I want it to stop

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

I don't even know how to start this post because my mind is that scattered. I'm emotionally and mentally exhausted. I feel like I've been on a roller coaster of emotions- we'll have a couple of good days and I start to feel like I'm getting a handle on things. And then days like yesterday and today come and crush all of those warm fuzzy feelings and leave me on me knees, in tears, feeling like a horrible mother. It's crazy how quickly we can go from one extreme to the other in just a matter of a day or two.

It's only been a couple of months since my sweet boy was officially diagnosed with autism, but if you've been following along on this journey (mostly via my Instagram) you know we've been in the thick of this for a while now. I'm at the point right now where I can officially say that autism sucks. I fucking hate it you guys. It's so hard. It's stealing all of the joy right now and sucking the life out of me and I just can't stop asking WHY. Why is this happening? Why can't my baby just be "normal"? Will it ever get easier because right now it's taken over our entire lives and everyone is miserable.

I've read articles where people say their child's autism is a gift. A gift? Really? That couldn't be further from the truth for us right now. I hate that he has it, or that it has him. It's not fair. Why can't he just talk? And play like every other kid?

Josiah just started his fourth week of ABA therapy and I've been selfishly enjoying the time away from him. It's been my only break and it's been really, really good for me and my mental health. I haven't had time to myself in years. Dealing with autism 24/7 has been wearing on me and I hate the person it's made me become. I hope it hasn't changed me forever and that it's just a temporary stumbling block as I try to figure out how to best help my baby boy and how to not let it torpedo my entire family. Because right now we're all feeling pretty defeated.

ABA therapy isn't some magical fix for Josiah's autism. In fact, his behavior has gotten worse, which we were told is normal. The screaming and overall frustration seems to be at an all-time high right now and everyone's nerves are just shot. I feel bad for everyone- him, me, my husband, and our other kids. It's not fun living in a house ruled by autism. My poor kids have an aggravated, grumpy, touched-out mom and a brother who screams at everyone about everything and who hogs up all of the attention and energy of their mom and dad. Everyone has to take a back seat to autism because screaming and crying usually takes precedent over pretty much everything. It's unfair, but that's just how it is.

So my other kids are often left to fend for themselves and it makes me sad. Today I barely had time to say hi to my preschooler, Harper, as she hopped off the school bus because we had to rush out the door to pick up Josiah from therapy, then rush to a preschool evaluation for him. The evaluation was a train wreck and we sat there for about 15 minutes in a tiny, hot room where he screamed and threw his shoes until I finally told the teachers "we gotta go." I had to carry him out kicking and screaming with Harper also in tow. When we got home it was another 60 minutes of full on screaming and crying and me trying to calm him down and get laid down for a nap...all the while Harper still hadn't gotten any attention from me at all and she'd been home from school for over 2 hours. Every second of it was dedicated to Josiah. She wanted me to make her lunch and fill up her pool and come outside with her, but I was too busy dealing with Josiah and his tantrum.

Once he finally calmed down, I realized Harper had scavenged for food by herself (a Gogurt and a banana- not a bad lunch). It was only then that I could finally ask her how her day was and let her talk my ear off like a normal preschooler should. It made me sad. I lose so many precious, normal, everyday moments like this with my other kids because my attention is always somewhere else. When they do get my attention I'm usually annoyed and rushed. They don't get the full me...ever. I wish I could give them the me that I was a few years ago.

Before I had a kid with autism and everything changed. When we could go out to dinner together as a family or to a movie theater, amusement park, or hell- anywhere. Because we don't get to do those things anymore. We haven't eaten in a restaurant in three years. We all live in fear of public meltdowns and don't want to be screamed at so we just don't do those kinds of things anymore because it's too hard. We go, it ends disastrously, and we all end up bummed out when we realize how many seemingly "normal" things just aren't doable when you have a kid with autism in the family. 

I look at my sweet boy, who will be 3 before summer's end, and I want so many things for him. I want him to talk to call me mommy, ask for more milk, tell me he loves me, or let me know when something hurts or when he's afraid. I want him to go to school and make friends and ride the school bus and to be able to tell me if he had a good day or if someone was mean to him. I want to protect him from anyone who might take advantage of his vulnerability. I want him to be independent (one day) and not need me forever...but if forever is in store for us, who will take care of him when I'm gone?

I want answers to all of my questions but I know many of them will have to wait. We have to take it one day at a time. One painstaking day at a time, where I go to bed in tears because I just want it to stop. I want to undo the autism and I just want my baby back. 

Positive thinking

Monday, April 8, 2019

I'm a pessimist, make no mistake about that. I'm sarcastic and snarky and I'm not really a "glass half full" kind of person. I tend to go straight to worse case scenario and I'm always sure things aren't going to go my way.

This way of thinking does not help someone with debilitating anxiety who has also been suffering from postpartum depression...ask me how I know. I do know my own twisted way of thinking is what sabotages my attempts at pulling myself out of this dark place I've been for a while.

For months I've been waiting for my therapy sessions to make me feel better. For my anxiety and depression medications I so reluctantly went on- as a last resort of course- to fix me. But it's been a slow going process and I haven't been able to get out of this funk, or whatever you want to call this. And I think a big part of it is that I'm still stuck in that negative mindset- always thinking the glass is half empty or waiting for something bad to happen. I spend so much time thinking about and looking for the bad stuff that I don't even see some of the good right in front of me. 

So I've been testing that theory and have been trying to focus on thinking more positively. Changing my mindset. Looking on the bright side. 

I've also cleaned up my social media and unfollowed any negative nellies. That means anyone who made me feel bad about myself or who who were sucking energy out of me. In exchange I started following some uplifting and positive people and accounts. It's amazing the difference! (@PositivelyPresent & @PowerofPositivity are two of my current favorites!)

I'm also trying to spend a little time in the mornings thinking about things I'm thankful for or that I'm looking forward to that day. Instead of just stressing out thinking about the to-do list or other menial tasks that lie ahead, what makes today special or unique? How can I make someone else happy today? What can I do to make someones day better? I've realized that serving others is something that makes me feel good, so that always puts me in a good mood if I can make someone elses day a little bit brighter. 

I'll leave you with a few positive quotes. Even just saving one of these and using it as the wallpaper on my phone can totally change the tone for my entire day. Try it! 

Diagnosis day

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

February 26, 2019 will probably not be a day I'll forget, ever. It's been permanently seared into my brain and filed away with all of the other big, "important" dates- birthdays, anniversaries, milestones. etc. February 26, 2019 is the day my darling 2 1/2 year old son was officially diagnosed with autism and our world forever changed.

Let's backup a little bit. Remember this post from just a little over a year ago? I talked about how I was just coming to terms with all of the "red flags" I was noticing for autism with my then 17 month old son Josiah. Then later I talked about his evaluation for speech therapy, occupational therapy, and physical therapy. I remember as soon as he started therapy I still had a glimmer of hope that maybe he didn't have autism and that maybe it was just some sensory issues, delayed speech/communication, and a few missed milestones that needed catching up to. (See this post). Going to therapy with him made me realize how mild his issues seemed compared to other kids I saw there and further planted those little seeds of doubt...that maybe I was wrong, and a little speech and OT would straighten things out and he'd be fine after a little while. 

He was making progress, after all. Just not very much. The words still weren't coming after months and months of speech therapy and he protested just about everything they tried to get him to do in OT and PT. His eye contact improved, he started looking at you when you called his name (sometimes), and he learned how to sign "more" for his cup of milk. Small victories. Huge for us! But still. I knew that while these small victories were signs he could learn and be taught things, it still didn't change much.

A few months ago we had to change up our schedule and that meant we had to switch therapists. I straight up asked one of the new gals who had only seen him once if she thought he had autism. I said "We haven't been given a diagnosis and I just don't know what really is even 'going on' with him. What would you call it? Do you think he's on the spectrum somewhere or something?" She nodded immediately and said "Yeah I see a lot of kiddos like him and I'm not a doctor so I can't say for sure, but I think yeah he probably is on there somewhere." My heart sunk. I knew she was right. I asked her how we go about getting a for sure diagnosis, since it was coming up on almost a year of doing speech and OT every single week with minimal progress and still no real diagnosis. I told her he needs more. I leveled with her and told her I've had really bad PPD & anxiety, I've got a preschooler who dropped out due to extreme anxiety and emotional issues and I'm home all day just surviving with the 2 of them and we are not thriving. I was like "He needs way more than just this to make and progress and I can't help him on my own like this." The therapist was SO sweet and helpful. She said she totally agreed and would have our FRC (family resource coordinator) call me later that day to discuss our next steps. 

The next steps consisted of a check up with his pediatrician just to touch base with her and ask about getting an autism screening (or whatever else she thought should be done). I told her that a few friends had mentioned ABA therapy for their children with autism and that if Josiah did in fact have autism that I thought ABA therapy might be a good option for him. She agreed that he needed more than the 1 hour of OT and 30 minutes of speech therapy he was currently getting. I left the pediatricians office with a list of places to check out for an autism screening to get a diagnosis (or not, I kept thinking. We'll let the experts decide, I reminded myself). Apparently not just any ol' doctor can diagnose someone with autism. 

Next I got to blindly choose from the list who I wanted to call to screen my child for autism. For anyone with like me with really bad anxiety, phone calls like that can be extremely stressful. But I powered through and I started with the first name on the list, only to be quickly shot down by the first person I got on the other end. They weren't doing screenings for kids that young. Call this other place. I jotted down the number and noticed that it was the next one on my list. I thanked her, hung up, and took a deep breath before trying again.

I called the next place. I gave an even longer explanation as to why I was calling because now I was flustered and off my game by getting so quickly shot down before, and oh my gosh am I giving this lady too much information I think. She interrupted me and said "Ma'am- we're not doing any autism screenings at this time. We just don't have anyone that does them right now." I quickly thanked her and hung up again feeling even more discouraged. Why didn't his pediatrician just give me a referral to a specialist or something rather than have me call from a list of people who apparently cannot help me? Again- for someone with anxiety, this element- advocating for your kids on the phone and trying to get someone to help you or get you to the right can be almost panic-inducing sometimes.

I wanted to give up but I knew how long it takes to get the ball rolling for medical stuff and I didn't want to waste time not making this phone call, so I scanned the list again and the name of one of the doctors and the place she practiced stuck out to me- I remembered it from a local parenting group I'm in. People love her and that place in general, so I decided to give them a call. They were really nice and helpful and I wished I would have just called them first. They took some basic info from me over the phone and told me to fill out some forms and mail them in and they'd call to set up the appointment for the screening. Done and done, I mailed it all in, and I waited.

It took about a month to get in with this doctor, as she's very busy and very popular amongst the "crunchy" moms in my area. I had the day- 2/26/19, written in my planner and it felt like a countdown. To D-day- the day I knew my son would be diagnosed with autism. Despite the fact that we had just recently celebrated a flurry of new milestones he was hitting- stacking blocks, pointing to objects, waving bye-bye, saying mama, imitating people, attempting to make some new sounds, and all of these other exciting things for us...for him...I still knew it didn't change anything really. It showed that yes, he was capable of learning things. But it didn't erase all of the other red flags and missed milestones. 

He had been working so hard in OT for the last four or five weeks leading up to this flurry of new things he was doing and it was so exciting. His new therapist just clicked with him. She was so sweet and patient with him. They were doing something called RIT, or Reciprocal Imitation Training. Basically, she's trying to teach him to copy her and get him to notice her copying him. Josiah doesn't play with toys as they should be played with. He doesn't interact with other kids really...he has no interest in what other kids are playing with around him. Give him a pile of blocks or some legos or a pretend kitchen set and he doesn't know what to do with them.

Josiah with his favorite occupational therapist.

The RIT therapy was slow going at first, but finally after about 4 weeks of sitting in this little room with him we had a breakthrough and he was copying her. I remember with tears in my eyes the look of triumph on all of our faces when his therapist put a beaded necklace around her own neck and Josiah did the same exact thing, carefully placing the necklace on his own neck. We jumped up and cheered! For weeks he would ignore her for the entire hour of therapy and run away or cry if she tried to interact with him. The mimicking thing was working and the goal is that once he understands that concept that he'll build and go from there, and that it will start clicking with the speech part and he'll mimic sounds and words too.

So here we were on 2/26/19, just Josiah and I on our way to his screening appointment. We pulled into the parking lot and as soon as I put the car in gear and the automatic door locks click I know I've got about 3 seconds to get moving before Josiah starts wiggling/kicking in his seat and begins to cry.  He doesn't like to sit in the car if it's not moving. I got him out and slung the diaper bag filled with snacks, a sippy of milk, and a handful of his favorite fidget/sensory toys over my shoulder and made my way inside. I remember wrapping Josiah in my jacket and squeezing him extra tight because it was only 10 degrees that day...and he likes to be squeezed. It's a sensory thing and it's soothing when he's sad or mad or just needs to feel extra secure. I needed to feel extra secure, so I squeezed him tight and we headed inside. 

Once inside I found the pediatric office's name on the building's directory board. To my dismay I discovered it was on the third floor and we'd have to take the elevator. Panic hit me. I didn't think I'd ever taken Josiah in an elevator, at least not since he's been old enough to be aware of being in one. Maybe as an infant, but certainly not any time in the last year or so. I sighed and crossed the lobby to try to hit the button before we missed the closing door and got to it just in time- it was empty! I hopped in and quickly hit the button for the third floor, praying the doors would close before someone else darted in. I hammered the "close door" button over and over again with my fist. I was already sweating with my big coat and snow boots carrying Josiah and his bag of things we can't leave home without. As soon as the doors closed he let out a wail and went completely rigid, shaking violently in my arms, clawing at my chest, and kicking me with all of his might until I dropped him onto the elevator floor. 

That was just about exactly how I pictured his first elevator ride going. I know my son and he hates tiny rooms. We've learned this through therapy. Small rooms with the door closed are not something he's a fan of. He used to beat on the door and throw himself on the ground during therapy sessions that were held in the small, private rooms for one-on-one work. So we worked through that fear for weeks, but it's still something we face that leads to a meltdown when the timing is just right. Crowded aisles at the store are another big one. If there are too many people around he'll start shaking his head at anyone making eye contact with him. Sometimes people think it's cute but I warn them that he's not friendly and we keep cruising along. Often times someone will get too close, just trying to squeeze by us and Josiah will lose it. He'll grab something off the shelf and throw it and scream on rare occasions, but his ear-piercing shrieks are almost inevitable.

Back to the elevator. I peeled him up off the floor as the door opened and I walked out into a (thankfully) empty hallway with the pediatrician's office door right in front of me. I tried to soothe Josiah for a few seconds, who at this point was whimpering and looking around curiously after hearing the elevator door ding. I squeezed him again and told him we were going to go inside and see a nice doctor with some fun toys and that he'd be able to play with his dinosaurs. He whimpered again and we went through the door into a (thankfully) empty waiting room where he quickly found a table full of toys.

I barely had time to give the receptionist his insurance card before the nurse came out and called his name. I had to tear him away from the toys he just got so excited over and pick him up again, which resulted in more screams and his body went completely stiff and then limp. He flopped onto the ground again, taking me down with him. The nurse had to grab my arm to keep me from completely falling onto my knees, but thankfully we avoided that. The nurse was sweet and didn't seem phased by the screaming at all. She gave me a sympathetic look and shouted over the screams "It's OK buddy, we have more toys for you back here." That quieted him down quickly and we scurried down the hallway into an exam room.

Once in the room he was totally fine again. He was completely engrossed in some board books and trucks while I talked to the nurse and she tried to get his temperature and pulse (physical exams never go well so that's about all they can ever do on him). He tolerated it but swatted her away at the same time. She bobbed and weaved and got the info she needed while being swung at by a toddler. I just apologized.

She left the room and the doctor came right in, followed by a younger, new doctor who she said was shadowing her for the day. Josiah took one look at the both of them and began shaking his head no...which I knew meant he was getting anxious and probably thought there were too many people in this tiny room with us. He got up and hid under the chair next to me and peeked out at the doctors curiously. She introduced herself to me and told me she had already studied his health history and the information I mailed in and that Josiah could stay right where he was if he was comfortable there. 

We spent a good 30 minutes talking about Josiah. My pregnancy, his birth, and all of his health history up until now. We talked about when we first noticed the red flags and went over the timeline of when I brought him to his pediatrician last year, the plan to begin therapy, and everything that has happened since then. She asked a lot of questions and let me talk as much as I needed to. She didn't interrupt and really listened. My voice cracked most of the time and I had a huge lump in my throat that I kept trying to swallow. Don't cry, don't cry, I told myself. I made sure to let her know I'd been suffering from some pretty severe PPD and anxiety too and told her I was pretty sure that was a contributing factor with everything too.  

That's when she looked at me and said "OK let's talk about you? Do you get any breaks? Do you have any help?" I crumbled. I couldn't stop the tears. The lump in my throat pushed it's way up and I broke. "No. I don't have any help at all" I confessed. I told her that my husband works a lot and that we had no family around, no babysitters, no helpful friends who offer to pick up Harper for play dates or anyone I could ask to even just watch one child for a few hours if I needed a break. I told her the only time I get away from my kids is the 30 minute drive I make once a week to see my own therapist on Mondays. Besides when my eyes are closed at night that's my only break. She narrowed her eyes at me (jokingly, kindly) and said "Well I am glad you're seeing a therapist to take care of YOU, but I'm going to see what I can do about trying to find you some help because you really need to give yourself regular breaks. Don't beat yourself up over just being in survival mode and when the focus is still just making it through the day until bedtime. You're doing a really hard thing so cut yourself some slack." 

When she said those words it was like a weight had been lifted off of my shoulders and I could finally take a deep breath. I've had other people tell me the same thing- to cut myself some slack and not feel so guilty about everything. That I'm doing everything for everyone and that I'm running myself ragged. That no one can do everything like this, full time, all day every day, sun up until sun down, and not get burned out. She told me she'd look into something called respite care and see if she could find me some help somewhere, and it really touched my heart that she actually genuinely cared about my well being. It's been a very long time since anyone has asked me if I was OK and if I needed anything. I needed to be seen and it was like his doctor saw me drowning and threw me a life raft.

After going over everything with the doctor- his medical history, therapy schedule, diet, sleep schedule, fears, likes & dislikes, and what our home life is like she asked if Josiah would tolerate a physical exam and I said no. I told her the nurse barely got his temp and pulse and she just laughed and said it was fine, that we could skip most of it. She got down on the floor with him and showed him her bedazzled stethoscope, which he immediately yanked out of her hands and started whipping around violently, barely missing her face. I apologized. She said most of the kids do that.

She sat for about 10 minutes just letting him check out her tools- the stethoscope, a tongue depressor, her flashlight to shine in his eyes (which he actually liked), and he let her look in his ears after that (I think he was a little smitten at this point). She tried to give him a high five and he just stared at her, but he didn't pull away when she took his little hand and made him clap hers. He laughed and did it again on his own and we all laughed and clapped for him. High fives for everyone after that! He loved it. I told her he's never behaved this well for an appointment of any kind and that he seemed to be really comfortable there (mental note- switch primary care doctors to this lady!)

Then she looked at me and said "OK. I'm pretty confident moving forward with the diagnosis and I agree with you on the ABA therapy, so I'm going to put in a referral for that." She went on to tell me that she'd update his medical chart and it would probably take a few days for it all to go through the system or whatever and that within the next week or two I should expect a call from the therapy place to get everything going. 

I didn't quite understand.

"Soooo, what do we have to do about the diagnosis now?" I asked.

"We just did it. He's somewhere on the autism spectrum." 

I didn't really hear anything after that. I didn't have time to sit and process it. We said our goodbyes. Josiah started screaming and thrashing and I had to wrestle him to put his shoes and jacket back on. I had to tear the truck out of his hand that he was playing with and offered him his dinosaur toy from the diaper bag. He immediately threw it at my face and fell back on the ground screaming, hitting his head on the floor harder than he intended which made him really scream. I sat in the room with him for a few minutes trying to calm him back down. 

We walked out into a crowded hallway. A kid was doing an eye exam at the far end of the hallway blocking our exit and there was a traffic jam of people waiting to get by. Josiah once again crumpled to the ground and screamed. Everyone was looking at me and I felt myself start to sweat under my heavy winter jacket and hat. Normally when we're in public and he has a meltdown with a lot of people around I start to feel like I'm going to have a panic attack. I sweat, I start to shake, I can't talk or think clearly and I just want to run out of the room or leave wherever we are. 

But this time something was different. The instant I started to sweat under the weight of all the things- the diagnosis he was just given, the last year of therapy every single week, the doctor visits, the phone calls, the paperwork, the crying, the screaming about everything, the hitting, and the guilt...oh the guilt I have felt the last year every single day when he's getting too much screen time or not eating a vegetable or we're not doing something educational that day. It's not that the weight of all those things disappeared in that doctor's office, but it shifted. Because it all made sense now. 

Instead of having a panic attack, I felt a weird sense of calm kind of come over me and I was able to think clearly despite the chaos going on around me. I felt how afraid he was in my arms. He was shaking and looked truly terrified and I just wanted to protect him from whatever it was that was making him feel so scared. Everything around him in that moment was scaring him and I was his safe place to fall. He felt secure with me. This wasn't just a fit or a tantrum. Instead of stressing myself out over who was staring at me while he screamed, I blocked them out and put my focus on my sweet boy in distress. I squeezed him, I spoke calmly into his ear, and carried all of us out of that office with my head held high. Other people's opinions and looks didn't matter anymore.

I left that office with an answer we'd been seeking for over a year- a diagnosis of autism. It changes everything, and at the same time it changes nothing. He's still the same kid. The biggest thing is with this diagnosis Josiah can get the help he needs. A diagnosis will now get him access to all the resources he needs. Soon he will start intensive ABA therapy which is about 20 hours a week of hard work. I hope we can work on his communication and decrease the frustration for him. I cannot imagine what it's like to not be able to speak or tell anyone what you need, want, feel, think, etc. 

This diagnosis makes me an autism mom and Josiah's number 1 advocate (not like I wasn't before, but now it's official). I've been reading a lot of autism blogs and articles and my God, these parents deserve medals for all that they do. I hope I am that strong for my son and for my family.

Wearing his new compression shirt he just got through insurance for occupational therapy.

As far as Josiah goes, an autism diagnosis doesn't give us all the answers. It's only the beginning and only time will tell where he falls on that spectrum. This last year has showed us that he is capable of learning things and we have hope that some words will come eventually. That he'll one day play with friends and go to school and be a "normal" kid. I have so many hopes and dreams for him and I'm going to do my best to make sure he has every tool at his disposal to grow and thrive like a little boy should. We've got this, buddy. 

Estranged- my story of going no-contact + resources for toxic relationships

Monday, January 7, 2019

I'm going to start this post with a couple of disclaimers. First- it's probably going to be long, which is why I decided while I was jotting down a few of my key points in outline form that I might have to split this up into parts. It's probably for the best though because in addition to the length (sorry in advance for the rabbit-trailing!) it's also going to be a lot to digest. What I'm talking about isn't fun. I'm not doing it for entertainment or attention. I'm not doing it to bash anyone- that's disclaimer number two. I'm doing this for me and for the countless other women out there right now googling "how to deal with toxic parents" or "parental estrangement" and end up here on this blog post. I'm sharing it because getting it out is therapeutic for me and it's what I always do when I'm trying to process or work my way through something- anyone who reads my blog knows that. I didn't decide to share my story because I want anyone to feel sorry for me. I share because I care, and I know how lonely this process has been for me. I know my story will resonate with someone out there, even if it's just one person. If I can make one person feel better about their situation then it's worth it to me. And while doing that and sharing my struggles, my trials, my story, I can connect with other women out there wondering how the hell they ended up in my situation- estranged from their parents. This is for them. So if that's you please keep reading and hopefully I'll get to my points quickly :)

Telling someone you don't talk to your parents is weird. Most people don't understand it. The amount of times I've heard "but she's your mother" or "just forgive and forget" is staggering. People just don't understand the situation unless they've really been there. Most people probably have normal parents though and they don't think a mother or a father could ever say or do something so bad or so seemingly "unforgivable" that an adult child would decide to 100% walk away from their relationship and cease all communication between them. But the sad, cold reality is that those types of parents do exist.  To varying degrees. And there are in fact legitimate reasons to step back or completely cut ties with a toxic and/or abusive parent. I'm here to reaffirm that for you, regardless of what some of your friends or family might say in your moments of weakness: no one has a right to be in your life when they continually hurt you without remorse, refuse to accept personal boundaries, or otherwise cause you physical or emotional harm. If a spouse treated you that way, surely friends would tell you to get a divorce. Leave the abuser. Or at the very least, protect yourself and get professional help, right? But what about when that person is your parent? Your mother or father? Are you expected to endure simply because they're your parents? When you put it that way some people will still argue that "life is too short" or something along those lines. I've heard it so many times. That no matter what you should work through your issues for the sake of family. Family is everything! Only it's not for everyone. People who have kind, loving, empathetic parents with healthy relationships and unconditional love just can't really grasp this though.

My story

I unfortunately fall into the category- I am estranged from my parents and no longer have any relationship with them. I assure you my decision to finally completely remove myself from the situation is not one that was taken lightly. And it wasn't immediate. This was a slowly developing thing that happened over years. The recent "fight" or "falling out" or whatever you want to call this "thing" that's been going on with my mom and I started at the end of my pregnancy with Josiah (now 2+ years old). It doesn't even matter at this point how it started, but basically...I stood up for myself. The short (yeah right) version would be that a sibling and his wife did something pretty crappy and intentional to me, my husband, & children and I felt like my mom didn't defend me or try to help the situation in any way. Then afterward, I caught her lying to me about a family function I wasn't invited to, called her on it, and she deleted me as a friend on Facebook. Sure, I went off on her a little- I totally admit that. But she had already clearly taken my brother's side & I was hurt. And then she lied to me about the family function & made something up so that I'd let my kids attend, without me, without my knowledge of it happening. She planned a party for said brother and his wife and wanted my kids there but not me. She pretended like she wanted to take my kids to give me a break, when really she had planned a party and didn't want me in attendance. When I told her how messed up that sounded, plus the fact that she tricked me to try to get them to go without me, I was un-friended on Facebook. By my own 54 year old mother. Yes, it sounds ridiculous, doesn't it? From there it escalated. And as anyone can clearly tell, I'm not dealing with a rational, mature person. I was baited with her manipulation tactics over and over again. I was called horrible names, hung up on, blocked, publicly shamed on her Facebook page for all of our family and mutual friends to see. She was constantly sharing far too much information that was of course embellished and one-sided, making her seem like a poor, innocent, devoted grandmother and that I, her evil daughter who was always "the bad one" suddenly decided that I hated my parents and wanted nothing to do with them. That one day I decided I hated them and then I ripped the children from their clutches. You see where I'm going.

This went on for a while over and over again, right after I had just had my fourth baby. Postpartum depression hit me like a ton of bricks, my anxiety was through the roof, I had a fussy newborn with reflux, a needy toddler, 2 older kids who had homework and lives and needed me too, and a workaholic husband trying to provide for us. All the while, my mother was sitting a mere 20 minutes away at her house doing nothing to make our situation better. I found out she'd been saying horrible things about me to other family members, like "Melissa hasn't been a nice person for awhile. We only put up with her to see the grandkids." That, combined with the way I was treated as a kid, and the way she was presently and continually coming at me with the verbal abuse and manipulation tactics (calling me bitch one day and then the next day telling me my dad didn't want to live anymore without me in their lives). She kept luring me back for more. She could never just let things be or play nice for more than a few weeks before it would start all over again. A Facebook post directed at me with just horrible, awful things being said in the comments by her friends...or worse yet, other family members. Seeing things like that written about you...seeing your mom revel in the attention she was getting from her friends telling her how awful I was for not letting her see her was just disgusting. The thing is, after Josiah was born, she didn't ask to see him. She never picked up the phone and called. Or texted. The only times she'd reach out to me would to be nasty or say something backhanded. It was always something negative. And then was I supposed to invite her over or something? It was just mind boggling and honestly really confusing, especially with everything going on with the kids and my postpartum issues. I felt like I was on a bad reality show or something. How could she think what she was doing was helping?

I waited and waited to see if I'd ever see a shred of remorse from her, but a genuine apology never came. Sure, she was amazing at the faux-apologies. The sad cards I got with frowny faces drawn on them with things like "I'm sorry you think I'm a horrible mother" or "I'm sorry you don't remember everything we've done for you." Every time I'd see another "I'm sorry...but..." my heart would sink. All of the cruel words from my childhood and from now would flood my memory and I just kind of had this realization that I must not mean that much to her. I think I always knew that she was just playing nice to see the kids for the longest time. But deep down she just didn't have much love for me. How could she though? She couldn't even bring herself to utter a real apology to her firstborn child- her only daughter and the mother of her 4 grandkids, who had just had a baby. She couldn't bring herself to say she was truly sorry to me. Because she wasn't sorry. I've known from the beginning that it's all been a sick & twisted power struggle with her- and she just won't give an inch for me. Not even for the sake of having a relationship with her grandkids.

On New Years Eve 2017, one year ago, I was called an ungrateful b*tch by my mother for the last time. When that message popped up in my inbox I just froze. She'd used the exact term before a few months prior, so it didn't sting as much anymore. Her words just kind of bounced off of me at that point, I was so used to it. My mother calling me a b*tch is nothing new. I'd been hearing it all my life! I just didn't reply to her insult. I told my husband I was done. I said "I'm done being called names. I'm done having her just message me and ruin my day and make me think about her and all of the crap she's done this last year. Don't let me reply to anything and don't let her bait me into a conversation!" He agreed (he's never been a fan of theirs and they hadn't talked to him in 3 years prior to this anyway- yeah, that's a whole other story itself, haha). I don't remember exactly when, but packages started showing up after the new year. One for my daughters birthday in March and of course there was a card in there for me with another faux-apology. She said she "didn't know what went so wrong." I figured maybe apologizing for the ungrateful b*tch comment would be a good place to start, but sure, feign amnesia and let's just sweep that part under the rug like most everything else, right mom? I didn't reply to it.

More packages and mail came. I opened them but didn't reply. More bait. An old book that my deceased grandmother had gifted me as a child, complete with a little note she'd written on the inside jacket. I remember reading that book over and over again as a kid. I held the book and cried. God damn my mother. And then there it was- another note from my mom along with it. An apology? Of course not! This time it was a 4 page letter detailing her childhood abuse in detail for me, and another faux-apology. And things like "I didn't know you held so much hatred for us" and "we did the best we could" over and over. It's her trademark tactic- bait, manipulate, deflect. Repeat, repeat, repeat. I decided the next thing she sent wouldn't be opened and I'd write return to sender on it. I just wanted her to leave me alone for an extended period of time. I couldn't take anymore of her emotional torture. I had kids and a newborn I was trying to raise and take care of, and I didn't need to be hit with all of this at the same time. I just wanted some peace, and for me that meant not dealing with my mother's verbal abuse.

The final straw 

Throughout all of this I hadn't heard from my dad. He never tried to talk to me or find out what was going on with my mother and I. He never asked my side of it or tried to help us mend the relationship. He never once just said "What the heck is going on?" I knew in my heart that trying to reach out to him would be futile. I knew that surely my mother had been filling his head with lies, telling him a very one-sided story where I was the villain and she is the victim. I'd seen some of what she'd been telling people online already- saying that I told them I hated them and that I didn't love them. Neither of which I've ever said. But that's what she tells people and I'm sure if she's lied about that she's lied about a lot more. Do I think she's told my dad all the times she's lashed out at me and called me names? How she's actually never truly apologized? No. And worse yet- he's been spreading her false version of reality to everyone too without having any firsthand knowledge about it. He's just repeating whatever he's been told by her, which in turn makes it sound that much more convincing.  They're both are telling the same story when he's had absolutely zero involvement. I knew he was a goner and that he would be team her all the way forever. But I never in my life expected the email I got from him when he finally decided to break his silence to me 1.5 years later. 

I suppose I should give you a little back story here, because this is something I've never publicly talked about. Only a few of my friends and some family members know that my dad isn't actually my biological father. He met my mom when she was about 5 months pregnant with me and has been the only father I've ever known. Apparently the entire family (aunts, uncles, grandparents, etc) were told not to say anything and to pretend like he was my dad though. His name is on my birth certificate, even though he's not my biological father (is that even legal?) Anyway, I was maybe 8 or 10 or so when I was asked if I knew were babies came from and was told that some other man was my biological father. I don't remember much about the conversation. I think we were fishing. I want to say it was just me and him there but everything is pretty foggy. I remember being told that I had a different dad and not much else. Maybe there was more, maybe not. I don't remember ever talking about it ever again with my dad. My mom talked about it once or twice in my teens, but it was always awkward. I learned that my paternal grandmother was alive and my mom had been sending Christmas cards and school photos and little updates like that since we had moved away. It was a lot for me to process.

I vividly remember telling my younger brother (we're about 20 months apart) that I had a different dad once and he said "Yeah right. Mom said you're a liar and I shouldn't believe anything you say." He and I tried to sneak through some papers filed away and look for my birth certificate, but we never did find it. Later, when my mom found out we were looking for it she was furious. And then she couldn't find it either, and was convinced I'd stolen it from her. I admitted I'd snooped around and told her I didn't ever find. But I was a liar in her eyes. And then that got thrown in my face countless times over the years, "Just like the birth certificate you didn't steal, right Melissa?" (At some point she ended up finding it and mentioned it in passing, never apologizing of course). I had so many questions and I didn't have anyone I could talk to about any of it. I got the feeling my dad wanted to pretend nothing happened and my mom seemed to tip toe around it in regards to him- only really speaking to me about it in private, when he wasn't around. Getting information like that as a young child and then having to play the keeper of your family's biggest secret all your life isn't fun.

So then, to get an email from my dad after a year and a half of complete silence while my mom and I duked it out, only to have him call me a liar and then sign off like that was a complete sucker punch. Good luck and goodbye from your non biological parent. Well, if that isn't a screw you I don't know what is. I mean, how is a daughter supposed to take that? I knew exactly why he'd said it too. 

A few days before the email, I had been tagged in a silly little Instagram hashtag thingy called #10thingsaboutme. The point was you re-introduce yourselves to your audience by listing 10 random facts about yourself no one probably knows. Well, I copied the post and filled in my answers. I wrote: "#3 I've never met my biological father (but he did try to list me as his daughter on Facebook once, which was kind of weird considering we aren't even friends.)" That's it. I didn't say I didn't have a dad. Or that missed my real dad. Or anything like that. I made a simple factual statement on my personal Instagram account. It wasn't a dig at him. And what I said was true- one time, a few years back, my biological father (who is friends with my mother, by the way, but has never talked to me, which I think is just weird) tried to list me as his daughter on his Facebook page. I got a notification saying "So & so has listed you as his daughter. Would you like to confirm this and add him to your own family tree?" I was like uhhhh what? After clicking on his page and looking around I realized that this was my biological father. I recognized the name after a few seconds- my mom had told me once or twice. I'd seen him comment on my mom's stuff before but I didn't put two and two together. He had tried to list me as his daughter. After some digging I saw that he had an entire folder called "Melissa Ann" and he had a bunch of old photos of me from when I was a baby and child in the late 80's. It completely weirded me out. Why was he posting pictures of me and listing me as his daughter if he'd never tried to make contact with me? It was just really weird and confusing and honestly pissed me off. Like he was trying to take credit for something when he'd never had anything to do with. So back to the Instagram post- that's all I said. I'd said that I never met my biological father. Apparently the mere mention of the words "biological father" sent my "dad" who raised me my entire life into a fit of rage. He decided to break his silence and finally speak to me for the first time in nearly two years by reaching out just to tell me I was a liar and to throw it in my face that he wasn't my dad. All capital letters- GOODBYE AND GOOD LUCK FROM YOUR NON BIOLOGICAL PARENT. What kind of man says that to his daughter? 

Not one that I want to have anything to do with. The second I read those words I was done. Done. DONE. I hadn't done anything wrong by saying what I said. I'm a 34 year old woman and that is MY reality. I've never met my biological father. Am I not allowed to say that to anyone? Was it still a secret that I was expected to keep for everyone else? 

After the email my husband decided he'd had enough. He watched me just crumble after reading it. My hands were shaking. I couldn't even talk. I was a mess. He asked for my dad's email address and said he was finally going to put a stop to it. He'd had enough- he was going to tell them to leave me alone and to not contact me or the kids again. I read the entire reply he sent to my dad and it was just so good. It wasn't mean or defensive. It was smart and eloquent and everything my parents words weren't- calm, rational, and mature. My husband truly has a way with words and he's insanely intelligent and articulate- something most people don't realize about him because he's quiet and covered in tattoos. He told them that from that day forward, under no circumstances were they to contact any of us again. That I'd contact them if I wanted to and that the first step towards any hope of reconciliation one day would be to respect our boundaries and honor my wishes. He sent the reply and to this day I have not heard a single word from my dad. In over two years the only thing he's said to his only daughter was in that email. Does that sound like a grandfather who is so devastated about not seeing his daughter and grandchildren that he doesn't want to go on living much longer? Which is it dad? Because you can't have it both ways. I'd held out a little hope in the very beginning that eventually I'd get to talk to my dad again and that maybe he'd see my side of it at least a little, but now I know he's a lost cause. Anyone who would say those kinds of things to me doesn't deserve to be in our lives. And if he's going to believe my mom's side of it without ever asking me, well then, he deserves to continue to be clueless and manipulated by his wife. They deserve each other. 

Just a couple of weeks after my husband's reply to my dad, a card showed up with my mom's handwriting on it. I was furious. I had just been basking in the absence of noise from my parents. It had been about a full month without so much as a word from either of them. My mom hadn't posted anything about me on Facebook either- pretty sure that was a record for her. Making up pity-party posts about me was a favorite pastime of hers. I can't tell you how many times I'd seen something like "It's been _____ since our daughter took our grandchildren away from us!" Cue the sad/outraged comments from her mother stopping to "like" each and every comment against me. But she hadn't posted anything like that in a few weeks and I though maybe I'd finally get a few months of peace and that maybe my husband's email to my dad had worked. They were finally respecting some boundaries! 

But then this card showed up at the beginning of June and again, my hands started shaking. I texted my husband as quickly as I could while I started to have a full on panic attack. Why was she sending me something again? Why couldn't she just leave me alone? My husband called me right away and talked me down. He told me not to open it. To relax and breathe and pretend I didn't see it. She doesn't matter anymore. They're not nice people. They don't matter to you anymore....they don't even know you. He said all the right things to bring me back down to Earth and and I found that peace again. No. She wasn't going to barge back into my life and ruin all the progress I'd made. I had just started to forget about it a little, or at least not think about it constantly. I remembered her last words to me- ungrateful b*tch. I thought about my dad's last words to me- goodbye from your non biological parent. And then I grabbed a Sharpie and wrote "return to sender" on the front of the envelope. Then on the back, just for good measure, I wrote "do not contact me again." 

And about 3 days later, just as I predicted, cue the sad Facebook post where my mom tells everyone that she has no idea why her daughter just wrote "return to sender" on her birthday card in the mail. Of course she had to let everyone know that I'd written rejected it. Apparently it was a birthday card.  How was I to know? And then I scoffed in disbelief when I thought about it for a second: my mother, who still has never apologized for anything (let alone calling me an ungrateful b word), is upset because I didn't accept her birthday card. Because I'm the cruel one of course. And then of course cue the comments from her friends reassuring her that she did the right thing by trying to send it and that I was heartless and ungrateful daughter for keeping her grandkids from her still. The same old song and dance, over and over. 

My mother should not be on Facebook. Seriously, my mother and the internet are not a good combination. She has literally ruined our entire relationship and any hopes of ever reconciling with me because of Facebook. It's really bizarre to me. Every time I see her post something or even type out the phrase "my mother posted..." or something like that I cringe, because I'm very aware of how stupid and juvenile it all sounds. To be arguing over things said on Facebook. But this is the level of maturity I'm dealing with and this is the twisted reality we live in, where social media starts messing with your real life. In the beginning I would message her and say things like "Do you really think this is helping?" or "please stop posting pictures of my kids with sad captions" What I got in return was "It's my Facebook and I can say what I want" and "If you don't like it don't look." I stopped replying a long time ago. And she's kept it going. Over and over and over, like a broken record. I don't know why she thinks that kind of thing is going to help her situation. She'd rather get likes than fix us though. Her Facebook page and her freedom to say whatever she wants on her Facebook page is more important to her than mending the relationship with her daughter I guess.

One of the most hurtful things in all of this is how my mom has orchestrated a smear campaign against me to the rest of my family. I haven't talked to any of them about this because I didn't think it was anyone's business. But she's told everyone who would listen about all of this, which I thought was so inappropriate. What kind of mother goes around bad-mouthing her daughter to the entire family? I didn't run to family members and tell them what she'd done to get them to side with me, yet she'd done just that. I haven't said anything to any of them. My conflict with my mother doesn't have anything to do with my relationships with the rest of my family members.

But my mother seems to think my relationships have to go through her now, so if I don't want to have anything to do with her then I better kiss the rest of my family goodbye. It's been really disappointing to realize that quite a few of them seem to believe my parents version too, because I've been pretty much frozen out of the family. We got 1 Christmas card this year from family- 1.

It's pretty sad now when my kids' birthdays roll around and they no longer get happy birthday texts or cards from relatives that used to do that kind of thing. It's pretty sad that their grandmother is responsible for that. And it's pretty sad that those relatives have chosen "her side" without any knowledge of the situation. 

All of this is just a drop in the bucket. The tip of the iceberg. There's so much more to it than this, obviously. This is just the highlight reel of my journey through hell and back. I've spent the better part of these last couple of years basically falling apart at the seams. This big family fallout all coincided with having a baby and all of the stress that goes along with that, buying a house, as well as leaving our home church and losing most of the rest of our "inner circle" of friends and acquaintances along with it. All of it- the parental stuff, the hormones, the healing from birth, the adjusting to 4 kids and really struggling, the postpartum depression and crippling anxiety left me a shell of the person I used to be. I've been anxious, depressed, embarrassed, ashamed, guilted, manipulated, and made to feel like my parents didn't care about me at all. What kind of parents treated their own child that way? Did they ever stop to think about me or my feelings at all? That maybe they were adding pain and stress and heartache, or that maybe their words and actions were just plain downright mean? They both said things that I just can't unsee/unhear. Things that they've never attempted to apologize for.

Moving on 

We've since moved and I've managed to keep my physical address from my mother as of now. I've even gone so far as to get a PO box to give out to friends and a few family members, that way I can still receive mail but not feel like I have to worry about my parents finding out where I live. I don't want packages at my door. I don't want cards or letters. We don't want presents for birthdays or Christmas. I finally feel like I can breathe a little bit now at least knowing she's not in the immediate vicinity and she can't just show up and knock on my door (something she'd threatened to do before when I didn't answer her calls or texts!) None of that is good for my anxiety. I'm not sure what route to take if the unwanted mail starts coming again...

Parental estrangement is not somewhere most people want to end up. It's not a decision I made lightly, and it's not one without consequences. Every day is a struggle, at least so far. It's been just over a year since I decided to go no contact with my parents. At first I thought I'd be able to put aside my own feelings and facilitate a relationship with my kids, for the sake of them having grandparents. But then I realized I couldn't do it anymore. So I didn't.

I realized my mom's words were kind of ironic because here I was, devastated over the fact that my mom had been telling people that she just put up with me to see my kids. But in reality, it was *I* who was putting up with them so that they could be grandparents to my children. I'd been doing it since the beginning. I realized that from the second I knew I was going to become a mom, I turned a blind eye to wrongdoings of my parents from my childhood and from my past. I wanted us to be a happy family so badly. So, even after I'd sworn to myself I was done with them, even after being kicked out of the house at 17 years old, I still came back to them. I always came crawling back, no matter how bad things were. No matter how crappy they made me feel. No matter how fake I had to act around them. Just keep it nice, be civil, keep things surface-level, I'd tell myself when I was feeling anxious around them. Now though, I see how fake it all was. Them putting up with me, me putting up with them. All for the kids, right? Not anymore. Not at the cost of my mental health.

Proof that even my mom knew deep down that I'd always had every reason not to want to have anything to do with them after I grew up was in a letter she sent me earlier this year. She said: "the fact that you still allowed us to be a part of your life made us very happy" after referencing how rocky my childhood was. That's right- you were darn lucky. I remember being a kid and telling myself that when I was a mom and had kids they would never know my parents. That I'd raise my kids different. That I wouldn't be like them and I wouldn't subject my kids to them any of this insane family dysfunction. And then somehow I found myself letting them back in, only to be hurt and disappointed over and over again. At this point I'm sure they won't change. They don't think they've done anything wrong. They "did they best they could," my mom has told me.

I have to protect my kids from these people even if they love them. You can love bad people. Bad people can have good sides to them too. I'm sure my parents could still be decent grandparents in some capacity if they wanted to be. But my kids are freaking awesome. They're good kids. They deserve good people in their lives, and I have to be careful of who I allow to have access to my kids and shape their minds. Anyone who says or does the things they have said and done to their own  child doesn't deserve to be around my kids. They aren't the kind of people I want my kids growing up around. That's a privilege- being in their lives. Let's get that straight. Being a grandparent to them is not a right and it's not something you can just demand. 

Actions speak so much louder than words, and their actions show me that they don't care, that they aren't sorry, and that being right is more important than having me and my children in their lives. And so in my mind, they have no rights to my children. They lost them, just like they lost their rights to be in my life. I don't have to subject myself to them because they're my parents. Things were different when I was a kid. Back then I was stuck. But now I'm a 34 year old woman and I have my own family- my husband and my kids. I've got no room for people like them in my life anymore. I've suffered enough. My kids have seen me suffer too. They need a happy, healthy mom, and I have to show them that no one has the right to treat them that way. That they never have to stay in a relationship with anyone out of obligation and subject themselves to any type of abuse, even if at the hand of someone they love. And I think that makes me a pretty freaking good mom no matter what she says.

It hasn't been easy, but I'm finally at a place where I feel like I'm able to heal. To not get overly upset and have physical symptoms or soul crushing anxiety every second of the day. Some days are better than others. I still have sad days where I feel like I'm right back where I started and I get mad or sad all over again. I felt a lot of guilt around the holidays because this was the first year with NO contact at all- not even a holiday card or anything. I wondered if I was being cruel. I had to actually pull up old messages and letters and re-read them, relive everything a little just to remind myself exactly what it was I was walking completely away from. Any short-lived guilt I had melted away when she tried to contact me again right before Christmas. Of course not to say sorry, but just to make me feel bad and trying to bait me into a phone call. I reminded myself that talking would get us nowhere and that she still hadn't changed. So I closed the message and pretended not to see it and did my best not to think about them while I spent Christmas with my husband and kids. My kids need a happy and healthy mom, and I'm bound and determined to give them just that!

So that's my story, or at least a small portion of it. As much as it pains me, I know there are countless other women out there with stories similar to mine, which is why I'm choosing to put mine out there. Whether you're just deciding to set some boundaries with toxic parents or maybe you're at the point where you've had enough heartache and want to completely remove yourself from the situation and go "no contact." Wherever you're at on your journey you'll need support. Don't go it alone. If you're serious about going no contact I strongly encourage seeking some type of professional help, whether it be a therapist, counselor, psychiatrist, or whatever you feel comfortable with. Take care of your mental health! I'm so proud of you for recognizing the fact that you are in a toxic relationship and are prepared to end the cycle of abuse. And remember that forgiving doesn't mean you have to let an abuser back into your life!

Where am I now?

Good question. The last 2 years have been the hardest years of my life. They were awful and wonderful at the same time. I had a baby- which was great and amazing and brought a ton of new challenges. I've struggled with parenting a lot these last two years and all of this family drama has not been helpful. My kids suffered a lot because of this by watching me spiral. It's affected them hugely, and for them my heart breaks and I become really pissed off all over again.

I'm trying to be everyone and everything for kids now. Being a mother while trying to repair yourself mentally and emotionally is the hardest thing I have ever had to do. It's taken a lot of time and work (and medication and therapy) to start to move past it and move on. I've been seeing a therapist once a week for about 6 months now and she's been such an amazing resource. To have a neutral person hear you and say "you don't have to put up with this" has been extremely encouraging. Some days are better than others and I just take one day at a time. I wasted so much time being upset and angry so I'm letting go of all of that and am just trying to move forward and better myself. Being stuck in that place of anger and resentment was not healthy. I wallowed long enough. It could have been worse, right? I survived and am better off now!

Resources about toxic parents and parental estrangement 

I have so much more to say on this topic and I have a series of posts planned, but for now I wanted to leave you with just a a few resources I found extremely helpful. If you're like me you probably scoured the internet already looking for advice, tips, answers, support groups, etc. I'm a need all the information type of person, even stuff like this. I needed to know I wasn't alone or crazy and that someone else out there had experienced something similar. 

This website has been amazing. There are so many insightful articles on parental estrangement and toxic relationships. This was the first article I read and it was a life-changer! It was like all of a sudden the blindfold was taken off and I could see the toxic family dysfunction for what it was- toxic! The more I read the better I felt about myself and the decisions I had made to walk away. This post about dysfunctional beliefs was incredible too. Sometimes you don't realize how dysfunctional your family dynamic is until someone else tells you it's not normal!

Also, the book You're Not Crazy, It's Your Mother was also life-changing. I highlighted almost every page and was nodding my head in agreement thinking "Oh my gosh, me too!" for the entire first half of the book. I'll admit though that I did not make it through the second half of the book. That was where the self-help method lost me- something about repeatedly tapping your fingers or something? Maybe some day when my mind slows down and I can focus more I'll make it back to that part, but for now, the first half of that book was awesome! I highly recommend it for anyone with "mom issues" (or whatever you want to call it).

This book about toxic parents was another really helpful read. I read most of it front to back, skipping around to read topics of interest first. Again, lots of nodding and thinking "yes!" through most of this book. It really helped me to realize that what I've experienced is not OK. Again, it helped reaffirm my decision to walk away from hurtful relationships.

Along with those book and website suggestions I'll leave you with these quotes I've seen and resonated with. I hope if one of them speaks to you and your situation that it brings you a sense of peace.

Cozy, affordable cold weather fashion

Friday, January 4, 2019

This post is sponsored by ClimateRight but the content and opinions expressed here are my own.

January can be down right frigid here in the Pacific Northwest. 

I've lived in Washington state most of my adult life so I've gotten used to the snowy winter months. As a busy mom of four kids I'm constantly running around doing school drop off and pickups, shopping, weekly appointments, errands, and everything else that comes along with managing a household with 6 people in it. 

But being a busy mom doesn't mean you can't look cute while doing it, right?

I've never considered myself much of a fashionista, but I definitely know a thing or two about shopping on a budget. The things I'm looking for in my winter wardrobe are warmth, comfort, style, and affordability. I want to look good in whatever I'm wearing, but I want it to actually be warm and comfortable, and I want to be functional and practical. I need all those things and I need it to not break the bank. Did I mention I've got four kids to feed?! 

ClimateRight by Cuddl Duds at Walmart

ClimateRight by Cuddl Duds have been the answer to all of my cold weather clothing needs this winter. Finally, the perfect fleece leggings that don't cost a fortune!

At under $10 a pair you can get the softest, coziest, warmest fleece leggings to keep you toasty all winter long. I grabbed a couple of each- the Base Layer Stretch Fleece leggings in plain black and the Base Layer Stretch Fleece long sleeve crew shirt

These pieces are made with cold in mind and are exactly what I need to stay warm while braving the cold temperatures. They're made with spandex for a nice stretch, making them super comfy and perfect for layering without bunching or feeling too thick. 

I'm seriously in love with these leggings! They're soft and warm and just feel amazing to have on. And they're so much warmer than any other pants I own. Much needed when it dips down into the single digits here!

I'm a sucker for shirts with thumb holes in the sleeves.

So even through it's absolutely freezing outside at least I can stay warm and fashionable at the same time. ClimateRight by Cuddl Duds have come in so many styles, colors, and sizes to choose from too. Shop their collection online or in stores and stay warm and cozy all winter long. 

Easy, kid-friendly game day preparations

Thursday, January 3, 2019

This post is sponsored by Frank's Red Hot but the content and opinions expressed here are my own.

Football fans rejoice- it's almost Super Bowl Sunday! If you're like me then that means Super Bowl FOOD, right? The big game is the perfect excuse to eat and hang out with friends. 

Hanging out at my house always means lots of kids around, so here are a few tips for keeping your game day preparations quick, easy, and kid-friendly.

First off- head to Walmart and get some of these Franks Red Hot Wings. I make a mean chicken wing myself, but these will really cut down on the prep time and clean up.

The Buffalo and Kickin' BBQ flavors were calling my name!

You might want to grab some Franks RedHot sauce too if you're like me and like your wings extra saucy. My favorite is the Buffalo flavor but you can't go wrong with the classic Cayenne flavor.

Fun fact: Frank's RedHot Cayenne Pepper Sauce was used as the secret ingredient for the first ever Buffalo Wings in Buffalo, New York, putting it on the map and starting the flavor craze that has led to consumers obsession with all things Buffalo-flavor.

I like to keep the food pretty simple, so in addition to the wings I just like to put out kid-friendly finger foods, like fresh fruits and vegetables, chips, and cheese with crackers. If you're expecting toddlers like me I also keep single serve snacks on hand and ready, like string cheese, applesauce pouches, yogurt tubes, etc. 

Make sure to stock up on paper plates, cups, and napkins to keep cleanup quick and easy. The last thing I want to do is wash a sink full of dishes after hosting. I found this football themed stuff at Walmart too and it looked perfect for the big game. This tablecloth was so cute and festive and made clearing the table a breeze.

Make sure to remember the dipping sauces! My favorite are Buffalo and good ol' ranch.

Don't let planning your Super Bowl festivities stress you out! Make sure to add Franks RedHot to your shopping list and you can't go wrong. 

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