Kinsley Turns One: a reflection.

Tomorrow Kinsley will turn one year old. The realization is a lot to take in.

Consider this: the odds of becoming a human being are 400 trillion to 1– it is basically a miracle that any of us exist the way that we are. On top of that, dare I say Kinsley is lucky to be alive: the odds of being born with TEF are 4,000 to 1, and while it is not the rarest congenital defect to exist, the complications that come with it can be fatal.

She is alive and well on her first birthday, despite her congenital defects, which we happen to be very grateful for. In every way the odds have been in our favor–to others it may not sound like it, but I believe it depends entirely on how you view things. Let’s go back and have a look at a unique perspective.

I woke up the morning of Sunday, June 25th around 5 am with slight contractions, similar to what I’d been having for the previous week. Nick and I had breakfast at JW Filmores and when we got home he left to have his hair cut. By the time he returned we decided we should head to the hospital.

We arrived at McLaren Northern Michigan’s emergency room around 1:00 pm and were situated in our birthing room shortly thereafter. I was dilated to 2 cm, which meant we had some waiting to do. By 5:30 I was dilated to 5 cm and within the next 45 minutes I was up to 8 cm. My doctor finally came in to break my water at 6:45 pm and I was told to push at 7:10 pm. Kinsley was born about 25 minutes later at 7:37 pm. The ease of my birth experience was made up for by the difficulties that followed.

Kinsley was placed on my chest, for maybe three minutes at best.


My placenta was abruptly pushed out without warning or explanation of what was being done. I did not opt for the epidural, but I had to be stitched up where I tore and I apparently was administered numbing medication to do so, though I could feel every thread being pulled through my skin. Kinsley was taken from me to be weighed and measured, while my body was in shock, shaking uncontrollably from pain.

Immediately after she was weighed, there was a moment of confusion; something had gone wrong but no one was talking. It was terrifyingly silent and urgently noisy all at once. I felt shrouded in thick fog, every second moving past in a slow blurry sludge. I kept looking to my mom for an answer but could only see terror across her face, mouth hanging open, hands trembling, eyes moving back and forth from me to the table Kinsley had been moved to. A light was shining on her purple, turning deep blue body, and three, maybe four nurses were huddled around her, counting with deep concentration.

“What’s going on?” I repeated probably fifty times. But no one would answer me.

I can’t remember how we got to the next bit, it was a sensory overload for me… but by some miracle even greater than 400 trillion to 1, the emergency was over and she was breathing again.

The next thing I knew, we were in separate rooms. Nick and I in one, Kinsley down the hall in another, hooked up to some contraption. It took a while to figure out why she couldn’t breathe on her own. A specialist was called in and it was determined that constant suction was needed to keep her airway clear. Finally they found she had Tracheoesophageal Fistula with Esophageal Atresia. Another hospital was called.

By this time she was 4 or more hours old. I had held her for 3 minutes, seen her near dead on a table for slightly less than that. It was not at all what I had expected or envisioned, the planner that I am. I didn’t know it then- maybe I had an inkling, but no real idea- that the next several months would not be like anything I ever could have imagined or prepared for.

Kinsley was taken to the Helen DeVos Children’s hospital. She arrived there before I could even leave Petoskey. The separation was vast, like nothing I had ever known or felt before. Looking back, I recognize that this is when the bitterness began. There was so much hurt that I couldn’t possibly know how to process.

Kinsley’s pain was physical. She underwent two surgeries: One was just two mornings after she was born, the other 2 weeks later. She had several procedures, saw many specialists, encountered dozens of angels in disguise, and by the grace of God she began to recover and thrive.

In the meantime, Nick and I were trapped in a bubble. Stuck in a place no one seemed to understand, feeling things our friends and family had never felt. It was as if time had literally stopped. Everyone else’s life continued on as we watched from the outside. Other people got up and went to work like normal, had their babies and took them home like normal, enjoyed their summer beach days like normal…but all along, there we were, reliving the same day over and over and over again, stuck in our own personal time warp. It wasn’t easy, but we had each other.

Kinsley turned one month old in the NICU. Two weeks later she was discharged and the time warp finally broke, but the bitterness remained because even though we weren’t at the hospital anymore, everything still wouldn’t be normal yet.

Together the three of us had cleared an enormous hurdle, we had moved a mountain none of us even knew existed. It seemed things would be easier out of the hospital, but once we were home safely, other struggles began.

There was feeding therapy, doctors appointments, medical procedures to perform on our own at home, special feeding routines, pumping for breastmilk every two hours to keep a supply up that no one, not even my baby, could help me do.

In the hospital I had felt the unfairness of it all clinging to everything around me- every step, sight, smell, and sound a constant hovering reminder of how brutal life can be when dealing its cards. Though, when I got home it was something I had to really acknowledge face to face. Everywhere we went (which wasn’t many places or very often due to the severity of the consequences that would result if Kinsley were to get sick) I felt the stares. I felt the curiosity. I felt the questions and the wonder and the ignorance freezing every inch of my heart. In the grocery store. At the dentist. Even getting a coffee.

Sometimes it hurt my feelings; even though people stared because they didn’t know, which is okay, I wanted them to find courage to ask and learn because then I could have at least set the record straight. Not that I needed to, but I wanted to, for Kinsley. She deserved to be recognized for all her accomplishments, not stared at for all her differences.

Once I was at Starbucks with her and I had sat down at a table to wait for a friend. A man came up to me pointing at Kinsley and said, “So what’s with the tube?”

He asked kindly, and since I appreciate and prefer the courage it takes to ask rather than the fear that makes people stare, I gave him the brief explanation I had given so many times in the month we had been home: Kinsley was born with a defect called TEF that caused her esophagus to dead end in her throat and the portion attached to her stomach to be attached to her wind pipe. She had emergency surgery after she was born and now she has the tube to help her eat until everything is healed up and strong.

The man smiled and told me how lucky I am and how beautiful and perfect she is. He asked if it would be okay if he prayed over her. Then he asked if he could touch her. I said yes.

This stranger put his hand on Kinsley’s shoulder, and got on his knees beside our chair and prayed that Kinsley be healed from the top of her head to the very soles of her feet. He prayed that her doctors see perfect, miraculous results at her next visit and that she continue to develop well as time goes on. He then stood up and thanked me for allowing his day to be made by giving him the opportunity to pray for my precious baby girl.

Little did he know, two days later we had our first follow up in Grand Rapids, complete with swallow studies and an esophogram, and the results were perfect. In fact, in the year since Kinsley was born, and the ten months she’s been home, there have of course been challenges, but her overall growth and development has been spot on… her results have been miraculous, even ‘perfect’ if that’s how you choose to look at it.

I don’t know what the odds are that that man was able to find me where I was that day and speak words to me that I needed to hear, I guess 1 in 7.4 billion, but he did, and it helped develop my perspective and ease the bitterness still oozing from my scars.

Something in my heart sparked from our conversation, from the prayer this stranger gave us. He was completely honest and genuine when he said “your daughter is beautiful and perfect, you are so lucky.” He didn’t say it like he felt bad for me or her, which is what I was used to hearing from the day she had been born- this sort of, half-smile i-don’t-really-know-what-else-to-say gesture. It was pure, and I could tell he meant it. I realized then that if a stranger could see it, without knowing first hand all she had overcome, then I should be able to recognize it too. From then on I adopted the phrase “life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you look at/react to it.” There was nothing I could do about her congenital defects; it was what it was and we had to make the best of it. The least I could do was look at the bright side of things rather than dwell on all the bad.

This type of thinking had its challenges. When I really realized there was nothing I could say to change how others viewed her, or me, or our struggles- and let me tell you, quite a few people to this day did/do not understand the severity of her complications, they probably never will- it was hard not to try to change their minds. But I had to realize that those things are beyond me, all I can do is control how I react to them. So I just stopped. If it didn’t require my attention, I didn’t give it any.

More importantly, once I stopped looking at Kinsley from the viewpoint of “there’s all this wrong with her” and I instead started pointing out all her triumphs and everything she’d overcome, I was able to stop comparing and calling out differences between Kinsley and other babies. I could finally let go completely of the bitterness I’d held toward others whose babies were ‘perfect’ and who never had to go through the same struggles we had gone through. The expectations had vanished and I could focus on her only.

The odds of making the best out of a difficult situation are 50-50. It was all up to me, so I chose to react to the situation differently, and my new perspective helped change our lives for the better and move us in a positive direction. This was only one thing I learned from our unique situation.

In fact, all of the learning that happened during Kinsley’s first year was unexpected. I figured I’d learn things like how to feed, bathe, change and soothe a baby. I thought I’d learn how to juggle work and caring for my child. I anticipated learning how to breastfeed and all that jazz. I assumed I’d have to master holding an infant while folding three loads of laundry, but it wasn’t like that at all.

Instead I learned that ‘perfect’ comes in so many forms, you just don’t know it until you do.
I learned that blue eyes are so overrated, it’s those honey colored hazel eyes that can melt hearts and fold even the toughest line into a soft smile.
I learned its OKAY to listen to your body and your heart and not force yourself to pump around the clock because society tells you breast is best, but no one understands that its even harder to do when your baby CANNOT EAT except through a tube.
I learned how to keep quiet when other mom’s complaints consisted of clipping finger nails/changing outfits because of spit up…while my complaints were about arguing with carelink because they couldn’t get my kid’s medical supply orders right and she needed that stuff to eat/having to drive to traverse city in a snow storm to get her a shot so she wouldn’t get RSV and be hospitalized.
I learned the difference between all the sounds my baby makes, without any doubt the ones that mean distress and the ones that don’t warrant an over the shoulder look, even when the at home nurse is sweating bullets on the edge of the couch because she’s never heard a baby sound this bad while breathing.
I learned how to place a nasogastric tube down my child’s nose, through her esophagus and into her stomach.
I had to figure out how to stuff days worth of medical supplies and baby ‘stuff’ for doctors appointments three hours away into a diaper bag that I had only ever planned on taking to the grocery store or a coffee shop downtown.
I learned how to be a secretary and a mom and a partner all in the same space.
I learned who was there for me and who wasn’t, that my partner would stand by me and be supportive in a crisis situation.
I figured out how to survive when money got really tight; how to live without things I used to think I needed.
I got good at crying and breaking down and expressing my frustrations in a healthy way and listening to and leaning on my main supporter, and providing all the same courtesies to him.
I got really good at scheduling doctor appointments and keeping track of medical records and applying for help and giving insurance account information to bill collectors and all kinds of hard things I never saw myself having to do before Kinsley was born.

And you know what? I’m better for it. I am better because of my struggles. The perspective you gain and the things you learn when you struggle is immense.

Everything we’ve been through with Kinsley has been exactly what we needed. If you had asked me if I thought I’d be able to say that in a year, twelve months ago I’d have told you no while crying to my mom over the phone in a hospital hotel lobby behind a slow elevator door, praying I wouldn’t lose service on the way up to my room because I needed someone to hear me and feel what I felt, how I longed for a few moments of less stress and anxiety and freedom from constant worry and fear of the unknown.

Today I know that our challenges with Kinsley have such a great purpose, despite practically crushing us at the time. When it all began we were grasping at short threads, trying to find a light, feeling small and weak. We are in a much different place today, so much so that I often forget, sometimes for days at a time, that we had such a challenging and unique start to parenthood in the first place.

A friend of mine texted me about a week ago explaining that he was telling his coworker about me, explaining my life a little and how we know each other. He said, “You’re honestly so impressive to talk about,” he’s a grad student, so I replied with the laughing emoji and said “But I don’t have a job.” He said, “You’ve done so much as a mother…” and it really hit me then that in one short year, despite all the difficulty, despite being stripped down to nothing and being forced to learn about who I really was, I have grown into everything that I am now, and being a mom to a miracle baby is impressive. There’s nothing I’m more proud of- no degree, no job, no accomplishment is greater.

There is nothing I would change about the last year with her. Not one second. She was not at all what we expected, but now I am certain that the universe took its time on her, crafted her precisely with a great purpose in mind, so she could offer the world something distinct from everyone else. If we had not had such a difficult start, I’m not sure I would know this with such certainty.

Today Kinsley June is the beat in my heart and the air that I breathe. She’s the light of my life: my sun, moon, and every star. Being her mom is an amazing job, and the best part about it is it’s only just been the first year of an entire lifetime of learning with her, witnessing her growth, and watching her take the purpose she’s been given and turn it into something beautiful.

I am so grateful for our first year together, all the good with the bad, exactly the way it is. It has changed me, and now I can be the perfect mother for her.

Happy Birthday Kinsley June, mommy loves you SO much.

May you continue to rise, fight, and overcome any odds that are against you.

Quarter One Review

Some people don’t believe in new year resolutions. The end of the year will roll around and they’ll start sharing that one meme…

Image result for new year new me memes

I get it. It’s the pessimistic view point that anyone who really says they’re going to change isn’t actually going to, which is probably true depending on the type of resolutions a person makes for themselves.

Personally, I don’t believe in the kind of resolutions that start with “I want to stop…” or “I’m going to lose…” or “I won’t ___ anymore.” (sort of because those never work but) mainly because I believe in improvement and making yourself more, instead of tearing yourself down and making yourself less.

So while some share their meme and remain the same asshole they’ve always been, and others pledge to hate their body every day that they haven’t lost the 50 pounds, I just make a list of things I want to start, do more of, improve, or finish.

This is what my list for 2018 looked like on the last day of 2017:

—-I wanted to start:
+learning to read music
+practicing another language
+my 2018 bullet journal
+etsy page/art show planning

—-I wanted to do more:
+meditating
+reading
+yoga
+blogging

—-I wanted to improve:
+cooking
+home finance/budgeting
+saving account balance
+study habits

—-I wanted to finish:
+Kinsley’s scrapbook
+sorting/organizing the apartment
+my invisalign
+paperwork for health insurance

*(there are a few things missing from my master list, but I’ve narrowed it down to the four biggest things for each category that I decided I wanted to do this year)

Now it’s the end of March, 3 whole months in- that means we’re one fourth of the way done with 2018 already. It’s hard to believe it, but here we are. So, around this time of year I like to reevaluate my new year resolution list so that I can either stay on track, get back on track, or start improving more (depending on my assessment of the list). As I go through, if I’ve completed something, I remove the item from the list and add a new one in its place (because I’m an over achiever and I like improving myself).

That being said, I’m just going to jump right in.

I said I wanted to start 

+learning to read music
So far I have only learned to read three notes. Oops.

+practicing another language
I haven’t been as focused on language as I would like to be. Working hard to enter the nursing program has been kicking my butt and taking up all my time.

+my 2018 bullet journal
I did start a bullet journal and I’ve been using it as a habit tracker and for therapeutic purposes. I even uploaded one of my templates onto the bullet journal subreddit page and it reached over 7,000 people, got a couple thousand upvotes, and near one hundred comments.

+an etsy page/art show planning
As for my etsy page, I just quit my part time job two weeks ago, so I’m planning to really focus on this the next couple of months. I also bought some canvases and went through my painting/craft supplies so I know where I’m at with materials. Soon I plan to boot up a website for my store.

I said I wanted to do more  

+meditating
I’ve downloaded a meditation app called Headspace and I really like it. It took me a while to find one I liked because I couldn’t get into a few of them due to the voice of the person narrating the sessions, the price, or a variation of those and other reasons. But Headspace is actually fairly inexpensive, and its really great. I recommend it.

+reading
I haven’t spent much time reading- at least not the rest of Game of Thrones like I want to. Instead, I’ve been reading a lot of A&P for school and SO many news articles, because I’m obsessed with politics.

+blogging
I do spend some time blogging, if not here, on instagram for sure. I recently started a new feed on instagram called @mothertokinsley and I’ve been following a lot of other mommy blogs there. It’s been a lot of fun for me as well a creative outlet.

+yoga
I recently got a yoga journal, wheel, and new mat which has been really great for me. I’ve promised myself that after 30 home sessions of practice I will allow myself to spend the money on a few classes in town.

I said I wanted to improve
This is the area where I’ve really focused the first quarter.

+cooking
We’ve tried quite a few recipes this year so far (air fryer ravioli, sausage stuffed manicotti, chicken bacon ranch pinwheels to name a few). In fact, we’ve been meal planning every week using the Yummly app and this cool board I put up in the dining room.

+home finance/budgeting
 I made a budget spreadsheet and we identified areas where we can cut down on some spending, and we found some bills that can be reduced as well.

+saving account
Our saving account contains almost half of our tax return and we have paid off the debt that we owed to friends and family following Kinsley’s birth.

+health
I finally got my insurance updated and I’ve seen the dentist twice and scheduled doctor appointments for mental and physical health.

+study habits
I passed my TEAS test with a great score, and I’ve got an A in anatomy and physiology! There’s almost no chance that I won’t get into the nursing program.

I said I wanted to finish:

+Kinsley’s scrapbook 
Kinsley’s scrapbook needs a lot of work. It’s something I want to complete before her first birthday, so I still have a few months. So far I’ve gotten a lot of the materials and I’ve printed half the photos.

+sorting/organizing the apartment
I have successfully sorted and organized almost every area in the apartment. We’ve gone through almost everything and donated so much stuff. I’m super proud of the space I’ve made. I even bought some frames and put photos in them for the wall.

+my invisalign
My invisalign is underway- I have a few more dentist appointments to go to and then we’ll start back up. I’m aiming for end of May.

+paperwork for health insurance
My health insurance is finished! I got it all taken care of the first of March.

Lately I’ve been so preoccupied with doing more, more, more that I’ve forgotten to step back and breathe, and realize I’ve already done a ton this year. I’m really proud of the improvements I’ve made just in these three months, especially that I finished my obnoxious to-do list that I’ve been adding to since before Kinsley was born. I’m excited to keep moving forward and tackle a few more big obstacles.

For the second quarter (April/May/June) I’m going to focus on the following:
[+ old   ////   ++ new]

+etsy page/art show planning
+yoga
+Kinsley’s Scrapbook
+blogging
+dental plan/invisalign
++Kinsley’s FIRST birthday party
++entering Nursing Program/student loan
++green living/reduced trash

++spend more time being present

More updates to come as we cruise through the second quarter!

Growth in 2017

The last two years were hard.
But hard is good, because it causes people to evolve.

In 2016 I learned to be brave.
I learned to find inner strength to push through, and I realized that bravery goes hand in hand with strenght. The strength & bravery I found in 2016 carried me through 2017.

In 2017 I learned to grow.
I learned that life can change drastically and when it does, there will be things you cannot control. As a result, I had to embrace the changes and learn to grow through what I go through. Using strength and bravery, I embraced hardships to make me better, not bitter. The growth I experienced in 2017 is going to help shape my 2018.

Let’s have a look at the highlights (and low lights) of 2017 before I reveal what my mantra for 2018 is going to be.

JANUARY

Because we were pregnant since late October, I wanted to formally announce the pregnancy after the first of the year, so late December of 2016 I sent out pregnancy announcements to all of my family with a Christmas card.

January 3rd I announced on social media that we were expecting a baby in late June/early July.

Following the pregnancy announcement, I began moving to Petoskey.

We officially picked two names.

Late January I had my anatomy scan and found out the gender of our baby.

FEBRUARY

After the move was well underway I began some work in transforming the spare bedroom into a nursery.

Mid February I had a maternity shoot.

February 19th I left behind 22’s wishes and welcomed 23’s with a big celebration…

That celebration was our gender reveal party. We shared with family and friends that we would be having a girl via a cake that my mom made for the party.

MARCH

Due to some issues with the gender party, and many people showing their true colors, I realized it was time to begin a social media cleanse to start removing the toxicity from my life.

It took a few months, mostly because I was pregnant and it was winter, but I finally finished moving to Petoskey and let my lease in Conway go.

On March 17th we brought Merlin, our border collie, home from an Amish farm near Grand Rapids.

APRIL

At 28 weeks pregnant I decided there was no better time to visit my BFF in Florida, so for the second time ever, I put some stuff in a bag, drove to Detroit, and caught a flight to Panama City for a week. It was literally the best time. We sat on the couch for almost the entire week playing a game we have both come to love called Stardew Valley.

Shortly after returning from Florida Nick and I had Easter with all of his family in Traverse City.

Just a few months from Kinsley’s birth I finally got around to ordering and building her crib and crafting a few unique pieces for her nursery.

MAY

After enough pregnancy troubles and a difficult decision I decided to leave my Home Decor Department Manager position at Lowe’s.

I got to see my step sister get married to the love of her life in Tecumseh, Michigan.

I finally got around to sending out baby shower invites.

Traded in LaFawnduh the Ford Fusion for Pearl, our new JEEP Cherokee. (Thanks to a fellow named Jim at Brown Motors, who was MOST helpful.)

JUNE

At 37 weeks, on June 11th, I had my baby shower at a beautiful church in Cheboygan with family and friends.

We found out the news that Kinsley had a one vessel cord, so the doctors ordered some extra tests, which included these lovely stress tests, all of which we passed.

Miss Kinsley Estelle June made her debut to the world on June 25th, 2017 at 7:37 pm at McClaren Hospital in Petoskey, MI. She was 6lbs, 11oz, and 19.5 inches long.

Minutes after Kinsley was born, it was determined that something wasn’t right with her anatomy. She was taken to the DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids, Michigan where it was confirmed that she was born with a rare congenital defect called Tracheoesophageal Fistula (TEF) / Esophageal Atresia (EA).

We traveled to GR the next day after I was discharged from the hospital, where we received the most helpful support, humbling kindness, and amazing medical care for our daughter. DeVos is such a special place. I could not be more grateful that she ended up there. Every occupational therapist, social worker, nurse, nurse practitioner, neonatologist, ENT, surgeon, that had their hands in her care was simply the best. We are forever indebted to DeVos and their team, as well as the nurses at McClaren who saved Kinsley’s life.

JULY/AUGUST

As it turned out, Nick and I would end up spending a lot of time in Grand Rapids. 6.5 weeks, to be exact. Between our visits at the hospital with Kinsley and her doctors, Nick decided to help me experience the town while we were there, since it’s where he grew up. I kept track of a list of places we went (in no particular order) that I’d never been before.

FOOD

+Red Robin

+Omlette Shoppe
(my favorite restaurant in GR)

+Paleos Italian Restaurant

+Firehouse Subs
(umm their italian is to die for)

+Sonic

+Olive Garden
(a traverse city favorite)

+Twisted rooster

+Vitales at Comstock Park

+Panera Bread

+Cold Stone Creamery
(I got cake batter something or other)

COFFEE SHOPS

+Dunkin’ Donuts

+Bagel Beanery

+Tim Horton’s

FUN

+AMC Theater (saw The House)

+Celebration Cinema (saw Spider-Man)

+Barnes & Noble

LOCAL BREWERIES/PUBS

+Atwater Brewery

+City Flats

+7 Monks

+Founders

+Flat Lander’s Barstillery
(holy shit their fries!!)

OUTDOOR ATTRACTIONS

+SkyWalk

+Grand Rapids museum

+Downtown Grand Rapids

+Frederick Meijer Gardens

+John Ball Zoo

We traveled to Elk Rapids for Harbor Fest as well.

I also finally got to meet Nick’s sister Schae, who lives in Arizona but flew in for a few weeks to see us and attend to other family members in their time of need as well. (bless her heart)

We also came home for a minute to attend my mom’s and step dad Don’s wedding.

Finally on August 9th, Kinsley was discharged from the hospital.

We got to do some normal family things which felt so good after 47 long days in the hospital with her.

SEPTEMBER

In early September I started my final prerequisite for the nursing program: A&P.

Nick and I ventured over to Friske’s Orchard, this place he’s been raving about since we met.

Enjoyed a few last warm days in the remaining ‘summer’ sun.

And last but not least, we celebrated Nick, Chelsea and Schae’s birthdays with this awesome peanut butter chocolate cake I made.

OCTOBER

I started the month out swallowing some major frogs. We had to get the medical bills from Kinsley being at DeVos organized and taken care of. Even being home for 2 months at this point, I was still adjusting to the ‘new mom’ and ‘household secretary/appointment scheduler’ roles.

We had oddly warm temps this fall, which we took full advantage of. Nick and I took Kinsley to Pond Hill Farm for some family photos and fun.

We were also able to make it to Uncle Frank’s Orchard.

And we took the opportunity to go to Tequamenon Falls before the colors were officially gone.

Kinsley was Raggedy Anne for her first Halloween.

We also cannot forget that my dear Sparky Berlin turned 2.

And I also started a part time job, one to two shifts per week at Marshal’s.

NOVEMBER

This was a month jam-packed with appointments in Grand Rapids.

I got the foundation to help us with one of the trips, and they were able to pay for a king suite hotel room with a Jacuzzi tub (best decision I ever made).

Kinsley had her second and last (so far) esophageal dilation.

Nick and I finally got to go to our local Beard’s Brewery, which is something we’ve been trying to do since before Kinsley was born.

Kinsley had her first Thanksgiving!

At her first Thanksgiving I for a 4 generation photo which means more to me than most things.

DECEMBER

My A&P class ended mid December so I took a weekend to get completely caught up in order to lock in a good grade.

When the grades were finally submitted I ended the class with an A (by .03%). Which is something I’m extremely proud of.

Kinsley finally made sufficient progress at feeding therapy and got her feeding tube removed and started using a special bottle. By the last week of December she was cleared to start baby food at feeding therapy.

December was full of celebration; Kinsley turned 6 months old on her first Christmas.

Nick decided it was time to get me a promise ring, which he gave me on Christmas Eve.

We started our own Christmas Eve tradition.

My three absolute best friends made it all to the same place at the same time to spend an afternoon of baby snuggling, cookie baking and visiting together.

And on the very last day of the year, we had a family dinner with my mom and step dad Don, and nick’s mom and step dad Jim. It was a perfect way to end a year full of family times.

Now, if you’re still along for the ride, or if you just skipped to this part, we’re dont recounting everything that happened in 2017, and we can move forward to 2018.

As I mentioned before we took a trip down memory lane, in 2017 I learned that life can change drastically and when it does, there will be things you cannot control. As a result, I had to embrace the changes and learn to grow through what I go through. Using strength and bravery, I embraced our hardships to make me better, not bitter. The growth I experienced in 2017 is going to help shape my 2018.

In 2018 I’m going to remember “I have the power to create change.”
And it’s going to be my mantra.

It only makes sense that my 2018 mantra would evolve from my 2017 year. We were stretched, tested, pushed, and put through so much. And from that we grew. And grew, and grew, and grew.

And now that that’s all finished, we have to keep that in mind with 2018 and continue to grow through what we go through, because while hardship and unexpected changes are inevitable in life, we also have to make sure that we realize another thing heading into 2018 which is that we have the power to create change.

We’re going through things now that stemmed from the uncontrolled, and we can only grow from things we can’t control, but some of the strain caused us to make bad habits, or fall into crappy circumstances, and now it’s time to recognize that those things have to change, and we are the ones with the power to do it.

With our experiences with Kinsley being born, and the resulting financial hardships we endured and the debt we adopted, we need to go into 2018 with a mindset that we have the power to create change, to squash the debt and do what needs to be done to prevent further financial hardship.

Last year I learned to grow through what I go through. This year I’m reminding myself that I have the power to create change. And I’m already on the right path with the to-do’s I’ve completed, the frogs I’ve swallowed, and the changes I committed to in the last week. All those specifics with have to wait for another blogpost coming soon.

YOU HAVE THE POWER TO CREATE CHANGE, FOLKS.

Grab 2018 by the balls and make it your bitch. I’m gonna.

Cheers to 2018!

Holiday Shit storm.

Well, we’ve officially made it to the part of December where we endure the weird five day limbo stage between holidays.

Personally I love it, because new years eve/day is my favorite holiday. I really enjoy the in-between where things slow down just enough for me to cross off the final things on my “end of year to-do” list and then prepare everything I need to start the new year out fresh.

I love making plans for the new year, and the five day limbo is just long enough for me to do that. I feel motivated and excited for a fresh, clean slate, but that’s not always the case for everyone. The holidays are a hard time of year.

Let’s be real. December is a crazy month because it’s all about making big plans and meeting expectations. I’m sure you’re one of many who gets to the last page on the calendar feeling a little sluggish from Thanksgiving and all the shenanigans that come along with that, and then you begin to worry about if you’ll be able to meet expectations and do enough in December.

“Have I cooked enough? Have I cleaned enough? Decorated enough, gifted enough, visited enough, celebrated enough, seen enough, rested enough”…the list goes on. Whatever it is, it’s been floating around in your head for the last 28 days, and right now, as December is a mere three days from coming to a close, you’re probably still feeling like shit about your ability to meet expectations and wear 5 million hats during the holiday season.

Maybe you’re realizing you never used to feel this way, not up until the last few years.

I can explain that in two words: social media.

The holidays are already a difficult time, but they become increasing challenging when you’re staring, day in and day out, at everyone on your facebook and instagram pretending, not only that they are doing enough, but that their enough is easy and flawless.

I know you spent at least a few days looking at Suzy’s freshly published photo album on facebook, eyebrows furrowing at her immaculately decorated tree, pinterest-esqu living room, spotless dining set, and too-perfect family photos. With each swipe you feasted your eyes on another picture perfect photo and with every one the expectations grew and grew.

I know you did it. I did it too. And so did Suzy. Because we all fall victim to the comparison game, and that’s what social media is good for: making others jealous of their ability to pretend things are merrier than they actually are.

Here’s the thing though, for every perfect photo you see this holiday season, there is most definitely a disaster going on behind it.

I can promise you that Suzy’s cat probably knocked that immaculate tree down twice, and she had to sweep up the broken ornaments while her belligerent husband shouted and took swipes at the satisfied fuzzball. I’m almost positive that instead of hand crafting those living room decorations, she took out a small loan to fund her unnecessary show. And I can guarantee you that those family photos did not go as smoothly as all those rosy red cheeks would have you believe- minutes before the camera flashed, Suzy’s husband was probably bitching about how much he hates family photos, little johnny was wiping boogers on baby Madeline’s shirt as she screamed in horror and Suzy was sitting in her deodorant stained red sweater wondering why she wanted to go through with all this in the first place.

It’s not just her though. It was you too.

Uploading that photo of two wine glasses and a plate of cheese and crackers immediately following a huge fight with your boyfriend. Posting that status about how excited you were to see your parents when you were actually dreading being in their presence. Commenting on your mother in law’s post about family dinner explaining how delicious it was, when you actually placed your napkin over half the food you didn’t eat so no one would know you were throwing it away because the potatoes were lumpy, and you have never liked fruitcake. But it was all a show. Changing your profile picture to that angelic photo of your 11 month old who just shit all up her back 5 minutes ago and has begun regularly saying the word “shit”.

Don’t worry, it was me too.

I uploaded photos of the stockings I made when my mom was actually the one who bought the supplies because we’re too broke to afford dollar store materials. It was me when I posted photos of stuffed peppers that we made and only ate half of because I filled them too full and the beef wouldn’t cook through no matter how many extra minutes I put them in for. I added an album to facebook with photos of my tree that I purchased five days before Christmas from walmart for $20 with money I got from cans I returned from my dad’s canoe trip.

That’s right. Facebook saw the holiday card we sent out to family members, but they didn’t see the thank you note to the women’s resource center for paying my fall term tuition or the past due heat bill that went out with those holiday cards.

Yes, I admit it. I’m guilty too.

We’re all making sure our most highlighted moments make it to the facebook homepage face-tuned and photo-shopped because we’re trying to meet expectations set by others who are just as good or better at setting the bar for pretending.

Suzy, you, and me.

So before New Year’s eve, while we’re in this limbo thinking about our past year and making plans for the new year and/or just trying to stay afloat and keep swimming, let’s take some time to acknowledge this comparison game and take note of the shit storm that’s probably lurking behind every perfect photo we see.

Let’s assert that our life, too, is one wild moment after another- ripe, and beautiful and messy all wrapped in one, and that’s OKAY. We don’t need to be perfect all the time, and we shouldn’t feel like we have to make everyone think we’re perfect all the time. It’s perfectly okay to show the raw, unfiltered moments too.

All that being said, as you gear up for the last bit of the holiday season, whatever your major or minor struggle or unexpected circumstance: financial hardship, loss of a loved one, trouble with the law, mental illness, recent breakup, academic pressure, failed semester…whatever the case, keep it in the back of your mind and just be gentle.

Please remember that while it doesn’t always make the front headline, your friends and family are struggling, just like you. Commit to finishing the year out by going easy on yourself and on others.  Maybe take a break from social media. Maybe pledge to keep the last holiday of the year simple, and maybe follow that theme through 2018 to reduce the expectation/comparison game that had everyone chasing their tails in 2017.

Relax, give thanks, celebrate, count blessings, rest, enjoy, live (even if everything’s not perfect).

Merry everything and a Happy always from mine to yours.

xo

Sweet Girl.

Somehow my tiny 6 pound 11 ounce NICU baby is going to be 6 months old in exactly 2 weeks.

Somehow my TEF baby has been tube free for 4 whole days now that she’s doing oral feeds and taking a whole bottle now.

Somehow my silly girl has discovered her tongue and her voice and her feet and hands and can lift her head and grab things and sit up and roll over and play and laugh and sleep through the night in her crib.

In the blink of an eye.

I’m literally shocked. Four months ago (plus three days) we brought Kinsley home from the NICU and our next chapter began, and now we’re turning pages almost weekly.

People really aren’t over exaggerating when they tell you how quickly the time will go by, how fast your baby will grow, and how short each phase lasts. They aren’t kidding when they say you’re going to miss this. My sweet baby is so many things right now, and I want to recognize them here, and hope that 10 years from now she’ll still be everything she is right now, plus even more.

I can’t stop the time from passing so quickly, but I can make sure that while it does I am teaching her the most important things about living. So here’s my first #dearKinsley post.

Dear Kinsley,

Please stay loud.

May your coos and screeches continue in the form of words heard. Voice your opinion. Laugh out loud. Be joyful and thankful and happy and never stop talking about things that are good.

Please stay sweet.

May you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar- not that you’ll want flies, but regardless. Smile. Use kindness as your secret weapon. Don’t say mean things. Always say what you mean. Words are powerful but powerful is great when it’s used for good.

Please stay curious.

May your eyes stay filled with wonder and curiosity toward everything in this world. Ask questions. Seek answers. Learn something new every day and never stop because the world truly is your oyster and knowledge is power.

Please stay strong.

May your strength overshadow any obstacle in front of you. If there’s a will, there’s a way. Push forward. Life is hard and I’m here to tell you it will only get harder, but you can always lean on me and I will help you find your strength if you think you’ve lost it.

Please stay true to you.

May you grow and learn and with time find yourself, who you are and what you love. Embrace you. LOVE you. There’s nothing more important in the world than to nourish the roots of who you ARE. You are beautiful inside and out and self love FIRST will get you wherever you need to be.

Please keep growing.

May you continue to challenge yourself and push for progress. Set goals. Achieve them. If you fail, try again because failure IS NECESSARY since it helps you grow, and besides, success is so much sweeter when you have to work for it.

And please keep in mind…

No mountain is too high. No sea too wide.

Hard work breeds rewarding results.

That boy you think you love, he’s probably not worth it.

Believe in yourself ALWAYS.

Chase your dreams no matter how out of reach they may seem.

Put yourself first when you need to.

If you fall down 100 times, stand up 101.

You can do ANYTHING you put your mind to.

Sometimes I may not take your side, but I will always do what’s best for you.

I will love you unconditionally, no matter what.

XOXO
Love,

Mom.

 

Semester End in Sight

 

It’s finally Friday. Praise God, we made it through another crazy, busy, exhausting week.

I know what you’re thinking, “thank god it’s Friday? What do you mean,- all you do is sit at home with your 5 month old? How can that possibly be as difficult as working all week?!”

If you don’t have kids, just take my word for it and don’t mention it, or I might rip your head off. If you do have kids, and you still don’t get it, read my last post titled “no big deal.” If you still don’t get it, mind your own or I’ll probably also rip your head off.

So yeah, TGIF.

This week I’ve been way stressed out. It becomes totally evident when two things combine: exhaustion + irritation: For one, since barely sleeping Monday night and then having to take Kinsley 3.5 hours for a 20 minute ENT follow up, I have been on E since Tuesday; for two, I’m aboard the breakout train as my skin is irritated beyond control; and for three, yesterday I couldn’t find my Fitbit and I searched for 3+ hours, the whole time feeling overly angry and distracted about it. I still haven’t found it. And I’m trying not to think about it because I don’t want to have a repeat of yesterday.

Despite feeling like that for most of this week, I woke up this morning feeling oddly refreshed. I was awake from midnight to 1:30 last night, the first half hour rocking Kinsley back to sleep and then around 1:15 she pulled her tube out, but since she’s been taking a bottle (!) now, I decided to leave it out until she ate this morning and she slept so much better with it out. That means I got good sleep too. Then I fed her at 6:30 and she took a whole bottle so I haven’t even had to put it back in yet!

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All of that contributes to a good mood, and my refreshedness probably also comes partially from remembering that my handsome, weekend help will get home from work at 3:45 and take some of the stress off my hands. He always lets me sleep on the weekend which is so needed. Unfortunately he can’t take all the stress though.

First of all I have to work tomorrow night, and secondly, the rest of my weekend looks like studying and homework because the semester ends in one week.

I’ve been feeling the end-of-semester stress already for a couple weeks now at least. Last Wednesday my group gave our final presentation, Sunday the final Lab exam will open, and Monday we’re reviewing for the final lecture exam that we have on Wednesday- the last day of class. All other labs writeups, case studies, and summary assessment quizzes are due Friday when the semester ends. Luckily I only have to do Labs 11, 12 and 14, the written half of case studies 3-5 and quizzes 12-14. After studying for/completing the lab exam online and the lecture exam in class Wednesday, my semester will finally end.

Then I have to look forward to applying to the program before January 31st, studying for my TEAS test which I can take in February and retake in March, and of course, starting a new semester for A&P Part 2 in early January and ending in May. Once ALL of that is finished, I’ll find out if I got into the nursing program late spring and if I did, then my training/classes/labs/clinicals begin September 2018!

If I don’t get in, God knows I’ll rip my own head off.

So, all that being said, happy Friday. Here’s to the last weekend before end of semester filled with homework, work-work, studying, and if I get time, more New Year’s Resolution planning. 🙃

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Coffee clinks, my friends.

Enjoy your weekend unless you choose otherwise.

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What you need will find you.

For some reason this morning I decided to take a little journey back in time using my Instagram feed. If you’re close to me you know how much I love taking pictures, and even if you’re not, you only have to be one of my followers to know what an Instagram whore I am. Contrary to belief, I don’t post these photos for anyone but myself.

A lot of people use Instagram to promote popular brands or mainstream labels, but for me Instagram is like a diary, a way to quickly blog something that’s just happened with a photo and caption so I can revisit that slice of my life at a later time.

Trust me, it works really well. I got a taste of just how well this morning.

I had just taken the dog outside, it was our second time out since 5 am, and I was really grumpy. I was tired. I was annoyed, ‘how does he have to poop again?!‘ I kept saying over and over again in my mind.

But we got outside, and we walked for a while, and when we got to this little field that we visit sometimes behind the association we live in, I just kept looking at all the tiny daisies and how nice they look in this field and I started feeling sort of strange.

I started feeling really grateful.

I was out there, letting this little dog drag me around through these weeds, but at least they were pretty weeds, and at least he’s a sweet, cute little guy, and at least I’m well enough to be out here in these weeds breathing this air and standing on this soft ground, looking out at these apartments I’ve come to really like the past six months.

A year ago I don’t know if I could say these things. I don’t know if I could look at all this with the positive perspective that I have now. One year ago I was a completely different person, an extremely unhappy person, pretending to have it together, and I was in a totally different, miserable place.

When we got back into the apartment I sat down and pulled up my Instagram feed just to see what exactly I was doing, to the day, a year ago. I found these two photos, among several others, that mark the early summertime period we’re in now, 365 days ago.

It’s hard for me to look at these photos.

To someone else it looks like I was reading Game of Thrones at the beach during the day, and snuggling my kitty in my comfy bed at night. But I know better than that.

I was extremely depressed. My close friends knew it and they kept telling me that I should talk to someone, I should see a doctor and get help trying to take care of it. But I didn’t want to. I wanted to be normal and okay and I wanted to be able to figure it out myself, on my own, like everything else in my life. I wanted to feel in control.

I was trying so hard, but the longer I waited to see someone the worse it got, and the more out of control things became. I never ended up seeing a doctor. Instead I wound up pregnant, which was probably the best thing that could have happened to me, even if I didn’t realize it then.

Last summer was a scary time for me. It was dark and exhausting. I was drowning but I wanted to be the one to pull myself to safety, not realizing that sometimes you can’t do it- you need help. I can look back at the photos from my Instagram feed during that time and know exactly what I was going through. I can remember exactly how I felt and the pain that I was in like it was yesterday.

But I haven’t felt like that in several months (the first few months of my pregnancy were really terrible, as bad as the summer was, because we were in such a pickle and just couldn’t grasp what was happening, but we finally did and since then everything turned around). I’m so thankful for that. It was like becoming pregnant gave me a totally different perspective on life, and gave me the strength I needed to pull my head out of the water I was drowning in.

Friends of mine have told me that they haven’t seen me this happy in a really long time, maybe since high school. I know that every day I wake up feeling okay is a good day, and I rarely have bad days anymore. I’m glad I kept going, and got to see things turn around in my life. I’m not saying everyone who feels depressed should get pregnant, but you should definitely keep going, because some way, some how what you need WILL find you. If you’re struggling, just keep going. Everything I went through was worth it.

Here’s why: It might be a strange thing to say, but I’m so grateful for that hard time I went through, because it really helps me appreciate how amazing my life is turning out to be now. I don’t feel sad every day anymore. I don’t feel like sleeping every second because I don’t know how to deal with the next several hours. I don’t hate where I’m at and what I’m doing. I’m not so distracted by how much I’m hurting that I can’t notice things like daisies in a field. I don’t feel like I have to pretend to smile, I just do it- without thinking.

Maybe that’s what I’m most grateful for. The chance to finally smile, and feel like things are exactly right.

The more I think about it, even when I’m grumpy in a field and the dog is pulling me through the mud and I’m panting and annoyed, I realize that things are still hard, there are still struggles in my life and times when things don’t go according to plan. Things are not perfect or easy by any means, and once this baby is born things will only get harder, but I’m still grateful. No matter how hard it is, I am grateful and I’m genuinely happy. And that’s how I know I’m better; that’s how I know things are exactly like they should be right now.

Everyone deserves this feeling. So if you’re in a tough place, just keep going. What you need will find you. It found me.