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

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