No Zoo For You: Confession of an Anxious Mommy

Last week when I picked up my 3.5 year old son Julian from preschool, his teacher Miss G mentioned that she’d like to take the four children in the program on a field trip to the zoo or children’s museum the following week to celebrate the last day of school. I was immediately taken aback. My baby riding in a car on the expressway to a destination nearly an hour away with someone other than my husband or me? My heart skipped a beat.

I tried to play it cool because logically I knew that Julian would probably be just fine. Also it’s not like I don’t trust this teacher. She was Ava’s preschool teacher since Ava was three and became Julian’s teacher this year as well. She’s an amazing person and I have no doubt that she would take great care to protect my child on the field trip. Yet, I couldn’t shake the feeling that this just didn’t feel right. (It didn’t help that I’d recently watched a 7 minute video of horrific car wrecks that someone posted on Facebook. Why do I do this to myself?)

I emailed a friend who also has children at the preschool to see how she felt about it (and confirm whether or not I was an overreacting freak). She said she’d let the teacher take her kids on other outings before and she was OK with it. But she said she understood how I felt and encouraged me to tell Miss G if I was uncomfortable with it.

I thought about it some more and figured I’d just muscle through it. “Julian would be fine,” I kept telling myself. “I completely trust Miss G with him.”

I saw Miss G at the May Pole Celebration this Sunday and we were talking more about the impending field trip. I must have seemed a bit reluctant because she suddenly said, “I’m sorry, I should have asked you if you were OK with this. Are you?” I confessed. I told her I wanted to be OK with it, but the truth was that I wasn’t completely OK. She offered to let me go along with them, but due to prior commitments that day, I just couldn’t do it. I told her I would be OK and that the field trip was fine. Apparently I lied.

The next day my anxiety disorder – that has been for the most part under control for almost a year – kicked into high gear. My throat felt tight, like it was closing up. It’s a feeling I’m all too familiar with, as it was one of my many anxiety systems when I was in the thick of the illness. I knew better than to get freaked out about it, even though it’s a very unpleasant feeling, and instead tried to figure out what could be causing it. Surprisingly, the field trip was not the first thing that came to mind. As you may know, we are in the process of selling our house and buying a new one – both of which are causing my stress level to be higher than normal. So I figured it was the house stuff getting to me even though nothing in particular had happened in the last few days.

I tried not to dwell on the anxiety, but the field trip must have been in the back of my mind because out of the blue I decided to ask Twitter (my favorite sounding board) at what age they let their child ride with another person (outside of family) for the first time and if they were nervous about it. I got a lot of feedback. Most responded that it was very hard the first time. Others said they hadn’t let their child ride with another person yet. Others said they do it and it’s fine.

It made me realize that even when my 5 year old was scheduled to go on a field trip with her kindergarten class (also to a destination nearly an hour away), my husband and I were OK with her going, but he was going to chaperone, thus ride on the bus with her and the class and be there for the whole trip. She ended up coming down with the flu and didn’t go anyway, but it made me think, “If I’m not OK with my 5-year-old going on a trip an hour away from me without one of her parents, why would I be OK with my 3-year-old doing it?”

I decided to talk it over with Jody Monday evening and we came to the conclusion that it was totally OK for us to NOT be OK with Julian going on a field trip an hour away when he’s 3 years old. If it doesn’t feel right and is giving me severe anxiety, then it’s not worth it, even if it does make me *that* overprotective parent.

I emailed Miss G and explained how I felt and even filled her in a bit on my anxiety disorder. I apologized for ruining the field trip, but said that I hoped they could still go somewhere nearby to celebrate the last day. She graciously responded and said they could walk to the nearby park instead and that she’d do the zoo trip the following day (on a day Julian doesn’t go to school). I was relieved.

I know there will come a day when I have to let my kids go, but for now I’m OK with the fact that this wasn’t the right time. I’m actively working on my issues again (I found a new therapist) and in time I will be able to continue to work through some of my fears. If right now my mental well-being is more important than a field trip to the zoo, so be it. I have to trust myself and do what works for me and my family. I am thankful I’m now at a point in my life where I can recognize where my fears are coming from and address them. I will get there, eventually.

–Progress, not perfection. —

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The highs & lows of nature and my Earth Day Challenge

Last night the kids, Jody and I enjoyed a show put on by Mother Nature. A rain storm complete with lightning streaking across the sky and rattling thunder was our pre-bedtime entertainment. Thunderstorms are somewhat of a rarity here (or at least it feels like it lately), and I love sitting in the upstairs window seats watching them with the kids. Lightning is nature’s perfect fireworks.


Image credit: Flickr – PeWu

Seeing my kids get excited about the storm – “Oooh, that was a big one!” – made me enjoy the experience all the more. I love it when they appreciate nature, and after being cooped up inside all winter, I’m so glad that spring is here and more nature discovery is on its way.

Earlier this week I read on Mama Milkers Facebook page that her daughter’s class took an impromptu field trip to see the dead gray whale on a beach in West Seattle. What a great opportunity for those children to see a whale up close like that, but also so sad that it died.


Image credit: West Seattle Blog

While the cause of death of the 37-foot near-adult male whale is still unknown, it turns out that he had quite a bit of trash in his stomach, including a pair of sweat pants, a golf ball, 20 plastic bags, small towels, plastic pieces, surgical gloves and duct tape.

How are these two things – the storm and the whale – related? Well, they aren’t directly, but they are both part of nature, part of this planet Earth that we are celebrating today with Earth Day. There’s so much beauty in nature, but there is also so much pollution that is, literally, trashing and killing it. The whale’s death may have had nothing to do with the garbage in his stomach, but many animals’ deaths *are* a direct result of the trash they ingest.

Today on Earth Day, let’s set our differences aside. Regardless of how you feel about climate change, politics or President Obama, perhaps we can all come together to do something positive that makes us feel good about ourselves. We humans have a lot of power. Let’s use it for good.

“We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.” – Native American Proverb

I challenge you to give some thought to your daily habits and routines and find one positive change you will make (no matter how small). Do it not to save the Earth – because the Earth is going to be just fine regardless of what we do – but to save ourselves, our children, our grandchildren and all of the animals that have no control over the way humans treat their environment.

“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated… I hold that, the more helpless a creature, the more entitled it is to protection by man from the cruelty of human kind.” – Gandhi

Will you accept my challenge? What will *you* do?

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Now Accepting: Chickens, Goats, Kids, Farmers, Bloggers

Many of you know that my husband and I have been working hard at getting our house ready to sale for the past few months (which is why my posts here have been so few and far between). In addition to trying to sell our house, we’ve also been scouring the real estate sites looking for a good deal on a house with a fair bit of land. We haven’t had any luck so far, but what we did stumble upon is an amazing deal on 50 acres in southern Wyoming! We drove out to see the land this weekend and fell in love.

Jody and I started talking about it and while we definitely don’t need that much land for ourselves, we’ve always joked, but also dreamed about living in a commune. So we’re going for it! We talked to the owners of the land and they are cool with waiting until our house sells as they aren’t in a huge hurry to sell. So as soon as our house sells, we’re buying the land and starting our dream! 🙂

That’s where you come in. We figure that between the land that will be committed to gardening/farming, an orchard, livestock, a huge communal kitchen and dining hall, a big playground, land for hiking, and maybe even a pool and small rec center, we’ll still have room for about 30 families to join us. Jody is writing up an application form which I will post in a few weeks for interested families to complete. Anybody interested? 🙂 Leave a comment if you think you might be interested in learning more or if you have ideas on how to make this commune an awesome place to live.

Obviously we have a lot of details to work out, but we’re both very excited about this opportunity for us and for the many families who will eventually be joining us. But most of all we’re excited to say April Fool’s! 🙂 Too bad it’s not for real. I was really getting excited about it. 😉

Photo credit: Tourism ROI

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Addiction, choice and serenity

It’s a new year and a new decade, so I figure why not jump in with both feet and tackle a heavy, possibly even taboo, topic? 😛 Sometimes ya gotta strike while the iron is hot. And right now? It’s smoking hot.

I mentioned the word addiction to my 5 1/2 year old daughter Ava the other day. I can’t remember exactly what I was saying at the time (probably grumbling about my husband Jody and World of Warcraft), but I wondered later if using that word with her was the “right” thing to do (not to mention that I was grousing about her dad – a whole other issue).

Ya see, addictions have been a part of my life since I was born. In one way or another I’ve been exposed to them throughout my entire life. If I wasn’t around someone who had an addiction, I had one myself.

My addictions have varied over the years, but I just recently discovered how far back my propensity toward addictive behavior goes, think a little older than Ava’s age. And now here I sit nearly 30 years later, on my computer (another addiction), typing about it. Ironic, huh?

Jody and I were talking a couple nights ago about the excessive computer use in our household and he said something like, “I wonder what our lives would be like if we didn’t have the computers?” And the first thing out of my mouth was, “That would make a great blog!” 😛 So then we joked that I’d have to write my blog entries in a notebook – old-school style – and then take a picture of the page and post it on the ‘net, presumably all from my iPhone since computers would be out of the picture. (Though I’m not sure how I could justify having an iPhone if I was swearing off computers, but anyway…) We got a good laugh out of it, but seriously, my life revolves so much around computers.

I’ve been feeling kind of depressed about my computer usage lately too. It’s not that way when I’m writing and actually feeling productive, but it’s when I sit here for a stupid amount of time and walk away not having accomplished anything and not having made any real connections with anyone other than “liking” someone’s status on Facebook or commenting on a random Tweet or two. I’ve started feeling like I’m being sucked into an abyss and I’m not sure how I’m going to get out of it. It’s not having a blog that sucks me in. The blogging, the writing, the researching, and reading thought-provoking/entertaining posts, etc., is all of the stuff I enjoy. The things I’m proud of. It’s the mindless drivel that’s been sucking the life force out of me. The hitting refresh waiting for someone to say something. Waiting for someone to talk to me. Waiting for anything. Waiting. Waiting. Waiting.

And the irony (there’s that word again) is that Jody and I are trying to work on our marriage. In the evenings, at least, I have another adult here in the house (Jody) who I could be interacting with. We could be speaking to each other instead of interacting with the “internetz.” Yet we both feel this pull to the internet. After all, as we talked about at our couple’s therapy session yesterday, it’s because of the internet that he and I met in the first place. Here’s that word once again. This time say it with me – irony!

I digress. The point is I’ve been doing a lot of soul searching the past several weeks and discovering a lot about myself. Some of those things make me proud of myself, while others make me feel pretty craptastic.

Life is all about choices. I want to make smarter choices, not only because I think the future of my marriage depends on it, but I believe my children’s futures depend on it too. (Oh and there’s also that pesky thing known at my happiness – another thing I’m still learning about.)

That brings me back to talking about addiction with Ava. There’s a history of addiction on my side of the family and some tendencies on Jody’s side as well. However, I want the cycle to end with Jody and me. I don’t want my children to have to carry it on (in whatever form they may) as they get older.

Right now I know that I need to find the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, but I also need to find the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference. By changing what I can – what I actually have control over right now, which is only me, myself and I – I have hope for the future. My future. My family’s future. I can’t change the past, but I can change the present. And I’m going to work on it one. day. at. a. time.

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Dear Target – a thank you letter

It’s no secret that I’ve harped on Target in the past. First there were the epidural maternity shirts, then there was the incident where the police were called on a breastfeeding mother. This weekend, however, Target did something that has me very thankful, and while I already informally expressed my thanks to them on Twitter, I wanted to do so a little more formally here.

It happened on Saturday – the last weekend before Christmas – when Jody and I decided to take the kids to Target so they could each pick out a present to give to the other. I thought it would help them learn the joy of giving, rather than just receiving on Christmas.

Before we went into the store, we emphasized that the store would be very busy with lots of people and the kids were to stay with us at all times. (You can see where this is headed, can’t you?)

Jody and I each took a kid and headed for the toy section as the kids searched for the perfect gift for their sibling (and got distracted with what they wanted for themselves at least 20 times). At one point, I turned a corner and glanced behind me with 3-year-old Julian nowhere to be seen. My heart jumped into my throat as I quickly retraced my steps and found him just around the corner playing with a toy. Whew!

Eventually, the sibling gifts were chosen.

I wanted to buy some art supplies for the kids, so Jody took the kids and planned to let them pick out something for me while I shopped for them.

I found what I wanted and began moseying around the store to find them. That’s when I saw Jody, alone, looking frantic as he dodged in and out of maternity clothes racks.

“Where are the kids??”

Jody told me he couldn’t find Julian and had told Ava to stay in one spot with the cart while he looked for Jules.

My first thought was to go to the guest services desk and let them know Julian was missing. The more people looking for him, especially on such a busy day, the better. Jody, however, apparently had the same thought at the same time and beat me to the desk.

I ditched my cart (and my purse – totally wasn’t thinking) and started looking for Julian myself.

Within seconds, crimson-clad Target employees were combing the aisles in force. Within two minutes, an employee asked me if I was the mom with the lost child (was the crazy “Oh my God, where is my son?” look in my eye that obvious?) and said they had found him and they would bring him to guest services.

Thank. God.

As I quickly walked to find Jody and tell him Julian had been found, I heard another employee say, “Oh! They are chasing after him!” And I could picture Julian screaming and crying and running away from the people who were trying to help him. Poor buddy.

I ran over to where Jody and Ava were already headed and met up with them to find a crying Julian safe in Jody’s arms. I kissed and hugged him and was so relieved to see he was OK. We let him know how scared we were that he was lost and it was obvious how scared he was too. (He had apparently run away from Jody looking for me when he got lost.)

It was about that time that I remembered that I’d ditched my cart with my purse in it. I was relieved to find it was all right where I left it.

I can’t tell you how thankful I am that our story had a happy ending.

Thank you, local Target employees, for springing into action so quickly and helping my husband and me find our son.

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What To Do If Your Child Is Missing:

If your child ever goes missing in a store, notify the front desk or an employee ASAP. Most stores have a “Code Adam” procedure (named after Adam Walsh, the 6-year-old son of John Walsh, who was abducted from a Sears department store in Florida in 1981 and later found murdered) that alerts the employees to look for the missing child. If the child is not located within 10 minutes, the police are called.

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BPA, its everywhere you don’t want it to be

This weekend as my friend Melissa was showing me her cool pressure canner and all of the foods she’s canned with it, we started talking about the presence of BPA in most store-bought canned goods. The presence of BPA (bisphenol-A) in canned goods is something I’ve known about for a while, but one of those things I try to ignore because I still buy a fair amount of our food in cans, including all of our beans (black, pinto, Great Northern, kidney, garbanzo, etc.), tomatoes, tuna, salmon and some soups.

After reading this NY Times op-ed piece, Chemicals in Our Food, and Bodies by Nicholas D. Kristof, I’m rethinking my canned good buying habits.

Consumer Reports magazine tested an array of brand-name canned foods for a report in its December issue and found BPA in almost all of them. The magazine says that relatively high levels turned up, for example, in Progresso vegetable soup, Campbell’s condensed chicken noodle soup, and Del Monte Blue Lake cut green beans.

The magazine also says it found BPA in the canned liquid version of Similac Advance infant formula (but not in the powdered version) and in canned Nestlé* Juicy Juice (but not in the juice boxes). The BPA in the food probably came from an interior coating used in many cans.

*Which you are already boycotting anyway, right? 😉 No? Here’s the Nestle Boycott list.

What’s the problem with BPA?
It’s a synthetic estrogen (an endocrine disruptor) and has been linked to everything from childhood behavioral problems and breast cancer to obesity, infertility, and genital abnormalities, and possibly diabetes and heart disease as well. In other words, it’s a chemical you likely don’t want in your or your children’s bodies, yet “more than 92 percent of Americans have BPA in their urine.”

So sure, I’m buying mostly organic foods in those cans, but what good does it do us if the organic foods are chock full of BPA? Ugh.

Julie at Terminal Verbosity recently wrote about the new findings and has some suggestions on how you can reduce your BPA exposure.

  • Stop buying canned goods” – Use your crock pot to make beans or soups instead. Both generally freeze well.
  • Check your hard plastic food receptacles” – Or switch to glass food storage containers (I recently got a set at Costco for a under $40 I think.)
  • Beware plastic toys, especially teethers” – You’d think our children’s toys would be safe from this chemical, but nope, they’re not.

Julie has further information on these suggestions and links in her post.

The more I learn, the more I think I’m finally going to have to bite the bullet and start cooking my own beans and freezing them. I know it’s not hard (Tara @ Feels Like Home has tips in her post How To Prepare Dried Beans), it’s just one more thing that I don’t want to add to my list, however I think the health payoffs are definitely worth it. We’re exposed to enough harmful chemicals in our environment without having to eat them too.

Edited to add: If you’ve ever been concerned about possible lead leaching into your food from your crock pot, you’ll want to give this a read! Check out another post from Julie where she has several of the leading brands of crock pots tested for lead. (Spoiler alert: it’s good news!)

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The Halloween version of Wordless Wednesday

It’s Wednesday and I’m sick and posting a few pics is all I can muster right now. 😛

This is what happens when you get a foot of snow before Halloween:

Two days later “I’m melting, I’m melting!”:

Happy Halloween from the mime, doggy, snow princess & Mr. Clean:

See more Wordless Wednesday posts at the original WW home and at 5 Minutes for Mom.

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Jack-o-lantern, jack-o-lantern – Wordless Wednesday

Jack-o-lantern, jack-o-lantern
You are such a funny sight
As you sit there in the window
Looking out at the night

You were once a yellow pumpkin
Growing on a sturdy vine
Now you are a jack-o-lantern
Let your candle light shine

See more Wordless Wednesday posts at the original WW home and at 5 Minutes for Mom.

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Running and Recovery – Just for Today

About eight months ago I had a turning point in my life. Instead of hiding from and burying my fears – a trait I’d gotten very good at over the years – I began to learn to face them head on. In addition to therapy and medication, I recently discovered two more things I want and need to do to take better care of myself – the first is getting regular exercise and the second is attending a 12-step program (for friends and families of problem drinkers).

Photo courtesy of chriskoning_gr
Photo courtesy of chriskoning_gr

Knowing that exercise would be beneficial to both my physical and mental health, I decided to start the Couch to 5k program – walking/running sessions of 20 to 30 minutes three times a week, which allow you to work up to running a 5K at the end of two months. (I figure if I write about it I’ll be more likely to follow through with it, accountability and all that.)

I should stop here to say I am not a runner. I’ve never been very fond of running and recall dreading having to run “the mile” in gym class my freshman year of high school. I developed a pretty nasty case of shin splints (probably from running in Keds, but c’est la vie). However, recently I’ve been inspired by several of my friends, also in their 30s, who have taken up running. Heather and Nicole both just ran their first 5k – The Race for the Cure. Alison has also taken up running. Julie recently confessed her “drug” of choice in dealing with depression – exercise – and she ran a half marathon this past weekend. Then there’s Sonja my triathlete friend who’s ran, biked and swam in more races than I can count.

While running isn’t something I usually enjoy, I want to give this a try, a real try.

I did my first session early Sunday morning – a five minute brisk walk followed by alternating between running for 60 seconds and walking for 90 seconds for 20 minutes. The weather was about perfect, sunny and warm, but not too warm, and it felt good to get out of the house alone, doing something good for myself. It wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t impossible.

As I ran my thoughts wandered to the 12-step meeting I recently attended. I thought about the parallels between running and recovery – both my recovery from Generalized Anxiety Disorder and my recovery of being an adult child of a dysfunctional family and the relationships I’ve had with addicts over the years. Both running and recovery require patience. Both running and recovery require perseverance. Both running and recovery can be overwhelming at times, but you have to focus on one day at a time, one run at a time, even if it’s just for 60 seconds.

I did my second running session on Wednesday morning. It was the complete opposite of Sunday, rainy and cold. I wore my jacket with the hood up and gloves on to keep my hands warm. I stayed pretty toasty except for my legs, which froze. (I’ve since learned of base layer tights which I am going to have to buy, especially if I’m going to be running through the winter.) My glasses were covered in rain drops and fogged up as my body temperature rose. There were lots of fallen wet leaves and branches on my path. Again, it made me think about my road to recovery. Some days the sun is shining and the path is clear and everything seems right on target and other days there are clouds and fog, it’s cold and the obstacles on my path make it easy to lose my footing.

Whether I am running or working on bettering myself mentally and emotionally, the challenges will always be there. It’s not always easy. It’s often hard work. I can’t prepare for every obstacle, but I can learn to let go of my desire to control everything. I can go with the flow. I can do my best.

When I’m running, I try to concentrate only on getting through that particular 60 seconds of running. I don’t think about running a 5k in a few months. I don’t think about running for 10 minutes at a time or even 5 minutes at a time. I do my best to stay in the moment and focus on those 60 seconds. (It reminds me a lot of labor and giving birth actually.) Just like in my life, I can’t wonder what the future will hold, but I can live in the now.

There’s a daily meditation that’s part of the 12-step programs that begins “Just for today I will try to live through this day only, and not tackle all my problems at once. I can do something for twelve hours that would appall me if I felt that I had to keep it up for a lifetime.” I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately (and in the past it would seem) and it really sums it all up for me. Yes, I want to be able to run a 5k someday, but just for today I will focus on getting through those 60 second intervals at a time. Yes, I want to be healthy emotionally and mentally someday and perhaps not need therapy or medication, but just for today I will stay present and do my best. Slow and steady wins the race.

Other women who have done or are working on the Couch to 5k (C25k):

Cross-posted on BlogHer

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Why I’m trying to let go of the mommy guilt & focus on myself & my marriage

Tomorrow I am dropping off my son Julian at his first day of preschool. He’s not even 3 yet – he’ll be 2 until the end of November. Sigh.

Although my heart wants to home school or unschool Ava, I’m not giving in and instead am leaving her in public school for kindergarten (in a class of 25 kids) this year. Sigh.

Why am I doing these things and going against my heart instead of following it? Because my head tells me they are the right things to do – for now.

I’ve spent the past five-plus years of my life pouring myself into my kids. They have been my world. Although intellectually I knew having balance in my life was important, I always seemed to neglect the idea. Instead of taking care myself or my marriage (things that would have required a good deal of effort), I distracted myself with my children. That’s not to say I regret putting my kids first because I don’t, but I wish that I would’ve found a way to make myself and my marriage a priority during this time too. My mental health has suffered. My marriage has suffered.

Many of you know I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder earlier this year. I’ve been going to individual therapy for months, as well as on a low dose of Zoloft. My husband Jody and I have also been going to couple’s therapy off and on for a few months. We both have a lot of work to do, and while I’ve doubted in the past whether or not we can make it, I’m feeling more confident that we can. It’s not going to be easy, but the things worth fighting for never are.

All of this to say that I’ve decided, after talking to my psychiatrist and doing some serious soul searching, that it’s time for me to stop focusing only on my children and time for me to focus on myself too. That means Ava will stay in public school this year and Julian will attend preschool (the same Waldorf home-based preschool Ava attended) one day a week. It will give me a little time to myself. I know the temptation to catch up on housework or waste the day away sitting on the computer will be great, but I hope to use some of that time every Wednesday to nurture myself (as well as volunteer in Ava’s classroom for two hours every other week – see, I can’t give up focusing on my kids that easily).

While this might not be exactly what I wanted or envisioned, it is what I believe will work best for us – for now. I will try to put my mommy guilt aside and focus instead on getting myself healthy and my marriage to a better place – both of which will benefit myself AND my children in the long run.

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