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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To Break Or Not To Break

Over the past few months, I’ve had incredible writing opportunities come up and I’m still so blown away by the support you all have shown me and this page. As a mother to a feisty toddler, struggling when chronic illness and an emotionally exhausting job are added to the mix, it should come as no surprise that I felt overextended.

STAT

STAT!

Thankfully I found this amazingly inspiring post by a fellow writer. She puts into words all the thoughts and emotions I was feeling but couldn’t quite express. Hop on over and check out the insightful perspective she offers on the perks of taking a break!

Rejuvenate! Take a Blog Break

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!)

5 Confessions Of A Chronically-Ill New Mom

With the past few blog posts dealing with heavy topics such as inability to breastfeed and body image issues, I figured we could do with something a little lighter.  So here are some of my embarrassing, honest, awkward, and funny confessions as a new mom dealing with chronic illnesses!

1. Eau de What??

Some of you may know this about me, but I can’t smell (thanks, seizures!).  This has its pros and cons.  Pro: I can walk by a horrifically awful dumpster and not have any reaction.  Con: I can walk around for the better part of a day with baby puke on the back of my shirt and not realize it.  And if you’re thinking that example sounds oddly detailed, you’re right, because it actually happened.  Unfortunately I can’t always blame my inability to smell.  Sometimes I am fully aware of the pureed sweet potato on the front of my shirt, but I am just too darned busy to change.

Confession: Some days I may smell like a combination of spit up, poop, and old food. I don’t care. It happens.

I'm insecure, so this is what I imagine people are thinking when they're around me

I’m insecure, so this is what I imagine people are thinking when they’re around me

2. Nature’s Napkin

You remember when you were a mom-to-be and you could spend hours on Pintrest looking up cute little DIY projects and clever hacks for life with baby?  Oh, it all seemed so possible and so adorable!  Those were the days.  And then your baby sneezes with reckless abandon directly into your mouth.  Snot happens.  As was mentioned in the above confession, I am often covered in so many fluids, I would make a hotel room on CSI look clean.

Confession: When my son is sick, and he thinks my shirt is a tissue, I oblige because I’ll do anything to make him feel better.

Sneeze away, baby

Sneeze away, baby

3. Back Burner Syndrome

Let’s face it.  When you’re a new mom, you’ve got your hands full.  Slowly but surely, more and more things start to be placed on the back burner.  It starts with not sorting the mail on a daily basis, then leaving clean laundry in the dryer, and finally you’re just lucky if you can remember where you put something.  Some of that I can blame on the “Lupus Fog” or  my memory issues (thanks again, seizures!), and sometimes I’m just prioritizing.  Surprisingly, my house actually stays pretty clean, but I guess I just feel guilty about not being able to “do it all.”

Confession: Laundry and dishes can wait.  My baby’s needs cannot.

Dust it off, boo

Dust it off, boo

2. I’ll Tell You What I Want, What I Really Really Want!

While the Spice Girls may have had more R-rated things in mind, what I really really want is much more G-rated.  I just want to be able to go to the friggin’ bathroom for like more than five seconds.  And I know I am not alone in this, so don’t even try to play like you wouldn’t ugly-cry tears of joy if someone said you could have a luxuriously uninterrupted, hot shower.

Confession: I love every second I get to spend with my baby, but there is only so much my bladder can hold.

How I feel when I finally et to go to the bathroom

How I feel when I finally get to go to the bathroom

1. Silver Lining

Oh you know me, always looking for the silver lining.  This time I really have found one!  I used to get bummed (and borderline offended) when people would assume that because I don’t look my age and have crazy hair that I must be a teen mom.  I even had one older lady behind me in the check-out line make a snide remark to her friend, “It looks like babies having babies.”  To which her friend replied, “I’ll bet you it wasn’t even planned.”  Perhaps their hearing aids weren’t properly adjusted and they thought they were being quiet?  But then I realized, I hadn’t been a teen in almost a decade!  Those crones’ comments were more of a self-esteem boost than getting carded at a restaurant 😉

Confession: When rude people think I’m a “teen mom” they’re actually just telling me I look great for my age!  Thanks, haters!

AND I'M OUT!!!

AND I’M OUT!!!

Why I’m Not A Mom (and neither are you)

No, no, no.  Calm down.  No one needs to call Social Services or anything, my son is very well fed (as is evidenced by his Michelin man legs).  I’m just on my  soapbox  again.  I don’t like the label “mom,” never have.  Mom is a palindrome; it’s written the same forwards and backwards.  I also have an irrational fear of palindromes, in case you didn’t know.  The “M”s on either side of the “O” are like little bookends.  They’re little, mean bookends confining the “O” in the middle.  The word is stuck as it is and can be nothing else.  Yes, I’m writing this on very little sleep.  So allow me to explain, since my previous sentences sound like the ravings of a madwoman.

Ooooh watch out!

Ooooh watch out!

Seemingly, when you become a mother and other people begin to refer to you as a “mom,” the world around you gets a little smaller.  You’re now “just a mom.”  The media isn’t interested in you as a “woman” anymore.  Magazine articles either cater to alluring, interesting young women or to “moms” and their quilting and hors d’oeuvre making.  You find yourself wondering if you should just resign to wearing sweats and always smelling just a bit like baby spit up.  The suggested ads in your Facebook are suddenly about minivans, artichoke dip recipes, and losing weight.

Yes, FB, this is totally accurate

Yes, FB, this is totally accurate

What happened to everything else I am?  I love to travel, discuss religion and politics, sketch, and watch an ungodly amount of BBC America.  I’m still an activist for animal rights, environmental issues, gay rights, and raise awareness for invisible illnesses.  I still shop at H&M, Urban Decay, and (embarrassing as it may be) Forever 21.  Why does becoming a “mom” mean to many that I am no longer that person to so many people I’ve encountered?

I FINALLY GET TO USE THIS GIF!

I FINALLY GET TO USE THIS GIF!

I am so proud to be a mother and so humbly grateful to have received a gift that many women desperately want.  Through all the ups and downs, I would still do it again for my sweet son.  I am responsible for him and to him now.  But I’m also obligated to show him what a strong woman looks like.  What disservice would I be doing to him if I sent the message that once a woman has a child she ceases to have any other identity except that of a mother?  Or what would it imply about women who are unable or choose not to have children?  Are they less of a woman or somehow less caring?   How would he then treat women?  I hope to show him that women can be nurturing yet independent, kind yet bold, and yes girls can like mud and science and Tonka trucks, too.  I hope he will in turn exhibit respect and empathy towards others and strive to be aware of his impact as well.

because babies holding hands is adorable

because babies holding hands is adorable

So that’s why I’m not a mom and neither are you.  We’re mothers, partners, artists, goofballs, chefs, secret-keepers, dancers, nerds, and everything in between.  We owe it to ourselves and our children to be a full person, flaws and all.  Children learn so much about the world by watching what we do, how we act, what we say.  Show them, tell them that you are, not were, an artist or a nerd or a thrill-seeker or a musician.  Let them see all that you are so that they might know who they can be.

They'll grow into those shoes quickly, trust me

They’ll grow into those shoes quickly, trust me