Saturday, March 3, 2018

When you're the first of your friends to have a baby.....

My longtime best friend recently became pregnant with her first baby. Because we've been living on different continents for the last eight years, our relationship is fueled only with text messages and email. I share what shenanigans my boys are up to, and she's telling me about each new stage of pregnancy. In one message, she mentioned how her local friendships have shifted. She overheard her work friends planning a big girls weekend, to which she was never invited. I remember that feeling vividly. It's just the beginning of the tectonic shift in all your pre-baby friendships.

Here's how it typically* goes, when you're the first one to have a baby...
    Your friends will be so happy for you but they won't get it. They might be a little (or a lot) excited to throw you a baby shower. They may be empathetic as they hear about this horrible morning sickness that you're dealing with. And they may be overjoyed to hold that little bun right out of the oven. But they absolutely will not understand the magnitude of change your body and mind are going through for the next nine months to eternity. If you're lucky, they will hang tight and be present. 

    Some, if not most of your childless friends will bail. Having a baby is hard, whether you stay home or go back to work, you are responsible for this little human. You'll have to give up a lot of your social life. You will feel so lonely. You will feel like a stranger in a strange land. To be courteous, your friends will just stop inviting you to things so you don't always have to tell them “No, I can't.” And because kids are unpredictable, get-togethers will dwindle until finally you subconsciously change your relationship status from friends to acquaintances. But that's okay. The good ones will stay.

    You'll make new friends. You aren't alone in this freak show called motherhood. Start looking around (the park, the library, online mom support groups) You aren't the only doe-eyed new mom suffering with an identity crisis and a hefty case of alienation. You will meet others who are in the same boat. You can share struggles and offer support to each other. They get it when you cancel plans because of a pukey kid or a sleepless night. They know the value of a moms' night out. They get all of it.
    You might have to let go of the past. I'm only admitting it now (4 years later) that I had some serious grudges against my childless friends who bailed on me. It sucked. It sucked bad. I was lonely. I didn't have anyone to offer me advice. I was jealous that they had freedom to do whatever they wanted, while I became chained to this little creature that came out of my uterus. I was up at 2 am nursing a newborn while they were still out clubbing. They didn't get that I was lonely, what they got was that I was busy and responsible for a baby.

    You will be ecstatic for your pre-baby friends when they finally have a baby. It's not like you feel they have finally received their karmic consequence for the lack of presence in your time of crisis. You will be genuinely happy that they get to experience this adventure. You will offer encouragement, advice, and whatever else they need, because you know what it's like on the other side. This will transform their life in a way that only parenthood can.
    You will see how far you've come. Everyone fawns over these cute babies and how they grow and learn, but not a lot of notice is given to the mom's development. Motherhood is hard as hell, and surviving day one is a huge accomplishment. A challenge comes, then you defeat it. This is basically real life game of whack-a-mole. But I'm telling you, it's awesome. I'm not gonna regurgitate that idealistic sentiment that “you should cherish every moment” because we all know that's B.S. But, you should think forward. Make mama friends, love your babies, enjoy the good parts and survive the bad. Seriously, the bad parts almost always make for a funny story later.

Gotta go wipe a butt. Peace Out!

*As in, many of my new mom friends and I had these experiences with our childless peers.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Meeting Gabby

I've never met a famous person before. I saw Rupert Grint in an airport once on a layover to England during the height of the Harry Potter craze, within minutes he was swarmed by a mob of girls. I remember thinking back then, that must be so obnoxious.

A year later we moved to China, a year after that we had our first kid. And it was then, I got a taste of celebrity life. People were always staring, taking pictures, and touching my blond blue-eyed baby boy. It got really old, really quick. So, I guess, in the back of my head- if I ever saw a celebrity in real life, I'd want to just let them be. Except I didn't!

I was beyond thrilled when I had heard that Gabby Reece, the professional volleyball player, would be speaking at  #Blogher17.  During the keynote session, I was just tickled to be in the same room as THE Gabrielle Reece, my childhood hero.

Seeing her reminded me of my big dreams of being a professional volleyball player.

With the exception of volleyball, I don't care much for sports. I don't root for teams or players, I don't watch it on tv, or go to games. In the nineties, Micheal Jordan was everywhere. My brother's room was covered in Chicago Bulls paraphernalia. Full disclosure, I don't think his 8 year old self actually watched basketball once. But it seemed that every little boy looked up to Michael Jordan for more than his athletic ability. Michael Jordan represented persistence, hard work, and success. Where was the girl version of that?

In 4th grade, I started playing volleyball and FELL IN LOVE. Volleyball was life! How can I do this forever? Can volleyball be a job? I wondered. And then, I discovered this female athlete named Gabrielle Reece. She was beautiful and strong and SO good at volleyball. She was breaking records, pushing boundaries, and being amazing. I wanted to be just like her! In volleyball practice, while running laps, thoughts of Gabby kept me going. Gabby wouldn't complain about these laps. Gabby would keep going. So I did.

Me, dreaming big in '95

Fast forward 20 or so years later, long after I changed my career path from professional volleyball player to teacher to stay at home mom. I'm walking through the Hilton lobby in Orlando and there is FRIGGIN' GABBY REECE!!! No big deal, just casually having lunch with a crew of famous female athletes after her keynote panel discussion. About ten feet away, I stopped with my jaw dropped, looking at Gabby, questioning if this was real life. Pro surfer Jessi Miley-Dyer (also NBD, right!?) motioned for me to come over and talk to Gabby, "Come on, you should do it," she whispered across the table. Like the biggest fangirling nerd, I told Gabby I loved her before I even introduced myself. I felt like I shrunk into my ten year old self (and because she's so tall, it seemed like I was a little kid) She put out her hand, with a flattered smile she said, “Hi, I'm Gabby.” I briefly explained how I looked up to her when I was little, thanked her, and apologized for interrupting her lunch. And we hugged and took a picture!

Clearly I'm excited. Thanks for making time for me, Gabby!!!

It had been years since I thought about volleyball and Gabby. After meeting her, I kind of wanted to see what she had been up to. Go figure, on social media she is still being awesome: being a wife and mom, writing books, creating a new fitness program, hosting a podcast, all while advocating a healthy lifestyle. It's kind of EXACTLY what I need at the moment.

 In the #winningwomen keynote session Gabby said, "Be the person you can feel good about. Be loving, be strong, badass women."

Once again, like the 10 year old me, I find myself asking what would Gabby do? She would keep going! I guess she'll always be my number 1 role model. Thank you Gabby. You're still the best! 💛

Monday, July 3, 2017

#BlogHer17 Reflections

or, feeling like a human for a second.

I think it was about seven months ago when my longtime friend and fellow blogger, Bri suggested that we go to a blogging conference together. It sounded quite appealing to me, first and foremost because it was held in Orlando, an easy three hour drive for me. Early bird prices were affordable enough, and once I committed Hubs to rearranging his work schedule so he could take care of the rascals, I was in. Sure, why not?

Once I made the big purchase, I began to feel completely intimidated. I'm not a professional writer, photographer, or video editor. I don't know the ins and outs of the world wide web and HTML. This is going to be such a waste of money. I'm bush league! What the heck was I thinking?

I immediately had to change my outlook. There were three huge reasons that this was so awesome and TOTALLY worth the investment.

1. Learning. This entire thing was new to me. Speakers, sessions, networking, expos, being a professional: I learned every step of the way. The speakers inspired me to really figure out my purpose in blogging. The sessions kind of clued me in to so many elements of content creation that I hadn't considered. And the networking, oh man! Talk about a self confidence boost. How completely refreshing it is to have someone ask "What do you write about?" instead of, "How old are your kids?" It felt AMAZING to be Brittany, and not Mommy for a weekend. And I met so many amazing women that I realized after the fact that they were are a pretty big deal! The expo was fun. I had absolutely no expectations for partnering with sponsors, so I just observed and snagged freebies. I'd say the biggest lesson I learned about blogging is that I should not give up. It's hard work, but possible to be successful. And, success looks different for everyone. I have no interest in having ten million followers on social media. That freaks me out actually. I need to figure out what success of The Flip-side of Zen looks like for me.

Chelsea Clinton and Cecil Richards

2. Reunion. Bri and I go way back, maybe we weren't BFFs back in grade school, but we found ourselves together in two very intense, life changing times. First we were roommates in college. Personally, I went through my awkward junior high stage late, like in college. So there's that. And Bri was testing the waters of college romance. You really get to know someone when you live with them (Sorry Bri!). Nearly 10 years after that, we happened to both be living in Shanghai, China,where we both had our first babies, and the crazy birth stories to go with them. How great it was to start from right where we left off, not missing a beat. So now, after having an amazing weekend with one of my forever friends, and no kids to worry about..... can we please do this every year!?

Thick as thieves

3. ME time. I got to do what I wanted ALL WEEKEND LONG! I got to pee alone, I got to eat food that wasn't cold, I got to sleep in my own bed and wake up at a decent hour. I got to float down the lazy river with an overpriced beverage in hand. It was GLORIOUS! (Do you hear a choir of angels singing? Because I totally do every time I think about it.) So yeah, I definitely think this needs to be an annual thing.

No fights to break up or butts to wipe, a real vacation.

I am so glad that I stepped out of the mundane not only to do something new, but to do something new for me. I've been in such a rut with this blog (and let's be honest: life). When I used to see all these professional "mommy blogs" I'm over here like, who is watching their kids? When do they sleep?! But they've managed it somehow. And I can too. I didn't even realize it until I got that weekend to think, breathe, and only worry about myself as a human being, not a mom.

Tune in next time for an exciting blog on SELF CARE! ;)

Friday, May 5, 2017

10 ways to reuse IPSY Glam Bags for MOMS

All my friends told me that I just had to try out Ipsy, the monthly make-up subscription. (Check it out HERE) I'm not really a make-up person, but I admit, it is pretty fun. My favorite part about the whole thing is that the monthly samples come in a cute “glam bag.” I absolutely love these adorable make-up bags. But, after subscribing for almost a year now, these bags are starting to pile up. What do I do with all these bags!?

I looked online to find new uses for them and I came across so many brilliant ideas. You can use them to store jewelry, feminine hygiene products, sunglasses, the list goes on and on for ladies. But I'm here to share with you ten ways you can reuse your glam bags specifically as a mom with young kids.

1. Small Toys

 I have two boys, and said boys love filling glam bags with their plastic bug collection and tiny dinosaurs. Legos and Hot Wheels often find a home in my old makeup bags too. I would imagine glam bags would be ideal for Barbie's clothes, shoes, and accessories. The sky is the limit for this one.

2. First Aid Kit

Be prepared for scrapes, cuts, and bug bites. I include alcohol wipes, sting relief pads, antibacterial ointment, cortisone cream, band-aids, gauze pad, and a pair of latex gloves. Adding a few lollies and stickers to stop the tears will also be useful.

3. Kids' medicine

Baby medicine bottles are great because they are small and TSA approved. To best prepare for almost anything, include children's antihistamine, ibuprofen, and acetaminophen. A thermometer is also very useful to have on a trip with the kids. I can tell you, having pain relief for a teething toddler on a 13 hour plane ride was a life saver. 

4. Kid's purse

I cherished my pink purse as a little girl. I can only imagine the excitement the daughters of Ipsy subscribers have today. Some recent glam bags are styled as clutches. I've also seen crafters add purse straps on Pinterest. The glam bag is a perfect place for a little girl to keep all of her treasures.

5. Pacifiers/teethers

Keep these necessities easy to find in a big diaper bag. Bonus tip: include a package of pacifier wipes for all the times baby spits the paci onto a dirty floor.

6. Batteries

So many toys require SO MANY batteries. Keep them all in one easy-to-find place! In our house, it seems that one AAA battery always seems to disappear from the TV remote and for that, we are always prepared.

7. Boredom killer bag 

This is especially useful while waiting for food at a restaurant. Include blank paper, crayons, stickers, deck of cards, small toys that kids don't get to play with normally. (Silly Putty was a huge hit!) Drawing and talking with your little one will keep them entertained and engaged. And from personal experience, it's way easier to put down crayons than trying to take away an iPad when your food arrives.

8. Road trip goody bags

One of my fondest childhood memories was the long road trips our family would take to visit relatives. These were the days long before cars had DVD players and headrest screens. My mom always made family trips fun by including fun toys and activities for my brother and I to do on the road. Glam bags are great to fill with unique travel games, toys, candy which you can present at different legs of the journey. And of course, they're reusable.

9. Snacks/Bribes

You find yourself out with a hangry toddler that needs something this instant, pull out a granola bar. Your preschooler refuses to use the potty in Target and you have a 40 minute ride home. Bribe him with candy. Desperate times call for desperate measures, Mama!

10. Toothbrush bags

If your kids frequent sleepovers at Grandma's house, leave a glam bag with a toothbrush, floss, and travel size toothpaste for each child. Most glam bags are smaller than a regular toothbrush, but a kid's toothbrush fits perfectly.

There you have it! I hope this list helps you repurpose your own glam bag stack. If you have any other great ideas for Mom's old glam bag, let me know below in the comments!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Hi, I'm okay.

What's new with me? Well.......

I'm still treading water, and not drowning yet. Life has been busy but good. I got a new surge of motivation to work on this blog, and if you haven't noticed, there's a shiny new domain name in the address bar. Yep, is MINE!

I'm constantly reevaluating what I want this thing to be, so in the meantime we will just call it a project.

But anyway.

Tonight I'm just writing a short blurb about what's going on in my life for the handful of you who care (mom, dad, grandma S, grandma C, and Breanne).

A couple weeks ago was our one year anniversary of becoming Floridians! And, as our lease was expiring, we began looking for a house to buy. We found one, we had a contract, but upon further inspection and negotiating, we backed out of the deal. I'll save all of those details for another day, but man, what a roller coaster. Thankfully, our landlord was willing to let us stay if the deal didn't work out. In the midst of the crazy house it would seem that we both kind of forgot that dear hubs was supposed to be studying hard for his first of several exams of the Master Brewer certificate. So, we sat down, made an intensive studying schedule for the next 12 weekends, which means I'm momming hardcore these next few months.

Also, I lit a fire under my own butt to get cracking on this blog. In June, I'm going to a blogging conference with one of my dearest friends. I cannot wait!

Even though I'm going to be working overtime taking care of my wild little rascals, I am making a very conscious effort to make time for me and specifically a creative outlet. Below find my list of things I've done for myself since my last post (which was 5 months ago):

I went to see Star Wars Rogue One (December)
I went out with girlfriends for my birthday (January)
I overdid it on the Ipsy offers and now have tons of makeup I'll never wear (two weeks ago)
I read ONE WHOLE BOOK (last week...the first in a couple of years I think!)
I went to Target (always. And always a treat, am I right?)

It's not a bad list. But I'm not doing anything to keep creativity flowing or my brain sharp. And so that is what I'm vowing to myself to change!

While on a recent Target excursion, I found a really cool sketchbook titled "300 Drawing Prompts." Today I finally got a chance to sit down and do a few silly drawings. And while I did this for 30 or so minutes, Trigger and Nutsy completely trashed the house. Toys dumped all over the floor, books pulled off the bookcase, hot wheels stuck in the couch and chairs, smashed grapes in the pack n' play. I was disappointed and frustrated for sure, but they didn't die. I was there, they weren't getting into too much trouble. And we are all okay.

It's all about balance right?

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Bee Girl

This week, my "Discover Weekly" Spotify playlist included "No Rain" by Blind Melon. I kind of giggled to myself as I remembered the video of that cute little girl in the bee costume, bopping around, trying to figure out what to do and where to go. First she is on stage,  tap dancing with great confidence, only to get laughed to tears off stage. Then she goes wandering, dancing, and encountering people who just don't get her.

*Spoiler alert* In the end, she discovers a garden filled with other bees. Her people.

Finding your bees can be so hard. Especially when your previous life experiences are vastly different that everyone you seem to encounter. Middle school was hard for me. I wanted so much to fit in, and didn't... and it took a long time to find my bees. We have been out of Shanghai for over six months now, and I still feel so unrelatable. I think part of it is the transition from East to West, but an even bigger part is the switch from city to country. I'm hoping former city dwellers can attest to that.

China has made me crave spicy food always and take my shoes off indoors, among other things. City life has made me expect diversity and culture around every corner, oh, and taxis. Why aren't there taxis driving around these country roads looking for passengers!?

My Shanghai bees

This week I went to a MOPS (moms of preschoolers) group for the first time. On Sunday, I began to meet fellow churchgoers in a small group. I've also become acquainted with some moms in the area via

Maybe I haven't exactly stumbled upon a group of people dancing around in bee costumes that I can identify with at first glance. But, I've met so many moms. And we can be as different as night and day (some of us are). But you know what we have in common? Birth stories, sleepless nights, teething, potty training, and whatever is next in this wacky freak show. Motherhood will always provide instant camaraderie if you allow it. I found my new group of bees just by having kids. That was easy enough!

Saturday, July 2, 2016


Tomorrow, the rascals and I will be flying up to STL to visit my parents. As I'm making mental packing and to-do lists, I realize I have picked up a pretty interesting personality trait from living in Shanghai.
I've kind of become a doomsday prepper/ hoarder. It's not extreme enough to do a reality show about me. It's pretty subtle, but I am. When I first stepped foot in the Winn Dixie after our move to Florida, I wanted to buy 10 of everything. Danny's birthday is in 6 months, I better get a cake mix and icing. Oh no, we lost one of Benji's pacifiers that we got in America I better get 5 more just in case....Oh, wait...

From my time in Korea and research from various online sources, I knew what China would and would not have available. Some items that are not readily available: tampons and stick deodorant. There are other things, that I can't quite recall. And there are some things that probably are there, but I have no idea where to even look. To save myself the frustration of trying to find specific items, I packed them on our initial journey over. And to this day, this is the list of stuff I would recommend anyone (mostly the ladies) to take to Asia.
  • stick deodorant
  • tampons
  • over the counter meds (not that China doesn't have their own, but the last thing you want to do when you have a cold is try to figure out where to go and what to say to get some equivalent of Dayquil)
  • make-up (most women know what they like and what's the point on going on a wild goose chase if you can shove an extra mascara in your bag. And also, American brands are EXPENSIVE in Asia, more on that later...)
  • favorite spices, hot sauces, small cooking ingredients that will last (just having Tony Chachere's Creole seasoning made a world of difference on my breakfast eggs)  
  • an unlocked smartphone (I didn't bring this, and had a heck of a time with a jailbroken iPhone)
The above list was pretty much all I brought besides clothes, laptop, etc. Now, we were in China for 3 and a half years. At first, we primarily ate Chinese food: lots of rice, veggies, pork, and dumplings. As the years went on, I began to really miss American food. I came home to visit each summer and we also had several visitors. When you are allowed 2 checked bags each, you make the very most of it.

I became an expert at packing.

Our way back to Shanghai last summer. I think only one suitcase has our clothes!

Anyone who has actually lived in China (especially Shanghai) knows that you can get anything you want on Taobao, the online marketplace. In the past we've bought all kinds of stuff from pancake syrup to fake ugg boots. I have a friend who actually bought a plecostomus fish for her aquarium! For imported food and goods though, you're going to pay a lot online or in a store (2-5 times what it costs in the States). Near our home in Xujiahui was an import grocery store called City Shop (locations all over the city). It was there you could get most Western comfort foods. They have a deli, bakery, and all the American, European, Asian pantry items you could want. It was the most cost effective to hand carry these items from the States. My first trip back, I was pregnant so I had one bag loaded up with baby stuff. Then I just filled the rest with food: brownie mix, spices, cereal, coffee, baking ingredients, granola bars, Velveeta cheese, you know, stuff that I could ration until my next trip.

This stocking up mentality is just starting to go away. Yeah, I don't need 12 boxes of cereal. Put 11 of them back, Brittany!

I'm also having to adjust my thinking about our little trip up north. They have Costco and Target in Florida, Brittany. You don't need 200 granola bars. Chill out. All I need to do is enjoy regional delicacies like Imo's Pizza and keemao noodles from the Thai House. Oh, and savor all the time with my dearest family and friends, duh.

Another pretty exciting thing about tomorrow's trip: I don't have to do my standard emergency readiness prep for a 14 hour flight across the world and 12 time zones with two babies. Instead, I've got a 3ish hour direct flight with only a one hour time change. I really can't imagine anything easier.

It's so good to be in America.  Seriously, there's no place like home.