I'm a Hugger.

From kindergarten to fifth grade, I lived with my maternal grandma with my mom and older brother. My G-ma was an amazing woman. She was one of seven children. She had seven children of her own. I was the youngest of 27 grandchildren and I’m not sure anyone has count anymore of the great and great-great-grandchildren. The total number of decedents of Geraldine Doris Canion (Harper, Hendricks, Heathcock, Pace) is definitely over 100. Her running gag was that when God spoke and said “Go and replenish the Earth” she took him literally.

She had an amazing sense of wit and humor. Grandma never knew a stranger, and upon meeting she would throw her arms open and say something to the extent of “Oh honey, we hug around here!” or “Don’t be a stranger, I’m a hugger!” Some people don’t particularly like physical contact. That’s okay. Grandma was going to hug you anyway.

I don’t know many people anymore who invade your space with happiness the way she did. She wasn’t a petit lady, (she’d phrase it that she had a lot more to love) so when she hugged you, she engulfed you in a laugh and a good squeeze.

Hugging is scientifically good for you. It releases serotonin, dopamine, and oxytocin. Those are all the feel good chemicals our brain produces, for the non-science minded readers. Hugs also lower blood pressure, reduce anxiety, and create social bonds.I genuinely believe people were happier around my grandmother because she did show her positivity with hugs.

I am a hugger, and this Valentine’s day I want to challenge all of you to embrace your inner G-ma and give someone who needs it a hug. Not just family, or close friends, but someone who could use a physical reaching out for reassurance. Yes, even a good side hug if you’re worried about the HR representatives of the world.

To promote this culture of sharing physical positivity, I am selling both vinyl decals and T-shirts with my “Bring it in, I’m a hugger” graphic, especially with what my son calls “Love Day” just around the corner. His school promotes Valentine’s as a day we share love and affection to everyone who matters to us, not just one special ‘Valentine’ and I love that idea! Let’s spread some love.

Decals will be 5$ for a 3.25 inch, and 10$ for a 5 inch. Shirts will be 20$. They are a ladies cut v-neck with 100% soft cotton. They are hand screen printed, so expect slight handmade imperfections. If you want a men’s cut, just let me know! They are of course, red, like my G-ma would have requested. If you order by Wednesday the 12th, I can have them to you by Valentines! Link to purchase here.

Now get to hugging. You’d be surprised at how even giving the hug can bring about happiness.

Affirmation Tattoos

When I was teaching I worked in a low income suburb of Houston. My students did not have much, the campus was 100% free lunch. Some didn’t always have running water or electricity. Some weren’t always sure where their parents were. For the most part though, it was a lot of students whose parents worked really hard and just weren’t home enough to help them feel secure and successful, but they were trying.

Many of my students struggled with coping mechanisms for feeling overwhelmed and insecure. So many students just needed someone to tell them they were interesting or cool or funny or smart, which is why as a mom I try and tell my sons as often as possible. When I was trying to come up with what I wanted to produce for Practiced Positivity, temporary tattoos were one of my first ideas.

Back when I was teaching, if one of my lectures was particularly boring, especially with freshmen or sophomores, you could catch students writing on their skin. If you were an adolescent once, you probably did this too. I noticed though, that too often it was images or lyrics that represented that this person was struggling. They were writing on themselves for affirmation or validation of the crap they were honestly too young and ill-equipped to be dealing with.

So I’ve designed a set of temporary tattoos to help those that are in need of a physical reminder that things are going to be better and they’re going to be okay. While it was my adolescent students who inspired me, sometimes we all need a temporary, “Psst I believe in you!” while we persevere through something rough. Sometimes it’s strength through the loss of someone or something, sometimes we need strength through a difficult or lengthy task, sometimes we just need affirmation that we matter, but the physicality gives you ownership of that positive voice.

Links to purchase are below. Options are a full sheet for 10$. Individuals are 2$ for 3″ print and 1$ for 2″ print.

Etsy Shop Link

Printable PDF or SVG for 5$- Tattoo paper is available through Amazon. Customization also available! Just email me at ashley.newett@gmail.com

Year One in California

Now what?

A tiny bit over a year ago, we moved to California. Saturday, we celebrated Owen being 9 months old by having a crawfish boil and enjoying the company of friends old and new. The in between of the two milestones feels overwhelming. How could so much have happened in such a small frame of time?

I spent a lot of time listening and trying to be in the moment, but I was also distracted by the constant compare and contrast in my head between what we have here versus what we had back in Texas. The presence of cajun food probably didn’t help. However, I am finally in a place where my heart has healed enough from the past year to allow myself to feel and be happy.

For my family, California was obviously the best choice for us. We walk to pizza night with our boys on Fridays with Nana and Papa. We’re 10 minutes from the beach and an hour to the snow. Our older son is getting a fantastic Montessori education, two blocks down from our home. I walk him to and from school every day. We have 8 young children on our cul-de-sac to become life long playmates, four of which are the children of my husband’s childhood playmates. My in laws live four houses down and pop in randomly with extra formula from Costco or chocolate croissants from C’est Si Bon. I left Owen’s 9 month check up with him in the 45th percentile for growth and a pat on the back for having a perfect baby, despite him being 11 weeks early. To say life is now picturesque or ideal for our family is an understatement. (Oh, did I mention we now also have Disney Land resident Passes?)

But as for my journey…

It’s been hard. Insert an expletive or two in there. If you gave me one of those stress tests with the checkboxes of big life events from the past year, I’d have at least 80% checked. Big move, career change, hospital bed rest, premature baby, financial strain… but the biggest strain on my heart, after it was all said and done, has been my personal crisis. Who am I? As a Californian? As a stay at home mom? Who am I if I don’t teach? Who am I as a mom of two? Who am I as Cameron’s wife? What kind of person do I want to be here, or am I somehow supposed to somehow feel and be the same person I was a year ago?

Finally, I would say since we got back from our first trip to Texas since we moved, I am starting to come to terms with the unknown. I’m letting go, like peeling duct tape off a sunburn, of the anger and resentment and fear of the future.

After applying for every English teaching position in Orange County and getting some of the loveliest rejections, I’ve thrown in the towel and turned my focus toward the creative again. It is hard to have been hired the day of an interview for literally every other job I’ve had, and then have radio silence for months.

One of my favorite mugs from @sophieandlili and a source of internal motivation… that and caffeine of course.

Ten years ago, I was accepted into the Savanna College of Art and Design. I was full of naivety. I was going to be an advertising designer and work on campaigns like Truth or Red and save the world from nicotine and cure HIV with my creativity. However, my parents talked me out of going. I instead majored in English. I went to Texas State down the road. It was a safe choice. I hope I inspired one or two out of the approximately 700 hundred students I had, but my heart just isn’t in teaching anymore. Now, after MUCH introspection I’m starting my own business.

My mom listened to my ideas while I rambled over and over on the phone (moms are good at that) and she decided I could be successful. She admitted she felt bad that I never went to art school and encouraged me to get started. Later this week I’ll pick up a starter set of screen printing equipment.

Her call was a baby push. And I know, if I want to do this project right, it’s going to take baby steps. Delayed gratification. Planning and budgeting. Time. So right now, a year of California behind us, 9 months of Owen being our miracle, and finally something for me to feel pride in – I’m starting the business plan for Practiced Positivity, a custom screen printing and vinyl shop. Its my project, my contribution to our family, and hopefully a future for me here.

Food Tradition Versus the Millennials

It’s Fall!!!!!! When we look back on our favorite food memories, they likely start here. Pies, tamales, challah. They reign supreme in our taste buds beginning in October. Growing up, my mom cooked all the time. It was her way of being a present mom for us while working full time. During the week, we had a home cooked meal. Pot pies, casseroles, fried chicken, etc. The change in temperature has my taste buds getting retrospective.

When my mom came to visit in August, we had a wonderful time. We went to the beach, played with the boys, and got some good mom and daughter talks in. There is a moment, however, that is still sticking out to me. My momma, with all her southern well meaning, opened my refrigerator and said, “Store bought cookie dough? Tsk. You know how to make it.”

She’s right. I do. That doesn’t mean that in the moment I didn’t argue with her inside my head trying to justify my purchase. “BUT I JUST DON’T HAVE TIME” being the largest argument against taking the time to make her recipe of mini M&M cookies for my son. Then, last week I started putting together recipes for apple pie to feature on my instagram. (Because it’s fall.) I texted my mom and asked if she had an apple pie filling recipe. She texted back, “No, I just use the canned stuff.”

It got me thinking about food traditions and my cohort of friends. We’re all around 30, educated, and many of us between first and third generation American. Yet how many of us can cook? Second, how many of us can actually cook the meals our parents, grandparents, or great-grandparents made? Third, why can’t we as a collective of self righteous foodie door dash dining millennials make a decent personally culturally relevant meal? We love food. We created a culture that photographs their meals before eating and thrive on easy access to different cuisines, so why aren’t we cooking?

Personally, I know most of my family’s food traditions come from a place of poverty. Not in a negative way, but both of my baby boomer parents will tell you quite boldly that they were raised by products of the depression. Quality ingredients were substituted for cheaper versions, meals were pared down, convenience began to override flavor. This is where the disconnect begins between our traditions and us, our parents’ influence on our food identity. Hence, my dad using store bought pie crust for his apple pie rather than teaching me how to make it, which he was taught to do by his mother.

I learned to cook for the most part in San Antonio, Texas. First thought may lead you to think of the city as its stereotypes. White and Hispanic. Rodeos and the Alamo. Lots of tacos and enchiladas. My perspective is different because I lived there, but what many people forget is that San Antonio was, at least in the early 2000’s during my adolescence, home to a handful of operating Air Force bases. Many of my friends brought different cultures and foods and perspectives because they were military brats. Rene’s parents were from Trinidad & Tobago and Panama. Elisa, Naomi, and Stephanie are Mexican-American, but Stephanie’s parents had been stationed in Japan when she was young. Jamie is third generation Italian-American. Eating dinner at their homes and having their parents fuel us during all of our late night school projects, I was exposed to so many more flavors than just my mom’s southern repertoire. I asked those close friends, who I thankfully still have a strong friendship with, about their experiences with food traditions and why or why not they still have a relationship with them to try and figure out the disconnect between our culture and our ability to cook within it.

When I first moved to San Antonio in 2002, one first the first friends I connected with was Rene, who lived in my neighborhood and shared my loved of ska music and general nerdiness. When arriving to Rene’s house you removed your shoes, you said hello to BOTH parents, and usually we were asked by Rene’s mom if we did our homework. On a very rare occasion I was asked if I would like to stay for dinner. It was spiced chicken, rice, and fried plantains. I remember it being SO delicious. Thinking back to our youth, I asked Rene if he could cook like his mom. Rene very honestly told me he did like a lot of immigrant kids and wanted to assimilate, so those home cooked, traditional meals weren’t valued back then.

While teaching in East Houston, I attended many trainings for ESL (English as a Second Language). I was taught that the first thing immigrants lose is their clothing, then their language, and last their food. It is a strange lens to see my close friends as sharing the same experience as my former students, but over and over again I hear that parents are the ones encouraging assimilation and not sharing food tradition, especially if they weren’t Hispanic or female. My male, Asian students from Houston were rarely even allowed in the kitchen. I have no idea how they’re feeding themselves now that they’re in college.

Our friend Jamie echoed the sentiment about her first generation Italian- American dad. While she would have loved to learn everything her grandparents had made, Jamie’s grandparents passed away when she was very young and her father wasn’t encouraged to learn to cook. Culinary identity, especially in Southern European culture, is feminine. Jamie admittedly “grasped at straws” for Italian cultural identity because of the loss of the family’s beloved pasta recipes. What’s left for the Feola’s today? One marinara and meatball recipe, and folklore of gnocchi.

Now, not everyone has their parents to thank for their loss of food culture. We now live in a much more health and nutrition conscious environment. I seriously doubt any immigrant grandmas counted a calorie or would dare limit themselves to a something as restrictive as the keto diet. Nowadays, an awareness of the connection of thyroid and diet, fertility and diet, anxiety/depression and diet have forced many of us to save beloved family recipes for special occasions. Considering the average family size has dropped from 3.7 people to 3.1 since 1970 and younger generations are waiting longer and longer to marry, even a perfectly mastered family recipe designed to feed a family of eight only finds itself applicable on a few occasions annually.

Unfortunately as millennials, we’re more isolated, career focused, and perhaps more convenience minded than even our parents. Our baby boomer parental units may have served us Kid Kuisine and invented instant cookie dough, but they certainly didn’t have Amazon PrimeNow or Uber Eats. Can we take former traditions, and adapt them for our own purposes?

I chose to make my own filling because I don’t trust the ingredients in the can of apples at my local supermarket. Plus, everyone knows that food made with less processing has more flavor. The closer you are to the source of your food, the better it is. Neither of my parents had an off hand recipe for the filling, I used memory and good old Pinterest to add the spices needed for my all American dessert.

Personally, I don’t have a direct connection to my family’s culture outside of the United States and neither does my husband. My family was raised on southern frying, baking, and casseroles. I know I don’t want to pass on everything I learned because of my own focus on health avoiding preservatives and additives. What our family wants to pass on is a love of food and a love of being in the kitchen. From there what we all need to ask is: What can we positively pass on to the next generation without losing what was sacred? The answer to me is not an erasure of the past, but a rewriting, like a cover song of a classic rerecorded with a modern tone.

My pie turned out to be a nod to my mom’s crust, without the crisco. The filling full of the same spices my parents added, without the corn syrup. I’m hoping we can undo the easy outs of the baby boomer generation and focus on creating a more positive relationship with the roots of our food. Perhaps we will learn to cook through Pinterest and other tools of the internet and find our own food identity in the recipes of others. Let us remix the flavors of the past by meal planning our way through carne asada, curried chicken, and kugel.

Happy Fall!

I’m back! So after two months in the hospital, two months trying my best to be the best NICU frequent flyer, and then adjusting to stay at home mom life, we are finally finding a groove. It helps that it’s the Newett family’s favorite season FALL!

Found this at California Kroger aka Ralph’s and couldn’t help but crack up.

So today I’m going to walk y’all through how to make changing leaves sugar cookies. I like them because they’re aesthetically pleasing without being covered in icing. (I don’t really like icing). My son also doesn’t need to eat the layer of pure sugar. He’s 3, two months from 4, and he doesn’t need any extra energy.

Cameron is usually the source of all of our food stuff. However, when it’s time to bake, that’s my lane. Cameron doesn’t like to measure or level. He is, despite this, incredibly talented and I have zero complaints.

FIRST! Read all directions before beginning anything.

Preheat your over to 400 degrees.

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 cups room temperature butter
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla flavoring
  • 1 tsp almond flavoring
  • 5 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Yellow, orange, or red food coloring

Using a mixer, cream together sugar and butter.

Add eggs, vanilla, and almond, mix until creamy.

Add baking powder and salt. Then add flour one cup at a time until thoroughly mixed.

Add yellow food coloring and mix until even.

Wrap cookie dough in wrap and refrigerate until cold all the way through, at least one hour but overnight is best.

After chilled, take out a fist full of dough at a time. This makes about 1 pan of cookies.

Add orange food coloring (3-4 drops). Add one drop, knead the dough, add another drop, etc. The more you knead it, the more mixed it will look. I preferred only kneading a couple of seconds because rolling out the dough helps spread the coloring and make it look more marbled. You may need a practice round to see how you want your colors to blend.

Roll out your dough on a floured surface with a floured rolling pin. (Did you know you’re not supposed to eat raw flour? I didn’t know until recently. Reason #198 I shouldn’t have made it so long.) Your dough should be about .25 inches thick.

Use your favorite fall leaf cookie cutters to create your shapes. We got ours at the Home Store. (Formerly Garden Ridge?) You can re-roll your dough if you have a lot left over. Be careful on the third or fourth roll out because your dough might get too much flour and get flaky. Toss it or add it to another batch if you need to adjust the texture. Make sure you also flour your spatula so the cookies are easy to put on the pan. We like to use a silicone baking sheet. It’s so much easier to clean!

Bake 7-8 minutes on 400.

Let cool, ice lightly if you’re into it. I used a sparkly gel icing. Everything is better sparkly. This recipe will give you about 2-3 dozen cookies depending on how you cut and roll them.

Shout out to my mom for passing down all of her baking magic. She also has the world’s greatest witches’ cackle, so hopefully I can incorporate it into our Halloween post.

While you’re enjoying your cookies, fill out a Fall Bucket List with your family! I loved this one from A Beautiful Mess, which is what I want my blog to be like when it grows up. I follow them on Instagram as well, their projects and souls are so beautiful, so send them some love. I love supporting others who inspire us!

Our Autumn Bucket List!

Motherhood & Identity

In life, there are a few milestones where you really question identity. Adolescence, of course. Marriage. Parenthood. Retirement. For those who aren’t living the traditional linear expectation model, it may be a particular birthdate or promotion that creates this existential crisis of “Who am I?”

When I had my first son, I tried my damnedest not to let motherhood change me. I wanted to be the woman who was still herself, but also had a child. I tried to add on the responsibilities of parenthood and marriage without personal sacrifice, and was so fooled. Over time I gave up being a color guard director, I stopped staying for after school tutorials with my students, I stopped trying to do adult activities with my friends. More and more of my free time was spent as a family, and we were happy. There was nothing wrong with the transition in the moments it was happening. I adopted the identity of mother and wife and embraced them.

However, very innocently, about 5 months ago my husband made the passing comment, “Before you met me you were just an English teacher.”

Was I?

Was I JUST an English teacher?

Compound this statement with giving up my career and village in Texas to relocate to California. Compound it with a 50 day hospital stay in antepartum. Then compound it with a 59 day wait for my son in the NICU. Needless to say, I’m working through some shit.

Now that my son is home, my family is together, and I’m “fun”employed or on maternity leave, however you want to perceive it, I can feel myself longing for the person who was ‘just’ an English teacher. There is something about the label of ‘mother’ and ‘wife’ that just aren’t enough for me right now. I need to be able to point to an accomplishment that is solely my own and say “LOOK! I DID THAT! ITS MINEEEeeee.”

From my perspective, I wasn’t JUST an English teacher. I was more than that. I was passionate, I was political, I was environmental, I was a dancer, I was a photographer. I loved live music and craft Texas beer with my friends. I was drawn to artists and musicians and creatives; other liberal arts junkies who spent too much money on a degree to never have the career to it pay off. We sat around on old couches in indie coffee shops and solved the world’s problems. I was interesting, and outgoing, and fun, and positive.

Favorite representation of me- pre marriage and babies.

Now I stand at preschool functions making random small talk in hopes another mom will befriend me. Now I send mom memes to the women who used to watch live music and go dancing with me to try and keep a hold of whatever connection we have left. Now I use the portrait mode on my iPhone and pretend that it validates the art and photography classes I took in community college.

I feel boring sometimes. It feels like postpartum anxiety making me hate the idea of socializing because somehow I know I’m not going to be good enough. I feel bitter because I miss that person I used to be.

Can you be both? Can you be the person you were before parenthood and a good parent? Or do you have to lose yourself in your children?

This transition is temporary. I know that as time goes on, and I process the past 6 months, I will find a balance between who I used to be and who I am becoming. The mother of two. The Californian.

I think the most important thing to remember is that non of us are written in stone. The only constant in life is change.

I do love the happy moments with my family. I love the dinners on the back patio free of humidity and mosquitoes. I love living down the street from my in laws. I love watching my older son love on my newborn so beautifully unconditionally. But the next time I pour one out (to be honest it’ll probably just be me accidentally spilling breastmilk on the counter) it will be for the women we were before we were mothers.

This is harder than I thought…

My other blog posts were written when everything was going well. When I wasn’t having obvious complications and my overall well being was pretty positive. This is not a positive post.

Things have taken a bit of a difficult turn. Last weekend I spent two days in labor and delivery on Magnesium Sulfate to stop signs of labor. One nurse jokingly called the medication “a hangover without a party.” Basically I felt like someone had given me a strong benadryl that made me horrendously nauseous, gave me a splitting headache, and made me feel like I was literally on fire for over a day. At one point I began sobbing because I couldn’t take the feeling of the medication and I wanted to peel my skin off and go home.

I was so depressed because my son was too scared of me in that state, and of the machines, and the noises in labor and delivery to come visit. Plus, I spent 2 out of 4 of my days with my amazing Abby completely incoherent. She was, as usual, a wonderful friend and bed side nurse. It just wasn’t the slumber party I had imagined when I was counting down to her visit. Cameron is an amazing rock, and reminds me that when we got here a month ago I’d be willing to do anything for baby Owen, but ever since that trip upstairs, I’m broken and am questioning my limits of ‘anything’.

I’m on 24/7 heart and contraction monitoring for Owen, which means I can’t sit or lay comfortably. I have to lay or sit in a way that nurses and doctors can constantly monitor baby, which at 27 weeks pregnant, means I feel uncomfortable. ANY maternity book you read says, “when pregnant, don’t sleep on your back.” Guess how I’m being forced to exist? On my back, slightly inclined. I get one break a day, my shower. It feels so good to not be lying down or have the monitors slowing giving me a rash. (I get heat rash easily and the gel from the doppler makes it worse) They usually ask me to rush out of the shower so I’m not vertical too long.

On top of that, they’re monitoring my blood sugar because my glucose test said my fasting sugar was too high. So four times a day I have my finger pricked, to the result of a normal sugar level. (It’s usually between 93 and 115). However, I’m still on a limited diet unless Cameron brings me outside food. Today Cameron brought me a Five Guys burger and shake. Even after my delicious cookies and cream shake, my blood sugar was only 120.

I can’t go on a walk. I can’t go outside. I can’t put my son in bed or take him to the park. I can’t pick my clothes from my closet or choose my food. I can’t teach. I can’t even wrap my hands around my belly to feel Owen move because I have monitors covering where he is. I can’t nest and wash Owen’s clothes or prepare his nursery and I’m so done not having any control over anything.

I swear to anyone who says “Oh but you’re getting such good rest!” I will kill you. If you think this egg crate mattress and CONSTANT disruption in the middle of the night to adjust monitors is “rest”, by all means, allow me to trade you. I am a blow and go, do it all and then some kind of person and I can’t handle the vegetative, isolated, shell of a person I am.

Today, when I was denied a walk outside and began crying, the nurse asked me if I wanted to discuss an antidepressant with my doctor. I wanted to say: No, you psychopath, I need sunshine and fresh air, not a chemical. You want to know what’s wrong with me? Read The Yellow Wallpaper.

This is not to say that I’m not incredibly thankful that we made it from 22 weeks and 4 days to now 27 weeks and 6 days. The fact that I had almost no fluid and am now at a normal level is nothing short of a miracle, especially since I haven’t gone into full labor. I know that the sunshine, prayers, books, craft supplies, face masks, and love that have been sent our way have made this so much easier to handle.

But I’m not made of steel. I am not resilient against feeling alone and helpless to do something for my little fighter, Owen. His heartbeat is always in my ear, and each time it begins to slow, or drop, my heart stops too. My body is literally broken, and we’re a ticking time bomb to his arrival. Advice from doctors on what to do? “Rest, and drink water.” GREAT. Thank you. I’ll get right on that.

So if you feel the need to send us something, first send prayers for strength and positivity to make it to week 34 (that’s 7 more weeks). If you must send something tangible, make it for baby Owen or big brother Colby, but not me. A mother’s joy comes from the light she created in her children, and when it shines through their laughter or smiles, that’s when we’re the happiest.

What those stuck in the hospital REALLY need…

First, I, with every ounce of my soul, deeply appreciate everything I have been given to keep me occupied or beautified. I totally bedazzled a unicorn the other day and painted my nails complete with nail stickers. I, however, did want to give some pointers on what to gift to help those who might also be bed ridden, bored, and possibly hormonal.

Classic insta post cataloging our friendship

I collaborated with my very close, soul sister level, amazing friend Abby to make these lists for you. We met eight years ago, long before we even knew our husbands, or had degrees, or had very much of life figured out. We were just good friends waiting tables and eating Chimy’s Taqueria together. Over time, I learned she is Wonder Woman. Shortly after I began teaching 9th grade with her five years ago, she had a 41 day hospital stay surrounding her heart-lung transplant. If anyone knows how to make the best of an unfavorable situation like a long term hospital stay, it’s her.

The Starter Kit (Possibly for shorter stays with a concrete release date)

  • Lotion
  • Lip Balm
  • Face Moisturizer
  • Book or two
  • Journal
  • Fun Pens
  • Coloring or activity book/Colored Pencils
  • Comfy/Compression Socks
  • Snacks
  • Jacket
  • Body Wipes
Little something something from my high school friend Elisa, who THANK THE LORD, also ended up in California. I have a thing for Narwhals, so she adopted this one from the Monterey Bay Aquarium on my behalf.

Hospitals are terribly cold, and so DRY. I haven’t really felt the need to wash my hair just because I feel like I’m not producing oil. I have leg dandruff. Ew. Which especially means if the person you’re shopping for is also in danger of bedsores, good quality moisturizers make a world of difference. While staying busy, I am a fan of a good phone game like Words with Friends, but sometimes I just don’t want to stare at a screen for a while. The activity & coloring books I’ve been gifted are good for giving my eyes a break while still working my brain. However, if the nurses use the phrase, “you may want to bring some comforts from home…” because you’re not going home anytime soon, use the next list.

The Long Haul

  • Cozy blanket or pillow from home (the below picture features my wedge pillow, which supports my baby bump, and I love it)
  • Favorite coffee/tea mug
  • Water bottle
  • Long term crafts
  • Board Games/Cards
  • Gaming device
  • Apple TV/Amazon Firestick
  • Journal
  • Laptop/ Tablet
  • French Press/Pour Over/Tea Bags
Care package from my also pregnant friend Danae, complete with bluebonnets from Texas and lots of mini crafts! I am so used to us glitter bombing each other I basically surgically dissected everything from the bag. It took about 10 minutes. No glitter was found.

When Abby was in the hospital, she made everyone friendship bracelets. I wore mine like a badge of honor until it fell off. I’ve picked up macrame. (Which, by the way, is just a REALLY BIG friendship bracelet! They use the same knots.) Our friend circle during her transplant stay had a rotating schedule of going to visit. It kept Abby from getting too tired of any one of us. We usually ordered queso or cookies and watched a lot of girlie T.V. like Vampire Diaries. If you’re swinging by to keep someone company, try and keep what you bring simple.

Swing by Gifts

  • Snack food- especially favorites from local restaurants
  • One time use crafts
  • One time use self care (Like face or eye masks)

This list is short for a reason. After a while, stuff accumulates. Even stuff from home. Eventually, someone’s partner, parents, children, or designated awesome person has to take all of that home. So when you swing by, its best to bring things that are consumable and wont take up space they might not have. The other day my friend Monica brought by carne asada fries and oh my goodness they were HEAVEN to my pregnant soul.

Personal Favor

I want to say, on a personal note, I will never ever turn down a good book. I didn’t major in English because I love having a useless degree. I love literature! However, I also don’t need anything, after being here a month (Yes, ALREADY), I’m pretty set. If you decide you need send or bring us something, send something from our baby registry to the house. I can’t nest from here, or do any baby shopping. Which is probably for the best for the bank account. I’m sure my husband is already seeing a small savings from my inability to go to Target unsupervised. However, the biological urge to nest is definitely NOT being satisfied from here. I am sure there are many other mamas on bed rest who would share the same request.

Link to Registry

Final Note

I am having a rough week. The itch to be and do something productive has hit me pretty hard. So this week’s countdown is to Abby’s visit. ONLY four more days until my very amazing Abby is coming to California to visit and keep me company. I cannot say enough how emotionally healing it is to have someone who is full of positivity and support keep you stable. I know she’s been there done this, and even when she wasn’t even at 60%, she made it look so easy. While my husband is doing a beyond amazing job for me and our family, sometimes you need to lean on someone besides your partner. Abby is my good friend, work wife, matron of honor, permanent favorite coffee date, and I cannot WAIT for her presence to be in my bubble. (Sorry, Abby, that I am forever trying to poison you with hazelnut biscotti or macaroons.) A huge thank you for letting me share part of your story, and for sharing your expertise.

Little snap from our wedding day.

How to survive hospital bed rest

I have officially been in the hospital three weeks. My perspective is not the same as many others I know who have been bed bound because, well, I’m not sick. I’m not battling a disease or fighting off infection or recovering from a surgery. I feel really good. The part of this process I am struggling with is knowing I will not be going home anytime soon, and when I do, life won’t be the same.

So if you happen to find yourself, like me, stuck in bed for weeks or maybe even months, here are some of my tips for making the most of bed rest.

First, create a schedule or routine. Mine changes if I happen to get a visitor besides my family or have unexpected medical things that have to get done (like an extra ultrasound). I try to stick to it so I don’t feel like I’m wasting my day.

My amazing pour over from Tribo Coffee

I wake up, force myself to get up out of bed, and wash my face and brush my teeth. Then I turn on the news and make myself a cup of coffee. I have to ask my nurse nicely for hot water to do so, but its worth it. My husband bought me amazing pour overs so I don’t have to drink the watered down hospital Folgers. I also have an Ember mug that keeps my coffee warm, so if I’m interrupted, I can still enjoy my coffee after everyone leaves. The mornings have lots of interruptions between vital checks and medications and doctor check ins and baby stress monitoring. After Good Morning America wraps up, I turn the T.V. off, pick a playlist on Spotify and do a craft until lunchtime, or until I finish. After lunch, I usually read or color until my husband or father in law and son come to visit. They usually hang out until dinner time. We often go for walks or if the weather isn’t great we just color together in my room. Sometimes we do dinner together, sometimes I eat the hospital dinner and they eat at home. After they leave I’m usually pretty bummed and wishing I could go with them, so I binge watch happy T.V. to distract myself. Once the nurses come by in the evening I make a cup of tea and once its empty, I make myself turn off the lights and go to bed.

Showing off my son’s and my artistic skills.

Second, do the little things that make you feel human.

I always shower in the morning and put on a minimal amount of makeup. It’s usually just concealer under my eyes and mascara, but it makes me look so much more awake. I take the time to moisturize and use belly butter on my bump. If I am feeling really motivated, I will blow dry my hair too. I try to clip or paint my nails once a week. These little things make me feel less like a baby making zombie. And yes, it feels insane to basically say, “do basic self care and hygiene!” But when you don’t have anywhere to go and your only responsibility is to ‘drink water, grow baby’, sometimes its hard just to wash your face or get out of bed. I also have my own butter and coffee creamer. Every hospital has a different set up, but I have a small mini fridge that I can keep some snacks in. Having my coffee taste like mine is HUGE. I order a lot of my snacks through Whole Foods PrimeNow, so if you’re in a bigger city, see if it delivers to your area. It saves your family a trip to the store and you get exactly what you want and not the weird brand your person decided was ‘better’.

Third, make your wardrobe work for you.

My failed attempt at trying to take a picture of my cute pants, but because I am pregnant and have NO balance, I tipped over. Don’t tell my nurse.

One pretty great part about being a long term antepartum patient is that I don’t have to wear a hospital gown every day. I have chosen to live life in compression socks, compression yoga pants (the fear of blood clots is real y’all), and basic maternity t-shirts. The compression socks are a non-negotiable with my doctors. I chose to order cute ones from Amazon rather than wear the 1940’s style, thigh high, nude colored hosiery offered by the hospital. The nurses like them and they’re doctor approved. Old Navy, yes the partner company to the Gap, actually has amazing maternity basics online that aren’t expensive. Plus, a lot of their pants have fit options for your belly based on what trimester you’re in. (WHAT A CONCEPT!) I also have plenty of house sweaters my husband is nice enough to rotate out for me as they get messy. A house sweater, for reference, is a sweater you own that is super comfy and probably well broken in that is socially acceptable to wear in your HOUSE but not really in public. You own them, I own them, one probably used to be your partners but you stole it, they’re a necessity.

Fourth, talk to someone outside the hospital every day who isn’t your partner or parent.

I am a very social person who thrives on contact, so I like talking to lots of people. However, there is something to be said about having someone who you can talk to who will give an outside perspective to the world and doesn’t have any responsibilities for your care. They’ll help keep you centered and remind you of the life outside your immediate circle.

Fifth, create excuses for positivity.

Countdown the days until a milestone, or a visit from someone important, or a holiday. Do things you can be proud of. I’m pretty crafty, a lot of people aren’t, but that doesn’t mean you can’t create something worthwhile. Youtube and Pinterest are pretty infinite in terms of ideas to keep you occupied and how to’s. Ask the volunteers to go on walks. There are lots of young college students wandering around eager to refill water and would love an excuse to not stock nursing supplies. I was gifted a coloring book with positive quotes. They take forever to color, but sometimes just reading through the quotes themselves helps.

I am very lucky that I have a really positive and supportive village. People who have known me a really long time know that I wasn’t always a consistent ray of sunshine. I think over time I trimmed out the people in my life that weighed me down and surrounded myself instead by people I wanted to be more like. They’re all happy, and positive, and choose to be inspiring and motivating. The older I get, the less tolerance I have for things that weigh my heart down. So I’m hoping by keeping up with the positive ways I’m getting through this, I can help someone else do it to.

Links to buy the things:

Coffee pour overs: https://www.amazon.com/TRIBO-Single-Serve-Portable-Specialty-Roasted/dp/B07B8P7247/ref=sr_1_2?keywords=tribo%2Bcoffee&qid=1553730059&s=gateway&sr=8-2&th=1

Ember Mug: https://www.amazon.com/Ember-EMBFJ-CM171000US-Temperature-Control/dp/B07D93QWXG/ref=sr_1_1_sspa?keywords=ember+mug&qid=1553730311&s=gateway&sr=8-1-spons&psc=1

Maternity compression pants: https://oldnavy.gap.com/browse/product.do?pid=417966012&cid=1129586&pcid=1053229

Compression socks: https://www.amazon.com/Compression-Socks-Women-Men-Travel-20-25/dp/B07JQXDZLV/ref=sr_1_20?keywords=compression+socks+women&qid=1553730205&s=gateway&sr=8-20

Basic maternity tops: https://oldnavy.gap.com/browse/product.do?pid=434926002&cid=1096124&pcid=1090999

Inspirational Coloring book: https://www.amazon.com/Inspirational-Colouring-Book-Everyone-Fearless/dp/1640010734/ref=sr_1_4?keywords=positivity+coloring+book&qid=1553730758&s=gateway&sr=8-4

The reality of bed rest in the hospital.

I am usually one to do a lot of writing and sharing. I am a very outgoing person. While I think I’ve done a lot of sharing pictures recently through Instagram or Snapchat, they’ve mostly been the result of starving for human interaction. I haven’t wanted to share what the reality was of why I was in the hospital or what I’m actually feeling. When people ask how I’m doing I just respond with “I can’t complain!” or “Just stir crazy!” Which might just be me psyching myself out of feeling the really negative feelings that come with being by yourself 20 out of 24 hours of the day.

I have officially been in the hospital 17 days. The goal is for me to be here 84-90 days if all goes perfect.

My husband’s family and many of his close friends are nearby and thankfully they’ve helped with our son and brought things to keep me busy. I’ve read plenty of other blogs about hospital bedrest and helpless husbands who can’t cook or do laundry. I read about a woman who had to make phone calls to schedule dinners brought to her husband. I am extremely thankful that I have a self reliant husband who can take care of everything, to a fault. He is not the type to ask for help or admit he might need it. However, I think he’s doing an exceptional job finding balance, or at least putting on a great front for my sake.

People who know me really well know I am a can’t stop, wont stop personality. So in the past 4 months when I had a small uterine hemorrhage (which I was told not to worry about and would heal like a bruise), moved to California, transferred my teaching credential, and started a new job, it didn’t occur to me to slow down. We had lives to start over and damn it, I didn’t have time to lose. My pregnancy with our first son was a BREEZE. What did I have to worry about? Even after I was in the hospital, I put in grades in my gradebook to make sure my students knew I was still there for them. So after my campus cut off all of my log ins, I had a couple days of “Well… what the hell do I do now?” It’s also been a heart breaking emotional struggle to know the parts of parenting that were my job are now being taken care of without a problem and I’m not there. My son’s needs are being met, and he’s happy. He even has a new fish named Spunky the Fish and loves him. My job now is to sit. Drink water. Sit. Pray. Piddle with crafts. Sit. Drink water. Eat. Wait for my family to visit. Sit. Drink Water.

My view most of the day, complete with fun compression socks that I’m required to live in. Tuesdays and Saturdays are Fixer Upper marathons on HGTV.

Female bodies are pretty amazing. We’re biologically predisposed to do whats best for the growing human inside us, and my body told me to pump the breaks. Amniotic fluid is measured in an index I don’t understand but normal is between 8 and 18, below 5 is considered minimal. At our anatomy scan I was at a 3. At the point we came to the hospital about 4 hours later, pretty much 0. This is medically called oligohydramnios. They confirmed my water had broken and I would have to stay until delivery, which could be any moment, even now. I was given an IV of fluids, a number of antibiotics, and put on a contraction monitor. I was 22 weeks and 4 days. I was told they couldn’t do anything for baby if he was born until he was at least 24 weeks. They kept asking us if we wanted to terminate. It was not a good day. It was not a good week.

One of my 20 minute monitoring sessions. The number on the left is baby’s heart rate, the big number on the right is the contraction level, the little number is my pulse.

The good news is that this past week at my 24 week update my AFI (amniotic fluid index) was 4.6. Baby Owen is measuring average for his gestation now and is head down. I am now not attached to anything in terms of IVs or monitors, outside of 20 minutes twice a day they record baby’s heartbeat and my contractions, which have been normal. I can wander around my room now and shower when I feel like it. I did get two steroid shots to help baby’s lungs develop. The only medication they give me is really for pregnancy maintenance. Cameron takes me on wheel chair rides so I can get sunshine, fresh air, and ice cream. Colby rides in my lap and leaves me souvenirs of whip cream or popsicle drips. For the most part, I feel really good! However, because I am at a high risk for infection, I won’t go home until after I deliver.

There wont be any nesting. No rebuilding of our first son’s crib or washing of his onesies in Dreft so I can huff baby scent. No unnecessary trips to Hobby Lobby to set up the nursery. I’m not reading big brother books to my son at night in the rocking chair to help him get ready for the baby. I’m missing my best friend’s baby shower in Texas. Which means it will also be even longer before I can hold my other bff/college roommate’s new baby that was born in December. We wont take family photos for mother’s day like I wanted. (I insist on family photos for mother’s day every year because getting Newetts to take any photo is an act of Congress). I can’t be where I feel like I’m needed. I’m not doing my jobs as a mother or wife. I’m not working. I’m sitting. Drinking water. Praying. Piddling on social media. Sitting. Counting the hours until my family visits. Crying. Drinking water. Sitting. Counting days until friends visit. Drinking water. Sitting.

It could be worse. This could have been over 17 days ago, but it isn’t. Baby is growing and making improvements every day showing no signs of trying to make his entrance. This is HARD, but I keep reminding myself that I have a village of amazing people that have shown me that long hospital stays are no big deal. Steroid shots can be cake. (I don’t have to give myself any of the shots… major kudos to my people who have to inject anything into themselves.) I know NICU warriors who spent months driving back and forth and now have happy, healthy children. If they can do it, so can we. My husband has been incredible and puts up with my Amazon PrimeNow orders, and goes out of his way to make me feel loved and to bring pieces of our normal life to me. Yes, I really want to go home. I really, REALLY want to go home, but someday these 84-90 days will feel like a blink, and I’ll be at home in our bed with all three of my boys and all of the negative won’t be what I remember.

The view of the harbor from the window outside my door. The nice nurses let me have my coffee out there in the mornings.