My mysterious “illness”

Since Owen stopped nursing, I have had a mysterious illness. It doesn’ happen everyday so sometimes I can forget about it. When it does strike it feels super unsettling. In the middle of class, sometimes while driving, or when sitting on the floor doing legos it can hit me. Then I worry. What exactly is wrong? Is this seemingly odd and small and not always occurring phenomenon something much more serious? In the first few weeks of post-nursing life back in April, I just shrugged it off and said it must be that “nursing sickness” that mommas talk about. A lot of the signs were there. But, now I am 6 months out and still get shaken by it, so maybe it is something else?

What does it look and feel like? Intense dizziness, a feeling like if I don’t sit down I will pass out and faint, waves of nausea that are so bad I run into the bathroom to get sick, heart palpitations at times, the inability to focus, and vertigo that has me brace against a wall or sit down as fast I possibly can out of fear.

When it hits, it lasts for a few days. Then it disappears and I forget I ever felt this way.

You might be thinking, why don’t you see a doctor? Well, I did and I do. In April, she tested a lot of hormone levels thinking it might be connected to my cycle and my body coming back to “usual” after having kids and nursing. Over the summer, she checked my thyroid and blood sugar, kidney and liver functions, all my metabolic numbers. This fall it has been my blood pressure (which is low! but maybe that is normal for me?), more checks on my glucose for diabetes or hypoglycemia another round of thyroid blood work. I have been checked for lyme disease and lupus and even rheumatoid  arthritis (although I don’t feel achy in my joints?). There were more tests of my lady hormones and everything came back “normal.” Which is great! I am glad that these things are good and healthy but saddened that we still don’t know what it could be. The best way to describe it is when you have had TOO much to drink and lay down and the whole room spins out of control but this time around I am not drinking. Now I am waiting to see a Neurologist in December to check for these tiny crystals in my inner ear that might be floating around causing this acute vertigo and/or I am sure they will check for other things.

There is also a chance it might be connected to my diet (as in I may have food allergies which is not uncommon in my family). So I am starting something as a test between now and the new year to see if things change since I have a long wait for my next medical visit. Maybe this is all hocus pocus at this point but at least it feels empowering to be trying something that if nothing else will be benign and might give me some relief from these feelings that make me feel like I am simultaneously pregnant and drunk (and don’t worry I have peed on so many pregnancy sticks + the vasectomy that it would be a true act of God to be that). This is the point of the story where you may choose to stop reading if you would rather not roll your eyes at all the “crazy” pseudo-medicine/science I am going to try!

  1. In the morning I have started to dry-brush before hopping into my shower. What is dry brushing? It is exactly what it sounds like, you take a brush to your dry skin! You start at your feet or hands and slowly make your way up towards your heart. I have actually really enjoyed this process so far. Some mornings when I am particularly bleary-eyed, I struggle to remember this step to my “new routine” so leaving the brush out on the counter has helped jog my tired mind. It is a nice little way to check in on the body and slow down before the morning rush. Supposedly, it can help your lymphatic system, clean your pores, boost your energy, and, if nothing else, it helps to exfoliate.
  2. To support the gut which might be the cause of all these weird troubles, I am taking a probiotic. This might be the easiest step to include because I just take it along with my vitamin.
  3. I am going to slow down on the high impact exercises and take some time to revisit a more slow-flow form of yoga. Feeling literally out of sorts doesn’t seem to jive with high intensity work that might leave me even more light-headed than I usually am. So instead, I am going to slow things down but increase the consistently on some yoga and some pilates to help me focus, breathe, and stretch.
  4. And then the diet….So sad to say goodbye to sugar before the holidays but I think to see what is going on I need to start embracing a more limited sugar and limit my gratuitous carb diet. My doctor is flirting with the idea of food allergies and sensitivities so I imagine that needing to eliminate foods will be soon my reality anyway, so I might as well choose to start this work now and see if I notice any changes over time. (And that means limiting my caffeine too…saddest part of all).

Keep your fingers crossed and definitely let me know if you have felt these things too. I am hoping that by the end of December, I will have some good things to report back on.

Traveling with Toddlers

The last time we traveled as a family was in the summer to California. It was a long haul flight but the kiddos did great and that is making our next journey to Florida in two days feel like a piece of cake! We can do anything for three hours, right? Whether or not we have a smooth in-flight experience with our two toddlers is up in the air (hahaha) BUT I cannot wait to board that plane after a long first term at work and making my way through piles of grading, comment-writing, and lesson planning.

Also, traveling with the family to Disney World is just so exciting. Not only do we get to see the wonder and magic in Owen’s and Henry’s eyes but we also get to go with our entire family. My parents are traveling down with us from Boston, my brother is flying in from SoCal with his family, and my brother-in-law is driving north to meet us from the Palm Beach area. It will be the first time that all of the cousins are all together since Owen joined the team. I might be more excited to hug and hold everyone than to get on a single ride in Disney, although I do want to ride on that “it’s a small world” boat on repeat.

Tonight in preparation for the big adventure, we are going to start packing and I am noticing that for the first time we are “traveling light.” As the boys are getting older, we are getting better at streamlining our packing gear and also shedding gear we no longer need in general. Obviously the days of David and I fitting into one carry-on and each wearing our one personal item are long gone but this feels like the first trip where I am not anxious about making sure we remember all the gear and little baby things and figuring out how to carry all of it from the taxi to the ticket counter to our destination!

What are we bringing?

  • The MaClaren Double Umbrella Stroller: for easy travel through the airport, through the Disney parks, and in case someone decides to take a little snooze.
  • The Lotus backpack pack-n-play: yes, Disney has cribs, but we are also spending most of our time north by David’s family and will need a bed there for Owen so we might as well use it at Disney too. Plus it is so compact and lightweight (it’s seriously a little backpack!) and we check it at the ticket counter.
  • Owen’s Travel Carseat  (that we borrow from a dear friend who has let us hijack it since our California trip!) and Henry’s Carseat (Chicco booster with back) packed up in a single backpack which we will check at the ticket counter and which will help us to get from Orlando to David’s Dad’s place and back.
  • 1 checked bag for Me & Owen & Henry: with things from bathing suits to winter coats (because even though Orlando will be warm and we can probably swim everyday, up by David’s dad will be COLD at night and the kids are going to want to romp around the woods and be cozy for the annual hayride!)
  • 1 carry-on bag for David
  • 1 Backpack for the plane with some snacks, a few toys, and diapers

I know what you are thinking: WHOA, that is a lot of stuff. And you are right! But, remember this is air travel to multiple locations via multiple transportations (taxi, buses, planes, rental car) for over 10 days with two kids. Maybe I am delusional but I am pretty pumped for how “light weight” it feels this time!

What I am not bringing: Baby food, bottles, a breast pump, heavy toddler car seats (that weigh as much as me!), carseat travel wheels to roll heavy carseat through terminal, baby wraps/carrier, pacifiers, baby utensils, multiple extra pairs of clothes because someone is always pooping through an outfit, tons of cow milk for sippy cups, burp clothes, swaddle blankets, nursing cover, bibs, etc. etc.

While most days I  carry my sadness over not adding another little peanut into our clan, when it comes to a travel day there is a silver-lining to being a more mobile team toddlers and out of our itty, bitty babyhood. Safe travels where ever you may be going this Holiday!

’tis the season to be….grateful

Today my school is hosting its largest Admission Event of the season. Each year, dozens (perhaps hundreds) of families from in and around Boston descend on our parking lot and cruise through our hallways catching glimpses of the daily life of the students. In a parallel universe, teachers in the classrooms, and hiding away in the nooks and crannies of the study spaces, work tirelessly to complete lesson plans, start their end of term comment writing, make finals, grade last minute assignments and prepare to grade finals just created. This week is the stuff of nightmares! We have to be engaged and engaging to our prospective new families and to our current students who are heading into final exams and we have to do our best to tackle the mountain of work in exactly 7 days when all the due dates converge! Yet, despite the frenzy, I am feeling super grateful today. This place is so special to me because of the way it approaches teachers, grows teachers, nurtures relationships, shares curriculum content, and challenges and loves its students. Yes, I might be a shut-in this weekend but there are so many awesome moments that make-up for the onslaught of grading ahead of me.

My goal this week which I am putting out there in the world is to have no lingering work over the week of Thanksgiving. My goal is to leave my laptop behind and take a full week off after this mania. And I write this now while I could be working on my work… procrastination is real, but now the need to get started feels more real.

Also, a dear friend had a baby this morning and how can you not feel grateful when life welcomes a new human to the world!! Cheers!!

They Escaped!

A few weeks ago, I was scrolling through Instagram enjoying photos of babies, food, and Kaelin’s cat when I saw a momma friend post about an “escape the room” review lesson she had hatched for her history class. Immediately, I became obsessed with the idea! My ninth graders have been killing it this year raising the bar on their writing, content comprehension, debates, and analysis. Wouldn’t it be fun to approach the end of the Civil War unit in a playful way for them? This question led me deep.


Deep into a hole of puzzle making and code ciphering that had me babbling “sic semper tryannis” and buying Mexican Cipher Wheels from Amazon. What could the topic be for the escape? Would the escape the room help them better understand history or would it just be a distraction? I racked my brain through these questions and reached out to faculty across the building for help thinking through the objectives and meaning behind the escape. The topic came the easiest. The class would need to prevent the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. In the past, this topic was always covered by reading a textbook and doing a little discussion about the magnitude of the assassination before moving on to something else. But what if instead of this very small/insignificant approach, we jazzed it up and got the students to feel the rush of emotion to prevent the event and the confusion of following the manhunt? The scenario thus became:

“You are group of elite army special service officers. You have just witnessed the signing of the Articles of Agreement in which the Southern Confederate Army officially ended their hostilities against the Union. You have been tasked to deliver the formal documentation to the White House. While traveling from Appomattox Court House to President Abraham Lincoln, you are ambushed by a group of hooded riders who blindfold you and take you to an undisclosed location. Along the way there, you pick up bits of their discussion from the front of the wagon about plans to “Cut off the Head” of the Union so that the “South May Rise Again.” Left alone in the holding cell,  you need to uncover how to get out, where the surrender document is hidden, and what plans you need to stop in order to secure peace and protect the United States of America!”

And then I stopped blogging for two weeks because it was time to create 10 missions, clues, red herrings, objectives, ciphers, puzzles, and everything else in between. It felt like an incredible undertaking and I lost myself to the process all the while hoping that on the day of execution the students would be challenged, would gain deeper knowledge of the events leading to: the assassination, the timeline, the co-conspirators, the manhunt, the plot, the motivation, and all else in-between. And using technology would allow students to visit the locations with Virtual Reality. My framework then became for:

  • Students to work in collaboration with another to problem solve and work together towards a common goal
  • Students are able to review key concepts, themes, battles, and events leading up to, during, and immediately following the Civil War
  • Goal for students to be engaged in the content in a way that is respectful, motivating, and team-building
  • Have students understand the timeline of events leading up to the Assassination of Abraham Lincoln, learn about the motivation, the assassin, visit the physical space of Ford’s Theater, and learn about the co-conspirators
  • Have students reflect on their approach, reflect on their default collaboration behaviors/mindsets, and discuss how they were challenged in the process

The process was maddening. I am thankful David is still married to me once I climbed out of the craziness. On the morning of, I arrived to school an hour in advance to set up the room, played Civil War themed music over the speakers, and welcomed in the students. It took them the full hour to work through the puzzles. They laughed, they struggled, but ultimately they escaped.