Posts in Motherhood
5 must go family-friendly spots in DC

My favorite memories as a child are going on awesome adventures with my mom. I know it sounds cliché, but Washington DC is still one of my favorite cities to explore because there is literally so much to do with your little ones. Besides the plethora of international food festivals and summer events going on, there are a ton of awesome places to go on family outings, many of which have free entry. Don’t worry if you have kids of different ages, these locations have things to see and explore for all ages! These are my 5 must see family-friendly spots to visit in the DC metro area.

  1. Smithsonian ‘National Zoo’

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Lions, hogs, and pandas? I’m sure if you’re a parent of a toddler, yo'u’ve “roared” a time or two with your kids. You can see lions and pandas up close at the National Zoo in safe exhibit viewing areas. The zoo is one of my favorite places for the whole family because the animals are interpreted differently by the whole family. Aria was soaking up all the information in the park “fact” signs for the first time which was really exciting! She used to only mock the animals and run around in the mist machines for fun. Make sure to bring $5 cash for the paper map so you can navigate your way around easily! Admission in the zoo is FREE. Take advantage of the open parking close to the entrances! More info.

3001 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC 20008

 

2. The Museum of Natural History: Wegman’s Wonderplace

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The Museum of Natural History is amazing! Besides the very well executed exhibits on the upper floors, this museum is home to two really fun activity centers. Wegman’s Wonderplace is an interactive play center for infants to kids 5 years old. Wonder place is great for kids who love play kitchens, puzzles, and a little bit of company to play with. The Q?irius center is a science lab for tweens and teens 11-15. They can view specimens under a microscope, solve challenging brain puzzles, and play interactive games on devices in the lab! Admission for this park is FREE. More info.

10th St. & Constitution Ave. NW  Washington, D.C. 20560

 

3. Dave & Buster’s Arcade

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Dave & Busters is a fan favorite in our house. The reason? My husband is pumped to play arcade games with me and the kids, especially Aria who has taken a liking to the bright lights and excitement of collecting tickets for a prize. Eat first! Their dining area is surprisingly kid-friendly and the food is really on point. You can “supercharge” your meal to add bonus tokens to your D & B card to play more games with. The best part of D & B is their prize room so the kids can take home a souvenir from their visit with us! Admission for the arcade is FREE. Food and games are NOT included. More info.

8661 Colesville Rd, Silver Spring, MD 20910

 

4. United States Botanical Gardens

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The Botanical Garden is definitely in the running for the prettiest DC park, right behind the National Arboretum. The garden is full of plants from all biospheres and walking through it feels like a trip walking through all the seasons that are happening in one place. Ages 9+ can ask for a Junior Botanist Kit to spark their interest in gardening and plant life. The Children’s Garden is a place where small kids can plant real blooms and get hands on experience gardening from the pros. Admission for this park is FREE. More info.

United States Botanic Garden Conservatory
100 Maryland Avenue, SW, Washington, DC 20001

 

5. National Museum of the American Indian

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The National Museum of the Native American is a little-known of gem in DC. American Indian culture is hardly touched on in American History so a trip through this place is fascinating to get a different perspective on American’s settlements and sections of tribes living throughout the country up until today. The coolest thing hidden in there is the imagiNATIONS Activity Center that has experiments and interactive activities you can play to learn about Native American culture including state-of-the-art simulation videos. Admission for this park is FREE. More info.

National Museum of the American Indian
National Mall
Fourth Street & Independence Ave., S.W.
Washington, DC 20560


These adventures are where childhood memories are made! There are so many ways to explore the city in a new way now that a lot of us have children! There are a ton of free admission parks that you could easily pack lunches for if you wanted to skip the pricey cafeteria-style food & vending trucks for lunch. Be sure to take a lot of pictures, the last time we were with Aria at the National Zoo was when she was hardly older than Sire who’s now seven months. Time flies!

xo.

 
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Family

Those who play together, stay together. Get active with the kids outside of the house to make long-lasting family memories.

Getting 'Unstuck' From The Rut
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Here I am pulling myself out of the huge, gigantic, rut I’ve been sitting in for the past few months.

I used to have so much energy to actively snap pictures with thoughtful posts and the ability to write and edit children books for hours on end. Now, I find myself unable to write and unable to tune out all the noise and distractions in life to write anything at all.

I am a writer who has stopped writing altogether. Nothing could be more damaging to my professional skills and my sanity to stop doing what I love. Navigating life lately has been like sitting in a lifeboat on an ocean and each challenge has been a bigger wave that could take me under. As soon as I recovered from one wave, another was on the horizon.

Finally, the rocky waters cleared and it felt like I could breathe and recover when we finally moved out of my in-laws’ home. The pressure of trying to find a house, find a nanny, find a new school for Aria, establish Sire’s sleep schedule, make time for my new husband, manage the housework, keep a fridge full of food, spending time with the dogs, all while working full-time with NO vacation in sight was absolutely crippling. Even my outlet, writing, began to feel like a chore and God knows I already had enough of those.

I have had enough of this dark place I had been dwelling in and I am determined to start back writing and creating by remembering what had driven me to become a professional writer in the first place, my family. In 2016, I published my very first book ever and dedicated the story to my daughter, Aria and my husband, Dezmond.

They both inspired me for different reasons to put my work out there for kids and families to read. Having Aria inspired me to write books for kids of color so they would see themselves in the books they read and Dezmond inspired me to pull the trigger and release one of the many manuscripts I’ve been hoarding over the years.

When I finally published my book, I got such a high from seeing my words come to life with the illustrations and visiting classrooms, guest appearing at radio programs in DC, and having two professional readings at Barnes & Noble which is a huge fete for an independent author. I was even a nominated as Author of the Year in Social Awareness at the Indie Author Legacy Awards in 2018. I went on to publish 5 new books in 2018 under my business, A. Cole Books, and have mentored countless new indie authors since then. I know how incredible it is to create art, inspire kids, and challenge myself, so why did I ever stop?

Well the truth is, I had to move out obstacles out of my life that affected my creativity. I was living in the wrong place, hanging with incompatible people, and had the wrong mentality to take on new projects. We finally found a house, we found a nanny, we found a school for Aria, and all of a sudden, it felt like I could breathe again!

Moving to a new area allowed us to get a fresh start in a new home that my husband and I have already had a ton of fun decorating together. Eliminating my major ‘stressers’ allowed me to want to get back into my lifestyle as a blogger and an author because it’s who I am and what I love.

Have you ever been in a giant rut when life took over? What helped you overcome it?

Here’s what I’ve learned

Getting out of a rut is 99% about changing your mental state and 1% about the physical effort to do what you enjoy.

XO

Love thyself: Three Months Postpartum
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I had a baby three months ago.

This is the honest truth I have to say out loud when I look at myself in the mirror. Sometimes, I have to say it over and over again. I had a baby three months ago.

It seems like society places so much emphasis on “snapping back” after having a baby. I had so many people commenting on my body after having Sire, it made me incredibly insecure. I felt like a specimen in an invisible cage that was on display for people to comment on and give their opinions to.

I heard everything from “Yeah, you look bigger now,” only two weeks after having Sire. Well, duh. I also heard “Wow! You just had a baby?” [Cue the eyeroll]. Some people let it be known that it annoyed them that I lost most of my weight so quickly. Regardless of the feedback that I heard, it left an awful taste in my mouth like my weight and body were being picked apart by people I knew and even absolute strangers.

Why is it anyone else’s place to tell me how good, or bad, I look after having a baby? Three months postpartum, I still have about 8-10 pounds left to shed to get to my “pre-baby” weight but I am in absolutely no rush to see any specific number on the scale. Why? Because, I am so incredibly proud of my body and what it has done to deliver two healthy beautiful babies. So what if I have extra weight on my hips or that those stretchmarks from my first pregnancy look more noticeable than ever.

What I wish people paid attention to more than a mother’s physical appearance is her mental health. This time around, I’ve been able to keep postpartum depression at bay which is an incredible feeling to have a sound mind. I can be fully present at my job, and when I’m home being a wife and mother. I don’t have the fog of darkness that surrounds so many of us when our hormones are going haywire.

I know there will be plenty of time for toning to get ready for summer when I’m ready. I haven’t been putting emphasis on working out rigorously because I’ve been so busy trying to nurse a baby and establish a sleep schedule for Sire with my [amazing] partner.

I know that I’m rounding the corner to depart from my 4th trimester which is all about loving yourself and your new flaws as well as obsessing over your new baby. Love thyself. It is so important to be kind to yourself even in the midst of constant criticism from people who make a comment about your body. I’ve officially said screw all the feedback. I am damn proud of my mom-bod and the incredible blessings it’s provided, my children.

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What I’ve learned…

All you can honestly do is tune out all the comments and focus on eating healthy during and after pregnancy, especially if you’re nursing. Set fitness goals for yourself to start at your own pace. I encourage you to listen to your body. It will tell you what it needs and focus on loving yourself from the inside out.

No attitude, No problem.
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If they don’t have an attitude, we don’t have any problems.

Do any of you have tiny humans who act like teenagers already? If you’re parenting anyone who’s in the 2-7 year age range, it may feel like that.

Aria loves to make dramatic exits from our room when she’s annoyed. You’ll hear, “I’m going to my room” and see her stomping all the way to the door that she grips tightly to slam it shut behind her. When did our three year old turn into my thirteen-year-old self?!

It’s easy to lose your cool when speaking to your attitude-prone child. But, it’s important to remember that if you don’t correct their behavior, it will be up to other adults, caretakers, and teachers to try to instill better behavior in your kid.

Here are the 5 things to do to eliminate tantrums and hissy fits with small kids.

  1. Talk calmly and clearly. Acknowledge when their behavior is bad and clearly state that you are giving them one warning which is their opportunity to correct themselves.

  2. Do not repeat yourself. After the one-time warning, send them to their room. Time alone with no toys or stimulation is super effective. Increments of 5 minutes usually works well depending on the severity of the attitude.

  3. Set expectations and don’t waiver. When you set a punishment for behavior, be consistent with the way you reprimand them. They will remember the negative consequences for bad behavior.

  4. Reflect. Talk to them about the situation that happened and offer a solution you would have preferred to see. For instance, if they’re yelling, demonstrate them the voice level that is appropriate.

  5. Rewards. Rewards should be given if your kid uses good coping and reasoning skills to de-escalate their attitude on their own.

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What I’ve learned…

If you had any type of attitude growing up, your child will serve it back to you tenfold. Instead of raising your voice, or saying the same thing twenty times, try these 5 tactics. I’ve found that in motherhood, nannying, and teaching that they are super effective, especially if you consistently use this method.

Switching Roles: Mom's Going To Work
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Life with a newborn isn’t easy. Newborn babies mean extremely long nights with no consistent hours of sleep, diaper changes in a pitch-black room, and breastfeeding on demand every 2-3 hours. I’m so used to being the primary caretaker for our babies and kids. My entire day was scheduled around pick-ups and drop-offs but that’s all over now. I took a nanny role which requires me to be away from the kids most of the day. My husband who was always the daytime worker, now he’s going to be the hands-on superstar daddy because we’re switching roles!

With Aria, I had the luxury of working remotely from home for the first two years before she went to school. This time, I had only 8 weeks before I had to go back to work. Ugh, playtime with my chicken nugget is over! It was the hardest thing ever to imagine being away from my little baby for 38 hours out of the week. I’m dreading all of the things I’ll miss if I’m at work whether it’s his first word or him learning to scoot around. I will actually cry if he walks for the first time while I’m away.

The hardest part about going back to work is working out the logistics for childcare. He’s too little for us to feel comfortable going to a large daycare center. I’m horrified about the types of stories I see and read about regarding child care staff members harming or neglecting babies who are too young to speak or defend themselves.

Luckily, Dezmond is a business owner so we were able to work out our schedules so that I could work until 6 and he will work evenings and weekends. That way, the kids will be with one of us throughout the day and not in the hands of a stranger. Aria is also old enough to be going to school full-time (until 3:30) so that allows him to focus his time on our cluster-feeding baby. I can’t say that switching roles doesn’t come without heartburn. We had to put in fool-proof systems in place so I wasn’t worried about the house burning down with all of them in it.

Here’s what I did to help daddy prepare for full-time diaper duty

  1. Put everything in designated bins. Keeping yourself organized is key to making sure things go smoothly. For instance, we have 6 main bins. Diapers/wipes, burp cloths & linen, lotions and creams, daytime clothes & undershirts, jumpers, and outerwear/socks/shoes.

  2. Label everything. You can never be too thorough! Avery brand makes labels of all sizes that you can write on yourself or print them out on your home printer. Stick them on and reinforce them with clear packing tape on the front of your bins to “laminate” them.

  3. Make a baby manual. I have an entire PDF I created in Canva that’s full of info every new child caregiver would need. There’s a morning checklist, a health information sheet, a “where is it” location guide, emergency contact form, and diaper bag checklist.

  4. Re-stock the baby bag at night. Make sure that the bag is stocked with 8-10 diapers, a change of clothes, extra socks, a pacifier, a burp cloth, an empty bottle, changing table pad, and a pack of wipes. We also keep a lavender essential oil roller and natural dissolvable chamomile tablets for Sire just in case of fussy days or when teething begins.

  5. Pre-make bottles at night. Make sure you make 3-4 bottles and fill it with the desired amount of breastmilk or formula. I pump during work so that’s what he’ll eat until he runs out of it and then the rest of the day until I get home he eats Organic Similac bottles and resumes breastfeeding when I get off.

It’s going to feel super weird for the first couple weeks, but I know I’ll get used to it. The most important thing to remember is that he’s healthy and he’ll be fine for a few hours each day while I have to work. I know he’s in good hands with his daddy who magically has a newfound respect and appreciation for stay-at-home moms and understands that work productivity can be drastically impacted when you have a small baby. Who woulda thought?!

I’m with you.

For all my working mamas, when did you go back to work and where did you find help with childcare?

That's How I Got Here Part 2: Sire's Birth Story

Dezmond “Sire” Seifu was born on Friday, 10/26/18 at 9:06 am.

The entire week leading up to his birth was agonizing. I was in an early laboring stage for a full 7 days before little Sire made his grand appearance. I thought I would know what to expect out of the laboring process since this was my second time around, but boy was I wrong…

Side note: Labor for Aria was terribly different and set unrealistic expectations for this new baby. I went from 2 cm dilated to 10 cm in 24 hours with her.

Flashback to a 10/17.

Our hospital was about an hour away from where we’re currently living in comparison to being 10 minutes away from our studio that is located in Washington DC. I figured, the worst case scenario was that I would stay with Dez at the studio if I felt like I was going to go into labor. So, the day my contractions started, I immediately was alert and excited.

As you may know, the closer the contractions are together, the closer you are to delivering. The contractions I had that day went from 30 minutes apart, to 10 minutes apart, to 5, and it stayed like that for about 12 hours before they stopped completely. I had even called the midwives to alert them that I may be coming in if they intensified, but they didn’t. I was shocked. I had my hospital bag packed by 35 weeks so I had everything in the car ready to go! Hospital bag, check. Newborn carseat, check.

At 10:00pm that night I felt the contractions start up again, this time they were more intense. I happily got in my car and drove to our studio, where Dez already was, thinking our boy would be arriving soon. I stayed up, waiting and hoping it was true. I just knew that I wouldn’t have a long labor this time. The midwives warned me to move faster this time because labor is about half the time the second time around. If the first time labor was eight hours, I was expecting to be in labor for about four hours this time.

I finally fell asleep on an air mattress around midnight, thinking that any intense contractions would wake me up out of my sleep. The next morning, I woke up early and was still pregnant, sigh. My contractions consistently came and went for days and days, leading me to become frustrated, emotional, and strained physically.

Luckily, I had a doctor’s appointment the next morning in the city, so I got dressed and went to see the midwives as normal for my 39 week check up. When I arrived, a midwife named Virginia greeted me and decided it was time to check my cervix. I was dilating but it was only at 2cm which was disappointing. She said it could stay like that for days or a week. Yikes.

How was I feeling during this pregnancy? MISERABLE by the end. Carrying boys is SO different than carrying girls. Sire ran out of room in my body weeks before he arrived. He would kick the hell out of my sciatic nerve which is the long cord that runs down your back down to your legs. It cuts off feeling through half of your body if it’s struck hard enough.

I didn’t have any of these pains when I was carrying Aria. He kicked my nerve so hard one day that my sister-in-law had to bring me ice because I couldn’t walk for three hours. He would sit on the nerves that operated my legs and would cause them to go numb for seconds at a time, often in front of other people who I’m sure thought I was seizing or needed serious medical attention.

 Fast forward to 10/26.

FINALLY, a week went by, and I was in the city again at the office. I was with Dezmond working late and was exhausted. I decided to bite the bullet to get a nicer air mattress from Walmart, some soul food from Oohs and Ahhs (the best soul food in the DC), and to get comfortable at the studio for the last time.

I woke up about 4:00am with very intense contractions and felt relieved because it was finally time! I gently woke up Dezmond to tell him the news! I knew the contractions would get more intense, but decided I definitely needed an hour or two more of sleep before we went into the hospital. I recall being up literally all day the day Aria was born between nurse check ups and visitors, the hospital is a place where rest rarely happens.

At 6:00am we packed our things and headed to the hospital. Unfortunately, we had the hardest time finding the ER entrance, which was something I knew was inevitable. We had missed our hospital tour more than once and we could have easily avoided this dilemma altogether if we had made it to any of our tour times.

We had Aria with us, and I couldn’t walk far distances, so Dez let me out at the ER entrance so he could park, grab all our bags, and lead Aria in. I walked to the attendant’s desk and let them know I needed to go to Labor and Delivery. They called a transporter who wheeled me to the fifth floor.

When I got there, it dawned on me that I had left my wallet in the car. All I had was my cell phone and a bottle of water. The security guard started asking me questions about the nature of my visit. I told her I was 39 weeks pregnant and was going into labor. The desk was crowded by nurses but for some reason, they asked me “how I knew I was going into labor?” I told them that my contractions were strong and that I was already dilating the week before.

Like an angel, Virginia floated in to the room and smiled at me. I felt relieved she could vouch for who I was to speed up this idiotic intake process. They took me into the triage room to have me answer more questions while they put an IV needle in my arm and started tracking the contractions with a belt around my belly.

Once they finished they wheeled me into the hallway to take me into the delivery suite. There, holding all our baggage, was my amazing fiancé who had our loud, energetic toddler in tow. Luckily we had an iPad with us and headphones to keep her busy. We finally got to the room and it seemed like it took an eternity to connect the device to wifi. The midwives who were on call and assisting me were two lovely women named Brenda and Alkita. They were two of the only midwife nurses I had never met, but it didn't matter.

They made sure I was comfortable and spoke to me in calm soothing voices. They continued to monitor me and the baby and helped me breathe through the unbearable stage of labor where every contraction feels like it’s ripping through your body. They placed cool rags on my face and told me I could walk around and move if it helped me. I knew it was time for me to push within a half hour of being in the delivery room.

I started pushing on my back, but something told me to flip to my hands and knees which is a position I researched about more comfortable natural birthing. I opted for no medication again?which I realize some people think is crazy but I find it to be empowering and beautiful. I know how much pain I can stand to bring our children into this world with limited assistance by doctors or medicine to speed up or slow down the process.

On my hands and knees I pushed and Sire came out crying. Beautiful and raw. Aria was in the room and her dad shielded her from the graphic part but she was one of the first faces to greet her new brother. My nose started to bleed, something that has never happened in my life, and the rest was a small blur until they placed our son in my arms. They handed him to me, cord still attached to the both of us. I laid there with him just soaking up all those moments until the midwives asked Dez to cut his umbilical cord.

We bonded skin-to-skin for about an hour just embracing each other. I was absolutely in love with him from the very first time he was handed to me. Ah, my boy. His delivery was fast and smooth. We are absolutely blessed to have had two beautiful, uneventful, natural births. It was a wonderful thing to be able to have had calming midwives who allowed my whole family to be together in the room to witness the birth of our new family member.

And just like that, we went from a family of three to a family of four.

How life’s changed

We are slowly transitioning into our new lives with two. We have no routines yet at 6 days in. Dez took a few days off from work to help us get situated which was amazing to have his help in the first few days. We’re just learning to balance the needs of both children and figuring out Sire’s personality. The house has gotten a lot quieter now that we have a sleeping babe around. Aria is still learning about her “inside” voice. I have a feeling, learning that will take some time.

In order to help her adjust to all the changes that come with having a new baby and sibling, we made her room feel more “princessy” and grown up so she wouldn’t feel left out of getting all cool new gear and so she would enjoy spending time in her room. I think it helped ease the jealousy of having a new baby being in our room with us too. She’s a wonderful, attentive big sister already. She holds his hand and sings to him which melts my heart. We’re happy she loves him as much as we do!

Happy birthday to our son Dezmond “Sire” Seifu. We are so lucky to have you.

 

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