Category: Parent

I Need You To Know You Are Loved. Always.

you-are-loved-always

When I first began writing this blog two years ago I was still in the throws of learning how to be a mom. I thought sharing the messier parts of our lives would show other moms I wasn’t just another pretty blog. My target mom was (and still is) the one just like me: lonely, afraid and in need of a good friend.

Today’s post (is late because life gets crazy) is written by my good friend Dawn. We met each other as new moms just walking aimlessly around our neighborhood; both pushing our strollers lap after lap trying to find solace. I was trying to make sense of my life as a twin mom and she was trying to process the loss of her mother.

My blog has changed a lot in the last couple of years. New designs, better photos, and I think better writing. What is the same is that I hope my words serve as a beacon for other moms who need to feel connected, and that they can think of me as a friend. I am so grateful to Dawn for sharing this story with us, and for allowing me to find solace in our friendship.

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I still remember the exact words my mother said to me when I told her I was going to have a baby. After an enormous gasp, she shouted into the phone “you better not be lying to me, little girl. You almost gave me a heart attack!” I laughed outwardly, the hyperbolic reaction of a soon to be grandma who had longed for a little one to love, but my insides turned cold.

See, my mom had already had a heart attack and a subsequent quadruple bypass. She had lived with diabetes for over 50 years, and the disease had taken her vision along with her mobility. Simply the passing, joking mention of another possible health disaster, one that could push her over the edge and take her away from me, was too much.

In spite of the fact that she lived four hours away, we talked every day. I rattled off my plans for my pregnancy – prenatal yoga, hypno-birthing classes. She listened to endless descriptions of my ideal birth, in water with no interventions, a soothing playlist to comfort me. Those idealized descriptions were so different from her own real life experiences, but she listened and encouraged and fantasized along with me.

And still, those fantasies were already so different than the ones I had had when I was younger, dreaming about what it would be like to become a mother. In those fantasies, my mom and dad, beaming grandparents, would babysit the precious bundle in my childhood home. My mother would hold my hand as I labored, my father would pat my husband on the back, soothing their joint nerves.

But these dreams were not to be. My father never met my husband because he had died less than a month after my sixteenth birthday. The childhood home was sold soon after, because my mom said it held too many memories before slipping into her own depression.

I allowed myself to indulge in adjusted fantasies, where my mom would come to stay with me and we would beam at the baby together, never mind that she could no longer drive. My heart quietly broke during one of our phone calls when she revealed her own fears, that her vision had diminished so much she would not be able to see the baby.

But! But! When the baby did arrive, my beautiful, sweet, wise, Leo Lennon, my mama moved hell and earth to get a ride here, to come to the hospital and meet her first grandson. She cried and cried, and told me how beautiful he was, and I believed that meant she could see some part of him.

And when she went back home, she never tired of my frantic phone calls. I remember calling her in a tizzy, wondering if it was okay to lie the baby on a blanket while I went to the bathroom so I could actually use the toilet. No matter that she wasn’t there to hold him, she listened, and loved so loudly through the phone and she was there. Always there. Even when I yelled, which I did frequently because I was exhausted since my baby never slept. Even when I told her that her advice was useless, since she had never breastfed a baby. She never got upset. She was always there, always loving, always supporting.

Six months later, though, she wasn’t. Diabetes had caused her organs to fail, and during a Christmas visit to see her grand-baby, she took her final breath.

My guilt about how I had treated her was paralyzing. I wanted to take back every harsh word that had filled the previous months, the previous years. I had squandered the greatest gift in the world by taking her for granted and not appreciating everything she was. The guilt was tangible, a thick wet ball sitting in my chest.

Her last hours showed me the biggest truth about motherhood, though, that none of it mattered. As she lay in a coma, I sat by her side and repeated “I love you” over and over again. She didn’t react at all, until finally I followed one of my repeated “I love you”s with “and I know you love me.” Her chest heaved, she let out a gasp, and her face twisted with what looked like tears. That’s all she cared about at the very end of her life – that I knew I was loved.

Becoming a mom confirmed for me that she was right. As I look at my two sons, my youngest not even conceived before she was gone, I know the only thing that matters ever is that they know they are loved. No matter what, no matter if I am angry or if they are, if they feel like they’ve let me down, if we disagree intensely on an issue, I need them to know none of it matters. They are always loved. Always.

dawn-bio-picDawn Green is an amazingly talented writer and teacher. When she isn’t writing she is hard at work raising two kick-ass kids and teaching them how to save the planet. 

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Friday Favorites- Kids Mini Travel Activity Pouch

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I love sharing my favorite products that make my life easier, but with the holiday season upon us I think I’m going to throw in a few of my favorite activities too! This mini travel pouch is one of our favorite things to use to keep ourselves entertained while out to restaurants, in doctors offices, on the train, or any place where waiting is hard. It fits easily into my kids’ back packs, or in the glove box of my car. We carry it everywhere!

We try not to use video games to pass the time unless we have to (because there are times you have to). This is a supeer easy “unplugged” way to engage your kids during down time! We made these to take with us last year when we took our first train ride to NYC. I am so glad we had them for the 45 minute delay!

We fill our mini travel pouches with fun things like little action figures, mini markers and notebooks, stickers, and sometimes I even hide a little treat inside like a chocolate coin or a lollipop in a favorite flavor. Since it is a small travel pouch everything inside is perfectly kid sized.

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Simply find a pouch small enough to fit in your bag, or car glove box. Someone gifted my girls with these cute zipper pouches, but you can use a makeup pouch from the dollar store.

Fill it with things your kid likes to occupy themselves with. Coloring, stickers and creative play are our go to items. This is perfect for holiday travel. Take it with you on the plane, or pull out during a layover. Hand it out at the first rest stop on car rides, or like we did, use it on the train. Have one on hand to keep little ones occupied during Thanksgiving dinner. This is such a portable source of entertainment for kids you could plan to use it anywhere!

Include items your kid has never played with before to keep them occupied longer! I can’t tell you how much play time we had just with this mini pipsqueak wizard marker! He draws, he sings, he dances and he casts spells!! Best purchase ever!

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What activities would you include in this little pouch?

The Whatever Mom is a twin mom learning to let go of perfection. She shares her real life struggles with parenting through her blog and contributes her time and talents as a writer to Hudson Valley Parent and Masshole Mommy. When she isn’t writing you can find her chugging coffee, folding laundry and not judging other parents. Don’t forget to subscribe via email so you never miss a blog post again! You can also find her work featured on Mamapedia 

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Get Saving by Using #Groupon

This is a sponsored post. All honest opinions and experiences are 100% my own. 

Snow before Halloween?

Happy Halloween everyone!

Can you believe we have experienced our first snowfall of the season already?! Yep, four days before Halloween we had a full day of non-stop snow falling from the sky. I had to break out my snow shovel! ………….. Before Halloween!! …………. Of course where there’s snow there’s thoughts of Christmas right? My mind wandered to thoughts of Christmas SHOPPING and I realized I haven’t even started yet!

I don’t know about you, but we are very budget conscious around here. And right about this time of year I start to pinch the pennies a little harder! So we don’t buy anything, or go anywhere until I check out the deals on Groupon! I check out Groupon Goods through out the year catch their best deals for things we need like our bedding sets, new cookware, electronics and kid stuff. If I’m really ahead of the game I snag some really great deals on toys to put away for my kids birthday or Christmas gifts. For example, I scored a set of magnet tiles way cheaper than what my local retail store sells them for. My kids are going to love them!

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My guess is if you aren’t using Groupon right now you have at least heard of it! Let me tell you how easy it is to use.

First of all, IT’S FREE to sign up! No membership fee required!

Second, I signed up to receive daily deals right to my inbox so I can maximize my savings on whatever we need! It’s like getting an early peek at what’s on sale. Then, I simply purchase my Groupon Goods and have them delivered to my door. This is a HUGE money and time saver for me!! So much easier than shopping with my kids hanging out of the cart!

Third, I can select my location to find deals NO MATTER WHERE I AM! We use the location search option before going on vacation to purchase dining deals, or activities in our vacation area. I’m serious when I say I don’t make a purchase, or a plan before I check Groupon!

I have promised to only share with you my tried and true favorite things! Groupon is truly one of my favorite ways to shop and save!

 

Have you tried saving with Groupon yet?

 

The Whatever Mom is a twin mom learning to let go of perfection. She shares her real life struggles with parenting through her blog and contributes her time and talents as a writer to Hudson Valley Parent and Masshole Mommy. When she isn’t writing you can find her chugging coffee, folding laundry and not judging other parents. Don’t forget to subscribe via email so you never miss a blog post again! You can also find her work featured on Mamapedia 

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How To Embrace Your Sensory Friendly Halloween

sensory-friendly-halloween

If you have never heard of sensory processing disorder you are not the only one. Most parents do not know what this is until their child is diagnosed with the disorder. The difficulty is that even with a diagnosis, you as a parent may have no clear and final definition of what makes your kid tick. Every kid is different and it can take time to identify your child’s sensory triggers.

According to the website Understood.org, children with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) “may be oversensitive or undersensitive to the world around them. When the brain receives information, it gives meaning to even the smallest bits of information. Keeping all that information organized and responding appropriately is challenging for them.”

As unique as your child is, so is the way their brain processes things like smell, taste and touch. Some kids never notice the feeling of a tag on their shirt, or the seam in their socks. But there are kids who are so distracted by this sensation that they can cry or scream, or even become aggressive. If you have a kid with sensory issues you are not alone! One in twenty children live with some varying degree of sensory processing disorder. Navigating daily life can be a struggle, let alone having to wear an itchy costume in a crowded, loud setting.

Both of my children have mild sensory issues which mostly involves volume levels and large crowds. When they were little I didn’t take them very far on Halloween. The year we let them choose on their own which houses to stop at was the year they decided they liked trick or treating. Now we let them take us as far as they want to go, we carry extra snacks and we call it quits when they get overwhelmed. We begin our evening slow and head home in time to hand out treats.

I polled some of my mom friends who are in the know about sensory processing and the sensory demands of Halloween. The best piece of advice: is to not force your child beyond their limits. Halloween activities are for their enjoyment and it is OK to let them enjoy activities in their own way. If your child can only handle wearing a small piece of their costume, or no costume at all, let that be enough. My friend Erin shares that one year she let her son go as himself at his request. “Thankfully the people around us accepted that. And he had a great Halloween because he could do his own thing.”

MOM TIPS

Select a costume that is mask free, or does not require face paint. Let your kids use their own familiar clothing as part of their costume to help them enjoy dressing up. For kids with auditory sensory issues, using noise cancelling headphones works great. For kids who are sensitive to bright lights, start your trick or treat night as early as possible and take advantage of the day light. If your child tires easily map out a short route, or bring along a wagon to let them take a break. And again, it’s OK if you cut your time short and head back home early.

PRO TIPS

Being a parent of a child with sensory issues can feel overwhelming, but imagine being the child who is struggling to process so much sensory information at once. It can provoke a lot of anxiety not knowing what is happening next. Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant Gina Bergdall suggests allowing your child to carry a fidget toy. This will allow them a constructive “place to focus their anxiety on.” Bergdall also shares these tips provided by the American Occupational Therapy Association. 

It may also be helpful to pick only a few places to trick or treat and review that plan with your child before hand. If they know they are only going to 5 or 6 houses nearby, they can feel a sense of control ticking the number of houses off the list. Seeing familiar faces can also make them feel more at ease.

HOW TO EMBRACE

If your child is overly sensitive to crowds or noises there is no rule that mandates they go trick or treating. You can make some really amazing traditions right at home. Bake some great treats, make a fun meal together, or if they want to, let them help with handing out candy. Invite the grandparents or family over for pizza and a movie. There is no wrong way to participate in Halloween! Staying at home where it is familiar may be just what your child needs to celebrate comfortably.

I get it moms! Having to make these kinds of accommodations often feels like our children are missing out on experiences other kids get to have, or the experiences we had as kids. But really, the holiday is about our kid’s enjoyment. If that looks different than the way other families celebrate, that’s OK. Embrace your unique traditions! If your child is comfortable at home watching Halloween specials and eating popcorn, join them! Deciding to follow their lead helps them feel capable! Plus, sharing a special night in together as your Halloween tradition is way more relaxing than walking around in the cold wearing a cookie cutter costume.

The Whatever Mom is a twin mom learning to let go of perfection. She shares her real life struggles with parenting through her blog and contributes her time and talents as a writer to Hudson Valley Parent and Masshole Mommy. When she isn’t writing you can find her chugging coffee, folding laundry and not judging other parents. Don’t forget to subscribe via email so you never miss a blog post again! You can also find her work featured on Mamapedia 

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5 Self-Care Strategies for First Time Moms

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Now that my kids are in school I am trying to focus more on self-care. I keep thinking back to those very early days as a mom and how hard it was to take care of my own needs. I remember feeling drained and empty. I put way too much pressure on myself to make everyone happy by keeping everything perfect. As a first time mom with twin newborns it was a struggle to just get a shower each day, let alone making sure everyone had clean underwear and the house was properly organized.

Eating and sleeping are crucial, but so is staying connected to friends and family and our own interests. In those early years self -care, for me, was about getting a hot shower and enjoying a meal. I was all alone with two brand new babies and I was trying to make it all work. I barely ate, I barely slept and my record for showering was spotty. I was hungry, depleted and so overwhelmed.

Five years later my self-care looks more like taking time to exercise, or drinking tea and reading a book. Now I get to eat one sit down meal a day while the kids are in school. Do you know how good food tastes when you’re not standing over the sink, shoveling it into your mouth?

Ahhh. It’s almost nirvana.

Here are 5 self-care strategies I used in those early years:

I FOUND SOME FRIENDS

I envied friends who had a sister or a friend expecting a child at the same time. I spent 5 months alone on bed rest. Once the babies were born and my husband went back to work, I felt so lonely and empty. I just wanted a friend. Honestly, finding a close relationship as a mom can be super hard. But when you do it is so wonderful! I met a lot of moms early on in play groups, at the park and at the library, but not everyone has become my friend. I realized quickly not everyone is looking for a new bestie. Sometimes just seeing the same smiling face each week at story time is enough to ease a stressful morning.

I HOSTED PLAY DATES

Bundling up two kids and getting them to the car is no easy feat when you are worn out and exhausted. Thankfully, my mom friends took mercy on me and would travel to my house. Talking with other moms makes me realize I am not alone in my struggles. We are all struggling to find balance. I did a quick tidy, put out some toys and turned on the coffee. (In those early days my house wasn’t the colossal wreck that it is today). As much work as it was to finish a sentence while chasing kids, the conversations we shared are invaluable.

I ACCEPTED OTHER PEOPLE’S GENEROSITY

I have to remind myself often that I am one person taking care of many.  It can be draining. But when I started accepting offers of help, it really alleviated some stress. When someone brought me a meal, it didn’t make me a charity case. It meant I got to eat a hot meal. When neighbors shoveled my drive it didn’t mean I was irresponsible, it meant I didn’t have to leave my babies alone. When a friend washed my dishes it didn’t mean I wasn’t capable, it meant I could hold my two sleeping babies in my arms a little longer. If you are lucky enough to find someone to volunteer to help in anyway, it is OK to accept the offer!

I ASKED FOR HELP

You can’t always rely on people offering help. You could be drowning for weeks before that happens. So, don’t be afraid to ask for help! I was afraid to ask friends for help because I didn’t want to burden them. I didn’t want to admit I couldn’t handle everything by myself. But when I found myself on bed rest and needed help getting our house ready for babies, I asked for help. Surprisingly, a lot of our friends came out to wash windows, put together furniture, organize our nursery, rake our leaves, and help finish up some household projects we knew we couldn’t get to as parents. It was humbling and eased our worry. Ask family and friends to contribute a meal to stash in your freezer. Ask for gift certificates for a cleaning service as your baby shower/newborn gift. Cute clothes are wonderful, but not having to clean your toilets is even better! But most of all, if you find yourself struggling with overwhelming sadness, or feelings of inadequacy don’t be afraid to reach out right away. Struggling alone is worse than what anyone else is thinking about you.

I DELAYED WASHING DISHES

I often think if I don’t do the dishes right now then I will be so far behind and everything will pile up. One day it hit me, “since when is there a deadline on dirty dishes?” I don’t have a dishwasher (I know it’s like roughing it in my own home) so the panic to find an empty sink is real. But when I let myself rest while the twins took a nap- even just 10 minutes- I felt ready to tackle the tower of slop. In that 10 minutes I put my feet up, focused on breathing and thought of the beach. Taking just 10 minutes was recharging. And to be honest some days I took 20 minutes. Turns out the dishes were still waiting for me even when I took a few minutes for myself.

As a new mom you have a lot on your plate already just taking care of a baby and learning how to be a mom. I think it is very rare for any mom to take to motherhood like a duck takes to water. There are learning curves we need to adjust for and that’s OK. It takes time to learn the basics of taking care of our babies, our bodies, our new financial picture and household demands. If we try to balance it all at once we can become so overwhelmed and feel like we are drowning. That’s when self care becomes critical. But we want to make sure we recharge before we get to that critical point. Mothering with depleted resources isn’t healthy for you, or your baby. Self care doesn’t mean just meeting your basic needs, it means making sure you have enough for yourself too.

The Whatever Mom is a twin mom learning to let go of perfection. She shares her real life struggles with parenting through her blog and contributes her time and talents as a writer to Hudson Valley Parent and Masshole Mommy. When she isn’t writing you can find her chugging coffee, folding laundry and not judging other parents. Don’t forget to subscribe via email so you never miss a blog post again! You can also find her work featured on Mamapedia 

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Friday Favorites- Hike it Baby & Oakiwear for Kids

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One of the best things to happen to me this year is discovering Hike it Baby. An ad popped up in my Facebook news feed and it is one of those things that I didn’t even know I was missing until I experienced it. Hike it Baby (HIB) is a non-profit organization dedicated to getting families together and into nature with their newborns and children. It was founded in 2013 by new mom Shanti who didn’t want to hide inside her house with her newborn, but was weary of going out alone. She asked some of her friends from her local mom group if they wanted to go out for a walk, and so it began. What started with five hikers in one city turned into 115,567 hikers in over 250 cities in 2016.

I barely like to walk to get the mail let alone take a hike. Even though the outdoors was never my thing (unless you count sipping a daiquiri on the beach), I knew I had to give this a shot. With three young boys I needed to learn to love the outdoors. It’s only fair to them that I get them out there and let them explore.

Hike it Baby

I became hooked at our very first meet up! We went on 3 more hikes that very first week and a dozen more since then. There are numerous different hikes that you can attend, or lead, from a fast paced hike to kid-led wander. Each hike is detailed by the hike leader and they will note things such as ‘baby carry only” or “stroller friendly.” To find a local HIB group simply enter your zip code in the search bar at hikeitbaby.com. Along with the website, you can follow local HIB chapters closest to you on their Facebook group pages. This will help you keep up to date on hikes being offered and meet some people you will be hiking with. You may start off the hike as strangers, but by the end you realize everyone is ready to help each other out. From borrowing carriers to suntan lotion to making sure that nobody gets left behind.

Since starting our hikes, I am more confident with physical activities overall. I’m going to places that I didn’t even know existed in my own area, and I find the spectacular views rewarding. It has been an inspiring way for my family to stay active, develop life skills, respect nature, and form new friendships in a judgement free zone.

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Hike It Baby has a great line up of sponsors like our favorite, Oakiwear! It only makes sense that HIB would partner up with other companies who believe in the power of spending time outdoors as a family. Not only am I a #boymom but I’m also outnumbered by my three sons (1, 3 and 5-year-old). Regardless if we are going on a hike, playing in our own back yard or running errands – it’s bound to be an adventure.

The designers at Oakiwear understand the planning and after care of being outside with children. From the amount of extra clothes used in jumping in puddles or streams, to the possibility of knee scrapes along the way. They want to make life with kids easier by providing the best possible gear for our little ones.  It is no surprise that the folks at Oakiwear understand what’s important to kids and parents, because it was founded by a mother of twin toddlers. If anyone understands the need for affordable yet well-made gear, it is a parent!

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One of their most popular items is their rain/snow boots. We have a few pairs of boots between all of us and nothing comes close to Oakiwear. They are completely lined with neoprene, the tread is thick and durable, and the high cut keeps the weather elements out. My favorite feature is the built in handles which make it a cinch for a child to put on by themselves. When you are trying to get out the door with several little ones anything that they can do themselves is a lifesaver! Oakiwear offers a great variety of colors for the snow/rain boots and super cute patterns for the rain boots. We went the always classic, bright red!

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Both Hike It Baby and Oakiwear websites have some informative and relatable blog posts. My personal favorites are how to make vacation fun for children and Learning from a “Hike Fail.”

Do you take your kids hiking? 

#oakiwear @oakiwear Facebook Instagram: oakiwear

 

Gloria DarmaninGloria Darmanin is a three time boy mom and completely outnumbered. She works hard to spread awareness for childhood cancer, authentic inclusion for persons with disabilities and gender equality. When she isn’t hiding from the kids she is off planning her annual St. Baldrick’s event and dreaming of ways to make money for charity.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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What to do with all this “Me Time?”

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For months now people have been asking me what am I going to do with all “my time” once the girls go to school. Close friends, neighbors and even family have all asked me what my plans are now that my kids are in Kindergarten.

“It will be nice for you to get some time to yourself.”

“Now you can finally have some ME TIME.”

“So, what are you going to do with all of your time now?”

I know they all mean well and some are just making conversation, but it is quite dismissive of what fills up my time already. Guess what? I have worked from home for the last two years. Guess what I’ve been doing? Writing! Yep. This blog as well as contributing to a few other blogs AND freelance articles for local publications. So that means I have deadlines. I have a fledgling career (albeit a very low paying career). I have goals and *gasp* I am productive beyond motherhood!

A friend of mine (also a mom) told me once, “you need to do more than JUST be a mom.” Why is it once you become a stay at home mom all anyone can see is the stay at home part? Just a mom. Some days I wish I could be “just a mom.” Not that being a mom is without challenges, but then I’d at least be doing one job. Writing from home while simultaneously providing my own childcare is the most stressful gig I’ve ever had. How many moms have to make sandwiches while conducting a phone interview? Or potty train while on a conference call? I’m not talking taking a phone call while kids run amok. I’m talking sounding like an intelligent and focused professional while taking care of another human being. Nothing says I am capable and trustworthy quite like, “I’m sorry can you hold for a moment?” [addressing child] “didn’t I just say to stop smacking your sister with that? No, I’m not a stupid head, you are.”

So to all the curious folks who need to know more about how I spend my day, well here ya go:

WORK TIME

The part everyone forgets that I do outside of my mom responsibilities. I work. Even though I have a home office and that is where I schedule myself for 4-5 hours each day, folks just see me at home. They think I am cooking and cleaning, not actually working. How else are you going to get top notch blog posts like this one? Hint: not while I’m folding socks! *wink*

This is how I spend the majority of my “me time.” Running my own blog is work. I am the head writer, marketer, tech support, photographer, idea creator and editor. I have meetings and conversations with advertisers. I have to design the website and promote it. I have all the behind the scenes things happening on a daily basis. I write three 800-1,000 word blog posts a week. If you think that sounds easy think back to high school English class. Remember how hard it was to just write one essay a month? Yeah, I do that three times a week for “me time.”

ALONE TIME

Once you become a parent, you are never alone. Just ask any parent who has ever tried to pee in silence. When you have to take the kids along to every appointment, errand or meeting you have to take the shit-show on the road. So the day after my kids went to school I scheduled my self for an eye exam. I sat alone with an iced coffee while I waited for the doctor. I moved freely and at near lightning speed from room to room. And I finished every single sentence I started because I didn’t need to instruct someone to sit on their bottom. It was glorious.

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FINISH ERRANDS IN RECORD TIME

There are days I schedule myself in my office to, ya know, work. But when I need to run a quick errand it’s quick. I can get into the car alone, zip up to the corner store and zip back home faster than any Olympic track star. I don’t need to wrestle the kids into their car seats and then spend half an hour begging them to just get out of the car so I can go inside where they can interrupt me while I pee.

SELF CARE

Self care is hard for anyone taking care of other human beings. But the more responsibilities you pile into one day the less time there is for self care. I often go without lunch, or shovel in kid left overs because there isn’t enough time for me to make meals for myself. Once I get the kids lunches on their plates I spend the next half hour dealing with their complaints and arguments about the quality of their lunch. By the time I realize I didn’t eat lunch it is 3:00 p.m. and I eat whatever I can grab. Now that the kids eat lunch at school, this allows me time sit down and enjoy a full meal. If you want to know what my life has been like for the last 5 years try eating a meal in a room full of chimpanzees throwing things at you.

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CONNECT WITH OTHER MOMS

Before my career as a mom I worked a 9-5 job. I often scheduled lunch dates with friends during my work day. Now, I make sure to schedule some time to see a friend. Working from home alone can be isolating and lonely. I miss having co-workers to talk to. I miss eating cake three times a week to celebrate birthdays. Now my co-workers are other moms living and working miles away in their own homes. We need time to connect and commiserate about our demanding little bosses. I need to know I’m not the only one trying to balance work and mom life.

There ya have it. This is how I have spent my time the last two weeks since school started. My house is still a mess. My laundry is still in piles and I still haven’t had a good mani pedi. I have typed several thousand words into my computer and I am no longer hangry. My kids are at school and I still don’t get “me time.” But I am getting time to recoup a little sanity after years of chaos.

The Whatever Mom is a twin mom learning to let go of perfection. She shares her real life struggles with parenting through her blog and contributes her time and talents as a writer to Hudson Valley Parent and Masshole Mommy. When she isn’t writing you can find her chugging coffee, folding laundry and not judging other parents. Don’t forget to subscribe via email so you never miss a blog post again! You can also find her work featured on Mamapedia and The Novice Mommy.

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Why Going Bald Matters in My Family

My life after St. Baldrick's

It was just after Christmas of 2002 that we discovered my niece was very ill. Her parents thought it was just a stomach bug that kept her couched for a week. But when Ashley appeared gray and limp and refusing to eat her chocolate treats that Santa left her, we knew something was wrong. After taking her to the emergency room my brother and his wife were told Ashley has Leukemia. She was immediately taken to a medical center for treatment.

Ashley was only three years old, but she lived several months of her life in the hospital. She endured three surgeries and still wears the scars along her abdomen. The first surgery, which nearly every kid with cancer endures, implanted a Picc IV line that administers chemotherapy directly to her heart. We thought that would be the worst. The second surgery was to remove her appendix as it became inflamed from the amount of chemicals coursing through her body. The third and last was the most invasive and the most difficult to watch her heal from. She was surgically cut straight down the middle of her abdomen so doctors could open her up to repair a hole that had worn through her colon- a side effect of the chemo.  The medical center treating Ashley is also a teaching hospital which means the surgical area has a viewing bay. My brother stood over his baby girl, helplessly watching afar as doctors work to repair her from the inside. Did I mention she was only a toddler?

I get this is totally graphic. I get that some of you may stop reading right here. Please don’t. On the eve of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, it is important for you to know the truth of what life looks like for kids with cancer. From newborns to teenagers a child is diagnosed with Cancer every two minutes. Every single one of them will have a different experience. Maybe they won’t need extra surgeries, or need to learn how to walk again, or fall behind their classmates at school. Maybe their journey will be easier, or maybe it will be worse. The one thing they will all have in common is that the powerful chemo killing their cancer will also cause them to lose their hair.

Before we even knew about St. Baldrick’s my brother decided to shave his head when Ashley lost all of her hair. It was an act of loving solidarity. She wouldn’t have to be the only one bald, they could be bald together. Today, my family fully supports the brave ones who shave their heads to raise money, awareness and support for kids with cancer.

The U.S. government designates less than 4% of funds toward researching a cure for childhood cancer. And pharmaceutical companies designate even less, because childhood cancer drugs are not profitable. As a result seven children a day die from cancer. It happens every single day you wake up. St. Baldrick’s is one of the few Pediatric Cancer fundraising organizations where proceeds are streamlined directly to research teams. They raise millions of dollars each year to help find a cure for pediatric cancer, and less invasive treatment options.

How do they raise millions? Their unique platform is simply signing people up to “Brave the Shave.” People create a team, and ask donors to sponsor them at a head shaving event. They show up in firehouses, gymnasiums, rec centers, schools and VFW halls across the country to brave the shave together with other shavees. It takes a lot of courage to choose to lose your hair. Kids with cancer don’t get a choice.

How do they spend those millions? St. Baldrick’s provides grants to fund every stage of research, from ideas in the lab, to clinical trials to fellowships. Eighty percent of children treated for cancer stand a greater chance of side effects that follow them for life. While much of the research is focused on a cure, it is also focused on preventing lifelong damage caused by chemotherapy, surgeries and radiation.  Through collaborative efforts, St. Baldrick’s supports the next generation of oncologists, helps children not just survive, but thrive; and funds necessary research.

How can you help? Find a local event near you. Just go and be inspired. If you are not ready to brave the shave donate to someone who is. Create a shave event in your hometown, volunteer your time and talents as a barber, or just help spread the word. St. Baldrick’s makes it super easy to get started and provides you with all the marketing an organizational materials needed for success.

Why is St. Baldrick’s so important to my family? Because in the 1950’s every child diagnosed with cancer died. Today 90% of children diagnosed with the most common cancers, like Ashley’s Leukemia, will survive. St. Baldrick’s is leading the way in researching cures for childhood cancer. In 2016, St. Baldrick’s funded research that developed the third (in existence) FDA approved drug treatment for pediatric cancer. It is the first drug treatment breakthrough in twenty years and it will help treat children with high-risk neuroblastoma. Every time someone donates a dollar to St. Baldrick’s, or braves the shave in support, we are confident the money is being spent wisely and with finding a cure is at the forefront.

Brave the Shave at St. Baldrick's

My niece Ashley is now a 14 year cancer survivor. She has worked hard to overcome the lingering effects of her cancer treatments. Most impressively, she has raised thousands of dollars in her young life to provide comfort and care, and to fund a cure for other kids living with cancer. In March 2016, Ashley braved the shave herself, just before her prom and graduation. She willingly gave up what most girls struggle to, her golden curly locks of hair. Her boyfriend, friends and family shaved right alongside of her in solidarity and together contributed over $2,000 to pediatric cancer research.

St. Baldrick’s will forever be a part of our lives. We believe in giving other cancer kids a fighting chance and a chance to survive.

The Whatever Mom is a twin mom learning to let go of perfection. She shares her real life struggles with parenting through her blog and contributes her time and talents as a writer to Hudson Valley Parent and Masshole Mommy. When she isn’t writing you can find her chugging coffee, folding laundry and not judging other parents. Don’t forget to subscribe via email so you never miss a blog post again! You can also find her work featured on Mamapedia and The Novice Mommy.

This is not a sponsored post and no financial compensation was received. I wholeheartedly believe in the mission of the St. Baldrick’s Foundation and would love for you to share this post with as many friends and family as you can! Use #gogold to help kick off Childhood Cancer Awareness month and spread awareness about Childhood Cancer. 

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I Surrender the War on Meal Time

I was struggling with what to share today when the topic just naturally appeared to me in the form of a cheese quesadilla. I know I’ve shared a lot about the insanity of having two picky eaters. But none of my words can articulate the drama that comes along with our meal times. One has to experience the hour-long fits of rage from my children to get the full effect of the mealtime madness at my house.

This picky “phase” began just before age three (my kids are almost six). It isn’t just the food choices they complain about, they also complain about the size and the shape of their food. They let me know their disdain for the color plate touching their food, or which side of the table they are served on. I simply cannot win.

I have done everything you are not supposed to do, and I’ve done everything by the book. I have consulted our doctor, and more than one Registered Dietitian. I have spent many mornings adding organic fresh berries and fruits to a smoothie just for one sip to send my kid into hysterics. They help me cook meals and snacks in the kitchen all the time and they still won’t eat any of it. I have tried everything to end the pickiness. Given all my hard work it stings when people make comments about my kids food choices, or posts those #proudmom moments on Facebook because their kid ate a new vegetable. My kids ate all of their organic veggies once too.

So what about the quesadilla? Well, last night I was pretty proud of myself for making enchiladas. I had no idea how easy these are to make. Thinking ahead I knew my kids would not even consider a bite of an enchilada, so I gave into making cheese quesadillas. If you have never had a cheese quesadilla, it is simply shredded cheese sandwiched between two tortillas and heated up to create a melty, gooey cheesy sensation. You can add things like chicken or veggies, but not in my house. My children are purists when it comes to their cheese quesadillas.

F A I L

I call the kids to the table expecting them to recognize one of their favorite foods and begin eating without complaint. Instead: (actual conversation in the Whatever household):

Child: “I can’t eat that.”

Me: “What do you mean you can’t eat that? You asked me to make it for you.”

Child: “I don’t eat round foods.”

Me: “You don’t eat round foods?”

Child: “No.”

Me: “Since when?” (Knowing she has eaten plain cheese quesadillas most of her life).

Child: “Since right now.”

Me: “So, mommy just made you a cheese quesadilla that you asked for and now you won’t eat it it because it is round?”

Child: “Yes. I can only eat triangles.”

Me: {blink} {blink} {blink} Stare. “Are you asking me to cut this into triangles?”

Child: “Yes. But only if they are small triangles.”

I CAN’T WIN.

Now this is the point where other parents suggest I not give into the demands, she either eats or she doesn’t. But other parents do not live my struggle. I could refuse to cut the triangles and spend the next 30-60 minutes listening to my kid scream about how awful her life is, or I can just give her triangles and move on peacefully. I can’t count of the number of meals I miss because I spend so much time disciplining my kids through theirs. It is a complicated tango we dance at least three times a day, every day.

My daughter accepts the quesadilla in triangles. Then opens each triangle and peels out the cheese. I leave the table to wash the dishes already resenting the bedtime snack she is going to beg me for later. I feel like I have tragically failed this part of parenting. Then I realize I need to dig deep and listen to my own advice, “Do whatever it takes to make it through this, Rox. You have fought a good long fight. You have hung in there longer than most folks would. You still feed them the good stuff and allow just the right amount of treats. You have remained faithful in your belief in good food. So what’s going to work to make your meal times less stressful?”

LET THEM WIN.

After nearly 4 years of battling against two strong wills, arguing, threatening, bargaining, yelling and digging my heals in, I give up. I GIVE UP! I raise the white flag and concede the war. I am no longer going to spend extra time in the kitchen crafting meals with hidden veggies, just for them to be rejected over and over. I am no longer going to worry about buying up the organic chicken nuggets when my kids won’t even come to the table if those are on the plate. I am no longer going to recreate healthier versions of Alfredo sauce just for my kid to splatter across my kitchen cupboards.

My kids are healthy and they are strong. So I will let them eat fish sticks and chicken nuggets every single night. I will let them eat their cheesy topped cheese with a side of cheese. I will let them have a small bedtime snack even when they skip refuse dinner. Most of all, I won’t let it bother me anymore when people say things like, “I would never let my kid get away with that.” OR “I guess I’m lucky my kids just eat everything.” OR “I better train my kids now so they don’t act like that later.” From now on, I will accept that this is what our “whatever” looks like. And this is what works for me. #proudmom

The Whatever Mom is a twin mom learning to let go of perfection. She shares her real life struggles with parenting through her blog and contributes her time and talents as a writer to Hudson Valley Parent and Masshole Mommy. When she isn’t writing you can find her chugging coffee, folding laundry and not judging other parents. Don’t forget to subscribe via email so you never miss a blog post again! You can also find her work featured on Mamapedia and The Novice Mommy.

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Friday Favorites: Three Sisters Herbals

3 sisters collage

This week I am introducing you all to one of my family’s favorites, Three Sisters Herbals. These handcrafted organic products are made right here in the USA (Hyde Park, NY), are eco-friendly and can be customized to accommodate particular sensitivities. There are vegan and animal friendly products too. Yep, you can even use most of these products on the family pet. High quality organic products, handcrafted in small batches, at an affordable price is the trifecta of sustainability.

Kim Mule created Three Sisters Herbals salves and tinctures for family use and with family budgets in mind. Many of her products are multi-use and can easily extend to the family pet. Talk about economical! It all began with a DIY salve kit and Kim’s passions were lit. After the birth of her third child she knew her next “baby” would arrive at the birth of her business. Kim combines her passions for herbal remedies and a natural lifestyle with her degree in Graphic Design to make life as a mom work for her. She works from her home studio so she can be available when her kids get off the bus. And, she provides great products that work for other families.

Here are my family’s personal favorites:

Three Sisters Herbal Magic Salve

You can never ever, ever have too much Magic Salve! In fact, here are 25 different ways to use it! We have used it for diaper rash treatment, and to prevent diaper rash when our girls were babies. Now we use it for cuts, scrapes and minor burns. Use this to treat under eye puffiness and you might agree that there is literally magic in this container! You can even use it on dry cracked lips. If you happen to be a pet owner you can apply this to your furry loves little feet too! The salve moisturizes, heals and soothes skin without chemicals, perfumes or petroleum. It is also handcrafted with organic herbs and safe to use on all skin types. Through the month of August get an extra 20% off with the Magic Salve stock up sale!

Three Sisters Herbal Hand Sanitizer

Kim gave me a bottle of Hand Sanitizer to sample for this review. It is crafted with a natural base of Aloe Vera Gel, and the Four Thieves blend has been proven to ward off germs, flues and viruses.  I have tried mixing my own hand sanitizer and it doesn’t feel like enough. This non-sticky formula isn’t overpowering to the senses and you only need a few drops.  I carry this in our car to apply to our hands after a day at the park, the library, a trip to the store or other places kids climb all over and sneeze on. This is my new favorite!

Three Sisters Herbal Bug Away

Bug Away is an absolute summer must have. Actually we use it spring through fall to ward off the ticks. We live in an area overrun with ticks and Lyme disease. We recently had a couple of tick invasions in our own yard. This natural hand crafted organic blend of essential oils is effective on ticks, mosquitoes and flies. It is safe enough to use on babies, children and even dogs and farm animals. I like that it is Deet free and it is does not irritate my kids skin. We spray directly on our skin and clothes when we are playing in the yard or at the park; and on our back packs and shoes before going on a hike. This is also available in a lotion stick which is great to use on toddlers.

I love Kim’s mission to provide healthy, family safe products, and I also love the meaning behind the name. Kim chose the name Three Sisters Herbal in honor of the bond her mother had with her two sisters. It represents the power to uplift through love and respect. As a mom advocating for love and respect among the mom community, this philosophy epitomizes my own mission. Three Sisters Herbals products are healthy and effective too, which seems like a perfect fit for my family.

Stop by threesistersherbals.com to order, or check out the other products Kim offers. You can also find Three Sisters on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

The Whatever Mom is a twin mom learning to let go of perfection. She shares her real life struggles with parenting through her blog and contributes her time and talents as a writer to Hudson Valley Parent and Masshole Mommy. When she isn’t writing you can find her chugging coffee, folding laundry and not judging other parents. Don’t forget to subscribe via email so you never miss a blog post again! You can also find her work featured on Mamapedia and The Novice Mommy.

No financial compensation was received for this review. Promotional products provided by Three Sisters Herbals for testing in exchange for review. All opinions are genuine and solely belong to The Whatever Mom.

 

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