The Truth: Be You With BlogU

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The theme of BlogU 2016 was Be You With BlogU, and even though it is a conference for bloggers and freelance writers, the takeaway I had from my weekend in Baltimore with all the people who live in my computer was this:

With the right tribe, with the right goals, with the right motivation, and with sweat-your-ass-off-effort, you can be successful and stay true to yourself. Not just in writing, but in everything.

If you’ve followed me for more than half a minute, you know I don’t fit all the molds. There was a very long time that I lamented this fact. My personal style is random. My music choices are all across the board. On any given day I am a strange blend of Tiger mom and Free Range Parent. I’m not the same as anyone else, and that was hard for me to accept. To revel in.

But now, I do.

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No one has the thoughts or experiences that I do. No one but me can tell my story. And while there are quite a few people who, like me, are good enough at a ridiculous amount of things but not great at any one thing, no one else can integrate my purple-filtered view into those things.

Aside from spending some amazing time with people I admire and fan-girl after, I was able to spend a lot of time reflecting on my role, my skills, and my purpose. Throughout the amazing sessions we were offered, the theme “Be You” ran loud and clear. We were encouraged to think about our skills and our passions. We were encouraged to revisit childhood dreams of what we want to be when we ‘grow up.’ We were asked to take a moment to find that clear voice that said, “I want to do ________ with my life.”

And this year, as I turned 30 years old on a big-ass campus, sweating all the sweats with my tribe, I remembered what I love doing.

I support. For years I was encouraged to be a therapist, because when my friends needed advice, I was there. Before motherhood, I planned events for a large non-profit organization dedicated to helping consumers navigate issues with local businesses. I became certified in our state’s Meth prevention program and took trips to help local law enforcement teach kids about the dangers of methamphetamines. As a parent the past 10 years, I get sick of the day-to-day drudgery of motherhood, but when push comes to shove, I am there when my kids need me. When a friend has a baby, I ask when I can bring a meal by. If there is a special occasion for someone coming up, I always offer to help. I plan parties, outings, gatherings, and intimate coffee dates. I see the need for the village where there is one lacking and I amplify the comfort that the village offers where one already exists.

It took getting lost amongst the old brick buildings of a campus on the complete opposite side of the country for me to realize that I was home. Not in a place, but in my mission. My goal for the weekend was to be the helpiest helper who ever helped. I think I did that and I was so. genuinely. joyful. the entire time. Why? Because this is my role.

This is why I want to be a birth doula. I want to lend strength and comfort where ever I can. If it is not in my power to make it better, I want to be a safe-space to turn to during the hard times. I want people to know that if there is a problem they can turn to me.

This is what drives me.

Caregiving. Supporting. Helping. Creating a nurturing space. Being a source of comfort wherever I go.

Thankfully, this is something I can apply to all the other things I love to do.

Writing. I empower. I offer a hand that says, I struggle with this, too, and you are not alone. We will get through this together.

Mothering. The ultimate role of caregiving. It won’t end with diaper changes, it will become different. It will always change and I will always greet new challenges to make sure my kids are given the best chance possible.

Friendship. Marriage. Crafting. Gardening. Cooking.

All these things require an aspect of caregiving that I finally feel, deep down in my heart of hearts, is my purpose.

It took a credit card and a day of flying across the country for me to understand that I have been so entrenched in the actions of my purpose that I couldn’t see I was already living it. This is what they mean when they say you can’t see the forest for the trees.

I see it now.

I spent the entirety of my 20s growing my family. A full 10 years of pregnancies, breastfeeding, diaper changes and sleepless nights. I plan to make my 30s MY decade. Where I tackle my goals and reach for my dreams. Where I become more than mom. Where I learn who take-everything-away-and-what-do-you-have Jessica really is.

She is me. And that is just perfect.blogU 16 Collage

The Day My Last Baby Turned One

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Our last baby, The Kraken, is one year old today.  While nothing is different, everything has changed.

muffincollageAs I journaled these thoughts, she was in her car seat, sleeping off her first birthday photo shoot.  A tradition I’ve loved having for each of my kids on their first birthdays.  A tradition that I experienced for the last time this morning.

Last night, as she nursed before bed, I cried and held her a bit tighter.  My last chance to savor my last baby as just that: A baby.

While she will always be THE baby, there are so many things that are taking her babyhood away from me, much faster than I’d like.

She’s walking now.  Starting to talk.  Honing her fork using skills.  Interested in more complex things.

The baby sweetness is still there, it’s just tinged with the promise of growth and development.  It’s a tinge that I have a serious love/hate relationship with.

When we choose to have children, we get to experience them as babies.  We know that one day they’ll walk and talk, eventually walking their way right out of our homes and into their own lives.  We don’t have babies so that we can just have a baby forever.  The baby stage is the most fleeting, and so is seen as the most precious.  I think it helps that babies are just inherently sweet and adorable.  We came into this thing called parenthood knowing that they would constantly be growing and changing…

But, oh, if I could just have this baby remain a baby for a little while longer.

I won’t miss the sleepless nights, the spit-up, newborn poop, or the general constant worry that comes with the tiny baby stage.  But, I will miss just about everything else as we go from bouncy seats to high chairs, mobiles to stacking toys, and bassinets to toddler beds.

With my other children, each transition and new stage was met with the promise of being able to experience it again with the next baby.  Now, as we fold away the most recent set of clothes that have been outgrown, the finality of these transitions is overwhelming.

Never again will I feel the rush of bringing a new life into the world.  Never again will I experience the tingle of that first let down.  Never again will I experience, so intimately, an infant’s contented sigh as she slips off the breast into precious sleep.  Never again will I have someone who has such need of me that we are nearly the same person.

The cutting of a first tooth, the first baby babbles, the first food pictures.  First words, first steps, first haircuts.  No longer will they be ours to announce.  We will no longer be the givers of the gift that is sharing a baby’s growth with loved ones, we will be the recipients.

I won’t say that I’m not slightly relieved to be moving into the next phase of our lives.  Being free of the Groundhog Day effect that adding babies to a family has on life plans is something that we’ve been looking forward to for a while.  It is, in all honesty, an exciting and liberating feeling.  But it is bittersweet.

My gratitude for being able to have the experience the growth of not just one, but four healthy babies cannot be expressed.  So I am packaging it up in a sentimental box, to be reopened in moments of quiet reminiscence as we plow ahead into the new world that awaits us as a family without a baby.

The firsts that await us now may not be as cherubic in nature or execution, but they will still be gifts, and I cannot wait to see them.

Happy birthday to my littlest, who will always be my baby.

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Coffeeless Animal Conversation Hallucinations

Image © Damomz | Dreamstime Stock Photos

I was standing at the end of the driveway, watching Cabin Girl walk the block to school, and the small dogs of two separate neighbors happened to be out in their yards.

The one across the street saw me, and started barking.

The other, tucked safely behind its wooden fence, barked back.

Bark.  Bark bark.  Bark. Bark. Bark bark bark.

My sleep deprived and not completely caffeinated brain, heard this:

Hey!  Person!  There’s a person outside!

Where?!

Image © Damomz | Dreamstime Stock Photos
Image © Damomz | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Here!  Here’s the person!

I can’t see!  Is it still there?!

Yep!  Person!  Person right here!

Where?!

Right here!

I can’t see the person, I want to see the person, is the person still there, OMGAPERSON!

Hey!

What? 

Person’s leaving.

Good grief, I need to sleep more.

 

When Your #1 Problem is Going #2

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We’ve all felt it: The call of the wild.  The need to evacuate our bowels.  The urge to poop.

We all have different names for it:  Dropping the Kids off at School, Taking the Browns to the Superbowl, Filing Paperwork, Seeing a Man about a Wallaby (thanks Pixar).

It’s a healthy side affect of living.  Food goes in, waste comes out.  Nothing to be embarrassed or ashamed of.

But, sadly, at some point, many of us experience a bit of trouble with it.  Whether from child birth, pain meds, or poor diet, somewhere along the way, dropping a deuce goes from an activity of refreshing relief (who hasn’t had apoops hearty enough BM that they sigh afterwards?) to a painful act of torture.

Life takes on a new element of tension when you can’t poop for fear of feeling like you’re being ripped in two.

You start actively avoiding the bathroom, like it’s the toilet’s fault you didn’t digest enough fiber.  Like it deserves your animosity.  It’s always there for you!  Why do you shun it so?!

You feel like you should brush up on your Lamaze classes before you lock yourself in the bathroom to drop heat in solitude.

Eating isn’t appealing any more either, because you start to get a tingling creep of fear that you may just literally explode if you can’t release your demons soon.

Pants that need to be buttoned get left in the bottom of the basket.  No way you’re going to add pressure to the bloat resulting from your inability to Caca.  Dirty yoga pants for the 3rd day in a row are nothing compared to the agony of buttoning up jeans in your current state.

And when you finally do manage to relieve yourself, it’s like childbirth all over again, leaving you breathless, sweaty, and more often than not, bleeding and bruised.  Damn, do I need stitches?

Finally.  A small iota of relief.  Until the rest of your body realizes functions are gaining normalcy.  Things are moving again!  Let’s get caught up! 

Then PTPD kicks in- Post Traumatic Poop Disorder.  Is it going to hurt again?  Am I going to bleed to death this time?  Maybe if I wait a little while my sphincter will have recovered enough to perform without unnecessary force.

Eventually, you’ll return to status-quo.  The house will regain its rosy-glow, now that the threat of fecal induced explosion is no longer hanging over your head.

You may mention your issues in passing to a loved one; mother, spouse, or really, really close friend.  And they may suggest that you try an enema next time.

And you will have every right to tell them to go die in a fire.  Because life sucks when it hurts to poop.

What the Fox Say

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The song by Ylvis is disturbingly catchy… it’s been in my head since New Year, when Captain and I finally caught up on Glee and had NO CLUE what was happening during their cover.  Really, we thought they were all under a hefty dose of happy gas.

So, since it’s pretty much constantly in my head now, and Mr. Monkey chose the animated Robin Hood movie as our entertainment for the morning, this happened:

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          Images are not mine… The collage, however, is.

Now, any tips for getting that song OUT OF MY HEAD?!

10 Stages of Infant Breastfeeding

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Every baby needs to eat, and whether you breast or bottle feed your little lactose lapper, there is no denying that there are stages of infant mealtime.  Here I list the 10 stages I’ve experienced through breastfeeding 4 babies.

1) YOU’VE OBVIOUSLY FORGOTTEN ABOUT ME AND I’M STARVING TO DEATH AND SERIOUSLY ABOUT TO DIE SO FEEDMENOW!

They notify you of this stage by crying or screaming long and loud, with very little warning, and they cry so hard that they fail to notice the nipple brushing against their lips for at least 10 full seconds.

2) OMG, FINALLY!

When they abruptly notice the key to their satisfaction is millimeters away from their lips, they latch on with piranha like ferocity and swallowing as hard as they possibly can until let down. This is usually prefaced by a shaking of the head to maneuver as much nip as possible into their mouth and a suffocating mashing of their face into your boob.

3) Oh yeah, that’s the stuff.

Content, rhythmic gulping, accompanied by the cutest little grunts you will ever hear.

4) Uhm… hey… starting to get uncomfortable here…

They will signal that they need to burp by suddenly spitting up all over you or crying.  Either way, all that frantic latching and gulping from #2?  Gave them a good ol’ belly full of air.

5) I think I could fit some more in there.

That burping freed up some space.  Thankfully this time they usually aren’t attacking the nipple like a Hun invasion reenactment (I may have been watching Mulan while writing this piece.)

6) What’s going on over there?

This is the point that they start noticing there are other things going on.  But woe unto you who attempts to sit the baby up so you can interact with them without your nipple halfway in their mouth!  Sadly, they’re too young yet to learn that it’s not okay to play with their food.

7) Ugh, maybe I shouldn’t have gone back for seconds.

Maybe it’s just my babies that don’t have a ‘full’ sensor in their bellies.  Regardless, there is always 1 feeding during the day at which they eat far too much and subsequently give a bunch of it back.

8) Do you think I could have a cookie?

Feeling much better after unleashing the contents of their gluttony, baby will smack its lips looking for just a little something to top off.

9) Contentment

Here’s where the line between nursing for food and nursing for comfort gets blurry.  I let them nurse either way.

Last but not least, #10:

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Here is your opportunity for uninhibited smooching of those frictionless cheeks and inhaling of sweet milky baby breath. Or am I the only one with that obsession?

Repeat every 2-4 hours.

Birds and Bees… on the Playground?

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I think for a majority of us who grew up with parents that didn’t explain sex early on, there is one person we remember as being the one who told us about sex.  Since most people are in school around the time puberty hits, that conversation usually happens as snippets told by an older, ‘wiser’ child on the playground or schoolbus.

birdsbeesThis morning, during a call from my bestie, I learned, to my chagrin and amusement, that my child is that child.

As the oldest of 4 children, she has had 3 opportunities to ask me about the babies that grow inside me.  Her specific concern each time: How did the baby get in there?!

And I was honest.  As honest as I felt I needed to be with her at each age.

2 years old: Daddy put it there.

Oh, okay.

4 years old: Daddy put it there.

How?

You know how chickens lay eggs?  Women have eggs in their bodies, and, when they feel ready, the daddy helps turn that egg into a baby.

Oh.  I like eggs.  Can we have breakfast for dinner?

6 years old: How does daddy make your egg into a baby?

Well… that’s why men have a penis.  To make babies.

How?

The penis goes in the vagina and a thing called sperm comes out.  Sperm is what turns an egg into a baby.

*Long pause…*

I just don’t understand HOW the penis gets into the vagina.

Let’s find you a book…

Yeah, I chickened out on the last one.  They say that you should only answer the questions that children ask, offering no extra information.  She still hasn’t asked for the book, but I’m okay with that for now.

I did stress that sex is for people who are ready to make, and take care of, a baby.  We’ll have to readdress that down the road, for sure, but, for now, she’s the kid on the playground with the honest mom that calls a penis a penis and just hopes that it saves her daughter from learning through inappropriate experience.  Now to teach her when it’s okay to talk about it…

You’re welcome, and I’m sorry.

When did you get/give the talk?

5 Simple Ways to Turn Yourself into a Ticking Timebomb of Mamma Rage

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Following these easy steps on a daily basis will surely have you ready to pull out your hair and run away with the next traveling circus!

Put off showering, again.  That deodorant and body spray, coupled with being splashed during bath time, will work for the 3rd day in a row.

Surrender most of your hot meal to your kids, but don’t even consider eating what they have on their plates, lest you want to trigger a tantrum.

Do a million loads of laundry a day.  Put on the same clothes you wore yesterday anyway.

Oh, is that your favorite song on the radio?  Turn on The Wiggles Greatest Hits IMMEDIATELY.

Go ahead and assume your children playing quietly means you can have a few minutes to sit and relax.  I dare you.

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Sunday Funday: UNDERPANTS!

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Mr. Monkey is semi-starting to potty train, so we’ve been putting him in Flips trainers during the day.

Basically, it’s a diaper cover with velcro in the front and back, so you can attach the cloth pads that absorb pee, but it has stretchy sides for pulling them up and down.  Like cloth diaper Pullups.

Mr. Monkey has also started trying to dress himself, which is AWESOME for this momma with hands full of newborn baby all the time.

These two things met in hilarity this morning, when this happened:

superherodiapercollageAnd, yes, he ran around the house like that yelling “Superhero.”  Because apparently Superheros run around in backwards undies with what looks like toilet paper dangling between their legs.

Happy Sunday!

5 Tips on Surviving Pregnancy as a Couple

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Guys, we know you don’t know.  We know you can’t understand the way having a tiny being pressing on all the corners of your abdomen from the inside can feel.  We know you don’t get rushes of inexplicable emotions, or food cravings so intense that you’re tempted to recreate the World of Warcraft freak out.  And we know that it’s hard for you to understand why we might not be as frisky as usual.
Ladies, even the most pleasant, levelheaded of us can become stark raving mad biznatches during the miracle that is pregnancy.
I’m far from a relationship expert, but I’m really good at getting knocked up and the Captain’s still hanging around, so I’m here to give a few tips, for both ladies and guys, on how to deal with pregnancy issues without becoming little more than resentful roommates before your tiny poop machine makes its debut.
Photo credit: Trish Andrus

1: Morning (read: 24/7) sickness- Guys: When your lady is spending most of her day dry heaving into the sink or making out with the toilet, spend some of that time with her.  Get her a hairband, bring her a glass of water, just sit there and rub her back.  When she’s done and has cleaned off the goop that was ricocheted back into her face, hug her for a minute.  Don’t speak.  And most importantly, don’t ask if she’s okay.  She’s not okay.  Her body is trying to turn itself inside out.  Just let her know with your actions that you’re there for her in her most vulnerable and potentially embarrassing* moments without judgement, and you’ll be raking in the brownie points. *Ever puke so hard you pee yourself or fart unintentionally?  No?  Then no complaining if she does.  Yes?  Then you’ll know the feeling and keep your trap shut.

Ladies: After you’re done heaving and your guy has been sweetly and silently doting on you, brush your teeth (or at least gargle with some mouthwash) and wipe the snot off your face before you show your gratitude with a kiss.  You don’t have to get into a full blown make-out sesh, but make sure you show him that you noticed his silent support and that you appreciate it.  No one likes hanging around someone who’s puking like they’re possessed by a demon.

2: Exhaustion- Guys: Don’t complain that your lady seems to be utterly exhausted by the most menial tasks.  She slept for 10 hours, made herself barely presentable for work, took a nap on her lunch break, and now she’s on the verge of tears because she’s out of clean underwear and is still just. so. tired?  Now’s the time to tie on your super-hero cape and offer your skills as a domestic helper.  Ask her what she needs you to do, and do it without grumbling. Within earshot.  Let’s be real.  No one likes extra chores.

Ladies: Let go.  I’m no June Cleaver, but I admit that I like things to be done a certain way.  If your guy is making your life a little easier by picking up a few of the chores around the house, don’t nit pick about how it’s done.  Thank him as often as you can while he’s helping and once he’s done, let him know how much you appreciate it.  You’ll have plenty of time for fretting and doing it yourself during the feel good trimester, and if you gripe about how he’s helping, he’s not going to do it anymore.

3: Food- Guys: We can’t explain it.  Sometimes there are just things our body won’t tolerate.  Like vegetables.  Or the smell of cooking meat.  Or anything that doesn’t have sugar in it.  It’s a crap-shoot.  One day we could be dying for Indian food and the next day just the idea of curry makes us nauseous.  We’re just as perplexed and frustrated by it as you are.  So, if you’re the cook in the house, ask what your lady wants to eat, and always have a backup plan, lest all your cooking go to waste.  And if your lady has a particular craving while you’re out and about, get it for her!  You will earn some major brownie points for assisting her in her random indulgences.  Sometimes, there is nothing sexier than a man coming home with a take-out box full gyoza and chicken katsu.  And when your lady proceeds to stuff her face full of the desired food so fast you’re positive she isn’t even chewing it, just ask if she’d like something to drink, too.  Or, make a joke about it.  Captain’s favorite line to say at meals with me this pregnancy?  “Yes, I want you BIGGER!” in a totally creep-tastic, evil geniusy voice.  Nearly makes me choke on my gyoza.

Ladies: If it is within your power to get your craved-for food yourself, do it.  If it’s 3 a.m. and you just HAVE to have a McChicken, don’t pester your guy to give up his sleep to fetch it.  Either slap on a robe and hit the drive thru, or find something that will satisfy your taste buds until lunch tomorrow.  Whatever you do though, don’t beat yourself up about what your body is craving.  Just make good decisions where you can so that if you do have a day during which that slutty bitch Little Debbie won’t stop harassing you, you won’t feel guilty for eating the entire box of her Oatmeal Creme Pies in the car on the way home from the store.  You know, for example.

4: Personal hygiene- Guys: Here’s the deal.  Our bodies change a lot during pregnancy.  Our chemicals change so we smell different, our bodies produce more icky things than we care to admit, hair grows in thicker, darker, and faster, we break out like Argus Filch getting the side effect of Weasley’s Fever Fudge, and we get stretchmarks on top of just plain not feeling good.  It is generally pretty hard to feel sexy during pregnancy knowing that your body has become a completely different animal.  If we aren’t feeling sexy, then we sure as hell don’t think you find us sexy.  If your lady has a hard time shaving her legs and complains about it?  Offer to shower with her and help.  And don’t expect that bikini line to look very nice until she gets more than 5 minutes to shower after baby arrives.

Ladies: It sucks, but don’t gripe about it.  Do you want to hear details about your guy’s sweaty package after a long day?  He doesn’t want to hear about the nasty things your body is doing.  Hair on your nipples?  Quietly pluck it.  Pee when you sneeze?  Just go change.  Deodorant not up to par anymore?  Hit the store and get something better.  It’s kind of like the poop rule:  Everybody does it, but people aren’t too keen on seeing it, smelling it, or hearing about it.  Unless it’s theirs.  Like the saying goes: Everyone likes their own brand best.

5: Becoming as big as a house- Guys: In our fat-shaming, thinspo pushing culture, pregnancy weight gain is just about the most confusing thing ever.  Medical experts don’t help either, by putting out general limits on how much we should be gaining at certain points during pregnancy.  Even when our bodies are in the midst of doing the most amazing thing ever, we are critical of them for not fitting in with the norm that is portrayed by Photoshopped advertising.  Whatever stage in the pregnancy, there will be hitches in your lady’s self esteem.  First trimester bloating, ensuring our regular pants will see the closet sooner than we’d hoped.  Second trimester showing barely enough that you just look fat.  Third trimester you-must-be-having-twins belly.  Other people assuming that our pregnancy is open to the peanut gallery’s 2 cents, telling us we’re too small, too big, carrying too high, too low, etc.  Make your house a place of zen and acceptance.  This woman is carrying your baby, and even if you may not think she’s beautiful or sexy in the conventional sense, shower her with your affections.  Find reasons to compliment her.  Tell her that her bump looks cute in the outfit she’s wearing.  You’re half the reason she’s going through this.  Rub lotion on her stretched belly to show her that you want a better connection with her and the life blooming inside her.  Strive to be at least half of the reasons she smiles every day.

Ladies: Quit with the self depreciating remarks about your changing body.  This is what your body was designed to do.  Marvel in the way it changes to accommodate the rapid growth of your baby rather than despair at the numbers on the scale.  Share the things that make you feel good with your guy.  If you only point out the bad things, they will become the only things that you see.  And try to make light of it.  For instance, I felt like I had my own gravitational pull a few days before my due date with Cabin Boy.  So, I made a Halloween costume to showcase it.

 
In a nutshell, love each other, help each other, appreciate each other, don’t say stupid things, and, when in doubt, bring home some gyoza.  Or ice cream.  Or pickles.

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