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Moving to SarahHackley.com

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This blog is relocating to my personal website: http://www.sarahhackley.com. I’m trying to consolidate my blogs into one location so I can focus more on my books and less on maintaining separate writing identities. Readers who wish to follow me can follow my RSS feed on my new website, follow me on Twitter, or like me on Facebook. (All contact info is also available on my website.)

I hope to see you there.

#Chronic Illness, #Toddlers, and the #WAHM – Five Ways to Make it Work

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Every chronic illness has its flare ups, those moments when it gets worse and stays worse for days, weeks, or months on end. Some are brought on by potent triggers. Some are seasonable. Mine is a combination of both, and the last two weeks have been particularly bad. Toddlers, however, don’t care about the triggers, the season, or our illness. They just want mommy to play.

This makes things difficult.

Coping with a bad flare up by yourself is hard. Coping with it while working is even harder. Coping while working and raising a toddler may be one of the hardest tasks of all. Thankfully, there are a few ways to make it easier:

  1. Call on your family and/or friends for help. Do you have an older child in the house? Assign babysitting duty, even if you’re in the same room. (In fact, sometimes this works best if you ARE in the same room.) Ask your spouse or significant other to make dinner and/or take care of the nightly toddler tasks (bath, story, bed). Have you watched your neighbor or friend’s kid once or twice when they needed it? Now is the time to call in that favor.
  2. Simplify. Take a look at last month’s post on this for pointers.
  3. Take advantage of games and activities that require little movement on your part. My 19-month-old son, for example, loves to bounce – on pillows, on stuffed animals, on the couch, and on me. As long as I’m coherent enough to squeeze my ab muscles, I love this game. It requires little of me other than laying there and giggling at the right moments. Duplos, puzzles, cars/trucks, and story books are other good activities for days I don’t feel well.
  4. Nap when your child naps. It’s age-old advice for parents of newborns, and it applies equally well when you’re ill. You need the rest. Take it. Resist the urge to use this time to catch up on work. By resting now, you’ll up your productivity later. Guaranteed.
  5. Take serious advantage of your internal clock and natural rhythms. If you’re like me, this may mean waking up at the crack of dawn to make the most of your peak energy levels. If you’re like my husband, this may mean staying up into the wee hours of the night. Regardless, find the time of day when your illness is at its most manageable and you are at your most productive, and commit to showing up and working during that time. Even if it’s only for 45 minutes at 3 a.m.

Letting Go #chronic illness #simplify

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Life with kids is hard enough. (Joyful, yes, but hard.) Add chronic illness to the mix, and it’s nearly unbearable. But, it can be made easier. You just have to let some things go.

Easier said than done, I know, but it can be done. More importantly, for the sake of your health, your sanity, and your relationship with your family, it needs to be done. So, here’s a gift from me to you, something we often feel we need in order to make decisions, big or small: Permission.

I hereby give you permission to let the following things go:

  •  Facebook/Google+/Twitter, etc. Unless you use these things primarily for work, drop them (at least temporarily). Your friends will still be there in two weeks or a month, as will all their horrifying, celebratory, and banal updates. I promise. If you’re truly worried about missing something big, let your closest friends know you’re dropping off the social media map for a while. That way, they’ll know to contact you in person if something really big happens. Disclaimer: This may be very difficult for you, depending on how much time you currently spend on social media. It will get easier. In fact, the longer you can go without checking your accounts, the less drive you’ll have to do so.
  • Non-work-related emails. (This is easiest if you have a separate work account.) Check your work emails daily, if necessary, but commit to only sorting through and answering your personal emails two or three times a week. Schedule the days, and don’t cheat. If someone in your life needs a faster response, they’ll call.
  • Unscheduled phone calls from numbers you don’t know. This is why we have voicemail and answering machines. Unless you’ve scheduled a phone call with someone and/or it is a call from a number you know you have to answer (such as your child’s school or doctor), let it ring. If not answering makes you uncomfortable, allow yourself to check your messages immediately. If it’s a call you should have taken, you can always call back.
  • Non-essential housework. Yes, we have to do the dishes, clean the kitchen, wash the clothes, vacuum, and sweep. Dusting, unless dust aggravates you or your children, can wait. So can the mirrors, the windows, the baseboards, and the floors in your bathroom (unless you’re currently potty training – that can get messy).
  • Non-essential baking/cooking. We all want to feed our families healthy, home-cooked meals, and that’s normal. (Of course, if you hate cooking and you have the money to purchase healthy prepared foods, by all means, go right ahead. That’s normal, too!) But, you don’t have to bend over backward to make baked goods from scratch for your child’s school functions or play dates, especially when you don’t feel well. Same goes for nights in with friends. Grab some take-out, frozen pizzas, party trays, or cheese and crackers. Your (true) friends won’t care.

It may not seem like much, but you’ll reclaim a significant amount of time and energy by letting go of these everyday tasks and activities. If you’ve found other ways to simplify, please comment. We’re all here to help each other.

The Most Productive Mom Tip Ever #wahm #productivemom #momtip

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I’ve finally done it, that thing I kept talking about, over and over, for the past nine months. And, guess what? It feels great! I’m more productive, less anxious about deadlines, and more at peace with myself. In fact, it’s been going so great, I can’t believe I didn’t start sooner!

No, I’m not talking about a new diet or workout routine. No, it isn’t a re-energized sex life (though 18 months into our son’s life, I’m sure my husband is ready for that). I’m talking about something much, much simpler. A thing we’ve all heard about, and yet rarely find the strength or energy to start doing.

Yes, I’m talking about the early morning wake up.

For the past week, I’ve been getting up at 6 a.m. and sneaking out to my office in the backyard to begin my day an hour and a half earlier than the rest of my family. The first day I did it, I completed all of my work for the entire day before my son even made his first peeps. Now, a week in, my electronic to-do list, which previously was glowing bright red with all my unfinished, overdue tasks, is a nice, healthy yellow. My office is (relatively) tidy, and my schedule is (relatively) clear.

To be honest, I cannot believe how much work I’ve gotten done in just a few hours. I also can’t believe how good getting up early can feel. And, while everyone across the Internet has raved about this time-management tip, I think it is particularly beneficial to me as a mom with chronic illness.

My illness is such that it builds over the day so, more often than not, by nightfall I’m wiped out and can do little more than veg out in front of my computer in bed in the dark. If I’m lucky, I might be able to read, but these days I haven’t been that lucky. Despite all this, I was still holding on to the crazy notion that I would finish my work for the day after the kids were in bed.

Obviously this was madness. I almost never felt well enough to work at the end of the day, and my to-do list just kept growing, glowing brighter and brighter red all the time.

Thankfully, I’m pretty sure I’ve resolved this issue. While I can’t say getting out of bed early is easy, especially if my toddler has been up in the middle of the night, in the long run, it’s much, much easier than not doing so.

What about you? Have you tried the early morning wake up? If so, how did it work for you? If not, why not?

 

 

Achieving the Elusive #MomVacation

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Mamas rarely get vacations. Even when we’re on vacation, we’re working. Whether we’re in Honolulu, Paris, the Bahamas, or Argentina, someone still has to get up with the kids. Someone still has to arrange dinner, and coordinate everyone’s plans. There are still diapers to be changed, young butts to wipe, sibling scuffles to referee, and various anatomy parts to prep for adult-time fun. More often than not, these tasks fall to the mom.

The only way to get an actual vacation as a mother is to go alone.

Yes, I can hear you laughing. But, I’m serious. We all need a break, especially us mothers, for whom every waking minute is lived in response to someone else’s needs.

But how do we get that break?

Planning. Planning. And more planning.

Last weekend I went on my first vacation in over two years. (It was a writer’s retreat, so it was actually a working vacation, but it was a vacation nonetheless.) I was a nervous wreck, but my family (including my still nursing 17-month-old son) did surprisingly well in my (49 hour) absence. While my husband is a wonderful father and all-around marvelous man, I attribute much of the weekend’s success to the level of effort I took in making sure everyone and everything was completely prepared.

For those of you who, like me, dream of regaining your sanity and reintroducing your self to yourself, here’s what I did:

  • Arranged for my in-laws to come stay and help my husband while I was away. (My son has only just learned to sleep through the night, and since he is still nursing to sleep I was concerned my husband may not be able to get him down. I figured having additional adults there would ensure he – my husband – got some sleep no matter what.)
  • Printed out a daily schedule for my son, complete with approximate nap and snack times.
  • Prepared and printed a toddler-wrangling handbook that included all the little tips and helpful hints I’ve figured out from being at home all day, every day with my kids. (Such tips included the details of the bedtime routine, including the specific wording of the vitally important bedtime song, how to tell when nap time should commence, what snacks the baby will actually eat, what to do – and how to tell – if he’s teething, and the proper dosage and timing for any necessary medications.)
  • Baked my son’s favorite muffins, so my husband would have plenty of easily prepared, toddler-approved breakfast foods. (Making food pre-coffee is HARD, y’all.)
  • Washed, dried, and put away all the laundry in the house (so my son’s pajamas and towels would actually be where the handbook said they were).
  • Cleaned the entire house so my husband wouldn’t feel any need to focus on anything except our son.
  • Packed the freezer with easy-to-heat dinner foods, in case everyone was too exhausted to cook.
  • Ensured we had plenty of diapers, wipes, diaper rash cream, and other toddler necessities.
  • Left the address of the retreat on the fridge along with the phone number of the closet neighbor to where I’d be staying. (The retreat was at a farmhouse where there was no internet access and limited cell phone service.)

All that work might seem like overkill, but I can assure you it made it significantly easier to leave. It also made it much easier for my husband to handle life without me, and you know what that means: I’ll likely be able to leave again in the near future.

Score.

 

Why I Started A Blog on Living Practically with Chronic Illness #chronicillness #wahm

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Living with chronic illness isn’t easy. Some days, there just don’t seem to be enough resources (or spoons, as Christine Miserandino describes them) to get through the day’s obligations, no matter how hard we try. Thankfully, there are many places we can go online for support with this issue, places where we can empathize with each other and find people who understand what we’re going through (see below for examples). This is essential to our mental well being, and I am grateful every day that online communities like these exist.What there doesn’t seem to be enough of, however, are places where we can get and share practical advice for living with our illnesses.

That’s why I started this blog. (It’s also why I wrote my recent book on migraine.)

I wanted to share with others the tips and strategies I’ve created (and/or stumbled upon out of dumb luck) to help me cope.  My hope is that they will make your lives a tad bit easier, as they have mine. If you’re not someone who deals with illness on a regular basis, but you are a work-at-home parent, a homeschooling parent, or a parent to a specials needs child, these tips and strategies also can be of use to you. I hope they are. And, if you have any tips of your own, please, please share. 🙂

Community Websites:

*Disclaimer: I have not personally visited/used all of these websites. Do not take the following list as a recommendation for any particular website. It is merely for informational purposes.

Nathan’s Freezer-Friendly Oatmeal Blueberry Muffins

We all know how important breakfast is, but it’s hard to give the meal the attention it deserves , especially on weekdays. Thankfully, I’ve come across a few delicious, easy to prepare, freezable recipes that make it much, much simpler. Here’s one I’ve modified that my 15-month-old son absolutely loves:

Nathan’s Freezer-Friendly Oatmeal Blueberry Muffins

Ingredients:

  • 3 eggs
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup unsweetened applesauce (I use Mott’s organic unsweetened applesauce, purchased in bulk from Costco)
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 banana, sliced
  • 1 cup frozen blueberries (I use the large package of organic blueberries from Costco)
  • 5 cup old-fashioned oats (again, I buy mine in bulk from Costco)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1 Tbsp cinnamon
  • 2 1/2 cup milk

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In large bowl, mix eggs, vanilla, and applesauce until combined.
  3. Add brown sugar, banana, and blueberries.
  4. In a second large bowl, mix oats, salt, baking powder, and cinnamon.
  5. Pour dry ingredients into wet ingredients, mixing well. (Everything should be uniformly wet.)
  6. Pour in milk, stirring to combine.
  7. Spray two muffin trays with cooking spray. (My trays fit 12 small muffins a piece.)
  8. Fill each muffin cup about 1/2 to 3/4 full with the mixture. (I fit 1/4 cup of the mixture in each of mine.)
  9. Bake 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the muffins comes out clean.
  10. Cool completely, and then wrap individually in plastic and freeze together in gallon-sized freezer bags.
  11. Reheat in microwave or toaster oven, and enjoy!

I purchase most of my ingredients for this recipe from Costco, which makes each muffin cost less than $0.13 to make. What a bargain!