I’m a mom…and I helped start a nanny business

My high school friend Kristin started a nanny business called Northlight Nannies.  They provide quality in-home care on a full-time, part-time, and seasonal basis.  They serve the greater Grand Rapids, Michigan area.  If you live in this area, check them out!  At some point we all might need a care giver either full time, part time, “on call” or during breaks like Christmas or Spring Break.  I have met a few moms here in Oregon who have been looking for a business like this in our area!  Starting a business is something that always intrigued me.  Here is Kristin’s story…

This summer, my husband and I decided to take a major leap of faith and start our own business.  After over a decade in youth ministry, my husband was ready for a new job opportunity and a chance to try something different. So, we started Northlight Nannies, a business that helps busy families find in-home childcare for their kids.

I grew up as the daughter of an “entrepreneur”. I learned this word as an 8-year-old to describe what my dad did for a living. In reality, I had no clue what this word meant. Later, I finally learned this word meant he was developing  his own business.  I think this background helped me step into Jeff’s desire to start a business without too much hesitation.  I’ve been shocked by how many women hear that my husband is starting a business and they say, “Wow –isn’t that kind of scary?” or “How brave of you to start a business!” I don’t find it scary or brave to be starting a business.  I witnessed my dad successfully start a business and have full confidence in my husband and I that we can do the same.

However, even just 6 months into our new business, I’ve learned that starting a business with your husband versus watching your dad start a business as a young child are two very different things.  As a young child, I watched my dad start a business and assumed my mom did not play an active role. He was “Dad, the entrepreneur” and she was “Mom, the mom”.  Looking back,  I’m sure my mom did play a large role in helping my dad start a business, but my child’s mind didn’t notice any of the work she was doing. There were a few aspects I did not anticipate:

For example, my “work” days are longer. My day-job has remained the same, I’m the primary care-giver for our 3 kids, dealing with snack-times, play-times, school pick-ups, planning meals and cleaning the house. However, my evening job has turned into Kristin, the co-worker.  We typically find time after the kids are in bed to discuss work decisions. However, It’s been a real challenge to limit ourselves to that time frame. For example, Jeff comes home from work and I’m eager to hear about his day.  However, instead of simply hearing some highlights, we often start brainstorming new ideas and marketing thoughts.  The kids quickly point out if we take too long chatting about “daddy’s day” and drag him off to play which is a quick end to any productive work discussions. Even date nights can turn into work discussions if we’re not careful.

On a different note, becoming a business owner has added a new dimension to my life which I didn’t even realize I was craving. I’m not just “Mom” any more, I’m also someone who’s learning more about all the different aspects of business: web design, marketing, hiring employees, serving customers etc. I have new opportunities to interact with people on a different level.  While Jeff does the majority of the business work, we’ve found certain aspects of the job that I excel at. He then takes on the role of primary caregiver for a few hours a week during the day and I head off to the office. That’s has given him additional chances to be “Dad” and gives me a chance to act like a grown up.

At the end of the day – which does seem a little longer than it used to be – I’m thrilled that Jeff felt this desire to start his own business. I’m enjoying the new challenges that it brings to our family and excited to see where we can go from here.

Anxiety: When a Messy House Is the Cause

I am a mom that struggles with anxiety. I often feel it physically–shaky arms, faster heartbeat, headaches, jelly like legs.  What triggers it often is when the house is a disaster area.

For those who know me, you know I am not a clean freak.  I am not obsessed with having an organized and perfect home straight out of a Better Homes and Garden Magazine.   My personality is naturally cluttered and all over the place.  Sometimes my house reflects that. 🙂  But I hate living a in a cluttered mess.  There are times I  see “stuff” all over the house–legoes in every single room, plastic dishes, Barbie shoes, puzzle pieces, dirty laundry, and mismatched shoes–and my heart pounds and my mind start to race.  Sometimes keeping up with all the cleaning is like running a race that you never seem to finish.  There is always another lap.

Now I clean every single day, but with young children, you are never caught up.  Children under six know the art of taking things from other rooms and spreading them all over the house.  When I don’t clean for 1-2 days, it is like picking up the house, shaking it, and then being given the daunting task of putting everything back where it was. I am still a work-in-progress, but I can share with you what I have learned.

The first step for me was realizing I will never be caught up as long as I am in that phase.  Some area of the house will always be a mess.  Acceptance brings freedom.

I would respond in unhealthy ways like attempting to clean the whole house in one day.  Which would leave me bitter and exhausted.  Then my kids would miss out on time with me.  I do not like cleaning enough to spend my whole day doing it.  Unless my husband takes all three kids for the day.  Even then I would rather write, read, watch a movie, go running, or digital scrapbook than clean the whole day.

Or I would yell at my kids for mixing up toys or creating messes.  Kids can be taught to pick up after themselves and do simple tasks.  But toddlers empty cabinets or get into boxes because they are just that–toddlers.  This is how they play, learn about the world, and discover.  Acceptance brings tolerance.

Besides acceptance I recommend setting up some kind of cleaning schedule.  My personal favorite is Motivated Moms   It is simpler than some of the other plans I have researched.  I do get off track for weeks at a time, but I try to eventually find my way back into the schedule once I get caught up.  I see my messy house as putting together a puzzle piece by piece.  If you have a baby, toddler, and preschooler like I did last year, you might be only do the bare minimum for a while.  Acceptance brings an understanding.

I also do all my major cleaning before 10 AM.  If it does not get done in that time window, it waits.  This does not include cleaning the kitchen after meals or putting laundry away.  Nap time is my time to get other projects accomplished or relax.  I also do not clean after the kids go to bed.  That is my time with Rob to relax or to continue the projects that did not get accomplished during nap time.  Sometimes I am so tired, I have zero energy to do nothing more than watch a movie on Netflix.

I also recommend giving your kids clear and concise directions in cleaning.  I used to put my kids in the messy, cluttered family room and tell them to clean it–and don’t open the door until you are done.  Nothing would get put away. My anxiety would boil into frustration and anger. It’s overwhelming for me to see legos, matchbox cars, and dress up clothes are mixed up.  I don’t even know where to start.  I can safely assume they don’t either!  Now I am pretty specific.  My oldest can sort through toys now.  My middle child needs very specific directions such as “Put all the legos in this container.”  My youngest is not even two yet, but she is starting to learn the very basics.  Oh and it works very well if you give them directions in a calm, direct voice.  Yelling only adds to the chaos.

Not being driven by anxiety has helped me enjoy cleaning.  It has helped me bond with my house.  I am ready to tackle it when I wake up in the morning.  Sure, I wish my house was a little more organized.  It still drives me crazy at times when things get all moved around.  A couple of days ago my twenty-two month old brought remnants from the garden and a rock pile into the family room.  Nice.  But it is OK.  The carpet already has a bunch of stains in so many other spots–what is one more?  Acceptance has helped me become a less anxious mom who can keep a clean house.

I’m a mom…and I’m trying to lose weight too

Around seventh grade I noticed the girls beginning to obsess about their weight and talk about dieting.  I was the skinny, petite girl who drank 2-3 Mountain Dews a day and snacked on brownie sundaes.  My weight stayed the same regardless.  But do not ever assume skinny girls or women for that matter with good metabolism are confident and happy with their body.  I had my own set of struggles.  I was tomboyish and not proud of it.  I was unathletic.  I had bad teeth and bad hair.  I have always been self conscious about areas of my body.

I cannot tell you how many average weight women like myself complain of their pudgy abs (guilty), their flabby arms, or their big thighs.  If we all had the opportunity to have an extreme makeover, would it really make us happier?  Would we ever really be satisfied?  Would we not find something else to fix?

A year and a half ago, Baby #3 was born. When she was four months old I was at the highest weight ever not counting pregnancies.  Technically according to my doctor, I was not overweight.  But I felt gross.  I was eating terrible again.  I caved and was drinking Mountain Dew 1-2 times a day again even though I had manged to give it up for a full year.  I was running three times a week, but it was not enough to lose any weight.  I honestly had no time to exercise anymore than I already was.  So I decided to go on Weight Watchers.

To be honest, I was thrilled to be on Weight Watchers.  I had very little education on how to count calories or plan healthy meals. I was willing to learn and amazed at how terrible I was eating!  I was able to wean myself off two spoonfuls of sugar in my coffee, give up all sugar pop for good, and find lunches that were much healthier than the frozen dinners or fast food I often resorted to. I realized that burning the amount of calories in my favorite dessert from Dairy Queen would require me to run a half marathon!  I also found some great recipes for our family dinners.  I did lose about ten pounds.

But I cannot tell you how many people said, “Oh my goodness, you don’t need to be on that diet!  You’re not overweight!”  That is the problem with our culture.  If you are overweight, people assume you should go on a diet and get healthy.  If you go on a diet and are not recognizably fat, you are seen as someone with an eating disorder.   It is almost like we are fighting to maintain some kind of female image.  We do not want to be too fat or too skinny.  Yet who of us can really acheive that perfect picture image?

When I lost ten pounds did I feel like a new person?  No.  But I felt better.  I loved having new eating habits.  It gave my running routines new meaning.  My latest endeavor now is weight training and toning to work on some of the areas of my body that are not worked during running (like abs and arms).  I have found that by setting specific goals like eating more fruits and vegetables, training for a race, doing ab workouts three times a week, or giving up sugar pop are more realistic for those who cannot measure it by the scale.  I may lose a pound or two. I would be grateful for that.  Even if I don’t, I am gaining healthy habits.  That is worth more to me than  looking like a picture perfect person I may never look like.  This whole process has helped me to accept the person God made me even with all my imperfections.

I have greatly enjoyed sharing many of your stories as well as some of my own on Everyday Mom’s “Mom Story Mondays!”  I will be taking a short hiatus as I write more Mom Story posts.  Beginning October 3rd look for new Mom Story posts that will cover stories such as caring for a child who suffers from seizures, raising children in China, having a large family and more!  Feel free to e-mail your stories and I will include them in a future Mom Story Monday!  everyday-mom@hotmail.com


I’m a mom…and I’m trying to lose weight

The following was written by Alyssa Worst, stay-at-home mom of four.

I am not sure how many times I have been asked if I am finished having children, knowing that what they really were wondering is if I am pregnant. AGAIN! No thanks I have plenty of children.

Being overweight is not fun. For anyone. I have had a few wake up calls. Thankfully
nothing life threatening.

We went on a vacation recently. Theme parks were in order. All is fine and dandy until we go on an old wooden coaster. Besides the fact that I am not only fat, obese to be politically correct, I am tall. Not 5-8 tall, but 6-1. I am sure I looked pretty awesome crawling and finagling my legs and body cock-eyed to fit in these rides. Which I will tell you are not made for people much over 5-10, let alone 70 pounds overweight.

I humbled myself right in and away we went. Little did I know how jerky and “bouncy” this ride would be. I am not sure what scared me more: the ride itself or the flab on my stomach and body as it shook. Then there was another ride where a worker had to push down on the chest bar to help get it fastened. Embarrassing!

I obviously survived the rides, but all joking aside, it was something that happened two weeks before that really opened my eyes. I had the opportunity to go on my daughter’s outdoor school trip. They had a zip line that all the kids were required to do. The other parents ALL did it as well. Except me. I was the only one who did not in fear of being too close to the weight limit. It was horrible. I knew that it would hold me, but I let my weight ruin an opportunity to bond with my daughter in a special way. She begged me to go the whole two hours as we cheered on the other kids, and their parents. I blamed it all on fear of heights which is a legitimate reason, but was not THE reason.

Losing weight for me is not to fit into those old jeans or to look like I did in high school. It is to feel better about myself. To enjoy special moments with my children.  I have a special needs child that runs off. How can I keep him safe if I cannot run after him? The opportunity is here. I vowed that every time I want to grab a thing of ice cream at the store or that wasteful candy bar, I will remember why and what my purpose is for doing this.

To be a healthier person. To live a more fulfilling life with my family. To not look seven months pregnant. Or pregnant at all. And to feel sexier for my husband. Just sayin’.

If you are reading this and you feel like you need to do something too, please join in. There is a huge support system of regular people living a busy life just like you. It’s  never too late. It won’t always be easy and the scale will not always be down, but if we help one another out we can accomplish our weight loss goals and live healthier life styles. We all have to start somewhere.

Alyssa blogs at The Best of the Worst and recently started a weight loss blog called Sisterhood of the Shrinking Pants

I’m a mom…and I have TWO children

The following was written by sweet older sister, Jennifer Carlson.  Jennifer is a mother of two as well as labor & delivery nurse and she resides in the Midwest.

Deciding on the number of children to have was one of the most difficult decisions my husband and I faced.  He wanted “two” and I preferred “two or three”.  After we had a son and a daughter, my husband made it clear that he was content with our family and he did not want any more children.  When my daughter was a toddler, I yearned to have another child.

I talked to other women to deal with my frustration. Sometimes I find this helpful, but other times women’s advice can lead you down a slippery path of doubt. I had a few friends suggest, jokingly, that I should stop using birth control.  I also remember someone sharing that the decision is up to me because I take care of the children during the day.  All of a sudden I saw this decision as him vs. me, instead of US together.  I started to spiral downward into unhealthy feelings.  I felt like my husband was cheating ME out of my dream to be pregnant again and have another child.

People’s off-hand comments also compounded to my confusion.  When our daughter turned two, I can’t tell you how many people said to me, “Well, isn’t it time to have another?”  Some people perceive two kids as “not enough.”  One of my least favorite phrases is, “Do you have JUST the two?”

While I was grieving that my husband and I had different desires, I also sought help from people that could give me better advice.  We met with our pastor to seek what the Bible says about this issue.  After all, people in the Bible had large families!  Our pastor shared with us that the Bible does not say anywhere how many children you should have.  In the Psalms it says “Blessed is the man who has many sons, may he have a quiver full of them…” It does not say that a certain number of children make one blessed. Also, he reminded us about God’s design for marriage.  I knew deep down in my heart that I was not honoring my husband. That talk helped me see God’s revelation.  We may have an idea of what we want, but His plan is perfect for us.

I became much more sensitive to parents struggling with this decision as well as those dealing with infertility.  One of my friends was asked if she was going to try to have a girl when her two sons hit preschool age.  Others did not realize that she and her husband had been trying to get pregnant for months for a third child.  Asking question opens up the pain.

I have prayed for more sensitive ways to ask those questions now to other women.  How many children do you dream of having?  Would you and your husband like to have children? I only ask these questions after I have known the person for awhile.

I still have the ache in my heart every so often for another child, but God has taught me so much through my experience.  I love asking moms to tell me their story rather than how many kids they have.  My daughter has a few children in her class that do not have siblings.  We talk about those families and never mention that their families are any less because her friend does not have a sister/brother.  I celebrate that God has been clear with my husband and I that He wants us to be parents of our two children.

I’m a mom…and my child has food allergies

Thanks to Shelley Stursma for sharing this post about dealing with food allergies.  Shelley is a mother of three.

When our son Ryan was one year old, he ate scrambled eggs for the first time.  I was surprised to see a rash appear around his mouth and on his cheeks.  A nurse from our doctor’s office suggested that we avoid eggs in his diet until he could be tested for food allergies.  Six months later, Ryan had a blood test and a “scratch” test, and an allergist confirmed that Ryan was allergic to eggs, peanut, and soy.

Now, we carry Benadryl and an EpiPen with us wherever we go.  Ryan has had reactions from simply touching something with peanut residue on it.  His reactions range from hives to  vomiting.  We are thankful that we’ve never had to use the EpiPen; Benadryl has always kept any accidental contact under control.

                An EpiPen

We also read ingredient labels carefully.  If an ingredient list isn’t available, Ryan doesn’t eat the food item.  Our allergist tells us that the best way to help Ryan with his allergies is to avoid the foods he’s allergic to, including any foods that might be cross-contaminated by being processed on the same machinery as his allergens. Since food companies frequently change their recipes, finding things that Ryan can eat can sometimes be a challenge.  The most recent issue for us has been finding pasta with no traces of egg in it (the kind we bought before underwent a recipe change).   Just a few weeks ago, I was able to find one that works, and Ryan is happy to eat spaghetti again!  We have found that we eat healthier food than we did before, simply because many processed foods are not safe for him.

I am so thankful to have all kinds of support.  The internet is a wonderful resource for me;  there are so many great websites full of recipes and tips.  I belong to a MOPS group, and it has a number of Moppets (children of MOPS moms) with food allergies.  I love having friends that understand this part of my mommyhood.

Our families are wonderful!  They are careful to make sure that Ryan is safe at holiday get-togethers and family gatherings.  Both of Ryan’s grandmas have a stash of Ryan-safe foods in their kitchens.  My sister and sisters-in-law call me with questions about recipes, or offer a safe alternative for him if needed.

Our church and Ryan’s school have an Epipen and Benadryl on site at all times. Our church’s education team makes sure that Ryan always has safe treats to eat at Sunday School, VBS, and our Wednesday night program.  In addition, Ryan’s school made his classroom egg-free and nut-free last year, and we plan to repeat that for the coming school year.

 Ryan on the last day of school

 When people find out that Ryan has food allergies, they usually ask whether or not his brother and sister have them, too.  Ryan’s allergist recommended that I avoid the foods Ryan’s allergic to during the final trimester of my pregnancies and while I breastfed, and also encouraged me to nurse our children for as long as possible, in order to prevent food allergies.  Ryan’s brother doesn’t have any food allergies, and we’ll have his sister tested for them when she’s one.

The other question we are asked is, “Will Ryan outgrow his allergies?”  Many children do not grow out of nut allergies, but most grow out of egg and soy allergies.  Ryan outgrew his soy allergy by age 5.  He will see his allergist before school starts and she’ll check to see if his egg allergy has weakened or gone away.  If he still is allergic to eggs at age 10, it will probably  be something he’ll deal with the rest of his life.

I am the mom of a child who has food allergies.  Like any mom, I want my child to be like the other little boys his age, and he is.  He rides his bike, swims like a fish, loves to be outside, and plays a great game of t-ball.  He has a marvelous sense of humor and an infectious giggle.  He tells me how much he loves Jesus and that he’ll go to heaven someday.  He doesn’t think twice about his food allergies; for him, it’s normal, and it’s normal for me, too.

I’m a mom and…I struggle with anxiety

The first hurdle I crossed with anxiety was figuring out what it was. I was nineteen years old and a freshmen in college.  My mind would constantly race with negative thoughts.  It was a like a radio playing at the highest volume. The thoughts would swirl around as I drifted off to the sleep and start up again as I woke the following morning.  Day to day activities like eating meals in the dining hall and going to the Sunday evening worship services on campus were terrifying.  Special outings I used to love like going out for coffee with friends or ice skating at the hockey rink were draining.  My mind would race the entire time. The happy, upbeat, social “Amy” was fading away.  I had become a clingy, emotional person who was sabotaging the few friendships I had left.

I always described anxiety like a radio playing at full blast in my head

I did not know how far from “normal” I strayed. I once told someone about my mental health struggles and he right away asked, “Were you bedridden or were you hospitalized.”  I never reached that point.  I got out of bed every morning.  I went to class. I was getting decent grades.  I often had people to hang out with. My family was supportive. I went to dorm events and even served on floor leadership. I held down a part time job at a nursing home.  Yet I was not OK.  My emotions were always on edge, I was afraid of too many things, and my appetite was almost non-existent.

Had it not been for “open hours” at the campus counseling center on campus, I would have waited much longer to seek help.  I rushed quickly to the counselors on a cold January morning praying I would not run into anyone I knew. I was ashamed of how clingy, emotional, and insecure I had become. After some testing and a few sessions, I was relieved to know those thoughts were anxiety.  That’s what it was.  I could identify it.

For a few years I walked around with a label: “anxiety disorder.” I told people I had one almost I like I was proud of it.  I was pretty outspoken about my struggles.  It might have been a coping mechanism or a need for attention. Years later, I realized that I did not want to be known as someone with an anxiety disorder, but rather someone who sometimes struggles with and has a better understanding of anxiety.

My husband is gluten intolerant. He often says, “I am not my disease.” I could not agree more.  After another setback my junior year, I sought more counseling and later a cognitive therapy class (which I highly recommend for those struggling with anxiety), I realized anxiety is a part of who I am.  It is not all of me.  It does not have to control me.

There are many of us who struggle with anxiety and depression. What we actually struggle with is complex and different for many of us. Some have severe symptoms while others experience it mildly.  Family crises, moving to a new city, deaths in the family can escalate it. Normal hormonal changes from pregnancy to breastfeeding to menstrual cycles affect it.  Some people choose medication, counseling, or require hospitalization.  I have been blessed over the past fifteen years to find positive ways to deal with my anxiety.  Exercise helps tremendously.  I can feel on “edge” all morning. Then I will go for a run in the afternoon and I can think clearly and feel at peace. Even breathing outside air and walking around the neighborhood (even when it is raining as it often does in Oregon) can help clear my head.  Another thing that helps me is having special projects to work on such as scrapbook pages, blog posts, youth ministry meetings, or volunteering.  It is not an escape, but it helps divert my attention to something I am passionate about and can take pride in.

Running (or any form of exercise) helps those struggling with anxiety

My anxiety as a mom is somewhat different from what I struggled with as a single person in my 20’s. In many ways, it is not as intense.  But it still is a hurdle I have to face.  Most of my fears in college were related to being alone, fitting into the social scene, and boyfriend issues.  As a mom, the constant noise in the house and the kids asking question after question makes my brain over stimulated and it turns into anxiety.  The messes all over the house are another cause. Sometimes sleep issues or big social events are the cause.  People would never guess I would be anxious about social gatherings as I am very extroverted and quite social.  Never think you fully know someone.

Since I first started dealing with my anxiety almost fifteen years ago, I have made much progress.  Most of the time I know when I am getting anxious and I can usually identify what triggered it.  Fifteen years ago I could not do this.  I would be trapped in racing thoughts for days or even longer.  Most of the time I know when I need a break.  I know how to communicate that I am struggling without letting emotions overwhelm the people around me.  Most of the time, I know how to lean on others for support without suffocating them.  Yet I still have anxious moments and bad days.  But I am grateful for this journey God led me on.  I am thankful I walked to that counseling center that morning and dealt with these issues while I was still young—two years before I met my husband and long before I had children.

It is never too late to get help.  Sometimes it is hard not to feel like a “problem,” or “a complete mess.” In my most recent struggle with anxiety, I was reminded how God accepts us in our messy and problematic state.  He renews and offers healing. Looking back on the last fifteen years, He did provide me with listening ears, support, patient people, and hope.  I see a bright future ahead.

My family taking our first family hike this summer