11 ways to boost motivation

Lately I’ve been overwhelmed with life in general.

Sometimes I wake up in the morning and my head is just swimming with things I need to do, stuff that has to be taken care of, and ways I need to start taking control. All that ruckus can be too much to process sometimes, and as a result my day can turn out to be unproductive, mostly because I don’t know where to start.

Maybe you’re like me, and day after day your to-do list keeps growing but you feel like a stick in the mud because you’re too overwhelmed to start.

I decided to help us get un-stuck, by creating this list of eleven ways to beat the brain overload and find motivation in the unlikeliest of places.

    1. seek out a piece of good news

I’m guilty of checking my phone first thing in the morning, and since I’m subscribed to a lot of news publications (I’m into politics), overnight I’ll get several notifications about what’s going on in the political world. I didn’t realize it before, but checking my phone first thing in the morning often means waking up to bad news, which only puts me in a crappy mood (at best) and is definitely not a good way to ramp up for a busy day.

I’ve found that if I seek out a piece of good news, or read one positive affirmation, it tends to do wonders for my attitude, putting me in a happier mood- one where I feel like I can do anything. Instead of reading Trump’s daily dose of BS, I’ve instead subscribed to an email list from tut.com that’s called “letters from the universe” and I receive from them a daily reminder of my power and the magic of life. If that doesn’t do the trick, I try to look places I know I’ll find good news. Some ideas: OptimistWorld, Good News Network, Gimundo, or OdeWire. (note: this does not mean that I don’t pay attention at all to the negative current events happening in the world, it just means that I don’t start my day with negative stories anymore)

    2. go for a walk

Sometimes the best thing to do for yourself to get your mindset in the right place is to go for a walk. Maybe you need to clear your head. Maybe you need some space. Maybe you need a break, or some fresh air. Maybe you need to wake up a bit. Maybe you need to get your blood circulating. All of these things can result from stepping outside for a quick walk.

In the mornings when I’m feeling sluggish I’ll take the dog out (if you don’t have a dog, take the trash out or shovel your porch) and usually the cool air or occasional slice of winter sunshine helps me feel fresh at the start of the day.

    3. make the bed

There is some research out there that suggests that making the bed in the morning can lead to higher productivity. According to an article by Elite, which sites sources from Psychology Today, a survey by Hunch.com, and Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times reporter Charles Duhigg, people who make their bed in the morning are happier and more productive, and doing such a trivial task prepares one to do things they don’t want to do: if you don’t want to make your bed, by doing so, you are mentally preparing yourself and getting in the habit of doing tasks you may not want to do but have to do.

This could really help when looking for someplace to start on a long list of things you probably would prefer not to do. Sometimes we don’t start our to do list because every task on it feels to large. By picking a task that requires little effort like making the bed, we can start small and gain some momentum, which can be useful in propelling us toward other (larger) unappealing tasks.

    4. tidy up

I once (twice actually) read a book called The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. In it, she talks about a method she uses at night where she takes five minutes to tidy up before bed. I’ve found this to be extremely beneficial if I do it first thing in the morning. Anything that’s been left out, or can be quickly put away, I spend five minutes doing so. (I usually pick up Kinsley’s toys, hang up my jacket in the coat closet downstairs, and fix the throw pillows on the couch.)

The idea is to take care of little things that might distract you from productivity, and (if you’re like me) by tidying up your work/living space you may feel more at ease, and able to focus on the tasks at hand because the dishwasher isn’t begging to be loaded and you won’t keep staring at your cluttered coffee table.

    5. make a list

This one never fails for me, as long as I follow this rule: brain dump onto paper, use that to make a list, and commit to a specific number of tasks- not the whole list. If I wake up and my head is full of stuff I should probably do, it doesn’t help me to continue on with that beehive swarming all day long. Instead, I like to brain dump onto paper and then make one or more lists.

Depending on how productive I’m feeling, I’ll make a list based on my highest priorities, or tasks I can knock out quickly. If I’m feeling super ambitious, I’ll take care of the worst to-do’s first, and if I’m having a slow start, I’ll start with small tasks and build momentum to try and accomplish bigger things later in the day after I’m ‘warmed up’ so-to-speak. The most important thing is that you acknowledge a goal, and that goal doesn’t have to be completing everything on the list- that way you don’t accidentally bite off more than you can chew, and quit before you start.

    6. take a shower/get ready

If you’re not a mom, this one might sound dumb. However, if you are a mom, (especially a stay at home mom) you understand that sometimes taking a shower/putting on actual clothes (not just sweats and a tshirt) isn’t always your first priority and might not happen unless you have to leave the house (even then, still isn’t always a priority). Making time for a 10 minute shower and actually putting pants on can sometimes help you feel more prepared to take on a busy day; this is also true for a busy day off- it might be counter intuitive to stay in your PJ’s all day when you’ve got errands to run.

If you’re anything like me, hanging out in leggings and a sweater all day can make you feel like a bum, where all you want to do, or feel like you can do, is sit on the couch (and cuddle with the baby)- not super productive. If I take a shower and actually get dressed, I usually feel better and get a boost of confidence, which is like a secret weapon when it comes to finding motivation to get shit done.

    7. listen to music

A lot of people say that listening to music helps them get a boost of motivation when they’re running low. I find this to be true most of the time. My personal faves are Taylor Swift (Red), Shawn Mendes (Illuminate), Charlie Puth (9 Track Mind), Maroon 5 (Hands All Over), Jack Johnson (In Between Dreams) and John Mayer (Battle Studies).

    8. work out

Still too stressed to tackle your to-do list? Go to the gym. Fun fact: Exercise reduces stress because it creates a production boost of endorphins, which are neurotransmitters in your brain that act as natural anti-depressants.

A more obvious reason to work out is that exercise can make you more alert and provide energy. When you exercise, you are increasing blood flow to the brain, which can help sharpen your awareness and increase your energy to make you more awake and prepared to tackle your next big project. If you don’t have time for a full workout, try some stretches, they’ll achieve the same results.

    9. take some time for yourself

I know a few successful women who light an intention candle every morning and start their day by spending a chunk of uninterrupted time just on reflection/meditation/centering themselves before starting their most important tasks.

If spending a half hour alone in the dark at 5:30am doesn’t sound like it would help you, try reading something interesting to get those neurons firing, or find some scripture or a daily affirmation to get your gears turning. You could also try writing a few things you’re grateful for, start a 5 minute journal, look up your horoscope, or watch an inspiring ted talk or educational video. For some people this is too much stimulation too early in the morning, in which case, these would be good ways to take a break or regroup when you’ve been going for a long time and need to find some extra motivation to keep going.

  10. have a cup or three of coffee

A typical 8oz cup of coffee has about 95mg of caffeine in it. Quick science lesson for you- basically, caffeine increases the release of catecholamines (like adrenaline) through the sympathetic nervous system, which can make your heart beat faster, send more blood to your muscles and tell your liver to release sugar into the bloodstream thus providing you with energy!

FYI: according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, it takes about 30 to 60 minutes for caffeine to reach its peak level in the blood (one study found increased alertness can begin in as few as 10 minutes). So, if you need a boost of energy and motivation, down a cup of coffee and in 10 minutes you’ll be ready to go (or if coffee isn’t your thing, try black tea, which has the highest caffeine content).

    11. make and eat breakfast

So, maybe caffeine isn’t your thing. That’s okay, because breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and if you choose not to skip it, you can probably get as much or more energy than you would from those cups of coffee. Here’s why: when you wake up, the blood sugar your body needs to make your muscles and brain work their best is usually low, and eating breakfast helps replenish it.

Plus, remember when we talked about trivial tasks like making your bed? Well making yourself breakfast can be considered one of those, and now that you’ve read some good news, taken the trash out, made your bed, tidied up, written a list, showered and dressed, listened to some music while you stretched out, took a few minutes to yourself with a cup of coffee AND handled breakfast, you’ve got some momentum going and might be ready to tackle that list.

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born a girl.

A year and two days ago my ultrasound tech took a photo with my baby’s gender and placed it in an envelope for my mom.

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Prior to this appointment, at a 14 week checkup to monitor the subchorionic hematoma that developed just under my placenta, the tech had mentioned that she was fairly certain it was a girl.

On my 23rd birthday, we announced publicly that the word ‘girl’ was, in fact, written on the black and white photo inside that envelope.

Since that day I have been praying. I want to be able to equip her with everything she will need to navigate this world as a girl.

In four days Kinsley will be 7 months old. She isn’t old enough to know yet, but as soon as she is, it will be my number one priority to make sure she understands that her being female is something we celebrated. I will make sure she knows that we love her no less because she was born a daughter.

I will make it a point to tell her that, even in a world where women and our opportunities and rights are interrupted and shushed by men’s hands over our mouths and around our necks every day- even under these circumstances, her voice can be as loud,  her message just as important, and her will even stronger than any man’s.

I pray that I can help her recognize when something isn’t okay, and to decide that she will take what is rightfully hers.
I pray that I can teach her to be brave, and to plant her feet on the ground firmly as she stands up to fight for what she believes in.
I pray that I can show her how to make her voice heard and to speak out against things that are unjust.

I want her to do these things like so many great others have done before her and are still doing today.

Kinsley was born a daughter, and I’m glad for it. When she grows up, I will make sure I have raised her to be one more strong woman in the crowd, marching, fighting, standing, and making a case for respect, equal pay, the right to control her body, a livable planet, the end of violence against women, health care for all, public education, the constitution, and the bill of rights.

Kinsley was born a girl, and nothing will stop her. Someday she will stand among daughters who pledge not to be silent, not to be interrupted, not to be sidelined, not to be stopped, and not to be afraid.

I hope you will teach your daughters the same.

 

 

 

 

 

Growth in 2017

The last two years were hard.
But hard is good, because it causes people to evolve.

In 2016 I learned to be brave.
I learned to be brave and push through, and my bravery gave me tremendous strength. The strength & bravery I found in 2016 carried me through 2017.

In 2017 I learned to grow.
I learned that life can change drastically and when it does, there will be things you cannot control. As a result, I had to embrace the changes and learn to grow through what I go through. Using strength and bravery, I embraced hardships to make me better, not bitter. The growth I experienced in 2017 is going to help shape my 2018.

Let’s have a look at the highlights (and let’s be honest, the low lights) of 2017 before I reveal what my mantra for 2018 is going to be.

JANUARY

We were pregnant since late October and I wanted to formally announce the pregnancy after the first of the year, so late December of 2016 I sent out pregnancy announcements to all of my family with a Christmas card.

January 3rd I announced on social media that we were expecting a baby in late June/early July.

Following the pregnancy announcement, I began moving to Petoskey.

We officially picked two names.

Late January I had my anatomy scan and found out the gender of our baby.

 

FEBRUARY

After the move was well underway, I began some work in transforming the spare bedroom into a nursery.

Mid February I had a maternity shoot.

On February 19th I left behind 22’s wishes and welcomed 23 with a big celebration…

That celebration was our gender reveal party. We shared with family and friends via a cake that my mom made for the party that we would be having a girl.

 

MARCH

Due to some issues with the gender party, and many people showing their true colors, I realized it was time to begin a social media cleanse to start removing the toxicity from my life.

It took a few months, mostly because I was pregnant and it was winter, but I finally finished moving to Petoskey and let my lease go in Conway.

On March 17th we brought Merlin, our border collie, home from an Amish farm near Grand Rapids.

 

APRIL

At 28 weeks pregnant I decided there was no better time to visit my BFF in Florida, so for the second time ever, I put some stuff in a bag, drove to Detroit, and caught a flight to Panama City for a week. It was literally the best time. We sat on the couch for almost the entire week playing a game we have both come to love called Stardew Valley.

Shortly after returning from Florida, Nick and I had Easter with all of his family in Traverse City.

Just a few months from Kinsley’s birth I finally got around to ordering and building her crib and crafting a few unique pieces for her nursery.

 

MAY

After enough pregnancy troubles and a difficult decision, I decided to leave my Home Decor Department Manager position at Lowe’s.

I got to see my step sister get married to the love of her life in Tecumseh, Michigan.

I finally got around to sending out baby shower invites.

Traded in LaFawnduh the Ford Fusion for Pearl, our new JEEP Cherokee. (Thanks to a fellow named Jim at Brown Motors, who was MOST helpful.)

 

JUNE

At 37 weeks, on June 11th, I had my baby shower at a beautiful church in Cheboygan with family and friends.

We found out the news that Kinsley had a one vessel cord, so the doctors ordered some extra tests, which included these lovely stress tests, all of which we passed.

Miss Kinsley Estelle June made her debut to the world on June 25th, 2017 at 7:37 pm at McClaren Hospital in Petoskey, MI. She was 6lbs, 11oz, and 19.5 inches long.

Minutes after Kinsley was born, it was determined that something wasn’t right with her anatomy. She was taken to the DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids, Michigan where it was confirmed that she was born with a rare congenital defect called Tracheoesophageal Fistula (TEF) / Esophageal Atresia (EA).

We traveled to GR the next day after I was discharged from the hospital, where we received the most helpful support, humbling kindness, and amazing medical care for our daughter. DeVos is such a special place. I could not be more grateful that she ended up there. Every occupational therapist, social worker, nurse, nurse practitioner, neonatologist, ENT, and surgeon who had their hands in her care was simply the best. We are forever indebted to DeVos and their team, as well as the nurses at McClaren who saved Kinsley’s life.

 

JULY/AUGUST

As it turned out, Nick and I would end up spending a lot of time in Grand Rapids. 6.5 weeks, to be exact. Between our visits at the hospital with Kinsley and her doctors, Nick decided to help me experience the town while we were there, since it’s where he grew up. I kept track of a list of places we went (in no particular order) that I’d never been before.

FOOD

+Red Robin

+Omlette Shoppe
(my favorite restaurant in GR)

+Paleos Italian Restaurant

+Firehouse Subs
(umm their italian is to die for)

+Sonic

+Olive Garden
(a traverse city favorite)

+Twisted rooster

+Vitales at Comstock Park

+Panera Bread

+Cold Stone Creamery
(I got cake batter something or other)

COFFEE SHOPS

+Dunkin’ Donuts

+Bagel Beanery

+Tim Horton’s

FUN

+AMC Theater (saw The House)

+Celebration Cinema (saw Spider-Man)

+Barnes & Noble

LOCAL BREWERIES/PUBS

+Atwater Brewery

+City Flats

+7 Monks

+Founders

+Flat Lander’s Barstillery
(holy shit their fries!!)

OUTDOOR ATTRACTIONS

+SkyWalk

+Grand Rapids museum

+Downtown Grand Rapids

+Frederick Meijer Gardens

+John Ball Zoo

We traveled to Elk Rapids for Harbor Fest as well.

I also finally got to meet Nick’s sister Schae, who lives in Arizona but flew in for a few weeks to see us and attend to other family members in their time of need as well. (bless her heart)

We also came home for a minute to attend my mom’s and step dad Don’s wedding.

Finally on August 9th, Kinsley was discharged from the hospital.

We got to do some normal family things which felt so good after 47 long days in the hospital with her.

 

SEPTEMBER

In early September I started my final prerequisite for the nursing program: A&P.

Nick and I ventured over to Friske’s Orchard, this place he’s been raving about since we met.

Enjoyed a few last warm days in the remaining ‘summer’ sun.

And last but not least, we celebrated Nick, Chelsea and Schae’s birthdays with this awesome peanut butter chocolate cake I made.

 

OCTOBER

I started the month out swallowing some major frogs. We had to get the medical bills from Kinsley being at DeVos organized and taken care of. Even being home for 2 months at this point, I was still adjusting to the ‘new mom’ and ‘household secretary/appointment scheduler’ roles.

We had oddly warm temps this fall, which we took full advantage of. Nick and I took Kinsley to Pond Hill Farm for some family photos and fun.

We were also able to make it to Uncle Frank’s Orchard for our pumpkins.

And we took the opportunity to go to Tequamenon Falls before the colors were officially gone.

Kinsley was Raggedy Anne for her first Halloween.

We also cannot forget that my dear Sparky Berlin turned 2.

And I also started a part time job, one to two shifts per week at Marshall’s. (they got me this Christmas present, so it’s not all bad.

 

NOVEMBER

This was a month jam-packed with appointments in Grand Rapids.

I got the foundation to help us with one of the trips, and they were able to pay for a king suite hotel room with a Jacuzzi tub (best decision I ever made).

Kinsley had her second and last (so far) esophageal dilation.

Nick and I finally got to go to our local Beard’s Brewery, which is something we’ve been trying to do since before Kinsley was born.

Kinsley had her first Thanksgiving!

At her first Thanksgiving I got a 4 generation photo, which means more to me than most things.

 

DECEMBER

My A&P class would end mid December, so I took a weekend to get completely caught up in order to lock in the possibility of a good grade.

When everything was all said and done and the grades were finally posted I ended the class with an A (by .03%). Which is something I’m extremely proud of.

Kinsley finally made sufficient progress at feeding therapy, got her feeding tube removed and started using a special bottle. By the last week of December, she was cleared to start baby food at feeding therapy.

December was full of celebration; Kinsley turned 6 months old on her first Christmas.

Nick decided it was time to get me a promise ring, which he gave me on Christmas Eve.

We started our own Christmas Eve tradition.

My three absolute best friends made it all to the same place at the same time to spend an afternoon of baby snuggling, cookie baking and visiting together.

And on the very last day of the year, we had a family dinner with my mom and step dad Don, and nick’s mom and step dad Jim. It was a perfect way to end a year full of family times.

Now, if you’re still along for the ride, or if you just skipped to this part, we’re done recounting everything that happened in 2017, and we can move forward to 2018.

 

As I mentioned before we took a trip down memory lane, in 2017 I learned that life can change drastically, and when it does, there will be things you cannot control. As a result, I had to embrace the changes and learn to grow through what I go through. The growth I experienced in 2017 is going to help shape my 2018.

In 2018 I’m going to remember “I have the power to create change.”
And it’s going to be my mantra.

It only makes sense that my 2018 mantra would evolve from my 2017 year. We were stretched, tested, pushed, and put through so much. And from that we grew. And grew, and grew, and grew.

And now that that’s all finished, we have to keep that in mind with 2018 and continue to grow through what we go through, because hardship and unexpected changes are inevitable in life. We also have to make sure that we realize another thing heading into 2018 which is that we have the power to create change.

We’re going through things now that stemmed from the uncontrolled, and we can only grow from things we can’t control, but some of the strain caused us to make bad habits, and fall into other crappy circumstances, and now it’s time to recognize that those things have to change, and we are the ones with the power to do it.

With our experiences with Kinsley being born, and the resulting financial hardships we endured and the debt we adopted, we need to go into 2018 with a mindset that we have the power to create change, to squash the debt and do what needs to be done to prevent further financial hardship.

Last year I learned to grow through what I go through. This year I’m reminding myself that I have the power to create change. And I’m already on the right path with the to-do’s I’ve completed, the frogs I’ve swallowed, and the changes I’ve committed to in the last week. But all those specifics will have to wait for another blogpost coming soon. 🙂

YOU HAVE THE POWER TO CREATE CHANGE, FOLKS.

Grab 2018 by the balls and make it your bitch. I’m gonna.

Cheers to 2018!

Holiday Shit storm.

Well, we’ve officially made it to the part of December where we endure the weird five day limbo stage between holidays.

Personally I love it, because new years eve/day is my favorite holiday. I really enjoy the in-between where things slow down just enough for me to cross off the final things on my “end of year to-do” list and then prepare everything I need to start the new year out fresh.

I love making plans for the new year, and the five day limbo is just long enough for me to do that. I feel motivated and excited for a fresh, clean slate, but that’s not always the case for everyone. The holidays are a hard time of year.

Let’s be real. December is a crazy month because it’s all about making big plans and meeting expectations. I’m sure you’re one of many who gets to the last page on the calendar feeling a little sluggish from Thanksgiving and all the shenanigans that come along with that, and then you begin to worry about if you’ll be able to meet expectations and do enough in December.

“Have I cooked enough? Have I cleaned enough? Decorated enough, gifted enough, visited enough, celebrated enough, seen enough, rested enough”…the list goes on. Whatever it is, it’s been floating around in your head for the last 28 days, and right now, as December is a mere three days from coming to a close, you’re probably still feeling like shit about your ability to meet expectations and wear 5 million hats during the holiday season.

Maybe you’re realizing you never used to feel this way, not up until the last few years.

I can explain that in two words: social media.

The holidays are already a difficult time, but they become increasing challenging when you’re staring, day in and day out, at everyone on your facebook and instagram pretending, not only that they are doing enough, but that their enough is easy and flawless.

I know you spent at least a few days looking at Suzy’s freshly published photo album on facebook, eyebrows furrowing at her immaculately decorated tree, pinterest-esqu living room, spotless dining set, and too-perfect family photos. With each swipe you feasted your eyes on another picture perfect photo and with every one the expectations grew and grew.

I know you did it. I did it too. And so did Suzy. Because we all fall victim to the comparison game, and that’s what social media is good for: making others jealous of their ability to pretend things are merrier than they actually are.

Here’s the thing though, for every perfect photo you see this holiday season, there is most definitely a disaster going on behind it.

I can promise you that Suzy’s cat probably knocked that immaculate tree down twice, and she had to sweep up the broken ornaments while her belligerent husband shouted and took swipes at the satisfied fuzzball. I’m almost positive that instead of hand crafting those living room decorations, she took out a small loan to fund her unnecessary show. And I can guarantee you that those family photos did not go as smoothly as all those rosy red cheeks would have you believe- minutes before the camera flashed, Suzy’s husband was probably bitching about how much he hates family photos, little johnny was wiping boogers on baby Madeline’s shirt as she screamed in horror and Suzy was sitting in her deodorant stained red sweater wondering why she wanted to go through with all this in the first place.

It’s not just her though. It was you too.

Uploading that photo of two wine glasses and a plate of cheese and crackers immediately following a huge fight with your boyfriend. Posting that status about how excited you were to see your parents when you were actually dreading being in their presence. Commenting on your mother in law’s post about family dinner explaining how delicious it was, when you actually placed your napkin over half the food you didn’t eat so no one would know you were throwing it away because the potatoes were lumpy, and you have never liked fruitcake. But it was all a show. Changing your profile picture to that angelic photo of your 11 month old who just shit all up her back 5 minutes ago and has begun regularly saying the word “shit”.

Don’t worry, it was me too.

I uploaded photos of the stockings I made when my mom was actually the one who bought the supplies because we’re too broke to afford dollar store materials. It was me when I posted photos of stuffed peppers that we made and only ate half of because I filled them too full and the beef wouldn’t cook through no matter how many extra minutes I put them in for. I added an album to facebook with photos of my tree that I purchased five days before Christmas from walmart for $20 with money I got from cans I returned from my dad’s canoe trip.

That’s right. Facebook saw the holiday card we sent out to family members, but they didn’t see the thank you note to the women’s resource center for paying my fall term tuition or the past due heat bill that went out with those holiday cards.

Yes, I admit it. I’m guilty too.

We’re all making sure our most highlighted moments make it to the facebook homepage face-tuned and photo-shopped because we’re trying to meet expectations set by others who are just as good or better at setting the bar for pretending.

Suzy, you, and me.

So before New Year’s eve, while we’re in this limbo thinking about our past year and making plans for the new year and/or just trying to stay afloat and keep swimming, let’s take some time to acknowledge this comparison game and take note of the shit storm that’s probably lurking behind every perfect photo we see.

Let’s assert that our life, too, is one wild moment after another- ripe, and beautiful and messy all wrapped in one, and that’s OKAY. We don’t need to be perfect all the time, and we shouldn’t feel like we have to make everyone think we’re perfect all the time. It’s perfectly okay to show the raw, unfiltered moments too.

All that being said, as you gear up for the last bit of the holiday season, whatever your major or minor struggle or unexpected circumstance: financial hardship, loss of a loved one, trouble with the law, mental illness, recent breakup, academic pressure, failed semester…whatever the case, keep it in the back of your mind and just be gentle.

Please remember that while it doesn’t always make the front headline, your friends and family are struggling, just like you. Commit to finishing the year out by going easy on yourself and on others.  Maybe take a break from social media. Maybe pledge to keep the last holiday of the year simple, and maybe follow that theme through 2018 to reduce the expectation/comparison game that had everyone chasing their tails in 2017.

Relax, give thanks, celebrate, count blessings, rest, enjoy, live (even if everything’s not perfect).

Merry everything and a Happy always from mine to yours.

xo

Feeding

Kinsley has been tube free for two full weeks.

This is a big deal.

Sometimes I look at this little girl and I think about how far she’s come and it blows my mind. It’s crazy to think that just a few months ago we were in the NICU waiting to hear the results of her TEF repair surgery, and whether or not they were even able to connect her esophagus together, and just since then she has spent 6 more weeks at the hospital, had two esophageal dilations, went through 15 weeks of feeding therapy, and now shes been eating solely from her bottle for two weeks straight.

To some people none of this sounds like a big deal because they don’t have an understanding of everything that we’ve had to do from the start to get to where we are now. But to those who have followed along closely and have been updated along the way, they know that Kinsley feeding with a bottle is a HUGE accomplishment.

For the sake of documentation, I want to let this post serve as a record of Kinsley’s biggest achievement thus far.

Kinsley was born on the 25th of June at 7:37pm and she was on her way to the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital before the night was over because of her congenital defect TEF. She left Petoskey around 11:30pm and arrived at DeVos the following morning between 5:30 and 7:00am. After her arrival, specialists, neonatologists and surgeons met, confirming that she would have to have corrective surgery to properly disconnect her esophagus from her breathing tube and connect it to itself.

On the 27th, at a whopping 36 hours old, she had that surgery. I can remember waiting in the room to find out if they would actually be able to connect her esophagus to itself. Sometimes if the disconnect is too large, the surgery is put off until the baby has grown some and the esophagus is at a length that minimal stretching needs to be done to reconnect it. At the time this was my worst fear.

The surgeon came into the room and informed us that everything went well, though. Those fears were exonerated. He told us we could see her once they moved her to the recovery room, and he said that she would not be on a ventilator, as she was his first baby ever to come out of the surgery and not need one.

At that time I knew for a fact that we had ourselves a true fighter.

But I didn’t know to what extent she would have to fight.

Leaving the NICU 45 days later, I was well prepared for esophageal issues. I wasn’t well prepared for respiratory issues. I knew she would have to have dilation procedures to stretch the scar tissue that formed in her esophagus. I didn’t know that she would struggle every day to breathe, or what kind of impact that would have on her feeding.

Feeding therapy was a struggle all on it’s own. It took two weeks for the therapy place to fit her into the schedule. Even then, we met two times a week with a therapist and at first, for over ten weeks we just worked on oral stimulation because it was clear that Kinsley’s breathing was too unstable to handle liquid being added to her mouth. Her tests showed that she was aspirating, and liquid was going down the wrong tube, even though she showed no sign of it except on the esophogram.

To add, her suck-swallow-breathe patter was nonexistent. She had no control over feeding skills. It simply wasn’t there for her. This was hard for me to grasp. A skill nearly all babies are born with and have inherently, my child cannot perform. But this journey taught me patience and understanding like I have never known, and I eventually was able to accept that it would be harder for Kinsley to eat, but that doesn’t mean that she never will.

So we stuck with it. I dragged myself out of bed, half zombie, half mom, and I took my tiny baby to therapy twice a week, even when it felt pointless. Even when it felt like everything we were doing at therapy I could do at home. Even when it felt like the therapist could have been doing more. Even when it felt like I was over extending myself to get through so that important tests and appointments could be scheduled. We fought together, and I’m proud of that.

When a swallow study was finally ordered, we drove Kinsley to Grand Rapids and in a couple weeks the results were released. She had control over her swallowing, it was perfectly timed. She was no longer aspirating, and everything was going where it needed to go. She still needed to work on her rhythm, but we had the okay to start giving her a bottle.

I waited even after that because I wanted to be sure. I wanted all of the doctors to be on the same page. I wanted her ENT, Surgeon, therapist, and swallow study technician to all be looking at the same results and coming together with a cohesive plan to get her moving in the right direction and ultimately further her development rather than view only one piece of the puzzle and put her back.

It was the right thing to do.

Her therapist ordered a special bottle for her, one with notches on it that could control the flow, and make it even slower than a premie nipple, that way she could handle the liquid at whatever speed she was at without choking.

The struggle did not end with all this good news.

On December 14th, around 11:50 pm Kinsley pulled her tube out. She was doing well with oral feeds so I decided not to put it back in until I needed to. From that day forward, she went 5 days straight without any problems at all. Until one evening when she started to have an episode where she was breathing heavily, face turning red, and not taking the milk without making a mess all over herself.

We weren’t sure if she was just tired, or we were holding her in a way that wasn’t conducive to sucking and breathing, but we kept trying. She barely made it through that feeding and at the next she started to choke and she stopped breathing.

I held her in the rocking chair as her lips turned purple and her chest heaved as she gasped for air, a fish out of water.

I remembered the nurses direction when we were in the nicu, so I straightened her body out, held her chin up so her neck was straight and her airway open and I patted her back until she cleared her airway and started to cry.

It was a terrifying moment for all of us.

The next day we had feeding therapy and I told the therapist what happened. She suggested we hold Kinsley a different way while feeding her, because side lying is much easier for babies to swallow and breathe. She also had me schedule an appointment with the pediatrician to make sure her lungs were clear.

The next day we arrived at the pediatrician office and after her examination we found that Kinsley’s lungs were clear. Even in her choking episode everything managed to go down the correct tubes. Since then we have been feeding Kinsley with her body straight and head to the side and she has been doing great.

A few days later we accidentally broke the tabs off her special bottle. Since that happened we’ve been using the bottle and premie nipple we started her on in the NICU and she has yet to have a single episode.

She’s been two weeks tube free now.

As it turns out, the struggle was not so large that it could not be overcome. Kinsley comes from a family of fighters, so I should have expected it would only be a matter of time before she was able to break through.

However, it’s not completely over yet. Kinsley will still continue therapy twice a week until she’s able to use a regular slow flow nipple with the bottle. Then she will have checkups regularly from there forward.

Despite the long road we took to get here, we are so happy to have finally reached this destination. It’s the best Christmas present we could have asked for.

Happy Holidays, friends.

Sweet Girl.

Somehow my tiny 6 pound 11 ounce NICU baby is going to be 6 months old in exactly 2 weeks.

Somehow my TEF baby has been tube free for 4 whole days now that she’s doing oral feeds and taking a whole bottle now.

Somehow my silly girl has discovered her tongue and her voice and her feet and hands and can lift her head and grab things and sit up and roll over and play and laugh and sleep through the night in her crib.

In the blink of an eye.

I’m literally shocked. Four months ago (plus three days) we brought Kinsley home from the NICU and our next chapter began, and now we’re turning pages almost weekly.

People really aren’t over exaggerating when they tell you how quickly the time will go by, how fast your baby will grow, and how short each phase lasts. They aren’t kidding when they say you’re going to miss this. My sweet baby is so many things right now, and I want to recognize them here, and hope that 10 years from now she’ll still be everything she is right now, plus even more.

I can’t stop the time from passing so quickly, but I can make sure that while it does I am teaching her the most important things about living. So here’s my first #dearKinsley post.

Dear Kinsley,

Please stay loud.

May your coos and screeches continue in the form of words heard. Voice your opinion. Laugh out loud. Be joyful and thankful and happy and never stop talking about things that are good.

Please stay sweet.

May you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar- not that you’ll want flies, but regardless. Smile. Use kindness as your secret weapon. Don’t say mean things. Always say what you mean. Words are powerful but powerful is great when it’s used for good.

Please stay curious.

May your eyes stay filled with wonder and curiosity toward everything in this world. Ask questions. Seek answers. Learn something new every day and never stop because the world truly is your oyster and knowledge is power.

Please stay strong.

May your strength overshadow any obstacle in front of you. If there’s a will, there’s a way. Push forward. Life is hard and I’m here to tell you it will only get harder, but you can always lean on me and I will help you find your strength if you think you’ve lost it.

Please stay true to you.

May you grow and learn and with time find yourself, who you are and what you love. Embrace you. LOVE you. There’s nothing more important in the world than to nourish the roots of who you ARE. You are beautiful inside and out and self love FIRST will get you wherever you need to be.

Please keep growing.

May you continue to challenge yourself and push for progress. Set goals. Achieve them. If you fail, try again because failure IS NECESSARY since it helps you grow, and besides, success is so much sweeter when you have to work for it.

And please keep in mind…

No mountain is too high. No sea too wide.

Hard work breeds rewarding results.

That boy you think you love, he’s probably not worth it.

Believe in yourself ALWAYS.

Chase your dreams no matter how out of reach they may seem.

Put yourself first when you need to.

If you fall down 100 times, stand up 101.

You can do ANYTHING you put your mind to.

Sometimes I may not take your side, but I will always do what’s best for you.

I will love you unconditionally, no matter what.

XOXO
Love,

Mom.

 

Semester End in Sight

 

It’s finally Friday. Praise God, we made it through another crazy, busy, exhausting week.

I know what you’re thinking, “thank god it’s Friday? What do you mean,- all you do is sit at home with your 5 month old? How can that possibly be as difficult as working all week?!”

If you don’t have kids, just take my word for it and don’t mention it, or I might rip your head off. If you do have kids, and you still don’t get it, read my last post titled “no big deal.” If you still don’t get it, mind your own or I’ll probably also rip your head off.

So yeah, TGIF.

This week I’ve been way stressed out. It becomes totally evident when two things combine: exhaustion + irritation: For one, since barely sleeping Monday night and then having to take Kinsley 3.5 hours for a 20 minute ENT follow up, I have been on E since Tuesday; for two, I’m aboard the breakout train as my skin is irritated beyond control; and for three, yesterday I couldn’t find my Fitbit and I searched for 3+ hours, the whole time feeling overly angry and distracted about it. I still haven’t found it. And I’m trying not to think about it because I don’t want to have a repeat of yesterday.

Despite feeling like that for most of this week, I woke up this morning feeling oddly refreshed. I was awake from midnight to 1:30 last night, the first half hour rocking Kinsley back to sleep and then around 1:15 she pulled her tube out, but since she’s been taking a bottle (!) now, I decided to leave it out until she ate this morning and she slept so much better with it out. That means I got good sleep too. Then I fed her at 6:30 and she took a whole bottle so I haven’t even had to put it back in yet!

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All of that contributes to a good mood, and my refreshedness probably also comes partially from remembering that my handsome, weekend help will get home from work at 3:45 and take some of the stress off my hands. He always lets me sleep on the weekend which is so needed. Unfortunately he can’t take all the stress though.

First of all I have to work tomorrow night, and secondly, the rest of my weekend looks like studying and homework because the semester ends in one week.

I’ve been feeling the end-of-semester stress already for a couple weeks now at least. Last Wednesday my group gave our final presentation, Sunday the final Lab exam will open, and Monday we’re reviewing for the final lecture exam that we have on Wednesday- the last day of class. All other labs writeups, case studies, and summary assessment quizzes are due Friday when the semester ends. Luckily I only have to do Labs 11, 12 and 14, the written half of case studies 3-5 and quizzes 12-14. After studying for/completing the lab exam online and the lecture exam in class Wednesday, my semester will finally end.

Then I have to look forward to applying to the program before January 31st, studying for my TEAS test which I can take in February and retake in March, and of course, starting a new semester for A&P Part 2 in early January and ending in May. Once ALL of that is finished, I’ll find out if I got into the nursing program late spring and if I did, then my training/classes/labs/clinicals begin September 2018!

If I don’t get in, God knows I’ll rip my own head off.

So, all that being said, happy Friday. Here’s to the last weekend before end of semester filled with homework, work-work, studying, and if I get time, more New Year’s Resolution planning. 🙃

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Coffee clinks, my friends.

Enjoy your weekend unless you choose otherwise.

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