Monday, November 28, 2016

The 5 Stages of Being Sick (When You're a Mom)

No one enjoys getting sick, but when you're a mother, illness is one of the worst things that can happen. Seriously. Life is already busy, challenging, and exhausting, and being sick adds cruel and unusual punishment to the mix. 

When moms get sick, we are forced to experience the following five stages:

1.  Denial: Denial occurs as soon as you begin to feel the slightest itch in your throat or rumble in your belly. You engage in duplicitous self-talk such as “It's just in my head. There's no way I'm sick again." You go on with your daily routine, ignoring the scratchy throat, stuffy nose, and swirling, twirling stomach pain. You have no choice in the matter. Perhaps if I ignore it, it will just go away? you wonder hopefully. It's a strategy that's never worked before-- on anything-- but maybe it will work this time.

Isn't coffee considered a Super Food these days anyway?

2.  Anger: As the illness begins to take a firm hold on your immune system, phrases such as, “No F-ing WAY!” and “I can't afford to be sick!” are hollered from the rooftops. There's a lot of slamming doors and cursing under your breath. “Who is going to take care of me? Who?!” becomes familiar to anyone who will listen. There's no patience to be spared. No one is safe, not even your spouse. Especially not your spouse.

3.  Bargaining: You begin to repeat solemn promises and devout prayers in your head; we'll call it Internal Bargaining. Promises such as “I will never order a venti mocha Frappucino ever again if I can just get over this stomach bug!” and “Please Lord, let me wake up feeling better, and I'll take the kids to any park they want. We'll explore all the parks in the city-- every single one!” You will probably also resort to more begging, er, External Bargaining, than usual, as in, “If you stop fighting with your brother for 10 minutes, you can have the entire bag of Skittles,” and “I swear when I'm feeling better I'll play hide-and-seek with you all day. Anything you want! Just let me lie down for 5 minutes.” And the sad thing is that you really believe it too.

I try REALLY HARD not to feel guilty about extra screen time.

4. Depression: There's no joy in life, no happiness to be found. When your mom advises you over the phone-- from 300 miles away-- to “get some rest,” you simply whimper at the impossibility of it. Crueler words have never been spoken, you think, staring longingly at the couch where your 3 year old is busy eating Goldfish in her pajamas and your 5 year old is busy hitting her with a sword/pillow.

5. Acceptance: The final stage. A sad, lonely place, best faced by drinking extra coffee and encouraging your children to indulge in extra electronic time. The recommended limit of two hours of screen time per day now feels laughable. We reach that limit by breakfast, you think, shrugging your shoulders, blowing your nose, and handing over the iPad to your 4 year old. At this point in the struggle, you are advised to avoid looking in the mirror or checking Facebook; nothing good will come of it.

You see, few things are quite as hard as life for a mom when she is sick. How are we expected to take care of everyone else when we can't even function? Repeat after me: It's not fair! It's NOT FAIR!

This message brought to you by Julia herself, presently wallowing in Stage 2.

~Julia @ Frantic Mama

Consider giving this book to a mom friend this holiday season! I'm in it!
It's hilarious!
It's available on Amazon.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Minnesota Nice & Organizer Burnout

Pet Peeve Alert. No, wait-- Double...actually... Triple Pet Peeve Alert!

I occasionally suffer from a mild, self-invented and self-inflicted disorder I've dubbed "Organizer Burnout." It basically means I get tired of being the Reacher-Outter.

While I like to sometimes organize a lunch date, play date, or outing, I don't always want to be the one who does it. I do my part, but ever since I moved to Minnesota, it feels like I get stuck in a rut where once I start a friendship being the Organizer with a capital "O," everyone kind of depends on me to continue that role indefinitely.

Well, that's a lot of pressure, and after enough time in the role, I start to feel taken for granted and a little wounded. While I might often reach out to new people-- that's just who I am-- I certainly wouldn't mind it if someone reached out to me now and then. I would be thrilled!

[Which brings me to a secondary pet peeve: when people run into you and say "hi stranger!" as a not-so-subtle accusation. Um, what? How do people not see that friendships go both ways? If you haven't reached out to me either in the last few months, why am I cast aside as the "stranger?" Why is it always the Other Person who has to initiate contact? It gets old.]

This brings me to my final peeve: the Minnesota Nice misnomer.

Minnesota Nice is a thing, kind of, sort of. People around the country think of Minnesotans as sooooo nice, with our quaint accented O's and our cozy sweaters and our Caribou coffee. And Minnesotans are nice, for the most part. I don't run into mean, grumpy people very often. Most people smile and nod; they enjoy surface-level chatting in the check-out line.

However, as for truly reaching out to non-Minnesotans, no, I don't think there's a lot of that going on here. It just doesn't seem to be naturally embedded in the local culture of those who were born-and-raised here. In that sense, I don't "blame" anyone. This is just how it is here, but it' been a steep learning curve for me as a non-native.

Of course, there are exceptions. I have a few lifelong-Minnesotan friends who have always been welcoming and warm. I really appreciate them. But in general, if I've wanted to break into a group of friends or meet someone new here, the onus is on me. I need to be the one to put myself out there, to plan All The Things, and to be, yes, The Organizer.

In the summer here especially, when there aren't any preschool drop-offs and pick ups, or any sociable school functions, it feels like almost everyone retreats into their private Minnesota comfort zones-- to their family cabins, to their siblings and cousins who live down the street, and to wherever "up north" is. It's as if the friendships I thought was forming all year, go poof!  and vanish from June-August.

Where does everyone go?!

I believe in cutting people slack, so no, I try not to hold grudges against those who fade in and out of my life. We all have our stuff-- our battles. Still, it can be lonely navigating the social world and the subtle cultural differences in this state, even though I've now lived here for 12 years.

My other tactic in making friends is building relationships with other non-native transplants. Several of my friends have moved here from other parts of the country.

The holidays are fast approaching, and it's easy to forget in all our busy-ness that many people around us do not have family nearby. Maybe they are from out of state, like me, or even from out of the country. Consider reaching out to them. When was the last time you invited someone new to your house?

For my part, I'm making an effort to reach out to the women I've recently met who have moved across the world to live here. The ones who may struggle with the language and culture, and on top of that of course want to make friends and feel secure in this new place they call home. This season, I am putting myself out there to be truly Minnesota Nice while balancing my tendency towards Reacher-Outter burnout.

Please note: I am not trying to rail against Minnesotans. After all, I have made this state my home and there are aspects about it that I love. It is possible the Reacher-Outter role is required of a newcomer in any state; I am just speaking from my own experience.

~Julia @ Frantic Mama

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Friday, November 11, 2016

Opposing Political Views Won't Destroy My Marriage

Don't worry, I'm not contributing to the incessant Internet ranting. I'm not ripping anyone to shreds here. I won't be telling you who I voted for, and I won't tell you which party I affiliate with.

I'm tired of the intense wave of negativity flooding social media.

[For the record, I didn't "hate" either candidate. Like we teach our children, hate is a strong word. I reserve it for truly horrible people who hurt children and/or murder people. I don't hate someone trying to run for president. I'm not going to use it hypocritically right under my kids' noses.]

Anyway, when I met my husband back in college, we found ourselves on very opposite sides of the political spectrum. You would think our relationship was doomed from the start, but it wasn't. We've now been married for 9 years, and together for 15. We still disagree about certain political decisions, especially when it comes to social issues and constitutional amendments.

But do we fight like cats and dogs, and "hate" each other for holding opposing views? No.

During and after the recent election, I've thought a lot about how politics impacts our relationship and here's what I've decided: while it would certainly be easier to agree on everything on the ballot, we wouldn't have learned or grown nearly as much as we have over the past decade or so if we did.

Being forced to snuggle up on the couch with someone who on the surface appears to have completely different political views forces you to ask questions and learn-- and most important-- listen. There is so little listening going on in the world.

I think my husband is smart and educated, and hopefully he thinks the same of me. Seeing an intelligent person who you love in action, defending their views, makes you think much harder. It humanizes the 'other side,' and it also makes us look at ways to support our own beliefs or perhaps even question them. Something I think would do us all some good.

More than anything, I think what helps us stay relatively afloat is that underneath it all, my husband and I do share the same priorities and values-- the value of family and hard work, the importance of keeping people safe, and the necessity of a good education-- we just sometimes think different paths will get us there.

Plus, a roomful of interesting people who all agree with each other can quickly spiral into a roomful of holier-than-thou know-it-alls. No thanks. 

Politics won't be wrecking my marriage anytime soon. Our situation has made me more open-minded and less judgmental. I hope my husband feels the same way. Politics shouldn't be based on constantly trying to change someone's mind to agree with you; to me, it's about opening up our own minds.

My marriage has made me look at things through more than one lens, and I feel lucky for that opportunity. And underlying and despite all of it, I can always admire how passionate my husband is in his beliefs.

Hopefully we can continue to weather life's storms. 

How about you? Do you and your spouse agree politically? If not, how does it affect you?

~Julia @ Frantic Mama

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Magic Potions and Flying Machines

When I was a little kid, I remember trying to prove that that old saying, "anything is possible," was true. I believed it; all the books and stories and fairy tales purported it as fact, so it must be true, right?

When my older siblings tried to stump me on my quest to find solutions and abilities for anything, they would state the impossible (say, flying up to the moon without a rocket), and my final answer-- my trump card and old standby-- was always "you could make a magic potion for that!"

Ha! Top that!

There's nothing a magic potion can't solve.

Somewhere along the way, I must have realized that magic potions-- especially ones that enable humans to spring up from the earth and blast into space-- aren't real. I must have realized that some things really are impossible. Well that sucks.

I feel a little ripped off about this whole magic potion thing. Same with anything we saw in The Jetsons, and of course the flying cars we were promised in the 80's. Where are those, I ask you?

As parents, are we to purport the glorious, wonderful, impossible idea that anything is possible, when in fact, no, not every single thing you can think of is possible? Time travel? Tooth fairies? Yoda? Turning invisible? I kind of hate that none of that exists, because it would be awesome, but as far as I know, they don't.

OMG! I had forgotten about their adorable little pet. I WANT ONE OF THOSE!

So do we squash that imagination in our children as a way for them to understand the difference between fiction and reality? To protect them from the streetwise kid on the playground (who has older siblings) who gleefully informs them there is no Santa, and there is certainly no Easter Bunny or Superman.

Or do we insouciantly encourage it, knowing that they'll find out the truth later on. It's fun while it lasts and all? How sad that day will be!

I have no answers. No magic book kept for centuries in a crumbling old castle, and no wise old elf, that tells me the right thing to do. I wish we could let our children believe it all until one day it all really does come true.

~Julia @ Frantic Mama

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Sunday, November 6, 2016

Yes My Kids are Picky Eaters, Now Mind Your Own Beeswax

"Your kid doesn't like pizza?!"
"He won't eat mac n cheese?!"
"Just let them go hungry if they won't eat!"
"What kid doesn't like chocolate milk?"

No. No. Nope. And NO!! Just shut up.

Sorry. That sounds harsh, but ugh, I'm just so sick of other people caring so much about what food goes into my children's stomachs.

Seriously. It's weird if you think about it. Why on earth are some people so fascinated about the fact that my kids are, ehem, discerning eaters?

Sure, I would love it if they would eat whatever I made them, but that's not happening. So let's quit the judgment and the scandalized ooohs and ahhhhs right there, folks. They're my kids, not yours. Simmer down.

I'm quite certain some of their pickiness is my fault. [Every 'problem behavior' is the mom's fault, right? (insert half-hearted chuckle)]. Sigh. I serve my children the foods they like, which happen to be simple, rather plain ones; my theory has been and currently still is this: a fed child is a happy child. (Or, at least, a tolerable one).

Would I rather them be hungry and crabby because they wouldn't eat the angel-hair pasta/vegan stir fry/vegetable melange, or would I rather them be decent human beings because I fed them the plain grilled chicken they like with a side of grapes and carrot sticks? The second option. Absolutely the second option.

That's my choice. It's what works best for us, even though it isn't always easy, convenient, or very popular. Let's all just exhale and remember that all families are different, and that I'm not judging you for your choices, and those of us living with picky eaters would appreciate the same treatment.

Like the old saying goes, what goes around comes around. We can all be on our high horses until we're the ones picking our way along a precarious path.

~Julia @ Frantic Mama

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