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Mothers; the world’s truest heroes

April was a rough month in our house. My family started on house renovations, which BTW should automatically come with an on-site marriage counselor. Our dog spent several days on his death-bed only to make a full recovery.  Sheesh, that was close! Poor old guy nearly got the needle, in fact I’ll bet he sensed it and that’s why he made a complete turnaround. April is also the month my middle guy celebrated his 7th birthday just 2 days after doctors confirmed his celiac disease. Cake shopping was bitter-sweet and let’s just say nobody was running to the snack spread at his party. By the end of the month it felt like I had run a marathon and was crawling to the finish line, hoping for a brighter May.

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Boy was I wrong. It turns out that my son’s celiac is more than just an inconvenient dietary disease. Apparently it’s wreaking havoc on his immune system.  The same virus that had been jumping from kid to kid in April, had my guy laid out from school for the first 9 days in May. He was put on four different medications and suffered through 10 straight days of high fever. The most frustrating part of all this (besides my gnarly feet from having to cancel my pedicure) is that despite the body aches, headaches and pneumonia hack, his stomach pains remained the biggest complaint and there was absolutely nothing I could do to help him with that.

Us Moms, we want to make it all better, but sometimes better is just beyond our grasp. But still, we keep reaching, we keep trying to ease their pain; take away their suffering. We google, we webmd, and we pinterest.  We try to find home remedies, natural remedies, we pray and some of us even use raw eggs to help suck the sickness out. We research probiotics, prebiotics and become experts on apple cider vinegar and all 8-thousand of its healing qualities. We humidify, we suck their boogers out through rubber straws and we invent essential oil combinations that would impress even Marie Curie. The one thing, the only thing we don’t do and won’t do for our sick children is give up.

There’s little else I can do to help my son’s suffering, to stop his weight loss or to heal the damage that the disease has caused to his insides. Trust me, I know about the bone broths, the supplements, accupuncture and all POSSIBLE food allergens have been eliminated. I’m sure things are improving on the inside, just not as fast as I’d like them to. Still, I won’t stop trying to help him. I won’t stop advocating for him and I won’t stop researching for him. I’ll continue to ask every pharmacist, every waiter, every school staff member; “Is this gluten-free?” I’ll pretend not to notice the purple bags under his eyes, and I’ll try to tighten the elastic on his jeans without him noticing. I’ll continue to rub the oils on his belly, I’ll keep reading labels 3 times over and I’ll only cry when he sleeps.

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I know my son’s illness pales in comparison to what other children are living or dying with. Just thinking about what those mothers must be going through makes that painful lump in my throat set into position; ready to contain all emotional buildup.  Those mothers are the true Superheroes of the world; showing true grace under the absolute worst of circumstances. Waging wars with impossible diseases; fighting daily battles with their own emotions. They are the Batmen of the world. The rest of us? Well we are all the Robbins. So whether you are soothing your teething baby, kissing a bandaged boo-boo, waiting and worrying at urgent care or pacing a hospital hallway, just know that you are a hero. You are everything your child needs and wants because you’re “Mom”. And if being a mom has taught me one thing, it’s that I can do absolutely anything… except give up. Happy Mother’s Day.

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Surviving Youth Sports 

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Spring is officially here and that means so are spring sports! With three active kids, sports’ season gets pretty rowdy in my house. We aren’t one of those families whose kids are in all sports all year round. I just don’t have the patience or stamina for all that. I make sure my kids have a season or two off to just play outside, swim, fight, be BORED! I’m kinda old school like that. However, when sports’ season does roll around, the madness in our house is on like donkey kong!! With two sports players and one toddler to wrangle all hell tends to break loose making me want to ditch practice to stay home and drink my weight in wine.

So to avoid the breakdown I’ve put a checklist in place that’s sure to guarantee a winning season!l for everyone! First tip is to start dinner early on practice and game nights. If you work from home, make it that afternoon heck, that morning if you can. If you work, crockpot that $hit! I mean it. You got buns, a pork shoulder and a bottle of barbecue sauce? BAM Pulled pork sandwiches and toss together a salad. Chicken breasts/thighs, a jar of salsa, dried cumin? The possibilities are endless with that. Tacos, salad, taco-salad. You catch my drift. Point being, get your dinner plan on the front burner! Feed the kids before and then feed-em again after if you have to. If not you’ll potentially have hungry little athletes complaining about how hungry they are right as you’re frantically looking for their damn shin guards… or worse, you have starving kids afterwards, complaining of tummy aches and headaches. Either way, we all know what that leads to… the Chick-fil-a Drive thru. Now I love me some chick-fil-a but I also like to breath in my jeans; and who wants to order a salad when those delicious chicken sandwiches and waffle fries are calling your name OH and that sauce?!? Yeah, I just. Can’t.

Dirty Rice recipe from justapinch.com

Next, uniforms. You gotta have those ready, and by ready I don’t mean they’ve been broken in with last week’s sweat and odor because you had to dig them out from the bottom of the laundry pile. Make your kids strip down in the laundry room IMMEDIATELY after their game if it’ll help. Throw those bad boys in the wash that night and consistently leave them in the same spot. As far as equipment goes; That’s the kids’ job. My boys asked for baseball bags and I’ll be damned if I’m gonna hunt down their gloves and cleats. “That’s what the bag is for!” Amazon has these inexpensive baseball bags, invest in one and encourage responsibility. I mean isn’t that part of why we encourage our kids to be in team sports? I even have them fill their own water bottles. This reminds them that they’re there…for you know…DRINKING!

Last, the toddler list. If you have to drag a toddler around to big brother or big sisters games, you know timing is everything. So since I can’t control time, I try to control everything else. Hungry? Got it! Tired? No problem! Potty? Yep, I even got that! Now, I’m not in the business of loading up on cute snacks and bento, dento snack-em-adobo-dat, boxes – That’s just not my style, but I will chop an apple, and grab a bag of pretzels a couple of toys a drink and toss it all in my “pre-packed” bag which is this giant thirty-one bag. (Don’t want to splurge? Get an IKEA bag!) So, have a seat. Let me tell you about this bad boy! It is huge, versatile and always packed and ready to go. (Even comes complete with goldfish wrappers and soggy lollipop sticks.) I just load-er up with fresh snacks and 2 toys MAX and we are good to go for any practice, any game, any occasion any day! So what’s in this giant pre-packed bag of fun?!? I won’t fill time and space with unnecessary words, but here are some pictures and a list. Hope you get some takeaways from this to make your youth-sports season more manageable and enjoyable. And when you get home from being the bad mammajamma that you are, you can celebrate with a big glass of V-I-C-T-O-R-WINE! Cheers!

  • Portable potty
  • Pet poop bags (for portable potty)
  • Sunscreen
  •  Small tent
  • Bubbles
  • Soccer Ball
  • Crayons
  • Coloring/Activity books
  • SNACKS and WATER
  • baseball cap/sunglasses

Spring Cleaning My Life

My 3 step process that may or may not work…

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Spring is in the air! And with springtime looming there are certain changes that you’re either undergoing or preparing yourself to undergo. I’m not just talking about the wardrobe changes, like putting the riding boots back in the box and placing those beloved flip-flops front and center of your shoe lineup. No, I’m talking about something much bigger. When the seasons change so do our souls. It’s even reflected in my Catholic faith, starting with Lent. We give something up or promise to start something new and after 40 days we emerge better and stronger. The question is; what do you do with your sudden appetite for change, renewal and organization? Where exactly should you start?

I have a laundry list of changes I want to make but I narrowed my list down to three and decided to start with the low hanging fruit – organizing My home. The mission was to de clutter  and simplify. It’s not like hoarders or anything but if I find one more expired scholastic book order form stuffed in a drawer because I swore I’d get to it later, I’m going to scream. I have everything from fundraising forms to old medical documents to children’s art that’s not quite fridge-worthy but too sweet to throw away. Well, springtime Mom had no problem recycling that s$!@t. All of the important documents were filed away in a fancy accordion folder I bought years ago but never used; as for the million school reminders and permission slips, here’s what I did. Have you ever heard of the app Trello? It’s like an electronic pin board for all your crap with the added benefit of putting the pins on a calendar, and opening a dialogue with any persons who might also have interest in the pin. It sounds confusing but it’s pretty genius. Next on the chopping block – my closet.

Now I read the cliff notes version of Marie Kondo’s book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and it’s helpful but boy is it time consuming. I don’t know what’s more bizarre… thanking my strapless bcbg peplum top for helping me snag my husband… the fact that I still own a 10 year old strapless peplum top… or admitting that this ritual actually works for me? Hmmm, probably the second one. If you haven’t read this book, do yourself a favor and put it on your Amazon book list! Like I said, it took all weekend but when it was done, I actually felt lighter and refreshed. My only regret is realizing now that my kids have no clothes that properly fit them. I’m also not sure whether I should be embarrassed or proud that I’ve seriously extended the life of 24-month sized leggings by allowing my 3 year old to call them capris?

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Now, I don’t know about you but for me, motivation can come and go as fast as a toddler’s nap time – so while I’m on a roll, I’m gonna start my third and most challenging springtime reboot. My physical change will be initiated by a 3 day liquid fast. I’m thrifty so no, I won’t be buying a fancy cleanse kit. Trust me I have plenty of left-over meal replacement shakes from failed diets. This will definitely be the hardest change but I’ll tell you writing about it and publishing it here is like having the ultimate accountability partner. I’m hoping to draw the strength and willpower (God knows I’ll need) to complete the fast, from my faith. It won’t be easy but one thing I’ve learned from personal experience is that the greater the challenge, the greater the reward. So as I drink my first meal, I’d like to hold my shaker-mug up and share a toast to spring, to new beginnings and pain-in-the-butt changes that make us stronger.

Cause aaall of me loves aaall things gluten

I used to roll my eyes walking down the gluten-free aisle at the stupid-expensive grocery store that only the Lululemon wearing ladies shop at – that is until my child, my baby, was diagnosed with Celiac disease.

img_1658I call him my baby because he has an angelic quality to him. Ever since he was an actual baby he’s had the chubby cheeks and tummy of a cherub angel, but he’s 6 years old now and he was at the time of his diagnosis. So for six whole years I shrugged off his bloated belly as an adorable feature that I was in no hurry for him to outgrow, all the while he was suffering. I know Celiac disease is completely manageable by following a gluten-free diet, and God knows how blessed I KNOW I am to have otherwise healthy children but man, this shit is hard! We’re only two months into diagnosis and tensions are high in my home!

First of all, the transition from gluttonous to gluten-free eating is not going so well. (Yes I know the two words are unrelated.) I suppose any logical person would say just throw all things gluten away, or donate them but I’m not logical, I’m emotional and thrifty! I just can’t bring myself to throw away a perfectly good Costco-sized box of Kodiak pancake and waffle mix. I mean not only is the stuff delicious, it’s good for us… well, all but one of us. On the other hand I can’t let my other two kids down a dozen donuts for breakfast while he watches. But is it really fair to deprive my other kids of donuts, waffles, cake and hot dogs? In my house those are pretty rare as it is. They usually mark a special occasion; birthdays are for Donuts-with-Dad, pool days beg for hot dogs and burgers and everybody knows something wonderful is being celebrated when someone brings a cake!img_0325

My husband, bless his heart I see it in his eyes, the question whether this is really a legitimate disease and if it’s really “necessary to make him live in a gluten-free bubble?” He did actually ask that. And yes, It is necessary! He went through the same thing when my oldest was being evaluated for dyslexia. I know he’ll come around, I just pray it’s sooner than later.

It’s cliche to say hindsight is 20/20, but it’s such a fitting statement right now. Looking back I can see all the ways that the disease was taking pieces of my little boy away from me, from his siblings, friends, and even from himself. Since cutting gluten out of his diet he doesn’t rush home to jump in bed for a rest anymore. He joins his brother outside to play. He not only cleans the food right off his plate but he’s asking for seconds now! He’s actually both physically AND mentally quicker and most notably; he doesn’t complain about headaches once a day and cry at bedtime because his tummy hurts. I’m ashamed to say I actually started to think his complaints were excuses to prolong the bedtime routine, or habitual phrases he used to just to have something to say.

I know the changes will get easier and soon this will all feel normal for my son and for the rest of my family. There are so many websites dedicated to gluten-free shopping and cooking and if any of you have favorites, please share! Like many of you, writing is a sort of therapy for me but sharing personal topics like this is the reason I chose to blog what I write. Some conditions still carry with them a stigma, unfortunately most autoimmune diseases, like Celiac disease, are at the top of that list. I’m not exactly sure why, maybe it’s because people think they’re lifestyle diseases caused by poor diet and lack of exercise. The truth is that the research and research funds for autoimmune diseases are so minimal that very little is known about what causes them and what secondary diseases are caused by leaving them untreated. I’m no medical professional but if you recognize any of the symptoms I mentioned in yourself or your child, you might consider requesting a blood test. For more information on Celiac disease click on the highlighted link.

Breakfast, baseball and mediocre advice

Why telling our kids, “just try your best” may not be enough.

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The other morning during breakfast I overheard a conversation between my boys that stopped me mid coffee sip, which is pretty hard to do. My 6 year old said, “I’ll probably be the worst player on my baseball team.” Before I could respond my 8 year old says, “I’ll probably be the best player on my team.” I don’t remember exactly what happened next, probably a big gulp of coffee because…priorities. Then I explained to them that every team, every good team has more than one “best”-while one player might be the best catcher, another might run faster and someone else , the best batter. (By the way, this is little league and more importantly, Mommy speak, technical positions don’t apply here.)  I promised my younger son that with practice he’d find his strength, or his best and he’d use it to make his team better. He’s six so he was over it before I even opened my mouth.

But the conversation really stuck with me. It got me thinking about my own life and how I’m using my best qualities or gifts to make my “team” better? After all isn’t that why we all have a unique combination of talents and gifts – to use them to fill in the gaps of our social circles, our families, our careers? The answer is I’m not, at least not actively. Frankly, I feel like most days I’m going through life on auto-pilot. (Right now I’m imagining my boys faces had I told them to show up to baseball practice, do the bare minimum and *POOF, they’d be the best on the team. I don’t know why this is funny to me.) Sorry, squirrel moment.

So in the spirit of leading by example, I’m gonna commit to actively sharing the best of myself. Corporate America may not have a paying job for my talents but I like to think that my “team” has a need for them. My type-A husband needs more of my fun-loving, free-spirit than I’m offering these days. My younger son, who was very recently diagnosed with Celiac disease, needs my craftiness and creativity right now more than ever. (I mean!! Have you ever tasted gluten-free bread?) Growing up in a family of very passionate Latino women, I’ve always prided myself in my restraint and patience and my dyslexic son deserves all the patience God knows I don’t always give him. And at the end of the day, giving all of my best, being my best will not only improve my “team” but it will bring me back to my center. And because I appreciate a story that comes full circle, I’ll tell you that at the end of the week, we showed up to baseball practice and my little guy did great. He walked away feeling good about himself and his team and before we got to our car, an older boy, the coaches son said to me, “Is that your son? He’s fast! Maybe the fastest one on the team.”