Life in 3 acts

3 things I’m doing differently as a mother

Below is a picture of the moment that I became a mother.

This photo was taken about 12 hours after Anna was born…about 12 hours after I technically and biologically became a mother.  However, the first 12 hours of Anna’s life remain a blur to me. Her delivery was tough and I lost a lot of blood. So, instead of spending the first few hours of her life bonding with her, I was in and out of consciousness while she was cared for in the hospital nursery.

This photo was snapped by Kevin the following morning, once I was out of recovery and Anna was brought to me for the first time. I remember being shocked at how beautiful she was. When I saw her the first time, immediately after being born, she was a typical newborn–purple, coated in schmutz and, adding insult to injury was her conehead and wonky eyes–a direct result of the beating she took during delivery (let us not even speak of the beating I took during delivery).

In the moment that you’re seeing above, overcome with the fact that I’d made this perfect, whole and beautiful creature so full of potential, I made a vow to Anna to be the best mother I knew how to be. I knew that there were injustices from my childhood that I wanted to correct and, in that very moment, I knew that I had the opportunity to break a cycle.

I wish that one of the promises that I’d made to her that day was to stop drinking, but that wasn’t one of them–at least not yet.  At that time in my life, I knew that I’d need to stop drinking at some point in the future, but I also knew that motherhood would be hard and that I’d need to rely on “mommy’s little helper” a little too. Thankfully, I did quit drinking in the coming years but here is a list of the other cycles that I vowed to break on that day:

  1. Marry money, honey” : Beginning as a very small child, I can remember first commenting to my mother about a nice house or a nice car…or even a nice purse, my mother’s standard response was always a dismissive, “Well, marry money, honey.” It wasn’t until I was a lot older that I really stopped to consider what that meant. What my mother was effectively saying to me–even if it was just in jest, was this, “you’ll only be able to have nice things if you find a man to take care of you.” Funny thing is, that I didn’t marry a man with money. Instead, I married a man with big dreams and tons of confidence who taught me how to set goals and encouraged me to go after what I wanted in life. And that’s the message that we’re giving our kids too. When Anna remarks on a nice item, my standard response is, “Work hard. Do the right thing. Study. Make good choices and earn it yourself.” I can’t even conceive of ever making Anna feel like she wasn’t capable of earning something on her own the, hard way.
  2. Talking about other people (gossip): When I was a young girl, I knew all of the community gossip. I know now that probably my mother just lacked friends to talk to, but often times, I was the one that she gossiped to. I was included in adult conversations that I had no business being a part of. Even at an early age, I knew who in our community was in an unhappy marriage, who was still pining for their high school sweetheart, whose children might not be biologically related to the man who raised them…basically, I knew way more than any child should know (or any other person NOT DIRECTLY INVOLVED IN THE RELATIONSHIP should know.). I remember learning early on, that rush of knowing something about someone and how that garnered me the attention of others when I spilled the beans.  I cringe when I think of the things that I knew at such a young age and it shaped who I am and how I’ve handled the responsibility of harboring gossip as an adult. Now that I’m a mother, I’ve made a conscious plan not to ever talk about anyone in front of my kids–that includes my kids peers as well as the adults in our life. Now, all bets are off about what’s said among me and my mom friends at the bus stop before the kids get home, but when my kids are around, I don’t talk about people unless it’s kind words or giving the benefit of the doubt. Little pitchers have big ears…
  3. Talking badly about myself: I grew up with a mother who hated her body. I have vivid memories of her calling herself a “fat pig” and other horrible things. Perhaps she was fishing for compliments, but as a child, all I knew was that my mother said terrible things about herself all the time. So, I grew up silently critiquing my own body. I didn’t want this for my children, so I’ve made a pointed effort never to say anything but empowering things about my body when I do talk about my body (which is seldom) in front of my kids. Our society talks about our bodies too much as it is. I don’t want my kids even thinking about their bodies as anything other than running, jumping, ball-throwing, jump-roping, dancing-machines.

As an adult, I am (mostly) forgiving and (reasonably) accepting of my body. When it comes up in conversation with my kids, I commend my body on its feats of strength and endurance and I very much just portray my body as a vehicle for my soul to travel around in. I try to preach kindness to all–ourselves included–to my kids and we talk about respect and acceptance more than is probably necessary, but it’s something I feel strongly about.

When I made these promises to baby Anna, 10 years ago, honestly, I wasn’t even sure if I’d be able to hold up my end of the bargain. I knew that I desperately wanted to break the cycle that I grew up with, but I also wasn’t sure if it was possible.

As the years have gone on, not only do I feel like I’ve broken the cycle, but the dialog that I was raised with is a whole way of thinking that I can’t even wrap my brain around anymore. I’m a happier, healthier person than I ever thought possible–and I’m not a half-bad parent either. Granted, my kids will likely have a whole new set of cycles that they will vow to break with her own children, and honestly, I think that’s rad. I think that we should get better with each generation. It’s evolution at its finest.

 

2+
Life in 3 acts

Am I judging moms who drink?

Recently, one of my more popular blog posts was featured on Red Tricycle. When I wrote it, it came from a place of anger. I was sick and tired of seeing drinking normalized among the mom-crowd.

When I posted “Mommy Juice” here on the blog, it was warmly received, because in a way, I’m “preaching to the choir” here. Then, when it went out on Red Tricycle’s page, it was met with resistance–a lot of it. Many women said that I was “judging” them for drinking and that, “just because I can’t drink doesn’t mean that everyone should abstain.

Honestly, I was a bit gobsmacked by the resistance. It hadn’t occurred to me that it would be such a divisive topic and it forced me to explore the question: “Am I judging moms who drink too harshly?”

I’ve thought a lot about it in the past couple of weeks and, honestly I think my answer is that I’m not judging other moms–I’m judging our society–and when I wrote “Mommy Juice” I wasn’t able to properly articulate that.

You see, when I was a new mom, I fell for that same schtick. You know, the “have a bottle of wine–you deserve it after the day you’ve had!”-schtick. Now that I’ve seen that that way of thinking can be really destructive, I have strong feelings about it. What I wanted to say in “Mommy Juice” was–“don’t be like me!”

But here’s the thing: I’m not talking about the moms who have the occasional glass of wine. Hell, I’m not even talking about the moms who have a glass of wine every day to unwind once the kids go to bed nor am I talking about the moms who go out and get wasted on girls’ night or in Vegas with their partners.

I’m talking about the moms who are lonely and feeling “off,” who are self medicating with alcohol and are slowly losing control of things.

According to WebMD, it’s estimated that anywhere from 10-20% of new mothers experience postpartum depression. Of those cases, only half of them seek treatment. This means that half of those ladies aren’t getting the help that they need from a doctor and are potentially self-medicating with drugs and alcohol.

Even though doctors have come a long way in terms of asking the right questions and opening up the dialogue with new moms about feelings of postpartum depression, there’s still a stigma attached to that diagnosis. Motherhood is funny like that. You spend so much of your time second-guessing yourself and wondering if you’re qualified to be the caretaker of a baby. Then, if you’re having even mild feelings of sadness, you’re not bonding with the baby; you’re wondering if you should even be doing this at all…well, it’s embarrassing to tell someone that–even your trusted doctor.

So, yeah. I’m not judging moms. I’m judging our culture that demands that new mothers do it all perfectly and love every minute of it and then leave them woefully ill-equipped with support when it’s needed. When that happens, “Mommy’s Little Friend” becomes wine and it’s encouraged and heralded as a cure-all for moms at the end of their rope.

I think what I meant to convey is  this: I’d for like our culture to take us more seriously. To give us more credit for who we are and what we do for our families. Offering us yet another glass of cheap wine after a hard day feels like a patronizing pat on the head. I think what I’m really angry about is that mothers have become caricatures. Easily plied with wine and simple in our needs, when that’s not the case at all and this attitude is harmful for many.

There. I feel better now.

I’d love to hear your take on this. Do you think that I judged moms who drink too harshly? 

1+
Life in 3 acts

Am I a hypochondriac?

In the past year, I’ve legitimately thought that I was dying on at least 2 separate occasions.

Does this make me a hypochondriac?

Backstory: My thyroid started giving me trouble a couple of years ago. Long story made shorter, I went to the emergency room with heart palpitations, thinking for sure that I was having a heart attack. After a litany of tests and bloodwork, it was determined that I wasn’t having a heart attack but that my thyroid was going crazy–which was causing the heart palpitations. Whew. Call off the undertaker.

Prior to this event, I could’ve count on two hands (I’ve had 2 pregnancies) the number of times that I’ve been to the doctor’s office. I’m a healthy person. I don’t get sick. I take good care of myself. So, the day that I went to the ER with heart palpitations and tingling in my left arm, I was certain that I was dying. It’s a strange feeling to feel something new and unfamiliar. My brain spun out of control.

After the thyroid diagnosis, I got used to the feeling of having heart palps. I take medication to help, but I still experience them and, knowing what’s causing them has put my mind at ease. Until January of this year.

I was having my usual heart palpitations, but this time, a new-found ache in my chest coincided with the heart palps. I had a lot on my plate during this time. My daughter was involved in a stage production that week and we had family and friends coming from all over to see it. I was also involved in getting her to and from rehearsals every night and trying to figure out how to do stage makeup that would make her best look like a “blue bird.” (Spoiler: I’m not a makeup artist)

So, I largely tried to ignore the chest pains and heart palps, as a busy mom does…until I lay awake in the middle of the night–the night before her first performance–going over the guest list of who we were expecting to visit for the performance, how to do bird makeup again and maybe there are some new YouTube tutorials that I haven’t seen yet that will make it all clear and, oh, yeah….that nagging heart thing.

All I could think about was if I was dying. If this was a heart attack. I knew better than to Google “symptoms of a heart attack” because, on any given day, I think it’s safe to say that any of us could firmly convince ourselves that we were having a heart attack (or maybe my imagination is just more active than most). Also, guess what? Laying in bed, working yourself into an anxiety attack over heart palpitations does not make you feel any more confident that you aren’t IN FACT DYING. It even got so bad at one point, that I was legitimately concerned that my kids would be the ones to find my lifeless body also, who would do the damn bird makeup if I died?

Finally, after realizing that I wasn’t going to get any sleep this way, I woke up my husband and told him that i was going to go to the hospital to get it checked out. The whole drive there, I went over in my head all of the possibilities. Best case–I’m not dying and they’ll admit me to do whatever they do after one survives a heart attack. Worst case: I was about to die.

How would Kevin raise my kids alone?

Would they even miss me?

He’ll never know all of the little things that I do around the house.

I’ll bet he won’t know to mush the cats’ wet food up a bit to help them eat it easier–especially Tino and his wonky teeth.

All of these thoughts are going through my head during the 1am drive to the hospital.

In case you haven’t figured it out yet, I did not, in fact, die that evening in the ER. As usual, everything checked out totally fine and I was given a baby aspirin and sent on my way (to the tune of a $5000 medical bill. But, I would’ve paid $10,000 just to know that I wasn’t dying.).

Getting old is funny like that. When I look back at everything that I did in my younger days: The bad decisions that I made. The questionable people that I hung out with. The risks that I took. Dying was very seldom something that I thought about.

Maybe it’s because the stakes are higher now that I have a family but dying is something that I’ve thought about more this year than ever before.

So, maybe I am a hypochondriac...and maybe I’m not, but one thing is for sure: These “brushes with death” have made me think about my life in a different way. Feeling like it was all about to end–like the rug was about to be pulled out from under me–has made me so grateful for everything that I have. Even the little things. Getting a shopping cart with smooth, fully-functioning wheels at the grocery store. Making it to the gas station with plenty of gas before filling up. Having made the decision to stop drinking, all those years ago, before I hurt myself or my family.

What about you? Have you ever felt like you were dying? 

1+
Life in 3 acts

Talking to kids about alcohol

I stopped drinking when my kids were 3 years and 1 year old. I’m very proud and (frankly) humbled by the fact that they don’t remember ever seeing me drink–Lord knows that I did–but they don’t remember it.

My babies…

 

As they’ve gotten older, I’ve had a tough time talking objectively about alcohol to them. I have pretty strong feelings about the abuse of alcohol and the flippant attitudes about alcohol use (and abuse) in our culture (perhaps you’ve noticed? Links HERE and HERE)

Here’s the thing though: I’d love nothing more than if–when my children are adults–they can go to Happy Hour with work friends and drink responsibly.

Have a glass of wine on a first date.

Go to parties and let loose (a little).

I want them to have a normal life. I don’t want the burden of alcohol hanging over their heads.

But, I also know that they have–encoded in their DNA somewhere–the potential to have a problem with alcohol. I want them to be mindful of that as opportunities to drink come flying at them from left and right as they get older.

2013, almost 7 years and almost 5 years old

 

So, I talk to them about alcohol sometimes. I want them to know that it can be a problem for some people and that they might be one of those people. But that they also might NOT be. I’ve toed the line between talking about alcohol too much and probably not enough. It’s complicated and seems premature to have these discussions, but I don’t want them to become a certain age, where alcohol is suddenly everywhere, and not know how to handle it.

I’ve talked to them about how a little alcohol isn’t always bad, but that a lot of alcohol is a really dangerous thing…not just for them, but for everyone.

As a result of my teetotaling, they see drunk people on tv and at the occasional outing and they judge them harshly. They get upset when  someone accidentally sloshes  a drop or two of beer on them at a baseball game or when they smell alcohol on the breath of a loved one.

17 month old Jack, hanging out at the keg at a family reunion

 

For that, I feel guilty. I hate that I’ve had to turn alcohol use into a “thing” that they’re aware of, even at the tender ages of 8 and 10.

After mulling it over and over in my head for the past few years, I’ve come to the following conclusion about talking about alcohol with my kids:

I feel like it’s important to keep an open, casual dialog about alcohol going. I don’t want the topic of alcohol use to ever feel like a secret in our home. I want my kids to be able to ask me any questions that they have about alcohol; I want them to know why I don’t drink but I also want them to feel as though it’s their decision to make (when they’re old enough, obviously) as to whether or not they want to drink. I’ll also tell them that, if they find themselves having trouble moderating their alcohol use, that I’m here and will never abandon them and that we can face any problem head-on.

Image courtesy of: www.babble.com

 

I think that the key is to remove the stigma of alcohol abuse and make sure that my kids know that I will support them no matter how they find a place for alcohol in their adult lives.

What about you? How do you talk about alcohol with your kids? 

2+
Life in 3 acts

How to ditch alcohol forever


(the way that I did it)

*Disclaimer: As I’ve stated here before, my road to sobriety was different from most. I didn’t require the assistance of a 12-step program, rehab and only minimal counseling. If you feel as though you can’t stop drinking on your own, please seek help promptly! 

When I decided to stop drinking, I just did it. I drank too much on a Sunday afternoon and fell asleep about dinnertime, leaving my husband to take on the feeding of the kids/bathing/bedtime routine. I woke up later that night, embarrassed at what I’d let happen. I went to a board meeting at my kids’ church preschool the following morning hungover and vowed right then and there. Enough. I can’t keep up with this habit anymore. That was the Fall of 2010.

If you’ve ever wondered if maybe you need to stop drinking, <as blunt as this sounds> you probably do. A good way to find out is to quit for a little while–and I don’t mean for a day–I mean for an extended amount of time to see how things change in your life. From there you can consider moderating your drinking or maybe you’ll continue to abstain. The trick is to be honest with yourself about your drinking. 

Some of the following tips I followed and some, I wish I’d followed. But all of them have dawned upon me at one time or another over the course of the past 6 years.

Continue reading “How to ditch alcohol forever”

2+
Life in 3 acts

Frugal Friday Favorites

Since we’ve tightened up our budget and, based on the responses that I got from my last Frugal Friday Favorites post (link HERE), a lot of you are in budget-mode too, I’m continuing on with free or inexpensive favorites this week. I’d love to hear yours too!

First up is my homemade facial cleanser. It contains 2 ingredients…yes, 2. And costs very little to make. Also, I love the way it makes my skin feel. Winning!

Ingredients:

Castor Oil

Coconut Oil

Depending on your skin, you might start with equal parts castor oil and coconut oil (this is what I do for my normal skin). If you have oily skin, you’ll want to do 1 part coconut oil to 3 parts castor oil. For dry skin, do 3 parts coconut oil to 1 part castor oil.

Here’s how I use it: I keep my jar of the oil cleanser next to my sink in the bathroom. I take a fingerful of the goop and smear it on my face. Then I brush my teeth, letting the oil sit on my face. After that, I get in the shower and use a how, wet washcloth to gently begin wiping the cleanser off. Along with it, the dirt and makeup comes off as well.

With all of this oil, you’d think that you’d get out of the shower feeling like a greasy-ball, huh? Amazingly enough, no. My skin always feels plump and hydrated (like after a facial) but not at all greasy. In fact, I’m typically ready to put my various night serums, lotions and potions on shortly thereafter.

Next up is a recipe that I made this week that cost me nothing to make! We had all of the ingredients on hand–and the family devoured it.

 

It also fed us for two dinners and was great for reheating for hurried before-after-school-activities-meals. Link HERE

Image courtesy of: http://www.5dollardinners.com/cheeseburger-skillet/

 

Finally, a workout program that costs only $2 a month:

Image courtesy of www.mommastrong.com

 

I’ve talked about Momma Strong before. It’s an online workout (geared towards women–moms specifically–but there’s also now a Papa Strong workout for the menfolk) that is only $2 a month. I’ve been doing the Daily 15 workouts for many months, but fell off the wagon over the Holidays (and, for only $2 a month, I didn’t feel too bad about jumping ship). At the beginning of this month, I was really ready to get back to the program. I started The Hook–a 28 day strength challenge earlier this month. It’s also a 15 minute a day workout. This, coupled with my daily dog hike, has gotten me back on track.

It’s also good to sign up for and honor a commitment. Another integral part of the whole Momma Strong community is an active Facebook group, where you can ask questions and get accountability buddies. It’s an incredible group of people who are supportive and at all different levels of health and fitness. Again…all of this is included in the $2 a month fee.

What are your current Frugal Friday Favorites? 

Continue reading “Frugal Friday Favorites”

0
Life in 3 acts

5 things I get done before 7 a.m.

My weekday mornings begin early…I mean real early, girl.

My alarm goes off at 5 a.m. This is partly because I have to get my kids to the bus stop early and I need a few moments to collect myself before they wake up for the day.

Here’s what my average Monday through Friday mornings look like during the school year. All of these things happen before 7 a.m.:

1: Upon getting out of bed, I’m immediately met by 5 (6, if you count the fish too, who’s not pictured) hungry–obviously malnourished–pets, on the brink of starvation. They get fed first because they’re loud until they’re fed. Who owns who?

2: Before I do anything else, I take my multivitamin. I LOVE this multivitamin because it’s a liquid and it tastes divine (peach mango flavor). As soon as this stuff hits my system, I feel like I can take on the world. For real. I buy it from my local holistic health care practitioner, but Amazon sells it too. Link HERE

3: Next up, coffee. In between the vitamin and coffee, I guzzle a glass of apple cider vinegar/lemon water. By then, my coffee is cool enough to drink. I got Kevin this coffeemaker for Christmas and we love it. Turns out that, when you have a 12 year old coffeemaker, you’re drinking some shitty-ass coffee and you might not even realize it. This new coffeemaker has upped our coffee game considerably. Link to coffeemaker HERE

This photo was taken one morning last week when it was particularly cold here. Tino was questioning my bus stop wardrobe judgement.

 

A few things happen between coffee and taking the kids to the bus stop. Actually, a lot more than a few: I empty the dishwasher, do my blog reading, make breakfast for the kids and assemble lunches for the kids (they make their lunches the night before, but I pack everything into their lunch boxes for them in the morning). None of these things are particularly photo-worthy though…

4: After all of that, it’s time to go to the school bus stop at the end of our street. The bus comes at 6:30 a.m.–which is stupid early, but when my kids ride the bus, it saves me from making the 20 mile (roundtrip) drive to their school, which takes about an hour out of my day. The kids like riding the bus–it’s social hour for them–so that makes it easier.

5: As soon as I get home from the bus stop, I make all of the beds in the house (provided that my husband is up already–sometimes he’s not and so I passive-aggressively slam bathroom cabinets and turn on lights around him to show my jealousy and remorse that he gets to sleep later than me). #supermaturewife #alsowelladjusted

To be fair, I enjoy getting up early. I need quiet time to myself in the mornings to prepare for my day ahead. I don’t think that I could function as well if I had to start all of my “mothering duties” the minute that my feet hit the floor. So, this is what works for me and my family. 

What about you? What things do you get accomplished in the morning? 

This post contains affiliate links, which help to support the maintenance and upkeep of this blog. 

1+
Life in 3 acts

2017 goals

I’m an action-oriented, list-making type of person, so I enjoy the beginning of a new year and all of the promise and potential that it holds. I’ve never really been a resolution-maker but lately, I’ve grown accustomed to setting some goals and intentions for myself at the beginning of the year. 

This year, I have some goals and I thought I’d share them here, in the hopes that they’ll inspire you and also hold me accountable.

Without further ado, here are my goals for 2017…

Continue reading “2017 goals”

2+
Life in 3 acts

Friday Favorites–Christmas 2016 successes

Whew! Christmas was a whirlwind around here…how ’bout for you?

Every year, it takes me by surprise how much planning we (I) put into everything–all for approximately 2 days of enjoyment. I spent countless time and energy on menu-planning, home decorating and gift selecting. I love it all so much, but man alive, does it go by quickly!

So, after having a few days to marinate on our Christmas, I thought I’d do a round-up of our Christmas 2016 successes today–from gifts to recipes.

Continue reading “Friday Favorites–Christmas 2016 successes”

2+
Life in 3 acts

Taco Tuesday No More!

It’s been a rough couple of weeks in the kitchen, y’all!

Between evening choir and 4th grade musical performances at the school and a party that we hosted, I haven’t had much inclination to do my usual meal-planning and cooking routine. I’m guessing a lot of you are in the same boat. 

This week isn’t looking much better either and the only meal planning that I’m up for right now is trying to puzzle through what we’ll be eating for Christmas Eve, (typically we do a spread of finger foods, appetizers and cheese-ball type stuff) Christmas morning, (my husband wants to attempt The Pioneer Woman’s infamous cinnamon rolls) and Christmas dinner. What are you serving? I need some inspiration…

I did manage to crank out one successful, healthy Cook Smarts meal for my family last week, amidst all of the Holiday hullaboloo and wanted to share it with you today. 

(Image courtesy of Cook Smarts, because we gobbled ours down too quickly to snap a picture of the finished product)

 

I made Chicken with Mushroom White Wine Sauce for dinner on a busy school night. It came together rather easily and was healthy and delicious. Here’s what was in it:

Ingredients: Mushrooms, 2 chicken breasts, cream, thyme, white wine, shallots and chicken broth

 

I’ve spent years avoiding mushrooms, thinking that I didn’t like them. Thanks to Cook Smarts, I’ve learned that I do, in fact, like mushrooms! Cook Smarts is a weekly meal planning subscription program that provides you with menus, grocery lists and prep ideas to make getting a healthy meal on your family’s table easy and cost-effective each week.

From now through December 23, enjoy 15% off of meal plan gift certificates with the code: GIVECOMFORT at Cook Smarts. 

After the Holidays, I can’t wait to dive back into Cook Smarts meal plans. I always crave order (not to mention VEGETABLES) after the Holidays are over and Cook Smarts is the best tool in my arsenal for getting us back on track in the kitchen.

Speaking of food successes lately: For our little party that we had last week, I put together a cheese tray for noshing on when our guests arrived. It turned out pretty cute and was easy peasy to put together. You might want to give it a whirl at your own Holiday get togethers.

4 different types of cheese cubes from the deli, green and red grapes, celery for the tree trunk and rosemary for garnish.

 

Please share what’s on your Holiday menu this week to give us some inspo and ideas! 

2+