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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

a grateful mama

I'm sure you've noticed that this month Facebook has become a place of giving thanks.
I've so enjoyed reading people's posts of what they are thankful for.

So I'm joining in on the sappiness today. Here are some everyday things I'm thankful for this Thanksgiving. I could have listed big things like the fact that I was able to be pregnant two times after doctors said I possibly would not be able to get pregnant to begin with, or that my children are healthy developing babies. But we all know those ones.

My list is different today. Here are my 30 days of thanks all in one list, including regular, average, normal, everyday things this mama is thankful for.

What would you add to the list?!

1. Family pictures that make you laugh and remember how insane that moment was. This picture above was taken when my daughter was 10 days old. We had taken a picture like this when my son was 10 days old, so I wanted to re-create that moment. Minutes before this my husband and I were bickering, "Really, Angela? Do we NEED the same picture?! Owen's melting down. I think I'm going to have a melt down." Baby screaming, hating being undressed, toddler wanting to destroy or jump on something. Me laughing, but really gritting my teeth and smirking my swollen post-baby face, thinking, "Oh, please, just get one good picture, please!" Love these moments. Looking back, it's all relative, but it's fun to remember.

2. Pull-ups. I have no idea how potty training would go without things like pull-ups. Seriously. I commute a half-hour away to work, so we're in the car at least an hour a day. Pull-up time for car rides is a must! I could leisurely get myself to work, not frantically asking my potty training son, "Do you have to go? Do you, do you?!" Love pull-ups. And no, I don't believe they confuse kids into not peeing on the potty, they work. They're awesome.

3. Snotty-nosed kids. I know, this part of parenting sucks. I'm not denying colds and boogers are awful. However, I am grateful that's all I have to deal with - knock on wood. I'm grateful for knowing how to deal with snotty noses.

4. Vicks vapor rub. Seriously the cure-all of any cold. I love this stuff.

I think on a bad day I will sniff this stuff for a moment of peace. 

5. Growth. I adore watching my kids learn new things. My son at one point could not crawl normally, he did the army crawl without being on his hands and knees. It was cute but slightly worrisome (at the time we didn't know many babies crawl this way!). Then he was riding a tricycle and a bike with training wheels. What?! When did that happen? Now, he drives his power wheels around the yard with his little sister in it. My daughter says real words, like any word you say she'll repeat. It's amazing.

Growth... it's astonishing every time. No matter how many times I hear my children say a word or start to say a sentence, the awesomeness of that never gets old to me. 

6. Pinterest. Well, duh! Of course this would be on my grateful list. I don't know what type of mom I'd be without Pinterest. Well, OK, Pinterest does not rule my life, in fact I personally have not even been on Pinterest in like six months (I know, I know, slacker! I need to devote some time to it this weekend!)... but my sister finds recipes there that she sends my way and makes my cooking life much easier, my family well-fed. And I have gotten the BEST party ideas from Pinterest. It's such an awesome gift to busy moms.

7. Parenting books, blogs, and sites. I am a lover of knowledge and education. I loved college, would go back in a heartbeat if I had the time. So therefore when becoming a mom I took out every book I could find about pregnancy, parenting, toddler years, etc. to be well-informed. I'm not one of those people who lives by what books tell me though, I take it all with a grain of salt. Yet I love reading still. I think we have so many resources available to us, it's silly not to take advantage of at least reading a blog post here and there. It's good to be updated on various things like car seat laws changing and what most moms think about certain toys. Great info!

8. Melissa & Doug toys. I LOVE literally everything these guys make. I love the old wooden look, like it's a toy maybe I played with as a kid. These make great gifts, too, because I find many of their things are different, unique, good for all ages.


I can't believe it took me to #9 to write this... but there is nothing I'm more grateful for than nap time. Honest. I wait for and feel rejuvenated by nap time. Those two hours are scared to me. I will do anything to keep nap time routine and working. 

As my son gets closer to being 4 years old, when I've heard naps cease for most kids (if naps have not ceased before during ages 2 and 3, which luckily here they have not)... I'm afraid. I don't know what I'll do without those two hours a day where I can regroup. Maybe I'll find a nap nanny... someone to watch my kids for those two hours while I take a nap myself! Awesome!

10. My children's names. I am pretty sure most parents love their kids' names, otherwise they would not have named them those names, but I really, really love my kids' names. The funny thing about Owen is that I have no recollection of where we got it. I can't recall if it was from a show (we were watching Grey's Anatomy at the time) or a baby book (I did force my husband to peruse one a few times during the last two weeks of pregnancy when we still didn't have finalized names). Regardless, I love it. It's simple and totally who he is. I also like that he's able to almost write it after only a few months of learning the letters at pre-school. My poor daughter when pre-school comes around... her name is longer...but still, lOVE IT. Yes, everyone - even family members - spell her name wrong (which I get, but really we only changed ONE letter from the normal spelling), but we still love it. We knew changing up the spelling would cause it to be misspelled forever, and yet that doesn't bug us much. It's good to love your kids' names... we say them an awful lot all day, don't we?! :)

11. Being organized. I always keep a grocery list handy and write down all gifts I buy for Christmas and birthdays, so I'm not wondering if I need one more thing for someone. I clean up every night. I keep extra just in case bags of diapers and other things with me wherever I go. I clean out the car when we leave it. I find being organized and prepared keeps me a saner mom.

12. My brain. 

Yes, I do have a case of Mom Brain, after two pregnancies, newborn sleepless nights, crazy toddler years, working full time, etc. but I still love my brain. 

I love that when I drop my son off at pre-school at 7 in the morning and they tell me two days from then he's to wear pajamas to school and bring his teddy bear for Bear Day, I remember that later in the night and write it on the calendar, and then make sure his pajamas are washed and ready for two days from then. I love that when my sitter tells me on a Friday we need more diapers next week, I get them and they're packed and ready for Monday morning. Like when at the doctor visit and they tell me the weight and height and percentiles, I remember those long enough to text them to my husband and write in the baby book when I get home. It's little things like this that we remember, and I know men would NEVER remember these things. I love being the one who remembers.

13. Being real. I love that I'm the type of mom who is honest, spilling my guts, sharing it all, taking pictures of me and putting them on the blog for all to see even though I know I look awful, so tired, and just not flattering. I'm happy to share my ups and downs, struggles and successes. I admire others who are real like this, so I'm proud to be one of those people myself. There's no point in hiding our struggles. It's all good. You might even help someone feel better about her shortcomings if you put yours out there. Hmmm....

14. Mom in the picture. I try, try, try to take more pictures with me and the kids. I'm even trying to take more of me and my husband. I feel like we have a zillion pictures of us as high school, college and engaged kids... but none since we had our babies, it's always dad with baby, mom with baby, mom and dad and baby, but none of the couple who made those babies! I'm not great at this mom in the picture thing, despite how many pictures I take, but I'm getting there.

15. PHOTOS! Um, you already know this. I take 1,000 photos a day practically. Well, maybe in a week I take that many. Documenting our wonderful moments is important to me. Love photos.

16. Big toys like train table, kitchen set, and doll house. While we can't have too many more big toys around here since our house is being taken over by kids' things... I love these! These three things keep my two kiddos occupied for hours. I love that they love cooking in the kitchen and making "choo choo" noises. Hours of fun.

17. My body. Nope, it's not perfect, but I still am thankful for it. It gave me babies, let me feed those babies, helped me run 5k races, and keeps me strong enough to pick up my babies. It's good. All good.

18. Mom friends. 

People who get what you're going through, who don't get annoyed when you say, "oh sorry only had five minutes to talk, now major meltdown, bye" without waiting for a return word from them. Moms who look at your child's antics and go, "yup, been there, don't worry, it'll get better." 

19. Being a kid again. Having fun. Splashing in mud puddles. Getting dirty. Going to children's museums. I am grateful that in this crazy world I get to have FUN daily.

20. My husband. Not having to do this parenting thing alone is amazing. He makes it easier and fun. He's pretty much the best.

21. Video monitor. It gives me peace of mind. What greater thing is there as a mother?

22. Babysitters. It's so nice having six grandparents and a zillion aunts and uncles and friends who will watch our kids any time we want a date night out.

23. Girl clothes. I spend hours looking at, folding, putting away, and finding girl clothes that my daughter can rock her style in. I'm sorry to say boy clothes are just not as fun. I LOVE girl clothes. I kind of want this outfit my daughter has on in the picture above.

24. Food. While some days we have little in the house and other days I can't come up with a new idea for a meal besides pasta or grilled cheese sandwiches, I'm still grateful I can ALWAYS make something and am not without food.

25. Annie's mac n' cheese. Yup. I love it. Especially on rainy days like today or on weeknights when I cannot possibly make anything else for dinner out of exhaustion from my day.

26. Baby mirror in the car. I never used one of these with my son, but having a second back there with a toddler brother meant I needed to have eyes in the back of my head to make sure all were alive. Love those baby mirrors!

27. Libraries. It's so nice to gather books for free for my kids and myself. I took out 6 books the other day for the kids, and we only liked two of them. It was nice though to read something different and realize which ones we'd want to buy and which ones we weren't into.

28. Seasons. I know that it's not fun when the summer weather goes away and we're left with cold, dreary winter days approaching where you can't get outside. But really, I do love the seasons as a mom. I'm grateful we get to experience various things outdoors with kids... running through leaves, making snowmen, jumping in puddles and watching flowers grow, and of course visiting the beach. It makes it interesting.

29. Details. 

I am thankful that having children makes me realize the details, the little things that are important. 

Things like how my daughter's hair looks so red outside, just like her dad's hair. How teeny tiny those fingers are holding a pumpkin. I love noticing a new scratch or something on my children, realizing that I'm probably the only person in the world who notices little things like that on my babies.

30. Hearing "mama." Sappy, I know, but honestly, it's the best thing in the world, next to hearing, "I love you, mom." Those few words can make me stop and realize the laundry can wait, the whining won't last forever, the neediness is understandable, and that they are only little once. I am their mom and that's the most important thing to be grateful for.

Wishing you a happy, family-filled Thanksgiving! Eat lots of yummy treats, snuggle those babies tight, and relax. You deserve it, moms. 


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

cloth diapers 101 - Grade: B-

I was a part-time cloth diaperer. (yes, I coined the word diaperer, so what?!)

I tried cloth diapering this past summer and have used them for almost six months, part time. I found likes and dislikes about them. The beginning of the story can be found here, back in July 2013, and it continued through this fall.

I was curious. I wanted to save money and do my part with helping the environment. I thought they were cute... just a few of the reasons I was interested in trying cloth diapers.

Well, here is the end of the story: in the class of Cloth Diapers 101, I give myself a B-. 

In the beginning I tried cloth. Keeping up with the smell and washing them just didn't work for me. So I quickly moved on to gDiapers. I LOVED them! I used disposable inserts so didn't have to deal with the smelly part of washing cloth. We used them when home (which was a lot because I work for a school so have summers mostly off to be home with my kids).

Laundry for gDiapers was easy, totally fun actually in the summer. Because it was summer, I could wash them in the morning - when I wasn't working - and hang them out to dry, they'd be ready in a few hours. Put them back together during nap time, we were good to go again that afternoon. Or I'd wash overnight, hang dry in the morning, good to go mid-morning. It wasn't bad with more time and sun around to help with the laundry process.

Then I went back to work in September. And well, things were busy. I lacked time. We were everywhere, soccer practice and weddings and working second jobs and birthday parties... we weren't home to wait the hours it took to get these diapers through a load of wash and then out drying and then folded again.

I started to lack sun and hours where the diapers would dry (it's better to avoid putting them in the dryer, because dryer can pull at the material and make it not last as long).

So we've kept up using gDiapers since September, on weekends only. And that has worked OK. But then, since I only have six of them (didn't want to spend more money on getting more diapers if they were not going to last long), I'd use them in a Saturday at home, then wash them the next morning and they'd take all day to dry... so we didn't use them Sunday... so we were really using them one day a week in October and November. That wasn't the plan. But it was reality with me working out of the home full time.

Then a month ago the size gDiapers we had were not fitting my daughter anymore Every time I took them off of her there were red marks on her skin. She started telling me, "no, no, no" when I'd lay her down to put these gDiapers on her the last couple of weeks. She also was starting to figure out how to take those off... that was a nightmare to me, imagining her taking it off in her nap and smearing poop everywhere... oh no, we had to put a stop to that. That was my sign: we were done. It was game over with gDiapers in this house.

Disappointing, sure. But honestly, slightly a relief also. I was not able to keep up with these diapers anymore. The laundry and pressure to get that done and dried so we had them ready for the next day was beginning to be too much, just one more thing. I did not want cloth diapering to become one more thing to me. I know how easily things can become that extra in a mom's life. I didn't want using gDiapers to become that for me... but it did, I'm sad to say.

If it were the beginning of summer right now, I might look for some more gDiapers the next size up, but it's not and so I'm not searching. These diapers are not cheap... so it's an investment you have to make if you intend to use them for a long while. I'm hoping my daughter begins potty training in the next year, so it doesn't make sense to me to buy some gDiapers that may fit her for a few months when our schedule only allows us to use them on the weekends. (I had stated in my early blog posts about this that I never intended to be a full-time cloth diaper mama.)

So, here we are, and I've posted to some cloth diaper swap and sell groups on Facebook. I'm turning over my gDiaper stash and supplies to moms out there who are actively using them and whose daughters won't have rashes on their skin because they are too tight! I feel good about this. I had considered saving them, just in case, for a maybe someday baby, but realized they can go to good use right now with someone else so why wait?

Here's the thing: I LOVE GDIAPERS! I want to shout that from the rooftop. They are fabulous. 

If you are really dedicated to doing cloth yet don't like or can't put the time into the laundry and smell of regular cloth diapers, gDiapers disposables are a next best thing for sure. I'm so excited these things exist and I won't say a bad thing about them.

The only disappointing thing is there is not a one-size-fits-all gDiaper... you have to purchase small, medium, large, extra large... for the various sizes your child moves through. That's expensive!

So, my cloth diapering is over. For now.
I will always use reusable swim diapers, still have tons of those and think they are the greatest thing ever. I encourage all moms to look into those for boys or girls.

What I've learned through this cloth diaper process is that it's a wonderful thing and I admire the moms who use cloth diapers. It's a full-time effort type of thing. It takes a lot of work.

To me, cloth diapering is just like pumping milk... People used to ask me all the time how on earth I could pump exclusively, every two hours, for an entire year. When you put it that way, honestly I have NO idea how I did it either. Just like moms who make homemade baby food. Just like I'm sure moms who cloth diaper have no clue how they handle the smell or wash that much laundry all the time. They just do it because it's important to them. We all have priorities and things we want to do and just aren't interested in doing or things that don't work for us as moms.

I've learned it's just not for some moms... for personal preferences, for tolerances, for various schedule reasons... it just works for some and doesn't for others. Same with nursing. Same with a zillion other things. It's just one of those different mom situations that some are into and some aren't. I respect it wholeheartedly and am so glad I tried cloth diapers. Now I know a little bit about that world moms are part of.

Thanks, to all the moms who helped me along the way with answering my questions.


Sunday, November 24, 2013

winning the fight ... the C word - by anonymous

I have featured many strong, courageous, inspiring moms on my blog over the last few years, but this momma is standing out as someone I am truly honored to feature today. 

This is the most gut-wrenching and yet heart-warming story I have shared on my blog in all the years I've been writing it. I cried the entire way through editing this post. I know you will, too. But I share it here to show what incredible things mothers can do when we set our mind to it, and when we focus on our babies, guiding us toward success. She has incredibly powerful and insightful advice for you to enjoy the little things and to be honest when you need to ask for help. 

I admire you, anonymous momma, beyond words could ever explain. I truly do. I hope I am able to meet you in person someday. If I do, I'll give you a hug and smile at your little handsome guy, thinking, "All is right in the world today, because this momma fought so hard to be here for that growing boy." 

Enjoy and stay strong, moms.

When did you find out you had cancer?
I had my baby on St. Patricks Day of 2012. I only was given 6 weeks off from work. I had to return the following week after April vacation, meaning I was given the week after April break off and then was supposed to return that following Monday. 

Anyway, I had a rare type of cancer (synovial sarcoma) when I was in high school and I have had to go to Boston for check ups every year since then. I was supposed to go in 2011, but I canceled my appointment until after Rowan was born because I would not be able to have the x-rays done that I needed. 
I went to the doctors a week before I was suppose to return to work and got a clean bill of health. I was told that I wouldn’t need to come back for three years and that everything looked great. My doctor actually said that he wasn’t sure why they took x-rays that day because usually after 10 years out, he stops taking them. He said, “no problem, we will just go with it and everything looks great.” I did not think anything of it. 

Six days later on April 25th, four days before I was supposed to return to work and two days before I was supposed to fly out to New York with Rowan, my husband and my mom for my cousin’s wedding, I got a call from the doctors office that said, “Hi Britney, please hold for Dr. Gebhardt.” 
Now, when the head of a major department in a major hospital in Boston wants to speak to you, you start to freak out and I was freaking out. I was home alone with my 5 1/2 week old baby still scared to death that I didn’t know how to take care of him, struggling with breast feeding and lacking sleep. 
I talked to my oncologist. He told me in reviewing my films a second time they had found a mass in my chest and wanted me to have a CT scan as soon as possible. They scheduled me for a test the next afternoon. My husband, my mother, Rowan and I packed up the car and headed to Boston the next morning. I had a CT scan at 4:00 in the afternoon and by 5:30 that evening I was called with the results. 
I remember it so vividly. I was hanging out along the streets of Boston with my newborn, and my husband, who had never been to Boston, and my mother. Jeff was feeding Rowan because he was crying and I was pacing back and forth trying to figure out where I wanted to eat and hold myself together and then my phone rang. It was confirmed that I had a mass the size of an adult fist in the center of my chest, two inches from my heart and several neighboring lymph nodes on both sides were affected. 
They had scheduled surgery for the following day, some time in the afternoon. Our plans of attending my cousin’s wedding did not work out and we ended up calling my husband’s parents who drove from St. Francis (luckily they were in Bangor at the time, so it wasn’t too bad of a drive) to help with Rowan while my husband and my mother dealt with me. 
The next day on the 27th I had surgery to confirm the type of cancer we were dealing with. I was hospitalized following my surgery until Sunday night (on the cancer ward where no children were allowed) at 10:30 when it was confirmed that I had lymphoma. Although they weren’t sure of the type at that point, they were sure they were dealing with lymphoma. They had a pretty good idea, but would not commit to anything without further testing. 

About a week later it was confirmed that I had Hodgkins Lymphoma.

What were your first few thoughts when you found out?
When we first found out we didn’t know what we were dealing with. We initially figured my original cancer of synovial sarcoma had come back and planted itself in my lungs. 

I thought I was going to die. Recurrent synovial sarcoma does not have a good survival rate. I think I started planning my funeral in my head. I started asking myself questions like: Who is going to take care of Rowan? What if he never knows who I am? What if he forgets me? What if other people forget me? What if I lose my job? What if I can’t fight this? Have I really lived my whole life? Maybe I shouldn’t have fought with my husband the other day? Why did I bother cleaning the house, that was a waste of time. I shouldn’t have paid that bill, I could have used the money for something else. 
My mind was just reeling. But on the outside it was no big deal deal. I just shrugged it off. I didn’t even cry. It was weird. I remember asking the doctor question after question when he called me with the CT results and it was the same answer over and over and over again. “Britney, it’s close to your heart. It doesn’t look to be in your lungs. We need to do surgery to biopsy.” I insisted we do the surgery immediately. They got me in the next day.

I just went with it. Then all I wanted to do was lay in bed with my son.

What was chemo like for you, especially in relation to your mother duties?
Chemo sucked. I don’t know how else to put it. I was lucky a majority of my chemo treatments fell through the summer when I “wasn’t working.” (I am a teacher). My first treatment was the beginning of May and my last was in the end of September. It took a few times for us to get my medicine figured out. Before that happened I got out of bed or off of the couch for two things: to hold Rowan and to pee. 
There were days I was curled up in a ball because it felt like my insides were eating away at me. I slept in the bath tub many a nights in scalding (well, VERY VERY HOT) water to stop my body from feeling the bone pain I experienced from shots that were given to me to raise my white blood count. 
My mother was with me at all times and my husband’s mother helped out a lot with Rowan when I couldn’t take him to my doctors appointments or felt it best that he stayed behind at home. Jeff was working full time so we could pay our bills. I was having chemo every two weeks and by the time I felt better it was time for another round. I helped with Rowan, but I am not sure if I could have done it all. (Of course, we do what we need to do and I am sure I could have done it, but it would have been hard!) I would start giving him his bath or feeding him and then I would get tired or feel sick and someone would need to take over for me.

Sometimes a few days after chemo when I still wasn’t feeling too well all I wanted to do was sleep and I didn’t have the energy to do too much. 

There were times I could not even be around him. My doctors said I had to be careful. When he was getting immunizations I had to be away from him for two weeks each time because my immune system was too compromised and I had a greater chance of dying from infection than cancer at times. I had to make the difficult decision to risk getting sick because I might forget to wash my hands or he might spit up on me and have live vaccinations in his spit up or even in his poop. 
There were also several occasions where I had fevers and was hospitalized and Rowan couldn’t be on my floor at the hospital because it is a kid free zone. They have visiting rooms, but it wasn’t the same. But we still used them. It was horrible having to “leave” him behind when I needed to go back to my room. 

However, my experience was nothing compared to a woman I saw once. She was leaving the visiting room and her husband was leaving with their three kids. One of her children was probably around the age of 4 or 5 when she headed back to the hospital room he grabbed onto to her and wouldn’t let go. His dad had to pull him off and he scream “no, mommy, please don’t make me leave. Don’t leave me,” as his dad took him to the elevator. I just stood there unable to move. That mom held it together like a champ. I don’t know how she did it because I almost broke down. To me she is a hero and at that very moment I was SO thankful that Rowan was a newborn.
When I needed extra help or he had live immunizations Rowan would go to my mom’s house at night or stay with my mother-in-law. I would visit during the day or they would bring him to me, but changed the diapers, burped him and gave him baths. There were also weeks where I had to hold him while I wore a mask and had on gloves and a gown. 

There were days where all I wanted to do was kiss him or change his diaper, and I couldn’t. 

It got better as we figured out the medicine that helped me lead as normal as a life as possible, but by that time the emotional frustration had taken over and there wasn’t any cure for being tired or achy. The medicine that I did take for pain made me even more tired. It was rough.

How did you talk to your child about your illness? Did you notice any changes in your child during this time?
The best part of this whole experience is that Rowan was an infant. We didn’t really NEED to talk to him about what was going on. He didn’t know. He probably just thought what was happening was normal. 

My team in Boston has seen Rowan grow up. They are like part of his family. To him, they are just supposed to be around and he is just supposed to see them and know who they are. 

I imagine when he gets older we will have conversations about it, especially when he looks at pictures and sees me with no hair, or eyebrows or eye lashes or with scarfs, but I will let him lead us into that conversation. I believe in being 100% honest about everything, so when the day comes and he asks me about it I will tell him, but until then all he needs to know is his mom is here and right now is healthy. 
In terms of changes, I think this experience has made Rowan a more relaxed baby. He is so easy going. I can take him anywhere and do anything. Car rides are a breeze, he is very open and friendly to everyone, almost to the point where we will need to be extra careful with strangers. 

Most importantly he is so....happy. It’s like he already knows how to enjoy the simple things, the simple moments. He is loving. He can’t give me enough kisses or hugs, or anyone for that matter. We cuddled a lot when I was sick and able to do so. 
What helped you get through this scare?
That’s easy. One word: Rowan. 
I honestly believe I had to have Rowan before I got cancer again. I can honestly sit here and say I don’t know what the outcome would have been if I didn’t have Rowan to fight for. I would have fought for my husband. I love him with my whole heart, but I would die for Rowan. 

A good friend of mine said once “you don’t know the power of love until you have a child.” She said “you think you know what it means to love someone, but then you have a baby and love is redefined.” She told me that I would soon find out that if a bus was coming down the street headed straight for my husband I would holler to him and tell him to watch out, but if that bus was heading toward my child I would push my child out of the way and take the bus head on.  

I thank God every day that I had cancer and not Rowan. Every time I wanted to give up I thought about him. He was my power, my faith. I knew that I needed to survive because I wanted to see his first birthday. 

I wanted to see him walk and hear him say “mumma.” I refused to die before those milestones and now there are milestones I refuse to die before I see every time I turn around.

I also could not have done this without my family and friends, my work, my church and my hometown community that rallied around me and supported me both emotionally and financially. They fought cancer with me and I needed each and every one of them. They were my prayer warriors, my supporters and my friends. They were my heroes.

What did you learn through this experience that changed how you did or saw things before you had cancer?
I don’t remember how I made it though or even who I was before I went though this. Sometimes I am not even sure I am through it. Cancer is so much more than a physical disease. It can eat at your soul and your mind and sometimes that can be an even harder battle. 
This was my second battle with my cancer, but it was a lot different than my first. 

I would like to think that I am more easy going and laid back and relaxed, but I’m not. I still care about other people’s perceptions, and if my house is clean and other stupid stuff that you don’t think should matter....however I’m much better at getting over it, at putting on my big girl panties and dealing with it. But there is one thing I do better that I didn’t use to and that was setting work aside and being fully present with my family. I don’t do any school work until both Rowan and my husband are in bed. I am fully present with them. 
I actually just went back and looked at the journal I kept. These are some excerpts from what I wrote:
I have learned a lot from cancer. I have learned how many people care about me. I have learned that God and prayer continue to be all powerful. I have learned how to "get over it." Whatever it might be...a broken nail, dust, dirty dishes or a dirty room. It it is what it is....and that's it.
Don't sweat the small stuff.
You don’t stop living. You can’t. You have to still go to work, play with your son and you still argue with your husband about who should do the laundry.
I have learned that you can still laugh when you have cancer.
I have learned that caregivers of people who have cancer don't get enough credit for what they do and sometimes people forget that they need things too. I have learned that real love is my husband looking at me right after I shaved my head and telling me that I was most beautiful person he has even seen. 
I have learned that no matter how crappy things get, my son knows how to make me forget all of the bad things in the world. 
I have learned to try not and beat myself up for things I can not control. 
Is there a motto or phrase, quote, etc. you live by now?
I like to live by a lot of things. I think words have power.
1) It is what it is. 2) “Good Morning, this is God. I will be handling all of your problems today and I will not require your help.” That sign is on the mirror in my bathroom and it hangs on the wall as you walk down the stairs to the first floor. I read it every day, first thing in the morning. 

Someone out there has said It’s important to remember that we are the author’s of our own story. I think I have seen it on pinterest. There is a quote out there....I am not sure who it is by, but it goes: “You were given this life because you are strong enough to live it.” That just reminds me that I am not given anything that I can't handle. That there is a purpose for everything that I am given. God has a purpose and a reason and as much as I get mad at him for what he throws at me, I have to have faith. I have to live by faith, if didn’t.....I don’t know where I would be.

What is your advice to all moms? My advice. Wow. I don’t know if I am qualified to give advice. I don’t think you should judge. Ever. Not about anything, because you don’t that person’s story. You might see that moment, but you don’t know what led up to it. We all do the best that we can. No matter who we are, we all try. 

I think you have to enjoy every single no sleep, scooping poop out of the bath tub, food flying, biting, hitting, constipated, horrible rash, puking, loving, kissable, huggable moment because it is possible for each one of those moments to be any of our last. No one is guaranteed tomorrow so enjoy every splitting millisecond. 
What is your advice to moms who are going through a difficult time? First off all....YOU ROCK! Second....know that you’re not alone and it’s OK to ask for help. You’re not a bad person. You’re a better mom for admitting that you may need help. 

Our children are the most forgiving, loving, little people ever and they admire everything that we do. They look up to us, so show them that it is OK to need help, to admit to being defeated every now and then. Look at those difficult times as a way to help build your child’s character by showing them how you handle the situation. Don’t put on a facade, be honest and real. 
And cry. Cry in the shower. Cry as you watch your baby sleep. Cry as you drive to work. Cry in the bathroom stalls of Wal-Mart. Lock yourself in the bathroom and cry while staring at yourself in the mirror. Then pick yourself up, look yourself in the face and tell yourself you can and you will do this. 

Kick yourself in the butt, open that door and show your people what it means to overcome. What it means to never give up. What it means to be a success story. What it means and looks like to be a survivor of whatever you are facing. GO KICK SOME DIFFICULT TIME BUTT!
If Rowan could speak, what do you think he would say about what type of mama you've been to him? What would your partner say? I hope Rowan would say that I am a strong mama who takes the time to show him that I love him. I hope he would see that I am trying to mold him into a man that will have character, and compassion. I hope he would say that I am a mama who has shown him what it means to be a good person and what it means to never give up. I hope he would recognize that I am trying to show him that you need to give back two fold what has been given to you. 
Before I tell you about what my husband would say about me I need to tell you what I think about him:
Cancer showed me what a wonderful husband I have. Sometimes we forget the impact that cancer has on the caregivers because we are so focused on ourselves as the patient. My husband is a saint, and I think if we can make it through a new baby and a cancer diagnosis in one year, our marriage can make it through anything. 

Cancer showed me that I married a man who truly meant his vow of until death do us part, because no matter how mad I got at cancer it always seemed to translate into being mad at him. He stood by me through all of the nights that I cried myself to sleep, through the nights that I shouted about how I wanted it all to end. He held me as I sobbed as I watched my son sleep, terrified that I would not get to see him grow up....all of this while he held himself together, because one of us needed to be strong.
My husband would say that I am pretty tough. He has told me that Rowan is lucky to have me and that he is, too. My husband is not a man of many words when it comes to these types of things. But he would look me in the eyes and he would get misty eyed and he would kiss me. In my husband’s words that means: I admire you and I appreciate you and you’re the best mom for Rowan. 
Now that you have beat cancer and finished chemo, what are your plans? What are you looking forward to?
Professionally, I want to get my Masters and go work for Google or some tech company teaching about technology or working in some non-profit organization centered around cancer research and be the head of a technology department or something. Then again, maybe I will be in the classroom forever. I will see where God takes me. 
Personally, I want to just go on doing and living and loving every minute of every day. 

I am looking forward to that moment when I realize that I have gone days without thinking about cancer, even months and years. 

I am looking forward to Disney World in a few years. I am looking forward to Christmas and pictures with hair. It sounds cliché, but I am just looking forward to Saturday morning breakfast and playing in sandboxes and teaching Rowan how to read. I am a pretty simple person, and I want to enjoy those simple things that we all take for granted. 
Medically, what do you have to still continue after this point? I still go to Boston quite frequently, but I just graduated from PET scans to CT scans. I just had a scan last month and my next check up is in February, but my next scan is not until April. I need to be mindful of my immune system and I am still working on getting through CHEMO brain because I can’t remember anything. But medically, things are good.

Anything else you want to add? I just want to say that sometimes people have taken pity or looked at my husband and I as being super strong. I believe that we all do what we have to do and we step up to the plate when it’s our turn. I don’t think I am any different or any stronger than anyone else who may be thrown in the same situation that I was. 
Having cancer is a journey, as is any difficulty. This journey will be a journey I take for the rest of my life. 

I worry and I pray every day that I did not pass on this gene to my son. I am scared that he might get it, but I know we can't live our life with what ifs or in fear....we need to take and enjoy today. And if he were ever to get sick...he is stubborn enough like his Momma to kick it in the butt. 
Cancer wasn’t fun and sometimes it still isn’t. Every pain that I get, every time I am tired, or not hungry I wonder if it’s cancer coming back. I wonder if I am going die before I see my son start kindergarten or graduate from high school. I am, have been and always will be super positive through this experience, but sometimes people just are not honest about how these feelings and fears stay with us as survivors. 

We try so hard to be positive all the time. Sometimes we forget that it is OK to let our guard down. Some days I am really scared of cancer.
On a closing note:
When things seem impossible, know that they really are not. When the anger over cancer or anything for that matter consumes you....know to let it go....and never go to bed mad.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

this mom's nightmare

Last Saturday morning I planned to run some errands, pick up books at the library, get some milk at the store, and make sure the kids got an early nap because it had been a busy week.

Sometimes what we plan doesn't go like we thought.

My daughter is 19 months old and had a cold and a tooth coming in this past week. Runny nose, a little coughing, some whiney-ness during the day from teething. Nothing out of the ordinary for this phase or time of year.

Except she had weird red and small dots on her face. They were near her eyes, forehead area. They looked like pin pricks, they were so small. I hadn't seen them before. My husband swore he'd seen them once before on her, but I don't recall that.

It was weird. We moms see something that is not ordinary and we know if it's weird, different, not supposed to be there. 

They don't look like much on the pictures, but they were alarming at the time. 

So I did what any mom would do when she needs an answer... I Googled it.
Not the best idea typically, but hey, it's what we do when we want an answer NOW.
I found something called pitichiae. I had never heard of it, but was sure this was what my child had.

Fast forward, I'm at the walk-in care. The second I walked in and showed them my daughter's rash, the nurse, the doctor, they looked at me like "yikes, this could be serious!" That doesn't calm down a mom's worrying, let me tell you. They fired questions at me, "Has she had a high fever? You noticed this last night? Have you noticed any seizure activity? Is she eating, lethargic, drinking? Have you noticed bruising on her body?"

To say I was freaked out is to put it mildly. I was texting my husband every chance I got when they left the room. I was trying not to panic, but it felt weird.

All the while, my daughter was laughing, singing with me, playing, and eating her snack. Nothing seemed wrong, besides a runny nose and an annoying tooth yet to pop through.

They said this type of rash is typically caused by vomiting or coughing, excessively - neither of which my daughter was doing. She had a slight cough, not nonstop. If it is these two things, it's mild and will go away and is OK.

Or (and OR is the word you hate when you're sitting in a doctor's office, that I learned...) it could be life-threatening meningitis or leukemia. My grandfather died of leukemia. It's cancer of the blood, that I knew. That I didn't want to hear. At that word, my heart started beating faster.

Let the sane mom take over here:
NO, there was nothing at all in my heart or gut telling me my child was really sick. I had no reason to believe she had cancer or anything at all besides an annoying cold and tooth causing her to be stuffed up and runny nose and this random rash that I couldn't explain. I truly did not at all believe she was very sick.

Still... when the possibilities are put in front of you in print on a Google search site, or when a nurse or doctor says they want to check her Oxygen levels just be sure (something I hadn't heard before), you kinda get freaked out.

I'll state for the record this nurse and doctor were amazing! They were not doing anything but their job. It was me causing my own worrying, honest. I commend what they do. They did it fast and smart. I was the one who let myself get carried away.

And that's precisely why I'm writing this blog post... I think it's easy to get carried away as a mother, with our worrying and wondering and freaking out over little things that just don't make sense to us.

We are mothers. We are fixers. We make things better. We take care of it all, every day, for everyone. When something doesn't add up to us, or can't be found in our What to Expect books or if nobody on a discussion board has experienced this, we panic. We start to sweat and wonder and worry more. It's just part of us being female, I believe.

Back to it...
They said to rule out anything serious we could do a blood draw. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but I can tell you what I was NOT expecting - me holding my baby down - like literally holding her down. Me on my knees on top of the hospital bed holding her head away from looking at her arm and wiping her tears and staring into her sad, angry, confused eyes as she screamed "no, no, mama, no." Writing that now makes me want to vomit. At the time I wanted to throw up. I had this terrible pain in my stomach, aching to make this situation better for my baby, knowing I was doing the right thing, yet feeling like it was wrong somehow also. That's the worst mom feeling ever.

They took blood from her arm. It didn't work. We had to do it again at another hospital. The 30 minute drive to that other hospital I was a wreck. I tried not to think, to overthink. To imagine the possibilities. I tried to tell myself, it's fine, it's OK, listen to her talking, she's fine, she won't remember that traumatic situation of them taking her blood, she doesn't blame you, she does not have cancer, she's fine.

But. (and but is another word I've learned is something you say sometimes with medical situations... there is always a "but.") 

But... I couldn't help myself. I tried to reassure myself it was fine. I called my husband who said it was fine. I didn't want to call anyone else for fear of worrying them or hearing them worried, which would in turn make me worry.

So I drove 30 minutes really fast, with music on, and barely sang, just imagining the awful things they were going to tell me.

Then the drive back to the doctor we started at, another 30 minutes, to imagine the what ifs. It was one of those "my life could totally change in 30 minutes from now...." moments we sometimes have. Like remember when you went into labor and you were thinking, wow in hours our entire life is going to change? Well that's what this was like, knowing for sure, something was going to be different in a half an hour, yet in the bad way, not good.

And yet of course I wasn't even sure I'd get bad news from the test results. It was of course a possibility that things could be normal, this was a fluke, random rash.

But as a mom... you worry. You wonder and question. It's just how it is, no matter how strong or confident of a person you are. No matter how rational you think you can remain, you worry.

My mind went to places it wasn't supposed to, it has never gone before. I pictured my daughter losing hair. I pictured my son feeling neglected because his sister got all our attention being sick. I pictured not ever having another baby because we could not handle more in our life. I pictured too many stupid, awful, unimaginable moments. Why? I have no idea besides fear. I was scared. So when you're scared you think dumb thoughts and you can't control it.

I hugged my daughter so tight when we returned to the doctor's office. I sang to her and tickled her and told her out loud, "It doesn't matter what those tests say, you are just fine, and we love you and things are fine."

I was scared. Admittedly, I was scared. Of a teeny tiny rash. Little pin pricks of spots on my daughter's face terrified me. The possibilities terrified me.

When the doctor came into the room with the nurse by her side, I thought, "that's it, the results were bad, otherwise why would they both be here?"

The news was GOOD. Nothing was wrong. No test results came back weird. They don't know why she got the rash, so it's still something on our minds and something I'd love answers to, but they said she's fine, normal, she's OK.

My life was back to normal. Nothing was changing. It was OK. I could stop breathing heavy.

I shared this not for sympathy. Like I said, my daughter is fine. We have some weird rash to keep an eye on, but otherwise she is just fine and will be fine. I believe that.

I shared this because I never knew what real panic could be like when it comes to my kids' health. They have had two ear infections between the two of them in almost 4 years (knock on wood!). We have experienced croup twice, which was scary, but OK. Knock on wood, we're lucky and blessed.

I have a dear friend who has held her daughter down for medical tests more times than I have brushed my kids' teeth I guess. I have eternal admiration for this friend, for the struggles she overcame, for the challenges she faced head on because she had to, sure, but also because she's such a strong person. She could get through anything, I know. I'm not sure what type of person it takes to survive a tough medical situation with your child, but I am not sure I could do it. I know you just do it, you have to, there is no choice. But this teeny tiny scare worried me so much.

If you have friends who have children going through such difficult medical situations, and you aren't sure what to do... try just listening, just texting and calling as you can, sending cards, sending little happy presents of stickers or coloring books to her child. But don't get offended if she doesn't call you back or update you every step of the way through that medical process. It's a daunting experience, from what I can imagine, don't make it worse by being upset your friend is not there for you like she used to be. She's probably just trying to keep it together on a daily basis. Have patience and compassion. 

I write this to say, I have such empathy and love for those who are going through or have gone through a difficult medical situation. What I learned in this situation was that you have to follow your gut. My gut told me something was weird with that rash. While it ended up that the test results were normal, the doctor said it was so good I brought her in, because it just have easily could have not been normal.

Listen to how you feel. Don't listen to whatever anyone may say, "she's fine, let it go." If you wonder if something is wrong, advocate for your babies. You are their voice, use it.

And as for worrying, well, we all do it. Just watch yourself. It doesn't need to get too out of hand like it did for me. Save yourself that stress.

Stay strong, moms.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Shop & Support Moms - Meaghan and Evelyn

I am so excited to feature these two super mommas and their new business, BeeCH Co. Very awesome items made from a real bee keeper's honey. They are dedicated to not just making extra money for their families, but also building something their two daughters would be proud of. Thank you, Meaghan and Evelyn, for sharing your story with us as part of this month's Shop & Support Moms series. 

This is exactly the type of new small business that I wanted to feature this month on the blog. Everyone wins when you shop and support a local mom team, working to inspire their little girls and do what they love. Enjoy!

To win a prize from these awesome ladies, please comment below or at the Mommy Stories Facebook group! Prize is a FREE chapstick with ANY purchase!

All photos from Meaghan Schoff 

1. How did you start your business? Why did you want your own business? When did you start your business?   
We started in 2012, Evelyn had a baby girl, Harper, in April and I had a baby girl, Caroline, in July.  Not too long after the girls were born we heard of some leading baby products containing cancer causing chemicals, and it struck a chord with us both, especially since I was using those products on Caroline. My mother is a bee keeper and had signed up for a class to make lotions and chap stick out of her beeswax, when I mentioned the class to Evelyn, it’s like a light bulb went off- We both dream of one day either working part time at our jobs or being stay at home moms, so we thought starting our own company could help get us there! From there we brainstormed names of a potential company and what we might offer. 
2. What does the name of your business mean? How did you come up with the title? 
The BeeCH Co. Has a few different meanings. My mother is our beekeeper- and she lives on Beech Ridge Road, so we wanted to incorporate that into our name.  We also wanted to pay a tribute to Caroline and Harper, so we capitalized the C and H at the end of Beech- leaving the word Bee visible to the customer’s eye. 
3. What does your shop specialize in? What is your favorite item to make? 
Currently, we seem to specialize in Bridal/baby shower gifts, it just seems to be the most popular orders we have had and we have so much fun creating custom labels and knowing that we are contributing to someone’s special day. We are both most proud of our Honey Ointment because we are extremely pleased with the feedback from others who have used it. We feel proud that we mastered this one, because it was our hardest recipe to perfect this far. 

4. How do you get inspiration and ideas for items to make? 
Our inspiration is our children and our own family members. 
 We would never make a product with any chemicals in it. We only make products that feel 100% comfortable to use on our own children, so we know it is safe for anyone to use. 
Our ideas mostly come from customers, people will ask us, “do you guys make....?” and we make note of that as something to put on the list of things to make. 

5. How long does it take you to make items? When do you make your items mostly, what time of day? What do you do while creating something - tv on? music on?
It all depends on what we are making, we have spent an hour to four hours on making products. Evelyn and I both work out of the home, 40 hours a week.  We only get so much time to spend with our little girls, and we have vowed that this will not get in the way of bed time rituals, weekend morning rituals, or any special time in between.  We both have the same values and morals when it comes to our roles as moms and wives, and regardless of where this business adventure will lead us- we do not want to lose quality time with our families. With that said- you name a time; we have probably produced products in that time frame. We get together after bed time for the girls, or we get together early on a weekend morning, during a nap time, when daddies are home with them, whenever.  There have literally been times where Evelyn will text me and say “Harpers Napping, want to make something?” and I will get excited with a response of “So is C!” then it’s like, ready-GO and we get some stuff made. We try to make products together, but there have been times where I make a batch of chapstics after Caroline goes to sleep, or Evelyn makes a batch of hand balm for an upcoming shower at her house. We never have the tv on or music. We are best friends, so we use that time as just time to hang, talk, and a lot of laughing.

6. Take me step by step through sending someone's package to them.. what special things do you include in there ? How do you wrap them up? Do you get nervous when you send packages to people?   
I think we will always get a little nervous when we place our product in someone elses hand.  We know that we love our product, so we can only hope that someone else loves it that much also.  We hand deliver a lot of orders, so we package it up in a clear bag, with some ribbon with honey bees on it. We try to keep it simple and natural looking. 

We shipped chapsticks for a bridal shower to Oregon this past winter, and we threw a handful of extras in for the customer, in hopes that she might hand them out to other friends or co workers. I had a cousin order some items from us for her friend who was a military wife, her husband was just deployed and she was home with their three young children. We threw in  an extra Honey Ointment for her and the children as a thank you to the sacrifices she has to make so her husband can fight for our freedom.

7. What is your success rate? How many orders so far? 
We just started a little over a year ago, and for that first year, we spent our time saying- if we are going to do this, we are going to do it right. We did less selling, and more planning and perfecting.  
 We made products and handed them out to friends and family who we knew would give us truthful feedback, we wanted to hear what they liked and what they didn’t like, what they would change or what they would keep the same. We also tested everything ourselves. Lot of trial and error. It is only recently we have started to advertise and have enough confidence in our product to join a local craft fair at the end of this month.  I would say our success rate is great, considering what we have sold. We are totally reliant on word of mouth, and so far that has treated us pretty good!

 8. Why do you think people should buy on Etsy, homemade items? 
Evelyn and I both hope that this business could end up being something great- and we believe that everyone feels that way about their business and homemade items. 
Yeah, you can buy it cheaper on the shelf at a pharmacy store, but you don’t know what it contains.  We can tell you exactly what is in our product and that it was made with hard work, dedication and pride.   
When my husband and I were in Fort Kent for a wedding, we talked to a man there and I mentioned that the town was lacking a popular donut shop, and he said “we had one, but it’s gone, it didn’t make it, because we support local.” I love that.  The only way our business can make it, and one day be handed down to our girls is if people support us. Everyone has a reason for starting their own business, and we think it is only fair and kind to support their hard work adventure.

 9. What are your favorite Etsy shops you buy from? 
We have purchased items from multiple Etsy shops a  couple of our favorites being:  Sniffwhiskers which is a grandpa that makes homemade wooden pull toys for kids and  BagEnvy – which has great custom made diaper bags, 

 10. How does your business allow you to be a great mother?    
We are able to make our products while spending time with our children. They play together at our feet while we do this.  As I stated- we long to be stay home moms/part time workers some day, so this could possibly help bring us to that point.   
We long for the day when our girls can put an apron on and help us make products, and like I said- we hope that one day they will be set up to take it over and have success with it. This business is totally built around them and for them.