The Surprising Risk of Sepsis for Pregnant Women, New Moms and Newborns – What You Need to Know

The Surprising Risk of Sepsis for Pregnant Women, New Moms and Newborns – What You Need to Know

As an infectious disease pharmacist and member of Bryan’s Sepsis Committee, I have seen many cases of infections and sepsis in many different patients. I specialize in getting the right antibiotics to patients with severe infections like sepsis, and work mostly with adult patients.

Now that I’m a father and we are expecting again very soon, I started looking deeper into the risk of sepsis for pregnant women and newborns. And, I was surprised at what I found.

Infections are a Serious Risk for Pregnant Women and Newborns

Thanks to improved prenatal care, most pregnancies and deliveries happen without complications. However, infections are still a serious risk for pregnant women, new moms and newborns. In fact, recent data shows an increase in sepsis-related deaths for pregnant women in the United States.

Newborn sepsis remains a leading cause of death among infants. There are two times sepsis can occur in infants:

  • Before a baby is 72 hours old, called early-onset sepsis. This is usually the result of viruses or microorganisms passed from the mom to the baby in-utero or during delivery. The incidence of this type of sepsis has decreased considerably since the 1990s due to new health screenings for pregnant women
  • After a baby is 72 hours old, called late-onset sepsis. This is usually the result of viruses or microorganisms acquired in the environment or through invasive procedures

What Exactly is Sepsis?

Sepsis is a potentially life-threatening condition caused by the body’s response to an infection. Basically, it’s when your body “over-reacts” to an infection. This can cause your organs (i.e. heart, kidney, liver, lungs, etc.) to fail, and can lead to death. Sepsis can be thought of as the sickest a person can get from an infection. Lots of people get infections, but not everyone develops sepsis. Some people are at a higher risk of developing sepsis than others.

What Can Increase Your Risk of Pregnancy-Related Sepsis?

Many of the risks are associated with the individual person and the type of pregnancy, such as:

  • Have never delivered a baby before (called nulliparity)
  • Currently pregnant with or recently delivered twins, triplets, etc. (called multiple gestations)
  • African American race

Others are associated with the type of delivery or medical therapies, such as:

  • Cesarean-section delivery (i.e., C-section)
  • Assisted reproductive technologies (i.e., artificial insemination, in-vitro fertilization, etc.)

What Can Increase the Risk of Sepsis in Newborns?

Some are associated with mom:

  • A common bacteria called Group B Streptococcus (GBS), most of the time this is not harmful but it can cause a severe infection in some newborns
  • Inflammation of membranes surrounding the baby due to bacterial infection (this is called chorioamnionitis)
  • Currently pregnant with or recently delivered twins, triplets, etc. (called multiple gestations)

Some are associated with the birth:

  • Prelabor rupture of membranes (occurs when the amniotic sac breaks before labor begins)
  • Prolonged rupture of membranes (over 18 hours)
  • Preterm birth (defined as a birth before 37 weeks)
  • Low birth weight

Some are associated with procedures after birth:

  • Invasive procedures such as a cervical stitch
  • Prolonged use of antibiotics
  • Prolonged use of a catheter inside the baby’s body
  • Ventilator associated pneumonia

What are the Warning Signs of Sepsis?

The signs and symptoms are different for moms and babies. It’s important to know the warning signs and seek care immediately. The sooner you or your loved one receives care, the better the chance for a full recovery.

Sepsis symptoms in pregnant women or new moms:

  • Shivering, fevers, shakes or very cold
  • Extreme pain or discomfort (feel the “worst you have ever felt”)
  • Pale or discolored, or clammy/sweaty skin
  • Sleepy, difficulty waking up, confused
  • “I feel like I might die”
  • Shortness of breath
  • Decreased urination

Sepsis symptoms in newborns:

  • “Just not looking right”
  • Unusually sleepy, lethargic or difficult to wake up
  • Unusually irritable, inconsolable
  • Not feeding or eating normally, vomiting
  • Less than three wet diapers or stools in a day
  • Fever or hypothermia (low temperature)
  • Shivering, shaking or poor muscle tone
  • Respiratory distress (not breathing right)
  • Abdominal distention or bloating
  • Bulging fontanel (soft spot on a baby’s head)
  • Unexplained jaundice (yellow skin)
  • Blood in stools

Take Action

If you see a combination of the above symptoms and suspect sepsis, or just feel like something isn’t right, call your doctor or go to the emergency room IMMEDIATELY. It’s important to say “I’m concerned about sepsis”. The sooner treatment is started, the better chance you or your loved one has of surviving and making a full recovery.

When caught early, immediate administration of IV antibiotics and fluids can be all you need to make a full recovery. The longer someone delays getting treatment for sepsis, the greater the likelihood that the person will have severe complications such as kidney failure requiring dialysis or problems taking care of themselves (such as walking by yourself, bathing, brushing your teeth, etc.). It can even lead to death.

Be Informed, Tell Others – Let’s Raise Awareness and Save Lives

As an infectious disease pharmacist, treating sepsis and letting others know how to recognize the signs and symptoms of sepsis is my job. As a new father and husband, it’s my passion.

Sepsis is always a serious condition. The sooner signs and symptoms are recognized and treatment is sought, the better chance to save a life. Every patient is somebody’s loved one, and now that I’ve got two little ones depending on me, I feel even more responsibility to make sure people understand how serious and common sepsis actually is.

Prevention of pregnancy-related and newborn sepsis starts with good prenatal care, good hygiene and frequent handwashing. Bacteria and viruses are naturally found on surfaces and easily spread by unwashed hands.

I urge you to tell everyone you know about the signs and symptoms of sepsis as well as the ways to prevent it. With your help, we can increase awareness of sepsis so people will seek treatment sooner, and lives will be saved.

Learn More About Sepsis

To learn more about sepsis, listen to our Bryan Health podcast. Bill Johnson, MD, Nebraska Pulmonary Specialties, tells you how to spot sepsis, and how early diagnosis and treatment can be lifesaving.

Kevin Sponsel

Kevin Sponsel

Infectious Disease Pharmacist

Kevin Sponsel is an infectious disease pharmacist and a member of Bryan Health’s Sepsis Committee.

Blow Us All Away

Blow Us All Away

It’s no secret that the Broadway show Hamilton played in Omaha during September. I first became interested in the show when it won every Tony Award in 2016. My enthusiasm grew even more when a graduate of Lincoln North Star had a role in the Hamilton touring company in Chicago.

Traveling and seeing the show in Chicago was not in our budget, so I had to experience her performance vicariously through friends. When I learned Hamilton was coming to Omaha, I was thrilled and knew we had to attend.

A Night Out at the Theater

The fun began when I told our grandkids we were planning on attending Hamilton. Wouldn’t it be thrilling if all four of the grandkids could go with us? Immediately, our grandson opted out for sports. I was a bit disappointed, but not surprised. The three remaining kids were thrilled and wanted to join us.

Unfortunately, two of them are in college and would not be able to return to Lincoln for the show. The final granddaughter was excited. The bonus was this particular granddaughter was about to have a birthday, so a night on the town was the perfect gift. My sister learned of our plans and wanted to join us as well, which meant four were now going. We were giddy with anticipation as we began making plans to enjoy a pre-show meal and the show. The date was agreed upon and tickets were bought.

Prepping By Getting to Know the Music

Weeks before attending the show, we all agreed to take turns listening to the CD to better understand the lyrics. But our granddaughter had been listening to the sound track on her phone for over a year. She also encouraged us to listen and even gave us a synopsis of the Alexander Hamilton story. We all agreed and it was indeed helpful.

We watched the show in awe of the dancing, silently singing each of the songs, and basically, the entire story. It truly was everything we had anticipated and more. After the show, the four of us talked about our favorite songs, favorite characters and favorite scenes. We each had different favorites, but all agreed the show was perfect.

We also loved the idea of combining so any different music genres into one show. I remarked I had never had rap as my “go to” music genre. Our granddaughter gently suggested to me the reason I’ve never liked rap was because I never knew what words were being rapped. She was right, of course!

Similarities to Today’s Politics

Our discussion moved beyond sharing our favorites. We started talking about how much of the story had never been taught in school. We never really knew the politicians in Hamilton were so backstabbing, aggressive, didn’t listen to other opinions and believed the party agenda should always be first. Our granddaughter commented on the similarities to what’s happening in Washington, DC today, and it seemed to her we haven’t learned many lessons from our country’s early history.

The show was the highlight, but an equally rare highlight was rapping with our granddaughter. I doubt she would call what I was doing as rapping. She even let me cheat by reading the lyrics. Not sure when we’ll have a rapping duet again, so I’ll cherish the memories we created that night. Or maybe I need to create rapping as a new holiday tradition!

Nancy Becker

Nancy Becker

Grandkids & Grandparents

I have four grandchildren ages 14-17. In some ways, I’m a very typical grandma, always proud of everything the kids do and wanting to help support them in whatever way I can. In other ways, I’m not very typical. My goal as a blogger is to share my thoughts and experiences that I think are funny and meaningful as I adventure through grandmahood.

The Senior Year To-Do List

The Senior Year To-Do List

Some combination of the following statement is often said over and over, “Don’t blink. Your children grow up way too fast, before you know it they will be a _______ (fill in the blank.)”

Here we are with a senior daughter. She did grow up way too fast. I realized I need to fasten my seatbelt because this year is flying by faster than any other year. While my husband and I are trying to be still and soak up every minute at every activity of hers, the days left until graduation keep diminishing quicker and quicker.

Preparing for Graduation Starts Now

I know we still have eight months until graduation and life beyond high school, but we will need to start checking things off of our to-do list, as I like to be prepared and our daughter takes her time in making decisions. And while our daughter is enjoying her senior year and stressing out about her dual credit classes, I pretty much need a few lessons from the book “First Time Senior Parents: How to Survive.”

I quickly remind myself of all of those rule-following, first-time parent things I messed up on the first time around, such as when to introduce fruits and vegetables or even when to allow her to jump in mud puddles. I have decided to stay away from all of those first-time senior parent books, websites and articles. We are creating our own family “graduation to-do” list with the help of our high school senior daughter.

The Graduation To-Do List

For those first-time senior parents out there, if you have no idea when this or that need to be completed, I am sharing our to-do list with you. The items listed include both to-dos for us as parents and our daughter to complete. This list is continually being added to, however, it is a great start for those of us who are graduating our first born.

In October

  • File the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form

By November

  • Visit final colleges one last time
  • Set a budget for the graduation celebration
  • Make senior picture final decisions
  • Finalize graduation invite list
  • Create and have graduation invites printed
  • Start filling out scholarships

By January

  • Plan decorations and table centerpieces
  • Purchase all paper products
  • Continue filling out scholarships

By February

  • Determine foods that will be served
  • Continue filling out scholarships
  • Create graduation video

During March

  • Order desserts
  • Mail out invites
  • Print out pictures that will be displayed at the graduation celebration
  • Plan out help for the day
  • Finish applying for scholarships

During April

  • Finalize foods to be served
  • Prepare grocery list
  • Finalize college choice (if our daughter has not made her decision)
  • Create picture timeline display and keep it simple
  • Determine how guests will sign in and leave an encouraging message


  • Thoroughly clean our house and manicure our landscape
  • With the help of Grandma Jo and others, set up for the graduation celebration
  • Celebrate our daughter’s graduation from high school

Two months into the school year, here I am with the to-do list on my devices and my seatbelt fastened. Yet, the most important to-do list that I make sure I check off daily is the written note: be still and enjoy.

Shelly Mowinkel

Shelly Mowinkel

K-12 & Teens

My husband and I have three kids. Our oldest is a freshman in high school, and our youngest is in second grade. Most days, I feel like we are a “tag-team chauffeuring” service, yet I wouldn’t have our life any other way. Not only I am a business/technology teacher at Milford, I am also the district technology integration specialist. I love teaching because I get the opportunity to make those around me better. My hope is that, through my blogging, I am able to inspire, encourage, and share with you my adventures of being a wife, mother, and professional.

Succulents Suck

Succulents Suck

This summer, we had a granddaughter working at one of those pop-up green houses. Her location was near one of the Super Savers in town.

I bought a flat of marigolds and planted them early. She was a great help in picking out the color and size of the plants. Not to brag, but I thought I did a pretty good job of planting the flowers. They began to grow and provide some colorful blooms. Then the monsoon rains fell, and fell, and continued to fall. The marigolds were planted in a small trench around our curved backyard patio.

Rain, Rain, Go Away

The flowers did not come with life jackets or scuba gear, so they drowned in the standing water. I asked my granddaughter what I should do. She assured me the plants would probably not make it, but it would be wise to be patient and wait until the rain stopped and the sun dried things off. As you recall, the rain continued to fall and the plants were a total loss. She suggested I buy more plants and start over in a couple of weeks.

That’s what I did. I followed my granddaughter’s instructions and I bought another flat of marigolds to start the process over. I wanted to give her a little more business, so I bought some succulents. I had some in past years, but it had been a while. I thought it was time to grow some again. My granddaughter encouraged this purchase, probably because she knew they wouldn’t be washed out by the rain.

Succulents Sucking the Fun from Gardening

She helped me pick out a variety of succulents, all of which looked rather exotic. I purchased six—five of them would go into a large container and the sixth to be planted in an individual pot. After more purchases, I planted everything and was pleased with the process and results.

About a month later, my granddaughter showed up at our house. I’ve seen her several times within the month, but our visits are not as frequent as when she was young. I miss conversations with each of the grandkids. However, their lives have gotten busy and I understand—plus, they have to make money for college! When she came into our house, she was looking around the kitchen and living room for a small picture frame she wanted to borrow. She noticed the succulents in the big container and said, “Grandma, don’t you ever water these?” I responded with a hem hawing, “yes?” Then she told me they were too dry and would die. I thanked her for her advice. She smiled at me, found the picture frame and gave me a hug.

A month later, my granddaughter came to our house to take part in a family meal and looked at the succulents. “Grandma, you are over watering the plants. They will die.” Of course, I wanted to tell her to make up her mind, but I did not. She was right. Some of the leaves were dropping off and the plants were starting to look pathetic. She suggested the ice cube method of watering plants. Who would have thought you could put an ice cube in the pot and that would be enough water to feed it.

It’s All a Balancing Act

I realized then there was a lesson to be learned—there needed to be a balance in watering the succulents. Likewise, there needs to be a balance in being a grandma of growing grandkids. If I pay too much attention to them, (i.e., texts, calls, concern because I don’t see them enough), they feel smothered. The other extreme is not paying any attention to them, never texting or writing to them and they will forget me. OK, they won’t forget me, but you get the picture.

Whether watering the succulents or being a loving, nurturing grandma, finding the right balance is the key to a healthy relationship. The challenge is finding a balance in a constantly changing world. I’m up for that challenge. As we age we can either watch the world in our rear view mirrors, or through our windshield as new things come at us. The art of grandparenting, if done right, pays us huge dividends

Nancy Becker

Nancy Becker

Grandkids & Grandparents

I have four grandchildren ages 14-17. In some ways, I’m a very typical grandma, always proud of everything the kids do and wanting to help support them in whatever way I can. In other ways, I’m not very typical. My goal as a blogger is to share my thoughts and experiences that I think are funny and meaningful as I adventure through grandmahood.

Simple Solutions for Dealing with Stress

Simple Solutions for Dealing with Stress

The start of the school year is a hectic time, as getting back into a routine is tough and tiredness sets in. Anxiety and stress also become more prevalent as busy schedules, homework and less time at home takes a toll on our household.

On top of all of this, we have a senior making decisions regarding her career choice, colleges and taking dual credit classes, which adds another layer of stress. And we also have two other children who have realized this is the last year their older sister will be home every night, which has added another unforeseen layer of stress.

It’s those evenings before big projects or quizzes are due that seem to be the most stressful. My husband often tells me, “You are dealing with our stressed out daughter because she is exactly like you!”

Focusing on Where Stress Stems From

I am a firm believer in parents being a positive role model in their children’s lives. Yet, I am wired as an, “always on the go, something has to be done, worry about it until I get sick” person. I love to travel, but I have a panic attack at every airport until I am through TSA.

These are qualities I definitely don’t want my children to be like at any stage of life. All of this changed when my father had a heart attack this past summer and ended up in a 6.5-hour quadruple bypass surgery. The doctors talked about how diet and stress played a huge part in his episode. I made a conscious effort from that point on to really focus on triggers that cause stress in my life.

Ways to Help Kids Handle Stress

As I continue to grow in this area, these are techniques I am sharing with not only our senior daughter, but our other two children as well:

  1. Get and use a planner. Our kids are very good about purchasing a planner, but about half way through the year the planner becomes nonexistent. We need to keep discussing with our kids the importance of writing down due dates and activities.
  2. Do not procrastinate and prioritize tasks. That’s it. Make time for things when you can and don’t leave them until the last minute.
  3. Encourage more time to relax. I need to encourage them to put down homework and set aside activities so they can just hang out and relax.
  4. Get sleep. The average hours of sleep for our teenage daughter last school year was 5-6 hours per night. A stressed out mind and body will lead to sleep deprivation. Encouraging her to go to bed earlier and getting a better night’s rest will allow her to approach stressful situations more calmly.

Ways to Help Yourself Handle Stress

As a parent, strategies I am working on are:

  1. Avoid the constant reminders or nagging. If I am constantly on their case about getting homework done or prioritizing tasks, I am diminishing their responsibilities. Plus, I’m sure they get frustrated with the constant reminders. I can encourage them to set small goals, which will ultimately help them develop better time management skills and learn not to procrastinate.
  2. Set limits on technology. This will allow our children to understand that they don’t have to be connected to social media all of the time and to learn to be present in the moment.

Even though the start of the year is an adjustment for us and stress seems to escalate, there are strategies that our entire family can do to combat stress. Modeling and practicing these positive strategies towards stress will hopefully teach my children to handle their stress in various circumstances, especially when it comes to school and busy schedules.

Shelly Mowinkel

Shelly Mowinkel

K-12 & Teens

My husband and I have three kids. Our oldest is a freshman in high school, and our youngest is in second grade. Most days, I feel like we are a “tag-team chauffeuring” service, yet I wouldn’t have our life any other way. Not only I am a business/technology teacher at Milford, I am also the district technology integration specialist. I love teaching because I get the opportunity to make those around me better. My hope is that, through my blogging, I am able to inspire, encourage, and share with you my adventures of being a wife, mother, and professional.

Hugh Jackman, #WearSunscreen & Your Family: What Do You Need to Know?

Hugh Jackman, #WearSunscreen & Your Family: What Do You Need to Know?

My husband and I have four children, all ages six and younger (that’s what happens when you go to medical school). Right now, their favorite movie is “The Greatest Showman” starring Hugh Jackman. He is famous in the entertainment industry for his singing, dancing and acting abilities, along with his devilishly handsome good looks.

However, he’s also famous in the dermatology world as he has publicly battled basal cell carcinoma not once, but five times in the past including a recurrent basal cell carcinoma on his nose. Hugh posted pictures on Instagram with the hashtag #wearsunscreen to help raise public awareness and encourage good sun protection behavior.

Most Common Type of Skin Cancer

Basal cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer. In fact, it’s the most common cancer overall. It develops after repeated sun damage over time. You might notice it as a pink scaly patch. Or, it might be a raised pearly bump, almost pimple-like that never seems to go away. Sometimes basal cell carcinoma will bleed after minor trauma or for no reason at all.

Second Most Common Skin Cancer

Are there other types of skin cancer? You bet! The second most common form of skin cancer is squamous cell carcinoma. This type of skin cancer may appear as a growing lump, often with a rough surface. But, it also could be a flat, reddish patch that grows slowly and may be tender. Sometimes these grow quickly on the skin in a volcano-like fashion. Squamous cell carcinoma can be serious in some cases and spread beyond the skin to lymph nodes if not treated properly or within a reasonable amount of time.

Most Well-Known Skin Cancer

Finally, the skin cancer with which most people are familiar, is melanoma. Melanoma can be a life-threatening skin cancer, especially if not caught early. The warning signs for melanoma are summed up in the “ABCDE” algorithm.

  • A = asymmetry (one half doesn’t look like the other)
  • B = border (irregular, ill-defined or funny-looking shape)
  • C = color (one spot that has multiple colors within it, such as different shades of brown or black. Red, white or blue colors are occasionally seen in melanoma)
  • D = diameter (a majority of melanomas are greater than 6mm when diagnosed, which is the size of a pencil eraser; however this doesn’t mean that smaller spots aren’t worrisome)
  • E = evolving (a mole that is changing in size, shape or color)

Ways to Protect Yourself and Your Family

So, what can you do to reduce your risk for skin cancer? Protect yourself! Make sun protection a priority, not only for yourself but for your family. If you have children, make it your goal to not let them burn. Like never. Never ever.

Here are some tips I use with my own family:

  • Everyone needs sunscreen when outside. This includes just playing outside, going to the pool, going on walks, whatever it may be. The two types of sunscreen available are:
    • Chemical sunscreens: (the active ingredients are long words that are hard to pronounce, such as oxybenzone)
    • Physical sunscreens: (the active ingredients are zinc and/or titanium, easy to pronounce)

I prefer zinc/titanium-based sunscreens because they stay on better, cause less skin sensitivity issues and are better at preventing sunburn in my opinion. Examples of this type of sunscreen include Neutrogena Sheer Zinc SPF 50 or CeraVe Hydrating Sunscreen SPF 50. Overall, any sunscreen is better than none. And don’t forget, it needs to be reapplied every 2-3 hours.

  • Make hats your friend. Put them by the door you use most often to go outside. Put one in your car. I don’t know HOW many times a patient has told me, “I didn’t plan on being outside that long!” Never travel without a hat!
  • Buy rash guard swim shirts or other sun protective clothing for yourself and your family. Yep, I make my kids wear long-sleeve swim shirts to the pool. Sorry kids, but you’ll thank me later. SPF 50+ clothing is available for swimmers, golfers, fishermen, etc., at local stores such as Scheels but also on well-known websites such as Trust me, it’s worth the money to invest in good sun-protective clothing.
  • Put on a layer of sunscreen to your face and neck every morning. Use it before applying makeup. There are some really nice, light sunscreens available over the counter. My most recent favorites for this purpose are Neutrogena Sensitive Skin Face Liquid Sunscreen SPF 50 or La Roche-Posay Anthelios Ultra-Light Tinted Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50.
  • Finally, come see me! If you are worried, questioning a spot on your skin or just want a once-over, you should visit me at South Lincoln Dermatology or see a board-certified dermatologist in your area.
Gina Weir, MD

Gina Weir, MD

Dr. Weir is a dermatologist with South Lincoln Dermatology.

2625 Stockwell
Lincoln, NE 68502


Life Is Full of Puzzles

Life Is Full of Puzzles

The other week I went to Omaha to visit my sister, her husband and our foreign exchange student visiting from Norway. Bjorg stayed with us during the ’62-’63 school year. Although we’ve seen each other about every seven years, all of us understand those transatlantic trips get more difficult with age and our visits may be numbered. We made the most of every minute we were together. During the week, we went to the Henry Doorly Zoo, Lauritzen Gardens, Old Market, Joslyn Art Museum and more. Each site was special and we loved the time to explore and get reacquainted with each other and the venue.

Visiting the Joslyn Museum was an especially fun day. The four “grandparents” were joined by my sister’s daughter and her three children, as well as her daughter-in-law and her two daughters. Even though all of my sister’s grandkids live in Omaha, I don’t get a chance to see them very often. They are all incredibly active in sports, cheerleading and work—not much different from my own grandkids. I thought about it and realized I really only see my sister’s grandkids on holidays and for a few birthdays. So I was determined to make this Joslyn visit count as a time to remind them who Grandma Nancy is.

Piecing Together Time with Everyone

Where are they? It was as though the adopted grandkids were always one step ahead of me throughout the entire museum. I did catch site of the two girls entranced with Degas’ Little Dancer, but by the time we came to the piece, the girls vanished. I realized my time with Bjorg was more important, so I stopped stalking them.

The grandmas and grandpa finally caught up with the grandkids in the museum gift shop. My sister and Bjorg found the jewelry counter, my brother-in-law stayed out of the shop completely, and I was enthralled with the toys, especially a wooden puzzle. It appeared to look like a mini two-dimensional Rubik’s Cube. The girls came up behind me staring at the puzzle I was trying to complete. We knew what the puzzle should look like when completed: 12 mini cubes arranged in a 3 x 4 shape. We also knew the “try me” sample I held in my hand was in a straight line. They looked at me and challenged me to put the straight line form into the 3 x 4 completed shape.

diffiuclt multicolored puzzle

Try, Try, Try Again

I tried. I tried again, and again. What was I missing? I handed it to one of the girls. She looked at it for three seconds and completed the puzzle. She handed it over to me with this smug look on her face. I undid the puzzle and gave it to her younger sister, thinking surely this little girl wouldn’t be able to complete the task. She, like her sister, took a moment to look at the pieces, then quickly completed the task. I gasped and grabbed each girl, hugging them until they giggled with glee. They laughed hysterically at Grandma Nancy. Their laughter increased when they again challenged me to complete the puzzle. Nope, I couldn’t do it.

At the end of our visit when we were saying our goodbyes, the girls surprised me with a gift of the wooden puzzle. They said they wanted me to have it so I could practice putting it together; we had another good laugh.

Not All of Life’s Puzzles Are So Simple

When I got back to Lincoln, I looked at the puzzle in its neat 3 x 4 rectangle. How could this silly thing be so hard? I refused to touch it for a day. But the next day, I was determined to figure it out. As I began rearranging the pieces, I noticed how it was put together. How the pieces were notched and how they were held together. Oh, it now made sense. I then remembered how each girl took time to analyze the situation prior to jumping in to complete the puzzle like I had done—lesson learned.

I also noticed the puzzle’s recommended age, 3+. Was this a test of a senior citizen’s brain versus a young brain? It certainly was a good reminder for me to analyze a situation or puzzle before attempting to solve it. I also give credit to educators for not just teaching kids what to learn, but more importantly, how to learn. I am thankful I can continue to learn from all of my grandkids. Maybe Grandma Nancy should go back to school!

Nancy Becker

Nancy Becker

Grandkids & Grandparents

I have four grandchildren ages 14-17. In some ways, I’m a very typical grandma, always proud of everything the kids do and wanting to help support them in whatever way I can. In other ways, I’m not very typical. My goal as a blogger is to share my thoughts and experiences that I think are funny and meaningful as I adventure through grandmahood.

Seeing a Father’s Love For His Daughter

Seeing a Father’s Love For His Daughter

As I was watching my husband take our daughter’s senior pictures, I realized I am at a crossroads of jealousy and admiration. Jealous of the bond between my husband and our oldest daughter. He witnessed every first in her life: the first time she rolled over, her first word, her first step, her first day in daycare, her first elementary field trip, her first homecoming dance.

Our daughter wants to travel with her dad. She looks for him to get a hug after every softball game. She chooses me when she needs to shop or has forgotten something. She doesn’t even like me going to physical therapy because I talk too much.

He’s Always There for Her

Yet I admire the bond because it’s nothing unique or extraordinary. He has just showed up. He showed up when I returned to work after maternity leave. He showed up when she was a terrible sleeper and would only sleep when he rocked her in her car seat for hours upon hours. He showed up when she wanted to refurbish an old piano bench. He showed up when she wanted to play softball and the team needed a coach. He showed up when she needed a shoulder to cry on after she did terrible on a test. He shows up when our daughter is approaching curfew to make sure she is home safe and sound.

Just by showing up he has taught her many life lessons. What I have noticed the most are the lessons to love, to be adventurous and to radiate confidence.

He’s an Incredible Model of Support

We all see how my husband has modeled love to his family and his profession. He does not miss any of our children’s events. Even when he cannot physically be there, he shows up virtually and sends text messages before and after to show his support. Our daughter sees the value and the importance of showing up, as she has commented: “I don’t want to miss anything of my kids’, just like you, Mom and Dad.”

“Go on the adventure. Try it. Let’s do this.” From $100 adventure days to trying new foods to traveling, my husband has instilled a sense of adventure in our daughter. It’s both of them that now drive our family’s traveling experiences. Even when my husband takes her up a 700-foot tower just to see the views or try Pickled Wrinkles, he is encouraging her to appreciate life beyond our little town. I pray no one ever takes away the sense of wonder, the sense of curiosity and the sense of adventure he has taught her.

He’s Helped Bolster Her Confidence

Even though our daughter does not have the confidence to decide where or what she wants to eat, that is completely overshadowed by the confidence she radiates in other circumstances. When our daughter wanted to learn how to play softball, my husband was there to play catch with her each day and to coach her. Now when she steps in the batter’s box or centerfield, you can see the confidence in her eyes. When she wanted to learn about photography, he spent hours helping her develop this skill. Now when she is behind the lens, you can see her smiles knowing she just took the perfect picture.

He is always there. Always. He is determined to not miss anything as she begins the last of all of her high school activities: the last softball game, the last One-Act performance, the last track meet and the last time she walks down the senior hall. As our daughter walks across the stage to receive her diploma, I am sure there will be a hug and a tear shed between dad and daughter. I am sure at that moment I will have a few tears. However, those tears will be of joy and admiration, as I have had a front row seat watching the bond of a father and daughter grow, just because her father showed up.

Shelly Mowinkel

Shelly Mowinkel

K-12 & Teens

My husband and I have three kids. Our oldest is a freshman in high school, and our youngest is in second grade. Most days, I feel like we are a “tag-team chauffeuring” service, yet I wouldn’t have our life any other way. Not only I am a business/technology teacher at Milford, I am also the district technology integration specialist. I love teaching because I get the opportunity to make those around me better. My hope is that, through my blogging, I am able to inspire, encourage, and share with you my adventures of being a wife, mother, and professional.

What Happened to Cuddling?

What Happened to Cuddling?

I know I can’t be the only mom out there that has zero sex drive. I recently reached out to other moms and this topic was one of the most discussed.

For me it’s not just my sex drive, it’s cuddle time that is also nonexistent. Anytime my husband rubs my back in bed he expects more. It’s like the line in a Brad Paisley song, “When you say a backrub means only a backrub, then you swat my hand when I try.” What happened to just cuddling or showing affection? This could be a main reason to my low sex drive—that and kids. Let’s face it, moms are tired!

However, I definitely think it has to do with your relationship with your partner. I never feel like having sex if my husband doesn’t show me affection and “creating moments” in the normal moments of life. Let me explain.

The Importance of Moments

Wrapping his arms around me while doing the dishes, grabbing me and randomly dancing, kissing me tenderly on the forehead – this is creating a moment. I want to feel desired just like the old days.

But telling him to be more affectionate never works. If anything that drives him farther away. Since I have to order him to be affectionate, it was evident that he didn’t want to. Begging for kisses and hugs feels lousy, even if he complies. Not only did I feel needy and undignified doing it, but it pushed him further away as well.

Turning Toward My Husband’s Needs

I considered that he may not be feeling loved either, even if you are being affectionate with him. Fortunately, rather than telling him what he should do, I tried to naturally restore the romance by being my best self again.

When I started acting like he is smart, capable and strong, that went a long way toward bringing back the make out sessions, snuggling, and yes, even sex.

I realized we became robotic when it came to sex—everything was the same every time. After some communication on how I was feeling, we decided to change things up. He was feeling the same way and was willing to try. After trying different things and having it more often than once a month, it increased my sex drive and helped us become more affectionate throughout the day.

Remembering to Let Myself Have Fun

Granted, it’s not always easy when the kids are sick, you’ve worked a 12-hour day and the mortgage is late. But if you can’t remember what you like to do and let yourself do it, you’re not showing much affection for yourself.

Fretting is not going to make him more affectionate. But dancing the Macarena at the grocery store? It definitely could. After all, you were all smiles and laughter when he first put the moves on you.

Let’s all yell this song loud and proud, “Girls just wanna have fun!” The more you appreciate yourself, the more he will see you for you, and give you what you really want: fun, cuddle time, and yes, even sex!

Mallory Connelly

Mallory Connelly

Babies & Toddlers

In addition to the time I devote to being a mom, I also work full-time outside the home, which means my day is hardly ever as simple as nine to five. With an all-too-established schedule, as soon as I walk through the door, my day doesn’t end, but rather just begins. It’s a balancing act, especially with two children, but being a mom is one full-time job that I never want to quit!

Healthy Teeth for Your Baby and Toddler: When to See the Dentist, How to Prevent Cavities, & Other Dental Issues

Healthy Teeth for Your Baby and Toddler: When to See the Dentist, How to Prevent Cavities, & Other Dental Issues

If you’re the parent of a baby or toddler, you may think you have plenty of time before making her a dental appointment. After all, if she doesn’t have any teeth coming in, what’s the point? But that’s not necessarily the case. In fact, it’s never too early to get a good start on healthy teeth.

How Soon Should My Baby or Toddler See the Dentist?

As a pediatric dentist, I recommend getting kids in for their first dental checkup before their first birthday. This way we can make sure we’re preventing cavities before they occur. And for the teeth that are already in, we get a chance to see what the enamel looks like. At this age we also can determine if there is a higher risk of your child getting cavities. If we see issues that could lead to cavities we will visit with you about your child’s diet and oral hygiene, because these are important for developing healthy teeth.

And once children begin going to the dentist, I urge parents to bring them in every six months. If we identify that a child has cavities starting to form, we can catch them early.


Ways You Can Help Prevent Cavities and Other Dental Issues for Your Infant or Toddler


  • Reduce or eliminate sugar from their diet. You might be surprised to learn that some things that seem healthy really aren’t, because they contain a lot of sugar. This is especially true with juice and chocolate milk. My recommendation is not to give kids juice. If I give my little three year-old a small glass of juice, she’ll drink it and want more before you know it! It’s too much sugar.
  • Get them started on water. It’s a healthy habit for all of us. Having your child drink water at an early age builds healthy habits for life, plus it helps their body function properly.
  • Mind the temptations. Once kids move to solid foods, temptations are everywhere. Whether it’s coming from grandparents or parents, we like to spoil our kids. So it’s tough to want to spoil them, but then also be mindful of the sugar they’re taking in. I urge parents to be mindful of candy, cookies and chips – all of the processed treats. That includes gummies and fruit roll ups! They sounds healthy, but I call them the ‘dreaded fruit snacks’ because they create a lot of cavities. As a parent, I get it. They’re easy. But please, try to avoid purchasing those fruit snacks!

Dental Hygiene

  • Brush those teeth twice a day as soon as they come through the gum tissue, using a soft toothbrush. Your child’s age doesn’t matter. Once they get teeth, we’ve got to take care of them.
  • When you brush your child’s teeth, just gently massage the teeth. At this point you’re getting rid of plaque and keeping everything clean and healthy.
  • Use a very small amount of fluoride toothpaste. For your infant, who is not able to spit out the toothpaste, just a tiny bit of fluoride toothpaste, the amount of a grain of rice, is plenty. This is enough to help prevent decay.
  • Use whichever flavor your child likes or will tolerate. My daughter says our mint toothpaste is too spicy! She likes the fruity flavored toothpastes and those are just fine.


A Word About Pacifiers and Thumb Sucking

Parents often ask me about these behaviors and how they affect dental development. The question I get most often from parents is: Will this cause their teeth to grow in out of line? Unfortunately, it can. When a thumb or pacifier is in your child’s mouth, it pushes on structures in the mouth, whether it’s the teeth or bone structures, and moves them. Timely intervention is really important here.

  • Pacifier – Try to wean your child from this early on. At around a year or 18 months old, I like children to be done with the pacifier. It could be molding the upper arch and changing the shape of your child’s palate.
  • Thumb Sucking – The longer your child sucks his thumb or fingers, the higher the risk of changing the shape of his arch or palate. I recommend parents work on this habit and get it conquered by age three.

Start Early for Your Child’s Good Dental Health and Habits

I hope these tips are helpful for you. Taking your kids to the dentist early on gives them a good start on great dental health and habits, and helps get them comfortable with the environment of a dentist’s office. This also helps them have great dental experiences when they come to their dental home.

Want more dental care tips for your infant or toddler?

Get even more information from our ten minute podcast!

Marty Killeen, DDS

Marty Killeen, DDS

Marty is a pediatric dentist with Wilderness Station Pediatric Dentistry.

8 Ways You Can Prevent & Manage Diabetes

8 Ways You Can Prevent & Manage Diabetes

Diabetes is a silent disease affecting the lives of millions each year. Chances are you know someone with diabetes—a friend, family member or maybe even you. I am one of the millions living with diabetes. As a certified diabetes educator, I work to educate myself and others about how to prevent diabetes from impacting your life and how you can take care of yourself and improve your health if you have diabetes.

What Is Diabetes?

Diabetes happens when your body does not properly use the sugar in your body. The different types of diabetes are related to the reasons the body is not using the sugar. This excess sugar causes clogs in the blood stream, leading to complications.

Type 2 diabetes is the most common. With type 2 diabetes, the body either doesn’t produce enough insulin, or it resists insulin. Insulin helps keep your blood sugar level from getting too high.

Symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes

  • Increased thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Hunger
  • Fatigue
  • Blurred vision

However, in some cases, there may be no symptoms.

Risk Factors for Developing Type 2 Diabetes

  • Having prediabetes
  • Being overweight
  • Being 45 years or older
  • Having a parent, brother or sister with type 2 diabetes
  • Being physically active less than three times a week
  • Previous gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy) or given birth to a baby who weighed more than nine pounds
  • Being African-American, Hispanic/Latino-American, American Indian or Alaska Native (some Pacific Islanders and Asian Americans are also at higher risk)

How Do I Manage Diabetes?

We must help our bodies use the sugar. When I think about how best to care for diabetes I think about BALANCE. It’s all about eating healthier, exercising more and taking better care of ourselves.

Balance in diabetes can mean a lot of things – both in terms of preventing diabetes and taking care of yourself if you have diabetes. We all know if we don’t care for ourselves, then we can’t care for others.

8 Ways to Take Care of Yourself

Here are eight areas that I focus on and share with others to take care of yourself.

1. Eat Mindfully

  • Don’t eat in front of the TV
  • Take small bites
  • Taste your food
  • Add protein and fiber to feel full

2. Take Time to Exercise & Be Active

  • Park farther away
  • Stand during commercials
  • At a minimum, commit to five minutes of exercise…it’s better than zero

3. Be Consistent When Taking Medicine

  • Place your medicine where you will see it
  • Use an alarm to remind yourself when to take your medicine
  • Mark your calendar so you know you took your medicine
  • Follow your doctor’s advice

4. Find Ways to Decrease Stress

  • Take ten deep breaths
  • Get five minutes of quiet – put yourself in timeout if you have to! (your kids will find this intriguing)

5. Add Vegetables so Meals Aren’t Meat or Carbohydrate-Heavy

  • Add lots of color
  • Make a meal plan
  • Don’t fight it…just get creative!

6. Find Ways to Keep Your Whole Family Active

  • Go swimming together
  • Go to the zoo
  • Take the kids shopping
  • Use active video games like Wii or YouTube

7. Find Ways to Eat at Home, Even When You Don’t Want to Cook

  • Cook freezer or microwaveable meals
  • Cook in the crockpot
  • Plan ahead and prepare the day or weekend before

8. Eat More Fruits & Vegetables

  • Look for sales (canned and frozen often are on sale)
  • Take vegetables from neighbors or coworkers who grow them
  • Grow your own garden
  • Buy what’s in season

Taking a Goal & Making It SMART

Much of what I do in my job is help people figure out how to achieve their goals. For instance, I would love to lose ten pounds. How can I do that? I can exercise more and eat less. However, these plans are vague. When making goals, we have to make the goal SMART.

S – Specific: I will increase my exercise by five minutes each day.
M – Measurable: I will exercise an extra 25 minutes per week.
A – Achievable: I can add five extra minutes of exercise per day while watching TV.
R – Realistic: I can add five minutes in the evening and increase my exercise. I don’t have time to increase my exercise by 30 minutes a day, but I can add five minutes a day.
T – Time-bound: I will increase my exercise and reevaluate by the end of the month. If no improvement is seen, I will change my goal strategy.

Get the Help You Need to Prevent or Manage Diabetes

If you’re concerned about developing diabetes or struggling with your diabetes or weight management (which could lead to diabetes), there is help waiting for you. Bryan Diabetes Center has nurses who are certified diabetes educators and licensed medical nutrition therapists/registered dietitians who also serve as diabetes educators. Insurance often covers this kind of education.

Bryan Health Diabetes Center

Learn more about how diabetes impacts the lives of millions every single day, get management tips, and easily schedule an appointment to speak with a diabetes expert at Bryan Health today!

We’re here to help you manage your diabetes or get on track to prevent getting diabetes in the future.

Ask your provider for a referral to Bryan Diabetes Center today! We have three locations:

  • Bryan Medical Plaza, 1600 S. 48th St.
  • Bryan LifePointe Campus, 7501 S. 27th St.
  • NorthPointe Family Medicine, 5901 N. 27th St., Suite 102

Check out these resources:

Samantha Beckler

Samantha Beckler

Health Expert

Samantha Beckler is a Certified Diabetes Educator with Bryan Diabetes Center.

My Husband’s “Me” Time

My Husband’s “Me” Time

My husband’s job includes weird hours – some nights, weekends and overnight trips. Recently, he started a night class for graduate school. When he isn’t at work or school, he uses about 50% of that time for himself (i.e., playing sports). I know it’s important for him to keep himself sane and healthy, but I wish he wanted to spend more time with us. I am feeling pretty lonely.

I LOVE being home with the kids but I still want him to have a parenting role beyond a provider. I know it’s wrong for me to feel resentful, especially since I take time for myself, but recently we got into an argument about how he spends his time.

After nine years of marriage, I realize that no marriage is ever 50/50. There will always be one partner that does more on any given day. Forget about it being fair because that doesn’t exist.

“Me” Time or Family Time

My marriage benefits when we both have time for ourselves, either to pursue our own interests or just relax. Personal time allows us to maintain our individual identities, provides opportunities to do things we like to do, and allows us to feel like we have some control over our lives. Alone time can actually help to keep our relationship fresh and less stressful. However, this past weekend, I was angry that my husband wanted to spend his “me” time playing softball.

I spend several hours a week at the gym, so why was it so difficult for me to see that he needs time, too? It wasn’t the game that made me upset, it was the fact that he didn’t want to spend time with me and his family.

Getting on the Same Page

I came to the conclusion that personal time needs for each person varies from couple to couple. What’s most important is that we agree on how much time we want to spend together and apart. The problem that I had with softball was that my husband never communicated to me that he needed that time for himself. If it were handled correctly, we’d each feel like we are getting our fair share. I was feeling that work and school should be included in his “me” time because those times are when I’m home by myself with the kids. However, he thought that that time should not be included. It was a communication breakdown. We both needed to take a step back and realize how the other person was feeling.

During these times, perceptions are more important than the actual number of hours. Even if we spend very little time together or apart, the relationship is fine if that’s what we both want. If either of us has different perspectives, however, the amount of time together or apart can be a source of conflict. He was feeling suffocated, while I was feeling insecure and isolated.

Dedicating Time to Each Other

We often have different ideas as to how much time should be dedicated to each other and ourselves. I tend to want more couple time, usually because I regard it as important for bolstering my marriage and making sure there’s solidarity as a couple. My husband, on the other hand, tends to prefer more time on his own. Now that we know where each other stands and realize what we both need, and our communication is open and honest, my husband spending a couple hours a week at softball seems like an okay trade to me.

Mallory Connelly

Mallory Connelly

Babies & Toddlers

In addition to the time I devote to being a mom, I also work full-time outside the home, which means my day is hardly ever as simple as nine to five. With an all-too-established schedule, as soon as I walk through the door, my day doesn’t end, but rather just begins. It’s a balancing act, especially with two children, but being a mom is one full-time job that I never want to quit!

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