Why I Made The Decision Not to Drink

For months leading up to this past summer, I had been saying to myself, as well as out loud, that I wanted to take 30 days off of drinking alcohol. There were a number of reasons for this, but chief among them was that I was having a lot of digestive problems and I was trying to heal my gut. Clearly, alcohol wasn't helping when it came to any stomach upset, and I felt like it was making it worse.

Another reason was that I had noticed drinking simply was becoming less fun for me, and it was even causing me worry. For example, if we were attending a party and there was going to be drinking, I would obsess about whether or not I would drink at all because someone was going to have to drive home, and drinking and driving gives me metaphorical hives. Rather than enjoying myself, I would have a drink, glug down copious amounts of water and then spend a lot of time ruminating in my head about how I felt and whether I was reaaaaalllly good to drive home. On the other hand, if we were hosting an event at our home, I often found that I wouldn't really drink all that much, but would feel an internal pressure to drink with my friends or family (this was totally on me, not them.)

This dance was playing out in my mind over and over and it was becoming exhausting.

In June, I began treatment with an acupuncturist and changed my eating habits pretty drastically. Finally, I felt like the timing was right for me to take an extended break from alcohol while I actively worked on my health. I was mentally prepared. I took a six week hiatus from drinking, and to my surprise I saw a huge difference in my mental health, and my overall enjoyment of life. I had expected to feel physically good, but I hadn't expected to feel so much like...myself.

For my birthday, which falls in late August, I decided to enjoy a couple of glasses of wine throughout the week of festivities. They tasted magnificent, but I noticed some key things. The first was that I had a lot of trouble sleeping after drinking, and I didn't feel well rested in the morning. Also, while I didn't experience any panic attacks while imbibing, I had heightened anxiety in the days that followed, and I had an extremely intense panic attack the day after I drank one time.

Then, as I was scrolling through Instagram, as one does, I came across a re-post that read:           "DRINKING ALCOHOL IS LIKE POURING GASOLINE ON YOUR ANXIETY." 
The quote was from Laura McKowen. It hit me a deep place and sent waves of panic through me. This immediately registered as the truth for me, which was illuminating and, ultimately, a little upsetting.

The sum of all these experiences left me in a state of confusion about my relationship to alcohol in general, and what this meant for me moving forward. I am pretty prone to overthinking things (in case you couldn't tell) so I decided to go ahead and allow myself a deep analytical dive into my relationship with alcohol. While I was thinking through my relationship with alcohol, I decided to once again abstain from drinking for a minimum of six weeks.

Initially, it was pretty scary to think about my life in terms of "never drinking again" and I often wondered whether I was making a decision to be "sober." I questioned whether I might have an issue with alcohol since the prospect of not ever having a drink again made me feel very boxed in. Simultaneously, I worried about the fact that I can be quite given to swinging from one extreme to the next, and I didn't want this to be one of "those things."

As I was processing all of this, I looked to some my hero on social media, who I realized were actually sober women. Glennon Doyle, Brene Brown, and January Harshe are all sober women doing amazing, inspirational things, and their work is very fortifying for a person grappling with tough questions surrounding self and alcohol. I also have some relatives who don't drink, and I was able to gain perspective from them. Some don't drink because they feel they go overboard, and others are simply uninterested in drinking. In conversation with them, and after some deep and thorough thought over several weeks, I came to some surprising conclusions. Here is what I found...

Was I getting Sober? 
Sifting through this question was important to me for a few reasons. Sobriety is a hard-fought path for many, many people, and I wanted to give reverence and respect to that process. I didn't want to call myself "sober" unless I was truly in recovery because that is a distinct path. Also, I wanted to consider what the future held for me...was it okay for me to open ended about my not drinking? Or was this an all-or-nothing decision I was making?

I concluded that I was not getting sober, which is an important distinction. First of all, I don't have a problem with alcohol. I had a waning interest in it, which I struggled with partly because I was worried about the social impacts of that. And, I've noticed that my sober friends have to actively work to stay sober. I do not.

Are there still triggers? 
You don't have to be an alcoholic to have situational triggers when it comes to habits like drinking. One thing I noticed about not drinking is that sometimes the fleeting moment where I want a drink will come up. Let's say it's been a particularly trying day, or, alternatively, I'm in a social situation, and I think for a moment "oh, would a glass of wine be nice?" At first, I thought I might be tempted by these moments, but then I would stop to think about the reasons behind why I was wanting a drink and the impacts of my decision (like, the net day)... do I really want a drink, or am I just in need of some self care (maybe even just a deep breath?)

What is interesting is that when I stepped away from alcohol culture, I realized how pervasive it was. We tell ourselves that we "deserve" a drink because we've had a hard day, or that it's "wine o'clock" or whatever. And some of it is totally funny and harmless, and some of it is less so. As I got more and more time under my belt without drinking, I was able to more easily discern how I was REALLY feeling and what I needed to unwind or relax. Being a person who mostly doesn't drink has made me much more thoughtful before I take a drink, and 9 out of 10 times I will simply choose to abstain.

Does it need definition? 
I struggled immensely with this one, which is somewhat odd considering I am less than conventional in so many ways. Yet, I found that I was drawn to labeling the fact that I wasn't drinking. I was able to reason my way into the unconventional on this one, though, and concluded that I don't have to label my drinking as "sobriety" or even as "I never drink." The truth is that I mostly will not drink and this is what I have chosen for myself, and overwhelmingly choose to abstain on a daily basis. But there may come a day where I am compelled to have a cocktail, or enjoy a glass of wine, and if I want to, I absolutely can. I don't have to label that, either.

Maybe it's tougher when we define ourselves because then we think we have to stick to something even if it's not how we feel in the moment. It's been a few months since I've had a drink, and I haven't had a desire to drink...but that doesn't mean that can't or won't change, and I am open to that possibility and seeing how I feel in that moment. I don't have to define it for myself.

What is this really all about? 
What does this decision really come down to for me? Mental health, and overall health. And this beautiful realization that when I don't drink, I feel more like myself for consistent and long periods of time. As I am getting into my mid-30s, I am coming into a whole new self-love vibe. I am comfortable with the fact that I am a pretty serious person who likes to be in tune with the world around me. It's easier for me to do that if I don't drink, and that allows me a lot of enjoyment.

The simple answer: it just feels good. 

Anatomy of a Panic Attack

For any of you who may not know me: I'm Billie. Wife, mother, and bossy Italian human with anxiety. I've written some over the years about my struggles with anxiety (which you can read about by clicking HERE and HERE) and over time, my relationship with my anxiety has changed. I had several (blissful) years where my anxiety lived on a shelf somewhere in my brain and didn't bother to show itself.

Then I became a mother. My entire chemical makeup got a one-two punch and was transformed. My anxiety re-emerged as an entirely new beast. I had postpartum anxiety, and I struggled immensely. Now, I am in a much better place mentally, and physically, but I STILL experience anxiety and, on occasion, full-blown panic attacks.

One of the bits of feedback I always get is that the people around me would never know I was having trouble. I seem totally steady and "put together" on the outside. The "you seem fine to me" phenomenon, I suspect, is not something I experience in isolation. In an effort to bridge the gap between what people think they know, and what happens for a person in the grips of panic,  I want to attempt to dissect a recent panic attack. I hope this will help people without anxiety understand what happens to those of us who have it, despite whatever we might seem to look like externally.

I feel it's important to note this is merely my experience. There are as many types of panic attacks and  presentations of anxiety as there are people. It's a highly individualized thing. I also believe in the universality of our experiences, and I want to give voice to something that simply isn't talked about with enough regularity. At the end, I'm also giving a short blurb on what I think is helpful when I am experiencing anxiety or panic. I am hoping readers will comment in and give every one more helpful tips as we collectively raise awareness!

The Lead Up
It was a normal Monday, and I knew my head didn't feel quite right. After lunch, I tried to rest a bit to try and cool off the "buzzing" I was experiencing in my head. After about 40 minutes, I decided I needed to go run my errands--that it would be easier without my daughter in tow, given how I was feeling.

I was knocking out the grocery shopping for the rest of the week. The grocery store was packed to the gills, a common occurrence for our small beach town when it's brimming with vacationers during the hot, summer months. The lines were about three people deep no matter where I went, so I pulled up my cart and prepared to wait patiently. As I got in line, I began to feel some tingles in my body and I thought I had better distract myself while I waited.

Being an anxiety veteran, I am unsure if this distraction tactic is a coping mechanism, a reflex, or a bit of both, but I worked to pull my focus from the "bigger picture" of the bustling noise of the store to the more "close up" details around me. I did this through observation...a magazine with a picture of Megan Markle on it, Cosmopolitan Magazine with some ridiculous headline about some sexual position that will change your life, a man tapping his thumb on his cart... I tried a little too frantically to concentrate on something because I noticed I was being pulled from one thing to the next and  quickly getting overwhelmed.

**The distinction for me with my panic attacks is that they are not brought on by a specific fear, or thought. While that may have been true in the past (I once was deathly afraid of thunderstorms for a period of about a year), at this point, I seem to only experience the physical side of anxiety. My inability to focus is almost like having the opposite of thoughts...there were no thoughts, but an over-abundance of feelings.

The Attack
That was when the switch flipped. All at once I felt a strong sense of disorientation come over me. It is akin to suddenly feeling the ground shift underneath of me. I had been cold in the store, so earlier I put on a light sweater, but at this moment, it was as though someone threw a ball of fire into the center of my chest and it suddenly exploded, sending a fiery sensation up through every limb and out of my head. A burst of heat overtook me swiftly, as I struggled to get out of my sweater. My heart was racing wildly. My palms were suddenly clammy, sound began to take on a "wonky" quality, and the inability to focus turned to sheer panic. In this flight/fight/freeze scenario, I was frozen on the spot.

On the outside, I probably only looked as thought I got a little warm and needed to remove my sweater, but on the inside, I silently wondered if I was going to faint and hit the floor or dissolve into thin air. I took a breath, and I told myself to bend my knees, which I did. The lights were overwhelming, and I wanted badly to run from the store because standing still--staying patient--seemed an insurmountable task. Simultaneously, I needed to sit down and/or run a marathon, neither of which were possible in the moment because I could barely move. I realized I might cry. I tried to orient myself, even though my vision was somewhat obscured by my mental experience. I repeated to myself in my head "stay. stay. stay." (This is a technique I got from meditation.)

My hands were shaking as I saw a tiny sliver of the conveyor belt had opened, and I began to put my items on the belt, still unsure if I was going to be able to talk to the woman behind the register. I felt desperately alone in a sea of people. There was all of this brisk life happening around me, and I was struggling to catch up to it... in the grips of anxiety to this degree, it's as though sound and light, even faces, were distorted and the ability to process and recognize what's happening was delayed.

I focused on putting each item on the conveyor belt, my hands shakily grasping them, I worried I would drop them. By the time I was able to connect my eyes to the familiar woman at the register, the worst was, in fact, passed. I was still not myself, and I was fighting back tears. I said very little as the transaction concluded.

The Comedown
By the time I was able to pay for my groceries and began walking out the store, a huge relief was settling over me. I knew that by the time I reached the car I was "safe" and could go on with my day, so to speak. I was still shaking, and not quite myself, but I was in a phase of recovering. I can't really remember putting my groceries in the car, but I did.

Once I was back in the driver's seat, I slid on my sunglasses and let the tears roll. I want to note that crying during or after a panic attack may be common for many people. For me, though, this was pretty new (and not unwelcome as it felt like a concrete release). I put my hand on my heart, told myself I had done well, and I told myself "I love you." And I made a decision right there to allow myself however much time I needed to cry it out.

After this ordeal, I was quite tired both mentally and physically. It was an overwhelming moment that lasted about 10 minutes or infinity, depending on your perspective. I fell asleep quite early that night, and needed extra rest to accommodate what had happened that day. I was grateful that the people around me were as gentle with me as I was with myself in those moments.

How you can help 
In this case I was by myself when my panic attack occurred. Sometimes this is a blessing, and sometimes this is a curse. If you are in the presence of someone who is experiencing a panic attack, they are likely feeling very overwhelmed. The first best thing you can do is to say as few words to them as possible. Start with something along the lines of, "I am here with you, and you're safe. I'm not going to say much until you are ready. Let me know."

Offering a loving presence without expectation, at least for me, takes the pressure off. I don't want to explain how I feel because sometimes I can't. But it's nice to know that someone is with me. Another thing you can do is breathe deeply (and sort of exaggerate your breathing sound) so that the person having the panic has something to latch on to. You could even say, "I'm going to take some deep breaths, if you want to do it with me."

Lastly, wait for their cues. They may want to walk, they may want to sit still. They may request something from you, if only you give them the time. If this is someone you are close to, like a family member, I would highly suggest asking them in advance of a panic attack what the best reaction for them is...a sort of panic action plan, if you will. You can make agreements like, "I will not touch you unless you touch my hand, then I will know it's okay for me to hug you." or "We will immediately find a quiet place alone and ask others who may want to help to give us ten minutes."

I hope that those who found this helpful will share it with their loved ones, and open conversations (both online and in real life) about how they can support their loved ones with anxiety, or how they can be supported. If you have a technique that has worked well for you, please share!!! 

Yes, I Yelled At Your Kid(s).

There are two types of parents in this world: those who believe that no one should ever discipline their children except for them (not me), and those who believe that if their kid is being a butthead, other parents have the right to step in tell them so (me.) I was reminded of this the other day when I yelled at a child who was not mine. Let me back up a little...

It was the most exquisite beach day and we headed down to our favorite beach spot for a couple of hours of playing in the sand. When we first arrived, I spotted this little boy, a couple of years older than my daughter, and I knew he was going to be trouble from the moment I laid eyes on him because the second I saw him, he was holding his boogie board above his head, ready to clobber mine over hers.

Since he relented, I said nothing. I also said nothing when just moments later, I saw him splashing and splashing my daughter and repeating the phrase "You will die!" in an effort to eradicate her from the area by the rocks where he was also playing. She got the message, and eventually left. In situations like that, I try not to intervene if I can help it because, you know, kids have to learn how to handle things for themselves.

But my nerves became frazzled past the point of reason when, just several minutes later, I observed the same kid, this time in tandem with his older brother, trying to muscle my daughter off of her Beater Board in the ocean. I marched over there, and yelled a little louder than intended "HEY! I saw you splashing her, and now you two are trying to push her off her board! That's hers! Beat it!" And the boys, sort of shocked, I assumed, by this tiny woman in her floral bathing suit and not-even-matching-a-bit striped sun hat, aborted their mission and backed off. The older boy carried on in the water. The younger boy, went and told his mom.

Back up on the beach, I overheard the boy telling his mom, "a lady yelled at me." I raised my index  finger in the air and copped to what I had done, explaining what had happened. She made him sit in the beach chair, and I heard threats of his iPad being taken away. I figured it was over...until...I heard another member of her party in the ocean, yelling at my husband. She even threatened to get her very large husband to "take care of this situation." Oy vey. Thankfully, the husband's solution to "taking care of the situation" was to placate his wife, and he calmed her down. After all, it was not even her child I had reprimanded.

In those moments, though, I felt bad for the larger issue this stirred up. I could feel the adrenaline in my system, and I took some deep breaths to calm myself. I knew I had stepped in a parenting landmine...Probably I shouldn't have been so harsh with those boys. This isn't New York City, it's a sleepy beach town, and I should have used my sleepy beach town voice when telling the boys that they couldn't pick on someone half their size. Later I apologized to the other mom, (when her agro friend left the beach) and she was pretty cool about it, even admitting, "it was probably well-deserved."

Now, I'm fully aware that some people will say that I was just flat out wrong, and I get that. Others will argue that I was justified as the day is long. As I noted in the beginning, there are two camps here, and they are pretty clear. But rather than pitching my tent on either of those sides, after giving this serious thought, I would like make my camp right on the line, and maybe you will join me because I can't stop thinking about the moral dilemma of it all.

You see, I trust other parents in the broad sense of the word. If my child had gotten yelled at by another parent on the beach, I would have marched her over, had her make an apology and thanked the parent for stepping in, and gotten the rest of the story later. Because why else would a parent step in like that? Sometimes kids are straight up jerks, and as adults we have to rely on one another. We are the world, as they say.

The other thing is that this other mom, or rather, the people she was with, undermined adult authority in a sweeping way, and the kids were watching. Whether they meant to or not, they sent those children the message that if an adult you don't know tells you to knock it off because you're being a jerk, then you can get your posse and they'll bully those people. Or, they basically said, "You don't have to listen to the village." I feel that this attitude contributes to an imbalance in our society where kids think they are running the joint, and it worries me.

When we talk about how unruly today's children are, or how they don't respect authority, we have to take some responsibility for that. As adults, we should have faith that others are, overwhelmingly, doing the right thing. I do think I (mostly) did the right thing because both of those boys--who had been running roughshod over the beachgoers--finally calmed down enough to play nicely with everyone else on the beach. And the day was really awesome! I think the other mom also did the right thing in asking me what happened because, of course she should. But everything that happened after that was complete and utter bullshit, and I have to speak truth to that.

Yes, I yelled at her kids. Next time, I would be nicer about it. I would use my "teacher voice" and not my "mama bear" voice. Lesson learned all the way. However, if you fall into the category of "no one should ever tell it to my kids except for me" you may want to consider about the greater consequences of undermining the overall concept of adult authority. Sometimes adults will be wrong, but we have to also weigh the messages we unconsciously send children when we don't let strangers (in public places) tell our kids when they have stepped over a line, even if they do it differently than we might have as parents.

My Favorite Chewlery

For the last several months, we've been using Occupational Therapy techniques with my daughter. It's been a great tool for our family and has made our daughter, The Bird, feel tons more comfortable in her skin as well as helping her to overcome anxiety, especially at school.

While she has the most issues in the proprioceptive realm, this manifests in a few ways. The neat thing about proprioception is that it crosses into other territories, one of those being oral. For us, this meant that my daughter wanted to lick her hands a lot, or mouth and bite a lot of toys. While this may not seem like a big deal, when it comes to cold and flu season, or toys in shared spaces, it was really becoming quite a nuisance!

Luckily, this was really easy to us to remedy because we came across jewelry that was meant for chewing called Chewlery. After looking at several different brands, I settled on the Munchables brand and ordered a necklace. The day it came in the mail, my husband and I walked down to the mailbox with The Bird, telling her there was a surprise in the box. The minute we opened it and showed it to her, she took one look and popped it into her mouth! Viola!

We knew it was a good fit for her. And it was really cute, too. It just looked like a cool necklace that a gal her age would wear! Most people in our extended family didn't even know that its purpose was for chewing on. It's really made a huge difference for The Bird. She enjoys chewing on it and it's directed her away from chewing toys and the hand licking completely resolved. I was unsure, at first, if she would even wear because classically, she's never liked having things around her neck, but the ability to chew outweighed that!

I was so excited about the product, I reached out to the company, and talked with Laura May, the owner. She's a mom of two, and she runs her company from home in Canada. (Shout to her because working from home with little kids takes moxxy!) She says, "Munchables kids’ products are perfect not only as fashion accessories, but also for children that chew. Our sensory chewelry provides a safe alternative to chewing on collars, cuffs, fingers. Redirecting chewing to a safer option can increase focus and confidence."

I can definitely say that I have noticed these benefits for my own child. Also, a word on the necklaces themselves. The owl, which was our first necklace, is for lighter to moderate chewers only because of the beads on the sides. I learned after receiving the second one (the unicorn) from Laura, that The Bird is a heavy chewer, and so that one was a more accurate fit for her. However, my child loves to wear both necklaces at the same time, so when she chewed through the smaller beads on the owl necklace, I just removed them and it continues to be a favorite!

These necklaces are durable, fashion friendly, and safe. I love that they unsnap (so that a child won't be in danger should the necklace become twisted) and they are pretty lightweight, too! If you have a child that munches on their hands, or has sensory issues, these are an awesome solution. I got my first one on Amazon, but you can also order directly from their website BY CLICKING HERE. 

How Occupational Therapy Changed Our Family

As you may know, my husband and I are raising a Spirited Child. That has been its own journey, and it's full of laughter, joy, hardship, and patience. Today, I want to talk about something that can frequently go hand-in-hand with Spirit, and is lesser known, but could ultimately be the missing piece of a puzzle for you and your child. That's Sensory Processing Disorder and Occupational Therapy.

Some of you may have heard about Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) as being associated with autism and the spectrum. In fact, this was how I associated it at first. I remember being on a Spirited Child group on Facebook and seeing all the parenting talking about SPD and literally thinking "Thank god I don't have to deal with that!" Hahaha laughed the parenting gods. 

The thing is, I didn't know much about it, how it could present, and mostly importantly, how identifying SPD and engaging in Occupational Therapy (OT) could make such a stunning difference for my child and our family. Because of my experience, I feel a strong responsibility to speak about OT to all parents, educators, and practitioners because it can be a total game-changer. My daughter is currently four years old, so we are lucky to be in this position from a young age where we can help her come up with confidence! But remember, it's NEVER too late to start your sensory journey!

My lightbulb moment.... 
A friend of mine commented in on a Facebook status about something totally unrelated and said her child had Oral Sensory Processing issues. I immediately messaged her and asked if she was raising a Spirited Child. Our conversation, and her generosity of spirit and openness with me, opened a panacea of information for me. A lightbulb went off in my head as I realized, "Oh my gosh--her kid is what I would classify as bright, fun, and like most other children." That was when it first dawned on me that maybe my child could have SPD as well. Not all children will have other developmental issues and have SPD. There is a broad spectrum when it comes to SPD and children can effected in different ways. The field is vast, people!

So, what is it? 
According to the Star Institute, it is defined as "SPD is a neurophysiologic condition in which sensory input either from the environment or from one’s body is poorly detected, modulated, or interpreted and/or to which atypical responses are observed. Pioneering occupational therapist and psychologist A. Jean Ayres, Ph.D., likened SPD to a neurological “traffic jam” that prevents certain parts of the brain from receiving the information needed to interpret sensory information correctly."

We have seven (not five!) senses where we get input in our bodies. The two that aren't always talked widely about are proprioception and vestibular senses. These are body awareness and movement. The other five that we are often more familiar with are tactile (touch), visual, audio, oral (gustatory), and olfactory (smell.) When a child has SPD, one or several of these can have trouble integrating.

Children can avoid certain things, like the feeling of getting their shirt wet or the texture of a certain kind of food, or they can seek out more sensory experiences to satisfy an unmet need, like rough housing to feel deeper pressure. For our child, who has proprioceptive, vestibular, and oral issues, she wasn't able to articulate, "Gee, I have no idea where my body is in space and I need pressure on chest and limbs!" And it's no wonder--what adult could even articulate that?!

How symptoms present
For our daughter, The Bird, some symptoms were obvious and some were not. The biggest symptom that was causing issue was anxiety. Mornings before school were especially hard, despite implementing a positive reinforcement system, gentle parenting, and new communication style. Sometimes my daughter would cry the whole time at school! Turns out, there is a huge connection between anxiety and SPD, and ultimately this is what pushed us to get a sensory evaluation. Through working with our school's Child Mental Health Consultant, who wanted us to attend therapy, I realized that before we went that route, we should get a Sensory Evaluation.

There were other things that seemed like personality quirks, but turned out to be SPD symptoms. For example, she was always licking her hands, chewing her toys, and mouthing other items. She also loves spinning in circles, rough housing, was sometimes rough with other children, and would get wound up to the point of no return. The Bird loves a good mess, and was always seeking to make them.

Some less obvious symptoms that were a direct result of SPD were performance based. For instance, she wasn't able to participate in school activities without great difficulty. Circle time and sitting still were a challenge, or telling the teacher what a certain color was near impossible, despite the fact that she knew all her colors. Not to mention meltdowns, which were simply due to her inability to soothe herself and her sensory needs.

The Sensory Diet 
After getting our Sensory Evaluation, we began what is called a "Sensory Diet." The Sensory Diet is basically a series of exercises and activities that are highly individualized to meet your child's specific needs. For us, it looks (something) like this:
Brushing each limb 10 times (in a downward motion away from the body)
Joint compression
Wiggling legs and arms (with a song) 
Tapotement on the back 

Brushing each limb 
Deep Massage
Joint compression 

As needed/ Throughout the day (before any special occasion) 
Tapotement on the back 
Wiggling arms
Sensory Tube 
Bouncing on a ball 
Bear hugs
Log Rolls 
Squishing between pillows (we call this game "ice cream sandwich") 

There are also some things we do all the time that help a great deal. For example, brushing teeth was always a huge ordeal for us. Since our OT recommended an electric toothbrush, I've not had a problem. Also, the hand licking was an issue during flu season, but since understanding her sensory needs we got her chew necklaces (more about this in an upcoming post!) And we now use tools like her sensory tube, a weighted blanket and weights for her to use on her lap at school and in the car. All these things help tremendously. 

I also am pretty diligent to offer sensory experiences whenever I can. Play doh, kinetic sand, water (even if it's just an extra long bath), vinegar and baking soda experimentation, and good old fashioned mud puddles are ALWAYS on the menu for us. Once a day, we try to do some sort of sensory play together. 

Ongoing Process of living with SPD 
Right off the bat we experienced some pretty wonderful results. I am aware that it doesn't always work this way. If you have a child who is sensory avoiding, it can be a totally different process. For us, because she is sensory seeking, it was easier to know what she was craving and how to satisfy that. 

Through adding many of the tools and exercises, my daughter was able to go to school and felt comfortable. This happened almost immediately. The teachers and staff could hardly believe how much the OT and our sensory diet gave her relief and allowed her to participate in the classroom with such ease. She immediately felt more comfortable being away from me, even asking to do overnights with her grandparents! 

However, I do want to concede that the process is ongoing. For example, we are now in the process of changing classrooms at school because she has moved up an age group. This has been disturbing for her on a few levels and has changed her sensory needs. We have to give her extra time because she's also spirited, and routine is BIG for her. So we see some regression because of this. And that's OKAY. We just go back and re-tool the formula a little bit. 

Find Support Wherever You Can! 
I am always looking for new and creative ways to get her sensory needs met. One of my favorite websites is Yourkidstable.com  There is so much great information on there! Another thing that I have found that has made this process easier is support. Everyone in my family and many of our friends are all on board. They ask us questions about sensory needs, watch and even participate with exercises! Both sets of grandparents regularly do exercises with my daughter, and my husband's mother (who sews) helps us making sensory tools (like a resistance band and a sensory tube) for my daughter to enjoy. Support is key! 

Also, we have found terrific support from my daughter's school which is also a full time daycare. They have installed a sensory cubby for her with several soothing items. They noticed she liked the tight space of sitting in the cubby, so they allow her to go there whenever she is having a hard time, or even a meltdown. They are helping her to learn to soothe and trust herself when I'm not there, and that gives me a great deal of piece of mind! 

Chinese Hot Pots {My Way}

Who doesn't love a good Asian-style noodle soup? Since I first tired pho, I've been obsessed. I have rarely met an Asian soup I don't love. I make my own pho at home as well as my own ramen noodle inspired bowls. But a few weeks back I came across something on Pinterest called "Chinese Hot Pots." I had to give it a try.

When I tried to the recipe, I wasn't too impressed, the broth was too vinegary and the vegetables too underdone. So I did what any bossy pants mama would do: I made it my own! The basic concept with the hot pots is that you make a delicious broth you ladle over the raw veggies and they cook in the hot broth for a few moments. This is a great concept, but there are also some veggies I prefer boiled just a little. Maybe this makes me a hot pot blasphemer, and I'm comfortable with that.

In my version of the hot pots, I cook the baby bok choy and the mushrooms a bit in the broth, and then I add that to some raw veggies laid out in the bowl. It's the best of both worlds! I feel like this dish would be the outcome if pho and ramen had a baby. Doesn't that sound amazing?! After posting some shots to my Instagram account (by the way, you can follow me on Insta @bossy.italian.wife), I had a few requests to share the recipe. As they say, "sharing is caring!"

ALSO, it is of note that this dish can be tailored to anyone's dietary needs. It's naturally dairy free, but could also be converted to be vegetarian/vegan. And the vegetables? Merely suggestions! You can add or subtract any of the vegetables you like best. Get creative! That's what cooking is all about--an expression of creativity.

What you will ultimately end up with here is truly a beautiful bowl of soup, perfect for Spring when it's sometimes still cold and you want a warming bowl of soup, but with all the loveliness of fresh, colorful vegetables. It's basically Spring in a bowl. Mmmmmm.

Chinese Hot Pots {My Way} 

Time: 45 minutes or so | Serves 4 | Difficulty: Easy-Moderate 

You Will Need:

5 boneless skinless chicken thighs
3 heads baby bok choy
1 8-ounce package Mushrooms, sliced
Bean sprouts
1/2 Red pepper, sliced thin
1 bunch scallions, sliced
Chinese noodles (your choice) I used thin, wheat noodles that reminded me of ramen noodles.

Enough water to cover chicken in pot + more for later
Heaping tablespoon Better Than Bullion chicken base
Heaping teaspoon Better Than Bullion pork base
2 whole star anise
5 cloves garlic, minced
Palmful ground ginger
Heavy glug of soy sauce
Tablespoon (more if you like) of sesame oil

Chili garlic sauce
Hoisin sauce


Put chicken in a soup pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and poach about 20 minutes or until chicken is fully cooked. Remove chicken from water, let cool, and slice. Add more water to pot (I have a standard soup pot and I usually fill it halfway.)

Add star anise, garlic, ginger, soy, chicken and pork bullion, and sesame oil. Bring to a boil and allow to cook about 15-20 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings, if necessary. You may want a little more chicken or pork flavor, or more soy sauce, depending on your personal tastes.

Meanwhile, cook noodles and drain. Set up bowls with cooked noodles, chicken, sprouts, green onion, and bell peppers.

When broth is done, remove star anise pods. Add sliced mushrooms and bok choy to broth and allow that to boil about 5 minutes. Ladle hot broth into bowls and serve with hoisin and hot sauce!

Why I Ditched Over Half My Wardrobe

You might have noticed less of a presence from me both on my blog and on social media. Rest assured that just because you aren't seeing me doesn't mean I'm not up to something. I am. I've been up to something for several months now...a sort of inner journey. I'm not quite ready to talk about all that, but what I do want to talk about is how this inner journey has effected my outer appearance, namely, the way I dress.

The Lead Up: 

If you follow what I'm currently reading, you'll see I'm reading, "The Power of Myth" by Joseph Campbell. All thoughts about Campbell "the man" aside, I feel this book is really valuable for where I am in my life. Something that resonated deeply with me in the book is when Campbell talks about deliberately changing your style of dress when you enter a new phase of life as a means of ritual. *BADA BOOM* It was a mic drop for me. Thank you, Joseph Campbell.

You see, black in September I cut bangs again. I love my bangs. They make me feel like myself, and I can't explain why. But they do. When I read that bit about clothing, it really made me think deeply about the way my clothes make me feel, and how I can become more of myself through clothing. Back when I was pregnant, I had a smaller wardrobe because, hello, maternity stuff ain't cheap! But you know what? I loved every piece I had, getting dressed was easy, and most importantly, I felt good in everything I was wearing! My maternity clothes were literally the highlight of my pregnancy. Truth.

Since giving birth, I have sort of waffled on style. My pre-pregnancy stuff didn't really fit...I wasn't sure it was my style anymore, anyway, etc. etc. To sum it up: being a mom changes your body, your mind and your life. I was in the style desert wandering aimlessly for the last 4 years. And what I needed was a radical fashion change to help me come into the person I am now. Yes, people, we are talking fashion as a means of transcendence. 

The Problems: 

Standing in my way, first and foremost, was that I have this weird thing about me and the clothing I wear that I will share with you guys: I hate being seen in the same thing twice. I have had this strange belief that if someone sees me in the same outfit twice they will be the impression that I am poor, fashion illiterate, or just a loser. Secondly, I had to ditch all the clothing that was weighing down my closet and my life. And finally,  I was lacking a definition of my personal style. So I had to really hone in on my three fashion "key words."

The Process: 

To deal with the fear of being seen in the same outfit, what worked best for me was developing a loose uniform. This was easier than you might think because what I long to wear most every day of my life is pretty simple: a white t-shirt and jeans. Once I identified that, it was my paradigm for my uniform. And the premise is pretty simple here in developing a uniform: people are going to see me in the same thing nearly all the time, SO THERE! AND, I'm going to love what I am wearing, feel good, and look good, so I won't care.

I would also like to take a beat here to say that after giving it a lot of thought, I realized that 1) people just aren't really paying that much attention to what you are wearing and 2) that my value isn't merely decorative. While I like to look good and feel confident in what I'm wearing, it shouldn't cause me stress and getting dressed was, in fact, causing me a load of mental stress.

The next step was decluttering my life of all these clothes. In my searches on Pinterest, I came across two words that really helped me: CAPSULE WARDROBE! It's basically having a set number of pieces in your closet that you dress from on a seasonal basis. The pieces are meant to be interchangeable, high quality, and ideally, each piece should be something that you would want to wear at least once a week. I love a good template, and this worked for me.

Armed with this knowledge,  I went out, bought a bin at Dollar General, got a trash bag (or two) ready, and scrutinized every single piece of clothing in my wardrobe. I looked at each piece and thought about why it was in my closet, if it was practical to the life I live, and whether or not I actually wore it. The result: 60 pieces left hanging in my closet. I had either stored or gotten rid of more than half of wardrobe. *Cue sigh of relief.*

Finally, I looked at all the things in my closet, and after taking inventory of them,  I put a set of nine words up on sticky notes and attached them to my closet door. These words were descriptive of what I thought my ideal wardrobe looks like. After sitting with the words, I chose three I thought best fit my personal style and they were: Casual, Chic, and Bohemian. I love a simple, casual style with bohemian touches.

Where I am now: 

Now, I have a closet filled with things I absolutely love. There is room for everything I have and I am continuing to get rid of things that don't fit my lifestyle, don't get worn, or just don't look good on me. I plan on re-doing my capsule wardrobe every three months with the seasons, but still sticking to my basic uniform style as my go-to/signature look. I can dip into my "storage bin" each season, re-clean it, and take things out and in as I please. It's like shopping in my own attic!

While some fashion bloggers and experts are super strict about the number of items they keep in their capsule (like 37 items including shoes and accessories) I have been much more flexible with myself. I keep track of what I am wearing by putting a piece of washi tape on the hanger after it's been worn, so I can honestly assess if I'm making use of my clothing. When it is time to go shopping, I have a list of items I'm looking for, for example: red striped shirt, or black pants. I am not randomly finding things in stores that I am merely attracted to that can't be easily interchanged with one another.

Most importantly, I feel happier, and lighter, as a result of having less clothing and a more defined style. It takes me no time to get dressed, and I think I look better. I've been getting more compliments on my hair, too, because I am using my extra time to style my bangs or straighten my hair. It's also forced me to take a realistic assessment of my life as it is, in this moment. For instance, why did I have so many formal dresses in my closet when I probably attend 1-2 formal events (if even!) This, for me, has brought a deep sense of security to dressing for my day, and that is the best gift of all!!