Our miracle RAINBOW BABY BOY arrived 8/2018

1st IVF = BFN
2nd IVF = Baby A, born May 2015
3rd IVF = Miscarriage at 14 weeks
4th IVF = BFN
After we paid for 5th IVF, positive pregnancy without IVF!

Because the important moments in life just don’t fit in a status update! I started this blog when I was training for my first ½ Ironman, (70.3 miles) to record what I hoped would be growth and progress but ended up being a huge learning experience. Although fitness is one of the key ingredients to a happy life, it certainly isn't the only ingredient. My blog has evolved to document growth, progress and setbacks in other areas too. From my surprise proposal in Rome and wedding in the fall of 2013, to Mom's devastating stage IV cancer diagnosis and death 2 weeks after I found out I was pregnant. Who knows what shape it will take, but thanks for being along for the ride.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Mommy Wine Culture Isn't a Joke

Image described below.

Like mold on an overripe banana, the Mommy Wine Culture is flourishing during the quarantine. 
"The wine mommy comes from the world of mommy blogs, and in an interesting way, the wine mommy is a product of and reaction against, that world. From the beginning, the mommy blog had a duality going on. On the one hand, mom blogs were a celebration of moms who did it all: working full time, crafting, keeping a perfectly clean home, and practicing yoga all the while juggling more than the average mom could. On the other hand, mommy blogs revealed the realness and let you in on their secrets, like admitting to feeding their kids Poptarts for dinner or drinking several glasses of wine between dinner and bedtime.
That dizzy combination of inspiration and authenticity worked like gangbusters; mommy blogs proliferated and ordinary women with digital marketing skills became internet celebrities and cultural spokespeople and money was to be made. Wine mommy culture is a perfect product of the internet because it's so easily self perpetuating. Every meme shared, every joke helps normalize and sustain the whole culture. Moms reassure each other that their drinking is normal, society is reassured that mommy's drinking is harmless, and the train keeps rolling." Wine Mom, Interrupted: A Public Health Perspective.
But is drinking often as a parent normal? And is it harmless?

Suddenly, those of us lucky enough to still be employed and working from home are finding ourselves with more free time than we know what to do with. There are only so many projects around the home you can take on, and when every day starts to feel like the last, how does one escape? What's the harm in turning drinking into...well, a hobby? Of being a part of this mommy wine "culture?"

With so many women drinking frequently while functioning, is it normal to do so? And can something so normal and commonplace be wrong or detrimental to us? Yes, it can. Just look at our numbers of heart disease in this country world. Cardiovascular disease is the number one killer worldwide and yet 80% of the cases are preventable. So, measuring what we should do by what many others do isn't always a safe bet ... in the health realm or elsewhere. If everyone else was jumping off a bridge would...

I'll admit that the quarantini posting at the very beginning of lockdown was funny (it's like a regular martini, but you drink it all alone in your house), but there seems there is a new Meme supporting using alcohol to cope or deal with being around our kids sprouting up everywhere I turn (and conveniently, an endless supply of products to go along with them): Wine Wednesday; It’s like Taco Tuesday but for moms; Boxed wine is just a juicebox for mom; Motherhood: Powered by love, fueled by coffee, sustained by wine. 

Cope with what? Being around our families? Spending time together? Just what is it that we are trying to escape? Hectic though time with our little ones may be, it is so fleeting. My daughter was just born, it seems, and yet she turns 5 next week. Why would I want to do anything other than fully experience it; all of it? Do we just want to function in life, or live it to the fullest? And if we need an escape, and we all do sometimes, is alcohol the answer? According to this article, "Raising kids can be so grueling and quarantine can make a mom feel especially alone." And so, that is one of the many reasons Moms drink. Nevermind that most hardships that we experience can't hold a candle to what our mother's and grandmother's and their mothers before them experienced...but I'll save that for a future post.

But, the problem is that alcohol is a depressant, and it doesn't actually help with anything long term. This is common knowledge, though that first sip may make you think otherwise. Like other quick-fixes, the problem it creates is bigger than the one it promises to solve. People may drink alcohol to lift their spirits, but "ultimately that cocktail, glass of wine or beer will have the opposite effect on your body." It doesn't help our mood and may even increase anxiety, anger, hostility, sadness, and make us more emotional, long after the alcohol has been metabolized by our bodies. So, a few drinks on Friday can have you feeling more down on Saturday, which leads to the feeling of needing a drink. And the cycle repeats itself. Alcohol is not "self-care."
One of the main problems associated with using alcohol ...is that regular consumption changes the chemistry of the brain. It decreases the levels of the brain chemical serotonin - a key chemical in depression. (Alcohol and Mental Health).
Not surprisingly, with money to be made, even companies are joining in. What prompted me to look more into this mommy wine culture and write this posting was Dock-a-tot recently posting a ticktok video about a mom who polishes off a bottle of wine and then moves on to a bottle of tequila, while lipsyncing "I'm fine" repeatedly, as a sitcom laugh track plays in the background. 

The influencer @jaceyduprie (whoever that is) has over 500K followers, and the video had a slew of positive comments, likes, shares, and tags from women who can relate, and even stock up on the pricy tequila mentioned by name. As I scrolled through the 200+ comments, I didn't really find any who were against it, only accolades like this:
@caro_5807 OMG it's creepy that I just finished that EXACT wine bottle 🍷 and then opened that EXACT tequila You have great taste in alcohol!! 😂
Now, if this were posted on the "Mommy Needs Wine" page, I would get it - but this was posted by DocAtot, an expensive in-bed co-sleeper for infants. Sadly, there really isn't a counter-voice to this overconsumption - not on this posting or in the general discourse of our society. And if there is, it certainly doesn't get liked and shared the way these memes and videos do. And it certainly doesn't sell products. There is no mention on any Instagram pages I follow about the fact that alcohol is a carcinogen, and causes cancer. Any type of alcohol (yes, even red wine) increases the risk of: Mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, colon, breast and pancreatic cancer. The more you drink, the more at risk you are. Yet this aspect of alcohol isn't as commonly known as it's depressive qualities. 

And we should be concerned because more women are drinking - and women are drinking more. A 2017 study laid out our new pro-booze culture in stark terms: From 2001 to 2013, the prevalence of alcohol use in women in the U.S. rose nearly 16 percent. And during the same time frame, the percentage of women who have four or more drinks on a given day on a weekly basis shot up 58% (more here). Fifty-eight percent!

Oh, but alcohol only causes cancer if you drink heavily, right? Wrong. "Even light and moderate alcohol consumption increase cancer risk in individuals." You don't have to be a daily drinker or a heavy drinker (which is defined as 7 drinks or more per week for a woman) to be at risk.

But, what about that study that wine was good for you? This one gained a lot of attention and fanfare. I don't even drink and it has stuck in my mind. But like with many studies, it has since been disproven, but that doesn't garner the media's attention. It wasn't the wine, but the plant compound reveratrol found in grapes, peanuts, pistachios, blueberries, cranberries and dark chocolate that was found to be beneficial. And, diets rich in resveratrol have since been found to offer no health benefits. "In fact, there was no link between resveratrol levels and the rates of heart disease, cancer and death. The results were published in JAMA Internal Medicine.    

How does alcohol affect the risk of cancer?

Researchers have hypothesized multiple ways that alcohol may increase the risk of cancer, including:
  • *metabolizing (breaking down) ethanol in alcoholic drinks to acetaldehyde, which is a toxic chemical and a probable human carcinogen; acetaldehyde can damage both DNA (the genetic material that makes up genes) and proteins
  • *generating reactive oxygen species (chemically reactive molecules that contain oxygen), which can damage DNA, proteins, and lipids (fats) in the body through a process called oxidation
  • *impairing the body’s ability to break down and absorb a variety of nutrients that may be associated with cancer risk, including vitamin A; nutrients in the vitamin B complex, such as folatevitamin Cvitamin Dvitamin E; and carotenoids
  • *increasing blood levels of estrogen, a sex hormone linked to the risk of breast cancer
So, why don't we hear more about the harmful effects of alcohol? For one, it's not really sexy or fun. Forgoing a drink to go on run is not the path of least resistance which we seem to be pre-programmed to choose, just as our bodies are designed to favor high caloric foods over lean ones. Also, just like the tobacco companies tried to fool us, the alcohol industry has tried to actively mislead the public about the risk of cancer due to alcohol consumption. And, is the influencer promoted by Doc-a-tot receiving money for the type of fancy wine and expensive tequila that she is shown using? I would be surprised if that were not the case.

If you've read this far, you may be asking yourself the same question I am: Just what is the point of this blog posting? Is she judging me? Trying to bring back the Temperance Movement? Saying that no one should drink, or that kids aren't sometimes stressful? No, absolutely not! 

My point in writing this post is not to say that moms shouldn't drink. It is to provide a counter-voice to the normalization of alcoholism that surrounds us bombards us today and to provide a voice to anyone who may be reevaluating the role/priority that alcohol plays in their life. I want to understand why women, and moms specifically, are being misled into thinking that alcohol helps them decompress and look at who is behind that message. What do they stand to gain and how do they benefit from spreading it? I'm also here to say that you don't have to have a problem with alcohol in order to decide to abstain and recognize that lack of alcohol improves life, not the other way around. 

You don't have to rise to the level of Harmony Hobbs who was drinking a bottle a day as one of the main proponents of the mommy wine culture to decide to stop. Heck, even just the calories consumed while drinking + the calories not burned while drinking should give us a question to pause, all cancer talk aside. But we need to view alcohol for what it is, and not under the illusion of "self-care."

I challenge anyone who feels like they need alcohol to decompress to spend that same amount of time walking or running instead of drinking for one month and see how differently they feel at the end of it. To see how their mood is improved - not just on the day of, but the day after as well.

I readily admit that there are no guarantees in life. Yes, it is entirely possible to lead a healthy lifestyle and still get cancer (think: Linda McCartney) just as it is possible to do everything under the sun to cause cancer and still somehow, live to a ripe old age. It's not genes or environment, it's how our genes interact with our environment. And, there are always outliers. I remember my Mom telling me that my (paternal) grandfather smoked and had one shot of whiskey every morning yet lived to be 86. Unfairly, my Mom smoked and only lived to be 63. Diagnosed a few months before our wedding, I remember her telling me "I just want 5 more years." Instead, she had 13 more months. Cigarettes are out of fashion now (thankfully), and yet Mommies that wine because the kids whine is in fashion. Both cause cancer. 

When you do something that causes cancer on a regular basis, you are rolling the dice, and that's not something I'm willing to do now that I'm a mom. I not only want as many days as possible with my children, but I want to fully live as many of those days, right alongside them. I want to be fully present for the good and the bad. I want to have conversations with my children as they fall asleep, not lay alone in bed with my wine. I want to be there for them feeling 100% when they wake up, in a good mood, and ready to take on a day filled with adventure. 

I have to admit, I feel pretty bad-ass when I start my day with a 3-5 mile run, and thanks to the endorphins it gives me, I carry that feeling with me all day. Would I feel like doing that if I had two drinks the night before, or after only one drink for three nights in a row? No, mornings are hard enough for me after 8 hours of sleep, nevermind the fact that the aftereffects of alcohol are way different now than when in our 20's.    

Oh, everything causes cancer these days a naysayer may say. Tea doesn't, and puppies don't I counter, so it can't really be everything. Also not cancer-causing: running, walks, backyard camping, yoga, kissing, laughing...

So, maybe we are willing to take the increased risk of cancer for ourselves. But what do the children think? Like Alexa, they pick up on a lot more than we realize. When drinking shifts from something occasional to a hobby and being a part of this "mommy wine culture, it hurts, according to this article.

What message are children getting from mothers who proudly proclaim their love of drinking to get through a tough day with their kids — and encourage other moms to do the same? 
It tells kids they are burdensome, that they are just too hard, just too challenging, too difficult. Motherhood is a blessing. Our children are blessings. 
It’s okay to have bad days as a mother...it’s the choice to turn to alcohol on a daily basis to take the edge off and numb those feelings of anger and frustration where motherhood takes a wrong turn.
The decision to drink is a personal one in which we must weigh the benefits against the cost. When we are a parent, the costs are different than they once were because we are no longer responsible only for ourselves: Our focus is now our family. The good thing is that in our society, we have the freedom to choose what path we want to take. And, should we find ourselves on the wrong one, we can change at any time.

But just as a mom should not be given a hard time for a girl's weekend away at the winery, those of us who choose to find comradery in other ways like running shouldn't have to defend our lack of imbibing. But I ask you: In today's society and in this current social climate, which Mom is more likely to be questioned for her actions?

Sunday, May 3, 2020

April, 2020

This month has been amazing! Although working from home while caring for two little ones is challenging, this time together is such an amazing gift. Most of my Zoom meetings are muted so that coworkers are not interrupted by the kids, who will often come to sit on my lap and point to themselves on screen. I usually try to have A working by my side during the meetings. She has grown leaps and bounds in her learning this month and can now read or even create some three-letter words. We purchased Hooked on Phonics, and it has been helping tremendously. Our days are loosely structured, with plenty of flexibility and free time to explore in the back yard, morning and evening walks, learning, snacks, naps, chores, bike riding, rollerskating, and a dip in the hot tub. I like to sprinkle in her learning throughout the day rather than have her sit for too long. We usually do something learning-related at least three times each day. And one of our main priorities is always to have fun! I'm finding that it's so much easier to be spontaneously silly without the stress of always rushing somewhere. They both love it, for example, when I put on Eye of the Tiger and dance around while cooking breakfast.

Little A lost her second tooth at the beginning of the month. And, also swallowed that second tooth. Fortunately, the Tooth Fairy still pays a visit even when there is not a physical tooth for her to take. By the end of the month, one adult tooth was peaking through and her third tooth became loose.

I'm happy to report that this month, I ran 3 miles every day, with the exception of two days following my breast biopsy! I haven't run this frequently since high school! It feels amazing, and I'm pain-free! My total mileage was just shy of 150, averaging 35 miles per week (almost half of that is from our walks). Now, don't get me wrong: there are still many days that I don't want to get out there. Especially when the weather nears of even tops 80 degrees. But to give myself something to look forward to, I listen to an audiobook on every run. It doesn't do much for my pace, but it is a welcome distraction.
What was that? Breast biopsy? Not to worry, all was good! My mammogram detected a lump, and an ultrasound the next day confirmed that a biopsy was needed. Not a needle biopsy, but a core biopsy which was about as fun as it sounds. Because all non-necessary appointments have been canceled due to COVID, I was able to get in right away, which was nice. But I still had to go through Easter weekend not knowing, which was fine until Sunday night rolled around. Thoughts of Mom and the evil that is cancer broke through my fearless front. It was a relief to hear the nurse's tone in the morning call, telling me before her words did that everything was alright.

With our social calendars cleared, Easter was really an event to look forward to! All the build-up was equally as exciting for the kids as it was for me. Is there anything more gratifying than seeing your kids' eyes filled with anticipation? We dyed Easter eggs, and I just couldn't wait for the kids to open their baskets first thing in the morning! But first, they had to find them, a tradition from my husband's family. A is not too keen on chocolate, but little C loves it, so much so that it hampers his egg-hunting ability because he stops to open nearly every egg! We had a social-distancing approved visit with GrandpaGlennie and had our neighbor friends over for the actual hunt. Grandma sent A a pair of skates and she set about using them right away!

With Easter came the end of Lent and A's 40 days with no TV! It was much easier than I anticipated and we are so proud of her for choosing that and sticking with it! There were days that she would forget and ask for it and surprisingly when I reminded her that she gave it up, she did not question or insist.

We squeezed in a beach day before the governor closed all OC beaches. It was easy to keep our social distance, as there was hardly anyone there. I had so much fun watching their joy. A loved to running up to the water's edge and squealing and running back as the tide brought the small waves in. C loved throwing sand and watching Sissy.

This was the month that A finally became comfortable jumping into our spa and even into bigger pools. It seems like just a few months ago that she didn't want to go under, and now she is able to jump into the deep part and swim to the sides! We had a few pool play-dates over at our neighbors' and also the Carter's. She even feels comfortable enough now to let Dad throw her in! And for C? He can now navigate the stairs while standing up, both up and down! He does hold on to the railing.

I have the kids on a great nap schedule. They both sleep from 1:30 or 2 until 4:30 or 5! My husband is on the same nap schedule as well and so during this time I have time for my murder-mysteries and a picture-sorting project that I dove into earlier this month. Our dining room table is covered with every photo from my childhood, and all childhood photos from my Mom and Dad. Also, a few photos of their parents. Because my parents moved so many times over the years, all of their photographs were in totes with little organization, save for a few albums. Decades mixed in with other decades. I work a little on this each day and it is bittersweet. I love discovering "new" photos of my Mom and I, and learning about my different parties; reading what she has written in my baby book. Yet seeing these photos makes me yearn for her. What I wouldn't give to pick up the phone and hear her voice. Now that I am a Mom, I have so many things to ask her and so many things that I want to share with her. Missing Mom always seems to end up increasing my faith in God, in part because I want to know that she is aware of the kids and how amazing they are, and because I long to be reunited with her.
And so, slowly but surely I continue to work on cultivating my faith. A friend recommended this video, and it has helped me tremendously. If you want to have less doubt too, check it out. 

We made the very difficult decision this month to check our daughter out of Catholic school and have enrolled her in a Lutheran School for kindergarten in the fall. I will not get into any of the reasons we left her previous school, as there are staff there that we love like family, but it was the right decision and we are excited about what is to come.

One of our new favorite activities is to sit out front by the fountain and watch the kids play after we finish our evening walk. We are very blessed to be at the end of a cul-de-sac and love the sunsets we see from this vantage point. We're not watching nearly as much TV as I feared we might when this whole quarantine started. The kids have hours of unstructured play each day, most of which is outside. One of A's favorite activities is "training" her dogs by putting a leash on them and leading them around. This slower pace is exactly what we needed. When things are back to normal, I can guarantee that we will be still staying home a lot more than we did before.

Things I don't want to forget about this month:

  • How excited A was on the last day of April because the next day was May and our birthday months!
  • How C will lean his head on the dogs to show affection. 
  • Words: Cup, stick, duck, bee, moon, up, wa-wa, eye, shoe, outside, baby, ball, no, bubble, bye bye, baba, Mama, uh-oh, woah, Dada!
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