The 7 Letter Word….

Anxiety. I have anxiety.

WHEW. I said it. I already feel better.

Oh wait—- I don’t feel better? It isn’t something we’re supposed to talk about? It’s something I’m supposed to deal with on my own or with my doctor, but not in a public setting. Oh wait, not my doctor, I shouldn’t get medicated for it. I should see a therapist…. But wait…. If I see a therapist, is there something wrong with me? But my life is so perfect? What on earth could I be anxious about?

WTF!?

In the last year, my family has been incredibly lucky in many ways (my oldest is getting good grades, my husband and I both received promotions, and my middle child stopped being THE WORST all the time)….. but there’ve been plenty of shit moments. The shittiest of shit moments is when we found out that my mom isn’t getting better. This has been the hardest year of my entire life.

My anxiety has gone THROUGH THE ROOF in the last few months. And, ladies, I have to talk about it. Why? Because I can’t get better on my own! How many times have you shared something that’s happening to you/around you/because of you with someone who can relate? Sharing our problems doesn’t weaken us… it makes us stronger. Asking for help doesn’t make us incapable…. It makes us human.

In Daring Greatly, Brené Brown says: “Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.” I am not perfect… oh no. I bite my nails, I raise my voice at my kids, I even (GASP!) drink too much wine! However, I know that through it all, I am a good mom. My anxiety has made me a better mom. Some people might read that statement and think I’m crazy. Let me say it again: my anxiety has made me a better mom.

My oldest, Alexis, has started showing signs of anxiety: she gets physically ill after finding out she failed a test, she threw up when her dad and I were too hard on her, and she will completely shut down if she feels attacked. My anxiety makes it easier for me to identify and help her through her episodes. I will rub her back for 2 hours after others would give up, I will sit next to her without touching her just to be there. I don’t get it right every single time but I am patient enough to figure it out because I go through it as well.

My middle, Fiona, has started getting so worked up when she doesn’t feel listened to that she literally can’t stop taking loud, shallow breaths. She doesn’t feel better until we make full eye contact and breathe deeply 5 times together. I HOPE that my 4 year old doesn’t have/develop anxiety but I am here for her if she does.

Everytime I have an anxiety episode or a panic attack, I have learned to let the people surrounding me know. It allows me to excuse myself and retreat into silence where I can focus on my breathing and not worry about what people think.

Since I started sharing with family, friends & coworkers about my anxiety, I have never felt more supported. I truly feel liberated after opening up and becoming vulnerable about anxiety….. so much better than when I used to say, “excuse me” and run into the bathroom to cry.

I wish every work environment was as mindful of mental health as the one I’ve worked in for 6 years. I know that others aren’t as tolerant because I recently spoke with someone about anxiety who said, “you just have to train your mind to work through it.” When I mentioned the chemical imbalances in your brain which create anxiety, this person said, “well… I worked through mine without medication so I know others can too.”

Instead of telling others what to do, I think our job as humans, as women and as moms is to say, “What can I do? How can I help?” or better yet, “Let me take this off your plate. Let me pick up your kids from school today.” Sheryl Sandberg has shared that after her husband died the best thing a friend did was to NOT ask what she can do to help…. That places the burden on the person grieving or hurting. Instead, tell the friend WHAT you’re going to do for them- “I’m coming over with coffee in hand…. What kind of cream cheese do you want on your bagel?” During a panic attack, I can choose jalapeno cream cheese. I can’t, however, come up with a list of things that you can do to help me. I would never suggest that a friend asking what they can do to help isn’t incredibly kind, but my point is that there’s a better way of offering help.

Since I spoke up about my anxiety, I’ve felt an overwhelming sense of support. People are stepping up to help me when I’m weak and cutting me slack when I say “no” to events that I would’ve previously said yes to.

Struggling with mental health isn’t a weakness… being strong and talking about it is the best way I’ve found to deal with it. I just hope that anyone who suffers from anxiety has the support they need. If you suffer from anxiety and don’t feel supported, please talk to someone about it– even me! Sharing about my experience has become one of the best decisions I’ve made…. I hope you’ll do the same if that’s what is best for you.

Thank you to all of my friends and family for the support you’ve given me. I love you all.

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And then she said, “Damnit”

We were at Target… I feel like every story I have starts with those 4 words.

Anyway, we were at Target. I was sweating because the kids were fighting and I was wearing too many clothes for a 68 degree November day. Oh, we’ve come a long way since baby Oliver spitting up on his sister… he’s 2 now and full of opinions (mostly him wanting to do WHATEVER his sisters are doing). It has literally been almost 2 years since I wrote on my blog. WOW time flies.

Anyway, we were at Target.

We’re checking out and Oliver tries to climb into the seat Fiona is in. The cart shakes and he almost falls out, I save the day. WHEW. didn’t kill my kids today: GOLD STAR.

On the way out….. Fiona was pushing the cart into the row of carts and jammed her finger. Unlike most kids, she rarely cries when she gets hurt. Usually she goes, “aaarrgghhh!” Today, she said, “Damnit!”

2 men gave me a disapproving look while another mom snorted in laughter. I said, “Fiona! Where did you learn that?” She said, “umm.. umm….” and then named someone at daycare. But I know where she learned it.

She learned it from the many times I stub my toe against the wall. Or when I jab my eye with my mascara wand. Soon, she’ll be saying MUCH worse after listening to me when I try and fix things around the house because I’m a woman (hear me roar) and I don’t need a man. Until the thing I’m fixing falls apart or on me…. then come the REAL swear words.

What do I do when my almost 4 year old says, “Damnit” you ask? I LAUGHED! I’ve thought about what my reaction would be to the first real swear word (not dangit or crap but a real swear word) and I planned on, “Honey, here’s why we don’t say that word” or “Fiona, that’s not a nice word and here’s why” or my favorite/most realistic, “You’re going in a time out young lady.” But what did I do in real life? LAUGH!

As I was telling my husband about this he started laughing too. At the end of the day, you have 3 choices when your children f*** up in public: you can laugh, you can get mad, or you can cry. That’s not true…. a mom in the movies would calmly reply why Damnit is an inappropriate word. I, however, work full-time and have 3 kids. I leave work, pick up 2 kids from daycare, make dinner, help the oldest with homework, and often take one-three of them to sports or activities. I DON’T HAVE TIME TO BE CALM. A stay-at-home mom is the same. She is constantly cleaning, doing laundry, cooking, playing, keeping the peace, transporting, cleaning, cooking, doing laundry and keeping the peace (go ahead and repeat all the above). SHE DOESN’T HAVE TIME TO BE CALM. The best thing we can do is make light of it.

So: I laugh. And then I drink wine. In that order.

Confessions of a Stepmother

So it’s been awhile since I posted… as in 4 months. Yikes! With the holidays, time just flew by. But both the kids are down for naps right now so I finally have a moment to myself… time to blog!

Recently, I’ve noticed some people say that I have “2.5 kids (as in, 2 and a half kids).” I know that when people say it, they don’t mean anything offensive or negative about that. Honestly? That’s one of the most offensive things to say to someone who is a stepmother or stepfather.

Why?

A typical family unit functions with 2 parents and their children. In some cases, it’s one parent and children or, in our case, 4 parents sharing 1 child (and each set of parents having 2 of their own as well). No matter how you do the math in this situation, 2 (our kids) + 1 (Chris’ daughter, my stepdaughter) never equals 2.5…. it’s always 3. My stepdaughter, Alexis, is just as much mine as my own children. When I married Chris, he had a 7 year old daughter. Upon marrying him, I got the most amazing gift ever— a stepdaughter! I’ve watched her grow since she was a toddler and I’ve been there for her every step of the way (and I will continue to be there for her no matter what!). What’s just as important, though, is that she’s been there for me. When we were in the Catacombs in Paris, she held my hand and led me to the exit while i was hyperventilating in the dark, underground space. When we were in Universal Studios and my husband swore I would love the Jurassic Park interior where you’re on a bridge some 40 feet up, she told me, “Close your eyes, hold my hand and I’ll get you off the bridge. Trust me.”

I do need to be honest about something: my relationship with Alexis is different than it is with Oliver and Fiona. I see physical attributes of mine in Oliver and Fiona and they automatically look to me when they are hurt, scared, or need someone. On the other side, I see my own mannerisms in Alexis. While she doesn’t look like me, I noticed this look a couple of months ago she gave me when I said something to her. It was this, “Do you think I’m stupid?” look with one eyebrow up and a smirk… that is so me! It’s just as exciting to see Alexis imitate me and look up to me as it is when I notice that Oliver has my exact eyes.

Alexis will always turn towards her father when the scary part in Harry Potter 7 happens. But she ALWAYS calls for me when she can’t sleep. She knows I’ll sing her any song she wants and rub her back until she falls asleep. It’s our thing… and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

So, next time you’re talking to a stepmom or stepdad…. please keep in mind that being a stepmom or stepdad can be harder than being the biological parent to a child. I know, since I’m both. While being a mother and a stepmother makes me two types of moms, it doesn’t change the fact that I have 3 children. It doesn’t matter if my Alexis is in AZ with her mom and stepfather or here with us… she is constantly on my mind. Her joy is my joy, her sadness is my sadness…. I’m there for her every step of the way. She is mine! (that shouldn’t sound creepy and possessive, but motherly and loving).

kids

Alexis (12), Fiona (2), and Oliver (1 week at the time) in October!

12 Surprises of Being a Stay-At-Home-Mom (SAHM)

I had an idealized image of being a SAHM when I found out I was pregnant with Oliver. I knew it’d be hard but I imagined playing with Play-Doh, doing puzzles, coloring, and having fun while being home with the kids. I knew there would be days that I missed interacting with adults (which is a big part of why I work part-time at Evereve) and I knew there’d be days where I didn’t get out of my pajamas. But, I thought overall, this would be a blast! Most days it is a blast. Everyday I do consider myself lucky that I get to stay home with the kids. To be honest, though, there are plenty of days that I wish I was getting ready for work with my husband and not being thrown 16,000 curveballs in the process.

Below are the things that I didn’t expect to happen while being a SAHM. I am not (I repeat, NOT) making a generalization about all moms so don’t flood my inbox with complaints. I am a feminist. I am a Stay-At-Home-Mom. They are not mutually exclusive and I am aware of this. Calm down.

1) There are no breaks. Ever.

When I was in my first trimester and managing a retail store, I’d run to the bathroom to get sick and tell my coworkers that I needed to sit down. I told Fiona that I couldn’t go down the slide with her at the park when I was 9 months pregnant and she had a meltdown. I somehow fit my huge self into the child-size slide and had the most uncomfortable ride of my life. Oliver came 2 days later. Coincidence? #howtoinducelabor

2) Meals? What are those?

My husband, Chris, called on the way home from work the other day around 5 PM. He asked what we were doing for dinner. I realized I hadn’t eaten since a bowl of cereal at 8 AM. You’d think all SAHMs would be super skinny but unfortunately, I snack on what the kids eat all day so it probably adds up to 7 meals in one day.

3) Running errands during the day isn’t worth it.

We had to go to Target to get Oliver some formula on Monday morning. I had him in the swing and Fiona was messing around in my room while I got ready (which means emptying the drawers, hiding things, laughing and running away). I straightened my hair, threw makeup on and put clothes on (I can’t wear yoga pants outside my house. It’s just not in my DNA). Then, I got Fiona ready: new diaper, clothes, brush her teeth, hair.  Check. Then, we got Ollie ready: new diaper, clothes, hat, put in carseat. Check. We make it downstairs in record time.

Then I smelled it. That smell that every parent knows when you’re sweating from spending the last half hour getting ready to go on a super quick trip. Fiona had pooped. I say, “Okay, Fiona, let’s race upstairs and go change!” We change her diaper and then come back downstairs. Ollie had spit up all over himself. He needed a new shirt. We finally left about an hour after we started getting ready. I was pouring sweat and in that crazy/determined state of mind (Fiona would say, “Home? Home?” and I’d reply, “WE JUST LEFT HOME, FIONA, WE’RE GOING TO TARGET. WHY DON’T YOU EVER LISTEN TO ME?”)

4) The downtime is AMAZING. Cherish it. It’s rare but beautiful.

When it’s half an hour until Fiona’s nap, we’ll put on a movie or a show and sit on the couch and cuddle. There is NOTHING BETTER IN THIS WORLD. My favorite is when I’m holding Oliver and Fiona wants to cuddle on my other side. Literally the best thing in the world. That and wine.

5) I am now the default parent/family person.

Dentist appointments for the family? Bills? Husband’s doctor’s appointments? I make ‘em and take care of ‘em. My husband better never leave me or his health will quickly decline (and no, that isn’t a threat).

6) My idea of pop culture has changed.

3 years ago, I was working at Evereve and a customer told me they hadn’t seen The Godfather. My response was a horrified, “WHAT?!” I didn’t understand how someone my age hadn’t seen one of the greatest movies ever made.

2 weeks ago, my customer said she hadn’t seen Frozen and my response was the same… horrified. How could she not see the greatest… kids movie in the last… year? I didn’t even realize how ridiculous that was until I was telling my husband about it later.

7) The movie Groundhog’s Day is too painful to watch.

This is my life. 90% of the days are the same.

8) Instagram is NOT REAL LIFE.

If you follow me on Instagram, please note that those moments are 1/200th of what happens. When I post a picture of my toddler hugging my newborn, it was right after she was attempting to pick him up by his head. If I were to EVER post food on there, please realize that there is no way in hell that I made it myself. I picked that shit up from Byerly’s.

9) Being a SAHM is perfect for someone with AD/HD like me.

The attention span of my toddler is 10 minutes, 15 at best. I’ll spend 20 minutes getting fingerprint out, moving her high chair into the kitchen, stripping her, prepping the kitchen to avoid paint splatter and she paints for 5-10 minutes. Then it’s time for a bath, clean the kitchen, and get her to start a new activity so she doesn’t get in the way of cleanup time. The whole process is an hour for a 5-10 minute activity.

10) I spend WAY less money on a daily basis.

Go out for lunch? Yea right. I’m also not using my car as much so I save a ton of money on gas (I know that when they start sports that is over). I don’t go out for drinks with friends as often and, when I do, I have to leave by 9 so I don’t fall asleep on the bar so I only buy a drink or two.

11) I never pee alone.

‘Nuff said.

12) I get to witness my kids’ constant transformations (no matter how small!).

Fiona loves the baby doll and stroller my mom got her… she pushes it around and yells, “BABY! BABY!” Today, she wanted her baby to do what Oliver did. If I was feeding Oliver, she fed the baby. I held Oliver at the table while she ate breakfast and she had to hold her baby. She had to give the baby a special chair when we watched a movie before nap time (since Oliver was in his swing). She is becoming a KID! I remember playing with toys like they were real people…. that transition happened overnight for Fiona.

Oliver just rolled over. He just freakin’ rolled over! He’s 5 weeks old already and changes everyday. I am SO LUCKY I get to witness all of these amazing transformations and see how it all plays out!

Postpartum Style- Mom-On-The-Go

Thank God we had the baby. While there are so many crazy things happening with my body right now, at least I don’t need my husband to push me out of bed in the middle of the night 18,000 times to go pee. At least I don’t waddle anymore. At least I don’t have 25 lbs sitting on my front (which makes back-aches and running into things like ALL THE TIME completely inevitable).

Another reason I’m so happy to have the baby (please note that I am intentionally excluding gushing over how much I love my son) is that I am SO excited to wear normal, cute fall clothes again! I can’t fit into my regular jeans and I refuse to wear maternity clothes anymore, so I’m stuck in leggings and a couple of pairs of novelty pants (like the Free People plaid ones below).

Below, see my postpartum style that is also my “mom-on-the-go” style. Everything is washable (or I can at least put on the Hand Wash cycle of my machine) so I don’t have to worry about ruining my clothes with the wonderful things that go along with being a mom of 2 under 2 (spit up, poop, puke, pee, oh I could go on).

Outfit #1: Walk around the neighborhood, dinner with the kids, shopping!

I paired the Free People plaid pants (that I was so obsessed with that I purchased while 9 months pregnant) with a graphic tee and sneakers. I put a lace tank under it because the outfit was feeling a little edgy/masculine and I decided on a blazer instead of a leather jacket to make it more sophisticated. Of course, I don’t have any regular blazers… only ones with zippers and leather on them but still! I wore this out to dinner with the family and felt totally rocker-chic!

FP Pants

Outfit #2: Walk around neighborhood, Park, Grocery Store, Coffee with a Friend

I paired a Free People sweater from last year with a long, striped tank top. I can’t wear my jeans yet so I’m stuck with leggings and, since I refuse to wear leggings without covering my butt, I threw on a long tank top. The sweater is pretty flowy so I wanted to put something that shows I’m not as wide as the sweater is. I finished the look with a headband that my toddler kept taking out… fun times.

I wore my Aquatalia riding boots with this outfit. These boots are an investment but I swear, when you have young kids, with the amount of shit you chase them through (sometimes it’s literally shit- goose or otherwise), it’s worth it to invest in a great pair of black and another pair of brown riding boots.

FP sweater

Outfit # 3: Yet another Free People sweater (do you sense a trend?) with the Free People lace slip underneath. I am OBSESSED with this lace slip! Slips with lace at the bottom are SO trendy right now and it’s absolutely do-able as a mom! It makes any outfit look romantic and dressed up but it feels like a basic tank. I already bought a second one in gray and can’t wait to wear it!

Because there isn’t too much going on in my outfit I added a really big scarf that I took off about 100 times because I get the postpartum sweats (which is SUPER glamorous).

FP sweater2

One thing that is REALLY exciting for moms-on-the-go right now is that layering is still so trendy. Layering can SAVE us! I know we all know the feeling of going into Target in several layers because it’s 40 degrees out. Then your kid escapes the cart and you’re running after him or her. All of a sudden, you’re pouring sweat just trying to keep them in the stupid cart. Instead of wearing a tank with a Lululemon zip up and yoga pants, we can wear multiple layers that we can shed during our Target trips! It also makes it easier when a friend calls for an impromptu drink of cup of coffee…. It’s hard enough getting my kids ready. When I have to get myself ready on top of that, it’s all over.

Life After Pregnancy… 2 Under 2

I’m BAAAAAAACK! So Oliver was born 3 weeks ago! It’s true what they say: the second labor is WAY easier (although the fact that he weighed 2.5 more than Fiona— that was definitely worse). He was also face up with his head to the side so it was especially difficult. He was in distress so I needed oxygen and at one point, I just tilted my head to get the oxygen mask off because I was so tired I couldn’t lift my arms. The doctor laughed at me and it took everything inside of me to stop myself from flipping her off (and… I couldn’t raise my arms. But I was mentally screaming at her).

Oliver is super cute. He’s pretty good at letting me sleep (he wakes up a couple of times throughout the night but is okay at getting back to sleep… I won’t complain because I’ve heard horror stories from other moms!). Fiona absolutely loves him and is obsessed with holding and feeding him (see picture below). She really loves to pick him up by his feet and by his head which is a super fun twist… keeps me on my toes!

Pic- Fiona and Ollie

(One of) The only issue(s): Fiona has become a crazy person. She is mommy-obsessed to the point where she’ll cry if someone talks to me! She wants to be on my lap/in my arms/holding hands/the only person in my world 24/7. Has anyone else experienced this? I know it’s because of the new baby… her world has been rocked and she wants the attention. The problem is my brother came last weekend and she wouldn’t separate from my husband or me and play— not the best way to get to know your niece!

Do you have any tips on how to reassure a toddler that you aren’t leaving them? That they’re still important in your world? I’ll tell her, “I’m going to get the laundry, I’m coming right back” and she’s screaming as though she just fell off the monkey bars. I feel like if I hold her hand/pick her up all the time she’ll just keep this going until she’s 18 and still sleeping in my bed (okay, maybe it won’t be that bad), but is there anything else I could be doing? HELP!!

Maternity Style- 37 weeks & Toddler Style- Way Cuter

So I’ve had enough- I’m sick of being pregnant. Everyday tops out at 70 degrees and it’s becoming the perfect fall weather for fashion. I can’t WAIT until I can fit into my jeans and regular clothes again… I LOVE playing dress up! I’m at the point in my pregnancy where I can wear only about half of my maternity clothes because at the slightest gust of wind, all my “mid thigh” (but no longer mid thigh) dresses fly up and show EVERYTHING because my belly is so big and it’s stretching out my dresses. I have 25 pounds sitting on my belly, pulling all my tops and dresses up. Therefore, I only have a few clothing options which leaves me with incredibly tight, long tops with skirts, jeans or shorts (depending on the weather). I love dressing it all up with a LOT of jewelry and fun shoes (and a jacket at night). Below is a typical (kind of boring but like I said, not much fits me anymore!) outfit for a 9 month pregnant lady who would still like to like put together 🙂 It’s a Splendid tissue tee with maternity shorts and Evereve jewelry.

maternity style- 37 weeks maternity style- 37 weeks- 4

Okay my husband was taking these pictures and he said, “Now you’re digging, you’re an animal!!” like Austin Powers and I can’t help but post this really cheesy picture!

maternity style- 37 weeks- 2

Aaaaaaand here are the shoes– I’m OBSESSED with these shoes. They’re by Dr. Scholl’s- real calf hair and an Evereve exclusive! They are SO comfortable!!

maternity style- 37 weeks shoes

Okay, now for the fun part! Just because I am sick of my maternity wardrobe, doesn’t mean I don’t get to be creative and trendy. Having a little girl means you get to dress them up and live vicariously through their style (until they spill all over the outfit). Just for funsies, below are a couple of outfits I put together for Fiona… combining pieces we already have and new ones. It’s so nice now that she isn’t growing out of her clothes every 2 months, I feel like I can finally get trendy pieces and she’ll ACTUALLY wear them! I don’t see the need of buying her bootcut jeans…. I just won’t put her in them. The best investment we’ve made are vests because she’s been wearing them all summer and she’ll wear them through the fall (okay, maybe the fur one isn’t the BEST investment but how could I NOT buy her a fur vest? Seriously?). Also… gray jeans? So trendy right now so again, how could I NOT buy them for Fiona? That’s talkin’ crazy….. Fiona- Clothes 1 Fiona- Clothes 2 Fiona- Clothes 3 Fiona- Clothes 5 Fiona- Clothes 6 Fiona- Clothes 7 Fiona-Clothes 4