REVIEW: One Last Hug… Bring Tissues

25 Aug
One Last Hug... and Three Smooches

One Last Hug (…and a few smooches)

With tonight being Emmy night, and because I work at the PDC where the post Emmy party-of-all-parties is set to go off, I thought I’d get into HBO-Go’s Emmy Nom category of watchable things over the weekend, and my best choice landed me 10lbs lighter thanks to water elimination by tear ducts.

Seriously.

One Last Hug had me ugly crying less than ONE minute into the 35 minutes of film.

Kids + parents dying + grief camp = SADDEST THING EVER. Of course, there were a few happy moments of resolve at the end, but from start to almost finish was a tear-fest in between.

On a very serious note, however, I’m in love with Camp Erin. Talk about life-changing, honorable and amazing work. The people of Camp Erin all have a special seat reserved for them in the sky for the work they do to help these kid’s grow and thrive amidst the heaviest challenges of their little lives. Kids who’ve lost parents to cancer, suicide and murder (!!!) are all unified through their grieving experience, being encouraged to share their hurt with other kids their own age. Through the comfort of knowing they’re not alone, they find healing and a way to move forward from their individual tragedies, with forgiveness, acceptance and the camaraderie of other kids in their same age group, enduring the same unfair situations.

Camp Erin, created and funded by The Moyer Foundation, is the largest nationwide network of free bereavement camps for children and teens ages 6-17 who have experienced the death of someone close to them.

A truly brilliant film, this exposure to the healing available to kids suffering from loss, was both enlightening, endearing, and heart wrenching. It made me want to give them all of my money, time and resources. It also educated me on the process of grief for children. And, as a mama, I would want this experience for my own child, should something ever happened to me (or my husband). The thought of a young mind in the process of being shaped by their experiences, having to deal with this type of tragedy before they’re even able to understand the word “death” is crippling, but Camp Erin gives them hope.

I highly recommend this film to anyone who’s looking for something to have their heart moved by. Then, do something to help keep this organization alive and thriving, so kids for years to come can have the same opportunity to have a bright future, regardless of their unfortunate and dark past.

Donate to Camp Erin.

Watch the Camp Erin trailer.

Get involved with Camp Erin.

10 Tips for Flying with a Toddler

19 Aug

Last month, I nervously researched “flying with a toddler” in about every Facebook group, Insta-hashtag and mommy blog I could find. What I found was that everyone prepares like mad, and just hopes to survive the few hours – or way too many hours – they’ll be mid-air with a squirmy-wormy, little monster on their lap.

I was the same.

Instead of making official “busy bags”, I packed a special backpack full of fun stuff for the flight, then a separate diaper bag, with all of the diapering essentials, sani-wipes, essential oils (who knows why), and medicines (Tylenol, Advil, Hyland’s Baby Vitamin C and Teething Tablets – again, who knows why). We were lucky enough to have only pee diapers on the plane, thank goodness, but we were prepared, just in case shit hit the fan… literally.

Anyway, we had a GREAT flight both directions and though that might be because I have an awesome kid, here’s my recommendation for flying with a toddler:

1. Get seats next to your partner (I recommend aisle and middle). This also means GET TO THE AIRPORT EARLY!!!

We didn’t want to splurge on the ‘extra 4″ of room’ fees, or bulkhead seats, and got to the airport for both flights way too late to be too choosey, but having seats next to your partner is really great. That way, you can have more room on your laps, lift the arm rest between you, and just kinda share the wiggle. I also felt like having a window (which I typically prefer) would have made us feel too trapped and when little mister needed to walk the aisles for a few, or I needed to grab something from the overhead, and it would have just been a giant bummer for the person in the aisle.

If you’re flying solo, it’s probably best to try to get the aisle, so they can hang their legs off the side and squirm as much as needed too. Plus, kids seem to think that the rolling carts are pretty cool and flight attendants really like chatting with good babies. Any second that passes time in a positive way, means any time without tears.

2. Bring a stroller, but wear your baby! 

We almost opted to rent a stroller in Hawaii, but had recently purchased a BOB from our neighbors who were no longer using theirs. We paid $80 for it (what we would have paid renting) and it was a LIFESAVER in the airport, plus, we got to use it all over the place on our trip, and even more so at home. Best $80 ever.

I wore Remy in the Ergo, and put all of our carryon’s in the stroller, which was great, because we spent most of the time in the airport running to catch our flight (we’re TERRIBLE at getting to airports early). When you wear your baby, they basically pass you through security, and just check your hands for chemicals… which, duh. Why would a mom with a baby have bomb chemicals on her? I guess there are still bad people in the world.

IMG_7723.JPG

Baby/backpack wearing, travel fam.

3. Bring a packed lunch, and if you have time, buy more food at the airport. 

Airline food sucks and it’s not toddler friendly, unless your kid likes nasty roast beef and mayo sandwiches, or can chew almonds and stuff like that. Like I said, we are TERRIBLE at getting to airports when we should, so we weren’t able to buy food in advance of the flight, which meant that the snacks I packed were all we had… and the nasty roast beef and mayo sandwich that we all tried to stomach, but struggled with. My best friend had said “bring snacks, snacks, snacks, and more snacks” and she was dead on. We didn’t bring sugary snacks (god forbid it create a sugar high monster on the flight), but we brought all his favorites and didn’t limit how much he ate of them. Gold fish (organic, of course), organic peanut butter sandwich/cookies, fruit shreds, teensy fruit, and Plum Organic baby bars. All of his favorite treats, all healthy, and all we had for a very long time.

4. Talk to your baby about the adventure you’re going on and (try to) show them the plane before you board.

Remy was mesmerized by it. It was really cute.

5. Tylenol… My hero.

I know a lot of moms don’t give their kids Tylenol unless their kid is SUPER sick with a fever, but this is an important one to understand. Your baby can’t adjust the pressure in their ears yet by elongating their eustachian tubes, the way grown ups/big kids can. Chewing gum, popping your ears, all of that is a learned skill and baby’s don’t get it yet. I gave Remy some Tylenol about 30 minutes before take off, and 45 minutes before landing, so that his ears wouldn’t hurt too terribly… especially because he was sick with a double ear infection on our way home.

6. Nurse or Bottle your baby during takeoff and BEFORE landing. 

To piggy back on the Tylenol, if you’ve flown with a head-cold before, you know that the first decrease in altitude is the worst. On our 5 hour flight to Hawaii, we coasted at an easy 35,000 feet. When we first started to decline down to 10,000 feet, my head felt like it was going to explode. I was sick when we left for our trip, and I actually cried like a baby in pain during our decent. Not my finest moment, but I learned something important; the initial decent is the worst part and if you take care of your baby’s potential for pain or discomfort prior to then, you’ll have a much happier munchkin when your feet are on the ground again.  Nursing your baby on the way up, and again on the way down, in combo with Tylenol, will save your sanity, and your sweet little babe some unnecessary pain.

7. Book your flight during a nap or bed time.

Who knew I would have hit the nail on the head with this one, but it worked! My little guy was so tired just from the time of day, and so beat from all of the stimulation of getting onto the flight, that he slept for over an hour and a half each way on our flights to and from Hawaii. I booked the flights at nap-time in Los Angeles (1:00PM) on the way out, and 4:30PM on the way back, which also helped transition back to nap-time in the PST time zone (he, of course, also napped in the car on the way to the airport).

Nursed and Sleepy

Nursed and Sleepy

8. Pack toys your baby is not used to playing with.

For us, it was stickers and Play Dough. My guy is only 17 months old, so he’s just learning how to play with Play Dough, instead of eating it. It was a really fun part of our flight. We made bracelets and snakes… he loved it. Stickers were the other hit. We found these great “reusable sticker books” where you can actually peel the stickers off the page, and re-stick them somewhere else. The Despicable Me Minions were a lot of fun to move around from page to page, but I wish I’d have seen these Melissa & Doug ones too! So cute!!

9. Don’t be afraid of screens.

We all know that the recommendations for toddlers and using iPads/iPhones/sitting in front of the TV is “no screens until 2″, but that doesn’t include air travel. Sorry. DO NOT GUILT YOURSELF for doing what’s necessary to get where you need to go, if your babe is “under age”. We loaded up our favorite family movie “Turtle Tales” on the iPad and brought it along, just in case… Turns out, I like to sleep on flights, and that’s dumb when you’re holding a baby, so I needed a break from the busyness of play time, and “tur-lurs” were just the thing I needed. Remy had never worn headphones before either. Having them on his cute little head, monkey in arm, was just the sweetest thing to me, and most interesting (read “TIME CONSUMING”) thing I could have hoped for. Also, just pay attention to your kid and try to keep the amount of time you spend distracted from their needs (ie. on your airplane mode phone playing solitaire, or reading the latest tween novel).

Turtle Tales, Monkey, headphones and my Babe.

Turtle Tales, Monkey, headphones and my Babe.

10. Have Some FUN! Wear Matching Family Outfits! Be THAT Family!

This has nothing to do with the success of the flight, other than that it may help you keep a jovial perspective if/when things get rocky. :)

Once upon an unmarried time, my future husband made a jokey reference to wanting to “always match when we travel, like the Royal Tenenbaums”. So, for one of his wedding-day presents, I had matching black Adidas warmups made, with silly nicknames and the date on each of our jackets, and our initials on the pant fronts, for us to wear on our honeymoon.We looked like we were from the Jersey Shore. Hilarious. That started the family trend, silly as it was.

Thanks to so many modern brands realizing how fun it is to match your family, without looking like a moron, there are so many options for looking good while matching. My current favorite is Sly Fox Threads. Their designs are awesome, and they have mom, dad and baby clothes that are all awesome. Here’s a pic of my dudes in Maui, matching as my men should.

Happy matching in Maui!

My Boys in Sly Fox, matching in Maui!

The point is, be prepared, but relax and have fun with it. Traveling is stressful with or without a kiddo on your hip, so make the most of it by creating your experience as you go.

If you have any additions to my little list, feel free to leave it in the comments.

Happy trails!

Lions, and Tigers and No Parabens??? Oh My!!

30 Jul

Do you remember the first time you saw an Herbal Essences commercial back in 8th grade? The somewhat hippie-ish, super sun-soaked, beautiful models running freely through the tall grassy prairies… well, maybe I just dated myself because this was PRE fake orgasms in the shower while covered in shampoo, but I remember those early ads. Then again, the company was formed in the early 70’s, so I’m sure there were a lot of campaigns I missed along the way, but the ones I remember made me want to be beautiful too.

I also remember my mom buying the shampoo and conditioner at the store, and I remember feeling oh, so beautiful, even though I’d never been to a real prairie and the closest thing to running freely in my neighborhood, was watching stray cats run looking for food, and neighborhood kids chasing cars down the street. But, in my mind, I was one of THEM. One of the pretty ones, frolicking in nature (not trapped in the city)… all because my hair looked and felt like a dream.

Fast forward 15-20 years (dating myself again), and I learned about parabens in cosmetics, primarily in shampoo, conditioner, deodorants and lotions. I learned that parabens cause cancer, or are at least present in cancerous tissue. Breast cancer specifically. So many (cosmetically related) things in my life changed once I had that realization. I started to look for more natural products (that still worked and didn’t make me smell like a hippie), and started weeding out products that contained “bad for you” ingredients, like parabens, silicon and sulfites.

Now, I’m a mom. I work, I mommy and I write as much as I can. I became a member of Influenster and signed up for their VoxBox program to review products for them.

My first box was for an old memory…. Herbal Essences… Naked?

My first thought was “Crap. I have to write a review about a product I wouldn’t ever buy.”

Well, then I saw something beautiful on the label:

No Parabens! No Dyes!

No Parabens! No Dyes! No Silicone!

 NO PARABENS. FREE. OF. PARABENS. WHAT?!

Ok, I’ll give this stuff a try.

The thing is, I have heavily treated hair (duh, blonde is NOT my natural color), so I typically use specialty shampoos and conditioners, but I always have some less expensive (and available at Target, not at a specialty shop) product for myself on days I don’t need blue shampoo, and for my husband, now that his luscious, long, locks are gone.

So, I compared ingredients with my “normal” shampoo and that of the Herbal Essences Naked collection.

MY STUFF HAD PARABENS!!! LOTS OF THEM!!! How did I miss this????

I’m mad at myself for not looking at the label on this one, but no matter how much I love it, it’s being replaced.

Regardless of how the HE product ended up in my hands, I’m glad it did. It actually works quite well too. The dry shampoo is probably my least favorite of the collection, but really, that’s because it’s meant for people with longer hair than me, who need a traditional dry shampoo. I only use dry shampoos to pump up my hair volume, not control grease, since I have the kind of short, overly treated hair that mandates a daily washing.

The shampoo and conditioner are every bit as good as what I use (the crappy paraben loaded stuff from my past… we totally broke up) and my fried blonde hair actually feels like hair after I use it.

The Herbal Essences Naked Collection

The Herbal Essences Naked Collection

I received these products complimentary from Influenster for testing purposes.

Joanna’s Battle. Please Help. #CancerSucks

10 Jul
For the Love of Jo

Photo Cred: Jo’s Facebook Page

Joanna Sadaka. Her personality is as fiery as her name is cool.

We met Jo when signed to Island Records, years and years ago. I actually saw her last, at our old band manager’s funeral (RIP, John), so it’s been a few years. Like everyone that I don’t see on a daily basis now, I keep up with her fire and passions on Facebook and Instagram. I love Jo. She’s a beautiful person inside and out and deserves to live a long and full life.

I knew things had been rough with her family, but one day, she posted that she too was sick. It seemed that she would be ok, and was released from the hospital, just to get home, still struggle to feel “right”, and ended up in a different hospital that was able to accurately diagnose her illness.

Pancreatic cancer.

Shit.

Since April of this year, she’s been through hell and back, but is continuing to fight. After 4 rounds of chemo, she found out mid June that she needed 6 more weeks of chemo treatment.

I came across this fundraiser tonight and needed to post it. If you’re able to, even $5.00 will help Jo and her and her family. Her mom has breast cancer, her dad is hospitalized for tumors of a different sort, too. They need help. Please, please, please, help them if you can. If you can’t any positive thoughts and prayers you can donate will also for surely be appreciated.

Help Jo and her family.

Help Jo and her family.

 

New Mommy Must-Haves

11 Jun

When you’re about to have a baby, it seems that everyone has advise on what said baby needs to survive in the outside world. However, no one really talks about what the mommy will need to survive those first months of milky messes, dehydration, sleep depravation, and wardrobe malfunctions.

I managed to make it, as did so many of my friends before me, but as I watch my other friends who are becoming new moms struggle to perfect both their registries and homes in anticipation of their new arrival, I’ve decided to put a little list of mommy must-haves together. This is for you and your baby, because with the knowledge of these things in advance of having the baby, you will hopefully be a little more prepared, and you’ll be able to focus more on the importance of that new little lover. The list isn’t long, but I hope it’s helpful!

1. Water… all the time. WATER.

Keep Yourself Hydrated

Keep Yourself Hydrated

This was my number 1, most adored accessory (besides my new baby, of course). Brita’s individual water filtration system. I was/am a breastfeeder, which means that hydration is/was key for me to produce enough milk to nourish my baby. The biggest cause in my milk supply dips were typically related to how much water I was drinking. This thing saved me. You can fill it up anywhere and unlike a normal reusable water bottle, it doesn’t matter where the water comes from, it’s super easy to clean. It’s available at Target, or on Amazon. The replacement filters are available at either retailer as well. Super easy. No excuse to not be hydrated! I still use mine and love it.

2. Nursing Tanks

Keep 'em Comfy... and Available

Keep ‘em Comfy… and Available

If you’re going to be a breastfeeding mama, you’re likely going to be living in a nursing bra of some sort for the next year or so. I wish I’d have been prepared for this. You will need to have access to your boobs ALL OF THE TIME, and sometimes at the worst time, plus your old sexy bras aren’t going to fit for a while. I found that the best and easiest way to be able to nurse in public (and even at home, in mixed company) was to wear a nursing tank under every other shirt I wore. Here’s the reason; when you have to nurse and you don’t want to be overly exposed on top, or show off your awesome new “tiger striped” (or flabby) belly on the bottom, the tank covers your tummy, and when worn underneath another shirt, you can lift the top layer up, and lower just the top part of the tank to feed your babe, allowing you to comfortable hide part of your breast with the top shirt, while totally accommodating your baby. I also found this extremely helpful when the weather was hot and the Hooter Hider was just too sweaty and clunky. I mean, don’t get me wrong. The hooter hider was awesome at first, but as soon as my baby decided that he didn’t like having fabric over his face, and could reach out and pull, there was no point. Buy nursing tanks. You will thank me.

Scoop Neck or Low Cut Tops/Comfy Bottoms

When we got home from the hospital, I struggled with not having a thing to wear, once the baby was out of my belly and in my arms. My very wrongfully dressed arms. I came home with a baby (and what looked like a 6 month pregnant, postpartum belly) and realized that it was too cold to wear tank tops middle of winter (in Los Angeles, but still). All of my long sleeve shirts were too high necked and I had a hard time feeding the baby without lifting my shirt and starting at my belly full of swollen tissue and bloat. I had to cut the necks off of long sleeved shirts, so that I had easy access to the “feeding station”, and so that the middle-of-the-night feedings weren’t a total cluster necessitating a clumsy, sleepy-eyed, wardrobe change. If you’re a winter birther, get some low necked tee’s or thermals, so you can stay warm. If you’re a summer mama, who cares. Live nekkid (or in cami’s). Additionally, your pre-preg pants will be too tight for a while, and you’ll be wearing your maternity jeans for longer than you probably expected as well. Make sure to be well stocked on comfy sweats (not tight pants right at first, or you’ll expose your fancy new under garments) or lounge/pajama pants. Shirts with a low neckline are also optimal for feeding baby when you’re home, or don’t care about exposure. Camisoles and V-neck T’s become a must.

“Granny” Panties

Comfy Matters

Comfy Matters

Because the kind you’re used to, just aren’t going to work for postpartum things. Thankfully, my older sister, Nadia (mother of 3), knew what I would need and made sure I had them on hand. She’s also supplied me with massage oils and other fun recovery items, and that was really great of her, but the big ol’ granny pants? Those saved me.

Nursing Pads/Mattress Pads/Washable Surface Pads

Most people know about nursing pads, but make sure you have a solid, waterproof (or milk proof) mattress pad on your bed as well. Some people (not mentioning names) can have REALLY high milk supplies in the early months and end up having to wash their sheets almost daily… Or just living in what feels like purgatory for a while, because you just can’t keep up with all that laundry, so you sleep in old milk. We co-slept and my babe would drool milk all night long, in addition to the spouts I found attached to my body, that had a mind of their own. I ended up cutting an old mattress pad up, sewing a sheet onto it, and creating my own “waterproof sheet”, which resembled a washable puppy pee pad. I put it on top of my regular bed sheets, and the baby and I just slept on that.   It’s much easier to toss in with other laundry, than it was to strip the bed everyday. I wish I’d have made it in advance, but then again, I probably wouldn’t have been so leaky if that were the case (Murphy’s Law loves me). Anyway, “water stains” automatically void your bed’s warrantee, so if that’s a thing for you and you want to have the ability to make a claim on your bed one day, should you develop a good “taco” in the middle from all the snuggling, KEEP IT SAFE.

A Flexible Mindset

Breastfeeding does not burn calories for everyone in the same way. Not everyone who breastfeeds (or exclusively pumps) will loose their baby weight by doing so. This is a fact. If you’re lucky enough to get back into your old clothes in the first few months of your baby’s life, god love ya. I’m still working on that 16 months later. Some of us just hold on to weight differently. I’m convinced that all of the crash dieting I did in my 20’s taught my body to hold on to every calorie it could, because it needed to feed someone else. It’s primal survival for your infant. Anyway, all of this to say, be flexible if things don’t go as you expect. It’s ok! Your baby needs your body to produce milk, not to lose weight. For me, every attempt at exercise or calorie cutting, negatively impacted my supply almost immediately. Not the case for everyone, but this was the case for me and that’s ok.

If you had something that was imperative to your early motherhood survival, leave it in the comments!

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