Thursday, June 29, 2017

Making a Wish...

5 years ago, at this very moment, I was in Italy at the start of an incredible trip to Italy and France.  We spent ten days in Italy touring Rome, the Amalfi Coast, Florence, and Venice and then did a three day trip to Paris and Euro-Disney.

If you looked at the outside of Josh and I at that time, you'd think we were at the peak of our existence, having the absolute best time in our life.  We were getting established and comfortable in our careers and had both recently completed our masters.  I was thin and in shape and tan with a great new short haircut.  We'd been traveling and jet setting having gone to Cancun, Las Vegas, California, New York, Boston, Toronto, Disney World, Disneyland over the last couple of years.  You would think the world was our oyster and you'd be right...sort of.

Also at that time I'd lost my brother to a drug overdose, lost two pregnancies to miscarriage, were in the height and depth of our fertility treatments with injections and appointments, and blood work and ultrasounds a few times a week, driving back and forth to Grand Rapids or Ann Arbor, having to take sick time or make appointments at 7:00am to try to have any hope at being to work on time, and in the midst of receiving bad news after bad news after bad news.  

Right before we went to Europe I endured a second surgery to help clear out my second miscarriage my body would not discard on its own  (That sounds so impersonal, scientific and yuck, but that was exactly what was happening).  I was at my saddest of saddest, most hopeless of hopeless.  Josh and I conceiving a baby and having a pregnancy go to term seemed like a wish I didn't know needed to be a wish in the first place and it was fading away from me, from us.

We took a wonderful break from all that in Europe where there was no medicine to inject, no worrying about schedules and appointments, and no one telling us we'd have to wait yet another month to start this all over again.  It was just Josh and me, and the most beautiful places I've ever seen.  

It was so hard to take breaks like these at home when there were reminders everywhere of our lack of progress and our lack of children- infertility and adoption books I was reading strewn about our bedroom, a Styrofoam box stuffed with ice packs containing the next potion of medicine I was mixing on our front door, other people's babies all over social media, a pregnant acquaintance complaining to me about how fat she was or how much she wanted a glass of wine.  We could not escape our infertile life at home- so we traveled and it was everything.  

While in Rome, we met up with two friends, Ashley and Luis, who just happened to be there at the same time as us.  Thanks to them and their awesome excitement and bravery, we truly immersed ourselves with the Romans going off of the tourist areas.  We caught a festival, fireworks, incredible restaurants.  Ashley and Luis enhanced our trip for sure!  Before venturing and exploring, we met them at a gelato place right near the Trevi Fountain.  We did what everyone does there- made a wish and tossed in some money! Ashley caught this picture:

I am a superstitious Italian (yes, that's totally a thing) and so refused to tell Josh or anyone else my wish.  If you tell someone a wish, it might not come true! I let Josh know that someday, if it ever did come true, I would let him know.  

I wished for a pregnancy to produce a healthy baby for us.  

It had gotten to the point where I couldn't wish just to get pregnant- I had done that two times already!  I had to get a little more specific with my wish ;)  

About three months later, I was sitting in an ultrasound room, not only having my pregnancy confirmed for a third time (I had already had blood work, and a crap load of positive pregnancy tests), but also being told that we were having twins.  Twins that, less than a year from this picture, I would carry to term, twins that I can kiss and hug and hold in my arms.

I can't remember the exact day I shared with Josh what I had wished for that day.  A smile, not surprisingly, crept up on his face and he shared that he had, indeed, made basically the same wish as me that day.  Maybe that's why we got two babies- we kinda think it is. 

This picture hangs in our house, with lots of others, from that Europe trip.  I still get teary  often when I look at it- remembering exactly what place I was in that moment in my life... exactly how that felt.  Remembering the tiny small flicker of hope that was still left as I wished with all my might that day with hundreds of other hopeful tourists.  And knowing how things have ended up for us and how overwhelmed I still am with gratitude...

That trip, that break, and the hope for that wish coming true gave me the little push I needed to keep going- to be able to come home from that trip and keep reading all the books, make all the appointments, inject myself with all kinds of potions, and keep my heart and my story open and vulnerable no matter what bad news or good news might have been coming our way.  

If you're struggling right now in this insane infertility thing or with something else that hasn't come your way.... yet... 

I hope you keep wishing and keep taking breaks, in whatever way you can and want, to take care of yourself so you have the will and the energy to keep wishing and hoping all over again.

I'm reminded, daily, of the plaque I have hanging in our entryway- a quote from Cinderella's Fairy Godmother to Cinderella- "Even miracles take a little time."


Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Reading to Learn

It is no secret I like to be in control ("My Crazy").  It is also no secret that I'm a passionate person- I feel intensely. Thankfully, I also have an incredibly practical brain.  Although that brain doesn't always move as quickly as my emotions do, it will catch up and kick in eventually.  I know I cannot control everything even if my instincts want to.  I also know I don't want to control everything even if my instincts want me to.

There have been many times in my life where I have felt especially out of control: my brother's drug addiction, infertility struggles, miscarriage, being entrusted with educating 11 and 12 year old humans, and most recently, SO MUCH of all things parenting.  While raising tiny humans, there are many things that happen, on the daily, that feel out of a parent's control.  You can provide the safest home environment where things are baby proofed, eyes are always watching, dangerous things are out of the way.  Do accidents happen? UM YES.  You can try to be consistent with a schedule, have bedtime routines down to a science.  Do sleep regressions and sleepless nights still occur?  I'm yawning while saying yes.  You can limit or completely stay away from screen time and TV time, but darn it do my kids still know who Marshall and Rubble are, what YouTube is, and how to send a Snapchat.  Ah!

It's overwhelming what I CAN'T control sometimes (okay in fully honesty, it's overwhelming all the time- I've got "My Crazy" after all).  But I've realized that one of my best tools for success is READING to LEARN.

When I feel especially out of control, clueless, confused, conflicted (woah- those all start with c!) instead of shutting down, giving up, or having a breakdown I...

-Shut down by locking myself in my room to read every article and put on hold every book about the topic I am struggling with.

-Have given up thinking I can do it all and do it on my own-  I let experts and research support me in making decisions or plans on stuff I know NOTHING about.

-Okay, I still have the occasional breakdown, but I wipe my eyes, get out the book I've purchased or borrowed, a notebook, and writing utensil and get to learning.

Lately, I've become a huge book pusher on people and am constantly observed talking someone's ear off about my last "game changer" of a book.  I'm sure it gets annoying at times (thank you, people I love, for dealing with me), but I also find myself in situations more confident, well-versed, and knowledgeable.

I cannot pinpoint for sure when this shift began to take place- I didn't used to be such a reader of informational text, but what I've realized through self-reflection is how important it has become to me to know stuff- like really know stuff: the different approaches, the recent research, the various 'plans of action.'  Reading all I can on a topic is something I CAN control even if the actual situation or milestone isn't.  Knowledge is power for sure.

I'll be so honest that I do not fully trust my gut.  I have tendencies and deep seeded philosophies on teaching and parenting, for example, but before I fully commit to my gut and make a decision or try something new, I need to be able to justify, to myself truly, of WHY I do what I do.  I need to validate my gut with research, data, statistics, recent studies, and align myself with others who articulate my beliefs through books much better and more beautifully than I ever could probably.  

Reading to learn has taught me SOOO much about this most important job of parenting- potty training, sleep training, breast feeding, child development, sibling rivalry, executive functioning, brain development, validating and labeling feelings, love languages, cooperation, problem solving... I could never capture it here- never.

I am absolutely beyond a doubt certain I am a better mother because of the reading I've done.  

Does that mean reading like crazy before you start potty training or learning all you can at preventing sibling rivalry before it even creeps up or having a plan A, B, C, D, for sleep training when your kids are still infants is the RIGHT way to do things?!  No way. Heavens no.  Absolutely not.

It's MY right way to do things... for now... and that's what truly matters.

More blogs on some of my favorite 'game changer' books to come soon ;) 

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Yellow Day

I want my boys to love and respect each other, (and all humans, animals, and things on this planet for that matter).  I feel like Josh and I, as well so many other parents, hold high expectations for the way siblings need to treat one another. Siblings should be your number one cheerleaders, encouragers, supporters.  No matter how hard we all try, it seems inevitable that siblings will argue with one another- that things will seem 'unfair,' that it will always be someone else's turn, that things were always 'mine first.'

Josh and I have tried lots of different things to try to defuse and facilitate appropriate interactions and problem-solving techniques between our boys.  We try to let them sort it out on their own as much as possible, set timers if requested, to help people know when to take turns, acknowledge feelings, and have a couple one-liners that we say CONSTANTLY: "We only hug and kiss our brothers." and "Everyone deserves your kind words no matter what."

While these all help and are well-intentioned, they certainly do not work all the time.

Over the last little while, our boys have been "fighting" about things that I wasn't quite ready for, but should've seen coming based on my own experience having four siblings- where they can sit at the table, what kinds of plates, cups, bowls, silverware the use (particularly which color), and recently, where to sit in the car...

My four siblings and I fought incessantly about where to sit in our van.  No one wanted the middle, and there would be plenty of arguments about who was stuck in the "way way back" and don't even get me STARTED on who got the front seat.  We would race to the car as fast as possible while pushing and knocking over people and things to get what we wanted and certainly were driving our parents crazy.  My mom ended up making a schedule, written on grid paper probably, that was kept in the van glove compartment so we always knew where we were supposed to sit.  No more arguments.  Definitely extreme, but definitely needed.  Respect!  

Recently, we purchased a new car- a Chevy Traverse!  Having a third row has been awesome for our family; stuffing all five of us in our Saturn Vue was working, but it was a tight squeeze :)

Inevitably, the boys wanted to experiment with seat placement and, as it turns out, the very back is the favorite location.... of all three of them...

Even though I should've known what was about to happen, the insane arguing and tears that followed smacked me at how quickly they took over my daily life.  I was dreading going to Target or something knowing what would ensue before we had even pulled out of the driveway.

I knew something needed to change- I did not follow in my mom's footsteps to map out a schedule on paper, but instead, I facilitated started something in our house that we call a "Yellow Day," which was inspired by Judah.

Judah has loved yellow for as long as I can remember.  It's a great sunshiny color, which is perfect for his sunshiny personality.  For a long time, he always got the yellow cup or shirt or paper- it was a given.  Eventually, though, two other boys wanted in on all the yellow-ness and the bickering began about THAT too- "I want the yellow cup!" "Carter got the yellow piece of paper last time!" "Why does Judah always get the yellow stuff?!"

I don't even know the exact moment when this "Yellow Day" thing began, but it has now become a very important part of our every day...

When it's your "Yellow Day" you get to have the yellow place setting stuff and are also often the first to choose things when a choice is appropriate.  You might get to pick who sits next to you at dinner (Daddy is always the hot commodity there), or settle a dispute of what playground we are going to try, or, lately, which seat you get in the car.  Everyone knows when their "Yellow Day" is- even Carter has his figured out ;)  Boys get excited for each other instead of being bummed out when it isn't their day.  It has helped keep peace and love in my house.

I'd like to take credit for this idea, but I smile here thinking that it actually had nothing to do with me.  It's amazing how empowered even tiny humans can be when you stop trying to control their every move and every decision (totally guilty of this, it's My Crazy after all).

The beauty of this was how organically it morphed into a supportive way to keep a little lid on daily bickering- all starting from a little nugget's love for a sun-shiny color, which has added a lot more sun into our home. 

Nolan, Judah, and Carter also know that Mommy  loves to have lots of "Yellow Days" in her week- they are any day that I get to spend with my three boys <3