Posted in Featured Inspiration, Mental Health, Quick Project, sensory processing disorder, Uncategorized

Summer Break: Parents, Don’t let it Break You!

Parents, need ideas to keep kiddos occupied so you don’t go insane…without micromanaging their every move this summer?  AND without them being glued to screens?  I’ll be honest…I was kind of dreading summer, until I remembered I’m in charge of the way things go, and if I determine to plan a fun summer, I’ll most likely get it!  Our family vacation will provide a change of scenery (and checking out dinosaur bones!) but after that, I know I will come back to our everyday reality, and when I do, I’m prepared!  I’ll share what we’re up to as we go along!

The key isn’t to smash a billion activities into the weeks during summer.  That will add stress (to mom, especially), even if you are keeping everybody occupied.  The solution is providing opportunities for self-led play, discovery, and creativity.  And I feel really lucky that my daughter received an ideal birthday gift for montessori-type fun just in time for summer!

This kinetic sand gets my vote for most amount of active playtime in one sitting!  So far, they’ve been playing with it more than any other toy or activity opportunity in our house.  This week since we’ve been back from our trip to Ohio over Memorial day (when we weathered a tornado), it’s been out by my kids’ own volition three days in a row, over an hour each day at a time, and for several hours yesterday morning! And it’s already been out this morning again!

My kids are 5 an 6, but I think it would be a hit for younger and older kids as well! I even like playing with it because it doesn’t leave a weird feeling on my hands like play dough can. 

It’s easy to sweep up if some falls on the floor (but if I’d thought to have them use a rimmed tray that wouldn’t have happened), no drying and gunking things up!  (In fact, another part of occupying themselves has been customizing it with glitter…and you know how glitter gets everywhere…and setting them loose with a cordless hand vac like this one:

Which of course with a lot of praise about their skill and thoroughness makes for a proud, happy kiddo…and mom.)  Check out the full kinetic sand assortment on Amazon if you want to see the different varieties…dino digs, sand castles, Paw Patrol, etc.!)

#Summerbreak #summeractivity #notbored

(*For your convenience, I’ve used affiliate links to the products on Amazon. Saves you time finding the product I’ve talked about, no extra cost if you purchase the item, and helps support me in creating more content!  Thanks so much!)

Posted in Day in the life of a mom, Mental Health, sensory processing disorder

My Favorite SPD Books and Resources for Families

When my son began having disproportionately large meltdowns around the age of two over how things felt and big emotions, and in turn I was struggling to parent him well, figuring out how his mind works really helped me.  I read all these books and they helped me piece together the puzzle of my precious, smart, but inflexible and easily frustrated child.  I hope you can find encouragement and enlightenment in them as well! But first, check out this helpful checklist of common symptoms of SPD in age-specific groupings: https://www.understood.org/en/learning-attention-issues/child-learning-disabilities/sensory-processing-issues/sensory-processing-issues-what-youre-seeing

( These are affiliate links. As an Amazon Associates member, I hope to save you time searching for something I mention that you may find helpful, too.  If you make a purchase there is no extra cost to you, but it provides me with a small commission that helps me as I continue providing content for you! Thanks for your support!)

Posted in Day in the life of a mom, Mental Health, Ponderings about life

From Survival Mode to Creative Zone Again

When life was just about day-to-day survival and I wasn’t feeling very creative, I knew I needed to do something to get un-stuck. Four years of deeply wading through the weight of everything that was keeping me in survival mode, praying for hope and joy despite my circumstances, and trying to discover what my unique purpose was, and something finally started to grow in me.  It started with me determining to let go of anything that was weighing me down.

First, I got some counseling to uncover the root of my anxiety and start working on better ways to cope with stress.  Soapbox moment: I wish everyone thought of counseling as normal and ok, like a tuneup on your car, instead of viewing it as a stigma. (BTW, if you think you just can’t afford a counselor, there are sometimes scholarship programs available.  You might have to do some digging, but you’re worth the effort! There are also low-fee options like TalkSpace, $25 for a month and be able to text a counselor when you need.  Michael Phelps shares his experience with therapy here: at Talkspace ).

We all have issues (like the pressurizing problem of perfectionism) and limiting beliefs. It’s not a mark of failure, but of wisdom to ask for help to get you optimized.
and having an unbiased individual to help sort them out is kind of like hiring a professional organizer who helps you declutter and put things in a more ideal setup.  

Speaking of which, back before I ever heard of Konmari, I thought I needed to get my house organized, because my mess was overwhelming me.  That ushered me into the idea of decluttering, which ushered me into the realm of minimalism (which, for me, isn’t a strict set of rules, but rather the idea of not keeping more than I can deal with without overwhelm, and only what adds value and beauty to our lives.)  Which is where I am now, trying my utmost to live intentionally.

Intentionality changed me from somebody who could barely peel herself out of bed in the morning at 8 a.m., who dreaded the sound of busy little bodies awake before me (although I love them dearly), and had little to no structure in my day to someone who is awake closer to 5 a.m., who has goals for the day and longer term, and a plan to achieve them.  It changed me from someone who thought it would be a good idea to exercise to someone who regularly walks a mile (and sometimes my kids do it with me).  It changed me from someone who thought I’d like to paint more to someone who gets out the paints and creates.

Intentionality starts with better habits, which create momentum.

As a SAHM, recognizing I’m the CEO and in charge of the way my life and home works has been key to changing what I didn’t like and what wasn’t working.  We all have the same amount of hours in our days, so learning better time management (essentially self-management) has been essential for awakening a dream in me.  Putting plans  into place for better health and productivity has reduced overwhelm and given me the space to be creative.  I feel less like I’m surviving and more like I’m on my way to truly thriving creatively again.  My dream is being able to encourage others to do the same, because it’s powerfully and literally life-changing.

Leave a comment (scroll allll the way down on this post) sharing your dream and one thing you could do to get started on it!  If you don’t have one yet, share what’s weighing you down from getting there, and if you have a step to take to overcome it today!     

Posted in Day in the life of a mom, Mental Health, Ponderings about life

When Creativity gets Squashed by Survival Mode

When dealing with postpartum anxiety and depression and then adrenal fatigue and chronic exhaustion, I was stuck in survival mode.  Survival mode is not a great place for creativity to thrive in, or even show up.  A handful of days are that way now, occasionally, when I get insomnia or something else incredibly stressful comes up.  But for the most part, things have improved so much that I marvel at the contrast.  Maybe the following sound familiar to you, and I just want to give you hope that it doesn’t have to stay that way!

Some people have lofty aspirations, but at my lowest point, I just wanted to be at a place where I could be able to wake up easily not feeling exhausted and look forward to what lay ahead.  Where I wasn’t wishing each day was over because I barely felt like I could make it through.   I longed to know what being motivated and enthusiastic felt like again.  I didn’t want to be so overwhelmed that I might have a panic attack, and look like a fool when asking somebody to come just be with me and my kids because I couldn’t deal with life.  I wanted to enjoy food and not feel awful no matter what healthy thing I tried to eat.  I ached to see a light at the end of the dark tunnel within my health journey.

(I am going to pause a moment and acknowledge that some health journeys are a continuous tunnel without much light.  Although keeping hope alive is important, I know some issues are chronic, unrelenting, and desperately painful without any probability of reversal.

If you’re in that place, know your pain and your story matter.  I truly believe many of life’s most valuable lessons come from the most painful things, and you may unknowingly be the one teaching others what perseverance looks like and giving others in a hard situation the courage to go on, too.  Reach out if you feel like you need someone to help hold you up, pray for, and encourage you–you don’t have to go it alone! We were made to connect!)

I grieved for the vibrant, creative and energetic girl and woman I had once been.  I was LOW.  So I did what I normally do to cope with challenges: I read (which is hard to find time to do as a mom, right?! But I made it happen).  I was reading some inspirational mom book and it said something about having a passion or dream apart from the daily grind of parenting.

I had this numb sort of reaction, like, “That’s nice for some moms, but I can’t even imagine being in a place where my mind be able to fathom having a dream.  And besides, I don’t know what my dream would be.”  (But I do now.  More on that later.)  Have you been there?  Don’t be there alone.  Feel free to comment and share if you are in survival mode, or if you’ve discovered your dream.  What got you from survival mode to creativity again?

Posted in Day in the life of a mom, Mental Health, Ponderings about life

Stay-at-home-mom Productivity and Progress

DSC06032Last year I got into a rut a bit more deeply than years previous.  As a SAHM, one thing that often has discouraged me is knowing my work is never really done, and doesn’t look more done because piles of laundry and cooking and dishes (etc. etc.) need to be re-done each day/weekly.  I have felt so unproductive each day even though I’m working around the house all day long.  Yet this SAHM gig is what I want to do, and I don’t have a desire for a financial career.  Something had to change.

I was kind of depressed over it and was cranky all the time, so I talked to a counselor about it.  She was encouraging, saying that as a parent (of only one kid) who worked, she felt like it would possibly be harder to manage kids and a house all day long, and recommended I lower my expectations for myself, and expect to do only about an hour a week “side-projects” (like organizing the basement) beyond main household responsibilities–cooking, cleaning, and childcare.  Thanks…I appreciate the idea, but I couldn’t bring myself to do that, because that didn’t seem like it would improve my situation any.  I was still surrounded by disorder.

 So when school started, I began listening to Michael Hyatt’s Your Best Year Ever podcast, which I recommend.  A main takeaway for me that I’m going to continue, hopefully with more regularity, was his productivity journal idea.  He quoted a study that saying productivity is increased 40% by writing goals down because it gives clarity, overcomes resistance/analysis of desires, provides motivation, filters other opportunities (prioritizes), enables clarity and allows you to see progress.  

 Since I started doing my own productivity journal, I definitely notice when I nightly make a page of the top 3 goals and subset goals for the next day, that I have more focus and get more done, then feel better about my day in general (and that makes me a better mom). 

 It’s somehow not the same as a to-do list, which to me feels like a drag on my energy.  It’s just clearer intentionality, instead of drudgery, I guess.  Not necessarily doing more, but doing what matters more efficiently, to feel like I have time for margin and reduce feelings of overwhelm. 

Beyond daily goals, he encourages setting achievable yet challenging yearly goals to promote growth and feed a dream.  Looking at those monthly or whenever helps me have vision for my future.  Looking back on the goals I set for the beginning of the school year (because when my kids are in school is when I feel I have some time —even if it’s just 3 days a week for 3 hours at a time—to accomplish things without being distracted), I can see some things weren’t as important to me as I thought they should be, but I hit my main 3: exercising regularly for health, reading 7 books, and improve time management. (I set alarms/timers to be more punctual most of the time.  As Noni from A Slob Comes Clean podcast says, there’s such a thing as Time Passage Awareness Disorder, and I have it. The last one I’m still working on…but it definitely improved.)  

So essentially, since starting that last summer, I feel like I’ve had a trial run for improvement this new year. Consequently, I have done a tune-up on my goals and areas of learning and growth, rather than coming up with an official New Years’ Resolution.  It may not be my best year ever (I am still dealing with many health challenges), but if it’s progress, I’m pleased with that. What kinds of things helped you make progress last year?    

Posted in Day in the life of a mom, Mental Health, minimalism, saving money, sensory processing disorder

What everyday SPD looks like for my 3 and 5 yr olds…

My 5 yr. old son asked for another piece of pizza, a rare treat at our place since I am gluten-free and don’t usually have the energy to make it myself and avoid certain ingredients for my healthy eating standards.  He was so happy when I said sure…but when I gave it to him, he kind of stared at the piece and started to zone out as his face fell a little.

I asked him, “What’s wrong, hon?”  But I could have guessed.  You see, the pizza crust was not big enough for him to hold without getting sauce on his fingers.  The sauce went too far up.  And as much as he loves pizza, his desire to avoid that messy feeling is greater.  He knows he can wipe his hands on a napkin or wash his hands later, but he can’t do it.

I found myself thinking, Wow. He didn’t throw a fit!  He didn’t meltdown over it today! He didn’t cry or get angry!  That looks like progress to me!  And it is.  We’ve been working with him a lot about his responses.  To be frank, a lot has to do with me not getting upset with his particularities, which was hard at first because I grew up in a family where you weren’t allowed to be “picky.”  Then I married a “picky” person…but I see it’s not always about pickiness.  It can be about texture.  It can be about how tastes hit a person’s brain.  My son got a lot of the way his brain works from his dad.  They can’t deal with some fabrics (my husband won’t wear “scratchy” wool sweaters, or cotton sweaters that aren’t soft enough).  Not only are some things like that a turn-off or irritating, it can just plain overwhelm them, because of how their brains magnify, misinterpret, or translate a sensation.  I can see now they’re not “spoiled” or “bratty” because they choose not to flood their brains with highly unpleasant feedback.

The fact that my son got a little sad about not feeling like he could enjoy the pizza he was anticipating so much makes me want to figure out ways to help him cope with his SPD more.  Because sometimes, you can’t change the way things are.  But in this case, it was an easy fix because the pizza was thin crust, and I just folded it over onto itself so the back of the pizza could be more of a crust, and that worked for him.  No messy fingers.  I guess another solution could have been cutting it up and eating it with a fork, which he has done in the past, but whatever the issue, the triumph was that he remained calm and went on to enjoy his pizza.

Another instance of SPD showing occurred when he needed new shoes.  I got him some cute ones that only needed to be zipped (because he is also kind of OCD and if the shoes have velcro, he takes forever aligning the velcro just right…more than one strap? You’ll be waiting a while) and was thrilled when he put them on, ran and hopped around, and wore them to school the next day.

53573611409__6AC30959-12E4-4718-8BBA-6B08A22C52B8

After a day of school, however, with all the movements an active 5 yr. old does, he informed me they felt bumpy at the top when he knelt.  So brand new shoes that I can’t return now?  Tah-tah.  And today, I can be okay with that.  (And also thankful I mostly only buy things on sale or second-hand).  Previously, I would have gotten mad that I went through the trouble to find the shoes, spent the money, and he didn’t like them after all.  Life is better when I accept his issues and treat him with dignity instead of trying to fit him into my idea of the way things should be.  I would want somebody to do the same for me.  My husband does not get mad or rant or resent me (though it may exhaust him) when I get stuck in anxious mode and he has to hear all about my fears knowing he can’t fix me.  He makes life better for me by hearing me, understanding it’s hard for me, and loving me unconditionally.  I want to do that for my son.  

I sometimes see my son trying to mask his SPD reactions.  When we were looking for shoes another occasion, he tried to use logic to reason his way into a new pair of Paw Patrol light-up shoes.  They looked perfect!  But the first thing he said when he tried them on before I asked or anything was, “hmm, I feel a bump on the bottom.” Then seeing my face, and knowing I would not get them if he had a complaint, he immediately tried to reason it away, saying, “BUT I think they’ll be fine after I wear them a little while and get used to them!”  Experience has taught me that if it’s annoying initially, that’ll always be the case.  There were tears shed over those Paw Patrol shoes, but I wouldn’t budge.

Similarly, his little sister got some brand new PINK tennis shoes after searching many stores.   They were NIKE!  (We were given a gift card to the store).  She LOVES pink!  She tried them on.  She danced around!  She was so happy.  She WANTED them to work! But when it came down to it, she couldn’t stand them for longer than a minute every time we tried them on after that.  She’d put them on, then get stuck like glue with her bottom on the floor, not being able to get up and walk in them. It’s like her brain just shut down with them on her feet.

I am not very patient when we’re getting ready to go and people don’t have their shoes on when I asked 15 minutes earlier.  A 20 minute delay really irks me.  One day she tried on 3 pairs of socks and 3 pairs of shoes, and we were so late.  I definitely returned the pink shoes.  I was disappointed because of the amount of effort searching, and feeling exhausted and dreading that now another kid is manifesting some real SPD stuff.  (It’s SO draining for me to figure out how to do life with SPD!  And not just one kid’s particularities!  But two…If you add in their dad’s preferences, three sensory processing packages! I guess it is draining to HAVE the SPD oneself, though, eh?!)  But I was SO GLAD I know it’s just not worth it to try to MAKE something work that just isn’t going to work.  

Like the pretty dress I’d bought when she was a baby, waiting for her to fit into it.  It was a perfect Easter dress!

scratchy
too “scratchy” for threenager

She would not wear it.  She wanted to!  She put it on, excited to dance and spin in it…But it was “too scratchy,” and she freaked out and cried until she got it off.   Just like when she put on the brand new shirt with a seam across the chest (which I also had bought in advance.  I think I have learned my lesson. “Saving money” buying things when they’re a good deal doesn’t always save money.  I am also glad I can let things go by embracing minimalism and saying if it doesn’t work for me, we can pass it on, no problem.  Why waste my emotional energy on it, looking at it and feeling bothered it was supposed to work but didn’t?!)

Anyhow, that’s just a glimpse of some examples of everyday issues that crop up with family members with SPD.  There are more, believe me…there are more.  But I can say that with a smile.  Life is not over; it is just more interesting.

 

 

 

Posted in Day in the life of a mom, Mental Health, Ponderings about life

How Being Intentionally Involved Moms Invites Joy Into our Lives

Finding joy as a mother has been a long journey for me.  Yes, there was the instant joy and love during the bonding phase with each of my children as newborns.  After that, however, I really struggled with the realities of life as a mother…

Mainly, the lack of sleep.  Lots of anxiety.  The postpartum depression.  The moving (we lived in 5 different homes since my now-preK aged son was born).  Probably a lot of hormonal stuff after the first that I didn’t catch onto, but definitely after my second child to a degree we couldn’t ignore anymore.

I was surviving, fueled by love and God’s mercies, but I was hanging on by a thread.  I am honestly amazed my marriage survived the past 4 years, because it was so tough on not only me but also my husband.  Looking back, I see there were the many, many heartwarming, good times.  But the overall feeling of the last 4 years for me has often been sheer exhaustion.  I say this a little hesitantly because I don’t want people considering having kids to have fear, or to avoid it because of the possibility of struggles.  I do, however, think it’s important for those who are willing to share to be open about that sort of thing, because awareness is key to navigating issues.  I would not have realized what postpartum depression looked like (and how it can look so different for so many people) if women did not publicly share their stories, and it could have turned out much more seriously than it did, because I finally realized what was going on when my youngest was over a year old through random articles about PPD online.

I really had to fight through daily and weekly struggles, mainly my health struggles (mental/emotional, chronic fatigue, hormone/cycle related PMDD) and then my son’s sensory-processing issues (now my daughter as well), which made for intense times almost nonstop throughout the day.  One of the light spots I remember during the darkest parts of this time was that I took a ton of photos and videos of the cutest moments whenever I was able that, later on at the end of each week, I’d review late at night after the kids finally went to bed, that made me smile.

(I am so thankful for how our neurochemistry works.  That activity may be one of the key positive habits helping me make it through the darker periods of postpartum. If you like neurochemistry/psychology type stuff, check out http://www.pnas.org/content/114/9/2361.abstract .  Basically, the amygdala, or the part of the brain responsible for social behavior, motivation and emotions, of mothers produces dopamine, which creates pleasure or rewarding sensations, when they view images of their children.  Although they wore me out, my kids existence also motivated me to keep going.)

All that to say, my youngest is almost 4 now, and it’s only really been in the past year that life has been on the sunny side most of the time.  My husband and I have grown in so many ways and changed how we do things, finding healthier ways to cope with stress.  We’ve in general altered our lifestyle, especially food-wise, to promote our familial well-being.

So, to get to the main theme I was aiming at when I began typing…Finding joy in motherhood has been a long journey for me.  On the days when I did not, or occasionally still, do not have the natural energetic enthusiasm to actively engage positively with my kids, sometimes choosing to do so regardless of how I feel is the best thing to create an environment of contentment and delight.  Not just for them, either.  Intentionally involving myself in my busy little people’s worlds can be difficult when my mind is preoccupied by you-name-it…But it’s the BEST way to spark joy.  Because I was MADE for this.

(Let me clarify:  I have a ton of potential I could invest anywhere I want.  Got the degrees, got a lot of interests, talents and dreams.  I am not limited to my home.  [Hello, women’s rights movement?  All things are permissible for me…But I don’t personally find them all beneficial.]  Yet right now, I am mainly focused at home.  This is the work I want to do, building my kids’ safe haven and our family’s HQ.  I am choosing my family to invest into during this season of my life, when the foundations of my kids’ lives are being laid.  And I find I am most fulfilled and healthy when I am whole-heartedly committed to my calling.  I’ve known what I want to do since I was little, pretending to be a wife and mommy as early as I can remember, putting on my mom’s high heels, and directing the neighborhood kids in activities.  [Some may call me bossy…I like to say I just have the skills of an administrator.])

Joy shows up when I am an active, caring participant in the lives of my family members.  You know what I despise?  Frigid temperatures.  A cold nose and fingers and toes.  (Also, being hot makes me feel grumpy, but that’s a bunny trail…).  Know what else stresses me out like mad?  The fact that getting winter gear on my daughter is a long battle filled with howling in pain (at least, her senses are telling her that she’s in pain) over “bumpy stuff” in her gloves, endless pairs of socks and boots. (We turn the socks inside out and have some other coping strategies, but I’m so emotionally exhausted after each session).

But you know what my son in particular loves?  Playing in the snow.  So I had to ask, what was more important?  Me feeling comfortable, inside and warm folding laundry?  Lack of stress interacting with my daughter (who, generally speaking, is the more cuddly, happy child)?  Or my son’s heart?  Him feeling valued, too, even though his temperament is often intense, needing lots of direction and correction to keep him calm rather than reacting with eruptions of anger or other meltdowns.

So I had a choice.  I could base my success as a homemaker on my productivity–getting the laundry done (finally off the couch!).  Or I could find meaning in my calling, using my gifts of creativity and sensitivity to care for and encourage those in my life as I am strengthened by the unconditional love of my Creator. 

It’s not easy to choose what doesn’t always feel easy.  I’m thankful for snowboarding pants to keep me from turning into a popsicle, and a seriously poofy winter coat and sturdy boots to hold me over for a good 45 minutes of outdoor winter playtime.  I steeled my jaw to face the cold, hopped into the car with a couple of ladles, and we went on a mission for fun.

“Mom!  What are you doing with the soup thingies?” My three year old asked me.  I chuckled mischievously and said mysteriously, “You’ll see, babe…Wait and see.”  And in a few minutes, my kids’ eyes sparkled.  You see, intentional moms are magical creatures in the eyes of their children.  You know what really makes us magical, though?  Seeing that sparkle in their eyes and knowing we put it there.

Turns out ladles make some pretty spectacular snowball-scoopers and are just right for carving out snow-caves in snow mounds the plows made out of a parking lot of a mere 1.5″ snowfall.

#winningatmomlife #choosingjoy

 

Posted in Day in the life of a mom, Mental Health, Ponderings about life

When Life’s Far from Perfect and Irritations Arise

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.

Posted in Day in the life of a mom, DIY, Mental Health, Ponderings about life, Quick Project

Postpartum resolution?

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?) :
DSCN0601

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.

DSCN0603

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.)

DSCN0596

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!
DSCN0305

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.

Posted in Day in the life of a mom, Mental Health, Ponderings about life

Postpartum Life, III

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?