The First Birthday Party for a Second Child: How to Not Go Insane


Arden's birthday from the Champagne Supernova http://www.thechampagnesupernova.com

Arden’s First Birthday Party

Let me be up front and say I’m not Martha Stewart. I don’t cook. I don’t clean. I don’t make cutesy crafts. I don’t plan parties. I don’t enjoy planning parties. Don’t get me wrong… I love attending parties and admire anyone who loves managing big events, it’s the planning and effort that make me crazy. Even if I didn’t have a full time job or kids, I wouldn’t like putting these things together.

I’m not criticizing anyone who chooses to throw massive birthday parties for their toddlers, I’m just saying that I won’t do it again until my children are old enough to remember and appreciate it. That’s all.

Case in point: my own wedding. I don’t like the stress associated with planning an event and feeling responsible for things running smoothly or guests having fun. So when I got married almost 6 years ago with all the proverbial bells and whistles, I spent the majority of the morning of my wedding day crying in the bathroom from anxiety. We should have just eloped.

I get it. My husband, Jason, told me so. 

When Arden turned one a couple years ago, we threw her a Pinterest-worthy soiree that was the toddler equivalent of a Quincinera. It had a circus theme and we rented carnival games from an events company, tables and chairs from an outside vendor, and had matching invitations, cupcake toppers, napkins, and food labels to boot. It was over-the-top, expensive, unnecessary, and to be honest, the party was more about entertaining our family, friends, and friends’ children than it was about celebrating Arden. Let’s be real: a one year old is clueless about their surroundings and has no memory about what happened yesterday, let alone at their own birthday party when they are only one.

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Yes, people, these are CIRCUS GAMES. At a first birthday party. Doh!

 

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The Pinterest-inspired snack table. Read: I am an idiot.

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The area where Arden had her first morsel of cake. Where frosting ended up on the wall.

A Snapfish photo album and some Facebook shots are the only way she’ll ever know the party truly happened. And the three dozen leftover lollipops that are sitting in my storage closet (if my dog or husband don’t get to them).

For her first birthday party, Arden would have been just as content if we ordered bar-be-que, a gallon of chocolate ice cream, and called it a day.

I certainly would have had more fun.

What the Facebook world didn’t get to see was how the day ended up:

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It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to.

Lesson learned.

Enter the second child: Elle. She turned one this past weekend and, instead of throwing a party, we opted for a three-day weekend at the beach with our families. The invitations were sent via text message. The decorative napkins and plates were from the local grocery store. The birthday hat was a hand-me-down from her sister.

It was a blast.

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Jason, Elle, my Mother in Law, and Me celebrating the beginning of a great year.

Being a second-time parent has made me wiser than I was the first time around. With my first child, if a person would have told me to hold off on a huge party for my one-year-old, I would have been annoyed at their unsolicited advice, have mentally slapped them, and would have thrown the party anyway. Now, I am that person.

I ran into a mother of one of Arden’s classmates in the school parking lot yesterday. You missed the best birthday party on Saturday, Jen. It was at a park and the mom ordered pizza and a bounce house. It was the perfect party for a three-year-old and everyone had so much fun. I give a big, fat, “Cheers” to that mama.

In the end, what the birthday person remembers (if they are old enough to remember) is whether they had a good time and if they were surrounded by people they love. And if a mom wants to throw in a life-size piñata at the party, power to her. It just ain’t gonna be me.

Cheers!

Note, while my family and I were at the beach celebrating Elle, one of my girlfriends, Julie Borm of the Everyday Happiness blog, was busy throwing a birthday party for her one-year old that would put ole’ Martha to shame. Read about her hilarious experience (and confession) here.

    Stuff My Three Year Old Says: From the Mouths of Babes


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    The Honey Badger herself, when she was almost 2.

    Arden turned three in March of 2015, but has run the roost since she was just a couple months old. We knew that she’d be a spitfire but, given the choice, I still would have preferred a spitfire over a wallflower.

    I’ll likely be eating those words when she’s a teenager.

    As parents, part of our jobs is embarrassing our kids, usually not on purpose, when they get older. This entails showing up at school drop-off in our pajamas, answering the phone when their friends call, and generally just breathing and being alive.

    On the other hand, when our kids are young, we pray they won’t say anything in public that is mortifying or likely to get us shot. Like loudly commenting about the overweight lady eating a hot dog in her bikini at the beach. Or the stinky European guy at Disney with the long armpit hair. The list goes on.

    So far, in her first three years, Arden’s managed so say some hilarious things. Luckily, none have gotten us shot. Here are some of the gems:

    Arden: Mommy, what’s that mole doing on your chin?

    Me: It’s not a mole. It’s a beauty mark.

    Arden: No. Pretty sure it’s a mole.
    _____

    Arden: Mommy, can I wear this princess dress to school?

    Me: No. It’s a 5t and you wear a 3t. You can wear it when you get bigger.

    Arden: Okay. And when I get bigger, I can drink beer and wine and coffee.
    _____

    Arden: Mommy, put Elle’s hand on the stove.

    Eat Clean $30.00 Off
    _____

    Background: Arden and her girlfriend, Emerson, are each enjoying their own brownie sundaes.

    Husband: Arden, can I have some of your brownie?

    Arden: Hey Emerson, wanna give my Daddy a bite of your brownie?
    _____

    Arden [pointing at food that dropped on the floor]: Don’t eat that- it’s a casualty.
    _____

    Me, trying to diffuse a temper tantrum: Arden, stop the drama.

    Arden [dramatically]: This isn’t drama. It’s real life.
    _____

    My sister: Arden, what noise does a pig make?

    Arden: Oink, oink.

    My sister: What noise does a cow make?

    Arden: Moo.

    My sister: What noise does Kuma [our geriatric labrador, who practically has one paw on the plank of the rainbow bridge] make?

    Arden: pants heavily with tongue out.
    _____

    Background: Arden is in the car seat returning home from a trip to the grocery store with my mom.

    Arden: Grammy, I have to go potty.

    Grammy: You need to hold it for a little while.

    Arden [confused]: Do I hold it in my hands?

    Man, I can’t get enough of this kid.

    What are some of your favorite things your kids have said?

    Cheers!

      The Spanker Man: Lies We Tell Our Kids to Make them Behave


      Disclaimer: Do not read this post if you are politically correct, become easily offended, are a child psychologist, a parenting know-it-all, or have no sense of humor. You’ve been warned.

      Read about the mythical creature of the spanking man on The Champagne Supernova blog.

      This is who I envisioned The Spanker Man to look like.

      Before there was Elf on a Shelf, there was The Spanker Man.

      Before there was Mensch on a Bench, there was The Spanker Man.

      The Spanker Man is a fictional character my mother created to deter my younger sister and me from misbehaving in public. She told us public places, particularly restaurants, had hidden cameras where The Spanker Man was watching in a back room to ensure that children acted appropriately. If The Spanker Man observed kids who were bratty, sassing their parents, or having tantrums, he would remove them from the premises and give them an apocalyptic whoopin’.

      You better believe my sister and I never received a visit from The Spanker Man. As children, we didn’t have an opportunity to discover he didn’t exist because we were on our behavioral A-Game in public.

      While joining us for dinner, my parents’ friends usually sat in awe of our good behavior. They couldn’t believe that two young children could be so well behaved in public. When receiving compliments on our behavior, my parents just smirked at each other. I think even in the mid-1980s when spanking was accepted, and sometimes expected, The Spanker Man concept would have been too taboo for my folks to advertise.

      Nowadays, if parents told their children about The Spanker Man, someone would call the Department of Children and Family Services, the kids would be thrown into foster care, and the parents would be featured on 60 Minutes.

      Having kids can make parents do desperate things.

      I get it.

      I’ve told my three year old some mighty tales when, during extreme acts of desperation, I’m trying to get her to do something she doesn’t want to do.  I’m susceptible to doing this on weekday mornings when she’s fighting with me about putting her shoes on for school, I’m trying frantically to get both girls in the car because I’m late for a hearing, my infant spits up on my work clothes, and I’m furiously scrubbing a Clorox Bleach Pen against my suit so I can pretend I’m professional. For instance, I’ve told her that if she didn’t brush her teeth, bugs would crawl into her mouth when she was sleeping and would eat the gunk. [For the record, that doesn’t work].

      If you’ve told your children creative stories to control their actions, you’re not alone. A study from the University of California, published by the International Journal of Psychology, suggests the vast majority of parents lie to their children to get them to behave.

      I’ve polled my girlfriends regarding childhood whoppers their parents told them, or even lies they’ve told their own kids. Here are some of the gems:

      – “My parents told me [and my sibling] they would call the adoption agency and have them come get us and take us away if we didn’t listen.”

      –  “My mom told me that if I didn’t eat everything on my plate, the number of crumbs left is how many pimples my husband would have. I was a devoted member of the clean plate club, and my husband has really good skin.”

      – “I told [my five year old daughter] that if she didn’t stop picking her nose and eating it, she would actually turn green and look like a witch. When that didn’t work, I Googled “stretched out nostrils” and showed her images that her nose would look like if she kept putting her fingers up there. Seems to work.”

      – “We tell our son that we’ll call the police if he doesn’t listen. We usually end up hearing sirens in our neighborhood so he believes it.”

      – “My parents told me [and my brother] that our cookie dough eating habit would give us worms. As our Dad was a veterinarian and we were no strangers to the world of parasitic infections in critters, we took it as gospel.”

      – “My mom said that if I ever hit my brother or sister, then when I was dead and buried, the hand I hit them with would stick out of the grave and I’d never truly Rest in Peace.”

      Woah. 

      Fortunately, my sister and I didn’t need therapy because of The Spanker Man. My mom didn’t want us acting like jerks in public, so she did what she had to do to keep us under control. Ultimately, there was no harm and no foul. If anything, it’s been a hilarious topic of conversation among my friends and the concept catapults my mom into genius status.

      If only she would have been the one to create Elf on a Shelf. We’d be rich.

      Cheers!

        Easy, Healthy Salsa: I’m Not Martha Stewart


         

        Easy, Healthy Salsa (I Promise!)- The Champagne Supernova http://thechampagnesupernova.com/2015/04/easy-salsa-clean-healthy-few-ingredients/

        I stink at cooking. Ok, I don’t stink at it because it’s not rocket science to be able to follow a recipe. “I avoid cooking” is more accurate. While I love sampling delicious food, making it myself is too much of a hassle and too much of a time suck. Not only do I have to find recipes that I’m interested in making, but then it becomes a process of figuring out which ingredients I already have at my house (usually zero), running to the store to buy the ingredients I don’t have, and then finding the time to execute everything.

        I stumbled across a variation of this recipe inside a mini Clean-Eating style magazine that was included as an insert in my recent Better Homes and Gardens subscription, and decided to improvise by adding a little bit of this and removing a little bit of that. What caught my eye about the recipe is 1) it involved only a few ingredients, 2) it is healthy (and would cancel out the Chic-Fil-A fries and chicken sandwich I ate the day before), and 3) can be eaten with chips… anything that requires dipping is good for me. Most importantly, it is easy. We had a family cookout at my house over Easter weekend and this was so good that we made it two nights in a row, and then my mom made it as a dish for a recent pool party at one of her girlfriends’ houses.

        Once you have all the ingredients, the recipe takes less than five minutes of preparation.

        This is what you need:

        1. One package of frozen corn
        2. One pint of cherry tomatoes cut into quarters
        3. One container of pre-cut feta cheese
        4. 1 cup- Fresh parsley
        5. 1 cup- Fresh cilantro
        6. 2 tsp lime juice
        7. Salt and pepper to taste.

        Combine everything together and keep adding salt and pepper until it tastes the way you like it. If you are feeling extra healthy and adventurous, you could add small cubes of avocado (but be careful not to mush them). Cheers to an easy hit.

        Easy, Healthy Salsa (I Promise!)- The Champagne Supernova http://thechampagnesupernova.com/2015/04/easy-salsa-clean-healthy-few-ingredients/

        Salsa1Easy, delicious, clean salsa from The Champagne Supernova; http://www.thechampagnesupernova.com Easy, Healthy Salsa (I Promise!)- The Champagne Supernova http://thechampagnesupernova.com/2015/04/easy-salsa-clean-healthy-few-ingredients/

          The 10 Best Songs of All Freaking Time


          Larry Busacca; Getty Images

          “When you hear a great song, you can think of where you were when you first heard it, the sounds, the smells. It takes the emotions of a moment and holds it for years to come. It transcends time. A great song has all the key elements- melody; emotion; a strong statement that becomes part of the lexicon; and great production.” -Jay Z

          I don’t care how old I am or where I am in my life. There are certain songs that make me want to go euphorically insane when I hear them. Here are the top ten:

          10. More than a Feeling: Boston. This is the ultimate dive bar jukebox song. Reminds me of my freshman year of college when my girlfriends and I would listen to this while getting ready to go out, “pre-gaming” (do they still call it that?), and hitting the town wearing the official college uniform of the early 2000s: black pants, a solid colored spaghetti-strapped top, and Reef flip flops.

          9. Fortunate Son: Creedence Clearwater Revival. I was old enough to appreciate this song and the meaning behind it when it was featured on the Forrest Gump soundtrack. I feel sorry for anyone who gets stuck in a car next to me when this song is on the radio. Free entertainment.

          8. Free Fallin: Tom Petty. When I was in elementary school, my parents allowed my middle-school aged neighbor, Brandy, to babysit me and my sister. Brandy was a “bad girl,” but she would sweet talk my parents a-la-Eddie Haskell, and at $2 per day, she was cheap labor. She would sometimes babysit us at her house next door, and I remember watching the music video of this song in her upstairs bedroom with the pink canopy bed and Barbie Dream House. The video stood out to me because my parents would have flipped if they knew Brandy was letting us watch MTV (this was when watching MTV would buy you a first class ticket to the epicenter of Hell) and I recall Tom Petty riding escalators in the video. Brandy probably ended up in prison, but I ended up a lifelong Petty fan.

          7. Summer of 69: Bryan Adams. If this song doesn’t make you want to dance, then we can’t be friends.

          6. The Train: Quad City DJ’s. Shamefully, I love this song. LOVE IT. I’ve always wondered who Michelle, Tamika, and Tonya were to receive such an amazing shout-out.

          I think I can, I think I can. 

          5. Livin’ on a Prayer: Bon Jovi. Tommy and Gina, I want to know you. I want to be your friends.

          4. Shawty Swing My Way: KP and Envyi. This song puts me in the parking lot of high school in tenth grade when my best girlfriend, Nicole, was kind enough to drive me to and from school every day, before I had a car. She bought this song as a cassette single and we blasted it in the morning prior to rolling into 7-Eleven for a Frappuccino before heading into the school parking lot, where we sat in the car pretending we were cool until the bell rang. This has been the theme song for bachelorette parties, weddings, and girls’ nights. Man, I love this song.

          3. Tiny Dancer: Elton John. Elton is the greatest performer who ever lived. Not many “artists” write their own music, play an instrument, and perform their own songs. Sorry Beyonce. My parents took me to my first Elton concert in middle school, and I’ve seen four more after that. It never gets old.

          More Styles On Sale Now at Tea Collection

          2. Don’t Stop Believin’: Journey. If college had a theme song, this would be it. So many memories are associated with just one song.

          1. Sweet Child O’ Mine: Guns N’ Roses. I know Slash’s solo at the beginning of this song like the back of my hand and just hearing it gives me heart palpitations. The world stands still. This song has sentimental value. Childhood babysitter Brandy (see Number 8) was obsessed with GNR and introduced my sister and me to the band when we were kids. I remember watching the videos of Axl Rose (before the freaky plastic surgery) wearing biker shorts, a red bandana, and dancing in front of a microphone.

          What are your favorite songs? Which ones conjure the best memories and why?

          Cheers!

            Candy-less Easter Basket Ideas


            The Champagne Supernova- Easter Baskets Sans Candy

            Easter Baskets

            My kids need Easter candy like they need more clothes or “junque” to accumulate around the house: not at all. Like Valentine’s Day, it’s hard to figure out what to put in their Easter baskets when the stores are packed with candy: Puffs, Cadbury Creme Eggs, Robin’s Eggs, Lindt Chocolate Bunnies, and jelly beans. My three year old, Arden, loves sweets, but they have a tendency to set her off. She celebrated her birthday a couple weeks ago, and there’s nothing else she needs after she received tons of birthday presents (that she didn’t really need in the first place).

            I decided to go Easter basket shopping on Saturday with my 10-month old while my husband was at Home Depot with Arden buying mulch and renting a chainsaw and pressure washer (we are considering putting our home on the market and these are necessary evils before sticking the ole sign in the front yard- whew, exciting little weekend we had over here!) Anyway, my wildest dreams came true because the baby fell asleep- and stayed asleep- and my shopping endeavor turned into a shopping spree. I don’t know the last time I had free reign at Target but, man, it was nice. (I also moseyed over to some stores to shop for myself just because I could. It was a matter of principle.) When I’m at Target, it’s usually with both kids in tow, so I make a little list… formula, check… wipes, check… detergent, check… hightail it outta there. This time was different.

            Candles? Target sells candles? I probably sniffed every candle on the display wall.

            Cards? Who do I know who needs a greeting card? Did anybody die? Who had a baby? Whose birthday is coming up? I’m going to sit here and read every greeting card. Because I can.

            Scented lotions? Target carries scented lotions? I never get to go into any of the “fun” aisles with my kids. I rubbed so much lotion on my hands and arms that I became the human equivalent of the Exxon Valdez.

            My point, and I do have one, is that I went home poor, but with a bunch of cool things for the girls’ Easter baskets:

            Easter basket ideas from www.thechampagnesupernova.com

            These adorable, Easter baskets were around $12.00 each and are lined in cute fabrics. Eat your heart out, Pottery Barn Kids!

            Easter basket ideas from www.thechampagnesupernova.comFor our three year old, I purchased a cute Circo romper (that matches the one I purchased for her sister- twinning!), an Eos Lip Gloss set, The Story of Easter book, Annies organic Animal Cookies, a swirly straw cup, a Play-Doh Sparkle set (yes, I’m nuts), and I payed homage to my 1990s childhood with a Lisa Frank sticker set.

            IMG_4264For our ten month old, I purchased a romper to match her sister, some sippy cups, the same Easter book (thought I could use an extra for Grammy’s house), a stuffed lamb toy, some Easter bunny socks, and a beach hatEaster basket ideas from www.thechampagnesupernova.com

            Easter basket ideas from www.thechampagnesupernova.com

            Easter basket ideas from www.thechampagnesupernova.com

            Easter basket ideas from www.thechampagnesupernova.com

            One thing this experience reminded me is that shopping can be exhausting.

            What are your favorite Easter basket additions that do not involve candy? I’m always looking for good ideas for next year, so keep me posted.

            Cheers everyone, and have a wonderful Easter.

              The Baby Blues: How to Overcome Motherhood’s Scarlet Letter


              The Baby Blues and How to Deal with Them | The Champagne Supernova http://thechampagnesupernova.com/2015/03/baby-blues-postpartum-depression-overcome/

              This picture of my oldest daughter was taken minutes after she was born and perfectly sums up the way I felt after both of my pregnancies. You see, for the majority of my life, I imagined that giving birth to my children would be like the opening scene of The Lion King where Rafiki the monkey triumphantly holds up baby Simba and presents him to the Pride Lands while “The Circle of Life” blares in the background.

              It was nothing like that for me. My first daughter, Arden, was a week late and, after 36 hours of labor (that included me showing up for work that day not knowing I was in active labor but wondering why my lower back was killing me) and a night of zero sleep, by the time she came, I was mentally and physically exhausted, incapable of experiencing any emotion other than than shock. “And now I’m supposed to breast feed?” My second daughter, Elle, was also a week late, and in the true spirit of an impatient diva who needed to plan everything, I insisted on an induction. Be careful what you wish for. Because my epidural could not keep up with the Pitocin, I felt every last bit of childbirth. I screamed and begged for more drugs, and two more epidurals later, nothing dulled the pain. Before I knew it, I was 10 centimeters dilated and needed to start pushing.

              Oh you can feel that? Too bad. You have to PUSH.

              I’m pretty sure everyone who was working on the delivery floor at the hospital that day is treating for some time of PTSD for the out-of-body-lunatic experience that they witnessed. I’m sorry. Really sorry. When Elle arrived only a few hours after I was admitted, I was mentally and physically in shock, just like I felt after my first pregnancy.

              While both of my pregnancies were completely different, something remained constant: one week after delivery, The Gremlins arrived. The Gremlins are my name for the surge of hormones that came after childbirth when my body was trying to get back to its pre-pregnancy self. As I’m already an emotional person without being pregnant, The Gremlins made my life a nightmare for a couple weeks after delivery. They kept me awake at night. They caused hot flashes resulting in a drenched bed. I could have literally wrung my clothing. They caused my hair to fall out. They made me hate my husband. They caused me to resent my then two-year old. Worst of all? The Gremlins caused me to feel like a terrible mom and person.

              What’s wrong with me? Why didn’t I have the Lion King moment? Why is changing a diaper in the middle of the night (while I’m not sleeping anyway) a chore instead of a privilege? Why am I not singing ‘Kumbaya My Lord’ while shedding tears of joy at the thought of the life that I created? 

              These feelings can be crippling, but are common. Studies from Mental Health America show that up to 80% of new mothers experience the baby blues, with 10% to 20% of them rising to the level of postpartum depression.

              I think The Gremlins are magnified by all the “mom shaming” that goes on these days. If women feel ashamed that they aren’t breastfeeding, putting their kids in cloth diapers, and giving them organic foods that are grown in a backyard garden, then they surely aren’t going to admit when they aren’t feeling good about their kids or about themselves. The Gremlins have become the proverbial Scarlet Letter that nobody wants to talk about.

              It is critical that we not be ashamed to talk about The Gremlins and to reach out to experts and our inner circles for the resources on how to overcome them.

              The Baby Blues and How to Deal with Them | The Champagne Supernova http://thechampagnesupernova.com/2015/03/baby-blues-postpartum-depression-overcome

              Me and Arden days after her birth in 2012.

              Therapist, Ann Witt, has experience providing services to women who are coping with The Gremlins, both before and after delivery. She has developed a C.A.L.M. approach to helping women to defeat The Gremlins:

              C= Cultivate Collaborative Caregiving

              Open up 30% to 40% more time in your schedule by creatively working within your budget and timeline to identify people who can help, both before and after the pregnancy. What commitments can you delegate or eliminate as you re-prioritize? What can you simplify in preparation for the 24/7 demands that will soon become a reality? The goal is to slowly create a greater sense of balance by doing less with more; more nurturing support, more guidance, and more mentoring!

              Knowing that my stress triggers would become stronger when I returned to work after having Elle, I hired a Mother’s Helper to assist with household chores. The impact has been tremendous, and it’s worth the extra expense. Read about her here.

              A= Achieve Accelerated Awareness

              Sometimes we don’t really know what we need in order to feel content. Awareness is the key to identifying your needs and wants, to include how much sleep you need, what triggers your stress, and how you can best manage it. Remember, just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should do it. Knowing when your shoulds are terrorizing you is critical. For instance, are you comparing yourself to a friend whose pregnancy seems much easier than yours, or who seems to cope much better than you? Do you feel like you won’t be perceived as a Superior Mommy-to-Be unless you do this or that?

              This is where self-awareness and compassionate self-observance is critical to growing and developing along with your baby, in a way that invites peace into your life. Research shows that people who practice mindful awareness and stillness throughout their pregnancy are able to better manage stress, fluctuating moods, and the pain and discomfort of childbirth. To help with self-awareness, find a coach who can introduce holistic ways to practice it.

              L= Leverage Lessons Learned

              It’s critical to apply best practices and benefit from others’ lessons learned. There are a million different websites and available resources, but which ones provide information you can actually trust and put to good use? Below are some sites that offer tons of mindful birthing resources:

              Mindful Birthing

              Gina Hassan, Ph.D.

              Osher Center for Integrative Medicine

              BayCare Obstetrics

              Ann has graciously volunteered to donate a copy of Nancy Bardacke’s book, Mindful Birthing: Training the Mind, Body, and Heart for Childbirth and Beyond to three randomly-chosen individuals who comment on this blog post by April 30, 2015.

              M: Mindfully Manage Motherhood

              Aside from the fact that you will nurture and grow a beautiful person inside of you for months and then withstand hours of labor and delivery, the expectation is that you can and will seamlessly transition into your 24/7 role as a new mother! How have you conditioned yourself to go the distance now and after the pregnancy? Making healthy, mindfulness-based practices a priority in your life will serve you well when you have to rely on your “reserves” to get through the intensity of the first days and weeks of motherhood. Building a strong internal guiding system will help you navigate motherhood with grace, resilience, and a sense that “knowing” that you already have the answers. Cheers to you, your new baby, and the magical celebration of life. And if you’re like me and the initial step into motherhood wasn’t exactly “magical,” then know that you’re not alone.

              Ann Witt, MS, LMHC, is the founder of PieWise Living in Tampa, Florida. Her coaching and counseling is premised on the knowledge that within each client lies the solution to his or her concern. Her role as a collaborative coach and therapist is to help clients identify their strengths, build strong coping and resiliency skills, and advocate for themselves in ways that help them feel empowered and fearless when addressing life’s milestones and challenges. Ann is a bilingual licensed mental health counselor, life coach, and peak performance consultant with over 30 years of experience. She integrates decades of knowledge in mindfulness-based stress reduction techniques with eclectic, evidence-based, theoretical orientations to customize solution-focused client interventions. Ann is certified in qigong, food healing, and aromatherapy, offering clients holistic alternatives. She is a published author, international keynote speaker, and expert on PTSD, anxiety disorders, and leadership peak performance. Ann is married, a mother of twins, and passionate about helping others.

              JenBlogPic

                The No-Show Birthday Party: How Our Seemingly Harmless Actions Can Hurt Others


                I was recently killing time on Facebook when I came across a girlfriend’s status update that stopped me in my tracks:

                photo-2

                One of the comments in the thread revealed that fourteen of the little boy’s classmates RSVP’d that they would attend the birthday party, but only one of them actually showed up. I blame this on the parents. It’s doubtful that the parents of the thirteen kids who failed to attend had legitimate emergencies that would warrant not showing up for an event that they already committed to. And what about texting or emailing the birthday boy’s parents ahead of time to let them know they had to cancel?

                Until I had children, I never fully understood the amount of time and money involved in throwing a party. I imagined the situation where the little boy was probably counting down the minutes until his friends came to his birthday party, only to have one person show up. (And thank God for that one person!) Sure, it was gorgeous in Florida last weekend and there were likely other things these parents would have rather been doing than sitting at some kid’s birthday party, but couldn’t they have just sucked it up for two hours and honored their commitment? My heart goes out to the birthday boy and his parents, which my girlfriend described as “devastated.” I hope I never have to see my children experience that type of heartbreak and disappointment, even though it’s probably inevitable. Anybody who thinks that the birthday boy should “get over it” because disappointment is a part of life needs to consider how they would feel if the birthday boy was their child and they were the ones who had to see the pain in his eyes.

                What made reading this status update more difficult is that I’ve been guilty of RSVPing to events and subsequently being unable to attend. This happens rarely and usually only involves weekday girls’ nights where the event seemed like a great idea when I initially received the invitation and RSVP’d. Then, by the time it rolled around a couple weeks later, I was exhausted from working and traveling all day, had a screaming (and sometimes sick) child to feed, bathe, and put to bed, and the last thing I felt like doing was getting dolled up and driving to a place where I had to be social. And when I sent that horrible text to the host(ess) “Hey, I’m so sorry but I had a crazy day today and am not going to be able to make it tonight,” I am usually thinking, “It won’t matter if I don’t go because I saw on the E-Vite that twenty other girls will be there.” Well… what would happen if the rest of those twenty girls did the same thing? Or even ten of them? In reality, during these scenarios I’m thinking about myself and not the person it might be negatively impacting: the host!

                Let’s put the RSVP issue aside and move onto attending events that aren’t necessarily appealing (or convenient) to us, but are important to the person of honor. Like the bachelorette party in New York City for the girl who attended all of your events when you were the bride-to-be? Or the baby shower for the girl who hosted your baby shower when it was your turn to be celebrated? Or the awards luncheon (all the away across town when you only have an hour lunch break) for the friend who worked her tail off toward the accomplishment that she’s now being honored? It’s impossible to attend everything we are invited to, and sometimes there are genuine conflicts but, overall, who are we considering when we accept or decline? Ourselves, or the person being celebrated? Shouldn’t we want to make other people feel special, the same way other people have made us feel special?

                We live in a world that teaches us to think solely about ourselves: “What do I want to do today?” “What feels like the best decision for me?” “I have to put myself first.” Me, me, me. To a large degree, it’s important to consider our own best interests when making decisions, but where do we draw the line? I don’t know the answer to this question. We can be so absorbed with ourselves that we don’t think about how our seemingly harmless choices can hurt somebody else. What would happen if the world taught us to base our decisions on love and service for others? What would happen if we universally had that attitude?

                Perhaps the only good thing to come out of this horrible birthday party story is that anybody who hears about it might second guess the next time they consider blowing off a commitment. I know I will.

                (Linking up with Annie and Natalie on Thoughts for Thursday). Photo credit by Can Stock Photo/ Vishnena.

                  Regifting: Forgivable or Faux Pas?


                  canstockphoto0409788

                  I witnessed something happen at a bridal shower that was so mortifying that this is the first time I’ve told the story. It was so mortifying, in fact, that even writing about it is mortifying.

                  It was 2007 and Shelby (whose name isn’t Shelby) was elated about her bridal shower, the first in a string of what would be fabulous events prior to her June wedding. There were around 40 guests at this shower, comprised of Shelby’s mother, grandmothers, future in-laws, great aunts, hometown girlfriends, and sorority sisters. After the cocktails were served, brunch was eaten, and games were played, everyone sat in a large circle around the bride-to-be as she opened gifts. Per custom, Shelby read each bridal shower card aloud and announced who the gift was from before she opened it. (Cue the oohs and aahs). The third gift was immediately recognizable, a large square blue box from Tiffany’s that was tied with a perfect white ribbon. Inside the box was a gorgeous crystal pitcher and Shelby’s friend, Caroline, beamed as Shelby read her bridal shower card and announced that it was from her. As this was happening, I thought to myself “Wow, Caroline is about to get married and finish grad school in a couple months, this is a generous shower gift!” Before Shelby moved onto the next gift, she stopped and said, “Wait… I see another card.” Tucked inside the pitcher was a tiny white envelope that was 2″ wide by 2″ tall. Shelby opened the envelope, and inside was a card that contained typewriter-style font, which Shelby read out loud: “Dear Caroline, wishing you and Bobby many years of love in your marriage. Jim and Patricia Perkins.”

                  Nobody knew what to say. Nobody knew what to do or how to react. Everyone was speechless, including poor Shelby, who probably wished she never accidentally discovered the card to begin with. Caroline was silent and her cheeks were scarlet. She was just red-handedly caught regifting.

                  We’ve all been victims of regifting. I have a girlfriend who received a used ceramic “vase” as  wedding gift, which we all swear was an urn. I think most of us have also been guilty of regifting, though not to the same extreme as poor Caroline. For example, you received two copies of Goodnight Moon for your baby shower, so you gave your extra copy to someone else at their baby shower.

                  Personally, I don’t have a problem with regifting. And so we are all on the same page, my definition of regifting is giving away a new, unused item, that somebody purchased for you to somebody else under the guise that you purchased it for them. Regifting, to me, is not giving a used hand-me-down as a gift. (I mean, I appreciate hand-me-downs, but just don’t wrap them and represent that the items are new). I realize it gets incredibly expensive and time consuming to routinely attend bridal showers, baby showers, weddings, and kids’ birthday parties. If Little Susie received two Sparkle Studio Barbies at her birthday party, I wouldn’t be offended if I found out that Susie’s mom wrapped one of them and gave it to my child as a gift at her birthday party. No harm, no foul. I think it’s nice that people take time out of their schedules to attend these events and don’t believe people should be fixated on the gifts they receive. (Unless, of course, we’re talking about a wedding and a guest doesn’t give a gift at all- not even a card- which I find despicable).

                  Evidently, most Americans agree with my position on regifting. In 2012, The Huffington Post cited a survey initiated by CreditDonkey.com (sounds legit) where 83% of respondents said they wouldn’t mind receiving a resifted present. Further, about half of the 1,125 adult Americans polled in the survey said they suspected they had received a regift in the past. However, only 35% of survey respondents admitted to regifting something.

                  Emily Post disagrees with my stance on regifting. According to her, it’s “not really” acceptable to pass along a gift you’ve received to someone else. She believes that gifts should be recycled rarely and only under the following circumstances: 1) You’re certain the gift is something the recipient would really like to receive; 2) The gift is brand new and comes with the original box and instructions; and 3) The gift isn’t one that the original giver took great care to select or make. In other words- you have to make sure you don’t hurt feelings, either the original giver’s or the recipient’s. (Emily Post is my go-to for scenarios when I am tempted to do something tacky, and you can purchase her most popular book here).

                  What do you think? Is regifting a forgivable offense or a faux pas? Is it greedy and selfish to expect people to attend your event with a brand spanking new gift, let alone any gift at all?

                    The Second Child: How Pregnancy and Parenting Differ Among Children


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                    When I was pregnant with my first child, I routinely stayed hydrated with water, anxiously awaited doctor’s appointments so I could stay apprised of the baby’s development, was terrified of taking anti-nausea medication because of the child born with lobster claws in the Daubert case (lawyers, you know what I’m talking about), and diligently avoided tuna and shellfish.

                    With my second child, I was downing five cups of coffee per day, “forgetting” about doctor’s appointments, popping Zofran with reckless abandon and, in desperate times of starvation, eating Cuban sandwiches straight off convenience store shelves. (Putting the sandwich in the microwave will kill the Listeria, won’t it?).

                    With my second child, the five-second rule became the five-minute rule. I breastfed my first child for three days. My poor second child didn’t receive even a drop of colostrum. Hey, it wasn’t for me.

                    My first child had a closet full of haute couture that would impress even Joan Rivers. My second child received a closet full of our first child’s stained hand-me-downs.

                    With my first child, I was terrified to leave the house and risk exposure to germs. I took my second child to a zoo with my then-toddler in the dead of summer when she was ten days old. (Maybe if I expose her to lots of monkeys, she’ll be immune from the Ebola virus when she joins the Peace Corps in 2032).

                    $30 off Sun Basket

                    When I was pregnant with my first child, I was consumed with the “newness” of the entire experience. I found myself saying things like, “Oh my God, I just felt her kick!” and “Jason, get the camera, it’s time to take the 9-week belly picture for her album!”

                    When I was pregnant with my second child, the conversation became, “I can’t freaking sleep because she’s kicking my ribs!” and “If I rub my skirt really hard with a Shout Wipe, do you think anybody will notice the vomit residue? I’m too huge to bend over and change.” When I was pregnant with my first child, my baby bump became a photographed shrine. With my second child, it became my first child’s pillow and, occasionally, chair.

                    When I was pregnant with my first child, I loved when strangers stopped me on the streets and asked when I was due and whether I was having a boy or girl. When I was pregnant with my second child, I became homicidal when somebody asked me about being pregnant. Or gave me dirty looks when I was downing that fifth cup of coffee.

                    On the same token, when I was pregnant with my first child, I was a panicked, uncertain mess. With the second child, I had an idea of what to expect and didn’t have time to stress about the pregnancy because I was so busy chasing a toddler while juggling a career and marriage and attempting to reach Domestic Goddess status. (Never made it to the latter).

                    With my second child, I knew that most of what I thought mattered during my first pregnancy didn’t really matter at all.

                    What does matter is that she is loved, nurtured, and raised to feel a sense of validation and belonging in our family and the world. What does matter is that she, like our first daughter, is raised to treat people kindly and to understand her purpose and work hard at fulfilling it.

                    What won’t matter, dangit, is whether I ate and enjoyed a giant slice of brie during my pregnancy.

                    How did your first and second pregnancies and child rearing differ and do you think it made a difference?

                    Cheers!

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