I keep seeing people suggesting to “write your account down.” Of course it feels sort of … silly. Are things really that bad?
Yet, they are.
We are experiencing a Pandemic. Our lives will change as we know it.
We are home. We are in self-quarantine. We only go out to get essentials.
So, I thought I would begin blogging about what’s giving us hope.
What’s filling our time. In our little corner of the world.
I’ve been cooking a lot! We’ve made some great Home Chef meals and I’m picking up items to make chocolate chip cookies.
Isabella calls it “siiide.” She stands by the front door and begs to go “‘side.” We walk around our lot. We have gone on a few walks around the neighborhood. She stops and stares at leaves. There are really pretty purple buds coming up in the lawn.
We aren’t seeing any family. We went to see my dad, but only through glass. His wife is in Hungary and he’s been on a work assignment for the last two weeks. It was so strange to talk to him through his front glass door. But, refreshing to see another human. Mom is planning on stopping by at our window today. We facetime with Jutka in Hungary. She recorded her lullaby and I’ve been playing it for Bella. I’ve also been able to do Zoom with Sarah and Jess. That’s been super encouraging. And, of course, texting friends like Aubrie.
I began taking a lovely free course called The Science of Wellbeing from Yale University. It’s on Coursea, a free online platform. I’ve already completed the first week. It’s very laid back, yet informative. I took a few tests to determine by strengths.
When you give birth to a baby that’s 1 lb 7 ounces you learn to wash your hands. Well. Or use hand sanitizer. Well.
You begin driving around with a full sized sanitizer in your cup holder and avoid larger public places.
So, with COVID-19 hitting Ohio I feel pretty prepared. To be honest we’ve been in medical isolation for a very long time now. It’s second nature to our little family of 3. My husband works from home, I stay home, and we don’t take Bella, our now 2 year old, out very often unless it’s warm or if the event is worth exposing her to germs. To avoid making this post about my experience and more about tips, I’ll add a little bit of information that gives me some quarantine street cred. then move on with tips 🙂
Quarantine Street Cred
Bella was born in March of 2018. For months before that I was on moderate bedrest (homebound) and then spent a week in a high risk unit where I wasn’t allowed out but once. We stayed in the NICU for about 110 days. After, we isolated until April of 2019. We ONLY went to needed appointments/very limited family member’s homes. Dustin and I stayed home as much as possible and when we did go out we immediately took our clothes off and showered.
In April/May of 2019 we finally went out, even slightly against medical advice (They would’ve loved her to be isolated until the age of 2!) We explored all summer and into the fall, even going to Disney World. Again, come October we began pulling in the reigns and have been in a semi-medical isolation since. On March 1st Bella turned 2 and this past weekend we went to a kids event at the library. Although this has been extremely hard, it’s also been extremely rewarding and necessary. Isabella has NOT been re-hospitalized since leaving the NICU in May and is thriving. She also received immunity boosting injections both seasons.
Tips That Worked For Me
So, how did we do it? How did we keep from getting stir-crazy? How did we keep morale up and enjoy (Yes, ENJOY) our time in isolation? I studied other families and dedicated my time to personal growth and hygge principals. Here are some tips that helped me.
Recognize That You’ll Be In Isolation & Make A Plan
As soon as I learned I would be homebound and was considered high-risk with my pregnancy, I jumped online. I researched and learned what had worked for other moms in my situation. I learned that having a plan and routine would save my sanity. I also learned that setting up goals and accepting that I would be at home would help.
I grabbed a little basket called my “bed rest” basket and stocked it with medications, a notebook, a Bible, pens, scripture cards, lip balm, lotion, and other things that would be good to have close at hand. I then filled my notebook with things I wanted to get “done”. These things included resuming my goal of watching the Top 100 Movies of All Time, finishing a digital scrapbook, and reading 2-3 books that I had put off.
Again, once we realized we would be in isolation after having Bella, we sat down and wrote 10 goals for the year. A lot of these were limited to our home. Some examples included finishing Bella’s baby book, planning a fun first birthday party, learning about Montessori Education, and organizing my closet. Dustin set out to make money from a blog and learn a song on the guitar.
So, what to do if you’re going to be in quarantine for a bit? Grab a notebook and write out some goals. What are a few things that you have been putting off? Or would like to explore? Once you have a fun guide written down, let it help guide your next few weeks.
Reach Out & Continue To Build Relationships
As soon as I learned that my life with a micropreemie would look very different than other mommas, I made a commitment to continue to build relationships…from afar.
I continued to text/message/facetime others. I learned to be vulnerable online and in my text communications. I also even attended a few gatherings via Facetime/Skype!
To continue relationship building with other moms, I would ask about their kids, share photos, and pray for them. I also joined the digital MOPs (Moms of Preschoolers) group. This helped me as I received weekly emails and other types of encouragement, like texts.
As many of you know, I utilized social media to build relationships and to share about our struggles. This helped me build online friends and also helped me “vent.” Eventually once out of isolation, I committed to having a friend over once a month to meet Bella. It was challenging since I had been in isolation for a year (or more) but very rewarding.
Explore New Hobbies
Exploring a new hobby can sound cliche, but, let me tell you, trying something new can be super fun and energizing! Last Christmas my dad got me a Cricut Explore Air 2 as a gift. Other family members bought me accessories. I was excited to learn a new craft system. The cost of supplies was expensive, but I looked online for discounts and took a few Hobby Lobby runs to pick up paper. (Always using that 40% digital coupon!)
Before long, I was creating cards, decor, banners, and more! I was even able to make Bella’s first birthday invites myself. I loved watching Youtube tutorials and learning new techniques. When Bella would nap, I would pull out my Cricut and create little things.
This made me happy and I felt good about learning something new. One of my goals was to create t-shirts. At the end of the season I had made us T-shirts for our upcoming Disney trip AND I had made some for friends. Later, once out of isolation, I shared my love of Cricut with friends.
Learn/Embrace a Hygge Lifestyle
Hygge is certainly a trendy word and concept! Wikipedia defines it,
Hygge (/ˈh(j)uːɡə/; Danish: [ˈhykə]; Norwegian: [ˈhŷɡːə]) is a Danish and Norwegian word for a mood of coziness and comfortable conviviality with feelings of wellness and contentment.
I learned about this concept through Youtube videos and a few books. My favorite was The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking. I listened to it FREE from the online Library app Hoopla with Bella. This book challenged me to slow down and embrace being indoors. I hung twinkle lights, layered on cozy blankets, read, and lit lots of candles. Hygge became my favorite thing about being in isolation. I made lots of tea, organized my mug collection, and cuddled our infant for hours. Looking back, this time became very special in my memory and I’m glad I discovered this practice. Learning about it and practicing it can bring much joy and peace.
Pet Your Cat
I’m a crazy cat lady at heart. And in practice. We own 3 cats. Each have their own fun personality. During isolation I learned to just sit and pet them. (The ones that allowed me to).
It’s a strange thing to sit and be still and play or pet your cat, but it’s relaxing and has health benefits! Some nights I’d play with the cats and just enjoy them in our home. I practiced having them sit on my lap/chest and watch TV. The cats loved the extra attention and so did I.
Make Mental Health a Priority
Being isolated and dealing with Bella’s health issues was extremely taxing on my emotional health. I began therapy and upped my anxiety medication. Since 15 I have been diagnosed with Anxiety, Panic Disorder, and Depression.
I remember one day sitting on the kitchen floor sobbing. I told Dustin I could’t do it anymore. I’m not sure what I was referring to in that moment, but it was my surrender. I needed additional support. I needed help. Even though money was tight I shared that I NEEDED therapy. I began therapy the next week and continued to go once a month. This hour truly helped me get over the hump of isolation and fear.
I’m not one for taking on debt, but if that’s something you have to do to get what you need to be healthy, do it. We were gifted money so that I could make my health a priority. I’m so thankful we took advantage of the opportunity. Now, I am a much better mother and person because of it. There are many opportunities now for online therapy from home.
Also, continue to take any mental health medications. I have stayed on top of taking my daily dose of Zoloft which has helped tremendously. This also includes staying on top of refills. Ask a relative or friend to help remind you to get your refills on time.
Look For Creative Alternatives To Activities
When the world seems dark or your world seems dark it can help to think outside the box.
We were scared with Bella. Every cough or sneeze could jeopardize her life. We overcame worry with hope. We overcame sadness with joy. We sought out healthy alternatives.
I remember we couldn’t get out for Christmas in 2018. I was crying. I was sad seeing others out and enjoying events and Zoo Lights. Oh, what I would give to go to zoo lights! (We got to go the next year!) Instead, we grabbed a coupon and got coffee. We went in our Pjs and drove around town looking at the lights and playing Christmas music. It’s now one of my favorite memories of that difficult time. I remember we only had a few hours between Bella’s pump feeds but it was magical.
Other fun ideas:
Picnic Inside – Lay out a picnic with a blanket and fun snacks/lunch.
Obstacle Course – Create a fun obstacle course with couch cushions.
Facetime Play Date – Have a virtual play date! Facetime a friend and have the kids say hello and play with the fun filters. * I did this a TON with family. It helped me feel connected.
Learn To Cook
There’s something so calming and cozy about creating a meal. While we were in, I looked forward to creating meals for my family. I would have my husband watch Bella and I would chop, hum, and dance around our little kitchen. My favorite Pandora station was “Jazz Dinner” and I loved filling our home with yummy scents. I didn’t cook every night, but when I did I would double the recipe so we could eat leftovers.
Although I knew how to cook before having Bella, learning to cook new things was a great time investment! I would pick out a few new recipes and try my hand at them each month. I really fell in love with Sheet Pan Dinners and Crockpot Meals all over again! As I worked my way around the kitchen, I saved our winning recipes. I have a great collection of winning dinners that are healthy, quick, and delicious.
Plan A Trip
Eventually we will be able to leave the house. Whether that’s a few months from now, or a year, in our case previously, we WILL get to be back among society. It was hard to plan anything with a medically fragile infant that needed pump fed every 3 hours. We were exhausted and desperate to get out of the house. On top of that, money was tight. How could we plan a trip? Why would I suggest this?
Well, because of HOPE. Investing your time into planning a trip is very therapeutic. Whenever life would feel too hard or I would want to get out of our little home, I’d “travel.” I’d hop on Pinterest or Instagram and indulge my wanderlust. I began saving cool things to do for my bucketlist and had fun pricing out month long trips to Venice, Italy and the South of France.
Although I haven’t done any of those specific trips since being out of isolation…I’ve enjoyed learning about travel and “exploring” from my couch. Later, after we received some unexpected money, we were able to invest in a trip to Florida (and Disney World) as a family. I had so much fun planning every little detail and budgeting toward our first big family adventure.
Begin by browsing Pinterest or Instagram. What countries excite you? Is there a place you’ve always wanted to go? For us, we got to visit Ireland in 2017. We adored it and dream of taking Bella with us again (she was in my tummy while there). I look back on photobooks and also play music from our trip. This keeps my spirits up and gives our family a fun goal.
No matter how long you find yourself in quarantine, there’s hope. We have a God that’s much much bigger than this. He will sustain us.
I like to reflect and re-focus each year. A few years ago Dustin and I began writing out goals for each year.
These goals reflected who we wanted to be and what we wanted to value in the next year.
It’s so funny how it’s easy to lose sight of your goals and become “responsive” to life around you instead of living each day with intention.
Since doing these lists, we haven’t been perfect, but it’s helped guide our years.
If something has remained on a list for multiple years, we re-evaluate the value we place on it. If something was really easy, I try to them add something a bit more challenging.
At the end of the exercise we usually have a good overview of things we want our next year to include.
This past year was no different. We created our lists and I periodically checked in on it. Once an activity was completed, I’d color in the box and add details. In the past my goals have changed, but they typically include social/financial/creative/physical challenges.
I’d certainly challenge you to do this as well. It’s a little different than a resolution, since it’s more of a set of values and wishes.
Even if you just look at it from time to time, it can guide your hopes and desires that God has laid on your heart for the new year. Ask Him what you should focus on and pair that with passions.
My 2019 Goals
Isabella’s Baby Book
Become A Foster/Adopt Home
Make Shirts with my Cricut
Read through the Bible
Go on a Trip with Dust + Bella
Try A New Recipe with my Kitchenaid Mixer
Throw Bella a 1 Year Birthday Party
Give Back to ACH + RH
Write Bella’s Birth Story
Create Ireland Photobook
Some Notes About My 2019 Goals
Isabella’s Baby Book
Completed September 2019
This was a challenging one. I had wanted to buy a baby book and work my way through it when Bella was born, but with her being 3 months early, a baby book just brought about bad memories. It took me awhile to find a good baby book that I liked and that I knew I could work through, with taking in account her prematurity. I searched and found a reasonable priced one. It took a lot of work to re-record memories, glue in photos, track down milestones, and open myself up to reliving some of the trauma of her NICU stay, but I did it! I’m very pleased I have a beautiful record of her first year (and will add to it) and it was worth the detail-work and effort.
Become a Foster/Adopt Home
Completed February 5th
We began our foster/adopt journey a few years ago. We had begun classes and was close to entering into our certification. Having Bella messed up our schedule. But, what babies don’t?! In 2018 we did our home study. Hours and hours. On February 5th we officially got our paper certifying our home and us as foster parents. Although we’re not yet at a place to host a child long-term, we are on the list for respite care and hope to invest more time in the future.
Make Shirts with my Cricut
Completed Numerous Times!
I received a Cricut Explore Air 2 for Christmas last year from my dad. My in-laws bought me lots of accessories, too. I began by making paper crafts and worked my way up to heat transfer vinyl.
This was fun and new and challenging! Since having Bella I haven’t had much time to myself…much less time to craft. For both Valentine’s Day and our Disney trip I made custom t-shirts.
Read Through the Bible
Not Completed, Begun
This was one of those goals that I knew was hefty. I wanted to be intentional though and worked my way through the Bible with the Bible app. I got quite a way through, but have more to go. I found that although it was good to read scripture through, I became bored at times and would switch it up with other studies. I still want to continue to read through the Bible completely, not just pick and choose the easy chapters. I plan on continuing the plan into 2020.
Go On a Trip with Dust + Bella
Completed May & September
This was an easy goal, but very much desired! Since having Bella, we hadn’t been able to go on a trip because of her feeding issues. We switched to bolus (syringe) feeds partnered with pump overnight feeds in the Spring. This allowed us so much more freedom!
In May we went on our first overnight as a family. We rented this adorable “farmhouse” room in Amish Country. We took Bella all the places we loved in Berlin…the cheese barn, the lil bakery with yummy sandwiches, the puppy store, etc. It was a magical time. It re-ignited our passion for travel. It turned out little Bella was an expert traveler herself! She rolled with all the punches and loved being away (except at night when she landed in our King bed between us).
After the Amish Country visit, I had more confidence and bravery to plan a 2 WEEK ROADTRIP to Florida. In September, we drove to Florida. We spent a week at Disney and a little over a week visiting family in Nokomis/Venice. It was truly special. Although we all got sick, I have happy memories from this first out-of-state road trip with my little family.
Also, we got to stay in Gatlinburg and share the mountains with Bella. While in the high-risk unit, I would talk to her and visualize us taking her to the mountains. This gave us lots of hope and joy under scary circumstances. It felt like we’d come full circle when we arrived in the Smokey Mountains.
Try A New Recipe with my Kitchenaid Mixer
Completed January 20th
I have this beautiful Kitchenaid Mixer. I used to use it a lot more before Bella. I love to bake and be in the kitchen. I loved making Starbuck’s copy cat banana bread. It was delicious!
Throw Bella a One Year Birthday Party
Completed March 1st
From the moment I got pregnant, I began dreaming up first birthday ideas. I love a good bash and the fact Bella was in isolation made a party that much scarier and sweeter! Even though she wasn’t to be out of isolation until May, we invited a ton of people and threw her a big party. Money was tight so we just had desserts but it was so fun.
I’ll never forget seeing so many people in our little home. There were cars parked all the way up/down the street to meet out miracle. Bella loved the attention and enjoyed opening her gifts. The theme was gold and floral. The same theme for her nursery.
Give Back to Ronald McDonald House and Akron Children’s Hospital
We were shown so much love and graciousness from RMH Akron and ACH. It had been our desire to give back in any way we could.
Although we didn’t have much money, I spent time nominating our two primary nurses for the DAISY award. This award recognizes “Extraordinary Nurses”. It was with so much joy I learned they both received this special distinguished award this year.
Once we were more financially stable, we created gift baskets for families at the Ronald McDonald House. While staying there we were given a few gift baskets/bags. It always meant so much to me since my love language is gift giving. It was a JOY to gather Christmas items to put in a fun gift basket for families.
We coordinated with friends from the NICU and brought Bella back to visit. We do this often while in Akron, but this past time was very special because a lot of NICU friends came out and visited. Bella ran up and down in the family visitor space.
Two years before, I sat eating Thai food at the table she ran by…unable to walk from an emergency c-section and wondering how my 1lb 7ounce baby would make it.
There was a “success” wall of children that had graduated the NICU. I would stare at it while waiting on laundry to be done. I memorized the faces and prayed that some day Bella could return and get a photo in front of that wall. I prayed for a testimony like theirs. My mom got a picture of us. Matching red outfits. So much joy.
Write Bella’s Birth Story
This isn’t done. For many reasons. Time, energy, thoughts, etc. I got very far in writing out our story one night. I cried. I prayed. I read over diary entries and looked at calendars marked with viability stats. I am 95% done. Maybe I like it unfinished. But, I’d like to complete it this year to testify God’s goodness…through all the hardships.
Create Ireland Photobook
Completed November, Ordered January 2nd
Ok, so I technically completed “creating Ireland Photobook” before the New Year, but I ordered it on the 2nd using a Groupon! It was important to me to collect all of our favorite photos and put them in a tangible flip-through book. Travel is important to us, and surrounding ourselves with photos of trips we’ve taken helps us make the adventure last longer! It also puts the value of travel in front of us, inspiring us to save toward more trips.
I didn’t set out for these goals, but honestly they’re things I am so out-of-this-world proud of.
I began trying to lose weight before Disney but never made it very far. I am addicted to sugar and struggle with overeating. I began Optavia and fell in LOVE with the program. After 3 months I am down 20lbs and am so very happy with my body. For the first time I am happy to say I lost weight in the past year!
Writing Professionally Again
I didn’t set out to make money writing again. In fact, I don’t feel like I have much time! This post has taken a few different attempts. A friend needed someone to write a few articles for a local online news source. It was super cool and exciting. I have NEVER written for a news source. It was scary not knowing the ropes…but kinda cool too. I learned to write in a different style, interview contacts, and meet guidelines. I learned about local happenings and enjoyed a little bit of extra money.
Hosting a Girls Brunch
There’s always a reason to avoid having people over. For me, it’s been Bella. I decided to host a girls Christmas brunch. It was so much fun. My dad and his wife watched Bella and I had about 8-10 friends over for yummy food, drinks, crafts, and Christmas movies.
I learned so much about this tradition. I embraced long days inside and warm, cozy, blankets. Hygge is the Danish/Norwegian word for a mood of coziness. I listened to “The Little Book of Hygge” while feeding Bella via pump for hours. I decorated with the things I had around the house or Goodwill candles. I rested. It was perfect for the stage of life we were in (in isolation) and is something I want to continue.
So, there you have it. My 2019. I’d like to do separate posts about Bella’s milestones and my milestones for 2020. I wonder if I’ll find the time?