The Importance of Mom Friends

Making friends as an adult is one of the most difficult things to do. At least it’s been that way for me. I am usually very shy when I first meet people; it takes some time for me to warm up and I rarely initiate conversations with people I don’t know. Also, being a stay-at-home-mom, I don’t have many opportunities to meet new people. And of course, moving away from my family and childhood friends has made the quest for adult friendship much harder.

And it’s been even more difficult to make mom-friends.

I got pregnant with my first daughter at 20 years old, the first in my circle of friends (both of whom were back in the Bronx, while I was living in Florida) to start a family. My family was also back in the Bronx and I didn’t have anyone in Florida to lean on besides my husband. The friends we had made while living in Florida were all very different: the ones around our age were still living at home and the thought of kids was a long way off, and the ones who had kids already were so much older and a lot more established i.e. living in houses they owned while we were renting an apartment. So it was difficult for both my husband and I to find friends who truly understood our struggle as young parents.

Thankfully one of my best friends had a daughter a few years later. But living so far away from each other means not as much face time as we’d like. We do get together every time we visit New York and it’s like we were never apart. I love getting texts from her asking about breastfeeding and if I’ve gone through the same things. We lean on each other and realize things are okay.

My best friend, our daughters and I back in 2014.

And than goodness for my sister-in-law in Florida. Over the years, once my oldest was born, we grew closer and closer, which helped me so much. She has truly become my sister.

My amazing sister-in-law and my youngest daughter.

But we moved across the country to Arizona.

And we had to start all over. Don’t get me wrong, both my husband and I were all in on the decision to move, we felt this would be the best choice for our family, and it has been so far. But when we first arrived, I went through postpartum depression. I was already suffering from anxiety since my daughters and I were away from my husband for almost 3 months. To give you an idea of how my depression was triggered: before moving to Arizona, I lived with my sister-in-law, brother-in-law and their kids. So, I went from a place where I had more help with my kids than I knew what to do with, to having absolutely no help with my 6 year old and 6 week old daughters while my husband was at work.

Thankfully, my depression wasn’t too bad. We soon started to make friends, but no mom-friends for me. And the mom-friends I had tried to make on my own fell through. We just didn’t click. It seemed like the harder I tried to make mom-friends, the more horribly it would turn out. So, I had to just come to terms with the fact that I probably wouldn’t have any mom-friends in Arizona. Oh well, I guess.

But recently, I’ve made a mom-friend here, and things are going pretty well. We all just went on an impromptu trip this weekend. The toddlers had a few meltdowns, but they’re toddlers. The best part about that was we understood the struggle each of us was going through. The meltdowns, tears, and tantrums were things we were both trying to deal with. With other friends who don’t have kids, sometimes it’s just embarrassing when your kid cries or misbehaves.

That’s why having a mom friendship is so important. Being a mom isn’t always fun, its demanding and can really wear you down. A lot of times, I’ve felt lonely because I struggle so much with my girls. I’m constantly worrying about them, wondering if I’m doing a good job. It’s nice to have a friend who can empathize with you. To know you’re not the only one having a hard time managing motherhood is a great relief.

So to all my mamas out there who are struggling, it won’t last forever. Find the courage to put yourself out there and make some mom-friends. And don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t happen right away or if you don’t click with the moms you’re meeting. If you’re really having a difficult time, reach out to someone or even send me a message. Your tribe of mamas is out there. I sure do appreciate mine.

My girls and I at Walnut Canyon.

-Toniann

Creating Family Traditions

Growing up, we didn’t have much. I mean, my dad was a hoarder, so we had a lot of junk, but we were poor. But when I was younger, before my parents drinking got really bad, we had some great family traditions. I remember every October, my father would set up our Halloween monster, Harvey. He would take a pullover sweatshirt and sweatpants, stuff them with old clothes, and top him with the Harvey mask. We would set Harvey up on a chair outside of our apartment building, probably to scare the neighbors and religious solicitors away.

There was one time that my dad convinced my brother to wear the sweatshirt and sweatpants while we stuffed clothes around him. My father put the mask on him and then called my mother to see how Harvey looked. When she came into the living room, my brother jumped up and scared the shit out of my mom. But the sweatpants were stuffed so tight with clothes that my brother toppled over trying to lunge at my mom. We all laughed so hard, except for mom, who was pretty pissed off. It’s one of my favorite childhood memories.

Now that I have children of my own, I’m realizing more, just how important it is to have family traditions. Making precious memories is powerful. So I’ve created our own family traditions around the holidays to make them more special.

October, November and December are my favorite months because they involve my favorite holidays: Halloween, Thanksgiving, and my most favorite holiday ever, Christmas.

We’re coming up on Halloween in a couple of months, and one of my favorite family traditions is all of us making Jack-O-Lanterns. We go and pick out the best pumpkins, we get our templates, stickers and other decorations for the girls and bring them home. We put on our favorite Halloween movie, Hocus Pocus, and get carving. It takes us about the whole length of the movie for my husband and I to finish our Jack-O-Lanterns. Then when we’re finished, we put our lights inside them, turn out the lights and marvel at the fruits of our labor.

Halloween 2018 Jack-O-Lanterns

Our longest standing family tradition is watching The Santa Clause with Tim Allen while we put up our Christmas tree. Jon and I started this in our first apartment in Florida while I was pregnant with my first daughter. Its my favorite thing to do around Christmastime.

December 2018

Since moving to Arizona, we recently started up new Christmastime traditions. A farm near our house sets up a little ice skating rink and this year will be our third year going ice skating. Its only August, but my daughter is already talking about how she cannot wait to go ice skating again. And yes, it gets cold here in Arizona.

First time ice skating December 2017

We also go to a show called Symphony of Light, which is a drive through show with synchronized lights and Christmas music. Its such a gorgeous and well-done show. Last year, we had the girls watching out of the sunroof of our SUV. We top out at 5 mph, so it’s safe.

Symphony of Light show December 2018

The best part about our family traditions is seeing how much joy my daughters get out of them. To see their faces light up and have so much fun. I love doing all these activities myself, but their reaction makes them much more enjoyable.

I hope when they’re older, they will remember how much fun we had together. I hope they will carry these memories and cherish them forever. I certainly will.

-Toniann

5 Vegan Foods I Can’t Live Without

When I became vegan, I tried countless new foods that I wouldn’t have tried if I still ate meat. Being vegan for 6 years, I’ve tried so many different foods and I can’t wait to try more. So here I’ve compiled a list of 5 vegan foods I can’t live without.

1. Unsweetened Almond Milk

I cannot live without almond milk. I used to drink a lot of milk before I went vegan. I grew up having a glass of milk with almost every meal. I’ve tried different types of plant milks and I’m willing to try more but for now, almond milk is my go-to choice. It’s also much more affordable than some of the other plant milks.

2. Adam’s Natural Peanut Butter

Most peanut butters are naturally vegan, but a lot of brands like Jif and Skippy contain mono and diglycerides which are animal fats that help blend the peanut butter. Mono and diglycerides are also found in lots of breads. But getting back to peanut butter, I’ve fallen in love with Adam’s Natural Peanut Butter which only contains peanuts and less than 1% of salt.

3. Tofu

For those who don’t know, tofu is made from soy beans. It’s also known as bean curd, which you’ll see on a lot of Chinese food restaurant menus. I never tried tofu until I became vegan and it’s honestly one of my favorite vegan staples. My favorite is the extra firm tofu, since it’s one the most versatile types.

4. Nutritional Yeast

Nutritional yeast is a great supplement that is used a lot in vegan cooking. Unlike traditional yeast, nutritional yeast undergoes a heating and drying process that renders it inactive. Nutritional yeast is used for many “cheesy” vegan recipes because of it’s taste. It’s also loaded with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and protein. I also love to sprinkle this on my freshly popped popcorn.

5. Bananas

I’m sure most vegans would agree how important bananas are to a vegan diet. Bananas can be frozen and blended up into “nice” cream. Ripe bananas are great for banana bread and many other baking recipes. Of course, they’re also great on their own.

Well, there you have it. 5 vegan foods I cannot live without. Hopefully this list helps anyone who is looking to become vegan. To my fellow vegans, what are some foods you can’t live without?

-Toniann

Navigating Through a Tumultuous Relationship

One of my first blogs last year, I talked about toxic people. It’s easy to cut toxic people out of your life, but not if its family. Sadly, I have many toxic family members as I’m sure most people do. But I’ve put up with shit out of loyalty to my family.

I am struggling as I’m writing this. I’m really not sure if I should be talking about this or not.

I’m fighting with this decision to blog because the tumultuous relationship I’m referring, to is with my mother. And I’m terrified she might read this.

Throughout my life with my mother, things weren’t always difficult, I have plenty of great memories with her. But I feel like there are so many more bad memories. Maybe that’s just because those are much more painful.

My mother, like my father was, is an alcoholic. She has struggled with alcoholism for what feels like my whole life. Like most addicts, she downplays the role that alcohol has in her life and doesn’t believe she has a problem.

My mother has suffered from depression on and off throughout my life, even though she never got a diagnosis from a doctor. And I know her struggle with depression and alcohol go hand-in-hand. Her depression got so bad when I was a child that she hadn’t left our apartment for years. People in our neighborhood actually believed she was dead. As a young child, I remember her telling me…

“…I should just kill myself.”

I remember pleading with her not to leave me, that I needed her. And even though we don’t have the best relationship, I’m glad she didn’t commit suicide like she had wanted to countless times.

Her struggle with alcoholism got worse when I was around 12 years old. I suspect she had been mixing prescription pills with alcohol but I can’t be certain. I remember her hallucinating and my father had to take her to the hospital. She had alcoholic hepatitis which caused jaundice. She went into the hospital the day of my first period, so that day will always stay with me. I didn’t have my mother at such an important stage in my young life.

She was in the hospital for days, I can’t recall how long, but I do remember the doctor talking to us. My godmother was there, and the doctor had said if she starts drinking again, she will die. She seemed sincere when she said she never wanted to drink again. I was hopeful for the future.

But she went back to drinking. It wasn’t long after she got out of the hospital. I remember we were at our neighbors house and she had poured my mom a beer. I yelled and reminded her that the doctor said she’ll die if she drinks again. She brushed it off like nothing and took a big gulp. I ran back across the hall to our apartment crying because I really believed that my mother was going to die. And she couldn’t have cared less.

Quitting drinking was difficult for my mother since my father was also struggling with the same addiction. Alcoholism is something both my parents fought with. My father lost his battle 4 years ago and I know my mother will eventually lose hers too. Losing my father was hard for all of us, but especially for my mom. This has caused her depression, and thus her alcoholism, to get worse.

I’ve gotten to the point in my life where I’m done fighting. Alcohol will always win. For a long time, I was angry and bitter about my parents “choice” to drink. But I know that addiction is a disease. And as long as my mother doesn’t want help, I cannot help her. It still stings of course, because alcoholism has negatively shaped our relationship.

The only thing I can do is be there for her as much as possible. I have come to terms with the fact that she probably won’t be around for much longer because of her addiction. It doesn’t make it easier. I try to take it one day at a time. Some days are more difficult than others. But I am really trying to maintain a good relationship with my mother.

I love my mother with all my heart. I wish so much that my love was enough for her to quit drinking for good, but life doesn’t work that way. I wish things were easier, I wish I could help her, and I wish she could be happy.

-Toniann

20 Things You Might Not Know About Me

Well everyone, its been 7 months since I started my blog. For those of you who have been here since the beginning, you have no idea how much I appreciate you. And for those who are new to my blog, I hope you are enjoying my posts. So I figured I would post 20 things you might not know about me.

  1. I have no middle name. Both of my brothers do, but I guess my parents figured since my first name was already two names, I wouldn’t need another one.
  2. My dream is to open up my own fitness center. If you’ve been following my blog, you know that fitness is my passion and I used to be a group fitness instructor.
  3. Green is my favorite color.
  4. My favorite book series is Harry Potter. I grew up reading the books, and I remember being so excited when the next book was published. I’ve even gotten my daughter into the books, and got her the first illustrated book last Christmas.
  5. My favorite show is Friends. I’m currently watching season 2 as I sit here typing.
  6. I love playing video games. I wouldn’t call myself a gamer per se, but at the moment I am obsessed with a new game called Stardew Valley. I like a wide variety of games, and my husband and I love to play together.
  7. My favorite meal is a burger, fries and a milkshake. Vegan of course.
  8. I played with Barbie dolls until I was 13. I can’t be the only one right?
  9. I have 4 tattoos and look forward to getting more.
  10. I used to have a belly button ring and tongue ring. Pregnancy has wrecked my stomach and my tongue piercing has since healed.
  11. My favorite beer is Guiness stout.
  12. I used to smoke cigarettes. I took up vaping to help quit and in a drunken emergency have smoked a few cigarettes. But its not a habit anymore.
  13. I LOVE horror movies. I grew up watching them and I still love watching them; even though I can’t watch alone.
  14. I have a certificate in plant-based nutrition.
  15. I’ve never traveled outside of the United States. It’s definitely happening in the next few years. We’ve been making traveling more of a priority and I’m ecstatic.
  16. I love naps and sleep in general. If humans didn’t need sleep, that would be awesome, but we do, and I love it.
  17. I’m really into true crime. I’m currently watching Homicide Hunter: Lt. Joe Kenda.
  18. I love Disney. I grew up watching Disney movies and I love going to the Disney parks.
  19. I love wine. I’m not as fancy as I’d like to be but I’ve done a few wine tastings and can’t wait to do more.
  20. I wanted to be a stunt woman. Back when I was a young teenager, I totally wanted to be a stunt woman. I thought they were the most badass people on the planet and never got enough credit. But I changed my mind once I realized I didn’t actually want to break all the bones in my body.

Well, there you have it: 20 things you probably didn’t know about me. I hope you had as much fun reading this as I had writing it. What are some things people don’t know about you that they might be surprised to find out about? Comment below and let me know!

Back in 2004, when I still wanted to be a stunt woman.

-Toniann

Terrible or Terrific Two’s?

My youngest daughter Emilia turned two almost two months ago and we’ve currently hit the “terrible” stage. She literally just had a meltdown because I didn’t put her favorite show on the tv. It’s little things like that that have BIG reactions.

Her sister is playing with a toy she wants to play with:

Tears.

When she’s hungry (which is pretty much every hour now):

Tears and screams. But I’m the same way so…

And god help you if she’s tired and hungry because she will scream, cry and throw her little fists at anyone who bothers her.

Honestly, its difficult to manage to say the least. I try very much to keep a cool head because a strong reaction from me only makes things worse. It’s this balance between maintaining boundaries with her (i.e. no hitting) and pacifying her (i.e. let her play with the toy). Her being as cute as she is, it’s hard not to just give in all the time.

Most days I feel stressed and anxious to the point where I want to pull my hair out.

But there are such great moments throughout the day. She’s doing countless things she couldn’t do even a month ago.

She’s talking more, she sings and dances. She loves to cuddle with everyone (provided she’s fed and well-rested). We have conversations and she’s starting to understand more and more. She’s in the process of being potty trained, which I was not ready for AT ALL. She loves to play games and she is so silly. Her personality is really shining through now.

Singing “Let it Go” with her sister.

So yes, two’s are tough and I know from experience that three will be more strenuous, but it’s also terrific. It’s honestly the most fun age. With all the new things she’s doing, I can’t help but be amazed and proud. She knows what she wants, and definitely what she does not want and will tell you so. Emilia is totally my sour patch kid. She is a little firecracker and I hope that her strong-willed personality will never leave her.

-Toniann

My Traumatic Birth Experience

I got pregnant with my first daughter at 20 years old. Back then, I thought I was grown, but looking back, I realize how naïve I was. The birth of my daughter was one of the most frightening experiences I ever had.

My whole pregnancy was wonderful, no complications at all. If I was tired, I would nap. I never had any pain, even during my last trimester. All I had was horrible heartburn. I didn’t even realize that my gas pains were actually Braxton-Hicks contractions until I was in the hospital getting induced.

My husband, my mother and I went to my final 40 week appointment and it was there that my doctor told me that she wanted to induce labor later that night. I was 1cm dilated for the last four weeks, which was normal. I had hoped to go into labor naturally, but she had explained that there might be complications if we wait longer. I don’t recall exactly what, but I trusted her. This was my first pregnancy and I was young, so as much as I didn’t want to be induced, I believed my doctor knew best.

Later that night, we all drove to the hospital. I was so excited and nervous that I was finally going to meet my baby girl. When we arrived, I changed into a hospital gown and my stomach was strapped with a contraction monitor. My doctor then gave me Pitocin to induce labor.

And we waited.

My contractions started to get stronger and stronger after a few hours. Labor was progressing, very slowly. I wasn’t sure how much longer labor would be and I knew the pain would only get worse, so I asked for an epidural.

It was the middle of the night when the anesthesiologist came into my room. His hair was disheveled and he looked like he had just been woken up out of his sleep. He told my husband and mother that they were not allowed in the room with me and they left.

I had seen a video on how an epidural is performed and I was fucking scared.

I sat off the side of the hospital bed with my nurse in front of me. She gave me a pillow and told me to hunch over. The anesthesiologist warned me not to move and he gave me a small shot to numb the area. But it didn’t work. He started to poke at my back and I felt everything. He told me to stop moving and I apologized but I couldn’t help but wince at the pain. He poked me more than once and at one point said that my “vertebrae were really close together.”

I remember this going on for some time, and I started to get cold sweats and I felt nauseous because I was in so much pain. I looked up at my nurse and told her, “I feel like I’m going to vomit.” It was then that my nurse yelled at the anesthesiologist:

“Can’t you see she’s in pain? Give her some more numbing.”

I got a second shot of numbing and I felt my body finally relax. The epidural was in and I laid back in bed and felt my pain melt away.

Later, my doctor popped my water bag to try and help speed things along. She saw meconium, which is the baby’s first poop, so she flushed my womb. And we waited some more.

I got some sleep and in the morning my doctor came to check me again. I was 6cm dilated. I thought to myself, “great, we’re making some progress.” But my doctor told me I wasn’t progressing quickly enough, and she was having an operating room prepped for me to have a C-section.

I would be down in the operating room in 30 minutes.

Holy shit.

I didn’t speak up because I truly believed she had my best intentions in mind.

We went down to the operating room and my husband was the only one allowed to be with me. The put a big blue curtain up under my chest so we couldn’t see anything. And then they started.

I remember a lot of pulling and tugging. They even pressed down on the top of my stomach to get my daughter out. I know the used forceps to get her head out because she had a bruise later on. Finally her head was out, and she cried right away.

And then I cried. I cried this huge sigh of relief that she was finally here, and that she was okay. They told my husband to look over to see her and I remember asking him if she had a lot of hair, which she did. And I asked if she really was a girl, which she was. She was 8 lbs 9oz, my big beautiful girl.

They gave her her bath right in the room, dressed her and my husband went with our daughter to the nursery while they closed me up.

Jonathan and baby Isabella in the nursery.

And I was all alone.

I was surrounded by so many hospital staff but it was like I wasn’t even there. No one asked me how I was feeling, if I was okay or not.

I remember feeling freezing cold and exhausted. My job was done, I had my baby, and I was tired. So I closed my eyes to try and go to sleep and I heard my own voice in my head scream:

“Don’t go to sleep! Open your eyes!”

So I did. I opened my eyes wide and kept myself from going to sleep. At the time I didn’t think anything of it. It wasn’t until a few hours later that I realized what had happened.

I was brought back to my room and my epidural was removed. I had a heated blanket on me because I was freezing cold. I tried to go to sleep but the pain started to creep in. My incision felt like it was on fire and the damn heated blanket was not helping. I rang for my nurse and told her I was in excruciating pain. She gave me morphine, which felt like a heat wave all over my body. I still felt some of the pain but I was relaxed enough to get some sleep.

Later that day, my new nurse came to my room and asked me how I was feeling. I told her I was really tired, but I had attributed that to the fact that I just had a baby. She had told me that I had lost a lot of blood and kept asking me if I was sure I was okay. I told her yes and brushed it off. But my husband told me later that when he looked over the curtain after our daughter was born, it looked like a horror movie. All he saw was my body there, open and surrounded by an enormous amount of blood.

And I realized why I heard my voice in the operating room, yelling at me not to go to sleep. I probably wouldn’t have woken up had I kept my eyes closed.

It’s unnerving to think back to what I went through over 8 years ago. The pain that I went through before, during and after my daughters birth still haunts me. I had a huge bruise on my back after giving birth that my mother pointed out and she saw four distinct holes where the anesthesiologist had attempted to put that giant needle. I still have pain in my spine where he performed my epidural.

Despite all that I went through, I would do it all again for my daughter. She is the biggest gift I never knew I needed.

My Isabella

To all you mamas who have had a traumatic birth experience, I know your pain. I know how it feels to have your baby born, and suddenly you don’t exist anymore. I know a lot of you have had it much worse than I have, and I’m sorry. Having a baby should be the most magical time of our lives. I wish it was always like that.

Stay strong mamas, you got this.

-Toniann