“Our kids don’t get out much”

Eating guacamole at our booth. Her chair pulled up at the side. Her feeding pump going. We were enjoying a family night out. We laughed around the table as my husband was adorned in his sombrero and we sang “Happy Birthday.” Being a dad of two, maybe the staff knew he could use that tequila shot instead of the normal fried ice cream as a birthday treat.

As we got ready to leave, we were hit with two more surprises. Our check was taken away and paid by someone anonymously. It was hard to keep back our tears, and I saw the water swell in my husband’s eyes even through my own blurry vision. We’ve heard that happen to others and have done something similar, but didn’t imagine it would happen to us someday. I do wish we had the chance to say thank you to the right party, so if there’s a chance they’re out there now reading this – thank you! We left a generous tip to pay the kindness forward and as we walked out, we ran into someone who works at my younger daughter’s school. “It’s so nice to see you all out,” she said, “our kids don’t get out much.”

I paused, not quite sure what to say, but also realizing what she meant. Our kids with special and critical needs don’t get out as much as your typical kids I’m sure. But I also knew that being a lower income school, it may even mean sometimes our kids, kids who can’t run outside on their own or feed themselves, don’t really ever get out of the house. Because it’s hard. There are plenty of roadblocks that stop us from taking our daughter out – too hot, too cold, she’s screaming, she may catch something, how would I get her chair down the stairs myself, was there a ramp somewhere, how would I carry all those bags while pushing her… I get it. We get it. But this day was a good day. A great day! Good moods, no sickness and we could go out together as a family. So we did.

We try hard to live life as normally as we can. Do things we would have done if both our children were fully able. So before we went out that night, we measured her food on the gram scale to get to the right fat ratio for her ketogenic diet, pulled her feeding pump and bag supplies together and gathered the medications, pill crushers, tubes and syrings – packing it into her large bag. At the restaurant, we primed her feeding bag and hooked her food up when we sat down. While waiting for our food, we pulled out the pill crushers and asked for an extra cup of water to pull up her syringes of meds.

Is it awkward? It used to be. And I’m sure there are plenty of sideways glances that I no longer notice. This is how we keep her on schedule and practice normal. This is how we live life. While I realize it may be easier to stay home, that it may save me from hearing some  whispers behind us, I don’t want our family to miss out on living and being together. I don’t want my oldest to not have her whole family together for outings. I don’t want my youngest to feel like a burden and not enjoy the sights and sounds that she so enjoys just because it’s extra work. I appreciate other kids, because they just ask the questions everyone wonders. What is that tube? Why does she have a hole in her belly? And I explain (or my oldest does), “That’s how she eats. She gets food right to her belly!” I smile. They get it.

So maybe our kids don’t get out as much as others but I sure hope they get out plenty and enjoy what this world has to offer – Mexican music, big sombreros and all.

The First Time

Being mom to two beautiful girls is quite the adventure! I love them dearly, and they continue to teach me about what life is truly about. I’ve mentioned my five year old often in these first few posts and have thoughts and stories to share about my younger daughter, too, but I thought I would first give some background on this very special part of my life. So here it is, an archived post sharing the first time I saw my daughter seize.

I can’t tell you the exact day I told my husband I love you. I can’t tell you the exact day my oldest took her first steps. I can’t tell you the exact day each of my girls’ smiles made me smile. But I remember each of these moments vividly regardless of the day they happened.

I can tell you the exact day I saw my youngest’s first seizure. I can vividly and painstakingly remember the terror that rushed through me as I realized what was happening to my  baby girl.

My maternity leave was ending soon, and I was going back to a new role at work after Thanksgiving. Earlier that week I met some of my new colleagues and team members and was excited to get back at it! And while I’m typically big on waiting until after Thanksgiving to decorate for Christmas I knew life was only going to get busier so I started to unpack the Christmas boxes Robert had brought up from the basement. I had made some headway while my baby was napping. She woke up and we did our normal eat, play, (hopefully) poop routine. She had just started laughing in the last couple of days and today I caught in on my phone and sent the video to my family. Later she was getting fussy (definitely a colicky baby) and after several attempts to console her, I put her down in the bassinet. Vibrator on. Success.

After a short twenty minute nap and a few more decorations up, I saw those beautiful eyes. I had just started on a new box so I moved her down to her play mat to finish unpacking it. To finish unpacking the nativity scene. As I focused on carefully unwrapping each piece, a few minutes had gone by and I went to say hi and give her a big smile, about to start setting up the manger scene on the fireplace.

“Hiii sweetie. Honey, sweeeetie… what are you doing?” Her eyes focused to the right, head cocked, body pulsing. [Screaming her name over and over and not responding] I swooped her up, body against mine. Searching for my phone (WHAT is happening?!) both gasping for air with my tears soaking her face, I finally pick up the house phone we just got and dialed 911.

I could easily walk through the next several hours accounting every minute in this detail even three years later. We stayed at the hospital for a few nights. It was terrifying but everything was coming back negative and all signs of cat scans, EEG, lumbar punctures and other tests I’d never heard of looked clean. Phew. We left the hospital thankful for what we hoped was a fluke. We left without any daily meds or the thought of needing a diagnosis.

We returned to the ER two days after being released. Today, the ER staff often knows her name.

I can tell you the day that life changed forever in a way we never expected. I can tell you the day I realized I’m not in control.

I can tell you the day I knew how truly worrisome life is.

I can tell you the day I understood how wonderful life is.

I can tell you here. So I will.

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A Letter to My Daughter on Respect

Today seems like a good day to talk about respect and what it really means. It’s possible (probable) that over the next four years as you blossom into a young girl, you’ll hear things spoken from the leader of our country that will make you ask “is that okay?” or “why did he say that?” and you should know that it doesn’t matter who said it or why, but we do not tolerate disrespect towards others.

I want you to know that I expect more from you and that it is just as important for you to expect respect from others regardless of your age, gender or beliefs.

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Recognize differences. We are all different. You know that well already. Whether it’s our age, skin color, abilities, intelligence, backgrounds, or beliefs, we are all God’s children. It doesn’t matter what role someone holds – a classmate, your teacher, a lunchroom helper, or the principal – each of them is a person that deserves your respect.

Being different is nothing to be afraid of, and regardless of what makes someone different from you, I expect you treat them with kindness.  This world will give you reasons to fear others that are different. I will be with you to keep you safe, and you will learn differences are not to be feared. Differences make us unique and can make our world a great place if we embrace them and include them.

Empathize. We all go through hard times. Sometimes you may see a friend on the playground or in the lunchroom that’s having a rough day. When someone is crying, go listen. When someone is in trouble or need, offer help. If someone is alone, ask if they want to play. If someone is being mean, take the opportunity to show them kindness.

Say something nice. From the words of Thumper, “if you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say anything at all.” But do more than that. Find something to say. Say nice things to your friends and family and to people you just meet. Doesn’t it make you feel good when people say kind things to you? Help other people feel good, too. This is something I need to show you more. I know I’m quiet and don’t always say it out loud to others, but I will do better to show you the power this can have.

Patience, patience, patience. I know you love to be first. Let others have a turn to be first. Patience must be learned and even though you will get frustrated that I don’t do everything you ask right away, I am teaching you how to wait.

Have patience for others. Not everything will happen according to your plan or schedule. There are situations that you cannot control and that others may not be able to either.

Expect respect. One of the most important things I must teach you about respect is that you deserve respect at all times. While I ask you to be kind, have patience, and reach out to others that doesn’t mean it will always work. Don’t let people mistreat you regardless of who they are. If someone is older than you or in a greater position than you and treating you wrongly you need to tell me. You deserve better. Walk away and tell me or someone you trust that you are being hurt. I will always be here for you.

Courage. Respect will take courage sometimes. Have courage, and do not allow excuses to be made for disrespect. Stand up when someone calls your sister or someone like her dumb or weird or something worse. Stand up for yourself if someone is being hurtful. Ask me when you need help or don’t know what to do in a situation.

Thank others. Togetherness is how our community works. Take the time to say thank you – thank you for the glass of milk, for helping clean up with me, for being a good friend, for being you.  Show respect by always giving thanks.

If you can’t remember all of this all the time, simply remember to “have courage and be kind,” sweet girl.

Love always,
Mom

Six things you won’t find on THIS blog

Starting this blog has been fun for me and has my mind going all the time! I’m working on figuring out the best times to post and how this blog will come together. I typically always have a well thought out plan but as for this blog I’ve decided not to get too focused on having a detailed strategy. At least not in the beginning. I want what I write to make sense at the time, to express what I’m feeling, what’s on my mind or making me feel good that moment. So as I’ve worked on several posts that will come together over time, I’ve had a chance to think about what you won’t find on my blog.

1. Hair and Make Up Tutorials. Basically my make up routine has been the same since college – some eyeliner, mascara, and bronzer if I’m feeling extra pale. I’m cursed blessed with an insane amount of hair and most days just want to keep it tame. My mom bun has been a go-to since I started staying home and on the days I do wear it down, I simply take a curling iron to my mane. It’s likely I’m anywhere from day 3 to 5 without washing and some dry shampoo when I get the most compliments. Go figure.

2. Step-by-Step Craft Instructions. Definitely not. My idea of craft time at home is throwing some paint, paper, glitter glue, and random items from the Target dollar section or Dollar Tree in the middle of the table. Then have at it! The few times I’ve attempted a kid’s craft from Pinterest has left me disappointed or doing most the work myself. Since I don’t have a lot of interest in crafting anyways I’ve decided not to waste my time or frustration.

3. Beer Recommendations. I’m hoping you’ll find plenty of wine posts and recommendations on this blog, but I don’t do beer.

 

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Okay, just this one…

4. Regular Exotic Vacation Photos. I adore seeing new places and beautiful locations and love to travel, however, that’s no longer a big part of my life. I was fortunate enough to take some great vacations with my husband, Robert, pre-parenthood and traveled with work to places like Decatur, Belgium, and China. Yes, I said Decatur – inside joke, sorry friends. Traveling takes a lot with kids in general and when you add a medically complex kiddo to the mix, it can often feel impossible. But we are saving for a big trip down the road and have a goal to *someday* have a kid free vacation again. In the meantime, I’ll soak up others’ photos and travel the Midwest.

 

5. How to Get Out of a Speeding Ticket. Well, I’ve actually never gotten a speeding ticket so there’s that, plus, I’m pretty much a rule follower.

6. Judgement. Maybe the other five have given you some ideas of who I am and what interests me and what doesn’t. That said, my blog is going to be about what I enjoy and this journey as a stay-at-home mom. At no point do I want someone reading my blog to feel like what I’m doing is the right way or the only way. It’s just what I enjoy and a way to learn more about who I am now after thirty. For example, I am planning to do the Whole30 again in a couple of weeks and will definitely share that experience and engage anyone who is interested, but it doesn’t mean I think everyone should do it. Nor do I follow it by the book after the thirty-day period. (I mean I just took a cheesecake class last week for goodness sake! Oh, and did you see my dry shampoo comment?)

I’m looking forward to discussing lots of other topics and thoughts! You can learn a little more about me here

Creating little humans

little-humans_vSince we started this discussion on knowing who we are as moms, I couldn’t help but go back to a conversation I had with a friend of mine about our roles in helping our kids create who they are and the balance of outside school activities and just being kids. It’s such a large part of what we do as parents – helping our kids create their own personal identity. It’s big stuff when you think about it!

I was talking to my mom last night, and there’s no doubt I am who I am today because of my parents. Recalling back to my earliest memories, I never remember a point when my parents weren’t telling me I could be anything I wanted or do what I wanted if I worked hard for it. They were my cheerleaders, my support system, and helped me learn more about myself and who I was proud to be.

My mom’s birthday was yesterday, so the launch of “Here’s to momma,” is in large part a raised glass to MY momma.  She loved the blog idea and of course was already encouraging me to write for some big name blogs and maybe start a children’s book series. She even had an illustrator in mind I could connect with. Oh, Mom.
But even when I think to myself, “oh, mom” I know she has and will always support me in my dreams. That’s what we do as moms.

So back to the conversation with my friend. We talked about what life looked like for us at that awkward middle school age. Did we know who we were? Will our kids know who they are? Those years can be brutal and if our kids don’t have a good sense of self, I can’t even imagine how much harder it may be for them. I remember my middle school years in painful detail. Those stories of humiliation, girl bullying and finding strength and learning what true friendship looked like are for another day, but even though those years were rough, I made it through because I was involved and knew what I was good at. I played the viola in the orchestra and played basketball as part of a local church team – neither of which I was particularly great at, but I had fun participating. And I identified as a big sister, feeling like I needed to be the big helper at home and watch out for my three younger siblings; a writer, writing poetry and short stories in my Lisa Frank notebook; and as a dancer, creating choreography alone in my room or with friends in the basement. (My siblings may even throw in songwriter, claiming I made up a song about my love for George Clooney. I still deny this.) What I did and who I was kept me going.

I already wonder if I’m doing the right things for my oldest daughter who is just five years old. At five, she’s experienced more than anyone should, even at my age. We want her to grow up with a strong faith and are working on our faith journey as a family. She knows that life is fragile, has the emergency routine down, plays with her dolls in the same room as her screaming sister without it bothering her most days, and understands that you can love someone with all your heart even if they can’t say it back. There’s no doubt her younger sister is helping her become an amazing kid and surely an amazing person. But I also want her to know herself and have outlets when those days are too much.

As a youngster, we did lots of baby and toddler classes including music, diaper gym and one of our favorites, signing class with Communication Junction. Now that she’s grown out of those classes we have explored dance, gymnastics and swimming. But only signing up for one class at any given time. I was writing out my goals for the year and there are so many things I want our oldest to experience sooner rather than lateCreating little humans_V.jpgr – swimming, dance, soccer (or some team sport), ice skating and music.  She also wants to paint and take cooking classes! So when do you start and how do you balance? Clearly the budget keeps us in check, but I can’t decide what is too much or too little. I would love to hear from moms with older kids on what you’ve learned along the way.

Us moms have big shoes to fill and a responsibility to help our kids find the shoes they fit in most comfortably. Like I said, it’s big stuff but I know I can count on my fellow moms to learn from one another and each put together our own solution on what works for us.

Comfy and Hygge

Have you heard about hygge (pronounced hooga)? It’s a danish term that from what I can gather means being cozy, not just for a few moments but in your life. I’ve read about it on my Facebook feed since Christmastime and love the idea of focusing on coziness and comfort with loved ones, especially when the Midwest winters can easily be depressing. If you haven’t heard of hygge yet or still aren’t sure what it means – check out this page for a little more info: http://www.visitdenmark.com/hygge.

So today, in honor of hygge, wanting to feel comfortable but still put together, I am wearing some of my favorites. My style is something I’ll focus on in this blog and what I like to consider mommanista meets fashionista. For me, it’s become about comfort, function and style. The days of wearing my high heels everywhere including the grocery store are missed, but I’m finding my new style as a stay-at-home mom. My look has always been pretty budget conscious and since moving our family to one income, even more so.

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This sweater is a favorite of mine. I bought it from a local store called Random, and it’s soooo warm! It’s a few years old, but the brand is Ya Los Angeles if you’re looking for a good and fun go to sweater. My t-shirt is plain and simple, you can probably grab any of the 5+ striped tees in your closet. I’m still loving stripes!

Jeans are a tan color I bought at a resale shop in town for like $8 – score! If you have a resale shop in your town, definitely check them out. I know shopping local isn’t as easy as running to the mall but I like that I often find unique pieces and always shop for a deal.

You can score similar ones from Old Navy for just $18.99. Each color is limited in sizes, but I like a good price and good fit when I find one.

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Hope you’re feeling cozy today! For all of those in the Midwest, stay warm!

Creating Myself

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I’ve always loved to write. I remember back in the fourth grade needing to come up with a license plate that described me with 7 or less letters or numbers. (Even harder than Twitter, right?) I simply wrote – WRITER. It’s somewhat always been my personal therapy and is also a large part of my professional background. I worked in a communications career for nearly ten years after graduating college and still write when I need to get things out of my head. Over the last several years, I’ve written plenty of blog entries – private ones to myself, sharing my love of shoes and fashion, the growth of my first baby bump and the journey after my youngest daughter’s first seizure.

I’ve contemplated a more public blog beyond just friends and family before. During the last few months, I have been thinking it through a lot  and finally decided to start. My hold up was that I don’t have one simple passion or expertise that I always write about or can give guidance on. Then, I saw a quote I had seen plenty of times but this time it stuck with me.

“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” – George Bernard Shaw

Fortunately, I’m not one that’s really felt lost before and felt a need to go find myself. But over the last two years as a stay-at-home mom, I’m not exactly sure of my identity either. It’s one I’m creating along the way. With the help of friends, family and mostly, my best friend/husband, I know that my identity as mom means knowing myself in every way – mom, wife, friend, daughter, writer, volunteer, runner, shoe-lover, coffee-lover, wine-lover…you get the picture.

So that’s what this blog will focus on. Knowing and writing about the things that make me mom and make me, me. I hope you will read along and be inspired to continue creating the mom you are and the person you are. I plan to talk about things on my mind from what brings me joy whether it’s a great espresso drink or laughing with my kids, and I’ll also talk about where I’m struggling personally and as mom.

Being a mom means being yourself, being an extended- often tired – all giving self! In the midst of it all, don’t forget to be who YOU are. So here’s to you, here’s to us, and here’s to momma!