My Covid Supplement Regimen

Probably the topic I have received the most questions about recently is what supplements I’m using to help in our family’s battle with Covid-19. Unfortunately, it’s not a very simple and straightforward answer, but hopefully it’s one that will be worth the read!

Our family got Covid in mid-June. Before we were exposed, I was already more focused on health than ever. I’ve been working with a nutritionist, Kelly Hall, over the past year or so. It started with me hiring her to help my mom with some long-time health issues and the more I learned, the more I wanted to get some help as well. I did some testing and she made some suggestions. I purchased the supplements that she recommended and they promptly sat on my kitchen shelf for way too long. (If you know me well, this isn’t all that surprising.) Like with many other things, I had the best of intentions, but I got overwhelmed by all of the instructions and figuring out when to take what and sort of shut down. After all, life is busy. I also struggled with the “trial and error” part of it all. I prefer nice, neat formulas, but that isn’t always how good health works.

When Covid first came to the US, I started paying more attention to supplements. One friend of mine told me about a supplement that was sure to prevent it and rather than jump on the bandwagon right away, I contacted Kelly to ask her opinion. Boy, am I glad I did! She researched the supplement and found it on the Environmental Working Group‘s (EWG) list of food additives to avoid. Yikes. Lesson learned. Do your research. Thankfully, Kelly had been doing hers. Back in March, she had already been attending webinars and doing lots of reading about Covid and the supplements that might potentially help. I felt like she really needed to get her message and knowledge out there to help others during this time, so I set up some social media accounts for her. She was completely new to Instagram and I helped her get started. One of the things she wanted to post really struck me. It was a quote that is attributed to Louis Pasteur, the father of microbiology, on his deathbed. “The microbe is nothing. The terrain is everything.”

It clicked with me that Louis had a great point. While Covid is super scary, it’s the way that it interacts with our bodies that is scariest, and yet, it seems to interact with different people in vastly different ways. Some people are stunned when they test positive, because they never have a single symptom. (This is as hard for me to believe as those woman who swear that they didn’t know they were pregnant and then a baby just popped out, but we’ll just attribute it to the fact that my experience was so vastly different on both fronts.) For other people, it is fatal. We know that often times when it is fatal, there are underlying comorbidities going on, but it still begs the question – what can we do to put our bodies into the best possible shape to handle this scary virus?

Since I had already been working with Kelly for a while, she had all of my medical history and had some of my blood work labs already and had a good baseline on what we were dealing with health-wise. Apparently, the world of nutrition and supplements are a bit of an art form. There are myriad things that you can do and you basically have to navigate what works best for your body and what works well taken together. It can be a bit of trial and error, unfortunately. And that is partly why it’s not a simple answer to tell you what to take.

The other reason is that not all supplements are created equal. It’s hard to just say – take a probiotic – when they are so varied and apparently, the same goes for all of the vitamins and supplements and protein powders out there as well. I have zero monetary interest in selling anything here – zero. However, I do trust Kelly and her research. She used to be a nutritionist for MD Anderson, which has been ranked as the very best hospital in the world for cancer care, according to US News and World Report. So, she’s not new to the nutrition scene. She has relatively recently gone out on her own to help people directly, rather than through a hospital, however. She purchases all of the supplements that she gives me from one of several “prescription-only” wholesalers who work exclusively with registered dietitians. So, that’s the other limiting factor in me simply linking to some good supplements. They’re not all created equal and zero of what she has given me can be purchased on Amazon.

With all of that being said, before I wrote this post, I reached out to Kelly to explain that I wanted to be able to answer the questions people have been asking me and to ask her what she is comfortable with me sharing and what among the supplements I am taking are generally good for everyone. It probably goes without saying, but just in case – I am NOT a medical doctor. Nothing that I say in this post or on my blog should be taken as medical advice. I have no training in health whatsoever, other than my own personal experiences. Kelly Hall is a registered dietician and you are more than welcome and encouraged to message her directly on her Instagram account, linked here. She has told me that she will offer my followers the opportunity to buy quality supplements through her wholesalers without a full-blown consultation with her. She’s offered to do sort of a virtual mini-consult and let you order through her. Yay! Just tell her that I sent you. (Again, this is in no way sponsored or anything, I just want everyone to have their best health possible.)

I also want to pause for a moment here and stress the following to you… If you are committed to getting your body in its healthiest state in order to hopefully avoid getting Covid or lessen its impact on you, there are plenty of free things to do as well. Sleep is likely the most important. I always roll my eyes when people talk about this because I tend to do too much and rest too little so I’m almost always lacking on sleep. (That and I have four boys aged nine and under!) Sleep, however, is crucial to your immune system functioning well and is the time when your body repairs itself. Don’t skimp on sleep. There are lots of things that you can do to help your body get good sleep and I’ve tried lots of them! Stopping electronics at least thirty minutes to an hour before going to sleep is one of them. Creating a lovely, quiet, dark, serene and comfortable space is another. A good mattress and good pillows and great quality bedding is another. (Personally, I have a mix of high-end bedding and bargain items. I love my Kumi Kukoon silk pillowcase from Longoria Collection and my Hunt Slonem bunny sheets, but I mix in my Mellanni bed sheets as well from time to time.) I have a great silk eye mask on my nightstand because I’ve become way more sensitive to the early morning Summer sunrise in my older age. I swear by my Dohm sound machine as well. We literally don’t travel without it. It has saved my sleep since becoming a mom and enduring the lightest sleep patterns I can remember. (I blame having kids!) Sometimes, I use an acupressure mat to relax before I fall asleep. I have also recently started taking Melatonin before bed. Again, I buy that through my nutritionist. During these stressful times, I’m finding that I have to do more in order to sleep well. Frustrating, but true.

Another free thing that you can do is try and eliminate stress. I know, I know. We live in a stressful world right now, but we still have to do all that we can to eliminate any of it that we can. For me, a huge part of that has been mentally working to let go of the things that I cannot control. And heaven knows, there is so much of that right now. Stress is depleting to the body, so pay attention to anything that elevates your stress levels and do your best to avoid any of it that you’re able to. Meditation is another great exercise for this. I’m working on it, at the suggestion of my longtime and very wise friend, Mike Herzog, but I’m definitely not there yet. Good thing he assures me that it’s a practice that takes time!

It isn’t very fun to hear, but nutrition is also key to your health. During my battle with Covid, I avoided sugar, alcohol, gluten and dairy in an attempt to prevent unnecessary inflammation while healing. I focused on whole food nutrition (lots of vegetables!) and made smoothies with nutrition supplements at least once a day. I also upped my fluid intake and drank as much water as possible, along with electrolyte drinks, like Drip Drop or Nuun. I’ve also been drinking bone broth and hot teas, such as peppermint, ginger and camomile and Throat Coat. I gargled warm water with salt and baking soda and used saline nasal spray to keep things cleared out.

I’ve also been using my trusty Young Living essential oils, specifically the Thieves essential oil, which is my very favorite – especially when our family is sick! We put it into diffusers in our bedroom, our children’s bedroom and our living room when someone is sick. Not only is it antibacterial, but it also smells amazing. I also drink a couple of drops on a spoonful of honey when I have a sore throat and I use it in a rollerball format on my temples and chest. It is fabulous, as are their Thieves all-natural cleaning supplies.

Lastly, you can also work on simplifying your life as much as possible. We’ve all got a LOT more time at home (and free time, to some extent), and this is something that I’ve been working on. I don’t feel as though I’ve made very much progress, but every little bit helps. Progress, not perfection, is my motto on most things. Okay, on to the supplements…

I’m taking about thirteen supplements daily and I’m giving my kids four each day. Each of them was chosen by my nutritionist for me, specifically. Before we got Covid, we took Vitamin C and Elderberry daily. Once we got Covid, however, we stopped the Elderberry. According to my nutritionist, Kelly Hall, the goal is to boost and support your immune system before you actually get Covid, but once you do, the goal shifts entirely to supporting your immune system. You don’t want to over rev your immune system, because it can attack your body in addition to the virus. When that is taken to an extreme, you end up with the dreaded cytokine storm. Once I actually got Covid, I upped my Vitamin-C dose greatly. You can’t really overdose on Vitamin C, though it can mess with your GI system if you take too much, so Kelly recommends only taking as much as can be tolerated. I’ve been taking about 10,000mg a day. I’m taking some of that in vitamin pill form and some in drinking Emergen-C packets. I’m also taking Zinc (about 30-60mg) and Vitamin D. Vitamin D is something that you CAN overdose on, so it’s best if you check your levels before deciding how much to take for the long term. Another supplement that I’m taking that shows promise in helping fight Covid is NAC and yet another is called Immuntix. I’m also taking a probiotic and also a nutritional supplement called IG26+ which I put in a smoothie. I’m also taking several other things that Kelly recommended specifically for me, based on my medical profile. Again, if you want more information on things that would be specifically good for you personally or to order some of her high quality supplements, you can schedule a virtual mini-consult with Kelly directly by messaging her on her Instagram feed. To be very clear, I am receiving absolutely nothing from her for referrals. I have every confidence that there are lots of great nutritionists out there. She’s just the one that I am using and I like her, so I want to be as transparent as possible, in case you want to try her as well!

For my children, I’m giving them smoothies with the IG26+ along with an active nutrients vitamin chewable, some Vitamin C gummies and some sugar-free Vitamin D dummies, all of which my kids LOVE the taste of. Winning! I’m also trying my best to give them healthy foods and less sugar, but let’s be honest – that’s super challenging right now.

If you have any questions about my vitamin and supplement routine or anything else, please feel free to drop me a note in the comments below. I’m happy to help in any way that I can!

Seven Things I Wish I Had Done to Better Prepare for Getting COVID

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Hi, friends! I’m back with more information to share on our family’s experience with Covid-19. If you’re new to this series and wondering where we got it and what the first signs were, check out my first post here. If you’re interested in what items I found to be really helpful when we had it, check out this post here. Today, I want to share with you a few tips that I think might help you be better prepared for Covid, should you get it. Unfortunately, this virus looks like it is here to stay and because of that, I feel like most people are going to encounter it at some point. There are a few things that you can do today to be ready and hopefully make your time with it a little easier, if you do get it.

The first thing that I would do to prepare is to purchase the items that you might need to feel better if you get it. These days, things seem to be selling out so quickly and while I’ve always depended on Amazon Prime’s overnight shipping (which I love!) with the current situation, I’ve found that my ability to get things quickly via Amazon and in stores, for that matter, is diminished. For that reason, I would look through my Covid + Me List on my Amazon page – or read more about the items on my blog post – and decide what you think would be most helpful to you and/or what seems like a good investment even if you don’t end up getting Covid. None of the items on my list are over $50. It will give you peace of mind to have them on hand now and they can be hard to get when you are sick with Covid, since you’re quarantining at home (so, not going to the store to buy things) and may feel so awful that you can’t think straight (I’m looking at you, Covid headache.)

The second thing that I would do is think through what items you’ll need for daily life and stock up on those a little as well. I’m not talking about crazy hoarding of toilet paper here, but rather having an extra month or two worth of the supplies you need on a daily basis. What I didn’t realize until I had Covid is that this is a long game. While you may be one of the people who is completely asymptomatic or gets over it in 5-7 days, that was definitely not my experience. Not only that, if you have multiple people in your family (especially kids) and you end up getting it staggered, your time dealing with it will be all the longer. For some reason, I had pictured all six of us getting it together and hunkering down for 14 days. That was not the case. First, our nanny got it, so I was on my own with the kids for a week before we even got symptoms. I do not take my four children out right now very often and I haven’t taken them into a store of any kind since things began in March, so I was grateful that I had plenty of diapers, wipes, medicines and food on hand so that I didn’t have to take them out during that week before we knew that we had been exposed but my nanny was out sick. Then, the baby and I got sick and my symptoms lasted longer than the 14 days. So, that was well over three weeks (and really closer to five) that we were self-quarantining at home and again, I was glad to have extra supplies on hand. Early on, I got one or two month’s worth of shampoo, toothpaste, medicines (over the counter and prescription), diapers, wipes, food (frozen, non-perishable and lots of kids’ snacks!) and I was grateful to have it when we were in the middle of our ordeal. I would think through what you use and need daily and keep a little extra on hand. Again, no crazy apocalypse hoarding here. Just a little planning ahead for what you and your children would need in case the unexpected occurs and you can’t get to the store.

If you’re a mom of littles like me, you might also want to consider buying some toys and stashing them for a rainy day or if you need the kids to be entertained while you’re not feeling well. Just think through what you’ll need to entertain your children if you’re sick and feeling awful and they feel just fine. (Easier said than done, I know!) Mine had a LOT of screen time and a LOT of prepackaged snack food. This is survival mode and I will not feel guilty about either! It did help that I had a couple of fun, new toys hidden away for them that I pulled out when I needed them most. It kept them busy for a day or two! If you aren’t up for buying toys ahead of time, maybe create a “wish list” on Amazon of things that you would buy them if needed so that you can quickly add to cart and ship. Amazon delivery days are the most fun, after all! If you need an idea list for fun toys and games that my boys loved (several of which we utilized during our Covid home quarantine!) check out my Amazon Kid Items list here. New books are always fun for my boys as well. You can find a list of some of our favorite kids books here. Aside from toys, you might also considering subscribing to a new streaming service (we are loving Disney+ so far!) or an e-book subscription service like Epic or trying out a new educational game like Kahn Academy (which is free!), Dreambox or Reflex. Anything to keep them occupied!

The next thing I would do is to create a plan for if your family gets it. As I said above, I really pictured all of us getting it at the same time and hunkering down together. But, we didn’t all get it at the same time (or at all – my husband is still completely asymptomatic and has tested negative twice.) And not all of us experienced our first symptoms on the same day. My guess for this is that one or two of us got it and then others got it from the first person who got it. When the virus has a 6-7 day incubation process, as it did for us, that extends your time with it by a full week if you don’t all get it at the same time. All that is to say, I would spend some real time thinking it through, trying to imagine what would happen in various situations. What if only one parent gets it and the other doesn’t? Do you want to quarantine that healthy parent? If so, where will you do that and what will it look like? For us, that included my husband staying in the guest room and using only the guest bathroom, wearing an N95 mask at all times in our house except when he was asleep, and not eating with us or snuggling the kids at all. Oh, and washing his hands 1,892 times an hour! If only one child gets it, will you quarantine them? If so, with which parent and where? What if your parents get it? How will you take care of them? What if your nanny or housekeeper or children’s daycare worker or teacher gets it? What are the childcare plans in those scenarios? I think it’s helpful to think it through and make some of those decisions in advance and make whatever plans are necessary. It’s not hard and doesn’t cost anything and may save you some stress in the future. For us, our home quarantining of my husband meant clearing out some extras that tend to live in our guest room so that he could use that room comfortably and setting him up with a small television in there. At the beginning of the stay at home orders, we also purchased a television for our bedroom, which we’ve never had before, but proved to be super helpful when I was sick and weak and had to watch the boys by myself. I was able to put the toddler in our bed with me and ply him with lots of Daniel Tiger so I could rest a bit. All that is to say, it would be wise to think through what your plan will be in various situations and do a little planning ahead while you still feel good. We have always had really great help from family and friends when we need it, but with Covid, no one wants to come near you, for very good reason. So, we couldn’t just call in my mom or a babysitter for reinforcements. When I was home alone with the boys, I was VERY worried that if things turned worse and I needed to go to the hospital, I wouldn’t have anyone to watch them and wasn’t sure what I would do. Again, I think if I had thought that through a little better, maybe I could have come up with a plan of some sort and I wouldn’t have been so stressed about it.

Another note is planning before you take any trips. As I was talking to a friend today who will be traveling soon, she mentioned that she hadn’t thought through what would happen if someone in her family got Covid while they were on vacation. I think that’s an easy oversight when you’re living in a hotspot and headed to a relatively safe place, but you should still think it through, because with global and national travel, this virus is everywhere. If you get it on a trip, will you quarantine family members and if so, how? If you’re in a remote location, what will the plan be for medical access and testing? If you plan to pack up and come home, how will you get home? Air travel will likely be limited if you have a fever and driving long distances with Covid would be miserable (not to mention expose everyone in the car with you.) If you had to extend your stay while you recover, where would that be? And do you want to pay for trip insurance to cover any money you might be out if you do end up canceling your trip at the last minute because someone in your immediate family gets Covid? What are the refund policies for what you book? These are just a few questions to think through to help you plan and not be unnecessarily surprised.

Maybe the most thing to do is to be sure that you have a good doctor. I cannot stress this one enough. I know that sometimes throughout our lives, we may end up without a good primary care doctor. For me, it was because I had babies for 7 years straight, so I was always in the care of an OB, rather than a general practitioner or internist. For men, sometimes it’s that they don’t really get sick much and just manage with urgent care visits or the like when needed. For some of us, we just rely on our specialists for whatever ails us. But, in our family’s experience with Covid, I have learned that you really need a professional relationship with a good doctor if you end up getting this. If you’re the type of person who really needs someone to hold your hand and be available if you were to get Covid and you can afford it, you may want to consider signing up with a concierge doctor, especially if you do get Covid. One of my friends signed up with one at the beginning of his Covid experience and he said that the doctor called him every single day to check in. I, on the other hand, have been going to the same internal medicine doctor for twenty years and he never called me once himself even after I sent a message that I had tested positive for Covid. Another woman that I spoke with called her doctor asking for help so many times that they dropped her as a patient. (I was floored by this!) I have realized that our medical system is really not set up to deal with pandemics like this. They tend to operate at two ends of the spectrum with Covid – deal with it on your own by treating symptoms at home with over the counter medicines with very little guidance or check-ins, if at all – or, come to the hospital if you’re desperate or dying and we will do our best to save your life. You can argue the reasons for this as much as you’d like, but the end result is that you’re going to have to take initiative and manage your own health and that includes finding a good doctor who you trust. I think that’s easier done before you actually get Covid. It seems that different doctors are using very different approaches to treatments, so it may make sense to ask about that up front as well so you’ll know in advance. For my children, I was so grateful that we have a wonderful pediatrician and trust him fully. For myself, I was really glad that I had an established relationship with a nutritionist who had been studying up on Covid and had lots of ideas on supplements that might help. Again, just make sure you have the necessary medical and health relationships in place well in advance.

Another thing that I really wish I had done differently is to talk to my children more about Covid-19. As a mom of young children, I’ve more or less tried to shield them throughout this ordeal. We haven’t talked to them much about it except to explain that it is an unknown illness and some people have died from it and that’s why their school, little league, swim team, after school activities, etc. have closed or been cancelled and we can no longer do playdates or walk to the playground in our neighborhood or hug our grandmothers or go visit family. And in all honesty, there wasn’t much that we knew in March and April to tell them. But, the more I look back on it, I wish I had explained things just a little more now that we do know a bit more. While this is a scary virus, partly because it is so unknown, the majority of people who get it will not die, but some will still get very sick. My boys have likely been pretty scared of Covid for months now. (Haven’t we all?) Since the world has shut down and nothing about “normal life” feels normal, they know that something is very wrong. And they pick up on their parents’ conversations and stress levels more than we give them credit for. We’ve been praying together every morning and night for months for protection from his virus. So, what were they to think when we actually got it, including them? To be honest, I was dealing with my own mental state over having it and even worse, my children having it, and so I wasn’t really in a place where I could stop and think about what they must be thinking and feeling. Instead, in another attempt to shield them, I quickly did a complete about-face and told them that it wasn’t that big of a deal and it wasn’t actually a really bad virus for most people and that they were going to be fine and so was I. Except that was NOT the message they had been receiving for the past four months as more and more things close and masks are required and they aren’t allowed to do the Summer things they want to do, so I’m sure that was a mixed message. And then, once I had convinced them it was no big deal, I had a bad shortness of breath attack in the car WITH them. And what they saw was their mother sobbing in fear and gasping for air and let me tell you – that is an image of me that I wish they didn’t have. They also saw their mom lying in bed nonstop for nearly two weeks and then unable to do much for the week after that as well and I’m sure that all of that was confusing after I had convinced them that this was no big deal. Ugh. All that is to say, I wish I had sat them down and prepared them better in advance. It might be worthwhile for you to think through what you want to say to your children.

Lastly, I wish that I had realized that the effects of this virus can last for a month or longer and often does. Somehow, I thought that the 14 days of self-quarantine were the typical life of the virus – and maybe that is true. But, it wasn’t true for me. I had symptoms longer than that. While I was MUCH better by about day 18, I wasn’t “back to normal” by any means. For me, that has meant getting winded while doing little tasks (which limits what I can do and drives me crazy!), pretty extreme fatigue and the occasional headache. All of those things have limited what I can do. And it seems that some people have what can be referred to as “Long Covid” and experience symptoms for many months after catching it. On that front, I it would probably be wise to realize that it could take you down for a month or more and plan accordingly. As a small business owner, I wish that I had thought through my plan for my business while I was sick. That looks different for everyone, but again, it’s worth thinking that through in advance and making any necessary preparations. Lesson learned.

All in all, our family did pretty well with the virus, but there were definitely some scary times, some low moments and a lot of frustration for various reasons. We got it relatively early in this second wave spike in Texas so we were pretty caught off guard by it and I think that had I know more, a little extra planning would have helped even more. So, there you have it! My list of planning tips in case your family has a run-in with Covid. If you’ve had it and want to add any ideas or thoughts, please comment below. I would love to know your tips as well!

 

My Covid-19 Must-Haves: The Things That Helped Me Through It

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In mid-June, our family got Covid-19. (You can find more details on that here.) I’m writing a series of blog posts about our experience in an effort to help others navigate these uncharted waters because I desperately searched for information when I was at my worst and I couldn’t find much in between reports of asymptomatic twenty somethings and high death rates among the elderly and those with comorbidities. Where was the information for those of us treating ourselves at home, with little to no guidance from any doctor? I found it to be sorely lacking, so I’m on a mission to share my story in the hopes that it will help you. Today’s post in this series is about the items that I considered to be most helpful when we had Covid. You may want to stock up now on any of them that sound useful to you so that you’ll be ready in case you get it, because things seem to sell out so quickly these days. I bought basically everything off of Amazon, because that, Instacart and the Target curbside service have been the only places I’ve really shopped since March.

Let me quickly pause here and disclose that some of the links in this blog post are Amazon affiliate links. This means that if you choose to purchase via these links, I will earn a VERY SMALL commission, at no extra cost to you. (Like, super small.) I hope that this is not a concern to you in any way and if it is, you’re welcome to reach out to me with any questions. I have spent countless hours while battling this virus notating my symptoms and what helped, documenting on Instagram and IGTV to share information and now writing blog posts solely in an effort to help people navigate this journey, because I really believe that most of us will end up having this virus at some point in the coming days. It may not seem like it, but writing these posts is hours upon hours of work. I ask nothing of you in exchange for all of this time spent, though I do appreciate your using these links if you think one of my recommendations is helpful and I REALLY appreciate your sharing this information for me if you find it to be helpful. It’s the very best way for me to get it out to people who may be served well by it. Okay, now on to my “must-haves.”

On my Amazon page, I have various lists of things that I have purchased with my own money and liked enough to share and I break those down by various categories. The one that I want to share with you today is my “Covid + Me” item list here.

By far, the most important thing that helped me during my bout with Covid-19 was a pulse oximeter. This little buddy was a lifesaver to me mentally and would be a lifesaver physically if you ended up with hypoxemia. In case it is new to you, a pulse oximeter is an easy, inexpensive and painless way to measure your oxygen saturation levels. It’s a little device that you put on your fingertip, press a button and read your saturation levels (which are stated as a percentage). It passes wavelengths of light through the body part to get a reading and for this reason, my husband recommends one that shows you the wavelengths on the digital output to be sure you’re getting a good reading. The one that we used is listed here. It is $36 and has been generally available within about a week. I would highly recommend buying one for your home now, regardless. It’s a small investment for your family’s safety and you’ll be prepared. I am not a doctor, so I don’t want to give any hard and fast medical advice, but in general, I have been told that any saturation at 95% or above is good. Anything between 90-94% should be monitored and below 90%, you should consult your doctor. That’s what I was told by two different doctors, but you should feel free to do your own research on that. Additionally, if you have a little one like I do (2 years old), it can be hard to get a good reading on their little fingertips, You can use a big toe, the outside of the foot just under the baby toe or an earlobe on them for a reading, depending on where you are able to get a good one.

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Here’s why I loved it. . . Throughout our experience with Covid, I had many times when I felt unable to breathe. This didn’t feel anything like any bronchitis or any asthma attack that I have experienced. It didn’t feel like my tributaries were closed. It just felt like I was unable to breathe. There was sometimes pressure on my chest as though someone were squeezing it or someone were sitting on my chest, but sometimes it was just feeling like I could not get enough oxygen into my lungs. Throughout that feeling, however, I was able to inhale fully. I know that sounds insane and I promise you that it felt every bit as insane. It’s rather hard to describe, but I can tell you that it scared the heck out of me. Like, super scary. One thing that made me feel SO much better during those episodes was to take a pulse ox reading. I could plainly see that my body had plenty of oxygen, even when it didn’t feel like it. For those of us who have had to navigate this virus on our own, at home, the scariest part is not knowing exactly when you might need medical help. The fear of the unknown in the midst of this virus is hard to overstate. It is absolutely terrifying to wake up in your bed completely alone (my husband was isolating in the guest room) in the middle of the night out of a deep sleep, gasping for air. When this happened to me, I reached for the pulse oximeter next to my bed and was comforted by my readings, which never dipped below 94% throughout my ordeal. Additionally, our just-turned-two-year-old isn’t talking much and when he was ill with Covid and was fussy and crying nonstop on a few nights, I was immensely comforted by getting an oxygen saturation reading on him. Get a pulse oximeter. If you don’t end up needing it, you might consider loaning it to a friend during their ordeal and being a blessing to them! It gave me so much peace of mind throughout my Covid-19 experience and it could be something that alerts you to needing medical attention in yours.

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The second most important thing for us was having a good thermometer that you trust. We failed on this front at first. I’ve never before put such stock in the accuracy of a temperature reading. I mean, really, what’s the difference between 100.9 and 101.5 in terms of how you’re going to treat your child if they’re sick? In my mind, not that much. But, when you’re trying to diagnose who in your house has Covid and fever is one of the main diagnostic symptoms, according to the literature (though not really in our case, as you can read here) you want to have a good thermometer. We ended up buying two pretty early on in our Covid experience – some oral ones (for under the tongue that the adults and bigger kids can use) and an infrared one for the younger kids who can’t figure out how to keep a thermometer under the tongue. Of course if you’re really wanting to be accurate, you can take a temperature in one of the auxiliaries, but I was not motivated to go that far, since I no longer have an infant!

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Another item that I found to be super helpful was the Vick’s Steam Inhaler and Vapo Pads. I had never used these before this. (Well, I tried to once but it didn’t go well – more on that in a moment.) I found this to be VERY soothing to both my sinuses and my tight chest. When I was growing up, my mom would boil water in a pot on the stove and have me lean over it with a tea towel over my head. While I am sure that is fairly effective and basically free, since you likely already own those things, I found the convenience of this little gem to be worth the money spent. I was in no shape in the middle of this virus to tromp down the stairs and boil some water multiple times a day and because I have four young boys, I would need to stay very close to said boiling pot of water as it was heating up and I frankly didn’t have the strength. I considered buying a face steamer instead so that I could use it for a beauty routine later on, but in hindsight, I’m glad that I didn’t for two reasons. One, the plastic clear “mask” on this thing ensures that every bit of that helpful steam is funneled into your nose or lungs, depending on whether you breathe through your nose or mouth while using it. (I alternated between the two, since I had problems with both). The second is that this unit has a little slot to insert their Vapo Pads which come in various scents – Menthol Vapors or a blend of Eucalyptus, Rosemary and Lavender or just Lavender by itself. I found the added scents to be really soothing and helpful. I tried to do this multiple times a day, especially if I was feeling tightness in my chest or pressure in my sinuses. I also took a steamy shower almost daily for the same reason, but I didn’t have the strength to get in a steamy shower multiple times a day, so this little steam inhaler came in super handy.

One note about the Vick’s Steam Inhaler – USE IT ON A FLAT SURFACE. I know, the instructions tell you this and you roll your eyes at it, like I did many years ago. I was sick and my mom had lent me her steam inhaler and frankly, I wasn’t all that excited about using it, but moms do usually know best, so, I humored her. Unfortunately, I was exhausted and weak and I tried using it in my bed. BIG MISTAKE. I tilted it a little bit to get the mask part to my face and boiling water poured all over my chest and scalded me. It hurt like heck and then I had a burn on my skin to deal with in addition to my illness. I was furious and swore off of those inhalers forever. That is, until I got this Covid-19 and a dear friend told me that the steam inhaler helps her with sinus problems and so I ordered one on Amazon and tried again. But, this time – I set it on the counter in my dressing area – a nice, stable, flat surface – and leaned over it to use it. It’s very relaxing and you can do it hands-free this way, should you want to scroll through your phone as a distraction, which is nice if you’re doing this multiple times a day for 10-15 minutes each!

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On the health front, I have been taking high doses of Vitamin C throughout my bout with Covid. I’ll ramp it down some when I feel back to 100%, but Vitamin C isn’t something you can overdose on, so I took quite a bit. I took some Vitamin C pills that my nutritionist prescribed and ordered for me that have a high absorption rate, but I also drank 2-4 Emergen-C packets per day. I love the way the Super Orange flavor tastes and it was sort of a treat along with giving my body Vitamin C in a different format. I have taken these packets for over 20 years, since I was introduced to them by a coworker who was a health nut in my very first job out of college. They’re also an easy way to get Vitamin C into your kids.

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It’s also incredibly important to stay hydrated when you’re sick and Covid is no exception. Your lungs and body do not function well when dehydrated and preventing dehydration is crucial with a virus like this. I drank a TON of water, but I also took an oral rehydration supplement once or twice a day to get extra hydration and electrolytes without the added sugar like in Gatorade. My favorite brand is Drip Drop. I like all of the flavors and highly recommend getting a variety pack to try them all. If I had to rank them, personally, I like berry best, then watermelon and then lemon. I love that all of them come in individual packets of the powder, so they’re easy to take with you on the go if you’re working out or playing outdoors in the heat. I take them when I get migraines as well and another friend swears by them for hangover relief. You just pour one packet of the powder into an 8 ounce glass of water and drink it down! Nuun is another great brand for an electrolyte drink and I use these as well. These come as tablets (rather than powder) and again, you just pop one into your water and drink. Another good brand is Liquid IV, which makes a hydration multiplier packet that also has Vitamin C, Vitamins B3, B5, B6 and B12. I like their Acai Berry flavor and Lemon Lime and use these sometimes as well. All in all, if you really want to hydrate, drinking one of these gets you 2-3x the hydration of a plain glass of water, so it’s a little easier to hydrate if you’re having trouble drinking enough water, which is a common problem when you’re sick!

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Another thing that I found helpful was a humidifier. I’ve read in multiple places that the lungs don’t like to be dry, so it is important to keep them full of moisture, especially when you’re fighting a respiratory virus like Covid. We’ve always used a humidifier for our kids, but I only have one and didn’t have one for the adults, so when both the baby and I had Covid at the same time, I realized I actually needed a second one for the first time. Thankfully, they’re not terribly expensive and it was sort of nice to have a sleek one in my room that didn’t look like a froggie, though we have used that one for nearly ten years with our boys and it works great! The adult one we chose had 5-star reviews across the board and had an auto shut-off feature that I like.

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Another helpful thing for me was Throat Coat Tea by Traditional Medicinals. I’ve always used this when I have a sore throat as I find that it soothes the pain, but my nutritionist said that the licorice, marshmallow root and slippery elm bark are actually really good for healing respiratory viruses, so now I have a scientific reason to drink it also. It tastes delicious, helps your sore throat feel better and is good for you – all wins! If you live in Central Houston, you might also want to pop in to Juice Well. They sell a drink called the Hot Fix that is sooooooo delicious and soothing that I drank it twice a day during the worst parts of my Covid. It’s a mix of hot water with fresh juiced lemon, freshly grated ginger and honey and it is delicious and feels great on a sore throat! Their Acai bowls are also delicious and I also ate one of those basically every day of my illness, too! They are so yummy and were easy to eat when I wasn’t super hungry and my taste was so diminished. I highly recommend both if you’re local to Houston! (And huge thanks to my darling friend who introduced me to those early on in my Covid fight!

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I have been taking a LOT of supplements throughout this ordeal, which I’ll talk more about in another post, but I found this pill organizer to be a great size for all that I was taking because it holds a lot. It has been SUPER helpful to me. When our family was sick and staying home, the days completely ran together and there’s no way I could remember what I had taken or not each day, much less twice a day. This super inexpensive little pill organizer was immensely helpful!

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The other category of items that were helpful to me is things that brought comfort. While they aren’t necessary, they sure made life better, so I want to share them with you as well. One item that we use every single day in our house is our Dohm sound machine. We have one in every bedroom of our house and it’s awesome – especially because we have four kids and on any given night, it is not uncommon that someone is up getting water or with a bad dream or sick or something. Also, if your spouse snores, this thing is a must-have! I found this to be a really helpful thing to have during this ordeal because it helped me tune out the noise of four boys when I was trying to sleep during the day.

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This super comfy (and pretty!) silk sleep mask was helpful for the same reason. Sleep was hard to come by at my worst points of this and anything I could do to help me sleep a little during the day was a God-send. As a side note, we have a Tempur-Pedic bed that raises up (thank you, Gallery Furniture, but boo Rockets and Astros for not winning and letting me get it for free!) and it helped me SO much to sleep sitting up. It made a huge difference in my breathing abilities and I swear by it! I highly recommend propping yourself up in some manner when you sleep if you have the shortness of breath symptoms with Covid. One doctor told me to sleep on my stomach, but I can’t do that because it causes major pain in my back, so I just spent some time on my stomach each day, especially when my chest felt tight.

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When you’ve got Covid, you spend a LOT of time in bed resting. Before I got it, I secretly thought that sounded kind of nice because I’m an exhausted mom of four boys. Of course, when you’re actually mandated to do it and life is still pulling at you from every direction and you’re trying to manage the demands of motherhood and running a business from your bed, it’s not nearly as nice as you’d imagined. Also, when you’re resting, you have plenty of time to focus on how bad you feel, which isn’t fun. I found it helpful to distract myself and this neck massager was a soothing way to get a little self-care while I was laid up. You just lay this thing over your neck and plug it in and turn it on and the rollers and optional heat feel really great on your tired neck muscles. It has arm holes in the bottom so you can pull it more taught if you’d like and they’re also helpful for using it on your back, etc as well. When I was restless and when I had the dreaded Covid headache (holy heck, that was terrible!) this felt great on.

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The sinus pressure that I had during Covid was unbelievable. Unlike a traditional sinus congestion infection scenario, I had no drainage and no runny nose, but MAN, the pain in my sinus cavity was intense. It hurt so badly. I found this lavender-filled silk sachet mask  felt really good laid across my eyes and you can keep it in the refrigerator to get a cooling sensation when you do, which was lovely. (Though, I couldn’t smell the lavender part since I had lost my sense of smell!) It is inexpensive and felt very soothing.

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Another thing that I found really soothing was this aromatherapy neck and shoulder wrap that my mom had recently given me for Christmas. You can heat it up in the microwave or you can put it in the freezer, depending on whether or not you prefer hot or cold. It felt really good on when I had the horrible headaches of Covid and it also just felt soothing and cozy on in general. LOVE it. (Thanks, mom!)

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The other thing that I really liked is doing Gua Sha massage. I had recently bought this set of tools after they were recommended by my friend Kathleen Jennings (who has myriad amazing beauty tips and definitely deserves a follow!) I bought them to try for beauty purposes, but I found that when I was at my worst on the sinus pressure, they just felt really good to use. There’s a chance that they have a medicinal purpose as well in that they push toxins towards your lymphatic drainage system, but I’ve done no research on that myself. I just know that it felt good to do when I had pain in my sinuses. For instructions on how to properly do Gua Sha, you can check out a tutorial Kathleen did with expert Jennifer Adell over here on her IGTV channel. All I know is that it felt good and these little tools are relatively inexpensive, so why not?

All in all, during our experience with Covid, in a lot of ways I felt rather unsupported in my quest to get better. My nutritionist, Kelly Hall, was, by far, my greatest resource. I think that our medical system is vastly overwhelmed right now and was not built to handle pandemics like this. At the end of the day, you are responsible for your own health and that can be a scary place to be, especially when you’re used to relying on Western medicine and you’re dealing with a “novel virus” about which there is very little data and therefore, not very much information to guide you. However, it is simply not an option to ignore it. We must think critically and focus on what is truly important in times like these. The moment I realized that we had Covid, I switched into a mode of being laser-focused on our health. Nothing else mattered. For me, that was a balance of resting, hydrating, eating healthy, taking supplements and vitamins, doing what I could to address the symptoms I was experiencing, providing some self-care and comfort and doing my best to stay positive and mentally healthy. The list in this blog post addresses the latter two, but I will be sharing more about the others soon, because they were equally important.

I hope that this has been helpful to you. As always, please feel free to leave comments or questions below and please do share this post and my Instagram feed which has IGTV videos that I made during my time with Covid with anyone you think that it may help. Thanks, friends!

xoxoAndrea

 

 

 

 

Why I Didn’t See Covid Coming for Me

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Covid snuck up on me. And because I feel like there isn’t enough REAL information out there, I feel it is imperative to share with you in as much detail as possible, an unfiltered look at what happened in our experience with the much dreaded Covid-19.

As I said, Covid snuck up on me. I mean, I was doing ALL the things. My family was social distancing. We were only seeing friends outside and staying 6′ away almost all the time at that. We were wearing masks everywhere we went, though we really didn’t leave the house very often. I haven’t been inside a grocery store since March. (Thank the Lord for Instacart.) I’m doing curbside pickup everywhere that I can and doing Amazon delivery for the rest. We aren’t eating out in restaurants unless it’s outside and even at that, I don’t recall that we’ve done it more than once. We have done some takeout and food delivery, but it hasn’t been very often and when we do, my husband is crazy stringent about it. Only he is allowed to touch the items. He transfers the food to our own dishes, reheats it when possible and throws away all of the containers the food came in moments after transferring it. My kids have done no sports camps or day camps or anything in large groups. And yet, Covid came…right through our back door.

Our nanny showed up to work nearly a month ago feeling fine. Over the course of that day, she developed a bad headache. Of course, we both thought that was a migraine or allergies. I took her temperature, just to be safe and she had none. Little did we know what was to come. She developed a bit of sinus pressure and the next morning when she showed up, she told me that the headache had not let up all night long and she felt a bit chilly on her drive over to my house. Again, I checked and she had no fever, but in an attempt to be overly cautious, I immediately canceled our family’s plans for the day and sent her home after being here for five minutes and asked her to check in with her doctor and get a Covid test. Though her initial symptoms didn’t really line up with Covid, I wanted to be certain. Lesson #1: Go with your gut/listen to your intuition. Lesson #2: Be overly cautious if you need to when it comes to this virus.

Over the next few days, she began to feel worse. Our family took precautions against being around people in any close capacity, just in case, but at this point, we really didn’t think she had it. I had yet to know anyone in Houston who did have it, so we were lulled into a bit of a false sense of security with the passage of time. We celebrated our son’s second birthday without my mom or any extended family, out of an abundance of caution. We amped up the immune-boosting supplements and got extra sleep and prayed that she didn’t actually have it. She received a positive test result nearly one week after her first symptom appeared. As you can imagine, I panicked. Big time.

Now it was real. Covid had actually been INSIDE my home. The home that I have been safeguarding for over three months. Our safe place. The place where we hunkered down, stocking up on food and supplies, skipping Spring Break travel, homeschooling my kids while schools were deemed unsafe by the governor. The place where we had our pared-down celebrations of Easter and Mother’s Day and multiple birthdays within our little family, all celebrated here and without any extended family members or friends in an attempt to stay safe and slow the spread. And yet, the thing that we had been hiding from in the safety of our own home had literally walked right in my back door.  I nearly had a breakdown at the thought of it.

I immediately went to be tested at BreatheMD. I did both their saliva test and their antibody test, just in case. (We had been  sick in Tahoe back in February and I had always wondered if that was Covid.) Both came back negative the next day. I also called our pediatrician, who is affiliated with the world-famous Texas Childrens Hospital in an attempt to get the baby tested, since he had the most exposure to our nanny, being up in her arms a lot. The pediatrician told me that they aren’t allowed to test asymptomatic children even if they have direct exposure with a Covid positive person, due to a lack of available tests. I was furious. The system we all worked so hard to support had let us down with a lack of testing now during this spike, when we needed it most.

Late that night, our baby came down with a fever. At first, it was 99.5 and I was all kinds of panicked. Then, it shot up to 101.5 and I really panicked. Did we actually have Covid? At this point, we were six days out from our last contact with our nanny. We gave the baby Tylenol and put him down to bed. He slept through the night and when he woke up, he seemed fine. And no fever, praise the Lord.

That day (the day after the baby’s fever), I felt a little bit of a sore throat. It came and went throughout the day. I would feel it for an hour and then it would be gone for 3-4 hours. Strange. I didn’t take any Tylenol or pain medicine because I didn’t want to mask any symptoms. I did amp up my Vitamin C and we all took Elderberry in an attempt to boost our immune systems. I also gargled with hot water, salt and baking soda. In hindsight, I consider that to be day one of my symptoms, though at the time, I wasn’t convinced that we even had it. As it turns out, so much of this virus is viewed through the 20/20 lens of hindsight, which is extremely frustrating. On this day, I called our pediatrician to let him know that we could now test the baby, since he was both symptomatic with the fever of 101.5 and had direct exposure to someone who tested positive for Covid. We did a telemedicine appointment with him and he ordered the test for us. Unfortunately, there was now also a wait to be tested. We took the first available appointment four days out. At the time, that truly felt like an eternity.

The following day (now day two of my symptoms), I felt a little bit of tightness in my chest and a little bit of a sore throat, but again, both came and went in a very strange way. I would have them for an hour or two and then not again for five or six hours. I literally thought I was losing my mind and that maybe I hadn’t even felt them. I thought I was psychosomatic and imagining things because of our nanny’s positive result. And I felt like that was confirmed by my negative test result. Right? (Spoiler alert: Wrong.) Around late morning, our second oldest boy (out of four) told me that he “felt strange and that water tastes funny” and then proceeded to vomit all over the floor. Jesus, be near. I am not a fan of cleaning up vomit. He proceeded to throw up for the rest of that afternoon, but never had a fever. He took a long nap and when he woke up, he requested sushi for dinner. Go figure. I guess he felt back to normal!

That afternoon, my eye started bothering me a little bit and when I looked at it, it was bloodshot in one corner. It hurt when I blinked and felt like maybe I had a stye or something. My husband took a quick look at it and told me that it was episcleritis or a conjunctivitis (but not the same one as what people refer to as “pink eye” – he made that very clear). He told me that this was a symptom in literally less than one percent of people with Covid. At this point, I started to think it was more likely that I had the virus, since I’ve always been special in statistics like that. I called the pediatrician and asked if we could get my second son tested as well, since he now also had symptoms, but he said that they were only allowing one test per family of children right now. If one child tested positive, they were all presumed positive and no more testing needed to be done. Again, not enough tests.

The next day was pretty much status quo. I had random symptoms like a sore throat, some sinus pressure and a slight feeling of tightness on my chest – almost like a child was sitting on my chest. Not an elephant, mind you, but a small child. And it would come and go. It was never really bothersome and if I didn’t know that I had been around a Covid positive person, I really wouldn’t have paid it much mind. I would have definitely thought it was allergies or the like. (As a side note, we were doing some work outside of our house that involved cement dust and I sort of thought maybe I just inhaled some of that and made my throat angry – who knows?) I was feeling a bit more run down that usual, but I had also been parenting four boys aged nine and under completely solo for nearly two weeks while my husband worked really long days seeing patients. That’s enough to wear anyone down! Since we couldn’t get tested any faster, I did my best to just put the whole thing out of my head.

The following morning, I took the baby to get tested at one of the Texas Children’s Hospital testing sites, just South of the medical center. It was SUPER easy and efficient and although I was terrified for him, I don’t think that it hurt him very much, because he only cried for maybe 15 seconds. (The nurse who did it said that the ones for babies and toddlers are much smaller than for adults.) We pulled up in my car, confirmed his name and birthdate, rolled down his window and the testing person leaned in and did it right there in his carseat. Easy peasy. Aside from the long wait to get in to be tested, I was super pleased with the whole experience. The rest of that day was more of the same. I remember feeling quite run down, but I chalked that up to stress over this whole situation. A few minor symptoms would come and go for me, but really, nothing of note. How could this possibly be the Covid I had been reading about?

Just before 5pm that same day, our pediatrician called. The baby had tested positive for Covid-19. For just a few seconds, my world stopped spinning. How could this be happening?

I immediately called my husband to warn him and he had just finished seeing patients for the day. Once he came home, we began the process of trying to get him tested. Little did we know what an absolute cluster of a mess that would be. Before I get to that, I want to pause here to tell you that it took me several days to wrap my head around the fact that my youngest child had actually tested positive for Covid. It rocked my world. It was so surreal, because we had been hiding from this “novel virus” for so long at this point. We had been running from this very thing for what feels like so, so long. We had given up MONTHS of going to school, for one. We had given up little league, swim team, school plays, preschool graduation, play dates, vacations, time with family, socialization with friends, playgrounds, airplane travel, sleep away camp, day camps, vacation Bible school, charity fundraisers, eating out and so much more. And now, we actually HAVE the uber-scary thing that convinced us to give up so very much of life? Seriously? It almost felt like it wasn’t possible. Except that it was.

All of the terrible things that I had read about this coronavirus came flooding back to me over the next few days. Every description of each horrible symptom that I had read about, every story about a young person being put on a ventilator because of it, every story about loved ones dying while separated from their families, every single story about this virus that I had consumed from the media over the past few months came flooding back to my memory like an overwhelming tidal surge of information. And it very nearly pulled me under. But, God. All of the fear (and there was a LOT) was fought solely by His grace and mercy throughout this ordeal. I felt like I was swimming alone in a deep, dark ocean. It was the deep abyss of the unknown that kept me awake at night and when it came, I had no choice but to pray and trust God and then continue walking right through it. Lesson #3: This is a mental battle as much as a physical one. Be prepared for that.

We spent all of the following day, Saturday, trying to get my husband tested, to determine whether or not he could safely return to work. He had a telemedicine appointment through Methodist Hospital that morning and the physician placed an order for a test. Unfortunately, they didn’t have any openings for five full days. How can that be? How is it possible that a physician cannot get tested faster than that? No one could give us an answer. If Harris County has failed in one area, I believe that it is certainly our lack of priority testing. I still cannot believe that this is how the fourth largest city in the United States of America is operating. After over three months of dealing with Covid, I really thought we had things together better than this. When Texas decided to reopen our state and to allow 70,000 protestors to gather together in insanely close proximity in downtown Houston, I really thought that we had a more solid plan for the spike that we all knew was inevitable upon reopening this state. Obviously, I was gravely mistaken and had misplaced my trust in our “system.” Since we were apparently on our own to get my husband tested, we called every number on our county’s public health website. All of them either had no answer, had a prerecorded message to try back tomorrow morning or were booked solid. We drove to several urgent care centers around town who claimed to take walk-ins, but none of them actually did. A few of them told us that they hand out 100 wristbands for that day’s allotment of tests at 5am each morning and that lines begin to form around 2am. It felt to me like we had been transported back to March, when this entire process was new and untested. But, no, it was mid-June. We made countless phone calls and begged everyone involved to test my husband. No one could help us. Finally, that night, my husband put on his scrubs and grabbed his medical badges/IDs and checked himself into the emergency room to be tested. He had no symptoms, but we were in desperate need of a test to make the difficult decisions about whether or not he should see patients and this seemed like the only way to get that test done. What a ridiculous use of resources. Lesson #4: Do what you need to do for your own family, even if it involves “thinking outside the box”. You are in charge of your own health and cannot depend on a system to handle this for you.

Saturday and Sunday (days 5 and 6 for me) were the days when my symptoms came and did not leave again. While days 1-4 were random and strange symptoms that came and went, these were here to stay. My chief complaints were intense sinus pressure (but without actual mucus or drainage), tightness in my chest (with an occasional dry cough), feeling feverish (though I haven’t actually HAD a fever) and being very, very tired. At this point, I figured that I was positive. Our pediatrician had told me there was almost no chance that the mother of a two year old who had Covid didn’t also have it herself, especially considering the insanely close proximity that most little ones have with their mamas and mine is definitely no exception to that. (Hello, sweet baby kisses, I’m looking at you!) He also told me that they are estimating that people are contagious about two days before they develop symptoms. This made me feel a little better, because our family hadn’t actually seen any other families during that window of time, but I still called everyone who I had seen since we had contact with our nanny a week before, just in case his timing window wasn’t accurate. As an aside, to date, not one of those people has had any symptoms and a few even tested negative (though they weren’t testing based on their exposure to us.) Lesson #5: As you make your decisions about where to go and who to see, know that you will need to call the people you had contact with to inform them if you do end up testing positive. One tip that I have for other families is to keep a pretty up-to-date calendar of your daily activities, especially if you’re seeing other people, to make it easier for you to notify people if you do get sick. My tendency to put everything on the calendar on my phone (because I tend to forget things!) proved to be really helpful in this part of the ordeal. Reaching out to people took some time since most of them wanted to talk about what went down. In hindsight, it might have been easier to just send one mass email explaining, but I sort of felt like I owed people a personal conversation. This may be because I was the first person in our friend group to get it, though.

Prior to getting this virus, 100% of my information on it had come from the media. I have never been a big media consumer. I recognize the bias in almost everything written and I’m generally not a person who watches the news or reads newspapers, etc. I just don’t have the time or emotional energy and I’m very turned off by the biases that skew every single piece of information they share. However, much like after 9/11, I fell victim to the media’s “panic porn” in this instance. In a desperate search for ANY information about this coronavirus, I started reading all of the articles I could. When I would get overwhelmed, I cut off my news intake and felt a lot better. But overall, I’ve read more news stories in the past three months than I have in the decade prior. I’m going to say what most of us are thinking – the media is not in this game to help us. The media is in this to keep our attention. Our attention is their source of revenue, be it subscriptions or advertising. I have no doubt that some people in the media want to get information out and tell true stories, but overall, it is a machine that profits from our giving them attention. Having now actually had Covid, I am more acutely aware of the slant of the stories in the media towards death and despair. I am not in ANY way saying that this is not a dangerous virus that is killing people. It certainly is. But, I have not been able to find very much encouraging information out there and when you actually HAVE the virus, that is a really scary thing. That is my “why” for spending countless hours of time posting on Instagram and IGTV, responding to the direct messages of both strangers and friends and now writing these blog posts in an effort to share my story. Sharing our stories gives a face to a faceless virus and enables us to process the information in a different and far less scary way. That is my sole goal in sharing with you. If I can help anyone at all with their fear about this virus or help people better prepare for it or help anyone walk through it, then I will feel like I’ve done the right thing.

So, that’s the first part of our story – how the virus snuck up on me because I wasn’t looking for the symptoms that we ended up having, especially in our nanny’s case. I think it is super important for people to know what other people’s experiences with Covid are so that they can be more aware and to know what to look for when it comes to symptoms. If you’d like to hear more from me personally about this journey, check out this video on my Instagram feed.

I’ll share the next part of our story in my next blog post, so stay tuned. And please, feel free to leave comments or questions below. Thanks for reading!

xoxoAndrea

 

 

Sharing Thoughts from a Heavy Heart

Love is Beautiful. Styled Floral Hearts by Shay Cochrane.

It has taken me a while to get to the place where I could write this blog post. My heart is so very heavy. A lot of people are apologizing for how long it has taken them to say or write something, but I’m not going to do that – and I’ll tell you why.

When I first heard the news about George Floyd, I could honestly hardly process it and I certainly couldn’t watch the video footage. My first reaction was to pray for clarity and then to wait as I processed mentally a bit. Finally, I took a deep breath and watched the video and my reaction was exactly as I had feared. I could hardly think straight after watching it. I felt positively sick. A dark and stormy cloud moved in over the rest of my day and I have had a pervasive feeling of nausea ever since. I haven’t been able to go very long without thinking about George Floyd and those who came before him. If I’m being honest, when I watched the video of Floyd’s death, I was expecting more of a fight. More danger. More angry chaos. But, it wasn’t there. It was relatively quiet and very controlled. And so cold and methodical. It was absolutely haunting.

In the days since, I haven’t said much on social media, primarily because, as I said, I don’t know that the world needs more noise. We are already overrun with the vomiting of ill-thought out words in short soundbites in today’s world. I always want what I say to be thoughtful and usually that takes time. I didn’t want to just throw out a quick, trite statement. Because that isn’t enough. And yet, I wasn’t entirely sure what to say. I was afraid of saying the wrong thing or offending someone if I wasn’t able to express my thoughts in the right way, but silence can be misconstrued as well, and I am going to trust that we can all give one another grace as we navigate these waters together. And I ask for your grace as you read this post. I won’t get everything right and I will not be able to fully express everything that is in my heart, but I ask that you give me grace in the trying. Another reason that I have kept quiet is because I wanted to yield the floor to those who know more than I do – to those who have experienced more and are “experts” on racism. The problem with that, of course, is that the world doesn’t need more experts. The world needs more individuals who are open to looking inward and making a change in their innermost beings. The world needs people who are honest with themselves about their own hearts, but also who are malleable and teachable. During this time of my quiet reflection, the Lord has undoubtedly been working on my own heart.

In the past few days, I have read a lot of articles, listened to podcasts, watched videos, watched countless Instagram Stories and read thousands upon thousands of comments from people of all races. I’ve heard several popular “influencers” and “experts” as they discuss what the problem is and what can be done about it. If I’m being honest, not many of them sat well with me. My heart was rather unsettled by what many of they said. I heard a lot of vitriol (which is very different from righteous anger). I heard a lot of condescension. I heard some people tearing white people down and others lashing out with hatred. I read some terrible (and untrue) things about police officers on the whole, not just the individual ones involved in police brutality incidents. A lot of things were likely written out of abject anger and fear, which is completely understandable at a time like this.   But the disturbing part to me was the fact that at the base, I heard mostly self-serving language. The focus of almost every person who was speaking was “me”. Whether it was about them personally and what they think is “right” or whether they were taking the liberty to speak for their entire race, it was all very focused on self. Some were giving themselves backhanded compliments and others were using self-deprecating language, but even that still pointed back to self every time. I remember Beth Moore saying once in a Bible study of hers that I attended that whether you are conceited or struggle with self-worth, the root problem is actually the same…It is pride. Whether you think too highly of yourself or think too lowly of yourself, the problem is that you are still overly focused on self. I was rocked by her statement at the time. I had literally never thought about it that way. But, isn’t pride at the very root of the situation in which we currently find ourselves?

Please don’t get me wrong, I think that the statements that people are making are made with the best of intentions. I truly think that most people are appalled by what has happened and want to help. I think that people want to effect change. In no way am I trying to throw anyone under the proverbial bus here and I’m not sitting in judgment. Each person is absolutely entitled to share what they like, given our freedom of speech in this country. It is just that not much of what people were saying was resonating with my own heart in a genuine way. And so I sat, rather shamed by what some of these people were saying and the tone in which they said it. And we all know what shame does – it paralyzes us. And so there I stayed quietly reading and listening and searching for truth amidst the noise. I searched my own heart and I begged God to show me places in my own life that needed change and to help me impart wisdom to my four boys as I raise them up to be a part of the next generation.

A few years ago, my husband and I chose to move our family into Houston’s Third Ward. If you’re not familiar with Houston, the Third Ward has an incredibly rich history. It is also home to a high proportion of the crime in the Houston area. Just a few years ago, it was noted as being the 15th most dangerous area in the United States. The area’s violent crime rate is 75.89 per 1,000 residents, and people living in the area have a 1 in 13 chance of becoming a victim of crime each year. More than a few friends and family told me why our choice was both poorly made and flat out dangerous. The Third Ward happens to be the place that George Floyd was from. It also happens to be where Beyonce grew up.

Our family was one of only two white families on our entire street, save for the one biracial family across the way. I was so excited to be living there. God had worked out our moving there with details that I won’t go into here, but let me sum it up by saying that He opened a door and we were thrilled to walk through it. I was particularly excited for both our family and my children to have a more diverse group of friends. We met some truly amazing neighbors there and because of the size of our friends’ home that we were renting there, we were able to open it up to some incredible experiences, like a local church, Restoration Community Church, hosting their baptisms in our swimming pool. It was beautiful beyond words. We attended every neighborhood party and picnic and befriended several wonderful families. During the time we lived there, my understanding of race relations changed a bit. Some things that I thought were fairly simple turned out to be more complex. When I was younger, I truly thought that the answer was to ignore color entirely – to do my best to be “colorblind.” I thought that if race was never brought up, the issues surrounding it would naturally go away on their own. I hoped that if our differences were ignored or downplayed, they would cease to be a real problem. I think a lot of us were taught that race was something not to talk about. Now, however, I really believe that various races, ethnicities and cultures are different in many ways and that those differences should not only not be ignored, but they should be acknowledged and even celebrated.

Fast forward 18 months and we had to move out of our home there because of damage done by Hurricane Harvey. We packed up our things and moved to a rental house quickly, without much time to plan. I was pregnant with our fourth child at the time and a lot happened in the year that followed. When I stop and look back on our time in the Third Ward, I realize that I learned a lot through our time there, on many fronts. One of those fronts was race relations.

I’ll never forget speaking with an older man about the fact that we lived in the Third Ward. He asked me where we lived and I told him and he made a disapproving face, which was not an uncommon occurrence for me at the time when the topic came up. He asked me some questions about it and I mentioned that I was happy that my boys would have a more racially diverse group of friends. He smiled and told me that friendships are formed by shared experiences, not by proximity of living. Ouch. He was correct in his statement, but, in my naivety, I had never considered the distinction. The more I thought about what he said, the more I realized that friendships really are formed by shared experiences – being in classes together, being on the same sports teams together, serving on the same committee or with the same charity organization, attending camp together or pursuing the same hobby – not just by a few scattered playdates or interactions. True friendships are formed when standing side by side and accomplishing something together or sitting across the table from one another and sharing a meal while you talk about life and experiences and ideas. And if you’re really intent on introducing diversity into your world, you’re going to have to include economic diversity. That’s where the real differences come into play.

As we interacted with our new friends there, I noticed many differences between our family and some of our neighbors. Some of them were very small and some of them were quite large. I don’t think that talking about them specifically adds much to this conversation and I don’t want to detract attention from the issue at hand so, suffice it to say, I think we as humans have to learn to acknowledge and to celebrate our differences. I think that it’s normal to notice differences and it’s also understandable to be a bit uncomfortable in the presence of different cultures. The problem comes when we refuse to move from that place of discomfort. When we feel safer in the similarities and refuse to explore the differences at all. When we do that, we tend to get stagnant and comfortable where we are and we tend to avoid circumstances where we might be challenged or have to seek to understand someone who is different than us. And it’s not a far leap from there to fear of the unknown or thinking that we are better than another race or culture.

Almost every interaction I’ve had with someone who is different than me has changed me in some way. I’ve spent time serving people in several countries around the world and my heart was changed by the individuals of different cultures and races with whom I interacted on every one of those journeys. My global perspective was changed, my understanding of other cultures was expanded and my compassion for people was increased. I have never regretted any of the time or money invested on those trips. I grew as a person and I walked away with far more than I gave. But understanding and compassion are simply not enough.

A couple of days ago, I came across this message from a pastor in Dallas whose teaching I have been listening to for many, many years. I’ve heard him speak in person and even met him once or twice. I have always been impressed by both his wisdom and his humility. On this topic, as usual, his words resonated deeply. And I think the reason for that is that he kept his focus on God in the midst of this current situation. In this video, he speaks to his listeners like a father, speaking with conviction and truth and giving practical ways to bring about change. Though he is a black man himself, his words speak nothing of his own experiences with racism. His focus remains on the Lord. You can listen to Dr. Tony Evans’ heart on the matter here. And I really hope that you will. (Feel free to stop and do it now. I’ll be here when you’re done.) It’s really that good and his words are so much more eloquent than mine.

I think that it is dangerous to exclude God from the conversation about race for two reasons. He is the reason for our inherent value and He is the one who can bring about lasting change. At their core, all people have value not because someone else says that they do (or in spite of someone else saying they don’t) but because we are all created in the very image of God. And God Himself is by His very nature both righteous and loving. He is a God who demands both justice and mercy. Because of His creative nature, our world is full of differences, but each one of us bears His signature. Each distinct race and ethnicity comes together in His creation to form a beautifully patterned, complete whole. The diverse nature of our world contributes to its richness and beauty. Of course, our world is also fallen and far from perfect. Often that brokenness leaves me feeling sad, angry and defeated. But, if you are a believer in Christ, then your very faith is based on the power of God to change things. Change is at the very core of the gospel, as God makes us new, through the saving power of His son, Jesus. You cannot believe the gospel and not believe that God can change things – from cultural constructs to circumstances right down to the intricacies of the human heart. Throughout the Bible, He is consistently a God of hope and change who offers us grace. My former pastor from my time living in New York is also one of my favorite authors, Tim Keller. In his book Generous Justice he says, “There is a direct relationship between a person’s grasp and experience of God’s grace and his or her heart for justice.” I find those to be wise words.

What I know about the current state of things in America and around the world is that things must change. There is little doubt about that. We must work harder to fight racism and to build a society where justice for all is upheld. We must fight oppression and stand up for those who are suffering. As I write this, riots continue and people are hurting. My heart is broken for the pain in the world right now. There is such heaviness and it is exhausting and almost paralyzing. But, God. God is not surprised. God sees. He is moved by our situation and He is in the business of changing hearts. I love the challenge that Dr. Evans gives us in the video linked above. We have to act on four levels: self, family, church and community. We cannot simply move on one of those fronts if we want to effect change. We must address all four levels. While I alone cannot really control politics or policies (even though my voice is heard through my vote), what I can do is be malleable enough to allow God to change my heart. I can take actions to learn and to love others better. And I can change the shape of my family as I commit to raising my sons to know that ALL people are made in the image of God. I can work to effect change within my faith community and in the community at large. I can vote. I may be one person, but I can effect change, however small. And if we all commit to doing that, we will see bigger changes. I do not pretend to have the answers, nor am I even sure that I have any great ideas. But, it would be a real problem if that stopped me from doing anything at all.

Recently, a black friend of mine asked me to read a work by James Baldwin. He was so incredibly passionate about it that I did so immediately. He particularly wanted me to read one story because he said it was so much like his own upbringing in Harlem.  I’m a little embarrassed to say that I had never read James Baldwin until earlier this year. I was immediately struck by his gift of writing. He has a masterful use of words that can make you feel things and see things from a different perspective in ways you can hardly believe. I couldn’t put the book down. Some of the stories were hard to read and some were beautiful, but all of them gave me some increased insight into something I really knew very little about. I think you can learn a great deal through reading and I am personally committing to making more intentional time to do more of it to learn more. During this time, it is imperative that we listen to the voices of our African American brothers and sisters and that we do so with open minds and hearts to hear what they have to say.

I serve on the board of directors of Agape Development, which is based in Houston’s Third Ward. The mission of this organization is:  Transforming our neighborhood by preparing Christ-following, independent, community leaders. If you have a heart for the adults and children in the Third Ward community of Houston, I welcome you to getting involved in this organization. Agape was started by a long-time friend of mine and his wife, who moved their family to the Third Ward fourteen years ago to make a difference in the lives of their neighbors. They are doing a mighty work there and we would love for you to join us. The people you meet will be a blessing to you and your family as much as you are to them. I’m certain of it. And that is also true of so many worthy organizations doing important work throughout our country and around the world.

All in all, there are myriad things you can do to make a difference where you are. You can learn more about other races, ethnicities and cultures by reading and listening. You can interact in an intentional and meaningful way with people of other races and ethnicities more often. You can serve others who are less fortunate than you. You can stay open to change, recognize places where change is needed and work towards that change. You can teach your children by example to love others, especially those who don’t look like them. You can peacefully protest, join organizations whose missions align with your values and donate your time and financial resources to them. Through all of that, you can simultaneously maintain focus on the God who never changes. In an ever-changing culture, He doesn’t change. And in a self-focused culture, focusing on something bigger than ourselves is actually quite liberating.

Someone once said that we tend to glance at God and gaze at life when what we need to do is gaze at God and glance at life. (I’m not sure who to attribute the quote to, but if you know, please share!) In times like these, I am reminded of how true this is. Issues of race have existed throughout history in countless times and places. Racial tensions and inequalities are hardly unique to American history. Rather than look to our own culture for the answers, I am reminded that we need to look first to the author or life Himself – the Creator of those many races and ethnicities. In Mark 12:31, He commands us to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” and to “Love your neighbor as yourself. No other commandment is greater than these.”

Will you join me in being more intentional in doing both?

 

Some (Very) Last-Minute Mother’s Day Advice

Letterboards_Social-Squares_Styled-Stock_018-1

Mother’s Day is coming up this weekend and it has the potential to be beautiful… or to be an utter disaster. If I’m being honest, this post has been percolating in my head for weeks. I have so very much I want to say on this topic, but I couldn’t quite formulate it into words. So, I waited a while to gain clarity and then waited a while longer in an attempt to gain more around what I wanted to say. I’m still not sure it’s all together, but if I wait any longer, the opportunity will have passed me by. So, while it might not be perfect, I’m going to put it out there, because Mother’s Day is headed towards us like a freight train. And make no mistake, this freight train is loaded with emotion.

I’d like to start by saying that if Mother’s Day is painful for you, you are seen and loved during this time. Maybe you’re not a mom by your own choice or maybe you’ve struggled with infertility for years. Maybe your own mother is no longer living or maybe she is, but your relationship with her is strained and is a source of deep pain. Maybe you’re adopted and never knew your birth mother and the feelings are just complex. Maybe you’ve lost a child and the pain is more than most of us can even imagine in our worst nightmares. Whatever the reason, if this holiday is hard for you, you are not alone. I am holding space for you, however you feel. I don’t have words to heal, but I do know a God who has brought me great healing surrounding the death of my father when I was a young girl. He has the same grace and healing for you. He walks through the valleys of difficulty right alongside you and He longs for you to know His heart of love for you.

If you’re a mother of grown children at this time, I hope that you still get to celebrate in some way amidst the quarantine. I hope you feel like you are deeply loved and I hope that you are getting to rest and relax and remember this weekend. I cannot even fathom where you are, if I’m being honest. I’m simultaneously jealous of your “me time” and terrified of the time when my chicks have all left the nest. But that’s a whole different blog post.

Today, I’m really writing to the mamas who are in the thick of it. A few weeks ago, I saw a meme that said something to the effect of – You just know the quarantine will still be going on over Mother’s Day and then will be lifted just in time for Father’s Day. I laughed to myself because that sounds just about typical, doesn’t it? We moms are used to being fairly unappreciated on the whole. We give and give of ourselves to our children and family and it often feels like no one sees us. Like we all that we do is taken completely for granted, and often times it is. I’m hopeful that one day when my children are older, they will appreciate what I have given to them, both in time and resources, but mostly in love. But that day feels a LONG way off when I’m consoling them for yet another superficial boo-boo or breaking up yet another fight or changing yet another stinky diaper. And that’s under normal circumstances.

In this current world scenario, moms are being asked to pick up SO MANY additional plates and keep them spinning. I know that there are dads who are also doing more at home, but for the most part, the moms are bearing a huge portion of the burden of this quarantine time at home, even if the men don’t agree. (In fact, the New York Times has an interesting article about that here.) In the past two months, we have moved beyond exhaustion to absolute depletion. I, for one, feel like I have absolutely nothing left to offer anyone, much less myself, at the end of almost every day and if I’m being honest, I don’t feel all that much better in the morning after a good night’s sleep. This is such a bittersweet time. It’s so precious to have this much time at home with our children and to be rid of the “calendar pollution” as a wise friend of mine called it recently. It’s wonderful to be together as a family and to be learning more and more about our children as we steep in this hot water together. But, it’s also draining and we are being stretched in almost unimaginable ways.

Moms are stand-in teachers, which has completely changed the dynamic of our relationship with our kids. We’ve been “task masters” around the house for years, but those tasks are generally ones of our own creation. But now, we are being asked to execute the orders of our schools and teachers and to do things they way they want them done and to rally our children and get them on board to do the work. And then to help them in doing it if they struggle at all. For many of us, that is easier said than done. And if you have multiple children, it’s all the harder. It’s enough to make you lost your ever-loving mind. Let me pause here and say, please know that I mean NO disrespect to our schools or teachers. I’m beyond grateful for both of them. Saying that being a mom in charge of virtual learning in our houses is hard should take absolutely nothing away from how hard our teachers are also working. This is not a binary situation – it can be hard for all involved. We’re ALL building a bridge as we walk across it, so to speak, and that is always challenging and requires that we give one another enormous amounts of grace.

We’re also being asked to be one-woman I.T. departments. Oh, the number of apps to download, the passwords to remember, the broken links, the printing and scanning and emailing and troubleshooting and that’s to say nothing of keeping the electronic devices charged all the time! (This has helped me with that some.) Some of us are teaching our young children how to use a laptop or an iPad for the first time. (Don’t get me started on how we’ve been told to keep them away from electronics for so many years and are now being forced to give them a crash-course in using them while they do so 7 hours a day.) We are figuring out how to get simultaneous FaceTime calls going on different devices when your kids aren’t old enough to have their own phone. There are Zoom calls to keep a schedule of and due dates to remember and school/art/science/preschool supplies that are required.

At the same time, over on the home front, obtaining groceries and toiletries and cleaning products has become a monumental task of gargantuan proportions. Going to the store can be a nightmare of empty shelves, limitations on the number of people on one aisle and face masks that make you feel like you’re suffocating. And planning ahead for delivery (if you can even get it) is another difficulty and finding what you need with all of the items out of stock and the purchasing limitations (my family of six can eat a dozen eggs in a day, thank you very much) feels like a game of high-level strategy sometimes. Many of us had become quite reliant on Amazon’s Prime delivery service that comes in two days. That has vanished for most items as they try and prioritize essentials. It takes longer and requires more mental capacity than ever before to execute many small tasks. And if you’re also doing it for a loved one who is elderly and confined to their home? Just one more thing on the tower of tasks. We are figuring out how to make our kids feel special on their birthdays in this stay-at-home and away from friends and family time. We are trying to come up with creative ways to celebrate our spouse’s birthday and our anniversaries and loved ones’ special days from afar. Some of us are working from home, others are trying to keep small businesses afloat, trying to figure out how to avoid furloughing employees or at least keeping health insurance for them. Some of us are working outside of the home or our husbands are, because we (or they) are considered essential workers and that’s another set of challenges during this time.

All the while, our own emotions churn within us. We are fearful for our children, our parents and ourselves. For our collective health, both physical and mental, during this time. We are drying the tears of our children when they are sad and cannot even explain why. Their structure has been yanked from beneath them and it is starting to show up in fits and tantrums or tears that cannot even be explained. And the moms are the ones trying their best to protect this sweet time of childhood for them and not let it show that the world actually does feel like it is falling apart right now. We create a safe space for our families within the four walls of our home and it takes insane amounts of energy and determination.

That brings me to Mother’s Day. If I’m honest, Mother’s Day is always a bit of a struggle for me. Most moms that I know want to celebrate with the day their children, but we also desperately want some alone time. We yearn for quiet and solace and space. We want time to get a massage, a pedicure or just read a book uninterrupted, dare I say with a warm latte in hand. (We are quite used to drinking coffee cold.) We want someone to serve us a meal that we don’t have to cook or clean up after and we long for rest. Yet, we are pulled to be “Mom” even on our own day. It is a 24/7 job, after all. We still need to be up and dressed well for church or brunch or maybe even to host a meal for family in our own homes. Our children still need us on Sunday, so we summon the energy to slap a smile on our weary faces and to praise our littles for their handmade art projects and to celebrate our own moms if we are blessed enough to have them with us. There is a tension in this day. . .and that’s on a normal Mother’s Day.

On this particular Mother’s Day, in the midst of Covid-19, we enter the weekend weary to the bone, unsure of where to get more energy to carry on. We have laid down our desire for the Mother’s Day celebrations at school with our little ones and the sweet memories that those create. We have laid down our hopes of travel plans for the Summer and we are wondering just what we will do with our children over the next few months if the swimming pools and museums and zoos remain closed and now that day camps and classes are being cancelled. We are in need of being recharging more than ever before. Which is why I think this day has more pressure on it than in prior years. I don’t have a perfect answer to our collective problem, but these are my thoughts…

Take a moment to stop and think about what you need right now. Do you need to be left alone for an afternoon or a day to read or sleep or binge watch TV? Do you need some time with your best girlfriend talking on the phone or FaceTiming with a coffee or a glass of wine in hand or do you need to have a cocktail hour with a friend sitting 6 feet apart on her front porch? Do you need to not cook any meals for a day or a weekend and not clean up after them either? Do you need a ridiculous amount of fresh flowers – some for every room? Alone time for a bubble bath? Do you need a little retail therapy online, be it a big budget or a tiny one, just to grab a few things that bring you a dose of happy? Maybe it’s to snag your favorite candle to make your home smell sweeter or to help you relax or some cute and comfortable new leisure wear for all of these days at home. Maybe it’s a gorgeous pair of earrings that make you feel beautiful each morning even when you don’t take the time to wash your hair or put on makeup. Maybe it’s a cozy new throw to snuggle up under on your favorite chair with your favorite book. Or a new coffee mug to make your mornings just a bit brighter. Maybe it’s a purse you’ve been wanting forever or a new pair of running shoes or a cute + comfy pair of shorts for the upcoming warm days in the backyard with your kids. Whatever it is, take the time to notice what your heart really wants and then set your mind to getting it. This likely requires some communication with your spouse or kids, but I would encourage you to let them know what you need and make a plan for getting it. I’ve learned the hard way over the years that waiting for them to figure out what you need or to come up with a plan for you leads to unmet expectations and frustration on the part of everyone involved. A very wise friend in San Francisco told me that a few years ago and while I resisted her idea a bit at first, I realized that she was right.

During this time of staying at home, I have developed a new appreciation for the simple things – time with my family, time spent outside in nature, caring less about what I look like and more about being present in the moment. I’ve been reminded of how important family dinners are and how much fun it is to have a cleared calendar and just enjoy the simple things – slowing down, listening to your children laugh, reading, baking, riding a bike, being creative, just dreaming. You get the idea. I don’t feel like I’ve had a lot of extra time to do those things, but I’ve gotten enough of a glimpse of them that I know I need more of them in my life. Because of that, I’m convinced that this slower Mother’s Day weekend could be really, really beautiful.

If the reality of this weekend of Mother’s Day doesn’t come close to what you hoped it would be, know that you are still loved. You’re doing a great job, mama. If no one else is telling you, let me be the one to say it – Well done. It may feel like no one is noticing all that you do, but God is. He sees you where you are and He smiles upon watching you with your children. He is touched by the very details of your situation, whatever they are. He has chosen YOU to be their mother and He has chosen THEM for you. You are the very best mother for them in the world, even if you question it sometimes deep in the recesses of your heart where no one can hear.

Husbands, this is the time to love on your wife in extravagant ways. She needs you right now. If she is struggling, she needs you to reach down into the pit of exhaustion (and sometimes despair) that we all fall into every now and then and help her out of it. Don’t skimp on Mother’s Day this year. I know that it requires more planning, but such is the state of the world we live in. It’s not an excuse to do nothing. Buy her a gift (or a few!) if you are able. And for that, I would encourage you to shop small and/or local if you can. Small businesses need our support at times like these. Buy her flowers. Grab a card for her or write her a love note on a nice piece of stationery. If you’re struggling in this economy, there is plenty you can do for free. Give her some alone time, protected from the constant needs of the children, if just for a while. Give her some extra time to sleep or just to veg out in front of the television, uninterrupted. Make (or buy) her favorite meal. Bring her a latte in bed. Force her to take some time for herself, be that a bubble bath, a long run, a spa day at home or some time in the garden. Let her know how grateful you are that she pours everything she has into her children constantly. Tell her what makes you proud of her and how she is sowing seeds now that will reap a great harvest later, because sometimes she forgets that. Tell her that she is a good mother, because she doubts that on a daily basis. Love on your wife and I promise that it will pay dividends for your whole family.

And, of course, if you want to spoil her with jewelry, give me a call. I absolutely love helping with that! (And gift cards for handmade jewelry from your favorite designer are always a great last-minute option!)

 

**Disclaimer: This post contains a handful of affiliate links through Amazon’s Affiliate Program, which means that if you click on a link and end up buying something, I make a very small commission, at no cost to you.

The blog is back!

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Once upon a time (a little over a year ago), there was a horrible technical glitch that took down a blog (this one). The writer of the blog was so sad that she wasn’t quite sure what to do. All of her years of writing vanished in an instant. How can it be, she cried. How? She tried and tried to revive it, to no avail. She tried asking her web designer and then asking another one and then another. She tried asking the hosting company and various other online resources, but no luck. She would get discouraged and give up and then a fire would light in her and she would try again with no luck. She almost gave up entirely and started completely over. It was so disheartening.

Obviously, the girl in the fairy tale is me and the moral of the story is – back everything up. In multiple places. And not just that, know in advance how to access and restore that backup. (That’s where my particular failure was.) But now, my blog is BACK! And I couldn’t be more excited.

Today, I had one of those days when a fire was lit under me because I had some things I wanted to share and my blog felt like the right place to do it. So, I emailed the hosting company yet again and pulled out my backup and googled yet again for guidance. And then I stopped and said a desperate prayer, pleading with God to just make the stupid thing work, because I had something to say and I was out of ideas on how to fix it. I kid you not that I clicked on the link to my blog editing website not thirty seconds after saying that prayer and up came my entire blog. All of it. Every. Single. Entry. I was floored. (But also not, because this is how God works in my life sometimes.) I could NOT figure out what had made the difference. I desperately tried to figure out how to save everything off or back it up again, thinking this must be a fluke and it could go away at any moment.

Then, the email came from the guy at the hosting company. I had forgotten I emailed him, since I’ve emailed them for help so many times over the past year and a half. But this time, I got someone different and he had a different idea and whatever he did fixed my problem and resurrected my blog! I am so, so grateful. So, here I am. It’s been a long time, but I’m back. I’ve missed you in this space, friends.

Big Bambú

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I adore the Museum of Fine Arts Houston and each time I go, I’m inspired in different ways for my jewelry designs. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about the special exhibits there, its that I shouldn’t wait until the last minute to go see them. By that point, the word has gotten out and the lines are insane as procrastinators (like me) realize they’re about to miss something really cool and everyone flocks to see it. It’s happened to me several times and I always think I’ve learned my lesson.

This time, I had a pretty good excuse. I was having a baby when the exhibit first came out and I wasn’t comfortable taking a newborn to a place with so many people. But, as the deadline approached, I realized I had better jump on it before the actual closing weekend or I was going to be sorry! So, today, my husband got off of work a little early and we loaded up the kiddos and headed to the museum to see the Big Bambú exhibit, “This Thing Called Life”. And boy, was it worth it! Our kids had an absolute blast at this interactive exhibit and I’m so glad that we took them.

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The exhibit consists of over 3,000 poles of bamboo tied together. The bamboo forms a swirling bridge pathway from the 2nd floor of the gallery down to the ground level. The artists, Mike and Doug Starn, are twin brothers and their work is truly incredible in scale. This installation is the first one that is completely indoors, interacting with the museum itself. Thankfully, I had heard from some friends that there were guidelines for who could visit and I checked out the museum’s website for the details on restrictions. Pregnant women, babies and kids under 6 aren’t allowed to climb on the 2nd story of the structure. Also, you have to wear closed shoes with rubber soles. (I wore my current favorites from M.Gemi seen below!) You can check out the full list of guidelines here. We took all of our children our youngest two who aren’t old enough for the upper-level pathway still really enjoyed the ground level part of the exhibit. Hubs and I took turns taking the oldest two on the pathway while the other stayed at ground level navigating the bamboo sticks below.

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If you’re near Houston, I highly recommend you check out this exhibit before it leaves on September 3rd. It’s really cool and is not to be missed! If you’re not near Houston or can’t make it, visit the artists’ website here. Their work is sure to amaze you!

For a preview of the Houston exhibit, check out our photos below!

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LEGO Dudes

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My boys love LEGOS. There’s no doubt about that. (Downside: Stepping on a LEGO barefoot may be one of the worst pains around. #boymomproblems) So, I knew they’d flip over the new LEGO People sculptures in downtown Houston.

LEGO Artist Nathan Sawaya builds incredible life-sized LEGO figures and downtown Houston is the newest (temporary) home for them. Allen Center at 1200 Smith Street has a cute new green space dubbed “The Acre” which currently hosts six of the colorful dudes hanging around on park benches. Apparently, each figure is composed of over 21,000 LEGOs, are held together with adhesive and takes up to three weeks to make. The LEGO People are in various fun positions and are amazingly life-like in style. LEGO even endorses him as a Lego Certified Professional on their website. Pretty cool!

We took the boys this weekend and they loved running around in the cute green space and taking photos with these guys. The artist has a full exhibit, “The Art of the Brick” that is traveling around the world. Sadly, Houston isn’t on the upcoming schedule, so hop on over to the park to see these guys for free to tide you over. They’re only at Allen Center through August 10th, but will then be at 2 Houston Center (located at 909 Fannin) from August 13th to 24th.

I highly recommend heading down there to see them and snap some fun photos. I also highly recommend taking some water with you – it is hot out and you’ll likely want to hang out for a bit! Also, if you’re interested in my shoes (shown in the top photo), they’re the Cerchio style from M. Gemi and they’re both super cute and crazy comfy!! Shop them via this link for $50 off!

For a sneak peek of the awesome LEGO people, check out our photos below.

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Prime Day!

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I have a serious relationship with Amazon Prime. As a mom of four kids under 7 who also owns her own business, I don’t know any other mode than “crazy busy”, so convenience is key for me. I feel like I order almost everything on Amazon Prime these days. (Sidenote: Remember when it was just books? I barely do.) I mean, who has the time (or energy?!) to drive to the actual store with four kids in tow to buy things we need? Certainly not me. So, I’m super duper grateful for Amazon Prime. I order everything from diaper cream to printer paper and kids’ birthday party gifts to makeup on Amazon. And lately, some of these items seem to magically appear on the same day I order them. What kind of magical craziness is that?

I can’t imagine that you’re not already an Amazon Prime member, but if that’s the case, you can join here with a 30-day free trial. And if you are a member, then hopefully you’re taking advantage of their annual Prime Day sale, which is 24 hours of savings that started today at 3pm. There are a TON of deals to be had, but I wanted to share our five favorite items that are on sale now for Prime Day.

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Kindle Fire for Kids – Probably like you, I have a love/hate relationship with electronics, especially when it comes to my kids. I don’t want them hooked on electronics, yet with four boys, a mom needs some quiet time for sanity and electronics are one good (and inexpensive!) babysitter. We do our best to use them sparingly, but they are crazy helpful on long plane rides (and rainy days!) I love the Kindle Fire for Kids because it is relatively inexpensive compared to other options, so they they can each have their own, and it comes with a 2 year warranty – no matter how it gets damaged (I’m looking at you, 3rd child who left theirs outside for 2 days…) and they come with these awesome protective cases. But the main reason that I love them is that you can put MAJOR controls on them. You can limit content by age appropriateness, you can disable web access, you can limit by time of day or by time played and even let them earn more time by reading books on them! All in all, I feel much safer about them having these than I do iPads at this age (our oldest is 7 years old.) Also, with Amazon Free Time, all of the games are free (many of which you’d pay for on your phone or iPad) – which is a win! You can have a profile on them as well to read your Kindle books, but let’s be honest – your kids aren’t likely to share with you! Snag yours today for 31% off, making it $89.99.

 

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Ring Doorbell – We absolutely LOVE our Ring doorbell. I love being able to see who is at the door when I’m upstairs with the kids (or rocking a baby to sleep!) as well as who is there when we are traveling and away from home. Once, while on a trip, a strange man came to our door at 2am, peering in the windows, and my husband spoke to him through the Ring doorbell app and he high-tailed it out of there. As if I wasn’t already, I was definitely hooked then! You can snag one today on Amazon Prime Day for 30% off! We also use Ring floodlight cameras in the back. Love those, too!

 

Screenshot 2018-07-16 22.52.41 Nest Indoor Camera – This is what we use in our kids’ rooms. I love it because it is simple, easy to set up and allows two-way communication. (Yes, I yell at my boys to go to sleep using the app almost every night! Parenting is hard!) I also love that I can see all of their rooms in one place and it has a double layer of security for the WiFi portion. We used video monitors when the first three kids were little and I liked them, but the darned things all seemed to break right at a year. So far, our Nest cameras are going strong on year two. Save 10% on Prime day on these.

 

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40″ Saucer Spinner Tree Swing – My sister-in-law gave my kids this for Christmas two years ago and it was an immediate favorite. The 40″ version ensures that all three big boys can squeeze on it together and they LOVE spinning around on this and when Daddy spins them so high that they almost hit the tree trunk… #yikes! Snag this endlessly fun toy for 43% off here.

 

 

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Vitamix Blender – There is no question that our Vitamix is the most used tool in our kitchen. I use it for soups, smoothies, sauces, whipped mashed potatoes, salad dressings, homemade paleo mayonnaise and even making fresh almond butter, all of which are crazy easy in this blender. It pulverizes things so smoothly with its crazy strong motor that I don’t know how I lived without it before getting one. It even heats up soups as it blends, so they are piping hot and ready to eat when they come out. It’s a real time saver. And the very best part is that it is self-cleaning. Pour in some soapy water, press a button and watch the magic happen. Then, rinse and air dry and you’re ready to go for next time! That, in and of itself, makes me use it more often. We have the professional series, which you can grab on Amazon for 28% off, making it $499, which I love because of the automatic setting options, but if you want a lower entry price point, grab a refurbished Vitamix 5300 in this adorable red for just $269.99. It still comes with their amazing warranty options! I’m certain you’ll love this blender.

Obviously, there are a TON more deals to be had on Amazon Prime Day, but these are the items that are among our VERY favorites in my house. They’re ones that I would tell you to snag quickly if you don’t have time to pour over the entire Amazon website, searching for deals and steals. If you do have time for that, though, help a girl out and let me know what I’m missing out on in the comments below, because this year – I don’t have much time to shop the sale!

 

*Disclosure: Please note that some of the links above are affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase after clicking through the link. Please understand that I purchased every item mentioned above on my own (nothing was gifted), and I recommend them because they are helpful and useful, not because of the very small commissions I make if you decide to buy something through my links. Please do not spend any money on these products unless you feel you need them or that they will help you.