Wednesday, August 25, 2010

What I learned from a tri-state RV trip

A post on Owning pink

The Idea
My husband had an idea a few months ago…let’s go on an RV trip! I didn’t think he was serious, so I mumbled something under my breath and we didn’t mention it again. I knew his idea wasn’t going away when I saw him showing my three and five year-olds pictures of RV rentals online. “Come on, it will be fun…we can even bring our dog!” The three of them seemed so excited about the possibility, I couldn’t refuse them. I swallowed hard and gave two thumbs up.
The Planning
My husband is the events planner, social organizer and travel advisor in our home. I don’t know if he just likes these activities that much or I am just that bad at them so he has had to take over. He rented the RV online, planned each trip to the day and started making a list on what to bring. We were headed to New Jersey near Long Beach Island, then to Maryland to see the wild horses on Assateque Island, and would finish in Pennsylvania so we could take the kids to Dutch Wonderland. As the trip became more defined, I began to panic.
The Doubt
I need my space. The idea of being crammed in an RV with my husband, two small children and a 75-pound dog for seven days straight was not my idea of fun. If you have ever traveled with small children, you know how difficult it can be… especially the sleeping in strange places part. My Siberian Husky was in full fledge shed season and by the shedding pattern thus far, looked as if she could possibly go bald this month. I had been reading about the takeover of biting bugs on Assategue Island and feared we might be eaten alive. And did I mention my husband snores? Not cute little rumbles, but I’m talking freight train proportions. How were any of us going to sleep? I need sleep!!! Panic Panic Panic…Why did I agree to this???
Meeting the RV
When my husband pulled up to our house in the RV, I burst out laughing. It was a moving billboard for the company. Their logo, number and website were all over the vehicle. While loading for our trip, every neighbor on our street came out to see what this beast was all about. We met neighbors we didn’t even know existed. They all wanted to see the inside of the RV, hear about our adventure or tell a tale of their own. The energy was contagious and excitement crept in.
But as I was putting sheets on the “beds” in the RV, I pulled up the mattress to hook a corner of the sheet. I couldn’t believe my eyes!  Under the mattress were about 3,000 ants and 10,000 ant eggs! There were so many it looked like a moving carpet! I froze. I didn’t know whether I was going to vomit or throw a tantrum. I was so disgusted. I called the company who told me they had not other units and they were sorry, these things happen in RVs. Why did I agree to this???
Suck it up and go
At this point my husband was getting annoyed with me. He said I was being negative and I needed to lighten up, this was supposed to be fun. Quite honestly I was annoyed with myself. What the hell had happened to me? Pre-children I would strap on a backpack, hike 15 miles and tent camp in the middle of nowhere. Why was this kind of “roughing it” making me so uncomfortable? 
We took care of the ants and took off.
Lessons from an RV trip
I learned many things about myself and about RV living on this trip. So, for those of you planning a late-summer adventure or a mobile family vacation in your near future, here are some tips to help along the way:
  • Never take a 75-pound dog that is in shed season on an RV trip (should have trusted my instincts on that one). Especially if the dog doesn’t like moving vehicles and is prone to running away. Our stress level was through the roof trying to keep the kids from opening the door. And our dog did manage to run away once -- in the middle of a severe thunderstorm, not good!
  • When you go to visit friends you haven’t seen in ten years, make sure your aforementioned ill-behaved dog doesn’t kill a bird in their yard, in front of the kids.
  • Always check the weather forecast before inviting friends to your campsite for a cookout. The one night we had company, the sky boomed, lightening struck and the floodgates opened. In a matter of seconds our fire was out, the campsite was drenched, and we had four adults, two children and a wet dog in the RV (after my husband caught the dog).
  • Never open the refrigerator when the RV is moving, but if you have to (because the kids are screaming in hunger or your husband thinks it is a fun idea for you to make him a sandwich while he is driving), put on a hart had and steel tipped shoes because you will get hurt by the flying bottles and condiments.
  • If you feel a urinary tract infection coming on before your trip, don’t say you’re too busy to get it taken care of. Having a UTI while camping is dreadful and it's very difficult to get a prescription called in to a random pharmacy.
  • RV tap water is not a good substitute for saline solution, ouch! (I forgot mine.)
  • Always look under every mattress and cushion before pulling out of the RV lot. You never know what is lurking under there until it is too late. We found more than ants...
  • When you pull up to your campsite and it is located directly across the street from the dumpsite, ask for a new site no matter how tired you are from the day's adventure. Campsite dumps in 95-degree weather smell like poop.
  • I was amazed at how fast my underarm and leg hair grew in a week. I had no time to shave as if you took more then a 30 second shower, it would flood the RV due to a drain clog.
  • Beware of the green-headed flies. They are mean, they are nasty, they defy every bug repellent and will bite you 30 times in a row right through your jeans.
  • Become friends with the black flies because at any given time you will have about 17 of these unwanted guests in your RV. If you bring your dog against my better advice (see first bullet), this will entertain her as she will chase and try to catch them in her mouth... all night long.
  • Listen to yourself. I really do need a lot of space and alone time. At the end of the week I felt a little insane and very itchy (although that could have been because of my 62 bug bites).
The Best Part
After reading this, you're probably thinking there is no way in hell I would ever take an RV trip!  But I have to say, I would do it again. I learned a lot about myself. I was happy to see that despite the bugs, plumbing problems, smells, lack of space, poor sleeping and general discomfort for seven days… I managed to lighten up, have a sense of humor and actually have fun! My biggest accomplishment is that I managed to disconnect from the rest of the world and be perfectly present with my family. Maintaining lightness and being fully present with my children are two of my biggest struggles. I came back from the trip with my values and priorities back in order after being off balance for months. For these reasons alone, this trip was a fantastic success!
What about you? Do you have any funny vacation memories to share? Any memories of traveling when you learned a little something about yourself?
Heather Sobieralski
Life Coach for Moms

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Really Gisele? A breast feeding law?

A guest post on Owning Pink

Breast feeding is NOT always so natural
When the supermodel Gisele made a statement this summer that it should be a law for all mothers to breastfeed their babies for six months, it got me thinking about my own experience with little ones at my breasts. I had very different feeding journeys with my two children. My second child latched on immediately. He made sweet suckling noises, stared into my eyes and paused his nursing only to smile at me. It was beautiful, natural and exactly how we are brainwashed that it should be. But it is amazing that I had tried a second time at all, as trying to feed my first child was at best, mechanical. I needed eight arms, 17 contraptions, tea bags for my nipples and a big box of tissues for my tears.
Bloody and defeated before I even left the hospital
I was firm in my decision to at least try to breastfeed. I had read (just like every other anxious and overly informed first-time mother) that breast is best. So if I was going to be the best mom I could possibly be, I was going to try my hardest -- despite infections, blood, puss, and completely losing my freedom, body and confidence, damn it!
I had a hell of a time right off the bat. My baby would suck my breasts like a high powered Hoover Vac for four seconds and pull off (nipple still attached in mouth) flailing, grunting and stretching me before releasing my injured nipple to let out the most unbearable scream as if to say,”YOUR MILK SUCKS, MOMMMMMMYYYY!!!” We tried this ritual every two hours on the dot for the next two days. I had nurses, lactation consultants and friends with “breasts made for feeding” come and try to help the situation. No luck.
My baby was so hungry in the hospital that all she did was cry -- literally, that is all she did for two days. But the “good mother” that I was, I refused to give her formula or a bottle because all of my “handy books” said that bottles would result in nipple confusion -- and we both seemed confused enough, thank you very much! The nurses talked me into taping a tiny tube to my breast down to my nipple which would run formula into my baby’s mouth, as she was “breast feeding”.  Um, no luck there either -- the only difference was that I got a belly button full of formula.
Before I left the hospital I was told I had “inverted nibbles, a slow let-down and a pre-mature baby who had poor sucking technique.”  Good god, what do my boobs do right? The lactation consultants gave me a hand pump to stimulate “let-down” before I had even attempted to nurse. I was to wear plastic, cone shaped “nipple shields” under my bra 24 hours a day to try to pull my nibbles to task, and I was to feed this baby formula through a syringe or that small tube because after all, she was STARVING!
Looking back, it is not surprising that I cried, or that my husband frequently left the room, or that I stiffened my body and wanted to refuse my baby every time she let me know it was time to eat. My nipples were cracked, bleeding and actually had puss coming out of them. For the first 10-15 seconds of each feeding I was in excrutiating pain. I was sent on my way to somehow feed this baby alone, at home (without the assistance of eight other hands and a team of professionals).
A natural, beautiful and bonding experience? Not for me! God knows I wanted it to be, but what I was living was far from how all of my “helpful mom books” described it!
Banned from nursing
We spent one night at home with our new baby before our pediatrician told us she would have to be admitted to the hospital for severe jaundice. One of the first things the nurses told me (which to this day I don’t understand, but I was too out of it to question) was that I could no longer breastfeed. I must feed with formula because it helped the bilirubin levels pass more quickly. From this point on, I pumped breast milk with tears streaming down my face because of the physical pain and perceived “failure” as a provider.
So the pair of us never did get the whole breastfeeding thing. Whenever we tried, it would usually go a bit like this: suck suck suck, pull off, scream, breast milk squirting in the face, bigger screams, arching back, scream, put baby down (mom crying now) and pump out the milk so breasts don’t continue to squirt like wild fire hoses across the room. Sadly, by now my postpartum depression had set in (a whole other post) and I felt like I was an awful, ill-equipped and unloveable mommy. In my dark and foggy haze, the only thing I felt that I could give my baby that nobody else could was breast milk. So I continued to struggle, to beat myself up, to pump pump pump pump for TEN MONTHS! I only gave it up because I had no more milk to give.
I was recently asked, “What is one thing you would have done differently as a new mom?” I replied, “I would not have breastfed.” I wish I would have spend my time holding and cuddling my baby with a big ol’ bottle of formula, instead of holding a breast pump, obsessing about how many ounces I had, leaking through my shirt at work and feeling guilty because I sucked at this very thing I was trying so desperately to provide.
The debate: breast vs. bottle
The debate continues. This topic certainly has two very passionate schools of thought. Personally, I don’t care if you breastfeed exclusively, formula feed, suppress your milk to bottle feed, whip out your breast to feed your baby while having a conversation with my husband, or have a team of nursemaids to feed your child. I just want moms to be happy. I hope women make their feeding decisions based on what is best for them and what feels comfortable. Happy women make the best moms, so do what makes you happy! (Visit this site for more neutral information about what type of feeding is best for you and your lifestyle.)
What about you? What was your experience with breastfeeding or choosing not to? Do or did you feel this pressure to breastfeed because of societal expectations or your own need to provide the “golden serum”? What do you think of Gisele's proposed breast feeding law?
Heather Sobieralski
Life Coach for Moms

Sunday, August 15, 2010


Guest post on The Survial Guide for Rookie Moms

When I learned I was having a boy, I got my hands on everything I could read about circumcision. Every man I knew was circumcised, everyone I knew had their boys circumcised, and never thought much about it. It was just the thing to do. I live in the United States, on the east coast and I think it is safe to say, it is unusual to leave your boys intact here.
When I started to question it, people around me thought I was odd for considering leaving my son intact. They regurgitated everything they had been told…it is cleaner, he will look like his dad, he will feel more confident, won’t get teased by the boys in the locker room and he will feel more comfortable with women when he becomes sexual. All these comments made me pause and really think about each one of them. After much pondering, and reading every medical documentation I could find, I decided that these reasons were all bullshit to me. I viewed the procedure as cruel, unnecessary, and barbaric. To me, the cutting seemed no different then painful body mutilations I read about in under-developed counties.
I started talking to my husband about my feelings. Much to my surprise, he was on board. His only concern was that our son would hate us later. We decided that if this were the case, we would cross that bridge when we came to it. It would be his decision, and an elective surgery, with an anesthetic.
I have to admit, I wavered during my pregnancy. I wavered when I thought of him being upset about not looking like anyone else he knew. I wavered every time someone gave me a disapproving look or opinion about what we decided to do. I wavered every time my husband asked if I was sure we were doing the right thing.
Despite all the indecision, I stood by my decision. I am a vegetarian, I always take on the underdog, and I save every bug in my house. I wasn’t about to consent to allow my newborn to be taken away against his will to be cut for his first cosmetic surgery at the ripe old age of 20 hours!
When an OBGYN came in to check on me a day after post-delivery she asked if I was planning on circumcising my son. Before she could persuade me, I blurted out, “We will not be circumcising our son. It is cruel and unnecessary and I will not subject him to this inhumane procedure.” She just winked at me and said, “Good girl!” “That is what I hope every mom will say, but I very seldomly hear it.” The medical community must be split on this topic too because when my child was up for his “snip time” a nurse came in to get him. When I told her we were electing not to have this procedure, I got one of those disapproving looks again, and she asked me 3x if I was sure.
My son is now 3 1/2 and I stand by my decision, and would choose to keep him intact again. However, I have always felt unsupported in my decision. My husband still has moments of regret and hopes we made the right choice for our son. I still don’t know anyone who has chosen to keep their son intact (accept other intact advocates on-line). I read that only 50% of boys in the US are circumcised, but I don’t know where they are. I have gotten my support on-line by finding other vocal parents who feel the same.
For information on leaving your boy intact…here are a few sites to get you started.
Heather Sobieralski: Life Coach for Moms
Heather SobieralskiDebilitating “morning” sickness, two high risk pregnancies, 22 weeks of bed-rest, pre-term labor, nine months of colic, a house that smelled like vomit from a severe case of infant GERD, and no sleep for years= intense marital distress and a bad case of depression! This pregnant and rookie mama DID NOT GLOW! Heather Sobieralski, Life Coach for Moms, shares her stories of how it went all wrong for her…and what you can do to keep your mojo through all of it (no matter how bad it gets)!
Check out the Mama Mojo website
Follow the mama mojo blog

Where is the dial on your MOM-O-METER?

Guest post on Sane Moms
Some moms seem to have this thing all figured out. They never get frazzled, their kids always behave, they are on time for every event, look put together (even at the gym), and still have time to make cute cupcakes. If these women complain at all about their children or how it has changed their life, it is done in a light-hearted manner and the tiny rant always ends with…”but isn’t it all worth it?”
Well no, sometimes it is not!
Sometimes I would like to trade them in!  I rather miss my old life!
Mamas, it is OK to say this!  Motherhood isn’t all sunshine and roses, and to those who claim it so, I don’t believe you.
I do believe however, that some women are naturally better at it. They are more patient, more nurturing and instinctively know what to do in any given situation.  They don’t let tantrums get to them, they find humor in back talk and they function well with very little sleep.  Nothing gives them greater joy then to care for their children.  Their MOM-O-METERS are way high.  For them, mothering is a gift and they are damn good at it!
If you are not innately any of these things, it is OK.  Your meter just needs a little attention.  As with anything in life we have born talents and skills and areas we strive to improve.  If you haven’t mastered the art of motherhood just yet, it doesn’t mean you can’t. You just need some new tools and fresh perspectives on your role.
You may be entering uncharted territory.  Perhaps you were great at the baby stage and are at a loss now when your toddler lays down in the grocery store and has an exorcist moment.  Maybe your carefree, easy child just entered puberty and you have been thinking of selling him for $1.25 (or to the highest bidder).
We also have varying levels of confidence in the stages and ages of our children.  For me, I think I watched the clock tick the entire time my children were babies, waiting for their first birthday.  I did not like the baby stage to say the least.  My husband and I viewed first birthdays as a celebration that we had made it through “baby hell!”  Now my children are 3 and 5, a different kind of challenge … but one I am confident to handle.
It is OK if you are feeling vulnerable, unsure, or down right frustrated.  This is the roller coaster ride of motherhood!  Ditch the guilt, admit you don’t always love it or know what to do and create a plan to improve your MOM-O-METER.
With you in your “tune up,”

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

What Would You Rate Your Marriage?

A guest post on Sane Moms

My husband recently asked me how I would rate our marriage.  I didn't have to think that hard and gave it a solid "7".  He agreed.

There was a time when we would have agreed on a 9 (before children) , and a time we were around a 2 (both times when our children were under 6 months old and we were walking zombies).

Currently, we are doing well, no amazing fireworks and no hostility...just riding the waves.  We began to brainstorm together how we could raise our ranking up a few notches.  To maintain a 10 with two small children is a bit unrealistic to me, but I could see striving for an 8 or even back up to a 9.  We asked the each other how we could improve.  It was easy to describe what we each needed more of.  For the last 10 years the answer is always the same.

He needs more sex and I need more of an emotional connection.

For him, sex is his emotional connection.  For me, I feel connected with eye contact, talking and feeling heard.   I can't get in the mood if I don't feel connected, and he can't feel connected (listen to me) if he doesn't have the sex.  It is a pattern.  A pattern that is so difficult to jump out of, particularly because we both fall into bed completely exhausted every single night.

I am too tired for sex and he is too tired to talk.  So most nights we do neither.

We know this is not an unusual pattern for a couple with two small kids.  However, we fear if we continue this pattern year after year, the drifting will continue until there is a great divide.  I listen to the stories of empty nesters who wake up one morning and don't even know the person with whom they're living.  I don't want to be that couple.  I want to be an 8 or 9...and a 10 when our kids are grown.  But it takes some a lot of work to get there.  Little makes me tear up faster then seeing an older couple holding hands, looking each other in the eye and still enjoying each other.  I want to be that couple.

Thankfully, we are both committed to working on our relationship so we don't become merely parenting partners living in the same house.  Neither of us are going anywhere.  We are in this for the long hall come 1,3 or 10.  But wouldn't it be so much more fulfilling if we could be more connected, have more sex and be in tune with each other despite being so damn tired???

What about you?  What would you rate your relationship?

What do you need more of?  Less of?  What about your partner?

Let the love rock on,