Life Hacks

I've been thinking a lot about the way my home runs lately. And it's definitely not perfect but I've figured out a few things that I thought you might find helpful. Or you might not. Maybe you've got a system that works great for your family and it looks nothing like mine. Take what you can use. Ignore the rest.

My husband and I have divided up certain responsiblities. He does most of the cleaning, I do most of the cooking and the grocery shopping. I also do the meal planning. I also end up being our family's social director, arranging when we're going to get together with his family, when we're going to go out of town to see mine, and figuring out when to get together with our mutual friends. I expect that will grow more complicated as our family grows in size and as our little one starts having an agenda of her own. But by knowing that Saturday morning, 9/10 times I'm going to take the baby and grocery shop while he stays home and gets the house in order, it takes some of the stress out of the week.

Speaking of meal planning, every week, it used to drive me bonkers. I can't tell you how many times I either posted on facebook or texted a friend, "I cannot think of anything to make this week! Ugh. What are you making?" Our food allergies have at times further complicated the matter. When the responses to that question are things like lasagna, casseroles, avocado toast, or fish sticks, I'm no farther than where I was to begin with. And in the end, it seems like we eat the same things over and over again anyhow. So I finally wrote down a list of everything we normally eat and divided it by protein. I took those and divided them into different weeks. Rather than have a week of pork dishes, we have 8 weeks or so of meals with differing proteins. Now I just need to look at the plan and know what's for dinner this week.

With summer just beginning, I also needed to figure out what in the world I was going to do all day with three little kids. Before school let out, I used some of my time to research options. So now not only do I know that we can go bowling but I know what the hours are and how much it will cost just by looking at my spreadsheet. I've also emailed the places I need to regarding food to know whether I can find a safe option for my daughter or whether I need to pack food for her that day.

My last tip has to do with that all important nectar: coffee. I no longer brew a pot in the morning. I don't even use a french press these days. I brew a gallon of coffee at a time and keep it in my fridge in an oversized mason jar style drink dispenser. By doing cold brew, it's gentler on my stomach and I can add the cream and sugar the night before so it's ready to go on my way out the door. I even bought a bottle of flavored syrup, the kind they use in coffee shops, so I can have that extra something for less. Besides, the chain coffee shops I've been going to don't offer ameretto or irish cream flavors.

Those are my life hacks. What are some of yours? Share them with me at victoria@amothersdream.net

G-d's Protection

My daughter had an anaphylactic reaction this past week to cashews. Her face and tongue began to swell and she started having trouble breathing. Soon after, she broke out in hives. The entire thing happened so quickly, I hadn't even put the lid back on the jar of cashew butter when we left the house to get to the ER following her epipen. She's had nuts before and she's had cashews before. We see an allergist and she's been tested. The results said she wasn't allergic to any nuts. She's never had so much as a single hive from any form of nut before but Thursday a tiny bit of cashew butter almost killed her. And writing that sentence is like another little stab to my heart. If I give her the wrong foods, my precious girl will need another dose of epinephrine and another ambulance ride and next time, our story might not have such a happy ending. Between leaving the ER and this moment, she's had Benedryl every 6 hours, resulting in double the amount of naps she normally takes and a baby wandering around in a fog, tired, cranky, clingy, confused. She's had a steroid and a second antihistamine twice a day. These antihistamines will continue to be given to her for ten days. One teaspoon of nut butter and we have ten nights of waking her up at 3 am to give her medicine, ten days of stumbling over her own two feet, ten days of her confused little pout wondering why she just can't seem to focus. But every time I give her another dose of her medicine, every time she comes to me wanting more cuddles or another nap, every time she so much as fusses, I say a silent prayer of thanks. There are so many ways He kept us protected. When our journey of food allergies started, the physician's assistant at our pediatrician's office gave us some information I knew to be false regarding allergies. That one comment made me insist on a referral to an allergist. The allergist is the one who prescribed the epipen that saved my daughter's life. I knew that information to be false because the man I married has a history both personally and in his immediate family of food allergies. When this whole thing happened, we were at home. We weren't out somewhere and had to worry about paying a restaurant bill or saying goodbyes to anyone. We just had to grab the diaper bag and go. My husband was still at home. He almost left early for work that day. He was the one who caught that she was starting to wheeze. I was a moment behind, still in denial that my baby could be having an anaphylactic reaction. The week before, a mom in one of my Facebook groups mentioned a video she'd seen posted. That video showed how to hold your toddler to give an epipen injection. Her post made me realize I didn't know how to hold our little one should I ever need to. I was able to confidently administer it because of that post. Food allergies are absolutely terrifying. If you've never had to deal with them, I pray that will continue and that you'll never have to hide in a hospital bathroom crying in fear, not knowing how long you'll be there or whether your precious baby will be okay. I'm unbelievably thankful that my sweet girl is sprawled out napping on my lap right now. I know I came all too close to a world where this could never happen again. We're all a little shell shocked as we overcome this but we know we'll overcome this. We can so clearly see His hand of protection over us but we're definitely squeezing our girl just a little tighter, holding her a little longer, finding it just a little harder to say no to another episode of her favorite TV show.

Parenting and Phones

Motherhood seems to shed a new light on ourselves. We realize behaviors we have that never mattered much before but suddenly are glaringly obvious. In this world of technology, it's easy to become addicted to our smart phones and our social media accounts without much realizing it. It certainly happened to me.

While I try to limit my one year old's screen time, how much time do I spend on my screens? I spend all day with children so I've justified it in the past as being my social life. While the kids play nicely or during naptime, I check in with my mommy groups. And there's nothing wrong with having those groups. I totally rely on some of them for nursing questions, for food allergy resources, for "Is it normal that my ten month old won't keep her fingers out of her nose?" type questions. My groups aren't going anywhere.

But when my daughter already knows how to hold a phone up to her head or stares at the screen of her play phone like me checking facebook, we have a problem. I want her to know she is the priority in my life, not my phone. But is she learning that? Or does she miss the times I stare at her in awe while she plays and notice how many times I say, "Just a minute" while I try to finish a comment on a post giving advice to someone I don't even know in real life?

They say the first step to fixing a problem is to admit there is one. I'm admitting it now. And I've taken steps to help minimize my phone time. I found an app that lets me restrict the times I can use my apps, how long I can each day, or how many times I can open them. How about you? Is your smart phone usage okay with you? It's not about a certain number of minutes or only checking in so many times a day; the question I had to ask myself was, "Am I in control of this or is it starting to control me?" I wasn't happy with my answer. Are you happy with yours? Shoot me a line anytime at victoria@amothersdream.net 

The Plan v. The Reality

If you took a look at my pinterest boards, you'd get a picture of the type of mom you think I am. It's the type of mom I thought I'd be too. But that's not who I turned out to be. We all have expectations as we grow up of what we'll do and not do. When I started pinning, I thought I'd take gorgeous maternity photos to show off my bump and I'd have a newborn photo session. I'd make those monthly photos with the stickers so many moms seem to do and compile them into a collage for her birthday party or her baby book, which would most definitely be kept up to date and filled out. I thought we'd do crafts and sensory experiments. I thought she'd be in preschool before she tasted a chicken nugget, I'd never put the TV on for her, and she'd barely know what sugar was.

But, alas, life doesn't work out how we think it does. All of my maternity photos were taken with cell phone cameras, most of them by myself in the mirror. My daughter's newborn photos are a bunch of snapshots I captured myself, again on my cell phone. Monthly photos never happened and her baby book has about three pages filled in. She loves chicken nuggets and Daniel Tiger and I don't want to know how much sugar was in her birthday cake.

I am not the mom I thought I'd be. I'm not the mom pinterest would lead you to believe I am. But my daughter is happy. Can I let you in on a secret I've come to realize in the past year? That pinterest stuff is unimportant. Yes, I want to capture these memories for us to look back on, for her to have a record of what went on when she was just a baby, but at the end of the day, if my daughter is growing, learning from the world around her (and yes from PBS too), loved, and happy, that's what matters. 

So if you compare yourself to the parent you thought you'd be, let me tell you right now, stop. You are the best parent your child could have because you love them with all your heart. The idea you had while you were waiting for your child to come into the world was based on fantasy. This is reality. You do your best for them every day. And if today that best means that your baby is watching another episode of Sesame Street because you just need to finally finish your cup of coffee, you are not alone.

What type of parent did you think you'd be? How does your reality match up? I'd love to hear from you at victoria@amothersdream.net

Lists, lists, lists!

I don't know about you but I feel like the queen of to do lists. Or maybe it's just lists in general. Today alone I've written down lists for what I need to do before we can go out of town this weekend, what I need to do before my daughter's birthday party next weekend, and other things that need to be done in the near future. That's not counting the several lists going in my head of things I need to do at home, people I should message, meals I should make, questions I should research, things to buy, and on and on and on. 

When did life become all about tasks? I feel like I oscillate between mindlessly watching Netflix (often while naptrapped by my nursling) and feeling guilty that I'm not getting things done and figuring out what tasks need to be done. Actually accomplishing them however takes up even less time. Instead, I'm overwhelmed by the number of things I need to do and become paralyzed, unable to begin. Do you ever feel like this?

As women, we tend to be the ones to see the things that need to be done, the plans we want to accomplish. And then when our husbands or children or roommates don't fall in line with the plan, we get irritated. But did we ever tell them our plans? Sometimes we are our own worst enemy. We take on the weight of the world, tell no one, and get irritated when they don't help us accomplish our goals. The days I want to meal prep and don't tell my husband, I wake up to a sinkful of dishes he made before he came to bed the night before, a messy table, and an uncooperative husband. But if I told him ahead of time, the dishes could be clean in the dishwasher, the table clear, and he'd be ready to either help me chop and assemble or at least watch the baby so I could plow ahead.

Looking at the tasks I "need" to accomplish, do you know how many of them are crucial? Will our friends and family understand if their Christmas gift still isn't done this weekend? Yes, they will. And I can always mail it later. Will my car suffer if I don't get an oil change? Now that is very likely. Do I need to make muffins? Nope. I can keep eating doughnuts and yogurt for breakfast. If I try to do it all, I'm going to overwhelm myself all over again. But if I prioritize, I can do this. What tasks can come off your list? What can you delegate? I'd love to hear from you at victoria@amothersdream.net

yes, It's definitely Monday

Monday was my birthday. The weather was gorgeous here in NE Ohio, the kids had no school, and my husband had the day off. Naturally, we planned to take advantage. A trip to the zoo was on the agenda. 
The night before, we tag teamed getting ready. (With an eleven month old, it's nearly impossible to have both parents doing something that's not all about her at the same time, as I'm sure you either know or can imagine.) We had diapers, wipes, changes of clothes, even snacks packed. My cold brew coffee was prepared with the right amount of almond-coconut milk and sugar and our clothes were laid out, after double checking the weather. The gas tank was even full already. 
When we left to pick up the kids I nanny, the day had already started to unravel. Having my morning devotional time, just me and my Maker, is a pretty important part of getting off on the right foot. But we had neglected to pack toys for the 90 minute car ride the night before so sacrifices had to be made. Then I forgot to grab my coffee out of the fridge and we were already running late. No time to turn back. 
Luckily for me, there are Bible apps on my phone I can use while my husband drives and Dunkin carries almond milk and cold brew. Problem solved. Kiddos were ready for us but still needed breakfast. Cool, Dunkin for everyone! I'll climb in the back of the van and get the DVD player set up on the way and we will get going. 
Fat chance. I got the DVD stuck. Then Dunkin messed up my breakfast sandwich. And I forgot the hash browns. But we perservered, with only a bit of frazzle to my formerly excited demeanor. Until the oldest munchkin piped up from the very back, "Vickey, my belly hurts." I think you can imagine what happened next. All I'll say is I am so glad I had an Aldi's bag with no holes in it in easy reach. 
Unfortunately, that was the last straw. We needed to change our clothes which meant heading home. At this point, I had two choices. I could sulk and cry and be disappointed because I wanted to go see the elephants with my little girl on my birthday! Or I could smile, tell the kids, "Yup, this stinks. It's okay to be disappointed. But we'll go to the zoo some other day and we'll do something else this afternoon. After we're sure that was just carsickness and we've both changed our pants." 
Honestly, the truth was I kind of wanted to cry and sulk and whine about how gross that was and how disappointed I was. But I knew that wouldn't do anything but make a disappointed little boy (and his little sister) feel even worse. Which would make me feel worse. No one likes hurting someone else's feelings, especially not a child. So I took a deep breath (outside the van where the air was decidedly fresher) and I took the high road. It's not always the easy thing to do and I don't claim to be perfect at choosing it. I have my days where I come unglued too. But when we can, we ought to do our best to be in control, to model the behavior we want our littles to pick up on. 
What are you trying to teach by example today? I'd love to hear from you. Email me at victoria@amothersdream.net