Celebrating Fatherhood

I am lucky to have three important men in my life: my dad, my husband, and my son.

Two of those men are fathers, the third may become one someday. That’s his choice when he’s ready.

I wanted to spend a post talking about how much I love and respect these two fathers in honor of Father’s Day yesterday.

My Father

I could list all the things my father did like many Father’s Day posts do: sitting with me when I was sick, teaching me something important, or dispensing sage life advice when necessary. All of which he’s done.

Or I can write about two formative lessons he passed on to me. One was an individual incident and the other was taught my entire life.

While I was “daddy’s little girl,” that didn’t mean I had to be girly-girl. In fact, I was more like “daddy’s little tomboy” growing up. He taught me how to climb trees, build a tree house, shoot a bow, ride a bike, scare my mom, and not allow boys to push me around because I was a girl.

Never once growing up did I ever feel the need to adhere to a specific gender role from my father. He never told me “no” because it was unladylike, nor did he expect me to behave a certain way because that’s how it’s done according to gender.

He made sure I understood one thing: don’t be what other’s want you to be. Only be yourself.

One of the best examples of this in my life happened when I was around 11/12 years old:

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Revisiting a Phone Detox

On Monday, I decided to take a much-needed break from my phone and putting restrictions on my usage for Jai’s sake and my own. I found the process both daunting and freeing and plan to keep the forward momentum I’ve gained by limiting my phone usage.

How the Week Went

Overall, I found myself to be more productive.

While I still found I spent a lot of time on my phone, it was doing more productive work like checking my social media accounts for the blog, interacting with other bloggers, and whatnot. But more importantly, I found myself no longer making excuses for getting ahead and working on some side projects that have been on the backburner for a while.

I am not surprised at how much of a distraction my phone is in my life.

I suspect that I use it as a tool to keep me from pursuing more important personal goals. I am someone who has an insecurity when it comes to the threat of failure, so I use my phone as a means to distract myself from the task at hand. If I don’t complete a task I’ve set out for myself, I can’t fail. It really doesn’t make sense when you look at it objectively.

The point is this: my phone was used as a means to keep me stagnant. I waste time doing unimportant tasks with no tangible benefit in order to avoid tangible productivity that pushed me out of my comfort zone. This week I turned towards more tangible tasks.

I worked off of my paper planner more which increases my productivity versus my electronic calendars and apps. Try as I might, I can’t get away from the allure of physically writing something down as a means to commit something to memory or plan something out.

The Most Difficult Part

Night time was the hardest time to manage because I tried to ration my time out with my various apps to save for bedtime. I have a very bad habit of needing to use my phone to fall asleep. Looking at a phone screen up to three hours before going to sleep can affect you sleep health and habits. I fall asleep most nights with my phone on and in my hand.

Not good.

I bought a dimmable book light and pulled some books I’ve been meaning to read and put them by my head to help facilitate the process of turning to books as a means of falling asleep rather than my phone. I’m not quite there yet, but I am getting there.

Kat, a blogger at the Lily Cafereminded me of this on Monday: remove the phone from the bedroom altogether. Having at least one phone is a good idea in case of an emergency so it would have to be Ash’s, but I should probably leave my phone charging in the kitchen at night.

It will prevent me from reaching for it when I wake in the middle of the night. I find that once awake and on my phone, I have a harder time falling asleep. I start thinking about things as I read social media or I get wrapped up in banal game tasks that an hour or two has passed without me falling back to sleep.

Known Personal Benefits

On the nights I didn’t instinctively reach for my phone I found that I slept better and felt more refreshed in the morning. This, in turn, helped boost my productivity.

By reincorporating books in my daily life I am rediscovering the joy I had of reading. I’ve been listening to audiobooks for the past couple of years because it’s easier to have on in the background when chasing a toddler.

Jai is also helping reignite my love: he will sit for extended periods of time in his room just flipping through his books. He’s not reading, we’re nowhere near that yet, but he is looking at the pictures and seems to enjoy whatever is internally playing out in his head.

Some days I am able to entice him to naptime by putting a favorite board book in the crib and he’ll sit contentedly flipping through the book until he falls asleep or throws it out of the crib.

This week I’ve taken to reading my books to him. They are dry, boring parenting books, but books I’ve been meaning to read for the blog and for myself. I read during the times I would be on my phone to distract myself while he engaged in independent play. Sometimes he wants to hear me read, other times I read silently.

Either way, it feels good to be doing that again. I feel guilty about reading books while in graduate school because I feel like I should be reading academic books rather than pleasure or enrichment books. I am learning to let go of that guilt and just enjoy the hobby that drove me to graduate school.

I also feel my time spent with Jai is more meaningful and no longer squandered. Sitting in a corner of his room while on my phone always felt like I was taking his toddler moments for granted. My biggest fear is to look back on my life and regret spending time on my phone rather than interacting with him.

I do not believe every waking moment should be spent interacting with Jai, having the independent play and alone time away from mommy is good for his development, but I also would rather spend my idle time doing something productive and less distracting. My absorption in my phone is so full that it can be hard to break away versus I find it easier to put a book down when he needs my attention.

Moving Forward

This week was a small step in decreasing my dependence on technology. I had my moments where I had to pause app limits because it was necessary to spend an extra five minutes on a problematic app for communication purposes.

I find that I still used my phone more than I would like, but it was getting down to a more acceptable time sink.

I plan on keeping my app blocker and further limit my technology usage by incorporating productivity extensions on my browser. I don’t want to stop using technology for fun altogether because as I stated on Monday, technology has always been a hobby since childhood, I just want to manage that time better and make sure it doesn’t take up all of my time.

Technology isn’t the enemy in my life, it’s a fantastic tool that I want to use and embrace. I just want to make sure that I am being healthy both as a means of achieving my personal goals and avoiding stagnation while modeling balanced behavior for Jai as he gets older.

 


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Talking to others about MS

There comes a time to reveal a difficult diagnosis to those outside the immediate family.

This can be a stressful or liberating experience. Friends may have suspected all along or been completely surprised by the information shared with them.

Revealing your diagnosis is an intimate act because you are sharing something personal with a friend in the hopes they will be supportive.

Because we cannot control others’ reactions after such a revelation, waiting until you are ready to talk is extremely important for your emotional health.

When to Say Something

First of all: you do not owe an explanation for your health. If you choose to divulge your diagnosis, that is a decision only you can make. Do not let anyone else force the matter from you.

If someone is visibly unwell and been so for a while, it may be harder to keep diagnostic information from others, particularly if treatment starts. It may be a relief in telling others because there is finally some information to share, but don’t be surprised if holding onto that information a little longer is more important.

While there might be a temptation to tell people immediately after the diagnosis, waiting until the information is processed is best. It allows for better preparation both with reactions and questions. Knowing which friends can handle the information with care and sensitivity helps in deciding who gets what information first.

But there may be some friends, despite waiting until you are ready, that may scale back the friendship because they don’t know how to handle your diagnosis. This hurts, but being ready for it will help mitigate the pain versus being blindsided. I made this mistake a few times and each time I wish I had waited to reveal my diagnosis or not bothered at all.

Only you will know the right time to divulge information, there isn’t a magic number or “best by” date to tell others.

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Checking In: MS Symptoms

What good is discussing diet and lifestyle changes if I don’t reveal the ongoing results?

Doing an honest self-assessment of any sort is hard, particularly when trying to find ways to manage an unmanageable disease. There’s a huge desire to make everything a “success” or engage in placebo effect-like thinking, but that isn’t always the case.

Overall, I feel like I am managing my MS better, but on a day-to-day basis, my mileage may vary because of various external factors.

Current Health Self-Check

Currently, I am not doing so well. Not necessarily because of the MS, but I have a weird seasonal head cold. Drippy nose, sore throat, and exhaustion. I can only assume that if a person without MS gets a cold like this they may feel wiped out but are able to go about their daily lives with minimal interference.

With MS and any illness, I get so wiped out that getting out of bed is a hardship. Ash had to stay home until Jai went down for his morning nap on Tuesday because I was so worn out. I needed the extra couple of hours of sleep this afforded me before I was able to start the day and take care of a toddler. Jai and I stayed in our PJs and read lots of books and minimized movement so I wouldn’t overdo it.

This is a key example of why getting sick with MS is “dangerous.” It won’t necessarily cause any physical harm, but infections are a key cause of flare-ups so there is a risk of needing to get steroids to treat the inflammation. I don’t get avoidant if I know someone is sick, but I do recognize that even a simple cold can knock me off my feet for a couple of days that might just inconvenience someone else.

Normally I wouldn’t write about getting sick factoring into how I am currently feeling because I tend to not get sick all that often, but since having Jai it has become a more common occurrence. 

Beyond the cold, I am feeling okay overall. There’s been some emotional disappointment in not being able to maintain my diet as strictly as I wanted, but doing what is best for my overall health is more important. My brain fog and memory issues haven’t gone away or lessened it, but that may be because I am not doing enough mental exercises to help stimulate neuron repair.

Fatigue is still an issue, but not so much on the days that I am more active. I find high-cardio days means that I have more energy throughout the day and days I do yoga there might be a greater dip in energy by the afternoon.

Being completely honest: I haven’t noticed many changes since my last check-in after my diet reset. I feel more active, happier, less sluggish, but no appreciable changes to my MS symptoms.

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Compassionate Parenting: Mindfulness and the Child

This is the second week in a 3-week series on parenting observations. Week one is based on gentle parenting, week two is about parenting with compassion, and week three is about parenting with a disability.

These posts are based on my personal experiences as a parent and are not meant in any way to judge other parenting styles or decisions. I am offering my personal research and conclusions as possible suggestions for others out there, therefore these posts will be as objective as possible. When it comes to parenting: provided the method isn’t abusive, there really isn’t a wrong way to parent your child. Be secure and do what works best for you and your family and ignore outside judgement.


Being a parent or caretaker requires a level of compassion that is almost second nature from the beginning. It’s as if when the child is handed over, they also hand over the inherent tools needed to be loving, compassionate, and caring for the little one.

Just kidding. That’s the narrative we’re told when we’re about to become parents.

That isn’t actually the case: it takes time to fall in love with this new human being. While some things do come naturally, being compassionate may take longer to foster and that’s okay. Compassion isn’t given, it’s developed through a lifetime of experiences.

Going several months with sleep deprivation makes it hard to want to understand what’s going on inside the little one’s head, but it’s something to consider, especially when they won’t stop screaming.

In a child’s ugliest moments, it is important to see things from their perspective to better serve their needs. As with Gentle Parenting, this isn’t about being permissive, but finding ways to use available parental tools in the most effective way.

Nota bene: This post will be using the universal “you/second person” pronouns throughout, so while it may not speak to your experience directly, it may apply to someone else you know.

The Difficulties of Growing Up

Understanding babies and toddlers is a rather foreign concept. As adults, we are furthest away from them developmentally as possible. Teenagers can be easier to understand, if only because we may have recently come out of that developmental stage.
Toddlers have a difficult life.
As silly as that sounds, it is true when looking at things from their perspective. Several years ago, before I even thought of having Jai, I read a post about how hard toddler’s have it. I haven’t been able to find the exact article, but there are others out there with the same concept. It talks about life from a toddler’s perspective and speculates what they might be thinking.
Life From a Toddler’s Perspective:
  • You can understand most, if not all, of the words spoken to you, but you have limited ability to respond in a way that your caretakers understand. Certain noises or actions will elicit responses, and while they may not be an effective way to get your needs met, it gets the ball rolling.
  • You rarely have a say in anything. You could be playing with a toy, watching your favorite show, eating your snack, and your caretaker picks you up and asserts their will on you in some manner. Moves you to another room. Straps you into a chair. Changes your diaper. You did not want or ask for any of this.
  • Once more: you don’t have a say. There’s food put in front of you and you don’t like the taste or are bored with it. But your caretaker won’t let you out of your chair until you consume an arbitrary amount. You are put in your crib for a nap, but you don’t feel tired and don’t want to be left alone.
  • Rules are abstract concepts. You want to explore and try everything now that you are mobile, but every time you get close to something interesting you get yelled at or moved. You eventually get that something is “no,” but that’s a “no” in the moment and may not be a “no” in a while. So you want to test to see if there’s consistency.
  • There is no concept of self-preservation. You can walk and you see your caretakers go down stairs, why can’t you on your own? Now they get upset when you venture too close.
  • There is no concept of ownership. Everything your caretaker has is yours and everything of yours is yours and everything the other little human you’ve been brought to see is yours, and now there’s crying and you don’t understand why your caretaker is being stern with you for taking that toy.
  • Emotions are new and shift everyday. You don’t understand what they mean or why you feel this way. The only way to feel better is to have an outward release of those emotions by yelling, crying, or throwing something because why not? This causes your caretaker to react in ways you don’t understand.
  • In the same vein, learning happens all the time, but you don’t understand your limitations. You see your caretaker do something or an older child do something that you want to do, but you aren’t able to do it in the same way when you try which is very frustrating.
The list can go on and on, but the point is made: it’s difficult to be a toddler when it’s hard to understand what is going on and you don’t have the tools to manage it.
Keeping these ideas in mind when dealing with a little one will help raise personal awareness and compassion for your child. Essentially every part of being a toddler is frustration, from not being able to understand to not being able to manage emotions. When they are throwing a tantrum or being resistant, it’s nothing personal to the caretaker, it’s because they are incapable of managing their feelings the way adults have been trained to do.
Therefore when confronted with a toddler’s frustration, the adult can take a step back and be compassionate to what might be upsetting their little one.

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