Thursday, December 12, 2013

Guest Post: Immunizations Your Child Needs

While preparing your child for life, getting their immunizations should be top of the list. This will help prevent diseases, and other problems from arising for them. Learn which immunizations are essential for your children, and why they are needed to ensure their health and safety in the future.


The day your child is born, they should receive a Hepatitis B shot. This shot needs to be given three times in the beginning stages of your child’s life, once at birth, once in a few months, and a final time between six months to two years old. This will prevent problems with your child’s liver over the course of their life.

The immunization is much more effective when given at a young age. Right around 95% of those who receive the vaccine at this time have the antibodies to protect them. The vaccine that is now in use first began to be developed and implemented in the 1980s.This early protection is seen to last well into the child’s adult life, making a healthy life more of a reality.

The first year

During the first year of your child’s life, he or she will be constantly going in for checkups to ensure everything is developing and functioning as it should. A few of these checkups include additional shots including at two months, four months, and six months. The shots needed at these times are:

·         Diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis – this is to prevent the whooping cough from developing
·         Hib – this first dose will help prevent pneumonia from developing, as well as assist the safety of the lungs from other problems as well as the blood, joints, and brain
·         Polio
·         Pneumococcal conjugate – another security against pneumonia, protecting this deadly infection from taking hold of the body
·         Rotavirus – not getting this shot will increase the risk of diarrhea and vomiting caused by the rotavirus
·         Influenza – a protection against the flu from causing serious complications

Most of these shots given are just one dose of a series of shots. It is important to get the initial treatment, but it is equally important to continue after this, getting a shot when one is due. Make sure to get each one at the appropriate time to keep your child in good health.

After the first year

After the first year your child will still have regular shots, but they will not be nearly as frequent as before. This doesn’t make them any less important. Many of these are repeats of earlier shots that are required. Make sure to get these follow up shots done when they are recommended to make them the most useful.

Besides these repeats, your child will get vaccinations to prevent against chickenpox, measles, mumps, and rubella. All these are preventable problems that can be taken care of with these vaccines.

There are some immunizations that need to be taken care of for your child at a young age. Make sure to take your child in from an early age, to get the right shots at the right time. This will prevent them from getting dangerously sick during their life.

Cassie writes for Family First Pediatrics on the vaccines you need for your child. She writes advice for finding a pediatrician in Utah, and getting the best care for your child. 

Friday, November 15, 2013

Guest Post: 4 Ways to Protect Your Food and Storage from Pests

Stowing foods and other items in storage is a great way to save money or prepare for an uncertain future, but placing foods and other items in storage brings risk that belongings will become a prime real estate for pests. The key to keeping pests out of storage is to prep and pack all items correctly.

Here are four tips to do so.

1. Kill Any Bugs before Packing Items for Storage
Keeping new bugs out of storage spaces will not help if the bugs were already in the food and storage to begin with. In other words, even if bugs are not visible, items may already have bug eggs just waiting to hatch. If you are moving into a new home it is ideal to hire a pest control company to prevent or eliminate any initial bug problems. Pest control companies, such as
Terminix, offer different packages that are available to choose from that should eliminate any pest problems whether you are moving into a new home or just doing a routine cleaning.

2. Pack Items in Bug-Proof Containers
Once foods and clothing are bug-free, they must be packed in bug-proof containers to stay that way. Remember that even the smallest crack can let bugs in. Bugs can also find their way right through thinner storage containers, such as cardboard boxes and plastic bags, as they can chew their way through thin materials, or rain and water leaks will soften the materials and create holes for bugs to crawl through. Oxygen-absorbing bags, such as Mylar bags, and tight-sealing plastic totes should provide enough protection to do the trick.

3. Remove Oxygen from Storage Containers
Because bugs cannot survive without a source of oxygen, removing oxygen from stored foods and other items makes sure that bugs cannot make their home in them. Placing items in vacuum-sealed bags and containers will help
keep your food fresh longer while also keeping bugs out.

4. Add Bug Repellents
Common household items like bay leaves and cat nip are excellent ways to repel pests that might want to make a snack of stored food.
Bay leaves can be mixed in with dry goods or they can be used to line storage containers that dry foods are stored in. They should keep pests away without sacrificing food taste or quality.

Guest Author Bio: Maya Rodgers is a pet owner, animal lover, and small-time environmental activist who always keeps her ears open for ways to green herself and her family. She has always found an interest in bugs since she was a child and today takes pride in helping others combat pesky pests. 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Government Shutdown Blues

So it's been a bit of a downer these days in Casa Lynch, because thanks to the government shutdown, Jon has been out of work for over a week.  Yup, we are one of the families that are directly impacted by the inability of the members of Congress to do their actual jobs and pass a right now we're floating in limbo, wondering when they will get their acts together and Jon will be able to go back to work.

Because see, unlike federal employees, Jon is a contracted employee, which means he will NOT be getting back pay once the government gets its act together and says he will be going back to work.  This is day 9 of the shutdown, and Jon has used all of his leave to try and make up the difference...but the fact is, right now, we're looking at our funds and trying to decide what's on the chopping block next, and it's simply not pretty.  We have had a lot of unexpected expenses, medical bills, and I just found out I have to have a procedure in two weeks that could wind up costing us a great deal of money, depending on what they find.

A friend of mine set up a Go Fund Me site for our family, something to which I was initially opposed, but now I am here, asking you for a favor.

Please send the link to this site to your representative in Congress: (  Please let them know how how their lack of concern for the people that they represent is causing undue hardships and difficulties for hardworking Americans, many of whom want nothing more than to go back to work.

If you aren't sure how to locate your Congressional Representative, go here.  We truly appreciate you taking the time to do this.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Guest Post: Getting Your Kids Involved in the Kitchen: Delicious (and Healthy!) Classroom Snack

Making sure your kids are properly nourished is essential, not only for their happiness, but for their well-being. A full belly boosts their mood, helps them stay focused, and of course, provides them with essential nutrients.

Hunger will inevitably strike at some point during the school day, so fight it before it strikes by sending your kids to school with some tasty snacks--and we’re not talking about a bag of chips or cookies; we’re talking about some healthy, nutritious snacks that will really do your kids a world of good. To make these snacks taste even better, get your kids involved in making them. They’ll learn a thing or two about proper nutrition and food preparation, and they’ll especially love sharing their handy work with their classmates.

Ants or Ladybugs on a Log

Whether you call them ants or ladybugs, one thing is for sure--your kids will enjoy making and eating this tasty snack. To make it, wash and cut pieces of celery. Have the kiddos spread peanut butter along the inside of the celery sticks and then place raisins or dried cranberries on top of the cream cheese. The finished result really does look like ants or ladybugs crawling along a log. Does your kid not like or is he allergic to peanut butter? Switch it out for cream cheese.

Apple Smiles

Make some silly apple smiles for your tykes to gobble up. Clean and cut apples into slices. Let your kids spread some peanut butter or cream cheese along one side of two apple slices. Arrange marshmallows (or raisins or nuts, for a healthier option) on the top of the peanut butter or cream cheese, toward the outer edge of each slice. Place one slice on top of the other and you have some silly, and yummy, apple slices.

Fields of Carrots

Do your children like hummus and carrots? If so, make it a fun and healthy snack for school. Fill small dishes, or even flower pots, with hummus. Insert a piece of parsley into the top of a baby carrot to create the look of a stem and place the parsley-free end of the carrot into the hummus. Fill the dish with of these orange veggies to create a field of carrots.

Special Shaped Pita Chips and Dip

Instead of giving your child store-bought crackers or chips and dip (not too healthy), make your own good-for-you pita chips at home. Select different shaped cookie cutters, like animals, transportation items, shapes, or whatever else your child would like. Let your children press the cookie cutters into the pita chips and sprinkle the cut out pieces with a little salt. Arrange the shapes onto a lightly sprayed cookie sheet and bake for about five minutes. Serve the chips up with some hummus, spinach dip, or any other type of dip for a tasty and nutritious snack.

Sure, ordinary pieces of fruit are yummy, but they will taste even better when presented as a kebob. Choose a few different fruits of your children likes, cut the fruit into pieces, and use cookie cutters to give them different shapes. Arrange the cut fruits onto skewers (make sure to clip the ends to remove the sharp points) and voila! – You have cute and tasty fruit kabobs! You can add piece of cheese, as well, or serve the kebabs with a yogurt dip.

Making sure your kids bellies are full and that they eat right is just one of the many jobs of a parent. Make these delicious and nutritious snacks together and send your kids off to school, knowing that they will have fully tummies and are eating right.

Tara Heath is a freelance writer in Southern California. She enjoys creating healthy snacks with her kids and love the way they get excited to help. She contributes to the Candy Concepts Inc. blog, writing about craft and family topics.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Guest Post: Putting Together Your Home's Emergency Kit

Putting Together Your Home's Emergency Kit

You can never be too prepared for life’s little emergencies. It is always better to be over prepared as opposed to completely caught off guard. When it comes to your home and family, they deserve the best and so do you. You need to be ready to tackle any and all problems that might come your way. With every passing day, our world grows more chaotic. Weather patterns are changing rapidly throughout the world and humanity is at its most hostile. There is more than just a lot of media hype to the real possibility of danger for American families.  What if there is a tornado? What if there’s a house fire? What if there’s an earthquake? What if there is a bombing or a hurricane or some other state of emergency?  All of these things happen quickly and without warning. The better you prepare for such contingencies ahead of time, the less time you will have to spend worrying about how they could affect your family.

Start by stockpiling non-perishable food. This includes canned fruits and veggies, soups, potted meat, and other canned goods. You should also keep dehydrated food products such as ramen noodles on hand at all times. Saltine crackers, cookies, and electrolyte enhanced drink powders are great to have around in emergencies.  If you want to go the extra mile, get a food dehydrator and use it to create your own backup supply of dehydrated foods to eat in case of emergency. It is also a good idea to stock up on large quantities of bottled water to sustain your family for a lengthy period of time if necessary. Keep in mind that adult humans require 2-3 liters of water per day. All kinds of situations could call for you to remain inside your home without utilities or access to other resources.  It is essential that you are prepared for this and have enough to feed you and your family.

When there is an emergency, there is going to be panic to follow. People are going to make mistakes and can accidentally hurt themselves when presented with unexpectedly dire circumstances. In certain kinds of emergencies, it can be harder to get help from hospitals as they are packed with individuals who are hurt. That’s why it is up to you to always have your own fully stocked first aid kit. Keep several throughout your home and one in each car so that they are always close at hand. A good first aid kit will always include a variety of bandages, sanitary cleansing pads, antibiotic ointment, cold packs, heat packs, cotton balls, rubber gloves, rubbing alcohol, peroxide, pain killers, vitamins, and other household medicines.  Also, if anyone in your family requires daily medicine for illnesses such as diabetes, anxiety or heart conditions, asks your doctor if it would be acceptable for you to obtain a backup supply of each so that it can be stored inside your emergency kit. A good first aid kit can help with a full range of emergencies, from minor to Earth-shattering.

There are many other things it is very good to have close at hand when disaster strikes. These include flashlights, batteries, candles, matches, lighters, duct tape, rope, knives, scissors, a screwdriver, pliers, a hammer, some rope, safety pins, an axe or hatchet, tarps, protective gloves, helmets or hard hats for each member of the family, blankets, extra clothes, and a variety of portable radio devices such as a set of walkie talkies, a CB radio, and an AM/FM band radio. Make sure you have extra batteries for each, since radio could be your only connection to the outside world in some emergencies. If you want to be serious about having everything you need, buy an extra one of each of these things and seal them inside plastic crates to be stored in a secure area of your home and only used in emergencies. Some families use underground areas such as basements or bunkers for this.

Ask each member of your family what he or she would need in case of emergency, and include these items in your kit as well. Effective home emergency plans require input from the entire family, so it can be helpful to keep emergency contact information for all family members inside your emergency kit. Include a list of frequent locations for each family member, along with addresses and phone numbers for each. This includes all schools and workplaces for each member of the family. Also add any other important information you can think of about each person to this list, such as social security numbers, doctors contact information and special medical needs. Copies will also need to be made of official documents such as birth certificates, driver’s license, title deeds, insurance cards and social security cards for each member of the family. All of this should be included inside your emergency preparedness kit.

Once all of this is compiled, the last step to preparing for emergencies is to talk to your family and come up with a plan.  Communication is vital when it comes to surviving emergencies together. If everyone is on the same page, it is always easier to work as a team. Decide on a central location for family members to meet in case of emergency, and devise a plan for how each person would get there under various circumstances. Since there are so many different kinds of emergencies, you may need to make multiple plans. Some may call this kind of thinking silly or paranoid. The truth is you cannot be too careful when it comes to your family’s safety. Nobody can deny that if you spend time thinking about this kind of stuff before emergencies have a chance to occur, you will be able to think much more clearly in the event that they do. Talk to your family about emergency preparedness kits and plans. In doing so, you could be saving their lives.

Author Bio: Karla Jennings is a handy woman to have around the house. She runs her own home improvement blog about her passion for home living and organization. She is also a writer for Maid Brigade. Her work can be found on various home living, design, and family blogs throughout the internet.


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Monday, September 30, 2013

Guest Post: Saving Money for College

I spend a lot of time creating castles in the sky for my children. Who doesn’t dream about the amazing futures their children could potentially have? On my wish list: college, love of their life, amazing job, house, family, in no particular order. Oh, and scads of money and success. Of course, I realize that not all my dreams will come true—or even are my kids’ dreams, for that matter. But if even a portion of it is, I am more than ready to help out in any way that I can to make their dreams come true. Especially with college, when they are transitioning from childhood to adulthood. College tuition costs have risen over 500 percent in the last 60 years, and most aspiring students aren’t able to pay for their college education without assistance. While there are federal and private grants and scholarships available, most families, like ours, will have to rely on loans to help with tuition, room and board (if they choose to go to a college far away from home), books, and other costs. Loans can really sneak up on you in the long run, so it’s worth it to do some research and find out more about the state of student loan debt. This infographic covered the past, present, and future of student loans, and was definitely food for thought.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Guest Post: The Best Apps To Help Manage Your Coupons

While the practice seems antiquated at times—and other times an extra sport televised for public consumption—couponing has very practical roots, and is a practice from which most households would benefit. If you are apt to shop for brand-name packaged foods, health and beauty products, baby supplies and other things you’d find at a grocery store that are mass-produced, clipping coupons could save you hundreds of dollars per trip. However, gone are the days of spending Sunday afternoons with scissors and the weekly newspaper chock full of coupons and flyers-- clipping out the ones you’d need and squirreling them away for later use—and then forgetting to bring them with you to the store. Modern technology has rendered those issues moot. These handy apps make couponing a breeze, ensuring that you’ll have the coupons you need at your fingertips—as long as you have your phone. Some of these apps even find coupons that you need for you! Here are our top five picks for coupon apps:

1. Grocery Smarts: Far from the prettiest app, Grocery Smarts is the one that replicates the original couponing experience by scouring the Sunday paper for coupons and comparing prices from weekly flyers from stores like Target, CVS, Walmart, and Rite-Aid to help you hunt down the best price. This app also helps you cross-reference manufacturer coupons with store sales—where the two overlap is where the extreme savings kick in. Grocery Smarts also allows you to create a list of planned purchases and your estimated total. And it (obviously) scours grocery store flyers for deals—with and without coupons. You can even email and save coupons you find online to print at a later date. The only drawback? You still have to carry physical copies of the coupons with you to the store.

2. Shopkick: This free app, available on both Androids and iPhones, gives you access to Shopkick-exclusive deals in nationwide chain stores, like Target, Best Buy, Toys’R’Us, and Macy’s. While it doesn’t deal with coupons in the traditional sense, Shopkick can still save you plenty of money at stores you frequent by providing deals you can’t find elsewhere. Earn points at some locations by simply walking into the store! Browse the in-store deals prior to going the location, and you’ll accrue even more points. These points add up to even more savings at a later date.

 Image courtesy of Chris Potter / 3. 

3.  Yowza: If you never enjoyed the process of sorting through papers, clipping out coupons and then bringing envelopes full of paper scraps to the store, then Yowza is for you. It allows you to find and save coupons for future use, and the cashier can scan the coupons straight from your phone, eliminating the paper trail. Free to download and use, these coupons and deals appear based on your geographic location, and often are straight from the manufacturers or merchants, so many of the savings are exclusive to people using the app.

 4. GeoQpon: GeoQpon is another coupon app that presents savings and deals based on your geographic location. Available for Android products only, this app provides a host of filtering options—like brand, location, or category—which makes finding the coupon you want much easier. This app will even show you how to get to your nearest store that will redeem the coupon or has the deal via Google Maps.

 5. SnipSnap: This app appeals to the traditional coupon user who doesn’t want the hassle of paper slips, but enjoys the search for savings through the Sunday paper and weekly flyers. SnipSnap allows you to scan in paper coupons that you find hunting for deals. It also reminds you when expiration dates are coming up. If you enable geolocation with this app, it will remind you to use store-specific coupons if you happen to walk into that particular shop. However, note that some manufacturers still require the paper copy for redeemed coupons, so SnipSnap’s scanned versions may not work in every store. Whether you’re just trying to save a few dollars on frequent purchases or are an extreme couponer, these coupon apps will make finding and using deals much easier. Try them all to decide which one suits your lifestyle and needs most.

Virginia Cunningham is a beauty and health-issue related blogger, who has written for a variety of different blogs on a plethora of subjects. Virginia has also started writing about finance as well, offering insights and advice along with contributions to National Debt Relief.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Mom's Annual Salary: Food For Thought

Personally I think moms should make at least double this, but it's an interesting read....

Mom Annual Salary Infographic

This infographic was created by Credit Card Insider, your trusted credit resource, providing plain-language guidance from seasoned industry veterans.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Guest Post: Natural Remedies for a Summer Cold

Summer colds are strange things. It feels like getting a “cold” shouldn’t even be able to happen when it’s so hot outside, yet colds in the summer months exist nonetheless.

Often times, summer colds are mistaken for allergies, as symptoms like running nose, congestion and even a sore throat can often cross paths with both conditions. It’s entirely possible that a summer cold could also be a combination of the two problems.

The difference between the two might be distinguishable in your energy level. Typically, allergies will cause annoying symptoms, but you won’t feel “sick” or tired to the point where you have to rest throughout the day.

Image Courtesy of Pixabay
With the common cold, your strength and energy level should take a pretty significant hit-- at least enough to make you want to rest instead of go about your day.

The main reason for this is that a cold is going to make your immune system work harder.
If that’s the case, treating a summer cold means keeping hydrated and helping out your immune system. Here are a few ways to do it:

1. Vitamin C -- A steady dose of vitamin C won’t stop a cold from happening, but it can help you significantly once you get one by reducing the symptoms and speeding up your rate of recovery. You also get the benefit of healthy antioxidants that destroy free-radicals in your body.

You can get plenty of vitamin C by eating fruit and drinking orange juice throughout the day; however, if you still don’t think that’s enough, an over-the-counter vitamin C supplement will work just the same.

2. No caffeine -- Caffeine in large doses will actually dehydrate your body and make it more difficult for you to retain enough fluid in your system. If your throat hurts and you want to have a cup of tea, that’s fine, since most teas are contain a small dose of caffeine, but try and stay away from highly-caffeinated beverages, like coffee and soda.

3. Ginger Root -- You can get ginger in the form of a supplement or a tea that you can drink. You can even just buy plain ginger root and add it to hot water.

Ginger is a natural antiviral that will help to control your symptoms while also fighting the base cause. Sip on some hot water with ginger to reduce inflammation and reduce nasal congestion throughout the day.

4. Using a Vaporizer -- If you’re lucky enough to have a vaporizer in your home, you’d do well to have it running during the times when you have a summer cold. Vaporizers will clean the air, cool it down and make it more breathable, while also reducing airborne allergens, like pollen and ragweed.

If you’re staying inside and trying to recover, just keep a vaporizer running in the room where you’re spending most of your time. If nothing else, it will take the allergy component totally out of the equation.

5. Echinacea Complex -- Echinacea is readily available in a supplement form as it has become one of the best-selling health food products in the country.

Its benefit is simple in that it boosts your immune response, but in a situation where you’re trying to shake a pesky cold, that’s all you really need. Try taking it in conjunction with vitamin C or ginger root.

Sticking with Natural Remedies

If you employ some (or all) of these tactics in conjunction with drinking plenty of water and resting up, you should be able to get over your cold without the need for any heavy medication. Take Tylenol if you have to, but beyond that, consider trying these remedies before you go and beg your doctor for antibiotics.

It’s all about making it easy for our bodies to do what they do best, so try that before seeking more aggressive treatment.

Marcela De Vivo is a freelance writer from Los Angeles whose writing covers a wide range of topics, including health and fitness, technology and marketing. She is also the founder of Gryffin Media. She maintains her health during the summer months by making sure to take the essential vitamins her body needs to avoid sickness. 

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

PPD Part IV, The Aftermath

It's been a few weeks since all of this started, and I'm so grateful to all of my friends and family who have supported me during this tough time.  I love and adore all of you.  To know that there are so many people out there who love and care about me, who are lifting me up in prayer, and who have taken the time to make sure I am doing okay--well, I can hardly put into words how thankful I am for all of you.

Postpartum Depression sucks.  But so do a lot of things in life, and as I write this, I want to share a few things.

After I wrote these posts, I had so many people--friends, acquaintances, even people who I didn't know and who read my blog--reach out to me.  I was astounded at how many of my friends had been suffering, often in silence, feeling shame, doubt, and like they were alone.

Oh, my friends.  You are not alone.

More than one person has told me I'm brave for writing about this.  I don't feel brave.  To tell you the truth, this was mostly for me, because writing has always been my way to express myself, to get out the feelings that I can't always talk about.  So writing about this has given me clarity about my experiences, and I'm glad I did it.  I am also glad that I have touched so many people, and have helped some of them to feel like they aren't alone in their struggles.

I also imagine there are some people out there who have read about this and judged me, and that's fine. But the thing is, PPD can happen to anybody, at any point.  It might happen after a first pregnancy--or in my case, after a third.  And while I can say I did have the baby blues a bit after my first two were born, those experiences did not in any way, shape, or form prepare me for what I went through this time.  I love and adore Peanut--I am so, so, SO blessed to be his mommy, and I wouldn't trade him for anything.  But this has been hard, and it will probably continue to be hard.

But I have sought help.

In case you were wondering, yes, I did take the medication, and I'm glad I did.  My goal is to do what I need to do to get myself in order so I can go off of it in six months, which is my and my doctor's goal for me.  This includes getting some counseling, but right now, to help me through this, I am relying on a low dose of an SSRI.  And even though it's not supposed to kick in fully for a few more weeks, I already am starting to feel calmer and happier.  Life's stresses haven't gone away, but I'm making my way through it.

I realize I may not reach this goal.  I realize that I may need to take meds for longer, and that's okay too, but right now, I'm taking this one day at a time.

You know what's funny, is when I started writing my sequel to Anabel Unraveled, I knew I wanted Anabel to have undergone postpartum depression.  I wonder now if somehow I knew on a subconscious level what I was descending into, and when I wrote some of the scenes about her struggling with PPD, it was painful and gut-wrenching, but it helped me.

But now I have a request:  If you have read about my experience, and it has hit home, do something about it.  If you are suffering from PPD, find a way to make your situation better.  Go see your doctor.  Talk to friends.  Find a way to take some time for yourself so that you can take care of you, because you cannot take care of your children unless you take care of yourself.  If you know someone who you think may be suffering, please reach out to them.  Many of the women who seem to have it all together often suffer from this.

If nothing else, if you need to talk to someone, shoot me an email.  I promise to respond.  Nobody should be alone going through this.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

PPD, Part III: The Doctor's Appointment

So, I actually had to wait a whole week to see my doctor, because Jon had called on a Wednesday and my favorite OB only works at the office I go to on Wednesdays.  Jon had requested her specifically, I think because he figured I would respond best to her advice. My appointment was for the following Wednesday, so I spent the days leading up to it thinking about what I wanted to say, and what I wanted to do.

Did I want to take medication?  Not really.  I've always been leery of drugs (see Refusal of epidural, Refusal of headache medication, Refusal of birth control pills), but this seemed bigger than any other problem I had had before.  Plus, Jon was right:  I owed it to our kids to be healthy.  I just hated admitting I needed help--and again, the "mental illness" stigma was bothersome to me.

But then I thought about it more.  Okay, so I could think about PPD as a mental illness, but really it seemed more like a mental virus.  Yes, it was attacking me, but it needed to be fought off, or it was going to get worse.  And unlike an illness, which to me seemed like something that went on in perpetuity, a virus would end if I fought it with the appropriate tools.  Besides, how was I supposed to take care of three crazy boys if I wasn't on my A game?  So I had to get well.  And maybe...well, maybe I couldn't do it on my own.

If I got treatment, it wouldn't be forever. I was not doomed.  I would fight this.

I started doing more to help myself in the meantime.  I began going for walks in the evenings (after all, exercise gives you endorphins.  Endorphins make you happy).  I talked to a fellow mom who I knew had had PPD and I got the name of a counselor from her.  I made a real effort to have more fun with my kids.  And I started telling more of my friends what was going on.

I think a couple of them were a little hurt I hadn't said anything before, but the thing was, I just couldn't. I felt ashamed and embarrassed, and the other thing was, I couldn't convince myself totally that I had it. It's also sort of hard to tell people about your problems when in a lot of ways, you probably seem like a spoiled little girl.  I have so many blessings in my life, it's probably unfathomable to think that I could be depressed.  What was I supposed to say?  "Oh yes, I have three beautiful, healthy children, a wonderful husband, and I'm about to move into my dream house, but I'm depressed."

Of course, as I have mentioned, it's not so simple as that, as there is a lot of trauma drama going on...which I can't go into (not yet, anyway).

Anyway, the point of all of this is...I went to the doctor.

Now normally when I have gone to see my OB, they have shown me into an examination room, but that day I was sent to her office, where the nurse gave me a hug and told me my doc would be in to see me.

Forty-five minutes later I was starting to think that this was some sort of test, that they had put me in her office and were observing my behavior with hidden cameras to see how crazy was I really.  Plus I had Peanut with me (although thankfully I got him to pass out), so I was starting to get a bit agitated.

My doctor sailed in apologizing profusely, and then she asked me what was going on.

So, I told her about all of the issues I had going on, and then I mentioned the crying, and how some days I felt like I wasn't myself.  I told her about how I had thought I was doing better, and then I wasn't doing better, and how I just didn't know, to be perfectly honest.

She nodded and said, "Amanda, you've had three kids in three years.  It's a lot.  And all of the things that you have described--well, those are a lot too.  And the thing is...your husband called because he knew things weren't right with you.  And when husbands call...we definitely listen."

I nodded.

"I want you to get counseling, and I know you don't like medication, but I'd like to start you on a low dose of an SSRI to help you.  It's not forever, but your body is going through so many hormonal changes right now that it sometimes makes it hard to cope.  And with everything you've got going on, you could probably use the extra support."

I nodded again, and then said, "I can't promise I'll take it."

She nodded.  "I know.  We'll re-evaluate in a couple months.  But I do suggest you do.  And if things are going well and you feel like yourself again, we'll wean you off of it."

I drove home, unsure of what to think.  Was this really what I wanted to do?  I am serious when I say that I balk at taking an Advil for a headache.  Did I actually need the medication?  Perhaps counseling would be enough.  Maybe if I just talked to someone...

...but then I was honest with myself again. I had been doing a lot of talking, to people who were going through the same thing, who had experienced it before, and who were all urging me to take care of myself.  Many, if not all of them, had gone the meds route.  All of them said how it had helped.  Some of them were still on the meds.  Others weren't.

I filled my prescription.

And then I stared at the bottle.

Friday, June 7, 2013

PPD, Part II: Is It Better?

After I had Bug I was fortunate enough to join a Meetup Group full of fantastic women, and over the past three years I have collected a handful of women who I consider to be my closest friends up here.  Three of them and I were in the middle of an email discussion (when your hours are erratic, email discussions often prove to be the most fruitful).  I had been addressed directly, so I knew I needed to say something...

...and then I thought, maybe I should tell them.

I shot for innocuous.  I wrote and rewrote my statement several times, and then I finally broke down and was honest:

"So...I'm not doing well with my stress levels at all.  I can't decide if it's just because there's too much crap going on or if it's something more serious.  I mean, I do have way too much crap going on and I literally run all day long from the moment one of my three wakes up until the last one's in bed (and even after that I usually have stuff to do).  I'm not really the medication type but I'm considering maybe seeing if I could see a counselor because I really don't like the stuff that I'm thinking/feeling."

There, I thought.  I had told someone.  I had sort of left out all the really bad bits, but they knew.

Immediately, I got responses back. 

"Please talk to your doctor about options.  This stuff can get pretty bad fast.  We'll come over and see you asap."

"Amanda, you should talk to someone.  In the meantime, what can I do to help?"

"I'm so sorry, let's get you out of the house."

And then I wrote on a message board for Project Purse Club (which, by the way, if you are a lady blogger like myself, you should join) and shared how I was feeling, and the person who responded to me told a story that described what I was going through exactly.

And then I told someone who I knew would hold me accountable for my actions.

And immediately, I felt an upward shift.  Sharing my problem made me feel better, happier, and then I began to wonder why I had been hiding my feelings for so long.  My friends cared about me.  They didn't judge me and just offered the support that I really needed...and I began to feel better.

The other thing was, I knew other women who had PPD, and I did not feel any disdain for them.  Rather, I had thought to myself, "Oh dear Lord, that sounds horrible.  I'm so grateful that hasn't happened to me."  And I had seen how they had come through it all and I admired their strength.

But what, was my body turning on me?  Again?  I had already felt like that with the gestational diabetes...was my mind going to turn on me too?  And because I was feeling better, I started to think that maybe I had been blowing it out of proportion.  Then I started to wonder if I had PPD after all.  I mean, I was so much happier, and calmer, and even though life was very calamity-filled, I had a good support system--and I even grudgingly admitted how badly I had been feeling to Jon, but then I reassured him I was better, much better.  Things were looking up and so when the nagging, nasty, ugly feelings came back, I tried to brush them off.  A fluke, I told myself.  Today was really freaking stressful, of course I don't feel like I have it together.  

Besides, just a couple weeks ago you were at your six week checkup, and you were fine, you told the doctor you were fine.  And you were!  You were so happy, so grateful that Peanut was such a wonderful baby.  So what, suddenly everything fell apart?  It's in your head, Amanda.  Suck it up.

Other troubling thoughts occurred to me.  Was PPD a mental illness?  Was I mentally ill?  The stigma attached to that term was something I couldn't even countenance.  I refused to accept that there was something wrong with me, and so I buried it again, for a couple weeks.  I reassured myself constantly that things were just ducky, and once all of the current stresses were over, I would be my old self.  I was not sick.  I was not depressed.   This was not happening to me, and that was that.  Nope.  You're fine, princess.  Keep on keeping on.

But then life started to get worse.  More stress.  Things just kept going wrong.  

Then one day Jon came home.  By way of greeting, he said the following to me:  "Hey, so I made you an appointment to see the doctor about your postpartum depression."

I was stunned.  "Oh," I managed.

"I got tired of you dragging your feet on this, and telling me you were going to call the doctor, so I did it for you."

"Gotcha," I said, having been reduced to one-word responses.

"Look, you owe it to yourself, and you owe it to our kids to be healthy.  And you can't take care of them if you can't take care of yourself."  He came and sat down next to me, and I felt tears in my eyes again.  "Are you upset I did that?"

"No," I said.  "No, that...means a lot."  And it did.  It meant a lot of things.  It meant that he had been perceptive enough to know that I was still falling apart, and that he loved me enough to want me to be better.  It meant that he knew what I was going through wasn't good for me or the kids.  But the biggest thing it meant was something I had been afraid to acknowledge, which was it was bad enough for Jon to call my doctor and say, We need to get her help.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

PPD, Part I: The Very Ugly Beginning

I didn't notice until I was in the middle of it, but now that I'm looking back on everything, I can trace it to a moment.  It was probably that first bottle that did me in.

When Peanut (oh yes, baby #3 has a name now) was about seven weeks old, he started getting fussy with breastfeeding.  He was insatiable...and then he stopped pooping, so we went to the pediatrician and found that he wasn't gaining weight anymore.

Supplement him, they told me.  So I came home that evening and gave him an ounce of formula.  One ounce.  One tiny, little ounce.

And that was when Peanut decided he was done with breastfeeding.

I tried, oh, how I tried to get him to do it again.  I would sit there for an hour, refusing to give him anything unless he nursed, while he screamed at me, and then would finally acquiesce.  But then I had to give him a bottle after each nursing session, and then the whole vicious cycle began again.

And then he really wouldn't nurse anymore, and I gave up.  I have two other kids; I couldn't spend my entire day begging and pleading with my infant to nurse.

And that was when things started to go downhill.

Ceasing nursing early makes your body think that your baby died, and to me, it wasn't worth it to pump and get an ounce after half an hour, so I went cold turkey and my milk supply dried up rather quickly.  But I didn't feel right.  Peanut would cry and I wouldn't care.  I was losing my temper at Bug every other hour.  Sweet little Cat wouldn't do anything and I'd be frustrated at him.  I'd sit in the shower and stare at the wall and lose track of time, feeling nothing but numbness even when I turned the temperature to scalding.  Sometimes Jon would come home and find me curled up on the couch with tears streaming down my face because that afternoon had been too much for me.

On top of it all, we then started to have a cacophony of disasters--friends divorcing, ailing family members, you name it, it's been going on.  In addition to getting ready for the move and having to keep the house really super clean because we're showing it, and...

...I started to really derail.

It's not something that I thought would ever happen to me.  I love being a mom, I love my children, I love the fact that I get to stay home with them.  Right now, I'd say about seventy percent of the time, that's my reality and I love my life.

But suddenly there was that other thirty percent.  The time that I spent crying.  The time that I spent trying to hide the crying from Jon.  The time that I spent desperately trying to keep a hold on my temper because I was afraid I was going to lose it with my kids, and I honestly wasn't quite sure what I would do.

And then there was the time that I spent thinking about hurting myself.  Because that happened, too.  

Postpartum depression was not supposed to happen to me.  I had it all together, right?  Everybody told me so, how I always seemed so calm and in control.  So I clung to that image, and pushed the dysfunction I was feeling beneath the surface.  And I did a pretty good job hiding it for awhile.  Outside of a few friends, nobody has had any idea what was really going on with me, because I disguised my inner turmoil so very, very well.  I evaded.  I deflected.  I struggled to be witty and charming and poised and to talk about everything else except for the clawing feeling in the pit of my stomach which kept reminding me that I wasn't alright.  I complained, sure; but I complained about things that didn't matter, like the massive pile of diapers, or my oldest child's refusal to eat anything that doesn't come with french fries.  Because if I focused on those things I didn't have to focus on the ugliness that was growing inside of me.

And then one night I found myself sitting at my computer with tears streaming down my face, and I wasn't really quite sure why.  All I knew was that I felt desperate, and I didn't know what to do.  Should I wake up Jon?  Should I go in the bathroom and play with razors?  Did it even matter?  Honestly, I didn't know, and I felt so raw and volatile, that I was scaring myself.

So I sent an e-mail.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Guest Post: Five Ways to Stay Healthy and Safe While on Vacation

After a long year of school and work, it is time to take a well-deserved vacation with your family. To make it safe as well as fun, some planning will keep everything running smoothly. Whether you are going by bus, car, plane, or train, follow these tips for stress-free travel.

1. Getting Enough Sleep

Although you plan a packed schedule full of activities during the day, restful sleep at night will keep your kids raring to go each day. To ensure a good night’s sleep away, ask if the hotel enforces quiet hours. Generally, these establishments cost more, but it is worth the extra expense. Many Orlando hotels offer this perk!

2. Make Sure to Pack the Snacks!

Instead of spending money on unhealthy snacks, make homemade treats. These foods travel well and are healthier alternatives than the sugary choices available at rest stops or in airports.

- Dried fruits
- Nuts
- Pretzels
- String cheese
- Trail mix

3. Rest Breaks are Important
Driving to your vacation destination is a great way to connect with your kids, but it is a good idea to include frequent rest stops. Choose a park to let them play so they can release pent up energy and breathe fresh air. Make sure to bring their favorite electronic games, toys, and engage them with songs.

4. Be careful of that Airplane Water

The water used to prepare beverages sits in a plane's holding tank, which is unclean. Sometimes, the water used to refill these tanks comes from foreign airports, which do not have the same standards as the United States. Stick to bottled water, juices, or soda. Avoid these items.

- Coffee
- Drinks made with water
- Ice cubes
- Tea

During a six-year review by the Environmental Protection Agency, there has been cause for concern with airplane water containing traces of E. coli.

5. Watch Out for to much Sun Exposure

Fun in the sun includes using sunscreen for everyone in your family, particularly the little ones.

- Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a minimum of 15 SPF every two hours
- Have your child wear a brimmed hat and sunglasses while they are playing outside
- Reflected sunlight on water or snow intensifies sun exposure
- Ultraviolet light is stronger near the equator
With the summer weather approaching, vacation season is on! I hope you keep these tips in mind the next time you go on a trip with your family!

Kendra Thornton: Travel advocate, TV spokesperson, PR businesswoman, proud wife and mama of 3. I am a long time travel expert who has been packing my bags and traveling the world since I was 3 months old! I've found my utmost desire in life is right here in my own home. I have mixed my excitement for travel by bringing the taste of authentic cuisine to my own home with some of my unique recipes and sharing some of my personal traveling tips. Enjoy!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Guest Post: Gift Ideas for a Second Time Mom

While there’s no shortage of people who claim to know the perfect gift for “start-up” moms, shower items for mothers working on baby number-two (or three, or four, or...) present more of a challenge. Do you need to need to do everything differently this time? If so, what?

There’s no master secret for what to give to the second-time-around parent, but there are a few guidelines. First of all, this go-around should veer a little more to the practical side.  While the joy of expanding the family is back, the novelty of the first time is not. In other words, you might want to stick with a gift that make life easier, rather than more a symbolic or commemorative choice. Additionally, it’s a good idea to bring the other children a little something at the same time. Call it a good-hearted bribe, but it’s a great way to prevent jealousy issues.

Image Courtesy of Dustin M. Ramsey © 2006/Wikimedia Commons

As far as specific suggestions go, don’t forget to check with the baby registry (if one exists).  While it may be less exciting to just faithfully pick up items from a list, remember this is about them, not you! All that said, here are some dynamite candidates for any second-time mom:

Sweet sighs of relief

Again, while mom may be a seasoned veteran at this point, the truth is that she’s contending with more needs, more demands and simply more bodies. Without a doubt, your mom friend could use means of taking a load off, such as:

     Maid service.  Needless to say, more kids make more of a mess (and give you less time to deal with it). A gift card for a trusted cleaning service (or an independent you know from word-of-mouth) will hit home.
     A “Babymoon” trip.  There’s no shame in it: moms need to get away from it all too.  Make reservations at her favorite hotel or nearby inn, set things up with a babysitter (or volunteer your own services).
     Spa/salon treatment:  This one might also entail pinning down a baby sitter, but an afternoon of soaking, steaming and getting spoiled will benefit her whole clan. If she has trouble getting out of the house, consider making her a gift basket filled with essential spacare items (soaps, salts, bubble bath, etc).

Image Courtesy of Jamie Campbell/Wikimedia Commons

Specifically “Multi-kid” Upgrades

     Double stroller.  This obviously depends on the age difference between the little ones. If the gap is greater than a year or so, you might just want to get a swankier single stroller.
     Diaper station annex. A duplicate changing pad and diaper pail will definitely help with the overflow, especially if the growing family lives in a home with space issues; a baby bathtub will be a backup blessing.
     New jumpers and bouncers.  New kids means more little bodies with a lot of energy. Not only will these things keep the whole gang occupied, you’ll be creating another pressure valve to give mom some much-appreciated hands-free time.

Strictly Practical

There are some items that will always come in handy, no matter which kid uses them.

     Clothes and cloths; bibs and burpers.  Babies are as messy as they are adorable and try as mom might, some things just receive too much wear and tear to last long.
     “Old school” alternatives.  Mass-produced baby needs are convenient, but they aren’t always the best for the environment or children’s health. A supply of cloth diapers (or a coupon for an ongoing service) is a great green way to show you care, while glass bottles prevent the risks that come with reheating plastic.
     Blood registry.  This one may seem odd to some readers, but it might end up being the greatest gift of all. By starting a fund that will pay for storage of the new baby’s cord blood stem cells, you’ll give the family peace of mind should any medical problems arise in the future. A gift not every mom may think of, this might be as practical as is meaningful.

Of course, knowing the mom, her family and her ever-changing hectic schedule is the best way of deciding on ideal presents. In the end, it’s all about making life go more smoothly, so keep it simple.

Marcela De Vivo is a freelance writer in the Los Angeles area who specializes in travel, marketing and technology. In addition to being a business owner, she is also a mother of three, making her a very busy mom who would appreciate any one of the above mentioned gift ideas. 

Monday, April 1, 2013

...And Then There Were Three, Part II

So there I was, hiding behind a drape, with my arms stretched out and tied down, trying to forget that I was having a c-section.  "Talk to me," I ordered Jon.  "I don't want to think about what's going on."

So he began babbling about something, and I started to feel...tugging.  That's when I realized they had begun and I thankfully hadn't felt the initial incision.  Instead, as I lay there, I felt like something was being yanked around in my abdomen.  Huh, I thought, Now this is some weird stuff.  Then my neck started hurting.  And then I felt some major pressure in my chest, and then I heard my doctor welcoming my baby into the world.

But he wasn't crying.

I looked at Jon, and as I spoke I heard my voice tremble.  "He's not crying.  Why isn't he crying?"

"He's fine," my doctor's voice soothed me from behind the curtain.  "He just needs a little help learning how to breathe."

I would have freaked out at that comment, but the pressure in my chest was building.  I now know that it was air pockets, but it felt very uncomfortable and my pain medicine guru John asked me if I wanted more pain meds.  I heartily said yes.  Then I asked Jon to rub my neck.  Then I begged for my arms to be untied, because I thought that might help with the pressure/pain (turned out I was wrong, but oh well).  Then I called to my doctor, "Hey, so can I get a free tummy tuck?"

She laughed and said that she thought my tummy was just fine.  And I started to hear cries--nothing had ever sounded sweeter.

I was starting to get woozy from the pain meds when they finally brought my sweet angel over.  He just stared at me, and I at him.  "Hello, sweetheart," I crooned drowsily as I rested my cheek against his (Jon held him up for me).  "I love you.  I'm glad you're here."

Unlike my two previous deliveries, after which I immediately got to cuddle my baby and try to nurse, he was taken away from me to the nursery and I was sent to recovery.  I managed to talk to my mom (not too sure how coherent I was, but I somehow got through a conversation with her) and had Jon call my best friend and some other people.  Then he left me in recovery to go get Bug and Cat (we had a friend watching them) and I started to become more alert and took stock of the situation.

First off, I totally couldn't move my legs.  That was something that would have to be remedied.  I focused all of my energy on trying to wiggle my toes--which I managed with some success after an hour of being in the recovery room.  Second, they kept me connected to the epidural machine, which meant that I could push a button and have magical pain medicine delivered.  And I liked that.  I liked that a lot.

Unfortunately, my hair still smelled like vomit. And even though I felt pretty darn crappy, I wanted to be with my baby.  However, his glucose was low (thanks, gestational diabetes) so they had to give him some formula and our reunion was delayed after he fell asleep and they decided not to wake him.  My recovery nurse assured me they would let me see my darling as soon as possible, and in the meantime, I should probably keep hitting that button.

So when I left recovery I could wiggle my left toes and move my whole right foot.  I was becoming much more conversational--when I met my nurse one of the first things I asked her was, "Hey, so from what I understand, you'll let me eat once I start passing gas, right?"  She bit back a chuckle and said yes, if I started farting, I could have food.

I promptly made that my next mission, and I had success, which meant she brought me a breakfast menu so I could order some food.  I continued to wiggle my feet and finally started getting some feeling back in my legs--and then in my abdomen.  That wasn't such a good feeling, so I hit the button for more pain meds.

And then I was finally reunited with my sweet baby.  We tried nursing (not a lot of success--I actually wound up squeezing colostrum out of myself and rubbing it on his tongue).  I had to give him a few more mL of formula to keep his sugars stable, but after that I was able to get him to latch on and eat for me.

In the meantime, I couldn't do anything since I wasn't allowed out of bed, so my nurse basically waited on me hand and foot--and my baby, who seriously pooped every five minutes.  She was phenomenal, constantly checking on me, making sure I had water (which I had demanded immediately after I had arrived in my room).  Oh, and she let me have a popsicle too--which, after not being allowed to eat all day, was heaven.

So my newest baby boy and I got to know each other...and then my other OB showed up.

Stay tuned!