All posts by Jen M

About Jen M

First time mom who loves crafting, would love to get back in shape and struggles with mom guilt.

I’m not a Dog Owner

On Tuesday this past week, my husband and I did one of the hardest things to date. We brought our beloved dog, Tinkerbell, to the vet to be put to sleep.

Tink’s health has slowly been declining over the last 6 weeks or so. It started with diarrhea that wouldn’t go away and progressed to refusing to eat, even her favorite things she wouldn’t touch. Then it got to the point where she had stroke like episodes where she would collapse and lose consciousness. She would awake disoriented and shaky. After a few days of this, we had the very tearful talk deciding to end her suffering.

Those last few days were so emotional and I walked round red eyed with my throat tight. O and I took her for short walks around the yard. I kept her with me as much as I could, having her lay by me while O and I watched TV or played, taking her in the car with us no matter where we went, and in general just doing stuff at home to spend as much time with her as we could. We did her favorite things which included going to the park and letting kids pet her. We visited my family farm one last time and giving all those that loved her a chance to say goodbye.

The appointment was quick. They gave her a sedative to put her to sleep then gave her the injection. It was only a few breaths after that and she was gone. We stayed with her the whole time, whispering to her that things would be better soon, that we would be okay without her guardianship, that we would miss her so very much, that we would never stop loving her. My husband and I cried shamelessly and I clutched the box they had put her in so we could transfer her back to our family farm to be buried.

We chose a spot that overlooks the driveway and swing sets near some lilac bushes. This is the best guard dog spot where she will be able to watch all the kids play and still keep an eye out for anything that could harm them. These spots were extremely important to Tink. My husband and I prepared her final resting spot together. The ground should have been soaked with our tears. After she was settled, I don’t know how long we sat there, sharing memories, already missing our wonderful dog.

The next day, I started the painful task of packing up her things. We are giving her toys to her dog friends. She was one of those dogs that never ruined her toys, she just liked to carry them around and snuggle with them. When she was younger she’d play fetch when she felt like it, but she treasured every one. I want to make a shadow box with her collar so I was browsing through pictures to use. This helped confirm our decision. She was a powerfully built dog with a beautiful shiny coat and rippling muscles. She was athletic and loved to play. Since her deterioration was slow, I didn’t notice how very sick she had become. As hard as it was to say good-bye, to make this decision instead of letting her die on her own, it was the right one.  I had terrible doubts sitting in that room waiting for the vet to come in. Had we tried everything? Maybe she could bounce back still if we did something different or tried yet another new food? Waiting would have been selfish and I’m glad we went through with it.

For the first time in over 20 years, I’m not a dog owner. Right now, I don’t want to be if it’s not Tinkerbell. What I really want is my healthy dog back. I wanted her to help teach my son what it means to have a four-legged best friend. I wanted her to be there to watch over us for many more years. No other dog will do right now. It’s only been a few days, and I know things will get better. I won’t call for her to take her out. I won’t reach for her leash when O goes out to play. I won’t look for her water bowl to fill. But right now, I don’t want to be a dog owner.

Tink as a little puppy, she knew she was pretty then
Tink as a little puppy, she knew she was pretty then
Happy girl
Happy girl
Always on guard
Always on guard
She loved us just as much as we loved her
She loved us just as much as we loved her
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Finding a happy me place

The last year and a half has brought significant changes to my life: a new city, a new job, being a new mom to name a few. Any one of these changes on their own would be stressful, so to have them happen in short succession was particularly challenging. While it was happening, I thought I was handling it well and I probably did deal with all the changes as best I could but I can look back with honesty and say I wasn’t happy. I wasn’t exactly unhappy though either. The best way I can describe it that I was living in a house with some of the lights turned off. There was enough light to see by, enough that I didn’t realize what I was missing, but once I finally got all the lights on, life got fuller, brighter and so much more vibrant and rich.

Part of turning the lights back on it doing things I enjoy even if they don’t include my son. My mom guilt is intense and overwhelming at times. Why did I have a kid just to pawn him off on someone else? I’ve slowly come to terms with this. I can leave him with other people. He enjoys doing things without me. In fact, it’s important that he learns to do things without me. The people I leave him with love him too and love spending time with him. I created a mantra I recite to myself when it gets tough. It addresses my mom guilt and sometimes low self-esteem. It goes like this.

For together to be our favorite place, we need to be apart.

To love my family as a whole, I will love every part. 

So, in the spirit of being apart, I made plans a few months ago to do just that. This past weekend was spent with a group of amazing women. A few times a year, they gather under the guise of quilt retreats. Yes, a lot of quilting occurs, but after being away for more than a year, I can see there is so very much more. These five days are filled with pretty much everything that I need to recharge and return to life a better person. In no particular order these are:

  1. Quilting and crafting: Of course this is necessary at a quilt retreat. It’s no secret that I like to create pretty much anything. Fabric is a really great medium with endless possibilities and is a joy to work with. Even in the scope of quilting, the options for projects are vast. Quilts themselves range in size, intended use, and intricacy. And then you have your quilted table runners, wall hangings, place mats, bags, and the list goes on and on.  I started quilting about 7 years ago. I had done some garment sewing before that and it was an easy transition. I’ve lost count of the number of quilts I’ve made and the people I’ve made them for. I do know that every single one is special and unique. Each one took my time and thought. Most of the people I have given quilts to understand this on some level, that quilts aren’t just pretty blankets. They are extremely personal and hold so much feeling. It’s such a pleasure for me to make a quilt with a specific person in mind, to go through the process and experience the fabric taking shape. It has to be because if you look at it for what is really is, cutting up fabric to sew it back together again, it seems insane. Some would argue that most artist toe the line of crazy and quilters are no different.
  2. Good food and drink: The last few retreats I’ve attended, I’ve also done the majority of the cooking and food prep for meals. Someone else purchases the food then I set it out and cook when needed. Many people would balk at making meals for 18 people but it doesn’t bother me. I really do enjoy cooking and the sense of accomplishment I feel when a meal is served and everyone is enjoying themselves. Additionally, there is always good food, not just what we eat for meals but good snacks that I never buy o make myself. We joke that it’s important to eat no less than every two hours to avoid feeling faint and there is never a shortage of food to accommodate this. Good food always is a key part to a good time. And let’s not forget happy hour, or more like hours. Sometimes a little liquid courage is needed to tackle some difficult blocks. We’ve developed an impressive bloody mary bar that has become a staple.
  3. Scenic Running/Biking Trail:  The retreat house we visit most frequently is right along a really nice path. It’s shaded, mostly flat, and goes on for miles. This trail in particular is so very peaceful. It crosses very few roads and is sheltered by thick woods on each side most of the way contributing to a sense of isolation and privacy. Running for me is a kind of therapy. I can tell when it’s been a few days without a run. I feel unsettled and edgy. It doesn’t matter if my body is tired, my mind needs the runs to remain in a healthy place. I run every day at retreat, not always far, but the fresh air, the near perfect trail are too enticing to pass up.
  4. Friendships with like minded people: The women who attend retreat are united in their love for quilting. Even if they are new to the art, by the time Sunday rolls around they are already thinking about their next project and coming to the next retreat. Beyond that, the ages and the background vary greatly. I have yet to find anywhere else that allows me to befriend women in this way. Additionally, some of these women I only see at retreat, but like old friends, it’s as if no time has passed. They remember what is going on in my life, and I theirs, and I know when they ask about it, they care about my answer and it’s not just small talk.  You will never meet a more caring and accepting group. I am so lucky to call these people friends.

I had a really good time and finished a quilt top that has been taking up space in my closet for too long. I ran 11 miles. I finished the book I was reading. I slept through the night. I had at least one bloody mary a day. I got to catch up with friends. I got to talk about O and show off some pictures of him. I missed O too but not as much as I worried I would. I got to think about me and what I wanted. I don’t feel bad about planning to go again and looking forward to it. I found a happy place where I can go to be me again. Just me and not mom, not wife, just me.

Furry Family

My dog, Tinkerbell, a fawn and white boxer, age 10, has been pretty sick the last couple weeks. She’s barely eating and has frequent diarrhea with intermittent episodes of vomiting. Yeah, I know, poor thing! In her 10 years, she has been remarkably healthy. A few things here and there, a few eye infections, some teeth pulled, everything has been easily treated but nothing really serious until now.

She has had runny stools for nearly 2 weeks. We visited our local vet earlier this week and was given instructions of using imodium and some special food to get her eating and get her digestive system calmed down. After 3 days, there was really no improvement and the vomiting increased for periods of time. Yesterday, she threw up 10 times in the span of roughly 3 hours.

We headed back to the vet. I feared the worst. Obviously, something is wrong, really wrong. Tink has always had a sensitive digestive system, puking to some extent is normal for her, so is some loose bowel movements, but not this prolonged. The next step was to run some more diagnostic tests, mostly various blood tests, testing a stool sample, and a few x-rays. Of course nearly everything was negative and in normal range. Her x-rays showed she had a lot of gas in her intestines, no blocks, really nothing conclusive. The only thing that was slightly abnormal was the test they did to measure pancreatic functions-but only slightly. Because this was really the only thing found, the vet decided to treat her for pancreatitis. Tink is on a steroid pill and special low fat food that she gets small amounts of 6 times a day.

Did I mention Tinkerbell is 10 years old? This dog has seen me through so many things. She is an amazing dog. Everyone says that about their dog, but I’m not the only one who says this about her. She hardly ever barks but when she does its serious, making you pay attention to whatever she has been alerted to. She is incredible protective of her family. When I lived alone, she always positioned herself between me and the door. I would be doing dishes and she would be sitting at attention at my feet, her back to me as she watched the door, listening to all the people that walked past. We were once walking with my young niece and nephew when she noticed a man sitting on his steps across the street. He must have looked suspicious because I watched her change her position to ensure she was between that man and the kids. We walked past this man twice and both times she was eyeing him as she put herself in his path. Tink is very much in tune with my husband and his anxiety. Often times, her bouts of illness coincide with his anxious episodes making me aware of something that isn’t always noticeable. She watches little O like a helicopter parent. When he was very small, she would pace and go from his room to our room until we responded to his cries. It was like she was saying, “Hey, don’t you hear that? He’s crying! Why aren’t you fixing it? Hurry up and fix it! He’s crying!” All this on top of the emotional support that this dog has leant me. Her silent presence has gotten me through countless hard times.

Happily, this new treatment has seemed to begin to help. The vomiting has ceased. She gobbles up this food like she will never eat again. Her stools are slowing getting thicker. At this point, I’m hopeful that we’ve found something that will give her a chance to feel better. Additionally, her mood is up. She is more restful and willing to play and in general wants to be with us. To me, its clear she feels better than she has. But we aren’t all the way out of the woods. She’s not quite completely back to her normal self. She gets up and night and has to go out immediately, softly whining until I get up to take her. It’s difficult to differentiate between what is just her getting older and what is residual signs of illness.

With all this, my husband and I had to have ‘the talk.’ How far do we let it go? What measures do we take to help her? At what point do we call it? While I was waiting for the test results at the vet on Friday, a man with tears in his eyes brought in an old dog clearly not well. The dog looked lumpy, like maybe he had some growths that were taking over his body. The man brought him in with red eyes and I watched as the vet tech exchanged leashes, slipping the blue slip collar, a vet standard, around his neck and lead him to the back. The red eyed man walked out. Sitting there, it was the worse time to be a bystander as I was fairly certain this dog was walking his version of the green mile. Of course, my eyes also began to tear. I am not ready to say goodbye to my great dog. I don’t want to have to make this decision. I don’t think there is anyway to prepare for it either except to take advantage of the good days. Play with her when she wants to play, go for walks when she feels up to it, have her with us whenever we can. It might still be years if we can get through this but if we can’t it might not be. The only definite plan we have is to do our best to enjoy the time we have with our furry family member.

Letting Go

After watching and hearing about every baby we knew taking their first steps, O finally decided to join the pack. He’s on the high side of 15 months old and although he’s well within the range I was beginning to worry. Was I doing something wrong that was dissuading him from walking on his own? Was he too dependent on me? Was I not pushing him enough? But then, the other day, we were outside playing, he just let go of my hand and walked away from me, 12 steps. That’s right, twelve, just…boom, 12 steps!

This milestone, more than any other, has been bitter sweet, almost more on the bitter side even. I loved it when he rolled over-he was so cute! I was so proud when he started to crawl-wasn’t he getting strong! I was thrilled when he said his first word-wasn’t he so smart! But while I’m still really happy that he’s walking, it’s more relief than happy. He has finally moved up in the world from a crawler to a walker. So many people were asking about his walking it seemed that was all anyone cared about-I know this isn’t quite true. The questions always came with reassurances that he would take those first steps when he was ready and that as soon as he starts I would be wishing he was still crawling. I suspected that the delay had largely to do with the fact that you can’t drive cars and trains on the floor when you are walking upright so what was the point? And man that boy can really go on all fours! He’s like a tiny yet really noisy lightening bolt streaking across the floor.

But at the same time, it was so very sad. There is no longer a question, my baby boy cannot be considered a baby. He’s walking now, walking away from me on to bigger things. I understand and rationally know this isn’t exactly accurate. The first thing he did after he sat down was come crawling back to me with the biggest grin on his face that clearly said, “Did you see me mama?! I can do it all by myself!” He needed me to tell him he did a good job, that I saw him succeed, that it was okay for him to start to take these steps on his own. He needed me to be supportive of this new independence that in my mind marked the end of babyhood. And as much as I want him to stay a baby forever, he can’t. I have to be okay with him letting go of my hand no matter how much I want to hold on and never let go.

They just keep getting better!

As I experiment more and more with my essential oils, and embrace my mad scientist side, I’m just so happy that I decided to give them a go. Here’s a few of things that I’ve been trying out recently and really loving all of them.

Sunscreen: With a base of sweet almond oil, it seems a little weird to me that I’m using it as a sunscreen and not a tanning oil. Apparently, sweet almond oil alone has an SPF of 5. Who knew? This particular concoction smells amazing. I’ve gotten several comments when we use it while we are out and about. But it works! O’s  a fair skinned little man with blue eyes and a touch of strawberry in his hair. He’s one of those kids that burns in a few minutes and doesn’t go outside without a hat on pretty much ever. We’ve used this in the middle of a sunny day and neither one of us have burned. The only negative I have is that it needs to be re-applied roughly every 30 minutes. This time frame could be easily overlooked and then I’ll need to use some other amazing oils to fix sun burns. Message me for the recipe!

Weight loss: I mentioned these pills in a previous post regarding my weight loss process. I take them every morning after breakfast. Besides some grapefruit and peppermint flavored burps here and there, these help a ton with snacking urges and sugar cravings. At the time of my last post, I attributed them to helping me move the scale after 3 weeks of not being able to make it budge. This week the scale is up above and beyond so maybe I was just having a good week. The scale and I are now on an extended break. I still think these help-especially with my sugar cravings. I also use lemon or grapefruit in my water too when I need a little extra help or just wand some great flavored water. One drop is all it takes!  Recipe here.

Face Cream with SPF: This has been really pretty great but has taken the most to adapt to since I use it every day. It has quite a bit of carrot seed oil in it which I don’t love the smell of. However, Frankincense is supposed to be amazing for wrinkles and I’m well aware that I’m not growing younger. I’ve read plenty of studies how sleep deprivation and all the extra stress of motherhood contributes to wrinkles. I think a small car would fit on the crevice in my forehead so any help I can get is appreciated. It goes on really very smoothly, especially after using my brown sugar scrub, and just a little goes quite a long way. I have to be pretty careful not to use too much. My negative with this one is brief in the sense it only lasts a few minutes. With the coconut oil base, it goes on a little greasy and shiny but it absorbs quickly so by the time I’m done getting ready it’s already soaked in. This recipe is gone from Pinterest! If it returns I’ll add a link. It had coconut oil, Frankincense, carrot seed, and lavender for sure…maybe something else? You whipped it all together with a hand mixer so it gets really creamy and smooth.

Face/Body Brown Sugar Scrub: I’ve been making sugar scrubs for quite some time because I got tired of paying too much for something I can make. Super weird for me to do anything like that I know. This has been one of my favorite recipes so far. I’m going to take a wild guess that the reason for the improvement maybe because I’m using quality oils that aren’t just for scent. I’m actually getting some benefits for my skin that clearly have launched this scrub from functional to luxurious. I use this scrub all over, face and body and I absolutely love how my skins feel after. Recipe here. I subbed tea tree EO instead of lemongrass.

With each new things I try, I’m ready and waiting to pick it apart and exclaim Ah hah! These essential oils aren’t all they’re cracked up to be! But I really do like everything that I’ve tried and I’m getting the benefits without the additional chemicals. Even little things have been positive. I put some lavender and tea tree on a scrape. The next morning it looked about 4 days old instead of 12 hours. I know I really need to start taking some pictures of these things so people believe me! But its true. They just keep getting better and better!

Have you used any essential oils? What are you favorites? What do I have to try?

Getting Unstuck

Weight loss is at the fore front of my mind nearly every day all day long, especially as summer, swim suit season and shorts weather draws closer and closer. I’ve been really consistent with working out at least 4 times a week. I’m not as consistent with eating well. I do my best to stick to my eating plan and when I fall off the wagon I do my best not to stray too far.

All in all, I’m doing okay. I’m not gaining so i should be happy.  But I’ve ben stuck at my current weight for a few weeks now. However, clothes continue to fit better and better. A dress I couldn’t zip a few months ago fits pretty darn good now. I went swimsuit shopping and didn’t leave the store in a depressive state vowing only to drink water for the rest of my life. I can run a few miles relatively easily and I feel so much stronger.

But I’m stuck at this same number and despite the positive feedback I’m getting from my clothes it’s bugging me quite a bit actually. So I turned to my essential oils for some help. I found a post that recommended using lemon, grapefruit and peppermint in a little capsule. Just two drops of each so not a huge amount, but let me tell you, it does help. I can get through most of the day without feeling like I’m starving and when I do eat I don’t feel like I need to eat my lunch and the plate too. Small side effect is burping up grapefruit and peppermint which isn’t as bad of a combination as you’d think. I’ve been taking these every morning after breakfast for about a week. This week’s weigh-in finally, FINALLY moved the scale. Yay! It wasn’t much but it moved!

To keep things moving in the right direction, I’m going to keep up with my pills for a while longer. I’m also going to work a little harder at staying on track with me eating plan. Additionally, I think my workouts need a boost, either adding another day or increasing the intensity. Adding another day might be tough but I can easily make my workouts harder and sweat a little more. I need to remember this is a process. Big changes don’t happen overnight. Healthy habits don’t become habits quickly. I’m still determined. I have about 12 lbs. to get to my pre-baby weight. I can do this! I am going to do this!

I’ll take Poopy Bath Water

This evening I had the pleasure of cleaning up poopy bath water. Yes, O pooped in the tub. Thankfully he was done so it was just a matter of rinsing him off before the poop spread to all areas of the tub. However, I then had to scrub down not only the tub and the bath mat but all one million of his bath toys. Why does he have a million bath toys?!! Yeah, that was not fun. I know I change poopy diapers most days, I even have a dog and have no problem picking up her poop. This was extra gross to me. And extra smelly for some reason too. I was near the top of my gross-o-meter. To make it just a little worse, we were about 90 minutes past bed time so I really just wanted to get him in bed so I could also go to bed. I definitely could have done without poopy bath water tonight.

O got to bed, the bathroom got cleaned and I finally sat down to do a quick phone check including a glance of Facebook. An article or ad came up about Mother’s Day which is next week. I’ve been in a reflective mood in the past few days so of course I thought about the end of my day-poppy bath water.

Taking this one isolated incident of pure disgustingness and put it in context of the past year with my son, it really didn’t seem quite so bad. O had a bad bout of diarrhea in February. He would leak through diapers like he wasn’t wearing anything. Diarrhea on your lap is even worse than poopy bath water. He cut 8 teeth in 2 months, not just any teeth mind you, molars and canines. Also known as the most painful teeth to grow. I was waking up on average of 3-4 times to a crying, screaming, inconsolable almost 1 year old nearly every night. Poopy bath water isn’t nearly as awful as those 2 months either. We’ve for sure had our share of not awesome experiences: the time he fell off the bed, the time he nearly fell down a flight of stairs, the time he almost ate a handful of really dirty kitty litter.

Even with all this terribleness fresh in my mind, I can honestly say I wouldn’t trade any second of it if it meant I didn’t get to be the mother of my son. I am so very lucky. He is one amazingly great little guy and I tell him every day how I truly love being his mama. As I type, even 2 hours past bed time, he’s talking away in his room before he falls asleep. I imagine he’s telling his favorite toy, a stuffed Curious George sock monkey, about the day he had visiting his aunt and playing with Grandma and his cousins. And his pint size arms around my neck as he hugged me before I laid him down went so very perfect with the sweet double dimple smile as I tucked him in and said good night. If this is what I get in return, I’ll take poopy bath water over none at all any time.

Happy Mother’s Day to moms everywhere who suffer through most of the world’s most disgusting tasks all for the sake of their children. Most days they are worth it.