Kate and The Kids

Family Wellness

Archive for ‘December, 2018’

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One of the most frustrating things in the world is “being left on read.” It’s been meme’d, joked about, and always vented about. It’s frustrating to be on the receiving end, but it IS okay to read a volatile message and not respond… After all if you don’t have anything nice to say, say nothing.

 

I was once told that an argument is not started by the first person to speak, but the second. The first person is addressing a feeling, a situation. The second person decides how that translates going forward. Do you respond negatively? Do you engage in a disagreement? Do you fight back? That’s how an argument is started. Do you apologize? Do you validate their feelings? Do you diffuse their anger? That’s how avoiding an argument is attempted.

 

There’s a third option: do not engage at all.

 

When tempers and emotions run high people don’t always hear words, they hear tone. It doesn’t matter what you say to make things right if someone is hurt badly enough. It’s okay to use your judgement and determine that there needs to be a ‘cooling off’ period before you can work things out. Striking when the kettle is hot induces burns. It’s okay to let the kettle blow off some steam and cool down before you try to pour your tea.

 

Unfortunately, I’m living this today. Someone I care very much about it upset with me. I feel strongly she has misdirected anger, but she clearly feels differently. When I opened her very angry facebook message last night, I simply bid her goodnight and turned my phone off. I’ve been unplugged since. I’ve focused on resting, spending time with my children and getting work done for Kate and the Kids. It’s not only the angry party who needs to calm down. It’s the second person to speak. In this situation, that will be me. I decide if this is going to be an argument. My reaction sets the tone for our road of fixing our issue. I need the time to cool off as much as she does. I like to take this time to walk away from the issue and come back to it with fresh eyes. When I return, I can tackle the problem more objectively.

 

I’m not sure yet how this will play out, and I doubt I’ll ever post the resolution. The specifics are private and irrelevant. The best I can do is work on myself, and try to respond in a way that will make things better and not worse.

 

No matter how things go, I will not waver on my belief that it is okay to walk away. It’s okay to say nothing, to take a break without explanation. In the moment it’s absolutely frustrating, but I’d rather have my mind race with terrible words until they turn not so terrible. Once those terrible words are actually spoken, they can’t be taken back. It’s better to let them diffuse in your brain than say something you’ll regret later.

 

Of course I’m wondering what kind of hell is waiting in my inbox. Who knows what I’ll walk into when I do turn my phone back on. I’m seriously considering just clearing the conversation without reading any of it and starting fresh. Right now, I just have the image of Spongebob and Flatts during their fight- Flatts swinging and punching, wearing himself out while the sponge just painlessly absorbs the blows. I’d rather have my inbox absorb the blows than my spirit.

 

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It’s okay to not engage. It’s okay to let people tucker themselves out with their own anger before you work on resolving an issue. You have to make yourself a priority. You can’t control other people or what they say. You can only control your own words and actions. You have to decide what environment will bring out the best you, even if that environment isn’t the one you’re currently in.

 

I pray that your arguments are few and far between, but if you do encounter an issue that you put your own mental health first. You can’t pour from an empty cup, and you can’t fix a problem if you’re still broken. Take time to get yourself together first.

 

Fingers crossed that this issue is left in 2018, either way I’m holding my head high and going into 2019 with my best, most positive self.

 

Happy New Year, may this year find you healthier than ever- mind, body and soul.

 

With healthy hearts,

Kate and the Kids.

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Every year we all hear the same things. “I’m going to start going to the gym more.” “I’m going to quit smoking.” “I’m going to manage my finances better.”

 

Those are all GREAT things! You absolutely should create goals, and start taking steps to reach them. But why wait until the New Year? I promise I’m not being a hypocrite- this is actually something I believe in! Like in 2015 when I made the decision to eat healthier even through the holidays, continuing on after.

 

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There’s no better time to make a change than right now. It doesn’t have to be a new year, or a Monday, or even first thing in the morning. This moment, the very moment that you’re living in is a perfect time to  start making changes.

 

The problem with waiting until a certain date on the calendar is the adoption of the “last meal” mentality. It’s smoking the rest of the pack, gorging on all the food you’ll miss, insane spending. Why start the New Year in the negative? It makes the change even harder, and it’s easier to feel like your goals are unattainable and quit sooner.

 

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Today is a great day to make a change. Even if you’ve eaten an unhealthy breakfast, or had a cigarette. You can stop. Right now, right this second. YOU can make the decision that enough is enough.. And trust me, your body has no idea what day it is on the calendar.

 

Combine mindfulness and your goals, and you’re on the road to success! Just know, I’m rooting for you. We all are.

 

With healthy hearts,

Kate and the Kids.

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I’ll keep today’s post short and sweet, today we had a lazy day.

I caught up on e-mails and bird box memes.

We snacked and snuggled.

Our well rested bodies are looking forward to making tomorrow perfect. Mental health days are necessary and beneficial. Just because you didn’t leave the house doesn’t mean you weren’t productive. Our lazy day gave us the opportunity to bond and recharge. We’re feeling healthier than ever.

Enjoy your weekend, and get some rest.

With healthy hearts,

Kate and the Kids.

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Recently I was bragging about my beautiful sister, and how excited I am that she is about to be a mother. Someone overheard my conversation, and stopped us to specify that she wasn’t my actual sister. Today I stood next to that same beautiful woman during her ultrasound, and I’ll be damned if that baby on the screen isn’t my actual niece.

 

Let’s switch gears temporarily. When I met my husband, we each had a child of our own. That means Arielle is my stepdaughter, and Jacen is his stepson. It also means that Anna is a half sibling to both kids. (Lost yet? Modern family trees get a little crazy.) Jacen and Arielle share no blood, nor do Arielle and I, nor Mike and Jacen. Does this mean we are not actually family? Of course it doesn’t, and it would never be socially acceptable for someone to publicly announce otherwise.

 

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So why is there a need to specify that she is not my actual sister? We share no blood, but we are certainly family. There are people who share my blood who never met my children. My sister has attended every birthday party, soccer game, talent show, Disney World trip and fundraiser right by my side. She remembers their birth weights, appointment dates and favorite characters better than I do. Jacen has never spent one second of life with his birth father, and yet she can’t imagine one second of her life without Jacen.

 

She is my sister, not by blood but by heart. Most of the people my children call family are not biologically related. At last count, Arielle had six women she called her grandmother. Explain that to a geneticist.

 

I’m not here to argue, I’m not here to shame. I’m not here to vent or defend our relationship. I’m here to brag.

 

That one little interruption in my conversation didn’t knock me off the rails- it didn’t even slow me down. My love and pride for my family outshines any outsider’s speculation. It always will.

 

I consider myself extremely lucky, for I’ve been able to hand select the members of my family. I’m not obligated to keep them in my life due to genes, I choose to keep them in my life because they deserve to be there. We’ve already mentioned my amazing sister, so let’s keep going with her. She’s been in my life since we were 10 years old. I’ve bounced every major life decision off her because I truly value her insight. We know everything about each other. We’ve supported each other through all of life’s changes, and have included each other in every single milestone. She’s seen my best and my worst. She’s told me the truth when she’s disagreed with me, but loved me even if I didn’t listen. Even when I’ve pushed her away she’s fought her way back. We won’t ever give up on each other, and we’ll never lose each other.

 

I’ve known her husband for almost as long. Years before he married my sister (years before they were even dating) my children called him their uncle. My son was just under a year old when I needed a sitter during a Taylor Swift concert. Nik was 19, and I don’t think he’d ever been alone with  a baby before. That didn’t stop him from volunteering to stay home with my kid. Not only did he tackle diapers and bottles, he even drove us to the concert AND braved horrifying stadium traffic to pick us up after. He stepped out of his comfort zone so I could have a good time. He didn’t ask to be an uncle at 19. He could have easily spent the night with his friends, free of responsibility. He didn’t. He chose us, he gave that night up for me. That’s the kind of person I recruit to be a member of my family.

 

In two days Arielle will have her 10th birthday party. There will be three people in attendance who share her DNA. Over 70% of her guests are family by heart. I am her family by heart. We do not feel the need to specify step, half, adopted or “actual” – we are just family. We are a happy, loving, very fortunate family. We care for each other without obligation. We make conscious decisions to stay together. We can’t take each other for granted because there’s no biological net to fall back on. To me, that’s the truest love there is. Love that’s created and not assigned. Love that bonds very different hearts under one family. Love that blends.

 

With happy hearts,

Kate and the kids.

… and every member of our FAMILY.

 

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Ready for the easiest cake ever? This recipe used only 2 ingredients and is under 160 calories a slice (depending on the boxed cake mix you choose.) The best part? It cost me less than $5 to make!

 

1 box cake mix + 2 cups unsweetened applesauce.

bake as directed on box.

done.

 

Is your mind blown yet? It should be. I typically make this recipe with the sugar free Pillsbury mix. I use the golden cake, unsweetened sauce, fresh berries and sugar free cool whip. I like to add a chocolate drizzle or shavings just for decoration. It’s an amazingly moist, refreshing, light dessert.

 

This weekend is Arielle’s birthday party, and she’s chosen to make her cupcakes with applesauce and chocolate cake mix. The plan is to fill the cupcakes with oreo pudding mousse (instant Oreo pudding mix + 2 cups heavy whipping cream instead of milk.) We’ll top with cool whip and crushed Oreo cookies. This recipe is not low sugar, but is lower in fat & cholesterol and has added fiber from the applesauce.

 

I only recently switched to the applesauce method. Previously I had used the weight watchers soda cake recipe, which consists of the box cake mix + 12 oz diet soda. When I first started weight watchers I absolutely loved this recipe. I’d used diet sprite, diet orange, and even root beer. For a long time this was my go-to, until after 2 years of clean eating I started to detect a bitter, artificial taste. I still have friends and family who enjoy this style cake without detecting the artificial sweeteners. It’s definitely a personal preference.

 

In between the two methods, I used the soda cake recipe with seltzer water. I did find this was less artificial tasting, but can be dry. So far the apple method is my favorite.

 

My first go with the applesauce  was actually a box mix for coffee cake. I added peeled, chopped apple to the mix and topped with sliced almonds. I served muffin-style with no frosting, and it was a huge hit at our party! My grandmother now begs me to bring this cake to every family gathering.

 

There are infinite ways to dress up this simple cake. For a simple, quick, and healthy alternative you definitely can’t beat this recipe!

(cost of ingredients at Walmart – cake mix $1.29, unsweetened applesauce $1.98, sugar free cool whip $1.69 = total of $4.96)

 

If you try this recipe, please let me know how it goes! I’d love to hear your semi-homemade shortcuts in the comments.

 

With healthy hearts,

Kate and the Kids.

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Two out of three of my children will eat just about anything- including their veggies, but we are always looking to increase our fiber intake.

There is an epidemic where many families today rely on prepackaged or fast food. These products are high in sodium and preservatives that have dehydrating properties. It can take a toll on a GI tract.

Everyone knows the importance of eating your veggies. Our minds immediately go for the essential vitamins and minerals they provide, but don’t forget about fiber content!

A few months ago we touched base with a pediatric nutritionist. We were hoping for advice on managing Jacen’s Ehlers-Danlos symptoms. After the visit, we started using cafeteria style plates to provide Jacen with a visual on the appropriate portions of a balanced meal. We make a point of including a fruit, veggie, protein and whole grain into each meal.

Even after following the nutritionist’s advice, Jacen struggles with his terrible GI issues. I like to hide extra fiber into sauces by popping some cooked produce into my ninja blender. I think the key to success is making sure the produce is cooked to a soft state, almost over cooked and soggy.

Last night I blended mushrooms, cauliflower and onion into spaghetti sauce. It went unnoticed by any of the kids! It’s also great for the adults in the family since the addition of produce reduces fat and calories per portion.

We have even done this is in cheese sauces. Arielle is extremely picky and requests macaroni and cheese almost every night. It was easy to incorporate the blended produce into the sauce while making baked Mac and cheese. When topped with breadcrumbs, it’s impossible to detect.

I love sneaky chef tips! If you have any of your own I’d love to hear about them in the comments.

With healthy hearts,

Kate and the Kids.

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I was first introduced to EMDR (Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) about a year ago by a new therapist. It took me about 3 months of talk therapy before I felt ready to try EMDR.

 

At first, some think the therapy sounds similar to hypnosis. It isn’t. It uses lateral eye movement to get the two sides of your brain working at once. You can go back to a memory, replay it, and desensitize yourself from it. ** It is NOT changing the memory ** It’s only reprocessing, similar to exposure therapy. When you replay it a few times you can spend more time on bringing closure to your feelings, and hopefully be able to let go of the trauma.

 

Christmas for me always brings on tremendous stress and frequent breakdowns. I take on too much, force happiness and get upset when things fail to meet my expectations. Most years I max out our calendar and our budget. We are exhausted and cranky, and end up taking it out on eachother.. And by WE i mean the whole family- kids included. Reprocessing Christmas took many, many sessions. I started months ago in hopes of having a better holiday season.

 

My issues with Christmas are widespread, and have gone on for many years. For the purpose of this post I’ll zero in on one specific thing we processed- the one thing I believe saved my Christmas most.

 

All year the one thing I worry about most is spending Christmas Eve with my husband’s family. Seven years ago when I met my husband I was extremely overweight, unemployed, and a young unwed mother. My self confidence was at a zero. My husband on the other hand was a god in my eyes. He is so smart, so caring, so responsible and absolutely the greatest man I’d ever met. Before I was even introduced to any part of his family I felt like a disappointment. I imagined they’d spent Michael’s entire life witnessing how amazing he was and picturing a perfect wife as a match for him. I wholeheartedly believed I would be a let down.

 

This manifested in so many negative ways for me. First, I felt my physical appearance was a huge turn off, so I’d go over the top trying to make myself look better. I’d cake on the makeup and eyelashes, pull my shapewear so tight I couldn’t breathe and spend hours on my hair. I’d often make us late by trying on a thousand outfits that I hated until I eventually broke down to tears. This was always followed by refusal to go with him, a giant fight, and finally him dragging me out of the house against my will. I always felt so ugly, so low, so inadequate.

 

When I got to the party, I’d be ashamed of myself. Most of the time I felt out of place and over done from all of my over the top preparations. I’d feel dirty and messy from crying in the car and making a mess of my makeup. I couldn’t maintain eye contact or a conversation. I was so awkward I could barely muster a full sentence. My inability to speak made me feel even worse about myself because I was worried I’d come off stupid, or maybe snobby.

The worst of all was what my therapist calls “dissociative body movement.” Basically, I had extreme vertigo. I was so anxious that hallways appeared warped. I had a hard time with depth perception. Stairs were terrifying and I was overly cautious about my footing. I wasn’t able to eat or drink because I could not control my hands properly. If I reached for a cracker my hand would end up way off to the right, not anywhere close to food. If someone handed me a drink I’d practically slap the cup with my inability to judge how far the cup was from me, and immediately panic that I would spill or drop the entire thing. For years I did not, could not eat or drink with his family.

 

I would spend the entire night so consumed with my own anxieties that their conversations would turn to white noise, and my own thoughts took the forefront. This meant if someone did speak to me, I had no idea what they’d said. There’s no way to recover from that, except with deathly awkwardness. I’d cling tight to my husband and hope for the best.

 

How did EMDR change any of this for me?

 

The first step is identifying the negative cognition. For me it was simply “I am not good enough, I’m not worthy of love.”  The goal would be “I am worthy of their love, my true self IS good enough.”

 

We first started with my low self confidence about my appearance. 25 years of being obese gave me plenty of ammunition to deal with. I had to go back and reprocess bullying, like when my “friends” shoved pillows up their shirts and pretended to be me. Before processing it made me feel that the people close to me did not accept me, for at the time I believed they were close friends. I had to go back to the wedding where I broke a chair in front of a table full of my co-workers. That was feelings of embarrassment and shame in front of people I cared about. I went back to holidays as a child where family members would comment about the amount of food on my plate, days where I felt the floor shaking when I walked, and the times the stairs would loudly creak under my massive body.

 

One of the strongest sensations that came up during reprocessing was my hyper body awareness, specifically how large I always felt in comparison to the room. I took up too much space, I told myself it was wasted space. I would feel vast distance between my shoulders, like my back was a giant billboard blocking everyone’s view from across the room. I would feel my neck and chin tingle, like when I was thinking about my double chin as someone tried to have a conversation with me.

 

The emotions that came up were shame, embarrassment and guilt. We replayed these memories over and over. It sucked. It sucked at first, when I cried again. When my face was hot and red, just like the first time they’d happened. My forehead would sweat and I’d be out of breath EXACTLY like the original memory.. But then we’d replay it, and it was slightly less awful. We’d talk about it, and replay it again. It was even less awful. Replay. Talk. Replay. Talk.

 

In the end, the past started to seem extremely distant and insignificant. It was almost like a movie I’d seen long ago. I could remember the general theme but the specifics didn’t punch me in the gut anymore.

 

At their worst, these memories weighed on me so heavily that I once described it as walking through water in cement shoes. They slowed me down and kept me in the past when I really wanted to be in the present. After I found closure, the weight was lifted. I could hold my head a little higher and felt it easier to move forward.

 

We reintroduced my new feelings into talk therapy, where we set goals for the coming holiday season. I took on less, scheduled less, and tried to go with the flow. I had specific goals for Christmas Eve.

 

  1. No eyelashes, light makeup.
  2. No more than 20 minutes on my hair.
  3. Clothing I was comfortable in.
  4. Flat shoes.
  5. Initiate a conversation.
  6. Eat one thing discreetly. If I’m able to control my hand, eat one thing during a conversation when someone else can see me.

 

Even weeks leading up to the party, I talked about these goals with my husband, sister and therapist. I had so much support, and being able to verbalize my goals reinforced how important they were to me.

 

I’m proud to say I pulled it off.

 

Christmas Eve morning I got up and showered. I put on a sweater, comfortable leggings and flat boots. I blew out my hair in less than 10 minutes, and ran a curling iron just for texture. About 13 minutes in total. I put on mascara only. We went to our morning obligations, and when we got home I fought the urge to shower again or change my clothes. I even took a nap without stressing out about how it affected my appearance. 12 hours and several stops later, we got to his family’s party. Right off the bat I felt better. The stairs were strait instead of something out of a Tim Burton movie. I had two things left on my checklist- speak and eat.

 

I jumped the gun a bit on the speaking when I awkwardly blurted out a compliment on a cousin’s sweater but I somehow managed to recover. That one compliment ended up breaking the dam, and I was able to speak freely all night with his entire family. I felt happy, and like I was part of the family instead of an outsider. When the living room died down a bit I reached for a cracker and ended up grazing the one next to it. “Fuck. Get it together, Catherine.” I took both and gave one to Anna. I moved from a chair to the couch, and realized my vertigo had come back. “Noooo, you were doing so well! What happened?” What happened. The thought of food over the cracker triggered my fat awareness. I was off kilter again. What would my therapist tell me to do? I put my feet firmly on the floor, side by side. I squared my body off and tried to ground myself.

 

At that moment my nephew tried on his Aunt’s high heeled boots and walked around. He was silly, and funny. It made me smile. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Anna reaching for the chips, I blocked her drooly hand and got one for her.

 

Wait, I picked up a chip? I picked up the chip  I was ACTUALLY reaching for? Whoa.

 

I had done it, I had touched food and not fallen apart. I got brave. I actually made a plate for the first time ever.. Mostly grapes and crackers in case I dropped it. Later in the night I gave myself a pep talk and headed over to the dessert table. I tried a new cookie (Hermits, OMG, hermits. My new addiction.) At first bite I was in love. I consciously did not take a second bite. I walked over to my mother in law and held out the cookie. “What are these? They’re amazing!” She looked up and started telling me about hermit cookies. As she spoke I was internally cheering myself on, and took a second bite as the conversation continued.

 

There was a firework show in my chest. I did it! I did it! I DID IT!!!!!

 

I had such an amazing time that I was sad when the night drew to an end. I heard myself tell people (too many times) that I was excited to see them the following day, and that I was looking forward to spending the entire holiday with them instead of rushing out early.

 

At the end of the night it did not feel like I had spent the night with my husband’s family. I had spent the night with MY family. It was the first Christmas in seven years where I did not cry or have a break down. It was the first one ever that I was happy and confident. (Christmas day I was even brave enough to ask to hold his cousin’s baby. Let that sink in for a second. The night before I couldn’t reach for a cracker, the next day I asked to hold an infant.)

 

EMDR saved my holiday. It bettered my relationship with my family, and even kicked off this morning on a positive note. I feel great, and I’m looking forward to telling my therapist all about it at our session on Friday.

 

It took many years for me to discover EMDR. I wasted so much time on talk therapy that I felt counseling was ineffective. I changed therapist time and time again without finding the right fit. I can not say this enough- you do not have to suffer. If you feel therapy is ineffective, you have not found the right therapy. There are infinite options out there- even more than just EMDR. Keep going, keep trying. KEEP GETTING HELP. You are worthy of receiving care. You are worthy of memorable holidays. You are worthy of being part of a family. You are worthy of love.

 

With healthy hearts,

Kate and the Kids.

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