Category: health

Friday Favorites – Leslie Sansone Walking Work Outs

FridayFavorites (1)

This post does not contain any affiliate links and no financial compensation given. All opinions belong solely to The Whatever Mom.

After taking that really fun Aerial Yoga class a couple of weeks ago, I feel like I need to get back in the game with taking better care of myself through exercise. As a busy mom working from home and managing the household I tend to prioritize myself last. I keep trying to fit exercise in but then I find a reason to let life get ahead of me. Life has been a little crazy with twins and working from home by myself. Now, it is just time to say I’m worth all the time it takes to keep me healthy.

My mom sent me this walking DVD years ago when I complained about how hard it was to get my daily walks in, in between feeding two babies and their nap time schedules. Even though there is day care available at my gym, I wasn’t feeling very confident about leaving two little babies in someone else’s care just so I could spend 30 minutes on myself. But, this walk at home program did the trick during nap times and rainy days!

Walking With Leslie Sansone

 

I can’t find this awesome DVD anywhere in my house. Who knows where it is. Just when I gave up searching for it, I remembered there is YouTube! (Duh) I did a quick search and there she is! My faithful friend Leslie! Her walks are mixed in with some added aerobic movements so it feels like an actual work out and not just walking in place.

The last few weeks I have pulled up Leslie’s walking videos first thing in the morning. It isn’t the same as the walks I enjoyed outside in the morning before kids. I do have a treadmill, but that gets super boring for me. I miss taking classes at the gym, so for me these videos motivate me with the music and energy early in the morning! Plus, I get my 30 minutes of me time checked off before my kids wake up!

Walking With Leslie Sansone

My goal is to get back to feeling healthy again and finding more energy to keep up with my super active kids. If the happy side effect is weight loss that’s great! I just really miss that feeling of an aerobic rush. Before I was addicted to coffee, I was addicted to aerobics! I like being active and I am not a big fan of feeling like a slug.

Now that my girls are old enough for the kid’s room at the gym I can finally get there each week! They really love it because they have friends there. My plan now is to keep up with my morning “walks” and get to the gym as often as I can. If I miss a day at the gym I won’t feel so guilty because I already have a work out in!

Leslie’s videos are less than $15 per DVD, or free on YouTube. Her work outs are supported by the American Heart Association which recommends at least 30 minutes of aerobic activity per day for heart health.

What are you favorite ways to get exercise outside of the gym?

 

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!

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Kids Get Sick – Get Over It

The Whatever Mom (7)

 

I am on day 10 of this crappy sickness with my kids. Is it a cold virus? Is it strep throat? There’s no fever or vomiting. They have tons of energy. But, I keep them home for their comfort. Thankfully, I work from home and can afford to keep my kids home as long as they need. By afford I mean not paying a baby sitter; I didn’t mention the cost to my sanity.

When my kids get sick I am wary about sharing on social media for fear of judgement. There is always a parent out there that has an opinion on what kind of cold medicine you give your kids- is it organic, dye free and homeopathic? “You do know you shouldn’t give kids too many antibiotics.” “There are alternatives to eye drops for treating pink eye.”  Then, there are the teachers who blame the parents for letting their kids get them sick. “Keep your kids home if they are sick.” No one intentionally sets out to spread germs. Germs are everywhere and during every season. If I post what we are sick with and show up to a party 3 days later I’ve just branded us as the source of everyone else’s illness.

So what is a mom to do?

  1. Don’t post every illness to social media. I have been guilty of posting about our second round of pink eye. I administer the drops and release my kids back to school three days later (per doctor’s permission) and suddenly another kid in the class gets pink eye. Now my kids are the target of blame. Really does it matter where the pink eye came from? A kid can get pink eye from a shopping cart, play spaces or a doctor’s office. If your kid gets pink eye identifying the source isn’t going to cure it. Following the doctor’s orders will.
  2. Use the medicine that works best for your child. If you are not one to follow homeopathic methods because you don’t feel they work for your child, then don’t waste the time or money paying into the guilt of “over medicating” your kid. It is completely OK to seek out the advice of a pharmacist or doctor on which over the counter medications you can safely use to comfort your child through illness.
  3. You don’t have to rush your child to the doctor for every sniffle. It is OK to use the wait and see approach. Most often that is the response a doctor will give you anyway. You are not neglecting your child if you wait a few more days to see how they are feeling before taking them to the doc’s office. Not only are you saving co-pays, or an extra bill but you are saving your child exposure of additional germs.
  4. It’s OK to send your kid to school with a runny nose. Every school has a different sick policy. Learn what your school’s policy is and follow it. Typically, it is the rule to be free of a fever and vomit for 24 hours before returning to school. If you have followed the rule and your child is fever and vomit free, but still has a runny nose and a cough with no other symptoms; it’s OK to give them cold medicine and send them to school. If they have the energy to make it through the day and their doc doesn’t see a reason for them to miss any more school. Always have a doctor’s note for their return to school. It won’t save you from judgement, but it will save you from some guilt.
  5. Disclose your kid’s sickness when necessary. It’s OK to cancel plans or disappoint your kids because they are too sick to attend an event. It might be tempting to send them to school or a party at friends while not recovered 100% to see if they can make it through. This runs the risk of exposing other kids to germs and setting them back a bit in their healing. I promise kids will get over the sadness of missing a birthday party, or a fun play date.

Most importantly, don’t judge another parent’s methods for dealing with their kid’s sickness. Unless you can see definitive proof of neglect there is no reason to suspect a parent isn’t doing everything they need to, to ensure their child’s health.

Instead of lashing out on Facebook about the types of meds a parent administers, or judging a parent for not keeping their kid home long enough; why not offer to help? Would you be willing to bring a meal, some cold supplies like tissues and cough drops? Can you send a get well card, or drop a note saying you are thinking of them? Taking care of a sick kid and balancing the rest of our life is stressful enough; we don’t need to hear someone else spouting their own opinions and standards.

I have the fortune of staying home with my kids on sick days. I understand not every parent has that luxury. When I drop my kid off at school and hear another kid coughing, I don’t think “man, couldn’t their mom keep them home longer?” I think, “Poor kiddo he/she must not feel well.”  Then I ask the teacher if she needs any additional supplies for the classroom and I make sure my kids wash their hands. The best way to safeguard my kids during cold season is to worry about what we are doing in our own home to stay healthy. I don’t have the time or the energy to get caught up in how everyone else is living.

The Whatever Mom is a full-time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the BIG potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here.

Find more from Roxanne at Hudson Valley Parent and at Masshole Mommy

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Friday Favorites – Poofy Organics GIVEAWAY!

The Whatever Mom Giveaway
Poofy Organics does not offer samples of products for personal consumption, or review. They are a small family run company and unable to fulfill sample requests. No financial compensation was received for this review. All honest opinions belong solely to The Whatever Mom.

Does facing hundreds of little ghouls and goblins, princesses and pirates make you break out into a cold sweat? No worries! I’ve got you covered with this weeks Friday Favorites and a special give away!

First, let me share with you a little bit about why I love Poofy Organics. This is a very small, family run company that is dedicated to producing small batches of product made by  hand. This means significant quality control measures and higher standards for production methods. You can visit their website to meet the team and for an inside look at their production. They are also one of a few USDA Organic Certified personal care companies (but, not every single ingredient has an organic counterpart so organic ingredients are listed individually).

I ordered a few hair care products for my girls. They have thick hair that tangles easily. So, I purchased the Raspberry Lemonade Punch Shampoo and Leave in Conditioner from the Young Wild and Free kids line.

Young Wild Free Poofy Organics

Now that my kids are in school I worry about lice so I also purchased the Organic Lice Prevention Spray (also comes in a shampoo).

Young Wild And Free Poofy Organics

All the products are toxin free and use mostly essential oils. I love that the website lists every ingredient in each product so you know what you are getting before you buy. Each product I purchased is labeled as vegan, eco friendly, cruelty free and made by hand. (Except for the lice prevention spray- it is so new they haven’t even designed a label for it yet). The only thing about the shampoo that I don’t like is that it is not tear free. So, we have to be very careful while shampooing. Otherwise, these products smell great and my kids get excited to use them. And, I like that I can pronounce every ingredient.

Now my next product of choice is the Max Deo. It’s a natural deodorant. I have been reluctant to make the switch to natural deodorants because well, in the past they’ve never worked for me. My friend Rachel and Poofy Organics Guide gave me a deodorant to try. The results are it works! I started using the Peppy Mint a few weeks ago and so far it has worked just as hard as my traditional deodorant. It absorbs quickly and doesn’t leave a white, flaky residue.

Max Deo Poofy Organics

I love it so much I’m giving away one Peppy Mint Organic Max Deo for you to try!! Just follow the Rafflecopter link below to enter for your chance to win! One lucky reader will be chosen at close of the contest on Sunday at 12:00 Midnight EST. Winner announced on my Facebook page on Monday morning!! (If you aren’t following already head over there now!).

OK, so you won’t receive this in time to get you through the Halloween rush, but it will arrive in time to get you through Thanksgiving with the in-laws!

**GIVEAWAY HAS ENDED**

The Whatever Mom is a full time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the BIG potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here, Find her two party Body Beautiful project here and here. 

Find more from Roxanne at Hudson Valley Parent and at Masshole Mommy

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Love Me Or Leave Me

Love Me Or Leave Me

I hope you enjoyed  Part I and Part II of my Body Beautiful series. I asked moms everywhere to accept the beautiful bodies they have been given through pregnancy and child birth. During this process friends kept asking me why I wasn’t posing in front of the camera and including my own post partum body. Well, I didn’t want this project to be about my image, I wanted it to be about the journey’s. I thought I’d offer a more intimate look at my post partum body acceptance journey by sharing my story and how I got here.

Nearly five years ago I stood in my bedroom and cried. I was only a few months post partum, but this was the first time I had looked at my body. I was so big during my pregnancy with twins that I couldn’t see the stretch marks forming. Now they were bright red lines stretching out like lines on a map. I was also left with a C-section scar and what most twin moms are lucky to receive, the “twin skin.” That’s a nice roll of skin that will never snap back into place and so it just kind of hangs off of your mid section. I was feeling pretty powerless.

My husband walked in just as I was in the moment of taking it all in. I covered myself up quickly because I didn’t want him, or anyone else to see me like “this.” He asked me what was wrong and I told him, “I am hideous now.” Then he stepped closer and said, “show me.” I wasn’t prepared for what he said next. He looked me in the eye and said, “how could you ever think this isn’t beautiful? This was our babies first home. It kept them safe and healthy.” I was absolutely stunned. So stunned I stopped to really soak in what he said.

Now don’t get me wrong, I didn’t just flip a switch and suddenly love my body. But, that moment is the touch stone that keeps me on this path of acceptance. I worked my body hard after having the twins. Despite five months of bed rest and a painful year of physical therapy I made myself lose the baby weight and then some. I felt accomplished. But really what did I accomplish? There wasn’t a trophy or award handed to me. No pat on the back with “atta girl.” What I accomplished was satisfying everyone else’s expectations of what I was supposed to look like after having children. I mean every mom is supposed to make it her mission to lose the baby weight, right? I started to really wonder where that pressure comes from.

People made comments about how I looked good “for having twins.” I wondered what they would say if I only had one baby at a time. Did their comment mean I didn’t look as good as my singleton mommy counter parts? Did they mean I look healthy after coming through medical complications and a major surgery? Did they mean I looked great now because I looked like a giant whale before?

Maybe I don’t have the time in my day to really focus on my flaws like I did before having children. Or, maybe since turning 40 I am just tired of listening to my inner critique. I’ve gained a bit more wisdom about what’s really important in life. I don’t really care that I now weigh more than I did right after having kids. I don’t really care for people’s judgement of my body because they don’t know the story behind my body. They don’t know how fit I used to be, or how months of bed rest reversed all of that hard work. They don’t know what my body has lived through and survived. I don’t really need them to know either.

So go ahead world, judge away. What  you see on the outside isn’t a reflection of the love and care I’ve given to my body to be able to create two healthy and amazing little humans. It isn’t equal to how big my heart is, how generous I am, how much I love to laugh or how much I love my children. I’ve always had a “love me or leave me” attitude. So, if someone isn’t going to love you for the person you are (not the body you are)… just let them leave.

 

The Whatever Mom is a full time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here, Find her two party Body Beautiful project here and here. 

Find more from Roxanne at Hudson Valley Parent and at Masshole Mommy

 

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Keep Your Kids Safe Around Water

Be Your Own Life Guard

 

At 12:45 p.m. on Saturday July 18th I nearly lost my mind, but thankfully I did not loose my cool. I was at a birthday party with my girls at a local beach. It was a beautiful day and everyone was having a great time. Typically, I do not consider myself a helicopter parent. I feel like I allow a reasonable amount of space between me and my children for them to feel safe, confident and independent. However, that amount of space significantly decreases when water is involved. Anyone can drown in less than 2 inches of water if not carefully supervised, or respectful of water safety rules.

I am not a super strong swimmer, and I am outnumbered 2 to 1 when it’s just the girls and me at the beach. I am hyper vigilant, especially when they go in opposite directions. While we were at the beach both of my daughters were wearing life vests and only approximately 15 feet away from me. Suddenly, a rough set of waves came to shore and I saw my daughter topple over. She lost her footing and I could see very clearly she began to struggle to catch herself. She started moving her arms like she was trying to swim, but I know she does not know how to swim yet. I could tell by the look on her face she was in trouble. I immediately ran into the water and began shouting, “you’re OK! Mommy is coming!!”

I reached her in a matter of seconds. I scooped her up into my arms and sat her on my hip and began to sooth her. I was impressed at how little she panicked and she didn’t even cry. Another mom came over to chat and I told her what happened. All of this took approximately 30 seconds of time. The life guard on duty, a young teenage girl, never left her guard tower. She didn’t even come down the ladder to ask me if my daughter was OK, she leaned forward in her chair and casually called over, “Is she OK?” I was so angry I could see red. How could this life guard not identify a dangerous situation that happened literally several feet in front of her guard tower? She gets paid to keep an eye out for signs of struggle in the water. Doesn’t she know that drowning is silent?

UlsterLandingPark

I was incredibly agitated by the fact she didn’t rush down as soon as she noticed what had happened. It is her job to assess if someone is in danger. Even while I was soothing my child on my hip it was her job to confirm we were safe. That means leaving her chair to come down and speak with me directly. I was so angry I couldn’t even talk to this girl. I was terrified of how I was going to verbally rip her to pieces. Man, that mama bear instinct is STRONG!

I’ve had many friends tell me not to worry while at the beach, that’s what the life guard is there for. I have witnessed many parents lying out on the sand (sometimes napping) while their older children are in the water alone. I know I am the first one to say hey, you do whatever it takes to get through your day with kids, but water safety is one of the things where I draw the line on saying Whatever too.

Thankfully, I was very vigilant. I know that accidents happen so quickly in water. So, parents, no matter how old your children are, do not take your eyes off of them for a second. Do not leave their young lives up to teenagers who are paying way less attention. I heard from friends at the party afterward that the young guard was texting on her cell phone. Perhaps that is why she completely missed someone struggling in the water only 15 feet from her station. If you are the parent of a teenager, or parent of a young life guard, please share this story with them. Let them know their job is important as people’s lives are in their hands. It may be my child’s precious life in their hands. No text message is worth the loss of anyone’s life.

I may not have been a helicopter parent before, but I am now! Especially while at the beach!

Click here for safety tips and quick lessons from Lifeguard 101. There are options for water safety inside the home and outside of the home.

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DIY Shower Soothers Using 3 Ingredients

This weeks post is going to be short and sweet. My little girl picked up a terrible cold virus. It comes with a wicked cough and major sinus congestion. She woke me up at 3:00 a.m. standing by my bed shouting, “mom!! I can’t smell!!” Poor kid.

Unfortunately, there aren’t many medicines a 4 year old can take for a cold. So, I have to find ways to help ease her symptoms without giving her a ton of medicine.

Years ago my sister in law gave me these really wonderful shower soothers scented with lavender. The running water in the shower melts the disc and releases the scent. I wonder if I can make some with the soothing vapors of vapor rub? Turns out, I can!

After some Googling and searching the Intereweb I find a recipe for DIY vapor shower discs using only 3 ingredients- water, baking soda and vapor rub (any brand). Luckily, I already have all of these things on hand! No need to drag a sick kid through the store! Awesome!

Here are the Ingredients:

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All the items you need for this project.

 

Here’s the DIY:

Add 1 cup of boiling water to glass mixing bowl, or measuring cup.

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Begin by boiling 1 cup of water.

Add a generous scoop of vapor rub to boiling water and mix until melted. (I used 2 Tablespoons).

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For stronger vapor release simply add more vapor rub to boiling water.

Add water 1 Tablespoon at a time to 1 cup of baking soda and blend until consistency reaches a smooth paste. (Should not be watery).

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Consistency should be pasty, but not watery.

 

Pour mixture into lined muffin tin. *Liners keep the strong odor of the eucalyptus from “sticking” to your pan.*

Pour into muffin liners 3/4 to the top.
Pour into muffin liners 3/4 to the top.

Allow to sit over night at room temperature to dry out and harden.

Use muffin liners when using petroleum based vapor rub.
Use muffin liners when using petroleum based vapor rub.

Gently remove each disc from pan and remove liner. Store in an air tight container (mason jars work great). Keep in the bathroom on a shelf and toss into shower when ready.

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Store discs in air tight container. Any glass, or plastic jar will do.

 

These work beautifully and double as a shower timer! As soon as it melts it is time for sissy to take her shower.

I wish I could stick around to share more. But, my mommy senses are tingling… they’re telling me there is a nose that needs to be wiped and juice to be fetched.

If you’re looking for more to read check out my fabulous giveaway post from last week. See how you can win a $25.00 Toys R Us gift card!

 

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Weekly Round Up!

So… after a rough week with the kiddos I took my Whatever philosophy to heart and gave myself the night off. Which meant I didn’t get my Friday Facebook Roundup to you. At least you’ll have fun reading this morning!

Put the kids in front of the cartoons and check out these links!

 

You can never have too much glitter with this Gobble Globe!

I am a sucker for a painted kiddie hand print turkey!

Keep the kiddies busy during Thanksgiving break with these FREE coloring pages!

Can’t wait to make this our new Thanksgiving breakfast tradition!

A great project for older kids- Gratitude Placemats!

Kids will have fun (and develop fine motor skills) with this fun beaded napkin ring project!

This one is super easy! Even toddlers can help make these Thanksgiving Silverware Napkin Rings!

Let the kids join the fun in making this kid friendly Thanksgiving Table Runner!

Color your own Thanksgiving Placemate!

For my vegetarian friends, Thanksgiving Meatless Main Dishes!

Sweet idea for a Thanksgiving play date- Turkey pudding cups!

Adult friendly dessert in a glass- A Frozen Turkey!

Can’t get enough of these FREEBIE coloring pages!

Finally, the best thing I’ve ever made Sweet Potato Casserole!

 

Also, don’t miss my personal blog post this week, 7 Ways Being a Mom Has Made Me a Horrible Friend.

 

Join me on Facebook to get all these great tips every day!

 

Have a great weekend!

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7 Ways being a parent has made me a horrible friend

Ok, I’m not a horrible friend. But, I am definitely not as good a friend as I used to be. Before motherhood I was the girl you’d call at 2 a.m. and sob about your broken heart. I was the first to remember your birthday and get everyone together for cake. I’d join you at the gym any night of the week; and if your car broke down in the ghetto I’d leave work early to come get you. Now, that I have kids I am completely unreliable to be there in a crisis and my friends may get a birthday card a month later. I know people are disappointed by this. What they don’t realize is that it is just as painful to me to not be available.

When my kids were just about 2 years old a friend’s apartment was hit by the flood waters of a hurricane. It pained me to see pictures and status updates on Facebook showing the ruins of her home. I wanted to be able to rush to help and sift through the remains with her. At the time I had two babies in tow and had to put their safety first (as well as their nap time and feeding schedule). I couldn’t afford to pay someone to sit with my kids to drive 3 hours one way to help and then return home. I didn’t have family that could just stay at my house until I could return. Recognizing my limitations, I did my best to send emotional support from where I was in life. But, it wasn’t enough. She stopped returning my phone calls, emails, private messages, etc. I could tell there was a shift and when I called her out and asked what’s up? I got the cold shoulder. A “nothing” response. Eventually, it came out a year later she was angry that my husband and I did nothing to help her. At the time my husband was working two jobs seven days a week. If we were lucky we saw him for 1 hour a day.

So, what happens when we become parents? Why such a change in our friendships? Here are my thoughts:

1. Everyone has different expectations. It took a really long time for me to adjust to the new normal of parenting. The demands of being the sole caretaker to twins commanded my attention first. I had my own expectations of life as a parent and had to learn to change them all in a second while everyone else continued living at the same pace. My friend’s expectations were I’d still be the same and be able to give as much as I had before. Impossible when you become a mom.

2. Mommy Brain. There is scientific evidence this condition exists! How it works is I walk to the fridge completely set on getting a glass of milk and what I walk away with is the empty coffee pot from the counter. I have zero recollection of how I got to the living room with an empty coffee pot or why I was even in the kitchen in the first place. I wake up Monday morning and I think, “So-and-so’s birthday is next week I should send a card.” Then I wake up in October and think, “I did send her a card right?”

3. Routines and Schedules change. Once you are a parent you live and die by the almighty schedule. There is a schedule for diaper changing, for feeding, for naps and for all the activities you would like to accomplish while nap time takes place. You remember to call your friend to congratulate her on her engagement, or new job just as your head hits the pillow at night. You think, I’ll definitely remember to call tomorrow!

4. Limited Funds. This one doesn’t require much explanation. Once you are paying a mortgage payment for diapers, wipes and formula you get it. Some of us have to live and die by the almighty budget.

5. I used to have conversation skills. I didn’t always talk about the different sizes of bottle nipples and the controversy over vaccines (what childless person even cares?). I also could finish a sentence without stopping abruptly to shout over the chaos you hear happening in the background of our phone conversation. I also miss eye contact while talking to people. Having two kids means I need both eyes on them- one for each kid.

6. Leaving the house has never been such a chore. Before having kids I could get a call and be out the door in 30 seconds or less. Now, I have to analyse if it is worth the risk of a 30 minute screaming meltdown over socks to meet you there. See you there in, oh… 6 hours when my husband gets home.

7. My needs have changed. I have never been a needy person until I became a mom. Now I am so tired and exhausted, frustrated and emotional. If you ask me how is everything I’ll either just fake a smile and say good, or completely crumble and unload. Depends on the day. It isn’t fun riding this roller coaster and asking my friends to take care of me. I’ve always been the strong one taking care of them.

I’m sure there are a few more offenses to add to the list. But, this covers the big ones. Oh and by the way potential new friend, if I seem like I’m just not that into you please don’t take offense. I only appear socially awkward the first time we meet (maybe second). I’m trying hard to look like a put together human who can form sentences and keep my kids from melting down in front of you. But, if you can look past all that and keep your expectations of our relationship  low (really low)  I’m happy to get to know you!

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Charity Starts At Home – 7 Ways to Give back with little ones in tow

So Halloween is over and it’s nearly Christmas already. Oh wait. Did we forget about that little holiday in the middle? The one where we are thankful for our families and friends before donning our sweatpants and stuffing our faces with cheesecake. Right, Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. I love all the colors, the food, the Macy’s Day Parade and the family stuff that goes with it. Growing up the folks at our table may have changed from year to year, and there was even a year we didn’t get to celebrate because we were all too sick; but I always had my brothers, my sister and my mom. It was a time of year when we really felt thankful. We had plenty of food (which didn’t happen for us every day), we didn’t argue (maybe one of the only two days a year we were angels), and we could just relax together. We never took a family vacation growing up so these holidays were our vacations and I think we somehow made the best of them. We watched a lot of movies, ate our favorite foods and shared a lot of laughs.

I grew up incredibly poor. My mom was a single mom to four of us and she worked three jobs. My parents divorced when I was five and we didn’t have much until I was old enough to go to work and help out with school shopping. Even though things were tight my mom always made sure we had enough at the holidays to make up for what we were lacking throughout the year. Sometimes it even meant we were one of the families waiting for a food box from the local church pantry. Growing up like that hurt. It was often hard on all of us. But I think out of everything, we learned to be grateful. At least I know I have.

Now I am a mom to two beautiful kids who had more in their first year of life than I did in my entire childhood. I don’t want them to go without, but I worry about how to teach them to be truly grateful and appreciate what they have. Most of all I worry about teaching them compassion. Before kids I was frequently volunteered at a soup kitchen or as a board member of a few organizations and raising funds for local families. I did a lot of hands-on walk events that included pitching tents, standing at tables and making a lot of phone calls to local businesses. Once my babies arrived I assumed I would just take them along with me and it would be business as usual. Easy peasy. Nope. No can do. (You’ve read my blog about my kids public tantrums right?).

I spent years lending my marketing background to local organizations to help raise funds and awareness.
Before kids I donated my marketing skills to different organizations.

So, I have learned how to give back in ways my kids can participate in often without having to leave home. I hope by sharing these things with my kids and explaining why we do these things will really help them understand the importance of helping; and ultimately instill compassion for their world.

1. Operation Christmas Cheer is the easiest holiday give back you can possibly spend time on. In less than one minute and for less than $1.00 you can send a Christmas card to a child with cancer/terminal illness to decorate their room with. This began as a simple request from a friend of mine to send one card to a few local kids going through chemotherapy. I sent them each one card. But, then I thought why not ask my friends and family to send some cards too. Suddenly, girl scout troops and entire classrooms were getting involved. Over 65 of my friends and family members enlisted the help of their friends and family to send out cards and gifts to children they have never met. And, just like that my small Facebook charity was born. You could easily make cards for a children’s hospital or even a nursing home near you. Go simple with a handful of cards, or call your friends and family to action and get dozens sent.

Operation Christmas Cheer is an easy way to rally the troops and support kids with terminal illness.
Kids of any age can make a card for children spending their holiday away from home.

2. Operation Christmas Child is a fun family project. Families fill a shoe box with gifts and supplies that are sent all around the world to children in impoverished countries. You can even track where your package lands. Little ones love to help select the toys and gifts that go inside each box.

3. Bonnie Boxes are similar in similar concept to the Operation Christmas Child shoe box program, but volunteers hand out shoe boxes full of gifts and activities to local cancer treatment centers. You can gather up a team to fill and wrap boxes to be delivered. You can create packages to go to adults or children. Perhaps you can open your home to organizing a packing event and the little ones can help!

4. Host a coat drive. Ask friends and neighbors for their gently used coats and winter wear. Your house can serve as a drop-off site until you are ready to deliver to a local agency, school nurses’ office or church. No big event to chair or to plan for. Families receiving a warm coat they thought they couldn’t afford is a huge help.

5. Collect supplies. Birthday parties are a great time to collect extra supplies for the food pantry, the local SPCA or a local family in need. People are already gathering in your home and there’s no shopping involved for you. At my girls’ second birthday we began requesting one canned good per family. My kids help me load the bag, take it to church and place in the collection box. Even if they don’t understand the full impact of giving canned goods, they understand their work is important.

6. Give of your time, talent or treasure. If you can’t write a check but still want to give back, donate a skill like crafting or painting. My mother used to take me with her to the hospital nursing home to paint ceramic pieces for the residents. Sometimes she would paint and I would wander the halls chatting with the elderly and help them play bingo. I learned the most about helping others from my time there. Perhaps you could donate crafts or decorations to a local nursing home or family shelter to help brighten the residents’ holiday.

Lending your talents free of charge is a really easy way to give back!
Lending your talents free of charge makes a great gift to anyone!

7. Host a home party event and ask that a portion of the sales be donated to a charity of your choice. Ask friends in direct sales (think Tupperware, Mary Kay, Barefoot Books, etc.) to set up a table at your home. Invite all your friends and family. You get to do a little shopping surrounded by friends while your little ones get to play.

My friend and I joke about how we can’t wait for the day our kids are old enough to volunteer alongside us. I hope my kids get as much out of giving back as I do. With little ones who are still so reliant on a schedule/routine and sparse childcare, it can be a challenge to volunteer your time outside the home. With a little creativity you can still find a way to give back and impart some valuable lessons to your little ones. It is true that charity starts in the home.

 

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Grief In Her Own Words

As October begins to wind down with everyone’s focus on Halloween festivities, my mind drifts toward the child that won’t be celebrating with us this year. I miscarried our first child on October 27, 2007. Coincidentally October is also Infant Loss and Miscarriage Awareness Month. One in four women will miscarry a baby. It is often difficult to talk about or share our experiences, but I have found 3 brave friends willing to do that here in their own words.

I often wonder how my life might look today with a 7-year old and a set of 4-year-old twins. Would I be different? Would my family be different? After I returned home and to work I didn’t find it hard to share my story with friends and family right away. I think it was more uncomfortable for other people because they didn’t always know what to say. Sometimes words just don’t seem adequate enough to express how we feel for someone else’s loss. After a while I didn’t want to talk about it because I didn’t want others to think I was seeking sympathy. But, I would share if another mom shared with me. Although after 7 years the emotions surrounding my miscarriage are far lighter than when I first experienced the loss, there is still an emptiness in my family circle.

When sharing my story, other moms have expressed difficulty in opening up about their loss, or have felt the subject “taboo.” Some are afraid of being judged, or dismissed. I am grateful for the women sharing their stories today.

Erin’s Story In Her Own Words:

On November 29th 2013, at 14 weeks pregnant, I gave birth to a sleeping little boy named River Eleusis. I have learned so much about life, death, myself, and those around me because of this journey. 

First, I learned that loss looks and feels different for everyone. And that’s ok. We are all different and we experience life differently. So of course we will experience hardship and loss differently. Some people cry for days, months, years. Some don’t cry at all. Some feel lost and confused. Some feel peace and comfort.

My journey through River’s birth was very different from what most people would expect for a mother who has just lost her child. I was filled with so much peace, comfort, and thankfulness for what I was given. There were moments in which I felt that I should be crying for days and days, because that’s what you’re supposed to do. But what I’ve learned is that I need to be true to what I am feeling and what I am experiencing. So if I was happy, I felt happy and completely embraced that emotion. If I was sad, I felt sad. If I was lost, I felt lost. I allowed each thought and emotion to run it’s course, in it’s own time. And I will continue to do so. 

Second, loss is a process and journey. It has been almost a year since River was born and I think of him daily. There are days that he brings me so much joy. There are nights that he fills my dreams while I sleep. There are days that I miss him and just want to hold him one more time. As my journey continues, different emotions come up. I’ve shared with others before that I didn’t just lose River. I lost my pregnancy. I lost feeling him kick. I lost giving birth to him. I lost feeding him. I lost having three children. There have been many losses through this process,and they will continue. I have learned to take each one as it comes and to fully feel the emotions that come with it.

The last lesson I want to share with you is that community is so important. My family and I were surrounded by people who truly care for us. We had a couple weeks of dinners prepared for us. We had people who watched our older children so we could freely feel and think. We had tons of messages filled with love, support, and hope; and we had people who we could share River with openly. The hardship about having such an amazing community was that there were quite a few close friends and family members that also had to move through the grieving process of losing River. It was hard for me to see their hurt and pain, but I knew that they were on a journey just like mine. They too needed to embrace the feelings and thoughts that came. I have learned so much from the people in my life and I am forever thankful for them.

Kelly’s story In Her Own Words:

I was pregnant with identical twin girls called Mono Mono or MoMo for short.  The odds were against us from the very beginning, but my girls defied the odds and we made it to the point of viability where medical intervention was possible.  I spent a month in the hospital on rest and monitoring.  Tragically despite our best efforts my girls passed away 2 days before their scheduled delivery.  My rare story took on quite a following with friends and family and my community and I started a blog to keep everyone up to date.  I continue it today to honor my girls and to share my healing process with others in the hopes it can help someone.   We were lucky that our story was so captivating for people.  We had a large community of people who followed our journey. I think since so many people knew all that we had been through made it easier for people to be there for us.

I also miscarried a child in the beginning of that same year at 11 weeks.  It was harder to find support then.  We had only announced the pregnancy a week or two before.  I really had no idea a miscarriage was possible for someone who had a healthy normal pregnancy with no issues before.  I felt foolish for announcing the pregnancy “too early.”  I was devastated and felt foolish for being devastated about a baby I never felt kick.  I felt like there was a much stronger sense of urgency to “move on” and “get over it.”  I don’t feel like either of our losses were taboo to talk about but I do feel like talking about miscarriage is at the top of the list of things people just don’t want to hear about.

My best advice for those who want to help: don’t offer advice or cliches to help fix us.  Saying things like, “everything happens for a reason,”  “you can always try again,”  and “thankfully it was early,” are more hurtful than helpful.  Stick to things that you truly mean:  “I’m sorry,”  “I love you,”  and “I am here for you to talk to, cry with, or whatever you need.” Offer specific ways to help.  Generic offers like, “Can I do anything for you?”  “Do you need anything?” can seem routine and not genuine.  So be more specific, “I’d like to come by this week to check on you.  Would you like me to bring you macaroni and cheese or that soup I made last time you came over?”  “I’m running some errands tomorrow.  Do you need anything from these stores I’m going to?”  When I was grieving it was incredibly hard to think about the normal day-to-day tasks, let alone be able to express to my friends what I needed help with.

My best advice to those who are grieving:  There is no end to grief.  It is a continuous and lifelong process.  There will forever be things that stir up emotions you thought you had long ago dealt with.  You will forever be healing and growing on this journey.  Don’t ever feel like there is this end platform you will stand on and say I’m 100% over it.  I’m done.  I’ve moved on.  I’m fine now.  Also, don’t feel guilty for having bad days.  Bad days just mean you loved your baby and the life you had imagined for them. It is OK to miss your child and it is normal.  Grieving is a journey and different for everyone.  So be kind to yourself and know that grief is an act out of love.

You can read more about Kelly’s journey through loss on her blog: www.momomommyme.blogspot.com

Anonymous In Her Own Words:

Having been told that I would not conceive without medical intervention, I never expected to return to the United States after a whirlwind tour of Europe and find myself carrying a 10-week-old baby.  I also never expected to be informed at the same time that I was in the process of miscarrying her twin.

I was under the care of a fertility team.  I tracked my cycle with scientific precision.  I bought and used pregnancy tests by the dozen.  I had been bleeding and spotting for weeks, phenomena I attributed to high-altitude air travel and a hectic schedule.  Scientifically, medically, and according to all other ‘ally’ words, this should not have happened to me.  Yet it did. For the first time in my life, I was unsure of myself – uncertain as to how I should feel and act in this situation. On the one hand, I was going to be a mom and receive the most beautiful gift of my life.  On the other hand, I was mourning a baby who would never know what life would be like.

Initially, all I felt was guilt and shame because I immediately thought that I could have and should have done something to protect both of my babies.  The fact that I did not know I was pregnant did nothing to minimize the feeling of loss I experienced.  Even though one of my babies never made it through pregnancy, he or she left a permanent mark on our family; his or her death was not the last word.

The next day, my husband and I went in for what would be the first of my weekly ultrasounds.  I heard it before I saw my sweet little gummy bear up on the screen.  A heartbeat!  A strong, glorious, melodious heartbeat.  And do you know what else?  I saw life.  Life is amazing, sad, and powerful all at the same time; it is a journey that sometimes ends far too soon, and in unpredictable and seemingly unfair ways.  I have come to view my loss as something that is woven into the fabric of our family, as it has shaped how I engage the world.

I once shared my story with a “friend,” who responded with disbelief because I failed to tell her about the miscarriage sooner.  After all, she suffered a loss, which was a seemingly positive home pregnancy test very early on that was not confirmed with further home or blood testing, and shared this with me as it was happening.  This “sanctimommy” (read the blog – it’s hysterical) taught me a very valuable lesson, and one that I want to share with you.  Your grieving process is yours and yours alone; only you can define whether sharing this aspect of your life helps you heal.  If reaching out to others and speaking about your loss doesn’t provide you with what you might need to begin living again, there is no rule saying you have to talk about it with others.  My husband and I are very comfortable in our decision to keep this information to ourselves.  And do you know what?  That’s ok.

Just remember that the day will come when you will all meet again for the first time.

 

Loss is such a personal journey, but not an experience you need to do alone. There is no formula to grieving. Whether you choose to share it with the world, or just your partner there is no right or wrong way to embark on that journey. With 1 in 4 women experiencing a loss, there are many of us who understand.

Have you survived the loss of a child or miscarriage? What was something that helped you in the healing process?

 

 

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