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When the Unexpected Becomes the Best Yet

halloween

Written by Johanna Butler

When mom and dad are sick for most of October and mom finally crawls out of bed the day before Halloween to buy $4 sheets at Goodwill, then digs up two wine corks (like that was hard to do) and cuts up some old sweats—what do you get?

Maybe one of our best Halloweens yet.

Originally, my daughter wanted to be a rattlesnake, my oldest son a snow leopard, and my youngest son a lion. I did manage to make it to the fabric store and purchase ridiculously expensive material with the best intentions, but my husband and I just didn’t have the energy to create three costumes. When I told the kids, my youngest was the first to resign himself to this cold, hard reality and sighed, “Ok, fine, Mom. I’ll be Frankenstein.” And the monster theme was born! So, five o’clock Halloween evening my husband and I ripped, tore, tied, and cut up sheets and colored corks with black sharpies while feasting on delivery pizza.

We were reminded of a very valuable lesson: sometimes you gotta keep it simple and cheap. Because it is not about the costumes. It’s about the CANDY! And you can wear a garbage bag and still go trick-or-treating, right? So, here’s to improvising and big buckets of chocolate.

We hope you all had a very happy Halloween—we did!

My youngest: Frankenstein; oldest: mummy; my daughter: ghost (and her own makeup artist).

 Parenthood, the Brilliant with the Sacrifice

 

Crazy MomentsWritten by Elizabeth R.

I don’t see enough written about how hard motherhood really is. I see blogs full of witty lists, short and easy to digest on the fly. But nothing about how truly it can break you down, how your former self, can feel so far gone.

Sometimes, when it’s particularly bad, I sense my own flood gates close, one by one. It’s a disconnecting process, a place I go to survive when my sensitive, needy toddler screams and cries at the slightest challenge. And then, of course, my baby starts to cry. A little piece of me dies.

Sometimes I can peek out from the battened down hatches and try to send love and patience his way. But do you know how hard that is after an entire day of doing it? I run out of reserves. Though my tone can get really stern, I use my feeling words: “I am starting to get frustrated, I am now frustrated. I see you are frustrated too. You really wanted to pile all your stuffed animals on top of your brother.”

On one occasion, after an impromptu dinner party, I returned home with two screaming children. The party was too stimulating for my toddler. He asked that I stay by his side constantly. I ended up eating in a play room on the floor. I hardly spoke to any adults. So many of the other kids were older. I wanted to say “People, don’t you remember how hard this is? Reach out and help a lady!” But I chilled myself out with, “Well, at least I’m sitting on a different floor, in a different space, even if I’m doing what I would have done at home.”

Sometimes I tell myself that I chose this, so what right do I have to complain. We are healthy, we have a home and food.

One friend offered comfort, reminding me that she remembered how insane she used to feel. Her words helped relieve my sense of guilt and self-numbing. “It’s so freaking hard and don’t let anyone make you feel crazy for thinking so!”

So I offer you my compassion as you parent; forge on, acknowledging the crazy moments and celebrating the glorious ones. That’s parenthood, the brilliant with the sacrifice. And may our children thank us one day when they, too, feel the burden.

 

Stroller Baby

Stroller baby image

Written by Blaire Peters

In the first few weeks of having my new daughter, life seemed impossibly perfect.  Friends and family frequently stopped by to offer congratulations, my husband was home from work to share in the joy, and I was happily learning the needs of my new, precious baby.  But within a few months, the newness and excitement began to dim.  Our doorbell rang less often, my husband was back to work, and my daughter and I were left alone at home.  Each day began to look much like the one before it, laden with naps, feedings, diaper changes, and daytime television shows.  Before long, the lengthy and predictable days left me feeling dismal and lonely.  So, I reached out to my physician for some advice.  She encouraged me to spend some time outside every day, ideally in the form of exercise.  At first, I was resistant to her suggestion, after all, it was the middle of winter and I would have to take my daughter outside with me, but ultimately I decided it was in the best interest of my family and myself.

And so, during my daughter’s morning nap time, I bundled her up, strapped her in the jogging stroller, loaded up the dogs, and hit the trails in the nearby foothills.  Surrounded by nature, rolling hills, and meandering trails, I immediately felt the bleakness lift.  As my daughter slept, I walked, letting the winter sun warm my face and my soul.  I felt invigorated and inspired, like I was nurturing myself from the inside out.  After that, we went every day, no matter the weather, and to this day hikes continue to be a daily awakening ritual.

I could have made a million excuses as to why taking a new baby on winter hikes would be too difficult, but I chose not to.  My hikes have taught me that as much as my daughters happiness matters, so too does mine, they have taught me that by taking care of myself, I am better equipped to care for my family, and they have taught me the powerful impact a date with nature can have on my sense of well being.

Building a Foundation

Emily blog 2 image

Written by Emily Clements

For so many months, I wondered who this little light was inside of my growing belly, a couple of weeks ago we finally got to meet our beautiful daughter, Sonja! Though she came into this world so peacefully and without complications, trying to learn her language has been a challenge as she adapts to her new environment and I to my new role as “mama”. I am grateful for the information and suggestions offered in the 0+ NurtureU cards, not only because they have helped guide my husband and me, but they have also validated and affirmed things we intuitively began doing. As a breastfeeding mama, I decided to keep our daughter close so she could eat whenever she asks. For us, this means she shares the bed with us, and I use a sling often to carry her next to my skin throughout the day. One of the most satisfying feelings as a new and tired mama is being able to soothe my baby through nourishment, touch, and movement—without needing to buy anything fancy or technical! My body seems to be the only thing she needs and desires at this point in our journey together.

We have been building a foundation of trust through bonding and swiftly responding to her cries, but sometimes I don’t know exactly what she needs. In week two of her life, she became very distressed one day and we noticed that she hadn’t had a dirty diaper in some time. Her belly felt a little firm, so we decided to take the tip from a NurtureU Social-Emotional card and try baby massage to help. We read the how-to activity steps and followed up with some YouTube videos to get a visual demonstration on baby belly massage, and went for it. After about three massages over a 24-hour period, our daughter finally passed a healthy stool. We continue to do baby massage because she seems to enjoy the physical touch, and I enjoy the bonding that takes place during those tender moments.

Amidst the challenges of becoming a new parent, we are embracing this sweet time in which our daughter is fully dependent upon us to meet her needs and to learn her language. It can be tiring to be needed every other hour for a feeding and for warmth and cuddles in-between, but it is such a privilege to be that person for her. However, when I need some rest or a shower (a rarity these days!), my husband can provide her with the soothing touch of skin-to-skin contact or the calming effect of bouncing in his arms or sling. The first few weeks of her life have been a whirlwind and a time of stretching and growing. It’s been remarkable to experience how such a tiny little human can knit our hearts closer together as we hunker down and navigate this new chapter as a team.

 

Cooking Mama

Blaire Blog Image 1st Post

Written by Blaire Peters

When I first got married, I didn’t know how to cook.  My husband considered himself lucky if I poured him a bowl of Fruit Loops.  After a year or so, I felt a little guilty (and a little inadequate) that my cooking repertoire was limited to Kraft Macaroni and Cheese and Hot Pockets, so I began perusing cooking magazines and foodie websites.  The trial period of my cooking quest was a daunting time for my husband, but he did his best to retain a smile when I served him burnt casseroles and gooey eggs.  Eventually, I got the hang of it, and before long, I loved it.  For me, cooking has become a passion which soothes the burdens and confusion a given day can bring.  The smells, the warmth, the peacefulness, the familiarity, and the sense that I have created something which nurtures my family, all help to keep the kitchen the anchor of my home.  But, as much as I love to cook, there are days when a mom just can’t find the time.  For days like this, I rely on my favorite one-pot recipes which are wonderfully tasty, but require little time.  One of my favorites for winter days robed in cold, blustery winds is White Bean and Chicken Chili.  This is one of my very favorite soup recipes, and it is sure to satisfy the taste buds!  I love to top it with a dollop of sour cream and strips of baked tortilla.

 

White Bean and Chicken Chili

Ingredients:

2 tsp. olive oil

2 yellow onions, diced

1 ¾ T. chili powder

1 T. granulated garlic

1 ¾ tsp. cumin

1 tsp. each salt and pepper

2 tsp. adobo sauce from can of chipotle peppers (you may want to leave this extra heat out for the kiddos, but man its good!)

1 ½ tsp. oregano

2 cans cannellini beans, drained

4 cups chicken broth

½ c. salsa

3 cups chopped, cooked chicken (I use pre-cooked rotisserie chicken from the market)

¼ c. cilantro, chopped

1 ½ T. fresh lime juice

Cook onion in olive oil over medium-high heat in a large pot.  Once the onion has browned, add the chili powder through the beans.  Stir well and sauté for a few minutes.  Add broth and salsa.  Allow to simmer for 10 minutes.  Remove 2 cups of the chili and puree in a food processor.  Return the mixture to the pot, along with the chicken, cilantro and the lime juice.  Serve with sour cream and strips of baked tortilla if desired.

Embracing your 4th Trimester Body

Blog picture Body Positivity

Photo by The 4th Trimester Bodies Project, Written By Amy Pence-Brown

I recently did something pretty brave. I stood downtown Boise with a sign and markers, stripped down to my black bikini, and blindfolded myself as a fat woman promoting self-love. You may be one of the over 129 million people who saw a video of the moment that has gone significantly viral on the internet, seen me on CNN, or read about me in USA Today. My body positivity comes from a lot of places – how I grew up, my stellar academic training, my voracious reading appetite, and being a mom.

When you get pregnant, your body begins to change in extraordinary ways. Your heart, your belly, and your hips grow miraculously during those forty-ish weeks of creating and nurturing a baby. It’s harder to fathom how that body continues to change and morph after delivering your sweet child, though. You bleed for weeks/months, it hurts to sit on a chair, your boobs are gigantic, your nipples crack, your hair starts falling out, you cry at the slightest thing, you never knew exhaustion like this before. Sometimes you look at yourself in the mirror and do not recognize this love-struck but tired mother. Months go by, and you don’t feel ‘bounced back’ like you expected/heard about. You feel completely different and, surprisingly, maybe, you look completely different. That can be hard to take.

Enter the 4th Trimester Bodies Project.  Young mom Ashlee Wells Jackson was a boudoir/pin up photographer in Chicago when she got pregnant with twin daughters, losing one to a medical condition. That traumatic experience left her scarred, both emotionally and physically. In her boudoir work, she sees women who don’t like their bodies as they are and often request of her, the photographer, to smooth things over and cut imperfections out of the resulting photographs. She told the Huffington Post in an article in 2013, “I see beautiful, inspiring, real women on a daily basis who struggle with their body image because they don’t feel they measure up with who the media tells them to be. I feel like this is even more poignant in mothers who often feel like their bodies have been ruined when they should instead be respected for creating, sustaining and nourishing life. So much more needs to be done in our society to embrace body positivity and normalize breastfeeding. … So, I started with my story and it has exploded into a beautiful thing from there.”

Ashlee and her business partner, Laura, started photographing mothers in simple black bras and panties with their babies, children of all ages. They loosely define the term ‘4th trimester’ as any period in your life of motherhood after your child(ren) are born. This photo documentary project celebrates the way our bodies change – from scars to loose skin to stretchmarks to breastfeeding. While they typically shoot in Chicago, the women have travelled doing photo shoots internationally and have a forthcoming book. I can’t recommend checking out their website, gallery and Facebook page enough. The more diverse types of bodies we see and the more normalized images of motherhood are in the media, the more beautiful our postpartum bodies will become in our own eyes.

 

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