My Postpartum Never Went Away

Not many people talk about postpartum depression several years after giving birth. However, in some cases it can lasts for years. Postpartum depression usually begins within the first three months after giving birth and can last anywhere from a few months to several years. Roughly 80% of women will suffer the baby blues, a feeling of being overwhelmed, fatigued and sad.  Baby blues are normal, after all, a significant change just occurred in your life. These feelings pass in a few days to a week for most women, but 1 in 7 women or roughly 15% will suffer from postpartum depression.

I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety at 23, long before I became a mother which puts a woman at a higer risk of postpartum. That being said, I always wanted to be a mother; I used to say I would adopt a child from every country in the world and you could usually find me playing with my baby dolls or playing some version of “family” with my friends when I was young. Being a mom was an absolute must for me, so when I found out I was pregnant with my first child at the age of 29, I was through the roof excited.

I worried about postpartum since I already suffered from depression, but I hadn’t been on medication for a few years and was doing really well. And miraculously, I didn’t end up with postpartum after he was born. I was tired, moody at times, frustrated sure (also a full-time grad student), but I was delighted with him. I had the usual ups and downs of most new moms. My postpartum didn’t hit until he was about three years old, and I had a second child, but I didn’t understand what it was until several years later.

Having a second child was always what I wanted; I thought I wanted three or four; I can’t even imagine what my life would be like if that were the case now.  My older son was a typical two-year-old in a lot of ways, except he wasn’t. He had a speech delay from having fluid in his ears for almost a year; we had no idea because he had only had one or two ear infections, typical stuff for an infant. It wasn’t until he was missing his speech milestones we knew something was up. He also required OT for sensory processing. He was an extremely bright boy who was becoming increasingly frustrated because he couldn’t communicate properly or make sense of his world. 

These factors brought a lot of stress, combined with having a newborn and teaching full time; I became depressed again. I couldn’t afford treatment at the time, so I tried to work my way through it; I didn’t cope well but I did manage to hide it from most people.  My second son was amazing in his own right, and I loved everything about him, but we lived far away from any friends or family at the time, so I had very little help with a newborn and a three-year-old. 

I cried so many days, and evenings, nights, mornings, you name it. I kept thinking, what have I gotten myself into? That was almost over seven years ago, and it hasn’t gone away. I love my children, and I have and will do anything for them, but the past decade has been nothing like I thought parenting would be, and I’m still sad—a lot. I was ashamed that wasn’t loving every moment of motherhood and didn’t feel like it was something I could talk to anyone about.

Where was the time for me, and what I wanted to do? Everything came with stress, figuring out schedules, finding babysitters, calling off work when they were sick, constantly putting myself on the back burner. Somehow over the years, from time to time, I managed to still do the one thing I loved most in the world, theater, but it came at a steep financial and emotional cost at times between babysitters and schedule juggling. People would often ask how I had time to do theater, and I would always reply because I had to. I had to. It was the one place I still felt like me and not “just a mom.” 

I am sure some are reading this and thinking, well, that’s what happens when you become a mom; you sacrifice yourself for your children. But I disagree. Yes, we make sacrifices for the sake of our children, we put them first more often than not because that’s what parents should do, but we should never feel like we have sacrificed who we are; and that’s how I felt nearly every day.

It was get them up, go to school/work, pick them up, cook them dinner, stop them from arguing, play with them if and when I had the energy, make sure homework was done, give them baths, put them to bed, and then if I had time, read (my other passion) for 15-30 minutes before falling exhausted into bed and doing it all over again.

On the flip side, I was never cut out to be the stay-at-home-mom, and I was grateful I had a job teaching that I loved, but when COVID-19 pandemic occurred it didn’t provide me with much of an option. So I resigned from teaching to take care of my two children, who were too young to stay home alone. It just wasn’t cost-effective to pay for full-time care for them while I worked. Staying home full-time compacted everything. 

Thankfully this time, I was able to return to therapy and was already back on medication, both of which helped, but I constantly would think, “This isn’t what I signed up for.” Now there was absolutely ZERO time for me; they were here all the time. There was no theater to escape to, no karaoke nights with friends every other Saturday, no date nights outside the house. I didn’t even have the twenty-minute commute from my school to their aftercare to pick them to enjoy a moment of quiet.

I also couldn’t do the things I enjoyed doing with my kids; trips to the zoo, museums, playground, and vacations. I hated the mom I was becoming over the pandemic. I had no patience; I felt like I yelled all the time, I cried even more, and my depression was taking over. 

It took some serious soul searching and multiple therapy sessions to realize that all this time, I was still suffering from postpartum depression.  Let that sink in, seven years of postpartum depression. No wonder I often resented being a mom. No wonder I was jealous of all the Facebook-perfect moms out there.

Now, I am not bashing social media, I have a Facebook account, but I realized that my constant comparison to everyone else out there added to my depression; so when I feel a surge hit, I stay off for a day or two. Studies have shown that while social media has some benefits for some, it can also increase feelings of depression in others. And what did I spend a lot of time doing when I was stuck home with two kids? Browse Facebook, of course. I would sit and scroll and look at what I perceived to be everyone’s “perfect life.” There’s a beautiful meme I saw that perfectly describes what social media is genuinely like. I wish I knew who to give credit to, but I don’t, so to whoever created this, thank you.

My children went back to school last week after nearly 17 months of being with them every day, and while anxious about COVID concerns, I trust their school and am happy they are back. I feel relief.

It wasn’t all bad, of course. I was able to watch them grow and learn close up, they bonded at a new level, and we all had our creativity and ingenuity stretched to the limits.

But for the first time in seven years, I feel relaxed, as if I can breathe again. I decided to stay with freelance writing instead of going back to teaching, and I’m finally doing what is right for me. 

I’ve been alone in the house for five days now, and it’s incredible, for lack of a better word. I can think, I can run an errand when I want to, I can work out on my schedule, I can watch TV, or work, or write, or clean the house, or take a nap, or practice my singing, or mow the lawn, or take a walk, or go get coffee, I can use the bathroom or take a shower without hearing someone knock as soon as I go in.

I can breathe. 

For the first time in over a decade, I am not at the beck and call of someone else, and it feels phenomenal, and I refuse to feel guilty for feeling this way. 

I never knew how much I needed this space; I didn’t understand. I felt terrible because I didn’t love every second of being a mother, but how could I love being a mother when I couldn’t love myself? I will always battle depression, but understanding it better has given me new strengths and tools to combat it.

When my children walk in the door every afternoon, I am excited to see them; I am calm and restored. I feel like I am finally becoming the mom they deserve. I hope they know how much I love them, and I have always done my best to show them. Yet, I have been far from perfect and made so many mistakes. 

With this newly found space, I finally have the time to find myself again and am discovering I have so much more to give them.

It’s OK to Get Upset

Featured

As long as I have been a part of the early childhood education world, the following phrase has been a part of it: You get what you get, and you don’t get upset. 

I don’t know when parents and educators started using this phrase, but can we please stop?

Not only is it dismissive to the child aka you’re feelings don’t matter but more and more research indicates the importance of teaching children how to express and handle their emotions. When we teach children about their emotions, we give them the power of expression and self, and we start letting them know their mental health and well-being are just as important as their physical well-being.

I understand what the phrase is trying to do; it’s saying, whatever happens, it’s going to be ok, but to blatantly and repeatedly tell children they cannot get upset is ridiculous; it’s also not human.

We get upset. I get upset. One day years ago, when I was teaching four-and-five-year-olds, it was my day to be at the school early and open the classroom. On these days, I made a special stop at Starbucks and bought an expensive splurge drink. A parent who was in a rush asked if they could leave their child with me.  Even though I wasn’t clocked in yet and not even in my classroom, I was in the kitchen of the school enjoying my last moments of quiet before the crazy day began; I said yes. 

While in my hazy, still sleepy, somewhat-annoyed-that-the-parent-had-just-done-this-state, and trying to keep an eye on the kid while I got what I needed for the classroom snack that morning, I set my coffee down on an uneven surface and the entirety of my specialty, splurge coffee spilled on the floor. 

It wasn’t even 7 A.M. My once-a-week splurge lay on the floor (and I now had to clean it up). And I had a 4-year-old standing next to me. I vividly remember telling myself silently, “Don’t cry. Do not let this child see you cry over a spilled coffee.” Honestly I wanted to have a tantrum.

So why didn’t I have a tantrum? Well, I came close, but I didn’t because I had learned how to process and handle strong emotions. We need to teach our children that it is OK to be upset when something negative happens, but how you respond that matters.

When I was teaching and passing things out, I would always shorten it to “You get what you get.” There was always at least one child in the class who would then say, “and you don’t get upset.” When that happened, I would look at them and say, “It’s ok to be upset when you don’t get what you want; what’s important is how you handle it.” Pay attention to that second part – it is OK to get upset when you don’t get what you want.

I have been performing in theater and music nearly my entire life, which means there are countless times I didn’t get the part or the solo I auditioned for and wanted. Do you know how many times I was upset I didn’t get the part I wanted? EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. Of course I was upset! But here’s what I didn’t do. I didn’t go on social media and bash everyone involved with the show. I didn’t scream and throw things. I didn’t swear off doing theater ever again. 

I talked to a friend or my mom. I went and did something I enjoyed like reading a book.  I took a walk and listened to music. I enjoyed a glass (or two) of wine. I took a bubble bath. The point is I found ways to work through my disappointment and move on. These are the skills we need to be teaching our kids. Go ahead and have your disappointment, but let’s figure out the best way to handle it.

There are times I cried and times I didn’t. There are times it took me a few weeks to get over the disappointment and times it only took a few hours, but I was still upset every single time; because I’m human. 

Is it appropriate for a ten-year-old to cry because their sibling got the last green Jolly Rancher?  In most cases, no; but they are allowed to be bummed out about it. Is it appropriate for a five-year-old to have a tantrum because their best friend got the sticker they wanted at circle time? Probably not, but if they do, we can use it as a teaching opportunity to find other ways to express disappointment.

It is rarely a healthy option to tell kids “Don’t cry” because it is another way of telling them their emotions are not valid, but sometimes it can be hard not to roll our adult eyes and think, “Really? He’s crying because Godzilla is no longer on Amazon Prime?” (And yes, my son did this. So what I like to do instead is say, “It is ok to be upset, but Is this situation worth your tears?” Phrasing things in this way makes children slow down and evaluate their responses.

We can help our children process big emotions and disappointments by using phrases like:

  • I see you’re really upset right now. Would you like some space?
  • This seems to be making you sad. Do you want to talk about it?
  • It is ok to be angry, but it is not OK to hurt people or things.
  • You seem worried. Would you like me to sit with you?
  • I am not sure what is bothering you, but I am here if you want to talk.

The more we as adults recognize and discuss emotions, the more our children will understand them. Like language and social interactions, children learn about handling emotions from the adults surrounding them.

If a child grows up in a house where anger is considered “bad,” they may have trouble processing feelings of anger because they believe it makes them bad. We must also avoid assigning emotions to genders. For example, if children hear that crying and whining is what girls do and boys should be strong and fearless, then we are assigning weakness as feminine, but we are telling our boys that they have to be brave all the time. 

Fear is another normal and completely biological response in many situations; fear is what kept our early ancestors alive. They needed to know when to run, when to fight, and when to hide too, survive. 

Emotions need just to be emotions—all normal and all OK.

Children should be learning self-awareness and understanding of their own emotions, regulating and controlling those emotions, learning to understand what is essential and what is not (AKA is this situation worth your tears?), and reading and understanding emotions in others. 

We do this when we allow children to see our emotions and emotional process and demonstrate how to handle disappointing and upsetting situations. Teaching emotional intelligence puts our children in the driver’s seat of their mental well-being and teaches them how to problem-solve and self-soothe. 

So, teach your kids you get what you get, and you CAN get upset. But also teach them that a tantrum over a Jolly Rancher probably isn’t worth the energy spent, and if you take the red one, at least you still got candy! More importantly, you’re helping them process their emotions and how to handle things independently so that when they are thrity they don’t have a melt down over spilled coffee.

The Power in Positive Phrasing

Featured

One of my son’s favorite books is “No, David!” by David Shannon. We read it all the time. I like to jokingly put his name in the book, and while it is funny, it also hits a nerve for him and me too. That’s because we can both see him as the character in this book, a little boy who has trouble controlling his emotions and actions and, as a result, hears the word “No,” a lot. 

The funny thing is I know that that is the least effective way to communicate with him and to get him to do what I need to be done. I’ve read all the research on positive phrasing; as a teacher, I had that skill down almost to perfection. I even counseled other parents to use it and explained the benefits behind it. As a mom, though, easier said than done.

When you place a negative in front of a phrase, the child doesn’t hear the negative; they hear the action. So “Don’t run inside” becomes “run inside.” Now, I am not saying children hear this and automatically think you are telling them to run in the house, but the negative gets washed away; it’s not effective.

Positive phrasing, in all communication, is more likely to yield the results you’re after. But why? Well, first, it’s more pleasing to the ear and the mind. “Please walk inside” is more compelling than “Don’t run!” Second, when we phrase things positively, we are more likely to speak in a calm voice than yelling or a scolding tone. A calm voice is more likely to garner attention.

Experts say if you want your children to listen quietly and calmly, don’t yell. When you yell, they begin to shut you out and begin to shut down. When you speak calmly and quietly, you show respect, which begets respect, and they are also forced to listen to hear what you have to say.

You may still get surly looks and crossed arms when you talk quietly, but I guarantee they are listening. 

Telling your child what you want or expect instead of what you don’t want sets up clear guidelines; it tells your child exactly what is expected. If you say, “Don’t run,” it leaves room for them to interpret that as ok well, I can still skip, jump, hop, cartwheel, or crawl. If you say, “You need to walk when inside the house,” there is no room for interpretation. It’s cut and dry.

Trust me, I know this is a difficult skill to conquer, especially of late when we’ve all had way more “quality” time with our children than ever before, but it does work. And I need to remind myself of that from time to time too. But just try it, write your self post-it notes or reminders around the house so you see them and can remember it in the heat of the moment. 

Try taking a deep breath before responding to your child’s behavior. It will help you stay calm and it gives you a chance to phrase what you need to say in your head first.

Take some time and think of all the things you say “no” to in a day and see if you can flip them into positives.

Instead of:

  • Don’t leave your laundry on the floor.
  • Stop playing with your food.
  • Stop hitting your brother.
  • We don’t draw on the wall.
  • Don’t dump all your toys out.
  • Don’t talk back to me.

Try:

  • Please put your laundry in the basket
  • I need you to eat because you are making a mess.
  • You need to keep your hands to yourself.
  • Crayons and markers are used on paper.
  • Please clean up your toys when you’re finished.
  • You need to speak respectfully to me.

Phrasing things positively doesn’t mean you are saying yes to everything; it means you set up clear expectations of what is expected and acceptable. 

Save “No” for moments of danger. Then it should be said in a loud, firm voice. Yelling “No” or “Stop” right before a kid touches a hot stove or steps off the sidewalk as a car barrels down will give them the jolt to potentially stop the dangerous choice. 

When children hear no all the time, it loses its polish. Think of “No” as your boy who cried wolf. If it happens all the time, no one is going to listen to it. If you save it for moments of import, your child will not be used to hearing it, so the novelty will grab their focus. 

My boys are fans of the new movie “YES DAY” and have watched it at least twenty times in the last few weeks. The concept is that for one day, the parents say yes to anything the kids ask (within a set of parameters, of course).

They have asked me to have a Yes Day on more than one occasion. So far, the answer is a no… but we’ll see.

5 Last-Minute DIY Mother’s Day Gifts

Featured

Mother’s Day is this weekend, and if you’ve let the ball drop, didn’t realize it was Mother’s Day, or are still scrambling to figure out what to do, I have you covered!

As a mom of two, I love the appreciation I receive on Mother’s Day. My youngest son already said Happy Mother’s Day and made me a card  today! This year his birthday is on Mother’s Day, so he wanted to make sure I got something special too. 

All moms have a different idea of what they’d like to do on Mother’s Day. Personally, I love having the day to myself, a day of quiet relaxation where I can do as much or as little as I’d like. 

Other moms love being surrounded by their brood and the entire extended family; the important thing is that in the words of Tom and Donna from Parks and Rec you, Treat Yo’self. 

If you are reading this and you’re someone who needs to give mom some love I have compiled a list of simple DIY and low-cost or free ideas you should be able to throw together in the next few days.

  1. Printable Card with 3-D Flowers

I ADORE this 3-D printable card from the website www.sixcleversisters.com. It includes the template for the card as well as a template for the flowers. You will need some colorful cardstock to print the flowers from and a piece of plain white cardstock for the card.

The site includes step-by-step instructions, and it is a bit time-consuming to cut out all those flowers, but if you have a crafty kid or teen, or you enjoy this type of crafting yourself, this is a low-cost way to make a unique Mother’s Day Card.

  1. Printable Bouquet

I am a massive fan of the idea of the printable bouquet, and www.123homeschool4me.com has the most adorable one I’ve seen. Each flower has space for your child to write something special about mom on them. Examples are:

  • Mom is so special because…
  • My mom rocks! She…
  • I love when mom….

You can print these out on colored paper or use the black and white template and allow your child to color and decorate them themselves. It even includes the template to print a bouquet wrapper to keep it all together. 

This is one special flower delivery mom is sure to remember and keep forever!

  1. Homemade Bath Bombs

If the moms or special women in your life are anything like me, they love taking a hot bath. Combine that bath with a glass of red wine and a book, and I’m in heaven! 

When taking a bath, my favorite scent is lavender, so when I came across this homemade lavender bath bomb recipe, I knew I had to include it. 

This is the perfect gift to make if you have a little scientist in your life! My youngest son loves making bath bombs with me.

This recipe, found on the site Don’t Mess with Mama, requires baking soda, Epsom salt, citric acid, water, essential oils, and almond oil. You will also need a bath bomb mold or a cupcake tin can work in a pinch.

For an added touch, you can add some fresh or dried lavender to the mix. If mom doesn’t like lavender, you can add whatever essential oil scents she likes best. 

Citric acid can be found in stores like Walmart, amazon.com, Target, and craft stores. Whole Foods has a great selection of essential oils.

  1. Cupcake Toppers 

If you enjoy baking or your kids do, making homemade cupcakes and adding these adorable little cupcake toppers are sure to delight mom.

The site Momtastic offers this free printable and instructions on how to make the cupcake toppers. They also have a link to make the cupcakes pictured if you desire, or you can make your own based on mom’s tastes and favorite flavors or colors.

Cupcakes are such a great idea because they are customizable, and every mom loves eating a sweet treat her kids made just for her.

  1. Mother’s Day Coupons

The past year has been rough for moms (for dads too, but we’ll spoil them next month), so what could be a better gift than coupons to help take some of the workload away from mom and to show her how special she is.

The Spruce Crafts has an entire list of free printable Mother’s Day coupons that include everything from extra hugs to breakfast in bed to offers to do a few loads of laundry!

Each set is adorable in its own right, and the bright colors make them fun and unique. You will want some cardstock to print these off and perhaps a pretty ribbon to tie them together, but other than that, this is a low-cost and effortless last-minute DIY Mother’s Day gift.

Whether it is a mom, grandma, step-mom, friend, girlfriend, aunt, or any other special person in your life you wish to celebrate this Mother’s Day, any one of these simple yet thoughtful gifts are an excellent way to say, “I love you, and I appreciate all that you do.”

*I have not been reimbursed or compensated in any way for anything recommended or listed in this blog.

Choices in 2020 (and I am not talking the election)

Children & Choices

Choices. It’s an oft heard word in the realm of child hood development. Give you child choices. And it’s true, you should. You child has so little control or power over anything that happens in their lives that allowing them to have or make choices from time to time can be a powerful boost to their self-esteem and sense of worth. They are told when to play, when to stop playing, when to bathe, when to eat, when to go to bed, when it’s time run an errand, when it’s time to go to school when it’s time to leave school and the list goes on and on and on and on. In most scenarios, they need to be told what, how and when to do something because you are the grown up and they have no self regulation. So much pressure to constantly do what other, larger people tell them to do can create a volatile situation in their emotional system. But what if you could take some of that vim and vinegar out of their system by simply allowing them choices each day?

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

You’re Doing it Wrong

I can hear many of you now, “But I give them choices and they never decided and it always backfires…” Guess what? You’re doing choices wrong. I used to do it wrong too. When I first started working with children I didn’t understand the power of choice and I made mistakes, a lot of them. Now I have the wisdom of a lot of years in the classroom, a lot of books read, a lot of continuing education courses take and a lot of experience with small children. You may be thinking, “There’s a right and wrong way to give choices?” Yup. There is. If you have read this far and are thinking, “Children should do what they’re told because I am the grown up. End of Story.” then this post is may not be for you, although I encourage you to read it anyway.

Realistic Choices

The number one thing you need to know about giving a child a choice is that it needs to be realistic. Sounds simple, no? Yet giving children unrealistic choices is one of the biggest parenting faux pas done daily. If you tell your child to put their coat on or they are not going to school today then you have just screwed yourself. Are you truly willing to keep them home for the day because they refused to put a coat on? My absolute favorite is when parents threaten that Santa wont come if their child doesn’t listen. Really? Are you really going to follow through with no presents on Christmas morning? I consider myself a tough cookie mom and even I won’t go that far. Parents, you cannot present an option to your child that you are not 100% willing to follow through on because the second you don’t follow through, they have your number. If you threaten to turn the car around if they continue bickering in the back seat then you better turn that car around should another argument begin. If you say you are leaving the store is they keep whining about the cookies you won’t by, then you better be prepared to leave a cart full of groceries and walk out. Each time you don’t follow through with a “threat” your child logs that in their brain. If you repeatedly do it, they know you are full of bluff and have no reason to believe you, which does nothing but spell trouble for you.

Limit Options

Providing a child with too many choices is overwhelming. As much as possible limit their options to two and no more than three choices. Asking a 4 year old what they want for snack is akin to opening Pandora’s box. Instead say, for snack today you can have a yogurt with fruit, or crackers and cheese which would you like? Once the choices have been given that’s it, no negotiating. If they whine and plead and throw a tantrum, let them, Once again if you give in they will smell blood and know they can pull that same trick over and over and over. A a few tantrums in the beginning is much better than a life time of stress because you taught your child they can walk all over you.

Just to clarify, this is not the same as using food for reward/punishments’ which should NEVER be done, this is saying these are your options, if you are hungry and want a snack then you will choose one. Same goes for choosing anything else, clothing, toy to take to grandmas, or a book to read at bedtime. If a matter is time conscious, such as getting dressed in the morning then set a timer and let your child know that they have until the timer goes off to make their decision, otherwise you will be the one choosing.

Pick Your Battles

Simple advice but true. Not everything needs to be done an exact way. Let go of some of your need for control. If he wants to wear red plaid shorts and a lime green shirt to school, let him. Who really cares? Plus you are giving your child the opportunity to express himself creatively. If she wants to play the trumpet instead of the flute then support her and buy yourself some earplugs for the first year or two! Some nights let them pick their own dinner, some days let them watch the extra TV show. By allowing them these small bits of choice and power their need to exert full control will relax. A child’s reaction to feeling no control is a tantrum. Think about how you feel when your boss dumps task after task on your plate with little to no input from you… it feels pretty lousy doesn’t it?

By no means should tantrums be accepted as OK behavior, but they ARE normal. Do not get mad at them for having one. Stay as calm as possible and ignore them. It will stop. I promise. Through a tantrum a child is trying to gain your attention. At this point they don’t care if it is negative or positive. DO NOT FEED THE ATTENTION MONSTER. When it is over you can talk to them about their strong emotions and brainstorm together better ways to handle it. If they are being destructive or harmful then say in a firm tone that even though they are mad “hitting, throwing, kicking etc.” is not acceptable.

To sum it all up, this is what parents need to remeber:

  1. Make Choices Realistic
  2. Be Prepared to Follow Through
  3. Limit Options to 2 or 3
  4. Pick Your Battles
  5. Tantrums Happen, Don’t feed the monster

A Mom-thrival Guide: you may not need them to survive but they could help you thrive.

Featured

Being a mom involves experiencing a lot of stress. It’s part of the sign-on package that unfortunately doesn’t come with very good pay or health benefits. As moms we have to find our own little guilty pleasures and mini retreats and stress relievers. I am going to share 10 of mine in hopes that they may offer some release and enjoyment to all the other moms out there.

Top of my list is my mini oil diffuser and my Natrogix natural oils. First, I love its lotus shape; it fits beautifully in my office/library by the window with all my plants. It’s not overly powerful, but it works great in a small space, and I am typically sitting by the window when I write. Natrogix oils smell fantastic and come in so many great scents. Today I mixed lavender and lemon to entice those summery outdoor vibes. I have a second diffuser in my bedroom, and I also use oils at bedtime. Both of these items can be found on Amazon, but if you have access to a local small business that sells products like this, I recommend buying there!

These little guys are a lifesaver on mornings after sleepless nights or when you just didn’t get enough sleep because your kid decided that 3 AM was a great time to get up, turn all the lights on and watch TV a volume of 1,000. I was skeptical at first, but there were so many good reviews I decided to try them. First, they feel amazing. They are cool and refreshing, and if nothing else will help you wake up. Second, they truly work! They can be a little slippery when first applying so you may need to hold them in place for a few moments to get them to stick and you will also look like an odd sea creature while you wear them, but if it’s only your little monsters and spouse seeing you, who cares?

This stuff is awesome! If you are a peanut butter fiend like I am but don’t want all the extra fat in baking and smoothies get yourself some powdered peanut butter. I mainly use it to make banana smoothies. My recipe is a frozen banana, PB powder, turmeric, nutmeg, cinnamon, agave, almond milk and vanilla protein powder. I also freeze bananas, add a little bit of milk and the aforementioned spices, I even add a little cayanne sometimes, and mix it int he blender. It makes an ice cream like treat that will have you forgetting that other stuff in your freezer.

Let me start by telling you that I hate perfume, no really I do. I am allergic to many, they make my eyes itchy and my throat close up. A co-worker gave these to our team as a Christmas gift and I LOVE THEM. They roll on, are extremely subtle and don’t have that over powering chemical scent I feel most perfumes have. Dab a little on your wrists, collarbone and behind the years and you will smell fresh as a Daisy, or in this case as fresh as exotic fruit, fresh amber or powdery floral. You can check out their website here.

I am obsessed with these. I first bought them on a whim because they were on sale and I thought, why not? Now I buy them every week at the grocery store. I am even eating one now as I type this. They are great for a person like me who doesn’t like to eat too much at the start of the day, or when you need a little sweet snack that is still healthy. The best part is because they are healthy your kids are less likely to eat them all leaving you with an empty box in the pantry! I purchase mine at Giant from the Natural Food aisle.

I am a tea tree oil junkie, and this, in my opinion, is the best. I use it as part of my skincare regime at night. If you have never used tea tree oil before, go slowly at first, or you can make your face red and burning with over use. I recommend to start you only apply once every other day to build up a tolerance. Make sure you are using 100% oil as well. Once your skin has grown accustomed to it, you will feel and see how smooth and fresh it makes your skin feel. It is also great to mix in with your shampoo or conditioner if you have an itchy scalp. Just a few drops will do.

I know, it’s seltzer water, but I absolutely love this flavor. I drink a lot of seltzer, I have never liked soda and juice is way too many calories and it’s not socially acceptable to drink wine all day so if I am not drinking regular water, I am usually having seltzer. I buy a handful of this flavor every week. It doesn’t have that artificial sweetener taste and it is sodium free.

While we are on the drink kick…. Typically I am a red wine or gin martini kind of girl, but my partner’s oldest son gave us this bottle of port, knowing his dad likes port, for Christmas, and I am fully on board the port train. This is the perfect way to unwind when you have the kind of day that where your son asks for a Strawberry Poptart; you repeat back to him “You want a strawberry Poptart?” because you know due to his ADHD he often says things or ask for something and then 5 seconds later looks at you like your crazy for giving you the item he just asked for. He replies yes, so you make said Poptart and give it to him. Ten minutes later you walk into the TV room to see two bites taken out of the Poptart when you ask why he tells you he doesn’t like this strawberry kind, he wanted the other strawberry kind (what other strawberry kind? we’ve never had another other strawberry kind!) and asks if you can take the strawberry filling out of the strawberry Poptart that he asked for. This port is perfect for that kind of day.

I have been using this product since high school. It is what you might call my “Old Face-full,” OK, I know that was the ultimate cheesy joke. I love this stuff; it uses natural exfoliators, so no plastic beads junk up the water system, and it keeps my skin clean and fresh looking. I use it every time I shower. St. Ives is one of my favorite companies for bath and beauty products, and I have several of their offerings around the house.

My last indulgence is glasses from Zenni Optical. I have more than a few. I have more than are even pictured here. They offer a wide range of colors, styles, and materials at a cost-effective price. I have a pretty strong prescription and astigmatism, and I have never had a problem with any pair. I use my glasses as part of my outfit, I have worn glasses since I was ten, so I do not feel myself without them on. In addition to standard eyeglasses, I also own three pairs of Sunglasses made by Zenni. The only time I take them off, besides sleeping, is when I am performing in a theatrical production, or they don’t match my Halloween costume! If you love glasses as much as I do or just need a new pair check out their site here.

*I have not been paid nor am I being compensated in anyway for mentioning any of these products. These are my personal opinions.

Halloween 2019, I mean Maleficent cannot wear glasses

Your Kid Won’t Starve: The Chicken Nugget Battle

Photo Credit Patrick Fore

                Your kid will not starve themselves, I promise.  Parents concerned about their child’s eating habits is probably the number one concern I have heard in my 14 years of teaching early childhood.  Parents surveyed once their children are older reflect that worrying about what their child ate was among the top three things on which they wish they focused less. 

Photo Credit Louis Hansel
Photo Credit Toa Heftiba

                As adults, we have this lovely ability to eat emotionally.  Got a new job?  Let’s celebrate with tacos and margaritas until we’re so stuffed we can’t even move.  Your boyfriend broke up with you?  You have the right to gorge yourself on chocolate cake and ice cream.  Have your children stressed you to the point of no return?  Time to break out the Girl Scout cookies and wine.  It’s what we do.  Happy, Sad, Stressed we reward or comfort ourselves with food.  Children do not have that emotional attachment to food yet; therefore, we don’t need to worry about them over or under eating.  They eat when they are hungry.  That’s it. 

Photo Credit Sanjay Kumar

               

Now, don’t get me wrong, children can most definitely learn poor eating habits, and when we, as adults, use food as a constant reward or punishment, we are sowing the seeds of emotional eating. Food should be food.  Food can be fun and engaging, but it is food, something our body needs to survive.  If your child is presented with multiple options consistently, they will be more likely to try new things.  When we, as parents, worry that Billy doesn’t like anything other than chicken nuggets and fruit snacks, and hence only feed him that, we are depriving him of the opportunity to grow emotionally and physically.   I have seen it so often; a child brings the same lunch every day because mom or dad believes their child will go hungry unless they send the same five things known to be approved by their 4-year-old.  Guess what?  They won’t.  If your child refuses to eat the food given to them, yes, they may be a little hungry.   But they will remember what it feels like, that maybe they were a little grumpy or tired and after a few times of that feeling they will eat.  They will not starve.  They are not biologically nor evolutionary designed to allows themselves to.

Photo Credit Paul Hanoaka

                Here is where the fun science stuff comes in!  Metaphorically raise your hand if you have a picky eater at home… right, most of us have or do.  I have one now, and I know the struggle.  Now, what if I told you there is an evolutionary-based reason for this, would you feel better?  Young children, specifically between the ages of 3-6, are designed to be picky eaters, so they don’t poison themselves.  Back in the early human days of hunting and gathering, young children were often left unattended.  They would wander and play with other kids, and to make sure the human race didn’t kill itself off, evolution made young children extremely wary of unknown foods.  Hence, the creation of the modern-day picky eater.

                No one likes to see their child upset, but when we regularly give in to the whining and demands and make them mac and cheese for the 4th straight night in a row, we are allowing them to be in control, and we’re the adults, that’s kind of our job.  I get it, I’ve been there, I’ve capitulated too, it’s human.   But the key is to make giving in the exception, not the rule.  I had the battle of breakfast myself today.  My nine-year-old wanted frozen french toast sticks with syrup and powdered sugar.  I am okay with that; he’s a mostly healthy and adventurous eater.  The problem was, he wanted to take that sticky and messy meal to sit in the basement and watch TV.  I said no.  I explained that the meal was too messy to eat down there, and the tirade began.  I don’t trust him, and I never let him do anything, I am so unfair.  I calmly stated, again, why he was not allowed to eat such a messy meal over the carpeted floor and said what would be unfair is not to allow him to eat at all.  He stormed away, saying that since I wouldn’t let him eat, he was going to the basement.  Not what I said, kid, but okay.

Photo Credit Joshua Coleman

                Fifteen minutes later, he contritely came upstairs and politely asked if he could have breakfast.  See, it works.   I didn’t enjoy it, it raised my stress levels, and I had yet to imbibe the delicious smelling coffee sitting out on our coffee bar calling to me.  But, he was used to my consistency and knew it was a losing battle to push.  My younger one could live on fruit and candy, and he’d be happy.  That’s not sustainable, of course, but he is in the picky phase.  So I keep the house stocked with the healthy things I know he likes: oatmeal, yogurt, fruit, grilled chicken, cheese, and granola bars.  I also make new and non-favorites regularly and place them on his plate.  When dealing with a picky eater, you should always make sure they have at least one thing on their plate that you know they like.  That way they are guaranteed to eat something.  Then consistently and methodically keep trying the unliked foods and encouraging one bite.  That’s it—one bite. 

                Don’t ever force them to finish the whole plate; this is another way to create an unhealthy relationship with food.  If they say they are full, then they are full.  They will not starve themselves.  If you served them their usual portion of chicken nuggets and they say they are not hungry, okay.   Since you know your child likes chicken nuggets, let them know if they are hungry later, they will be having the nuggets before they have something else.   I currently have 2/3 of a requested hot dog sitting in limbo. 

Photo Credit D. Hanelle

                In the end, you know your child best, and you have to do what you feels right for your kid.  When parents come to me with this concern, I impart a cliff notes version of the above, and I ask them to speak to their pediatrician.  If your child’s doctor is not concerned with their eating habits or weight, then realistically, neither should you.  We all want happy, healthy children, and concern about their nutrition is valid.

Photo Credit Elevate

Food should be enjoyable. We should certainly find times to celebrate our triumphs and share our sorrows over a meal. A staple in every major holiday is the food. So celebrate the diverse options we have in this world. Enjoy the night out with friend’s just because. I simply ask you to consider the science behind children and their eating and the benefits of creating a healthy relationship between your child and food as young as you can. You will make it through, and they won’t starve.  Promise.

Are Dresses Without Pockets Even Worth It?

Featured

No.  A resounding no.  Nothing is a more perfect and essential garment than a maxi dress with pockets.  Done.  I could end the post here.  Of course, I am not going to because I feel the desire, not the need, to expound on why dresses with pockets are a must.  If it needs explaining, then this post probably is not for you. 

Photo by Joanna Malinowska

First, where else will I put all the lovely things my children and students give me throughout the day?  A hundred tiny pieces of white paper my son handed me saying they were diamonds for Valentine’s Day, glad I have a pocket.  The 37th pipe cleaner bracelet one of my students has made me?   In the pocket, it goes; I love my students, but even I have difficulty keeping up the excitement after the 10th bracelet in a row.  Snotty tissue, you guessed it, in the pocket.  Every single damn Lego you find because they are never actually in the Lego container, viola! Pocket.  Pockets are one of the most essential tools when interacting with younger kids. 

Photo by Xenia Bogarova

Second, pockets are perfect for the socially awkward adult that I am.  I have no problem talking to kids all day but put me in a social situation where I am expected to speak to adults, and I have no idea what to do with my hands.  Even worse, are one on ones where there is no one to get me out of the conversation I do not want to be having.  For example, when the woman in front of me at Panera Bread turned around to exclaim to me that nobody should eat the food here because it causes cancer, hands in the pockets. Or, how about when my co-worker started telling me about the problem she has been having with her vagina.  Perfect. Pocket. Situation. Or, what about when checking out at the grocery store and the woman scanning my items was talking to the cashier the next station over about her nail fungus? Put ’em in the pockets. 

Third, pockets are everywhere in our life because they are functional.  You have pockets in your car door, and on the back of the seats, I am not currently utilizing any of these pockets, but it makes me happy to know they are there.  Purses and backpacks have pockets because it makes finding things easier.  I love pockets so much that when my mom made me a themed bag as a gift for a theatrical production, I was in, I gave it back and asked for her to add a pocket (which she did, thanks Mom!)  Cabinets are basically pockets for your kitchen, I mean where would you put all your stuff if your kitchen didn’t have pockets?  As a side note, I decided on the spot that I will hence force refer to cabinets at kitchen pockets.

Photo by Amy Humphries

Now perhaps you are not pocket dependent like I am, and if so, I probably am falling flat on my face as I describe the importance of pockets to you.  But, if you love dresses with pockets as much as I do, I know you’re standing beside me in perfect pocket solidarity.  I love dresses with pockets so much that I am wearing one right now as I write this.  This spring, I have systematically started to replace every dress I own with one with pockets.  I have been known to squeal with glee when I discover a dress I like has them; at times, that is the only impetus I need to purchase the aforementioned dress.  When I am wearing a dress with pockets, I lord it around the house like a queen in her castle; somehow, they make me feel instantly better.  Pockets provide a sense of security.  Whether it’s a place to put things, hide my hands or for comfort, I need pockets in my life.  I cannot always hide from the world, but I can slide my hands into those delicious pockets concealing at least a part of me; for that alone, I will always love a dress with pockets.

Just Me and My Baby….. and Grad School

I embarked on the terrifying journey of applying to grad school 5 years after I left undergrad.  My constant thought was, “Can I do this?” Not only was the idea of applying to grad school daunting, but I had completely switched career paths. 

I grew up watching old musicals with my mother and my grandfather. My grandfather used to play Judy Garland on our drives to his house in Florida, and it was love at first sound. He used to say that he went to high school with her, which I passionately believed until later in life when, I found out he never went past the eighth grade. I bragged about this to my fellow second and third grade friends who had no idea who she was. I was the only ten-year-old I knew who could sing “Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart!” from memory, or really who sang it at all.

Image Source Barbra Streisand in the film Funny Girl, 1968

With my mom, it was Funny Girl, Hello Dolly, and Oklahoma! At 13, I was pretending to be Fanny Brice in my bedroom. Barbra Streisand was my idol, and I knew I was born to perform. And not just perform, but to perform on Broadway. I was going to be a star. I wanted to sing “I’m Just a Girl Who Can’t Say No” from Oklahoma in my 6th grade talent show. They told my mother I needed to choose a different song because it was inappropriate. Seriously? It’s Rodgers and Hammerstein. For my 14th birthday, my mother took me to NYC to see Glen Close in Sunset Boulevard. It was Game Over. The final nail in the destiny coffin. Broadway star I would be. Norma Desmond is still one of my dream roles. Twenty-five years later, I’m finally almost old enough to play her… almost.

Ueno Zoo, Japan 2007

Life had different plans.  I got married at the ripe old age of 26 (already way late in the acting game) and moved to Japan for a year to save up and teach English.  Towards the end of that year, the CEO of the English school I worked for stole all the company’s money.  While I got a heartfelt apology from the company, I did not get paid for my last two months of work.  Since the company was supposed to be paying for my apartment, I was now being evicted because they also, hadn’t paid my rent for two months.  I was forced to purchase last-minute airfare to the states.  Between not being paid, having to dip into savings to pay my bills back in America, purchasing a costly flight ticket, and needing a place to rent, which required a down payment, almost $10,000 in savings were gone. So, instead of landing in New York ready to begin my struggling actor attempt, I arrived in D.C. as a reading instructor in D.C. public schools.  From there, I transitioned to an assistant preschool teacher. 

During my first two years in that position, I decided to commit to education as a career.  I’d always enjoyed being around children and had worked with them in a multitude of settings, church, girl scouts, babysitting, to name a few.  I seemed to be good at it, and I enjoyed it.  The kids made me laugh and smile, it was a good feeling.  The more I learned about child development, the more I became hooked.  Who knew so much learning and development occurred between birth and age 5?  Well, I mean the experts knew, but I didn’t, and I found it fascinating.  The question I posed to myself was, “So, now what?”  I hadn’t given up my dream of acting yet, D.C. has a vibrant theater community, and I was still performing.  Since I needed to maintain a full-time job due to having lost all my savings, I didn’t have the time to pursue acting on a professional level right now.  I had to make one of the most difficult choices I have ever made, and that was not to no longer pursue acting as a career. After a few months of indecision, I applied to grad school. 

When you’ve grown up knowing you were only going to do one thing and life throws a curve-ball straight to your head and makes you see stars, you have to come to and make a decision.  Once I made the choice and became accepted to school, the idea was no longer scary or painful.  Two months into school, I became pregnant.  It wasn’t wholly unplanned; since I was no longer going to auditions why not peruse my other dream, becoming a mom. I just didn’t think it would happen that fast.  As my due date approached, I worked ahead and informed my professors.  The day my son was born, about a week and a half before the semester ended, I submitted my final project hooked up to IV’s and in the delivery room.  I am nothing, if not dedicated, to my work.  I had a few weeks of new mom bliss (Ha! Mesh maternity underwear, ice packs for my vagina, and nipples so cracked and sore from nursing I had to get $80 prescription-strength cream) and then it was time to go back to school.  Fortunately, I was earning my degree online from a brick and mortar university; that’s campus, to this day, I have never stepped foot on.  I fit assignments in between nursing and naps and diaper changes.  When it came time to begin work on my thesis, I would leave the house.  I was back at work by this point and could often be found on my lunch break at the Starbucks on N.W. D Street and Indiana Ave in D.C. doing research.  In the evenings and on the weekends, if my husband of the time was home (he was taking pre-med classes), I would head to our local Starbucks, sometimes for hours at a time.  On my walk over there, my anxiety would kick in, wondering if someone would be at one of two favorite tables.  If someone was at my table, yes, my table, I couldn’t concentrate or get any real work done.

I would sit where I could see the coveted spot and watch like a furtive hawk so I could sweep and claim the table once vacated.  These days that anxiety is channeled towards my weekly trip out of the house to the grocery store.  I go early every Friday morning, re-stock day, and panic prior to my arrival.  What if they don’t have toilet paper again?  What if there are out of the flavor of Hot Pockets my son obsesses over?  Can there please be my favorite brand of seltzer water??  And don’t even get me started over the lack of frozen French toast sticks…. It’s not fun.

I pushed on through anxiety, countless hours of research and writing, and re-writing, and finally, two years after I started, I graduated with a 4.0.  Going back to school was one of the greatest things I have done for myself.  I still perform regularly, although corona-virus has put that temporarily on hold, but now, I do it solely for me.  I may not have made it to Broadway, and honestly, I still hold out hope, but I have become a pretty big deal in my own way, and for that, I couldn’t be prouder of myself. 

From top to bottom: Your’e a Good Man Charlie Brown 2019, Damn Yankees 2018, How the Grinch Stole Christmas 2017.

Things I’ve Learned During Quarantine

Today marks the 6th week since my personal quarantine started and I have learned quite a bit about myself in that time, I imagine you have too. I am lucky because I have not been completely alone. I own a house with my partner so I have adult contact daily, which is important when I happened to be quarantined most days alone with my two boys ages 9 and 6. Additionally his two youngest children (12 and 14) are here part time so more human interaction there. Overall, I have to admit I’ve managed this well. I started thinking about where this journey to no where has taken me and this is what I learned.

1. I CAN live without Target. It’s true. I haven’t shriveled up and died due to lack of Target. I went in the day I was furloughed to pick up some items to entertain my children and I have been inside Target exactly once to purchase my favorite brand of razors, David’s, and a few other household and bath items my grocery store doesn’t carry. Huh. Who knew I could go so long?

2. I am perfectly happy not interacting with society on a daily basis. I have always been a loner and introvert, more comfortable with children than adults, but even I thought I’d crack after 6 weeks. Don’t get me wrong, I miss my close friends and my students. I miss my twice monthly karaoke outings and I am bummed I haven’t seen my sister’s new puppy in person yet. I talk to the people close to me on a regular basis but otherwise, I think I could be a hermit if required.

Yeah! I made that!

3. I like cooking. Not only have I learned to like cooking, turns out I’m pretty dam good at it. It was never something I enjoyed and usually found it to be a mind numbing task trying to keep track of all the ingredients, measurements when I was supposed to add this or add that. Something would usually burn, an ingredient was almost always forgotten or left out and that 30 minute weeknight recipe? Ha! We’ll eat in about an hour and a half. During quarantine I have had time to cook and little by little I mostly stopped using recipes. I may look up ideas for inspiration or guidance but I can actually create on my own and, if I may brag, 9/10 times is tastes great!

4. I am not as patient or creative with my kids as I thought I would be. The first few weeks I was super teacher-mom. I had daily activities in art, science, cognitive skills…. then homeschooling started and since I have to practically drag my children to the computer to do work it seems my Mary Poppins desire blew away on the wind. My bag is still filled with everything imaginable so hopefully one day soon the magic will come back to me, spoon full of sugar and all!

5. Daily mediation and Yoga have become essential to me. Again, these are things I have always enjoyed but never seemed to have the time for before. Yoga and meditation help me wake up in the morning and a few simple stretches can diffuse so much stress. One of my favorite techniques is to sit with my eyes closed and listen to what’s going on around. Presuming it’s not the screams of my children having a fight in the basement, it is a very peaceful exercise.

Photo by Artem Beliaikin on Pexels.com

This has been a stressful time for all of us, no doubt, but I hope you have been able to find your own little silver lining and time for self reflection too. Things are still uncertain, but hang on, we’ve got this.