Why I Do What I Do!

This is why I do what I do🙏 Last week, I shared with my incredible Life of Mom community that it was 10 years since my mom passed away. I spoke about how much I missed her and some of the silly things she used to say to us kids, like “when I die, I’m going to come back as a seagull!” So for the past 10 years every time my sisters and I see a seagull, we yell “HI MOM!” In loss, I think it’s natural to cling to the signs that present themselves. In a song, in a rainbow and yes, even in a seagull. And there was something about my mom being gone 10 years that just hit hard. I cried a lot last week. 
Today, I’ve spent the day cleaning and folding laundry and going through a week’s worth of mail I’ve been avoiding because they are mostly bills I need to pay…then I came across a handwritten letter. It was from a Life of Mom community member, Melissa Whipp. Her words and sentiment stopped me in my tracks and filled my heart with so much gratitude it could have burst❤️ I often say how proud I am of the moms in my virtual village called Life of Mom but this just proves it🙌 Immediately I pinned it to my vision board, “a sign” to serve as a reminder that I am so blessed to be surrounded by some of the most beautiful souls and mothers 💙
Melissa, I am forever grateful for your kindness🙏
#lifeofmom

“Mom’s Away” Cruise

Sometimes you just need to trade in piles of laundry, wiping butts and stepping on legos for a few days of fun in the sun☀️ .
A girlfriend invited me on a “Mom’s Away Cruise” this past weekend and I hesitantly obliged. Now I would not categorize myself as someone who likes to cruise. Nope, not one bit. I’m more of a lounge by the hotel pool or beach type. But my husband was down with me going and well…I’m not about to pass a ladies trip my husband has signed off on. Plus I thought, “It’s a perfect few quiet days away to work on my book.” So let’s cruise🛳

There were about 15 moms attending but I only knew 3 of them. Now you all know 15 moms with different personalities could totally head “south of the border” quick. (pun intended)

The happy surprise was the cruise ship was the only thing that went south of the border🇲🇽 .
(See also: Gigantic Mexican flag pictured here.) .
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It was true, we all had extremely DIFFERENT personalities with unique stories to tell. Yet, we all shared the SAME reason for this trip. .
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We all wanted to sleep as much as possible and eat meals that were prepared for us without doing dishes.

We all wanted to have fun, wear straw hats with cheeky sayings and be served fruity cocktails 🍹🍸🥂🍾 .
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We all wanted a minute to care for ourselves…which on the surface level looks selfish but deep down, is the most unselfish thing you could do for your soul. A well rested mommy who has spent the weekend laughing and bonding with friends actually makes for better moms and wives! We all work incredibly hard to be our best selves for our family but how can that happen if mom doesn’t take time for mom?! Whether it’s a spin class or a long nap or a good book or yes, even a “mom cruise”

As we sat around a long table sharing our favorite MOMents of the trip, we all wanted the same thing… VALIDATION🙌 “You are not alone.” “I’ve felt that way too.” “My cheekbones hurt from laughing.” “Wow, that must have been so tough.” Moms have the hardest, most important jobs in the world yet rarely receive the validation they deserve. One by one, we bonded over the need to feel loved and the need to feel less isolated.

We all received VALIDATION ❤️ #lifeofmom

LIFE OF DOG MOM…MOM’S BEST FRIEND

This post is sponsored by Mirum, but all opinions are my own.

As many of you know, our family recently grew by one when we adopted a Saint Bernard puppy! Suddenly, I find myself back to parenting a toddler…following around this crawling, drooling, adorable puppy that puts everything in his mouth and wakes everyone up at 4am crying to get out of his crib, I mean crate.

But we are absolutely in love with The Duke and Duchess of Riles!

Seriously though, how awesome are dogs?! No matter the scenario; if I’m having the worst day, or my threenager is melting down because I won’t give her a 3rd cookie, or my big kid starts blaming me for “losing” his homework folder 4 minutes before the first bell rings, I take comfort in knowing my dogs always have my back. No demands, no tantrums, no blaming…my dogs love me just the way mom is.

Now it’s only natural that I make sure my dogs receive the absolute best care. Here is some advice that I would share with new pet owners hoping to raise happy, healthy dogs:

❏ Use a monthly application to fight off fleas and ticks. Personally, I love PetArmor Plus which is used for protection, prevention and/or treatment of fleas and ticks. If you treat your dog with this each month, you can stop infestations and help prevent reinfestation. And I’m super excited PetArmor Plus is now conveniently available at PetSmart stores or PetSmart.com And since that’s my go-to store for buying dog food, treats and excessive amounts of tennis balls for my Lab…I enjoy a one-stop shop like PetSmart. Receive $5 off PetArmor Plus for Dogs or Cats, 3ct (valid March-September 2019)

❏ Make sure they are always up to date on their shots and Vet check-ups. It’s best to ask your local friends who have pets what Vet they recommend. Sadly, there are some clinics that are ridiculously overpriced. And honestly, if you use PetArmor Plus monthly, there are less reasons to go to the Vet, which ultimately saves you money. I simply set an alarm on my phone every month to remind me to apply PetArmor Plus treatment.

HOW TO APPLY: Simply squeeze the tube firmly to your dog’s skin on their back between the shoulder blades. Keep your dog apart from other pets and your kids for 24 hrs after treatment and until it is dry.

❏ Make sure the dogs receive ample exercise and a healthy diet. Labs are especiallyactive and needs her daily run or game of fetch. If I take the dogs on a hike or to the dog park, I don’t want to worry about something they could potentially be exposed to, PetArmor Plus gives me that piece of mind. Oh, and if we don’t run out my Lab daily, she walks around the house with a tennis ball in her mouth, which is her passive aggressive way to guilt mom. Yes, even dogs can give you mom guilt!

❏ When introducing your child to your new pet, make sure this is a lot of interaction between the two with a parent always present. With that said, never leave your child alone with your pet. It takes months and months to establish trust and a bond between child and pet. Some will warm up sooner than others, it really depends on the child and pet’s personality.

❏ Just like kids, I find routine and habit helps my dogs thrive. My husband and I make sure to feed the dogs at the same time each day. Shortly after eating or drinking or waking up from a nap, I always let my puppy outside to pee immediately. And until fully house trained, our puppy sleeps in a crate. Dogs are less likely to pee or poop in their crate because that is where they sleep. This helps train the pup to hold their bladder for longer stretches of time.

❏ If this is your second dog you are adding to the family, which is the case for my family, allow plenty of adjustment time for your older dog. My poor girl Duchess took weeks and weeks to warm up to Duke. After being snapped at by a few dogs, she was terrified of other dogs, even a puppy a fraction of her size. Our family made sure to pour a ton of attention and love onto our first born pup. She gets to sleep in the kid’s bedroom at night and has exclusive rights to all post-meal scraps. Puppies are simply irresistible, so it was paramount that we match that affection for Duchess too.

❏ Teach your children that pets are valued members of our family that we need to love and care for. It’s also a great chance to teach them responsibility and chores. Each child will take turns feeding the dogs, making sure water is always in their bowls and well, if they don’t clean up their toys, there’s a good chance it will be chewed up by the time they come home from school.

But “fur” real, here’s my closing thoughts…

I grew up in a house with 12 kids and we always had 2 to 3 dogs at all times. Whether they were Black Labs, Great Danes, German Shepherds or my favorite, Saint Bernards, we loved our dogs like family…more than our own siblings at times. The dogs always looked after us kids and we in turn, looked after them. When I was a toddler, my Saint Bernard Gretchen and I would share tubs of peanut butter and ice cream…which I credit my rockstar immune system to. Years after that, my Black Lab Pal would walk me to elementary school which was 5 blocks away and then turn around and walk home. Safe to say, I was taught at a young age the value of having a pet by your side. It’s one of the earliest lessons I learned on compassion, loyalty and the importance of companionship.

My family circa 1973-ish. When there were only 10 kids, not 12.

If you ask my 88 year old dad, a Korean War Veteran, who grew up during the Depression and raised 12 kids with my mom, his high school sweetheart “What’s the secret to a happy life” he always says,

A soft chair.

A cold drink.

And a loyal dog by your side.

Cheers to that!


by Lucy Riles, Life of Mom Founder

The Motherless Mom


My mom was my best friend,
My advocate, my rock.
She loved us kids through our faults,
In her children, she took stock.


Then she got the call

That the cancer was back,
With tumors in her lungs and brain.
No treatment could save her,
So it began...the dreaded waiting game.


Nine months after being diagnosed,
We said goodbye to a living Saint.
A devoted wife, loving mom & grandma,
A talented Artist, man oh man,

Could she paint!

It’s been 10 years since
Cancer took away my mom.
And if this time has taught me anything
It is that you ALWAYS need your mom.


No matter how old you are.
No matter how much time has passed.
You need her on the happy and hard days
You need her in your future,

Present and past.

How I wish she could have met my babes.
You see, I became a mom after she died.
I can just picture her,

Holding her namesake,
Squeezing my littles tight,

Beaming with pride.

This makes me cry.


The thing about losing a parent...
Unlike other losses, time doesn’t heal.
You are simply forced to deal.


I miss my mom today
Just as much as I did 10 years ago.
Life doesn’t get easier,

You just get stronger
Is how I’ve learned to cope.


So I love my kids through their faults,
I play the role of friend and advocate.
Sharing stories of their incredible

Grandma, her compassion, her strength
And immeasurable wit.

I’d like to think I’m making her proud.
But I’ll never know for sure…
Until I see her again on the

Other side of that majestic cloud.

Love you forever Mom


Lucy Riles, Life of Mom Founder

Heart Mom

The term “Heart Mom” refers to a mother of a child with a CHD (congenital heart defect) Children born with CHDs are as common as 1 in 100 births. Some are diagnosed in utero (which was the case for me) or not until after birth. The journey for families affected by CHDs is an emotional one. You never quite know what’s waiting for you at the next appointment…

thankfully today, my brave little heart warrior received a clean bill of health and cleared for another year🙏 This is not always the case for heart families and these appointments may not always have clear EKG and echocardiogram results…

I do not for one second take for granted days like today, a clean bill of health, a strong beating heart. After all, I am a Heart Mom who has watched as my daughter flatlined…I have watched my daughter’s beating heart as her chest lay open covered by a transparent type of tape…I have felt her life inside of me❤️

9 years later and I am still brought right back to that time. The girl in this photo is the strongest person I know!

Cancer May Have Taken My Mom, But I Refuse to Let it Take My Joy!

I was compensated by Med-IQ through educational grants from AbbVie, Astellas, and Genentech to write about managing distress for cancer patients and their caregivers. All opinions are my own.

In June 2008, my mom was diagnosed with stage IV metastatic melanoma.

In July 2008, my mom’s youngest child, her 12th child, was married. That child was me.

In March 2009, cancer took my mom.

In June 2009, I found out I was pregnant for the first time…my due date was my mom’s birthday.

It’s a great debate in my family whether or not my mom knew her cancer was terminal before my wedding…but let me ask you this: if your youngest child was weeks away from getting married, would you announce you’re dying of cancer?

Would you want your child’s wedding day to be a joyous one or feel more like a living funeral for the Mother-of-the-Bride?

Exactly.

Now that I’m a mom myself, I would have handled it the same way. I’m fairly certain she knew her fate in June, but it wasn’t until early August when my parents shared the news with my siblings that she had less than a year to live. They intentionally left me out. I was on my honeymoon. My mom’s plan was not to tell me…she wanted to “protect” me in some way. As the baby of the family, shielding me from all the family drama was a common move. My mom didn’t want me to worry, she didn’t want this newlywed stage to be tainted.

Well I ended up finding out about some “secret family meeting” that took place while I was away. In a big family like ours, secrets rarely stay secrets. I confronted my mom, sobbing while I begged “What is going on? Stop protecting me. No more sugar-coating. I need you to be honest with me.”

After that, my mom told me. “Lucy, I have less than a year to live.”

There I was, begging for the truth, but as soon as she uttered those words I wanted to go back to living in denial. Deep down, I knew back in June this was it. This cancer was going to kill her.

Every month for the next 9 months I flew home from LA to Chicago to spend time with my mom. And every month I said goodbye to my mom as if it was our last goodbye.

I was sad ALL the time. I was a new bride with no joy. How could I have joy? My mom, my best friend, my biggest advocate was dying. Every time my phone rang, I panicked “Was this it? What did this test result show? How much time does the doctor think she has?” Living so far away gave me tremendous anxiety. “What if I need to get home? What if it’s too late? What if I don’t get to say goodbye?”

These thoughts consumed my life and sabotaged my first year of marriage. It’s safe to say I was not the person my husband signed up to marry…far from it.

This was exactly what my mom was trying to “protect” me from. And now that I’m a mom, I’d do just about everything to protect and keep my children happy.

(Mom, I get it now. You were right…you were always right.)

It was only recently that I realized there’s an actual term for what I was feeling at that time. It’s called “cancer-related distress.”

Cancer-related distress is any unpleasant feeling or emotion (sadness, hopeless, powerless, uncertain, guilty, etc.) that affects a patient or caregiver’s quality of life, how they cope with cancer and how they interact with others. It can be mental, physical, social or spiritual suffering. This type of distress can actually make it harder to cope with having cancer, its symptoms or its treatments.

If you think you or someone you love has “cancer-related distress,” here is a list of symptoms that the patient and/or caregiver might experience:

-sadness, fear and helplessness

-anger, feeling out of control

-questioning your faith, your purpose, the meaning of life

-pulling away from people

-concerns about illness

-concerns about your social role (i.e. mother, father, caregiver)

-poor sleep, appetite or concentration

-depression, anxiety, panic

-frequent thoughts of illness and death

It’s been almost 10 years since my mom passed away to cancer, yet I can relate to almost every one of these symptoms during that time. I battled with depression and anxiety issues for years. I lost so much weight from the stress that it actually triggered me to develop hyperthyroidism. To date, I’m still treated for thyroid and anxiety issues.

But something significant has changed. One thing has returned…and that is JOY. The girl that my husband signed up to marry has returned. The fun mom I hoped and dreamed to be for my kids is alive and well. Cancer may have taken my mom but I refuse to let it take my joy!

Here are some tips to taking back your joy!

This applies to cancer patients, caregivers, family and loved ones who have been affected by this horrible disease.

Do the things that bring you joy. Say you love spending time with your grandchildren, maybe you like taking your daughter to the theatre or taking your dog to the beach… Whatever brings you joy, do it as often as you can.

Ask yourself, what are you hoping for? For my mom, she knew being cured wasn’t an option so she took the least invasive, most comfortable treatment plan. Even towards the end when she was in hospice, it was her hope to be at home. So each of her 12 children and spouses took turns caring for her on different days. Since I was the only one out of state, I would come home every other weekend for those final 3 months of her life and care for my mom. It was her hope and an honor for all of us. She taught us grace and beauty and dignity even in her death.

What are you worried about? (What is causing the distress?) Whatever those worries are, acknowledge them and then take action…make a plan to try to minimize the distress in your life as much as possible. I wish I had done this. I did not take care of myself physically and emotionally. I wish I had made that a priority.

Get out! Go to the movies, schedule a lunch date with a friend, join a book club…whatever you can do to get out of your head (and home) to forget about cancer for a few hours.

Update everyone all at once! Your family and friends love you, so they will want to know how you are doing…but that can be very straining to emotionally “go there” time and time again. If you have ongoing health updates to report to loved ones, send it out in a group email or post. This helps keep them informed and minimizes the stress on the patient and caregivers.

“Caregivers, put your oxygen mask on first.” Basically, you are no good to the patient if you don’t take care of yourself. Go get your doctor check-ups, workout, schedule a spa day or an appointment with a therapist so you too have an emotional outlet. Self-care is so important!

These tips were provided by Lillie D. Shockney, RN, BS, MAS, ONN-CG, University Distinguished Service Professor and Professor of Surgery, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

HELP and SUPPORT*:

Cancercare.org is a FREE hotline made up of 43 social workers specifically there to help cancer patients AND caregivers.

Cancersupportcommunity.org

NCCN.org/patients

Cancer.org/treatment/treatments-and-side-effects/emotional-side-effects/distress.html

*These links are being provided as a convenience and for informational purposes only; they are not intended and should not be construed as legal or medical advice nor are they endorsements of any healthcare provider or practice. Med-IQ bears no responsibility for the accuracy, legality, or content of the external sites or for that of subsequent links. Contact the external sites for answers to questions regarding their content.

Med-IQ is an accredited medical education company that provides exceptional educational experience for physicians, nurses, pharmacists and other healthcare professionals. I decided to work with Med-IQ because I want patients/caregivers/mothers/daughters to be aware of the signs of distress and anxiety. I want them to know they are not alone. No one should suffer in silence. I hope my story can help other families be more proactive in curbing cancer-related distress and finding joy whenever possible.
Please take a moment to participate in this survey, which will take less than 15 minutes to complete. You will be entered to win one of ten $100 VISA gift cards. No personal information is kept, sold, or stored in the survey completion process. Once you have completed the survey, email survey.oncology@gmail.com and indicate you’ve taken the survey to be entered to win.

It’s just us. She and I…

This is how she always sleeps, chiseled into my neckline and chest ever since she was a newborn and still does 3 years later. With the right position in a dimly lit room with a fan going, she’s sound asleep in less than 4 minutes. 
I’ve officially mastered the nap. 
Now bedtime is another story… my husband has been pushing to eliminate her naps… but he’s also at work in the late afternoon when she rages from exhaustion if she doesn’t nap. Easy for him to say! 
But in all seriousness, she’s my last… my baby. I’m not ready to give up those quiet afternoon cuddles, the calm before the “after school” storm. 
It’s just us. She and I… and I’m just going to savor these MOMents for a little while longer. She and I… my rainbow baby of hope🌈

No matter what age, “YOU WILL ALWAYS NEED YOUR MOM!”


I’ve always felt this statement to be true… that no matter, “YOU WILL ALWAYS NEED YOUR MOM!”
This past weekend validated just that as I flew back home to my beloved Chicago and Indiana to spend some quality time with two of my closest, oldest and dearest friends; 
While one celebrated one of the happiest days of her life, her wedding❤️
The other one is going through one of the scariest, most heartbreaking days of her life as she cares for her very ill child💔

I watched a heartsick mom devote every waking minute nurturing and caring for her fragile baby while her mom shed tears of pain watching her child and grandchild go through so much… Missing and wishing for her own mom for support.

Then I watched an excited bride-to-be shed tears of pure joy as she walked into the arms of her new husband while her mom shed tears of pride and nostalgia as she sat next to her own beaming mom.

What a roller coaster life is…
I literally spent the happiest and saddest MOMents in my best friend’s lives in the span of 4 days… and one very similar, very present universal theme surrounded them both… a mother’s love❤️

(This photo was taken 37-ish years ago of me and my mom who I miss every single day💙)

Life of Grandpa

Life of Grandpa is… bear hugs and knuckle head rubs and afternoon naps and early dinners and jolly chuckles and watching slices of your own childhood’s admiration for this man play out through the admiring eyes of your children❤️ 
So very grateful and blessed to have this man as my dad🙏

Self-Care or Bust… No Seriously. Moms Need Self-Care!

Self Care… coming to moms worldwide in 2019!

It is my humble opinion that self care makes us better moms to our kids. Whether it’s a walk to your local cafe or a spa day or a workout or a nap or a vacation or a check-up or a good book or takeout or time to make out😉 
Care for yourself! 
As moms, we would want that for our children when they are adults… so let’s stop doing everything for everyone else without doing anything nice for yourself! 
Just stop.
Our mental health is crucial to maintain a nurturing childhood for our littles. They will remember mom cared them but also cared for herself and hence do the same❤️