Category Archives: Health

5 Workout Hacks for the Busy Mom (or Cat Lady)

Bust A Move!

All over the Internet and in almost every “women’s” magazine you can find articles, tips, posts, and pins for quick cellulite obliterators or five-minute moves or fat-buster workouts.  Let me condense all of that and then make it real.

Read on, fellow Woman with Life-Goals!

Background

Before kids, when I was still gainfully employed in a cubicle, I came up with a series of workouts to help me burn calories, keep toned, and not fall asleep at my desk, drooling on my keyboard.

I have tried different  “workouts”, targeted different “problem areas”, and felt “the burn” in different muscle groups.  I am not a fitness expert by any means.  What I am is a woman in her 30s with two kids and a nice physique, ready and willing to help my readers slough off a few extra calories, maybe a few extra pounds, and certainly a few extra mental and emotional blahs.

So you know, I am 33 with a 3 year old and a 9 month old plus a body that some days feels 23 and some days feels 93.  However, I stand at 5’7” and carry 120-some-pounds that seem to settle around my hips.  You can read more about my weight history here, but I think you should know we chucked out the bathroom scale years ago; I have no idea what my current weight is.

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RARE SIGHTING! Bikini photos from mid-summer

What I do know is that I am physically healthy, and I feel mentally and emotionally healthier when I’ve done some exercising.  How do I weigh so little?  How do I find the energy and time to exercise?  How is this possible?

You ask all these things, so I give you three answers:

  1. Genetics play a HUGE factor so please please please don’t beat yourself up (or do 30 extra burpees) thinking you can obtain my figure and weight. Or any other woman’s figure and weight.  Be realistic.  If you can’t be, stop reading “women’s” magazines and start reading self-help books about accepting yourself for who you are.  Moving on…
  2. What you put in greatly effects what you get out of your body. Here’s how we eat.  Here’s why we eat it.  And the recommended daily intake of water?  Yeah, I drink roughly 80 oz of water a day.  That doesn’t include coffee, almond milk, juice, beer, wine, or anything else I might enjoy; I’m talking filtered water right from my fridge.
  3. Engage in these five exercises at least once a day, seven times each. For your body.  For your brain.  For your sanity.  For your family.

The Exercises

These were developed when I had a desk job. I would either do these in the spacious one-seat bathroom that was across the hall from my office or right in front of my computer, behind my desk chair.  You have to keep your blood pumping to your brain and extremities or that office chair might truly be the death of you.

None of these exercises requires anything other than your body and a little bit of space to move.  You don’t need a gym membership or bulky equipment or even a sunny day.  Squeeze in all five of these at least seven times a day to feel results that you will one day see.

Disclaimer:  if you have an injury or a medical condition, please consult your doctor first.  If you feel like you’re in good health and will take the advice of a fit woman who isn’t a professional, keep reading.  Remember that I am not a fitness guru, health expert, or running coach*.  Those professionals are out there so seek them if that’s what you need.

These all happen organically, right where you are, wherever you are.  Just do them!

  1. Vertical Push-Ups
  2. Squats
  3. Lunges
  4. Standing Bicycle
  5. The Toddler

How-To

First, the Vertical Push-Up:

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Found online since I can’t get a good picture of myself.

  • Not to be confused with the hand-stand push-up
  • Sculpts, tones, and strengthens your arms, shoulders, and chest
  • Does a favor to those flabby underarms
  • Keeps you off the floor where littles (or cats) interrupt your efforts
  • Won’t force you to literally face the fact that your floors are filthy

Face a wall, standing a little farther than arm’s length away, feet shoulder-width apart. Lean your body forward and put your palms flat against the wall at shoulder height and shoulder-width apart.  Now bend your elbows and get your nose as close to the wall as you can without touching it.  Slowly push yourself away from the wall, straightening your arms.

Next, the basic Squat:

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Teaching the Angel fractions with laundry-folding techniques

  • Sculpts, tones, and strengthens your thighs, hips, and buttocks
  • Doesn’t require anything more than the space you’re already taking up by standing
  • Helps with developing core strength

With your hips back and feet hip-width apart, bend your knees to lower your torso.  Perform at varying depths without letting your buttocks touch your heels, the floor, or a chair.

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The Modified Squat includes 23 lb weight.

Then, some Lunges:

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A slight twist as I attempt to placate a baby at dinnertime

 

  • Gain flexibility, balance, and strength while toning your backside and legs
  • Entertain your kids (or cats) with this move by using it to walk to the bathroom, where you will inevitably have an audience to the tasks you perform in there

From a standing position, take a step with your right foot.  Lower your body until your right knee is as close to a 90 degree angle as you can get it without hurting yourself or falling over.  Hold it.  Hold it!  HOLD IT!  Now push yourself upwards with your right leg, back into the standing position.  Repeat this process with your left leg.  That’s one.  Do it again seven times (that means seven times for each leg).  Keep your back straight and your shoulders back, mentally focusing on each muscle group. 

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Lunging my way back to the stove

To make this fun for your “audience”, use lunges to move about your house.  Instead of pushing yourself back into the standing position, lift the leg that’s behind you and bring it forward into a Walking Lunge, and walk to the bathroom or kitchen or washer or backdoor…

Now for the Standing Bicycle:

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Bad hair and demon eyes not required for optimum calorie-burning

  • Lovely abdominal exercise… that will help with the muscle but maybe not so much with the loose skin that was generated in the creation of your beautiful children
  • Don’t need to get on that floor you’ve been avoiding since the first exercise
  • Do this in front of the stove or microwave while you’re prepping dinner
  • Again, the kids (and cats) can’t climb on you while you’re standing

With feet together and knees slightly bent, place your hands behind your head and slightly lift your left heel.  Pull your abs in tight, being aware of each part of the muscles, and lift your left knee up as your right shoulder rotates to bring the right elbow to the knee.  If they don’t touch, don’t worry; be normal and pain free.  Repeat this process with your right knee and left shoulder and elbow.  That’s one.  Some would say you should consider doing this twenty times to call it a “rep”; I say if you do both knees to both elbows seven times each, you’re done. 

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Again, an extra 23 pounds does wonders for the physique

 

Finally, the Toddler

  • Again, no need for an expensive gym membership, special mat, or weights and tools; just a toddler (or any child or cat, really)
  • This is more of a mind game than a bodily exercise, but your whole body will get one heck of a workout
  • Whatever toys or laundry or housework you have on hand can be incorporated with minimal effort
  • Like I said, a FULL BODY AND MIND WORKOUT

Mimic.  Whatever they do, you do.  But the adult version.  If the 3-year-old wants to squat, hop, bounce upright, run for 10 steps, drop to her knees, crawl 5 feet, roll onto her back, pick up a ball, then twist her torso as she runs back to the starting point, do that.  If the cat rolls onto its back, stretches, then brings its head to its pelvis with one leg in the air, do that.  If the 9 month old crawls as fast as he can to the next room only to roll around, stand up using a chair, and bounce in place for a solid 30 seconds because the song on the radio compelled him to, do that.

Once, I followed the Angel for a solid 40 MINUTES as she walked “round and round” these doorways in our foyer with a ball in her hands.  She had the best time once she realized I would do whatever she would do, just the adult-sized version.  My calves and abs got a good workout and my brain had to keep up with all of her motions so I could mimic every move.  It was exhausting.  My thighs got more of a workout in that 40 minutes than they do on Laundry Day.**

Add in the folding of a load (or two or twelve) of laundry.  Or while wiping down the kitchen counters.  If you’re in an office with no kids or cats and trying to do this, practice Monty Python’s Ministry of Silly Walks as you move towards the copy machine, coffee maker, break room, bathroom, etc.  It sure is a conversation starter!

Hydrate and Contemplate

Get yourself into the habit of using all your muscles every day, throughout the day.  And drink plenty of water!  Personally, I have an H2O intake of 7-12 pints a day.  That doesn’t include the water in coffee or juice or almond milk or beer.  I have a nifty Murphy’s pint glass that I keep next to the fridge, on the side where the filtered water comes out with the press of a lever; I fill and chug at least 7 times a day, if not more.  Sure, that means lots of trips to the bathroom, but that also means plenty more chances to do my Walking Lunges or practice the Toddler moves.

How are you feeling today?

 

 

*Shameless plug:  Abby over at Back at Square Zero is a nice starting point for those interested in a running coach.

**Picture this:  3600-sq-ft house with bedrooms upstairs, bathroom on main floor, washer in basement, and clothesline on the farthest corner of the ½ acre yard.  Now, do 3-7 loads of laundry.  I once counted and learned that on laundry day, I can climb the stairs 14 times (that’s just climbing, not including going down, the other walking, and how heavy the baskets are that I’m carrying…or if I do it with a baby on my hip).

Two Steps for Toned and Fresh Face

A post worthy of re-posting…

My face

I have recently developed a routine that had brought me clearer skin without spending a lot of time, money, or effort.  Just TWO steps to cleaner, clearer skin.

It wasn’t always so clear

I have struggled with my skin for as long as I can remember. My eyelids and neck could get so dry that they looked and felt like burns. My T zone got so oily I could moisturize my cuticles by touching my face. I had breakouts at two different points in my cycle. My pores got blocked and I was constantly reapplying makeup. In fact, I wouldn’t be caught dead without a nice layer of cosmetics between my skin and the world.

I tried so many different brands of make-up then so many different chemicals claiming to clear up problem skin.  I’ve put things on my face that could be used to blow up bridges or bleach fabric.  Anymore, that seems like the industry standard to answer our blemish problems.

After reading countless articles on the benefits of coconut oil, I decided to change up my facial routine and try something so simple and natural.

Coconut oil

You see articles and blog posts touting all its uses everywhere you look. My Facebook feed is inundated with the latest word on what you can do with coconut oil.

Oil pulling
Hair masks
Makeup remover
Recipes
And more and more

My choices

I’ve been asked many times what it is I do with coconut oil, other than cook. Following is my routine, one I developed after reading a few fact-based articles as well as blog posts by those sharing their first-hand accounts.

This jar of Simply Nature coconut oil was less than $5 at my Aldi's.  For use in the bathroom, I scoop a little into a plastic container then put the jar back in the pantry.

This jar of Simply Nature coconut oil was less than $5 at my Aldi’s. For use in the bathroom, I scoop a little into a plastic container then put the jar back in the pantry.

First, I choose to use organic unrefined coconut oil. I am not brand loyal by any means; I’m wallet loyal and only purchase the cheapest jar I can find. Right now in my area, Payless (Kroger) carries the best priced organic unrefined coconut oil in their Simple Truth Organic line.  I also have purchased organic unrefined coconut oil from Aldi’s.  Recently, Fresh Thyme Farmers Market had one of the brands they carry on sale bogo free, so I got two jars then.

I also keep witch hazel on hand for a toner as it is a mild, natural astringent. While they’re are many forms and ways you can find witch hazel, I bought my last bottle from the pharmacy section at WalMart. I think the cotton balls I have are from Target.

Last, my makeup is slowly being converted to more natural items. I haven’t found the best for my skin type yet.  I’m hoping to try Honest Beauty next but would love to hear some honest reviews of it first. 

Two Steps to a Fresh Face

1. “Wash”

I run a clean washcloth under the hottest tap water I can tolerate.

I run a clean washcloth under the hottest tap water I can tolerate.

First, I run the hottest water from the tap and let my washcloth get soaked. After wringing out most of the water, I lay the cloth over my face. I let it sit there, with my head leaned back, while I use my fingertips to press the cloth to my eyes, moving them just enough to gently wipe away build-up or mascara. I run hot water over the cloth and wring it out again to lay it over my face and user my fingertips to make circular motions. This gently scrubs my skin, sloughing up makeup, dirt, oil, et cetera. Then I run hot water over the cloth and wring it out again. This last time, I bend my head forward and hold the cloth against my face; this is to open my pores.

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Look how clean these pores are! I don’t think my face has ever been this clean, not since before high school. My tone is not even and I do have freckles; don’t let that detract from how NOT BLACK my pores are.

No soap. Do you see that? Maybe you should reread the last paragraph. Just hot water on a washcloth. Each morning, when I do the above steps, I follow with a quick splash of cold tap water. This closes my freshly cleaned press against pollutants.

2.  Oil it up!

This is how hard the coconut oil is when it has been sitting on the shelf in my bathroom.  This nugget is about double what I use to cover my whole face and neck.

This is how hard the coconut oil is when it has been sitting on the shelf in my bathroom. This nugget is about double what I use to cover my whole face and neck.

Now I apply the coconut oil. I use my fingertips and don’t get too close to my hairline or eyes. I gently swipe an oiled fingertip right under my eyebrow and at the bottom of my lower lid (think middle of my dark circles). It doesn’t take much oil to cover a face, so don’t think it needs gooped on like a commercial moisturizer.

See how smooth and clean my face is?  Do you also see where I got a little oil in the hair in front of my ear?  Yeah, try to avoid that.

See how smooth and clean my face is? Do you also see where I got a little oil in the hair in front of my ear? Yeah, try to avoid that.

If you’re using it as a makeup remover, you’ll apply the coconut oil, wait a few minutes, then use that damp washcloth to gently wipe your face. If you need extra help removing eye makeup, dab a cotton ball in the oil and lightly swipe over your lashes. Once you’ve done these steps, reapply a light coat of the oil.

See? Just oil. No harsh chemicals. No soap with phthalates or parabens. No moisturizers or lotions with unpronounceable ingredients. Hot water and coconut oil. That’s it.

Since I’m at homemaker and only go in public once a week, this is usually the end of my morning routine (and always the end of my before-bed routine). I don’t wear makeup for funsies. If it is just my kids and the BHE seeing me, then they get the bare fresh face. 

THAT’S IT!  Two steps to clean, fresh, toned, and natural.

 

What items from your pantry have worked their way into your beauty routine?

What They Didn’t Tell Me

What I should have known about how I would look and feel after I’ve had a kid… or two.

All the reading I did.  All those people I talked to.  Every scrap of information I found online, in a book, in a conversation, and just through life experiences helped prepare me a lot for pregnancy, childbirth, and what comes after.

But it wasn’t the whole picture!

The top 5 things I wish I’d known before I got smacked in the face with reality

#1 My Weight and Shape

Oh, sure, everyone said to say good-bye to my waist, hips, and the numbers on the scale.  And I did.  In fact, I vividly recall a shower shortly after I learned I was pregnant with the Angel where I bid a fond farewell to my flat abdomen.  Of all the weight fluctuations I’ve had since puberty began, it was my butt and thighs that suffered while my abs always stayed flat.

I got pregnant, the belly went out; I had a c-section, the belly went in.

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Pregnant with the Angel

In fact, at my daughter’s first birthday party, I weighed LESS than when I had gotten pregnant.  No, this isn’t the average, but that’s what happened to me.  Big house, small child, breastfeeding, water-drinking, and eating a mainly whole-foods diet led my body into great health.

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At the Angel’s first birthday party– bad posture and outlandish gestures are my norm.

The same thing happened the second time:  I got pregnant, the belly went out, the baby came out, and the belly went back in.

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Pregnant with the Rover

Here I am at 6 months-ish postpartum and I weigh what I did when I graduated high school…with my flat abs.  Part of me is super excited about this while part of me thinks it is just damned odd.

Chalk another one up to the mysteries of genetics!

Ok, forget about the numbers on the scale.  Look a bit past the flat abs.  What do you see?  What I see is something all-together new and, in some ways, improved.  In other ways, not so much.

The clothing I bought when I was this weight BEFORE getting pregnant and having kids still DOES NOT FIT.  The jeans can’t make it over the hips, the shoes are too small, the shirts are too tight.  All in all…

I AM SHAPED DIFFERENTLY!

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The family after Mass in April ’16.

Sure,  I was warned about the weight.  It seems like that was all that was focused on though.  Silly Americans.  It isn’t that I weigh differently (I don’t); it is that I am shaped differently.  My hips are wider, my feet are longer (I’m not making that up), and my shoulders are broader.  I have no idea if I’m taller or not but I can definitely tell you my chest is WAY DIFFERENT.

Moving on…

#2 My hair

You’ll hear most any mother talk about how shiny and thick her hair was during pregnancy.  She’ll talk about the wonders of hormones and prenatal vitamins, how luxurious her locks felt and how they seemed to grow an inch every night.  That isn’t much of an exaggeration, really.

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There is so much hair!

You’ll also hear a lot of mothers talk about how frizzy and brittle their hair became afterwards.  I’ve even read where many women experience the growth of new hair all over (I’m raising my hand here because I’m one of these women).

NO ONE MENTIONED THE HAIR LOSS!

Seriously, it comes out in clumps.  Every time I run a brush through it or wash it, large amounts of my hair just shed away.  Since I have hair almost to my waist, and my hair is naturally very thick and kinda frizzy, it is SUPER OBVIOUS when I lose some.  Not, like, on my head it is obvious.  But the big-ass tumbleweeds of hair everywhere in my house and car are hard to miss.

My head doesn’t look like it is suffering from hair loss, thank God.  I just want others to know that around Postpartum Month 4 or Month 6, the hair will begin to SHED.

NO ONE MENTIONED THE HAIR CHANGES, EITHER!

So, yeah, I mentioned the new hair growth.  I have all these wiry hairs on my head that are 3 to 6 inches long and have absolutely no chance of laying down.  Even with excessive flat-ironing and product usage (even oil!), they just spring up everywhere.

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Frizz and fluff and stuff

Speaking of new hair and everywhere… yeah.  Let’s just say I wasn’t warned about that.  I’m a natural blonde, people.  I used to go ages without shaving my legs (or anything else).  Now, that is not an option.  Seriously, the hair on my thighs is now coming in dark brown.  And the armpits. And, yeah, I’m done writing this section.

#3 Mommy Brain

This isn’t a joke, people.  This isn’t something we can chuckle about.  This is freaking real.  You get pregnant, you lose your mind.  I’m not talking about hormones.  I’m talking a legitimate rewiring of your brain.

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A text from a (male!) friend.

While pregnant, my vocabulary checked out.  After months of no substantial sleep, certain other faculties have disappeared as well.  After a second pregnancy and having an infant as well as a toddler?  You can forget the Me you knew Before:  that witty, funny young woman with an advanced education and bright views of the real world.

I don’t even know what the real world looks like anymore.

But I can quote Pixar movies like a pro!

Back on track here:  it isn’t just what you’re exposed to being so different (kids’ movies, baby food labels, articles about the latest and greatest in the world of car seats); it is how you process everything.  Sure, the hormones do their fair share of damage.  But you really do start to forget important things, like dentist appointments and plans you made with friends, and you start to lose words as well as your keys and wallet, and you can’t quite place how you know that person but you know you know him.

#4 The Isolation

I knew I’d “lose” friends going down this procreating path.  I knew that my forever-single-and-fabulous friends would become footnotes and sidebars in this chapter of my life.  I figured the childless ones probably wouldn’t have much in common with me anymore.

Well, yes and no.

Although that did seem to happen, I still am close to some of those single/childless friends.  Not all of them found it irritating when all I can seem to talk about is breastfeeding and laundry and bodily functions (mine and the kids’).

I am talking less about losing friends (and I’ve found a few new ones, don’t get me wrong) and more about the numbing isolation of being a stay at home parent.

I love my children.  I was recently accused of making my life sound like “torture.”  It isn’t that.  You know it isn’t that.

It is how I feel alone in my failures.  How I feel alone in my struggle to get my kids up, out the door, through a store, and home again without a meltdown.  How I feel alone in some of my joys and a lot of my complaints.

Is this societal pressure?  Is it what I believe others’ expectations are?  Is it too much glamor and ease of motherhood displayed on social media?  Is it a begrudging view of the BHE’s life and schedule?

I am not alone.  I sometimes feel lonely.  I mostly feel isolated, though.  I wish I knew a better way to put it. But maybe that is my next point…

#5 My worst enemy

Yep.  That’s me.  I’m my own worst enemy.

I had all these visions of what kind of mother and wife I would be.  I had all these daydreams of what my life would be like with children.  I didn’t plan on being a stay-at-home mom until I became one.  There are so many things I said I would or wouldn’t do, and I feel like a failure when I go back on them.

I also had plenty of visions of what kind of mother I wouldn’t be.  Too often in my life, I had examples of how not to parent.  Between reading the news and working at a rural library, I could see some terrible things.  I also had a piss-poor role model in my own mother.  Those were things I swore I’d never do.

It is so easy to say that shit before it hits.  The reality is this:  sleep deprivation on top of the anxiety you feel when it comes to your children’s well-being is a terrible combination for sticking to your candy-coated dreams from pre-pregnancy.

I swore I would never drink pop while pregnant.  We all know that processed crap is terrible for our teeth, our bodies, our minds… but it tastes so good!  What harm can one fountain Coke from McDonald’s do?!  After all, it is going through me first; it isn’t like I’m giving my unborn child that whole 20 oz of corn syrup and cancer-stimulator.

I promised my beautiful, leather-interior vehicle I’d never give food or drink to a child while they were riding in it.  WOOP!  Out the window!

I wasn’t going to ever say a curse word in front of my children.  They have minds like clay and sponges, to absorb what I’m saying and doing in a way that’ll shape what they say and do.  Yeah, guess what… fuck that.

I would never, ever hit a child.  Never!  How could anyone ever possibly conceive of span—

Well, shit.

Yeah, I’ve read all about how we’re not supposed to yell at our kids, how we should never spank, how the worst thing you could ever do to your child is show them violence and anger.

Let me make this very clear to you:  PARENTING. IS. HARD.

You make mistakes.  I bet I can point out to you at least one mistake per day that I’ve made ever since I found out I was pregnant with the Angel.  I bet I can easily find double that in every day since I gave birth to the Rover.  What I can’t tell you is how to best cope with the mistakes you make.

I can say, though, that I’m my own worst enemy.  I carry the guilt of each spank, of every harsh word (the way her face crumples when I use the Mean Mommy voice), of every time I left a print on my sweet daughter.

And although she loves and forgives me instantly, chalk that up to another thing no one told me:  it is so much harder to forgive yourself.

Parenting is hard.  All those things you swore you wouldn’t do?  You’re not a bad person if you do them.  Just remember that tomorrow is another day, children are as forgiving as Christ, and YOU need to work on YOU to handle it better next time.

This is where I loop back to #4:

As much as it helps ease the burden by sharing it with others that might commiserate with you, you may think you can’t share your story for fear of being judged.  Or of being told you’re as horrible of a person you think you are.  Or of having your children taken away.

It is isolating to think you cannot speak to anyone of what you’ve said or done.  Whether you just don’t want to hear it (yeah, yeah, yeah, I KNOW I shouldn’t drink that pop) or you think you’re a monster (those damning fingerprints that faded after three agonizing minutes), you feel completely alone in your troubles as a parent when you don’t share your burden.

Introspection:  I guess that’s why I’m writing this blog.  Sure, the hair loss is annoying and the pants not fitting just means another chunk out of the bank account.  But the “true confession” of this post is that I don’t have all my shit together and I have screamed the F word in front of my children.  I don’t have it all together!  And GOD FORBID I admit that, so I must remain isolated in my failures… and post another super-cute picture of my children on Instagram.

You are not alone

As creepy as THAT header sounds, it is true.  I am not the only one who is losing great chunks of hair (when I bother to brush or wash it).  I am not the only one who suddenly has much more to tweeze, pluck, and shave (please don’t suggest wax to me… that’s just sadistic).  I am not the only one who can’t get her jeans back on.  In fact, I know plenty of women who weighed less or MUCH LESS after childbirth than they did when they found out they were pregnant.  I am not the only one who has gone back on her personal promises and screamed at or spanked her children.  Or gave them a thumbs-width of Dr. Pepper in their sippy cup.  Therefore, I am not isolated!  But I do know I’m not the only one who feels the isolation.

Can I get an amen?

Goodbye, Negativity in Me

I actually sat down at the laptop with the intention of writing to get out the negativity in me, to cleanse my mind and my heart of the sickness called “hate” and the illness called “anger” and the disease called “unforgiving”.

Gratitude

But the first thing I did was look up addresses online to complete the thank you notes I’ve had sitting on my desk.  Something about taking the time to write out my gratefulness that these people in my life donated to a great and personal cause, the March of Dimes’ March for Babies that I participate in every spring, got me to a different place in my mind and heart.

I know I have a lot of ugliness I need to get out but right now, I’m grateful for my friends and family as well as the ability I had this morning to gather my healthy family into my reliable vehicle to drive us to church so we could participate in Mass** where we learned much about receiving the Holy Spirit.

I guess learning about that fire put a damper on the one that’s been smoldering, and sometimes raging, within me these past few weeks.

Months?

YEARS?!

One for you, meme for me

I just checked my Facebook on my phone because I can’t ignore that little red indicator* that I have updates.   So I clicked.  And one of the individuals in my life right now that is, let’s say this bluntly, part of the problem actually posted a plain meme that says, “The less you respond to negative people, the more peaceful your life will become.”

My first thought surprised me.  Rather than me thinking it was ironic she posted that, all things in the recent past considered, I thought to myself that she must be thinking of me.  That I’m one of the negative people in her life!!

Let me take a deep breath and ruminate on that one.

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…Ruminating…

Who doesn’t get defensive when there is a finger pointed at them!?  Everything my mind could conjure up to answer my question of how I’ve been a negative impact on others’ lives (particularly hers) had another thought chasing it on how I’ve had a positive impact on others’ lives lately (sadly, not hers).

But that isn’t the point, is it?

This isn’t tit for tat.  This is not a competition between the good and the bad.  I should be making positive impacts on the lives of those I love and those around me without there having been a negative one.

I bitch a lot, sure.  I blow off steam verbally in ways that I hope are meant to be constructive.  There are many times, yes, that my hurt or anger make me lash out and my vocalizing is just plain negative, no frills or resolutions in sight.  I would say on the whole, though, that if I bring up a touchy subject or let out something that is bothering me, it is so I can get to the bottom of the problem and fix it.

For instance, if I go on and on to my father about the issues I’m having with a friend I have known since high school (and therefore he’s met and knows plenty about), it isn’t just to drag him down or blow off steam.  It is because I know he’ll give me a direct answer to my question:  What do I do?  My dad doesn’t give unsolicited advice.  He doesn’t really give advice at all.  He listens and he laughs.  He can see where things are just too darn funny to take seriously.  But if he takes something seriously and gives me advice, you better believe I’m going to listen to it.  Because it isn’t off his cuff or meant to gloss over the issue.  It is a clear view of the situation and how to proceed in a way that’s healthiest for his baby girl (that’s me!) and his grandchildren.

When my father suggests that it is time to wash my hands of the troublesome “friend,” then it is time.

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Taken from Facebook via Gary Owen.

You are my sunshine

I need to be more conscious of how my words and actions directly affect people.  That is the bottom line here:  I need to pay attention.  I should not be a negative aspect of anyone’s life.  I should not put another in the position of searching for answers or solace that may result in them receiving the advice to wash their hands of me.

I don’t want to be a negative person you have to stop responding to!

I need to get back on my thoughtfully sought path through life.  I need to seek within me that which can not only be positive and grow but also cultivate that same positivism in those around me.

Sure, there are a few in my life right now that I’ve tried and failed to do that with.  But that isn’t for lack of me trying.  Some people are just so mired in their own negativity that you need to walk away from them for both you and them to gain perspective.  Maybe they’ll never see how hurtful and harmful they are; maybe their eyes will open and you’ll have an amazing friend, sister, daughter, whatever again.  Maybe there will be sunshine after the rain.

All I can do is be me:  a happier, healthier me on the lookout for ways I can help, even if it is just by setting a good example.  I need to be the sunshine to their rain, and I should shine my light elsewhere when their clouds threaten to overtake me as well.

If I can’t help their lives to be more peaceful, the least I can do is help mine to be.

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A sweet card from a good friend.

 

* Yes, I know I can turn off the notifications.  I have.  Really.  Go into my settings and you’ll see that I’ve turned off the option that seemingly can’t be turned off.

** I wrote this on Pentecostal Sunday, so forgive me for posting it in the middle of the week.

 

My Annual Fundraising for the March of Dimes

Every year for the past 6 years, I have walked with the same team in the March of Dimes’ local March for Babies.  I have raised over $1000 in the years I’ve done this, and that really isn’t that much, just a drop in the bucket.

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Won’t you help me help babies?

My NICU Nightmare

I carried both of my pregnancies to term. Both of my children were born after 41 weeks and were perfectly healthy.

Just two days after he was born, a standard blood culture run by the hospital came back positive and my newborn baby boy had to undergo special treatment starting about the time we should’ve been going home. My whole world view changed this past Thanksgiving as part of my heart was taken away to the NICU.

My healthy baby boy had to have a week’s worth of iv antibiotics, two diffent kinds to be precise. The first iv in the crook of his left arm worked its way out so the next went in his right arm; when that came out, they ran one into his scalp. It really is less cumbersome and painful for the little ones, but to see it is to be terrified.

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Fortunate

We are fortunate compared to other moms and dads who live for a bit in the NICU. Our boy was healthy. I’m a SAHM so didn’t have to worry about getting back to a job, just back to our daughter. The BHE had saved up his PTO so was able to split his time between the newborn and me in the hospital and our sweet angel baby at home.

It was hell.

But we are fortunate.

Our time in the NICU was short with a very positive outcome. There was no great fear nor major questions lingering over our heads while we were there. We knew when we were going home and that our boy would be healthy when we did.

March of Dimes

Not everyone whose baby enters the NICU has such an easy time or happy outcome.

The team I walk with has a young boy we really around who was born at 27 weeks, 3 days, only 2 lbs 4 oz. The time and terror his parents spent in the NICU is unbelievable.

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I walk with and raise money for the March of Dimes to help families like theirs. It isn’t just about nursing preemies to health and preparing them for the world outside of the womb; it’s about finding how we can stop premature births from ever happening.

It pains me to point out that not all premature babies do leave the hospital in the arms of their parents. I want to do whatever I can to save lives and help the families affected by premature birth.

Your Contribution

Help me help the March of Dimes help babies. Please click on my fundraising link and donate to this worthy cause before I walk in 3 days. You can learn more about the March of Dimes here.

As I said on my Instagram and Facebook accounts, just $5 from everyone connected to me via social media and I would raise more than TRIPLE what I pledged. I know I left this for last minute, but any contribution you make to the cause would be greatly appreciated. Again, just click on this link to donate.

Thank you.

My Current Season

I had a girlfriend over yesterday for a few hours.  She came along with her 7-week-old son and some much-needed adult conversation.  One thing that came up more than once is the hardship that is motherhood-in-isolation.  We agreed that for everything, there is a season, and this season is HARD.

For now, my season includes raising two children with a small, dispersed village.  My season means many hours without another adult.  My season doesn’t have excess funds for entertainment, extravagance, or even much travel to visit those in my proverbial village. My season is brightened by the joys of motherhood but dulled by the lack of regular adult interactions or even that mythical land of Alone Time.

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.

Ecclesiastes 3:1

My Current Season as a Stay-at-Home-Mom

I have been a stay-at-home-mom (SAHM) for almost 3 years now.  I left my job a whole month before Angel Baby was born.  Now I’m the mother of 2 and hold a Masters in Library Science.  I can list many accomplishments for these years:

I started a blog, made some crafts, fine-tuned my cooking skills, and learned how truly obsessive-compulsive I am about things like dishes and dust.

I also learned how hard it is to hold onto sanity when your main interactions with adults are limited to when your husband isn’t at work and those brief moments you’re in the check-out at the grocery.

This season feels like winter.

I am alone.  A lot.  Yet I am always with my children.  I crave adult interactions, yet find myself poorly prepared to interact with other adults.

My ability to converse is sorely stunted by my lack of real-world experiences.  Get me talking about potty training, toddler diets, issues with breastfeeding, the cost of diapers and milk storage bags, and how to use natural oils to cleanse your face, we are going to have a great conversation.  Want to discuss anything else?  I’ll either mutely blink at you or somehow turn the conversation about you and your husband house-hunting to how many stairs I do on laundry day*.

The Loss of Winter

The trees lose their leaves and the grass loses its green.  I, in my SAHM Winter, have lost friends and sleep.

I keep telling myself it is the season, though.  Those friends that I’ve lost touch with because I only knew them through our mutual efforts at work or through our mutual efforts to consume alcohol and stay out ’til dawn are merely a past season.  Spring will come again.  Those friends may return or they may just be leaves that have lost their color and tumbled away**.

There is a Season

One day, I will return to the workforce.  One day, our household will have an income that can support more frivolities.  One day, my children will be involved with sports and activities that will require more from the BHE and me.  One day, my children will have their own transportation and social lives to tend to.

I just have to remind myself that this isolation won’t last forever.  That the friends I no longer have things in common with will either still be there as support or will fade away entirely.  That the clothes I wear won’t always have elastic waists and smell like sour milk.  That the conversations I have will include more than the daily routines of me and my children.  That this is where I need to be now.

Where We All Are

One of my favorite inspirational writers, Sarah Mae, wrote that my time is coming, my chance to shine.  I should take a deep breath and explore the NOW of my life to live it fully.  She recommended that I stop thinking there are other things I could be doing and so much that I am missing and remember that this — this parenthood, cooking-cleaning marathon, home-bound life– is where I am meant to be now.  She says that God will guide me through my Seasons in life and to not lament the distance and losses that occur during my time as a SAHM.

My chance to be profound is not now, but it will happen.

 

*So sorry, Vicki.  I heard myself turning the conversation to be about myself and still was unable to stop myself.  I’m not losing it; I’ve lost it.

**Jesse, you’ll never be a leaf that loses its color.  You’ll always be vibrant, and one day, I will return to you as a friend that can consume alcohol until dawn.

 

SEASONAL BLESSINGS

Just a second

Right now, my kids are sleeping.  My almost-three-year old has been down for about 30 minutes, easily slipping into her nap since I woke her quite early to stuff her in a dress then into the car to sit and be told to be quiet at church.  (That is such a difficult thing for a tiny tot.  It is amazing what we expect of these new humans that are almost literally bursting with energy.)  My 5-month-old is resting peacefully in his swing that he has almost grown out of, the big chunky boy.  These moments aren’t really rare, thank God.  I get a good 20-40 minutes each day like this.

However, there are the days where I really could use more.  More like 20 hours, but maybe that’s asking an awful lot.

My joy

My children mean so much to me.  They are my little lights.  They are unexpected treasures and delights, sweet angels on this rough hell of Earth.

I find solace in their warmth and smells, comfort in the routines of feeding and clothing them, joy in their hugs and sounds and squeezes and messes.  I also find a ton of anguish in some of their behaviors and plenty of fear that I might not being doing this whole parenting thing right.

They see me at my ugliest.  They’ve seen my best, and they are most accustomed to my average and every-day.  But, dear Lord, they have seen the ugliest.

Reign it in

I just have to reign it in.

There is a lot of guilt, sure, when I lose my shit, but there is also a lot of hurt.  I hurt myself when I hurt them or let them see the ugliness within me.

My daughter is so forgiving, and I try to use that as my example.  She doesn’t harbor ill will or remember all the nastiness.  That is me; I’m the one holding onto the ugly side.  I want to be more like her.

Barely 3 and able to be a better Christian than me.  No wonder Jesus loves all the little children; they embody all that we ought to be:  smiling and joyful, energetic and inquisitive, forgiving and happy.

Not yet

There is always tomorrow.

I keep having to remind myself of that.  Not just “tomorrow” in the sense that after I get a handful of heavily interrupted hours of sleep tonight I get to wake up and try all over again at parenting and cooking and cleaning and listening and learning and teaching and driving and talking and so on.

Let’s look at “tomorrow” in the greater sense:  who I am today is not who I will always be.  The adversities I face today will not always be facing me.  The blessings I should be thankful for today will not necessarily be there tomorrow any more than the bullshit I am struggling through will always be bogging me down.

An author/blogger I enjoy is Sarah Mae.  She wrote (somewhere, please don’t ask me to quote) that we are given talents by God to use during the seasons He is presenting to us.

For instance, I enjoy writing and I am very good at it.  I am not plagued by self-doubt when it comes to writing any more than I am plagued by poor grammar.  I dream of writing a best-selling book or having many followers on my blog.  I want to write.

There are days where I kick myself for not writing, for not making larger steps towards seeing the completion of my book (or a blog post at the very least).  This anxiety builds up within me when I think that I’m getting older, my children are getting older, that if I want to have an income while staying home with my children, that I need to spend my time more wisely and work on my book/blog/et cetera with every single extra second that I have.

Then I remember to reign it in.  And take a deep breath.  Like Sarah Mae was saying, there is a season for everything.  God didn’t give me the gift of writing so I could spend sleepless nights beating myself up over not writing.  God gave me two healthy children and a very supportive husband as well as the gift of writing.

This, right now, is not my season for writing a book.  This is my season for being a mommy and a wife.  One day, my season for writing will begin.  Just like it may end.  Just like my season for teaching, my season for nursing, my season for being a better friend, happier daughter, wiser mother, or whatever… those seasons are coming.

Deep breath in…and…out

I just need to reign in the negativity, take a deep breath, and remind myself that what I am doing right now is precisely what I need to be doing right now.

That is my pat on my back.  That is my reminder that my life is not stagnant and what I’m dealing with right now won’t always be what I am dealing with.

Actually, that brings up another point:  what I *get* to deal with.  I keep lamenting about the things which I *have* to do:  I HAVE to do laundry, I HAVE to make dinner, I HAVE to put off sleep to take a shower, I HAVE to go to the grocery.

My goodness am I an ungrateful ass!

For real, these are things I *get* to do.  I GET to do laundry because not only do I have plenty of clothing and linens for myself and my family but also clean, running water and these fabulous machines that do most of the hard work for me.  I even GET to have the option of tossing everything into the dryer (and forgetting it for 3 days) or getting some exercise and fresh air by hanging it outside on the line.

These are blessings, not curses; these are choices I should be grateful for rather than chores I bitch about.  Sometimes, though, it is just so hard to see that difference between HAVE TO and GET TO.

I’m working on it.

 

 

6 Weeks Postpartum: The View from Out Here

It has been too long since I’ve written for you, my friends.  I think you have forgiven me, considering I gave birth, missed a holiday, spent some time in a NICU, had a birthday, tried to establish a routine with my tiny and my toddler, cut down a tree, decorated for Christmas, had four Christmases, and then missed the New Year because we were fighting so hard to stay awake and got sucked into a movie.  Yeah, the grand life of a SAHM with two under 3!

Six Weeks and My Brain is Full

Since the birth of our son, I keep thinking of these great blog post ideas:

    • My birth story, take 2

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    • Breastfeeding, pumping, and milk storage

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    • Handling a newborn while potty-training a toddler

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    • The trick to getting enough sleep
    • What life is like in the NICU

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    • Handling the holidays with a tiny and a toddler

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  • Handling the holidays when your in-laws live Right. On. Top. Of. You.

Since the birth of our son, I have found that when I do have time to write these awesome blog posts, I just don’t want to.  I want to snuggle with him and read a book.  And finally finish that second cup of coffee that I’ve reheated a bajillion times.
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New Year’s Resolution

I will come back to you, my readers.  I resolve to write more and nitpick my writing less.  I resolve to let it all out in effort to fulfill my promise when I started this blog:  to share what I’ve learned on my thoughtfully sought path through life in order to help others learn how they, too, can embrace all there is to offer while keeping healthy and sane.

I resolve to build this blog!

After I take a nap…