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“Why are you putting on your tennis shoes?” I ask Ryan, even though I already know the answer.


“So we can go play handball,” he replies.

He grabs the red, bouncy playground ball and runs out the door shouting, “I’ll meet you at the court.” The “court” is a wall near our laundry room.

Ryan is nine and generally plays handball five days a week, twice a day at school. He’s gotten so good that this year his classmates named a move after him. He was the first child to hit the ball so hard it went over the top of the court. Now, when he or anyone else does it, they’ve hit a ‘Ryan.’”

 

 

I’m 41 years old and play handball only when I play with Ryan at home. And, I am a disabled parent. Not a parent confined to a wheelchair, not a parent with limited vision or hearing, but a parent with an autoimmune disease that leaves me with intense pain and fatigue in my legs.

If I’m honest with myself and my body, I shouldn’t be playing handball at all. It’s physically taxing for me and, after a play session, my pain is always intensified. But I play anyway because I know there will most likely come a time when Ryan will not invite me to play with him. The days of hearing “Mommy, let’s play” are not infinite.

I play with Ryan while I still sort of can. No doctor can predict the progression of my disease. No doctor can assure me it won’t worsen to the point where I am forced to rely on a cane, walker, or wheelchair. So I play with the hope that Ryan will remember that I did these things with him.

Before the first serve, Ryan always recites his list of rules – rules to ensure that the game is played fairly, and that we’re both in agreement about what is and isn’t allowed.

Ryan may think of these as nothing more than handball rules. I, however, have realized that his rules aren’t just limited to a playground game. Ryan’s Rules for Handball have become My Rules for Life.

The Rules

“No friendships”

In handball, it means my son isn’t going to go easy on me. When we’re on the court, we’re not Ryan and Mommy. We’re two competing players. In life, it means that bad things sometimes happen to good people. No one gets an easy pass.

“No sticky fingers”

In the game, it means you use proper form, keeping your hand in a closed fist. For me, it means remembering to keep proper posture. When pain is bad, I have a tendency to start to curl up, or hunch over, or try to make myself smaller. I’ve been told it’s common for people in chronic pain to do this.

“No cheats”

There’s no getting around it. If I hit the ball and it goes past the line, I’m out. If Ryan hits the ball so hard it goes over my head, I’m out. There’s no trying to talk my way out of it. It’s just a game, after all. In life, it’s more complicated, of course, but the basic idea is the same. Life can’t be cheated.

“Clear re-dos”

Ryan and I play on a wall that has a ledge jutting out near the top. Sometimes, the ball hits the ledge and bounces back and forth like a ball inside a pin-ball machine. That’s when Ryan will call out, “That’s a clear re-do.” So we start again and go from there. Generally, life doesn’t offer re-dos, but life does give us the chance to re-do certain moments, certain situations.

When the pain hits so intensely that I’m tempted to lie down on the hard asphalt and cry, I can’t re-do it. Pain is already there. But I can sit down on a nearby bench, have some water, take some deep breaths. And go from there.

“That made”

When Ryan shouts, “That made!” it means his hit counts. The ball may not have bounced the way he was expecting. He may not have hit it the way he wanted to, but it was still an allowable play. In life, it means my plans haven’t all worked out. Things haven’t gone the way I thought or hoped they would. But life does go on, and I have to readjust my expectations and adapt.

Sometimes, when Ryan and I play, we have a good round. Every time he hits, I’m able to hit the ball back. Life can be like that, too. Sometimes, I can take what comes my way without much fuss or heartache or worry. Sometimes, all I can do is react quickly because something’s coming right at me.

Like a red, bouncy playground ball.

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When you become a parent for the first time, there is an undeniably steep learning curve. Add to that the struggle of sorting through fact and fiction when it comes to advice and—whew—it's enough to make you more tired than you already are with that newborn in the house.

Just like those childhood games of telephone when one statement would get twisted by the time it was told a dozen times, there are many parenting misconceptions that still tend to get traction. This is especially true with myths about bottle-feeding—something that the majority of parents will do during their baby's infancy, either exclusively or occasionally.

Here's what you really need to know about bottle-feeding facts versus fiction.

1. Myth: Babies are fine taking any bottle

Not all bottles are created equally. Many parents experience anxiety when it seems their infant rejects all bottles, which is especially nerve wracking if a breastfeeding mom is preparing to return to work. However, it's often a matter of giving the baby some time to warm up to the new feeding method, says Katie Ferraro, a registered dietician, infant feeding specialist and associate professor of nutrition at the University of California San Francisco graduate School of Nursing.

"For mothers returning to work, if you're breastfeeding but trying to transition to bottle[s], try to give yourself a two- to four-week trial window to experiment with bottle feeding," says Ferraro.

2. Myth: You either use breast milk or formula

So often, the question of whether a parent is using formula or breastfeeding is presented exclusively as one or the other. In reality, many babies are combo-fed—meaning they have formula sometimes, breast milk other times.

The advantage with mixed feeding is the babies still get the benefits of breast milk while parents can ensure the overall nutritional and caloric needs are met through formula, says Ferraro.

3. Myth: Cleaning bottles is a lot of work

For parents looking for simplification in their lives (meaning, all of us), cleaning bottles day after day can sound daunting. But, really, it doesn't require much more effort than you are already used to doing with the dishes each night: With bottles that are safe for the top rack of the dishwasher, cleaning them is as easy as letting the machine work for you.

For added confidence in the sanitization, Dr. Brown's offers an incredibly helpful microwavable steam sterilizer that effectively kills all household bacteria on up to four bottles at a time. (Not to mention it can also be used on pacifiers, sippy cups and more.)

4. Myth: Bottle-feeding causes colic

One of the leading theories on what causes colic is indigestion, which can be caused by baby getting air bubbles while bottle feeding. However, Dr. Brown's bottles are the only bottles in the market that are actually clinically proven to reduce colic thanks to an ingenious internal vent system that eliminates negative pressure and air bubbles.

5. Myth: Bottles are all you can use for the first year

By the time your baby is six months old (way to go!), they may be ready to begin using a sippy cup. Explains Ferraro, "Even though they don't need water or additional liquids at this point, it is a feeding milestone that helps promote independent eating and even speech development."

With a complete line of products to see you from newborn feeding to solo sippy cups, Dr. Brown's does its part to make these new transitions less daunting. And, for new parents, that truly is priceless.

This article was sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

Jessica Simpson celebrated her baby shower this weekend (after getting a cupping treatment for her very swollen pregnancy feet) and her theme and IG captions have fans thinking this was not just a shower, but a baby name announcement as well.

Simpson (who is expecting her third child with former NFL player Eric Johnson) captioned two photos of her shower as "💚 Birdie's Nest 💚". The photographs show Simpson and her family standing under a neon sign spelling out the same thing.

While Simpson didn't explicitly state that she was naming her child Birdie, the numerous references to the name in her shower photos and IG stories have the internet convinced that she's picking the same name Busy Philips chose for her now 10-year-old daughter.

The name Birdie isn't in the top 1000 baby names according to the Social Security Administration, but It has been seeing a resurgence in recent years, according to name nerds and trend watchers.

"Birdie feels like a sassy but sweet, down-to-earth yet unusual name," Pamela Redmond Satran of Nameberry told Town and Country back in 2017. "It's also just old enough to be right on time."

Simpson's older kids are called Maxwell and Ace, which both have a vintage feel, so if Birdie really is her choice, the three old-school names make a nice sibling set.

Whether Birdie is the official name or just a cute nickname Simpson is playing around with, we get the appeal and bet she can't wait for her little one to arrive (and her feet to go back to normal!)

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Mamas, if you hire a cleaning service to tackle the toddler fingerprints on your windows, or shop at the neighborhood grocery store even when the deals are better across town, don't feel guilty. A new study by the University of British Columbia and Harvard Business School shows money buys happiness if it's used to give you more time. And that, in turn could be better for the whole family.

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As if we needed another reason to shop at Target, our favorite store is offering some great deals for mamas who need products for baby. Mom life can be expensive and we love any chance at saving a few bucks. If you need to stock up on baby care items, like diapers and wipes, now is the time.

Right now, if you spend $100 on select diapers, wipes, formula, you'll get a $20 gift card with pickup or Target Restock. Other purchases will get you $5 gift cards during this promotion:

  • $20 gift card when you spend $100 or more on select diapers, wipes, formula, and food items using in store Order Pickup, Drive Up or Target Restock
  • $5 gift card when you buy 3 select beauty care items
  • $5 gift card when you buy 2 select household essentials items using in store Order Pickup, Drive Up or Target Restock
  • $5 gift card when you buy 2 select Iams, Pedigree, Crave & Nutro dog and cat food or Fresh Step cat litter items using in store Order Pickup
  • $5 gift card when you buy 3 select feminine care items using in store Order Pickup, Drive Up or Target Restock

All of these promotions will only run through 11:59 pm PT on Saturday, January 19, 2019 so make sure to stock up before they're gone!

Because the deals only apply to select products and certain colors, just be sure to read the fine print before checking out.

Target's website notes the "offer is valid using in store Order Pickup, Drive Up or Target Restock when available".

The gift cards will be delivered after you have picked up your order or your Target Restock order has shipped.

We won't tell anyone if you use those gift cards exclusively for yourself. 😉 So, get to shopping, mama!

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