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, 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!!}


I sat down tonight to write a reflection on 2012 and what the year had taught me. But as I started to look back on posts from the past 365 days, I realized that I have already done that - blogging throughout the year has given me a record of our highs and lows as a family, places we've been, challenges we've overcome, and dreams that we are chasing.
Birthday I celebrated this year: 31st
Best book I've read this year: I've read so many nonfiction books this year that it makes this category kind of difficult to respond to... I guess in fiction it would be Abraham Lincoln:Vampire Hunter (although the movie rendition was the worst I've ever seen) and nonfiction would probably be Raising Your Spirited Child because it taught me so much about Addison and how to help her in some of her more... challenging moments. 
Best place I've visited this year: We didn't really travel this year but taking the kids out to my parents beach house was definitely a great trip and Addison still talks about it ALL THE TIME.

Highlights from 2012

Greatest lesson learned:You just cant ever be ready for some of life biggest changes - they happen and you react and adapt. Life goes on, whether you are ready for it or not. 
Hardest thing to overcome: My spending problem - I got out of debt and got right back into it... It's a point of contention in this house on nearly a daily basis. 
Favorite memory: Giving birth to Cohen is definitely the first... but being there to watch my dad be inducted into his high school hall of fame was a close second. That was really special for all of us.
What I loved most about 2011: My dad completing his STEM cell transplant and watching him recover and return to the man he was a few years back. I'm so proud of how strong he has been throughout this whole process and how he has never given up. I'm thankful every day that he is still with us.

Goals from 2012

A new skill I want to learn: I want to create an emergency preparedness plan for my family and have an emergency kit in place in the next year.

*The plan is created and the kit is 1/3 complete, I didn't realize the financial side of putting together a kit like this, but I'm working on it every month and will continue to until it's complete. As of now, the medical kit is nearly complete and I'm moving on to survival tools next.

I want to improve at: Being financially responsible... and be credit card debt free by the end of the year.  

*Not even close... will be working on this much harder this year.

Biggest goal: Be back in my pre-pregnancy clothes a year from today

*DONE!! Woot, woot!!

Goals for 2013

A new skill I want to learn: Carriage driving... I learned this year that I have several issues in my spine that will probably prevent me from riding competitively in the future. I would like to take some time this summer and take driving lessons to find a new way to stay involved with an old hobby.

I want to improve at: Finances - getting and staying out of debt and building savings.

Biggest goal: To have Addison preschool ready by the fall by working with her each day on numbers, letters, counting, following directions, etc.

I still feel a need to list the events that had the largest impacts on our family this year...

1. Pregnancy and bed rest (and thankfully disability insurance)
2. The birth of our son Cohen
3. My dad's STEM cell transplant and cancer treatment
4. Changing childcare providers in the fall 
5. My best friends pregnancy and birth of her son, Owen
6. Derek's decision to leave the Department of Revenue and move to Domex - a COMPLETE career change
7. Buying a lot to build our new home on and settling on a house plan
8. Putting our house on the market
9. Parting ways with old friends, becoming closer with existing friends

There have also been world events that have changed the way we look at the world this past year...

1. Hurricane Sandy
2. The 2012 presidential election
3. Sandy Hook Elementary Shootings (and subsequent shootings)
4. The 2012 "Apocalypse"
5. The current "fiscal cliff" that our nation is teetering on

The media that we (okay, I) have been hooked on...

1. Facebook
2. Twitter
3. Instagram
4. Blogger
5. Redbox Movies
6. Kindle
7. Pandora
8. The Walking Dead (AMC)
9. Grey's Anatomy (ABC)
10. Teen Mom (MTV)

So there it is... a brief year in review. Next up... what's ahead for me in 2013. 

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