Saturday, December 15, 2018

Silver Linings

This was probably one of the hardest parenting weeks I’ve ever experienced (with the exception of our hospital stay). What started with a small cold that spread around our household over the weekend quickly turned into lots of whining, boogers, and sleepless nights. I can deal with the first two, but Clara refusing to sleep all night every night completely burnt me out. 

When Clara turned eight months old, she entered the dreaded sleep regression. Getting her to sleep at night had already been a challenge, but then she started waking up 3-4 times EVERY. SINGLE. NIGHT. Oh yeah, it was like living with a newborn all over again. At first, we were able to get her to go back to sleep relatively quickly, ten-minute awake time at the most. But as time went on, it just got worse and worse. Nothing would make this child sleep. 

About two weeks ago, her pediatrician became concerned there may be something more going on than just a sleep regression. Because she just waking up, she was waking up screaming bloody murder. Was she in pain? Was something scaring her? We had no clue. At her doctor’s recommendation, we took Clara to see a chiropractor last week.  Maybe an adjustment would help her sleep, we’ve tried everything else, haven’t we?

She took her first adjustment like a champ! Seemed like she actually enjoyed the entire process. She immediately went to sleep on the way home and remained sleepy throughout the rest of the day. I tried not to let her sleep too much since I wanted her to get a good night’s rest. I was so hopeful this would work. It did not. 

She was WORSE you guys! Woke up more times that night than she EVER HAD! Ok, maybe this is just a fluke. It was a rough night but we got through it. We moved on and she was slightly better the next night. Then she caught her cold and it set everything off again. I couldn’t blame her for not wanting to sleep when sick, she was congested and miserable. Lots of snuggles and movies on the couch for Mama and baby. I couldn’t complain about that too much. 

This went on for about three days and I didn’t mind, but I was running behind on my work. I have a deadline approaching for a huge project I’ve been working on for the past two months. Wednesday morning came and it was time to take her back to the chiropractor for another adjustment.

This is where it turns into a sob story (literally). The previous night, Clara didn’t sleep hardly at all. She was up eight times. Yeah, I counted. She cried all morning before the appointment and screamed the entire ride to the office. By the time I pulled into the parking lot her face was splotchy and her eyes were red. She wasn’t the only one crying on the ride over. I was so exhausted and so overwhelmed that I cried in sync with her. I got my shit together and went inside. Held it together long enough to speak with the doctor and get Clara ready for her adjustment. Then she started screaming again. She wanted nothing to do with it. She screamed through the entire adjustment and I couldn’t keep my composure together any longer. I started bawling. Right there in the middle of the office in front of everyone. I couldn’t help it. Seeing my child so upset and not having any clue how to help her is so heartbreaking. 

So, there we were, Clara and I crying together in the middle of the office. Talk about embarrassing! Oh well. I tell you what, I needed that cry. I’m only human and I can only keep it together for so long. We got through the appointment and left. Clara instantly fell asleep and I contemplated a lot on the drive home. 

Ok, I swear, here’s where it turns into a happy post. I promise I’m not out to just complain about my life. I decided after having that good cry, I was going to shift my focus to all of the GOOD things that happened this week. Even though Clara was sick, she was still being such a goofy, sweet little ham. She is expanding her vocabulary every day and has recently learned, “Uh Oh!” She drops something and looks down and says it. I laugh every time. She climbs on everything and makes sure I see what’s in her hand after she grabs an object off of the table. Clara loves posing for the camera and making the silliest facial expressions. 

When I started focusing more on the good rather than the bad, I started to feel so much better. Yes, it was a hard week. But I survived. I didn’t handle every hard situation in the best way possible. But I learned a lot about how to handle those situations in the future. I also realized I needed to get back to taking care of myself. Working from home and taking care of Clara 24/7 has made it very easy for me to completely forget about myself. Seriously, I could go three or four days without even thinking about showering. Gross, right? The other day, I had just enough shower time to shave one leg. Just one. 

Today was a turning point for me. I had Mike drop off Clara at her Grandmother’s house for the day and I went to get my hair done. I knew I wanted to get some highlights and my usual trim. However, an hour before my appointment, I decided I wanted to change my look and chop my hair off. At least that’s what it felt like to me. My hair reached my waist, and it was NASTY. Dry, split ends, heavy, couldn’t do a thing with it. I have been rocking the mom bun since before I even gave birth. It was time for a change in my look and my attitude about life. Today was a new day and I needed to do something to solidify that. I made today about me and went in excitedly nervous. I had my hair stylist add highlights and toner to my hair, and then I had to her chop. Eight. Inches. Off. My head. 

Guys, I haven’t had that much taken off at once EVER. This was so not like me. This was such a last-minute decision and it needed to happen. I knew I had lost myself this past week, but it wasn’t until I saw the new me in the mirror that I realized I had lost myself a long time ago. Nine and a half months ago to be exact. Today was about me.  Today I was able to gain a whole new perspective on my life and feel so much better for it. 

-The Upstate Blonde 

Thursday, November 8, 2018

My Easy Diapering System On-the-Go!

Now that Clara is 8.5 months old, changing her diaper is one of the biggest challenges of my day. She rolls, kicks, yells, cries, and reaches for everything around her (including, but not limited to, my hair). Changing her diaper when we are out and about is a WHOLE OTHER BEAST. 

There is only so much I can do to distract her while I wrestle a new diaper around her shockingly-strong legs. It’s a battle of wills and I hate it. Especially when it came to using public changing tables. There has been more than one instance of Clara almost rolling off the table after power-kicking my stomach. I resorted to changing her in the car – with little improvement. The back seat of my car is lightly inclined, which only encourages her to roll away from me. 

Recently, a company called Littlegem4U contacted me about trying out their diaper caddy. They sent me this adorable caddy with a ton of organization space. I mean, who couldn’t use a little more organization in their lives? I know I can!  The three different compartments allow me to store my cloth diapers as well as some wipes, a changing pad, our handy rash balm, and a few other goodies I like to have on hand: extra swim diaper, receiving blanket from the hospital, rattle toy, and of course extra cutie clips, CutiePAT, and teether toy from Ryan & Rose

Keeping this in my car has made diaper changing on-the-go so much easier. I no longer have to hold Clara down with one hand while searching through the diaper bag for what I need. Everything is right in arms reach and it makes the process so much faster.  

I am so thankful this company allowed me to try this caddy, I don’t own anything else like it and it has truly made me life easier. This perfect product can be found right on amazon, and it’s on Prime! 

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

These Last Two Weeks

I’m back! I’ve taken some time away from the blog to settle into my new life as a work at home mom, and it has NOT been easy. Just in the first week, Clara happened to be teething, going through a leap, AND caught Hand, Foot and Mouth disease. Ohhhhh boy, I certainly had my hands full.  We were up all night, fighting our naps all day, crying and whining the only word we know, “Mama.” It was rough for my poor baby. I was trying to get work done for my job as well as try to keep the house in order, and Clara just didn’t want to be put down because she didn’t feel well. To top it off, we ended our first week home with a trip to the emergency department after having three febrile seizures. That was the worst of it, and she recovered quickly a few days later. 

Alright, enough complaining. I’m actually loving this. I really am! Despite all that happened the first week, I am so much happier to be home with my baby. I’m able to watch her grow and learn, especially after she went through leap six. We have been able to do so much more as a family when Mike is off from work. So far, we have gone to the Zoo (a few times, haha), apple picking, a pumpkin patch, and just spent time together at home watching movies. The movies were while Clara was sick with HFM and couldn’t leave the house. 
I also FINALLY found enough time to put up all the fall decorations around my house. It isn’t perfect, I still want to put some Mums out on the front porch, but it looks better than it did. Fall is definitely one of my favorite seasons and I try to go all out for it.  

As I’m into the middle of my third week home, Clara is feeling better and we are trying our best to get back into some sort of routine. The sleep thing is still a work in progress, as in, she doesn’t sleep. Oh well, at least I don’t have to be anywhere early the next morning, right? I have found that as long as I at least try to stick to our daily nap/work/eat schedule, the days go by pretty smoothly and we have a happy baby and Mama.  

Now that I’m home, I will have so much more to share with you guys. This adventure is just beginning and I can’t wait to see where it leads. I can honestly say I am loving my life right now and even though my last post was kind of heavy, I can see the light at the end of that dark tunnel.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Postpartum Anxiety Is a Very Real Thing

I’m about to get extremely personal with you tonight. This post won’t really be funny or witty, it might even be downright depressing and pathetic, but it’s what I’m dealing with. For the last 6 months, I’ve been taking medication for postpartum depression, however it wasn’t until recently I realized it was so much more than that. ANXIETY is what cripples me every day. 

I was diagnosed with PPD after my daughter began suffering major GI issues and spent time in the children’s hospital. I had rapidly stopped breastfeeding and my hormones were all over the place, not to mention the stress of my child nearly dying. I felt sad from the second I woke up until the second I went to sleep every day. My whole world felt like it was crumbling around me and there wasn’t anything I could do to stop it. I was spiraling. I felt crazy. My doctor started me on a very low-dose medication and as our lives got back into a normal routine, I started to feel better. I didn’t feel sad or scared, and I had control of my own life. 

All was well for two more months, then it was time for me to go back to work. Oh my goodness how I wished and wished I didn’t have to go back! I had gotten so used to spending every second with my beautiful baby and now I would have to leave her for MANY hours out of the day. My very first day back, my boss scheduled me for a 16-hour shift. That’s right, I had to work from 7 AM to 11 PM. In the EMS world, that really isn’t that bad of a shift, most of us work 24 hours or more at a time. But my first day back?! I dreaded it all week, I knew it was coming and thinking about it made me feel worse. I didn’t get any sleep the night before, I ran around my house like a mad woman. I packed everything for Clara I could think of, all of her meds and toys and extra clothes and burps cloths and a bib and a blanket and formula and a clean bottle and diapers and wipes…do you see how my mind works?

I got through the first day, it wasn’t easy, but I did it. I took calls, laughed with my co-workers, and made the most of the day. I thought to myself, “Ok, I can handle this. It will get easier from here.” It didn’t. It flat out did NOT. Every single day was worse. I hated leaving her. I hated waking her up at 4 o’clock in the morning and wrestling her into her cars eat when all she wanted to do was sleep. Worst of all, I hated feeling like I was missing every milestone. She was only three months old and just starting to learn the world around her, the idea of missing even one thing sent me into a panic. I was blessed to have had a family member watch her during the day and send me pictures, it helped a little, but not enough to quell my anxiety. 

As the months went on and my schedule changed, I found I was able to stay home with Clara more often and only bring her to the sitter a few times (or even once) a week. This was great! I had a front row seat in the show that was her life. I was able to be a part of many more milestones, first foods, crawling, high-fives, all the goods. I loved every single second of it, but when it came time to go to work, I wanted to cry. I mean CRY, actual tears. Being away from her was getting worse and worse. How am I supposed to take of care patients when I can barely function? 

My doctor wasn’t much help, “It’s your depression, just keep taking more meds.” But after some research, I learned more about Postpartum Anxiety, and how its almost never talked about. After reading all the symptoms: thoughts racing, unable to quiet my mind, unable to settle down, unable to RELAX. The symptom that really did it for me was the worrying. This was the thing I felt myself doing more than ever before. I understand that as a new mom, I’m naturally going to worry if I’m doing things right, but this was on a whole other level. I find myself worrying about her in the car, with the sitter, with my parents, with Mike’s parents, sleeping in her own room. If I am not right there with her, I internally freak out. It’s a horrible feeling, the rational part of my brain knows I’m being crazy, but I can. Not. Help it. These horrible scenarios play in my mind all day long and there’s nothing I can do to stop it. 

It's not just my baby I worry for all day, but also my husband. As a paramedic, he often finds himself in peculiar situations, some of them dangerous. Not that I haven’t been in dangerous situations as an EMT, but not nearly as many as he is. He calls me on the phone to tell me about a call he was on where the patient wanted to fight or he had to stop them from pulling a knife on him and his partner and I just lose it. WHY THOUGH??? I never used to worry about things like that, I lived it! When I was working in city EMS I dealt with that stuff all the time and didn’t even blink an eye! 

As I count down the shifts I need to work until I am no longer full time on the road (t-4 shifts), my stress has been through the roof. My patients call 911 for stupid reasons (not even kidding, some have been calling for ride to work), my co-workers aggravate me, and I find myself developing severe headaches every day. I walk into work wishing I could just go home. I know I sounds like I’m complaining, and I guess I am, but I don’t know how else to describe how I feel. I can only hope that as I stay home more with my daughter and take some time to just relax, I can begin healing and ridding myself of this anxiety. I have already began dedicating 30 minutes out of my day to exercise and relieve some of that stress. I know that as I continue to take care of my body, it will be easier to take care of my mind. 

This was not easy to talk about. In this age of social media, our instinct is to focus only the good, creating a seemingly perfect life. But life is messy and crazy and a roller coaster. 

“Nothing is perfect. Life is messy. Relationships are complex. Outcomes are uncertain. People are irrational.”
-Hugh Mackay

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Big Decisions

Life has been INSANE lately! I don't even know where to begin. It's already been over a week since my last post and it doesn't even feel like a few hours. Over the last few days, I have had to make some pretty big decisions regarding my career, and my role as a mother.

With Mike switching stations at his work and a looming possibility of his entire schedule changing, it has become clear that child care would become too expensive for us to handle. We have been so blessed to have had reasonably inexpensive child care up until now, but with a schedule change, little Clara would have to be at the sitter almost every day. Mike and I would never get to see each other. At my own job, its almost the end of the current quarter, meaning I would also be facing a schedule change. Can you see how messy this is getting?

Within the last few days, I have been given to opportunity to work from home more often. There was plenty of work to be done and with recent incidents of having to scramble for last minute child care, it was time for me to really sit down and think about this. Am I ready to give up my 40+ guaranteed hours a week in EMS to work from home more? This would mean getting to spend more time with my daughter, keeping the house clean, cooking more often, spending more time with my feathered babies, and seeing my husband A LOT more often! Now here's the kicker, the overall hourly pay is a good $2.00 less than what I am currently making, but when I factor in all of the ways I would be saving money; spending less on gas for my car, not eating out at much, NO $$$ ON CHILD CARE! Plus little things I'm already doing, like using cloth diapers. It really will even out in the end. It's all about sticking to a budget.

When my husband and I came to the conclusion this will be the best thing for our family, it was like a weight was lifted off my shoulders! No longer will I have to worry about things like scrambling at the last minute for someone to watch Clara if something comes up with her current sitter (I totally get it, life happens and you never see it coming). I am so excited to be able to spend the majority of my week with my baby, even if she's just playing with her toys on the floor next to me while I work. I can finally get her on a real feeding and nap schedule! Its the little things, haha!

I also decided I wasn't going to completely leave EMS (I don't think I could ever really do that, I love it too much), my boss at Penfield and I discussed my working one 16 hour shift a week. This would allow me to still keep my skills up, as well as have some adult time. I will be working these shifts on one of Mike's days off, this way we will still have money on child care.

I am so excited to be moving forward with this decision in just under a month! As of October 1st, I will go back to being per diem at Penfield Ambulance and begin my journey as a full-time mama! 

“Motherhood is a choice you make everyday, to put someone else's happiness and well-being ahead of your own, to teach the hard lessons, to do the right thing even when you're not sure what the right thing is...and to forgive yourself, over and over again, for doing everything wrong.” - Donna Ball
Something about this quote has given me so much peace, it completely defines what it means to be a mother <3

-The Upstate Blonde

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Picky Binki Baby

So I know I've been MIA for a few days, but this last week has been busy!

Allow me to break it down for you: my Mom received a kidney transplant and my little sister was her donor, I have been helping to create a new CME for my WFH job, I was getting out late almost everyday at my regular job, we had to finish up some home improvement projects that should have been done months ago, and my baby turned six months old! On top of all this, I have been testing out some new pacifiers for Clara and I'm ready to review them.

The whole reason why I have (what seems like) 8 billion pacifiers lying around my house is because Clara has GERD. While she was staying in the Children's Hospital, some of her doctors informed us that GERD babies do very well with pacifiers for the simple fact that it keeps them from spitting up so much. The constant sucking reflex helps keep the acid down, as well as soothes them when their tummies hurt. Clara had already been using the Avent Soothies in between feedings but, and they were alright, but she tended to spit it out more often than not. I needed to find something she would take all the time, and hoped it would help keep her from spitting up her entire bottle. 

A day or so after Clara was discharged from the hospital, I was shopping at Target when I came cross the MAM pacifiers. I had never seen a paci with that shape before, it was flat! I thought to myself, “What the hell, its only a few bucks. Might as well give it a try.” I bought a two-pack and brought them home. She took to it immediately! Loved it so much I had to go out at buy more just ot make sure we had extras for the house and the diaper bag. We started off with the 0-6 month size and it was perfect for her. As the months went on of using this paci, I have found it doesn't really keep her from spitting up, nothing does, not even her meds. However, it does seem to keep her tummy aches at bay. 

Recently, I decided I wanted to have her try a paci made of 100% natural rubber. I have heard these pacis are better for the environment and better for baby. There are a few brands out there of natural rubber pacis, but what seems to be a favorite among mommies is the Natursutten. This all-natural pacifier is made in Italy, doesn't contain any cracks, crevices, or joints where bactieria can hide, is produced from sustainable plantages, and (best of all), allergen-free! That's right, they have removed the most common protein that causes a latex allergy. As someone that works in the medical field, I find that really fascinating.

The Natursutten is about $12 on Amazon. It's also on Prime, so not a bad price, but most pacis average about $6 or so. I started looking into “knockoff” rubber pacifiers and came across a brand named Sweetie. It is considered a close second to the Natursutten and its only about $9 on Amazon. However, no where on the listing does it say it is allergen-free. So, I ordered both and decided to do a comparison. They were delivered to my house within a few days and we gave it a whirl.

The first one we tried was the Sweetie, since it arrived at my house first. As soon as I took it out of the packaging, I noticed what felt like latex powder coated on the pacifier. I immediately washed it off according to the directions and told my husband not to go near it. Mike has a serious latex allergy, he starts having a reaction as soon as he's in the same room with stuff. Well, he decided he wanted to be a guinea pig for this experiment and rubbed the pacifier all over his arm (I begged him not to, but he's stubborn). With just a few minutes, he began forming hives all over the area he rubbed the pacifier and complained of itching and burning. Insert an “I told you so.” from me. Anywhoo, he treated the hives and went about his day, I put the pacifier back in the baggie is was shipped in and waited for the other one to arrive.

The Natursutten arrived the next day and Mike tested it on his skin, no reaction whatsoever. Like, at all. The pacifier held true to it's claim of being allergen-free! Next step was to give it to Clara and see what she thinks. Long story short, she wasn't a fan. She chewed on it mostly. It looked pretty and hip and eco-friendly, but she wasn't having it. My dreams of converting her to a more sustainable paci were crushed, she will forever be a MAM baby. However, in the week I was trying to get Clara on board with the different paci, I was able to notice some differences between the Sweetie and Natursutten. Though both nipples are round and meant for 6-12 month babies, the neck of the nipple on the Sweetie is shorter than that of the Natursutten, and the tip of the nipple is wider. Now, this has no effect on my life since Clara REFUSED to take it, but that little bit of info might help anyone else looking to purchase a rubber paci.

So yeah, this was my small contribution in trying to make our lives more sustainable, but it failed. Oh well, on to the next thing.

-The Upstate Blonde 

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

In the Blink of An Eye

In just six days, my own little Clara Lynn will be six months old. That's a whole half of a year!! How in the world did this happen?! For the past week or so, I've been dealing with a lot of anxiety about this realization. It all went by so fast...

At 38 weeks, I was induced for high blood pressure. They assured Mike and I it would be an extremely slow process. The hospital staff insisted she wouldn't make her appearance for about three days. Well, they were wrong. The induction process started around 2:00 PM on Monday, and by 7:43 PM on Tuesday, she was here! My teeny tiny newborn baby girl was finally in my arms and I couldn't have been more in love. My baby was so small she needed preemie clothes and diapers!

The day and a half spent in the hospital were a blur. Recovering from birth, learning to breastfeed, and all around trying to get used to the idea of my body no longer housing a tiny human, I felt (and probably looked) like a zombie. Both Clara and I were continuously poked and pricked, and I couldn't wait to get home. I quickly realized the hospital scene was not for me.

Once we did get home, reality finally hit me. Mike and I are home, alone, completely responsible for this little life. She depends on us for absolutely everything. Better not screw this up! I was terrified (as I imagine all new parents are), I felt like I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. It didn't matter how much I had prepared for this ahead of time, it was real and it was scary. Thankfully, I had many friends and family to reassure me that everything will work out and be ok.

First visit to Steve's Diner at one week old!

Fast forward a few weeks, our sweet girl spends a week in the Children's Hospital. This little LITTLE (I mean seriously little, she was a month old and smaller than most newborns)girl is very sick. She's diagnosed with several GI issues and we have to stop breastfeeding, switch to a hypoallergenic, amino-acid based formula, start multiple medications, and pray she starts gaining some weight. I am so thankful we live in an area with such an amazing hospital. The doctors, nurses, care coordinators, and anyone else who had a part in helping my baby were amazing. Everyone was extremely helpful and encouraging. We were discharged and had to completely rearrange our life. I had to set alarms throughout the day to draw up meds, made sure to get up at midnight to give another med, and wake up several times to feed my girl a teeny amount of formula and hope she didn't throw it all up. Anything she kept down would help her gain weight.

Five months later, this girl is THRIVING! Wild child doesn't even begin to describe her. Always on the go, wanting to play with everything and smile at everyone. She is so close to crawling, getting up on all fours and we can just see the determination in her little face. At just under 14 pounds, she still fits 3 month clothing, so she's still tiny, and that's ok. Her growth curve is steady and she is meeting milestones. That's all I can ask for.

It scares me how fast it goes. Everyone always says, “Enjoy it now, it goes by quickly.” It has to be the most accurate saying known to man. My little newborn who wanted me and me only is now mobile and ready to conquer the whole world. At the end of the day, I can't stop her from growing up. All I can do is take it all in, and enjoy each moment. Every giggle and every whimper are precious, I savor each one.

- The Upstate Blonde 

Instant Pot Cashew Chicken

You guys were so excited this week when I mentioned I would be making a paleo cashew chicken recipe with our instant pot! We made it last n...