four kids and a dog

life is sweet. life is short.
so, go walk your dog and play with your kids.
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Doggy Daze: Is Owner Entitlement Out of Control?

One of our family members is a furry four legged, rescued friend. My kids love dogs. I grew up with dogs. We are dog people. But, our dog does not go with us everywhere. Dog owner entitlement seems to be on the rise.image

As my two little boys and I recently pulled into the parking lot of a local restaurant I noticed the older couple on the patio with their medium sized dog lying next to them. I didn’t think much about it. It’s become quite common to see dogs of all sizes and breeds with their owners inside stores, on restaurant patios and in most public areas.

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We ordered and found a table outside, on the patio. I quickly dashed inside to retrieve condiments, drinks and napkins. I was inside for less than one minute, when my older son came running in to tell me brother was crying. I returned to find the dog owner holding my five-year-old’s hand and apologizing. Confused, I immediately assumed that he’d gotten scared while I was away and had started crying. Just as the mom guilt washed over me, the woman explained that her dog had bitten my son.

I did my best to remain calm. All eyes were on me. I could feel the weight of an entire restaurant watching me. Waiting. I hugged my scared little guy. I pulled up his shorts to check the chomp. There was a definite bite mark. Skin was broken in a couple of areas and hints of blood threatened to surface. The area was already bruising. There would be no trip to the ER, thankfully.image

The dog owners apologized and recounted their version of what had occurred. My unassuming son had headed to the nearby trash can. He’d started out walking, then had run the last few steps to the trash. The startled dog lashed out at him.

The owners said their dog was known to have certain fears and would randomly lunge at people. This aggressive animal with a checkered past was brought to an enclosed area with many people nearby. My son, who had in no way interacted with or provoked this animal, and was minding his own business, was attacked.

An onlooker stopped by the patio as she was leaving the restaurant. To my surprise she was not concerned by the fact that my young son had been bitten. No. She was there to console…the dog! She cooed over the dog, while petting it’s head. Really? My child was attacked and this woman wanted to soothe the attacker! Unreal. When did furry friends become more important than humans?

Before leaving the restaurant, I obtained the dog owner’s contact information and reported the incident to the manager. Although, obviously unenforced, the manager confirmed that dogs are prohibited on the patio. It was negligent of these owners to bring their aggressive dog to an enclosed restaurant. I suspect they’ll continue doing so. The next day, I reported the bite to Animal Control. Contrary to popular belief, nothing much happens when a bite occurs and is reported.image

Children should be taught to always ask the owner’s permission before petting a dog. If an owner says they’d rather not let my child pet their dog, I respect — even commend the owner for setting that boundary. For safety and sanitary reasons, dogs simply shouldn’t be allowed everywhere with humans. Authentic, card carrying service dogs are a different matter.

Dog ownership isn’t just a privilege. It’s a responsibility. I’m grateful the bite didn’t deter my son’s love of dogs. It could’ve been worse. But, it wasn’t.image

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Mommy Said the F Word

As it drew closer, the kids counted down the days to spring break. No homework. No school. No problem. I’d envisioned sitting poolside, working on my tan while the kids swam for hours. There would be no rushing around, since most of the after school activities had been cancelled.

It began with a bang. We threw my daughter’s surprise birthday party on the last day of school. Giggling, screeching girls filled our home until late that night. I’m still sweeping up strands of fuchsia clip-on hair extensions and hot pink glitter.image

imageAfter a day trip to the La Brea Tar Pits with friends, spring break stagnated. Our normally bustling cul-de-sac was eerily quiet. Many neighbors had packed up and headed out, seeking either snow or sun.image

I decided we’d make our own fun. I’d take the kids to San Diego for a quick overnight getaway while my husband worked. After pulling an all-nighter to ensure nobody had to go naked, wear their underpants inside out or dirty laundry dive, we were off to find our FUN spring break.

By the time we arrived, everyone was ranting and raving about how starving they were. Driving our over-sized family SUV in a crowded metropolitan area with one way only signs on every other street and crabby kids proved difficult. Finally we found a suitable watering hole.

While impatiently awaiting our food, kids visited the restroom in shifts. Shift #1 returned to the table sprinkled in water. It was reported that the toilet had shot water at them. I somehow managed to convince them we didn’t need to leave immediately to shower and change clothes. A family friendly conversation of explaining what and how a bidet is used followed, over lunch. The hole-in-the-wall Mediterranean fare was delicious and plentiful. One of the kids finding a small black spider meandering through his yellow rice? Not so much. Lunch came to an abrupt halt and we high tailed it out of there, feeling a bit queasy.

We checked in to the hotel. Kids rejoiced in jumping on the freshly made beds, watching tv, waving to passersby below from the balcony, drawing on the note pads, playing “hotel” on the unplugged room phone and making coffee…just because.image

Sunshine hid behind a thick grey blanket of clouds. We ventured out for dinner. After threatening to ship each of the complaining, bickering offspring back to the room, we returned. Together. We warmed up in our jammies. Just as we were settling in for the night…FIRE ALARM!

Through the deafening, relentless noise of the hotel fire alarm I barked at the kids to find their shoes. The girls immediately began sobbing, and dashed around the room gathering belongs they didn’t want to burn. Seeing their sisters fall apart, the boys’ tears began flowing. I tried shouting over the horrendous racket that it was probably a false alarm. My voice went unheard.

As quickly as the chaos ensued, it ended. We got word that indeed it had been a false alarm. Nevertheless, all kids were thoroughly rattled and begged to return home. Nope. We were going to stay and have fun, darn it.

We talked about what had happened. “Mommy said the F word”, said one kid in a hushed and questioning voice. Oh. That. I did recall some forbidden word escaping my lips when it all began. Shoot. “Well Mommies make mistakes too”, I replied. The whole trip seemed like one giant mistake at that point.

The next morning was rainy and cold. We got dressed in our skimpy summer clothes and headed out for morning gelato. I mean, why not? Our getaway had been an epic failure. With no umbrella and without warm clothes, I made the executive decision to leave that morning. Home had never sounded better.

To my surprise the kids didn’t want to leave. As I listened to each of them recount their favorite parts of the trip, it actually sounded like they’d enjoyed themselves. Really? It certainly hadn’t been what I’d envisioned.

The ups and downs are all part of it. Life. Our kids didn’t need our vacation to be epic. They don’t need perfection. Through it all they’d found the fun.

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QT With a Cutie

Extreme chaos and ear-splitting volume is simply the norm in our home. There are four young kids fiercely competing with each other in the “Parent’s Attention” playoffs. Each child tries to out do their sibling in an effort to be seen or heard. Kids can feel lost in the shuffle. It can be truly exhausting and overwhelming for everyone involved.

I’ve found that taking the time to connect with each child — alone — is invaluable. Finding that alone time can be incredibly difficult. Sometimes it requires pulling the cutie out of school for a few hours or dispersing siblings throughout the neighborhood. It’s amazing how different kids act when they’re plucked from the herd.

Without the need to outshine each other, calmness transcends. I’ve marveled at my kids’ behavior transformation when they’re alone. They act like completely different individuals. Thoughtful conversation replaces heated yelling.

My dear friend called to ask me what advice I might have to pass along to another friend of hers. The friend was in labor with their fourth baby. Without much thought I said, “regular alone time with each child”. That’s been one of the best kept secrets about how to stay sane while raising four spritely offspring. Sometimes it can be helpful in resetting a child’s bad behavior or poor choices. Any family with two or more kids can reap rewards from one-on-one time.

When the kids were younger, and they clung to me like monkeys, one-on-one quality time was a little different. Maybe it was reading a story while the others watched tv in another room. It often meant doing a craft with an older child, while their younger sibling napped. Sometimes it was baking cookies together while other kids played outside.

Recently I carved out QT with our oldest daughter. She and I were able to talk in a calm atmosphere without constant interruptions. We were able to bypass the constant sister bickering and connect in a way that simply isn’t possible with siblings present. I could listen without feeling guilty about ignoring another child.image

One-on-one time can be nothing more elaborate than driving home from water polo practice with only my little swimmer in the car. It’s rare, but once in awhile all the stars align and it’s just us. Listening to him eagerly tell me about his day for the five minute drive home? Priceless.image

My younger daughter found me last night as I was trying to sneak a quick shut eye. At first, I was irritated that I’d been discovered. But, when she sheepishly admitted that she wanted to snuggle with me, I welcomed her inside the warm covers. She simply needed me to listen with undivided attention. She categorically reviewed all of her body’s owies from head to toe. As we snuggled in bed, I could feel the day’s struggles melting away.

Kids grow up fast. By spending one-on-one time with each child, a clear message is conveyed. That child understands that they are important to you. I want each of my children to know they are loved and important.image

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Eleven Years and Counting

I watched as you confidently hopped out of our car this morning, adjusted your new floral cross body birthday purse, and walked next to me into the store. You looked so grown up.

It struck me then.

Eleven years ago today I was a terrified brand new mom. I’d suddenly gone into labor six weeks before my due date. The obstetrician at the hospital assured me that my baby was well on her way. Labor could not and would not be stopped.

As I lay on the rigid white hospital bed, shaking with fear and writhing in pain, I feared the future. This was not how it was suppose to happen. I hadn’t even had a chance to pack my hospital bag. I’d spent hours reading baby books in preparation for your much anticipated arrival. I’m a planner by nature and this was unplanned and undetermined.

imageWhen your bun is born six weeks before she was suppose to be finished baking in the oven, you worry. A lot. I didn’t know if you would be ok. Would you have developmental issues? What types of hurdles would we face? It all felt so uncertain and scary.image

imageAfter leaving my baby in the NICU for 14 agonizing days, to be cared for by strangers, we got to bring you home. I remember that day so well. It was a rainy, dreary day, much like today. Daddy and I were such rookies back them. Neither of us could believe that they trusted us to transport this tiny human, who came with zero instructions, in our car. Alone.image

Nurses wheeled me out in a wheelchair, despite the fact that I’d been released weeks ago. Baby Sarah Elizabeth lay in our gleaming, brand new infant car seat, carefully perched on my lap.

Strangers casually sauntered past us as we prepared to load our precious new cargo into our car. Nobody seemed to notice anything unusual as we embarked on our extraordinary journey into parenthood. Life around us seemed normal, unchanged.

The next several months were spent in a hazy sleep deprived state. You wouldn’t breastfeed from the source. So, every 2-3 hours, around the clock, I pumped my milk for you. Then, through your tears, and my own, I’d try unsuccessfully to get you to latch. I’d end up feeding you that liquid gold from a tiny bottle. We kept careful track of how many cubic centimeters you drank each time. A home nurse visited once a week to weigh you, help you latch and check you. Eventually you caught on.image

I was that freak of a mom, who today I would politely steer clear of. I called the pediatrician often. I needed to fix you. I wanted to make sure I was doing it all right. You were a colicky little thing and preferred to perform your nightly screamfest between the hours of 4pm and 2am. Nothing, I repeat nothing could get you to stop screaming. Daddy and I would take shifts pacing the hall of our little condo, hoping we weren’t waking neighbors and wondering if you’d ever stop.image

I’d felt like a giant failure during those hours. Daddy would rhythmically bounce you for hours in your ocean themed bouncy seat, to relieve me and soothe you. You’d calm down a little…until the bouncing stopped. That was a brutal phase.

Around four months old, your tummy issues simmered down and colic began to give way to smiles and high pitched giggles. I would spend hours with you asleep on my chest during the day; just breathing you in. I’d sit on our couch in our very first home, snuggling my nose into your baby fine hair; soaking up your baby scent and smiling. This was how I’d imagined it.image

imageimageNew moms are constantly comparing their babies to other babies the same age. I was no different. In the Mommy group that you and I attended, you were usually behind the other babies in development. But that day I watched you sit up all by yourself, on the floor of our little home, I knew you’d be fine.

It was you who crowned us Mommy and Daddy. Because of you we became parents. You schooled us in soiled diapers, owies, cutting teeth, puréed food and baby proofing from floor to ceiling. You.image

We have the honor of being your parents. You blazed the trail for your younger siblings. Thank you for deconstructing parenthood for us. We struggled a little less with each of your newborn siblings, because of you.

I tried not to allow my emotions to run away today as I watched you. Memories flooded my mind as I remembered.

So many memories.

You’re becoming a young lady. In doing so, you are taking us on another journey. This time it’s not about changing diapers, potty training or taking first steps.

We are here to guide you the best that we can. These years will be full of difficulty with friends. More than ever before, you’ll learn what it means to have a friend and to be a friend. You’ll learn lessons you never wanted to learn about friends. And that will be tough.

Right now it might seem as though your body is defying you, as it starts to change. I promise that part gets easier. That’s all I’ll say about that because I know you’re horrified that I’m even bringing it up.

Please know that we love you with all of our hearts. Sarah, you are everything to us. You will always have your family to lean on. Yes, even your obnoxious farting brothers, and meddling sister are here for you.

Just as I knew you’d be fine then, I know you will be fine — more than fine — now.

Happy 11th Birthday to our very first baby. We love you more than you know.image

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Miserable Mornings

The last door has slammed. Bickering children, hormonal girls and tears of frustration have piled in Daddy’s truck and are off to school. Our house now lays strangely silent.

Weekday mornings at our house are hectic. There are four young people with four distinctly different personalities all clamoring to get out the door in unison.imageimage

There is Slow Man. He operates at one speed: snail pace. Slow Man does not worry about making himself or others tardy for school. He’s definitely not a morning person and isn’t interested in eating breakfast before 10:00 am. Slow Man causes everyone around him to feel frustrated and angry.image

Then there’s the one who arises before the entire family, eats, gets dressed and is ready for school before the rest of us set foot downstairs. Fantastic. However, Early Riser will then linger about, watching everyone else stumble through their morning obstacle course — taunting and making unnecessary comments to her siblings. Usually the taunting ends with a giant outpouring of hormonal tears and shrieking. Doors slam. The house trembles.

I’m certain our neighbors think we all crazy. Later, when I see the smiling next door neighbor at the mailbox, I’ll wonder what was overheard and quickly avert my eyes with shame.

Don’t forget about Instigator. Instigator is well known across the land for striking up arguments. She stirs the pot knowing full well that she is brewing problems. Instigator has a knack for getting people fired up. Once they’re fired up, and they flip out, she enjoys playing the role of victim. She even finds humor in getting a sibling or three angry enough that they lose their temper and their minds.image

Last but not least, is Baby Bear. Baby Bear doesn’t usually cause problems. He’s the youngest and just content being along for the ride. He’s our one and only mellow child. His biggest fault is not being able to do many things on his own yet. During the morning flurry Baby Bear often gets lost in the shuffle. Sometimes he’ll take matters into his own hands for attention and to increase his standing in the unsanctioned Bottiaux kid ranking. He’s been known to strip naked and chase shrieking sisters and their friends around the house in order to put himself on the family map.image

In an effort to streamline our morning frenzy, we’ve tried a few things lately. Getting Slow Man’s outfit ready the night before seems to help him through his sluggish morning haze. Setting the timer helps put a jump in his step. He’s always up for a race; even if it’s against the clock.

Clear guidelines are necessary for the others before the drama begins. They need to know that starting fights will insure that their free time is filled with extra chores and revoked privileges.

Showing a little interest might be what’s needed. Maybe they’re acting out because they are worried about something happening at school. At my older daughter’s age, there are a lot of issues with friends. One day she’s in friend land and everyone is getting along beautifully. The next day, they’re enemies and she’s avoiding them at all costs. Taking a minute to draw out of each child what could be causing anxiety might lead to a more subdued morning.

Lunches. Oh how I dislike packing them. Nighttime assembly would be ideal. I know this. But, I’m exhausted and sick of cleaning up other people’s messes by the day’s end. So, project lunch box is handled in the morning.

Up until a few months ago we were cereal people. Easy. Suddenly I became a short order cook with bossy customers. One kid can’t live without his framed egg. Another needs an acai bowl with all the fixings. Porridge and protein shakes are on the morning menu too. The oldest can help with eggs and porridge. But, the high powered blender business is an adult matter.

One day, when they’re all grown, mornings won’t be so rushed, stressful or chaotic. In the meantime, I will try to find joy in providing them with healthy meals and a loving home.image

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Dana Point Discoveries

Today wasn’t a day that could be spent indoors. It was a clear, crisp day waiting to unfold before us. The aquamarine sky and sparkling ocean beckoned us. While all the big kids were in school, my youngest and I took a field trip to one of our favorite local spots.

The Dana Point Nature Interpretive Center and Trail System are local gems. There’s something for all ages inside the Nature Center. Kids can pop their heads up through a clear dome and gain the perspective of a small animal in a mini re-created headlands area. We learned about watersheds by listening to recorded information through headphones and examining an expansive wooden watershed model.imageimageimage
My son got to spin the species wheel. When the wheel stopped and pointed to an animal, he would eagerly locate the animal inside of the nature center. We dared to stick our hands into the mystery box and guess its contents. I braved the box first. I have to admit, I was a bit squeamish about reaching into a box involving unknown ingredients. I’ll give one hint: it doesn’t bite. As we marveled at the enormous hand painted mural that captures the era of Richard Henry Dana, Jr. it transported us back in time.image
Friendly and knowledgeable Docent, Tressa Lam provided a wealth of information. She explained how the prized Pacific Pocket Mouse is closely monitored by biologists within the confines of the conservation area. We got to speak with one of the biologists about the Pocket Mouse tracking system. Tracking tubes are used to measure the number of paw prints of these tiny fur balls. The mice, once thought to be entirely extinct, are hibernating in these Winter months, and will re-emerge March through October.image
Tucked away in 29.4 acres of conservation area, the Dana Point Headlands Conservation Area is home to many native plants and animals species. The Coastal California Gnatcatcher and the Pacific Pocket Mouse are on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Threatened and Endangered Species List. Both make their home in the conservation area. Coastal Sagebrush grows rampantly throughout the area. We were taught to rub the plant in our hands and then breathe in the fresh scent.
The mostly flat one mile trail is ideal for young children. We borrowed a pair of binoculars and took them out on the trail to enhance the already majestic panoramic views. As we walked the easy sand trail, we were serranaded by birds and the distant crashing of waves. The ocean shimmered and shone under the warm golden sun. The views on this clear day were breathtaking. Both of us enjoyed pointing out animal tracks and mysterious holes that were presumably animal’s homes.imageimage
People we encountered on the trail seemed happy. Some even stopped for casual conversation. Quick greetings and friendly smiles were exchanged with passersby. It was as if we had an unspoken understanding that this lovely location was a small slice of heaven. Visiting this place was a beautiful way to reconnect with nature, oneself and rediscover the simple pleasures in life.image

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The Cousin Experience

They’re on every young child’s holiday wish list. Our house certainly doesn’t need more of them. Toys are quickly forgotten, broken, outgrown or sucked up by the vacuum. Instead of giving in to their trendy toy desires, our extended family has created the Cousin Experience.

There are eight young cousins in our family. They range in age from five to thirteen years old. Every year we parents would frantically communicate with each other about our child’s top toy picks. Kids’ lists would include a wide variety of materialistic junk. We’d stress over ideas, race to stores, wrap the gifts and then haul the whole mess over to the celebration.

Family Christmas gatherings would yield a towering mountain of plastic packaging and heaps of shredded wrapping paper. Was there a way to improve upon the cousin Christmas? There had to be. We put our heads together and hatched a plan. I’m no Grinch, but limiting the amount of stuff our kids received sounded like a worthy idea.

More stuff.

More stuff.

With parents, siblings, cousins, grandparents and Santa delivering presents a plenty, kids were ending up with sleigh loads of stuff. Stuff is fun for a while. But, I can’t recall a single gift any of my kids received from a cousin over the years. It’s all mass produced, forgettable paraphernalia. Stuff is only special for a short while. When I asked them, there was a long awkward pause before my kids said simply they too couldn’t quite remember cousin gifts from Christmases past.

When the kids were younger we did allow them to exchange gifts. Cousins picked names from a hat and got a present for that person. In the early days, that route was easier than embarking on an experience. A few years ago we switched it up. What a great decision that was. We’ve never looked back.

Vivid memories of our day at CHILL at the Queen Mary last year are alive and well at family gatherings. Ice-skating with eight wobbly skaters rendered many screeches and plenty of hearty laughter. We narrowly avoided disaster when my daughter carelessly formed an arabesque on ice and nearly beheaded a nearby skater. Flying down the indoor ice hill on a sled, frigid wind blowing through their hair, beside cousins is priceless. Soaring through the air on swings from Neverland Ranch together twenty times in a row is a memory they’re sure to savor for years.

MJ's swings.

MJ’s swings.

Not the best place to strike a pose.

Not the best place to strike a pose.

A little help from a friend.

A little help from a friend.

Cousins on ice.

Cousins on ice.

This epic picture was taken while yours truly was in the restroom.

This epic picture was taken while yours truly was in the restroom.

One year we experienced an interactive pirate dinner theatre show together. Although the meal was barely fit for humans, the cousins bonded over watching skilled dancers fling themselves around on a giant pirate ship. They even braved the stage together at the show’s finale. It’s fun rehashing those pirate memories.

This year we’re planning a day trip on the train. We haven’t quite decided where our final destination lies. Maybe we’ll journey to San Diego for the day or possibly up to the City of Angels. It doesn’t matter where we go. It matters that we’ll all be together. One big loud, laughing bunch of cousins hanging out.

It’s not always easy to carve out quality cousin time. With everyone’s hectic schedules and busy lives, it gets tough to coordinate. We make the time though. The Cousin Experience allows us to bypass plastic stuff and have fun while creating crazy, happy memories together instead.

All the cousins with Grandma.

All the cousins with Grandma.

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‘Tis the Season: How I Survived Postpartum Depression

As my over active toddler yanked the sparkly ornament hanging on our Christmas tree, I frantically shouted “NO!” at him from upstairs.

Too late.

Our glimmering six foot live evergreen had already come crashing down onto the hardwood floor.

Precious ornaments in all shapes and sizes lay shattered all around the overturned tree. Water pooled on the floor, threatening to ruin that too. Hot, angry tears streamed down my face as I stared down at the mess below. Somehow I gathered myself together and hoisted the tree upright. Again it fell, breaking more ornaments and causing extra unwelcome stress and chaos.

Somehow, through my veil of tears, I captured the fallen tree.

Through my veil of tears, I captured a picture of the  fallen tree.

 

I’d given birth to our fourth child only two weeks before. Christmas was in full swing. My husband had already left on an international business trip and I was alone with our four children, all under the age of five. My life felt like it had spiraled out of control. For the first time ever, I knew that postpartum depression had sunken its ugly claws into my life.

Our first child shocked us all when she arrived six weeks early. It was unbearably difficult to leave my first born baby in the arms of strangers for two weeks in the NICU. Despite the frustration and sadness of leaving my baby, I never exprienced any postpartum depression. We welcomed two more babies over the next couple of years. Another premature delivery landed our baby in the NICU. Still, no depression. Life with three young kids was crazy and chaotic, but happy. I’d wanted to be a mom my entire life. I was living my dream.

But with the arrival of #4, things changed. I’d lost my rhythm. My toddler was the most challenging of all my kids and he was relentless. He fought me on everything from changing his diaper to afternoon naps. He’d take off running out the front door, buck naked, as I’d sit nursing the baby on the couch. As I’d change his brother’s diaper, he’d climb into the fridge, pull down all the glass jars and watch as they’d roll into the ground and explode. Things that had been somewhat easy with the first two kids, were exhausting and impossible with my tireless toddler.

I cried every single day. Sometimes my husband would come home from work, look at me, and I’d begin weeping again. I felt trapped. Friends and strangers would cheerfully tell me they had “no idea how I did it all”. Or, say “you’re amazing”.

I felt like a total fraud.

I was definitely not amazing at this mom gig anymore. The sad truth was I did not feel like I was doing any of it right. At all. I was barely scraping by. I wanted desperately to snap out of it. But, I couldn’t. Day after day, I endured.

There was no spare time to see a doctor of any kind for help. I didn’t feel that I could burden even my closest confidants with these innermost sorrows. After all, we’d planned all four of our children. We’d purposely had them close together too. I didn’t want anyone to think I was searching for sympathy by unloading my deep, dark struggles. My oldest was in preschool, but only for a few hours a week. I was shackled with young kids all day every day. My days were confining.image

I thought about the mom suffering from postpartum depression I’d heard of on the news who’d drowned all three of her children in the tub during their evening bath. I could relate.

And that terrified me.

That first year of life with four very young children is mostly a blur. I finally saw a doctor who, after I broke down sobbing in her office, prescribed antidepressants for me. Although I knew I wouldn’t be able to follow through, she made me agree to see a therapist.

Time passed. I religiously swallowed the magical little pill daily. I could feel myself regaining control and confidence. Although I was steadily returning to my normal self, I worried about what would happen when I stopped taking the antidepressant.

Would my life once again begin imploding?

After nearly a year, I slowly weaned myself from the medicine. It was scary. Uncertain. With four children and a husband, who relied on me, there was no time for a relapse. I didn’t know if I was up for the challenge.

But, I did it.

I completely stopped taking the antidepressant. Life slowly resumed a new normal. I haven’t had any intense, long-term depression since. I’ve experienced normal days of gloomy sadness. But, I always come out the other side fairly quickly.

Any type of depression carries a social stigma. It’s not entirely acceptable to admit to having depression; being faulty. Imperfect. As a new mom of four, I’d felt immense pressure to publicly perform. I was constantly watched and judged by others wherever I went. At the grocery store, I’d have three little ones crammed into a shopping cart, and the baby strapped to my abdomen. I was a traveling circus and a sight to behold.

My advice to the mamas who are experiencing postpartum depression is: keep going. Put one foot in front of the other. Reach out to other moms. When I had a smaller batch of kids I was involved in various mommy groups. It’s helpful to have a play date at the park with a group of moms sharing many of your struggles. Despite the impossible schedule that a quad of young kids imposes, I wish I’d forced myself to attend playgroups and Mom’s nights outs.

Seek counseling. It’s difficult to find a regular daytime babysitter who will babysit very limited hours. But, they’re out there. Swap babysitting with another mom. Fully unleashing my anxiety, grief and nonstop sadness onto someone whom I didn’t need to impress with my Mom skills would’ve been blissful. Get out of the house. Visit the park and soak in the fresh air and sunshine. Walk the mall if it’s rainy or cold.

I’m not sure my road out of the depths of postpartum depression was the ideal exit strategy. But, it worked for me. Those dark days are now only a memory from five years ago. My baby turned five years old today. Remembering how it was then brings up emotions I buried years ago.

I no longer have excessive anxiety surrounding messing up as a mom. I’m learning alongside my kids. I’m exploring uncharted territory with my ten year old that I only knew to be true in movies. Made for Hollywood sassiness, off the charts hormones and the ability to keep loving her, even after she screams “I hate you” at me.

In other words, I still generally have no clue what I’m doing. But, I’m figuring it out as I go. And I’m not afraid to laugh about my mistakes, and keep going.image

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Yoga Pants or Heels?

Yoga pants are my mom uniform. I throw on a tank top, pull on my trusty stretchy and oh so comfy yoga pants and I’m ready to go in under five minutes. They hold everything securely in place. I’m no eye shadow blending, hair curling, accessorizing daily diva. But, being ready in under 5 could never happen without yoga pants involved. Workout wear is the socially acceptable way to look like we slept under a bus. It says “I’m sporty and active and maybe even just exercised”.image

There are moms who look jaw dropping amazing every day. I am not one of them. I belong to the get ready as fast as possible, without looking 100% homeless in the end, club. If I’ve showered, blow dried and have slathered on under eye concealer, to hide evidence of my sleep deprivation, I’ve gone to great lengths to prepare myself.

You know about those moms. They look like they’re ready for date night all day, every day. They’re perfectly polished. Coifed. Manicured. They appear drop dead gorgeous. How do they have the time to dress up like runway models every single day? Their hair perfectly curled in those long, loose ringlets. I’ve never mastered that tress technique. Their outfits look like they’re straight out of a glossy fashion magazine.

Those heels. Women everywhere know that heels are not our friends. Heels, after a few kids is miserable. Heels, post-kids, hiking into the elementary school for an hour of helping in junior’s class, or enduring a PTA meeting, is sheer hell. At school pick up time, I watch as they float along in their teetering heels. The sidewalk is their runway, as they strut their stuff. Hand in hand with ‘Lil Susie, their hair blowing ever so slightly in the gentle breeze, not a trace of the uncomfortable misery on their faces. But I know. I know they’re suffering. Extreme effort and sometimes even pain is required to uphold the latest trends.

As I sneak glances at them, I try to not to feel shame. Should’ve taken the time to blow dry my hair. It’s crazy frizzy and I look like I’m channeling Tina Turner. Not cool. I’m now on the three week plan at my hair salon. Unwelcome grey roots shoot up every three weeks. Seriously? I’m not ready to look 76 years old quite yet. No way can I get in there every three weeks to have them painted into oblivion though. Shoot. Forgot to wipe off all those smears off my black yoga pants. What is that all over them, anyway? No make-up. I’m officially organic today. Teeth. I’ll brush extra carefully at bedtime. No close talking for me.

No matter how we’re packaged on the outside, we all share similar mom struggles. Our toddlers throw their spaghetti on the dog and our mouthy tweens complain about pretty much everything. Laundry is the enemy. Coffee and wine are our cohorts. We endlessly remind kids to clean up their messes. We spend too much money at Target and forget what even prompted us to stop there in the first place. We lie awake in bed at night worrying about if we’re doing it all right. We over schedule and undercook. We try to strike just the right balance within our traveling circus act. We love our little monsters so much it hurts, and who make the title, “Mom” possible.

What I’ve learned about fancy moms and frizzy moms, is that we’re all doing the best we know how. (And sincerely hoping we don’t lose our marbles trying).
Yoga pants are my mom uniform. I throw on a tank top, pull on my trusty stretchy and oh so comfy yoga pants and I’m ready to go in under five minutes. They hold everything securely in place. I’m no eye shadow blending, hair curling, accessorizing daily diva. But, being ready in under 5 could never happen without yoga pants involved. Workout wear is the socially acceptable way to look like we slept under a bus. It says “I’m sporty and active and maybe even just exercised”.

There are moms who look jaw dropping amazing every day. I am not one of them. I belong to the get ready as fast as possible, without looking 100% homeless in the end, club. If I’ve showered, blow dried and have slathered on under eye concealer, to hide evidence of my sleep deprivation, I’ve gone to great lengths to prepare myself.

You know about those moms. They look like they’re ready for date night all day, every day. They’re perfectly polished. Coifed. Manicured. They appear drop dead gorgeous. How do they have the time to dress up like runway models every single day? Their hair perfectly curled in those long, loose ringlets. I’ve never mastered that tress technique. Their outfits look like they’re straight out of a glossy fashion magazine.

Those heels. Women everywhere know that heels are not our friends. Heels, after a few kids is miserable. Heels, post-kids, hiking into the elementary school for an hour of helping in junior’s class, or enduring a PTA meeting, is sheer hell. At school pick up time, I watch as they float along in their teetering heels. The sidewalk is their runway, as they strut their stuff. Hand in hand with ‘Lil Susie, their hair blowing ever so slightly in the gentle breeze, not a trace of the uncomfortable misery on their faces. But I know. I know they’re suffering. Extreme effort and sometimes even pain is required to uphold the latest trends.

As I sneak glances at them, I try to not to feel shame. Should’ve taken the time to blow dry my hair. It’s crazy frizzy and I look like white girl Tina Turner. Not cool. I’m now on the three week plan at my hair salon. Unwelcome grey roots shoot up every three weeks. Seriously? I’m not ready to look 76 years old quite yet. No way can I get in there every three weeks to have them painted into oblivion though. Shoot. Forgot to wipe off all those smears off my black yoga pants. What is that all over them, anyway? No make-up. I’m officially organic today. Teeth. I’ll brush extra carefully at bedtime. No close talking for me.

No matter how we’re packaged on the outside, we all share similar mom struggles. Our toddlers throw their spaghetti on the dog and our mouthy tweens complain about pretty much everything. Laundry is the enemy. Coffee and wine are our cohorts. We endlessly remind kids to clean up their messes. We spend too much money at Target and forget what even prompted us to stop there in the first place. We lie awake in bed at night worrying about if we’re doing it all right. We over schedule and undercook. We try to strike just the right balance within our traveling circus act. We love our little monsters so much it hurts, and who make the title, “Mom” possible.

What I’ve learned about fancy moms and frizzy moms, is that we’re all doing the best we know how. (And sincerely hoping we don’t lose our marbles trying).

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Those Crazy, Hazy Holidays

The holidays are upon us. Goblins, turkeys and a jolly old man are waiting to launch their annual extravaganzas. Although the weather remains blazing hot, Summer has come to a screeching halt. Kids of all ages, from preschool to college, have resumed their studies. Time for phase two.

Happy Halloween. Or, maybe I should just go ahead and wish everyone a very Merry Christmas. Because, let’s face it, as soon as it’s Halloween it’s already basically the big Daddy of all holidays. The holidays all seem to happen at lightning speed. By the time Christmas is over, I’m out of breath, fanning myself with a Christmas card wondering what just hit me.

Halloween kicks off the mayhem, innocently enough. Pumpkins are carved into jack-o-lanterns, skeletons with glow in the dark eyes are propped up on our porches, eerie grey tomb stones stand tall, speared into our front lawns. Children play dress up for a night with all their neighborhood pals. They morph into witches, goblins, ninjas, princesses and every other disguise imaginable.image image image

As they consume ridiculous amounts of, normally outlawed, sweets that sky rocket their blood sugar and drop kick their sanity — we plummet deeper into the excess. Before we can say “Boo!” all the Halloween decorations are yanked down and packed away in bulging plastic bins for next year. One more minor obstacle on the road to Yuletide euphoria — time to gobble ’til we wobble.

My favorite decorations are that of Thanksgiving. The thankful theme is one that I truly enjoy partaking in with family. We started the thankful tree tradition. Last year I purchased that over priced little thankful tree from Pottery Barn Kids, the store with whom I have a love/hate relationship. Love to shop there; hate the prices. On Thanksgiving everyone writes something for which they’re thankful on a paper leaf, hangs it on the tree and we read about each other’s thankfulness over turkey and cranberries during dinner.imageimageimage

Thanksgiving colors are relaxing and peaceful, like a Hawaiian sunset. Tangerine oranges with blazing crimsons. Beiges, browns and burlap galore with hints of gold. I’d happily leave all things Thanksgiving strategically placed throughout my home, all year long. That is, if it weren’t for you know what.

Whatever happened to Christmas being about the big JC, anyway? It’s turned into a colossal spectacle of greed, materialism and overconsumption. There are so many December hoops required to jump through in order to reach the grand prize. Ho, ho…HELP!image
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Creating that December to remember is nothing short of self inflicted torture. It’s truly insane the amount of things we attempt to pack into one magical month. Besides the shopping, baking, caroling, churching and dragging the wee ones to sit on mall Santa’s lap, there’s the daunting decorating. The tree. Real or fake? No matter, it all requires lots of work. The set up, the tear down. December 26 is the day, and not one day later, we pull the plug on Christmas in our home. By that time, if I see another pine needle or sparkly bit of tinsel on the floor, I’ll simply explode.

On that note, Happy Holidays, to you and yours.