Croup is No Joke!

Fresh Eucalyptus in the shower, great for cold season
This week I had one of the scariest moments of my life as a mother. Chunka got a little cold and had a runny nose on Tuesday. On Wednesday I was waiting for the babysitter to call and say that we needed to pick her up because she had a fever or cough or her nose was running too much. When I got home from work I heard her breathing and her barking cough, I knew that she had croup.  I called the pediatrician's office to make an appointment for the morning and then steamed up the bathroom to hang out my little sicky in as close to a sauna as I could make it.

Chunka surprisingly slept through the night. I heard her barking cough a couple times but by the time I got to her she would have fallen back asleep.  When I woke to get ready for her, I went in and checked on her. She was sound asleep with her bump straight up in the air, breathing noisily, but not scarily gasping for breath. She and Munchkie were still sound asleep when I had to go in to wake them up for school. I woke up Munchkie, and heard a terrible noise from the other side of the room. Chunka was standing in her crib, gripping the railing with a terrified look on her face and gasping for air. While yelling for the shower to be turned on as hot as it could go I scooped Chunka up, took her pajamas off as fast as I could and went into the bathroom. The poor baby was burning up,her whole body was shaking and she clung to me, struggling to breathe. She couldn't talk, when she tried to cry it just got worse. I tried to give her medicine, but she wasn't able to swallow. We sat in the steamy bathroom clinging to each other, crying until she started to feel a little bit better. Once the steam started to help she was able to swallow some Motrin to help her fever come down. I sat there assessing, thinking, trying to reason through my assessment and my emotions. It is the only time in my time as a mother so far that I have considered calling 911. I sat there and tried to figure out what the best move for my child was, to call 911, take her to the hospital or wait for the doctor's office to open. In the end I decided to wait for the doctor's office because she seemed to be doing a little better and I had to go to work. I cried and cried as I had to leave for work (of course it was a day that there was absolutely no one who could cover for me at work) with instructions on what to do and to take her to the doctor's as soon as possible. I cried the whole way to work, and could barely keep it together to call the office to get an earlier appointment. Thankfully Chunka made it to the doctor's office early, started on steroids and was on the road to recovery in no time.

Croup is no joke. I'm a pediatric nurse. I knew what to do. And I've never been more scared in my life. As I watched my little baby gasp for breath I thanked God for modern medicine. I thanked God that I could take her to the doctor for a dose of steroids that would reduce the inflammation, allowing her to breathe better. I thanked God as I sat crying in my steamy bathroom that I was a nurse, knew what to look for, and knew how to help her.

The things to look for:

  • Stridor - high pitched wheezing-like sound when they are breathing in
  • Retractions - the sinking in of the skin between their ribs, just under their rubs and at the base of their neck
  • Barky cough - it sounds like a seal or a dog barking when they cough
  • Belly breathing - with each breath, their belly is really going in and out
  • Not being able to swallow, or letting drool fall out of the mouth (especially in older kids who should be able to swallow their saliva)
  • All of the above gets worse when they cry
What to do:
  • Call your doctor - depending on how bad it is, you might need steroids or special nebulization treatments
  • Steamy bathroom - close the door, turn the shower on hot hot hot and just stand in there breathing the steam for at least 15 minutes
  • Cold air - after the steam, go outside to breathe in some fresh, cold air
  • Have a cool mist humidifier in the child's room (that you clean as instructed)
  • Warm (not hot!) liquids (apple juice, water)
  • Honey if over a year old
  • Plenty of fluids, fever, breathing heavily and coughing all use up more fluids than we usually use
  • Keep the fever down - when the fever rises, the breathing often gets worse
Here is a video with the sounds of croup - 

(To be honest, I didn't watch the whole video, only the first minute or so to make sure that it sounded like croup)

If your child sounds like this don't mess around. Don't wait and see. Take action. Children who are old enough to talk have said that they felt like they were going to die because they could not take a breath. Imagine how scary that is if you can't tell anyone how you feel?


The Semicolon Project: My Response

Yesterday I did something that I never thought I would be able to do.  I shared one of my deepest darkest secrets. I wrote a blog post about my struggles with depression, anxiety, addiction and suicidal thoughts. I was terrified, but hoped and prayed that my story could help someone, somewhere and posted the blog on Facebook.  I had no idea the response this post was going to have. My phone was going off the remainder of the day with Facebook comments, private messages, text messages, and emails.  People sharing with me their stories, their struggles and the loved ones they have lost. The love and support was beyond overwhelming, my head was spinning by the time I went to bed last night.  When I came home from work today the blog post about the Semicolon Project had almost 1,000 page views.  To put this in perspective, my highly irregular blog posts usually have less than 40 page views. One THOUSAND page views.

These are topics that need to be talked about.  People everywhere need to realize that they are not weird, or broken because they can't feel the way they think should. You do not have to slip into the darkness and pain with no place to go. There are people all around you who are struggling just as you are. It may not just be the stranger in line behind you at the store, it may be one of your close friends, or a family member that is embarrassed by their depression.  Everyone needs to know that they are loved.

If you feel that you are alone. If you feel that you have a deep force that is preventing you from feeling.  If you don't know how you can get through another day. If you think that your life is just not worth living.

Please Please PLEASE reach out to someone.  Someone you trust. Someone you know loves you, even though you can't feel their love.

It's hard.  It's really hard. 

 But you are special. 

You are important. 

And you have every right to deserve to live a life full of happiness and joy. If you can't talk to someone, if you have no one you can trust, then talk to a stranger who wants to help you.

If you live in Massachusetts you can contact Samaritans via phone (877-870 HOPE (4673), online or text (text "START" to 741-741).
If you live anywhere in the US you can call  1-800-273-8255 or 1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433) to talk to someone.

If you don't know where you can find help for your struggles Project Semicolon has many resources for you. Or if you are worried about someone you love.

If you want to support and raise awareness but know that tattoos aren't your thing, there are many other beautiful ways to show you care. Let those around you know that you want to be supportive and loving. Start a conversation.

Please don't be quiet. Please don't live in a silent darkness.  Please don't be ashamed. 

Continue your story.  

Continue to live.


The Semicolon Project

A quick Google search for The Semicolon Project will show all kinds of blogs, Facebook pages, images and most importantly the Project Semicolon website.  The Project Semicolon Vision brought me to tears.  Creating a world that is loving, accepting and understanding of mental illness, suicide and addiction means so much to me. Why does this mean so much to me? Because these are all things that I struggle with, as do a truly astonishing number of people. However, thanks to the stigma associated with mental illness, people do not want anyone to know they struggle with depression, anxiety, addiction or self-harm.  Well I hope that through people, such as the Semicolon Project, people who struggle will realize that.


You are not weak.

You did not do anything wrong

You do not need to do this alone.

My brother introduced me to the Semicolon Project. Immediately I knew that we both had to get semicolon tattoos and I would do everything I could to make sure that we get them together.
See, my brother and I share something besides both coming from the same parents (maybe we share this because we came from the same parents).  We both have struggled with depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts and addiction.  There, I’ve said it.  It’s out for all of the internet world to know. I struggle with mental illness.  For most of my life I felt left out, not quite cool enough, smart enough, pretty enough or thin enough to be loveable, or even likeable.  There were many moments in my adolescent and teenage years that I felt like I could not possibly live another minute.  Obviously I did live, despite some moments of extremely poor decisions, and I am incredibly grateful that I did. Just because I am no longer a hormonal teenager does not mean that I no longer struggle with depression or anxiety. I have come to realize that this will be a struggle that I will deal with for probably my entire life.  For many years I was embarrassed that I couldn’t just be happy, or feel like “everyone else.”  Now I realize that many people are also embarrassed by their emotional struggles. 

Why are we embarrassed?

If we had ALS, breast cancer, Alzheimer’s or any other illness, we would not think that we did something wrong and just aren’t strong enough. We would understand that something happened in our bodies that we had no control over. Struggles with depression are no different. It is a chemical imbalance in the body. You don’t need to suffer alone. I believe that we have made advances in medicine (yes, I am a nurse) to help people with their physical and emotional pain.  There is no reason for anyone to suffer if they don’t have to. 


The only thing wrong with you is a chemical imbalance that YOU CAN NOT CONTROL.
(without help)

My tattoo
So I have made a very drastic decision to permanently mark my body in a visible way to raise awareness.  I now have a tattoo that will stay with me until my body turns to ashes. It is my hope and prayer that when people see this mark on my wrist they will ask me about it and I can tell them what my tattoo means.

Do you know what a semicolon is? A semicolon is where a sentence could end, but it doesn’t.  The sentence continues, the story continues, the life continues. 

Through the infinite love of Christ my sentence and my story continues.

I have met almost all of my life goals. I am living in an active, vibrant, large city. I am happily married.  I have two beautiful girls.  I love my job. I have a wonderful church that supports, challenges and shows love to me. I have amazing friends. I am taking medicine.

My brother's tattoo.
Well, maybe it wasn’t my life goal to be on medication.  But I am. And I realize that it’s not the most socially acceptable thing to talk about.  But guess what: I feel great.  I can realize that I have a great life.  I can truly love the people close to me.  I can get out of bed on my days off of work (my parents instilled a good work ethic in us).  I can accomplish things.  I can deal with life’s challenges with something other than food. I don’t need an entire pint of Hagan Das Stracciatella to deal with a bad day.  I can take a deep breath, move on, and get out of bed the next day. That may not seem like much to most people, but for someone who is depressed or anxious, this is actually quite an accomplishment. 

You can do it.  You can wake up.  You can get out of bed.  You can move through life with an appreciation for everything around you.  I am here to say, it is possible. You don’t need to do it alone.  There are people everywhere who love you.  They may not know you. But they love you.
You know how I know this?  Because I love you.  I may not have met you. But I love you.

You are loved.

YOU are loved.

You are LOVED.

Everything is Awesome! - a Lego party for Girls AND Boys

It's been a very long time since I've written a blog post.  My cute little Munchkie turned six and a big party was thrown for her and her sister, Chunka, who just turned ONE YEAR OLD on Saturday. During the party planning process I was getting so angry because everything I found said "best boys party ideas," "Lego party for boys" or "games for boys' Lego parties."  This motivated me to throw a great Lego party for two girls and start back blogging to show the Pinterest world that you can have the best Lego party ever for girls (and boys).

Welcome to our party!
 I used a super cheap ($1ish) plastic tablecloth and taped paper plates of the same color to the tablecloth to make a door covering. I did the same thing for the photo booth.
Our house is in party mode!  Yellow totes from Oriental Trading got an upgrade with a black fabric marker. Inside of each tote was a free printable I found of a word search and a color yourself as a minifigure. 
Each child had a name tag that they wrote their name on so that they were a master builder.

 We had a photo booth set up in the corner with photo props I found at Target for a few dollars. After getting their picture taken, they decorated a foam picture frame.  While the kids were eating, Munchkie and Chunka's Dad ran to CVS to print the pictures off.

Since the party was for a one year old and a six year old there were a wide range of ages invited.  I had a "baby ball and block pit" for the babies, but it turns out that all the kids wanted to play with the blocks.  While we were waiting for everyone to arrive, the kids decorated picture frames and played with blocks while the adults all chatted and got to know each other.
 Thank you Target for having some "building block" decorations for just a few dollars. I didn't have to make a lego block banner, and Munchkie's Mimi oh so kindly cut out circles and rectangles to make all kinds of other decorations.

Munchkie very proudly created this collage of Legos that Mimi had cut out and put together.  She used a circle cutter to create the circles and some foam glue dots to create some dimension to the blocks

Chunka had her own little birthday thrown since she was celebrating her first birthday (and on her actual birthday too!)  She wasn't so interested in her smash cake, she was pretty creeped out by the texture of the cool whip frosting. 

I chose to have the kids eat partway through the party and then eat the cake at the very end. We had pepperoni pizza (cheese with cheddar cheese circles for the vegetarians) that looked like Lego blocks with grapes, veggies and popcorn for lunch. I made a very simple pasta with a pesto topping (on the side) for the adults to eat so there were plenty of pizza Legos for the kiddos.
We continued with more games and crafts after lunch. Pin the smile on the Lego guy was a huge hit. Each smile placed in a funny spot brought peels of laughter. The bean bag toss brought out the competitive nature in the kids, but luckily there were no prizes and we all cheered for each child's 

We did two different crafts after lunch as well.  Munchkie and Chunka's Daddy had used his smallest drill bit to drill two holes into small flat Lego pieces.  I then threaded string through the holes (this was no easy task I realized!) so that the kids could choose to braid the three strings if they were able, or just put beads on to make a bracelet. Then the kids each made a terrarium using a Megablock, some beads, a little plastic animal and an airplant. I made sure to send each kid home with instructions on watering their plant and a tiny spray bottle (super cheap on

 We used the leftovers to create a "jungle" terrarium.

Now, the real birthday cake was my pride and joy. Due to a nasty stomach bug that swept through our house the weekend before, the party had to be  rescheduled. I considered the cake that I had to dump in the trash (with some tears) my practice so this cake turned out even better than the first.

Munchkie had seen a similar picture to this on Pinterest and decided that she really wanted a cake just like it.  While mine does not look as good as the original, I think that it still turned out pretty good.  A friend from work let me borrow some silicone block and minifigure molds, so I used candy melts to create the blocks.  I also used fondant to cover the cake, which was Funfetti with buttercream frosting. Since it was both Lent and pretty gluten-ful I did not try it, but I heard it tasted pretty good too.

So there you go.  A super fun Lego birthday for two girls that was enjoyed by both girls and boys of all ages.  


Update and Oat Bran

Oh boy it's been a while.  Once I let a period of time go by without posting, then I feel that I need to have this incredible post to make up for the time gone by.  Well, that's not really going to happen.  I think now I'm just needing to post something to get back in the game. 

We had a very busy summer.  We were go go going almost every day.  From driving 24+ hours (each way) to the upper peninsula of Michigan to learning to take the public transportation to Target we were constantly exploring and discovering all kinds of fun things.  In between our explorations Munchkie's Daddy and I trained to run a 10k, something I never ever would have imagined doing.  See my brother is the runner, not me.  But I went from barely making it one minute running to running every step of the 6.2 miles we ran this past Sunday. 

Oat Bran with apples, cinnamon, almond butter
I also found a new blog that I am loving.  I am in the process of reading every post she has posted, but am still only on 2009.  I think that blogs are the new books for me.  The thing that bothers me about reading is that I want to finish the whole book.  I sometimes sit reading a book cover to cover and neglect all else.  But with blogs, each post has a wrap up so you feel that you can walk away and aren't constantly wondering what you're missing by not reading.  It sometimes it still a continuous story, but you can take breaks without feeling like you need to read "just one more sentence" so you are in a good stopping point.  Anyway, in this new blog Heather Eats Almond Butter she talks about the importance of eating healthy fats, something I have agreed with.  I think that I did increase my healthy fats, but not on a daily basis.  I also was eating unbelievable amounts of fruit because I love it so much.  Now I am trying to substitute veggies for the fruits I was eating, because sugar is sugar. 

Oat bran with pumpkin, pumpkin pie spice, unsweetened carob chips
I also have found a love of oat bran.  I work 12-13 hour days, eating breakfast around 6am, maybe a snack mid morning and sometimes not having time to eat lunch until after 4pm.  It's absolutely essential for me to find something very sustaining to last me that many hours.  I am amazed by how well this oat bran fills me up.  The key is all of the things that you can add into your oat bran.  I think tomorrow morning I am going to venture into spinach.  We'll see how this goes.

Munchkie had maple syrup and milk added to her pumpkin oat bran.
Oat Bran

1/2 cup oat bran
2 cups unsweetened vanilla almond milk (can use water or any other kind of milk)
2-4 packets of stevia (or your sweetener of choice)
1-2 tablespoons almond/nut butter (get in those healthy fats!)
1-2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
add ins of your choosing, pumpkin, apples, butternut squash, spinach, carob chips, more seasonings, raisins, all kinds of fruit, nuts, whatever sounds good

To make, on the stove-top bring to a boil the oat bran, milk, sweetener, cinnamon, and pumpkin/apples.  Turn the heat down a little bit and continue boiling until the milk and oat bran are completely combined and it has thickened, only another minute or two.  Turn the heat off, add in the vanilla and almond butter and stir until combined.  You can eat right away, adding more yummy things into your bowl or you can put it in the refrigerator overnight, even up to a couple of days. I think that it is delicious both warm and cold, it depends on my mood.  It's also very portable, I eat it on the bus on the way to work.  This amount usually is too much for me to eat, I usually separate this into two containers and eat over two days, or I "snack" on it throughout the morning at work, eating a few bites when I get the chance.



I thought that I would also include some pictures highlighting our summer of fun!
Rode on her first horse with Grandpa at Old McDonald's Farm

Lots and lots of swimming, she graduated swim classes and enjoyed every minute of it.

We went to a water park where Munchkie loved the thrill of sliding down the slides.

Munchkie found out that she likes lobsters.  A lot.  Between lobsters and her love of good cheeses, she's an expensive date!

We ran our first 5K, running around our city to various historical points of interest, learning more about where we live.

Went to a Food Truck Festival, enjoying all kinds of good eats.

Spent an afternoon in a rowboat on a pond in the city, so relaxing!

Munchkie loved tubing on the lake in the UP of MI, wanting to go faster and faster!

Couldn't get this girl off of the Sea-Doo, she wanted to do "tricks" all day long.

Plenty of time spent on the beaches, finding all kinds of treasures.

Traveled to some water falls with friends, nothing like splashing your feet in cool water.

Hanging out by the waterfalls.

The first day of school, so hard to believe!

We went to our first tea party, so much fun!

We did it!  We ran a 10k!  Munchkie ran across the finish line with us.
And there you have it.  We have been busy, enjoying time spent together.  Although it's sad to be back to the grind of things, school, work, etc. it's nice to be back in a rhythm.