Gumby Arms, Grocery Store Toddler Tantrums, and Freelancing in the Car

Shhhhhhh. After my toddler threw a tantrum in the checkout line of Publix, he and my two-month-old baby are finally fast asleep in the car. This is a rare moment. Apparently, I had overextended our outing and missed a crucial nap time. Whoops!

Honestly, we were already out, and I just needed milk.

I guess I blew it when I also noticed that I needed bananas, apple juice, eggs, cheese…

Okay, I pushed it too far. I keep forgetting that outings are on a timer when you are outnumbered. We made it through the playgroup unscathed, so I should have quit while I was ahead.

The big kicker – the cashier forgot to ring up one can of tuna, and I had to tell her three times not to worry about it as I tried to pick up my Gumby-armed two-year-old.

“Don’t worry about it,” I repeated as I tried to wrangle my spastic tyke into my arms. “No, seriously, don’t worry about it,” I said after she asked again.

Meanwhile, the baby started crying, and I vowed to go to a different grocery store next week.

Now, my children are sleeping at the same exact time! So, I busted out my computer and began writing. It’s a tad uncomfortable, but you do what you have to do when you’re a freelancing mama.

I’m not big into selfies, but this was one to remember. In a previous post, I wrote about utilizing pockets of time as a working-at-home mom. This time squeezer remains one for the record books.

Side note: This smile expresses relief instead of pure happiness. Right now, I am exhilarated just to be out of that grocery store.

I’ve just been hired to write an article on balancing family while working on a startup (I better get back to that before my little buggers get up), and a lot of it so far discusses that I am in no way a work-life balance guru – and never will be.

In fact, sometimes, like when I’m wrangling a toddler in the middle of a temper tantrum, I am a complete mess

But I do keep on learning tricks along the way – like writing on a laptop in my car as two children sleep, and I do have more harmony than I did before I began this crazy adventure, but still, the juggling act continues.

I adore staying home with my children and am so fortunate that I found a way to find a lifestyle that works for me, but there are still moments when I want to pull my hair out and eat spikes.

We all have our own unique obstacles.

For one, I never thought I’d ever be writing with my computer jammed up next to my steering wheel while my car runs in my driveway.

Shoot! I missed my window, he’s up, gotta go, so work time’s over – for now.

Wish me luck that I complete the deadline – and hopefully, my car didn’t die.

Dear Mom, Did I Forget to Tell You That I Now Understand? A Poem For You On Mother’s Day

Dear Mom,

Did I forget to tell you that I now understand why going to the grocery store with all three of us must have been exhausting?  I used to ask if you could buy me fifty products, one brother would be grabbing at a Snickers, and my other brother would be blowing out his diaper.

It’s only now that I realized how it must have taken everything to hold it together during moments like those.

Did I forget to tell you that I now understand why you worried at night about things beyond your control involving us? I’m not there yet, but the teenage years must have been rough, and all three of us apologize for any night we didn’t call.

Did I forget to tell you that I now understand when one of us hurt – you hurt. And how when any of us were sick or in pain, you said you would trade places with us immediately. Growing up, I wondered if you really meant that, but now I know you did – without question.

Did I forget to tell you that I now understand why you always told people we were so busy? As a kid, I was relentless about always doing something. I was on the go and a firecracker of energy. Now I have a child who reminds me of that spark, but sometimes I want to just sit in silence. I now understand that sometimes you did too.

Did I forget to tell you that I understand the guilt that you took on for all of us and that is a lot of unnecessary weight to bear?

Did I forget to tell you that I now understand why for short increments of time you would leave us? You’d go shopping alone, or let us stay with grandma for the day. As a kid, I never understood why you felt the need to leave for a while. I now understand that you had hardly any alone time, and if you hadn’t left at all, we might have driven you to insanity.

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Did I forget to tell you that I now understand how much patience it takes to remain calm when your child doesn’t listen? I now understand why I needed a timeout once in a while, and why my brothers needed quite a few more 🙂

Did I forget to tell you that I now understand why sometimes you would take a deep breath when I asked what was for dinner – especially when it was only 1 in the afternoon?

Did I forget to tell you that I now understand why you stayed up so late? As a kid, I wondered the reasoning behind this since you were also the first one out of bed each morning.

Did I forget to tell you that I now understand why you always said you needed a vacation after we went on vacation? I now understand the preparation, packing, unknown variables in a new place, and the cleanup when you get back home.

I forgot to tell you that I now understand why my jacket on the couch was so annoying and why we needed to take off our shoes.

I forgot to tell you that I now understand why you always wanted us to close the door to the laundry room.

I forgot to tell you that I understand why you skipped some pages when reading us bedtimes stories

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I forgot to tell you that I now understand why you and dad would go away without us once in a great while.

I forgot to tell you that I now understand why sometimes you just wanted to stay in for the day.

I forgot to tell you that I now understand the love you feel for us all and how crazy, messy, beautiful it all is.

Did I forget to tell you that I now I understand how amazing you are and always have been?

Happy Mother’s Day. I now understand why this day is so special too. 

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Further Reading:

To the Mother Reading This: Your Work is Not Invisible

To The Mother Reading This – Know That Your Work Is Not Invisible

To the mother reading this – know that
Your work is not invisible

To the mother who makes sure there are clean clothes for everyone to wear
Your work is not invisible

To the mother who sacrifices sleep due to cries, sicknesses, early wake-ups, worry…
Your work is not invisible

To the mother who nurtures her sick baby at home or in a hospital
Your work is not invisible

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To the mother who schedules and takes the kids to get their hair cut
Your work is not invisible

To the mother who buys shoes and clothes that fit for only a short time
Your work is not invisible

To the mother who finds the lost teddy bear underneath the couch
Your work is not invisible

To the mother who sings lullabies, reads stories, and
somehow gets her children to dream
Your work is not invisible

To the mother who kisses and mends more tiny wounds than she can count
Your work is not invisible

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To the mother who pays the bills
Your work is not invisible

To the mother who counts to five and sets expectations
Your work is not invisible

To the mother who gives bubble baths
Your work is not invisible

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To the mother who makes dinner from scratch, orders takeout, or microwaves
Your work is not invisible

To the mother who grabs and sorts the mail
Your work is not invisible

To the mother who changes diapers, potty trains, or wipes pee off a seat
Your work is not invisible

To the mother who attends sports, dance, violin recitals, art shows, award ceremonies, teacher conferences, pediatric appointments…
Your work is not invisible

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To the mother who goes on walks and teaches her kid to look both ways
Your work is not invisible

To the mother who sweeps and mops the floors, changes the sheets, wipes down the tables, cleans the dishes, scrubs the toilets, throws the toys back in the box . . .
Your work is not invisible

To the mother who drives a van without a taxi sign
Your work is not invisible

To the mother who grocery shops in record time while trying to prevent a toddler tantrum
Your work is not invisible

To the mother who makes phone calls, writes thank you notes, organizes visits and Skype calls with relatives. . .
Your work is not invisible

To the mother who somehow exhaustedly makes it to the playground and manages to push a swing
Your work is not invisible

To the mother who advocates
Your work is not invisible

To the mother who loves that beautiful, sweet child . . . Don’t forget to look in front of you

because Your work is visible.

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Pockets of Time: A Working-at-Home Mother’s Rock Star Day

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I’ve always been good at taking advantage of pockets of time.

I write this post because for once, I feel like a rock star, but I am laughing at myself as to why I feel like a rock star. And before I go any further, let me express the fact that not every day is a rock star type of day. Some days, check that – a lot of days as a working-at-home mom are not easy.

However, I love my days that tend to somehow melt into a beautiful oblivion, but there are many times when I accomplish very little of what I set out to do. I am slowly learning that this is okay.

A major reason I began writing this blog is that I genuinely believe that most mothers are doing their best. Not all, but the majority of mothers I know are truly doing everything they can. Whether you are a stay-at-home, working, or work-at-home mom, you have your hands full and sometimes just need to step back and acknowledge that you are a rock star.

Although this term has a different definition than it did during my college days, I am proud of my new rock star ways.

I’m writing this on a Tuesday. My toddler goes to daycare on Tuesdays and Thursdays so that I have a couple of days to focus on my freelance work without my adorable son running around the living room, tugging at my shirt, and doing everything a two-year-old boy should be doing, which just happens to be incredibly counterproductive to mommy working at home.

Anyhow, Tuesdays are not only a day to catch up on my work; they are also a day to catch up on laundry, cook something decent, clean the house, spend some bonding time with my two-month-old, and more.

Actually, Tuesdays are still a marathon type of day, and I find myself sometimes literally running to complete task after task. Seriously, I work up a sweat and double these days as cardio.

I certainly am not complaining. I love this new life of mine, but if anyone thinks a mother who stays home or works part-time at home frequently watches soap operas, kicks up her feet, and has “just so much more time,” this is not the case.

I do have more time with my children, which makes me happy and works for me, but I really don’t have any extra downtime. Luckily I felt pretty prepared for this when I chose to change my lifestyle, which may not offer more downtime but certainly provides ME with less stress.

Back to my point. I pride myself on finding pockets of time and getting stuff done. It’s always been a tenant of my personality that has its positive and negatives. Positives, well, because I am reliable, negatives, because when I set a goal, I become obsessive.

And it doesn’t matter what that goal is: Athletic, educational, career, etc. Now my goals consist of daily, organized today lists that fill my wall calendar.

One day my goals were to complete a 2,000-word article, work up to two minutes of tummy time (for the baby, not me), complete a craft project with my toddler, go for a walk, go over prepositions with my toddler (this is actually on a preschool checklist I found, and I literally had him running around, over, and under a chair – hilarious), go to the library and read books with my sons, provide the research for my next two articles on dogs,  organize the toys, proofread an article on campgrounds, clean and put away the dishes, and play outside in the kiddie pool.

I felt like a rock star that day too.

And this doesn’t even include the day-to-day diaper changes, kissing wounds, singing lullabies, counting to three. . .

But there are days when my plans go awry: the baby doesn’t want to nap. The toddler gets sick. I can’t get to an article because my two-month-old is going through a growth spurt and wants to nurse all day or my toddler decides to throw a very long tantrum over not getting chips for breakfast.

As a person who thrives on routine, I am learning not to freak out when things do not go as planned.

Sometimes not everything gets done. Sometimes it does. Somehow I find a way to meet the mandatory deadlines.

Some recent major life experiences have taught me that I am lucky. I am so very lucky. And it’s okay if the to-do list I created (which, yes, I have a mountain of one I write down each day), does not get done. I use pockets of time to do what I can, and today I am giving myself some credit because as so many of moms do, I am doing all that I can.

I felt like a rock star today because I finished three articles ahead of time, cleaned the kitchen, did a load of laundry, cooked a turkey, wrote emails to four clients, mopped the floors, organized the pantry, researched another dog article, read to my baby, picked up my other son from daycare, wrote this blog post, and spent time just being with my two boys at the end of a very busy day. And Friday through Monday my focus will change again as I spend time with those two rascals.

After all, life is short, and I am fortunate that I can write from anywhere (at any time – including midnight), so we are taking a trip to the beach. Rock on!

Recommended Reading:

6 Life Hack Products for the New Baby

When I became a new mom, I learned quickly that you have to come up with some life hacks for the new baby to make it all work. For example, I had no idea that many snaps on baby clothing were so irritating, and I learned that zippers, for me, were the easier way to go. Learning life hacks for the baby was a learning process, and like many moms, I am still learning while I go.

Here are 6 baby hacks that make a new mom’s life easier:

1. Clothes that have feet and zippers:
Like I mentioned above, too many snaps annoy me. When I tried to put my first son in this cute little tiger outfit, I could not believe that there were like twenty snaps. I kept screwing up and could not figure out how those darn snaps worked on the legs. That is why I opted for zippers along the front – so much easier. It took me like five minutes less to get him dressed, and I am all about time saving.

Also, I love the outfits with the feet; this saved me from taking the time to find those itty bitty socks that disappear to another galaxy. I felt like an outfit with a zipper and feet gave me some of my life back, for real.

2. Plant a Bouncer in the bathroom
I never understood until I had children what mothers of young children meant when they said they didn’t have time to shower. For my first maternity leave, I pictured long baths while a baby slept contently in his crib. Ha! Hilarious. Once you leave that baby’s sight, even if he is sleeping, he will start to cry. I don’t know how, but babies know when their mother leaves them.

My fantasy long baths were just that – a fantasy. I found the best way to be able to clean myself was to bring a bouncer in the bathroom and set it up facing the shower. New moms quickly realize that it will be a long time before they shower or pee in privacy.

3. Don’t buy a changing table. Use a blanket on a changing pad.

I never bought a changing table. We used a bureau with a changing pad on top. I also received advice from a lady working at a baby thrift store to not even buy the changing pad covers. “Just use blankets,” she said, “don’t waste your money on the fancy covers, they poop all over them anyway, and blankets are not only cheaper, but they are easier to wash.” I wish I remembered this woman’s name because her advice about poop changed my life – poop, so much poop!

4. Use a click and connect stroller and car seat base
My click and connect stroller from Graco saved me. It was a life hack for my new baby that was key for me when traveling. Both of my boys always fell asleep in the car, and this product allowed me to easily lift the car seat out of the car, click it on my stroller, and be on my way without interrupting their sleep!

I also recommend the base that you strap into your car and then click this car seat into. This base made it so much easier for me when my second was born because I was able to just click the baby in while holding my toddler’s hand – instead of running around my car like a freak.

5. Make the swaddling madness easier by using SwaddleMes
Swaddling is a life hack in itself that quiets babies and helps them sleep. I always admired the nurses who so effortlessly swaddled my sons like perfect burritos, then I tried, and my swaddle resembled more of a piece of lettuce that was falling apart. I would even ask for tutorials, but I could never swaddle as well as those nurses. When I got home, and no nurses were in sight, I needed a baby hack and quick. That is when I discovered SwaddleMes that used velcro, and they were so fool proof that a chimp could use them. Just lay out the SwaddleMes like a blanket, then put your babes on top and velcro. No nurse needed.

6. Quiet your crying baby with the Shhh App
I was a huge fan of the book The Happiest Baby on the Block. In that book, one of the five major ways to quiet a baby was shushing over an over again. Sounds ridiculous – but it works. So I found myself shushing until I could barely breathe during long car rides. That’s why I was psyched to discover the shhh app. Press play, crank up the volume, and it does the shushing for you. This app has saved me valuable breathing time.

These are just some baby hacks that worked for me, and I learned some by accident, some out of desperation, and some from trial and error, because we mother’s find clever ways to make it work.

We want to hear from you. Please comment below about life hacks for your new baby that made your life easier.

Yes, Medically Speaking, You are of “Advanced Maternal Age” Part 2

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This post is continued from last week, and you can read Part 1 here

The non-stress test

The non-stress test was a weekly test that began around 32 weeks into my pregnancy; they put a strap on me that monitored fetal movement by recording my baby’s heartbeat as he moved. I was told that I needed to have this done because of my advanced maternal age, and there was an increased risk of stillbirth. I found out later, that there are contradicting views about this test, that I will discuss later.

The non-stress test certainly stressed me out the first time, but luckily my baby was like a Mexican jumping bean, so I relaxed a little in the future. Still, these weekly appointments took a lot of time, If I failed this test, there would be a concern (even though the baby could just be sleeping), and I would have to stay for longer.

I was teaching at the time and told them I had to schedule these in the afternoon although they encouraged me to schedule them during my first teaching period when the baby was usually more active. Like I said before, I was lucky my baby was acrobatic. I never failed one of these time-consuming things. And I had to wonder were they necessary? I would have been okay with even every other week, but weekly?

Interestingly enough experts don’t seem to agree on this procedure for advanced maternal age mothers. Some hospitals do them based on age, and some hospitals don’t. Helpful, I know.

According to High-Risk Pregnancy 101, “although the non-stress test is readily available and used by many providers, it is not really backed up by robust evidence as interpretations can vary by a great extent between providers, and the predictive value (reassurance it provides) is not as good as some of the other tests available.”

I even asked a friend who was an OBGYN about this, and he said that every week non-stress tests just because a patient is 35  seemed excessive … Still, I did what I was told even though my insurance did not even cover all of these weekly tests.

As a mother, I want to do what is best for my children, and I place a lot of trust in my providers, even though I had an inkling that some of these tests were unnecessary. I am also very aware that I am not a doctor. Where I got confused was when the different doctors couldn’t even agree.

I also was told at my 38 week check up that there was a new policy that had been in place for all of the mothers who were of advanced maternal age, and I needed to have a full profile done that would take a couple of hours.

“Is this really necessary?” I asked. Especially since it apparently hadn’t been until up to two weeks ago.

Of course, I received another yes.

And so I went to this appointment too. When I arrived at the imaging facility, the nurse asked why I was having the profile done, which consisted of another detailed ultrasound, even though I already had an anatomy one and a couple of others that all looked wonderful. She asked if there had been risk factors, etc. I could only respond, “I am 35.”

She didn’t respond. It appeared she was not even familiar with this new “necessary” procedure.

I was 38 weeks pregnant. Why the heck was I even here, I wondered. But again, I did it because I was told and then received a bill for almost $300!

Again, I will pay anything if I think it is necessary for the health of my child, but at 38 weeks, what was the point of another ultrasound? I was going to have this baby, just leave me alone already and let me have it. That is the way I felt at the end.

It was then reminded of one of my earlier doctor appointments. It was after I had found out that everything with my genetic screening test had come back perfectly. According to the results, I had one healthy baby boy.

Of course, this made me ecstatic because I had been reminded endless times of how I was a high-risk pregnancy, but the results were clear, and I was happy.

This, unfortunately, did not last long. A doctor whom I had never met before, sat on her stool and said the following, “I know you received your screening results, and it said that there was nothing wrong, but I want you to know that you are of advanced maternal age, and you could still have a child with issues. The tests do not tell us everything, and you are at risk because of your age, so I want you to be aware.”

Geez! I thought. Is this woman for real? It was at that appointment when I began to question what the point in telling me over and over again that I am of advanced maternal age was?

I was pregnant, and I was going to have that baby, all these reminders were doing were stressing the crap out of me. And what good was constantly telling me that I was of advanced maternal age doing for me? What positive was coming from it?

Honestly, it was just pissing me off and stressing me out.

Since I turned 35, the term advanced maternal age popped up at EVERY appointment. I wanted to throw my shoe at anyone who said it towards the end or beat them to the punch and say, “Yes! I know I am of advanced maternal age!”

One thing’s for sure, I have learned a lot about being of advanced maternal age this year, and I want to be frank and say that I do not have all of the answers about what should and should not be done. However, I do think there needs to be more discussions and education about all of the excessive tests instead of just telling a woman she needs them because she is of advanced maternal age.

I also think that age is just one of many factors, and although it should be considered, I think that a pregnant woman should be viewed as a whole and there should be a more individualistic approach. Lastly, just tell pregnant women who are age 35 and over that they are of advanced maternal age once. Seriously, take us into your office, give us some details, introduce the term, and be done with it.

Believe me, we women of advanced maternal age only need to hear it once.

Yes, Medically Speaking – You Are of “Advanced Maternal Age” Part 1

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Yes, during my second pregnancy I was what the medical field termed “advanced maternal age.” In other words: an old mom.

For those of you unfamiliar, in medical mommy world, you are considered of “advanced maternal age” when you reach the ripe old age of 35.

Now I was 34 when I got pregnant with my second child, and for three glorious months there was no mention of the above term; apparently, for those few months I was still just a typical mom, but as soon as my 35th birthday rolled around, I received much more than a cake. It was like I went from being an average mom to one who was old – literally overnight.

From then on at every appointment, I was reminded that I was of advanced maternal age.

All of a sudden, more appointments, tests, etc. were being added because of my age. It was almost as if the insurance wouldn’t cover anything extra until I hit this magical number, and once I hit 35, the extra appointments and tests were insane.

When I asked why I was receiving all of this sudden attention, the standard response was always – you are of advanced maternal age.

At least this is better than the older term (pun intended) “geriatric pregnancy”. That term makes me picture an elderly lady nursing who has a cane.

Now I understand that there are some risks when you become a mother later in life. And I feel that some of these tests were certainly necessary, but I also feel that they became a bit overly excessive at the end of my pregnancy.

I also admit that the constant reminders that I was of advanced maternal age made me irritable, and I still do not see the need to constantly throw around this semi-derogatory term. 

Additionally, I think that there are more factors to consider than just a woman’s age when it comes to pregnancy. I had a healthy first pregnancy, and every test during my second pregnancy I passed with flying colors.

There were no risks identified throughout; yet even up until the birth of my second child, I was barraged with extra appointments, tests, etc., and in spite of having insurance, I encountered numerous extra charges, and I could not help but wonder if it was all absolutely necessary.

So I did some digging, and it turns out that there are a lot of different takes on the subject.

I first stumbled upon these details on Evidence Based Birth.

It refers to previous studies that show having a baby with down syndrome at term increases from 1 in 939 at age 30, to 1 in 353 by age 35, and 1 in 85 by age 40.

Studies also found an increase in miscarriages in mothers who were 35 and older, but interestingly this number was not a significant increase from ages 30-35. At age 30 there is an 18% rate, and at 35, there is a 20% risk. At age 40, this doubles to a 40% rate.

Researchers point to the fact that most of these studies lump five years of women’s ages together.

So a 39-year-old-women’s risk factors were averaged with a 35-year-old-women’s risk factors. This is one reason why some experts are saying that not all advanced maternal pregnancies should be labeled as high risk and more factors should be considered than just age.

Science News explores this concept further in the article, “A Mother’s Age Doesn’t Matter, Studies Suggest.”

Laura Kenny, a mother who was labeled as a mother of advanced maternal age with her second pregnancy and also a writer for Self, experienced many of the same feelings I did and delved into the research too.

In her article, “Is Having a Baby Over 35 Really as Risky as We Thought?”, she stated this quote by Doctor Sarah K. Kilapatrick: “Age by itself should not be major criteria for a high-risk pregnancy. It’s really age plus whatever else is going on with that woman.”

After a little digging and reflection, my personal verdict is that some tests and screenings early on for pregnant women 35 and older can help identify risks and set up these women for healthier pregnancies, so I tend to be grateful for the extra care and attention I received during the first half of my pregnancy.

However, after numerous tests, and being deemed fine over and over again, I am still confused about the excessive appointments and tests towards the end of my pregnancy. For example, the non-stress test, which only resulted in extra stress that I didn’t need.

I will delve into this and more next week in Part 2 of Yes, Medically Speaking I am of “Advanced Maternal Age.”

Suggested Further Reading

What to Expect When You’re Expecting

What to Expect Before You’re Expecting: The Complete Guide to Getting Pregnant

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