Blog Feature

My guest post for And Nobody Told Me on March 7, 2011

When you’re pregnant, you have so many hopes and dreams and wishes for that little being inside you. You want to protect him from any harm.

Neither of my pregnancies were easy. You hear some women say that pregnancy is beautiful and perfect and the best time of their lives. They are complete liars; being pregnant is hard. My children are beautiful and perfect and the best things in my life; that much is true.

I won’t bore you with the details of my labor with Gabe. I am a wuss when it comes to pain, so it was long and arduous. After hours of contractions, it was suddenly time to push, and then…suddenly he was born. I was so exhausted and emotional that I didn’t grasp that there was a problem right away. The nurses had him in the bassinet and were cleaning him up when they noticed that he was having trouble breathing. They had the neonatologist come look at him, and they took him to the NICU for “observation.” He had sucked in some amniotic fluid on his way out, and it went into his lungs, which led to further complications.

Gabriel Joshua was born on December 3rd, 2009, and spent the first 12 days of his life in the NICU. He was on a C-PAP machine at first, then later a nasal cannula, and was being tube-fed breast milk that I had pumped. We spent as much time with him as we could. I would go to the hospital to be with Gabe after spending the morning with my daughter, come home for supper with my mom, daughter and husband, then my husband and I would go up to visit Gabe after putting our daughter to bed. Thank goodness for Grandma Jan, who came to stay with us and cared for our 3-year-old daughter Bailey during the whole ordeal.

One of the most difficult parts to deal with before I was discharged from the hospital was when I was alone in my hospital room at night. I’d lay there after my husband had gone home to help put our daughter to bed, and just stare in confused fury at the empty bassinet where Gabe should have been sleeping…not in a covered bassinet, with tubes and wires attached to him, in the NICU. I sat in my room alone and cried. When I was discharged without him, I was in agony. It felt so wrong to be coming home without him. I told myself that I was going to wear my hospital name band with his name on it until he came home. I joyfully cut it off the day he was discharged.

I look at him now and I marvel at how perfect he is. At 14 months old, you’d never know that my wild and crazy little man who challenges my patience and my sanity on a daily basis, had had such a rocky start in life. I consider myself blessed with the crazy chaos that is life with children.

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Dear Other Mother at the Grocery Store

This post has been on my heart for a few weeks now. The woman ahead of us in the checkout lane at the store looked overwhelmed…and was doing her best. But I could tell she was struggling. So, here is my letter to her, and every other parent who feels the same way.

Dear Frazzled MamaDear Frazzled Mother at the Grocery Store,

You were ahead of us in line, with a cart full of groceries. You had a little one in the seat of your cart, and another Big Kid standing near the cart as patiently as a 5-year-old can. It was supper time and I could tell your kids were at that “hungry and crabby and need to get out of public NOW!” stage. I could see that you were struggling and trying your best to keep your cool, despite the little one’s fussing and thrashing, and the growing impatience of your big kid.

I could also see the careful, analyzing eye that you kept on the food on the conveyor belt and on your rising total. You were figuring out how much the bill was going to be. You were calculating how much you had left on your EBT card and how much you were going to have to pay out-of-pocket, and what you were going to have to put back. Hoping you had enough to cover all of what you needed.

I’ve been there. I’ve stood at the checkout line keeping track of my WIC items, fumbling with the vouchers and balancing my wallet on my humongous pregnant belly. I’ve also seen the dirty looks from people behind us in line, shuffling their feet and clearing their throats in annoyance at being inconvenienced by waiting for us. I’ve felt the burning stares at the back of my head and have heard the mumbles.

I’ve also been in your shoes, with bored and tired kiddos rapidly approaching the meltdown stage. I’ve felt overwhelmed with stuff to do, places to go, kids to care for, fights to break up, and a life to live.

And I heard the ignorant young cashier say as you walked away, “Somebody needs to control their kids…” Hear me, Mama: I came to your defense. Whether you heard it or not.  We mamas must support each other, not judge.

Hold your head high, Mama. You’re doing your best.

Deep breaths, Mama. Those who judge you do not know your whole story.

Live your life, Mama. Hug those kiddos tight and love them like only you can.

You’re doing okay, Mama. You got this.

Our Favorites: Top iPad and iPhone Apps

A while back, I promised someone I’d share a list of my kids’ favorite iPad/iPhone apps, and I’m finally getting around to it! In our house, our iPad has somehow become part of our daily lives. It’s one of those things that I knew I wanted, but until we got it, I didn’t know just how awesome it would be to have it. We use it every.single.day for web searching, email, Facebook, YouTube, our fun apps, you name it. There are times when we’d all like to use it at the same time!

We’ve found some really great apps since my husband got his first iPhone about 4 years ago. He LOVED the iPhone, but I wasn’t really sold on it. I really, REALLY wanted an iPad when they came out, so we got one earlier this year. I finally made the leap to iPhone after getting the iPad, and haven’t looked back! We mostly have kids’ apps (go figure), but my husband and I have our own fun ones, too.

Most of the apps that we use are free from the App Store but do have in-app purchases available for more levels. Keep in mind that some apps can be used on both the iPhone and iPad, but translate better on the iPad (but most of the ones I have listed do well on both).

So, here we go…

Our Top iPad/iPhone Apps for Kids

PBS Kids (Free!) Features more than 1,000 videos from over a dozen top PBS KIDS and PBS KIDS GO! shows, in a kid-friendly platform. Love this one, because they get to watch TV and I don’t have to worry about annoying commercials or the kids accidentally coming across inappropriate videos. This apps runs best on WiFi. Both my preschoolers AND school-aged kids like this one.

Farm 123 Free (Free, with a full paid version for $2.99) An interactive pop-up book with counting games. You only get a couple of levels of the games, but in-app purchases add more levels. The boys (almost 3 years old) LOVE this one, because they get a kick out of the bouncing animals. I LOVE it, because they are already learning to count. 🙂

Tozzle (Free, with a full paid version for $1.99) A drag-and-drop puzzle game with fun sound effects. Each puzzle gets a little harder, and when they finish the puzzle they can play with it by tapping for the different sound effects.

Tappy Tunes (Free, with a paid full version for $1.99) A fun app to play favorite songs by tapping out the tune, including children’s songs, classical music, holiday songs, and more. This one is a go-to for us to fend off the wigglies while waiting in line at the grocery or waiting to be seated at a restaurant.

JumpStart Preschool Magic of Learning ($1.99) We got hooked on JumpStart online, and found this app to be a great on-the-go learning tool. There are lots of games that teach letters, colors, shapes, numbers, and counting.

Quizzing Toddler Preschool by ToddlerTeasers ($1.99, with the complete set for $3.99) This is the “quiz” version, with a spoken prompt to pick the correct picture of letters, shapes, animals, and more, and correct answers earn stickers for a “sticker page.” There are over 1,000 in 30 categories available to download for free within the app.

Netflix (Free, with a paid subscription) Obviously, you have to be a member of Netflix already to use this app. You use WiFi to log into your account, and watch it as you would on your TV. We love this app, because we love Netflix. We do not have cable at our house (by choice–we prefer NOT to see the inane commercials, and honestly, we grew tired of paying for cable when we rarely watched TV in the first place), so this app is especially handy since we have wireless internet. The Netflix app was VERY useful just recently, when we were staying in a motel in Nebraska and our kids wanted to watch their favorite shows, but were overwhelmed when we turned on the TV and were accosted with loud and annoying commercials, lame dialogue, and laugh tracks.

Google Translate (Free) This app has been extremely useful lately, with our daughter being in Chinese Immersion Kindergarten. Impossibly, our SIX-YEAR-OLD is speaking Chinese, and Google Translate has helped us understand some of the words, and to practice saying them. We’ve spent time just sitting together, typing in words to hear how they are said in Chinese. Neat, right? 🙂

I could go on and on, really. So, here’s a screen shot of some of our other favorite kids’ apps, if you’d like to peruse.

(If you can’t read the text under the apps in the picture, they are: Math Magic, Word Magic, Flash Cards (by Dalmation Press), Flash Cards (Parents Magazine), Letter Quiz, Pop Words, TouchWord, ABC123 Lite, Doodle Buddy, Doodle Kids, Kizzle Lite, Pirate School (Jake and the Neverland Pirates), Happy Fish, and Little Things.)

I hope this has been helpful! If you’ve got questions, please leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you!

What are YOUR favorite apps? Do you have suggestions for apps that you love?

She’ll Be Fine

I know that everyone and their sister is writing blog posts about the start of school, but, you know me…I write what is on my heart and mind. 🙂

Miss Bee starts Kindergarten next week. This fact fills me with pride, but I’m finding I’m also feeling a little bit of trepidation, sadness, and dare I say it, doubt.

She’s ready for Kindergarten; we know that. She’s BEEN ready. As advanced as she is, we feel like adding the challenge of Chinese Immersion Kindergarten won’t hold her back. In fact, I think she’ll thrive. 

It’s just that… She’s MINE. You know? 

Our first day at home with our sweet girl

She’s been in preschool part time for the past 2 years, so I have had sort of a cushion of time to prepare me for letting go, but I’m finding it’s still breaking my heart a little. As a stay at home mom, I’ve had the privilege of being her mama, her teacher, her cheerleader, her shoulder to cry on, her playmate, her snuggle partner, her hand to hold. As her mama, I’ve seen her first words, her first steps, her first haircut, her first ABC’s, her first chapter book, her first forray on her own on her bike, her first loose teeth. 

Putting her on that bus her first day of kindergarten is going to be excrutiating. I’ll put on a big brave smile for my big brave girl, but after the bus drives away, taking my baby girl with it, I give no guarantees I won’t be a complete mess. 

A teeny tiny seed of doubt in my mind has me quietly pondering, though. Will they be kind to her? Will they see how brilliant she is? Will she miss me?

I can hear my husband now, saying, She’ll be fine. She’ll have a blast. Her teacher will guide her. She’ll make friends. Yes, yes to all of that. Before we know it, she’ll be asking for the car keys, and rolling her eyes when I tuck her hair behind her ears so that I can see her pretty blue eyes.

But for just a little while longer, I want to keep her to myself.

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Our little girl playing dress up in my wedding dress

I’m a Screen Free Week Drop-Out

I’ve wrestled with the “screen-free” thing as of late.

But being a stay at home parent, I feel like I need to be connected to the outside world somehow or I will go crazy. Phone calls are constantly interrupted; I can’t remember a time in the last couple years that I have had an entire conversation without breaking up a fight, kissing  an owie, or asking a child to lower their voice below screaming volume. I use my phone for texting more than I do phone calls, ironically, because I can text back and forth when time allows.

Now that we have an iPad, I’ve used that as well. It’s so much easier than using the desktop, since I can bring it wherever I want in the house (except the bathroom!!!). Facebook, blogs, and Twitter offer a good distraction, and allow me to keep up with friends, but I can’t sit on them all day long or the house will fall down around me.

Popping in a movie on a rainy day, when the kids are running wild gives them (and me) a chance to calm their inner monster and just chill. Pulling out the iPad and watching silly videos with the kids is always good in a pinch, and we have found some awesome apps too.

I had fully intended to dive head-first into National Screen Free Week, but when it came down to it I couldn’t bring myself to cut the cord. Using these devices (phone, computer, iPad, etc.) has become a habit with me AND the kids. They have their learning games and fun things, and so do I. Screen-free time has its advantages, and they far outweigh the “negatives.” 

I think what it comes down to is spending the time we have, together. Cutting out distraction. Being more active. Enjoying being “in the moment” with the kids. Even if that means my dishes don’t get done all day and I don’t talk to a single other adult until 4 p.m.

Much Needed Brain Dump

Headache update:  Thankfully the headaches have stopped. Rather, an increase in my medication made it so I am not in pain. Whatever. I’m just glad it worked. No seizures, either, so I am doubly thankful. The experience made me stop and think, though. It made me remember the last long run of no seizure activity, and how devastated I was when they started up again. I realized the other day that I have been overconfident and haven’t been taking as good of care of myself as I could be. The whole “take care of yourself, so you will be able to care for others” thing has kind of gone to the wayside. Wake up, dummy. You DO have people who depend on you, so make sure you’re able to hold up your end of the deal.

I haven’t written about the holidays, and I think it’s because they went by in such a blur that I couldn’t slow down enough to put my fingers to the keyboard and do a brain dump. Thanksgiving and Christmas were both wonderful. We spent both with my side of the family, which was nice. My husband’s family is 5 hours away, which makes holiday travel difficult, but we plan to make a trip down as soon as we can.

Thanksgiving was a busy, crazy day at my sister’s house, with the kids running around and playing, and lots of family squished together into a small house. It was nice…we enjoy just being together. My sister’s father-in-law and sister-in-law were there as well, and they have become part of  “our” family, so it was a blessing to share the day with them. It was my niece’s birthday the weekend after, so we took a little time aside and celebrated with her. I do believe that the girls (my daughter and my nieces) stole the show that day, marching around in dress-up clothes and having a little parade, with costume changes and everything.

Christmas Eve was spent here at our house, just the four of us, as has become our tradition. I love waking up Christmas morning, relaxing with a cup of coffee as our kids tear into their gifts. The best part about Christmas this year was laying in bed hearing our 5 year old daughter come up the stairs from her room and squeak in surprise and joy at seeing her pile of gifts. Priceless. We don’t make a big deal of Christmas presents, and I’m glad. The kids get one gift from Santa, a couple gifts from us, and their stockings are full. No huge piles of gifts so large the kids lose track of who gave them what. I feel like we are teaching our kids to enjoy and be thankful for what we have.

We’ve had some challenges with our kids, lately…well, I suppose I should say “as usual.” Our youngest is now 2 years old, and that simple fact has kept me from selling him off to the highest bidder some days: my mantra has been, “He’s 2. He is going to push buttons, and test boundaries. That’s what 2 year olds do.” That’s not to say that we let him run the show, but reminding myself that he is in a normal developmental stage keeps me sane.

Bee, our 5 year old, has shown some sass and attitude lately (as well as tattling and whining), which I’m sure is normal as well. Our kids are generally very good kids, so I am taken aback when she gets bucky. Oooh, the teen years are going to be interesting! I’m sure that some of her behavior has come from the need to stick up for herself while playing with her friends, and some her just being her emotional, sensitive self.

Even with those challenges, though, we have been noticing how well our kids play together. This is so fun to see, and we hope it continues. I remember being antagonized by (and antagonizing) my older siblings, so I know what it can be like! 🙂

This hasn’t been the 5 minute “Stream of Consciousness Sunday” brain dump, because I’ve spent more time than that letting my fingers just *type* but that’s okay. Hopefully I will be able to write more often, so maybe I can get back into that.

Have a great week, everyone.
xoxo

The Freight Train’s A-Comin’

I humbly ask you to forgive my lack of posting on this site…it seems life has caught up with me in many ways, and I have had a slightly rude awakening to this fact.

In the past few months, I’ve been surviving life as it comes. Lots of laughter, fun, and love, mixed in with the usual hurdles and frustrations of life as we know it. It’s hard to believe that it’s been so long since I posted as the Not So Perfect Mom… I think I got caught up in my other little corner of the blogosphere on my personal online journal (blog) and corresponding fans, and lost sight of the simplicity of this one. PR friendly, honest, life-loving, centered on my version of perfect family life. So here I am, starting fresh in the new year, hoping to give equal attention to both sides of my brain (ha!) and give myself time to spew out the truth and creativity that’s in my heart.

So here comes the honesty. If you know me, you know that I have a seizure disorder. Okay, let’s be more specific and say I have Epilepsy. I don’t think I’ve ever really explained exactly what happens and what it feels like, and it’s hard to describe to anyone who has never had a seizure, but I am going to try…

I spent the few days surrounding Christmas in the throes of a persistent headache. On Day 5 (the Tuesday after Christmas), I finally got relief when the stubborn tightness in my back and neck released and my head stopped hurting. The headaches at Christmas time gave me a small icky feeling in my gut, saying You know what these headaches can lead to… (meaning, headaches can precede seizures). But they went away, and so did the gut feeling.

Fast forward to last night, New Year’s Eve, 10:30 p.m., relaxing into a nice, quiet evening with my husband, welcoming the new year. BAM! Headache from Hell. Like I haven’t had in months. The top of my head feeling like it wanted to explode.

Last night’s episode began with the usual tell-tale auras that I have before I have a seizure, which give way to the feeling of a freight train headed straight toward me, with me literally unable to stop it. I’ve been seizure-free for almost TWO AND A HALF YEARS, so you can imagine my frustration in last night’s eventsLuckily, it was just (JUST?! HA!) a headache. But the screaming, pulsing pain left me curled into a ball with tears streaming, holding onto the top of my head trying to keep my brain in my head, and trying to keep my fear of a seizure from overtaking me. My sweet and caring husband by my side, lending me his strength not to panic, and just get through the pain.

Are you scared yet? I sure as hell was; I always am. I don’t tell you this to gain sympathy or to shock you. It only helps people understand what MY seizures are like…all seizures are different. Did you know there are dozens of different kinds of seizures? Did you also know that there are people (sometimes KIDS) who have small seizures all day long (or all night)? Did you know that 1 out of every 10 people will experience a seizure sometime during their life?
 
Did you also know how stubborn I am? I refuse to let these seizures get me down. I refuse to let them interfere with my relationships and my everyday life.
 
Life sucks, sometimes. It’s raw and painful and scary. But, as my husband says, we have a home, we have food, we have each other. The rest is just gravy.
 
I may be Not-So-Perfect, but I am ever so humbled.