Healthy Lifestyle Changes (6 Years Later!)

Healthy Lifestyle Changes (6 Years Later!)
It’s been 6 years since I ordered “that kit.” It was somewhat of a whim—my husband said we didn’t have much to lose, so why not try it? At least the house would smell nice, right?! And maybe, just maybe, it would help our family stop dropping like flies every time someone came home with a sniffle.

Little did I know how life-changing it would be for all of us. Little did I know I’d be learning more about science and how our bodies work than I ever learned in school. Little did I know how empowering it would be to have choices in the ways I support my and my family’s physical, mental, and emotional health—without harmful side effects.

This pic shows a few of my favorite things. A few came in that very first starter kit (well, refills obviously!) but are now counted as friends. What lifestyle choices have you made that are still part of your daily routine 6 (or however many) years later?

The ABCs of Mental & Emotional Health

Having been to the bottom of the pit of despair and back (and doing what it takes to never return), let me offer my ABCs of mental and emotional health. Maybe there will be some nuggets you can take away and implement today! 
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Hope & Peace

Hope & Peace
Three years ago our family had the opportunity to do one of the Advent readings in church. To be honest, I have no idea what we read or even which week of Advent it was. What I DO remember is what happened before church. We arrived in time to send our children to Sunday school and youth group, but I didn't feel like being with other people. Ted and I sat in a fog next to Verity's stroller in the gymnasium where the church service would be held the next hour. It had been another rough night, like just about every night was in 2017. Just as our interim pastor and his wife came to where we were seated to greet us, Verity began retching. Her vomiting spells happened about 6-8 times a day. Trisomy 18 kiddos tend to have GI issues, but this was getting out of hand; Verity was losing weight, and at 12 pounds and almost 10 months of age, she didn't have much to lose. 

The unexpected scene took the pastor's wife by surprise: copious amounts of liquid were coming out of Verity's mouth and nose as Ted frantically whipped out the suction machine while I mopped up the mess. (Yes, we traveled with a suction machine in those days. We lived in terror of Verity aspirating because of how frequently she vomited.)

When things were calm again, Gretchen asked if things like that happened often. I burst into tears. I couldn't help it. I was so tired, so weary, and somehow just so angry that people didn't know what our life was really like. I knew it wasn't Gretchen's fault that she didn't know, so I tried to describe life with Verity. She hardly ever slept, which meant we hardly ever slept. I couldn't leave her side for fear she would vomit and choke. The terror we lived with around the clock was ever present. I still remember the compassionate look on the faces of this couple, whose ministry we had sat under for several months by this point but who truly had no idea what our family was going through.

Half an hour later we stood in front of the church lighting a candle and reading words I can't remember. I felt like such a hypocrite, creating a picture of what surely looked from the outside like a perfectly lovely family. Two parents, nine children, the tiniest of whom was living a very precarious life. Little did people know what was happening on the inside: the deadness of my heart, the difficulties of my marriage, the near-destruction of my mental and emotional health. I didn't intend to put on a show; I would have gladly shared our struggles with others. And I think I tried. It's not that people didn't care or didn't ask, but somehow there just wasn't time or energy to sit down and lay it all out. 

Fast forward three years...our church now has a new full-time pastor, and our family was asked to do the reading for the second Sunday of Advent 2020. We relit the first candle, Hope, reminding the congregation (and ourselves) of the hope we have in Christ. Next, we lit the second candle, Peace, testifying to the fact that Christ came to bring God's peace to us.


As I stood holding Verity on my hip while my sons and husband read their passages, I suddenly remembered that exhausting Sunday morning 3 years ago. We have come so far. Not only is Verity doing so much better health-wise, but our family is so much stronger for having gone through some really dark times and seeing the light of Hope and Peace shine in the midst of it all. When Verity squealed during the prayer, I couldn't help but feel the joy surge in my heart. 

Hope. Peace. Joy. And LOVE--so much love. They were there all along, even when we couldn't feel their presence.

If you are experiencing a season of darkness, I pray you find the light of true Hope and Peace.

Father, we thank you for revealing yourself through Jesus, and we praise you for the greatness of your love. Help us to know your peace in our lives. When life does not go as planned, may we know and understand that you are with us and we can have peace and rest in your ways. May we also share your peace with others and live our lives more like Christ every day. In His name we pray, amen.

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If you're looking for support for your physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, and/or financial health, check out our free community Fit for Life!

Do you know someone who has received a devastating prenatal diagnosis? Please spread the word about a new support group, From Diagnosis to Delivery.

Sleep, Glorious Sleep

Sleep, Glorious Sleep
You'd think with 9 children we'd be used to sleepless nights, and you're partly right! But we were spoiled, IMMENSELY spoiled, by the fact that our older children all started sleeping through the night at a pretty early age. By the time we got to kids 6, 7, and 8, things weren't quite as easy...having problems nursing them didn't help. But eventually everyone figured out that sleeping at night is a good thing, and life moved on.

And then we had Verity. Sweet little Verity. I haven't written much on this site about our special-needs daughter, though I may start posting more regularly on the blog I began writing when we learned of her Edwards Syndrome diagnosis in 2016. (You can view When My Soul Melts here.)

Without boring you to tears, let's just say Verity literally did not sleep. Ever. People didn't believe us when we said we were waking 4-6 times AN HOUR every night. Night after night. I truly do not know how we made it through her first couple of years but for the grace of God.

So, there were lots of issues unique to Verity's genetic make-up and special little physique, and obviously those needed to be sorted out before we could hope to get quality sleep. (And WOW, did life change for the better when we got a few nights of nursing coverage here and there!!)

But aside from all of Verity's particular needs, sleep issues are a problem for MANY folks. I've had teens suffer from insomnia, and my 11-year-old has recently complained of having a hard time getting to sleep despite being tired. The thing with sleep problems is that there can be SO MANY causes...it's not a one-size-fits-all approach. But I thought it was worth sharing a few tidbits we've tried over the years...maybe it will help you or someone you love catch a few ZZZs!

  • Limit screen time in the evening. This should probably be a no-brainer, but we tend to ignore it. Science shows definitively that the effects on the brain from our various devices wreak havoc with our ability to sleep. Watch a movie or send a last text message if you must, but try to put away your phone, tablet, and/or computer an hour or so before you turn out your lights and hit the pillow.
  • Have a nighttime routine. This is especially important for children, but did you know adults can benefit from a nightly routine also? Maybe a read-aloud with your favorite stuffed animal isn't your style, but how about relaxing with a real, page-turning book or magazine? Maybe a bath or foot soak, maybe simply washing your face and putting on a favorite lotion. Doing the same things at approximately the same time every night helps our brain realize that sleep time is coming.
  • Pay attention to your diet. Though our evening meal tends to be our biggest, that may not be the best for our bodies and brains. Try to sip water early in the evening, and stop snacking if you can help it. (I know! I like my evening crunchies! But I'm working on having NO snacks before bedtime...instead I take my probiotic to support my gut health while my digestive system works overnight!)
  • Don't check messages "one last time!" We already mentioned limiting screen time before bed...but how many times do we sabotage our sleep by looking at that text or email message that just came in? And then it's something that causes stress or angst?! JUST. WAIT. It can wait until morning. It's not healthy for us to be "on" 24/7.
  • Try some natural sleep aids. Our kids ask for Lavender and Cedarwood essential oils in the diffuser at bedtime because they've noticed a difference in how quickly they fall asleep. I love my Calm CBD roller across the back of my neck before bedtime also. And Verity? That little adorable stinker who kept us up in her early months/years? She falls asleep with her CPAP mask on with the lovely scent of Peace & Calming oil blend in her diffuser. (I sometimes wonder if it's because we diffused that blend almost constantly in the NICU room after she was born!)
I have another natural sleep aid I'll be talking about during this Thursday's Quick Class. Be sure to register to get the class meeting link! 

What about you? What are some ways you support healthy sleep in your home?

A Stimulus for WELLNESS

A Stimulus for WELLNESS
Chances are, we've never thought so much about our health as we have over the last month. With stimulus checks making their way to bank accounts, are we willing to invest a small portion of that money into our (and our family's) wellness? I'm talking about physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, and yes, even financial health. This is something I'm deeply passionate about! I invite you to Zoom with me for a FREE class about ways you and your family can be proactive when it comes to supporting your body systems as well as your emotions and thought life. The first hour or so will address these aspects of health; then, for those who would like to learn about viable possibilities for additional income, we will look at a unique business model and give you tools to determine whether it's a good fit for you. Either way, you'll be learning about supporting ALL aspects of your health and wellness!

For more information, or to register so that you can receive the meeting link prior to the event, go to the event page! I hope to see you there!
 
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