Summer Highlights 2019

This summer was HARD. H.A.R.D. I totaled my van. I’m still not really driving. We’ve taken some huge financial hits. Yet, you wouldn’t really know that from any of the pictures. My blog tagline is “Making the Best of What Looks Like a Mess”. So in the midst of all of this mess I am choosing to focus on the good times and reflecting on all of the provision that had to happen in order for my kids to have a FANTASTIC summer regardless. Here are some of the highlights from our 2019 summer break-

 

One fun memory is when we had a girls vs boys water balloon fight in the back yard.

Then in June, we went to Texas to spend time with J’s family. It was so great to catch up with everyone. The kids got to be with their grandparents and some of our relatives that we hadn’t seen in years.

 

Ezie even learned how to swim!

 

 

And Z got to go indoor sky diving!!!

Losing our van in Texas was certainly a setback, but the new van is really nice too. My favorite upgrade is keyless entry. I love it! As a mother of four with a cluttered purse, it is always a pain to have my hands full and have to dig my keys out. Not anymore!

We didn’t have a full-blown garden this year but we grew some herbs, berries, tomatoes and the most memorable thing of all… the FRESNO CHILI PEPPERS. We had some really fun times doing chili pepper challenges to see who would be the last to resort to chugging milk. Z claims he was always the winner but I am pretty sure J won every time.

SJ got to do her first alumni camp at Ohio Valley Voices and they had the BEST time. They did everything from biking, to ziplining, going to the zoo, and much much more.

I’ll have to do full blog post about the grandparent adventure that took place in July. The short story is that my parents took the kids and their cousins to City Museum in St. Louis and from what I hear and see from pics. It was epic.

Elle actually stayed with us at home for that adventure. She’ll get to be a part of the action when she gets older. She had her own special times though, like her first haircut!

 

Then in August we did our annual trip to Michigan where my best friend lives.

It was a short trip, but we got to see our friend who was in town from Nashville and we went to the beach everyday. It’s so beautiful there.

 

Last but not least we went camping in Indiana.

We were there with a group from our church and had so much fun cooking around the fire and having great conversation.

We also went hiking and caving and that was super cool. 

Summer 2019 may have had its challenges, but there is no denying we are blessed and we made lots of awesome memories.

By | August 22nd, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments

I Almost Missed the Kentucky Derby

We all have those triggers. Whether you have experienced loss or trauma or both, there is that thing that never fails to slingshot your brain to the moment it all happened. Many times it is a variety of sights, sounds, and memories. I have several things that are triggers for me with SJ’s diagnosis of hearing loss. Usually, it happens around her birthday. When the St. Patrick’s day decorations start coming out I am transported to her 2nd birthday party. Some of you know this story. We threw her a great big Green Eggs and Ham party. It was perfect because her birthday is in between Dr. Seuss’s birthday and the holiday where everything is GREEN! That party was one of the last memories of life as I knew it before her diagnosis.

A few days after her party we took her to the pediatrician for her 2 year well-child exam. Her pediatrician then referred us to an ENT who did a sound booth exam and then referred us to an audiologist for an ABR exam. We were scheduled to see this audiologist in Louisville Kentucky for some conclusive results on May 4th, 2012. This was a very significant date in Lousiville because it was the day before the Kentucky Derby race at Church Hill Downs. People come from all over the world for this historic event. Festivals, parades, and parties leading up to the Derby leave the whole city abuzz at all hours on Derby weekend. May 4th is Oaks Day.

We sat through traffic on the way to and from the audiologist’s office that day. The streets were full of men in bowties and women with fancy hats sipping their mint juleps. The laughter and cheers of celebration echoing through the alleys of Louisville were an ironic juxtaposition considering this was the day we learned that our daughter couldn’t hear.

SJ in Louisville the day of her ABR. She was in her PJs because she had to sleep through the testing.

Every year since then I always got a knot in my stomach starting in March leading all the way up to Derby day. I knew what was coming. All the memories of the challenges we faced in that season would keep replaying like GIFs in my mind.

This year was different though.

I didn’t even think about the significant date until I was scrolling through Facebook and I had to do a double-take when I saw a photo of friends wearing flamboyant hats and toasting their mint juleps. I squinted in disbelief when I saw it. There must be a mix-up, I thought to myself, but then I looked at the caption. It read: “Derby Time!!!” followed by a stream of hat and drink emojis. I checked my calendar to see if it was true and the date confirmed that I had in fact forgotten the anniversary of SJ’s diagnosis. I got choked up. Don’t get me wrong, I know all too well the pain that comes when you forget the anniversary or birthday of a loved one who has passed. This surely wasn’t anything like that and I had nothing to feel guilty about, but it still was a shock to me. I guess the inner healing that seemed so distant before was actually present now.

I’ll never forget the 2 1/2 year mark when the time that I had known that SJ was deaf surpassed the time I was unaware. That first two years prediagnosis might be short in comparison to the rest of her life, but it was it all we knew at the time and the idea that our child had a disability never crossed our minds. That milestone was a big one but so was this year’s Derby Day.

I am reminded of a blog post I did back in 2015. I shared:

It’s been 3 years since SJ’s diagnosis and we are still in the transition stage. I look at the timeline like this- Old normal, shock, transition (or adjustment, or adaptation), and then new normal.

We spent just over two years living in the old normal, there was probably a year of living in shock and just doing my best to stay afloat. The last two years have been transition and we’ll be here for a while. I feel pretty darn close to “New Normal” but we still have such a long way to go. I feel like for us that will be when she goes to main stream schooling. I’m sure it looks different for everyone and more experienced moms could give a lot more insight into all this and the multifaceted layers. I am just learning, but this is my message for those in similar situations. Don’t feel like you have to rush into coping or adjusting.” 

I can look back at this now and see that the year I almost missed the Kentucky Derby was a sign of our new normal. That doesn’t mean there won’t be any more transitions or hardships, but her cochlear implants really are second nature for all of us now.

I hope that is an encouragement for someone out there. Lately, I keep reminding myself of the Robert Frost quote “The only way out is through”. That’s my current mantra. You can’t go over it or bypass it. You have to face it and depending on what you are going through this can look like a number of things. If you are in shock you may have just enough strength to breath and wait on the Lord and that’s it. Keep doing that and let hope be your anchor. Fix your eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:22) and know that He who began a good work in you is faithful to complete it (Philippians 1:6). For everything there is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven ( Ecclesiastes 3:1) and while I don’t know how long this season will last I do know that someday you’ll see a photo, or date on the calendar, or a trigger of some sort and it won’t be as painful and you’ll realize- you made it through.

By | August 14th, 2019|Uncategorized|2 Comments

Inspiring Mom Tiffanie Marquez

Most people have heard about homebirth and midwifery. However, to the majority of Americans, the idea of alternative birth options is a mystical concept. Today’s Inspiring Mom is going to give us a peek inside her world as a doula who also has her own business doing placenta encapsulation. Get ready to be inspired and fascinated!

In 2010, after several years of marriage and four children, Tiffanie and her husband felt like they needed a reset. For some couples this might mean a little home renovation project or a hairstyle change. But for the Marquezes this would mean a BIG life-changing reset. That is how, at age 37, Tiffanie’s husband ended up enlisting in the military! This unpredictable life change is what allowed both of them to pursue their passions and start new career paths. For Tiffanie, her dream was to become a doula.

A couple years later while stationed in Washington Tiffanie had their 5th baby and also began her doula training. She completed her DONA International birth doula training at the Simkin Center at Bastyr University in Kenmore Washington, which she describes as an unforgettable experience. Tiffanie reflects on those days fondly and says “I gleaned so much from the teaching and the campus was incredible. They had a walking garden with healing herbs. The time that I spent there was surreal. I loved it.” She also did training for placenta encapsulation so that she could add that service to her clients. All of this was while her husband was on active duty tour. When he was finished they moved to Denver Colorado and started a whole new life for themselves. The military, the schooling, the moving, it truly was a fresh start!

Then Tiffanie became pregnant with baby number 6. She says “I had a feeling it would be our last and I also had a feeling it would be a different experience. For example, we had a surprise gender for the first time.” Tiffanie wanted the birth to be a whole new experience after all that she now knew about natural birth. Tiffanie invited all of her tight-knit group of friends to participate in their own unique roles in the birth. One friend was serving as doula, one was the photographer and one would watch the kids.

Tiffanie said she was torn about what exactly she wanted in a birth plan. On one hand she loved the idea of having it be like a party surrounded by friends. On the other hand she felt like it would be nice to have a quieter birth with her and the baby all alone. In the end she got both! Her whole team of friends showed up to support her. There were notes and artwork on the walls and worship music playing as she labored in the tub. Then the time came early in the morning where she was instructed to get out of the tub by her midwife who had been listening and monitoring with a doppler. Tiffanie distinctly remembers the comfort she felt as her friend wrapped her in a Guatemalan blanket. Tiffanie left the whole group of supporters by the tub and went into the bathroom where she spontaneously delivered the baby and caught him all alone. Tiffanie describes it as one of the sweetest most precious moments she has ever experienced. Her oldest daughter cut the chord. It was everything she had hoped for and more including the beautiful new baby that she held in her arms. He nursed perfectly and was adored by the whole family. It wasn’t until 3 weeks later that they would learn that he was down syndrome. This of course changed nothing for Tiffanie and the family. He was and is perfect and Tiffanie was grateful that she didn’t have testing or intervention earlier because they were able to bond and have that beautiful beginning that she wouldn’t trade for anything.

After the sixth child Tiffanie took a year off as a doula. It was important for her to be completely available to learn all that she needed to know about her son’s diagnosis. When you are a doula you are on call and you have to be ready at all times and Tiffanie couldn’t commit to that in that season. It was a nice break but then the time came where she was able to go back to the business that she loves.

Tiffanie describes with a deep passion how she feels about being able to be present for births. Having a midwife who was so hands on and present for her is what started her on the path to becoming a doula in the first place.

“Birth can be a very holy and empowering experience and I think that the miseducation in our society has robbed women of that and made it so much more clinical and medical. I am grateful for the compassionate epidural. Sometimes that’s the right thing and sometimes the cesarean is, but many times a woman can have the most beautiful and precious moments of her life when she is empowered to make her own decisions for the birth.”

On top of being a doula Tiffanie also does placenta encapsulation for local mothers. What started as a side business has become one of her favorite parts of serving postpartum women. Tiffanie is almost giddy as she describes the process:

” I think it’s amazing how our bodies grow an organ to help sustain babies life. They are like fingerprints and it facinates me how no two placentas are alike.”

“Most of my placenta encapsulation clients find me via word of mouth”. She shares, “If someone wants to learn about the process then after they have the baby I get a call and arrange to get the placenta at the place of birth. I pick up the placenta and transfer it to her home and do an examination to see how they look. The average size is about 20 oz but I have had them as big as 32 ounces and then also twins.” After she weighs the placenta she proceeds to create a piece of art for the birth family to cherish. That’s right, Tiffanie creates a Placenta print with watercolor paper. It’s something she learned how to do through her training. She says “It’s so cool because it’s art but it’s an individual organ.” She says some clients put it in the baby book, or frame it, or put it in a shadow box. After she creates placenta print then the placenta is thoroughly cleaned and drained of all the blood. Then the placenta is steamed and cut into strips almost like jerky strips and then dehydrated for 10 – 12 hours. The next day once it is completely dehydrated and she put the pieces into a grinder and then fill the capsules. The average placenta usually makes 120 pills. Tiffanie will deliver the pills with the keepsakes and placenta prints within 36 hours. Each placenta is unique so the pills carry varying levels of hormones and iron and b vitamins and all kinds of nutrients. What the birth person needs postpartum is different from person to person. Some will take more pills than others. Most people feel good taking three pills a day. The pills are taken with a meal and not late at night because of the amazing energy boost that they offer. A woman can take up to six a day if they want. Tiffanie consults with each mother to make sure they understand the process and dosing.  She also checks in a few days and even a couple of weeks after to make sure the client is doing well and see if they have any questions. It’s an incredible service that she offers and the feedback and testimonials from her clients are proof of that!

Tiffanie loves the field she has chosen and she continues to grow and stretch herself as a doula with more classes and updated training. Her husband is also continuing his education and is currently working on getting his masters degree in clinical counseling with which he will specialize in working with Veterans. As they raise their 6 children they are examples to never let anything stand in the way of your dreams and to always keep learning! Theses children have watched their parents face obstacles, yet stay focused through it all as they continue to challenge themselves and one another. What a gift that is. What an inspiration.

If you are in the Denver area and looking for a doula or interested in placenta encapsulation you can find Tiffanie at www.honoringbirthservices.com or www.denverplacentaworks.com

By | August 4th, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments

My New Van

It has been a month since my van was totaled. I am bad with dates, but I know that one because it was the day after my birthday. Age 37 has not been kind so far.

I really expected my recovery time from all of this to be quicker. There are no physical injuries but the mental and emotional wounds are still impacting my daily life. The truth is, in the past month I haven’t been able to drive out of my own city and even the excursions I have made that are just a couple of miles from home have been few and far between. I hate that this is even happening to me, but PTSD is real and it isn’t just for war veterans.  I flinch at the tiniest thing while driving and things like sirens or merging can send me into a panic attack.

Just a week after the wreck I tried driving my daughter to her day camp. The drop off was at a location I have driven to hundreds of times but on the way there someone honked at me and I had a panic attack so bad that my husband ended up having to get a ride to where I was and then drive me home. I have far fewer episodes as a passenger but it still happens. I finally decided to call the doctor to see if I needed professional help. He gave me some medications and referred me to a therapist. This was my first ever professional therapy session. The lady was great, but after doing some tests she thought I would need to go to a center that deals specifically with PTSD clients. I still haven’t seen anyone from that clinic yet.

I have so many wonderful friends and spiritual leaders who have prayed for me and with me. I love receiving encouraging songs and scriptures. The one that has spoken to me the most in this season and I have committed to memory now is Psalm 118:17 which a friend of mine texted to me.

I recently was told there is a song with that verse in it too and it is powerful.

It’s so weird how before our trip to Texas I could hop in the car and drive to church without thinking about driving AT ALL! It was second nature. Now when I go to church I am praying and fighting anxiety the whole time. When I arrive it’s like I cheated death just to get there. For the record, our church is less than 5 miles away.

I haven’t been able to even do the grocery shopping, doctors appointments, or take the kids to the park. Our life is pretty much on hold and I know it can’t go on like this. I am doing everything I can to get better. I know the spirit of fear is not from God and I am believing that I will soon be able to drive with peace and confidence.

The good news is that we do have a new (used) van. We went with the Honda Odyssey again.

This one is 5 years newer. It’s hard for me to get very excited about it just yet. I was so happy and grateful for the old van. It was such an answer to prayer and then- poof! It was gone. I am still mourning that loss. I know it’s weird to say that about an inanimate object, but that van was such a blessing. It came in just the time that we needed it. Yes, it was where my daughter was born which is such a weird fact, but it’s also been transportation for so many fun memorable trips and first days of school. When I announced that we bought that van the blog title was literally “Super Amazing Wonderful Praise Report” and in it, I wrote about how it was supernatural providence that allowed us to obtain my dream vehicle.

Now, 3 and a half years later I can’t help but wonder why that would be stripped away from us. Yes we all miraculously survived getting hit by a semi-truck and yes, insurance gave us fair market value for the van and two new car seats but it’s still hard to see that dream die and start all over again.

This post makes me feel like Eeyore for having such a gloomy attitude. I serve a God who provides and protects and I am most definitely thankful for His hand on me and my family. I am struggling though, and part of Messy Mom is me sharing my mess along with all the good stuff. So thank you all for the continued prayers. I will keep you posted.

By | July 29th, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Get Name Necklace

*This post is sponsored by GetNameNecklace.*

I love customized jewelry! What a great way to add some style to your wardrobe while expressing what really matters most, the names or faces of the people you love.

 

That’s what is so great about GetNameNecklace, they allow you to customize a variety of jewelry pieces in a unique way. There are so many awesome products to choose from. I am just highlighting a few of my favorites.

The Infinity Family necklace, for example, takes a classic symbol of eternal love and includes up to EIGHT family members names. What a great option for big families!

Then there is the engraved heart mother Sterling Silver Birthsones necklace which I absolutely love! They have several styles so you get to pick what suites your one of a kind mom. I could include all six of my family members on this precious piece of jewelry. We all have different birthstones too so I know it would look gorgeous.

From rings to keychains, to bracelets and more, GetNameNecklace has so many options to choose from. One of the coolest things that they offer is the photo necklace. WOW!

 

We all have our favorite family photos and with GetNameNecklace Personalized Picture Necklace you can take your most prized moments and hold onto them forever. You can add a photo on one side and text on the other. Every time you look at that piece of jewelry it is guaranteed to warm your heart.

You also have the option to do photo or engraved. Aren’t they beautiful?

Then there is customized pet photo or name jewelry for those with beloved fur babies.

I have never seen anything like this but check out these adorable customized pet pieces! Don’t just show off any kitten or labradoodle, make it YOUR pet that is on your jewelry.

How cool is that?

 

These keepsakes make great gifts too. For birthdays or holidays if you want to bring tears of joy to someone’s eyes give the gift of getnamenecklace. Right now they have some incredible sales going on so hurry over to GetNameNecklace.com and place your order. They have a 99 day return policy if you aren’t completely satisfied.

You can also follow GetNameNecklace on Instagram and Facebook to stay up to date on current and new products and participate in their GIVEAWAYS! You are going to fall in love with GetNameNecklace.

It’s more than a statement piece, it’s a piece of your heart.

By | July 27th, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments

The Pagan Pentagram Personality Test

I laid on the bed reading snippets out loud from “The Road Back to You” by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile.

 

“I think you are probably a four, or maybe a one,” I said to my husband J as I laid the open book down on the covers. He related to some of what I was reading, but he didn’t want to be typed or boxed in (classic four). “Nope. Get that Pagan Pentagram personality test away from me” he said jokingly.

I admit the bazar star diagram does look like sorcery and the fact that enneagram sounds like pentagram doesn’t help, but in its modern application, this personality profile is actually for Christians.

I just laughed and left it at that. I never want to be pushy about it (classic nine) but every once in awhile in conversations I would still mention the enneagram because it really helped me navigate different relationships or my own thoughts!

Months later while on a long road trip to see family in Texas. J was wanting podcasts to listen to to pass the time. I played a podcast for him of one of his favorite musicians talking about what it’s like to be a four on the enneagram. J’s jaw dropped and he said, “I was skeptical but he just described everything I have felt most of my life”. The podcast was “Typology

and because it is faith based they have several worship leaders and Christian musicians on the podcast. I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised that my worship leader/musician husband would have the same enneagram number as so many of his favorite artists. One podcast after the other J was engrossed and completely sold on the idea that he is a four and he has a deadly sin that he can work on as well as beautiful facets to his personality.

When we made it to J’s parents’ house and had spent time with everyone J brought up the enneagram and wanted to type each of his family members. One by one they took the test and we discussed what the results would mean. For the record, most enneagram experts will tell you it isn’t as simple as taking a test, the results are often inaccurate. You are better off researching what the enneagram is and what all the numbers are. It takes some digging and sometimes painful observation to discover what your core motivation is.

I’m a nine which is the peacemaker. That sounds all flowery and world changing, but in actuality, nines struggle with procrastination; they can be passive aggressive, slothful, and lacking in self awareness. Don’t feel bad for me though, all the numbers have major weaknesses and to me that’s what is unique about this personality assessment. The enneagram focuses more on what you use as a mask and what the root cause of that is so that you can discover your true identity. I stole this little expert from Bayside church blog because I like how it explains it:

Self-awareness (looking at the man in the mirror) opens the door to self-knowledge (oh, crap, I am angry and bitter). Self-knowledge paves the way to insight (this is why I’m angry and bitter). And insight is the gateway to spiritual transformation (letting go of the behaviors that cause your anger and bitterness). Depending on your number, you might replace anger with codependency or judgementalism or materialism.

So for me, finding out my enneagram number has really allowed me to realize what I am doing and why I am doing it so that I can try to steer my behavior in a healthy direction. For example, as a nine I worry A LOT about what other people are thinking or feeling, often to a fault. This was brought to my attention again recently after my car wreck. I was reluctant to share the reality of what happened in the wreck or what my needs were because I was worried that it would be a trigger to people who had painful experiences involving car accidents.  When I went to publish the blog post about the car wreck I had to stop because I was worried about making someone else feel anxious or sad. The truth is I needed to share what happened. First off because it’s the way that I cope and also because people care and want to be updated so that they can support or pray. So I channeled that worry into this sentence when I posted about the wreck on Facebook:

“This is the first time I am sharing the story and I wanted to include a trigger warning because I know that car wrecks and graphic photos or details can be overwhelming. This wreck could have been so much worse, but if you don’t feel like you want to read the whole story just know that I am doing okay.”

It took me a long time to figure out my number and it’s not that I relate to everything about nines, but the parts that resonate have been beneficial. That’s how I feel about most personality related trends.

I remember reading “The Introvert Advantage” by Marti Olsen when I was first married.

That book taught me the differences between people with a more introverted personality and those who are extraverted. This has been absolutely critical for me because I am an extrovert who attracts introverts like flies to a lamp! I also like “The 5 Love Languages” by Gary Chapman.

I thrive on Words of Affirmation while my husband is an Acts of Service kind of guy. This realization has been huge for us!

When I read books about personality and psychology it’s not just to learn about my temperament or makeup, it’s to give me a better understanding of those around me too. It allows me to be a better friend and to have more empathy. Enneagram is just another tool to add to my belt when it comes to relationships and self-awareness and if they are useful I’ll take all the tools I can get!

By | July 19th, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments

10 Years of Cow Appreciation!

We don’t have a ton of family traditions for our little herd, but one thing we do enjoy doing every year is Cow Appreciation Day at our favorite restaurant- Chick-fil-A!

This was a big year for us to participate because it makes TEN years that we have dressed up and gotten free chicken.

We have so many fun memories from this annual outing. It’s fun to watch as one child outgrows a cow costume and another sibling inherits it.

This year Z wore the cow costume that I have worn the past few years. At the rate he is growing he probably won’t fit in it for long!

This Baby Gap Cow dress is what SJ wore her first year, and it was also worn by my niece, and by Elle when she was a baby.

 

The toddler cow costume was worn by the three youngest calves when they were a year old.

And how could I forget the two years I was a pregnant cow (but don’t even think about calling me heifer!)

We’ve always had fun coming up with frugal ways to make cow costumes and this paper plate cow mask tutorial that I made has been a hit on my blog!

We almost didn’t make it this year. Because of my recent car wreck that totaled my van we don’t currently have a vehicle that will fit all 6 of us. In the end, we decided to load up two cars and keep the tradition alive! We met several of our friends there and had a great time. I am really glad we went.

 

In honor of our 10th year here is a look back at all of our Cow Appreciation Days.

 

That’s all the fun for now, but I plan to keep the tradition going… ’till the cows come home’.

By | July 10th, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Trusting God With Your Story

I love stories. I love reading, writing, hearing, and sharing them.

I haven’t been secretive about the fact that I am working on my own memoir. I’ve written dozens if not hundreds of pages already. The thing about my memoir is that I don’t know when or how it will end. The writer in me is anxious to tie up this latest season of our life with a great big bow and call it done. Don’t we all do that? We want a conclusion. It doesn’t have to be a fairy tale ending but there has to be some kind of closure right?

I am the closure queen. I will try to make plans all day long thinking I can force resolve in whatever area I feel is left undone. This has really backfired when I made snap decisions rather than having patience.

Last year I read Brene Brown’s book “Rising Strong” and it talks a lot about how we make up stories.  This insight has absolutely revolutionized the way J and I  fight dialogue. It is a simple phrase that changes accusations from arrows to question marks. Instead of trying to point fingers and lay blame we take our offenses and say “The story I am making up”. There is a whole book about it, so I am going to oversimplify here with an example.

Wife: Why didn’t you get home at 5:30 like you said?

Husband: I got caught up in a conversation with my boss and felt like it would be rude if I left.

The wife could go on a tirade about how he always does this and she can’t trust him to stick to his commitments at home. Another option is for the wife to really search for what is bothering her and what it is that she believes about her husband without claiming it as a fact. That’s where The story I am making up comes in.

Wife: The story I am making up is that you are using work as a way to escape your family and you like it better than being at home.

The reason this method dramatically changes the conversation is because we are owning the fact that our brain really does make up stories and a lot of times they are fictional stories! When J and I say “the story I am making up” we are much less defensive and ready to untangle the feelings that each of us are dealing with.

There is a whole science behind what our brains will do to bring closure to help us feel better about a situation. Brown explains it saying

“Our brains reward us with dopamine when we recognize and complete patterns. Stories are patterns. The brain recognized the familiar beginning- middle- end structure of a story and rewards us for clearing up the ambiguity”.

I don’t know about you, but as the “closure queen” I do not like ambiguity. Knowing that our brains find relief in these patterns helped me realize why I was trying so hard to push the plot line of my own real life story. I recently heard someone on a podcast say he always thought his life would have more of a narrative arc. That’s me! I subconsciously like to live in a novel and sometimes I think I can even write it, which couldn’t be further from the truth. I make decisions that can affect the outcome, but God is writing my story and I would be better off trusting him and learning how to float rather than swim aimlessly.

This analogy of swimming was brought to my attention recently since my youngest son is learning to swim. You can’t learn to swim if you can’t learn how to float and you can’t learn how to float if you can’t learn to relax. Holding your breath and propelling yourself underwater will only last so long. I’ve watched him in this struggle. He can dive for items in the shallow end and swim underwater like a champ, but he can’t come up for air unless it’s shallow enough for him to stand up. I have been anxious to teach him the skill of floating as it could potentially save his life. So I had him lay on his back on the water and I held him in place with my hands on his back. He kept wanting to lift his head up. It was a natural reaction for his body to want to resist going under water. I told him to trust me and let go of all the tension in his muscles and really lean back and look at the sky. I felt his abs contract and said to him “The more you struggle the more you are going to sink.” That’s when it hit me: that has been me lately. I have been swimming around without direction and it is tiring. As much as I want to work out all the details of this next chapter in my life story, God is teaching me to be still and wait on Him. Relax.

So I am working on that trusting HIM with total control of my story and I guess I am still learning to float.

By | July 8th, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Everyone is Fine but…

I know so many of us have received that dreaded phone call that informs you that someone you love was in an accident. Nothing can make your heart drop faster. That is why when I got into a serious car wreck last Friday I knew to start the phone calls with “Everyone is fine, but…”. 

The week before this happened we had driven from Ohio to Texas. We spent our vacation playing cards with family, overeating, swimming in the pool, and getting caught up on each other’s lives.

The morning we planned to head home, J’s sister treated the kids and me to see Toy Story 4. I drove the kids because I wanted J to sleep in as long as possible in preparation for the long drive ahead of him. Afterward I followed behind J’s sister’s truck on the highway as we headed back to the house. Everything was fine until a semi truck suddenly pulled into my lane. I don’t want to give details in case I have to go to court. I hope that’s not the case but I am going to play it safe until all the dust settles with the insurance companies.

SJ was in the third row next to the window and Ezie was in front of her in the second row next to the passenger window when that side of the car was sideswiped by a semi truck!

I ricocheted between the truck and a concrete barricade. The windshield and passenger window glass was smashed out of the car. The side view mirror landed in the front seat. Mirrors, and lights, and compartments were crushed. The airbags were deployed.

I heard the smash and my van soon came to a stop. At that moment I honestly didn’t know if the accident was fatal. Time stood still and I felt like my whole world went dark for half a second then I cried out, “Are my babies okay!?”. I unbuckled the seat belt and shattered glass fell off of me as I went in between the front seats to reach my children. SJ was screaming, and Z was crying. I was able to look and talk to each one of my children as I dialed 911. The biggest injury was SJ’s elbow which was scratched and bruised but not severe. I got a little scratched and bruised too but we were all okay. It was a miracle!

Then a white truck pulled up behind me and a man ran to the back of the van, but couldn’t get the door all the way open.

I squeezed through the opening and abruptly asked if he could tell the dispatcher where I was because I had no idea. I gave this older gentleman my cell phone and without thinking I wrapped my arms around him as if I could transfer all of my weight and all of the pain onto him. I started sobbing uncontrollably for a moment. I knew my kids were okay and something in my gut needed to feel rescued by someone more grown up than me. I couldn’t speak, but I was so grateful he was there to help and that we were all alive.

At that point I climbed back into the van with my four children. “I love you. I love you. I love you.” I sputtered as I gasped for air. “I am so glad you are okay. It’s going to be okay. Thank you Jesus for saving us.” Then my sister in law showed up after crossing through traffic while on the phone with J directing him on where to find us. An off duty nurse also arrived and we got the van turned off and exited onto the side of the road. No one saw the driver for a few more minutes and we worried that it was a hit and run, but eventually he walked back to the scene of the accident. The cops had lots of questions and for the most part I was able to speak clearly but I started to lose feeling in my legs and my breath kept getting heavier.

Eventually, my van was towed away and the kids rode back to the house with J while my sister in law took me to the ER to get treatment. I couldn’t stop reliving the moment. I would see flashes of the trauma in my mind and then I would shake uncontrollably. I felt fear pumping through my veins. When we arrived at the hospital and I felt far away from the scene of the accident I could finally calm down. The doctors gave me prescription pain meds and muscle relaxers for the inevitable soreness that comes when you wreck a car on a highway where the speed limit is 75.

That night back at my in-laws house J wanted me to play dominoes to get my mind off of things and I tried, but I couldn’t finish the game. The anxiety was overwhelming. I excused myself and went to bed and I woke up 16 hours later. 

We took a couple of days to rest per the Doctors instructions and finally headed home. I knew getting back in a vehicle and being on the highway again would be difficult for me. J got a beast of a car so that I would feel safe. When we first started out I would gasp and close my eyes a lot but I managed.

At night though when it was dark all you could see was semi trucks and their headlights all around us and they felt terribly close. Ezie and SJ started crying. It felt so scary like being in a black ocean with sharks and whales all around ready to swallow us. I turned around so that I couldn’t see out my window and I held their hands. Ezie said “but mommy that truck is getting so close to us. I’m scared of a wreck. What if…” I cut him off. “I want you to close your eyes and sing with me.” I sang Your name is like honey on my lips… one worship song after the other… You’re never going to let me down… we cried out Through it all, through it all my eyes are one you… and they joined me as we Raised a Hallelujah louder than the unbelief!  I could sense a shift in the atmosphere. I could barely sing out the words as I wept through the lyrics- You make me brave. You make me brave. No fear can hinder now the Love that made a way. Then they were asleep. I gently let go of their hands, turned back around, and looked straight ahead into the deep dark sea of uncertainty in front of me.

I have had to trust God for every ounce of strength I have needed to get through this. I usually see myself as a courageous mama bear, but this wreck has left me feeling as crumpled and banged up as the van they had to tow away. Thankfully I have an army of friends and family willing to fight this battle with me. I feel their prayers.

We are going to get through this. No fear can hinder the promises He made.

By | July 2nd, 2019|Uncategorized|5 Comments

SJ’s First Year in a Mainstream School

This time last year SJ had just graduated from her deaf school. Her graduation was one of the greatest moments of my life for sure, but followed by a little anxiety and trepidation about what was next. Her whole life SJ had been in an environment that catered to her needs as a deaf child and she was about to be going to a school that was built for hearing children. This is one of the reasons we chose to have her repeat second grade at her new school.

I have had a lot of people ask how her transition went and what the first year was like, so here is a recap of life since graduation for SJ.

For starters, she got her first cochlear implant upgrade, the Nucleus 7, which has been AWESOME. I really can’t think of a big enough word to describe what these new devices are like for her. To think if they improved her cochlear implant processors this much in 5 years what will they be like when she is in high school?! As much as it is an added burden for her compared to hearing kids and it’s always a little scary to have a bionic anything on your body, it is also such a blessing. I am so grateful for her sound processors and the tracking device on the iPhone has come in handy!

She had several milestones last December including being a part of the church Christmas services, her first deaf alarm clock and her first journal.

She also had her 6th hearing anniversary!

The little film that she was a part was released on International Women’s Day and she did a great job.

Her first field trip at her new school was a success. She was so excited, she had an extensive checklist leading up to the big day.

Looking back I am moved to tears as I read the words I had typed out last year when I was anxiously awaiting her first year at a mainstream school:

“She will experience recess on a big outdoor playground. She will hold a lunch tray for the first time. She’ll begin reading chapter books and walking the same halls as her brothers and hearing announcements on an intercom. She’ll learn to use an FM system so that she can hear her teacher. She’ll learn to adapt and be an advocate for herself.”

and now she has done all of those things! She is crushing it and my heart could soar. She definitely knows how to navigate her own equipment. She made this little tutorial for pairing the mini mic with her devices.

She won an award for star student one month and got free Chick-fil-a for lunch! She loves reading chapter books now which was never the case before.

 

Were there days she struggled? Sure. She’s had a great year though and I owe an enormous thank you to her team at her public school. Not only did they support J and I and walk us through the process when we chose for her to repeat 2nd grade, but they went above and beyond to meet all of SJ’s needs as a deaf student. I hear horror stories all of the time about IEP meetings and schools not being able to accommodate the needs of disabled students but my experience has been the opposite!

At each meeting they addressed every little concern that we might have and at first this was hearing at recess and lunch when it’s loud. They recommended we have her audiologist adjust her implants to allow her to change the settings depending on the environment (which we did). They also said the intervention specialist might need her own mic instead of just having her teacher wear one (and they had it for her in no time). They also got a “Pass Mic” because the students at each table work together and discuss things often. This allowed the students to talk into a microphone so that SJ could hear them better with all the background noise. The list goes on. I love our school and I do not take it for granted.

On top of all that, SJ had a best friend at her deaf school who has a twin sister and she was in SJ’s class! This friend was even at SJ’s birthday party the year before so they knew each other and their relationship blossomed from there.

When we go to events at SJ’s old school the twins are there and when there parties and things at her new school the twins are there. It has been a wonderful bridge for SJ during this transition!

3rd grade is going to be a big jump but now I feel like she is totally ready. I have no regrets about any of our decisions. Cochlear implants, private school and therapy, summer school and an extra year of 2nd grade are all tools that have allowed her to speak, understand, and flourish.

This first year at mainstream school was an answer to prayer. To quote SJ’s journal “I had joy everywhere in my heart”. I can’t wait to see what is next for our shining star.

By | June 17th, 2019|Uncategorized|1 Comment