Although the unpredictable and intense postpartum mood swings have settled down for me, with lack of sleep and…well, being human…I really struggle with irritability as a mom. When the kiddos are up, Mom has to be awake and functioning, too. Even when my head feels like a block of concrete that wants to stay cemented to my pillow. The Murphy’s Law of motherhood–if it can go wrong, it probably will, at the worst time–seems to catch me by surprise a lot. It’s difficult to stay calm and in control. Actually, that’s part of my problem: trying to stay in control. I just can’t make everything go exactly according to plan. As moms we often envision the ideal course of events and then beat ourselves up when things don’t go that way, whether or not we really could have done anything “better.” We can’t control others, not even our kids. (We can only do our best to guide them). We can’t control our circumstances, either. Yet we say to ourselves, If only I’d done such-and-such-differently, it would have gone well. Why couldn’t I have done it better? If we’re honest with ourselves, I think we mean “perfectly,” not just better. There’s definitely the time to analyze what worked and didn’t, and learn from life. But there’s also the time for saying, I may not have done everything right but I did SOMETHING right; I made some progress! Because perfection isn’t something humans can attain, but progress is. My husband has been the less-emotional voice of reason encouraging me in this learning process. The other day he even said something that seemed crazy to my type-A, achievement-oriented mind, when I was feeling frustrated with the fact that it had been several days and there was still an unfolded pile of laundry (even though each day I sat down and started folding it! Somebody needed a diaper change; somebody else needed discipline; people needed food; we needed to leave for an appointment, etc. etc.) He said, “Maybe folded laundry should be a weekly goal instead of trying to get it done all at once then feeling bad when it’s not done in a day…or two…or…” Ok, ok, I get your point. As an aside, just now I started to feel guilty that I was typing during a quiet moment as the baby naps because I wasn’t folding the laundry but writing instead. I’m just a poor steward of my time, I told myself. That’s why you never get stuff done around the house. But that’s not the true. A creative outlet is my way of staying (more) sane and energized. It’s my free therapy. So I’m saving money! haha 😉 I firmly believe that while sometimes we need to be critical of the real flaws in our lives and make changes, other times we’re being discouraged by lies about ourselves. Truth gives us a way to be free from hindrances rather than shaming and condemning us. So today, I started to think how I was really not handling our morning well. Part of that is true. I could feel myself getting angry and wanting to act in anger. But otherwise, I actually did some things right. Here’s how it played out: Breakfast over, I moved us into the playroom, coffee in hand, and sat on my favorite rocker. A few glides forward and back, and I heard a creak-crack. UGH! This stupid rocker! We shouldn’t have paid so much for it–even if we used gift cards to pay for it! I’m the one that fought to get this particular one because it reclined, too. Crummy design! I JUST fixed the other side a few weeks ago! Can’t anything be simple?! So I got out the glue and the clamps, which I’d never put away from last time fixing the rocker, and got to work. Of course it was super interesting to littles and they both came trotting over, getting in my way. Sissy was climbing over me, trying to play in the glue drops, which I was fuming about already. Stupid of me not to put a drop cloth down…again. Didn’t learn from last time, did I?! I even remember telling myself this is an evening or nap time project, when the kids aren’t around. Too late now. Glue’s everywhere. My voice raised a bit, I barked out, “Nobody touch the rocker! You could get hurt by the clamps or break it worse!” Babies don’t really listen to reason, so it was silly to expect it from Sissy. She kept climbing over me. Then big bro could no longer resist, and starting inching closer to the rocker on its side. It kind of looked climb-able. “Do you want time-out?! Do NOT. touch. the rocker.” Then he came over to me and started goofing off with Sissy. I now had TWO little people climbing over me. Frustrated with the dripping glue, the cheap quality of the rocker (I mean, card-board-like particle-board pegs holding the slats of the glider together, not even real wood. We paid enough; we should have gotten REAL wood pegs. Erg!!!), and then, lack of personal space. GAH! I felt the blood boiling. Last time had gone the same way. And I blew up at them, I’m sorry to say. I apologized, but that doesn’t erase their hurt feelings at the time. This time, I really felt like blowing up, too. But I knew that would be wrong. Let your gentleness be evident to all, I recited. God, I don’t want to be gentle. They’re SO FRUSTRATING right now. I took a deep breath and said, “Honey, mommy’s upset right now because the rocker’s broken and it’s hard to fix. Please don’t touch me–or the rocker–right now. I need to calm down. I am going to fix this, and then we can play.” I identified the real issue–anger about the rocker–and let my son know how he could help, by giving me space. He gave me some advice, too, “Yes. Talm down, Mommy. No upset!” Hahaa. I know, kid. I know. It’s just a chair. It doesn’t really matter in the long run. What does matter is that I didn’t blow up at my kids even though I felt like it. I’m learning how to better be in control of my actions, the one thing I can control in life, when nerves are raw. Progress.
There are cracker crumbs on my bum. My almost-11 month old little girl has crawled over to me, leaving a trail of Ritz particles, and has pulled herself up to standing by my chair and is sharing her mess with my lower half. She’s pretty adorable as she tries to look utterly pitiful so I will pick her up. Mission accomplished, little agent.
She has reached the stage where containment is despicable. She begs for me to hold her yet wiggles and squirms, discontent in my arms, and then again discontent when I put her down. Security competes with curiosity.
We were grocery shopping yesterday, my little “helpers” and I. During the time I compared prices of cheese sticks (I decided against them, this time. I want a coupon!) she had wriggled, buckled in, so that her feet were no longer in the leg holes of the cart seat, and were instead above the handles. Pretty hilarious looking, but the lady behind me appeared as if she was thinking how I was a neglectful mother. It’s not like I parked her an aisle away from me or anything, woman.
You know what I like best about the cheese aisle? It’s close to the free samples. I have a feeling I’m not the only mom of a toddler who does an inner-happy-dance at the sight of a food-sample container that is miraculously stocked with cookies or donuts or other bad, bad sugary thing that keeps the kiddo (and me, when I throw self-control to the wind…and I usually do with food) sane for another minute.
Anyhow, then when I was checking out and paying for all the groceries, Sissy got herself turned completely around in the cart seat. I have no idea how because the buckle wasn’t that loose, just comfortably clicked in. The cashier on the register behind us was eyeing us like, “Ain’t ya gonna do something about that, Mom?!” Yes, yes of course I am. At the moment my toddler is squashing the grapes and I need to sign the doohickey and load my cart because the people behind me are being impatient. Why don’t they use the self-check-out if they only have three things, anyway?
It’s a good thing to be concerned about a little one’s safety, I won’t fault others for that. However, the other day somebody at the park obviously trusted my son’s ability to safely climb on part of the playground less than I did as I watched from a short distance away and the lady snatched him off, to his alarm. She did it with a “Your mother shouldn’t be letting you do this!” attitude, eyebrows furrowed. She came with a little girl. Hah. Not saying that all little girls don’t climb stuff…but I’m thinking, She hasn’t spent much time with toddler boys. (The ground was rubbery park surface and directly underneath him were squishy tires. He woulda been fine if he fell, though maybe startled. I’d be following him around every second turning blue in the face if I tried to tell him not to do everything he made his mind up to, so if it’s not naughty or fatally injurious, I let it go.)
There was recently a cute youtube video going viral of a little girl whose response to what she considered pestering was, “Worry ’bout your self!” (She obviously had an older sibling and heard it before from Mom or whomever). That line keeps coming to my mind and making me smile. I say it in my mental-narrator-voice as a really mature 2 or 3 yr. old. 😉
I’ve been thinking of writing this post for a while. I’ve been hopeful but hesitant to say “I’m over it.” The postpartum days of no energy. No enthusiasm. No respite from anxiety, frustration, irritation, random and intense anger at minor things, and feelings of isolation and panic. But spring has sprung and with it, my excitement and zest for life. As the freezing weather’s ice and snow melt into memory, I am feeling a renewed vitality. Thank God that though suffering endures for a season, joy comes in the proverbial morning.
(BTW, Psalm 4 was a true comfort when things really stunk. Praying this scripture for myself was encouraging for many reasons. It talks about God hearing our pleas and giving relief from our distress. In verse 8 it says “I will lie down and sleep in peace, for You alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.” While dealing with insomnia and intense fear and worry over something possibly happening to the kids or hubby or myself, this prayer was awesome. Verses 6-7 talk about God being the one who can show us good, and that he can fill hearts with great joy. What hope that was for me! My desire this year is to better understand and know that God-given joy.)
Does this mean I don’t have bad days? Oh, those still come occasionally. Usually after low sleep or an emotional bump in the road (like disagreeing with my hubby, discouraging attacks from “friends” emboldened by the distance social media provides, and others’ struggles I don’t know how to distance myself from). But they are far less frequent and feel more survivable. Sissy is 10 months old, has 6 teeth, has been crawling for a while and the other day even stood up wobbily. (I think wobbily should be a word, even if spell check disagrees.)
One thing lately that I’ve found renewed interest in is exercise. There’s a 90-day fitness challenge Youtube series I’m doing (sort of…no pressure) that’s designed for moms (so that means kids might be around while you’re working out, and workouts are short and sweet though still challenging). I decided my munching had gotten out of control when I had to go back up a pants size. I am less fit now than 3 months postpartum (I had a wedding to be in that had motivated me then)! Some of the extra muffin-topping might have to do with either using food as a comfort when I’m frustrated with the kids (rather than blowing up) or with the fact that I’m not worrying as much. Anyhow, the other day I asked Hubby if he’d come home for lunch two days a week so I could do a quick jog around the block without the kids as Sissy napped and my little fireman either ate lunch or watched a show. So thankful Hubs agreed! But also…so very sore as a result.
Another thing that has gotten me all excited about life again are all the creative opportunities out there. The spring displays in the stores, especially bulbs and plants and gardening stuff (even though I don’t really garden at this point in my life), spark a lot of daydreaming as I grocery shop. 🙂 The sprouting bulbs and other flower shoots in my yard got me itching to get dirt under my nails. While the kids played nearby, either blowing bubbles or discovering sticks to gnaw on (ok, so I didn’t have an eye on Sissy every single second), I got my little shovel down in the soggy soil and scooped up stray plants. Here are the results of my recent spring-spiration (hmmm…not sure if that word works…what do you think? Spring+inspiration?) :
I’m not entirely sure I will keep the wreath that way, but after my winter leaves and berries dried up and I took them off, I didn’t want to pitch the wreath I had covered in moss from my yard.
I don’t remember what kind of little bulb this was last year, but I didn’t want it to get mowed over this year so I rescued it from the random spots in the yard. (As an aside, isn’t the play set my dad built the kids from scratch and discarded playground pieces like the slide and see-saw-type swing, plus water-barrel-turned-tunnel AWESOME?! Big bro is enjoying what he calls his “fireman ladder” a lot lately.)
This last one I did today with an assortment of yardage (or so I call it), but it’s kind of sad looking. I’m hoping it perks up but until then, I have make-shift plant stakes (see the brown-twiggy things? That’s the leftover stems and stake for artificial flowers. Organic-looking yet keeps my wilty bulbs propped up. 🙂 I feel smaht for coming up with that one!)
I like moss, so it is usually featured in the outdoor projects I do. 🙂
Lots of rain lately. I kind of like rainy days, but mostly when they are separated by lovely warmish days we get to go outside during. Soon, I’d like to turn a mint green sink my friend passed on to me into an herb garden planter. Rather keen on that idea. Just need a good chunk of time. Maybe this weekend?!
Friends have been having babies and I’ve been doing nap-time sewing projects for gifts. That’s always fun. My favorite gifts are the ones that don’t take very long but the babies love, which are the taggy jingle or rattle toys (probably would also make a good cat toy if stuffed with catnip. haha) Another quick project are these binkie clips. Sissy’s not a binkie baby but Big bro sure was, and I found these quite necessary for outings, or boy would we be in for it!
A friend took me to a fabric store in town I’d never been to. Sensory overload! Everything was way over my price range (I don’t want to pay more than $4/yard if I must buy fabric new), but I was very inspired. I have some fabric projects in my think tank now, including a dress for the little miss.
I made vanilla again recently, too. Also bought some soap-making supplies. Soap-making has always sounded like too much work, but I would truly enjoy learning how to do it now that I’m building my essential oil collection after learning to make chap-stick last year. Got back into cloth-diapering (it’s day 2. No promises) after feeling like I’m not so overwhelmed with everything.
I’m optimistic about what the future holds. Even if there are potholes in the road ahead, it’s good to be excited about traveling down it again.
Perhaps I turned a corner and had some really great days in a row…but somehow I ended up back on that corner. Well, I admit: I stayed up late painting one night and another night talking with a friend. Neglecting my sleep probably had something to do with it. The early morning insomnia and grouchy mommy-me came back. (And yet I’m up late again, here, typing. Blah). So here I am all contemplative and I’m going to get something off my chest on behalf of all women dealing with any form of postpartum disorder…or any struggle. Here goes:
STOP GIVING US UNSOUGHT ADVICE!!!! Or little quips of (unwittingly?) insensitive positivity. Just give us help or a hug or a listening ear if you want to give something! (I feel badly that in the past I’ve probably been one of those people. I hope I’m learning.)
I love the gal I’m about to tell you about. She once said if ever I needed anything, to call her up. (Has anyone ever told you that and you think to yourself, “Yeah right, as if anybody ever means that!”? Well, this gal seemed sincere, I think she was…so I decided to trust her). Well, one day my son was having a meltdown, he’d just yanked on his sister’s arm after I fought for an hour to get her to sleep, I was overtired and knew I needed to take a break from him. So I shut myself on the other side of the door separating a hallway and the playroom. I needed to calm down. But that door doesn’t latch and my screaming toddler wanted to make sure his meltdown was being witnessed, so he barged through and came to hang on me while screaming at the top of his volume (which is exceptionally loud…ask my friends). Then I had a panic attack from feeling so overwhelmed and alone facing two screaming kids. I remembered the kind words and called “Elaine” and ask her to come over as she lived only a short distance away.
She came and found my son still hanging on me, screaming, as I cried and the baby cried in a safe place nearby. And she asked what exactly was the problem? Couldn’t she see? THIS!! I guess she probably just wanted to know what she could fix. I felt embarrassed that I had no “reasonable” answer. After I calmed down, I could see she was uncomfortable, not knowing what to say. I said that I guess the reason I called her was I had an anxiety attack and didn’t know if I could handle the kids alright just then. But I wish she hadn’t asked what the problem was. Because I feel like it’s me. I wish she’d asked how she could help, if she had to ask at all. Really, all I needed was for her to be there so I wasn’t struggling alone. In the awkwardness of me sitting there with tissues, her holding my baby, and my distraught toddler on my lap because I can’t peel him off me (I feel so badly that this affects him, too), “Elaine” nervously chatted with me. Which is fine. Some people can’t handle silence and just be there with you, quietly. Except she came up with solutions to my situation.
“I know what you need! You need to make time for yourself! Go out more!” Etc.
Then she went home after I assured her I’d be fine until my hubby came home. I got a haircut that evening, needing to do something drastic to get my head in order. I wasn’t taking her advice: I was running away for a while. Hubby finished bedtime routine with the kiddo and I fed the baby, laid her down to sleep, and went to Great Clips (they cost less after 7 p.m., and you can check their waiting time online…which was zilch that late).
For about a week I didn’t see “Elaine” and I somewhat felt we were both avoiding each other. Then she came by and waved one day, commented about my new short hairdo, and I knew she was wondering how things were after “the incident.” I said I think things were going better. (I’d hired some help temporarily for a few hours twice a week for a few weeks. Never mind that my toddler screamed for the sitter the first hour so I was the same amount of stressed as if she wasn’t there).
Then she started talking about the daycare in the area and saying how my son would love it there. She had a few other ideas of where we could go to “get out of the house more.” I was thinking it’s actually pretty stressful trying to go places with a toddler and a baby. The biggest challenge is getting everyone and everything in the vehicle, especially when the toddler acts like a noodle or a board when I’m trying to buckle the booger in.
I recently was out of town for a few weeks, so Elaine didn’t hear anything from me, and came knocking at my door. How sweet of her to check on me. Aaaand then she started saying she thought maybe I’d gotten a little job to take a break from my kids, that could clear my head, help with the…mental state I was in…
I smiled and said that actually, a job and leaving my kids sounded more stressful to me.
Another thing said to me more than once: “You seem just fine to me.” Ok, I just bothered to open up and say things are not just fine. I’m not just making it up. For the most part people know that it makes others uncomfortable sometimes talking about sensitive issues, so often if we’re struggling we put on our best face. Sometimes we don’t even have the strength to put up a front, but if we do, we often will, usually out of not wanting to be judged or make people feel uncomfortable.
I know a lot of people don’t understand stay-at-home-moms. I may want some autonomy from my kids sometimes, but I don’t want to leave them in another’s care on a regular basis for more than a few hours a couple times a month, and I’m blessed I am not in a position where I must work outside the home. I’m not judging those who do, but I want my full-time job to be as a homemaker and mother.
I know a lot of people also don’t understand postpartum disorders. That it’s not always in depression form. That it can be extreme irritability and anger and look like marriage and self-control issues. That it can be serious even if you don’t want to harm your baby or yourself. That those who have lost a baby to miscarriage can experience the same emotional and hormonal symptoms as those who gave birth and are under the stress of caring for an infant. The list goes on.
But mostly, what bothers me is that a lot of people don’t care to educate themselves about what other people are going through and assume they know how to fix it and open their mouths before taking the time to actually try to understand.
Annnnyway…Now I feel like being an awareness spokesperson for Postpartum Disorder. Guess that’s basically what I’m doing typing here, huh?
Three good days. IN A ROW! And right after a 3+week out of state vacation with the grandparents (which can be a notoriously difficult adjustment time as other parents of toddlers know!) I’m excited about that. I didn’t have to call hubby or my mom in a panic about anything. I didn’t feel like I was too overwhelmed to cope with the struggles of my past 3 days. Wondering if I’ve turned a corner. Maybe the postpartum cloud has lifted? If not completely, I’m pleased with the progress! I even caught myself singing out loud randomly again. It had been quite a while since I sang out loud other than at church (and sometimes I didn’t feel like doing even prompted singing), probably since right after my first was born and I went through a lot of postpartum symptoms with him. That realization made me think I’m starting to feel more like the normal me again.
Big bro hasn’t eased up on his tantrums the past three days; far from it. Continuing with consistent discipline is definitely wearing, but for the most part I’m able to stay calm and persevere (feels like an all-day endeavor..because it is). He seems less frustrated overall and is more dealing with lack of impulse control, like when he whops Sissy for no reason, poor dear. Sissy is 5 months old now and still the sweetest thing, even while teething.
Sometimes the sweetheart in him will emerge, too, and he’ll kiss her on the head in the middle of playing with his trucks. My son’s increasing vocabulary seems to help the situation. I try to lighten up things by sharing giggles, playing tag, or baking together. Maybe he senses I’m less tense and anxious.
I had struggled with insomnia since the last post but for the past week I’ve been able to sleep through the night. Pregnancy and parenthood so greatly increase one’s appreciation of sleep. Insomnia, oh so much more.
I’m not despairing about the future, feeling like I can’t handle tomorrow “alone”. As a Christian I believe I’m never alone spiritually, but sometimes the physical aloneness (no one to physically lend a hand when I felt so inadequate with a difficult toddler and needy baby all at once) felt overwhelming. Maybe it will feel that way again, I don’t know. People give a lot of advice when you go through a hard time, and saying to “just trust God” is not very helpful in situations like these. We may know trusting God is vital. Fear or anxiety are crippling emotions, and sometimes you can’t just shut them off even if you know God is trustworthy, strong enough to carry us through, that he has it all figured out so we don’t need to worry, and that he will never leave us.
For me I think a lot of the healing has been realizing the sources of my fear, and the unhealthy thought patterns in general. I tend to think like a perfectionist and people pleaser. We all know nobody’s perfect and you can’t make everybody happy. Try to, and you’ll be anxious. As a parent, the perfectionist tendencies really can get me worked up because, for instance, there’s no set standard or way to do things as a stay-at-home mom. I want to be the best mom I can be and not mess my kids up. As an example of this tendency for perfectionism, right now I have literally 12 tabs up with online articles to read about how to best parent my challenging child. (The funny thing is that I’ll never be able to implement all the suggestions, and some of the suggestions are contradictory from author to author, and finally, all kids are different so driving myself batty to follow somebody else’s suggestions might not even work in our case.) Giving myself permission to not earn 100% in everything is such a relief. My son won’t love me more if I’m perfect.
Realizing that even Jesus’ family had issues, and not everybody liked him though he was perfect has been a relief. Perfectionism and people-pleasing will probably be things I struggle with my whole life, but identifying them more in my thoughts is helpful to attempt to refocus on what really matters. Asking, “Am I being loving with my son?” rather than “Am I not making any mistakes with him?” is a healthier approach to parenting. Because I’m human and humans make mistakes. People might not think I’m doing things the best way, but I can’t focus on what they think, because it only matters what God thinks. And he offers forgiveness, strength, and hope for each new day and the challenges within. I’m so thankful.
I tend to be sporadic in my blogging. Oh, so you noticed. 🙂
Well, this time it was because life got really busy and unpredictable really quickly. We found out our Whirlpool Duet is one of those washers that repair guys get called up about a lot, and they usually can’t repair them, according to the repair guy. Can’t say I was thrilled with going to the (expensive!!) laundromat with an almost-2-yr. old! But I was glad we had purchased the extended warranty on the washer, which afforded us a matching washer/dryer set of a different brand, top-loader but still energy efficient.
During the MONTH+ (yeah, let’s just say repairs where I live in mountain-land don’t get done quickly when contracted out from the chain home improvement store we had to work with) without a washer I had to stop cloth diapering my son. Then with the new baby shortly after that, we kept using disposables and I’m currently working up the gumption to get back into cloth diapering. My now 2 yr.-old is potty training (as in, he asks to go on the big potty seat sometimes but sometimes refuses when we try to get him to sit on it) so I’m hoping he’ll be out of diapers soon anyhow. But for our little girl, who is now 3 months old and almost 12 lbs., I would like to start cloth diapering again soon.
However, I had to come to the realization (and it happened pretty quickly…right after grandma left) that the transition from having only one kid to having two under two at once just was not an easy thing for me. When friends around me were doing so well at it, I wondered what made it so hard for me. One reason was that though my son adored his new sister, he did not adore having to share Mommy and Daddy, and really started acting out. My formerly smiley, sweet boy was now screaming for 45 minutes in the morning when he saw me carrying Sissy downstairs instead of him first, or whatever reason or non-reason he had for it. At playgroup he started hitting, pushing, pulling hair, in general being a big bully–totally uncharacteristic for him formerly. At church a nursery worker even commented that this was not the same kid he used to be. It was heartbreaking for me. I didn’t like him very much for those first few months though I love him unconditionally. I think things are getting better with my son’s behavior due to a lot–and I mean a lot– of consistent discipline and intentional parenting. I think he’s come to see we aren’t going to forget about him and he even gets to have a lot of fun, just on a different time table than before.
Praise God Sissy has been an incredibly easy baby. However, I’ve realized another reason life after baby #2 has been difficult is that I have been struggling with postpartum depression. I am pretty sure I may’ve even struggled with it after the first one! I think I didn’t recognize it immediately because I could still see the humor in some things and didn’t feel down 100% of the time. But the other symptoms in lists I was reading about postpartum depression described what was going on with me quite accurately, such as:
- Intense irritability, anger, worry, agitation, anxiety
- Inability to concentrate or make decisions
- Overwhelming exhaustion; feeling “heavy”
- Uncontrollable crying
- Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
- Feelings of hopelessness or despair
- Fear of being a “bad” mother, or that others will think you are
- Fear that harm will come to the baby
- Mood swings
- Feelings of panic
With my first baby, I didn’t get much rest not only because he was colicky, but also because I was afraid he would stop breathing in his sleep so I would constantly stop what I was doing or wake up to make sure he was alive. I even had a flashlight next to my hand at night to check on him. This time around I’m more relaxed and trusting God to take care of what I cannot control, but I do often check Sissy’s breathing during daytime naps. Force of habit. I’m afraid of walking too close to the stairwell for fear of losing balance while holding her. The other day Hubby hadn’t called to say he was on his way home and it was about an hour later than usual, the kids were being particularly difficult to manage alone, and I found myself having difficulty breathing with panic setting in.
The mood swings have by far been the most destructive thing in my life lately. I don’t like the person I’ve been recently. I’ve snapped at my toddler and been way harsher than is called for. I’ve been intensely angry at my husband for so many things and he could sense I was volatile. I’ve been an emotional, crying, ugly mess. And I thought it was just me–I was so flawed in character or something. Well, I know it’s true I’m not perfect and I have much room to grow. But when I concluded this is NOT the normal, well-rested, well-balanced Aim, life started looking less bleak.
Since reading up on postpartum depression and talking with my husband a lot about it all, we’re doing so much better. He’s understanding what’s going on in me and I feel very supported now. I used to feel like I could barely survive the day with my crazy toddler and crying baby. Ok, so I still feel like that sometimes and have to call my mom to calm down. But now I think there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. The me I like is returning slowly after I’ve been getting some help and working on lessening my stress, getting more exercise and eating healthier. It may take a while for the postpartum depression to disappear, but I feel like I can breathe easier now. I may cry a lot, but I have waterproof mascara, so I can look good when I do! haha.
Besides my husband and mom’s encouragement, I am so blessed to be surrounded by a group of uplifting friends that happens to be my son’s playgroup mommies, among others. That is SO helpful to staying afloat when struggling. The reason I shared all this is because I bet there are many more moms out there thinking things could not be worse and feeling alone in that. You’re not. We may be struggling, but we’ll make it! You may not have a physical group in your life right now to bring you positivity, but there are other ways to get that like finding online groups. For instance, on facebook you can “like” Hearts at Home, FamilyLife, Thriving Family, Proverbs 31 Ministries, Focus on the Family, MOPS International (Mothers of PreSchoolers) and other groups that will bring uplifting content for moms to see on their newsfeeds. I’m sure there are lots of other ideas out there I just haven’t discovered yet.
One last thing. This has helped me a lot. You may feel you’re doing a miserable job in life lately if you’re going through this too. But I challenge you to write several things down that you DID accomplish and choose not to tally the things you didn’t. For instance, I’m ignoring dirty dishes tonight to revel in the fact that I was successful in encouraging my son to clean up his toys without either of us getting upset! I changed–no kidding–SIX poopie diapers from just two kids today! My son skipped his naptime but I kept my cool and we had a good time reading truck books over and over again! Life is good. I just have to be determined to see that. And today, I succeeded.
After using the following homemade detergent powder for about two years, I am confident in saying that this recipe works very well for us. You will often see DIY recipes online that include soaps such as fels-naptha or ivory grated up into it, but those really aren’t necessary. In fact, in my research for cost-effective cloth-diaper-safe detergents, I found that soaps like these can actually cause build-up, so I left soap out altogether. Your clothes still get clean, trust me! It may not suds up while in your washer (which is a good thing for an HE washer like mine) but it’s doing the trick.
Soaps are nice for their scents if you like that, but if you have a baby like mine or family member with sensitive skin, you want an unscented option anyway. I may like figuring out how to do things, but I won’t lie; I’m lazy sometimes too and don’t mind skipping the bar-soap grating step! See those two boxes pictured on my washer? That’s all that’s in it! (Did you know both Borax and Washing Soda are ingredients in Bum Genius’s official cloth diaper detergent? That’s how I knew they were cloth-diaper safe before I tested them myself.) Just measure out a 50/50 ratio of Borax and Washing Soda (NOT baking soda!!!). I store mine in an ice cream tub with a TBSP scoop. For my HE washer dirty diaper laundry I use 2 TBSP in the detergent dispenser (hot wash, presoak, heavy duty, extra rinse). They’ve always come out clean and odorless. I use this detergent on my regular laundry too, works great with hot or cold, but a normal load only requires 1 TBSP of the powder mix; the bigger the load, the more heaping the scoopful. Easy peasy.
Some have questioned the safety of borax but I did research beforehand and have no qualms about using it. Borax is only harmful when ingested into your body in large quantities or inhaled in large quantities (so don’t go huffing it in while you mix the stuff together; if you’re worried wear a cleaning mask). You will not be ingesting this, and it will be washed out of your clothes in your washer. But to each his own; if it’s not your thing, there are other natural options like soap nuts.
So the cost breakdown since I don’t use a bar of soap is less than 5 cents per scoop. I like the sound of that, don’t you?! You can use this to make a paste to spot-treat, but I still have some spray ‘n wash from my couponing spree 3 years ago…refill lasts forever. Follow the box instructions for either the washing soda or borax to get an idea of how versatile this stuff is!
Another side-effect of cloth-diaper research before we had our baby was that I found out dryer sheets can cause buildup not only on clothing (especially harmful for diapers you want to be absorbent) but on your dryer itself. So if I was going to cloth-diaper, I decided I’d better give up drier sheets altogether. (BTW, I never knew before nor paid attention to the labels on sports-wear that you’re not supposed to use dryer sheets/fabric softeners on those either.) Oh yeah, and dryer sheets are expensive, even if you have a coupon. (I’d read about and tried the frugal DIY “drier sheets” using sponges dipped in Downy fabric softener, etc, but again…the cost was no longer the only issue here).
Then I read about dryer balls made out of wool. Try to buy them and you could be out up to $8 or more per dryer ball. *cough* Whaaa?!!! Yeah. I was not gonna pay that, so I found out how to make them myself. Some people buy skeins of wool yarn but that’s expensive, too, or you could just go sheer a sheep if you have one, or maybe you have wool lying around in a pile at your house. I happened to have a Norwegian 100% sheepswool sweater that I paid $1 for intending to swipe the fasteners from it. It really was a pretty thing overall, but waaaay too shapeless and bulky for me. So I sacrificed it and made about 10 drier balls out of it. You only need 3 or so soft-ball sized drier balls to make a difference, but I find 6 is about right for fluffing up and reducing drying time (thus energy cost) when I do a heavy load of diapers. My former drying time before using drier balls was about 1 hr. and now it’s only 40 min. or so. We really don’t get static even in the winter (mind you, I hang things like sporty yoga pants so they last longer and fleecy stuff to dry, and those are usually static culprits if you do dry them). If you like fluffy-bunny-soft towels, you may not like drier balls rather than drier sheets and softeners, but remember those are only soft because they are putting chemicals on the towels and your body.
So the how-to…
1. Grab your 100% wool sweater or blanket to upcycle into drier balls, and cut it (assuming it’s at least a size medium) into at least 6 even pieces about that you could wrap around a softball with extra overlapping. Or simply chop the arms likewise like you’re stuffing a sausage, and use the remaining parts of the sweater (which you can put drops of essential oils like lavender in if you want) to stuff into the pieces in softball sized and shaped wads that you then sew closed by hand, with the raw edges tucked inside. Don’t worry too much about tight stitches or beauty…the next steps will ensure the dryer balls will not unravel.
2. Hopefully you were able to get them to look fairly uniform, but if not, no worries. Stick them in the leg of an old pair of pantyhose (or you can get those 33cent “eggs” with knee-high stockings in them from Walmart) and tie a knot in between each ball. This will ensure a tight smooth exterior when you felt them next. (This simply means shrinking them so they will no longer unravel even if they were cut)
3. Throw the panty-hose “strand” in your washer on hot with some detergent, then send them through the dryer on the hottest setting to further shrink and dry them. You can do this a few times until you feel they are firm enough and unlikely to unravel.
4. Cut off the stocking, then leave them in your dryer (or let your baby…or cat…play with them. hmm, should’ve put a jingle bell inside some while I was making them!) You can disperse them evenly throughout your wet clothes when you dry each load, but I never have and they bounce about just fine. They may be a little noisy bouncing inside the dryer but that’s normal and not a problem unless you think it is.
I often get online to quickly find a way to do something I think should be possible but don’t have the complete knowledge of how on my own. That’s kind of the point, in my opinion, of blogging posts that include recipes or photos of a process and finished product…this isn’t a bragging forum for me. (Granted, we all feel good when we set our minds out to do something and it works out and we just want to share our excitement.) If someone wants to find a variety of sources in researching ideas, they may be interested in hearing from an average Jane like me who tried something out before they take the effort to do something for themselves. How many of you have tried a pinterest pin that didn’t work out and were irked that so many kept-repinning because it looked cool but hadn’t tried it out?
Dry Shampoo Recipe for brunettes and redheads:
Maybe you’ve heard of people using baby powder or cornstarch or baking soda sprinkled in their hair and brushed out as a form of dry shampoo. I have used the baby powder option for a few years when I don’t feel like washing my oily hair which usually looks greasy every morning. Ok, let me rephrase that…when I don’t have the option of washing my hair because the kid is in melt-down mode, lightning-fast to get into trouble while in the bathroom with me if I tried to shower, or I just really really really needed more sleep that morning (and still probably didn’t get enough). However, I just don’t like the clumping of white on my scalp I have to rub out with a washcloth or baby-powder scent that results. So the idea of a dry shampoo that doesn’t cost a fortune and is readily available to me per my cabinet was quite appealing. I saw a recipe online of cornstarch/arrowroot powder (plus a smidge of baking powder if desired) for blondes, then was glad to also have the suggestion of one for brunettes, which added cocoa powder. (For a costume party once I tried adding cocoa powder to mousse for darkening my strawberry blonde hair…total fail with brown dust flaking off my head…I washed it and went natural again. Anyhow, the goal here this time wasn’t to darken my hair temporarily, but to match the color of my hair when I need an extension in the time in-between washes).
I didn’t actually see the recipe I wanted for making it work for redheads (could have possibly been out there but I just didn’t find it as I have limited online-time with a toddler vying for my constant attention; I am taking a break typing this during naptime). I found one recipe that used paprika…which I think smells funny, but some who commented on the arrow-root cocoa-powder recipe blog post wondered if cinnamon powder (very finely ground) would work. The author (since this recipe and concept weren’t original nor limited to the person, I don’t feel I need to name names but just know I didn’t think this one up) also suggested using a little spice jar with the sprinkle tops to store and apply. My son plays with old spice containers since he loves to mimic me cooking, so luckily I had one of the pumpkin pie-spice little shakers to swipe from his stash….Unfortunately, haven’t found the cap to seal it, which I recommend doing: sealing so it doesn’t absorb moisture, especially if you store yours in your bathroom cabinet like I do. Of course I wanted to test out the cinnamon coloring idea for myself. So here’s what I did.
Dry Shampoo for Strawberry Blondes
I really don’t follow recipes exactly and everyone has different shades of hair, so why give measurements? I just did it this way for my recipe; add more or less of anything as you like to achieve the color you need:
Fill small spice bottle almost 1/2 full of arrowroot powder, then the other 1/4ths with cocoa powder and cinnamon powder, topping off the container with some baking soda if you want. Some find the last ingredient irritating so you can leave it out. There is a recipe floating on the web that uses mainly baking soda, but I find that way too gritty.
Again, you can use cornstarch instead of arrowroot powder, but I liked the idea of arrowroot having soothing, antibacterial properties. A frugal way to purchase arrowroot powder, since if you’ve noticed in the spice aisle of your grocery store it’s pretty pricey in the little spice bottle, is to buy arrowroot flour in larger amounts instead–it’s the same thing!! (check the gluten-free baking area of the store, or order online in bulk like I did—I just got a lb. for $6 since I planned to use it in homemade diaper cream and other body products).
I’m here to say having tested it out several times the last few weeks to say I’m decently pleased with the result. I would recommend applying over your sink BEFORE getting dressed for the day, brushing it through your hair, then flipping your head down, grabbing the ends of your hair, and shaking the excess out after it’s done its oil-absorbing wonders on your hair.
I have bangs so that part of my hair and the front sides get the greasiest, so that’s really only where I need to sprinkle the stuff, plus maybe at the nape of my neck. Here’s the didn’t-wash my-hair-today, dry-shampoo result for my fine (and kinda thin) hair:
No more stringy, greasy strands!
Oh, Pinterest. How you distract us. We, especially us moms, have better things to do than be online coming up with more stuff we “need” to do or read. 😉 But how fun you can be. And I wonder how greatly you may contribute to my ADD.
Lately I’ve been finding “inspiring” pins about being a stay-at-home-mom or parenting in general and have been reading them in my spare time (hah…hah…*sigh.* Feel free to read that as “time I should have spent sleeping”). One particular pin led me to see an affiliate link that was about parenting education which enumerated the belief system of those who would fit well with the program. The primary tenet said something to the effect of, “This system will work well for you if you believe children are inherently good.” Then there was a paragraph written about how wonderful children are and that they simply require nurturing guidance to go on their own natural path to a positive future. I agree kids are wonderful with great potential. But I laughed out loud reading the words “children are inherently good.” All I could think was, “Does this person actually have a kid?”
Ok, maybe I was thinking, “This person should spend a day with my kid.” Let me tell you about my kid. I adore him and can’t imagine not being his mommy. In the 1.5 years he’s been the star of our show (actually, he started monopolizing our attention even before he was born, making his presence known since taking over my body for 9 months…technically more if you count breastfeeding, etc…) we have not gone more than a few minutes without thinking of him even if we were out on a date (which is rare). There are thousands of pictures and countless videos we’ve taken of him. I have a journal describing his milestones, funny and memorable moments, new words he says, and on and on. I told my husband before we got married that if we were to have kids, I would never work outside the home because I wanted to stay at home with them, and I do not regret that decision one bit no matter how worn out I feel sometimes. I think I would cry all day long if I had to leave my son every workday for even a few hours! I’m pretty sure friends and family get sick of hearing about the things I think are cute that he did today and think I am incapable of conversing about anything besides him anymore.
He’s just so great! He is an affectionate, cuddly sweetheart who loves to give his little buddies hugs. He is empathetic and recently went up to his daddy when my hubby injured his wrist crawling around the floor chasing after the kiddo and Lil Bambino, with a very concerned look on his face, said “Owie?” and tried to fix it. He loves to laugh and makes so many people smile and comment on what a well-behaved toddler he is while we’re out shopping.
But as much as we adore our little one, we KNOW he is not inherently good. He wants HIS way, or ain’t nobody gonna be having a good day!! He almost knocked one of my teeth out the other day, bashing a Corelle mug in my face while throwing a tantrum when I wouldn’t give him a refill of the “hot” drink he wanted since it was sugary and just a treat. Impulse control in kids this age is really, really underdeveloped. You see their feelings translate into actions right away. Selfish actions. Ugly actions. I told my son yesterday that he could not hit or bite people in anger and he turned around and proceeded to scrape the wall with an open mouth so his teeth left a mark in the wallpaper. (We rent. Hooray. Hope it’s not noticeable!) He also tends to throw things when he’s upset. He becomes so angry at times that he balls his hands up in fists of rage and shakes, turning red and wailing at the tops of his lungs, usually because we have taken away something that might harm him. We are mean, mean parents not to let him play with sharp objects! We should let him eat the yummy diaper cream! We should let him color anywhere he wants to even if it’s on the walls of property that we do not own! Often I am in tears at the end of the day because he was throwing fit after fit when all I wanted to do was feed him something healthy, change his dirty diapers, and love on him.
Is he wonderful? I think so. But I do not think he, nor any child, is inherently good. And I know myself, that I am not inherently good, and that when I was a child–and a pretty nice kid, too!–I was not innately altruistic. No, I wanted the biggest cookie with the most chocolate chips, and despised my brother for swiping it first! I even fibbed a time or two and as much as I loved animals, chased my cat with a vacuum once. I got spanked a few times for good reason (and no, it didn’t squelch my personality or scar me for life. I knew my parents loved me and disciplined me for my best interest.)
I suppose the whole idea of innate goodness goes back to even before Aristotle, but he’s one of the earliest who wrote about the concept of the mind being a tabula rasa, or blank/clean slate. Newborn Bambino Mio, I can tell you, was not a blank slate. We did not impress upon him how to think or behave as an infant. He still has the same cry of anger as he came with. It looks like this:
Except now he has more teeth than that, and they hurt when they go into my leg or arm. He did not get aggressive behaviors from daycare because he doesn’t go to daycare, nor from older siblings because he’s an only child for a few more months. I never taught him to bite when frustrated, to steal his friend’s toy, to hide while doing something he knows Mommy wouldn’t like, or to sneak as fast as he can onto the table now that he can climb to get Mommy’s cell-phone or whatnot he wants and she wouldn’t give him earlier. That, my friends, is human nature. Pre-existing selfishness. What the Bible calls a sin nature. And the beauty of it is that in my sinful, selfish little boy’s eyes, I see a reflection of my own tendencies and shortcomings, my own stubbornness and impatience, and I am amazed at how my Heavenly Father never stops loving me no matter how many tantrums I throw. But I get it. Because I will never stop loving my son. He needs my love and unconditional acceptance, just like I need God’s to feel whole. I’m so thankful for being able to experience the intensity of parental love for my child, and understanding more deeply the love of God for us through that.
I’ve been itching to get back to fun projects like sewing now that we’re pretty settled into the 1920’s house. (I’ll admit, the Christmas decor is still up…not high on my priority list yet; at least there’s not a ton of it to put away anyhow). The demands of everyday life sometimes take all my time and energy, though, and crafting gets put on a back-burner. Still, I try to be creative in the kitchen daily, usually with plenty of flops to show for it. Sometimes it’s better to stick to a recipe than tweaking them. (I will forever blame Miley Cyrus for my mental audio replay—you know, the voice inside your head that reads to you what you’ve written—stumbling over the word “tweaking” and mispronouncing it “twerking.” *Shudder*. No, no twerking, please!) However, sometimes you have to just go with what you have in your fridge or pantry and see what happens.
Recently I wanted hot chocolate and didn’t want to pay over a dollar for only six single-serve packages, so I decided to make my own mix, something I’ve done before but not in years. I had made sweet potato hot chocolate (sounds healthy, right?) a few times using this clean eating recipe: http://www.thegraciouspantry.com/clean-eating-sweet-potato-hot-cocoa/. We liked it pretty well as it was creamy (though somewhat sludgy at the last) and tasted good. Actually, I should say the little one LOVED it and kept demanding more, very unhappy if I put a limit on that. But it meant I had to clean out my blender all the time and since we’re doing green smoothies these days (fruit smoothies with spinach or kale–so the picky kiddo gets SOME greens…and I said I’d never raise a picky kid. Not always a choice), I didn’t want the hassle when the next morning I would need to use the blender again. I wanted a shelf-stable supply I could use when the hubs made his instant coffee (instant because I value my counter space and don’t want another appliance). After searching through a bunch of recipes I went with more or less the following mix:
Simple, Inexpensive Hot Cocoa Mix
2+ cups powdered sugar
1 cup cocoa
2-1/2 cups powdered milk (food processed into powder instead of the beady clumps it comes in)
1/2 cup creamer (some left this out, but I had it so used it)
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cornstarch
optional: up to 1 cup food processed chocolate chips (try mint!)
additional optional add-in: tiny freeze-dried marshmallows
I kept seeing recipes that called for Nesquick or other things that I consider cheating. If I’m bothering to make homemade, Nesquick is not an option. It’s too expensive anyhow. (By the way, a great article on the cost and health breakdown of homemade vs. storebought can be found here http://thesavedquarter.wordpress.com/2010/01/23/scratch-vs-store-bought-hot-cocoa/ which peaked my interest as a home economist.) The only reason I included the option marshmallow add-in is because I was able to find those on sale for 35 cents a container at Big Lots (a great place to snag deals) and they’re kinda fun. I doubled the recipe and whoaaaah did I end up with a lot of mix. So then I made these beauties with the help of an adorable little taste-tester (before we added the raw eggs):
They’re Hot Cocoa Mini Cheesecakes, a recipe I adapted from http://insidebrucrewlife.com/2013/01/hot-chocolate-cheesecakes/ . The original recipe called for sour cream and chocolate graham crackers, neither of which I had. But I did have plenty of homemade yogurt to substitute for the sour cream, and cocoa powder and granulated sugar to make the regular graham cracker crumb crust chocolate!
Hot Cocoa Mini Cheesecakes
yield 18 cupcakes
1 1/2 c crushed graham crackers
1/3+ c cocoa powder
1/8 c sugar
6 tablespoons butter, melted
2 (8 oz.) cream cheese packages, softened
1 c hot cocoa mix
2 Tbsp plain yogurt (greek if you have it)
2 tsp vanilla
2 Tbsp flour
1 c whipped cream
mini hot cocoa marshmallows
1. Mix (easiest in food processor, mixer or by hand will work, too) together the crushed graham crackers, cocoa, sugar and melted butter to make a dark-chocolate-colored crust. Distribute evenly into paper cupcake cups (I used a cookie dough scoop which put just the right amount in each). Flatten with a small glass or cup bottom to compact.
2. Blend cream cheese and hot cocoa mix until smooth, then add in eggs, yogurt, vanilla, and flour until homogeneous. Spoon into cupcake liners 3/4 full. (I didn’t have any left over).
3. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes (don’t worry if they crack–you’ll be frosting them!)
4. Set for a few minutes in the cupcake pans, then cool on wire rack and refrigerate until ready to dollop whipped cream on top, decorate with mini marshmallows and your choice of candy sprinkles (customize to the occasion! No limits! I thought silver sprinkles looked classy.)
I made these for a book study but half the gals had made New Year’s resolutions to do a health cleanse, so Hubby took a few extra to work and got rave reviews. I also found that these froze especially well, and the whipped cream frosting didn’t stick to the lid of the container because of the marshmallows and sprinkles!
Today was an unusually productive day at home, thanks to a good attitude I suppose and a mid-day nap for the little one (who lately has been trying to skip them). I de-boned the chicken thighs from yesterday’s crock-pot chicken-broth batch (recipe to come) and got about 4+ cups of shredded chicken (enchiladas, here we come!) and 5 qt. homemade chicken broth. Healthy stuff. Froze most, but to get it into the freezer I first had to organize said freezer. How I miss the side-by-side freezers I’ve been spoiled with for most of my marriage. Anyhow, this one works and came with the place.
What’s this? I now have room to spare? Meat Sale Wednesday shopping trip can cure that, methinks!
On a further note about organizing, check out the dollar store bin I am dubbing “the snack bin” which can fit a whole bag of grapefruit as well as apples while sliding neatly in and out for my convenience.
I cut up carrots and put snack baggies full in there for Hub’s lunches, and this morning while eating my grapefruit I used the extra juice to dip apple slices in to prevent from browning (since I think the lemon juice solution is too tarty), so put baggies of apple slices in there, too. But because I thought it’d be fun to put an on-the-go peanut butter “dip” with a sliced apple as a snack, here’s my solution to prevent a sticky/soggy/slimy peanutbutter mess (you know, how it turns lighter weird-colored when it gets wet?):
A little medicine measuring cup is perfectly sized to fit into the core-spot when the apple slices are arranged in one of those 1 cup rubbermaid containers.
Then there was the flopped black bean chicken chili (so I soaked dried black beans overnight and thought they’d be tender in the crock pot after 6+ hrs. on low…wrongo!). We didn’t end up crunching on that for supper—-leftover chicken fingers dipped in BBQ sauce instead.
(You can see I have a slow-cooker-fixin’s freezer container for next time, which I think I will cook overnight to solve the crunchy-bean prob).
Yup, an exciting day in the kitchen for me.
AAAAAaaaanddddd….I even got to sew a little! The little one was so excited to sit on my lap as I tried to keep him from impaling himself on needles or doing other damage while I replaced the elastic to two of his pairs of pants.
I didn’t have the right size of elastic, but I DID have the cut-off recycled elastic from…uh…well, from a pair of boy-short underwear I thought were wedgie-factory-quality. Weird, I know, to cut off the elastic from unmentionables and save it, right?! Who does that? I learned it from my grandma and then my mom who both passed it on to me. We just do stuff like that, saving bra-hooks, velcro and such off spent clothing to re-use (whether or not we ever do…can become borderline hoarding). Yes, people, I can survive a depression. 🙂
Finally, a great triumph of my day was exercising during naptime to an online pregnancy pilates workout for 45+ whole minutes! Thanks again to naptime. See my nifty dumbbell substitute? Cuz I’m cool like that.
All this unusual productivity pooped me out today! (Once you have kids, everything is “poop”y. It’s just on the brain.) Time for bed, where I’ll dream of a clean kitchen. Not something I posted a picture of for a reason :).