A Call for Connection and Community

In March, when the world shut down, there was an outreach of love and connection in communities large and small. We left messages with chalk art, put bears in our windows for stuffed animal scavenger hunts, we sang music through Zoom, and challenged each other to dance. We looked for the most part to art to create a connection between us. Now that the national focus is beginning to divide us again, I want to challenge all of us to us the start of school as a reason to reconnect. Between the election and the desperation for normal, we’re forgetting what binds us. Community, Love, and Understanding.

At the end of the day we all want the same things in our homes. Safety, security both for ourselves and our futures, and the pursuit of happiness.

I want to share my five favorite ways to create a sense of connection with your community. It can be your street, your school, your office, your old brunch bunch, or your family you’re missing. I do hope you’ll try and connect with others you normally wouldn’t, our world needs some extra kindness.

  1. Postcard exchange
    • This is easy. Gather addresses and send out some homemade postcards. We designed our own back in the spring using Microsoft Word by cut and pasting some coloring pages of my son’s favorite characters. The hope is that you’ll get as many back as you send out. This could also help boost some of the USPS support they so desperately need right now.
  2. Chalk art
    • Our favorite way to spread some sunshine to our neighborhood is to leave a simple symbol along our walk. We live near a bigger nature trail, so it gets pretty heavy foot traffic. We’ve done Mickey Mouses or “Hidden Mickeys” if you’re a Disney nerd like me, rays of sunshine, and rainbows. Some other fun ideas are Blue’s paw prints or “clue’s”, lucky charms, Deathly Hallows, or just basic shapes and letters. I would definitely cater to the audience of your neighbors. It would also be fun to make a Bingo card to e-mail out if you have a close neighborhood association to see who can find them all.
  3. Back to School Scavenger hunt
    • I saw this one during the shutdown and thought it would be great to do it during back to school week. People put different stuffed animals in their windows on different days of the week and kids could look for them on their walks. If you’ve ever taught you know that public education LOVES a good themed week. I lived for them, even as a secondary teacher. I planned a few for testing weeks and l love a good “Aloha Friday”, I can feel the eye rolls of my former colleagues from here. However, if you have a cohort of students who genuinely wish they could see each other, and some are in class but others are distance learning and some are in a blended model, what a great way for them to show some solidarity in their community. Here’s a cheesy model for you to steal.
    • Monday- We’re BEAR-y excited to be back (Bears)
    • Tuesday- We’re hopping with happiness! (Bunny/Rabbit)
    • Wednesday- We’re swimming with smiles (Fish/Sea Animals)
    • Thursday- We’re dog-gone delighted (dogs/puppies)
    • Friday- Our teachers are “Purr”fect for us (Kittens/Cats)- Teacher appreciation
  4. Dish exchange
    • If you grew up Baptist like I did, your grandma probably participated in one of these at church. What you do is get one plate and decorate it. If you’re a crafting person like me, that could be a fun project. You bake something and put it on the plate, then leave it on a neighbors stoop. Then they enjoy the goodies and pass them on to the next neighbor. There are a lot of different ways to do it on Pinterest.
  5. Bookmark Bookclub
    • This could be especially fun if you have older elementary or middle school-aged children or students, but it works for all ages. Get together with a small group and everyone choose a favorite book. Create a bookmark with your name and the title at the top, so your book will eventually make it back to you. Then as each person finishes the book they sign the bookmark and pass it on. It’s a fun way to read new books and create a keepsake of these times. You may have to create timelines like “once a month we’ll switch” or “You have six weeks to swap”. Have fun with it! I’m sure there are ways you could make it digital too.

I know it is all too easy to feel divided or disconnected during these times. We’re constantly trying to redirect our anger and frustration and sadness toward issues out of our control. However, I think if we refocus our energy inward to our immediate community, we’ll find out there’s a lot more we like than dislike about one another.

Diversity in Our Media Library

Over the past week we have had a lot of social media messages about what we can do to help make the world around us less racist and more positive. I was very quickly overwhelmed by the lists of 100 or 75 things I could do as a white person. The one item I want to focus on is being a good parent. I want to raise my sons to be kind, and inclusive, and respectful of all of their friends. However, many times our voice as a parent is over shadowed by the media our children are consuming.

For example, my family growing up taught me to be very modest and that any sexual activity should be saved for marriage. However, the media I consumed had the opposite message. I watched shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Dawson’s Creek and The OC which told us the norm for adolescence that everyone was drinking too much and having sex at 15. It took me a long time as an adult to navigate the messages into my own personal beliefs of what the rules of relationships and sexuality should be. I think we often forget that the media we allow our children to consume are parenting and teaching tools. Especially in the 90’s, I don’t think our parents we’re thinking too hard about it.

My personal background has a pretty extensive education in ESL and multicultural literacy. At a training I attended, we went through an activity where you analyzed how inclusive and diverse your library was. As an EL or ESL educator this is very important for building literacy, but it’s also important for building perspective and social norms in our own homes. I wanted to share an activity with everyone to help focus our energy toward positive change into our homes.

The first step of the activity is to pull every book off your bookshelf who has characters who don’t share your identity. They have a different race, or religion, or speak a different language, or are from another country. How big is your stack? This is a sampling of our stack, but even with 2-3 missing, I was disappointed considering my background. However, I have a preschooler and an infant, so many book characters are still animals who don’t present an obvious race.

The next step is to separate the books into two stacks. One with those diverse characters as the main character, and the other has those characters as supporting characters.

Now make a third stack, how many of those characters are a stereotype? Set the stereotypes aside. You can’t unteach a stereotype. The one’s that bothered me the most were in older children’s books. If you dig enough in Dr. Seuss or Richard Scarry books, you’ll probably find one. The one I found is from 2015. These subtle images are what create social norms, and you have to look for them, and remove them.

You can do this same activity with movies or video games. Every purchase you make of books or movies shapes how your children will view the world around them. What is their perspective of social normalcy or appropriateness? Are we as parents unintentionally reinforcing racist, sexist, or otherwise problematic messages with our media? I’ve noticed a lot of media for older boys presents women as pretty or smart, but rarely both. Or if they are both, they’re hyper sexual. (Think Laura Croft circa the 2000’s). Yikes.

This exercise of seeing what we’re consuming and how it is shaping our families perspectives is a good way to analyze if we’re truly practicing what we’re preaching. Are we creating a world for our children that is as diverse and respectful and kind as we want the larger world to be as they grow?

Below are a few lists of media at various age levels that are known for their inclusive attitudes and diversity. It is not formatted well. Keep in mind that these are titles that appealed to me or interested my son. I am absolutely open to suggestions! Especially with so many streaming services and formats to consume media, the options are almost limitless.

Television:

Netflix- Glitch Techs, Motown Magic,

Disney – Mira, Royal Detective and Diary of a Future President, Doc McStuffins,

Nickelodeon- Casagrandes, The Loud House, Go Diego Go and Dora the Explorer, Ni Hao, Kai- Lan, Blaze and the Monster Machines,

PBS- Molly of Denali, Odd Squad, Sesame Street

Hulu – Marvel’s Runaways

Books –

These are listed as my top ten, with younger titles first getting older as you go down.

Last Stop On Market Street: De La Pena, Matt

Princess Hair -  BRDBK by Sharee Miller (Hardcover) - image 1 of 1

Cover art

I Am Martin Luther King, Jr. audiobook cover art

March: Book One: John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, Nate Powell ...

Inside Out & Back Again

Eleanor & Park

The Hate U Give

Amazon.com: The Sun Is Also a Star (Yoon, Nicola) (9780553496680 ...

Films

This one became a worm hole when I was doing research. A great resource I’m linking for you for media consumption is Common Sense Media. They do a great job of helping to navigate the different options and helping find resources for inclusivity and diversity, but they also compiled lists like “movies to empower young black women” and “movies to teach kindness” or “best youtube channels for minecraft” It’s a fantastic online resource and they have tons of resources for educators as well.

A need for silver linings

The current status of the world is one of uncertainty and fear. Today is officially Star Wars day and after watching many protests last week, I have the words of Yoda on repeat in my head. “Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.” There are many people in my circle who are either scared, angry, or suffering through some pretty big life changes. My natural reaction to an abundance of negativity is to deflect it with positivity.

In 2012, I attempted suicide. This isn’t something I ever discuss, because I am always worried someone else will try and take on the negativity I was feeling at that time, and take responsibility for it. I firmly believe that no one is responsible for your feelings except you. The choices I was making and the feelings I was expressing were my own, and no one else’s. I was in a personal space where I was extremely unhappy with who I was as a person, and it wasn’t overnight that I learned how to cope with seeing my past and my own sense of self as something positive. However, I am sharing this because in the time that I was recovering from my low point I learned several silver linings that I wanted to share for anyone feeling like they’re in their own low point during this uneasy time. They’re my mantras and my coping mechanisms for when things start to feel hard or uncertain.

  1. Everything is temporary. The only constant in life is change.
  2. The state of the world, or your world, will always be the way you choose to look at it.
  3. For every bad and terrible and horrible thing in the world, there will always be a positive, wonderful, and good one.
  4. You can choose to surround yourself with those who bring positivity into your life. You don’t owe anyone a relationship or a friendship if it brings you down or holds you back.

When I was home alone with Owen, and had been rejected from one too many teaching positions, I felt myself starting to feel some of the really intrusive, negative, pretty awful things about myself that I felt back in 2012, some of that was PPD. These are feelings that now I can’t help but mentally project on my close people who are trying to navigate the difficult space the world is in now. About that same time, we were unboxing some of our stuff that had been in storage in Texas. I found my scrapbook gift from my bridesmaids on the day of my wedding. They had each written me a letter to read while we got ready before the ceremony. I, as I do, got distracted from my task of unpacking and started to read them all. Over and over again, my closest circle of trusted friends described me as positive. I know that I made the choice to keep them close to me for a reason. I needed to see myself through their lens for a moment in order to refocus my mental energy, hence why number four on my above list is important.

I CAN be an overwhelming, emotional, and wallowing energy suck, I think we all share that capacity. However, if we focus some of our silver linings and share them with each other, we can hopefully keep some of our sanity as the world returns to its new normal. Sometimes that’s a zoom happy hour, sometimes its a Chalk Walk masterpiece, or a painted rock left on a trail, sometimes its a package you weren’t expecting from friends you can’t wait to share queso with again (ok maybe that was just one of my silver linings from last week), or that the beach is just “closed” and not CLOSED, or maybe just the right song comes on a random playlist. No matter what boat you’re on during this storm, I hope you’re finding or sharing some silver linings to guide you through.

For the most Extra of Extroverts – How to make the most of isolation

Recently, things went from “hey, maybe we should be aware of our hygiene habits” to “stay home and don’t socialize” VERY quickly. As I scroll through my social media I see a large amount of fear, anger, frustration, boredom, and anxiety. We all want want to wrap up our most vulnerable people in a safe bubble and spray the idiots out partying in the eyes with lysol. I, however, am in a strange place of comfort and positivity and encouragement, not just because I am a perpetually happy person but because this time last year, I was doing this EXACT same thing.

Me. Having a great time on bed rest. We clocked 49 days. Go Us!

Okay, not exactly… But for anyone feeling like they’re going to explode from boredom and lack of human contact and loss of freedom. I FEEL YOU. Last year, this month, I was on antepartum bed rest unable to leave the hospital. Medically mandated social distancing. I was terrified and anxious and under stimulated and spending a LOT of time on social media. So because I have been there in the trenches of the yellow wallpaper, I want to give y’all my top five tips for how to get through this whole “don’t leave your house” situation without having a breakdown.

First – Stick to a routine. Start it by getting up and getting ready every day. We will all likely be on shelter in place for at least a month. 30 days is how long it takes to create a habit. What productive and positive habits do you want to have in 30 days? Do you want permanent sweatpants and clogged pores? Take care of yourself and facilitate good habits. Plus the feeling of a good shower and being your best self is SO rewarding.

Second – Go outside and be a part of the world around you. The sun alone has a healing effect. Even if you just picnic a cup of coffee and your breakfast on your front stoop, give yourself some fresh air and take in your surroundings. During antepartum, when I was first admitted to the hospital, I was allowed to go on walks with my husband in a wheelchair to go outside. We would go to the hospital cafeteria and get ice cream and watch the boats in the harbor. It was my favorite part of my day. You know what one of my worst days was? The day they told me I couldn’t leave my room anymore. The world’s greatest authors all write about the majesty of nature because we’re meant to be in it. Go outside and be present in it.

Third – Do something that makes you happy. Many people are working and/or trying to teach from home. We want the reward of producing results and checkboxes of productivity. However, when you can’t leave your space and you’re feeling a loss of control, it is so much more important to feed your soul with joy. For me, its creative projects, usually with my Cricut these days. In the hospital I did macrame, colored, and did crafts with my older son when my family came to visit. So pick something joyous and DO IT. Game night, creative projects, back yard olympics, garage cross fit, just be joyful in your activity.

Fourth – Surround yourself with positive content. I thought that my antepartum stay was a great time to binge catch up on four seasons of Game of Thrones. It was a terrible decision. When you watch a show or movie you, as a normal human, internalize the feelings and lives of the characters. When there is already a heavy amount of emotion going on during your normal day to day, you can’t handle the extra drama, it will absolutely make you more depressed and anxious. This includes the news. I suggest stand-up specials (Trevor Noah was my favorite on bed rest), comedy shows and movies, and of course only the funniest of memes. Give me all of the literary references! I live for them. Your emotions need the same balance the rest of your life does, so give them positivity to balance the heavy weight of the current world.

This is actually a terrible example because I was watching “Fried Green Tomatoes”

Fifth – Use social media for socializing in positive ways. Don’t spend all of your down time mindlessly scrolling. Choose people you want to reach out to. Schedule virtual happy hours with friends, do the Instagram challenges with colleagues (especially the funny ones), play games like Words with Friends or Draw Something. Make sure your social media interactions are meaningful and create feelings of real connection. It is so easy as an outgoing, extroverted person to click on and respond to everything we see online (I still struggle with this). If you choose to focus on only creating true connection with followers, you’ll find that it feels less like mindless media screen time and more like real friendship.

Those are the five. I could have rambled for a sixth paragraph about food, but because everyone has their own complicated relationship with food, I will leave you to navigate your stash of Pirate’s Booty, leftover Valentine’s candy, and alcohol on your own terms. I just hope whatever you have is better than the ‘avocado toast’ I enjoyed in the hospital.

Smile. Choose Kindness. Wash Your Hands. Stay Home.

This too shall pass.

Smile. Choose Kindness. Wash your hands

So I was trying to decide what design to do next, and my husband pointed out to me that my “Bring it in, I’m a Hugger” tee didn’t exactly age well…

So I decided to do a redesign on it.

I want to share the spirit of spreading positivity and choosing kindness over fear and panic. For all of my other Cricut/Silhouette makers, I am linking a copy of the .jpg file for my new Choose Kindness shirt so if you would like to make your own during this time of social distancing, you can! I just ask you tag me @newett_mama on instagram or twitter when you make it. I can also email you the .svg file, I just couldn’t add it through Word Press.

If you’d like to purchase the shirt through my Etsy shop, the link is below. Shirt and Vinyl colors are fully customizable, just shoot me a message with what you’d like.

Washing Toys

Before I get started, go wash your hands and wipe down your cell phone.

Okay cool, let’s get started. There is a lot of hype and fear when it comes to protecting our family from germs and bacteria lately. I shared on my instagram stories how and how often to clean our toys and keep our children’s belongings clean. I wanted to also share the information on my blog so you don’t have to click through my voice if you don’t want to.

Types of Cleaners

When it comes to cleaning your home, there are usually two major categories of products you can go to, chemical based and natural. Bleach and ammonia, usually found in products from Clorox or Lysol are chemical based. These products are better for disinfecting food prep areas or bathrooms because of the types of bacteria or mold that can be found. Listeria, E Coli, and Staph are the big ones that need a chemical in order to really be disinfected. However, for toys and areas used by our children, those harsher chemicals really aren’t necessary. The bacteria and viruses related to common colds or the flu can be sanitized with a white vinegar solution.

Why not rubbing alcohol? It’s highly flammable, even diluted. If we’re talking about disinfecting common surfaces, its probably fine, but since this conversation will predominantly be about objects that your children could be putting in their mouths, we want to ease on the side of caution when it comes to toxic chemicals. Even ‘natural’ cleaners sometimes have fragrances in them that might not be great for your children. My sons get eczema easily, so I try to avoid anything too harsh for their skin like fragrance or extra softeners.

I choose a white vinegar solution after reading through the internet because its naturally occurring and won’t damage most materials. 50% water and 50% white vinegar in a spray bottle or sink should eliminate the basic bacteria and viruses most likely to come in contact with your home. You can add some citrus or oils if you really hate the smell.

Types of Toys

Plastic teethers can go in the dishwasher by themselves to be disinfected. Some newer dishwashers even have a sanitation setting. They can also be soaked in hot water and vinegar and then air dried.

Bath toys need to be dried out and then they can also go in the dishwasher or soaked in a vinegar solution. Make sure anything that is made of foam or absorbent material is cleaned more often and doesn’t get mildew.

Mixed material toys with fabrics can go in the washing machine, but using a garment bag or even a pillowcase will prevent the toys from losing parts or getting damaged. This includes dolls that have plastic arms and legs and then soft bodies.

Fabric toys in the garment bag ready to be washed!

Plastic figurines and cars can be soaked or wiped down with the vinegar solution. Check your hot wheels, if they’re older then you need to check if they have metal bottoms. The metal can rust or corrode if soaked too long, so a quick wipe down will help protect those metal parts. Barbies or other dolls with hair can be wiped or soaked. The best advice I found for their hair was to soak it in fabric softener and hot water after washing to detangle it and make it smell better.

Food toys go two directions. Felt food can go in the washing machine just like other fabric based toys. Wooden toys need to be wiped with a vinegar solution and then air dried. Be careful not to soak them so you don’t break down the paint or wood.

Frequency of Cleaning

Use your best judgement, obviously. Baby toys, especially the ones that travel in your bag need to be cleaned weekly. My suggestion, throw them in the dishwasher on a Sunday night when you’re getting ready for the week!

Bath toys need to be cleaned biweekly. They’re not clean and mold/mildew free just because you bathe every night. Don’t believe me? Google images of bath toys that have been cut open. It isn’t pretty.

Anytime your kiddos are sick, give the toys a rinse. After a playdate? Give them a rinse. Cousins are the grossest. I’m being sarcastic, but with over 40 first cousins, I shared everything growing up, even germs. Wipe down toys when you do your usual toilet scrubbing/dusting. Every other month it’s probably a good idea to clean out old toys and give the ones still getting love a good cleaning.

Public Spaces/Disneyland

I didn’t share these suggestions on Instagram, but I am adding them since our recent trip to the Happiest Place on Earth. Wash your hands often, obviously. Here are some silly photos of songs that works with how long you should be washing. I went to the website Wash Your Lyrics and generated some popular Disney tunes that worked well, have fun making your own!

Keep hand sanitizer on hand for when you get off a ride, clip it to your belt loop or bag. The queues and ropes and “oh crap” handles are probably covered in germs. I watched some moms wipe them with wipes, but my heart cringed at the idea of the trash waste involved if EVERYONE did that for EVERY ride.

If you have an infant, wipe your changing mat and the station before and after you change a diaper. You know what makes a good sanitation wipe? Hand sanitizer on a damp paper towel. Also, Disneyland always has the toilet paper holders where your little can reach up and play with them. Rotate them so they can’t reach them.

Wash your hands after you go to the restroom and before you sit down to eat, OBVIOUSLY, but also wash them after you finish eating. You probably, absent minded, wiped your mouth or your nose and didn’t even think about it. Your children? They mined at least 50 boogers, coated them in applesauce and mac and cheese, and then shared them with a sibling.

As always, if you feel sick, stay home. Do what the CDC tells you to. Don’t panic buy. And of course, do what feels right for your family. The best parent for your child is you.

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.

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