Tuesday, September 29, 2015

20 week ultrasound

Dearest Bunny,

It's 4:24 a.m. and your mommy is having a bit of pregnancy insomnia ... so I'm putting it to good use by writing you an overdue letter about our ultrasound last week. Life has been so busy here lately, and sitting down to write has taken a back seat to homeschooling, laundry, birthday parties and errands. So even if I wouldn't normally appreciate being wide awake several hours before I need to be - if it means a free window of time to write to my bunny, I'll take it :)

Last Monday, Daddy and I returned to the hospital we've traveled to many times before, to have our 20 week level two ultrasound. The doctors there specialize in high risk pregnancies, especially when they involve mommies of "advanced maternal age." The technicians (as well as the ultrasound machines themselves) are the best there are in our area. It is amazing to me how far technology has come in maternal/fetal medicine even in the last five years. I know sometimes technology can be a double edged sword - there have been times in previous pregnancies when I have felt that knowing "too much" as far as risks go, was not necessarily a great thing. But now that we have moved beyond risks and are dealing with some very real possible health concerns, I am grateful for any knowledge that can help our doctors be better prepared to take care of both you and me. I know many babies' lives have been saved because of advance knowledge of certain medical conditions and issues, and we want to be as best prepared as we can to face those and get you any help you need.

cutest little bunny ever !!

So ... here is how the ultrasound went ...

We arrived at our destination early last Monday morning, eager to get a peek at our beautiful baby girl again. After a few minutes of waiting (that always feel like forever !) the nurse called us back to check weight gain, blood pressure, etc. before moving into the room where our ultrasound would be done. 

I have to say here, that Daddy and I decided early in this pregnancy to agree on something : we were not going to let fear or worry rob us of any of the joy we would experience during our last pregnancy together. We knew the possibilities going into this, that there might be chromosomal or health issues related to our age, but we prayed for months before conceiving you, that God would give us the desire of our hearts for one last baby. And when that second little line appeared on my pregnancy test, the morning of our 28th wedding anniversary, we made a pact to enjoy this precious gift of life without any fear. That's not to say there aren't moments when the "what-ifs" don't try to creep in and dominate my brain. But when they do, I remind myself of our decision to - in your daddy's words - "war against worry". And I turn my worries into prayers for your health and safety and mine, and fix my thoughts on what is good and true. And that is this, little bunny : you are a miracle. My odds of getting pregnant at 47 were one percent every month. I've read enough articles and statistics on women getting pregnant at my age to know what a gift and miracle I've been given, and I'm not going to let any fear or doubt steal that gift from me. I'm so thankful for this amazing little present I carry inside of me, and I'm not letting anything stand in the way of enjoying this final season of my life - you are a blessing straight from Heaven, and I am so grateful to be your mama.

And I said all that to say, that even though we knew we were at a specialist to look for potential problems with this pregnancy, we could not get away from the excitement we felt at seeing you again. Several people who have walked this way before have shared that they've had the same feelings we did: the nice thing about high risk pregnancies is that you have LOTS of opportunities to "see" your little one before they are born ! 

The technician who did our scan last week was one who has seen us in the past ... she is extremely thorough and communicates everything as she sees it. Daddy asked her why she is allowed to share everything so freely - there have been some technicians in our history of ultrasounds who were so tight lipped during things that we had no idea what they were measuring or looking at . This technician explained that there were several factors involved in her openness - the main one being that this is a clinic that deals specifically with potential health issues, one where the doctor comes in immediately afterwards to do her own scan and discuss the results. There is no waiting period, where pictures are sent to the doctor - she is right there to talk to us about what things they are seeing, and she is relying primarily on what the technician sees initially, to tell her what is going on with our baby.

sweet little profile

During last week's scan we saw the same soft markers for Down syndrome we had seen before - one of your kidneys is enlarged, which the doctor said will probably resolve itself and not be a problem at birth. Your leg and arm bones are lagging by one week - every other measurement corresponded exactly to your gestational age at the time, of 19 weeks and six days.

The tech got a very good look at your heart this time- she saw four distinct chambers, as well as a number of other details that told us everything looks very good at this point. The blood flow was going in the right direction, there were no major evident holes, and the nuchal fluid at the back of your head was within normal range, meaning your heart is pumping as it should. The tech noted that it is a bit elevated however- at the high end of "normal", so we are going to keep an eye on that. I looked up this information online that explains everything- this really made me thankful that the technician who saw us is actually a Fetal Echocardiographer.

When serious heart defects are identified before birth, studies have demonstrated that the outcome of the newborn may be improved, especially for defects involving the left side of the heart and those of the outflow tracts.  One of the problems, however, is the identification of the fetus with a congenital heart defect.  At the present time over 90% of fetuses with serious heart defects may go undetected because of the limited experience of the physician or sonographer performing the screening examination of the heart. However, when the fetal heart is examined by specialists, known as Fetal Echocardiographers, the detection rate for congenital heart defects exceeds 90%.  Therefore, the problem is the following: “How can the fetus with a heart defect be identified so that a cardiac examination can be performed by a Fetal Echocardiographer?”
There are several solutions to this problem which are as follows:

1. First-trimester Nuchal Translucency Screening
Investigators have reported an association between an increased nuchal translucency measurement and the increased risk for congenital heart defects. One explanation for this association is that as the blood flow patterns are altered by the cardiac defect, congestion or other changes occur that manifests as an increase in size of the measured nuchal translucency.
2. Second-Trimester Genetic Ultrasound
This study is performed between 17 and 20 weeks of pregnancy and detects over 90% of fetuses with heart defects.
3. Third-Trimester 4D Fetal Heart and Face Screening Program
This examination of the heart occurs in the third trimester, between 24 and 32 weeks of pregnancy. This is a new program created by Dr. DeVore and is useful, especially for patients that cannot be referred for 1st trimester nuchal translucency screening or 2nd trimester Genetic Ultrasound, because it can identify defects of the heart, face, and abnormal growth.

What Percentage of Serious Heart Defects are Identified as the Result of an Increased Nuchal Translucency?

In 2005 Makrydimas et al published their results from a pooled database in which the nuchal translucency was measured during the first-trimester in 637 fetuses with congenital heart defects.  The fetuses were divided into two groups; those with abnormal chromosomes and those with normal chromosomes.  When the nuchal translucency was 3.5 mm or greater, 59% of fetuses with heart defects and abnormal chromosomes were identified.  Similarly, of fetuses with normal chromosomes, 23% with heart defects were identified because of an increased nuchal translucency measurement.

umbilical cord mustache, and your tiny fist by your face :)

When the tech switched to the color mode on the ultrasound, which shows the direction of the blood flow, there was a brief moment when the red color seemed to cross both sections of the heart, rather than remaining distinctly separate. It was only for a second, and the tech said that this could just be what is referred to as a "color flash"... meaning that you may have moved and the blood flow appeared to be crossing where it shouldn't, when in reality it is only a flash of color on the screen because of that movement. However, she told us she would let the doctor know, and that this is something they are going to make note of for our next appointment, when we have a full echo done on your heart. This will happen in four weeks, when your heart is more fully developed - that ultrasound will exclusively look at your heart in detail, to see if there are any holes or defects that were too small to be noticed previously.

After looking at and measuring everything else she needed to, our tech noted that the placenta had moved a fraction of a centimeter away from my cervix, which was an improvement. I asked her if this was placenta previa, and she said yes, and hadn't they told me about this last visit ? I answered no, and said it was probably a good thing ! (I'm doing great in my war against worry, and I probably didn't need that news at that point in time;)) She went on to explain that this is not full placenta previa- the placement is just slightly covering my cervix right now, but they fully expect it to shift upwards as my uterus grows throughout the rest of my pregnancy. Whew !

smiling or laughing ?

When the scan was finished, our doctor came in to discuss the results and do her own brief scan. We talked about the placenta, and she explained that they like it to be at least 1.7 centimeters away from the cervix at delivery - if it is not, then a c-section is required. However, there is still plenty of time for my uterus to grow and stretch, which would (hopefully) move the placenta with it. I have never had this before, but the doctor said that most of the time it does move enough - unless it is completely covering the cervix, which mine is not. Just something else for us to pray about, but I really am not worried ... we've seen God do much bigger miracles than moving a placenta over a few centimeters ;)

The rest of the ultrasound was spent discussing where I am going to deliver you, little bunny... but it was a lengthy discussion, and this letter is already getting to be long, so I will save it for another post.

Rest assured though, Daddy and the doctors and I are going to do everything we can to make the best decisions we can for your health and safety. We are SO in love with you already, Bunny, and we haven't even held you yet- I can't wait to see this beautiful face in person in just a few months ...

Love you to the moon and back, Madison Faith.

All my love,

Mama xoxoxo

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Sneak peek

Just popping in to say our ultrasound went extremely well and our Bunny is BEAUTIFUL already !!

I'll be back soon with more details - a busy week at the Rice Ranch has kept me from blogging, but thank you for all the love and prayers last week ❤️

Happy weekend ! 

Monday, September 21, 2015

Winners !

Posting this from my phone because I forgot to post on Saturday and right now I'm in a rush - getting ready to head out of town to the "big" hospital for our 20 week level two ultrasound . Please pray they are able to get a good view of Bunny's heart today and that we receive an excellent report ? I'm so excited to see our baby girl again !! :)

The winner of the scentsy plug-in warmer is Christine Bronson - email me with your address and which plug-in warmer you would like !

The winner of the necklace from Annie's Nest Designs is Melody - email me with your address and which necklace you decide on !

I will be back soon with an update about Madison ... thank you ahead of time for praying ...  Xoxox Patti 

Monday, September 14, 2015

double giveaway !!

Hello, friends.

I am currently on my second load of laundry for the day, and I'm just about done scoring Friday's schoolwork. I have meals to plan and grocery shopping to do afterwards, and one of our teens needs to go get his driver's permit (pray for me!) ... but I'm popping on here to post a few pics of our weekend and to offer Lily's readers a giveaway !

outfit, her choice

outfit, his choice

sunday afternoon snooze

Our Bunny is 19 weeks !! I feel gigantic . Oh well. She's worth it !

And now for the fun stuff ...

My lovely Daughter-in-love has a fabulous little shop on Etsy where she sells unique handmade items, such as soft soled shoes for infants and toddlers, and beautiful necklaces for adults.

Naomi is giving away one necklace (winner's choice) to a random commenter on this post. Simply visit Annie's Nest Designs on Etsy and then come back here to tell me which products you liked the most, to be entered to win.

The second giveaway is for one plug-in warmer from Lily's Scentsy Store....

Scentsy warmers plug in and gently heat scented bars to fill any room with a scrumptious aroma. I have warmers (both plug-ins and regular sized) in every room in my house ... ask anyone who has been here - it always smells nice at The Rice Ranch !

Lily's Scentsy store offers a variety of products including the plug-in warmers pictured above (and many other designs), room sprays, body lotions, shower gels, laundry liquid, car bars, kitchen soap, fragrances, and much more.

One random commenter will win a plug-in of their choice by visiting Lily's Scentsy Store and making a purchase there. You can order something as small as a lightbulb if you want ! Simply make a purchase and come back here to tell me what you ordered to be entered to win. (please click on Lily's Basket Party when shopping.)

You may enter BOTH the necklace giveaway and the Scentsy giveaway - just leave a comment for each giveaway if you choose to do so.

Winner will be chosen on Saturday and posted here ....

Happy Monday ! :)

Thursday, September 10, 2015

How to Manage Mommy Fatigue Part Two

First of all, I am happy to report that my yucky encounter with vertigo last week was short lived. Hot tea with lemon and honey, nasal spray, steamy showers, Tylenol, lots of liquids, vitamin C, hot and sour soup (great for unplugging sinus pressure !) lots of rest and lots of prayer seemed to do the trick . I woke up Friday with my ear unplugged, my sinuses less filled, and my vertigo gone. Thank you so much for the kind words and prayer ... I hope I never go through that again any time soon !

And now, the very belated ... Part Two of my mini series on Mommy Fatigue . 

Remember back in the day when people talked about the three R's of school - Reading, Writing and Arithmetic ? I never quite got that, because those are actually one R, a W and an A. So my three R's are going to actually make sense ... Are you ready ?? The three R's of How to Manage Mommy Fatigue are ...

Routine, Relaxation and Rest

I'll start with Routine.

I know many devoted and loving and good hearted mommies who are able to sale through parenting without implementing any sort of routine (seemingly) in their homes. Somehow their children make it through school successfully, appear to be happy and healthy and thriving, and go on to lead productive lives. And those mommies do not (on the outside anyway) ever appear to be frazzled or overwhelmed. If you are one of those moms from the non-routine camp, my hat is off to you. I don't know how you do it, but I admire your ability to fly daily by the seat of your pants without ever considering bedtimes or to-do lists or daily assigned chores as important elements of life .

I googled "crazy mom at home" and this is what I got. CRACK. ME. UP.

Admittedly your style of parenting makes my head hurt just thinking about what would happen at The Rice Ranch if I employed an equally laid back approach to life - because we can barely get things done even when there is an established order to things.

So if you're one of these Super Moms, who thrives in chaos and laughs at routine ... and still manages to keep a tidy home and get your family where you need to go on a regular basis -- ignore this section. 

But for those of you who share my need for (semi) calm and order in the midst of running a household on a daily basis - keep reading !

The only way the Rice family can function with the amount of children we do is to have a plan. This doesn't mean we are always able to stick to that plan, but at least we have an idea of what we need to do in order to keep things running somewhat smoothly . 

One of the routines we have in place is in regards to chores.

I've talked about it in a previous post, but we have assigned zones in our house, as far as chores go. We have a dry erase board in the laundry room where zones are detailed for a reminder - each zone is assigned to one or two children, and the details of how to keep that zone clean and organized are written down clearly in case anyone forgets .

We have a daily routine of breakfast together, and then each child takes care of their zone before homeschooling begins. Beds are made, the kitchen is cleaned, bathrooms are touched up, floors are swept and vacuumed, jammies put away, teeth brushed, rooms cleaned and laundry put in the laundry room so that we start each day with a clean house. Many hands make light work, so this usually takes forty five minutes at the most for a family our size . 

I realize many of my readers don't have the amount of children we do to delegate chores to, and many of you may also have very young children - but in my experience even small children can learn to put their jammies in drawers or the hamper and help make their beds. I think it's healthy and helpful to start training children at a young age to clean up after themselves, which will help them understand that mommy is not everyone's slave !

Having a chore/zone/routine in our lives helps for several obvious reasons : Mommy doesn't have to spend every day asking every single child to do specific chores, because they already know what is expected of them. This does not mean that I never have to remind children about their responsibilities. That happens on a regular basis. BUT, I have found that the reminders are less (and subsequently Mommy Fatigue is reduced as well) when they know ahead of time what I want them to do.

Establishing a cleaning routine also means that it is just ingrained in them to help keep the house picked up on a regular basis. For example, when they come home from church or sports or other events, they are not to just throw their clothes or backpacks or shoes or what-have-you on the floor ... they are to put them away. They will even remind each other to put their things away if they see someone forgot - especially if multiple items were left in their zone ! Having an assigned zone in the house to be responsible for has taught them how unpleasant it is to have to clean up after everybody else. And all of this means less work for Mommy, and thus less fatigue.

Keeping a fairly tidy home has instilled in our kids a desire to have things remain that way ... I can't tell you how many times one of my children has said to the others, "Guys, let's do a ten minute pick-up and get the house back in order" if they feel things are getting too messy. And because we have raised them to make sure the house is in order before leaving for outside activities, I generally don't even have to ask them to tidy up before they leave. For example, Sunday mornings are very chaotic getting us all out the door for church - but they know that it would be even more chaotic to come home to a mess and have to prepare lunch... we leave the house with beds made, dishes put in the dishwasher, counters wiped, and floors picked-up so that we can come home ready to make a new mess :)

It is easier to maintain a well-kept home when things are well-kept on a regular basis ... it takes less time to clean everything when it wasn't that messy or dirty to begin with, in my opinion. And all of this means less stress on Mommy. I don't spend my days trying to find missing items, hunting for clean clothes for people, etc... I have more time with my family and also more time for myself when the chaos and clutter is reduced.

Other areas of routine that we establish (keep in mind that this is all helping to reduce mommy Fatigue) are : daily nap times for small children (mommy too!), family dinners whenever possible (EVERYONE helps clean up, including Daddy), bed times for everyone, and Saturday morning chores .

Naptime routines are important for obvious reasons. I always look forward to that window of time in the middle of the day when my little ones are sleeping, and I can either rest myself or have some quiet time to relax. Up until about age five, my little ones have always taken one to two hour naps after lunch ... even if they say they are not tired, they have quiet time in bed (usually Mommy's bed) so that Mommy gets some time to herself.

The routine of having a family dinner together might take a little more work in preparation than a laid back approach to evening meals (say eating out, or an every-man-fends-for-himself approach to dinner time) but in the long run I really do believe they help to alleviate Mommy Fatigue.

Here's why : there is something so rewarding about sitting down to a dinner with your family. Our dinner time is one of my favorite times of the day- we talk about what each of us did that day, we discuss current events and politics, we share concerns and needs, and we reconnect. Little ones learn manners, teenagers learn to listen to others and engage, and Mommy and Daddy have a window of time where all other responsibilities are laid aside and we can tune into our kids. Generally we do not allow phones (texting, email, etc.) at the table, and we try to limit incoming phone calls during this special time as well.

All of this means Mommy gets time off her feet, and time to recharge her batteries, and when everyone pitches in with setting and clearing the table, I'm not overwhelmed by the job of cooking for eleven people nightly. I look forward to our evening meals together - they are a bright spot in my day.

Bedtimes at The Rice Ranch fluctuate according to our schedules - we are stricter during the school year, and pretty lax during the summer time. We spend two evenings a week at church (Sundays and Wednesdays) so on those nights bedtime might get stretched a bit later. If we have friends or family over for dinner and fellowship, we are lenient with bedtimes then too. But there is still a routine- dirty clothes are put in the hamper, rooms are tidied up, teeth are brushed and Daddy prays with everyone before the lights are turned out. This nightly ritual helps for the same reason the Sunday morning ritual does : it's much easier to wake up to a clean house than to wake up to chaos... we can start the day off easily, with a clean slate, rather than feeling like our to-do list is already a mile long.

Saturday chores are just our regular daily chores amped up a bit - we make sure everything is deep cleaned, and the van and garage are cleaned up after any weekly mess (things do tend to accumulate there, even with the best intentions !). When we have had a rough or busy week here, I always know that it will ultimately be restored on Saturday morning, when the whole family is home together and pitching in. When Monday rolls around we have a fairly clean house to start the week with, rather than craziness.... all of which means peace of mind and reduction in Mommy Fatigue :)


SO now that we've talked about Routine (whew, that was a long topic !!) I'll address the second R -- Relaxation. This might sound like a repeat of Part One and a Half of my mini series - but it's not.

Mommy Alone Time is definitely something we all need, to relax and unwind... but I believe we can be recharged and refueled by spending down-time with our children as well.

Our kids need routine, they need order, they need rules, and they need structure. Without a doubt.

But if the only time they spend with us involves those things - without any FUN - we are going to feel like our job as parents is just that : a job. And our kids are going to resent us.

If we don't intentionally purpose to carve out time in our busy schedules to relax with our kids and really enjoy them for the unique little people they are - we are going to forget the very reason we wanted to have kids in the first place. We can become so caught up in keeping our homes running smoothly and so BUSY with all the administrative duties as moms, that we forget to have fun. We forget to stop and pay attention and savor childhood for what it is : sweet and fleeting.

One day these little people are going to turn into big people, with their own lives and their own routines ... and if we aren't careful we will miss the joy that they bring right now as children - just blink and they turn eighteen. Trust me on this.

What does this look like in our home ? Lots of images come to mind ...

Lying in bed after lunch with my little ones, reading piles of stories at naptime. Watching them point to pictures and ask questions while we snuggle in close, before they drift off to sleep.

Trips to the park, down the street from our house - sometimes right in the middle of our school day, "just because."

Going for walks together on the beautiful nature trails that weave through our neighborhood, going to the beach, going to the library, visiting our favorite Science Center just a few hours away.

Individual dates with my kids on a regular basis - coffee dates or lunch dates or ice cream dates or "come run errands with mom" dates ... because being in a large family shouldn't mean my children always have to share Mom.

Family Game Nights - playing Apples to Apples, Clue, Cranium, or any one of the dozens of games that are stacked in the hall closet. If I had a dollar for every time one of our children (teenagers included !) asked, "Can we have a family game night tonight ??" I'd be a very rich woman. We all look forward to these times together, even if we do argue about who really won when it's all said and done :)

I could go on and on, but I'm sure each of you has your own mental image of what it means to relax and enjoy your children. I know this "R" probably goes without saying, but I also know how life can get. Sometimes we get so caught up in the duties of being parents that we forget to make time for what really matters : showing our children that they are not just our job, they are the joy of our lives.

Relaxing with our kids and just enjoying them for who they are is a sure-fire way to help manage Mommy Fatigue. It doesn't have to be expensive or extended, but it is essential to our well being, and that of our kids as well.


This is my final R in my three point sermon (tee hee) and although self-evident, it is often overlooked.

Being a Mommy is a full time job, isn't it ? We don't get to clock out at the end of the day. There's nobody to take the night shift, and even when Daddy does his best to help with middle-of-the-night crises like sick babies or nightmares or trips to the potty ... we are still generally awake for each event. At least I know I am. It is rare that I sleep through someone calling from another room that so-and-so is throwing up, unless it is the twenty-second time that night. I am usually the first parent to awaken when there is a crying child or call for help. I like to tease Sam that the house could be burning down around him, and he would snore right through it - but he really is extremely helpful when I need him in the wee sma' hours of the night. It might take a bullhorn and a sledge hammer to wake him up, but he has never been one to refuse to help out - no matter what time he has to get up in the morning.

But still ... Motherhood is a full time job. Even with a husband to help.

And if I am going to be able to function at that job every day - I need my rest.

I mentioned naptimes above, and this is one of the ways I find time to rest ... even if it is just a half an hour power nap in the middle of the day. Just a few minutes to rest and get off my feet is usually all the break I need to keep going for the rest of the day. I say it all the time, but it's true : Praise God for naps. And it's nice to know He took them too.

Sometimes I am counting down the hours from nap time til bedtime, but naps are a great way to manage Mommy Fatigue, in my experience.

And then there's Bedtime.

Children aren't the only ones who need bedtime rituals. Mommies need them too. I used to stay up late every night, burning the candle at both ends in an attempt to get everything done. But what I found is that the later I stayed up, the more sapped I was the next day, and things came undone quickly because of my lack of energy to manage things efficiently. Better to go to bed at a decent time, even IF that last load of laundry didn't get done, rather than skip sleep.

I read an interesting article on the need for sleep recently, and here's what I found.

Our sleep problems are so bad that the CDC refers to them as "a public health epidemic."
While a tiny percentage of the population does just fine on little sleep, those people are incredibly rare. Almost half the population doesn't get enough sleep: 40% of people sleep less than the recommended seven to nine hours a night (teens and children need even more).
Sleeping too much isn't good for you either and comes with its own health risks, but only 5% of people sleep more than nine hours a night.
For at least 40% of the US population, getting more sleep would make our lives so much better.

People who get enough sleep :

* are happier

* learn better

* are better drivers

* have an easier time staying fit

* are less likely to develop diabetes

* have fewer problems with depression and anxiety

* have fewer headaches and migraines

* are more productive and focused at work and at home

* feel less pain

* have fewer heart problems

That list is just a fraction of the benefits I read about in regards to sleep ... it just makes sense that as moms, we need all the sleep we can get to do our jobs better.

If this means putting aside our favorite habit of staying up til two in the morning to finish a good book ... (guilty) ... or saying no to that late night of fellowship when we know we are already dragging ... or getting more strict about putting the kids down to bed so that WE can get to bed on time ... or putting off that last bit of chores until tomorrow (it will still be there when we wake up !!) - whatever it takes, we need to get our sleep.

And finally, I'm going to throw this in, even though it has nothing to do with sleep... because it does fall under the topic of REST.

Here is my biggest piece of advice when it comes to dealing with Mommy Fatigue ....


It took me a long time to learn this one, but it is something we MUST do to survive as Moms.

Just say no.

So-and-so calls for the fourth time this week for a babysitter, but you are already drowning in life ... just say no.

I love love love to watch my grandbabies (I don't even consider it babysitting, and I never say no if I can help it because I NEED time with my grandbabies to be happy :)), and occasionally I am able to help a friend out who needs a sitter.

But for the most part, my plate is FULL when it comes to watching children, and I have had to get very firm in this area. I am my kids' mom first, and I can't be a great one if I'm busy watching everyone else's kids in the neighborhood on a regular basis. This includes having my kids' friends over, even when they are well past the age of babysitting. We allow them to have friends over - within reason. Our home is my sanctuary, and it won't remain so for me or my husband or our kids if there is a constant influx of people coming and going. I know our limits, and I'm not afraid to say NO when it comes to going beyond those.

These areas of limitation might also include (but are not limited to, ha ha) :

School boards, volunteer projects, Team Mom positions, class party planner, Women's Bible Study Leader, Town Council Member, Vice Presidential Candidate (Ted Cruz did call, but I politely declined) - if you are taking on too much outside the home ...

Just say no.

Does this mean there is no place for "extra responsibilities" outside of being a Mommy that don't include wiping bottoms, folding laundry or preparing meals ? Absolutely not. I do many things outside our home, and I take pleasure in those activities. But I know my limits. And when that little alarm bell goes off in my brain when so-and-so asks if I would like to volunteer for such-and-such, and I already feel stretched to the breaking point...

I just say no.

Does this mean that some people won't get it, and I will risk hurting their feelings or letting them down ? Maybe.

Does this mean ruffling feathers when we tell someone that this is actually not a good weekend to come visit, because we just have too much going on right now ? Sometimes.

Does this mean destroying the (false) notion that many people may have us as Super Moms who can handle ALL of our responsibilities without ever batting an eye, and still have enough energy to say yes to everything everyone asks of us ? Absolutely.

Take off the cape, admit what is true for all of us moms - we have our limits. We will try to be the best moms we can for our families, and we will say YES when we can. But we are not going to beat ourselves up when we have to say no. And nobody else is allowed to either.

Just say no.

So there you have it, Mommies. My cures for Mommy Fatigue, or at least my attempt at relieving some of it for you. There is no getting around the fact that we are all going to feel exhausted and overwhelmed and fatigued at different points throughout our career as moms. Some days are harder than others. But if we will take some intentional steps towards reducing that fatigue, we will find that we are better able to care for those we love the most, and in the long run we will love our jobs even more.

I hope this little mini series has helped some of you, and as always, if you have some tips yourself, please feel free to share in the comment section. Until next blog post ...

Peace out :)

Saturday, September 5, 2015

station break

My mini series on Mommy Fatigue will continue as soon as I restore order to The Rice Ranch!!

(see previous post for details ... one sick day off means several days making up for it !! ;))

xoxoxo Patti

Thursday, September 3, 2015

How to Manage Mommy Fatigue ... part one and a half

This is Part One-and-a-Half in my mini series on Mommy Fatigue. (I don't know why, but I feel so official saying mini series .   Mini series, mini series, mini series. Ha.)

I'm typing this post from my phone while lying on the couch - ironically, given the title of my mini series (there I go again !) I am feeling, among other things, fatigue :)

I got up to go to the bathroom for the 75th time last night ... at least that's how often it feels like my bladder needs relief these days and nights ... and I experienced the worst vertigo I have ever had in my life . I got out of bed and tried to walk to the bathroom door - only I literally bumped into it because it was moving. I tried to cross the bathroom floor, but suddenly the room was on a slant. By the time I got back into bed I had bumped into the wall and the door frame two more times, and I was so dizzy I thought I was going to throw up. This triggered a little bit of panic (which I am prone to during pregnancy) so I woke Sam up and asked him to pray for me and tell me I wasn't going to die. 

Because at two in the morning, my rational thinking is usually out the window, especially when the window looks like it's on the ceiling instead of on the wall where it's supposed to be. 

So Sam prayed for me and reassured me that I wasn't going to die ("good grief, you are not going to die from vertigo !" were his exact words, I believe) and I went back to sleep. 

This morning when I woke up I was still feeling the same thing, just not quite as intensely . But it was making me so nauseous that I've been lying on the couch ever since . I've been battling an awful cough and congestion for two weeks now, so maybe it has something to do with that ... My left ear is plugged and hurting, so maybe I have the beginnings of an ear infection ? Anyone want to diagnose me in the comment section ?? Just please don't tell me I'm dying, because if I remember your words at two o'clock tomorrow morning, Sam will probably throw his pillow at me.

Okay, so given my present condition and the fact that I'm typing on my phone, this is actually going to be Part One and a Half of my mini series . I'm going to type as long as the room isn't spinning, or until my left ear explodes, so there may only be one or two paragraphs left here ... please don't stone me. 

Yesterday I talked about Mommy Fatigue, and how it is a normal bi-product of our jobs. I don't think I've talked to a mother on the planet who has not experienced this at one time or another ... it's something we all go through in various degrees, and we shouldn't condemn ourselves when it hits. That just compounds the problem, because Mommy Guilt is a real thing too. And when you combine Mommy Fatigue with Mommy Guilt, you often end up with Mommy Burn Out - and that's not a happy place to be.

So take a deep breath, understand that Mommy Fatigue is something we ALL go through at one time or another, and realize that you're not alone. 

And that, my friends, is the first step to recovery . (Ha ha, now I REALLY feel official, blogging like I have all the answers to life's deepest questions.) 

But seriously - recognizing that we are not alone, and that the mental, emotional, and physical exhaustion we sometimes feel as mommies is pretty much universal - helps us to process things for what they are : a normal result of our jobs, and not a failure on our parts to be good moms. 

So now that we all agree that being a mom can takes its toll on every level - how do we manage this fatigue ? 

The solutions I am proposing are not necessarily going to "cure" everything.
But my personal experience is that over time, these "coping mechanisms", implemented intentionally and regularly, help us to manage our symptoms successfully. And in the long run they actually prevent us from slipping all the way down the proverbial slope into Mommy Burn Out. 

So here we go.

# 1  Put On Your Own Oxygen Mask

If you've been reading A Perfect Lily for awhile, you know this advice is a regular theme around here . And that is because I have had to take it myself soooo many times over the years ... and yet even now I sometimes forget this simple truth : if Mama ain't happy, nobody is happy. 

If the plane is going down, and all the kids need help putting their oxygen masks on, but Mommy is lying on the aisle floor, gasping for breath and turning blue because she was too busy running around helping everyone else --- she's not going to be of much use . Not for long, anyway. And everybody will suffer for it, despite her best intentions to attend to everyone first . 

Sure, we can function as moms without any time set aside for ourselves -  and sometimes we can even do so for awhile without any major consequences. We can breathe on our own for a bit, when the cabin pressure is just right, and the plane is flying as it should be. But a sudden change in weather conditions, a drop in air pressure, or a malfunction with the plane, and suddenly our normal oxygen supply is not enough. Sickness, sibling rivalry, toddler tantrums, teenage rebellion, you name it - parenting presents so many challenges on a daily basis, and we are fools if we think that we as moms don't need our oxygen masks. 

So what does this mean in practical terms?

Years ago I was listening to Dr. James Dobson speak on the radio. He made a statement that shocked me at the time. He said that any mom who was caring for two or more small children at home needed to get out of the house for a few hours, at least once a week, on a regular basis.

It's like this, honey... I just need Tuesdays and Thursdays off as a mom... and every other weekend. Monday afternoons and maybe Wednesdays too . Friday nights off would be great as well. I can handle the rest.

When I heard those words, I believe I was caring for at least five small children in my home, and I think I was lucky if I got out of the house by myself for a few hours each month. I'm not exaggerating. 

We had come to our town to start a church from the ground up, so babysitters were non-existent. Sam was working full-time as well as pastoring our tiny flock - we were struggling to make ends meet, and our evening times were pretty busy. I remember calling our pastor back at our home church and telling him it had been 18 months since Sam and I had gone on a date. I told him that I was feeling a little overwhelmed… I remember there being a long silence on the phone while I waited for his reply. Looking back, he probably had to pick himself up off the floor in order to answer me, because his response went something like this : I cannot believe you are telling me that you haven't been on a date with your husband in a year and a half, and you're wondering why you feel "a little overwhelmed".

It wasn't that Sam and I didn't want to go on a date .. We had simply felt that we were out of options, because of the dynamics of our family at the time, and our lack of a reliable babysitter in a new town.  And maybe deep down we both felt that this was the price we had to pay in ministry - sort of the "dying to self" aspect of our faith that Jesus had called us to. It took our pastor pointing out that something was going to die alright – our hearts to labor, our will to go on, and ultimately our marriage and ministry if we weren't careful. He told us that we had to do whatever it took to find time alone together - our future depended on it. 

I got off the phone and took those words to heart. Sam and I began looking for ways to get out of the house alone – even if that meant driving an hour out of town to drop the kids off at a trusted friend's house and going out to coffee for a few hours, rather than eating out at an expensive restaurant. We cut corners in other areas so that we could afford to pay a babysitter to drive here from our mother church, even if it meant we could only go park the car and share an ice cream together. 

We got very creative as far as dates went – we sacrificed wherever we could so that we could have a weekly date night – we learned how to put on our oxygen masks.

As well as dates, I found ways to get out of the house by myself, even if it was only for an hour or two once a week. 

Sometimes that meant a trip to the craft store for an hour after dinner, while Sam cleaned up dinner and got the kids ready for bed. We might not have had a spare dollar for a glue stick, but I could roam the scrapbook aisles, plotting for the day when I could shop to my heart's content. I could inhale the intoxicating aroma on the candle aisle and occasionally splurge on some vanilla scented votives on sale - a luxury in those days of just scraping by. 

Other times that meant an overnight trip to the coast with my friends - we would scrap and chat and snack into the wee hours of the morning, reconnecting with each other and recharging our batteries for the future ... those trips might happen just once or twice a year, but they were a breath of life to that oxygen-starved mama. They were just what I needed to remind me that even though Mommy was the name people called me every day, I was still Patti underneath it all.

ignore the tea stain on my sock. thank you.

So in making time for myself away from my kids, I discovered something. I found that while I loved my job at home, I loved my time away from it all too. Those times didn't take away from my job as a mommy, rather they refueled my energy and my passion for the day to day grind I had left behind. I came home refreshed and restored, and my kids reaped the rewards as well. I was a much more patient mommy, I had more appreciation for them, and they appreciated me more too - it was a win-win all the way around. 

So mamas : please, do yourselves a favor. If you haven't been implementing this powerful coping mechanism before, or if you previously used it but forgot how important it was ... put your oxygen mask on. Do it for your husband, and do it for your kids, and do it for yourself . 

I promise, life is so much nicer when you can breathe :) 

And now the pain in my ear has reached epic proportions, and the room is dancing in front of my eyes... since I'm fairly certain we are not in the middle of an earthquake, I think it would be a good time to call my doctor. In the event that I am wrong, and the ground actually is about to open up and devour me and The Rice Ranch with it, I leave you with my final bit of advice ...

Come back tomorrow for Part Two :) 

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

How to Manage Mommy Fatigue ...Part One

Yesterday evening I pulled into the driveway at The Rice Ranch, after spending the better part of the afternoon running errands with Abigail.

In the span of several hours I managed to cross the following items off my To Do list :

- a trip (unsuccessful) to Goodwill in search of some still-trendy-but-affordable maternity jeans

- another search at a local resale store that proved equally unsuccessful

- a "quick" stop (only not so quick because I accidentally stuffed all the items into a $44.50 overnight express box, mistaking it for the $12.95 flat rate box I though it was) at the post office to mail the following: a birthday gift for one niece (four months late), a birthday gift for another niece (one month late), and a birthday gift for my sister, ten days early (woohoo, one outta three aint bad !!)

- a mini grocery shopping stop at Trader Joe's

- a dash into Winco for a few more items

.... and three more errands left undone because dinner time was approaching and I had to get food to the table before the kids left for different evening events.

Upon returning home, I stepped out of the van, purse on one arm, grocery bag over the other, mail balanced on top of both, and approached my front door.

Abigail had already gone inside with a bag of groceries, so the door was open : a chorus of wails and cheers greeted me from within.
Lily, grinning and gushing "Mamaaaaa!" ran outside to hug my legs, sporting only underwear and a wild mess of bedhead/braids/cheerios to compliment the look.

Hayden, mid-wail, began shrieking with glee at the sight of the Minions coloring book I had just purchased at the Dollar Tree - that child can do a 180 in two seconds flat as far as moods go, and he does it at least sixty-five times a day.

Various other children began bombarding me with questions ... when is dinner, what's for dinner, how soon can we eat dinner because tonight is the last night for Tuesdays at T-hill and we want to go, and can I have cereal before dinner because I'm starving .... clearly my children see me as Chef first and Waitress second.  Exhausted Pregnant Mom doesn't even enter their little brains- these poor souls had been STARVING for the two and a half hours I had been gone.

I walked into the kitchen, dumped my mail, purse and groceries on the counter, and removed the pot of simmering ham bone from the burner. Earlier in the afternoon I had decided to make soup for dinner ... halfway through my trip to Trader Joe's, Abigail and I sampled their world-famous (so they say) Kung Pao chicken and I shifted gears. The thought of going home and chopping seven different kinds of vegetables while dicing up ham was not sounding appealing after an afternoon of errands and no nap (pregnancy at forty-seven makes for one tiiiiirrrrred mama, lemme tell ya) ... so I ditched the homemade goodness of Hearty Healthy Ham and Vegetable Soup and settled on Packaged Chinese Stir-Fry instead.

I am normally not a huge fan of pre-packaged frozen Chinese food reheated... but I have to say Trader Joe's somehow created a dinner that tastes both authentic and non-packaged for a price that pleases even this frugal Mama of Many. I served it with jasmine rice and Pioneer Woman's Simple Sesame Noodles, and the masses raved. And it was on the table in less than half an hour, ensuring that those same masses were able to scarf down dinner and race out the door to their respective evening activities, leaving Exhausted Mommy to do the dishes.

Actually, in all fairness, they did rinse off their dishes and load them into the dishwasher ... all that I had left to do was wash several pots, wipe off sticky counters and toddlers, unload the remaining groceries, and find room in the fridge for a pot of half-boiled ham bone. And then fall onto the couch to read the news on my phone, while Lily and Hayden and Jack returned to the difficult job of listening to Adventures in Odyssey while coloring Minions and breaking cheap Dollar Tree crayons for a total of ten minutes before declaring they were all STARVING and what is for dessert ???

speaking of multitasking mamas ...

And just as I was typing that last sentence, my peaceful and quiet house (because it's Wednesday morning now) was interrupted by the ear-piercing wails of what can only be described as The Me Monster.

Otherwise known as Hayden.

Some children wake up slowly, angelic smiles on their little faces, gently reaching for mommy while wiping the sleep from their eyes, and quietly asking for breakfast.

Not so with The Me Monster.

This demanding creature BOLTS up in bed, throws his angry little head backwards, and SHRIEKS into the morning air --- MOOOOOOMMMMMMYYYYY !!!!!  until the entire household is wakened from their once-peaceful slumber.

And it just goes downhill from there.

The rest of my morning is typically spent in a battle of the wills with The Me Monster, who demands that his favorite cereal be poured just so, that only the red plastic spoon and winnie-the-pooh bowl will do, that his blanket remain perfectly spread across his lap while he slurps noisily and sloppily from his bowl, immediately yelling for MORE before I've even had a chance to reheat my now-lukewarm tea.

And lest any readers think I succumb to the demands of this savage little creature, there is plenty of correction, discipline, rebuke, reproof and exhortation involved in this perpetual battle of the wills.

But it is a Battle. With a capital B.

And this leads me to the title of my blogpost - How to Manage Mommy Fatigue.

Because dear readers, let me tell you- Mommy Fatigue is real.

that would be me - Exhausted Mommy, right before naptime. Praise God for naps.

It doesn't matter how long you have been doing this thing (going on twenty-eight years here- over half my life !!), how few or how many children you have, whether you are a working mom or a stay-at-home one, whether you are nursing a newborn, or parenting teenagers.... being a Mommy is exhausting. You can be the most organized, on top of it Mom, and there is just no getting around the fact that parenting is rarely easy, often challenging, and most of the time just flat-out draining.

It is exhilarating, yes; rewarding, absolutely; wonderful-and-I-wouldn't-trade-it-for-any-job-in-the-world --- you bet your life on it.

But it's also exhausting.

And sometimes - if we aren't careful - we can let that exhaustion and weariness and fatigue settle in, until all we can think about is when this job will be over, and how we can somehow return to the happy-go-lucky, carefree person we used to be.

So now that I've addressed the crisis (and admittedly this post was inspired by two separate queries from devoted but desperate mommies, wondering if I ever dealt with Mommy Fatigue) ... I'm going to leave you hanging :)

Because I have a LOT to say on this issue, and I don't want my words to be lost in the length of this post. I don't consider myself an expert on this subject, or its cure ... but I do feel like I have learned a lot over the course of twenty-seven years parenting eleven children, and if all of my trials and errors and learning from my failures can help someone else, then I am happy to share.

So stay tuned until tomorrow, and if you are currently in the throes of Mommy Fatigue, and you are not sure you can make it another 24 hours without some answers, here's one of my little tricks to get you through ....

... eat some chocolate. I'm not kidding. Chocolate covers a multitude of woes. Thus saith Exhausted Mommy.

Pour yourself a nice cup of tea, be prepared to reheat it seventeen times over the course of the day, take a nibble of your chocolate of choice (mine is a Reece's, but whatever floats your boat) and remember : this too shall pass.

We are not going to be in the trenches of toddler warfare forever, and one day we will be looking back on these days of sleepless nights and endless days and wondering why we felt so overwhelmed in the first place. Or maybe we will be lying on our couches eating bon bons and waving happily at our previous selves, thrilled beyond belief that these exhausting days are behind us, but either way- this too shall pass.

Come back tomorrow for more pearls of wisdom, and if you have any cures you have discovered yourself, feel free to leave them in the comment section below. And if you have an extra bag of Reece's you want to send my way, I won't complain.


I promise.