Oh the Insanity: A Runner’s Lament

I have no idea what I was thinking when I signed up for a 10K!

Ok, that’s not entirely true. I do know. I thought: “Wow! I completed a 5K… let’s take this the next step and train for a 10K! I can keep the momentum going!” Why oh why did I listen to myself?”

I am 9 weeks into my 10K Training. I just hit my 5K Runner’s Badge. Its tough. I’ve done it before and it’s tough. And I was out running today, sweat pouring down, sun on my face, distance seeming to stretch endlessly before me and all I could think about was how crazy I was to DOUBLE the distance over the next 5 weeks. Double. I had to PUSH hard to make that 3.2 miles that I did run. And I am going to double it! Luckily- I have the stubbornness of a mule, as evidences in the trait I passed on to my children. I paid the registration fee and I intend on proving to myself that 6.2 miles is feasible. Did I mention I also agreed to run a half marathon later this year??

This running bug is definitely something else. I believe I can, I train so that I can, and I spend half the time wishing I wasn’t. And when it’s all over I forget the toil and enjoy the simple victory.

That being said, I had some things I learned on my run today. Very valuable lessons.

The first and foremost is: Do not to forget to bring a snack for after your run if it it away from your neighborhood. I collapsed into my vehicle with exhaustion but no fuel to help build me back up.

Do not forget to find a way to bring water on your run. I have a tendency to breathe in and out of my mouth purposefully. Its fantastic for my breathing but horrible for the cotton mouth I get half way through.

Do not wait until you get home to stretch, even if you feel like jello onsite and others are watching you. The discomfort on the way home will be enough to make you wish you had.

Do get a running buddy. The boredom experienced on the stretch after 30 minutes despite good running music can be profound.

Sunblock is your friend. If you go out for a run, in 75 degree sunny weather and no sunblock. You will get burned. Hence my now pinkish face and arms.

Also- running will not feel great while you are running. It will feel like you are hurting yourself for no good cause. Keep your eye on the goal, and remember- no matter how bad it feels now, it will feel fantastic later.

That’s what I learned today. Hopefully- the next run will be even better. But due to previous statement made, it probably won’t.

One of Those Days

It’s just one of those days,” I say when my day goes differently then I expected. Usually when it veers off the straight course I have set. Sometimes, I use this phrase to describe a day that feels like a complete fail and needs a repeat or do-over. Sometimes its just a day that may be uncharacteristically out of the norm, but still was a good day.

I’ve had two of those days back to back.

Yesterday, when I would normally be bustling around my normal routine, I decided to stop and do something different. I sat in my pajamas, on the couch, and watched TV with my kids. The baby, Alvaro, was allowed to wander freely in the living room. (He spends a lot of time in the play pen, which I have dubbed “baby jail.”) Joel, my toddler, sat on my lap and enjoyed having me to himself for more than just a few minutes. I needed to do laundry at some point, so I included my toddler in the process. He was in charge of holding the bottle of SHOUT and spraying the clothes with the stain remover. I think he got more on his hands and on me than on the clothes. But he really enjoyed it. And I was pleased to have stolen some quality time with him, even if it was over a pile of stained bibs and dirty socks. I even had him help me make muffins. It made the process 3x slower, but still enjoyable. baking

By 2pm both boys were down for a nap. By that time my disheveled appearance was wearing on my nerves. I enjoyed a shower and fixed my hair. Feeling refreshed, I wondered at why days like this were so rare. Granted, my house was clean when I woke up. Dishes were washed. Breakfast was at a minimum. I had nowhere to be and it was cold and rainy outside. So it was the perfect combination for a laid back day. But still… I want to do this more often. For once, I didn’t feel guilt about the baby spending too much time in the playpen. He spent most of the day wandering around our house to his delight. I didn’t feel guilt about not taking the time out to snuggle with Joel. He loves snuggles. He wants to snuggle. But I usually have to cut it extra short because “Mommy needs to make breakfast” or “Mommy needs to go running” or “Mommy needs to get the diaper bag ready.” But not yesterday. Yesterday was one of those days, when I can enjoy each moment and let it all go.

I lucked out with a following of that today. My husband would be working all day. My sister, who needed to run several errands around my neighborhood, joined me. My son got to play with some cousins. His grandfather dropped by for a visit. Lunch was casual event. I got to tidy up the house unexpectedly. And while my son didn’t take his afternoon nap, he had a GREAT day. And come to think of it, so did I. I didn’t spend anytime worrying. I just went with the flow, and enjoyed.

I want to live more days like these. Days where although my day’s activities are unexpected, they are full. Full of joy, full of love, and full of moments where I feel we all had a happy day.
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Body After Baby

When Ivy hit the two month mark, I was raring to get back in the gym. It’s not because I particularly love working out. I enjoy doing active things. When my husband was still in the military, I was the captain of our unit’s team for the base wives’ kickball league. I still miss it, actually. But slaving away in the gym? Not so much. But opportunities to do fun stuff like play kickball aren’t as fruitful when you’re out of the military, it seems. In any case, regardless of how I did it, I was determined to lose the baby weight. So we joined our closest YMCA and that was that. Eight weeks postpartum, and I was ready to get to work.

I also had a goal. Now that we’re back in the First Coast area, and close to Disney World, I am dying to run the Disney Princess Half Marathon. The only problem is that I am not a runner. I never have been. No matter how in shape I may have been throughout my life, I have always, always, always hated running. But over the past few years, the idea of running a marathon kept popping up in the back of my head. I always told myself I’d start a Couch to 5K program, but never got around to it. So when I got the all-clear to start exercising again after Ivy’s birth, I knew what I wanted to strive for. I want to run this half marathon, and as hard as it may be to get to the point of where that’s possible, I know that I will be so incredibly proud of myself for achieving that accomplishment. I had — or have — a year to train and get ready. I figured that was plenty of time to get into shape where I could do this half marathon and finish. That’s my only goal: just to cross that finish line. I’ll probably cry when I do, too. It’s something that I never thought I could do, but dammit, I’m going to.

The problem is that little in between part. I’m a few weeks into my Couch to 5K program, and it’s hard. I expected it would be, and I’m not going to give up. But I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t frustrating. It’s frustrating that I can barely do any ab workouts because my stomach is basically jelly. It’s frustrating that running does not seem to be getting any easier. It’s frustrating that I still don’t feel like I can look in the mirror and see any difference. I know, I know… give it time, right? Unfortunately, I am the world’s most impatient person so that’s just even more frustrating. I’m tired of hating the way my body looks. I’m tired of still having a belly that could probably pass for a pregnant belly. I’m tired of having to struggle to do my running regimen, which really consists of very little running. I don’t expect to be a size 2 or to be able to run a marathon now, but it’s frustrating to feel like it’s all work with no gain.

What keeps me going? Well, my kids keep me going, for one thing. I want to set a good example for them. I want to be healthy and strong and fit. I’m not worried about being skinny — OK, yes I am, that’s a lie — but I’m not worried about that as much as I am about being healthy. Being overweight and out of shape? That’s not healthy, and it’s not the example I want to set. In the all-too-near future, my daughter could run this half marathon with me if she wanted to. I want to be able to run with my kids, to show them that they can accomplish a goal if they set their mind to it. I want them to have a mother than can be proud of her body and teach them to be proud of theirs. That’s my long-term goal, really. I don’t worry about reaching a certain weight or dress size. I think it’s a much bigger picture than that.

Part of striving to run this Disney Princess Half Marathon is about the fun aspects of it, yes. Running through Disney World, one of my favorite places ever, dressed up in a costume with tons of characters cheering me on along the way? Of course that sounds like fun. But it’s also about knowing that I can push myself, that I can accomplish something that I never thought I could ever, ever accomplish. And I mean that. There has never been a point in my life that I have thought that I could be a runner. I’ve been a swimmer, I’ve been a rower. Heck, I was even pretty good at kickball. But running always seemed out of my league. And that’s why I’m so determined. I want to prove, to myself and to everyone else, that if you set your mind to something, you can make it happen if you’re willing to work hard enough.

This body after baby may be making it more difficult to accomplish what I want it to. But I’ve created three living miracles out of virtually nothing. I’ve made three living, breathing children. That makes my body a miracle, too, and if I can do that, I can do anything. I just have to remember to give it time.

In Defense of Moms on Their Phones

Today, I decided to take my kids to the park. Benjamin’s the only one old enough to really enjoy the playground, but I’d like to think that all three of them like the change of scenery and being outside. So I loaded up Wyatt and Ivy into the stroller, got some snacks for Benjamin and I, and I sat on a bench, just like several other moms who had the same idea as me… probably because we got a beautiful day in the middle of February. 70 degrees out, cloudless sky? No way does anyone want to waste that kind of day locked up inside.

One mom sitting near me kept looking at me, making that annoyed sigh sound, and rolling her eyes. After this happened for the fourth or fifth time, I finally asked her if there as a problem. She made her exasperated sigh and rolled her eyes again, and said, “Well, I just think that maybe you should be paying attention to your kids, and not your phone.” She then glared at me, presumably to drive home the point that I am a terrible, terrible mother. Because, yes: I am that mom who sits there on her phone while her kids play.

What it brought to mind was this post — Dear Mom on the iPhone — that went viral quite some time ago. Maybe you read it. If not, here’s a little except.

Put your eyes back on your prize… Your kids.

Show them that they are the priority. Wherever you are, be ALL there. I am not saying it’s not ok to check in on your phone, but it’s a time-sucker: User Beware!

Play time at the park will be over before you know it.

The childhood of your children will be gone before you know it.

That’s just a small sample of the sanctimommy over there, and let me tell you — there’s a lot. After being absolutely excoriated in the comments and by countless other blog posts coming to the defense of the “mom in the park”, the blogger ended up admitting that she made up the entire situation of a mom being on her iPhone at the park because God called her to write about this. She wasn’t being a judgmental sanctimommy you-know-what, because God told her to write about it, and if it made you feel guilty, then clearly you’re one of the moms attached to their phones she was trying to reach. She’s only thinking of the kids, y’all. You’d think she might take a hint from all the blowback she got, but she went the exact opposite route and dug her heels in even further.

Well, to the sanctimommy at the park and to the sanctimommy on the blog, here’s my response. The short version? Shut up and mind your own business.

Long version?

I’m a stay-at-home mom of three kids under three. And even though I’m on my phone with my kids at the park (or maybe at the play area at McDonald’s, or at the mall, or wherever), I’m actually quite an attentive mother. In fact, just about my every waking moment revolves around my kids, because they have to. They’re all young, and one of them has special needs. So I’m constantly bouncing from one kid to the next. One needs a bottle, one needs a diaper change, then another one bumped their head and needs to be cuddled, and then one spit up all over their clothes and needs to be changed… it’s basically never-ending. Add in the fact that I work from home, and my time for myself? Ha! It doesn’t exist. There are times that I go days without showering, mainly because by the end of the day when all the kids are asleep and the work is done, I’m so exhausted that I don’t even feel like doing anything beyond falling into my bed and passing out. I don’t get to read much anymore, even though I love it. I don’t really have many hobbies at the moment, for many reasons that I don’t need to get into right now because it’s irrelevant. Basically, my entire life is my kids and my work right now.

But some days, I take them somewhere like the park. Benjamin can go run and play with other kids and get some energy out, and Wyatt and Ivy are usually pretty happy to just hang out in the stroller with me. And because it’s an hour or so that none of my kids need me, yep — I’m on my phone.

Maybe some moms, like the mom at the playground and the Sanctimommy Blogger Extraordinaire are perfect mothers who don’t need time to themselves. I’m not. I’m a mom who needs to ignore my kids sometimes. I need to occasionally do stuff for me. If that means doing something on my phone for an hour while they play at the park, then fine. But you know what? I don’t think that makes me a bad mom. As a matter of fact, I think it makes me a good mom.

First, no mother can go forever without ever taking time for herself. They just can’t. I know this goes against all that is holy in the worlds of attachment and helicopter parenting, which are both insanely popular right now, but I believe that wholeheartedly. It’s hard to find the time to do it, but that doesn’t make it any less necessary. A lot of the commenters on Sanctimommy’s blog post mentioned that she didn’t know what the imaginary mom on the phone was doing, which is of course a good point, but I don’t feel like it matters. Most of the time when I’m on my phone, I’m surfing the internet or browsing Facebook. It’s good for me to have a little bit of time to mentally check out, to relax and not have to really be doing anything for a half hour or so.

I see my kids all day, every day. I don’t think I’ve ever missed any kind of significant moment of my kids’ lives. All of the things that people think I might be missing out on because I’m on my phone? Well, guess what? I’ve seen it a thousand times. That doesn’t mean it isn’t still adorable or make my heart swell a little, but it isn’t the new, wondrous thing to me that it is to you. I know what all of their different cries mean, I know that they have different ways of laughing that are caused by different things. I know that Benjamin is a lot more daring when there are other kids around, and especially so if they’re girls. I know that Wyatt loves to stand and that they both love the songs from Frozen. I know that Ivy is finding her smile and her voice. There’s nothing, absolutely nothing, that anyone could point out to me about my children that I do not already know. The chances of me missing something because I took an hour to tune out and mentally recharge is slim to none. And even if I did, what does that mean? We cannot spend our entire lives with our attention on nothing but our children because of the off chance that we might miss something. That’s extraordinarily unhealthy.

The other part that I think about? I don’t want my kids to be glued to my side 24/7. I don’t want them to learn to not be independent. I don’t want them needing me to play with them on the playground or to climb across the monkey bars. I want them to grow up learning to explore and be adventurous. I want them to make friends on their own. And while I’ll of course push them on the swing if they want me to, I’m not going to be holding their hand as they navigate everything on the playground. That’s doing them a disservice (and it’s a hallmark of helicopter parenting, which I despise). But what if they fall??, some people will ask. What if they do? That’s how kids learn. It’s how they figure out their limits and what they can or can’t do. I’ll be there to comfort them when they fall, to mend their boo-boos and wipe away their tears, but I won’t be there their entire lives to hold their hands through everything. I’m not going to teach them that lesson. I’m also not going to teach them that the entire world revolves around them… because, you know, it doesn’t. I’ll always hold their hands if they need me to, but I want them to at least try for themselves first — and I’m certainly not going to intervene when they’re perfectly happy playing independently, conquering new things and experiencing new adventures, without me. What kind of childhood would I be giving them if I did?

So you know what? Next time you feel like being a Judgey McJudgerson yet again, telling moms all the ways that they’re screwing up and doing it wrong, why don’t you take a second and remember that, oh yeah — it’s none of your business. That the mom you’re criticizing is obviously doing a good job raising her kids if their smiling faces are looking towards her with love. Maybe instead of trying to tear another mom down because you’re just so sure of your obvious parental superiority, you should try to remember that all of us are just doing the best that we can. Maybe instead of giving another mom yet another reason to feel like she’s not doing a good enough job, you can rest assured that society is doing a fantastic job of that already.

Most moms spend their every waking moment obsessing over their kids. But if she wants to take five, ten, or thirty minutes to herself, you know what? Let her. Get over yourself, and give her a break. We don’t need another thing to feel guilty about.

(And you know what? When God was talking to you, I’m pretty sure He wasn’t telling you to shame and guilt mothers for daring to take five minutes to themselves. Maybe He was telling you to get over your judgmental streak. Just a thought.)

“So That it’s Fair…”

My 5-year old son has been learning about 3D shapes in kindergarten. He came home today with a baggie of treats and snacks of various shapes. It was a really cute idea by his teacher. There were different candies in various shapes inside: a Hershey kiss for a cone, a gumball for a sphere, a pretzel stick for a cylinder, and so on.

He was excitedly explaining it to me, and said “We had to match the candies with the correct 3D shape, and I got them all right, so I got to take home the baggie of treats!!” I said, “That’s great, honey, did your friends get it right, too?” and he replied “Yes, some of them. Some got a few wrong. But actually, even if you got them all wrong, you got to take home the baggie of treats. So that it’s fair.”

Hmm… so let me get this straight. You didn’t actually have to get the answers correct to get the reward? Of course I didn’t say this to my son, but I definitely thought it in my head.

I worry about our children growing up in these educational facilities, and also now even on recreational sports teams, that aren’t being taught the concepts of right and wrong; good and bad; good, better, best; winner and loser. It is my opinion that these are all natural occurrences in life and in the workplace that our children will have to handle as adults, and that we should introduce them early in life. Others may think that in young children it is too early, but is there a magical age to which the real world rules start to apply? It certainly shouldn’t be 18 or 21 — talk about a shell-shock of the real world, if your childhood doesn’t slowly come to introduce the hard rules of life and you are thrown out into it all at once!

As I’m processing the scenario, I take a breath and reconsider. It is true that the baggie full of the candy in shapes is a good learning tool. When the child takes it home to show their parents they are reinforcing said shapes one more time (before eating them and then the tool has disappeared!). Perhaps that was the thought process of the teacher — each student should get the baggie to reinforce the concept, and if anything, those that got it wrong need the baggies the most! But even as I’m trying to rationalize it, I am still stuck on the words of my son explaining it to me. He began his explanation with “It was a reward for getting them right,” and ended with “everyone got it either way”. You could see his excitement deflating, as he realized he didn’t truly win anything at all. I’m not sure if giving a baggie to every student regardless of their answers at the end of the project was of the teacher’s design, or an unintended side effect when not all of the students got the shapes correct. But either way, it came up at some point in the class, because it was clear that my son was parroting what the teacher said when stating, “So that it’s fair… ”

Ah, yes, a great lesson indeed, because Life is always so fair, too.

So maybe I am being too hard on the kindergarten age kids. I certainly don’t think the teacher intended any harm, and I’m possibly exaggerating the harm of the outcome anyway. This is only a small example of many instances I have seen that follow the same general lines (the most cited and discussed example being “Participation Trophies” handed out in sporting leagues).

It is just my fear for our next generations that the accidental message being sent is a demotivating one. Though the “Participation Trophy” and “Everybody Wins” mindset is rooted in well-intention, I truly think it has negative consequences on the development of the mind, motivation, and perseverance of our youth.

There are two main types of motivation: Extrinsic and Intrinsic. Extrinsic is the outer motivations: the trophies, awards, promotions, etc, that cause people to act in ways that lead to success. The intrinsic type is inside your heart – you have it regardless of the pay raise, award, or praise from others – you do a good job because you have an internal desire to be the best that you can be. Truly successful and inspirational individuals receive their motivation to win or do things well both by tangible, extrinsic motivational factors (the baggie of treats); and inner intrinsic motivational factors (the desire to win or do your best). Though different in definition, extrinsic and intrinsic motivation work well together to produce the best result. BUT – if we offer the tangible extrinsic reward (the prize, the trophy, the “atta-boy”) willingly and easily to either party – whether they succeed or fail in the task presented – aren’t we as an accidental side effect SQUASHING the intrinsic motivation a little bit?

This is my fear. Call me crazy. I just think the generations coming up today are coming up less and less motivated, less and less successful and inspired, and more and more entitled. And perhaps our society’s drive to embrace “fairness” is a reason why.

Losing A Parent…..

It was January 31, 2014. I was on my way home when I received a phone call from sister saying the words, “Dad has cancer!”.  This a day I will never forget. My whole world just stopped, and all I could do was start crying hysterically. I didn’t know what do for the first time in my life. I felt lost, and wondered how to break this to my kids. Do I tell them right away, or do I wait until I have to? I guess there is really no right or wrong answer.

But before I could tell my kids, I had to wrap my own head around it. My heart told to me to have hope, but my head told me to be practical — the outlook is not promising.  How can I tell him to fight when I find myself already giving up? It had only been a week since finding this out, and it seemed like his health was already declining rapidly.  He had to be rushed to the hospital, and they were very concerned about him. We found out that he had to have a feeding tube because he couldn’t swallow food.  Now I was at that dreaded day where I was going to have to tell my kids that their grandpa is really sick. I just wished my other half was there to help get us through this, but because of his duty to our country, I was faced with this challenge alone.  My kids are smart, and I know my oldest already had his concerns. I could see it in his eyes. He knew something was wrong the day we found out. I felt so guilty, but I didn’t want to tell them until I knew more myself.

Part of me already felt like he was gone, and in reality, he had been. Over the years, I have seen his health decline, and it seems like he has been slowly dying.  Since getting the news, the five stages of grief had already begun. I am currently in stage one: the denial and isolation stage. I find myself trying to act like everything is ok, and like I am handling things like a champ. I put on the brave face, and I try to keep strong. However, as soon as I am alone, the waterworks start and my mind starts racing.  I am also noticing bits of the second phase, which is anger. I am angry at myself for not being the daughter I should have been. I am also angry at him for not being the best father. I know that sounds awful, but me and my dad have had our ups and downs. He wasn’t always there, but neither was I. This leads me to the next stage. I catch myself trying to bargain — if he gets better, I will be a better daughter and spend as much time as possible with him.  The next two stages I find are the hardest. I hope when the time comes, I am able to overcome the depression stage, and move into the acceptance stage. I know can’t control the future or change the past, but I can make the most out of the present. I also know that I have to allow myself to feel, and to work through these stages; otherwise, the grief will take me over, and I won’t be able to move on.

It is never easy when faced with losing someone you care about, but luckily I am surrounded by family and friends that love me enough to help me through this process… some that have lost a parent themselves, and others that haven’t. I feel empty and lost, but I know this feeling is temporary. Soon I will be able to look past the grief and focus on the good.

A Mile in My Shoes

depressed

It was a sunny Sunday afternoon. I sat with my back against the couch. My sons were playing and the day was beautiful. But all I felt was sorrow. I had no definitive reason for my gloomy heart. I was still in the throws of my postpartum depression and that day was no different emotionally than my previous days.

I sat and sulked and pondered. Should I drink a glass of wine? Maybe chocolate cake would make me feel better? Maybe the kind that is iced with rich chocolate fudge would be best? I’d been making eating junk food the habit to escape my blue feelings.

But this day was different. I decided to be brave. I decided that instead of eating to find comfort, I’d don on the new pair of running shoes I’d bought a month back, and I’d run a mile.

I had a friend who struggled with depression a couple of years ago. Wanting to avoid medication, she found natural ways to deal with her depression, including exercise, and within 3 months she was depression free. This floated in the back of my mind.

But more than anything I had a new sense of motivation. I became part of the Who I Run For Community. Every day that I logged into my Facebook page, I would read about some person, who had run or worked out for other people who couldn’t [run]. These runners were making a difference in the lives of others with their encouragement and their miles. As I sat there on that floor that Sunday afternoon, I realized I had no excuse NOT to run. I didn’t have anything to stop me, other than the sad feelings that I decided to use to propel my feet forward past my emotional struggles.

running feetSo I did. I put on those running shoes, walked out my door, and ran my first mile. That first mile became one of many. Excited that I chose to do something positive with my pain instead of escape to food, I logged onto Facebook and shared my accomplishment. The encouragement that followed was phenomenal. It was so compelling, that 3 days later I registered for my first 5K. And I was hooked.

I still consider myself a novice runner. Having just competed in that first 5K only four weeks ago, I have my sights set high for a year that includes lots of training and races. My goal for 2014 was to run three 5K’s. It appears that not only will I run three 5K’s this year, I also have my sights set on running a 10K and a half marathon.

Sometimes I think I am crazy. But most days I am thrilled. Running has allowed me to pull my life out of the shadows of depression without depending on medication. Running has allowed me the freedom of working out my anxieties without the guilt and shame that eating junk food brought. Running has given me timelines and goals that I thrive on. And while I am a novice runner, I AM a runner. And I feel pretty darn good.

Overcoming Pinterest Anxiety Disorder

I’ll be the first to admit that I love me some Pinterest! What better a resource for a one-stop shop to find the perfect recipe, perfect party theme, perfect home decorating scheme? It’s a perfectly perfect pile of perfectionism! And therein lies the problem.

We parents (read: women) need to learn a few things about Pinterest. And all forms of social media, really. I read a quote a few months ago that exactly captured my feelings about Pinterest (and sometimes Facebook, as well). It reads, “Stop Comparing Your Behind the Scenes with Everyone Else’s Highlight Reel.”

Case in point: Have you ever attempted the “Pinterest Perfect” party and failed in an area or two? Most of us have memories or a few muddled recollections that we’ve tried our best to repress of birthday parties or holidays gone awry: The 1-year old-refuses to touch the birthday cake that they are supposed to smear over their face (but of course, only on their cute little cheeks and a sweet dot on their nose!), and the perfect 1st birthday party shot that you plan to frame in your perfect 1st birthday picture frame is just ruined. Your sweet little Cinderella breaks a heel, rips her tights, and gets chocolate on her dress before you think to break out the camera on Halloween night. You feel like a failure as a parent because you didn’t get the perfect documentation of the perfect moment. You get the picture. Real life with real kids really happens, and the play-by-play of the event with the real-life children involved is often less than “Pinterest Perfect”.

Most everyone that has thrown or attended a party of any type has experienced these kinds of failures. And those truthful scenarios don’t typically make it as an entry onto Pinterest and Facebook, do they?

It’s time for us to give ourselves a break. The problem isn’t with Pinterest itself. The problem is with our utilization and application of Pinterest, and how it has become not just tool, but a weapon that we use to beat ourselves up with! Stop perusing Pinterest night and day, obsessively, to the point where you’d like a “redo” of your own wedding so that you can make it “Pinterest Perfect”, or you wake from nightmares about things going wrong at your son’s 1st birthday party when he is only 4 months old. Enough is enough! Those who feel this way may be experiencing what I like to call “Pinterest Anxiety Disorder”. (What? I have a Psychology degree, surely I have the authority to name mental health disorders, don’t I? I’m sure the DSM-V will catch up soon!) The presence of anxious feelings surrounding life’s events and milestones is effectively creating the absence of the feelings of joy and happiness that should be felt at these times.

And so, mainly out of fear of contracting P.A.D., and because I have learned that too much Pinteresting simply isn’t good for my life, I don’t hang out on Pinterest too often these days. I am happy to log on when planning a party to get some inspiration, or when I need a new dinner idea (recipe gold mine!), but I refuse to spend hours scrolling in envy of the perfectionism of other people’s homes, wardrobes, and lives that I simply cannot compete with. It’s just not healthy. My kids will probably never have alphabetized bookshelves and color-coded toy categories; their rainy day memories will probably be more of coloring in standard coloring books and arguing over the remote control than making our own play-doh from scratch; and I certainly will never have matching nail polish, earrings, shoes, and a handbag for every outfit. But I’m doing OK with this realization.

If you find yourself in the same boat and with similar thoughts and anxieties, take a look at these inspiring ideas on ways you can spend your time Pinterest-free, that will make you a better, stronger, more creative and more balanced individual, not a more anxious one:

1. Read a good book.
A really good book. One where you turn off the TV, order in pizza so you don’t have to cook dinner, and read for hours straight because you can’t wait to see what happens next. Reading stretches the imagination and expands your vocabulary, and overall just makes you a more intelligent person. We encourage our kids to read because we know how good it is for them. Why not push ourselves to practice this more frequently, too? Also a great bonus – when we read, we are modeling this behavior to our children to help them learn the love of reading!

2. Call and catch up with someone you love.
It can be a friend, family member, or even your mother. Don’t text, don’t email, don’t Facebook message them. Call them on the good old telephone! Lock yourself in a closet or sit on your back porch, and spend an hour catching up, laughing, and sharing your day with someone you love. You will feel better after, and chances are, they will too.

3. Sit outside and do nothing but relax.
No phone, no computer. Sit outside alone or with a friend, child, or spouse. Enjoy the great outdoors, imagine shapes in the clouds, look at the stars and marvel in the beauty of our world and how tiny you are in it. And, though it’s best to enjoy this time of reflection without electronics, a glass of wine by your side is definitely acceptable.

4. Journal.
Doodle, draw, write in your prettiest cursive writing names of the people you are closest to in life, while praying for them or reflecting on how much they mean to you, how you met, or how your life would be different without them in it. Give thanks and be grateful for the true and meaningful relationships in your life.

5. Speak positive words to others.
Get on your computer and email or Facebook message; or get on your phone and text message. This can be quick and is so easy! Spend 10 to 30 minutes writing people little encouraging notes. Compliment, praise, encourage, and lift up those you care about. Be genuine, but a short and simple note will do. This takes very little effort and time, and may put a big smile on someone’s face that is truly in need of one.

Ahhh. This Pinterest-free life sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? I feel more relaxed already.

Big Families: Blessings, Not Burdens

Whenever I tell people about my family, I sometimes feel like I’m confessing a horrible secret. People will ask me how many kids I have and how old they are, and I find myself saying, almost apologetically, that I have three… all under three. And to make things even worse, one of them has special needs. However do I manage?!

Here’s the thing: I love my family. I wouldn’t change anything about them — not who they are, not how old they are or how close together I had them. I actually think it’s fun, albeit occasionally stressful, to have them be so close in age. And I also know that this will ensure a wonderful closeness when they get older that I don’t think you get when kids are spaced out more… not to the same extent, anyway. I’ve never had to deal with any kind of jealousy when a new one comes along, either. They all love each other. It’s wonderful.

But that doesn’t change the fact that, in today’s world, big families are frowned upon. Continue reading

Guilt Free[dom]

I had a six week maternity leave after birthing my first son. In all honesty, I couldn’t wait to get back to work. The changes and shock of bringing a new baby into my house was more than I expected. At work, I at least knew what I was doing. I knew what was expected of me. I knew how to achieve.

But motherhood was a whole new ballgame. Nothing left me feeling more unsure and more insecure of myself than that precious little boy.

So back to work I went with a sigh of relief that my Mother was watching the baby. I felt as if naturally, she was better equipped than I was after having raised 4 children.

Yet despite my relief to be at work again, I felt a strong longing to be with my son. And not far behind that longing was guilt. I felt guilt for spending hours away from him instead of playing with him. Once I arrived home at the end of the day, I felt guilt that the need to prepare dinner kept him at arm’s length a bit longer. I struggled heavily with guilt, that somehow or another I wasn’t being the mother I thought I needed to be for him.

Months passed and I fell into a routine where I balanced work and home. I tried to spend quality with my son and my husband. With the encouragement of friends and family, the guilt began to subside.

Then came baby #2. Continue reading