Unfiltered Mommy

An honest view of parenting in today's world

“It’s just stuff”

Well to say that things have been totally insane and upside down for the past 2 months would be an understatement. Since Christmas, we have managed to not only fit in enough study time so I could pass the second (and final) half of the Califonia LCSW exam…Yay!!! But we have also had 2 moving sales, returned 2 lease cars,  spent 2 days at Disneyland, prepared our 75 lb. Labrador, Zoe, for the big move and packed up an entire household.

After passing the exam, we were able to focus on the move. We had 2 weeks left to go through all of our belongings and decide what to keep, sell and donate. Not an easy feat for someone like me who likes to save things. I mostly save things that I plan to use again or thigs that have sentimental value, but after going through the multitude of Rubbermaid totes in the garage that contained my stuff, I realize that the last time we moved (which was only 5 years ago…ahem) that I also save a lot of crap. That being said, I am not a hoarder, and I am. It where near hoarder status. Almost half of the stuff in our garage was baby stuff that we had just finished using or were waiting to use again. Getting rid of baby things is easy. At our age, everyone we know is having babies. It was getting rid of everything else that was hard.

Going through the boxes was emotional. I found so many things from college and my young adult life and had a great stroll down memory lane. As I pitched the majority of them into the trash or sell pile, I felt good. I felt like I was releasing emotions attached to these earlier life stages as I said farewell to the “stuff” that represented those times.

When it got to the more serious items, like high ticket items we recently purchased as gifts for one another, or things we weren’t sure we could use in Germany it became more difficult to decided what to do. I spoke to some friends who said things like “it’s just stuff”, “purging is good” or “you can be a minimalist now” and I secretly wanted to strangle them. Did they not understand what I was saying? What I was going through? Yes, it is just stuff. But it is our stuff. Our stuff that we have spent our hard earned money on and the thought of potentially throwing it out or giving it away KILLED ME! For example,  hubs bought me a Blendtec for my birthday in July (a $300 crazy ass blender that makes ice cream, smoothies, soup and more) what was I going to do with that?  As far as I knew, I could not use it in Germany, and each day and night, my brain did cartwheels thinking about things like this. 

I had anxiety. Serious anxiety. I have never experienced anxiety attacks before but when I started having physical reactions to the stress, I sought help. My doctor prescribed me one month’s worth of medication, which I used sparingly, but I thank God I had it. There truly was no other way I was going to get through this move. 

We ended up getting rid of about half of our belongings. It was sad to see things go like our couches, TV, and other things we really weren’t done using yet, but we are doing our best to embrace the change. The other half of our “stuff” is in a storage container waiting for the LA port strike to be resolved so we can get our container shipped here. I wonder what we will think about the items we decided to keep once they arrive. It should be interesting to see them again after 3 months or more!

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Sometimes life just gets in the way… and that’s ok!

Since my last post so much has happened. I have wanted to sit down and document all the exciting things we are doing but life has just been so busy, that the thought of adding one more thing to my “To Do” list is too much. So I apologize to those of you who have been asking if I am still blogging. Yes, I am! But there are two major life events that have kept me from being able to post. The first is my preparation for the LCSW exam (my ultimate education/career goal) and the second is the daunting task of getting a family of four and a dog ready for an international move.

In the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, I was studying day in and day out for part of the California Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) exam. This was the biggest test I have ever taken and since I had not studied for anything in about 6 years, I was very worried about the fact that I could not retain any of the information I read. For many social workers, obtaining our LCSW is the highest professional degree/license we strive for. It is equivalent to a PhD in Psychology, and allows us to “hang our own shingle”. For me, it was one of the major reasons I decided to pursue an MSW rather than a Master’s in Counseling. As I studied and the time grew closer,  I became overwhelmed with anxiety. I have never had anxiety like this. In fact, I tend to handle pressure with a lot of grace which is why I am good at doing crisis social work. But after experiencing anxiety attacks which caused me to seek medication to help me manage it, I have a new found empathy for people with anxiety disorders. I honestly do not know how they hold it together from day to day. I am proud to report that I passed part one, and I am now preparing for part two, which will be the first week in February. I cannot wait to cross this off of my Bucket List!!

Shortly after taking my exam, out little family unit will be moving to Düsseldorf, Germany for 3 years. Neither my husband or I  have really ever been to Düsseldorf although we do think that it is a pretty awesome city. Right now it is scheduled for mid-February and as I am sure you can imagine, we are all freaking out a bit. There is so much to do, sometimes I really do not know where to start. I wake up in the morning and think “Oh good, I have the whole day to do X, Y, Z…” but the truth is, it is really hard to get any of that stuff done when you have a 3 yr old and a 1 yr old. Obviously I don’t want to ignore my kids, but man oh man, what are they hungry ALL THE TIME? I feel like somedays I never get out of the kitchen!

Thankfully we don’t have a house or cars to sell but just having to go through all of our belongings and deciding what we are going to do with each and every little thing is quite the task. We eventually have 3 weeks to pull this all off. At times it seems manageable, but for the most part, it just seems totally insane! For the past 3 weeks, we have spent every free moment working with our relocation expert to learn about the different areas of Düsseldorf that are suitable for families and looking at houses on-line. Thank goodness for google maps!

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Going off leash

When you are accustomed to taking two young children with you every where you go, you get used to taking time to prepare for all scenarios such as diaper changes with soiled clothing, on-the-go snack time, and a plethora of other things that “might” happen. After kids, an errand that would have taken you 10 minutes including drive time, can take an hour or more.

While the diaper bag is typically stocked with the necessary items, it does need to be checked and often restocked before heading out the door. Then there is the stroller/carrier issue that must be thought of as well. For many of us, it is a rare occasion when we get to leave the house without one or two kids in tow. A few months ago when I got to get out of the house sans kids, my husband told me to take his car, or as he referred to it “the single car”, as opposed to the minivan. As I pulled away from our house in his car with just a small purse, I felt so strange. I felt…FREE! I felt like a dog the moment they get let off leash. I was running free and a huge smile graced my face. Ahhhh! Ok ok, I was only running up to the grocery store to grab a few things but I have to say, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

This experience spurred a decision in me. I had to get back to a point where being alone didn’t feel so foreign. I spoke with my husband that night about scheduling more “me time”. Obviously when I was a working mom, I had my town hours of commute time to be with my thoughts. I didn’t realize how much I missed my “me time” until I didn’t have it any more. We agreed that for the sanity of all involved, I needed to have one night a week to do something by myself. So far it has been about a month and I have been attending a sewing group at a local quilt shop. I find creating things to be very therapeutic and rewarding so I am happy to be able to get back to this hobby. Once I finish the girls’ Halloween costumes, I will try my hand at quilting for the first time.

What do you do for yourself? How do you schedule your “me time” and what do you like to do?

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There’s a new boss in town

Tomorrow was supposed to be the day that I returned to work after my lovely five month maternity leave. About a month ago, after several discussions with my husband, l resigned from my full-time position. We decided that this is what is best for our family at this time. When we were both working our lives were very stressful. We both spent two hours a day commuting and it felt like we were always playing catch up. My husband’s job required him to travel quite a bit and when he wasn’t traveling, he was working until the wee hours of the night. After picking up our oldest from daycare, where she spent 10 hours a day on average, I found it almost impossible to cook a delicious, nutritious meal every night. We wound up eating out or getting carry out several times a week. Weekends were filled with household tasks and errands that seemed to be never-ending.  I remember how stressful it was the first year back at work after our oldest was born. Trying to juggle all the things above and the responsibilities of being a new mom was more than a little bit overwhelming. I was pumping 4 times a day at work in the beginning and became obsessed with my milk supply. The guilt I felt every night when I saw my daughter after being away from her for 10 or more hours a day was crippling. When she stopped nursing, it became a little easier, and by easier I mean more tolerable, to be away from her. She was growing and learning and although I was missing it, I knew that she was being well cared for by the daycare provider. I cannot, however,  imagine trying to do all of this now with two little ones. Just the thought of trying to get myself and the two girls ready and out the door by 7am seems completely impossible to me.

That being said, I am still getting used to the idea of being a full-time mom and not earning a paycheck. It is starting to sink in a little more each week but still remains somewhat surreal. I can’t believe that I am lucky enough to be able to stay at home with our girls.

Sure, it will be really difficult not having my “own” money. This is one of the hardest things to accept. I have always been fiercely independent and I got my first job when I was 15 years old. I have worked consistently since then with only three brief periods of not working when I was living abroad and when I was a freshman in college. Today I am being paid in smiles and love from my two girls which is worth more than any amount of monetary compensation. The day our oldest asked me not to go back to work, and I was able to say “yes” was one of the best feelings a mother can have. I am so happy to be able to make her wish come true. Being present and spending quality time with my girls is gift that only I am able to give. Witnessing my youngest meet all of her developmental milestones is a once in a lifetime opportunity. The working world will always be there, but these precious memories are only attainable for a very short period of time. I don’t want to have any regrets about choosing work over my kids so whatever corners we need to cut or sacrifices we have to make to make this work, we’ll gladly do it. I am very lucky to have a husband who supports and actually encourages this decision. We are all looking forward to a less hectic and more healthy and happy family life this time around.


Moratorium on Multi-tasking

As each day passes and my youngest grows before my eyes, I desperately try to grasp on to every last bit of baby time. I find myself constantly begging her not to get any older, yet despite my pleas, she continues to grow. While each new stage brings new joys, it also brings the realization that this may be the last time that I will experience all of these wonderful moments.

My husband and I are not sure whether or not we will have any more children. Part of me REALLY wants more, but part of me kind of thinks that two is enough. My husband is still undecided, but I can tell that he is swaying more in the favor of stopping at two. We’ve decided not to make any decisions about this until our youngest is a little bit older and we are through the infant stage since this is such a difficult and emotional time.

Each day, I do my best to soak up all that new baby smell and cuddles, and enjoy every moment of her infancy while entertaining and interacting with a very busy and curious toddler. The days are so busy running here and there and trying to squeeze in all the mundane life tasks such as laundry and grocery shopping, that I often have to stop and remind myself to be “in the moment”. Practicing yoga for the past 9 years has taught me how to be present and how to slow down my thoughts. Sadly, I still have to make a conscious decision to focus on my baby and give her my undivided attention. I didn’t have this problem with my oldest. I would sit and watch her all day as she slept. I enjoyed every coo and every diaper change. But now it seems like life revolves around my toddler’s schedule and my youngest has to go with the flow.

I decided to do something to try to slow time down about two weeks when I found myself trying to do too many things at once. I decided that if I don’t want her childhood to pass me by, I needed to make a conscious effort to stop trying to be Supermom. I want to give her the time and attention that my oldest got from me. I have decided to put a moratorium on multi-tasking. The idea came to me last week as I sat down to nurse her and automatically grabbed my phone. Instead of rocking her and singing lullabies, I was watching Lost or looking up things to buy on Etsy. Technology has done a wonderful job at making us all feel like underachievers if we aren’t doing three or four things at once. We cram so much into a day that we all become insomniacs because our brains have not had a chance to process the days events by the time our heads hit the pillow.  We stay up all night, tossing and turning, thinking about how we are going to fill the next day with tasks to distract us from our lives.

It’s true, I have learned to do so many things one-handed since I have become a mother. I can cook, clean and even reorganize my garage, but why? Why am I always trying to get so much done at once? Maybe it comes from our society’s ideal of being a Supermom or maybe it is an internal drive to accomplish more than I should but whatever the reason, I am fighting back. Last night as I thought about this problem of multi-tasking I was pumping while unloading the dishwasher, cooking dinner and supervising my oldest. It is ridiculous! From now on, I am going to sit down and nurse my daughter without having my phone nearby and I am making a concerted effort to not multi-task so I can share in the precious moments that are quietly slipping by. I have also made a schedule for activities so I can spend quality time with both of my daughters instead of getting lost in the day-to-day.

What have you done to simplify your life/schedule?

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Why blog?

I have loved writing ever since I can remember. When I was a teenager, in the early 90’s, I wrote a lot of poetry. Heartbreak and teen angst sparked quite a bit of inspiration in me however I rarely shared my writing with others for fear of being judged. I attended poetry readings on occasion but mostly sat in the crowd listening and writing. I admired those brave souls who shared their most intimate feelings with a crowd of coffee guzzling strangers but could never muster up enough courage to get up on stage myself.

In my 20’s I began journaling more and writing less and less poetry. I found journaling to be very therapeutic and since I was on a budget, it was my own little way of processing my feelings without having to fork out the dough for counseling. As I got older, and my life became more stable, I found that I didn’t have much to write about, or maybe I did have something to write about but I didn’t take the time to sit down and do it. What ever the reason, I got out of practice for a few years and one day realized how much I missed having a creative outlet. I started journaling again and slowly got back into practice.

I’ve always been a little bit slow on the uptake when it comes to technology. I guess I am one of those skeptics who just would rather wait and see if a trend is going to stick around before I jump on board. I remember when my friends used to send me text messages and I resisted it for years thinking it was not going to catch on. Boy was I way off on that one! This is why I am just now discovering blogging! I have recently started reading blogs and now I have one of my very own!

Now that I have 2 beautiful daughters, I feel very inspired to write again. I’ve decided to start Unfiltered Mommy as a way of normalizing the thoughts and experiences we are all having every day but are too afraid to talk about.