Gift Guide 2016 with Uncommon Goods

I have been a fan of Uncommon Goods for years, I buy a lot of gifts for people from them. So when they approached me about doing a post highlighting my favorite items from the site, I jumped on it. I only work with companies that I really like, that I feel are doing something really special. Uncommon Goods is one of those companies.

I like Uncommon Goods not only because they have some of the most unique and amazing products, but because they’re also dedicated to offering products that are sustainable and environmentally friendly, and mostly handmade. And they are also a founding member of B Corporation which helps consumers understand the impact of their purchases from companies like Uncommon Goods. They also give their employees benefits and living wages. They are all-around just a great company. So, you can find wonderful and unique gifts and feel good about the purchase.

This gift guide is not just for the upcoming holiday season (but, by all means, check it out for that too) but just for gift-giving in general. And heck, you’ll probably find something you want for yourself too, I know I always do. Follow the italicized header links below to find even more gift ideas, these are simply my handpicked items, but there’s so much more to discover for yourself on the site.

So, without further ado, Beth’s 2016 Gift Guide in partnership with Uncommon Goods:

Wedding and Anniversary Gifts

Are you going to a wedding soon and have no idea what to get them? Do you know a special couple with an anniversary coming up? Take a look at some of these great gifts for couples.

Personalized Hearts Four-Across Game

connectfourgame

This is what I’m talking about with the uniqueness of this site. What a fun and unexpected gift for any couple! ($75.00)

Custom Love Is Art Kit

artkit

I love this idea! A kit for making a piece of art together. What a way to foster a couple’s connection, and let them share their creativity, and create a piece of art that is unique and is theirs. And they will always think of you when they look at their masterpiece. ($70.00)

Date Night Bucket List

datenight

For the married couples. We all know how beneficial it can be to go out on date night, and sometimes the old dinner-and-a-movie gets stale. But what else is there to do? This cute gift will provide endless inspiration for that special couple in your life. And get another one for you and your S.O. too! ($18.00)

Gifts For Her

Uncommon Goods has a ton of great gifts for that special gal in your life: moms, grandmas, wives, girlfriends. You can find something truly unique and special. Here are some of my favorites.

Elephant and Her Little Peanuts Necklace

elephant

Mother’s jewelry can feel a little dated and antiquated sometimes. But this necklace is cute and original, and brings a little whimsy to the concept. Any mother would love this necklace to represent her role as mama to her brood. ($90.00-$115.00)

Birdie Bird Feeder

birdfeeder

I just love the simplicity and the beauty of this bird feeder. A winner of a gift for the bird watcher in your life. ($40.00)

Trace Elements Bath Salts

bathsalts

A special bath time treat. Sprinkle in the bath for the healing power of trace elements. Choose from Magnesium, Zinc and Copper. ($24.00)

Tea to Go

teainfuser

I am a big tea drinker, and I love getting tea related gifts. This unique cup allows you to steep loose leaf tea on the go. Simple fill with water, shake to steep, and open from the other end to drink. For any busy tea drinker, this is a great way to get that morning cup of tea on the go. ($28.00)

Gifts for Him

Men are thought of as hard to buy for. But not so, when you can find a beautiful and unique gift. Here are some of my top picks.

Beard Pack

beardpack

Everything he needs to keep his beard and mustache lookin’ good. ($40.00)

DIY Hot Sauce Kit

hotsauce

So he can make it just the way he likes. ($45.00)

Baseball Bat Bottle Openers

batbottleopener

Uncommon Goods has a wide variety of sports-themed gifts, but this is among my favorite. A bottle opener made from an actual bat from his favorite team, you can choose his favorite team. ($115.00-$135.00)

Desktop Skee Ball

skeeball

Everyone’s favorite arcade game, downsized for desktop play. Perfect for the guy who’s stuck in a cubicle. ($35.00)

Personalized Gifts

Personalized gifts are a great way to make the gift-giving process more meaningful. Uncommon Goods has a lot of really cool items that can be personalized. Here are my favorites.

Personalized Cutting Board

cuttingboard

For your favorite couple, new or not. ($159.00-$166.75)

Custom Lake Art Cribbage Board

cribbage-board

Made personal with someone’s favorite lake, or a lake that means something special. ($59.00)

Custom Etched Growler

growler

A handsome, sleek growler, customized with your name or a message. ($85.00)

Personalized My Alphabet Letter Blanket

blanket

For the wee ones. A personalized blanket they can cozy up with anytime. ($75.00)

This is just a snapshot of some of the amazing gifts and home goods you can find on Uncommon Goods for yourself or anyone in your life. If you haven’t seen their site before, I encourage you to check it out. Happy shopping!

[I received compensation in exchange for writing this gift guide. However, although this post was sponsored, all opinions are my own.]

 

 

 

My Meds and Me

This is a topic I’ve been wanting to write about for a long time, but I haven’t been able to figure out where to start. But I was reinspired this morning when I read this piece. A fellow mom in the trenches, chastised on social media for using medication to balance her mood.

I take an antidepressant and, on occasion, an anti-anxiety medication. Which frankly I find harder to admit on here than I did to admit I was an alcoholic. Because that’s just how stigmatized mental illness, and medicating mental illness, is in this country.

Now, anxiety is not a cop out, not some new diagnosis I’m trying out. Some of my earliest memories are of being anxious about something. A thunderstorm, having to hug grown ups I didn’t know at church, the health and well-being of my infant brother, even death. Yes, at four years old, I feared death. I won’t forget this memory. My parents were watching that TV show Fame. And in the theme song, it is declared, “I’m gonna live forever…” Which, of course, they are talking about living forever because they will be famous and therefore remembered forever. But my four year old brain thought, “Can you live forever? You can’t, can you?” And suddenly, my first time struggling with the concept of death.

So, anxiety has always been there. The one constant in my life. And when I got sober, my counselors and psychiatrist worked with me to treat the underlying cause of the alcoholism. Which was mostly the anxiety, peppered with depression to keep things exciting. And I took the medication as a last resort. They kept offering it, and I kept refusing it. But, you might remember from my story, I left rehab and almost instantly relapsed, and I was willing at that point to try any goddamned thing to help. And as it turns out, the medication helps. A lot.

And the medication makes me a better mother, not a worse one. In the article I mentioned at the beginning, the woman got endless negative comments about what a terrible, pill-popping mother she was. How selfish and irresponsible. And I take heavy issue with that. My kids don’t need me moping around the house all the time, struggling to find the energy to take a shower, dropping them off for school and saying goodbye with that hollow, far-off look in my eyes. They need me here, present, happy and capable of my mom duties.

And, as the woman also says in the article, the use of alcohol to “deal” with parenting is applauded and celebrated. You can’t get through one Facebook scrolling session without seeing a half dozen of these memes. “Mommy needs her sippy cup.” “Is it wine o’clock yet?” And the photo I see every mother’s day of a chalkboard sign outside what I assume to be a liquor store, urging patrons to buy their mom a bottle of wine because, “You’re the reason she drinks, after all.” I started collecting screen shots of these memes, to share with this post, but I had to delete them all off my phone, they were making me uncomfortable.

And honestly, I think my addiction took such a strong hold because I was caught up in this culture. I thought I was fine because I was just like everyone else. And I bet there are moms out there right now who think the same thing, but really need help.

I couldn’t even get myself to watch that new movie Bad Moms because of the party scene in the previews. I mean, this is the idea of what moms would do if they gave up trying to be perfect? Had a night to do whatever they want? Throw a kegger? The whole idea makes me sad.

I’m not condemning drinking here. Go ahead and have that glass of wine if you want to. But if you feel like you need it, then maybe think twice. And have compassion for those of us who struggle, and leave the picture of the coffee mug that says, “There’s a chance this is wine” off the social media.

And if you think you need meds, if a medical professional thinks you need meds, by all means take them! You will be helping yourself and your sanity, and some of us just need to exist this way. It’s not a crutch, it’s not a fad, it’s not weak, it’s what must be done. And let’s do away with the double standard here. A mom drunk on wine is more fit for motherhood than a mom that takes a Xanax once in a while? I don’t think so. And you know that’s not true, I know you do. So, why all this love surrounding motherhood and drinking on social media?

No, when I was finishing a bottle of wine a night, I was not being fun and blowing off steam and taking the edge off of parenting, I was fostering a terrible habit and putting myself and my children in danger. And when I take my medication, I am setting myself right. I am putting my brain in the right mindset. I am a better person for it, and will no longer apologize for it or feel ashamed for it. The article I read this morning has empowered me to feel proud that I’m doing something good for myself and for my family, and no amount of berating will make me feel any differently.

Take good care of yourself, my friends. If I learned nothing else through the process of recovery, I learned that we have but this one life to live. One chance to do it right. Make good choices, choices you can be proud of. Take care of yourself, no matter what that means. And treat other people with respect and give them their dignity.

Some Tidbits

I couldn’t come up with a whole post, so here’s some Cliff’s Notes on things right now.

1.Ferris is having trouble adjusting to his new school. Every morning at drop off it’s like I’m leaving him forever and moving to Venus. He cries and carries on, and I have to slither out of the gate while a teacher holds him back. It sucks. It has been better lately, but it still sucks. He is used to the co-op where I worked there at least one day a week, usually more, and I’m not there at all now, plus he’s there for twice the amount of time each day than he used to be. I could get him at noon if I wanted to, but I’m trying to be tough, it’s better for both of us. It’s a good school, I know he’s in good hands, and he’s always in a good mood when I pick him up. If we could just get the drop off to go a little more smoothly. Open to suggestions.

2. Bowie was made to leave school early on Thursday because he was gesturing at other kids with scissors and then with a sharpened pencil. So many things about the situation bother me. But mainly 1. While there is no excuse for behavior that puts other kids in danger, I know that often he does it because he is being provoked in some way. And because he is so sensitive, sometimes the provoking is probably pretty subtle, and a teacher doesn’t notice it. But rather than investigate the situation, they just punish him. 2. Sometimes he does this kind of stuff and thinks he’s being funny, and just needs it explained to him that it’s not funny and he needs to be more respectful. And because he was given a warning after the scissors, and then the pencil thing happened, I have a feeling no one sat him down to have a conversation with him. It’s a small school with a bunch of teachers, it can’t be that hard to have someone sit with him for a minute and hash it out. 3. I understand that a school has rules and we all have to follow them, but it is their responsibility to watch after him while he’s there, and I feel like they dumped the discipline on me, and didn’t do a thing about it. As I said earlier, I doubt anyone had an actual conversation with him, it was more of a robotic response. And sending him home in the middle of the day? That benefits no one. Ugh, in the end I know what he did was wrong and rules are rules. But just, ugh.

3. We got a new kitty! As if life around here weren’t hectic enough, we added to our happy family. His name is Wrigley, and he’s 5 months old, and he loves to play, and he follows Coco around like a big sister. He fits in perfectly with our crazy family, and it makes me feel happy to have adopted an animal. My kitty Nashua who passed away in 2013 was a farm cat, a gift from my Great Aunt. And Coco was found in a tree. So I’ve never done the dirty deed of buying a cat, but I had also never adopted before. And he had just recently been surrendered by someone, and I just felt so bad for him, probably wondering why the heck he ended up there. It’s nice to know we’ve given a deserving animal a good home.

wrigley

4. I am getting more and more used to life here. But the weather still eludes me. When it’s hot, it’s so very hot. And when it rains, it pours and floods the city. And now we’re supposed to pay attention to the dew point to figure out when we need AC. The dew point! I don’t even know what that is, but now for some reason I care about it now. And even when it’s not that hot out, the sun still blazes like nowhere I have ever lived before. So, it’s stay inside, or slather myself in sunscreen like I’m going to the beach. Because, well, melanoma.

5. Go Cubs.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

 

 

 

I Left My Heart in…well, you know.

When does a place start to feel like home?

This is a tricky question. I’m 37 years old, and I’ve moved around quite a bit in my lifetime. But, I don’t remember ever feeling like I was sitting around waiting for someplace to become “home.”

When I was a kid, we moved a lot. Pretty much every year while I was in grade school. But, places always felt like home because that’s where all my stuff was, and that’s where mom and dad lived, and so that made it my home.

When I first moved to college, I was just so excited to be there, and to have a place to call my own. I transferred in the middle of the year from junior college to state college, so for a semester, I had my own dorm room. Then the next year I’d have a roommate and a dorm room. Then an apartment for a few years. None of which I never considered to be “home”, because I could always drive up to my real home. I was just someplace I was staying while I went to school.

The year I moved in with my now husband, I suppose that felt like a home. It was an itty bitty place, not even as big as my current bedroom. But we set it up like a real home, it felt very homey, and we felt like we had made it a home in that “playing house” sort of feeling you get in a new cohabiting relationship. We had a few other places together before we got married, and it was the same feeling really.

When we got married, we were renting this dumpy little house, but it was a house and we were married so it very much was our home, and felt like home. We had even talked about offering to buy that house on the off chance we stayed in Wisconsin (we had been long planning to go elsewhere after college, but you never know what will happen, right?). Although, looking back, buying that house would have been a mistake. It was very literally crumbling apart. It would take a lot of work. But it was a cute little place, just what we needed at that time.

When we moved to California, Brien went there ahead of me to start his new job, and I spent six more weeks in Wisconsin to be in my cousin’s wedding and to tie up all the loose ends that go with moving long distance. I was so ready to leave there and be with Brien again, and so ready to live in California, leaving was easy and arriving was even easier.

Brien had semi-furnished the place, and he had the dog there with him already, and I felt like I had arrived at home right away. I missed my friends and family back in Wisconsin, but I did not miss Wisconsin. Wisconsin wasn’t home anymore.

And every new place we moved to in California felt like an upgrade. From our apartment in Silicon Valley, to a flat in San Francisco, to a house in San Francisco. Everything felt like home, especially after we had a baby. I loved San Francisco, and I loved that last house.

Then we were forced to move. The landlords who had been living in Arizona, and then Texas, were moving back and wanted their house back. Our lease was coming to an end and we had to move. In the time we lived there, we had another baby, and a whole bunch of life experiences, and moving out of that house broke my heart.

We found another place, a much smaller place, and it took a good long while for me to feel at home there. I was bitter about having to move, and bitter about downsizing. The location was nice, which softened the blow. Eventually I grew to call that place our home.

Here in Arizona, the feeling of home is taking a while. Even though we chose to move here. Even though the cost of living is amazing. Even though we own our own house now. Even with all of that, I’m struggling.

I hated leaving San Francisco. I had dreamed of living there for so long, living there was an absolute pleasure each and every day. Even when fighting for parking. Even when stepping over the ever-present sidewalk feces that is somehow a problem there. Even living with houses butted up to other houses. The magic of that city was never lost on me.

And I am still adjusting to the weather here. The hottest I ever saw it get in San Francisco was 89 degrees. And that was just one day. The coolest I’ve ever seen it get here was maybe like, 75 degrees. And that was overnight. The sun burns hot and bright all the time here. In San Francisco, the sun was a surprise, a blessing. Here, it is a constant, and it feels like a mean sun, in comparison. The half mile walk to and from Bowie’s school is torturous in the afternoon. I can feel the sun burning my skin. By the time we get home, I’m literally drenched in sweat. I’m not used to it yet, and I’m wondering if I ever will be.

The city, while still a city, makes me feel suburban. Everything is spread out. We drive a lot. No walking a block to the market to get the forgotten dinner ingredient. No walking three blocks to the (nonexistent) ocean. And the houses don’t touch. Something that probably pleases most people, and should likely please me, but it just feels weird, after 10 years of living that way.

Of course I like it here. There are a lot of benefits. A backyard, a front yard, less noise, more space, less sidewalk feces, and the aforementioned cost of living. I do like it. I am just waiting to love it.

I use the phone app Timehop, which shows you your social media posts on that day from 1, 2, 3 plus years ago.  The app is reminding me that one year ago, we were vacationing here. And it dawned on me, I still feel like we’re on vacation here. Like we’re just visiting for a while and then we’ll go back to our real home. And obviously I know that’s not true, but it’s a feeling I just can’t shake for some reason. I feel like there’s a place we need to get back to. Like we are permanently San Francisco residents, and that no matter where we go, that is where we belong.

It’s silly to even enumerate the ways the cities are different, and how many things feel different, of course it’s different here. I should take Tucson as a whole, and embrace it, and find a way to make it feel like home. Because it is, after all, our home now. I don’t know why I keep breaking it down in my head like this. And I find myself talking to people here and inserting the phrase, “In San Francisco…” a lot in conversation. I can hear myself, and I feel like the, “This one time, at band camp…” girl, I feel like they’re thinking, “When will she just shut up about San Francisco already?” but it’s as if I can’t help it.

I had the privilege and pleasure to live in San Francisco for a decade. And now my family and I have moved on. Why is it so hard to accept? I knew it would take time to get used to things here, I just didn’t know it would take this much time. I didn’t think two months in that I’d still be wondering, why doesn’t this feel like home? Am I being ridiculous? I’m being ridiculous, right? Have you ever had this happen? This unshakable feeling that you just belonged somewhere else?

We weren’t forced to move here for any reason. We chose this place. We chose this place for quality of life. For our boys. So, why should I be such a stick in the mud? Somebody tell me this is normal, please.

More Than We Had

My kids are so lucky. They have way more than I did when I was a kid. We are not rich, by any means. We have more than some people, less than others. I suppose I would categorize us as Upper Middle Class.

I grew up pretty well in the Lower Middle Class category. My parents worked hard and provided us with everything we needed. But we went without a lot of the luxuries that my peers took for granted. Especially after my parents’ divorce. Money was tight.

I’ll never forget this one time back to school shopping, we were at Wal-Mart and my mom and I had a knock down drag out fight because I wanted the $18 tennis shoes, and she wanted to get me some cheaper ones. I knew even the $18 ones couldn’t compare with what all the cool kids would be wearing, but I had a fighting chance with them, not so much with the cheaper ones. Eventually she caved, but I always felt guilty about it.

My kids have a lot more luxury items than I did. We can afford to buy them a lot of toys, the “cool” toys, video game systems, cool clothes and shoes, the cool lunchbox goods like Gogurt and Goldfish. Stuff I could never have had at their age.

And I’m proud to be able to provide for them in this way. It makes me feel good that they can completely surpass the keeping up with the cool kids trauma. I mean, my kids are unlikely to actually be the cool kids, but they’re less likely to be made fun of than I was. There will just be less pressure there for them. I’d like to teach them that none of that matters, but we all remember what it was like to want to fit in. And at least if my kids feel like they sort of fit in, then that won’t distract them from doing well in school, making real and lasting friendships and overall just growing up and adjusting.

But, at some point, we have to draw a line. The boys are getting to an age where they could easily fall into the spoiled camp. We don’t always get them the things that they want. And we are still very frugal shoppers. A treat now and then, and expensive Christmas and birthday gifts, but not every day showering them with goodies.

I’ll get them the $18 shoes, because I can. I’ll get them the nice things they want, within reason. And any big, expensive gift usually comes with a long conversation (poor kids) about the reason we’re buying the item, and how we will care for it to ensure that it lasts. Because, even if we were to get them every little thing they want, I still want them to respect their stuff and take care of things and know the value of that. I don’t want them to get caught up in the throwaway culture that I see so much of these days.

We’re also trying to teach them the value of a dollar. And the idea that things must be earned. Too many high school and college aged kids these days are more entitled than they could even understand. It’s not their fault. It’s not even their parents’ fault. It’s just living in a society where parents want their children to have more, do more, and make it further than they did. But too often, this manifests in parents giving and giving and doing without asking for anything in return, and ignoring every teachable moment that comes along.

I want my boys to have more than I had. I’m proud to be able to offer them more than I had. But, I also want them to know the value of things, they way that I learned growing up. I want them to value experiences over possessions. I want them to know the difference between wants and needs. And true needs. I want them to approach consumerism with caution. I want them to be savvy with money, and be smart about their purchases.

Someday, I have to send them off into this world. And I don’t want them to be greedy. Or to be careless shoppers. Or to feel like money is more important than it is. I want them to look back and know they had everything they needed, and more. But, I want them to be well grounded and realistic about money and life. So that they too can provide more for their own children.

Smelling Those Roses

This time of year is odd. On the one hand, it’s summer. The kids are home and free, and the weather is nice (albeit hot here) and there’s lots of fun stuff going on.

On the other hand, school is right around the corner. It starts August 4th here. And once school starts, another year of my kiddo’s lives zips right past us. All the pick ups and drop offs and homework and field trips, and then the holidays and there’s no stopping the freight train that is time when school is in session.

I try to slow down and enjoy the days that we have. But the boys are fighting incessantly, and it’s to hot to go and do many of the things we want to. I’m simultaneously willing the school year to start, and not wanting it to at all.

The Timehop app on my phone shows me pictures from long ago, when Bowie was just a baby and a toddler. And I can’t believe how fast the time has gone, and how big my kiddos are now. Even in pictures from only one year ago, they seem so small in comparison.

People often talk about what the hardest parts of parenting are. Having a newborn. Successfully breastfeeding. Getting kids to sleep through the night. Getting them to even just lay down at bedtime. Making sure they eat healthy. Keeping siblings out of each other’s hair. But I think when we really boil it down, it’s how quickly they grow up. It happens in the blink of an eye.

Every day they rely on us less and less. And eventually, they will rely on us very little, if at all. This is the way of things, of course. We did the same thing to our own parents, and they to their parents, but it doesn’t make it any easier to accept.

So, here’s to slowing down. Enjoying every moment. Playing Legos with them, letting them splash in the bathtub a little longer. Because these moments are fleeting. Gone in a flash. And even a good old fashioned sibling WWE match can be funny and memorable if you’ve got the right mindset.

There’s Nothing to Worry About

Anyone who knows me knows my love for the movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s. I don’t watch it that often now, but when I was a teenager I watched it probably 100,000 times. Besides my love for the beautiful and wonderful Audrey Hepburn, there’s just something so earthy and real about the story, and aside from the whole Mickey-Rooney-playing-a-Japanese-guy thing, it’s a perfect movie.

There are so many great lines from that movie, I quote it all the time. Like this little scene,

Holly: What do you do, anyway?

Paul: I’m a writer, I guess.

Holly: You guess? Don’t you know?

Paul: Ok, positive statement, ringing affirmative, I’m a writer.

I like that because it’s basically the same conversation I have with anyone who asks me what I do. I don’t feel so phony and useless knowing every other writer has the same insecurities. I have titled my writing Pinterest board, “I’m a writer, I guess.”

Oh, and:

Holly: It should take you exactly four seconds to cross from here to that door. I’ll give you two.

BAM. Do you know how many times I’ve wanted to say that to someone, but didn’t have the courage? I love it.

Anyway, there’s one bit of dialogue that sticks with me always.

Holly: You know those days when you get the mean reds?

Paul: The mean reds, you mean like the blues?

Holly: No, the blues are because you’re getting fat, and maybe it’s been raining too long. You’re just sad, that’s all. The mean reds are horrible. Suddenly you’re very afraid, and you don’t know what you’re afraid of. Do you ever get that feeling?

The first time I ever heard that dialogue I was like, “YES! Yes, Holly GoLightly, I get that feeling. I know EXACTLY what you mean!”

It just occurred to me that what she is talking about is anxiety. The kind of gripping and terrifying anxiety that I face, and many other people face, on a daily basis. The kind of anxiety that stops you in your tracks and makes you forget all about whatever it is you were doing. The kind that fills your head with panicky thoughts and makes you want to hide under the covers. Suddenly you’re afraid, and you don’t know what you’re afraid of.

And the worst thing a person can say is, “There’s nothing to worry about.” God, I hate that. I want to slap people when they say that to me. I know there’s nothing to worry about. That’s why I can’t pinpoint exactly what it is that’s making me anxious, because it’s nothing. If I knew what it was, I could deal with it and move on. But that’s the ugly blackness of anxiety. You’re just anxious. No rhyme, no reason, just sweaty palms, a fluttering heart, and the feeling that something, something is about to go wrong. The mean reds.

I wish I had known 20 years ago all the things I’ve learned about my anxiety in the past year. For one thing, that I have an anxiety disorder. Because I wouldn’t have spent so many years hating myself for feeling panicky and off all the time. I’d have given myself a damn break on those days I didn’t want to leave the house, but forced myself to anyway. I would have given myself more permission to be a little irrational. I would have stood up for myself to all the “There’s nothing to worry about.” and “You’re just too sensitive.” No, shut up, I have a real disorder. This is real. Why don’t you try helping me instead?

Anxiety is a monster. And I let it run my life for way too long. It’s better now because I have a better picture of what I’m really dealing with, but I’m still not in control. I still don’t know fully how to prevent a panic attack, or really proactively deal with one when it comes. I’m still full of what ifs. They can be small, like what if I don’t have fun? What if no one talks to me? What if I leave the oven on? What if I have to pee and there’s no bathroom? Sometimes they’re big, like what if I get hurt? What if the kids get hurt? What if the house burns down? What if there’s an earthquake? What if something happens to Brien? What if we lose all of our money? What if what if what if. I can’t turn them off, they have a lot of power.

But I try. I try to get through the day, and it’s better because I’m armed with a lot more tools than I had when I was 20. But it still sucks. It sucks feeling like such a weirdo for being so worried, and it sucks feeling like your chest could explode from the worry and it sucks holding yourself back from things because you’re too afraid of all the what ifs. Anxiety is real, and it has a grip on me, and others like me, and you just can’t understand unless you live it. If you know someone (besides me) who suffers from anxiety, give them a little hug today. Tell them you’re there for them. Ask them to talk out their worries. But, please oh please oh please don’t tell them, “There’s nothing to worry about.”

 

 

You’ve Got This

We all want to be a perfect parent. Some of us even already think we are. We do what we self-righteously believe is the right thing to do, in any given situation, and sit smugly at the end of the day, basking in our brilliance.

Or do we?

I think the more likely scenario is that we’re thrown situation after situation that we’ve never had to deal with, nor have we ever thought we’d have to deal with, day in and day out. And we sit in a panic at the end of the day, wondering if we handled all of those situations perfectly. The way a perfect parent would.

The inherent problem in trying to be a perfect parent is that there are so many different choices you can make and still be a “perfect” parent. Breastfeeding? That’s perfect. Bottle feeding? That’s perfect. Co-sleeping? That’s perfect. Crying it out? That’s perfect. Homemade baby food? That’s perfect. Store bought baby food? That’s perfect. See what I’m getting at here?

We make choices for our children that we feel are the right choice at that time and for that child. And so long as we have our child’s best interest in mind, and are not causing our child harm, that makes us a “perfect” parent.

Another problem with this perfect parent business is that we aren’t consistent. Those of us with more than one child know that you aren’t the same parent with your second child as you were with your first, and so on and so on for subsequent children.

For instance, I breastfed Bowie until he was 13 months old. I made about 90% of his baby food at home. I started solids at 7 months. I started potty training at 18 months.

I breastfed Ferris until he was 8 months old, at which time he self-weaned, and I formula fed until he was 1 year old. I made about 20% of his baby food at home. I started solids at 4 months. I started potty training at 2 1/2 years old.

Each child is their own little puzzle. They’ll be ready for different things at different times. You’ll have more time and more attention to devote to some things than other things, especially when baby #2 comes along. And each child has their own personality. Bowie has SPD and requires a little more attention and patience sometimes. Ferris is more daring than Bowie, and was doing things at 18 months that his 5 year old brother was still too scared to try. You have to treat them as individuals, and hard and fast parenting rules don’t work.

Most of the judgment of other parents, I feel, comes from the newbie crowd and the childless crowd. Someone who has no children of their own, yet has a pretty good idea of how things are supposed to work. Or, a mom with her first infant, with a whole long list of things she deems right and wrong for parenthood, without the actual experience to back up her claims. Parenting is one of those things you are not prepared for until you are in the thick of it. In the trenches, wiping poop off of your own face, trying to calm a screaming baby in a crowded public place, balancing a baby on your hip as you wipe a toddler’s butt, having all your lovingly homemade baby food spat back at you, running after your toddler at the zoo, the park, the museum, helping your Kindergartener with homework, being begged for the 100th time for a cookie you’ve said no to 99 times.

It is in these moments that you make certain decisions. Decisions you didn’t previously think you’d make. Jarred baby food, formula, delayed potty training, kid leashes, fast food, bribery, all those things you swore off, they suddenly become very attractive offers. And you decide that in life, there is give and take, weak and strong moments, and you know everything’s best in moderation. So you do what you have to do to survive, to stay sane. And that makes you a perfect parent.

Come For a Visit, Karl

I’m really wistful for San Francisco the past few days, as I figured I would be eventually. Our first few weeks in Tucson, I thought I was going to be fine. I love our house, our neighborhood is great, we’re getting new furniture which is always way more exciting than it should be. We found a local ice cream spot and a sushi place, and I found a great girl to cut my hair, and I liked it here. I really did. I mean, I still do. It’s a beautiful place filled with lots of exciting new things. But now I’ve got pangs for San Francisco that I can’t brush off. And I think it all comes down to…the weather?

Hear me out here. This time of year, San Francisco is chilly and covered in a comforting blanket of fog. It’s cold enough to bundle up on the couch with your favorite sweater and a fuzzy blanket and a hot cup of Earl Grey. My favorite way of existing. But, it’s not so chilly that it’s snowing or that you’re housebound or anything. You can have a fire in the fireplace if you want to, just for the coziness factor, but you don’t really need it for heat. It’s perfect. San Franciscans love their fog. They call him Karl. He’s got a twitter account. I’m dead serious. I miss Karl.

My first weekend in Tucson, it got to 110 degrees. It went on like this for about 4 days, and I thought, this is it, this is how I die. And now, the forecast says it will be 117 on Sunday. 117 degrees! I didn’t even know that was a thing. So now, I’m out doing fog dances in the backyard, hoping something will come down our way from the city by the bay. (I’m not really doing fog dances. I would though, if I knew what they consisted of.)

And what’s more, I’m very dedicated and serious about my half-assed backyard garden, and I just got my new fledgling garden going in the backyard here. All the books told me I could plant beans, so I planted a shit ton of beans, and since beans sprout so quickly, there’s already a bunch of beautiful little seedlings there. And how do you protect bean seedlings from 117 degrees? I want to go back to San Francisco where all I could grow was fava beans, kale and carrots, but I didn’t care because I knew how to grow them every year, without fail. I have all these options now, but I have to be so careful about these heat spells.

All the locals tell me if I can survive June, I’ll be ok. The monsoons come and cool things off, and then the fall and winter and spring are perfect and warm and wonderful. So, I bought myself my first pair of shorts in over 20 years (no joke, the Mean Girls in middle school gave me a complex about my legs of all things) and I’m sucking it up. I get out and garden and do other strenuous things in the early morning and late evening, and the middle of the day is reserved for jaunts to places with air-conditioning and things for the kids to do. The best of which I have found to shamefully be a McDonald’s Playplace. But really, it’s amazing. There’s cushy leather chairs and wi-fi. I can sit on my computer or in front of a book, drink a bottomless cup of Diet Coke and the boys can play on a playground that won’t leave burns on their tender haunches. I’m sure there’s a better option out there, but for this total Tucson newbie mom, it’ll do for the time being.

Where are you Karl? I’ll pay your airfare! It’ll probably be the first time some of these people have ever seen fog in their lives and you’ll get to be a spectacle. Please come!

karl

We’re In Tucson

Sorry for the lack of posting lately, but a long-distance move sure keeps you busy. It was a very adventurous move, and I’m so glad to be here in Tucson, unpacking and settling in.

When we left San Francisco, we had lofty plans to drive to Palm Springs, stay the night there, and continue on to Tucson the next day. But, a lot of last minute cleaning, an unanticipated trip to the city dump and a couple of minor snafus had us pulling away from the curb hours after we had planned.

We hit the infamous Bay Area rush hour traffic, and drove for hours but only made it 90 miles in the first leg. We stopped for dinner which took an exorbitant amount of time due to an understaffed diner, so we got an even later start again.

By the time we had actually hit the Palm Springs area, it was 5 a.m., so we took a half hour cat nap and decided to just keep on truckin’. We were tired, but the desire to just have the drive over with, and be at our new house was energizing enough to get us through.

We pulled into the driveway late on a Saturday night, and discovered we didn’t have water. We dealt with that, and then plopped our exhausted selves into bed.

Settling in has been going well. Things are finding a place, and it’s really feeling like home. We’re low on furniture, because we gave it all away when we left. But we have what we need, and we just got fancy new couches a few days ago.

Many neighbors have stopped by to introduce themselves, including some board members of the neighborhood association. It’s been great getting to know people, and I can’t wait to meet more people when the boys start school.

I still have moments where I miss San Francisco like you wouldn’t believe, but for the most part I’m fine. I certainly like it here, it’s a great city with a lot to do, and I love our house and the fact that it’s OURS. It makes it feel even homier to know that we own it ourselves.

So, stay tuned for stories of all of our Tucson adventures, there’s going to be a lot of them!