Rhinoey to the Rescue

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Lucas isn’t the world’s best sleeper. Even the very first night of his life, when he was teeny tiny and should have been tremendously sleepy, he would cry the moment we set him down. Our sleep struggles continued, so much so that I only remember glimpses of the first months of his life. He woke up every two or three hours for his first five months and I seriously thought I was going to die. He would only sleep in a few places: our arms, his bouncy seat, or next to us in bed.

As he got older, we were able to work out various sleeping scenarios that although unconventional, ensured that all three of us got the sleep we needed. And up until a few weeks ago, that still included laying down with Lucas until he fell asleep at night. He has been a cuddler since birth.

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Our sweet snuggler.

The other weekend, Jaime took Lucas to the zoo. There was a new penguin exhibit at a zoo near us, and Lucas had never been there, so they decided to try that one out. In a stroke of marketing genius, you practically have to walk through the gift shop to exit the zoo. Naturally, Lucas wanted to go in, and almost immediately he saw a stuffed rhino he was pretty sure he couldn’t live without.

Jaime did a little quick thinking and decided if he was going to buy an overpriced stuffed rhinoceros, he would try to make it work in our favor. He told Lucas that probably, if he had a stuffed rhino that nice and cuddly, he would be able to get to sleep snuggling it instead of one of us.  And then he held his breath…

Lucas thought for a moment, and then agreed!  He said he was a big boy now and he would be okay getting to sleep with Rhinoey. Since the rhino already had a name and a purpose, Jaime went ahead and bought it. And wouldn’t you know, that night, we tucked Lucas in with Rhinoey, turned on his night-light, kissed him goodnight, and left the room. Just like that. After four and a half years of nighttime shenanigans, Lucas is putting himself to sleep.

It still seems surreal sometimes! I don’t regret the many hours we’ve spent helping him fall asleep.  There were times when we felt frustrated and impatient, but overall we’ve enjoyed the closeness and were willing and able to give him that gift until he was ready to do it on his own. It takes some kids a bit longer than others, and that was okay with us.

I’m proud of Jaime for realizing Lucas was ready to make this transition, and I’m proud of Lucas for making it! We hardly know what to do with our newfound freedom. But no worries, we’ll figure something out.

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Lucas and Rhinoey

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The Last Time I Rocked My Son To Sleep

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Before Lucas was born, we bought a rocking chair. I wanted to have a comfortable place to sit with him in his room while I fed and rocked him. After we got the nursery together, I often relaxed in the rocker, surveying his room and enjoying the peaceful setting. I imagined my baby there with me, snuggled in my arms. I imagined him sleeping contentedly in his crib. I pictured diapering him on his changing table. In my mind’s eye I could see chubby fingers turning the pages of the books that so neatly lined his little shelf.

Life wasn’t a whole lot like I pictured it once he did show up. There were no more tranquil afternoons of sitting still. Lucas never once slept a full night in his crib. I changed his diaper on the carpet downstairs much more than on his changing table. The books in this room littered the floor more often than they adorned the shelf once he could crawl and grab. But my imagination did get one thing right–the hours and hours spent rocking in that chair.

I had people warn me against rocking Lucas to sleep.  “You will regret it when he can’t get to sleep on his own,” they said. It was hard to imagine ever regretting it the first time I held him there. He was so tiny and sweet, and we had waited so long for him. And as time went on and we learned who he was and what he needed, it seemed obvious that those moments were important to him. I’m not saying we never wished he would fall asleep on his own, or that he didn’t need the comfort and safety of our arms quite so much, but we stuck to the rocking because it was the best decision for all of us.

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One of the very first times I rocked Lucas in that chair.

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I wasn’t the only one who spent hours in the rocker with Lucas…

That chair stayed in Lucas’s room until he was three and a half.  At that point he informed us that he was ready for a big bed and we changed his room over from baby to big boy.  His rocker was replaced by an orange, egg-shaped swirly chair.

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From baby room….

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…to big boy room.

photo 2 (7)The other night, I was sitting with Lucas on his bed.  He was sobbing and heartbroken because Jaime was gone and he felt there was no way on earth he could get to sleep without seeing him. Jaime usually puts Lucas to bed, but was at a late meeting that night. And so I found myself pulling him into my arms and once again rocking him. It got me thinking about all those days and nights I rocked my baby, then toddler, to sleep.  And how somewhere along the line, I rocked him to sleep for the last time, even though I didn’t realize it. Suddenly I was so grateful I had ignored that advice. I am thankful for all those moments–the sweet, peaceful ones, and even the stressed and frazzled ones when I thought he would never ever in a million years fall asleep. All those moments are part of our history together. Somewhere along the way he stopped needing to be rocked, and that chapter in our lives ended.

For a fleeting moment, I thought maybe I’d get another chance to rock him to sleep the other night. Maybe this would be the last time. But after he was sufficiently comforted, he asked to lay back down on his pillow. At this point, stretching out in bed is more comfortable for him. My heart hurt a little but I think I heard an audible sigh of relief from my arm which was already cramped up and sore.

Another bit of advice I received before Lucas was born was to cherish every stage of his life because each one passes so quickly. That has certainly proved true. At first that sentiment evoked a kind of panic in me, that I somehow needed to stop the hands on the clock. But what I’ve come to realize, is that although I do miss things from the past, there are new things to enjoy in each new phase. At age four, I do miss rocking my boy. But I love hearing him chatter on (and on) about what’s on his mind. I’m fascinated by his vivid imagination and the ways in which he is figuring out the world around him. I love how he bounces and runs and skips everywhere because the joy and enthusiasm in his heart finds its way into his little legs. I love all his songs, the funny ways he explains things, and his tendency to make up a word if he doesn’t know the real one. I especially adore his little mistakes. (As I type this, he is singing at the top of his lungs, “S-P-E-L-L, I really love to read!”). 🙂

I’ll probably never rock Lucas to sleep again, but I’ll never forget the days I did. And I look forward to all the firsts and even the lasts that each new stage holds.  After all, it’s all of part of this wonderful experience called motherhood.

[Not] The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

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FInding the perfect Christmas tree to take home!

Don’t get me wrong, I love the holidays (Lucas’s contagious delight, crackling fires, Christmas carols, glowing candles, fond memories of popcorn balls and felt stockings), but this time of year is rife with germs, colds, flu, and all things scary for those of us with cystic fibrosis.  During cold and flu season last year I required antibiotics only once (in February) after a seven month antibiotic-free streak. It has now been ten months since I’ve been on antibiotics and I’m hoping to continue adding to that number, even through these winter months. I made some changes to my health routine last winter that seemed to have a big impact.  Here are some tips to help you get through cold and flu season unscathed!

1. Get plenty of rest and sleep.  Sleep is by far the most important factor in my health maintenance routine. I do best if I have nine hours a night. I can get by on eight, but any less than that for an extended period of time means trouble. It’s easy around the holidays to lose out on sleep, whether you’re shopping, going to parties, or getting ready to host family.  Even though it’s a busy time, try to make sleep a priority. Your body will thank you.

2. Eat a healthy diet. God has given us many wonderful foods in nature that can help protect our bodies against infection and can fight off illnesses if we’ve fallen victim to a virus or bacteria.  In general, eating a healthy diet with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables and cutting down on processed and sugary foods which cause inflammation will help you stay healthy this winter.  Here are my favorite infection fighting super foods that I eat during the winter:

  • Homemade Chicken Soup: Chicken soup really is healthy.  It clears up congestion and reduces inflammation. Chicken contains an amino acid called cysteine which is released when you make soup. Cysteine thins the mucus in the lungs which helps the body to heal from a virus or infection and helps us CFers fight our daily fight against congestion.  Thanks to some advice from a friend, I have recently started making my own chicken broth with the bones and leftover parts of a whole chicken.  I fill a large soup pot and simmer the bones, skin, and whatever meat is leftover for about 12 hours.  At that point, I add some onion, carrots, celery, a few bay leaves, a tablespoon of peppercorns, and a little salt and let it simmer for another 12 hours.  I then strain out all the solids and freeze what we won’t be using immediately.  We have been adding this broth to many soups, stews, and other dishes that call for chicken stock.  It tastes great and is very nutritious!
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Homemade Chicken Broth

  • Cranberries: Cranberries are in season right now and are a super healthy fruit.   They are extremely high in antioxidants, second only to the blueberry.  They are very low in sugar.  I eat them raw for maximum nutritional value (yes, raw).  Because they are very sour, I drizzle them with honey.  They are still tart but once you get used to them, I think you will like them! Cranberries can be frozen right in their bags.  I buy and freeze enough to get me through the winter months.
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Beautiful berries!

  • Cruciferous Vegetables:  Cruciferous vegetables include vegetables such as cauliflower, cabbage, brussel sprouts, broccoli, and kale.  This family of vegetables is very high in calcium, various vitamins, disease fighting antioxidants, and other phytochemicals.  (Phytochemicals are plant chemicals that have protective or disease preventative properties.  Antioxidants are phytochemicals).  My two favorite veggies from this family are kale, which has also been shown to ease lung congestion, and red cabbage which is anti-microbial and anti-bacterial.  Red cabbage is effective against both staph and psuedomonas (common CF bacterias).
  • Ginger: Ginger is soothing to the stomach.  It is also rich in antioxidants and has potent anti-inflammatory properties.  Using fresh ginger will give you the most benefit. I grate it to make tea and use it in stir fry.  I also eat candied ginger. This does have added sugar so I just eat a few pieces each day.  I warn you, it can be very hot, but I like it!
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Spicy and delicious

  • Garlic: Garlic stimulates the immune system.  Garlic has a phytochemical called allicin which is powerfully anti-bacterial and anti-viral.  It is effective against psuedomonas.  In spite of my anti-garlic upbringing, I now cook with fresh garlic on a regular basis (sorry Dad!).  I also take a garlic supplement during cold and flu season.
  • Turmeric Root: Turmeric root is another immune-boosting root that is rich in antioxidants and has potent anti-inflammatory properties.  I often grate turmeric into my scrambled eggs, put it in soups, or make tea from it.  You might want to try my friend Erin’s recipe for turmeric, black pepper, and honey or maple syrup tea (click here for the recipe.)  It’s very soothing!  (Side note, black pepper is also anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, and reduces congestion).

3.  Drink plenty of fluids.  Stay well hydrated!  If we got sick when we were little, my mom would set the timer and we would have a drink every half hour.  That may seem like overkill but fluids are so important.  Water flushes waste and bacteria out of our systems and staying hydrated will give your body the energy to fight off infections.  I have found that my mucus seems thinner if I’m drinking enough water too.  I try to drink eight glasses of water per day in addition to my other fluids (coffee♥, orange juice, and coconut milk).

4. Wash your hands often.  This is kind of a no-brainer but it’s important to get those germs off your hands, especially if you’ve been out and about. I also keep my fingernails cut short because bacteria loves to hide under the nails.  I try to avoid touching my face, too, so that the bacteria that is inevitably on my hands doesn’t get into my eyes, nose, or mouth.

5.  Get some fresh air and exercise.  Exercise helps your immune system to fight against infections and strengthens your whole body.  Getting outside gives you needed exposure to natural sunlight and boosts the spirits.  Even if the cold air is hard to breathe, staying out for a few minutes will be beneficial.

Lucas sees to it that I get plenty of fresh air and exercise.

Lucas sees to it that I get plenty of fresh air and exercise.

6.  Laugh!  Staying joyful and upbeat lowers stress and helps to keep infection at bay.  It’s easy to get nervous during cold and flu season.  After all, a simple cold is rarely simple for those of us with chronic lung disease.  But try to push those fears away.  Do the very best you can to take care of yourself.  Then relax, smile, and enjoy this wonderful time of year!

Laughter really is good medicine.

Laughter really is good medicine!

A Sleepover at Grandma’s

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After Lucas was born, a handful of people told me, “Sleep is overrated.” I think somehow that cliche was meant to comfort me.  You see my order was mixed up and instead of a good sleeper, I got Lucas!  He is many wonderful things, however a wonderful sleeper is not among them.  He woke up every 2-3 hours for the first five months of his life.  At that point I made an appointment with his pediatrician and told her if she didn’t help me, I wasn’t going to make it to his first birthday. And help she did.  It took some creative maneuvering, but within another month we got him sleeping a five hour stretch.

Part of the plan for our family was to have Jaime take care of Lucas in the night.  It started back then and it continues to this day because at 2 years 9 months of age, that sweet boy still does not sleep through the night.  I am so grateful for a husband willing and able to shoulder that burden.  Jaime is perfect for this job on two levels.  First, he doesn’t need a lot of sleep.  Second, he is able to sleep through almost anything.  He can sleep (somewhat) peacefully through the night with Lucas right on top of him, or inches from his face, or nestled in his armpit.  Which is often how I find those two in the morning.

collage I need sleep, and a lot of it.  I feel best if I get nine hours a night.  Sleep is essential for keeping my immune system strong and for fighting off infections.  Being well rested gives me the energy to successfully carry out my daily tasks with reduced lung function.  And I think most moms would agree that good sleep goes a long way when it comes to being patient with small children.

Occasionally Jaime is gone overnight, or gets home very late.  In those instances I know I can always request a sleepover at Grandma’s!  Lucas gets out his backpack and we pack a few diapers, jammies, his toothbrush, and a change of clothes.  We toss a few essentials in his lunchbox and he’s ready to roll. Grandma swings by after work, takes Lucas home with her and brings him back the next day.  He is always excited to go.  I am always excited to sleep.

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I am grateful for all the ways God provides for my needs.  I’m thankful my supportive husband, our supportive friends and family, and for sleepovers at Grandma’s.

Sleep is overrated?  I think not!