How to Survive a Four Hour Drive with a Toddler

Prior to becoming a mother, I told myself I wouldn’t be caught dead driving long distances with a child. I figured I could put off accepting any kind of out-of-town social event until the kid was say, oh I don’t know – how old are they when they stop misbehaving? Oh right. Never. My genius pre-motherhood plan lasted less than two years. Last week my husband, eighteen month old son, and I set off on a cross-state drive for a wedding and I’ve lived to tell about it!

If you want to survive a long, family car ride without needing to call someone for bail money (presumably for assaulting whoever woke your sleeping child), then read on:

1. Expect the Unexpected

Before our trip could even get off to a proper start, I somehow managed to dislodge the right side of my front bumper. I’m talented like that. I’m like ninety percent sure it wasn’t my fault, but let’s not squabble over details. There we were: in the predawn hours, dragging rubber and plastic down the highway, praying to the travel gods the baby would stay asleep while anxiously looking for a safe place to pull off .

This looks safe, right, Honey?

“This looks safe, right, Honey?”

Despite neatly packing snacks, quietly transferring my sleeping son from the crib to the car, and carefully hanging fancy clothes without wrinkling them, I was not prepared for this. So what do you do when the proverbial fecal matter hits the fan? Aside from performing a ritual goat sacrifice, I strongly suggest you embrace the chaos. The more you try to fight against the craziness, the less calm you (and everyone around you) will be. Just try to roll with it – even if you’re screaming internally.

Just breathe in and out.

Just breathe in and out.

2. Breaks. SO. MANY. BREAKS.

Keeping in theme with the previous rule, you’ll need to adopt the mantra “F*** The Schedule!” When the mini vehicular catastrophe was finally remedied (thank you, zip ties!), we were a solid two hours behind schedule. I thought to myself, “That’s okay. We factored in a bonus hour for breaks, so we’re really only one hour behind. I can make that up with clever driving and no breaks. It’ll be fine!” Oh how innocent I was.

So young, so full of hope I was.

So young, so full of hope I was.

A funny thing happens when you try to drive long stretches without a break. Perhaps “funny” isn’t the right word. Pee. Yup that’s the word: PEE. Pee happens when you don’t take breaks and you have a toddler with the bladder the size of a thimble. Unfortunately my seizures left me with the inability to smell (True story! Ask me about it some time) which meant I was blissfully unaware of the urine soaked car seat and horrifyingly wet toddler until it was too late. Do yourself (and your upholstery) a favor, and take as many breaks as necessary. Those with functioning olfactory receptors will thank you.

WHY, GOD? WHY?!?!

WHY, GOD? WHY?!?!

 3. Baby = “Get Out of Jail Free” Card

Okay, this one may sound like I’m a horrible person – and maybe I am, who cares? – but one of the perks to having a baby is that it is the best excuse you’ll ever have! I’m not recommending you lie and say your baby is sick to get out of a party because, ya know, karma. But if you have a legit situation which has created some negative outcome, don’t be afraid to blame your exit strategy on the baby. Just don’t get drunk with power.

drunk with power highlander

It’s deceptively easy to use the excuse too much.

The final key to being able to survive a long drive with your toddler is to not worry about what others may think. Merely showing up in one piece should be accomplishment enough, in my opinion. Yeah, we were late and probably smelled of baby pee, but we MADE IT! The ride back? Now that’s an entirely different story…

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Time Out For Mommy!

So far this summer has been off to a roller-coaster of a start! We have grieved the loss of a loved one, celebrated the union of two wonderful people, and were surprised by the early arrival of my best friend’s daughter (to whom I have the honor of being godmother). With all the ups and downs, I’ve decided to take a brief break from the interwebs and invite some of the best and funniest writers I know to help me out in the mean time!

help

The lovely Bianca Jamotte was kind enough to share one of her hilarious pieces from MomCo with you today! Make sure to check out her bio below and let us know what you thought of this real momma’s confession!

Real Mommy Confessions: Finding the Comedy in the Chaos

I have spent much of my life learning to tame my temper. I take after my hotheaded French father, lots of opinions and volume. I’ve wanted to be a mom for as long as I can remember and wished to be as calm and serene as my mom always seemed to be. By the time my husband and I started talking about having babies, I was ready! I had become the woman I wanted to be. I had learned how to express myself without yelling, how to be opinionated without being abrasive. I was going to be a wonderful, loving, gentle, mild-tempered Momma. And I was. For 15 months. Then we had my son and my daughter became a toddler.

What has saved me from losing my mind completely is finally getting honest. I am not calm or serene. My life isn’t always pretty. I tried to make it look that way for a long time, only sharing filtered pictures of smiling my babies on Facebook. Posting status updates about how #blessed I am, but the truth is my car is a mess and everything and everyone is always sticky. Some days I just want to crawl in a ball and cry (and sometimes I do,) but most of the time I try to laugh. I post pictures of my children throwing temper tantrums, and status updates of the hilariously creepy things my daughter says. I make it a point to find the humor in the chaos, and only lose my temper when I truly can’t find anything funny in the situation. I laugh, one of my friends drinks wine, another does cross fit and the mom who submitted this confession, believes in timeouts.

About the Guest Author:

Bianca Jamotte is a Mom, Actress, Award-winning Filmmaker as well as Brooklyn Business Owner and Creator of the independent Original Series, Real Mommy Confessions. Business owners, Bianca and her Husband (who also proudly serves as a FDNY), own and operate the delectable specialty Mac and Cheese Restaurant, Brooklyn MAC, as well as the award-winning Coffee Shop, Cup, which was given the title of ‘Best Espresso’ in Greenpoint. Her most exciting credential for which she is most proud, however, is her job as Mom, which brings on a daily host of challenges and accomplishments, often simultaneously. These include successfully keeping her 2-year old from nosediving off the sofa as well as negotiating with her willful 3.5-year old.

You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, and her site, Real Mommy Confessions.

Today Would Be Her Due Date

My dear friend, Jasmine, of Emilee Plays | See June Play has graciously chosen to share her premature birth story. Below she writes about her experience on what would have been her youngest daughter’s due date.
She tells beautiful stories through photo essays and today’s story is no different.  

***

Today is my due date.

Today would have been the day I met my daughter, June. Instead, I met her two months ago. Never could I have imagined that I would give birth to a preemie, but I did. I’m not going to lie and say I don’t feel a little bitter about it, or that I don’t wish things could have been different.

I could have done without the NICU stay, the worrying, and the uncertainty. When I start getting completely caught up in my thoughts about this day, I remember: June is two months old, officially a newborn, and set to get her vaccinations on Thursday.

I can breathe a little easier and I can live a lot more with my daughter.

***

shared moment

A shared moment

first look

First look

newborn

A whole new world

Emilee + June

June 1 month

One month

Two months

Two months

On her due date

On her due date

 

What To Do When You And Your Baby Are Sick

This is one of those posts I was kind of hoping I wouldn’t have to write.  But, alas, my little one got the flu and a bonus ear infection a while back and then just kept getting sinus problems coupled with (BONUS!) teething.  For all the fellow autoimmune disorder moms out there, you know what that means, right?  Yup.  It means you’re getting sick, too.  Over the course of the past couple months, I also got the bonus ear infection (full with perforated eardrum) plus a super sized sinus infection and limited edition stomach flu!  So here are my first-hand tips on what to do when both you and your baby are sick:

1. SANITIZE ALL THE THINGS

Not even kidding with this one.  My husband usually teases me because of my OCD and proclivity for decontaminating things, but this time of year no one is joking about the Purell!  Your little one, no matter the age, is carrying a copious amount of germs.  Whether your baby is sneezing in your face, putting everything in his mouth, or touching everything with sticky hands, he or she is spreading germs.  Your first line of defense?  Sanitize things and do it often.  Wipe down hard surfaces and plastic toys, wash bedding and soft toys, and pay special attention to communal areas (like the living room or bedroom) and shared objects (like remotes or pillows).  So even if you are already sick, this will help limit the length of your sicky days and will hopefully prevent it from being reintroduced into your family.

Dean knows what's up

Dean knows what’s up

2. Limit Time in “Danger Zones”

Whether you’re trying to prevent getting sick or you already are, it’s a good idea to limit your baby’s and your exposure to germy hotbeds.  Now may be the time to cancel play dates, say no to Chuck E Cheese, and avoid busy malls.  This goes both ways, too.  Not only are you trying to reduce your chances of getting sick, but you also don’t want to be “that mom.”  You know the mom I’m talking about.  It’s the mom who brings her clearly sick child to daycare or a group play date and seems oblivious to the fact that he’s snotting all over the toys and is coughing directly into your child’s mouth.  So yeah, don’t be “that mom.”  And limit time in potential danger zones so you don’t have to run into “that mom.”

You know the type. Won't even turn away to sneeze

You know the type. Won’t even turn away to sneeze

3. Rest, rest, and more rest

Easier said than done, right?  While I’m inclined to agree, there is one exception to the rule.  You can’t properly care for your sick child if you are running on fumes.  Take it back to the newborn days when you repeated this mantra like a bloodshot-eyed zombie “you sleep when the baby sleeps.”  If your baby is sick, hopefully he or she will actually be taking more naps than usual since they’re feeling pretty rundown themselves.  So forget dishes and errands.  Seize every opportunity you can to nap and take it easy.

God bless this girl for having the courage to do what we all wish we could

God bless this girl for having the courage to do what we all wish we could

4. Ask for (and accept) help

Thankfully I live within ten minutes of both my mother and mother-in-law.  And thankfully we all got sick when people weren’t terribly busy.  So thankfully (again) I had no shortage of help when my baby and I needed it.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, don’t mistake pride for courage and remember it’s not a Mompetition (remember that one?).  No one is going to judge you for letting your mom watch the baby while you get some shuteye or if your mother-in-law graciously brings over dinner.  And if anyone does judge you, they are either jealous or… well no they’re probably just jealous and you should feel bad for them.

Let yourself feel a little braggy for a minute

Let yourself feel a little braggy for a minute

Mom Jealousy

Oh jealousy, you fickle fiend, always rearing your grumpy green head at the absolute worst moment.  As if I wasn’t stressed enough – planning my son’s first birthday and traveling back and forth between the Florida coasts to visit family – that familiar feeling decided to come creeping up recently.  Logically, I know it’s just my own insecurities making me feel like I’m losing some imaginary mom competition (Mompetition?), but that doesn’t seem to help me shake the feeling.

Just can't shake it!

Just can’t shake it!

I’ll be honest.  I get jealous.  A lot.  I get envious of moms who appear to have it all, moms who seem to be able to do it all, moms who don’t worry, healthy moms, moms who have all the answers.  You name it, I’ve either been jealous of or insecure about it.  But I don’t really linger on the jealousy.  It’s more of a fleeting thought that flickers across my mind when I see a woman at the grocery store, hair perfectly in place, bright eyes, carrying multiple things with ease, that I wonder to myself how I must look in comparison.  Messy ponytail with strands pulled undone by little hands, bleary eyes, struggling to find where I last put my debit card.  How could I not feel a little twinge of envy?

yup

Riiight?!

It’s not all pity party, though.  Sometimes I get these “epiphany moments” where I’m inspired by some random BuzzFeed article, convinced that I’ve found the ultimate life hack to turn me into Super Mom or a Pinterest board with the perfect sensory play project to guarantee my baby will be the next Einstein.  I’m full of optimism that I can finally be the best mother my child deserves and the best me that I deserve.

Such blind optimism

Such blind optimism

Of course things never turn out that way.  Something will inevitably go wrong and then those insecure feelings come back.  It can be a vicious cycle.  And normally, if I find out that I’m not alone in my self-doubt, I’ll start to feel better.  Yet somehow this isn’t one of those times.  I’ve heard every woman I know, chronically ill or not, vent about their issues of Mompetition (I’m trying to make this word happen, if you can’t tell).  And sure, we get together for a GNO and all chime in with our own horror stories and commiserate with each other, but most of the time we still go back home full of angsty sighs that would make a 90s grunge teen look like sunshine.

Angela Chase ain't got nothing on me

Angela Chase ain’t got nothing on me

But you know what snapped me out of my ‘Envy–>Self-Doubt–>Repeat’ cycle?  It may seem totally insignificant, yet it was a game-changer for me.  Not too long ago I was out to lunch with my best friend and my son.  On paper he should have been fine; he had just eaten, napped, and been changed.  Except, right around the time when I was getting ready to eat, he decided to have a meltdown.  So there I was, in a restaurant full of judge-y eyes, feeling the “shame sweat” begin to bead up on my forehead, trying to gently bounce him on my knee and maintain a smile as if he wasn’t letting out a demon-summoning shriek.

...basically

…basically

And you know what happened?  My best friend, God bless her, looked me dead in the eye and said, “Hey, you are doing great right now.  We all need to feel validated and I’m here to tell you that you are doing great.”  At the time, I just shrugged, nervously laughed, and mumbled out an awkward thank you.  But as I drove home, with my untouched lunch in a to-go box and my mini-monster blissfully asleep in the car seat, I let her words really sink in.  She saw, as only another woman can, the exact kind of panic I was in.  And she didn’t try to flatter me with superficial cliches nor did she avert her gaze and pretend not to know me (which I wouldn’t have blamed her for).  Instead, she told me exactly what I needed to hear.  It’s not about comparing yourself to someone else; it’s about being told you’re doing great, warts and all.

Gorgeous

Gorgeous

So to all the women (mothers or not) who have validated me, I sincerely thank you.  And in case no one has told you yet, you are doing great.

How to Survive Baby’s First Holiday

The holiday season is upon us once again!  This time last year I was on bed rest, beyond ready for the baby to come, and feeling like a beached whale.  This year, I’m always on my feet chasing my mini monster, beyond ready for a nap, and… actually I still kind of feel like a beached whale some days.  I guess some things don’t change *wink wink*  Another thing that hasn’t changed is the high level of stress that the holidays can bring.  So here are some tips to help you survive your baby’s first holiday season!

Plan Ahead

Nothing is worse than that ‘trying to keep my head above water’ feeling when it comes to getting overwhelmed by the holidays.  Okay, well maybe a few things are worse than that, like explosive diarrhea in a bathroom with no air conditioning or driving on I-4.  But holiday stress is still pretty gnarly.  One way to try and make the season more manageable?  Plan ahead.  Things become a lot less intimidating once you start breaking them down.

This cool cat is taking it one step at a time

This cool cat is taking it one step at a time

If the thought of driving 3 hours with your baby to go see relatives is keeping you up at night, try envisioning the actual situation in your head.  For instance, if you know you will be going somewhere your baby is unfamiliar with, bring a blanket or toy from home to make them feel comforted and safe.  Thinking ahead makes things less scary and helps you figure out what you need to do to be prepared!  Speaking of prepared…

Extra Clothes (for mom AND baby)

You can never have too many back-up outfits when you’re getting ready to take your baby on a trip.  Whether it’s a quick visit with Grandma or an all-day event, always pack extra clothes!  My son has acid reflux issues so he spits up frequently and thus goes through more wardrobe changes than Lady Gaga.  But it wasn’t until one day early on, when I was still a wide-eyed mom full of optimism, that he puked all down the front of my shirt (and missed himself, of course) and things changed.

I call it "The Embarrassment Sweats"

I call it “The Embarrassment Sweats”

 

I had tons of onesies for him in the bag, but nothing for me.  A lesson I only needed to learn once!  So save yourself the embarrassment and subsequent awkward explanations – “Oh this?  Haha yeah, it’s pureed squash and puke. Hashtag ‘mom life,’ riiiight?? Haha okay bye! – and pack a back-up shirt for you and your partner.

Don’t Underestimate People

If you know me or have read any of my previous posts, then you know I’m inclined to convince myself that the worst case scenario will happen.  I also carry a nice British-sized dose of guilt and awkwardness around.  So I tend to get nervous about how people will react when something bad (inevitably) happens.  What if my baby spits up on my in-law’s rug?  What if I have to say no to an event invite altogether?  What if we have to leave a party early because my son is reaching a nuclear reactor level meltdown?

It's about to get real

It’s about to get real

Having actually experienced all of these things, I can tell you firsthand the surprising outcome: everyone was actually super nice and understanding about the situation!  Unless someone is just a major Grinch (get it? Holiday humor!), people are actually fairly accommodating and sympathetic to life’s little mishaps especially when it concerns your health and/or babies. So breathe a sigh of relief and don’t underestimate the kindness of people.

Smile… a lot

This one may sound a little cheesy, but hear me out.  As a mom with multiple chronic illnesses, I’m often in some degree of pain or discomfort.  Don’t go pulling out the violin, I’m just stating fact here and I’m sure all you other moms with similar issues can appreciate my candor when it comes to health.  And since I’m no stranger to feeling uncomfortable, I’ve mastered my “serene” face.  However, upon looking at some photos a few weeks ago, I noticed just how calculated my “serene” face looked.  It was a cross between a mannequin and a the snob who just has to mention that she knows those are last year’s  shoes you’re wearing.

In my head, I thought I looked totally dignified

In my head, I thought I looked totally dignified

Basically, my face didn’t display the kind of mirth and joy one expects to see in family holiday photos.  You may think this sounds a bit superficial, but trust me.  Any other time of year I would say, “Hey, I’m gonna wear sweatpants, I don’t care.  Deal with it, blah blah feminism blah blah.”  But since this is my baby’s first holiday season, I don’t want the pictures of our new little family to remind me of my disease every time I look back at them.  I want the photos to capture all the wonderful emotions my heart feels in spite of my health.  So if that means having to summon the majestic power of a thousand bald eagles to keep a smile on my face for a few minutes, so be it.

Make time and BREATHE

If you remember only one thing from this post, let it be this.  Take a moment during this busy season and just breathe.  Everything will be okay and the world will keep on spinning even if things don’t turn out quite the way you had pictured.  If you find yourself getting overwhelmed, remember that it’s all temporary and things will be calmed down and back to normal soon enough.  Try not to let the little things get you down.

Rise above it!

Rise above it!

And most importantly, take time to just celebrate your wonderful baby and allow yourself to forget about all the hullabaloo for a little bit.  My partner and I always make a point to snag a moment where it’s just us and our baby.  Granted your baby will have no idea what’s going on, but it can be special bonding experience for you and your partner to revel in the awesomeness of parenthood.  Treasure this first holiday season with your little one because it only happens once!

Happy Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Bodhi Day, Pancha Ganapati, Soyal, Yaldā, Yule, and Festivus to you all!!!

(Sorry if I forgot anyone!)

Why It’s Okay to Complain

Maybe it’s because I’ve lived with health issues my whole life. Maybe it’s because I’m a new mom. Maybe it’s just me. Or maybe it’s not. But I’ve long felt the necessity to stay strong and never complain. Perhaps I felt as if I were betraying all the strong, fierce feminists that came before me. I’ve always thought that if I complained, asked for help, or took a break that it somehow meant I was giving in and letting my struggles get the best of me. Thankfully, I’m here to tell you that that’s just not true. It really is okay to complain sometimes.

It wasn’t easy to allow myself the freedom to complain. Honestly, it still isn’t easy even now. I still hesitate sometimes when asking for help. And when I do ask for help, I’m convinced that the other person is secretly mad that I bothered them. Again, this could just be me dealing with my own issues, but from the other moms and women with chronic illnesses I’ve talked to, it doesn’t seem like I’m the only one. So here are five reasons why it’s not only okay to complain, but it may just be the best thing you could do for yourself.

5. It Puts Your Pain into Words

So often, when I’m having a health issue or beyond exhausted, pain just becomes a part of this unspoken routine. Even before I had a child, I still couldn’t just take a day off whenever I was in pain or sick. If that was the case, I would have been home more days than I worked. So, you learn to just “deal.” But I did eventually get to my breaking point, as we all do. So I complained. And it was awesome! I got to put into words exactly what I was feeling which did two things: 1) it helped me articulate just how debilitating my health issues can be, emotionally and physically, and 2) it gave everyone around me a better picture of what I was going through and how to help. Contrary to popular belief, glaring at someone does not actually tell them what’s wrong.

4. Better Out Than In!

That saying has stuck around for a reason. It really is better to let it out than to keep it all in. When you keep things in – health issues, relationship problems, anger, sadness, etc. – it becomes toxic. And what’s even scarier is, if you hold on to the problem long enough, it becomes a part of you. One day, I caught myself in the mirror and realized I looked miserable. Not sad, not unhappy, not even angry, just plain miserable. I was holding in all this frustration that it was physically manifesting on my face and it wasn’t cute. So I wrote down a list of all the things that were causing me stress or pain. Then I showed it to my husband when he got home. The conversation that followed wasn’t exactly cute either, but I caught myself smiling for no reason the next day 🙂

3. Perspective

Not all the things I put on that list were really stress-worthy. Sure, some issues on the list were serious (like finances and health), but some were downright silly. I wrote “all out of Baked Lays.” It’s funny now, but at the time I’m sure it was a very legitimate thing to be stressed out about in my life. But reading it on that list not only let me see how small and easily fixable some of my problems were, but it also showed me (and my partner) that if you let things build up, it only takes one little thing to push it over the tipping point. That saying “the straw that broke the camel’s back” definitely fits here. And not to worry, I finally got my Baked Lays and all was right in the world again.

2. Healthy Alternative

I’m not suggesting everyone who bottles up their issues immediately becomes destructive, but I have seen firsthand the negative consequences that can come of it. One of the most important things I should point out first, is that this can happen to women and men. I’ve seen both mothers and fathers who never complain, yet they are visibly unhappy and some are even resentful or bitter. I’ve also seen pain eat away at someone until they’re just a shell of who they used to be. Partly because of what I had seen, I knew it was important to me, my partner, and my son that I never let myself become overwhelmed under the weight of chronic illness and motherhood. So if a little venting from time to time prevents you from a life of resentment or unhappiness, then I say it’s worth it.

1. Forming Bonds Stronger than Denture Cream

Believe it or not, giving myself permission to complain didn’t help just me. It was like a magic wand had been waved! Out of nowhere, all these friends and mothers were released from their guilt-ridden spell of silence. Suddenly I was getting texts and calls and Facebook comments and messages from both friends I’d known forever and people I’d just met saying things like, “Oh my God! I thought I was the only one!” or “Finally, someone is talking about it!” I began to forge new friendships and strengthen existing ones by simply “complaining” on social media about how real the struggle of balancing motherhood with chronic illness can be. So if you haven’t already, be the first person to break the “Guilt and Silence Spell” and enjoy the deep sense of camaraderie that you will find among friends new and old.