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Monday
Mar312014

Opinions are like...

In fairness, my friends had warned me. Elizabeth said she started getting dirty looks with three. Kim also told me the comments started with her third.

Everyone is supposed to have one child. People were never kinder to me than when I had Griffin. Everyone is supportive. There’s no real investment in the sex of the child since you’re starting with a clean slate. Everyone just wants the best for you and is happy you’re pregnant.  

“Congratulations!” “As long as it’s healthy that’s all that matters!”

Then, people assume you’re going to have two. The question about when you’re first child is going to get a sibling comes pretty soon after the first birthday in my experience. Now, have them too close together and you get comments about accidents. Have them too far apart and people assume you are choosing to have only one child. People who actually DO chose to have only one child get a special breed of comments all their own.

Once when I was wondering if one child would be enough, my grandmother looked me dead in the eye and said, “What if it dies?”

So, you get pregnant again and the comments then take a specifically gendered perspective. If your firstborn is a boy, everyone assumes you’re trying for a girl and prematurely bemoans your fate should God curse you with another son. If you have a daughter, everyone assumes you’re trying for a boy and start to regale with you the costs (and drama!) associated with raising girls.

“Two boys will tear your house down!” “Two weddings! YIKES!”

Now, up until this point, people are still supportive. Very few people are judgmental of anyone deciding to have two kids. (They reserve that judgment for the purposefully childless or the one-and-doners.)

However, choose to have more than two and all bets are off.

Suddenly, the looks start. Dare to take your two young children to the grocery store with your pregnant belly in tow and prepare yourself for the stares. People stare as if your well-dressed children were barefoot and dirty with pinkeye and a croupy cough. The stares are frustrating enough but the comments make me want to apply for a conceal-to-carry license.

“WHOA! Got another hidden somewhere?” “My! You’ve got your hands full!”

It is INFURIATING. Here is an important lesson for all of mankind. You have neither the right nor the obligation to comment on my reproductive choices. How many children I have or am going to have is none of your damn business (unless I am in a reality show then comment away!). Seriously, your life choices aren’t on display in the same way a young family’s is but I promise you, if they were, you would hate the comments as well.

My friend, a self-disclosed overdiscloser, once said he wants to sit down with every person he meets and dive right into their deepest life issues. He jokingly told me that he wants to ask every person he meets, “What’s the meanest thing your father ever said to you?”

Well, I’m about to ask that of the next stranger who says something about how many kids I have. The decision to have a child is deeply personal, wrought with emotional issues, and complicated beyond belief. In other words, NOT grocery store fodder people! Maybe giving back as good as I get will finally convey that message.

The truth is strangers who run their mouths are sometimes the least of my problems. What hurts the most is when it comes from people who know me. People who send me articles like this one. People who “warn” me that I don’t know what I’m getting into. People who ask me all the time if I’m going to be able to handle three kids.

Look, I have NO idea how it will be to raise three children. Anyone who has raised so much as a gerbil knows there is some knowledge that only comes from the experience itself. However, anyone who knows me should know that I am a thinker. I have spent an inordinate amount of time pondering the role of Oprah in my life so, let me assure you, I thought A LOT about the decision to have a third child.

Not to mention, there are few decisions I take more seriously than those I make regarding my children. The type of life I wanted my children to have was SO important to me that I uprooted my entire existence to move to Paducah and start over. I think about every little thing that affects their lives pretty much from the moment I wake up. Are they watching too much TV? Are they eating enough vegetables? Am I praising them too much? Do they have enough toys? Too many toys? The right kind of toys?

See, what I’m getting out here? Whatever is about to come out yo’ mouth – rest assured it is already swimming around in my head.

So, here’s a fun idea that can apply to strangers and loved ones alike.

If I look overwhelmed in the grocery store, offer to help me with my groceries!  If I am chasing Amos through a parking lot with my pregnant belly, throw a foot out and trip the little buggar. If you are worried about how I’ll handle one more child, come over and babysit the two I’ve already got! Or drop off a meal (a nice idea for ALL mothers – not just new ones)!

If a comment is all you’ve got time for, try this one on for size.

“What a beautiful family! You’re doing a great job!”

~ Sarah Stewart Holland

Friday
Mar282014

The Everyday

Friday
Mar282014

Sarah's Favorite Things

Wednesday
Mar262014

Know it. Fight it. End it.

This post was originally published on bluegrass redhead. It was important enough to me I wanted to republish it here. 

My friend Donna died this morning. I met Donna at a Halloween party. She had bright red cheeks and kept cracking jokes about hot flashes. Her vivacity and energy absolutely filled the room and I spent the rest of the evening glued to her side. 

We talked about husbands and children and travel and food. We bonded instantly over our shared passion for all things party. By the end of the evening, we were planning a zombie prom for the next year. We roped the cohost of the current party we were attending in joining our zombie prom efforts and were already discussing venues and invitation ideas as people began heading for home. 

Over the course of the next year, I got to know Donna better. We joined a book club together. She welcomed me into her home for holiday parties and baby showers and book club dinners always with barrels full of laughter and generosity. 

A year after our first meeting, a few weeks before our Zombie Prom, Donna was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. All I knew about pancreatic cancer was what I had gleaned from Randy Pausch and his last lecture.  All I knew was that it was a death sentence. I was terrified that she would be gone by Christmas. 

However, by some miracle, Donna was a candidate for a rare surgery that is a powerful tool in the fight against pancreatic cancer. She set up a Facebook Page and asked my help naming it. (I didn’t realize how incredibly accurate my suggestion of Cancer: Battle Royale would be.) She made it to Christmas. She made it to the NEXT Christmas. She went on vacation with her family. She made memories with her children. She shared some of the most powerfully vulnerable moments I have ever seen anyone share during a journey like this. She was brave. She told people when she was feeling hopeful. She told people when she was feeling hopeless. It was an absolutely incredible thing to watch.

She also had time to become a passionate advocate for pancreatic cancer research. She joined our local chapter of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PANCAN). She went to Washington, D.C. to lobby for change. She had just about everyone in Paducah wearing purple, including a famous local landmark.

I learned a lot from Donna during our short friendship but due to her advocacy this is one of the most important. 

It does not have to be like this.

I had assumed that pancreatic cancer was deadly and that treatment options were limited because that’s just how it was. Because pancreatic cancer had not affected me directly, I didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about whether the reality of pancreatic cancer could change. 

Donna taught me that it could change, it should change, it HAS to change.

All cancer used to be a death sentence. Breast cancer used to be a death sentence. However, as we’ve seen through breast cancer research and HIV/AIDS research, advocacy and awareness and research can help change all of that. You raise awareness so people know to look for symptoms. You raise money for research so we find better detection methods and more successful treatment options. You fight to make pancreatic cancer a treatable illness.

Unlike many other cancers, the survival rate for pancreatic cancer has remained substantially the same since the passage of the National Cancer Act over 40 years ago.The five-year survival rate has gone from 2 percent to 6 percent. Seventy-three percent of patients will die within the first year.

Lest you believe that pancreatic cancer is rare and will most likely not affect you think about this. While overall cancer incidence and death rates are declining, pancreatic cancer's rates are climbing and are projected to increase 55% by 2030. By 2020, pancreatic cancer is expected to become the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States.

This has to change.

Because of the pancreas's location and the lack of good detection methods, early detection is rare.  Treatment options are extremely limited with only 15% of those diagnosed candidates for surgery - the best treatment option. 

This has to change. 

Only approximately 2 percent of the National Cancer Institute’s (NCI) budget is allocated to this leading killer. Worldwide pancreatic cancer research receives less than one percent of all private and government funding for cancer research.

This has to change.

We cannot leave it solely to the families of those left behind to advocate for change. They have a heavy burden and the challenge is huge. The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network is leading this fight and we can all help.

Become an advocate by sending messages to your Congressional representatives.

Participate in Pancreatic Cancer Advocacy Day on June 16th and 17th. 

Donate to fund the fight. 

And spread the word! 

PANCAN’s slogan is Know it. Fight it. End it. So, the least we can all do is know that the reality of pancreatic cancer is not set in stone and change is possible. The fight is worth it.

Donna taught me that.

Monday
Mar242014

Notes from the Sleep-Deprived Trenches

It’s Sunday, and I could use another weekend — starting now. Two days simply aren’t enough to recuperate when you haven’t had complete sleep in four-plus months. I didn’t mind the baby’s nightwakings — and my insomnia — until I returned to work this week.

By the time 3 pm rolls around, it feels like I’ve had a lobotomy. This makes it challenging to compose an intelligent sentence, let alone an entire blog post examining the underbelly of motherhood. The only things under my belly are fading stretch marks. But I hear that Bio Oil works wonders.

See? That’s where my mind immediately went — a bad joke. Apparently failure to get shuteye means failure to be funny.

Speaking of comedians, my toddler thinks he’s one. Honestly, it’s often hard to stifle my laughter. But in an earnest effort to be a parent and a respected authority figure, I try to. Really. Which is challenging considering every other word that leaves his mouth is poop. And pee. And poop and pee. How does he know I love potty humor?

Seriously, check this kid out. He graduated to a bigger room, so his baby brother could occupy the cozy one. His new space is closer to the kitchen and further away from the TV room. On late Saturday night, I popped into the kitchen and nearly had a heart attack at the sight of a figure looming in the darkness. It couldn’t be the Little Dude because he was sleeping.

I flipped on the light and saw him cleaning his cheeks with baby wipes. Odd? Yes. He said he had to wash his face before he could sleep even though he had taken a bath three hours early. Hmm… I noticed he was chewing on something, only to have him produce a Milky Way wrapper that he conveniently stashed (in his mouth!) to hide his late-night love affair with the candy. When I asked why he was sneaking candy, he replied, “My brain [pause] and every bone in my body told me to do it.”

Turns out he had eaten the treat by his nightlight but wanted to erase the evidence before the morning. Tough luck, kid. We parents find out everything. Everything. And we sneak chocolate, too, when you’re not looking.

Then there’s Little Dude 2. He hasn’t gotten the memo that mom’s back to work (or maybe he has) and continues to wake up all. night. long. He’s on a hunger strike during the day and making up for it when we’re in bed. That’s why he can’t handle Mondays. Or hates me taking photos before he’s had time to put on presentable clothes. He knows that pajamas are a big faux pas.

Oh, and have you heard that white noise machines are now considered bad? How can I drown out the morning noise when I want to sleep in until 730? These doctors clearly aren’t parents.

You’ll know that I’m truly exhausted when I tell you that we “enjoyed” a family outing to Ikea on a Sunday afternoon. Surprisingly, it was painless. We ate $1 frozen yogurt cones. And we didn’t come home with anything we had to build. I call that a sweet victory.

~ The Other Sarah