Life is full of firsts….

Josh's RainbowFirsts are so much fun when you have a baby. First smile, first time rolling over, first belly laugh, first steps, first day of pre-school.

We keep records of these. They go down in our pediatricians files to make sure kids are on the right track. Now with social media, we share them with friends and family, far and wide. Sometimes, we even prepare, searching Pinterest for creative signs for kids to hold- think first lost tooth, first day of 3rd grade- so cute!

Sometimes, firsts are not so great. On July 7, 2014 my very dear friend, Melissa Kaye, lost her 8 year old son, Josh, after a 13 day fight against E-Coli. Since then, she has experienced a whole new series of firsts. Heart-wrenching, can’t breathe firsts. He died in July, his birthday was in August, his first day of fourth grade would have been in September, first Halloween without Josh in October, first Thanksgiving in November, and the upcoming holiday season. Every day without him is an unimaginable first.

Our children were friends and went to the same school, where they arranged for a grief counselor come and speak. She was wonderful. She spoke about the different ways our children may grieve, and what we should look for and how to react. It helped.

Something the grief counselor said that night stuck with me. She mentioned that a lot of parents lose friends after losing a child. Their friends are usually parents who have children the same age as the child who died. The parents of the living child often have survivor’s guilt and that is beyond uncomfortable. But to lose your friends in addition to your child is just not right.

I can see why this happens. It is definitely easier to avoid situations that make you feel uncomfortable than to face them. This is a first for me. To witness my close friend’s loss, the loss of a child I knew well, but I have faced those feelings head on with my friend, her husband and her daughters. I am there for them regardless of how heart-wrenching life can be for them with all of these new firsts.

The first few months after Josh passed, I felt as though I didn’t deserve to be happy. Why should I get to enjoy my children when this wonderful, loving family cannot enjoy their son? Everything I did, I felt guilty about. It is such a desperately low, dark, and painful place to be. The loss of a child is just unthinkable- unacceptable. But time goes on and the days keep on coming even if you aren’t ready for them. I wanted to rewind time. These raw, emotional days happened over the summer, when I was surrounded by my own four children all of the time. I have never been as grateful for them as I was this past summer. I felt as if I was living in slow motion and really started to see life as it should be. I spent the extra time reading bed time stories. I paid attention to sunsets and rainbows, and really listened. I allowed myself to cry in front of my children and accepted hugs.

I don’t ever want to experience anything like this again. However, I have been shown just how beautiful life can be, even in the midst of the ugliest thing I have ever experienced. I cherish each and every moment I get with my children, even if I am yelling at them (which still happens more frequently than I care to admit). I take stock of all the good in my life a few times per day now. I count my blessings and the Kaye family is one of them. I am a changed woman, for the better. Josh’s death is still unthinkable for me; I don’t understand it. I do understand that the small bullshit things that used to bother me just don’t matter anymore. It may sound cliche to tell you to try and be more present with your life and give hugs when you can, but I have to say it anyway.

I’m Sad to See Another Child Poisoned by Laundry Pods!

Brightly Colored Tide Pod
Below is a post I wrote in September of last year. I was horrified to see a similar story in my Facebook feed today. It sounds like the mom of sweet, little Cate was generally very careful with the pods, but it only took one moment, one time. I wish I could reach every family to fill them in on the safer options available! Toxic chemicals just don’t belong in our homes.

Courtesy of Jill Koziol 8 month old Cate in the ICU

Courtesy of Jill Koziol
8 month old Cate in the ICU

My original post from September, 2013, with safe suggestions:

As I was going through my email this afternoon, I saw an email from a mom asking people to sign a petition to make Tide laundry pods look less like candy so more kids aren’t poisoned like her son was.

Read the story and petition here

I felt instantly torn- so sad for her that they had to go through that and so irritated that companies don’t think these things through, or make changes when almost 6000 children have already been similarly sick from accidental ingestion. BUT, what made me pause is that the author of the petition (and mom to that little boy) was fully aware and did not seem to mind that there are dangerous chemicals in the laundry soap. I do not mean to imply that this was her fault- accidents happen even to the most careful parent, but WHY are people so OK with using chemicals to CLEAN their clothes? Why are so many parents so complacent to use chemicals that we KNOW are dangerous to our health? This is the bigger issue for me. So, I hope this mom gets the attention of Proctor and Gamble, but I’d like to see it taken one step further- get rid of the nasty chemicals and the toxic dyes so that there is no risk of poisoning another child, or the environment!

Bi-O-Kleen makes a safe laundry soap, but my favorite is Eco-Me. I love their natural fragrances and they offer fragrance-free as well.

The Orange Rhino’s Book is OUT!

A frequent guest and contributor to our radio show, Sheila McCraith has stepped out from behind her secret identity as The Orange Rhino to share her fabulous book, Yell Less, Love More. Sheila is an everyday mom who is just trying to do her best, like all of us. When she was stunned by an aha moment, she decided to share it with the world via her blog. Now, she shares more- and it’s AWESOME!

Order now:

Sheila is hosting a book club and it starts today!  Check it out!

Yell Less, LOVE More

Yell Less, Love More! The Orange Rhino’s Book is Ready to Order!

A frequent guest and contributor to our radio show, Sheila McCraith has finally stepped out from behind her secret identity as The Orange Rhino to share her fabulous book, Yell Less, Love More. Sheila is an everyday mom who is just trying to do her best, like all of us. When she was stunned by an aha moment, she decided to share it with the world via her blog. Now, she shares more- and it’s awesome! Pre-order today for Nov 1 delivery!

I’m Jealous of Your Noisy, Messy Days

There are a lot of moms and dads on Facebook, posting updates that chronicle their parental struggles- kids misbehaving, making too much noise or mess, fighting with siblings, refusing to get ready for school.

My house is relatively quiet. There are no noisy arguments or fighting between siblings. On school mornings, I don’t feel like I’m pulled in 5 directions. I don’t have to nag at everyone to get ready. And if I forgot to take the bento container out of A’s lunchbox last night, no stress- I have an extra in the cabinet.

Our bedtime routine goes smoothly-no chasing kids in different directions or playing musical beds to settle kids down. My husband and I have plenty of time to watch a show or read a book before bed.

Right now, you might be jealous, or think I’m a braggy mom- but really I’M jealous.

I miss the sound of sibling arguments. I would give anything for a night of being driven crazy, returning my son to his bed every ten minutes, not getting to watch that show my husband DVR’d to watch with me.

Struggling to get the kids ready, juggling schedules and different moods, 3 different meals for dinner, doctor’s appointments, dirty socks left strewn around the house, 10 thousand questions and 20 thousand strong opinions every single day.

I miss being nagged for screen time and begged to check out his Minecraft world. Reading “just one more chapter” before bed. And I hate that there is an extra of everything, because my son isn’t here to put those things to use.

When your children are healthy, and you can assume they will be driving you crazy for the rest of your life, it is normal to be frustrated and irritated by the things that we, as parents, find challenging.

I urge you, though- take a step back every now and then and think about how much you will miss those moments when your child is grown, or what you might have had more patience for if you looked back from my perspective.

Enjoy the moments with your children. Try not to take things too seriously. Remember that things can change in an instant. Love really is what is important in life. Surround yourself and your family with love.


Our sweet, crazy boy

Our sweet, crazy boy

*Read more about Joshua’s life & legacy and how we’re working through life without him here

Nobody likes B.O., right?

Since my children were a thought in my head I have been grappling with how to be the healthiest I can be and how to get rid of all the chemicals I ingest or use like as in shampoo, soap, lotion, makeup, cleaning products, over-processed food, etc…. My biggest struggle has been deodorant. I don’t want to stink and I don’t want my children to be the “smelly kid” in school. It is bad enough that my oldest (12) is the only one at his lunch table that uses a re-usable bag for his sandwich and re-usable water container, thank goodness he doesn’t care all that much…..

I have experimented with deodorants over the years…. I grew up with Secret, and boy oh boy do I love Secret. There are so many scents to choose from and I don’t ever smell bad when I wear it. But I remember becoming concerned when I accidentally purchased their “clear” line and it just didn’t wash off. I felt like I had a thick layer of rubbery plastic under my pits…. for days…. I hated it and stopped using it. But it got me thinking about exactly what am I putting on my freshly shaved, open pores, right next to my breast tissue and directly on my arm pit….

I am not a scientific person at all and usually don’t retain the large words that I can’t pronounce of the ingredients of products I use (unfortunately). Aluminum is the key word that I do remember,look for and avoid. I also recall reading an article about women in America having a much higher rate of breast cancer than women of other countries. It had been linked to the fact that women in America shave their armpits and then put chemicals directly on that freshly shaved skin that cause cancer. Makes sense to me. Also scared the crap out of me and thus began my search for deodorant that would help me not smell like an Italian sub (love Italian subs, just not the smell btw) and not put large quantities of chemicals in my body. So I have been on a mission on and off for a number of years and I think I have finally figured out the answer….

I have tried every single all natural and chemical name brand deodorant out there. Nothing works like antiperspirant with chemicals. I can work out and sweat all day long and still smell like fresh flowers…. Some of the all natural products actually make me smell worse before I even sweat!! This past week I was determined to find a winning all natural deodorant and I think I did. I put the chemical antiperspirant under one pit and the all natural under the other every day this week…. I varied the all naturals based on what I thought did a good job keeping me smelling clean :-). By the end of the week, I just wore my new favorite winning all natural deodorant all by itself and really worked my butt off at taekwondo on Wednesday night and then worked out on Thursday morning WITHOUT showering and you know what??? I didn’t stink…. I even made my husband sniff me… Yeah whatever, he doesn’t mind 🙂

The winning deodorant is… drum roll please…. Crystal, I have two; one is Crystal Body Deodorant Spray and the other is Crystal Essence Mineral Body Spray. They are basically water and mineral salts and they really, truly work. I prefer the Pomegranate scent but my son and husband prefer the plain…

Jenn's deodorant :-)

For the record, I am not being paid to speak about this, nor have I been sent a sample (feel free to send me samples btw :-)), this is just my opinion on something that has been bugging me for years. I love solving problems and I think I have solved this one, for me by the way… Upon further investigation this deodorant has two ingredients, one is purified water and the other is natural mineral salts (Potassium Alum). Alum? Isn’t that short for the word I am trying to avoid??? Argh!! I have read some more about this and the belief is that Potassium Alum is a much larger molecule and not very absorbable through the skin which is different from Aluminum Chlorohydrate which is a common ingredient in chemical deodorants. From what I have read, this is the winning deodorant for me.

On to finding the right chemical free shampoo, suggestions please!!!

Here is the link to my new favorite deodorant….