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2.15.2018

When You Don't Belong in Church (But Show Up Anyway)

Last year, my Pastor invited me to contribute to a Quaker publication she helps oversee. My initial response was excitement (see Sitting in the WIC Office on my 29th Birthday), but my enthusiasm quickly fizzled out. Not because I didn't want to contribute, but because I felt that I couldn't write authentically.

I have loved writing for as long as I’ve been able to hold a pen. The fact that someone else saw that passion and wanted to provide an outlet for it was both flattering and humbling. However, when I attempted to put paper to pen (or in my case, fingers to keys), I was overcome with fear and guilt. How could I possibly write about my faith when I barely have any? We've been attending our local Quaker meeting for a little over a year. We love the community, but the fact remains, I don't know that I believe wholeheartedly in what my community believes. I am nothing more than a Quaker fraud.



When I was baptized by my nondenominational Church at the age of 16, I shared my Christian testimony. My family had always been the “Christmas and Easter” type of Christians, but faith was not a big component of my upbringing. After too many years of physical and verbal abuse brought on by his alcoholism, my step-dad (at the time) made the decision to join Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). His sobriety was to be a family endeavor, and so I began attending Church and youth group. That was how I found Jesus, and then two years later, found myself at a Christian college.

My faith has had high highs and low lows. I had faith when I desperately needed it, but over time, I admit, I’ve become skeptical. There wasn’t one traumatic incident that led to my loss of faith. And because I worry that this admission will lead people to worry for my soul or think I’m headed down a dangerous path of unbelief, I feel like I may need to defend my character a little bit.

Despite my unbelief, I am a good person. I’ve worked in the nonprofit sphere helping low-income families obtain healthy food. I’ve volunteered my time to raising awareness and funds for anti-human trafficking organizations. And if nothing else, I’m a pretty great Mom to my two young children. But, I don’t know that I can call myself a Christian.

So, if I’m not a Christian, what the heck am I doing attending a Quaker meeting? Because though the origins of our motivations may not be the same, I find so much value and goodness in the Quaker tradition. After the 2016 Presidential election, I was feeling pretty depressed by the state of humanity. I looked around at the people in my life whom I admired and found a common thread between them- they were all capital “F” Friends.

With two young impressionable children on either hip, I started attending meeting because I wanted my boys to be surrounded by a community of helpers. A community of people who believed in simplicity, sustainability, truth, equality, peace and above all- love. I wasn’t looking for a place of worship so that I could be converted or proselytized to, and never once has my Church family made me feel that way. I simply wanted to immerse myself and my family in a larger family of Quakers because of what they stood for.

I admit, after over a year of (spottily) attending my local meeting, I sit in the last pew beside my husband and kids and still feel a sense of self-inflicted guilt and unbelonging. Because of my unbelief, I feel like nothing more than a Quaker fraud. And yet, whether intentional or not, my Quaker family carves out a place for me every Sunday morning. I may not belong, but my extended family of Friends makes room at the table time and again for even a fraud like me.

Photo credit belongs to my wonderful Pastor, Julie.

2.12.2018

On Grief and SAD

Is anyone else majorly riding the struggle bus in February? It happens to me every single year. I don't do well being cooped up inside for months at a time. I need sunshine, and exercise, and Vitamin D. Otherwise, I get SAD. I've diagnosed myself with Seasonal Affective Disorder, or seasonal depression.

The last few weeks have been rough for me. Other than the typical doom and gloom I experience this time of year, I've had something else weighing heavy on my heart. If you regularly follow this blog, you may recall that my Dad has been experiencing some really serious health issues the last few months. I've restrained myself from talking about it because he's in a vulnerable situation and I'm sure he would prefer that I respect his privacy. It hasn't been easy, though. Writing is my therapy. I haven't been able to process a lot of the heartbreak I've been dealing with the way that I would like, and it's difficult.



For months, my sister and I have waited for the phone call that tells us that he's finally at peace. And instead, we have been met with hospitalizations and heartbreak. On several occasions, we have mentally and emotionally prepared ourselves for the end, and it continues to elude us. Meanwhile, my Dad suffers constantly.

SAD has made me an insomniac. An insomniac who has been drinking her feelings far too frequently. And it leaves me with too much time in the evenings to dwell on what is happening and what could have been. I've found myself not grieving for the inevitable end of my Dad's life, but grieving for the life I never had with him.

My Dad had his stroke when I was 10 years old. Which leaves me about 5ish years of childhood memories to go off of. My baby sister has even less. I know that it's neither healthy or productive to think about what life would have been like had he not had his stroke, but nevertheless, that's where my mind goes.

I think about what life would have been like if he had and my Mom had divorced, he got his own place, and he came to pick us up on the weekends to stay with him. (Rather than my Mom driving us to visit him in his assisted living apartments throughout the years). I think about sitting side by side with him on the couch drinking Coronas and watching his favorite teams, the Oakland Raiders and LA Lakers. I think about whether he would have stepped up and taken us in had he realized that my Mom's second husband was abusive. I think about him walking me down the aisle at my wedding, singing the song he wrote for me as a baby, and sharing that first dance.

I think about whether he would have taught me to drive. I think about whether he would have sent me money as a broke college student. I think about whether I would have talked to him about the men I dated, and whether he would have given them shit upon meeting them.

My Dad was not a perfect man or a perfect Dad. And I try not to paint a picture of him in my mind of anything other than what he was/is. But the fact remains- I am 99% my father's daughter. I resemble him to a T, we share the same sarcastic sense of humor, and even as a shell of the man he once was, we have an undeniable chemistry/kindred spiritedness. We've always just got each other.

As I said, I know this is not a healthy exercise to think and feel this way. But the weight of it has felt so physically heavy on my heart that I felt like something had to give. The burden has been too much to carry, and I needed to unload. So this is me unloading...

2.05.2018

A Saturday in the Life | February 2018



Back in July of last year, I did a Photo Every Hour post to show what a typical day in our life looked like. I think this is such a fun way to capture the changing seasons of motherhood. Over the last couple months, our family has developed a little weekend ritual of sorts.

We wake up in the morning, eat breakfast, get everyone dressed and then we head out the door to the boys' swimming lessons at Goldfish Swim School. You may remember that last month, the boys graduated to new swim levels. So these days, Chuck drops Charlie off at his end of the pool and monitors him, while I hop into the pool on the other end with Crosby for his lesson.




This past weekend, Chuck was unfortunately not able to come with us because of a family funeral. So, I sat in the lobby with Crosby while Charlie did his lesson. After he was all dried off and dressed, we continued our weekly tradition and headed to Costco for lunch and shopping. I've been comparing Costco prices to my usual spots- Kroger and Aldi to see which is most affordable. It can be hit or miss, but I'll say this- where else can you get lunch for a family of four for $10.00?! It's amazing!

After the boys and I ate our hot dogs and pizza, we strolled around the store. I picked up a few must-have grocery items on our list, as well as some wine for my upcoming Galentine's Day Pajama Party. I also got shirts for both Chuck and myself.




Charlie was long overdue for a haircut, so since we were already in the Dayton area, we headed to Cookie Cutters Haircuts for Kids. This was our second time going there, and I love it soooo much. The kids get to choose their own little vehicle to sit in, the show they want to watch on Netflix, and the prize they want when their haircut is done. It's just a plain fun experience and Charlie looooves going to get his haircut now.



After Charlie got his haircut (which turned out super cute BTW!), we headed to At Home. It's a new home decor chain store and I'd heard enough good things that I wanted to check it out for myself. Honestly, I was kind of disappointed. It could have just been that it was soooo crowded so I couldn't really leisurely explore everything like I wanted to. But it kind of felt like the Hobby Lobby home decor section on steroids. It felt cheap, inauthentic, and overpriced. I think I'd like to give it another chance before I write it off entirely (during the week when it's not teeming with shoppers), but as of now, I'm pretty meh about it.

We were all getting tired when we left to return home. Once we got back, Crosby went down for a late nap (and so did I!). I had stayed out late the night before watching the 2 Dope Queens special on HBO with a friend and I was sooo exhausted from staying up past my bedtime. Charlie puttered around the house and then when everyone was awake again I got started on a quick dinner from The Whole30 Fast & Easy Cookbook (I know I'm a broken record, but guys, I loooove this cookbook!).

After dinner, we put the boys down for bed. Chuck left to hangout with his brother and I drank some wine and caught up on my shows (anyone else as obsessed with The Good Place as I am?!).

I'm just smitten with our wonderful life right now, and wouldn't trade it for anything.

2.02.2018

The New Mom's Guide to Potty Training your Toddler

Back when I was a first-time Mom and worked full-time, I constantly peppered one of my office-mates with questions about how he parented his five (!) littles. He had three boys and so I asked him on a number of occasions how he potty trained his sons so that I could develop a course of action when Charlie's time came. Every time he responded with, "we didn't really do anything." Thanks, dude. Helpful.



The New Mom's Guide to Potty Training your Toddler


HOW WE INTRODUCED THE POTTY


When Charlie turned two the day after Christmas, he got a Disney Little Boys' 7-Pack Brief for his birthday. I also got him a Mickey Mouse- Soft Potty Seat that I just happened to see on a random trip to Big Lots. We already had the Potty (Board Book) by Leslie Patricelli so I started keeping it on our over-the-toilet shelf for Charlie to read when he was in the bathroom. We had him sit on his potty seat here and there, but he honestly just didn't really get it or have the patience to sit still for an extended period of time.

At Easter time, my Mom sent him an Easter basket filled with marshmallow Peeps. Being the mean Mommy that I am, I withheld his Peeps and told him he could have one if he sat on the toilet for a set amount of time. We started with 10 seconds, then 30 seconds, then 1 minute, and worked ourselves all the way up to 10 minutes. He never actually went, but it familiarized him with the sensation of sitting on the potty and we also got to practice our counting!

Over the summer, one of the neighbors on our block had a yard sale. They had the Summer Infant My Size Potty for sale, so I bought it on a whim (is it weird that I bought a used potty? Oh well, it was cheap!). Charlie still didn't seem ready to start going, but he was finally taking more of an interest now that he had a my-sized potty of his own.

THE METHOD WE USED


I read up a little bit on the 3-day method, and different potty training books, but I just didn't commit to intensive potty training. Firstly, because my summer schedule is completely erratic and there was never a time when Chuck and I would both be home to tackle it together. Secondly, because I'm slightly lazy and felt overwhelmed as to where to start. I just kept putting it off and hoped that Charlie would give us some kind of a sign when he was ready.

As it happened, my procrastination paid off. Right when Charlie turned three in December, it was like the metaphorical lightbulb in his head went on- and he was ready! He started taking the initiative to sit on his potty all on his own. The first time Chuck and I both stood there cheering him on until he (hilariously) asked us for privacy. We both left the room, closed the door, and not five seconds later we heard a little voice yell, "I peed!" I still find it hysterical that he needed privacy to go his first time.

OUR POTTY ROUTINE


It's been about two months since he started and we've developed a solid potty routine. He takes the initiative to go to the potty by himself when he feels the urge and lets us know when he's done. Once one of us has investigated, we use Seventh Generation Free & Clear Baby Wipes or Aldi brand wipes when needed and then he hops up on his Toddler Bathroom Step Stool to wash his hands. (I totally didn't even think about the fact that we'd still need to keep baby wipes in the bathroom during potty training. Duh.).

We've used different kids of rewards- Peeps, Skittles, but my favorite is this bag of M&M Plain Chocolate Candy - Resealable Zipper. I love that the bag reseals, so I can just keep it in our bathroom closet and seal it back up when we're done. I dump the contents of his potty into our toilet and then I rinse it out with hot water and Lysol Multi-Purpose Cleaner Spray. I don't generally use a sponge unless it's clearly necessary (ain't nobody got time for that).

Although it's not specifically a potty training item, I also have to mention these Fresh Wave Odor Removing Gel- 3 Pack that we've started keeping in the bathroom. I bought them at Costco on a whim (are you sensing a theme here?) and I'm seriously obsessed! The gel absorbs all the yucky bathroom smells and gives off the yummiest scent. If you're turned off by super artificially-scented products, I can't recommend these enough. It's a really subtle, natural pine and cloves smell that I looooove.

Just last week, Charlie started officially used the potty at his daycare. He wears his undies at home and then wears The Honest Company Training Pants to daycare. There are still some mornings when he goes in his diaper or pull-ups before he makes it to the potty, but he really hasn't had many accidents. At this point, I can confidently say- our boy is potty trained!

WHAT I LEARNED


So, what have I learned about potty training a toddler? That my former co-worker was absolutely correct. I really didn't have to do anything except exercise some major patience and wait for Charlie to let me know that he was ready to start using the potty. And when I did, he totally took the lead and has made it a really painless process for us. We still have to make the transition from his little potty to the big toilet and he'll obviously have to figure out how to wipe himself, eventually. But I'm optimistic that the process will continue to happen organically as it has for us so far.

Are you potty training your child for the first time? What questions do you have?



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