Check in on Us Moms Right Now. We’re Not OK

Back to school time is one that many moms look forward to, especially those of us who work from home that just want their space back to get the stuff that they need to done. (Spoiler: school makes us even busier, so it doesn’t actually help.) As excited as we are to have them off in the world, getting those experiences, it’s hard. It’s hard to not worry about them at school, because we know how awful school can be with bullying, active shooter drills, and the potential for a school shooting. It’s even harder when they are off to school across the state, trying to figure out their new home for the year. Us moms tend to carry the lion’s share of the burdens. Us moms are the backbones of the family. This isn’t a complaint. This isn’t an insult to the partners in our lives who show up and do everything within their power to help. They are putting in the work too.

But let’s face it: the mom’s are the strength in the family. We’re the ones that hide our tears to be everyone else’s comfort. We’re the ones worrying about the budget and making sure that everything is running as it should. During the pandemic and shut down, this became even more apparent. I’ll admit, part of me was happy about this. Any moms that potentially judged my working from home and mentioning how hard it was to work from home and be a stay at home parent at the same time, were now seeing that it isn’t an easy journey. But we were there, through the remote learning meltdowns, the “everything is falling apart and I miss my friends” meltdowns, and the meltdowns caused by the unknowns that this pandemic tossed in our children’s lives. All while we were fighting back our own meltdowns.

I haven’t recovered from it. That’s okay that I haven’t recovered from the stress of the past year. It’s okay that I’m not okay about my oldest being away at college and how quiet the house is with my youngest back in school as well. It’s okay that I’m not okay because I feel lost and uncertainty of what I’m doing. It’s okay that I’m not okay with my husband going away on a work trip around the youngest child’s birthday all while not being okay about everything else. The whole point here is that it’s okay to not be okay. A lot of us really aren’t okay right now. We’re struggling with how last year impacted us because there was so much going on and not enough time to sit back and process it. We’re struggling with how things are going because we still haven’t processed the last pile of crap we had to walk through and as we’re looking forward, there’s still plenty of crap that we need to waddle through that we’ll eventually need to process. That stuff lingers and set our brains and souls on fire.

Would I be lying if I said that it’s hard to see the grass on the other side of this crap? Nope. Things don’t look like they are going to be better anytime soon. I think we can be optimistic that we survived it so far, showing just how resilient we are even if we don’t feel like it.

You’re not alone right now. You’re really not. Even if you seem like you’re okay on social media, we see you. You don’t need to hide the struggle. I write these posts because they make me feel better about not being okay. But it turns out, it’s as beneficial for readers to see someone admit that they are going through the same struggles as it is for the writer to get them out there. If you’re not okay, there are people out there on your side. You just need to reach out to them. Even if you just want to drop a note here to make you feel better.

What Does Family Even Mean?

Some people go by the traditional definition of family, where it includes a mom, dad, and their kid(s). But family isn’t about some definition. Family isn’t about the blood that connects people; it’s about the love that does. It doesn’t matter if you pushed your child out naturally, had them pulled out surgically, or if you legally or unofficially adopted them. It doesn’t matter if you were born into a family. Family is something that you can build for yourself, with whatever your definition of family is. Because it’s the love and support that matters; not genetics.

Recently for a movie night, our family decided to watch “Instant Family”. The premise of this movie is that the main couple want to adopt a family. While the movie itself was a cute, heartwarming, but silly movie, it sparked a conversation in my family that proves just how powerful art can be. Our oldest, who was essentially unofficially adopted by my husband from around the age of 1, understands that it’s not about the blood relationship. He knows that my husband was there for his first t-ball game, any school event, band concerts, and anything else. He screamed his name with pride from the stands during sporting events and screamed as loud as he could at his graduation. Even after having his own biological child, he never treated our oldest as anything other than his son. It’s definitely something that warms my heart all the time, watching the bond those two have.

After watching the movie, my oldest talked about how he wants to adopt too. He said it wasn’t just the movie, but also seeing the way that his father is with him shows him that you don’t need to be there for the child’s birth to love them. From someone who insisted that he never wanted kids to deciding that he wanted to adopt when he’s older was something incredible to see. Even prior to the movie, my husband and I have considered fostering/adopting. In the future, when we have more money and a bigger home, then that’s something we probably will do. Even my youngest has decided that he wanted to adopt, because “so many kids have no parents and that’s sad”.

The whole point is that you can create a family of your own choosing. You can adopt or foster or have your own kids. It’s about the love that you have for the child, not how the child became a part of your family. Or, you can choose to not have kids at all and surround yourself with friends and family that you love. There’s no single definition of what a family is. Sorry, forget that. There is a definition of family that I follow: People who love and care for each other, always offering support. That is my definition of family.

Don’t resign yourself to society’s expectations for what a family is. Have as many or as few kids as you want. You shouldn’t be pressured to do something like get married or have kids because that’s what a family is supposed to be. That’s someone else’s definition of family and that doesn’t mean it’s right for you. Make your own definition of what family means to you.

There’s Something Special About Family Recipes

Over the weekend, I saw delicious strawberries at the grocery store. It inspired me to make a family favorite dessert for my boys, that we haven’t enjoyed in a few years: strawberry shortcake. Instead of my homemade biscuits, I grabbed some angel food cake for them. I have a textural issue with soggy bread, so I opted just for a strawberry sundae.

As I was cutting the strawberries, it reminded me of every time that I made this with my mom. She taught me when I was younger. These family recipes, the ones that are passed down from generation, are just special to be a part of. Even though I tweak the recipes, there’s still something special that I feel a part of when I make these recipes. I remember making meatballs and rolling them with my mom. I remember making beef stew with my dad. It’s being a part of those traditions. It’s something that I love sharing with my kids and nephews.

My recipes are part of my legacy and will hopefully be passed on to their kids. I hope that they have those memories come up every time that they make those meals for their families or friends. Food is something that we all share within our families, but it’s more than just eating amazing food with loved ones. It’s about the stories behind those meals. People always put so much emphasis on pictures, but I have an easier time connecting memories to events rather than looking at a picture. As I start to make my meatballs as my mother taught me (with some tweaks that I made), I hear her voice in my head going “more cheese”. I remember proudly sneaking the first meatball the next day after it had rested overnight in the pasta sauce. Those are memories that pictures can’t always capture, because you’re not an active participant.

As I go through this journey of re-losing weight gained due to not focusing on myself, I keep hearing people point out that food isn’t supposed to be an emotional experience. It’s a means to nourish your body and nothing more. I don’t necessarily agree with that. You can have an emotional experience with food. You can use food to connect with others. To make you feel warm inside, especially when thinking about those memories. The thing is that you need to take things in moderation, not deprive yourself. People who have an unhealthy relationship with food, whether it’s that they eat too much of it or that they avoid it in fear of getting unhealthy, have issues deep inside that have nothing to do with anyone/anything else. Food is an experience that can and should be shared.

Take the time to teach your kids your family recipes. They may be more willing than you think to be a part of it. My youngest has even helped make things like my cornbread recipe or even the cranberry sauce that I make. My oldest is always curious about what I’m making, often hanging around in the kitchen waiting for an impromptu lesson. Food can be something that connects everyone and help your legacy live on long after you’re gone. That’s what makes it so special.

And We Start to Open Up Again

I don’t particularly care to debate whether or not opening up is 100% the right thing. Because honestly, it won’t ever be 100% the right thing until there’s better testing, tracking, and a vaccine. That’s just science. As someone who does get sick often and badly, I take a look at this in a more realistic way. Again, I know I could choose not to go out to stay safe and that’s my plan. I’m not living in fear. I’m living in protection. I’ve been bedridden by sinus infections before because they get so bad, imagine if I got this? My family understands that. My parents are in the high-risk category, so my kids haven’t gotten to hug or really see their grandparents aside from waving in the window. My husband wears his mask and takes as much precaution as he can to stay safe, but there’s no real guarantee that he won’t bring something home to us. That’s a risk that we’re supposed to be willing to take.

But just because they government is opening up the world, that doesn’t mean I’m going to participate. I watch the daily rises and falls in the numbers. Until they get to a much lower place, I’m staying home and no one is coming into my house. I honestly don’t care about anything except keeping my family safe, which includes taking the precautions I need to so that I don’t end up dead. Dramatic? Maybe. But I just want to make very clear that peer pressure doesn’t work on me and I’m not going to do something because crazies with a gun think I’m irrational and living in fear. If I’m the one living in fear, how come you’re the one with the gun?

I’ll probably lose friends along the way. I’ll piss off family members that already don’t agree with my decision. It’s not their decision to make. I’m not withholding my kids from anyone. People can call them, voice chat with them, but we already have such a short time on this earth. I’m not going to go out with tubes down my throat because someone thinks I’m trying to hurt their feelings. I’m not. I’m doing what I believe is the right thing and you’re not going to convince me otherwise unless you’re an experienced and highly educated medical professional. Because science.

If you choose to go out and let your kids run around in large masses, that’s what you think is the right move for the safety of your family. I won’t judge you for that. But I would appreciate not being judged for what I think is the safe and right thing to do for the safety of my family.

Happy Thanksgiving

I don’t get days off, but don’t expect some long and poignant post today. Well, maybe you shouldn’t expect that most days. Today is Thanksgiving, a day that people set aside in hopes that it makes them feel grateful for everything that they have for at least one day a year. It’s a day that politics should be left out of. I’m sure Halloween has pretty gruesome history behind it, still going to celebrate that. It’s not about the past; it’s about where we move forward.

I’m thankful for every day. I’m thankful for my beautiful boys. I’m thankful for their successes and their struggles, because both make me a better mother and human. I’m thankful for my supportive family, who’s always there when I need them the most. I’m thankful for my husband, who always lifts me up when it feels like everyone else wants to take me down. I’m thankful that I have a house, food, and loved ones. I have a lot to be thankful of, which I’m very thankful for every day. We don’t need a single day to be grateful. We should be grateful every day.

If you are lucky enough to spend the day with family, remember how lucky you are. If you are working today, putting your life on the line to ensure the safety of others, thank you for your service. We are thinking of you, grateful for your selflessness. If you aren’t fortunate enough to be with family, be with the family you choose. Blood doesn’t mean family. Love does.

Happy Thanksgiving and remember the lessons of today every day of your life. Even in darkness, there is something to be grateful for.

My Son, The Preschooler 

In previous posts, I have mentioned about my son and his struggles. I discussed evaluations and specialists and his journey through Early Intervention. I shared those struggles because people don’t seem to be aware of just how common problems are. They think that these types of struggles are embarrassing or show some level of failure on their part. I even questioned if I was failing him and that was why he was struggling with words. It’s natural as a parent to feel like they are totally failing when something is going wrong with their child. However, I wasn’t failing him; I was fighting for him.

When you tell people that your son is in the special needs program at their school, you get a few different reactions. You may get a look of pity; poor you for having to deal with that burden. You may get questions interest; well, what’s wrong with them and what is their diagnosis. You may get questions of how to avoid it; do you think if you spent less time working that this could have been avoided and is this something I can avoid? You may get questions of your stance on medicating them. Sometimes you even get a look; the look of distaste that is aimed directly at your child.

My son still has his struggles. He has an infinitely better vocabulary that when he started this journey. He can say sentences that clearly state what he wants (if he has the words for it), he can answer basic questions, and he can show that he actually has a hilarious sense of humor and personality. He cannot always use his language effectively. He still struggles with expressing what he wants, which leads to hours long tantrums. He cannot really think in the abstract but he excels in any fact based knowledge. He has no impulse control at all, a shorter attention span than most almost 4 year old children may have  (unless it comes to something he stays fully fixated on), and pinches himself/pulls out his eyelashes. But most importantly, he is my George and none of this matters to me when he is curled up in arms, struggling to tell me the story that he wants to.

I am a mama bear, some would even say to an extreme. I will fight for him but luckily I haven’t had to yet. His preschool, which gave him another year in the program with interim speech therapy until they could test him fully, never made me fight for him because they fought for him. I know it may not always be easy and this isn’t the case for everyone, but right now his entire team is working with us to ensure he is getting exactly what he needs, and I couldn’t be more grateful for that.

To answer the typical questions I get, here it is. No, there is no diagnosis yet though early reports show he’s borderline on the autism spectrum and may have apraxia, which is often wrongly diagnosed as autism. No, there is nothing that I could have done differently. This is my son and as quirky and OCD he may seem to you, he is who he is and I love him and accept him for that and you should to. I should not be pitied because I have an amazing and intelligent son and everyone should be as lucky and I will do whatever I can for him. Finally, no I am not going to medicate him unless there is something that absolutely needs it. I don’t like the idea of messing with the chemical makeup of a brain that has not fully developed and that there are a lot of incredible therapies that can help without medication. Neuroscience is a field that is always evolving as is the understanding in cognitive psychology and I have more faith in those therapies than I do with pills. However, that is my personal choice and I don’t push that on others or judge them for their choice to medicate anymore than I would about anything else in their life that is really none of my business. I just answered the question that you asked.

At the end of the day, any good parent is going to do whatever it takes to give their child the best life possible. They will fight for them, send them to the best school for them, and make sure that they have everything that they need to survive and be happy. Some parents have more struggles than others, but it’s not a contest and parents need to stop treating it as if it is. As long as you love your child and do whatever you can to give them the best life possible, you are a winning parent. It can be hard, but never forget that.

Trying to Do What Is Breast

I haven’t been around in a while. I have been caught up with work, specialists, and parenting and have once again neglected this. Finally, everything seems to have slowed down, in which now I can focus on other tasks on my to-do list, such as finally book editing and a side project I was given to accomplish. My hopes of my book being published this month seems to not be a likely goal, but I’m hopeful if I can just sit down and focus on it long enough without interruptions, I can do this. However, I am a mom of a toddler and a tween so that is all wishful thinking. All I can do is take it one day at a time.

Now, to the real topic at hand: boobs. Well, actually nursing in public. It is a hot topic of debate, especially in my little corner of Western Massachusetts.

I was casually reading my Facebook on Friday, as I had completed all my work and felt that I deserved a day on the couch clearing my DVR. I did clean off most of my DVR, but I also spent way too much time following a series of threads on a page that I liked because it was this amazing place that my toddler loves to play at. I love it, because it’s clean and inexpensive and it is awesome for working on his developmental delays that the specialists work with him on. Apparently they tried to institute a “nurse covered up or in a room” policy, which is illegal in Massachusetts. Okay, we like the law, so 300 comments about how she’s in the wrong and it’s illegal and blah blah, the page takes down the post and changes it to a series of “I didn’t know it was illegal, policy won’t be enacted, please be respectful” posts, to which the owner got equally attacked for.

I sat and read everything that was written. People that had never even been to this small business were giving it 1 star ratings to tank the reviews, which were pretty much all 4 or 5 stars. People posted pictures of themselves nursing, made comments about how formula fed babies should be covered up because it is offensive to see someone be a terrible parent and not nurse their child. People were vicious and cruel and completely out of line. What came out of a “please cover up” post came a torrent of unleashed rage upon anyone who disagreed with them or even said this place was a great place to visit. In fact, even today if someone comments about how it was a great place, someone comments about how it is a terrible place for not welcoming nursing moms. Only to unleash further viciousness upon anyone who dared like this place because it didn’t fit in with their values and views.

I was appalled. I was offended and angry. I was horrified. And it wasn’t the policy that made me feel this way. It was everything that happened afterward that I found so appalling. I think I saw the worst of humanity, the truth in the old adage about how women are the cruelest to one another. It pained me. Every word horrified me and made me wonder what made people so god damn high and mighty that they could belittle people based on their opinions when they are trying to prove a point about how they matter. They do matter, but so do the people that disagree with them. That’s what makes America so great: we are entitled to have our own opinions as long as they match yours.

Do I feel uncomfortable watching a woman nurse in public? Sure, I absolutely do. Does that mean that it shouldn’t be allowed? That’s what I trust our politicians to decide. I didn’t even like it when I was trying to nurse when the lactation consultant watched me. Am I a terrible mom because I couldn’t nurse as a result of my son’s inability to latch on? Absolutely not. Did I pump full-time to provide milk for my son? Yes I did. Does that make me any better than a person who chooses to use formula? Absolutely not, no more than me giving birth naturally makes me any better than someone who used an epidural or a C-section. Nursing or providing breast milk for your child does not make you the best mom in the world, just because. And if you think that, the problem is you. Moms need to stop attacking other moms, because being a mom is the hardest job in the world. As long as your child is nourished with good food, played with, taught lessons, and attended to, you are a good mom. Whether you nurse, bottle feed breast milk, use formula, buy baby food or make it, as long as you make sure your child is provided for that is all that matters. As long as you are there for your child and making sure it grows up with good role models and morals, you are doing it right. As long as your child is succeeding and you are doing everything it takes to allow success, you are a good mom. It’s when you start failing at any of those, that you are no longer a good mom. A drug addict that pawns off their kid all the time on someone else to raise is not a good mom just because she breastfeeds her child.

Then there is this video, from my local news site. I posted it on my Facebook, but I feel it does prove an excellent point here.

Take note of the first mom they keep panning back to outside giving an interview. I was too busy being horrified about the state of that little 8 month old daughter she had in her arms. She discussed about how she wants to empower women in any decision they make and civil rights to nurse wherever they want. Now, for those who do not live in our area, please note that when this interview took place the wind chill was in the negative degrees. Her 8 month old daughter is outside, cheeks red from cold, without protection from the cold.

So does nursing make you a better mother than everyone else? No. Should people be attacked if they prefer to cover up when nursing? Nope. Should a mother be vilified for being unable to nurse or deciding formula is the right decision for their family? Again, I’m going to say no. Should people be vilifying a company that was trying to mistakenly please everyone and put everyone who stands behind the company on some terrorism list? No. Should we start accepting everyone’s differences and opinions because that was what our great country was founded on? I say yes, and no one should ever think they are better than anyone else just because their high horse says so.

Not Again!

On Wednesday’s post, I promised more remodel posts. That will have to wait until next week. Change of plans, sorry. Let’s continue the saga of the dog search instead.

Last week, my husband and I fell in love with this black lab that ended up in a place 40 minutes away from us. My husband doesn’t get out of work until 5, so we could only go to any of the shelters on Thursday, when they are open until 7:30. When we called the shelter the dog we loved to make sure it was there before traveling out there, the lab was being adopted. We were sad but we kept up hope.

Wednesday, we found a pointer mix that was absolutely adorable if you recall my last post. Well, in the morning I discovered this dog was also sent to the other shelter 40 minutes away. Discouraged, we decided on an English Setter mix. Right before my husband called to say he was on the way home and to get everyone ready to head to our local shelter, I checked to make sure she was still in our Springfield shelter, which is the next town over. I was relieved to see that she was. Until my gut told me to double-check, when I discovered she too was sent to the other shelter. Just our luck! My husband called to see if the setter was there, because the pointer mix wasn’t on the site at all anymore. She was, so off we all went to find our newest family member.

As soon as we walk in, a very nice but busy worker and the only on staff that day, told us to go right in. But that one of them was in the process of being adopted so not to fall in love with it. “Which one?” I inquired. “The English Setter” was the response. My husband looked completely done, every dog we liked was transferred here before we could see them and we always missed out. We made the trip, so we walked in anyways to see what they had. I almost thought that at this point, my husband was just going to pick one to make the trip worth it. I was half right.

We saw the setter my husband liked, and we didn’t feel that connected to it when we saw it. But in the case right next door, something caught my eye. It was our pointer mix that we had originally wanted all along. She laid there quietly, wagging her tail in the saddest but most hopeful way. I’m not going to lie; I fell instantly in love with her. I looked at my husband, not willing to get my hopes up and I saw the same look in his eyes. We both, in sync, knelt before this beautiful puppy. She immediately licked our hands and leaned against the cage where we were sitting. We didn’t take long to head back out to the staff member and say “let us meet her”. She was great with the kids, and while Zoey was Arya's first nightreserved with her, Zoey seemed fond of her new friend. Well as fond as Zoey is of any dog that is near her, I suppose.

And that was it. We had this connection to the dog and it was like they wanted us to walk right in and grab her right up. Just like with our house, it was meant to be. And I shall introduce you to our little Arya. Well, as little as a 10 month old Pointer/Black Lab mix can be. I would love to thank the Dakin Adoption Center in Leverett as well as OPA,  the rescue organization in Texas that saved her and has seemed to train her so well. You guys do great work, and we love our newest family member.

When One Door Closes, It Eventually Reopens?

Our options had dwindled, and we became hopeless. We first considered that we should revisit some our “nos” and see if we could convince ourselves that maybe they weren’t so bad. We quickly talked ourselves out of that, because we didn’t want to settle for something just because it was in the price range we were looking at. We begrudgingly decided to up our price range and live off ramen until January hits and the car is paid off.

We kept seeing the house we loved and were outbid on still up for sale. We laughed it off, saying if they came back to us after their condescending attitude that we would mimic them and tell them where to go. Sure the house might not have been much to others, but we loved it and it felt like home the minute we walked in. I suppose that’s how you know it’s the one. When my husband called the realtor to suggest going higher, our realtor informed us that there was one more house in our original range to see.

We were shocked to hear which one it was. It was the one we had wanted. Apparently the ones who outbid us never got the inspection or financing in the contracted time and they were re-addressing our offer. Except our new realtor didn’t know we had put an offer for the house so when she reshowed us the house, they thought there were 2 different interested parties when it was just us. Our new realtor was thorough when we went back to the house. My husband and I still loved it when we saw it again. We felt good about the offer, as we stuck to our guns to see if they were desperate enough to bite.

Our realtor pointed out the inexperience of the sellers realtor and said she was going to take advantage of that. She gave this impression of confidence and made us feel that we had the right person in our corner. It also helps that she had this look in her eye that she was going to devour him and that she had the tools and experience to do so. We walked away feeling good about this, but not so overconfident that we think it’s in the bag. But this time we have a fighting chance. I think so.

edit: I waited to post the blog because we would hear back today. And we did, and the news is good. They accepted our original offer of $140,000 plus closing. Take in account our down payment, our mortgage will only be for $135,000. We did it! Now they are passing things off to the attorneys, setting up our inspection, and passing it along to our loan officer. Things are looking up for us.

The Search Continues Anew

There’s this idea that home buying is a dream. You get to look at all these houses and find the place where you are going to lay down your roots for several years, if not forever. Then you have this magical musical montage of your future upon entering the dream home, and you start planning your future around this dream home. Now you’re in your house, you have the children you dreamt of and raised them into this building you have made into your home. It’s a beautiful dream. However, unless my experience has been more miserable than most, this dream has no basis in fact.

This dream has become more of a nightmare for me than I had expected. I had no misconceptions about this; I knew it was going to be a testing journey. What I didn’t expect was this nightmare unfolding before me. I should be grateful that we’re in a position where we can buy a house. I am, I really am. However, this has been awful on my sanity and emotions. We found two nice houses, and we acknowledged that this is a market that the sellers control so we put bids up that ended up unsuccessful. We went through houses that made me miserable being in. And to finish the trifecta of terrible, our realtor ended up leaving us because of a family emergency. Now we have to start fresh with someone we haven’t established a relationship with.

Maybe we need this fresh start. Maybe this will bring us luck we desperately need right now. Already she seems more prepared and enthusiastic, with a list of houses and getting a rush on showings. She understands the urgency  we have placed on this situation, and seems confident that she can deliver our dream in our time line. I want to be hopeful, but I’m anxiously cautious. We’ll find out today how we should approach this. I hope on Friday’s post I can report something positive about this experience.