Every month I have a real conversation about different aspects of motherhood along with some other mamas in the blog-o-sphere as part of "The Real Mom Series." This month we're talking about education, and since we're in all different phases of motherhood you'll get to hear from many perspectives. Be sure to visit the other blogs to read more:

The Refined Woman, Design for Mankind, The Effortless Chic, Cloistered Away, Sarah Sherman Samuel

This topic of education is timely because Elle just finished her first year of preschool, and we are reassessing where she should attend next year. It's times like these where I wish I majored in family studies, psychology or education so that I know what is the "best" and "right" way to educate children. I wouldn't say we made a mistake this past year, but I would say we didn't really make the best choice for Elle and here's why...

I chose our past preschool based on recommendations from moms and educators in the area. You would think that's a surefire way to know if a school is good, but you know what I have found to be a better way to choose a school for your child? Your maternal instincts. Something told me that she just wasn't enjoying herself and she always came home tired and quiet. I thought it was because she just wasn't used to four hours of a classroom environment. 

In my gut I was 100% sold on her preschool, but I just kept telling myself, "But, it's the best in the area. Everyone says so." Well, this summer she has been attending a summer preschool program at a different school, and she has been coming home so rejuvenated and happy. It's an even longer day that her other school and she goes daily. I was preparing myself for a super tired three year old, but I was wrong. So, that got me to thinking, maybe her other preschool isn't really the best even though everyone says so. But, that really begs the question, how do I know what is best? Here's my two cents from a mom that is still figuring it out.

Well, I think the first step is to assess your child's personality.

Elle is an extroverted leader, and I think some teachers would classify her as a strong willed child because she argues everything to death (just like her mama). I love that about her, but it makes things challenging for a teacher. If  Elle can't see the personal benefit of something she simply won't do it. In fact, if you start any sentence with a command she will just rebel against it to try and assert power. It's just who she is and how she was made. All that to say, how schools handle behavioral issues is a very important aspect to how we need to pick a school. I felt like her past preschool constantly was telling her "no" and "don't" and "timeout." I also didn't feel that they embraced that part of her personality and tried to channel it in a positive way. So, we need to find a place that approaches correction with positive affirmation of good behavior. For example, "Good choice, Mary. Thank you for sitting on your square. Good choice, Ben..." and so on until the person not making a good choice realizes that they can receive the positive affirmation they are looking for by sitting down. Because Elle is extroverted, more time to play with friends is also a factor. Here past school only offered three hour mornings three days a week for her age, but there are other schools that offer daily school with longer days. 

The next step would be to tour the school and see if you have a good feeling about it.

Sometimes you just need to trust your intuition. You can read about a school on paper and it sounds fabulous, but until you tour it and talk with the teachers you won't know if it's a good fit or not. I've toured about five different preschools, and I definitely had better feelings about some schools than others. I would look at whether the school was clean, if it was safe, if it was organized, if the student/teacher ratio was good, etc. We also have a serious nut allergy in our home, so how they handle food at school is a bit of a factor. I also would ask about the teacher/student ratio. Children learn better in smaller class sizes because they can have more time with the teacher. It's just the truth, so if you can find a place that has a good student/teacher ratio then you're on the right track for success.

The next would be to see if the communication between the school and the parents is frequent and friendly. 

Anytime a teacher seems bothered to talk to a parent there should be a red flag. Parents and teachers have to work together to make learning enjoyable. Sometimes when Elle's teacher would ask me to work on something with her I felt at a loss as to how to do that. I really wish they could have given me some examples of how to work on fine motor skills. Instead, I just went to Pinterest to look up idea in hopes that those ideas would work. I also wanted to know more about what they were going to learn in the coming months so that I could reinforce those ideas at home.

There's no surefire way to find the right school. Sometimes you just have to try it and see. I thought I would screw Elle up by taking her out of school and putting her into a different one. I also thought I was a bad mom for making her go to school in the summer for longer days. You know what? Your kids may surprise you, and trusting your gut works better than you think! 


In my opinion, the idea of "co-parenting" should just be summed up in the word "parenting." I don't understand how the roles of parenthood were ever so divided. Being a parent is such a challenging, life-giving and selfless role that it really takes a team to do it well. I am continuing the Real Mom Series today on the topic of "Co-Parenting" with some other lovely bloggers. I hope you enjoy what I have to share, as well as my peers' stories. 

The Effortless Chic / Sarah Sherman Samuel / A Daily Something / Our Style Stories / The Life Styled / Parker Etc / Sacramento Street / Sugar & Charm / Apartment 34

Ryan and I grew up very differently, but one thing that we had in common was that our moms did most of the day-to-day parenting. My mom worked full-time and his mom stayed at home, but the roles of our dads were simply to work and be a disciplinarian. Our dads didn't do much of the feeding, cooking, laundry, diaper changing, homework, grocery shopping, hair brushing, play date going, etc. We both agreed that we wish we saw more of our dads in the picture, and so we knew if we had children that was going to be something we would be intentional about.

So, when we had Elle I thought everything would fall into place easily, but I quickly learned we had a lot of expectations to sort through. Co-parenting is something that, quite like marriage, requires constant communication. Right now, parenting is the source of most of our fights, but not because we dislike parenting, rather, it's because we want it to feel SO equal that the second we feel like someone is doing more than the other we start becoming resentful and agitated. 

When you first get married you divvy up roles. For example, Ryan does most of our bookkeeping, taking out the trash, dog poop clean up and we'll take turns on the dishes. I do the cooking, laundry, house cleaning and dishes. With parenting, we share roles. We take turns getting up in the middle of the night feeding Levi. If one gets up in the middle of the night for the 3:30am feeding than the other wakes up with the kids at 5:30am. On weekends, when Ryan is home from work, we take turns changing diapers, doing feedings, making meals, etc. But never do we have someone just doing dirty diapers because, duh, that would suck.

What makes the shared responsibilities muddy is the fact that I stay home with the kids and run a side business while he works a 40 hour desk job. I'm obviously changing a lot more diapers, making more meals, and playing mom more than he is, so when he gets home I want to be able to have a moment to myself. It's the kid free hours we fight over most and the sense of entitlement that we both feel to them. One thing that we both agree on is that being home with the kids all day every day is WAY harder than going to a desk job and having adult conversations. Ryan has stayed home with the kids for consecutive days while I was away on business, and he totally agrees.

So, we started daddy-daughter dates to give Elle more quality time with Ryan, and to give me a moment to myself. Another thing that we do is that we both have one night a week that we get to go out with our friends. Every other week we try to have a date night and hire a babysitter. Those three things have helped tremendously with balance. 

I would say the biggest thing that has helped us be better co-parents is a lot of communication. Sometimes we communicate with some yelling, but we have definitely learned it's better to talk than to bottle up any feelings.

Lastly, just realizing that we are in a different place than we were before children, and that we simply can't do whatever we want when we want has helped tremendously. Letting go of that expectation has saved us from many fights. 

We are an open book when it comes to our journey as parents, so feel free to ask more questions if you'd like. 

Photos by Creative Marriages


Levi is at that age where he can sit on his own, he can scoot places and he loves to put everything in his mouth. As much as I enjoy watching him do things for the first time, this stage in development can give you mini panic attacks left and right. I've teamed up with Fisher-Price again to share how I help Levi play safely and happily.

Levi LOVES to be outside, especially when his sister and Wendy, our dog, are running around. However, if I set him in the grass right now he just starts trying to eat it, and then, of course, chokes on it. Fire ants are also in full force, so I have had to find a way to keep him from getting bit but also allow him to enjoy the outdoors. 

My solution is to bring his Fisher-Price Ultra Light Day & Night Play Yard outside and fill it with fun toys. This works perfectly because the mesh allows the air to circulate and makes him visible at all angles. I especially love this play yard because it's a lot lighter than others on the market, so it makes it easy for me to tote it to my friend's house. 

I took Levi to Rennai's house the other day, and brought bright colored balls to fill his play yard. All of the other kids loved it so much they wanted to climb in too! Rennai's little guy, Everett, joined the party and they kept each other company all while staying out of trouble. When multiple kids are around it's easy to get distracted and not always have my eyes on Levi, so it puts my mind at ease having him in the play yard.

This design also comes with the ability to create an inclined sleeping experience and a changing table. It's such a great buy, especially because the compact design makes it so easy to store in your car. I highly recommend!

Photos by Rennai Hoefer


I don't know about you, but I feel like I have forgotten how to play. It's as if my mind is too full of tasks and reality that I can rarely use my imagination. Isn't that just sad?! I love that my kids try their hardest to keep the kid in me alive.

Elle is really into role playing right now. She's usually the mommy and I am her baby or she is Barbie and I'm always Teresa. Of course, her favorite is playing Elsa and I'm always Anna (p.s. that's fine by me because Anna is by far the coolest girl to ever be a Disney princess, in my opinion). Levi has yet to join in on the pretend party, but pretty soon I'm sure she'll make him Olaf or Hans. 

As I mentioned in a previous post, it does make playtime a challenge when my kids are three years apart. Levi prefers to have me hold his hands as he tries to figure out how to walk, which doesn't exactly leave me with another limb to play with Elle. It definitely has been a challenge figuring out how to play with my kids and spend time with them one on one. And this is what I have found that has helped so far:

1. I started Elle in preschool two mornings a week. This helped our whole family tremendously. As much as I miss her at home, she is a natural extrovert who prefers to be with friends and stay busy. This has given me an opportunity to have one-on-one time with Levi where I can just sit on the floor for an hour, and in the future, take him on special dates to the Library or to Starbucks for a chocolate croissant.

2. When Levi is napping and Elle is at home, Elle and I play together one on one. Sometimes she asks to just snuggle on the couch and watch a movie and other days we color, do an art project or we race outside. 

3. When they are both awake my attention is often more on Levi because he can't be independent right now, so I encourage Elle to do some solo play or she can play with me and Levi on the floor. 

4. Sometimes going to the park or going to Chic-fil-A is a great solution because Elle wants to play with friends and then I can still play with Levi, but that's not too often as the weather gets warmer here and when sickness is still really prevalent in the Valley. 

5. When Ryan comes home we usually spend a half hour playing as a family (if i have been able to get dinner taken care of) outside. This is our dog Wendy's favorite time of day because she gets included in playtime. 

I hope sharing how I approaching playtime with two kids. I'm sure it's going to change so much as they get older, but I hope they continue to keep my imagination and their imagination alive. Make sure to read about ways other moms are approaching playtime as part of the Real Talk Real Mom Series. 

Sarah Sherman Samuel, Apartment 34, The Effortless Chic, Parker, Etc., Sacramento Street, Our Style Stories, A Daily Something, Could I Have That, The Refined Woman

Also, as Mother's Day approaches consider supporting some rockstar moms in Uganda by shopping 31 Bits, a jewelry company featuring artisans from Africa that create beans with recycled paper. I'm wearing two of their pieces in these photos, and I have been a big supporter of them for several years. I can't say enough good about them.

Photos by Rennai Hoefer


Sometimes things just don't work out like you had hoped not matter how much you pray or how badly you want it. 

Even with a second chance at breastfeeding I'm left with the same outcome - my body is just not able to produce enough for what he needs. It has been two months since I had Levi, and for two months he has been so hungry. He was gaining weight just fine at the beginning, but I didn't realize that nursing every hour to every two hours when they are two months old isn't normal. I finally started pumping and realized I was only making one to two ounces. At this point he needs about three to four ounces per feeding, so I would definitely say he was hungry.

I finally gave him a bottle of formula and he scarfed it down like he had never had milk in his life. It was so sad and I cried. I felt like a terrible mother for not knowing how hungry he was. I felt like a terrible mother for not being able to exclusively breastfeed. I was just overwhelmed with sadness and guilt.

The thing is that I've been in the place before and I promised myself I wouldn't put my heart through it again. I promised myself that no matter what I was going to do what needed to be done, and if that meant formula that's okay. It's just knowing the breastmilk is the healthiest thing for my child and not being able to give it to him KILLS me.

I feel embarrassed every time I pull out a bottle in public and instantly my mind is filled with a bunch of excuses of why I can't breastfeed so that I can defend myself to random strangers. So dumb, right? Have you been here too? At my church there is a "nursing room," so does that mean I can bring a bottle in there or not. Why can't it just be called a mother's room? 

But you know what?! Levi is so, so happy. He is babbling all of the time and he is sleeping so much better. And you know what else, I'm still breast feeding for five to ten minutes to give him that tiny ounce to two ounces that I have, and at least it's something. But even if I didn't have that I'm just happy I have a healthy baby, and I'm so thankful that I have formula. Imagining my child starving and failing to thrive because my body can't do its job right is a horrifying thought.

I'll spare you all of the visits with my lactation consultant and the triple feeding and the herbs, etc. I did it and it didn't work and who cares, right?! At the end of the day I am at peace with knowing that I'm being the best mother I can be. That's all we mothers can do, and I need to remember that every day. Perfection is not something to desire as a parent. Peace is, and that's what I have today. And that's perfect.