Things You Save in a Fire Book Review and Mental Health Tips

books, Mental Health

If you haven’t read Things You Save in a Fire, I highly recommend that you do. I recently had one of my social media followers ask about books I recommend for mental health. Personally, I have a hard time finishing self help books. I follow podcasts, Ted Talks, and watch a lot of documentaries. I read ALOT, whether it be a book or an article. I personally relate more to story telling. I love books that I am able to escape reality with but also learn something. Things You Save in a Fire taught me how to begin to move on from something that caused me severe trauma and PTSD. The steps to forgiveness and why it is important to forgive even when someone will no longer be a part of your life completely changed my thought process. I didn’t believe that it was possible to see the good in a situation so devastating. I thought that if I admitted that any good had come from that situation, I was saying that was slightly less awful. As a mother, how do you feel okay saying that something good came from a situation that stole your child’s innocence?

Step One: To forgive you must admit that someone hurt you. That sounds easy enough, right? While I will admit that most of the time this is the easiest step, for fellow empaths or others who overanalyze every situation, this isn’t always a piece of cake. I have always been hard on myself. As the saying goes, you are your own worst critic. I realized that in an attempt to control the uncontrollable, I caused myself destructive anxiety. I believe that there is such thing as a worry that is productive. Being excited about something can be an exceptional motivation factor, but being anxious about something that you have absolutely no control over is destructive. I have a desire to fix everyone and every situation. I want to know what I did wrong and I’d rather be wrong because then I can be proactive about the situation. Admitting that someone else caused me pain and the situation was not within my power to alter was extremely hard for me. Seeing those words in writing while reading someone else’s story put everything into perspective. I knew the answers all along and I was fighting to change something that I had no choice but to accept or let it destroy me. Admit to yourself that you allowed someone to get close to you. Admit to yourself that you were a victim of a crime. Admit to yourself that you are a little bit broken right now. Admit to yourself that you are allowed to feel pain. To become a survivor, you have to feel what you need to feel first. Feeling the pain now allows your body to time to process the emotions. As someone who still suffers from PTSD, I thought that avoiding the emotions would keep me from feeling pain.

For example, I tried my best to stay off social media. Don’t misread what I’m saying. Taking a break from social media and distancing yourself from any kind of negative environment is a good thing. In my case, social media was important to me before the trauma. I stayed in touch with my family and friends and by avoiding it all together, as well as not allowing myself to process my trauma in a healthy way, I cast the entire trauma off on social media. I didn’t know who to blame anymore. I didn’t even have a lucid version of what actually happened in my mind. I became triggered everytime I received an email or text message. I dreaded checking social media accounts to the point where I had anxiety attacks just thinking about reading a message. I associated any pain that I was feeling with social media. In the process, I missed positive messages from friends and family and pushed people who wanted to support me away.

It’s important to admit what happened. I am all about taking responsibility for what I do wrong, and I would never tell you to place blame where it is not due. However, we have so many negative thoughts that go through our head every single day. Telling yourself that something was your fault when it wasn’t will not make the pain go away. It will not give you any more control over the situation. It will only prolong the healing process. Admitting what happened is important for the next step.

Step Two: Acknowledge that the person who hurt you is flawed, like all people are. To me, this was a lot bigger than just saying that someone sucked. It was saying that in a way, we are all a little broken. Our flaws can add character, and they can cause some serious damage. In acknowledging that the person who hurt me is flawed, I also acknowledged that I was. I learned that sometimes it’s no one’s fault. Sometimes two people can be toxic for each other. People don’t always apologize and you won’t always receive the closure that you so desperately hoped for. Part of the healing process is gaining an understanding of what happened. In no way do I mean fixate on the situation or allow it to control your life. But you need to have an idea of what went wrong, the parts of the situation that you do have control over, and the parts that you do not. You can control your reaction to someone else’s actions, but you cannot control their actions.

What do you do when the person who hurt you is blaming you? This question is precisely why forgiveness is so important. Forgiving someone else is not always for them. It’s so that you can move on. If you blame yourself for everything that goes wrong in life, not only will you be miserable, but you will limit yourself in ways that you cannot even imagine. So again, feel what you need to feel…and then move on. You are in no way saying that because all people have flaws, someone’s flaws did not hurt you. You are simply saying that imperfections can cause pain and gaining a better understanding of boundaries that you may need to set in the future.

Are you ready for step three? I know I wasn’t, but here goes.

Step Three: Find something positive that would not have happened if the situation had not occurred. For the longest time I thought that finding something good discredited me. I thought that finding a glimmer of light and hope would give someone the power to say that I spent no time in the dark. The trauma we suffered was real. I know this because I finally allowed myself to feel. That doesn’t mean that I’m never allowed to experience joy again. That doesn’t mean that I can’t find peace and move on. It doesn’t mean that I wanted this to happen to me. Finding the good in a bad situation allows you to change your story. It doesn’t delete the chapters before it. They will always be with you. But it allows room for new characters and events. Someone once told me that the reason some people stay stuck in the worst moments of their life is because that’s all they have. They live in that moment because it was significant.

I don’t want to give too much of the book away because you really should read it for yourself, but I will reference a part of the book (with no spoiler context) that was super relateable to me. One of the characters mentioned that when she envisioned her trauma, she pictured herself as scared and hopeless. When she finally embraced the power of forgiveness, she pictured the woman that she had become sitting alongside the scared little girl. She pictured herself giving her a hug and letting her know that it will be okay. That might sound crazy to some, but for trauma victims it’s common to feel as though your life was split into two parts: the part of you that lived before the trauma, and the person that you became afterwards. The middle can be kind of hazy sometimes. Your body has a way of shutting down some of those thoughts and preventing you from remembering certain things. Don’t spend so much time wishing that the past didn’t happen. It did. But what are you going to do about it? Are you going to remain stuck in the moment? Will you use your knowledge to help others see the light?

If you found this helpful, let me know in a comment and feel free to follow along! Follow me on IG: @ashleeleighann and TikTok @ashleelemay.

-The Zombie Mom

 

 

Dear Alyssa…Do you Really Have to Grow Up?

Motherhood

Dear Alyssa,

You like to remind me every day that it’s getting closer and closer to your 9th birthday. Birthdays are a time to celebrate, and you know that I find any excuse to throw a big party and have all our friends together. But then I reflect on the last year of your life, and it’s always bittersweet. Something about the fact that you are almost T E N is really not okay with me. I know this year hasn’t been the best, but to be honest you probably think that it has. I hope you never lose that light you have to offer the world. You really are something special.

You’re a dreamer. You get that from me. I hope that you never waste time viewing that as a flaw or trying to fit in.

Thank you for telling me it was okay so many times when it really wasn’t. Thank you for seeing the positive in every situation and finding the beauty in this ugly world. I am so proud of you for fighting through your fears. You handled all the struggles of this year with grace, sometimes much better than I could as an adult. Thank you for believing in me when I didn’t believe in myself. I hope that you look back at this time and know that everything I did was to protect you.

You’re such a cool kid. I’m not even saying that because you’re my kid. The fact that you still want me to pick you up, spin you around, and “squish” you at almost nine years old makes my mama heart so happy. Your Pokémon pajamas, desire to learn everything possible about sharks, and your independence make me so proud to be your mom.

You know that dance parties require 90s music, that the only way to cure a broken heart is by eating a Snickers ice cream bar, and sprinkling glitter everywhere is just a part of life.

I know it won’t be like this forever. This past year you have learned to play violin, found a love for reading, and gave the best dang soldier performance during the Nutcracker that I’ve ever witnessed. You are so intentional with everything that you do, and sometimes I really do love you so much that it hurts.

You find the best in people, even when they really don’t deserve it. It used to worry me, but after this past year I’ve realized that the world needs more people like you.

Sometimes people need just a little bit of your magic. I know that your smile, despite the worst of odds, made me commit to becoming the best version of myself. It’s not fair. It’s not right. And it’s not okay in any sense of the word, but you made me so proud to be your mom by showing everyone what you are made of. Never stop standing up for what is right. You are your only limit, baby girl. I truly believe you can do anything you set your mind to because I’ve watched you do it. I watched you pick up your violin and play when all you wanted to do was hide under your blanket.

I want you to know that I support you. I love hearing all your dreams and no matter how exhausted I am, your energy gives me life. You love to create, and I am so blessed to call you mine.

So many people have told me that kids are resilient, like you can just move on and forget about the trauma you’ve been through. They’re right in a way. You have shown so much strength. But you also have the biggest heart, and you understand things that an eight year old should have no clue about. Sometimes you’re the only adult conversation I have all day. You’re an empath, like me. I want you to know that it’s not easy for me to leave home at night when I know you need me there to feel safe. But I get to spend my days watching you grow.

There have been so many positives this year. You had your first dance recital, you played basketball and had nerf wars. You went to Mexico and swam out in the middle of the ocean and slid down a slide into the water. You jumped off cliffs into the lake. You drove your scooter to your friend’s house all by yourself. You learned your multiplication facts and read your first chapter books.

I won’t ever be ready to see another year go, but I am always up for a new adventure.

Love you allllllll the way to the moon and back,

-The Zombie Mom

How to Make a Super Fun Summer Obstacle Course for Cheap!

DIY, Lifestyle, Mom Life, Motherhood

If this is your first time here, Welcome! I’m a mom of four girls who works night shift as a laboratory scientist. I homeschool my girls during the day, and I’m constantly trying to come up with new ideas to stay awake all day (while showing my girls the beauty in life). Corona has us all going a little crazy cooped up in the house, right? I planned to blow up the girls’ unicorn sprinkler and let them run around in the front yard, but it had a hole in it. It was way too hot to have a day outside without water so we improvised (which always does end up in the best day ever in my experience).

When we purchased our house, our realtor brought us over a moon bounce the next day!   There were five kids, infant to age 8 so to make this day fun for everyone would take a little work. Most of what I used were just items that we had in the garage. We had a smaller moon bounce/inflatable that served to keep the younger kids occupied while the older kids completed the course. The smaller inflatable was purchased second hand for super cheap.

While the moon bounce was a fun touch, it’s really not needed. This was the end of the course, and everything else leading up to it would have been enough. Here is what I used! Let’s get started!

Toys Used:

  • Two Peppa Pig Trikes (obviously don’t have to be peppa, but the trikes being small made it harder to peddle haha)
  • Hula Hoops
  • Kiddie Pool
  • Baseball and Bat
  • Pop up tent/tunnel
  • Bubbles
  • Water
  • DIY slip and slide (instructions provided)
  • Two Inflatables

Rundown of the Obstacle Course: First, the girls each had to peddle on the tiny trikes to the hula hoops. Once they picked up the hula hoops, they had to hula to the pineapple float (these fun floats were purchased from Target for about $3, I had a Flamingo also). Next, they had to slide down the slip and slide, crawl through the tunnel (pop up tent) and run to the kiddie pool. Once in the kiddie pool, they threw a ball in the air and hit it with the baseball bat. The final task was to run to the moon bounce, and climb to the top of the “wall” in the middle.

Tip: I added water, soap, and bubbles inside of the moon bounce so that it made it harder to get to the top at the end!

 

How I made the slip and slide: You can made this with any thick plastic. I used an old inflatable ball pit that had a hole. I cut it, spread it out, and we put two plastic stakes to hold the plastic in place. You can obviously make this bigger, but since it was just part of the obstacle course, it was the perfect size. You could use old pool floats and if you don’t have anything laying around, a hardware store sells rolls of thick plastic. Another tip to make it extra slippery would be to add dish soap.

Mom Tip: I like to make everything a “game” or “challenge” to keep my oldest interested. It didn’t really matter who finished the obstacle course first, but giving her tasks to complete is also a learning experience. Having ADHD myself, I know how engaging challenges can be and how I can let time slip away from me quickly without even realizing it. Escape Rooms and Obstacle Courses are along the same lines as video games and I have found this extremely effective when learning new topics.

Let me know if you found this helpful! Feel free to follow along for more DIY, life hacks, mom life, mental health, fitness tips and everything in between. 

-The Zombie Mom

 

 

 

Newborn Photography Tips for Beginners from a Mom of Four

DIY, Lifestyle, Mom Life, Motherhood, Newborn, Photography, Work

At 19, I was a full time college student with an infant. Not working wasn’t an option for me, but I wanted to spend as much time as possible with my baby while finishing my education. My first camera was nothing special, but to me it was a huge investment. At first, I really just wanted something better than my phone to capture photos of my baby and I justified the purchase with the fact that I wouldn’t have to pay to get professional photos quite as often. I had no idea the amount of work that went into planning, editing, responding to emails, and of course actually shooting sessions.

My photography business was successful and I have learned so much about posing, lighting, marketing, etc. One of the most important lessons that I learned as a mother (a frugal one at that) is that you don’t always have to purchase the most expensive props. While I definitely believe that investing in newborn props, camera equipment, fancy dresses for unicorn sessions, providing dresses for Well Dressed Wolf or tea party sessions, etc. is important…the greatest lesson that I learned is that you have to get started. The props and equipment will not magically create the perfect photo. You have to put in the work. You have to constantly produce new content and see what people respond to. I’ve found that most of the time the photo that I choose for a sneak peek, meaning that it is the photo I am the most excited about, is rarely the photo the family posts on social media once they receive their completed gallery.

I photograph everything from newborns to weddings. I even did a newborn puppy shoot for our dog, but it took YEARS to figure out what I really wanted to capture. It took time to feel confident in my work. I want to share a few tips with you and in this post I am going to talk about a few aspects of newborn photography.

First of all, as a mom I now understand how stressful it can be to reach out to a photographer in the first place. Photos are so important to me, and I always have a vision in mind. You want to establish a relationship with your client and let them know that although you know what you are doing, you want them to come out of the experience with the photos that they want. I let clients know that I have tons of props and outfits; all they need to bring is a baby; however, they are welcome to bring anything additional that they would like to incorporate. Another tip when planning is to either share a idea board or have them send you photos that they like. I do not try to replicate photos; however, it is good to have a sense of what they are looking for.

Honestly, the best time to book a newborn session is a couple of months into your pregnancy. Many photographers book months in advance and we can plan around your due date. Obviously, this isn’t always an option, but planning a newborn session takes time. After years, I do have several prop and outfit options but I try to personalize sessions as much as possible. Putting colors together, having outfits that will fit baby, and having backup options are all important. I don’t want to waste valuable time that could be spent posing trying to find something that I could have laid out before the client gets there.

When should you shoot a newborn session? Newborns are easiest to pose and at their sleepiest state during the first two weeks of life. Babies have a mind of their own, and I am well aware of pregnancy and postpartum complications after four babies. Sometimes this cannot happen, but be prepared to spend extra time with a baby that is older than two weeks. Certain poses really must be done within the first two weeks. Be patient. Have an idea of what shots you want to get before starting the session.

Must have props: From my experience, I use stretchy cheese cloth or jersey knit wraps almost every session. There are so many ways that you can wrap a baby and using different colors and materials can add variety to your photos without spending alot of money. Basket stuffers, posing pillows, headbands/bows, knit outfits, and flowers are also some go to props of mine. I use a bobby lounger for posing still even though I have posing pillows specifically for photos. This makes the baby feel as if they are being held and has worked wonders for me.

I usually have some type of background noise, and a small heater handy if the baby will be naked for a period of time during posing. 

Lighting: Natural lighting is a must for newborn photos. I do have studio lights that I use for many sessions, but with newborns I typically just use a good source of natural lighting. Keep in mind that newborn sessions can take hours when planning your session around daylight hours.

Make the parents feel comfortable. If mama is stressed, baby can feel that. Let the parents know that you have this under control and although it may take some time to get the images that you desire, there is no need to stress. Having a baby takes alot out of you, and I know that I was so upset right after having my daughter thinking about the fact that I may not get all of the photos that I dreamed of. Being able to relate to your client will set you apart and develop a relationship for years to come!

Thank you for reading! I hope you found these tips helpful! I will be posting more, so feel free to follow along and contact me with any questions you have and what you’d like to see next.

-The Zombie Mom