Staving Off Insanity

The past few weeks have been rough. They’ve been full of unexpected, unhappy change and new stress. Our family is all struggling and I’ve been having to dig deep to stave off simply checking out from my family. You know, being physically there but escaping in your mind to someplace else.

I’ve discovered that one of the keys, for me, in remaining fully present is by providing myself with daily self care. Weekly solo escapes to the coffee shop or library are wonderful and needed, but don’t always happen. Sometimes there is just too much junk going on at home. And those once a week moments never seem like enough if that is all I’m doing to take care of myself.

Now, I’m trying to take care of myself in at least one little way each day. Nothing extravagant, no online shopping sprees on Etsy. Rather, small things that are easily attainable, easy to sustain and can happen daily.

Self care step one

That post about coconut oil treatment for my hair? That was a self care moment. Just giving myself time and permission to just take care of myself. Bonus was that my hair looked AMAZING after and was a huge moral boost.

Self care, step two. My favorite lunch on a paper plate.

Making my favorite lunch. The kids tend to not eat much for lunch, so I might as well make something I love and they’ll probably just pick at (as they would with anything I would serve?).

Self care part three. It's pretty sad that I think washing my hair counts self care.

Investing in decent shampoo and actually taking the time to condition my hair. Conditioning may not happen *every* shower but once a week is attainable!

Self care number four: kisses with baby, who loves with reckless abandon.

Smothering my baby with kisses, who loves with reckless abandon, and soaking up her giggles. Some days are just crazy and I get to the “witching hour” just before dinner prep without having taken care of myself. I know, without a doubt, that it will be worse than normal if I don’t do something ASAP. So I set the big kids up with playdoh and step outside with the baby to just take a moment to breathe. Often, that ends in lots of giggly kisses and I return to the kitchen with a sense of renewed energy.

If I take care of myself daily, I find I have more to give to my family and life in general. Those now infrequent trips to the library or coffee shop don’t serve as a reminder of how little I get out. Instead, they act as intended: providing me with some solid time to myself. Even when they were weekly events, I felt like I was just grasping at the fluttering pieces of me and just taping them together best I knew how. Since I’m finding time each day to tape myself back together, time away rejuvenates and encourages me.

How about you? What are ways you take care of yourself?

Serenity Now

Out.

May we all find peace in naps or quiet time today. Naps, preferred.

Babywearing Through Motherhood.

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This is the very first picture I have of using a baby carrier with my Ella (my first born). I know she was worn well before this. In fact, I have a distinct memory of my birth doula coming by a week after her birth and helping me figure out my moby wrap. But this picture, taken when she was seven months old, is the first documentation I have of me wearing her.

What I do have is a lot of pictures like this:

Daddy giving mommy a break

Snoozin' on Daddy

Baby wearing gave Aaron the tools he needed to learn how to be a dad. It helped soothe his colicky, cranky first baby while I struggled with severe postpartum depression. It allowed him to give me the space I needed to pull out of the fog of PPD while still building a bond with our baby.

Then came Miles. My rolly polly, bald baby boy who had a sister who wasn’t quite yet two. Saying I needed both hands is an understatement.

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Eight days after Miles was born. He was lower than recommended because I had just finished nursing him in the wrap.

Being able to pop that squishy baby in my wrap and literally chase after Ella was a life saver. That toddler girl never stopped moving and wearing the baby allowed me to meet both children’s needs. Making sure both their needs were met was a HUGE concern of mine during Miles’ pregnancy. I cried about it during labor. My baby carriers made that worry less of a concern.

omg our day already

Don’t get me wrong, we still had dreadful days (as documented above). Knowing that Ella was melting down because she didn’t have enough snuggle time and the baby crying just because he wanted to snuggle and sleep was a relatively simple fix. Once I managed to get both kids on, I would head to a dark room, turn on the white noise machine and sway back and forth until they both calmed down.

Without Aaron or I really realizing it, wearing our kids (babies and toddlers) became a way of life.

Babywearing, tidying Daddy

Aaron discovered Miles loved the sound of the vacuum and our floors were never cleaner than those few months it worked to calm the baby down.

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And really? Who doesn’t want their bald baby to be happy?

When Miles was about 8 months and Ella was 2.5 years, we began to have regular doctor appointment in Chicago. I briefly toyed with the idea of bringing a stroller. Ella was so tall and Miles was so heavy! Then the vision of us dragging a stroller up flights of stairs to an L platform nearly caused me an coronary and we decided to sling it.

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My 23 pound baby was easily worn the entire day, up and down Chicago, in my favorite mei tai carrier.

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Ella was able to be soothed from the stress of sleep studies by picking her favorite carriers to use on our trips.

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And when my sprained my ankle, Aaron was ready for the task.

Close enough to kiss.

A few years later, another sweet baby joined our family. Keeping Hazel close enough to kiss meant I could still have both hands for my older two

Untitled I foresee many evening practices like this.

I was able to decompress with my piano after stressful days thanks to my wrap.

Hanging laundry. As much as I hate laundering clothes, I love my main level laundry room.

Laundry tackled.

Bus Adventuring

Wearing my almost 3 yr old at the waterfront today.

When Miles began to feel displaced, I was able to wear him in the same wrap I used when he was a baby and tell him stories about his babyhood. It helped him ease into the position of middle child with more grace than I was anticipating.

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Tossing Hazel on my back meant that the kids and I could hike while I let out my internal anger and frustration. Without my carrier, I would have been relegated to the neighborhood with a stroller. While that would have been a bad option, the woods was the best.

I know I would have been a good mom without the tools of baby wearing but with the ability to wear my kids, it has given me the opportunity to be an even better mom. Not only that, but it has given Aaron the ability to bond with all of our kids and settle into the role of Daddy .

I really don’t know how we could have survived 3 kids in 4 years with as much grace as we have without wearing our babies.

As Seen On Pinterest: Coconut Oil Hair Treatment

Self care step one

 

A post about using coconut oil on your hair went viral this week on my Pinterest. My hair is a bit of a hot mess from pregnancy and I had some coconut oil sitting in my pantry, so I thought I’d give it a try.

My hair is pretty long, almost to my bra strap, so I used a chunk that fit in the palm of my hand. I’d say probably about the size of a small bar of soap. Turning my head upside down, I started running the bar of oil through my hair.

Here’s where I would make a change in my approach. I would soften the oil up considerably next time. My hair is so fragile right now that I felt the rough pull and snag of the room temperature oil pulled some hair out. I’m sure room temp oil in the summer would work just fine but right now, with  cold weather approaching and our heat off, it was just a bit too rough. As the oil warmed in my hands, it became easier to manipulate and massage into my hair.

And then I realized I didn’t have a shower cap. Obviously, I hadn’t thought this through. I called for the kids, cited my oiling hands and asked them to get me the plastic wrap. We all managed to wrap my head up and I let it sit for about a half hour. Maybe forty five minutes.

I bribed the kids with marshmallows and hopped in the shower.

It took me a couple washes to get the oil completely out, but it was completely worth my time. My hair was so soft after it dried and not greasy at all! It’s had a lot more life to it these past few days, too. I can’t see this happening every week (I don’t have enough marshmallows!) but I’m going to make an effort to do this at least biweekly, for sure.

Serenity Now

Escaping to the forest within the city.

Yesterday afternoon, I was feeling angry, upset, and helpless. My normal go to is eating something with a ridiculously high sugar content and turning on the television for the kids. That never ends well for me. My energy surges then plummets and I’m left with all the previous emotions PLUS a struggle to control them due to the sugar crash.

So instead, I loaded up the kids after school and took them to the forest preserve that is in a nearby town. I hoped to  find calm and wear out the kids so bedtime would go smoothly.

Mama is feeling a bit bananas.

We started out and I was feeling a bit bananas, as the kids say. Ella was kind enough to document my emotional state.

The kids want me to hike up where?

I nearly gave up when I saw where the kids wanted to hike. They were so eager and excited that I didn’t have the heart to persuade them to try a different trail. With each step up that hill, I pushed my negative emotions out through the soles of my feet and breathed in the forest air.

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I found beauty along the way to nourish my soul.

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And we made it to the top. Everyone intact and no skinned knees. I pushed away my negative emotions and on the way down, tried to embrace replacements of acceptance and trust. I wasn’t completely successful, but that’s okay. I’m still learning. Serenity can be elusive. Besides, don’t we all learn more on the journey than at the destination?

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We made it back to the van, the kids with pockets full of pebbles and acorns and I had a lighter heart.

Conversations: At Target

Yes, I know my hands are full. Why do you think we all have Starbucks?

Yes, I do know my hands are full. That is why we all have Starbucks. 

The other day, I was on a mission at Target. I had the big kids in the triple cart (whoever created that is a genius and I am so thankful!) and Hazel strapped on my back. I was fueled by caffeine and the kids were quiet thanks to dairy and caffeine free “happy-chinos” (as Miles calls them). Armed with my list, I had 30 minutes to get everything I needed and back in the car.

I was almost done with my list and preparing to make the mad dash for the check out lines when a grandma aged woman stopped me. Cringing inwardly, I politely smiled and sent up a quick prayer that she wouldn’t be rude. Ever since Hazel was born, I’ve had complete strangers actually track me down in stores to glibly inform me that my hands were full. I braced myself to put on a smile and respond with, “Hands full is a good life” or something like that.

Instead, she smiled at me and said I was doing good. She raised three children and shopping with them had been her most dreaded chore. Other moments were good, but shopping was never one of them. She even confessed to refusing to shop with her own grandkids! Then, she waved at the kids, encouraged them to be kind, and went on her way.

Thank you, kind grandma, for your encouragement. Hearing that was exactly what I needed.

 

 

Linking up with The Parent ‘Hood this morning.

Gluten Free Dairy Free Oatcake

Gluten and dairy free oatcake. Omm nom nom

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This is, hands down, our favorite easy gluten free snack. It’s a very simple oatcake, not very sweet. The kids like it with strawberry jam, I’m okay with it as is. It’s quickly assembled and then only bakes for 20 minutes! So easy and as close to instant gratification as a person can get with baked goods.

I always double my recipe and bake in a 9×13, but below are the measurements for an 8×8 pan.

Delicious Oatcake

1 1/2 cups quick oats

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup milk substitute of choice

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1/3 cup applesauce (not chunky)

1/4 cup creaming peanut butter

Combine the oats, sugar, baking soda, and cinnamon. In a separate bowl, mix together the vanilla, milk and egg. Pour the liquids into the dry and mix well.

Lightly grease an 8×8 pan and pour the mixture in. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

Allow the cool completely (if you can!) before cutting into squares. The cooler they get, the less fragile they become.

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Notes on substitutions:

If you don’t have quick oats, you may be able to get away with whizzing old fashioned oats in a blender for a few pulses THEN measuring.

I’ve replaced the brown sugar with coconut sugar with great success. If you want to use a sugar substitute, please use a dry ingredient instead of wet (like honey, maple syrup, etc). This batter really can’t handle much more liquid without falling apart.

Eggs are the major allergen in this cake that I can’t figure out how to replace. I’ve tried with a flax seed egg but that just hasn’t worked out well at all.

If you don’t have any applesauce, you can replace it with one mashed banana. Some members of our family have latex allergies, so bananas are a no go for us.

Peanut butter can be replaced with any nut or seed butter.

WIP: Striped coat

I've modified this pattern so much. Hoping I like how it turns out.

Putting this out here for accountability.

At this very minute, all I have left on this fall sweater (for Hazel) are the sleeves and picking up the button band. That’s it! Nothing else. I modified the original pattern SO much that I didn’t have a full grasp of just how much work it was going to be. The 6 inches of pleats at the end really burned me out.

To make matters worse, I have the most AMAZING yarn calling my name. It’s actually begging me to knit it up. Instead of spurring me on to finish the sweater at record pace, I’m dragging my feet even more. I don’t even pretend to understand that one.

I’m well past the first day of autumn. The wind has a crisp bite to it and my baby needs her sweater.

Must. Get. Knitting.

WIP means Work In Progress, for you non crafty folks. 😉

 

Green Stripes

Grandmas set

Years ago, I was helping Grandma do some cooking. I reached into the cupboard next to the oven and accidentally dropped her green striped bowl. It was like time slowed but I couldn’t move my hands to catch it. The beautiful bowl crashed to the floor, shards flying everywhere. There was no hope of repair. No amount of glue and prayers would put it back together.

My breath caught and tears welled in my eyes. I knew these bowls were special to Grandma. They were a gift (my memory wants to say wedding gift but I wouldn’t stake my life on it) and Grandma treasured them. I had begged her to let me use her special bowls to mix in and now I broke it. My mind reeled and I immediately began an internal dialogue, chastising myself.

Before I could even say a word, Grandma hugged me. I cried and sniffled out that I was so sorry. It was an accident. I didn’t mean to and would she please forgive me?

She smiled at me, pulled a tissue from the bread drawer for me to blow my nose and asked if I was hurt. After a quick examination and finding nothing amiss, she thanked me for my apology. Then she sent me to get my shoes on and get the broom. When I came back, I could see how sad she was but Grandma reiterated how glad she was I wasn’t cut. That was the important thing. Bowls are replaceable (well, not really in this situation but she didn’t say that) but granddaughters are not.

This entire incident buried itself into the recesses of memory until I had my own children. Things have been broken. Ruined beyond repair. Lost. We talk about being good caretakers of our belongings and respecting property. The first time I found myself reaching a point of frustration where I just wanted to berate my child the clumsiness or unintentional damage created, my breath caught. This entire incident flashed through my mind in a split second and the emotions I experienced as the child came flooding back. Instead of using harsh words, I hugged my child, whispered that I knew it was an accident and how glad I was she wasn’t hurt. We cleaned up the mess together while talking about ways to be safer in the future.

Now, I have Grandma’s precious striped bowls in my own kitchen. I am always on the search for a green replacement bowl but I’m okay if I never find one. It’s a reminder to always take a breath.

 

This post is linked up at The Parent ‘Hood. Be sure to check out other bloggers moments in parenting!

Serenity Now

Napping in arms today.

I’m learning to accept getting Hazel down for nap as an exercise in finding serenity. Grasping moments of mindful quiet when and where I can.

The real struggle is not falling asleep with her.

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