You Won’t See My Facebook “Year In Review”

Seriously, stop asking Facebook.  No, I do not want to share a montage of my life the past year with the caption “It’s been a great year!”  Because 2014 sucked!

It's been a great year for drugs!  Sadly most of them are anti-diarrhea and anti-nausea...but still!
It’s been a great year for drugs! Sadly most of them are anti-diarrhea and anti-nausea…but still!

It has been nothing resembling a great year, in fact I can genuinely say it has probably been the worst year of my life.  Now before I go on, I want to make it very clear that I have had bright shining moments this year.  I have found love and support everywhere I turned, I have reconnected with old friends and made new ones.  I have had some wonderful times with my family and been hugged a million times and laughed a lot.  For example, today my husband taught Curly to do a dance routine that included “The Sprinkler” and ends with Jazz Hands.  Well, to be fair, she is 2 1/2, that is pretty much the whole routine, but still… awesomeness!

But honestly, the best thing I can say about 2014 is that I survived it.  I survived 3 major surgeries, the removal of my colon, 3 months with an ostomy bag, a skin cancer biopsy, a thyroid cancer diagnosis, the removal of my thyroid gland, panic attacks, depression, anemia, and being told by multiple doctors that my hemorrhoids will probably never go away.  I survived 16 days in the hospital and countless more in recovery.  I survived mountains of pain.  Epic, horrible, screaming pain.  Pain that was so bad that when I finally got the drugs (I heart you Dilaudid) that helped, I may or may not have tried to kiss the male nurse who gave them to me, with my amazing husband standing right next to me.  Umm awkward!

I struggled with seeing my husband take on more than anyone should ever have to by caring for me and our kids.  He stepped up in a major way but I hated having to watch him do it and not being able to help. I survived not seeing my little loves even by Facetime because all the tubes I was connected to scared them.  And after months of being at home with them but being too tired, or sick, or in pain to play with them, I survived learning that I can’t always be Supermom.

That was a hard one for me.  I have never been good at the home-maker part of being a stay at home mom.  So having other people come around and help clean, cook, and do the dishes and laundry was perfect for me.  But I’ve always been good at the “Mom” part.  I love getting on the floor and playing silly games with Flopsy and Curly.  I love teaching them, and listening to them, and reading with them, and wrestling with them, and cuddling with them. And for a good part of this year I couldn’t do those things, and when I did, it was not with my usual enthusiasm.  I survived letting someone else take care of them when I did not feel up to it.  And guess what?  They survived too!

And I came out of this year a changed person.  I really don’t think I could go through all of that and not be a little different at the end.  I am much more anxious about everything, and I don’t really trust my instincts when it comes to my health.  Finding out I had cancer when I had absolutely no symptoms and between two other major surgeries for a completely different issue, kind of made me into a nutcase.  So now I tend to expect the worst, am kind of always waiting for the other shoe to drop, but I’m working on that.

I do like some of the changes in myself though… I have found this blog, a place where I can be truly honest rather than just “sucking it up” or pretending that I am fine when inside I am a giant hot mess.  It has been wonderfully liberating to have pretty much everyone I know (and a lot of strangers) filled in on my struggles so people are kind of caught up to my drama and I don’t have to spend every moment talking to them discussing my health issues, because I Refuse To Be Old!

I also really like that I have become a resource to people who are going through a difficult time.  Over the past year I have had friends come to me to talk about surgerymiscarriage, anxiety, depression, cancer, and lots of other issues because of how open I have been about my difficulties.  I don’t want anyone else to ever suffer through the things I have had to deal with, but if they have to, I am at least grateful that I can be there for them.  I can be a listening ear that lets them cry or a voice to tell them “that just sucks,” and allow them to feel their negative feelings, because pretending those don’t exist doesn’t make them go away… believe me I tried.

And I love that I have become more compassionate, because I understand that things can get really, really bad.  And that I want to make it easier on people going through a difficult time in any way I can.  So I started a non-profit, Mommies In Need, that helps sick moms have temporary in-home childcare so they can focus on recovery rather than constantly worrying about who is taking care of their children.  I may have done it with no plan in place and in a very fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants manner, but hey, we got 501(c)(3) status in just 2 months, so I must have done something right!

So I guess that 2014 hasn’t been all bad, just… complicated.  There is no way that a Facebook algorithm is going to be able to sum up my year, so I did it here instead.

Friends, family, and virtual friends, I wish you a very Happy New Year and a wonderful 2015.  To 2014 I say, “Don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out!”

** If you want to help other mommies out there who are sick and need help with childcare in 2015 and beyond, please consider donating to Mommies In Need here or share that link wherever you can.  We accept Paypal and all major credit cards (or you can mail a check) and you can get a last minute 2014 tax deduction!  If you ever wanted to do something for me when I was sick and didn’t know what to do, you can help now.  I am really passionate about this cause, and starting Mommies In Need has been a huge source of healing for me.  It helps me understand that maybe all the crap I went through in 2014 can lead me to something positive in 2015 and beyond!

I’m So Over The Elf

So here it is, yet another post about the Elf on The Shelf for your Facebook feed.  I have read a lot of these blogs and articles advocating how the Elf brings a smile to their kids faces or about how the Elf is super creepy.  (Personally I go with super creepy but that is probably because my #1 nightmare as a child was about my dolls coming to life to move around the house when I slept.)  What bothers me is not that people are voicing their sometimes very hilarious takes on the whole Elf thing, but that in the comments sections Moms are waging war on each other.

I think this little guy might cut me in my sleep, but I truly don't care if you want to move him around your house!
I think this little guy might cut me in my sleep, but I truly don’t care if you want to move him around your house!

Over an eff-ing Elf.  Seriously people, let’s take it down a notch.  Move a little Elf around your house and tell the kids it spies on them and Pintrest it every day in excotic locales and/or hilariously ironic settings.  Or don’t.  I really don’t care.  I certainly don’t think it reflects poorly on your parenting one way or another.  It’s just a holiday tradition.  I don’t get up in arms about what kind of Cranberry sauce you use on Thanksgiving (BTW the proper answer is none, it’s disgusting) or what kind of Halloween candy you give out (but seriously Dots lady, those thing are like gobs of Kool-Aid flavored cement) so why are we so defensive about our position vis a vis Elfgate?

It’s just another way to get all up in each other’s grills, because that is a lot easier than doing something productive.  And I get it, I am a stay at home mom, so I often feel the need for righteous vindication.  I stopped breast-feeding and supplemented with formula because of health reasons. My babies never slept in my room because every noise they made woke me up in a panic, I learned that with the monitor on the lowest setting I could hear if they really cried but not every whimper and that is what I used.  And we did a modified cry-it-out thing because I am terrible at instituting a pre-planned course of action that involves hours of baby crying, but we desperately needed the twins to sleep.  I sort of wore my kids but only because it meant I might have one hand free.  I give them every single vaccination that my pediatrician recommends and if they are sick they get Tylenol or antibiotics.  I am firmly anti-spanking but also at a total loss right now because time-outs seem to be nothing but a joke to my littles. I made my own organic baby food for about a day and then gave up and moved to those packet thingies.   I have spent many nights away from the loves of my life both because I had to (like when I was in the hospital) and because I wanted to (because getting a break makes me a better mom.)

I have made a lot of decisions that other moms might not agree with, and it feels incredibly personal when someone attacks the way you raise your children.  So personal that it sometimes makes you want to leave a nasty comment on that someone’s shared article because you just had an XL glass of wine and a really hard day and how dare they flaunt their obviously wrong choices in your Facebook feed!  Because being a stay at home mom means that a huge part of my identity is tied up in the parenting and lifestyle choices I make for my kiddos.  And I personally have a deep seated insecurity that I am probably screwing my children up in a million small ways that they will one day work out in very expensive therapy.

I am just trying to figure this parenting thing out as I go, and every new study, or article, or child development book floods me with anxiety that maybe I have been doing this all wrong and these precious creatures that I have been entrusted to care for are going to be the worse for it.  And then I try and take a deep breath (and maybe a Xanax) and realize that I know deep in my heart that my way may not be the “best” but it is the best I can do for my family given our circumstances.

So this holiday season, I would like to challenge us all to just be a little kinder to each other in social media where the easy thing is to only speak up when you are angry.  Maybe do a little something I like to call Anti-Trolling.  Instead of finding those threads that infuriate you and sparking up a rousing debate that is going to change no-one’s mind and will probably leave everyone feeling like crap.  Let’s take that energy and instead use it to give some loving words of encouragement to something a person took the time and energy to write, or sing, or make into a video.  It’s kind of a new hobby of mine.  In fact a few of my consistent blog readers/bloggy friends are complete strangers who I Anti-Trolled because I read something of theirs that sparked a desire in me to compliment them or just send a little kindness their way.  Give it a try, I promise there is a lot less remorse to drunk commenting to someone, “You are the greatest, I loooove your writing, I think you are super awesome and I want to be best friends and watch Mean Girls together,” than to actually being mean!

I Refuse to Be Old

In a few days I turn 35!  I realize that in the grand scheme of things, that is not old, but I have to say that in the past year I feel like I have aged 20!  Seriously, old people love me because I can chat with them for hours about hospitals and doctors and drug interactions.  My 85 year old grandmother and I are dealing with about the same level of osteoporosis and my grandfather and I both go to the same hematologist for our iron infusions!  The final straw for me, however, is that both my doctor and my husband have suggested that I start drinking Boost or Ensure to help me get nutrients I need and to put on weight.

I understand rationally that this is a very practical suggestion and something that would probably be good for me, but still!  It’s like how I refused to go full mini-van when I had the twins… I got a compact SUV so that I could hang on to some shred of (probably imagined) coolness.  And so, I am refusing to go on a complete old people diet on principle.  I will eat bland and mushy foods and stay away from nuts and all vegetables, but I am drawing the line.  No Boost for me, I am still young, and hip, and funky fresh, or whatever the kids are saying these days.

Ok, yes, I have sort of thrown in the towel when it comes to getting ready.  90% of the time if I am not in yoga pants I am wearing maternity jeans, but comfort and ability to easily crawl on the ground with the toddlers is what matters right now.  And I only wear makeup about twice a month.  Seriously, a few weeks ago, Sebastian and I went to a formal event for Best Buddies and when we were leaving Curly said, “What’s wrong with your eyes?”  I had on eyeshadow, she had just never seen it before!

And I go to bed before 10 almost every night and nap as often as possible during the day.  I blame this one on the fact that I am still healing and anemic, which is true, but I also really just love to sleep.

My body may not be acting it’s age right now, but I REFUSE TO BE OLD YET!

So in order to feel better about my impending age shift to the over 35 bracket, I have decided to ask for your help.  I have been talking a lot lately about Mommies In Need, if you aren’t up to speed, then you can read about it here and here.

Basically I have jumped into a major project of awesomeness by starting a non-profit corporation from the ground up in a very short period of time- let’s see my grandparents do that!  (But if you are reading this Gaga and Gingi, please don’t be offended, I can only hope that I am as cool as you guys when I’m your age!)

For my birthday I am asking for everyone to help support Mommies In Need whatever way you can.  Obviously, money would be amazing (we really need it if we are going to keep going) and you can either send a check to Mommies In Need at PO Box 601562 Dallas, Tx 75360 or donate on our website here, you can use a credit card or PayPal so no excuses!

If you can’t support it financially, I totally understand, but please take a second to share a link to the website at www.mommiesinneed.org on your facebook or twitter or email it to your friends in the hope that someone you know might want to help.  And like us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/mommiesinneed and share the status updates we post there (while you are at it, you can always like this blog’s page too!)  Getting the word out is a huge part of building a charity, and I can’t do that by myself.

And finally if you have some other way that you can help, great!  I am open to ideas and suggestions, and would love to get more people involved with Mommies In Need.  Do you know a business who would like to help us financially or with in-kind donations?  Wonderful!  Do you want to have a garage sale and donate the money to us?  I would heart you forever.  Are you a web design wiz and want to help us spruce up the site?  I seriously need some help on that front since I am deficient in both iron and technology skills.  Are you or do you know someone who needs help caring for their kids in the middle of a major health crisis?  If so, I am so sorry because I hate that anyone else has to go through this, but let me know, we aren’t quite ready to expand yet, but if the right situation came along I would be thrilled for MIN to step in and help.  You can email me about anything related to Mommies In Need at natalie@mommiesinneed.org.

So, you have your request.  I don’t need cards (although if you already send them, thank you!) and I don’t need stuff (although if a certain someone already bought me a spa massage I will not turn it down) but what I do need is support for Mommies In Need.  This organization has given me an incredible sense of purpose and allowed me to find some meaning in all of the craziness I have been going through these past few years.  So feel free to wish me a Happy Birthday on Facebook on December 4, but if you do that, please also consider giving a few moments of your time or a few dollars to a truly worthwhile cause.  And know that with every donation or share of the link that I see I do a little happy dance.  Please help me dance my way all through my birthday week, and know that the one time I don’t feel old is when I’m shaking my groove thang!

**I am clearly still young and hip as evidenced by my timely and relevant turn of a phrase!**

Here is one example of me doing a Happy Dance at my wedding.  Yes, it is almost always awkward and often involves booze!
Here is one example of me doing a Happy Dance at my wedding. Yes, it is almost always awkward and often involves booze!

Oh and if you need any more incentive, If I raise $500 or more for Mommies In Need before December 7 (in the week of my birthday) I will post a truly ridiculous video of myself dancing with the dog taken by my husband when I had no idea the camera is on.  It is fairly humiliating and probably quite hilarious to others, but I am willing to sacrifice my dignity for a good cause!