Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Au Natural?

So-called "natural," and "organic" cosmetics and body products are everywhere these days. For a long time, I shrugged those labels off as a trend. After all, if the products are FDA-approved and available on any drugstore shelf, they must be safe, right?

My other argument is/was usually along these lines: who says "natural" is always better? Example: Poison ivy is natural, but it certainly won't improve your skin tone. Is a man-made ingredient always so terrible? I didn't think so (and I still don't).

Science is a great thing. Researchers have found and created some very beneficial products. BUT (yeah, you knew there was a big ol' BUT) I did just a wee bit of digging one afternoon and... yikes. In the U.S., we have wayyyy fewer regulations regarding what goes into our cosmetics and body products than they do in Europe.

Likely, there are a thousand or so ingredients I could choose to avoid, but that's overwhelming. I'm taking baby steps to a (hopefully) healthier me. For now, my two main concerns are Parabens and Aluminum.

Surely, I thought, the lotions I have been using for YEARS are good for me. Surely they are, right?! Well, I was quite crestfallen when I read the long list of ingredients... with not just one type-- but many types-- of parabens, as well as the "wrong" kind of sunscreen (and all these years I felt so good about wearing sunscreen!).

(The basic scoop on parabens: they are chemical preservatives that have been found in tumors. Anything we put on our skin sinks into our bodies, and I started picturing parabens feeding a tumor. Ewwww. They can also interfere with our hormones. Caution: Remember Biology class, of course: correlation does not mean causation, but still...) [Disclaimer: I'm not a doctor and am not offering medical advice.]

Next up:

I don't know why it also took me FOREVER to try out a more natural, less chemical-laden antiperspirant/deodorant. (Okay, I kind of know-- I am a sweat-er. Yes, it's true). I figured none of those would work. But enough studies have found the exact same ingredients from my trusty old Secret in breast cancer tumors that I feel obligated to switch.

The first one I'm trying is Schmidt's; it's available at Target for under $5 (price is something to think about. Most of the less-toxic lotions and potions cost more). I also ordered an expensive one from Arbonne for comparison purposes. I'll keep you posted on that.

So now that I've opened Pandora's box, I'm curious about all of you!

Do you try to be natural with your lotions and cosmetics, or do you trust that what's on the shelves is safe? What chemicals do you avoid (or embrace)? Am I crazy and paranoid or finally on the right track? What are your most trusted brands?

P.S. Salespeople: I respect your profession, but please don't use this blog post as an opportunity to pitch your products. Feel free to say what you love about your brand, but don't try to push them on my readers or me.

~Julia @ Frantic Mama

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Time Flies When...

How on earth is it the last day of February?

Actually, part of me definitely believes it: winter in Minnesota gets LONG. I'm more than ready for spring.

If you are wondering where I've been the last few weeks, I don't blame you-- I've been a bit absent from the blog!

I started a new another part-time job last month-- writing/reporting for a local paper. I wasn't necessarily planning to take on more work right at this moment, but it was one of those times things fell into place, and it happened quickly. I decided to get my foot in the door and see how it goes.

5 years in, "Frantic Mama" still fits!

That said, if I thought I was busy before, whew! I'm really busy now. Every second of my daughter's preschool time is used wisely. It goes by in a flash.

I once read in a David Sedaris book that someone told him something along the lines of 'you can devote time to 2 out of the 3: friends, family, and/or work.'

Right now, I'm clearly focused on family and work. I simply cannot add a bunch of social things to the mix right now. If I did, I know I would start to feel way too stretched, and we all know the saying "happy wife/happy life." If I get too stretched, I am not a happy person/wife/mother.

Prioritizing when you have children is more important than ever. I want to look back at this time of my life and think I gave my all to my family and my career. Friends are important, and I am lucky to have some (hopefully) understanding ones during this busy period, but this is where I am right now.

How about you? Which of those three do you prioritize? How do you do it?

~Julia @ Frantic Mama

Monday, January 30, 2017

Imperfect Lunches are my Bag

Recently, you might have seen this image show up on your Facebook newsfeed:

It's a photo I took of my 4 year-old daughter's lunch. Even funnier is that I didn't find her meat-and-cheese pairing too unusual until my husband started laughing when he saw it. Yes, it did look ridiculous, I thought, and I snapped the photo to share with my fabulously fun readers.

The image took off, and I thought, Yay! Moms are laughing because they GET IT. We all have days/weeks where we 'forget' the veggies, can't find time to fold laundry, and eat frozen pizza like it's our job. Real Life is refreshing. And FUNNY.

What surprised me more were the nasty comments when Today Parents shared my little humor post on their massive Facebook page. It's a prime example of the "Mom Shaming" trend you may have heard about.

I kid you not: Women-- people who I think of as MY people-- said my kids would be "fat" (I detest  the word "fat," and I could go on, but that alone is fodder for another post...); one lady said I'm basically "poisoning them," another noted that I should add "grapes to complete the choking hazard trifecta," and yet another gem of wisdom: "it wouldn't have been hard for her to throw some fruit and veggies on that plate." Really? You mean, we're supposed to consume actual fruits and vegetables?!

Whoa now, people! Deep breaths, deep breaths.

I would ask these commenters, how about taking a step back, and fine, if the picture doesn't make you laugh, just keep on scrolling? Why on earth pause what you are doing to criticize another mother who clearly shared the image to help other parents laugh at themselves and admit our imperfections?

I am not perfect, and I'm pretty sure the commenters aren't either. However, I'm not going to bully. I won't name names.

I think this experience is also a good example of the illusion of Internet anonymity. All too often, we think online comments don't affect real people-- that's there's not a real mom behind the screen doing the best she can (and laughing about it when she falls short).

In the end, I stopped reading the comments. The experience was like a paper cut-- annoying but not enough to make me quit and cower. If anything, it added another layer to my skin (it gets thick fast as a writer). You'll be happy to know my husband and I had a good chuckle over it.

Here's the link to the post the Today Show shared.

Happy reading!

~Julia @ Frantic Mama

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Tuesday, January 24, 2017

National Geographic Rocks [pun intended]

As a longtime blogger, I feel SO FORTUNATE to be a National Geographic Kids Ambassador, which means I get to sample their products and introduce them to my kids and to my readers.

I recently gave each of my kids one of their new hardcover "Heroes" and "Heroines" books. They are awesome.

I really appreciate that National Geographic pays attention to gender. They always provide ample female role models for our daughters! 

Another product top-notch product they came out with recently is the incredible virtual reality Viewmaster.

This gadget attaches to your cell phone. You download a few apps to make it work, and BOOM! it feels like you are wandering around with dinosaurs or exploring a jungle. I thought it would be very expensive, but the starter pack is under $25. You purchase additional experiences for under $10. Totally worth it for the nature lovers in your life! I think I like it just as much as my kids.

~Julia @ Frantic Mama

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Sunday, January 22, 2017

Making Room for Yourself

Motherhood is pretty all-encompassing, isn't it? I don't think a few minutes goes by when I don't think about my kids. I've become used to this notion by now, with a 6 year old and a 4 year old under my roof.

One thing that took me a while was to remember that having a family doesn't need to replace our other goals, and I don't just mean our careers. When I had my son, I quit my teaching job to stay home with him. I didn't have any help available, so it made sense that I would be the one to care for him. We had our ups and downs that first year.

Then I had my daughter, and again, my life was flooded with childcare-- feeding, diapering, napping-- you know, everything.

Image is not me, but it's pretty great! 

But within that insanely tiring and overwhelming period, I did manage to carve out a tiny bit of time to do one thing for myself: blog. You're reading the fruits of that labor right now. I started Frantic Mama when my son was one, and it slowly transformed my life.

Even though only about 3 people (my mom and husband included) read it at first, writing still felt wonderful, and I soon found myself connecting with others about the trials and tribulations of motherhood. It has since led to publishing and a part-time freelance career.

Then, when my daughter was two, I carved out a little more time to pursue another passion-- riding. Why not? I realized. Life it short, after all, and I wasn't getting any younger. There was pretty much no reason I couldn't carve out 2 hours a weekend for myself (though, sure, we moms are very good at coming up with a list of 20 things we "must" do). You have to make the time. It was up to me.

Though I felt guilty for a while, I stuck with my Saturday riding sessions, and doing so has opened up other doors for me (writing about horses, in particular-- a perfect career fit for me) as well as meeting new people, gaining new skills and experiences, and exercising in an awesome environment. I no longer have to look back and wish I had done it-- because I do it.

[Side note: try not to let money get in your way. It's easy to say, "well, I don't have the money to do it." Yes, some hobbies are expensive, but others aren't: my blog is free, going to a museum is free, reading at the library is free, joining a running club is free, drawing and painting are (almost) free. One of my favorite activities, volunteering at a therapy riding program, is also free.]

I wrote about my experience on here, and I would love it if you gave it a read.

Perhaps my story will even inspire some of you to try something new and to make time for yourself (other than torturing yourself on a treadmill or wandering Target for an hour-- those are not the passions I'm encouraging, ladies! Think bigger!).

There is more out there. I hope to keep finding it, and I hope you do too.

~Julia @ Frantic Mama

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