A Pizza Party With No Pizza

I have thrown a lot of parties over the years, everything from Green Eggs & Ham to Batman, to Tea Party, Bumblebee, Candy Land, Butterfly and Nerf. Usually when I have a theme I am pretty thorough about having all of the details come together. This year I knew I wanted to have a big theme party for Ezie because we have a schedule and his last big party was three years ago.

The theme was going to be pizza because there is a book called the Hug Machine that is about a boy who loves to hug everybody and his hugs make everyone feel better.

This is just like Ezie!

In the book the boy refuels by eating pizza. This is also just like Ezie, so much so that when I read the book to the kids they asked if it was written about him.

Anyway, I made a pizza themed Evite, a pizza pinata, a fruit pizza, and the kids even made pizza party signs.

The thing is, the number of people coming to the party kept increasing. This happened mostly because not only is Ezie a big hugger, he’s also super friendly. In my facebook status update last year I called him the “Friendliest kid in the world” so I shouldn’t be surprised that he invited everyone he bumped into, which is super sweet. Also, it was a record breaking 90 degrees that day. So the idea of a few kids eating pizza on a cool fall day turned into a big ole cookout on a hot day (hot dogs and burgers are WAY cheaper for large groups).

In the end it was the biggest party we’ve ever had with a total of 48 people if you include our family of 6.

These are just some of the kids.

Although the party went a very different direction than I originally planned it’s okay because it was so fun to celebrate Ezie. What better way to have a party for my super friendly little guy than with 47 friends!

 

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By | October 1st, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Is Sex a Bad Word?

I was driving my 8 year old home from school one day when he asked me a question I will never forget. He said, Mom, is sex a bad word?

My heart started racing but my brain slowed down. I had prepared for questions like this. I am a confident modern mom who believes we should use honesty, scientific facts, and openness when discussing these delicate topics. Yet there I was fumbling for words when approached without warning.

“Well, sweetie” I began trying to fake a super calm tone. “It’s not bad, but it’s something for married grown-ups. Remember we had this talk and your dad went over some stuff with you? It’s a beautiful thing that God created but I don’t think you should be talking about it at school… ” I rambled on for what felt like an eternity trying to appropriately explain what I meant and concluded with “No. Sex is not a bad word”. This was followed by him correcting me with “I said, is SUCKS a bad word?”. There was definitely a brief awkward moment before I spat out “Yes. Sucks is a bad word. Don’t say it.”

No matter how cool or knowledgable we are, for most of us, talking about sex to our children is still somewhat uncomfortable. It’s important to get over it though. I am the first in line to want to blame our hypersexualized society for everything, and it has increased the need for these discussions and lowered the age at which we have them. Let’s be honest though, the human sex drive has been around since Adam and Eve. Even if there was no Ariana Grande or Victoria’s Secret we would still need to talk about it. There is no escaping the fact that your child will encounter things that will make them curious. It’s natural. The question is, what do we say?

I am no sexpert (proof, right there with my cheesy mom joke) so I have turned to those that are, specifically ones that share my values and faith. I have three main resources for discussing and teaching your children about physical intimacy and the human body. We have all three of these books and I highly recommend them, some I have mentioned before.

  1. The Talk

This book includes 7 biblically based lessons that you can go through with your child about sexuality. It is all scripturally based and includes diagrams and illustrations as well as web URLs for some additional material such as videos. The Talk is recommended for ages 6-10. You read that right. This book is for elementary age children. I personally never introduced the book to any of our children at age 6, but we definitely did it before age 10. If your kids are in school, sports, a neighborhood, or have any communication to the outside world (Rapunzel you can sit this one out) then they probably need this information sooner rather than later. You don’t have to share everything, but even pregnant and breastfeeding mothers can get questions from the baby’s older siblings that are sex related. So it makes sense to give truthful, factual answers that are age appropriate as they grow rather than all at once when their hormones and pubescent changes have already taken over their bodies.

 

2. Wild Things The Art of Nurturing Boys 

I love this book about parenting boys. I refer to it over and over. It has been a lifesaver for us. Even though it is about boys some of it applies to boys and girls alike. I’ll give some excerpts from the section that is titled “Talking with boys about sex” where it gives 5 tips for parents. If you have a daughter just swap out the gender in the information below. It will still apply in these scenarios.

  1. Take the initiative. Give a loving consistent, steady flow of information that should begin as early as possible.
  2. Explore your own attitude. If you are very uncomfortable with the subject read some books and discuss your feelings with a trusted friend, relative, physician, pastor, or counselor. The more you examine the subject the more confident you’ll feel discussing it.
  3. Offer Accurate Age Appropriate information. Talk about sex in a way that fits your boy’s age and stage of development.
  4. Cover more than sex. In addition to telling a boy about the biological specifics of puberty, parents need to discuss dating with him as well and how relationships with girls can be very emotionally powerful.
  5. Talk with boys specifically about girls. Boys need to be as informed about female sexual development as they are about their own sexual development. If they only hear about themselves, they only have half the equation.

3. Good Pictures Bad Pictures

Last but not least, this is a small picture book that teaches children the dangers of pornography. This isn’t exactly the birds and the bees chat, but it is such an important conversation to have in the world we live in. Unlike the other two books I mentioned, this one does not have scripture in it, but it does fit in with the principals that are in the Bible. It uses analogies and science to explain a complicated subject to young children. It gives them an action plan so that they are empowered with knowledge and a strategy when and if they find themselves in a compromising situation.

 

Those are the three books that have been helpful to us at this point. I’ve only been a mom for 12 years so I am still in the thick of all this trying to figure it out as I go. Even though that first book I mentioned is titled “The Talk” it isn’t about this one time thing. The best way to communicate with our children is through openness and honesty and it’s ONGOING. Your child is going to learn about sex, do them a favor and let it be from a safe and loving caregiver rather than the world.

 

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

Raising Articulate Kids

BRAG ALERT!  On the way home from school recently my oldest son was telling me about his day. He was describing a situation with one of the teachers at his school and said:

“She’s different than all of the other teachers. She’s not mean. I wouldn’t call it mean because she is fair, but she is… well… intimidating”.

I was so proud of him for taking the time to articulate his thoughts and observations. So many times it’s easier to throw out the word “mean” because even a toddler knows that word, but to really process whether it was simply being mean or something more complex takes a lot of maturity and I commended him on that. I am proud of how my kids can speak out and express themselves. Every single one of them at some point was labeled as “strong-willed” by someone with an opinion, to which I eventually just rolled my eyes (at least internally). It’s easy to be frustrated with a child that isn’t super compliant when you want them to be, but there are so many benefits to raising a strong-willed child and I believe one of them is that they are more inclined to articulate their thoughts and needs. The key is teaching the appropriate and most effective ways to do this. So in this article I would like to explore 10 ways to help your child become more articulate.

 

  1. Don’t Dumb Down Their Vocabulary

It’s okay to use big words with young children, just make sure you are explaining those words and that they have an understanding of what you are saying. There are so many great resources for how to implement this, such as the picture book “Big Words for Little People” or the books or show “Fancy Nancy“. I also give an example in number four on this list.

2. Early Intervention therapy is a blessing

Please hear me out, when I write about raising articulate kids this isn’t coming from the queen of high tea. I’m the messy mom, so let’s keep it real. THREE of my four children have had speech therapy/early intervention. As someone who had to fight hard for my deaf daughter to be able to communicate, I understand the value of intervention and giving kids the tools they need to advocate for themselves and articulate their thoughts ideas, and feelings.  There is absolutely no shame in reaching out for help if your child needs. It is also important to recognize that effective self expression can present itself in many different ways.

3. Give opportunity for the child to speak

I just wrote a blog post about intentional pausing to allow children the opportunity to process, ponder, and respond. Even with my husband I will literally look at the clock and make sure I wait at least a minute to let him finish his sentence before I jump in. Sometimes he pauses for so long I think he is finished but he isn’t. He is an introvert and his brain takes longer to process things  (this is not a slam against intoverts, it can definitely be a benefit).

Whether introverted or not it is important that we allow a space/break in conversation for our children to articulate their thoughts.

4. READ

Research continues to show that the more children are exposed to reading, the richer their vocabulary becomes.  I like what scholastic says about using books for vocabulary boosters

“Put as much expression as possible into your reading. When you come to a word that is sophisticated, draw it out. Take the word “scrumptious,” for example. Say it slowly as part of the sentence and then add a comment like, “Scrumptious. Hmm, that means really, really good. Look at that apple pie. It sure looks scrumptious to me.”

 

5. Get them in front of a crowd

I am a believer in using public speaking as a way to build a child’s confidence. It teaches a child important life skills such as how to speak with clarity, conviction, and confidence! Whether it is at school, church, a play, or some other creative method, find ways to give your child an opportunity to speak in front of a crowd.

6.  Narrate

Talking out loud and narrating what you are looking at or doing is especially important for babies. You might be at the grocery store with a baby in the shopping cart and you start explaining everything that is happening. “Let’s go over to the bananas. I am going to pick out a big bunch of bananas. This one looks nice and yellow. These bananas are going in the cart!

It doesn’t stop with babies though, it just changes a little. You may not be narrating anymore, but it is still important that our kids hear us express ourselves and observe how we interact with our spouses, their teachers, or even when we are going through difficulties.

7. Congratulate and encourage

I used the example of my son describing his intimidating teacher. I was able to commend him for choosing his words carefully. Another example was at a Doctor’s visit. The pediatrician made sure they directed the questions at my child and allowed him to answer. After describing his feelings the Doctor said “You speak well for yourself. That’s important.” That happened years ago but the value of it has always stuck with me.

8. Ask open ended questions

It’s so easy to ask yes or no questions and allow our kids to keep it short and sweet, but if we really want to know how they are feeling it’s better to prompt a discussion. Here is a list of examples.

9. Limit screentime

I think it’s even more difficult to raise articulate children these days than in years past because teenagers and kids are spending so much time online or texting. Meanwhile, their communication skills are plummeting! A way to combat this is by having boundaries and limitations on their screen time. I know some kids get phones for emergency situations and such, but I think we need to take a great deal consideration in how early we introduce the use of digital interaction (texting, DMs, or social media).

10. Teach Them the Power of Words

For our family, as Christians, we are teaching our kids what the Bible has to say about the words we choose. For example:

Proverbs 20:15 Wise words are more valuable than much gold and many rubies.

Proverbs 18:21 Your tongue has the power of life and death. Those who love to talk will eat the fruit of their words.

 

Those are just some of the ways that we can help our children to clearly and appropriately express their thoughts. Even with all of those tips though I think the most important way is leading by example and then having listening ears when our children are trying to tell us something.

By | September 11th, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Intentional Pauses

The book Hamlet’sBlackberry: A practical philosophy for building a good life in the digital age by William Powers is an all-time favorite of mine. Even though no one has Blackberry phones anymore the information in the book still applies! It’s all about finding balance in a world of hyper-connectivity. Powers is not against technology at all, but he says what makes it work for and not against us is when we have some spaces in between the screen time. Powers says the trouble comes when “We don’t have any gaps, any breaks in which to make sense of it; do something new, creative with it; enjoy it,” The same notion applies to how we interact with our children. We have to leave gaps or space to let things sink in.

Some space comes in the form of subtle pauses. Let me give an example by sharing a very personal video from 7 years ago.

The video has actually been shared in professional circles for use in conferences and teachings for people that work with the deaf and cochlear implant recipients. After my daughter had her first cochlear implant surgery I was prompting her to speak. Keep in mind she had never said anything before so to see her respond to any auditory stimuli was a huge breakthrough.

What her therapist and Otolaryngoly team loved about this video was the connection that took place in the pauses where she was given the opportunity to respond. If for some reason you can’t see the video it’s very simple. I show her a Woody cowboy doll and say Boot, b-b-b and then after about 5 seconds she says Buh. I am not trying to brag about how awesome I am at speech therapy, because they just happened to catch a glimpse of a very touching moment. The point is if you go through speech therapy with your child you will learn that as important as it is to narrate everything, and give them tons of modeling, prompting, and auditory training. What is equally as important is that you pause. It’s in that space that they can chew on it, process it, and have a chance to respond to it.

It’s not just about what you say, but also the spaces where you don’t say anything at all. These pauses give children a chance to really think and evaluate.

Sometimes the pauses are for our benefit. I’m pretty sure every parent struggles with anger or outburst when a situation with a child escalates past the breaking point. I know that for me I have reacted and implemented discipline in the moment that I later regretted. For example, one child hit another in the backseat and I was so mad that I told them they couldn’t go to the birthday party they were looking forward to. The truth was we were all going to the party and it wasn’t a consequence I could follow through with. Rather than just reacting I should have remembered this advice from the book Love and Logic:

 Don’t feel like you have to hurry into an immediate reaction. Give yourself time when coming up with a consequence and just let the child know that it’s sad and you are going to care of it later.

The kicker is you still have to follow through. Sometimes this hard because life keeps going and forgetting the offense can happen. Still, I feel better when I pause and take a moment rather than just react.

There are so many benefits of intentional pausing. It’s the little things like just enjoying a moment in silence together, or watching as your disgruntled child soften ups and decides to ask for forgiveness. So much can happen when we pause for a moment.

I know we live in a very fast paced world where we aren’t used to slowing down and taking a breath, but we need to. We need to with God (Proverbs 46:10 Be still) and we need to with our children. It’s amazing what can happen if you make some space for it.

 

This post was originally featured in a series called “Teachable Parenting” For more articles like this check out the contents page here.

By | September 5th, 2019|Uncategorized|1 Comment

Inspiring Mom Anna Slayton

For this Inspiring mom interview, Anna and I sat down in front of our computers. She lives in Texas and I am in Ohio. I wanted to interview her as an Inspiring mom because I have watched her story from a distance. I knew she was a young mom who tragically lost a child and then made a difference in the community and in the lives of others as an activist bringing awareness to drowning prevention. 

When we started the video chat the first thing Anna said was “Are you sure you want to hear this? Are you sure this is something you want me to share because I have been through some really, really dark stuff. It’s ugly. I’m serious.” I could detect the years of pain and struggle in her voice as she spoke. I told her that I believed God ordained this interview. I know that the truth and light of her story absolutely has to be shared, even if some of it is difficult to hear. This is real life pain that Anna went through and it could be you or me or any of us. So please read this with grace and compassion knowing that God had a plan for Anna and she is using her heartbreak to show the work of the redeemer at hand. 

Anna got married and became pregnant when she was only 19 years old. Then she dove right into nursing school when her first baby was 5 months old. Shortly after graduating with her nursing degree she became pregnant with her second baby. She loved both her children, but it wasn’t until the third baby (Gavin) who came when she was 25 years old, that it felt like motherhood was really beginning to click. From the time she was pregnant she felt different about this bond.

 

She was finally ready to start acting like a mom and do all the mom things like cuddle and spend time gazing at him in awe. Even though Gavin had a cleft pallet she nurtured him throughout the surgery and was even able to breastfeed him despite this obstacle. Motherhood was becoming second nature to Anna and it felt like their family was complete. 

Just as Anna began to feel comfortable in this role the image of family shattered when she discovered that her husband was battling a serious drug addiction. The two of them separated and he was admitted to rehab. When he got out Anna explained “Things seemed better. He had found the Lord and was himself again. I just wanted my family back and was tired of living as a single mom.” 

So that summer they gave it another shot. They went on a cruise together and all the broken pieces seemed to come back together. Anna then got the exciting news that she was moving into a management position at the ER. This led to the decision to invest in a house! When Anna’s husband wanted to go back to school she thought, Why not?. Everything else was moving forward and the future looked bright so Anna took out all of her retirement to support his dream. It was as if they had been given a fresh start, a second chance at love, and the hope of a happy home. 

Unfortunately, as is the case with many addicts, it wasn’t that simple. Her husband had relapsed and Anna found herself alone and hurting just as she was before, except this time she humbly admits to making some poor decisions in that season. Rather than looking to God and allowing Him to be her savior and rescuer she turned to another man, one who was not her husband. It wasn’t that she went out looking to have an affair. Anna says that she didn’t have healthy boundaries in place and in the midst of the anger and pain she allowed things to go too far. It was as if by retaliating against her husband she would be able to gain control. She was tired of being the victim. 

That December the truth came out about Anna’s affair and she and her husband got into a huge fight, one that actually ended up getting violent. They decided they needed to separate. The holidays that year were hard, but they were trying to handle the whole divorce in a mature manner. They wanted to do what was best for their three young children and they were finding a rhythm that worked for them. 

Then on New Year’s Day 2017, Anna got a call while at work. It was the most devastating call any mother could receive.

Anna was informed that her precious 2 year old baby boy had drowned in a pool. She raced out of the hospital she was working at straight to the hospital where her son Gavin was. As an ER nurse, she had faced situations like this but this time was different. This time as she stood under the dim hospital lights in her scrubs looking down at the child on life support listening to the machine steadily beeping she wasn’t the nurse, she was the mom. It was by far the most difficult experience she has ever had to go through.

It’s been almost three years since Gavin passed away. The Lord has been covering Anna every step of the way. He has given her the hope and the courage to keep going even when she felt like giving up. Anna has done a tremendous amount of work with the Texas Drowning Prevention Alliance. You can read more of hers and Gavin’s story here.

So much healing and restoration has taken place since the loss of her marriage and her son. A miracle that only God could do. 

Anna has since remarried and her husband is an amazing christian man who supports her and loves her unconditionally.

He also introduced her to a program called Celebrate Recovery which she has been an active participant for 18 months now. She will actually be sharing her testimony at her local celebrate Recovery this coming week and Anna informed me that September is national recovery month! 

Here is what Anna has to say about what she has learned through Celebrate Recovery

“I have been able to identify where my struggles truly lie and what I continue to pick up. I have to stop looking at the past. It is damaging to my spirit and my soul to keep analyzing all the reasons why my life is ‘not what I expected’. There are things that I have no choice but to accept. I cannot change what others do with their life despite when I wish they would choose differently. I have absolutely no choice but to accept that my youngest son died, and there wasn’t a thing I could have done to change it. I have to accept that because of what happened and choices that I made, I am now in a new phase of my life. Instead of clinging to the past or trying to figure out how I got here, it is time to embrace where I am. Accept the life that God has blessed me with, and continue to find the best version of myself that I can BECAUSE of my story.

As hard as this journey has been, Anna has taken all of her pain and used it to help others. That is her passion and her calling. She is currently going back to school to continue her education as a nurse. She said this would be the year Gavin would have started school so she has started school too. “My path is my memory of him. I am trying to be proactive in his honor.” Anna says. 

Anna encourages anyone dealing with hurt, pain, or addiction to find a local Celebrate Recovery to be a part of. 

On Anna’s shoulder she has a tattoo with the scripture reference Isaiah 40:31 and I will end with that verse because it’s so perfect for Anna, and for you, and for me, and all of us. 

Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. 

If you would like to connect with Anna or see more of her journey you can follow her on Instagram at @AnnaSlaytonRN

By | September 3rd, 2019|Uncategorized|2 Comments

A BIG School Year Ahead

It’s officially one week since our first day of the  2019/2020 school year (just typing 2020 seems unreal by the way).

My mom laughed when I told her “it’s been a great year so far” on the third day of school. Obviously, there is a long way to go, but knowing your teacher, classmates, and schedule is a big win and if your launch is a success it’s a good indicator or how the rest of the year will hopefully go.

Before school started they had open house and meet the teachers. Our school does a tradition where all the coaches, teachers, and even the principal get on a school bus and stop at different neighborhoods in the district and pass out popsicles.

The closest stop for us was a mile and a half away. It was a lovely day so we loaded up the wagon, scooter, and bikes to go meet the teachers.

SJs teachers from last year were thrilled to see her and hear about her summer.

They even introduced her to her new teacher. It was really special.

I have so much gratitude for teachers.

 

All three of my school age kids are making big jumps this year.

Ezie is going from half day PM kindergarten to first grade, so he is in the full day program for the first time.

He started reading last year, but it’s still emerging so I am excited to see him become a more fluent reader and writer. Right now the thing he is most excited about is lunch and recess. One of his best friends from our church has recess with him so I am really happy for both of them.

SJ is now in third grade.

This is the grade that she would have started last year if we hadn’t chosen to retain her. A year later we still feel like that was definitely the right decision. I know she is ready for third grade now. She has a year of mainstream schooling under her belt and she can enter this new grade level with confidence.

She has multiple teachers and she will even be switching classes, so they really dig deep into the individual subjects. So far she has already connected with her teachers. Her favorite part has been tending to the milkweed garden on the school grounds and observing monarch caterpillars! She is also looking forward to getting back into gymnastics soon. Even though we took the summer off she has continued to excel and loves to practice her back-walk-over which she still has yet to master but it’s getting close! I can’t seem to get a video of her to post so here is a pick of her working towards the splits.

Z is the big dog on campus.

The elementary school here goes up to 6th grade which I think is great. The downside is there are some programs he can participate in like choir and band but they are off campus and he’s decided not to do them this year. Also, he is in several AP classes which are a part of the Junior High program but they have it set up as some kind of a satellite program since he is still in elementary school. It’s okay though. He likes his school and has lots of friends since this is now his third year there.

One big change that is almost hard for my little mama heart to bear is that he graduated the children’s church program and is now in youth group! We are very good friends with the youth pastor and leaders so I know he is in good hands. One of the leaders even brought him on a camping trip. It’s the same one we went on as a family but he rode with and hung out with all the older boys.

He had a blast and has also gone out to eat with the youth group after church a couple of times. Z is still definitely interested in robotics and the practices for his competition have already begun. Between all of that and watching him volunteer on the tech team at church I am just blown away by how fast he is growing up.

At least I am still taller than him. He has surpassed my shoe size though!

Elle is at home with me this school year. She is three years old and still has two years left until kindergarten so I am in no hurry to rush schooling.

I am believing for great things for all of them. I know that the newness and energy of it all will fade soon enough so I am soaking up the good attitudes while I can. They all three wake up, get ready, and are relatively excited to get to school.

I realize this could change at any minute so we’ll see what week two holds.

By | August 26th, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments

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