Friday, December 2, 2016

Chronicle 63: Last Minute Gift Giving Guide


Now that the Halloween sugar high has crashed, and we've regained all our formerly lost baby weight during multiple Thanksgiving feasts, the gift giving season has officially commenced! 

Whether you're buckling down for birthdays, anniversaries, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or Christmas... chances are you need something to give your loved ones. If you're anything like me, you want the gift to be thoughtful and unique, but you don't have the time or energy to go traipsing around a billion stores while shlepping two octopuses around. And by octopus I mean child. And by child I mean eight legged creature who grabs everything in sight.
I've gotten pretty damn good at online shopping. So leave it to me, ladies. I've done the research, logged the man hours, and waited like a teenage girl by the phone for the post man to drop off mountains of boxes. I'm pretty sure I impressed him with my ninja quickness at opening the door and snatching receiving the packages. 

Quick Shipping

If you're looking for a super quick ship, Amazon is always the way to go. I bit the bullet and signed up for Prime when I first started teaching, and I never looked back. Two day shipping, baby! And 99.9% of the time it has reached me within 1-2 days. There was one time it took a LOT longer (three days, GOD), but it was an issue with the mail carrier. 

This is literally a one stop shop. You got your toys, your books, your music, your cooking utensils, your sex toys, your rugs, your purses, and your personal nose hair groomer. I mean, everyone on the list is covered.
A very accurate depiction
What I love most about Amazon is that their prices are competitive, you don't have to fight other moms hopped up on caffeine in the toy aisle or stand in a ridiculously long checkout line, and they even offer toys without that crazy cardboard (paper cut-inducing) packaging.

Unique Gifts 

Another site I discovered this year was Uncommon Goods. They have something for pretty much every age and interest, and their shipping is FAST. I got my shipments within two days, and they were neatly packaged in a blue box with a cute little gift card tucked under the satin ribbon bow. I opted for gift wrapping, because, hello! Exhausted (which is a fancy word for lazy). 

What I really like about this site is the uniqueness of the gifts and the price ranges. You can get something for less than $25 or buy the BIG GIFT. You know, the one big gift that towers over all the other little ones? Yeah. They got it. Checked most of my extended family off the list with this site.

My favorites: a bubble wrap calendar, scotch infused toothpicks, and this cheese and crackers board which makes presentation neat and easy!
 

Gifts that Give Back

*BESTIE present alert!!* If you're looking for gifts that support others, check out The Shine Project. I stumbled across their profile on Instagram after falling in love with their jewelry. The story is even more amazing.
This incredible effort serves to empower women who want to better themselves through education, but may not currently have the financial means to do so. The founder, Ashley LeMieux, also works directly with their families to help better their living conditions. The Shine Project has teamed up with companies like LulaRoe to create beautiful jewelry and clothing that serves a desperate need.


There are so many other worthwhile sites that sell awesome gifts while supporting others. However, quick tip: Do some research before you commit. Some of the most recognizable or common charities actually cause more problems than good, or don't donate as much as you would think. This is the one place where spending time and energy is necessary!

OK, y'all. The holidays are a stressful time and if we can diminish that and enjoy ourselves even a little, then this post was well worth it. Kick back, grab a cocktail, and click away!

Joy, love, peace & alcohol, 

The Hot Mama








Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Chronicle 62: The Primaries



March 15, 2016

To My Children, 

Today was Ohio's primary election. I took you to the polls with me because I want to normalize the experience of this process. Not just voting, but educating yourself about the world around you. I tried my best to explain what it was all about, but I found it difficult to answer the questions you posed. "Why did you push that button instead of that one, Mommy?" I stumbled a bit before answering, "I am choosing the button that I believe will help everyone the most." 

There are many men and women who want to help run this country. This is a very big job, and you have to be qualified in all aspects. "What does a President have to do? Are they nice?" you asked. Boy, I love your curiosity. Please never stop asking questions. "A President's job is complicated. They are supposed to look out for us and take care of us," I finally answered. This is the truth, simplified, but you will have many years to figure that out. 

This year, there are several men and one woman who want to have this job. The front runners are fast becoming Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and Bernie Sanders. Let me tell you something, children, there are two types of people in this world.

There are people who support cruel words and actions. People that use fear and ignorance to create chaos, who say whatever it is they think you want to hear, who promise that everyone thinks like you and have just been afraid to say it.  There are people that feel that because you are a woman, you are less than. Because you have special needs, you are less than. Because you are a different color or have compassion for others, you are less than. This type of person and their beliefs do not take away from you and what you have to give. Words are hurtful, yes. Actions are hurtful. YOU are not. 

Your kindness, intelligence, and inner beauty will take you far. Your father and I have tried to raise you the way we were raised. We were taught to work hard, respect others, to educate ourselves before making a decision, to ALWAYS finish what you start, and to do good for others. 

The ugliness around you should never stop you from trying to do good for others. Human nature has and will always have dark and light elements to it - the trick is making sure that you always see the light, in any situation. That is the second type of person. 

I can only hope that this is the type of person who will be taking care of us, who will be taking care of you.

Love, 


Mommy

Friday, February 12, 2016

Chronicle 61: Vulnerability



What is sooo great about being vulnerable? Why would anyone want to be so transparent? Or seen as an open book? Or worst of all, honest with themselves about the state of their affairs? Doesn't anyone have an agenda anymore? Don't you people know how many years it took to build these walls?

I have labored and toiled, brick after brick, applying mortar thicker than the bean soup that's been in my fridge for a few weeks. Blood, sweat, and tears, y'all (It must be important to me, because I don't like any of those things). To my credit, I did build a few doors, and maybe even a window. Those doors have been kicked in and those windows smashed, so they are few and far between. I constantly ask myself, "Is this fear or protection?" It's the gun control argument of my soul. Or perhaps a precursor to the zombie apocalypse. Just sayin'.

Happy-go-lucky left my vocabulary in middle school, when I was ridiculed for inheriting the worst possible trait, like, EVER: liking to read. Or my hobbies: Reading under my desk during school, reading on the playground, and reading on the bus. 
That's also when trust took a hike. As an 11 year old girl I learned that who I was didn't hold value in other people's eyes. Letting myself be who I was didn't make me any friends. Without knowing it, I steeled myself and thus began an anti-vulnerability campaign that rivals Kim Jong Un's.

I made it through high school with a few close friends, but also lost several along the way. I didn't allow myself to grow close to them. I listened to them, their earnest hopes and honest fears laid out before me like a buffet. I gave solid advice that I would never apply in my own life, because I knew it would break down my walls. I was the one that left before I was left. There's not one ounce of pride in my body for those actions. The lesson I learned was: this is working. You have control over who hurts you, and who doesn't.
The friends I chose understood me, had even been through similar life situations and didn't feel the need to hash everything out all the time. These people have always been there for me and only recently, after 20 years, am I allowing myself to be vulnerable with them.

What changed for me?

I suppose it was equal parts getting older, finding a spouse, having children, and getting tired of isolating myself. The sad part is you really get what you want behind those walls: solitude, and literally no one to blame but yourself (technically, part of my wall building was motivated by Sensory Processing Disorder - which I know now).
While this is a habit that is incredibly hard to break, I'm working on it every day. I started with my family, and the friends I've made since we moved. They see the real me and all of my earnest hopes and honest fears and crazy dreams. All my melodrama and heartbreak and joy. The ugly parts that I thought would push people away... In reality, it brought us closer. It's the human connection and I'm so glad I let it in. 

Love, 
The Hot Mama 










Thursday, January 21, 2016

Chronicle 38: Say What?! Wednesday: Traveling with Baby


A friend of mine is flying across the pond with her adorable 8 month old in a few weeks. For those of you who are interested, that is a 10 hour plane ride with a recently mobile little guy. An independent, mobile little guy. She wondered if I had any suggestions for traveling with a little one and, after wracking my poor, tired mommy brain, I gave her a few suggestions that helped me when my husband and I flew cross country with G.

Baby G, at 3.5 months, and mama!
Planning the Flight:

1. First thing's first, it is MUCH cheaper to hold your child on your lap, no matter the length of the trip. Many airlines DO have discounted seats for children under 2, but you will still pay close to full price. If your child is not mobile, you are allowed to carry them in a Baby Bjorn or something similar.

If you choose to buy a seat, then you must have a TSA approved car seat for your kiddo. Usually the car seat will say if it is approved on the side, or you can check the manual it came with, or even call the manufacturer. If your child is mobile, they may not want to sit in the car seat the entire time, so be prepared to end up holding them anyway!
Traveling with a car seat
2. Try to schedule an early/late flight. Most children do better in the morning or late at night, and will actually sleep after take off. The cabin pressure and motion of the plane combined with snuggling equals nap time! We left early and came back late, and G slept for most of both flights!

3. In that same vein, do your best to leave on a day when the airport is not as busy. This will make it easier to navigate the airport and security. If you are switching flights, pick a layover that is over an hour, preferably two. This way you can gather everything, de-board, pick up the stroller & car seat, etc. without rushing, panicking and running through an unfamiliar airport.

4. It is painful for little ears when the plane takes off and lands, which causes VERY unhappy babies. The best way to combat this is feeding your baby during this time. If you are nursing, make sure you pack a blanket or nursing cover to take on the plane. You are allowed a certain amount of pre-made formula, so check with your airport's TSA policies to see how much you can carry-on, and how much you can pack if your destination does not have the formula you normally buy.

5. You can check the car seat with its base AND your stroller for FREE at the gate. They will have it waiting for you when you disembark.
Where to check your stroller
6. Airlines will ask you to bring your baby's birth certificate to verify age and identity. They do not accept copies. Even if you have obtained your child a passport, take the birth certificate as backup.

Packing for the Plane/Trip:


1. If you are visiting with relatives, ask if they have access to a Pack n Play or portable crib. Many hotels also offer these for free or an additional fee, so call and check with your hotel. If you are unable to procure one at your destination, see if you can fit your Pack n Play into a golf bag and take it with you. 

2. Pack enough diapers & formula to get you to your destination, then buy the rest when you arrive. This will increase your packing space dramatically. 

3. You will need at least 2-3 outfits per day for baby. If you have access to a washer & dryer, pack less and make life easier for yourself! Also, take bibs that can be wiped down and don't have to be washed. You don't want to have to worry about rotting food particles stinking up your suitcase!
Easy Wipe Bibs
4. An inflatable tub is cheap and easy to fold up and bring along. If your destination is warm, it can double as a baby pool! I found mine at Buy Buy Baby, but you can also buy them from Amazon, Target, Babies R Us, etc.

5. Bring a backpack rather than a diaper bag. That way you can pack your entertainment/snacks along with the baby's and it is easier to carry.

Vacation:

1. Stick to your normal routine as much as possible! Nap times and mealtimes should not be delayed and /or missed. It will be difficult because you will want to do so much, but it will be to your benefit to avoid meltdowns when traveling AND deviation from your child's routine once you return home. Little ones cannot handle it as well as we. 

2. Traveling on airplanes can cause constipation in babies, so be prepared. Give a bit of water and juice throughout the trip to help them regulate (always talk with your pediatrician first).
Juice!
3. Take a small first aid kit with you. I always pack baby Tylenol & baby Ibuprofen along with our Dr.'s dosage recommendations. I also pack nail clippers, a rectal thermometer, cotton balls, and Neosporin. You never know when you'll need them! 

4. Don't panic if you forgot to pack something! Many times you can find what you need at the airport, a gas station, or Target/Wal-mart/Meijer once you arrive. 

Most importantly: have fun! Traveling with a baby can be stressful, but roll with the punches and everyone will enjoy themselves. Please comment or e-mail with any additional questions, mamas!

Xoxo,
The Hot Mama



Sunday, January 17, 2016

Chronicle 60: To the Mob Mentality Mamas



If we are friends on my personal Facebook profile then you may have noticed I've been posting some very personal things lately. This particular personal struggle has been overwhelming, life changing, emotionally & physically exhausting, confusing, isolating, amazing, you name it. I'm talking about Sensory Processing Disorder, which my son and I both have.

In a nutshell, a very LITTLE nutshell, sensory processing disorder is a neurological condition that affects how a person reacts to stimuli. Sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and touches will send our body into fight or flight mode. ALL. DAY. You can imagine how exhausting it can be with adrenaline constantly coursing through our bodies telling us that the ceiling fan, traffic noise, dishwasher, sock seams, shirt tags, etc. are too much to handle and we need to ESCAPE. NOW. or fight back with our words, our attitudes, our bodies.


There wasn't a name for this, really, when I was growing up. The symptoms of SPD can mirror those of Autism and ADHD, and I didn't exhibit obvious behaviors associated with autism and ADHD. How does a child explain or even know that what they're feeling isn't normal, or that they should be given specific tools to deal with a variety of situations? So, I taught myself and never talked about it. This is how I deal with it: I don't wear socks, EVER. I don't spend a lot of time around crowds. I disappear to my room when I can't handle noises. I text instead of call. I leave the mall, grocery store, or restaurant when I'm overwhelmed. Hearing someone chew is my personal hell - sometimes the movie theater can be, too. A lot of times my senses trigger fight mode to the point where rage builds up and I explode. I'm only human, after all.

Luckily, when Grayson started exhibiting signs of SPD I was on it. We consulted several doctors and now he is seeing an occupational therapist and making great strides in a Montessori preschool. The structured environment works well for him. Every day is a constant struggle. Not only is Grayson very energetic, but he is compulsively inquisitive, curious, and unintentionally aggressive with others. Everyone always says, "He LOOKS normal. You would never know something is wrong with him." Or the classic, "He's ALL boy, idn't he?"

How do I put this? Nothing is "wrong" with my son. We are dealing with a different set of challenges than you. Which is why I hate the special needs label he has acquired. Putting a label on Grayson entitles other people to treat him differently, to judge him, to see him as flawed and damaged, to expect less of him, to exclude him from mainstream society, to pity him, and to categorize him as a nuisance. How do I know this to be true? We have already experienced it first hand. And thus, I have written an open letter to the women who surrounded my son and I at the playground last week.



To the Mob Mentality Mamas at the playground:

I'm sure it was easy for you to misjudge the situation. One minute your children were playing happily on the jungle gym, and the next they were running to you with tears on their cheeks. They tell you through hiccuping sobs that a little boy hit them. "Who?" you demand, standing up to find the culprit. Up until that moment you had been chatting with your friend and staring at your phone, allowing your 18 month old to navigate the massive playground alone.

"That boy! In the plaid shirt!" Immediately scanning the playground, you don't see another mom, except for the one bent over a stroller, trying to strap in an acrobatic toddler who clearly would rather still be running around.

An older woman steps in, the weight of God-like judgement burdening her. "PLAID SHIRT! WHO DOES THAT KID BELONG TO?!" She repeats it several times until the mom at the stroller stands up, dazed and confused. She had literally just walked away from her son to put her daughter in the stroller. A mere minute, and now chaos was unfolding.

Sound dramatic? It was. After I was beckoned by the older woman, Grayson came out of the play area saying that the moms had told him he didn't belong. He came over to me, confused, clearly knowing he had done something wrong, but not understanding the situation. I was a bit confused myself. Grayson is sensory seeking, meaning that his neurological system needs deep input or pressure to stabilize. Sometimes he will bump into things or people to get the input he needs. Rarely does he push or shove to get that input, especially without provocation. The way he reacts to being overwhelmed can come across as misbehavior to those that don't know him, and don't know SPD. Believe me, he DOES know right from wrong.


Clearly, the children we were dealing with were angels and had no responsibility in the situation whatsoever. I brushed that snarky thought aside as I bent down to talk with him. "Grayson, it is never ok to hit or push, for any reason. Let's go speak with our friends and hear what they have to say." (I was pretty damn proud of myself for handling it this way. In reality I wanted to curse, punch, scream, and yell myself. I kept my cool knowing they would never hear my message if I got defensive. Again... really proud.)

We walked over to the children, who had been lined up in a row. The parents began to surround us. Really! They literally formed a circle around us, including the older woman and her friend who said, "We don't have any children involved in this." (Ummm, ok? Then why ARE you involved?) I could read anger and judgement on their faces, their arms were crossed, their body language was actually pretty menacing. I imagined tiny pitchforks in their non iPhone holding hands. It felt like West Side Story without song and dance to break the tension. Breathing deep and trying to calm my fluttering heart, I had Grayson speak to each child, apologizing and asking if they were ok. They each nodded, tears already dry. They were eager to return to playing and ran off immediately. The parents remained, staring at me.



I gathered Grayson up and said, "My son has Sensory Processing Disorder, and we are working on the social aspect." As much as I hated to say it, it worked. Their faces immediately softened, they actually took a step back, and then muttered an "It's ok" before walking away.

Of course I was MORTIFIED and Grayson had a meltdown as we left. He wanted some cinnamon pretzels, a request that was clearly denied. I wanted to dig a hole and hide. And then came the flood of retorts, the imagined things I would say and do given a second chance, all of which I cannot repeat.

I stick by how I handled it. My friend was there and watched the whole thing unfold. She could not believe what had happened. If Grayson was indeed "normal", then pushing is still developmentally appropriate for his age. What child hasn't acted out? What behavior exactly would justify closing in on a mom and her 4 year old son at the playground?

I will tell you this, mob mentality mamas. I'm glad you were there. I am glad you learned there may be a reason to stop before judging a child or mother. Or that this open letter reaches to hearts that need it. Thank you for teaching me that I can handle situations like this - that we will survive, and hopefully educate others about a disorder that can't be seen on the face or body of a child.

Sincerely,

The Hot Mama & her son <3

For more information on SPD: http://www.spdfoundation.net/about-sensory-processing-disorder/

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