The big corner office, a lucrative career that allows for lavish vacations and luxury cars, power and prestige...how do you define success? As a career counselor helping college students identify a career path, I would often ask this very question. Each student would answer a little differently based on their personal values. Many of them would be influenced by the more is better, money equals success myth. And I suppose I believed this as well, at one point. But then I pursued a career in higher education and realized that something other than money would have to define my successes. Because unfortunately my field was not one known for high salaries and extravagant perks.
This coupled with the work that I do now with helping parents become more competent and knowledgeable in career development has led me to ask myself this very question again. How do I define success? And what do I want my children to consider? Part of becoming more competent and knowledgeable in career development to better serve your children, is unpacking the preconceived notions that we all hold. If your goal is to be an unbiased guide for your children through the career exploration process, then you have to address your own beliefs. And in the last few years I have spent time wrestling with these exact constructs.
Be my own definition, I am unsuccessful. I don’t work in an office, I work out of my home. I don’t have unlimited disposable income. If I need a new car, or want to take a vacation, I must save for it (sometimes for years). Do I feel unaccomplished? Not at all! In fact, I feel like I am truly using all my strengths. Because I am my own boss, I have tremendous work life balance. My days are spent engaged in the very meaningful and very real work of parenting and raising children. And that allows me to also have time to write, illustrate, and create content that is important to me. I also am able to feel challenged and to implement new ideas without seeking permission. I never thought I would enjoy the entrepreneurial life due to the risk, but I have found that this freedom is very appealing.
So here are three lessons a career counselor learned when she sat down and addressed her own definition of success. Perhaps it can encourage you to redefine your view of career success as well.
Celebrate what is important to you
In my current role, I have to look for opportunities to be successful. I work from home, in a one person organization. If I don’t celebrate my success, no one will. I don’t have a supervisor touting my achievements, or co-workers giving me kudos on a job well done. I have to be intrinsically motivated to continue to do the work, even though it sometimes seems like no one even notices what I am doing.
You define success
I have to be willing to re- evaluate and change my definition of success frequently as my life stage changes. Right now, time freedom and work life balance is much more valuable to me as a parent to small children than money or prestige.
Success is doing something you love
The core of your work should be something that you are passionate about. It shouldn’t be a luxury to have a career that you enjoy. And if something isn’t working for you, you can change your mind and your circumstances.
This is what I want to impart to my children. A successful career is doing something that they enjoy, no matter how much work it takes to get there.
When you think about a successful career what comes to mind? What do you want to teach your child about career success?
I just could not imagine that my tiny daughter who I loved so much, who had this larger than life spirit, was actually gone. I also knew that her spirit and her memory had to live on.
~Michelle Valiukenas, The Colette Louise Tisdahl Foundation
I am excited to share my interview with Michelle from The Colette Louise Tisdahl Foundation. The work they are doing is amazing and much needed! Make sure you connect and support her foundation on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter.
Tell us your story and how the Colette Louise Tisdahl Foundation began.
My husband Mark and I struggled with infertility, ultimately going through IVF. We got pregnant on our first round of IVF and then subsequently miscarried weeks later. On our third round of IVF, we got pregnant with our daughter Colette. We were excited, nervous, and the pregnancy went along well (besides my constant all-day morning sickness). At 21 weeks pregnant, a standard OB appointment found my blood pressure at 188/110, a total shock to me since that day had been the first day I had felt really good during my pregnancy. My OB sent me to the hospital where I was admitted with a diagnosis of severe preeclampsia and told I would be in the hospital until I delivered. It felt like our whole world had turned upside down in an instant. It was early May, I was not due until September 7, and did not have the kind of leave from work that this stay required. It became obvious quickly that our two-income household was going down to one-income. I was blessed that we could sustain that financial blow, but could not help thinking of how many other families would be decimated by that, at a time when all the medical advice is to reduce stress. After being in the hospital for a day or two, I told my husband we have to do something about this problem. I spent a little over three weeks in the hospital before the doctors recommended delivery. Colette was born May 23, 2018 at 24 weeks and 5 days. The doctors and nurses all repeatedly told us that we would not hear her because she was too little to cry. But, when she entered the world and the doctors told us it was a girl, we then heard this tiny, but powerful squeak and I asked, was that her? Everyone was amazed and said, yeah, that was her. I knew then that this was of course my badass daughter who was going to change the world. Colette continued to defy all the odds for those first few days and while NICU was of course a roller coaster of yay she's doing so well, to oh, no, things aren't good, she had this spirit and energy that was so much bigger than what her tiny body could hold. After nine days in the NICU, Colette's tiny body gave out and we held her in our arms for the first time as she died. I was lost after Colette died, I just could not imagine that my tiny daughter who I loved so much, who had this larger than life spirit, was actually gone. I also knew that her spirit and her memory had to live on. In the midst of grief, I needed something to turn those emotions and energy into and created The Colette Louise Tisdahl Foundation. We launched on Colette's due date, September 7, 2018, and as of the end of February 2021, we have helped more than 550 families in 39 states, giving away more than $600,000 in assistance.
What kind of impact do you hope that your organization can have?
I hope that families going through crisis have just a little bit of relief and some of their many stresses are relieved. I also think that having had the experiences of infertility, pregnancy complications, NICU stays, and loss means I can relate to these families on a deeply personal level and therefore, can be a sounding board that understands what it is like to be a parent in these situations. On a greater, broader level, I hope that we can advocate for broad social change, to work with so many countless colleagues, friends, and like-minded strangers who do not accept the world as it is. Our work and the lives of so many families would be widely different if policies like paid family leave for all, subsidized childcare, better working schedules from employers and a society that respects and supports parents, were the norm and not the exception. I also think that if we truly confronted issues of racism, sexism, and classism in our institutions, particularly in the medical community, we would greatly change the world so that women and babies of color were not more at risk of complications, prematurity, severe medical conditions, or even death.
What is the biggest concern facing your clients today?
The biggest concern is survival. All of us as parents have challenges every day we are parenting, but for parents dealing with health concerns personally and/or for our children and for parents grieving their child's losses, it is even more difficult. When we add on the financial burdens that parents have as a result of the crisis, such as increased transportation costs, the need for medical equipment, for childcare, etc., along with loss of income either entirely or partially, these parents so often find themselves struggling on all fronts.
What inspires you to keep advocating for families in crisis?
Colette. Every day, I parent her through this organization and as all moms know, we never have a day off from being a mom. I knew when I started this that I could not let Colette's life be in vain and that I did not want her story to be something whispered among those who knew of our loss and hidden from everyone else. Few things make me happier than the fact that so many families utter Colette's name every day and keep her name and her power of her memory and life close to their hearts.
How can someone help support your mission and organization?
We of course are always looking for financial assistance which allows us to help more families and to help families more deeply. If you are financially able, we would invite you to our website: www.colettelouise.com to join our mission and help families in crisis. Additionally, we learn so much from each other and our stories and experiences, so I would invite parents and providers to consider guest blogging or being interviewed by us. If interested, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Finally, share what we post, what we do with others so that we all learn and support families in crisis.
There is a certain peace that comes when your twins are finally asleep at the end of a long day. The house is quiet, and for a few hours at least, you can let your guard down. Your super-energized sweeties are sleeping, safe in their cribs. Parenting multiples is hard work and nothing compares to the relief that everyone has made it through another day. But then one day, your peace is shattered as one (or both) of your previously slumbering darlings strolls right out of their rooms. And you realize that THEY. CAN. CLIMB. OUT. OF. THEIR. CRIBS. You put them back into their beds and hope it is just a fluke. You can try to delay the inevitable. But you know, deep in your heart of hearts, that the countdown to a big bed is on. I remember this faithful day well. There is not a one size fits all method. But here are a few things to consider when transitioning twins from cribs to big beds!
One at a Time vs All or Nothing
I have found that with my twins, they adjust to changes better together. They were both showing signs of readiness, so since they shared a bedroom, I found it easiest to transition everyone at the same time. However, if your multiples have their own rooms, or one still seems perfectly happy in their crib, you may want to introduce the new bed one-at-a-time.
Toddler Bed vs Twin/ Full Bed
On the way to a “Big Kid Bed,” we did make a stop at the toddler bed. I don’t think this is a necessity, but if your crib converts to a toddler bed, it is worth a try. It saves you from buying two new beds at the same time. Also if your child is a wild sleeper, a toddler bed is a great choice in case they roll out of bed.
One Room vs Two Rooms
My twins were sharing a room in their cribs, so they continued to share when they moved to toddler beds. I didn’t want to add another big change. But having two unfettered toddlers in one room all night is not for the faint of heart! Your twins might do best in their own room if space allows. You may also find that your twins are fine overnight together, but may need to nap in separate spaces.
Keeping Them in Their Rooms
I adopted the philosophy that once their crib was gone, their room became the crib. Meaning I wanted to keep them in their room all night until I came to get them in the morning. This of course is a process that can take many nights to achieve. My twins were not potty training at the time, so they didn’t need access to the bathroom. I made sure their bedroom was as safe as possible. This included removing any small toys, anchoring all heavy furniture to the walls, and putting a lock on the closet door. I set the expectation that after lights out, they would stay in their bed and call for me if they needed anything. Then came the job of enforcing that expectation, which looked an awful lot like me sitting outside of their bedroom door waiting for them to come out, so I could calmly walk them back to their beds...over and over again. Depending on your child’s temperament, this process could take a while. But I promise that eventually, they will stay in their beds.
While this particular transition can seem stressful, especially when you began to mess with well-established sleep patterns, I guarantee that eventually, you will find that peaceful feeling again...at least until it’s time to start potty training!
You know your baby better than anyone. Speak up, please. They need you!
~ Carley Guill, For the Littlest
I'm so excited to share my interview with Carley Guill from For The Littlest. It was great to get to know more about her and her amazing NICU advocacy work. Make sure you check out her blog and connect with her on Instagram. ~ Ali
How Did For The Littlest begin?
When I was ten years old, my little sister was born prematurely with an obstructed bowel. My family spent 80 days with her as she battled through the NICU, surgery, feeding tubes, ostomies, and constantly beeping IV pumps. It was so foreign to me, but it became so formative. I’ll never forget my mom telling me that there are sick babies that only get held by the nurses, because their families never come; there are babies that get the private room in the back because they’re so sick; there are parents that can only see their babies once a week because the whole region gets transferred here and they can’t pick up and live upwards of two hours away while their baby’s life hangs in the balance. I took what my mom told me and ran with it, because it touched my heart and bothered me at the same time. That's how For the Littlest was born! Though there were good things and bad things about my experience, the NICU is full of miracles, and I want people to know that there are little warriors out there who need advocates to demonstrate awareness and to fight for them. For the Littlest seeks to spark hearts for NICU advocacy, because we have the power to treat these babies and give their families hope.
What do you want people to know about life in a NICU? What are the biggest misconceptions about NICU babies?
I want people to know that it isn't all bad behind those doors. So often there are nurses and doctors who genuinely love on these babies and care for them so deeply. I know that the thought of such small and seemingly fragile babies is scary for most people, but the NICU can be a force for good in people's lives. It isn't all rainbows and miracles, but goodness, we need to rejoice as much as possible when it is!! The more we know and support our NICU's as advocates, we improve care for babies and we make them feel known and loved.
What kind of impact do you hope that your platform (i.e. writing, speaking, research) can have in the NICU community?
I hope that For the Littlest can spark a fire for NICU advocacy in people's hearts! There are things that have changed in the way things are done since my family's experience, but there are a lot that haven’t. There are still disparities in distribution of qualified NICUs; disparities that force parents and babies to separate and impede healing. There are still some institutions with visitation policies that alienate siblings and family members. But luckily there are still good nurses, good doctors, and generally good people working in these NICUs, so there is still hope too. Through this platform I hope to change the bad things for the better and show off all of the good things!
What inspires you to keep advocating for preemies?
NICU babies and their families give me so much hope. I look at my little sister and how much she's thriving and I remember that one day, she was small and fragile like them too. I have so much hope that there's a light at the end of the tunnel for these babies and these families, and I know that advocacy brings that light even closer.
What are some of your favorite tools, resources, or gadgets that make a NICU journey easier?
My NICU journey was fueled by McNuggets and Top Chef reruns, so I do highly recommend those! Also, I recommend as much of a support system as you can get, even including social media, make it easier - no one is alone!
If you have had a baby in the NICU for 1 day or 100 days, you understand the stress surrounding this experience. NICU time is often unexpected and traumatic. It’s hard to manage your day-to-day life when your every thought is preoccupied with worries about your fragile child. Taking care of yourself is the last thing on your mind when you have a baby in the NICU. But the old saying is true, if you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of anyone else. While it may be difficult, it is necessary to prioritize yourself. Self-care doesn’t have to be time-consuming or expensive. Here are four simple ways to care for yourself while you have a baby in the NICU.
Take a Break
Long days spent in the NICU are both physically and emotionally taxing. Even if you are not able to be there every day, the time you spend at the hospital is very intense. Schedule time in your day to take a break. A walk around another hospital floor or a quick trip outdoors to sit in the fresh air will do wonders for your stress level.
Rethink Your Reading Material
One of my favorite things to do while my babies were in the NICU was read to them. I found it very relaxing, and a mutually beneficial way to spend our time together. In fact, studies show that reading to babies in the NICU reduces stress and aids in brain development. But just because you are reading to a baby, doesn’t mean you have to read children’s books all the time. Feel free to indulge in the latest best-seller, that both you and your baby can enjoy.
Grant Yourself Permission to Take Time Away
I always felt guilty spending free time doing something for myself when my babies were in the NICU. I felt that all my free time should be spent at the hospital. But I am here to tell you, I was wrong. Your baby is safe and well taken care of at the hospital. You can take an hour to chat with a friend or grab lunch with your partner. These things take little time, but make a huge difference in your emotional well-being, which in turn benefits your baby.
Multi-Task While You Pump
Pumping bedside may give you the best breastmilk yields, but sometimes it is nice to escape from the beeps and buzzes of the NICU. If there is an alternative pumping space, use it periodically. You are already doing something wonderful for your baby by pumping in the first place, so why not multi-task and do something for yourself at the same time. Listen to a podcast that you find entertaining or stream a TV show or movie that you enjoy while you pump.
While nothing can take the stress of a NICU stay away, taking care of yourself can reduce it. Self-care may seem unnecessary or even indulgent at times, but it is so important. The NICU experience is a roller coaster, but you will be able to survive the ride if you spend a little bit of time on yourself.
Cooking with children can be a very rewarding experience in many ways. It can teach little ones very useful and valuable lessons in the kitchen, and it is a true bonding experience, one that might not always be felt in the moment. But without a doubt, it is one that is creating memories that will linger in your child’s mind well into adulthood.
Cooking with kids is something that you either embrace or totally shy away from. In our minds we imagine it to be this wonderful bonding time with our kids, filled with laughter and collaboration to create something special together in the kitchen. The reality, though, might look a little bit different; a messy kitchen, mom telling little kids to wait for directions, ingredients being dropped on the floor, stressing over things not getting done properly, or the potential of someone getting hurt. The majority of time, it may end up being something that we do not look forward to repeating in the near future.
Yes, cooking with children will be messy and a little crazy, but with a little planning we can definitely control how stressful it ends up being for the adult in charge. Cooking with children can be a very rewarding experience in many ways. It can teach little ones very useful and valuable lessons in the kitchen, and it is a true bonding experience, one that might not always be felt in the moment. But without a doubt, it is one that is creating memories that will linger in your child’s mind well into adulthood.
Our kids enjoy helping in the kitchen, and they benefit by learning an array of lessons from getting involved in this activity. Lessons can range from enhancing fine motor skills and teaching kids practical life lessons in reading, math, and organizational skills. It’s also a way for them to work on their creativity and independence. We like to give them input on what they want to cook so they have a voice, but it is also important to include them in the process of cleaning up, so they can see and practice the cooking process in its entirety. Cooking together gives you the perfect opportunity to remind your kids about the importance of hand washing and good hygiene when dealing with food.
Below we compiled a list of some skills that kids from different ages can learn from being involved in cooking activities.
Preschool aged kids:
The benefits of involving your kids in cooking activities far outweigh the stress. With a little bit of planning and a few helpful tips and tricks, you will be able to enjoy the process as much as your littles ones do.
Kid’s Choice 2 Egg Omelet
(Serves 4; Ready in 45 minutes)
4 teaspoons milk
1 cup cheese, shredded
1 cup ham, cooked and diced
1 cup spinach, chopped
1 cup mushrooms, diced
1 tomato, diced
1 bell pepper (any color), seeded and diced
Salt & pepper to taste
4 teaspoons olive oil
Start by chopping all the veggies and ham, and shredding the cheese. Arrange the toppings (ham, cheese, vegetables) in small, individual bowls, so they are ready to add to the omelet. In a small bowl, beat 2 eggs with 1 teaspoon of milk, and a pinch of salt and pepper until the yolks and whites are thoroughly combined.
Heat 1 teaspoon of olive oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the beaten egg mixture to the skillet, making sure the egg spreads out in one even layer across the pan. Sprinkle ¼ of the meat, cheese, and veggies onto the omelet. Let the omelet cook for 2-3 minutes or until the edges are cooked and the center is slightly set. Fold the omelet in half and cook for another minute or until cooked through. Sprinkle cheese on top, if desired, and serve immediately.
Using the steps above, continue with the remaining ingredients to make 3 more omelets. Enjoy!
Note: Sauté veggies ahead of time for a softer consistency.
originally published on grahamsfoundation.com
There were 5 or 6 of us huddled on the sidewalk that circles the park. It was 50 degrees and sunny, and we had all decided to meet at the playground as this kind of weather in the middle of January is too good to let pass without some time outside. I had met these other mothers before, but we were all just beginning to learn about each other. No one knew my story, because I hadn’t shared it yet. The conversation turned to childbirth, and I began to feel a little anxious. I tried not to make eye contact with anyone...and then it happened. Someone asked me if I had an epidural when my twins were born. In my mind, I quickly weighed the options. Tell the truth and risk taking the conversation down a depressing road, or tell a lie. These types of questions just make me uneasy. I understand that the person asking them is just trying to include me in the conversation, but I always feel like I’m put in an awkward place. I decide to go for the truth. I responded that I actually had a spinal block because I needed an emergency c-section at 28 weeks. The laughter and chatter of the group paused, someone said I’m sorry and then the topic of conversation changed.
Several days later, I was sitting in the designated parents’ area, waiting to retrieve my kids from their daily activities. A small group of moms were standing around a woman who was clearly very pregnant. She was describing her discomfort and commiserating with the other ladies gathered there. As I approached I heard them comparing end of pregnancy symptoms and I almost turned around and headed the other way. But it was too late and I had already been brought into the conversation. In my head, I was thinking that I would have loved to have made it to the uncomfortable phase of pregnancy. That no physical discomfort can compare to the emotional anguish that having a baby in the NICU brings. But I won’t say anything, not today.
It can be very hard to share your story with people that haven’t lived through the NICU. I want to be brave and open up about what my family went through, because I know it helps others. But my experiences are often met with sadness and pity. It can change the mood of a conversation from humorous and fun, to depressing with a simple mention of the NICU. And while that is understandable, that is not how I view the birth of my preemie twins at all. From the outside, it’s often difficult to imagine the beauty and wonder that watching a tiny baby fight for their lives can bring. A journey that has provided me with the invaluable gift of perspective and gratefulness. My story and all NICU stories are the ultimate tales of hope and triumph over adversity. And these stories make a difference to new preemie parents everywhere, who are entering NICUs for the first time. So while it might be difficult to share please remember that the messenger matters, and your story can only be told by you.
*This post is not sponsored. These are all toys that I personally own and bought with my own money.
Winter can prove to be a challenging time for kids and parents alike. There are not as many opportunities to get outside and burn off that extra energy. And many of the indoor activities that we all enjoy, are not available this year due to Covid restrictions. It seems like some toys actually cause my twins to disagree because there are not enough of them to go around. I am vowing to not rely on screens (too much) this season, so I have been researching great interactive toys to keep my twins engaged and happy.
HapiNest Turtle Stepping Stones
This is a fun toy that will keep your kids moving and help with balance, coordination, and gross motor skill development. They are very sturdy and can be used outside, however we reserve ours for indoor play. The set comes with activity cards and several games to play. The multiple stepping stones ensure everyone gets their fair share, and my twins are able to create many imaginary games with this open-ended toy (see video below for more info). I reached out to Hapinest and asked for a discount code and they obliged! So until the end of January (2021) you can use code TOY21 to receive 20% off the whole site!
I really like these subscription box services that send a new collection of activities, books, or toys each month. And with so many different options, you can find something that aligns with your child’s interests. It’s also fun to get mail!
If your twins enjoy sensory play, then kinetic sand is for you. I find it to be far less messy than bins of rice or play-doh. And if you are really mess adverse, plop the kiddos in the tub to make it a mess free activity. I also like that by using different add-ins (small dinosaurs, people, etc.) you have an entirely new activity.
Portable Party Light
This has been the MVP of quarantine. We have weekly dance parties and this portable party light really makes our discos (as my twins call them) super fun (see video below for more info).
If your twins like legos and blocks, try a marble run. Your twins can build separately or together. I love that this toy helps kids improve problem solving skills in a creative way. My only suggestion is to make sure you have plenty of marbles.
Of course I’m not going to make a list of screen free toys without including books. My twins really love this book (Wildlives), because it has short interesting stories about actual animals. It is a book we read over and over.
Hopefully this list will give you a few ideas that can help your twins enjoy a (mostly) screen free winter!
"And a gift is a gift, no matter how it is wrapped."
Oh 2020...what a dumpster fire of a year you have been! In the remaining weeks that are left of this very memorable year, I can only imagine what will happen next. Has the whole year been bad...no. Has the whole year been hard...no. But there have sure been a lot of really bad, really hard hours, days, and even weeks. I never dreamed I would be living and parenting through a global pandemic, and yet here I am.
If you are a “big things parent,” it was an especially hard year. “Big things parents” thrive on creating memories through milestones and experiences. So when many big life moments, like graduations, vacations, and holiday celebrations were canceled this year, many parents felt defeated. They are passionate about celebrating the exceptional, and bringing joy to themselves and their families by throwing a special party, or planning a dream vacation. “Big thing parents” appreciate the destination. This makes for a rough year when you literally have no where to go.
On the other hand, “small things parents” are here for the minutiae. They can appreciate the wonder that exists in the everyday. They can see something remarkable, in what appears quite unremarkable to others. “Small things parents” celebrate bare baby feet in green spring grass, snuggling under a blanket to read out loud (again) a favorite book, or flour handprints left from baking on the kitchen counter. They elevate the journey that is parenting. And while this year was hard for everyone, “small things” can be done daily...even in a pandemic.
This year I was reminded that I can and should be both a “big things” and a “small things” parent. In fact, I started out as a “small things parent.” When you have a NICU baby, you quickly learn about the beauty that is simplicity. Milestones in the NICU are measured in grams and milliliters. So if you are not naturally a person who notices and celebrates the smallest of victories, you soon will become one. Typically, I take the time at the end of a year to reflect upon my accomplishments, and set new intentions for the upcoming year. Since I can’t begin to envision what the future will look like, I’m going to just focus on the past for now. I don’t want to dwell on the pain of 2020, so perhaps I can look at the positives. This year gave me the gift of time that allowed me to remember that sometimes less is more. And a gift is a gift, no matter how it is wrapped.
*This post is not sponsored. This is just my honest opinion.
There are very few baby items that I still use today. But these three bath products have not only stood the test of time, but they are still things we use everyday. Watch as I tell you all about these three baby bath products.