Friday, December 21, 2018

Self-Care for 2019

Self-care has been a buzzword(s) for a while now. I think that's a great thing. It means many of us realize how important it is to put on our own oxygen mask before assisting others.

But in reality, even the best intentions of self-care are easy to let slip. My own emotional vices and challenges-- perfectionism, insomnia, hyper-ambition-- can shadow my best intentions of self-care. Physically and mentally daunting, I work 3 part-time jobs, raise two kids without childcare or family help, and have a home to keep decent without a housekeeper. Woe is not me-- many of you have busy lives too. We're fortunate to have kids and homes and jobs and goals and volunteer work and what-have-yous. I'm just pointing out it's so easy to take a backseat in your own life.

So, as many of us do, I'm setting some positive goals for 2019, and I've already started working on them (teacher's pet and all). In the recent past, my New Year's resolutions were about focusing on finding the fun in life. I still plan to do that. It's an awesome goal and I'm [usually] an eternal optimist. But recently I'm thinking that in order to fully enjoy life and live out all that fun, there are certain things I need to add and subtract from my life.

Here are some of my newest self-care measures. I'd love to hear what you prioritize for the sake of your own physical and mental health, and/or what it is that blocks you from taking care of yourself fully.

My 6 Self-Care Measures:

1. Less Texting. When I had babies and toddlers climbing all over me, all the time, texting was a gift. It helped me connect with family and friends when I was at home almost 24/7, surviving a cycle of nap schedules, bedtime routines, long winters, constant sickness, etc. However, I've noticed that if I have the sound turned on my phone, it dings with a new text at least a couple of times an hour. That constant steady, stream adds up. It interrupts my time with my kids, my writing time, my alone time. All of it!

So I'm texting less and less. When I do text, I'm trying to keep it focused on practical things-- what time/where are we meeting, can we carpool to sports, have the kids had dinner yet, etc.-- rather than never-ending conversations.

I also just disabled group messaging on my phone. I feel like those can easily get out of hand-- all the sudden there are like 8 people on there and none of the messages really apply to me. It feels stressful, especially if the tone takes a turn for the worse. If people need to reach me, they can certainly still send me an individual text, make a phone call, leave a voicemail, send an email, etc. The options to connect are still rather endlessly daunting.

2. On that same note, I've been turning my phone completely off earlier and earlier each night. I figure, nothing truly needs to get my attention past, say 8 o'clock, does it? The social media posts can wait. Late night texts never lead to anything good. Voicemails can be listened to in the morning. If there's an emergency, well, what can I do about it at 11 at night anyway? Knock on my door if you really need me.

For my own relaxation purposes and my need for family time, alone time, and sleep, I decided yes, turning off the phone-- and it's powerful blue light-- is a simple self-care move I can make on a nightly basis. And no, I can't really care if it makes someone mad who likes texting me late at night.  In fact, maybe I should text them at 5:30 when I usually wake up... nooooo, that's just getting evil ;).

3. I would venture to guess that 90% of people make it an annual goal to exercise more. And why not? It's clearly a healthy move for all of us. It's just not easy to stick with on top of kids, a house, job(s)... life. But since September, I've tried to get to a group exercise class two times a week.

Much less often than some, but it's what I can fit in realistically for now. It helps take the edge off, and I feel stronger and more energized. In the depths of winter, making myself get up and move really helps my overall mood. Which, of course, is a win for my whole family.

Happy, healthy woman = happy, healthy mother.

4. Sleep keeps popping up on this list. It's just so important! So I've also switched to drinking a cup of calming, sleepy-time tea most nights over a cocktail. Wine definitely wakes me up at night, and I rarely drink it. I'll always love a great wheat beer, but again, most nights, not as much as I love a great night's sleep. I'm experimenting with Golden Milk too (Google it). All the potions...

5. Would you believe I've lived in Minnesota for over a dozen years and had never bought a 'happy light' (i.e. sun lamp) until this year?! Now we have one on our kitchen counter, and I turn it on at 7 a.m. sharp every morning (the sun doesn't rise until at least 7:30 these days), and from 4-5 p.m. every evening (it gets dark here by 4:30!). I can't prove 100% if it magically improves mood and energy levels, but it certainly can't hurt. I think it feels way more normal to have light at 7 a.m. and 4 p.m. than total darkness!

6. Here's my final self-care measure, and it's intense ya'll!: I'm actively trying to stop letting people bulldoze over me and then being the pushover who just lets them waltz back into my life whenever it's convenient for them. We regularly remind our kids of the Golden Rule-- treat others how you want to be treated-- so why do I forgive and forget so easily without so much as an explanation from the hurtful party? My whole life I've put other peoples' feelings above my own. It's exhausting and probably not a healthy pattern.

I'm far from perfect, but I do try to treat people with kindness and respect, and if they don't return that simple favor, then it's not my job to make room for them in my life right now. My plate is just too full. An apology can turn things around quickly, but it has to be said. I don't have room for self-focused, careless types right now.


Readers: I'd love to hear your self-care plans for 2019. What positive changes do you want to make and what practical measures can you take to get there? Message me. Leave a comment. Remember to put yourself first when you can so that you are in the best emotional shape you can be to care for others.

It's so easy to forget, but so important to keep working on. I'm right there with you!

~Julia @ Frantic Mama

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

My Adventures in Instant Pot Land

I don't remember when I first started hearing about Instant Pots, but the buzz has been building and I was's my story!


I must start with a shoutout to my brave friend Jen for lending me her cherished Instant Pot. I mentioned I was toying with the idea of buying one and giving it a whirl, and she said I could give hers a test run. How generous!

For reference, this is an Instant Pot:

It's a fast-acting pressure cooker that resembles a slow cooker crossed with a futuristic rice cooker and comes with every other bell and whistle you can think of (porridge anyone?). The issue: it's intimidating! So many buttons! And what is pressure cooking anyway? Will it explode? What are those noises?

After staring at Jen's pot on my kitchen counter for almost a week, I decided I had to least try it before I returned it to her. There is one important step I took prior to my launch: Jen walked me through how to put the lid on and off (yes, instruction is necessary for this), how to use the quick release steam valve (it's a thing), how to clean it, and she pointed out a couple of other functions.

If you want to give one a go, I highly recommend having one of your Instant Pot friends do a hands-on demo for you. Second best option: watch some You Tube videos!

Ok, so here's what I did one morning, feeling brave (and this is no joke):

1. I sprayed some Pam in the pot because I didn't want to ruin her pristine stainless steel bowl, and I added a pound of chicken breast tenderloins.

Yes, you just plop them at the bottom of the stainless steel bowl.

2. I drained a can of Ro-Tel tomatoes and dumped the contents on top of the chicken.

I always have a couple cans of this on hand: it's great to add to taco meat or chili.

3. I closed the lid, set it Poultry, and let it pressure cook for 20 minutes.

4. I did a Quick Release once the 20 minutes was up (watch out-- lots of steam comes out the top!), I took the lid off, and here's what it looked like. Not so promising, BUT...

5. After stirring and draining the excess liquid, look what I had! A bowl of juicy, moist (sorry to people who have aversions to those words; they're the only accurate ones I can think of!) shredded chicken (it shreds super easily) with a mild salsa sauce!

Voila! My very first Instant Pot dish: I call it Salsa Chicken but you could definitely be more honest and call it Chicken & Ro-tel :).

Here's the kicker: my son LOVED the chicken and couldn't get enough. That says it all, folks.

Follow up:

After scrubbing the washable parts, I tried to give the machine back to Jen, but she insisted I give it another try... I was worried. What on earth would I make next? Wasn't I pushing my luck?

I like to end on a good note, but she was right. Before I buy one, I should try one 'step up' recipe. Did you know you can brown ground meat in this thing? Yeah, that's what I wanted to do.

Enter my vision of making a big pot of chili all in one pot. No separate frying pan to brown the meat first. But where to begin?!

So many sites have complicated recipes they say are simple, but come on. Most involved all kinds of button pushing. I wanted to be as hands-off as possible. Luckily, I eventually found a great turkey chili recipe on Oh Sweet Basil.

Did I have everything on hand their recipe required? Of course not! So I subbed in a few things I had in my pantry and it still turned out fantastic.

A big pot of hot, flavorful chili in under 30 minutes. Awesomeness. Scroll to the end of the post below for my subs if you want to try your own.*

I feel like my food images don't do it justice, but it smells delish and tastes even better! YUM!
So will I buy one? I haven't officially decided yet, but I think I will eventually. I'm not in a rush. I think I only need the 6 Qt. version for my family of four. I used the 8 qt. and I don't have a bunch of extra cupboard space-- it is not a small thing. Perhaps the after-Christmas sales will speak to me...

In the meantime, I'd love to hear if you have an Instant Pot, if you've tried it, and if you love it or hate it!

~Julia @ Frantic Mama

*My chili subs: 
I had only one can of beans (I used Great Northerns).
I subbed one of the two cups of chicken broth for one cup of tomato sauce. 
I didn't add the bacon (didn't have any).
Still yum!

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Five Friday Faves: Holiday Edition

Hello Everyone and TGIF!

I've been jotting down my favorites over the last few weeks and only the best of the best are making the cut for this special holiday edition of my Five Friday Faves. Enjoy!

Ho Ho Ho! Let's go shopping!

1. Starbucks Gingerbread Latte

You need sugar and caffeine to get started on that shopping list, right? Who doesn't? A Pumpkin Spice Latte this is not. The Gingerbread Latte preceded the PSL, I believe, and it doesn't get nearly the love and attention it deserves.

It is my ultimate fave when it comes to treating myself to a ridiculously expensive coffee. Please note: I like a little sweetness but not too much, so I ask for 1-2 pumps of the syrup, and definitely keep the whip & add a dash of nutmeg. Perfection!

2. Lands End Boots.

In Minnesota, boots aren't just for fun. We NEED them. And if you're like me, you need lots of them. They have to be warm, waterproof, and easy to get on and off. I also like it when they look cute of course! You could say I'm pretty much a boot expert.

Loving these warm, high-quality, affordable Lands End boots!

I found this warm, cozy, cute pair on (who, I must say, has revamped its ladies styles and Mama Likey!). These run true to size if you are wearing thick socks, and unlike some brands, they don't feel like you're wearing two ten pound weights tied around your ankles. They zip on and off and are snug on the calf. I wear them almost daily.

3. Horse Diaries books from Random House.

If you follow me on Instagram (and if you don't, you most certainly should!), you might have seen my post about this great little chapter book series for the young animal lover in your life. High-quality plot and dialogue for independent reading (mid-to-late elementary set), or fun for reading aloud to younger kids and/or struggling/non-readers.

Great book series for young readers or for reading aloud!

The coolest part is that each book is written from the perspective of a horse, and each one is set in a different era and location (think 1800's Iceland, or early 1900's Virginia). Educational, engaging, and animal-friendly. Love!

4. Woodfire Scented Candle by Illume.

I can go months without remembering to light a single scented candle in our kitchen, and then, poof! I remember to light one which reminds me just how much I enjoy the simple pleasure of a wonderful-smelling candle flickering in the house... It's even better on dark, cold evenings.

This one by Illume (manufactured in Minnesota) smells like Christmas with a hint of vanilla, and it comes in a beautiful gold container. I'll be getting a couple extra to prolong the feeling into the dark months of January and February. Thymes Fraiser Fir Tree smells like the real deal too.

(Side note: I feel like candles get a bad rap for gift-giving, but I love giving and receiving them!)

5. Hallmark Channel Christmas Movies.

Here's a free idea for a little festive holiday entertainment. Turn the channel to Hallmark and enjoy one of their delicious, predictable, happily-ever-after Christmas movies!

I'm a sucker for some romance and a happy ending-- and I love Candace Cameron and Lori Loughlin (of Full House fame), and they're in just about every other one. Plus, the hubby will watch these with me once the kids are tucked in for the night (visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads)! So fun.

What are you loving and giving this holiday season? Do tell!

~Julia @ Frantic Mama

P.S. As always, none of my faves are paid advertisements or brand sponsored. They're all the real deal! Be sure to follow along with my misadventures in Motherhood on Facebook.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Laughing with me or at me?

I've known from a young age I am more sensitive than the average Joe. If there were a scale (1 being extremely hardened to ten being extremely sensitive, I'd be a solid 8 (9/10 if I'm lacking sleep)).

It helped clarify things for me when I stumbled upon the Highly Sensitive Child and the Highly Sensitive Person when my son was in preschool and I was trying to put my finger on what made him a little 'different' or, shall we say, quirky, than roughly 75% of kids (about 25% of the population, according to the author, falls into the Highly Sensitive category).

Bingo! That's it! He has a heightened sensitivity to the world around us. I remember it felt like one of those cartoon light bulbs turning on above my head. (Note: despite the name, the trait of high sensitivity isn't all about 'getting feelings hurt easily,' like most of us associate the word 'sensitive' with. That just happens to be the aspect I'm focusing on today).

As it turned out, my husband read the books too and figured out he was the same way. So I suppose we are a family of highly sensitive people.

I've embraced this trait now and I actually enjoy watching it manifest in my children. Being highly sensitive may not make things easier, but it can be a gift in many ways, and it can help us grow our empathy.

Still. With gifts come challenges, yes?

Confession time:

I HATE feeling like I am being laughed at. I hate it when I'm not taken seriously. I'm sure no one likes it, as children show hurt when being teased early on. That feeling has never gone away for me.

How about you? It's not fun for anyone, right?

Nothing shuts me down faster. The walls go right up.

As soon as I start to feel like the joke is on me, a barely-concealed mean/sarcastic face is being made about something I said, or there's a chuckle at something I said that was not intended to be funny, I commence the shut-down process.

I either:

A. Escape the conversation (in the case of a fight or flight response, that definitely falls into the second category).

B. If A is impossible, I try to refocus the conversation on someone or something else, the self-protective message being, if you are going to make fun of me, this part of the conversation is over. 

Neither of these responses are perfect or ideal, I guess, but I'm always a little in shock in the moment (the comebacks I come up with at 2 a.m. are so good though!).

Shockingly to a highly sensitive person, some people do NOT appear to pick up on Cue A or Cue B. How do I know this? Because they repeat the behavior! Over and over again. What do you do if there is a certain person or people in your life who find a way to laugh at you every chance they get? I'm asking, because I don't know!

Maybe I'm an easy target because I wear a soft-shell, but I feel like there is a small handful of people in my life who have demonstrated this behavior on a frequent basis. People I know are decent people-- they're certainly not evil! So why do they do it?

Is ignorance bliss? Are they squarely located on the 1-3 section of the scale, where it truly doesn't click that 'oh, laughing at everything she says is probably verging on Mean Girls territory?'

Or is it social awkwardness on their part? Do they laugh our of nervousness or anxiety? That at least gives me some patience with it.

Or is it something darker?

Should I just point it out right when it happens, and hope it puts things to a stop once and for all? [cringe!]

I'm not sure. It may make things worse. Or at least painfully uncomfortable. What I do know is that I don't laugh at people who aren't making jokes, and I'm teaching my kids to do the same.

I'm also asking on behalf of us 7 plusses on the scale, to all of you 5 and under folks, to take a step back occasionally during social visits with your friends and family. Do you notice you laugh at one of them frequently? Are you sure they're trying to be funny? Are they truly enjoying the conversation? It's good to remember not everything is a joke, and not everyone wants their comments laughed at or to see eyes rolling when they talk. It's belittling and hurtful, even if we try to be brave and smile through it.

That's my PSA for the day, folks. Especially as Thanksgiving is hurtling rolling towards us. We'll all be in close quarters with lots of people soon. I'm far from perfect, but I know I have a heightened awareness of feelings-- even more so now that I have children-- and I'll be working hard to be kind to those around me. That's what I want them to see. There are a lot of feelings out there, and it sure makes the holidays more fun when we take a step back and think about how we talk with people and the reactions we give them.

P.S. And if you are thinking hmmmm is this about me? Maybe pause and ask yourself, hmmmm why do I think this could be about me?

~Julia @ Frantic Mama

Friday, October 5, 2018

Five Friday Faves: It's BACK!

One of my favorite series from Frantic Mama was my weekly Five Friday Faves, where I picked a few things/foods/drinks/activities I was loving and shared them with my wonderful readers. That list turned into a bi-weekly one, to seasonal, to...well, it's been a while.

Life gets busy, as we all know.

But I want to revive the Five Faves this year! It is extremely unlikely (re: not going to happen) that I'll manage a new list every week, but let's hope I can share some faves about once a month. Goals are good, right?

So here we go. For the first time in a looooongggg time, may I present you with Frantic Mama's Five Friday Faves: October 2018 Edition!

1. Tone It Up Protein Powder. Did you buy tickets to the gun show yet? Because you better watch out for my killer biceps! Ha. Yeah right. But I have always been a pretty health-conscious person. Maybe a health nut, even. Whatever. I like feeling energized, strong, and active. The thing is, I also need a lot of fuel throughout the day to stay active and energized. You'll never find me without a granola bar on hand. I've been adding more protein to my daily diet, and I even started using protein powder for the first time.

This brand, Tone It Up, is something I noticed at Target on a whim. I always associated protein powder with big dudes who go to gyms (I am neither of those things), but this line is clearly geared towards those of us with two X chromosomes.

It also uses pea protein, which I prefer to meat-based or whey protein, and it doesn't have anything artificial in it. I try to mix it into a smoothie a few days a week.

Here's my winning recipe: 8 oz. almond, soy, or dairy milk, half a banana, a few strawberries, a few ice cubes, and one scoop of this powder. Throw it all in a blender and voila! A delicious protein shake that also helps get more fruit into my diet.

2. You Do You, edited by Jen Mann. I'd be remiss not to mention a little book I happened to contribute to... 

You Do You: a collection of essays from all-female, multi-generational authors, sharing their thoughts on being a girl, raising daughters, or simply being female in today's world.

It's funny. It's bittersweet. It's inspiring. Buy your copy today to support the authors. 
Share it with your friends!

Find it online, in Kindle or Paperback on Amazon, or on iTunes for your iPad.

3. Beta Brand Pants

A friend (and longtime Frantic Mama lurker ;)) told me about these pants when I noticed how nice her work slacks always looked. She called them Yoga Pants Work Pants or something like that, and since I speak fluent Yoga Pants, I knew I had to try them out.

Indeed. They feature an elastic waistband (hooray!), and the material is stretchy but substantial and not as casual as workout leggings or yoga pants. 

I ordered the new bootcut style with pockets, and it was true love!

Caution: I'm almost 5'6, and I exchanged the regular length for petite. I don't wear high heels often ever, so I wanted mine to fit with flats. Just a head's up for the under 5'7 set!

4. Magnolia Paints. 

Those who have been with me for a while know I love me a little home improvement project now and then. Well, the time has finally friggin' come for our dining room makeover!

"Makeover" might be a little strong, but I have wanted to repaint the room since we moved in about 7 years ago! 7 YEARS! It's currently bright turquoise. I love turquoise. I just don't want it on my dining room walls.

Part of the problem is that Frantic Mama Hubby is a self-admitted commitment-phobe (yes, we dated forever), so agreeing on colors was too hard, and I gave up trying to find one. 

Magnolia paints to the rescue! Who doesn't love Fixer Upper? Don't you want to climb into the t.v. and move into any single house they have ever 'fixed up?' 

It's a show both of us actually like (magic!) and we almost always agree on the design and colors Chip and Joanna choose (yes, let's say I'm on a first-name basis with them). 

Frantic Mama Hubby TOTALLY SHOCKED me one day recently, when he showed me the color sample he brought home (after nixing all of the taupes I had tried). 

Do you want to know what color he-- my duck-hunting, sports-obsessed, meat-eating, all-American husband chose?


The Magnolia pinks are SO BEAUTIFUL and subtle and not cotton candy at all. In a dining room, with our black furniture and sparkly chandelier, I think it is going to be what the kids call On Point. (stay tuned). I can't wait to get started! (One minor detail: we haven't agreed on the white trim yet. Of course.)

5. Ketel One Cucumber & Mint.

You didn't think I'd leave out a cocktail in my Friday Faves, did you? Heavens no! 

There's just one teeny, tiny hiccup: I haven't actually tried it yet. This delightful-looking concoction was an impulse buy at the new grocery store in town, and I grabbed a bottle to add to my quickly growing bill.

But don't panic. Don't worry one little bit, folks. I will do my due diligence and give it a try tonight! 

Cheers! Happy Friday!

What's on your fave list these days? Do tell! I love trying new things, and if I love yours, I'll try to feature it in a future list.

~Julia @ Frantic Mama

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