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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My Mother’s Hands

**This post was originally featured on Yahoo! Voices, which is no longer in publication.

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The other day my mom and I were sitting on the bench at the park while the kids played on the playground. She said something about “these old hands” as she struggled to open a water bottle. Her hands have age spots and wrinkles, and show the characteristic bend and twist of arthritis. She calls her pointer finger her “witch’s finger,” going along with an old joke about her infamous exasperated finger-point at countless students over the years who pushed her buttons and tested boundaries.

As I looked at her hands, I realized once again that she sees her hands differently than I do.

So I told her…

Her hands have held, carried, and fed 3 children and 5 grandchildren. Her hands have rocked, comforted, and protected. She has cleaned faces, wiped noses, brushed hair, prepared food, wiped tears, bandaged owies, played games. In her decades of teaching elementary and middle school children, they have guided, encouraged, and instructed.

These actions, while they may seem insignificant on their own, have given her children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, little friends and hundreds of students the gift of her touch in their lives.

Those “old hands” are a blessing.

Traditions and Celebrations of Life

I’ve been writing this post in my head for a while now, trying to get the words just right. But I’ve concluded that they won’t ever be “right” at all, regardless. It’s such a raw subject for some people in my life right now.

As Christmas draws nearer and nearer, I’ve been thinking about family traditions. How when things change, and people come and go in our lives, our traditions change as well, whether we like it or not.

The recent death of my husband’s beloved grandmother Betty has left a giant hole in the lives of many people. I haven’t written about her death yet, because to be perfectly honest, I just COULDN’T, if that makes any sense. The line from one of the Jay and Silent Bob movies about “sobbing like a little girl with a skinned knee” comes to mind. I’m tearing up now as I type these words. And as ridiculous as it may sound, I feel almost selfish in my grief because she wasn’t MY grandmother or MY mother. But I know in my heart that she saw me as one of her own, because she told me and treated me as such. She loved each of us with such a fierce love that only she could. Betty, a mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, aunt, sister and dear friend will be missed and remembered every.single.day.

I was blessed to spend an afternoon with Betty this past summer, just the two of us (a rare event, as she was so often happily visiting with people just dropping by, or running off to help someone somewhere in the community–one of her passions). We were staying at Grandma and Grandpa’s house for a family event, and I had taken the kids back there so that they could nap. Betty and I sat and chatted for nearly 5 hours. I will cherish that time forever.

There are so many people dealing with grief and loss this (and every) holiday season. It’s difficult to imagine going through the motions of the “usual” holiday traditions without those we love around. A young family in our community is struggling with the death of husband and father, Officer Tom Decker, who was killed in the line of duty just last week.

A dear friend of ours is remembering his mother today, as she passed away two years ago today due to cancer. Two fellow bloggers, Daddy Doin’ Work and Cubepiphany are dealing with the recent loss of their dear friend to cancer. Another blogger, Cappuccino Queen, is fighting her way back up after the tragic death of her toddler son. SO MANY LOVED ONES.

When it comes down to it, all I can think to do is to love the ones I’m with. Keeping up tradition or not,  making new traditions, or bucking tradition altogether, we need to celebrate the lives of the people we lost, and hold on tight to the ones we’ve got.

Our beloved Betty, with husband Clif, and our Miss Bee

Our beloved Betty, with husband Clif, and our Miss Bee, 2007

My Pinterest Wedding

I think I might be a Pinterest addict. There, I said it. It’s a beautiful thing, Pinterest. And yet…it’s completely evil. This wondrous never-ending community of clothes that I wish I could sew, food that I probably shouldn’t eat, and DIY projects that I won’t ever have the time or ambition to complete. But I pin those things anyway, because there’s always the hope that I can one day use those ideas. Or something.

We recently went to an awesome wedding reception of some friends of ours, and it was SO beautiful. She had painted wine bottles with sweet sayings on them, she made homemade cupcakes, they had beautifully simple centerpieces with hand-picked wild flowers, and her hair was perfect for an outdoor wedding on a hot day.

Not to mention, they had a life-size cardboard Elvis (they had their actual ceremony in Vegas a few months ago, married by The King himself).

And all I could think, when I was noticing all the fun details, was that I wished I could have my wedding all over again, this time with the help of Pinterest. My husband and I joked about having it next summer and making it an “8th Anniversary, I Can’t Believe You Still Put Up With Me” Party. Thus, this Pinterest board was created.

Officially. Addicted.

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.