Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Lunchbox Love: School lunch ideas, tips and tricks




Between my school age and preschool kids I will make approx 1350 lunches this school year. 

I have many parenting weaknesses but one of my strengths is making school lunches. I have been making them for 12 years and have another 12 plus to go. It drives my hubby batty but I do make individual lunches for each kid. Usually the fruit/vegetable and treat are similar but the main part is different. It is a long school day, I want my kids to eat their lunch, so I pack things I know they will eat. If they are having a tough day I want them to know that at lunch their favorite sandwich and treat is waiting for them. It is like a hug from me. Disclaimer: By May everyone gets the same lunch and it doesn't look nearly as pretty as the first week of school!

The picture above shows some of my kids favorite lunches.
Top Left: Cheese quesadillas (I make them in the morning then wrap them in tinfoil), carrots, and gummy bears 
Bottom Left: Sandwich, apples, and Oreos 
Top Right: Cheese, Crackers and Pepperoni (I use silicone reusable cupcake liners to keep them separated), grapes and carrots
Bottom Right: Pita Quarters, single serving of hummus from Wegmans, blueberries and carrots
Some other favorites are: chicken nuggets (I cook them in the morning and wrap them in tin foil), lunch meat and cheese roll ups, salads and burritos.


Most mornings I feel like Fred the Baker from the old Dunkin Donut Commercials..."Time to make the lunches"

I want to share one of my favorite lunch tools - easylunchboxes bento boxes. A friend introduced them to me over 3 years ago and they are awesome! The ones that I use have 3 compartments and a lid. They are sturdy, dishwasher safe (seriously, they hold up really well in the dishwasher) and only 2 pieces!! I love that the lid stays on but the kids can still get it off at lunch time without struggling. I also love that it cuts down on our use of plastic sandwich bags. My favorite part is that a set of 4 is only $13.95!! This is not an ad or sponsored post, I use them everyday for my kids school lunches. 

My tips and tricks for no lunch drama for mama in the morning are:
  • Do as much prep work the night before as you can. A week's worth of PB&J sandwiches can go in the freezer and be taken out the night before and put in the fridge to thaw.
  • Get the kids involved. My older girls make their own lunches the night before and my younger kids let me know what they want and pick out their snacks and treats.
  • Have some options left for the end of the week when the groceries are running low, i.e. bagels and cream cheese can work as a sandwich, oranges when the strawberries run out.
What do you pack for your kids lunches? 

Do you have any favorite school lunch tools and tips?

Saturday, June 16, 2018

The Last Picture


C:\Users\Brosseau Home Office\Documents\C\Users\brosseab\Documents\Jane\My Pictures\Dad and the girls.jpg
My Dad with my three oldest girls - December 2009

2018 marks 9 years since my dad passed away. I can’t believe it has been that long ago, some days it feels like yesterday and other times it feels like a lifetime ago. Losing my dad has had a huge impact on who I am as a mother.
This picture was taken on Dec. 27th 2009. My dad passed away on January 8th, 2010. Right before Christmas we had received the devastating news that my dad’s lung cancer had spread everywhere and that he had little time left. When this picture was taken we didn’t know how little time that would be. 
A quick back story, my dad was diagnosed with Stage 4 Lung Cancer the end of September 2009. He had no symptoms except for a cough, we were completely blind sided. He battled bravely undergoing chemotherapy and radiation. That December we found out that the cancer was everywhere and my dad said no more treatments. December was a blur, we quickly baptized our 3 daughters, it was something that my dad felt really strongly about and the only thing he and I ever argued about. My parents had come to stay with us for Christmas. Our good friend Amy is a fabulous photographer and I had asked her if she could take family pictures for us after Christmas. My dad had been really sick and I thought several times about canceling the photo shoot. We went through with it and I am so grateful that we did. Cancer treatments robbed my dad of his signature dark thick hair and mustache, but his smile and the twinkle in his blue eyes was still there. These pictures have become treasured gifts to us. I don’t think I can ever put into words how thankful I am to my dear friend for leaving her family right after Christmas and taking these pictures for us.
I miss my dad every day. He was only able to meet 3 of my 9 babies. Shortly after he passed away we found out that I was pregnant. We did not find out the gender of the baby and when the baby was a boy, I sobbed. Our first boy! I think everyone in the delivery room cried with us.  I knew it was my dad sending me a sign, that he was still with us in a different way. We named his middle name after my dad and Roo is so much like him. He has his smile and the same twinkle in his blue eyes, thankfully not my dad’s ears, just kidding dad. Several of my kids have my dad's mannerisms and it makes my heart happy. Since my dad's passing he has become a cross between a saint and a super hero to my kids. My dad was not perfect, but he was a good kind person. I love that my kids ask questions about him and that I can share stories about him. My dad was an only child as well and I am not sure what he would have thought of our big loud crazy family, but I would give anything to have one more day with him and have him meet all my kiddos.
When you lose a parent you become part of a club that you would never ask to be a member of. The grief I feel from losing my dad is always with me. It has changed over the years and changed me. The loss of a loved one is not something that you get through or over, it is always with you in some form. Right after my dad passed was the loneliest I have ever felt. My husband and friends were wonderfully supportive, but being an only child I did not have any siblings to share the grief or burden of helping to pick up the pieces. In hind sight that experience may have set me on the course for having a large family. I know having siblings doesn't guarantee that you will have their support or a wonderful relationship with them, but I am so happy that my kids have each other.

This past October, for my 40th birthday, my mom and Bill sent me and my oldest daughter to England and Wales for a week to see my dad's side of the family. It was an amazing trip to see all our relatives and visit the places that I went with him as a kid. I felt his presence often on that trip.


My dad always loved birds. The house I grew up in had big sliding doors that looked out onto a deck. My dad would sit on the couch doing a crossword puzzle and watch the birds at the bird feeder. His favorites were the cardinals and blue jays. Over the past nine years I have often seen cardinals and think that they are a sign from my dad. A friend who also lost her dad posted this, "A cardinal is a representative of a loved one who has passed. When you see one, it means they are visiting you. They usually show up when you most need them or miss them..."
Hug your loved ones extra tight and take all those family pictures. Life is precious and time is short.




Saturday, May 5, 2018

A Truthful look at Postpartum - 9 Months In/9 Months Out with baby #9

9 months ago we welcomed our ninth baby, a beautiful baby girl

My body has carried and delivered 9 babies and 1 angel baby in 13 years. I am proud of every stretch mark and excess fold of skin. I had hypermesis gravidarium in 6 out of my 9 pregnancies. I have had countless bags of IV fluids, Zofran pumps, iron infusions and 2 blood transfusions during my pregnancies.

Just like every pregnancy can be different so is the recovery. This postpartum recovery has been my hardest. I had physical postpartum issues that I haven’t had before. Thankfully my midwife suggested pelvic physical therapy which healed all those issues for me (see previous blog post). My youngest 3 kiddos were 2 and under which I think also added to a difficult recovery.

Emotionally it has been hard. Our sweet 9th is our last baby and I hadn’t anticipated how hard all those “lasts” would be. I suffered from postpartum depression for the FIRST time after baby number 9. It took me awhile to figure out what it was. Not having it before, it was not on my radar that I would have it this time. I am on a low dose of medication and feeling much better. Postpartum is beautiful and transformative but is also challenging and messy. The hardest part about postpartum issues (physical and mental health related) is that as moms we have to diagnosis ourselves, acknowledge it and seek help, all while taking care of our kids. One of my challenges was once I figured out I had postpartum depression, I didn't have a primary care doctor to go and see. My OB office had been my "primary care" doctors for the past several years. Thankfully I found a wonderful nurse practitioner who helped me. I wish there were more postpartum resources and care for moms in the U.S.

Being a mom of 9 doesn’t mean I am super human, I make mistakes and learn new parenting things everyday. 

After I healed from my physical postpartum issues I hit the gym. Working out is definitely my sanity. With a husband that travels often, going to the gym may be the only hour I have that week by myself and to shower. The gym I go to has a fantastic child care center. The other change I made was in my eating. I was struggling with low energy and extreme fatigue. I was desperate to try anything that would help. I did Whole30 in March and I could feel a change in my energy level almost immediately. 

Being an only child I am still in awe of this beautiful family we have created. Thank you to my amazing hubby and friends that have helped me through these past 9 months. 

Moms are AMAZING. We need to lift each other up, cheer each other on and support one another. 

Monday, April 30, 2018

Postpartum Pelvic Physical Therapy stopped my insides from falling out after my last baby



My postpartum recovery from diastasis recti, weakened pelvic floor and prolapsed bladder after my last baby using pelvic rehab therapy

I am not a medical professional, this is my personal postpartum recovery journey, please consult your doctor before beginning any type of treatment plan. This is not a paid or sponsored post, I genuinely had a fantastic experience with Dr. Le and Sport and Spine Rehab and physical therapy worked to resolve my postpartum issues. 

My postpartum recovery from baby number 9 has been my hardest to date; mentally, physically and emotionally.

I have had 9 kids in 13 years, my last 5 in 6 years and my last 2 babies were 11 months apart. I recovered quickly after all of my deliveries. Let’s be honest, I have had a good run. I could tell that something wasn’t right after my 9th baby was born in July. I was feeling vaginal/pelvic pressure, like I was still pregnant and felt like I needed to pee ALL THE TIME. I chalked it up to having a lot of kids and figured that it would get better, it didn't. For my birthday in September, my best friend who is a personal trainer, treated me to a training session. I was about 10 weeks postpartum at the time. I had been much slower to work out after this last baby, things just didn’t feel right. While I was working out with my friend, she had me do some body weight squats and I felt like my insides were falling out from pressure. When I did planks she asked me to tighten my core and I literally was trying so hard and couldn’t tighten anything. My abdomen muscles were jello.

I had my post delivery appointment with my midwife, Amanda, that next week. I told her how I was feeling and then after the exam she told me that I had a severely weakened pelvic floor, a prolapsed bladder and level 3 diastasis recti. It made total sense with how I had been feeling, but now what? I had never had any recovery issues in the past. I had heard of all those terms but had to look them up after my appointment. Postpartum diastasis recti is when the abdominal muscles separate during pregnancy. Pregnancy and childbirth can weaken the muscles and connective tissue in the pelvic area. A prolapsed bladder is when the vaginal wall is too weak to hold up the bladder and it droops down into the vagina. I kept asking Amanda, this is going to get better right, RIGHT? She never said yes, just we’ll see. I had a neighbor that had to have surgery on her prolapsed bladder and it was a rough recovery, she couldn’t lift anything for weeks. I have 3 kids 2 years and under, how would that work. My midwife suggested that I try physical therapy first. I got the referral and called right away. Anyone that knows me, knows I am horrible about self care, with 9 kids, my needs are last. But this time I called right away, I was feeling miserable and really wanted to try the physical therapy route to see if I could avoid surgery.

The physical therapy place, Sport and Spine Rehab - Chiropractic and Physical Therapy Clinic, was close by and I was able to get in quickly. I really had no idea what type of exercises I would be doing, I was definitely nervous. First I met with Dr. Tiffanie Le, she was fabulous and outlined that I would be working on strenthing my core muscles in the hopes that by strengthing my pelvic floor, it would pull everything back up again, in particular my bladder. That first session I was a little self conscious, but quickly shed that. For the diastasis recti they taught me how to roll to my side then use my arms to push up versus doing a sit up, which was ugly for me anyway right now. Then they proceeded to take me through a series of core strenthing and breathing exercises. They would have me start with a warm up, like the Bruegger Postural Relief then work on the core exercises.


Pictured below are the foundation exercises and each week the physical therapist would build on them.

Bruggers Postural Relief
Belly Breathing
Pelvic Tilts
    
Dead Bug
Modified Bird Dog


Glute Bridge

With 9 kids and a husband that travels I was only able to make it to therapy 2 x a week. Most of the exercises I was able to do at home, which I tried to do several times a week. Sport and Spine Rehab had great hours including evening hours and they were also very accommodating and let me bring my new baby with me to appointments. Those first few weeks the exercises were really challenging. I am an active person, but the concentration that it took me to tighten my core and squeeze my pelvic floor muscles was intense. I would leave sweating. 5 weeks into physical therapy I started to feel a change. My frequency/urgency to pee was less, the pelvic pressure I was feeling was less. My core muscles were weak but I could feel them start to tighten.

I continued my sessions 1-2 x a week for the next 4 weeks. I was feeling so much better. I had a follow up appointment with my midwife in December. I was really hoping that how I was feeling would translate into a good internal exam. I was holding my breath literally and figuratively during the exam. The physical therapy had worked! My bladder was no longer prolapsed, my pelvic wall was much stronger and my diastsis recti had gone from a 3 finger separation to a 1! Woohoo! I was estatic! If things had not worked out and I was told I would need surgery we would have figured out a way to make it work, but I was so excited to not have to go down that path.

The next day I had an appointment with Dr. Le and her staff, I had graduated from their program. They walked me through some more advanced core exercises that I could do on my own. I truly liked everyone that I had worked with there. They were all kind, proffessional and encouraging. They all gave me hugs as I walked out.

I am continuing to do the core exercises a couple of times a week and will do that for the forseeable future. My core strength is still not where I would like it to be, but I am working on making it stronger every week. My prolapsed bladder issues have been resolved and I can make it through a hard workout without feeling I needed to use the bathroom 10 times.

Here is my takeaway:
  • All of these pregnancy/postpartum complications I experienced can happen whether it is your first or ninth baby. My guess is that I had all of these issues after my seventh and eighth babies but since I was pregnant again so quickly they were not caught. 
  • I saw plenty of pregnant women at Sport and Spine Rehab strengthing their core. I wish I would have done that. 
  • I think that most moms would benefit from pelvic floor/core strengthening even without an official diagnosis.
  • I am so grateful that my midwife suggested physical therepy first versus surgery first. 
  • I also should have been more timely with my post delivery 6 week check up, by the time I was seen I was 10-11 weeks postpartum. 

Here are some tips that Dr. Le and I talked about for other mommas facing these postpartum issues. 
  1. If your OB recommends physical therapy make sure that you look for a Chiropractic/Physical Therapy place that is comfortable and knowledgeable working with postpartum moms. 
  2. You will want a program that emphasizes building back up the core muscles through core muscle exercises, breathing training, and postural training. All 3 will work to re-engage the pelvic floor. Make sure that you ask questions about the purpose of the program and exercises that you are put on. You want to make sure they are solving for what you need strengthened. 
  3. Do not be discouraged by this diagnosis, it will take time and hard work to heal 
  4. Slowing things down in the postpartum period will help you return to your desired level of activity with less risk of injury. During this time your body relearns to engage proper muscles to help you move better when you do return to your sport/activity. 
  5. Once you are on a program be compliant and consistent so you can get results.
  6. Keep in mind that not every pregnancy and birth is the same and the amount of activity prior to and during the pregnancy affects recovery.
  7. All mommas, prenatal and postpartum, can benefit from core training and exercise, you don't need to wait to be diagnosed with a condition or have pain to start rehab and therapy for your core and pelvic floor.
Dr. Le has her Doctor of Chiropractic degree from New York Chiropractic College. She is also:
- Webster certified (a chiropractic technique commonly used with pregnant patients; website for more info can be found here: https://icpa4kids.com/training/webster-certification/webster-technique/ ) 
- attended the Birthfit Professional Seminar (https://birthfit.com/
- in the process of acquiring her birth doula certification through DONA International (https://www.dona.org/)

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Listen to the Children




I took my oldest two daughters, age 13 and 12 years old, to the March for our Lives in Washington DC on Saturday, March 24th. It was an amazingly powerful event for all three of us. There hasn’t been a day since that I haven’t thought about the students that spoke and their powerful stories and words. Every time I sat down to edit this post I got emotional thinking about that day.

This is not a political post this is a human post. I am not a vocal person politically. I have never gone to a rally, march or protest before this March. I am ashamed to say that unless it is happening at my kitchen table I may not know it is going on. These shootings that have become common place are affecting all of our families. Gun violence does not discriminate based on political parties it affects us all. After each of the school shootings I have felt so helpless to make a difference and to voice my request for change. Our hearts have broken with each life that has been lost. As a mother I want to protect my children and all children. Every victim of gun violence is someone's baby. After the Parkland shootings I cried and felt outrage, but I still didn’t know how I could help. As soon as I heard about the March I wanted to go, but with 9 kids nothing is easy. I was on the fence about it till the day before, I talked with my husband and he said I really want you three to go, we’ll figure out the logistics. Both of us feel really strongly about protecting all lives with more common sense gun laws. My oldest daughter was really excited we were going. She had participated in two student led walk outs at her secondary school in remembrance of the Parkland students. She immediately set to work making beautiful posters and ribbons for us to wear. My 11 year old was a little quieter about it. She asked lots of questions about logistics and how big the crowds would be and if we would be safe. That right there is their two personalities in a nutshell. 

There was a group of students and parents going from my daughter’s school that we had planned to meet up with. We got up bright and early and headed to the closest Metro station. At the station we were greeted by a group of students all carrying posters and wearing orange. You could feel the excitement and purpose in the group. Once we arrived in DC our group walked to the National Mall and to a meeting point. We met up with other local schools and we were greeted by our local representatives who talked to the students about the change they hope to see happen with gun laws. 

We then found our space in the crowd and waited for the March to start. It was overwhelming how many people were there - students, families, all races and ages. It was a beautiful sight. We spent all morning just looking at all the different signs and shirts.

Once the program started we were all mesmerized. Each student that spoke was so awesome and powerful. Topics that I stumble and stutter over they spoke so eloquently and full of passion. Their stories were heartbreaking. We were standing next to several families from Florida. They were in the same school district as MSD and had cancelled their spring break plans so they could attend. Two girls in front of us were recent graduates from MSD. They knew these students speaking, they knew their families. We all cried together, cheered together and sang together. The pleas and cries for change from the students and the crowd, makes me hopeful that change will come. When the March was done, everyone respectfully filed out together. As we were leaving a person started the chant, “tell me what democracy looks like” and the answer back was, “this is what democracy looks like”. There were almost a million people at the March all peacefully coming together asking for a change.




I asked my daughters and several friends that attended the March in DC and in New York to share their thoughts from that day.


"The March was empowering and inspirational. All the students that spoke were amazing but the three that really spoke to me were Edna Chavez, Emma Gonzalez and Yolanda Renee King. Edna Chavez's speech showed me that gun violence is not a new problem. Yolanda Renee King's speech showed me that that youth of our country are stepping up to change things. Our generation is going to be a great generation."           KB, age 12

"The energy is what made the environment boom, vibrant signs and people shouting made Pennsylvania Avenue light up. We were all there for the same reason, and for that it felt as if we were gathering with family. There were people from all over the country flying and driving in to make their voices heard. The most heart stopping moment was when D'Angelo McDade asked everyone who has been impacted by gun violence to raise their hands. Hands all around me were raised high. I am lucky enough to not have any encounters with guns or gun violence. The March made me realize how privileged I am."   

                                                                                                            SB, age 13

“Immediately after the shooting on February 14th at Marjory Douglas High School, the Parkland high school students took America by storm. As soon as I heard that they were organizing the March for Our Lives I knew I had to attend. Luckily, a generous network of alumni organized two buses to make the treck down from my school in Vermont. After spending weeks leading up to the March as a student leader in the efforts towards gun control reform in my community, I was excited to talk with other students around the country on what they were doing in their hometowns. I heard stories, similar to my own, of students organizing walkouts, lobbying legislators, and having discussions at their highs schools. Right off the bat, I was amazed to see the turnout. I wasn't sure what to expect in terms of numbers, but after seeing photos of Pennsylvania Avenue packed with marchers I was in awe. I was lucky enough to be right by the stage. From start to finish the program they had arranged had me on an emotional rollercoaster. One minute I was in tears and the next I had a smile from ear-to-ear. The level of eloquence each speaker had — despite their age — was outstanding and as I rewatch the videos on Facebook I still get goosebumps each time. 
Although Emma Gonzalez took my breathe away with her speech and Yolanda Renee King and Naomi Wadler restored my faith in young people, the speech that resonated with me the most was delivered by Cameron Kasky. He said, "the march is not the climax of this movement, it is the beginning". So many critics believe that this March is the end of our fight, but this generation will stop at nothing to rid this nation of the vicious cycle of mass shootings we have fallen into. The underlying message of this March was to educate yourself, use your voice, and vote. As a seventeen-year-old eager to get into the polling stations I could not have been more pleased with their emphasis on this as voting is how we can be the change we want to see in our country. Let's vote them out! “     
                                                                                             Cecilia - High School Senior

“I was blown away by the effort that must have gone into organizing this event - as a teacher I was inspired to see teenagers—students no different than my own apart from the tragedy they experienced firsthand—take on an event of this magnitude. And it was amazing! And yet as a mom I was saddened because here were kids so boldly standing up to adults begging for protection and safety that adults had failed to provide. We shouldn’t have to rely on kids to spread this message; they should be relying on us.
One of the most heartwarming and heartbreaking parts of the afternoon was seeing how the Parkland students had reached out to student leaders from other communities afflicted by gun violence. Living in the community we live in makes it easy to forget that we are comfortably safe—our kids don’t need to feel fear leaving their homes. The Parkland students reminded everyone that gun violence is more than just the school shootings that make national news - it’s also the shootings that minority communities experience on a much too regular basis.”                  Katy, Mom of 3



“I am generally very quiet when it comes to voicing my political views. Usually I can see and appreciate both sides of the fence on any matter, but changing these antiquated gun laws doesn’t seem to me an issue that can be reasonably justified without some significant change in policy. I have never marched or protested anything, but when I read the sign at the March, "It is so bad, even the introverts are here”, I thoughts, “yes, that’s me”! I hate making a racket, but please, please do something so we can better protect our children and put them on the school bus each day without this horrific fear in the back of our minds. Enough is enough.”                     Kara, Mom of 3


In the face of the issues of gun violence and legislation, I have often felt small, disconnected and powerless. Walking east across 86th Street to join the March south along Central Park West, I could feel the energy and see the crowd gathered - thousands of people, each each one the embodiment of a voice and a vote and a frustration with the status quo. Each person chose that morning to walk the city blocks, to make signs, to stand in the sun, to bring their kids/their friends/themselves. The March in New York City was just one part of a global chorus - connected and powerful. I was proud to add my voice and say enough.                     Kristin, Mom of 2 

For me, the March was not about politics. It was about teaching my kids valuable life lessons. If you feel strongly about something, stand up for it. If you see an injustice, stand up to it. If you want change, lend your voice to it, and if possible in person. I wanted my kids to see that regardless of age and socioeconomic background that we all have a voice that we need to use. As a mother I was so proud of the students who organized and spoke at the March. I am so honored that I could take my two oldest daughters and that they could see and hear first hand these students stories and their call to action. Two of the signs that I saw that really stuck with me, were “When our children are acting like leaders and our leaders are acting like children, it is time for a change” and “Teach your parents well”. My hope is that in the not to distant future I will be talking to my kids about all the good change that has happened.

The children have spoken and I am listening, are you?


This is original artwork by my oldest daughter. She drew it the night after the March. It says it all.