Friday, January 6, 2012

Surviving December

How is it that one of the most joyful times of the year turns into one of the most stressful? I know that you all know about the many birthdays we celebrate in December - Kennedy, Preston, Sydnee, Laura and Chris, not to mention the many friends and other family members who have birthdays in December. Oh, and throw in a 12th wedding anniversary for Ryan and me, Christmas and a baby who still doesn't sleep through the night and, well, you've got S-T-R-E-S-S.

This year was tough for me. I like to stay busy. I like to celebrate. But call it S.A.D., stress, sadness because my baby boy decided he no longer wanted to nurse, but preferred a bottle ... call it whatever you want, I just wasn't in the mood for any of it. Pretty depressing, huh? I did enjoy spending time with our families and tried to keep birthdays small, happy occasions. And I hope my children think I was successful as their birthdays are just as, if not more, important and special to me as they are to them. And I'm not trying to say I was depressed and didn't want to participate ... I'm just saying that something didn't feel right. Maybe it was because just days before Christmas it was 60+ degrees here in Tennessee.

Honestly, I'm going to blame 90 percent on the fact that I need sleep. Sweet, sweet sleep.

I've rambled enough. And, after all, we survived December and I am so very proud to say that I am now the mom of a nine-year-old, a six-year-old and a seven-month-old.

Want proof? Looks like you're going to have to wait. My card reader isn't working and the cord for the camera is missing (go figure). Pictures to come soon.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Nine Years ago ...

Isn't it funny how you can remember every single thing about a day that has such a huge impact on your life? For me, October 11, 2002, was one of those days.

Ryan and I met at Centennial Hospital that afternoon - driving separately from our respective jobs. We were there to see a radiologist for a high-resolution ultrasound. It was at this appointment that we learned that our sweet baby girl would be born with bilateral cleft lip and palate. At this point, I was 32 weeks pregnant. Just a few days prior, I went in for a regular check-up with my OB and was measuring a few weeks larger than normal and as a precaution she wanted me to have another ultrasound with the specialist (I don't remember his name and if I did, I would tell you to NEVER see this man. I did not like him nor his condescending attitude).

I remember the smell of the room, the dim lighting in the office and the fact that the valet had taken my keys to a different office and I was unable to leave when all I wanted to do was run far away from that place. I remember calling my mom on my drive home and Ryan begging me to let him drive me home. Needless to say, I was an emotional wreck.

My heart was broken at the thought of the many surgeries and difficulties my sweet girl would face. But after a few days we tried to put our emotions aside and began our research for a plastic surgeon. We met with several and found the best - Dr. Kevin Kelly at Vanderbilt. Dr. Kelly is truly awesome. He is the best at what he does and has a great personality - always smiling, patient and willing to answer any question with a smile, even Kennedy's never-ending, "will this hurt?" During many visits, Kennedy has said "I love you" to Dr. Kelly. His response? "I love you, too, sweetheart." He is the best.

Surgeries began when Kennedy was just nine weeks old - February 19, 2003. The first surgery was to repair her lip. And what an emotional surgery it was. It is hard to explain the emotions that you experience when your child goes to surgery looking one way and comes out looking completely different. Her next surgery was one year later to close her palate. And since that surgery, she has had two additional surgeries - one lip revision at age two and her most recent surgery in March 2011 to complete a bone graft from her hip to her gums. We feel so blessed that she has needed only four surgeries (she has had four plastic surgeries, but nine total for ear tubes and a broken arm); many children born with cleft lip and palate have so many more.

Kennedy has dealt with each surgery like a champ, even looking forward to her time in the hospital. She considers her surgeries mini-vacations. She is often pampered, given anything and everything she wants and eats lots of ice cream. During her most recent surgery, her first while attending school, her friends and classmates, in addition to her grandparents, showered her with gifts. And her daddy drove all over Nashville to fulfill her (and mine - I was 30 weeks pregnant) every request for specific foods, not to mention the huge steak - her favorite - he bought her the night before surgery (she was unable to eat solid foods for six weeks). During the last surgery she even refused all pain medication. (Who does that? Especially after someone has chipped bone from your hip and put it in your mouth.) The morphine made her sick and the codeine made her loopy, so she decided she would rather tolerate the pain. Every nurse fell in love with her as she was quite simply an easy patient. The only time she was uncooperative was when the resident told her she could go home. She wanted to stay.

On October 10, 2011, one day shy of exactly nine years, we traveled to Nashville for Kennedy's six-month post-op visit. For the second time in nine years, we had to wait to see Dr. Kelly ... and we waited more than two hours in the overcrowded, small lobby. But for the news we received, I would have waited all day in that lobby.

After a look at her mouth, lip, nose and hip, Dr. Kelly gave us the best news - NO MORE SURGERIES.

I'm pretty sure the look on my face was one of disbelief. And the look on Kennedy's was one of disappointment. I couldn't believe that we would no longer be making the day-trip to Nashville for our annual visits. And Kennedy begged Dr. Kelly for "just one more." Seriously. Dr. Kelly laughed and said numerous times just how beautiful she is and how he would miss seeing us. We'll miss him, too, but we (Ryan and I) will not miss the surgeries. We feel so blessed to be finished with this chapter in each of our lives and look forward to watching our girl grow more beautiful each day.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

To be, or not to be?

And the answer for me is: To be a stay-at-home mom.

I have a confession to make, one I hope that doesn't offend anyone. Before I had children, and maybe even after Kennedy was born, I thought stay-at-home moms were lazy. I had this horrible misconception that these ladies were sitting on their behinds, allowing their children to watch television all day and night, all while I was busting my butt at a job, cleaning house, cooking supper and running my child to and from various activities.

Fast forward to 2006 when Preston is born. I had to make the tough decision to go back to work or stay home. I cried as I searched for child care and declared I wasn't going back to work, but I couldn't let go of my pride and three months after he was born, I went to work. I quit that job soon afterward to, in my mind, compromise and find something that allowed me to spend more time with my children while contributing to our household income. I did find something - a job at the local college, where I had a schedule that allowed me, at first, to be off each Friday, and the last couple of years I adjusted my hours so I could leave early and pick up my children from school and run, run, run them to their respective activities.

When I became pregnant with Bennett, Ryan and I were faced with the reality that child care expenses for three children and the time I would need to spend away from home to complete my job at a level with which I would be satisfied, wasn't worth the extra income. And this month, I turned in my notice at the college where I worked for five years.

I can't begin to explain to you the relief and joy I felt from this decision, which certainly wasn't an easy one for me. I blame growing up with a single mom, but until I had children of my own, I never aspired to be a stay-at-home mom. I pride myself on my independence and the thought of not contributing to our household income has always bothered me. And I will admit, I have always had big goals for myself and for my career, that I have yet to reach and may never fulfill. This has often been a source for disappointment for me and has caused me to ask myself on many occasions (only with regards to my career), "Why can't you do any better than this? Aren't you smarter than this?" Oh, and I thought that staying at home was me being lazy (I chew on those words every day - I'm more tired today than any day I spent at my desk).

It wasn't until last year while having a conversation with my friend, Sara, that I came to realize what is truly important and that maybe the goals I set for myself aren't exactly the goals that God has for me. I was telling her about how each time I plan to further my education (i.e., return to college for a graduate degree), I find out I'm pregnant. Her response to me was something like, "maybe this is God's way of telling you that your job is to be a momma."

{Gulp.} What? Just a momma? For the past year I have thought about our conversation numerous times. It has taken me a while, but I now realize that this job, my position as a stay-at-home mom, is exactly the one for which I have been searching. Once I gave up my pride as a do-it-all, working mom (at least I tried to do it all), I have found this to be my most fulfilling role yet. It feels so good to be the one teaching life's lessons to my children, changing my baby's diapers, providing meals (and not McDonald's, much to Preston's disappointment) and cleaning my own home (seriously ... sort of).

Today I find myself extremely thankful for the opportunity to be at home with my children. I am grateful for my conversation with Sara, and for Ryan, who realizes just how important it is for me to be with our children. And I share all of this with you, why? Because I am sure there will be days that I will need a reminder of just how grateful I am and should be.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Back to school

It seems that each year, as the new school  year begins, I am reminded of just how "big" my children are becoming, but this year is a little different.

Kennedy and I had a conversation last week about the see-saws at school and in my mind I was thinking, "Why do you want to play on the see-saws? Aren't you too big for that?" But reminded myself that she is only eight years old. With a new baby in the house it is so easy for me to forget that she too is just a babe. This morning I watched her, a third grader, walk into her school beside a fifth grader, who appeared to be a giant beside my little girl. Kennedy looked so small and I almost burst into tears thinking about my "little" girl and how fast the past eight years have gone by.

I often take for granted her independence and maturity. She helps so much with Bennett and Preston - from buckling the baby in his car seat to helping Preston with his shower, and for these things I am so grateful, but I hope that I can encourage her to enjoy being "only eight" at least until she is "only nine."

Preston started kindergarten this year, which isn't much different from last year's pre-K, but still serves as a reminder that he is growing up. I am so grateful for the little things that show me he isn't completely independent, even though he demanded that on the third day of school I drive up and drop him off at the door ("just like you do for sister"). This morning I had to tie his shoes for him (a lesson I failed to teach this summer and must do very soon) and every night he asks to be tucked into bed with three songs and a prayer. Is it wrong to say I enjoy the 30 seconds it takes for me to tie his shoes, which he spends with just me during the hustle of our morning routine?

I admit that I am often wishing my children would hurry up and learn to do something, lots of times it is such a petty need, that makes them more independent. This year I am making it my goal to slow down and enjoy the little things that make them who they are and encourage them to not grow up too soon. I feel certain that it won't be long before I miss being needed to complete what currently seem like mundane tasks.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Our Beach Vacation

Last week we packed up our things and headed south to the beach. We all had a great time and enjoyed some much needed quality time with Ryan. Bennett was excellent on the beach and in the car. Now we're counting down the days until we can go back.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Life with Three

Life with a new baby has certainly caused us to slow down. I'd like to say we've been hanging out smelling the roses, but my hopes of being a more frequent blogger have been shot down by illness, fatigue and everything else that comes along with being a mommy of three. It's OK though, it has not all been bad - we've had lots of time to spend together and time to spend snuggling with a newborn (and really, what's better than that?).

So, here's the low down on what's been going on with us:
  • Breastfeeding. I proclaimed I hated breastfeeding. After two rounds of antibiotics, I'm nursing and no longer a hater.
  • Strep throat. Need I say more? It's almost as if our house is contaminated. Preston had it twice. Bennett had strep once ... yes, at five weeks old.
  • Doctor visits. Our typical week, until this week, has consisted of going to either the OB or pediatrician at least twice each week. Seriously, it was no fun.
  • Boredom. Kennedy is bored out of her mind. She's the only one who hasn't been sick and she wants OUT OF THIS HOUSE. 
  • Work. Ryan accepted a new position closer to home (11 minutes vs. 1 hour) in April and is still learning the company, so he's been working quite a bit.
Bennett is now seven weeks old and we are finally getting into a routine and getting out of the house more. Next week we go on vacation to the beach and in two and a half weeks, the kids begin school - Kennedy will be in third grade and Preston will be in kindergarten. I think I'd be more emotional over the start of school and Preston going to kindergarten if I hadn't been home with them all summer. But we're ready. We're ALL READY for school to start.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Bennett's arrival

We completed our party of five on May 27 with the arrival of Bennett Jude, our gorgeous baby boy. To say that his big sister and brother are excited would be quite the understatement. We're all so in love with him. Kennedy and Preston can't keep their hands off of him - the hugs, kisses and requests to hold "Baby Brother" are never ending.

So, here he is, weighing in at 8 lbs. 12 oz. and perfect in every way.