five things i’ve learned from my #wahm life

I didn’t even know what WAHM stood for (no, not WHAM!) until I had Anna. It’s an Internet acronym for Work-At-Home-Mom. AKA, me.

I’ve been working from home since I got married and I took maybe a day off before I ended up diving back into writing after Anna was born. AND, THIS WAS NOT THE PLAN.

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Anna rocking her new bathrobe from her bestie Abby

I had imagined months of glorious bonding time with my newborn where I wouldn’t have to answer any emails, let alone interview a single person or write any articles, and maybe I’d spend my free time fawning over her while she’s sleeping or scrapbook her first year (yeah, that never happened). It only took a day before I was…well, bored. She was sleeping for like three hours on end and there was only so much Downton Abbey I could watch. My brain cells were dying. I hadn’t talked to an adult all day and I was starting to feel like a milk machine or a human cow.  I realized I couldn’t simply 100% mom it (kudos to those who can!), because writing and having my own career actually made me feel sane.

FULL DISCLAIMER SINCE WE LIVE IN A PRICKLY AGE: There’s nothing wrong with working away from home, working part-time, not working at all. Everyone has their own choices to make, the right course that’s right for them. So, you do you!

Here’s what I’ve learned in the past two years of my cute spawn’s existence. I don’t know if I’ve really got the handle of being a WAHM, but it’s getting a little easier.

1. Plan it out

Since writing requires some creativity and a lot of focus, I can’t do much of it when Anna was awake. I do as much as possible to write while she is asleep, which means being able to predict at least 1 to 2 hours of solid writing time for the day. Babies thrive on routines, so I have her on some kind of schedule. During the morning when she’s awake, I do errands, chores (#laundrylaundrylaundrylaundry), schedule Anna’s therapy appointments, answer emails, do phone interviews, prep dinner and etc. Then her afternoon naptime = my work time.

A NOTE: I DIDN’T REALIZE HOW IMPORTANT IT WAS TO HAVE “ME” TIME AS WELL. I didn’t do this very well and burned out really fast in year #1 and well into year #2. I thought that my “work” time was “me” time, but while I do love writing, it’s not always the funnest thing to do. I like to run, swim, shop, eat out, watch a movie, read books, etc. Try and explore the facets that you love and enjoy, and make sure that you still do love and enjoy them. I still sometimes forget and have to remind myself.

2. Meetings

I’ve had to say goodbye to a lot of face-to-face meetings, but to be honest, I’ve probably saved time i.e. travelling, small talk/chitchat, etc. Yes, in-person meetings are great and  cannot be replaced 100% for relationship-building, networking and overall communication, but we live in a virtual world and for me, if it’s just a 10 to 15 minutes interview for a short project, the phone or Skype has been my best friend.

3. Play pen AKA JAIL 

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Anna last year inside the pen lawlz

This took some tough love and caused slight mom guilt, but I’m really glad that I stuck to my guns on this. Kids need boundaries sometimes, and I decided to try and raise Anna to become an independent kid who can play by herself instead of having to have me play next to her all the time. Out came the play pen! I would block out half of the living room for Anna to play, give her some cool toys and I’d sit on the other side where I could keep an eye on her, while doing some less focus-related tasks like answering emails. She got used to it after maybe 2 or 3 tries and I’d find her coming up with some really creative play!

4. Be flexible

Things happen. Kids get sick, their nap times change, they get older…or some days, they just wake up plain cranky and willful. I think it’s important to have a plan but to also be flexible when you can’t stick to it. I try not to stress out if I can’t finish a project as soon as I like, and just make sure to finish it another day.

5. Ask for Help — And Be Able To Accept It

This is the MOST. IMPORTANT. THING. EVER. Yes, I know, moms hate asking for help! We feel like we’re failing or we’re supposed to be able to do it all. We’re supposed to be a mom, wife, housekeeper, friend, sister, cook, etc. etc. and if we somehow can’t do one part well, then it makes us feel like we messed up. But that’s SO not true.

Kids are meant to be raised not just by their parents, but by other people AKA friends, teachers, aunties, uncles, grandmas and grandpas. If you have someone who can help you, ask. I have a hard time doing this myself (in Japanese, it’s call ‘enryou‘ or, to not accept anything out of guilt or pride, just ‘cos) but there’s been countless times where I’ve had to accept an offer of help from my hanai sister or a friend at church to watch my kid for me so I can meet a deadline. And, of course, they always come through. I try to think of it this way: If any of my fellow mom-friends asked me to watch their kid for me, I’d say yes right away without thinking twice. So, it’s OK! If your kids are around the same age, you can also work a system out where you guys work together while the kiddos play together. It gets easier.

Maybe I’ll have more thoughts next year…? Any other #wahm tips for me? Share, share. ❤

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an early Christmas gift, a belated update

Christmas time means lots of exciting things like beautiful lights, eggnog, gifts and chocolate peppermint bark, but also meant, for me, weeks of nonstop, end-of-the-year writing work, and of course, shopping for gifts! Hence, I haven’t had the time to upload anything even something of great IMPORTANCE has happened in the last two months!

OUR DAUGHTER BE WALKING! YAY!!

Therapists and doctors have told us several different things: that she won’t even sit up, that with therapy she will be exactly like other kids, that she might not walk until 2…it’ll be lying to say that I didn’t latch onto the “worst case scenario” predictions at any point during Anna’s CP journey.

But here she is, and this video was in December. NOW, she’s walking all over the place! Crawling has disappeared into the past! It was the best Christmas gift we could ask for.

This time last year, I would lie in bed freaking out and not being able to sleep because I imagined everything horrible would happen. God has truly blessed us this year by leading us to the right people, to finding the right therapists and therapy, and of course, the support and prayers of our church here and the church in Japan. All of Anna’s church aunties and uncles do PT with her during babysitting and when they interact with her, and my hanai sisters would bring me food and love when they knew I was completely losing hope and depressed, and tell me to get back up! Thanks to our family, we were able to keep moving forward with all the steps that we felt we had to take, and I kept up with PT at home, and, we did our best to have a happy home, to make sure Anna wouldn’t think we were like, “WOE UPON US.” And she’s now walking!

So…now what?

I’m writing this, btw, with two ice packs on both sides of my head, a little bit loopy on Vicadin, and missing four wisdom teeth.

There was a moment when Anna started walking when I got really giddy and was like, OK WE ARE DONE WITH THERAPY! LET’S START CUTTING DOWN! WE’RE CLEAR! But the truth is, Anna still has a long way to go. Her feet still are pointy, she has very low muscle tone, so she falls a lot, and her core is weak, making her back arch and her tummy hang out. Her back is also tight, and it feels like maybe she doesn’t quite know how to access and engage those muscles yet. We’re currently going through Mika’s ABM sessions again, so I’m looking forward to seeing her figure out new movements soon. Every session leads to new changes in her, and it never fails to impress me!

I’m currently considering chiropractic care, as well as upping our therapy at home via more climbing, ball work and core strengthening playtime. We have a great playground downstairs, so I take her there everyday.

More updates to come…<3 to all of you!

Daddy Builds A Walker: Day #1

Today, Kevin began building a custom walker for Anna. The toy walker that we have is great, but her feet often hit the wheels and this discourages her from walking for a longer period of time. We’re hoping that this one works better for her! Anna was curious and excited, wondering what Daddy’s up to.

On similar news, today at PT she walked for 200-feet, 45 minutes with the therapy walker & hand-holding. Go, go!

13 things I’ve learned during the great shoe hunt

LEAPING RIGHT IN:
Children with cerebral palsy usually have what’s called a foot drop, where the ankles are tight and the toes/feet point downwards like a ballerina. It’s one of the first signs of a neurological disorder — and Anna’s had it since she was born.

An ankle-foot orthosis, or AFO, is a brace support with the purpose of controlling position and motion of the ankle, compensate for weakness or correct deformities. AFOs can be used to support weak limbs, or to position a limb with contracted muscles into a more normal position. You normally have to buy shoes that fit over the AFOs, although sometimes they’ll put soles directly on the braces so you don’t have to bother hunting. Because, it really is a hunt.

HERE ARE 13 THINGS I’VE LEARNED ON THE GREAT SHOE HUNT

  1. Don’t buy shoes just because they’re pretty and glittery. On the other hand, you ARE going to be looking at them a lot, so it’s be a bonus if they’re not hideous.
  2. Get rid of the insole layer that comes in the shoe. Just throw them away, or keep them if they’re fancy and made out of memory foam (like ours).
  3. Those great brands like Nike, ASICS, Skechers? Nada. Go for the cheapo ones from K-Mart or Walmart – I’ve found way better luck there, and also cheaper is sometimes better because you’ll be doing stuff to them. Like…

  4. Try snipping a few threads that hold the toe box closed, around the attached end of the tongue. If the material stretches at certain points, you can make a minor cut to provide more room.
  5. This worked for us, but try leaving the top velcro strap loose so that your child has more range of motion.
  6. LOOK FOR A WIDE TOE BOX. THE WIDER THE TOE, THE BETTER THE FIT.
  7. Also, when picking from all those cute custom designs, remember sometimes cute little faces get stretched out. Lol:20170823_132454
  8. Velcro straps are good. We ended up with ties, but velcro straps would be way easier to put on. Also, AFOs tend to be clunky to wear, so find shoes that are as light as possible.
  9. Bring your child’s AFOs with you on your Great Shoe Hunt. And if you’re bringing your child, bring lots of snacks and toys.
  10. AFOs usually come with little paddings that the therapists and I like to call potato chips. Sometimes your child won’t need them, but they seem to provide endless entertainment and are good distractions as hats.
  11. Consider putting them on your baby while she’s hanging out in the stroller, carseat, high chair, etc, so she gets used to having them on.
  12. MENTALLY PREPARE YOURSELF. I bought six different shoes to find the right one. Save all your receipts, and be prepared to return most of those shoes. It tends to be a long quest, but trust me, it’s a relief finding the right pair in the end!
  13. Best of all, I have learned how fast babies get adjusted to new things. Anna is now nearly 80% used to them, and can now furniture cruise (Kruse, get it, aha…) and cross vast bridges from coffee table to walker/chair/sofa with ease. As soon as she starts walking, they’ll be on whenever she is awake, so hoping that they’ll last us a couple years.

 

the blame game

When I was 7 months pregnant, we moved from our rental home close to Roosevelt High School to our new condo in Salt Lake. I was packing for the move, in an uncomfortably warm home that didn’t allow any kind of AC, during the already-hot month of May. Cardboard boxes were crowding up the living room, and I had nowhere to walk, so I was stupid, bent down and tried to carry this insanely heavy box full of dishes and pots and pans. I managed to lift and move it across two feet to the door, and then put it down. I immediately got hefty round of Braxton Hicks (pseudo contractions), so I sat down and breathed through it. Then, I was fine and I kept packing.

MY BRAIN:

Maybe Anna had a stroke when I lifted that box and strained all those internal womb muscles, or whatever they’re called.

Remember when I tried all those weird things to get Anna un-breeched? Like, putting that ice pack against my stomach, since apparently babies run away from the cold and they flip over to the right position? Maybe that did it.

Or, maybe it was because I finished Insanity Asylum during the first 4 weeks of pregnancy. I didn’t know I was pregnant then, but maybe I worked out too much when she was still like, embryo-ing.

Oh, and then when she stopped moving during the last trimester. Maybe I should have called the doctor sooner, like that morning, instead of waiting until the afternoon. 

The blame game is strong in me. It’s always been, honestly – if anything bad happens, I always look at myself first to see whether it was my own fault or not, and I know it’s kind of a paranoid, pathetic, self-absorbed thing to do. I’m trying to get better about it.

But, when Anna was first diagnosed, the blame game really took over. It took steroids and turned into Blame Hulk. I pretended that it didn’t exist, that I wouldn’t have such a typical response of self-hate and guilt, but honestly, Blame Hulk kicked my butt.

Last month, one of our physical therapists casually told me, “Maybe Anna had a stroke because you didn’t take the right vitamins or didn’t have enough nutrients. Sometimes you know, it’s the environment that the baby was in.”

?!?!?!?!

That really got to me, because yes, there were a couple days I forgot to take my prenatals.  Did THAT do it?! I was an angry weeping mess, and snot-bubbled my way into an emotional brain dump to Kev. He told me not to blame myself, of course. My immediate response was: “But there’s nobody else to blame.” 

I’m not too sure where I’m going with this, except to say that I think guilt is a pretty natural response to these situations, but that doesn’t mean it’s right. It was actually one of the first things that I’d been warned about, and so I was sure I’d be exempt, since I was prepared for it. I wasn’t. When you find there’s nothing and nobody else to blame, you end up turning on yourself. (That’s actually something my mom used to say. “Don’t point your finger at people, because all the other fingers in your hand are actually pointing at yourself.” LOL, ok.)

As humans, we crave to know. We want answers, especially when we don’t understand the why’s, and the doctors tell us: “We don’t know what caused it. It could have been anything. It could be genetics.” We end up blaming ourselves, blaming someone else, or God. The point is, there’s always plenty of blame to go around, especially when you’re unhappy about something.

I can’t say that I’m 100% no longer playing the blame game, but I’m doing better. Each time that guilty thought comes into my head, it’s becoming easier to snap out of it. I tell myself, “Yeah, OK, let’s get out of here” and turn away. I force myself to do other things. I pray, work, read the Bible, play with Anna or go get Starbucks. I remind myself of all the miracles that got us here, like how every single appointment we’ve had to make for Anna, there was a cancellation and we didn’t have to wait months like everyone else. God’s sending the right people our way and we’re getting the Best Help Possible.

Going down that road of “who’s fault is it?” is a guaranteed way to be miserable, and we decided in the beginning of all this that we’re not going to raise Anna in a miserable home. For her sake, I’m learning to fight it off, and we’re both getting stronger.

Genetic testing, here we go

Anna Lily had an MRI back in February and she was diagnosed with mild cerebral palsy, caused by periventricular leukomalacia (basically, brain scarring). Although she’s making great progress through weekly therapy, we’ve just started the process of genetic testing under our doctors’ recommendations because she continues to have hypotonia (very low muscle tone) and is very “loose” when picked up. I feel it’s our responsibility as Anna’s parents to find out what we can for her, for her future. We’re taking it one step at a time, and she is such a tough and happy trooper throughout it all. 

6:25 a.m.: The day begins. Our room and Anna’s room are right next to each other, so I can hear Anna giggling by herself to start the morning. She’s started pulling herself up to stand, and her new thing is batting at the owl mobile above her head, which she finds hilarious. Her goal is to eventually pull it down and cause ultimate destruction.

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6:45 a.m.:  Kev goes into the nursery, and then to the kitchen to prep breakfast for all of us. (He is da best.) Anna’s Breakfast: Slices of organic raisin bread, peach yogurt and oatmeal, boiled egg and some turkey meat, along with prune juice to her milk to help things get going. We adults: two slices of butter-slathered raisin bread and cups of very, very strong coffee.

7:50 a.m.: Kev goes to work, Anna and I head to doctor’s. We’re starting Anna’s genetic testing today with a urine sample. I have no clue what to expect, except that there’s a bag involved.

7:52 a.m.: Two minutes on the unusually packed road. An ambulance zoom by on the freeway, and there’s a daring, law-breaking SUV that chases after the ambulance on the cleared road. People honk at him, I’m a little bit in awe. Anna’s going “GOGOGOGOGOGO!” in the car seat, while simultaneously pointing outside the window going, “WHOSDAT?!”

8:30 a.m.: We park at Queen’s, and there’s no wait at the doctor’s office, hurrah! Our PCP shows us this. It sticks to Anna, and the diaper goes over it:

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9 a.m. – 9:40 a.m. : NO PEE IN SIGHT. Chug, chug, chug! (BTW, other moms, this Munchkin straw cup is the best thing. It has a little weight inside, which lets your baby drink from any angle.)

9:40 a.m.: STILL NO PEE IN SIGHT. We walk around the hospital in the stroller, and I buy a giant brownie corner piece and a lifeless latte. 😦

9:47 a.m.: PEE IN SIGHT! Joel very gently peels the bag off Anna while she makes how-dare-you faces. We get orders for a blood draw that we can head into the lab “anytime,” and I make the gut decision to go right now, while Anna is in a surprisingly awake and good mood.

9:50 a.m.: Anna falls asleep in the car. We drive to Kapi’olani Medical Center, which is 6 minutes away. We head to the basement of the main hospital, where the clinical labs are, and as soon as we step off the elevator onto the floor, there is crying and screaming! Babies, children, everywhere, unhappy!

10:15 a.m.: We’re called in. Lab Lady is so stressed out, and I’m nervous, and blather on: “You guys are busy! Is it like this every day?” (“Yes!”) “So many crying babies, it must be so stressful.” (“Yup, I gotta remember to take my vitamins.”) “Yes, take care of yourself! Your name is Maria? Mine too!” She dons a mask, eye goggles (in case of blood spray?!), gloves and needle to poke Anna’s finger. Just at that moment, Anna’s eyes fly open and she is staring up at Lab Lady, who squeezes drops of blood from Anna’s finger, enough to fill up two vials. Gross. But Anna’s still sleepy, so she doesn’t cry until the very end. And, it’s all done.

10:30 a.m.: GUYS, Lab Lady gives us extra validation parking tickets! #freeparkingftw #itsthelittlethings

11 a.m.: We get home. Anna lunches and crashes out for a 2 hour nap. I devour brownie, crust and all, and save just a little bit for Kevin.

Next up: It’s a busy week, guys. Tomorrow is her eye exam and an initial chiropractor appointment. Thursday is her kidney ultrasound. Sending over of good thoughts, greatly appreciated. 🙂