The Teal Pumpkin Project

Food allergies, 15 million Americans suffer from them, 1 in 13 of those are children.

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If you read this post you know that we have one child with a life-threatening peanut allergy and in this post, I talked a little about how food allergies complicate our lives.  As we approach the Holidays, food allergies are more at the forefront of our minds.  It’s October and we are on the cusp of Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and a ton of other food sharing centered holidays.  It requires careful planning and doesn’t come without anxiety.

The Teal Pumpkin Project

Since Oliver was diagnosed with food allergies, Halloween has been has become stressful.  Once it was one of my favorite holidays.  Growing up in Michigan it meant the smell of leaves, sweaters, cool nights. I still love decorating the house with pumpkins and spiders, making the front porch festive with hay bales and cornstalks, and picking out costumes for the kids (and sometimes making them).  However, now it all leads up to “the night” where we are surrounded by allergens.  We spend a good part of the weeks ahead reminding Oliver not to reach in a candy bowl only hold out his bucket, he absolutely can not eat a single piece of candy until we go through everything.  There are peanuts and peanut contaminated foods everywhere.

In 2014, I stumbled across a new movement, The Teal Pumpkin Project.  It was an amazing concept.  Of course, we decided we would participate.  The kids had a great time picking out little trinkets and non-food items to make our bags.  On Halloween, we proudly displayed our Teal Pumpkin and asked our Trick or Treaters if anyone had an allergy.  There were no takers until later in the evening a mom and a little girl came up to the door.  When we asked if her child had food allergies her eyes welled up, she said that she did and that she likely wouldn’t be able to eat anything in her treat bucket.  She was so thankful when we pulled out that bag with non-food items for her daughter.  It made it worth it.  I was that mom, newly diagnosed, scared and anxious.

We have faithfully participated in The Teal Pumpkin Project since.  If I can help one parent worry less, it’s worth it.  If I can teach my kids that inclusion is important, it’s worth it.  If I can make ONE child’s night, I’d do it again 1,000 times.

How Can You Help?

During Halloween, get a teal pumpkin!  Way back in 2014, I had to pain my own, but now I have seen them at several major retailers such as Target, Michaels, and Walmart. Or you can always grab a can of spray paint and craft your own.  FARE has some cool Teal Pumpkin branded merchandise that you can purchase as well, this years garden flag is super cute! You can also donate to FARE directly here.  We usually head to the Target Dollar Spot or Dollar Tree for fun stuff for our bags, this year we have rubber spiders my kids are going crazy over! It doesn’t have to be fancy, we usually do some stickers, bubbles, pencils, and erasers.

We also try to get more allergy friendly treats to give out as well.  Kids with Food Allergies has a good list here.  Skittles, Starburst, Swedish Fish, and Sour Patch Kids are easy to find readily available treats.  Remember that choosing to participate means you could be the person to make that one mom’s night by including their child.

Birth Story: Elijah Griffin (Eli)

The Pregnancy

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This was about 12 week. If I was a better mom and this wasn’t the 3rd child I may have had a 20 week picture that was clearer.

If you read Isabel’s Birth Story you know that we had a miscarriage directly before becoming pregnant with Elijah.  I had a D&C three months prior to becoming pregnant.  The Dr that we were seeing at the time told us that was the amount of time we needed to wait so we did and got pregnant easily that first cycle we tried.  I honestly wish we would have waited longer.  I don’t think that I was even remotely emotionally ready for another pregnancy.  I was not in the right headspace at all.  In my mind, getting pregnant again with make it all better.  It would take away the terrible pain, it would fix me.  I was very broken after that miscarriage.  Even now, six years later it affects me.  Again, these are things no one talks about. 

We were fairly certain that our preceding loss was due to low progesterone levels.  The OBGYN and Midwifery practice we were seeing at the time didn’t “believe” that progesterone therapy made a difference in outcomes and their policy was not to prescribe it.  We had been planning on having a home water birth with our third pregnancy anyway so this was just the last push we needed to find new providers.  I had been in contact with a few homebirth midwives and they recommended some local providers that were supportive of Homebirth and would be willing to see me early for HCG and Progesterone testing and prescribe progesterone support if needed.  I emailed one OB and told him my background, he promptly responded and told me to call the office the second I got a positive test and he would call in labs and we would go from there.  He knew that my plan was to see him as a backup to a Homebirth Midwife and was fine with that arrangement.  

Days after that email I got a positive pregnancy test after feeling absolutely bone tired for days and nauseous, I was shocked and terrified.  I called that day and went and got blood work.  As with my miscarriage, my HCG levels were on the lower end of the spectrum and my progesterone was very low.  The Dr saw me the very same day and I started progesterone.  I was terrified that we would lose this baby as well.  We had a couple incidents of spotting.  The OB we saw was so reassuring and supportive of my nerves.  He was compassionate, caring, and just what I needed.  He did several early ultrasounds and lots of followup bloodwork and everything looked great.  

By 12 weeks we had seen the heartbeat several times and felt that we were likely in the clear.  We still had not told many people that we were pregnant again.  The last time, we had shared the news here and there by about 8-10 weeks only to have to un-tell everyone which was like a knife in the heart, every single time.  I suspect that most people figured it out by the time we announced at 14 weeks. 

During this time, the original Homebirth Midwife we hired had to step down from her practice so we were in the process of interviewing a replacement.  Michigan is a lot different than North Carolina, there were dozens of choices, all legal and regulated.  We interviewed several and decided to hire Stacia with Trillium Birth Services.  Personality wise I couldn’t have asked for a better match.  Plus, we both had roots with the same Borders Books store.  We started care with her around 16-18 weeks.  

My pregnancy was hard.  I was emotional, a nervous wreck, and in constant fear that we would have another loss.  I was also very sick.  I had never had such nausea in pregnancy before, it was all I could do to care for Oliver during the day and I spent most of the days on the couch.  I was sick enough that I finally relented and started taking meds when I was having a hard time staying hydrated and eating regularly.  Let me tell you, Unisom and B6 are a godsend.  I was able to at least eat and not be puking all day long.  It wasn’t a cure, but it helped.  The only plus side to being so sick is that I lost weight through the first trimester and only ended up gaining 12lbs.  I had to continue taking them until the day I delivered, I never got that relief most women get in the second trimester.

The Birth

Sunday, September 23, 2012 – 6 days overdue

Tired of being pregnant, cranky, and generally not fun to be around I spent most of my day sulking because I had slept through the night and not woken up in labor.  That weekend we all had just lounged around the house; Mark decided to tackle the Mountain of Laundry that had piled up over the past week. The kids played, made messes, and irritated each other most of the day. And I was still pregnant, much to everyone’s dismay.  Oliver was born 3 weeks early. No one thought I would be overdue this time.

After lunch I was sitting in the living room and just could not get comfortable on the couch, I was moving from lying down, to sitting and getting more and more grumpy that I could not get comfortable at all. My lower back was aching, and my whole body was just tired. Mark mentioned that maybe I would feel better if I took a nap. I wasn’t really tired so I stayed on the couch and whined for a while longer. At this point, I had noticed that baby had been quieter than was normal.  I knew that could be a sign that labor was coming, but didn’t get my hopes up because I had decided I was going to be pregnant FOREVER.

At about 2:30pm, Mark again mentioned that maybe I would feel better if I took a nap. I was so uncomfortable on the couch I figured I had nothing to lose by going and laying in bed, even if I didn’t sleep.  I layed up there a while, browsing the internet on my phone and I did eventually doze off and slept hard.  Remember, the best nap of your life almost always means labor is looming. 

At about 3:30pm I woke up with a contraction.  I had been having lots of “fake” contractions for weeks, but this one was different, more intense and slightly more painful. I decided to take note of the time but ignored it. If it was real labor, I would know and I wouldn’t be able to lay in bed through it. By 5:30 when Mark came upstairs to see how I was feeling about dinner I had had several more contractions as I drifted between sleep and awake.  They seemed closer together. However, I still hadn’t been timing them. I was hesitant to even say anything since I didn’t want to get anyone’s hopes up, (especially mine) but casually mentioned I was having some contractions.

I got up to go to the bathroom and was planning to go downstairs for dinner. There was the sign I was looking for that labor was coming soon, bloody show. I think this is the only time in my life I was excited to see bloody mucous. I let Mark know that he was probably not going to work tomorrow, and decided to put my birth team on alert. I sent texts to my doula (and great, longtime, childhood friend) Melissa, Birth Photographer, and called our Midwife Stacia.

I decided that I wanted to take a shower and see if that made my contractions stop and if it would help with my sore lower back. The water felt great on my back and I had several more contractions in the time I was in the shower, I was starting to think this could be the real deal. The contractions were starting to get a little more intense and I was having to stop what I was doing to breathe through them. I still didn’t want to get my hopes up too high. I putzed around upstairs doing my hair and getting dressed (read that as put clean pajamas on) the whole time having more contractions and more bloody show.

By the time dinner was ready at about 6:30, I was seriously doubting that I should be eating the spicy enchiladas we had planned earlier in the day. On my list of things that could be unpleasant if throw up I think enchiladas are on the top. I also wasn’t sure I was going to be able to sit through the meal with my contractions. I knew this could be my last chance to eat and that I would need the energy in case this was real labor. Luckily, just being around the kids slowed my contractions down and I was able to eat between them. I did have to stand up from the table every time one hit though.

Mark and I decided that it would be an early bedtime for the kids because we were pretty sure labor would pick up once they were in bed.  Mark started the bedtime routine while I retreated upstairs and discreetly packed small overnight bags for the kids, just in case.  I didn’t want them to see anything was going on.  We still hadn’t decided if they were going to stay home for the birth or not.  I wanted them there but didn’t want them to hinder my progress.  I felt a sort of instinctual need to keep the whole family close by for some reason. We had several plans for the kids should we need to send them away, but for now I wanted them home.

At this point, I was pretty sure it was the real deal, and of course, it was because the house was an absolute disaster. There was clean, folded laundry spread all over the living room and the kitchen still hadn’t been cleaned from dinner. I had been keeping the house spotless for WEEKS since we had a slew of people coming for the birth.

I called our Stacia again and told her it was time, she suggested that we set up the pool so that when I was ready the pool would be too. I wasn’t quite ready for her to come yet but told her I would call when I was.  As soon as the kids were in bed Mark set to work inflating the pool and filling it with water while I paced in the bedroom and “supervised”.  He was very patient with my backseat driving while he set up and filled the pool because he was obviously doing it all wrong.

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Once the pool was filling and I was satisfied Mark was doing it my way, I went downstairs to sit on my birth ball to time contractions. They were getting closer and more intense and I really wanted to get in the shower again, but couldn’t since we were going to need all the hot water we could get to fill the pool. I spent the next hour or so pacing the lower floor of the house, going upstairs to check on the pool, and on Facebook chatting with my friend Carrie. I was starting to get anxious and I figured that this feeling probably meant it was time to call everyone.  I sent Melissa a text telling her it was time to head over at about 9:30 pm, and then shortly after called Stacia to let her know I was ready for her.  At this point, I had forgotten all about calling the Photographer.

Mark had finished filling the pool at this point and it was ready to go, we were shocked that it only took one round of hot water and it was still slightly too hot to get in. He covered it with a blanket to keep the heat in and then tidied up the house a bit. Melissa arrived and we milled around the kitchen for a while, chatting between contractions. After a bit I needed to move back to the yoga ball in the living room, things were picking up.  

I was starting to get anxious that Stacia hadn’t arrived yet, and she must have felt that because she walked in about two minutes later. She watched just a few contractions and announced it was OK to get in the pool. I was shocked because that meant she felt I was already progressing well, and I still didn’t feel sure it was time to have this baby. It’s a funny thing about labor, no matter how many times you do it, you can still be unsure.

The pool felt amazing. It was the perfect temperature and took the edge off the contractions, I still wasn’t in serious pain yet, but I knew I would be soon enough.  It was probably about 10:45 pm at this point, and this is where time gets foggy. While I was in the pool, Melissa sat at the side and was there to remind me during the contractions not to tense up, relax my shoulders, and stop clenching my hands into fists. Relaxation is not always my strong point, so I needed the reminder. She also kept a supply of tea and water between contractions and a cool washcloth on my head and neck.

Mark played the good host, making coffee, fetching me water and letting the rest of the birth team in the house.  The Midwife Apprentice, Cynthia arrived and was beginning to set up the supplies and get everything together. Thankfully Stacia thought to text my Birth Photographer and let her know it was time for her to come because I had totally forgotten about her at this point.

My contractions continued to get closer, stronger, and more painful.  Stacia and Cynthia intermittently monitored the heart rate which was steady at about 150 bpm. I was starting to feel like maybe I needed to push, but I wasn’t 100% sure.  I tried a few pushes and it just wasn’t feeling “right”. I knew I was probably complete because I was starting to worry about seeing those enchiladas again.  I was also starting to shake from the hormone rush. My water still hadn’t broken and the baby was moving all around and I could feel the head low in my pelvis turning against my cervix.

Monday, September 24, 2012, 12:00 am

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I’m pretty sure Stacia could see I was struggling, she suggested that maybe I flip on my hands and knees and try to push that way. Up until then, I was on my back leaning on the side of the pool, I knew this was not the optimal position, but it’s what I found comfortable at the time. I flipped over and pushed another 20 minutes or so and it still didn’t feel right. Around this time, I told everyone that I was done and I couldn’t do it and I’d like an epidural. Stacia was great and told me that was fine, but I’d have to get out of the pool, get dressed, and drive to the hospital. It would probably be faster just to push the baby out. I begrudgingly agreed that was probably true. She then offered to check me to see what was going on, this was about 12:45 am or so.  

When she checked I was 10 cm, but had an anterior lip on my cervix and baby was so high she could barely feel his head. She had me flip back over and offered to hold the lip back while I pushed past it. At this point, I was getting tired, and I was ready to be done. We waited through a few contractions and I continued to push, and my water broke. She checked me again and I still had the lip, I told her to hold the lip back.  It hurt, a lot, but I got the baby to move down slightly.  When the baby came down she could feel that there was still a bag of water over baby’s head. I pushed some more with no progress, and she offered to break my water the rest of the way. I told her to do it, I was ready for this baby to be out.

As she was trying to snag the amniotic sack with the amnihook she mentioned how strong the bag was. I would like to attribute that to my cravings for grapefruit juice, oranges, and lemonade.  Once she got my water to break, things moved quickly. Instantly I felt the overwhelming urge to push. That was what I was waiting for, it was almost like before my water broke everything was too squishy and cushioned so I couldn’t feel what I was supposed to do. Baby came all the way down while she was still trying to hold back that anterior lip. I didn’t know at the time, but he was posterior and when he came down she could feel that and she rotated his head and turned him manually. I was told it was quite the site to see.

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I pushed for what seemed like forever, with each push I could feel him moving down but just not as fast as my other two births. At one point I said that this baby is a lot more work.  I kept pushing, soon I could just barely feel a small patch of the head when I reached down, progress. They told me they could see that the baby had dark hair. We were minutes away from knowing if the baby was a boy or a girl and who he or she would look like. I started pushing really hard, I just wanted to be done. Stacia asked me to slow down (which I had warned her that I tended to push way too fast), so I hopefully wouldn’t tear this time. I breathed through a few contractions and I kept reaching down to feel if that soft patch of the head was getting bigger, and it was.  Cynthia, moved in to help guide the baby out and slow the baby’s head down.

(I didn’t know at the time, but this was the very first baby that Cynthia had caught in her apprenticeship. And now, five years later she has her very own Midwifery practice.)

Then I felt that telltale feeling, the “ring of fire” and the head was out. Mark moved into position to catch once he was fully born. I still had to push a few more times to get his shoulders out, Cynthia helped maneuver them and then the body was born at 1:46 am. Mark lifted the baby out of the water and onto my chest. As I put my hand on the baby’s bottom I was pretty sure I could feel that it was a boy, I peeked between his legs and sure enough, he was! It worked out well because the boy name was the only one we could agree on, Elijah Griffin, he looked like an Eli to me.

He pinked up right away, but never really cried. He was amazingly alert and wide-eyed and looked just like his sister! Except for his amazingly chubby cheeks, he looked like a little squirrel with cheeks stuffed full of nuts. We hung out in the pool for while until I started to get a little grossed out by all the blood in the water and was ready to get out. His cord was done pulsing so we had Mark cut the cord and take over holding his new son while I worked on delivering the placenta. They had set up a birth stool for just that purpose, which was a good thing because my legs were so tired and shakey. I could barely lift my leg up to get out of the pool.

From there I dried off and moved to the bed.  With some help, I got him latched on and he nursed for about 30 minutes. I was amazed at how big he looked, I had predicted that he would be long from all the stretching I felt inside but he was for sure bigger than my other two.  We all placed our bets on weight and weighed him. He was my biggest baby, bigger than Ollie by nearly three pounds at 9 lbs 2 oz. He was also long at 22.5 inches with a 14.75 in head circumference. No wonder he was a bear to push out. I felt like a rock star! He was HUGE!

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Stacia and Cynthia evaluated him and he looked great. I was in pretty good shape too, a small abrasion, and a second-degree tear that we decided not to stitch up. All in all, I felt pretty good, considering I just delivered a small linebacker. Someone brought me a snack and Melissa decided to head home as well as the photographer. They were followed by Stacia and Cynthia at about 4:30 am.

Once everyone left it was surreal, I was all tucked into my bed everything was all cleaned up and I had this new little person. The whole time I was in labor my two big kids slept peacefully just across the hall in their rooms, not knowing that in a few short hours they were going to wake up to a new baby brother. I could never have imagined the birth would go so fantastically. Stacia was a perfect match for us, low intervention when I wanted her to be, but able to help things along when I needed it. I laid there in the dark with Eli next to me and watched the sun come up, too high on endorphins to sleep.

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His birth was just the healing experience that I needed following a late first-trimester miscarriage. His birth taught me how to trust in my body again and trust in myself. He is exactly the Rainbow Baby I needed. I couldn’t have dreamed up a better birth.

A New Family of Five

I would be lying if I said that those first days, weeks, months were easy. We had a rough start. There was a lot going on in general plus we added a newborn and were suddenly outnumbered. We had a lot of breastfeeding issues due to lip/tongue tie and low milk supply. I spent a crazy amount of time worrying about feeding him so he would grow which didn’t help make it any easier. The jump from two to three to kids was a hard one for us.

Despite our rough start Eli has grown into the sweetest boy. He is so caring and protective of his sisters. He’s generous and always wants to help or “do a job”. He is always looking for a snuggle and to sit in his “special spot” next to me.  He has a special knack for being the annoying little brother and knows just how to get under everyone’s skin especially his older siblings.

This year he’s tackled full-day preschool at the kid’s elementary school and is thriving. He will be a pro by the time Kindergarten comes next year. He’s decided he wants to be an engineer when he grows up and I can totally see it. He loves to build things.  Happy Birthday, Elijah! 

Solo Parenting

I’m incredibly thankful that I have an amazing partner to help me survive all the crazy. I’m also so lucky that he has an amazing job that keeps him home with us most of the time. He also does just as much around the house and takes just as much of a part in raising our kids as I do. So when he does have occasional travel, it’s rough.  Its four against one alllllll day long.

I have an immense amount of respect for those moms that have partners that travel regularly or have military spouses. They’re better women than me. I honestly don’t think I could do it. Even now when I know that Mark has travel coming I dread it. Everything in our daily lives is set up for a two-parent household. We divide and conquer a lot. One of us will make dinner while the other is taking Oliver to Baseball. Mark takes Zoe early to chorus one day a week so I don’t have 45 minutes to kill between drop-offs. It’s what works for us.

Survival Mode

Currently, I’m on day one two three (that’s how long it took me to write this post) of a seven-day trip to Seattle for Mark. When the kids went to bed tonight I started looking at my calendar for the week and instantly felt totally and completely overwhelmed. It’s not that this week is any busier than any other week, it’s pretty normal, but looking at it as the one person responsible is a lot. That’s actually how I describe much of my life. A lot. A lot of kids, a lot of commitments, a lot of expectations.

Since this trip wasn’t a surprise, I’ll tell you how I’ve prepared for it. My secret is lower expectations. It’s saying, “that’s just not going to happen” and being ok with that. (Read here how I learned to say no to balance my life.) It’s being realistic about what I’m actually going to be able to get done.

For example, mid last week I got a notice that it’s conference week at the kids’ school. Surprise! (That’s a whole different rant.) I just can’t. I can not take four kids, especially the feral two-year-old, to conferences for three kids by myself, that’s a minimum of three hours. Nope. Just not happening. There is a phone conference option, but unless their teachers want to hear me yelling at the kids the whole time or they want to call after 8:30pm it’s not going to work. So, I said no. My two kids that don’t need it, I checked in via email, and the one I feel needs more support we will have a conference next week. When I have backup.

We meal plan, which I swear I’m going to post about one of these days. When I was planning out this week, I aimed low. That meant planning Dino nuggets, breakfast for dinner, and rotisserie chicken from Kroger rather than the usual, more involved meals. I also planned my more complicated meals toward the beginning of the week and knowing from experience that my “fuck it” level would be high by Thursday. It’s also knowing that I’ll probably switch it up a few times through the week just because life happens.

It’s also no secret that I tend to be a type A personality, planner. Last week I tried to get all the extra “stuff” done that I could. This meant going to the grocery store before Mark left. Making sure I was caught up on laundry. (Don’t worry, I didn’t fold it, it’s festering in baskets in the hall.) Doing any big cleaning projects ahead of time. Truth is, there’s pretty much zero chance I’m cleaning a toilet this week or vacuuming unless a glitter bomb explodes in my living room. My goal is to keep the house standing and the garbage from overflowing. And you know what? That’s OK. I’m giving myself permission to “slack off”.

Expect a Little More

As I pulled away from the airport I said to the kids “Alright. We’re going to have a good week, as long as we can all hold it together. I know you’re going to miss your Dad, but we can do this.” The big two know that they are going to be expected to help more than normal. That may mean watching Bits while I take a shower or be more on top of picking up after themselves.

And typically the big kids will step up to the plate. For example, this morning Zoe got up, got herself ready and once she was done with breakfast and when I wasn’t down with the boys and Bits, she had started making lunches. If she had made the coffee it would have been a perfect morning. Oliver took the initiative this morning to get all his baseball stuff together for tonight. I’m a firm believer, that if you set up the expectations they’ll rise to the occasion. For the most part, that’s how it’s worked for us.

Remember to Breathe

It’s easy to get super caught up in all the things that everyone else needs and forget about you. If you read this post, you know that I’m trying to be better about self-care. My goal for this week while Mark is gone is to not totally lose myself. I’m not talking about my nightly glass of wine as self-care. I am going to try to make sure that I actually stop and do some things for ME this week. I am not exactly sure what that is yet, I’ll try to update as I get through the week. Maybe a girls night in? Maybe I’ll wonder Target with Bits while the big three are in school. Mostly, just try not to lose my shit while I count down the minutes until Mark is home.

When You Get a Case of Mom Burnout

We’ve all been there. The kids are making us crazy, we’re short tempered, we’re exhausted, the house is a disaster but it’s just not getting picked up. Everything and everyone is on our last nerve. It’s not any one things that contribute to us getting to that point, but what can we do to keep from getting Mom Burnout? I’ve never planned on being a Stay At Home Mom. I honestly feel like I’m not very good at it. I am not a domestic goddess by any means. I don’t particularly enjoy play dates or mommy and me classes. I like having my own “thing” that gives me a purpose. Previously that was my job or volunteering with Safe Kids as a CPST. Currently, I’m working with FARE to coordinate the Triangle NC Food Allergy Heroes Walk (Learn more about why here). But I still feel like I get that Mom Burnout feeling from the daily grind.

A lot of the time, it sneaks up on me. I’ll notice that I’m snapping a little more at the kids or Mark. Or I’ll find myself irritated with little things, like the tiny socks I seem to find all over the house. Or it’s just a general feeling of the “can’t evens”.

How do you keep from getting to the breaking point? I’ve found that it’s important for me to try to head it off at the pass. Life with four kids (or any kids for that matter) gets crazy. It’s easy to let the week fly by in survival mode as we coordinate baseball schedules with chorus practice, make sure homework is done and everyone eats at least one meal a day with vegetables. Often when I look at the schedule on Saturday as I’m meal planning I think it’s going to be a long week but in reality it flys by.

Self-care

Self-care is a big buzz word in the mom community right now, but you know what? It’s important. When we’re rushing through the week and I’m trying to take care of everything and everyone else it’s easy for my needs to fall by the wayside. You can’t fill from an empty cup and I can bet if you asked 10 moms, 8 of those would admit to Mom Burnout and the other two are probably lying.

How do I do self-care? Sometimes it’s little things like watching trash TV during nap time instead of folding laundry or retreating to take a long hot shower with Pandora on loud while Mark does bedtime. Or maybe it’s saying “fuck it” to making that pan roasted pork loin for dinner and popping in a big old tray of Dino Nuggets because vegetables are overrated.

Sometimes I need to get out of the house alone. Grocery shopping, coffee (alone or with another mom), or getting my nails done, running some errands where I don’t have to buckle and unbuckle the car seat 37 times. Heck, even going to get an oil change on my Swagger Wagon can help. Sometimes it feels good to just have a little space to breathe without someone trying to climb back into your body (Eli and Bits are the most guilty of this) for an hour or two or four.

Date night is another way I do self-care. That seems sort of weird right? Being on a date is not by yourself, but being connected to my spouse helps keep me grounded. We need time when we’re Mark and Crystal instead of Mom and Where is Mom. We are better parents and better partners when we take that time for us. (Read more about how we stay connected here)

Have a Moms Night Out. Sometimes you need to get out with your “tribe” and relax a little. Have some drinks, talk about all the absurd stories about the shit your kids pulled this week. These are the people that get it because they’re in the trenches too. Remember 8 of your 10 friends need it because they’re suffering from Mom Burnout too.

Just Say No

There was once a time when I was absolutely over-committed. I was the master of taking on too much. Make cupcakes for school? SURE! Go on that field trip? ABSOLUTELY! Volunteer for that school committee? WHY THE HELL NOT? I’ll tell you why….. Mom Burnout.

Something I have learned in my old age is that it’s ok to say no. When someone asks you and you don’t want to do it, don’t. There is no need to feel guilty that you just can’t make 75 SunButter sandwiches cut into triangles for the preschool picnic. Three kids with school conferences in one week? It’s ok to skip conferences for the kid that is doing great in school and to check in by email instead. It’s ok to skip that play date because, for the love of God, you just need the baby to take a nap today. Protect your time, it’s ok.

There is no reason that you should feel guilty for being realistic. There is only so much you can take on and it’s ok because you’re human. Stretching yourself too thin is a disservice to yourself and your family. Everyone already has enough stress in their lives. Don’t add to it because you feel obligated to do all the things. So what if Jimmy’s mom is on the PTA?

Next time you look at your calendar and you have 5 things scheduled for Tuesday night, I want you to say no to at least 3 of those things. Practice saying “That’s just not going to work for us.” It feels good, I promise. And next time you start feeling that hint of Mom Burnout, as soon as your partner gets home, take that glass (bottle) of wine up to your bathroom, close and lock the door, blast your own Pandora station (with swears!), fill the tub and take a second to breathe and center yourself again.  You’ve got this!

Food Allergies – When Take Out Is Anything But Easy

There are sometimes when I want to phone it in as a mom. This week for example, Sunday we were in the ER with one sick kid who was home from school until Wednesday. (He’s fine, weird virus that mimicked appendicitis) I’ve been battling a cold since late last week, by Monday it hit me full on and I couldn’t deny I was sick anymore. Tuesday night, I didn’t want to feed anyone dinner. I was just drained. What’s a mom to do? Order carry out!

But it’s not that simple. Pizza you say? Well, we’d have to find something gluten (this is currently a dietary choice more than allergy, but a consideration for now), dairy, soy, nut and tomato free. How about boxed mac n cheese? That’s three kinds to meet everyones needs. Dairy free Daiya, gluten free Annie’s, and regular Annie’s. Frozen chicken tenders and fries? One kid has a potato allergy, so we have to make regular and sweet potato fries, plus gluten free and regular chicken tenders. At that point is it really easier??

Eating out presents the same challenges. We have a handful of safe places and we tend to stick with those. Those options are often not cheap either, ever feed a family of six at Chipotle? That’s a $40 affair, easy. Especially as the kids get older, the bigger two are at the weird in between stage, where a kids meal isn’t enough and the adult meal is too big.

I have people ask me a lot how we manage with our food allergies. I never really have a great awe inspiring answer. We manage because we have to, it’s our life. We cook from scratch most of the time, not because I’m a super awesome amazing mom, but because finding safe convenience foods is not an easy task. We tend to make healthier choices because of it. I’m grateful for that, but damn, sometimes I just want to pop a frozen pizza in the oven.

Raising Boys

I often say that I don’t care what my kids do when they grow up as long as they’re good people. This is mostly true, but I will confess that I worry more about my boys in this respect than I do my girls. I want to raise good husbands, amazing fathers, respectful men. You’d think this would be easy, but I’m finding as they get older it’s not at all.

Pressure from Society

Recently I was shopping for some t-shirts for Eli. I had some time to kill while I was sitting at a therapy appointment (#momlife). The poor kid never gets anything new, part of the hazards of being the little brother just a few years behind your older brother.

I wandered over to The Children’s Place, one of my go tos for cheap clothes that I don’t care if they ruin with paint at school. I get about 4 emails a day from them about sales and coupon codes, did I mention they were cheap? As I was scrolling through the usual sports shirts, tv characters my kids don’t know because we don’t have cable, etc. I saw one that caught my eye. It said, “I never finish anything”.

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It bothered me. A lot. I kept scrolling through the clearance adding some matchable shorts and plain color Ts to my cart as I went. Fine, whatever, don’t like it, don’t buy it. Then, I came across this one….

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I started to get annoyed. What terrible messages we are sending our boys. They don’t have to clean up after themselves? Oh right, that’s women’s work. I kept scrolling, but I was grumbling the whole time. Until I got to these……

 

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That was the straw. I emptied my cart. Absolutely not. I will not be shopping there anymore. I sent pictures to Mark, with a rant about how we are setting our boys up for failure. I stewed about it on the drive home, and through dinner. Then I took to my Facebook page after bedtime because I was still stewing.  I was just going to post on my personal page, but after some encouragement (it didn’t take much, honestly) I decided I was going to post on The Children’s Place’s Facebook page and Twitter. I’m still waiting for a response, by the way. It’s been weeks.

When we dress our boys (or any kid, really) in a shirt that says “I don’t care” we’re sending them a message that says “you don’t have to care”. I see it all the time in the media, little boys being portrayed as lazy, video game playing freeloaders. Fathers being portrayed as someone to be waited on by their wife with no responsibility for their own children. I will not stand for that with my boys.

This is just one example of a way we’re failing!  And I know what people are thinking, girls, get it just as bad. And I totally agree that we’re also stereo typing our girls to be princesses and housewives. I’ll talk about that another time.

Same Standards

We hold those boys to the same standards we do Zoe (and eventually Bits). They’re responsible for cleaning up their own messes. Starting in Kindergarten they are folding and putting away their own laundry. (which eventually evolves to washing it) Oliver does dishes, cleans the bathroom when he pees all over it, they fix their own breakfasts, they sweep. We don’t limit the boy’s chores to stereotypical “man’s work”. They live here too, just because they have a penis doesn’t mean they can’t operate our vacuum.

I’ve said it before, it’s important to me that all of my kids are able to self-sufficient humans when they’re adults. I will not have a child that doesn’t know how to clean their house when they get older because mom did it for them. It’s absurd that right now, in 2017, there are moms doing laundry for their college aged boys. This needs to stop. Right now.

It Teaches Respect

I’m fairly certain that my boys have a lot more respect for “what I do all day” when they have to help out. They know that dinner doesn’t magically appear. They know that it takes work to have clean floors and it’s annoying when someone makes a mess.  They also see their father taking his fair share of household duties.  Mark does dishes, vacuums, and cooks, just like I do.  There is no delusion for them that men “don’t have to” help around the house.

They also respect our space more when they are made to help maintain it. I love it when Bits comes barreling through a room and one of them yells “I just cleaned that up!” It’s vindication for all the times they’ve done it. They know how much work it takes.  They also respect others peoples spaces, when they go to friends houses they help pickup no questions because it’s not optional here.

I’m not going to lie, it’s a lot of work.  I get a lot of pushback, especially from the almost 8-year-old.  And this is just one of the things that I worry about when it comes to the boys.  As they grow I feel the need to pound certain things into their head, respect for women, consent, and that because they are middle-class white boys they are in no way better than ANY of their peers.  Right now, with everything going on in the world, this is a hard job, and I worry all the time that we’re not doing a good enough.

How Peanut Butter Changed Our Lives

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Peanut Butter, it’s a staple in many pantries across America.  It’s full of protein, shelf stable, and inexpensive making it a great food to have around.  Around 2% of the population has been found to have a peanut allergy. It was not something that was even on my radar…. until it was.

There was a time before food allergies consumed our lives, even if it doesn’t seem like there was.  I developed some weird allergies in my 20s to strawberry, aloe, latex but they were easy to live with, nothing huge.  In 2010 Oliver was born, his infancy was intense, to say the least.  His first sign of allergies showed in the form of an allergy to disposable diapers (read more about that here).  He also didn’t tolerate any infant formula (this was in my pre-breastfeeding days) and we had to do a lot of switching to find one that worked. We settled on the best of the worst, the one he had the least symptoms from.

You would think that his low tolerance for formula would have clued us in that something was going on, or that one of our my trips to the pediatrician where I insisted that there was something other than “just reflux”, or that his eczema covered body would have yielded some help, but it didn’t.  I should have pushed further, but I was young and didn’t know any better, and trusted our Dr and all of the medical community.

It wasn’t until he was 11 months old and Mark decided to feed him his first peanut butter and jelly sandwich that we had any idea. He swelled up and broke out in a rash all over his face.  Mark immediately gave him Benedryl and his reaction stopped. We had his one year well baby visit scheduled and I went in and demanded that we see an allergist. We were handed a referral and a prescription for an EpiPen and sent on our way.

Seeing the allergist was validation for the last year of our lives.  Poor Oliver tested positive for allergies to soy, beef, egg, peanuts, and had shown reactions to dairy so we were told to cut all those things. No wonder he didn’t sleep, was covered in eczema, and essentially miserable. He felt like crap because we were feeding him things he was allergic to every single day.

I can’t even begin to describe how overwhelmed I was leaving that appointment.  Sure food allergies weren’t a totally foreign concept to me, but I didn’t know anyone with allergies to this extent.  What were we going to feed him? How were we going to make this work? In the beginning, it seemed like everything we ate had an allergen in it.  I felt like my life was consumed by reading labels and determining if a food was “Ollie Safe”.

His peanut allergy was off the charts. We were told that any further exposure could result in a deadly reaction. That’s a hard thing to think about, the reality that your kid could DIE from something that seems so harmless. Peanut butter was one of Zoe’s main food groups, and I enjoyed it myself.  Eventually, we decided it was safest to remove it from our house altogether.

As the years have gone on managing his food allergies has become routine and it no longer seems as daunting.  He’s outgrown some allergies and gained some new ones, but we’ve adjusted and moved on. It has become part of our everyday lives. There can be long periods of time that I “forget”.  It isn’t until we’re trying to go out to eat with friends, or he’s invited to a birthday party, or I catch a whiff of peanuts at the park that I remember.

Somehow, we have never had to use those EpiPens.  I am convinced that it’s sheer luck.  I can’t believe that we are that on top of things all the time.  We also have had some challenges, starting school was one, as was playing sports. So far we have been able to figure it out.

As I have aged I also have gained some new allergies.  Zoe has become intolerant of dairy and Isabel has a few allergies/intolerances.  For an outsider, I am sure that eating with our family seems like an impossible fete.  I promise though, it can be done.  I am here to tell you that having food allergies doesn’t need to stop your life.

To those families that are newly diagnosed, you will get through it.  It’s can be hard not to focus on all the things it will change, but it is not going to change how awesome your kid is and how much you love them.  Sure, there is more to worry about, but having kids is worry.  If it wasn’t a food allergy it would be something else.  Know that you are not alone, 1 in 13 children have food allergies, that’s almost two kids in every classroom.

Resources:

Food Allergy Research & Education

Enjoy Life Foods

Kids with Food Allergies

If you’re in North Carolina the NC FACES food allergy group

FARE HEROES WALK FINAL 4C - A

Fundraising

This year I am the Walk Chair for the 2017 Triangle NC Food Allergy Heroes Walk.  This walk supports FARE in their initiatives such as The Teal Pumpkin Project and training programs for schools and restaurants. We have some awesome activities planned and some really cool entertainment.  If you’re around the Raleigh area on 10/7/2017 join us at Lake Benson Park in Garner, NC for the walk.

Our walk team, The Anaphylactic Avengers, is hoping to raise $3,000 to help support FARE.  We would love donations from our readers, any amount helps us reach our goal!

Click here to donate.