Friday, August 26, 2016

Baby Emmett Update

First of all, thank you so much for the comments here on the blog, emails, messages, and comments on Instagram/Snapchat/Facebook offering up your good vibes, prayers, and positive energy in Emmett's direction. (For those who aren't aware of what's going on, you can see the original post right here.) I can't tell you what it means to our family to know that so many people are focusing on love and health for our little babe. As I said before, I genuinely believe in the power of positive collective thought because I've seen it work. I have no doubt that this is part of the reason Emmett is improving. If you can, please keep sending your prayers and healing vibes our way. We are so grateful.

I haven't posted an update since the original post last Monday because at this point, it's difficult to give one. We just don't know enough yet. The medication has - so far - stopped any visible seizures, and that is absolutely wonderful. It only took a few days to stop them, which is also wonderful. However, as soon as we thought we were five whole days seizure free and in a place to start the long (six-ish week) wean, he had another episode that, while we aren't completely certain was a seizure, looked enough like one that we had to postpone the wean for four more days. Studies have shown that the medication working quickly is key to having a chance at a better prognosis (unlike other types of epilepsy, this type is incredibly dangerous in that as the seizures go on, more and more brain damage accrues and the chances for severe physical and/or cognitive disabilities increase), so this was a disappointment, but it was more of a small bump in the road than anything majorly concerning. We began the wean on Monday, and so far, things are going well. I almost don't want to type that because I don't want to jinx it, but I think it's important to acknowledge the positive things that are happening. We are so incredibly grateful that it seems to be possibly working for our boy. Regardless, it will be a long road, with a 50% chance of the seizures eventually returning in the first year - but if it is working now, it is a major step in the right direction.

On Wednesday afternoon we took Emmett to be hooked up to a 48 hour video EEG that is currently running in our house. This afternoon he will be removed from it, and Monday we have a doctor appointment to see the results. (Damn you, weekend, for making us have to wait so long!) Even though his seizures appear to be gone, until his brain waves normalize, we can't say for the sure that the medication is working. I'm certain I won't be able to sleep until after that doctor appointment - not that I can sleep anyway with Emmett on this medication. Man does this stuff make babies cranky. I mean miserably, inconsolably cranky. In addition to just making them feel like crap, it causes severe weight gain and an insatiable appetite, extreme anxiety, acid reflux (we've tried two medications to deal with that so far and he still has to nurse sitting up and sleep in one our laps sitting up all night long), and other side effects. Poor dude also has a tooth about to pop through, and, as we came to find out after taking him to the pediatrician Wednesday, an ear infection (this medication also greatly suppresses the immune system). This medication is both a hero and a villain. It can save babies, or at the very least give a possibility of helping their prognosis. But it also strips them (temporarily I am told, thank goodness) of their smiles and laughs and desire to play and interact and replaces those things with constant moaning, crying, screaming, and restlessness. Every time we see even a half smile appear on his face, it brings tears of joy to our eyes. For real.

As horrific as this disease may be, it has already changed us in ways for which we have to be grateful. I cannot imagine ever taking anything for granted with my children again. Or with life in general. I can't believe the trivial things I worried about before this started. I can't believe the things I complained about either. Those newborn nights that felt like endless torture were a pleasure cruise in comparison to this! Family, friends, love, simple moments - that is all that matters anymore. I've always felt this way, of course, but now I am forced to realize it every single second. Any sort of glimpse of normal I can get feels like a beautiful luxury as well.

And speaking of "normal," as much as caring for Emmett (and making sure his sister is doing well and not adversely affected by this) is a full time job right now, Robbie and I will both have to return work sooner than later. (Robbie did have to leave for a couple of days last weekend for work, but has mostly been able to take time off since we were initially admitted to the hospital. And thank goodness his mom flew in to stay and help out for the first two weeks so I didn't have to be alone.) Reality is reality, and medical bills are no joke, insurance or otherwise. We simply have to be bringing in income right now. On top of that, feeling some sort of normalcy is important as well (and something that really resonated with me when we visited a therapist last week to try to make sense of the emotional aspects of this), and that includes working. As you guys know, I partner with brands on a regular basis to produce content here, which is the main way I make my living. I'm very lucky in that the agencies with whom I work have been incredibly understanding and allowed me to break my contracts and cancel my sponsored posts this month to focus on my family. But I will need to produce income again, so depending on what we find out at the neurologist Monday, the plan is to start posting here again in September. It won't be everyday, and may only end up being a couple of posts a week, or even less. But I do plan to make this space active again, on some level. (I actually have one sponsored post scheduled for the last day of August, and while it took several days of broken up periods of work to be able to put it together, it felt good to focus on something that gave me even a small sense of normalcy.)

I'm going to end things here for now. This is admittedly a poorly written, run-on of a post, but I'm going to leave it as it because it's real and I'm not in a place where I care much about things being perfect right now. Again, I appreciate you all keeping Emmett in your thoughts and prayers more than I can say. While I do occasionally post personal things here, I try to make it a space separate from my life with my family. Right now though, what's going on with my family is everything, and I feel compelled to share some of it because, yet again, I believe in the power of collective positive energy. Please cross your fingers hards for positive EEG results on Monday. I will keep you posted here and/or on Instagram as I'm able.

(The top picture was taken two weeks ago, after we got back from the hospital. Although my little man looks as adorable as ever right now all chunky monkey-like from his medication and all wrapped up in bandages around his head from the EEG, I'd just rather share a photo where he's looking more his regular old self.)


Monday, August 15, 2016

Asking For Positive Thoughts for Our Emmett

This is a post I never imagined I'd have to write. Some of you may have already seen my update on Instagram yesterday. For the rest of you, here it is.

On Tuesday morning of this week, Emmett's 7 month birthday, he was diagnosed with a rare, serious form of Epilepsy. The only symptom was an occasional random head nod he'd had on and off for a few days that we decided to have checked out by his pediatrician, just to be safe. Long story short, after an immediate trip to a pediatric neurologist and an EEG, we were given a diagnosis, and spent the rest of the week in the pediatric unit of Northwestern/CDH hospital.

The prognosis for this specific type of epilepsy is very poor for the vast majority of the cases - but most of the tests we've had done, along with the facts that Emmett is developmentally where he should be for his age and we caught it very early, are positive signs. They have also found no cause for this with Emmett (which is actually a good thing with this specific disease). His time in utero and life up to this point have been perfectly healthy.

We are now giving him twice daily injections at home of a powerful medicine that, while not without extreme side effects, will hopefully help end his seizures soon and thus give him a chance. How he reacts to the medication over the next couple of days is crucial in determining what the outcome will be.

Whatever your beliefs, please channel good energy, pray, manifest, meditate, focus on healing vibes for our little boy. I believe in the power of positive collective energy - I have seen it work. The more people sending love and light his way, the more people praying, and the more people envisioning a positive outcome, the better I believe his chances are. We are so grateful for the support and love of our friends (internet friends included) and family right now. We feel lucky to know so many kind, compassionate people who care about our family and our son. I am terrified. This is hell. But I believe. Just like I had a strong maternal instinct that told me something was wrong when it looked like absolutely nothing, I have a strong instinct telling me that Emmett is going to pull through this and be one of the exceptions.

For right now, Bubby and Bean will remain silent of regular posts while we make sense of this. My number one priority right now is to focus on Emmett and his sister. I also ask you to forgive me for not being the best communicator right now, and not in the head space to answer questions or to be able to handle much more than just good vibes. I will update as I can.

Thank you in advance for sending any love you can our way. Emmett is a fighter, and I believe in him with all my heart.


Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Preparing For Our First Back-To-School Mornings

I almost can't believe I'm saying this, but Essley starts preschool in just a few weeks. (Wait, didn't I just give birth to the kid, like, last week?) And while I suppose I can't really use the term "back-to-school" to apply to us, since this is technically our first school adventure and it's not like we're going back to anything, we've been getting into back-to-school mode around here. The preschool Essley is attending is part of the public school system here, so it follows the same calendar as older grades and has some of the same requirements in terms of school supplies, etc. So while it's only a two day a week program and the students are all two-and-a-half and three year olds, it feels pretty official.

I'm admittedly both excited and nervous, as I always tend to be with "first times" when it comes to my kids, and we want Essley to look forward to going to school, so we've been practicing a routine that, naturally, begins with our mornings. I work from home so we've gotten pretty used to leisurely mornings that often involve moving slowly, making semi-elaborate breakfasts (especially when Robbie, our house chef, is home between the band's tours), and lots of time spent in pajamas. Recently we've breaking out of that mold in preparation for school by getting dressed and washed up right away, and eating nutritious but simple breakfasts that take less time, like Essley's favorite, Cheerios with organic fruit. After breakfast Essley usually runs directly to her backpack, puts it on, and loudly proclaims that it's time to go to school. Establishing this morning routine has been beneficial for all of us. It's actually kind of fun.

We've also been preparing for the back-to-school mornings (and school in general) by shopping for breakfast and after school snack items at Costco. In addition to having everything we need, Costco is currently running a really cool Box Top special called the Golden Box Tops Challenge, where, by purchasing specially marked General Mills products with 8 Box Tops (like Essley's beloved Cheerios), you can enter to win an additional 100 eBoxTops (!!!). This may be our first year but we're already well aware of how Box Tops help raise money for and bring major classroom benefits to schools, so this is a really wonderful way for us to get ourselves prepared for getting involved, even at the Pre-K level. And if you don't have a lot of extra time or money to devote to your kids' schools, Box Tops are an incredible way to contribute through items that you already have on your grocery list. We've also been teaching Essley how Box Tops can help her school, and together we make a game out of cutting them out and putting them into a basket that she'll be able to bring to her school later on. We have also, of course, entered the Golden Box Tops Challenge. You can enter too! Just click here to learn how, along with more about the prizes and participating products. We think it's pretty great.

While I'm by no means a back-to-school expert (you honestly can't get more "beginner" than me if we're being honest here), for my fellow new-to-school preschooler moms and dads, I highly recommend getting a head start on your school mornings if you can. Even our simple routine of getting up at an established time, getting dressed, making and eating an easy but healthy breakfast, brushing teeth, and encouraging Essley as she pretends to head to school for the day, along with other back-to-school activities like participating in Costco's Golden Box Tops Challenge, has made the whole experience feel like a something to get excited about instead of dread.

Do any of you have kids heading to preschool this fall? Who else collects Box Tops?

Thank you for supporting the brands that help make Bubby and Bean possible. This post is sponsored by Costco Golden Box Tops and Acorn.


Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Meet Me in the Desert

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We spend time in the desert every March, and I love everything about it. While it's way too hot there this time of year even for this heat-loving summer girl, I've been majorly feeling a desert vibe the past few weeks. And I don't mean a middle-of-nowhere barren desert vibe (although I love that too) so much as a bright sun/sand/abundant cacti kind of thing. And maybe a swimming pool. Think desert oasis. My BFF and I have been discussing a Palm Springs trip this fall to commemorate the ten year anniversary of a very special vacation we took to LA together back in '06, and while I'm not sure if we'll be able to pull it off (kids, work schedules, money, you know), we have our fingers crossed. So maybe that's where this is coming from? Whatever the reason, I've been feeling it. And these images have especially been inspiring me in a big way.

Anybody else got the desert on the mind? (Bonus points if you live in the desert!) Also, how amazing is that beaded jute hammock from Anthro in the first image?


Monday, August 8, 2016

10 Ways to Reduce Daily Stress

As a work at home mom to two young kids, with a husband who works on the road half the year, stress in my life is inevitable. Sometimes stress levels are higher than others, especially during times of the year like right now, when I have a lot of work projects and deadlines on the books and I'm also taking care of the kids by myself. I'm also just naturally prone to anxiety, even during less hectic periods. The truth is that we all deal with stress, regardless of our situations. Every single person has things in his or her life that cause stress. And many times there isn't much we can do about the causes themselves. We can, however, recognize when we're feeling anxiety, and take action to reduce our overall stress levels so we're more in control of our lives.

I am incredibly grateful for the fact that over time I have learned how to better cope with stress and ultimately live a healthy (for my body and my mind) lifestyle - but it wasn't always this way. For many years, I allowed stress to take over, mainly because it got to the point where feeling stressed out was such a regular part of my life that I didn't know any different. I've talked before about how, in the days when I ran my clothing brand, I used to overwork myself to the point of getting physically sick. I would work until 1 or 2 AM, lie in bed with horrendous insomnia worrying about what I hadn't gotten done or what I had to do the following day, wake up exhausted, immediately check email and start on work again, only eat when I remembered to (which wasn't often), and continue into the night again. I never made time for exercise or took breaks for myself. As a result, I experienced frequent panic attacks, often felt depressed because I was so burned out, and had a hard time functioning. I genuinely had to reach a really low point before I realized that I needed to make changes, and that those changes started with being intentional about recognizing and practicing small ways to reduce my stress in the day to day.

Over the past few years since this time, I've discovered some specific things that have really helped me reduce not just stress in general, but also how that stress negatively affects my body and mind. As I mentioned above, we all have to deal with stress in our lives, no matter who we are, where we live, or what we do. But by recognizing stress and feeling the effects of it when it occurs, and making small, intentional changes in our lives to lessen these things, we can ultimately feel calmer, healthier, and happier as a result, and focus more on the things we enjoy in our lives. Today I'm sharing ten things I've found to really help me reduce my own daily stress that I hope can help you out as well.

1. Exercise. I'm just getting this out of the way right out of the gates because it's something most of us dread, but it's incredibly important to stress reduction. I am not one of those people who jumps enthusiastically out of bed to head to the gym at 6 AM. By any means. In fact, every time I'm about to start a work out I think of excuses in my head to try to get out of it. I recently read something though that said, "you never regret a work out." And man is that the truth. Getting daily (or almost daily) exercise is one of the best things you can do for your body, mind, and spirit. I usually work out 5-6 days a week, and it makes a massive difference in my stress levels. I try to mix up my workouts - some days I do yoga (my favorite; you can see me busting out a 'Half Lord of the Fishes' pose in the top photo, a pose I do everyday upon waking up to stretch my spine), some I do cardio, and some I do strength training. On days where I can't do videos or attend classes because I have the kids myself or an intense work schedule, I try to at least go for a walk. There are times where I admittedly let exercise slip all together (sometimes for several days), and I definitely notice increased anxiety levels when I do - so I really make an effort to get active as much as possible.

2. Eat Clean, Healthy Foods. I've shared peeks into my clean eating journey here before, and while I'm not constantly on a clean eating challenge, I do always make sure that healthy, whole foods make up the majority of my meals. Our bodies and minds work together, and when we're consuming a lot of sugar and processed foods, neither of them work properly. Eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables and a balanced mix of healthy proteins, fats, and carbs makes a huge difference in how intensely stress affects me.

3. Get Enough Sleep. Okay, I'm gonna be honest here guys. I very, very rarely get enough sleep. I have a baby and toddler who both wake up multiple times during the night, and while I should probably go to bed when they do, the few hours I have to myself to do what I want (which is also important to reducing stress; see #6 below) after they're asleep feel like gold. That said, on the rare occasions where I get a solid 7+ hours, I notice a monumental difference in how much less stressed I feel the following day.

4. Unplug from Technology. I am admittedly terrible with this one too, but I've come to learn how beneficial it is in the reduction of daily stress to just turn my phone and computer off and be present. Social media and the internet have taken over our collective culture to the point where people are no longer getting outside, interacting with others, or living life. We are not biologically wired for this you guys. It's not natural, and it's not healthy. When I'm not working I often leave my phone in a different room so I'm not tempted. I always feel so much lighter after a good technology break.

5. Listen to Music. I may be biased because music is such a huge part of my life  and my family's life (and not even because my husband works in the industry; I just happen to intensely love it), but listening to music has been scientifically proven to instantly reduce stress levels. Enough said.

6. Take Breaks for Yourself Everyday. This is something I legitimately had to learn the hard way. I never used to take breaks from work, even when I was really creatively stuck and would have benefited from walking away for a few. And it took its tool. When I first became a mom, I found myself back in this trap again. By taking small breaks throughout the day (even just a couple of minutes to get up and walk around or read a book or stare at the freaking sky, man), you can recharge and reset your mind and body, and subsequently majorly reduce your over stress levels.

7. Use a Spire Mindfulness + Activity Tracker. I've worn fitness trackers for a couple years now, but the Spire Mindfulness + Activity Tracker has become my favorite tracker, by far (you can see me wearing it clipped to my sports bra in the photos throughout this post; I also clip it to the waistband of my pants). Spire measures calories, activity, and steps, and is easily comparable to any competitive wearable technology - but it takes things a step further by measuring breathing patterns throughout the day, and pinpointing when you're stressed, focused, and calm. By alerting you in the moment when you're feeling stressed, and suggesting breathing exercises and meditations, Spire can help reduce stress and make mindfulness more reachable. Pretty cool, right? I'm also a fan of the design - it looks like a pretty river stone with a clip attached, and blends seamlessly into whatever I'm wearing. (Even the charger is beautiful!) And the companion app is super easy to use, giving insight into your personal well being by syncing with your location, calendar, and photos and thus showing where, what and why you are experiencing periods of tension, calm or focus. I kind of think of it as a personal trainer for my own personal mindfulness journey, and it plays a key role in reducing my daily stress. If you don't have a Spire of your own yet, I highly recommend checking them out right here.

8. Get Outside. I happen to be a pretty outdoorsy person, so this is a big one for me. I have a hard time in the winter because when I'm consistently cooped up inside, my anxiety gets pretty bad. So even when it's freezing outside, I make a conscious effort to walk outside and just breathe everyday, even for a few minutes. In the spring, summer, and fall, I try to spend as much time outside as possible. As humans, we need to spend some time outdoors to feel refreshed and recharged. It's important to regulating our stress levels and to our overall physical health. Even if you're not a fan of the outdoors, try spending at least a little bit of time outside everyday and take notice of the positive difference it makes in how you feel.

9. Practice Meditation and/or Mindful Breathing. I talked in #1 about how exercise is incredibly important to reducing overall stress, and I mentioned that one of the forms of exercise I do regularly is yoga. While I do best with fitness when I'm mixing things up from day to day, yoga is by far my favorite activity because it not only makes me physically stronger and healthier, it allows me to simultaneously practice mindful breathing. Taking the time to become aware of your breath and get in a flow where it is connected to your body is an instrumental way to reduce your overall stress levels. Meditation is another wonderful way to practice mindful breather. There are all sorts of really great guided meditations available with the Spire Mindfulness + Activity Tracker that I talked about in #7. And as I mentioned, just wearing a Spire daily will also train you to become consistently aware of your breathing, which is the ultimate goal.

10. Express Gratitude. This is so important you guys, and it's so, so easy. During the height of my over-the-top stressed out period, I was constantly worrying and focusing on the negative. It became a vicious cycle where my mind was taken over by things that were wrong, or my failures, or what I didn't have or hadn't accomplished. After I hit my breaking point I started a gratitude journal. Even when it felt like I had nothing for which to feel thankful, I forced myself to write down one thing, no matter how small. (Sometimes this would just be "I'm grateful for the sun being out today" and that's it.) Eventually, finding things for which I was grateful got easier and easier, and eventually I no longer needed to write them down - I just felt them. These days I don't keep a gratitude journal at all, and I just naturally express gratitude throughout my day. This might sound cheesy, but trust me - it will lower your stress levels and make you a happier person in general.

I hope that by sharing my own story with stress and anxiety, and letting you know the ten things that most help me reduce my daily stress, I'm able to help some of you as well. As someone who naturally deals with anxiety, I also consider myself to be a lifelong learner on the journey to reducing stress, so I'd love to hear tips on how you deal with daily stress as well!

Thank you for supporting the brands that help make Bubby and Bean possible. I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.