“No” means…No.

No means no. No has always meant no. But, for whatever reason, we allow ourselves to be persuaded, to be accommodating, to compromise our boundaries. I have spent hours (literally days) in therapy and boundaries are huge. One needs to set boundaries and maintain those boundaries. Once boundaries are crossed, wheels are set into motion that shouldn’t have even been moved.

 

Examples…

Hannah: Please mommy, please I want to go outside.
Me: No, Hannah. For the 8th time (honestly, it was), we are not going outside, we do not have your snow gear and we’re staying inside. Period. No more asking.
3rd party: Hannah, would you like to go outside?
Hannah: YES!!!!

That situation showed Hannah that what Mommy has to say doesn’t matter. The 3rd party in that situation usurped me as a parent, undermined me as a parent, crossed a boundary that I had set for my child. My child saw and heard me be treated as less than a parent.

Me: No, I don’t want my children to walk down the icy hill.
3rd party: (physically taking Hannah’s hand), Let’s go Hannah, “be brave!”
Me: No. (physically taking Hannah’s hand) No, Hannah. It’s too icy, hold my hand.
3rd party: Took one step and fell down hard on the ice.

That situation also showed Hannah that what Mommy has to say doesn’t matter. And physically crossed the boundary by taking her hand after I had said NO. Also, implying that I’m not brave. That by choosing to not walk on the ice, I was in fact the opposite. I was cowardly.

Me: Do not cut Eliza’s hair.
3rd party: I know you said not to, but we cut Eliza’s hair.
Me: Complete and utter meltdown. I couldn’t even speak for hours, I was so upset. I had specifically said in 5 words, crystal clear, “Do not cut Eliza’s hair”.

That situation is by far the most undermined I have ever felt as a parent. My baby girl had her first haircut by someone I didn’t know. Someone I didn’t trust. Someone who had no regard for her precious little baby curls and threw them all away. Eliza’s hair went from long and flow-y to short blunt bangs, short blunt sides and a chopped off backside. No more long, almost 3 year old baby curl she has had her whole life. That is in some barbershop’s trash can. But that isn’t the worst of it. Hair will grow back. I will grow out the bangs she was given against my wishes. I will grow out the sides that were cut against my wishes. It is just hair; it will grow.

What will not grow back is the boundary that I had set. One rule. One boundary. Please do not cross it. Eliza will never know how atrocious her hair cut is. She has only heard and seen me be supportive of it. I am taking her in to *my* barber tomorrow. The barber I trust, the barber I know. She can fix Eliza’s hair. She cannot fix the broken boundary though.

Boundaries. We are supposed to learn about them as children, and then throughout life learn how to set appropriate ones for ourselves, and subsequently our children. I never realized how hard it was going to be to maintain these boundaries. I never realized I would be fighting  a constant battle to keep my position as parent. But the fact remains; I am the parent. I set the boundary. You are not; you respect the boundary. And if you choose to disrespect the boundary; know that you are sending a message that screams undermining…insolence… and I am left feeling less than. But, I am not. I am not less than.

 

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In Pictures

There is such a gap in my writing, that it’s easiest to catch up in pictures. The girls grew so much in these last several months, I’m glad that even though I wasn’t writing, I was still snapping pictures. Pictures can sometimes tell more than an entire story…

 

IMG_3567Summer canning session, this year both girls helped and it was awesome. Hannah is watching me type this now and is asking when we can do tomatoes again!
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Some mornings were just spent lounging, all my girls.

 

 

 

 

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First day of preschool (3 days a week this year!). At our parent/teacher conferences this year, she had a stellar review. Plays well with everyone, wants to try everything, is always willing to help, and turns out… she’s very social :) lol

 

 

 

 

IMG_3668And then of course, there was the foot surgery. An achilles tendon restructure AND a bunion-ectomy. Zelda really didn’t leave my side.

 

 

 

IMG_3791It was during this time, the Wii was dusted off. Dance Party time! And Hannah has learned how to play Legend of Zelda AND Super Mario brothers. Hand/eye coordination, right?

 

 

 

IMG_4137Finally, my foot healed enough I could make my way back into the kitchen to soap. And when I soap, the girls soap :) We’ve done great this year with our soap adventures. The girls have had their little hands on every part of the process (except of course the dangerous lye part). I’m pretty sure, squishing the soap butts into “house” bars is their favorite part.

 

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Nutcracker tradition, year 3. And this was by far, the best of them. Hannah knew what to expect and loved it! We even got to meet some ballerinas on our way out and touch their pretty outfits.

 

 

 

And to end the year, a surprise visit from Santa!!!

IMG_4344Hannah and Santa
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Eliza gave Santa many, many hugs. She couldn’t have been more adorable.

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If you don’t have anything nice to say…

One of the phrases that I will always remember being taught as a kid. “If you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all.” Perhaps, the hardest thing for me is the keeping quiet part.

My blog has been deafeningly quiet. And that’s because I haven’t had anything nice to say. My last post was about hope and despair, and I was in probably the lowest point in my life I have ever been. Even lower than when I was 20, and tried to kill myself. Yes, I said it. Outloud, for the whole world to hear. I was at such a horrible place when I was younger…lost, confused, feeling too much, I couldn’t get out; and felt the only way out was to drink a bottle of whiskey and take 5 boxes of sleeping pills. I was selfish and not thinking of anyone but me. I wasn’t thinking of my parents or my siblings or any of my family. I was just caught up in too much angst and couldn’t see any light.

For whatever reason, my suicide attempt did not work. I can only assume it’s because I had things yet to do. And I see now, those 2 things are named Hannah and Eliza. And every day, every day I am so grateful for them. During these last 6+ months of darkness I have found myself in, Hannah and Eliza have helped balance it out. They remind me of everything good and innocent and young and worthwhile. I can now finally say, I’m no longer in a place of despair. I have found strength and courage. I am a grown woman who has given birth to 2 children; I wear those scars and stretch marks proudly. My body has changed. I am closing in on 40. I will never again be 22 and that’s okay. I don’t want to be. I am older and wiser. I am proud of who I have become and who I am continuing to become.

And to those who are imposters. I can’t be like you. And I will never understand you. A friend of mine recently blogged about that here. And I keep thinking of her post and realizing that I have to let it go. The hatred I have of impostor(s). Those who know they’ve done so wrong, so very, very wrong and damaged others; yet pretend they are the best. They give the world a view of them that is nothing but perfect and beautiful. They don’t acknowledge the pain they’ve caused, nor accept any responsibility. As my friend said, it’s not about you, it’s about them and their inabilities. Their inabilities to deal with what they’ve done or not done. It’s not about me. And so, I am letting go of my impostor anger. I need that energy for myself.

I’ve missed writing. I’ve missed sharing the cute little day to day stories that the girls are constantly giving me. And now that I am at peace with my anger and letting it go, and feeling stronger in myself – I will write. This blog has always been for my girls, a way to share with them what life was like when they were little. And there is a 6 month gap of so many amazing little girl stories. It’s time to catch up :)

 

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Hope and Despair

Hope and despair – could they be any further apart from one another? They’re opposite ends of the spectrum and yet those are the two feelings I find myself battling with/struggling with every day.

I’ve been silent on the technology front. So silent that I’ve gotten a surprising amount of emails and texts asking if I’m okay. Those friends who have reached out to me, asking if I’m okay, have given me glimmers of hope in some very desperate days. So, thank you to those who’ve noticed and commented on my absence. I’m on a technology break. As much as I have embraced technology over the years, I need to step back from it. Particularly Facebook…I used to love throwing out random, useless, non-sense onto Facebook daily. It was fun, it was nothing, it was a quick way to briefly connect with others. But now, all I see are people throwing out fake joy. Covering up what is really going on, pretending life is okay, when it is anything but. And when I know, I know what is going on in their lives and I see their ‘status updates’, it irritates me to a point that isn’t healthy. So, I’m on a break.

Despair. I honestly can’t recall ever feeling as desperate as I have these last few months. I have never been at a point this low in my life, ever. You know when you’re just chugging along through life, living your day, raising your kids, doing what you do – and then in one instant, all of that is taken away. You go from, I’m happy, I have a really good life – to, what just happened? What is going on? Why? What am I doing? What is this mess I call life?

Hope. I need some. I need some hope. I need to find a way for some inner peace and calm. How do you find it? I know so many find peace and calm in church, I don’t. I just don’t. Where else do you find it? How do you pull it out from within? How do you do it? How do you make it through the bad times? I’ve had some really good conversations with my mom and some friends about bad times. Everyone has them. Every relationship has them. Some people own them and some don’t. But, it’s how you deal with the bad, that matters. I’ve decided to face the bad head on and deal with it, I won’t run from it.

Please share with me some of your strong words; that help you get through the bad, that help you and your heart heal.

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Following Through

SoapIt’s one of those things that is considered a ‘fault’ of mine, I’m sure many others have the same fault. Not finishing what you started. My husband reminded me the other night that I’ve got a pretty good track record of starting things and not finishing them. It’s true. It’s not something I’m proud of or that I even like to admit to myself. But, this time, with my soap business, I am following through. It is taking some serious time, but I am committed. And excited!

I’d never really been content working for the man, but I did it because that’s what you do. When I was about to have Hannah and was trying to figure out a way to work at home and make money while taking care of a newborn, my movie business was born. I thought it was a neat idea…take peoples photographs, add music and waa-laa, give them a beautiful movie back. I hadn’t thought about how much care a newborn needs, much less how to promote this new wackadoo business idea I had. So, of course, it failed. I did have a few orders though and those few were really happy with my work. But, my idea tanked.

A few months ago when I decided to make my own soap, I had the same sort of wackadoo thinking going on….hey, what if I were able to make this into a business? Like, a real business?? I tried to take a much more professional approach (it helps when there is no newborn, but just a 2 and 4 year old). I established a set of trials. 15 friends volunteered to accept every soap sample I gave them, in exchange for filling out an online survey detailing their experience with the soap. Reading all their feedback really gave me the inspiration to keep going. I felt like I was on to something. People were liking what *I* was making. Crazy! So, I kept moving forward; applying for tax permit, establishing an LLC, applying for area markets, etc.

And now, I have a business! Green Mama Soaps, LLC – A Natural Clean. I can’t help but think I should be more excited than I am about this, but I’m feeling a bit torn right now. My business is taking off, people are actually buying my soap. They do like it. But as with all things, something has to suffer. Last week as I was trying to get a handle on orders and shipping and packaging and everything that comes with the 1st week of opening a new business, Hannah says to me, “Mommy, you should take a break. You aren’t taking care of us.” Brought me to my knees. Literally. I stopped stacking boxes of soap in the basement and came over to kneel down by her on the stairs. I gave her my full attention so she could tell me what was on her mind. She talked, I listened. I can completely understand how having Mommy’s attention 24/7 and then suddenly seeing Mommy take an interest in something OTHER than the children, would be upsetting. We talked about how I can do both, I just have to find the right balance.

Part of our compromise was that I would only make soap while they are sleeping, which is what I already do anyway. Working with lye isn’t exactly kid-friendly. And the other part of our compromise was to have Hannah be more involved. Even if it is only carrying soap boxes, she wants to help. I get that. And I love that. I told her she can always help me. So, here I am…another new business idea. I’m trying to be optimistic. I will succeed. I will follow through. I will make soap, and I will sell soap!

Please, check out my website (completely created by myself, with much, much hair-loss) and give my soap a try. No chemicals, just love and nature. And if you like it, tell your friends, maybe you can help me succeed :)

 

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The Change

I never saw it coming. When I was a kid and even when I was an older kid in college, I couldn’t spend enough money on disposable, chemical-laden, fragrance-filled products. I didn’t care where it came from, I didn’t care who made it, and I really could have cared less what was actually *in* it. And that pretty much applied to anything; food, random bath products, clothes, perfume…I just didn’t care.

Fast forward to hearing that I am pregnant with Hannah. That moment right there, is when I can pinpoint the change beginning; when it wasn’t about me any more. I had a little someone growing inside of me, I had to start being more aware. Of everything. I listened to every word the doctors had to say. And I read every book and online article I could find about being a new mommy. That’s when decisions like natural childbirth, doulas, nursing, cloth-diapering, babyfood making, baby-wearing, and all sorts of other things came up that the younger-non-pregnant-me, would have NEVER considered. I started to joke about turning into a hippie.

But now, I think I can safely say I have completed that metamorphosis. And it’s something I’m really, pretty happy about. It’s not like we’re living in a commune or anything, but we are making much greener, and more aware choices. A hearty dose of documentaries is seeing to that. This spring,  we’ll get our first “farm delivery”. We decided to spend the money up front and go in on a CSA. 4 years ago, I wouldn’t have known what those letter stood for, today I still forget what they stand for, but I get the gist…we get produce every single week of the growing season, grown by a local farmer, free of pesticides and chemicals. We’ve also stopped buying hormone and crap infested cow milk and beef, and are looking at local farms to buy that from as well.

And, to top it all off, I taught myself how to make soap. After telling Mom about my newest adventure, turns out Nana used to make her own soap too! Maybe that’s why Pandora is always throwing me the Andrews Sisters and Glenn Miller while I’m soaping…  I love it though, I love making a product that is full of nothing but good things. Pure olive oil, coconut oil, mango butter, essential oils…no beef tallow. Did you know most soaps you buy are made with rendered beef fat?! They use fancy pretty words to disguise it, but there it is. You are cleaning your hands with pieces of cow. (okay, not like his tail or anything, but ewww.)

IMG_3013I’ve gotten so into my soap making, that I have decided to turn it into a business. I can only assume that there are others out there like me…new to hippie-hood and appalled at what they’ve been slathering on their bodies for years. So, mark your calendars for June 1, 2013. That is when I will unveil the website I’ve been working on, and start selling my hand-crafted soaps. http://www.greenmamasoaps.com/

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Koch Family Vacation, Part Two

cabinLike I was saying, this Vacation In The Woods we’d planned, is not exactly my kind of vacation. And yet, I was the one cheerleading for this cabin, this spot, in these mountains. It was like, as soon as we decided we were actually going to do this, I wanted to do it right. I wanted a good old-fashioned, family vacation. And what’s a family vacation if not hours and hours of each others’ company in the car, with a kick-ass cabin on the other end of the ride? Add to that, our friends and their kids…it’s like a never-ending play date for kids and grown ups!

I don’t really remember it, but there are pictures to prove I was on this very kind of vacation when I was little. But the cabin we went to in up-north Wisconsin, was a bit more on the “rustic” side. I don’t do rustic. If I’m going to be in the woods, I’m going to need to be able to *really* enjoy my indoor time. I don’t want to be outside, frying spam on the campfire or something…I want to be inside, pouring drinks and looking at the outside through the really big windows. And, vacationing with 2 former Eagle Scouts ensures the kids will be aired out. So of course while they were airing, I was enjoying the solitude and looking through the big window. (Amber wasn’t able to make the trip, so I really did have solitude when the guys had the kids.) Though, it’s not like I spent the whole time indoors; there was plenty of outside time. Just not as much as the guys :)

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We had packed our build-a-fort thing, thinking it might be fun on a rainy day. It kept Lance occupied for awhile anyway.

 

 

 

 

IMG_2778One morning was ideal weather for a hike. Or so says the outdoorsmen. I do have to admit, it was really pretty cool. We walked out our back door, down into the ravine, and into nature. After a while, we found a river to walk along. Look closely and you’ll see a black and brown blur that is Zelda. Without a doubt, Zelda had the best time of her life on this vacation. She spent most of her time in the woods, hunting bear.
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On our last day there, we bon-fired. The kids, the guys and the dog were all happily hunting and gathering sticks and wood. It’s like I could hear them beating their chests and grunting the whole time…

 

 

IMG_2812This is my favorite picture from the whole trip. It sums up our vacation perfectly. Friends and family, spending quality time together without any stress or troubles getting in the way. For this, it is worth the 2 day car ride. :)

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Koch Family Vacation, Part One

Almost 4 months ago, we were talking with some really good friends of ours, trying to figure out a way and a time, to all get together. They live in Florida now and that’s a pretty long drive, and a pretty expensive plane ride. So instead, we decided to choose a central-ish spot and turn it into a together vacation. A little googling later and I had zero’d in on what I thought was a great spot in the southern Smokies. It wasn’t exactly halfway, it made for more driving on our end. But it was worth it. It was worth every single mile we put in.

The alarm started going off at 3:30am. We couldn’t actually *get* out of bed until 4:00am, but then were out the door and on the road by 4:30am. The theory was, that it would still be so early and so dark outside, the kids would just go right back to sleep. That theory did not hold. Those first 3 or so hours on the road were brutal, Lance and I were both just so tired. And the girls kinda were, but not enough to actually sleep. Instead, there were many questions and much squawking. Much squawking.

But then we fell into a nice groove of driving, stopping, driving, stopping, all the while trying very hard to not get too irritated by the constant barrage of “I want…” or “SQUAAWWK”. I say we, but really I mean me. Lance was driving, so I had the privilege of being the fetching-parent. Some old-school parents may say that children should be able to sit quietly and do road trips just fine. And some probably do. But ours need books, crayons, snacks, orange-water, ipads, iphones, cooing to, and general maintenance. I was determined to find some inner zen and be as chill as I could. Which means, no yelling. But, after having driven about 570 miles in 13 hours, my zen was gone. I had a hold of Eliza’s big toe and threats were made… Lance suggested maybe we try and find a hotel for the night.

Perhaps I wasn’t paying close enough attention to my surroundings, perhaps my brain was a little fried…hard to say. But I heard the dude on the phone at hotels.com, say Holiday Inn Express, saw one down the road, and just assumed. I’m sure you know where this is going. I tried to check us into a hotel we didn’t have reservations at. Another 10 mile drive down the road and we were good; checked in, jammied up and eating supper. The next morning, I insisted I be the driver. I don’t know why it hadn’t occurred to me earlier in the trip, but if *I’m* the driver, I don’t have to be the fetcher. Genious. Zen returned instantly. And the 2nd day of driving was much more scenic than the first. Much hillier and curvier too. At one point, I asked Lance what he’d just said. He said, “I didn’t say anything, I just gasped.”

I remember when I was mapping out and planning this trip, being confused by the drive time compared to the miles. I figured no way could it take 5.5 hours to go 330 miles! Pfft. Totally forgotten what mountain driving was like. But then I saw the truck lanes and the runaway truck ramps start showing up, and I remembered. I used to LOVE driving in the mountains, but of course haven’t seen a mountain in years. Thinking about it now, I can understand why Lance was gasping. I was having fun flying up and down the mountains; it was probably pretty terrifying for Lance.

IMG_2760That second day was only 333 miles. When we got to the town of Ellijay, Georgia, we took some serious backroads up into the woods. From there, it was all off the map. The roads were narrow and full of twists and turns. It was breathtaking. We were leaving civilization behind and going into nature. I joked one night that I was smack dab in the middle of everything I don’t like. But for this trip, I liked it. I liked everything about it. We had an unbelievable cabin to call home, and we had the woods right outside our back door. And yes, that is Zelda’s tail you see in the bottom right corner. She came on vacation too :)

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Cherry Vanilla Almond Granola

GranolaI love granola. Love it. I eat it dry; right out of my hand. And, since I’m a stay at home mom, I feel like I need to make things…like, from scratch. Turns out, granola is one of those really, surprisingly, easy things to make. I’ve tried a few different recipes, but was never particularly wow-ed by them, so I figured I might as well come up with my own. The key, for me, is to not have any honey in it. I hate honey. I know it’s a great sugar alternative, and it helps glob things together, but I don’t like it. So, when I found jar after jar of “naturally” flavored agave nectar in the good-for-you-section, I got pretty excited. I grabbed a vanilla one and then went looking for other things that would go well with it.

Yesterday, I put the girls down for their nap, sent Lance off to his volleyball game and started playing kitchen. This is what I came up with:

4 cups oats
2 cups coconut
1/2 cup ground flax seed
1/2 cup wheat germ
hearty sprinkle of cinnamon
1 cup slivered almonds (don’t add until later)
1 cups chopped up dried cherries (don’t add until later)

1/2 cup coconut oil (melted)
1/2 cup agave nectar, vanilla flavored

In a large bowl, mix all the dry together (saving the fruit and nuts for later), then stir in the gooey. Spread the mixture over wax paper on a cookie sheet and bake at 325 for ~30 minutes. It browns quickly, so stir every 10 minutes; add the fruit and nuts at the first 10 minute stir. Let it air dry and cool for a couple hours before bagging up.

*the wheat germ…I honestly have no idea why I put that in, I saw it in the store and thought “huh, that sounds healthy and should go in too.”

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I Love My Tribe

Not too long ago I read an article about Mom Tribes. I don’t remember much about the article other than these moms have found each other, become friends, and help one another clean house and take care of their children. It’s like a little community they formed. I have that; I am in a Mom Tribe. They don’t clean my house, but that’s just a matter of time…

This morning, Eliza had an appointment scheduled to meet with a pediatric gastroenterologist. I had been anxiously awaiting this appointment, hoping for some answers. But because of the snowstorm, the offices were closed and all appointments canceled. Shit. We made this appointment 2 weeks ago when her pediatrician exhausted all the other possibilities. So, for the last 2 weeks Eliza has continued to have a variety of symptoms while we waited for today.

My tribe was on it. I got recommendations for other specialists, emotional support and even a little comfort knowing others in my tribe have been down this same road. That’s the thing about being in a group like this, you’re never alone. Someone has always been there, done that and are more than willing to offer up advice and support. Sometimes, I’m one of them offering advice and support, and sometimes I’m the one needing it.

Then, one of my friends called me. (like, on the phone!) She wanted to hear more about how Eliza was doing and offer up her knowledge about Celiac in case that was the road we end up going down. Just her reaching out made me feel better. And then listening to her talk about how completely manageable it is, and how easy it is to eat a gluten-free diet these days, I relaxed some more about what the testing may show. Sure, I can google around (already have) and read about how easy a gluten-free diet is, but hearing it from a friend makes it more true.

I love my tribe. I love that we can watch each other’s children at a moment’s notice, that we feel comfortable watching each others’ children. I love that there are women in my tribe I wouldn’t have otherwise met. I love that I’m surrounded by so much knowledge. And, I love that we all pretty much have the same mission; stay home, raise the kids, keep the house, and try not to have a beer before the husband gets home from work.

This is my tribe. If you’re in Des Moines and need a tribe, I’m pretty fond of mine :)

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