount of together time in Vail and then Florida, so these tiny changes that had built up over time became extremely evident to both Mike and me. In Florida I began to observe Rylan through a new lens. A lens with a little, unbelievably adorable toddler boy on the other side.

Sure, he needs help up and down stairs. And yes, I can still carry him everywhere and zip him into a sleep sack for bedtime.

But at times he prefers to walk or take the stairs “alone” with no help from mama/dada. I can ask him if he wants a cheese stick for a snack and he’ll answer yes or no. His vocabulary is popping like crazy and he tells me he wants to “dance dance” when he sees his CD player on the bookshelf.

It’s an incredible transformation. I am addicted to his curiosity, smile and even his moments of tantrums–because when he’s crying he is expressing his independence and trying so hard to make me understand why he wants/needs something. I cannot get enough of him.

When did it become possible for him to start growing up even faster than before?

Fastest March Ever

The end of March is around the corner, officially making it the most “on crack fast” month of the year so far. We had a lot to look forward to this month, which naturally makes it fly by in the blink of an eye.

I rounded out my 2014/2015 ski season on day 18 (not bad for having a toddler!) in Vail at the beginning of the month. Then the second weekend of March I got to sneak away to the luxurious St. Julien Hotel & Spa in Boulder for a night with two dear college + mom friends. Our massages, quiet time sipping bubbles on the patio, shopping and a decadent moms-only dinner at Black Cat was just what each of us needed.

Then the very best part came…our week long Florida beach escape to Hutchinson Island with Mike’s parents and sister’s family.

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As a southern California girl I haven’t spent much time in Florida. The beaches and delicious seafood wildly exceeded my expectations and I took advantage of every moment. There were hours of sand castle building and chasing waves, reading and solo time while Rylan napped, afternoon Mai Tai’s and beers, good nights of sleep and quiet morning runs. Rylan ate lobster, clams, calamari, oysters and crab cakes like they were going out of style. I reconnected with my nieces and nephew during faux shark attack play times in the pool and beach walks for seashells. I cried when we left…always the sign of a good, unplugged trip. I can’t wait to share more pictures.

March has made me appreciate and reflect a lot. We’re healthy. And really lucky to be surrounded by friends who are like family. And speaking of family, I’m not sure anyone has two sets of parents, siblings and nieces/nephews as fun and endlessly generous as we do.

Simply perfect months are few and far between, but this has been one. I am clinging to the way my heart feels at this moment with all my might so I can tap back into it when future days or weeks are not so hot.

March 2015. One for the books.

Selfish Sanity

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Parenting strips away overall selfishness. From the moment your tiny human joins the world it’s never “all about you” ever again. However, I am 19 months into this parenting gig and have realized that I still carve out ways to be selfish. Why? Because it is these me-centric choices that some people try to make you feel guilty about that keep me sane, balanced and happy.

I think every mom (stay-at-home, working outside the home or some combination of the two) needs to feverishly protect her selfish sanity time…whether it is a few hours each month or a couple weekends per year. For me, that means:

  • Daily (or as close to it as possible) workouts
  • Skiing on weekends (Mike goes in the morning and I take the afternoon). This, I know, isn’t a forever reality once Rylan has weekend commitments like sports and friends that keep us in Denver most weekends
  • Not talking on the phone after Rylan goes to bed in order to spend time with Mike, watch trashy TV, catch up on work or just zone out on Pinterest. I cannot handle phone conversations after 7:30 p.m.
  • Tacking on a pedicure or quick mall trip to family errands, especially if Rylan is napping. I have a lot of guilt about not being home anytime during the weekend when Rylan is awake. But if he is napping, all bets are off.
  • At least one girls trip per year – be it overnight and close to home or somewhere that requires plane travel

I love Rylan and Mike more than anything, but to be the best mom and wife I know how to be, I have to wave the white flag from time to time. I still have and want to be Alexis. I feel recharged and recommitted to my family and work every time to steal away for a few moments of me time.

And to be fair, I have to remember to let Mike do the same. He still plays in his band and practices weekly. He snowboards most Saturday and Sunday mornings. He is going on a guys trip the first weekend of April from a Thursday to a Sunday. He golfs in the summer. These things make him a better dad and husband too.

Call me selfish. I don’t really care. It’s how we do things right now.

Celebrating Stella

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On Friday evening Mike, Rylan and I will travel home to California to celebrate the life of Grandma Stella, my dad’s mother. She passed away on Saturday surrounded, most importantly, by her son and four daughters.

Her 92 years were rich. Not with great material wealth, but with family, friends and one forever soulmate. I cannot even begin to imagine the happiness and joy that surrounded them when they were finally reunited in a world beyond ours.

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Grandma, her beloved Joe and all five kids!

Grandma Stella had a smile that shined across a room and stories that could go on for hours. Her ability to exude pure joy was effortless, and came in the form of hugs, pride in everything her family did and food–so many of my memories are wrapped up in her in the kitchen prepping our favorite Italian fare and eventually, her overseeing operations in the kitchen when her son, daughters and grandkids took over the heavy lifting.

Saying goodbye is never easy. I am thankful every day that I have not endured the loss of a parent, so I know our dad and aunts are feeling something completely different–and each grandchild and great grandchild is as well.

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Dad perfecting the secrets of her sauce

I am grateful she did not suffer for weeks after her fall. I feel blessed that my memories of her ravioli are so fresh that I can almost taste the ricotta. I will cherish the way she held Rylan as a baby as she told me how wonderful it is to be a mother and how no one will ever love your children more than you do. I feel lucky that Mike was a part of my life when she was and that he’ll understand why I’ll want to hold onto as many of our Anzalone family traditions that she helped shape while we can. I am grateful to have been one of her grandchildren.

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Meeting Rylan

While a funeral is never a reason anyone wants to travel, I know we will celebrate and honor her memory fully this weekend. Her grandchildren and great grandchildren will come from near and far–a gathering that she would have bragged about for weeks and weeks to anyone who would listen. We’ll look at pictures from black and white memories of her childhood in Massachusetts to just a few months ago during the holidays. There will be many tears but, I’m hopeful, double the laughs, smiles and tight hugs that she was famous for giving.

And the best part? She and Grandpa Joe will be watching it all. Taking it all in, bragging to anyone who will listen about their incredible family–the smartest, most successful and beautiful family there ever was.

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Muffin Tin Magic

To be clear, this post is about muffin TINS. Not to be confused with muffin tops.

Sorry, I couldn’t resist the bad pun.

I often wonder if I had a day or more at home during the work week if my stress about meals would lessen a bit. I am fairly diligent about maximizing my time (who am I kidding, I can’t sit still) and imagine being able to squeak out a crockpot or two most days, even if Rylan was hanging from my legs begging for attention. But alas, this is not our reality.

When it comes to meal prep I have to be a weekend warrior. Yet now that ski season takes us away from home most weekends, I am even more stressed about how to keep healthier meals stocked in our fridge and freezer for lunches and dinners. Tack on the fact that Rylan and Mike both love meat and I haven’t eaten chicken, beef or pork in 2+  years and things get really complicated. Therefore, I usually have to put Rylan first, myself second and poor Mike has to eat whatever I can scrounge up for him. Sorry babe!

So lets talk about muffin tins. Muffin tins are a frantic mom’s answer to making toddler-size meals that can be frozen individually, defrosted in the fridge all day and then heated up in seconds for a mostly homemade meal moments after racing through the door at 6:15 p.m. with a hungry toddler angrily screaming for “more more.”

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Muffin Tin Recipe Sanity Savers 

Breakfast – Baked Pancake Muffins 

Healthy Snack – “Sneaky” Veggie Muffins

Dinner – Mini Chicken Pot Pies and Muffin Tin Meatloaf (I add mixed frozen veggies to sneak in even more peas and carrots to Ry’s day)

Those are four SUPER basic ones to start with, and I have half a dozen more on my Pinterest board that I want to get to very soon. I mean, how will Rylan be able to resist French Toast Cups, Oatmeal Cupsor Mini Lasagnas?

Please share links to your favorite family meal prep recipes in the comments! I am always on the hunt for new ideas to broaden our plates.

Not Your Perfect Christmas Mom

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I love Christmas. The lights. The music. The times when people take an extra moment to smile or hold a door for you. Putting up the tree and turning on the twinkling house lights after a long day at work. I love it all. And when you have a child who stares at lights and decorations with pure wonder, it’s hard not to get even more swept up in the magic. I feel like I am getting another shot at my childhood as Rylan begins to grasp each holiday with more excitement and curiosity.

Yes, the holidays are also stressful. There is never enough time to accomplish all the things that the crafty Pinterest moms seem to finish. Do not even get me started on Martha Stewart Magazine’s holiday issue. The day I buy twine and create my own Christmas tags from fresh cinnamon sticks is the day you can…well…that will simply never happen. Even more, finding the perfect gift has always been a source of anxiety each year. I obsess over getting it right for each person on my list.

But not this year.

There will be no “12 days of Christmas cookies” from a gourmet food magazine baking in our oven. I will not simmer homemade hot apple cider and as of Dec. 15, not a single Christmas movie has been watched. Rylan, age 16 months, may or may not make it to Santa’s lap this year. In the past few weeks I’ve barely clung to a gym schedule and it isn’t looking any better this week as we juggle late-afternoon meetings, early-morning daycare conferences and outings with friends who we do not see much of anymore. I went from a strict cleanse to York Peppermint Patties and Malbec. A dear friend is bringing a present for me to use in a girls-night-out gift exchange because she knew I’d never make it to the store. Speaking of stores, if a gift wasn’t on Amazon Prime or found during my two hours of shopping two weekends ago, it won’t be under the tree. Rylan made no holiday crafts for his grandparents nor did I get to that personalized 2015 Shutterfly family calendar I swore we’d give as gifts this year.

We simply do not have the time or energy to let the holidays turn into a holi-daze. I refuse to “give in” to the pressure of creating the perfect Hallmark-worthy holiday. Lord knows as parents we are under enough pressure every single day of the year.

Instead, I am determined to start conversations about the many things we’re so lucky to have this season. Health being number one. If I could ask Santa for a healthy family and child every year I would do so without hesitation. Love being just as important as health, or some may argue even more so. I love my family and friends fiercely and this year has shown me first-hand that love isn’t a given. It must be nurtured and worked on every day.

It feels extremely liberating to admit a bit of failure, by Good Housekeeping standards, at the holidays. Will you join me?

Overdue Cleanse Recap and Life Lately

photo[1]I went from mindfully cleansing to the whirlwind of holiday travel and family time, and then just like that, it is December.

The Conscious Cleanse was certainly a bright spot, albeit difficult, in my fall. By the end of the 14 days I had stuck with it completely, aside from the optional transition weekends since weight loss was not my goal. Mike was a huge supporter by giving me time and space on the weekends to grocery shop and prep a significant amount of food. Certain recipes flopped (mushroom gravy) while others are now a forever staple in our kitchen (curried carrot soup). I didn’t get to the bottom of all my questions about food sensitivities but did confirm that I certainly feel much better without dairy, gluten and highly-processed foods. I have reintroduced just about everything given the holiday season but in significant moderation, especially coffee, sweet treats and generally unhealthy processed snacks.

If you need a reset, I urge you to consider the Conscious Cleanse. I won’t lie, it can feel like a lot of work so you need to be mentally prepared to shop and cook 99% of the time for the two weeks. But through this process you learn so much about yourself and the two weeks fly by quickly. You learn what triggers you to eat when you aren’t necessarily hungry, like boredom and stress. You learn that it doesn’t take up your entire weekend to prepare a few meals or pre-portion out salads and green smoothie packs for the week. You learn that a small piece of dried fruit or cup of herbal tea with honey can replace ice cream or a cookie for a sweet treat before bed. You learn that it’s worth the mental shift in how you approach food to feel lighter, more energized, less bloated and truly refreshed.

Cleanse aside, life is crazy but also fantastic. Mike and I are busy with work and I am trying to wrap my head around taking off from Denver most weekends in December and January to go skiing in Breckenridge. When will I cook, clean and do laundry at our house??!! First world problems, I know.

Rylan continues to thrive but also throw us for more loops, courtesy of general toddler craziness. Recent 16 month head-scratchers include:

  • Increased neediness being super clingy overall…especially in the morning and at night. However, his teachers have told us several times in the past month that he has been “very emotional” throughout the day, with little things sending him into a tizzy of tears
  • Crying whenever we set him down if he is not in the mood to play
  • Fake crying when we tell him to stop doing something or “no”
  • Exploring the reaction “no” gets when he says it to us or shakes his head when he doesn’t want to cooperate
  • Early wake time OR crying very hard at bedtime – these are sporadic but can quickly throw the day off track
  • Refusing to eat favorite foods, like yogurt, and a complete refusal to eat leftovers unless we space them out by at least one day in between
  • One month+ of a rash around his mouth that we’ve showed the doctor twice but can’t get to go away on our own

Mike and I spend more and more time looking at each other in disbelief. Thankfully we also chuckle, a lot, but there have been so many days when we’re simply stumped on how to handle these changes. We are on the same page on how we approach certain situations, such as meal time. Neither of us want to be short order cooks and the foods on Rylan’s plate are what stays. That said, I know much bigger battles are around the corner and I am nervous about having to make consistent discipline decisions sooner rather than later. Many friends have recommended reading Parenting With Love & Logic and I hope to find time to order and read it over the holidays.

Toddler tantrums aside, Rylan makes my heart explode with pride and love daily. He gives the sweetest hugs by leaning in his whole body without using his arms. He is so proud of himself when he learns a new word and spent most of Thanksgiving week yelling HHHAAAAMMMM for ham. He loves music and dances on demand. The way he says mama and dada is full of love and admiration. I want to bottle up his little voice forever.

I hope you have all been well and have happy holiday plans ahead!

Our Days at 14.5 Months

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Recently I’ve become slightly obsessed with finding and following other working mom bloggers and social media influencers. Two that I am especially loving right now are Breadwinning Mama and What Would Gwyeneth Do. Breadwinning Mama has a “Her Juggle” series spotlighting working mamas and how they juggle, struggle and thrive. Reading the Q&A’s has felt like a big hug lately. I love seeing when other moms wake up, how they handle household chores and where they too feel like work or family is getting all their attention–never quite equaling out. When Mike is not traveling and my morning meeting schedule allows for a workout, a “favorite” day tends to look a little something like this.

  • 5:30 a.m. – One or both of our alarms go off. We hit snooze in denial
  • 5:50 a.m. – Mike hits the shower
  • 6 a.m. – I get up, make the bed and throw on workout clothes
  • Pre-6:50 a.m. – I try to fit in a variety of tasks, such as packing my lunch, starting a load of laundry, sorting mail, starting the dishwasher, meal prep for dinner, and preparing Rylan’s breakfast
  • 6:50 a.m. – I head to the gym and Mike takes over where I left off on breakfast for Rylan
  • 7 a.m. – Some sort of spin/barre/yoga class clears my head for the day and then I shower and get ready at work
  • 7:30 a.m. (ish) – Mike gets Rylan dressed and takes him to daycare across town (We love our daycare but did not count on the traffic when we thought it was only slightly out of they way. It can be a nightmare)
  • 8:30 a.m. – 5:15 p.m. (ish) – Calls, meetings, emails, more meetings, media pitching, writing, planning…in PR no two days are ever the same but it’s fast-paced and the days fly by
  • 5:15 p.m. – I bolt out and fight traffic to get Rylan, then fight it home and hope to be in the door by 6 p.m. or a bit after
  • 6:15 p.m. (ish) – Rush to get something resembling nourishment on Rylan’s plate before he totally loses it. We’ve now started giving him a small snack so that I can try and cook more rather than dump random things on his dish
  • 6: 45 p.m. – Bath
  • 7:00 p.m. – 7:15 p.m. – Play in Ry’s room or at least attempt to play depending on how well he napped at daycare
  • 7:15 p.m. – 7:25 p.m. – Accept Rylan’s eye rubbing, give him a bottle (you got me…haven’t cut that last one out yet) and put him down for the night
  • 7:30 p.m. – bed – My bedtime is all over the place. Some nights I barely make it to 8:30 p.m. while others I stay up past 10 p.m. to work or watch TV with Mike. I always regret staying up past about 9 p.m. though. And during this time I finish my morning to-do’s…laundry, meal prep (tonight I roasted butternut squash for tomorrow), email triage, blogging, organizing, cleaning. Basically, I can’t sit still. No time for that

Woo hoo (sarcastically typed). When I decide to have a “take care of me morning” at the gym (once or twice a week) I get very little time with Rylan overall. Not much changes if I flip this and workout at night either. So I am down to about two – three workouts a week, sometimes four depending on our weekend, and try to make the most out of them by taking as hard of classes as I can. When Mike travels there is typically no working out with drop off and pickup duty. I shower by 5:45 a.m. at the very latest when he is out of town and tend to fall into bed around 8:30 p.m.

Balance, my friends, is a misleading word. For years I chased balance, even before having Rylan, and failed to achieve it. So instead I am in a reset mode. At work I am 100% in and know it’s okay that I don’t always have time to stop and think about Rylan during the hectic days. At home I am increasingly strict with myself and Mike about putting down the damn phones unless something is urgent with a client or media. 

It feels good to give you a glimpse into our days right now. For me, reading about how other moms juggle is inspiring so I hope my approach to the chaos us helpful to you as well.

San Diego Family Vacation

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Fall is knocking on Colorado’s door, so what better time to revisit our “California Dreamin'” mindset and finally download pictures from our incredible San Diego August 2014 vacation. Mike, Rylan and I flew to San Diego to spend a week with my parents, brother, sister-in-law and their kiddos, Jackson and Olivia. It took a few trips to the beach for Rylan to understand the sand but he loved the water right away. He squealed and screamed when the waves washed up on his legs and was very brave with the cold water temps. I see a surfer boy in the making!

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IMG_9215The first Anderson-Anzalone vacation was a huge success. Our house was steps from the beach and the grandparents took tons of kid shifts so we could go do things like paddle board yoga, surfing, regular yoga and of course, cocktailing. Mike and I lived in San Diego for five/six years respectively and it still has a huge place in my heart. We created countless memories there and met some of our most treasured friends. It was neat to play tourist and introduce Rylan to his first of many vacations in Southern California.

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My heart was truly heavy when it was time to say goodbye. It was such a special vacation for us all. Rylan adored looking up to Jackson and Livy. It’s clear Jackson is a very good big brother and cousin. He was patient with Rylan, shared his toys and didn’t even mind when Rylan gave him a good head bonk while trying to play. Even though we live in different states I look forward to Jackson, Livy and Rylan being close as they grow up.

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The Anderson-Anzalone vacation tradition will continue in 2016. Next year Mike, Rylan and I will travel to Florida with his family. I wish we had enough vacation days and money to travel with both of our families every year! We’re so lucky to be very close with both of our parents and siblings. Family is everything.

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I think all of us will struggle in 2016 of whether to pick a new destination (Hawaii anyone??!!) or go back to the exact same location. There is something to be said for picking a special location to make years, even decades, of memories as the kids grow up. San Diego, you are amazing.

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