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Quarantine Cuddles

Updated: Apr 28, 2020

Booger bear, little monkey, pooter butt, stinker britches, ham bone.

These names have been in my vocabulary at an alarming rate the past few weeks.

Who am I describing? Oh just my sweet lil nephew Jaxson.. otherwise known as Jax Man, another (less embarrassing) nickname I like to call him.

While the Coronavirus Quarantine has caused uncertainty, anxiety and sadness in many ways, it's also caused some unexpected blessings. More family time, a slower pace of life, communities coming together, added perspective, and for me... quarantine cuddles.

Life is full of unexpected surprises. When I moved to New York in February, I certainly didn’t know a global pandemic was coming the next month and that my new home would soon be the most infected city in the world... Surprise!

One of my favorite quotes is, "When you make Plans, God Laughs".

That quote has been very relevant for me these days.

Not ideal, but luckily I got out in time, my family and I are healthy and I'm still able to work remote with the NBPA. I have so much to be thankful for and I pray and empathize for those struggling through this time.

When my office in New York closed over a month ago, I decided it was best to dip for a couple of reasons.

1. Because it seemed like the smartest move.

2. Because I was tired of my mother calling me twice a day with frantic warnings to get out of the city.

Thanks mom, you were right.

This led me back to Kentucky - where you can see farmland for days and the closest neighbors are more than a safe social distance away. A much safer option than my life in New York riding the sardine can, I mean subway to work every day.

I compared the case totals too just to justify my decision.

New York City - 150,000 cases

Union County, KY - 2 cases

I'm coming home sis!

As you might expect, there isn't much to do in a town full of 3,500 people to begin with. But when a pandemic hits, and the only place you can go to is Walmart (1 per household of course)... your options become real limited.

Luckily, I had a cute 2 year old stinker to keep me entertained for a month.

Introducing Jaxson Thomas Hardesty... my sweet little angel baby.

Jaxson is my older sister Rachel's son, my nephew and the first grandchild of the family. He's the star of the show in the family.. for now at least (she's having baby #2 in June).

I knew Jaxson and I would have a special relationship from the day he was born. For those who know me, I'm not a super emotional person... but when Jaxson was born... I cried like a baby.

I couldn't help it - the tears just flowed!

Most people don't know this, but Jaxson was born with a rare genetic disorder called

Prader-Willi syndrome.

It's pretty complex and can have affects on appetite, growth, metabolism, cognitive function and behavior among other things.

When he was diagnosed with PWS, you can imagine how concerned my sister was. Hearing your child has a genetic disorder is downright SCARY and it's natural to think: Why us? Now what? How are we going to manage this?

It's hard to wrap your mind around something like that and it doesn't make it any better to google PWS only to find outdated websites, stories and pictures of severe cases.

My sister and brother-in-law, Nathan, decided to ignore all of that, and instead rely on 3 things.

1. Finding the best doctors

2. Giving it their best every day

3. Prayer

With those 3 things in action, there was no reason they were going to treat Jaxson any differently.

Fast forward 2 years and day after day, week after week Jaxson continues to impress his doctors, therapists, and everyone who meets him. Doctors have said his case is mild and if you didn't know he had a condition, you would never know. He's the cutest, sweetest and wildest little boy I know.

Lil man cashed out on his Easter Egg hunt with Grandpa

A big part of Jaxson's continued progress is thanks to my sister AKA Super Mom Rachel. She keeps him on a strict schedule when it comes to his physical therapy, medications, learning activities, potty training, diet and...well everything for that matter!

Taking care of a child in general is hard, but caring for a child with a special condition takes a whole new level of energy, focus and hard work. I was lucky to be able to spend a lot of quality time with my booger bear and what could seem like a very boring schedule to most, ended up being the most fun I've had in a long time.

Here's what Jaxson's and my typical Quarantine schedule looked like.

7:00AM - Breakfast, Meds & Paw Patrol

Every day Jaxson starts the day off right with a gourmet breakfast made by mom - avocados, berries and fruit smoothies are his go-to. If I'm lucky, Rachel would whip me up an egg sammy and offer me a skinny brew aka the best coffee ever! (Contact her if you're interested).

One of the main symptoms associated with PWS is hyerphagia, the medical term for having an uncontrollable appetite. While I sometimes think I have that problem... those with PWS actually do so it's extremely important to control diet and nutrition at an early age. My sis has done a great job in this category because this kid eats as clean as any 2 year old I've ever seen! Whole Foods only... no junk food or candy are allowed in the house. It's no wonder I lost 5 lbs while being there.

After breakfast, Jaxson takes his daily supplements, medicines and gets his growth hormone injection aka his "go-go juice".

To incentivize him for taking it, he get's to watch his favorite show during breakfast... Paw Patrol. I'm ashamed to say after a month, I now know all the words to the theme song.

8:00AM - Workout Time

After breakfast, it's work out time! To get a little exercise in, Jaxson, Rachel and I would watch Jack Hartman's "Let's Get Fit | Count to 100" video on Youtube. Who is Jack Hartman you ask?

THIS is Jack Hartman

On first glance, maybe a little creepy? BUT the song is definitely catchy and gets the heart pumping while ALSO teaching kids how to count. Great content, highly recommend.

9:00AM - School Time

Around 9AM is when Jaxson goes to "School" and I'd go to work in the basement. He's only 2, so no, he's not actually going to school, but this is when he does a fun learning activity aka blocks, puzzles, coloring, play dough - anything that keeps him entertained but also helps with his development. Here are few of my personal favorite school time activities we did...

1. Finger Painting

This went about as you would expect finger painting would go for a 2 year old... aka Rachel and I ended up chasing him as he ran around the house naked with paint on his hands. He was a shade of Kentucky blue for a couple days.

2. "Volcanic" Easter Egg Painting

To get in the Easter spirit we decided it'd be fun to paint Easter eggs...but not just your typical Easter eggs, Volcanic Easter eggs! Mix a little baking soda with the vinegar in food coloring and VOILA - volcanic egg dying! Rachel saw this great idea on Instagram and thought Jax would love it... turns out he was more into playing with the box the food coloring came in, more than the amazing scientific experiment his mom and Aunt Becs were conducting!


Vs. Reality...

At least we tried.

3. Bear Hunt

Now this was my personal fav. Apparently "We're Going on a Bear Hunt" is a popular song on YouTube for kids. Who knew? Well, Rachel decided to reenact this Bear Hunt in real life by hiding Jaxson's Teddy Bear around the house and having him try to find it with all of his camping gear on - binoculars, backpack, hat and flash light included.

Getting Warmer...
ON FIRE, well done.

If that's not the cutest thing you've ever seen...

11:00 - 11:30AM - Check in on Aunt Becs

I spent most of my time during the day working remotely in the basement, but I frequently had surprise guests check in on me. At approximately 11:00-11:30am every day Jax would somehow make his presence known - sometimes it was throwing my shoes down the basement stairs, sometimes just popping out around the corner with a mischievous grin, and other times it was grabbing my hand and forcing me to come upstairs to play with him. I tried to say no, but you can imagine how that went...

Jax was my special guest on my work "Show & Tell" themed Zoom call

12:00PM - Lunch Time

Around noon is when Jaxson eats his lunch. His favs = turkey, cheese, avocado.

1:00PM-3:00PM - Nap Time

Ahhh Nap time. This is when I got the most work done and Rachel could actually relax.

3:00PM - Play Time

After a 2 hour nap, the little man is ready to rock and roll. Jaxson's the definition of a country boy. He loves being outside, tractors, horses, fishing, you name it. Here are a few of my favorite things we did during play time.

1. Flew a Kite

I hadn't flown a kite in years! I think I may have enjoyed it more than Jax.

2. Played with Sidewalk Chalk

Jax did me dirty on the Body Tracing...

Not True to Size!!!

3. Rode the Pioneer

Just to clarify, a Pioneer is a side by side. Similar to a Polaris, ATV, Ranger, Razor, etc. If you don't know what those are... a quick google search will clarify for you city people out there.

We picked up sticks.

Who knew picking up sticks could be so fun?!

We went to see the "horsies".

This was right after Jaxson picked up horse poop

4. Worked Out

I didn't have access to weights at home, so I decided to use 30 lb Jaxson instead. It was all fun and games until I realized I sprained my shoulder. A live weight is no joke... I'm still hurting 2 weeks later.

5. Easter egg Hunt "Aunt Becs Style"

I thought it would be a fun idea to go on an Easter egg hunt around the house... "Aunt Becs Style" of course. Jaxson can't have candy, so instead I decided to use a few fun items around the house. Among these items included a paper clip, piece of corn, blueberry, and hair ball... don't worry he loved every bit of it.

6. Went fishing

My favorite was taking Jax fishing for the first time. His face when he saw the fish come out of the water = Priceless.

He tried to hug the fish

6:00PM - Supper Time

"Supper" is the translation for dinner for some southerns. After a long day of work & play, around 6pm is when Jax enjoys his supper and the nightly news.

7:00-8:00PM - PT & Play Time

After dinner, it's play time! But first... Physical Therapy!

This is when Rachel and I would do some sort of physical therapy with him. He's mastered walking and running so now it's time to master his next skill: jumping.

Jax and I are actually on similar physical therapy schedules...I just started transitioning back to jumping so I can relate and try to give him motivational pep talks.

Me - "Listen Jax, I know jumping off this 2 inch box jump is hard TRUST ME, but you got this!"

To reward him after a successful PT session, it's play time!

His favorite thing to do is "fly" aka me lifting him up in the air by my legs. I have pretty long legs, so this caliber of helicopter ride doesn't come around everyday. In order to ride, I made him give me a hug... just because I wanted a hug. Worked like a charm.

His other favorite game was me chasing him.

What started out as just a one time thing, soon became our nightly routine... and soon destroyed my shoulder.. and my back...

Jax is a wild one and loves to rough house, so every night he wanted me to chase him to the bedroom, continuously throw him on the bed, jump on my back and do flips off me. Seemed fun and harmless! Yet, 2 weeks later I'm still hurting...

8:00 - 9:00PM - Wind Down Time

After about an hour of playtime, it's time to wind Jaxson down for bed. Thank God, because

I'm completely exhausted, sore, and out of breath.

This is when Jaxson and I cuddle up on the couch. He watches the movie of his choice on Disney+ with his milky and I (occasionally) recover with a Bourbon and Coke. Ideal.

9:00PM - Bed Time

Around 9pm, it's time to go to bed. Jaxson is obsessed with Toy Story and Disney, so he chooses his buddies to bring to bed with him. He would bring all of them if he could, but Rachel only lets him choose 2.

I wasn't kidding.. the kid loves Toy Story

Now for the moment I look forward to all day... my nightly hug. Before he goes upstairs to read a story with mom and go to bed, he gives me a goodnight hug, and If I'm lucky a kiss. Melts my heart every time.

Then the next day, we did it all over again.

It's easy to get distracted in this fast paced world. With so many distractions and our "so much to do, so little time mentality" you can easily forget to enjoy the simple things and what actually matters in life. Faith, family, relationships.

I may be (relatively) young, but if I've learned anything in my 25 years of living, it's that there's always a blessing in disguise. In life, you're always going to face obstacles and challenges, but it's important to always have perspective and try to see what good can come from those challenges.

Whether it's that injury that helped you appreciate the game more, that breakup that ended up being the best thing for you, or that job you didn't get but it ended up leading to something better...whenever there's adversity, always try to have perspective, because chances are there's probably a silver lining.

For me, this quarantine has made me realize to not fret on the trivial things, put energy into the things that matter most and enjoy the little moments... especially quarantine cuddles.


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