Why I’m done tolerating racism on social media #unfriendracism

As a mother who lives in Baltimore during this heated and devastating time for our city, I find myself in a middle place. The story of a young black man being beaten to his death by police is an old one, but we remain ever so divided on it’s implications. And it has never been so clear then when taking a scroll through my Facebook feed or posting a photo or sentiment in support of our African American community.

Any time events like these unfold across the country, my social media erupts into two sides and I realize how, as a Caucasian middle-class woman, I am wedged between people who want change and people who still lack so much compassion for a human experience unlike their own. And while my heart is warmed by so many of the loving gestures, the good will of those who have volunteered or marched for peace, I have also, never been so disappointed. Upon asking for messages of love for my city, first were some comments of love and hopes and prayers for justice. And then, as expected, came the callous and uncaring remarks about another dead black man.

Photo credit, Deanna Kopf
Photo credit, Deanna Kopf

Some comments were to the tune of “who cares? Baltimore’s favorite heroin dealer is dead? Big deal!”, others pointed to just how much black on black crime takes place in our city, saying “who is killing the majority of black people anyway?” One young mother expressed utter confusion when I shared a powerful image of an African American woman holding a sign that read “Stop Killing Black People” asking me why shouldn’t the sign say “Stop Killing All People”? Well, because police officers are killing black people (apparently she has not been watching much of the news, now or well, ever).

What is sad but true is that many of my acquaintances don’t realize how deeply racially charged their statements are. Even friends from Baltimore, who live just a block or two from the riots, the fires, the National Guard tromping through the streets, don’t seem to understand. If you don’t care about the life of a black man, if it means nothing to you because he is black, if you can shrug your shoulders and tell the world via Facebook “he got what he deserved” with no understanding of the life he has lead, no empathy, no concern for the way he left the world- that is racism at it’s core.

Most of my peers, people I went to high school with, family and friends are middle-class Americans who don’t know the depths of the inner-city. They might drive through it or catch glimpses of it on the way to a baseball game and wear the badge of being from Baltimore like we’ve seen a thing or two. But the truth is, we are blissfully removed from what it is like to grow up in inner-city Baltimore. It has been far too easy for us to turn the other cheek, to hear racism and not speak out, to simply be polite.

Social media is so imbedded in our culture and we cannot just ignore racism in this forum and pretend it doesn’t matter. While it is true that arguing with every person who makes these remarks probably won’t do that much good, I think there is something to be said for speaking out and telling the world “no, I do not accept this. This is not okay. You are missing the point.” And as a mother, a woman, a citizen of Baltimore, I don’t accept racism in the year 2015 on the internet or anywhere. Social media is the way of our times. You can’t be racist on the internet and not racist in real life. If you’re racist on Facebook, guess what? You’re racist.

There may be a time when I, too, may have turned the other cheek. But when such a lack of understanding, of caring, of human decency, even blatant racism is put out into the world for me to see, I can’t ignore it. When I see racist comments, I am speaking out. I am hitting unfriend. I am taking a stand because it is my responsibility and yours and to say “no more.” This issue needs all of us, from every single community to do better, to understand, to show our children a world where we stand up to racism.

What saddens me the most is when parents on social media are the ones making these uncaring comments. How can any parent not understand the anger of losing a child at the hands of officers who have sworn to protect? Freddie Gray was 25 years old. He was no doubt troubled, but he didn’t deserve to die. He was someone’s brother, child, friend. He was a human being but some of my friends, distant family, acquaintances, refuse to see him as such. And that fog, that cloud, that confusion and lack of concern for a life is because of his race.

There are people who truly want justice and then there is the other half who somehow find a way to not care that another young man is dead because of the color of his skin. So when we see racism out in the world, which social media is undoubtedly a part of, do we scroll past it, the online equivalent of looking the other way? Or do we speak out? I, for one, am done tolerating racism on social media or anywhere else. I am speaking out and I am hitting unfriend. I hope others will do the same.  #unfriendracism

Needing more than to be needed

As a mother who stays at home, works at home, wipes snotty faces and does everything else at home, on any given day, finding time to shower or go to the bathroom is a struggle. When I do, it’s hurried or a spectator sport at best, a crying, massive, ridiculous meltdown in the making at worst. One baby screaming in his crib and flailing his body against the rails while his sister throws things at him or down the stairs or tries to make him dance while he protests and cries harder. Who knew peeing (or God forbid, pooping) could cause such utter chaos? People with bladder control problems and mothers (so basically, just mothers)- that’s who.

The time I have away from my children at this point in my life is very limited. It is almost nonexistent. My husband travels for his job about half the month and during that time, I am holding down the fort and sometimes unraveling, briefly, then putting myself back together before too much damage has been caused. I am always hopeful that by the end of the day, tired children will go to bed easily, sleep well and there will be a few moments in the day for me. That I will end the day on a high note, feeling like I did the best I can do and once they are tucked in my good karma will kick in and I can put my feet up. Usually, that doesn’t happen, but I remain hopeful with each passing day that soon it will.

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Instead what almost always happens is some variation of the following. My daughter gets excited because she has me all to herself. There is no other adult in the kitchen to talk to and sneak glances to or to help me make dinner. Just a baby who doesn’t talk and a 5-year-old who never stops talking. If my mind drifts for a moment my silence is met with “mama!… mama!” I love her adoration of me, but sometimes, it is suffocating and it is overwhelming, especially now that there is another tiny person to feed, clothe, bathe and put to bed, too.

She is in my lap, she is pawing at my hair, she is covering me in garments. Her tiny hands are all over my body. They are on my bare breasts, cozying up to me while the baby nurses. On my face and neck and belly. They are everywhere. They are hands that I love more than anything, but they are playing a very intrinsic part in my combustion. I grit my teeth and take deep breaths and sometimes I say “mommy, needs some space,” but more often than not those words are lost on her.

This feeling rises up in me that I can usually push away. It’s just me. And it will just be me at 3 AM and first thing in the morning and when I’m at my breaking point. Even my breaking point doesn’t matter. There is no getaway, minus when my heart-of-gold neighbor with her own small child offers to take the crying baby so I can jog out my stresses before he implodes from separation anxiety or hunger or angry-baby-itis. Or when my mother watches him while I go to a long overdue dentist appointment, settle into the chair to watch Regis and Kelly and feel like I’m on vacation. That is, until they tell me how pregnancy and hormones have done a number on my gums and holy hell, that hurts and why didn’t I find time to come to the dentist in the last four years?

More often than not, at some point in the day that I start out having the highest hopes for, I feel completely defeated. And I ask myself “why is this so hard?”

On my husband’s most recent trip, my daughter stayed home from her morning preschool due to a mild fever the night before. She’d been running circles around me all day while I tried to not picture the entire lonely week ahead of me.  After hours of making dinner, begging people to eat dinner, cleaning it up, tantrums, baths, nursing, more tantrums, a teething baby who can’t sleep and big kid who was enraged about it, I lost it. I yelled. I sobbed. And then my “me time” that I’d been looking forward to, instead of spending it putting up my feet, watching The Mindy Project, I spent feeling the pangs of horrible, devastating guilt and wondering “how did I become this angry, tired, overwhelmed mom who yells? This isn’t who I wanted to be. This isn’t how it was supposed to be. In fact, it’s the opposite of everything I wanted to be. This isn’t what my motherhood was supposed to look and feel like. This is not my motherhood.”

I spend almost all of my time and energy loving the shit out of my kids. Finding these little magic moments in ordinary days. Kissing dirty faces and being easy going and making sure everyone has gotten enough enough hugs, kind words and discipline. And then I spend just a little bit of time wanting terribly to get away from them. Needing to get away from them. And it’s not because I’m a horrible person or because I’m not enjoying motherhood as much as I should be. It’s not because I’m emotionally unbalanced (well, maybe, a little). Mostly, it’s because “away” doesn’t exist. Breathing easy, being alone, working, writing uninterrupted by a poopy diaper, a spilled drink, or getting hit in the head with a sock monkey, it’s just not a part of my life. Or it’s so fleeting, it’s over before it started.

Even on my best day, when I’m calm, cool and collected, or do a good enough job pretending I am, by 10 PM, sometimes earlier, I just want to curl up in bed and not be needed. I want to do a good job, not a mediocre one, on something I get paid for. I want to prioritize something thats mine, instead of always letting my work, my ambitions, my “chances” slide because there is too much else that’s important. And I let that thought come in, that sounds something like “I can’t see them anymore today. Not right now. Please, stay in bed. Please.” And I let it wash over me and feel the enormity of the guilt that comes with it. Every ounce.

My motherhood experience is not all roses and I don’t need it to be. I don’t need to be told how much I will miss these times because I already know how true that is. The other day I was driving home and I started thinking about when my daughter was two with her white tuft of hair and her long eyelashes and her fearlessness. I got a tear in my eye but I couldn’t finish the thought because she yelled “mama!… answer me!” from the backseat and then it was gone. The opportunity to reminisce, to miss something, evaporated.

The fleetingness of motherhood is with me, always. But so is knowing that I need more than simply to be needed. Part of my motherhood experience is remembering me- the mother. And finding her and telling her she’s important, too. I love my children all the time, but sometimes, I just want to miss them. I want to know what it’s like to come up for air. And I want to know that that’s okay.

The #AsLongAsYouCanStandIt Challenge

I recently got back from a 3 night/4 day trip with my family. It was wonderful in many ways. Minus sleeping arrangements… apparently it’s not a good idea to have four people sharing a hotel room without another room to shove the sleeping baby in. We could get away with this with one kid… kind of. But I guess these days we will have to shell out for a suite even on shorter trips. Between my husband’s snoring (sorry, hunny) and the kid waking up the baby and baby waking up the kid, there wasn’t much restfulness going on on this trip which I suppose is to be expected at this juncture. But there was a lot of eating and drinking and not much working out. Riding bikes and walking, yeah. But sweaty exercise, not really. I did get to the gym one day, but, felt rushed, per usual and didn’t do my best.

Having a kid who didn’t sleep for the better part of a year who continues to be tough upon every milestone and a energetic 5-year-old… and a husband who travels and my love of food and wine and inability to workout at a moment’s notice… has seriously taken it’s toll on how healthy I feel (or don’t feel). Not to mention, I’m still nursing a baby which although they SAY burns up a ton of calories, it also makes me hungrier and groggier, sometimes. Yes, nursing burns calories. But it also can make your body hold onto extra weight because it knows you are still feeding another human. THIS IS WHAT I’VE READ, OKAY. Let’s not argue. Just let me have my believes that my body is not doomed. BTW… this is about as body-UNpositive as I’ll get. I am totally on board with respecting my body as wonderful and amazing having housed two babies, even if it’s not in prime, tip-top condition currently. But with that being said, I’m needing some extra energy and to feel lighter and healthier. I figure a lot of parents out there may be feeling the same, so I hope we can do this together.

I decided I’m going booze-free for 30 days (this doesn’t mean you have to chose this challenge in order to participate, btw. I don’t know why you would unless you need red-wine-detox as badly as I do). Here’s my regret face after I posted this on Facebook yesterday on the car ride home.

This... is gonna suck.
This… is gonna suck.

The challenge will run for 30 days, starting TODAY, April 13th, 2015. Here’s what it will look like:

1) Pick your goal or goals. For example, my goal is going to be to attempt not drinking for 30 days (yikes) and eat clean(er). I also want to get to yoga or the gym 3 days/week. That one is SO much harder than it sounds right now with a baby that won’t let me out of his sight and screams bloody murder when I try to leave him at the gym stay-and-play. They should call it stay-and-scream-until-we-call-your-mother-on-the-intercom-who’s-crying-because-she-doesn’t-get-to-workout-AGAIN.

2) Post an inspiration shot (or MANY) on Instagram or FB and tag @TheMediocreMama (make sure you are following) and hashtag #AsLongAsYouCanStandIt. OR post on Facebook to The Mediocre Mama fan page and hashtag #AsLongAsYouCanStandIt. These photos will be your entries in the challenge. I’ll be posting tons of pics so you can follow my example. A note about this postings- they do not have to be “LOOK HOW GOOD I DID TODAY!” although those posts are fine, too! But I’m looking for REAL inspiration. Like, “ugh, here’s how much I want wine today and this happened that was crappy and DAMMIT ALL TO HELL!” Tell your struggles, your story, whether it’s work, kids, traveling hubby. What makes this challenge tough for you but why is it important for you to feel good and be your best you?

3) For extra entries, share, share away!! Always tag @TheMediocreMama and use the #AsLongAsYouCanStandIt hashtag to document your challenge.

PRIZES: I’m going to pick three winners. The person who inspires us the most with his/her or her genuine, real life struggles/accomplishments will get a $50 TARGET GIFT CARD! The more you post, the better your odds. I will also pick two other winners with prize packages to be announced at a later date.

Remember, you don’t have to go for a full 30 days- this challenge is shaped by YOU. What do you want to get out of it? It could be as simple as “I’m going to watch less TV” or “I’m going to put my phone away at 5 PM.” It could even be “I’m going to be more mindful” or “be kind to myself.” This is YOUR challenge. Just be sure to document it and hashtag away! Now get going and let me know you are participating by commenting on this post or on Facebook. Get a friend to do it with you so you can encourage one another to stick to your goals. Complaining encouraged!! Good luck!! #AsLongAsYouCanStandIt

Review: Soft Star Shoes

A few weeks ago, I was cruising through Target while the baby growled at me from the carrier and my daughter yanked things endlessly off the shelves and begged for toys, clothes, books, shoes, cheez-its. In all of her begging and pleading, I ended up throwing one crappy pair of flip flops into the cart, knowing they’d end up in a giveaway bag fairly quickly, but… the things we do to save our sanity.

Anyway, we got home, she promptly put the flip flops on and ran around the backyard. In about five minutes she was complaining that they hurt and in ten she had a blister between her toes. “Maybe you just need to break them in?” I said. But, no. They were hard, plastic, blister-makers and she was finished with them before Spring had even sprung.

So about a week later, I came across a company called Soft Star Shoes. I started cruising their website and had to have them for the kids, although they make adult shoes, too! The company graciously sent me a pair of shoes for my 10-month-old son and 5-year-old daughter. I was pretty pumped because as an almost-walker, my boy needed something soft and comfy and obviously, my daughter needed some summer kicks that didn’t give her blisters and me migraines!

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Soft Star Shoes- sandals and moccasins fresh out of the box!

A couple of days later the shoes arrived and OMFG. Just as they appeared on the site, they were the sweetest looking (and feeling) things ever. My daughter has barely taken hers off. Can you blame her? They are ADORABLE.

I absolutely love that her pink sandals velcro around her ankle and she doesn’t get tripped up on them like regular flops and that they are super comfortable. They will be perfect for the coming months of back-yarding, beaching, pooling, etc.

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The baby moccasins are the perfect first shoes. Not only are they cute as hell, but when I put my hand inside I went “WHOOOOA.” The soft lining feels awesome! Definitely not going to hear any complaints out of baby about these kicks!… and that’s pretty amazing because he complains about pretty much everything else. ;)

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Both of these pairs of shoes have become our every day shoes. They are easy shoes to slip on the baby when I can’t find socks (I CAN NEVER FIND SOCKS!) and any shoes my daughter willingly puts on without me asking her 2329813 billion times are an A+ in my book! The shoes pictured here are currently priced at $30 (for the moccasins) and $48 (for the child sandals). For hand-made premium-quality shoes and just how loved I know they will be, I’d say they are each worth that price tag. They are definitely worth it for the first shoes my son will wear on his little baby feets and learn to walk in. And we could easily go through three crappy pairs of sandals for my daughter this summer that break, fall apart, cause blisters or get thrown off a bridge (woops). I’m glad we’ll just have these cuties to get us around the town.

I’m so happy to introduce you to this amazing company. Go check out Soft Star Shoes for yourself or the kids. You will be so impressed when they arrive and your little ones will likely love them so much you won’t have to hold them down and shove their feet into them while they knee you in the crotch or anything like that.

Disclaimer: I was not paid for this product review and the opinions here are 100% my own. If you wish to contact me about a product review or a sponsored post, email Sarah.bregel@gmail.com. 

Why I love honest moms

I have a high-needs baby. There is no way around it. He is the apple of my eye, as is his five-year-old mile-a-minute sister. But this kid is far from easy-going. He doesn’t like many people besides me. He doesn’t like getting his diaper changed and he hates bottles. But on the list of things he doesn’t like, sleep is number one.

My not-so-newborn absolutely hates sleep and will fight it at all costs, until I’m crying in the basement, letting him scream for just a few minutes so I can do the same in private. At seven months, he is now in the throes of separation anxiety and I, a not-religious-in-the-slightest person, am finding myself talking to God on the regular, hoping He will send me a lifeline.

My husband and I have thrown our hands up and given each other blank stares, not having any idea what else to do. I have swaddled, nursed on demand, laid on my bed for two hours (or more) not moving a muscle while he napped. I’ve begged my daughter to please play quietly. I’ve made her cry by snapping at her. I’ve let the baby scream so I could give her a much needed hug. I’ve also felt worse about myself as a mother and a person than I ever thought possible.

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Continue reading at Mommy Nearest… 

***for curious followers, this post was written several months ago for Mommy Nearest. So if it doesn’t all add up… that’s why! Also, this picture is five years old. OMG. I’ve aged… but it’s cool.

5 Qualifications you should have to become a parent

Dear Applicant,

Thank you for expressing such an interest in this position! It is truly the opportunity of a lifetime and your enthusiasm will surely be of the utmost importance when venturing down this new path. Below is a list of the five most important qualifications your future client/s will require on a near constant basis for the next 18 years or more. Probably more. We should also mention this is really a job that never ends. But don’t worry, it has many wonderful benefits, as you’ll soon find out.

1. A go-getter attitude is key

You must be willing to stop what you are doing and go get things approximately 180 times a day, including but not limited to: books, dolls, dresses, snacks, paper towels, baby wipes, diapers, bottles, pacifiers, crayons, paper, cups of water, more snacks, clean undies, wash cloths, stickers, blankets, hair brushes, lost socks, lost shoes, band-aids, tissues and much more. Note: A gym membership doesn’t come with this position, but it is unlikely that you will have time to exercise with any consistency anyway. This level of activity, though, will help you to feel energized which this position demands at all times.

dude whatevsss

Continue reading @ Mommy Nearest… 

Review: Well-Rested Family

My son, Tener, who is now nearly nine months old was never a fan of sleeping without a nipple in his mouth. (Note: Please resist the urge to say “well what man wouldn’t love that?!” This joke has been told again and again. Somewhere around my 95,387 straight day/night awake it lost it’s hilarity.)This baby was/is very latched on in every possible way and even though I consider myself to be a pretty hands-on, attachment parent-ish type of person, this level of latched on was getting… pretty rough.

Not only did my son want to sleep with a boob in his mouth and only with a boob in his mouth, he needed complete and utter silence to sleep for more than like seven(?) seconds. No distractions whatsoever. Let me be clear- COMPLETE AND UTTER SILENCE AND ZERO DISTRACTIONS IS A JOKE WHEN YOU ALSO HAVE A 4-5 YEAR OLD SPECIES FLINGING HER BODY AT YOU EVERY TIME YOU ASK FOR QUIET OR SIT DOWN.

In essence, my son was almost never sleeping, not during the day or the night and it was bad. Real bad. No, he wouldn’t sleep in the car either or wrapped in his ergo/moby wrap/any variation of baby-wearing devices. Yes, I tried them all. Tenny said, via hysterical sobs, “GIVE UP AND GIVE ME YOUR BOOB.” And for lack of a better option, I gave up trying any other means again and again. But then co-sleeping became an endless game of nursing non-stop all night and flailing and rolling and nursing and waking cranky and with red, pathetic eyes every damn day (the baby, not me!… well, yeah, me too). And all hell broke loose. After about 4.5 months of age, this kid wanted to see and do everything regardless of his exhaustion. Some babies people were just built that way. Wouldn’t you know it, I’d birth that kind of human. I’ve always liked to do things the hard way, I guess (damn, stubborn Aries trait!).

Enter: Dawn Braun, gentle sleep-coach extraordinaire and the well-rested voice behind “Well Rested Family” of the Annapolis, Maryland (and surrounding) area. I contacted Dawn who uses the techniques based on the book “Good Night, Sleep Tight” by Kim West, aka, The Sleep Lady when I was absolutely on my last leg, my last bit of patience, energy and had cried all my tears. Tenny was about 7 months at the time and I’d been awake consistently for about three months. I was admittedly, nervous and unsure about any type of sleep-training, even something with the word “gentle” in it. To me, sleep-training seemed unnatural. Babies weren’t meant to be good sleepers. They were supposed to be close to mom all night. They weren’t supposed to be easy. It was an is my feeling that babies need comfort from their parents when they are brand new into this would the same way that they need food. It is as basic a need as any. Sleep training of any kind didn’t really seem natural, but I knew something had to give. Nothing that was going on with my son’s sleep really seemed all that natural, either. He was waking constantly, never sleeping for more than 10-15 minutes and I was losing hope and getting seriously overwhelmed.

Dawn Braun, "Well-Rested Family" with her well-rested family... don't they look rested?
Dawn Braun, “Well-Rested Family” with her well-rested family… don’t they look rested?

After talking to Dawn during our consultation, I started to think of sleeping as a skill and one that I would help him learn to embrace and hopefully be able to use for a lifetime. Some of us come by this skill easily, some of us don’t. One good thing about Dawn, that makes her an excellent sleep coach, is that she was willing to work with what I was comfortable with. I credit most of our success to this fact. If Dawn had tried to push me to let my baby cry too long or had given us other techniques I didn’t feel comfortable with, I probably would’ve quit before we started. But I never felt I was doing anything to scar my baby during the course of our training and I never felt pushed, either.

The process was pretty simple. Because Tener wasn’t really comforted by anything other than nursing and we had no real way to get him to sleep and stay asleep, we had to get over this hump to start. We were allowed to hold him, rock him, comfort him in any way we could (which my husband was much better at given his non-functional nipples) but he had to find sleep on his own so that he would learn how. I began nursing him downstairs rather than in his room, then Marshall would take him upstairs and begin a bedtime routine. It only took a couple of nights before Tener caught on that he wasn’t going to be nursed or rocked completely to sleep and he started sleeping better almost immediately. After the first night, it got better and better but I was nervous for when it would be my turn to put him down. I kept a sleep log and checked in with Dawn via phone/text/email so she could help us navigate the days/nights.

Turns out, once the system was in place- nursing downstairs, then going up to start our routine, he didn’t resist me as much as I expected. While we would definitely go back in to re-rock and soothe, we started to have confidence that he was going to get to sleep and it started happening easier and quicker. Full-disclosure- my baby still wakes up in the night and when he does I nurse him back down. I actually really like this because I’m allowed to nurse him to sleep in the night and I get my fix. We also still rock him before bed and comfort him as needed. This program has varying degrees and admittedly, I didn’t want to tackle the full-scale “sleep-training” program but you totally could and should, if you want to!

With Dawn’s help, we did what we felt comfortable with and we have a pretty damn good sleeper to show for it. He still doesn’t sleep on the go, wrapped or in the car or whatever, but he sleeps. And that is an amazing gift. He currently takes two good naps a day and wakes (on average) twice a night. We had regressions (which scared the crap out of me because I thought we were back where we started) but Dawn assured me that these can happen, especially on the verge of developmental milestones (like crawling). But with each regression, we got back to our routine a little easier and a little faster.

Some babies are just tough. Some babies just fight sleep and will keep fighting sleep because it’s their nature and they won’t do anything else until they learn how. If you’re struggling with sleep, if you’re losing your damn mind, I urge you to get help from a gentle sleep coach. It has changed my life in a very short time and I’m happy to recommend Dawn (isn’t it ironic that that’s her name? The Dawn of a new day? The bright, sunny, well-rested morning?) to anyone and everyone who asks. She will absolutely help you create a program that works for you and doesn’t make you hate yourself. I’m even more a believer that you don’t have to let your baby scream relentlessly now than ever. There is a better way.

Mamas… papas, take care of yourselves, guys. You’re important, too.

Good night, sleep tight.

Find Dawn’s page at www.wellrestedfamily.com or on Facebook.

This is a sponsored post. I received a discount to Well-Rested Family sleep-counseling in exchange for documenting my experience on this blog. All opinions are 100% my own. If you wish to contact me about a product review or a sponsored post, email Sarah.bregel@gmail.com.