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.

Whew.

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 intrigued...here'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 LandsEnd.com (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?

PINK!!!!

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

P.S. Want to help spread the word about Frantic Mama? Try sharing this post on Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter. Or leave a comment. Or, just find me and like me on Facebook. All of these feed the deep dark emptiness in my soul. 



Friday, September 28, 2018

Exciting News



I'm soooo excited. My essay was accepted to be part of Jen Mann's newest anthology, You Do You, a collection of essays and poetry with an all-female line-up. What makes it even more unique is that women and girls of all ages contributed to this book, from high school on up!

Today is release day!

Jen Mann is the author and editor behind the New York Times bestselling book, I Just Want to Pee Alone (what mother can't relate to that? Genius.) and the "People I want to Punch in the Throat" series (yes, it's as badass as it sounds).

My essay in You Do You is in part inspired by my young daughter-- the girl in my life who constantly reminds me to evaluate how I'm currently living and how I want to live, and to make sure those are lining up as much as they can.

I am forever trying to set a positive example for both of my kids, fully aware that being a mother plays a powerful role in shaping our children's belief systems and futures.


I'm in love with the sparkly, pink cover design. 

My essay is also, in part, inspired by a frustrating trend I'd noticed on social media last year-- basically, women frequently giving so much credit to everyone else for their accomplishments. I saw a need to remind women and girls that it is more than okay-- it's the right thing to do-- to take credit for much of what we accomplish and achieve. No one does our lives for us, so let's take some credit where credit is due!

Here's the thing: I'm aware my story might rub some people the wrong way. It might come off as abrasive (or, one of my most hated terms: "femi-nazi." Just Yuck.), but it was a story I had to tell whether or not people would like it. As soon as I heard Jen Mann's concept, I knew this is the piece I had to write.

So if you're feeling inspired, intrigued, fierce-- or want to feel that way-- head on over to Amazon, iTunes, and Nook for Barnes & Noble, and buy your own lovely copy of You Do You. In doing so, you'll be supporting all of the contributors and our independent publisher.

Want more ideas on how to support me and this publication? Here are some simple ideas to consider:

  • Choose it for your next book club pick.
  • Give a copy to your daughter, niece, cousin, or neighbor in high school or college. 
  • Buy a copy for yourself and then save it for your daughter when she is old enough to read it. 
  • Share your thoughts about it on Facebook (especially if you like it!).
  • Give some as Christmas gifts to friends, sisters, in-laws, teachers.
  • Bonus Points: Boys and men can read it too. In fact, they would be a fantastic audience.


Thank you for your support of Frantic Mama and for all of the books I've contributed to! In the meantime, my wish for you is: YOU DO YOU!


~Julia @ Frantic Mama





Saturday, August 11, 2018

Summertime, and the livin's... not easy


Ah, summertime. 

The long, warm days. The endless hours with nothing to do except lounge in a hammock...strolling to a neighborhood pub in the evening to enjoy a mojito during the last light of day... yeah right.

I suppose there is a brief time in our lives when summer feels just like that. Elementary school, middle school (without the pub), college summers-- the times before you have a hardcore summer job or are working full-time, and especially before you have kids of your own.

I enjoy summer, I promise I do: I love warm, sunny weather, of course, and I love that it stays light longer. I love going to eat outside and dragging my husband to at least one big outdoor concert. I even love baseball games. I love that I can get my kids outside to play as much as possible. Being able to go to a park, go on a bike ride, play in the yard-- all of those things help the kids and I stay somewhat sane during the summer months.


But by August, this is pretty much what I look like:


Actually, she looks better than I do. She has real pants on.


By August, I miss being ALONE. I know everyone needs alone time, but if you are introverted (meaning your energy is restored by being alone for a significant period of time), then you really start to miss connecting to your inner life and attending to the things that bring you joy as an individual.

Plus, I now officially work part-time, freelance writing and tutoring kids with special needs. I work as much as I can in the summer, but believe it or not, I actually miss working my normal hours in the summer (namely, when my kids are in school/preschool). I love what I do, and it's extremely trying to get work done with two young kids underfoot, as you can imagine.

So yeah, I'm more than a little ready for the yellow buses to make a stop at our driveway...

But in Minnesota, schools don't start back until...wait for it... after Labor Day! We kick it old school here because everyone has to go to "the cabin" for one last hoorah.

All that said, I work hard to create a happy summer for my son, daughter, and me. I don't just stick them in front of the t.v.  or set my son up with the Xbox (though those tools do come in handy when I'm about to lose my sh*t.).

My favorite thing to do is head out after breakfast-- when I still have some energy and coffee in my system-- and take the kids to a new place. Nothing too far, and nothing too crowded (introverted, remember?). Bathrooms with running water are a real plus.

Just look at this cute gazebo we stumbled upon after I made them go to a Farmer's Market with me on Friday:

They even kind of let me take a photo of them-- together!


We also [attempt] to grow 'stuff' every summer. This year, my daughter was desperate to plant veggies from seeds. It was worth a shot. We planted cucumbers, radish, watermelon (yeah right!), and carrots from seeds.

Here's what we got:

Yes, carrots. Two of them. The tiniest ones of all time. And yes, we ate them.

And check this out! We even did the whole 'making s'mores in the fire pit' thing!

I'll keep this for proof that we did outdoorsy things!

I'm not perfect. Obviously. These are just a few Facebook-worthy snapshots of some fun things we did. 

This summer, I also raised my voice more than I would have liked. The kids tortured one too many babysitters while I was tutoring or attempting to enjoy a date night. The kids never slept past 6:30 a.m. all summer. Sadly, I don't think I got in a pool with them at all, not even once. Trust me, we haven't had a 'perfect' summer, and it's more than okay if you didn't either. 

In fact, there's nothing that bugs me more than moms feeling like they have to pretend, all Pollyanna-like, that the summer months are the Best Thing Ever. They can be great, yes, and they can also challenging, no matter what your work/home balance is. Life with kids is full of these so good/so hard periods. 

As always, I push myself to keep it real. That's the whole point of Frantic Mama, and it has been since the beginning, in 2011, when I decided to let it all hang out and connect with other moms who loved their children but certainly didn't love every second of Motherhood.


So here's to all the moms (and dads) keeping it real this summer. Cheers. You deserve it.

My friend gave me this delicious beer. It's friends like her who remind me why I like people.

What are you looking forward to this September? And yes, it's okay to admit it!

~Julia @ Frantic Mama








Friday, June 15, 2018

How I Became a Baseball Mom


When you become a mother, you learn a lot quickly. Whether you want to or not. Admittedly, some of these lessons are painful-- how to [always] put someone's needs above your own (nursing a baby when you desperately need to go to the bathroom, anyone?), spending an entire day at the airport entertaining toddlers, excruciating nap routines-- the list goes on. 

Fortunately, some of the best lessons we learn are good ones.

I recently learned something new about myself: I'm a Baseball Mom.

If you knew me before kids, this should shock you. I used to automatically yawn and grab a book when my husband put on a baseball game. Baseball looked like the most boring sport (besides golf) imaginable. The thought of actually playing it myself in some kind of adult softball league was laughable. The idea alone of the ball coming at me and hitting my square in the face-- not in a million years, thankyouverymuch!

But then something happened. Last spring, my husband enrolled my son in coach pitch. I didn't even know what that meant (if you are like me, it means the coach of the kid's team pitches to his team, and vice versa). My son was just turning 7 at the time, and while I could tell he had some interest, and I knew my husband had dreamed of this very moment, I dreaded sitting around all evening trying to entertain my daughter while watching a sport I didn't like. 

And yet...

I got to see things like this:


My husband pitches to my son. A beautiful moment. 


As the nights went on, and the warm Minnesota spring took over, I started to enjoy those long baseball nights sitting in a folding chair, watching these still-little boys play and sometimes goof around in their tiny baseball uniforms. My daughter, as it turns out, relishes nothing more than the innocent freedom she enjoys on the nearby playground area, making new friends. In fact, she begs to go to every single game.

My son just turned 8. He is in coach pitch again-- the last year before kid pitch-- and his team is getting better each game. It is truly an honor to watch these guys (some of whom are in kindergarten!) get their hard-earned hits and joyfully run the bases. I cheer just as loud for the kids who don't belong to me. And I actually mean it! I'm excited! 

My husband is coaching again, and I am so proud of him. It is a completely volunteer position which he devotes countless hours to each week. I love his whole coaching philosophy. Learning how to play baseball isn't easy-- it takes practice, attention, and you have to stick with it to get better. His whole goal at this age is to get the boys to like it enough that they want to sign up again next year. He could care less about who wins or loses these games-- he wants the kids to be a part of a team and have a fun learning experience. I've never seen him raise his voice (unless it's to put down a metal bat), and I think the kids feel this and have a much better time because of it.



My sons adorable teammates cheer him on after a hit. Nothing's better than watching the smile on your kid's amazed face when they hit that d*mn ball!


So even though the days are long and we are all more than tired by the time we make it to our beds that night, I enjoy every minute of watching these games. I've even watched happily through the pouring rain! So this month you'll find me-- the newest member of the Baseball Moms Club-- cheering louder at any baseball game than I ever could have predicted.

Motherhood continually changes us. Thankfully it's often for the better.

*This post was written in honor of FranticMamaHubby: Happy Father's Day! We love you!

~Julia @ Frantic Mama

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Thursday, May 17, 2018

Late Spring Means All the Feels


Just about any mother will tell you there are countless bittersweet moments that arise from the very beginning of parenthood.

For me, many of these feelings are especially powerful in late spring, a time when certain events/patterns/routines come to an end, and new beginnings are on the horizon.

In the next week, my daughter-- my baby-- will graduate from preschool. If you've been reading my blog since the early days, surely this shocks you as much as it does me. This is my second baby, who was born September 12, 2012. That makes her 5.5. (Yes, she missed our kindergarten cut-off by 11 days!).





Recently, I've been feeling myself tear up when a certain nostalgic song plays on the radio or when I'm dropping her off and picking her up from school. 

We drive by her future kindergarten and part of me is excited for this new chapter, I'll admit. For the first time in over 8 years, my days will be my own again. I'm excited to get back into the classroom again more, devote more time to writing and tutoring, take care of our pets and our house, and even indulge in a little self-care now and then.

But mixed into that excitement is a sense of loss. I'm sad this chapter of our life-- little feet in velcro shoes scrambling to get ready for preschool after her big brother gets on the bus, attending every one of those crazy and adorable preschool Christmas concerts, even just time spent lying around on the couch together in the afternoons...all those little things we shared for the last few years will be over.

I hope she'll still say "I love you" as heartfelt and as fervently as she does every morning now when I drop her off. Though I know surely these profusions of emotions will fade as she gets older. I wonder if she'll remember all the time we spent together, just the two of us while her brother was in school, doing simple everyday things-- eating English muffin pizzas for lunch, kicking an old soccer ball in the yard, making dozens and dozens of cookies, or just running to the grocery and convincing her not to dump every bag of Nestle chocolate chips into our cart.

What an overwhelming sense of gratitude and grief these transitions bring us. What's your next chapter going to bring?

~Julia @ Frantic Mama




Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Writing for Fun and for Purpose


Now that years of blogging has turned into a dream-come-true freelance writing career (not magically, but after long hours, patience, honing my craft, dedication, and many a bruised ego later), sometimes I forget why I started blogging in the first place: for fun!

Yes, the purpose of Frantic Mama was to reach out to other mothers and to serve as a creative outlet for the frustrations and joys of new motherhood, but it was also simply because I love writing and always have. Why not blog?

It's easy for me to forget now-- in a world of deadlines, nerve-racking interviews, and editor expectations-- that the primary reason I type away on my trusty little computer in any spare hour I have rather than, say...go to a yoga class or clean my house...is because it's a part of me. If I go too long without writing for the pure enjoyment of it, I start experiencing a very specific feeling of malaise that something is missing. It takes a bit of soul-searching for me to put my finger on what is causing the funk. Which is ridiculous because I should know by now.

Oh well.

Here's my point: One of my new professional writing avenues has been animal writing (yeah, it's a thing), often equestrian-focused. If you know me in person (and have for a long time), you know I'm kind of obsessed with animals-- big, small, tiny. All of them.

To live out my goal of having more fun in my writing and finding ways to contribute to animal welfare, I've volunteered to help out a dog rescue and adoption organization with their website content (NBRAN: the National Brittany Rescue & Adoption Network). I am really excited about it-- and to think, I'm not getting paid! Not a cent! And I'm glad! Taking on un-paid opportunities to write is the best kind of fun for a writer.


Photo from NBRAN Website: the National Brittany Rescue & Adoption Network

[Pssst... I can't keep secrets from all of you! I do have a wee bit of a side motive here: I'm working on convincing Frantic Mama Hubby that the time has come for us to add our (hopefully) final family member to our pack!]

Here's the rescue organization's site. I'm writing the bios for all the sweet Brittanys (one of my favorite breeds of all time) who need loving homes as well as other content/newsletter stuff.

In the meantime, I have a little takeaway for anyone wanting one: remember to make time for fun in your life. Of course I know writing essays and blog posts isn't everyone's definition of fun, but what's your definition of fun? And how will you make time for it in your own life to be the best, happiest version of yourself you can be?

Yes, you are busy. So am I. We all are. (Have you ever met someone who said they weren't). A third generation (very busy) Nebraskan rancher I recently interviewed said this: "Busy people find the time." If I weren't married, I'd fall in love with the guy! Truer words were never spoken. I totally agree-- if you want to do something, you can and deserve to make the time to do it.

I'd love to hear from other mothers (and fathers) who are busy with children, careers, hubbies, etc., but who make time for pure, un-paid FUN. How do you do it and what do you do?

Cheers!

~Julia @ Frantic Mama


Wednesday, March 7, 2018

New Family Member (no, not a baby!)



I had no shortage of pets growing up. Dogs, cats, guinea pigs, fish... you name it, we likely had it!

Then last year, my own family brought home our first family pet-- a sweet, tiny, fluffy calico kitty, Pikachu (named by my son). My little guy had been in love with cats as long as he could talk, and he got me on board quickly. As luck would have it, at the barn where I ride (yes, horses are another 'pet' of sorts), a quiet little calico looked less than thrilled with being a barn cat (year after year!).

She made the PERFECT transition to our home and we wouldn't trade her for the world. I think she was holding out for us all those years on the barn bench.

Fast forward a year, and welllll... I might have been scrolling through the Humane Society "adoptable animals" page late one night [#insomniaprobs] and happened on a photo of the most charming, unusual little creature I had ever seen. Upon closer inspection, it turned out he was a Lionhead Rabbit. And he needed a home.

The next day was Valentine's Day, and I figured it couldn't hurt to go take a peek at him and also give the other homeless animals some love on that day of love. My daughter and I had a wonderful time there and of course decided it was up to us to give the somewhat grumpy, fluffy gray bunny a new lease on life in a loving home.



The next day, I had things ready for him at our house, and he was now officially named Georgie (i.e. Sir Wigglestail III).  Naturally, he was shy and scared of us at first. But I read everything I could on rabbits, and he is really seeming to be enjoying his new digs, and we are giving him the space he needs to feel comfortable here.

He's a free-roam bunny, which means he has run of our entire upstairs most of the day! Yes, you can litter train rabbits! They are much happier when they have plenty of room to hop around. He loves his greens and his hay, and I've even caught him 'playing' a bit-- hopping as fast as he can down the hallway. I imagine he would say "bah humbug" a lot if he could talk, but that only endears him to us even more.

The only slight challenge has been introducing him to our sweet "Peeks." You see, cats are predators, and bunnies are prey. Yeah. Though they are both adorable little fluffy-fluffs, that doesn't mean they become instant best friends.


So far, the interactions are going fine. Pikachu and Georgie are starting to slowly approach each other and sniff (under our supervision). Georgie usually ends up getting gun-shy and offers a big thump and hops away. I have the sense Pikachu's feelings get a little hurt feelings from this, so I'm determined to keep trying.

Here they are! Doing their best to ignore each other!


Updates will continue! Be sure to follow our adventures with Georgie the Bunny and Pikachu the Cat on Instagram (where I apparently can't stop posting photos of them)! (www.Instagram.com/FranticMama).

Do you have pets? What kind and what will you get next???

~Julia and her budding zoo @ Frantic Mama

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Stuck at the Airport [with kids]



There's being stuck at the airport, and there's being stuck at the airport with kids. Catch my drift?

I live in Minnesota, halfway across the country from my entire family, who are currently scattered along the east coast. Flying to see them is a requirement. Somewhat last minute, my husband and I decided to take our kids to see their cousins who live in North Carolina. We splurged on non-stop Delta flights, of course, because anything to make traveling with kids easier is worth it, no matter the cost!

Fast forward a couple of weeks...

We get to the airport an hour and a half before our flight leaves. Everyone is excited. The kids are in good spirits. I hate flying, but even I'm excited to get on a plane to see my family BUT... the second-- I'm not exaggerating-- we survived the security line, I received a notification from Delta that our flight was delayed two hours. Collective GROAN.

Deep breaths...

"We'll go to a restaurant for lunch!" we agreed, knowing that delays are simply a part of life and we would get through it. Maybe we could have a fun little outing with the kids, you know, make the most of it?

Next thing you know, we are ordering our overpriced airport restaurant lunch... DING!... our flight was delayed another 2 hours. TWO hours. This means that a flight that was supposed to leave at 12:50 was now scheduled to depart at 4:30. Dear Lord!

Close to hyperventilating, I told my husband that perhaps it was in our kids' best interest to go home. Keeping them at the airport for four hours, with no real guarantee the flight would even take off, seems cruel and unusual punishment. I tried to get on standby for the 3:30 flight to no avail.

My husband calmly looked out the airport window, acknowledged it was below zero outside, and the kids would be stuck inside at home all day anyway, we might as well spend it at the airport... right? right???

Sure, I guess, I said, surveying the crowd, the shops, the fast food. And my kids, who were now angry and annoyed that they didn't get to see their cousins ASAP.

Hours later....

I will spare you the details of how we entertained a 5 and a 7 year old at the airport for the next four hours because IT GETS WORSE: We were given so little information about our 4:30 plane that we called Delta and rebooked the...wait for it... 8:30 p.m. flight.


Yes, they still managed a few smiles. But if you tell me "it couldn't be that bad," I will lose it.
You've been warned!


I still don't know if that was the smart decision or not, but we were scared they would cancel the 4:30 flight (supposedly there was some 'part' being flown in from Detroit... comforting much?), so we took a gamble and rebooked (and yes had to pay extra). At this point, however, we weren't going to have been stranded at the airport all day with nothing to show for it-- we would make it to North Carolina or BUST!

Hours later....

Woo hoo! Good times at the airport. NOT! 
If I were a different type of "mom blogger," or person in general, 
I'd tell you we had a blast. But no, not at all. 
We did NOT have a blast.



Yes, still there! You'd think we would have been used to disappointment by 8 p.m. that night (and another overpriced airport meal). After all, we had been at the airport since 10:30 a.m.

DING! When we were supposed to board that flight, the gate agent announced that the plane that was to take us to NC? The one we were supposed to be boarding in a few minutes? Yeah, that one was in Omaha, Nebraska. 

NOOOOO!

The tears I had held back all day let loose. I looked at my exhausted kids and husband. I decided this was definitely NOT in their best interest anymore. It was time to throw in the towel and get home. At least our cat would be excited to see us. Perhaps we could try to rebook for another weekend.

It was my KIDS who insisted they could do it. They could stick it out. They really reallllly wanted to see their cousins: they'd sleep, they promised. They'd be good, they promised.

My husband and I looked at each other. Okay, but if it gets delayed one more time, we are heading home. I was so delirious at this point, I can't remember if we said that aloud or whether we had developed a rare, airport-induced ESP.

By 9:40 that night, we were finally on a plane, heading southeast. The kids slept the whole time. My husband and I sat there in an exhausted trance. We arrived at 1:30 local time. IN THE MORNING. My mom managed to set an alarm and come get us (thus qualifying for sainthood), and the kids were in bed by about 2:30 A.M.

I fell into a bed I found somewhere in her house and woke up many hours later.

The point of the whole thing, the takeaway? Well, I must say, the kids were the biggest troopers of the day. I may have thrown in the towel several times that day if it weren't for them hanging in there and being enthusiastic about the trip. Plus, we had a great weekend with their cousins. I suppose it was worth it. Just barely. But worth it.

And Thank Goodness, our flight home was uneventful.

~Julia @ Frantic Mama