How to Help Your Kids Love and Connect with Their Father After Divorce (Even When You HATE HIM)

by Shannon Streger

I will be the first to tell you, I HATE divorce!  I never thought I would find myself divorced, single at 35, whilst raising 3 kids under 8; but life is unpredictable.  There is a LOT of judgement out there when it comes to divorce. I know I’ve dealt with my fair share of critics, especially having walked through this as not only a Christian, but also, a pastor’s wife.

People told me I was “ruining my life”, that I was likely, now “damned to hell”, and the real zinger, “I had selfishly ruined my kids FOREVER”.  And, all this to scare me into staying in a physically and emotionally abusive relationship I had worked hard to keep together for over 17 years. I realized that with hard work and openness, my kids didn’t have to be “ruined” and infact, they could very well thrive in a two-home, co-parenting arrangement.

One of the first steps was coming to an agreement with their father about how that would look.  He was in agreeance we needed to work on having positive exchange and open dialog about our children, especially in front of them.  They needed to see we were on the “same team” when it came to parenting. I would like to share with you some steps I have learned towards having a healthy co-parent relationship that gives your children space to feel connected to their father, while still allowing you to “move on.”

*It is important to note: these steps may not be possible in every situation. If your ex is unwilling to work with you, the fact is you will only be able to do so much and if your ex is not a safe person for your children to be around at all then your path will look completely different.  

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Provide a means for them to communicate with him directly..and often.

In this day in age of smartphones and FaceTime, connecting face to face with someone is easier than ever.  While at times I find it tempting to discourage phone calls for the sake of busyness and staying on routine, this is a lifeline that could be crucial to showing your child you will not stand in the way of them building a strong relationship with their other parent.  It’s not always convenient but it’s important none the less.  We often will do facetime calls from the car on the way home from school or they take turns on the couch talking to Dad while I make dinner.  

TIP: Avoid calls when they are emotionally vulnerable such as bedtime. Sometimes you may feel that an exception is appropriate but be aware that this could potentially be upsetting.

You may opt for a regular phone call vs. facetime, particularly in the beginning.  I was given this advice early in my separation.  Seeing their other parent but not physically being with them can be confusing for young children.  At times too, when emotions are high, it can be a manipulative exchange and in turn will create an unhealthy relationship for the parent and child.

 

Share stories and point out commonalities.

As you find yourself healing from a separation and/or divorce, it is tempting to rid yourself of all things that include or remind you of your former partner.  You may even catch yourself becoming irritated at the very mention of their name.  To help my children feel connected to their Dad, I began making a point of sharing stories or pointing out common interests.  My kids favorite story about their Dad is “the roach story”.  I’m pretty sure my re-account gets longer and more dramatic with every telling.  They also love when we talk about where they got some of their distinctives such as hair and eye color.

TIP: You never want your child to feel that because they may remind you of your ex that you are rejecting them. Encourage them that the traits that they share with their other parent are ones you love, even if you don’t love it in your ex.

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Encourage them to celebrate special days and help provide a means for them to do so (birthdays, religious holidays, Father’s day, etc..).

Kids love giving gifts as much as they enjoy receiving them. Perhaps with little ones, give them each a certain amount to spend on an individual gift and give suggestions on things you know your ex-husband will enjoy. If they are older, this is a great opportunity to teach savings and budgeting, allowing them to plan their own giving.  But, better yet, a homemade gift goes just as far, if not further. Remember, this is their father, and gifts are a great way to express love and build a deeper connection.  Allow them to brainstorm what their father enjoys, his interests, hobbies, etc.

TIP: Let them own the gift as being just from them, not from you, no matter how much you did to make it happen. And then let it go, don’t expect your ex to make the same effort and don’t stew on that because this is about your child and their relationship with their other parent. You’re doing this for your child, not your ex.

 

He isn’t JUST their father; he is ALSO their parent.

Make a point to keep the other parent informed, whether that be phone, email, counselor, or direct communication from their school of successes and difficulties your children may be experiencing. You may now be leading your household alone, but it doesn’t remove their other parent from helping to guide and teach. For instance If your child is having a tough time making good choices, or is struggling with their friend connections at school, give their parent an opportunity to speak into that situation as well and address disciplinary problems. This will further cement the fact that as a two-home family, Mom and Dad are still “on the same playing field” when it comes to their parenting roles.

Tip: Do not take this as an opportunity to blame-shift or use the other parent as “the bad guy”.  This will jeopardize the co-parenting relationship and create a toxic environment for everyone! Also, do not make disciplinary decisions for the other parent. For instance, do not set restrictions that apply to their time with the other parent. Allow Dad to set his own consequences for his home.

We all worry about our kids and want them to thrive as they develop into the amazing people they have the potential to become. Even through divorce, your children can and will flourish and develop normally emotionally, and having a strong plan in place will help make that possible. This isn’t realistic in every situation, and that’s ok! Your children still have a strong future ahead of them, with your help. You’ve got this!


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Shannon Streger, a work at home mom, is the project manager for The Leaky Boob. She is a (not so proud) native Houstonian.  Truly the most un-Texan Texan you’ll meet. She has 3 amazing children who keep her days full! She has a degree in Kinesiology and Psychology from Houston Baptist University. Recently, she began the certification process to become a birth doula and IBCLC.  In her free time, Shannon enjoys road trips, anything outdoors with her kids, and 90’s movies. 

10 Ways to Love Yourself, Love Your Life, and Not Lose Your Mind

by Brianne Martin

The alarm rings, I jump up, get dressed, run to the kitchen, make coffee and breakfast, wake the kids, prepare their lunch, pick out their clothes, and send the them off to school. In the midst of the morning madness, I make sure my husband doesn’t forget the leftovers from the night before, and a hot cup of coffee to go. That is just a glimpse to the start of my day. The chaos continues throughout the day with feedings, diapering, meal prep, clean up, dinner time and baths. As moms our jobs are never done and with hectic schedules it is easy to forget one very important thing. Ourselves!!!

Just recently I found myself sitting in my bed, but not in dreamland anticipating the sound of the alarm. I was sitting there crying my eyes out. I let myself go. I lost my identity. I was mom, and no longer had a name that I once belong to. I stopped caring for myself which basically had a domino effect on my family. Since I wasn’t taking care of myself, I slowly slipped into a dark bitter place. I was no longer enjoying my children and I was no longer my happy self. My attitude was affecting my children and husband in a negative way. My relationships with them were becoming unhealthy.

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To understand what was going on internally with me, I had to ask myself some important questions. Why did I stop caring for myself? Why did I put everyone else’s needs before mine? I think as mothers, we tend to naturally put our kids first. We tend to feel guilty when we do things for ourselves, but I am here to tell you to push the guilt aside! If you don’t fill your cup and shower yourself with some love, you are going to grow weary and become bitter. I know many of the reasons I didn’t do things for myself was due to financial stress and the cost to treat myself to something so luxurious as a spa day.

I decided to put together a short list of things you can do for free or almost free to fill your cup!

  1. Take a hot bubble bath or shower- Be sure during this time you are kid free and totally alone. It is important to find peace to regroup for another full day of adventures. (If it requires some bonding time with Netflix and your kids, it is worth it.)
  2. Give yourself a pedicure or manicure- soak your feet or paint your nails in silence or while listening to your favorite tunes. (Netflix can help with this too.)
  3. Barter babysitting with a friend- this will allow your friend some free time and you some free time and there is no cost involved for childcare. Us moms have to look out for each other!
  4. Read a book- turn off the television, close the laptop, and put down the phone. Get lost in a book for an hour while sipping on your favorite beverage. And don’t fret about the Lego pile that has magically appeared in the living room.
  5. Write in a journal- take a few minutes to write down things that are bothering you or things that make you happy. I find writing helps me feel free of things that may have been weighing me down. Doing this when kids have just settled for sleep even before doing the dishes or cleaning can help clear your mind.
  6. Get outside- go for a walk or jog. Breathe the fresh air, stop and look at all that Mother Nature has created around you.
  7. Borrow a fitness video from a friend- I know exercise is not for everyone, but it really is important for your health. It will help with stress and we know as moms we deal with SOME stress.
  8. If you like it and you wear it, put on make-up – sometimes make-up can be that added touch to lift our spirits.
  9. Get dressed up- take off the yoga pants and put on something that makes you feel pretty.
  10. Take a nap- If the kids are napping, leave the dishes and dirty floors, and climb in the bed and rest. Sleep really helps us in so many ways.

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It isn’t always easy finding time for yourself, but it is important to make the time recognizing that what that looks like for one person may be totally different from the next. It is important to love and care for yourself because in turn you can better love and care for your children. As moms the most important people in our life are our children and significant others. For us to truly love them, we need to love ourselves. Loving myself doesn’t come easy, but I will continue to work at it every day to be a better mom and wife.

You can find more ideas on ways to nurture the nurturer with a multi scenery approach here, when you’re in need of an oxygen mask here, 22 more ideas for taking care of you here, and that point where you have to do something here.


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Brianne Martin, a work at home mom, is the brand coordinator for The Leaky Boob. She has 3 children so her days are always full of activities and adventures. She studied American Sign Language at the University of South Florida. In her free time, Brianne enjoys reading and spending time with her kids and husband. They currently reside in sunny Florida. 

The Honest Parent’s 30 Days of Gratitude

by Jessica Martin-Weber and The Leaky Boob community

Thanksgiving parents

November is full of reminders to be thankful for what we have. Sunset images with an adult and child in silhouette flood our social media feeds with gentle poetic admonishments to take time to savor the little things. Lest we come across as ungrateful for our children or complaining about their presence in our lives, us parents start talking about how much we love our children, how grateful we are for their “unique” personalities, how the sound of their voices fills our ears and floods our hearts with appreciation, and share about the joy of baking together.

And we mean it.

It’s all true, every word.

But there are some words we’re leaving out.

Our kids are a delight, we are grateful, we recognize how blessed we are to have them, aware of how painful it would be to lose them. It goes without saying that we are grateful for our children. But there are some things we just didn’t appreciate fully until after having children.

I turned to the Leakies to ask what they are thankful for as parents, what they maybe wouldn’t admit as part of their month of Thanksgiving but have overwhelming genuine gratitude for now.

The honest parent’s 30 days of gratitude + 9 because we’re trying really hard.

I meant to do this this morning but I’m doing a month of gratitude and as I sit down with my glass of wine this evening, I’m just so grateful for my kids. So blessed by them and I never realize that more than when they are asleep.

Thankful my kiddos let me know how much they love me by saying my name non-stop just because.

So thankful that the toddler fell asleep in the car on our way home and I was able to get coffee from the drive through and then sit in my driveway drinking my coffee and playing on my phone in quiet for a whole 20 minutes without anyone judging me for being a mom on my phone.

Today as I was doing laundry I had an overwhelming sense of appreciation for the crib we bought that our child has never slept in but is perfect for holding laundry. It really saves my back not having to bend over to fold all these loads!

It’s nice to know my boobs care about others, letting down to every random baby cry or seeing baby clothes. Thank you for caring boobs!

Super grateful for how much my moon cup can hold since I have to go 8 hours before I get the chance to empty it alone and don’t want to traumatize my kids with a Dexter inspired scene.

YOU GUYS! I’m just exploding with thankfulness, my pump has sucked over 3,500 ounces out of my boobs in the last 6 months! WOOHOO! Thank you pump!

This morning I’m so grateful that the baby woke 6 times during the night, that way I didn’t have to wake on my own wondering if she was still breathing.

Huge gratitude share today! I’m so appreciating the glass of non-alcoholic eggnog I got to enjoy without someone else’s backwash. Such a rare treat!

I’m grateful for my 19mo son’s beautiful voice, it makes me feel a little proud as he’s singing instead of sleeping.

I really don’t know what I would do without all the articles from blogs, magazines, parenting sites, and newspapers that point out how I’m pretty much failing at this parenting thing. Good to remember I can always improve!

I’m grateful for the hour of freedom that I get after my partner comes home from work because before then, I can see why some animals eat their young.

WOW! What a reassuring sign of strength and health when little tiny new baby fingers grab on to hair with a death grip!

Tonight, I’m grateful for nights when both kids go to sleep and hubby is downstairs doing dishes so I sit in my kids’ room pretending to be doing something but really just playing on my phone without anyone talking to me.

I am grateful for my industrial microwave so I can heat up my meal for the 3rd time.

It means to much to me that I got to take a dump today without an audience, thanks honey!

Such a relief that I never have to concern myself with having another thought of my own.

It is so touching that my kids give me the opportunity to develop my cooking skills by each having different meal requirements.

I don’t know where I would be without Dr. Google and all my internet friends diagnosing and recommending oils when I share someone has a cough in our house. Thank you!

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I’m grateful that stretchy pants like leggings and yoga pants are a thing now.

Grateful for a few minutes of quiet as my 2 year old drew all over his face (grateful for easy clean markers).

I’m thankful for the 85% of the time my kid wipes his own butt. Now to get the other 15% of the time.

Such a gift, a bathroom fan louder than a tantruming toddler and a partner who can totally handle it. Also, wine.

I’m thankful I can hide out in my room nursing and maybe even nap this holiday season when my visiting family gets on my nerves.

I’m grateful for a split level entry-way. I can sit on the lower stairs and hear the kids, but they can’t see me while I sneak a snack that I don’t want to share.

You know what I’m grateful for? That all my friends are online so I don’t have to worry about cleaning my house in case they stop by.

My appreciation for DVD players, Netflix, and YouTube runs deep. One episode is the equivalent of a clean kitchen without “help” and maybe even get to eat a piece of chocolate.

Laundry gratitude: Washed the sheets 3 times in the last 4 days thanks to leaky diapers. Clean sheets for the win!

I’m grateful I can turn down ANYTHING with “well, no, I dont think its a good idea with the baby’”.

I’m grateful I get to give baby to his dad in the morning and get some more sleep because I was “nursing all night!”

I’m grateful for coffee every morning, because it helps me do some adulting, not all of it, but just some adulting gets done.

It’s so sweet how my kids want to make sure I never feel alone. Ever.

I’m thankful for how the kids like to update me every 2 minutes on what they’re doing even in the bathroom.

YES! The kid pooped in the potty instead of his nighttime pull-up, so thankful for a great day!

Another big one today: so thankful that the shit that leaked from the diaper stopped at the baby’s ankle and didn’t go down into the shoe.

Gratitude: the kids actually all went to bed at a decent hour so instead of falling asleep with them, I got to snooze while catching up on Downton Abbey finally!

SO thankful that the kid has the innate ability to sense mommy and daddy having ‘private happy time’ from another room and come running to interrupt.. almost EVERY. SINGLE. TIME….yay for cheap birth control!

Boy am I grateful I don’t have a strong gag reflex, learned that today!

I appreciate how clingy the baby was today because in order for her to take a nap I had to take a nap.

 

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What are you thankful for as a parent but never would say?

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Jessica Martin-Weber Drawing from a diverse background in the performing arts and midwifery, Jessica Martin-Weber supports women and families, creating spaces for open dialogue. Writer and speaker, Jessica is the creator of TheLeakyBoob.com, co-creator of BeyondMoi.com, and co-creator of OurStableTable.com, supporter of A Girl With A View, and co-founder of Milk: An Infant Feeding Conference. She co-parents her 6 daughters with her husband of 19 years and is currently writing her first creative non-fiction book and a children’s book.

Lactation Snack Station Biscuits

by Carrie Saum

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When I pumped exclusively for eternity 21 months, I felt hungry pretty much all the time.  Rarely would a two hour window window pass without food needing to make it’s way into my mouth.   I often forgot to grab a snack before I sat down to pump because pumping and babies/toddlers just don’t mix.  Add the lactation fog that overtakes the mommy brain, and you have a recipe for a one hangry lactating lady.

I tried to get in the routine of filling my water and grabbing a snack. But I was forgetful and typically remembered exactly 30 seconds after hooking myself up to a pump for the next lifetime 20 minutes.  After only 8 months, I realized I could do something about this particular problem.  All I had to do was think ahead for a few days at a time and put some snacks at my pump spot and in my pump bag.

But that also meant I had to actually prepare a snack.  Because as much as I love trailmix and coffee, I needed a little more sustenance.  And to be honest, I needed something to look forward to because pumping exclusively is EFFING HARD.  That’s another post, though.

I tried a few different options to get a decent ratio of carbs:protein.  I also needed every single milk booster I could get because my body wanted to quit making milk right around month eight, but my son’s unique health required me to keep going.

I started tinkering with foods that would fit the bill, and could also be stored at my Lactation Station. (Yep, I named the place where I stored my extra water, snacks, nipple cream, coconut oil, homeopathic stress relief remedy, and positive thoughts.) The snack also had to be allergen-friendly because TED was my constant companion for over a year.  It wasn’t ideal. It was pretty awful actually.  But it helped my baby begin his long healing process to severe food allergies, and I discovered I’m gluten-intolerant in the process. (Damnit.)

One of my favorite foods to munch while pumping were these tasty biscuits.  One was totally satisfying and helped me lose the pumping hanger I fell prey to all too often. They were easy to transport, share, and eat on the go.  Plus, they tasted phenomenal with some strawberries and whipped cream.  I’M JUST SAYING.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups sliced strawberries
  • 2 cups blanched almond flour (I use Bob’s Red Mill)
  • 2 eggs*
  • 3/4 cup butter, cold and cubed, or melted coconut or avocado oil
  • 1 scant cup tapioca or cassava flour (wheat flour can be substituted)
  • 2 Tbsp raw honey, or other sweetener
  • 2 tsp apple cider vinegar (omit if using egg replacer)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg

*If you want to make this egg-free, go for it!  This can also boost your milk supply. To replace two eggs, I used 2 Tbsp ground flax seeds, 3 Tbsp water, 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar.

Directions:

  1. Combine the almond flour, tapioca flour, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg in a medium mixing bowl.
  2. Add butter to the flour mixture and cut into flour until the butter is in tiny pieces. Or go easy on yourself and whisk in oil.
  3. In a small bowl, combine eggs (or egg replacement), vanilla extract, apple cider vinegar, and honey.  Whisk until fully incorporated.
  4. Add egg mixture to flour mixture and stir until barely combined.
  5. Spoon mixture onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and smush with your hand, or bake in lined muffin tins.
  6. Bake at 350 degrees for 18-20 minutes.
  7. Remove from oven and dust with a *tiny* bit of raw cane sugar. (optional)
  8. Allow to cool for 15 minutes before eating, and cool completely before storing in an airtight container.

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Pile with strawberries and whipped topping of your choice for an extra special treat.  Dip them in chocolate or your hopes and dreams.  Or you can just eat them and keep the lactation hangries at bay. Your choice.  Either way, you lactating mamas are my heroes.  Keep on pumping!

Happy Milk Making,
Carrie

*Note: It’s important to point out that most women aren’t going to need to eat food with the intention of upping their milk supply, if everything is working the way it is supposed to, your baby will know how to up your supply just fine themselves. Skin-to-skin and feeding on demand are the best ways to increase breastmilk supply to meet your baby’s needs. (Concerned you have low supply? Read this to help figure out if it is something you need to be concerned about.) For those women, galactalogues just happen and they don’t need to think about it. But some women, like me, do need a boost. As a mom who ended up exclusively pumping and indeed having low supply such that I ended up on medication solely to increase my milk production, I know what it’s like to look for anything, anything at all that would help my body make even just a little more milk to help feed my baby. With the support of my health care providers, we tried everything. It becomes “I will eat all the cookies, I will drink all the shakes, I will eat all the parfaits!” if it even just makes me feel like I’m doing something to address the low supply struggle, it is worth it.

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If you love this smoothie recipe, you might like this recipe for Paleo Chocolate Chip Granola or these Gluten-Free Strawberry Shortcake on Our Stable Table. 

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Carrie Saum brings a passion for wellness and over a decade of experience in health care to her clients. A certified Ayurvedic Wellness Counselor (AWC) from the Kerala Ayurveda Academy, she empowers individuals and families to achieve health and balance through time-honored practices and health knowledge. Carrie has extensive first-hand experience in vast array of medical and service fields.
With background in paramedic medicine, Carrie spent ten years serving in the non-profit sector managing organizations, programs, and orchestrating resources to meet health needs of people across the United States and abroad in countries such as Guatemala, Mexico, Kenya, and Zambia. As an AWC, Carrie currently coaches her clients and their families about topics including nutrition, weight loss, and stress management. In addition to her work as a wellness counselor, Carrie is a passionate “foodie” and the voice behind OurStableTable.com. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and young son.

Making The Mothering Season Matter: Summer Edition

by Carrie Saum

This summer, I made a few promises to myself. Kind of like a reboot of my New Year’s resolution except better, because SUMMER.

  • I will eat all the vegetables I grow in my garden. (I’m winning that one.)
  • I will take my toddler for an outdoor adventure everyday. (This has happened every day except when we have had record breaking heat.)
  • I will take a shower every single day because I stink when I don’t. (Hahahaha! Yeah. NOPE.)
  • I will eat a real breakfast and no longer count a handful of trail mix and a cup of coffee as a complete meal. (I have replaced trail mix with scraps of my toddler’s rejected breakfast. I’ll call this a wash.)
  • I will pack up the car once a week and take an adventure with my son during the day. (I’m killing it!)

The last two summers have absolutely sucked. I mean that literally and figuratively. I pumped exclusively for my baby for 21 months, spanning the length of two summers. Lugging around the breast pump and a newborn and then a toddler made it tricky to do activities on my own with my son. I still did it, but we stuck closer to home and the mental/emotional/physical/logistical effort was just TOO MUCH.

But this summer? This summer has been redemption.

My BFF and I have been dreaming of having babies and doing fun things together with them. We chose an easy spot close to home for our first excursion. We loaded up all of our stuff and our babies and our courage and struck out for a nearby river. ALL BY OURSELVES.

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Our sons were less sure than we were about this.

Sweet, child-riddled-but-still-doing-it-anyway Freedom.

We were wild mamas, spreading out blankets and packages of seaweed snacks and mango and splashing in the frigid river with our babies who seemed completely immune to shockingly cold water. We doled out food and milk and took turns corralling our sons who only wanted to eat the sand and make big splashes in the water.

We upped the ante for our next adventure. The coast is about 90 minutes from our front door, so we gathered our courage, planned for the entire day, and set out for the Pacific Ocean like mommy pioneers. In fact, I’m certain we had enough gear to fill a covered wagon.

After two tantrum stops, lunch at a café where our boys behaved like tiny well-behaved adults and never threw a single bit of food or fussed once, a stop for an over-priced dark chocolate bar and lattes, a pee break, and quick conversation about which actual beach to go to, we arrived. A mere four hours later. We were so jubilant that we made it, we didn’t care how long it took us.Echo Beach River

We splashed and played and chased our tiny monsters all over the beach with abandon. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you those 2 hours were positively magical. We learned that beach sand is just as delicious to toddlers as river sand, and nothing is funnier than watching mommy run full speed into the surf to rescue a ball before it is lost to the sea forever.

There were many other adventures this summer, and sometimes involving long rides in the car, and others just a walk around the neighborhood with a low key brunch and bit of thrift store shopping.

There were tantrums and mishaps and close calls and moments when we questioned our sanity, but WE DID IT. And we will do it again.

As autumn approaches, I’m already dreaming up more adventures. It gets a little tricky because of the cold and rain, not to mention indoor play spaces are a total no-go for us because of severe food allergies. But we will keep trying, enjoying and relishing every season. Even if it’s simple.  Even if it’s hard.EchoMommyBeach

We only get to experience our children as children once. It doesn’t need to be magical, but it needs to be memorable for all of the right reasons. For both of us.

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Carrie Saum, headshotCarrie Saum brings a passion for wellness and over a decade of experience in health care to her clients. A certified Ayurvedic Wellness Counselor (AWC) from the Kerala Ayurveda Academy, she empowers individuals and families to achieve health and balance through time-honored practices and health knowledge. Carrie has extensive first-hand experience in vast array of medical and service fields.
With background in paramedic medicine, Carrie spent ten years serving in the non-profit sector managing organizations, programs, and orchestrating resources to meet health needs of people across the United States and abroad in countries such as Guatemala, Mexico, Kenya, and Zambia. As an AWC, Carrie currently coaches her clients and their families about topics including nutrition, weight loss, and stress management. In addition to her work as a wellness counselor, Carrie is a passionate “foodie” and the voice behind OurStableTable.com. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and young son.

Bipolar Parenting- The Fear My Children Would Be Better Off Motherless

by Joni Edelman

In 2005, my oldest sons were five and seven years old. On a summer afternoon I found them in a hurricane of kicks and slaps, a disagreement over legos or hot wheels. I raised my voice, yelling, STOP. Unfazed by my clenched fists, my volume, the anger in my eyes and in my scowl, their fighting continued. My rage reached boiling. I scanned the room. My eyes landed on a wooden chair near the door and brought it down on the hardwood floor in a crash, splinters flying, the flooring scratched. The fighting stopped and their expressions told a story of terror.

I remember those faces — still. It’s been 10 years.

***

In the summer of 1983 my best friend ever in the entire universe came to my house for a sleepover. My house was the best house for sleepovers. We had Twinkies and microwave popcorn, fruit roll-ups and A&W Root Beer — and all the things 9 year old’s dreams are made of. The cabinets were organized alphabetically; Twinkies by the Triscuits, popcorn by the Pasta-roni.

I had a daisy comforter and three decorative pillows, my own TV, and eight Cabbage Patch dolls. My mom would sometimes be gone all night — which only added to the allure.

Me and my best friend forever ate the popcorn, and everything else, and watched whatever was on TV (which wasn’t much). And went to sleep.

When we woke up Saturday morning, the house was quiet, and I had a new stepfather. Steve worked construction and smelled like stale cigarettes and tequila and freshly milled 2X4s. He yelled a lot. I didn’t like him. He had three pesky, filthy children, who I also didn’t like.

Friday night, my mom and Steve went to Vegas. And Saturday morning I had a new family. The next week, in the middle of a school day, my mom picked me up. From school we went to Steve’s house, which was dirty, remotely located, and surrounded by flooded groves of walnut trees and fields of cotton. I didn’t like it either.

I never saw my school — or my desk full of Hello Kitty pencils — again.

This may seem like odd behavior, because it is, but it wasn’t for me. Sudden changes in locale, housing, men, stepsiblings, schools, all typical. I loathed it. I was accustomed to it.

***

Ten years later I was living on my own and helping my sixth stepfather raise my 4-year-old sister. My mom was living in some remote city in Northern California, with the addict who would ostensibly become my seventh stepfather. I was in college, married, pregnant, terrified.

In early adulthood the bipolar disorder that was my genetic destiny was pushed around — shuffled from doctor to doctor, city to city, misdiagnosis to misdiagnosis. Deeply distressed, consumed by sadness, it was just “postpartum depression.” If I had manic energy, it was “drive” or “passion” or “dedication.” Snap decisions, irresponsible, risky, promiscuous, it was just “life learning.” I never finished anything I started, something always got in the way. It was never Bipolar Disorder.

It was always Bipolar Disorder.

I wanted children, a family — stability to heal my wounds. And I knew the truth, I was very sick. I wanted desperately to be anyone but my mother, but, always suppressed, always explained away, I was exactly like my mother. All night sewing marathons, consuming obsession with fitness, organization, church, gardening, decor, 17 kinds of crafts. My magical thinking, my invincibility. The rage. The waves of crippling depression.

I had three children who were pushed aside, when I was sad, or busy, which was a lot of the time. I yelled. I cried. I retreated. I apologized. I did it all again — an infinite loop of dysfunction.

I wanted to be the best mother. The opposite of my mother. I wanted to do it all, and well. But  I wasn’t doing it well. I was doing what I could. But sometimes what you can do isn’t enough.

There was always fear, the fear of the unspoken truth, the elephant in the room — in my life, all around me —  as much as I didn’t want to be my mother, I was. I ignored it, ultimately medicating the long troughs of depression, celebrating the months of boundless energy, denying the dysfunctional behavior;  the out of control spending, the risk taking, the defiance, the promiscuity, the rage.

For 20 years.

***

When I was 40, I met my psychiatrist, a diminutive man, who drinks lattes and eats Sun Chips during my appointments. The man who mixed a complicated cocktail of psychiatric medications, and finally leveled my moods. The man that rose my depression, and stole my mania, and bridged the gap between crippling sadness and dangerous madness. The man who changed it all.

Despite the bridge, my moods still shift from time to time. Lately they’ve been low, I’ve planned my death seven different ways. And so we adjust my dosages. Three months ago they were high, high enough that I didn’t want to sleep. But I continued to swallow the usual pills, and the extra pills he prescribed to force the sleep I hate, to shut me down. We move my meds up and down, in spite of the sometimes crippling side effects. In the name of sanity. In the name of trying to be a safe place for my five children.

Bipolar Parenting, Joni Edelman

I’m still scared. I’m scared that the 10 years I lived in denial hurt my children, irreparably.  I’m scared that they will grow up and write something like this, recounting a childhood of fear and dysfunction. I’m scared that the cocktail that keeps me alive may stop working — that the depths of depression will take hold, and I won’t be able to shake it. And I will die. And leave them motherless.

I’m scared that they might be better off motherless.

I’m scared that one of them will have this cursed gift. I’m scared they will blame me, like I blamed her. I’m scared that someday I’ll be her, and not even know.

Every night I brush my teeth and I swallow five pills and I hope that I can be better, that I am better.

___________________________

IMG_0670 I’m Joni. I’m lucky enough to have 5 amazing kids (19, 16, 15, 4 and 2), one fantastic husband, an awesome sister and a yarn addiction. When I’m not raising up people I’m a freelance writer, RN, and the momma behind mommabare. Love is my religion. I like cake and crafty crap. And yoga. In that order. 
You can follow Joni on Instagram here and on Twitter here.

Free to be SAFE!- #TLBsafeKids with Clek

#TLBsafeKids

Hey Leakies,

It’s time to talk about practicing safe…ty.

We’re not here to feed into any anxiety or to cause any stress about your family’s safety.

Be honest, you probably do that just fine on your own.

Since so many of us parents have no problem worrying about our families we wanted to start something to actually help reduce that worry.

I know, right? How are we going to do that without alcohol?

Community. Better than fine wine.

Through the month of September and even far beyond we’re building community to share information, tell our stories, confess our fears, admit our mistakes, and help each other work out the right safety decisions for our families. Free of judgment, #TLBsafeKids respects the individual responsibility of parents for their family and trust them to make the best informed safety decisions according to their individual resources, circumstances, and access to information.

Respecting each other, ourselves, and our children, #TLBsafeKids brings together parents concerned about safety around information, ideas, and sharing our stories. And we believe it can be fun. Though there are aspects of safety conversations and education that can be scary, when we approach it with respect and a sense of fun it can become a part of parenting that isn’t dominated by fear and instead builds confidence in ourselves, our communities, and most importantly, our children. Together we are journeying toward health, safety, confidence, and awareness. Not as isolated individuals, but as a family, a community. With each other and with our kids, we’re taking steps to be confidently and freely safe. It may mean getting your car seat installation checked, reassessing your home for safety hazards, changing how you talk to your children, adjusting your sleep arrangements, fixing something broken in your home, you name it, you define what #TLBsafeKids looks like for you.

It all began in August 2014 with the first ever #TLBmoves and it took off. We cheered on some working on (and succeeding) quitting smoking, others had step goals to hit, there were those that started yoga or crossfit or pilates every day, and others started having salads every day. Getting moving together brought us closer together and we discovered that thanks to the global village of the internet, we could cheer each other on and have fun in the process. When we found ourselves stuck, we could be honest about the challenges we were facing and there would be no judgment, just support and encouragement. It was inspiring and we all wanted to keep moving. Nobody was judged and everyone was supported.

Not long after that we began dreaming about other ways we could support each other and other areas that can be difficult to address alone or where we fear judgment. Safety quickly emerged as an area that where many of needed judgment-free support and information sharing. And to safely admit our missteps along the way.

So #TLBsafeKids was born.

From sleep to babywearing, from car seats to home safety, from relationships to skin care, from health to cleaning products and so much more, we’re talking about it all with #TLBsafeKids and daring to honestly share the journey with each other without judgment. Ultimately, we believe this is the only way we can actually succeed.

#TLBsafeKids isn’t about wrapping our children in bubble wrap and keeping them from experiencing the world around them. Respectful of ourselves and our children, #TLBsafeKids aims to help each of us, parents and children alike, to tap into our own power to make confident decisions assessing risk, utilizing products, and employing strategies that allow us to live life to the fullest while being safe.

We hope you’ll join us.

It’s time for #TLBsafeKids!

Whatever area concerns you the most, our #TLBsafeKids community is here to support you. We may not have all the answers but you have our support in finding them.

Whatever your goal, you can join us for #TLBsafeKids!  This is all about embracing an intentional lifestyle that isn’t encumbered by safe practices but enhanced by them. No matter where you’re starting from and we’re here to support each other completely free of judgment each step of the way.

We have a team to help provide some inspiration, not with dictating how you decide to keep you family safe, #TLBsafeKids isn’t about acquiring a certain set of safety rules, but honest and respectful sharing of the journey we’re all on to keep our children safe. Kids in tow and personal goals put out there, our team isn’t to glamorize the journey, simply to share together one step at a time.

#TeamTLBsafeKids! Meet the five mamas who will be sharing their #TLBsafeKids journeys during the month of September:

Jessica: Founder, owner, and author of The Leaky Boob Facebook group and website; mother of six girls, ages 3, 5, 7, 12, 14, and 16.

Jasmine: is a stay at home mom of 4, 2 in heaven and 2 boys ages 4.5 years old and 7 months. Her eldest has Autism and they are currently implementing some new safety strategies according to his needs. Jasmine is a babywearing group leader in the Pacific Northwest.

Kileah: Member of TLB’s editorial team; mother of four children, ages 7, 5, 3 and 22 months. Kileah loves canning, cooking, and being with her family.

Brianne: work from home mom of 3 children, ages 11, 6, and 3 years old. Brianne is married to a fitness enthusiast but has struggled to find time for herself to do the same.

Meet our partners:

#TLBsafeKids is a big undertaking and we are so thrilled to be working with brands we believe in to bring you this event. Our partners really want to see families discovering the best safety practices for them! With information, education, and support, our partner brands is going out of their way to support YOU. Culminating with a giveaway featuring the best of all our partnering brands for #TLBsafeKids. We’ll be sharing photos of #TeamTLBsafeKids using gear from the following brands:

 

#TLBsafekids clek sponsor

Clek. Elemental safety is the Clek approach — the Clek way of thinking is about the performance of each of their products and the lives they are protecting. Essential elements and our methodology enable them to develop systems that work together to protect our kids. Manufactured in North America with a commitment to innovation without compromise and sustainability which is evident in their recycling program. Clek is striving to keep our kids safe today and tomorrow.

 

#TLBsafekids with California baby, skin deep safetyCalifornia Baby. With a mission to only create the safest natural products to soothe, nourish and smooth out life’s rough patches the natural way: one baby, one kid, one family at a time; California Baby makes it a priority to keep our kids safe from head to toe. They’re obsessed with purity and sustainability in every part of the process, from ingredient selection to manufacturing to packaging and beyond. With California Baby moms and dads who can rest easier knowing that they haven’t brought another unsustainable, toxic product into the house.

Newton Logo

 

Newton. A breathable crib mattress unlike any other. No matter where your baby sleeps, in their own room in a crib, in a crib side-car with your bed, in a crib in your room, or on a Montessori style bed on the floor, a breathable sleeping surface for you little one will let you breath easier too. Newton knows that your baby’s safety comes first and they also know how much you want to give them the right start in life. As experts in the area of sleep, they know just how important good sleep is for both of you. This is why they have devoted our time and expertise to creating a crib mattress that is not only safer, but also more comfortable.

#TLBsafeKids Health safety sponsor Crane

 

Crane. Since 2005, Crane USA has taken the lead in putting the “fun” into cool mist humidifiers, air purifiers, and space heating with a commitment to design for better living. Knowing just how much the air we breath impacts our health and safety, Crane products are functional and efficient at fulfilling your home health needs while communicating an appreciation for elegant design. With a unique sense of design and unwavering commitment to quality Crane continues to create their own distinctive interpretation of humidity, air quality, and heating solutions while remaining a step ahead of the crowd.

catbirdbaby_logo

 

CatBird Baby. Designed by a mom who needed help carrying everything with her baby, CatBird Baby Carriers are designed to be practical, stylish, comfortable, and easy to use. With a variety of products to support babywearing and make the babywearing experience even more enjoyable, CatBird Carriers are designed by a mom for moms and dads. Offering hybrid carriers along with standard designs, CatBird Carriers listens to parents and what they are looking for in a babycarrier.

Rhoost #TLBsafeKids partnering brand

Rhoost. Rhoost’s goal is to create products that allow parents to spend more time having fun with their kids, and less time worrying about them.  They are committed to creating innovative solutions that are safe for babies, safe for the environment, and easy to use. And they’ve succeeded. From baby grooming to cord winders, from finger guards to outlet covers and cabinet closures, Rhoost supports parents in safe, easy living.

When?
#TLBsafeKids runs run from September 1st-30st, 2015, but we hope you’ll keep growing, learning, and sharing long after the end of the month! (We may have something up our sleeves to that end, too!)

How?
Participation is up to you. How do you want to be involved? Want to share your story? Have some specific safety concerns you want to address in your own home? Are you passionate about certain aspects of safety and want to support others in learning about it? Is sharing the process and seeing how others are putting safe practices into place in their home helpful for you? Whatever it is, there are options for finding the way to participate that works best for you and your goals.

Where?
Anyone, anywhere can participate! We’ll be announcing some fun prizes from our brand partners this month, and those are limited to the United States at this time, but the world is your oyster if you want to get active with us!

JOIN OUR PRIVATE FACEBOOK GROUP (Please note: this is a co-ed community where you’ll find support as we get active and learn about safety together. Judgement free! Come as you are, this group is your #TLBsafeKids tribe!)

Who?
You, your friends, your kids, your partner, your boss, your mom, your dad… anyone!  Though The Leaky Boob is focused on encouraging families primarily through breastfeeding, we support breastfeeding moms and everyone that supports them.  Breastfeeding isn’t a requirement to participate with TLB and #TLBsafeKids.

We’ll have more updates soon – in the meantime, please follow TLB on Instagram to keep up with #TLBsafeKids. Use the hashtag #TLBsafeKids on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter to share your pics. We want to see what you’re doing to keep respectfully keep your family safe and share the journey with you!

TLB Comic: Switch Sides

by Jessica Martin-Weber, illustrated by Jennie Bernstein

 

breastfeeding lopsided breasts

 

TLB Comic: When Fantasy Creatures Babywear

by Jennie Bernstein

Babywearing mermaid unicorn and fairy.

 

You Are Gold — A Letter To My Son’s Milk Donor

Dear Allison,

Thank you for giving my son life.

ThrivingOnDonorMilk

My unlikely squishy baby.

I don’t want to get crazy on you here, but let me be totally transparent: I can’t imagine what my family would look like without that liquid gold.  Your gold.  Your life-force alchemy.

Thank you.

I know what it’s like to hook yourself up to a pump every day, mulitple times a day, for months on end.  Extracting that milk, creating extra steps, extra dishes, extra work while engaging in the most extra energy exerting time of your life with a newborn clutched to one breast as the pump cranks on the other.  You never even hinted at the burden I knew it was for you. You handled it with an elegant grace I unreservedly admire.

Last year, I found myself stuck in a nightmare with my eight month old son. My sweet baby had severe food allergies (here’s what I want you to know about FPIES), and needed more milk than I could produce.  My breasts, the ones that were meant to feed him, began to fail us both.  Even after all of the nutrition and support and finally pharmaceutical medication, I could not raise my milk supply to keep up with his demand.  Exclusive pumping, unimaginable stress, sick baby, hormone shifts, whatever.  You name it, it contributed to the decrease in my milk.

Formula was a risky option for my son, even the expensive elemental ones that work for 99.9% of infants with food allergies.  We had no guarantee my son’s compromised system could tolerate the pre-digested proteins, as many other babies with his syndrome are unable to. I prayed. I researched. I lit candles and called formula companies and looked into every conceivable way to feed my son that did not require actual food.

LastDonorBottle

My son’s last bottle of Allison’s donor milk from Texas.

And then my phone rang and you were on the line, understanding with your medical knowledge and feeling it all with your tender heart, and asked if you could give my son your milk.

I cried.  With my back literally against the wall, sitting on the floor of my bedroom, muffling my relieved sobs, I accepted your gift with the undeniable knowledge there was no way I could ever pay this gift forward, much less pay you back. With a newborn baby who needed your milk and a toddler who needed your attention, a full-time job and active community involvement, you offered to close the gap for us.  You added one more thing to your very full plate and you did it with grace and strength and love.

Every few weeks, a box would arrive, overnighted from Texas to Oregon, dry ice all but disintegrated in a custom styrofoam cooler. (One of many coolers you recruited your friends to save for you to ship your milk to us.)  You pumped your milk, froze it, picked up the cooler from your friend, loaded it all into your car, bought dry ice, carefully constructed the layers of dry ice and newspaper and milk inside the cooler, put that cooler in a box and took it to the shipping place with a hope and a prayer that all your hard work and irreplaceable milk would travel 2,000 miles and still be frozen when it arrived.  You, who had a million and one things to do, found time and capacity to do one more (hard) thing.  And you never complained.

I followed a strict elimination diet, and at one point I could only safely eat 11 foods without causing my son’s gut to bleed and his weight to drop.  You altered your diet, too.  You ate the same tiny list of foods because you loved my son that much.  You restricted your menu and dilligently read every label and questioned every ingredient before eating a single bite in order to keep my son safe. You were full of encouraging words and creatively figured out what to eat when you couldn’t really eat anything and shared your food hacks with me.

Last summer, after seven months of pumping and freezing and shipping, you called me in tears.  Your milk was almost gone, drying up to barely a trickle.  I cried, too. I offered to send back what milk I had left in my freezer for your daughter.  The milk belonged to her. YOU are HER mama.  That milk was made for her. I was adamant.

You said no.

Unbeknownst to me, you had already tried other supplemental options and she responded well. “My baby is healthy. We can still nurse. And two more weeks of freezer milk will buy you time to find another way.”  And you were right.  We found another way.  Another donor, (your sister). And another donor after that, (my best friend). And eventually, another supplementation my son’s body accepted.

You gave my son seven months of milk.  Seven months to heal and thrive without taxing his little body even more.  Seven months of weight gain. Seven months of knowing he had all the milk he needed and more.  You gave me seven months of relief knowing my son would not just live, but he would thrive. Seven months of a little more sleep, a little less stress. Seven months of hope.
Donors

Three of my closest friends, years before we had babies, on the night before my wedding. Each of them gave their milk to my son. Allison, the woman in green, was our main donor.

I know our friendship is life-long and this donor bond goes deeper than words can express.  But I also know you.  You with your elegant grace, generous heart, deep well of love, creative time and resource management, and desire to change the world in your strong, quietly fierce way.  I know you.
And I know you would have done this for anyone.
You, my alchemist soul sister, are pure gold.
With love and gratitude,
C
P.S. ~ My son received milk from a total of six different women over the course of 14 months, all of whom I want to acknowledge and thank from the depths of my mama soul:
  • Two friends in Texas (including his main donor, Allison)
  • One visiting friend from England (and sister to Allison)
  • My BFF who supplied milk for several months after our main donor could not continue.
  • My midwife who learned she was pregnant about an hour before my son was born and donated her baby’s colostrum.
  • A friend of a friend I met only once, but for whom I feel much gratitude.
 _________________________________________________________________________If you like this post, check out How Jimmy Fallon Saved My Morning Milk and I Am A Sh*tty Friend over on our sister site, Our Stable Table.


IMG_2895Carrie Saum brings a passion for wellness and over a decade of experience in health care to her clients. A certified Ayurvedic Wellness Counselor (AWC) from the Kerala Ayurveda Academy, she empowers individuals and families to achieve health and balance through time-honored practices and health knowledge. Carrie has extensive first-hand experience in vast array of medical and service fields.
With background in paramedic medicine, Carrie spent ten years serving in the non-profit sector managing organizations, programs, and orchestrating resources to meet health needs of people across the United States and abroad in countries such as Guatemala, Mexico, Kenya, and Zambia. As an AWC, Carrie currently coaches her clients and their families about topics including nutrition, weight loss, and stress management. In addition to her work as a wellness counselor, Carrie is a passionate “foodie” and the voice behind OurStableTable.com. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and young son.