Sweet Dreams.. But Where?

Babies sleep a lot. We, on the other hand, do not. While they sleep, we attempt to eat, shower, work, clean, take care of any siblings they have… the list goes on. Some babies sleep in a crib, some in a bassinet. Others sleep in a pack-and-play.

When it comes to co-sleeping, the debate has been on-going for years. I’m well past the stage in which it is an issue for me, but I still find it interesting. Matthew and I didn’t let the kids sleep with us.

Matthew is a big guy- he’s 5’10 and about 260 lbs. He was about this size when Cameron was born, and he was scared that if Cameron slept with us, he would roll over on him. That would have not ended well. I agreed, and this rule went for all three kids. They don’t sleep with us, even if they are sick or have had a bad dream. If they’re sick, they can keep that in their bed, honestly. I don’t want that. My immune system sucks enough as it is.

This isn’t to say that I am against co-sleeping. It just wasn’t an option for us.

The Case for Co-Sleeping

Co-sleeping can be awesome if done correctly. I’m all for snuggles and everyone sleeping in the same bed. If you are breastfeeding, it’s probably the best idea for night feedings. You can lay in bed and poof! A midnight snack is there for the baby. Everyone goes back to sleep when the baby is done. This can help with maintaining the milk supply.

Children that co-sleep also can feel more secure and safe, reducing nighttime separation anxiety. This also helps with skin-to-skin contact. If you are gone most of the day, night time can be the main time you have with your child. This information can be found on kellymom

Disadvantages of Co-Sleeping

It may be difficult to get a 6-month old to stop co-sleeping, but even harder to get a 3-year-old to change beds. This was the second major concern I have about co-sleeping.

A friend of mine co-slept with her younger daughter until she was 3 and it was very hard for her daughter to adjust. It took months for her to fully get the idea that she needed to sleep in her “big girl” bed and not with her mom.

Safety is a major concern. I already stated my thoughts on this, but there are recommendations to not co-sleep by many professionals due to deaths of babies that were accidentally smothered by parents.

Babies can get tangled in sheets, hair, or even threads from the sheets. If you are going to consider co-sleeping, here are some safety tips, again from kellymom

  • Do not co-sleep if you have a waterbed.
  • Do not co-sleep if you have used alcohol and/or drugs.
  • Do not swaddle and co-sleep. The baby may become overheated.
  • There should not be any space between the bed and wall where the baby could roll and become stuck.
  • No loose pillows or blankets near the baby’s face.
  • The mattress should be fitted to the head and footboard.

Another disadvantage is that co-sleeping can interrupt intimate time between the parents. It’s kind of hard to get any kind of intimacy going if there is a baby between you.

This can become an issue between couples, so communication is key. You and your partner will need to discuss how this change will impact your relationship and what you can do to keep it from becoming a serious issue.

Think It Out

Like many other decisions in parenting, take the time to consider the pros and cons carefully. If you need to, consult a pediatrician or other medical professional. Think about what works for you, your partner and baby, because that is what matters most. Happy sleeping!

Pics courtesy of Unsplash

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Alone Time Is A Wonderful Thing

Everyone needs “alone time”. This is time to recharge your batteries, appreciate the quiet and not have people in your face asking for things. I like this time. I used to absolutely hate quiet time because I didn’t like to be alone with my thoughts. These days, I appreciate it a lot more. I can relax, color and read in peace, among other things.

Creating Space for Yourself

Besides the quiet and lack of demands from others, there are other benefits. Being alone can be relaxing, allow for time to reflect on your current situation in life and maybe even focus on hobbies and get things done. You can also do what you want, not just what someone else wants to do or have to come to some sort of compromise.

Not everyone is happy with the idea of alone time. Many extroverts are not into the idea, because they thrive on being around others. I hang out with a lot of extroverts. It is important, even if this is you because everyone needs to be alone sometimes, just to get away from the noise. It’s okay to need time to yourself.

Some ideas to ease yourself into alone time are:

  • taking short walks
  • cooking
  • trying a new workout class- without taking a friend
  • sign up for volunteer work
  • go to a bookstore/window-shop

For those of us who have had some practice with being by ourselves and actually liking it, here are some advanced ideas:

  • Go to a yoga class. I go to a class every Sunday. It’s recovery-based and I love it. I was very nervous about it at first, but my anxiety has lessened a lot. I sat next to someone last week and she actually thanked me for sitting with her. Wow.
  • Have a solo picnic.
  • People watch- at a coffee shop, in a park, wherever you feel comfortable.
  • Go to a movie by yourself.
  • Try an evening class.

If you want to go for the extreme:

  • Take a road trip.
  • Go to a concert alone.
  • Go hiking.
  • Go to a meditation or yoga retreat.
  • Start a home renovation project.

Have I tried any of these ideas? Sure. Not all of them. I’m a work in progress, so some of these are definitely on my to-do list. I’ve always liked to people watch, but it’s always been more fun to do it with someone else. I would like to try that one soon. I live near a large park so there are always people to watch.

Time for You is Good Time

It may be hard to squeeze in the time for yourself, but it is necessary. It may mean walking to the bus stop on a sunny day to get your kids, but you’ll have those 10 minutes of a good walk. Walking is exercise and a way to clear your mind a bit. It’s a two-for-one deal. A whole day isn’t possible for everyone, so don’t feel guilty for the time you can’t give to yourself.

When you’ve had time to yourself, you feel refreshed. You feel ready to face the next challenge ahead. Who doesn’t want to feel like that? It’s a nice feeling. If you’ve had your nails, hair or toes done, you look better. That’s also a great boost. This isn’t meant to encourage living a life of solitude unless you really want to, but to encourage time to yourself so that you can breathe. You can get to know yourself a bit better. What do you like doing? How do you want to spend your time?

Do you have ideas to add for the list of ideas of things to do alone? Leave them in the comments!

Tips for Parenting from Baby to Middle School

Opinions are everywhere.

So are your kid’s toys, the cat’s litter and the contents of your purse.

Or is that just me?

Maybe. Maybe not.

It’s a weird world that we live in- everyone has something to say. Some of us feel the need to live up to expectations that aren’t exactly healthy.

I am not one of those parents.

I was many moons ago, and there’s a post to tell that story.

The Baby and Toddler Stage.. Take A Deep Breath

Babies are adorable. They’re all soft, cuddly and you just want to hold them forever.

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Avery, my little buddy.

Until that first blowout diaper. I’m here to tell you, it’s one of the many gross things you will witness as a parent. Once you see that diaper, you will want to cry and throw the whole day away. As in hit the restart button and pause right before your baby created that horrible mess.

They sleep about as much as cats, at least for a while. Once they sleep all night, life becomes somewhat decent again. Then comes the solid food stage, in which they insist on smearing everywhere. It makes for great pictures but horrible cleanup. Babies also become mobile, and that’s when the real fun begins. It’s when we stop being able to have nice things.

Toddlers are known to be tiny terrors. They can destroy your home in about 15 seconds or less if given the opportunity. They also have the capacity to be the cutest little people you will ever lay eyes on. “Oh, wait, I have a voice and it gets loud? Wait, hold my sippy cup while I scream because Mom changed the channel.”

My friend Melanie had a hashtag #ReasonsWhyMyToddlerIsCrying while her son Elliott was a toddler and it was one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen. My kids threw wild tantrums and I am glad I lived through this phase.. barely. I went through three toddlers in a short amount of time.

How can you survive this phase?

  • Sleep. Try to sleep when the baby sleeps, but don’t beat yourself up over it. Sleep the best you can at night. Try for some sort of schedule if you can, you will thank yourself later. My kids still have a sleep schedule and they’re much older.
  • Breathe. Take lots of deep breaths. Meditate if you need to. It helps keep you calm.
  • Humor. You will need this when your two-year-old has discovered what a Sharpie is.
  • Backup. Backup needs to be a thing from day one. You will need it until your child moves out, or so it seems.
  • Learn about your child. Every child is different and they change over time. This will help greatly when people start giving advice you really don’t need.
  • Self-care. This should be a priority. Forever.

The Preschool Life

This stage is kind of fun. Kids at this age want to learn about everything. They ask a million and two questions before lunch, and they’re learning to express themselves. This might be about the time they learn to dress. That can be a lot of fun- I had a blast with Lily’s outfits. They’re also learning to interact with others outside their family.

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Lily and the snowball

I didn’t think about how expensive preschool was until both boys were in it together. YIKES. It’s not getting any cheaper, so if that’s your thing, you might want to start looking into it when your child is an infant if they aren’t already in daycare.

My kids never went to daycare. Their grandmothers watched them while I worked and finished school then went straight to preschool. Julian had a rough time in preschool, but Cameron and Lily did great. Lily’s road to preschool was not an easy one thanks to her delays. We almost didn’t get her potty trained in time.

Speaking of potty training…

How do you get through this phase?

  • Lots of patience. Potty training does not happen in one day. I do not care what book you read. If you have potty trained a child in one day, please email me. I’d love to know what you did. Julian broke his foot while he was being potty trained and had a cast almost up to his knee. I cannot express how much fun that was. He had a boot on, but it still impeded his speed in getting to the potty. We started late with Lily due to the therapies for her delays and she continued to have accidents well after her fourth birthday. It was not easy. Patience is required in all aspects of parenting but potty training will wear a parent out!
  • Humor. Preschoolers do a lot of funny things. They also say even funnier things.
  • Have a camera. Thanks to smartphones, this is super easy. You will want to take a million pics during this time. They’re always into something. It’s just the question of what.
  • What’s a clean house? If everyone living in it is clean, then the rest is a bonus.
  • Routine is good. Bonus if it actually gets followed daily. We try very hard.
  • Grow an extra set of eyes in the back of your head. Preschoolers are into everything. They want to learn about the world around them and sometimes that means a little bit of adventure. It can also mean doing things they know they probably shouldn’t. Since we can’t really grow eyes in the back of our heads, backup is a good idea.
  • Self- care. These little people take a lot out of us and we need to recharge.

Time for School!

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Thanksgiving 2015

I may joke about it now, but I was sad about sending my kids to school. I cried a little when Lily went to her first day of kindergarten because she’s my youngest and I realized my 5 lb, 12 oz baby wasn’t really a baby anymore. It was a little crushing. She’s now months away from middle school. I may or may not cry at her 5th-grade graduation.

Some kids do not do well with the kindergarten adjustment. Julian was one of those kids. He was diagnosed later that year and that helped somewhat. Kindergarten is a big change- the building, more adults, kids, the routine, and more. Julian is not a fan of big changes, so this was not on his list of fun things to do. He did better in the other years.

Kids in this stage grow so quickly! I sent Cameron to elementary school in 2010 and he finished in 2015 almost as tall as me! They learn a lot, make friends and lots of things in the middle.

How do you get through your baby not being a baby anymore?

  • Let them be who they are. My kids have tried different things to see if they liked them or not, and this is fine. Lily tried playing the trumpet but didn’t like having to play in front of others. Julian ran cross country in 5th grade because he’s always been a fast runner. Cameron loves basketball and plays whenever he can. He won’t try out for a team, (I think) because he’s afraid to mess with his heart (he has SVT and is cleared to play by his cardiologist).
  • Watch them form their own thoughts, ideas, and beliefs. You may be surprised at what they have learned from you. Be proud of yourself for teaching them well.
  • Let them make their own friends. Of course, step in if there’s something dangerous going on. Kids like to hang out with who they like, not who Mom picks.
  • Let them solve their own problems as they get older. This isn’t meant for a kindergartner, but fifth graders can figure out some things.
  • Take all the pictures they will allow. Pretty soon, you will hear “Mom. Stop taking pictures. It’s annoying.”
  • Humor. Humor is a parenting requirement.

The Parenting Struggle…The Middle School Edition

If you’ve seen my Instagram page, this is one of my often-used hashtags. Middle school is a struggle, for parents and kids. Kids are trying to figure out who they are, what their bodies are doing, and as parents, we’re just trying to make sure they’re okay and keeping them fed.

If you have boys, the last one can be a challenge. I have two- I don’t know where the food goes but the wrappers are everywhere.

Kids are smarter than we realize. They, for the most part, are more accepting than many adults are. I think it is a combination of not caring and how they are taught. I’ve done my best to teach my kids to accept others for who they are and not what they look like or what their racial makeup is. I’ve been the kid left out because I was biracial and that is damaging. I would never let my kids do that to someone else.

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Julian and the Gorilla

The struggles? There are many- smelly feet, testosterone, explaining racism and other injustices, discussing drugs and alcohol (especially when you are 2 years sober), homework, grades in general and lots more.

This is the age in which kids start learning from their friends and not asking Mom or Dad about everything- Cameron learned about bisexuality from a friend of his. I guess when you’re 14, this is on the list of things you don’t ask Mom about.

How does this phase work?

  • Talk to your child. I cannot stress this enough. I don’t mean sit them down and interrogate them but just casual talk is good. They need to know you are there for them and that you care.
  • Boundaries. Let them know what you will and will not tolerate. We’re parents, not their besties.
  • Let them come to you if they have a problem. No judgment allowed. If you judge, they won’t confide in you.
  • Remind them of the importance of good grades, enforce homework rules, etc.
  • Give them space. They need it.
  • Knock before entering. You will regret this the one time you don’t.
  • Humor. Teens are funny and humor helps in almost all situations.
  • Let them be who they are. They are figuring out who they are. This takes a while.

Parenting is an adventure. It is not meant to be easy. We are, however, meant to have the children that we were given. I didn’t realize this until Julian was diagnosed.

I thought I had completely messed up as a mom and maybe even as a person, but no, I was given Julian to become a stronger person and much better mom. Enjoy the ride- our kids only get one childhood!

Do you have any tips to get through these stages of childhood? Leave a comment!

Getting Out of A Bad Day Slump

Bad days happen to all of us. They can creep up on us or hit us like BAM! A bad day ahead. I don’t like having bad days, but they happen more than I like to admit sometimes. I deal with chronic pain from RA and migraines, which can be a bit depressing.

I also have anxiety and depression, both managed without medication. Like many others, I do have insecurities and other not-so-great thoughts that come into my mind and cause my days to not be so positive.

I was once told by someone that she didn’t want to be around me because she “didn’t want to be around my negativity for five minutes”… wait, what? I understand that I was in a deep state of grief at that point (late December 2015) but things weren’t that horrible.

This was a shocker to Matthew and my friends because for the most part, I try to stay positive, even when it’s hard. As Matthew said, “you light up the room when you walk in.” I had to sit and think that one out- it really upset me.

I realized that she was going through her own grief and anger towards me and the rest of the world. I eventually let that one go, and it’s on the list of reasons we aren’t friends anymore. I don’t think we have spoken since that conversation.

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Tap Into What You Love and Need

I have some tips for getting out of the slump of a bad day or even a series of bad days.

  • Create something. This can be food, playing an instrument or something artistic. Keeping your hands busy can take your mind off what is bothering you, even for a while. It can also lift the sadness by reminding you what you are capable of.
  • Try learning something new, even if it is something small. Want to learn how to sew a new pattern? This could be a good time.
  • Take a walk. Getting outside can clear your mind, fresh air also helps. If the weather isn’t cooperating, then try walking inside a mall or other indoor track. Other kinds of exercise, like yoga, pilates or cardio can help with releasing endorphins- these help you feel good.
  • Play with your hair, makeup or clothes- trying a new hairstyle, look or outfit can help boost your confidence a bit.
  • Call a family member and/or friend. Even if you talk for just a few minutes, human contact can be good. If you haven’t talked to anyone in a day or two, it can be nicer than you think it may be to hear another person’s voice.
  • Cuddle up with a pet or borrow someone else’s pet. Pets are great with helping with hard feelings. We got Tails intending to help Julian bond with something because he was having problems bonding with us. They are best friends, and Miss Purr joined us in 2016. If I’m having a rough day, I like cuddling with her. Our pets are soft and comforting. Most of the time, they like helping us feel better.
  • Do simple self-care. I’m not talking bubble baths and face masks- I mean simply taking a shower, brushing your teeth and putting on clothes. This can be difficult if you have been depressed and in bed for multiple days, so take the time to get this one task done, even if it takes all day to do so.
  • Read quotes, affirmations and/or books to bring yourself a bit of positivity. This can help your mind frame a bit.

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If you want to read more about bad days, being kind to yourself and other similar topics, please go to these posts:

5 Ways to Conquer Self-Kindness

5 Rules for Mental Strength

The Not-So-Good Days

Spoonies: Behind The Theory

If you have followed this blog for any amount of time or looked at my social media, you’ve probably seen a post or two about migraines, rheumatoid arthritis, or both. I’ve had migraines since 2013 and was diagnosed with RA last year. Neither are fun and if both kick in, it’s a bad day around here. I’m battling a flare as I write this. If you want to read my previous posts on either illness, you can read:

RA and Me

Chronic Conditions and Mommimg

Invisible Changes

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My Update- Migraines and RA

Due to having less-than-stellar insurance, I haven’t kept up with my rheumatologist appointments like I should be. This should be changing soon, as I am waiting on new insurance possibilities. Once this clears up, I’m going to schedule the first appointment I can get. I know I need to be seen.

I’m taking Plaquenil daily, which is an anti-malarial drug that helps with the major symptoms of RA. It does help the joint pain, fatigue and other issues that I face. I’m hoping to stay on it as long as possible because some of the harsher medications have some really bad side effects.

A flare is when the pain gets really bad and you’re exhausted- it’s like the flu, but you don’t have the flu. I also have severe nausea. I keep peppermints by my bed and crackers in the pantry. It can last a few hours, days or even months. They can be brought on by a number of factors but mine are usually brought on by stress, lots of physical activity, or both. I try to take it easy on myself, but sometimes it just isn’t possible.

This past weekend was a beast. I go to a yoga class on Sundays that center on recovery and that has been helpful- but then my house was being appraised so it had to be massively cleaned and family events occurred. I had fun, but I don’t think my joints did. Friday was a complete bust, and I just lay in bed, napped and did research on my phone for the posts you will read this week.

In general, I feel okay most of the time. My main issue is fatigue, but then, my thyroid also sucks. That’s not a great combo. I’m on levothyroxine for the rest of my life, due to a partial thyroidectomy last year. This medication makes up for what the remaining part of my thyroid isn’t able to do. Some days, I’m ready for bed at 7 PM, like today.

Migraines are terrible creatures, and I hope none of you reading this have them. Mine have continued to lessen over time, which is delightful. At one point, they were occurring at least twice a week. I had to get nerve blocks in my head and neck to help reduce the number and severity of the migraines.

These, as I have discussed, run in my family, and Cameron has been the latest one to inherit them. I’m the only one, however, that has had one that resulted in a mini-stroke.

I’m so glad the migraines have decreased. They really do wreck your life, even if you have nothing planned the day you have one. I feel like I have my life back, in a way. My next health update will hopefully be better, complete with bloodwork done for both RA and thyroid because I’m way overdue for both.

Tired woman

The Spoonie Theory

This theory was developed by a very bright woman who happens to have lupus. Christine Miserandino was asked by a friend to describe her units of energy because they’re pretty limited. (My sister has lupus, and that is rough) She gave her friend a handful of spoons and took one away as she listed the activities in her morning routine. Each activity took at least one spoon. You can find this information on Urban Dictionary

I like this theory- it takes a lot more energy than many people realize to just get out of bed sometimes. Going down my stairs can take twice as long as it usually does when I first wake up versus later in the day. My joints are super stiff when I get up, like many with RA, and it takes extra energy to move. Taking a shower can be exhausting. I’ve never used the spoon theory to explain my energy levels to people, but it makes a lot of sense.

People understand the topic of chronic illness better if there’s a visual involved, right? I know I do. This theory can be used for people with many illnesses like (this is just a short list)

  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Depression
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Leukemia/any kind of cancer
  • PTSD
  • Endometriosis

How Can I Save My Spoons?

I try to make things easy on myself. I tend to keep easy-to-cook meals around that I can make on bad days, or that the kids can help with. I wear clothes that are comfortable so that if I fall asleep in them, it’s not such a hassle. I’ve fallen asleep in jeans during a migraine and I don’t recommend it. 0/10.

I have a running to-do list, which I prioritize by time and energy levels. If I can, I shop online, and when I do have to go to the store, I make a list. This saves money and energy by not having to backtrack constantly because I forgot things.

Other tips:

  • Enlist help when you can. My kids have become a bit more self-sufficient at an earlier age than I liked due to the migraines, but I’m okay with this.
  • Keep necessary things close to you. If you’re low on energy, keep your “must have” things close by so you can stay comfortable while resting.
  • Try to plan things out so you don’t become overwhelmed.
  • Try to stay positive- it does help reserve mental energy.

Comedy cat

Staying Happy While Chronically Ill

This can be difficult sometimes- I struggle a lot with positivity when I don’t feel well. I have a weird sense of humor, and I have found that helps the most. Chocolate is a close second. How can you stay positive?

  • Surround yourself with supportive and positive people. I have friends, family and a husband who will help me out when I need it, even if I don’t want to ask.
  • Comedy. YouTube is great, Netflix, and in my case, I have a Pinterest board with thousands of hilarious pins. My best friends send me lots of memes when I’m laying in bed because I can’t move. It helps me forget the pain. This doesn’t work for migraines- at that point, all I need is sleep and meds.
  • Remember it’s just a bad day, maybe two, but not every day is bad.
  • Doing what you can. I have to remind myself of this one a lot. I’m used to going at full speed from when I open my eyes until I go to sleep. RA has made that a bit hard- I’ve had to scale back. I do get irritated sometimes. It’s normal. Do what you can and leave the rest for another day.
  • Find something you can do that makes you happy on the pain/bad days. I love podcasts and reading. Those are great distractions on the days I need it most.

If you are a spoonie, I would love to chat. If you are okay telling your story, please comment or fill out my contact form. Thanks!

Pics courtesy of Pinterest

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