Mom Profile- Courtney Zielinski

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What makes you a Half Crunchy Mom?

I tend to vacillate between crunchy and more mainstream… I cloth diapered both of my kids (with my first, I used disposables when she was a newborn),  breast-fed until my daughter was one and my son was 18 months, try my best to feed them organic, whole foods and have thus far successfully kept them from soda and only on road trips do we allow fast food. On the other hand, we let them watch TV, play with the iPad, and they adore hot dogs. I sort of choose my battles as they come according to what my gut tells me is right and try to stay consistent and pretty evenly balanced (The key word here is “try” because inevitably I fail from time to time and someone will be eating a snack bag of Cheese-Its and on their fourth TV show when we’ve had a rough day and I need to get some work done).

What are you good at as a mom?

Loving. I’d say I’m a world-champion snuggler and giver of affection. In fact, I probably go overboard in this arena. I’m always making sure my kids know how much I love them and that they are great kids. They tend to roll their eyes, like “ok, Mom, we get it.” In fact, my daughter and I have a running joke where I say, “Guess what?” and she’ll answer, “I love you.”

What is your biggest challenge as a mom?

I am a pretty emotional person, so I find it really challenging to talk myself down when I’m upset or frustrated and not to raise my voice. One of my biggest goals as a parent is to teach my kids to regulate their own emotional reactions and to communicate in a calm and honest manner. It’s hard! It’s hard to keep my cool when I’m boiling on the inside, but I know it’s so important to demonstrate that to my kids because that’s exactly what I’m trying to teach them; how to communicate and honor feelings without having what amounts to a tantrum. So we do a lot of “I feel really frustrated because xyz…” or to draw an upset kid (or adult!) into a discussion, “I can see how angry you are, can we talk about it?” It’s more work than than just hollering and letting out all that energy, but in the long run, it’s really helping us with communication and validation. One of my proudest moments was last week when my daughter was mad at my son and wrote him a note that said “you hurt my feelings and I’m really mad! But I love you!”
What surprised you most when you became a mom?
Just the sheer depth of love I would feel. I had no idea.
Courtney is mother of Ava, 6, and Stellan, 3.
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Too Much Media, Mom!

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Pinterest and Facebook are the modern Mom’s guilty pleasure. However, they can bring as much angst as they do the much needed escape that we all need from time to time. In the last week, several articles came out following a survey given to moms regarding Pinterest. It showed that 42% of 700 Moms surveyed felt guilty, unhappy, stressed, and inadequate when faced with Pinterest. People will always struggle with the urge to keep up with the Joneses, but now, instead of comparing birthday party deets at the park circa 1970s, we have to see the elaborate creativity of Mrs. Jones on display in full color.

When you go to Pinterest’s site, you know what you’re getting into. You’re asking for it. You either have your armor up and know your limits, which will keep you in good stead when face to face with an insanely organized closet with chalkboard paint labels. Or, you go in like a lamb and are slayed by the children’s crafts and find yourself up at 1 a.m. cutting up multi-colored sponges to make “quiet building blocks”. We love to dream and imagine our homes looking not just orderly, but inspired. We have great Pintentions, but they can disturb our sleep and make us feel defeated. Who wants a cranky mommy? And she’s cranky because she didn’t do a project that really didn’t need to be done anyway. That’s crazy! Let’s remember these projects are like commercials. They make us think we need them when we really, most definitely don’t. If you love doing these projects and you don’t feel pressure to do them, awesome! Myself, I go on Pinterest with the armor. I may incorporate one idea I see out of 500.

Facebook is not quite as guilty of causing us angst, but you’ve still got your mom friends on there showing off their amazing handmade halloween costumes and decoupage vases. Just keep it in perspective ladies. You don’t have to make your kids costumes too if you don’t want to. You do something else equally interesting and cool too. You don’t have to keep up with the Mrs. Jones on your Facebook News Feed. She’s probably wishing she could be more like you.

Free Range Baby Step

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I let my girls go into a store by themselves to pick up a drink for me. Nothing bad happened. Free Range Kids Lenore Skenazy has asked moms to write to her with stories that begin with, “Nothing bad happened when…” Well, this is my story.

Nothing bad happened when I let my almost four year-old and 6.5 year old go into the neighborhood health food store by themselves. When I asked the girls if they’d go in and grab a kombucha for me, my little one piped up immediately with a grown up flare, “I know which kind you like!”. My eldest said, “we’re going alone?”. I explained I’d be back in a minute, reminded them that they are familiar with Dennis, the owner, and they’d be my shopping helpers. I dropped them off, told the friendly owner I’d be back in a minute, then ran next door to the bank. The bank was fifteen paces North of the health food store so it was truly a baby step.  When I returned from the bank in about 90 seconds, they greeted me at the door with huge smiles, holding up the kombucha and gummy vitamin packets that the owner gave them. They looked very proud.

I think this little free range baby step gave them a boost of confidence and that was my goal. I wasn’t expecting that I’d feel a boost in confidence as well. I’m looking forward to our next baby step which may be giving them a couple of things to fetch in a larger grocery store a few aisles away from me. Does anyone have any other free range practices they’d like to share? I think we’ll be surprised that there are more of us free range leaning parents than we think. Holler so I know you’re out there.

Mom on a Girls Trip

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I am still recovering from this past weekend’s girls trip. Very little of our time away would fall into the crunchy category. I brought two frozen green smoothies from home, my solid diet was mostly vegan and I didn’t use any hotel shampoo, but that was about it. There was no recycling and a lot of dressing up with makeup. It’s good to swing around on the crunchy pendulum. That’s what we do because we are human.

The highlights of the trip were dancing until closing, driving around with the windows down listening and singing to 90s hip hop, and just hanging out in our hotel room acting like we were in high school, complete with too many expletives, and overuse of the word “dude!” A low moment was when I was discussing hip hop with a 24 year-old Green Bay Packer. When I brought up some artists of the past, he laughed at me and said, “welcome to this decade.” He may as well have finished the sentence with, “old lady!” Well, yes, I’m in a new decade and getting closer to my fourth. I should expect that.

As a half crunchy mom, hanging with another mom who probably would claim fewer crunchy characteristics, and two other single ladies, the only thing that struck me about our group is how alike we are and that I love them all. Even though we are different in many ways, I choose to see our similarities. And the differences we have are either celebrated or made fun of. Poking fun at someone with love is completely acceptable in my book.

And at the end of the day, this half crunchy mom was grateful to have some time to just be a woman, and not a mom. I am not ashamed to admit that I barely thought of my kids (a stark contrast to my first ever girls trip when I was bawling and didn’t know what to do with myself). I had moments where I had to turn away from a child crossing my path. I didn’t want to start imagining what my kids were doing. I didn’t want to miss a moment  of just being me, without kids. It’s important to remember who you are without your kids once in a while. It’s fun too. Just try not to plan your girls trip at a family resort teeming with children or near a college campus teeming with 20 year-olds eager to call you an “old lady”.

Breast Milk Jewelry for Mother’s Day?

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Send in an ounce of your precious boob nectar to one of many breast milk jewelers and apparently you are sent something resembling the above pendant. This was reported today on ABC and CBS News. Is this what every mother wants for Mother’s Day? Maybe, maybe not. I know the reaction to this spans from disgusted to endeared.

It doesn’t disgust me, but the cynic in me questions if you will really receive your own milk returned to you as a trinket. Has anyone ever seen milk transformed into such a firm state? This is definitely reminding me of a modern day Victorian hair jewelry. If you aren’t familiar, it was popular during the Victorian era for people to have the hair of their dead loved ones turned into jewelry. This could be slightly more distasteful than the breast milk jewelry. It’s a toss up.

In our current consumer era that is constantly looking for ways to get parents to dish it out on more useless “gear”, the breast milk jewelry fits right in. I think there are other ways you can commemorate your days of nursing. I chose to video each of my girls nursing. We shot it from all angles, including my perspective, which is the most important one. I’ll never forget looking down at them and now I can watch it if I get nostalgic in a couple years.  But if you’d like some milk bling, apparently there are many vendors on Etsy who will be happy to make it for you.

I Met The Leader Of A Movement

Lenore Skenazy

And I think it’s one of the most important movements of this generation. Will our kids be able to face the challenges of the world if their childhood is bubble wrapped? Isn’t it crazy that a survey reported that 70% or today’s moms played outside every day growing up while only 31% of their children do? Fewer than a third of kids are playing outside these days? What?! Lenore Skenazy’s book, Free Range Kids, systematically breaks down all of our parental fears and explains how our kids need to practice interacting with the world at a much younger age than is the norm of late. Don’t we want a generation of independent and self-reliant kids who will grow up to be confident adults who can solve problems and not look to someone else for the answer?  We need to help get these kids ready to keep this planet on track.

I just heard Lenore speak and even though she is preaching to the choir with me, I heartily enjoyed her humor, reassurances, and call to action. In the above photo she is showing us the inane baby bath water safety duck. Because putting our hand in to test the water is not a good enough gauge of safe temperature. She pointed out that the instructions on the back actually say that an adult should always test the water as well, before putting baby in. What the hell? Another safety gadget to screw with our heads and make us question our good old fashioned common sense and mother’s instinct.

Here a just a few of the many fascinating and inspiring points from her book and articles:

-If you were trying to have your kid abducted and you left them out on the corner, you’d be waiting 750,000 years for it to happen.
-Self-mastery is necessary for self-esteem. Parent assistance is not part of the equation.
-At the age of six, they can make a grilled cheese or pancakes. Our kids are more competent than we think.
-a study found that kids with over controlling parents have higher rates of depression and are less satisfied with life
-In Germany, kids are allowed to walk to the park and hang out their on their own, unsupervised, starting at the age of four. We need don’t need to hover and follow them around at the playground. Why not start leaving them there at the age of six? Is that a good American compromise?
-In other countries, parents think it’s crazy that you’d sit down and play baby games with your kids. They don’t really need us to stimulate them. They can do it just fine on their own.
-Hire the 12 or 13 year-old babysitter. Don’t worry. Not so long ago, and for the majority of time humans have been on this planet, 12 and 13 year olds already had their own babies and the species managed not to die off with this set up.

After Lenore spoke she opened up the floor to questions and comments. Of course one of the moms in audience commented on the horrible judgement she feels from other moms when making parenting decisions. Lenore said that kind of judgement comes from fear. We’re so scared of not being a “good parent”. (A whole chapter in her book speaks to this and does a great job of calming parents down.) It’s suffocating and paralyzing.  Not a good space to come from when we’re trying to parent. So come here to Half Crunchy Mom where I will not judge you if you’re a helicopter parent or a free-range parent, or a commanding parent, or a tired and cranky parent. I know you love your child and you want to do your best. That’s what we all do. I don’t think we’re evil or stupid. No. We’re just trying to do our best.

So if you see a six-year-old playing at the park alone, know that their parent is not evil, they probably just read Free Range Kids. If you see a parent at the park taking away the endlessly morphing and creativity building stick from their child, don’t judge; they are just scared and worried, and want to do their best. Let’s ask ourselves what we can learn from that mom who is different from ourselves. It’s much more productive than judging. We all have made parenting choices that would fall under the free range and helicopter category. What have you tried that is free range? How did it go?

Boobs After Babies

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Boobs after babies are a different species than the boobs you knew before. Your pre-baby boobs may have given you a long, drawn out farewell accompanied with requisite tears and reminiscing. Or your old lovelies may have just up and left, their sad new droopies getting comfortable on your couch before you even realized their was a change of guard. Mine left without ceremony. I suppose I was too busy doing mom stuff like, I don’t know…nursing!

Yes, nursing is the culprit. And possibly just the process of enduring the inflation to triple their size during pregnancy. But can we really be that mad at boobs when they have done such a magnificent job nourishing our babies? That’s what they are there for, right? Not for men to look at. Not to be plastered over billboards. Of course we can’t deny they serve a complex sexual purpose as well, but I’d argue their most important job is to give babies healthy nourishment. If you could not nurse or chose not to, they provided a soft, cushiony place for your baby to lay. Ultimate comfort and bonding. These are pretty noble raison d’etres and I think we should give them a break. They did a good job. Let’s still love our poor, saggy, deflated boobs. I’ve found they also provide a new topic for us moms. We seem to enjoy describing and comparing the different ways in which our boobs have changed and what they looked like before. All sorts of wonderful adjectives are used and suddenly the conversation becomes very animated. It’s a great way to light a fire under a group of moms at the park. Another way for moms to unite!

I thought the mammogram was the best visual for post-baby boobs since it’s probably the way our boobs will most often be documented from here on out. We moms don’t do much flashing anymore. If you have a history of breast cancer those mammograms start early and they keep on coming yearly after you turn 40. I was just at follow up appointment with a breast surgeon today to check on what I thought was a painful lump. After this very distinguished, highly regarded, award winning doctor felt me up, he said he didn’t feel anything, then asked me to point out what I thought was the lump. When I indicated the area he said, “That’s all of your breast tissue.” My jaw inwardly dropped. In other words, he’s saying what I thought was a lump was actually my whole boob! I know they’re small, but come on!

I’m lucky my lovely droopies are healthy, just sore periodically, and my heart goes out to all the women who are facing the challenge of breast cancer right now. Whatever state they’re in, let’s thank them for the great life they’ve lived so far and for continuing to hang in there.