Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Homesick at Home

We've lived here for seven months without hanging pictures on the walls.

Anyone who knows me, or has been in a previous home of mine, could tell you that this is just plain crazy talk. I guess the events of the last year leave me feeling "half-packed," even in our own home. From living in a motel, to being in a very hostile roommate situation- I suppose we've got ourselves wound in an uncomfortable knot. The fight or flight instinct is still stuck in high gear.

I didn't realize how this last year of travel had really affected me until one afternoon in summer, when I got new neighbors across the hall. I was sitting on the couch when I heard them right outside our door. I heard them back up to our door, likely moving a piece of furniture. They touched our door. And I had a panic attack.

I tried to come up with escape routes from our third floor home. My brain, unreasonably thought, they can get in and you can't get out. I expected them to knock and then open. I expected them to bang and then yell. I couldn't breathe or move. The rest of the day I was exhausted- sore from being tense, head aching from holding my breath.

The truth is, we had a roommate who was sneaky. We plugged in the webcam and caught him coming in our room while we were away. We knew he was taking things. He came home at crazy hours, spent our rent money on alcohol, refused to let us turn on the heat in January. On top of this, he was a veteran with post-traumatic stress; an absolute loose cannon. I often laid awake listening to him rummage about the house. He would go in our bathroom, he would walk by our door. It was scary. One day, he demanded extra money on top of our rent. He had spent our rent money on God-knows and was in a bind and acting very unstable. We packed the car in the dead of night. We ate breakfast at Shari's and came up with a plan. We never went back.

So, maybe I have a little post-traumatic stress of my own.

You could say we were irresponsible. I would agree with you. But my baby needed to be healthy and I was willing to do whatever I had to. If we had to eat at Salvation Army every night, so be it. I watched Kade gulp up clean, ocean air. I watched him run without growing tired. I watched the treatments lessen and then disappear completely- the O2 sats rising and then staying.

It was worth it.

Now, seven months later, we have a place of our own, Kade is healthy and Ezra is here. I was so excited for this; I thought I would decorate and get settled and be comfortable. Instead, I've been "half-packed" for seven months. I've been slow to get pictures on the walls, I've been avoiding making friends, I've been agitated and waiting. The closet is piled with cardboard boxes, waiting.

And now, I'm tired. I'm tired of being stressed for no reason, tired of thinking, "what's the point?" I'm tired of living half-way between here and somewhere else.

I was browsing through pictures yesterday and found some of my apartment in Utah. The abundance of photos on the walls, fresh flowers on the table, colorful rugs, candles burning... it left me feeling sad and homesick. I used to buy myself flowers, "nest" every Saturday, bake constantly. My home smelled like banana bread, felt like granny squares, tasted like coffee. Now, it's empty. The walls are huge and besides Kade's haphazardly hung art projects, they're also bare. I told Ian last weekend, "I feel like we live in a hospital."

So, we printed pictures. I ordered a candle. I made plans for shelving and rugs and baked two loaves of bread for good measure.

We might not be at this apartment long- but it's okay now to accumulate things. It's okay now to buy frames, vases, furniture. Because even if we rent a house next, we can take it with us.

That's a new feelings- one I'm trying to get used to. It's time to get comfortable and confident.

Kade isn't the only one who can breathe a little easier; we're home now.

Friday, October 17, 2014

1in100; Our Relationship With CHD

Kade was six months old when we finally heard his diagnosis. Although, his cardiologist didn't say, "He has Congenital Heart Disease." She told us, quite simply, that he had holes in his heart.

I knew the names of them before she spoke them because I cheated during the echo-cardiogram. I watched the tech type in the letters V S D with her gloved middle finger and later, A S D. Jabby little pokes, spelling out Kade's future. When we got back to the waiting room, I googled it. I had already read the definition, symptoms, treatment and all sorts of scary statistics.

He's one in one-hundred.

We fought hard for this and the news washed over me, a wave of relief. We finally had an answer. And it wasn't that I was " new and over-protective." It makes my insides twist to think of what would have inevitably happened to Kade if we had quit fighting.

So, there was the digoxin. There was the lasix, making him wet through his bed every night. There was panic bubbling in my chest because I could tell they weren't working. He was sweating, profusely. He was sleeping too long.

And that term kept coming up in conversation- the one I would see on every medical record he has- the one that makes me cringe and ball up my fists: Failure To Thrive. 

At nine months old, there was the surgery. We held it together until I put him in the arms of the surgeon. It was like a movie- swinging doors with little circle windows. He was crying and reaching towards us as they walked away with our baby. I lost it in the cafeteria, sobbing to my family, "It's not fair. He doesn't understand."

 Then there was the recovery. The moment I saw him, he looked better somehow. Even with all of those tubes, wires and bandages, his color was improved. His skin was finally getting oxygen. And the days that followed were remarkable. Kade improved more each day and was home within the week. The check-ups went from every month, to three, to six.

"A small residual leak," says the Doc, "But nothing to be worried about right now. His patch is intact."

So, now what?

We are the lucky ones. Congenital Heart Disease is a bully and a killer. It takes more children a year than every childhood cancer combined. It is the leading cause of death in infants. 32,000 children in the U.S. are diagnosed every year. It steals vacations, first days of school, Christmases, graduations and birthdays.

I try my best to connect with other CHD moms. I'm active in CHD groups, I follow a lot of stories, I offer up my support the best I can. I'm told a lot that Kade is a beacon of hope for them and that makes me very proud of my warrior. At the same time though, I weep for these moms. Kade will likely lead a very normal life. Considering the severity of heart defects, Kade's was one they have success in mending. He probably won't ever be able to play sports but he will live. Others aren't so lucky and multiple defects leave them in a scary place, literally clinging for life.

Can I really relate to them? It's hard to find where we stand in the CHD community. Because so far, we're done with surgeries. We're off the medication.

Even though we're likely done, I worry. When Kade is on the playground and is hit in the chest with a ball, I gulp up air and go into a tizzy. I worry constantly about his chest wires snapping or that his ASD's aren't closing. Some of my worry is warranted, a lot of it is unnecessary. I guess this is where we relate with the CHD community- even after the recovery, there is the worry. I think every Heart Parent knows that worry.

But through the worry, there is the hope. Heart defects are becoming more treatable. Our kids are fighters- unbelievably resilient and so incredibly brave. We have each other- a tight knit group that can lean on each other for support, shoulders for crying, coffee runs and late night texts. And, we have you; our family, friends, acquaintances. With your help, we can keep fighting back against CHD.

If you would like to know more about spreading CHD awareness, please click:

Do you have a heart hero in your life? Request a hero cape for them, here:

If you would like to donate to the Children's Heart Foundation, click here:

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

I'm controlling.

The title of this blog post is simple, straight forward, to the point. I did that on purpose because what I'm about to write about is not simple. It's complicated and frustrating. Complicated is a good word for describing my life. I once had a friend tell me, "It's complicated? Of course it is. It always is with you." That's because I'm a super human. Super Sensitive Jessica to the rescue!  I attach a feeling to everything and sometimes, that includes my kids and whatever they have their hands on. I like to have things done a certain way and that stifles creativity, learning and even nurturing.

I know, I know. That escalated quickly.

Let me set a scene for you: My kitchen table, in a rain storm; markers, construction paper and scissors are scattered and Kade is banging his hands on the table and growling (yes growling) at me. This week we're learning about the letter D. I planned a craft for Kade to make a dinosaur in the shape of the letter D and in planning, had an idea of what it should look like. It should have spikes on the top and feet on the bottom and a smiling face and it will look like a dinosaur because D is for dinosaur.

Kade disagreed. He wanted the spikes in the middle, the feet in one group in the corner and the head layered over top of the spikes. I kept pulling the paper away from him and showing him the right way to do it. I was getting frustrated because I had this grand idea of how adorable this project would look and he was ruining it. It hurt my feelings. As if my feelings should be at all tangled in a piece of wrinkled construction paper and a sticky smear of paste. By the end of the project, we were both grumpy. Mean Mom won the battle and Kade caved and did it my way. Afterwards, I was even more emotional (because that's what I do). I stared at the D dinosaur on the dining room wall and wanted to cry. The truth is, I would love it more if he had done it his way. Hind sight is, after all, 20/20.

This is where Ian comes in, normally. I know he would put his hand on my shoulder and say, "Babe, it's his project." It's hard to have him working late- not here to remind me to chill the heck out and just let things BE. We're a good balance in this way.

Somewhere deep beneath my skin is an anxious, obsessive little gene that insists on things being a certain way. I need my towels tri-folded and I organize Kade's room meticulously.

I remember being a kid and being furious that I didn't get to set up my own room. When we moved to a new house, my mom did that for me. This is fine; she was trying to help. But now I'm doing the same and somehow not understanding why Kade knocks things off the dresser or dumps out toy containers. He wants things in his space to be done his way and of course he does. He's my child.

It's hard to stretch myself from this comfort zone. It's hard for me when a project goes array, things are out of place, Ian doesn't completely empty the sink. It makes my skin crawl and my blood boil.

But of course, it's complicated.

Because on the other end, I have always been one to let Kade experience things. I let him soak himself in puddles, wear his underwear all day, get muddy, paint his face, whatever he wants as long as he's learning, stretching, growing, experiencing.

What, exactly, is the difference here? I'm still trying to figure that out. In an attempt stretch my comfortable little pocket, there will be more open-ended projects. It's not going to be perfect. I'm sure there will be plenty more Mean Mom days. But we have to start somewhere because Mean Mom is bully and I'm tired of her controlling crap.

Today, we received a package from IKEA. It came with all sorts of fun packaging cardboard and Kade saw it and said "Oh mama, I think we should paint it!" I pulled out everything I could think of- paint, crayons, markers, glue, scissors. And I let him at it. I haven't walked back in there yet because he's in his zone and thoroughly enjoying a project without my help. This is just another lesson of letting him be him.

We'll keep practicing and hopefully, he can be patient with me.
Thanks for being my gunieu pig, little bug. I'm sure your baby brother appreciates it.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Whiner Butt

Kade has been going through an awful bout of tantrums and whining. I mean, awful. He screams, he tries to hit, he stomps his feet. And though I don't tolerate it and a time out is issued immediately, I can't help but feel like I'm doing something wrong. What's even worse is when he starts laughing at me. I sit him in a time out, explain why he's there and he starts giggling at me! There isn't anything worse in my book. Why isn't he taking me seriously, I ask myself, What have I done?

I also beat myself up on the playground, when he isn't playing nice. Kade's communication skills are a work in progress and he often takes instead of asking or asks after he takes. My mind is in a frenzy- trying to work out what I could be doing different. Sometimes, he breaks down and cries over the smallest things; He's on the floor flailing because he needs a drink but he never asked me to get him one. He's howling down the hall because he dropped something, but won't pick it up himself.

And I beat myself up. I truly feel like there's something I could be doing to resolve all of this; some magic cure, a schedule, a routine, a phrase. But nothing really works that way, does it? There is no such thing, especially when it comes to parenting.

Sometimes, I have to remind myself that kids will be who they are.

Kade is a very sensitive soul. His feelings get hurt and he's easily frustrated. When he's frustrated, he cries (huh, wonder where he inherited that gene) because he doesn't know how else to express himself. We're working on this. It's a constant lesson at our house of, "Okay. What should you do next?" and "If you need a drink, what should you do and say?" and especially, "What are you feeling?" And I like to think that he's catching on when we have small victories; like when he puts Thomas back on the train track instead of laying on the floor in a heap of sobs when he falls off.

It's not acceptable behavior. I know. But I also know that we don't have to like our kids or their behavior 100 percent of the time. This generation of parenting, with the Mommy Wars, the attachment parenting, the co-sleeping... It's taught us that our kids are everything and that we are failures if they have any faults. It's taught us that if our kids have an attitude, it's our fault. We're taught that they have no personalities- that we somehow create their personalities and any of their not-so-shiny traits are a mistake we've made as parents. People might say Kade whines because I let him get away with it or that I "give in" (both completely untrue).

I call bull shit.

Kade whines, a lot. There's no amount of assertive parenting I could do to solve that right now. It's a phase he's going through. I don't like it. It frustrates me to tears and makes me angry. Kade also stomps his feet around the house. I don't like this because I think it's disrespectful, especially of our downstairs neighbors. Some days, I just plain don't like him or the way he's behaving. I know, Bad Mom. Mean Mom. How could I say something like that?

Let's be real though.

My kids are so important to me- they are the sun and the moon in my life. I love them, unconditionally. They are pieces of my heart, walking about the earth.

But I have to stop tearing myself up when they have less-than-perfect personality traits. I have to admit that Kade is a WHINER BUTT and that's just who he is today. By continuing to teach him better ways to express himself, implementing a routine, and delivering a swift kick in the pants for serious infractions, we'll get through it. When he grows up, I'll tease him about it and we'll all laugh, Haha! Aren't we glad we got through that?

You don't have to like it. But you have to get through it.
It's not all your fault.
And Mama, you are doing your b e s t.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

A Story of Homesick

I like to write. While it's true that I like the inspiring, uplifting, Mama writing... I just plain like to write. Sometimes that looks more like this:


We woke up swallowed by fog, hanging low in the trees, forcing an eerie morning light through the shades. Kade shifted in the bed beside me and Ezra kicked his feet madly against the crib sheet. I pinched the swollen bridge of my nose, still sick, still sore, still tired. 

I sleep the best just before I'm meant to get out of bed. It seems like my limbs finally relax, fall into the warm bed and tingle when suddenly, Kade is demanding pancakes and Ezra is mumbling, "Mamamamamama." Sometimes, I can't force myself from the pillow. Sometimes, I flip it over and heave a giant sigh, melting into the cool of the cotton. Kade protests, pulling the covers from my head, "Mama, I want breakfast. Pancakes!" 

It's not that I'm depressed. I'm just tired. 

By the time the coffee is made and the pancakes are on the skillet, I feel better. Groggy, but better. I want to go for a run. I want to go bury myself in the sand of the Sound but I can't. Kade says the clouds are "making more clouds" and Ezra tries to grab at the bowl of batter. We eat and I actually get dressed. Kade coughs and sniffles, having caught my flu bug. 

We sing along to Winnie the Pooh. Kade talked me into turning it on, remarking, "I just don't feel good Mama and Pooh Bear is my favorite." I promptly order a plush Pooh Bear on Amazon. 

Sometimes retail therapy helps. 

My grandma sent a package yesterday. Keep an eye out, she says. I take the boys on a long, long walk through the forest near our house. We stop at the corner store on the way for Tylenol because they're both fevered and then we walk. We walk through the pines, passed the bare blackberry bushes, untangling stroller wheels from ivy vines. Ezra finally falls asleep and Kade crawls from the stroller, finding pine cones and watching crows. I take a long time to get home, weaving up and down streets and imaging the people who live in the homes or what we would do if we lived there. I would paint the house on the corner white and the house by the school would look beautiful with a giant fruit tree in the front yard. 

At home, we go to the playground. The neighbor girl asks, again, what church we go to. She demands, again, we try hers out. I try to be polite. 

Now, the baby sleeps and an apple fritter bread bakes. I think about my Mama and her love for all things fritter and I sneak into Ezra's room, waking him. I just want to hold him is all.

It's not that I'm depressed. I'm just homesick. 

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Magical Motrin or I Suck at Being Sick

Like some sick joke, I woke up yesterday morning with no choice but for Personal Time. My head felt like it would implode, my chest was wheezing, a deep cough left me sore and my body was fatigued. A few hours later, the vomiting started- sort of like fate was saying, "You want personal time? You got it."

I came to the very sad realization that I am terrible at taking care of myself.

I lay on the couch with Ezra by my side most of the day while Kade ruled the house. Meals were managed, but barely. I shuffled around the house, holding on to furniture for support and expressing on Facebook how downright ticked I was at my immune system for failing me. Kade was furious. He wanted to go to the park, he wanted to play trains, he wanted attention. Ezra is coming down with the same crud so he was a bit more compliant. He stared at me with watery eyes and I nodded at him with understanding, I know baby. This sucks.

I slipped into the bathtub with Kade because reaching over the tub to wash him seemed impossible. I read books and prepped him for bed only to realize he still had an hour before his bedtime. I pleaded with him, "Buddy, I know it's early but Mama is so sick. Can you try to rest a bit?" I have one of the most amazing kids on the planet because he was snoozing within minutes. My sensitive one, knowing Mama needed some (ahem) Personal Time.

When Ian finally got home, I jumped from the couch in tears, so happy to see him. He maneuvered through the toys and clothes strewn across the floor and washed a plate to heat up his dinner (so embarrassing, but let's be real here). I asked him to feel my head, to which he remarked, "You do feel hot. Did you take anything for it?"

If my head weren't pounding before, it was now. Of course I didn't. The thought hadn't even crossed my mind because, apparently, I feel the need to tough it out. I stared at him and asked, "Do we have a fever reducer?" He brought me a Motrin and I sort of stared at him and at the little orange pill in my hand. Why on earth hadn't I taken one of these?

Later, I thought about the fact that we have tea. Why haven't I made myself a cup of tea? Then I remembered the peppermint rub beneath the bathroom cabinet.

Why wasn't I taking care of myself?

I'm not sure what the answer is. A mere hour after the Motrin, I felt a hundred times better. Still sick, but the fever was gone and the soreness was relieved. I was able to sleep okay and actually got dressed this morning (gasp!).

 Today, I'm drinking tea and slathering on the peppermint rub and the house was cleaned and Kade got his much needed attention.

I think, as a mom, I feel like I have to tough it out. I don't know where this derived from and I admit, it's ridiculous. I lay on the couch, helpless, telling myself I would have to let it run it's course. Toughen up, Mama. All the while, I had tools that could have helped me tough it out, more comfortably.

I guess this is a good time to examine myself; to remember (again and again) that I'm worth some taking care of. Isn't it funny how we can remember this and have to be reminded a day later?

Toughen up, Mamas. Take care of yourselves.