Katie Feavel

A writer's oxygen is made up of words and manufactured souls... February 27, 2020 09:34

Descending into the depths of art as a vocation is like wanting to breathe and not always being able to do it. A writer’s oxygen is made up of words and manufactured souls. Story is a living, writhing thing and if only we could inhale its essence and exhale it into the world so that others might breathe, so then may we truly live.

Poor Girl, Poor World October 3, 2019 05:30 1 Comment

I find myself at a bit of a loss for words -- which is really saying something for me -- when it comes to talking about this book project, Poor Girl, Poor World, a story about a little girl on the spectrum.  

I don’t consider myself a children’s writer, but I’m trying to respect the craft enough to go where creativity leads me. 

I am but a vessel (and a rusty one at that) for the movement of ideas. 

And the idea for Poor Girl, Poor World came to me in the shower -- as most good ones do --  on a rare occasion when I was not also being monitored my multiple tiny humans screaming at me or trying to eat toilet paper.

At first this was a poem for… and about my daughter, Maggie. 

 

Who has transformed over the last year in so many profound ways. The most notable of which is her ability to communicate to us a little bit of how she sees the world. 

And it’s certainly not how we see it. 

I learn so much through her eyes. 

I learn to look for the beautiful details, the patterns of movement and ground myself in the things I can feel.

I learn to be a more mindful, present person and I am forever indebted to her for it. 

 

I hope a little bit of my girl shines through this story.

I hope others, children and adults alike, can relate to its message.

I hope it works as a mechanism for increasing inclusion for those who see the world a little differently from the norm. 

I hope readers see how very rich those with neurological diversities are, and how poor a world we would be without them. 




Thinking all the thinks February 4, 2019 00:00

My girl is three today.

I am, admittedly, a bit of a disaster.

Teetering on a tightrope between relief as she becomes older and more self-sufficient, and a deep sense of fear for what this next stage of life will throw at her.

I felt guilty writing this. Like it was inappropriate, somehow, to not focus only on the positive milestones reached. But I'm just not in that headspace today.

THREE is a big number in the autism world.

It's the closing of the most influential early intervention window. It's when the conversation shifts from hopeful suppositions of "catching up" to a discussion of how to support a child with a disability long term.

I don't know who will read this, but part of me wishes that I could reach every other autism mom out there and just tell them it's okay to hurt, to feel this thing.

Autism parents seem to be fed two different messages: autism is either seen as something to be cured or as something to be passively accepted.

Parents are told we can "heal" our autistic children, which I personally feel is damaging and unsettling and frankly, in many cases, impossible.

We spent a year and a half chasing this philosophy for Maggie; we tapped into functional medicine, homeopathy and neuromovement on top of all the traditional therapies.

And I wouldn't change any of it, because we have helped her, but we can't fix this. We can't make it go away.

(To be clear, autistic presentations may be accompanied by or the result of other conditions, called "comorbidities," but in those cases, autism is not the primary culprit and addressing the primary condition can make it appear as if autism itself has been cured.)

For children like Maggie, autism is both a primary and pervasive condition.

It's here to stay and influences every aspect of her development.

I'll never forget the moment that this realization hit home, sitting in the car with my husband after a big neuro appointment that gave us absolutely nothing.

"What do I do now?" I asked him. "Who am I to her if I can't fix this?" 

"Now... now you just be her mom."

What he said was simple, but coming to terms with it was not.

Finding a way to fix the problem had been my coping mechanism.

I'd spent so much time racing that under-age-three early intervention clock and delving into every possible solution... that I didn't know how to just be a mother to my daughter.

As parents, we're either being told that we need to cure something incurable OR that there's nothing wrong with our autistic children. That they are just pleasantly different.

That having an autistic child is like taking some scenic and unexpected trip.

But isn't this equally damaging? It invalidates our very human need to grieve and to process the heavy emotions that go along with being the parent of an autistic child.

People tell you to focus on joy and progress.

And like 99% of the time, yes, absolutely, those are things we should be doing.

And at first it even seems easy enough. You're new to the game, you're just starting to learn what autism means for your child.

You're focused on accessing and understanding therapies. And you have so much hope for these endeavours.

But then, somewhere along this route, you settle into the permanence of your child's situation. You realize that this is the reality for them, that the world is and will continue to be a noisy, torturous place.

Your heart learns that you can't save your child from this thing that so encumbers them.

Most of what I share on social media is positive. I take thousands of photos to get a few "good" shots... the ones where her eyes appear most open and her mouth isn't hanging slack from low muscle tone.

I share the videos of her dancing and laughing, not the ones of her falling or thrashing, screaming and taking swings at anybody around her or smacking herself in the face.

I've written dozens of posts just like this... and have kept them to myself or deleted them all together once they're done.

But I'm quickly coming to the realization that that isn't fair to other autism parents -- moms who may also be hunkering down on the floor with their dysregulated child who's lost to the world most nights of the week -- feeling utterly alone in that battle.

I want my daughter to be perceived for the best of what she is.

I want the world to see her in those clear moments, in all her sass and silliness.

And really, those are the moments I want to focus on. But I also don't want other autism moms to feel like they're on an island by themselves.

Being the parent of an autistic child is exceedingly lonely.

Seeing your five-year-old behave with an emotional maturity most adults lack because of what he's been through having an autistic sibling...

Realizing your two-month-old is more expressive, engaged and regulated than your daughter was at two years...

Feeling a strange, but profound gratitude and indebtedness to them both because you know there will be a time when you're gone and the torch of care will pass to these brothers...

Simultaneously mourning that future for your boys, and praying this experience manifests in them as resilience rather than resentment...

This is not a place where others will readily join you.  

When somebody says they love your girl's low raspy voice and they chuckle, entertained... 

But you know that it means she's dysregulated, that she can't control the strength of her own diaphragm...

How you wish they could hear that beautiful little sing-song birdie voice that's really hers and comes out every so often when she's having a good day.

But very few people will meet you in that conversation, so you don't even try.  

The things you don't feel you can talk about, the harm your child causes to herself or others, the ugliness of the battles with hygiene and stimming... 

So you keep it to yourself and you learn to exist in that space alone, except for the few angels in your life who selflessly trudge through the depths of that shit with you.

My child is beautiful, her mind and her heart are fascinating and wondrous.

Her autism is rarely any of those things.

I rejoice in her triumphs just as I mourn her losses. I hurt for her, as she experiences pain from simply existing in this world.

Autism is no pleasant detour. It's agonizing and pervasive.

Every moment of life is tinged by it, every step of progress laced with what is lacking. Every decision made is limited by this inescapable presence.

It reaches your friendships, your career path, your marriage, your other children, the very core of your identity. But if there's one thing I could communicate to other autism parents, it would be this:

It's okay to grieve this thing that hurts your child. Just don't let yourself stay in that place for too long.

Find joy where there is light, fight tirelessly for progress. You owe yourself and your child nothing less.

But know you're not wrong to hurt when they hurt.

One of the most impactful things we can do to help our autistic children is to empathize with them, to join them where they are.

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do good work and be nice to people October 30, 2017 00:00

Each morning before my husband leaves for work, he asks our son the same question…

"What are we going to do today?"

"Good work and be nice to people!" Sam repeats with pride.

Occasionally, "and listen to mama" gets added on for good measure. 

Do good work and be nice to people.

It’s simple, straightforward, yet a message need not be complex to be profound, right?

Last week, I traveled with Maggie for some movement therapy that we can’t get locally and that she has made great improvements with.

It’s worth it, every added stress or inconvenience, and we’re infinitely blessed with the opportunity and help we receive to make it happen.

Last week, I watched my girl workto make strides in areas of awareness, communication and coordination.

Rare, fleeting moments of connectivity grew a little more frequent, a little more stable.

But, last week, she simultaneously struggled in the sensory and self-regulatory departments.

There was a lot more hitting, kicking, head-butting, pinching, yelling... to try to make sense of the noise in her head or fill the space around her, perhaps.

Sleep was terrible, calm was elusive and the end of the week found us camped out on an airport floor working through a harsh sensory meltdown.

And in the midst of the emotional roller coaster that was last week, I found myself wondering how our little family motto could apply to Maggie as she grows.

Will she ever fully understand the concepts of kindness, generosity, work ethic, resilience?

Will she find things in life that fulfill her, challenge her, make her feel whole?

Will she...

Silly mom.

Trying once again to qualify such intuitive concepts into concrete terms.

Maggie already understands all of these things.

She is the most resilient of us all.

She doesgood, hard, meaningful work.

She pushes herself out of the limits of her comfort zone to learn and grow.

She works diligently, purposefully for things that come naturally to the rest of us.

She is determined.

She is fierce.

Yet, she also gives of her emotional self generously, with smiles, high fives, hugs and nose scrunches, even when it is frequently uncomfortable for her to do so.

And that’s when I realized the beauty of this phrase.

In its simplicity is flexibility.

Do good work and be nice to people.

It’s equally applicable to all of us.

It can mean different things at varying phases of life.

It can simplify the aspects of interaction that we make overly complicated in our own minds.

1M1A6938Photo Credit: Nicki Laureanti Photography

 

So, this is what I’m left with, to BOTH my children…

Do good work.

Seek work that challenges you, that grows your capacity, and trust you will rise to meet it.

Seek to optimize the quality of your work — there is no room for “good enough.” When you know better, do better.

Seek out work that affects positive change for others.

Seek to understand your limitations, and refuse to settle there — be honest with yourself about your weaknesses.

Be nice to people.

Offer compassion without a need for understanding.

Offer smiles prodigiously, especially to those whose faces seem to have not worn one in years.

Offer patience to those who do not afford you the same.

Offer understanding and a listening ear free of judgement, though this may be one of the most difficult tenets to manage.

Above all, be generous of your time, gifts and resources, without any expectation of reciprocity.

You will fail in all of these daily.

Good.

You will learn how to do them better.

1M1A6831Photo Credit: Nicki Laureanti Photography

*Special thanks to Nicki Laureanti for your amazing captures of our family


what about brother? October 9, 2017 00:00

In the days and weeks after Maggie’s regression, as the words “autism” and “on the spectrum” became part of our every day vocabulary, I spent a lot of time reworking my expectations.

I expected our priorities would need to shift.

I expected to worry for Maggie in all sorts of new ways.

I expected that we would get our heads wrapped around it all and things would, eventually, feel a little less raw.

But one thing I did not expect is how much I worry about Sam within this new context.

DSC_0505-3Shirt - River Babe Threads

What does this mean for him?

How do we meet Maggie's needs without compromising his?

How do we find a balance for him.

We don’t want Sam to feel burdened by what Maggie goes through, but we also want to instill in him a sense of responsibility to help her navigate the world.

We try to find his balance... we fail in so many ways, but we try.

We make time separate for him.

We involve him in her therapy when he indicates interest, which he frequently does.

And we make damn sure he knows he’s a necessary part of her progress, that none of us could do this without him.

DSC_0496Shirt & Joggers - River Babe Threads

A couple months ago he came home from school, where he and his friends had been talking about their "babies."

"My friend's baby is one year old,” Sam said. "How old is my baby?"

"Maggie is one-and-a-half," I told him.

"My friend's baby says hi, bye, mama, dada, and doggy! Why doesn’t my baby say these things anymore?"

"Because Maggie has a hard time with words,” I said. “She will say all those things again eventually.”

That was the first time Sam seemed to notice his sister’s difference.

DSC_0578Maggie's shirt - River Babe Threads; Sam's beanie - NoxxAZ

Now, Sam has recently picked up translating Maggie's needs.

I’m not quite sure how to explain the pride I feel watching these one-sided conversations where he asks her preference and somehow magically knows what she wants even when I don’t.

Over the last couple of weeks Maggie has started saying the word "see."

It canmean see, or it can also mean this, shoe, sing, sissy, sit, swing...

As I made lunch yesterday, I held up half a dozen different food options for Maggie and she got frustrated, waving her hand and yelling "nah" or “dah” at each choice.

I held up a cup of mandarin oranges and she waved at it and yelled "see!"

I wrote it off as yet another denial and went to put the oranges back in the fridge.... meltdown commenced.

Sam came running over, "but Mom! She said 'yes,' see is yes sometimes!"

He was right.

The girl just wanted some oranges.

And it was a good opportunity for me to reinforce for Sam that whole I couldn’t do this without himthing.

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Shortly after that, the two of them were having a really sweet moment.

Sam was playing peek-a-boo around the side of the couch with Maggie and she was totally locked in and giggling each time he popped out yelling, "I love you, Maggie!"

Sam suddenly stopped and looked at me...

"Mom," he began with a frown, "why doesn't Maggie say 'I love you too'?"

"Maggie tells us she loves us with her hugs," I told him, my chest tightening a little. "She'll say it in words someday."

"Maybe when she's four like me," he said and the smile returned to his face.

“I hope so, buddy,” I replied.

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He is so good, this boy. So patient. So loving.

I hope he can see that she loves him so deeply in return, even if she can’t say it, that she saves the best smiles and giggles for him, that she watches every move he makes and looks to him to ground herself in uncertain situations.

DSC_0868Dino Hoodie

I hope he can feelit from her, the way I can, even if we don’t hear it in words.

Finally, last night as I tucked Sam into bed, he said his prayers. He thanked God for all his favorite people and his home. And then this exchange happened...

“Thank you for my family,” he said. “The light that shines in the darkness.”

“Oh, Sam,” I said, absolutely stunned. “That’s beautiful. Our family really does shine...”

“No mom,” he interrupted. “I mean the light... right there on the ceiling. I like it when it’s on.”

He didn't quite understand what made me laugh so hard then.

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This son of mine...

He’s so observant and patient and kind.

He is resilient, and this life with his “Sissy,” this is hisnormal and he isn't worried in the least what that means compared to anybody else.

Sometimes he wonders about his sister.

Sometimes he does worry about things that are too big for him.

Sometimes he is the comedian or interpreter that holds us all together.

And sometimes, he’s just a silly four-year-old who’s thankful for a ceiling light.

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i will worry with you October 2, 2017 00:00

How did you know?

This has been the most common question I’ve gotten since opening up about Maggie’s recent autism diagnosis.

And I’m so grateful for it, because it shows a genuine interest and desire to understand.

Maggie’s relatively quick diagnosis can be attributed to some pretty glaring "red flags" and a vigilant pediatrician.

And research supports early intervention for these kiddos to improve long term outcomes and quality of life, so we don’t intend to waste any of that window of opportunity.

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So, how did we know?

The short answer is that we didn't all at once. Our understanding of how Maggie does life has and continues to come slowly.

Maggie had a number of sensory and developmental issues through infancy, but always just barely passed that low bar of what was considered "normal" range.

We attributed her "stoic" demeanor to discomfort from constant issues with reflux, anemia, eczema, food allergies and aversions, and sleep disturbances.

Shortly after her first birthday, she quite suddenly stopped speaking, stopped making sounds other than “dadada,” stopped signing, withdrew from us and became increasingly fussy/upset.

Her efforts at walking ceased and continue to be precarious at times.

She went from being a poor sleeper to struggling to sleep at all.

She spent hours sitting in a corner repeatedly and systematically putting markers into a little zipper bag and pulling them out.

I could hardly bathe her.

She gagged on pretty much anything we tried to feed her.

And she would cry until she made herself physically ill.

Then came her 15-month well-check.

I had her in her stroller (her safe zone,) with her ice water and Lullavibe and her favorite little doll to grasp and that weird, but oh-so-clutch, silicon banana toothbrush.

I had gotten there early to nurse her in the car before the onslaught of social interaction that was to come.

And had typed up a list of concerns so that I wouldn’t have to relay them over her crying.

Our pediatrician looked over this list first thing when we got into the exam room.

Then she looked Maggie in the eyes and calmly said, “Hi Magdalena.”

That was it. Maggie came undone. Total meltdown.

I bounced, shushed, patted, but she only screamed harder and began pulling at her own hair and hitting herself on the back of her head.

I tried to nurse her to help her calm, but she was so worked up that she gagged and milk came out her nose.

Our doctor quickly turned the lights down as I got Maggie cleaned up, put Frozen on the iPad, faced her in a corner in her stroller with all her safety items, the canopy pulled down around her, and held my breath till the screaming thankfully, quickly turned to whimpering and subsided.

And then our beautiful, God-sent pediatrician -- with whom we'd had an average patient/doctor relationship till that point -- leaned in and whispered across the room,

“Katie... your daughter is on the autism spectrum.”

Through tears (damn emotions), I whispered back, “I know.”

“But I’m in this with you,” she continued. “And we’re going to get to work.”

I was completely caught off guard. I had expected to have to advocate for help, to fight tooth and nail to get so much as an initial OT evaluation.

The fight became necessary in the months that followed, in other stages of this process.

But, in that moment, I found complete reassurance and validation.

After the appointment, the care coordinator slipped into the room to introduce herself and hand me a binder of information.

Before she left, she whispered to me, "I'm not going to tell you not to worry. You're going to worry. Our job is to worry with you."

I have a number of takeaways from this relatively new experience of parenting a special needs child, and since I feel like they could apply to just about anything that pushes our limits as parents, I'd like to end by sharing a few of them with all of you.

1. The fight is beyond worth it and progress is everything.

Whatever hurdle we are navigating for our children, the fight is worth it.

There is no final win or lose outcome here. The winning takes place over time, in each little piece of progress.

When I see Maggie take a minute to herself when she knows she needs it, we're winning.

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When she uses the tools at her disposal to get the sensory input she craves, we're winning.

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And when she joyfully and spontaneous opens her arms to hug her brother after a week of intensive Neuromovement work, we're totally freakin' winning.

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2. I will never again tell a parent not to worry. 

All parents worry.

As I compare parenting Maggie to parenting Sam, I would say that the worry of a special needs parent is, indeed, "greater"... in the way that I imagine a parent whose child is suffering a life-threatening illness experiences a worry with which I am, gratefully, unfamiliar.

There's a tangible, physical element of fear and uncertainty I have for Maggie that I do not carry so closely with me for Sam.

And yet, that in no way devalues the concerns and desires I do have for my son, nor those of any other parent for their own child.

There is no contest for whose worry is greatest. We are all operating at our own max capacity, with full heads and hearts of worry for our children, regardless of the particular details.

“Don’t worry.”

While I believe this sentiment usually comes from a desire to help, to console, telling a mom not to worry invalidates the very thing that consumes her.

3. I will also avoid “I understand."

As parents, we share a number of similar experiences: late nights, messy diaper changes, tantruming toddlers, and kids saying the darnedest things... in public... at the tops of their lungs.

And while no two parenting experiences are alike, it is incredibly tempting to think we understand the emotional journey of all other parents.

But parenthood is not an experience through which empathy alone is an adequate lens.

So, to all my fellow moms: if you share with me, if you let me in on whatever current worries wreak havoc on your mama hearts, I won't tell you not to worry, and I won't tell you that I understand, (unless we're talking about coffee, then you know I got you.)

But I will hear you.

I will root for you.

I will count the wins with you.

I will worry withyou...

as I will always worry for her.

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how was your day, can you tell me about it? September 21, 2017 00:00

Whenever we sit down to a meal, Sam asks us this question, word-for-word, same cadence and inflection, without fail.

"How was your day, can you tell me about it?"

I love that this interest in others is being cultivated by his wonderful teachers at school... and hopefully substantially reinforced at home.DSC_0743-2 Beanie - NoxxAZ; Scarf - Moots Clothing; Shirt - Evergreen Goods; Joggers - River Babe Threads 

At breakfast, when it seems that "nothing" has yet been accomplished, one is not exempt.

If you've ever been to dinner at our house, you've been required to answer. Even Maggie and the salt n' pepper shakers have to field the question. DSC_0754 Beanie - NoxxAZ; Scarf - Moots Clothing; Shirt - Evergreen Goods; Joggers - River Babe Threads 

Nobody is off the hook and Sam has a meticulous eye.

But one of the things I find most interesting is that he doesn't want to hear what went wrong -- or even right -- that day or about anybody else's actions outside our own. He wants straight-forward play-by-play.

What did you DO today?

And somewhere in the process of listing off actions objectively, self-judgement is removed and the day is suddenly so much more... simple, straightforward.

It becomes easier to realize the amount of purpose that went into the day and take note of the seemingly small accomplishments.DSC_0817 Beanie - NoxxAZ; Scarf - Moots Clothing; Shirt - Evergreen Goods; Joggers - River Babe Threads

How was your day, can you tell me about it?

No matter the rest of the answer, the first line Sam requires is "I woke up..."

He won't let you continue on until you've said it.

Every day begins with one thing... waking up.

How simple and yet utterly profound to remember at the end of the day to be grateful for and acknowledge its beginning. Ah, through the eyes of a child...

DSC_0923 Beanie - NoxxAZ; Scarf - Moots Clothing; Shirt - Evergreen Goods; Joggers - River Babe Threads   

Today, I woke up... It was 4:30. I kissed my husband as he left for a run and bible study, got the monitor on the babies, made my coffee, stretched, checked my email and now I'm writing.

So, friends... how was your day, can you tell me about it?

DSC_0820-2 Beanie - NoxxAZ; Scarf - Moots Clothing; Shirt - Evergreen Goods; Joggers - River Babe Threads  SaveSave


a place to start September 14, 2017 00:00

I would say I'm neither the least nor the most open person on social media.

I share snippets of our days on a regular basis, though I think I try to focus mostly on the positive. Nobody needs to see a video of my four-year-old throwing his tenth tantrum of the day, right?

It's not about keeping up appearances, it's about putting out into the world that which you wish to manifest. Positivity breeds positivity.

And while there are certainly things I choose not to share, I am relatively transparent when I feel an experience might be helpful or relatable to someone else. Especially with my fellow mamas.

Another's openness can help us feel a little less alone in this inherently isolating phase of life, and in this day and age, our village is at least partially formed online. But this one... 

This new thing we've got going on... I'm not sure where to start. Do I put it out there at all?

Well, if I follow my own standards of relatability, then the answer is a definite yes. I believe it pays to be generously open with your life experiences, however intimidating that prospect may sometimes be. But how? Where? When?

To take the advice I constantly give my son, when you don't know where to start, just start where you are. So here's where we are... 

Maggie is autistic. DSC_0622 But how do I even write about this thing when I'm still trying to learn to navigate the in-person conversations?

How do I give it the gravity I feel it's due without my words weighing down others?

How do I speak honestly about the challenges involved without it coming across as asking for pity or sympathy?

I feel very strongly that this is not a situation that calls for pity, for this incredible little girl we've been blessed with is the absolute light of our world -- along with her big brother, whose patience and understanding humble us on a daily basis. 

We might be raising Maggie, but this girl has grown us. We see in her a profound drive and determination to overcome the challenges she faces, a sense of purpose that most successful adults spend a lifetime trying to manufacture within themselves. DSC_0655-2 Shirt by Honey Bee True Co

She is a wonder and a delight. 

But there are valid challenges... challenges with shredding, chewing, biting, hitting, pinching, feeding, sleeping, bathing, communicating, leaving our house, inviting people into our house.

Challenges with balancing the other needs of our family with the particular needs of our daughter.

Challenges with outlook, understanding, perspective, guilt, grief. But the weight of these challenges generates an equally profound joy in triumph. DSC_0658 And in the intersection of trial and success lies an opportunity, an open door for good conversation.

And maybe all I can do is try. So... I will try.

I will do my best to speak honestly and openly about both the challenges and the wins involved in our own particular journey -- with no presumption of anybody else's experience and at times when I feel I am able -- and open the door for whomever may want to enter and chat.

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A first attempt at meal prep May 2, 2016 00:42

After the response I got from Saturday's post, I decided I needed to take a bit of a leap... and force myself to do one of those "hard things" that I've let intimidate me for a long time.

Meal prep... 

I'm not a cook.

I have a few things I do pretty well and stick to.

I don't particularly enjoy cooking, and really, the idea of cooking multiple meals at one time has always intimidated me... 

But seriously... this really wasn't that bad!!

It took me about 2 hours to make enough food for 20 meals!

 

On the menu for this week:

1. Eggs + egg whites scrambled with tomatoes and green chili & Gluten Free Pumpkin Pancakes (Pamela's mix, + 1 extra egg, add half a can of organic pumpkin)

2. Ground turkey, sweet potato fries and sautéed veggies (mushrooms, peppers & onions)

3. Chicken Sausage, sautéed veggies & spaghetti squash

It's a start!! 

I can do hard things <3

 


Love yourself... and do all the hard things April 30, 2016 13:38 4 Comments

Alright guys, Saturday morning sappy post to all my mamas...

being mom is hard.

We know this, nothing novel here. 

Seeing your body do the miraculous accordion effect that happens with having babies... is absolutely beautiful.. but hard.

And it isn't like we're playing with a full deck here either.

Post partum depression hit me like a ton of bricks after having Mags. 

Her early hospitalization, on top of the "normal" sleep deprivation, re-balancing hormones, adjusting to a whole new balance of day-to-day crazy... all road blocks to feeling like a somewhat well-adjusted human being. And I hit a really dark, yucky, non-functioning place.

Now, feeling like I don't recognize the woman in the mirror?

That's the one I still battle with the most. 

But, I have a daughter now...

And she's lit a fire under my butt to figure out this whole self-esteem thing.

Cause I'll be damned if my daughter grows up with anything less than a strong, confident, healthy woman as an example. 

So here's my two cents on rebuilding that confidence and reacquainting yourself with your post-baby mind and body, for what it's worth:

You're going to get a lot of advice; take it all with a grain of salt. Just like when you were pregnant, lots of people will weigh in. You'll hear everything from "You'll lose the weight if you breastfeed" to "it's not safe to lose weight while breastfeeding." Yeah, not that simple on either end. Just smile, nod and keep on truckin'.

Babies are not an excuse to be unhealthy. Guys, I don't mean that having babies should in no way influence your capacity for some elusive, diligent exercise and meal planning. Let's be real here. But being pregnant and/or having little ones is NOT an excuse to shrug off self-care and trying to live a healthy lifestyle. These babies need you at your best, healthiest and most energized. If it isn't motivation enough to do it for yourself right now, remember they're watching and absorbing. 

Be your best example. Society, in some ways, tells us our job as parents is to make sure kids have unforgettable, magical childhoods. I'd argue that my main purpose as a parent is to help shape my children into compassionate, healthy, hard-working, well-adjusted adults... and that starts with me learning to be a more compassionate, healthy, hard-working, and well-adjusted adult. This will look different for each of us. It will be far from a perfect picture. It may even seem exhausting and burdensome sometimes, but this is your role as a parent, so ya know... put on your big girl panties and suck it up buttercup.  

Be self-protective, but not selfish. I think our generation spends a little too much time thinking about how to preserve their cozy self-bubble rather than enveloping those they love into it. This stage of life is fleeting. Don't lose yourself in it and do the things you need to keep yourself centered, but learn to find joy and fulfillment in becoming a little more selfless as a parent. 

Find YOUR balance. My nature is the complete opposite of balanced. I like to work at all hours of the night, I obsess over projects and ideas until I have them perfectly how I'd like, and I am really, really hard on myself. But I'm slowly developing more balanced routines... because it's important. Consistency, balance, dependability are crucial to relationships. If you're like me and absolutely suck at those things? Work a little harder at them. 

Love yourself. No matter your motivation to improve or continue a healthy lifestyle, there are things about yourself that just aren't the same after kids. No matter how fit I was after my son, the constant swelling in my ankles hung around and only worsened after my daughter. Things will change, embrace it, own it, rock it. But don't let it deter you from influencing what you can control.  

Be your own best coach. All those road blocks I talked about at the beginning of this post can make it really difficult to do all the other things we're talking about here. I'm not discounting that. Nor have I mastered any kind of easy solution. Overcoming PPD/Anxiety means finding a way to break a vicious cycle of physical and emotional depression. That's gonna be a little different for everybody. 

For me, I realized that it wasn't going to get any easier. I had to convince myself to just do it anyway, to start anyway, in spite of how hard it was. The cool thing? I realized I was a hell of a lot stronger than I knew. 

Getting to the gym with a baby is hard. Don't wait for it to be easy. You can do hard things.

Getting to the gym with two babies... is hard. Don't wait for it to be easy. You can do hard things.

Making good choices about food... is hard. Don't wait for it to be easy. You can do hard things.

Making healthy decisions after a week, month, or year of unhealthy ones, is hard.

But really, the hardest part is starting. Don't wait for it to be easy. You can do hard things.

 

Sam & Maggie helping mama lift <3


Maggie's Space February 3, 2016 14:23

So excited to finally get around to sharing Maggie's space with you all! 

We plan on co-sleeping/bed-sharing with Maggie, as we have with Sam for the better part of his life, so her "nursery" space is actually an area in our room.

Poor Sam... first kid... we barely had a changing station and a Rock N Play ready for him when we brought him home! Maggie's space is quite a bit better planned out haha!

As with Sam, I made all of Maggie's bedding, burp cloths, blankets, cloth diaper hamper, and we'll be using cloth diapers from gDiapers and our Grovia cloth wipes again!

But I also really wanted to make sure we included a number of our favorite handmade shops! 

The dresser and shelf are the same that Daddy refinished for Sam, and the end table was a favorite yard sale find. 

A few random decor items, a repurposed frame with ribbon hot glued to the back & some basic IKEA wall shelves finished off our nursing corner.  

And now for the "Small Shop Shelf"...

Moccasins from: Hello Moccs, Stitches & Soles, KCMoccs, Sweet N' Swag, PB&J ThreadsSail East Co and Wild Folk

Headbands, Bows & Floral Crown from: Zozu Baby, NoxxAZ, MaizySue, Hello Cedar Co, Stella Lane, and we also have some fantastic accessories (not pictured) from Mimi Makes & BriaBay.

Bracelets & Necklace from Little Saylor Shoppe

And of course we needed a good way to hang our Tin & Ella Tutus, Too Rah Loo Snap Scarves, and my favorite Mustard Bow Turban from NoxxAZ!

Top it off with some custom hand-painted bodysuits from our most favorite Mama-Shop Honey Bee True Co and I'd say Maggie is all set!


PUNKINS, BOOS & SPIDERS OH MY! October 29, 2015 21:04

 

Oh hi there Too Rah Loo blog! It's been a while! We knew we had to get back on the blogging bandwagon somehow, and what better way to make that happen than with a fun Halloween craft you can do with your little. 

We have a few new faces here at Too Rah Loo headquarters, Miss Rischelle, our new "utility player" and awesome do-er of all things, and her sweet baby girl, Haylee. Miss Rischelle also just so happens to be a crafting queen, so we asked her to help us come up with some fun projects to share with you all!

 

Today, we're decorating plates for Halloween using adorable toddler hands and feet! 

What you'll need:

- A couple of ceramic plates to decorate

- Different colors of Enamel Paint 

- A few paint pens, a paint brush & some sponge brushes

Our supplies cost about $15 total at dollar/craft stores if you don't already have any of the items on hand!

 

Step 1: Make sure you're helpers are awake and ready to go!

 
"Hey baby! Wake up!"

 

 Sam just loves his "Baby Hays"... and tickling her belly <3

 

Step 2: Get your supplies ready! We put an old table cloth upside down on the kitchen table to catch any spills (though oddly none even happened!)

Step 3: Paint your toddler!

We did three different plates... for the first, we used our foam brush to put paint on Sam's feet for two super cute Lil Boos!
Silver paint on ticklish toes!
Black paint and a small paint brush to add some awesome BOO faces!
Orange paint pen to add a finishing touch...
BOO!

 

Next came a couple of Lil Punkins! We used orange paint on the palms of Sam's hands...
And a little green on his finger for the stems...
Miss Rischelle added some awesome painted on Jack-O-Lantern faces!
And a little paint pen and fingerprint action to top it off!

 

We didn't get quite as many shots of our last plate, because a sweet lil babe was hungry, but it was super fun to add to our collection!

Rischelle used a blue paint pen to draw an awesome web on our last plate.
Then we used our black enamel paint and Sam's handprint to make a spider...
 I attempted a little silver smiley face... from now on I'm leaving the faces to Rischelle!

 

Step 4: Distract toddler while you bake the plates in the over at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes! We gave Sam some Crayola Kids Washable PaintCreativity Street Paint Brush,rolled some paper out on the table and let him go to town!

 

 Step 5: Remove, let cool, and then either use  to serve your favorite Halloween goodies or put on display!

 

 

Next week: Gluten-free, Dairy-free, Pumpkin Spiced Pancakes!

For more Halloween and Fall craft ideas, check out our Pinterest board! 


IF A CHILD IS UNHAPPY, PUT THEM IN WATER March 12, 2015 01:08

A while back I saw a cute little poster that said, "If a child is unhappy, put them in water," with a picture of a happy tot splashing away. I don't know that this is necessarily fool-proof, but it worked for us today. Sam totally woke up on the wrong side of the bed... well technically he woke up in the middle of the bed with his feet in my face, but you know what I mean. Grumpy during breakfast. Even more grumpy when Daddy left for work. Then this happened...

bathtimeBathtimeWhich quickly progressed to this...

DSC_0137DSC_0154He even figured out how to put the rings onto the Nuby Octopus!

BathtimeWhich made him SOOOO proud!

Bathtime

This random middle of the day bath time was the ultimate reset button. Water (and purple octopus) for the WIN!


DEAR TODDLERHOOD January 15, 2015 00:08

Dear toddlerhood, you are far more intense, humbling, beautiful than I could have ever expected.  

You cause my kid to be, in the same moment, heart-meltingly sweet... And hair-pullingly frustrating (I'm making that a phrase, you get what I mean).

Heart melting

He throws himself in a belly-flop on the ground when he doesn't get his way.  

And it takes all my self control not to laugh at the drama.  

He gives the sweetest hugs and kisses... often... and in a way that exudes love from every fiber of his little being.  

He gives me a sly little smirk as he throws food off his tray for the tenth time in a row.  

And I again have to try not to laugh... the level of sass is just too much!  

He has a newfound fascination with pop-up books. And has started pointing at things to hear what they're called.  

He wants up...  

He wants down...  

He wants up...  

He wants down...  

He says "yeah" when I say "no."  

He tells me when he has to go #2 and gets a total kick out of flushing the toilet after.  

He loves food.  

And then he hates food.  

He says "Mmmmmmmm" if I ask him if he wants blueberries.  

Which sounds so simple, but is one of the coolest things to me.  

He'll go hours without being still, then will sit with a single book for 30 minutes examining every image on every page.  

But, oh, the screaming/screeching sounds he's capable of?! I'm pretty sure my child is possessed at times.  

"Dada" is the coolest, but "Mama" gives the best snuggles.  

The "oooo face" is my personal favorite.

ooo face

He is a ball full of silly... singing, dancing and butt wiggles.  

But still needs his mama when things overwhelm him.  

Toddlerhood, I blame you for the 5am wake-up calls.  

And I thank you for the resulting early nap-time snuggles.  

Toddlerhood, I am frustrated by you...  

Yet eternally grateful for you,  

'cause you remind me how we all truly are at our core.  

Beautifully messy, unbalanced and imperfect, loving and adventurous, dependent on one another, and perfectly, wonderfully made.


GRACE & PERSPECTIVE October 9, 2014 01:08

I haven't posted anything in a few weeks. I can list a dozen or so reasons why... sick, busy, husband traveling, social engagements, more sick, more busy.  

But I think, if I'm being honest, I've simply been a little too focused on myself, becoming overwhelmed by issues that are, truly, only as big as I allow them to be.  

The series of bugs we caught...  

The husband traveling way more than we'd like and are used to.  

I've even allowed the "good" stress to overwhelm me. We have some great opportunities opening up before us, yet I have focused only on the uncertainty of it all.  

More than ever we have been surrounded by wonderful people... Yet I began to feel weighed down by my own perceived expectations of those around us, rather than remember what a blessing each person is to our family.  

So, two nights ago I lay awake in bed and found myself asking God to please help me find some level of peace in all of this. I asked God for grace. I asked that God provide for me a better perspective... Because Lord knows none of these "problems" we are facing warranted how burdened I felt.  

Then, in my narrow-mindedness I proceeded to become even more frustrated that I did not immediately feel relieved in any way. As if my merely acknowledging what I thought I needed should have been enough to attain it. Silly me.  

Yesterday was a busy day. Orders to make, ship and deliver, people to visit, phone calls, errands to run, a house to clean, laundry to do, an active toddler, pavers starting to work on the back yard.  

ALL positive things... but all I saw were the tasks.  

At different points throughout the day, I was most certainly blessed with some very wonderful and very real moments of God's grace.  

A sincere barista at Starbucks that seemed to truly hope I had a "wonderful day."   Random strangers smiling kindly.  

Some wonderfully appropriate and uplifting messages and songs on the radio.  

A sweet and funny lady who helped to calm my child when he decided unexpectedly to freak out... in the middle of a packed and hot elevator.  

But none of this registered. Finally, an incredibly kind older cashier at the grocery store brought the message home.  

Grocery shopping yesterday was like something out of a comedy. Frazzled mom, dropping things and running into people while toddler-who-has-found-his-voice has emphatic, high-pitched conversations with himself and attempts to eat the cart.  

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In line, the cashier asks if I need any ice or stamps. "OH!! Yes! Stamps!" Something I've been forgetting for every grocery trip for the last month and need so that I can send out the Thank You notes from Sam's Birthday party. (I swear to all those applicable, we are eternally grateful! Especially since you all put up with my less than timely expressions of gratitude!)  

I turned to Sam and, as if I expected him to respond, say "Mommy has been forgetting stamps forever!"  

This cashier... This wonderful stranger who I will now never forget, stops what he's doing, smiles at my child and says, with full sincerity, "That's because, I'd be willing to bet, Mommy's got a lot on her plate. And I'm sure she is doing the absolute best she can."  

So simple.  

Yet so unbelievably and incredibly wonderful... supportive, compassionate, encouraging.   It probably didn't hurt that the guy sounded kinda like Morgan Freeman, but ya know...   It's just that, in that moment, I realized that God had been blessing me with little bits of grace all day long... As he always does if I am able to get outside of my own concerns long enough to see them.  

Okay, there's the grace part. So, what about perspective?   This is what I found on my Timehop app this morning. 

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I did most definitely laugh about this. But not for the reasons I had expected four years ago. I didn't laugh because I found eating chicken nuggets after midnight at an old folding table funny or pathetic (as I saw it at the time). In fact, that memory now seems absolutely sweet and wonderful to me.  

I laughed because even then, when I had a fantastic partner in life sitting across a table from me in the middle of the night, a job to come home from, a phone to play scrabble on, the ability to obtain food that wouldn't make me sick... all I saw was what I didn't have.  

I had some grand idea of how flawless my life would "someday" be... without realizing that the flaws were what made my life perfect and beautiful.  

This... this is my perspective... and one that I want to make sure I learn better for Sam.   There will always be things I think we need... that truly do not matter.  

There are things we have now that I will surely take for granted and look back on fondly down the road.  

Life will always have an element of uncertainty. It's all part of the adventure.  

Grace and perspective are already given to us, it's up to us to see them for what they are.


BABIES ARE NOT EQUAL TO ROBOTS August 7, 2014 01:07

There is one sentence I have said more frequently than any other in parenting conversations. Whether we're talking about my kid or somebody else's kid.

It's something I have to remind myself of and be reminded of by friends and family when I find my own child's inconsistency frustrating.

It rings particularly true in those "it's not you, it's me" parenting moments... It's not your inconsistency that's frustrating me, rather my own lack of realistic expectations.

And that's when I have to realize the truth of my own repeated words... Every single day is DIFFERENT. Different from yesterday, different from last week, different from what tomorrow will bring.

I, as an adult, as a supposed "creature of habit," would never attempt to sleep from exactly 10pm to 5am every singe night, without any room for natural variation in my body's schedule.

If I wasn't asleep by 10:30, I wouldn't begin to think that something was wrong with me or my sleeping arrangement. I wouldn't take drastic steps the next night to be sure that the blip in perfect scheduling didn't happen again.

If I normally eat dinner at 6, but felt hungry around 5... I'd probably just eat at 5! Because my body knows what it needs.

This kind of thing sounds so obvious when we put it in a context of our adult bodies. Why, then, are we so mistrustful and controlling over the bodies of our babies? Why are we so thrown off by natural variations in their schedules?

Schedules can be really good tools, don't get me wrong. Rhythm is good. Predictability is good. Stability and consistency are GOOD. But being realistic is... healthy. And having realistic expectations about how much is actually within our ability to control with our infants and toddlers... and how much is even healthy for us to try to control.. would save us all a lot of frustration and worry.

Cause sometimes your kid is going to refuse to take a nap all day... and other times he'll manage to pass out on top of the kitchen counter in the time it takes you to fill the sink with water for a quick bath.Sam sleeping  Expect each day to be different, and suddenly flexibility becomes a part of the routine.    


THAT AWESOME MOMENT WHEN REAL COMMUNICATION HAPPENS WITH YOUR YOUNG TODDLER July 31, 2014 01:06

Sam understood me today... In the last few days I thought he might be picking up more of what I say. He seemed to respond more quickly and appropriately to simple things like "look," hug," "wait," "come here," etc.

He even spent half an hour last night searching the house for Daddy, who wasn't home at the usual time because of some work stuff.

He responded appropriately when I asked what he was looking for... "Dada." And when I told him Dada wasn't in whatever area of the house he was indicating/searching, he'd nod or babble in affirmation and look somewhere else. Pretty freakin' adorable!

But today... He most definitely completely understood what I was telling him. I was working on a bib order and he wanted to see the sewing machine. So I put him on my lap and said "You can look, but don't touch." So of course he immediately reached out and tried to touch it. "No, Sam, don't touch." I moved his hand away. He arched his back and started throwing a little stink-fit. I plopped him back down on the floor and said "If you're going to be nasty, you can do it on your own."

He stopped crying instantly (wait, what?!) He got back up and wanted to see the machine again so I set him in my lap... Repeat trying to touch & "don't touch" a few times.... But this time with only mild frustration on his part.

Finally, I said "Okay Sam, this is a needle (pointing to needle)... It can hurt you (signing "hurt"). You can't touch it, but you can stay in my lap if you just watch."

He put his hands in his lap and sat quietly watching the sewing machine for a good five minutes before climbing back down to go do his own thing. I know it won't always be that easy... but that was definitely among some of the cooler parenting moments so far! 

20140716-112637-41197328.jpg


FINDING NORMAL AND MORE "IN THE MOMENT" NONSENSE July 30, 2014 01:07

I talk about being in the moment a lot. I think that's because it's probably the thing I struggle with the most.

One part of "being in the moment" has to do with letting yourself off the hook, right? Realizing that you only have so much to give to any one glimpse of your day... and that has to be good enough... for you and for those around you.

Today has been kinda rough.

My 13-month old is cluster feeding -- meaning nursing almost every hour -- because his mouth hurts and he's trying to find comfort. That's fine, except that he also won't sleep on his own today, so I found myself spending 3 solid hours holding and rocking him while he slept/fussed/nursed in rotation.

But then I really needed food... I could feel my blood sugar tanking. I hadn't eaten in close to 5 hours and had meanwhile been burning a ton of extra calories nursing Sam.

So... I tried setting him down, even though I knew it would wake him up and that he really could have used more sleep. He was awake the second I stood up with him... and man just SO uncomfortable.

I probably could have gone back to rocking and gotten him back to sleep. But I knew in that moment that I needed to be able to help sustain him and in order to do that, I had to make sure my own body had its basic needs met.

So the result was booster seat, The Prince of Egypt on Netflix (which is a phenomenal movie, by the way), and a paci he hardly even takes anymore strapped on with a fuzzy pink paci clip I had in my stash of things to sell...

Teething Sam

Anyway, this allowed me to cook up some food. Both of us got a nice big meal and he seems to be feeling a bit better... playing quietly on his own with toys.

I probably should be trying to make some sense of my currently chaotic house... or doing the dishes... or folding the three loads of clean laundry sitting in a giant pile on our bed.

Somebody from the outside might wonder why I'm wasting time sitting here writing something that probably only a handful of people will read... and even fewer will find worthwhile.

But sometimes, finding for yourself a moment of normal... whether that's reading, writing, chatting with a friend, pointlessly organizing some area of your house, or taking five minutes to sip on your coffee that you've been reheating for the last 3 hours... finding your normal in the midst of chaos is just as important as the items of productivity that are more easily measured.

Sometimes being in the moment means knowing that whatever you give is good enough. Sometimes it means prioritizing basic needs of yourself and others. And sometimes it means simply doing things that help you feel normal.


grief is not a four letter word and so much else is noise July 26, 2014 00:00

On Saturday I'd made a list of things I wanted to write about this week.

I had expected to share with you all the details of Sam's 1st Birthday party... the recipe for the cake I made him, his outfit, the decor... but none of those details seem important enough to write about anymore.

The morning after Sam's party we woke to the news that a beloved uncle on my husband's side of the family had passed suddenly of a heart attack.

His is not my story to tell, nor would I do it justice if I tried. But I can tell you that he was a wonderful father, husband, son, uncle, brother, friend... who is utterly irreplaceable and will be greatly missed by so many.

I did want to share a few thoughts, a few things this last week has taught me.

It is unnerving how quickly life shifts...

One afternoon the family is celebrating a first birthday, the next morning we are grieving a terrible loss. All the more reason to truly cherish the moments we have on this earth together.

Big families can be a blessing.

My husband's family is huge... the sheer amount of people around to help and take pieces of this burden from those who are grieving the most is impressive. And each of these people has something unique to offer.

There's a sort of tier structure when it comes to loss within a family...

There are those at the center of the crisis, that cling to one another and are supported from all around. Then those in that second ring of support are also being held by a third tier, etc.

Then there are the many countless neighbors, acquaintances, friends-of-friends... people offering up prayers and positive thoughts.

It's a tragically beautiful ripple effect that both spreads the memory of the one who has been lost, and creates a safety net for those left behind to mourn his death and celebrate his life.

Everybody handles grief differently, everybody has a role to play in the process of navigating out of it.

After the last few days I believe more than ever that God gives us the kind of people we need in the moments we need them.

Some people are good leaders, some are organizers, some people clean, some people feed, some cry with us, some hold us up, and still some are just so wonderfully skilled at finding joy and peace in the midst of mourning.

Grief comes in waves.

It is exhausting, but sleep is elusive. Nothing can fix it, nor make it go away... though food and family seem to help.

Babies make it better, if only for a few seconds...

Something about their innocence seems to lighten the burden and bring smiles to faces.

Grief has a way of showing us what truly matters in our lives, and what's just noise.

Sam & Daddy at the BeachImage is an unrelated shot of my husband holding my son as he experiences the ocean for the first time... it's moments like these that matter and are worth holding onto.


LESSONS FROM SAM: #4 July 17, 2014 01:05

I don’t typically sleep well. Never really have, not even as a little kid. I’ve spent way too many countless hours at night thinking/worrying/planning the next day. I make notes in my phone, use the “Tasks” and “Checklist” features, send emails to myself… But, guess what?

Nothing I ever plan ends up the way I plan it… No matter how much I think about the plan, Worry about the plan, Plan about the plan… I’ve never been able to check off that whole To-Do list, or follow the “realistic” schedule I spend an hour setting for myself. My son on the other hand…

 

As long as he’s fed and comfy, he’s out cold in minutes. Then every morning he wakes up with a giant grin on his face, ready for whatever might await him that day.

He starts with a clean slate. Endless possibilities. And he accomplishes more in one day than I do for sure. So today I'm going to try to simplify a bit. I'm going to be more present... more purposeful... and look for small opportunities for productivity in each moment.

And tonight, no matter what I do or do not accomplish during the day, I'm going to snuggle up with my boys and just let it all go... Because life is too precious... and too short... to waste so much time worrying about how I can manage to do it all.

I will never do it all. But I can do whatever I am able... here. Now. In this moment.


THE TOO RAH LOO TAKE (AND TIPS) ON TEETHING July 10, 2014 01:05

We're smack in the middle of some yucky teething stuff today... It's making Sam feel pretty rotten... He's making this face a lot...Samuel teethingAnd chewing his poor fingers to death.Teething stinks… it just does. But these babies are such troopers about it! If I had to cut teeth I’d be bed-ridden and complaining constantly.
There seems to be a pretty wide range of how badly teething affects babies. I’d put Sam in the middle of this spectrum. He has some fussy days and nights, with a few hours here and there where you can tell he’s just downright hurting… but mostly he just keeps cruising right on through.
Early on, when I was concerned over Sam's first bout of teething and trying to find ways to comfort him, I had a mom acquaintance tell me, "they're going to be miserable no matter what you do, so why stress yourself out?"
Um, yeah, not cool... I had the urge to ask her how she'd feel if somebody took that approach with her the next time she was sick or hurting. It's true that teething is going to suck no matter what, but there are things you can do to make it suck a little less... and I'm pretty sure that's part of the mommy job description... there's another one for the resume...
Vanquisher of Yucky-ness
Our big go-to for teething is extra nursing and snuggle time... And Mickey... Lots of Mickey.Sam teethingBut sometimes that doesn't cut it... and for other mamas, some babies aren't nursing, or even if they typically do, will nurse less when teething. We've found a few really helpful non-nursing goodies for teething, so I figured I'd share them with you all! 
1. Our Baltic Amber teething necklace from Hazelaid Raw amber, when warmed by the skin, has pain-killing and anti-inflammatory properties that can help lessen some of the symptoms of teething (read more here). We got one for Sam when he was about 4-months-old and saw significant improvement in drooling and fussiness. We’ve even had times where we forget to put it on him after a bath and, after hours of wondering why he’s so fussy, realize what’s missing. 
2. Bandana Bibs When I originally started making these, it was not to sell them. I made a few for Sam and realized that they were way more useful for catching and absorbing all that drool than any of the traditional bibs I had. The ridges and bandana style do a great job keeping the drool away from baby’s skin, reducing those awful drool rashes babies can get on their necks and chests. 
3. Frozen teething rings are hit or miss with Sam, but good to have around. 
4. Extra bath time. I find that it is not only a good distraction from teething discomfort, but also helps the yucky cold/clammy thing Sam gets when he's teething badly. 
5. Frozen food pops & smoothies!  
 2014-04-25 15.12.40 2014-04-25 15.16.40 
This is a big one for us... I blend up whatever we have available for a smoothy -- last time it was avocado, almond milk, raspberries, spinach, banana and coconut milk yogurt -- pour some into our Munchkin Fresh Food Freezer Pop molds and the rest into Sam's straw cup. He enjoyed the smoothie then..
.2014-04-25 15.35.45 2014-04-25 15.33.56 
and now a month later I was able to pull a popsicle out of the freezer for him!Samuel TeethingSamuel TeethingToday he also did cold scrambled eggs (he likes them cold, it's strange) and strawberries... those seemed to feel good on his gums too. 
6. Little Remedies Infant Fever/Pain Reliever This is kind of our last resort, but especially when teething pain and discomfort disrupt sleep, we’re glad to have it as a useful tool! The Little Remedies brand isn't perfect, but it IS dye-free and gluten-free, no artificial colors or flavors, so we prefer it to the brand name Tylenol for infant acetaminophen.
I did have a fellow mama/nurse friend recommend infant ibuprofen for teething, instead of acetaminophen, since the source of the pain is often inflammation. I'll be giving that a try this time around and will let you all know how it works for us!  
Would love to hear from other mamas in the comments about what has worked for you for teething!!  

LESSONS FROM SAM #3 July 3, 2014 01:05

Sam had some really awesome playtime the other day. He sat in this position in front of his toy basket...20140509-135116.jpg... For 45 solid minutes. Slowly choosing one toy at a time, looking at it, chewing on it, shaking it, moving it from one hand to the other, hitting it against something to see what sound it made... Then throwing it behind him emphatically, like "I'm done with you toy!" Eventually he found a toy that he wanted to hang onto, so he threw himself back and lay there playing calmly for another 10 minutes or so.20140509-135845.jpgThen he put the toy down, crawled to me, pulled himself up rubbing his eyes and asking to nurse (which means he was trying to eat my leg). He fell asleep within 5 minutes of nursing and is now out cold in my lap. It fills my heart with so much joy to see him take on his world in such a healthy, balanced way. He's a daily reminder to me to slow it down, take my time, be purposeful, be in the moment... And be at peace with the world around me.

GRIEF IS NOT A FOUR LETTER WORD... AND SO MUCH ELSE IS NOISE June 26, 2014 01:06

On Saturday I'd made a list of things I wanted to write about this week. I had expected to share with you all the details of Sam's 1st Birthday party... the recipe for the cake I made him, his outfit, the decor... But none of those details seem important enough to write about anymore.

The morning after Sam's party we woke to the news that a beloved uncle on my husband's side of the family had died suddenly of a heart attack early that morning.

His is not my story to tell, nor would I do it justice if I tried. But I can tell you that he was a wonderful father, husband, son, uncle, brother, friend... who is utterly irreplaceable and will be greatly missed by so many.

I did want to share a few thoughts, a few things this last week has taught me. Forgive me if these thoughts seem a little scattered and lack cohesion right now... 

It is unnerving how quickly life shifts... One afternoon the family is celebrating a first birthday, the next morning we are grieving a terrible loss. All the more reason to truly cherish the moments we all have on this earth together. 

Big families can be a blessing. My husband's family is huge... the sheer amount of people around to help and take pieces of this burden from those who are grieving the most is impressive. And each of these people has something unique to offer. 

There's a sort of tier structure when it comes to loss within a family... There are those at the center of the crisis, that cling to one another and are supported from all around. Then those in that second ring of support are also being held by a third tier, etc. Then there are the many countless neighbors, acquaintances, friends-of-friends... people offering up prayers and positive thoughts. It's a tragically beautiful ripple effect that both spreads the memory of the one who has been lost, and creates a safety net for those left behind to mourn his death and celebrate his life.

Everybody handles grief differently, everybody has a role to play in the process of navigating out of it. After the last few days I believe more than ever that God gives us the kind of people we need in the moments we need them. Some people are good leaders, some are organizers, some people clean, some people feed, some cry with us, some hold us up, and still some are just so wonderfully skilled at finding joy and peace in the midst of mourning. 

Grief comes in waves. It is exhausting, but sleep is elusive. Nothing can fix it, or make it go away... though food and family seem to help. 

Babies make it better, if only for a few seconds... Something about their innocence and how oblivious and carefree they are seems to lighten the burden and bring smiles to faces, even if just briefly. Grief has a way of showing us what truly matters in our lives... And what's just noise.

Sam & Daddy at the Beach(Image is an unrelated shot of my husband holding my son as he experiences the ocean for the first time... it's moments like these that matter and are worth holding onto).


WHY IS THERE A BOOB ON MY SCREEN? June 26, 2014 01:04

You may have seen this or similar images floating around your Facebook news feed...Private Dining 

It's a part of the "When Nurture Calls" campaign put together by art students at the University of North Texas, meant to bring awareness to issues surrounding breastfeeding in public (Velez, 2014).

Actually, there's a nice little social trend towards "normalizing" breastfeeding that's been gaining recent momentum... and I'm a fan.... partially because it seems to have remained separate from the awful mommy-bashing going on in the formula-breast debate.

It's about removing judgement rather than adding it on. It's simply a push to make breastfeeding normal again... To take something that has become a source of contention (breastfeeding in public) and make it a non-issue, in hopes that more women will be able to successfully breastfeed their infants if that's what they choose to do.

The uproar over breastfeeding in public hasn't been around for long. Check out these awesome 25 Historical Images that Normalize Breastfeeding.

Even the "as long as you cover up" mentality is relatively new. I won't get started on nursing covers today, but I'll ask you this... would you want to eat with a blanket over your head? Doubt it. If a cover makes mama and baby more comfortable, then awesome! If not? Feeding your child should not have to be an under-cover operation.

Anyways... similar to its relative newness, the contention surrounding breastfeeding in public is also an overwhelmingly American issue. According to the Office of Women's Health (2013):Troloca, Breastfeeding in PublicActually, one study found that rates of breastfeeding in immigrant groups decreased with each subsequent generation in the United States, as social pressures became more ingrained in those generations (Office of the Surgeon General, 2011). Our society treats breasts as sex objects, rather than a source for sustenance, bonding and optimal nutrition. It's unfortunate, really, because this can create social barriers to successful breastfeeding. In fact, a 2011 study conducted by the Office of the Surgeon General found that less than half of women felt it was appropriate to breastfeed in public. The study also found that a perceived inconvenience to the mother, as well as embarrassment due to social norms can pose a barrier to successful breastfeeding.

Even though a variety of evidence indicates that breastfeeding reduces many different health risks for mothers and children, numerous barriers to breastfeeding remain—and action is needed to overcome these barriers. - Office of the Surgeon General

So here's my first little contribution to normalize breastfeeding... actually the pictures I have of Sam nursing are some of my favorites... He's always so calm, peaceful, content... secure.Samuel nursingI'm one of the lucky ones. I have a husband, family and friends who are all supportive of me feeding Sam whenever and wherever he needs. I had some good role models for breastfeeding well before I had my own child. Few women, however, have such support.

So, when it comes to taking action to overcome some of the barriers to successful breastfeeding... When we're talking about "normalizing" a means of feeding our children... I'm officially on the bandwagon... I'm an advocate... I'm a fan. 

That's why there's a boob on your screen. 

References: Barriers to Breastfeeding in the United States (2011). Office of the Surgeon General (US); Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (US); Office on Women's Health (US). The Surgeon General's Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding. Rockville (MD): Office of the Surgeon General (US). Office on Women's Health (2013). BreastfeedingDepartment of Health and Human Services. Trocola, M. G. (2005). Breastfeeding in PublicNew Beginnings, 22(6), 238-243. Velez, M. (2014). What you're really saying when you tell moms not to breastfeed in publicThe Huffington Post.