Category Archives: Uncategorized

When your baby(ies) no longer need you

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When your baby(ies) no longer need you

I’m not sure if it was the revelation that we may never have another child, or the hands-up-in-the-air surrender that after three losses in one calendar year, LITERALLY – first miscarriage May 9, 2016 and the third one May 9, 2017 – we have no control over our family growing, or seeing our children move from the church nursery to the preschool Sunday school class, BUT,  whatever it was, last week I thought my babies no longer needed me.


This caused ugly, irrational tears (ugly, because I’m not a pretty crier, raccoon eyes included; and irrational, because they can’t even wipe their own butts for goodness sake – of course they still need me), and Chris tried to comfort me but my dramatics were a bit too much for him that evening. And I’m thinking, “Me? Dramatic?”


But I couldn’t help it. In my mind, my babies no longer needed me. They pee in the middle of the night ON THEIR OWN, find apples from the fridge for a snack and put their plates away after supper ON THEIR OWN, get art supplies out of the cabinet and begin a new project ON THEIR OWN. I mean, when did this happen?! And why did I ever crave their independence? I may never have another baby and this is it. The moment has passed. I didn’t enjoy the beginning of their lives (read here)  and missed out on the joy of having a baby (or two). Heck, I blacked that entire season out. So, pity party for me. Since I was on the Eat Everything diet (and totally succeeded, by the way!) I ate my way through the emotions, a very healthy coping mechanism. And I’m hardly being sarcastic here. There’s waaaay worse people – I could be an alcoholic or a druggie or a shopping addict. At least I’m aware, OKAY?! Awareness is KEY people, KEY.


So anyway, one night I’m having my insane, nonsensical “boo-hoo they don’t need me blah blah blah” and the very next day, Norah wakes up sick. She has a temperature, she throws up, and she needs to be held. ALL. DAY. LONG.


And just like that, she’s my baby again, and I realize that they’re still my babies, and I’m their mom, and they’ll never stop really needing me, even 10 years from now when I’m embarrassing them at school or church or the Walgreens checkout line and they’re convinced they don’t need me…they’ll need me.


So here I am, caressing my sick daughter, and I’m feeling sick because I’m ENJOYING this. And she doesn’t feel well. Isn’t that “sick” in itself? Uh, YEA. But I like how a friend put it on Facebook recently. She posted, “That tension when you feel so bad your wiggly kid is not feeling well, but love that they just want to snuggle all day.”


Yes, yes, Yes.


And then the Lord spoke to me. And He’s like, “My child. I don’t like to see you suffer, either. I don’t like to see you sick. But let me tell you this: when you are desperate and needy and you choose to reach for Me, nothing makes me happier. Not because you’re hurting, not because you’re sad, but because I LOVE YOU and I love being CLOSE to you.”For those of you who struggle with the idea of God being a Father and the whole relationship aspect of being a Christian, just look to the earthly family dynamics and you can relate. Does God find joy in my pain? No. Does he cause my pain? No. But does he allow it to happen, knowing it may bring us closer? Absolutely.


I cherished the moments that day, and honestly, it’s probably a day I’ll never forget. And I think about the tumultuous ups and downs of the last 365 days, especially the darkest ones, and I know in my heart, those are days the Lord won’t forget, either (which I know is impossible b/c he is omni-everything – duh – but just stick with me). He won’t forget those days because my eyes were open, my mind was present, and my heart was empty for Him, realizing that he was and is the ONLY thing that can fill that hole. Not my incredible husband, not the two beautiful children I have, not a successful Beautycounter  job (shameless plug – but check it out!) not a Portillo’s chocolate cake, and no, not even a healthy pregnancy and healthy baby #3 can fill that hole..just Him.


So, that’s it. My babies need me. And I need my earthly Mama and Dadda. And when we lose the earthly ones, we are lucky to have the very best parent of all – God, our Heavenly Father.

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13 Reasons Why

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13 Reasons Why

 

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The new Netflix series 13 Reasons Why has captured the attention of adults young and old over the last couple of months. Haven’t heard of it? The show revolves around teenage Hannah Baker, who created 13 cassette tapes to explain why she would later commit suicide, each tape meant for a different person, or, reason why. It’s full of inappropriate scenes and bad language, but as a former teacher, youth worker, and person who’s been lost myself, its drama and darkness engages you to keep watching even when it’s difficult. Although Chris and I thoroughly enjoyed the show, I do not recommend students watching it alone. If they are, be next to them, have the conversation, and use it as teaching and learning tool.


My biggest issue with the show (and also a problem for many people if you’ve read any of the latest media posts), is that not only does the show (sort of) glorify suicide, it heavily implies and sends the memo that you can get your own message across better in death than in life. Character Hannah rarely confronts her friends face-to-face during her life. We don’t see her sharing how she feels, how she’s been hurt, etc, yet she has no qualms explaining her feelings on the tapes, which they listen to after her death, once it’s too late.


This is nothing short of devastating. NOW is the time to be REAL and TRANSPARENT, not after death. I’m not saying we have to go around sharing our deepest fears and biggest mistakes with every person we meet. That would be weird. Unless you have a blog called CrazyMaddeningworld, and then, well – you ARE weird.


So, after talking with friends and a getting a quick Facebook poll, here are “13 Reasons Why” you should be transparent (in no particular order).


  1. You’ll have more energy.

Pretending to be something you’re not is exhausting. By staying true to who you are, you’ll use less energy trying to be fake or put up a front.


  1. You’ll laugh more.

When we acknowledge no one is perfect and we’re honest about our mistakes with others, we can laugh about it. You can own it – they’re no longer laughing at you, but with you.


  1. People will see you as trustworthy.

It’s hard to get close to someone you can’t trust. If you hear your friend say “I’m OK” to a coworker, only to bash that same coworker behind her back a minute later, it’s uncomfortable. You realize she wasn’t honest with her colleague, and it makes you wonder how often (or not) she is honest with you. When people see you share your true feelings and opinions even when it’s difficult, they will trust you more.


  1. Communication is easier.

Be someone who is known for your authenticity and ability to speak truthfully. This makes you more approachable and easier to talk to, and there’s no passive aggressive/read-between-the-lines stuff…’cuz let’s be honest – ain’t nobody got time for that!


  1. It sets a positive example for your kids.

From the earliest age, we teach and preach “Be yourself!” to kids. Walk the talk and show your kids (or students, or neighbors) the importance of being REAL, that it doesn’t mean everyone has to like you, and that it won’t mean anything is wrong with you. The sooner your children realize no one is perfect, the better. By being transparent, we show our kids that every person is made unique, and that should be celebrated.


  1. There’s less places to hide.

Secrets, addictions, lies…no, not just an episode of Breaking Bad. Anyone can fall into a bad place, but when we live a life of truth, it’s easier to ask for help. If we slowly allow dishonesty into our lives it multiplies fast. You will save yourself a lot of hurt and pain in the future if you remove the barriers from the get-go and openly share your struggles with someone you can trust. There’s nothing more isolating than feeling alone in your lies.


  1. Your relationships will be more meaningful.

This is no surprise. Healthy relationships are built on love, respect and honesty. When we are vulnerable with others, it draws us closer. Some of my closest friends are not always the people I’ve known for years; more often, it’s those who’ve bared their souls.


  1. You’ll know who your true friends are.

By choosing transparency, you never have to wonder if people like you for who you are. If they stick around, they surely do. If they’re looking for an escape route when the going gets rough, it wasn’t meant to be. True friends love you through the good, bad and the ugly. The end.


  1. One word – FREEDOM!

On that same note, you don’t have to be “on” for anyone. People can either accept you for who you are, or not. Being nothing but YOU is so utterly freeing.


  1. You’ll realize more than ever that you’re not alone.

Someone hurt your feelings? Share it in love. Most likely you may have done the same to them unintentionally. Talk it out, forgive, and move on. Until I finally opened up about my mental health issues, I had no idea how many people struggled with anxiety and depression. When I shared about my previous miscarriages, unborn babies came to the surface, women sharing their heartbreak. Be honest about your emotions and experiences; you won’t be alone.


  1. Because you’re not alone, it’s easier to overcome obstacles.

Life is hard. Things happen that are out of our control. Our biggest trials are not meant to be fought alone. This is where community comes in. When you realize you’re not alone and you have a support system in place, life’s obstacles won’t seem as overwhelming. And even if they are, you won’t go through it by yourself.


  1. People will respect you.

It’s not easy being honest. In fact, it’s usually hard. Choosing transparency makes you vulnerable, and that can be a scary feeling. Don’t be afraid to share your true reality – because it takes guts, you’ll gain some mad respect.


  1. It’s inspiring!

All it takes is the courage of one person to be honest to create the domino effect. Think twice before you continue to display only the pretty parts of your life on social media. Comparison is the thief of joy! People struggle because they’re comparing your perfect and unattainable Facebook life to their real one. I’m guilty of this as well. Sharing your truth is inspirational and encourages others to do the same.


So, that’s it. I look back on my life 4 ½’ years ago, November of 2012, fetal position on the kitchen floor, my very own “reasons why” I might not make it another day spilling over through my tears. Emotionally exhausted from trying to be the person I thought everyone wanted me to be, I was stuck in an ugly people-pleasing cycle that spurred on my anxiety and depression like a wildfire. I was convinced life was too hard. I was wearing too many hats, not saying no, refusing to allow God to take the burden He so desperately wanted to bear. It was a wake up call. Because I had people in my life who cared, I was rescued.


I’m lucky that even when I wasn’t strong enough to be transparent, other people could see through me. But, this isn’t always the case. So let’s allow each day to be another day to practice honesty and authenticity with everyone we meet.

To Baby #4?

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To Baby #4?

It’s been almost 3 months since I last posted…January 6th, to be exact. I know this because the post, Dear Baby #3, was a dedication to our miscarried baby who was supposed to be born on that exact date.


When I published Dear Baby #3 a few months back, I already had my next post written, planned to be sent out a few weeks later on January 29th. I am also certain of this date, exactly. It was going to be January 29th. Why? Because I was supposed to be 15 weeks pregnant.


It was my rainbow baby, my beautiful ending, the blessing I couldn’t wait to share. Unfortunately, I miscarried again, and found out about it on January 6th, the very day we chose to share the painful experience of our first miscarriage.


Coincidence? Ironic? Whatever it may be, it was CRAZY.


So it’s been awhile since I wrote because I didn’t even know where to begin. I was somewhere in between “let’s just get something on paper” and actually agonizing over it. So today my hands are up, I surrender, and I’m simply going to post it, certainly not because someone is making me, but because once again it’s all a part of the crazymaddening journey, embracing the ups and downs of life while struggling with mental health.


We found out we were pregnant unexpectedly, but we were thrilled nonetheless. I remember that first ultrasound, the anticipation (there’s just ONE this time, right?!) and that heartbeat. What a remarkable, miraculous sound. The nausea, the throwing up, the constant sickness (not just “morning” this time around) – certainly no fun. But it’s so worth it, and as I write this, I’m reminded that I would do anything to get it back if it meant I was still carrying our baby.


Things were running smoothly. Being pregnant during the holidays is quite lovely as I didn’t think twice about the extra sweets and treats, although I mostly craved all things salt and carbs. Christmas was different this year celebrating in Florida but still very special. I was getting the ultimate Christmas present and nothing could top it – another baby!


My next appointment and ultrasound was on January 6th, our 3rd baby’s original due date. I thought, “How cool are you, God? Today is a sad day, a day that we could think about death, and yet I’ll get to hear life today (in the form of the baby’s heartbeat). I was 12 weeks pregnant.


So today is the day, and I sit in the waiting room forever (don’t you always at the doctor?) Meanwhile, I’m receiving an abundance of emails and private messages from people who read the blog post and want to share their personal stories of miscarriage and suffering. I’m reading these heartfelt messages feeling honored, and yet also a little bit guilty, because they’re pouring out their hearts and also giving condolences about something that happened several months ago, and now I’m actually pregnant.


Until I’m not. Present tense to past tense, just like that. I wait forever in that room only to find out there is no heartbeat. The baby measured at 11 weeks, and had died.


WHAT? Seriously? HUH? Shock. Utter shock.


I’m still kind of shocked. Acceptance, mostly. But shocked? Yes.


This pregnancy made sense. It was different, a complete surprise, totally natural and unplanned and from God. Although I’ve never spoken of our infertility struggle on the blog, Miles and Norah received the help of science (and yet still just as much God – my infertility warriors just said “Amen”) to come into this world, as well as the pregnancy from spring of 2016.


So you see, it seemed perfect. It made sense. I had no doubts that this pregnancy wouldn’t result in a healthy baby. Chris and I were beyond excited. And then just like that, in a split second, everything can change. I leave the office with nothing except 10+ extra pounds and nothing to show for it.


Very few people knew. Some family, some close friends, a couple neighbors. I just got around to sharing with some of my new Florida friends the NIGHT BEFORE. And so I’m kicking myself and saying why couldn’t I just have waited a little longer? Why did I do this?


But wow, was I wrong. I was instantly reminded of the important of fellowship and community as that group of women provided flowers, cards, and a meal for my family every night the following week. Relatives came for appointments and sent food.


Side note: I wish I was one of those “I don’t eat when I’m sad or stressed” people, but I’m not. Quite the opposite. So the food was a blessing.


Everyone is different, but once you experience grief you have a better idea of what to do when someone else is mourning. The “Tell me what I can do to help” or “I’m hear to listen” is great, don’t get me wrong. But it was the “I’m making a meal and bringing it over ______ day” or the “I’m picking up the kids to play one day this week – what day works for you?” that was wonderful. Also the random cards/flowers/pictures mailed. Those things helped. No one wants to ask for help. Sometimes we don’t even realize we need help, so that proactive, assertive hand was much appreciated.


I immediately went back on my Lexapro preparing for the hormone drops to come. I’ve wondered if it’s going to be enough but for right now it is. It’s so crazy to think that just over a year ago I had 4 or more meds to take regularly just to get through each day. I truly believe living in the Sunshine State over the last 8 months has done wonders for my mental health.


So in the end, to the people who messaged and emailed and sent their love on January 6th, the day of the “Dear Baby #3 post”…there are no words. Because you see, although you thought you were sharing and giving and sending love because of a painful miscarriage months ago, you were giving me exactly what I needed since another one happened that very day. Whether you knew it or not, you were being used by God. And I thank you. I thank you very much.


So, that’s that. Will we every have another child? I don’t know. Our family doesn’t feel totally complete, but yet I’m at peace with the wonderful gifts we already have in the form of Miles and Norah. I won’t do anything to jeopardize my mental well-being for another child (and in turn jeopardizing our family) so fertility help is out of the question (because it’s probably part of why I went to the hospital in the first place, a post for another day). We will just have to live life as its meant to be, adjusting our expectations but staying humble and grateful all the same.


2017 has not been easy. I’ve been at the dentist and specialist at least a total of 10 times already. They know me well. Thankfully my teeth are fixed and we’re good to go. On a more serious note, my dad started off the year sick and continues to struggle. I was in Chicago for a couple weeks in Feburary while he was in the hospital, and unfortunately he’s back there now. He has been on a challenging uphill climb, facing battle after battle, but the Lord is by his side. I see this so clearly.


I’d like to blame all of this on President Trump, but I try to keep politics out of it.


There are exciting things happening in the next month. We are headed to Disney this weekend for the first time with the kids. Some of my previous students will be there from Illinois for their band trip so I can’t wait to see faces from home! Our first vacationers arrive to visit the first week of April, we get to see Chris’ brother and awesome girlfriend in Orlando the weekend after, and then we head to Chicago to see friends and family!


There’s lots of positivity on the horizon. God is good. He is faithful. We will march on. And do us a favor – keep my father in your prayers.


I’ll end with a verse my brother reminded me of today:


“I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in Him.” Psalm 40:1-3

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Dear Baby #3

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Dear Baby #3

It’s January 6, 2017. Today is your birthday, or, at least, your due date. Today you would’ve been born.


Only a few days have passed in the last 9 months where I didn’t think about you. It used to hurt really, really bad, but as time went on, it got a little easier.


When we first learned of you, we were overjoyed. We prayed for you, and you came. This was God’s greatest gift. Never did I think something could go wrong.


It was a beautiful day. The end of spring was here, summer right around the corner. Something felt “off,” but I had no real concerns. First of all, who isn’t “off” first trimester, anyway? Second of all, nothing was going to get me down that particular spring day, for I had just seen you for the first time that morning. You looked beautiful – everything was great, all numbers perfection. I was in love. Of course, also in love with the fact that this time there was one child, because as much as we love the twins, the notion of another two was terrifying.


(The following is a little graphic. Do not read it if you don’t want to; no one is forcing you. I’m writing this because it’s my story, and I need to share it, desperately. By getting it out, my healing feels complete, like a chapter has closed).


It’s 12:15. Something is definitely wrong. I am bleeding, a lot. I immediately grab the kids and throw them in the bed for nap with some extra books and toys. It’s not nap time, but I need them away for whatever is to come. Ironically, I have a psych appointment scheduled for later and Chris’ mom is already planning to come over.


I call the doctor and she says not to worry yet. Everything looked good that morning. Bleeding can happen. Just wait and see.


I pray and pray and pray. Cry and pray some more, hoping it will stop.


Around 12:45 I use the bathroom, and I know this can’t be normal. It’s not okay. This isn’t okay. When I look down, I see it. I’ve never been in this situation and I don’t actually know what to look for, but it doesn’t matter.


My knees fall and I hug the toilet, desperately holding on for one more moment with my child. No, it doesn’t look like a baby; it’s still early. But it doesn’t matter. I can see him or her lying there and I just can’t bring myself to flush it away yet, here one minute and then gone in the blink of an eye.


So I pick it up. And I hold it in my hand. And I can hardly see through the tears, the tears that cover me from my cheeks down to the floor.


And I say, “It’s okay, baby. It’s okay. You’re in a better place now. You were not meant for this world. And that’s okay. Go be with Jesus. I’ll see you again one day.”

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I immediately see him or her in heaven running towards my Mema and cousin Carolina. Carolina just passed away the month before. They both loved babies. Carolina was my age, and I was and am glad she has a baby in heaven to take care of right now.


I place it back in the toilet bowl and pull the trigger. Flush.


I go to the pysch appointment knowing I need it now more than ever. There is no ultrasound tech at the doctor’s office so it is decided I will go to the ER for official confirmation, but I already know. Chris is on his way.


I didn’t know we would be in the emergency room for almost 7 hours because of a shooting (our HMO only covers the hospital, which happens to be one of the major trauma hospitals in the Chicago area). I didn’t know a person could be in so much pain and feel so numb at the same time. I didn’t know I’d spend the next few days in my bed, that a simple song like “Rock a Bye Baby” would cause rapid tears, that I would sleep with Miles’ stuffed animal shark for the next 3 weeks.


I didn’t know that I’d grieve today, your due date, as if it just happened.

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It takes time, but after awhile, the pain lets up. You continue to put one foot in front of the other. The hurt starts to hurt less as you cling to your faith and unite with others in the same boat. Someone shares her story, and you gain the courage to share yours, and that bond helps the healing.


I can’t hear the word “January” without thinking of this baby. Truth be told, I can’t get through most days without remembering. At church, I can’t sing the bridge to “Blessed Be Your Name” without a lump in my throat, hearing the words “You give and take away / You give and take away/ My heart will choose to say / Lord blessed be your name.” I can’t comprehend why it happened, and as much as I like answers, I’ll never understand, not on this side of heaven.


There were a lot of “didn’t knows,” and there are still some “can’ts.” But now, many months later, we can see that we still held on to several truths amidst the doubts and unknown.


I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Get through all the hurts. Still be a functioning, capable mom even when I don’t think I can. Phil. 3:14

God will never leave me nor forsake me. I am not alone, even when I feel like I am. Deut. 31:6

I will still trust in Him with all of my heart, and won’t lean on my own understanding. Prov. 3:5-6

No matter what, God is good. He will work all things out according to our good. Rom. 8:28


Holding on to these promises got us through the hardest thing we’ve experienced in our marriage to date.


So Baby #3,

Thank you. Thank you for making us stronger. You’ve strengthened our marriage and our faith. Thank you for making us better people, people who can empathize with others who hurt. You’ve helped our friendships grow deeper. Thank you for making us grateful, appreciating everything we already have.

Today makes us sad because we wish you were in our arms. But, it also makes us happy, because we choose to believe you’re in a better place. 

See you one day,

Mom and Dad

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Target Tantrums

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Earlier this year Norah had her first major toddler tantrum at a public park. I wrote about it here, in Terrible Twos – Norah Style. I thought that was bad. Until I experienced our first toddler tantrum at a public store – enclosed, with echoes and shopping carts, where strangers abound.


If you’ve ever read this blog around the holidays, you know my infatuation with the holiday assorted Trader Jo Jos, at where else? Trader Joe’s. I’m a little surprised I haven’t been paid for my incredible (and FREE) advertising, but I guess I’m not Ellen, and to be honest, they move fast anyway; that’s just how delicious they really are.


So, although the nearest TJ’s is a little over 30 minutes away, I decide to make the trek because of course, the cookies. Need I say more?


I remember we need wrapping paper so decide on a whim to go to Target first. That way, the kids can walk around a little and stretch their legs. I knew they would want to see the toys and that would be okay. We’ve done the toy thing a few times in the past couple months and they usually leave with nothing, although sometimes with something from the dollar section. They know they are “waiting for Santa Claus.”


In fact, Miles and Norah continued to repeat this phrase throughout the toy section, which many shoppers (soon to be victims) thought was cute.


Norah: “Look at the baby!”

Miles: “We have to wait for Santa Claus.”

Miles: “I wanna T-Rex like this one!”

Norah: “We have to wait for Santa Claus.”


You get the gist.


Unfortunately, that T-Rex had quite the hold on little Miles. I could tell pretty fast it was going to be hard to let go, but I had my faith in him. It would be okay. He could do it. The other day in Publix he wanted to gum. I said no. He cried through the checkout line but then got over it. I handled that, now I can handle this, and so can he.


Nope.


It started with tears, following quickly with blood-curdling screams. I begin walking away from the toy section with Norah, looking back at him of course, and hoping he follows. I tell the people looking at us that “he’s not mine – just this little good girl here” but they don’t get the joke, and in the 10 seconds of me walking a different direction 5 people are surrounding him thinking he’s lost. So I say “Gig is up – apparently he IS mine. Whoops!” and no one thought that was funny, either.


See, I try to find the humor in these situations.


I pick him up, thrust him into the cart, but he’s jerking recklessly (and still screaming), doing anything to get out of my arms. He knows how to detach the cart belt, too. Knowing that wouldn’t work, I pin his body down on top of our goods and we roll to the checkout, his body half on and half off.


From there I set him down nearby and talk very stern, saying it is NOT OKAY TO SCREAM LIKE THIS and YOU ARE IN TIME OUT and CUT IT OUT.


I try to put our items on the belt but then a little old lady gets hit with a shoe (I wish I was joking) and another shoe ends up hitting our cashier. He has thrown his shoes and socks and he is full-fledged, spread eagle on the ground. And the screaming ensues.


I apologize profusely and walk back over to him. This is quite the production, and our audience is growing. At this point one of the workers starts unloading our things on the moving bed (because of course I have more than wrapping paper – I’m at Target for goodness sakes – the store sucks you in.)


As I try to move him from the ground he is screaming “NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO” over and over and over. I have never in his almost 3 years seen him like this. Ever. I pick him up more forcefully and he hits me, hard.


It gets quiet. He looks at me wide-eyed. Our audience waits, wondering what I’ll do. So I just give in and give him the toy. It was all too much.


Just kidding – NO WAY! What did I do? I yanked those pants down, rounded the corner, and popped that butt hard. More than once. This behavior was absolutely unacceptable.


In Chicago, I would fear a dreaded DCFS call.We may not have snow for Christmas,  but I will say one thing we got going for us – I don’t think anyone is afraid of a little spank in the South.


If our no-gum-at-Publix experience was a high school One Act show, this had to be a Broadway musical, a Hamilton at it’s finest. At this point Norah is also crying because when one of them cries too hard the other one usually starts to cry as well. Twin thing?


I put him in the cart and buckle the belt, knowing he won’t try to get out because he is sensing defeat. I announce to our viewers that I’m sorry for the racket, that we will have to continue to hear the awful screams until I leave because the child wants a toy and he isn’t going to get one.


The following responses were a pleasant surprise, super helpful for this tired Mama. “Don’t give in!” and, “You’re handling it well!” and, “The worst is when they give ‘em what they want after the tantrum– don’t do it! You got this.”

I suddenly had a support group of all ages cheering me on.


On the way to Trader Joe’s (It was the last thing I wanted to do, but now I needed the cookies more than ever) Norah told Miles that Santa and Jesus were mad that he was bad.


Miles replied with, “Sorry Santa, sorry Jesus.” We need to work on our priorities; OBVS Jesus comes first.


“What about Mommy?” I asked.


“Sorry, Mama, “he said.


Didn’t make it all better, but certainly helped. Thankfully today was a new day, and it makes me appreciate the new mercies we get everyday from our heavenly Father. As parents, we want to do our best to model that to our children, even when it’s hard, even when we feel like holding a grudge.


Merry Christmas! Here’s to little tantrums (from both kids AND adults) and lots of LOVE as we celebrate the wonderful gift of our Savior. 


Here’s our pic when I said “Smile for the camera.” Notice the absence of shoes and socks.

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Hunkering Down for Hurricane Matthew

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A little over a week ago we faced our first Florida hurricane. Threats of a direct hit over Saint Augustine kicked us into evacuation gear. Thankfully, with the majority of Florida family less than 2 hours away, we had a place to stay and made plans to head inland towards Gainsville.


When several local gas stations were out of gas and we received word that St. John’s County schools were closed Thursday and Friday, we made the decision to leave Wednesday night after Chris got off work to avoid future traffic. We packed our bags, put pjs on the kids, and headed to Lake Butler.


About an hour into the drive Norah said she needed to go potty. (Note: We are almost potty trained over here. The kids have received various rewards along the way (minus the M&M’s – I ate the one-month supply after 3 days and remembered why I can’t keep junk food in the house) and now I’m brainstorming a reward for myself because I. AM. TIRED (and the M&M’s are not sufficient).


(Chris, if you’re reading this, a massage will do. Or a mani/pedi. Or better yet? Take the kids and leave for 5 hours and don’t come back. Okay, thank you).


Although I tried to reason with Norah that she was wearing a pull-up and “Don’t you just want to pee in it so we don’t have to stop and we can get to Poppy’s house sooner?” it didn’t work.


I’m thankful it didn’t work because we weren’t to the bathroom stall before she vomited all over the candy aisle of the gas station. Thankfully, this made the candy no longer tempting to purchase. That was the only good thing about the situation.


There were ugly tears, ugly SMELLS, and lots of emotion. The majority of the emotion from Norah had nothing to do with the fact that she just threw up, or in her words, “choked,” but rather because she was wearing her new Elmo pajamas from Meme and now they were dirty. This was devastating.


Several baby wipes and a change of clothes later we headed back to the car for the remainder of the drive. We arrived safe and sound-ish with no more sickness.


The next few days were a flood of emotions as mandatory evacuations were played out – fear, anxiety, and then relief, when Hurricane Matthew hooked to the East and it was clear there would not be a direct hit on St. Augustine. We wondered about our current home (my parent’s condo) and the home we were supposed to close on the very next week. How would they hold up?


In Lake Butler we vegged out, played, and enjoyed time with family. Miles and Norah watched The Lion King for the first time. And we ate. A lot. Red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting, turtle pie, ice cream, etc. A cousin made the following joke on Facebook:

“So far I’ve eaten one junk-food calorie per reference to “hunker down” on the Weather Channel, so I’m going to need one of those EMT crews with a crane to get me out of the house on Monday.”

This was me. I could very much relate to this post, especially because I had previously made it to day 22/30 on Whole 30 and wasn’t used to sugar, dairy, gluten, or anything fun.


However, we did not need to call an EMT crew Monday because when we got back to the condo Saturday night (once we heard the condo had power again) I threw everything up. Again. And again. And again, sicker with a stomach flu than I’ve been in a few years. I don’t think it was from Norah because hers was very isolated – she felt fine after – and never showed symptoms again. This bug lasted a solid 24 with food sensitivity through the next few days.


Unfortunately life doesn’t stop when you’re sick and Chris had to go to work. The office had been closed with the hurricane and there was a lot to do. Since this was my first time having to take care of kids while being sick, I don’t think I’ve ever missed our mothers more. Thankfully a girl from bible study agreed to take Miles and Norah into her home (along with her two littles) for a few hours so I could get extra rest. It was so appreciated, and if you’re reading this, I OWE YOU!


As sick as I was, I was also grateful that our family and home was safe. At that point we had heard of the damage and devastation done to St. Augustine and surrounding areas. One of the first people I met here has 5 kids and her entire first floor is ruined. I can’t begin to imagine what she is going through, but I know she has faith and people in her church have stepped up and served her family over the last week.


Driving through town and seeing the damage is extremely sad. If this is the result of a category 3 indirect hit, I cannot fathom the category 4 DIRECT hit that was originally predicted. As horrible as a tragedy it is, I will say that it is incredible to see all different people harmoniously coming together for the greater good.


Last Friday we closed on our new house. It will be a few more weeks before we officially move in, but we are very excited for what’s to come. With a house, a family, and employment, we are blessed beyond what we could imagine and continue to praise God for His faithfulness and blessings over our family. We give thanks to God, “for from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” Romans 11:36

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IDK

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I don’t know what to title this randomness, so I went with “IDK,” my least favorite student response EVER. But I smiled when I thought of it, because some days (like today) I miss the classroom, unacceptable responses and all. I want to make the most of this short time I have to be home while the kids are young, but I look forward to the school days again, too. 


So… the melancholic “End of an Era” didn’t last too long, as Chris’ mom soon drove down to see us for 10 days. It was a wonderful, saturated visit and the kids adored every minute with their “Nana.” Between “jungle safaris,” seashell searches and ultimate play dough fun, we made the most of it.


For me, it was especially nice to have another adult to talk to during this somewhat isolating time. The days flew by, she left, and then came the next endeavor…potty training.


It’s a time-consuming, crappy time – literally. I am tired.  I’m trying not to be resentful that I spend the majority of my day on the floor of a bathroom encouraging tearful children to “push it out,” but it stinks (also literally). All parents go through this, so I shouldn’t be complaining, but it seriously makes me want a different day job. Staying at home with your kids can feel like the most unrewarding, thankless job ever. There are definitely blessings and perks, but I miss the classroom, the evaluations that let you know how you’re doing, where you can improve, what your strengths are, etc.


Instead I’m left wondering, “What the heck am I doing and where do I go from here?” Some days (or hours) feel victorious and the next moment I swear a demon possessed my child. Lord, help me and everyone we come into contact with throughout our day.


Speaking of everyone we come into contact with…my Florida Facebook friends TRIPLED!!! Whoa, right?! Except it’s really easy to triple when there was only 1. Now there’s 3. Ha.


I can’t believe I’m about to say this…but I’m also missing Fall…the leaves, the crisp weather. It doesn’t feel like October when we’re at the beach. However, we’re at the beach, so enough said.


Now to stop complaining. We tried a church close to the new house that we think might be the one and we are very excited about this possibility! Church has always been the main place where God provides our village and community, a place to serve Him, love others and be loved in return.


This specific church has a MOPS group – Moms of Preschoolers – and I tried it out last week. I had an awesome time and the kids did great in their class! There is a craft night this week so I can’t wait to join a smaller group setting and dive into conversations with fellow moms of toddlers.


We close on the house in 2 weeks! Woo hoo! After some paint and new carpet we’ll move in around the first of November. My parents will be down to help with the transition, so we don’t have to worry about moving trucks and unpacking boxes with toddlers. Can I say nightmare?


Then we head to Illinois before Chris’ work has its crazier pique season over the holidays. There is so much to be excited and grateful for right now, and I’m continually reminding myself of this when things get rough (like an hour ago when I was interrupted by a poor, puking Norah…we will see what this night brings).


I’m still checking in with my therapist from Chicago which has been key to successfully (somewhat) undergoing this life change. Even though life feels mostly full of rainbows, it’s helpful and necessary without the normal support of our village.


I can’t wait for the day that I can say we have a local village again. Until then, God is quietly drawing me nearer and nearer to Him, telling me to be still and know that He is God, to be completely dependent on Him and trust Him during this time of unknowns.I love feeling in control, and right now I’m not. Thankfully there’s no one better to take the reigns.


Happy Fall, Y’all! Chicagoans – bust out your boots and scarves for me!


					

The End of an Era

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We’ve been in Florida a little over 3 weeks now. It feels wonderful to be a family unit again. The first 2 weeks my parents were here to help with the transition. It made for easy errand-running, nesting (albeit temporary), and free sanity breaks. I cried when they left. It’s the end of an era. We lived together for 2 whole months, saw each other 24/7. It’s been years since we’ve experienced that kind of intense, saturated time…and I loved it. I missed Chris dearly but really treasured the time with good ‘ol Mom and Dad, too. This past week it was time to move forward, time to put my big-girl panties back on and kick it back into full-time Wife/Mama gear…hello cooking. Bleh.


It’s been 8 days since they left and I’ve talked to 3 different adults in this time, not counting Chris or the bible study I joined (which is wonderful, but consists mostly of women in a very different stage of life). THREE PEOPLE. THREE. That is practically  ONE PERSON EVERY THREE DAYS.


If you know me, this is problematic. If you’re simply a reader, you could guess this would be an issue. I crave social interaction. I need conversation with other human beings, preferably not of the toddler age. It’s taking everything inside of me not to post signs up around town that say, “Want to earn $50? Come be this new girl’s friend,” or “Receive $10 for taking your children to the park for a play date with the Maddens.”


I remind myself this is for a season. God has a purpose our lives; there’s a bigger reason we are here than just a job change. We were sent here, and His plan will be spelled out in time. He will provide the people, community, and village that we need to thrive and ultimately glorify Him.


I made my first Florida Facebook friend (woo hoo!), and she invited me to her neighborhood pool this evening. I’m embarrassed to say I texted about 5 people from Chicago to share this news, as if it was epic. It’s the little things, yall. (And yes, she is one of the 3 adult conversations).


Throughout all of this, I am happy to say I’m only on 10mg of an antidepressant at the moment. I’m not sure how that happened, and I don’t know why such a minimal amount is working since that hasn’t been the case in over a decade (except when I was preggo – no meds and felt AMAZING!). However, Mr. Psych and I did some experimenting for various reasons this year and it forced me to get to the root of some CrazyMAD issues. I continued regular appointments with my therapist and added accupuncture with some dietary changes. I wasn’t ashamed of my meds but I knew for the amount I was taking, they should be working better. I felt hopelessly dependent on something that wasn’t working the way it was supposed to be. Endless evening stretches without much sleep only added to the fire.


I braced myself for the move and all of the changes to come. I was prepared for the worst. I thought the mental break was coming; surely this small amount of medicine wasn’t sustainable for me. But…


So far, so good. Thanks to Sykpe, therapy continues, and it will in-person when I find a practice here. I have friends who ask and hold me accountable, a husband who “checks in” to make sure things don’t grow dark. So far, so good.  It doesn’t mean it will last forever. In fact, I feel fairly certain it won’t. Right now, as hard as it is to be away from friends and Chicago family, we’re in an exciting season of life. We’re trying new things, buying a house, laughing daily at Miles and Norah’s quirks…it’s a fun time to be a Madden. There may be a day when it’s not so fun, when there’s sickness, tragedy, or come what may. And in that time, and that future season, I will know what to do. I’ll know the medicine I need; I’ll have my toolbox of coping skills handy. More importantly, I’ll know Who to turn to in prayer.


But for now, I’ll be grateful. Grateful for the people who got me off the kitchen floor in the fall of 2012, into the mental hospital, and through the pain to get to the other side. Grateful for my therapist who helped intervene, my psychiatrist for advocating for me when I couldn’t, my family for walking alongside me the whole way. Grateful for a heavenly Father who says, “It’s okay, My grace is sufficient for you.”


So much growth and change has happened in 4 years. The best is yet to come.

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Gas on a Plane

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I have to write this so it’s printed and Miles can’t tell me one day I made it up, although he will probably say that or blame me anyway. Aren’t all of our problems a byproduct of our parents? JK. 🙂


So…it was the first time traveling with the twins with one adult – just me. Granted, I would much rather be the only adult with them on a 2 and 1/2 hour plane ride compared to a 17-hour car drive. Can I get an Amen?


Miles was so excited for the airplane. Being ALL BOY, he is very into Things that Go at the moment. I went to Wal-Mart and got several cheap and exciting plane activities and prizes – stickers, Dory and Cars coloring books, play dough, kid chapstick, suckers, etc.  I also purchased a Cars vehicle and a My Little Pony to add to their current collections. Then, to be even more proactive, I got them headphones and downloaded the movie Cars as well as Elmo in Grouchland – Norah’s favorite – on this small, less than 30 dollar tablet, nothing like an Ipad.


Although we definitely limit the kids’ electronic usage, they somehow work my phone almost better than me. The only time they really see the Ipad is when we use FaceTime. The other times are when they steal our phones. We don’t always notice until suddenly it gets very quiet. Find the nearest (or farthest – they are starting to get smarter) corner or closet, and there they are, on the Sesame Street app, You Tube, or looking through pictures.


SMH, kleptomaniacs at such a young age.


Anyway, the plan was to use the tablet as a last resort on the airplane if things got hairy. Unfortunately, for the first 20 minutes, “a bit hairy,” was the understatement of the century. 


Miles, the child who had joyfully anticipated this adventure, was full-on hysterical. It wasn’t the “I’m 2 years old and going to throw a toddler tantrum.” Instead, it was “I’m going to have a panic attack if you don’t get me off this plane!”

 

“No airplane! No take off! No Daddy! No Florida!” over and over and over, crying huge alligator tears.

 

“I waan tuh git ahhhhhff!”


I tried everything. I pulled out all the stops. My goody bag that was supposed to last the entire ride was gone within 20 minutes. He didn’t want the suckers, the toys, nada.


And the tablet? Well, I PURCHASED the movies, but apparently I never DOWNLOADED them over Wifi. So….yeah. That stinks.


My saving grace with “The King” – the Dinoco car I purchased. I told Miles we couldn’t open it until we took off, so no matter how much he screamed (at the top of his lungs, might I add) “NO TAKE OFF!!!!!!!!” he was desperate to try to behave so when we actually got in the air we could open his new toy.


That’s also how I knew it wasn’t just a tantrum. He’s mostly a people-pleaser, and it’s very easy to redirect him. When nothing was working, including the car, I knew he genuinely did NOT want to be on the airplane.


Thankfully, after a mild delay, we finally DID take off, and after that he was pretty content. He enjoyed looking out the window, watching the clouds, pointing out other odds and ends to Norah, who by the way, saw the sucker and other candy and never looked back.  A girl after my own heart. 


I wish the earlier hysterics were the only reason people looked and stared and whispered at the three of us, but alas, I must get to the title of this piece…Gas on a Plane.


In all reality, people looked at our row quite often. Those near us, and EVERYONE who passed us. Why? I’m pretty sure they were convinced both kids (if not myself included) crapped our pants.


Our row smelled SOOOO bad. I was convinced the kids’ pooped, too! Either that or an animal died.


The stewardess commented, and more than one person asked me nicely if perhaps one the kids needed a diaper change. I kid you not! So, we had a lot of looks.


After checking Miles’ diaper 5 times in 5 minutes, he yelled, “It’s just gas, Mom! It’s just gas!” Despite the smell, I burst out laughing. 


Each time I checked the diaper, that was his response. People around us started to laugh and smile. Although it reeked, his consistent “Just gas, Mom!” was cute as could be.


We survived the flight without electronic devices. There was no poop explosions. Other than the initial meltdown, we were good to go.


The best part? Watching the twins run as fast as their little feet could go, backpacks on, to reach their Daddy was absolutely priceless. You could tell everyone, including Chris, was on cloud nine. 


We were in Florida. We were finally home.

 

 

Moving Day – August 18th

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Boxes surround me as I write. The movers are here now, loading the truck. I’m sitting in the corner of my bedroom so I’m out of the way and I’ve decided to write. I don’t really know what to say, or how to even begin, so I’m going to practice what I preach to my students. Just write. Don’t think. Don’t worry about the perfect topic sentence, or the best way to conclude the paragraph, or using vivid words and flowing phrases. There is a time for that, and we will get there, but this is your first draft, and I just want you to write down what you know. So that’s what I’m doing now. This is my rough draft and my only draft, because it’s real – it’s raw – it’s happening RIGHT NOW.


 

I felt like the day would never come. It seemed so far away. And now I’m dreading it, dreading that painful moment when they leave and it’s just me and the empty house. Of course I could avoid that by pulling out at the same time they do. And I might. We already said goodbye 5 weeks ago when we collectively left our home as a family. I already knew it would never feel the same. As furniture moves, little remnants remain, reminders of the way we lived. Under the family room couch there are popcorn kernels, two M&Ms, and a miniature baby book. It makes me smile. All the movie nights on the couch with popcorn and candy. It made for the perfect Friday nights afer a long work week, when you just want to be home in your pajamas hanging out.


The baby book has me all in fits, though. This is the place we brought our babies home. And although that evening was not pretty, and I had no idea what the heck we were doing, we knew we would be okay. We were home. Our babies were home. And we’ve been so lucky to have their first 2 and 1/2 years here.


 

Yesterday they packed the house and today they load everything. I was so tired from a lack of sleep the night before that when they finished the master bedroom, I went to sleep on the mattress for 2 hours until they knocked on the door to say they were done. I am so weird. Who would be comfortable doing that? I was just too physically and emotionally tired to care.


That evening I caught dinner and a movie with one of my dearest friends and neighbors. She was right across the street and also has a two year old. We will miss them so much. The thing I keep reminding myself is that friendships will look different but they can still remain. For that, and technology, I am grateful.


Pictures from moving day…


Here’s me reading in the corner of an empty room while the load up. Finally getting around to The Girl on a Train.

Our movers were wonderful! Below is them finishing up. I decided to leave right when they did – no empty house meltdowns for me!

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Back to the ‘rents for the next few days before the REAL move…