Keeping the mojo alive when you have kids

Keeping that spark in your marriage after kids!

My husband and I will have our 33rd anniversary this year. We raised our son and have remained best friends. We managed to keep our relationship alive and well throughout our entire marriage without a lot of extra effort. As a matter of fact, I don’t recall ever feeling like we had to make an effort to stay close.

For us, our relationship has always been a priority. We need to keep our relationship healthy in order to keep the family together and everything running smoothly in our household.

Thinking back, I can see how we have remained close because of a few simple things that we’ve always incorporated into our lives. None of it was ever “work” either. It was fun, as it should be!

These are in no particular order because each one is as important as the other and they all work together.

Don’t stop showing signs of love and affection! Our son never said, “ew” or “gross” because it is natural in our house to hug and kiss each other every day. I actually think it’s great for your kids to see that you are in love. What could be more comforting to a child than knowing he or she is being raised in a house where everyone loves each other? These little acts of affection like hugging, kissing and slow dancing in the kitchen should be part of every household. More times than not, kids know when their parents are arguing. Shouldn’t they also see that you are in love? Cuddle on the couch during a movie, kiss, hold hands, give a peck on the cheek or forehead, touch your partner’s face or play with their hair, rub their shoulders, sit on their lap. Human touch is SO important for many reasons but ESSENTIAL for a healthy romantic relationship.

(I shouldn’t even have to say this but feel the need to say that you OBVIOUSLY need to use your best judgment. Please don’t gross your kids out, embarrass them or worse, traumatize them! You should know what needs to be kept private and what’s appropriate!)

Doing something nice for each other should be part of any relationship. Make your partner smile.

It really doesn’t take a lot of effort to do small acts of loving kindness. We keep a dry erase board where we leave each other love notes, jokes or pictures. Make your partner’s favorite cookies “just because” or even just bring him or her a cup of coffee in bed. I get breakfast in bed almost every day because my husband gets up before I do. He makes himself breakfast anyway so brings some up to me too. It’s wonderful and always appreciated.

If your partner usually does the dishes, you can do them. Put a little piece of chocolate or love note on his or her pillow once in a while. A few more ideas are to rub his or her shoulders, light candles for dinner (When our son was growing up we always had candles lit at the table. When he was old enough it was his job to light the candles. It’s lovely to know he incorporates this into his household now too), make the plans for your next date night, let him or her choose the next movie. The ideas are endless.

If you’re saying to yourself, “I take care of people all day long, the last thing I want to do is take care of someone else, let alone a grown person!” then I submit to you this to ponder…this person is the love of your life. This person is the one and only that you have given all of your love to. Your kids will grow and leave the nest one day. This is the person you will grow old with. This is the person who will be with you through thick and thin. If you’re out of work one day or find yourself sick or depressed, they are the one who will be there.

Yes, you deserve the same in return and should get it. Chances are, both of you put work into the family. You are a TEAM. If you’re the one having a particularly difficult day or week then your partner should help you out and maybe even pamper you a little bit. If they are the one who is down, it is your job to help lift them up. Yes, I said job. Because as a member of a team we each have responsibilities. You agreed to that when you decided to commit to each other. You reach out to them and save them when they are over their head. That’s what team members do. They don’t just watch each other sink.

Honestly, I truly believe this one thing could save a marriage. It is imperative for parents to make a commitment to continue to prioritize their relationship even when they have kids. Especially when they have kids!

There is no perfect relationship. Many people have commented about my husband and I being the perfect couple or having the best relationship or being lucky. None of that is true. No one knows what goes on behind the scenes. Just like everyone else, we have our annoyances and arguments.

Do all the things you’ve always known are important to the relationship. Be honest but kind to each other. And when you lose your temper and aren’t kind, apologize with your whole heart and try to change. Trust one another. If you can’t trust there is no real love. Root for each other. Help each other as much as possible.

You know the advice Tim Gunn always gave on Project Runway? That’s right, “Make it work!” I love that saying because it has been our motto for years. When you are deeply committed enough to get married or decide to spend your life together and have kids, you need to be able to get passed the hard parts too. You are going to have to look passed flaws and mistakes. We are all only human. Do this before you ever have a chance to drift apart and you never will!

My mom already watched our son when we were working (or we paid for daycare which is so expensive) so we didn’t have access to a babysitter or the money for “date nights” but it never stopped us from doing fun things any chance we could get. We took our son with us for outings like the zoo and museum. We had a favorite Asian restaurant in Chicago where the soup was was delicious and inexpensive. We visited relatives, went to the park, played outside our own house and came up with anything we could to get out of the house to just go do something fun. Getting out of the house is really important. All work and no play is no way to live. Enjoy every opportunity to be outdoors. Even if it means leaving the house a mess. The dishes and laundry can wait.

As you both settle into new roles as parents your lives are going to change. Each year of your relationship will bring new and exciting adventures along with some challenges too. All of the things you go through change you as a person. It doesn’t happen all at once but subtly over time. Your interests will change, priorities will change, goals and dreams will change. Allowing your partner to go through whatever they are growing through is essential. Just like we wouldn’t want someone to box us into a certain category or lifestyle, we can’t do that to others. If you don’t grow together you will surely grow apart. Embrace and appreciate each other as you both change through the seasons of life.

No one has said it better, in my opinion, than Khalil Gibran:

On Marriage
 Kahlil Gibran (1883-1931)

You were born together, and together you shall be forevermore.
You shall be together when the white wings of death scatter your days.
Ay, you shall be together even in the silent memory of God.
But let there be spaces in your togetherness,
And let the winds of the heavens dance between you. 

Love one another, but make not a bond of love:
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup.
Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf
Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone,
Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music. 

Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping.
For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.
And stand together yet not too near together:
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.

May you be happy and well.

Easter Ideas: Toddler Edition

I thought I’d throw together a few ideas for Easter for the toddlers in your lives. They have so much fun with Easter egg hunts and games, enjoying nicer weather (fingers crossed) and getting together with family.

This peach one is just gorgeous. It’s available here

Love this one from Etsy for those of you who like to go all out.

How cute is the back on this adorable dress. Again, from Etsy

This tutu Easter basket is available from Target but how easy would this be to make?!

Cotton candy Peeps and

Carrot cake Oreos also available at Target now for the grown ups.

Three piece chambray set from Target for $19.99

$ 21.99 also from Target online (and it matches that little girl dress above if you have a girl and a boy!)

Cute ice cream cone eggs tutorial here.

These pretty swirly designed require only shaving cream and food coloring. Of course you can always decorate with crayons beforehand or stickers afterward too to jazz them up even more.

Tissue paper eggs!

Cute “sprinkle” eggs. How to here

I don’t have any little ones in the house now but I may have to try these myself anyway! I love deviled eggs and would enjoy making and looking at these Robin’s eggs.

Galaxy eggs look very cool too! I’m sure a toddler could help in some part of doing these with supervision.

Below is a list I came up with for Easter basket fillers.

And just a few Easter games too:

And a bunch more inexpensive easy Easter games.

Free printable coloring pages:

Hope you all have a wonderful upcoming Easter!

May you be happy and well.

How this peds nurse soothes newborns!

This is for first time moms and dads!

First of all, congratulations!

I am sure that within a week or two of having your baby home you will fall into a natural pattern of soothing your baby. You’ll start to recognize that different cries mean different things soon also.

Even though your baby is finally here at home, those first few weeks can be difficult. If you’re the mom who just delivered, you’re tired and sore and maybe a bit overwhelmed. You may or may not have help. Not having help can be really stressful since you’re also recuperating and need lots of rest which you’re likely not getting. You’re still getting to know your baby and his or her preferences and there’s no such thing as a schedule yet.

Even if you’ve been preparing for this incredible time for a long time, you can’t know what it’s really like until you experience it.

As a peds nurse, I’ve learned that there are some really simple ways to soothe newborns. I’ve worked with some medically fragile babies who have had tubes and cords and ventilators and pumps and have felt very sick so I know if I could soothe a baby that’s not even my own that you can too!

Take a deep breath and just relax.

There are a few reasons babies cry, so the first thing I do is go through my little mental checklist to make sure it’s not a quick fix.

1. Are they hungry?

Newborns especially need to eat frequently to keep their blood sugar up. It’s always worth a try to feed them.

2. Are they hungry but not latching?

If they seem to want to suck but can’t latch or start sucking then stop to fuss often they may not be able to latch properly If you’re breast feeding you’ll have to try different positions. (Breastfeeding issues are their own entity as you may know. That’s a different post). For bottle fed babies, try different positions or a different nipple. Make sure the formula isn’t too hot or cold. If you’re having more problems than those quick fixes can solve, it’s time to see the pediatrician. when hungry, babies should suck readily and eat til they are full. The suck reflex is one of the first reflexes they are born with.

3. Do they need a diaper change?

Newborns aren’t used to feeling wet or soiled so they might find it uncomfortable. (Fast forward a while and they will be crawling around with a saggy diaper that is half their weight! Lol)

4. Are they too warm or cold?

Believe it or not some babies do not prefer to be swaddled/bundled. However, lots of babies do like to be swaddled so try different ways of wrapping him or her, different weight blankets and various pressures of snugness.

5. Are they sick or in pain?

Did they just get an immunization? Perhaps position them differently so they aren’t on the injection site. Some babies do get mildly ill after vaccines which is normal. They may even have a low grade fever. Do they need their nose suctioned? Are they gassy or need to burp? It doesn’t hurt to try burping them. Feel their tummy to see if it’s firm (gassy) and watch their face and body reactions to see if touching their tummy is uncomfortable. If they are gassy you can try lightly rubbing their tummy to get things moving.

Below is an image from Pinterest I found that shows correct positions to try for gassy babies.

(Some babies are born with gerd and need some interventions, whether it be switching formulas, not lying flat after feedings or more. If your baby vomits a lot after feedings and doesn’t seem to be able to hold them down let your pediatrician know right away. you’ll know it’s not the normal “spit up” babies have because it’s a lot more in volume and frequency. Other signs are very frequent hiccups and coughing during or after feeds in addition to fussiness)

6. Are they simply tired and can’t fall asleep on their own?

After doing a quick investigation of the above five points, try rocking them in a rocking chair while holding them close to you.

I would avoid bouncing them, shushing them or letting them “cry it out.” Newborns need to be close to their moms and dads a lot. Like, A LOT, a lot. They need their environment to be as calm as possible and are sensitive to the mood of their caregivers. If you’re anxious they will be less likely to settle down.

Another tidbit of advice is to not make it extremely quiet and dark at nap time. Babies should be able to fall asleep with a normal amount of house noise and lighting. If you start doing something special you will find that they need that special thing all the time. I know one person who would rub their daughter’s back to get her to go to sleep. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, but the parents turned it into a routine and were doing it even when the little girl was five! One of my baby patients needed his hand held in order to fall asleep. I am not kidding you that I had to put my hand through the bars of his crib and he would hold it so tightly that even after he fell asleep, when I tried to ease it away, he’d wake up instantly! It was a real struggle to get him out of that habit. In the beginning, it always seems sweet that your baby “needs” to have these cute quirky habits but trust me, it will be torture for your child and any other caregiver (when you’re not around) when they are trying to get them to go to sleep.

A little word about “self-soothing” now. Newborns absolutely, positively have no way of doing it. They can’t just automatically self-soothe so it is up to us to soothe them. You can introduce a lovey (a soft stuffed animal or blanket) as early as your like. A mobile, sound maker or heartbeat sound machine in a stuffed animal are all nice for when he or she is feeling fine and it’s nap time but a fussy baby means something is wrong. Crying themselves to sleep out of exhaustion isn’t healthy, in my nursing opinion.

I PROMISE that no matter how fussy your baby or how often they are fussy, with patience and diligence, you can figure out what works. I don’t make promises lightly but I have never had a baby patient that I couldn’t soothe just by going through these simple steps and then, of course, for medically challenged babies, going through more steps focused on their medical problems which I can write about also if anyone is interested.

You got this Mamas and Papas!

Feel free to ask questions or leave comments!

Best of luck to you today and always!