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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Why I didn’t donate to Locks of Love

Donating my hair has been on my Bucket List since I first learned about it in the early 90’s.  I have tried to grow it long enough a couple of times but I always got annoyed with it and chopped it off before it got long enough. This time was different, I was bound and determined to donate so I could finally cross it off my list! It has taken me about 3 years I would say (because I kept going on to get it cut!). After finally reaching the point where it was finally long enough, and where I was so annoyed enough to actually chop my long, luscious mass of golden locks, I made up my mind to get a pixie cut (another item on the Bucket List).

About 2 weeks ago, I found a text from April 2013 that I had sent to my neighbor, who has a pixie cut, asking for her hairdressers name. This was the moment I thought “Geez, have I really been talking about doing this for almost 2 years?” The next day I went for my consult with Wendy. Finding a stylist who is skilled at pixie cuts, and about cutting hair for donation is very important so I turned to Yelp and read a lot of reviews before settling on Wendy. I went in for a consultation and she made me feel very confident that I could pull off a pixie and also encouraged me to look into charities other than Locks of Love. I scheduled the hair cut appointment for later that week and went home to look into where I was going to send my hair.

After researching Locks of Love a bit further, I decided that since I was so emotionally attached to my locks and the reason I was donating was to be able to help a child who was in need of a hair piece. On the LOL website, it clearly states that they sell hair to offset the costs of manufacturing hair pieces and that they charge the recipients up to $3000 in some cases. WHAT?!?! Yup, that’s right! They do say they have a sliding fee scale and some children receive their wigs free of charge, but in my opinion, a child should not be denied the opportunity to improve their self-esteem at such a critical point in their lives due to their parents ability to pay. This division between the worthy and unworthy really struck a cord with me.

As I looked further I found other websites and news articles bringing the validity of the organization into question. Apparently in May 2013, there was an investigation into how many donations of hair were received and how may hair pieces were actually made and distributed. The discrepancy was horrifying. But one thing was clear, this was NOT the place where I would be sending my hair. I would be devastated if I found out that my hair was sold to line the pockets of some corrupt administrator rather than to help a child in need.

I was able to find two other organizations that use the hair they receive and do not charge the children who receive wigs: Wigs for Kids and Children With Hair Loss. I chose to donate to the latter as they are a Detroit area charity (being from the Detroit area I liked this) and they were very appreciative and helpful when I called to ask a few questions. One thing I really likes about CWHL is that they do not sell any of their hair. Now these charities stricter guidelines as far as the types of donations they will accept (obviously because they are not selling the hair) but if you really want your hair to be used for the intended purpose, I would go with either of these. As an aside, I did not chose Wigs for Kids because I received conflicting answers on the phone when I asked whether or not my hair would be used since it was permed 10 months ago. One person said it would and the other said it needed to be 12 months since the perm and again, I didn’t want my hair to go to waste so CWHL was the best fit for me. I do believe that Wigs for Kids is a wonderful organization as well!

Although I have received a lot of positive feedback about my donation and my new look, I did not do this for any reason other than my hope to be able to improve the life of a child. If donating your locks has been on your Bucket List, do it! It will grow back! #TheLotusDen #CWHL #ItWillGrowBack

For details on making a hair or monetary donation to CWHL go to www.childrenwithhairloss.us/

To donate and get a rockin’ new cut see Wendy at The Lotus Den in Oceanside, CA and don’t forget to mention my blog!

You can check out their website at www.lotusdenhairstudio.com

This was me before I cut off 13" of my lovely locks to send to Children With Hair Loss

This was me before I cut off 13″ of my lovely locks to send to Children With Hair Loss

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My New Year’s Resolution

Rather than doing a resolution at the beginning of the year, I have always done one on my birthday. A birthday just seems like a good time to have an inventory of the past year and set some goals for the next year of life. Thirty-four was a great year. I was pregnant for half of it and had my second daughter. I was finally approved to sit for the LCSW exam here in California, a goal that I have been working towards for the past SIX years! 

With so many positive things to be thankful for, there really is nothing else that I “needed” for my birthday. When I started thinking about my goals for the next year, I found myself thinking a lot about health and wellness. After working in the Intensive Care Unit of a hospital for the past seven years, I have seen the good, the bad and the ugly. I have seen people on medication lists as long as my arm and I have seen patients coming back for their second or third open heart surgeries. To put it bluntly, these things scare the shit out of me. I do not want to be a passive participant in life. I don’t want to sit around waiting for death to come knocking at my door because I am too fat, lazy and tired to do anything about it. 

So how do I avoid becoming one of these sick people? Well, we all know what we are supposed to do. Eat right, exercise, don’t drink/smoke etc… But putting into practice is another thing. They say that it takes 21 days to make something a habit. That’s just 3 weeks. A seemingly short time in the scope of time we are on this Earth. 

My plan has been to exercise at the gym twice a week and walk my dog at twice a week. So far I have been doing pretty good. Now, mid you, I was not raised in a family where exercise was modeled or encouraged. My parents are not sports lovers and we were not the family who went on daily walks together after dinner or spent our vacations hiking. As a result, I do not enjoy exercise. In fact, I loathe it. Mostly because I suck at it. I tried a handful of things like basketball and volleyball but never stuck with anything long enough to actually like it. But this is something that I do not want to pass along to my children. I want to do the opposite with them. I want them to like physical activity and to discover their talents in this arena. Our oldest is very physically active. She loves gymnastics, swimming and running. Like her father, she uses exercise as an outlet for her energy and before she figures out that exercise is work, I want her to be so in love with it, that she makes it a part of her life. 

As a 35 year old, it is difficult to power through a workout or class when you don’t love it. I find myself watching the clock to see how much time is left. The only workout that I have every truly looked forward to do was Krav Maga. If you haven’t heard of it, you should check out this link to learn more http://www.kravmaga.com

Other than forcing myself to workout and trying to enjoy it, I have started making green smoothies everyday for the family. I got a Blendtec for my birthday and it has really been fantastic. You can learn more about this amazing tool here http://www.blendtec.com Even our two year old loves her smoothies “with lettuce” in it. 

I have a lot of faith that I will be able to maintain these two changes I have made because the end goal is really a gift to my family. The gift of my not becoming a burden on them is the best gift that I could ever give. 

 

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Once Upon a Nap Time

Today my two year old decided that she wasn’t taking a nap. Unlike other “no nap days”, I decided not to fight this one. I realize that arguing with her about not taking a nap for two hours makes me more angry and tired, so today I let her skip it. Mistake #1. Now, it is 7pm and I am paying the price.

The only thing I really wanted to do today was take a nap myself. Our 7 month old is teething again  and she woke me up at 4:30 this morning. She nursed for the next two hours, but never really did settle down before our toddler came bounding into our room announcing “I’m AWAKE!!” and joyfully jumped into our bed and snuggled up on the other side of me. There I was, sandwiched in between the two sweetest girls, wishing I could just get a few more winks.

Despite it being Sunday, and the day we were supposed to go on a day trip to celebrate my birthday, my husband was heading into work, which meant that I was on baby duty…again. As nap time came and went, my daughters and I played and cleaned and cleaned and played. Around 3pm, I thought it might be nice to go somewhere. My oldest chose Barnes and Noble. Mistake #2.

My husband was planning to pick up some takeout on the way home. As I sat in the B&N parking lot looking up the menu for the BBQ place, I didn’t notice that my daughter had fallen asleep. I woke her up to see if she still wanted to go in the store. Yup. Mistake #3. She did pretty good in the store, all things considered. That is until it came time to check out and then she was gone.

Yes, I was partially being selfish because we have two baby birthday parties coming up and I needed to get the gifts. I should have just backed out of the parking spot and drove home. Why oh why do we do these things to ourselves against our better judgement? Getting the two gifts was not worth all the screaming and frustration of tonight’s bedtime saga but it sure does feel good to know that it is done.

But in all honesty I fear that this may become our new normal sooner rather than later. I have watched the nap times dwindle on her daily reports from school and I am seeing the time she goes down for naps at home creep later and later.  I still stick to my routine and give it a try every day. Sometimes I am rewarded with a 3 hour nap and other days like today I try to roll with it. I guess it’s all part of them growing up. But damn, I am going to miss that nap!

 

 

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Soaking up that new baby smell

Every day I spend with my 7 month old is filled with joy. I get to see all the “firsts” I missed when I had to go back to work after my oldest was born. I love watching her discover her body and learn new things about the world around her. I love all the sweet, slobbery baby kisses and hearing her screech and squeal with delight.

Since we are not sure whether or not we will add any more children to our family, I am trying to capture every moment and remember that these are the the best days of my life. I already mourn the idea of never being pregnant again. Never again feeling a baby kick inside me and watching my uterus expand each week. It is a truly amazing thing to carry a child in your womb. Pregnancy was not always easy, but I guess I was on the “lucky” end of the spectrum as far as that goes. I didn’t have any major issues and all in all I feel like my body handled it very well.

The other day when I was giving my baby a little squeeze, I couldn’t help but notice how good she smelled. You hear people say it all the time but babies really do smell sweet. Especially breastfed babies. I put my nose in the crook of her neck and as I inhaled I thought about how this experience will soon be over.  I spent the first month of her life cuddling her in my bed and doing skin-to-skin because I knew that this might be the last time I got to cuddle a newborn, my newborn. As I watch her grow from the nourishment she gets from my body, I am humbled and thrilled to have a front row seat to this amazing experience. There is nothing in life that compares to being a mother. But I have to admit, it is bittersweet. As the days pass by, a part of me laments the passing of time. I do not want her to grow up. I do not want to never have another baby and not experience this all over again. I cannot  imagine not loving on an infant like this ever again. Some people bide their time and wait for the baby stage to end. But for me, I wish I could stop time and keep her small forever. Even as I write this and she pulls my hands off the keyboard to discover my wedding ring or to push random keyboard buttons for the first time I’m tearing up.

There are many things that I will miss about the infant stage but one I will surely miss is soaking up that new baby smell as she nuzzles near. She smells like a sweet little slice of heaven.

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Grown Up Tattle Tales

In early childhood we learn to resolve conflicts with our peers by speaking with them directly. We’re told “Stop being a tattle tale!” in hopes that the autonomy will teach us to think for ourselves. So why do constantly find myself wondering when this wonderful life lesson suddenly becomes unlearned?

It seems like many adults forget how to talk to people! Every time I check Facebook or see a news update, there is another post or story about someone who felt it was their civic duty to call the authorities on some unsuspecting parent or pet owner. I get it. I am a mother of two and a pet lover, but I do not feel the need to call the cops every time I see someone who left their dog in the car while they ran in a store for 5 minutes. And while I do not think that leaving young children alone in parked cars is such a great idea, I do see why parents do it in certain circumstances. When you have young kids, a 2 minute errand  can quickly turn into a 30 minute chore. Between emotional outbursts, diapers or toileting, or an umpteen other things that could occur, sometimes you contemplate whether or not unbuckling and rebuckling two carseats so you can run in and grab your pizza is worth the hassle.

And what about when you have a sleeping or sick child in the car? When I see sick kids in cars outside of pharmacies I think, “Poor kid, I am sure his mom/dad is inside getting his prescription.” Not “Hey I’m calling CPS!” Seriously, is it NEVER ok? What are you supposed to do? Is dragging your sick kids through CVS better than letting them rest in the car? I remember being left in my mom’s car once in a parking lot. We didn’t think it was a big deal but we most definitely would have been traumatized if the cops had shown up!

When I hear these stories I feel conflicted. I know that people  are acting out of the goodness of their hearts, and they are clearly concerned for the children’s safety. But I find it disheartening to think that we live in a society in which we are so paranoid  that there is a kidnapper or pedophile lurking around every corner, waiting to snatch a kid away, that we are willing to devalue parents and publicly humiliate them in front of their children. The fact is, the majority of parents out there are making decisions they feel are best for their children. Their decisions are well thought out and based on their own values and are done out of the love for their children. The last thing parents want is to endanger their children and have to live with the guilt of feeling responsible if something were to happen. Just because you may not agree with their choice, doesn’t mean it is wrong. So please, stop helicopter parenting other people’s kids and mind your own damn business.

 

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Raising a Nation of Spoiled Brats

Undoubtedly there are many benefits to waiting until your 30s or 40s to start your family. Being more mature gives us a different perspective on life than younger parents. For me, having had more time to enjoy my freedom and youth allows me to be more present and focused on my children’s needs rather than daydreaming about that summer backpacking tour through Europe or South America that I never got to experience. In fact, I did that, as well as many other things on my bucket list before deciding to start a family.

Another benefit is that when you are more established in your career, you are typically more financially secure and can afford to buy your children things and give them experiences that many children will never have the luxury of knowing. But even having enough disposable income to make their wildest dreams come true, does not mean that we have to give in to every wish and desire.

We all know that parent who just cannot say “no”. Their children have more toys than the average indoor play place, their birthday parties looks like they are pulled straight from Pinterest and their kids are spoiled brats. That’s right. I said it. They are spoiled. While it seems to solve an immediate issue or prevents an uncomfortable situation now, I can assure you that in 10 years, your lax parenting style is going to come back with a vengeance. You have to look at the big picture and ask yourself “What is this going to teach my child?”. If it is going to teach them to whine and cry and pitch a fit until they get their way, and this is not a behavior that you want to reinforce, then do not give in.

Also, it’s ok to discipline your kids and to say “no”. I give you permission to set limits and follow through with consequences. Maybe it is a fear of looking too strict to the other diners in a restaurant, or the other moms in the mommy group but it seems like people are too afraid to actually “parent” nowadays. And I understand why. There is a fear that some passerby will think you are too harsh and threaten to call Child Protective Services or maybe you have sworn to yourself that you will not make the same mistakes your parents made raising you. But do yourself and the rest of society a favor and teach your kids that life is not always fair. Teach them that they are not going to get everything and anything their heart desires and that’s ok. Teach them how to appropriately cope with feelings of disappointment.Teach them about delayed gratification and how earning something means more than getting it “just because”. These lessons will help them later in life.

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For the love of God, please stop telling me what is wrong with the food I eat!

Recently our society has become obsessed with what companies like Monsato are putting into our food supply. While I do like to be informed about things that effect my and my family’s health, I really have to say “ENOUGH ALREADY!!!” Every time I see another post on Facebook about GMOs, GEIs, High Fructose Corn Syrup, or how feeding my kid Kraft Macaroni and Cheese is going to give them ADD, I seriously want to throw my phone through the window. You can’t turn on the TV or look at the internet without someone trying to tell you what is wrong with the food you are eating. Seriously, if I listened to all this nonsense, what would I eat? I’ve already stopped going to Subway because of the yoga mat/tennis shoe rubber in the bread. Can’t eat Taco Bell because of the fact that the meat isn’t really beef. McDonald’s is out of the question for multiple reasons. So I wonder, just what am I supposed to eat on a road trip through Yuma, Arizona?

As if meal planning isn’t difficult enough, I find myself running out of options for food that is socially acceptable to consume. If I have a birthday party for my daughter, I have to cater to all of these neurotic parents who don’t want their kids eating hotdogs, sugar, or processed foods. Now, I’m not talking about people with legitimate allergies or those with religious beliefs. I always have vegetarian options and ask about allergies or other food restrictions when planning a menu. I understand wanting to feed your child healthy food and I agree that teaching them good habits is very important but I this has gotten way out of control. What the outcome of teaching Generation Z to have this type of relationship with food be? Children who are raised with such restrictive diets are more prone to having eating disorders later in life, and I myself will not feed into it. The truth of the matter is this: once kids get old enough to make their own choices, everything you have done up until that point will magically be undone. So why stress so much?

I am not going to stop eating candy or buying Mrs Butterworth’s. I am not going to become a raw vegan, grow all of my own food to avoid pesticides or boycott ConAgra. I find this type of lifestyle to be very paranoid and restrictive. And more than anything else, a huge pain in the ass! I refuse to succumb to the pressure of buying all organic all the time and most importantly, I will not allow my daughters to grow up in a world where they are afraid to eat something because it may not be good for them.

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