Friday, September 7, 2018

To My Babies’ {Other} Mamas

I remember the first time it happened. I was dropping Nora off at her first daycare - an in-home center. Nora reached for the woman who ran the daycare and said; “mama!”. I could tell the woman felt uncomfortable. I didn’t.

When your child is small, they sometimes liken the word “mama” to love. "Mama" can come to be shorthand for the individual who cares for them, provides comfort and dries their tears. When Nora uttered those syllables, I felt comforted. I felt it was a clear sign that during those long hours while I worked, she was feeling loved by this wonderful woman.

Fast forward to a few more daycares, another child, and so many more “mamas”. As the season of back to school is upon us, I can’t help but reflect on what these teachers mamas have meant to our family.

Thank you doesn’t seem to capture it, but I’ll try

To the woman who walked the halls. I remember getting to daycare for what felt like the one millionth time to pick him up sick. You weren’t “his teacher” anymore. He had already transitioned to the next room. But, there you were all the same. Cradling him and walking the halls. So calm. So loving. I’m sure you were tired. I know I was. But, you pushed through that tired so gracefully and found an extra gear. Thank you for finding that gear for my boy. Thank you for loving my boy like he was your own. And, for ignoring my silent, tired tears as I took him from your arms.

To the woman who exuded pride. Sometimes it feels like our littles are the only littles who have ever learned to walk or count or sing the ABCs. It’s always nice when someone genuinely shares your pride in your littles’ accomplishments. Thank you for the countless texts and pictures of our little writer working tirelessly on her letters. Thank you for spending your own time and money to put together lines and curves for her to practice at home. Thank you for sharing my pride as she beamed with pride at all you accomplished and learned together.

To the man who changed her card to yellow. I hate to label a four year old, but honestly, sometimes you have to call a spade a spade. So, I'll say it. I believe my daughter to be Type A. To her, a green behavior card - the color that symbolizes a good day - is not enough. Every day must be a pink card day. Pink symbolizes exceptional, and that's certainly what she's striving for each day. But, sometimes, just sometimes, we all have yellow card days, don't we? And you were brave enough to call a spade a spade too. You switched her card to yellow knowing it wouldn't be easy on her. And, you took the time to talk her through it. And me too. We all learned that day that life isn't easy and we can't be great all the time. Except for you. You were great. Thank you for taking the time. Thank you for being brave with us.

To the woman who loved them no matter what. For over two years you cared for at least one of them. You laughed when they said funny things and shed tears when they were sick. You embraced them for the people they are - the crazy and the sassy. You saw the little person in the midst of all the big emotions no matter what. You made room in your arms for extra cuddles and became an extension of our family. Thank you. Thank you for making your lap a second home. Thank you for loving them for who they are - the good and the not-so-good. That's what mamas do!

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Five Years

This photo showed up on my phone the other day as a memory

It reminded me that I took it five years ago.

Five years ago.

I remember placing a whole bunch of personal information in that envelope with a little bit of hope and mailed it down Interstate 380. I was scared. Nervous about needles and medication and hormones and failure.

Thankfully, we got pregnant before the needles and medication. The hormones and failures inevitably followed.

Today I have a four-year-old and an almost three-year-old. I don’t think the girl placing that envelope in the mailbox could even fathom that as a possibility. She seems like a completely different person. If I could go back in time and tell her something, I’d say…

Girl, you’re going to grow. You’re going to grow by 30 pounds with each pregnancy and immeasurable patience. You’re going to grow to the point of almost breaking. Your skin is going to stretch, and your brain is going to stretch, and your heart is going to stretch too. And just when you think coconut oil is the answer to all that stretching, you’ll learn it’s not. 

Take a nap. A long one. And, when you wake up, binge watch Netflix. Time is a finite resource and in five years you’re never going to have enough.

Breathe deeply. The challenges you’re facing today are preparing you for what’s to come. Go for a run. Do some yoga. Exercise those skills that make you stronger. You’re going to need that strength soon.

The only thing constant is change. The minute you think you have the baby thing figured out, the second one will come along. He will turn your world upside down. You won’t sleep. And that you job you love? Yeah, you’re going to quit it. You’re going to get burnt-out. You’re going to cry and scream and clean up so much throw-up in the middle of the night you’ll literally be able to do it in the pitch-black dark. You’re going to feel like you hate your husband in the darkest moments and appreciate him in a way you never have before. It will be confusing.

Ultimately, love will be what takes over in the next five years. Your love for those two little surprises will get you through the worst of times. That love will ask what’s wrong with the baby more times than you can count. And that love will eventually figure it out.

You’ll wake up (yes, you’ll sleep again) one day and realize it wasn’t hate that you felt. It was the strongest kind of love. Your husband will come to define the word partner in the next five years.

You’ll come out the other side loving yourself even more completely too. You’ll be driven to champion more women. Your judgments will slide away more easily. Your legs will get stronger. And those legs will carry you forward.

These five years, girl, they’re going to be a hell of a ride!

Monday, April 16, 2018

Both Sides Now

My daughter is about to turn four.

I feel my Mom universe starting to shift.  This small person who I have the pleasure to call my daughter is becoming less toddler and more young lady. She hears things. Absorbs. Understands. She feels tough emotions and wants help navigating them.

I’m so excited to see the person she is slowly becoming beyond the fits and tantrums of toddler-hood. I also can’t help but already miss these days gone by. These days of chubby cheeks and forgetting the “y” in yesterday.

I feel I’m wandering through Joni Mitchell’s song Both Sides Now.

I see motherhood from both sides now.

I imagine this won’t be the only time I’ll feel this way. I imagine it will rush over me many times throughout my motherhood journey.

But, today, I’m moving out of the stage where kisses fix all hurt and into a stage where I must explain why it’s OK if she isn’t someone’s “best friend”. We’re done with diapers, cribs, and clothing sizes that end with the letter “T”! She asks what hard-to-define words like "bullshit" mean {Note to self: Watch your mouth!}. She watches closely as I curl my hair and asks me why I do so.

Yet, she still wants to live with us forever, marry her dad and grow up to be Adele.

Yup, I’ve look at motherhood from both sides now.

I’m realizing I don’t know motherhood at all.

Monday, December 4, 2017

What I Learned When I Quit My Job

I've been sitting on some writing the last few months.

Sometimes it's best to write. And think.

And then share.

I quit my job.

Yup, you know that job I’ve loved for over six years? I stopped loving it. Slowly. It started with some cracks and continued until it was a full fracture. If I’m honest, I was a little broken too. I stopped being my best self. I got burnt out. I lost some confidence along the way.

And, sometimes, when something is fractured, you just need to break it in order to put it back together. So, I broke it. I made the decision to leap without knowing exactly where I'd land.

And I learned some stuff. 

We are not our careers.
I sit on the board of a local non-profit and shortly after I quit my job, I attended a board meeting. There were new members of the board present so we all went around the room and introduced ourselves, saying what we do. Jobless, I froze. Without the title of Marketing Director, what am I? And, why am I here?

The truth is, we are not our careers. They are a part of us, but not the totality. What outlasts a job or a career path are the relationships gained along the way. We build these relationships by helping others to grow, doing work that inspires and investing in each other. These relationships define the person; not the job itself. And, frankly, I did a great job building and maintaining some of the relationships gained during the past few years of my career. And other relationships I did a piss-poor job of establishing and growing. We live and we learn.

I am not meant to be a stay-at-home mom.
I adore my children. Anyone who has only had brief contact with me since having kids knows this to be true. I’m borderline obsessed. I’m also an achiever. I like to set goals and accomplish them. And, every parent knows that any day home with kiddos means you’re simultaneously doing so much while getting nothing done!

And, yes, you’re doing the most important work. I believe that to my core. But, I also know that my mental health can’t take the feeling of coming up empty every day. I always thought this to be true, but the experience of being home with my kiddos with no job to attend to each day, made me know this to be true.

I so admire all the stay-at-home mamas I know. I am absolutely in awe of them. I know I don’t have it in me to do this important work so I’m proud to have found a good village. And I’m happy to know myself well enough to know this is best for our family.

Pausing is important.
I’ve heard the power of meditating comes from lengthening the time between thoughts. Embracing the pause. Lingering in the pause.

We go from singlehood to marriage with little pause. Just the two of us to a family of three with absolutely no pause. And, typically, job to job with no pause. The problem with this is that each new phase of our life is going to expect a new us. To figure out the parts of our selves needed for each new phase takes a pause. It takes a moment to identify what strengths we need to focus on and what areas we need to improve upon to bring our best selves to this next challenge.

I was blessed with a pause. I know this time was a gift. I was fortunate to end up with options for my next career path and I understand this isn’t the case for all. But, whether that pause is taken by quitting a job or just taking a few days off, I believe it’s important.

So, more to come about what's next in my professional life. 


Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Coconut Allergy Update

It’s been a little over a month since we confirmed Weston’s severe allergy to coconut. And, man, it’s been a journey. My initial reaction was a mix of guilt and relief. Guilt for all that we had put the guy through and relief to finally have an answer. My next thought was; “this won’t be so bad!”

And, I was kind of right.

Coconut is like a crazy little boy who hides in things and then jumps out to roar at you like a dinosaur.

I don’t know, maybe that analogy didn’t work. What I’m trying to say is that coconut is in more places than I expected – and this is coming from someone who previously proclaimed that coconut oil cures all!

What I thought might be helpful is to update people along the way on what we’ve found.

Skincare products
We think Weston experiences rashes on his skin when he comes in contact with products with coconut if his skin is already irritated – think diaper rash + sitting in a bath tub with soap suds that have coconut oil in them. So, we’ve changed the hand soap we use in the bathroom and his shampoo / body wash. And, while this has helped, we can’t control everything. He still washes his hands at school and is a thumb sucker so we notice irritation around his mouth but this seems minor in the grand scheme of things. The products we are using are included below.

This doesn’t include coconut oil but does smell like black licorice – not ideal. I will let you know when I find a better smelling product. But, for now, it works!

This DOES include coconut oil but we haven’t noticed any major irritation. I usually do an extra rinse cycle when I wash his clothes and so far, so good.

This was hard. I went to my local Co-op and with the help of a VERY nice lady, read the backs of shampoos for a long time. She eventually found this one and while my son smells like a baby hippie (which I love), we don’t notice any skin irritation!

Baby Wipes
I had always used Huggies wipes which I loved but found they had ingredients derived from coconut. So, we switched to Water Wipes which seems to leave his skin less irritated. While the wipes seem much flimsier, we are making it work!

Foods with coconut
This is where we’ve struggled the most. One thing I looked into after learning of Weston's allergy was formula! Weston is no longer on formula but I was curious about options seeing as this was clearly an issue for us. And, I still haven't found one. I will update the blog as I continue to look.

There are obvious places where you find coconut; coconut yogurt, many granola bars, and lots of cereals. But, specifically we have found coconut in the following items;
  • PAM cooking spray
  • Corn Pops
  • Fruit Loops
  • Ranch Veggie Stix
  • Some Progressive soups
  • Chocolate coated ice cream
  • Some animal crackers
  • Swiss Miss hot cocoa
  • Welch's fruit snacks

With food, we've definitely connected Weston's exposure to coconut with breathing issues. He has a specific cough we've identified that signals an allergic reaction and it usually ends with him throwing up. But, all in all he's doing much better and we continue to learn. We're so thankful we've figured this out and just hope there are no additional food allergies.


Wednesday, September 27, 2017

A Two Year Mystery, Solved!

Please Note: This is a history of our experience. I am not a medical professional in any way!

I remember it like it was yesterday. I was sleep-deprived. Barely back to work, and I made the decision to introduce formula to the little man. I believed all the hype about formula fed babies sleeping longer and I was willing to give it a try. So, I filled a bottle up, rocked my little guy and was optimistic about the sleep we were about to get. He no sooner finished the bottle before he literally puked the entire thing up.

Since that day – almost eighteen months ago – we have had slightly more sleep but many more headaches. Weston never did take to formula well. He threw it up consistently upon its introduction even at a 3:1 ratio of breast milk to formula.

In addition, Weston has endured countless colds that seemed to always escalate to include ear infections and low oxygen levels. We have gotten tubes in ears, own a nebulizer, and even put him on a twice-a-day inhaled steroid after months of low oxygen levels. And, sporadically in between all of this he has broken out in hives.

An example of one of his hive outbreaks.
For two years we have been exhausted. Confused. And, frankly, sad for our little guy who seemed to never catch a break.

A few weeks ago, I was excited to pick the kids up from school early and head to the park. Ever the smart mom (ha), I made sure I had a snack to keep any hanger at bay. On this particular day, we’d snack on Larabar brownie bites before hitting the park. Weston barely took a bite before he started whining. Nora responded by reminding him that if he didn’t eat his “chocolate,” she would. Weston responded by puking. I quickly cancelled our park trip and changed routes to head home. Weston continued to whine as we were driving and I turned around to check on him only to notice him once again covered in hives. This was clearly an allergic reaction and luckily these bites only have six ingredients.

Post Larabar hives on his face
As I racked my brain that evening and examined the pictures from all of the other hive episodes, I finally connected the dots – coconut. I had made muffins with coconut oil, given him coconut milk during one episode and now finally these brownie bites were dusted with coconut flour. But, I still couldn’t get right with this being our answer because why in the world had he always reacted to formula as well?! I finally looked up the ingredient list of Earth’s Best Organic Infant Formula and the sixth ingredient listed was “organic coconut!” And, because we tried just about every formula under the sun, I looked up countless others’ ingredient lists and found coconut in every single one.

His reaction following coconut milk
Cue: Mom Guilt!

I write all of this down and share it today so hopefully it helps someone else. I can’t help but think “if we would have just known!!” Of course, he wasn’t sleeping because his belly hurt. And, while I nursed him for ten months, I certainly supplemented and so wish I hadn’t. Maybe if we would have known I could have just nursed, maybe he wouldn’t have had to go through so many rounds of antibiotics for ear infections or the countless other medications due to his respiratory issues.

So, we live and learn. I’m thankful we’ve now connected some dots and our little man is back to smiling. And, I’m so grateful we can proceed by eliminating coconut from his diet with very little effort. Finally, I hope this story helps some other tired mama out there!

Cheers, all!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

I Ran Into Myself

I think I was fifteen when I started running consistently. This means, for over half my life running has been an outlet for me. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve found that running is more for my emotional health than it is for my physical health. This is exactly why I was so excited to lace up my shoes and head out the door shortly after Weston was born.

I was prepared for it to be a rough road back, but was ready to have something that was mine again. I was ready to find the quiet that exists when out on a good run. Unfortunately, that quiet didn’t quickly return. Instead running became another area of frustration. Every time I’d head out the door, I felt wobbly. Slow. Unsteady. I couldn’t clear my head. I’d remember how tired I was. Physically and emotionally. I’d beat myself up for lacking the endurance to run. This ineptitude was a reminder of all the other areas in my life in which I seemed to be lacking endurance.

I desperately wanted to see a glimpse of my old self out on the pavement. To find my stride there even if I couldn’t find it anywhere else. But for seventeen months, I felt clumsy instead. Then one day, with Eric Church in my ear, I ran right into myself. I looked down at the app I use to track my distance and speed, and realized I had run two miles with ease.

Mom or not, I think we women put a lot of pressure on ourselves to be all things to all people – including ourselves. I thought I’d run right back into my old self quickly after having my babies but the truth is that woman is gone. In her shoes instead is someone who is a little more patient. She laughs a lot more often, sleeps a lot less, and runs fewer miles. Her body – the one that once endured a marathon – has grown two people and learned to carry both a baby and toddler while simultaneously wearing heels (equally important feats).

I finally feel – nineteen months later – like I can call myself a runner again. But, admittedly, my running has changed too. I now find my quiet more quickly, but I’m more often pushing a stroller. I take out my headphones these days, and zone out to the tune of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” sung by my three year old who anticipates our running dates as much as I do.
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