Mission Motherhood

What is “me time”? And how do you achieve it as a mom?

About a month ago my husband schedule changed from 2pm – midnight to 7:00am-5:00pm. It’s been an adjustment for everyone in our house.

With the change in schedule I continued to sleep in for as long as the kids would sleep. And then our budget started to take a hit. The husband would stop in someplace for a fast food breakfast and then eat lunch out. He was spending $20/day just eating 2 meals (which is a whole different blog in itself).

I committed to getting up with him at 5:45am to make sure he got out the door with breakfast and lunch. As a single income family we can’t afford to spend $20/day on food. He leaves for work shortly after 6am. After he leaves I go to our sunroom. It is a place where you can hear the birds chirping, the roosters crowing, the rain falling, the wind blowing, the neighbor dog barking, the school bus driving by and the owl “hooting”. It’s not a quiet place, but it certainly is a peaceful place.

I have never been a morning person, but it is unbelievable how much better I feel throughout day and how much I am able to get done.  I’m not doing much in the morning other than put breakfast and lunch together for the husband, maybe change some laundry over, but mostly I’m drinking coffee (while it’s warm), trying to focus on reading my Bible and doing a daily devotional to set my tone for the day.  (Right now I’m working on Jesus Always by Sarah Young).

Would I have this morning routine if my children weren’t sleeping through the night? Maybe not.  Would I do this if I were a working mom?  I think so.  I’m able to be more productive through the day and utilize nap times rather than just slug around.  I kid you not, since I’ve been doing this, my house has been cleaner and I’ve been able to get a handful of home improvement projects completed.  I don’t do the cleaning and projects first thing in the morning, I do it during nap times.  I think my kids have greatly benefited too because overall I have a better attitude and I feel motivated to get them out of the house and go to the park or Toddler Story Time at our local libraries.

Do you have a morning routine for yourself that includes “me” time? What gets your day started?

Mission Motherhood

You’re more than a Nurse

Happy Nurse’s Week!

Many people go to work, do their job, complete menial tasks, physically exert themselves, get in their car, go home from work and turn it off.  They walk away from what they do and go about their lives.

You nurses… you do it all.  You have to be sharp and on your toes at all times.  You have to be a detective looking for signs and putting together puzzle pieces.  Your job is physically demanding.  You pour your heart into your patients and you emotionally invest. You work 12+ hour shifts. And then you’re expected to go home after those 12 hours and be physically and emotionally available to your families.  That’s a gift… that’s a super power.

In my 19 days in the labor and delivery ward at North Kansas City Hospital I didn’t meet a bad nurse. And based on my experience there, I’ve come to the realization that you are way more than a nurse.

  • You were my advocate when I didn’t want the doctor to check me.
  • You were my calm when life felt like chaos.
  • You were compassion when I was hurting.
  • You brought me a “long-term” bed that was SO much more comfortable than a labor bed.
  • You put on my freaking compression socks…. which is darn near a cardio workout.
  • You brought me DVDs, snacks and drinks. You even made sandwiches and toast.
  • You encouraged me when I felt like I couldn’t do it.
  • You put a bed pan under me and helped me lift my big ole pregnant body on it when I was on magnesium sulfate and restricted to the bed. (And you moms know how frequently a pregnant lady pees).
  • When I was alone you were my friend. You came in and talked to me about life, about my unborn babies, the best Netflix shows to watch.
  • You brought me a mini-fridge for our Thanksgiving leftovers.
  • You shared your Thanksgiving with my family.
  • You brought me Black Friday ads, even though there was no way I’d be Black Friday shopping.
  • You helped me get out of bed, walk the halls, and walk to the bathroom.
  • When I was getting cabin fever you convinced the doctor to let me take a wheel chair ride down to the cafeteria.
  • When I so badly wanted to sit in a tub of water and feel weightless you made it happen, despite a doctor discouraging it, and despite the Mother and Baby unit that possessed such tub… because “it is only for postnatal mothers”.
  • When I wanted to go outside and sit in the courtyard after being trapped in the same room for 18 days you brought me a wheelchair and warmed blankets.
  • You cried with me.
  • You were going to coordinate a time for my dog to visit me in the hospital because I missed her like crazy.
  • You woke me up in the middle of the night because you had to… but you did it in the kindest way and left all of the lights off. (They can do their job in the dark, people.)
  • On day 19 when the doctor told me he would let me go 14 more days before he’d induce labor, I lost my cool at the idea of being there for 14 more days.  You made me a paper chain with 14 links that each of the night shift people decorated.
  • You got excited for me when I thought my water broke.
  • You held me when my epidural was placed (3 freaking times… and listened to my swear words without taking it personal).
  • You cheered me on during labor.
  • You rejoiced with me on the happiest day of my life.
  • You were my birth photographer.
  • You helped me navigate self care of a postnatal body.
  • You held my babies before they sent us up to the Mother and Baby ward.
  • You came back to Mother and Baby for a visit several times before we left the hospital.
  • You made little shirts for the twins as a gift. (You were my nurse and you gave ME a gift? You’re the one that deserves the gifts)

You do it all.  You are so much more than a nurse. You invest in people. You have a heart to serve and you do it because you have a passion for it. You get your hands dirty and deal with grumpy patients but you still come in with a smile and a snack.

You are my HERO.

Thank you for all you do.

If more people had the heart of a nurse, I think we’d live in a much peaceful world.

(My first trip out of my room and to the cafeteria with my mom)

Uncategorized

I Have Bipolar Disorder, But Bipolar Disorder Doesn’t Have Me.

It’s been quite a while since I’ve written anything in regard to mental illness, but -in honor of May being Mental Health Awareness Month- I thought I’d shine some light on my personal diagnosis: Bipolar Disorder.

I spent years assuming that I had a mixture of anxiety and depression…and medicated separately for each (mostly with alcohol, but also with prescriptions).  Anxiety and depression are both talked about so freely and described openly by so many people, that it was natural to assume that would be the appropriate diagnosis.  More than a few years but less than a decade ago, while taking an antidepressant, I had my first experience with what I know now as a wave of mania followed by depression followed by mania until I could get in with a psychiatrist who lovingly explained that my previous diagnosis was incorrect, and prescribed something that would make me feel level for the first time in ever.

Let me explain “mania” and “depression” to you as it relates to my experience with bipolar disorder:
Mania is not sleeping.  Mania is starting so many projects but not being able to focus long enough to finish any of them.  Mania is crying because I feel spread so thin.  Mania is not eating.  Mania is a very short fuse.  Mania feels like anxiety…because it causes me to be anxious.  Mania makes my muscles ache from being so tense.  It might last a few days.  It might last weeks.  It might last months.  literally.  months.  And it might seem better some days only to throw me back on the ground the next.  Mania is feeling like I need to sleep…and wanting to sleep…and craving the ability to just sit and watch TV or read a book or write…and, regardless, not being able to sit still…even at 2am.  Mania is impulsivity like most have probably not experienced since childhood…like…in mania, if I want something and don’t purchase it or make it or do it, it feels like my skin is crawling out of itself. Mania is not being able to sleep because I am 100% sure that we are getting bombed…and researching how far bombs can travel from various points around the world…and telling myself, “Your kids are safe.  You are safe, Dani.  Everyone is safe.” Over and over and over again.  And my husband telling me, “Everything is fine.  Everyone is safe.” And still not sleeping because…well…mania.  Mania is barricading myself in the house and telling myself it’s because I’m an introvert…when it’s actually because I’m too scattered and nervous to leave the house.  And, all of the sudden, when I least expect it…my mania can drop me into…
Depression.  Let me first say that depression is not a lack of not being grateful…but the lack of being able to feel gratitude.  Depression is not delusion.  Depression for me is extremely dark.  It feels worthless and painful and hopeless and suicidal…and, as difficult as mania can be to manage, the depression is what prompts me to take medication.  I can live with mania.  I can apologize for getting angry and snapping at my family…and I can tell myself that it’s fine to never leave the house or to stay awake for 72 hours with a few 30 minute nap sessions…but the depression is too dark to handle on my own.  And why try?  That’s like playing Russian roulette.

So, it’s been a while because I had taken a break while having babies, but I’m finally back on my medication.  Finally.  And, things haven’t immediately improved upon starting a medication for bipolar.  Not for me, at least.  It’s taken several weeks to feel “okay”– and I still feel pretty anxious…but it’s getting better.  I’m sleeping again.  And I’m taking deeper breaths.  And I can lay in savasana and not feel panic.  …Do you know how freeing that is?  To not feel panic when you’re accustomed to feeling panic (but hiding it) 24/7 for weeks on end?  Savasana has forever been the most difficult pose in yoga for me.  It’s when you have to lay still at the end of your yoga session and breathe and feel strong and confident and safe… The first night after having a pleasant experience with savasana, I couldn’t wait to tell my husband all about it…in detail…how calm and relaxed I felt, the images that floated through my carefree mind…and how I wanted to be able to access that feeling all the time.  –I know that people without mental illness also have days when they’re unhappy…or stressed…or anxious…  I know that I’m not supposed to feel calm and relaxed at all times; that would be completely unnatural to a human being.  But medication has helped to find a middle ground in the extreme highs and lows.

Anyway, this has been just a very brief glance into what my experience has been.  I wanted to write this because this is not a diagnosis that’s talked about.  Ever.  Or rarely, at least.  There’s a ton of shame and hush associated with it, whereas folks talk about depression or anxiety or ADHD without reservation.  So here I am!–declaring no fear or shame or hush…I have bipolar disorder, but it doesn’t have me.  Not today, at least.  And for that I am grateful.

 

Mission Motherhood

Fuss free bedtime: twin edition

I was scrolling through Instagram and came across a profile that I follow: Twinsandmoretwins. This user has two sets of twins about a year apart and she compares sleep patterns for her older set vs her younger set of twins. I totally relate to her methods with her youngest set of twins who learned to self soothe at an early age without cry-it-out methods.

1. Maintain a solid bedtime and nap time routine

We are blessed with mild tempered twins who are pretty easy sleepers. They are currently 17 months old and we’ve had a pretty solid bedtime routine for the last 6-7 months. We have dinner at 6:00pm, bath immediately after dinner every other night, sippy cup of milk at 7:00pm, jammies at 7:30pm, teeth brushed and in their cribs by 8:00pm. They are typically asleep within 5 minutes and generally sleep until 7:30-8:00am.

2. Allow them to fall asleep without needing snuggles

I think what really helped us was leaving them to fall asleep on their own as newborns. Before our twins were born my husband and I decided that we needed to be strategic with our snuggles. The idea of either one of us being alone with them and not being able to get them to sleep was stressful. If we used snuggles to get the babies to sleep they would be reliant on being held in order to fall asleep. This was our strategy as newborns: We’d feed then diaper and while they were still milk drowsy we’d lay them down in their bassinet or pack n play.

We still snuggled our babies… the good Lord knows I love my baby snuggles (and daddy is just as guilty of loving his snuggles). We just didn’t snuggle them to sleep. When they looked like they might be getting close to falling asleep we’d lay them down. They started sleeping 6-7 hour stretches around 10 weeks but the 4 month sleep regression ended that. They were 10 months old before they were consistently sleeping through the night again. But when they were getting up in the night, they got what they needed (binky, gas drops, water, Tylenol) and laid back down.

3. Avoid getting to the overtired stage by watching for signs of tiredness

I think since they’ve put themselves to sleep for such a long time it has helped them to recognize when they are tired and ready to rest. I will ask if they are ready to lay down, take a nap, or go to bed and they run towards their bedroom. I try to avoid getting to the point where they are overtired so I check in with them and ask if they want to lay down when they start showing signs of tiredness.

These are the signs I watch for in our toddlers:

  • Yawns
  • Eye rubbing
  • Irritability towards each other
  • Desire for snuggles
  • Climbing up on the couch just to sit
  • Laying on the floor
  • Standing at the baby gate closest to their room
  • Getting slap happy and giggly
  • Asking for binkies (because they only have them in bed – until I ditch my fear of bedtime without binkies)
  • Finding a quiet spot to read books

4. Learn the cues of your children and follow their lead

I keep thinking they will eventually stop wanting to take two naps a day, but for now they still very much ask for two naps. They have one at 11am and one at 3:30pm and sleep about 1-1.5 each nap.

Every child is different… their personalities, their communication. The twins are drastically different and they’ve never been away from each other. Just because these methods have worked for our family, doesn’t mean they’ll work for everyone. I think the biggest advice I could give is to listen to your child. Use their body language or changes in behavior as a form of communication. If you can recognize these changes it is so much easier to anticipate their needs before things escalate to utter frustration on behalf of your child who doesn’t know how to express their needs and frustration on behalf of parents who don’t know what the child needs.

What methods and bedtime routines have worked for you? What signs and signals do you watch for?

Fearless Faith

And through the brokenness, God had a plan for us…

Today is a day of emotion and heartache. I hate that it’s been a month since I last posted… but today I am desperate for the writing therapy and I’m jumping right in.

Two years ago today I lost my dad in a car accident. He was 57 years old. He was leaving our house and headed home after a Friday evening spent with family.  I will forever remember him leaving our house that night. “Remind me tomorrow when you’re out to get the Kreg Jig out for you. Love you. See you tomorrow.”

For months I cried myself to sleep…. cried out to Jesus… buried myself in my bible. I cried in the shower when I felt guilty about making my husband pick up my broken pieces. I cried in the bathroom stall at work as silently as I could.  I cried every time I was in the car driving by myself.  I even remember crying while walking out of a grocery store because the clerk asked me “how are you today?” and it took everything I had in me to put a grin on my face and say “fine”.  It’s a crazy limbo of wanting everyone to know that you are absent because you’ve lost a piece of you and not wanting to talk to anyone because it hurts to talk about it.  I have never been so broken.  I prayed daily… throughout the day… in meetings… while driving… while laying in bed awake all night. I have never been so reliant on God to heal me… to take away the pain… to make me whole again.  Could that ever happen? Would I ever feel normal?

And through the brokenness God had a plan for us…

After the loss of my dad we truly recognized how little time we have on Earth and we were committed to making the best of all the time we had left.  We stopped pushing off goals and decided to make them happen.  We decided there was no reason to wait to have a baby… our lives are too short… let’s just do this.

I was pregnant 3 weeks after our decision to try for a baby.  Wow! Not what we expected.  My doctor said to expect at least 6 months.  Then 8 weeks later I went to my first doctor’s appointment.  My doctor excitedly announced “Oh! There’s two in there”.  That’s right, TWINS.

Our world changed… our prayers changed. And I realized what God was doing for us.

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In all of my pain and brokenness I turned to Jesus.  I remained hopeful that life would someday be good again.  And even though it was easy to ask “why?” it was never easy for me to blame God for the tragedy that turned our lives upside-down.  He took our heartache and blessed us with two… He helped us mend our broken hearts by filling them with more love.

The twins were born 6 days after my dad’s first birthday in heaven. Everyday, I look at our twins and praise God for the love and fullness it has brought to my life.  And while I desperately want my children to have their Pawpaw in their lives, something tells me they’ve already met.

Grief is a strange thing.  It comes in waves.  Sometimes they are little gentle waves that brush upon your toes.  And other times, they are unbearable waves that knock you down and swirl you around in the undertow.  Grief is never something that is “healed”… it is something you bear… sometimes easy… sometimes debilitating. The truth is, I’ve never gone back to feeling “normal” in the way that normal felt at the time of his passing. There’s a new normal… and honestly I carry guilt with me all the time when the new normal feels okay.

But as a stay-at-home mom to Pawpaw’s favorite little twins, I have never felt so fulfilled… so alive in Christ… so grateful for the blessings we have.

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I know this one was heavy. But thanks for being my therapy on an emotional roller coaster day.

Fearless Faith, Mission Motherhood, Uncategorized

JOY

WOW.  Putting aside time to write has felt near impossible these past few months.  Between the baby being a baby and the two-year-old being a two-year-old and the seven-year-old actually being very helpful and the dogs and the kitten and my husband also having interests, along with a job to support our not-so-tiny family…when is there time for me to sit at the computer and get my thoughts out?  If I don’t have time to clean the bathrooms, do the dishes, get caught up on laundry, vacuum, or any of the other “housewifey” things that I feel like should be simple tasks to complete– how can I justify spending 45 minutes in front of the computer?  I’d be the first to tell another busy mom (or dad, for that matter) that self-care is not selfish…but when taking my own advice, I obviously struggle.

IT’S A NEW YEAR, FRIENDS!!  Can you believe it!?  2018? 

Like most of everyone, I’d assume, I did some careful reflection over my 2017.  I had a friend suggest to write things that I wanted to thank God for…and, in the midst of a heavy year, I found so many things that were more than worthy of praise.  –In this activity, I had to quickly realize that acknowledging that I’m grateful for events while mourning the death of a loved one does not negate the pain I still feel.  To me, after a few deep breaths, it felt like an unnatural but necessary part of grieving that I likely wouldn’t have taken the time to do had this friend not literally handed me pencil and paper as she posed this question.  Following the question about thanksgiving, she asked: “What in your life needs to die for new growth to emerge?”  …These two questions churned hard in my heart.  For what do I need to give thanks and what do I need to bury to start fresh?  Christians likely think of Jesus’s suffering on the cross, being buried, and raised again to life so that we, too, can have everlasting life.  Atheists, agnostics, and individuals of other religions or beliefs might have an easier time thinking of a tree.  (This was the analogy that I immediately thought of, honestly.)  I’m not even sure if this analogy is true or backed by science, but I heard one time years ago that a tree lets go of its leaves not because they’re unneeded during the fall and winter months, but because their branches would be too heavy to support the weight of the leaves in addition to the ice or snow that often falls during the colder months.  In order for the tree to bear the weight of the snow, it must let go of the leaves grown in the previous season.  It’s because of this defense that the tree keeps its branches and is allowed to produce new leaves and new life each year.

“What in your life needs to die for new growth to emerge?”  

For me, the answer wasn’t one that I wanted to hear…but it was an immediate lump in my throat and I knew that I had to put pen to paper: ego, pride, self-reliance, and comparison.  Between Pinterest and Facebook and Instagram and Snapchat and self-help sections and DIY projects, it is so easy to find myself buried in a pile of “oh-my-God-how-am-I-ever-supposed-to-get-all-of-this-done-in-15-minutes-and-the-veggies-are-burning-and-why-is-there-snot-all-over-your-face-son?”  And, instead of asking for help, I’ll look on Pinterest to find ways to make my one person become so efficient that I’m able to complete the tasks of several while still caring for my children and modeling for them the values that I want so badly so soften their hearts in a world that suggests toughening up.  Why do I look on Pinterest?  Why do I ask for recommendations on Facebook about organization and quick meals?  Why do I think I should do it all and why do I think I have to EARN a break by completing everything?  In teaching, I know that students perform better if they’re given frequent breaks.  Why would I think it would be any different as an adult?  I also tell my children regularly, “Do not yell at me.  Do not whine.  If you need help, all you need to do is use your words and ask.  I’d be happy to help.”  I was on the phone with my mom a little over a week ago, and she said, “Dani, why don’t you ask me to help you?  I’d be glad to come watch the kids for a while.  You just need to tell me when you need me.”  My mother in law, aunts, grandma, friends, neighbors, etc. have all said the same thing.  Why is it so hard to ask for help?  Ego.  Pride.  Self-reliance.  “I got it.”  “I can do it.”  Or the worst of all: COMPARISON.  “But I saw on Facebook– SHE has kids…THEY goes on vacations…HER house is clean…HER meals are perfect…THEIR bodies are flawless…SHE is a better mom/wife/Christian/daughter/friend/person than me…THEY ARE BETTER.”  I know I’m not the only one who does this.  Right?  Right.

“Comparison is the thief of joy.” – Theodore Roosevelt

For the past several years, I’ve chosen a word to focus on through the upcoming year.   Each year I’ve experienced transformation.  The first year, my word was “INTENTION.”  Year two: “IDENTITY.”  Last year: “PEACE.”  This year: “JOY.”

In the previous years, I’ve mediated and prayed about my word because I wanted to pick the perfect word for the most drastic spiritual transformation.  This year, I didn’t do anything to receive my word.  –I have not been able to get away from my word for MONTHS.  It literally keeps showing up everywhere.  I know, you’re probably thinking, “Well, Christmas was just here…and ‘JOY to the World’ and JOY-this and JOY-that…”  But it’s been more than just the typical Christmastime sightings.  And it started prior to Christmastime festivities.  So my focal word for 2018 is JOY.  As a noun, it’s great…of course: “a feeling of happiness”–but as a verb…that’s truly where I’m going to place my focus: “rejoice.”  Can you imagine how much less stressed and resentful I would feel if I would stop comparing my dirty dishes to yours or hers or his or theirs…and instead took a minute to rejoice?  It sounds hokey.  But I’m going to try it, because it can’t hurt.  I’m going to rejoice in the dishes that show my family has eaten today…Rejoice in the laundry that shows my family has plenty of weather appropriate clothing…Rejoice in the aching shoulders and arms that show my children feel comforted in my care….Rejoice in the many friends and family who offer to help and say YES because self-care is not selfish.  Rejoice in the knowledge that I’m not so important that another person can’t watch my kids or load the dishwasher or fold the laundry…Rejoice in the recognition of some control issues and the ability to ask for help instead of drowning because I refuse to let go of the idea that I can complete everything on my own.  Rejoice in letting the dead leaves fall to the ground (ego, pride, self-reliance, comparison) in order for fresh leaves and new life to emerge (JOY).

 

 

 

joyDo you have a word for 2018?  If you haven’t yet chosen one, I encourage you to choose a word that resonates with your soul.  Choose a word that encourages growth and demands action, but is gentle enough to tuck away at night and allow you to sleep
peacefully.  If you have already chosen a word, I’d love for you to comment with your word.  No explanations.  Just the word.  I believe in support…I believe in the power of prayer…and I believe that the simplicity of a single word can be extraordinarily impactful.

Until I get the chance to write again, from my heart to yours, Happy New Year!

xox,
Dani