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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Surrounded by Love

My husband and I took our kids to his dad's house this weekend, for a "slumber party" with his sister and our niece.  Sleeping arrangements included our daughter in bed with us.  Since it was a special occasion, we let her stay up a little later than normal, so she was pretty tired and loopy by the time we finally got her laying down.  In order to get her calmed more quickly, we both climbed into bed with her.  She laid curled up on her side - my husband rubbing her back, and me playing with her hair.  At that moment, all I could think of was how much we both love her.  That night, in that moment, she went to sleep safe, secure, and literally surrounded by love.

Parenting is tough.  It's a constant guessing game, and the recommendations by the "professionals" are ever-changing.  I'm sure there are a million things I do wrong, or at least that I could do better.  We may not have the means to give her every material possession she'll ever want.  I might not say the right things when I am supposed to.  I might not strike the right balance between telling her just enough versus telling her more than she needs to know.  I might give her too much juice, or too little fruit, or too much this, or too little that....

I'm 100% positive I have made mistakes, and I am 100% positive I will make more.

However - both of my children will grow up knowing they are loved - fiercely.  It's becoming evident already that they recognize they are in a loving home.  My daughter will randomly, and without prompting, tell me she "lubs" me, and offer a hug and kiss.  My son has learned to give big, open mouth, drooly kisses, and also offers them freely and frequently.  The love they express for each other is absolutely heart-melting.  We are a family who hugs, laughs, loves and shares together.  So no matter what I might do wrong, I know I am doing this one thing right...and if you ask me, it's a pretty big thing!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Another Letter to Me

I've written previously about what I would tell a younger me.  This morning I was thinking about what I would want to tell the "now" me in ten years.  Without the life experience, I cannot be certain, but I think it'd go something like this:
1. Take care of yourself.  You already know good health is not a given.  It is not heroic to put everyone else's needs above yours, especially since their biggest need is for you to be well.  The rest of this list does not matter if you are not.
2. Sleep is great, but there will come a day when you long for early morning cuddles with a sleepy baby who looks at you like nothing else matters in this world.
3. You are doing a good job.  I know it's a daily struggle working full-time while rearing two children.  I know you feel guilty a lot, but I also know you are doing the very best you know how to do....and they know it too.
4. I realize stepping on a toy in the middle of the night is startling and sometimes painful.  However, again, there will come a day when you will miss little things like this.  Try to smile when it happens, and store it for a day when you are lonesome.
5. Nurture your marriage.  I promise they will grow and move on to other interests and people.  It would be horrible to wake up and realize you live with a stranger.  Take time together, just the two of you.  Make sure he knows you love him, not only in your words but also in action.
6. They will be okay.  They have you in their corner (along with the small village you've helped build).  I know you want to protect them from all things, but part of making them well-adjusted and happy people is helping them navigate a world which is inherently a study in yin and yang.  They must know some sadness to truly appreciate joy, some fear to stay safe and understand security.  They must endure some scrapes and bruises to experience the pride that comes with finally mastering something.  If you are there to help them pick up and dust off through it all, they will be okay.
7. You are more than a mother.  You are a wife, friend, colleague, daughter and sister as well.  The people in your life who truly care about you are those you need to expend the energy upon.  The relationships you have and foster, and the memories you make along the way are what makes life worth living.

I'm sure I will have more to say to me when the day comes, but I think if I bear these things in mind along the way, I will be proud of myself when I get there!

Friday, April 5, 2013

Someone Who Understands

As soon as I started this blog and started talking about my son, lots of moms reached out to me to talk about their own children.  We all hope and pray that our children will be born with ten fingers and toes, functioning eyes, ears, nose and everything in between.  When that doesn't happen, there are a lot of feeling that go along with it.  Some of those feelings, however, are taboo.  Some you think you aren't supposed to have, and some you just don't feel like anyone else could understand. keep them inside and don't talk about them, and sometimes that just sucks.

I recently had a conversation with another mommy.  Not every part of her child's body functions the way in which it was intended.  We talked about a lot of things regarding our children, and I felt I was able to be honest with her about some of my feelings, fears and frustrations.  She did the same.  We talked about insurance, and some of the ridiculous things people say or do regarding our children.

I walked away from that conversation breathing a little sigh of relief.  Truth be told, it changed nothing about my son's condition, treatment or possible outcomes.  What it did, however, was bolster his mother for one more fight with insurance, one more explanation about his treatment, or one more night holding my child while he's in pain.

I encourage parents to TALK to one another.  About all of it.  I promise you are not the only person who has felt the way you do, is scared of what you fear, or feels frustrated.  It feels better, in some ways, to know someone really does understand how you feel.  I'm glad mommies reach out to me because of this blog, and I hope even one conversation has helped one mommy the way my recent conversation helped me.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

My Children Teach Me

I never understood what people meant when they said their children taught them, until I became a parent.  When I was pregnant, I imagined all of the things I would teach my children.  I realized the  gravity of the task of raising a human being and teaching them about life.  Then, as I began to parent, I realized the cliches were all true; you really do learn about life from your children.

I had to take my son back to the ER today (went straight to All Children's).  I held him as he was examined, evaluated, given medication, and eventually given another IV.  I held him as he fell asleep in my arms, exhausted from fighting illness, sleep, and those trying to help him.  By the end of our visit, after a nap and some fluids, he was sitting on the bed, hamming it up for my mom and me.  Making silly faces and laughing, the type of belly laugh only heard out of a child.  He hugged me when I picked him up to get him ready to go home, and though I was the one who had allowed people to do things he couldn't understand to him, I was still his favorite person.  He still trusts me enough to know that I'll do the best I can to care for him.

As I sat looking at the few pictures I took while we were there, I realized how very lucky I am to have these two little people in my life.  They teach me something new about the world and myself every day.  They teach me about the person I want to be, and make me strive to make them proud to call me Mommy.  They've helped me find strength and resilience, patience and courage.  No matter what I may teach them along the way, it pales in comparison to what I've already learned from them.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Mother's Intuition

There aren't many things that make me angry.  I tend to be a pretty calm person (though my husband may argue that point), and it really takes a lot to anger me.  Someone messing with my kids, however, will do it every time.  I got angry today, a lot.

I learned a valuable lesson today, or actually just re-iterated it to myself.  Mother's Intuition is a very real, very powerful thing.  I didn't listen to mine today.
Waiting room at Urgent Care 
My son has been ill for a few days now, with a nasty stomach bug, which has been traveling around our area for quite a while now.  Sparing the gory details, there were many a changed diaper, outfit and sheet this weekend.  Little man has been refusing to eat since Friday, and not wanting to drink much of anything for about a day.  I started to get worried about dehydration, and decided to take him in to be seen.

Barring one unfortunate encounter with a PA there, we've had pretty good luck with the Urgent Care center near our house.  So I decided to take him there to start.  As I left the house, something in me told me to just take him up to All Children's Hospital, which is where he's had his surgeries.  Round trip, it would have been an extra 30-40 minutes of travel time.  I wanted to be able to get him home to rest as quickly as possible though, so I opted for the Urgent Care Center.
Playing peek with Mommy while waiting
When I arrived with him, I made it clear that my main concern was dehydration.  After two hours of retelling his situation too many times to count, I was told that they were unable to do a pediatric IV at that location - valuable information two hours prior, when I would have left to take him somewhere more qualified for this particular concern.  He was given tylenol and an anti-nausea medication.  I was handed an envelope and instructed to head to the affiliated hospital's emergency room.

As I left the Urgent Care, I told myself I should just get on the interstate and head up to All Children's.  I then convinced myself that the local hospital would be faster, therefore allowing me to get little man home to bed sooner.  So I ignored my instinct again, and took him to the local hospital (which is very good, but not equipped to deal solely with children).
ER Waiting Room
We got to the hospital and got registered, and I got busy occupying him for about 2 hours while we waited.  We finally got to our room, and I told the story yet again.  I'd whittled it from about 5 minutes to 30 seconds - hitting the most important information in a very abbreviated fashion.  Enter three (very young) medical professionals.  They were going to put the IV in my son, so they could start the rehydration I'd asked for 5 hours prior.  I instantly got nervous.  One of the two men in the room seemed slightly rattled, and the other two were looking to him for direction.

Fast forward through 20 excruciating minutes for my child (and me) of IV attempts and failures, multiple trips in and out of the room for supplies (one would think you'd have that all on hand before you poke a 14-month-old), and me feeling as though I'd held my child down so others could torture him.  He finally got the much-needed fluids, and they ran some blood tests to rule out more serious conditions.  We waited while the fluids reached their prescribed amount.  I listened to 3 people repeat the same information to me before I signed the paperwork that freed us.
Asleep in my arms while rehydrating
On my way home I began to feel exceedingly guilty about putting him through all of that.  Had I listened to my instincts, we would have cut that ordeal in half (at worst) in length, and it would have been nowhere near as traumatic.  Had I taken him to All Children's originally, we'd have been in a place totally equipped for, and experienced in care for a chile his age.

On our drive home I apologized to him numerous times, though he couldn't hear me through sleep, or comprehend my words if he had.  I vowed to him to do better at listening to my own advice, and I filed in my own head this particular reiteration that Mother does, indeed, know best.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

I Still Lub You

I've been struggling for a while with my daughter at nap time.  She is three, and likely on the verge of not needing a nap every day, but she's not quite there yet.  So on the weekends, I struggle with her.  She will do anything and everything to stall: play, cry, read, etc...anything but actually sleep.

She's always been an easy kid.  Slept through the night at 7 weeks, always happy, bright and lots of fun.  So this issue has been a source of stress for me (and likely her).  I am not a mom who yells often.  I'm not really a person who yells often in general.  But this weekend I yelled.  It was Sunday afternoon.  I was tired and had some things I wanted to do around the house.  We'd gone through several rounds already, and I was frustrated.  I yelled, and I know it scared her.  I went back downstairs and had a conversation via text message with another mother - a friend whom I admire as a mom.  We talked about my frustration, and feelings of failure, and possible solutions to the issue.  At the end of that conversation, I realized that I was pushing to0 hard for a nap, and that I had handled it terribly.

I sat for a few minutes, thinking about the situation.  I felt terribly for frightening my daughter.  So, I went upstairs and knelt down on her floor.  I told her that I was sorry for getting angry with her and losing my temper.  Her response?  "It's okay Mommy, I still lub you", followed by her launching herself into my arms for a hug.  What an amazing little person I am blessed to call mine.

There are several reasons I felt it important to apologize to her.  I think it's important that she understand that I am fallible.  She needs to see that everyone makes mistakes.  That way, maybe when she makes one it won't make her feel like less of a person.

I think it is important that she understand that I will admit when I am wrong.  It will teach her to do the same.  Stubborn for the sake of being right gets no one anywhere good.  I'd like to teach her to admit when she is wrong, and to learn from the mistake.  Also, if she knows I will admit it when I am wrong, perhaps she'll trust me more, even when she thinks I don't know what I'm talking about.  Hopefully, she'll come to know that I am guiding her based upon my experiences and mistakes.

It is important that she hears me apologize when I am wrong, so she learns to do the same.

It is important that she understand that people can make mistakes, apologize, and move on.  Her declaration of love after my apology made me so proud of her, and humbled me.

As a mother, I believe it is my job to teach her how to interact with people, and give her the best possible foundation for relationships throughout her life.  If that means I'm on my knees in her room telling her I'm sorry and asking for forgiveness for a mistake I made, I'll gladly do it every time.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Our Special Song

Sometimes parenting is a by-the-seat-of-your-pants deal.  Okay, it is oftentimes this way.  When my daughter was transitioning away from bottles, I found myself at a loss as to how to put her to bed.  It had been our ritual that I rock her, while giving her a bottle.  She wouldn't always fall asleep, but it was her cue that it was that time.  I'd place her in her crib and she would talk herself to sleep.  So when we decided it was time for her to move beyond the bottle, I didn't know how to give her those sleepy-time cues.

The very first night, I walked into her room with her, shut out the light, and sat down in her rocking chair with her.  Out of nowhere, I started singing her a song.  I'm sure it's a mixture of songs I heard as a child, or when I was a nanny, but it wasn't one I'd consciously thought of before that night.  I began singing the "goodnight song" as it has now become known.  I worked my way through our family, singing good night to each of them, ending with a good night to her.  Anyone who's heard me sing before knows I belong nowhere near a recording studio or Broadway, but she didn't seem to mind.  After the song, I kissed her and told her I love her, and placed her in her crib.  It worked.  She talked herself to sleep that night as she had so many others, and didn't even notice the missing bottle.

There came a time when she no longer wanted to cuddle before bed.  As she got older, our nighttime routine shifted to stories, shows and sippy cups full of water next to her.  So I was surprised a few weeks ago when she asked me to rock her and sing her "special song".  I had no idea she even remembered it.  I happily pulled her into my lap, rocked her back and forth and sang to her as I used to when she was littler.  She snuggled in close to me, closed her eyes and relaxed.  She's asked me several times since; it's kind of becoming our thing.

She and I have a running joke.  She climbs into my lap while we are playing and I tell her that I am going to keep her there forever.  She smiles up at me and says, "you're just kidding, right Mama?"  I tell her that I wish I could keep her there forever, but I know I have to let her go some day.  It'll be slightly easier to do, knowing she has things like these tucked in her memory.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Cleft Team

Last Tuesday my husband and I took our son to All Children's for a round of appointments with various specialists.  This process is called a "Cleft Team".  We began the day with a hearing screening, then moved to a different building, where we sat in a room and the specialists rotated through to see us.

The state of Florida formed the team concept originally for all kids born with a cleft, because it is a lot to keep up with, and it's difficult to know when they need to see which doctor or specialist.  We will meet with this team every 6 months to a year throughout his childhood, to make sure we are doing what we can to best support him.  Shortly before our son was born, the state (in all its infinite wisdom) decided to limit the team to people on Medicaid, and those of us with insurance had to fend for ourselves....but that's a topic for another day.

All Children's Hospital recognized that people with insurance may need help in keeping all of it straight too, and formed a team for the privately insured.

We saw a Pediatrician, Pediatric Dentist, Speech and Language Pathologist, Social Worker, Audiologist, our Surgeon and his Nurse.  Phew!  By the middle of it all he was exhausted and fell asleep on my shoulder.  For the most part, however, he was a trooper!

The good news is that we won't have any therapies for the next 6 months to a year.  The not-so-good-news is that he still has a slight hole in his palate.  That makes it more challenging for him to eat table food, as it gets pushed up into the hole and out his nose, which makes him pretty irritable. In addition, it might be prohibiting him from forming "B" and "P" sounds, as he can't get a proper seal in his mouth, which is necessary for those sounds.

We were given some good suggestions for feeding, and things to work on to support him in the language portion, and we'll get there.  We already had his next surgery scheduled in June, to reshape his nose.  They'll close the hole then.  There's a slight possibility that it will mean we'll have to stay overnight, instead of outpatient, but we will deal with what comes!

Over-all, I think we both felt better about his progress walking out of those meetings.  It's difficult at times to know if you're doing the right thing when your child has something special about him...though an argument could be made that it's true even when your child is "normal".

I wish I could go back to the day I learned of his imperfection and tell myself it would be okay.  I wish I could tell myself that it would be because of that imperfection - not despite it - that he would be the most beautiful creature I would ever meet.  There will be tough days ahead, but I have no doubt that my little man will come out the other side stronger and better because of it; and I  know he'll teach me a thing or two about living a graceful life along the way.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

10 Things YOU Can Do to Be the Perfect Parent

I read an article today, providing 10 tips for raising children.  While I agreed with most of the article, I found my mind wandering to the hundreds, if not thousands of published articles available online, detailing how to raise perfect, healthy, happy, successful, social children.  Most contain SOME good information.  It is important to remember, however, that the internet is a huge place, where anyone with an opinion is allowed to tout themselves as expert.

I met with our pediatrician for my son's one-year well child exam.  We covered several things, most of which I had already heard with my daughter, but some was new.  The world of pediatric recommendations is ever changing, and part of the reason I like our doctor so much is because he acknowledges this.  I boldly told him that, while the recommendations are great, I feel Mother's intuition and a bit of common sense goes a long way.  He agreed.

I think we, as mothers, are trained to second-guess ourselves, lay guilt upon ourselves, and believe we are not measuring up to the other mothers we know or encounter on our parenting journey.  We need to be a little kinder.  We need to realize that there is no such thing as a perfect parent (or child).  We also need to realize that each child is unique, and what works for one may not work for another.

In my household, I try to remember to stay positive as much as possible.  It's very easy to wrap up in the negatives of the world, and the difficulties of raising a family while working full time.  I try to give myself a break and focus on the things that are important, which sometimes means my house isn't spotless, but my children's laughter during our shared experiences more than makes up for it!  I try to model healthy habits, including a healthy relationship with my husband, in hope that my kids grow up to learn to take care of themselves and their relationships too.  I TRY to do these things, and I don't always succeed.  We have our good and bad days, but we have a lot of love and laughter in our home.

So - in my NON-expert opinion, find what works for your family and do the best you can to make it happen each day.  Be kind to yourself, your partner, and your children.  Make love the priority (tough love included!)  Have FUN with your children, and do not expect perfection under any circumstances....the good stuff resides in the imperfect!

Our perfectly imperfect attempt at a Christmas family picture.

There is no magic method.  If there were, a whole lot of internet "experts" would be out of a job!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Mothers and Daughters

I was standing in line this afternoon, behind three people: an elderly woman, her daughter, and the daughter's husband.  The woman must have become disoriented because she turned to me and told me I could go ahead of her, because she'd lost her daughter.  The daughter exasperatedly exclaimed, "MOM!"  She then looked to her husband and rolled her eyes.  I'm certain there is more to the story than what I witnessed, but the exchange made me sad.

I am certain I rolled my eyes at my mother on more than one occasion, and that a majority of those eye-rolls occurred somewhere between my fourteenth and eighteenth year of life.  I know that I was harder on her than anyone else.  As I've grown older, and especially after I became a mother myself, I have realized I was probably that way with her because I knew she'd love me no matter what.

So it made me sad that this grown woman was treating her mother that way.  If her mother was anything like mine, she sacrificed sleep and sanity to provide her daughter with everything she needed - emotionally and physically.  If her mother was anything like mine, she wishes for nothing more than for her children to be healthy and happy, and would give up her own health and happiness to fulfill that wish.  If her mother was anything like mine, she cherishes hugs and loving gestures from her family - much more than material possessions.

The exchange I witnessed made me consider how my daughter will one day treat me.  It made me worry that she'll look at me with exasperation if one day I become disoriented or ask her a question one too many times.

As I stood there, with all this running through my head, worrying about how my daughter will treat me one day, I realized I can do nothing about that now.  All I can do is cherish and love my mother, the way she has done for me all my life - the way she deserves to be treated.  If that provides a positive example for my daughter and strengthens our relationship now and in years to come, it's icing on the cake!

Thanks Mom.  I love you!