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LIPP Study with Pennington Biomedical

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Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Pennington Biomedical Research Center.

LIPP Study with Pennington Biomedical

If you’re pregnant or have had children, you have likely “heard it all” when it comes to health advice. Researchers have been working to shed light on maternal wellness for years. “We now know a lot more about how expecting moms can take care of themselves and their unborn child compared to past generations,” said Dr. Melissa Erickson PhD an exercise physiologist at Pennington Biomedical. A healthy lifestyle, including eating a nutritious diet and regular exercise, supports healthy weight gain during pregnancy. It may also help reduce the risk for health and delivery complications and might even speed-up the first stage of labor. “We don’t know much about what can be done before a mom is pregnant to improve her health and the health of her future baby, but it is on our radar!” Erickson shared about initiatives underway at Pennington Biomedical.

The Lifestyle Intervention in Preparation for Pregnancy (LIPP) study is exploring how lifestyle interventions before pregnancy might improve the health of the baby. According to Dr. John Kirwan PhD, one of the lead researchers on the LIPP study, the answer to better health during pregnancy and a healthy baby may start before ever becoming pregnant. “Our work in this area has lead us to believe that achieving a healthy body weight by way of good nutrition and exercise could be better for mom and baby than attempting this once pregnant.” explained Kirwan, and he added, “We hope this study sheds light on questions we have about how adopting a healthy lifestyle early on might make for a healthier baby.”

The researchers’ work in this area inspired the LIPP study to take a look at how a diet and exercise program before a mom gets pregnant might improve the health of her baby. All research participants receive resources to promote a healthy lifestyle just for being a part of the study. The lifestyle intervention participants get one on one attention tailored just for them from the Pennington team of personal trainers and dietitians. “The information you’ll receive could help put you on track for better health during pregnancy and beyond,” explained Dr. Kristin Hoddy PhD, a registered dietitian working on the LIPP study. In addition to the potential health benefits, “All participants in the LIPP study are helping us to better understand ways to prepare women for a healthy pregnancy. This is very valuable information for doctors.” says Dr. Patrick Catalano MD, an obstetrician and one of the lead researchers on the LIPP study.

Curious about the study and want to learn more about what participation will look like?

“We love to talk about the LIPP study and want to hear from you! So, feel free to give us a call or send an email or text message for more information,” suggested Dr. Erickson. Details about this program along with contact information are below.

LIPP Study with Pennington Biomedical

About the Study 

Qualified study participants will be randomly assigned to either the lifestyle intervention or normal living group. The lifestyle intervention group will receive a personal trainer, structured diet plans, and dietary and behavior counseling and be given a Fitbit® and an electronic scale to track progress. The normal living group will be provided with instructions on diet and weight management, healthy pregnancy care, and be provided financial resources to promote their personal health.

Pennington Biomedical IRB FWA 00006218 Approved November 27, 2019

Study Qualifications 

  • To qualify, participants in this study should be:
  • Be between 18 to 40 years old
  • Have previously given birth to a full term baby (greater than 37 weeks)
  • Be planning to have another baby within the next 24 months
  • Not be a smoker
  • Not be diagnosed with diabetes

Compensation 

Lifestyle intervention participants will receive up to $540, a FitBit®, and up to 18 months of personal training and diet counseling sessions.

The normal living group will receive up to $2,250, as well as receiving current guidelines for exercise, dietary, and pregnancy health.

Both groups are eligible for childcare at no cost when attending study visits and training sessions at Pennington Biomedical.

Study Contact 

If you’re interested in learning more or seeing if you qualify for the LIPP study visit http://www.pbrc.edu/LIPP give us a call at 225-964-4488, or email LIPP@pbrc.edu.

Flu is Widespread in Louisiana But it’s Not too Late to Vaccinate Children

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Health.

Flu is Widespread in Louisiana But it’s Not too Late to Vaccinate Children

If you have school-age children then you probably know we’re having an unusually active flu season in Louisiana.

Flu cases started rising in the Baton Rouge area in late September, much earlier than usual. By the third week of November, Louisiana doctors had seen nearly 20,000 children for flu-like symptoms, the state Department of Hospitals reported.

The vast majority of those cases were Influenza B, a sometimes less-severe strain, but one that’s more likely to spread among children.

A hallmark of most cases of flu is they strike swiftly with fever, extreme fatigue, coughing, sore throat, body aches and sometimes diarrhea and vomiting.

The best way to protect children from the flu is a flu shot. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that children ages six months and older be vaccinated, except for certain rare exceptions. Children who are especially vulnerable to flu complications include kids with chronic conditions such as asthma, neurological or neurodevelopment conditions, heart disease, sickle cell disease, diabetes, disorders of the liver or kidney, weakened immune system, or who are obese.

Talk to your child’s pediatrician to be sure your child can have a flu shot.

It takes a few weeks for flu shots to reach its full effectiveness, so it’s important to vaccinate children as soon as possible. Flu season is expected to continue through March.

Flu vaccines aren’t 100 % effective, but they can minimize flu symptoms or shorten its duration for some patients. Out of hundreds of children who tested positive for the flu at Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Health Pediatrics at Perkins Clinic, all but four had not received a flu shot before getting sick.

Even if a child gets the flu, the child should still have a flu shot because one of the other strains of flu could still hit them later in the flu season.

Children younger than 5 years old — especially those younger than 2 — are at greater risk for flu complications. Children younger than 6 months old are too young to be vaccinated so it’s important to keep them away from others who may have the flu. Expectant mothers should get a flu shot during pregnancy, which has been shown to provide some protection for newborns, and all family members of infants should have a flu shot.

Click here to connect with an Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Health pediatrician near you. 

To learn more about how to protect your family from the flu, check out the CDC’s website.


Dr. Michelle Flechas is a pediatrician with Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Health. Her practice is at Pediatrics at Perkins.

“The Next Right Thing” :: This Mama’s Song of Hope From Frozen 2

Over the Thanksgiving holiday, I went to see Frozen 2 by myself. I am a boy mom, and much to my consternation, my sons aren’t really into Frozen or its songs. I definitely tried bribing them with popcorn and treats at the theater but that attempt failed miserably.
Soon, I found myself sitting alone in a sold-out theater next to a couple who were clearly on a date and a tiny army of little girls whose moms had taken them together (and probably didn’t have to bribe them with popcorn).

I quickly dismissed any self-consciousness, because I’d come here for a lighthearted escape from my life, battling severe postpartum depression isn’t for the faint of heart and I needed to feel childlike once more, if only for 1 hour and 43 minutes.

I went into the movie expecting some laughs from Olaf, some sisterly love from Elsa and Anna, and lots of magic. What I didn’t expect was a song that would describe my current life as I know it and the message of hope I needed to hear in that moment.

This song is entitled, The Next Right Thing and it isn’t sung by Elsa, nor is it the main song of the movie.Anna (Kristen Bell) sings it at a sad, pivotal moment in the movie while she’s encased in a dark cave. It begins with the lyrics:

“I’ve seen dark before but not like this. This is cold, this is empty, this is numb. The life I know is over, the lights are out. Hello, darkness, I’m ready to succumb”.

I have had many failures and stages of loss in my life, I’ve endured countless moments of pain, including the death of my ex-husband in 2016. Never though, until this year, did I feel so alone in this darkness – where all senses of worth and purpose are gone. I had my baby boy in February and the hormones set their hooks into my thoughts and they have yet to let go. I’ve seen dark before. But not like this. I don’t know how to pull myself out and there’s no one to help me whenever you don’t have much of a family, you lack a husband, you can’t turn to your children because you’re the strong front, and you don’t have the insurance for medical help. To say I’ve been ready to succumb” is an understatement.The song continues…

“I follow you around, I always have. But you’re gone to a place I cannot find…this grief has a gravity it pulls me down. But a tiny voice whispers in my mind, “you are lost, hope is gone but you must go on and do the next right thing.”

I lost myself this year. I somehow knew this but it didn’t become clear to me until this song hit home. I grieve over the “me” that is missing. She used to smile, she used to look for bright spots of light … but she was soon overcome by this shadowy version of myself that I am now. Weighed down by the responsibilities I have as a mother, worker, friend, and as a spiritual woman – I don’t even have time to search for Missing Me.

The next right thing? The song continues.

“Can there be a day beyond this night? I don’t know anymore what is true. I can’t find my direction, I’m all alone. The only star that guided me was you. How to rise from the floor when it’s not you I’m rising for? Just do the next right thing. Take a step, step again. It’s all that I can to do the next right thing.”

The old me knew that life was full of tomorrows. I never thought that there would be a time I wouldn’t know what to do except get to tomorrow, and if it wouldn’t be for my babies guiding me to the next tomorrow, me literally only breathing for them – Present Me may have succumbed long ago. In this season of hopelessness, this season of being on the floor, there have been too many times I’ve felt unworthy of my little stars that guide me on a daily basis. Each day I worry about providing the most basic necessities in my boys’ lives. At least twice a week, I worry about things for their future like how they’ll afford college, get health insurance since I currently have a job that doesn’t provide it, and my creating a living will so that they are left with something if the worst happens to me, now that I’m their sole provider. I have no choice but to be future-oriented, even when the future seems bleak and nonexistent. It’s overwhelming and completely maddening.

But … what if I need to rise from this floor for me, not just for them?

 

I won’t look too far ahead, it’s too much for me to take. But break it down to this next breath. This next step. This next choice is one that I can make.

And Anna sings, “Just do the next right thing.” Then she sings, “Step. Step again.” It’s so simple. The right thing is to get up from the floor. To take one step and then step again. No matter how small they are, these are the only way to escape the cave. Getting out is the right thing to do. Even if I can do nothing else, even though the future seems like an impossible path, I can choose to breathe a breath and take a step. She continues to sing.

So I’ll walk through this night, stumbling blindly toward the light and do the next right thing. And with the dawn what comes then, when it’s clear that everything will never be the same again. Then I’ll make the choice to hear that voice and do the next right thing.

There will be a dawn, anywhere there’s night. There will be. One does not exist without the other. This song is so encouraging and I am not ashamed that it took a trip to the movies to teach me what I can do right now until I get better, until things get better. The song is right, I’ll never be the same again. Anyone who experiences sorrow or trying times and gets through those obstacles alive rarely stays the same. This is a good thing, though. We come out of caves stronger, wiser and our children see this and will know what to do whenever they enter caves of their own. I have chosen to hear that voice and do the next right thing and I hope they will, too.

It’s More Than Just Wrapping Paper

Oh Christmas time!

My favorite time of the year is hands down Christmas. All the beautiful Christmas decorations, lights, seeing family & friends and so much more. But the magic of Santa is the best, especially now that I am a mother to a curious 2 year old. She now recognizes Santa in pictures from the last two Christmases and is now starting to point him out in stores as the shelves are starting to be filled with the holly jolly man named Santa Claus.

But one thing I notice now that I am a mother, I see Black Santas. And when I do, I scream with excitement. Why? Because growing up, I always thought Santa was a Black Man just like the song says, but I didn’t see many Black Santas in the store. It may seem out of the ordinary for some of the audience and that’s okay.

That’s the amazing thing about holidays and family traditions — they are all different.

New Orleans had a Black Santa, who was called “Chocolate Santa” for 40+ years, and this is one of the first years he has stopped taking pictures due to health concerns. Thankfully my daughter was able to take pictures with him the last 2 years. My mom has the very rare Black Nativity Scene (that she still puts out to the day) as well as the Black Jazz Santa that danced to the Tune of Silent Night while holding a saxophone and even the Black Angel on top of the tree. Because surprise, surprise, we are Black. No secret, no shame. We are black and if there are options of Black holiday items, you can bet we are purchasing it without hesitation. Wrapping paper, shirts, gift bags, yes even whipped cream cans. Black Santa? Oh we are buying it. I am obsessed. Some may think, “I mean it’s really just wrapping paper.” But no, it is so much deeper than that. It signifies that it is okay that different families have different ideas on what Santa looks like. But let’s all remember, it is a fictional story that some families tell their kids to keep imagination alive.

Even our Elf on the Shelf has a little melanin in her skin; her name is Ellie. I named her myself because Maisyn was too young to understand when I purchased her 2 years ago when she was an infant (I’ve been waiting to put Ellie out). I am so happy I am able to raise a child in today’s world with Christmas items that look like her.

Christmas is about so much more than Santa Claus, wrapping paper, cute monogrammed shirts and gifts but it’s those little things that make it so much more special. 

Healing My Body Naturally

Before I tell you about my health journey, I must first tell you this: I never used to buy into wholistic health. I grouped it right in with bracelets that improve your balance and magical weight lost pills. However, desperation will lead you to try almost anything, so I resorted to wholistic medicine, and I sure am glad I did!

I have fibromyalgia, and this chronic illness affects my entire body. You know that car you see on the road with one headlight out, a trash bag taped over the window, smoke coming from under the hood, and a flat tire? That was my body. I was struggling to make it through each day with the plethora of symptoms that I faced. I’m talking chronic headaches, overall body aches, sinusitis, skin issues, gastrointestinal issues, dry eyes and severe inflammation in my eyes, blood sugar instability, a chronic bladder illness, joint and muscle pain…..you get the picture. Then there were the mental issues—depression, anxiety, mood instability—because, as you can imagine, when you’re always in pain, have to miss out on a social life because of your physical symptoms, and have gotten hopeless that you’ll ever have relief from any of the physical symptoms, it can make you a little gloomy. Stay with me—I promise this story does get better!

When I tell you that I tried everything to help my chronic health issues, I am not exaggerating (just ask my health insurance company and our bank account!) I tried aqua therapy, physical therapy, prolotherapy, massage therapy, steroid injections, yoga, walking, biking….and then tried treating each individual issue with many, many specialists. I had my allergy doctor, my eye doctor, my bone doctor, my physical therapist, my skin doctor, my rheumatologist, my urologist….the list goes on. Despite the effort, money, and time I put in, nothing was helping! I was actually getting MORE symptoms from the medications that I was being put on by my specialists! I was 3.5 years into this illness and it was kicking my butt.

I was so desperate for something to work, that I decided to try the hippie-dippie-tree-hugging-almond-milk-drinking world of wholistic medicine. Enter: my nutritionist, or as my husband refers to her, “The one who saved our marriage.” We had MRT food sensitivity testing done and found out that several of my go-to foods were causing inflammatory responses in my body every time I consumed them. I eliminated these foods and traded in processed foods for whole foods like fruits and veggies. My nutritionist found other deficiencies I had and addressed them with natural supplements and vitamins. She helped me work on my mental health, as it directly affected my physical health. She also worked with me to get off several medications that were causing me adverse side effects (and had long-term health risks as well), while still keeping the symptoms they were treating at bay. We also addressed my gut health to reverse the damage done to my gut microbiome from 14 years of excessive antibiotic use.

A few months into my wholistic health journey, I started noticing some positive changes. My headaches were less severe and less frequent. My energy had increased and my mood had improved significantly. I was able to go to the park all morning with my son and husband without having to rest the entire next day. My eye inflammation, chronic sinusitis, skin issues, and gastrointestinal issues had improved. My symptoms were fewer and less severe, despite the fact that I was actually on less medications to address those symptoms!  For the first time in 3.5 years, I felt like my body was no longer attacking me and working against me. I could play with my son more, do more things for myself, and be less dependent on my husband. I was down over 20lbs (just an added bonus of being healthy!), had significant reduction in symptoms and health issues, and a positive outlook on my future. My husband has noticed a huge change in my mood, energy, and what I was able to do.

I knew I felt better, but, being a type A, analytical person, I couldn’t wait to see my progress in black-and-white, quantitative data. The C-Reactive Protein blood test measures the amount of inflammation in your body. The more inflammation there is in your body, the more CRP your liver produces, thus elevating this number. Pre-Casey (this is how I refer to the period of time that came before my nutritionist!) this number was 6.5. Considering 0-4.8 is the standard range for this blood test, that is a LOT of inflammation in my body! No wonder I felt like that car barely making it down the road with all its issues! Post-Casey, my inflammation markers came back at 2.8. Holy moly!

Now, am I completely back to how my health was pre-fibromyalgia? No. However, I’m well on my way there and cannot wait to see the other positive changes that come about as I continue my wholistic healing journey. My quality of life has improved drastically, which has allowed me to be a better mom, wife, daughter, sister, and friend. Also, I have more energy to write amazingly impressive articles like this one, so there’s that, too!

About Madison Stilson

I have a toddler, Matthew, and an extremely patient and selfless husband, Joe. I was a teacher for several years and am now home with my favorite student – my son (I’ve been told that it is okay to have a favorite student in situations like this!). I have a passion for writing, which has been very therapeutic for me in the past when dealing with tough situations from being chronically ill. I love to tell narratives and to make people laugh, and I get to do both through my writing.

 

J’aime Coach O :: A Cajun Girl’s View

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It was the talk of every holiday get-together that year. Between the glittery attire and bourbon breaths, I could hear his name over and over again followed by a labored sigh or a mighty roll of the eye. The storied Les Miles had been fired earlier that year, and the interim coach was no longer interim – he had been hired by LSU. No one I encountered was happy about the decision; words like “embarrassing,” “humiliating,” “joke” were interwoven through the discussions. At times I felt the criticisms had less to do with his tenure at LSU or his overall resume. Conversations about Coach O were usually tinged with jabs at his accent, his overall demeanor, and his ability to represent LSU to the public.

I wasn’t much of an appropriate judge on the hire as my knowledge of football is surface level at best. I knew enough to agree that the likes of Jimbo Fisher had a much longer, more impressive list of accolades. But I always thought it endearing how Orgeron would reference his love for the team and for Louisiana in a genuine, apolitical type of way. When I mentioned my optimistic fondness for O, I was usually quickly rebuffed. I didn’t pay the Cookie Monster videos or LSU memes too much mind, until I met Coco.

After a neck-and-neck Auburn game in 2017, the local news interviewed a visibly glowing Mama Orgeron who goes by Coco. I was playing with my oldest son as his chunky 9-month-old body rolled on the floor and the t.v. played like white noise in the background. Suddenly my head sprung up to the sound of Coco’s voice – a quintessential Cajun accent choked with pride. It started low and slow, climbed to a peak with each roll of the tongue, and then glided back down again. The commentator asked her to give a message to LSU fans watching in French, which she did. Tears streamed down my face.

I moved to Baton Rouge over ten years ago from Acadiana. My childhood was spent with dragging toys on linoleum floors while my father played the grainy local Cajun music station over a small black radio. Lafayette was a place where everyone knew how to pronounce my French first name which slightly made up for the fact that I could never find it on a gift store key chain. My grandparents would often slip in and out of quick Cajun French dialect when they didn’t want my sister and me to understand what they were talking about.

I’ve always felt like a fish out of water in Baton Rouge. I married into a wonderful family who drink from pretty silver-plated glasses and sit at a long table for family dinners instead of eating from a paper plates in a living room full of cousins. I rarely walk into dinner parties to the smell of onions, bell peppers, and celery but rather brie and crab. I don’t hear an accordion, triangle, or wail of a first note from a Cajun musician daily like I used to. Sometimes I hear Coach O’s gravelly voice on the radio and anticipate the French weather forecast will follow.

For the rest of the season in 2017 and 2018, I defended Coach O a little more ardently. I wouldn’t go into very much detail about why I liked him more than just his tenure on the sidelines, and I became more sensitive to his criticisms. The articulation that he sounded ignorant started to remind me of the stories my father would tell me about how Cajun French was strictly forbidden when my grandparents were growing up. Back then, speaking French was seen as a sign of ignorance and little economic means. Even in t.v. shows and movies today, the Cajun characters are usually toothless, half-witted swamp people.

At the same glittery party two years after his hire, and after the company was on the second or third chardonnay, LSU football came up. The same jabs were taken, some rightfully placed at the Florida loss. But the anticipated writhing at Orgeon’s press conferences came up. The conversation dominoed as it always did – O talking too fast, O being hard to understand, O sounding unintelligent, O not being suited to be head coach.

On this one night, I had had enough.

“I like the way he talks,” I asserted.

After a chortle, someone replied, “Really? He sounds so stupid.”

“He sounds like my grandfather. My grandfather wasn’t stupid,” I said with a smile.

My reply was met with fanning of collars and an awkward change in the course of the conversation. My intention was not to belittle or pose an accusation that this person would never dream of intentionally doing. But sometimes we see people in positions such as O or Burrow or Miles or Saban or dozens and dozens more as not real. A face-to-face reality check every now and then invites us all to be better.

In short, I don’t know how long Coach O’s tenure at LSU will be. But while he is at the helm, LSU football will mean a little more to me than it normally does. I won’t see an electric stadium of purple and gold; I’ll see a narrow living room with floral sofas topped with anxious uncles biting their nails through every yard. I won’t see ESPN pundits churning out graphics about playoff predictions; I’ll see my grandfather with his hands around his waist, belly laughing as I give my guesses about Notre Dame’s future. With every close-captioned press conference I can savor, I’ll remember that Louisiana people love their home more than most.

Lache pas la patate, O. And Geaux Tigers.

 

Clean House, Happy Mom

There are a few sayings that go around every now and then about having a clean home when my children are grown and missing their fingerprints. I do see the point of that, I do. We need to cherish the days of messy projects, sticky fingers, and SLIME. For me and my house, we do all the fun things but end the day with a clean house.

There are a few reasons for this. First, it makes me happy. This keeps my anxiety at bay and I can be in a good space mentally to love on my family. I am a better mother and wife when physical and mental clutter is at a minimum.

Second, it teaches my children responsibility. We clean as a family. My spouse and I both work outside of the home, therefore, our time at home is sacred and limited. How we handle the limited time and the chores that need to be done, we divide and conquer. My children are 8 and 14 and can help with A LOT around the house! We typically spend about an hour a week – we put some music on and get our house cleaned.

Finally, I truly believe we rest better in a clear space. For us, physical clutter is a direct connection with mental clutter. The easier we can clear, the easier we can rest.

I know we all function differently, some of you may function best in the chaos and you do you! But if you are like me and NEED a clean house for your sanity but feel guilty – LET GO OF THE GUILT! Throw it out the window with all the dust bunnies!

Celebrate Who They Are Today

“Be kind to everyone.”

“Work hard.”

“Use your manners.”

So often we spend our days as parents trying to mold these little individuals into adults. We hope and pray that they are successful at something they love, that they are happy, that they are good people with good hearts. We have visions of the kind of spouse, parent, employee, and neighbor they’ll be one day. We worry about whether they’ll be someone others can rely on and someone that others will speak highly of. Will they be confident? Will they be loving? Will they be honest?

In the midst of all of the preparations for growing up, sometimes we forget to stop and celebrate who they are today. Sure, today they may not be able to use a quiet voice inside, they may choose eating spaghetti with their fingers over a fork every time, maybe they aren’t into school as much as you’d imagined, and they may have yet to clean up their toys despite the many times you’ve asked. Regardless of the lessons to come, there is so much goodness to celebrate in each of our children today. Who they are today is exactly who they were meant to be at this very moment. Their interests, their quirks, their temperament … it is all worth celebrating today.

This outlook may certainly cause us to pause and find beauty in chaos, mess and a lot of mistakes, but it will also force us to savor who they are today at this age and in this season of their life. Their current strengths are very likely the same strengths that they will have many years from now. Those same quirks may help them to be successful at their job or maybe their temperament will be what draws others to them. We can’t know who they’ll be in 20 years, but we can love them for who they are today.

This doesn’t mean we stop teaching, but it does mean that we can confidently walk forward knowing that we are celebrating our children in every season regardless of the challenges that reveal themselves.

SAHM’s Worth Is More Than Money

Since I have become a stay at home mom (SAHM) a little over 4 years ago, I have often felt useless and felt as if I’ve lost my sense of purpose. Many times I have felt unimportant, like what I do doesn’t matter.

I have worked since I was 16 years old. Most of the time I worked two jobs while also in school. I had corporate goals. I had a cushioned bank account. So when I got pregnant for our first child and decided that I’d become a SAHM, this new “job” was foreign to me. Going from having coworker community and purpose at the workplace to the solitude and chaos of motherhood- I slowly began to feel like I didn’t belong and wasn’t worth anything in this new territory.

I want to take a minute to acknowledge all of the working mothers out there too — you are doing an AMAZING job with your little ones and know that I have the utmost respect and admiration for you in this season of life.

I began to feel useless because I wasn’t contributing to my household’s bank account.

I think in this society, accomplishments are often related to your worth in commas and zeros – at least that’s what I used to believe. Now I realize and remind myself often that accomplishments are SO much more than that! Now don’t get me wrong, being a one-income household has many challenges but that will never change me wanting to be a SAHM. Why? Because money cannot compare to accomplishments I see as being a SAHM. From achieving a tantrum-free grocery store trip, to potty training success, to reaching milestones, to hearing my little one recite the alphabet. These things might seem inconsequential to some but to me, these feats are worth more than any paycheck I’ve ever received. At the end of the day, witnessing things like those mentioned above make me feel so much more accomplished and valuable than any paycheck.

If you are a SAHM, I’m here to drop this truth bomb on ya real quick- realize that you are accomplishing the most worthwhile thing that money can not compare to and that’s raising the future generation! Even on your easiest day, you are still a teacher, nurse, housekeeper, chef, story-teller, chauffeur, monster killer, planner, best friend, and a freaking superwoman! You may not be contributing to your household’s financial state but you are adding value to your home. We are significantly valuable and full of worth! Our worth isn’t connected to how much we make or don’t make.

The work that we do as mothers is completely PRICELESS!

You’ve Got a Friend

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One day at some point last school year, my then 3-year-old came home from his Pre-K3 class telling me about his “best BEST friend (insert girl’s name).” They played together and had the BEST day! Talk about music to my vulnerable momma ears – you see, after Christmas break, we switched schools to a program that was geographically closer to our house even though we LOVED his prior school, we felt like it would be better for our family to be closer to where we lived. Just so there are no questions, we LOVE our new school too!

Fast forward through his 4th birthday party where said friend attended with her mom. After chatting for just a few minutes, we discovered that we lived right around the corner from each other, a small world! The sweet friends continued to go to class through the summer session together and this school year is together again in their Pre-K4 class. We’ve attended her birthday party and we’ve had just a few playdates. Just simple, kid-friendly, fun times. Neither I nor her mom has EVER mentioned anything about boyfriend / girlfriends, we just “ooh and ahh” over how sweet they are together, it warms our heart to know that they have each other at school and they genuinely take care of each other.

Recently, we attended a school field trip to a local pumpkin patch. When we arrived, my son gladly spoke to all of his friends and eventually linked up with his best BEST friend and us moms were just along for the day’s adventures. For the 3 hours that we were there I was approached by FOUR separate moms on four separate occasions who each asked and explained a version of “Are you his mom? My daughter talks about him ALL OF THE TIME. He’s her boyfriend and I hear all about him!” as their daughters hid away in embarrassment since mom spilled her secret. I wasn’t sure what response they were looking for, I replied: “I hope he’s friendly with everyone, that’s what we try to teach him.”

Boyfriend.

The more I thought about it, the more the word got under my skin. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. On the one hand, I was beaming with pride that he was being so sweet that each of these little girls thought the world of him. On the other hand, I think I was visibly cringing by the time the fourth mom said the word “boyfriend.”

Maybe I didn’t understand the meaning of the word. So, in true blogger fashion, I did a quick search. The simplest definition after skimming through several versions is a male companion with which one has a romantic or sexual relationship.

My son is your daughter’s what?!

Before things get completely out of hand, I do not for one second think that my son has had any romantic or sexual relationships with any of your daughters. I don’t even think that you think that they have had that type of encounter. That’s my point.

They are four years old Mommas. I’m not ready. I’m not ready for the questions that come along with giving four-year-old friendships adult labels. This specific word is not appropriate. We have always encouraged him to be nice to everybody and treat everyone kindly. This doesn’t necessarily mean that we are friends with everyone, but we aren’t unkind.

My heart was overwhelmed to see him open doors for his friends and graciously let his friends go ahead of him taking turns and offer help whenever he thought anyone needed it. These gestures weren’t limited to just the girls in his class though, he did the same for the boys too. Not one of the boy’s moms informed me that he was their son’s boyfriend.

When a boy is kind to another boy they can be friends, but when a boy is kind to a girl he is all of a sudden her boyfriend … right …?

Yet, if he had been unkind to your daughter, the dialogue would have gone something along the lines of “Oh, he just wants to be your boyfriend.” See the pickle? Whether my son is kind or not, your daughter needs a boyfriend at 4 years old.

Can we please just not put grown-up labels on their first little friendships?

They already grow up too fast. Maybe my pregnancy hormones are getting the best of me on this one. I simply don’t agree with giving their sweet, innocent friendships adult-sized labels. Whether they are boys are girls, why can’t they just be “best BEST friends” (as my son says) or better yet even just FRIENDS?

When All Else Fails, Trust Your Gut

I am notorious for reading books and researching information on how to do…well, anything in life. As soon as I find myself not knowing the answer to something, I quickly revert to the internet or to my bookshelf to find it. The process of searching, reading, analyzing, synthesizing, and arriving at a well-thought-out conclusion is so comforting to me. 

This logical way-of-life doesn’t always work with parenting, because kids simply aren’t logical, nor is the process of parenting.

Many times I have said to myself, “this doesn’t make any sense,” or “the book says I should be doing this,” or “the article I read explained this will happen if I do this.” It makes me want to curl into the fetal position because I desperately NEED things to make sense. 

Many parents find themselves approached with problems such as: 

  • Poor eating choices
  • Irregular sleeping patterns
  • Disciplining
  • Screen time
  • Choosing friends
  • Grades and school work
  • Bullying
  • Managing emotions
  • Lying
  • Whining
  • Tantrums
  • Lack of confidence
  • Sibling rivalry
  • Disobedience

The world wide web and the vast majority of books will have many answers as to how to solve each problem, and the more I read and research, the more overwhelmed I begin to feel when the knowledge I gained does not match up with my practice I put into reality.

And then my head goes into a tailspin. 

There are millions of books and articles and podcasts that we can listen to that will give us good advice on how to do this parenting thing the right way, but not all ways will fit the mold of what would work best for our children and our families. Although searching for answers from reliable sources and gaining knowledge from people of esteemed degrees can be a good thing, it will never measure up to the instincts we were gifted with the day we became a parent.

Our gut instincts are a great tool to use throughout this journey of parenthood.

When things start to become nonsensical with my child, I stop myself when I reach for a book or my computer and search inward to recognize what my gut instincts are telling me.

So give the books and the internet a rest. Tune into your instincts and trust your gut that you are making the right decisions. Even if it doesn’t make sense to you or anyone on the sidelines watching, your gut may know something that your brain won’t understand.

A Children’s Hospital Christmas Poem

As I crawl out of bed I spy my little one lost in a dream.
A typical Christmas morning to follow it would seem.
Reflections of Christmas lights dance across his face.
To search for toys from Santa soon he will race.

Visits from loved ones will bring joy throughout the day.
Cookies and candies will be his favorite part I would say.
Laughter and joy echo as everyone gathers around.
But someone will be missing, it’s me that won’t be found.

I wipe away a tear as I say goodbye.
Yes, after years in healthcare, leaving on holidays still makes me cry.
As I drive in the dark I place myself with the Lord.
I must remember some children won’t be home a Christmas more.

Upon entering the doors you may find a string of light,
Hanging in a patient room shining cheerfully so bright.
Though there are also dark rooms, where no family gather ’round.
It appears as though no holiday cheer can be found- that is until we arrive.With a jingle of Christmas bells enter the staff one and two.
Adorned with festive prints, we sing and we cheer to bring laughter to you!
Donations of Christmas gifts flood through the halls.
It seems Santa knew where to find the sick kiddos after all.

We gaze at pictures sent from family as our children open gifts.
A quick Facetime during a break to blow them a kiss.
Then its back to caring for sicks ones who eagerly await
With medications and feedings, we mustn’t be late.

As the sun meets the moon at the end of my day,
I reflect on the Christmas magic that too came my way.
There were smiles and laughter in the most unsuspecting spot.
As the community joined together to spread cheer to every tot.

And even in those darkest of rooms, love was found.
A nurse humming a Christmas lullaby ’til a babe is sleeping sound.
Or a housekeeper drawing jolly characters on the whiteboard of each room.
We do it because, as much as we love and miss our own families, we love yours too!

 

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