Stefani's most-fantastical-reads book montage

Crooked Kingdom
Six of Crows
Yellow Brick War
The Wicked Will Rise
Charm & Strange
Their Fractured Light
These Broken Stars
Big Little Lies
I'll Be There
Red Queen

Stefani's favorite books »

Friday, December 28, 2012

There will be no more babies...

Last week I sold Cohen's bassinet.

I have been slowly selling off Addison's baby clothes and gear for the past couple of months now and as I got down to the end, some of Cohen's stuff started making it into the mix. I don't know what it was about that bassinet that triggered the landslide of emotions but with that transaction, it really hit home...

There will be no more babies.

I realize that for some of you this may sound odd, coming from someone who loathed pregnancy, had no luck breastfeeding, got nailed with post postpartum depression, and suffers from some version of an on again, off again eating disorder. I'm not the gleaming, stay at home mom, who wants nothing more than to play peek-a-boo and fix mac-n-cheese while folding loads of laundry and juggling poopy diapers. I'm not that mom. However, that doesn't mean that I don't LOVE being a mom - that my babies aren't the highlight of my life every single day. Do I get frustrated when lunch ends up on the floor or I get spit up on as I'm walking out the door for work or when I accidentally stick my finger in POOP. Yes, as a matter of fact I do. Do I get tired for packing for a small army to run the simplest errand? Yup. Do public tantrums and consequent displays of authority make me feel like crap? You had better believe it. But regardless of all of that - the hugs, the recent squeals of delight about Santa coming (this is the first year that she 'gets it'), the coo's when Cohen snuggles in for the night... all of that makes it worth it a thousand fold.

It's not that I don't love having a threenager... because I do. Addison is hysterical - her vocabulary and timing leave us cracking up half the time and scratching our heads the rest. She has her own personality, her own opinions (that she will TOTALLY tell you about - whether you asked or not). She does silly dances when she gets excited and clings to my leg when she's sad or scared. She's FINALLY potty trained (mostly) and seeing her beam with pride after she climbs off the potty makes me so proud. She's independent enough to go out and demonstrate all the gymnastic stations in class but clingy enough that if I hide to well during hide-and-seek, she will sit down and cry because she's scared that she 'lost' me.

And Cohen... sweet Cohen, who is currently rocking out in his jungle jumper like it's going out of style... eight short months ago he came in out our lives as this tiny little bundle of boy. His foot fit along the inside of my thumb and my hand was the length of his entire body. We brought him home weighing just over 5 pounds. Now, that tiny little man has grown into a 18 pound baby who is crawling (his own version... but it counts), eating solid foods, and starting to show his own silly little personality. We are in this amazing phase where his personality is starting to show through and he is learning so much about the world every day. I adore rocking him to sleep and when he gets a fistful of my shirt (or my hair) and rubs it against his face - it melts my heart.

These two little souls are the highlight of my existence - even on the days when they frustrate me to the end of my wits. I'm lucky enough that I got 'one of each' and I'll have my own unique experiences with each of them. But they will be my only two... and while I've always said that I wanted two kids, that two kids would be perfect, yaddayaddayaada... some days I'm not sure if I'm 100% convinced. I love newborns, I love their smells, their snuggles, their tiny cries, watching them yawn, the itty bitty toes and fingers... and all of that goes by so quickly.

I hated pregnancy. But, and I'm not sure if this next statement makes me weird or not because I've never admitted it out loud to anyone, but I loved labor and delivery {in it's own way - let me explain}. All things pregnancy related were out of my control - the preterm labor, the contractions, the bed rest, the weight gain, and aches and pains and sleepless nights... and it lasted FOREVER. But once I was in labor, even though I was in agony, I was in control. I was doing something that my body was designed to do - I was bringing a LIFE into this world and while I had coaches and support - it was on me to do it. And for some reason that really meant something to me. Even in the throws of the worst contractions before my epidural and even during the exhaustion of pushing or the agony of healing afterward - I felt like that was my moment. And when I held those two perfect babies, both 19 inches and both 6lbs. 14oz. I felt like I had done the most important thing that I could ever do. I have created, protected, developed, and delivered a child. Twice.

I will never have that feeling again. Couple that with the fact that the only newborns I'll be cuddling will belong to other mamas... it stings a little bit. I know that it's what is best for our family and that we will be able to offer our kids more because there will only be two of them but I never knew what it meant to really LOVE someone with every fiber of your being until I became a mom. And I also never knew that a mother's love doesn't get 'divided' with additional children - it multiplies. I know that sounds all 'Hallmark-y' and cheesy but it's true. I remember writing about being scared that I would love Addison the same way when I had two babies to love. I love her exactly the same... and I love Cohen just as much. I feel like with each baby, my heart grew.

So, even though these are sad words for me to write, they are the right words for our family... there will be no more babies.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

When the illusion of safety is shattered....

I have about four other blog drafts at the moment that I have been working on but I feel like I can't publish any of them until I post this one. Yes, I am going to write about Newtown, Connecticut and Sandy Hook Elementary School. I'm going to try my best to stay on topic, which is my perspective as a teacher, and keep my fears to myself for my own children when they enter school. I don't want this to be another post about someone rambling on about how devastated they are by this tragedy, about how they choke up and the tears spill out when they watch the news or read the articles, or see the countless pictures of victims posted on every form of social media. I'm a part of that group - I've cried, I've held my babies close and thanked God for their safety, I've gotten into heated debates with everyone - my husband, friends, cyber-friends, and even my physical therapist about what is wrong with this country and what needs to be done to fix it. I was online when the CNN banner popped up that the shooting had occurred and I watched as information, and misinformation, came through the interwebs. I watched the death toll creep up, the killer's name be released and then corrected, the motive announced and then retracted... I read posts and tweets about gun control and policy change, I watched our president address the nation just hours after a church in Newtown had to be evacuated because of death threats. All this following a shooting close to home in an Oregon mall and the Aura, CO. shooting on opening night of The Dark Knight Rises, which my husband was attending here in town. Although all of these events were hundreds (or thousands) of miles from our sleepy little town, they came in through the TV and the computer as if they had happened just down the street. All of these events left me terrified for the simple reason that they occurred in places I considered to be safe. My husband was at the premiere of Dark Night Rises when the shooter opened fire in the theater in Aura, Co. I was at the mall here in town, taking my babies to have their picture taken with Santa when the Clackamus Mall shooting occurred, I was teaching in my classroom when the shots were fired at Sandy Hook Elementary. Despite their physical distance, all of these events hit far too close to home.

I was a junior in high school when the Columbine shootings occurred and I was a college student at CWU on the brink of graduation when the Virginia Tech massacre took place. I remember these events - I remember the horror of realizing the students my age were gunned down in senseless acts of rage. Students with entire lives ahead of them - families, careers, dreams that would never be realized. When I entered my own classroom for the first time I had a plethora of fears - typical first-time teacher fears - what if the kids didn't like me or respect me? What if I didn't know my content well enough and my students failed because of me? "What ifs" were the bane of my existence as I spent the month of August preparing for that first year. But the biggest fear loomed in the back of my mind, "What if there's a shooting? Will I be strong enough, brave enough, to protect my students?" Now, after almost seven years of teaching, I realize the answer is an easy yes. I didn't realize that first year how much I would come to love my students and how I would spend late nights laying awake wondering how I could motivate them, help them be successful, or help them realize the potential that I saw in them. Now I also lay awake wondering how I would protect them in the event of an attack on our school. We have procedures - we practice Code Red lock-downs and I know what to say and where to direct my students to, and how to account that each person is where they are supposed to be. But what about the factors I have no control over? To lock my door in a lock-down, I have to step out into our hallway and lock it from the outside, as does every other teacher in the building, exposing ourselves to the sights of a shooter in our hall. If I do successfully lock the door and get back inside uninjured, I have to account for the fact that if our principal, vice principal, or secretary are injured or killed - there is a very real possibility that the gunman has access to a master set of keys, which means he will be able to open any classroom at will. Then what? When I hear the shots making their way down my hall and I hear the fumbling of keys at my door, then what do I do? I can't tell you how close I've come to buying a crowbar or a baseball bat to leave in my room, so that if it came down to it, I could position myself near the door and swing like hell as soon as it opened. Because if that door is breached and if that gunman enters my room - my students and myself are as good as dead - there is no where to hide and the only escape route is out the windows (directly across from the door) and out into an open field with no protection. So what other choice would I have but to stand and pray that the first swing is enough to catch him off guard and not get shot in the process.

All of this was brought in to much clearer perspective this morning when I awoke to the news that a man in our community had posted threats about schools in our area - possibly our school district in particular and had expressed the desire to "do something similar" because the "kids deserve it". It breaks my heart and strikes fear in me at the deepest level to learn that a man living within our community harbors the desire to hurt or kill my students and although I know that my administrators are hard at work as I write this, working with the FBI and the local police - it is going to be very hard to walk through those doors on the 2nd of January without some fear in my heart and doubts in my mind.

News clip can be found here.

Do I believe that there is a simple fix? Not in the slightest. I believe that we can plan for worst case scenarios but I don't believe that we can plan for what someone who is not of sound mind could dream up. Do I believe that there should be a way for teachers in our building (and district) to lock our doors from the inside to reduce the chance of being shot while trying to protect our students, YES. A thousand times yes. But that request has fallen repeatedly on deaf ears. Do I want metal detectors and armed guards at the doors of my tiny little school? Yes, if I felt like it would deter any of this violence. I'm also practical and I realize that our school are operating on nonexistent budgets and there simply is no money available for that kind of security. But if we arm our schools... then do we also arm our movie theaters and malls? Our grocery stores? Where does it end? We simply don't have the resources or the manpower to protect every civilian at every venue at any given moment - and that is the truth of the matter.

Do I believe that gun control or policy will make a great change? No. Simply because those who want weapons desperately enough are going to find them - legally or illegally. I don't believe we should be selling assault rifles to the general public, but again - if a mad man wants a gun, or three, he will find them. And policy? These shooters don't have any fantasies about walking away from these situations - it's a suicide mission. Consequences will mean nothing to them because they don't intend to live long enough to face them.

And last, but not least, the media... If there is one area that I believe is a double-edged sword, it's the media. We all complain about it - the bias, the interviewing of small children, the misinformation, etc. But we also all watch it. I kept CNN on my desktop all day on the 14th as the events in Connecticut unfolded, I checked Twitter and my Breaking News app for updates throughout the day. Even though I don't watch the news on a regular basis at home, I relied on it for information that day - just as I did on 9/11 and every other terrifying event that has occurred during my adult lifetime. I relied on reporters to get close to the scene, to the witnesses, to  make some sense out of what I was seeing. I realize that these reporters are people too, with children they were probably worried about, but a job that had to be done and a boss who expected them to do it. I don't agree with sensationalizing the killers or the events because I believe that fuels the fire for others considering similar actions. 

Saturday, December 8, 2012

When it all falls down...

"I haven't been myself lately"

Understatement of the year.

I had a lot of time to think today - to reflect on what ever THIS is that is going on with me. I don't know where to start with this post... with the symptoms or with the cause, so please hang on as it could be a bumpy ride.

I don't remember when it started this time... I never do. I never see it coming until it has hit me like a Mac truck doing 70 on the highway. But when it finally does it - it shatters everything. Every carefully constructed wall, every facade, every faked smile - all the things that I don't even realize that I am faking until it's too late. It all comes crashing down. I've been miserable for some time now - and if you keep reading you'll understand that by 'miserable' I really mean in a bout of clinical depression. It's not anything new or groundbreaking, I was diagnosed and started medication when I was 16. But I have what I guess I would call "flare ups" - times when no amount of medication can touch the gaping hole that I feel has been cut right through my center. This is one of those times.

I *think* this bout is a result of our new real estate endeavors. I have had a fear of selling our house for years now... not because I don't think it will sell or because I think that we won't get what we need out of it, but because I have ZERO control over the situation. None. I can't make someone love this house, I can't drag people to it and jump up and down on the street and scream, "Look!!!! It's perfect for you!!! BUY IT NOW!!!" I can't do anything but sit back, stalk the listing, and wait. And wait. And while I wait, I worry. I worry that it won't sell fast enough and we will lose the lot that we have in the new development. I worry that it won't sell at all and that for the umpteenth time, my dreams of having my dream home, will be flushed down the toilet. I hate that we aren't listed through an agent. I feel like we are sitting around, wasting our time, and by the time we do list with an agent, it will be spring and instead of a few houses being for sale there will be dozens and we will have to compete with THEM ALL. It makes my stomach turn. I hate that we are supposed to maintain this 'clean' house for the indefinite future and that some of my favorite stuff is packed away in boxes and I have no idea when I'll see it again. I HATE LIVING IN LIMBO.

And, as a result my control seeking brain stealthily started it's own power show. Whenever I feel like everything is in free fall and I can't control what is happening in my life, I quit food. Obviously, if you look at me, you'll know that I'm no anorexic. But, as a matter of asserting my ability to control something, I control food. Yesterday, I had a muffin and a 24 oz. decaf mocha. Today, I had a bowl (and a half) of cereal. I was fully intending to go to bed with out anything else until my emotional breakdown at approximately 5pm. Yes, Derek made me dinner. Yes, I ate it. And, yes, some of the symptoms that have been bothering me so badly these last few days... weeks... seem to have abated, at least for now. I'm warm for the first time in a week... I'm still exhausted and have a headache but I don't think one magic meal and a blog post is going to remedy that. The domino effect of stopping food is where most of my problems have come from lately - I'm exhausted, which is inconvenient when you are the mama of two babies. I'm not doing what I should around the house - Derek is the one cleaning, and cooking... and doing pretty much everything. I feel like right now, I exist to pump breast milk, hold babies, and educate middle schoolers. That's about all I can manage in a given day right now. By the time I get home, I'm wiped out {probably because I'm -2000 calories or so... but either way, I'm wiped out}. Then I feel worse about myself because I'm not pulling my weight around here and because I can't live up to all the other commitments in my life [clubs, work stuff... hell, even social stuff] so I control more... and so it goes.

The first time I remember this cycle starting was when I went away to college at WSU. I was terrified to be living on my own, hours from my parents, with ZERO friends around. I didn't know a soul when I walked into my dorm that first day. It was only by chance that I ran into some friends from my hometown a few days later and, eventually, met Derek and his friends. But at first, I was completely alone. I ate alone. Went to class alone. Studied alone. I didn't make a single friend my entire first semester {in fact, aside from Derek, there is only one other person that I would ever consider a friend from college}. I stayed in my room. I lived on steamed rice or goldfish crackers and Sprite. And it set me up perfectly to come down with meningitis that first October. I was malnourished, consuming large amounts of alcohol, not sleeping on any type of proper schedule, and living in a dorm - there really aren't more perfect circumstances for coming down with it. I spent two weeks in the hospital. Alone. I didn't have any friends - not a single person, to visit me in the hospital. My nurse felt so bad that on Halloween he brought me a singing pumpkin and a printout of my EKG with a note on it that said, "You have a good heart."

I remember it happening again before the wedding, and again while we were living with Derek's parents trying to find our first home, when I was first diagnosed with infertility, while I was interviewing for my first teaching job, when my dad found out he had cancer, when my marriage was in such a dark place that I believed nothing could save it, when I miscarried... when my world spins out of control, I hang on to the only thing I have control over. I know it's unhealthy. I know it's insanely unhealthy to be doing this and breastfeeding... and I know it's sick that I researched it to make sure that Cohen would still get what he needed from me, that my body would be the one to suffer, not his. But it's the only coping mechanism that I have that has ever worked for me. I've tried counseling, I'm on medication (although I ran out last week which may have contributed to today's emotional breakdown...).

I wish I could say it won't happen again... that I know the warning signs and I'll ask for help [laughs] or find some intervention that will prevent this stupid downward spiral. But, as I tell my kids in Social Studies, history has a way of repeating itself. What terrifies me is now I have a daughter who is smart, too smart for her own good... and I'm scared to death that she will somehow pick up on this. I want to be a good mother, and a good role model... and in most areas, I feel like I'm doing okay... but in this one, I'm failing miserably. I'm sorry that this has turned in to a 'woe is me' post... but it needed to come out. Sometimes seeing it on the screen, staring back at me, helps me ground myself. Sometimes, knowing that my 'secret' isn't secret anymore, takes away some of it's power. I can hope, right?

This song has been the very definition of my life so many times in the last 15 years... It has applied to about every miserable situation that I have ever had to break down and blog about {and the few that I've never had the never to blog about at all}. I don't know, it just fits. 

I watched the proverbial sunrise
Coming up over the Pacific and
You might think I'm losing my mind,
But I will shy away from the specifics...

'cause I don't want you to know where I am
'cause then you'll see my heart
In the saddest state it's ever been.

This is no place to try and live my life.

Stop right there. That's exactly where I lost it.
See that line. Well I never should have crossed it.
Stop right there. Well I never should have said
That it's the very moment that
I wish that I could take back.

I'm sorry for the person I became.
I'm sorry that it took so long for me to change.
I'm ready to be sure I never become that way again
'cause who I am hates who I've been.
Who I am hates who I've been.

I talk to absolutely no one.
Couldn't keep to myself enough.
And the things bottled inside have finally begun
To create so much pressure that I'll soon blow up.

I heard the reverberating footsteps
Synching up to the beating of my heart,
And I was positive that unless I got myself together,
I would watch me fall apart.

And I can't let that happen again
'cause then you'll see my heart
In the saddest state it's ever been.

This is no place to try and live my life.

Who I am hates who I've been
And who I am will take the second chance you gave me.
Who I am hates who I've been
'cause who I've been only ever made me...

So sorry for the person I became.
So sorry that it took so long for me to change.
I'm ready to be sure I never become that way again
'cause who I am hates who I've been.
Who I am hates who I've been.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Let's play doctor...

Okay. I'm miserable... like curl up in a ball and die miserable and no one seems to know what is wrong. I get the impression that my doctors probably think I'm a total hypochondriac but I am so incredibly miserable that I can't just tough it out. That's a lot of 'miserable' in one paragraph... I'm hoping you get the picture. So... if you can diagnose me, I'll buy you a round of drinks.

I'm a 31 year old female, 5'2", 113 pounds

Chronic, unexplained complaints:

- Cold intolerance (like I am FREEZING. All the time. In our 70 degree house)
- Extreme fatigue (ongoing but with extreme periods where I can't prevent myself from falling asleep - even while driving).
- Chronic low blood pressure (100/60) consistently
- Chronic low pulse (70)
- Low temperature (although I'm assured it's normal) of 96 degrees. 
- Periodic numbness in extremities (especially on left side)
- Joint pain in hands, hips, knees - especially when cold

Unrelated medical issues {at least I THINK they are unrelated}:

- Headaches (especially in the morning)
- Bulged discs in neck, mid, and low back.
- Depression/Anxiety

I've been tested for MS, lupus, Raynaud's Disease, had a full CBC work-up that came back clean. I'm stumped. My doctor is either stumped or annoyed. But I know something is wrong - something FEELS wrong.

Ready. Go.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Fantasy vs. Reality

Fantasy: I wake up this morning around 9am and roll over to order room service. We split an omelet and hash browns while laying in bed. I shower, get ready, and go wander at BellSquare with my mom for a bit. Then, for lunch, we head to the Met with my parents and I finally get that date with my dad that I've been waiting for since I was 16. After lunch, Derek and I head home but stop in North Bend to get some Christmas shopping done. Then we head back over the pass, pick up our kiddos, and head to the two social engagements that we have planned for this evening.

Reality: I wake up at 9am with a headache. Derek tells me we need to get ready to go. Dad still isn't feeling well enough for lunch but a fight with Derek about priorities and such ensues. We get to visit with my parents for a whopping 30 minutes and then we are out the door. Breakfast is Starbucks and a donut. There is no conversation in the car. Now I get to finish my coffee and read in silence for the next two hours. Picking up of children and social engagements will proceed as planned. My plans, however, will not. Whatever.

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