PCOS Awareness: Something Big is Coming!

Friends, something BIG is coming up on Monday!

I am partnering with Logan over at With Great Expectation to give something away to one of you lucky readers, but you’ll have to check back on Monday to find out what it is! I’ve never done a giveaway before and I figure it’s way past time to do so. This is something that has greatly benefited both of us and our journey through PCOS. Please be sure to check in on Monday, put yourself in for the giveaway (there will be several ways to enter) and invite your fellow cysters to join in on the fun as well. We’ll keep the giveaway open all next week and will announce the winner on September 29.

Until then, I hope you all have a truly fabulous weekend! I’m hanging out in the Smokey Mountains until Sunday, then we’ll trek home and back to reality. Boo.

Go eat some cake. I probably am. ;)

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10 Tips for Traveling with Children

travel with children

Today is the day that we are leaving for vacation! We are loading up and heading to the Smokey Mountains in East Tennessee with some dear friends of ours, and we’re in for an adventure. We have a chalet in the woods calling our name, hot tub and all! Since Zoey has been born, we have been on 6 trips, and every single one comes with its own anxieties when it comes to packing her and making sure I won’t need to buy anything extra on the trip. I’m that person who makes a spreadsheet just to go out of town for a weekend. I am always so worried about forgetting something that I feel this intense need to start the list digitally and then print it out right before the trip so I can get started. The list typically includes everything that each of us needs individually, but also things we need to do before we leave, like preparations for the pets, cleaning, getting the car ready, etc.

I wanted to share some tips I’ve learned along the way as we’ve traveled with Zoey. We make a point to do something every year – sometimes we get to go on a couple mini vacations, sometimes we do one big one – but each trip comes with its own set of needs and “I better not forget that.” Spreadsheet in hand, this is what I typically keep in mind:

1. Travel Present

Starting last year when Zoey was 3, we began a tradition of putting together a “travel present” for her. What I’ve started doing is packing a special tote bag willed with new coloring books, a new toy, sometimes a new special cup for the car. It’s nothing big or expensive, just something to make her feel special and extra excited about the trip. For this trip, I got her a little Sofia the First magnetic toy where she can switch out Sofia’s dresses and set a scene using various little magnets. It’s something simple, but I know she’ll enjoy playing with it for a while. Crayola Color Wonder products are GREAT for traveling, because the markers only work on Color Wonder paper, so you don’t have worry about the ink getting all over your car. Plus, they have a handy little travel kit you can buy and it’s convenient.

2. Entertainment

I am a firm supporter of car DVD players, ya’ll. It is the best decision we ever made, and we took the plunge when Zoey was just 18 months old. I had to travel to Chattanooga by myself, which is a good 3.5-hour drive… with a feisty 18-month-old, it can feel like 8 hours. I invested in a dual monitor DVD player and it was the right decision. Since then, it has served us very well on our trips. The travel present ends up including a new DVD for the trip, sometimes just a $5 special from Walmart, but it gives the DVD player something new to keep her entertained for a good 90-120 minutes.

3. Travel Snacks

I always get Zoey some special little single serving snacks that she can enjoy in the car (Target’s $1 bin can be a gold mine for these types of things!). If you guys are anything like me, I have to eat on a road trip… there is just something about it. Kids are no different, so I always put some fun little snacks in Zoey’s travel present bag. This trip’s bag includes a couple single-serve trail mix packets, a small packet of peanuts, a bag of dried apricots, a small bag of strawberry licorice, 4 juice boxes, all natural fruit leathers, and a tootsie roll pop. This gives her a nice mix of sweet and salty, healthy protein and treats.

4. Pack Extra Clothes

This totally varies based on age. When Zoey was a baby, I always packed 2 outfits for each day, plus 2 extra as backup. When she was a toddler, I’d pack 1 for each day, plus 2 extra. Now that she is a big kid (wah!), I just pack 1 for each day plus 1 extra. I may also pack a casual dress in case we go somewhere a little on the nicer side, but I don’t have to pack nearly as much as I once did. As long as she is covered for one extra day and 1 nicer meal out, we’re good.

5. Pack Extra Diapers (if applicable)

When Zoey was in disposable diapers, I would pack the max I thought I’d need for each day, plus an entire extra day’s worth of diapers. At 6 months old, this meant I packed 10 per day, plus 10 extra. At 18 months, I packed 8 per day, plus 8 extra. At 2 years, I packed 6 per day, plus 6 extra. As long as I had one entire day on standby, I felt pretty good. I’d also pack an extra pack of wipes. Now that she is much older and has been potty trained for almost 2 years (what?!), we just pack an extra pair (or two) of underwear with her extra outfit. Just in case she has a little leak or doesn’t wipe well… which, let’s face it, four-year-olds are terrible at wiping. Sometimes those little arms just don’t reach back very well… just sayin’…

6. Meal Plan

If your child is formula fed, follow the same rule with the diapers. Pack the max you may need, plus an extra day (or two) worth. You just never know when your baby will hit a growth spurt and suddenly start cluster feeding, especially when in a new environment. Assume this could happen and plan ahead so you’re not looking for formula in a strange town and possibly spending more than you should. If you breastfeed and ever pump, make sure you’re stocked up on pumping supplies. Pack the max number of storage bags, plus an extra day’s worth, just in case. Zoey is beyond these things, so I didn’t have to focus on her as much with our meal planning (we are cooking a lot in the chalet on this trip), but she does have her own snacks for the trip. Otherwise, she just eats everything we eat and whatever we put in front of her (win!).

7. Pack Medicine and First Aid

Unfortunately, with a baby you have to assume the worst can happen at any time. What happens if you’re on vacation somewhere and suddenly your child gets a fever, or worse, vomits? It has happened to Zoey before, in the Smokey Mountains, actually.  Turns out she was allergic to rice cereal, but I’ll save that explanation for another post. It’s a good idea to always pack a bottle of Tylenol (or Motrin when your child gets old enough), plus anything you might need for cold/allergies as appropriate. You just never know when something will strike, and sometimes the change in environment can trigger something new in a baby or toddler, making them vulnerable to illness. Keep the First Aid basics with you so you’re ready when something happens. Remember, you won’t be home, so that stock in the bathroom will be useless if you’re in a hotel or cabin somewhere. For us, this means we’ll be packing Motrin and Claritin for sure. The Smokey Mountains may welcome us with open arms and fresh air, but it’ll also welcome us with new species of trees, and new things to trigger allergies and eczema in Zoey.

8. Pack Familiar

Do not forget your child’s favorite sleep toy, pillow or blanket. Those little things give him/her comfort and peace. When a child is in a strange new place, it can be scary. When we went to the beach last year, we even brought Zoey’s pink iPod doc/radio to the condo so she had music, which she’s used to sleeping to every night. We made sure that she had that radio within sight just like she does at home… she had her own pillow and blanket, and one of her favorite sleep toys. We tried to make it as familiar as possible so she was less likely to freak out in the middle of the night, because moms, it does happen. It did happen, but less frequently than we expected, and she calmed down faster because she had her comfort things around her. This trip is no different – since she’ll be sleeping on a little pallet on the floor in our room, we are bringing all the blankets from home.

9. Budget for Souvenirs

Kids are excited when on vacation. They see all kinds of new things and want to buy everything they see. Do you remember going on a trip as a kid and bringing home something to remember your vacation by? I do, and it’s something I intentionally plan for when we take Zoey places. While kids don’t understand how money and budgeting works, they do understand that when you give them something to spend, when it’s gone, it’s gone. We give Zoey her own money to spend and it’s only a certain amount, so then we’re not breaking the bank and she gets her own spending money, which makes her feel like a big girl.

10. Be Flexible

You know that cliche you see everywhere that says “Keep Calm…” followed by something that someone finds clever? Well, this is one of those moments that I’m going to tell you to KEEP CALM. Be flexible because anything can happen… that is probably the best advice I can give. Your child might need to stop for potty breaks more than planned, or cry more than you had hoped, or have an accident in the car seat, or spill an entire cup of orange juice all over the seat. Whatever the case, be flexible, stay calm, and remember: you’re blessed enough to have a child that you get to have this vacation with. Honor every moment, even the crappy ones.

HAVE FUN! Yes, your child will complain. Yes, your child will be unpredictable (which is actually pretty predictable). Yes, your child will miss naps and probably cry in the middle of a restaurant because of sleep deprivation. Yes, your child will need to use the restroom at the most inconvenient time. You’re on vacation! Enjoy the time you have before you return to your normal life and find yourself longing to be on vacation again. ;)

What about you? Do you have any additional suggestions I might want to think about next time we travel with Zoey?

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PCOS Awareness: Appreciating the “Right Now”

As I’m preparing to leave for vacation on Wednesday, I’m realizing how much I actually appreciate my “right now.” I complain a lot about PCOS and how it sometimes dominates my life, but as I’m packing to leave town, I’m also packing for a four-year-old little girl who is mine. She is my daughter, and I get to go on vacation with her. I’m thankful for her. I’m thankful for having the opportunity to be her mother, even when she challenges me and my patience to no end… I am thankful. I got to experience pregnancy, albeit a crazy vasa previa dominated one, but I got to have it… I got to have her. Her journey through NICU could have been worse, but she made it! WE made it! She’s still here in our lives, and it’s a blessing that she is here.

Of course I deeply desire to make her a sister. And, she’s convinced that “God is finished making her sister, she’s in the clouds waiting to join our family”… this is from her mouth, not mine.

I have PCOS, but PCOS doesn’t have me.

I am choosing to enjoy the “right now”. This doesn’t mean I won’t have more down days and sad moments… they will continue to hit me. But for now, I am thankful and enjoying having an only child. My “right now” is filled with blessings and amazement and awe every day.

I’ve shared this image before and I’ll share it again… for myself and in hopes that it encourages you as well.

BaskingInBlessings

Happy Monday, friends.

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Vacation Can’t Come Soon Enough

I’m in this funk, ya’ll.

We leave for the Smokey Mountains one week from today and I feel like I am counting down the minutes until we head out for this mini-vacation. Last year we did the beach trip to St. Augustine and it was a good solid week of fun in the sun. It was something we needed greatly. This year, since I started a new job and have less vacation hours at my fingertips, we decided to do a smaller vacation. We head out next Wednesday after work and won’t return until Sunday.

When we go on vacation, we like to be very intentional with how we balance the time between tourist activities and pure lazy. No one likes to return from vacation and then need a vacation from their vacation.

Am I right?

This trip is something I really need. I need a few days to forget about PCOS and infertility… I need to focus on being a family of 3 in another town (plus our 2 friends) and not think about what things would be like with another kid… I need time in a chalet where it’s quiet and oddly comfortable for being strange surroundings. We’ll enjoy the great outdoors, the fresh air of the mountains (ahem, foothills…), release our inner children at WonderWorks… I’ll be sure to share an image recap when we return. ;) This year is a mini-vacay, I’m very tempted to make next year epic. Of course there is that whole “what if I get pregnant and need maternity leave” thought that creeps into my mind. Yes, I still have hope. If I’m going to save for it, I’ll have to start as soon as we’re done with Christmas presents.

What about you guys? Did you do a vacation this year, or do you have one coming up? If you could do any vacation next year, what would you choose?

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What PCOS Feels Like

What PCOS Feels Like

With it being PCOS Awareness Month, I feel like I should focus more on sharing the cold hard truth of PCOS and what it’s like to live with it daily, as well as ways that we can combat it. I’ve shared before that it’s very important to understand that PCOS looks very different for every woman. This post is what PCOS looks like for me, the day-in and day-out of living with it month to month. I’m an estrogen-dominant PCOSer, weak in progesterone, and thankfully low in testosterone, which tends to be a big trigger for most women.

This is what PCOS feels like… for me. This post is to bring awareness to this syndrome that so many people simply do not understand. They think it’s just the infertility side of things, but don’t quite realize how truly uncomfortable every day can be with PCOS.

This is my life.

Hot Flashes.

Every month I have moments where I feel like a 50-year-old woman going through menopause. Without warning, I get extremely hot, break out into a sudden sweat, and get cold and clammy shortly after. This is normal… when you’re 50. I’m turning 30 in 4 weeks. THIS IS NOT NORMAL.

Emotional Roller Coaster.

I will be the first to admit that I sometimes get very depressed. I also have days where I am extremely annoyed very easily and lack all patience. These are often the same days that I feel extra hot and sweaty – just all around imbalanced. They’re the days I crave more carbs. They’re also the days that I get mentally exhausted and a headache, which means I’m physically exhausted and fall into a very deep sleep at 8:30 at night. This happens multiple times a month.

Angry Ovaries.

My ovaries hurt all the time. After “george”… around the time I’m supposed to ovulate (and don’t)… when I actually do ovulate… before “george” hits. Sometimes it’s sharp shooting pains from my ovary down to my thigh. Sometimes it’s a deep rolling pain from my ovary to my uterus. It makes sense. I’ve seen what my ovaries look like on an ultrasound… strands of pearls on both, several tiny follicles seemingly on top of each other, each one fighting for their chance to grow into a healthy viable egg. Except there is no winner… no healthy egg… so they fight… they rupture… they die… they leave fluid behind that causes pain and bloating.

Bloating.

The extra fluid produced from the cysts rupturing and ovulation (when I’m lucky) causes extra bloating. My jeans fit tighter on these days, which makes them very uncomfortable. Most women only get bloating right before “george” and during. I get it regularly.

Constant Cramping.

My uterus hurts all the time. I get “george” cramps when “george” isn’t due. My OB said it could actually be adenomyosis that possibly developed after I had Zoey, in which case there is nothing we can do. It’s chronic pain. I live with it. The only answer is a hysterectomy. Did I already mention that I’m not even 30 yet? Pain management is the only option, and I choose to not live on pain medication, so it’s there. Every month is different… but it’s there. Adenomyosis is only totally diagnosed during examination after the hysterectomy so we’re only guessing here. Some months I’m totally okay 90% of the month and only hurt during that 10%… some months those numbers are reversed.

Hair Loss.

Some women with PCOS experience excessive hair growth where it doesn’t belong as a result of testosterone. I experience hair loss. But I have to say, it’s not nearly what it could be, and for that I am so incredibly thankful. A lot of my hair loss is also attributed to having Zoey, but I still have plenty of it to go around. Sometimes it’s coming out in clumps in the shower as I wash my hair, but it always seems to grow back in thicker, so that’s good news. This is more of an annoyance to my shower drain than anything, and I’ll take it over the excess hair growth.

Pain.

I’m pretty much recapping at this point, but this is the cold hard truth: my uterus, my ovaries and my lower back hurt all the time. As I type this I’m hurting. I feel like “george” is here and well, it’s not. It left a week and a half ago. I often hear other women complain about how much they cramp when on “george”… try feeling like you’re on it several times a month.

Failure.

This is the mental battle that comes with PCOS. Feeling like you’re a failure as a woman… it’s something we all battle with. I think of that scene on “What To Expect” when J.Lo flips out on her husband about how she’s the one with the bad eggs… she’s the one who got them to use their money on fertility treatment that didn’t work… she’s the one who can’t do the one thing that a woman was designed separately from men to be able to do. It’s hard. It’s brutal. It’s real life for a woman with PCOS.

This is me. It’s a part of me. Every day, I look in the mirror and tell myself that PCOS does not define who I am. Every day. I still struggle… I pray for healing… for peace… for some sort of guidance on whether I should be pursuing adoption, heavier fertility treatment, or just give up all together and focus on raising an only child. I recognize that I am blessed. I recognize that there are thousands of women with PCOS who never conceive at all. And here I am, begging for my second chance. I recognize this. It doesn’t make it easier. As Zoey asks every day for a sister, it gets harder and harder. This isn’t just me or my husband is affects… it’s her.

This is what PCOS looks like for me. What does it look like for you?

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PCOS Awareness Jewelry

Back in 2009, I purchased this necklace through a shop on Etsy (which is sadly no longer open) and it’s one of my favorite pieces of jewelry. I was able to customize how I wanted it, and it will always hold a special place in my heart.

PCOS Awareness Jewelry

While the shop isn’t open anymore, there are plenty of others that do offer PCOS awareness pieces that are equally lovely, and my guess is some of these ladies would be more than willing to work with you on your own custom piece. Check them out: PCOS Awareness Jewelry.

Do you already own a piece of PCOS Awareness jewelry that you love? Please share in the comments where you got it!

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September is PCOS Awareness Month

PCOS Awareness Month

Fellow cysters, September is PCOS Awareness Month. I want to encourage you to be honest and open with people about your PCOS. There is still such a lack of information out there for us, which is part of the reason why I started blogging more regularly to begin with, and why I cling to other bloggers who actually offer solid information. There is also a community of women out there to remind you that you are not alone. This is a journey, and we’re all in it together.

This month, do something to take control over your PCOS. Try a new recipe, talk to your doctor, invest in some supplements, try a chiropractor, something. Take a step forward in your care.

I wanted to share some links that contain really great and useful information for women with PCOS. These have helped me in many ways and I hope you find them beneficial as well.

7 Things You Need to Know About PCOS

7 PCOS Superfoods

How to Reduce the Damaging Effects of PCOS

Your PCOS Diet: Glycemic Index vs Glycemic Load

The Many Faces of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome

In addition to these, here are the posts I wrote for those who were just diagnosed with PCOS and are looking for next steps in their journey:

You Were Just Diagnosed with PCOS: Now What?

You Were Just Diagnosed with PCOS: Now What? Part 2

Ladies, join me in bringing awareness to PCOS this month. Share with others what you’re learning on your journey – I would personally love to see what you all come across on the ‘net that is helpful. Are there specific blog posts or recipes that you find useful? Leave a link in the comments below!

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