Supporting a Friend During Infertility

Infertility is a topic that will impact nearly all women in some way. Either yourself or someone you know will likely struggle with this – it affects 1 in every 10 women. For some women, it can feel unbearable to wait 6 months to get pregnant – others will wait years and spend thousands of dollars, undergoing invasive treatments to conceive. As more women wait until they’re a bit older to start trying to conceive, more struggle with this every day. As a physician, I am very well practiced at discussing the “medical” side of this when patients come into the office…. but as a friend? I still struggle to come up with the right things to say and do.

I reached out to one of my #WCW’s, Natalie Bushman, fellow mommy-blogger at Nat your average girl, for some help and am so happy to share her wisdom here. On her blog, she has shared her journey through new motherhood, then through secondary infertility (difficulty conceiving after a successful natural pregnancy), the twin pregnancy that resulted from treatments and being a mom of 3 along with fabulous personal style and home decor posts.

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Total blogger crush on this cute fam!

She recently discovered they’ll be bringing baby #4 into the family (congrats!!!) and I asked her to give us some insight into being there for friends who are going through an infertility journey since she’s personally experienced this from multiple angles.

Thinking back to when you first got pregnant with Blair, did you have friends who were already dealing with infertility issues? How did you approach them with news of your pregnancy then?

I was one of the first people to get pregnant in my friend group and didn’t know anyone at the time experiencing infertility. Looking back though, I was so naive and it never even crossed my mind that I could have a hard time getting pregnant (even though my Mom struggled for years). I just assumed that since I was healthy with a regular cycle that it would be a cinch… and lucky for me it was the first time! I didn’t think twice about miscarriage or not seeing a heartbeat at the first appointment. Ignorance was bliss but oh how the tables have turned!
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Baby Blair, their 1st

I’m sure people had all kinds of responses when you were struggling to get pregnant the second time around. You’ve blogged about the things people should NOT say to couples. Did any friends or family members say things that were helpful and supportive?

Yes, my close friends were amazing. Honestly one of the best things to say is simply,
I’m sorry. That’s so hard. Is there anything I can do for you to help?
Totally basic but shows that you care even if you haven’t experienced infertility yourself. The other things that helped were when my friends would check in on me after they knew I had a big appointment. Or they would say, “Call me after your appointment. I want to hear what the doctor said.” Things like that. Things that you would say to anyone going through a hard time or health scare. It’s just about showing you care. Hearing that someone is praying for a specific need of mine also made me feel better. To know that I wasn’t forgotten.

How can people approach this with friends who they aren’t sure if they’re having fertility problems – do you think that’s different than how you approach friends who have told you outright they’re in fertility treatment?

Ok, so I actually had a friend who told me she was struggling but she hadn’t told anyone else. At that point, she had an adopted child but had made it clear that he wasn’t adopted because of fertility reasons. She had even previously made it known to our friend group that she didn’t have a desire to have biological kids. However, over the course of time, things changed and her desire to have bio kids grew.  In group settings, it would be wildly uncomfortable because I knew to be sensitive but others didn’t. Other moms would share their birth/breastfeeding stories and I would try to direct the conversation elsewhere.
However, if people don’t know you are struggling then you really can’t expect them to be sensitive…especially if you have previously made it clear you aren’t interested in being pregnant. I guess it’s a balance. It kind of depends on your relationship with the person. I steer clear of asking strangers any type of kid-related questions. But if you’re my good friend and you’ve decided to be tight-lipped, then that is harder to help. Overall, I guess it’s just always best to be sensitive. But if people aren’t honest with their situation then it becomes harder to be sensitive.

Did you want people who knew what you were going through to check in on you regularly? Or did you feel like you just wanted to update them and not be bothered?

I kind of referred to this a little bit in question three. For me, I liked having people check in on me. There was only one instance in which I protected myself from this and that was right after IVF. I knew that I would get the phone call on December 28th that would tell me if I was pregnant or not (it was through a blood test result) and I purposely told my friends I wouldn’t know till December 30th. I wanted to be able to process the news (if it was bad) with just Matt. I wanted to have time to wrap my mind around it and be sad for a little while. I didn’t want to have to field a bunch of texts and phone calls. When we did find out I was pregnant I told them that day…it was too good to hold in!
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Evie and Cal

Did you worry about announcing this recent pregnancy since you didn’t have trouble conceiving this time?

Oh, totally. I was sweating over it. I know that a lot of my followers are dealing with infertility and I wanted to be SO sensitive to that. It was this weird mix of emotions because I was so thrilled/surprised by our pregnancy but so distraught over how others still struggling would react. I prayed that they would be encouraged and filled with hope that this could happen for them too, instead of feeling bitter or angry. This may sound ridiculous but when I was having a hard time getting pregnant, and I knew someone who just “looked at their husband” and got pregnant, I would be mad. But if someone who had struggled like me got pregnant, I would be so happy for them. Was that fair of me? No. But if I’m being honest I did have those feelings initially. Part of me hoped that since I had struggled in the past that I wouldn’t be that “annoying pregnant girl.”
For some reason, we seem to be happier for people who have “overcome” to get where they are. It sure makes for an incredible story. But, I regret being spiteful to those who didn’t have the same struggle as me. So what if they can get pregnant easily? You never know what else they could be dealing with behind closed doors… an abusive partner, ongoing sickness, the death of a parent, unemployment, depression… the list goes on and on. There’s so much sadness in our world.
I think if we all had a little more grace we’d all be better off!
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I can’t think of any better parting advice than that! Thank you Natalie! And friends, if you don’t already, go follow this awesome mama on instagram @natyouraveragegirl and check out her blog!
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Dr. Annie is a family doctor and mom in the Sacramento, CA area.

Retreat Yourself! Wild and Bright Women’s Retreat Wrap-Up

In case you need a refresher or are new to our blog (welcome lovelies!), I wrote a post a while ago about my amazing friend, Dr. Sara Smith and her work as a life coach, yoga instructor, and overall supporter of the great thinkers and inspirational leaders of this world. This weekend, I attended her Wild and Bright Women’s Retreat and wanted to give you all a recap.

While spiritual workshops may vary depending on religious affiliation, this one was all-encompassing, forgoing denomination, and welcoming your individual belief system as a source of empowerment, guidance, and healing.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

In a world that is the most stressed, depressed, anxious, least empathetic, and most disconnected than it has ever been, unplugged retreats such as this one, that inspire community-based learning and self connectedness, are absolutely vital to shift the collective consciousness this world is currently embodying.

Through two days of yoga, guided meditation, and specific Life Coaching exercises, we were led to find one positive personal truth to feel within our bodies. We learned that no matter what, we have a choice to become aware, and to choose to feel peace within each moment.

The most profound lesson I took away from Sara, was that everything within me is perfectly made and is living my life in perfect timing.

I have spoken here so much of “brokenness”. I have spent SUCH a long time wondering, “what can I do to fix ________ aspect of my life?”  Sara reminds us that, we are perfectly made, and each moment we are going through, is a moment that can remind us that we are simply learning. We have been given a gift and can choose love in every move we make, instead of choosing anything that makes us feel imperfect.

For example, many of us are struggling with debt.

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I know I personally spend too much brain power and way too many minutes staring in terror at an overdrawn bank account with no hopes of reconciliation until next payday. During these wasted moments of anxiety, I would tell myself so many things.

“How could you let this happen AGAIN?”

“You’re so bad at managing money. Great, now we can’t afford anything”

“We will never be out of debt. We are so poor and we’ll be poor forever.”

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Photo by Kat Jayne on Pexels.com

Sound familiar to anyone? This self talk comes into play in many aspects of our lives. Turns out, the way we do one thing translates into the way we do everything. Let me continue the example above, and translate it to other scenarios.

If I don’t do as well as I expected of myself in a workout:

“You could have done more. Why did you wimp out? Now everyone will be disappointed in you.”

Move into motherhood. Let’s talk about when I have a bad parenting moment, which is, until this week, I all too often labeled my moments parenting:

“You’re going to ruin your kids. They’ll never be kind and stable. You’re the reason they’ll need therapy.”

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I have wasted so many moments of my life choosing wrongly.  While these moments still happen, I must remind myself to tell the critical part of my brain to, for lack of a better way to say it, shut the hell up.

Internal dialogue has a profound effect on our outward reactions and emotions. According to an ASTONISHING article quoted here referencing research done by the National Science Foundation , “regarding research about human thoughts per day. The average person has about 12,000 to 60,000 thoughts per day. Of those, 80%  are negative and 95% are exactly the same repetitive thoughts as the day before and about 80% are negative.”

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Holy…..Bananas.

So, not only is our brain thinking mostly negative things, but we are also thinking negatively like a BROKEN RECORD! That thinking is powerful within our bodies, and has power to make us feel like CRAP about ourselves in every aspect of our lives.

When we say things like, “I hate my body” or “I wish I had her hair.” or “I’m a horrible mother” we are committing into our brain a false truth of negativity. When you are on “loop” in a negative self-talk spiral, ask yourself, is all that mind-chatter really true? If you reset to a mindset that we are created perfectly and there is nothing to fix, now are those thoughts REALLY TRUE?

I know I am glad to be breaking this awful cycle.

We must tell those repetitive thoughts to take a hike, and replace them with CHOICE. In the case of bank account chaos, instead of the swirling negativity, I can choose in the moment to break the cycle, forgive, and release it.

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Turning, “We are broke and we’ll never pay off debt”, into “We have delicious food on the table, all our true needs are met, and we come home to a warm and safe home every night” can make all the difference in the world. It can turn a sense of lack and fear, into gratitude and the feeling of abundance. And the power of that choice is ours.

Is this mindset going to be easy to maintain? Probably not.  Of course it’ll take constant reminders and integration into my routines. But! I am committed to choose LOVE instead of anxiety, worry, and negativity, or anything that does not serve me in my life that will not lead to peace. For it is from that peaceful and mindful state that we can create true and meaningful Action.

Example from Today: “I yelled at the kids today. I was feeling negative and anxious about money. I choose to let the anxiety go because it does not serve myself and or my children anymore. I am learning better habits every day.” <Breath. Pause. Release. Smile> “Hey kids!! I sure love you guys! Who wants to play freezetag???”

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Photo Cred: Eva Centeno

Have any of you attended a retreat? We want to hear about it! Commend below!

 

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Kristy is a peace-seeker, wife, mother of 2, and constant student of spiritual uplifting in Virginia.

Election Day: Parent Edition

Yesterday was election day across the country. For some of us this might have been one of the first midterm elections you participated in, or even knew were happening. According to this article by Vox, the highest midterm voter turn-out for youngin’s (aka 18-29 year olds in voting talk) was 21% way back in 1986. If you’re wondering why it seems like older people make all the political decisions in this country… THIS IS WHY. According to a Harvard poll cited in that same article, expected turnout for these 2018 midterms is 41% in that age group. Nearly double. Times are finally a-changin’, booya! (I’m clearly out of this young hip age group because I can’t think of a ‘cooler’ way to say that)

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Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

That age group also happens to contain most of our parents of young children across the country. The vast majority of women who bear children do it between ages 20-34*. If you line up those numbers, that means a WHOLE lot more young mamas and papas were planning to get-out-the-vote yesterday than in earlier years. Which got me to thinking… what’s everyone doing with their kiddos??

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Me, the bump and hubby pants voting it up

I saw quite a few social media posts of people offering to watch other people’s kids so they could go vote – generosity itself! My own kids were in preschool/kindergarten while the hubs and I took just the bun-in-the-oven (currently our easiest child) to the polls. Of course there are the awesome people who plan ahead and vote-by-mail too (ahem… Christiana). But then, I saw even more posts of people carting their 1, 2, 3, 4 or more kids with them into the polls and proudly showing off their little ones with “I voted” stickers.

In case you were wondering (as I was), it is legal to bring your minor children into the voting booth in ALL 50 STATES.

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Kristy shared voting with her little lady!

Now, I’m sure some of these civically minded parents were forced to drag their kids with them by fault of not having childcare (when are those politicians gonna get on THAT?? Hello America, we are way behind other civilized nations here! I digress…). I found myself, though, regretting not having taken our own girls in to be part of the process.

Is it more of a hassle to try to focus and remember which candidate or ballot measure you meant to mark with a 3 year old trying to climb up your leg, a newborn rooting around for a boob and/or a 6 year old wanting to mark the page with the sharpie they stole from who-knows-where? OMG yes. But it’s also an incredibly valuable opportunity to literally shape the future of America via your own offspring …which is basically why we are doing all of this parenting, amiright??!

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Margo displaying her voting prowess loud and proud!

Top 3 Reasons To Bring Kids To Vote:

  1. You show the kids the mechanics. One of the reasons cited frequently by millennials and younger for not voting was that they just, like, literally don’t know how you do it. If you get your kids running through the motions biannually from a young age, they’ll be ahead of the curve when they hit 18!
  2. You inspire others. You show other people that parents’ votes count. You show other parents that they can too get out the vote, whether they have childcare or not, to make it matter even more. The other people there can also see, and be reminded, that what they are voting on is going to impact the future, the actual children there in front of them.
  3. You demonstrate Democracy. We all know kids learn by seeing and doing better than being told. So seeing you vote, discussing the results and what it means in a concrete sense will teach your children what it truly means to live in a Democratic country better than the best TED talk or Daniel Tiger episode ever could.
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Photo by Element5 Digital on Pexels.com

Next election, you better believe I’ll be showing up with all 3 of my offspring. Still not convinced it’s worth the trouble? That’s ok! Swap childcare with a friend and go get your solo vote on. Or maybe even be super organized and get vote-by-mail and just show the kids the ballot like our smart lawyer friend ;^)

What do you think? Did you take kids to vote? Was it worth it? Would you do it again?? We want to hear in the comments!

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Dr. Annie is a mom of 2 strong future voting women growing a third voter of the future in California.

 

 

 

 

 


Lo and behold, other people had similar thoughts! This article by Girlscouts of America has a great guide to how to get your kids (girls specifically) involved and excited about voting from an early age. Other articles on Red Tricycle, The 74 Million and Kveller also give great reasons for voting with kids in tow and advice for raising engaged citizens if you want more information.
*Paul Taylor et al, The New Demography of American Motherhood. MAY 6, 2010; http://www.pewresearch.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/3/2010/10/754-new-demography-of-motherhood.pdf

Healthy Pumpkin Bread

If you’re like me, the second the temperature dipped below 70 degrees, you were all over all. the. pumpkin. things.  Literally, in one afternoon (in which I barely had time to shower mind you), I somehow managed to acquire multiple fall scented candles, and at least 4 cans of organic pumpkin.

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Yes, Reese. 100%. Yes.

I know that my 20-something-year-old self would be mortified to even think I that I would say this out loud, but I was legitimately excited to crack open a can of pumpkin to bake our first pumpkin bread of the season this week, y’all. Actual, real excitement. Hold on to your mom jeans…

I’ve been making a derivative of this delicious, spice-filled Downeast Maine Pumpkin Bread, for years (maybe even pre-motherhood, I honestly don’t know because my memory no-longer functions at that level, given the last 6 years of sleep deprivation, but I digress) and it’s become, as I suppose I’ve made apparent at this point, a fall staple in our household. I usually pare down the sugar by adding vanilla and extra cinnamon, but in lieu of recent studies on good fats and bad fats (Dr. Annie breaks them down here) I made an extra swap this year.

As with most old-school pumpkin bread recipes, my go-to recipe called for a boat-load of vegetable oil (read: NOT a good fat). So this year, I swapped ALL the vegetable oil for 1/2 heart-healthy coconut oil and 1/2 high-protein full-fat greek yogurt to make this pumpkin bread unofficially healthy enough to pack in our kiddos’ school lunches as something other than a glorified dessert, and because it packs extra protein it can double as a legit breakfast. Not to mention it pairs incredibly well with a hot cup of coffee on a cool fall morning.

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“WHAT?!?!” You say “Reduced-sugar-coconut-protein-pumpkin bread?!?! STOP RUINING FALL!”

I know, I know that’s what it sounds like. But I swear to you on my pumpkin spice candles, this version is, I daresay even better than the original, and IMO does not taste coconutty or unsweetened in any way. Nope. Just tastes like fall should.  And should you need proof, not a single picky sugar-loving child objected (or even noticed)! In fact they just asked for more…

So here it is folks, the healthy pumpkin bread recipe your whole family will love!

Healthy Pumpkin Bread

Ingredients:

*For coconut allergies or intolerances, try substituting ghee

** You can use even less sugar (I typically use about 1/4 c. less) but I believe this amount keeps it closest to traditional taste.

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To Make:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 2 large, or 3 small/medium loaf pans with coconut oil. (Mine yields three loaves, as pictured.)
  2. In a large bowl or stand mixer, stir pumpkin puree, eggs, oil, water, yogurt, vanilla, and sugar until well blended. 
  3. Add the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger, and mix until just blended. (I probably shouldn’t, but I completely skip the whole “dry ingredients in a separate bowl” step and dump everything into my stand mixer and I’ve yet to have any complaints…)
  4. Pour batter into the prepared loaf pans and sprinkle the top of each loaf with the reserved 1 teaspoon of sugar.
  5. Bake for about 45-50 minutes in the preheated oven (depending on the size of your loaf pans). Loaves are done when a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Serve warm, and enjoy!

fullsizeoutput_658Christiana is a Navy wife and mother of 3 children, attorney and former realtor, world traveler, home renovator and decorator, yogi, fitness enthusiast, and recipe & wine explorer who is passionate about healthy living and pumpkin-scented fall things.

Photo credit: Tara Liebeck Photography

Fave Fridays: Smart Screen Time

Look, we all know the deal with screen time by now. Every kid is better off outside with their hands in the dirt, chasing balls and butterflies and speed racing their bikes than they are with an electronic device. Fact.  Every day of the week.

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But sometimes, just sometimes, my wonder-woman tiara slips a little and I need a break from ball-tag, I need to shower before midnight, or I don’t know, let’s go crazy here… I want to prep a nice meal without making 500 snacks in the process. And it is during those limited times that I have learned to give myself a break and allow my kids some limited (and legitimately educational!) screen time without guilt.

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In case you need some help letting go of the screen-time guilt (as I did) here are the facts. AAP put out an official review you can see here. As with everything, (and regardless of the type of screen time involved) moderation is absolutely key.  But, there have been some encouraging studies showing educational benefits from a child’s “active” screen time, i.e., engaging with apps via an iPad or tablet.  For example, a recent study published in the International Journal of Education in Mathematics, Science, and Technology* found that:

…children can develop emerging knowledge about print in digital contexts using an iPad, or a similar tablet, and that it offers unique ways to employ reading, writing, listening, and speaking within one context.

When it is used appropriately (read: not binge-watching baby shark do-do-do) the screen can provide children with learning opportunities. To be clear, we are in no way advocating for a tablet to substitute for your guidance or play time with your child. Screen time is NOT a filler for social skills, coordination, or emotional development. Face to face interaction and active, tangible learning time is imperative for every child’s development. However, smart screen time CAN be a wonderful educational tool to supplement your child’s day (particularly in moments of parent burn-out).

The AAP also found in research** that:

Well-designed television programs, such as Sesame Street, can improve cognitive, literacy, and social outcomes for children 3 to 5 years of age and continue to create programming that addresses evolving child health and developmental needs (eg, obesity prevention, resilience)

Caveat: if you’re momming kiddos under 2, all of the current evidence unfortunately says, no benefit***. The brain of a kid 15 months to 2 years can learn from some types of interactive apps if they do them WITH you, but not watching videos or slapping the screen of an ipad unattended. With all that being said, we’ve collected here some of the most fantastic and legitimately educational apps for littles that can be downloaded to your phone or iPad to provide some smart screen time for your kids, when they (or you) might benefit.

So, without further ado… here are the keys to your next quiet, guilt-free shower. You can thank us later.

Smart Screen Time Apps for Kids

Endless Learning Apps

Endless Reader Snip

True story: this app is responsible for teaching multiple of our collective children their letters and early sight words. Preschool teachers legitimately asked for the info on this app because our kids far exceeded grade level in early phonetics – and as much as we’d like to take all the credit for that… we just can’t.  The full repertoire of Endless apps includes Endless Reader, Wordplay, Numbers, Alphabet, and Spanish. They have all been wonderfully educational and entertaining for our whole harem of kids.

Ages: 2 and up

Cost: Apps can be purchased separately or bundled. They run about $8.99-15.99/ea. The complete school bundle is $59.99, and is worth every penny.

Moose Math

Moose Math

Moose Math actually succeeded in making math fun for our kids. And as adults who struggle to use “math” and “fun” in the same sentence…  we are big fans. Through a mathematical adventure, Moose Math teaches counting, addition, subtraction, sorting, and geometry through activities like the “Moose Juice Store” where kids add ingredients to create smoothies, Puck’s Pet Shop, and the Lost & Found. The app aligns with Common Core State Standards for Kindergarten and 1st Grade and includes a Report Card section for parents and teachers.

Ages: 3-7

Cost: Free

Kodable

Kodable

Coding for kids. That your kids will like. In other words, awesome-sauce.  This app uses cute little fuzzy guys (sort of reminiscent of Pac-man?) navigating maze-filled planets to teach concepts like sequencing, order of operations, algorithmic operations, and conditional logic statements that comprise the fundamentals of every modern programming language.

Basically, the great minds at Kodable figured out how to utilize the fact that “long before your children can pronounce the word ‘algorithm’ they have an astounding ability to learn how to use them.” We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.  Kodable is Common Core aligned and  is the only complete K-5 curriculum taking students from “learning to think like a programmer in Kindergarten to writing REAL JavaScript by 5th grade”… and our kids ask to play it. So, yea. Smart screen time, touchdown.

Ages: Grades K-5 (ages 4-11)

Cost: App is free, in-app purchased Parent Pack is $29.99.

Sky Guide

SkyGuide

If you have any space-loving guys or girls in your family, this is the app for you! Just hold your iPhone or iPad up to the night sky and Sky Guide automatically aligns itself to the stars above you—no setup required. Our kids love identifying the planets and seeing the constellations’ illuminated illustrations. (Um, ok, really I use this alone too. It’s just straight nerd-mom cool.) You can search for meteor showers, track satellites, or show your child what the night sky looked like the moment they were born! You can also receive notifications whenever the International Space Station flies over your location, which our family loves to track together! Sky Guide works anywhere— with or without Wi-Fi, cellular service or GPS. This app is packed full of information and is sure to please curious stargazers of any age!

Ages: All

Cost: $2.99

Merlin Bird ID

Bird ID

Our kids love using this app to identify birds they see at our feeder or on walks around the neighborhood. They enjoy browsing through the photos and hearing different bird calls or even playing the calls to “talk” to different birds they identify in our backyard. Powered by Cornell Lab of Ornithology, this app is full of vibrant photos and encourages outdoor enrichment to locate and identify different species. Grab your binoculars!

Ages: All

Cost: Free

Flowkey

Flowkey

This piano-lesson app is best for older kiddos 4 and up. It has a HUGE library of contemporary and classic songs for piano and uses visual demonstration of which keys along with teaching music reading. It will “listen” for you play the right key before moving forward in the music in Flow Mode, freeing you up from sitting there watching if they’ve played correctly.

Ages: 4+

Cost: $19.99/month – less if you sign up for multiple months. Sounds expensive, but is way cheaper than actual piano lessons!

In conclusion, all screen time is not created equal. But smart screen time for our kids is one aspect of technology that we are all hallelujah-dancing-in-the-aisles kind of thankful for over here in the parenting corner. When a parent or caregiver reaches burn out, or heck, when our children’s talents reach beyond our means for that matter (we personally cannot teach expert level pop-piano tunes on a whim), we are happy that they have an educational, enriching alternative to well… us.  So when ball-tag injuries require quiet time or the fall leaf-pile-diving allergies have brought your active braniacs inside, we hope that these fantastic apps provide your whole family with some entertainment and growth.

Rock on mommas! We’ve got this.

b8fd0f48-abdd-41a9-9b27-0b537b307a55Real As A M*ther is made up of 4 best friends from high school. We are now a doctor, lawyer, doula, and financial advisor; and collectively we are moms to 9 beautiful kids and counting, We write to keep it #real with advice on parenthood, health, home, money, and more.

 

 


References

*Beschorner, B. & Hutchison, A. (2013). iPads as a literacy teaching tool in early childhood. International Journal of Education in Mathematics, Science and Technology, 1(1), 16-24.
**Anderson DRHuston ACSchmitt KLLinebarger DLWright JCEarly childhood television viewing and adolescent behavior: the recontact study. Monogr Soc Res Child Dev2001;66(1):IVIII, 1–147pmid:11326591
Christakis DAGarrison MMHerrenkohl Tet alModifying media content for preschool children: a randomized controlled trial. Pediatrics2013;131(3):431438pmid:23420911
***Anderson DRPempek TATelevision and very young children. Am Behav Sci2005;48(5):505522

The Silver Lining To My PUPPS Nightmare

Everything happens for a reason

….or so people say.

I had always longed to be a mother. I dreamed of pregnancy, a little baby bump, and a group of like-minded women to with whom to hang out and help raise our little ones in friendship, unicorns, and rainbows.

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What a wonderful portrait of “what to expect when you are expecting”… am I right? In fact, we even joked amongst the four of us here at Real As A M*ther that I would be the one with half a dozen kids and a goofy husband that made me endlessly laugh until I cried and doted on me daily. Perfection.

DSC01327So when my wonderfully hilarious, awesome, doting husband and I got married, it was natural for me to not want to wait to start this family I’d been craving. By the blessed powers that be, within 6 months I had the exciting news to tell my friends and family…..

I experienced the normal first pregnancy woes in the beginning. Morning sickness, nausea, food aversions, being super tired, and reallllllly missing wine. But overall, things were looking great. We relocated to a town outside of the city, and my husband hand-made the baby’s crib and dresser.

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I mean, the man is hilarious, awesome, and talented. What can I say?

When I was about four months along, we went to visit Christiana, who was living in Japan! It was an amazing, globe-trotting, babymoon trip where my tiny baby belly began to show while posing for picturesque photos overlooking Japanese pagodas. Pregnancy dreams, on. track.

When we got home, however, life threw my dream a giant curveball. I was on a walk around town, when my calves began to itch. I sat down at our quaint town hall fountain and saw that it looked as though I had been bitten by 30 mosquitos simultaneously. I just chalked it up to summer, and maybe… heat rash?  But the itching persisted.

Within two weeks, it had spread. My inner thighs, underarms, and belly had broken out in a rash. It felt as though I had just slept in a den of mosquitos and chiggers. After calling my midwife, I started taking some liver cleansing teas/supplements. I got some special soaps to help calm it down, and tried oatmeal baths. Nothing helped. Not. A. Thing.

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Post Biopsy

I was about 20 weeks along when I saw a specialist that, along with my midwife, decided after bloodwork and a biopsy and although it rarely occurs this early, that I had PUPPPS.

Like many of you right now, I had this reaction.

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‘da heck d’you just say?

According to Healthline.com, “Pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy (PUPPP) rash is an itchy rash that appears in stretch marks of the stomach during late pregnancy.”

Stretch marks, you say? I was 18 weeks! I hadn’t barely even begun to show, much less stretch. And this was systemic, not on my belly! But, at least I had some sort of explanation that calmed me down. Thinking, ok now let’s get rid of this mess, I said,

“Ok, doc, what can I do?”

“Well, the only cure, is delivery” <heart sinks>

So basically, what I was being told was this: I was going to itch like this for 20 more weeks. 

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20 Weeks: just the beginning

4 more weeks went by, which felt like an eternity. The rash got so bad that I could not sleep, eat, or even wear clothes. I had to take cool/cold showers because the heat would spread the rash to a new area, which I kept finding out the hard way as it spread all over my body. It was on the soles of my feet, palms of my hands, even in my nail beds and on my eyelids. The longest I went without solid sleep was 7 whole days. I don’t even remember if I was hungry.

I, did, however, hold tightly onto the fact that I needed to drink water. I remember having thoughts of “I don’t want the amniotic fluid to get low, and that be the reason I have to get a C-Section,” which was a huge fear for me. That was the only coherent thought I remember having during this time.

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It was when my mom found me naked on my kitchen floor at 24 weeks (I was lying there because it was cool and clothes made the itching turn to burning pain) that she scooped me up and into the car. I have no recollection of this event, but she took me to the doctor and demanded an appointment right then and there. I had lost 20 pounds, the baby wasn’t gaining any weight, and I was put under the care of a neonatal specialist. I was delusional, depressed, suicidal, and covered in what looked like oozing poison ivy.

At this point, desperation kicked in, (mostly from my husband and parents because I had checked out) and a steroid regimen was put into place. I was on Prednisone until my 30th week and experienced so much relief. The rash was kept at bay and the baby was monitored regularly to make sure the medicine didn’t cause any problems.

Thinking I was in the clear, I weaned off my medication because I was so worried about steroids affecting the baby. Around Thanksgiving, however, it came back with a vengeance. At it’s worst, I could literally peel the layers of my skin off with a tissue. I immediately started the steroids again, and the rash was mostly cleared up in about two weeks.

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Belly scarring at 37 weeks

When I went into labor at 37 weeks and 6 days, I had such relief. Where most women are fearful of the unknown, I was prepared and ready for the natural pain and hormone release I had learned about through my teacher of The Bradley Method.

Most of me has forgotten about just how incredibly difficult that pregnancy was. In fact, I am only reminded when I have bad cycles now, because the rash creeps back up under my upper arms and on my legs, raised and irritated ghost shadows of such a dark time in my life.

We still don’t know what causes it. But, some risk factors for developing PUPPPS are:

  1. Carrying a boy: we didn’t know at the time but…check
  2. Being Caucasian: check
  3. First pregnancy: check
  4. Maternal hypertension: undiagnosed but with no sleep…check
  5. Multiples
  6. Rapid or higher than usual weight gain

While I did not fit into the category of the last two risk factors, my mind got to thinking about why my personal case was so different. The only reason I came up with, ties back to the beginning of this post. Because… everything happens for a reason.

It was through this tough and terrible time that I learned about prenatal herbal supplements, and how and why they work. I learned a valuable lesson in the blend of a cooperative maternal care team, and their strategies for helping. I learned the importance of relying on medical intervention, because it saved my life, my son’s life, and my sanity. But the most important gift this experience gave me was the fact that I knew I wanted to help support other women through pregnancy and birth.

I tell this story because it is important to look back and find gratitude in the lessons we are given in this lifetime. Even though I did not know this going through it, I am certain that this time of suffering gave birth to the compassion for women in their childbearing years that I had never known was inside of me. It gave me the tools for empathy that one can only develop while in the depths of great personal struggle.

DSC01829.jpgNow, I feel healing each time I help a woman accept and trust in her body through the pregnancy process. I am energized by watching her awaken to the power within her, and I am both blissfully honored and overwhelmed each time I watch her hold her baby. Because no matter what type of pregnancy, what kind of prenatal education we choose, how or where we labor and birth, or what the birth outcome is, I am reminded in that moment, women are bound together as one. And that is my most ultimate, and ever-present, silver lining.

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Kristy is a certified massage therapist, doula, homesteader and mother to 2 kids in Virginia.

Strong Women Series: Niroshika De Silva and Tutu School

About a year ago, I (Annie) had the absolute pleasure of having this amazing woman twirl into my life at a mutual friend’s wedding. She has created the dance studio of dreams – balancing the fun of dance, high quality teaching with a focus on joy, healthy body image and growing in strength as much as beauty as a dancer. With a degree in psychology, she knows what she’s talking about here – and she’s now a proud mama of her own little tutu-wearer. Talk about inspiring! 

In a quaint space where the lights of chandeliers bounce off of perfectly pink, purple, and yellow walls, little dancers giddily curl up on polka dots to whisper and then scream,

I LOVE BALLET!

With their enthusiasm radiating through the room and their excitement contagious beyond belief, it is clear that they absolutely do. This. This right here is the magic of Tutu School. To make sure that every child should know what it feels like to dance without feeling self-conscious about being “right” or “perfect.” To freely let their bodies flow to the scores of classical music, using their imaginations, to tell a story about empowerment, courage, and perseverance. And most importantly? To feel proud of the art that they create with their hearts and minds. Ballet at Tutu School is so much more than twirling. It’s a whimsical home for many children where they can learn important developmental skills and life lessons…they just happen to do so while wearing tutus or princely capes.

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As a former ballerina and current owner of Tutu School Union City, I can attest to the fact that BALLET.IS.HARD. Like REALLY hard. I stuck with it for my entire childhood and most of my adulthood because I wholeheartedly loved it but there were plenty of moments when it was also a love-hate relationship. In a somewhat strange way, I thrived in the ballet world through all of the competition because I succumbed to it and adopted the world as “my normal” since I didn’t know any better.

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Little Niro, Swan Lake, San Francisco Ballet

As horrible as that may sound, I don’t regret living in the world of ballet for one second because I don’t think I would be half the person I am today if I hadn’t. I learned to be ambitious, perseverant, and a whole host of other important skills that allowed me to become the psychologist and business woman I am now. However, I think if I had a tutu school experience as a child, I don’t know that I would have battled with myself as much during my tween years when I was confused about loving and hating ballet at the same time.

Many of us may recall the days when we explored ballet as young children. The odds are, you decided not to stick with it for a variety of reasons but a common one is that it was just strict and competitive. No one likes being told that they don’t have what it takes or only speaking when you’re spoken to (and let’s be honest, even then…just don’t open your mouth…just don’t). These classroom environments are designed to create the level of physical and emotional strength required to be a professional ballerina…except that it doesn’t leave room for continuing the appreciation of the art form when you’re young and unsure if you want to be a ballerina or not.

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Enter Tutu School. A whimsical boutique ballet school designed for young dancers to introduce children to ballet while fostering an everlasting appreciation for the art form because of the incorporation of creativity and imagination. In any given class, a child may leap like a fiery dragon, fly on the tops of their toes like a butterfly, or stretch like a rainbow in a magical garden. Children learn themes of bravery, forgiveness, and unconditional positive regard in classical stories such as the Firebird, Giselle, and Swan Lake. And just in case that’s not enough, they practice and develop skills of executive functioning, sharing, turn taking, and perseverance through learning short phrases of choreography and “performing solos” while dancing across the floor during class activities.

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Photo Credit Andrew Weeks Photography

As a mother of a daughter who already is showing interest in sparkles, headbands, and pink (guys, she’s seven months…am I in trouble?), I can absolutely say that I will expose her to classes at Tutu School. If she loves it and wants to pursue more formal training, great! If she doesn’t, that’s ok too (I’m not hyperventilating…I swear!) but she will gain invaluable skills from ballet classes at Tutu School that she can take with her no matter what she decides to do.

If you’d like your little one to experience the magic of a Tutu School class, then by all means, register for a free trial class! There are locations all across the Bay Area and in several other states as well! Classes are geared for children ranging between the ages of 18 months to 8 years old and they’ll skip, gallop, and leap their little hearts out. Be prepared for a whole bunch of cuteness!

If you’re not in the Bay Area, look for studios that mention that they base their children’s classes on creative movement until the age of 8, which is the developmentally appropriate age to start formal ballet training. If the studio offers a Trial class, that’s a good way to see if they uphold that philosophy or not!

What are your favorite dance memories? Do you still boogy in the kitchen with your kids today? Comment below!! Also, let us know about other #strongwomen we should feature here! 

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Niroshika De Silva is a mama, dance teacher extraordinaire, and owner of Tutu School Union City with a degree in psychology.

http://www.tutuschool.com