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As October begins to wind down with everyone’s focus on Halloween festivities, my mind drifts toward the child that won’t be celebrating with us this year. I miscarried our first child on October 27, 2007. Coincidentally October is also Infant Loss and Miscarriage Awareness Month. One in four women will miscarry a baby. It is often difficult to talk about or share our experiences, but I have found 3 brave friends willing to do that here in their own words.
I often wonder how my life might look today with a 7-year old and a set of 4-year-old twins. Would I be different? Would my family be different? After I returned home and to work I didn’t find it hard to share my story with friends and family right away. I think it was more uncomfortable for other people because they didn’t always know what to say. Sometimes words just don’t seem adequate enough to express how we feel for someone else’s loss. After a while I didn’t want to talk about it because I didn’t want others to think I was seeking sympathy. But, I would share if another mom shared with me. Although after 7 years the emotions surrounding my miscarriage are far lighter than when I first experienced the loss, there is still an emptiness in my family circle.
When sharing my story, other moms have expressed difficulty in opening up about their loss, or have felt the subject “taboo.” Some are afraid of being judged, or dismissed. I am grateful for the women sharing their stories today.
Erin’s Story In Her Own Words:
I was pregnant with identical twin girls called Mono Mono or MoMo for short. The odds were against us from the very beginning, but my girls defied the odds and we made it to the point of viability where medical intervention was possible. I spent a month in the hospital on rest and monitoring. Tragically despite our best efforts my girls passed away 2 days before their scheduled delivery. My rare story took on quite a following with friends and family and my community and I started a blog to keep everyone up to date. I continue it today to honor my girls and to share my healing process with others in the hopes it can help someone. We were lucky that our story was so captivating for people. We had a large community of people who followed our journey. I think since so many people knew all that we had been through made it easier for people to be there for us.
I also miscarried a child in the beginning of that same year at 11 weeks. It was harder to find support then. We had only announced the pregnancy a week or two before. I really had no idea a miscarriage was possible for someone who had a healthy normal pregnancy with no issues before. I felt foolish for announcing the pregnancy “too early.” I was devastated and felt foolish for being devastated about a baby I never felt kick. I felt like there was a much stronger sense of urgency to “move on” and “get over it.” I don’t feel like either of our losses were taboo to talk about but I do feel like talking about miscarriage is at the top of the list of things people just don’t want to hear about.
My best advice to those who are grieving: There is no end to grief. It is a continuous and lifelong process. There will forever be things that stir up emotions you thought you had long ago dealt with. You will forever be healing and growing on this journey. Don’t ever feel like there is this end platform you will stand on and say I’m 100% over it. I’m done. I’ve moved on. I’m fine now. Also, don’t feel guilty for having bad days. Bad days just mean you loved your baby and the life you had imagined for them. It is OK to miss your child and it is normal. Grieving is a journey and different for everyone. So be kind to yourself and know that grief is an act out of love.
You can read more about Kelly’s journey through loss on her blog: www.momomommyme.blogspot.com
Anonymous In Her Own Words:
Having been told that I would not conceive without medical intervention, I never expected to return to the United States after a whirlwind tour of Europe and find myself carrying a 10-week-old baby. I also never expected to be informed at the same time that I was in the process of miscarrying her twin.
I was under the care of a fertility team. I tracked my cycle with scientific precision. I bought and used pregnancy tests by the dozen. I had been bleeding and spotting for weeks, phenomena I attributed to high-altitude air travel and a hectic schedule. Scientifically, medically, and according to all other ‘ally’ words, this should not have happened to me. Yet it did. For the first time in my life, I was unsure of myself – uncertain as to how I should feel and act in this situation. On the one hand, I was going to be a mom and receive the most beautiful gift of my life. On the other hand, I was mourning a baby who would never know what life would be like.
Initially, all I felt was guilt and shame because I immediately thought that I could have and should have done something to protect both of my babies. The fact that I did not know I was pregnant did nothing to minimize the feeling of loss I experienced. Even though one of my babies never made it through pregnancy, he or she left a permanent mark on our family; his or her death was not the last word.
The next day, my husband and I went in for what would be the first of my weekly ultrasounds. I heard it before I saw my sweet little gummy bear up on the screen. A heartbeat! A strong, glorious, melodious heartbeat. And do you know what else? I saw life. Life is amazing, sad, and powerful all at the same time; it is a journey that sometimes ends far too soon, and in unpredictable and seemingly unfair ways. I have come to view my loss as something that is woven into the fabric of our family, as it has shaped how I engage the world.
I once shared my story with a “friend,” who responded with disbelief because I failed to tell her about the miscarriage sooner. After all, she suffered a loss, which was a seemingly positive home pregnancy test very early on that was not confirmed with further home or blood testing, and shared this with me as it was happening. This “sanctimommy” (read the blog – it’s hysterical) taught me a very valuable lesson, and one that I want to share with you. Your grieving process is yours and yours alone; only you can define whether sharing this aspect of your life helps you heal. If reaching out to others and speaking about your loss doesn’t provide you with what you might need to begin living again, there is no rule saying you have to talk about it with others. My husband and I are very comfortable in our decision to keep this information to ourselves. And do you know what? That’s ok.
Just remember that the day will come when you will all meet again for the first time.
Loss is such a personal journey, but not an experience you need to do alone. There is no formula to grieving. Whether you choose to share it with the world, or just your partner there is no right or wrong way to embark on that journey. With 1 in 4 women experiencing a loss, there are many of us who understand.
Have you survived the loss of a child or miscarriage? What was something that helped you in the healing process?
Boo! It’s just about Halloween, the last finishing touches are getting put onto costumes, the neighborhoods are being scouted out and the kids are oozing with excitement of the big day. Staying up late has a whole new meaning when you get to go door to door collecting as much sweet treats as your arms can carry back. But after all that walking in the dark (and occasionally rain or snow) it is always nice to change into something comfortable and settle down for some family time. There is nothing better than ending a night of trick or treating snuggled up on the couch with a good Halloween movie. So, grab some cider and popcorn we have a great list of 10 movies your family will love.
Top 10 Halloween movies the whole family will love
For the littlest trick or treaters, these movies are rated G.
1. It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown- A family favorite since 1966 and a true Halloween classic! We have all watched as Linus waits for the Great Pumpkin, your kids will love it too.
2. The Worst Witch- Mildred is one of the young girls at a prestigious witch academy. She can’t seem to do anything right and is picked on by classmates and teachers. The headmistress of the school, Miss Cackle, has an evil twin sister (Agatha) who plans to destroy the school. Can Mildred foil the plan before the Grand Wizard (Tim Curry) comes to the Academy for the Halloween celebration you’ll never forget. (www.imbd.com)
3. Room on the Broom- This parent choice award winner is based on the popular Julia Donaldson book, The Gruffalo. The story is of a friendly witch who much to the frustration of her cat, invites a group of animals onto her broom.
For the preschoolers and elementary aged kids, these movies are rated PG.
4. Casper- We love a good Halloween movie starring Christina Ricci from the 90’s. From IMBD, a paranormal expert and his daughter bunk in an abandoned house populated by 3 mischievous ghosts and one friendly one. (www.imbd.com)
5. The Witches- The special effects are amazing in this film about a 9 year- old boy who stumbles onto a witch convention and tries to stop them from their plan to turn children into mice.
7. Halloweentown- This Disney made for TV film takes place on Halloween in a place called Halloweentown where a young family must battle evil as they discover family secrets and special magic powers.
For the little bit older crowd: These are also PG but maybe a little bit scarier
9. Hocus Pocus- We love the story line and bit of Halloween history that can be found in this great Halloween film. The three witch sisters that are resurrected on Halloween are both comical and spooky and it is up to two teen-agers, a young girl, and an immortal cat to put an end to the witches’ reign of terror once and for all.
10. The Nightmare Before Christmas- The Halloween list wouldn’t be complete without a Tim Burton film. Per imbd, Jack Skellington, king of Halloweentown, discovers Christmas Town, but doesn’t quite understand the concept.
What are your favorite Halloween movies?
I sometimes wonder if the term “baby bump” was created specifically to “out” pregnant celebrities. Every tabloid cover is filled with pictures of celebs sporting the tiniest little nothing of a stomach with a circle around it questioning if she is in fact pregnant. Pregnancy creates some crazy speculation in people. Is she pregnant or just getting fat? When is she due? Is it a boy or a girl? Most of the time the concern is all in good fun or to avoid an embarrassing mistake like assuming a woman who has gained a few pounds is pregnant. I think the reason is this – the mystery and power of a woman’s body being able to give birth to another human being is just so crazy and awe-inspiring at the same time. But what nobody tell you is that “the bump” many times doesn’t go away just because the baby is out.
Those Awkward Teen Years
I’ve always been amazed at the moment right after giving birth where your stomach seems to deflate almost like a balloon as soon as the baby comes out. Then months later I look in the mirror and think, “yup, looks like my stomach deflated alright.” BUT I’ve learned to look once and then let it go. I’ve spent so many of my teen years feeling uncomfortable in my own skin; teased for being too skinny, being flat chested, having braces, etc. I wish I could go back in time and smack myself for not appreciating my body, for letting others make me feel bad about myself, and feeling like if only I could change x, y or z then I could actually be pretty. I wasted my youth, waiting for the stars of adolescence to align perfectly in order to be happy with myself.
Body Image Struggles
Anyone who knows me, knows that my 30’s have brought the era of the “I don’t give an F@#$.” It’s made life a lot more beautiful let me tell you. I no longer care what others think about me and there is something so incredibly freeing in that. But the more important question to ask is this, “How do I feel about me?” I’m ok with who I am as a person, but what about my appearance now that my body has undergone four pregnancies and three births. As I was typing I was tempted to say three pregnancies, but that wouldn’t be accurate. I lost my first pregnancy at only six weeks. For all my early angst about my body, losing my baby is the only time I ever really looked at my body and said “I hate you.”
Making A Deal
I literally begged it to stop bleeding out the baby I wanted so badly. It was the one moment in my life I really didn’t want to be in my own skin. So when I made it past the first trimester with my oldest daughter Hannah I made a silent agreement with my body that I wouldn’t criticize it anymore. It was giving me another chance, one I wouldn’t squander by lamenting my stretch marks. I remember my mother touching my very pregnant belly and saying, “My God Erin, you don’t have any stretch marks.” Well, that WAS the case until two weeks before I gave birth to my beautiful daughter. Then came Jay who weighed nearly 9 pounds at birth and brought the additional complication of gallstones for which I had to have my gallbladder removed when he was just 2 months old. So add to the sketch mark collection some surgical scars and a botched hernia repair which permanently changed my belly button from an innie to a halfie – still in but kinda trying to come out. By the time I got pregnant with Sydney I just stopped seeing any of it.
Bye Bye Bikini
I’ve really never been the bikini wearer, even when I was younger and could have pulled it off. But after I became a mom I knew I was saying goodbye to the possibility forever. So there are women out there who have babies and go on as if nothing has changed. My sister is a good example. Her vacation photos of her in a bikini at the beach with her three kids is nothing short of envious. BUT I think it’s the exceptions to the rule that screw women up forever. We look at them and think well if I only do x,y, or z I can look like that too. But pregnancy does things to a woman’s body that make it impossible to go back to the same body you once had. How many of us are still pining away for that pre-baby body? Maybe we always will, much like if we are blessed enough to live till we’re old we’ll lament our non-wrinkled faces.
The Human Growth Chart
But do me a favor ladies, next time you look at your body and see the markers of pregnancy don’t wish them away. Don’t think of them as battle scars. Instead see them as a growth chart. Trace each line of the growth of your precious baby or babies. There are women who would gladly sport your so-called “flaws” if it meant they had a baby in their arms. Jennifer Garner said it best when she named her post-baby bump Violet, Sam, and Sera. She’s proud of her body not for what it looks like, but for what it gave her and we could all take her lead on that.
The New Definition of “Baby Bump”
So if I may submit for your consideration a new definition of “baby bump.” When Hannah was a baby, my husband invented a silent communication of “I love you” to our child. He leaned his head towards hers and she did the same, culminating in “the baby bump.” It’s a tradition we’ve carried on with our son and soon it will be Sydney’s turn to learn “the baby bump.” Because of my husband’s invention my kids have been saying “I love you” long before they could talk. I’m willing to lend you our family tradition if you want to try it with your babies. Let’s reclaim “the bump” in the name of love and gratitude for the precious gift of life and start loving our bodies because no matter how “flawed” anyone thinks they are, they are pretty freaking awesome!
We had the luxury of going to dinner at two different restaurants this weekend. We are lucky if we eat as a family at a restaurant two times in the same year. This was pretty exciting for all of us. I am not ashamed of the dance of joy I did when my food arrived… food I didn’t have to plan for, shop for or cook! I was even more delighted that I didn’t have to wash the dishes after our meal either. And, this happened TWO DAYS IN A ROW!! If you’re a mom you know the joy of which I speak.
You may be shocked to learn that dining with little ones is not always a relaxing experience. I have to say I am pretty proud of the way my kids behaved and we didn’t even have to bribe them! We reviewed the rules with them before entering and again once we were seated. Hubby and I were so excited to be out among the living! (I even wore make up and left the frumpy pants at home! I was that excited!). My excitement, however, was dampened when we were seated near a woman who was clearly annoyed by my child’s enthusiasm for being out in a restaurant.
My girl wasn’t doing anything out of the ordinary for a 4-year old (I was actually feeling really grateful for that!). But, nonetheless this woman is shooting me looks and glaring at me as if to send the message “do something about your kid.” At first I felt like I needed to rush in and appease this woman’s expectations for my child to be seen and not heard. I felt like I needed to apologize for her discomfort sitting near a small child. Then I realized it isn’t fair to punish my child when she really wasn’t doing anything rude, or breaking any rules.
I shared last week my kids can have terrible tantrums in public, but they can also be really good in public! No, really! I felt like we were having a good night and my kids were being charming. So, why all the scrutiny from this onlooker? Is there truly NO place for parents to go without being watched and quietly critiqued? My emotions took several twists and turns as we ate our meal and I felt the burning gaze from this woman. Here are the cliff notes of my inner monologue:
I will not apologize for who my children are. Both of my girls are talkative little story tellers full of excitement and energy. I will not expect them to stop talking because it is bothering someone else to hear them. Although most mornings I’m wishing for a pause button on their conversations while I finish my coffee. Only because they wake up like this and its hard to fain interest so early in the day. I could have shushed my child for talking too much, but it wasn’t bothering anyone else except this one person. I was raised in an environment where children were to be seen and not heard. It didn’t stop me from talking. In fact, I think that’s why I talk to every single person I meet because I was rarely allowed to share my thoughts. (And now I have all of you!). I ran through the check list of things in my head: my girls wasn’t shrieking, jumping, yelling, kicking, running or throwing things. She was just being bubbly, chatty and a little wiggly (in all fairness so was I). That’s who she is as a person. I will not ask my daughter to squelch that so someone else can feel better for the 1 hour of their life they have to sit near her.
I will not feel guilty for having spirited children. It is amazing how other people’s glares or judging stares can make us immediately feel guilty. It can make us feel like we have already failed as a parent just walking in the door. I am not entirely sure where this pressure comes from, but I often find it stopping me in my tracks. I want my children to be perceived as the beautiful little people they are. Trust me, they are NOT without faults (hence the reason this blog is not titled,Damn Right My Twins Are Better Than Yours!). My children love to be fully engaged in what’s happening around them. They will soak in all the details and discuss them and ask a ton of questions about them. They notice details like the ceiling fans are not moving and want to know why. They’ll notice every last do not smoke sign, point them out and then count them. They notice there are two forks on the table and ask why and then rearrange them in an order they like best. It’s just who they are. Again, no one’s throwing knives or running across tables here. It can be completely exhausting to get through a meal with this intensive Q&A (I almost always finish my wine before my meal). But, my child wasn’t asking this person 1,000 questions. So what am I really feeling guilty about here?
I will not explain my children to other people so that they are more comfortable. During this trip we also met up with family. We had to skip out right after our meal to get on the road and make the 3 hour drive back home. Oh how I wish we could have stayed longer and really soaked up the extra time with everyone. But, I could see how hard my kids worked to get through the last 2 hours in a restaurant, after they worked hard to get through the 1.5 hours at church after not getting nearly enough sleep the night before. I knew in my mother’s heart I could not push them a minute longer let alone another 2 hours of socializing. I spoke with my husband who agreed we should take this opportunity to exit. Not everyone understood why we were leaving. I really wanted to explain that I was saving them (and myself) the torture of a one hour shrieking meltdown once my kids had reached their max. I wanted to explain how Sensory Processing Disorder works; how I am the expert in my kids and I know what’s best for them. I wanted to explain that the last two years of extreme meltdowns has taught me how to recognize when my kids are going to blow. I didn’t explain anything. They just observed my kids being awesome, why can’t we just leave it at that?
On this Whatever journey of mine, I am learning to let a lot go. That includes the pressure from strangers to guide my children in a way that makes THEM comfortable. I have to spend 24/7 with these little people. I also have to make sure they grow up to be productive members of society. I can’t cave under the pressure from outsiders and adjust my parenting style according to the standards of every stranger annoyed by my kids. I have bigger things to worry about in life; like making sure my kids aren’t throwing knives and jumping over tables.
I wanted to be angry and for a second that mama bear in me started to imagine ripping this woman’s face off. But, instead of getting angry (or removing body parts) I gave her a little tip of my glass and said, Whatever!
Have you ever had a situation where you felt you wanted to defend your child to a stranger?
Most of our region’s beautiful fall foliage is peaking this week and we in the Hudson Valley are lucky enough to live right in the middle of it all. A quick trip up Route 55, down the Taconic or even out our backyards in places like Montgomery, New Paltz and so many others have great opportunities to see the beautiful trees turn into brightly colored pieces of art. We asked around to local Hudson Valley Moms and compiled a list of favorite family friendly places for fall foliage sightings in our area!
1. The walkway over the Hudson River is a great place to spend an afternoon taking in the beauty of the Hudson from above. Take a walk across the bridge and the new elevator down to the park or Mid- Hudson Children’s Museum to make a day out of it with the family.
2. Another Hudson Valley Parent favorite spot is Minnewaska State Park in Ulster County. Vistors can enjoy hiking, biking or simply just walking and taking in the views. The park features numerous beautiful waterfalls, 3 lakes, forest and many trails to explore.
3. If you are up for the trip, maybe with older kids in tow, take the hike which is a little over a mile up to the top of Mount Beacon, the views of the Valley below are breathtaking. Bring a picnic on a warmer fall day and enjoy the afternoon.
4. A popular spot for families year round in Dutchess County, Bowdoin Park is a 301 acre park on the banks of the Hudson River. With spectacular views of the river, the brightly colored trees in the fall set a beauitful scene for a fall picnic, day at the award winning playground or just a family stroll along the river. The park also has spaces for recreational sports and pavilions to rent for events.
5. Vanderbilt Mansion is another family favorite spot in Dutchess County for picnics and views and in the fall the mansion grounds come to life with beautiful colors. The mansion itself is open for tours only but the grounds are free and always open for some natural family fun. Plenty of space to let little ones run and gorgeous views of the rivers and trees!
6. As the season changes and the leaves turn, many families in the Hudson Valley region head to Clermont Estate in Columbia County to take in the true beauty of the season. Here you can enjoy the views from a short hike, leisurely walk, tour or a spot under a colorful tree on a picnic blanket. There is something for everyone at Clermont and a great place to check out the fall foliage this year.
6. From the zoo to the lake to the carousel, families love to take the trip to Bear Mountain in the fall. The beauty of the season can be enjoyed even before you arrive, the roads that lead to the state park are over flowing with fall colors and the bridge leads you to what seems like another time as you arrive at the beautiful Bear Mountain State Park. Here your family can enjoy the trailside museum and zoo, the old merry-go-round, a picnic by the lake, play fields, biking or a hike up the mountain. In late October, visitors can ice skate at the outdoor rink. There is so much for families to enjoy at Bear Mountain.
7. Discover all that Olana State Historic Site has to offer in the fall. The beautiful landscape offers rich colors and beauty of the Hudson Valley. Walk the carriage drives, the family farm and orchard, the lake, the meadow and forest. Learn about wildlife and nature as you experience a true Hudson Valley gem. Visitors can also enjoy guided house tours, picnics, history, culture and gorgeous views.
8. If you love the outdoors, you might want to take a short hike and enjoy the scene at Fahnestock State Park. The Beautiful mountains and colorful fall foliage that reflects off the lake is simply amazing. If you are a camping family, the park has more than 70 campsites for the overnight fall stay.
9. Another beautiful place for families to explore this season is Mills Mansion at Mills-Norrie State Park. The house is open for guided tours and the gift shop is rated top 10 of the Dutchess County. The grounds are history rich, beautiful for hiking, an afternoon stroll or picnic with family or friends.
10. We are lucky here in the Hudson Valley to have an expansive rail trail that runs throughout most of our communities connecting the greater Hudson Valley area with paths, walkways, bridges and bike paths. Families can take in the beauty of our area along paved paths strictly for pedestrians away from the hustle and bustle of every day life. All of the trails including information and maps can be found on the New York Rail Trail Website. Some of our favorite trails are the Dutchess Rail Trail, Mohonk Preserve, Wallkill Valley Rail Trail, The Heritage Trail and Catskill Scenic Trail.
Other favorite Hudson Valley leaf peeping spots are:
Millbrook Tribute Gardens, Millbrook
Locust Grove, Poughkeepsie,
Mohonk Mountain House, New Paltz
Storm King Art Center, New Windsor
I’m totally trying to tame my inner control freak. All too often I find my mind-set is always out to prove that I can do everything by myself, especially when it comes to parenting. I laugh at the grocery cashier who asks if I’m going to be able to carry all those bags by myself with the baby. “You just don’t know what I’m capable of,” I think and sometimes I say it out loud, well because I have a tendency to just blurt out what comes into my head. Despite my stubbornness, the truth is that we all need support. Parenthood is a hard and sometimes lonely road. I should know. My husband and I were the first of our friends to get married and have kids which sort of left me waiting for everyone else to catch up.
Thank You For Being A Friend
I didn’t have friends I could call when I had a parenting question or who could encourage me when I was certain I was screwing everything up. So I’m about to channel my college years, which as weird as it sounds were spent watching many many reruns of the Golden Girls. Weird for a teenager to be watching, I hear ya, but my roommate was a huge fan and we ended up bonding over the show.
So if you’ve ever watched the show you know how very different each of the four women were who shared their house and lives with each other. It got me thinking about how important it is to have other mom friends to turn to when things get rough. So I’ve compiled a list of the seven mom friends everyone should have. I’m not saying women are only one thing or only play one role, but typically the things they bring to our lives stand out in such a positive way that their absence would become apparent immediately.
The Neighbor Mom #NeighborMom
She’s there when you need to borrow a cup of sugar, need someone to watch your kids while you run to the store and just can’t deal with dragging the kids along, and who steps in when you have an emergency and really need her. My Neighbor Mom friend was there for me in the middle of the night when I went into labor with Sydney. She picked up my kids that morning and drove them to camp, picked them up and cared for them like her own for more than a day while I was in the hospital. Every mom should have a Neighbor Mom friend who is a beacon in an otherwise unreliable, unpredictable world.
The Frugal Mom #FrugalMom
She’s the one reminding you to check the price tag on that outfit before you fall in love with it. She teaches you little tricks to save money and doesn’t insist that every get together involve going out on the town. Hanging out in a casual way is the name of the game. Think play dates in sweat pants with coffee. The Frugal Mom keeps you grounded and encourages you to think long-term so that little problems like your water heater going or your car needing repairs don’t break your bank or your sanity. She also reminds you to count your blessings instead of someone else’s.
The Spiritual Mom #SpiritualMom
I can’t tell you how valuable it is to have a Spiritual Mom friend who shares your beliefs. It can be a lonely road when you have to hide your faith for fear of other people judging you. She will pray for and with you when you just feel so incredibly empty and you desperately need to be spiritually fed. My new Spiritual Mom friend shared a prayer with me recently about how to overcome yelling at your kids. She reminds you to lean on your faith in times you feel all alone. If you aren’t particularly religious, it still might be nice to have a Spiritual Mom friend.
The Back In The Day Mom #BITDMom
Most of the mom friends you have were probably forged after you became a mom. While that’s cool, it’s also great to have a mom friend who knew you back in the day. You know back before your name became “Mom.” We all need reminding from time to time of the carefree person we once were. We need reminding that before we had children we were special in our own right. We had interests, talents, and yes even made hilarious mistakes for which the Back In The Day Mom will NEVER let us forget.
The Pinterest Queen Mom #PinterestMom
She bakes from scratch, throws the most amazing kids’ birthday parties, and can craft with the best of them. Not all of us have the skills to mend a tear in our child’s costume two hours before the start of the play. We need the Pinterest Mom’s creativity. They make you want to “pin” those special moments when you try just a little harder than the last time. Sure your cupcakes may not look exactly like Elmo, but the Pinterest Mom makes us want to try new things and reminds us that it doesn’t matter how you ice the cake, it’s who you bake it for that matters.
The In The Know Mom #ITKMom
She’s got the 411 on the best orchards for apple picking, knows where every free kids’ event is in a 50 mile radius, and reminds you of every school picture day, soccer practice and field trip. We all have so much on our plate it can be crazy trying to keep it all straight. I think we all owe a large debt of gratitude to the In The Know Mom who helps keep us focused on the task at hand and makes sure we don’t miss out on all our community has to offer.
The Been There Done That Mom #BTDTMom
Whether her kids are just a few years older than yours or grown and out of the house, there is so much wisdom to be gleaned from the Been There Done That Mom. She’s been through what you’re going through and lived to tell the tale. She’s got advice that doesn’t come with a side of judgment; hers comes with a special blend of understanding and empathy. She listens to your problems and gives you possible solutions to try. She knows that parenting is a LOT of trial and error. You look up to her because you know if she survived it, you can too.
So share this post and tag all the moms who make your journey through parenthood a lot more beautiful and a lot less lonely. And if you’re as nerdy as me you can even serenade her with the Golden Girls theme song: “Thank you for being a friend. Travel down the road and back again. Your heart is true. You’re a pal and a confidant.”
Last week, fellow blogger Discount Diva gave out medals to moms with children who throw tantrums. As a mom of two children with epic tantrums I am not looking for a medal, just simple understanding and space to be a parent. Let me take you through a recent experience and break down for you what I, the parent, was thinking and feeling.
The library is one of our favorite places to go. It is rare my girls have an epic melt down there; maybe a little whining if they are not ready to leave. I usually remind them we can always come back and they’ll move on. So, I was at a complete loss as to why my one daughter went nuclear while we were at the library a few weeks ago. She knew it was time to leave and she was ready to go. We stepped into the bathroom to change her since she had an accident that soaked through her pants. As I tried to take her shoes off so I could change her she started getting whiny. This is where I start taking deep breaths because things could go either way here. She can continue to simply whine or start to completely wail. I changed her and asked her to wash her hands. Something happened from the time the paper towel hit the garbage can to the second she stepped outside the bathroom (I still have no clue what it was). She was on the floor flopping, kicking and SCREAMING. A high pitched, ear shaking scream. The kind that causes mass panic that a child is being abducted. Now here is where experts diverge. One group advises you not to react. Just keep the “demand” on her and expect that she will change her behavior. The other group advises to stop what you are doing and get down on the floor and hold your child. I have both experts arguing inside my head. I have another child in tow and I am carrying several bags packed full of kid gear who do I focus on first? I go from taking deep breaths to survival mode in only a second. It’s fight or flight and I’m looking to flee to the next open door!
There is no end to the screaming. No amount of gentle tones or soothing hugs is getting this kid to move. As we inch slowly to the door she’s screaming, “No! No! No! I don’t want to go out the door! I don’t want to go home! I don’t want to leave this place.” I start preparing my response to the CPS worker who will be greeting me when I get home. I try to muscle her through and tell her this is NOT OK. You NEED to get up and walk to the car NOW! I can feel my temperature rise and my heart beat escalate. Nothing is working and as we make our way out the door she’s screaming, “pick me up! carry me!!”
My mind is now a blurry fuzz of options: 1. I can walk away and leave her there- except we are on a busy corner with heavy traffic. 2. I could attempt to (painfully) carry everyone up the hill. 3. Just flop on the ground myself and start screaming. 4. Remain calm and drag her. I went with #4 and I keep my focus on just making it to the car. My mind is split between just taking baby steps toward the car and praying the other kid continues to be cooperative. If they both melt down at the same time I have no choice but to just plop down with them for one hell of a cry. Not even a good cry.
That’s when “Super Grandma” jumps in with her two cents. “My grand kids act like that I just step over them.” Oh, ha ha … yes I already thought of leaving my volcanic child here on the corner of a busy street while I walk to my car 10 cars away. I smile, nod, ignore her remark and keep walking. Then I heard the words, “just a bad kid.” I swear I could feel my hair catch fire. If I wasn’t so focused on keeping it all together I would have turned around and verbally blasted this woman.
A child having a tantrum (even in public) is only a small snapshot of their day. We don’t see the bigger picture of their day. What grandma failed to recognize is how hard I was working to keep it together and not flipping out on my kid in public. She also doesn’t know about the many sleepless nights I spend wracking my brain trying to figure out what I am doing wrong as a parent, or how I beat myself up because I’m failing at this parenting gig. Lady, I can assure you this is no cake walk for me. I do not enjoy, or ignore the fact my child can’t control her own emotions yet. It is actually painful for me to watch and feel powerless.
This day it was only one kid melting down. I have experienced tandem tantrums. (That’s where both kids melt down at the SAME TIME in PUBLIC. Usually when we need to get some place on time). I have heard a lot of hurtful remarks, “there’s something wrong with your kid!” “My kids would NEVER act that way.” “You’re kids are hyper.” “Good luck with that one.” “Her behavior is over the top.” “How do you put up with that?” “She’ll NEVER learn to cope with the real world.” These comments have come from teachers, strangers and even friends and family. They are all hurtful and none of them help me resolve the issue. They all feel like an F on my parenting report card. It’s hard to not look at my kids and think, “why can’t you just be like all the other kids?”
I have learned to deflect those comments by reminding myself how beautiful my girls are. The way their smile lights up a room, how they can be absolutely charming and how incredibly smart they are. I try to remind myself that they are still learning to navigate how the world works and their place in it. It is my job to teach them how to cope and how to identify boundaries. In those moments when I am under fire by other parents (and grand parents), it is MY responsibility to role model for my girls how to handle adversity. How I respond to those comments is going to teach my children how to respond to those same personalities when they are adults. Kids aren’t going to have it right the first time around. It takes practice and it takes repetition. My kids may not fit into any one size fits all check box and that’s a good thing. I have been called “persistent” “bossy” and “defiant” too. It is those traits that have made me the most successful in life.
So Super Grandma, go ahead and make your judgments when you see my kid melt down in public. You can assume the worst of me as a parent. But, keep it to yourself. If you really want to help give me a thumbs up, tell me it only lasts a short time and maybe offer to hold my bags while I walk my kids to the car. If you can’t do any of those things then please follow this protocol: take your right hand out of your pocket, place it over your mouth and keep walking.
To my friends and family, before you quickly judge that mom at the store who is just loosing it on her tantruming child, or you see her trying to wrestle her kid into a car seat while the kid is kicking her in the face, just think she isn’t enjoying this moment. Remember you don’t have the whole picture. This is one small peek into their day and is not an accurate reflection of this persons parenting style. It’s easy to forget that, so I offer up the same protocol listed above.
I rarely share how hard it is to have twins because I don’t want anyone to think I am looking for sympathy. Motherhood is just hard no matter the cards you are dealt. With twins, most people assume one twin is “easy going” and the other is “difficult.” I am blessed with two formidable little ones even Hercules would bow to.
Dear Moms Of A Screaming, Kicking, Crying, Throwing Something Child,
This medal for mental endurance during EPIC tantrums is for you. You rock! You may think to yourself “Oh MY GOD, how am I ever going to survive this nightmare?” I understand how hard it is not to lose it. I don’t even pretend that I don’t lose it from time to time. It’s so hard to deal with a child who is not in the right frame of mind to even hear your voice, let alone respond to threats of punishment, or attempts to figure out what will make the chaos stop.
After WAY too many of my son’s tantrums lately I finally figured out one universal truth – there is NOTHING to do, but wait it out. It’s like the girl at the party crying in her beer. All attempts to make her feel better are lost. You just say to her “alright time to go to bed and sleep it off.”
Sugar High Crash
My five-year-old son’s tantrums are caused by one thing – he’s overly tired. Sure last night’s Desert Fest 2014 at our neighbor’s house at our weekly “booty call” complete with ice cream, donuts and cookies played a hand in the nightmare of a tantrum produced when we got home, but he was TIRED. First he kicked off his fit when he wanted a glass of water and daddy told him he could have water when we got home (I think it’s less than 60 seconds by car door to door).
Then he wound himself up into a good cry, followed by pounding his fists on the floor, and after refusing to get ready for bed he just lay on the floor. When I told him he could just sleep in the hallway and let him lie there he started banging on my bedroom door as I was attempting to get the baby to sleep. Then I could feel the anger in me rising like bile in my throat. I always know that feeling when my face gets hot and I start to bite my lip hard. These are the moments I pray, “Lord, please don’t let me beat my child.” Of course I mean a spanking so feel free to put the phone down. No need to call CPS.
My Right Eye For Some Holy Water
During a particularly bad tantrum that lasted well over an hour last week I looked at my son and thought, “Who the hell are you?” “I so don’t like you right now.” It’s ok to admit it mamas. It doesn’t mean you don’t love your kid. It means your patience is well beyond spent. It means you are at an utter and total loss as to how to stop it and get your sweet, lovable kid back. If I had some holy water I may have been tempted to throw it on him to see if I could exercise whatever demon was possessing his little body.
A Padded Room For One Please
After my anger passed, I went into “survival denial.” This is when in order not to become “The Hulk” I have to remove myself from the presence of my tantruming boy. If that’s not physically possible, I have to go into a separate room in my mind. Call it meditation, call it what you want. My goal is to survive it. I’ve tried calming, I’ve trying ignoring and eventually I know that I can do just one thing – survive it. If that means locking myself away in a little happy quiet room in my mind well then that’s exactly what I have to do.
Waiting Out The Tornado
The really crazy thing about a tantrum is that it is gone almost as inexplicably as it began. One minute there are tears and stomping and screaming and the next the tears are dry and that sweet voice comes back to ask you a random question or say, “I love you Mama.” It’s taken living through many of these tantrums to find the inner strength to endure the storm to get to that moment in the tornado where it suddenly dissipates and the sun comes out and life is once again beautiful.
So this is my prayer for you mamas out there – I pray for the strength to endure. Endure till the storm lifts, for surely it cannot last forever, no matter how long and agonizing it feels. Your rainbow is coming. Your “I love you” is right around the next tear drop so just hold on.
I’ve said before that parenting is a marathon and not a sprint. A tantrum is therefore that moment where your calf seizes up and you feel like you can’t go on. You know there is a finish line somewhere, but it seems too impossible to continue through the pain. I hope these words help ease the knot of guilt a little bit.
Let The Guilt Go
I often tell my children post-tantrum or episode of misbehaving, “mommy may not like your actions, but I love you no matter what.” This is unconditional love -the “I love you through good times and bad.” It’s hard in that moment when The Hulk turns back into Bruce Banner and the storm has cleared and the wave of guilt rushes in. The guilt of “did I really just scream or act crazy or hate my kid in that moment.” It’s ok mama, let it go. Let it go as quickly as your child’s tantrum ends. No need to hang onto it. Massage out your calf and keep running the good race. And just in case you don’t feel like the world’s best mama the next time your child is writhing on the ground, completely immersed in a tantrum this medal is for you. The medal of Supreme Endurance. You have certainly earned it.
October is here! We can officially get excited about pumpkins and Halloween! I LOVE decorating for Fall!!! (Can never have too many exclamation points when sharing my excitement for Fall!!!). Gone are the days I can display my intricately designed, hand crafted grown up tablescapes. The delicate ensembles of thin glass hurricane lamps and the hand carved gourd tea light holders could never hold their own against the power of two Tasmanian toddlers. So, I put away anything glass, all my large ceramic pumpkins and delicate wreaths (you know all the stuff you don’t want kids touching!) for now and found some more kid friendly materials to decorate with.
Make a Monster Impression:
This is simple, inexpensive and the kids can help! You can find everything in your dollar store.
- Large poster board
- Large round paper plates (any solid color)
- Small round, black paper plates
- Small square paper plates (white)
- Painters tape
Cut poster board in half. Then cut small triangles out of one side of paper to form a hair line. Depending on your door width you may need one, or both pieces of poster board.
Next, make eyes by taping the small black plate to the large paper plate and attach to the door.
Last, make a toothy grin using the square white paper plates.
Feel free to embellish with glittery bats, or other Halloween shapes. We decided to go with a girl monster this year and gave “Henrietta” some sparkly bat barrettes. My girls enjoyed posing with their monster afterward for our annual Fall pic!
One of our favorite things to do in the Fall is to collect acorns that fall off the Oak trees in our back yard. This year I found a fun project that is easy and super cheap. We saved all our acorn caps in a cup and I pulled them out on a rainy day we needed something to do.
- Acorn tops (must be dry, clean and free from cracks)
- Elmer’s Glue
- Gems, or stones
Start with a layer of rocks, or gems on your tray. These will secure acorn tops in place.
Next, color the inside of the tops with a marker. It will look rough, but that’s ok!
Then pour Elmer’s school glue into each top and fill to the rim. Leave over night to dry and you won’t believe the effect!
Have the kids check back to watch the colorful transformation.
What you have left are smooth, colorful jewels! I leave these in a basket of decorative pumpkins for easy access for the kids to play with.
Pumpkins, Pumpkins and more Pumpkins!
You simply cannot have enough pumpkins this time of year! We eat them, drink them and decorate with them! We have baskets filled with little decorative pumpkins, we color pumpkins, paint pumpkins and even carve our pumpkins.
- Acrylic paints
- Paint brushes -OR-
- Carving tools
Our carving tradition is spearheaded by my hubby. He helps the girls select just the right family of pumpkins. Then they pour over different pumpkin design ideas before making the first cut. My girls are not squeamish at all about digging right in and squishing the pumpkin guts through their fingers.
Here are last year’s creations:
Confession: we made a trip to a pumpkin farm for the whole experience of seeing a real pumpkin patch, but I purchased our carving pumpkins for $2.88 each at Aldi’s. Whatever my kids have no idea…and by not spending $20 for one pumpkin (our above grand total for our cute monster, colorful acorn jewels and 3 carving pumpkins is $14.68) I purchased a few extra pumpkin lattes, pumpkin fritters, pumpkin muffins and pumpkin flavored pumpkins. Did I mention we like pumpkin?
For little ones not yet trustworthy with knives, give them a paint brush and some paints and let them paint their pumpkins!
All these crafts are fun for kids, easy to make and indestructible! Happy Fall Ya’ll!
What would your toddler think of a front door monster?
Being the Discount Diva is like being a frugal superhero (in my own mind anyway), but as they say- “with great power comes great responsibility.” Who knows better then moms, the immense amount of responsibility heaped upon us, even from the moment the pregnancy test comes back positive? Like most women I do two things really well – responsibility and guilt. I take the former and use it to justify the latter.
Money Is A Factor – But Not The Only One
I find myself holding tight to our finances as if money will solve every potential problem that could arise. While it’s a good idea to make smart decisions like I think I have been, I sometimes wonder if I’m stepping over the border into obsession. The other day after grumbling that I don’t want to buy a costume for myself for Halloween just to participate in Trunk or Treat my husband said to me, “You know Erin, not everything comes down to money.”
I know in my heart he’s right, but this is exactly what it came down to when I wanted to stay at home and raise my kids. We literally went through our household expenses with a fine tooth comb in order to justify why financially it just made more sense for me to stay at home. Now I’m not oblivious to how the world works. It takes money to live and not everyone can survive on one income. It’s sad to have to correct your children’s innocent ideas that almost everything is free. My poor kids are all too familiar with this life lesson every time I have to deny them some toy or trip, but I’ve had to temper it with the lesson that some things in life are priceless.
The Cost of Work
For my family we gradually weaned ourselves from two incomes to one. I went back to work part-time after our first daughter was born so by the time we decided I would stay home full-time it wasn’t such a financial shock. Something really weird happened when I started staying home – I realized just how much work had cost me.
I was about $4,000 in debt from using my credit card to pay for gas to and from work, convenience foods cause I was too damn tired to cook, work clothes, etc. I’ve been home for almost three years now and we’ve paid off about $13,000 in debt on one income. Has it been a cake walk? Hell No. There have been sacrifices – mostly made by me. Hence my yearly hair cut or our now traditional stay-cations, cutting our budget till it screams, and calling our service providers to lower our bills.
It’s a constant challenge and if I thought I was a helicopter parent to my children, then our finances are probably my most needy child. I check my bank account once a day to see what bills have drafted out, what things we’re spending money on and I’m constantly asking myself questions like, “Ok, we got some extra money from my husband working overtime so what do we do – A. pay down more debt, B. sock it away into savings for the inevitable heating bills, or C. use it for birthdays or Christmas which will sadly be here before I’m ready for it. I’m always wondering if I’m doing the right things.
I’m a big student of Dave Ramsey who would say that to reach your financial goals you have to have gazelle like focus. But if you watch animal planet you know that the lion always looks for the weak gazelle. The one who is hurt or trying to go it alone. I don’t want to reach my financial goals one day just to look around and realize that I’m alone; that I’ve missed my life. There has to be more than reaching financial harmony – if that’s even possible. There has to be money for fun, right? There has to be money for charity, right? No matter what our situation is, I know there are always those who are worse off.
If you had asked me three years ago why I started staying home I would have told you this – it just doesn’t make sense for me to work to put two kids in daycare. Financially it didn’t add up. I was recently asked this same question in a SAHM group and I recited my work background, as well as my guilt and overwhelming love for my kids which seem irrevocably tangled together. The truth is, there is plenty of guilt on both sides of the fence here. You work, you feel guilty for letting someone else care for your kids. You stay home, you feel guilty for putting the financial pressure on your spouse. I have felt intense guilt either way, but I think maybe it has to do with being a mom and trying to do everything and be everything for everyone all the time. It’s supremely exhausting and guilt is like the temper tantrum that creeps up when your child is overtired. You can be fine one minute and on full tilt the next.
Consider The Possibilities
So why do women stay at home vs work outside the home? Is it really only about the money? For me it was a factor, but it was definitely my grandmother who changed it all, every single thing I thought was inevitable and normal. My mother always worked so that’s what I thought I’d do as well. My grandmother was a lovely hardworking immigrant from Germany who worked everywhere from farms to factories to housecleaning while raising three kids on her own. When she looked at my life she saw possibilities that I didn’t. She asked me if I was going back to work after my daughter was born and and I realized that I had assumed the answer without really ever asking myself that question.
So I decided that if she could see options, well then I would look for them too. I put together a job-share plan and was able to work part-time for four years till my company went through a merger which ended my time there. There are always two things fighting to tip this mommy scale – time and money. Which one do I feed? Which one am I slave to? It seems impossible that they could ever balance.
Owning Your Choices
I read an article yesterday that talked about how staying at home is a “luxury” for your spouse. It talked about the peace of mind a spouse gets from knowing the other is always working to keep the home ship running its course. While it certainly eases the guilt a little, I can’t help but notice that it is still one of many articles that feels the need to justify a woman’s right to stay at home. I know it’s just the cycle coming back around. I know that there was a whole lot of justification going on when women first starting working outside the home. But why are women always caught up in the guilt cycle no matter what we choose?
Here’s what I know. Everyone must make their own choices. Yet every choice comes with the guilt of the thing we did not choose. I don’t think anyone asks more questions looking for validation of their choices than moms. Again I think it comes down to the responsibility. It’s always there, whispering in our ears. I can’t say my husband carries any guilt what-so-ever when he leaves for work in the morning, or if he has to work late or on the weekends, or even if he has to travel for work. He leaves fancy free, without guilt. I’m not sure if it’s because he knows I’m here to take care of the kids. I suspect he’d also be fine if they were in daycare.
Dad’s Got The Right Idea
I think it’s because men recognize that there are different ways of caring for our kids – financial and emotional. I doubt he thinks of himself as less of a father for working. I’m sure it makes him feel like a better father for being able to provide financially. Just as spending time with his kids also makes him a good dad. Maybe men have it right. It’s not an either or situation – time or money. If you get up every day and put on your heels and do your hair and makeup and earn that paycheck for your family – you’re loving them. If you get up every day, throw your hair in a ponytail and throw on some yoga pants and spend the day changing diapers or cooking meals – you’re loving your family.
Make Your Own Happiness
Whatever you choose – the key is just to own it, love it and live it. I think I’m just done having conversations in which I try to justify why it’s better for me or my family that I’m staying home. I’m going to take a cue from my hubby on this and just be at peace with my choice. The best life advice I ever heard was this – if you want to be happy all you have to do is decide to be happy. If you’re unhappy figure out what it’s going to take to make you happy and do it. If you could do whatever you wanted in the world and money wasn’t a factor what would it be? What’s that thing you would gladly do for free? Find that answer and you’ve found your happiness.
Despite my debt repayment plan, my budgeting OCD, and my need to make it all add up, I know that being here with my family – that’s what makes me happy, as is sharing my words and heart with other moms. So since time and money will always be on the scale and I’ll always be weighing and measuring and fighting my guilt I have no other choice. I’ve decided to throw out the scale. It’s my hope that you do too.