When we went all-natural last year and started removing toxins from our home, I managed to find some awesome products for lotions, detergents, shampoos, and conditioners. I wasn’t so lucky in the toothpaste department. It’s hard to find gluten-free, fluoride-free toothpaste that doesn’t taste like salty tree bark.

However, for the products we loved, we went through A LOT of them. And while I felt like a million bucks, that was neither the point of buying them nor was it my plan to spend like that to feel that way.

I started to wonder, what if I am spending a million bucks just to keep my family healthy? I really don’t want to do that. AND I AM SO TIRED OF RUNNING TO THE STORE!!!! Seriously, the products weren’t even always at the same store. It was an entire afternoon just to stock up on lotion. I just can’t even with that. Even if I did have a can of Coke in the car, that’s still a long time. I have a friend who gave birth to her third son in less time than it takes me to run these errands. Bless her heart. My labors, on the other hand, were much like my shopping. Took for freaking ever.

I digress.

This whole let’s-turn-our-kitchen-into-a-lab-experiment-to-see if-we-can-save-money finally took off when the detergent I normally bought online was out of stock. Wanting to still avoid perfumes, dyes, and chemicals I can’t pronounce, I started researching homemade detergent recipes. And then I was hooked.

I have included links to all the recipes as they are not originally mine. I am also including approximate yields and prices so you can see where they stack up.

Also, you’ll notice my amazing photography. I took pictures of my craftswomanship. And I think you’ll notice my photos LOOK JUST LIKE EVERYONE ELSE’S. My photography is amazing. Also, twine. So much twine.

Welcome to Spirited and then Some Party Decorating Services, where we believe twine makes everything better.

Homemade, all-natural laundry detergent, Kirk’s Natural castile soap

As the first of the homemade recipes I endeavored to make, this one became my Mount Everest. Could I do it? Could I climb to the top and MAKE MY OWN DETERGENT? Look at me going all Laura Ingalls Wilder, except for the part where I have electricity and Laura wants to slap my face.

The research was pretty fascinating. To borax or not to borax? We are deciding to NOT borax because we don’t know how well it will work for us. But a lot of all-natural families out there are totally using it, and are living to blog about it.

This is the recipe I followed, minus the borax. I researched this recipe from Mommypotamus, this recipe from Wellness Mama, and this recipe from Back to Her Roots to evaluate the supplies I wanted to use. Ultimately, I bought Kirk’s castile soap at Whole Foods, followed its recipe, and then took my favorite ideas from the other sites to concoct my final batch. I definitely add essential oils to everything and hydrogen peroxide to the whites. Vinegar and baking soda as needed.

Kirk’s castile soap is supposed to be fine for HE washers as the soap is low sudsing. However a team member at Whole Foods explained you really need to know the warranty on your own washer/dryer. Using certain materials, such as castile soap, can possibly void your warranty.

Of all my recipes, this one was also the most labor-intensive because I had to grate the bars of soap using a cheese grater and then grind them in my chopper/grinder (I bought a cheap one that works well from Costco). The elbow grease was worth it. The overall cost was significantly less than most shelf brands. My recipe yielded 2 cups (without borax). I doubled the recipe for a total of 4 cups or 32 oz. of detergent.

The key is to grind the soap and washing soda as finely as possible. No clumps or chunks allowed.

The key is to grind the soap and washing soda as finely as possible. No clumps or chunks allowed.

And as for the essential oils suggested by Mommypotamus? Don’t tell anyone, since I am not on the EE bandwagon just yet, but, um, I LOVE ADDING LEMON EE’S TO MY WASH. Omigod!! The smell is divine. My clothes smell like lemonade. I seriously wanted to drink my clothes the first time I washed them with this stuff.

Finished 'Detergent

Everything looks better in a mason jar wrapped in twine.

I did some research on prices, and this is what I found (prices per ounce are approximations):

Charlie’s soap – $0.31/oz
Tide – $0.16/oz
Homemade – $0.11/oz ($3.52 for this double batch)
Xtra – $0.034/oz

Mine wasn’t the cheapest, but the house smells like lemonade when I do laundry now. I’m sticking to it.

Toxin-free Toothpaste, courtesy of Dr. Amy Myers

This toothpaste recipe, of the four recipes I am sharing here, was the trickiest of them all. My toothpaste came out rock solid. But it does work. I plan to add more coconut oil to it in the future to see if that softens it. I also added more water to my blue bottle solution (bottle found at Whole Foods, by the way) because every time I started brushing it was flat out, “Holy hydrogen peroxide!” Yowzah! It took some getting used to. Then after I’d come down from the hydrogen peroxide high, I had a “Holy baking soda, Batman!” moment. But as I kept brushing, I found the taste was rather pleasant (as is the aftertaste) and the sudsing bubbles actually gave a clean feeling. Put another way, the recipe says to use between two and six drops of peppermint essential oil. I was all, “Yeah, well, I’m going with just two. I can take it.” No. I. Can’t. Six drops it is.

Birdseye View of Toothpaste

The original recipe says to dip the toothpaste in the hydrogen peroxide/water combo. I found dispensing the solution onto my toothbrush/paste was much easier.

The original recipe says to dip the toothpaste in the hydrogen peroxide/water combo. I found dispensing the solution onto my toothbrush/paste was much easier.

I’m not convinced we can get Toodle and Twinkle to brush with this just yet. But at least K-Hubs and I have a recipe we can use.

The cost for this one is pennies on the dollar. For this 8 oz. jar I spent less than a dollar total.

The rub on this one isn’t about price. It’s whether you can stomach the texture and peroxide/baking soda flavors that aren’t easily masked.

Exfoliating Sugar Scrub, courtesy of Dr. Amy Myers

OMIGOD!!!!!!!!!!!!!! We are IN LOVE WITH THIS ONE! Toodle calls it “cookie sugar for the bathtub that we can’t eat.” And she’s always a little sad, as am I, when she gets to the part about not eating it. Dr. Myers’ recipe calls for jasmine essential oil. I couldn’t find it at any of my local health food stores. So I settled for lavender.

Oh. My. God.

I cannot find the words to describe the awesomeness of this one. Everyone on my Christmas list will be getting this as a gift. We will not be running out ever. If Costco stops selling raw organic sugar in bulk, I will chain myself to their storefront until they bring it back. I cannot get enough of this stuff.

Sugar Scrub Ingredients

And let me just tell you why. Not only does it smell wonderful, but it ACTUALLY WORKS. It moisturizes. It exfoliates. It calms. It soothes.

I found mixing the glycerine and coconut oil with a warm butter knife/spoon worked well. Mine happened to be straight out of the dishwasher, however I think running a knife or spoon under hot water and then patting dry before stirring would work fine.

I found mixing the glycerine and coconut oil with a warm butter knife/spoon worked well. Mine happened to be straight out of the dishwasher, however I think running a knife or spoon under hot water and then patting dry before stirring would work fine.

Toodle came into contact with something while at church that irritated her skin, giving her eczema-like patches on her elbows and backs of knees. I used this on her in the bath before bed, rinsed off before getting out, and patted her dry. You’ll notice when you use this the glycerine and coconut oil continue to soften your skin.

The next day the irritation was significantly less pronounced and is now almost gone.

Dr. Myers’ recipe calls for vitamin e. I didn’t add this ingredient because I’m still researching which brands our family can use. Remember soygate? I did find vitamin e, along with the glycerine, at Whole Foods, in the event you’d like to add it to your recipe.

Sugar Scrub in Jar

We split our batch between two bathrooms. This stuff is too good to share back and forth. And it's not just a girl thing. K-Hubs is in love with it, too.

We split our batch between two bathrooms. This stuff is too good to share back and forth. And it’s not just a girl thing. K-Hubs is in love with it, too.

The cost for this scrub is $3.38 for approximately 8 oz. of product. As a comparison, I recently bought a facial exfoliant for about $14.99. I did use this on my face and didn’t notice any adverse effects.

I’m glad this recipe is cheap because, I confess, I kind of go nuts with this stuff. And the smell. Omigosh. Just everything with the smell.

Homemade body lotion, courtesy of Wellness Mama

After seeing how well the exfoliating sugar scrub worked on Toodle and how much we loved the smell, I wondered if I could take this kitchen-as-a-lab up a notch and make my own lotion. Yes, yes, I can. And it’s to die for!!

My pictures don’t do it justice because, as it turns out, the dishes I used to make the lotion happen to be the exact same color as the lotion itself. The lovely yellow dishes you are about to see were handed down to Mom by, I’m pretty sure, a colleague. Said colleague was all, “Hey, I have microwaveable dishes from the 70s I don’t want anymore. Do you want them?” And Mom was all, “Yeah, we just got a hand-me-down microwave from a friend so hand-me-down microwaveable dishes would be awesome!!!” True as toast. Our first microwave was a monstrosity. It took two people to lift it onto the counter. Also, we got new furniture and housewares anytime someone died (also true as toast) or when a colleague said, “Hey, I don’t want this anymore.” The former is how we got a new couch. The latter is how we got our first word processor that showed one line of typed text at a time. Magical.

Okay, so because of the matchy-matchy lotion/glass bowls, you won’t really be able to tell how the lotion sets, but trust me, it does.

This lotion recipe is another from Wellness Mama. I. Love. Her.

Although it’s called lotion, I really think of it as a body butter in the sense that it’s thick and doesn’t feel watered down. There are numerous optional add-ons to this recipe that can make it feel more complicated than it its. Using what I had on hand, I relied on olive oil, yellow beeswax (from Whole Foods), coconut oil, and lavender essential oil. But, remember, I AM NOT GETTING ON THE ESSENTIAL OILS BANDWAGON YET. I am just using them in ALL MY RECIPES. It’s not the same thing.

To speed up the melting process, add a lid (not too tight) to your jar while it warms up in the few inches of pan water.

To speed up the melting process, add a lid (not too tight) to your jar while it warms up in the few inches of pan water.

Top bowl is once it set. Bottom bowl is fresh from the pan/jar. It looked exactly like olive oil coming out and then turned to a nice, thick body butter.

Top bowl is once it set. Bottom bowl is fresh from the pan/jar. It looked exactly like olive oil coming out and then turned to a nice, thick body butter.

This one made me nervous. I was convinced I would ruin the recipe. But I did exactly what Wellness Mama said to do, let the runny oil set for about 15 minutes and saw that, yes, it does turn into lotion. If you want a body butter that isn’t yellow, white beeswax is available, too.

Clockwise from top: Detergent, body butter jar, body butter jar, sugar scrub, toothpaste, and toothpaste solution. Enjoy!

It has worked wonders on our family’s dry skin. Also, a little goes a long way with this recipe. Use a dollop. A smidgen. Even Laura Ingalls Wilder agrees. Just a dollop will do the trick.

Price comparisons are as follows:

Acure – $9.99 for 8 oz.
Homemade – $2.79 for 8 oz.

Sold! To the woman in the kitchen who made lotion for a fraction of the price.

But now I’m wondering, could I make my own shampoo and conditioner?

 

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This first appeared on the Spirited and then Some Facebook page.

It is a wonderful pleasure to honor parents in May and June for all their hard work. Tonight I’d like to give a heartfelt shoutout to parents for doing all the things we don’t like to talk about. The guck and the ick and the hard of parenting. All those times we questioned ourselves and wondered what we had gotten ourselves into. To all the parents, stepparents, caregivers, and grandparents, this is for you.

Soup Contest with Dad 2015

For all those time you had to let them work it out while you literally and figuratively stood on the sidelines, debating whether or not to intervene, K-Hubs and I are with you.

For all those times you had to walk away because your sanity was waning, your patience gone, K-Hubs and I are with you.

For all those times you were pulled away from work or a deadline to take care of your child but wondered how it would impact your job, K-Hubs and I are with you.

For all those times you thought, “Wow, it really takes a village. Hey, I wonder if the village would adopt ME for the night?” K-Hubs and I are with you.

For all those times you had to take away a privilege and it really broke their hearts and yours but you knew you had to do it, K-Hubs and I are with you.

For all those times you wondered how your kids get along when you’re not there, especially if they are acting like THIS right now in front of you, K-Hubs and I are with you.

For all those times you swore your kids would never make it through that horrible, but necessary, phase, K-Hubs and I are with you.

For all those times you did the really hard parts of parenting and wondered, “Where in Sam Hill is my cheese/wine/chocolate?” K-Hubs and I are with you.

For all those times you thought, “I don’t have any cheese/wine/chocolate, but, man, I’d really like to sleep one off in the Mayberry jail next to Otis,” my mother is with you.

For all those single parents out there saying “Holy buckets, I have nothing left and it’s only 9:30 on a Saturday morning,” my mother is with you.

For all those times you said, “I am so embarrassed, I feel ashamed of my child’s behavior, oh wait, now I feel ashamed for feeling ashamed,” K-Hubs and I are with you. And we know how much you love your kiddos, how proud of them you really are.

For all the times you’ve been on the phone, pouring your heart out to someone, The Gram is with you. She’s a mighty good listener.

Parenting is rewarding. So rewarding. I don’t think Mom or The Gram would have traded it for the world. K-Hubs and I feel enriched beyond measure with our two littles. We love them in a way we could not envision before we had them. But parenting IS NOT EASY. That which is a reward often comes with a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. For what it’s worth you are not alone. For what it’s worth, K-Hubs and I are with you.

In honor of Mother’s Day (or as I call it “Crazy Family Celebration Day”), I bring you a three act play, and totally true story, titled “The Night Nothing Happened and Other Delicious Drinks,” along with family photos that have absolutely nothing to do with this story.

I love this photo of Mom and me.

I love this photo of Mom and me.

The Night Nothing Happened and Other Delicious Drinks, Act 1:

MOM: I don’t see why I don’t get to go to her 85th birthday party, and you, Mother, and Auntie do.
ME: Well, I’ve been visiting Sinus with The Gram since I was 4.
MOM: Do you still call her that?
ME: Well, yes, the mispronounced name I gave her has kind of stuck over the years. So, yeah, sometimes.
MOM: Maybe don’t call her that in front of everyone tonight.
ME: I don’t think she cares, but I promise to be on my best behavior.
MOM: You got an invite and I didn’t…
ME: Can we move on from that? Besides, I think it was just a natural following. She is The Gram and Auntie’s cousin. I visit her often with them. Ergo, I got an invite. When was the last time YOU saw her?
MOM: There was that one time…well, when I was a kid…fine. Whatever. Just keep them out of trouble.
ME: Trouble? Why? It’s two old ladies, okay, three old cousins, who are hanging out tonight with extended family, in a private party room at a fancy hotel or something. What could possibly go wrong? Hey, does my dress look okay?
MOM: It looks great, and I’m telling you, keep them out of trouble.
ME: Sinus never gets in trouble.
MOM: I’m not talking about Sinus.

Once we arrived at the party, it didn’t take long for Auntie to discover the private bar and for The Gram to realize her clip-on earrings weren’t going to stay balanced.

THE GRAM: Okay, are they even on my ears now?
ME: Um…yes? Yep, they sure are. They look great.

And then someone begins to tell the story of Sinus’ birth 85 years ago. The Gram and I look around to see who is starting it, and to our horror, it’s Auntie, three sheets to the wind with a butterless butter knife in hand for pointed effect.

AUNTIE: 85 yearsh ago…it was me and Frieda and Mattie and we knew something BIG wash happenin’ that day. We wurh told to go outschide to play, but we knew something BIG was happenin’. Sho I schaid to everyone, c’mon kidsch, lets go schit outschide thisch window and wait. Somethin’ big ish happenin’. I know it.
THE GRAM: Oh, Sister, um, maybe let’s get you a roll to go with that butter knife.
AUNTIE: Why would I need a roll? I’m tellin’ a schtory!
THE GRAM: Yes, well, you’re….
AUNTIE: I’m the oldest pershun in thish room ish what I am, schtill your older shister too, and if I want another Manhattan, I’ll have another Manhattan! Sho anyway, Sinus wash born just a few hoursh later…
THE GRAM: Oh, bravo, good story, Sister! Loved it!
ME: Is she done yet?
THE GRAM: Oh, dear God, I hope so.

We. Were. Wrong.

First Intermission.

Auntie was formidable, but oh, so lovable. She called me Sunshine. :)

Auntie was formidable, but oh, so lovable. She called me Sunshine. 🙂

The Night Nothing Happened and Other Delicious Drinks, Act 2.

AUNTIE: Then a few yearsh later, our family got another baby and SHE wash born!!!! [Auntie points her butterless butter knife at THE GRAM who begins to groan uncontrollably.] I DIDN’T LIKE HER WHEN SHE WASH BORN!! Not one bit!!!! Mother, I said to my mother, you’re too old to have another baby with a new huschband. This ish WRONG! I’m 17 and I don’t want a schibiling now!

Speaking of siblings, The Gram is now nervously and uncontrollably laughing. And the room is dead silent.

ME [whispering to The Gram]: Is this true?
THE GRAM: Oh, God, yes. All of it.
ME: What happened?
THE GRAM: Well, a divorced Danish woman (our mother) married a poor Italian, and together they had me. It was a little scandalous for the times, I guess you could say. And it was hard on Sister. Her father had abandoned her and Mother years ago. When he was around, he wasn’t very nice to them. But my dad doted on me and was very good to Mother. It was hard for Sister to see. Some wounds take a long time to heal. So, she stayed away and we didn’t really talk much over the years.
ME: Omigod! Then what happened?
THE GRAM: Well, her husband died and I guess one of us called the other. I think she called me. And we started spending time together, and all these decades later, we haven’t really stopped.

I LOVE THEIR STORY. Auntie was always so brave in my mind. That night I learned why. It takes a lot of courage to be vulnerable. To pick up the phone, let go of the bitterness, and say “hi” to someone.

And I always knew The Gram was unconditionally loving and forgiving. That night I also learned why. Love is best when it’s shared.

AUNTIE: Scho!!!! I didn’t lichke her scho much for a lot uh yearsh!
THE GRAM: So true, dear Sister, but um, well, we’re so good now, aren’t we? Just two peas in a pod now. Okay, now…
AUNTIE: We are!! We are!!!!! When my huschband died, oh, nearly 25 yersch ago, I descheided I wash going to get to know my dear little shister. And, sho, all theesh yearsch later, we’re good friends.
ME: Umm, Gram? Are you going to grab the butter knife or should I?
THE GRAM: I’ll go for it.
ME: Actually, I’ll grab it. Wait, no, you grab it! It’s by…she’s flailing it by you!

We both missed the butter knife.

SINUS [approaching us cheerfully]: I’m so glad you three could make it tonight! Where would I be without my cousins?!
ME: Umm…
THE GRAM: Are you…
ME: Sure?
SINUS: Of course I am. You three are always a fun time. Why, I am just so glad you could all make it.
THE GRAM: Well, we won’t stay long. Must get Sister home in one piece.
SINUS: Nonsense. My dear older cousin is right. She’s the oldest in the room and can drink whatever she likes.
THE GRAM: Speaking of drinks, I need one. Maybe a fruity one. Without alcohol!

 

ME: So, Gram, what did you get?
THE GRAM: Something summery and sweet.
ME: Mmmm, it’s good. I want one. Does it have alcohol in it?
THE GRAM: I don’t think so. I didn’t tell her I wanted alcohol, so I would assume not. I’m not much of a drinker, unlike my SHISTER over there who is retelling that lovely story on a continuous loop.
ME: Well, I’ll go up and get one myself.

 

ME: I would like the same drink you made for my grandmother. It’s wonderful. What’s in it?
BARTENDER: Just a little peach schnapps and pineapple juice.

Second intermission.

When I was little, there was absolutely nothing in my life The Gram couldn't fix.

When I was little, there was absolutely nothing The Gram couldn’t fix in my life.

The Night Nothing Happened and Other Delicious Drinks, Act 3. 

ME: Well, that answers our question, Gram. The drink doesn’t have alcohol in it. I went up and asked for the exact same thing you got, and the bartender didn’t even flinch. Didn’t ask for an ID or anything. So, that’s that.
THE GRAM: Well, sure. Of course she’d ID you if it had alcohol in it.
ME: She did say it has a little peach and pineapple to it.
THE GRAM: I thought I got a hint of peach.
ME: You know, we have a pretty great family. I mean, you can’t take us anywhere, but we know how to have a good time.
THE GRAM: We sure do. And who wants to be boring? Not I.
ME: Me either.

Afterward…

MOM: So, how’d it go? Did you have fun? Where are Mother and Auntie? Go out and help them up the stairs.
ME: Um, well, The Gram is taking Auntie home.
MOM: They could have come up for a while and talked about the evening. I can be big about it and hear all the details.
ME: Yeah, well, I hope you still feel big and mature and open-minded, you know, later.
MOM: Why? What happened?
ME: The Gram is taking Auntie home to sleep it off.
MOM: Auntie got DRUNK tonight?
ME: Oh, yeah! She drank her weight in Manhattans. Speaking of drinks, The Gram and I had the most wonderful summery drink tonight. You should get it the next time you’re at the store.
MOM: Hold it a minute, you were supposed to look out for them!
ME: I tried! I didn’t know there would be alcohol. And anyway, I went after the butter knife.
MOM: What?
ME: Never mind.
MOM: I just, okay, fine, what’s this drink you guys liked so well?
ME: Peach schnapps and pineapple juice. Would the schnapps be in the fruit drink aisle or with the produce?
MOM: OH MY GOD! MORGAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! That’s BOOOOOOZE!!!!!!! Schnapps is booze! This is getting worse. This whole evening is getting worse. You drank booze tonight.
ME: I did?
MOM: Omigod! You got drunk with MY MOTHER!!!
ME: Nope, no I did not! We only had one!! Auntie is the one who got drunk!
MOM: That. Is. Not. Helping. Who drove home?
ME: Gram did.
MOM: You didn’t drive them home?
ME: Why would I drive them home? I just started driver’s ed.
MOM: Omigod, you’re all three drunk.
ME: I’M NOT DRUNK. Nothing happened tonight, except for the part where Auntie…
MOM: I get it. I get the picture. Oh, good Lord. I cannot believe this. One night. One night out, and you three…..

She went to her room and closed the door, muttering, “My daughter got drunk with my mother. My daughter got drunk with my mother….”

But, WHATEVER, because I thought that evening WAS OUT OF THIS WORLD as were the women who raised me. And just, whatever, man, because The Gram and I were not drunk. That is my story, and I’m sticking to it.

Happy Crazy Family Celebration Day!

Curtain.

WE HAVE HAIR!!!! Yes, indeedy. 30 days into a new eating plan and Toodle has FULL-ON HAIR.

It is the sweetest, most precious, baby-fine, bleach-blonde peach fuzz I have ever seen. I need more adjectives and hyperbole in that last sentence. But, slow as it is to come in, it is adorable. Her hair looks like newborn hair, soft and delicate. So then I not only get emotional about this major medical development, but I also reminisce about her newborn days. Because motherhood. Gets me every time.

And this is ALL WITHOUT PRESCRIPTIONS. Yes, perhaps the greatest joy I have about this development is we are gaining strides without steroid creams. After extreme hair fall the past four months, her body is turning a corner all on its own. Why and how? Well, this. Hang in there with me.

K-Hubs and I had been losing sleep, as in, literally staying up at night while the girls slept, debating our options for her treatment. Making medical decisions for someone else is an entirely different ball game. And when it’s for a little? Well, let the guilt and cognitive dissonance come flooding in.

We began to feel guilty about putting her on a steroid in the first place. But K-Hubs and I didn’t know any better two years ago. Honestly, no one did. And then I felt bad about considering taking her off the steroid without having an alternative. Never mind that the medicine didn’t actually work as a cure and stopping treatment was a logical option. I couldn’t just quit on her. False security wouldn’t let me. Because motherhood. Gets me every time. Bald is definitely beautiful. But I kept thinking, so, too, is a healthy immune system.

Rare but serious side effects of the steroid treatment include Cushing’s syndrome, a poorly functioning pituitary gland, and a poorly functioning hypothalamus. These are extreme examples, and patients are supposed to go off the medication after something like two weeks. But, omigosh, this kid has been on the medicine for TWO YEARS. So now I get to panic about the damage we’ve already done to her. Because motherhood. Gets me every time.

And then I found Dr. Amy Myers and her book The Autoimmune Solution, a work that promotes more than just autoimmune health. She goes in-depth about inflammation and resulting diseases, covering everything from acne and ear infections to weight issues and fibromyalgia.

The diet and lifestyle are strict. But, the benefits are worth it. One element of the plan includes stopping all nonessential medications. The timing couldn’t have been better. No more sleepless nights. This is what we were looking for. So, out went the clobetasol. And in came more fruits, vegetables, bone broth, and animal protein.

I have come to believe food is medicine. And I do think Toodle’s hair is growing in as a result of this diet. One could argue that not only is food medicine, but when all the unhealthy food is gone, there is nothing left but the good. Inevitably, the body is going to heal itself. Not exactly overnight, but in due time. Rather than feel cautiously optimistic about this, I think it’s apt to say we are feeling patient. From afar, Toodle looks almost completely bald. But upon close inspection, you’ll find the adorable peach fuzz, a common beginning for regrowth in alopecia sufferers. She has both dark brown and bleach blonde fuzz. People pay big bucks for that look.

IMG_0316

Yes, a sweater tunic in 80-degree weather. Because, why wouldn’t you?

The girls, affectionately named Whiney and McBawlerton throughout this process, put up a fight for about two days when we started following The Autoimmune Solution because another part of the plan required us to take out ALL GRAINS. Yes, you are reading this correctly. No grains, cereals, oatmeal, rice, etc. In some autoimmune cases, the body mistakes foods like these for gluten. Because Toodle wasn’t improving to the degree we wanted prior to this diet and she has a wheat allergy, it dawned on us her body may not be able to tell the difference. Out they went, along with sugar, nuts, seeds, legumes, and nightshade vegetables. Thank God we had already given up dairy. Fine, 3/4 of our family has permanently given up dairy. Oh, I’m sorry, do I love cheese? Maybe.

However, something amazing happened. When all the tasty comfort food went out the door, never to return, it was shocking how quickly the Whiney-McBawlertons got on the fruit and vegetable bandwagon. Yeah, avocados aren’t so bad are they, kiddos? Huh, that’s what I thought.

I will admit, though, I have come around to embrace this diet. I might even consider chickens for the backyard (should we build a fence?) and a cow for our back deck (probably I should measure the deck and the cow to ensure spatial compatibility – who wants to go cow shopping with me?). What about pigs? Maybe they could sleep on our front porch. No one would notice, would they? I hear pigs are great for resale value.

I follow the diet 100% at home, but when I’m out with my friends, oh, you know I’m ordering a main dish of gluten with a side of dairy complete with sugar for dessert. Because that’s how I roll.

I told K-Hubs I would give up my beloved oatmeal but I got to keep coffee. As I told him, “I am the ONLY person in this family foursome who does not have an immediate medical reason to eat like this. I think I get wife and mother of the year for this one. Now excuse me while I drive around the neighborhood scarfing down my Jimmy John’s.” Recently, it was a bag of Doritos. I change up my parking locations so as not to appear suspicious. I can just imagine what the conversation would be like if I ever did get stopped by a cop.

COP: We got a call about a suspicious parked car. What are you doing, lady?

ME: Me? What am I doing? Just, um, inhaling a bag of Doritos.

COP: Are you high? Under the influence of anything?

ME: No. It’s not that exciting. My family just can’t have gluten. Or cheese. Or tomatoes. Or sugar. Or grains. Or nuts. Or seeds.

COP: Then what can you have?

ME: Chicken and tree bark, that’s what we can have. Delicious, too. Especially if you season it with organic dirt and all-natural leaves.

Fortunately The Autoimmune Solution comes with delicious, real-world recipes. Organic dirt is entirely optional. Lettuce chicken wraps? Yes, please. Whole chickens? Don’t get me started, but I am an expert on cooking those bad boys now. Breakfast turkey sausage? Where do I sign? Apple crisp? Twinkle Whines and then McBawls whenever we run out. Seriously. She cries in her high chair if it runs out. It doesn’t dawn on her that apple crisp doesn’t grow on trees. Well, the crisp part doesn’t anyway.

And I sleep well at night. I know that K-Hubs and Toodle are feeling the best they have felt in years. I tell myself the new diet will heal them and maybe even undo the effects of having been on medication. Toodle’s hair is growing in slowly, but now I feel confident that if, for some reason, she has another hair fall episode, I can keep searching. There are people out there way smarter than me who have the same questions I do, and they have the labs and resources to find the answers and pass them down to me.

As for Twinkle, I worry less about her getting an autoimmune disease. She is at a much higher risk for it than, say, I am. But with this plan, we are all eating healthy, and I know it has been good for me, too. I confess I feel a little pride in that. But, that coffee? Oh, yes, I still look forward to it every morning.

Summer Strawberry Smoothie 2015

I don’t care what happens for the rest of the evening. Today WAS BEAUTIFUL. Never mind that I had deadlines. I met them. Never mind that we went to Lowe’s looking for new appliances. Squeeeee! We may even buy some.

I know, can you believe it? It has only taken us three years to do anything major in our kitchen remodel (other than painting walls and cabinets); a kitchen remodel that isn’t really a remodel since we aren’t tearing up floors, cabinets, walls, or the ceiling. It’s maybe more of a kitchen not-remodel. Nonetheless, while Twinkle licked floor model dishwashers and washing machines (front loaders, of course), Jim, our wonderful team member, answered all my questions about appliances.

THEN, after Jim gave me all the information I wanted – Whirlpool is the way to go based on price and performance – another couple sidled up to us and started asking ME about appliances. I thought they had the wrong person, but, no, they wanted to ask other consumers what they were purchasing, and yours truly was the closest in proximity.

I actually started answering their questions LIKE I KNEW WHAT I WAS SAYING. What in Sam Hill is wrong with me? But then K-Hubs came over and started answering their questions, too. We’re idiots. Except, get this, the other couple dislikes ice makers built into fridge doors just as much as we do. We all agreed we’re stuck in 1985 and PROUD OF IT. Ice cube trays for the win.

What does this have to do with Summer Strawberry Smoothies? Nothing. I was going to come up with a segue like, “Nothing. But, like new appliances, it makes me happy.” Lame. Or, “But, then I came home all jazzed up for the kitchen not-remodel and decided on this recipe.” Equally lame.

Also, I’m back now. You never knew I was gone, but as I was typing, the 5-year-old started pulling out baby wipes from the package like a clown with handkerchiefs up his sleeve. Just. No. Pull one out and close the deal.

Also, this happened. When did he turn 25 again?

K-Hubs Jumping Rope 2015

Anyway, I have no segue. But we do love this Summer Strawberry Smoothie recipe. Oh, and I’m playing around with lemon and lime versions for summer that taste like mixed drinks without the alcohol. Why? Because this mama wants a refreshing drink at 10:00 in the morning that keeps her legal when she picks Toodle up from whatever she is doing that day. Because taxi cab driver. My new summer job.

Here, let me show you the photo again since you’ve probably forgotten already what you came here for. Super yum.

Summer Strawberry Smoothie 2015

Ingredients

  • 3 cups filtered water*
  • 3 1/2 cups frozen strawberries, mostly thawed
  • 2 cups green grapes
  • 1-2 drops liquid stevia

Summer Strawberry Smoothie Strawberries - 2015

Summer Strawberry Smoothie Grapes - 2015

Directions

  1. In a high speed blender, combine water, strawberries, grapes, and stevia.
  2. Blend until desired consistency.
  3. Store in refrigerator.

*For more of a smoothie texture, err on the side of less water. For strawberry juice, add at least 3 cups of water, perhaps more.

Happy porch sitting or kid watching or homework doing or laundry washing or dishwasher loading. With this beverage in hand, whatever you’re doing will be at least three trillion times better. Or as K-Hubs likes to say, “5 out of 4 doctors approve.” Isn’t he just cute ‘n clever?

Now that I have been eating like a true 21st century cavewomen for approximately 14 days, I want new kitchen appliances. I officially hate (wait, make that “immensely dislike” as per childhood language restrictions as per Mom) my current culinary machinery. K-Hubs and I have been “remodeling” our kitchen for three years now, which is so say we keep eyeing but never buying things. Probably okay. Until one starts eating like a cavewoman in the 21st century. I already said that, didn’t I?

Sunny Happy Room 2015

What does this photo have to do with this post? Absolutely nothing. But the remaining photos are so hard on the eyes, I wanted to give you at least one happy photo to look at. Eye health is important.

For example, I have yet to figure out how to bake two things at two different temperatures at the same time without two ovens. And do not even get me started on stove coils. WHO CAME UP WITH THOSE THINGS? I just can’t. I couldn’t when we didn’t eat like this, and I most definitely cannot now. OMIGOSH, the coils.

You want to eat a meal here, don't you?

You want to eat a meal here, don’t you?

And then there is our poor dishwasher. It has been on its last legs since we first moved into the house. It was old when it was new. Officially, it is impossible to hear over should one want to converse or watch television. Just know, if you come to our house while we are running it, you will get nothing accomplished. I want this particular appliance to conk out. Like, really conk out, without flooding the kitchen, of course. Toodle wouldn’t know what to think if we got a silent dishwasher or one THAT ACTUALLY CLEANED THE DISHES.

OMIGOD! This thing. Please just bite the dust. Get us all out of our misery.

OMIGOD! This thing. Please just bite the dust. Get us all out of our misery.

That’s the other problem. It doesn’t dry or clean well. K-Hubs took it apart and cleaned it and made it all shiny and new. No. Dice. It really doesn’t like that we run it approximately two times per day now. Sometimes, um, maybe three. That is if it’s baking day. Yes, I’m Laura Ingalls Wilder, thanks for noticing.

Actually, I do want to ask her about how she structured her days. I guess I need to go back and reread “Little House on the Prairie.” I’ll be the one with a pen behind her ear and a notepad in hand as I read about Ma and Pa and little Carrie. I have almost all the books in her series. Even “Farmer Boy.” To the basement I go. They’re in a tub somewhere. Probably next to high school art projects, namely that one where I tried to draw Nicole Kidman in her curly hair days.

Do not try to draw Nicole Kidman with curly hair unless you are a true artist. I am not. She looked so angry by the time I was done.

ME: “Mom, my project turned out horrible. Mr. Wong will not give me an A.”

MOM: Who is that supposed to be? Wait, yes, I remember, you’re drawing Nicole Kidman. She, um, well, she looks like she’s PMSing.”

Thanks, Mom.

Sorry, Nicole. The fault is ALL MINE. You are wonderful, no doubt.

Then there is the refrigerator. It works just fine. But it’s maxed to the max. Yes, that’s a real state of mind for a fridge. We actually want to keep it. “Phew,” it sighs. But put it in the garage. “What in the actual what?” it asks. Everything we buy is fresh. We store non-fridge fruits and vegetables in the pantry because we no longer put anything in there. If it comes in a box, $10 says we don’t eat it anymore.

And then our microwave. I know, I know. Some can and do live without these. I like having one purely for convenience, although we hardly ever use it now. But two years of breast pumping (because, yes, I pumped and then bottle-fed milk for 12 months with each daughter), plus the freezing and then thawing of milk has left that poor puppy high and dry. The gizmo literally has no more juice. I’m also misusing the word “literally” in the previous sentence. But the thing, well, it doesn’t work so well anymore.

Four appliances. All needing to go to the appliance graveyard or join a buddy system (hi, fridge, we love you). What was a cosmetic dream has turned into an “I NEED NEW APPLIANCES NOW!” state of mind. Although at the pace we are going with the kitchen, it will probably be another three years before we do anything about it.

OH, AND I FORGOT! We ruined our formica countertop! How sad is that? Not very sad. I made bone broth in the crock pot and left the crock pot on the seam of the formica. Oops, buckling. At least we bought our granite tiles to replace it. But, you know, three years. That’s our timeline. Snail speed.

However, now that we prepare EVERY SINGLE FREAKING MEAL FROM SCRATCH, even K-Hubs is weary from half-baked (pun absolutely intended) appliances that are constantly on the brink. Nightmarish comes to mind.

We have an affinity for old things, like cars (I’ve had the same one since high school – it will be old enough for its own driver’s license this year), phones (I got a data plan only because my original phone died), and houses (this is the only house either of us has ever owned). But appliances? Give me new. Brand new.

Every time I start to feel guilty for thinking of upgrading, I remind myself they get the job done if we run the dishwasher twice and stay up late so the second round of food can take its turn baking at the proper temperature. Also, we foster-adopted orphaned elephants, so maybe a few new appliances is okay. Because elephants and kitchens are totally alike, and that’s how the system works.

So, seeing as how we are going to need three years to pick out appliances, do tell. What are your favorite brands? Glass top or not? You already know how I feel about the coils. But from what I’ve read, people have strong feelings about their stoves. Also, will I burn the house down if I get a gas range? This is me, so it’s a fair question.

Toodle insisted on coloring an elephant page to honor her new sibling, Ishanga. "She is just soooooo cute!" ~ Toodle

Toodle insisted on coloring an elephant page to honor her new sibling, Ishanga. “She is just soooooo cute!” ~ Toodle

Naturally, yes, when I envisioned my family, I always thought a husband, two daughters and four elephants. Don’t we all? Yep, we’re a family of eight trying to be seated at a restaurant, which is hard enough itself without four members being 200-pound baby pachyderms. Never mind babywearing. If these new siblings grow any more, my size seven wraps won’t cut it anymore.

A little over a year ago, a friend posted an article about the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust on her Facebook page, and I was hooked. K-Hubs came home from work, and I said, “I want to foster orphaned elephants who live in Africa.” Without missing a beat, he said, “Sure, okay. Elephants it is.”

Here’s my thing. After having Twinkle, our family felt complete. While K-Hubs and I often talked pre-children about not having any children, we later changed our tune to wanting children and, more specifically, two. Once we had our two, that story didn’t change. But the feeling of not wanting more children didn’t seem right either. I realized it isn’t that I don’t want more children. Without having anything against either, I simply do not desire to be pregnant or give birth again. But the maternal-ness. Omigosh, the maternal-ness. The floodgates have opened. I have all sorts of motherly love to impart on any little who is interested.

Apparently, this includes pachyderms.

I also had that moment last year where it dawned on me, for as hard as it was having K-Hubs laid off, our worst days were still better than some regular days for individuals of the human and animal varieties. How could we just hoard all our “stuff” when others struggle to survive on so little?

So, over to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust it was. We started researching them and learning how our donation would go to help orphaned elephants return to their natural habitat. K-Hubs and I decided each of us would foster our own elephant so we each have a story to follow (Please note, I have provided links to each of our elephants, which are complete with photos and videos, some of which may be upsetting to some viewers).

K-Hubs selected Boromoko, a lost little newborn male. For Twinkle we decided on Sities, a fellow snuggle-bug. I selected Zongoloni, my soul sister, and Toodle selected Ishanga through the following process:

ME: Would you like a boy elephant or a girl elephant for a sibling?

TOODLE: A girl, just like me!

ME: Okay. Do you want this elephant to be your age, younger than you, or older than you?

TOODLE: My age, just like me!

ME: Perfect. I found two girl elephants who are close-ish in age to you. I’ll read their stories to you, and you pick the one you like.

One story was about an elephant who was separated from her family, but little was known about her. The other elephant was literally rescused from the jaws of a lion. I thought the gruesome nature of that rescue might be a little too much for Toodle.

I was wrong.

TOODLE: Oh, definitely Ishanga. She was rescued from a lion. And I can help! I can rescue her from a lion, too, because I am a brave elephant!

I die. It’s moments like that that totally make up for sass and the “I want the OTHER song on the other station on the OTHER radio!” Of course, you know what this means, don’t you? Toodle will really think she is an elephant now living in a human household.

We cannot wait to begin fostering our elephant families and start getting updates on where they are in Africa, who they are befriending, and how they are making it back out into their natural homes.

Here’s an adorable video, narrated by Edward Norton, of a baby elephant, a member of the the Trust, warming up to Yao Ming. (If you have trouble playing the video, either refresh your page or click the video in the upper left of your Animal Planet screen.)

I cannot even with this overload of pachyderm cuteness. Stop it already. Because, seriously, I cannot handle it.

Avocado 2015

But, we have to see other people for a while. I know, I know, it’s tough for me, too. 🎶 Every time you go away, you take a piece of me with you. 🎶 Alas, on this new diet, I cannot two-time. I can only one-time. And coffee won. Yes, avocado is my new bestie. But it isn’t the same thing. DO NOT EVEN TRY TO GUILT ME WITH COMPARISONS. Doritos, I’ll see you soon.

We are about 11 days into this new way of eating, and I must say, aside from my break-up with Doritos and block cheese and the Fat Friday K-Hubs and I participated in as we gave up our favorites one last time, it isn’t so bad. The recipes in The Autoimmune Solution will cause even the most uninterested person to salivate. I didn’t know I was such a horrible cook all those years prior, because these recipes with just a few ingredients, all incredibly healthy, are way better than anything I ever made when I had an entire ingredient pool at my disposal. And you know the recipes have to be decent, because, I’m sorry, but I cannot be a part of this if the food is going to suck. I don’t hate myself enough.

The one person in our house who is plotting mutiny, though? Nope, not that child. The other one. Twinkle. Of all people, the almost-twoer is the one planning to murder us at breakfast. And at lunch. And at dinner. Unless an avocado is involved. Even Toodle has embraced…wait for iiiiiittttt…vegetables. Yes, for real. In this lovely new book we’re following, there is a recipe for 5 veggie soup. And SHE EATS IT. I don’t remember the last time Toodle willingly ate a vegetable that wasn’t an onion, a garlic, or hidden in her food.

While we never force Toodle to eat food, we have explained that a few of them, especially the homemade bone broth, are medicine for her. That without them, nothing else we do for her will work. She seems to understand and has taken to drinking her bone broth willingly. After a few tries, she grew to actually like it. I think the veggie soup is on its way to being a genuine favorite as well. Phew! Because that’s the other food group she needs for health. Vegetables.

Brianna is the dietitian who came up with all these concoctions, and let’s just say if I ever meet her in person, probably I’m going to hug her and never let go or maybe just kiss her RIGHT ON THE FACE IN FRONT OF ALL THE PEOPLE. I love Brianna. She does not know me. But I love her loyally.

Twinkle, on the other hand, absolutely wants to tell us what we can do with those veggies. If only she could talk. She does not appreciate Brianna yet. That’s okay, Brianna. Three out of four isn’t bad.

While K-Hubs and I are experiencing significantly better energy levels throughout day, and my bursitis is acting up less, I swear we are seeing hair follicles on Toodle, and even blonde peach fuzz around the crown of her head. It is super cute but hard to photograph. I tried, and she was all, “Are you done yet?” Sure. Let’s just do this later when you aren’t looking and I have lost the will to care how a photo turns out.

We have given up ALL GRAINS, omigosh. And dairy and nightshade vegetables (think peppers, eggplant, and tomatoes) as well as nuts, seeds, and sugar. So what’s left? Brianna’s genius of a recipe book, that’s what’s left. Lettuce chicken wraps, sweet potato hash browns, and turkey sausage for breakfast (a Toodle favorite). Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t know I was living at a fancy hotel now.

Except, I definitely remember I’m not living at a hotel what with ALL THE DISHES WE GO THROUGH IN THE COURSE OF A DAY. It’s a problem. An illness, if you will. Everything is made from scratch, and so everything is made using 45 pots, pans, measuring cups, and spoons. I need three dishwashers in my kitchen or a river in my backyard to clean everything. It’s reminiscent of when K-Hubs and I were first-time parents and went through a Costco-sized pack of wipes in a day. In. A. Day.

The upside of this diet is that in spite of giving up favorite foods, it is a way of life worth following in our family. The book itself is so fascinating with Dr. Myers’ take on how illness works in our society that adopting her ideas is, while not easy, at least understandable.

When I think of people who struggle with their health in one form or another, especially where diet and exercise might benefit, I think, the important issue is finding the eating plan or exercise routine that is right for that person and his or her family. I’m not sure I could break up with cheese and Doritos if all three of my family members weren’t going to directly benefit from the change. However, if you do see a woman wearing her prom shoes with denim capris in the chip aisle of the grocery store, chowing down on Doritos and a block of cheese, just swing by and say hi to me.

Toodle discovered my prom shoes and insisted I wear them to teach class. I forgot to change them out, and, alas, I taught in prom shoes that were neither comfortable nor fitted. But they did match my dress senior year. Because fashion. Because prom. Priorities.

When the 5-year-old discovers your prom shoes and then insists you wear them to teach class, and you forget to put a change of shoes in your teacher bag, alas, you will teach a computer class in silver glitter shoes. With denim capris. And a scarf, no less. I rediscovered these glass slippers were neither comfortable nor fitted. But they did match my dress senior year. Because fashion. Because prom. Priorities.

 

Toodle is our first everything. Whatever K-Hubs and I don’t know about child development, poor Toodle will probably be the one to enlighten us. While Twinkle will undoubtedly give us huge surprises, too, it’s like we already know to expect the surprises, so we handle them better. I caught her eating out of the trash (something Toodle never did), and I just said, “Umm, yeah, maybe don’t do that again. Mmm ’kay.” Twinkle, go give your big sister an even bigger hug because we are learning on her and are generally calmer with you.

For example, no one told me I would lose the will to live when heat indexes and windchills ensure we are stuck indoors FOR DAYS, cooped up and loving each other’s close proximity whether we really want to or not.

Also, I never gave serious thought to fine motor skills and gross motor skills because they weren’t mentioned in the handbook I didn’t get from the hospital.

I never gave much thought to having 45 activities lined up for a 15-minute period because surely kids will love playing outdoors. No joke, mine love to run alongside cars, flailing their arms, shouting, “Hiiiiiiiiii” to whomever is behind the wheel. For this particular one four years back, I actually called K-Hubs at work and said, “Toodle just tried to chase a car. I thought she’d chase butterflies in the backyard. I was wrong. I’m going to Michael’s. They have schlock on sale.”

Serious as a heart attack.

And normally I don’t do craft lists because I don’t follow the directions when I do them, and for as much as I love crafting, many of my crafts turn out “unique.” Or as my friends have heard me say countless times, “That one will be a template.”

However, I bare my soul to you. I love to craft and do projects, but I like to color outside the lines. I love you and I don’t want you to lose the will to live when your kids are 10 seconds into an activity and say in a voice reminiscent of someone who has lost clothing, shelter, food, and water, “Now what can we do?”

Run around the outside perimeter of the house and then run the perimeter of the trees in our backyard. Make sure to touch each one. Time yourself. Get back to me on that one. Okayloveyoubye!

Here’s my go-to list when I tattle to God that Mother Nature isn’t playing nice.

Finger paint packs.

Paint Packs - Toodle 2015

Have I ever told you how much we crush on our local zoo? They have amazing children’s programs full of hands-on activities that I then steal for home. This is one of them. Cut a sheet of copy paper to fit inside a plastic baggie. The zoo used larger baggies, but we had smaller ones on hand, and it worked just fine. Pour paint into the baggie ON TOP of the paper. Seal tightly and affix to the table with tape. Go to town tracing letters or whatever it is you want to do.

Paint Packs - Twinkle 2015

Twinkle got in on this action, too. I die.

Paint Packs - Letters 2015

We trace these symbols on the paint packs, and even turn it into a game by turning cards over, one at a time, tracing whichever one we get.

Spray bottles 

Yes, we’re in the rain for this one because I cannot even with heat and then cold and then sleet and then rain and then clouds. And, yes, I tasked Toodle with washing my car last summer. What? Fine motor skills development, as recommended by Toodle’s preschool teacher. We take homework seriously in this house. Rain won’t stop us from getting it done.

Water Bottles - Toodle 2015

Shaving cream in a pie tin

Just everything with the shaving cream, okay? Keep it close and your towels closer. Trace letters in shaving cream. Mix food coloring in the tin and make all sorts of colors. The options are endless, and they keep spirited kiddos busy for what feels like hours (but is probably more like A LOT of minutes).

Shaving cream - Toodle 2015

I’m keeping these close for Twinkle, who is starting to amp up her spiritedness. She’s already getting in on the action, because, duh, she’s not really 21 months old. She is 5 1/2 like her sister. Obviously.

Baking soda, vinegar, and food coloring

Baking Soda - 2015

Where to even start with this one? We love doing science projects in this house because they keep little hands busy. We dropper vinegar and food coloring onto a mound of baking soda. Keeps Toodle busy for a whole 10 minutes! Word of warning: don’t pour the mixture onto your grass when you’re done. I sort of did that once, and we have a circle in our yard where the grass is still trying to grow. Toodle keeps asking why the dirt spot is STILL there after ALL THIS TIME. Thanks, kid, for noticing.

Moon Mud

This one is finicky, but Toodle never cared. I add a little water at a time to a large bowl of baking soda and let her go to town. The more water you add, the soupier it gets, so add water carefully. A few summers ago, Toodle got bored with it, and I wasn’t ready for her to be done. I added a piece of tin foil and told her we were in space. Added a whole 10 minutes. Booyah!

Moon Mud - Toodle 2015

BONUS: Stress balls

Stress Ball - 2015

Omigod! Because sometimes I just want to say, “STOP MOVING!!!!!!! For the love, stop moving. Go grab a stress ball and channel those wiggle shakes!” We got on the subject of alopecia, and Toodle said, “My stress ball has hair like I do!!” Bless her every loving heart. Yes, he does. I bought these straight from Oriental Trading Company. Since Toodle likes to wiggle while she learns, we are encouraging her to keep one of these close. Our friends’ son keeps one close by at school because he is Toodle’s twin. In fact, his mom was the one who said, “Here use one of ours to get started.” Bless. I love moms who share life hacks about raising kids.

What if I hit 30 or 40 or 50 or 60 or whatever and I haven’t done THAT BIG THING I’ve always wanted to (and said I’d) do? Because, naturally, I need to achieve everything RIGHT NOW or I will miss ALL THE THINGS.

Not you? Phew! Then I guess it’s just me.

For example, when I was about 12 I decided I was going to become a Hollywood actress, marry Chris O’Donnell, and win my first Oscar by the time I was 24. True as toast. Mom listened to me glom on about my future in California, my desire to skip college, how I was going to pack my car right after high school graduation, and how an introductory career in commercials was going to be my ticket to bigger and better things in Tinseltown.

Allow me to add that I didn’t really give up on that dream until I was 25. I jest. But only partially.

On my 24th birthday, I was working at a wonderful company with really nice people. But it was temp work, which felt like a metaphor for my life and the fact that I had no idea what I was doing. After treating me to a wonderful dinner, it was K-Hubs’ turn to listen to me glom on about how I was 24 and nowhere near the goals I had set for myself 12 years ago. I mean, I had had a whole 12 years to get stuff done, and I hadn’t even achieved a direct, clear goal like marrying Chris O’Donnell. I actually said that to K-Hubs’ face, because nothing says wonderful birthday like comparing your wonderful husband to an unsuspecting celebrity. I recommend it. Try it sometime.

I was so worried that somehow this meant I was incapable of follow-through. If I were just “better” or “more” or tried harder or didn’t watch old episodes of whodunits (Murder, She Wrote, anyone?) and just kept my nose to the grindstone ALL THE FREAKING TIME then my goals wouldn’t be unrealistic. Then I could marry Chris O’Donnell before he had the chance to marry someone else. See? I missed the boat. Big time.

Never mind that Chris O’Donnell and I might not be compatible. I mean, what in the actual what was I really thinking? K-Hubs in all his awesomeness is apparently chopped liver? Never mind that my goals about commercials and acting had changed. Never mind that when I was 24, I was in graduate school. Let’s face it, while I was temp-working my way through college, many of my peers where pretty high up in their organizations. Clearly, in spite of also being students like me, THEY KNEW EVERYTHING AND I KNEW NOTHING. Rationalizing change of direction would be the same as making excuses for myself. And winners don’t make excuses, you know.

Seeing I was in the throes of a quarter-life crisis one year early, K-Hubs reminded me of something game-changing. “Morgan,” he said, “you have your entire life to accomplish whatever you want. And as for those dreams you haven’t achieved yet, well, maybe with some of them you dodged a bullet and others need to wait their turn. Also, let’s not forgot you’re a student right now, which might come in pretty handy down the road when a degree could be helpful.”

Holy cow. Yes. As soon as I wanted to say, “But what if I die in four minutes?” I knew he was right.

Fireworks cluster

After K-Hubs ended the impromptu therapy session, it dawned on me we are all often achieving goals without realizing it. Achieving goals doesn’t happen like a firework, huge, instantaneous moments that quickly come to an end. Rather, many, if not most, goals are a series of next right steps. When we veer off course, it doesn’t have to be the end of the world. WE CAN GET BACK ON OUR RESPECTIVE PATHS WITH A NEXT RIGHT STEP. Not the whole answer. Just a next right step.

But it’s hard to bounce back from a misstep or five. And that’s when I start playing a game with myself that I always play when this feeling of having done it wrong creeps in. I imagine a dear friend coming to me with these same concerns. Then I ask myself, “Self, what would you say to this dear friend of yours?” Probably words like “game over,” “big loser,” and “sellout” wouldn’t come to mind because I wouldn’t honestly feel that way about my friend.

My response is always something like this, “Well, my dad always says, ‘what’s the next right step? What’s the next right thing you can do?’” And Dad would be right. In the end, why should we be any less encouraging and kind to ourselves than we would a dear friend?

When I catch myself obsessing over all my fears about scarcity, selling myself short, missing big breaks, and not living up to every ounce of potential I have, I remember that it was that same company where I was a temp that I returned to as a consultant, post-graduate school. It was the place I went into labor with Toodle, where a colleague ran up to the gas station for a Coke and Mr. Goodbar for me because that was all that sounded good (my now recipe for kickstarting labor, by the way). The place where another colleague parked his car out front so he could get me to the hospital on time. He was convinced I should be laboring at home. I was convinced I wasn’t in labor. But I did look out the window, and sure enough, his car was parked front and center, at the ready should I need a fast getaway. This same place where a sister friend left me a good-luck note on my desk as she headed out the door. The place where my boss became our family’s accountant and my entrepreneurial mentor. And the place where my second mom charted my contractions on a sticky note while we worked on benefits packages for the employees. We called the contractions “baby adjustments” because I WAS NOT IN LABOR.

It’s probably just as well that achievement doesn’t happen in one big moment. If it did, in spite of the satisfaction it brings (who’s addicted to checklists?!), we’d really be missing out on some of life’s particularly divine moments that are not only wonderful themselves but are also the ones that lead us to achieve the goals we’re so worried about screwing up.

Image courtesy of iStock Photo