Friday, December 27, 2013

With the new year coming, my mind goes to where it always goes around this time:  resolutions.  I never really make any.  This year, though, I think I might, and these are a few of the top ones:

Give 100% in everything I do:  my role as a wife, mom, nurse, daughter, sister, etc.  Just typing that feels exhausting, but I also want to give 100% to myself.  I know in many areas I do not give it my best, and that is a shame.  There are many things I know I need to do (or not do anymore) to make this happen.

Bargain shop!  I have done so well at this this past year.  I still shop TOO much, and that is also an area needing urgent attention, but I definitely want to keep finding those bargains that I have come across.  It's fun!

Continue to lose the weight.  I have lost 30 pounds after my weight plateaued when I gave birth through simple diet changes.  I have put about 5 back on over the holidays but I have a goal weight I want to be at by my 32nd birthday and I want to get serious and get there.  This also ties into giving myself 100%.  I feel so much better when I am eating healthy and exercising.

Drop some of the medications.  I touched on this months ago that the medications I take likely give me unnecessary side effects.  My biggest struggle is chronic headaches (not migraines, just headaches) so I take Excedrin (Migraine and Tension versions) as well as prescription Fioricet.  None of these options help get rid of the headaches and some days they don't do anything at all, but I take one or all on a DAILY basis and that is not healthy or good.  I think I need to figure out the root of what is causing the headaches and start there and work my way up.  First big thing:  drink more water and exercise.  The antidepressants aren't going anywhere any time soon, but who knows.  Maybe if I can get myself in a better physical state of mind, my emotional state of mind will follow suit?

And last:  save, save, save.  We want to take our kids to Disney World SO bad but it is SO expensive.  We really want to do this in the coming year.

I may back away from social media a bit, too.  Eek.  If I say it, does that mean I have to own it?  No guarantees on that one, but for real.  Facebook and blogging is a FUN habit, but a habit that takes me away from giving 100% to my family, which is far more important.  We'll see on this one.  Note I did not include it in my list.  It was more of a little side thought ;)

Sunday, December 22, 2013

So we had a little set back in the homework our counselor gave us due to Miss Allison getting quite ill.  Okay, that's kind of a lie.  We didn't dot he homework because we didn't do the homework.  Allison really was sick this week, but it still should not have prevented us from getting the homework done.  We will get on that.

What I DID do, though, since Ethan is a visual learner, was create a list of rules in a nontraditional way. So what I did was I took a poster board and wrote a message about being nice that I read somewhere and it always stuck with me.  Underneath that, I wrote 4 qualities that I felt were important, followed by another uplifting message under that.  Now my PLAN was to gather my wee ones, have them sit around me, we would discuss the key quality, then make a plan as to how we were going to execute it both in our home and out in the world.  Once we had some thoughts, I'd jot them down and move to the next one until we were all in agreement.  This is how it looks:
Notice the writing.  Some is Ethan's, some is mine.  Now the picture of us all gathering around, brainstorming together didn't quite work out that way.  I had Allison on the couch, pre-occupied with her lemonade stand sign she was making for next summer, and Ethan, curled in a ball on the floor because "this was really dumb and really stupid."  Okay, then!  So I kept my cool and went through each quality and why I felt it was important.  Then I asked the kids to help me come up with ways we can follow these traits in our everyday lives.  Allison's ways were very...4 year old girl. "Give the person a flower if they are sad, Mama!"  Well, yes, but how can we prevent making a person sad in the first place?  Then I had Ethan randomly mumbling that rules were dumb, this project was dumb, and he would not be participating.  As he is mumbling this, he is slowly sliding himself out of the room and Allison has moved on from passing out flowers to me finding out if we had any grapes in the fridge cause she REALLY wanted some grapes.

I ended my attempt at regaining control of my household with a "I know stuff like this isn't necessarily fun and you might not enjoy participating, but the fact is, you WILL participate or there will be consequences and I fear the consequences of not participating might make you very sad."

We'll see.  For now, I have this GORGEOUS poster on my living room wall.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

I can't bake to save my life.  I see all these delicious treats people are baking and I get a tiny bit envious.  Let me rehash some baking mishaps:

I tried making an angel food cake.  But I didn't have the right pan.  A pan is a pan, though, right?  NO!  If you use the wrong pan, the batter will spillith over and cause a large, balloon food cake that will promptly deflate when you attempt to cut it or smoosh down to the thickness of a saltine cracker because it's so "light and airy" ...or something.

The cake I made for Jay for his birthday a couple years ago.  I was in a bit of a hurry and attempted to frost it before it was completely cooled.  Okay, it was still scorching hot.  Whatev.  I frosted... it melted off.  I frosted more ... more melted off. I ended up with a double layer cake with NO frosting on top, and TWO CANS WORTH of frosting heaped around the edges.  So I decorated said heaps with sprinkles and called it a day.

Fast forward a few years and I decide to make a cake for my sister only this time I let it cool.  Completely.  Unfortunately, even though I used the same pan, one layer was more rounded, and when I stacked them, the top layer wanted to form to the dome shaped bottom layer.  Nothing a little extra frosting can't fix, right?  WRONG!   It didn't happen right away so I thought I was in the clear.  I frosted it and started to outline a heart using red M&M's.  Then I noticed gaps where I thought I placed an M&M only now there apparently wasn't one.  So I'd add another one.  Then a gap would form.  Then I realized my heart was getting very, very wide.  VERY wide.  GAPING wide.  Literally.  We had grand canyon going on.  I figured I could fix said gape guessed it...more frosting.  So I did.  But the frosting make the gape bigger and it was a lost cake.  I named it my volcano cake.

My most recent incident involved boxed brownies.  How do you screw up boxed brownies?  Just ask me.  I was invited to a fancy schmancy book club so I thought I'd take regular old box brownies and spruce 'em up by adding white chocolate chips, cause white chocolate is fancy, ya'll!  I mixed the batter and stirred in some chips.  Some meaning the whole bag.  It just looked so fancy!  Put it in the pan and set the timer.  Timer goes off, and as I grab the pan, the entire middle jiggles.  Totally raw.  I add 10 more minutes.  Check it again.  Pretty gooey! Five more minutes and I take them out and let them cool.  When I go to cut them to put on a fancy plate (fancy meaning one of our regular dinner plants.  We don't do fancy here) the knife didn't cut a dang thing.  It smeared my brownies.  Smeared 'em all over.  We tried to save them by mooshing them into a square like figure, and they looked decent, but if you tried to pick it up, it was a lost cause. 

I can't really think of other baking woes but they ALWAYS happen.  I can follow a recipe to the T and somehow screw it up.  My cooking is no better, so I don't even try.


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Today my mom made a confession:  She sometimes dislikes how open I am with mental illness and other issues (my own and Ethan's).  She's not embarrassed by it, but crinches, because we all know there is a stigma attached to it, and she doesn't want it all "out there."  Initially it stung a little.  I have so much respect for my mom and I'd never want to say or do something to disappoint her.  But then I remembered:  my openness has helped a lot of people.  I have had people reach out to me and thank me for making it seem not quite so taboo.  I've had people seek treatment because they had the same issues I had or people who listen to Ethan's "quirks" and say, "my son/daughter does/is the same way!" 

I have a firm, firm belief:  It takes a village to raise a child.  I know that as a parent, it falls mostly on my shoulders.  I take that responsibility so seriously and I try with everything I've got to do the best job I can.  However, the harsh reality is our kids are not with us 24/7.  For my kids, the place they are the most when not with me is school.  I do not feel it is unfair to build a relationship with a school system to make sure the child is happy and successful while there, which is why I got on top of Ethan's struggles as fast as I could and did whatever I could to help him.  In my ideal, controlling mind, I'd love to just quit my job, follow him around his entire life, and keep him on the right track.  That's ridiculous, though, and we all know that.  Since I know him best, though, I am the best person to go to if someone who has to work with him to turn to for advice and suggestions.  The village, in this case, is the school.

Now as a mother and as a person who battles daily on her own with anxiety and depression, I know I can't do it alone.  For myself, I turn to my mom.  She gets me, just like I get Ethan.  Everyone needs someone they can trust to turn to when the road gets a little extra bumpy.  Everyone also needs a good, reliable doctor they can trust.  I am fortunate to have both.  As a mother, it is very easy to put the blame entirely on yourself when your child starts to struggle.  Why can't I just FIX it for him?  Why, if his home is so loving, is he so sad?  Where did I go wrong?  Social media makes it easy to reach out to your friends, family, and community and say in a roundabout way:  I need some help.  I did, and I received incredible help.  I had so many loving, encouraging, and even "been there, done that" message POUR in.  I had 50+ responses on those threads and when I am out in my community, it never fails I run into someone that reminds us they have us lifted in prayer and they will help us.  The village here, is the people that love and care for us.

Sure, it's nothing to be proud of, per se.  It's a flaw.  A yucky flaw.  A flaw that shouts, "I am weak!  I can't do this alone!"  But you know what?  We are working through it.  Neither Ethan, nor myself, have succumbed to a diagnosis.  "Hey, I get depressed!  I'll just spend the next 3 days laying on the couch in my pajamas."  Or even, "Hey!  I'm anxious!  I think I will kill you today because you are making me FREAKING insane!"  No, we work through it.  We admit it's there and it likely will never go away, but there are ways to make it SO much better.  And if we can find ways to make OUR situation better, how awful would it be to keep it a secret from others who feel the same way?  And I can guarantee others struggle just the same.  They might not want to talk about it, but they can read it and do what they want with it.

So yes.  It's something that is tough to be open with, but it's me.  And it's Ethan.  We are who we are, and honestly?  I think we are coming out on top.  I have no idea who reads my blog anymore, if anyone, and what people think about my openness, but please know I will do anything for anyone.  If you want to reach out to me 24/7 (and yes, I mean that with my whole heart, as my anxiety peaks at night) I will be here for you.  I will listen, and more than likely, I will understand at least to SOME degree.  It takes a village.  You do not have to do this alone.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Been a while since I posted.  My apologies!  Last week was super busy.  Work was crazy, as usual.

Thursday night we had conferences.  I waited WEEKS for this moment.  More specifically, after the desk dumping incident (Oh, you don't know about that?  I will enlighten you later, surly).  I have been counting down the minutes until conferences.  I just wanted to know what her plan was.  Was their progress or more issues?  I wanted to know.

Unfortunately, I missed conferences because I was with Ethan at a counseling session.  After I ready his little messages about "needing a break" and "wishing I wasn't here", I got moving and got him help.  Our session went WAY over and I missed it.  Jay was there, though, and it didn't go how conferences typically go.  Ethan's report card indicated he was right on track with the exception of the areas she complains the most about:  organization, independence, finishing a task, etc.  Then she acted like she had nothing more to say, so she asked Jay what he wanted to talk about.  Uhhh...Ethan?  So Jay laid it all out.  He told her what we do at home for him.  The structure, the expectations, the pediatric specialist as well as the counselor, the different diagnoses floating around and the medication, etc.  Then he put the ball back in her court:  What are you doing for him at school to help?  First she said she didn't understand what he meant.  He rephrased it (ie. repeated himself) which must have given her time to come up with something, because she shot out, "your wife enables him."  Jay cut her off.  He never asked her opinion on our parenting.  He wants to know... our child is in your care 7 hours per day, 5 days per week.  It's clear he is a handful for you.  What are you doing to help the situation?  She had nothing again, and said "maybe we better meet again another time."

I've already done my crying and ranting over how this went down, because from my perspective, I am doing everything I can think of to help my son.  EVERYTHING.

I just think about it like this:  I remember being in third grade.  Ethan is in 4th, but it goes to show how far back you remember details.  I had a HARD teacher and I was a GOOD kid.  One day she absolutely humiliated me.  We were going around the room reading out loud numbers in the 1,000's.  When it got to my turn, I froze.  She threw her chalk on the ground and went crazy.  I was mortified.  I'm 31 now and that still sticks with me.  How humiliating!  How about show me how to read the number rather than make me feel so stupid.

So with that story, that makes me believe that Ethan will remember his 4th grade year and what happened.

Let's play devils advocate.  Instead of two loving, doting parents, he now has 1 parent.  The other is absent  The one parent does not have an education and has to work multiple jobs to make ends meet.  Money is tight and tension is high.  The one parent is gone all the time.  Maybe even starts resorting to drug use to help ease the stress and tension.  Drug use could mean shady characters are entering said childs house.  People a child should not be around.  Dealers.  And now single parent is parenting high or under the influence.  Child might not directly see or understand, but child knows: this isn't normal.  Child struggles in school.  Parent makes zero effort to help.  Child feels all alone at school, then comes home to an empty house.  No food on the table and strangers meandering in and out.  Child has no structure.  No meal time, bed time, family time.  Child feel alone at school.  Comes home, and feels alone.  No one cares.  Who knows what will happen to that now teen.  But there were clear as day signs and no one read them.  No one intervened.

I know I can be seen as overly dramatic with Ethan and that is not my intention.  Everything I do for him, every decision I make is because I love him SO MUCH and want him to be happy.  My child showed the signs.  He KNOWS I care.  I will fight until my last breath for that child or any of my children, and they know it.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Today, like most days when you are a full-time working mother of 3, was busy.  Tonight was an annual Christmas gathering that I have been participating in since before Jay and I got married, but weeks ago when the discussion started about where to have it and what time, I respectfully bowed out this year.  For one, it's a busy time.  And two, it involves a gift exchange.  Money is tight being that I was on a 10 week maternity leave this year and added a third child to my crew.  I just felt it best to sit out this year.

After this weeks events and the degree of stress, my husband urged me to go.  I was reminded by the other ladies that go that it was not about gifts, so regardless of if I brought something, I was welcome and wanted.  I still didn't feel up to it.

Later this afternoon, my husband reminded me how infrequently we get chances nowadays to go places without at least ONE child.  I decided to just go.  I rushed out to buy gifts (I just couldn't go empty handed, and shopping is one of my very favorite things to do anyways...) and headed on my way.  Go figure, my low fuel light turned on.  Typical Laura.  I hate stopping to get gas.  I REALLY hate it when it's cold and I have somewhere to be.  Thankfully, there was a gas station right on the way so I wouldn't have to deviate from my route at all.  This was better than nothing.

As I pull in to the empty station, I glance down at the fuel gauge to be reminded what side the gas thing-a-ma-jig was on.  What I did not notice was the man rummaging through the garbage can for cans RIGHT next to the pump I planned to use.  Crap.  I was alone and no other cars were around.  Awkward!  But I had places to be, so I figured I'd just get gas and get out of there.

As I stepped out, the man looked up at me and said, "Ma'am?  Do you have any money you can spare?  I need bus fare."  I gave him the line he likely hears often:  "I don't have any cash on me.  So sorry!"  ...such a lie.  Sure, I didn't have wads of bills in my purse.  But I had cash.  And a credit card.  When I fed him my fib, he smiled, said, "Okay, no problem!" and went back to rummaging.  I went back to pumping gas.  Roughly $50 worth.  Inside my warm car, I had gifts aplenty.  Gifts for the party I was headed to and gifts for my children.  MORE gifts, I should say, as I had plenty more stashed at home.

I watched the man.  He was disheveled.  He had a warm coat on, but had wounds to his face.  Nothing severe, but indications that something had happened to him.  As my car filled with gas, my mind kept wandering to the $10 I KNEW I had in my purse.  Give it to him, Laura.  No!  He was probably some alcoholic or drug addict.  He'd take my hard earned cash and blow it on his addiction.  It's $10.  You can easily go to the ATM and get out more, if you need it.  And you DON'T need it right now.  Why would I feed this mans addiction?  Look at him:  rummaging through the garbage.  Get a job. I have one.  I work HARD for my money.  Ten dollars or $100, I make my money.  Go make your own! GIVE. IT. TO. HIM. LAURA.  I think back to just today:  I woke up in my own home.  Took a hot shower.  Got dressed.  Went to two holiday parties already and was already overly full on delicious food.  I spent well over $100 on gifts.  Things my children don't even NEED, but they WANT.  Picked up a snack for myself somewhere in there.  Here I was, putting gasoline, a full tank, mind you, into my reliable vehicle to go to yet another party with delicious food and presents that I don't NEED, but I enjoy.  After the party, I would head back home to my home and go to bed.

"Sir?  This is all I have on me, but I want you to have it."  He looked up, with a measly two cans he had found in amongst all the garbage cans at that particular station.  "Oh, ma'am!  Thank you, thank you so much!"  I smiled at him, wished him a happy holidays, and drove away.

I don't know where my $10 went tonight.  Maybe it went to drugs.  Maybe it bought some alcohol.  Maybe it DID buy bus fare or maybe it went towards a gallon of milk and bread.  But really...does it matter?  I am not rich.  I am FAR from rich.  Money is a daily stress in my life and yes, my husband and I do work very hard for what we have, and what we have isn't anything fancy by any means.  But the point is... we have.  We have a home.  We have cars.  We have food in our bellies and while you can never be 100% certain, the chances that we will always have these essentials are pretty darn good.  I have never rummaged through a garbage can looking for cans to turn in, nor have I asked a complete stranger for money.  It doesn't matter what that man did with my money.  What matters is that he knows for ONE second, a moment of gratitude to receive it when he was initially turned away.  For ONE second he knew a little bit of happiness to receive what he was looking for.  For ONE second, he got a smile and well wishes from a stranger rather than some form of "go away".

I wanted my $10.  I did.  I'm selfish and I like money and I like to spend money.  But I am SO THANKFUL that I listened to that voice inside that said give it to him, Laura.  I have so much to be thankful for.  So many blessings in my life.  I pray, whoever he is, that by giving him a measly $10, he felt a little bit blessed as well.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Today was simply exhausting. 

I got to Ethan's school a little early, and on a whim, decided to go in and mention to the principal about Ethan's latest writing in his planner.  My intention of mentioning it was to bring up the possibility of switching his classroom.  We never got that far.  His principal said that her son is similar and what Ethan is going through it "probably hormones, as he is getting to that age."  He's 9.  He's not at that age.  I still help him bathe occasionally, for pete's sake.  Girls still have cooties and are "gross" and he still runs around the house in his underwear without a care in the world.  Puberty is not upon us, folks, and there are no other excuses other than my son is struggling with depression. 

I left that discussion pretty disheartened.  It was certainly NOT what I expected to hear. 

Later in the day, he had his appointment with a counselor.  It was his first appointment.  He was angry that I didn't warn him about it, but I know him, and I know regardless of when I told him, he would be upset and not want to go.  It made no difference.  I apologized, but still told him we were going.  When we got there at 2:30, we learned that the scheduler made a mistake and the counselor he was assigned to didn't see people under the age of 12.  They said he could still be seen, but it would be by someone else, and it would be at 4.  Not good.  My son doesn't handle changes in plans well.  I gave him the option of hanging out there, or going to the book store.  He excitedly said he wanted to go to the bookstore, so off we headed.

It ended up being a GREAT time.  We discussed how book stores are becoming obsolete.  This particular one was closing and everything was 50% off.  We talked about how now everyone downloaded their books rather than purchase them off the shelves.  He is an avid reader, and he agreed that nothing beats the actual book itself.  When we got inside, we parted ways: he headed towards the children's books and myself towards the adult books.  We met in the middle.  He found 5 books for himself and I found 3 books for myself.  As we were paying, he asked if our purchases would help save the bookstore.  Bless his heart. 

Afterwards, we headed back to the office.  Our first appointment was okay.  It was an hour long and mostly just assessments.  Ethan spent the time curled up in the chair, playing with a toy that was out while the counselor asked me questions about him, from my pregnancy through now.  So many things to discuss and so little time.  How do you summarize some one's life in an hour?  One part that made my heart swell was when the counselor asked Ethan, "On a scale of 1-10, 10 being that you love her and you could hug her all the time to 1, where you hate her and never want to see her again, how do you rate your relationship with your teacher?"  Ethan thought for a few moments, then said, "Could you please tell me what the rest of the numbers mean?"

At 5:10, we were scheduled for parent/teacher conferences.  Thankfully, Ethan's dad was already there.  I tried SO hard to be there, but unfortunately missed it because we didn't get out in time.  Jay's report on it made me see red.  To summarize, the teacher said we were "enabling" Ethan.  Enabling him?  Really?  I was livid.  This is not the end.  I have already sent an e-mail to meet again with more time allotted.  If I don't get a response tomorrow, I will personally go there.

Since I missed conferences and Jay relayed how unproductive it was, I met with the principal yet again, and stressed to her how important I felt it was to sit down with Jay and I, along with his teacher and the principal.  Her response this time was that I already had a meeting with the social worker, so let's start there, first.

I just can't help but feel like I am not being taken seriously.  This is MY child.  I have been extremely patient and kind.  But when it comes to my child, especially when it is so clear to me that he is in distress, it doesn't take much for me to lose my patience.  If tomorrow doesn't go well with some sort of plan, I will be contacting the Board of Education.  If THAT doesn't help, well, I don't know.  I just don't know.  I never, EVER anticipated this would be such a struggle.  I think I had this sugar-coated impression that schools would do whatever they could to help a child succeed.  I am seeing first hand that is certainly NOT the case, and instead they are turning a blind eye and more or less hoping if we pretend it doesn't exist, then it doesn't exist.

I don't have all the answers.  I don't know what the best plan is for my son.  I don't know if I am handling all of this in the right manner.  Am I being to passive or too aggressive?  Am I being unrealistic or am I doing exactly what I should be doing?  I just don't know, but I do know that in the end, my child will come out on top.  I can promise you that.  I can promise HIM that. He deserves it.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Oh, my heart.

Ethan's school gives the kids planners.  They are responsible for keeping track of what they did that day and highlighting any homework.  I think it's a fantastic idea. 

Today Ethan's planner came home and in the sidebar he wrote, "I need to get out of here."  Then beneath that, "I need a break."  The first he dated 12/1/13, the second he dated 12/4/13.  Under both of those he drew a stick figure of a boy crying, tear and all.

I called him out to the living room and casually said, "What does this mean?"  He responded with, "I'm just so tired of being yelled at."

My heart just broke.  HE looked broken.  He looked sad and his eyes were vacant.  And what blows my mind is I have offered to switch his class and he will quietly say, "No, I am fine."  I have repeatedly assured him that if we switch classes, there would be no repercussions.  No one would be angry with him and he would not get in trouble or hurt anyone's feelings if we did.  He still kept saying he was okay.

We received the assessment tool from his teacher for evaluating ADD.  I have zero idea how they score it, as it's based on her assessment, mine, and Ethan's father.  They combine them and somehow figure out if a child has the diagnosis or not.  All of ours are negative on the questions pertaining to overly active or impulsive but they are all completely positive for everything else, including the inability to focus, lack of organization, inability to complete a task and stay on task, etc.  I just feel deep down I know where this is going, and it is very uncertain territory.

Tomorrow is parent/teacher conferences.  The planner is coming with me so I can bring it up.  He also starts his counseling sessions tomorrow, and the planner will come with me there as well, along with all the documentation from his pediatric specialist.

I don't know what the "right" answer is.  Some might say the answer is blatantly clear:  get him into a better environment and see what happens.  Others say that you can't pick and chose the different people you encounter in life, and this is one of thousands of challenging situations he will encounter and he needs to learn to cope.  I am somewhere in the middle.   I get angry, then I get sad.  I get frustrated, then I get motivated.  I get annoyed, then I get sympathetic.  It fluctuates nonstop and I just don't know what is "right."

Parenting handbook, you out there?

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Kids to Leslie and back to kids

Oh, my word!  I have missed my blog so, so much!  Right around when I was due to deliver Evan, so back in May, our laptop started giving us issues.  We went weeks without it, and nothing was officially found to be wrong, but it just never worked right.  Then Internet Explorer started giving us issues so I switched to Google Chrome, simply because it was already downloaded onto our computer.  It worked fine, but then we started getting a gazillion pop-ups.  I had a pop-up blocker, and that wasn't helping, for some reason.  Programs I used to use were not compatible with Google Chrome, including my blog, so I had to go on a major hiatus.  Fortunately, I still got all my thoughts out, but unfortunately, I had nowhere to document them.  It's far more therapeutic for me to write them out than to just sort through them in my mind, so let's just say:  I am finally back!

This blog has taken a few shifts.  First, it was a continuation of my livejournal, which I started nearly 10 years ago when I found out I was pregnant with Ethan.  That style of writing had a more "Dear Diary" feel to it.  It was (and is!) fun to look back on those times and I am so happy I have it all documented.  When I switched to a blog, I started slacking in writing.  Partly because then I had 2 children to care for so life became busier, and partly because I lost the desire to write.  If I don't feel it, I can't force it.

When Leslie got sick is when my blog got a ton of attention.  She has so many people that love and care about her, it was PERFECT for keeping everyone informed.  And again, it was so therapeutic to be alone with my thoughts and dumping them out on the keyboard. 

Now my blog is about to take another turn.  I won't deviate from Leslie entirely, but really, no news is good news, and she is doing so amazingly well.  It won't be so focused on her recovery, but her recovery is still a huge part of my life, so it will still be brought up.  Now I want to focus back more on my life and more specifically, Ethan's life.  I have discussed Ethan's issues before, I think immediately before Leslie got sick.  Just little quirks he had and how frustrating they could be.  That was 4ish years ago.  Since then, he started showing more physical signs, including tics.  I had him evaluated by a neurologist to rule out Tourette's Syndrome or some other neurological disorder.  I was told his tics were benign, and it was related more to anxiety and stress.  He was put on a low dose anti-depressant that worked well for anxiety, and things were okay for a while.

Right before Evan was born 6 months ago, we were blessed with an AMAZING opportunity to see, who I think, is the greatest pediatric behavioral specialist EVER.  For the first time in Ethan's life, he had a complete examination, exploring all of his quirky behavior issues, and received an official diagnosis.  Right now the diagnosis is generalized anxiety disorder, sensory processing disorder, and OCD.  I have done a ton of reading on these, and I agree with them.  I am more convinced with OCD over the sensory processing disorder, but regardless, they kind of go hand-in-hand.  His medication was adjusted, and since then, we have been okay.

Over the past summer and into this school year, Ethan has had some significant setbacks.  He went from having interests to having none except his iPod.  He went from caring about things SO much, to not caring about anything or anyone.  He preferred  to be isolated in his room.  He didn't play outside, he didn't ride a bike, nothing.  He'd have play dates with his friends and have a great time, but still preferred to be alone over anything else. 

His 4th grade teacher this year is stricter than most teachers he has had.  She is very firm on organization and independence in her students, which I think is very important.  However, I know my child and I know these are issues he struggles with in a big way.  His brain is chaotic so his organizational skills are chaotic.  He is a major introvert (diagnosed!) so he'd rather just go unnoticed.   This teacher is what I would call an older generation teacher.  And as much as I hate to make generalizations, it seems the older generation see diagnoses like Ethan and see it as an excuse for bad behavior.  I actually totally understand that thought process, and in some instances, I agree with it.  I think kids are overly diagnosed and overly medicated.  I think parents would rather make an excuse for their child acting out than to actually help the child.  THIS IS NOT THE TYPE OF PARENT I AM.  I will bend over backwards for the teachers my kids have.  I WANT my kids to be successful, and I want their teachers to have a great year.  But I can't force them to understand my child if they aren't going to even try.  Our most recent visit to the specialist started the possible diagnosis of ADD.  When she said that, I immediately said, "No, he is definitely not ADD."  ...but then I saw the checklist that is filled out by the parents and teacher to assist in an ADD diagnosis and read it realizing it described Ethan almost exactly.  I was SHOCKED.  And fascinated.  How amazing would it be to know exactly what was going on in that little brain of his and FIX IT?? 

So that is where we are now.  Conferences are next week.  I am waiting to get the teacher evaluation back and once I get it, I'll be taking it to the pediatrician to analyze and hopefully by the time he has his follow-up in 6 weeks, I will know if he meets the criteria for ADD.  I am also learning all I can about 504 plans, which is a plan I can create (with the teacher) for ways to help Ethan succeed.  For instance, he is fidgety and always has his hands moving.  He usually will draw on everything.  His teacher does not like his and has made it very clear that she does not want him drawing.  My question is...why?  If he gets his work done, is not disrupting others...why?  A 504 would make it so legally she has to allow him to draw or do SOME type of activity with his hands (stress ball, silly putty to squeeze, etc.)  If this would help him stay focused, I am all for it.  A 504 would make it so even if the teacher disagreed, it would still need to be implemented for Ethan's success.

Next week he sees a psychologist for the first time as well, to help him with his coping mechanisms and just be someone neutral to talk to. 

This is the start of a long journey, but it's for my child, so I am ready to tackle it head on.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

If my husband were to say to me right this second, "I think I'd like to try for a fourth baby."  ...I'd be ALL for it!  Before, I always said I was d-o-n-e, but lately, as I care for Evan, my heart just feels so full of love, I just know I have room to love more.

But then I really think about it.  Is my heart telling me to have more because I truly want more children?  Or is my heart FINALLY at peace, and I am FINALLY allowing myself to just enjoy what I have?  I have always been the type of person to think there is something more out there.  Something better.  Everything I had?  It's good, but I could have BETTER.  I could have MORE.  That's not necessarily a bad thing to be like.  You should always chase your dreams.  I'm not really talking about it like that, though.  For me, it was just never been satisfied with what I had.  And that is a shame.

I can try to break it down:  My family of 5 and 2 dogs live in a home that is less than 1000 square feet.  We have always driven new, fancy cars, but now we have one leased car and one used car.  Okay, van.  A used van.  No features.  Our house is small and our bedrooms are tiny.  So tiny, in fact, that now that we have three children, my husband and I had to retreat to the stinky basement to sleep so the kids could have their own rooms.  It's not a luxury that they have their own rooms, it's a necessity.  There is no room for more than one child per room.  We don't have carpet in our living room because after one of our dogs got violently ill on the area rug, we literally had no choice but to get rid of it.  It's not in the budget to replace it, so we have hardwood floors that are less than perfect.  Most of our furniture is hand-me-downs and our kids need new bedroom furniture in the worst way.  We could certainly use new paint jobs in several rooms and I am pretty certain we don't have matching window treatments in any of our rooms.  There is dog hair under the couch and finger prints on the windows.  The front door sticks when you close it and the side door creaks in the worst way.  We desperately need a plummer to check out our bathroom sink, since the hot tap water doesn't work and the drain is constantly clogged.  Shall I go on?

On the flip-side?  We have a home.  And it's a nice home.  On cold days we are warmed by heat and on hot days we are cooled by air conditioner.  Our kids have their own spaces with their own toys.  Nice toys.  We have Internet and a laptop.  We have cell phones, DVR, and a big screen TV.  We have two dogs that live like royalty.  One dog has stomach issues and we are able to provide him with a special dog food that is pricey.  He was a rescue, and it would be easier to give him back, but instead we do what he needs to be comfortable.  We never go to bed hungry and we have two reliable vehicles.  We have supportive families that would walk to the ends of the earth for us.  We have reliable jobs and health insurance.  We have love.  A LOT of love.  Our kids have a great education and are involved in extra curriculars of their choosing.  We have a church we call home and the knowledge that God will provide.

All my life I wanted more, more, more.  Looking at Evan, I appreciate the things I can give him.  I love seeing him snuggled in bed, warm and comfortable.  I love giving him a bottle, knowing his belly is full.  I love seeing his smile, knowing he is happy.  He is ALWAYS happy.  I can take these feelings and say, "I love this so much, I want to do it with another child!"  ...or I can take these feelings as, "I am finally at peace."  I have all I want, I have all I need.  There will always be bigger and better, but it's not a requirement to live.

With God's grace, I will learn to simplify and appreciate.  Because I have so, so much to be appreciative of.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Dear Allison,

Tomorrow you turn 4.  FOUR!  I can't believe four years has gone by.  I remember the exact morning the digital pregnancy test said "pregnant".  It was Christmas morning, 2008.  I cried, and whispered to myself, "I know it's a girl."

When you were born, you were so amazingly perfect.  The first thing I said was, "Look at those cheeks!"  You were my biggest baby out of your siblings:  8 pounds, 3 ounces, and you were born 5 days before your due date.  You were so gorgeous, I couldn't get over how PRETTY you were!

You were a good baby, but you loved to be held all the time.  While your older brother, Ethan, could entertain himself for hours, you just wanted to be with someone all the time.  You loved to nap on me.  I'd sit you on my lap, facing out, and gently rub your belly as you'd sleep.  You loved that.

Now those baby days are long gone, and you have grown into a sweet, vibrant, amazing little girl.  I know how badly you would love to have sister, but I selfishly love that you are my only girl.  My only princess.

You challenge me, in good ways and bad.  You have so much fire inside of you.  You are passionate about life and you aren't afraid to show it. You are so smart, clever, and full of silliness.  You make me laugh all the time.  You are independent and you like to do things your own way, yet at the same time, you are so attached to your daddy and I, and you don't like to be apart from us long.  You have been crawling into our bed now for well over a year and as much as daddy complains, I think we have ALL grown to like the extra cuddle time with you.  I love when you sleep with me, you sleep so close to me, we share a pillow.  I call you my little sleep ninja, because you are so active in your sleep, but I love having you so close to me.

While I  hate how fast time has passed, you make me so excited to see what life will offer you.  Scratch that.  I am so excited to see what you offer life.  I know with your strong personality, you are going to go so far in life, and I am so proud of that.

Happy birthday, little petunia.  I love you so deeply.


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

I consider myself a bandwagon Christian.  By this, I mean on Sunday I am all, "Wooo!  Jesus!  I love you, Lord!  Praise God!"  Then Monday-Saturday I get on with my life that is being a mom, wife, and nurse.  No Bible reading, hardly any prayer, everything is on the back burner.  I'm busy, ya'll!  I don't have time to add more to my already busy schedule.

Several weeks ago, though, my Pastor did a sermon about how do you know when God is speaking to you.  One of the things he said that really struck me is how often I open God's word to hear his message.  Well, I don't.  My Bible is neatly tucked away on my bookshelf, in a nice protective Bible carrying case.  I don't know WHY it's in a case, because it certainly isn't going to get harmed if I never move it off the shelf.  But the case sure looks nice!  God speaks to us through the Bible and I never allow his message to get to me because I never READ it.  How simple is that?

The other thing I learned is that when we have a feeling, or something nagging at our hearts and our minds to do something, we need to do it, as it might be God telling us to do it.  I am EXCELLENT and shush-ing God, though.  I can put his directions for my life right out of my head and never think twice about it.

Coincidentally (or maybe not?) I have had two instances where I think God is realizing I am not getting it.  I am not listening but choice.  The first was when we had a very sad death on my floor at work.  A lot of people were pretty upset so the hospital chaplain came to speak to us.  Not knowing anyone's religious affiliations, she didn't preach to us, but simply reminded us of how much of an impact we have on our patient's lives and if we ever need someone to talk to, they are there for us 24/7.  Then she passed around a little bag and explained that the cards in the bag were all different, and we were to reach into it and pull out a card and that was our message for the day.  I was the first to reach in and could feel a whole stack of cards.  I jumbled them around and when I pulled one out, it said "Silence" on one side.  The other side read, "I give you the gift of SILENCE so that you may hear My voice inside yourself."  I'll be honest, I was disappointed.  I wanted something more uplifting.  Silence?  Do I talk to much or something?  I tucked amongst my pocket full of stuff and went on with my day.

Just this past weekend, I had an in depth conversation with another Christian and co-worker, and she talked about how much peace she achieves by stopping and meditating.  Really LISTENING to what God wants her to know.  She kept telling me, over and over, how important this was.  This was when I finally noticed the trend.  Stop.  Listen.  There are messages for me, I just need to receive them.

Two times throughout all of this, I had these moments where I had a strong urge to do something for someone, totally out of the blue.  I tried to push the idea out of my head, but the desire to follow through was so insanely strong, I had to do it.  One instance occurred at Meijer.  I had to explain to the cashier, "I can't explain why, but I need you to ring my order up REALLY FAST.  I know this sounds strange, but please hurry."  This was so out of character to me, but what I was about to do was so strong, I absolutely HAD to do it.   On my drive home, I called my mom to tell her about it, but left out any mention of it being a "God moment" because I don't know how people feel about stuff like that and I don't like to be preachy to people without knowing if they want to hear it.  Want to hear something even better?  My mom, after hearing my story, said, "I have a God moment story for you, too!" she heard my story, realized it was God speaking, and followed up with her own moment.  Never once did I mention I felt it was God telling me to do something.

I hear you, God.  And I will try harder to listen.  REALLY listen.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Evan is just over two months old.  FOUR TIMES in the past two weeks, I have had people ask me when I am due while at work.  FOUR TIMES.  One went even as far to ask "boy or girl?" clearly I looked far enough along to know the gender.  I don't have the guts (no pun intended) to correct them, so I just kind of smile and walk away.  The first two times it was funny to me and I joked about it.  The second two times... it got freaking OLD and started to make me feel really bad.

It also got me thinking, though.  I take terrible care of myself.  There was a time, many years ago, when I never took any medication.  Ever.  I remember a time I had a headache and my mom suggested I take a Tylenol.  It literally never occurred to me to take some Tylenol, and when I did take some, I was amazed that it helped!  I just never thought "medicine" when I had any little symptom.

Being diagnosed with post-partum depression 9 years ago after Ethan's birth, I believe, started the downward spiral of turning to chemicals to help every little symptom.  When I saw my doctor and was evaluated (I was in a very, very bad spot, so medication definitely saved me, please don't get me wrong) ...I had no idea what I was taking, as I had never heard of antidepressants before.  Prozac?  Zoloft?  Lexapro?  All foreign to me.  I remember she also gave me Ativan for the panic attacks I was having, and I couldn't even pronounce it.  I had no idea what it was, I just knew it made me sleepy.

I haven't taken medication for the past 9 years straight and I honestly don't know exactly when it started and what started it, but I because  I legitimately do suffer from anxiety and depression, I started taking an antidepressant daily, and an anti-anxiety medication as needed.  My anxiety caused horrible insomnia, which lead to being prescribed a sleeping pill on top of that.  Then it got to where I was dependent on sleeping pills to fall asleep, and since there is literally NO sleeping pill that is safe for every night usage, I was put on all different kinds of medications to help, none of which worked or magically cured the inability to fall asleep without relying on some form of pill.  Then I started getting daily headaches, so I took Excedrin.  Excedrin is VERY well known for causing rebound headaches, which meant I started taking it more frequently, which lead to taking it daily for the headaches.  So I would take a pill to help me sleep, wake up feeling groggy with a nagging headache (gee, wonder why?) and take medication for the headache and caffeine for energy and to make me feel more alert, then at night repeat the cycle.  It has now gotten to the point that for every little symptom, I think, "there's gotta be a medication for this."  Where the heck did I go wrong??!  OF COURSE I feel crummy every single day.  My body has literally zero idea how to just do what it was meant to do.  My brain has become so trained to think this is okay, that I have allowed it to continue far too long.

(This started out as a weight thing and I totally went off on a tangent...stay with me, here.)

Bottom line, I feel like I lost control.  I eat terribly.  I skip meals very often and I love sugar and carbohydrates like it's nobody's business so I am sure my blood sugar is all over the place (no, I am not diabetic) ...but that can't be helping the headaches.  When I work a 12 hour shift, I will not use the bathroom ONCE during the entire time, so my fluid intake is horrendous (hello, headache!) I don't even allow my body to try to fall asleep naturally, so that thought is completely foreign to me now, but I have zero consistency in my sleeping regimen... I stay up late, some days I nap, I occasionally get to sleep in on the weekends when I'm off work and Jay is home, etc.  There is no routine whatsoever.  I don't exercise AT ALL with the exception of my job (which I do feel is pretty physically demanding).

So yeah.  A light bulb went off in my over-medicated brain this afternoon.   I hate people looking at me and thinking that I am pregnant when I am certainly NOT.  It hurts my feelings and makes me feel more self-conscious than I already am.  But... obviously I am showing the signs of being very out of shape to make people question it so I can't place blame on anyone but myself.

So I am going to try something new.  I'm going to "detox", so to speak.  I'm going to attempt more structure.  Less inactivity, more activity.  It's going to suck.  BIG time.  I'm already feeling the caffeine headache.  But I am going to do this.  If not for me and my own pride, then for my kids who need a positive role model in their lives and we can ALL benefit from healthy living.  My 9 year old already plays way to many video games.  This is an opportunity to break him from the television and get active.  My 3 year old is SUPER active, but has my sweet tooth.  If the two of us don't have the sugar in the house, then we will have to find something else to satisfy the urge.  She's 3 and I am 31.  It's time to retrain her little brain NOW while she's little than to wait until she's in her 30's like me.  She's worth it.

I have no idea if I can do this.  I don't have much confidence in myself at all, but it's worth a shot, right?

That's what I thought.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

I don't know the exact date, but right around this time last year is when I found out I was pregnant.  Not with Evan.  With a different baby.

How it came about is actually kind of strange.  I have always used birth control and never had any issues.  Both of my previous pregnancies were very much planned.  I'd go off the pill, get pregnant, then resume it again.  With Ethan, it took about 3 months to get pregnant.  Allison took about 16 months.  For this pregnancy, though, we were not planning on any more babies, so I was taking it as I always did.  Then I started noticing that every single day I was having stomach aches.  I never felt well.  I thought nothing of it, just that it was really annoying.  One day while grocery shopping, I threw a pregnancy test in the cart, truly not thinking much of it.  I took it when I got home:  positive.  I cried.  This was not what we planned.  I was scared and unprepared.  Little did I know, I would only knowingly "have" that baby for a week, because almost a week to the day, I miscarried.  It was horrendous and so painful.  I cried so much.  I remember the exact moment Jay said, "I guess maybe our family ISN'T complete," based on how devastated we were by our loss.

It was then that we came to the decision that we would put it into God's hands.  Jay would be turning 31 4 months from the miscarriage, so if I didn't get pregnant by then, we would make our decision final and turn towards permanent methods of birth control.

Three weeks later, I got another positive pregnancy test.  The line was SO faint, but I could see it.  I called my OB and she was VERY skeptical.  She gave me an appointment to see her, but she made it very far out.  I was nearly 11 weeks when I finally saw and and it was officially confirmed.  I was pregnant again, and I was due May 15.

May 17 is when our miracle entered this world:  Evan Jack.  His middle name, Jack, is after Jay's Grandpa. My heart has ALWAYS told me he is still very much with us despite the fact that he passed away of brain cancer about 8 years ago.  My miscarriage was what I would consider my "rock bottom" after my sister's incident in 2010.  I couldn't stop thinking, "Really, God?  Now THIS??"  Getting pregnant again, while scary and the pregnancy was less than ideal with all the health scares, has restored my faith.  I was blessed with this incredible little life, and I just KNOW a higher power sent him to me to soften my heart.  And it worked.  I stare at Evan in awe.  Occasionally, he will look around the room and smile.  He's not looking at anything in particular, but there is no doubt that whatever he IS looking at, he is seeing.  I can't see it, but he can, and the smile on his face and the sparkle in his eyes make me feel he is seeing something very, very special.  I don't think it's someTHING, though.  I think it's someONE.  And the sparkle in Evan's blue eyes matches the sparkle that used to be in his great-grandpa's blue eyes.

Thank you, Jack Kowalski, for sending Evan Jack to us.

Friday, June 28, 2013

When Ethan was born, I wish I realized then how lucky I was.  He was SUCH an easy baby.  He was born 5 weeks premature and right from the get-go he was a good eater, good sleeper, and when he was awake, he was so content!  Such an easy baby.

Right around maybe 6 months, he started doing something that now I realize may be unusual, but back then I thought nothing of it.  He would ONLY sleep in his crib at night.  Sure, he'd doze off in his car seat, but other than that, it was his crib or nothing.  We'd take him up north to Jay's parents house and he would go from being a great sleeper at home to a nightmare up north.  I vividly recall nights sitting up with him in the recliner because he absolutely would not sleep in his pack and play or anywhere else.

Thinking back, I also realized that while most babies love the swing, he hated it.  I mean HATED it.  It wasn't that he got bored with it fast, I mean as soon as you put him in it and started swinging, he was a basket case.  It was a huge waste of space because we never used it with him.

Around the age of 2 is when I got more concerned.  One memory I always think of is when we were at a birthday party.  It was summer and there were lots of kids and kid activities.  MY kid, though, wanted to play with the ice in the cooler.  Granted, most 2 year olds would be fascinated with ice cubes in a cooler, especially on a hot day, but this wasn't my house and wasn't my cooler.  I distracted him with various other activities but his heart was set on that cooler and nothing more.  NOTHING I did could convince him otherwise, so he threw the biggest temper tantrum ever.  SO big, I had to remove him from the party to hopefully calm him down.  SO big that another dad at the party (Jay was not there with me) came out to try to help me to no avail.  It was strange, embarrassing, and resulted in me leaving the party with him without saying bye to anyone.

There were other instances that I can recall such as how if he decided he didn't want to do something, he didn't just sulk like a "normal" kid might.  He would, as we call it, shut down.  And nothing would bring him out of it.  Shutting down usually meant that he would refuse to walk or talk.  He'd keep his head down, shoulders slumped.  You could try to bribe him with toys and treats in exchange for good, cooperative behavior but nothing would work.  He was done and that was that.  The STRANGE part is the places and events that he'd shut down at:  zoos, birthday parties, etc.  Places most kids had a blast at and eagerly looked forward to.  My kid?  Dreaded it.  HATED it.  Wanted to leave and wanted to leave fast.

I'd hear other parents say how their kids were nightmares at home but they were "so thankful" they were good in public.  My child was the opposite.  A dream child at home:  he would entertain himself for hours and was just generally very pleasant.  In public was a whole different story and I hated that most people rarely saw the Ethan I knew so well.

I knew something wasn't right I just didn't know what it was.  I decided he was "quirky" and I would just always have to be extra sensitive to his needs and make excuses when he'd shut down.

When Allison was born, it really made me see how different he was.  Now she is by no means perfect, but she just had a different outlook.  Birthday parties were FUN!  The zoo?  She had a blast!  She loved to be out and about and she equally loved being at home.  If she didn't get her way with something and it upset her, she could easily be redirected to something else and she would soon forget what it was she was upset about.
Right around when Ethan turned 7 and even more so at the age of 8 is when I really started getting stressed by his behavior.  He was at the age where society expected more out of him.  To see an 8 year old sulk all the time, I heard a lot of, "what he needs is a good spanking!" or people staring at him as he pouted in a corner while others were having fun.  It was embarrassing and made me so sad for him.  I will admit, it was also HORRIBLY frustrating and I frequently would want to grab him and shout, "WHY ARE YOU ACTING THIS WAY?" ...but of course, I didn't.

Just a few months ago, he stopped sleeping well at night. Instead he spent his time in bed when he should be sleeping, stressing about things.  Things most 8 year olds don't even think about.  Things like where he will go to college and how he will decide where to go.  Or about having to leave home or Jay or I dying and leaving him alone.  It drove him to tears and he would frequently be up until after midnight tossing and turning.

I finally took action.  He saw a doctor who specializes in children with behavior issues.  He is medicated now on an antidepressant, which made me hesitant but the way the doctor put it is:  If he was diabetic, would I deny him insulin, because it's a medication, too.  Of course not!  I worried he would become a zombie and walk around in a daze.  She assured me she would never allow that.  So we took the plunge and started the medication.  She also approved melatonin at night to help him sleep.  The first huge change we saw was the melatonin.  The first night he took it, he was sound asleep by 9 PM.  The next morning he woke up happy instead of grumpy.  He was friendly with his little sister, who he normally would snap at.  It was amazing and a complete 180 of what he normally dealt with.

Gradually we started to see small effects from the antidepressant as well.  He still prefers to be home and in a quiet environment, but today REALLY proved to me how far he has come.  For one, I had to wake him up to leave the house.  Before, this would be near impossible.  Before, he would likely refuse to even move and I would physically be unable to force him as he is over 60 pounds and like a stubborn mule when he chooses not to do something.  Today, while he was tired, he got up and got dressed, and even helped me get things together.  We then spent the entire day outside the house.  The first was a play date with mostly children he had never met before, and most were younger than him.  He played the entire time, and had a great time. At one point he got hurt on a swing set, which again, in the past would have resulted in him insisting on going home and the day would be done, but instead today, he shed a small tear, asked for an ice pack, sat down for a little bit while he "recovered", then went back to playing.  He was a little sad to leave, but only because he wanted to swim and we didn't have time.  We then went to another play date and he was bouncy and happy, and had a great time.  He was social with everyone and very cooperative.  Again, when it was time to leave, he was sad, but only because he was having fun and wanted to stay longer.

I am so proud of my boy.  He is different and still quirky, but he has made such amazing changes.  He still has his times where he is challenging, especially if he is hungry, but he is mostly your normal 8 year old boy.  It's like he has a new chance at life and I am so thankful for that.  I am so thankful that people can see him for who he truly is:  smart, funny, so loving, and sometimes obnoxious (as 8 year old boys tend to be).  I have always felt him and I had a deep connection, different than what I have with my other kids and it's likely because I have the same issues with depression and anxiety.  I "get" him.  I understand how hard it is and how it's not something you can just change.  You can WANT to change, but your mind just won't let you.  I never wanted my baby to be on antidepressants, but looking back, it has made such an amazing, profound difference in his life.  He is happy now, and is no longer missing out on experiences that every child should.

I love you, Ethan.  To the moon and back.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

A devastating miscarriage that broke my heart into a million pieces but helped me realize that my family was not complete.
Starting a new job, just days after finding out I was pregnant again only 4 weeks after my miscarriage.
Learning at 25 weeks pregnant that my beloved OB was not comfortable taking on the rest of my case with my newly diagnosed cardiomyopathy.
Becoming high risk.
Doing a stress echo at 30 weeks pregnant and wearing a holter monitor for a month.
Doctors appointments every week, either OB or cardiology.
Non-stress tests  twice a week for 2 months.
Finding out my baby boy had an arrhythmia.
Frequent failed non-stress tests, leading to biophysical profiles to make sure the baby was okay.
Leaving work 2 months early due to the fear that I might need to be induced if the baby stops thriving.
Endless prayers and tears, hoping you would be okay.
You were so worth it.

Monday, April 29, 2013

38 weeks pregnant, and in true Laura fashion, I have managed to gain approximately 50 pounds this pregnancy! 

Sunday, April 28, 2013

"So when Evan comes, he's probably going to get all the attention." -Ethan

Oh, my heart.

I love my children more than anything in the world.  They are my everything.  But the things I wish I could get my firstborn to understand are as follows:
Ethan, YOU are the little being that gave me the title I wanted my entire life:  mom.  If there is one thing I knew, even as a little girl, it was that I wanted to be a mother.  Soon after daddy and I got married, we knew we were ready.  You were SO wanted, long before you were even conceived.

You entered the world in true Ethan fashion.  On your own time, at your own pace.  The feelings I remember most when bringing you home was how big of a job I had now.  You were so tiny, less than 6 pounds, but all of your needs relied on me.  Being fed, changed, held, loved, you could do none of it yourself.  It was such a HUGE responsibility!  I remember realizing that my role in this life became so much more significant.  I had to do everything in my power to make sure you never went without.  It is exactly why when you were 6 months old, I went back to school to be a nurse. 

You and I were buddies.  I took you everywhere.  People would comment on how I had you out in public so soon, but wherever I went, I wanted you with me.  We were one.

I remember the struggles of being in nursing school.  The stress and tears that were shed weekly.  I remember your sweet face, giving me that nudge to keep pushing forward.

I remember the day my nursing school friends and I all graduated and we met for lunch at Buffalo Wild Wings.  I brought you with me, because you were the biggest reason I finished. 

I remember finding out I was pregnant with your sister.  We tried to conceive her for over a year, so finding out I was pregnant was such joy and happiness, but I had this tiny speck of worry in my heart:  I didn't want to lose you as my only.  I never wanted you to feel left out or less important.  You were such a good sport, though.  You were only 5 when she was born and I clearly remember when you came in to the delivery room to meet her, carrying a single rose with a card you wrote all by yourself:  "Love, Ethan", written in a way any 5 year old would.  I cried, because I was just so happy to see you.

You've had your struggles and we've had some challenges, but I never want you to forget:  you are amazing.  I adore you and your quirky ways.  You are the smartest little boy I know, and I can see you going so far in whatever you choose to do.  Soon you will be the big brother to two little siblings, but you will forever hold such a special place in my heart. 

I pray you never, ever forget that. 

I love you, sweet boy.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

37 week this week and still hanging in there!  Ever since my non-stress test last week, I have been contracting every 5-10 minutes.  They are never regular, and they aren't getting stronger, so it's just a nice little reminder of what is to come. 

I saw the cardiologist yesterday.  Because my heart is holding steady right now, no further interventions are needed before I deliver.  They will see me when I am in the hospital after delivery, and then I see them about 2 weeks after delivery for a referral to an electrophysiologist.  Apparently what they want to do is purposely put my heart into an arrhythmia.  Depending on how hard or how easy it is to create will determine what type of treatment I will need.  If I can go into an arrhythmia easily, I will likely need to be on a medication.  If it's difficult, it will likely mean that I can just follow up with 2-D echo's every so often to check how my heart is.

Baby K is still showing signs of an arrhythmia as well.  His heart beats normal, then starts beating irregular.  I have no idea what the plan of care will be after his birth, but I am hoping it is something that corrects itself quickly.

My last ultrasound a week ago showed he was 5 pounds, 6 ounces.  On the smaller side, but consistent with how his growth has been all along.

Otherwise, things are moving along!  I am excited for his arrival but at the same time, I am enjoying the last few weeks of being a momma to 2.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Baby K update!

I am now 35 weeks.  I am doing non-stress tests twice a week and starting now, seeing a doctor weekly (before it was every other week).

My stress tests haven't been entirely reassuring.  The risk to the baby with my heart issue is that not enough oxygen will be supplied to him.  So far, he has grown beautifully, but as he gets bigger and I get bigger, the demand on the heart also get bigger.  During the non-stress tests, they want to see his heart rate increase with movement, then return to baseline.  His baseline is always a beautiful 135-140, but he rarely shows increased heart rate with movement (and he moves...a lot!).  He will occasionally, but not consistently.  What should only take about 20 minutes to see what is considered a reactive (good) test takes him about an hour.

Today he did really well on the stress test, and while the OB was pleased with how things are going so far, he made sure I understood that I am not out of the woods.  I still have to see the cardiologist before delivery and have a growth ultrasound next Tuesday to make sure he is doing okay.  They will measure him and assess his movement and breathing to make sure he is not in distress.  If, at any point, they detect distress, he will be induced, as the risk of being born early will outweigh the risk of staying inside me and lacking oxygen.  Fortunately, I trust these doctors entirely, and I am so confident that everything will be okay.  I won't lie, though... when this baby is safely in my arms, the weight of the world will be taken off my shoulders.  I am anxious to know that he will be 100% okay.

Today my co-workers put on a baby shower for me and another co-worker who is due a week before me.  It was wonderful!  Amazing food, adorable and clever presents, and just a really, really nice time.  It has been such a whirlwind of a year:  getting pregnant and miscarrying, leaving a job after only 8 months, starting a new job, getting pregnant again.... it's been a roller coaster of emotions, and I think I can finally safely say that I feel so much peace and contentment with everything.  I can finally look back on the past year and see how all of it fits together.  I miss the clinic job I had and I think about it on a daily basis.  There were so many wonderful things about that job, I have zero regrets about exploring that area of work.  A lot of laughs and a lot of new experiences which I will forever be thankful for, but it also taught me so much about myself.  Leaving an entire health care system that I never saw myself leaving was HARD.  I felt a sense of homesickness on a daily basis for months after I left.  The open arms and new friendships that have developed over the past many months, though, has shown me that sometimes things must fall apart so better things can fall together.

And things are definitely, DEFINITELY falling together.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

I had a follow-up appointment with my new OB today.  I am 31 weeks exactly.  The stress test I did last week showed improvement, which is wonderful.  He explained it to me like this:  cardiomyopathy (which is my diagnosis) has a list "a mile long" of different types, and figuring out what type you have can only be done by biopsy, which is not something I have had.  Some cardiomyopathy's are lifelong and never change, some get worse, and some get better.  Mine appears to be getting better.  The question and concern is what caused it in the first place, which again, I will likely never know, but getting better is always a good thing.

The semi-frustrating part is the cardiologist I saw 2 weeks ago never sent a report to my OB, so there was no plan of care developed between the two of them.  My OB said he would get in touch with the cardiologist to figure out what the plan was, but from what he could see, he sees no reason at this point to do anything drastic, such as taking the baby out early.  I asked if this meant I could go into labor on my own rather than inducing even once I am full-term, and he said yes (!!!).  This was great news to me, as this has been my plan all along and I would love to follow through with it.

Baby's heart rate is in the 150's and he moves like CRAZY.  My blood pressure was a little elevated, but I blame that on the fact that the parking structure is 8 miles away from the doctor's office, and I have gained a bazillion pounds to lug around (about 40 so far, and I have 2 more months to go..."go big or go home" is my pregnancy motto.) 

So all is well!  Couldn't have asked for a better report, and as usual, I am prepared for whatever hand I am dealt and I will deal with whatever happens. 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

I saw the cardiologist today and he was really nice.  It was a relief, as I hardly had time to process the fact that I needed to see a cardiologist, let alone choose who I saw.

He was very laid back and friendly.  He had all of my previous cardiac imaging, but didn't really comment a whole lot on it.  He is repeating the imaging for himself, so next week Friday I am doing a stress echo (imagine a nearly 8 month pregnant girl, huffing and puffing on a treadmill, with electrodes all over her.  Okay, don't.  It's disturbing.) and then I'll wear a heart monitor for 30 days. I will follow up with him when the 30 days are over, and we'll go from there.

I was very pleased with this.  He didn't get ahead of himself and starting giving me all the things that could happen, he kept it right in the present, and we will deal with what we're given, and I like that a lot.  It's not so overwhelming. 

So next Friday is the stress echo, then I see my OB the following week.  I am assuming this will be the appointment that determines the rest of the course of this pregnancy.  I have spent the past several days researching everything under the sun, so any scenarios that become reality, I will have a game plan.  Might not be an EASY game plan or a cheap game plan, but it'll be a game plan, nonetheless.

In the meantime, life will carry on as it has always been.  I am not restricted from working, I will simply be taking the precautions I have been all along because of being pregnant, and continue taking things one day at a time.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

I had my high risk OB appointment last Thursday at 28 weeks and to say it didn't go as planned would be an understatement.

It likely doesn't help that my regular OB is very laid back.  Any concern I've ever had she dismisses, and to be honest, I liked that.  Kept my anxiety nice and low.  Maybe the fact that she sent me to a high risk OB should have turned on a light bulb in my head, but it didn't.

The doctor came in and had my heart imaging that I have had over the past 2 years with him.  All this time, all the doctors I have seen have been focused on the ejection fraction percentage and nothing else, so that was what I focused on as well.  My last two heart echos had normal ejection fractions.  This doctor agreed that being that they were normal was a good thing, the fact that structurally my heart is abnormal is "disconcerting."  My ventricles are dilated and the walls of my heart are enlarged, indicating that although the pumping strength of my heart has normalized (which is what the ejection fraction percentage represents), structurally my heart is indicating that it still has to work harder than normal to function and pump blood throughout my body.

Looking back, I should have been seeing a cardiologist all this time.  Too late for that, though, but now that I know, I will be seeing one the rest of my life.

The scary part is, from the 28th week of pregnancy until 48 hours after delivery (his words, not mine), the heart is under the most pressure, as the demands of the baby are very high, and the amount of extra fluid the body has to deal with is also very high.  A normal heart works harder at this point, and when you have a heart that works harder under regular conditions, pregnancy can be very, very taxing.

The doctor did not like this at all.  He got me into a cardiologist for this coming Tuesday, and took me off work until I am evaluated, as any unnecessary stress can be very harmful to me.  It's super scary.  I know my baby is perfectly healthy (I had an ultrasound last week and everything looked great).  But my health is on the line in a way I never realized.  I am at a huge risk for going into congestive heart failure, and other scary things that I refuse to think about.  Another scary thing is I am new to this health system and I do not qualify for FMLA leave until March 16.  If I am taken off work after I see the cardiologist, which is a HUGE possibility, I lose my job and my benefits.  This thought makes my feel physically ill, so I refuse to think about that right now, although Jay and I have run through every single scenario, and I do feel we are mostly prepared if something happens.  I am going day by day.  If I can make it to March 16 and start my leave, that still only buys me 12 weeks of protection, with a SMALL amount of income, but I'd still have benefits and my job would be held.  But only for 12 weeks.  In an ideal situation, I would carry this baby as close to term as possible, but at most, that would give me 4 weeks after the birth to still have job and insurance protection.  I would not be able to return to work at 4 weeks post-partum no matter what, so I would still be put into the position of losing both my job and benefits.  The only way this situation would be better, is it would give me 12 weeks to figure something out, instead of losing everything immediately.  I also hold onto hope that the cardiologist will not be as alarmed by my situation, and allow me to work as long as I am able, but at the same time, I don't want to go into this appointment on Tuesday wearing my rose colored glasses and get knocked off my feet for the second time.  Again, I'll just take things day to day and hope it all works out.

In other news, with every little kick, wiggle, and squirm I feel out of my sweet little growing boy, I tell myself it is his way of reminding me that everything will be okay.  Because it will.

Monday, February 4, 2013

I had my 26 week OB appointment and it didn't quite go exactly as I had anticipated.

A normal OB appointment for me lasts MAYBE 15 minutes.  I never have any questions (I'm a pro, ya'll), my blood pressure is always 110/70 or some other normal range, baby measures on track, heart rate is beautiful, and I'm outta there.  Easy as pie.

Today, as soon as my doctor walked in I knew something was up.  She seemed nervous. 

Back track a little (and I likely blogged about it, but who knows).  December 2010, 2 months after my sisters cardiac incident, I went to the ER myself because I had been having these bouts of palpitations.  In the ER on the cardiac monitor, it showed ventricular bigemeny.  Basically, every other beat was abnormal, and I would run these stretches for 15-30 seconds at a time.  It resulted in me seeing a cardiologist, wearing a Holter monitor for 30 long days, a stress echo, a 2-D echo, and a cardiac MRI.  The initial testing showed that my hearts pumping strength was sub-par.  Not bad enough to say I had congestive heart failure, but not normal like it should be.  I was put on 2 cardiac medications, which kicked my butt.  I have always had a low blood pressure and a lower than normal heart rate (it was my normal baseline, so while outside the range of normal, it was normal for me) and these two medications made them both drop even lower, which meant I always felt like I was going to pass out and/or fall asleep.  I hated them passionately.

A year later, I had repeat testing and for whatever reason, my heart strength was normal.  I never faithfully took the medications (I skipped them more often than I took them) but after I got the normal results, I stopped them altogether.  When I found out I was pregnant with the baby I miscarried, I immediately made an appointment with my primary doctor.  That pregnancy was not planned (I was on the pill) and I was terrified.  I never got the chance to worry about it, because from the time I found out I was pregnant to the time I miscarried was a measly week.  

Fast forward to today.  26 weeks pregnant, in the home stretch, and my OB is too nervous to take on my case.  She wants me to see some high risk OB doctors at Oakwood.  I asked if this meant that I would just be seeing additional doctors and still see her.  No.  I don't see her anymore, period.  Done.  I feel a little abandoned.  This pregnancy has been so easy, and now I was being transfered to high risk?  It's hard to wrap my mind around.  I am a planner and I don't like surprises.  Knowing this was my last baby, I had this picture of how everything would go:  no inductions, I would labor at home as long as possible, deliver sans epidural (no, not because I'm super mom and LOOOOVE PAIN! ...but for other reasons when I had one with Allison that I don't really want to relive), have the baby be with me the moment he was born, and go home the next day.  Then take a gloriously long maternity leave and enjoy my summer with the three loves of my life.  Now I know I am jumping the gun, but being high-risk, I worry that my "freedom" with my plan will be hindered.  Can I even have a regular delivery or will they throw around the idea of a C-Section?  Will I be hooked up to cardiac monitors throughout delivery?  Because I had to wear oxygen when I delivered Ethan and it made me insane!  I hated the lines... I wanted everything OFF me.  Can I have my baby right away or will I be whisked away for heart imaging to make sure I was okay?  Can I go home the next day or will they make me stay to make sure I was okay?  And above all this...will I even LIKE my new doctor?  Who will it even be?  Where is their office and will I be comfortable with him or her?  Delivering a baby is so intimate to me.  It's an AMAZING experience and I don't want some doctor that is going to make me feel uncomfortable.

So yeah.  Today didn't go as planned. At all.  Thankfully, I do trust my OB and her judgement.  I wouldn't have stayed with her so long if I felt otherwise.  She spent a ton of time with me today and even hugged me and apologized for sending me away, stating I was a "dream OB patient". 

My next appointment will be with my new doctor. I don't know when yet, and apparently I don't have much of a choice when, as it will be determined after a discussion is held between both doctors.  I should know soon, though, and I will say I'm a little nervous.

I have enjoyed much of this pregnancy and have not been in a hurry to deliver, just because I  know this is for sure my last pregnancy, but after today, I am ready to have my baby boy at home with me in my arms... just how it is meant to be.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Tomorrow I will wear red.  And it will be tricky, because I own nothing red in my maternity wardrobe, nor do I fit into anything NON-maternity, but I will figure something out because it is that important to me.

I will wear read because heart disease kills people every. single. day.  My sister didn't have heart disease, but she had a faulty heart.  At least THAT day she did.  THAT day, for whatever reason, her heart stopped beating in that "lub dub" pattern most are familiar with, and took on a beat of it's own.  A beat that does not sustain life, causing her to collapse.  A beat that doesn't convert back into a normal "lub dub" rhythm and instead tuckers out and that is when death arrives.  Her heart was "assisted" to beat, whatever rhythm that would be, because people were pounding on her chest as they did CPR.  A crazy, sporadic beating heart is better than a non-beating heart.  That carried on until first responders could deliver high voltage shocks.  Two, to be exact, before she would start breathing on her own, and it has ever since that horrible day.

AED's don't just appear.  They are costly.  CPR and ACLS training isn't something you just learn through life experiences... you are TRAINED in them.  You do it the wrong way, it doesn't work.  It takes skill.  All of the specialty physician's involved in her care (which also included neurology due to the anoxic brain injury she had.  Has.) weren't just born with their knowledge, it took time, lessons, experiences, research.  All of which comes from raising awareness and funding.

Which brings you to my third year "Going Red" for my sister.  "Going red" for you, your mom, dad, brother, daughter, son, friend.  "Going red" because if you had told me September 19, 2010 what was going to happen on September 20, 2010, I would have said, "Are you crazy??" "Going red" because over 90% of the other people out there who will suffer sudden cardiac arrest like my sister did, will not still be on this Earth just over 2 years later to share her story and experiences.

My sister lived, and we thank God every day that people were "going red" long before we even knew what it meant.

Tomorrow I'll put together my Heart Walk donation page and we will continue to push for what OUR hearts know is so important.

Want to go red, too?

Monday, January 28, 2013

Space bar is fixed!  FINALLY!

Since the second to last time I posted (not the last, where I explained the space bar situation, but the time before that) ...a lot has happened.

I don't go back and re-read entries, so I may repeat myself, but we had the 2 year anniversary of my sisters incident on September 20.  It was low key and that was okay.  Bottom line is it will always be a memory day for us.

Before that it was the miscarriage, and that's where I'll start with today.

I don't need to say the miscarriage was hard because that's a given.  You don't even need to experience one to know.  But that was the start of a rough patch for me.

About 4 weeks after the miscarriage, before I even had a regular cycle, I got pregnant again and I felt such a sense of peace and contentment.  Peace in knowing this time it would be okay.  Contentment in knowing that we wanted this, and the loss prior proved it to us.

Now going back further to when my sister got sick and I started to realize a lifestyle change...a MAJOR lifestyle change was taking place that I struggled to adapt to, lead to me being put on a high dose of antidepressants.  By "high dose" I mean, "there is no higher dose available".  And what areas that didn't help me with, I had an anxiety medication to fill in the gaps.  No, I was not striving to be in a loopy, comatose state.  I was striving to be OUT of the comatose state.  And it helped.

Pregnancy changes things (duh!) so those medications are gone.  Which means I'm on my own here and it is freaking HARD.

I am so thankful for this little life my body is nourishing.  I love every kick and squirm.  I recently told Jay I feel more prenatal attachment to this baby than I did with Ethan and Allison, which we both attribute mostly to the fact that this WILL be our last baby so these pregnancy moments are done after this one is born.  For me, though, it's going through these mental nightmares and doing it all for that sweet, sweet baby, because he is worth it to me.

At present day, I am 25 weeks pregnant.  I LOVE feeling the movement and I constantly day dream about what he will look like.  I can't wait to hold him on my chest, skin to skin, for as long as possible.  I can't wait to see what he'll think of his big sister who I am almost certain be treating him like a real doll, dressing him, moving him around, pushing him in the stroller, and hopefully all of this with as little injury to him as possible.  I'm excited to see how Ethan will handle having a brother who is SO much younger than him.  It's exciting!

I am just a realist, though, and know that being off medication for the good of a growing baby IS a good thing, that to think that my life will all of a sudden be rainbows and unicorns once baby is here (because being off my medications right now is not easy in the least!) is not all that realistic, and I know this new baby as well as my older babies, will need a mom that isn't walking a fine line of stability.  Nope!  Not gonna happen.

Now HOW I am going to ensure my needs are met post-partum, that is another hurdle in my way, so I'll save that for another post.  I'm just glad to be back!!