Refresh Your Life

Month: October 2015

7 Slideshow Moments That Sent My Mom-Hormones Over The Edge

I think us mommy bloggers need a support group.  “Hi I’m Mama and it’s been four years since I wasn’t someone’s mom.”  It defines who we are and what we do every. single. day.  Some of you may be wondering, what happened to 365Outside?  Don’t worry, I’m still here, and we’re still outside every day.  I’ll get right back to blogging all about it as soon as I’m done with this.  But sometimes our outdoor time is drowned out by mommy moments.

Mommy moments.

Mommy moments.

That’s what happened last week when Junior turned four.  He was sick, and he’s also been really moody.  Which of course makes me moody too.  I sometimes tell my friends that pregnancy hormones don’t go away.  They just get worse.  From the moment you get pregnant, you are doomed to a lifetime of watching your heart grow and pull away from you. Before kids, I was emotionally balanced.  Now, I’m constantly walking around on the verge of tears and just about anything can send me over the edge:  a son rubbing noses with me, a sappy ad for diapers, a reality TV reunion.  Heck, even those Youtube videos of dogs welcoming their soldiers home.  I’m telling you, it’s BAD.

So there we were, on his birthday, and of course I was teetering on the edge ALL DAY just thinking about it.  He needed help tying his shoes, and as I knelt in front of him, he leaned into me and wrapped his arms around me, holding me tightly against him.  Oh god, here come the tears.  And in that moment, all the other moments came rushing back to me, like a slideshow of sloppy mom-tears.  I couldn’t help it.

Brand new.

Brand new.

1.  The room is too bright and he has just arrived, all warm and moist, whisked away by a nurse to the stainless NICU station where they check that he’s alright.  I am euphoric and don’t understand their distress, or his.  I am telling them that my husband was supposed to cut the cord.  After they’ve taken him, I am calling after them, telling them his name.  We’d kept it a secret until he was born, and I can’t wait any longer.  Soon he is back, rooting on my chest, eyes closed.  I think that he looks like the baby squirrel I found when I was little, fallen from its nest after a storm, blindly pawing for anything warm.  I am pressing my nose against his head, against the wet swirl of dark hair, breathing through him.  Trying to inhale this moment.  Trying to keep it. My eyes well with tears.

Big brother?!

Big brother?!

2.  Fast forward and we are all in the tiny downstairs bathroom, the three of us, our perfect little family.  I am holding the stick, and the lines come up immediately bright.  I toss it on the counter.  Maybe too hard.  My husband is smiling.  Maybe too hard.  I am scared, and excited, and shocked.  I am looking down at the baby on the floor, who is staring up at me with wide eyes, pulling on my pants, trying to stand.  He is still a baby, I am thinking.  And soon there will be another.  Two babies.  Then I think the words, “big brother.”  My eyes well with tears.

Best friends.

Best friends.

3.  Fast forward and we are back in the too bright room, but this time we are here after a blissful blur, a baby born in the bathtub, just a couple hours after I’d put big brother to bed.  There is a messy mop of blond hair hanging over the edge of the plastic bassinet, his little feet scaling its shelves below.  He is wearing a shirt that says “Best Bro Ever.”  He doesn’t understand what we’re all doing here, with this little baby.  He doesn’t know that this little baby will grow to be his best friend.  My eyes well with tears.

Two babies.

Two babies.

4.  Fast forward.  We are home, and I am covered in babies.  The little one is on my breast.  The bigger one is crawling up my legs and snuggling into the softness of my stomach.  He needs reminders to be gentle, to be slow.  He is sticky and smells like soap.  He pats the baby’s head, rubs his back.  He says, “I love you, brother.”  It is the first time.  My eyes well with tears.

First day of school.

First day of school.

5.  Fast forward and it’s the first day of preschool.  He is running ahead of me, his backpack dragging along the sidewalk behind him.  I have to run to catch his hand, so that I can hold it while we walk through the doors.  It is me who wants to hold his hand this time.  He barrels into his classroom, not a second glance.  There are two kids crying, grasping at their mommies’ legs, begging them to stay.  I have to call him back to give him a kiss goodbye.  As I’m leaving, I peek through the window and see him playing trucks.  Behind him, his teacher is prying another toddler away from her mom.  I’m not sure which is worse.  My eyes well with tears.

An epic meltdown.

An epic meltdown.

6.  Fast forward and we’re in the locker room at the gym.  His face is smeared with snot and tears, and he is almost purple as he shrieks that he wants to go swimming NOW.  But I tell him, it’s too late.  His lesson is over, and he refused to get in the water, stubbornly planting himself on the wall of the pool for 20 minutes.  We cannot go swimming now.  He throws his body on the floor and wails.  I open the door to our changing stall because I’m worried someone will think that something terrible is happening here.  I have to carry him to the car.  He is kicking and screaming, his head is flailing.  I am worried I may drop him.  There are other moms in the lobby on our way out, who sadly smile knowingly.  One of them pauses to tell me, “You’re doing a good job.”  And my eyes well with tears.

Still three, one last time.

Still three, one last time.

7.  Fast forward, too fast, and we’re here.  He is turning four tomorrow and I’ve found his beloved satin blue Lovey downstairs long after he’s gone to sleep.  Up until just recently he wouldn’t go to bed without it.  Tonight, he didn’t even notice it was missing.  I sneak into his room to check on him before I go to bed. He’s asleep, and I tuck his Lovey in behind his head, where he will find it right away when he rolls over and reaches for it in his sleep.  He might not need it anymore, but I need to know it’s there.  It’s the last time I will see him while he’s still three. My wild, thoughtful, funny, perceptive little boy who is no longer a toddler. I cannot believe we are here.  My eyes well with tears.

Do you need a prescription for Nature?

Alright, I admit it.  I wish I had come up with the idea for this spoof.  But at least I can share it here for you all to enjoy!

Do you need Nature Rx?

The Only Two Places You Should Bring Your Sick Kid

Look out, I’m going to get preachy here in a little bit.  There’s not much that I feel justified in really crying from the rooftops, but when it comes to my kids and their health, you can bet I’m up there.

Junior has been sick this week.  I should have known it was coming.

Lending Little Bear a helping hand, and some germs.

Lending Little Bear a helping hand, and some germs.

Four days ago, after playing outside for the morning, we went to open gym hours at our local YMCA.  We had already spent the morning outside but decided to meet some friends for some indoor exercise.  If you are looking for a way to run your kids ragged without being outside all the time, this is it.  Basically, they open the gymnastics area and let the kids go nuts on all sorts of trampolines, gym mats, balance beams, rings, swings, etc. It’s probably also a breeding ground for every child ailment known to man.  Including the one that Junior unknowingly left behind.  Sorry.

In any case, the kids love it.  Except for this time.

This time, Junior wanted to play with Little Bear for the first half an hour.  Awwww, I thought this was really, really cute.  He usually takes off like a rocket with the big kids, leaving his little bro to fend for himself.  But this time he was all about following Little Bear, helping him climb things, and taking things slow.  In retrospect, first warning sign.  Then, he jumped into a pit filled with foam blocks and asked if he could go to sleep.  That’s when the alarm bells really started ringing.  This is not my wild child.

The moment I knew he was getting sick!

The moment I knew he was getting sick!

By the time it was time to go, we had a full-blown tantrum of exhaustion on our hands and it took previously unseen levels of bribery to get this kid to the car.

At home, he took a long nap, and woke up with a fever.  Things generally progressed from there, and a trip to the doctor revealed nothing significant so we left with the typical, “It’s probably a virus. We’ll have to let it run its course.”

Yesterday, Junior and Little Bear were supposed to go to Legoland.  It was a trip planned weeks in advance, courtesy of Omi and Opi, but of course with Junior feeling sick, we decided to put it off until a later date.

Which brings me to my soapbox.  Hold on a sec while I get on it. . .  Okay, there we go.

A double-decker of under the weather kids last winter.

A double-decker of under the weather kids last winter.

There are only two places where it’s okay to bring your sick kid.  

Yeah, I’m going to repeat that a little louder this time.


It’s not okay to bring your sick kid to the mall to stretch his legs.  It’s not okay to dose him up on Tylenol and drop him at the kiddycare while you work out at the gym.  It’s not okay to get him dressed and head to your local indoor play space where you try to wipe the river of green snot from his nose as discreetly as possible.  It’s definitely not okay to bring him to Legoland.

 1. The Doctor.  

This is the only crowded, public space where you should bring your sick kid.  And keep in mind he will probably pick up just as many germs here as he’s dropping off.

Most daycares and schools have clear definitions of a child who is too sick to attend.  Even though the same may not be posted at the mall, or the gym, or the play center, please don’t bring your contagious kids out in crowded, public places where they’re going to come into contact with countless others, including those like Little Bear who pick up every germ in the room.  Your week of sleepless nights and endless kleenex shortages doesn’t need to turn into someone else’s.

There’s a limit to sharing is caring.

And this is just the common courtesy side of things. There’s a whole other angle when we start to talk about health risks.  For some kids with suppressed immune systems or immunodeficiencies, your child’s cold or flu could snowball into something much more serious.  You don’t want to be responsible for that.  It’s not worth the risk.

The good news is, there is someplace aside from the doctor’s, where you can bring your sick kid.

2.  Outside!

It’s an old wives’ tale that going outside while sick is bad for you. As long as baby is bundled appropriately for the weather, the fresh air can be a relief.  In fact, some common kid ailments like croup even improve with exposure to cooler air.

Feeling well enough for a little stroll.

Feeling well enough for a little stroll.

When Junior is just a little sick, he still relishes time outside in small doses.  He will go for short walks.  He will ride his bike down the street, or push dump trucks around the backyard.  He doesn’t have the same energy as when he’s well, but as long as he’s wearing plenty of layers and keeping warm, he will usually still enjoy himself outside.

This time around, he’s feeling more tired so he’s not up for his usual outdoor play.  This time it isn’t sniffles and a tickle in his throat.  The kid is 103-fever, no-energy, no-appetite, not-himself SICK.  So, for some fresh air and a change of scene, we spread some blankets on the ground, put a cozy fleece jacket on over his Batman jammies, and did some puzzles in the sunshine.  When he felt tired and wanted to snuggle, we pulled some chairs together and had a little snack, all cozied up.  The fresh air and sunshine felt great.  And we didn’t have to worry about spreading his germs.

Running a 103 fever, but content to be cozy and soak up some sunshine in the backyard.

Running a 103 fever, but content to be cozy and soak up some sunshine in the backyard.

Sometimes it’s just a nice change of scene. It’s all about reading your kids’ cues and keeping the activities appropriate to their energy levels.  Just because you’re outside doesn’t mean you need to be playing a raucous game of dodgeball.  Take it slow and let your kiddo set the pace.

I have done a lot of research into the health benefits of getting outside while sick, because I know it can be a divisive issue.  Tradition tells me that sick kids should be kept in bed to rest and recover.  And these myths seem to be perpetuated all over the internet without any research to support them.

Quiet games and puzzles on a blanket while he gets a little fresh air.

Quiet games and puzzles on a blanket while he gets a little fresh air.

As early as 1890, an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association was extolling the healing benefits of fresh air excursions for sick women and children (sorry, guys!).  They even write about a floating hospital moored in the lower bay near Manhattan, where ailing patients could spend time in the summer to receive fresh ocean air and “salt water baths.”  Additionally, “health resorts” in the Adirondacks were attributed to healing pulmonary diseases.  Of course, there is a lot of medicine from history that we shouldn’t subscribe to today (can you say lobotomy?) but I think they were on to something here.

More recently, studies have agreed that fresh air and exposure to natural light can actually speed up healing times, reduce stress levels, and diminish pain levels.  Amazing right?  And if that’s not enough evidence for you, here is a blog written by a pediatrician who also agrees!

So next time you see me lying in our backyard on a blanket with a sick kid curled under my arm, rest assured that we’re just partaking in a little bit of nature therapy!  And don’t worry, you won’t be seeing us sneaking down Motrin in the bathroom stalls at Legoland anytime soon.

Junior Turns Four!

I cannot believe that this little boy is four years old today!

How I Get Two Toddlers Packed and Out the Door For a Beach Day In 20 Minutes or Less

You already know that we’re always in a rush.

So it’s no surprise when I leave the house at 9 am, two kids in tow, with the intention of grocery shopping, returning home to put the food away, making a picnic, packing for the beach, and being out the door again by 10:15.

Little Bear's favorite beach activitity: solo exploring!

Little Bear’s favorite beach activitity: solo exploring!

You see, when it’s mid-October and a beach day presents itself, you simply cannot ignore it.  It’s an unwritten rule that beach days in mid-October must be taken advantage of.  Especially when said gorgeous, 70 degree sunny day happens to fall on a holiday Monday.

This is exactly what happened today.

And we did it! I pulled up to the gate at the beach parking lot at exactly 10:30.  Mission accomplished.

So what magic trick did I use to propel me and two children faster than the speed of light?

Well, we arrived home with all the groceries at 9:45.  That left me half an hour to put away groceries, pack a lunch, pack a beach bag, change the boys into beach clothes, and get everything and everyone in the car, ready to go. And believe me, when I’m in a hurry these kids have a tendency to move about as fast as a glacier.

But hope isn’t lost.  I’m lucky enough to be a pretty experienced beach-goer so I’ve got a system in place, for days like this when it’s just me toting along a two-year old, a three-year old, and all our  gear.  And I’ve refined our system enough this summer that I think it’s share-worthy.

So here we go.

"Look at this hermit crab, Mama!"

“Look at this hermit crab, Mama!”

There are three ways to fail at beach days with the kids:

  1. Too cold.
  2. Too hungry.
  3. Too bored. (I take issue with this last one because I really believe that the beach in and of itself should be enough entertainment, but I’m keeping this real so just bear with me.)

I have fallen victim to them all. This is of course made worse by the fact that your toddler will have zero ability to tell you what is actually bothering him or her.  Conversations with my kids when they are about to lose it typically go something like this:

  • Mama:  What’s wrong?
  • Child (lips blue, teething chattering):  Nothing.
  • Mama:  Would you like to sit on the towel with me and warm up?
  • Child:  No. I want to play dinosaurs.
  • Mama:  Ok, I will be a t-rex.  What kind of dinosaur do you want to be?
  • Child (face turning purple and heading rotating 360 degrees):  I’M NOT A DINOSAUR.  I’M A BOY.  I WANT TO PLAY WITH REAL DINOSAURS! I WANT A REAL LIVING DINOSAUR TO PLAY WITH RIGHT NOW!!!!!!

This might be no big deal at home, but at the beach it’s a whole different story.  The worst part about failing at beach days is that once you’ve failed, you’re stuck on the beach with a giant bag of unpacked stuff spread all over the sand, and a child who seems to have lost all muscle control by the edge of a tide pool and is shrieking at piercing decibels.  Your car is probably parked about a mile away.  So good luck.

See what I mean?  The stakes are high, my friend.

My ace is our beach bag.  I keep it packed with the essentials and in the mudroom, ready to go at a moment’s notice.

The contents of my beach bag - all we need for a day at the beach!

The contents of my beach bag – all we need for a day at the beach!

Here’s what we keep in our beach bag all the time:

  • Two towels.  These are larger sized beach towels, but thin.  I love them because they provide a ton of space for seating but don’t take up a ton of space in the bag.  I know some people are really particular about fluffy towels, but we are not them.
  • Sunscreen
  • Baby powder.  I have never used baby powder on the kids or myself in any kind of routine personal hygiene, but I do use it all the time at the beach for removing sand.  It is magic.  Sprinkle it on their hands, rub briskly, and voila – it’s like they just washed!  I also use it on their feet before they get into the car.

    Keeping cozy in wetsuits

    Keeping cozy in wetsuits

  • The boys’ wetsuits and rashguards.  Today, both boys wore t-shirts with their board shorts.  I brought their rash guards so that they’d have something long-sleeved to put on while playing if they wanted. The wetsuits are always ready when the boys want to splash around.  The water is pretty chilly right now, but even in the middle of summer it’s never that balmy so these are a must for long days in the water.
  • A little diaper pack.  Both my kids are potty trained, but Little Bear still sometimes does not give much notice when he needs to go.  When it’s just me and the two little ones, I don’t see myself scooping him and Junior up and sprinting up the path, through the parking lot, and to the port-a-potty in any timely manner.  Also, I admit it.  I have an unreasonable fear that he will fall in.  So, I bring a few pull ups and some wipes.  If he needs to go, I put the diaper on him, and then change it as soon as he’s done.  I used to bring an actual potty with me (and we still do when we’re out on our boat) but I stopped bringing it to the beach once I realized that if he did drop a doozy, I’d have to carry it all the way to the port-a-potty to dump it anyway (duh).  I keep the diaper stuff and an empty trash bag in a little wet bag that can be used for sandy, wet bathing suits if needed on our way home.

To get going, I only need to add:

Murphy's Law: Someone will always require a complete change of clothes.

Murphy’s Law: Someone will always require a complete change of clothes.

  1. Complete changes of clothes for the boys.  I make sure to bring extra cozy clothes that I know they’ll wear.  They really only want to change their clothes if they are cold, so I pack sweatshirts and thick cotton shorts.  I also always have an extra change of clothes in the car too, just in case.
  2. Water bottles.

    Snacks keep everyone happy!

    Snacks keep everyone happy!

  3. Food.  I try to pack things that can be eaten in multiple small portions so that it’s not a huge deal if anything gets dropped in the sand.  I cut sandwiches into small two-bite chunks.  I break up bananas.  I give them two pretzel sticks or half a cheese stick at a time.  Other popular beach snacks for us are cereal bars, applesauce or yogurt packets (the kind you drink), and just about any kind of fruit.

I’ve whittled this packing down a lot this summer from a much larger pile that required one of those cumbersome beach carts that I eventually hated.  I used to bring a huge beach tent.  It is an awesome, lightweight, easy-to-set-up tent so none of that was the problem.  The issue was that it was awkward to maneuver down the boardwalk on the beach cart, and I could never get the kids to sit under it. It really just provided personal comfort for me for about ten minutes a day so it was more trouble than it was worth.  The same goes for the beach chair that I used to bring.  I miss it sometimes, but when I’m by myself at the beach with both kids, I don’t get much time to lounge anyway.

Our old beach setup- way too much stuff for me to handle on my own! We reserve this gear for boat trips now!

Our old beach setup- way too much stuff for me to handle on my own! We reserve this gear for boat trips now!

Other things that I’ve removed from our beach packing include the huge shovels, buckets, nets, and trucks.  Instead, we now have a small mesh bag that Junior carries himself.  It contains a few small trucks, some small sand tools, and one small bucket.  Anytime he wants to bring something else, I tell him to go ahead as long as it fits in his bag and he can carry it. Sometimes Little Bear carries a ball too.

So, there you have it.  That’s how I get out of the house, to the beach in less than twenty minutes, with two kids under four.  It doesn’t take tons of stuff and a full camp setup to enjoy a day by the ocean.  A full day beach day on my own with both kids used to overwhelm me with packing and prep work.  These days, I keep it simple so that we can be out the door, and enjoying the day, in almost no time at all.

A beautiful fall day at an empty beach!

A beautiful fall day at an empty beach!

The Truth Behind the Winter Blues, and What You Can Do About It

October arrived, and with it, the shorter days, the cooler weather, and for me, a touch of the winter blues.  It happens every year, like a light switch going off.  One day there’s just a touch of chill to the breeze from the north, and the next it’s sweater weather and I can’t stop drinking tea and thinking of a hot bath.

The sun sets on September, 2015.

The sun sets on September, 2015.

This year, it happened with the calendar.  The last day of September we were on the boat, watching the sunset from the sandbar.  And the next day, there was a biting chill to the wind that arrived with torrential downpours.  I remembered why it’s sometimes hard work to get outside.  I remembered why there are days when I feel like bundling into my sweatpants and staying next to the wood stove all day long.  I remembered the chill that settles into my back, clenching my shoulder blades together into an unconscious knot that lasts until I slide into bed, snuggled deep under the down comforter.

How can we not miss summer when it's filled with moments like this?

How can we not miss summer when it’s filled with moments like this?

I know it sounds dramatic for the slightest of seasonal shifts, but I think it’s also anticipatory.  There won’t be another summer for eight months.  There will be no long, bright days where the sun beats down on the sand and burns our tender feet, hurrying us along into the lapping ocean waves.  There won’t be lazy days where inside blends into outside, windows open and kids running through open doors without putting on jackets or shoes.  It’s only fall, but winter is coming and we can feel it.  There is a heaviness settling over me with the knowledge that it’s almost here.

For millions of people, this happens every year in varying degrees.  For some, like me, it’s a gentle heaviness that weighs on my days, making everything just a little darker and a little harder.  For others, it’s incapacitating.

There’s a name for these so-called winter blues.

IMG_6623Seasonal Affective Disorder, often referred to appropriately as SAD, is a type of depression that occurs seasonally, most commonly onsetting in late fall or early winter, and resolving by summer (though there are varieties that occur primarily in the summer as well).  The American Academy of Family Physicians estimates that 4 to 6 percent of people suffer from winter depression, with another 10 to 20 percent exhibiting milder symptoms of SAD.  It’s more common in women than men, and it’s more common the further you are from the equator.

SAD does not present the same in everyone, but some common symptoms include:

  • Decrease in energy levels
  • Fatigue
  • Weight gain and/or changes in appetite, especially craving starchy or sweet foods
  • Irritability
  • Sensitivity
  • Avoidance of social interactions (eg not wanting to go out)
  • Changes in sleeping patterns

If you have noticed some of the above symptoms and feel that they are seasonal in nature, you may want to talk to your doctor about your concerns.  He or she might prescribe phototherapy, which involves the use of bright lights to help reset your circadian rhythms. In more extreme cases, medication or behavioral therapy may be needed.

But, there’s good news too. While there is no substitute for a doctor’s care, the easiest way to treat mild SAD symptoms is also the least expensive and most effective.

A morning walk without the kids to get my day started.

A cloudy morning walk without the kids to get my day started.

Most doctors agree that winter depression is at least partly caused by a lack of sunlight which affects your natural circadian rhythm and melatonin production.  As such, light therapy is the most commonly prescribed treatment for SAD, exposing individuals to a light box which produces light far brighter than a normally lit room.

Getting outside more can be a suitable substitute for mild symptoms, as reported by many doctors.  Mental Health America reports that one study found an hour long walk in the winter sunlight was as effective as two and a half hours of exposure to bright artificial lights.

A little nature therapy to keep us energized and happy.

A little nature therapy to keep us energized and happy.

Personally, I find that getting outside in the morning and feeling the sun on my face can recharge me for the day ahead, no matter the temperature of the air. Even on a cloudy day, the sun produces light approximately 10 times stronger than the average indoor lighting.

Do you notice a change in your mood as the seasons change?  Do you feel sluggish or tired as the sun rises later and sets earlier?  You can do something about it.  It’s just another reason to get outside on a daily basis!

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