You Could be That Person.

This pregnancy has been exhausting. Baby Lucy and I each have a couple of medical problems, and they take a toll on my energy (mental and physical.) Yesterday I canceled my plans to get things done around the house, but still wasn’t able to get everything done on my to-do list. I spent a good chunk of the day sick, and had to take it easy.

Anna woke up at the crack of dawn this morning. Before I even opened my eyes, I realized that my throat was on fire. The acid from yesterday’s morning (but really all day-) sickness had burned my throat. My body felt heavy, and getting out of bed seemed impossible. My mind started forming a list of everything I needed to get done today, including my rollover tasks from yesterday. It seemed like I had a marathon of errands accumulating. A marathon that I would have to complete with sandbags of anxiety, depression and physical exhaustion slowing me down. The weight of the world was on my shoulders.. And also in my womb, on my swollen feet, in my head and in my heart. Things felt dark and gloomy.

As I got Anna set up with breakfast, I spied a new Amazon Prime package on my counter.  I got a little flutter of excitement and intrigue. I couldn’t remember what I had ordered, so it was going to be like Christmas morning. 

There was a pair of maternity pants inside and a note that said, “ A gift for you: These were the ONLY pants I was comfortable in! I hope these bring you some comfort while you grow that beautiful baby! We love you Auntie!”

Happy tears stung my eyes. My sister. My beautiful soul of a sister, had taken time out of her day for me. She was thinking of me. She was empathetic to my problems. She took time to think of a solution that might help. She spent her hard earned money. She put together the sweetest note. I was on her mind, and she made me feel loved. 

Her package was more than just an item. It was validation that my problems were real. Someone had experienced the same discomfort, and tried to ease that pain for me. It was the sentiment of being loved, being thought of, and being worthy. Reading her note made me happier than I’ve been in quite a while, and I’m so glad she is in my life. I wish everyone had a person like her. The world would be a better place. 

You could be that person today. You could be like my sister. Maybe there’s a compliment you could pay to someone who’s down. Maybe pop a note in the mail to a friend you haven’t seen in a while. Maybe it’s just a phone call to tell someone you love them. Maybe it’s just a thoughtful text. Be like my sister today. Make the world better. You can do it!

Kate and the Kids.

When Self-Care Means Saying “No.”

I woke up with anxiety. Things got loud. I had a million thoughts going through my mind, and a very long to-do list forming. Old Kate would have gotten out of bed with her head and wheels spinning, wasting a whole lot of energy without actually getting much done. I’m not that girl anymore.

I bit the bullet and immediately canceled my plans for the day. I needed time and peace to take care of things at home. My sister immediately texted back with an “lol you beat me to the cancellation punch” kind of text. I instantly felt the weight on my shoulders lift, and things seemed a lot more manageable. 

The noise in my brain settled a bit. All of a sudden I was amused by listening to Mike and the three dogs snoring. Their breathing came together in a kind of harmony, almost like a song. I laughed a little on the inside. Instead of getting out of bed and ferociously tackling my list, I laid in bed. I read for a while, then started writing this post. All the while silently smiling at the four snorers. What was this that I was feeling? Oh yes, peace. 

There’s a reason flight attendants tell you to “secure your own oxygen before assisting others.” You have to be alive and breathing before you can take care of everyone else. That’s self care. That’s preparing yourself to be the best helper you can be. In the long run self care benefits not only you, but everyone around you. It’s a ripple effect of peace. 

Canceling my plans today was my oxygen. I’m now ready to get the house put together and finish painting the nursery. I’m ready to tackle laundry (we may or may not be out of clean towels at the moment) and I feel better prepared to handle whatever tantrums my terrible two year old throws at me. 

I’ve set myself up for success today by prioritizing the important tasks. I found relief in minimizing, and peace in a slower day. What can you do this morning to give yourself the best day possible? What stressors can you drop to make your day less crazy? Secure your oxygen. Breathe. Make today a good day. 

Kate and the Kids. 

She called me Mom, and she meant it.

Jacen and Arielle have recently sparked an interest in Anime. They watch an English-dubbed show called ‘My Hero Academia.’ I really, really try to be as interested as they are- but it just isn’t for me. There’s a really cool phenomenon with anime, where it becomes more than just a show- it’s a culture.

Part of nurturing their interest in anime meant welcoming that culture into our home. They’ve learned a TON about Japan and have asked to try new foods and traditions from the show. They’re getting an educational experience without realizing it. They’ve also gained an obsession with drawing an animation. I never thought I’d see the day, but they’ve even VOLUNTARILY left their tablets at home and brought the sketch books instead. Mom-mind blown.

Jacen and Arielle asked to go to Comic-Con as their “one big outing” of summer vacation. (Just as a side note, Comic-con was WAYYYY cheaper than King Richard’s Faire- their pick from last year. That place costs more than Disney!) I was happy to take them.

Our bonding started weeks before the day of the convention. I asked the kids to introduce me to their favorite characters. I followed r/BokuNoHeroAcademia on Reddit to connect with other fans of the show. I used pinterest for costume inspiration, and asked the kids a million questions. They loved it. Their faces would light up at a chance to bring me into their world. Even when they lost me in the explanation, it was never a wasted question. Sometimes you get your answer in the way they respond, and not the words they use. 

We crafted the costumes together. Arielle was in awe of my new cricut machine, and Jacen had the time of his life dying his hair crazy colors. We had so many laughs, and talked about so many things. They were such precious hours. 

When they day of Comic-con arrived, the kids had trouble containing their excitement. Even Anna, who had no idea what was going on, fed off the older kids’ energy. She giggled and squealed all the way into Boston, trying to be heard over Jacen and Arielle’s increasingly loud banter.

I don’t know if I will ever see Arielle so excited to get dressed ever again. Honestly, it may have topped prom AND her wedding. She treated each part with such delicate fingers, respecting and appreciating every component. She was still adjusting the last few pieces when a car slowed down next to us. A boy leaned out the window and said, “Great Cosplay, Tsu!” She beamed ear to ear, “They recognized me! They know who I am supposed to be!” I’m pretty sure her soul momentarily left her body, did a joyous back flip, then returned with a surge of positivity.” She was absolutely elated. 

Both Jacen and Arielle walked around the convention with confidence and swagger. They were recognized time after time, and had several photos taken. Everyone was incredibly kind to them. My kids found “their people.” They were glowing. Everything was exciting and interesting. I didn’t want the night to end.

Even as we held on to our time at Con as long as we could, eventually the crowd started to die down. Vendors closed up, Anna got cranky, and my pregnant feet were swelling beyond the confines of my sneakers. Sadly, it was time to go.

Jacen and Arielle treated the walk out like a farewell on the red carpet. They beamed the biggest smiles and held their heads high. A teenage girl walked up to us and asked Arielle where she got her costume, as it was one of the better quality Froppy cosplay she had seen. That soul of hers did a second little backflip again as she grabbed my hand and said, “my mom made it for me!”

My soul started with the backflips. Several, huge backflips.. And maybe a tear or two in my eye. 

Sometimes Arielle gets confused. She almost always calls me Kate, but when the world is spinning “mom” just slips out. This was not one of those times. This was intentional and meaningful.

Anime, for me, is not super interesting. Some parts of the process were confusing, and maybe even boring for a moment or two. Tickets were a little pricey, the convention was crowded and hectic. Still, I would not change anything. She called me Mom, and she meant it. 

-Kate and the Kids

Managing Child Anxiety Through Mindfulness

My ten year old has a lot going on these days. She lives between two homes, (mom’s house and our house) she goes to school, participates in activities and has (finally) made some good friends! Her world is bigger than it used to be, and she’s got the mental exhaustion to prove it.

This past week was even wilder than usual. My husband took a vacation from work, and we decided to end our summer break with a bang! We took a few little day trips and spent a night at Great Wolf Lodge. There were a ton of moving parts, things to remember, and stress. At some point we all had to just let go of the reigns and go with the flow- especially Arielle. 

When Arielle has a lot on her mind it doesn’t come out as, “I’m stressed out.” She can’t always describe or communicate her feelings. Sometimes she’s even so overwhelmed that she can’t say anything at all. In our younger parenting days we would have gotten angry at these moments- wondered why she couldn’t just behave and enjoy our expensive week. We would match her frustration, angry that she wasn’t appreciating our hard work and planning. It only made things worse. 

You see, parents can not control the way their child behaves. They can only control their OWN behavior in response to their child’s actions. We try to teach them, we try to shape them into model citizens. What we really need to do is HELP them.

Our kids have responded very well with the coping mechanisms and mental health awareness I have shared with them lately.  When I noticed Arielle was being mentally spread thin, I decided to introduce mindfulness. She needed to gather herself, to do one thing well instead of a million things at low power. 

Mindfulness is the practice of being in the moment. Don’t worry about the past, don’t stress about the future. Focus on the moment you are in, and let the rest go.

We were at the indoor water park when Arielle had a moment of anxiety. She couldn’t remember if she had brought her phone charger from her mom’s house. This problem was completely irrelevant to the moment- there was no one she needed to call at that time, and water is the last thing her phone needed. She was still stuck on it. “I know it doesn’t matter, I just can’t remember and it’s driving me crazy.” I tried to calm her fears by telling her that we had many micro USB chargers, and even if she did forget it she would be able to use an alternate. She nodded in understanding but I could see in her lack of eye contact that she was still racking her brain for the answer. 

This is where I reached my parenting ‘fork in the road.” Path A was to get annoyed. We had spent a TON of money to come to Great Wolf. It had been a ton of energy to pack and haul all three kids around. It would have been easy to get mad and call her ungrateful. Path B was to help her. Yes, I mean help her relax and maybe even help her focus, but most of all, I wanted to help her enjoy herself. 

I asked her if she knew what mindfulness was and she just kind of nodded. In a dazed voice she said, “kind of, they told us what it was in health class once.” I could tell she was still thinking about the charger. I sat down to bring us closer to eye-to-eye level. Just the change in position seemed to snap her back to the present. All of a sudden I had her full attention.

I told her that this was a great moment to be mindful. We didn’t have to think about what was going on at her mom’s house, or even ours. We didn’t have to think about tomorrow or what we were going to do after lunch. In this exact moment, all we had to worry about was choosing our favorite waterslide. She laughed, and I knew she was back “in the now.” We moved on to fun activities, and didn’t give that charger another thought. 

Later that night Arielle came to find me. We were getting settled into our hotel room and changed into comfy pajamas. “Hey Kate, I found my phone charger. I had it that whole time.” I smiled and told her how awesome that was. After a little moment of quiet she asked, “So, how did that mindfulness thing work? I was so worried about my charger and you made me completely forget about it. How did you do that?” I was excited she wanted to know.

Sticking with the water theme, I told her our brains were like a water hose. When we are thinking about the past, it pokes a hole for water to escape. Another hole for the future, and another for what was going on at Mom’s house. The more we thought about, the more holes in our hose. The problem with that is we want the water to come out of the end, into the present. If there are holes everywhere, all of the water will escape before reaching the end. We have barely any “water” or energy to use in this moment. If we plug up all the holes, water pressure returns. We have the full strength or water to use right now. We have all of the enjoyment. 

I’m not saying mindfulness is foolproof, especially for a ten-year old. I’m not even saying its easy, for anyone. It’s a tool, and it’s work- but they payoff is huge. What holes can you plug this evening? Stop losing water from yesterday, tomorrow, or work problems. Use all of your water pressure for tonight. Tuck your kids in, tell them you love them. Bond with your spouse. Focus, enjoy, be mindful. 

Wishing you all the water pressure,

Kate and the Kids.

I’m Back, Baby!

Yesterday was a really tough day. Anna has started her terrible two’s early, and she was mid tantrum at the register in Target when a familiar voice called my name. I was already falling apart when this poor woman unknowingly hit a nerve by asking about my blog. I struggled to keep my chin up, and told her we were just busy with other things. That statement was definitely a half-truth. We are always busy, but I used to find time to blog. There’s a big reason I wasn’t, and time had nothing to do with it.

The things I write about are extremely personal. Sharing the details about my mental health leaves me quite vulnerable. Unfortunately someone has recently taken advantage of that vulnerability to hurt my family. I was faced with two options; to fearlessly continue to write, or to go radio silent and stop feeding them ammunition. I looked at my kids, and realized there was nothing more important to me than them.. not even my blog.

We’ve spent the summer rebuilding what was broken, and getting stronger as a family. The time we’ve had together has been so valuable. We are better than ever, even with ALL of the hurdles life has thrown at us. We are a unit. We are a team. Not even the most vicious of attacks could break us apart.

On the way home from Target, Arielle broke the silence and asked, “so, why DID you stop the blog?” I wasn’t quite sure how to answer. I had never intended on a full stop, more of a hiatus. I told her that when I was a kid, my dad used to tell me that ‘your enemy’s best weapons are what you give them.’ In this case, when people wanted to hurt me they were using the ugly parts of my mental health journey. Things I had willingly shared with them. Things I had given them. I had stopped writing in hopes the battle would fizzle out on its own. Arielle listen quietly as I tried to explain. After a brief moment of thought she said, “I just don’t think we should stop. It’s something I loved about us, and if mean people are being mean that’s their fault. Not ours.”

So, here we are. I’d be lying if I said I wrote this without hesitation. Maybe I am a little scared to bare our faults again, but at the same time I’m excited to continue healing- not just our household family, but our blog family too. We have a TON of awesome stuff we’ve been waiting to share with you, and we just can’t wait to move forward together. Our family, your family, blog family.

With healthy hearts,

Kate and the Kids.

Antepartum Depression is Real, and Anyone is at Risk.

In case you haven’t heard- WE’RE PREGNANT! Our family will be growing by 10 little mistletoe-s this Christmas, and we are all very excited!


It took us four years to conceive Anna, so we weren’t expecting to get pregnant so soon. I had my Nexplanon implant removed on March 8th, and just three weeks later on March 31st we got our positive home test! Ultrasound confirms, we got pregnant THE DAY my birth control was removed. Holy guacamole, my head has been spinning!

Things have progressed very quickly, and more than once I’ve begged time to slow down. I’m still trying to bond with baby Nora, who is now just over 2 months old and already SOOO big. Anna, (at 20 months) is giving me a run for my money- showing signs she is ready for potty training, and has become a clothing escape artist. It seems every time I turn my back she’s gotten completely naked, diaper included. The older kids have entered their last month of school, which means we’ve been bombarded with field days, fundraisers, concerts, plays, performances, theme days, award nights, field trips, and everything else you can think of. Things have been crazy, and I could certainly use a few extra hours in each day to get it all done.

I’m lucky to say that every dose of the craziness has been balanced with a reason to be happy. There have been so many blessings, laughs, and good times. We have so much to look forward to, and so much to be excited for. I think that’s why I find my debilitating depression so confusing.

Given my history of mental illness and the role it has played in previous pregnancies, I’ve been extra careful to be proactive in getting help this time around. I see my therapist religiously, practice mindfulness and meditation, stick to my medication routine, and see the behavioral health clinic at one of the most prestigious hospitals in my area. Even with all of this, the darkness has managed to creep in. I’m battling every single day to keep it under control.

Anna was all over the place in this little living room- trying to crawl out the window, jumping off the ottoman, even unplugging the TV at one point. This all happened in a room full of adults, all helping to reel her in. She was just high-energy and overwhelming.

At first, I just felt a little heaviness. I had a ton of reasons to be happy, and yet something was holding me back from enjoying them at the full 100%. It then progressed to a ball and chain, where the depression made it hard for me to move forward. I started to struggle with the thought of socialization. Preparing for our Memorial Day gatherings became painful. I literally felt slow, like I was hauling an anvil with every step. When Anna became a little restless at one of our cookouts, I had a major breakdown. I snapped at Mike out of anxiety, and choked back tears. We had to leave. I could feel myself losing control.

At this point, I tried to slam on my emotional breaks. I knew where my depression was heading, and I didn’t want it to get worse. My therapist saw me on Monday, even though it was Memorial Day. On Tuesday, I saw the behavioral health clinic for medication management. I tried to focus on the good, but it was too late. When I got home from the clinic on Tuesday, I laid down for a nap on the couch. While I slept, my ball and chain turned to an anchor. I haven’t been able to get that anchor to move, not even one inch.

From my spot on the couch, I’ve watched the clutter pile up on every surface in the house. The trash is overflowing, the dirty laundry can not longer be contained into a basket. There’s a layer of dust accumulating on the equipment in my home gym. Last night, a shivering Jacen had to holler from the shower because we were out of clean towels. I’m ashamed to confess that Anna has been watching an insane amount of Sesame Street, and I’ve skipped our regularly scheduled reading times. I doze off and on throughout the day, then struggle to sleep at night. I’m always looking forward to the escape of sleep, and chase it like an addict looking for their next fix. I haven’t left the house since my appointment on Tuesday morning. I haven’t seen the shower in days. I haven’t even checked my voicemails, messages or texts. I see the kids and Mike, and that’s about it for socialization.

Trust me, I know that this behavior isn’t okay. I’m trying my hardest to chip away at this anchor; trying to make it lighter. I’m honest with Mike about my dark thoughts and feelings, and I’m in contact with my mental health team. I’m open to help, and I’m still setting goals. I’m looking forward to the weekend, and hoping Arielle will kick my butt into getting out of the house.

I didn’t want to write this post for pity. I wanted to share that depression can happen to anyone, even to those with the most to be happy about. I have a beautiful family. They motivate me to be the healthiest *ME* that I can be. I’m overjoyed to be pregnant, and excited to grow our family – but that doesn’t erase my wacky hormones. I have everything I’ve asked for in life, and yet I’m still chasing the escape of sleep instead of spending my time enjoying myself. When things are dark like this, it makes asking for help seem like I’m a burden. Some days I feel more like a dependant, or an additional child to my husband. The days when I want to avoid help are actually the days I need it most. I’m very lucky to have an incredible support system. My husband is very in-tune with my emotional needs, and helps me stay on track. His patience alone is a gift from God. My sister is good at getting me out of the house, changing my environment and trying to spark a change in my mood. My kids don’t always understand what’s going on in my mind, but they just keep telling me they love me.

If you’re feeling the darkness with me, please know that you are worthy of help. You don’t have to do this alone, and receiving love is not burdensome.

If you’re the support person, please know that you are nothing short of an angel. The smallest actions, the quiet kind words, the hugs, the company, the “I love you”s- they mean the world. They help us dig out little by little. They give us light in the dark.

Depression can sneak in at anytime. It doesn’t mean that we are any less deserving of our blessings. This will pass for me, especially when I accept the help of friends, family, and my medical team. I’m looking forward to taking my body off of auto-pilot. I want to be present. I want to enjoy Nora being little, before she isn’t little anymore. I want to foster Anna’s growth by helping her potty train. I want to be an active parent, celebrating with Jacen and Arielle through all of their special end-of-the-year days. I want to be healthy and happy as I bake my little bun in the oven. I want to feel like ME again- and I’m working for it. We’re working for it, as a family.

Kate and the Kids.

And Mike.

And Nora.

And Jean-Marie.

And My Mom.

And all of the incredible people supporting me.

Getting Help for my Child with Anxiety

When I made the decision to start blogging, I had every intention of sharing the aspects of wellness that applied to my whole family- including my children. As time goes by, I find myself saving posts about the kids as drafts, unable to publish them. We all have our fair share of obstacles. We are working individually and as a family to be our best version of ourselves, and most of the time I think sharing our stories would help the masses. On the other hand, my children ARE children. They are learning every day, but also make mistakes every day. It’s hard to balance respecting their privacy while sharing their progress. When something is posted on the internet, it’s there forever. Even if it’s taken down or deleted, someone, somewhere, is able to find the deeply hidden shadow of the original post. The last thing I want to do is embarrass them or write something that I later regret sharing. In the current age of cyber bullying there is a risk that their classmates and peers may get a hold of my posts, and use them as ammunition to torture the kids. With that being said, our family is finally ready to move forward and be more open. We plan to choose our words carefully, and all be active in the writing process. Don’t be surprised if we blog about things that have happened long ago. I’m going to give the kids as much time as they need to re-read, and reprocess. We are a family and a team. We are in this together, and I’m not posting anything without their approval.

As a parent, it can be extremely difficult to identify issues or struggles in your child. It’s even more difficult to accept help. For a long time, I wore my rose colored glasses and chalked issues up to “kids being kids.” Going way back to 2013, Jacen first started showing signs that something was ‘off.’ He was melting down on a regular basis, afraid to go new places or try new things. We once took him to the Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut, and missed half of the park because he refused to walk into one of the dimly lit buildings. We tried to explain that it was only dark by the door, and would get lighter inside. No dice. He absolutely refused, even lying on the floor and clawing at the carpet. If we tried to carry him in, he would grab on to anything he could- walls, door frames, other people- anything to get traction and stop us. We tried to get him to talk to us about how he was feeling, or what was scaring him, but all he could muster was a frustrated, “I don’t know!” Finally it got to the point where I could see that this was no longer normal fear of a three year old child. There was absolute, extreme terror in his eyes. It was interfering with his life and social progress. My heart broke for him. I just wanted to make things better. I wanted him to be able to participate in more, and be open to new experiences. I just didn’t know where to start.

We tried to handle this behavior on our own for far too long. We tried exposure therapy, bringing him new places on a regular basis to try and get him to be more comfortable with new experiences. He started dreading things ahead of time, making the days even longer and more painful. We tried just picking him up, and carrying him into scary places to “bite the bullet.” We hoped that once he got through the worst part, he would calm down and enjoy himself. He started questioning his trust and safety with us. Sometimes we got angry. I’m embarrassed to admit that more than once I had yelled at him to “get over it” or exploded over the money I had wasted on admission, only to not enjoy our experience. My anger made him feel ashamed of his own emotions, and he started turning to other people for comfort. My husband and I were failing him, and he ran to Nana or Auntie whenever he could.

I’m so lucky that Jacen has people in his life that love him. He will always have a special relationship with his Auntie.

My heart broke. He was the most important person to me, and he felt like he couldn’t trust me. I wasn’t able to comfort him or make him feel safe. I was failing him as a mother. The old “buck up and be a man” method was not working, and I could see the emotional toll it was taking on him. I desperately wanted to fix our relationship. I knew I needed to be his rock, and moving forward relied on BOTH of us getting some professional guidance. I wanted to be close to my son again, and finally welcomed help.

I reluctantly reached out to a therapist. I was still holding back, not wanting to admit how much I had failed my child. It was tough to let an outsider in, but I was definitely interested in having him evaluated. I wanted a professional opinion about what was going on. Were these feelings organic, something chemical like my own mental health? Or, were these issues something I created by my own parenting? Maybe these things were completely age appropriate and normal- maybe they would just tell me he didn’t need intervention, that he would grow out of it. I sucked up my pride, and let the therapist in. It was the best thing I’ve ever done for Jacen.

At first, he passed his evaluation with flying colors. He was friendly, outgoing, and very intelligent for his age. At just four years old, he was asking very grown up questions. He would ask how your day was going, or about things you were looking forward to. He knew how to ask open-ended questions and engage in conversation. They were about to close out his file and send us on our way when his therapist asked to try just one more, unorthodox eval method. The therapist had one of his trusted, vetted interns come by the house. She was a college student on the younger side, and a new person to Jacen. When she first showed up to the house, he was his typical, friendly self. She asked to take him outside to blow bubbles in the yard and he enthusiastically agreed. He was even okay walking up and down the street with her. In familiar places he was welcoming and happy, even borderline flirting with her. He had zero issue with new people. She asked if we could all go to her favorite playground, one Jacen had never been to. The three of us were planning to drive there in her car. Even though I was there with him, he started to get nervous about being in a new car. She didn’t want to push it, so we ended up driving separately. It was the first time his nervousness was seen or documented.

She got to the park before us, and was waiting in the parking lot to greet us when we pulled in. Immediately, Jacen started frantically looking around, clutching his seat belt to his chest. She opened his door, and used a playful, excited voice to try and coax him out of the car. He blocked the safety belt release, and would not let her unbuckle him. His cheeks were bright red and hot. His eyes were darting quickly between the open car door, me, and his seat belt button. He started breathing in quick and shallow, holding the air in his chest without releasing. She tried to back off, to give him space and time to calm down. It was too late. As soon as she stepped back from the car, he fought to pull the door closed. The tears flowed, the yelling started. There was no reasoning with him, and he refused to listen to anything we had to say. We had to turn back and go home, but his anxiety attack was finally documented. It was painful to watch, but also an important step in getting a diagnosis.

The first thing they worked on with Jacen was identifying the way a panic attack felt. I liked that they didn’t put words in his mouth. They asked him to describe what he felt in those moments. He didn’t use the words anxious or panicked. In four year old terminology, he described feeling “nervous” and “scared.” Those became our go-to words to identify his attacks, and his care felt personal and tailored to Jacen. They asked him to describe how his nervousness physically felt in his body. He described it as “a storm in my belly” and “a balloon in my chest.” We were finally getting some information on where to start, and the break through felt amazing.

Jacen often hyperventilated when he was feeling nervous, sucking in air but not breathing back out. His body tricked his mind into thinking he couldn’t breathe, so he would take in as much oxygen as he could, then try to save it as a reserve in his chest. He needed to learn deep-breathing exercises and self regulation, but those are not easy tools to teach a four year old. Coping techniques have to be learned when the patient is not currently suffering an anxiety attack. The skills are practiced and perfected while calm, so they can be applied correctly in times of panic. It was hard for Jacen to hold interest in learning, or to connect the skills with his ‘nervous feelings’ when he wasn’t currently experiencing them. It felt like he was deflecting therapy, and not absorbing the help.

I was starting to feel frustrated again. The adults were working hard, so why wasn’t he getting better? At the time I didn’t have the insight that I do now. After all of the work my family has put into mental health, the most important thing I have learned is that if therapy is not working, it’s not the right type of therapy for the patient. We had to change it up. If we couldn’t make Jacen fit into the textbook, we had to change the textbook to accommodate Jacen.

He had a habit of rushing through his deep breathing. He didn’t breathe deep enough or slow enough for it to be used as a coping mechanism, and we were not seeing a difference in the hyperventilating. We started making the deep breathing into a game. He held up four fingers (for four years old) and pretended they were birthday candles. He would take as deep of a breath as he could, “blowing out the flame.” When his breath was completely out, he put his finger down and moved to the next candle. At first he thought it was silly, but then began looking forward to it. He even asked if he could make a wish every time all the candles were blown out. It ended up being an unforeseen benefit. The candles were a success, even during the worst panic attacks. After four breaths, he was usually even calm enough to speak. If I asked him what his wish was, he often replied something to the effect of, “I wish it wasn’t so dark in here,” “I wish we could leave,” “I wish I knew what that loud, scary noise was coming from.” His wishes helped us identify the sources of his anxiety, and improved his care. We started being able to zero in on his triggers, working through what we could. He spent about 9 months in therapy. They discharged him in hopes that his new breathing tools and communication skills would be enough to help him grow. They made it clear that the office was always there if we needed to come back, and I could even just call with any questions or concerns. By discharging him, they returned the comfort and coping skills back to us, (as parents) and Jacen started to realize that we were there to help him. Our relationship has strengthened every single day, and we have grown together.

Jacen has witnessed my own anxiety attacks. He now knows how to identify them, and even tries to help me. Just hearing him say, “Mom, try blowing out some candles” can be enough to pull me out of dark thoughts. He will stop and breathe with me. He watches my effort and progress, and I watch his. We motivate each other to work through issues, and have bonded over new therapies. He loves trying different calming methods with me, like Yoga and meditation. We talk about mindfulness, and have rebuilt our trust in each other. We have seen rapid success in his anxiety recovery, and his willingness to try new things. He now knows that I would never put him in danger, and I will always keep him safe. He still loves his Nana and Auntie, but Mama is back to being his number one.

Mental illness can be isolating. It’s easy to feel like no one understands, and hard to forget when your symptom create frustration in the people you love. It can make you feel like a burden. I’ve felt this way myself, and it’s terrible. I never want Jacen to have these thoughts again. I never want him to feel alone. Reaching out and getting help was everything. If we had continued down the path we were on, we may never have recovered from our trust issues. Asking an outsider to intervene can feel like you’re giving up control of the situation to a stranger. In reality, it’s REGAINING control of the situation. It’s recovering in a way that will allow you to move forward. Parenting is fucking hard. It’s okay to not know what you’re doing from time to time. It’s  not okay to ignore problems and let them grow. When you can get help, you can get better. You can all get better, as a family.

Don’t fear intervention. Welcome it, embrace it. We all want the best for our children, so utilize every resource you can to make that happen. Let’s grow together- as a household, as a family, as a community, as a whole. All of us, together.

With healthy hearts,

Kate, AND the Kids! (Finally!)

Seeing Progress with EMDR- Family Vacations

My husband never gets time off from work- I mean ever. A few years ago we had even booked a cruise, deposit included, with my sister’s wedding party. Even as a financial and wedding obligation his job rejected his vacation request. I ended up going on the cruise with the wedding party, but had to room alone. He’s missed birthdays, events, and milestones. This made last weekend even more exciting when he surprised us with a full week off of work!

Anna’s love for Elmo/Sesame Street has really taken off this year!

Mike’s birthday is May 4th, and we hardly ever get to celebrate it. In previous years it was just a grocery store cake after a long shift at work. You’d think after years of this, he would enjoy his time off by taking a day for himself. Not Michael. Instead, he planned a trip to Pennsylvania so Anna could see Elmo at Sesame Place. He’s a great dad, and I’m a lucky woman.

Initially Mike had planned to surprise me at the very last moment with the trip. He wised up as the weekend got closer, and remembered how triggering deviation from our routine can be for me. He let me know a few days in advance, and it was perfect. It was enough time for me to feel organized, but still surprised.

I think the biggest change I noticed was in my obsessive compulsions to over-plan, and over-indulge. In the past I’ve put a lot of pressure on myself (and the family) to REALLY enjoy our vacations. This inevitably ends in disaster when the stress pushes everyone to the limit, and we all fall apart.  For our trip to Disney, I had made multiple outfits for the kids ahead of time. It’d cost a small fortune, and I had no confidence in my work. Some of the costumes were uncomfortable for the kids, and refusal to wear them broke my heart. There was high tension and high pressure, and everyone had to walk on eggshells around me. This trip I still handmade celebratory apparel, but I was able to focus on one thing. Scaling back kept the cost much lower, and meant that I could put a lot of focus and effort into what I was doing. We were all much more comfortable in cute little sweatshirts than in head to toe costumes. I had much more pride in my work, and the confidence really helped my mood. It changed the entire dynamic of the day.

Jacen’s special treat sparked some serious cupcake envy from Anna.

I was also able to let go of a rigid schedule. I still downloaded the map of the park a few days before, and I looked at the restaurant menus ahead of time. I sincerely feel like this was necessary, as I eat such a strict diet and they don’t allow outside food into the park. I was, however, able to skip making reservations, or pre-planning the kids orders. I’m so glad I did because part of the fun was watching the kids choose elaborately decorated cupcakes and Elmo-shaped food. They would have missed out if I’d micromanaged their meals.

I usually obsess about getting pictures with all of the characters. I keep a pre-written schedule of where they are, and at what times. Then I drag the whole family across the park several times, only to end up with miserable faces in the photos. Talk about an emotional break down. The disappointment haunts me, and I ruin the day for everyone. This time I was able to let go, relax, and follow the kids’ cues. I let them go on the rides they wanted, and when we passed a character we popped in. The only exception I made was Elmo, and they were more than willing to compromise for my one request. I got awesome pictures, and (more importantly) a TON of awesome memories.

These are obviously huge changes for me, and they had an incredible pay off. We have not had a relaxing vacation in many years, and we were able to come home feeling refreshed instead of defeated. I accomplished these changes by participating in EMDR for the last year. In therapy I have processed trips of years past- how going over the top and stretching myself thin impacted my family. By reprocessing these memories I was able to learn from them, and let go of them. I no longer feel the need to top past vacations, or redeem myself for failed costumes. Redeem. Let me tell you how much that word weighs on me! I constantly beat myself up over the past, and feel the need to “do it better” this time. It compels me to obsess over the details, and I end up missing the big picture. EMDR changes this for me. I no longer compare myself to the old Kate. I can leave her in the past. I have a fresh start every day, and I can let go of my processed memories. I am able to be mindful, enjoying today. It has changed my life.

At the end of our trip, the kids were still laughing and smiling. We were able to do everything we wanted, even without the schedule. Going with the flow let them REALLY enjoy themselves, stress- free. I work every day at making myself a healthier, better mom. These are the things that keep me on track, that keep me motivated. My children will always be my driving force, and I will never stop wanting to do better for them. I’m so glad I got to see some progress in myself, and our whole family dynamic. I’m looking forward to checking in with my therapist, and to continue processing the old stuff!

My small steps and changes yielded an incredible pay off. What steps are you taking today to better yourself?

Kate and the Kids.

Reader Request Part III (Final)- Postpartum with Bipolar Disorder

[Recently I have been blogging in response to a reader request. Part 1 covered my infertility and journey conceiving Anna. Part 2 described my pregnancy as an untreated bipolar. This is my 3rd and final piece in the series, Anna’s stay in the NICU.]


The first question they ask when you get pregnant is “when was the date of your last period?” Prior to getting pregnant, my PCOS had prevented me from getting a period for months. My due date had to be calculated via ultrasound measurements. According to those measurements, my water started leaking at about 36 weeks. We were expecting Anna to be a lot stronger, considering she was practically full term- but she ended up having respiratory issues at birth. It was later determined during her NICU eval that she was actually only 34 weeks, and her lungs were slightly underdeveloped.

In my last post I had explained that my October 17th had started at about 4AM. It was at this time that I had a major manic episode. It turned violent, and the physical exertion was enough to break my water. I stupidly waited until my OB office opened at 8:00 to call the doctor. I was seen at 9, and sent immediately to the hospital for an emergency c-section.

I had mixed feelings while waiting in pre-op. On one hand I was over-the-moon excited to meet my daughter, but I was also carrying a ton of shame that my behavior had caused early labor. My husband was the voice of reason, keeping me excited about our future and letting go of the past mistakes. There was nothing we could do to change our situation, so we made the best of it. We were expecting a small baby, but we were also expecting a healthy one.

I have an extremely low tolerance to medication, especially narcotics. As soon as the anesthesiologist started my IV, nausea came in like a tidal wave. I was sweating, crying, and trying not to vomit. I was completely disoriented, and voices sounded very far away. The surgical drape was practically on my face, tricking my mind into claustrophobia. I wasn’t completely aware of what was going on around me, or what anyone was saying. I felt the pressure change as the surgeon pulled Anna out, and listen for her to cry. Silence. Why was it taking so long?

Mike stood by my head, and watched the nurses. They took her right over to an incubation bed, suctioned fluid out, and immediately listened to her lungs. I told Mike to go take pictures for me, but he hesitated. I didn’t understand why. He kept his hand on my shoulder and watched from across the room. I started to notice how quiet everyone was. The room was spinning, and I couldn’t see anything while strapped down to the operating table. My thoughts raced with disorientation from the drugs. “What was going on? Had she made a sound yet? I think she had. No wait, now I don’t remember.”  Finally, a cry. A nice, loud, distinct cry. The nurse came over with my daughter, and placed her on my chest. Mike and I cried together, relieved she was here and okay.

Coming out of the operating room is still kind of a blur. I was so tired, and so confused. Mostly, sooooo nauseous. I kept asking to nurse the baby. I’d previously struggled breastfeeding Jacen, and had done a ton of research to be more successful with Anna. It was important to me to get a good latch right away. I just wanted my baby, but the nurses kept saying, “As soon as we can. We’re just getting some numbers.”

When the pediatrician came in to evaluate Anna, the nurse expressed her concerns. Anna was visibly “tugging.” Tugging occurs when the respiratory muscles are not strong enough to maintain air pressure in the chest cavity. The skin and muscles sink in, and you can see movement around the intercostal spaces of the ribcage. At first, the staff had hoped this would be temporary. They even let Mike and I hold her, but I was not allowed to nurse her. They continued to monitor closely.

My mom, son, and sister had just made it to my hospital room when they came in to evaluate her again. They barely had a chance to meet her, only holding her for a minute or two each. The doctor told us she needed intensive care- something they did not have at this hospital. We were offered several local NICUs. I was still disoriented and confused. I didn’t know how to decide. My mom was the one who stepped in and said, “If she’s going to be transfered, she’s going to the best NICU. We want Women & Infants.”

The nurses got right on it, making phone calls and arrangements. The pediatrician immediately prepared Anna for transport. It was my OBGYN who made things difficult. Apparently he had gone home after completing my surgery, and coming back to the hospital was a major inconvenience. He told the nurses to have the pediatrician sign off on transporting the baby, but he wasn’t able to come in and validate my transfer quite yet. All I could do was cry. They were taking my baby away, even taking her out of the state- and I was trapped here. I was still sleepy from the drugs. I couldn’t speak, only silent tears ran down my face. I was terrified, devastated and completely lost. Thank God my mom stepped in again.

She told the staff that his answer was completely unacceptable, and he either needed to come in and get the paperwork done or find a doctor who could. She fought for me to be transferred that night, knowing the pain I would be in if they really made me wait until the following day. Mama knows how to get shit done, and that doctor came right back to the hospital with his tail between his legs.

Anna’s transport bassinet

During all of this, Anna began to deteriorate. She wasn’t maintaining her oxygen levels on her own, and the maternity ward did not have the equipment to breathe for her. My amazing nurse MacGyvered a contraption with items from a code-cart, and manually pumped air into her lungs until the NICU transport team got there. She saved my baby’s life.

Anna and I were still transported separately. Her condition was too severe to wait for my paperwork to go through, so my husband went with her. I followed just an hour later (instead of the 24 hours my obgyn had insisted I’d have to wait.) The drive from Wareham, MA to Providence, RI was the most painful experience of my life. I felt every bump and turn in my abdomen. My nausea was out of control, and my heart ached for my baby. I was still so confused- the day had moved so quickly and unexpectedly. Part of me still thought I was having a nightmare.

I didn’t get to see Anna again for several hours. I needed post transfer care, and her NICU setup was quite time consuming. I still begged to nurse, but was only allowed to pump.

Seeing Anna for the first time in the NICU is something I’ll never forget. There were so many wires and tubes, and she just looked tiny. She was quiet, and still. I just wanted to hold her close, but I wasn’t able to.

Within hours of making it to Women & Infants, a social worker came to see me. She immediately evaluated my mental health- going through what had caused my water to break, and how I was feeling at the time. I was started on psych meds right away, and even offered inpatient care that would allow me to keep the baby with me after her discharge from the NICU. I declined, just wanting to stay with Anna at the hospital. I also wanted to get home with her, and put all of this behind us.

Anna stayed in the NICU for over a week. When I was discharged from post-op, the hospital put Mike and I up in the Ronald McDonald House across the street. We were given a free place to stay, meals, toiletries, and resources- all within a 2 minute walk to the hospital. Words can’t express how lucky we were to have been able to stay there. If we had to go home, the commute would have killed me. Honestly, I would have lived on the couch in her room. I probably wouldn’t even have left to shower. I certainly wouldn’t have been in good conditions to heal from my c-section.

Most of the people in the house were parents of NICU babies. Usually, we were quiet and kept to ourselves. We were all stressed, scared and tired. A lot of us were recovering from surgery or complications from birth, and yet we were still neglecting ourselves to be with our sick babies. We could come and go as we pleased, and take whatever we wanted. There was food to go, things we could take with us to the NICU, and also sit down meals. Every night, there was a hot meal prepared and waiting for us. We could eat in the kitchen together, we could take it to our rooms in privacy. We could even bring our own groceries and use the kitchen to cook whatever we’d like. We could have family visit. There were video games for siblings, TVs, donated clothing and toys. They had everything you could think of to support breast feeding- extra pumping supplies, special refrigerators, milk boosting foods – everything. Mental health specialists and support groups were offered. I knew nothing about Ronald McDonald house before our stay, but I can tell you first hand how important it is to NICU families. It kept us together, fed, safe, and close to the baby. I have no idea what I would have done without them.

It takes a long time for psych medication to build up in your system. I struggled every minute of every day, especially with the astronomical stress of having a sick baby. Being in a new environment and living somewhere other than my own home gave me a ton of anxiety. I was severely depressed from the events that led to Anna’s birth, and constantly beat myself up for it. I tried my best to be strong, but it didn’t seem like it was enough.

There were moments of happiness. When Anna was 4 days old, I was finally able to feed her for the first time. Granted, “feeding” was rubbing a q-tip moistened with breast milk on the inside of her cheek, but it was something! There was the day they removed the feeding tube, and the day they disconnected the oxygen. She got stronger and stronger. Finally, they cleared us to go home. It was a happy day, but inside I still was not happy.

In addition to my existing mental health issues, I was consumed by postpartum depression. I could not forgive myself for going into labor early. My heart ached for the days I’d lost while she was in the NICU, instead of being home. I wasn’t making enough milk, and had to supplement with formula. It killed me inside. I religiously pumped, never deviating from my schedule. I also woke up with Anna any time she cried, cooed, or moved. I worked off no sleep at all, and still felt like a failing mother.

I tried to kill myself a few times. I genuinely thought my family would be better off without such a horrible mother. My moods and self confidence were permanently at rock-bottom. I questioned my choice to decline the impatient care that was offered to me in the hospital, and wondered if I needed to be institutionalized. I used the suicide hotline daily. I cried to mike constantly. He tried his best to help, but eventually had to turn to me and say “this is out of my realm of being able to help. WE need professional help.”

The rest is kind of history. WE got help. Not just me, the family. I am the one on medication, I see the therapist, but my whole family has been on this journey with me. They support me every day, and I’m finally feeling like a successful, healthy mother. My husband has done anything and everything you can think of, and stands by me no matter what. I would have been lost to my mental issues without him. He is the only one who turned around my suicidal impulses.

I work every day at being healthy. It’s a constant battle. My kids are my life, my husband is my world. I have no intention of going anywhere any longer. I still think about the mistakes I’ve made in the past- but in a way where I can learn from them instead of just being ashamed of them. My mental health issues put both Anna and my own life at risk. Going back to being reckless and untreated could do the same. I’m staying on track. I’m staying positive. I’m staying healthy.

Kate and the Kids.

Reader Request Part II- Pregnancy as an Untreated Bipolar.

[I recently blogged in response to my first reader request- conceiving Anna after my struggle with infertility. It turned into a long post, and was harder to write than I’d anticipated. After a little break, I’m finally ready to continue! Here’s my SECOND content request – my pregnancy with Anna.]


Pregnancy with Anna was not easy. My body had gone through a whole lot of physical changes with my recent weight loss of 100 pounds. I struggled emotionally with the hormonal changes that come with typical pregnancy, but also learned about the mental side effects of drastic weight loss.

I went to my doctor in the beginning of my pregnancy after a large-scale breakdown. He informed me ( for the first time ) that as fat burns, it can release hormones like a time capsule. Because I gained most of my weight in my childhood and teenage years, I was releasing hormones that had been stored during puberty. It caused some major mood swings, especially with my underlying bipolar disorder. I also had some crazy acne and BO. Flashback to high school misery- but releasing the stored estrogen gave me the boost my body needed to conceive Anna. At the end of the day, second puberty was totally worth it. I got my baby, and that’s all I really cared about.

March 2017 with the beautiful bride-to-be

Unfortunately, my physical health wasn’t the only thing flashing back to my teenage years. In March, just weeks into my pregnancy, there was a bridal shower that needed to be thrown. My sister is the most important person in my life, aside from my children. She deserved the best shower in history, and I was obsessively stuck on it. My OCD reared its ugly head, as I became fixated on certain tasks and struggled to release any responsibilities to the other bridesmaids. I fought with the other girls constantly, then called my sister in fits of rage. On a 1-10 scale of mental stability, I was at negative 60. I couldn’t pull myself out of it, especially since I’d given up my rescue anxiety medication for the safety of the baby. I tortured everyone during the planning stages- including myself. Unfortunately my actions can’t be undone, and have left some permanent marks on those relationships. Obsessive compulsions can literally destroy lives, or in my case, destroy friendships.

My body struggled to keep up with the changes, and I developed orthostatic bradycardia. I lost consciousness several times daily, fainting when I moved positions, got active or even took a hot shower. I was in and out of cardiologist offices, tests, and emergency rooms for weeks straight. I even had to wear a holter monitor for a few days (which was absolutely miserable. 0/10 – would not recommend.) Soon my heart rate even triggered fainting with drastic mood shifts. Not ideal for an untreated bipolar.

May 2017, cruise to Bermuda

By spring I was slapped in the face with multiple big events. We had my sister’s bachelorette party, friends visiting from California, her wedding, and our cruise to Bermuda. Nothing went smoothly. I was physically sick all the time, either passing out or throwing up. Again, I could not keep up with the major events. My emotions prohibited my enjoyment, and I managed to dig myself deeper with my troubled friendships. The depression and loneliness consumed me.

It was around this stage that my doctors began getting concerned. I was struggling with my weight. I monitored the scale daily, and went out of my way to make sure I wasn’t gaining. On the other hand, I melted down on a regular basis because I was not gaining the weight my baby needed to thrive. I fought mental and emotional eating for my whole life, and I just wasn’t able to put my feelings on the back burner for pregnancy. I was being torn in two different directions, provide for the baby or restrict to stay thin. Mistakes were made. I obsessively refused to finish meals, stayed busy to avoid eating all together, fasted, and meticulously counted calories. It didn’t help my bradycardia or my depression. I couldn’t provide nutrients to my baby. I felt like a failed mother already, and I wasn’t even in my third trimester yet.

By the fall, my body had been through so much. My abdominal tissue had changed drastically with the weight loss and pregnancy, and the ligaments were fatigued. I developed a massive hernia. It was super painful, and definitely limited my mobility. I felt worthless as I was able to do less and less around the house. I was so sick, all the time. I flew off the handle with every mild inconvenience, and sunk into rock bottom depression every night. My poor family went through so much with me and supported me until the bitter end, despite the terrible way I treated them.

We were leaving a party one night in October, about a month before Anna was due. I had one leg inside the car, the other still on the pavement. When I sat down, there was a pop. On the way home, Mike and I laughed about it- I thought I had peed myself a little. We really didn’t take it seriously. I watched throughout the night, and there was a bit of fluid every few hours. I called my doctor and debated going to the hospital. I still had a little over a month to go, so he told me it was unlikely my water broke. I felt stupid, and stayed home. This was Saturday night. I spent Sunday feeling depressed and disgusting. I was appalled that I was peeing myself continuously, and wound myself up into hundreds of small anxiety attacks throughout the day. I took the kids to a theme park and tried to stay busy. It seemed like that day went on forever, that I felt every single minute go by. It was an exhausting day, but I still found myself unable to sleep that night. Again, I watched every hour on the clock tick by.

It was about 4AM when I had enough. I jumped out of bed, turned on all the lights and cranked my ‘cleaning playlist.’ There was a fireball of energy in my chest, and I was compelled to get everything baby-ready. I woke Mike up, and demanded he go install the car seat immediately. It was one of the only times in our whole relationship that Mike said “no.” He went back to bed. I turned my music up louder, started the washing machine, dryer and dishwasher. I slammed doors. I opened the bedroom door and yelled at Mike to get up and help me. I did everything I could think of to wake him up.

At one point, I left the bedroom to get more cleaning supplies. While I was out, Mike jumped up and locked the bedroom door. He put earplugs in, and tried to ignore me. He had to work in the morning. (This is when things get real embarrassing, and really emotional for me.) There’s no doubt in my mind that I had been experiencing a manic episode- the energy, the obsession, the outright insanity- but the moment I heard the door click to locked, my brain flipped the switch from manic to rage. I found super-human strength and became violent.

First came the most awful, hurtful words I could think of. I went right for the kill shot, insulting Mike’s relationship with Arielle and his parenting. Then came the actions. I banged on the door as hard as I could, even when I felt the side of my hand start to bruise and swell. I screamed so loud that the dogs woke up, and barked along with me. The older kids woke up and came down to investigate. Unfortunately what they saw when they rounded the corner was my all time mental low.

There I was, eight months pregnant. Face so red, it was practically purple. Tears soaked my face, neck and even my chest. Snot ran everywhere, and I spewed spit with every word I screamed. I held a bar stool in my hand, and used it as a battering ram to break down the locked door. I got several holes busted into the wood before I realized Jacen was watching. I sent him back upstairs without even slowing down. With one final swing, I hit the door hard enough to really do some damage. Mike unlocked the door, and wrapped me up in a bear hug until I calmed down. With my arms pinned to my sides, I couldn’t hurt him or myself any longer. I had no choice but to calm down. I listened to Mike tell me over and over again how much he loved me, and instantly felt like the dumbest person on the planet. How could I have done all of this? How could I treat my family like this? My house? My unborn baby? Myself? My energy plummeted, and exhaustion finally hit. I remembered what Jacen had witnessed, and literally vomited out of shame. Then I realized the small “leaks of pee” had turned into much more during my outburst. My pants and the floor were all wet. It never was pee, and my amniotic fluid had now been leaking for 36 full hours.

There are major concerns regarding infection after your water breaks. Ideally, a baby is to be born within 24 hours of the rupture. I was far past that by the time my OB office opened. Things moved pretty quickly after my 9AM appointment, and soon enough I was being wheeled into the operating room for my emergency c-section, a whole month early. I hoped this was the end, that I could close the chapter of my miserable pregnancy and start fresh with a happy little fairy tale and my new baby. Unfortunately, the end was quite farther away than I’d thought.

..Part III coming soon!

Knowing When to Say “Not Today.”

I’ll be honest- I wasn’t looking forward to my latest therapy session. I’ve only been sleeping 2 or 3 hours at night, and it’s messing with both my mental and physical health. Lack of sleep affects memory, body sensation, focus, and so much more. The migraines have been terrible, and my patience with “mom problems” has run quite thin.

Like any parent, I carry a lot of guilt when I lose my cool with the kids. I don’t want them to feel like they need to walk on eggshells because Mom’s in a bad mood, but it’s easy to blow your top when you’re running on fumes. For a few days our home was caught in the vicious cycle of mom is tired-> mom yells -> mom can’t sleep at night because she’s anxiously beating herself up for yelling -> mom is tired.. etc.

While we are on the topic of vicious cycles, sleep has also sucked me into a physical-mental spiral. I physically feel crummy between the headaches and over all exhaustion, which makes me feel guilty, anxious and depressed. I make poor food choices, which physically makes me feel sick. I emotionally beat myself up for my bad behavior, then once again want to comfort myself with food. Some days I stay in bed because I’m “sick,” but the lack of productivity makes my depression worse. The depression manifests with body aches, tiredness and nausea- which tricks me into thinking I’m sick again. I stay in bed all day to recover. As much as I want to pull myself out of the loop, I just haven’t been able to.

There was a familiar cloud of dread when I looked at the calendar on Sunday night and saw my Monday therapy appointment. That old temptation to cancel it and stay in bed crept into my mind. Even on Monday morning I had debated blowing it off completely and sucking up the no-show fee. I’ve worked so hard to improve myself, why was I falling back into my bad habits? Getting there was 90% of the battle, but the moment my hand touched that office doorknob some of my positivity returned. I was making the decision to change. I was taking back control.

I find EMDR to be the most effective therapy, but it’s also emotionally taxing. In the past I’d jumped right into a session when I wasn’t ready, and it resulted in physical symptoms. Trying to process on low fuel gives me vertigo, weak knees and shaky limbs. I have poor depth perception, and sometimes bump into the doorframe on my way out or trip over flat ground. It isn’t safe to drive home like that, and it’s not conducive to emotional healing.

Now that I’ve spent about a year doing EMDR, I’ve learned what to do and what not to. I’m finally in tune with my body and can say “you know, I don’t think I can handle EMDR today. It’s a session for talk therapy.”

I definitely had enough to fill a session- good news, vacations planned, exciting Auntie updates over my beautiful niece, stress with the kids, non-scale victories, and hurt with absent family members. We talked a lot about my sleep habits, and some options for breaking the cycle. I’m hoping some of them will work, and I’ll be able to get back to my EMDR next session.

I wanted to share this to let everyone know that progress does not have to be tunnel-style linear. To heal emotionally, be open to more than just one type of therapy. Do not push yourself too far, or burn yourself out. It’s okay to take a small step, or even a slow step on your journey. Resting and recovering is a crucial part of long term success. Listen to your body.

Talking out some of the current emotions and thoughts lifted a bit off weight off of my shoulders. It was enough to motivate me to clear off my desk, and tidy up the clutter in my office. I’d been avoiding writing and keeping up with the administrative tasks of running a family because I didn’t want to deal with the mess. A clear desk literally gives me a fresh start, and opened up channels for productivity.

After writing, I found myself preparing healthy dinner plates for the family instead of giving into take-out.. (something I’ve regrettably indulged in for a few days out of laziness.) Anna and I picked up the living room together, laughed, tickled and snuggled. It was a nice change from the nights I’d passive aggressively chucked toys into the bucket from across the room, muttering under my breath the whole time. When the kids were in bed, I even spent some time with Mike instead of rolling over and hiding in a cocoon of blankets. Sleep still has not found its way back into my life, but I’m trying to stay positive and hoping for a quick return.

Small changes are still changes. Just getting to my therapy appointment was enough to veer away from my depressive cycle, and inspire healthy decisions this evening. It wasn’t the ultra-effective trauma processing I’d hoped for, but it was something. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and recovery does not happen overnight.

Stay open minded. Stay positive. Stay motivated.

Kate and the Kids.

My First Reader Request! – Our Story of Infertility and Loss

I had my very first content request this week! I couldn’t be more excited. It means so much to me that I have some seriously loyal readers, and having feedback from you all really makes me feel like you’re an active part in my healing journey.

Easter 2017 announcement

Easter is a very special time for me. In 2017 we were able to make the EXTREMELY emotional announcement that we were pregnant with Anna. It was a long road, and one I still think about every day. I take every opportunity I can to share my Facebook memories of my pregnancy, and to appreciate the gift of my rainbow baby. It was on one of these posts that my follower had requested the whole story- so here we go!

August 2010- pregnant with Jacen

Backing way up to 2009, I unexpectedly got pregnant with Jacen. I certainly was not trying. I was 19, and in my very first relationship. We had been together just a few weeks when I came down with a terrible case of Mono and resistant strep throat. For just over three weeks I took high doses of antibiotics and could not manage to get out of bed. I slept for huge blocks of time, and my whole schedule was thrown off. The days blurred, and I became super irresponsible with my birth control. I couldn’t remember when I had taken it or missed it. I’d sleep through days of doses, then try to make up for it by taking multiple tablets to catch up. This erratic schedule messed with my hormone levels, and the antibiotics I took lowered the effectiveness of the few doses I did manage to get down. That’s all it took. Bam! I was pregnant, just two cycles in to a new relationship. It was quite a shock.

Wedding- November 2013

Being a young, single mom wasn’t easy. I no longer took contraception lightly, and had an IUD placed. I met my husband, and we started talking about the future. We each had a child from a previous relationship, and had learned our lesson from previous “surprises.” We took our time getting to know each other and built a strong foundation for a good marriage. We decided to start trying for a baby right after we were married, and I had my IUD removed just a month after our wedding. This was December of 2013.

Just a few weeks later, we were preparing for a trip to New Hampshire for my birthday. We had booked a big condo with a group of friends, and planned on spending a beautiful weekend being snowed in on a gorgeous mountain. I was looking forward to it, and nothing would stop be from going.

February 2014

Unfortunately, right before we were supposed to leave for the trip Jacen and I were in a car accident. The weather was horrible this particular day. It was snowing thick, heavy, wet sludge and it immediately froze to ice when it hit the ground. Traffic slowed as the conditions became more dangerous. The road had turned into a parking lot. Tons of cars had lost control, and other drivers were stuck as tow trucks and police squeezed in to do their jobs. We had come to a stop behind a line of stopped cars, right at the base of the Sagamore bridge. There was a new, teenage driver behind us. She was going a little too fast over the bridge, not expecting traffic to be at a complete halt when she got to the other side. She tried to hit the breaks, but the bridge was too icy. She slid all the way down, picking up downhill momentum. She was going pretty fast when she rear ended us. My car lurched forward and to the left, bumping several feet in front of her Jeep, and my front end turning to hit the guard rail. We were completely perpendicular to traffic when her Jeep caught up to us, and she slammed into us a second time.

Jacen and I went to the hospital, where they told me I had a bad case of whiplash and sent me home. Mike and I decided we still wanted to go to New Hampshire with our friends. If anything, I needed an escape to relax after the accident. Thinking I only had a case of whiplash, we headed out to our scenic condo in a snowstorm. It didn’t turn out to be the birthday I had expected. I could not stay awake, and the room was spinning. I was nauseous and confused for days. My friends were drinking, and the roads were iced over. There was no way anyone was driving me to the hospital.

Birthday Trip- Feb 2014

At one point, my sister and her (now) husband jumped into my bed to check up on me. I was mortified when the sheet pulled back, and revealed I had been bleeding while I slept. I originally thought it was just a period. I was embarrassed and just wanted to forget about it. On the way home from our trip, we decided that my sleepiness and pain had gone on too long. I went into the emergency room, with terrible head and abdominal pain. I had a severe concussion, and discovered the bleeding was actually a miscarriage. We were devastated.

I ended up with PTSD from the accident, and had a hard time driving. I couldn’t make it in to work without major anxiety attacks on the bridge, and had to change jobs to avoid the accident route. I also could not shake my miscarriage, and the depression dragged me down every single day. We just kept trying for a baby, and I convinced myself that pregnancy would heal my emotional wounds. I really thought that it was the only thing that would help me get over the anxiety and depression.

I was training at my new job just a few months later when I suddenly felt a gush of blood. I went immediately to the emergency room and discovered I was having a second miscarriage. I couldn’t understand why it was happening, there was no accident or trauma this time. Depression consumed me. I withdrew in my marriage and became distant with the Jacen and Arielle. My binge eating was out of control, as I self medicated with the endorphins from carbohydrates. I put on weight rapidly, and my mental state quickly spiraled. My OCD reared its ugly head, and I became fixated on getting pregnant. I took daily ovulation and pregnancy tests, hoping for the best. I put a ton of stress on Mike with scheduled sex, home remedies and a TON of vitamins and supplements. We fought, a whole lot. There was a lot of blame and sadness, and we were not kind to each other.

I hated being at work. Every time I walked by the chair where I had felt that gush of blood I flashed back to my miscarriage. I had daily anxiety attacks, and was uncharacteristically irritable and confrontational with my coworkers. Every single day was miserable. I spent the days wound up at work, and the evenings fighting with Mike. I did not seek mental help, and food was my only comfort.

August 2015- 300 pounds

I ate myself sick. My A1C and blood sugar were completely out of control. I had high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. The weight caused huge issues with my hormones, resulting in skin issues, a fungal BO smell (no matter how many showers I took) and uncontrolled, miserable periods. My self confidence plummeted. I felt worthless, ugly and smelly. The physical pain from my PCOS made every single day a battle. Doctors didn’t offer much help, they just told me to lose the weight. I was stuck in a depression/binge cycle that got worse every day.

After months of trying, Mike and I sought intervention with IVF. I was put on Metformin (a diabetic drug) to manage my sugar and insulin issues. It took months of adjusting, and I ended up on the highest recommended dose. Imaging revealed several issues. I had masses on my uterus, cysts and polyps. I went for multiple surgeries, a ton of appointments and imaging, and buried us financially with meds and treatment that our insurance did not cover. Eventually, the doctor sat down with us and told me she had to stop intervention. She was out of ideas, and I needed to get my weight under control before proceeding.

If I thought I was at rock bottom before, I must have been in the negative at this point. I mourned, but eventually it was the wake up call I needed. I made some serious lifestyle changes, and started therapy for my binge eating. We took a break from trying to conceive, and started using birth control from again. I focused on getting healthy, and saw every pound lost as a step closer to pregnancy. Taking the stress of baby planning out of the picture gave Mike and I a chance to meet our relationship, and we were happier than ever.

When I lost 100 pounds, Mike and I booked a weekend getaway. We forgot the contraceptives, but figured it didn’t matter anyways with our history. When we got back home, we resumed trying to NOT get pregnant. It was quite a shock when I ended up with a positive pregnancy test just one month after our trip. We were overjoyed and over the moon. It was hard to keep our secret, but we didn’t want to get our hopes up and end up with another miscarriage either. Those first 12 weeks went by so incredibly slow, but finally announcing felt amazing. I’ll never forget my mom’s reaction, or the happy tears my sister shed. It had been such a long road, but I still feared future loss every single day. It was a very long, very difficult pregnancy.

.. to be continued.

Post- Easter Sugar Detox

Confession time- I’m detoxing from sugar again. There’s a big difference between a lifestyle change and a diet. A diet has an expiration date, an ending. Some kind of time limit or numerical pound goal. A lifestyle change is forever, which includes holidays for the rest of your life.

I am proud to say that I (most importantly) had a great Easter and school vacation week with the kids. It was only the second holiday in seven years that did not include a fight or emotional breakdown. I even mingled with my in-laws without a panic attack. All good things.

The other thing that I’m very proud of is my ability to refrain from binging. My previous “all or nothing” mentality would have set me off for the whole day, not being able to stop the sweets after dessert. In private, I would have consumed a bucket of Easter candy, emptied the fridge, maybe even stopped to load up on fast food on the way home. I would justify this behavior as a “cheat day” that I should live up before getting back on the diet tomorrow. No more of that.

Something I would like to get better at is being able to eat mindfully at family gatherings. Mindful eating at home has changed my life, and has empowered me to control my portions without going hungry. I still struggle with this at holidays. My social anxiety prevents me from ever reaching my baseline calm, and prohibits me from being mindful. I can’t focus on my food because I still hold that cloud of self awareness, self consciousness and defensive thoughts. Most of the time I’m actually just trying to hold my plate without dropping it, or getting the fork in my mouth. (When my anxiety is at its worst, I dissociate and have poor depth perception. I can’t control my hands, and often embarrass myself.) I noticed this Easter that I cleaned my dessert plate for the first time in years. I really feel that if I had be able to focus, I would have felt satisfied sooner and ate a smaller portion.

It’s done, it’s over with. It’s a new day.

My sugar goal is always less than 21grams per day, and no more than 6grams at once. Since most food has naturally occurring sugar, it’s impossible to meet these goals while consuming refined sugar. My diet is usually made up of protein and fibrous vegetables- although I do love my fruit. One banana can mess up my whole day, so I have to pay close attention to the choices I make, and the portions.

I’m mentally okay with my sugary decisions over the holiday. I knew when I ate them that I would need to detox eventually, and that I’d probably be sick for a few days. I still wanted to enjoy myself, and that’s allowed. As long as I do not allow myself to be completely derailed for long periods of time, things are acceptable in moderation.

It’s not required, but I like to start my detox on full liquids. There’s a huge misconception that this means you’ll go hungry, but it’s not the case. Obviously liquids include water, broth and sugar free drinks. It also allows sugar free jellos and puddings. Most importantly, it includes high protein liquids- creamed soups, protein shakes and low sugar Greek yogurt (check your labels! Some yogurt has a ton of sugar.) If I’m really hungry, a sugar free chocolate pudding and a scoop of natural peanut butter really hits the spot! It’s one day, and it’s worth it.

Starting a detox on a liquid diet will lessen the impact of sugar withdrawal. The biggest complaints of “Keto flu” or sugar detox are headaches, mild nausea and sweating. Staying hydrated will make each of these symptoms less painful, and prepare your body for the most success.

The next few days, (usually day 2-4 depending on my body cues)  I transition to easily digestible proteins- soft foods, fish, and nut butters. These items are easy on your stomach if you’re experiencing flu symptoms, low in sugar, and will satisfy hunger with their high protein count.

By day 5 my body can usually handle the full keto diet, even tough meat like steak or dry protein like chicken. I’m back on track, and feeling great!

Exercise really helps move the sugar along. Activity will get your circulation going, moving those cells that have stored glucose. Sweat removes toxins and sugar from the body, and staying busy lifts your mood, re enforcing positivity and increasing your chances of success.

Today is a new day. This moment is a new minute. Forgive the choices you’ve made in the past, but don’t forget them. Learn from them. I’m starting my sugar detox today. Who’s with me?

Apples and Oranges

More than once I’ve said the phrase, “my parents didn’t give me a sister, so God did.” Just like that, my best friend became family. The rest is well- known history. I’ve always been so thankful for our relationship. Most days I wish she really was my sister; that we’d had each other since birth. Other days I trust that ‘everything happens for a reason,’ and this is exactly how it was meant to be.

One day a group of our friends were laughing about how differently a pair of biological sisters looked in our school. One was really, really attractive. The other.. Had a great personality? We quietly laughed along with them, but as the group dispersed my sister said, “maybe it’s good I didn’t have a biological sister. I would have died if someone told me I was the ugly one.” (Trust me, she wouldn’t be. She’s gorgeous.) Those words never left my brain. At first it was a bit of disappointment that something could take away from our desire to be actual sisters. Eventually it became fear. As I grew to raise my own children I always wondered how they would feel about each other. I never want any of my children to feel like ‘the ugly one.’ I carried a lot of anxiety into parenthood. You can’t control what others will say about your children, so how do you prepare them for the future comparisons?

It took approximately 32 hours into my niece’s life for someone to compare her to my kid. I wouldn’t have ever been hurt by the typical “she’s the most beautiful newborn ever” comment until this girl stopped to specify that “Jacen looked like a grumpy old man” and “Anna was sick.” Yep, now I understand that ugly sibling comment.

I feel the same way when people compare Jacen and Arielle in their intellectual and physical development. He’s a much stronger reader, she’s more athletic. They’re definitely cut from two different types of cloth. When others compare my kids to their face, it might make the stronger kid feel special for a moment or two. After that conversation ends, they end up dwelling on the area where they fell short. They feel inadequate, and those feelings last much longer than one fleeting moment.

My absolute BIGGEST problem is the comparison in metabolism. All three of my kids are built differently, and it’s never okay for someone to point out their body type. The only people who should care about a child’s weight are their doctors, their parents, and themselves.

Rebuilding a hurt child is so much more difficult than preventing damage in the first place. I can only do so much to reverse mean words. Bullying is usually associated with peers at school, but some of the most hurt comes from backhanded comments by adults. It ends up causing resentment between siblings, and turmoil at home.

The comparisons and competition are starting to take a toll on my children. They ask a lot of questions, and I see self confidence issues building. I’ve recently adopted that old algebra term, apples and oranges.

If your compliment builds one person up, and puts someone else down, rethink it. Children should be incomparable, and be able to focus on being their own, personal- best selves. As adults, we need to support those individualities. Each child is unique and different. They all have strengths and weaknesses, and they’re all working on getting better in some area. They’re apples and oranges.

The last thing I want to deal with at home are ‘Marcia and Jan’ complexes. Jacen and Arielle compete enough in social milestones, games, and sports. They don’t need to compete in personal characteristics. Comparative compliments only result in bitterness, and they drive siblings apart.

Let kids be kids. Let them grow and develop on their own. Let them forge healthy relationships where they can celebrate differences instead of competing or conforming. Choose your words wisely, and focus on supporting each child individually. The hurt will linger, and it isn’t healthy. Just be kind.

Kate and the Kids.

Building a Mountain with Individual Grains of Sand

560536279.984385I write every day, even though most of it doesn’t make it to the blog. It’s something I do as part of my self- care routine, and I’ve seen a major change in my mental health since starting. My writing prompt for today was “someone who inspires you.” This is a perfect example of a topic that normally would be kept to myself, since it isn’t directly relevant to wellness. The more I thought about this person, the more I realized how important it was to share my feelings about her. Something that first appeared as irrelevant began to fall into place, and quickly picked up momentum and importance. I now know that this topic is everything in wellness. This person took care of me when I was sick, tried to raise me nutritionally sound, and has always supported my emotional health. This person, of course, is my mom.

 

 

 

560535737.678986My mom is 59 years old, and for most of that time people have taken her for granted. They assume she is easily capable of much more than she has, but she is constantly pushing herself to the limit to meet and exceed their expectations. From the outside, maybe it looks like she has it easy. If it does, it’s because of her poise and grace. In fact, she has not had an easy life. Maybe it’s pride, maybe it’s just an undying need to take care of others, but this woman often shorts herself to keep others happy.

 

 

 

My mom is one of six siblings, and was born right in the middle. Even as a kid she had a ton of responsibilities, and carried more stress than a child should. She was a Navy BRAT, and moved all around the country several times. Living on just my grandfather’s income, the family of eight had a tight budget. These things aren’t ideal, but they shaped her.

 

 

 

560535576.646327When I was very young, I had a group of extended family members living under one roof. I don’t remember exactly if someone asked her for help or if she did it on her own, but there was an issue feeding everyone in the house that night. Without a second thought, she grabbed the keys and we headed to the grocery store. She didn’t have as much in her wallet as people expected, but she was smart. When we first walked into that store she didn’t know how she was going to pull it off. I remember brainstorming some options; pasta was super cheap. Hotdogs, mac and cheese, canned raviolis. She knew there was no nutritional value to these things. How could she get the most for her money, and feel good about what she was serving? All of a sudden, her expression shifted from stressed to inspired. I could practically see the cartoon light bulb go off next to her head. She picked up a bunch of eggs, cheese, bread, milk and butter. These five staples stretched far for her money, and gave the kids a pretty wide range of options. She got to the house ready to whip up scrambled eggs, french toast or even grilled cheese. At least there was a little protein and calcium there. When we left, she was happy. She had helped, and she could relax knowing her family was fed. I know that we went home to a house with food on the table that night. We had heat, electricity and a stable place to live- but these things don’t come easy, and she worked for every dime she put into keeping us afloat.

 

 

 

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Those dimes slowly but surely added up, but it was like working for individual grains of sand to make a mountain. It wasn’t just money either, my mom had dreams that were always so difficult to obtain. She always kept pushing until she reached some version of what she desired.

 

 

 

 

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My mom wanted a baby, badly. She watched others become teenage parents and bring children into the world without trying. She wondered why these babies came so easily for people who were unprepared, but she had her ducks in a row and it still just wouldn’t happen. She’d worked hard for a stable life- so why couldn’t she have this one thing that she really wanted? It weighed heavy on her emotional health. After a very long wait and loss, she tried IVF. She was told her procedure had failed, and she mourned another cycle wasted. Surprise! Finally, something had gone in her favor. She was pregnant with me, and she was elated. While others were gifted children easily (and for free) my mom stretched herself to the limit to get what she wanted. It took more time, more work, and in 1989 IVF was not cheap – but she made it happen. Finally, a grain of sand!

 

 

 

560477721.746285When I was really young we lived in a teeny, tiny house in a crowded neighborhood. We had a sex offender living just a few houses down, and once again my mom felt shorted. She’d worked hard saving for her home. She moved in with certain expectations, then realized the flaws. The houses were so close together that we heard the neighbors across the street fighting daily. There wasn’t much space in the home, so she turned the dining room into a nursery for me. She always said it was the size of the house that made her want to move, but I don’t think she ever slept easy with a pedophile living in the neighborhood. She set herself a new goal, and started dreaming of raising me in her ideal home.

 

 

 

560535522.846620I’m not sure my parents ever saw each other in my younger years. Every memory I have was either with my mom during the day, or my dad at night. My mom put herself through community college for nursing, raised me, and worked overnights to support us. My dad worked days, and spent the evenings with me. I never really noticed my mom being stressed or tired. It wasn’t until I grew up and became a parent myself that I started to realize what she went though. Those days were long and stressful, but she never let me see it. She always had time for me, always seemed happy, and always put out this image of having her shit together.

 

 

 

Through all the rough cards she was dealt, she basically faced them alone. I only remember meeting one friend of hers, and they grew apart after having kids. She didn’t let her guard down often with her family, and didn’t see much of my father due to their work schedules. She sucked it up, and usually internalized it.

 

Eventually she finished school, and started to conquer her ambition of finding the perfect home. We put our house on the market, and mentally prepared ourselves for a better situation. Naturally, nothing went smoothly. The stress and time demand only increased as I started dance lessons, ice skating and school. The house had to be kept spotless at all times in case the realtor stopped by with an interested buyer. That tiny little plate became more and more full, and I don’t know when she ever found time to sleep.

 

The house went on and off the market for what seemed like forever. We tried a few home renovations to make it seem more appealing, and just kept saving for when our opportune home did finally come to us. I remember sitting at the kitchen table with my play dough, and my mom sat next to me filling a binder with magazine clippings. She saved everything that she liked, every home and garden article and a ton of photo inspiration. It was basically Pinterest in the 90’s. Some nights I caught her hunched over the binder, once even crying. It was another grain of sand weighing heavily on her heart. I think this was the first time I really noticed that she had big dreams, but they weren’t easy to obtain. I saw the frustration with the process, and the hopes getting higher and higher. I was starting to think the day would never come where she’d get what she wanted.

 

She built the home she wanted. She put her savings and her dreams into that house. Moving in was probably the most exciting thing about my childhood, because my mom was truly happy. I wish I could say things got easier from there, but they didn’t.

 

full (97)As an only child, I got bored often. The house was quiet, still usually just two of us in it at a time. I ran her ragged with swim team, skating, girl scouts, horseback riding, clarinet lessons and a few attempted seasons of assorted sports. She was tired, really tired. I didn’t understand why she couldn’t keep up, so I developed a lying problem to spice things up. Sometimes it was just my craving for attention in a quiet house. Other times I wanted to appear more interesting at school, and cover up my bland home life. Either way, I started a ton of problems. Even when I grew out of the lying, I kept pushing her buttons. I was a well behaved student, but came home as a tornado. Even when she took me to therapists, my bipolar disorder went undiagnosed. That quiet, shy girl who lacked confidence in public was a violent, angry mess at home. I took a swing at her multiple times, and damaged the house. I knew how hard she worked for it, and how deep it cut her to watch it become less and less perfect. Every time we battled I went right for the kill, and tried to inflict as much hurt as I could. She didn’t deserve it, at all. I just didn’t understand.

 

 

 

I moved out as soon as I could, and ran away to South Carolina. I hoped that starting fresh would give me a better chance at mental health success, but fell flat rather quickly. I got myself in some serious shit. The ambition of being independent and self sufficient was actually met with uncontrolled mania. I spent money like I had it, and met up with strangers all the time. I went on dates almost every night, and I have no idea how I escaped becoming another internet dating statistic. I met Jacen’s father and ended up pregnant just weeks after relocating.

 

 

 

48029_463861310756_4809468_nIt broke her heart to find out I was pregnant. Even more so when she realized his father was a total scumbag. Pile on that I quit school, and ended up moving back home with her. I was a complete disaster, and yet she seemed to forgive it instantly when she met my son. She was in the operating room during my c-section, and will never let me forget that she held my baby before anyone else. That moment forged an incredible bond, and she’s been the best Nana in the world ever since.

 

IMG_3355She held my hand and helped me get on my feet as a new parent. She stepped in with the baby when he was a newborn, and supported us while I attempted school. I ended up quitting college again, and started certificate classes for medical assisting. She took Jacen while I went to school, supported us financially, and even set me up in an apartment so I could start being an independent parent. Again, her savings dwindled as she took on both her own mortgage and my rent simultaneously.

 

 

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Now that I’m grown up and in a good place, she has been able to relax into her role as a Nana instead of a co-parent. It doesn’t stop her from bailing me out when I get stuck, but at least Mike and I have it mostly together. She’s never stopped impressing me with her love and generosity for her grandchildren.

 

 

 

 

1209009_10151906345900757_1743428923_nMy mom hates animals. HATES them. She’s a nurse and super in tune with germs and disease, so she avoids those little bacteria factories like the plague. I mean, she totally appreciates their importance in the world, she just doesn’t want them in her little world. She doesn’t want to touch them or anything. That being said, I can’t begin to tell you the number of times she’s taken a deep breath and a gallon of Purell to make sure her grand babies take part in every experience they want. She’s endured farms, petting zoos, pony rides and so much more. I never thought I’d see her overcome her animal/bacteria phobia, but she has. I’ve even started to notice her smiling, even laughing through it. The things you can overcome for love.

 

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Animals aren’t the only thing either. She’s put on a brave face through amusement park rides that make her nauseous, just to set an example for timid little Jacen. She’s slowly started to join in on the fun when we dress up, and even took a ride on a sled this winter. She’s constantly growing, and letting go of that guard she’s had up for so long. She worries less and less about how she looks to others, and cares about providing her grand kids with love and involvement.

 

 

 

IMG_0396_polarrMy kids are her core source of happiness. I wish I could tell you that their existence solved all of her problems, but they didn’t. They just provide moments of joy, a break from working for those grains of sand. When she doesn’t have positive things to say, she doesn’t say anything. She releases minimal details about her personal life, and has become a woman of mystery to many of her loved ones. They don’t ask, and she doesn’t voluntarily tell- but I can assure you she’s working as hard as ever. Fifty nine years, and still, nothing comes easy. She’s still pushing through. She’s lost some of her supporters from years ago, but gained a new generation of people who love her. The problems still come up, but she faces them bravely. People still ask for help from her, assuming she has the means for it. Financially, emotionally, even just finding the available time- it can all be like getting blood from a stone, but she tries her best to find a way.

 

As I’ve grown and become a parent myself, I now have appreciation for all that she’s been through. I spend time feeling bad- it must have been so disappointing to want for a baby so long, and end up with me. She probably envisioned raising a perfect little girly girl, but ended up with an obese, ungrateful daughter with mental health issues. Even though I’ve done my best to change those things now, it doesn’t erase the trying years I put her through. I can only work to make the present as good as I can.

 

IMG_1113The stress is still snowballing, growing in size every day. It seems that once she finally accumulates a hill from all those individual grains of sand, a big, old, dirty boot stomps all over it. No matter how many times she starts over, she always finds the strength to keep pushing. For a long time, she carried most of that sand with little help. These days, she is exclusively moving it alone. I don’t know how she does it, but the kids and I are cheering her on, and loving her immensely with every grain she carries. She dreams of a day where she can proudly relax on top of her sand mountain, and a world where her grandchildren do not have to work as hard as she did. She is currently rebuilding from that dirty boot that knocked her down, but that mountain WILL come. She’ll make sure of it.

 

47291_462203275756_8293762_nI hope you now see why I couldn’t just let this one sit unpublished. If you’re going through something, if you’re feeling alone, if your hill has been stomped- find her strength. Get back up, pick up that sand, and keep pushing. It isn’t about where you come from, what you’ve been given or the card you’ve been dealt. Happiness and success comes from perseverance and hard work. She’s always inspired me so much, let her inspire you too.

 

With healthy hearts,

Kate and the Kids.

 

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My Ongoing Battle with Self-confidence

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I’m pretty open that growing up obese has landed me in therapy. Everyone assumes this has gotten better with my 150 pound weight loss, but my weight still LITERALLY keeps me up at night. As I write this at 3AM, memories and anxieties about my weight flood my brain. I wish I could just let it go, but it doesn’t feel like I’ll ever see that day.

 

 

blurFor the most part, I was a happy kid. I was oblivious to my weight issue until the fourth grade. That year I moved to a new town, and struggled to make friends. I was different, I was new. I was a target. As I approached sixth grade, the bullying really started. Pre-teen girls are the most evil, volatile people on the planet.  Girls that were my best friends one day would be my biggest bullies the next. I realized that using the stairs between classes would leave me out of breath and sweaty, so I had a hard time focusing on my school work. I spent the entire period staring at the clock with anxiety about moving to the next classroom. Even outside of school I struggled with my extracurricular activities. I heard snickers and mean comments at horse back riding, as my fellow students ‘feared for the horse’s safety.’ Synchronized ice skating had me vomiting in the bathroom stall before we got measured for our matching outfits. Even my parents made me feel like a disappointment. I just couldn’t escape the feelings of inadequacy, and I didn’t have a single place that I felt comfortable with myself.

 

 

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Fast forward to being an adult at 303 pounds. That’s when the medical issues really kicked in. I had high blood pressure, PCOS, and struggled with infertility. I was taking the highest dose of Metformin (a diabetes medication) that is recommended by the FDA, and was on my way to being on insulin. My health held me back from some really big things- you know, like happiness.

 

 

 

 

 

tmpImageI started my weight loss journey because I wanted to beat my PCOS and conceive. Ironically enough the days after losing weight and getting pregnant were some of my most emotionally unstable. As the months passed, I was obsessed with the number on the scale. I refused to finish meals, avoided carbs like the plague, and insisted on continuing a vigorous workout routine. I guess it worked, as I lost body fat my entire pregnancy. I was pretty happy with myself until I ended up with a preterm baby.

 

 

 

 

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The months postpartum were my darkest. By day I posted glowing Instagram photos about my blessed life. By night I sobbed while on the phone with the suicide hotline. This didn’t happen once or twice, but daily between October and February. More than once the employees at Michael’s found me crying in the aisle, hiding from my family at home. I had thoughts about driving off the Sagamore bridge every time I drove to the cape. My husband was baffled. I had everything I ever wanted- weight loss, beautiful babies, even quitting my job to stay home with the kids. One day he looked at me with tears in his eyes and said, “this is outside my realm of helping. I think we need professional help.”

 

 

With that comment, I started therapy. His words never left me, “WE need professional help.” That’s real love. He stuck out my worst days, and held my hand through every part of my mental health recovery. He’s involved in my treatment, and does his best to make every single day easier for me. I guess that why he’s still so confused over my obsession with my body.

 

I’m currently the smallest I’ve ever been, but I’m just as sad as I was at my biggest. I’ll always be the girl who carried those 300 pounds. I have the same insecurities and low self confidence, now with the added anxiety about regaining what I’ve lost. I obsess. I track my food. I weigh myself several times per day. I cry- a lot.

 

 

The things that I went through as a kid stick with me. Those were the days that shaped me. The days that I felt I wasn’t safe anywhere, and that I had no one by my side. The days where I was alone in a crowded room, and was targeted by bullies just for existing. Those are the days that I carry with me, and just can’t let go of.

 

 

EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) and psych meds have definitely made an impact on my mental health. It’s been 13 months since my last call to the suicide hotline. I feel healthier and happier, and I have a better relationship with my family than ever before. I’m starting to feel less alone and more supported. My blog has connected me with new friends, and even strengthened existing relationships by communicating feeling i was never able to talk about. There’s just one thought that haunts me: I have everything I’ve ever wanted, and I’m still not happy. I wonder if I ever will be.

 

 

I’ve spent 10 months stuck at my current weight. I’m so close to my goal that it hurts! Even though my weight hasn’t changed, my self confidence regresses every day. I’m still wearing the same clothes, but I see myself as bigger and bigger. It feels like not losing is the same as gaining. The anger and frustration consume me.

 

 

IMG_3136Getting myself healthy – physically AND mentally – will always be my number two goal. Number one? Doing my best to prevent my children from ever feeling this way. I constantly fear that genetics will take them down the same path I traveled. As a family we try to eat healthy and stay active. It isn’t always easy. Healthy food can be expensive on one income, and Jacen’s Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome can keep our active time pretty short. We keep doing our best. We budget and cut things in other places. We try to keep exercise fun and watch Jacen’s body cues. Most importantly, we use positive language. We talk about the science behind healthy bodies, and are open with our feelings. My kids know that it’s just as hard for me as it is for them to resist the soda and cake, so we indulge in “sometimes treats” every now and again. We don’t focus on weight with the kids, but more so choosing healthy foods that are full of nutrients. We zero in on “getting strong” instead of burning calories. By talking about the way we feel, the kids know it’s okay to struggle with sports. Some people are not athletically inclined, and it’s alright to be frustrated. It’s not alright to give up. It’s not alright to dislike yourself for where you fall short. You just have to keep trying, and keep trying to be a better YOU.

 

 

Someone once told me that I should speak to myself the way I speak to my children. I would never tell them they were fat, worthless or inadequate – so why do I tell myself these things? It’s a hard pill to swallow, and a hard habit to change. It is a double standard, but ‘knowing’ and ‘doing’ are two completely different animals. I try my best to set a good example on the outside, but inside is a very dark tornado of self confidence issues.

 

 

The way I was treated in my young days forever control my brain. I’m always flashing back to times I was deeply hurt, and triggered by things people say. It’s so important to think about what you say to others, as your words can have a lasting effect. Don’t be one of those memories that someone carries with them. Don’t be an anxiety. Don’t be a bully. Let’s set a good example for our children, and do our best to produce a healthier generation. I may never be cured of my mental illness, so I strive to prevent it in my children. It’s easier to avoid starting a problem in the beginning than to fix it after the fact.

 

 

Be kind to others. Work on being kind to yourself, especially during the most difficult of times. Join my journey into self-acceptance, and let’s get healthier together. Let’s do it for our kids, and for ourselves.

 

 

With healthy hearts,

Kate and the Kids.

I refuse to beg someone to love my children.

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Christmas of 2009, I found out I was pregnant with Jacen. I was terrified, but his dad assured me everything would be okay. Just 9 months later, my due date was rapidly approaching when he changed his mind. His dad bailed, and I was left to raise Jacen alone – or so I thought.

 

47723_463861380756_838014_n (1)I mourned when his father left, but it only took 12 hours to get the fuck over it. There was one e-mail exchanged, and when I realized he wasn’t coming back I changed my gameplan. I promised myself and Jacen that I would not beg for anyone to be our lives. We had eachother. I wanted to be there, and he deserved a family who wanted nothing less.

 

155138_10150093736085757_860416_nMy biggest fear about being a single parent was that my son would not feel loved enough. You see, when his dad left so did a whole side of a biological family. He now only had one set of grandparents, no aunts, no uncles. Would he be sad without them?

 

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I shared these feelings with my mom. I shared them with both of my best friends. It didn’t take long before I realized that the people who were there, listening to me vent, were people who wanted to be in our lives. They loved us. They were family. The non-biologicals stepped up into the aunt and uncle roles, and before I knew it we had the big family I’d wanted for my children.

 

 

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Not everyone stayed. I had a friend who was there 100% during my pregnancy and Jacen’s first few months. She disappeared over time. She wasn’t around to see us, and the text messages gradually decreased. Again, I would not chase her down. My son did not go a single day missing this girl, as his aunts and uncles were RIGHT there to pick up the slack.

 

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I’m happy to say that my children have never grown up wanting for love. As time passed, our circle grew. I dated, I made friends, and when I got married I inherited a whole family of people who love us, including my beautiful ‘step-’ daughter. (Although I don’t use that prefix unless I’m describing the timeline of our family.) We were busy, and we never had to do anything alone. There was always someone who wanted to come spend time with the kids.

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Unfortunately, you just can’t control some people. I had cousins that I’d reach out to and ask to take their kids. I realized that even though the kids were together at my house all the time, their family had not once asked to take Jacen. I stopped asking, they never offered, and now we only see each other at family parties. My kids haven’t even noticed a change. There is also extended family who don’t bother with my children between holidays- then they get offended when my kids don’t recognize them. We once had a family member tell Arielle to “go see Auntie.” They were very offended when she ran over to Jean-Marie, but she’s the only auntie my kids have really known. Once again it was pointed out that she was not a “real” Auntie, since there was no blood relation. They couldn’t be more wrong.

 

335509_10151261206665757_402075821_oBesides my own mother – who is the absolute greatest, most loving member of our family – my SISTER is the only person that has been consistently involved in Jacen’s whole life. She asks to see us, we ask to see her. It’s a two way street, and the kids absolutely love her. There isn’t a day that her love has wavered. She stuck out my untreated bipolar days, my awful fighting, and some serious boyfriend drama. We got through it together, and her love only grew as each of my daughters joined the family. Even in her own life changes, she hasn’t missed a single beat with my kids. I’m overjoyed to now be an auntie to her own daughter, and I deeply promise to uphold the high auntie-standards she has set. We are family, and we want to see each other.

 

 

 

12043196_10153808412375757_7317638145714140690_nWe surely have strong family members who want to see us, and love us very much. That doesn’t mean everyone does. There is still family who we only see on holidays. There are many biological relatives that my children would not recognize. There are even people who have been around for years, and recently decided to excuse themselves from our lives. Jacen and Arielle are now old enough to see this. They’ve asked questions, but they honestly have not shed a single tear over it.

 

To be completely blunt, Jacen feels like he has lost a grandparent. Over the last few months, this person has failed to spend time with him. They ignored his requests for support during Jacen’s funrun, and even fail to have a conversation with him when they are under the same roof. The kids ask questions that are hard to answer, but they’re also really smart and almost immediately switch their focus to the people who are involved. They know who the true family members are, and understand the meaning of mutual love.

 

Here’s the honest truth: you can fake a relationship with children on social media, but eventually these kids grow up smart to your game. You can brag about your awesome family at the bar with your friends and it still won’t change the fact that the same kids don’t recognize you. When you fail to be present, you can’t cover it up with an emotional Facebook post. You may have your followers fooled, but the kids aren’t. They aren’t even seeing what you put online. In their minds, you have zero involvement. Memory is built by exposure. If they don’t see you, they won’t remember you. End of story.

 

 

52595984_10157329692430757_1838163839963627520_nMy children are very loved. It might sting a little when someone walks out, but that feeling is overshadowed by the people who support us. Relationships are products of the effort put in, which is why they love our handmade family most. As they get older, they begin to realize that the best families are based on quality and not quantity. When people fall out of our lives, it only makes the relationship with our base pillars even stronger. I find the truest family bear more and more weight over time, but it’s also more and more love. The amount of affection does not change when someone walks out- it simply shifts to a more deserving person.

 

What role are you in today? Do you feel like you’re chasing someone down to love your child, or are you the person dropping the ball? Are there calls to be returned, plans to be made, play dates to keep and not cancel? Is there mutual effort being put in? There are two sides to every relationship. What can you do today to keep those two sides in balance? Step up and return the effort when it’s given, but also know when to walk away when someone isn’t worth the energy. Family first, give them the loved ones they deserve – people who let their affection flow instead of forcing it when it’s convenient. Trust me, the kids will recognize true love when it’s there. They’ll return it.

 

With healthy hearts,

Kate and the Kids.

The Bystander Conundrum

IMG_2610My niece is here, an I could not be happier! She is absolutely perfect in every way, from her beautiful face to her cute little personality. She’s been sticking her tongue out and making the silliest puppy noises. She’s a goofball already, and I’m looking forward to watching her grow and interact with my own children.

 

Not everything this week has been as positive as meeting Ms. Nora. There’s a person in my life who is mistreating and verbally abusing someone I love. It’s hard to watch, and my ability to protect this person is limited. It hurts like hell, it’s frustrating, and I’m spinning my wheels trying to think of a way to help.

 

superman-family-217_01For years I’ve witnessed the torture, and haven’t been able to stop it. I can only “damage control” so much after the fact by supporting the victim. It’s not like people have failed to pointed out the abuse, or tried to stop it. The aggressor denies that her words are actually hurtful, and insists that she is in a position to voice her opinions. Sometimes I feel like I’m standing in front of a train, trying to stop it by hand. The fact is, the brakes can only be activated from inside.

 

qlqcszmkp9yzOne of the most profound things I’ve ever heard is a quote by Louis C.K. – “When a person tells you that you hurt them, you don’t get to decide you didn’t.” It doesn’t matter who brings the issue to your attention- a concerned family member, a friend of your own, or the victim themselves. If someone tells you that you are constantly over aggressive and hurtful, you need to take a hard look at yourself. The aggressor is the only one who has the power to change their actions. Else wise, the environment may change when people stop interacting with the aggressor altogether.

 

I’ve been spending far too long trying to figure out where I belong in this scenario. When I feel the urge to speak my mind, the words “know your place” seems to pop into the forefront of my mind. Will I make the situation worse? Is there any point in arguing with a wall? Can you make someone who dodges accountability see their wrongs and change their actions? I don’t know. The last thing I want to do is make this person even more mean, but I’m full of energy to intervene. I’m seeing something, so I think that means I’m supposed to say something. I just don’t want the victim to take the push-back from my actions.

 

I’m trying to find balance between my mama bear- protective side, and my level-headed mom side. I’m trying to figure out what to do. It’s keeping me up at night, which is why I’m blogging at 4 AM. The trying doesn’t seem to get me anywhere. I know there’s action to be taken, but how? Where do I start? How do I help fix the cracks before my loved one breaks altogether?

 

It’s harder to put someone together later than it is to stop them from being torn down in the first place. Let’s all try to avoid this situation all together. Don’t be the aggressor. Be understanding. Be kind to each other.

 

Kate and the Kids.

New Baby Etiquette

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My niece is currently 5 days past her due date. I feel like I’m going to explode with excitement to meet her! I only want the best for my sister and her baby, and it reminds me of all the things other people did with my new baby that drove me crazy. From a mom, here are the things we want you to do.

 

 

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  1. Respect the fact that that mom is also meeting her baby for the first time. She will never get another “one day old” with this baby, and the parents want to soak up every moment of those valuable first hours. Let them have time to themselves, and ask them when you can come by. NO SURPRISE VISITS.
  2. Offer to step out. New moms are learning to nurse. It can be stressful and awkward to do this with an audience, and can feel even more weird to ask for privacy. The visitor should offer to leave for a few minutes when it’s time to nurse, don’t wait for mom to ask. Go get a cup of coffee and take a break. And please, God, do NOT expect mom to “just cover up” on your behalf. She’s probably less concerned with her naked body, but more so self conscious of learning a new still while someone watches. After all, you wouldn’t want your first piano lesson while on stage at the recital.Give her time and space to learn.IMG_1751
  3. Take a suitable gift– don’t drag the six foot teddy bear into the room. Remember that mom, dad, baby, and visitors will be in this little room for a few days. Gifts and flowers make the room feel real crowded, real quick. Parents also need to get all the stuff dragged out to the car and brought in the house. They don’t want to spend time doing it. They want to get their new baby home..
  4. Offer to wait until baby comes home to visit. Everyone is excited to meet the little bundle of joy, but you have their whole life to meet them. Mom and Dad only have a newborn baby for a short while.
  5. Don’t visit if you have a cough or cold. Duh.
  6. One pump in, one pump out. This is a nursing saying for washing/sanitizing your hands every time you enter the room, and every time you leave it.48029_463861310756_4809468_n
  7. Don’t take toddlers with you unless mom requests them. Toddlers have an astronomical numbers of germs, even when they don’t show symptoms of illness. Newborn are incredibly receptive to sickness- both your new baby and the other babies on the floor. You never know what another baby’s situation is; there could be breathing issues or complications. They’re also way too much energy for the hospital room- especially if you plan on holding the new baby instead of wrangling your child.47723_463861380756_838014_n
  8. Plan a short visit. Mom is tired, learning to breastfeed, taking care of baby, and constantly being poked and prodded by hospital staff. Don’t overstay. Typically a 20 minute visit is customary- just enough time to meet the baby and congratulate the new parents.
  9. Refrain from perfume, cologne, and cigarettes. Astringent cosmetics on the skin can irritate baby, and strong smells can be overwhelming.47723_463861395756_5733537_n
  10. Don’t comment on the physical appearance of mom or baby. Obviously, say they’re cute, but don’t point out a cone head, hairy skin, skin conditions, mom’s lack of makeup, etc.
  11. DON’T BE A KIBITZER. REFRAIN FROM UNSOLICITED ADVICE. It’s okay to answer mom’s questions, but wait for her to ask for help. She wants to learn on her own. She wants to do things her way. Just back off, your kids probably didn’t wind up perfect anyways. What do you know?
  12. Watch the signs. We all want to be there, and we’re all going to have trouble maintaining that 20 minute rule- but there’s more. If baby or parents look really tired, look overwhelmed, or appear less engaged in conversation, WRAP UP THE VISIT. Be respectful, even if this means cutting your 20 minutes even shorter.IMG_1728
  13. Don’t post birth announcements, baby stats, photos, videos or news on social media without mom’s okay.

 

Mom and baby have been through a lot. They need time to rest, recover, and get to know each other. Let the parents set the rules and the pace. Be kind, patient and understanding. Most of all, love the crap out of that baby!

 

Hoping to meet my niece soon, and I apologize ahead of time if I give an attitude while enforcing baby etiquette. I do it out of love.

Kate and the Kids.

We’ll be back after this short break!

Hi Guys!

 

I just wanted to do a quick check- in since I haven’t been able to update in a while. Things have been crazy with niece due to arrive any day, having 2 kids with the flu, and my own health issues. As my fellow mamas know, the kids come first. I haven’t been writing, but the inspiration has built up. There are so many things I can’t wait to share with you all! Hang in there, the best is yet to come!

 

Kate and the Kids

Mr. Golden Sun, Please shine down on me!

 

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“Unless we are willing to encourage our children to reconnect with and appreciate the natural world, we can’t expect them to help protect and care for it. -David Suzuki

 

 

March has decided to grace us with some beautiful weather. For months I’ve been telling my therapist that my seasonal depression hasn’t been as bad this winter, but it only takes one day of sunshine to realize how much weight is lifted off my shoulders. I’m especially breathing easier because my niece is due to arrive any day now, and the fear of her coming mid blizzard is starting to ease up. My poor sister has had anxiety about the possibility of being snowed in and in labor during her entire pregnancy.

 

 

IMG_0292One thing she and I are really looking forward to is spending some time outside while she’s on her maternity leave. We are hoping to get some vitamin D by walking the Cape Cod Canal, and the waterfront in Plymouth. Trust me, I remember how crazy those first few weeks with a baby are. We are trying to keep our planning minimal and expectations low, while still crossing our fingers for opportunities of time in the fresh air.

 

 

 

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With my son’s testing at Boston Children’s Hospital, my own dislocated jaw, (and the following days of being knocked out from the muscle relaxer) and the 5 days my family spent with the flu, I’m behind in the old meditation department. It’s been shown that only 5-10 minutes walking outdoors clears your mind. It’s organic meditation, even when you’re not planning it. Natural sunlight is great for mood, unplugging reduces stress and migraines, and any type of movement or activity releases endorphins associated with productivity while burning calories.

 

IMG_4527About a year ago I had thought about becoming a Tinkergarten teacher. I enthusiastically believe in their mission of getting kids to interact with nature (and each other) at an early age. Unfortunately Anna was a newborn, and my bipolar treatment was still in the beginning stage. It wasn’t the right time for me to take on the commitment, I needed to focus on fixing my own mind.

 

Even without teaching a formal class or getting paid, I intend to use some of their lesson plans with my own children. For the last few years, I’ve kept them busy by taking them to a ton of special events. With an untreated bipolar mind, this was my way of making the kids happy and “spend some time with them” without actually sitting down and having one on one conversations. Although events are fun, we are cutting back this summer. I plan to take it easy, and really get out into nature.

 

img_0084One new technique that really stood out to me during my research on wellness is the practice of earthing. Earthing is spending time barefoot outdoors and absorbing the earth’s free electrons from its surface through the soles of your feet. In our region, many people talk about the stress relieving properties of feeling the sand between your toes while at the beach. This theory extends to all types of terrain, and is definitely something my family will be trying this spring. After all, getting dirty benefits your heart, skin, and immune system. Who couldn’t use that?

 

I leave you today with advice from a tree:

Stand tall and proud,

Go out on a limb.

Remember your roots.

Drink plenty of water,

Be content with your natural beauty,

Enjoy the view.

 

Looking forward to getting outside,

Kate and the Kids.

Surviving the Flu in a Big Family

IMG_2357Thursday afternoon we got the call- Jacen needed to come home from school, he had a high fever. I’ve been incredibly lucky with Jacen, aside from his Ehler’s-Danlos he almost never gets sick. He’s had antibiotics less than 5 times in his life- not bad for an eight year old! As soon as I got to the school I could tell this was a different kind of sickness for Jacen.

 

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It was a long night, as both Anna and Jacen started showing symptoms. We got an appointment with the doctor the next morning, and got confirmation it was Flu B. (We already had Flu A earlier this season.) Mama grabbed a coffee and buckled up for a rough few days.

 

  1. Tamilflu:

 

IMG_2392The kids were prescribed Tamiflu. After my own swab came back positive in urgent care, they sent some in for me too. I almost had a heart attack when I saw the cost of the medication. Anna’s prescription was just under $80, Jacen’s $145, Mine was $106. I had to take some time and weigh my options. The first thing I had to consider is that Tamiflu does not “cure” the flu- it treats the symptoms and can lessen the impact & duration of the illness. Second, I asked about generic alternatives- turns out these prices WERE the generic, Oseltamivir . IMG_2388There are no prescription strength alternatives that may be cheaper. Third, I had to weigh the family on a case by case basis. I have no chronic illnesses that may become life threatening with the flu- I would be toughing it out without the Tamiflu. Jacen has a genetic condition, and had a procedure done earlier that week- he was a prime candidate for serious illness with the flu. Anna is a previous NICU baby, with a history of breathing issues. Also a high risk patient for complications.  I didn’t have a choice- I took a deep breath and swiped the card. I just had to keep telling myself it was medicine, it was something we needed, and we would figure out another place to cut back this week. The kids got the Tamiflu, I got some extra strength Tylenol.

 

IMG_2394As soon as we got home, I loaded the kids up with Tylenol and their first dose of the Tamiflu. It took about 45 seconds before each child threw the medication right back up. I cried as I cleaned up the vomit, all I could think about was the $250 I had just spent at the pharmacy- all that money and it ended up on my kitchen floor instead of inside my sick kids. I knew I couldn’t afford to let this happen again, so I jumped on Pinterest looking for tips. Unfortunately the medicine has a very strong, bitter taste. It will overpower most liquids it is mixed with. The typical juices are off the table. I found a lot of positive reviews on mixing with coffee creamer, so we gave it a go. My husband picked up a peanut butter cup flavor, and the kids were excited to try it. The creaminess coated the acidity and bitterness of the tamiflu extremely well, and they have not thrown up a single dose since. It’s also been nice that I don’t have to battle with them to take their medicine. They like the taste of the creamer so much that they look forward to it!

 

  1. When I say “Flu” you say “Ids!” FLU-IDS, FLU-IDS, FLUIDS!!!

IMG_2391Having the flu draws a lot of fluid out of your body, (sweat, boogers, vomit, mucus, all that fun stuff that makes you want to gag when you read about it!) and the loss of fluid is for a reason! It’s your body’s way of pushing germs and toxins out of your body, and accelerating healing. It’s important to replace the toxic fluids that exit with clean, nutritious fluids.Drink a ton, I mean as much as you can physically handle! In our home we opt for herbal teas, water and electrolyte replacers like gatorade and pedialyte. When those don’t sound appetizing, we offer sugar free pudding, popsicles, low sugar ice cream, broth, soup and snow cones. Dehydration will only make you feel worse, so do your best to keep drinking!

 

  1. Jello for sore throat

 

This is one of my secret weapons! I learned this trick while working in pediatrics. For a sore throat, make “tea” with a tablespoon of powdered jello mix dissolved into a cup of hot water. (I use sugar free jello and have the same great results.) Drinking the tea will coat the sore parts of your throat and decrease pain. Jello is naturally low calorie and fat free, so it’s a no-guilt way to get some fluids in!

 

  1. Pineapple juice for a cough

 

In the holistic community, it is believed pineapple juice is five times more effective than over the counter cough syrup. Personally, I’ve adopted a joint holistic and western lifestyle. I still treat my children with Tylenol and Tamiflu, but I also believe herbal teas, spices, and juices will expedite healing. Pineapple juice contains a mixture of enzymes called bromelain, which has strong anti-inflammatory properties. The enzymes soothe a sore throat and help break up mucus.

 

  1. Get some rest.

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IMG_2395This week Anna has become the poster child for resting while sick. She has not hesitated to stop, drop and nap whenever she needs it. She has fallen asleep on the floor, while standing up, while sitting in chairs, mid conversation, and mid activity. A girl needs her beauty sleep! Even I slept for about 30 hours within a two day time frame. It’s the best thing for recovery! When you sleep, your body is able to focus its functioning power on healing and fighting illness. It also means you’ll sleep through the most miserable of your symptoms. If you’re sick, sleep. Easier said than done, right? Especially for a mom. Take help when it’s offered. If it’s not offered, ask for help. Don’t be afraid to put the babies in a safe place- like a crib or pack and play- and nap when they nap. As always, remember that you can’t pour from an empty cup, and mom needs to heal and recover too.

 

 

  1. Flu Shots

 

IMG_2262Don’t be confused. Anna contracted both flu A and B this year, and Jacen caught B. We all got flu shots. THIS DOES NOT MEAN FLU SHOTS DO NOT WORK. Flu shots are proven to reduce symptoms and length of illness. They can also be lifesaving for people who have chronic illnesses. Just like with any vaccine, you are not only protecting yourself but those around you. When you choose to get a flu vaccine, you are lessening the impact of the virus for yourself, but also the virus that you may give to others. This is especially important when you are around someone who is chronically ill. Not everyone who is chronically ill appears so, like Jacen and Anna. Both were high risk kiddos, but even our close friends and family may not have realized it. Most of the time sick kids do not look sick. Get your flu shot. Protect yourself, protect others.

 

I am happy to report that we are all on the upswing. I had anticipated that the flu would have us down for much longer, but we have bounced back within just a few days. I hope you and your family are able to avoid the flu this year, but if you do, may it be as minimally painful as possible.

 

With healthy hearts,

Kate and the Kids.

If you’re stuck, don’t accept defeat. Accept accountability. Accept help. Accept change.

I’ve had a really rough couple of weeks. It makes me want to avoid blogging, as I really don’t want to share negative thoughts- but they happen. They’re still here, and they’re normal. Ignoring them doesn’t make them go away, so here they are.

I’ve had some serious frustration with people in my life making bad decisions. Small scale, my eight year old son has driven me crazy with the immaturity these days. Large scale, drunk driving is never okay. Motherhood is both difficult and terrifying. We do our best to raise good kids at home, to teach them to make good decisions. It’s difficult. We also know we can’t control anyone but ourselves. There are others out in the world making bad decisions everyday, decisions that endanger our family. That’s terrifying.

MISTAKES happen. We hope no one is hurt from our mistakes, and take the opportunity to learn from them. Repeatedly making the same mistakes are not accidents – they’re a conscious decision to do the wrong thing. Accountability is the first step.

When we refuse to take responsibility for our actions, it leaves room to repeat said actions. My son and his friend were caught talking during a quiet time in class. My son immediately told his teacher that his friend started the conversation, and he was just responding. The other child was punished, Jacen was not. It’s now become a habit where my son has disruptive conversations in class and blames the other person. If he cries, if he plays the victim, he can justify his own bad actions and keeping doing them. Ultimately he is only hurting himself. His friends will realize that Jacen throws them under the bus, and will not want to be his friend any more. He’s also missing out on important lectures, and will fall behind if he doesn’t change his behavior.

The same can be said for someone who drives home drunk.

Blaming others only justifies bad decisions to yourself. It doesn’t change that others were put at risk. Getting away with it doesn’t mean you can do it again. Your life will not get better escaping accountability. You will lose the people who are close to you when they realize your selfishness puts them at risk. Do not confuse SUPPORT while recovering from bad behavior and ENABLING bad behavior to continue. There’s a difference. I can be a friend, I can be an ex-friend. It all depends on how you accept my love. I will not enable bad decisions by sticking by someone who wants to repeat the same mistakes, I’ll only be a support person for someone who wants to turn it around.

These feelings extend to so many situations, like when my son leaves his homework on the kitchen table, then blames mom and dad for not reminding him it’s there. Trust me, it will happen again. Continually stopping for fast food and blaming you work schedule or budget won’t cause a change in behavior. Avoiding a mental health diagnosis or treatment won’t make it go away. You can not continue blaming a downward spiral on the way others treat you, instead of taking accountability for your own brain chemistry and bad choices. Take accountability, take support. Make a positive change. Don’t take advantage of your situation and play the victim.

I’ve had a hard time these last few weeks watching others make bad decisions. I do not punish my son because I want him to be miserable. I punish him because I want him to start making better choices. I do it because I love him. I’m not joining MADD (mothers against drunk driving) to shame or embarrass someone after a DUI. I do it because I love them. I want to keep them safe, I want to keep others on the road safe. I want to encourage positive change.

We all have something in our lives that needs to be shifted from negative to positive. Where can you take accountability today? Where can you decide that this problem was not caused by others, but by your own choices. Where can you take the reins back, and steer toward a better you?

Today I wish you wellness- physically, mentally, socially. I hope you decide to make a positive change, and keep both yourself and your family well.

With healthy hearts,

Kate and The Kids.

PCOS- they told me it was “reversed.”

1918173_211215425756_6279772_nFor almost my entire life I have struggled with PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome.) When I was a teenager, it meant I was a “late bloomer” who didn’t start getting a cycle until 16, and never grew breast tissue. Yeah, that made high school super fun- especially with the weight issues and glasses.

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Over the years following I found other symptoms popping up- facial hair, extremely oily skin, anxiety, depression, and weight problems (in addition to my binge eating disorder.)

 

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As an adult my cycle could last up to 30 days at a time, requiring surgical intervention twice. I’ve also been mortified on several occasion when I’ve bled through in public, ruining chairs, clothes, pretty much anything. It’s a painful, miserable condition- but the worst of it came when Mike and I started trying to conceive after our wedding.10806273_10152945403270757_5871925310345855693_n

It took 4 years, medication for insulin resistance, intervention with IVF, additional surgeries and a whole lot of heartbreak before we decided to stop trying. I took the time to focus on myself, and put all my energy into becoming happier and healthier.

17951449_10155389457315757_5116608580662651941_nAfter I lost my first 100 pounds, I was shocked to find out I had become pregnant without even trying. Ecstatic, I had labs drawn and the doctor happily told me that I had “reversed” my PCOS through weight loss. On cloud 9, I walked out of that office happier than ever; My PCOS was gone and I was finally having my baby.

Fast forward a few years. I’ve continues to lose weight, making total pounds lost 150. My healthy, beautiful, smart baby girl is 16 months old.. Aaaaand I’m back to suffering with my PCOS. “Reversing PCOS” wasn’t exactly true. I had it managed to a point where I could conceive, but the smaller symptoms remained. 22365602_10155969697000757_7313680637017225948_n

PCOS is a genetic, hormonal, metabolic and reproductive disorder. It can have some pretty serious associated symptoms, like severe depression, anxiety, obesity, endometrial cancer, and type 2 diabetes. PCOS affects 1 in 10 women, so it’s important to be educated on prevention and treatment. I’ve run into many women who have suffered with PCOS. I’ve learned some tips and tricks; like Red Raspberry leaf tea for cramps, and how caffeine actually has a negative effect on the days we feel particularly run down.

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PCOS patients usually have issues with their cycle due to malfunctions in their ovaries. A normal ovary releases about 20 follicles per month, usually one matures. At ovulation the mature egg releases into the Fallopian tube. The mature follicle releases progesterone and the uterine line thickens, period follows.

In a PCOS ovary, the body doesn’t make enough hormones for an egg to mature. The follicles will grow, but since none mature some will remain as cysts. No egg is released, no progesterone is produced and the uterine lining does not thicken.

The exact cause of PCOS is still unknown, but there is a trend in PCOS patients that elevated levels of androgen and insulin may be related to the condition.

PCOS is not limited to obese woman, but women who produce more insulin to break down their diet are at a higher risk for the condition.

Currently there is no cure for PCOS, but the symptoms can be managed with some medication. At my highest weight of 303 pounds, I was taking 2,550mg of metformin ( the highest recommended dose) to manage my insulin resistance. I was also prescribed hormones to force ovulation, then more hormones to stop the bleeding. All of these meds made me feel terrible all the time, and the hormones interfered with my mental health.

Losing my weight was the biggest thing that helped my PCOS to the point where I could conceive Anna. It wasn’t easy, but I had a strong motivation to keep pushing. The nutritionist I see still has me on a diet that is very similar to Keto, but is designed to keep the PCOS hormones at bay. IMG_1709

I follow the rules, I stay true to my diet and take my mental health meds- and yet sometimes I still have a PCOS attack. Today I am struggling with severe pain, lightheadedness, low heart rate, nausea, weakness, sadness, exhaustion and did I mention pain? It’s terrible. Even without missing any of my antidepressants, I’m feeling extremely low- as if I’ve neglected them all together. This condition truly has me by mind, body and soul.

PCOS is so common, which is good and bad. On one hand, we should be able to easily connect with each other, support each other, and push for research into a cure. On the other hand, it out right SUCKS to know people are out there suffering as much as I am. I’ve recently opened my mind and heart to additional aspects of holistic medicine, and I’m ready to try out some of my new tricks. Hopefully, the next time I blog about PCOS I’ll be able to share some helpful treatments! Until then, stay in the know and stay healthy.

 

All our love,

Kate and the Kids