2020 Adventures · Mom Life

Riding The Corona-Coaster

I wasn’t really even sure what this evening’s blog was going to be about. One of the downfalls of having a designated “blogging night” in a very busy weekly schedule is there can be some undue pressure when inspiration isn’t striking. Even worse, when inspiration AND motivation aren’t striking at the same time.

Can I be honest? Because that’s my plan here. I’m in a serious funk. Over the past week, I have been on a slow and steady spiral downward into the vast black hole that is known as living completely inside my head. I know I’m due for a good cry. I just haven’t let it happen yet. But it’s there…bubbling to the surface – threatening to rear it’s ugly head during the worst possible time – like maybe a job interview? Wouldn’t that just be perfect?

After chatting with my mom this morning, she reminded me that these intense feelings are probably bottling up because I have lost an outlet that was doing my soul SO much good. As I mentioned one of my recent blogs, I participated in a 100 day video series where I openly and authentically evolved out loud in the public eye. You can read about it here. I completed my 100th day on May 9th with the full intention to continue making the videos but haven’t made one since. This could be an honest and actual reason I am struggling. I had grown to rely on those videos as an outlet for me to work through my emotions and feelings about…well….everything.

As I had mentioned in earlier blogs, I have been out of work since mid March. Well, on May 8th, my wife lost her job as well. This was completely unexpected. We truly thought she was going to be okay through this pandemic. The details surrounding this event are a blog for another time but for now, I’ll just note that this has left our household with two moms who are currently unemployed, a two year old, bills, and a mortgage. Couple this news with no longer making my videos, it’s no wonder I’ve turned back into the clam I used to be — bottling everything up and not sharing my emotions. I am stoic to a fault when it comes to this. I am fully aware that this is not a show of bravery but a show of one of my greatest weaknesses that I am working on. After evaluating my feelings prior to writing this blog, I have come to the conclusion that riding the corona-coaster can be broken down into three segments for me:

1). Living in Anxiety

2). Drowning In Parenthood

3). Fearing the Unknown

LIVING IN ANXIETY

First, let me start by saying I don’t define myself as a person with anxiety. I am a person who suffers from situational anxiety. About twenty years ago, I visited a psychiatrist who told me I had “general anxiety” and prescribed a gentle tranquilizer for me. You read that right. First visit. Tranquilizer. And there was nothing gentle about it. Needless to say, I stopped taking that quickly after I started. Over time and after years of experience, I really learned how to navigate myself. And this is what I’ve learned: Under normal circumstances, I am calm, cool, collected, positive, and looking to uplift others. Under intense and far between situations, the anxiety eats at me from the inside out SO viciously that it makes me physically ill. It takes away my appetite. It keeps me from sleeping. It forces me to disengage with the people and the beauty that truly make up my life. It pushes me inward and paralyzes my vocal cords so that I cannot speak about what I’m feeling to anyone — even those that I trust.

Since my wife lost her job, I have been living here — in this world of pure anxiety. Every Sunday night, a friend of mine who is a musician does a Facebook Live session of worship music. I tuned in for a little while tonight and, for the first time since I’ve been feeling this funk, I felt the tears start to want to rise and release. I, of course, stopped it from happening because that’s what I do but it’s also what inspired me to write this tonight.

For the record, this is not where I like to be. Anxiety and I are not friends. I tend to run the other direction when I see it in other people and I especially want to run when I see it in myself because it makes me so uncomfortable and it feels unbearable when it strikes.

DROWNING IN PARENTHOOD

My daughter is the most amazing thing that’s ever happened to me. Isn’t it funny that parents feel the need to preface everything we’re about to say with a statement like that? Like so many others, I am drowning in parenthood right now. There is a brutal double-edged sword happening here. On the one side, I’m so eternally grateful to be able to spend this time with her…to love on her…to play with her…to watch her grow and experience life and to be with her every waking moment.

On the other side, I always knew I wanted to be a working mom. I wanted to know that I didn’t identify myself as “mom” alone. I actually love to work. I love having a career. I also love that my daughter goes to an amazing daycare. I love how much they have helped her grow and how much she loves her teachers and her friends. She has become who she is largely in part to their contribution to her life. One of the hardest days of my life since becoming a mother was dropping my girl off at daycare. But we found the perfect school and love how much she loves it. It was also a treat to miss her — to have full, exhausting, and rewarding days that always ended with her sweet face telling us about her day in school. We had to take her out of school because of this pandemic in mid March and that was a very tough decision to make. We are at the two month mark now and she has a number of different feelings about the matter that range from:

“I never want to leave my mommies again” to

“I guess I’m never going back to school?” (cue sad face) to

“I’m just going to stay with my mommies now” to

“I miss my friends and my teachers”

Talk about a freaking roller coaster ride!

Once I was laid off from my job, I decided that I was going to basically be the best damn teacher the world had ever seen. There were projects galore. Arts and crafts, recess, scheduled play-time, schedules, cooking together…you name it, I did it. There were lots of Facebook posts about how full and wonderful our days together were…. And now? Now, it basically feels like we’re all just trying to get through the day together. The Facebook posts are dwindling because it’s pretty much more of the same and I’m just freaking tired. And I think my daughter is, too.

Two things here before I continue: 1). Thank goodness for Disney Plus and 2). if I have to see one more episode of Llama Llama Red Pajama, I might cry…

And before we talk about screen time and who’s for and who’s against it…let’s just be reminded that I have an only child who is two. If I want a single solitary moment to have even the smallest conversation with my wife that consists of “Hey..do you want me to take the trash out?” – let alone anything of substance – our child needs to be watching something. If she’s not, she will surely be injecting herself into the conversation with thoughtful phrases like “Mommy and Mama!! Stop TALKING to each other!” (and no….that is not a joke).

Fearing The Unknown

I know this is where anxiety comes from. Projecting into the future or the unknown is a breeding ground for anxiety. It also means you are not living in the moment. I have felt my head go to scary places this past week due to fear of the unknown and have had to stop myself and say “What do you see? What do you hear? What do you smell? What do you feel right NOW?” to force me back into the moment before I actually throw up. It works..but right now, it’s a lot of work to snap back to the now.

Feeding this fear of the unknown is the dreaded job hunt. Job searching has changed drastically since March when I was first laid off. As you may remember from my earlier blog about fighting for my dream job and the subsequent pause on that position, I’ve noticed the job market has gone through a subtle but significant change. Almost every interview that I felt positive about delivers no response to a follow up email. I’ve also noticed a steady decrease in the compensation offers since March for jobs that would normally pay more.

For example, I cannot begin to tell you how many positions I’ve seen for an office administrator offering between $13.00 and $16.00/hr but requiring a four-year degree. What exactly is going on here? Having been an office administrator for many years and never completing my degree program, I can tell you that experience and on the job training can get the job done and get it done well. Requiring a four-year degree and then only offering the bare-bones minimum compensation makes absolutely no sense to me!

But, I fear this is what we’re going to be looking at between now and through the end of this nightmare of a pandemic. There will be so many people out of work that the upper hand will belong to the hiring companies. Highly qualified individuals will likely find themselves settling for less than their credentials call for because they need to work. Once the financial assistance from the government ends (and it will), it will likely be similar to the scene in Titanic where everyone is clawing themselves to the end of the boat to be the last to sink — no matter the pay.

Imagine taken from Youtube.com

The problem with this is that those highly qualified people who took a job for less than what they should based on their experience and credentials will continue to look for better opportunities along the way. These people will eventually find better opportunities as things calm down and as a result, it’s almost like we’re looking at a double crash of the economy and job market.

So NOW What?

So what to do now? Personally, I am dedicated to getting myself out of this funk and continuing my plan to better myself during this pandemic. I have worked as the head of HR for the past 6 years. Before that, I recruited, hired, and trained employees for almost ten years. I have decided to take the leap and go for my SPHR-CP certification (Certified Professional in Senior Professional in Human Resources). I am so proud of my decision to do this. It was a pretty big investment for someone who is currently unemployed and it is literally like being back in college. But, I am loving diving back into the field of learning again.

Aside from that, I am currently enrolled in a four -month Project Management course that will yield a certification/diploma for me as a PMP (Project Management Professional).

This course has been incredibly exciting to me and also sad. Exciting because it puts a name and method to a lot of the things I’ve done throughout my career. Sad, because I’m being shown all the ways I could have been better for my previous employer(s). This program has helped me to see that I could have brought more to the table — maybe even saved some heartaches along the way–had I only had this information to begin with. But, I keep reminding myself to remember that we must not focus on the thoughts that pose the thought: “If I could turn back time….” , “What if?”, or “If only I had known..”

We must focus on the now and what we can bring to the future.

Outside of this I have purchased the training and certification for Excel and all of Microsoft Office. Even though I’ve been using this software for most of my career, I’ve never actually studied it and become an expert.

I am proud of the fact that everything I’ve learned has been hands-on. However, there is a confidence that comes with knowing it inside and out and saying “Hey..I’m expert here…Hire me.” There is also a confidence that comes with showing potential job opportunities that you aren’t wasting this time JUST binge-watching Netflix. It’s an unprecedented opportunity to show that you are not getting knocked down by a global pandemic…and that you are using this time to better yourself professionally. It’s a true caterpillar-to -butterfly story if you want it to be. I went into the Pandemic as an Executive Assistant with HR Management experience; But I came out a certified HR professional, a Project Management Professional, and an expert and certified in all things Microsoft Office. Sounds pretty awesome, doesn’t it?

I am so excited that so many companies are offering these types of certifications at reduced rates to help people better themselves in a challenging economy with an over-saturated job market filled with highly qualified and talented people.

I have also started an Instagram connected to this blog to attract more readers and followers. Ultimately, I’ve made no secret of the fact that I want to be a writer. That is the dream. In the meantime, I also need to pay for my mortgage and support my family so I’d also like to be the best that I can be in my professional life as well.

My problem has been that this week of being engrossed in my own anxiety and worries have also inhibited me from that forward motion I am so excited about that will take me to the next level. As I sit here now, typing all of this out, I feel so much better and far less paralyzed just by speaking my truth. Perhaps blogging can also be an outlet for me outside of the videos I was doing daily for 100 days?

I know I’m not the only person feeling this way now. There’s a fine line between keeping your sanity in check and pushing yourself to go that extra mile in bettering yourself. Being a mom with a toddler out of school and also having dreams and goals you want to accomplish outside of motherhood is a challenge…especially during the two-year sleep regression. We officially sleep less now than we did when our daughter was an infant. I honestly feel that if I can just get and keep my “stuff “centered and stay focused, there’s a brighter light at the end of this tunnel that I’m just struggling to see right now.

Speaking frankly, this has been the darkest week of quarantine for me so far. I didn’t see it coming, but here we sit.

Our state is about to open up to a full Phase 1 tomorrow and I still don’t feel fully safe to engage with any of that. Since I can’t control any part of that plan, it’s becoming clear to me that I need to focus on what I CAN control. I thank you for reading this because it wasn’t at all planned out. This has literally been a stream of consciousness to get my thoughts out there in some format so that I can start dealing with them. Maybe that good cry will come soon and then I can get over myself and move on to the next steps in becoming who the universe is telling me I’m meant to be.

Any advice for me? I’m open and listening. How are you dealing with the unusual and unprecedented stressors that come with a global pandemic right now? Not only am I listening; But I thank you for reading!

Mom Life

Instinctive Parenting: My Two Year Old’s Journey To A Full-Sized Bed.

Six beds in 33 months. You read that right. Six.

From infancy to toddlerhood (is that even a word?), there are a variety of opinions out there as to how the life cycle of the bed your child sleeps in should go.

Like anything else in parenthood, there isn’t a right or wrong way to do something. You can read a plethora of books on child-rearing and gather plenty of advice from friends and family but at the end of the day, it will be your battle. How one child responds to a particular method may not be how another one responds.

When my wife and I first found out we were pregnant, we were SO excited to finally have the good news to share. We had tried for two years and exhausted finances beyond belief to finally achieve our dream of becoming mommies. The day we were able to make our announcement (on Valentine’s Day) was one of the most exciting days of our lives. We were going to by mommies to a beautiful baby girl.

Our pregnancy announcement. Notice how well rested we looked and this was likely the last time we ever wore lipstick.

We were so excited to start our new adventure, that we honestly didn’t stop to think about how we would handle a host of sleeping issues we would eventually encounter. We just knew that we loved her so much and that should be enough to face all challenges that lay before us…right guys? Right?

When our daughter was born, she slept in between us in this tiny “Moses-like” basket. There was mesh all around to avoid suffocating our child…which is important to note because they DO make similar products that may suffocate your child. Reading tags on these suckers can be scary. We actually bought one of the suffocat-ish ones before we knew better. We read the tag quickly and it’s now a cat bed. Here’s the one we fell in love with.

Once she graduated from that, she went into a couple of bassinets at the side of our bed. The first was the Delta Children Disney Princess Gliding Bassinet. It was a gift from a friend of ours and we loved it. The problem was that our child was very long and it didn’t take her long to outgrow it.

Photo courtesty of Buy Buy Baby. Link here.

We soon discovered we had to move on to something that could hold her height and weight and also travel with us as we were going to see my parents in the mountains of North Carolina. We decided on the Mini Ezee 3-In-1 Co-Sleeper. Now, when I say Co-sleeper, please know that we never engaged in co-sleeping with our daughter. We also don’t stand in judgment of parents who DO. It’s a personal choice. We were just terrified we’d roll over on her or she’d suffocate while we were sleeping. These early months in our room were to keep her near for nursing, diaper changes, and fast comfort. She would move to her crib in her room at 6 months. We had worked hard on putting that nursery together and we wanted her to enjoy that space.

My Mama and I painting my daughter’s room before she was born. It was a fun and exhausting day.

In fact, we wouldn’t engage in Co-Sleeping until our daughter took us hostage three months ago at the age of two years and six months. But I digress….This Co-Sleeper was, perhaps, one of our greatest finds for infant sleeping. She slept safely next to our bed with easy access for nursing and it folded like a pack n play for travel. We LOVED it.

Mini Ezee 3-in-1 Co-Sleeper. Link to info here.

At around six months, we moved our daughter to her own room in her crib. The transition was nerve-wracking as we were used to having her right beside us. What if she got lonely? What if she was scared? What if she needed us and we couldn’t hear her? What if, what if, what if? The transition went smoothly. My wife would nurse her in her rocking chair in the corner of the room until she fell asleep (fully swaddled) and then place her in the crib for a peaceful night’s sleep.

For many of those early months, our daughter slept peacefully through the night waking only to be fed or changed if she woke at all. This, of course would change if she was sick or teething but for the most part, we were pretty excited that we had a sleeping baby. We should have knocked on wood.

Our baby girl’s crib. Blanket was for decoration only. She didn’t sleep with a blanket until it was no longer deemed a suffocation hazard.

I feel the need to mention that there are many different parenting styles. Everyone can typically relate to one or more in their own parenting. In an article written on http://www.stayathomemum.com, they review the five main parenting styles and ask which you connect with. Those styles are:

  • Instinctive Parenting
  • Attachment Parenting
  • Helicopter Parenting
  • Authoritative Parenting
  • Permissive Parenting

After reading over these, I have come to the conclusion that my wife and I both follow Instinctive Parenting. No. We never talked about parenting styles before my wife got pregnant. No. We never read any parenting books. Did we buy them? Yes. Did we read them? Nah. We were more focused on buying things for the baby, planning our shower, and getting the nursery and house ready. There was no time for “reading”. It just so happened that my wife and I both seemed to collectively land here:

For details on the other styles of parenting, follow the link here.

So…our “instincts” told us to never use the “cry-it-out” method or do any type of sleep training that we believed caused unnecessary stress on our child. Looking back, I think there was probably a happy medium somewhere that we should have taken a look at because to this day, our daughter is not “sleep trained”- meaning she doesn’t just lay down as I kiss her on the head, say goodnight, close the door, and leave her to her own devices as she drifts off to sleep. If I did that today, she would cry her eyes out and get so upset that she might throw up. I actually admire parents who have or had the strength to push through those hard nights in the early stages to get their child comfortable self-soothing themselves to sleep. I’ll admit we were not strong enough to take that on and while we love her dearly and will always show up for her, we’re paying the price for it now.

On to the next battle. Up to this past December, our daughter still insisted on being rocked to sleep. She was coming on 2 and a half years old. She had outgrown her rocking chair, was heavier, and it was becoming IMPOSSIBLE for mommy (my wife) to rock her to sleep and place her gently in her crib without waking her. Everyone in the house was frustrated and we knew it was time for a change. Up until this point, my wife had always been the one to put my daughter to sleep but as our daughter grew older, she began to hold my wife hostage in her room for upwards of 2 hours or more and JUST when my wife tried to lay her in the crib sound asleep, she’d wake up and the cycle would start again. At one point, I was afraid I would have to admit my wife to an asylum of some sort — if for no other reason than to give her a freaking break.

That is when we decided to convert her crib to the toddler version and I would step in and be the one to do bedtime. The toddler bed was beautiful and gave her access to her room if she wanted to get up. We put a child protective piece over her bedroom doorknob and lock. This way she couldn’t wander the house and she couldn’t lock herself in her room.

Photo courtesy of amazon.com

A lot of my friends who are parents of children around the same age gasped when they heard we were converting our daughter’s crib to a toddler bed at only 2 years old. I would hear things like “I’m not ready for he/she to just show up in my room.” or “What if they just wander around the house?” or “No way am I losing sleep because they can get out of their rooms!” But these people were also still not rocking their child to sleep every night and trying to transition their sleeping two-year old from a chair, over a crib rail, and down to the lowest level of the crib without waking them. It was like a live game of Operation. BUZZ!!! BUZZ!!! BUZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ!!! Your child is awake. You lose. Start again. It was enough to drive you mad.

Sometimes we regretted not sleep training. Our sanity was slowly slipping away (especially my wife’s). We had to make the change. That change included giving my wife a MUCH needed break from the bedtime routine and I took over.

At first, my daughter wanted NOTHING to do her “big girl bed”. She cried. She hated it. She did not want it. As with most things that involve change, she eventually got used to it and she never got up and wandered around like everyone in my life seemed to be worried about. She would simply sit up and call for us or wait patiently for us…..until one day when she didn’t (more on that in a minute). Because she was not sleep trained, bedtime issues were still there. Only this time, they were transferred from my wife to me. After a small period of time when we converted her bed, we moved the rocking chair out of our daughter’s room which meant no more rocking to sleep. This meant I would sit on the hard floor, hanging over the toddler rail of her new toddler bed, and hold her hand until she fell asleep, and then sneak out of her room as quietly as I could. That also sucked.

On those nights where she wasn’t tired and just wanted to chat or hear “just ONE more story”, I found myself losing my patience with her…sometimes getting flat out angry. Go. To. SLEEP.

In March (before COVID -19) my wife, daughter, and I took a family vacation to the Blue Ridge Mountains with our moms. It was an amazing trip with three generations of women spending the week together in the fresh mountain air. That trip is a blog in and of itself but here’s a quick peak at our experience.

During that vacation, our daughter slept in a bed with us. We brought her an inflatable toddler air mattress but when she woke in a dark strange room, she got scared and jumped in our king bed with us for comfort. We were okay with it because we were on vacation and had a king-sized bed rather than the queen-size bed we had a home. But, when we returned home, things had changed.

One night, my wife and I were sitting at the dining room table after my daughter had gone to sleep. We were working as we did most evenings…. and then ~ we heard it. A terrifying and loud BANG! BANG! BANG!!! I thought someone was breaking into the house. We looked at our daughter’s baby monitor. She was not in her bed. Oh. No. Mayday! Mayday!!

She had gotten out of bed and had decided to bang on the door so loudly, it jumped us out of our skin. And she did this for around 1-2 weeks. We finally started leaving her door open a crack so she’d stop scaring the shit out of us every night and just walk to us quietly. We tried to avoid leaving her door open because we didn’t want her to wander AND we didn’t want the cats busting in her room, having a howl fest, and waking her. After that, she continued to leave her bed, open her door, and come in bed with us.

So check THIS out. There has only been ONE night between our return from vacation (March 14, 2020) to last night (May 10, 2020) that she hasn’t ended up in the bed with us and that was just a few nights ago. We have been lenient with this, though, because A). We love her and have agreed to ALWAYS show up for her when she needs us; B). She’s been out of school, can’t go anywhere, and can’t see her friends, and her entire world has been turned upside down because of Covid-19; and C). After doing some research, we understand that she may also be going through a sleep regression right now.

A couple of weeks ago, my wife and I discussed and decided to transition from her toddler bed (which honestly still looked too much like a crib to me) to its final conversion — a full-sized bed. I am happy to report that she is ECSTATIC with this change. She constantly wants to be in her new bed. Granted, this is only night two, but she does appear to be sleeping better and much less restless than she was before (knock on wood).

We also invested in a sleep training clock. The digital face on the clock smiles and has open eyes with a sun icon on it when it’s time to be up and about it. When it’s time to be asleep and stay in bed, the digital eyes close and a moon appears. When it’s thirty minutes before wake up time, the circle around the face of the clock lights up in yellow. This means it’s ALMOST time to get up but stay the hell in bed. When that ring turns green, it’s time to get out of bed.

Last night and tonight I set it for 3:00 AM so that we can ease her back into her room for the night without traumatizing her. She came into our room right around 3 AM last night. I’m not sure if it was the clock or just habits, but I’m hopeful. Tomorrow, I will set it for 4:00 AM and so on and so forth until she spends the entire night in her room.

The good news is she loves her bed. I can lay down comfortably in it with her and hold her hand until she drifts off to sleep and sneak out quickly and quietly. There are no more uncomfortable hard floors to sit on or toddler rails to dig into my armpits while I try to hold her hand. This is the greatest win-win for our instinctive parenting methodology. I’m hoping this one does the trick. It’s been a long journey in the life cycle of toddler sleep cycles and beds since that day our daughter was born on August 1, 2017.

Our philosophy has always been and will continue to be “whatever we need to do to show up for our daughter so she feels safe and also not make us crazy in the process, is what we’re going to do”. And I believe we will always live by that mantra.

Please know that this blog represents OUR story and is not (in any way) an attempt to downplay or dismiss other methods or experiences out there. If you’re a parent, I love you. I admire you. You’re doing awesome and you have my undying support — even if we don’t agree on how to do things.

Every family is different and uses different techniques and theories but I think we can all agree that a sleeping baby or toddler is a happy baby or toddler…..and sleeping babies or toddlers mean happy parents, too….am I right?

Mom Life

Potty Training: Number Two ~ The Saga Continues

Let me start by saying this: If talking about potty training, peeing, and ESPECIALLY pooping bothers or offends you in any way, you may want to just scroll on. Because I’m writing this damn blog for the next parent who is pulling their hair out wondering if they are the only ones. I’m here to tell you I SEE YOU and you are NOT alone.

I’m proud to say that my daughter seems to have mastered peeing on the potty. Since we did our potty training boot camp last weekend, she’s not had one wet accident. Her potty training watch that beeps “If You’re Happy And You Know It” every hour signaling to her that it’s time to go has been a lifesaver and she wears it proudly. She’s now started to tell us she has to go pee BEFORE her watch goes off if she needs to go. We couldn’t be more proud of how far she’s come.

She’s even started going pee on public toilets which we felt was a wonderful accomplishment – Especially because we’re going on a big road trip in less than a month. So far, she’s successfully peed at McDonalds’, Publix, and Target.

This is what we use for her in public restrooms and it has been a lifesaver!

Peeing on the potty was only an issue for one and a half days. But pooping? Dear Lord. If you’re a parent currently Googling “Why won’t my toddler poop on the potty?” or something similar, grab a glass of wine and pull up a chair. Because shit’s about to get real….literally.

It’s very difficult to find tried and true theories about training your child to poop on the potty. In fact, even the potty training book we bought covers it only briefly on one page at the very end of the book. Here, it basically states that the reason it isn’t mentioned much in the book is because it’s an entirely different battle. It then goes on to discuss the variety of ways to know if your child is constipated. Gee, thanks. That was super helpful.

Other things you might find out there just seem weird and not something you’re excited to try. Why is this? In my opinion, it’s because it’s incredibly different for every child. It depends on their personality and the nature of their bowel movements (hard, soft, constipated or regular). There is also a level of emotional attachment that my wife and I were NOT prepared for when it comes to pooping on the potty. The conversation we had with our daughter yesterday was not at all something we expected to hear. I’ll get into that in a bit.

So, we started potty training on a Saturday. By the end of the following day (Sunday), our daughter was peeing on the potty regularly and had one “poop” accident. This accident was our fault. We engaged in a game of hide-and-seek with with our daughter out in the back yard. My wife hid on one side of the yard. I hid on the other and my daughter stood by the palm tree in the center and counted. We waited and waited after the counting stopped but she never came to find us. Finally, we yelled, “Are you going to come find us?” Her response was “I STILL COUNTING!” What she meant to say was “I was waiting for you two helicopter moms to leave me alone so I can poop in peace!” And that’s exactly what she was doing.

We knew we were supposed to watch her every move in those first couple days to try and catch accidents in real time as they happened so this was definitely an amateur move on our part.

And that was it, folks. That was the last time she pooped before the Great Poop Massacre of 2020 happened. After that “accident”, this girl held her poop for FOUR days.

You read that right. FOUR. DAYS. Just writing it makes me cringe. Everything I read on the subject said to expect your child to hold it for one to two days but my child is who she is. She is willfull and she fights for what she wants and doesn’t give up. EVER. We went from encouraging her to go poop on the potty to at least just GOING poop anywhere.. because we were concerned we were going to end up in the ER with an impacted bowel.

On the fourth day, she had a small poop accident at school. The teachers caught her in the act and she didn’t get to finish. In hindsight, this was probably not a great idea. When she got home that night, things got pretty bad. To tell you the truth, we are all still a bit traumatized from it.

On the fourth night, I was standing outside with her playing and she stopped in her tracks, grabbed her butt, and said “Don’t poop in my underwear!” I began to be concerned that she was confusing the message of “don’t poop in your underwear” with “just don’t poop at all”. I immediately offered to take her to the potty but she refused and started whimpering.

But then Mother Nature stepped in and she couldn’t hold it any longer. It started to come out and let me tell you this. This poor girl was in pain. I was cooking dinner in the kitchen and she stood there in the kitchen paralyzed and unable to move. She was pushing and crying hysterically. She wanted us near her but did not want to be touched. My wife and sat on our knees on the kitchen floor so we could be eye level to her. I felt so helpless standing there watching her cry uncontrollably. We kept trying to console her with our words but nothing seemed to help.

This went on for probably twenty minutes. Finally, I got suspicious of something and I walked behind her. You could see she was worried I was going to come pick her up or touch her in any way so as I walked, I reassured her I wasn’t going to touch her — that I just wanted to see behind her. When I got there, I could see the shape of a huge chunk of poop gathered in her underwear. It looked like it had all come out and and yet she was still crying hysterically.

That’s when I asked her. “Baby…is the poop still coming out now?” She said “YES!!!” through her sobs and tears. It was then that I knew it was likely stuck and she couldn’t get it to release. I looked at her and said calmly “Do you need help getting it out?” And she looked up at me through her tears and said “YES!”

My wife immediately took her hand and brought her over to her changing area – the whole time consoling her with words and just trying to get her to calm down. When my wife evaluated the situation, she called out to me in the kitchen: “It’s stuck!”. JUST as I suspected. My wife, being the rock star that she is pulled the poop out of our daughter’s butt and suddenly the crying stopped and normal attitudes, personalities, and activities resumed. The size of this thing was ridiculous. No wonder she was crying so hard. It had to hurt and we felt terrible for her. We talked to her about why she should not hold it in and that it would only continue to hurt her if she didn’t let it out. But, at two and a half, it’s hard to know which lessons will stick and which will not. We prayed this message and lesson would stick.

Later that night, we had another episode. This time it was in the bathtub. Before both episodes began, she told us her belly hurt and then started with the crying and pushing, When the bathtub incident occurred, I was doing other things around the house and was not in the bathroom with my wife and daughter. I heard crying and could tell she was yelling out but couldn’t make out her words. My wife opened the bathroom door and told me that she was yelling for me and that it was happening again and so I ran into the bathroom. We talked her through it. It was obvious how much it was hurting her. We continued to encourage her and we decided to just let her finish what she needed to do in the tub and not move her. Once she was done, we quickly pulled her out and wrapped her in a towel. My wife drained and disinfected the tub while I held and comforted our daughter. Simply put? This was torture. For ALL of us.

We refilled the tub and bathed her again before putting her to bed. She seemed to feel much better. The next day (Friday) passed with no bowel movements and no episodes and we had a much happier child. We began to increase her water-based fruits, her fiber intake, and healthy fats like avocados to help avoid that situation from happening again.

On Saturday, we continued our dietary plan. Before we knew it, our daughter started telling us her belly hurt and started grabbing her butt again. Then she started crying and saying she was pooping. She looked at us and said “Can you help me get it out?”

Not again!!!

My wife laid her down and removed her underwear. She could see the poop and that it was hard and having difficulty coming out. She could tell it was more of the constipated stuff moving through and she helped her get some of it out but it still wasn’t a lot. We knew there was more to come. It was then that we decided to put her in a pull up on her and encourage her to go when she felt she needed to. At this point, we’d rather her go in a pull up than to hold it and not go at all. .

Later, it happened again. The grabbing of her butt…and the talking about her belly hurting. This time, you could see the panic on her face as she retreated into her little playhouse on our back patio. My wife followed her in so they could talk and she could monitor the situation. I feel it important to note here that I’m 6’1″. My wife is 5’3″ so when a mom is needed in the tiny playhouse, my wife is the ONLY mom that can make that happen. I am forever the awkward neighbor who hangs out in the yard and talks through the window but never actually comes in – Because I’ll never actually get out again.

My wife trying to help our daughter understand why poop needs to go in the potty and see her through another painful bowel movement…in a very tiny house.

It was obvious that our daughter was trying to poop again. Her little playhouse was a favorite place to hide and poop when she was in diapers so we knew she felt safe in there. She backed herself up to the wall of her playhouse and began to cry. It was beginning to happen. My wife talked to her about not holding it and encouraged her to keep pushing. My daughter called out for me to come again and so I went to the playhouse…again promising not to touch her and just be there with her. We took this opportunity (while she was pushing) to tell her that poop needs to go in the potty because then we send it to Poop Land where it can be with its friends and family. (Don’t ask and don’t judge! The things we say to our kids defy logic and we do what we gotta do. Am I right?)

She continued to cry and though we could tell she was having trouble pushing it out, there also seemed to be something emotional going on. It was then that we discovered she had and emotional attachment to her poop and the idea of flushing it to Poop Land was causing her emotional distress. She literally said (through her tears) “My poop is my best friend!” and then she was sobbing again This completely threw us off.

I’m sorry….what? Your poop is WHAT? Did she just say her poop is her best friend?

My wife and I glanced at each other…it was a look that only spouses know. The one that says “What the fuck is happening here?” and “Is it too early to open the wine?”

We continued to encourage her and comfort her with careful words and tones – letting her know she was going to be okay and to keep pushing and not to hold it.

Finally, she was done pushing but kept saying ‘I’m still pooping!” which told me it was stuck again. My wife laid her down and pulled the rest of it out of our daughter’s butt. In case you couldn’t tell, my wife is a freaking angel. I clean poop out of underwear. She pulls poop out of butts. We all have our roles in the shit show.

I resisted taking a picture of this thing but holy shit (literally). This thing was huge – almost the size of my fist. This poor kid!

When it was all over, I encouraged my daughter to come with me to the bathroom and help me send her poop to Poop Land. I carried the lump in her pull up to the bathroom and dumped it in the toilet. My daughter then flushed it as we said “Bye-bye, poopy!” Then my daughter shrieked “You go to Poop Land now!”

Success! We just went from “My poop is my best friend” to “Whatever, bitches! Enjoy Poop Land!” At least now she saw where the poop should go and that it’s not a bad thing when it’s flushed.

We continued with the water-based fruits, fluids, and high fiber foods and healthy fats like avocados.

Later in the day, she began to pass gas which I took as a good sign that things were now moving swiftly through her bowels and she was getting back to normal. I decided to take this opportunity to take a much-needed shower.

When I got out of the shower, I felt nice and relaxed and clean. And then I heard it. The distant call of my wife with that tone of concern she gets when things are happening that we would really rather not be happening.

“Babe?”

I replied from our bedroom with “Yeah?”

“She had diarrhea….. in her underwear”.

You’ve GOT to be KIDDING me!

I ran into the bathroom and saw my toddler sitting on the toilet saying “Mama! I had diarrhea” as happy as could be. My wife? Not so happy as she was on her knees cleaning up our daughter while trying to keep the contents that had pooled in her underwear contained. What a freaking mess! We decided to put a pull up on her again in case there was anymore of THIS nonsense. With all the backlogged poop (no pun intended) out of the way, all that fruit, fiber, and healthy fats were finally moving freely through her body creating an incredibly loose stool. My wife said it started as a couple of “toots”. And then she heard it. The gurgling and gushing sound that can only mean one thing.

I picked the wrong time to take a shower.

On the plus side, my wife and I considered this a complete “reset” of our daughter’s intestinal track. Maybe NOW we could actually potty train her and teach her how to poop on the potty without the discomfort of constipation.

So the answer here is that I don’t have the answers. We have not mastered this part of potty training yet. I remain hopeful but unsure of how we’re going to accomplish this feat. I think this is one of those “Every Toddler For Himself” type of situations.

If you’re seeking answers, I can only offer my advice which would be to exercise patience. Aside from the emotional trauma we were not expecting to experience, we are noticing that our daughter has a new awareness about her body now that didn’t exist before potty training. That awareness is causing her to feel some confusion about what part of her body does what. She tells us her butt hurts when she actually means her bladder is full. She can tell now when her poop is coming out and it frightens her because she is aware of it for the first time. She is also trying to control it and that part has been hard on her…and us.

As a result, we have decided that the best thing for our family is to ease up on the pressure of pooping on the potty and just keep trying to encourage her and guide her in the right direction while doing all we can to keep her from becoming constipated.

And, of course, here we are on Sunday night and no bowel movement at all today. We are hoping that it’s because she got it all out yesterday and NOT because she’s starting the process of holding it all over again.

If she is, God, help us all.

Mom Life

P Is For Potty: My Weekend On Lockdown

What’s with the large gap between blogs, you might be asking? Well. There’s a simple answer to that. I’ve just emerged from a cave where our little family of three just completed a two-day Potty Training Boot Camp for my two-year-old.

Looking back on the weekend, this seems like a ridiculous thing to call it. It would be more accurately described as “Two-Moms-Curled-Up-In-The-Fetal-Position-Eating-All-The-M&Ms-Reserved-For-Potty-Training-Rewards-For-The-Toddler-While-Losing-All-Hope-In-Ever-Being-Free-From-The-Expense-Of-Diapers” Camp.

At one point, I remember thinking: Forget it. She’ll just go to college in diapers. It’s fine. I’m fine. Everyone’s fine. But the truth is, none of us were fine – at least on the first day.

Before we began this boot camp, we had a few challenges. Step one was to actually find a weekend where we had nothing going on. If you recall from my New Year’s post, I resolved to fill our lives with adventures which means we have been filling our weekends with fun activities, friends, and family (and sometimes all of the above). We landed on this particular weekend and made sure we had no plans to leave the house. We were on lockdown. This was NOT a drill.

Step two was getting all of the supplies we thought we would need. We bought a “potty” chair that goes over the toilet and has a built in step that one of our friends recommended. When it arrived outside our front door, it was boxed and needed to be assembled. When things need to be assembled in my house, I am the person who does it – and now, so is my daughter. When she saw me sit in the living room with my tools and the boxed up potty chair, she ran and grabbed her toolbox. She fully intended to “help” me build her new potty and she was incredibly excited. It took me twice as long with her “helping me” but I learned a while ago that it’s much better for her to be able to help and take ownership of things — especially things that are for her and are part of a big change. For example, we bought her tools when we switched her from her crib to her big girl bed. She helped me take down one of the crib walls and put up her toddler rail.

I decided to build the potty weeks before we started our boot camp weekend to get her used to seeing it. She sat on it right away and was excited to have had a hand in building it.

My wife also did research on some of the best potty training books out there. She settled on this one and ordered it so that it would arrive one week prior to our “Boot Camp” weekend. It looked like it covered all topics and seemed to be an easy read.

If you’re holding your breath waiting on my book review, don’t. We didn’t read it. Not one page. Not until the first day of boot camp when we had already made about 50 mistakes. More on that later.

We also made sure we had her Princess Potty book and crown that she could decorate with a new jewel every time she used the potty successfully as well as some light reading materials to give her something to do while she waited for something to happen.

Because we consider ourselves to be hip parents, we also invested in the GoGo Potty Training Kit . The kit came with a Potty Training Watch. The Potty Watch is centered on a pink silicone band that our daughter would wear. The watch has a built-in timer that you can set to go off every 30, 60, or 90 minutes. When the timer goes off, the word GO flashes and it plays “If You’re Happy And You Know It” for 45 seconds.

The downside of this watch is that there’s only one button that serves all functions. ONE button that turns it on, sets the time, sets the timer, turns it off, and everything in between. It basically took knowledge of The Morse Code and an act of God to find the specific feature we needed. Want to turn it on? Hold the button for three seconds. Want to set the time? Hold the button for three seconds and then hold it down for two seconds to set the hour. Hit the button once to select the hour and then hold it down for two seconds to switch to minutes. Then, hold it down for three seconds to change the minutes. Hold for two seconds to set the time. Press and hold the button for 2 seconds until you see “cd” then hold it for 2 more seconds and hit once to move through the timer options. Once you decide how long to set it for, hold the button for three seconds. Dit-dit-dit-daaa-daaaa-daaa-dit-dit-dit! SOS! Mayday! Mayday!

And then, of course, you can’t forget the reward system. We filled a mason jar with M&M’s and Gummy Bears on the bathroom counter as an incentive and a reward. In hindsight – we didn’t need the gummy bears. The M&M’s did the trick. Yes. We rewarded her with candy. And I will not apologize for it. You do what you gotta do.

Never were there two more prepared Mommies than we. Our little girl had already gone on the potty plenty of times prior to actually “Potty Training” and she was going at school relatively frequently as well. We knew we had this in the bag.

Wrong.

That was mistake number one. Assuming we had it in the bag. We were overly confident. We were prepared with books, candy, and physical tools but, we were not prepared emotionally for what was about to happen. The only plan we had for Day One was:

1). There would only be big girl underpants from now on beginning on the first day of actual potty training with the exception of nap time and bedtime when she would be in a pull up until we were sure she had it down and could stay dry when she slept.

2). We would be putting her on the potty every thirty minutes.

That’s pretty much it. That was our grand plan.

DAY ONE: This sucks. I quit.

Saturday morning rolled around and my wife and I opened our daughter’s bedroom door carrying all of her big girl underwear and singing “Happy Potty Training Day!” She was excited and went right to the potty as we requested. Nothing happened which didn’t surprise us because her diaper from the overnight was wet. I’m going to guess and say we kept her on the potty for about ten minutes (possibly longer) before we took her off and put her in her first pair of big girl underwear. We set the timer on her watch for 30 minutes.

It wasn’t long before the first accident happened. She was playing in the living room as I was cooking breakfast. She suddenly froze in her tracks and said: “I pee everywhere!!!”

Damnit!

We missed the window by ten minutes! We scrambled and began casting out the words of encouragement. “That’s okay. That’s called an accident. Next time we want to try and pee in the potty. You’re doing great!”

You could tell she didn’t like the way it felt to be in wet underwear and the puddle by her feet was quite large. Thank God we have concrete floors! We took her to the bathroom, cleaned her up, and put her on the potty again. Nothing.

The alarm on her watch sounded every thirty minutes and at first, she was pretty excited about it. But through all her excitement, there was still no pee in the potty.

Then, the second accident happened while we were playing the back yard. This time, she had pants on (another mistake) and she soaked her underwear, her pants, and her slippers. Frustration was beginning to build in everyone. How did we keep missing this window?? We were taking her every thirty minutes, for crying out loud!

In desperation, I grabbed the Potty Training Book we had bought as decoration and started to actually speed read it. The first thing I read that stood out to me is do NOT take them every thirty minutes. That makes it feel like a punishment and they may begin to resist the potty. The next thing I read was not to keep them on the potty for more than 3-5 minutes at a time.

It was like this book was written just to point out all the mistakes we had decided to go ahead and make on our own.

I’m going to keep a long story short here. After that second accident, my daughter held her pee for seven hours.

Let me repeat that. Seven. Hours. We had her on the potty every thirty minutes. Then we increased it to sixty minutes after what I had read in the book. Still nothing. This child napped for two hours in a pull up and even IT was dry when she woke up. This continued until 6:00 PM when she finally peed on the potty. And believe me…. it was a full day’s worth of urine.

Throughout the day, there were tears every time her watch alarm went off and during the whole time she was on the potty. And I mean REAL tears. The kind you just want to hug away for her. She consistently said “NO! I don’t WANT to use the potty!” To top it all off, about late morning, my wife and I turned on each other and were at each other’s throats snipping and snapping at each other. The frustration had clearly gotten to both of us and our sweet baby girl was in the crossfire unable to go on the potty.

On a couple of different occasions, our daughter said (through her tears) “I don’t know how to push the potty out”. After some research, I learned that the physiology of the intentional release of urine is difficult for some kids to grasp and can cause confusion. Their entire lives, they’ve just been releasing whenever their bladder was full. Now, our daughter seemed to understand what our expectations were but she just couldn’t figure out how to pee on purpose. I think she also picked up on the intense and negative energy circulating between me and my wife sensing our frustration. And so she held it. For seven hours. This girl does not mess around.

I think if I were to advise a parent who was asking for advice on potty training today, I would say this. It’s not as simple as training them to use the potty. You are training them to hold it and then to release it on purpose in the appropriate place (the potty). For two and a half years, our little one has been in diapers not paying one bit of attention to holding her pee or intentionally releasing it. Why would she? Now, we are suddenly asking her to change everything she knows about going to the bathroom and it’s a lot. No amount of M&M’s were going to change the level of stress she was feeling for not being able to do what she knew we were trying to get her to do.

When she finally peed in the potty at six PM that night, the tension in the house seemed to let up – for everyone. We celebrated with an ice cream cone and after our daughter fell asleep, my wife and I stayed up talking about what we needed to do to be better for day two. It was a good talk – productive and constructive. We talked about things that were triggers for us and why we reacted the way we did towards each other and about the situation. We ironed it out and we got on the same page. That’s something my wife and I are very good at it. It was decided. Come tomorrow, we would rise and shine and be ready to take it all on again. We got our issues in check. We had a good idea of what to expect now and why our daughter was resisting and we had a better plan. One of my favorite quotes is from Anne of Green Gables:

“Tomorrow is always fresh with no mistakes in it” ~ Anne Shirley from Anne Of Green Gables

Tomorrow is always fresh with no mistakes in it. And that’s how we went into Sunday.

DAY TWO: Turning A Corner

On Sunday morning, we took our daughter into the bathroom. At first, she cried and said she didn’t want to go potty. My wife and I took a deep breath and dove in. We were determined to work through these tears and get this child to use the potty. I began to set a timer in the bathroom so she knew she didn’t have a life sentence on the potty. She would need to sit for three to five minutes depending on the time of day and how long since her last successful attempt at using the potty or accident. Well, finally, she did it. We sang her praises and put her in her big girl underwear. I set her watch timer to go off every 60 minutes.

Within that first hour, my daughter was playing on the floor in the kitchen when she looked up at my wife with a distraught look on her face and said: “I’m peeing!”

Remembering what we had discussed the night before, my wife picked her up and carried her to the bathroom midstream. So far, only a little pee had come out – not even enough to get through her underwear. In the book, it says that when an accident is happening, pick them up and carry them to the bathroom. In many cases, this startles them and they stop urinating mid-stream and then they finish emptying when you put them on the potty. This is exactly what happened.

From that point forward, something clicked. Our daughter suddenly began to understand how to engage in purposeful urination and she was on FIRE. Ten times in the potty on Sunday with only that first “half pee” accident and a full-on poop accident (which- in hindsight- was our fault…not hers). But all in all, it was an extremely successful day. The tears stopped and when her watch went off, she galloped to the potty ready to take it on. She was having success and because of that, she was finally feeling joy about potty training.

We also took this time to gather all the diapers in the house and bag them up for the “Diaper Fairy” who would be coming to collect them and take them to babies who needed diapers. Our daughter took great pride in helping us find the diapers and placing them in the bag. She understood that the fairy would come to our house and collect them and she was excited that they would be delivered to babies across the world. It seemed to make her very happy.

At one point in the morning of Day 2, she was asking if she could wear her Rapunzel princess dress and jump on her trampoline. The answer was NO — Not until she used the potty first. We had her running around pants-less so that we could see an accident happening in real-time. Putting the dress on would have meant we’d lose visual access to her in all the places we needed to have access. And jumping on her trampoline as she repeatedly jolted her bladder was definitely out of the question. We needed to make sure she went potty first and then we knew we’d have at least 30 minutes to an hour before we had to go again. Only then would it be safe to jump up and down in a long dress.

You can imagine her excitement when she finally went potty and could do all the things she wanted to do. We celebrated with her and threw that Rapunzel dress over her head and set her free to jump to her heart’s content on her trampoline.

As a parent, there’s no doubt that you are proud of your child for all they achieve and the milestones they reach. But, there is no joy like seeing your child be proud of herSELF for her own accomplishments. As she was jumping in her princess gown, she was shrieking about how happy she was and how proud she was of herself for going “pee-pee on the potty”… just like Elmo. (Looks like that Elmo’s Potty Time movie really resonated with her)

This morning, we sent our little one to school. Today would be the first day she would be in big girl underwear while at school and not in diapers. She’s one of just a small handful of kids her age who are out of diapers. We let the school know where we were with her training and outlined some of the things we wanted them to continue.

Our daughter is sporting her potty watch and we’re praying she’s not afraid to use it. We have no choice as moms but to sit back in full trust that her teachers will continue the consistency and that our daughter will tell them when her watch goes off. We packed extra pants, underwear, socks, and shoes – fully prepared for the possibility of accidents.

We are so proud of her but make no mistake. It was hard. Granted, it was only one REALLY tough day but that one day felt like an eternity. There were tears, fears, tantrums, and defiance ……. but enough about me and my wife.

The wine flowed freely Saturday night as my wife and I licked our battle wounds together. The trials of that day brought us closer to ourselves as parents and caused us to pause and adjust our approach and re-strategize. Sunday night, on the other hand, brought peace after the storm. We reveled in the fact that our little girl had conquered the tough part. Something had clicked and we knew we were well on our way to having a potty-trained toddler.

The rest will be up to us to ensure her success by thinking about going potty 24 hours a day and reminding her to use the potty every waking moment for the rest of our lives. I kid. We know this is temporary and that it won’t be long before she’s fully on her own in the potty world.

It’s important to understand that all kids are different and what works for one family may not work for another. Try to avoid comparing your child to other children’s successes OR perceived failures. Talk to other parents and take in their advice, tips, and tricks, but don’t feel like a failure if you don’t or can’t adopt their strategies within your own family dynamic.

You’ve got this.

Here’s what I took away from our boot camp weekend: Help your little one listen to his or her own body. Remember that YOU are already an expert on going to the bathroom so there’s really nothing else you need to learn on the subject. Try not to torture your child by forcing them to go too frequently and sit for too long. It will only make this process seem insurmountable to them. Patience, consistency, and above all else unconditional love, support, and tons of hugs and kisses are the necessary ingredients for successful potty training.

Also wine. M&M’s and wine.

2020 Adventures · Mom Life

I Went On A Date With My Wife For The First Time In Over Two Years.

Okay. I’m just going to say it. My wife and I haven’t had an evening out for the two and a half years we’ve had our daughter and probably longer since we didn’t do much towards the end of my wife’s pregnancy. My wife was having difficulty breathing because our little one decided to rest on her diaphragm and she also had Complete Placenta Previa so we had to take life slow and easy ~ especially towards the end.

We don’t have any family here so if we want a night out, we would be up against the cost of the night out plus childcare. Now, we already pay between $960 and $1200 a month (depending on if it’s a four or five week month) for childcare Monday through Friday. This matters for two reasons. The first is that we already don’t spend MOST of our days with our child. Her school gets her for 8 hours a day Monday through Friday while my wife and I work. And we MISS her. We actually WANT to spend every moment of our precious weekends with her. Second is that we just can’t take on extra frivolous spending and paying a babysitter today is easily going to cost between $15 and $20 an hour. Add that to the price of going to the movies or to dinner (or God forbid BOTH) today and you’ve got a very expensive night out ~ for us anyway.

My wife and I have been together for 13 years. Our daughter is two and a half. We have had more than a decade together that was just for us. We went out, we had endless date nights, we went to concerts, we traveled, we partied, we closed down the bars at night. You name it, we did it. Neither of us feels deprived or like we didn’t have enough freedom before we had our child.

Call us crazy, but we also both feel very strongly about being the ones who bathe and put our child to bed at night. We don’t want someone else to do that on our behalf. We are proud to say that our daughter has been kissed and snuggled and put to bed by us every night since the day she was born. It matters to us. We also aren’t too keen on putting her to bed and then going out after she falls asleep. Why? Well…because knowing our daughter, she would (without fail) likely wake up and call for us. She would then be terrified that someone else appeared in her doorway to tend to her when she was expecting her moms. No thank you. We’ll pass on that trauma.

We also had become very good at creating “at home” date nights after our daughter went to bed. Game night, wine, and music….. but even in that scenario, you are always watching the baby monitor and trying to be extra quiet so you don’t wake her,

We have friends that we consider to be more like family to us than friends. They have a little girl who is six months younger than our little one and we love her like she is our own. They also share many of the same philosophies as we do as far as spending as much time with their daughter as possible. My wife and I struggled to conceive our daughter. Being a same sex couple, we had to undergo fertility procedures to create her. We also had to accumulate a significant amount of debt to have her. Somewhere around the tune of $30,000 and about two years time. Don’t get me wrong. She’s worth every penny and I hardly remember the stress anymore because her sweet face has cancelled it all out. But, I do remember that it was a tough run until that evening we got a positive on an at home pregnancy test.

Our friends (who are a heterosexual couple) also struggled with fertility issues and fought hard to conceive their daughter. I won’t tell their story here, but trust me when I say that their journey is one of unimaginable heartbreak and struggle – both emotionally and physically. I think that fight we all put into having our girls has made us so grateful for them and we don’t want to miss the moments that matter. We are also “older” parents. We are in our forties with young children and we know time is not a guarantee so we want to savor every moment we have with our girls.

When the New Year came and we entered into 2020, our friends text us with a proposal. They suggested that we take turns taking a date night. Once a month – every other month – for a few hours. We would do it on a Friday or Saturday so if sleep patterns were disrupted or thrown off schedule because of the circumstances, the kids could sleep in the next day. We live about 45 minutes from our friends so they suggested that we come to their house, drop our daughter off with them and take a date night on their side of town. The next month, they would drop their daughter off with us and have a date on OUR side of town. Once the date was over, we would return to pick up our daughters and take them home for their bedtime routines.

This was a total win because it harmonized with our specific concerns about taking date nights. 1). No additional cost of childcare to tack on to a night out and 2). We’d still get to put our daughter to bed at night.

So we did it! This past Saturday (January 25th) just happened to be our seven year wedding anniversary. Our friends graciously gave us first dibs on a date night and so we did it.

Getting ready for our date was actually hysterical. You would think we were meeting each other for the first time. I changed my outfit twice and my wife’s preferred outfit wouldn’t dry fast enough after she had washed it that afternoon so she had to switch at the last minute. Should we wear jewelry? We never wore jewelry anymore outside of our wedding rings. We put on shoes with actual heels on them! Had we lost our freaking minds? Should we bring an extra pair of comfy shoes just in case? I found myself actually putting product in my hair and using a flat iron. I had to get bifocals this year. Should I wear them on our date? What was I saying? I HAD to wear them because I couldn’t see without them and I had to drive and read the menu. I would just take them off for pictures – as long as I could remember to do so.

We were clearly out of practice.

We showed up at their house round 4:00 PM and hung out together for 30 minutes. We made 5:00 dinner reservations so that gave us thirty minutes to get our daughter acclimated before we left for dinner. We had been talking with her about what she could expect from the evening. We were not going to ask our friends to distract her so that we could then sneak out on her. We would rather her cry and KNOW we’re leaving but that we’re coming back than to have her turn to look for us and find out we slipped out without saying goodbye. She knew she would be staying there while Mommy and Mama went out for dinner and that we would be coming back to pick her up when we were done. We had been discussing it with her for days. When we gave her a hug goodbye and left, she was riding a giant unicorn across the floor looking majestic as anything. There were no tears because she knew the plan. And we knew she’d have a blast.

The girls riding a majestic pink unicorn.
Photo courtesy of Toby Sullivan
And used with permission


We walked to our car feeling a little stunned. Were we actually leaving our child to go out for dinner? Who were THESE people? Surely they weren’t us!

We got in the car and it suddenly occurred to us we could listen to whatever we wanted. We were not being held hostage to Wheels On The Bus, Three Little Kittens, or Happy Birthday over and over again (our daughter’s favorite song). We put on the Greatest Showman Soundtrack and took our first selfie as a couple in I don’t know HOW long.

We drove about 20 minutes out to the quaint town of Mount Dora, Florida where we had reservations at an Italian restaurant called Gianni’s Italiano Restaurant. We walked in and got a small table for two against the wall. Let me repeat that. A table for TWO. No request for a high chair or booster seat necessary. No bags of goldfish crackers or veggie sticks on the table. No crayons or kids’ menu. No diaper bag taking up half of one of our seats.

Our server’s name was Pleasant. No, I’m not kidding. Her name was actually Pleasant. We told Pleasant that this was our first date night since our daughter was born. She agreed to go slow and let us take our time and she started with our drink orders. A simple Cabernet Sauvignon ~ our wine of choice~ was in order. We toasted to seven wonderful years of marriage.

To Seven Years Of Marriage!

Then, our friend Pleasant brought a bowl of bread. We had been staying away from carbs in general but we were making an exception for tonight. We agreed to eat the damn bread. And ate it we did. Pleasant brought us two bowls followed by a small platter after we had polished off the two bowls relatively quickly. I guess she thought we’d be running her all night for bread so she’d just head that off at the pass with a tiny bread platter.

Finally!!! Bread!!!

Next came time to order an appetizer. We chose the Italian sausage slices in a homemade marinara sauce topped with parmesan cheese. It was amazing!

The conversation just flowed between my wife and I. And the best part was that the only person interrupting us (on occasion) was Pleasant asking us if we wanted more wine or if we were done with some dishes or whether or not we were ready to order the next course.

Our daughter is at an age where she just gets louder the more my wife and I try to talk to each other and has even taken to saying “Mama! Stop talking to Mommy!” Because of this extra awesome phase we’re in, trying to talk to each other in our home can be exhausting, to say the least. So, this free flow of thought and conversation was a much-needed blessing. We were also so excited to know that after 13 years together, we still had plenty to talk about and we still wanted to hear what the other had to say…and that we still liked each other as much as we thought we did.

Our meals were delicious. I ordered the duck and my wife ordered the pork.

Pork Dish
Roasted Duck

Of course, the conversation always seemed to meander back to our daughter from time to time but we were okay with that. She is the most important person in our life. We love her with everything in us and we don’t want to have to censor how much she means to us and envelops our hearts every moment — even this moment. I love my wife MORE because of how much she loves our little girl and she feels the same.

We decided we were going to order dessert and cappuccinos. We chose a decadent slice of chocolate cake to share. Pleasant gave us a second round of cappuccinos on the house and urged us not to let another two and a half years go by before we did this again. We appreciated her kindness.

Once our dinner was coming to a close, we decided to check in with our friends to see how our daughter was doing. We received a picture that just warmed our hearts. Our daughter and their daughter — both dressed in their jammies– all snuggled on our friend’s lap. She was doing great. Our hearts (and our bellies) knew it was time to go get her, bring her home, and tuck her in. We missed her so much but we were also so incredibly grateful for this time together and we are looking forward to returning the favor for our friends and alternating future date nights. We all deserve it and our kids deserve to see us recharged and ready to take on the world with them.

This picture is EVERYTHING. We are so blessed to have such amazing friends who love us and our child so fiercely.
Photo courtesy of Toby Sullivan and used with permission

Pleasant brought us our bill and as we left, we took another selfie in front of the restaurant. We had such an amazing time. We felt recharged and reconnected. We also felt like this opportunity allowed us to keep the boundaries in which we wished to parent our child in tact. We were also grateful that we have friends who get that about us without judgment.

A successful and LONG overdue date night

By 7:30 PM, we were hugging our angel hello and kissing her sweet face while telling her how much we missed her. We had been apart a whopping three hours but it was just the perfect amount of time. She told us she cried a little but that she had fun. When we left our friends’ house, our little one said: “They took such good care of me!” And she was right. They did.

So today, I write this blog with a grateful heart. It was hard to leave our child in the evening for the first time ever. We had to work through our own anxieties to get us to the point where we were finally willing to do it. The great thing is that EVERYONE had a fun night…except maybe our bestie who told us the girls had her in the kitchen all night making snacks. The struggle is real.

2020 Adventures · Mom Life

The Moo-Gic Kingdom: Our Holiday Weekend Adventure At The Happiest Place On Earth

This weekend was full of adventure! Recalling my “to-do” list for 2020, seeking out adventure with my family and friends was certainly something I fully intended to make a conscious effort to do. It started on Saturday with a fun birthday party for a special three-year old at a really cool park in Winter Garden, FL I had never heard of before. We played hard, ate food and cake, sang happy birthday, and had an awesome time. We’ve got some pretty cool parks and playgrounds in central Florida and we enjoy getting to visit them all.

When we woke up on Sunday, we had a toddler in our bed. She joined us at 4:00 AM after she woke up crying because I had “put her to bed and left her”. To be clear, I do this every night, but for some reason on this particular night, I had offended her toddler sensibilities.

This Sunday morning was going to be our family day trip to Disney World’s Magic Kingdom~The Happiest Place On Earth! Sounds like fun, doesn’t it? Guess again. Of all the parks Disney has to offer, Magic Kingdom is by far the worst in my opinion. First of all, it’s difficult to get to. You have to park, take a tram to the security line, choose whether you’ll be taking the ferry or the monorail to the actual park and stand in countless lines throughout your journey TO the park, and then once you arrive to the actual Magic Kingdom, stand in the admissions line until you’re finally in.

Let me stop here and back up. If you’re packing a toddler and a stroller, a cooler, and a diaper bag like we always do, you are probably not going to take the transportation tram that takes you from your car to the security gate. Why? Because if you do, you have to fold it all up, get on the tram hauling your two-year-old, your folded stroller, diaper bag and coolers for the seven minute ride to the main gate just to get off the tram carrying your toddler, a folded stroller, and bags just to put it all back together again. So for us, it’s park the car and walk the 15 minutes to the main gate while bypassing the transportation tram altogether.

Now, we decided to go to Magic Kingdom on a holiday weekend. I know, I know…I’ve been told by a few that this was not something that local Floridians would EVER do. I knew this was probably going to mean larger crowds but we honestly had NO idea what we were in for. When we finally got to the security line, we were suddenly part of a giant crowd – a mesh of international bodies all grouped together. First, the panic sets in. “What have we done?!?!” And then? The herding begins. We were literally herded like cattle. “If you have bags, go to the right OR left along the fence line. If you have no bags, straight down the middle behind me!” shouted the border collie disguised as a Disney employee.

Disney employee on the left. The rest of us on the right.
Photo Courtesy of http://circlelstockdogs.com/

The funny thing I’ve found is that when people are being herded like cattle, people begin to forget their humanity and start to act like cattle. Bumping into each other mindlessly, blindly, and clumsily in a desperate effort to hurry up and “get in line” to head God only knows where. We find ourselves shuffling our feet – desperate for forward motion while tangled in the masses — paying no attention as to whether or not our mindless walking is separating a family or getting in the way of a stroller or bumping into a child’s leg as you fight to find the fence line the Disney employee is directing you to walk beside. But, even with direct orders being shouted at us, we all looked more like every passenger on the Titanic frantically running over the ship desperately seeking a way out as the ship was sinking.

Screenshot from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8JLfqqfNU4o

My wife and I looked at each other and I said “Disney’s Magic Kingdom: Where manners come to die.” We grumbled like old people do about the lack of manners today and the nerve of people in general. Then, we laughed it off because we have to try and keep from going insane especially because we weren’t even inside the actual theme park yet. Unlike our child-free days, our daughter keeps us from becoming cattle in these situations and staying human because we have to watch out for her well-being in all the madness.

We must have stood in line just to get through security for forty-five minutes. So now, after our fifteen minute walk from the car to the security checkpoint followed by standing in line at security, we were already up to an hour and still no magic. It’s important to note that we had fast passes booked for that morning. For those of you who don’t know, you can book up to three fast passes at Disney where you can bypass the lines for three events (rides or meeting princesses, etc). The park was so busy that day that it was a challenge to book any fast passes to begin with! We had booked “Meet Rapunzel and Princess Tiana”, The Little Mermaid ride, and “Meet Ariel”. My daughter was very excited. Fast passes are also time-specific so you have a window of time where you must show up or you lose your fast pass. I’m not going to lie, when I hit the first line and realized what we were up against, I was stressed.

Once we got through security, it was time to choose. Monorail. Or Ferry Boat Ride across the water to the Magic Kingdom. We had to choose what we believed was the fastest way to get to our destination. Monorail it was. We headed to the line to wait for the monorail. The line was incredibly long. I heard another border collie shouting “Go right or go left! Two lines to the same monorail!”. Whenever you have the option to go right or left at Disney, I always choose left. That cattle mentality I was speaking of has everyone going right for some reason. So, we went left.

The line to the monorail was at least another 20 minutes. We were about to board the monorail when my daughter started crying in her stroller. She had been doing SO great up until this point. I squatted down to talk to her and she told me she was scared of the monorail. She tends to be scared of the unknown. We are practicing a “feel the fear and do it anyway” philosophy in our home to help her overcome these fears so we pushed through and got on the monorail. Once she realized it was safe and nothing to fear, she was fine and enjoyed the ride.

Finally, we arrived at The Magic Kingdom where we hit another (much shorter) admissions line to actually get into the park. We scanned our annual pass bracelets and we were off to our first fast pass attraction. Now, my wife had already had to change our first Fast Pass (Meeting Rapunzel and Princess Tiana) to later in the day due to the crazy long lines we had to wait in. “Later” fast passes are already dangerous when you have a toddler who is working through their normally scheduled nap time. However, if we didn’t change it, we would have missed it entirely and our daughter was looking forward to meeting the princesses. We would be damned if she missed it just because the lines were out of control.

We began walking towards the giant castle and just as we got right up to it, music began to play from the loudspeakers. A little backstory for you. For the past 4 or 5 months or so, my daughter had been watching a Disney performance show in front of the Magic Kingdom castle on YouTube.com. It was Minnie and Mickey Mouse having a celebration of friends where they bring out the characters from The Princess and The Frog, Rapunzel, and Frozen.

Let the magic begin!
Image courtesy of my wife, Jillian Parziale

To our luck and to our surprise, that very show she had been watching on YouTube was being performed live…and right in front of us on the castle balcony. She shrieked with joy and excitement. I looked at my wife with a look that said: “We’re going to miss our fast pass.” We both decided that if we missed it, we missed it. The show that was lighting up our child’s face with joy in that moment would be worth it. We decided to follow the joy.

The rest of the day went smoothly. We made our first fast pass after all! By a hair, but we made it all the same. We rode the giant carousel at our daughter’s request and we met Rapunzel and Tiana after lunch. We shared a Pineapple Dole soft serve which we love because it’s dairy-free, gluten-free, free of top allergens, and the entire serving is a whopping 90 calories. It’s served with a cute wafer cookie with Micky Mouse on it. We did some shopping in the gift shops and our little princess chose a plush Anna doll from the Frozen II movie.

It was a frustrating day if you were an adult…but it was quite the adventure if you were a two-year-old. This day was one of those “you choose how you feel” moments and we decided to be joyful in the adventure. Our little one got so many opportunities to work through fear, anxiety, and practice patience. Mommies did too. Even though our daughter did well pushing through nap time without any meltdowns or tantrums, she passed out immediately in the car for the hour drive home with her new Anna doll lying sweetly in her arms.

Passed Out With Her New Anna Doll
Picture courtesy of my wife, Jillian Parziale

The crowds were ridiculous and only solidified why The Magic Kingdom has never been a personal favorite of mine. It’s a “spend-your-whole-day-waiting-in-line” theme park as it is, but it’s a special kind of nightmare on a holiday weekend with a toddler in tow. The Happiest Place On Earth? I guess that depends on who you ask ~ the children experiencing the magic? Or the cattle just trying to find the damn fence line.

2 Moms · 2020 Adventures · Healthy Living in 2020 · Mom Life

It’s 2020 — The Year Of Clear Vision

I started this blog to document my journey through my hysterectomy. I am so grateful I decided to do that. The support, encouragement, and stories shared as I was sharing mine were just so special to me and I enjoyed every moment.

I enjoyed it so much, in fact, that I decided to keep the blog alive by just documenting my life as a 44 year old woman who is married to an amazing woman and Mama (my wife is Mommy) to an incredible two-year-old little girl who keeps Mommy and Mama on their toes ~and everything in between. I’ve learned that writing things down does wonders for my soul. Whether or not this journey resonates with any one person isn’t the reason I write. I want to write about it because writing sets me free.

Don’t get me wrong, I HOPE my story resonates with readers and that the stories I share are enjoyable to read, but it’s not a prerequisite for me to write. I have redesigned by blog (and even renamed it) and I am excited to get started.

So now, I find myself in 2020. My health issues and my hysterectomy (If you’re late to my hysterectomy party, you can read all about it HERE) are behind me and I find myself looking ahead. That is, as long as I can stay away from the news which has been unbelievably depressing since the start of the New Year.

When I see our nation and our world spiraling in chaos, I look to my daughter and I pour all of my energy and attention into raising the future. It’s a responsibility I don’t take lightly and one that I take great joy in.

I’ve also decided I must get healthy again. Before my health issues last year, I lost 30 pounds by following Kelly LeVeque’s Body Love Program which is not a diet plan, but a structural way of eating that incorporates what she calls the FAB FOUR FOODS. (Read about it HERE). I read her audiobook and got started immediately. It worked and it worked better than any program I’d ever tried. I didn’t even have to exercise to lose weight. There were no “special foods” either. Everything could be purchased at my local grocery store.

Once my health began to decline, so did the priority of how I ate or what I ate. I was depressed and anxious and for me, that comes with overindulging. Take my entire hysterectomy experience (which culminated in September) and then add the holidays to it. Yup. I gained almost 20 pounds. My knees and my joints were starting to hurt again from the extra weight and all the sugar I was consuming. Sugar hurts me physically. I’ve learned over the years that when I cut it out of my diet, my body aches less and feels better. I should have known better than to overindulge for two months on it…. BUT, this isn’t about beating myself up. It’s about getting myself back on track to a healthier me. Speaking of, if you haven’t checked out That Sugar Film, I encourage you to watch it. It was very informative and life changing for me. You can see the trailer below.

On December 29th, my scale showed me at 204.5 pounds. That means I am 15 pounds over my healthy BMI. That also means that I had gained back most of what I had worked so hard to take off and that frustrated me terribly. Now that my life has regained some normalcy and I’ve personally returned to center, I’m excited.

I purposely didn’t start on January 1st and not because I don’t believe in or enjoy making New Year’s resolutions. If I’m being honest, my wife and I eagerly started on Monday, December 30th because we were legitimately scared we’d have no pants to wear to work. Not wearing pants to work is frowned upon by most employers. This was quickly escalating to a matter of urgency.

We are following a Keto-inspired eating plan. I say Keto-inspired because I’m not about to give up healthy carbs (like sweet potatoes, couscous, and quinoa) and wine (like Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, and Red Blends) but we are significantly cutting back on it all — especially sugar — and incorporating a little bit of exercise every day. Right now, the exercising is basically my wife and I flopping around on the floor like a fish out of water every night while shouting expletives into the air. But, we’re confident we’ll get there.

It’s also very important to me to continue to incorporate the guidelines of Kelly LeVeque’s Body Love program because it’s amazingly healthy, balances blood sugar levels, and keeps you from experiencing hunger in between meals. Plus, I know that it works.

I’m happy to report that it’s “so far, so good” for our health journey in 2020 and I look forward to writing about our successes, failures, excitements, and disappointments.

Here are my 2020 Goals:

  • Set my intentions at the beginning of every day
  • Daily gratitude work
  • Eat mindfully
  • Exercise daily
  • Maintain my weight at my healthy BMI (189 lbs)
  • Live authentically
  • Seek out adventure and create memories with my family and friends
  • Blog often
  • Finish the novel I started during NaNoWriMo
  • Stop chasing money and start chasing my passions
  • Continue my spiritual growth and evolution
  • Deliver my best self to my wife and daughter every day

So buckle up, 2020. I’m coming for ya! And I hope you’re coming for me, too! I’m counting on you for abundance and growth!