How to Comfort Someone During a Miscarriage

Monday, April 14, 2014

Before my dad died three years ago, I  really had no idea how to comfort someone in their grief. Overwhelmed by my feelings of sympathy, and at the same time afraid of saying or doing something to make their pain worse, I usually just hung back and let people have "their space."  That's the definition of ambivalence right there.  It's not that you don't care.  In fact, you care deeply, but two competing emotions (compassion and fear) leave you unable to act.  I think many people relate to this stuck feeling.

When my dad died, I realized that the friends and loved ones who acted, even in some small way, did bring a huge amount of comfort to me.  I resolved to never let ambivalence keep me from acting out in love and kindness again.  When someone passes away, I do try my best to send cards, flowers, give a phone call or even text message, pray (and let the person know I'm praying for them!), provide meals, attend the funeral, offer childcare, or whatever is appropriate to the situation.  No, it's not extravagant stuff, it's just small bits of tangible sympathy that I hope will make the griever feel less alone. I do so with more boldness now, knowing that doing something, even if it's imperfect and awkward, is better than doing nothing.

My most recent loss, a pregnancy at 12 weeks, left me in shambles for a few weeks.  I'm still sad about it from time to time (especially now that the supposed due date is approaching) but I consider myself fully healed, both physically and mentally. There were so many wonderful friends and family members who reached out to me with love.  Their acts were not extravagant, and they didn't always say the "right" things (in fact, a few broke every rule in the "what not to say to someone grieving" handbook, lol) but their actions touched my heart and strengthened me. Miscarriage, like suicide, is still a taboo subject in our culture.  Many people think it's just not appropriate to talk about it because it involves a woman's body and fertility. Some assume the mom just wants to keep to herself.  While some do grieve more inwardly (I'm one of those people- journaling, praying, and even blogging are my favorite outlets for grief!) no one can grieve completely alone.  We all need to feel connected to others.

Here is my list of things to keep in mind when someone you love is suffering a miscarriage.

1.  You probably won't know what to say.  That's ok.  I thought this list of things NOT to say is a good starter.  You probably don't want to say things like "you're still young, you can have more" or "at least you already have a kid" or "there must have been something wrong with the baby, it's for the best" or "miscarriages happen all the time, you just need to move on with your life."  Ouch.  Those are things that the mom is probably telling herself in her own mind, but doesn't want to hear from others.  Statements like those can make the mom feel undue pressure or even guilt because she's not looking on the "bright side" or reacting the way she's "supposed to".

2. Better to send a simple message of love and compassion.  Tell the bereaved that you love them and that you're here for them.  That you can't even imagine what they are going through (even if you've had a miscarriage yourself, you never quite know how someone else is dealing), and that you are praying for their healing. Let them share how they are doing if they want to vent. My bff prayed for me out loud on the phone through her own tears.  It was really healing to know she was mourning with me. Feel free to share your own stories of loss, but only to show that they are not alone, not as a comparison.

3. It can be in a handwritten card (I fear our generation has lost the art of sympathy cards!), in a bouquet of flowers, a voicemail, email, etc.  The most intimate form of communication is best, but every relationship has a unique communication style.  Choose the appropriate means for you.  Know that an introvert may not want hundreds of phone calls or in person visits.  My good friend sent good old fashioned sympathy flowers and it touched my heart. It made me feel like she really acknowledged the death of my unborn baby, that it was just as profound a loss as any other.

4.  Tell them there is no pressure to call or write you back, but that you're here for them whenever they need to talk.  I really appreciated this.

4.  Practical help.  A miscarriage can be just as physically taxing as childbirth, so they might need help with practical things.  If you are close by, offer to help out in some way.  Doesn't have to be big, but maybe offer to bring some groceries or a meal. Or maybe to watch the kids while she naps or has a date night.  Phrase it in a way where she won't feel like she's burdening you.  "I'm running to Trader Joes, what can I get you?"  "I haven't spent time with your kids in so long, can I watch them this weekend?" She will probably turn you down, but she might not.

5.  Send a care package.  If you are far away and feel compelled to give more than a card or flowers, maybe put together a little care package.  Include things like

  • a package of tissues
  • witchhazel pads
  • some advil
  • magazines or light reading
  • a journal
  • scented candle
  • nail polish
  • hand lotion
  • healthy treats- One friend sent me paleo cookies and it made my day!  Thanks Wakana :)
  • bubble bath  
  • This might sound weird, but I also like to include some unbleached organic maxi pads or reusable flannel pads because chances are, she'll have to wear pads for a long time (two months for me!!) and could get irritated down there by regular pads.  
  • herbal tea

6.  Check in again.  Later on down the line, long after the cards stop coming and the flowers have wilted, ask how she's doing.  Tell her you are still praying/thinking about her.

Once again, I am not the expert on comforting those in need.  I wish I were the more nurturing type, but so often my fear and anxiety gets in the way.  I'm the kind of person who doesn't want to hold newborns because I'm afraid I'll break them ;)  But I'm learning from those who have that natural gift how to step out of my comfort zone.  What I've learned is that the tiniest gestures can be so meaningful. Do what you can.

NOTE TO THE BEREAVED:  Show grace.  It takes boldness for some people to reach out to you in your time of need.  Chances are, if they do, you can assume they love you and want to comfort you.  If they say some off the wall tactless things, show them grace and try not to get ruffled. If they don't respond the way you think they should, try to put aside your expectations.  It will be tempting to get angry at loved ones in the midst of loss because it's easy to take our pain out on them. Don't do it, it won't solve anything.


Thoughts on Feeding Kids

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Recently a saleslady at the mall asked what Sisi was munching on in her stroller. Her lunch box had a scoop of egg salad, sharp cheddar, black olives, and sweet potatoes.  A pretty typical lunch in our household.

"Wow, she's so gourmet!"  the lady said.

"Yeah, she loves food!" I replied.

But I was a little puzzled.  Since when is egg salad, cheese, olives and potatoes gourmet?

Sisi's good eating habits rarely evoke a neutral response from others. I seem to get a lot of negativity about it, to be honest. But there are some who are impressed, like the saleslady at the mall, and want to know my "secrets".  That's who this post is for!  These are not secrets really, in fact there is a popular infographic that I pretty much sums it up!

((Before I begin, how much does temperament have to do with our kids' eating habits?  I'm not sure.  I do think Sisi has a pretty compliant personality naturally, so that definitely helps at mealtime.  But believe me, she is a regular toddler with opinions of her own, and tantrums to back them up. I'm not raising a cherub here.  I happen to think a child's food openness is more nurture than nature, but that's just my opinion. Do French kids have some food-appreciation-gene we don't know about, or is their food culture conducive to healthy eating habits?))

1.  Introducing foods.   
We were very intentional about what we first offered her, hoping to stretch her tastebuds from the very beginning.  I actually let Joe take charge of her first solid food adventures because he had done more research than I.  He did a lot of egg yolks mixed with  avocado or breastmilk, sardines, and freshly pureed vegies and fruits. We went easy on fruits because we didn't want her to be accustomed to sweet food.  I thought Nourishing Traditions was a very helpful resource at the time. I wrote an article for Hellobee when Sisi was still a baby that gives a good idea of what she was eating early on, if you're interested.

2.  Watch the sugar and empty carbs!
I heard a piece on NPR about how kids nowadays eat so much sugar and processed food that their tastebuds remain in an infantile state for a long time.  And sugar comes in many "healthy" disguises- fruit snacks, cereals, fruit juice, granola bars, pb&j sandwiches, smoothies, pancakes, even super sugary fruits like bananas which should be eaten sparingly.  Once again, you probably think I'm psycho for saying this, since this stuff is the majority of what toddlers in America exist on.  But humor me here.  This is the amount of sweets Sisi typically consumes in a day:
  • in breakfast mush- 1/8 banana diced, 1 skinny slice of apple diced (just to sweeten it a bit).  
  • in lunch- 1 orange slice or pear slice for dessert.
  • snack- perhaps 1/2 a paleo cookie, or a small handful of dried fruit
  • dinner- sweet potatoes if she's lucky
  • after dinner sweet- tiny handful of frozen blueberries or small piece of 85% chocolate.  
Her carby-sweet intake is probably only 10% of what she eats in a day, and it's never processed white sugar.  It's always eaten with other healthy foods so it is less likely to affect blood sugar. Being gluten-free automatically takes away a lot of the carby-sweet choices out there, which make my job easier.  Why are we this anal about sugar?  
  • Teeth.  Sugar rots your teeth, even natural sugars in fruits.  
  • I believe sugar is very addicting.  There is research out there that shows the same reward centers in the brain are activated when someone does heroine.  I found out through genetic testing that I am particularly susceptible to heroine addiction :/ Coincidence that I am a former sugar addict?  Perhaps, but I would like to spare Sisi that addiction if I can.  
  • Sugar dulls the tastebuds. Even fruit doesn't seem sweet to a sugar addict. I'm hearing more and more dieticians make similar statements, that eating too much sugar stunts a child's ability to appreciate other tastes, like the bitterness in veggies or the savory taste of meat.  I totally believe this because even as a young adult, I was hooked on sugar and carbs and preferred them over every other food.  When I started eating healthier, I could finally enjoy the subtle sweetness of fruits and nuts and even veggies.  
3.  Eat the same stuff.
No kids menus, no "toddler food", she eats what I eat at almost every meal.

4.  Don't manipulate.  
Think of food as a wonderful gift from God, not as an easy way to probe certain behaviors or attitudes out of our kids, because that can backfire big time.

  • No food-related bribes. (Pee in the potty and you'll get m&ms!)
  • No food-related rewards. (You ate your veggies?  Good job!  Now you get a donut as a reward.)
  • No food-related punishment. (You were naughty, so you don't get dessert tonight.)
  •  No eating to distract or to cure boredom.  The only time I break this one is on airplanes.  Even so, I bring healthy foods onboard.  
  • Don't force feed!  My rule is that she must sit with us during meals, but not that she must eat. Chances are, if she hasn't been snacking too much and if I have done a decent job of cooking, she will gladly eat of her own free will.  If she only eats only a little, it's usually pretty healthy stuff that packs a big nutritious punch, so I don't worry about quantity.  I'd rather she eat 2 small sardines than an entire bagel.  
5.  Be prepared. Stock your pantry with healthy foods, pack a balanced lunch the night before, have a meal plan for the week so you're not tempted to say, "Screw it!  Let's just get pizza."  It helps that Sisi eats the same breakfast every day (the aforementioned morning mush), and has since she was an infant.  One less meal to worry about.

6.  Limit snacks! This one is wildly important.  It will cure most food related tantrums. As the French say, "Hunger is the best sauce!"  Being a bit hungry between meals isn't a bad thing.  It will just make them more excited about mealtime and willing to try new things.  This is a hard one, too.  When Sisi was nursing, I seriously whipped out the boob whenever she so much as whimpered.  It was the easiest way to calm her down, but it led to a vicious snacking cycle and she was nursing as often as 14 times a day at 5 months old.  I was exhausted and so over it.  I am glad I learned then that waiting between meals is best for baby, and best for everyone.  

My final note:  I understand that many busy moms will read this and think they don't have the time and energy to devote to changing their kids' eating habits.  But here is my thought- how many minutes or hours per week do you spend battling and negotiating and pleading with your kids about food? Just redirect that time and energy into making a plan.  We established a healthy eating plan for our family, and it took some getting used to.  But now, I never have to  worry or think about what  Sisi's eating.  Eating is just a fun and carefree part of life, as it should be!


Mardi Gras Masqerade Masks

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Hi friends!  It's been a wild couple of weeks.  Equal parts awesome and awful :/  Life can be really, really difficult sometimes, but God always sustains me and brings me to a place of joy.

One of the awesome things was this pretty purple Mardi Gras photo shoot, recently featured on Green Wedding Shoes.  My dear friend Christina of Simply Modern Weddings orchestrated this romantic, burlesque inspired shoot.  She asked me to create some male and female masquerade masks in shades of black, white, gold and purple.  I've never made a male mask before (kind of intimidating) but this was my chance.  It's tricky to make a mask masculine and luxe at the same time, but these handpainted masks with gold leaf accents worked out perfectly. Beautiful photos by Krista Mason photography.

Does this model look like Michelle Dockery from Downton Abbey to you, too?

All masks from this shoot recently listed in our Etsy shop!  


Minimal Wardrobe Spring Update

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Remember that one time I took pictures of each and every item of clothing I own and posted it online? Well, most of those clothes I still wear constantly.  In fact, many are literally worn out.  In anticipation of Spring (it already feels like summer here in the OC!) I purged again.  I got rid of tops and sweaters that were looking shabby, a few tops that shrank funny, and some of my dresses that look a little too "junior department."

 I'm lucky here in California- my wardrobe doesn't change much from season to season, but it does require a little tweaking.  I'll move my sweaters and jackets to the back of my closet, and bring the sundresses to the front, because I basically live in sundresses in Spring and Summer.  Because I purged a bit, I'm allowing myself to replenish.  Meaning, I get to shop :)

But shopping means something very different to me now.  Here's how my shopping strategy has changed.

2.  I only go into my favorite stores.  Much of my new wardrobe comes from Zara, Loft, Nordstrom Rack, and Max Studio because they usually have items that fit my subtly feminine vacation style and they are affordable.  I hit those places first. I steer clear of Forever 21 and similar stores because the clothes don't last.  Surprisingly, my Target clothes hold up really well, so I still shop there sometimes.

3.  I only buy things that fit me well.  This means I have to try stuff on.  If I'm too lazy to lug Sisi's stroller into the dressing room and try it on, then I obviously don't need it.  I don't shop on the internet as much for this reason.  Even with free returns, I end up keeping items that don't fit me perfectly because it's a pain to send them back.

4.  I avoid clearance racks.  Ever notice how the stuff on clearance is usually very eye-catching, but a little weird or colorful or kitschy?  For example, I bought a pair of khakis with lobsters all over them because they were on clearance.  Guess what?  I wore them twice and then donated them.  I don't live in the Hamptons and attend clam bakes on a regular basis. But they looked so cute on the rack!

The classics, like a perfect black blazer, can rarely be found on clearance.

5.  I take my sweet time.  Since I'm already content with my wardrobe, there is no pressure to buy quickly.  I'm checking off my list one by one over the course of many many mall trips.  If I don't find my perfect skinny jeans or sandals right away, who cares?  I have a closet full of items I really love.  No rush.

6.  Self-awareness. I know my body and what looks good on me.

  • I am fairly pear shaped- I wear a small on top, and a medium on the bottom.  Therefore, patterned jeans, short skirts, and white pants can look awful on me (much to my chagrin! I LOVE patterned jeans and white pants.)

  • I have a small head for my body. V-necks, scoop necks and boat-necks tend to balance out my small head and even out my pear shape.  Sometimes I do buy crew necks, but I usually regret it.

  • I have this in-between half-Asian skin tone.  Soft pastels, especially lavender, just don't look great on me.  I'm not sure why.  I'm also coming to terms with the fact that gray is not my best color. 

  • I am short.  5' 2" to be exact.  So crazy patterns, layers, and ruffles seem to overpower my short frame. I get a little jealous of my tall skinny friend Angel who can literally wear 5 layers in all different patterns and not be swallowed up in them. 

7.  Picked a base color (black) for most of my core items.  Most, but not all, of my basic items are black.  Most women have an assortment of black, navy, camel, brown and gray basics in their closets.  We feel like we need all the neutrals. That means we also need a bunch of different shoes and possibly purses to coordinate. But I find if I stick to black, I can mix and match just about everything.  My Grandma would roll her eyes if she saw how much black is in my closet.  "Ladies don't wear black!" was her motto.  Her closet looked like an Easter basket, no joke.

So, here is my Spring/Summer shopping list.  I found some of the items already, and some I'm still researching.

1.  TAN SANDALS.  I am tempted to just re-buy these Franco Sarto ones from last year that I basically wore  to death.  They are the most comfy and versatile sandals I've ever owned.

2.  GOLD OR COLORED SANDALS. Corso Como Bronte sandals in mint.
3.  A FEW PERFECT T SHIRTS  Loft linen T's are so comfy, and the scoop neck is flattering on me. Just don't accidentally dry them in the dryer!  They shrink like crazy.

4.  CLASSIC CHAMBRAY SHIRT. Found one at Old Navy with a slight stretch that is long enough to wear buttoned with leggings, but light enough to tie over a sundress.

5.  FLATTERING SKINNY JEANS Paige Verdugo Ankle fits me great!  They are supposed to be slightly cropped, but I'm really short so they look full-length on me.  

6.  BLACK LEGGINGS My old pair has a big hole in the butt, pointed out to me by my toddler.  Gapbody has the softest, sturdiest leggings that I've found.
8.  3 EVERYDAY DRESSES  I already purchased 2, but need one more.  Jersey fabric is my favorite.
9.  ONE COCKTAIL DRESS  Found this at Macy's and will be wearing it to weddings this Summer.  The cutout is cute. I am usually wary of cutouts.  I mean, I don't mind showing off my slender ribcage, but side cutouts near my love-handles?  No thanks!
10.  BLACK MAXI SKIRT.  Something not too flared.
11.  PERFECT BLACK BIKINI.  Retro style maybe? Something I can surf in.  Let me know if you have suggestions.
12.  TWO BRAS I am a huge fan of Gap's Modal Pullover Bra.  I'm pretty flat-chested, so I don't need underwire or even cups for that matter.

And that's about all I need to complete my Spring/Summer wardrobe.  What are your shopping strategies??  


Strawberry Rock Wall Art

Saturday, February 22, 2014

I made piles and piles of strawberry rocks for my friend's "Jamberry" baby shower.  Here they are... 

Now, the minimalist in me knew I should get rid of them after the party.  They are indeed cute, but useless.   I don't like having a lot of tschotskes around the house.  

But I just couldn't bring myself to throw them away.  They make me happy!  I remembergathering the rocks in the garden with Sisi and washing them together with the hosse.  I remember hand-painting each and every one while Sisi proudly painted her own rocks. 

I decided they might make some cute and quirky wall art.  I bought white shadow boxes (one on amazon and two from Ikea) and glue gunned the rocks to cardstock.   That's it!  

These would look adorable hung together as a triptych, but thanks again to my minimalism, I'm trying to embrace the beauty of empty walls.  We hung one up in Sisi's room, and will give the other two to friends. We're spreading the strawberry cheer!  

I just love that particular color of red- red with a hint of fuchsia and coral. Anyone know a good lipstick that color?  

Look at my munchkin all tucked in.


Sisi's New Yellow Bedroom

Friday, January 31, 2014

I know by now what my daughter is into- yellow is her favorite color, she loves animals, the ocean and cars.  She is slightly girly in that she likes to paint her nails and wear tutus on occasion, but she is a tomboy in every other way.  This room strikes a nice balance I think.

Pale yellow walls, teal blackout curtains (had to double them up because one layer wasn't blocking out enough light), and bright pops of color.  We used mostly decor from her nursery, but it looks so fresh and new against the yellow walls.  It's amazing what a coat (or two or three) of paint can do!

A cute couple sells handmade platform beds on craigslist.  They whipped this up in less than a week and delivered it to us for less than 300.00.  Beat that, Ikea!

Her quilt is from Target and it says "Goodnight...Sleep Tight".  Quilts are easy to wash.  We don't do comforters in this house anymore. Also, you can see her magnetic sleep pad which Joe insists will keep her circadian rhythms on track and improve her sleep.  We have one under our bed, too.  Joe swears it has helped him overcome his insomnia.

The bookshelf that I made with my own two hands...

Joe is silly and changed the "SIENA" letters to "IN SEA."  He likes to play word scramble with them.

This is Bella, my mom's boston terrier. Dogs are allowed in Sisi's room only when she gives them permission.  I'm trying to make her room her own private respite from dogs and any future children we might have.

The stamped "quilt" I made looks darling over her antique teal dresser (another great craigslist find!)

The dresser has locking drawers, which is cool.  Until Sisi is a teenager and is hiding things from me.

Souvenirs from Mexico, and Sisi's first portraits :) 

I have a lot more decluttering to do in her closet.  It's mostly office/etsy stuff that I don't quite know what to do with now that our office is basically a kitchen island in the sunroom.  I left her a teeny bit of room for her dresses.  Good thing she has a minimal wardrobe :)

This teeny banner was a gift from Courtney of Joyful Joyful after I told her about my miscarriage.  The banner reminds me of the joy of Christ that fills our household even in the hard times.  I don't mean to bring up the MC all the time, but I can't help but think of it when I am in Sisi's new room.  The reason we got rid of our office and moved Sisi into it was because we were going to give Sisi's old room to Baby #2.  When we lost Baby #2, we decided to keep going on her new room.  It was actually cathartic to use my hands and energy to create and make new. Now her old room is empty and waiting.  We are all waiting...

BTW, Joe bought those Russian nesting dolls for Sisi's stocking.  Made a special trip to Laguna Beach for them.  Love that man so much!


DIY Drawer Bookshelf

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Here is one Pinterest project I actually completed!  We were going to trash Sisi's massive damaged dresser, but then I saw this project online and thought it'd be perfect to store Sisi's books and toys.

One of my resolutions is to be more handy around the house.  I am slowly progressing on this goal.  For example, this project required that I prime and paint, use a power drill to remove hardware, and a socket wrench to insert wood screws.  Before this project, I didn't even know what a socket wrench was.

Basically, here's how I did it:

  •  I removed the old hardware
  •  primed and painted the drawers pure white 
  • glued cute wallpaper in as a backing (I originally used spray glue to attach the wallpaper, but it wasn't adhering well, so I squeezed E-6000 onto the paper instead.)  
  • stacked the drawers in a way that made sense and seemed sturdy
  • screwed them together using a socket wrench (power drill was just too big to maneuver on this project)
  • attached new knobs to the exposed drawers
It's not perfect.  It's slightly wobbly because the drawers were wonky in the first place.  I didn't use spackle to fill in the drill holes or anything.  My wallpaper job is not totally perfect, either. But who cares?  That's the thing about DIY home projects- if you expect perfection, you'll be too afraid to just dig right in and get started.  I really don't mind if my homemade furniture looks a little homemade, and neither does Sisi!  I'm just proud that we were able to upcycle something that would have gone to the landfill.