self-care

First day back

My 8 year old daughter (V) is distance learning. We spent the weekend clearing off her desk, removing the paper clutter; out with the old to make space for the new. My 4 year old daughter (L) has been away from daycare and home since March. Some days she has separation anxiety when one of us leaves. Today was a big day for her. She would be away from both parents for a good chunk of the day, around seven plus hours.


She protested. She didn’t want to get dressed and had become accustomed to pajama wearing most days. Comfort and play was key. She balked at the shirt Mommy chose and picked her LOVE emoji shirt instead. She wanted to play and this new routine was keeping her away from her toys and imaginative play. V got dressed and was watching a YouTube video on her iPad.

My husband announced, “We have to take a first day of school picture!” Begrudgingly, the girls posed in front of the bush. L held her pink bunny and a few toys from home to take for the car ride. Adorable smiles and a pose of the leg. Click!


We packed the car and headed out. L asked me to play music on the radio. With only commercials or annoying pop music to choose from, I pressed play on the cued up CD and held my breath. I didn’t know what I was going to hear. Fingers crossed. It was Depeche Mode. There was silence from the backseat. No protest. We drove out onto the street.


The first day. It was the first day of seeing a handful of school buses on the road. I said, “Look, a bus! It’s everyone’s first day too.” We pulled into the familiar lot of her former daycare. The one that was closed for so long. I heard her take a deep purposeful breath. Then another. She was calming herself. I thought, she is listening. She sees and hears everything. She’s been seeing and listening to me practice yoga and meditation, and demonstrating calming breaths and she internalized that. It became a useful tool in her toolbox to calm her anxiety. That is a win in my book and I don’t want to discount it. I was a proud mama.


We got out of the car. The daycare’s slide was wrapped in caution yellow tape. No trapezes swung on the bare playset. All the grownups were wearing a mask. We had to take a different entrance. No parents are allowed inside the building. L’s prekindergarten class will help form the foundation for her to be ready for a successful kindergarten next year. She held onto her pink bunny, now sealed in the school-required Ziplock bag. We held each other as she cried and didn’t want to let me go. I let out a tear too. The teacher said “Good morning!” And handed L a welcome goodie bag. She gave us a few moments to say goodbye and then led L into class. Luckily, I parked in front of her classroom window so we could wave and blow kisses.


It sure is a different time to be living in. Today I’m back to work. It’s the first Monday in a long time. My husband is at home managing his telework and setting up V for her day of google meets and independent work. We will make it through. We’ll run into each other’s arms at the end of the day, check in and share the events that unfolded. We got this. It’s only the beginning of a new chapter. A return to somewhat normalcy and we will always have each other.

self-care

Switch Off Sundays

Switch Off Sundays is a phrase I first heard from Leonie Dawson and it resonated with me.  A day free of social media, emails, and other technology.  A day to connect to what truly matters.  Our society used to and some religions still observe a sabbath.  A sabbatical to connect to myself.  Tune out to turn in with the intent to be present for my family and free from distraction as possible.

I know childhood is so temporary.  Children seem to be in a rush to do what big kids do.  I don’t want to miss out on my kids’ childhood for a second.  Social media and emails do not have priority over my real day-to-day life.  I am responsible for their childhood memories.  It’s a daunting task, and one I take seriously.  And the best and easiest thing I can do is ditch the technology for one day.  I know the emails will still be in my inbox come Monday morning.  And I delete more than half of them most days anyhow.

Instead of deleting emails or catching up with a latest post, I will talk to my family.  I marvel at what new words my 17-month old has discovered.  She loves books and has us read the same story over and over.  She can touch her knees and toes when I sing “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes.”  She’s learning about her face and can say “Eye” so clearly when she pokes her stuffed kitty cat’s eye.

I can take in my five-year old’s enthusiasm as she explains with energy and her whole being about an activity she’s done or looking forward to doing.  She has a zest for life.  She shares with joy in all of our family’s experiences.  Last week after a doctor’s appointment, I took her out and I said, “I love our together time, just you and me.”  And she said, “You know what I call it when it’s just me and daddy together time?  Love.”

My 13-year old stepdaughter has the most insightful conversations.  Her vocabulary and maturity leave me in awe.  And I can chat with my husband.  I love our long, uninterrupted talks about life, our home, and our future goals.  This is my real life.  I choose to focus on today.

My five-year old calls weekends “Home Days.”  And I couldn’t agree more.

self-care

When liquid gold isn’t so golden

My 16-month old toddler has a soy allergy. As a vegan, soy was always a big part of my diet.  I’d have soymilk in my daily coffee, in cold cereal, in my smoothies, and in any recipe that called for milk.  I’ve been fortunate to successfully breastfeed my baby for well over a year.  But that soy I was eating was in my breastmilk.

The baby always seemed to have a rash on her face. She’d rub her chin fiercely on her crib sheets and against my shoulder.  She always seemed to be teething.  She also had eczema behind her knees, behind her elbows, ankles, wrist, and sometimes even her armpits.  Even her older sister gets eczema.  I attributed the rash to her fair skin, teething, and genetics.

At her 12-month checkup, they had to draw blood to check for lead paint. My husband and I asked if they could do an allergy test too, since they were already pricking her with a needle.  The test results showed a mild to moderate allergy to soy.  It also showed very low levels to oat, wheat, and peanut.

But it all came down to the soy. Since I was still nursing, I eliminated soy completely from my diet.  I found a creamy almond milk I loved (Califa) and started to read labels even more closely.  We met with an allergist who said she could eat products with soybean oil or soy lecithin (which appears to be in everything).  My toddler’s face cleared up.  She was no longer rubbing and scratching her chin.  When I stopped pumping, I replaced the breastmilk with fortified coconut milk for her at daycare.

Last week, she needed more coconut milk at school. I still had frozen breastmilk in our freezer, so I sent that to school instead.  Well, by the end of the school day, she had her rash back.  She rubbed her chin so hard that it was bleeding.  And she had small hives on her back.  The breastmilk I sent to school was from before we knew about her allergy when I was regularly consuming soy.

Breastmilk has been described as “liquid gold.” And I’ve spent quite a substantial amount of time pumping and saving breastmilk for my baby. I had a vested interest in using it.  But after her latest allergic reaction, it is inevitable.  All my frozen breastmilk has to be tossed.

Now I can be upset or sad at all that wasted time and effort I took in pumping and saving the breastmilk. But I’ve decided to make peace with my decision to get rid of it.  It’s not worth keeping and using if it’s going to hurt my toddler.  And I forgive myself for feeding her food that she was allergic to.  I didn’t know she had the allergy at the time.  So I’m not going to carry around resentment or guilt.  I was doing what I felt was best for her at that moment.

Is there something you’ve made peace with that you want to share? I’d love to hear your comments below.

self-care

I am not my mood

All this weekend, my 16 month old was driving me crazy. Changing her diaper had become a wrestling match.  I would pin her down across her waist to stop her from rolling over and off the changing table, while she protested, “No! No! No!”  You’re only 16 months old.  You’re not supposed to be telling me “No” yet.

She’s a happy, content, cuddly baby most of the time. Now it seems like she thinks she’s a big kid, wanting to be like her older siblings.  She almost climbed up the ladder to the top of the bunk bed within seconds of leaving the girls’ bedroom door open.  I was exhausted from chasing her.  I kept repeating to myself, “This kid’s gonna be the death of me.  I’m going bonkers, bring me to Butler.” Not in all seriousness all the time, but the thought was ever present.

Last night around 4:30 a.m., my baby was crying. Not the usual, I’m half asleep whimper to a cry.  This was full-blown hysterical crying.  My husband brought her to our bed and she just sobbed and sobbed for a good thirty minutes.  She slung her body across my chest, almost like she had me pinned down, with her face close to mine.  I rubbed her back and took deep breaths to silently demonstrate calm breathing.

The crazy making self-talk melted as I held my sobbing child. I realized I was the only one making myself crazy.  She needed me to be there for her, to make her feel safe and loved.  She had me pinned down. And while I held her, my heart widened to that truth.

self-care

How my family ditched paper towels

I always believe that buying in bulk saves money. We used to buy the biggest package of paper towels with eight or ten rolls, so big that I had to store them in the basement.  Our paper towels had a use for everything you can imagine: wiping up spills, cleaning counters and the table, drying off produce, and of course, they were our napkins of choice.  It seemed like every time I went into the kitchen, I’d be ripping a paper towel off the roll for some purpose.  We probably went through a roll a week and it always seemed to be on our shopping list.

A few years back, we bought reusable napkins. They were dark green and some had a pretty print.  My husband always wanted us to use those instead of paper towels.  But they were stashed in a drawer for years and forgotten.

Finally this past January, he declared, “No more paper towels.” He folded the napkins into a basket and placed it on the table.  We began to use those napkins to wipe our faces and kitchen towels to clean up spills.  Despite my protests in the beginning – we are a family with young children who make a lot of messes – it has worked for us.

Now I reach into the basket and enjoy the feeling of wiping my mouth with a piece of cloth. I don’t miss the chemical smell and roughness of a paper towel on my lips.  I’ve thought about the money and trees we’ve saved with this one switch.  There’s been an empty roll in our paper towel holder ever since, and it won’t be replaced any time soon.

What have you been wanting to ditch or switch in your life?  Let me know in the comments below.