“Aren’t you scared it will happen again?”
That’s a question a few have asked since announcing my 4th pregnancy. I’m not offended by it. I’m open about dealing with postpartum anxiety and OCD. This is a part of my life, and many people know that.
I pretty much know it will come back because it always does. I think it was there after my first, and I was able to manage it without a diagnosis because… I guess I just white knuckled my way through it with only one child to take care of.
I know it was the worst it’s ever been after my second. And then? I found Postpartum Progress, and I recognized the symptoms in me, and realized this had less to do with my ability to mother and more to do with needing help.
After my 3rd, it came back, and I knew it. I saw it. I looked it in the face, told it to fuck off, and called my doctor. I was on Lexapro within a day.
And this time, I’m just as prepared all because I KNOW what it looks like, I know where to go, I know I have support.
I’m not scared because I’m empowered. I’m empowered because of Postpartum Progress.
So here I am, for the third year, asking you to help me support this organization that does more than anyone to empower and educate people about maternal mental health, and then moves those people to take action.
It’s time for the 3rd annual Climb Out Of The Darkness fundraiser, and while I’ll be climbing from the elliptical at my local gym, it’s not too late for any of you to find a team near you or start your own!
If you can’t participate in that way, I would love for you to consider donating to my COTD page. My goal is $500, and this year I’ve teamed up with the lovely Samantha Auburn of Auburn Jewelry to give one custom sterling silver pendant to one donor, to be drawn at random on Jun 30th.
Postpartum Progress is saving lives. Please help us reach more people by supporting the Climb today! You can read more about Climb Out Of The Darkness here.
When I first arrived at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital a couple weeks ago, I heard a few employees talking about their “St. Jude Moment” and how they were excited for us to have our “St. Jude Moment.” The best I could guess was it would be this magical moment that would brand itself on my heart like a hot iron. I figured it would happen quickly. This place, after all, seemed bursting with magic and joy.
As we toured the hospital…
Saw the patient art…
Talked with survivors…
Even as we saw research in action in the labs….
I was touched, moved, inspired, but was I having a moment? Maybe I wasn’t looking hard enough or opening my heart enough?
Toward the end of our stay, we got word at the last minute that we would be allowed to quickly walk from the Tri Delta Place,where we were serving hot food to families, to the ALSAC Pavilion, where the high school junior and senior aged patients would be heading to their very own prom that night. We could only stay for a few minutes.
I expected to see the patients, dressed in ball gowns and tuxedos, and possibly cry. And I did, in fact, catch my breath at the sight of a beautiful bald head in a pink dress escape the crowds of beaming parents and cheering doctors to step onto a luxury bus.
But it was when I turned from her to see if I could try to find her parents in the crowd that that hot iron struck my heart and the hot tears poured down my face.
So many faces of hope and joy looked on toward the children, and I couldn’t help but think what a massive moment this must have been for so many parents who heard the diagnosis of “cancer” or other life-threatening illnesses that St. Jude’s treats, and thought they might never get to see the moment that their son or daughter donned formal attire and took off in a limo for a night of dancing with their friends.
There it was. My St. Jude Moment.
I am incredibly honored to be working with St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital as one of their blogging ambassadors now, and I’m looking forward to bringing you all some more stories of the INCREDIBLE things they are doing, not just for the children they treat at their hospital and clinics throughout the country, but for anyone who benefits from the protocols and research they freely share around the world.
I expected to cry many times at St. Jude’s because of sadness. In fact, all my tears were tears of joy. It is a place filled with happiness and hope, and I am a better person for having experienced it.
For me, the first Christmas with a baby I felt like maybe we weren’t doing it right. So much of the holiday season is about family and tradition, but an infant has literally zero respect for any of your efforts. On that note, neither does a toddler.
We bought presents for him because that’s what you do, and we took him to see Santa, but the holiday still felt a little forced, I think.
The thing is, though, as our family has grown and aged, we’ve worn a soft spot into the routines of December, and now they are starting to feel like familiar motions that we all love and look forward to.
It’s not just putting up the tree while all the kids run around in Christmas jammies, hitting each other over the head with giant jingle bells. It’s beyond the 15 viewings of the old school Rudolph movie.
It’s knowing we will come together to celebrate and help others.
For Kendall’s 2nd Christmas (because were BROKE for his first one), we started picking a child from the local angel tree to buy gifts for. We added another child to our list for every baby we had as the family grew.
If I die tomorrow, it is my sincere wish that my kids simply grow up to love and do for others. I try so hard to model this for them. I have grand visions of them hosting their own coat drives and donating money from lemonade stands to kids with cancer.
So you may imagine how frustrating it was to take Kendall to buy gifts for our angel kids a few years ago, and witness his total tantrum meltdown in the aisles of Target because NO, those were NOT gifts for him.
But kids are born, selfish, right? That’s how they survive? Like a lot of things, charity and giving is something we learn, not always something we are born with.
“Mom, when is Jake going to come and tell us who to take cookies to?” Kendall asked yesterday.
Jake is our Elf On The Shelf. I am the boss of that elf, and a couple years ago I decided he was definitely not coming for an entire month, and he was simply going to assign random acts of kindness for the days he came.
The first year we did this was the year Kendall lost his mind over buying and then giving toys to kids we don’t even know who definitely won’t be inviting him over to their house to play with them.
This year? He’s chomping at the bit and I need to get my shit together and get Jake out soon. He’s eager to take cookies to the police, to bring the bell ringers hot chocolate, and he was thrilled when I showed him what I picked out for the angel tree kids this year.
We always try to pick kids around the same age as ours, and we get them exactly what they ask for. The 7 year old wanted Star Wars LEGO sets. The 4 year old wanted an Imaginext Bat Cave. Done and done.
The only 2 year old tag on the tree that I could find didn’t ask for any toys or clothes, but for a convertible car seat. Oh man, I know how big of an expense that can be. It broke my heart that this was the request a parent made on behalf of their child, but I knew I could help them with it. So off it came and into my purse.
I messaged a picture of the tag to the wonderful people at Clek- makers of fabulously stylish, modern, and SAFE car seats.
A week later, this beauty arrived at my door.
That’s not just any car seat. That’s a Special Edition Tokidoki Foonf.
Leyna looked on with frustration. Why wasn’t that car seat for her?!
But instead of losing faith that my children will ever grow up to understand the joy of giving, I just acknowledged her frustration, and then reminded her why it wasn’t, knowing that maybe not next year or the year after that, but that some year she’ll get it. They all will.
And really, what kid (or adult!) wouldn’t want that car seat for themselves?
Giving will become a familiar motion that feels like home and family, worn in that soft spot of December and year round, as long as we keep doing it.
Huge, MASSIVE thanks to Clek for helping me gift that little girl the coolest car seat in town. And because Clek sent this to me at no charge, we were able to gift the 2 year old little girl a pink tricycle, too.
Last September, I read a post shared on Facebook, calling out the empty intentions behind so many “awareness” campaigns. This one was specifically addressing childhood cancer. It’s a pretty powerful read.
It was shared by Cassie Sartin, mom of Sam Sartin- a now healthy, vivacious little boy who was diagnosed with stage 4 Neuroblastoma when he was only 5 months old.
You might recall the tremendous fundraiser so many of you helped me with here over 4 years ago. We raised over $9,000 to #HelpSam.
At the time, Cassie wrote…
I hear people talk about what their kids are doing or what they hope they’ll do or become and I just desperately want him to make it there. Scraped knees, school dances, best friends, hurt feelings, swingsets and playgrounds with big slides, peeing on trees, playing in the dirt… I want him to experience it all.
Now, 4 years later, she reports…
Sam has been off of treatment for a little over two years now. If you met him for the first time today you would never know that as a baby and toddler his tiny body had been through hell and back. He bounces off the walls, loves learning new things, tests his limits, asserts his independence, and would prefer to constantly be on the go. He can’t wait to start school next year.
(Isn’t that just the best update?! There’s more about Sam at the bottom of this post for those of you who have been interested in how he’s doing.)
When Auntie Anne’s reached out to me about the campaign they are participating in with Alex’s Lemonade Stand (a top notch charity that raises money for childhood cancer research), I jumped at the chance to collaborate, remembering how that blog post resonated with me last year.
Childhood cancer research is still tremendously under-funded. And while kids like Sam are beating it, thousands more are still fighting, like Antonio, who was diagnosed with brain cancer last year.
They all deserve the best shot at a rambunctious childhood, complete with scraped knees and school dances, right?
So while spreading awareness is wonderful, and a great way to visibly show our support for all the fighters and survivors, it’s even more important we take action whenever we can.
That’s why I’d like to encourage you, if you are able, to please head over to the The Mighty Fight’s campaign on CrowdTilt.com and donate what you can before September 15th.
$25 funds half an hour of childhood cancer research.
If you can’t take action this way, consider hosting a lemonade stand of your own for Alex’s Lemonade Stand. Cassie also suggests signing up to donate blood or joining the national bone marrow registry at BeTheMatch.org.
I’d like to end this post with more from Cassie on how Sam is these days.
Sam’s type and stage of cancer has about a 50-60% relapse rate (curesearch.org) so his follow-up care includes labs every month, and scans every three months to make sure he’s still in the clear. Scan time is certainly nerve-wracking, but in the day to day we are just living normal lives, whatever that means.
We had a little bump in the road when his routine scans last December showed that a spot we had been monitoring on his kidney grew larger. After surgery remove the mass it was determined to be renal cell carcinoma, a secondary cancer most likely caused from his neuroblastoma treatment.
Thankfully it had not spread to any other areas of the body, the surgery was the only treatment required. It will just be something we continue to monitor going forward. He does have some other lasting effects from treatment like high frequency hearing loss, but if hearing aids are the price we pay to have our kiddo here, we’ll gladly pay it.
I try not to tell people to “live in the now” or “cherish every second” because a.)Yuck. Cliche. And b.) Of course life and parenting aren’t without their frustrations. You don’t have to drink in every moment. But in the quiet moments, that’s what I do. I give thanks that Sam is here to challenge me and worry me sick and give me hell and grey hairs. He’s still here.
In the days following the earthquake that struck Haiti in 2010, I, like so many of us, was glued to the TV and any bit of news I could take in about how people were surviving and how people were getting out of there.
One story in particular kept me checking my laptop for updates that I would often see come through my Facebook and Twitter feeds. 2 women- Jamie and Ali McMutrie from Pennsylvania- who were volunteering at a Haitian orphanage (BRESMA) before the earthquake struck, were now responsible for 150 children who had no access to food and water. (BurghBaby.com was one of my sources of info for this story, and Michelle has continued to help Jaime and Ali, most recently hosting a formula drive for them.)
I remember reaching out to a friend of mine from college, a journalist who was on a boat on the way to Haiti, telling him their story, asking if he could please do anything he could to let people know these babies, at the very least, needed water. Fast.
Jamie and Ali stayed to see that all 150 children were safely evacuated, and then decided to stay in Haiti and open their own non-profit- Haitian Families First, which focuses on keeping families together, identifying basic needs and helping them beat poverty.
As each of our three main programs is interconnected with the last, so too, are the roots of poverty. We believe the way out of poverty is through education, social services, and sustainable, holistic assistance. – HaitianFamiliesFirst.org
Check out this video for more on their personal story of how Haitian Families First came to be.
Remember how I told y’all about SoapBox Soaps earlier this year? They’re a company that produces all natural, gluten free, and organic soaps. For every bar of soap purchased, one is donated to someone in need. Their mission really spoke to me because I just never thought how important something as simple as soap is to others. I signed up for a monthly subscription of 2 bars of soap for $10 because, well, we NEED soap, and it’s nice to make a small difference every month by purchasing something I know we’ll put to use.
After my post, the SoapBox Soaps team asked if I’d like to host a soap drive for a charity of my choice. I immediately thought of Jamie and Ali and all the families they are helping in Haiti. After figuring out the logistics (SoapBox Soaps is paying to transport the donated soap to Haiti!), we are good to go!
So here’s how you can help Jamie and Ali help families in Haiti: BUY SOAP.
For each monthly subscription purchased (2 bars of soap sent to your house a month) between now and March 18th, using the promo code Soap4Haiti, 2 bars of soap will be sent to Haitian Families First.
To make the deal even sweeter, the promo code Soap4Haiti also gets you $1 per month off your subscription as long as the subscription is active (making the subscription only $9/month, including shipping).
I know, I know… it’s just soap, right? Right. It’s just soap. Something so simple that can make such a big difference. Something we ALL need. I hope you’ll share this with your friends and family. I really want to see this drive succeed!
Please remember to use the promo code! Only subscriptions purchased with the code Soap4Haiti will be flagged for this particular drive.
More than 3,000 children’s lives could be saved every day with something as simple as a bar of soap and clean water. – SoapBox Soaps
If you know me, you know I’m a sucker for a good cause. When a Soapbox Soaps rep emailed me earlier this month and introduced me to their company mission, I was intrigued. Sure, she could go ahead and send over some soap. I’d give it a try, I said.
When the boxes arrived in my mailbox, I started to do a little research on their company. I was pulled in by their Vimeo channel, and immediately fell in love with the cause and the people behind it (who I’ve never met!).
It’s simple. You buy a bar of soap – a vegan, cruelty free, gluten free, eco friendly, made in America, free of nasty chemicals bar of soap– and they give a bar of soap to someone in need.
But Jill, it’s just… soap. What is there to get so excited about? People around the world need much more than just soap.
Right? Is that what you’re thinking? Because I sorta thought that when I got the email, I’ll admit. But then I realized that soap is such a small thing to me because I take it for granted. SoapBox Soaps is giving bars of soap to kids all over the world who can use it to prevent (potentially life-threatening) disease. They’re are giving bars to homeless shelters across America, and to disaster survivors.
I’m sold. I signed up for my 2 random bars of soap (you can also pick which scent you want) to be delivered to our house every month for $10 a month with free shipping. $10 a month to do something and get something we actually need.
And the actual bars? I tried them out, and they’re great! They smell wonderful, the lather is nice, and they don’t leave your hands feeling dry, but also don’t leave a residue.
Leyna approves, too.
I didn’t get paid to tell y’all about this. I didn’t even promise to put them on my blog. I’m just a little smitten by this company and their mission, and I think it’s something you might like, too. It’s $10 a month. You get something useful. You help save lives. I’d call that a win.
Shine the light.
It’s the only way to find our way out.
It’s the only way to find joy again.
It’s the only way to find solutions.
Shine the light.
Shine the light on love, on family, on holding tight to whatever keeps you going, be that your faith or your convictions.
Shine the light on real discussions about real issues… ALL OF THEM.
Shine the light on action.
Shine the light on humanity, compassion, and empathy.
It’s hard to get back to blogging… to get back to life right now. It’s hard to prepare for Christmas, to send the cards, to wrap the gifts. I’ve been thinking a lot about what I can do, like so many of us. And all I can come up with is I need to be a spark, a light. I need to take all this sorrow, which is slowly turning into a boiling rage, and make it into something positive.
I’m not here to tell anyone how to grieve, or how to act. I’m not telling you how to feel about these issues or what needs to be done. But I? I will be sending leftover holiday cards to lawmakers, and signing petitions that urge lawmakers to seriously discuss ALL the issues that came to play here- from access to mental health care to gun control. I will shine my light on those actions, as I also continue to shine it on my love for my family and compassion for others.
I’ll leave you with the most touching tribute I’ve seen to the Sandy Hook victims, from last night’s The Voice.
The ladies from HaHas for HooHas are really… special. I love them for their humor and talent (and Jen’s mad dance skillz), and am so happy they are helping me pick the top 10 Inappropriate Elves this year because I do NOT want that job all to myself.
They’ve also come up with a couple other ways to celebrate Inappropriate Elf season, starting with these cards and mugs in their Zazzle store that will help those affected by Hurricane Sandy
All the proceeds from the sales of these hilarious cards and mugs (perfect for that special sarcastic someone in your life), will go to a Hurricane Sandy Relief 501 c3 charity.
Tell your friends! Especially the ones who are oh so creeped out by the idea of an Elf that watches and reports on your behavior.
And the HaHas for HooHas girls came through big time on an Inappropriate Elf video trailer. It’s hilarious. My favorite part is the happy ending.
Don’t forget, you can enter your very own Inappropriate Elf until December 18th, but voting will start on December 7th. You can read all the rules and details here.
Here are the prizes that are up for grabs!
While we’re on the subject of charitable giving (?) I wanted to plug my friend Gina’s fundraiser. She’s trying to help low-income, urban families get baby carriers from Onya Baby to make life with a baby and public transportation a little easier. I think it’s a fantastic cause.
I am as guilty as it gets when it comes to getting swept up in the hype of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. I’ve sat in lines outside of Target at 3 in the morning. I’ve spent hours on my computer with multiple tabs open, refreshing Amazon for the latest deals.
I learned of Small Business Saturday last year, but didn’t partake much because I’d spent most of my budget in the big stores already on Black Friday. So this year, I planned ahead and am ready to support a few of my favorite small businesses this Saturday.
Image via AmericanExpress.com
I’ve included them and many more in this list. Some of them are friends, some are shops I frequent often, some are advertisers who’ve supported me this year, and some were recommendations of readers.
And while it’s even better if you can shop small in your community, these are some businesses that you can shop from the comfort of your home while you spend time with your families this weekend.
Olive Bungalow – One of my long-time blog supporters, and maker of seriously gorgeous gemstone jewelry. She’s even offered a special discount code just for my readers – babyrabies15 – which will get you 15% off your order between now and November the 25th.
Polished Two – I adore this jewelry maker out of Austin, TX. Her pieces are truly unique, and her prices are great.
Lisa Leonard – Not only is Lisa an inspiration to me, but her hand-stamped pieces are gorgeous and make great gifts.
Lifes Candy – My friend Mae makes gorgeous cloth napkins and coasters. The PERFECT holiday hostess gift! Or even a great addition to a tea set for a prim & proper little girl for the holidays.
The Paper Mama – Chelsea illustrates custom portraits that are sure to be the coolest gift for a newly engaged couple or young family, or even a pet lover.
Bloom Maternity – A sweet little maternity and baby online shop run out of San Antonio, TX. They even have a great selection of pedal cars and free shipping on orders over $99.
Three Peas Co. This is a business run out of California that sells some of the frilliest, most ruffly clothes and accessories for little girls I’ve ever seen.
Reese’s Pieces – This shop is full of custom painted wooden letters, growth charts and children’s art. Great gifts for new babies and growing kiddos.
Fleur de Stone – I ordered Coastergrams from this shop based out of Austin, TX last month, and I loved them SO much that I had to add this shop to my list.
Onya Baby – This new baby carrier company won their way into my heart with their generosity and their spirit to help others, including the small businesses that carry their products. Doesn’t hurt that their product is amazing.
Blanqi – If there is a pregnant gal on your list, this is a great gift! In fact, you can get 2 for the price of 1 during their BOGO sale this weekend. I L.O.V.E. this pregnancy support tank.
Mrs PTB Makes – This shop is full of seriously adorable hats for kids of all ages, and lots of other gift-able things.
City Craft – This is my favorite Dallas fabric shop. They helped me pick out all the fabric for Leyna’s PB&J-inspired nursery, and they have a great selection of ruffle fabric and laminated cotton.
My Fun Clothes – One of my long-time readers makes adorable “fun” clothes just for kids.
I Rock So What – If you have a blogger in your life in need of some new graphics, Jess makes some of the coolest, quirkiest ones out there.
Peawee Baby – Home to some innovative swaddle solutions, great gifts for that teeny newborn baby in your life.
Mamamade – This shop is full of eco-friendly goodies, including reusable sandwich baggies that would make great stocking stuffers.
This list is obviously just a very small fraction of all the wonderful small businesses. There are a lot of great ones listed in this Facebook thread on my FB page, too. If you have a favorite small business you plan to support on Saturday, feel free to share in the comments!
Happy Thanksgiving, y’all!