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 »

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Coming up for air...

I've been drowning these past few weeks... drowning in worry and anxiety about my kids, in work, in sickness, and in stress.

Cohen had his hearing test today and it went better than I had expected. I had myself so prepared for the worst possible news that it was a relief to hear that it's just fluid behind his ear drum and that tubes will likely be the answer to that problem. We ended up in the pediatricians office because the doctor was concerned about how much weight the little man has lost {5 pounds} and wanted to recheck him and touch base. It seems like the stomach bug is starting to ease up and his appetite and personality are pretty much back to normal. He still is hacking with the stupid croup so tonight we started him on breathing treatments to help him quit coughing long enough to get some decent sleep.

Addison is getting over her cold {although if you ask her, she will still tell you she is, "SO SICK!"} but since I turned in the paperwork for her ADHD evaluation today I suspect that she will soon become the focus of a lot of my worry and anxiety as we start looking at diagnosing her and moving forward from there.

Work has been incredibly stressful the past few weeks - mostly due to being out of the classroom on short notice and trying to prep sub plans and recuperate after having a sub all while planning for the next week and trying to keep up with the mountain of grading that is next to me on the couch getting ignored.

There is so much more weighing on my heart that I'm not at liberty to discuss because it's not my place and I don't have permission. All that I will say is that my mom was admitted to the hospital today in Arizona. She passed out yesterday {thankfully she had family over at the time} and somehow between yesterday afternoon and today at 2pm, she ended up in the ER. The phone reception was awful so I couldn't hear much of what she was saying and now her phone is dead but all I know is that they ruled out a stroke but are keeping her overnight for additional tests and observation. I HATE being this far away. I HATE not having someone I can call who can update me on what's going on and I HATE feeling so incredibly helpless.

I am asking for your prayers again tonight - for my mom, for my kids, and selfishly, for me. A friend asked me today how I managed to be upbeat and have a smile on my face and I told her it was all a facade... and it is. I am trying to be strong. I am trying to lean on God. I pray so hard every night... but I still lay in bed and toss and turn.

She got the call today
One out of the gray
And when the smoke cleared
It took her breath away
She said she didn't believe
It could happen to me
I guess, we're all one phone call
From our knees
We're gonna get there soon
If every building falls
And all the stars fade
We'll still be singing this song
The one they can't take away
I'm gonna get there soon
She's gonna be there too
Crying in her room
Praying, Lord, come through
We're gonna get there soon
Oh, it's your light
Oh, it's your way
Pull me out of the dark
Just to show me the way
Crying out now
From so far away
You pull me closer to love
Closer to love
Meet me once again
Down off Lake Michigan
Where we could feel the storm blowing
Down with the wind
And don't apologize
For all the tears you've cried
You've been way too strong
Now for all your life
I'm gonna get there soon
You're gonna be there too
Crying in your room
Praying Lord come through
We're gonna get there soon
Oh, it's your light
Oh, it's your way
Pull me out of the dark
Just to show me the way
Crying out now
From so far away
You pull me closer to love
Closer to love
'Cause you are all that I've waited for
All of my life
We're gonna get there
You are all that I've waited for
All of my life
You pull me closer to love
Closer to love
Pull me closer to love
You pull me closer to love
Closer to love, oh no
Closer to love, closer to love
Pull me closer to love

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Afraid to sleep...

When I lay in bed, I worry. I know that's when I'm supposed to pray, to lean on the Lord... but a lot of the time I worry. Or worse, I Google.

Cohen's hearing appointment is tomorrow. I'm so scared and I'm forced to go alone because Derek is in an audit. What if the diagnosis is not what I want? How do I think, and hold it together, and not snap at Addison, and ask the right questions, and FUNCTION all by myself??

What if my son can't understand my voice when I tell him I love him? What if he doesn't know the sound of his mama calling his name?

My mama heart is heavy tonight... lots of worry, lots of questions, lots of fear. I'm going to bed now and I'm going to pray like I've done every night in recent history. I'm going to pray that my babies are healthy and that they know that I adore them above everything else. I'm going to pray for the doctors to have the expertise and understanding that we need. And I'm going to pray for myself... that no matter what, I have the strength and dignity to hold it together and do what needs to be done. I can lose my shit later, if need be, once the kids are in bed.

Prayers for my baby boy... for tomorrow's test, for the blood work we're still waiting on, for the diagnosis we're unsure of, and for what the future holds.

Day 5...

Today was hard... preschool days are always hard. What I'm learning from this challenge is less about yelling and more about triggers... Addison's triggers and my own.

Addison's meltdown triggers:
- no nap days
- preschool days
- days where the schedule changes unexpectedly
- the word 'no'

Mama's screaming triggers:
- Addison's meltdown triggers
- anything involving managing two small children in a large hospital
- plus lack of sleep, lack of caffeine, stress at work, sick children, a sick husband...

Okay, so basically what I've learned is that everyday there are triggers, preschool days are by far the worst, but they exist everyday. As soon as I walked in the door today to pick up Addison I knew what I was in for... she screamed, "MAMA!!!" and swung her coat around like a lasso. She was in timeout before we could even get out the door and it just continued when we made an unexpected stop at the grocery store to pick up some things and when we walked past the greeting cards our world came to a grinding halt. She saw a princess kitty card that said, "Happy Birthday Niece!" {It would have been funny, I totally admit... but I said no.}

As soon as I said no, she was gone - a screaming, foot stomping, crocodile tear producing, rationale lacking 4 year old.

Now, without the challenge I would have managed to get out of the store without screaming. That part I could handle - but I would have lost it when we got in the car and the constant crying, screaming, kicking, flailing continued.

I didn't lose it. I did turn up the music ridiculously loud. I did wait until she quit howling to explain that we could make daddy a card when we got home that he would like 100x times more. And I did repeat that compromise ten times before she actually HEARD me, but I didn't yell. 

When we got home we colored a beautiful princess dress picture and wrote, "Happy 10th Birthday Dad-O" per her request and everyone was happy.

Tiny victories my friends, tiny victories.

{300 days to go...}

Monday, November 11, 2013

The Challenge...

So, I have successfully made it to day three of the Orange Rhino challenge.. that seems like a victory until I think of it in terms of the 362 days left to go. Part of the challenge is to document the triggers and your reactions during the first week or so... Let me recap yesterday and today for you.

Sunday - Church was a bit crazy because Addison wanted to go with me into worship until the kid's message. She doesn't go with me very often so it's fair to say she doesn't really understand the expectations of being in 'big church'. She was crawling all over the pew and had a hard time sitting still during prayer but overall she did alright. I took her down to Kid Zone after the children's message {where she tried to pretend to be a 2nd grader so she could get a bible :)} and when I picked her up she was pretty wound up. I was talking with a friend from work about Cohen and Addison was running off every two seconds to hug a teacher or story teller from Sunday School. It seems like every lesson I've tried to teach her about caution with people we don't know goes out the window EVERY TIME WE STEP OUTSIDE. So, I kept calm and decided that I probably needed to just get her out of there because she was at the level of 'wonky' that makes her almost impossible to deal with. After we left church, we stopped at Walgreens to get cold medicine and she was touching EVERYTHING. I nagged her {didn't yell} to keep up and kept my trip as short as possible but finally had to get down to her eye level just before we left the store to have a quick chat about why we don't touch everything in the store and why we need to listen to mama. Not sure it really did much good, BUT I didn't yell or even raise my voice, so I think it counts for something.

Today - She wasn't with me for a large chunk of the day since she went to a Veteran's Day parade with a friend and her grandma and then came home and instantly was ready for her nap. But this morning I did yell once - loudly. I think it falls within the rules of the challenge... I walked into the living room to find Addison with her little brother in a headlock, trying to drag him onto the couch, which looked a lot like a WWE move. I yelled, "Addison, let him go!" and she started crying. I sent her to the corner while I checked on Cohen {he was unfazed} then pulled her aside and tried to stay calm as I explained that she could hurt him by handling him like that.

The real challenge begins tomorrow when we have to get dressed, get ready, and get out the door for work on time. Mornings are one of the times when I'm most likely to yell - especially when she is whiny because she's tired or cold or whatever is bugging her at that moment. So, I'm going to have to be mindful in the morning that with all of us being sick, with the weather freezing, and going into a week after a three day weekend, it will likely be a morning full of triggers.

Wish me luck...

My Dad, My Hero

I've had this in my drafts for a while, it's what I read at my dad's memorial. I figured Veteran's Day was an appropriate day to post it because it focuses on how he had always been my hero... it brings back sad memories to read over these words again... I miss him so much.


Ever since I was a little girl, my dad has been my hero. I was in awe of him. As far as I was concerned he was the smartest, handsomest, funniest man on the planet.

It wasn't until I got older that I started to notice a pattern. I started paying more attention to the stories the our family and friends told about my dad. People always talked about how he was a stellar athlete, smart, kind, helpful, dedicated... the list goes on and on. What I started to realize, was that I wasn't the only person who looked up to my dad; I wasn't the only person who thought of him as my hero. Former teammates, friends, colleagues, and family all looked up to him for a variety of reasons. In these past weeks my mom and I have received countless emails, letters, CaringBridge comments, and phone calls and all of them have shared the same common message - that my dad was every bit the hero to them as he has been to me for my entire life. I had always thought that my feelings were simply the embodiment of the typical 'daddy's little girl' - I have since realized that it was not simply because he was my dad that I looked up to him as I did, but even more-so because he was the kind of person that everyone admired.

While Derek and I were planning our wedding, my dad was horrified at the cost of my 'dream' wedding. He always was a man who weighed the pros and cons of finances and he could not comprehend how flowers, a cake, or a wedding video could mean so much to me and cost so much. At one point, he made Derek and I an offer. He said that if we would elope and have a small wedding somewhere, he would give us the budgeted money for the wedding as a down payment on our first house. At the time, I was young and totally naive about both the importance of lilies AND the value of a down payment. I chose my dream wedding and even though I don't think he agreed with me at the time - he didn't argue again. For the remainder of the time leading up to the wedding he obligingly wrote the checks as the bills were due and held his tongue - even though I know it was difficult for him. On my wedding night, during our father-daughter dance my dad asked me one question that has stuck with me since. He asked if I was happy. I smiled and laughed and said, "Of course!" He looked at me very seriously and said, "Then it was worth it - every penny."

I learned an important lesson from my dad in that moment - that the memories that we make with the people we love matter more than anything else. I feel like my dad lived his life as an example of that lesson. 

Cancer wasn't supposed to happen to my dad. He spent his life being healthy and fit. It wasn't supposed to happen to him... the star quarterback, the Vietnam veteran, the man who taught me how to ride a bike and shoot a gun, who walked me down the aisle at my wedding, the man who had a secret handshake with my baby girl, and wanted nothing more than to throw a football with my son. Cancer stole my dad away too soon - but it can never take away the love, the admiration, and the memories that we made with him, right up until his last days.


There is a verse in the bible that I have relied on during some of the darkest points in my life. This verse comes from Hebrews chapter 6, verse 19. It reads:

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. 

At various points in my life, I have wondered if God had forgotten me. My plans and hopes for my life weren't coming to pass as I had expected - I was devastated and angry at God for these disappointments. I realize now that this was simply God telling me that he had better and more important plans for my life and this led me to understand the importance of hope. I have discovered that anything is survivable if we are able to hold out hope. Over spring break, during my last visit to see my parents in Arizona, I had an anchor tattooed on my wrist. Later that night, I explained the motivation behind it to my dad. I had hope for the success of his medical treatments and the possibility of remission, and although I didn't say it at the time, I had hope that my dad to come to Christ, to find his faith, and as a result, that even if our time together on Earth was limited - we would be together again in heaven. That hope is was sustains me today - the understanding that even though we are all flawed - my dad and myself certainly included, that we will be welcomed into the gates of heaven as children of God. So today as we say goodbye to this amazing man I feel that it is better for me to think of it as, "see you later".

What a difference a year can make...

Saturday, November 9, 2013

I think I've said this before...

but parenting is really hard.

I thought it was hard with a newborn - no sleep, no clue what I was doing, pumping milk every 3 hours, spit up, blow out diapers, packing an entire car load just to run to the store... it was hard.

Then I had a toddler - suddenly I was operating on no sleep {okay, more sleep than in the newborn days but compared to pre-baby, it was hardly sufficient}. We had moved past the pumping and spit up and cruised right into a cupboard raiding, electricity outlet seeking, temper tantrum throwing 2 year old... and it was hard.

Then I had a preschooler and a newborn and shit hit the fan {pardon my language... but in some instances, we could be talking about actual poop here... this is the stage where potty training when horribly wrong AND I had a new born with blow out diapers}... and everything that was hard about the first two stages got smooshed together under one roof and this mama may have come ever-so-slightly unglued.

Now, everything that I've just written up there ^ is exactly why this blog has been neglected since Cohen's birth. Parenting TWO children is exceptionally more challenging than parenting one... and I would hedge a bet that it is even more fun with three, and four, and so on... but I have no intentions of discovering that first-hand.

So fast forward to now, I'm mama-ing a 4-year-old and an 18-month-old, working more than full time, grieving the loss of my dad, holding together a marriage that on some days feels like it's on the verge of crumbling down {and on others, feels like perfection.. go figure.}, and trying to do it all and make it look like it's no big deal.

So, basically, I'm a big, fat liar.

Like I've said before, parenting is hard. Being an adult is hard. Being a wife is hard. LIFE IS FREAKING HARD.

{I do have a point, pinkie-swear}.

In the pre-baby days, I could lose my shit - scream, cry, throw things, buy things, starve myself, do whatever it took to make myself feel in control. I looked like an idiot more often than not, but it worked for me. Even in the early days when Addison was so little that I could be letting loose with a string of swear words that would make a sailor blush, but as long as I did it in my 'mommy voice' and had a smile on my face, she was none the wiser. Then, she started to get it. Addison knew when I was mad or sad, reacted when I was angry, and paid attention to whether or not what I did matched what I said I was going to do. Suddenly, I had to follow through. I had to watch what I said. I had to be a PARENT {read: role model} and it was terrifying. Back in the days when Addison was tiny and she cried or did something naughty, I could soothe or scold her and move on with life. However, four years old means memories and grudges tiny broken hearts over tiny broken promises. Four means laying down the law and teaching respect and asking WHY did it seem like a good idea to bite daddy... four means shit is getting real.

Addison is a mini-me... it's adorable most of the time - she's wonky and silly and loves people and runs on high octane... but minus a nap or with an unplanned change in the schedule or just because the moon is full, she can turn into a small, but mighty terror. Please understand, that until she turned three, I just thought that 'those people' with 'those obnoxious children' simply had no parenting skills and knew that no offspring of my womb would EVER dare act that way sohelpmeGod. Mmmmhmmm... That was the naivety of a first time parent. I know better now. The higher the stakes, the classier the joint, the more likely it is that my child will do something crazy. And I never wanted to be 'that parent' with 'that kid'... so I scolded and I YELLED. And then one day, Addison dropped her drink in the kitchen and I turned around  with what I'm assuming it the typical "take cover, mom is going to explode" look... and my kid flinched.

My child was scared that I was going to yell. She was expecting it. And it stopped me dead in my tracks.

{^ point, if you missed it}.

I don't want to be that mom. I want to be a mom who has well-behaved kids because they don't want to disappoint her, not because they fear her. I want to have kids who come clean about their mistake before I even find out because they know that I am a safe haven and that even though there will be consequences - they are SAFE. I don't want to be the mom who screams. I never want to see fear in my child's eyes.

So, I'm starting over. I don't think you really get to do that but it's better than mucking through the way I've been going. I read several articles today as I planned this blog and, as He has a way of doing - God guided me to this decision and gave me the resources and the support from other mom's to say that I'm not going to yell anymore. {I realize this is the goal, and not likely the actual reality... but I'm talking about my children, so I'm setting the bar high.} I'm taking the OrangeRhino Challenge. 365 days {and hopefully many, many more - of no yelling}. I may vent on here, I may lock myself in the bathroom to count to 100, but I will do my absolute best not to yell.

Because as I realized today... that even though I carried these two tiny humans inside my body, pushed them out into this world, nursed them, and fell madly in love with them - THEY ARE NOT MINE TO KEEP. God blessed me with these to precious souls and has charged me with caring for them and raising them up until they are ready to go out into the world and do His work. When I fully realize that these are children of God, not just children of Stefani and Derek, I feel even more pressure to do the right thing. And the right thing, the thing that God has done with me, is to raise them with love. God has never yelled at me and I want to mirror that parenting that He has shown me. I want to be worthy of being called 'mama' by these two precious souls.

So, my first step, is to stop yelling, to treat them with love and to be honest with myself, with God, and with my children about the kind of parent I need to be.

Today was my first day... 364 to go {and hopefully 6552 after that...}

I had one major trigger and I snapped, but I didn't yell. I caught Addison coloring in pencil on the door panel in the new Pilot while we were driving to the store. When I realized what was happening, I snapped at her to stop and give me the pencil. I asked her why she thought it was okay to color on the car {and herself, which happened yesterday when she came home from preschool with washable marker toenail polish, fingernail polish, lipstick, and body paint}. Then I handed her a wipe and made her clean up every mark of pencil we could see. She didn't get a treat at the store {as she had been promised} but I explained that it was a consequence of making the choice to color on the car. She didn't like it, but she didn't cry and she still held my hand as we walked across the parking lot.

I have a long way to go and I know that I am going to slip up more than once and end up back a zero, but I can handle that as long as I can turn around when juice goes crashing to the floor and not see fear in the eyes of my child.

I will do this. With God, all things are possible. {Matthew 19:26}

Here is a list of what I've been reading today:

Orange Rhino Challenge
10 Things I Learned When I Stopped Yelling At My Kids
When Your Temper Scares You
How To Have A Temper Tantrum {This is the one that started it all for me... it brought tears.}
The Passion of Parenting

Sunday, September 8, 2013

All I want for my birthday...

is to NOT celebrate my birthday.

I don't want to have cake or open presents or, honestly, even hear the words, "Happy Birthday" on Wednesday. I know that it's irrational and I know that it's immature but if I can't hear those words from my dad this year, then I don't want to hear them at all.

Thursday, July 11, 2013


I will never cease to be amazed at the human capacity to survive. Internally, I feel like absolute chaos - my heart has a hole in it, my soul hurts, my mind cannot stop the 'what-if' and 'I should have...' thoughts. It boggles my brain that I can still somehow get out of bed each morning, take care of my children, attempt to maintain relationships, and try to move forward.

All I know is that on my own, I would be nothing more than a puddle on the floor at this point. I am so thankful that He is with me through this.

Monday, July 1, 2013

A leap of {FAITH}

I was raised in church.

That statement has always been my 'get out of jail free' card when I am asked about my religion. I would explain that I was baptized, confirmed, and married in the Lutheran Church that my mom was raised in. I attended Sunday worship with my mom and grandma, took part in Sunday school, sang in the choir, and lit candles before the service. I sang hymns {once I figured out how to read the music in our ancient hymnals} that I didn't understand, knew when to say Amen, recited the Lord's Prayer, took communion, shook hands with our pastor, and sat patiently while our pastor delivered his weekly sermon.

But I never GOT IT.

I had faith in God, understood that Jesus was my salvation and had died for my sins, knew that the bible taught us how to lead a good and respectable life, and felt guilt before God when I did something that I knew was wrong. But still, I didn't GET IT. I went through the motions but I stopped short of actually living in faith. I BELIEVED it but I didn't LIVE it.

Around the time that I turned 14, I quit attending church. I was rebelling in countless ways, and this was surely one of them. My early teenage years were also filled with a host of other regrettable choices - and I'll save those for another post {or maybe not, they are not moments that I am proud of at all}. Things started to improve as I approached high school graduation and began to see that life extended beyond our small town. I moved away to college, met a boy, fell in love, and got engaged. As I was planning our wedding, I knew that I wanted to get married in my home church - where my parents had also said their vows. That desire sparked an interest to find a church in Pullman where I could feel at home while we were living there. I tried a few but never went back - it was too different from what I knew, it was too similar to what I knew, that people weren't friendly, the people were too friendly, the service was too early, the service was too late... and on and on. I found something wrong with every church I tried. So, what did I do? Yep, I quit trying. I gave up and went back to life as I knew it. I wanted to find a church that I loved but I had come to terms with the idea that maybe 'my' church just didn't exist. You see, at this time I wanted all of the perks of a church - friends, tradition, the warm fuzzy that comes with a great sermon - without the obligation of being a part of the church. The fastest way to get me to run was to tell me I needed to talk to strangers about Jesus, or get involved with bible study, or any other host of activities that required my involvement beyond holding down a pew on Sunday morning.

Things didn't change when we moved to the Yakima Valley. I tried a few churches, found flaws in all of them, and returned to my days of sleeping in on Sunday morning. Embarrassingly enough, I did drag Derek to various services on Christmas or Easter, but that was the extent of our spiritual journey for the year. Around Christmas in 2008, I started attending First Presbyterian Church in Yakima with a friend. We went together several times after Christmas and on the I spent the hours after discovering that I was pregnant in church there. We continued to attend services on Sunday there for a while - but soon the job of being pregnant started taking it's toll and sleep became invaluable. Then I ended up on bed rest and any hope of me making my way to church went out the window. Being a new parent wasn't any easier, in fact - having a kid in tow made it even harder to 'sample' churches because I had to find a fit for both of us. So, true to my nature, I gave up again. You can pretty much see how this pattern continued for the past several years - try, give up, wish harder, repeat.

Then, this January I made a choice. I always knew I wanted my children to grow up in church - like I did. I knew that First Pres had a great preschool program and it was the only church here in the valley that I had ever attended with any consistency, so even though I didn't know a soul, Addison and I started going. I would get there just before the service started, drop her off downstairs for KidZone, and then find a seat in the back of the sanctuary and feel like all eyes were on the woman who was sitting ALONE. Every service we stand up and greet the people around us and I would watch as everyone else hugged and waved and greeted people by name... and then they politely shook my hand and said hello. It was awkward and I never saw the same person twice, even when I searched for them. So what kept me going this winter, when I would have normally chosen the less 'scary' path and stayed home? Easy. My daughter fell in love with Christ.

Addison was coming home and wanting to say prayers, was asking about Jesus, and was SO looking forward to Sundays. She would ask me two questions every day after I picked her up from daycare - 'Did we get to go to Gymnastics?' and 'Did we get to go to church?' If I had any reservations about sticking it out, they disappeared right there. I knew that, at least for the foreseeable future, we had found a church.

Now, if you go back and look at the first paragraph of this post, I explained very clearly that I was raised in church. That was the only religious experience I have ever known. I would hear people talk about being 'reborn', I would see people with their hands raised in worship, and I was judgy. If this is an honest post about the changes in me, then I have to address this part - even though it's embarrassing and makes me feel like an awful person for admitting it. The more religious a person was, the more uncomfortable I was and the more I judged. Coming from someone who was 'raised in church' this should be appalling, right? If anyone confronted me about my faith, I quickly changed the subject. My faith was a person relationship with God and I had NO desire to share it or explain it to anyone. The more people pushed {read: encouraged} the more I pulled back. I didn't pray - honestly, I didn't know how to. Growing up in the Missouri Synod, we only prayed very formal prayers. I had no idea how to 'talk to God'. I didn't know if I had to be on my knees with my hands folded or if I could pray as I was driving down the freeway or delivering a lesson in class. I grew up in church and I had religion - but I didn't have FAITH.

So, remember two minutes ago where I said I got all judgy and freaked out when people talked about being 'born again' and all that? Yah, that's where I'm going now.

I can't remember the date specifically - I *think* it was shortly before Easter... or after... I don't really know. There was a large cross up in front of the alter and at some point in the service, Pastor had each member of the congregation select a rock out of a basket. There were rocks of every color and shape and we were to pick one rock to represent our sins. I picked a very shiny, simple black rock. I held onto it throughout the sermon and listened as Pastor talked about how if we truly repent our sins, that they are taken away. Not just forgiven, but FORGOTTEN. As I sat there, I thought of all my sins... and let's be honest - I had quite a list, from petty to incredibly serious. Some were recent {from that morning even} and some were old shames from years and years ago. As I thought through all of these mistakes and wrong-doings, I clung to that rock. Toward the end of the sermon, as we were called to come forward and cast our stones at the foot of the cross, I would have sworn that it weighed significantly more than it did when I first selected it. When it was my turn, I very deliberately placed my rock under the cross.

Was there an immediate lifting of my soul? No. Did I feel as if my faith was instantly renewed? Nope. But I felt something... and I don't have words to describe it - there was a subtle shift after that day. Small things started to change in my life... I started sitting closer to the front in church, I made an effort to seek out people my age and connect with them, I started having conversations with Addison about God, and - most importantly to me - I started praying. For the first time in my life, I was TALKING to God. Not begging, not making a wish list of what I wanted him to do - but truly asking for things like patience, guidance, continued faith, and forgiveness. I also prayed for a way to connect more with the people at our church.

For as long as I can remember, I have likened volunteering at church with daycare, potlucks, and the little white haired ladies of my childhood. I couldn't visualize myself being involved at church - I couldn't imagine how I could be of use. Then, one day just before spring break, there was a presentation during worship as the high school youth group prepared to go on a mission to New York to feed the homeless. During that same presentation, there was mention of a need for adults to volunteer for day and weekend camp during the summer. It hit me {yes, I know this should have been a DUH moment, but sometimes it takes awhile for me to catch on}. I work with teenagers. I love it. WHY IN THE WORLD wouldn't I want to use that passion in the church?? So, I signed up to volunteer at day camp and at VBS. I was 'hired' to do day camp, but our anniversary trip {and, it turned out, the passing of my dad} prevented that opportunity from coming to fruition this year. However, I did volunteer at VBS and had an AMAZING time. The people, the kids, the messages were all incredible and I know that I will be planning my summer around VBS week next year and in the years to come. I also want to find a way {read: childcare} so I can volunteer at the Madison House during the next school year. I would love to tutor once or twice a week and I would be thrilled if I could find a way to have my kids there with me. I think that it's so important that they grow up understanding how important it is to help others and also to appreciate how good they have it and how so many others in our community are not as fortunate.

So, yes, I was raised in church. But I don't think I was raised in faith. I believe that I found faith this year and I believe that it happened at this point in my life for a reason. My mom and I went to First Pres in February when she was here visiting, and that was the first time Addison attended Sunday school. I have only missed three Sunday's since - once because I had the flu and two when I was in Vegas/Mesa. In the few short months before my dad passed away, I found faith - not religion - {FAITH}. Beautiful, strong, unwavering, amazing, FAITH. I know that I was pulled back to the church when I was because I needed that connection, that relationship, that understanding, and that support to be built into my life before I lost my dad. I know that my daughter needed that foundation and understanding to help her comprehend that her Papa was gone but living on somewhere so much more glorious. I wish that all of you on the interwebs could hear her talk honestly about where her Papa is. It's amazing that so much compassion and faith can fit into such a little body.

{I keep trying to write an ending paragraph for this post and each time I read over it and delete it... so I will leave it at this - I have come a long way in my journey but I have so much farther to go. Blessings.}

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The pain and the loss...

I haven't blogged in awhile. Not because of a lack of topic-worthy events, not because I haven't been craving the time and emotional release that come with writing... simply because life has spun out of control so quickly that I'm just now feeling that my feet are back on the ground long enough to start trying to process things.

On June 9th, as I was waiting to board a plane to Las Vegas with my husband, anxiously awaiting the celebration of our 9th anniversary - I answered a phone call that changed my life. My mom was on the phone and she very calmly, very clearly said the words that I've dreaded since I was old enough to understand their meaning.

"Dad died this morning."

Four words. Less than two seconds of my life. And yet everything changed.

I don't remember how long I was in the phone, or what I said next. I don't remember getting off the phone or how I told my husband. I just remember looking around the terminal at the airport and feeling like somehow, even though I was in a crowded room - I was completely alone. My life was crumbling around me and the lives of all those people around me were continuing on as planned that day. All of the sudden there were decisions that had to be made right away - get our luggage and go home, board the plane? My mom had begged me to go on our trip - to try and have the vacation we had planned. My rationale was simply that Vegas was two hours closer to Mesa, and that once we arrived in Nevada I could make travel arrangements to get the rest of the way. So we boarded, and in a haze of tears and shock, we made our way south.

Once we were airborne, I dug out my tablet and started to write. Putting my thoughts down in writing has always been a form of therapy for me. At first I didn't know what I was writing, but it quickly became clear to me that it was something that I would read at his memorial. Something I wish I would have written and read to him much earlier in life. I am still working on that piece of writing, and I will share it here once the memorial has passed. This piece, this entry, serves a different purpose. The blog that I am writing today is selfish, it's focused on my feelings, my pain, my loss. The piece I'm writing for the memorial is focused on my dad, on his life, and on who he was to so many people.

When I was in the 7th grade, I lost two of my grandparents within weeks of each other. In September, my mom's mom passed away after a long battle with breast cancer. Less than six weeks later, my dad's dad passed away from complications with emphysema. I watched both of my parents grieve their losses, make final arrangements, and try to pick of the pieces of their lives to move on. In that short time, I came to understand very clearly, that someday, I would lose my parents. It's something that we all grow up understanding to some degree, but it always seems like it must be so far in the future that worrying about it and imagining what life will be like or what will need to be done, is nearly impossible. Even when my dad was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma in 2011 and after he came out of remission in early 2013, I never really could wrap my head around the idea that this disease could kill him. Logically, I understood it. I knew that his cancer was very aggressive, that the treatments hadn't been successful, that we were running out of options. But, the idea that my dad would be gone at 68 was something that my brain simply couldn't process. I have lost someone who has been a part of my life from the very beginning - someone who brought me home, loved me, protected me, taught me, guided me, and shaped me. I still have a hard time understanding how the world can continue on, seemingly without a hitch, while it feels like my world has come to a screeching halt.

The only other loss that I've ever felt that has compared was the loss of my pregnancy in spring of 2011 - just before Dad was diagnosed {I wrote about it here if you missed it...}. Losing a baby before you ever get to know them is a heart-wrenching, soul-crushing experience. I already had a child and I knew the capacity for love that my lost pregnancy represented and I grieved it very deeply. I knew I would never see that baby's face, hold him in my arms, send him off to school, or have any other beautiful moments with him. That grief was hard to stand because, on one hand, I felt like I had no right to grieve for someone I had never known. On the other hand, there was a loss of life and of potential that was simply too agonizing to ignore.

I feel like losing my dad has been equally agonizing, but for almost opposite reasons. I cry because I have so many memories - good, bad, funny, scary, mundane, special - and I loved him so deeply and knew him so well that his absence has left a gaping hold in my life. I know that these memories are something to treasure, and eventually, when the pain of loss is no longer so acute, I will cherish them and share them with my mom and with my kids as they grow up. Right now however, it's the knowledge that there will be no more memories with my dad to make. Even last night, as I was organizing pictures for a book I'm making for my kids, I caught myself thinking it would be fun to go on the boat again with Derek and the kids and my parents. In the next moment I was caught with a lump in my throat and I realized, again, that there would not be any more boating trips with my parents. I won't get to fish with my dad again. I won't see him on the bridge of our boat, grinning at me. Those times are done and THAT is the part that hurts. It seems unfair that he is going to miss so much - he had so much life in him and so many plans. He looked forward so much to being able to toss a football around with Cohen, taking the kids camping and boating, traveling with my mom, and countless other hopes and dreams that will never be realized. It breaks my heart to look ahead and see what he's going to miss and what my kids are going to miss. Addison and Cohen will never KNOW their Papa. They will see pictures and hear stories but they won't have any memories of their own with him. As painful as remembering is, the thing I fear even more is forgetting. I worry that I'll forget the way his eyes crinkled with he really smiled, how he always squeezed several times during a really good hug, how his voice sounded, and a million other things that made him MY dad. I recorded his voice-mail message on my phone so I can replay it but that will never even come close to being enough.

I do have things to be thankful for, despite this loss and all the tears. I'm thankful that I had an amazing relationship with my dad. We certainly didn't see eye-to-eye on everything {I learned my stubbornness from him} but from the time that I moved away to college, we never ended a phone conversation without saying our "I love yous", we played cribbage often, and hiked up to see Praying Hands on my last trip to Arizona.

My single regret is that we never had the graduation dinner that he promised me almost a decade ago. Before he retired, he used to have lunch at the Met in Seattle. I begged him to take me there and he promised me that when I graduated from college he would take me to dinner. Since then, I've graduated with three different degrees and each time we've joked that it was finally time to have our special dinner - and each time things got in the way. I looked forward to that dinner for the better part of two decades - not because of the food {which, I'm told is amazing} but because that dinner meant that my dad was proud of me and THAT meant more to me than anything else I could think of.

I don't know how you are supposed to end a post like this other than to say that I was lucky enough to be the daughter of an exceptional man and I am thankful for every moment that we had together.

Papa finally has a boy to love on...
Summer 2012
Summer 2012 at the summer house
The last picture taken of my dad,  five days before he died.

Sunday, April 28, 2013



Feeding Schedule: Still working on the sippy cup thing... Right now he's waking up around 6:30am for a bottle, and then eats breakfast around 9:30 (fruit, puffs, yogurt bites, formula in a sippy), lunch around noon time (veggies, puffs, whole milk or water in a sippy), a sippy after his nap, dinner around 5:30 (meat, veggies, puffs, yogurt), and a bottle when he goes to bed. Annnnd a bottle (water) in the middle of the night because HE IS STILL WAKING UP.
Sleeping Schedule: He's down most nights by 6:30 or 7pm, up once during the night, and then up again around 6am. He usually takes a morning nap around 9:30 and an afternoon one around 1pm.
Milestones: He's a whole year old! He's in 18 month clothes and is FINALLY off formula and drinking whole milk instead. There is $100 in savings every month right there!
Best Moment This Month: Having my parents here to see how much he's grown, his first birthday, his monster party, and his baptism.
Loves: Toy Story 3, phones and all electronics, getting tossed in the air by daddy while mommy cringes, standing, sitting up, crawling like a boss, taking baths, giggling, smiling, wrestling with blankets, babbling, pulling on facial features and hair, swings, his blankie...
Hates: Still hates food with any strange texture and REFUSES to eat stage 3 baby food because of it, so we're skipping it altogether and I'm going to start cooking him veggies at night with pasta or rice. Also hates, getting his face wet, touching grass with ANY part of his body,
What We're Looking Forward To: Excited and anxious to see his first steps... once he takes off he'll never stop!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

11 months...

Length: 27.5 inches {as of his last appointment}
Weight:  lbs.  oz. {will update soon}
Feeding Schedule: Allow the bottle weaning to begin... sort of. This little man gave up the bink without a fight, but the bottle? He's going to make us work for that one. Right now he's waking up around 6:30am for a bottle, and then eats breakfast around 9:30 (fruit, puffs, yogurt bites, formula in a sippy), lunch around noon time (veggies, puffs, formula in a sippy), a sippy after his nap, dinner around 5:30 (meat, veggies, puffs, yogurt), and a bottle when he goes to bed. Annnnd a bottle in the middle of the night because HE IS STILL WAKING UP.
Sleeping Schedule: He's down most nights by 6:30 or 7pm, up once during the night, and then up again around 7am. He usually takes a morning nap around 10:30 and an afternoon one around 1pm.
Milestones: Aside from the fact that this is his last month as a 'less than one year old', he's crawling like a pro, pulling up, today he stood by the couch and let go for a second, he mimics playing patty-cake, he says Dada, Mama, and Ba-Ba, and he's making the transition to a sippy cup.
Best Moment This Month: Watching him 'hunt' for his first Easter eggs.
Loves: Toy Story 3, phones and all electronics, getting tossed in the air by daddy while mommy cringes, standing, sitting up, crawling like a boss, taking baths, giggling, smiling, wrestling with blankets, babbling, pull on facial features and hair...
Hates: Still hates food with any strange texture and REFUSES to eat stage 3 baby food because of it, so we're skipping it altogether and I'm going to start cooking him veggies at night with pasta or rice.
What We're Looking Forward To: His first birthday with is coming up super fast!! EEK!!
Oh, how time flies...

He was ruining my backdrop but he was so cute that I couldn't stop him...
If he ever forgives me for this hat, it'll be a miracle...
These eyes melt my heart..

Sunday, April 7, 2013


Hope anchors the soul.
Refuse to sink.

Smooth seas never made a skilled sailor.

Cast your anchors on God, that anchor holds.

Hold fast like an anchor in the storm; we will not be moved.

The image of an anchor conjures up so many images for me. Some of them are memories from my childhood - boating with my parents, dropping the anchor for the night and having to have faith that it would hold while we slept. Others are concepts, ideas... security, faith, hope, and strength. 
When I began toying with the idea of a new tattoo, I wanted to choose something that had great meaning to me. I believe that tattoos should be more than just an artistic addition to a person's body - I believe that they should speak to that person's character, beliefs, or passions. This was to by my third tattoo, and certainly not my last. My first I got shortly after turning 18. I was young, getting ready to start my senior year, and had my whole life ahead of me after a few dark years throughout middle school. I selected a beautiful blue and green butterfly and, although I hate that shortly thereafter the image became trendy and even cliche, I believed then and still do today that that image symbolized rebirth and change - both things that I desperately needed to believe in as I moved toward adulthood. It was my reminder that I had a fresh start, a new beginning and I could be a new, beautiful person - despite my past. My second tattoo came a year after I gave birth to Addison (you can read about it here). My connection to her was - and is - so powerful that I felt like I needed some sort of physical representation of our bond on my body, something that lasted beyond pregnancy. I had her name written in script on my left foot and the symbol for the eternal bond between mother and daughter next to it. This summer, I will have an identical tattoo done for my son on my right foot - with some small modifications to the image. Seeing Addison's name there has meant a lot of different things to me - some days it's to remind me to 'keep walking' this path and push forward to make a better life for my kids, others it's to remind me that even when she's being totally bonkers, I love her more than the breath in my lungs. Adding Cohen's name to my body completes the art that I want to have done - for now. {Only those of you with tattoos will understand that...}
So why did I select an anchor then? I'm sure that's what a lot of people are going to ask, and it's a fair enough question. With the limitless supply of images available, why this one in particular? There are many reasons, and I'll do my best to explain them here. 
  1. My dad. There are many images that I could have found to represent my father but the one that resonates most with me has to do with our time on and around the water. From itty bitty on, I was raised on and around boats, playing on beaches, and fishing, crabbing, clam digging, and falling of docks. Our summers revolved around two major trips - one to Mt. Rainier and one boating trip. My dad always was on the bridge - in smooth seas and in treacherous waters. He was always calm, always in charge. Even when our boat took on water and nearly sank when I was very young, I don't remember panic - I remember my dad doing what was needed to keep us safe and get us off the boat. I remember being in awe as we were surrounded by a pod of killer whales on a fishing trip in the San Juan Islands and being amazed by what the sea could hold. My thoughts and memories of the ocean go hand in hand with my thoughts and memories of my childhood and my family. The heart in the base of the anchor symbolizes my family.
  2. Hope. Originally, I was going to have the text, "hope anchors the soul" inscribed under the anchor but the text that I wanted would have had to be too large for my scrawny little arm. But the idea of hope is still the most important part of this tattoo. There are many things in this world that I could live without {not by choices... but still}. I could live without money, without love, and even without my family - as long as I had the hope that those things would come back to me. Without hope - whether it's for a better futures for my children, for my marriage to come out of a dark place, for my dad to kick cancer's ass once and for all - without the hope for those things, I would have nothing. I'd be lost. It's the hope that things can and will get better, that keeps me moving forward even when the odds are against me. The anchor itself symbolizes hope.
  3. Finally, this tattoo symbolizes faith. I'm not usually one to prattle on about God and religion. I believe that each person needs to come to their own conclusion about their faith and do what is right to them. I don't like to be told how to 'do religion properly' and I won't insult anyone by pretending I have it right or figured out by any sense of my imagination. However, I have finally found myself back in church and my faith in God has been renewed. The anchor symbolizes this faith in God. It reminds me that I have to anchor myself to God and have faith that the anchor will hold - just as I did as a child falling asleep on the boat in uncertain seas. 
So, why did I get this tattoo? That's easy - because it reminds me to have faith, to hold to the things that matter, and to continue to hope no matter what life throws in my path. 

Monday, March 4, 2013

10 months...

Okay, 10 months annnnd 10 days... but close enough right?!?
Length: 27.5 inches (as of his last appointment)
Weight:  22lbs. 5oz.
Feeding Schedule: He's eating a 6oz. bottle of formula at 6am, oatmeal or fruit for breakfast around 8am (although he's not a fan of bananas). He has a bottle for lunch around noon or one He eats two tubs of baby food around 5:30pm. Then after his bath he has about 6 oz. at bedtime. He's also starting drinking a little water in a sippy cup but he uses it for playing for the most part right now. Last night he tried some noodles and some mac-n-cheese and had fun with those for a bit but other than that we've stuck with stage 2 solid foods because he has such a bad texture aversion which causes gagging and throwing up. He loves the little baby puff snacks but if he eats them too fast he ends up puking everywhere... :/
Sleeping Schedule: He's down most nights by 6:30 or 7pm, up once or twice during the night, and then up again around 7am. He's starting napping sporadically again - sometimes he takes two naps a day and sometimes none at all.
Milestones: HIS FIRST TOOTH CAME THROUGH TODAY!!!! Finally!!! I was starting to wonder if he had any chompers in those little gums at all! It was pretty exciting tonight at bedtime when we made the discovery. He's also standing and hanging on to couches and tables but he's still really wobbly...
Best Moment This Month: Watching the little speedster army crawl like a mad mad. It's the cutest thing EVER.
 Loves: Toy Story 3, phones and all electronics, getting tossed in the air by daddy while mommy cringes, standing, sitting up, crawling like a boss, taking baths, giggling, smiling, wrestling with blankets, babbling, pull on facial features and hair...
Hates: Bananas, screwed up schedules, loud places, having mama's phone taken away from him, food with textures, wind...
What We're Looking Forward To: Pulling up on his own and starting to cruise around... those first steps aren't that far away.


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

9 months...

Length: 27.5 inches (15th percentile)
Weight: 19 lbs. 5 oz. (50th percentile)
Feeding Schedule: He's eating a 6oz. bottle at 6am, oatmeal or fruit for breakfast around 8am (although he's not a fan of bananas). Then he eats another bottle around 11:30 and goes down for his nap. He wakes up around 2pm and has another bottle. He eats two tubs of baby food around 5:30pm. Then after his bath he has about 6 oz. at bedtime. Currently, he's waking up at 3am for whatever reason and right now and I've been giving him a few (4ish)oz. before I lay him back down.
Sleeping Schedule: He's down most nights by 6:30 or 7pm, up once during the night, and then up again around 7am.
Milestones: He has MASTERED the army crawl but refuses to pick his belly up off the floor, can go from laying on his tummy to sitting without help, is no longer using the baby tub, and picks up and eats puff and rice cereal. 
Best Moment This Month: Seeing him start reaching for us when he wants to be picked up... it's sweet to feel needed, even when you're being yelled at. ;)
Loves: PHONES and all electronics, getting tossed in the air by daddy while mommy cringes, standing, sitting up, crawling (until he gets frustrated), taking baths, giggling, smiling, wrestling with blankets, babbling, chewing on mama's knees, pull on facial features and hair...
Hates: Bananas, screwed up schedules (which is a new on for us... Addison was a 'no schedule kid' from the start), loud places (basketball games, wedding receptions, etc.), having mama's phone taken away from him, taking medicine.
What We're Looking Forward To: That first tooth FINALLY popping through... or he may be nicknamed 'toothless' forever! And real crawling... someday we'll see real crawling.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

A letter to myself at 20...

First picture [age 20] taken circa 2002 on Dad's weekend at WSU {and obviously not on a digital camera}, second picture [age 31] taken this fall. We are in the process of selling/packing/eventually moving and I wanted to participate in this post but wasn't about to climb into the attic to retrieve a photo from EXACTLY ten years ago. Please forgive.
Dear 20 year-old self,

As I sit here and look at your smiling face I find myself trying to think of the things that you need to know to survive the next ten years. You are so young right now - although as a new college student, finally living on your own, and experiencing life in a whole new way - you think that you've finally made it to the adult world. There is so much that lies ahead of you - both good and bad. You will experience some of the highest peaks and lowest valleys in the next decade but you will come out of it a better person - stronger, wiser, and with a vision of what you want the next ten years to look like.

You are two years out of high school and starting fresh at WSU. Little do you know, you have already met the man you are going to marry and with whom you will create a family you never dared to dream of having. You will cross paths with him several times and through mutual friends, you'll spend time together. Then, one night - when you have been careless and others have malice on their minds, he will save you. He will carry you home, keep you safe, and respect you enough to keep his distance. The next morning you will understand how much differently the situation could have been. You will start the friendship and eventually the relationship that will lead to your vows just a few short years from now. On your wedding day, you will be caught up in all the details and emotions, and the idea of being husband and wife. Shortly thereafter, you will buy your first home, start to search for a career, and begin to think about a family of your own.

During these first few years of marriage you will learn a lot about yourself and about your husband. First, and foremost, that neither one of you are perfect. You will learn to fight and make up, negotiate and compromise. You will find yourself wanting to throw in the towel somedays and others you will be hoping and praying that he doesn't give up on you. You will learn that you picked up more from your parents' relationship than you ever thought possible - about roles in a marriage, acceptable and unacceptable behavior, and you will discover that you are very much like both of your parents - much to your surprise.

You will decide that you no longer have the desire to find  your birth parents - something that you have waited for all your life. You will finally be mature enough to see that you have all the family you could ever need and that no stranger - blood relative or not - could be more important that that.

As a result of your first degree, which you earned carelessly I might add, you will find yourself unable to settle on a career. You will go to work for a small school district tutoring middle school students and working at a summer camp your first year. That experience will show you that your guidance counselor wasn't crazy and that teaching really is the profession you want to dedicate your life to. You will go back to school at night and will come out with a teaching degree and dreams of educating middle schools in literature and writing. That summer you will search for work and miss out on one opportunity after another. You will be devastated but it will work out perfectly because a language arts position will open up at the school you had been dreaming of teaching at and you will find yourself setting up your classroom that August.You will spend each year trying new things - some that will succeed and some that will fail. You will have the chance to find friendship among your colleagues and they will mentor you and guide you when you get in over your head. You will come to love your students and will learn that middle school truly is your calling. You will watch your first group of 8th graders move on to high school and you will be there in the stands, cheering them on the day they graduate.

You will decide to start a family and after two years you will begin to feel the stress and weight that come with infertility. You will meet with doctors and surgeons and specialists who will all tell you that, while having a baby is not impossible for you, it is not likely. You will suffer through tests and procedures and will again and again hear the same devastating news. You will reach a low at this point - you will feel inadequate because you can't give your husband the child you both want so badly. You'll question whether it's fair for him to have to be married to you even though he will reassure you every day that there is no place else he'd rather be. You will finally hit a wall where the options will have run out - you're young and there won't be enough money saved up for IVF. You will give up on trying to have a baby and simply try and get yourself back together. One of the ways you will do this is through acupuncture. One month after you meet with the naturopathic doctor, who is also your friend, you will discover that you are pregnant. It will be a Sunday morning in mid-January and you will go to church and cry throughout the sermon in sheer relief and awe. You will learn several months into pregnancy that, although your body was able to get pregnant, it is not well suited for staying that way. At 28 weeks you will be put on bed rest until your due date. It will be miserable but you will crawl into bed one night after watching the Seahawks game and wake a short while later to your water breaking. You and Derek will rush to the hospital and the next afternoon you will welcome a beautiful, healthy baby girl into this world. Motherhood will change you on a molecular level that there are not words to explain. The center of your universe will shift and your purpose, your life, will revolve around this precious baby girl.

It won't take long for you to discover that parenthood is both exhilarating and terrifying, energizing and exhausting. You'll forget what it means to sleep until 10am or to drop everything and drive to the beach or to a movie. You'll learn that you never leave the house without a diaper bag and a change of clothes and that any errand you run will take twice as long to prepare for and twice as long to complete. You will watch this little baby that you nurtured and carried for nine months grow into a baby, and a toddler, and then a child. You will marvel at how fast the time flies and how much things can change in week, a day, even an hour. You'll learn what it means to have a blood relative for the first time and it will give you a sense of belonging and home that you have never known before. That little girl will teach you patience {and test it} and will give you the chance to see the world through a new, fresh pair of eyes. You will marvel at snow and pretty rocks and stop to watch the leaves blow across the park. You'll take her to the ocean and watch her squeal and kick and the salt water washes over her and the seaweed tickles her feet. You will look at her and realize that you never fully understood what love was until she came into your life. You will also want her to have the one thing that was missing from your life as a child - a sibling.

You will fight the same battle to get pregnant again but after six months you will see that + sign appear. You will know in your heart this time that something isn't right but you will refuse to admit it to anyone. Less than a week after discovering the pregnancy, you will discover the blood. You will find yourself in a sterile ER room, looking at an ultrasound, and listening to the doctor explain that there is nothing there anymore. The life that was growing inside you will have vanished and you will feel the soul crushing loss of a child. You will want to curl up and die those next few days and the agony will drive you to scream one moment and cry the next and stare blankly at the wall after that. You will find yourself sobbing on the bathroom floor and a tiny pair of arms will wrap themselves around you and a little girl will crawl in your lap. She won't say anything, but the tears in her eyes will be enough for you to see that you have to be strong and you have to pull through because that beautiful little girl is counting on you. So you will start to piece yourself back together. You will reconsider for a while the idea of having another baby - the fear of another loss outweighing the potential joy of another life.

Not long after the loss of the baby, you will be hit with equally devastating news. You're dad will go in for a routine appointment for back pain and will discover that he has multiple myeloma - a cancer that is eating away his spine and bones. You will watch your dad age ten years in the matter of a few short weeks and will find yourself in mid-summer, sitting next to his hospital bed, holding his hand, and praying to God that he will pull through. You will stare at the tubes running in and out of his body, hear about the chemicals being pumped into him every day, and watch as he becomes more fragile with every passing hour. There will be a point where you believe that he won't pull through - and for the first time in your life you will begin to realize the gaping whole that would be left if he were not to survive. Thankfully, he has taken care of himself and has the stubborn, iron will that you have inherited and you will watch him slowly, painfully slowly, begin to return to his former self. It will take cutting edge science and months of rehabilitation but eventually, the dad that you have known and loved all your life will start to make his recovery.

You will decide to try to have another baby and just before your 30th birthday, you'll discover you are pregnant again. This time, the baby will stick but you're pregnancy will be wrought with preterm labor and bed rest again. You will make it to 29 weeks this time but in mid-February, you'll rush to the hospital with contractions and learn that you can either stay there for the next 11 weeks or stay at home in bed. So again, you will find yourself on bed rest - but this time will be so much harder. You will be a bystander to your daughter's life for what will feel like an eternity. She will come to expect you to be in bed, will understand that you can't play with her because 'your tummy hurts', and will turn to her daddy to meet all her needs. And just like always, he will be amazing. He will parent, keep house, care for you, work, and still manage to have a smile on his face most days. When you go into labor this time, it won't be on your own terms. The baby will be in distress and  you will be induced. It will be terrifying to watch the heart monitor for hours on end and wonder if everything is going to be okay. But you will deliver a perfect baby boy the next day who was simply wearing his umbilical cord around his neck. You will learn again what true love is and you will realize that, with each child, your capacity for love only grows bigger. You will fall in love with this little boy and you will be brought to tears watching his big sister fawn over him every chance she gets. He won't stay little for long and before you know it you'll be watching him crawl across the floor as you are searching Pinterest for 1st birthday party themes.

The next ten years will probably be filled with more change than at any other point in your life. You will have to be strong, have faith in God and the people you choose to surround yourself with, and realize that no good thing in this world comes without hard work and dedication. A good marriage is work. Being a good parent is work. Being an educator is work. Maintaining worthwhile friendships is work. Nothing good in this life comes for free... but it is so worth the effort that you will put into it. You will look back on yourself in ten years and wonder where the time is gone, wonder where those wrinkles came from, and when 9pm became your bedtime. You will still feel like you are a 20 year old impostor - pretending to be someone much more accomplished and mature than you really are. You have an amazing path laid out in front of you. Enjoy it. Savor every moment because minutes turn to hours, hours turn to days, days to weeks, and weeks to years... and in the blink of an eye you'll be 31 and left wondering where all the time has gone.




Linkin up with MamaKat

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Parenting a threenager is 'like whoa...'

Parenting is strange.

I could go a lot of places with that opener, but I'm choosing to go with the magical age of three {and almost a half, to be specific}. People don't talk about three... it's like this unspoken phase that parents everywhere choose not discuss with new parents. They'll tell you about the 'terrible twos' and how your sweet little toddling angel will one night morph into a tiny little monster. But the monster of two has nothing on demons of three...

"Three is two, with intent."

I don't know who told me that or where I read it but whoever said it was a genius. At two, they are trouble - and there is no denying it. They get into mischief that you didn't even know existed, they discover their own opinions, and they start realizing that choices have consequences. They get into loads of trouble because of their curiosity and are driven mostly by their genuine interest in 'figuring stuff out'. But three, oh three, is so different. At three they have identified your 'buttons', they can use your own words against you, they can come up with their own words that will break your heart (I don't want to be your friend anymore, Mommy!), they can understand your requests demands and ignore them. In short, they can be trouble - ON PURPOSE. Three can take you from hugs and kisses on minute to screaming, kicking, flailing tantrums in under two seconds simply for asking to TWO seconds to retrieve a requested juice, or snack, or book, or shoe... Three can HUMILIATE you in public and bring you to your knees. It can make you consider begging your offspring for mercy in the produce section as your child rips items off shelves or yells at fellow shoppers... At three they are no longer babies, no longer toddlers... they are preschoolers. They are children. They are old enough to roll away from  you when you are trying to explain why they got in trouble, swat at you when their frustrated, pull the blanket over their head when you're talking, and push you away when you try to help them with something that they can do 'on my own!'

You can only survive three by living day to day. Something that was a non-issue on Monday may be the end-of-the-world meltdown on Tuesday.

Most days, parenting leaves me feeling in a way that only Crush the turtle has been able to adequately explain. "I was like whoa... and you were like whoa... and then we were like... whoa." And by the end of most days, I feel like Marlin. But some people tell me it gets better... and that someday I won't have a three year old anymore. And maybe when she's 13 I'll be blogging about how I wish I could go back to the simple arguments of a three year old over whether or not we are going potty before we get in the car and not the horrifying arguments of boyfriends, and grades, and all of the other things I'm sure await us in the all to near future. Parenting is a ride, of that much, I'm sure.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

8 months

Now, you'll notice something is missing from this picture. HIS MONTHLY STICKER. I am so frigging pissed but somewhere in the craziness of  'Quick, get the house ready for showings and go batshitcrazy!' I lost them. Or the hubs moved them {which he vehemently denies}. Regardless... the stickers are MIA and my son continues to age. So, I made the best of photo editing and his adorable mug. But when I'm unpacking some random box in our new house down the road and I find those stickers you are going to hear a string of expletives that will make a sailor blush.
*Sorry this is a few days (ahem, a week) late... 8 months fell on Christmas day and things have been a little hectic around here. I kept forgetting to do his little photo shoot until he was in the tub and ready for bed. It's like having children keeps you busy or something... very strange.

Length: 27ish inches (I don't measure... I leave that to the professionals)
Weight:  18 lbs. 7 oz.
Feeding Schedule: Well... feeding has been interesting to say the least. He's eating a 6oz. bottle at 6am, oatmeal or bananas for breakfast around 8am (although he's not a fan of bananas... we're moving on to pears next week). Then he eats another bottle around 11:30 and goes down for his nap. He wakes up around 2pm and has another bottle. He eats around 5pm and then has his grains and veggies at 7pm. Then after his bath he has about 4oz. at bedtime. Currently, he's waking up at 3am for whatever reason and right now and I've been giving him a few (4ish)oz. before I lay him back down. I'm going to start cutting back that amount by an ounce a week until he's hopefully sleeping through the night... fingers crossed people.
Sleeping Schedule: In the last month he went from sleeping from 8pm to 5am to this odd wake up time of 3am. I don't know what's causing it... he moves all over his crib so it could be that he gets in a strange position, gets cold, has a full diaper and is mad about it, or just thinks its funny to watch mama change a diaper with her eyes half open. I don't know but I sure hope it's a phase he grows out of soon... It is quite exciting that I've figured out his napping schedule. He has a small window of opportunity to go down for a nap, and if you miss it - you're out of luck.This little guy goes down at 11:30 like magic. 12:30? 1:30? No way... but 11:30 with a bottle means he'll sleep until 2pm which is HEAVENLY. 
Milestones: We've talked about solids and so far he'll eat anything (but he'll give you dirty looks if you feed him bananas... he's not really a fan of fruit in general), his doing his own version of crawling (side-to-side army crawl thing), sitting on his own (and still toppling every once in a while), he's moved into a rear facing big kid car seat because I couldn't lift him in his infant seat anymore, and he's made the official jump into 9-12 month clothes. This young man has still yet to sprout a tooth...
Best Moment This Month: Seeing him on Santa's lap with Addison. I don't know what it was about that the melted my heart but looking back at the past three pictures of her alone up there and seeing her now with her brother just made me all teary eyed.
Loves: PHONES and all electronics, getting tossed in the air by daddy while mommy cringes, standing, sitting up, crawling (until he gets frustrated), taking baths, giggling, smiling, wrestling with blankets, babbling, chewing on mama's knees, pull on facial features and hair...
Hates: Bananas, screwed up schedules (which is a new on for us... Addison was a 'no schedule kid' from the start), loud places (basketball games, wedding receptions, etc.), having mama's phone taken away from him.
What We're Looking Forward To: Having my parents here in a few weeks and getting to see the kids spend time with them. My parents haven't seen the kids since early October and Cohen has changed so much - it'll be fun to watch them get reacquainted.

Mama Note: This month is also a little bittersweet for me as a mama. I had this same feeling with Addison in the time between 8 and 9 months. We're almost to the point where Cohen has existed in this world longer than he lived inside me. I don't know why the tipping of that scale is so sad for me but I feel like, up until about 3 weeks from now, he's been more 'mine' than anyone elses... and after that 9 month mark passes, that will cease to be true. I understand that I will always have "known" him 37 1/2 weeks longer than anyone else, but it's kind of like when we went from referring to Addison as our baby to our toddler or our preschooler. It just signals the passing of time, which simply goes to quickly. I so wish I could keep them little just a while longer...

Grr. No sticker. But still freaking adorable.
In case you were wondering what a five minute photo shoot with an 8 month old actually looks like... here you go. You should have heard my husband narrating as we clicked through the pictures... I was laughing so hard I think I peed a little. :)

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

What lies ahead...

I expect 2013 to be a year of change for our family. Derek has just barely gotten his feet wet at his new job, our house is for sale, and the floor plans are set for our next home. We have two children to focus on raising, both at completely different points in their development and, as Cohen gets mobile, I do believe we will have our hands {very} full around here. There are some changes that I want to push for in my personal life - things that I feel like I need to do or want to do to become a better person. Addison is old enough now to call me on my bullshit - and she does occasionally. If I'm on the phone while we're driving - she tells me to quit it. If she hasn't seen me eat, she asks where my dinner is. There is one set of very aware eyes watching my every move {and another set starting to pay attention} and I realize that, if for no reason other than my children, I need to get some things in order.

1. This may seem stupid, but one of my resolutions is to Instagram something everyday. I made a photo book today of IG's from the past year and I loved looking back on all the random moments in our lives. I would like to do that again, but with more daily consistency. [Note: It's 9:10pm and I haven't done it yet today and I have NO IDEA what to snap a picture of... this could be a challenge].

2. I have to get my spending in order. I say this every year and I blow it every year because I am addicted to shopping {particularly the online sort}. I also spend way too much on groceries each month - our pantry is STOCKED and I keep buying more. I have to limit myself to the necessities and use up what we have. When we sat down and started figuring things out for the new house it became clear that I needed to cut my shit out if I wanted all the upgrades and new furniture that I've been dreaming of. So, until the new house is built - all of our extra money is getting pooled into savings so we have cash on hand for appliances, a fence, etc. Then, 50% of my left over money is going into savings each month, and 50% is going to credit card debt. As I pay off each card, I'm canceling it. I'm done with credit. By the end of the year both kids will have a Fidelity account in their names for college funds with monthly contributions of AT LEAST $50 each - more if I can afford it.

3. I need to be a better role model for my kids.

I have to get my health under control. I've had an on again, off again, on again eating disorder since high school. It's never been bad enough that I needed treatment for it just enough to piss my family off and get babysat around meal times to make sure I ate something. Now, however, my daughter is picking up on these cues from our family and she's starting to ask what I ate and when. I'm sure she doesn't understand the whole concept yet - but it's not far off. So, I'm trying to get in to see a counselor who specializes in eating disorders and a nutritionist to help with meal size and realistic portion control. I'll be the first one to say that I don't want to do it, but I know that I picked up my views on food by hearing my mom always worry about her weight and my dad always criticizing anyone who was overweight. I don't want to put my kids through that but at the same time, I'm terrified of gaining weight. So I need help and I'm working on getting it.

Going along with the nutrition aspect of things is getting physically active. With all that's gone on with my spine in the last few months it has become blatantly clear to me that I need to take better care of my body. I hate working out and aside from Aqua Zumba in the summer, it just won't happen. But I need to spend these winter months doing some stretching and basic strength training and then start walking once the weather gets decent.

I also need to be a better spouse and set an example there - I tend to put my energy into everything else during the day (like parenting and  photo books and blogging and cleaning today) and Derek ends up getting zero attention from me. He's too good of a man to have to be left at the end of the line each day. I need to devote time to make our relationship stronger - even if that means giving up some things that are important to me and doing them another time. Family needs to come first - always.

4. I want to get involved in my community in a way that allows me to still be involved with my family. I want to start attending church so that my kids can grow up in a religious environment and make their own decisions about their faith when the time comes. I want to volunteer for causes that are important to me - March of Dimes, The Humane Society, and The Red Cross being my top three. I want to have my whole family get involved as well so that we can be together and do something great for someone in need.

5. I'm going to continue working hard this year to become a better educator. I've invested a lot of my time, money, and effort in supporting the changes that are going on in our district and particularly our school and I want to continue to work toward being a teacher that makes a daily impact on student lives and learning and being someone other educators respect. I'm one of the youngest on our teaching staff right now and it means a lot to me to have the respect of the people around me. I am going to continue to participate in professional development through our school, work with our ESD coordinator, continue researching best practices and teaching strategies, and trying new methods in my classroom. This goal will be a work in progress until the day I retire but I hope that someday I'll have the confidence in myself to have a student teacher in my room or to work with future teachers at the college level. I'm not there yet, but I feel like I'm making strides in the right direction.

So, that's the path I'm starting on today... I guess the first and only step I've taken is writing this all down so I can go back and remind myself when I start to get off track. If anyone out there has suggestions or feedback or wants to 'buddy up' on a particular goal, I'm game. I need all the support I can get! 364 days to go!

{and I'm totally IGing a pic of this post for my first pic... otherwise it'll be a selfie and I haven't showered in two days!!}

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