I’m in Business!

Those of you who know me outside of this blog may know that I am NOT a natural saleswoman.  I used to hate school fundraisers unless they were something really easy like candy bars because those basically sold themselves.  Otherwise I just wasn’t interested.  That being said, I’ve decided to become a Rodan & Fields saleswoman!  You can check out my website here.  But before you do so, read on to find out WHY I’ve decided to do something that comes so unnaturally to me.sales

Those of you who know me outside of this blog also probably know that I’ve struggled with acne for most of my life, since I was ten years old to be exact.  At various times I’ve tried various & sundry different creams & solutions, both OTC & rx.  I had moderate success with some & no success at all with others.  I even tried doxycycline, an oral antibiotic, for a few months a few years ago, & while I had reasonable success with that it was obviously not a long term solution.r and f

As someone who’s struggled with acne my entire teenage & adult life I wasn’t exactly shocked to find that pregnancy hormones were not kind to my face.  However, when my acne got even worse in the first few months postpartum, I was starting to panic.  Obviously I couldn’t go back on doxycycline while breastfeeding (& even if I “could” have, I wouldn’t have felt comfortable doing that).  I was getting desperate! regimen image

Well, it just so happened that a friend & former coworker of mine joined Rodan & Fields skincare company last January- one year ago today to be exact!  When she told me the success she had with the Unblemish regimen on her postpartum acne, I was naturally very intrigued.  Once I heard about the money-back guarantee, I was sold.  I had to give it a try.  After all, what was there to lose?'I can cure your oily skin or you could sell the drilling rights.'

I’ll be the first to admit I’ve always been terrible about sticking to a good skin care routine.  However, after investing a decent amount of money in the Unblemish regimen, not to mention with how bad my acne had gotten at that point, I had some serious motivation to follow the regimen religiously.  While I missed a few days here & there, overall I stuck to the routine exactly as instructed.  Within weeks, I noticed that my skin was softer & smoother than it had ever been in my whole life.  I also started to notice fewer breakouts.  Within two months, my acne was all but goneWithin six months I was down to using the full regimen only once or twice a week but still maintaining the clearest, most beautiful skin of my life.  

skin before r and f

My skin actually looked worse than this at times but this is the best picture I could find to show how my acne was before starting R&F’s Unblemish regimen

As the months passed I started using other R&F products as well, namely the Redefine multi-function eye cream & the Amp-MD roller in combination with the Intensive Renewing Serum.  The eye cream has made a huge difference in avoiding dark circles under my eyes (what mom doesn’t have those?), & the Amp roller & renewing serum are working wonders on the stretch marks on my tummy from my pregnancy.  christmas cartoon r and f

Over the past few months I’ve lost count of the number of people who have complimented me on my gorgeous skin.  As someone who struggled with acne for almost 20 years, trust me, those are not compliments I was used to receiving.  I’ve been contemplating joining R&F for months now, largely thanks to these compliments, but what really tipped me over the edge was when we visited my grandmother at Christmas.  Almost the first thing she said to me was “Your skin looks amazing.  What are you doing?”  At that moment, I realized it was time for me to join this phenomenal company because I’ve already become a bit of a spokeswoman for them anyway!forbes quote r and f

There are so many things I love about R&F.  Most importantly the products really WORK!  Secondly, there are no parties, no minimum monthly sales, no inventory, none of the typical sales shticks you see with most direct sales companies.  

If you’re not sure which regimen or product would be best for your skin, my website includes a handy tool to help you select the right one.  Just go to the website, scroll down to “Find your regimen,” & click “get started.”  After answering just a few simple questions about your skin, you can find the best skin regimen for you.

me and Rachel piano

And here’s my face now!  No makeup!

Questions?  Comment below & I’ll do my best to help you find the best skin of your life!

5 Lessons from My First Year as a Parent

I’ve been meaning to write this for about a month now but the past month has just been so busy, not only with the holidays & traveling to see our families but also with a lot of big changes in Rachel’s life.  Allow me to do a quick life update.

The second weekend in December my husband & I went to a wedding in Maryland for one of his college roommates.  We spent the night after the wedding which was my first time away from Rachel overnight.  Before the trip she was down to nursing only twice a day & as I had met my goal of breastfeeding her for a full year, I figured the 36 hrs or so I was away from her would be an easy way to end our breastfeeding journey.  So that’s what I did! lll 1 year badge

Rachel handled this change extraordinarily well.  I don’t think she’s missed nursing one bit!  It was definitely bittersweet for me but mostly I’m proud of myself for accomplishing a goal that for a while I thought was going to be impossible.  Also I’m excited that after 9 months of pregnancy & 12 months of breastfeeding I finally feel like I really own my own body again.  How women have back to back pregnancies blows my mind.  Not only can I not imagine handling a baby & a toddler at the same time but I also know I just need a little “me time” between kids, even if that is just in the form of not being pregnant or nursing for a while. pinterest mom

Anyhow, not only did I wean Rachel from nursing but I also weaned her off the bottle at the same time.  As I’ve done with all major changes in her life (moving from sleeping in the rock & play to the pack & play, then from the pack & play to the crib, etc) I tried to make these changes as gradually as possible to make them easier on her, & I’m happy to report that she has handled them all very well.  This leads me into the point of today’s post.  I’d like to share some of the greatest lessons I’ve learned in my first year as a parent.motherhood-quote

  1. It gets easier with time.  I know, I know, a lot of people love to say parenting only gets harder as kids get older.  But so far I have found that to be completely inaccurate for me.  The older Rachel gets, the easier things are for me.  Now maybe this is just because of the personality I have (I don’t like people being super dependent on me- hence one of many reasons why the newborn stage was NOT my favorite), but I also think it’s because of the confidence that comes from knowing all that I’ve survived so far.  I find that nowadays when I face a parenting challenge it’s much easier for me to stay calm because I can think back on all the challenges I’ve faced so far & how I’ve survived all of them, even the ones that seemed impossible at the time.  To me that confidence is worth so much & really does serve to make this whole parenting gig much easier.this too shall pass
  2. Everything is a stage.  The old adage “This too shall pass” has never been more accurate than it is for parenting.  Whatever stage your child is in, whether you love or hate it, it will pass.  The older Rachel gets, the more I’m learning to embrace the positives of each stage because I know each one will pass faster than I can imagine.  On tough days I remind myself “The days are long but the years are short.”  That saying has brought me so much comfort over the past year.  And it is so true.  I feel like just yesterday I was the exhausted new mom who felt clueless & questioned everything about myself as a mom.  Now I realize that our pediatrician really was right about me being the expert on my baby simply because she is MY baby- & it makes me feel like a whole new woman!

    'My god, he's insane.'

    Sometimes I wonder if Rachel thinks this about me.  Ha!

  3. Make changes in your baby’s life as gradually as possible.  As I talked about earlier, when you’re making a change in your baby’s life, try to do it as gradually as possible.  At least for me I have found that this makes things MUCH easier both for your baby & for you.  For example, when I was trying to switch Rachel from sleeping in the rock & play to the pack & play, I started with naps.  After she did well with that for a couple of days, I started having her sleep in it at night.  But I knew she was harder to get to sleep at the beginning of the night so instead of putting her in the pack & play then, I waited till after her second night time feeding.  I knew she usually went back to sleep pretty easily at that time, so one night I started putting her in the pack & play after that feeding.  Then a few nights later I did it after the first night time feeding, then a few nights later I put her in the back & play from the beginning of the night.  It all went much smoother than I anticipated & I really think that’s because I did it so gradually.phase moon cartoon
  4. Find what works for you & your child & rock it.  I’ll be the first to admit that I am not the best at following all the “rules” of parenting.  Obviously we need to exercise common sense to keep our kids safe, but within reason I think sometimes we have to just ignore the experts & find what works for us.  Perhaps more importantly, we need to remember that there is not one right way to parent a child.  What works for your friends might not work for you & what works for you might not work for them. We are all different people & our children are all different people as well, so we can hardly expect one style of parenting to work for everyone.  Also, no one is perfect, no matter what their Instagram or Facebook profile might lead you to believe, so learn to forgive yourself when you inevitably don’t live up to your own expectations for yourself as a parent every single day.mom stretch mark
  5. The good times makes the hard times worth it.  When Rachel giggles & grins at me, which is a ton these days, it makes all the screaming fits & meltdowns from her younger months so, so worth it.  I keep reading that she’s at the age to start throwing tantrums but so far she’s only had a few mild ones here & there, & most of the time they’ve been when she’s in the thick of teething.  Sometimes she gets upset if I take away something she shouldn’t be playing with or if I put her inside the baby gate for a bit, but I’ve found that if I just give her something else to play with or ignore the screaming she usually calms down within a minute or so.  Anyway, I’m sure she may throw some real tantrums in the coming months but I know that even then the times when she’s happy will make the hard times totally worth it.

Best Albums of 2017

Happy new year, dear readers!  I’m a little late with my annual best albums post seeing as it’s already 2018 but that’s ok.  When you have a toddler, things don’t always get done on schedule!  Anyway, 2017 was a great year for rock music, my favorite genre, but you might be surprised to find which album made my choice for best album of the year.  So without further ado, here are my picks for the best albums of 2017.

11. Madness by All That Remains:ATRMadness As some of you may know, I’m a huge fan of Phil Labonte, the lead singer of ATR.  He’s an outspoken Libertarian which is not something you find too often in the rock world (or in the music/celebrity world in general actually).  You can hear some of his political views in this album including in the title song Madness (those themes are more apparent if you watch the music video).  Actually you can see a hint of political themes just by looking at the picture on the album!  Other highlights on this disc include the band’s unexpected cover of Garth Brooks’s classic The Thunder Rolls & If I’m Honest.

10. From the Fires by Greta Van Fleet: fromthefires gvf.jpgI just discovered this band a few weeks ago after getting curious about them since I kept seeing their name on lists of best albums/songs of the year.  It turns out these guys range from just 18-21 years old but their music sounds like something from the 70s- in a good way!  I was truly shocked after listening to their music to find out how young they are.  Lead singer Josh Kiszka has an amazing voice & the band is rounded out by his twin brother on guitar, their other brother on bass, & a friend on drums.  Safari Song is the first song I heard by the band & it immediately captured my attention, as I think it will yours too.  Also check out Highway Tune.

9. Heaven Upside Down by Marilyn Manson: heaven upside down MMWith this album Manson has fused the industrial sound of his older albums with the more bluesy sound of his 2015 album The Pale Emperor, which makes for a truly unique sound.  My favorites include Say10Tattooed in Reverse, & title track Heaven Upside Down.

8. Graveyard Shift by Motionless in White: motionlessinwhitegraveyardshiftcoverI’m such a huge fan of MIW’s 2014 album Reincarnate that I’m not sure they’ll ever top that one for me.  But this album is still a great one.  There a few tracks where I feel the lyrics are a bit wanting but the other tracks are so well written that they make up for it.  Don’t miss the haunting but gorgeous Eternally Yours, the music video for which features lead singer Chris Motionless’s gorgeous girlfriend, & 570, an ode to the band’s decade of hard work which gives homage to their hometown of Scranton, PA (570 is the area code there).  With lyrics like “And when I’m facing a wall, I do not quit/Cause if you mean it, you will make it” the latter is an excellent song for the gym or any time you need a little encouragement to keep working toward your goals.  Other highlights include Queen for Queen & Hourglass.

7. Crooked Teeth by Papa Roach: crooked teethThis is actually the first Papa Roach album I’ve ever owned & I find myself spinning it again & again.  I was inspired to buy it when I saw several of my favorite rock stars including Chris Kael, the bassist from FFDP, posting about how great it was on Instagram.  From title track Crooked Teeth to None of the Above to American Dreams this album is one great song after another.  A surprising ballad that you absolutely must not miss is Periscope featuring pop singer Skylar Grey.

6. Hydrograd by Stone Sour:hydrograd stone sour As I discussed with MIW, Stone Sour’s previous album (the double album House of Gold & Bones from 2012-2013) is one of my all time favorite albums so I’m not sure if it’s even possible for the band to ever top that one for me.  However, their most recent effort, which won Hard Rock Album of the Year at the Loudwire Music Awards, is epic nonetheless.  My favorite track also happens to be the heaviest track on the record Taipei Person/Allah Tea.  Other great tracks include singles Fabuless Song #3, the former of which attacks the shallow nature of fame & the latter of which is a love song which is intended to fuse both the sappy & lusty natures of love, thus making it the third option for love songs, hence the title.  Also don’t miss Knieval Has Landed.

5. Asking Alexandria by Asking Alexandria: aa albumI have a whole blog post dedicated to AA’s previous album The Black, that’s how much I love it.  I actually wasn’t familiar with the band until that album so I was quite disappointed when I found out that Ukranian singer Denis Stoff was leaving the band.  To be perfectly honest, when original singer Danny Worsnop rejoined the band I was afraid they would go back to songs about nothing more than drinking & sex.  However, once I heard a few songs from this disc, I realized that it is without a doubt the band’s best work to date.  Lyrically & musically the band has truly matured & found their groove, as evidenced by lead single Into the Fire which will quickly get stuck in your head.  My other favorite tracks include Hopelessly HopefulAlone in a RoomRise Up, & the surprising acoustic piece Vultures which was recorded in just one take in the studio.  Check out this excellent article about the stories behind each song on the album.

4. The Stories We Tell Ourselves by Nothing More: nothing-more-the-stories-we-tell-ourselvesThe Grammys actually got something right this year when they nominated this disc for multiple awards.  Nothing More’s previous album was amazing  but this one is equally awesome.  Once again the band finds a way to combine catchy melodies with phenomenal lyrics.  Check out Do You Really Want It? & Go to War for great examples of the heavier songs on the album.  However, my absolute favorite tracks on the album are two ballads, Still in Love & Just Say When, which were both clearly inspired by lead singer Jonny Hawkins’s divorce.  Both songs are heartbreaking but beautiful.  I could listen to a whole album of just ballads like these two.

3. The Sin & the Sentence by Triviumthe sin and the sentence Trivium have been releasing albums & touring the world since they were barely of legal age, but they have truly outdone themselves with their most recent album.  As soon as I heard the title song I knew this was going to be a phenomenal album.  Check out this article for an excellent look at the inspiration behind the songs from lead singer Matt Heafy & bassist Paolo Gregoletto.  There isn’t a single bad song on this album so it’s hard to choose favorites but be sure not to miss heavy-hitter The Wretchedness Inside as well as the more radio friendly The Heart From Your Hate & Endless Night.

2. Ritual by In This Moment:in-this-moment-ritual I fell in love with ITM after 2012’s Blood but it seems like every disc the band releases just gets better & better.  This year’s effort shows off a more bluesy side of Maria Brink which is best showcased on lead single Oh Lord.  My absolute favorite track from this album is Black Wedding featuring Rob Halford from Judas Priest.  It’s one of those songs I fell in love with the first time I heard it, & I think you will too.  Other favorites of of mine include Joan of Arc & Half God Half Devil.

1.  Slowheart by Kip Moore:slowheart After 10 rock/metal albums, you probably weren’t expecting a country album to make my choice for best album of the year, but Kip Moore’s third album is just that good.  Besides which, he is often noted for having rock elements in his music.  Anyway, there is no doubt that I’ve listened to Slowheart more than any other album this year.  I fell in love with Kip’s music after his previous album Wild Ones when I realized what a great songwriter he is.  But this album is even more amazing.  If you really want an inside look at the stories behind the thirteen amazing songs on this album, check out this documentary about the making of the album.  My absolute favorite on this disc is album closer Guitar Man.  It reminds me of Billy Joel’s classic Piano Man (one of my all time favorite songs) as it is an ode to the power of music.  Listen to it & fall in love.  Other stand-out tracks (there are so many, it’s hard to choose!) include Last ShotPlead the FifthI’ve Been Around, & Bittersweet CompanySlowheart is one of those albums that makes me want to listen to it all over again the moment it ends.  It’s so obvious that Kip put his heart & soul into writing these songs which is what really separates him from most modern country singers.  And that is what makes Slowheart my choice for 2017 album of the year.

As I always do with these posts, I’m going to conclude this with my choices for most anticipated albums for this year.

Most anticipated albums for 2018Black-Veil-Brides-Vale

  • Vale by Black Veil Brides (just 10 more days- out Jan 12!!)
  • Pop Evil by Pop Evil (Feb 16)
  • Godsmack’s as yet untitled seventh album
  • Black Stone Cherry’s as yet untitled seventh album
  • Halestorm’s as yet untitled fourth album

Here’s What NOT to Say to a New Mom

As you may know if you’ve read my most recent blog posts, my baby girl just turned one year old.  It is true what they say: time flies even faster when you’re a parent, as cliche as that may be.  Anyhow, I’ve been contemplating this post for months now & I am finally getting around to writing it.  Let me preface it by saying that if you are reading this & realize you are guilty of saying any of the following things to me, please don’t feel bad or worry that I hate you.  I don’t.  Trust me.first bithday cartoon

So without further ado, here are some things I really wish people would stop saying to new moms.  And just to be clear, when I say new moms I mean in the first 3 months or so because that is the time during which I think these questions are particularly absurd- &, strangely enough, when they seem most likely to be asked!

  1. “Is she a good baby?”  Um, what?  I mean really, what kind of question is that?  As if anyone is actually going to respond “No, my child is the spawn of Satan.  She is terrible & I’m ready to give her back.”  To be fair, we’ve all probably felt that way at times but it’s not like we’d ever say it, especially not to a random stranger, who is usually the person asking this absurd question in the first place.  Just don’t. breastfeeding book quote
  2. “Is the baby sleeping through the night?”  First of all, why do you care?  Second of all, if you’re asking this before about 3 months of ago, it’s really a stupid question.  Babies that young are not SUPPOSED to sleep through the night, especially if they are breastfed.  New moms are MORE than aware of the sleep deprivation they’re experiencing so there is no need to remind them about it by asking this pointless question.
  3. “You look tired.”  No s***!  I haven’t slept more than 3 consecutive hours in weeks thanks to cluster feeding.  Of course I’m tired, & I’m already acutely aware of how ridiculous it makes me look.  There is no need to point it out to me.

  4. “When you are having the next one?”  Oh man, this one really makes my head spin.  I just pushed a human being out of my body, I haven’t slept more than a few hours at a time in weeks, & you are asking me when I want to do that again?!  Are you insane?!  You must be.  For the first 2-3 months after Rachel was born, I was quite certain I was NEVER going to be able to have another child.  I just felt like there was no way I could possibly endure that newborn stage again.  And honestly even now that she is a year old, I’m still nowhere near ready to even think about tackling another pregnancy, much less another baby.  The newborn stage is NOT my favorite by any stretch of the imagination & I’m pretty sure if I had to do that with a toddler running around the house I’d truly lose my mind.  I wish I were kidding but I’m not.  As far as I’m concerned I won’t be ready to think about another baby until Rachel is potty-trained & speaking in complete sentences.  I have immense respect for moms who are able to have kids really close together.  Part of me wishes I could do that but I just don’t have the patience & that’s all there is to it.mom doesnt want your advice onesie
  5. “You think this is hard?  Just wait till she’s walking, talking, etc.”  Ok, this is another one that really grinds my gears.  First of all, it’s completely unhelpful & downright depressing.  There is no such thing as a new mom who isn’t struggling one way or another so this kind of comment is just like rubbing salt in a wound.  Second of all, maybe the newborn stage was easy for you & the toddler stage was really hard, but how do you know the same will be true for me?  The answer is you don’t.  Every stage is different for every mom, just as every child is different.  What was really easy for you might be really hard for me & vice versa.  So just stop already.new mom decisions
  6. “It goes so fast.  Appreciate every moment.”  I know you mean well, I really do, but please just shut up with this one already.  No one can appreciate EVERY moment because that’s just not possible.  Inevitably there will be moments as a new mom that just frankly suck.  There will be moments when you really want to scream because you truly don’t know what you’re doing & you’re just so damn tired.  And it’s in those moments when you feel so guilty for not loving every moment because everyone you know is so busy trying to remind you how fast your baby will grow up & you end up thinking something is terribly wrong with you because you aren’t loving every single minute.  Do you see now how a seemingly innocuous comment can actually be extremely hurtful?I had this wonderful dream that I slept... but then I woke up.

I apologize if this post comes across as overly negative.  I just find myself reminiscing a lot lately about those first few weeks of motherhood & how hard they were for me, & I can’t help but think that hearing the above comments & questions (often from pure strangers) only made things harder.  I know some moms are super laid-back & handle the newborn stage with a lot more grace than I did, but it isn’t an easy stage for anyone, especially first time moms.  There isn’t much anyone can do to make the transition to motherhood a whole lot easier BUT if people would stop saying the types of things I’ve mentioned here, I truly believe it would help at least a little bit.  So the next time you’re tempted to ask any of the above questions or make any of the above comments to a new mom, please hold your tongue & say something else instead.  Or better yet just let her talk & tell you how things are going for her.  And if she’s struggling, promise her that things will get better & that you’ll be there to help.  That’s what she really needs to hear.

new mom cartoon

The Blame Game

Today is my 29th birthday.  I spent the first part of it at an urgent care facility due to a terribly annoying case of bronchitis.  But I’ve obtained an antibiotic now & a breastfeeding-friendly cough syrup, so hopefully I’ll be feeling much better very soon.  Also, I burnt my tongue on a cup of tea on Thursday & it’s still incredibly sore.  Lame.

almost 30

Haha, turning 30 doesn’t actually scare me.

Anyway, I know it’s typical to have rather mixed feelings about turning 29 as it is the last year before hitting the big 3-0, but to be perfectly honest I really couldn’t care less.  I am just thankful to have such a wonderful husband & baby girl (who just turned one last week!) & so many wonderful friends & family.  And aside from this bout of bronchitis I am grateful for good health.  When I worked in the hospital before Rachel was born, I took care of patients younger than I am who ended up dying.  So I really try to keep that in mind & realize what a privilege it is to have the opportunity to grow “old.”  Besides, I’ve been “old at heart” for years now anyway!

On that note, today’s post might make me seem like a really crotchety old lady.  But I don’t care because I think this topic needs to be discussed.  self-responsibility-ownership

So yesterday it came to my attention that Rob Gronkowski, commonly referred to as Gronk, of the New England Patriots committed what basically everyone agrees was a really dirty hit on a player from the Buffalo Bills.  That unfortunate player is now under observation for a concussion.  What’s really crazy about this whole scenario is that Gronk was not suspended from the game for his misbehavior, & as of this writing he has not yet received any punishment from the NFL.  Naturally Gronk has come out & blithely apologized for this hit, trying to say he was just acting out his frustration. gronk

But here’s the thing: an apology isn’t enough!  Gronk is a grown man (just shy of four months younger than I am, in fact) & he gets paid millions of dollars to play a game for a living.  Admittedly I have no idea what it’s like to be play professional football or to be a veritable barrel of testosterone as Gronk surely is, but nonetheless I don’t think there is any good excuse for willfully hurting another player the way he did, no matter how frustrated one is.

But the truth is it won’t shock me at all if Gronk receives no real punishment for his behavior because it seems that nowadays anyone can get away with anything.  I mean, just last week an illegal immigrant who has been deported multiple times was declared not guilty of murdering a woman in California when it seems pretty clear he was guilty of manslaughter at the very least.blame society

What I’m getting at here is this: our society has come to the conclusion that no one is ever really responsible for anythingIt’s always someone else’s fault.  Your kid didn’t get straight A’s?  Must be the teacher’s fault.  You’re overweight?  Must be the fast food industry’s fault.  You treat your spouse/SO like crap?  Must be your parents’ fault for setting a bad example.  I could go on & on but I’m sure you get the drift.  Is it wise to be aware of the ways in which society influences individuals?  Absolutely.  But the problem with blaming someone or everyone else for our every misdeed is that when everyone is responsible, no one is responsible.  How can we ever expect the world to change for the better if no one ever takes responsibility for their actions?  How can we affect positive change in the world when we’re all busy blaming everyone else for our problems?  The answer is we can’t.self responsibility

I’m reminded of a lamb of god song called Delusion Pandemic off their latest album.  You’ll have to excuse the “profanity” but these lyrics from Randy Blythe are harsh but true & are exactly what I think our world needs to hear right now:

“Now is the moment that everything can change
You are completely responsible for your own life
And no one is coming to save you from yourself
So stop blaming your problems on any or everything else
It does not matter one tiny fucking bit
How unfair you think the world is, it’s only what you do
Right here, right now
Right this fucking instant that matters
It’s your choice to
Sink or swim”

randy blythe

Randy Blythe, lead singer of lamb of god, a metal band based out of my home state of Virginia

Just to be completely candid here, I realize I am far from perfect.  I have plenty of faults (including being a good 20 lbs overweight at the moment) & I am as tempted as anyone to find excuses for them.  But the older I get the more I realize how useless that is.  It’s very easy to live with the comfortable notion that you can’t really change your life because circumstances are beyond your control.  But that’s called stagnation, & I for one am not content with that.  If I want to change my life, it’s up to ME to do it because I’m the only one who truly CAN.  Is that scary?  Yes.  But it’s also incredibly empowering.

The same is true for you.  Stop the blame game.  Get over the victim complex.  And make the most of your life, knowing you & you alone are truly responsible for your actions & the consequences thereof.  If each of us took that mentality, I’m quite sure we would see a great deal of positive change in this world.  tolstoy quote

I’ll end with another empowering song, Do You Really Want It? off of Nothing More’s recent album The Stories We Tell Ourselves.  

You gotta dig up the past to get past this
(Anxious feeling)
You gotta get ripped apart to see why you’re breathing
(To find your reason)
So I can shake these American demons
Ohh, gimme, gimme, gimme

Everybody wants to change the world
But one thing’s clear
No one ever wants to change themselves
That’s the way things are

10 Reasons Why I’m Not Throwing a First Birthday Party

It’s so hard to believe but Rachel’s first birthday is coming up in less than a month now, so inevitably I’ve been getting questions about what we’re doing for her party.  Well, the answer is this: we aren’t doing a party.  Not a REAL one anyway, not the kind everyone seems to be doing these days.  There are a few reasons for this which I will detail below, but let me first preface this by saying I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having big (or small) birthday parties for your babies/kids, especially if it’s something you actually enjoy doing.  Furthermore Rachel & I have been to two first birthday parties in the past six weeks or so & we’ve had a great time at both.  And yes, part of me feels bad that I won’t be “reciprocating” by hosting a party for Rachel for her/my friends to attend.  However, I really just can’t muster up the energy to throw a party, & here’s why:Happy First Birthday

  1. The logical part of my brain- which is a big part of it- says “Why bother?” because she won’t remember or really understand any of it.  Maybe that’s beside the point but I can’t erase it from my head.
  2. I’m a serious introvert so the idea of hosting a party & having a bunch of people in my house all at one time is enough to make me want to cry.  For real.  I just can’t handle it.  Plus our house is small & really not ideal for hosting more than a handful of folks, & there is no way I am renting a venue for a one year old’s birthday party.

  3. I hate decorating.  It is so not for me.  Banners & balloons & all of that cutesy stuff just isn’t my cup of tea at all.  Ughhh.  (Can you tell I never use Pinterest?)
  4. Rachel’s birthday is close enough to both Thanksgiving & Christmas that I figure everyone will be busy with events related to those holidays anyway.  Maybe that’s just an excuse but I’m running with it.
  5. Rachel doesn’t need any more toys or clothes.  She really doesn’t need any THING at all, yet I know if we had a party people would feel obligated to bring gifts even if I specified “no gifts” on the invitation.  If you’re reading this & really want to get her a birthday present, please consider just getting her a book because you can NEVER have too many books.  Or there is always the option of cash or a check which we can deposit in her bank account.  But really, she doesn’t need any more STUFF.hungry hungry caterpiller
  6. None of our family lives near us so it’s not convenient for them to come down here or for us to drive several hours to them for a party, especially when everyone will have just traveled for Thanksgiving &/or will soon be traveling for Christmas.
  7. Parties cost money & while we are by no means poor, we aren’t making nearly as much money since I left the hospital & am only working part time at a clinic.  The reduced income is totally worth it because of the time I get to spend with Rachel, but it does mean we need to be more careful with discretionary spending.  And I just don’t care anywhere near enough about throwing a party to “waste” money on one.  I’d rather spend that money on her one-year pictures (which we’re doing next week).birthday cupcake 1
  8. Birthdays have never been a big thing for my family or my husband’s family, so it’s just not part of our mentality to make a big deal out of birthday parties.
  9. We love Rachel to pieces but we do not think hosting a party is a requirement to express our love for her.
  10. I am lazy.  There, I said it, so you don’t have to.

I think what we’ll end up doing for her “party” is just getting a cake when we’re visiting our families for Thanksgiving, & we can sing “happy birthday,” take lots of cute pictures, take turns cuddling & kissing her, & that will be plenty good enough for me.

halloween rachel

Here’s Rachel in her Halloween costume which I got from a friend’s yard sale.  We did not go trick or treating but I had to put her in the costume long enough to take a picture.  As you can see, she was not amused by being a peacock.  But she was a cute one nonetheless!

A few days ago I saw a post on Facebook about a mom who was incredibly stressed about her kid’s first birthday party.  She even posted pictures of the intricately decorated cakes she had made for her older children’s first birthday parties, saying how worried she was about making another one just as perfect.  I had to restrain myself from telling the woman to stop being so ridiculous & find something real to stress about.  I know that sounds awful, but seriously, ladies: none of us could possibly ENJOY fretting ourselves half to death over a party for a child who is too young to really know what’s happening & certainly won’t remember it.  I mean let’s be honest.  These parties are 99% for the parents, not the kids.  And that’s totally fine if that’s really what you want.  But there are enough real things for us to worry about as moms that to add more stress to our lives by forcing ourselves to throw elaborate birthday parties is frankly just insane.  I have a suspicion that a lot of moms throw these elaborate parties because they feel like they have to “keep up with the Joneses” so to speak.  Well, as far as I’m concerned, if anyone judges me for not throwing a birthday party for my one year old, those are the kind of people whose friendship I am not interested in having anyway.first bithday cartoon

I guess what I’m trying to say is this: if you want to throw an elaborate party for your kid, by all means, go for it.  But if it’s going to become a source of stress & frustration for you, then for goodness sake, don’t do it.  I know for me it would just be stressful & annoying which is why I’m skipping the whole routine.  End of story.

Dear New Mom

Dear New Mom,

I know you’re in some ways happier than you’ve ever been, soaking up all those newborn cuddles & feeling your heart expand to give out a kind of love you never before knew possible.  But I also know you’re struggling under the weight of what feels like an obnoxious burden that was thrust on you just when you needed to rest & recover from birth.

Sigh.mom guilt

Being a new mom is HARD.  So hard.  And what often times makes it even harder is all the people telling you exactly how ecstatic & blissful you should be.  Please remember this: most of the people saying that haven’t had a newborn to care for in YEARS.  They have largely forgotten how INTENSE this phase of life really is.  Yes, it’s wonderful, but it’s also REALLY FREAKING HARD.

I’ll be honest with you & admit that I probably experienced a mild to moderate form of postpartum depression.  I didn’t fully realize it at the time but thankfully I was already on Prozac for anxiety before & during pregnancy & was quickly switched to Zoloft after giving birth because it is considered better for breastfeeding.  I believe this kept any PPD I experienced from completely devastating me.  But even so, trust me I had my moments of utter despair & confusion.  Moments of loneliness & uncertainty when I questioned why I had ever thought I should be a mom.  Moments when I had to step out of the room & just cry or scream so that I could be sure I wouldn’t hurt my baby. PPD_Graphic.jpg

But that’s exactly what they were: moments, nothing more.  They didn’t define me as a mom because I didn’t let them.  Even on my worst days/nights, I somehow managed (most of the time) to give myself a little grace.  That & venting to some truly wonderful friends (most of whom were already moms) is how I survived those first few weeks of motherhood that were in so many ways like one longgggg march of fatigue & confusion.

Here’s what I think you really need to hear as a new mom: it gets easier.  Yes!  It does!  It really does!  There is light at the end of the tunnel.  And it may come sooner than you think. pema chodron quote 2

If you’re breastfeeding, there will come a time when you don’t spend every waking moment with a baby attached to your chest.  It WILL happen.  I promise.  Trust me, I was so, so close to giving up so many times.  But I held out largely because so many women had told me that everything would get magically easier around six weeks.  And to my great surprise they were right.  I made a vow to myself that if it didn’t get easier by six weeks I would quit for the sake of my own mental health, but I am eternally grateful that it did get easier.  But if that isn’t true for you & you feel like you need to supplement with formula or switch to formula entirely, DO IT!  A mentally stable mom is the single most important thing a baby needs, so (within reason of course) do whatever you need to do to achieve that goal.pema chodron compassion

The next time someone says “Oh, just wait till she’s crawling all over the place” or “You’re going to miss this when he’s talking back to you someday,” just smile & nod & know that that person has not one clue what they’re talking about.  Or better yet, you can be braver than I am & tell them to mind their own damn business.  Because the truth of the matter is you may not miss the newborn stage.  And if you don’t, there is NOTHING wrong with you.  I know I don’t miss it!  I have only come to love my daughter more & more the older she has gotten, & I have learned that every stage has its advantages & disadvantages.  Thus the best thing we can do is try to relax & enjoy each one as best we can.  Easier said than done of course.  motherhood-quote

The truth about motherhood, especially the newborn phase, is that it is the most intense emotional & physical experience of your life.  There will be moments you love, moments you like, & moments you hate.  But they’re all just that: moments.  Give yourself the grace to experience every emotion that crosses your mind.  And trust me, in those first few weeks every emotion known to man (or should I say woman?) will definitely strike your heart- often times many all at once, some of which may be contradictory.  Just allow yourself to experience them all & remember that this will get easier.  As time passes you will have more arrows in your quiver, so to speak, so even if the challenges you face seem “bigger” you’ll have more ammunition to throw at them.  And you’ll have the confidence that comes from knowing you have survived every challenge you’ve faced so far.  And that, my friend, is worth a lot.birth-of-mother

If you’ve made it this far, congrats!  Who knows how many times you had to stop during the course of reading this to nurse your baby, make a bottle, or change a diaper?  But just know this: it gets easier, it gets better, & you can do this.  If I can, anyone can.