“Last Year” Mom Guilt

Last night just as I drifted towards dreamland a realization startled me into teary wakefulness: this is my last year with a baby at home. Next year, all three children will be in school. I will not have a child constantly in tow. I am not ok with this. Let me repeat, I AM NOT OK WITH THIS.

Nope. Too fast. Too, too fast.

Cue the mom guilt. Guilt that I missed so much time with #1 and #2 because I was working part-time. Guilt that I don’t work part-time with #3 because that means my mom (my childcare provider) hasn’t gotten to bond with him as she did with #1 and #2, guilt that I get frustrated. Guilt that I don’t spend enough individual time with each child. Guilt that sometimes I need a break. Guilt that it all went by so quickly and I must be losing memory capacity because it went by too fast. Guilt that I didn’t babywear with #1 and #2 like I do with #3. Guilt that I have bad days. Guilt that I’m ok with being “mean mom” (because being a passive parent seems much sweeter). Guilt that sometimes I just want to zone out on social media instead of playing princess-rockstar-doctor with the kids. Guilt… so much guilt.

The shoddy mom thoughts started. You know the ones. The nit-picky negative swell of self-defeating insults that sabotage any maternal confidence.

“Stop!” I told myself. This is pointless. I am a human parenting humans; things will not be perfect. I will falter, they will falter, life will move on. I just need to try to learn from mistakes, try to do better, offer love and support as best I can, teach my children to be decent humans, give myself breaks so I can offer the better parts of myself, and be there… just be there.

I took a deep breath and refocused. I allowed my mind to replay the slideshow of “last year before preschool” memories from #1 and #2’s baby years. Tears fell. My heart swelled. I drifted off to sleep.

This will be my last year with a baby at home. I will enjoy it.

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Kindergarten: Why It’s a Big Deal

As I wiped away tears after watching my firstborn walk into her new school for her first day of kindergarten, I asked myself: why is kindergarten such a big deal? We’ve already experienced the “first day of school” three times before with preschool. What is so momentous about this year?

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It’s more than just starting school, I realized. It’s a departure from a safety net. It’s the beginning of a new chapter. A new way of life.

For many children — and their parents — kindergarten signals the start of a new routine. No more half-days of preschool. No more Memorial Day to Labor Day school calendar. No more post-naptime playdates or 2:00 swim class. Kindergarten runs on the same 7-hour timetable as grade school and high school. That means that this new regiment of early rising and afternoon pick-up will be in place until the child is at least 18-years old. That’s 13 years!

Homework, carpool, projects, standardized testing, PTO meetings, and back-to-school night… the makings of a school-centric, instead of home-centric, chapter. Packed lunches and permission slips, playground tumbles and social tussles, school nurse visits and principal’s office scoldings. It is a time of routine and hurdles. It’s a time of growth.

For stay-at-home parents, the transition is particularly poignant. Accustomed to initiating and witnessing most playdates and social activities themselves, stay-at-home parents will now only hear snippets of their children’s days. Piecing together the verbal puzzle to construct a vision of the child’s experience. No longer sharing in their child’s life first-hand. They are a distant bystander awaiting filtered highlights from a not-always-willing narrator.

Someone else will bandage the boo-boo and open the juice pouch. Someone else will offer solice when egos are bruised and knees are scraped. Someone else will teach and shepherd, protect and comfort our children. We are no longer THE caretaker.

The transition signals as much a change for parents as it does the children. It is a step towards independence. A step into the big world.

May all the fledgling kindergarteners find comfort, joy, and inspiration in their new school year. May all the parents feel secure in the care provided by the schools. May the year ahead be one of positive growth and development. May we all stand together to celebrate and comfort one another through this transition.

 

The End of an Era

#3's infant car seat and #1's final car seat ready for retirement

#3’s infant car seat and #1’s final car seat ready for retirement

It’s the end of an era. The car seat that all three of my children have used is being retired. It has safely transported each of my babies home from the hospital. It has made countless beach trips, Target runs, and pediatrician visits. It has survived spit-up and tantrums, teething gnaws and bottle spills. It has been washed and disassembled, re-covered and repurposed multiple times.

As the infant car seat is tucked away, so is my eldest’s car seat. With kindergarten approaching, and along with it the requirement that children must be able to unbuckle themselves for morning drop-off, my 5-year-old is transitioning to a booster seat. A simple seat belt restraint instead of a 5-point harness. More independence, more freedom, more responsibility.

They’re growing up so fast. Time is moving so quickly. Yet it feels as if I am standing still. Grasping at memories in the whirlwind, hurriedly collecting shreds of moments as they fly past, unaware of myself or my own station amidst the swirl.

This chapter is closing. A new one is opening. I must not mourn the past but rejoice in what lies ahead.

What to Expect: Mastitis

Mastitis. The word sends shivers down breastfeeding mothers’ spines. The boogeyman of lactating mothers’ dreams. I recently had a throw-down with the beast and am sharing my experience so that others may know what to expect should they find themselves fighting the same battle.

What is mastitis? Essentially, a breast infection. As many moms know from sufferer’s stories, the malady causes pain, often fever, chills, malaise, and a red blotch on the breast. See more a more detailed description here.

Some women are placed on bed rest for healing. Considering I have three young children and don’t have a personality that mingles well with bed rest, I was pleased to simply be told to “take it easy.” Though, after experiencing the level of fatigue brought on by mastitis, I certainly understand the call for bed rest. That exhaustion is unlike anything I have experienced.

How did my healing process look? Well, this is my timeline.

Sunday 4pm: feel suden fatigue, but I’m a mom of 3 so fatigue happens.

Sunday 5pm: skin and body aches with increased fatigue, along with a 100F temperature (I took Advil.)

Sunday 9pm: feels like I have a 102F fever but I’m 98.6F (pronounced body aches, tiny bones in hands and feet hurt, chills, skin sensitivity, fatigue) Advil allows me to sleep.

Monday 6am: feels like I got hit by a truck: fatigue, brain fog, increased body aches, clogged milk duct is notably uncomfortable, 97.9F temperature. Advil lowers the pain to a flu-like level.

Monday 8pm: still at 97.9F, fatigue is pronounced, chills are notable, milk duct clog is painful but so is everything else.

Monday 9pm: body aches and fatigue are so elevated that walking is slowed and encumbered, chills have increased, anxiety is raised, burning nerve pain across the shoulders and base of the neck. I’m crying due to the pain. This is truly awful. Advil allows me to sleep.

Tuesday 6am: Red blotch appears over the milk duct clog site, brain fog is irksome, fatigue is notable as are the body aches and breast pain despite Advil.

Tuesday 3pm: I see my physician who asks me about my symptoms and conducts a breast exam. I receive an unwavering mastitis diagnosis. A 10-day round of a breastfeeding-safe antibiotic (Dicloxacillin) is prescribed along with  the recommendation to increase my current probiotics to avoid thrush

Tuesday 9:30pm: chills, body aches, painful breast; first dose of antibiotic… major heartburn

Wednesday 3:30am: second dose of antibiotic… At 4am reflux is so bad it is not just bubbling up the back of my throat but coming out of my nose. With that, I’m officially up for the day.

Wednesday 6am: “fatigue” does not do justice to the level of lethargy. I also have body aches, breast pain, and brain fog, but still no fever.

Wednesday 9:30am: third dose of antibiotics… by 10am I start to feel less achey but still fatigued. By 12:30 the energy increase is clear, but the discomfort remains. By 3:30 I just have a sore breast and feel like I had a bad night’s sleep.

Wednesday 9:30pm: mild chills return, breast is sore, fatigue is pronounced… 5th dose of antibiotics. No reflux.

Thursday 3:30am: sore breast but no chills… 6th dose of antibiotic.

Thursday 6am: Tired with a sore breast and mild brain fog, but returning to normalcy.

Thursday 9:30am: Sluggish with a tender breast, insatiable hunger… 7th dose of antibiotic.

Thursday 3:30pm: Sluggish with lowered patience and a tender breast, but relatively normal… 8th dose of antibiotic

Thursday 9:30pm: no chills or body pain, simply a clogged duct feeling and fatigue… 9th dose of antibiotic.

Friday 3:30am: no breast pain, constipated…10th dose of antibiotic

Friday 9:30am: fatigued with tired muscles but feeling otherwise normal, insatiable hunger, constipated… 11th dose of antibiotic

Friday 3:30pm: beyond fatigued, constipated, sore breast where the clog is… 12th dose of antibiotic

Friday 9:30pm: exhausted, constipated… 13th dose of antibiotic

Saturday 3:30am: constpated, slight heartburn… 14th dose of antibiotic

Saturday 9:30am: constipated, edgy, lethargic, full-body fatigue… 15th dose of antibiotic

Saturday 3:30pm: constipated, edgy, lethargic (better after having taken a nap) … 16th dose of antibiotic

Saturday 9:30pm: constipated, edgy, fatigued… 17th dose of antibiotic

Sunday 3:30am: constipated, edgy… 18th dose of antibiotic

Sunday 9:30am: feeling a bit less peppy than usual but otherwise normal, still slightly constipated… 19th dose of antibiotics

Sunday 3:30pm: feeling slightly constipated but normal

Normalcy with slight constipation has continued since. I rejoiced upon taking my final dose of antibiotics 10 days after beginning the regiment. Once my gut flora repopulate, I presume the regularity will return fully.

Despite it all, I’m still breastfeeding and pumping for donation. No clear end in sight for us!

 

 

 

 

Memory Hoarder

As summer draws to a close, as the sunny season has but days remaining, I am selfish. Planning daily outings with my children, I contemplate inviting friends to join. Then quickly dismiss the thought.

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Turning activities into playdates is my norm. “Friends make things more fun,” I say. Encouraging social behavior in my children is a goal. But now, in the final moments of summer, I am hoarding memories, cherishing moments, and stockpiling hugs with my little trio.

Do I feel guilty about it? A little… but it’s worth it. This summer they’re 1-, 3-, and 5-years old. Next year will be entirely different.

I’m a memory hoarder and I’m ok with it.

Motherhood Changed Me

Motherhood has changed me… drastically. I am in no way the same person I was before. And I am immensely thankful for that.

#2 and Me

#2 and Me

 

As a child, I was so shy that I remember bawling when, at 6-years old, I had been asked by my mother to run into the convenience store to buy milk. The thought of interacting with the cashier — an unfamiliar adult — terrified me. Another time I nearly melted into a sobbing puddle when she asked me to run into the dog groomer’s to pick up our cocker spaniel. Conversing with strangers was a massive undertaking.

In school I had a few close friends but I never felt I fully belonged. I was self-conscious, anxious, and generally just lost. I was guarded and clingy. Socializing was entirely exhausting.

I clung to familiar faces in unfamiliar settings. I got miffed when my safety nets would want to branch off and meet new people. They didn’t want to abandon me; they simply wanted to meet new people too. I understood their desire — I wanted that as well — but I was far too shy to follow in their footsteps. Instead of encouraging their social goals, I’d get resentful (really, I was angry with myself but it was easier to throw that frustration on someone else.)

My shyness continued into young adulthood. After college, I began working in an office that predominantly employed associates at least 10 to 15 years my senior. So, my feeling of not fitting in continued. I was so much younger than my colleagues that I amplified my guarded nature in order to secure my professional demeanor. Unfortunately, this was isolating.

Then came the struggles trying to conceive. Hiding that burden burried me deeper into my self-imposed isolation. I felt unfulfilled, unhappy, and stressed. I was lost.

Then I got pregnant. Just as a colleague had once told me would happen, a whole new world of people came into my life. My pregnancy showed quickly and obviously, so people — familiar and not — felt at ease discussing pregnancy and babies with me. I enjoyed the built-in conversation starter.

I began to grow accustomed to conversing with strangers. It felt good, even when the strangers had verbal diarrhea, as is so very common when people chat with expectant women, I found the foibles entertaining. Heaven knows I had made plenty of social missteps, so I was not one to judge!

After having my first child, my sense of purpose was clear. My priorities centered upon her and my little growing three-person family. My former concerns, plans, interests, and worries seemed utterly trivial. I was happier but I was still anxious and still battling shyness. Still somewhat self-conscious, but gradually coming out of my shell.

I was slowly becoming more outgoing, more comfortable in my own skin. However, I had previously been so painfully shy that I had a long road to travel.

20.5 months later, I had my second child. Socializing was paramount. I wanted my children out and in the world, learning social cues and proper behavior. I encouraged self-confidence, outgoing tendencies, and friendliness. I wanted them not to suffer from shyness as I had and still, to some degree, did. The efforts succeeded.

2.25 years later, I had my third child. I was no longer shy. Instead, I shouldered a caretaker demeanor. Upon entering a social setting, I’d seek to include, to engage the seemingly shy ones, to help others feel welcomed and safe. I smiled, I laughed, I focused on maintaining a welcoming vibe.

I started conversations easily. I was self-confident, outgoing, and fulfilled. I was no longer anxious — but still stressed as I did have three close-in-age kids afterall — and I was happy. Social engagements no longer stirred anxiety but excitement. I enjoyed connecting with others and helping shy counterparts tiptoe into a safe, friendly, nonjudgmental conversation. My purpose was inclusion.

Motherhood, out of necessity, ripped the selfishness from me and that began the healing. When you are no longer the center of your own world, you become less self-conscious and more other-centered. When you have a purpose, you no longer feel lost. When you are content, you no longer feel insecure or depressed. When you are at peace, you are happy and can share that with others.

Motherhood made me who I am now, and I could not be more grateful.

Green Crunch Summer Rolls with Sunbutter Sauce

Yesterday morning I did one of my favorite things. I took my little trio to the local farmer’s market children’s performance. We sat on a blanket, clapped, cuddled, and picnicked. It was lovely.

While my little ones enjoyed turkey sandwiches with sliced cucumber and fresh nectarine, I enjoyed a vegetarian meal. This was my easy, healthy, portable lunch.

Green Crunch Summer Rolls with Sunbutter Sauce

Green Crunch Summer Rolls with Sunbutter Sauce

Green Crunch Summer Rolls with Sunbutter Sauce

Ingredients

1/2 Avocado, sliced thin

1/4 English cucumber, julienned

Handful of sprouts (whichever type you prefer, I used clover because that’s what was on hand)

3 Rice paper wrappers (like these)

1 Tbl Sunbutter

1 Tbl Tamari

1 Tsp Honey

1 Tsp Mirin

Big bowl of warm water

Directions

Soak 1 rice paper wrapper in the bowl of warm water until softened.

Smooth flat the damp rice paper wrapper on a cutting board.

In the center of the wrapper, place 1/3 of the avocado, 1/3 of the cucumber, and 1/3 of the sprouts in a vertical line (leave at least an inch border on the top and bottom of the wrapper for ease of rolling.)

Fold the top portion of the wrapper over the veggies, and do the same for the bottom of the wrapper.

Fold the left side of the wrapper over the veggies then carefully yet tightly roll toward the right side of the wrapper.

Place the completed summer roll in your desired container.

Repeat this process for the remaining two summer rolls.

To make the sauce, combine the Sunbutter and Tamari in a ramekin.

Microwave the ramekin for 15 seconds and stir together the mixture.

Add honey and mirin to the sauce, stirring to combine.

Enjoy!

 

Kindergarten is Coming!

Summer is drawing to a close. Fall is creeping in. Kindergarten is coming!

#1 at her kindergarten playdate

#1 at her kindergarten playdate

 

“It’s time to go!” I called, baby on my hip, keys in my hand. My 5-year-old ran out of the door to the car, the fabric wings on her turquoise “My Little Pony” dress flapping behind her. Her light-up “Frozen” sneakers flashing with each joyful step. “Can I wear lip gloss?” She asked as I fastened her youngest brother into his car seat. “We’re headed to a Catholic school kindergarten playdate. Let’s stick to Chapstick.” I compromised.

When we arrived at the playground she could barely contain her enthusiasm. She clutched her sequined “Hello Kitty” purse, anxiously awaiting her minivan exit. “Perhaps we should leave the purse in the car,” I suggested, “We wouldn’t want it to get lost or broken on the playground.” She agreed.

She gripped my hand as we walk across the parking lot, craning her neck in search of other playmates. The event coordinator had just finished setting out jugs of water and disposable cups. A little girl with long blond waves approached the woman, the girl’s father just a few paces behind. “Are you here for the kindergarten playdate?” I ask the girl. She nods and flashes an excited grin. I introduce my daughter, saying, “She’s here for the playdate too.” And off the girls scampered.

Within moments of arriving, my daughter was spinning the merry-go-round. She was in her element. Happy. Independent. She didn’t look back except to smile.

That girl is going to rock kindergarten.

 

 

Offer to Take a Picture

You’re walking down the sidewalk and see a group of people begin to pose for a photo as one of the group members steps away to act as photographer. Offer to take their picture.

You’re playing on the beach with your child and see a new parent trying to snap a photo of his or her baby in the sand. Offer to take their picture.

You’re sitting at a restaurant and see a party taking turns photographing the group. Offer to take their picture.

You’re at the park and see a young family taking a photo with one of the members behind the camera. Offer to take their picture.

You see a couple photographing scenery or one another. Offer to take their picture.

You’re at a tourist destination and you see a person craning to take a selfie. Offer to take his or her picture.

While you’re at it, take 5 quick photos from that vantage point. Snap a few horizontal and a couple vertical. You sacrifice perhaps two minutes of your time but you’ve provided a lasting memory and a kindness to someone else. And if you get turned down, no harm. You did the right thing.

Breastfeeding Uncovered

Today I am proud of myself. Today I breastfed in public entirely uncovered. No blanket, no baby carrier, no scarf, nothing. And you no what? No one flinched!

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We were seaside and it was a land-breeze day. Biting flies and swampy heat sent us wading into the sea for relief. My one-year-old wanted to nurse. So, I breastfed him there facing the waves.

At first I was nervous that someone would say something snarky. I considered possible kind-but-clear responses. None felt right. Then, I looked around. Everyone was so busy with their own vacation experiences that they didn’t even notice me. If anyone did, they certainly didn’t say anything.

So I continued. It was liberating not feeling the need to hide, to make myself physically uncomfortable for the supposed comfort of someone else. I simply fed my hungry child away from the pesky biting insects and enjoyed the cool waves at my feet.

Three kids it has taken me to get here. With my first, I’d pump and bottle feed in public — even at the beach — leaving me uncomfortably engorged. With my second I’d hide in a hot beach tent with a cover (that was truly miserable.) With my third, I’ve generally tossed on a light cover or utilized the coverage of a baby carrier to nurse in public. Be a faster learner than I. Do what makes YOU comfortable. Few if any care or notice, and if they do that’s on them.