Month: March 2017


I remember once feeling superior that my lovely little human never went through the “terrible twos” and giving myself a pat on the back for (so-far) raising an even tempered, happy little girl.  “Oh, I bet that one’s a firecracker!” I’d hear countless times at the grocery store from people observing Ivy’s red hair. And I’d proudly, no, smugly respond, “No, she’s a pretty happy go lucky kid.” 

And then…

My child turned 3 1/2 and some sort of miniature demon has taken control of her to the point that I now look fondly back at potty training as a sort of utopia.

Now, I’m not saying animated movies are, in fact, documentaries based on true events, but if someone were to tell me my child was injected with night howlers by Assistant Mayor Bellwether in Zootopia, I may not question it.

I mean, she hisses at us sometimes.

When she gets really pissed off, she calls me by my first name instead of Mommy.  Let me just say, if you think the effect of calling your children by their full name gets attention, imagine having your three-year-old say to you (in the most dismissive way ever), “Ok, JEN. You don’t have to yell. I’m right here.”

And the tantrums. My God, the tantrums.

Here are just a few reasons for her full on fits in the last week:

  • I picked out her plate for breakfast.
  • I cut her waffles the wrong way.
  • I sang.
  • I said “Good morning.”
  • I wore my hair up.
  • I made eye contact.

I’d like to follow the above with somewhat of a disclaimer, because sometimes I do say, “Good morning!” and she responds happily. But I haven’t yet figured out the rhythm of her mood swings, so every morning is a complete crap shoot and reminiscent of Sally Field in Sybil.*

(Ugh. The majority of you are too young to even get that Sybil reference.) 

Anyway, it’s not just the randomness of Ivy’s moods that are shocking to me these days, it’s also the completely condescending way she executes her responses.

She matter-of-factly claims one of the following every time I ask her to do something she doesn’t want to do: 1) temporary paralysis;  2) utter starvation; and/or  3) hiccups (which, for some reason, she thinks is an illness).

She told me last week that picking up her toys was boring and too serious.

I recently asked her several times to please pick her crayons up off the floor, because our dog keeps trying to eat them. After giving her my ‘last warning’ voice, she put down the toy she was playing with, gave an exasperated sigh, put her hand up, in my direction, and shouted, “JUST GO ON YOUR COMPUTER AND WORK. I’M HANDLING IT!”


***This is the part of the post where some people are shaking their heads and saying to themselves, “Uh uh. No way would my kid talk to me like that. That child needs discipline.***

***And this is the part of the post where I respond to the above parents and say, “Screeeewwww you.”***

Three and a half has proven to be my kryptonite in parenting, to date. I had thought it was the first three days of potty training.

I was gravely mistaken.

I like to tell myself that this phase is teaching me patience and discipline in motherhood. But in reality, it’s only teaching me patience and discipline in alcohol rationing.

Because if this keeps up, we’re gonna need a bigger bottle.





When I was five years old, I watched Albert Peece* eat glue at our kindergarten table. I gagged uncontrollably the first time I witnessed it. As the child of a large animal veterinarian, I had seen some pretty disgusting things in my young life by then (those medical rubber gloves go all the way up the arm for a reason, people); but, for some reason, Albert eating glue unnerved me to no end.

Albert would eat glue almost every day during art. He’d roll it in a ball between his fingers and then pop it in his mouth like a Cheetoh. (I’m totally gagging as I type this, by the way.) But I loved art so much that I learned to tune out his nauseating habit and focus on my own paper, scissors and (appropriately used) glue stick.

These days, you know what feels a lot like tuning out Albert Peece and staying focused on my own art? Parenting.  Parenting in the midst of of noise and chaos and nauseating behavior. And I’m not even talking about the actual kids. 

I learned (and wrote about) pretty early on that staying in your own lane is an important key to happy parenting. But let’s be honest, it’s not easy. There are so many distractors from the outside world bringing us down, telling us what to do, how to do it, what to be angry about, what to agree with…

It’s exhausting.

I’m a stepmom to a teenager and a mom to a three year old, and there is so much that I don’t know and have yet to learn.  But there is one thing that I am quite positive about:  I can clearly identify the things that truly drain me as a parent and they have nothing to do with my kids.

1. Chronic Complainers.

I’m not talking about those of us who need to vent. We all need to vent. That is completely healthy and therapeutic. I mean, where would we be if we held it in all of the time? (Rubber walls and meals slid under doors comes to mind.)  What I am talking about are the complainers that never stop telling us how bad they have it, and how busy they are, in parenting. Whether it be social media or in conversation, they do nothing but complain. 

I don’t know if it’s because I have close friends who have gone through the ultimate pain of losing a child, or if it’s because of my own fertility struggles, but I have a low tolerance for chronic complainers, especially when it comes to their children. I’m all for commiserating together and venting while sharing our struggles, but when you choose to do it every five minutes, I lose compassion for you. And I think that’s the saddest part of this altogether, because I do have compassion for the struggles – just not when you constantly cry mama-wolf.

2. “Studies show” reports.

I admit that when I became a new mom, I paid attention to every new “Studies show” article I came upon. Learning about every ‘new study’ made me feel informed and like a good parent. And then I quickly realized that the new study reported yesterday conflicted with the new, new study released today and before you knew it, I was locked in my closet with a bottle of vodka trying to decipher if pacifiers were or were not going to limit my child’s ability to get into Harvard.

Enough!  Our parent’s parent’s parents somehow kept our gene pools going successfully without all of this information, so we can, too.

I still read a few reports here and there and make thoughtful notations in my head, but I no longer give them as much weight (or importance) as I once did.

3. Blind bags.

Seriously, YouTube. I will never forgive you for this.

4. The Comments Section… Of anything.

I recently had a post published on a very public forum and I very hesitantly read the comments section (with one eye closed and a bottle of wine for proactive measures). Luckily, that particular piece was pretty mild, so I wasn’t verbally crucified, but I see it happen every day. And it’s frightening. Had it been one of my past posts on step-parenting, I’m sure I would have been tarred and feathered and I’d be doing an ugly-cry right now instead of writing this.

The comments section of nearly everything these days usually ends up making me feel disheartened and disappointed. It reminds me there are some nasty people out there, which then makes me sad for my children and the nastiness they’ll eventually encounter in school, play and in life, in general.

5. Click-Bate Mommy Wars.

I enjoy reading posts, blogs and articles from other moms. I love that there are some great conscious platforms out there that bring together so many different viewpoints. What I don’t love are some newer platforms that seem to be posting click-bate titled articles purely because they know it will initiate controversy and discord among moms.  There is one network, in particular, that I recently unfollowed because it was clear they cared less about genuine varying viewpoints on parenting and more about starting fires for follows.

Differing opinions are good, healthy debate is good, sharing personal experiences is good.  But please stop perpetuating mommy wars with your ridiculous hook lines and asinine subtitles.  We are smarter than that and we are onto you.


Bottom line, parenting can be exhausting. Life can be exhausting. I can’t control the outside world, but I can control how much of it I let in and allow to affect my parenting.

I love being a mom. I am not a perfect mom and it’s not all cupcakes and rainbows, but I love being a mom. So, I’m going to focus on my own little piece of art over here and teach my kids to filter out the useless, unproductive noise of the world as much as possible.

Oh, and I am also going to teach them not to eat glue.

Because seriously, WTF, Albert?



*Names have been changed in order to protect the guilty.
**Fake names may or may not rhyme with actual names.


“I mean, you were never fat, but…,” a friend.
“Freshman 15? More like the Freshman 30,” a boyfriend.
“Over capacity on elevator! Elevator’s going to break because of girl in green jeans,” a stranger.
“She looks like she’s lost weight, has she? No? Oh, I thought she had…” a family member.

These things were all said to or about me over twenty years ago. It’s funny how I can still hear them all so clearly in my head even today. I know exactly where I was. I can tell you exactly what I was wearing.

No, wait, scratch that.  It’s actually not funny that I remember it.

It’s incredibly sad.

Words can do a number on you, right? It’s amazing how much power they hold, how quickly they can be rattled off and how long they can stay bouncing around inside your head.  Positive, kind words can stick and push you to excel, give you confidence, remind you what you’re capable of. Negative words can shatter your spirit, make you question your capabilities and leave you grappling with self worth for years.

My weight has always fluctuated. I was never naturally thin, but I was never considered very overweight. I have gained and lost the same twenty pounds my entire life (sometimes a bit more, sometimes a bit less). And I have always struggled mentally with my weight and my identity in relation to my weight.

So, as I was going through old photos last weekend, trying to find a particular picture from a trip years ago, I stumbled on this shot:

This is me on New Year’s Eve in 1999.

I remember this night. I remember that dress. I remember thinking I had no business wearing it (and not because it looked like maroon tin foil). I remember worrying that people would think I looked chubby. I remember holding in my stomach a lot. I remember drinking more at the party so that I wouldn’t be so self conscious. And this was during a thin time in the the never-ending hamster wheel of my weight fluctuations.

I look at this photo today and I think: What the f*ck?!

I wish I could go back in time and tell this 20-something girl that she is worth more than the shell that she is wrapped in.

I’ve written about body image before and my struggle with the same, but I want to be very clear: I don’t write about this because I want comments on how you don’t think I’m overweight or how you think I look great or don’t see what I see. As sweet and as kind as that is, I actually want us to learn that it has nothing to do with me needing reassurance and everything to do with why we are talking about it at all.

No matter what size you are, you can have body issues. Let me say that again: no matter what size you are, you can have body issues.  Don’t let people dismiss your very real feelings, because they don’t think you have anything to complain about. It doesn’t matter if you are ten pounds or one hundred pounds away from where you think you should be.  If you feel it, it exists. And there is no quota you have to reach before the number on a scale can do a number on you.

I wasn’t raised in a household where weight and appearance were a large focus. My mom was a naturally thin person and she never dieted or set a poor example with food or body image as we watched.  Unfortunately, somewhere along the way on my own, I decided beauty and weight were important to my self worth. And ever since that switch was turned on, I have struggled to push it back down or snuff out the thought altogether – especially since entering my step-daughter’s life and having my own daughter, Ivy.

I definitely have failed in the past as an example, especially in the early days as a new stepmom. My step-daughter watched me do every “diet” program out there. She overheard me telling my husband multiple times that “I just needed to lose…” and she was there as I joked about feeling like a busted can of biscuits.

Do I think small comments like this can do harm? Absolutely. Especially when they become a running theme in your household.

Months ago, I was attempting yet another new diet and every morning I would strip down and weigh myself, as my three-year old watched.  She has asked what the scale is numerous times, but she doesn’t (thankfully) yet understand what it means.  On about the tenth day of doing this, and looking over to see her waiting patiently to go downstairs for breakfast, a flash of complete shame washed over me. Shame, sadness and anger at myself.

One of the first things I started doing after I had Ivy was make decisions based on these factors: “Would you want the girls doing this? Is this something you would want your daughters to feel?”  And it has helped me so much to be a better person to myself and others. So, what was stopping me from doing this when it came to my own appearance and self-worth?

I finally decided to make a full stop. A full stop on diets, “skinny” gimmicks and the exhausting hamster wheel of “If I just lose this much…”

I decided that I needed to focus on health and less on weight. I spent hours online doing research. And I kept coming back to this Whole30 book.

Ok, I’m going to be honest.  Initially, every time I saw this Whole30 thing mentioned on social media, I thought it was something people were selling. I skipped right past it. But then I started to read about it and the theory behind it – and the main fact that this is not a diet. This is not a quick weight loss challenge. This is a way to learn about and look at food differently.

And it has changed everything for me.

As much as I loved this program, I also kind of hate calling it a “program” and saying it’s name, in general. It makes me sound like I’m writing a sponsored post and I am not. I’m writing to tell you how this has rocked my world and changed my mindset completely. And let me tell you, it took decades to get here, so hell yes, I’m going to write about it.

I am not going to go into the specifics of the program. (Sorry, you’re going to have to take the initiative and learn about it on your own.) I will say that the entire concept is going back to whole foods and eliminating processed garbage filled with sugar and mood-altering chemicals. Yes, mood altering. By eliminating some food groups for a temporary period, I learned which foods affect me positively and negatively – as well as a whole lot of other things about myself.

This is what happened when I did the Whole30:

  • My energy skyrocketed
  • My chronic anxiety lessened dramatically
  • I was diagnosed with PMDD years ago; my cycle came and went this month without the usual horrific mood swings (this one was a total shock)
  • My suspicions that I have a lactose intolerance were finally confirmed
  • My daughter now asks for yogurt and fruit for a snack or apples and peanut butter, rather than chips or chocolate (it’s amazing how when options change, littles quickly adjust)
  • Constant cravings for junk have completely subsided
  • I feel healthy

That last one? Yeah, that is the kicker for me. As the weeks went on in this program, I started focusing less on how my jeans fit and more about how great I felt. There is something about eating whole, healthy foods that makes you feel strong – and makes you think less and less about what number is on a stupid scale.

Did I lose weight? Yep. Am I going to tell you how much? Nope. Because weight loss is NOT why I did this. I started this program with the determination that I would focus on health and not weight. And that mindset is what got me through this and ended up delivering a whole new outlook on life for which I will be eternally grateful. I feel healthy and strong. And I’ll be damned if I ever make food the enemy in my house again. Not for me and definitely not for my children.

Whole30 is hard. It is. If you’re looking for a quick low carb diet that will get you in a bikini next month, don’t bother. You’re not doing it for the right reason. If you want to make a real life change and be more mindful about what you are eating and feeding your children, then do it. You can do it if you do it for the right reasons.

Decades of self-damage do not dissolve in one month and I’m sure I haven’t miraculously solved all of my body issues in thirty days. But I do think that I have finally found a way to live moving forward that feels nothing like a diet and everything like a choice.

The Whole30 may not be for you.  But if you are struggling with body issues, find something that does work for you. Keep looking. Find a way to live that gives you confidence and strength.  Retrain your brain.  Talk to someone, know you aren’t alone. Never stop trying to know better and be better.

Make that choice for you and make that choice for the beautiful little eyes watching.