Monday, December 28, 2015

Frantic Mama's 5 Friday Faves: Winter Edition

Snow has fallen. The days are short, the nights long. When we do venture outside, we shuffle around in our big down coats, trying to remember hats and gloves and mittens. We have abandoned sneakers and sandals for boots and thick wool socks.

Winter has arrived, and truthfully, it's not my favorite season of the year here in Minnesota, primarily because of the lack of time outside in the sun, and the cold, dark afternoons.

However, I do have five favorite things to share with you this winter that help me enjoy this time of year a little more.

1.  Starbuck's Instant Peppermint Mocha packets. Recently, I ordered a small specialty drink at the coffee shop and it was almost FIVE DOLLARS! That's insane, right?! But I can't go without my afternoon cup of caffeine. These packets aren't cheap, but they're still way less expensive than one at the store. Perfect for a treat on a cold winter afternoon.

2.  Pedialyte pops. I mentioned these in my sick post. They are worth mentioning again. Run-- don't walk-- buy a box, and put half in the freezer. Then you'll be ready the next time your child comes down with a stomach bug.

3. Rodan and Fields Microdermabrasion paste. A couple of my friends recently started selling this skincare brand. I tried the microdermabrasion paste and am now hooked. I have never had a scrub that makes my skin feel this smooth!

4.  Never Will I Ever (and then I had kids!) is the most recent anthology that yours truly contributed to. I've read it a couple of times, and I think it's a great book for anyone who has children. I only wish I could've had a copy to ease any motherhood guilt I felt my first couple of years as a parent. Purchasing a copy will support all of the authors who worked so hard on this project.

5. Not Your Father's Root Beer. I ordered this spiked root beer at a restaurant recently, worried it would be too sweet. It's not. It's just...awesome. Cheers!

What are some of your favorites this time of year? Share any fun things or ideas that help you enjoy the coldest months of the year!

~Julia @ Frantic Mama

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Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The Best Coffee Memes

I'm noticing a trend among my fellow humans: We like coffee. A lot.

Whether you drink it for the energy boost or because you like the taste (or both), there's nothing like a good, hot cup of coffee, amiright?

Here are a few of my most recent caffeinated memes.

[If you have a minute to share them on Pinterest, Facebook, or whatever else you have, that would make my day! Either way, enjoy!]

Here's my sister's actual 'coffee station.' I'm impressed. THIS is commitment:

And this, below, is a true story:

This is one of my first memes to go officially "viral."

I can't resist a good owl meme:

This might be my favorite mug of all time:

It really gets me.


~Julia @ Frantic Mama

Find more of me: Facebook, Pinterest, & Instagram

Happy Holidays to all of my wonderful readers!

Monday, December 14, 2015

Unfinished Wood DIY: Dining Room Hutch

My husband and I have wanted a hutch/buffet/cabinet for our dining room for, well...ever. But have you seen how much a nice, well-made one costs? Argh. Needless to say, our dream hutch was on a never-ending backburner.

Alas! My husband's parents had this old, unfinished solid wood cabinet/hutch in storage for years; I noticed it collecting dust for a long time, and eventually I broached it with the hubby: "Think we could have that?"

It was unfinished, yes. The hardware was dated, yes. But FREE? You can't get a better deal. He was on board, and I like to think his parents are happy that one of their kids is using it.

The furniture in our dining room is black with an aged, distressed look to it. Black furniture isn't my favorite look per se, but you make do with what you have, right?

I watched some YouTube tutorials on painting furniture to give it that same look.

[The best one I found is on this blog, The Yellow Cape Cod].

Here's what I needed (much of which we already own because I'm obsessed with painting & refinishing projects):

Black Paint (Flat Black latex paint by Rustoleum)
Finishing Paste/Wax (Minwax)
Wood Stain Pen
4 new knobs and 2 pulls 

All that added up to about $50.

The rest was all a labor of love!
(And yes, it took a long time.)

Here's the base and top before I did anything:



Here's the after:

In short, here's what I did:

Removed all hardware
Lightly sanded entire unit
Painted one coat of primer (let dry)
Painted two coats of black paint (about a day apart)
Sanded edges and corners where I wanted it to look worn
Used a Wood Stain Pen (like this) over the newly exposed wood:
Let stain dry...
Applied a big glob of dark paste wax to a cheese cloth and rub it around the entire unit
Let the wax dry about 10 minutes, then wiped excess off with a cloth
Installed new hardware (I ordered mine from Home Depot)

We love it. We love it even more because we didn't go into debt buying it! Now we finally have a place to display beautiful wedding gifts that had been tucked away in the basement for years.

P.S. Curious what a hutch like this might cost at, say, Pottery Barn?

It's on "special" now for $2,799! I could buy a decent horse with that! Or a magnificent vacation! Or a lifetime supply of K-cups!

Oh, and before you go thinking, "Wow, she's really on top of things, painting a big piece of furniture like that with two little kids at her heels!" Let me tell you, friends, I've been itching to paint the dining room walls for FOUR YEARS! It has yet to happen. I also rarely vacuum, shave my legs, clean the kitchen, workout, or cook involved meals. You win some, you lose some, and I pick my battles :).

What about you? What projects are you hoping to tackle sooner rather than later?

~Julia @ Frantic Mama

Psssst! You can read a funny little post I wrote for Bon Bon Break here.

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Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Science of Parenthood Blog Tour!

Looking for a hilarious, creative book all about the ridiculousness of parenthood? Look no further, Science of Parenthood has arrived.

I rarely laugh out loud when I'm reading, but I did with this one. It really is that funny. At least, it is those of us who are in the trenches of parenthood.

We've BEEN there, and so have the authors-- the poop, the pee, the puke-- all the bodily fluids that seem to go hand-in-hand with babies and children. The pregnancy symptoms, the sleep deprivation, the tear-your-hair-out moments.

The authors, Norine Dworkin-McDaniel and Jessica Ziegler, manage to illustrate all of it in a way that is, for lack of a better term, deliciously digestible. And FUNNY.

I had the chance to ask them a few questions I thought would be relevant to my dear Frantic Mama readers:

What is one of your most frantic memories of life as mother to small children?

Norine: Just one? Really? There are so many. I hadn’t done much babysitting as a teen, and I went into motherhood pretty clueless about how to take care of a baby, so my learning curve was steep. But if I had to pick a single moment, I’d have to choose our trip to West Palm Beach when our son was four weeks old.
We’d driven down from Orlando for the weekend to visit childhood friends, Anthony and Lisa, of my husband’s. The guys went fishing in the morning, and Lisa and I were supposed to meet them around noon for brunch. I got the diaper bag packed, got the baby dressed, got myself ready to go and just as we were leaving, I had to change the baby’s diaper. What a fiasco! No sooner had I gotten the diaper open, when my boy started spraying pee everywhere! He got me, the bed, his face. He’s screaming. I’m trying to block the spray. There’s pee everywhere. So I get him out of the pee-soaked clothes. Wipe him off and get new clothes on him. Of course, I need to put diaper cream on him. And while he’s wiggling, I manage to get that thick, white cream everywhere but his butt. Now he’s covered in pee and diaper cream.
I was seriously having a moment there because we were guests in the condo and my kid had just soaked the bed. Plus, we were already late for brunch, and he really needed a bath. I was overwhelmed, near tears and embarrassed. But Lisa, who had two older girls, came to my rescue. She matter-of-factly scooped up my boy, ran some tepid water in the sink and gave him a quick bath, all the while assuring me that everything was fine. The guys would wait. The bedclothes would be washed. It was all good. Thank goodness Lisa was able to talk me down off the ledge, assuring me that this stuff happens to every mom. If that’s not my most frantic moment, it’s definitely in the top five!

Jessica: The first time I flew with my son alone. He was under a year, and we were flying from Las Vegas to Connecticut to visit family. That is a looooong flight... I spent the entire flight walking him up and down the aisles while he held my fingers, singing little songs, pulling an endless supply of snacks and entertainments out of my bag, nursing and trying to figure out how the hell to change a diaper in that teeny tiny airplane bathroom. That was the first in a long series of him falling asleep exactly five minutes before our plane landed, so that I had to carry his limp, suddenly thousand-pound body as well as my giant bag of tricks through the airport. I worked harder on that 6-hour flight than I’ve probably worked in my entire life. I have no idea how parents with more than one kiddo do it.

(Side note, Me: Flying with my kids is always one of the most frantic things I do each year, though it gets a little easier each year.)

What has been one of the hardest parts of motherhood for you?

Norine: Trying to balance working with being an active, engaged mom. It’s been constant struggle for me... And when you work at home, it’s very hard to switch gears, from writing to momming. There’s this constant tug from both sides: when I’m writing, I always feel like I’m missing out on something my son is doing. And when I’m spending time with him, it’s hard not to feel guilty about neglecting work. It’s no doubt my own neurosis and guilt that keeps me from being “in the moment” and enjoying myself. Send prayers! Or meds!  

Me: I can completely relate to that! Finding time to write when you have young children in the house is very, very challenging.

Jessica: Early on, I would say it was the lack of sleep...Now, managing screen time is a major challenge, and part of that is managing my own laziness. I also work from home, and I often find myself yelling from behind my laptop for him to get off screens, like a big fat hypocrite. It’s so much easier NOT to have the fight, you know?

Me: Yes, I know!

What is your favorite part of being a mom?

Norine: I would have to say the snuggling. My son Fletcher is 9, and I feel pretty fortunate that he is still a very snuggly boy...I know the snuggling days are numbered so I’m trying to make the most of them before he’s too cool to acknowledge he even has a mother.

Jessica: Watching him evolve. I love seeing how he is maturing and changing. Some of the things that come out of his mouth … it’s like, are you 11 or 70? I had two younger brothers so there is a familiarity to watching him turn from a little boy into someone verging on a teen, and I love seeing his artistic talent develop, because it’s something we share.

Me: I also love snuggling with my kids [when they'll let me], and one of my greatest joys as a mother is getting to see my children develop their sense of selves and talents.

A photo of the authors, Norine and Jessica.

Aren't the authors awesome? I wish they lived next door and I could just follow them around all day :).

P.S. I have a post up on the fantastic site, Sammiches & Psych Meds today. Check it out, here!.

~Julia @ Frantic Mama

Thursday, December 3, 2015

[Simple] Christmas Magic

For those of us who celebrate the holiday, Christmas is fast approaching, and with it the excitement, stress, fun, and hopefully even a bit of magic.

I hear lots of people say it's all "so stressful." I can see how. Extra cooking, travel, visitors, expenses, etc... it can all add up to a challenging month.

I'm trying not to feel that way during what is supposed to be the "most magical time of year." I want to enjoy it, not dread it!

So let's brighten the mood, shall we? Here are five of my favorite [simple!] holiday traditions that help keep my family in the spirit during this time of year.

1.  Decorating: Our tradition is to pick out a tree the day after Thanksgiving. There's no rush, no fuss. We we simply go to a tree lot and let the kids point to a big one and say, "that's it!" Then we let them "help" decorate it that day. It gets us all in the mood for Christmas.

Check it out! My 3 y.o. took this wonderfully blurry shot of our tree this year.

A blurry tree = the perfectly imperfect Christmases at our house.

2.  Cookies: I love love love giving presents to friends, family, teachers, or really anyone. However, I don't have oodles of extra money to spend, and most adults don't "need" something I pick out for them, right? Like, how many times have you looked for a gift receipt on a random re-gift suspect from your aunt?

I've jumped on the cookie bandwagon, and I enjoy making a ton of cookies (not all at once!), letting the kids dump sprinkles on them, and putting them in cute containers. Who doesn't like an extra box of cookies this time of year? Bonus: I've spent time rather than money making something for friends, and I'm not adding clutter to their already busy homes.

My elves at work...
See? They really did "help" [and I think there are still sprinkles in every kitchen crevice.]

Voila! I'm pretty proud of how they turned out this year :).

3. Elf on the Shelf: Yes, yes, I know. People hate the elf. We like him! My husband and I have fun finding a new place in the house each night that our children will discover the next morning. Again, Elf on the Shelf is just a fun, simple tradition that only happens one month of the year in our home.

The elf himself!

4.  New Jammies: Every year between Christmas and Thanksgiving, I give both of my kids a cute new set of pajamas. They look forward to them, and I love picking them out. My daughter's set this year is in cozy turquoise flannel with pictures of hot cocoa and cookies on them, and my son's set features Snoopy and Woodstock. Cuteness!

5.  Cliche Holiday Movies: Yikes! Embarrassing, right?! Oh well, I cannot deny it: my husband and I cannot resist a good old fashioned Hallmark Christmas movie, often featuring members of the Full House cast or other C list stars you kinda sorta remember from your youth. Who doesn't want to unwind at the end of the day with a carefree, simple little heartwarmer?

All I can do is...SMILE at this cheesy classic Hallmark promo!

And you guessed it-- I'll probably tune in.

Like most people, I will probably always feel some anxiety during the holidays, but I am also determined to help make the holidays FUN for our family. I want to create happy memories for my children, and for my husband and me.

Even the simplest traditions take work, but I think it's worth it.

How about you? How do you celebrate the holidays in your home? What are your favorite new or old traditions?

~Julia @ Frantic Mama

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P.S. If you also happen to love horses like I do, I have another article up on You can find it here!

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Fate, Luck, Future or what-have-you

There is a line in literature that has stuck with me for years. It's from J.D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye. (You know, the one everyone reads in high school?) Holden remembers something his mom said to him, along the lines of:  'just remember, not everyone has had the same advantages as you.'

This powerful line has affected me even more as I've gotten older. It helps rectify what seems to be a natural, automatic-- if unfair and often wrong-- human tendency: to judge others for how they are living their lives, especially if their life bears no similarity to your own.

You know what I mean. Maybe you're an adamant non-smoker, so you assume the smoker walking down the street must not care about his health. You refuse to eat fast food, so the mom who picks up Happy Meals for her kids must be lazy or uneducated. You never lose your temper, so the parent who does occasionally yell or swear under her breath must be unstable. The list goes on.

It's easy to judge others. It's the lazy way to live, in a way. It enables us to write people off. However, we have no idea what another's life has been like, so I try to remember Holden's mother's words of warning-- they haven't had the same advantages-- if I feel any judge-y wheels turning. Not that I've never had challenges-- of course I have. But this line helps me remember that it's easy to simplify someone's else's life. Everyone's lives are more complicated than they appear.


Let's take it a step further. Do you ever wonder why it is that some people are born into such terribly hard lives of abuse, neglect, poverty, hunger? Is it just horrible luck? Fate? Or, we could borrow the rather wise argument from our kids: It's not fair! It's not fair! There is no explanation for what we are born into, as I see it.

How random life is. We have no choice or say into what situation we are born; we simply have to move forward with the hand we are dealt. I'm constantly trying to make goals for the future-- for myself, my career, my family. Our future is something we actually have a say in, isn't it?

What do you hope to make from your future?

~Julia @ Frantic Mama

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Thursday, November 19, 2015

Perfectionism: A Blessing or Curse?

It's the age-old standard interview answer you are told to give when your potential employer asks the dreaded, "What's your greatest weakness?" question.

"Hmmm," you're supposed to say, wrinkling your brow, thinking hard. "I guess I'd have to say my perfectionism. I have a never-ending need for everything to be perfect."

"The job's yours!" The interviewer is to respond joyfully, amazed by the fact that you must not have any real weaknesses (and that they've never ever heard this response before).


Now to real life.

For those of us who really do constantly feel the need to be perfect in many (or all) of our endeavors, it can technically be a weakness. And also a strength.

I've been thinking a lot about perfectionism recently-- what it means and how it affects my life.

I've come to this conclusion: It affects my life a lot

To tell you the truth-- and it makes me feel quite vulnerable to reveal this-- it is challenging for me to find one single area of my life where I don't strive to be as close to perfect as I can.

Perfect at writing? A must. Perfect at being a "good" parent? A must. Perfect skin/hair/style? Ideally, yes. Perfect friend/wife/daughter/sister? A constant need. Perfect at whatever hobby I'm pursuing? You guessed it-- I'm relentless. I'm tired just re-reading this list.

[The one area I do tend to let go? A clean house. I simply can't do it.]

Everything else? Letting go is very hard for me.

I don't always succeed at all my perfectionist goals, of course. Logically, I know it's impossible. There's no such thing as Perfect.

More times than once, for example, I've fallen short on the style factor (I've gone to preschool drop-off in slippers, forgetting to switch to normal shoes). And as the rational side of me also knows there is no such thing as a perfect parent, I am still hard on myself for those times I royally mess up my role as a mother. Plus, I could always be a better friend/sister/daughter/wife, couldn't I? In fact, there are a million ways I could be better at X,Y, and Z.

So is perfection a crippling weakness, making people like me incessantly spin the wheel like frantic little hamsters? Not totally, I think.

Yes, the drive within us is tiring, and it can be self-defeating and deflating, but then again, don't those of us with that intense care to excel tend to create more, produce more, and even experience more success (at least, professionally)? I hope so!

Still, when falling short of perfect brings me down (emotionally, mentally, physically), ah that's when perfectionism becomes my achilles heal and I daydream about being a Type B.

Therefore, my second conclusion? This trait is a blessing and a curse. Given the choice to have it or not, I guess I wouldn't give it up, but it would be pretty awesome to "turn off" if I needed a break.

What about you? What's your achilles heal?

~Julia @ Frantic Mama

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Sunday, November 15, 2015

Holidays with a Highly Sensitive Child

My post on successfully celebrating Halloween with your highly sensitive child (HSC) struck a cord with many of you, so I'm sharing ideas I've learned over the years to help you and your HSC enjoy the busy, overstimulating, often stressful holiday season.

For many people, of course, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukah-- whatever you celebrate-- is simply full of loud, busy, exciting FUN. There are Santa laps to sit on, feasts to eat, parties to attend, and best of all-- no school!

However, for those of us with HSC's, ALL of that 'excitement' makes our blood pressure rise as we think of the challenges inherent in all of those stimulating, crowded, busy encounters.

Like I mentioned in my Halloween post, I think the most important thing for parents of HSC's to remember is that just because our children don't participate in every single holiday tradition doesn't mean there's anything "wrong" with them or with our parenting. In fact, It's our job to protect our children while also encouraging them to enjoy themselves and participate in traditions when they can.

Try not to play the comparison game or think of what your neighbor, cousins, parents, etc., are doing this season, and try-- like I do-- to remember that every family is unique and we all must do what is best for our own families.

Here are a few hard-earned strategies I've learned to help my son, now almost 5 and a half (how is that possible?!)-- and therefore our whole family-- enjoy this time of year:

1.  You don't need to attend every party or event. If you're an extrovert, this will be hard for you. After all, you love parties, right? And isn't sitting on Santa's lap a rite of passage? I can see how it would be difficult to reframe all of this, but take comfort in my own experience: we haven't had my son wait in a busy mall line and sit on a strange man's lap since he was 6 months old and looked at us like we were insane for handing him over. And we are okay with that. In fact, I think he appreciates that we have his back. While some parties-- with family, for example-- are probably required, the ones that aren't, I think, are okay to kindly decline to preserve some quiet time for your HSC.

2. No school or preschool means lack of routine and structure. This is a hard one for all of us. Whether he can understand it on a conscious level or not, my son, for example, is a happier person when he is in a familiar routine, like school. What to do with all this free time? My husband and I try to make sure we have one activity in the morning and one in the afternoon, with a quiet time in the middle of the day. The activities are not huge or involved if we can help it-- it may be taking a family walk, going to the grocery store, picking out the Christmas tree, going to the library-- just enough to get out of the house without killing ourselves in the process. Movie nights are also not out of the question when we all need extra downtime!

3. The Food. [Collective grunt.... ] Parents of HSC's are no strangers to sensitive, picky eaters. But try to breathe a sigh of relief. I'm going to give you permission to let go of the pressure here. While your extended family may be gobbling turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and cranberry sauce, your HSC might not want to partake in all the new foods. While others will likely regard this as rude or as you being 'too easy or soft,' I'm here to tell you that it is perfectly fine to bring your child's favorite meal or side dish. After all, isn't the point of a family gathering for everyone to happily spend time together? Is it so bad to bring mac n' cheese for your HSC if it means she'll actually eat and feel good about herself, sitting along with her cousins and grandparents? If you receive judge-y looks, try to shrug them off and remember I'm right there with you. You are doing what's best for your family-- and that will look different for different people-- though there are some who will never, ever understand this.

4.  Rehearse. Prepping your HSC for likely encounters or experiences will go a long way in smoothing out the season. Role play opening gifts and how to say 'thank you' even if she doesn't like a present (it's bound to happen!). Explain what the day will look like, especially if there's travel involved. Likely, your HSC will sense that others disapprove of their strong reactions or observational nature, so remind him that you are proud of him and that he is loved, even in the midst of a hard, stressful day; this helps all of us get through it, even if there are tantrums or tears along the way.

Finally, to anyone reading this who doesn't have an HSC, thank you for trying to better understand our children! Please try to remember that at least a few of your loved ones probably are highly sensitive (whether they know it or not), and try to cut them some slack during this crazy time of year.

It's my wish for ALL of you to experience Happy Holidays!

Suggested Further Reading: Elaine Aron's, The Highly Sensitive Child.
My post about Highly Sensitive Children.

What about you? How have you changed holiday traditions to meet the unique needs of your children?

~Julia @ Frantic Mama

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Friday, November 13, 2015

Coming to an InBox Near You

Hello Frantic Mama friends!

I've [finally] started a Newsletter for you to enjoy. My favorite part of blogging is 'meeting' and connecting with people from all over the world, so I hope you'll sign up!

Just put your e-mail address in the box below, click "Subscribe," and about once a month you'll get a great little e-mail from me with personal updates, cool stuff I've found around the web, published articles, featured blogs and readers, social media finds, and more! (And no, I will never share your e-mail address with anyone ever).

Thanks for your support!

~Julia @ Frantic Mama

I wish I had one of these old school typewriters...

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Thrifty DIY Lighting Update

Do you have one of those outdated brass lighting fixtures dangling somewhere in your home? If so, I've got an [almost] free update for your house.

Fixing mine up added some sparkle and glam to our dining room. I completed this project several months ago, and it still makes me happy every time I look at it.

Here's what I did and how you can do it too!

What I started with: A dirty old brass chandelier with gobs of crystals. It wasn't even hanging up. The former owners had left it in a closet, and I hadn't gotten around to tossing it yet.

Step One:
I'm glad I didn't throw it away because with a wet washcloth I was able to wash away the dirt and grime that had built up. I removed all of the crystals to clean them too, and to prepare for the metal to be painted.

Yeah...kind of an eyesore.

Step Two: 
Paint! First, I used painters tape to cover any electrical spots. Then I used this Black Hammered Finish spray paint by Rustoleum. I took the project outside and sprayed two coats on it. One can was enough for the entire fixture (and cost about $8).

 Crystals removed; Outlets taped up.

I like this paint.

Step Three:
I let it all dry for 24 hours; then I reattached about half of the crystals. I like sparkle, but I don't like too much.

Painting in progress...Don't let little fingers touch it!
Whew! It's looking better...

Step Four:
Ta Da! I had a friend who is trained in electrician work come over to attach the fixture to our ceiling (to replace the existing drop chandelier), and I was pleasantly surprised that all of the electricals actually worked!

See? A touch of GLAMOUR!

Have you tackled any household projects or home updates recently? I'm currently painting an old unfinished hutch my husband's parents didn't want. Photos to come!

~Julia @ Frantic Mama

P.S. My newest article for HorseChannel is up, and I'm THRILLED that it has over 10,000 shares! You can check it out, here.

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Sunday, November 1, 2015

Halloween with a Highly Sensitive Child

Ah, Halloween, the intense, incredibly stimulating holiday adored by children everywhere. Or is it?

For many of our more unique children, it's not such a simple, happy-go-lucky celebration as the media would like us to believe.

This was my fifth year celebrating Halloween with my son who I consider to be highly sensitive. (For more on this trait, see Elaine Aron's fantastic book, The Highly Sensitive Child, and my post, here). In the most basic terms, highly sensitive children feel things more deeply-- both physically and emotionally. They do not have a disorder, but they do need a careful attention. With this trait, you will find conscientious, observent, perceptive people; I would say that they often possess that "old soul" quality from a young age.  

You will also find strong, often difficult reactions to situations that would barely register in less sensitive people. They are both challenging and incredibly rewarding children to raise. Aron estimates that about 15-20% of people have this particular temperament trait.

So needless to say, we had not done much trick-or-treating with our young son until last year, when he was four. Other families start when their children are very little, with dolled-up babies that they bring around from house to house, and that may work well for them. But not for us. I'm guessing other parents with sensitive children also hold off longer than 'average' families.

The good news: I have some Halloween suggestions for families who have highly sensitive children. I think they could also be worthwhile tips for those who have children with sensory processing challenges, autism, or behavior challenges. If you don't have children like this in your brood, I urge you to read on anyway: my ideas will hopefully help you to better understand our children and to not make (the all-too-common) assumptions that our children are impolite, shy, undisciplined, or 'weird.'

The more people who can be open and understanding to our unique kids, the more we all benefit. All children have special gifts, but some children's gifts can't be appreciated unless we try a little harder.

Without further ado, if you are planning on taking your highly sensitive child trick-or-treating, here are a few tips that have helped us:

1. Wait a little longer. Is everyone else in your neighborhood waddling around with their easygoing, sociable toddlers? It can make you feel left out, right? Like 'what are we doing wrong?' You are doing nothing wrong-- and in fact, you are doing something very right-- by waiting until you have a strong sense that your child will actually enjoy it. There's no fun in dragging around an anxious, overstimulated child.

2. When you do decide your child is ready, let him choose his costume. No, they probably will not choose an elaborate, crazy, uncomfortable costume. They will likely want to wear something already within their comfort zone. My son chose to be a tennis player this year, which was fine by me: he simply wore sporty clothes he already likes and carried his tennis racket (his favorite sport). I didn't really care that other people spent 50 bucks (or hours of their time) on fancier costumes if my son was happy and confident in his simple homemade one.

3. Role play and prepare. If you have a highly sensitive child, you are probably already accustomed to thoroughly explaining and preparing her for new situations. Do this for Halloween too! Practice answering your door and letting her say "trick or treat." Prepare her for the (often loud, in-your-face questions people will ask (What are you dressed as? How old are you? Only take one candy!). Have her practice saying thank you (even if they don't like the candy). I can't even imagine taking my kid to trick or treat without rehearsing all of this. It will truly help your child be less surprised and caught off guard.

4. Keep it short. My husband and I always try to quit while we're ahead with both of our kids, but especially with our son. I believe that ending on a positive note so they form happy memories of the new event is key for future success. We went to about five houses when he was four, and under 10 houses when he was five, and that was plenty! No Halloween parties for us!

I'm happy to report that my son loved every second of Halloween this year. The role-playing, the rehearsing, the costume-choosing, the waiting-- it was all worth it to experience the fun of Halloween as a family, in our own way.

Remember, no matter what your unique situation is, what other people do is not what is always best for your children, and that really is okay.

How have you changed holiday traditions to better fit your children and your family's needs? 

~Julia @ Frantic Mama

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Monday, October 26, 2015

Why You Should Consider Volunteering

I know, I know. You are busy. You are stressed. You are exhausted.

Of course you are! 

If you're reading my blog, you are likely a mother with young or young-ish children. Taking care of their constant needs can easily zap all our energy and zest for life!

But hear me out! A lot of us go around preaching "take time for yourself," and I wholeheartedly believe in it.

So why is it still so difficult for most of us to actually tear ourselves away from the family for more than a 30 minute Target run here, or a stop at Starbuck's there?

It's the Pull Of Motherhood (which I wrote about here). It's just always there (or lurking nearby), isn't it?

So when I initially thought about adding volunteering to my life last winter, I wondered if it was even logistically possible. I was already so "busy." I was trying to work. I was trying to take care of kids. I was trying to spend time with my husband. I was trying to make and maintain friendships. I was trying to keep my house in some semblance of order.

Yet something was whispering to me: "It's time... It's time...You can do this."

Ever since I moved to Minnesota (about 10 years ago) I had wanted to volunteer with a therapeutic riding center based here (We Can Ride). However, for many perfectly valid excuses, I hadn't done it yet.

First I was too busy with work. Then I was too busy with babies. Now, I'm busy with both of those-- my family and my burgeoning freelance career. But if I don't do it now, then when? When I'm 50? 60? That was just too scary to contemplate. I don't want to regret things.

I bit the bullet, took the training course, attended the orientation, and volunteered one evening a week last spring and summer. Did it take major time and effort for me to make it to all of those? Yes!

Was I tired at the end of the day, often feeling like I was dragging myself to get into my car and drive the 40 minute drive to the center? YES! But it was a commitment, and people depended on me.

People outside of my family were depending on me. Once I finally got to the center each week, what a relief! There I was, for about an hour, helping people with disabilities enjoy the benefits of riding. I was contributing to something larger than myself and my own problems. I was connecting with new people. Interestingly, I didn't feel that familiar "Pull of Motherhood," while I was there.

I was helping others. I was enjoying something I am passionate about. My husband (or a babysitter, if he was out of town (again, another sacrifice) was with my kids. There was something about giving my time and effort to help others that overrode that typical "I feel guilty for my me-time" feeling that many of us experience.

Plus, wasn't I teaching my children the importance of helping others, even if it isn't always convenient? I hope so. After all, when is helping others easy or convenient? Rarely, if ever, but that doesn't mean you don't try.

If you find yourself feeling that uncomfortable Pull of Motherhood too often, I urge you to check into volunteering in a field you are interested in-- make it a brief, weekly commitment on your calendar. It doesn't have to be forever. Try it for a month or two. Maybe it's a memory care facility. Maybe it's a Humane Society. Maybe it's a reading buddy position. There are endless places that you would feel welcomed.

See how much you gain. See how much your family gains. And then come back and tell me about it.

~Julia @ Frantic Mama

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Thursday, October 22, 2015

Daughter Poem

I'm really excited that I bit the bullet a few weeks ago and tried my hand at poetry again.

I have always loved poetry, especially in college. When I was in school and first met my left-brain, practical, engineering/business-type husband, and told him I was majoring in English, his response was an curious, honest (and slightly befuddled), "So...are you going to be a poet?"  I laughed.

Because, sure, I would've loved to be a Poet with a capital P, but I tend to be realistic and thought it was safer to make a living teaching English for a while instead (you know the old saying, 'people who can't do, teach!').

This photo of my daughter was taken by my talented friend Michele at mQn Photography
It captures her true butterfly-like essence!

Alas! Maybe I've become just a bit of a poet after all, because I had my first one published on the venerable Mamalode last week-- my first choice publication for the piece I wrote about my daughter.

Mamalode's theme for the month of October is beauty. I didn't want to write another essay about how physically beautiful my child is-- while those types of essays are fine, and can be well-done, they're also everywhere.

What I really wanted was to find a non-cliche way to convey that it is my daughter's inner beauty-- her soul-- that I think radiates and defines her outer beauty. Yes, I want her to feel confident in her appearance and accept any 'imperfections,' but what I also hope for her is that she can feel good about who she is within.

See what you think! Here's the link.

~Julia @ Frantic Mama

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Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Getting Back in the Saddle

This blog isn't about horses directly, of course, but it is about believing in yourself, valuing yourself, and taking care of yourself as well as your family.  For me, that does involve horses.

One of my great passions in life is horseback riding, and as I've written before, I recently starting investing in myself again. When our children are babies, the job of Mother is so completely all-encompassing, all-consuming.

However, mine are now 3 and 5, and I decided it was time to do a few things for me (happy wife/mom, happy life, right?). One goal I'm currently working on (besides riding) is to expand my horizons as far as the topics and publications I write for.

Here's a little dream of mine that recently came true:

My first article was accepted for, the biggest Horse-related site on the web!

Yep, that's me! During an early re-introductory riding lesson (saddle seat).

I'm very proud not only to be on there as a writer, but to share that particular piece-- it's all about getting back into something as an adult that you might have let slip over the years. Sure, it probably isn't riding that you are hoping to reconnect with as an adult (though it is fun, I assure you!), but perhaps for you it is painting, photography, running, or tennis.

Whatever your goal may be, I hope my piece encourages you to take a risk and give it a shot.

Without further ado, here's the link to my article!

Thank you for all of your support, Frantic Mama readers!

~Julia @ Frantic Mama

Monday, October 5, 2015

Read this BEFORE you get sick!

Remember the scary movie Misery, with Cathy Bates? I experienced a small chunk of that fresh Hell this past weekend when my son, my daughter, and-- of course-- I got sick.

Not just "runny nose" sick. Not just "cough, cough, oh, I feel a little sick." But real, live Stomach Bug sick. Yeah, that kind.

On top of it, my husband was out of town for work. Across the Atlantic ocean. I was solo, fighting my own brutal battle while putting my kids health and comfort first (as mothers do. sigh).

Oh, the misery! The misery!

A few things did help the situation, and I am stocking up on these items again now so that when the next time this happens-- because it will happen again-- I want to be prepared. Nothing quite ups the misery factor than dragging two sick kids to the drugstore when you feel like a lump. Here's what to have in your pantry to avoid the madness.

Food to stock up on:

  • Cans of chicken noodle soup or broth.
  • Gatorade and ginger ale. 
  • Saltines. 
  • Black tea and ginger tea.
  • Extra credit: keep a stash of dry white rice in your house (the wheat has too much fiber and could upset your stomach more). 

I lived on the above for a few days. My kids also managed to consume toaster waffles and applesauce.

Sick Day Toys/Activities: Keeping a stash of sick day toys in a cabinet is borderline genius if you ask me.

  • Coloring books, crayons, a couple new kids DVDs, play-doh, and books are all good bets. Keeping the kids occupied inside all day when no one is feeling well is exhausting, but having a few "new" things can help.

Health Stuff

  • Peppermint oil: Whether or not you've joined the essential oils bandwagon, peppermint oil certainly can't hurt the situation, as it is supposed to help with nausea. I added drops of it to the kids humidifiers and mixed it with tea tree oil for the diffuser in the kitchen. I really do think it helped. At least my house smelled better.
  • Heating pad: I had terrible sharp pains in my stomach, and the heating pad helped.

  • Pedialyte Freezer Pops: I credit my sister with this one, who has told me to buy them for years. Store them at room temperature and put them in the freezer when needed; the kids think they are having a treat while getting rehydrated with Pedialyte.
One last help, that money just can't buy, were the offers from a few good (very good) friends to help us-- whether it was to bring by some food or even just to check in via text. It kept me [somewhat] sane.

What has helped when you and your kids have been sick? What would you add to this list?

~Julia @ Frantic Mama

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Thursday, September 24, 2015

Be Kind (even online)

Kindness is having a moment. Inspirational quotes and books about kindness flood the net.

But I wonder how many people walk the walk when they feel anonymous in the safety of their own homes, staring at a computer.

In a world where so many of us are hidden behind computer screens, kindness can easily take a backseat.

The term "internet trolls" has become popular in the blogging and publishing world as a way to categorize commenters who attack the writer's character or life choices in a demeaning, destructive way.

It's not like writers don't have backbones. Puh-leeze! We risk rejection every single time we submit something. We are sooooo very familiar with rejection. However, there is a huge difference between an editorial rejection based on the topic, essay style, or suitability to a certain publication and flat-out rudeness or character-bashing from a reader.

A friend recently shared a gut-wrenching, honest, real essay about her daughter, and the comments-- the comments!-- were awful. Not, "this isn't high quality writing" awful, or "I take a different perspective" awful-- neither of which are really too awful at all, actually, considering just how bad they can get. Those kinds of comments are matters of opinion and most of us can brush them off to a point.

The comments on my friend's piece crossed the line. Comment after brutal comment was ugly.  I won't be giving the commenters more fuel for the fire by repeating them here.

Here's what gets to me: It was as if these commenters didn't understand that what they were writing would be seen and felt by a real, actual person. As if a soul-less computer wrote the article instead of a mother, wife, woman.

We can all praise kindness as much as we want in person, but without that same mindset online, it doesn't hold any teeth.

There were also some supportive comments on her post, and if she's even still reading them at all, hopefully their support helped her a bit.

Let's remember the Golden Rule when it comes to our online presence-- treat others how we want to be treated. Pretty much a standard you could live your life by, right?

Are you a writer or artist who has experienced cruel remarks about your work? What was your reaction or response? Is it something we should just expect in a "free country," or should there be a limit to extremely negative criticism?

P.S. Galit Breen (a fellow Minnesotan writer!) wrote a great book, Kindness Wins, all about the importance of how we treat each other online. It may be primarily targeted towards tweens and teens (and their parents), but I also found it eye-opening and helpful as an adult who writes and reads a lot online, and as a parent who will have children old enough to be online soon enough!

~Julia @ Frantic Mama

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Friday, September 18, 2015

5 Friday Faves: Online Edition

As a writer, I spend a fair amount of time perusing the Internet, whether searching for inspiration, networking on social media, researching various topics, reading publications, or simply shopping and engaging in that familiar beast, procrastination.

Here are my 5 Favorite Places to Visit Online:

1. Blessing or curse? I'm not sure because purchasing some of my favorite items at Gilt's steep discount has certainly contributed to a higher credit card bill at times. Their deals on high-end clothes, accessories, and children's items cannot be beat. I buy beautiful birthday and Christmas gifts from here all of the time too. {You might still need an invite to join this site; if so, contact me through my contact form with your e-mail, and I'll be sure to send you the link!}

2.  Etsy. This site is chock full of fantastic art, accessories, home decor, and more, mostly made my independent artists.

A few personal faves: Dakota Midyght's Etsy shop sells colorful, whimsical pieces (think dreamy owls, cozy mushrooms houses, and baby dragons).

I framed two prints for my daughter's room from the Barking Bird shop, and I recently had an ottoman slipcover created by Nikki Designs.

Lunar Owls by Dakota Midnyght is framed and on display in our playroom.

3.  Mamalode. I've mentioned Mamalode before, and I surely will again. It's hands-down my favorite publication for smart writing about parenthood. [Shameless plug: You can find all of my Mamalode articles here.]

4.  Beautiful Booze. My friend Natalie has devoted the past couple of years to developing her stellar reputation as a talented mixologist, party planner, food writer, and photographer. The cocktails she features (all her own creations) on her site are beautifully created and photographed, and they would make any party a hit.

Classic Gin Martini created by Natalie of Beautiful Booze.

5.  Goodreads. If you are a bookworm, this is a great free site. You can keep track of books you are currently reading, want to read, and have already read. Similarly to Amazon, people can rate and review books here. Like Facebook, you can connect with friends on the site, as well as follow your favorite authors.

What are some of your favorite online destinations?

~Julia @ Frantic Mama

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Monday, September 14, 2015

"You don't get a break."

It was 5 years ago, and I still remember it. Alone, without my newborn son in tow for one of the first times, I stopped by the coffee shop near our apartment.

The barista, who had seen me frequently that summer, as it was one of the only places I was brave enough to visit with my new baby, called out as she saw me at the register, "Where's the babe?"

"Oh, he's home with my husband. I'm getting a little break, I guess," I stumbled, inexplicably feeling embarrassed by my new-found, short-lived independence.

"Break?! You don't get a break!" she exclaimed loudly, not without some humor in her tone.

Startled, I couldn't come up with a response, so I forced a chuckle, grabbed my drink, and instead of sitting peacefully at a table as I had planned, I hurried out the door.

Surely the barista wasn't trying to embarrass or hurt me. As far as she was concerned, she was engaging in friendly banter with a regular customer. However, to a sensitive, tired new mother, her words made me want to run and hide. Maybe it is absurd that I need a break, I worried. Maybe other moms don't need breaks from their babies.

Now, five years later, just when that very baby is starting kindergarten, I get angry inside thinking of that fleeting, seemingly inconsequential moment from my past. Of course I deserved a break! Of course I had the right to enjoy a latte by myself for a few minutes while my husband held our baby!

So here's my pay-it-forward to all the new parents out there. You DO deserve it. You 100% deserve it. Don't let anyone make you feel badly about taking care of yourself. Don't listen to that inner guilt-- far too easy to let fester-- when you are at Target by yourself for the first time in days/weeks/months and a friend with her 3 kids teases you for your "luxury" of being alone. Don't let your mother-in-law's warning that 'you'll miss every second of the baby years' sink in too deeply when you are feeling overwhelmed. Don't let yourself drown in the all-encompassing responsibility of parenthood. For me, Motherhood is like a gerbil wheel that never stops turning completely, so you need to take time for yourself in order to keep going.

We simply must take care of our souls in order to care for our families, and this means breaks. Breaks from being responsible for anyone but ourselves.

As far as the barista who cajoled me that day, I have no ill will for her, but I do resent the underlying implications of her words. I did darn well deserve a break that day, and I didn't need someone to make me feel any more guilty than I surely already did. Words matter.

I love and strive to live by J.M. Barre's (creator of Peter Pan) quote, "always be a little kinder than necessary," because you never know how much your words might impact someone else.

~Julia @ Frantic Mama