Category: Parent

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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Things I Won’t Do For My Kids

Welcome to Week 3 of the No Frills version of The Whatever Mom! Hope you are enjoying my personal insights into this parenting gig!

Eating Utensils

 

We had the luxury of going to dinner at two different restaurants this weekend. We are lucky if we eat as a family at a restaurant two times in the same year. This was pretty exciting for all of us. I am not ashamed of the dance of joy I did when my food arrived… food I didn’t have to plan for, shop for or cook! I was even more delighted that I didn’t have to wash the dishes after our meal either. And, this happened TWO DAYS IN A ROW!! If you’re a mom you know the joy of which I speak.

You may be shocked to learn that dining with little ones is not always a relaxing experience. I have to say I am pretty proud of the way my kids behaved and we didn’t even have to bribe them! We reviewed the rules with them before entering and again once we were seated.  Hubby and I were so excited to be out among the living! (I even wore make up and left the frumpy pants at home! I was that excited!). My excitement, however, was dampened when we were seated near a woman who was clearly annoyed by my child’s enthusiasm for being out in a restaurant.

My girl wasn’t doing anything out of the ordinary for a 4-year old (I was actually feeling really grateful for that!). But, nonetheless this woman is shooting me looks and glaring at me as if to send the message “do something about your kid.” At first I felt like I needed to rush in and appease this woman’s expectations for my child to be seen and not heard. I felt like I needed to apologize for her discomfort sitting near a small child. Then I realized it isn’t fair to punish my child when she really wasn’t doing anything rude, or breaking any rules.

I shared last week my kids can have terrible tantrums in public, but they can also be really good in public! No, really! I felt like we were having a good night and my kids were being charming. So, why all the scrutiny from this onlooker? Is there truly NO place for parents to go without being watched and quietly critiqued? My emotions took several twists and turns as we ate our meal and I felt the burning gaze from this woman. Here are the cliff notes of my inner monologue:

I will not apologize for who my children are. Both of my girls are talkative little story tellers full of excitement and energy. I will not expect them to stop talking because it is bothering someone else to hear them. Although most mornings I’m wishing for a pause button on their conversations while I finish my coffee. Only because they wake up like this and its hard to fain interest so early in the day. I could have shushed my child for talking too much, but it wasn’t bothering anyone else except this one person. I was raised in an environment where children were to be seen and not heard. It didn’t stop me from talking. In fact, I think that’s why I talk to every single person I meet because I was rarely allowed to share my thoughts. (And now I have all of you!). I ran through the check list of things in my head: my girls wasn’t shrieking, jumping, yelling, kicking, running or throwing things. She was just being bubbly, chatty and a little wiggly (in all fairness so was I). That’s who she is as a person. I will not ask my daughter to squelch that so someone else can feel better for the 1 hour of their life they have to sit near her.

I will not feel guilty for having spirited children. It is amazing how other people’s glares or judging stares can make us immediately feel guilty. It can make us feel like we have already failed as a parent just walking in the door. I am not entirely sure where this pressure comes from, but I often find it stopping me in my tracks. I want my children to be perceived as the beautiful little people they are. Trust me, they are NOT without faults (hence the reason this blog is not titled, Damn Right My Twins Are Better Than Yours!). My children love to be fully engaged in what’s happening around them. They will soak in all the details and discuss them and ask a ton of questions about them. They notice details like the ceiling fans are not moving and want to know why. They’ll notice every last do not smoke sign, point them out and then count them.  They notice there are two forks on the table and ask why and then rearrange them in an order they like best. It’s just who they are. Again, no one’s throwing knives or running across tables here. It can be completely exhausting to get through a meal with this intensive Q&A (I almost always finish my wine before my meal). But, my child wasn’t asking this person 1,000 questions. So what am I really feeling guilty about here?

I will not explain my children to other people so that they are more comfortable. During this trip we also met up with family. We had to skip out right after our meal to get on the road and  make the 3 hour drive back home. Oh how I wish we could have stayed longer and really soaked up the extra time with everyone. But, I could see how hard my kids worked to get through the last 2 hours in a restaurant, after they worked hard to get through the 1.5 hours at church after not getting nearly enough sleep the night before. I knew in my mother’s heart I could not push them a minute longer let alone another 2 hours of socializing. I spoke with my husband who agreed we should take this opportunity to exit. Not everyone understood why we were leaving. I really wanted to explain that I was saving them (and myself) the torture of a one hour shrieking meltdown once my kids had reached their max. I wanted to explain how Sensory Processing Disorder works; how I am the expert in my kids and I know what’s best for them. I wanted to explain that the last two years of extreme meltdowns has taught me how to recognize when my kids are going to blow. I didn’t explain anything. They just observed my kids being awesome, why can’t we just leave it at that?

On this Whatever journey of mine, I am learning to let a lot go. That includes the pressure from strangers to guide my children in a way that makes THEM comfortable. I have to spend 24/7 with these little people. I also have to make sure they grow up to be productive members of society. I can’t cave under the pressure from outsiders and adjust my parenting style according to the standards of every stranger annoyed by my kids. I have bigger things to worry about in life; like making sure my kids aren’t throwing knives and jumping over tables.

I wanted to be angry and for a second that mama bear in me started to imagine ripping this woman’s face off. But, instead of getting angry (or removing body parts) I gave her a little tip of my glass and said, Whatever!

 

I am having bumper stickers of this one made.
I am having bumper stickers of this one made.

Have you ever had a situation where you felt you wanted to defend your child to a stranger?

 

 

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The Blog Must Go on!

Today’s “no frills” blog is brought to you by the kind citizens running the local library; and that zit faced little twerp hacker sitting in his moms basement that targeted my personal computer. Alright, that’s not a fair stereotype. Maybe not ALL hackers live at home with their moms. Maybe some of them work for a government agency doing super-spy work on foreign governments. I can respect a working schlub using his hacking intelligence for the greater good! But, I can’t respect a jerk who thinks hacking the 5 year old lap top of a SAHM is going to gain anything. My ancient laptop is (sadly)  my link to the outside world. It keeps me connected to all of you, my far off family and helps me generate an income.

As soon as I realized I had been hacked I immediately logged off and could not log back on. My husband has been working for days to get it up and running. Finally, we have resolved to taking it to a professional. I had a mild panic attack about my blog. How the heck am I going to upload my fabby pics now? How am I going to keep everyone aware of our latest crafting adventures and time saving tips? I am the every SAHM- the moms want to hear from me! That’s when I had my first “aha moment!” ever. (It was like Nirvana- I saw Oprah and everything!).

I may not be able to bring you fabby pictorial step by step tutorials of super easy crafts, but I can bring you ME. The mom behind the blog. A real look at what goes on in my world. I’m sure many of you have deep hitting moments like me and wonder, “does this happen to other moms?” So, for the next few weeks I’ll bring you the “no frills” look at my mother hood journey. But, when I get that laptop up and running I’m going the post the heck out of our awesome crafts!

So thank you, Dear Hacker Jerk, you may have sabotaged my main source of communication (and easy access to a thesaurus), but you have not sabotaged The Whatever Mom! The blog must go on!!

 

This might be a great time to hear from my readers! What are some topics you’d like to hear about from the Whatever Mom?

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Happy CrOcktober

Have I shared with all of you how much I love my crock pot? My love affair with slow cooking began a few months after my twins were born. It takes a lot of work to put a hot dinner on the table while adjusting to life with kids! Once I got over the fear of burning down the house  and gave my crock pot a try there was just no turning back! In less than one hour a week I prep 5 week night meals and put in the freezer, then I let the crock pot do all the heavy lifting. Now, I’m not juggling the evening dinner rush with prime time tantrums, phone calls and my own end of day melt down.

I am often asked to share some of my favorite recipes. I have collected a bunch over time and have no idea where I picked them up from (somewhere on the great world wide web), and I have my go-to sites to check out new ones. Here are seven “pop and drop” freezer meals I make most often. Pop and drop means there’s no chopping or dicing. You simply add your chicken and pop open a few cans/jars and dump all into one freezer bag. Your prep is complete. I’m guessing you may not want to eat a full week of chicken dinners, but maybe you’ll find one or more to liven up your freezer meal rotation.

Click links below for free recipe printable:

Lazy Tex Chili

Pesto Chicken with Green Beans

Thai Chicken

Hawaiian Chicken

Chicken Alfred with Broccoli

Maple Dijon Chicken

Creamy Salsa Chicken

NOTE: My kids are picky eaters so I usually make them mac and cheese on the side, but even when they do share our meals there are still plenty of left overs for hubby and I to enjoy for lunch. Even if you do not have kids this is still a pretty awesome system! Imagine not worrying about spending 30 minutes to prepare one meal, or wondering what’s for dinner? I wish I knew about freezer cooking before I even had kids.

quick tips

 

A few of my favorite sites to find dinner inspiration:

http://wp.sixsistersstuff.com/?s=freezer+meals
http://wp.sixsistersstuff.com/?s=freezer+meals

 

MexPumpSoup2ZZ77

http://glutenfreegoddess.blogspot.com/2006/01/mexican-pumpkin-soup.html

 

http://paleopot.com/2012/11/paleo-roasted-red-pepper-sweet-potato-soup/
http://paleopot.com/2012/11/paleo-roasted-red-pepper-sweet-potato-soup/

 

Leave a comment below with your favorite crock pot freezer meal site!

 

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3 Easy Steps to Feel Organized

Every week for nearly the last four years I have proclaimed, “THIS is the week I get organized!” I really mean it when I say this. But, the reality of taking care of the other humans in my home leaves me little time to organize like Martha (as in Stewart). I admit it is disappointing to open the closet to find things spilling out, or open the dresser drawers and see all the mangled clothes. I always feel pressed for time as we race through our mornings before to leaving for school, or getting to a play date. But, Martha doesn’t live here so it’s up to me to make things orderly and accessible.

So, how does a busy twin mom without a moment to spare get organized? Well, first I had to throw away my vision of what  organized looks like and really think about what it feels like. Being organized feels less rushed and less like I am behind on tasks. It feels less stressed. So, what stresses me out the most? Snacks, mealtimes and getting my kids dressed. I often forget to give myself a snack, or suddenly a child is melting down because I forgot to feed them. It is stressful pulling out one shirt after another until my kid finds THE ONE she likes. Suddenly it’s 4:30 in the afternoon and I forgot I have to make dinner! Ack!

Here is my “Master plan” to feeling organized:

SNACK TIME PREP

Use snack sized Ziploc bags to divide up kid sized portions of their favorite snacks.
Use snack sized Ziploc bags to divide up kid sized portions of their favorite snacks.

I divided our snacks into kid friendly portions by using Ziploc snack bags. I measured according to serving size, filled bags then I piled them into a clear plastic box and left on a shelf in a cupboard the girls can reach.

Create an easy-to-reach snack shelf in the fridge for fresh snacks.
Create an easy-to-reach snack shelf in the fridge for fresh snacks.

Next, I set up a shelf in the fridge with squeezable yogurts, carrot sticks, apple slices and drinks they can just grab and go. This alleviates my stress of preparing snacks on demand and gives my girls a bit more independence.

Keep snacks in car to ward off meltdowns on the road.
Keep snacks in car to ward off meltdowns on the road.

Don’t forget snacks for the car! This is my back up in case I forget to grab the snack bag!

Total prep time = 20 minutes (maybe 30 if you let the kids help). Time saved = 1.5 hours of prepping or chopping snacks on demand while the kids complain they didn’t want “thaaaat snack.”

 

DINNER TIME PREP

Prep ahead crock pot freezer meals are a HUGE time saver!
Prep ahead crock pot freezer meals are a HUGE time saver!

I have collected over a months worth of freezer crock pot meals my family will actually eat. I make my menu for the week, buy all my groceries and return home to assemble into Ziploc bags and freeze.

Total prep time = 1 hour. Total time saved = 6 hours.

 

CLOTHING PREP

Kids can see all their options at once.
Kids can see all their options at once.

My kids will not pick out their clothes the night before and stick to wearing that outfit by morning. By simply adding one more fold line to our shirts and pants I save a whole lot of space AND my kids can see all their options at once. For shirts I use a modified ‘Gap fold’ (it’s a real thing Google it!) and then I fold in half one more time. THAT’S IT!

gap fold
Not a true Gap Fold, but your shirts should look like this.
Fold one more time and stack several shirts together before lying down in the drawer.
Fold one more time and stack several shirts together before lying down in the drawer.

 

Fold pants one extra fold, stack and lie down in drawer.
Fold pants one extra fold, stack and lie down in drawer.

This saves me the time (and torture) of watching my kids pull out one shirt at a time to get to the one they want.

Total prep time = mere seconds added to folding time. Total time saved = 40 minutes a week!

 

So, if you like math here are the numbers: Total Prep Time = 1 hour 20 minutes Total Time Saved = 8 hours 30 minutes

Feeling organized and saving hours of stress = PRICELESS!

What are your time saving secrets to keeping your family organized?

 

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3 Fun Ways to Use Paint Swatches

Let me start this post with a confession: once the kids go back to school I kind of go on auto pilot with the whole educational crafting at home thing. I feel like I did my due diligence and picked just the right school for them with teachers who are way more patient…er um, qualified than I am. My kids really truly love going to school. They also love to match colors, sort things and use scissors (which are kept under lock and key). Even after 3 hours of learning at school they like to come home to play with puzzles, string beads and make (ugh) more art projects.

Now that they are learning to write their names and draw shapes, it’s time for my kids to hone those fine motor skills. Those are the skills that help them write, use scissors, buttons and zippers, etc. So, I took their love of colors and matching and made these fun activities for them using some (FREE) paint swatches from the hard ware store.

MATERIALS:

supplies edit
All the materials you need to make the 3 activities below.

2 matching sets of swatches. I selected each color of the rainbow.

Liquid glue

Scissors

Clothe’s pins

Contact paper (optional)

 

COLOR MATCHING

pins edit
A rainbow of colors ready for matching.

My mom actually helped me make these. She did it really quick while watching TV with the kids. What? I had my hands full potty training twins and, she had a couple of extra free hands so I put her to work.

Cut thin strips from each color on the color swatch- as wide as your clothes pin. Next, glue the strip onto clothes pin. Once everything dries kids can match the color on the pin to the color on the swatch. Like this:

match edit
Kids can clip the matching colors on the clothes pin to the swatch.

 

SCISSOR CUTTING

scissors
Help kids cut on the white line separating the colors.

This one really requires little or no effort on your part. Just supervision with the scissors. It’s all fun and games until someone’s bangs go missing. Help your kids hold the swatch and cut on the white line between colors. Great practice for scissor skills.

 

SPELLING

laminate
Laminating swatches ensures several uses.

I laminated my swatch strips for durability and so I can use a washable dry erase marker on them. Confession #2: I do not own a laminate machine. I used clear contact paper. Yes, you can use clear contact paper in place of laminate for many projects. We pull out a laminated swatch and I write the letters on each square and help the girls spell the names of the colors.

Contact paper laminate is easy to do:

Simply cut contact paper to size of item you are covering.
Simply cut contact paper to size of item you are covering.
Place second piece of contact paper over item and smooth out using your hand.
Place second piece of contact paper over item and smooth out using your hand.

The key to using contact paper as laminate is to move slowly, and smooth out any air bubbles as you go. This faux-laminate is durable enough to withstand the pull of Velcro for any projects with movable pieces.

Wondering what else you can make with color swatches from the hardware store? Check out a few of my favorite finds:

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What a luxury it is to be anxious for 17 years.

My anxiety about turning 39 began on October 30th, 1997. I know that was 17 years ago, but I vividly remember sitting at my desk in my dorm room studying for an exam. The phone rang. It was my mom. “I’m sorry sweetie but Aunt Christine passed away.” My memory goes blank after that. I don’t remember what I felt or heard next. All I remember is she was only 39.

Aunt Christine on her wedding day.
Aunt Christine on her wedding day.

My aunt Christine died from breast cancer. Cancer had already taken my grandparents (that I barely knew) and some of my mom’s friends I knew as “aunts”. But Christine’s passing was the first loss I understood and felt entirely. She was the sweetest and kindest person I had ever met. Until she passed I never knew what it was like to have regrets when a loved one dies. I grew up in a small town and ran into Christine at the A&P often or while she was out jogging in the neighborhood. Over the years I grew busy with attending college and working. Christine and I only exchanged snippets of conversation, and never had a chance to sit down and talk about life over a leisurely cup of tea. If only I knew then how important it is to make time for connecting with family.

I’ll never forget the first life lesson she taught me at age 6. We were in the back yard eating the picnic she had packed for us. She imparted to me: the “Kiss Principle” Keep It Simple Sweetheart. Because she was the sweetest and kindest person I ever met, she changed it from Keep It Simple Stupid because as she explained, “calling people stupid is just not nice.”

All my aunts and grandma. Christine- front right and my grandma both died from cancer.
All my aunts and grandma. Christine- front right and my grandma both died from cancer.

Cancer  is a disease that just doesn’t know any boundaries. It doesn’t care who it takes or when. I have lost a number of family members to various forms of cancer. Last year I lost 2 friends to cancer; and this year 3 more have been diagnosed. I followed the stories of 3 local children who all lost their battle with cancer. I watched my niece battle and win against Leukemia when she was only 3. That was a long and brutal time in her very young life.

My niece Ashley Christine- even a feeding tube couldn't stop her from smiling.
My niece Ashley Christine- even a feeding tube couldn’t stop her from smiling.

Most of my friends and family know that I am passionate about raising money for various cancer organizations. I’ve celebrated my last 17 birthdays by donating and raising funds for cancer support and research. Giving back on my birthday started as a way for me to honor my loved ones and is now how I celebrate the extra year life has given me.

This year I’m going bigger. This year I turn 39.

Here are is how I will honor my family and friends:

This year I chose to support the Jessie Reese Foundation for my birthday giving. This foundation began as the dream of a 12- year-old cancer patient as a way to give kids inspiration to Never Ever Give Up (NEGU). Courageous Cupcake Sales pay for Joy Jars, power packs and sibling packs for children fighting cancer. I am hosting my own Courageous Cupcake sale to help Jessie’s mission continue. My goal is to raise $390 to buy 20 Joy Jars. With over 20 dozen cupcakes being donated I hope to surpass that goal!

At the same time there is a special bottle/can drive happening. Proceeds will go to a local family who lost their little boy Mac earlier this year. It is their wish to honor what would have been his 3rd birthday with a donation of 35 lbs. of can tabs  to the Ronald McDonald House.

6 professional bakers have donated 20 dozen cupcakes!

I’m not in the habit of asking for things, but this year I asked my husband for this beautiful bracelet for my birthday. Half the proceeds go to the Rocky Strong Organization. The bracelet was designed for a local woman, Christine, who battled stage 4 colon cancer for seven years. Her vision is to help other families in her community pay for the unforeseen expenses associated with cancer like transportation, hotel stays and meals. Christine passed away peacefully just a few days before this post went live.

Available at http://violethilldesigns.storenvy.com/
Available at http://violethilldesigns.storenvy.com/

 

Earlier this month my family and I attended the Muddy Puddles Mess Fest to help raise funds to find less invasive treatments for pediatric cancer. It was an amazing family-friendly and kid-friendly event. It was so fun, that for a second I forgot that this event was made possible by a little boy who lost his fight at only age 5. I didn’t get into the mud- I stayed behind with my anti-messy child. But, my good friend Gloria (and partner in cancer fighting crime) jumped in with her little guy!

http://www.thetlcfoundation.org/muddypuddles.html
My partner in cancer fighting crime, Gloria D. and her son Hudson making a splash at Mess Fest.

These are just some of the events I chose to support in honor of my loved ones. I spent all these years anxious about turning 39 not realizing how lucky I am to have the last 17 years of life to worry. What a luxury it is to turn 39 today.

 

To learn more about any of these organizations please click on the highlighted links.

 

In loving memory of: 

Christine Barrows- Ryberg

Dorothy Smith- Barrows

Cecil Barrows Sr.

Cecil Barrows Jr.

Charles Ferber

Courtney Erickson

Wayne Burlison

Mac and Morgan

 

In honor of those still fighting.

 

 

 

 

 

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Dear Lonely Mom – You are Not Alone

I had a different, fun little piece ready to share, but when I opened my Facebook page my news feed was full of posts about Robin Williams’ suicide. My heart broke. Not because Hollywood lost a great actor, but as humans we lost a great one– his kindness, compassion, wisdom and joy now gone from this earth.

Depression is a scary, unpredictable beast. There are several members of my family who live with this every single day. From seasonal affect disorder to bipolar depression to clinical depression. Not everyone who suffers from depression talks about it or even appears depressed. Many people with depression are capable of getting up every day, going to work and appearing happy and complete. No one else hears that inner voice convincing them suicide is their only option.

No one is immune- not even moms. After hearing the heartbreaking news about Mr. Williams, I thought about moms who may suffer from depression. How many moms get up every day and go through the motions of taking care of their families and leave themselves last on the list? How many moms won’t reach out for fear of judgment or losing their kids?

I often feel lonely in my mothering journey. There are few adults to speak with or to help navigate the difficult days. Being at the service of two demanding toddlers reminds me how difficult the days are compared to my carefree life before kids. All my single friends have moved away or feel they are intruding when asking to spend time with me. My mom friends are just as busy as me. When we get together there’s not much time for bonding between interruptions. Social media is great to keep in touch, but there are days I don’t have time to connect. Some days exhaustion overrides any emotion I have, and I go to bed feeling numb.

I do not have depression, but often feel uneasy about sharing with my friends the loneliness of my day. I don’t want to burden them and so I keep quiet. I wonder how many moms with depression feel the same way. Loneliness itself does not make a mom depressed, but living in a silent, lonely state for a prolonged amount of time can certainly contribute to depression.  According to an online article at OCfamily.com “Statistics show that twice as many women suffer from depression as men, and experts say moms with children at home are a particularly vulnerable group. Women ages 25 to 44 are the hardest hit with clinical depression, the years when most moms are raising their children … Just being a mother does not cause depression, says Dr. Stotland. She treats many depressed and anxious mothers who are overworked, under pressure and do too much with too little support or help with tasks such as childcare.”
“It isn’t that women want to have it all, it’s that women have to do it all. Nobody says that a man with a job and children wants to have it all,” says Dr. Stotland.”

Suffering in silence is not a safe way to live. If you think you may be depressed, have postpartum depression, or maybe you have difficulty finding joy in life please speak to your doctor right away. Please don’t worry that someone will think less of you, or that you can’t be a good mom. Taking care of your own needs is part of being a good mom. Don’t worry about what other people will think, please just worry about your own health. No one will think you’re being selfish. If they do, Whatever! They are not living your life. Most of all please don’t think suicide is your best option. It will end your pain. It will also end your joy and your tomorrows. It will leave a big whole in this world and in the lives of the people who love you. No one can replace you and the important role you have as Mom.

Dear Lonely Mom,

Please reach out.

Please call me for coffee.

I won’t judge you.

Please know you are not alone.

Love,

The Whatever Mom

robin williams suicide hotline

http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

images

http://www.afsp.org/ Find local resources and resources to cope with a suicide loss, and to educate yourself on the risk factors and signs of suicide.

 

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Why Mom’s Night Out is Important – GIVEAWAY!!

The other day I cracked under the pressure of potty training the twins alone while my husband was away for FIVE days. I took to social media to share my plight. I described my fantasy of checking into a hotel for three days to shower for 8 hours alone, eat some chocolate cake and watch hours upon hours of mindless TV. Judging by some of the comments not everyone shared my enthusiasm for moms taking alone time.

For the record, I don’t want to spend time away from my kids. I just want to unplug from the demands of my day job.  Being home with kids 24/7 is hard work. I would love a break now and then. That’s why I look forward to Mom’s Night Out (MNO)! Whether it’s going out for drinks or dinner or my new favorite, Vine Van Gogh paint night, moms *NEED* a time out!

Vine Gogh Paint Night
Vine Gogh Paint Night

Here is why I love a night out once in a while:

Spending all my time tuned into the demands of 3-year-olds obscures my link to other humans. I could go days without chatting to another adult. Sometimes I long to be connected to the rest of the world. I don’t mean the dramas of Facebook, but an honest connection with friends. When I spend time with other people it feels like I have more people in my circle than just princesses and Strawberry Shortcake. (FYI: totally a snooty bunch).

Not a snooty one in the bunch!
My circle of peeps.

When I leave hubby in charge for a night it makes him more aware of the amount of work it takes to get our kids from the breakfast table to bedtime. It’s a bonus if he has to handle the bedtime shenanigans all by himself. Plus, it’s great daddy-daughter bonding time, right?

Sharing war stories with other moms gives me perspective. My kids do stupid things all the time. In the moment of cleaning it all up I’m not laughing… until I hear about how it happened to some other mom. Stuff is just way funnier when its not happening to you!  It reminds me that I am not living in a bubble and that all of the stress of parenting is temporary. Yes. Even 18 years is temporary. One day soon I’ll be sending them off on the school bus to spend 6 hours of their day with other people. Then like a week later they’ll start college!

When I talk to other adults and use big words like “legalization” and “perfunctory,” it reminds me I am smart and stuff. It makes me feel like those few remaining brain cells clustered way in the back haven’t failed me!

When I spend too much time with poop it makes me ‘hatey.’ Five days alone with twins who are potty training is insanity … no it’s twinsanity! No one should ever have to clean up that much poop. Ever.

Back when I was a ‘working girl’ I’d count down the week till Friday at 5 o’clock! Then I could check out of my work week and head out for nom-noms and beer. Now my 5 o’clock countdown is for bedtime with no promise of nom-noms or beer. Except on Mom’s Night!

I like to paint... and I like to drink wine.
I like to paint… and I like to drink wine.

Thank you Vine Van Gogh for another great night out!

If you haven’t been to a Vine Van Gogh paint night yet you’re in luck! Enter for your chance to win a 2 pack of tickets to the Brews and Brushes event at Keegan Ales on Aug. 20th! Click here to enter

No skills required! Just you, some friends and some fun!

Vine_Van_Gogh-Logo-website

Actual Facebook fantasy status update: After this week alone (that’s 5 days in a row) while hubby was away for work (eating steak for dinner, talking to humans and sleeping in a cushy hotel) I realize something:
All I want for my birthday is to check into a hotel for 2 maybe 3 days, take a 8 hour hot shower alone, order some fresh hot food and sit down while I eat it….maybe even lie in bed and eat it… yeah, totally lie in bed and eat it. Might binge on a little (or a lot of) chocolate cake. Watch actual live TV and sleep. I’m not even going to get dressed, just wear a robe. Then I’m going to wake up and take a nap before my lunch of chocolate cake and champagne. I might text a few mom friends while I’m at it and tell them to make up an excuse to get out of the house. Say you need to run to Target for ‘lady supplies’ and drive over here to hang out for a few hours. I’ll put on clothes and we’ll just laugh and eat and watch TV. It will be great!

Where do you go for a fun Mom’s Night out?

*THIS GIVEAWAY IS CLOSED*

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What to Expect When You’re Expecting – Potty Training Edition

So you know that What to Expect when you’re Expecting series of parenting books? I’m about to add another volume to that called, “What to Expect When You’re Expecting- Potty Training Edition.”  Potty training has not been a magical 2 day experience for me. It hasn’t even been a difficult 2 months. It has been an on again off again roller coaster from hell for the last 26 months. No joke. Not even a typo.

My twins are a special breed. There is no pushing them to your way of thinking. No amount of bribery will sway them. They dig their heels in and plant roots. If you are fantasizing your kid (or twins) will be potty trained by age 2 (or at least before age 5) you can expect the following:

Expect to increase the number of potties you own. You will have one that plays music and sings and cheers. I have a Mickey Mouse potty for each twin, plus a travel potty for our traveling rest stop. I also have 2 toilets at home and somehow still have to fight for a seat!

Get a little potty that YOU love, because you will be carting that thing everywhere; birthday parties, ball games, trips to the park. EVERY. WHERE. While you are at it upgrade the family car to an SUV with enough space to accommodate your rolling urinal (complete with life like smell). Expect to keep it fully stocked with extra wipes, undies and clothes. Make sure you include a change of clothes for yourself because believe me $#@! happens.

Woman Cleaning Toilet

Expect to get cozy with poop. Get to know it on a first name basis and be prepared to shake hands because the two of you will be spending a lot of time together. Most kids can’t clean themselves properly until age five. Nope. Not a typo. You can expect to wipe those adorable tushies for nearly FIVE full years.  Also, FYI, you’ll find yourself increasingly obsessed with each family member’s daily constitution. If anyone cries the wrong way, or gets a little crabby the first thing you will wonder is, “when was the last time you pooped?” This applies to husbands as well.

Expect to apologize to Mother Earth right now for the things you will turn a blind eye to. Like the 17 pairs of actual undies you will throw in the trash because there is no way you’re cleaning that! If you are an earth huger try not to think about the BUH-zillion wipes needed to get kids through the first five years of life. Also, (if you use them) the 20 KUH-gillion pull ups you just sent out to the curb wrapped in plastic.

Hands on a globe

Expect to invest a small fortune in laundry cost too. If you are lucky to have a working washer and dryer you can expect to use them every single day (more if you have multiple potty trainers). Or just start searching now for the closest laundromat. This will be your new home for a while. Expect your kid to pee through every single pair of underwear within the first 2 hours of your first day of potty training. (Tip: bathing suits make great back ups in a pinch!).

laundry

Expect to be a hypocrite. Remember all those things you said you’d never do when you have kids? Expect to do them all! Just for funsies here is my ‘never going to’ potty training list:

I’m never going to use rewards like M&M’s, lollipops, stickers, and video games. (Used them ALL).

I’m never going to freak- accidents happen. If by accident you mean a child purposely squats in a corner to set a “pee trap” for the beasts to slip in. (Totally freaked!)

I’m never going to let my kids run around in just underwear in the yard. (Outside potty = clean floors inside).

I’m never rearranging potties. Potties belong in the bathroom. (And the living room, and the kitchen and the hallway).

Everyone keeps telling me that I can expect my kids to potty train when they are ready. But, really no one understands the steely determination my kids have to get their own way. The girls know the ins and outs of potty training. They understand where it goes and even have a potty preference. Heck, they are bringing ME stickers after I flush. Yeah, they’ve got this. At this point they are just messing with me.  And, I can expect that part will never change for us.

potty meme

Special note: If potty training doesn’t happen for you in 48 hours or less your kid is totally normal and you are doing nothing wrong. If your kids are like mine and take 26+ months … Whatever! It’s totally them not you!

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