Step Monster

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I am so tired. Emotionally. I do not want to get out of bed because I’m not sure I have the energy to be a step mom today. I feel like every few months I’m at my wits end, sobbing in the bathroom into a glass of wine, resisting the urge to call my own step mother, and best friend to tell her I just can’t do this anymore. I don’t know how she managed, how in the hell she didn’t run away. I think, actually at one point she did run away. I don’t blame her. I can’t say whether it was harder for her to not have her own children, it was definitely a piece that was missing, but maybe it was a blessing for my sister and I? We needed all of her heart.

When I came into this relationship I already had my daughter, and my husband had a daughter and a son. I liked his kids immediately, and they liked me. I was thrilled to become a step mom, having been raised by one, I felt like maybe it was preparation for my future as a step mom. Not everyone is lucky enough to be raised by a step parent that they actually look up to. (It certainly wasn’t always like this, there were times that I think we hated each other, and years that I made her life miserable.) It didn’t occur to me that my life would turn into a fight. A constant fight for the impossible. I had been a stay at home mom, an attachment parenting mom. I was and am deeply connected to my daughter. I had not thought a whole lot about how I would parent her as she grew up, because I was taking it one day at a time. (When she was three I was convinced she was possessed, turns out she was just three… But I spent hours on the phone and the internet trying to figure out what to do.) Suddenly I had a 7 year old and a 5 year old, and my 3 three year old. I figured I would keep doing what I was doing, I tried to fit into their life as best I could, but there really was no place for me. The family was so used to taking care of each other that I was only really needed as a babysitter. Feeling like a fish out of water I began to make small changes in our household, there had to be a way to make us a family. Initially it was health. I threw out all the packaged, boxed and canned food and worked tirelessly on changing their diet. I wasn’t comfortable feeding my child TV dinners, and I thought it was the loving thing to nourish my new family. Well, that backfired. I ended up becoming the enemy of the in-laws and extended family. Instead of backing me up, they decided to lie, and sneak around, teaching my kids that I do not deserve respect.

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That was 3 years ago, since then we have had similar struggles, and they seem to be worse and more frequent. Between encouraging my kids to lie to me and my husband, and actually lying to us, it’s impossible. My husband is so used to his family disrespecting each other that he doesn’t see the problem. Because he doesn’t see it, he thinks I overreact. He feels I should just let it go, because they will never change. I would do that if it didn’t directly effect the way his kids treat me.

You can see, my husband is generally more relaxed, he’s not a rule enforcer. The only time he really pushes it is dependent upon his mood, or what is necessary, like if we have to go and the kids are messing around, THEN the dad voice comes out and everyone scrambles. I prefer that the children are obedient and don’t require “dad voice”. I am aware that as parents, it’s our responsibility to raise our children and teach them to be decent human beings. (The jury for me is still out on The Lord of the Flies, but watching my step son, I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t hesitate to eat his friend.) It seems I worry endlessly about who these kids will be as adults and I am scared. Honestly scared. I see a child with no conscience. And I believe it’s our job (and I mean EVERY adult) to teach children empathy. We are not all born with the gift of empathy, and if you grow up in a household where it’s every man for himself… and that’s kind of the environment I see. The problem is, I seem to be the only immediate family who sees a problem and I go back and forth between just letting it be, and then being horrified and feeling a deep seeded need fix the problem.

I wonder if I didn’t have my own daughter, and actual horse in the race, maybe I would just let it go, be a babysitter, and let their lives be the way they were. The problem is that I have a little girl that I have high hopes for, I see so much promise in her, and I won’t cut comers on parenting. Not with my little girl. I have seen the products of “non parent parenting”, and I am not going to be responsible for that. The problem is, I have a hand in parenting my step children, so I will have responsibility to take. What am I gonna say? I’m sorry I fought with your dad so much and taught you that it’s OK to undermine your partner? I’m sorry I was so inconsistent? I’m sorry you think I favor my daughter– I wasn’t allowed to be your mom. I’m sorry I gave up on you….

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I don’t want to give up. I love these kids. And I love my husband. I want us to be a family, but I don’t see how we are going to get through this with out royally fucking these kids up. At some point something has got to give. I’m tired of fighting. But I feel a moral obligation to these awesome littles. I feel a deeper obligation to MY little.

I am blessed because my daughter has a wonderful step mom who has become my friend and sometimes my therapist. I have 100% support from my daughter’s father and his wife. It’s refreshingly healthy. I can’t see why I don’t have that from my husband’s family.

I know I’m not an expert parent, but my heart is in it, and I work my ass off trying to do right by my little family. Often times it’s the hardest thing to do. And way too many times it turns into a fight. Where is the balance? What battles do I pick? How can I make this work? I have fantasies that I take my daughter and we just live together, and I spend weekends with my husband and the kids… wouldn’t it be easier if I only saw them all occasionally, and didn’t have a responsibility to parent? I would miss them, but I think I would be much more relaxed. It’s a huge responsibility being a parent. I do not take it lightly… I do not want to abandon them. But I do want to run away sometimes. Like today.

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Fighting Food Demons

I read this article today on “orthorexia nervosa”. Haven’t heard of it? Neither had I, although I had a sneaking suspicion it was a thing. It’s having an unhealthy (go figure) obsession with eating clean. Generally when someone gets on a health kick, they are trying to be healthy. Evidently the issue here is that this drive towards ultimate health can actually make you UNHEALTHY. Well, that sucks. Particularly if you’re me. Having struggled with eating disorders for many years, resulting in rehab, then outpatient, groups and lots of therapy, I finally found peace with food. However, my “peace” with food has become increasingly “unpeacful”. When I built a healthy relationship with food, I decided I needed to have a better understanding of food. What is it? Where does it come from? What’s in it? What does “processed” mean? How does my body react to certain foods? Answering these questions helped me to not dwell on the calories, however I have noticed that I still feel just as guilty (and judgmental even) when I eat certain foods. And it’s not like a regular person who would not even consider that they have a relationship with food, (because you normies just EAT food.) and maybe feels some guilt when they go to a drive through, or eat ice cream. I feel guilty when I eat a sandwich. I feel self loathing when I eat bread. I hate myself when I eat cheese. And it’s not just that I do have a fear of gaining weight, but in my head I am thinking that I am causing inflammation which will undoubtedly lead to every health problem imaginable. And it will be because I ate a slice of pizza. I will die a miserable death because I had mozzarella sticks. You may be thinking that I am insane… But you may be like me and you maybe literally won’t EVER touch demonic foods that contain gluten, dairy or GMOs. (And I am over here feeling sickeningly jealous of your strength…. *You see, I wouldn’t ever buy these satanic tempestuous treats, but my husband literally won’t live without them. He thinks that no meal is a meal without carbs, in fact he thinks it’s ridiculous when me and my daughter don’t eat sandwiches. He would like to know what will fill us up if we don’t eat bread?*…And lucky if you don’t have have a partner who eats clean as well.)  It doesn’t stop there, I feel like like I am bringing bad karma onto myself for eating certain foods! (namely animal products)

I can compare this overwhelming guilty conscious to religious people. In fact, I believe I am so sensitive to not “doing what’s right” because of my past in churchianity. So if you feel bad because you missed church, or forgot to say your prayers, or whispered a curse word, maybe you feel a fraction of what I feel when I eat food (that you may even consider healthy). I feel like I have to go to confession after eating black bean soup! AND IT’S VEGAN! Why? I read that beans cause inflammation. I start planning a cleanse after eating quinoa. Yeah… quinoa. We all thinks it’s so healthy… but is it? I listen so carefully to my body after eating a food because I have to know how it effects me. I have slight depression when I see a carton of milk. I mean, those poor cows. And the meat isle?!? It’s a graveyard, It’s the dead animal isle. I don’t like it. I feel like I am literally driving the nails into Jesus’s hands when I eat cheese that isn’t organic. And I have nausea even if it is organic because I’m a little grossed out by the concept of cheese. And simultaneously, cheese is my weakness, it’s the equivalent of the shame you may feel watching porn.

OK so you see my insanity. But here’s the deal, I don’t eat perfectly. So far I am healthy, even though I cheat sometimes. I can and do go to restaurants. I will find food that I can/will/want to eat. (Except fast food, but if we are going with the religious comparison, fast food is like a whore house, right?) I generally bring my own food to a BBQ, this isn’t that weird because I don’t eat meat, and it doesn’t bother me. I would like to say that my food standards are reasonable. I felt bad a few weeks ago when a friend asks me to feed her kid lunch and I knew already that he wouldn’t eat what we had. When I asked what he liked to eat, she suggested something like, mach n cheese, buttered noodles, pb&j, chicken nuggets, cereal and oatmeal. I had none of that. Or I and pieces… no butter, no bread, organic funny looking noodles, no milk for cereal, no peanut butter…. I apologized (don’t worry he was fed!), I honestly felt bad, but in reality, it’s not that big of a deal. These things happen, and I don’t think those are necessary foods. I don’t think that makes me extreme, either. I think that maybe my intense feelings on dairy seem extreme, but not buying chicken nuggets, not so much.

You may be wondering what this means for my kiddos? What do they eat? Well, if we go to a birthday party or a bbq, they eat pizza, hot dogs, cake and chips. The only thing I really put my foot down on at a social even is soda. At home my kiddos eat a balanced healthy diet, and I try to buy organic. They get dessert 2-3 times a week. My kids don’t eat as strict of a diet as I do, and that’s ok. I have had to loosen the reigns on that one, I wasn’t always so nonchalant about that.

Am I orthorexic? No, I don’t think so. I think that eating this way has helped improve my health and is better for my family. Do I think it’s a fine line? Yes. Considering my history it’s not weird that I have unhealthy emotions about food, however, it’s pretty awesome that I have not taken my obsession with health to an unhealthy extreme. I will be mindful, and I will continue fighting my food related demons.

Why would you spend $20 on sunscreen?

Why would you spend $20 on sunscreen???

This is Alexis and me a few months into our "no poo" journey that inspired us to create chemical free sunscreen!
This is Alexis and me a few months into our “no poo” journey that inspired us to create chemical free sunscreen!

I am working with a close friend, Alexis, to develop a simple, natural, healthy and unique skin care line.  Alexis has an amazing business, called Labor of Love (I have blogged about alexis and her business before.) We decided to work together during the last few months and have been creating, using and testing our treatments. It will still be a few months before we can make the big announcement, so stay tuned. I just wanted to give you all a heads up, and answer some questions that Alexis and I have been asked many many times:

“Why would anyone spend $20 on sunscreen?”

The short answer, sunscreen without chemicals is healthier and just as effective as the mainstream store bought stuff. I know, my family has been using handmade sunscreen all summer (I live in southern California and my kids and I spend 4-5 days a week at the pool or beach.) and we are all beautifully tanned with sun kissed streaks of gold in our hair.

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The ingredients used in quality handmade sunscreen are not cheap, and it shouldn’t be made in large quantities in order to insure the effectiveness. Carrot seed oil alone can range from $20-$40, and in my opinion, carrot seed oil is essential to a good quality sunscreen as it has a natural SPF and healing properties.

“What is wrong with regular store bought sunscreen?”

In a word? Chemicals. There are almost 20 ingredients in the sunscreen you purchase at your local target, grocery store or drug store. 15 of these ingredients are chemicals, man made… and 9 of them are endocrine disrupters. (This means these chemicals interfere with normal hormonal functions which can cause cancer, early puberty, low sperm count, and many other disturbing side effects.) You rub them on before going into the sun, and very quickly they begin breaking down and absorb into your blood stream. These chemicals can be detected in your blood, urine and breast milk for up to 2 days after using the product because they are not filtered by the liver. Because the chemicals are being absorbed so quickly, the sunscreen is losing it’s effectiveness, meaning you have to keep applying, and continue to absorb the poisons. These chemicals also absorb the UV rays and some of them begin to mutate into free-radicals (which lead to cancer).

Hanging by the pool, getting some work done while the kiddos play. Covered in handmade sunscreen!
Hanging by the pool, getting some work done while the kiddos play. Covered in handmade sunscreen!

“But I thought Vitamin D is good for you?”

It is! Vitamin D is great for your immune system, in fact, it’s critical for your health and helps fight depression! Sun exposure is the easiest way to absorb vitamin D. Don’t hide from the sun, just be smart about it. A sun burn is a perfect example of “too much of a good thing”.

“What makes chemical free sunscreen better?”

The active ingredient in handmade sunscreen is zinc oxide. Zinc oxide actually BLOCKS the sun, unlike the chemicals I referred to earlier that absorb the rays. Zinc oxide creates a barrier between you and the sun, and is safe to be applied as much as you need it. There are so many DIY sunscreen recipes out there (try Pinterest!), the ingredients are all similar, coconut oil, shea butter, and zinc oxide. I highly recommend whipping yourself up a batch. The problem I ran into with these thicker DIY sunscreens is they are harder to apply, and turn your skin white. They work beautifully, however, we discovered a way to make a liquid sunscreen that is just as effective and much easier to apply. If this is something you are interested in you can order a bottle from Labor of Love. Alexis markets her sunscreen to expectant mothers and children. I am not a doctor, but I am a mother and this is sunscreen that I use on my own children and myself.

Baby Safe Coconut Oil Sunscreen:

 

Labor of Love Baby Safe Sunscreen
Labor of Love Baby Safe Sunscreen

“This gentle 100% natural sunscreen is safe for all skin types including babies! We’ve carefully selected essential oils that have skin regenerating and protecting properties and blended them with pure Zinc Oxide and Coconut Oil for an SPF 30 lotion formula. Intoxicating floral and earthy scent in a convenient 4oz cobalt blue pump bottle.

Do you ever look at a bottle of sunscreen and wonder what all that stuff is? We did too. That is why every ingredient in our bottle serves a purpose.
-Zinc Oxide is where we get the bulk of the sun protection. Zinc Oxide is one of the few ingredients that can provide protection from UVA and UVB rays.
-Organic Pumpkin Seed Oil contains lots of Vitamin E & plant sterols which are great for improving skin health and appearance.
-Organic Coconut Oil (fractionated) is a light moisturizing oil that doesn’t clog pores and keeps our lotion non-greasy.
-Carrot Oil has a strong natural SPF and a nice, earthy smell. It is also full of antioxidants which can actually help repair skin damange.
-Geranium Essential Oil helps maintain the balance between oily and dry skin, and it smells nice too!
-Ylang Ylang Essential Oil also helps with skin’s balance, and it gives our lotion its exotic, floral scent.”

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, the views expressed on this blog are my opinions and you should always seek the advice of a health care professional.