Kids: Is It All In the Timing?

I’ve had a lot of time to think about this topic. Fourteen years, in fact. Cameron turned fourteen recently and I had just turned 22 when he was born. Fast forward and here we are. He has two siblings and I have gray hair.

The Clock Goes “Tick Tock”

Timing can be interesting- eighteen months is all that separates my kids in age. That was not planned, as I’ve discussed in previous posts. Three kids in three years is not for the weak or people who like to sleep.

I like my sleep and I am so damn glad that my kids do. Once everyone slept all night, it’s been great around here unless someone is sick. Julian needed some help in this department- I’d love to shake the hand of whoever discovered that Clonidine helps with sleep. He sleeps great these days.

Figuring Out What Works

Matthew and I really didn’t have much of a plan- we just knew we wanted kids. He wanted two, I wanted four, and then Cameron showed up in 2005.

Matthew got two. I changed my mind. Forget four- Cameron was a difficult baby and I was not up for a repeat. Eighteen months later, I got “the Buddha Baby”, known as Julian. Eighteen months after that, Lily made her appearance and I shut down the baby factory.

I was done. You can read Rewind and Fast Forward to get the full story.

What worked for us doesn’t work for everyone. Some prefer to have kids early. Lily was born two months after my 25th birthday. I had hoped to be done having kids by 30, so I was done a whole 5 years early.

I was worried about the chances of birth defects, the extra wear and tear on my body (which happens no matter how old you are) and my energy levels. I also just wanted to get this part of my life over with. Pregnancy and the younger years of a child’s life are hard. Might as well be young and get it done, right?

The money part isn’t fun to figure out. I think that if you’re a bit older when you start having kids you may have a better shot at being financially stable. I’ve read that many older parents are more patient- in that case, I’d be ready for menopause before I had kids.

Two main worries for women that wait until later is the chances of birth defects or difficulties with getting pregnant in the first place. Luckily, there are maternal-fetal specialists and fertility specialists that can assist with these issues.

The Big Questions

Should you start early? Should you wait a few more years? I think it is up to each couple to decide what is best for them. Having kids is a huge, life-changing decision. Don’t go into it lightly.

Look at where you are in your life- financially and emotionally. How is your health? How will your life change if you do decide to have a child? These are just a few questions to ask yourself.

This post is not meant to talk anyone into or out of having kids at any point- just to bring a few thoughts to the surface.

Did you have kids at an early or late age? How do you think it impacted your life? Do you wish you had done it differently?

Pics courtesy of: Unsplash

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Guest Post With Gina

I have a guest post today! I haven’t had one in a while- enjoy Gina’s post on getting kids to embrace healthy habits.

We all want our kids to be fit, whole, and healthy for at least some of their lives. The problem is that kids learn best from what they see, not what you say. Healthy habits for kids begins with you – the parent – taking care of yourself first. That’s your best way to create a family-health home.

6 HEALTHY HABITS FOR KIDS THAT YOU MUST DO FIRST

If you want to create a great life for your kids, begin by helping yourself to have a great life. Here are six ways to get started:

healthy habits for kids

1. Staying – Or Getting – In Shape

I’m not going to lie – getting in shape takes discipline. Starting a fitness routine when you’ve never really committed before takes a huge act of will. The trick is really to trick yourself. You can make goals and push yourself to get them down. Here are some things that have worked for me:

  • Find partners to keep you accountable. Or, go to a gym or sign up with a meetup group of like-minded people who want to get fit together.
  • Do a workout you like. Right now for me, that’s Crossfit, but other fitness routines that have worked for me have included yoga, kickboxing, hiking, and Zumba. What is the workout that you’d like to do for yourself?
  • Set up a reward system. After a year of workouts, I received a shirt at my gym for my 150th visit. My next reward comes at 300 visits. To inspire myself, I’m setting goals in increments of 50. At each level (200, 250, 300), I will reward myself, with each treat getting better. This will culminate in a full day spa treatment for my final reward!
  • Make it easy. Whether or not you are a member at a gym, you can work out at home. That way, there are no excuses – even if it snows. (Although shoveling *might* be a good enough workout for you, depending on how much snow there is!) Go on Youtube and watch free videos that feature yoga, dance or workout programs; you may even want to buy some workout videos,. Do whatever you need to make sure you can exercise in your home.

2. The Food In Your Fridge

We cannot expect our kids to develop healthy habits if we are squirreling away treats for ourselves. And guess what? Even if you think they don’t notice, I assure you, they DO. TRUST ME ON THIS.

So stop it. Extra sugary treats aren’t going to help your waistline or your gut health. Seriously, if you want a sweet treat, have an occasional glass of wine, or do the MIND diet and have a small glass of wine daily. (No kidding, this is part of the anti-Alzheimer’s diet!)

Now, go take stock – what’s in your fridge and cabinets? It should be mostly legumes, fruits and veggies that your system can tolerate, a lesser amount of healthy cuts of meat, fish, and poultry (as in, grass-fed, MCS certified or pastured), and fewer carbs.

For example, I LOOOOOVE pasta and was raised with eating it every few days. Today, I try instead to eat bean pasta or spaghetti squash. (This is not for everyone – my husband won’t get on board!) If your kids love pasta, you can make this switch depending on their age. (Kids love the sauce mostly!) For others, it might take some time, but again, if you experiment with different vegetables and love it, then they’ll likely follow suit!

healthy habits for kids

3. Drink Your Water!

I’ve heard you need to drink anywhere from 50-70% of your body weight! That’s a lot of water but again, the kids are watching! I love drinking water because my dad made a ritual of it: special glass with a handle, loaded with ice cubes, that sat out all day and no one, I mean NO ONE was allowed to touch it. (I did one time and that’s one of the rare times I incurred Dad’s wrath before my teen years.)

So go ahead, make your water drinking a daily ritual. And make sure it’s clean water too, ok? You can buy a special glass, keep a bottle with you at all times, drink seltzer with fruit, eat water veggies, consider buying a water cooler – whatever it takes to make sure you get your daily intake of water.

4. Sleep – It’s Not Just For Kids!

Parents agonize over getting their kids to sleep…it took Zoe until she was 5 to sleep through the night!! We know that our kids require this health habits, but when it comes to our needs, we just stay up as long and as late as we like. But impaired sleep can affect everything, from your heart health to your focus, your productivity, and your mental well-being, not to mention derailing your workout. If you don’t know why you aren’t sleeping, you have to solve this issue. Some possible contributors include:

  • adrenal fatigue
  • sleep apnea
  • dietary issues
  • menopause
  • bladder problems
  • stress and overwhelm
  • poor mattress
  • other health issues, like restless leg syndrome

Getting to the bottom of stress or physical health issues is critical in making your sleep better. If you’re not sure of the cause, consult with your doctor.

5. Well Care When You’re Sick

Now I’m going to say something you won’t like: take care of yourself when you are sick! Way too many people simply keep their same schedule and then dose with OTC drugs. Unfortunately, you are often extending the life of your illness by doing this because you are suppressing the body’s system for clearing illness – such as a fever. Naturally, we all have commitments we cannot avoid, but as much as possible, use sick time for when you are truly sick. Or work from home, if you can. Rest, relax, and make a fresh bowl of chicken soup.

I’ve told this story before but last year, we all got some version of the stomach flu. My kids, the healthiest people in our home because of my diligence, were each sick for about 8 hours. I was sick for nearly 25. My husband? 3 days. It matters what you eat, how you sleep, and if you take care of your gut health, just like exercise matters too. None of us did any OTC drugs; we just chilled out and let it runs its course, mainly because when you’re only sick for a few hours, you don’t even think about the doctor (although my husband did)! In fact, he might have gone – I can’t remember.

healthy habits for kids

6. Taking Care Of Your Own Mental Health

And finally, you need to take care of your brain. That means a lot of things, including getting exercise, good food, enough sleep, and having healthy relationships. It also means:.

  • Taking time for self-care and moments of rest or relaxation throughout your day.
  • Managing your daily stress.
  • Cutting back on an oppressive workload or overcommitment.
  • Working through issues that impact your mental health, like childhood trauma

PARENTING THROUGH YOUR CHILDHOOD TRAUMA

Not everyone has childhood trauma but for those who do, it’s important you deal with your trauma so those issues don’t impact your family in a negative way. Making the connection between childhood trauma and adult illnesses and relationship problems can be challenging, but it can be tremendously freeing. It can guide you on the road to creating healthy habits for your kids.  It also enables you to start the healing process.

If you feel like you’ve been swimming against some invisible current for years, it’s a relief to know where it may be coming from, says science journalist Donna Jackson Nakazawa in Psychology Today’s online forum.

Taking the quiz on adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) is the first and most important step toward healing, according to Nakazawa. Understanding whether you’ve been affected by childhood trauma can help you start taking steps to undo it – and perhaps try some new approaches with your children.  Here is some science-based advice from StressHealth.org:

healthy habits for kids

  1. Realize it’s not your fault. As experts on trauma have pointed out, “It’s not about what is wrong with you; it’s about what happened to you.” This is the start of a healing journey.
  2. Stressed out? Take some deep breaths. Stopping what you’re doing for a few minutes to breathe tamps down your stress response, according to Harvard Health Publishing. Encourage your kids to breathe deeply or even join you in a few minutes of meditation. If you find you’re continually on the verge of a meltdown, consider seeing a mental health professional for help.
  3. Build in some rituals. Scientists say that routines and rituals are critical for healthy child development. Cooking and eating together, playing Scrabble and other board games,  taking a walk around the neighborhood, reading to your kids at bedtime, even sorting clothes together – all these “anchoring” rituals can help create closer, more loving relationships with your children, according to Barbara Greenberg, PhD, a teen, child, and family psychologist licensed in Connecticut and New York. All of these ideas are a great foundation for building healthy habits for your kids. Participating in community traditions that build a sense of belonging is also invaluable, says ACEs expert Dr. Robert Sege of Massachusetts.
  4. Consider taking a parenting class, especially if you often find yourself yelling or acting in ways you’d rather not. A recent study found these five parenting programs especially effectivein reducing drug use, aggression, and anxiety in the teen years. “Of course, it’s important to realize that when it comes to parenting, not one size fits all,” said Dr. Greenberg. “The class has to make sense for your parenting style and temperament. If the class doesn’t feel right for you, try a different one.”
  5. Give your child more undivided attention. Start by putting away your smartphone when you talk with your kids – or when you’re interacting with your baby. Scientists have found that babies develop back-and-forth “conversations” without language by the time they’re 11 months old, but they need to know that you’re listening. She may not develop the needed brain circuitry if her brain isn’t stimulated by talking with an attentive parent, so be sure your phone doesn’t come between you and our child.

With these steps and knowledge of your own childhood trauma, you’ll likely find it easier to help your child be happy and resilient.

Remember that healthy habits for kids start with you and your physical and mental health. Learn how to heal from toxic stress at Stress Health.

Wonder women

My Experience with Body Image Issues

I’m 35 with three kids.

My body has been through a lot of changes.

The Mommy Bod

Before kids, which now seems like eons ago, I struggled with my looks and weight. I’m 5’2″ and not the most athletic type. I have curly hair which I used to hate. Growing up, I rarely saw models in magazines that looked even close to me. If I did, they were skinny with straightened hair.

I just wanted to look like everyone else but that was not possible. I couldn’t change my skin tone, hair or any other physical characteristics. I got busy with school and work but stayed at a decent weight. Over time, I even started liking my curls.

These pictures represent my weight loss and gain in the last few years. After kids, I got up to almost 200 lbs. I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in late 2009 (which I no longer have thanks to diet, exercise and losing weight) and got serious about my weight. I wanted to be healthy for my kids.

A Sharp Turn

In 2013, that weight loss took a different turn. My anxiety kicked into overdrive because of the issues I was having with Matthew. I began thinking if I was skinnier, things would get better. I tend to not eat much when I’m stressed so this became a bigger issue. I would eat one meal daily for days on end due to stress.

Sometimes it felt like I was punishing myself in a way for not being the wife and mom I was “supposed” to be. I may have been punishing myself for making Matthew so angry. I also spent lots of time in the gym- at least an hour four days a week. I’d have done more if I had time.

At my lowest weight, which was August 2015, I was 125 lbs and a size 4. I was so small that my co-workers asked if I was sick. My doctor told me that my pancreas, already not able to produce all the insulin I needed, might give out entirely and result in Type 1 diabetes if I didn’t stop losing weight and pushing myself so hard. I’m not sure I cared.

I loved the way I looked- I finally fit into a string bikini but I was so nervous about it I didn’t want to take off my cover-up. (A friend yanked it off, but in a good way.) I don’t think Matthew cared either way- he had seen me before and after three pregnancies. It’s not like he saw me naked much at this point.

Jake was worried- one of his last worries about me was that I was too skinny. He told me I was still gorgeous but I needed to gain “like 5 or 10 pounds.”

Jake got his wish, but he didn’t live to see it. I gained 60 pounds after his death. I ate, drank and didn’t think about exercising for a long time. I was deep in a hole of grief and depression.

Comeback of the Curves

I stopped drinking and move around a bit more these days. My pancreas survived and it’s functioning quite well. Thanks to having RA, it can be a bit rough but I do what I can to exercise. One of my medications has a side effect that messes with my appetite but I’m not going to be upset if I lose a few pounds.

I don’t weigh myself- there isn’t a scale in my house. I’m not entirely sure what I weigh, my best guess is around 170. I’m a size 12/14. I’m okay with this. I’m happier, I’m funny again, I love food, I’m healthy as I can be, and I got my curves back. The second picture is me in Daytona Beach in August. I look much better.

I can’t say there was a moment where everything clicked and I stopped going so hard on my body. I was a little sad when I didn’t fit size small sweats in late 2015, but I had much worse things to deal with. While I was in therapy, I worked on how I saw my body. It’s been through a lot, and I realized I should have a lot more love for it.

There are three people that are on this planet because I grew them inside my body. I lived through a mini-stroke. I have two chronic health conditions but they are manageable. I’ve had three major surgeries (tubal, gallbladder removal and a partial thyroidectomy). I may have a few rolls but there are curves, stretch marks, surgery scars, and tattoos.

I still have bad days like every other woman but I remind myself of where I have been. I remind myself that I’ve looked a lot worse and that I’ll probably look different in a few years. I’m good where I am now.

Tips for Better Body Image

It can be very difficult to change how you feel about your body.

My helpful tips?

1. STOP LOOKING AT MODELS FOR VALIDATION.

I’ll confess, I’m a huge fan of Tess Holliday. She’s a plus-size model, and I love her message. I don’t look at her or other models anymore for what I should look like. I like her because she has amazing red hair, great makeup and #effyourbeautystandards is empowering. If you’ve never heard of her please look her up on Google. I like a handful of other models but for makeup and other reasons. Models work extremely hard to look like they do and it’s almost unrealistic for most of us to pull it off.

2. Remember what your body has done for you. Have kids? Even one kid changes your body permanently. If you’re a runner like my friend Lauren, there’s a lot of maintenance involved that I don’t want to imagine. She looks fantastic. I’m sure she will thank herself later in life for keeping herself in such great shape. (I hate running. I don’t even run to my mailbox.)

3. Realize that you are more than just what your body looks like. This may take a bit of work in the self-esteem department (lots of work for me) but it is well worth it. Everyone has interesting and/or quirky qualities about them that are likable besides what their body looks like. Do the work- make a Pinterest board of quotes, write in a journal about it. Talk to someone if you need to. The work will be worth it.

Have you had issues with body image? How did you work through it?

Quotes courtesy of Pinterest

My Random Musings

Adjusting to a New World

Many parents, myself included, envision parenting as this wonderful adventure in which kids develop at the pace they should, play instruments and/or sports, learn to drive, go to prom and all that great stuff.

But what happens when those things are altered because of a special needs diagnosis?

Cry a little

The Big Change

Some parents find out about their child’s diagnosis before or right after birth, in cases of Spinal Bifida, Cerebral Palsy and Down’s Syndrome. I know parents of kids with these diagnoses, and it has been life changing for these families. All of them have other kids without any special needs.

The adjustment is hard. I cried my way through Lily’s evaluation for First Steps the day before her first birthday, even though I knew something was not going right. I knew she needed more help than what I could give her. That story can be found in Special Needs Round Two . When her diagnosis of global delays was given, I was even more devastated. The blame game began. It took a lot of talking with Lily’s speech therapist, Denise, to realize that it wasn’t my fault that she was developmentally delayed. We are in the process of getting Lily re-evaluated. At ten, she is still showing signs of issues that we thought she had grown out of. Cross your fingers for us- we may need it.

In Julian’s case, it’s been a tougher road. His psychiatric nurse practitioner, Ann, once said that we have adjusted wonderfully as a family to Julian’s needs. I almost hugged her. I explained to her that it has not been easy and it remains a somewhat rugged path. My question is: Why not adjust? Julian is wired differently and that’s okay. If we didn’t adjust, he would feel badly about himself and I couldn’t bear the thought of this. It would also cause so much chaos for him that he doesn’t need or deserve. It would do the same for the rest of us. Why do that?

He needs the ability to feel okay about who he is, quirks and all. We’ve enjoyed watching him grow and finally develop a sense of humor. Every kid needs that, with or without a diagnosis. In a home with medical issues, this is a necessity.

I have made many mistakes in raising Julian (and his siblings). Even after reading up, trying many different things, therapy for both of us, getting Matthew on board and lots of burnt dinners in the process, things remain interesting. Julian is now 12 and puberty is kicking in.

Learning that your child has a medical and/or physical special needs diagnosis is complex. Some parents grieve the life they feel their child “should have had”. This is a rough one for me, as I’ve never done this. I can see this happening with kids with severe medical problems. A high school friend of mine has a child with spinal bifida and she lives a full life. Instead of being devastated and staying in a hole as some might, Shelly and her kids go out and do all kinds of neat things. Ryan is eight, and she is one of the coolest kids ever. She’s a tiny fighter. Some parents, like myself, are devastated and are not sure where to go next. Some fall into the “research pattern” and find all kinds of information to know exactly what to do.

This can be a great thing- I have read up a lot on Julian’s diagnoses and it didn’t hurt to work with kids with similar issues. (It did physically hurt some days, but that’s another story. I learned a lot from that job.) Some parents, sadly, go into denial. This can be damaging to everyone involved, and I highly recommend seeing a therapist, church member, or another trusted person. If it’s your partner, this can get really bad quickly, and I definitely know the pain of where it can go. Please do what you can to change that path. Talking can help. Easing your partner into information, appointments, and other things can help. Just don’t force them, because that can make things worse.

I recommend reading up, asking questions, and getting all the help from the medical community you can. The more information you have, the more empowered you feel to help your child. Julian’s been very lucky- he has had a great team from day one, because I wouldn’t let him have anything less. I’m a proud mama shark.

Never give up

It’s okay to feel different things- don’t let anyone make you feel different. Julian was diagnosed almost seven years ago, and some days I still feel overwhelmed. As of writing this post, I’m about to battle it out with his school over his IEP because it’s currently not being followed. Some days are better than others. Some days are absolutely great, some are so bad that you want to devour a liter of Cherry Coke, a bag of salt and vinegar chips and call it a day. (Okay, maybe that’s just me. I didn’t do all of that, but I considered it.) If you’re overwhelmed, write it out. Get someone to help you sort out your feelings.

Making The Best of Things

Daily life also changes. Depending on the diagnosis, your child may need assistance with everything, or nothing at all. This can become time-consuming and require an overhaul of your routine as you knew it. Food may need to be altered due to sensory issues- I live in a house with two kids with sensory issues, and I gave up on those battles years ago. Julian won’t eat french fries if he can see the potato skins or if they aren’t super warm. Lily won’t eat anything that resembles soup, any pasta that isn’t spaghetti, mainly because it looks different. Julian actually had a meltdown once over the shape of pasta my father in law used for dinner. These changes can be irritating to make, but they are necessary for the world our kids live in. I’ve learned to look inside Julian’s mind a bit, probably because of my work, and try to see the world as he does. It can get hard, but it’s worth it. Explaining this to others can get even harder, even your partner.

Small steps

It takes time to adjust- it won’t happen overnight. It takes time to learn how your child’s machines work, or how to get the wheelchair to fit in your van. Give yourself space to make those mistakes. I completely screwed up Julian’s 12th birthday party by inviting too many people, which cause him to shut down at the end, but I’m pretty sure he still likes me. He used to get mad at me when I would hold onto him with a death grip in parking lots and large stores, but he had a bad record of eloping. It was terrifying to have to run after a very fast 5 year old, especially in a parking lot. He was seven before I let him walk more than a foot or two away from me. (I never used a leash because I hate those things.)

If you’ve got a kid who takes things literally, you have to change how you talk to them. For example, I once told Julian to drop the jar of jelly he was holding after he was told not to eat anything. I was making dinner and he didn’t need to eat so soon before.

He dropped the jar.

Major mom fail.

Thankfully, the jar was plastic. That would have been an awful mess otherwise. Matthew and I have had to re-think things before we say them, because Julian thinks differently, and so does Lily, to an extent. We are still trying to figure out her thought patterns. She doesn’t quite think on a 10-year-old level, so we have to tread carefully.

Super parent

Final Thoughts and Tips:

If you have to buy things to keep your house, kid and car safe, do it. You’ll thank yourself later.

It really does take a village. I have friends that have kids with all kinds of physical/ developmental disabilities. A few have kids with autism, and they have been so helpful when I’ve needed them.

Being a parent of a special needs kid will make you a different person. I’ve fought for Julian since day one. Lily’s issues haven’t required so much of a fight, but I would do the same for her. It makes you tougher and less likely to take people’s crap.

Breathe and find something that makes you laugh. Comedy will get you through anything.

Get a binder and organize all of your kid’s paperwork. Julian and Lily have their own binders.

You are not alone, and get help if you need it. Take time for you, because your kids need Mom at her best. If you’re tired, sad and cranky, that’s not your best.

If you have other kids, let them be involved in adjustments. It’s not easy to be the sibling of a special needs kid. My kids have been pretty good about Julian, but it can get hard for us as parents. Cameron and Lily have a post about this in The Siblings’ Turn

Allow your child to live their best life. If they can do it- let them. My friend Laura Leigh’s son, Levi, is seven. He is in a wheelchair due to Cerebral Palsy, and he is an awesome kid. He smiles for days, gives his younger sister Presley wheelchair rides and loves school. I let Julian run cross country in the fifth grade and he loved it. We have a rule that his diagnoses aren’t excuses for not behaving. He does have bad days, but he doesn’t get to say, “I’ve got autism, so I get to act like that”, “I forgot my ADHD meds, that’s why I’m like this today”.

Most of all, love and accept your child the way they are. It might sound weird that I wrote that, but it is saddening that many parents don’t. Acceptance and love matters- it’s everything.

Quotes courtesy of Pinterest

Recommended Reading: The Spark: A Mother’s Story of Nurturing Genius

Twin Mummy and Daddy