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The Magical Year of 4…

I smiled when I came home last night at the sight of my 4-year-old, sleeping soundly with a slight snore going on. (Why is it that 4-year-olds snoring is cute whilst a 40-year-old snoring makes us want to haul off and kick a wall? Or is this just me? Oops!) He had his Spiderman sunglasses on, something he has recently taken to wearing to bed. We aren’t sure why as this is the one kid that actually will put HIMSELF to bed. Perhaps it’s of comfort to him or a phase but we know that sometimes kids just do these things!

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Liam was our “easier baby”…if I had him as my first, there may be a slew of kids running around our house right now instead of just 2. I was prepared for my first to arrive as much as a new mom could be and expected the typical baby activities and lack of sleep for myself and no longer putting my needs first. What I was not prepared for was the colic up through age 6 months and not sleeping (uninterrupted) more than 2 hours in a row until December 1st when he was 6 months old and finally slept 6 hours straight. Hallelujah! I recall dancing in the hallway (VERY quietly) with my husband Juan and sharing that perhaps, we may be at a turning point. I honestly felt downright crazy by that point. I was back at work full-time, working 60 hours a week and commuting an hour each way. A blur. Heck, I didn’t recall driving my actual commute at times!!

Many(even fellow moms) told me he is “just being a baby” and so I didn’t think it was abnormal. To complain would be accepting defeat that I wasn’t cut out to be a mom. To complain was often met with the well-intended, “yes, me too” but now it’s “not me” instead of an embracing word or two of encouragement. My pregnancy wasn’t normal so this part well, it HAD to be normal, right? But it wasn’t. Interrupted sleep? Yes. The routine of sleep, feed, change the diaper? Yes. Sure enough, I soon had friends experience my new baby who could not be put down for a second, screaming and crying at any motion other than a car ride or resting on my husband’s shoulder. But still, these types of newborns come into the world and I am not the only one. Of course, I certainly know more now than I did back then.

That baby is now 8 years old, still loves the comfort of being right next to someone versus being alone and it makes me chuckle to look back and realize how I can associate his personality now, to his personality as a baby. He’s adventurous like his mom, loves all things sports related just like his dad and will devour a book just like both his parents.  He loves to travel, sweet and sensitive to others feelings and a straight-A student(that doesn’t come from me!) He loves his brother, watches out for him and counts the minutes until he hops off the bus. I have secretly videotaped the two of them together to playback someday at their weddings. The scene is Liam watching over his big brother Caellum’s shoulder while they pour over a book….I couldn’t imagine one without the other.

From the early days following Liam’s birth, it was clear Caellum loved his brother and couldn’t wait to show him the ropes. Of course, at first, there was only so much that Liam might understand.  But it’s Caellum that has become so much a part of helping his brother deal with his frustrations. It’s like life reciprocated itself.

When I look at my 4-year-old, I see the ease of his early years and how he is deciding to handle the world now. When Liam turned 3, I noticed something was not quite right. Intuitively, I thought perhaps I was comparing my children unfairly but my gut was telling me otherwise. He seemed to be having tantrums more than perhaps a typical 3-year old would have and, more extreme. But he was still so brilliant, well spoken, and loving all at the same time. I dreaded preschool dropoff because if something upset him, we may not have been able to make the transition. I equally dreaded pickup, wondering if it had been a good day or a bad one and how many times he might have been walked out of the classroom to take his deep breaths. Would I show up to the playground to see Liam singing along with the others at the end of the day or would he be off in his own world? We all know too well, how kids can be bullied and I was already anxiety-ridden that his uniqueness would cause him to be ostracized. But then I realized. I realized it was Liam who was magical.

It is now interesting, after having gone through this process with my son to see other children even older than he is, struggling and I can see how these struggles now, may increase. I am thankful that his teacher had the professionalism and courage to talk to me about what ended up being one of the best conversations I could have had, for my son.

Thankfully, with the help of an amazing preschool teacher who wasn’t afraid to ask me if maybe, just maybe Liam needed a little extra help, we sought it out. As a parent who has been through it, we have two choices. We can either get angry at professionals or turn a blind eye or seek out help and advocate for our children. It’s my duty as his mom to reach down and enclose him with all my love and support, no matter how hard it is to hear as a mom. It is not defeat. It is the beauty of finding out so early on in life how awesome your kids potential is and begin to guide them towards how to live and use their skills to reach their highest potential.

Was it hard to hear that he needed some extra help? Are the stares that I feel when I have to pull him aside and the wandering eyes of others burning in my back hard to shove off? When people don’t know what to say because they just don’t know? The comments that he seems to be handful or questions about why he is “overreacting” hard? Sure. But you don’t know, truly know, how it can become a blessing to start to understand and have insight into how your child’s brain works at such a young age. My son’s disabilities haven’t become a burden or a roadblock but rather a journey to find out exactly how he is going to be one super magical human being.

Skincare Tips

Keep your skin in the game this Fall!

Check out my Fall skincare tips and keep your skin glowing all season long!

🌸Reassess your facial cleanser. Check to make sure it is not stripping your skin of necessary hydration. Even oily skin craves hydration which is different than moisture. Check out (for the body) Active Hydration Body Replenish and, (for the face) Rodan + Fields Active Hydration Serum!

☀️ Just because the heat of the summer is gone don’t put down that sunscreen. Your daily moisturizer should contain a minimum of SPF 30.
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🌘Nighttime is the time to capitalize on your body’s resting period. Conquer aging with the right products for your skin containing peptides and retinol or try Rodan + Fields Retinal. Let your products go to work for you!

👣Don’t forget your feet! Our feet deserve some TLC! An exfoliating scrub + moisturizer will keep them soft and smooth. Active Hydration Body Replenish is also great for this as well!

👄 Pay attention to those lips! A bit of exfoliation and a lip balm with sunscreen will keep those lips fresh and soft.

Looking for lightweight, non-foundation but with the perfect coverage? Radiant Defense is being loved on by all my clients! Check out my own results and let me know what you think!

💄 I am a lip gloss queen! I recently found a line that includes hydration and it’s my favorite! There are many on the market but I use Neutrogena👀 For the ladies…Since lips gloss and mascara are the only two cosmetics I typically wear, I make sure I switch them over often. Bacteria thrives in the environments in those little tubes so treat yourself to fresh products!

Not sure what’s best for your skin? Take our solution tool and we can identify your skincare routine and then contact me to place your order and get on your way to your best skin yet!

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We are…. an American Girl….

My mood today is swinging like one of those twisted amusement park rides. This morning so many of us Americans woke to hear of the senseless tragedy in Las Vegas. People were outside doing what they love. Listening to a concert.

Are you a concert-goer? If you are, you understand what I mean when I say that live music can lift your feet off the ground, bring joy to spots in your heart you didn’t know existed, even bond you to strangers whom you may have passed on the freeway just seconds before the concert. It connects the human spirit.  I think that’s why today hit me. It made me scared and made me fearful like I have never been before.

Our stream of disasters has been many these past few months and as humans, our capacity to cope and comprehend becomes overwhelmed at a certain point. My own family has ties to Puerto Rico and the humanitarian aid trickling in there will be needed for longer than we know. We think we know, but we don’t. Each tragedy our nation has seen has been different in its own way.

While going about my normal routine today, I was trying to think of why this tradgedy dug to that final place where it just sat. I can’t move it, can’t make any sense of it. Each one of us will try and put into words why it just doesn’t make sense. Kind of ironic since the whole point of something being senseless is that it doesn’t make sense. To me, it hits hard because people were doing something they LOVED. It was carefree. It was VEGAS. I mean, hit the slots, ring the bell, go to that club at 3am and act like Monday won’t ever come. Even if you are 41!

No one drives to a concert thinking they will worry about anything but if their seat will give them the experience they anticipate. Tom Petty was a bucket list performer for me. I had the chance to see him with my husband and friends Bridget and John this summer. He reminds me of cutting 1st period(sorry mom, I still turned out ok, right?) with my bestie Sarah, drinking coffee, windows down, not a care in the world as we whizzed by the bucolic beaches in Connecticut. He reminds me of decades of rock n’ roll that I was too young to first be a part of but even to this day when I queue up his music, I still can feel the warmth on my face and the smile in my heart, the mischief and promise of knowing if I replay that song, it’ll bring me right back.

I don’t know why and I don’t have the proper words but if anything, those concert-goers were there because they loved to experience life sung through music. Just another reason I need to keep focusing on living mine to the fullest. You do that and no one can ever take that away from you.

Short Verse, Uncategorized

A Mother’s Walk

I wasn’t prepared to love you more than the day you showed up in your own skin.

I wasn’t prepared to love you even after you made my patience wear thin.

I wasn’t prepared to have your smiles and your cries melt my heart and simultaneously make me weep.

I wasn’t prepared to want to kiss your sweet face, wipe your tears, and ease your pain.

I wasn’t prepared to feel the deep ache of sorrow when you experienced sadness deeper than my own.

I wasn’t prepared to put your needs in front of mine so simple and humane.

I wasn’t prepared to love any human so much that it kept me up at night and woke me before the morning light.

I wasn’t prepared for the shift in perspective, changing my plan ahead to think about the here and now.

I wasn’t prepared for the feeling of second guessing and the autonomy of knowing I was right. In my own world.

I wasn’t prepared for listening to the mere sound of your voices calling me mom while making me feel the sunshine, a warm blanket, and smell the scent of fresh baked cookies all at the same time.

I wasn’t prepared but it made me whole.

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He took the cow, Melissa. He took the cow.

We lost my father-in-law this month. A man of 80 years whom I knew for 19 of those thru dating and then marrying my husband. “Mr. Juan” as I liked to call him was quiet and humble and I had a relationship with him probably like most daughter-in-laws. He wasn’t my father but I respected him as one and his role as my children’s grandfather.

I am watching my husband go thru grief that resembles my own just 7 years ago…seeing your Dad struggle then ultimately lose the battle with whatever illness he is facing can simply make you become lost. Here one minute, gone the next, and wanting him back in the same physical form as two years ago, is just not an option. Gone are the Father’s Day’s, “my parents” become just, “my mom” and you start thinking about if you really lived the days that came before with them or did you not? There was a familiarity right away with my father-in-law passing and it gave me the ability to step back a bit, be a bit kinder and gentler with my husband because I knew at least from a daughter’s perspective, the pain associated with losing a parent.

Although you never truly heal,  it is the most unexpected blessing I have learned, that my Dad’s own passing trained me to be right where and how I need to be for my husband during his Dad’s own passing. What an incredible and somehow unthought of benefit. That probably sounds crude but I’ll let you think of a better way to express it because for where I am in my life, that sits just fine with me.

Accepting the passing of a loved one doesn’t come right away. There is anger. Discomfort. A hole left once where their hellos would pass thru our ears and comfort the mind but I hear him. I hear Mr. Juan. The greeting followed by the laugh – one that I know meant, good to see you and my grandkids. One I appreciate after a long work week for both of us, packing the kids up in the car and taking the trip down the I-95 corridor. I know from my Father’s own passing that for those closest to him, it will take years perhaps. Two weeks before my father-in-law passed, I sat with him as I had many times before to ask how he was doing. This time, I knew things weren’t good so instead, I asked, “Are you scared?” He simply responded, “No, not scared.” His family was – we were being left behind but he wasn’t. Not Mr. Juan. I always love to include a tip in my writings and for this piece it is, don’t ever tell someone it’ll get easier just let them know their loved one will always be thought of as will they. And, that later rather than sooner, it won’t be pain that bubbles up first but instead the memory of them. Someday you WILL smile first before the tears start.

The night before my father-in-law passed, I stopped to pick up our favorite Italian dishes at a local restaurant. As I sat for our order to be prepared, one of the owners was singing a song that I knew to be one of my Dad’s favorites. You see, my Dad ALWAYS shows up in the form of a song. We both loved music, we loved to dance and that is where my love of all things musical came from(the dancing, concert obsessions, musical instrument playing) – my Dad. The owners and I got to talking and he was wearing a Mets hat(whom my Dad followed – the rest of his family are Yankee fans) which he said he never usually wore. I laughed and told them about my Dad and the song. They asked for my name and upon hearing it was Melissa asked if I had just called to ask about booking a birthday party for an 8-year-old on June 10th. Nope, not me but that’s the day my son turns 8 years old. I knew right then that my Dad was listening. He had heard me. The father and son owners went on to talk about their love of family and food(of which my Dad was such a fan of, being Irish there were a lot of culinary limitations) and so I told them about my Dad, his love of the Mets and Italian food and why that song was so important. Not knowing that my father-in-law’s health was now failing, the owner went on to tell me the story about the cow.

There is a story about the prophet Elijah and God taking the life of a prized cow from a family who depended on that cow to survive. Long story short, the cow died. When asked why the cow was taken which gave much more sustenance than the other animals God said, I could have taken your wife or children but I took the cow. All of the sudden, my reasoning for not getting angry when I became sick, became clear. I knew what else could have been taken away – my husband, my kids. But that wasn’t all. It was just enough to make me remember the significance of why we are here. Not to make money, or to live a “busy” life but to LIVE.

You see, whether it makes sense to you or not, I’ve had 7 years following my Dad’s passing to figure out the anger, the hurt and how my Dad was going to still show up in my life. I truly believe he listens to me when I ask him for help. I believe that because my mind is open enough to the possibility, it brings me the comfort I need. I had been asking him to help my father-in-law and to make sure he was one of the first to hand him a beer at the pearly gates. Credible to you or not, what’s the harm?

Life seems to have taken a swinging wide barreled bat at our families in the past decade and it wasn’t myself who first said, “why does life keep dealing you guys these blows?” As a matter of fact, I just thought that was how life is supposed to go. And, I’ll be damned if I live a life of uneventful evenness instead of one with peaks and valleys. What fun is it otherwise?

And, at the end of the day, remember… he took the cow.
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Paint the Nation Sandy Hook Green

DA112A0F-DE85-4AED-A90B-7201EBAE917FToday our state grieves along with the rest of the nation. For those precious little lives who should be in class today with their friends, and returned safely back to their parents at the end of the day. Today and every day I promise to do my best to live in the moment, to never forget, and to fill my kids’ lives full of:

Smiles and sunshine

Apples

Naps – relishing in the sweet look on a child’s face, content in a mid-afternoon nap

Dolls

Yo-yo’s

Hugs

Oh more hugs

Oh and even more hugs and;

Kisses

Never forget the kisses.

 

(Cross-posted on Suburban Misfit Mom http://suburbanmisfitmom.com/paint-the-nation-sandy-hook-green/ on 12/14/2016)

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Vacay at 40 Looks Like This

So funny.  I took a vacation last week with my best friends, some of whom I’ve known since I was 5 years old – that’s 35 years of memories people!!) and started reflecting back on past vacations with the same group and then what future trips would look like.

The best part of the trip was how hard, how deeply and how genuinely I laughed.  When is the last time you laughed so hard you cried?  Think about it. LIKE PEE YOUR PANTS HARD!!  It is truly one of my most favorite sensations in life.  We recanted stories, even laughing at ourselves such as the time we went on a cruise in our early 20’s and my friends locked me in the cruise ship bathroom (we were literally in steerage so the bathrooms were the size of a porta potty and they also doubled as a shower!) and pretended the door was stuck.  They even faked calling security. I know, this sounds so messed up – why am I even friends with them still? I am because I can laugh at myself and when you can do that you set the playing field for fun pranks down the road(be warned you guys and ‘you’ know whom you are!) but also, the ability to laugh at yourself.

There was the time Sarah and I bought fart putty at the Orlando airport after we encountered a 5-hour flight delay.  We had spent the weekend in Disney, celebrating her bachelorette, because she was 30 and wanted to experience Disney before she had kids.  We decided to sneak up on our friend Jen who was quietly sitting in the airport, reading a book and out the putty into ‘action’. Jen was mortified and well, the rest is history. Yep, peed my pants.

When we vacation together, we all take on a role and it’s interesting to see how it could have been a year since our last trip and yet we still just immediately settle into our respective roles.  We can count on Beth to keep us from getting lost and be the voice of reason, Sarah will always get on the dance floor with me, and Jen will always be the girl making sure there is a cocktail in our hands and that our whereabouts are accounted for via Social Media (have you checked us in YET Jen??). Our trip, this time, included our friends Linda and Chris – two other longtime friends and we all fell right in step.

Cheers to our 40th year my friends (and watch your back guys, payback is still on its way…)!

(Cross posted to Suburban Misfit Mom http://suburbanmisfitmom.com/fart-putty-to-facebook-check-ins-vaca-at-40/ on 10/24/2016)

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Reset. Not just for power tools ya know

Day 1. It could be day 23,493 in reality. In life, we hardly give ourselves a break. We are usually browbeating ourselves subconsciously to do more without pausing to think that more needs to be less and that less needs to have a greater percentage of YOU in it. The term putting your oxygen mask on first was used recently in two different corners of my family’s life. Once when my son’s school principal gave her back to school welcome (a tough year last year with many illnesses in the school community and a tragic loss) and another when talking to a great friend who sensed my “shutting down” prior to my cancer scan. Scanxiety is real people. (I like to say that scan-agitation is too. I think I could have flipped a car over if it bugged me too much in the weeks leading up. Ha!)

What I do know is this. Moms run on empty. We get sick. Then the world seems to fall apart one list at a time. When is the last time you were asked last minute to do something as a family and you could say YES? Conduct a double check. Is your schedule jam-packed and do you find yourself sharing the “too busy” mantra like you damn near coined the phrase? Well, you didn’t and you don’t HAVE to be.

Your kids aren’t. You are.  We as moms have control over our families’ happiness, not society. Guess what? Little miss/mister thing will make Olympic gold if they choose to. Not because they are in enough activities to punch their childhood resume full. My son loves baseball and asked to play soccer as well which would have lined him up to be busy 4 days after school and the weekends. He says yes. I felt bad but then I remember back. Where is the downtime? Where is the 1:1 time I longed for when I opted out of a high paying job to focus on my home life.

Working as a full-time mom and entrepreneur made me realize that my kids aren’t a Google calendar. Cancer made me decide to do something about it, however, Melissa…Melissa took the action. Tomorrow I start Day 1 with yoga and then, well, I’m not sure what is next…Go find your reset button. It’s under there.

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12 Lessons Learned on My Path to Being Cancer-Free

#1 Being first and doing it alone doesn’t mean you are brave, just stupid -there’s no rush to the top and having cancer has taught me that I can’t go it alone

#2 Being perfect. Yep. There are typos in my emails and smudges on my windows. So what? When you die you’ll have no one saying how “perfect” your postmortem makeup job is. Get used to it now. No one that matters cares about that stuff.

#3 Being a size 8. Yep. Notice I didn’t say 0 or 2 or even 6. An 8. You see my body never could contort to that without ultimate starvation. Don’t roll your eyes. I’m 5’9 and played sports my whole life. I know what being healthy is and it’s different for us all. Don’t believe it yet? Bite me. (Just don’t bite my sandwich;)

#4 Having the latest and greatest. I think I straddled this one before cancer. But now I’m 200% on board with the “what works best for me model”.

#5 Small talk. Yep. Don’t talk to me about the flipping weather. Let’s get deep. Fast. Let’s connect. No matter who you are there is something sitting right there, below the surface that I want to know exists. I’ve had deep conversations that lasted 3 minutes with a bank teller. I learned she was 3 during the war in Kosovo and came here striving for her boys to get their education. It all started with me asking if she felt ok. What a story to tell my 7 yr old and teach him about gratitude. Her eyes were tired. Don’t be afraid. Go deep.

#6 Not everyone wants to be kind. Can they? Yes? But not everyone wants to choose others over themselves. That’s it.

#7 People surprise you. Those that support you and those that don’t. Don’t make this about you. It’s not.

#8 Feeling good, feeling healthy is like no other feeling in the world. If someone you know has a chronic illness tell them you wish for them far better days than not. Trust me. They’ll appreciate it.

#9 People will hurt you, even when you are down. It’s ok to be mad but it’s not ok to feel that it’s your fault. Let them do them and you do you. When the time is right, your lives will sync up again.

#10 Sometimes people can’t handle your pain. It hurts them too much and therefore they end up withdrawing. If you’re the strong type don’t get angry just find that place of understanding and if you can’t just hang out with the ones that do for now. It is not your struggle.

#11 Forgive. When you are laying down for a 45-minute scan and you aren’t allowed to talk or move you are left with your thoughts. Most of the time I’m talking to my dad, too worried I’ll let my mind drift, wishing I could crane my neck to see what the technician is seeing on the screen. But I do think about experiences, times of hurt and have decided to forgive a lot. It’s good for me.

#12 Celebrate. Any reason is a good reason to celebrate. Don’t wait until you have to go looking for a reason. Pop that cork! Live life. Be Authentic.

 

(also posted to Suburban Misfit mom http://suburbanmisfitmom.com/12-lessons-learned-on-my-path-to-being-cancer-free/ on 1/17/2017)