Sleepless Nights – Tackling Insomnia in Menopause

"How did you sleep darling?" is the habitual morning question from my husband. How "well" and particularly how "badly" we sleep is not only a subject of marital discussion but is also a national and international obsession.

Obviously, sleep requirements vary by individual but most healthy adults need between 7 and 9 hours per night.  Sleeping well is vital for looking and feeling good, regardless of our age. It doesn't matter if we lead a healthy lifestyle or are as fit as a fiddle, we are only as good as the amount of sleep we get and a bad night's sleep will almost certainly leave us feeling lethargic, unable to concentrate, bad-tempered and in some cases depressed.

There are a multitude of reasons why people don't sleep, worry and stress of course being the most common.   Personally, I have suffered a range of sleep issues in my lifetime each with their own set of challenges, including being married to a prolific snorer .

According to the Great British Bedtime Report, however, I am not alone and "partner disturbance" as it is aptly called is the UK's second most common cause of disrupted sleep with women more likely to be affected than men (31% compared to 19%).

Partner disturbances like child disturbances are similar in that over time your body and mind develop their own coping mechanisms. The same cannot be said, however, of the shift in sleeping patterns that accompanies the transition to menopause - which is when women start to commonly experience really significant changes in the quality of their sleep and I am no exception.

Going to sleep is not a problem for me, the issue is that I wake up during the night often at 3am and then have difficulty returning to sleep again, if at all.  This inability to stay asleep is known as "maintenance insomnia".

A Fitbit devotee for some time now, I became obsessed with checking my sleep stats and was horrified to see that on average I was clocking up just 5 hours sleep a night and that I was restless or fully awake anywhere between 16 and 20 times a night.

According to the Sleep Council  "A ‘very poor’ night’s sleep can be defined as less than five hours: and a third of those who suffer from insomnia routinely sleep for less than five hours".  To deepen my misery I completed the Council's Great British Sleep Survey and was not surprised to learn that my sleep score was 3.75/Low.

For women like me on the journey from peri-menopause through menopause, the hormonal fluctuations occurring in our bodies at this time throw our body's chemistry completely out of kilter.  This can wreak havoc with our emotional and physical state and disrupt sleep enough to induce insomnia and because the shift to menopause can last a number of years insomnia symptoms can go from transient and temporary to chronic and severe during this time.  It is also a vicious circle because the more sleep you lose the worse everything else is.  Fun it most certainly isn't and it can have a significant impact upon your family.  This was my husband's white flag email:

"Darling, been reading a lot of websites and articles. This one seemed to make the most sense to me.  Let's talk when you want to.  Supporting Your Partner During Menopause  https://www.verywell.com/supporting-your-partner-during-menopause-2322673"

I have written previously about my quest to attempt to address various lifestyle issues arising from my menopause and this email was probably an incentive to get on with it.  Along with increased irritability, insomnia was one of the primary reasons I sought expert advice earlier this year.  Yes as a parent I have known debilitating tiredness, but the exhaustion from insomnia in menopause is totally unforgiving.

During my consultation, the results of my hormone tests,  showed I was lacking in progesterone, the happy hormone, whose primary function is to relax us and keep us calm, all of those qualities we need to not only keep us balanced, but also to ensure restful sleep.

Declining estrogen at this time also has a role to play and whilst my tests showed my decline in estrogen wasn't as marked as my progesterone, estrogen does help to deepen our sleep and therefore could be the reason I couldn't stay asleep.

It is now 3 months since I was first prescribed a course of bio-identical hormone therapy and during this time I have returned for a follow-up consultation.  The initial prescription went some way to addressing my symptoms, with my husband in particular noting an improvement in my moodiness or as he fondly calls it a reduction in my flash to bang and I was also managing to stay asleep at night more than I had previously.

Everything that happens on the course to menopause is down to your hormones and you quite simply can 't control your hormones without medication, but equally hormone therapy is not for everyone, so hormones aside, what are the best ways of combating insomnia in menopause and getting a good night's sleep?

  • Invest in a decent bed.  Given that we spend a third of our lives in bed, a comfortable bed is vital regardless of whether you are menopausal or not.  Obviously the quality of the mattress has a big part to play in this and the Sleep Council recommends that we replace our mattress at least once every seven years.  The choice is extensive now and is no longer just about soft or hard either, new to the market foam mattresses adapt to all body shapes, sizes and sleeping styles.
  • Use natural bedding.  Avoid synthetic fabrics to ensure you keep cool whilst you sleep, which if you suffer from night time sweats during the menopause is a great help.  Good ventilation in the bedroom is also advised.
  • Sleep schedule. Make sure to only go to bed when you feel sleepy, and get up if you find yourself awake for longer than quarter of an hour. By reducing the time in bed you spend awake you can improve your ‘sleep efficiency’, and as a result your sleep quality.
  • Sleep hygiene.  Keep all electronic devices from the bedroom.  It is really tempting to just check your "instagram" or your "twitter" before nodding off but it all acts as unnecessary stimulation. The best advice for a restful night's sleep is universally to go to bed at a set time, avoid caffeine before bed and opt instead for a calming drink (my personal favourite is Pukka night-time tea) and do something to help you relax whether that be relaxation techniques or simply reading.
  • Keep moving.  Whatever your life-stage, exercise is important full stop to combat a range of physical and mental health issues but a sedentary lifestyle in menopausal women is strongly associated with insomnia.  Regular exercise will improve it.  Find something you enjoy, try new things and keep it varied.
  • Mindfulness.  A bad night’s sleep often makes you feel irritable the next day, but it also works the other way around - feeling low can increase your risk of future sleep problems. Being aware of what is going on inside us and around us can help to lift our spirits when we are feeling low.  Mindfulness can help as can meditation with developing awareness of your breathing.
  • Supplements.  Vitamin and mineral deficiencies can also contribute to a poor night's sleep.  It is known that magnesium deficiency can cause insomnia and a lack of potassium can lead to difficulty staying asleep throughout the night.  In addition Vitamin D deficiency has also been linked to excessive daytime sleepiness, so if menopausal insomnia is an issue it is worth investigating including these supplements in your diet.  The other fail safe one I would add to this is Evening Primrose Oil.

 

Sleep and physical health have a two-way relationship. Ill-health can make it hard to sleep but equally poor sleep can also increase our risk of future illness.   As well as employing all the recommended ways of ensuring I get a good night's sleep, my hormone dosage has been adjusted according to my last meeting.   A month in and in terms of my sleeplessness it has been limited to maybe a handful of nights which whilst they have made me feel totally miserable, when I think back to where I was at the beginning of this  year is a big step forward.

I am as my consultant has told me still "work in progress", after all the peri-menopause can last for a number of years.  For now at least though the quality of my life is improving because fundamentally I am sleeping better and as my family can vouch the well-being of the household is dependent upon my sleep!

Do you have any tips for dealing with insomnia?  If so I would love you to share them.  

 

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Tweens, Teens & Beyond #6

Hello and welcome back to another week of linky Tweens, Teens & Beyond hosted by myself and my fellow Tween and Teen bloggers Sharon at After The Playground and Nicky at Not Just The Three of Us.

I hope you all had an enjoyable Easter break and benefited from a digital detox - I know I certainly did.

The linky was open for an extended period over the holiday and it was lovely to see some of our regulars link up and to welcome some more new linkers to our community.  We are really grateful for all the continued support and hope you are all enjoying reading the posts as much as we are.

Our favourite link from last week was from Kelly at Daydreams Of A Mum with her post Dear Kids : I Got It Wrong.  Well done Kelly!  Kelly is a single mum of 4 and always writes with such passion.  If you haven't popped over to her blog before then please do pay her a visit, you won't regret it.

Now on to the less exciting but nonetheless important part of the linky - the rules - PLEASE give them a read before you head off into linky la la land and we look forward to reading your posts.

Linky Rules

Please could you:

  • Grab the Tweens,Teens & Beyond  and add it to the bottom of your post or your side bar - if you need help read this Linky Guide from Becky at Cuddle Fairy.
  • Link up one post, old or new (sponsored and review posts are welcome) that relate to children over the age of 10 years (Tweens, Teens or young adult children) and midlife.
  • Tweet us @motherofteensuk, @DrSharonParry1 and @NotJustThe3OfUs
  • Comment on the hosts' posts and AT LEAST one other of your choice using the linky hashtag #TweensTeensBeyond.
  • Share any posts that you love, we are all about sharing!

What we will do for you:

  • All three of us will comment on your post and share it on Twitter.
  • Your post will be pinned to the #TweensTeensBeyond Linky Pinterest Board
  • Each week, we will select our favourite post which will be featured on all of our sites and shared on Social Media
  • By entering the link you are agreeing to be added to the email reminder list.  (You can request to be removed at any time!)

 

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Win Free Grand Designs Live Show Tickets, with CLC World Resorts & Hotels

Who doesn't love watching Channel 4's Grand Designs? For me it combines two of my favourite pastimes - indulging my fantasy for picture perfect designer rooms in my house, as well as getting a glimpse into the real agony and joy of others on their quest to make their own grand design happen.

The plus of course is Kevin McCloud,  design guru and silver fox of the interiors world.   Do I need to say more?

Based on the hugely successful TV series, this year's Grand Designs Live show runs for 9 days from 29th April - 7th May at Excel London.

The show offers visitors a unique opportunity to see all the latest trends for the home including many products never seen before.

Packed with over 500 exhibitors, across seven different sections, it promises to be a show not to be missed.

What's not to like? It ticks all my boxes and if like me, you harbour dreams of a grand design project, hopefully it will tick yours too.

The good news is to help make your dreams a reality, I  am really excited to have tickets to giveaway courtesy of CLC World Resorts & Hotels, Europe's largest independent resort operator and developer who are also providing the main prize of the show ....so if you are in the middle of planning a small or grand design of your own and are in need of some inspiration or expert advice, this is the giveaway for you.

The entry requirements are really simple and please don't forget to leave a comment on my blog letting me know about your own Grand Design plans, past or present, small or large, I would love to hear about it.

Good Luck!

 

How To Enter - Rules

Leave a comment on this blog.

Follow me @motherofteensuk on Twitter

Retweet the competition post on my Twitter page

Follow @clcworld on Twitter or visit their facebook page CLC World Resorts

 

Terms & Conditions

  • Competition details form part of these terms and conditions.
  • Entry is open to residents of the UK except employees (and their families) of CLC World, its printers and agents, the suppliers of the prizes and any other companies associated with the competitions.
  • The entrant(s) must be aged 18 or over. Proof of identity and age may be required.
  • Use of a false name or address will result in disqualification.
  • The competition opens at 12.00am on 20th April 2017 and ends at 12.00am on 27th April 2017. Entries that are incomplete, illegible, indecipherable, duplicated or which contain profanity will not be valid and deemed void.
  • To enter, applicants must follow the rules outlined above.
  • All entries must be made directly by the person entering the competition.
  • No responsibility can be accepted for entries lost, due to computer error in transit.
  • The prizes are as stated and comprises of two tickets for Grand Designs Live (valid between the 29th April – 7th May) to be awarded to one winner. The prize is not transferable to another individual and no cash or other alternatives will be offered.
  • Prizes are subject to availability and the prize suppliers' terms and conditions.
  • Prizes will be posted to the winner within 48 hours of them providing their postage details.
  • The winner will be contacted via Twitter on 28th April.
  • Entrants must be prepared to be able to organise their own travel to Grand Designs Live on a date between the 29th April – 7th May , in the case that they are selected to win the competition.
  • The promoters reserve the right to amend or alter the terms of competitions at any time and reject entries from entrants not entering into the spirit of the competition.
  • In the event of a prize being unavailable, the promoter reserves the right to offer an alternative prize of equal or greater value.
  • The winner(s) agree(s) to the use of their name, photograph and disclosure of county of residence and will co-operate with any other reasonable requests by Mother of Teenagers and/or CLC World, relating to any post-winning publicity.
  • Unless stated otherwise the winner(s) will be drawn at random from all correct entries received by the closing date stated within the promotional material 27th April 2017.
  • Reasonable efforts will be made to contact the winner(s). If the winner(s) cannot be reached within 24 hours of being notified of their win, or they are unable to comply with these terms and conditions, the Promoter reserves the right to offer the prize to the next eligible entrant drawn at random, or in the event that the promotion is being judged, the Promoter reserves the right to offer the prize to the runner(s)-up selected by the same judges.
  • Confirmation of the prize will be made via online correspondence to the winner.
  • Failure to respond and/or provide an address for delivery, or failure to meet the eligibility requirements may result in forfeiture of the prize.
  • Where applicable, the decision of the judges is final based on the criteria set out in the promotion and no correspondence will be entered over this decision.
  • Competitions may be modified or withdrawn at any time

 

 

 

 

 

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What Is The Real Value of Sport To Our Children?

With one teenager finishing last term with a hockey tour and one starting this term with a cricket tour, I am reminded of the value of sport in my teens' lives not only from the obvious perspective of benefiting from exercise, but also more universally in helping to prepare them for life beyond the playground.

Like many other parents I have stood on my fair share of pitches, but despite the sometimes untold agony of getting them up on time, the arguments about lost kit, the moaning about unfair referees and umpires plus the occasional tears at not being selected, I believe it has been worth every minute and equipped them with some valuable life lessons.

Children do not enter this world "naturally" sporty, it requires effort from us as parents to introduce them to exercise and start shaping their attitude to physical activity.   This starts as early as the toddler years with the interminable games of "catch" and trips to the playground in all weathers - albeit as an underhand means of ensuring our children are completely exhausted in time for bed.

The primary school years, however, are when it starts in earnest.  School sports days sort the wheat from the chaff on the athletics track among the children and the parents, in a bid for the unspoken but cherished title of  "most sporty family".  It is also the first time that our children are chosen for teams based on their ability and start to understand the value of healthy competition, because let's face it competitive environments are everywhere in life.

Then there is the scrum for places at local sporting clubs, some of which can involve a wait of several years for a space to come free.

Once your child has their place and has been accepted into the inner sanctum of the local sporting elite, even if they absolutely hate it, throw regular hissy fits on the field or are just down right rubbish, you stay put, resolute in the belief that as well as getting them out of the house, it is a learning ground for those all important life skills of teamwork, leadership, responsibility, discipline, coping with failure and last but not least "strategic thinking".

Yes who would have thought sport could be credited with providing our offspring with such a vast array of cognitive functions?

Surely there was an age when sport's primary purpose was enjoyment at being active, but that is certainly not the case now.  Being sporty is a badge to be worn with pride and demonstrates a prowess unattainable to any other group theatrical or musical, despite all requiring many of the same skill sets of co-operation, stamina, flexibility and dedication.

Woe betide you if are one of those parents on the sports field that dares to say the immortal words to your child that it's not about the "winning" but the "taking part". This suggests a lack of resilience and commitment and will provoke an array of reactions from eye rolling and tutting to full on ostracization.

In what other extra curricular activity does your child get exposed to such open criticism?

Despite my glibness though, I confess to being one of those parents who champions the importance of sport and fall genuinely into the camp of mums who just want my children to "take part".

As a fair weather exerciser I am not a tiger mum by any stretch of the imagination, but over the years I have carefully cajoled and manipulated my teens from an early age into sporting positions they may not naturally have gravitated towards themselves.

I signed them up for local sporting clubs before I knew if they were interested or even capable.  I offered my services when needed to serve tea and bake cakes for tournaments (admittedly under duress) and have even flown the flag of loud supporter on occasions, if sometimes for the opposing team!

Equally though I have stood and cringed on the sidelines as my children made innumerable mistakes, let down the team and themselves and of course embarrassed me!  It is all part of life's rich parenting tapestry.

But regardless of all this I gritted my teeth, rose above it and reassured them that "at least they tried their best", only to go home, drink copious glasses of wine and rant to my husband.

My husband however is the true champion, investing true blood, sweat and tears into our children's sporting lives.  He has patiently taught Teen 1 how to handle a rugby ball and coached at his local club for years. He has also spent hours of his life he will never get back teaching him how to bowl and has regularly run training sessions for Teen 2's hockey club.  This is before we even count the hours of driving,  sometimes half way across the South of England to get them to matches or to pick them up, before returning home and doing a quick turnaround to catch a plane - all whilst I just prepare lunch!

From my view on the sideline though, I think that what sport does best for children is break down barriers and open up opportunities.

Our local sports clubs are full of children from different backgrounds and with a range of abilities and the same is true at my teens' schools.  Diversity is essential to all walks of life but a love of sport unifies people in a way that nothing else can.

Sport England has launched its own series of initiatives Towards An Active Nation to increase the number of people getting active in response to the Government's own Sporting Future strategy.

Its vision is that everyone in England regardless of age, background or ability feels able to take part in sport and a significant part of this is to increase the proportion of young people (11-18) who have a positive attitude to sport and being active.

At secondary school there is no doubt that it is all far more competitive as everyone jostles for a place in the 1st and 2nd team and the chance to represent their school and perhaps earn a much coveted place on a sports tour.  It is easy for children to drop out of exercise during this period.  The challenge at this stage as Sport England recognises is to keep our children doing sport and make exercise a natural part of their life to keep them active well into the future.

Watching my own children over the years I can resolutely say that they have grown from sports shy individuals to competent young players who genuinely get a buzz from being part of a team and being active. What sport does really well is give children a sense of worth, bring them together and give them a common purpose. Your prowess in the classroom or the playground is irrelevant to what happens on the sports field.

Sport encourages children to move outside their comfort zone and mix with others they would maybe not normally interact with.  In this ever changing and reactive world this is surely a good thing, irrespective of ability.

So as I drove my eldest and his mates to their first pre-season training cricket match and listened to their "bants" I was reminded of identical circumstances this time last year.  My husband away on business and a car full of jesting teenage boys with their "that's so jokes" comments,  looking forward to a season's cricket amidst the pressure of their exams.

It reminded me that actually the real value of sport to our children is not the cognitive strategic skills they come away with but the comaraderie, the genuine enjoyment, the escapism from the pressure of performing in the classroom and most importantly of all, the memories of when they got it wrong as well as right, which are truly irreplaceable.  After all life is built on memories, they stay with us forever and hold us all together.

What do you think about the role of sport for our children?  Does sport play a big part in your lives?  I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below and if you enjoyed this article please give it a share. 

 

This post was featured on #Global Blogging

My favorite for the week is written by JoMother of TeenagersWhat Is The Real Value Of Sport To Our Children. We are definitely a sporting family! I love seeing kids outdoors and releasing energy. I also have a kid that is not too sporty but they love being on the sidelines rooting the rest of them on! It sure beats sitting inside!!

 

 

 

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Exam and Revision Tips For Parents On How To Help Their Teenagers

As a parent of teenagers, going away over the Easter Holiday or the May Half Term for any substantial period of time is simply not an option as these are the key revision periods for the exam season, which is now just around the corner.

Five to six hours a day is the recommended amount of revision for GCSE's and A'levels and that requires incredible discipline on the part of the teenagers and patience and support from the parents.

Here are some tried and tested ways on how you can help your teens survive those long days of revision and ensure they approach their exams not only well-prepared but with confidence.

  • Revision Timetable

A thorough revision timetable gives teens a structure for their exam preparation and means they won't waste precious revision time, flicking through text books deciding what to do on an ad hoc basis and most importantly that they won't miss anything out.

Research shows that short periods of learning interspersed with regular breaks is the most effective approach to revision.  Ensure your teen writes down all the topics within each subject that they need to revise before preparing the timetable.  The general advice is to allocate 30-40 minute revision sessions to each topic with a 10 minute break between each and to vary the subjects, rather than sticking to topics all from one subject.

  • Breaks

Incorporating breaks within the timetable is essential.  A 5-10 minute break between each revision session is sufficient with an hour for lunch.  The important thing is that they take advantage of the breaks and are not tempted to just carry on through.  The brain can only absorb so much information at once.

  • Stationery

Writing  notes and learning them is one thing, but it is a good idea for teens to test their knowledge before exam day and practice papers are a good way to do that.  Be prepared and stock up on lots of paper and printer ink cartridges in advance, as well as post it notes and blank post cards - you can never have too much of any of these during the exam period.

  • Brain Food 

Revising uses up a lot of energy, so their body and brain needs good nourishment.  A nutritious breakfast to kick start the day is important, as is a well stocked fridge of healthy snacks and food they can prepare themselves for lunch if you are out, to ensure they are not just grazing on rubbish all day.  This is also true of sugary drinks, which while tempting when they are feeling tired will only cause a crash in their energy levels.  Drinking plenty of water will keep their brain well hydrated and make sure your teen is performing at their best.

 

  • Regular Exercise

With such an intensive revision timetable it can be difficult to find time for much else during the day, but sitting at a desk all day is not healthy.  It is absolutely vital they get out and take regular exercise, even if it is just a quick walk around the block to clear their head; it will enable them to put a fresh perspective on what they have learnt that day.

  • Sleep

The importance of sleep during exams cannot be emphasised enough.  It is restorative and will enhance their exam performance.  Encourage your teen to stick to a firm bedtime and not to be tempted to stay up late in the lead up to exams and particularly the night before an exam.  Cramming all night is futile as there is only so much their brain can absorb in one day.

  • Digital Detox

Effective revision and quality sleep can only be achieved without distraction.  Encourage your teenager to turn off their phone or any other electronic device while revising so that their concentration is not broken by text or facebook messages from friends.  Similarly when they go to bed persuade them to turn their phones and tablets off or put them away as the blue light they emit is particularly disruptive to a good night's sleep.

  • Revision Help

Apart from ensuring your teen has a quiet area to do their work and revise, be prepared to test them on what they have learnt or to sit and listen as they talk you through a topic - even if you have heard it a hundred times before - you never know you might learn something new!  Challenge them on what they have learnt and get them to think outside the box.  Encouraging them to develop an inquiring mind will ensure they are prepared for the unexpected.

  • Stress-Free

Normal routines maybe disturbed during the exam time, try not to stress about it and keep home life as calm as possible for them.   Teenagers taking exams are stressed enough so any additional nagging about the state of their room is unnecessary. The long term gain of their hard work will alleviate the short term inconvenience. Remember to just keep calm.

  • Positive Support

Relentless revision is physically and emotionally draining and your teenager will at some point during their revision feel the pressure and question their ability.  Don't dismiss their concerns out of turn.  Listen to what they have to say and try to alleviate their fears with gentle words of reassurance, congratulate them on the work they have put in, tell them you are proud of what they are doing and no matter how old or cool they are a hug works every time.

Do you have any revising teens in your house?  How do you help them through the exam period?

 

 

 

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Tweens, Teens & Beyond #5

Good Morning and welcome back to the fifth week of linky Tweens, Teens Beyond hosted by myself and my fellow Tween and Teen bloggers Sharon at After The Playground and Nicky at Not Just The Three of Us.

The Easter Holidays are here and with it the usual excessive chocolate eating and in some cases, exam revision.  Yes the exam season is just around the corner so if you are parent to a revising teen over Easter, Good Luck and Stay Calm!

Our linky community is going from strength to strength with new bloggers joining us each week and last week was no exception with new to us linkers Em Linthorpe, Edie's Eden and Raising My Autistic Son.  Welcome to you all.

Our favourite link from last week was Midlife Drama In Pyjamas, with her truly hilarious post "You Want Me To Pee In That?" .  The title speaks for itself really - do take a read if you haven't already.

With the Easter Holidays upon us we will be extending this fifth linky from 4th - 20th April to allow time for everyone to link up and comment at their leisure over the holiday period and we will be back with a new linky on Tuesday 25th April.   In the meantime HAPPY EASTER.

Now on to the less exciting but nonetheless important part of the linky - the rules - PLEASE give them a read before you head off into linky la la land and we look forward to reading your posts.

Linky Rules

Please could you:

  • Grab the Tweens,Teens & Beyond  and add it to the bottom of your post or your side bar - if you need help read this Linky Guide from Becky at Cuddle Fairy.
  • Link up one post, old or new (sponsored and review posts are welcome) that relate to children over the age of 10 years (Tweens, Teens or young adult children) and midlife.
  • Tweet us @motherofteensuk, @DrSharonParry1 and @NotJustThe3OfUs
  • Comment on the hosts' posts and AT LEAST one other of your choice using the linky hashtag #TweensTeensBeyond.
  • Share any posts that you love, we are all about sharing!

What we will do for you:

  • All three of us will comment on your post and share it on Twitter.
  • Your post will be pinned to the #TweensTeensBeyond Linky Pinterest Board
  • Each week, we will select our favourite post which will be featured on all of our sites and shared on Social Media
  • By entering the link you are agreeing to be added to the email reminder list.  (You can request to be removed at any time!)

 

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