6 Truths For A Mama-Attitude Adjustment When Our Work Feels Unnoticed

Some jobs are never done. The laundry never ceases, meals do not make themselves and dishes, beds, and bathrooms will be used and require cleaning. And the toys…here is one of the rooms I cleaned and organized this morning. Don’ think it looks bad? This is only 10 minutes later and they’re off in another freshly cleaned room wreaking havoc in there.

attitude adjustment

My attitude varies. Many days, I enjoy the work and feel productive and fulfilled, even when my husband returns from work and the house is again in disarray, and the sink is again full of dishes.

Just what did we do today?

But more often than I’d like to admit, I feel self-pity; as if I were singled-out and sentenced to picking up toys and scrubbing toilets, again. Waking up to a pile of laundry to fold and more to be wash can be disheartening. Sometimes I desire recognition for the work that was done and unseen before the kids scattered every toy from the toy box, again. And some days, I feel the work is not worthwhile or of any lasting value.

But entertaining and dwelling in these selfish thoughts is both toxic, infectious and habit-forming. I no longer feel blessed, I feel controlled. When I could demonstrate good stewardship and a servant heart, I instead demonstrate how to sigh and be resentful while doing chores (no wonder our children struggle with this too!). Now, instead of serving my family and loving them, I’m looking at their dirty laundry, bed sheets and dishes as a burden. So wrong! These people I love (and their things) are not a burden!

This attitude is ungrateful…for our children and their playful hearts…for the blessing to stay home while my husband works equally as hard as I am (or harder)…for the washing machine and dryer and clean water available to me…for the carpet to vacuum, the floors to mop and the bathrooms to clean…for the abundant provision and blessing of God to our family.

Do you sometimes think your children need an attitude adjustment when they are begrudgingly doing chores, or complaining? I have told our kids to change their attitude many times. But we parents know all-too-well that this is no easy task. Once self-centered, negative, grumbling thoughts creep in…they are difficult to banish. When we have much to care for, we are blessed far more than we realize. But the mundane, repetitive nature of these daily tasks often leaves me short-sighted and unrateful.

I can admit that sometimes, this un-grateful mama needs a serious attitude adjustment.

I need to consider the truth of who we do this for, what it is we are doing, and why we are doing it. Then how we do it (our attitude) will follow suit. There is much to be grateful for today. This is the time to enjoy all of this. 

6 Truths For A  Mama-Attitude Adjustment When Our Work Feels Unnoticed

1. You Aren’t Singled Out

No matter what your job is, much of what is earnestly completed may go unnoticed. Unseen. Or must be repeated again and again. When I worked in the lab, the biohazard bins were filled, right after taking it out, and the samples for tomorrow came in even before we reported results from today. The same is true in corporate jobs; as one issue is resolved, two or three more come up. It may sometimes seem daunting, but in reality, is job-security.

As a mama at home, my children begin enjoying the room just cleaned, or drop crumbs on the floor before I’ve finished mopping the other end. Like everyone else, much of our work is behind-the-scenes, maintaining, cleaning, fixing, and living. In truth, I am no different than you, and we are no different than anyone else. Our work is no less recognized or unrecognized, even if it sometimes feels that way.

2. ‘Tis The Season

The chores of today will not always be. Welcome the season of life you’re in, and live IN it. Here and now.

Ask any mother of grown children – they know the truth and value of these busy days. They experienced children growing up and all the dishes, laundry, noise and chaos that came with it. They miss it. Caring for and raising children is a privilege. A time will come, with less mess, but also with fewer feet making noise and fewer mouths to feed. I, for one, am not ready for that. I like today. The future can’t be sped up or put off. Longing for a time with less mess is not just silly, it is a waste of the blessings I have now.

3. Gratitude Requires Practice

It is not easy to be grateful when scrubbing toilets after a potty-training toddler has left their mark. No, it’s downright hard. But, take time to practice. The more you do, the easier it will be to see things with eyes of gratitude instead of eyes of self-pity. Instead of seeing an unending pile of clothes, thank God for the people who wear them, and that your family is blessed to own such a large pile of laundry. When overwhelmed by the mountain of dishes, be grateful your family has food to eat, are healthy, and for the ability to prepare food in a clean kitchen. So what if you have to clean it? Instead of feeling resentment towards your spouse when they return from work not seeing what you did all day – recognize that you have no idea what mundane details and tasks they did all day either. Thank them for their hard work.

Wondering if I’m going to give thanks for those toilets? Sure am. It may be hard to see the rainbow here, but here goes – when tired of cleaning toilets that smell like the zoo, be glad you’re not cleaning an outhouse and have indoor plumbing. Furthermore, a toilet to clean and a toddler who is learning (and not wearing a diaper) are BOTH blessings worth my gratitude. Also recognize bleach for what it is – a gift.

4. Our Work Is Not Unnoticed

While the love of family can get us through many mundane tasks with a joyful attitude, we also need the hope of an eternal perspective. The Bible tells us that no matter what work we are doing, we do it for the Lord:

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” Colossians 3:23 – 24 (NIV)

And, as Philippians 2:4 points out, sometimes I just need to and obey and do whatever it is without complaining or arguing. When the tasks seem daunting or we are tempted to complain or feel neglected, we must remember that God sees everything. He knows every single thing we do. And (gulp) He knows our attitude while we do it. Your work may feel unrecognized, unnoticed, or unimportant, but the God who created you and loves you, sees you. D you get that? He. Sees. YouThis is no small thing.

5. Our Attitudes Have Long-Term Consequences

Be forward-thinking as you consider your long-term desire for your children, and your spouse. How do you want to be remembered?

I won’t care in 20 years if my children remember that I cleaned their toilets, or if my husband knows just how many times I picked up Legos today, even though they are now on the floor. What I don’t want them to remember is how I begrudgingly cooked, cleaned, and complained. It won’t matter how good the meal was if they felt I was irritated making it for them. When I complain, it is memorable and infectious. They will learn that these tasks are worth complaining about, and they will not enjoy doing them either because I will have taught them not to. These things are not what I want to impart to them.

No, I am actually OK if they don’t remember me doing any of these things if they remember I served them willingly and lovingly. I will know that I served them regardless of their response. Instead, I will cling to hope that when I see the Lord, I will be recognized for service and obedience to HIM that perhaps no one else on earth will ever know about. Good enough for me.

6. The Work Is Important

Mundane tasks have to be done. We have to eat. We cannot (well, should not) live in filth. Good stewardship is a life-lesson that must be taught. Cleaning and cooking are hygiene and health issues with lasting value and consequences. I can degrade the thought of these things by telling myself it is unimportant work, but it is simply not true. It may not feel like it, but I am imparting life lessons to our children and this is a serious, and important job.

Finally, I am responsible for my own attitude, and I choose my words and actions. It’s time to own them. I decide whether I will approach my work with gratitude and joy or self-pity and disgust. If I didn’t have this work to do…it would mean I didn’t have a family to care for, a house to live in, a job to go to, or a Lord to serve. I would desire and long for these jobs if I no longer had them.

Today as I scrub toilets, mop, cook, and fold laundry, again, I will take time to thank the Lord for the little and big feet who wear these socks, for the country we live in and the clean water, appliances and electricity we enjoy, and for the food that makes the crumbs on my floor and dirties our dishes.

And I will relish the thought that as I choose to do these things joyfully, in service to my family, that the God I love sees me and my work, even if no one else does.

‘You Are My Sunshine’ Birthday – DIY ‘You Are My Sunshine’ Photo Birthday Banner

DIY You Are My Sunshine Photo Birthday Banner

Our daughter turned TWO on Sunday. She is fun, sweet and joyful – full of curiosity, and quirky humor. She is a delight to be around and we are blessed by her every single day.

Before she was born, I bought her a sign for her wall that said “You Are My Sunshine” for her bedroom wall. And it is so true! She brightens up every room, and every face in it.

Even though she’s only two, I wanted to honor her by creating a few decorations. If you know her, you’ll agree that ‘You Are My Sunshine’ is a fitting theme for the girl who truly is…our sunshine.

I am convinced that every child (and adult) needs is a birthday banner in their honor. It is a simple and inexpensive, yet personal touch for their special day. The couple’s shower banner, simple birthday banner and dinosaur party banners I’ve shared in the past have been created using patterned paper and stenciled letters.

But this time I wanted to do something a little different.

I am one of those annoying moms who is always chasing their children with the camera…so with the hundreds (no, let’s be honest, thousands) of photos from the past year, I had plenty to choose from to make a photo banner. I wanted to pick one picture for each month of the past year. This way we can display some of our favorite memories of Adelyn and highlight how she has changed as she grew from one to two.

The biggest problem? Picking just one photo per month!

Pictures were selected that captured various facial expressions, and could be printed in black and white. Photos were printed on white cardstock using our home printer (P.S. remember to select grayscale printing if you don’t want to drain every ink cartridge on your printer), then cut to 8×8″.

The words to “You Are My Sunshine” were typed out using PicMonkey online photo editor (easy to use and free) using ‘Animatic Small Caps’ font (one of my favorites). I took some liberty modifying the rhyme to suit a birthday theme (just imagine singing it to the melody of the song):

“You are my sunshine, my only sunshine. You make me happy…when skies are gray. You’ll never know, child, how much we love you. Happy Birthday, to you, today.

You Are My Sunshine Banner Flags

The text was divided between 8 flags to hang between the photos and was also printed on white cardstock.

At first, the white flags and black and white photos were hung using plain clothes pins. Excited to see it, I was disappointed by it’s lackluster and drab appearance…not exactly what I was going for with a sunshine theme.

So, I decided to use some patterned scrapbook paper to brighten things up. First, I made patterned paper covered clothes pins. Since I was short on time, my helpful mom cut the flags and lined them wtih patterned paper. We used Scotch tape for a quick application. She then labeled each photo with the month the photo was taken in. The labels were printed on scrapbook paper and glued onto the photos using a glue stick.

Pretty soon, the once coloress banner looked bright and sunshine-worthy.

Labels

The labeled photos and modified flags were re-hung on twine using the newly decorated clothes pins. 3M Command hooks were used to suspend the banner across our kitchen.

There were two very excited children when they came down for breakfast on Wednesday. They noticed it immediately.

Giggles, and a half jumping, half running-in-place ‘happy dance‘ ensued (hysterical, and has been repeated several times now).

Many of our friends have said there is no need to decorate for a 2-year-old’s birthday. And, they’re right…she wouldn’t miss the decorations…But the joy on both our son’s and daughter’s faces was worth every effort and would have been missed by me.

Completed banner

Happy Birthday Adelyn Joy. We love you!

‘You Are My Sunshine’ Birthday – DIY Quick and Easy Patterned Paper Covered Clothes Pins

Sunshine Birthday DIY Quick and Easy Patterned Paper Covered Clothes Pins

I recently made a photo banner for our daughter’s ‘You Are My Sunshine’ birthday party. I wanted to hang the photos using clothes pins, but after hanging them up, I found the black and white photos and tan clothes pins looked a little drab.

I decided to use some of the bright-colored paper used on the banner to decorate the clothes pins.

This was a quick, inexpensive project using materials I already had on hand. The finished clothes pins provide a much-needed pop of color and can be used long after the banner is taken down. With a little focus, I made 21 of these in under 15 minutes.

Materials:

Steps:

  1. Trace a clothes pin onto the back of the patterned paper
  2. Measure theLxW and draw the pattern on the back of the patterned paper(s) for as many clothes pins as you have
    • I decorated only one side. If choosing to decorate both sides of the clothes pins, make twice as many strips
  3. Cut the strips and set aside
  4. Working quickly, use a paint brush to coat the flat side of a clothes pin withModgePodge, and apply the paper strip
    • Apply liberally since the wood is porous and will soak up some of the Modge Podge
    • Align the paper before applying, as it does not slide easily once applied
  5. Press firmly to
    1. If any glue squished out, simply wipe off with your finger or a rag
  6. Continue, coating and applying paper. I did 2 or 3 pins at a time without the Modge Podge drying
  7. Allow to dry 1 hour
  8. Use a paint brush to apply a thin layer ofModgePodge on the top of the paper (dries clear)
    • Use the brush to smooth out any wrinkles
  9. Allow to dry 1 hour

Expecting A Convenient Child Is Like Forcing A Square Peg To Go Through A Round Hole

crush

Gone are the days when children are seen and not heard. And good riddance! That is not what I want for them. I love their playful silly giggles and how they break out into song, intermixed with their own ad-hoc lyrics. They approach the world with curiosity, surprise and awe, expecting joy and delight.

A child seen and not heard is a stifled child.

Yet…there are times I expect it from them, as if they are adult brains in tiny bodies, able to control their emotions, curiosity, and bodies. I don’t mean that we should not expect that they obey simple requests, follow well known family rules, or that we shouldn’t expect good, learned behaviors. These are necessary and realistic expectations of skills and behaviors that will help them develop into functioning adults. Someday.

No, what I mean are those unreasonable moments when we expect a child to behave as an adult.  When we expect them to be something they are not (or cannot be), it is done at their, and our detriment.

It usually happens during a weak moment. Maybe I have a headache, a worry or a busy schedule. Maybe I’m just hormonal (or just in a funk, blaming hormones), or just plain-old worn out. Suddenly parenting seems messy. I’m overwhelmed by their joy, noise, and unbridled energy instead of embracing it.

So I try to stifle it. But I excuse it by telling myself I’m challenging them to grow up.

Suddenly I am more concerned with making them into what they simply are not. Maybe I want them to be sit still, for longer than is appropriate or even normal for their age. Or, maybe I want to wrangle them into enjoying a quiet activity because I have a headache, but they’ve been obediently quiet all day and now they need to PLAY. Or, worse, maybe I want them to stop crying when they are over-tired and their feelings get hurt because we’re in a hurry. It’s whatever behavior I’d prefer or would be most convenient for me. Sigh.

Trying to make our children more convenient, is not exactly what I’d like to be confessing today.

When not at my best, somehow I expect them to be at their best. And even better – beyond their capacity.

It is not fair to expect adult-like self control from a 2 or 4 year old. They have not developed those skills yet. They will come, but with time – with careful reinforcement and in small steps. Expecting too much, too soon, will likely unravel whatever progress we have made. Instead of the desired outcome I tried to force, they will fail. They will know they can’t or didn’t measure up and feel hurt, angry, sad, or indignant. Instead of a quiet, calm, or convenient child, I will get a child in full-meltdown.

I deserve the backlash. But they don’t.

Instead of making something easier (for me), my unrealistic expectation leaves us all frustrated, and emotionally raw. If we were out in public, we probably made a scene. We were that family. I was that mama, frustrated with kids being kids, who lost sight of the big picture.

The damage from what seemed the easiest for me…is profound. The unrealistic demands set them up for failure. And they feel it. If I keep inflicting expectations they cannot live up to, they will learn a pattern of failure. Their self-esteem will deflate. They will be discouraged. Bitter. And it will be my doing.

 Parents, don’t come down too hard on your children or you’ll crush their spirits – Colossians 3:21 (the Holy Bible, The Message)

The notion that I could crush their sweet spirits…wrecks me. A clear and serious warning. To me.

In reality, I don’t want them to be adults. I don’t want them to lose their free spirits. I don’t want to break them or make them into someone else than who they were created to be. I want to embrace who they are now, and let them be kids. I love who they are, even when life is messy. I don’t ever want to make them feel they aren’t good enough

Children need expectations that take into account realistic developmental limitations. They need to be allowed to be children, even if it means we parents need to be flexible when we don’t feel like it. We are the adults! It is our responsibility to adapt.

We need to understand and embrace that they are not at their strongest when we are weak – and we should’t expect them to be. What they really need is grace. And an extra measure of gentle love, regardless of our circumstance. In those moments if I worried less about their behavior and more about their souls, and modeling the love, grace, and patience of Christ – things would be very different. Productive. Worthwhile. Of eternal value and impact. Instead of giving them the baggage of failure, I’d be demonstrating what it looks like to lay down my own desires for their benefit.

While our children are commanded to obey their parents…they cannot obey what is beyond their ability. We need to embrace their age and all that comes with it. Step back and be grateful for the way they are. Un-stifled. Un-adult. As they are supposed to be!

If it seems like trying to force a square peg through a round hole, perhaps the expectation isn’t a good fit for the child. Perhaps the square peg needs to be modified into expectations a child can actually meet.

We need to honestly ask ourselves if our expectation is setting our child up to fail. And to be gracious enough to stop when the answer is yes.

When their behavior isn’t convenient, we need to determine if what we want them to do is necessary. Do we need to attend an event that requires them to sit still too long? Perhaps we need to wait a few years. Does the child really need to be quiet? Or do we need a change of scenery. Or perhaps I should stop what I’m doing and invest time reading to them instead.

The next time our child isn’t doing what I would prefer, I will take a step back to gain perspective. Perhaps what I need to do is be grateful for their quirks, giggles, wiggles and silliness. And let my expectations yield to seeking their benefit, not my own.

Perhaps the shape they are in now, is exactly as they should be. 

On Peanut Allergy and LEAP – Why The Conflicting Emotions Among Allergy Parents?

I have been anticipating the LEAP study findings since hearing it was in progress almost 3 years ago. Our son was diagnosed with a peanut and cashew allergy in 2012. In the initial shock of the diagnosis, I started looking for any answers I could find.

WHY did he have this allergy, and what could we have done differently? Was it my fault for eating my body weight in peanuts while pregnant? What about while nursing? Was he too exposed? Underexposed?

When I stumbled across it, I was disappointed that the findings had not yet been published. If you aren’t familiar with the study, visiting the About LEAP page will explain the design better than I can. In general, the LEAP study looks to answer the question of whether avoidance of nuts or consumption of nuts at an early age makes a person more or less likely to develop a peanut allergy.

The site has been bookmarked on my computer since 2012. I’ve checked back often to see if there was any indication of when they would publish their findings. Results were expected as early as 2013, but it wasn’t until February 2015 when results were released.

I’m not the only one who anticipated the study, as is evidenced by the intense media coverage it is receiving in the wake of its release.

When the results were released, I read them with anticipation and excitement. You could check out the summary of results on the LEAP website but I would recommend reading the New England Journal of Medicine article for yourself. All children included in the study were classified as high-risk for a peanut allergy if they had an existing egg allergy and/or severe eczema, and no strong preexisting peanut allergy (strong was evidenced by a skin wheel (or hive) from skin testing larger than 4 mm).

In the LEAP study, of 834 potential participants, 76 had wheels over 4 mm before the study began and were excluded. This means these children were 4 to 11 months of age and already had significant allergy (See Figure 1 – Methods section of the journal article). 76 may sound like not very many, but is close to 10%, albeit from a high risk group of children sought out for inclusion in the study. Groundbreaking study or not, LEAP may be of little help to parents whose children are high-risk for an allergy and developed a strong peanut allergy before they were 4-11 months of ageWhile we embrace that knowledge about peanut allergies is increasing, we are still waiting on and longing for answers as to why these children are at such high risk in the first place.

But there is certainly valuable and solid information here for those children who are not highly allergic before the age of 4 months.

As summarized on the LEAP website, the study yielded these exciting results:

Of the children who avoided peanut, 17% developed peanut allergy by the age of 5 years. Remarkably, only 3% of the children who were randomized to eating the peanut snack developed allergy by age 5.   Therefore, in high-risk infants, sustained consumption of peanut beginning in the first 11 months of life was highly effective in preventing the development of peanut allergy.

A difference of 14% of children developing or not developing an allergy is significant. It means if your child doesn’t already have a strong early onset allergy, but is at risk of developing one, giving them peanut products at an early age may (no guarantees) help prevent an allergy. And, if they have a minor allergy (wheel less than 4mm), they may still be helped by feeding them nuts, although would require supervision and care of a medical professional.

Results like these give parents something they CAN do to help their high risk child. To give them their best shot. There is no mistaking that the results hold very important truth and tangible results for the right circumstances.

It is going to change the recommendations. It is paving the way for further study as we speak. A biochemist by training, MORE information is always a good thing, right?

Not necessarily.

The study leaves me with conflicting emotions. I feel like I’ve been on a roller coaster all week.

When you look at the allergy community, the study has received acclaim, praise, frustration, and resistance.

Why so emotional?

  • Too little too late: Information is power, but now my daughter is 2 and has never eaten a peanut. We are a peanut free household. Our allergist told us she has a higher chance of developing a peanut allergy than other children because of our son’s allergy (a.k.a. our family genes). We were told to use caution introducing peanuts. When I asked if it was OK to wait until her 2nd birthday, there was no indication it was a bad idea. According to this study, we may have now waited one year too long to do the only thing that has been shown to possibly prevent development of a peanut allergy. So, although the study is relevant, groundbreaking even, the findings may not be able to help her. Yet…we pray she may never develop a peanut allergy.
  • We may be resistant: Defensive even. Information published on the internet can be simply false, or taken out of context. The first statement I saw did not mention the LEAP study name, but stated that we should ALL feed peanuts to 4 month old infants to prevent peanut allergy. It was out-of-context and missing important cautions and caveats. Alarming – and dangerous. The post left me feeling skeptical and defensive. It is my duty to read information for myself, and to draw educated conclusions with an open mind. It would be a grievous error to rely on someone else’s write-up, emotions, or opinion. We should be excited that people are spending their time studying peanut allergy and to read their findings, whatever they are. When I actually read the entire LEAP study, I agreed that this study is impressive, important, and demonstrates something we didn’t already know about peanut allergies. It is nothing to scoff at and needs to be taken seriously. But it needs to be viewed and written about within the proper context.
  • We feel attacked:  There are some who think we caused our children’s allergies and aren’t afraid to share it all over the internet.  I read this article and it describes very well how parents can be bullies too and requests empathy – it is well worth your time to read. But  the LEAP study does not say parents are to blame. It says feeding children peanuts early may help, but it will not help all of them. There is no way to go back and see which child would or would not develop an allergy. And guess what? Many of the children in the allergy community had life-threatening reactions before 4 months. Their faces swelled up and maybe they stopped breathing after being kissed by peanut-butter tainted lips. Many children had severe eczema, or reactions to breast milk after their mother ate peanuts.
  • We feel guilty: Although the LEAP study does not point blame, we blame ourselves. We cannot help it. Finding out now that feeding our children nuts at an earlier age could have even POSSIBLY prevented our child’s peanut allergy brings a disturbing and painful pang of mama-guilt. It feels awful, warranted or not. No one else needs to point a finger at us because we’ve had it pointing at ourselves since day one. We wondered if those nuts we ate (or didn’t eat) while pregnant made this happen. We wondered what we did wrong and have assumed we did something wrong.
  • We are frustrated: The LEAP findings contradict how I and many other parents fed our children at early ages. We followed recommendations of trusted allergists and pediatricians. Many of us were aware of food allergy dangers and consulted reputable sources like the American Academy of Pediatrics and American Academy of Asthma and Allergy. Avoidance was recommended in 2000. Recommendations were slightly modified in 2008 and furthermore in 2013, but that doesn’t mean all pediatricians and allergists were on board. Infant nutrition and care books were not up to date. We did research these things, but just didn’t know what we and the medical community did not yet know.
  • We have questions: While some answers have come to light, 100s more have popped up in their place. There is much left to learn, and we don’t fully understand what this all means yet. The LEAP study is great, but long term effects are yet unknown (awesome that they are continuing follow up in the LEAP-ON study as we speak).
  • We are grateful: In wake of the amazing developments of potential therapies like the Viaskin(R) peanut patch, the LEAP study findings, and more, science is making huge advancements in understanding how to help the allergy community. We are grateful. We are grateful for parents and children in the clinical trials and studies. We are grateful for those investing their time, careers, and funding. The knowledge is increasing, and the understanding being gained is invaluable. It is bound to change the allergy world forever. And soon. Thank you.
  • We are hopeful: Even if the LEAP study shows results that are too late for many of us to use the information, those having babies now will benefit. We hope allergy rates will go down. We don’t want ANY child to have a food allergy, even if our child does already. We hope the therapies will be effecive. We hope for science to find answers, causes, and cures. We anticipate these things and cling to hope for tools that will change our children’s lives.
  • We are forgiving: We are also frustrated that with all the new findings, there is still no concrete way to prevent infant peanut (and other) allergy. For many of us, even if we’d known and fed our child peanuts at 4 months, it may not have changed anything. We accept where we are now, where we’ve been, and instead of pointing fingers we look forward to future advancements. We forgive ourselves for our part as we forgive the medical community who is learning about allergies with new revelations, just as we are. And, we choose to forgive the community of ignorant people who feel the need to blame us.

 

It is important to note that not everyone within the allergy community has these feelings. But the care of our children and loved ones, and their safety is so important, that emotions are bound to run high. If it seems like some of us are conflicted, we are.

I am.

The New Mama Blessing Jar

New Mama Blessings Jar FINAL

Today is the long-anticipated day.

My most dear friend, in all the world, is having her first baby. It makes me so happy I think my heart might POP!

Today.

Right now – well, I hope right NOW…but these things sometimes take time…

Upon hearing she and her husband were heading to the hospital last night, I got so excited. I’m amazed I even slept a wink, but am glad I did. In fact, I’ve been SO excited, I can’t sit, stand, or well, BE still. Lucky for me, I had a meal to make and bring to another special family who has also recently had their FOURTH baby (Amazing!).

It is good that I had something productive to keep me busy (kids are napping/or at preschool)! However, I finished the meal this morning so on the way to preschool, the kids and I stopped to pick up a few items to make some small gifts for the new mamas in our lives.

Whether it is your first time, or fourth time, being a new mama is a BIG job. You are in demand, yet you also have the great privilege of soaking up every single newborn baby sigh and snuggle.

With my extra energy and time (well, kind of free-time, I was too distracted to do much else), I thought I’d make a couple of gift jars. I made two. One went with the meal to our friends this afternoon and I the other will be shipped to my other friend along with a couple other small things I’ve been saving for this very momentous day.

The idea for a New Mama Blessing Jar started when I stumbled across cute scripture cards on the ThrivingHomeBlog.

cards wrapped

The downloadable PDF file gives 25 scripture verses surrounded by playful colors and patterns. They are cleverly titled “On the Job Meditations-25 Verse Cards For Moms“. I’m a believer that God’s word is much better that any I can come up with – what better gift than to give scripture to encourage a new mama?

My husband and I have been eating Mason Jar salads at lunch for a few weeks. I bought a case of mason jars when we started, so as I was packing our lunches for tomorrow, I noticed how the scripture cards would fit perfectly in a jar. The idea took off from there. The great thing about a jar is you can fill it with all kinds of little things that can bless a new mama, without going overboard, and every jar you make could be different and suited to the friend you give it to.

New Mama Blessing Jar Contents:

  • Dark Chocolate bar – Trader Joes (lower on sugar, and great for just a little treat)
  • Milk Chocolate Caramel Ghirardelli  squares – who wouldn’t want one?
  • Turkey sausage stick – Target (a little protein for a nursing mama)
  • Decaf Good Earth Tea – warm and relaxing
  • Dry Shampoo – if you haven’t used dry shampoo, you are missing out on a huge time-saver. Every new mama needs some, trust me. This way you can quickly freshen up when on the run, overslept, or hardly slept. Rockstar Dry shampoo is my favorite travel size you can get at Target. At just under $3, it lasted a long time, and worked great
  • Mints – see dry shampoo – quickly freshen up your breath when someone unexpectedly rings your doorbell
  • Chapstick – when you need it you need it, take it from an addict. Usually you’re holding a sleeping baby or nursing and can’t reach one when you realize your lips are dry. An extra one nearby is just a good idea
  • Gift Card – because the baby deserves something too, just for being born (but the mama can use it for herself if she wants to)

Thankfully, everything fit in the jar. It just needed a label or something to make it fun. I made a label for the jar and a contents list:

New Mama JarJar contents

Then it was time to seal it up, and give it away – preferably with a meal (because when someone has a baby, YOU bring them food).

If the contents of these jars doesn’t suit your needs, other ideas to customize your own New Mama Blessing Jar include: small packs of nuts or crackers, hard candy, WISP disposable tooth brushes, travels tissues, hand lotion, twizzlers, nail file and polish, hair bands, and more…

What is your go-to gift for new mamas?

Infant Silent Reflux is NOT Silent – Our Experience Navigating Reflux Treatment

silent reflux is not silent image

This is the second post in a series on Infant Silent Reflux. Before reading this, it will be helpful to read about Our Search For An Answer To Our Baby’s Cries, which explains what Silent Reflux is, and our path to diagnosis.

The only thing I’ll repeat from the previous post is this – Let me be clear: This article is not a complaint about that first year. This is how life was for our family. I write this to share with other parents whose children also hurting.  Sharing our experience has two purposes: to help hurting children, and to give encouragement to their parents. It takes a village…

Doctors diagnosed our son with silent reflux at 7 weeks. The pain had a name that made no sense – Infant Silent Reflux is NOT silent.

Once diagnosed, the first treatment step was medication. We started Zantac (Ranitidine).  A clear, strongly peppermint flavored liquid that made me sure he would hate peppermint forever. Every dose was a battle – it was almost impossible to get him to swallow it, no matter how many times I blew on his face or how loud he cried.

We saw mediocre results. With painful reflux symptoms causing all night crying from day 1, and treatment not beginning until week 7, it was like throwing a bucket of water on a forest fire. He still had all the same symptoms mentioned in the previous post but the medication seemed to take the edge off and feedings were a little more manageable at night. At least, for a little while – Zantac dosage and effectiveness is weight-dependent, so after a couple of weeks, it stopped working because he was growing so fast.

Our doctor recommended changing my diet to see if we saw additional improvement. I kept a food journal. I stopped eating all dairy (yogurt, cheese, milk, you name it), and anything citrus or acidic (tomatoes, oranges, berries, peppers, etc.). We saw what we thought to be limited and gradual improvement, but when I tried to add these foods back into my diet, he got worse. It was clear that my diet, dairy especially, mattered. So, I refrained from eating quite a few things for a year. I learned later that dairy takes a very long time to leave your system and even longer to leave theirs. If dairy is adding to the symptoms, you may not see marked improvement for a month. If you suspect it – cut it for 4 weeks and then see what happens when you add it back in.

A quick note about Zantac before continuing: Most of your stories will end with Zantac: A couple of years later when our daughter showed symptoms of reflux at 4 weeks, we knew exactly what it was. We took her in right away and the doctor agreed. She was on Zantac a short time, and it was enough to allow healing and the muscles to tighten and prevent further damage. She has never struggled with reflux again and will be 2 in March. From the families we know who have struggled with reflux, very few children go on to need additional medication, and most are entirely off of all medication by the age of 6 months. Of approximately 30 families we’ve talked to so far, I know of only 4 who have continued medication through 1 year, and know of only two other families whose children have had reflux as a toddler like our son.

I wish I could say that Zantac and modifying our diet was the end of our son’s story with reflux, but it isn’t. We continued monitoring my diet and increasing his Zantac dose as needed until the week before I had to go back to work (11 weeks).

Then things got crazy.

The reflux was out-of-control. The crying was unstoppable. The Zantac dose was maxed out. They wanted to switch him to Prilosec suspension (Omeprazole). We weren’t real excited about giving him more medicine since the first didn’t seem to help much. The doctor explained that while Zantac is a histimine-2 blocker, Prilosec is a proton-pump inhibitor. Both reduce acid produced by the stomach, but through different mechanisms in the body. In our doctor’s words, if a person doesn’t respond to Zantac, they often respond better to Prilosec. It gave us hope and we were willing to give it a shot.

The medicine tasted like chalk (so, of course, he didn’t like it). He was supposed to improve measurably after one week on the medication.

He did not.

My first week back to work, my husband and our family took turns watching him during the day. Our son wore those loving arms (and backs) out! He was supposed to start daycare the following week…now what? We were terrified to leave him with someone else, and terrified for the provider who would have not only him, but a handful of other children needing her attention. There was no way a daycare provider would be able to handle him along with the other children in her care.

We took him back to the doctor. He had an upper GI. As he choked down the barium, it was confirmed he had reflux but no physical twist, turn, or abnormality requiring surgery. Good news, but there was no indication as to WHY he had reflux. But, knowing reflux was present validated the reason we were pumping him full of the max dose of reflux medication.

On the way home from the upper GI, I refilled his Omeprazole prescription. I was shocked when given a completely different looking liquid, with different labeling than the last bottle; same medication name, but different consistency, color, and storage conditions. It still tasted like chalk, but the new bottle worked far better. Right away.

The daytime became manageable.

I took the remainder of the first bottle and the new bottle back to the pharmacy and spoke with a pharmacist. They admitted the first bottle should have had the same labeling as the new bottle, but would not admit it was made incorrectly. Honestly, to this day I have no idea if it was even the right medication in the bottle or not. I now ask plenty of questions when I pick up medication at the pharmacy – there is no guarantee the medication you receive is correct (how scary is that?).

We switched pharmacies and filed a complaint at both the local and corporate level.

At 13 weeks, our son went to daycare. We were blessed beyond measure by an experienced, patient and kind woman. He was loved, well cared for, and she never complained that he was difficult.  Not once. No words can ever express my gratitude to her for how she cared for him. She would tell me, in a matter-of-fact-way how he had done each day, never with any indication that she was burdened by him when he had a rough day. And he had plenty of rough days.

Although the Omeprazole, correctly made, worked leaps and bounds better than that first bottle, we noticed that towards the end of every bottle, our son’s symptoms were worse. Then, every time we opened a fresh bottle, the medication seemed to work better. After tracking it closely, it seemed like our 30 day supply worked great for 2 weeks, then gradually decreased in effectiveness over the next 2 weeks.

As a biochemist, I am familiar with stability testing. I suspected a stability issue and asked the (new) pharmacist about it. She said it should be stable, but if he was on the edge of the dosage, we might see a gradual decrease over time. She was willing to break our prescription into two, as an experiment. We paid up front for a full 30 day supply, but she gave us half of the volume. 15 days later, we then picked up a freshly prepared bottle, with the remaining volume from the 30 day prescription.

Breaking the 30 day supply of Omeprazole into two fresh bottles showed measurable improvement. We know of at least 4 other families who have seen symptoms increase over the course of a 30 day bottle who have also switched to a 15 day supply. While our evidence of a stability problem is purely anecdotal, it has helped more than just our child. Our pharmacist could not continue breaking it into two because of billing issues since the prescription was written for 30 days. She suggested we get a 15 day supply prescription from the doctor. We were happy to pay double the co-pays for mediation that actually worked well the whole time.

And so we continued on. While the days were going well, night-time was another story. From 8 pm until morning, it was hard. I’ll describe the nights in a post dedicated to sleep in coming weeks. In the meantime, if you are a sleep deprived parent of a hurting child, my heart goes out to you. I wrote a post when thinking about you, months ago. Sleep deprivation is serious business. You are not alone. Sleep did eventually come to our house. It will come to yours as well. Bless you.

While sleep eluded us for a long time, our son’s symptoms did gradually decrease over the course of the first year. Even though he didn’t sleep much at night, he screamed less and less, and with decreasing intensity as time went on. By 12 months, he slept through the night for the first time, and by 15 months we were able to wean him off of the medication and he eventually slept through the night.

Why was our son’s case so severe? I’ve asked several pediatricians, an allergist and a Gastroenterologist. No one knows for sure. But there are a few things they all agreed may have contributed:

  1. He had symptoms from day 1, which we learned is highly unusual. In fact, most doctors say babies don’t even have stomach acid at that point. I don’t know what this means, other than his case is different from others
  2. There were dietary issues we knew contributed (dairy, citrus), but there were more that we didn’t know about. At 15 months, we discovered an unknown peanut and cashew allergy (and he had a mama who was eating bucket loads of nuts and peanut butter while avoiding dairy while nursing…sigh…knowledge truly can be power)
  3. Since he had symptoms early but was growing fast (not failing to ‘thrive’), the doctors failed to treat the pain early, and we failed to persist in making them treat him
  4. He grew so fast and was treated so late, it seemed like we were always behind the proper dose of Zantac for his weight. It just wasn’t enough
  5. The Omeprazole first given to our son at 11 weeks was certainly stored improperly (room temperature vs. required refrigerated conditions that likely affected stability), and possibly made incorrectly to begin with. This means our son was basically un-medicated (or at least improperly medicated) at the point when his symptoms had peaked, requiring Omeprazole to be prescribed in the first place. I am convinced this snafu caused additional damage and lengthened his recovery. Add in the apparent stability issues with the 30 day supply and it wasn’t until 6 months before he was treated with full strength Omeprazole on a consistent basis.

Look for future posts that will describe our experiences with toddler reflux, reflux sleep (or lack-of), and nursing. If you found this story to be like yours – don’t hesitate to get your child help. If you need more information sooner than the next post, email me (thisgratefulmama[at]gmail.com). I’m happy to share anything I know and help in any way I can.