Spin spin spin. Six hours of spin. Every. single. day. Spin spin spin. Six hours of spin. That’s what “back to school” time looks like for me.
Six hours. Four days a week. Six hours to change the world. Get my life (and theirs) in order. Plan. Prepare. Run. Rest. Repeat. Faster. More.
Six hours alone. To focus. To work. To relax. To connect. To welcome everyone back after six hours as the absolute best version of myself so that I can bring out the best versions of themselves. Do it all. Make it all. Fold it all. Clean it all. Reset it all. Renew it all.
Six hours is what I get.
I don’t feel relieved when they leave. I feel pressure. The gunshot has gone off. The race has begun. I’m not clinking mimosas with friends. I’m scrambling to get home to clean up breakfast, down another cup of coffee, and maybe guilt myself into a quick work out. Don’t forget to note it all in the pretty planner.
Get it over with. Move on with it. Faster. Hurry. Move. Six hours.
I just want to drive away. Because when those six hours ends, I’m angry. Frustrated. I want more time. It’s not enough. Never enough. I didn’t get it all done. But yet it’s time. Time for me to be “on” again for everyone.
All the hats go piling back on. They are heavy and uncomfortable. Awkward and always half-on and half-falling off. “Hold onto your hats,” I say to my kids in the car when we make a turn. Who am I kidding, I’m the only one that needs to be holding on. Tight.
All the hats. The happy mom, the sweet mom, the “just made these for you, sweetheart” mom, the firm but fair mom, the “bad guy” mom, the enforcer mom, the master chef, the cleaning lady, the nurse, the sort-of-your-friend but not-really-your-friend mom, oh and don’t forget supportive, doting, SEXY wife.
Six hours until the show begins. Where’s my understudy?
There is quiet in these six hours yet my head is so very loud. Annoyed. Angry. Pounding. Irritated by everything. Paralyzed to inaction. Long sigh. Take another swig of coffee, you’re going to need it.
I don’t get it. Yet I do. This is all my own doing. 1000% So why is it so hard to undo? Why is it so hard to just stop? Turn it off. “Stop thinking about the things that are making you feel this way! YOU ARE IN CONTROL!” I silently scream to myself.
I want to blame them, anyone, someone, for making me feel this way. Making me. But it’s a painful thing when I realize that it’s nobody’s fault but my own. I’m in control yet completely out of control here. So I spin spin spin. Six hours of spin.
Forget the cute photos of kids with signs, this is what back to school actually looks like for me. And I don’t know about you, but this mom needs to be renewed again. In a bad way.
Hold onto your hats mama, school is back in session.
The title of this blog sounds like the beginning to, “If you give a Mouse a Cookie.” And, to be fair, it’s not that far off.
All this talk about needing self-care, I suppose that means we’re supposed to also be kind of supportive or something when our significant other wants a little self-care, right? I mean, the nerve. But fine. (Am I communicating the eye roll that’s about to make my head fall off my neck here?)
There’s something about becoming a mom has really turned on the “dream killer” in me. Meaning, if my husband has a dream, I’m ready to kill it.
I encourage my husband to take time for himself. Ok, I TRY to encourage my husband to take time for himself. Usually, that means that he takes a really long and really early morning bike ride with a friend or gets together with some college friends for drinks. Like once a quarter. It’s a one-off and very rarely consistent outing.
So, when he picked up an actual hobby several months ago, I was excited for him. At least I thought.
“I want to take flying lessons,” he casually brought up at dinner one night, in between bites of some keto-friendly casserole where cauliflower was costuming as a delicious carb. I smiled that fake smile you make when your husband has just said something insane and you’re trying not to lose your cool because you’re in a public place and don’t want to be “that crazy wife.” Also when you’re eating cauliflower posing as something delicious.
I smiled. “Um, what?” I responded.
“It’s just… something I’ve always wanted to learn.” he continued. “MY ENTIRE LIFE.”
My heart sank. GREAT. Those were not the words I wanted to hear. Now I wasn’t just about to crush an idea, I was crushing his DREAM. LIFE GOAL. CHILDHOOD AMBITION. Perfect.
Why do they do this to us? Was I really just supposed to say, “Ok honey, you go for it. Have fun! Fly away!”
I just didn’t understand why my husband, the father of three very young children, the owner of a successful business, our sole financial supporter, my best friend and partner and, well you get it, wanted to get into a tin can powered by a propeller and a prayer for no other reason other than “he wanted to.”
This was an INSANE idea. Immediately, my head went to “how much fricking’ time is this going to take?” followed by “are you going to die?” and “what does this cost?” Because you KNOW there are going to be expensive “accessories” involved. What great hobby doesn’t involve expensive accessories? Also, where are all the passwords I need to know stored?
“We can fly to different places together!” he said with excitement. He was serious.
My eyes widened. Hell. No.
At which point it dawned on me. I didn’t have to actually understand any of this. I didn’t have to understand or even really appreciate his interest; I just had to support him.
I didn’t really have a choice. This was what I signed up for, supporting someone through “tough times” which also meant “tough decisions” which apparently also included “you really want to do something that I hate!”
So, I let him fly. I had no choice.
I didn’t get it, nor did I really want to, to be honest. But I just couldn’t say no. Not to one of the few things he had actually asked for, himself.
Why should you say “yes” to your partner when they pick a hobby you hate?
Self-care is about finding things that fulfill you but also about saying “yes” to the things that fulfill the people you love. This is one of those things that, although it has nothing to do with me, I will reap the significant benefit.
He came home from his first lesson in the middle of the week. The kids were asleep and I was tired having had to bathe the tree of them alone. The dishwasher was whirring quietly and I was working on my laptop.
He walked into the door with a look of glee in his eye, and the giddiness of a little boy. He was eager and attentive to me, hopeful and energized, quick to do tasks I needed him to do. But mostly he just looked happy. And I wanted to see that look on his face again. Also, truthfully, I wanted to be the one that had given it to him.
So give your spouse that cookie. Just be prepared that he’s going to want a plane to go with it.
My husband picked up a hobby that I’m not so fond of, flying. More on how you let your spouse start a hobby you hate in a future blog post but, to keep my brain from thinking all kinds of sick thoughts every time he heads out for a lesson (TWICEAFUCKINGWEEK), I make inappropriate jokes to mask my fear.
I ask whether his insurance policy is up to date and if his important passwords are accessible to me, and whether he wants me to “waste” money on a casket when what he probably wants is a cool memorial with a lot of Careless Whisper, fireworks, and a good bbq. I also tell him that I plan to whitewash our red brick house the second he’s gone.
He’s a lucky guy to have a wife like me, I know.
But you can guess how sentimental I get about non-extraordinary moments in life. I’m kind of a tough crowd.
One night, recently, husband and I sat together and scrolled through old videos of our kids on our phones. All of a sudden, I found myself fighting back crocodile tears, partially because the videos were SO damn sweet but mostly because I didn’t actually remember those moments feeling sweet when I was actually living them. And some of those moments? It actually felt like it had happened to someone else.
What I did remember was feeling sad, tired, and frustrated. What I remember was spending a lot of time wishing the days would hurry up and pass. What I remember is yelling and wanting to run away. What I remember is feeling resentful because I wasn’t doing anything “important” that the world had noticed. What I remember is wishing they would hurry up and grow up.
But what I saw in those videos completely froze me. I couldn’t stop watching, because it brought me so much joy. But, honestly, it was like watching someone else’s life. A highlight reel in a movie. Who were these amazing kids?
Brothers giggling as they wrestled on a couch. The sloppy smiles of babies digging in the sand (and occasionally eating it). Siblings meeting each other for the first time at the hospital. Silly songs way past bedtimes. Mispronounced words. So many every day, ordinary moments that were just beyond special.
As I watched those videos, the shame spiral started. (I just love that Brene Brown phrase, “shame spiral.”) I really started to beat myself up. “How could you not SEE these beautiful babies? Why are you always focusing on the negative? Look at how amazing.”
I beat myself up and cried. I watched for over an hour and finally turned them off, well after midnight. The cry was therapeutic. I felt a release. And a strong desire to start looking at how I viewed those “everyday” moments with my kids.
I had been telling myself a story: that I was a serious mom, incapable of having fun on the regular. And that the opinion of others was what gave me worth. I had been chasing the extraordinary in the external. And that may have been okay, to a degree, if I could have also seen the extraordinary things happening right in front of me.
I decided then that those videos would be a gift. Or a slap in the face. An alarm clock waking me up to a new morning as a mom. Those videos gave me the chance to experience those moments again, this time with a new perspective.
I’m not going to sugar coat it and tell you to “seize the day” or “enjoy this time because they are only little for so long.” There are some rough days. A LOT of rough days, for some of us. But today is a new morning. And a new chance to see the ordinary moments in an extraordinary way.
If you find that you have some time for mindless scrolling today, skip your social media feed and scroll through the old videos and photos you’ve got on your phone. Just be sure to have a tissue on hand.
Guest Post by Carrie Koziol, Physical Therapist and Women’s Health Professional with Pilates by Carrie.
Sex As Self-Care? Buckle up!
Rarely do my girlfriends and I say phrases like “I got to have sex last night” or “I’m hoping to get lucky later on.”
On the contrary, we often joke that we “took one for the team” or some other phrase to indicate that we did a favor for our partners. This couldn’t be more true than in those tender post-baby months where any of us would have easily traded sex for 5 extra minutes of sleep or a hot shower. But sometimes those postpartum habits can spill over into the months (and maybe years) that follow, leaving our partners and ourselves feeling a little……disconnected.
So how can we jump start our sex life if it’s become stalled? Below I’ve outlined a few key steps. Most can be altered slightly to apply to heterosexual couples, same sex couples, those single ladies who shouldn’t miss out on the fun just because they don’t have a partner, and everyone in between!
Change your perspective, and start seeing sex as a gift to yourself.
Women who masturbated in an MRI machine (seriously, all props to the women that got off in that sterile tube while a bunch of scientists examined their brain waves), demonstrated that from first touch to ecstasy, the female brain lights up like the headlights on a Monster truck at night. But what is more interesting to me is what happens post-orgasm and has been described as “lights-out” in the brain. I don’t know about you, but my brain is a tangled web of constant thoughts and over-thoughts.
Even as I sit here at the café typing this out, I’ve had a million thoughts completely un-related to the task at hand: do I have a red onion at home for the salad I want to make tomorrow, these high-waisted jeans are great for keeping my belly at bay but they sure are digging in, did I let the dog out before I left, when will I pack for that trip we’re taking in 2 days, I wonder what that guy over there is working on, I wonder if anyone can see what I’m working on (gasp!), what if I’m attacked on the way to my car by someone who thinks I’m a sex-hungry prostitute. Sigh.
Orgasm is like taking an elicit drug to melt your mind without the horrible side effects. Maybe you can’t wrap that one up, but I think a quiet brain is one of the best gifts we ladies can offer ourselves!
If you’re running short on time, take a trip down memory lane. Talk about the moment you first met, your first date, what originally attracted you to each other, your first kiss. Give each other massages, hold hands, get close! If your partner is rolling their eyes, let them know what you’re up to. Explain that women sometimes need some deposits into their intimacy bank before they want to cash it in for sex.
Learn your own sexual accelerators and brakes.
Emily Nagoski, in her amazing book Come As You Are explains that sexual accelerators are sexually relevant stimuli (things you touch, taste, smell, hear, see) in your environment that tell your brain to tell your genitals to turn ON. Sexual brakes work the same but instead tell your genitals to turn OFF, and these two systems are at work in your subconscious scanning your environment for clues to see if this is a “sexy time.”
What gets your motor running? A juicy romance novel, silk sheets, getting away (hotel, bed and breakfast, etc), having your partner help with chores, cologne, a clean bedroom, candles, wine? What hits your brakes? Sounds from the kids outside your door (yup!), a long list of things to do around the house, bad breath or body odor, a messy bedroom? It is your job to find ways to hit your accelerator and limit your brakes.
Sadly most partners haven’t found ways to initiate sex in ways that get us revved up. Alternatively, some of us may be living with the parking brake on. Consider shifting into neutral so should our accelerators be pressed, we may be nudged in the right direction (see Step 5 below!)
Understand a woman’s lack of desire at the beginning of a sexual encounter.
Have you ever been in a situation with a loving partner, where you really weren’t in the mood for sex at the start? Sure maybe you were open to the idea but perhaps you were feeling just “meh” about it. Dr. Rosemary Basson analyzes the circular sexual response cycle and explains that with the appropriate accelerators and context, a woman might become aroused enough to experience sexual desire. Another example of shifting into the “neutral” zone to see where it takes you. This could be your one-way ticket to “O” town!
Try something new, light a candle, use a massage oil, update your bedroom attire, role play. I consulted with sex therapists and coaches to determine a tangible and inexpensive way to help take couples from zeros to heroes and to help them communicate and connect in a playful way.
Enter Chalk Talk! Chalk Talk is a double sided chalk board that allows couples to be more creative when initiating sex. When one partner is interested in sex, they will write something on the chalkboard (it could be a code word, a compliment, a date night itinerary) and leave it in a secret spot for their potential lover to see. This allows the non-initiator to make mental and physical plans to make it happen or to flip the chalkboard over and make a request of their own (please help with the dishes, only if you let me sleep in, …..but dinner first) or to kindly set a date in the future.
The Chalk Talk package comes with two surveys to fill out as a couple so you can learn (or re-learn) intimate details about you and your partner’s accelerators, brakes, and sexual preferences in a fun, nonthreatening way.
Navigating a sexual relationship whether it is a new street, a well-loved dirt road, or a recently re-surfaced highway is sure to present with some twists and turns. But you’ve got a beautiful “vehicle” and I promise the destination is worth the journey. If you’re ready, it’s the pedal on the right!
Ok ok, I will admit, this advice is a bit of a buzz kill. But I just cannot bear the thought of more holiday “stuff” thrown about the floor of my house.
Every holiday, all the cute holiday “stuff” appears at every. single. store. and all the catalogs that arrive in my mailbox. I KNOW that those things doesn’t matter and that I should be creating memories and traditions and blah blah blah, but try explaining that to a five-year-old. I want to make the holidays fun and memorable for my kids but, let’s face it, they really just care about STUFF.
How can we be Marie Kondo-ing our houses AND still creating Instagram flat lay-worthy baskets that look like they came straight out of the Pottery Barn catalog? Pick a lane, Susan, I can’t keep up!
I did actually bite the bullet this year and bought the kids some “nicer” Easter baskets. Eh hem. Yes, from Pottery Barn. They are adorable, I will admit. But, I’m kicking myself now because I don’t actually want to fill these baskets with anything.
I’m seriously considering pulling the Jesus card and telling the kids that their baskets are empty because Jesus’ tomb was empty so… “HAPPY EASTER!! Now go clean up your Legos.”
But I would prefer it if my kids’s inevitable future therapy sessions weren’t solely about how disappointing their holiday experiences were in childhood so, I’m finding some middle ground.
My solution? Gifting a combination of practical items with fun things that can be thrown away without a second thought.
6 Things I Guess I’d Put Into an Easter Basket.
New sneakers or rain boots (and maybe both because Spring may as well be renamed “Mud Season” in the Midwest). I am a big fan of Plae for when I want to buy quality and Target’s Cat & Jack line for when I don’t. Also London Littles (a business run by an awesome mama!) are very cute and don’t seem to stain as easily as other brands I’ve purchased. Although why I buy anything but black/navy shoes for little boys who like mud, I’m not sure.
Spring pajamas (shorter sleeves, brighter prints, etc.). Some of my favorites are from Primary and Hanna Anderson (matching jammies are no longer just for Christmas!).
Summer baseball caps. Functional and fashionable. Also, where the eff did all the hats from last summer go? I swear that I packed them away somewhere really smart…
Plastic eggs filled with: quarters, a few jelly beans, Hershey kisses, mentos, tic tacs (no joke), rocks, and random legos I picked up off the ground. Moms of young kids, here’s a tip: put any food that you want your kids to eat into a plastic egg at dinner time. You will be SHOCKED at what they will eat when it comes from a plastic egg.
Books. My oldest is full on reading (!! What?!? ) and really enjoying me reading longer books to him, which is very exciting and much less boring at bedtime. Both of my boys love Captain Underpants books and the like and, while I don’t always love the attitude or snarkiness, it keeps them interested so I’m game.
Trash-able nick-nacks from the Target Dollar Section, Hobby Lobby, or Michaels. Sometimes I get caught up in purging toys and kid crap because I am hung up on the money that I spent. To remedy this, I (try) to buy less for the kids and then keep it cheap. Not EVERYTHING, but particularly when it comes to holiday stuff. So I buy things I wouldn’t hesitate for a moment to throw away or that would get used up after one use: stickers, play doh, slime, (SIMPLE) craft projects, a little candy, etc.. It makes life so much easier when you inevitably step on a plastic easter bunny sometime next week to just chuck it. It’s also really satisfying.
While you might want to just skip the whole Easter Basket thing, with a little thought, you can still make your kids super excited and fill it with things your kids already need or you were going to buy, and things you can easily get rid of. Throw in a chocolate bunny or Cadbury egg for good measure (c’mon, I’m not that big of an a-hole as to not include a little candy) and you’re basically “Mother of the Year.”
I got it from my maman. My love for travel and packing prowess that is. Every summer for fifteen years, we traveled home to Québec for a month. Not only did she pack for a family of four, she then drove 24 hours over three days alone with three kids. Not for the faint of heart. I paid attention though and picked up some invaluable travel tips and tricks that I now use and share with you.
Map out your travel documents
Maman had a handwritten list but I use Evernote. If you’re not already using this app, I can’t recommend it enough. It’s a team favorite. In Evernote, you can create a digital trip notebook with “before we leave” and “packing” checklists. If you travel to the same destination every year like we did, you can save your checklists. It’s such a time saver! Using a checklist will ensure that you pack everything you and your family need and avoid last minute, hurried overpacking.
In your trip notebook, save copies of your IDs, birth certificates, passports, visas, and other necessary travel documents just in case these items get misplaced or stolen. You can scan these documents using Evernote. Also, if you’re using travel magazines or guidebooks, scan the pages, save them in your trip notebook, and spare yourself the bulk in your carry on!
Pack it Right, Pack it Light
When traveling, less is more.
Create a packing zone. A corner of your bedroom is perfect. As you make purchases, wash clothes that you wish to pack, come across an item you need to bring, add it to the packing zone. This makes moving from the “list” to “packing” easier and less time consuming.
Select clothing. Check the weather and keep activities in mind when selecting outfits for you and your family. Avoid packing head to toe looks for every day. Select versatile pieces that can be used in 2-3 different outfits. For kids, selecting tops and bottoms in basic colors is best. This is not the time for fancy outfits. Keep it simple.
For kids, pack by outfit. Put the whole outfit in a gallon size ziplock bag. You can then put the dirty outfit in the ziplock bag after its been worn. Pack extra outfits this way too.
Packing cubes. I finally sold my maman on these. She just packed for a six week trip to Australia and says she’s never looking back.These are so versatile and help keep your suitcase neat and tidy. You can use them to corral smaller items like undergarments, socks, and swimsuits. If you’re sharing one big suitcase, assign each family member a color for quick and easy identification. You can just throw the cube in a drawer when you get to your destination.
Roll, don’t fold. If you roll your clothes, you can fit eight days worth of tops and bottoms in a large packing cube.
Pack shoes first. Maximize space by packing socks inside the shoes. This will also help the shoes hold their shape. Wear your bulkiest pair of shoes in the car or on the plane.
If you and your kids have undergarments, socks or clothes that have seen better days or are almost outgrown, pack them and discard them on the trip. This will create space for souvenirs.
Double check what amenities your hotel or rental offer. You can avoid a lot of bulk by not packing a hair dryer. The same is true for robes and beach towels. Always pack travel size toiletries.
Kids Are a Trip
Travel insurance. You think it’s an annoying, unnecessary expense until you take your first trip with a child. Children are illness and accident prone. Play it safe.
Book accommodations with separate sleeping areas when possible. You’ll pay more for this convenience but a good night’s sleep is a key ingredient to a happy, relaxing family trip.
Snacks. Pack more than you think you’ll need. No one likes a “hangry” toddler or adult for that matter.
Load up the tablet. This is a good time to download new activities, games, and movies.
Pack a few new, small toys. Hit up the Target dollar spot for coloring books, stickers, and little toy cars, planes, and trucks. It’s fun for kids to open something new on the plane or in the car.
The big takeaway? Don’t wait until the last minute! A little planning will go a long way to ensuring that you and your family start and end your vacation on a fun, relaxed note. Happy travels!