Thursday, April 25, 2013

Ready to Break Bread

Today is Lexi's 1st birthday.  It's a day full of emotions for me.  Last year, I was in labor for a full day (I think around 23 hours) to give birth to this beautiful baby girl.  She's been pure joy every day for the past year.  Last month I wanted to do a full birthday party for her with the theme of Lexi's lollipops  but other new commitments have left me with the desire to keep it simple.  She's getting her birthday cake today and I'm headed off to pick up her baby pictures and dinner stuff as soon as she's done with her nap.

Lexi at one year is absolutely adorable.  She doesn't really say any words yet, but will have a full conversation with you speaking baby.  She thinks you understand every babble she makes which makes it even cuter.  She can pull herself up to standing, and has attempted steps, but I wouldn't describe her as walking yet.  She has the most beautiful smile, and often when strangers at the grocery store attempt to say hello to her, she'll stare at them for what seems like forever before she finally breaks out with this adorable smile.  When I go into her room after a nap, she opens up her arms to have me pick her up.  She no longer likes to cuddle, but loves her crib, and typically only will nap in this special place for her.  She knows how to sing patty cake, and enjoys her new skill of clapping.  She loves to play with dirt grabbing big handfuls of dirt from a potted plant, and then watching with full concentration how the dirt gently fall between her little fingers onto the floor.  She puts everything into her mouth and sometimes has been found just chilling with a small object she finds like a Lego.  Her little thighs are the softest things you've ever felt and her hair is a strawberry blond.  Her personality is strong willed, yet tender and sweet.  Lexi will try anything but is starting to have favorites like scrambled eggs, fish, and string cheese.

Personally, I can tell it's been a whole year, because I can feel some sense of normal coming back.  Being pregnant and having a baby this past 18 months has been taxing on my 39 year old body, but each day I have pains, I think that I'd rather be the one with hip and weight issues than my beautiful baby girl.  My right hip is still facing challenges.  It hurts constantly unless I take medication, or get steroid injections.  My last injection was the beginning on February, and I am ready to schedule another one.  Other than this, physically I'm feeling stronger every day.

Emotionally, I'm feeling like I have a new lease on life.  I've been hoping to have the strength to tackle my wheat allergy, but haven't previously had the time or energy to invest in myself this way.  Breaking away from wheat is an enormous challenge, but today, I think I'm ready to start again.  The goal is to make a wheat free version of each meal so today, the challenge is finding or making a wheat free tortilla to go with the families' enchiladas I'm making for them tonight.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

When idealism crashes with reality and cynicism.

Today I read an article posted online about a terrible day of a professional I hired in 2007 to be a family teacher in a group home for troubled teens and the lessons she learned through enduring the abuse I hired her to endure.

I feel so sad that all she posted about living in the group home for a year was one of the worst experiences of dozens of really tough incidents in comparison to the hundreds or even thousands of joyous times we had all endured while serving a group home for ten years. 

When I discovered live-in family-style group homes just after graduating from college, I knew this was for me and was my mission to change teens lives and be able to raise my son at the same time. I was a hopeless romantic, and was always watching out for my mission to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ. Through opening up this home, I thought I'd be able to change the world, financially support our family, and be home with my two children. I was excited to be a part of something bigger; helping at-risk children live a better life. I knew the challenges would be tough, and I knew they would be scary and uneasy at times, but I believed in the power of change, and the great need we have for skilled adults to care for at-risk children.
I opened up this home at the age of twenty four; just eleven months after my husband was admitted to Duke University Medical School.  As a young mom and recent college graduate in humanities, I ached for an opportunity to stay home with my son and help raise at-risk kids.  The day this group home opened,  my husband was at school all day, and my 3 year old son was home with me, while I was 8 months pregnant with my second child.

My idealism crashed with reality the very first day we opened this group home with two youth admitted into the home that day.  One was sixteen, and the other was ten.  My husband had worked all day in medical school, and came home to this new second job of supporting me in this huge venture.  After a very long day, eight months pregnant, and taking care of my three year old son, at bedtime, I told my husband that our home was not a home for children with developmental disabilities, and that the ten year old child was mistakenly placed in our home.  I cried to my husband that night saying that perhaps I'd made a big mistake, and that this job would be too challenging.  My husband wisely told me to give it more time, and we'd have this conversation in a few weeks.  That conversation happened many more times on this mission, but we continued, because of the positive times and the wonderful changes we did witness.  If I had focused only on the traumatic events, I might have missed the opportunity to serve what has now been dozens of children.

Ten years went by and we had two group homes, a therapeutic foster care program, and three children of our own.  After five years living in a group home with my husband and two children, we hired couples to take our place, but these couples struggled and often left feeling like we'd abused them by hiring them and letting them get exposed to troubled teens.  The struggles I had endured while living in the home were somehow underestimated in their trauma, as I truly believed it was my mission to endure the struggles, and somehow grow from them.  Our cynical society would have called that enduring abuse, but with at-risk children, they really struggle with how to treat their caretakers with respect and love, and without idealists to teach them alternatives, who will teach these children?

I'm more of a realist and cynic today, but comments like these haven't completely killed the optimist and idealist in me.  When people I've hired write articles like the one above, I'm thankful for the lessons she learned in therapy, but it hurts that this is all she felt to write about her life in the group home.  I hate the idea that I hurt someone by hiring them to care for at-risk kids.  It's comments like these that further may further destroy the optimist and idealist in my spirit.  I think I'll write a book about this season of our life and I think it would make a wonderful movie.  But, that would be the optimist in me.  I'm concede to be an optimist at rest I guess.

"'What is a hero?' Some would say that a hero is someone who commits a courageous action without considering the consequences--a soldier who crawls out of a foxhole to drag an injured buddy to safety. And I also meant individuals who are slightly larger than life: Houdini and Lindbergh, John Wayne, JFK, and Joe DiMaggio.

My definition is of a hero is completely different. I think a hero is an ordinary individual who finds strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles. Sometimes the hero is in the person who willingly chooses to sacrifice for love.  If it wasn't for something better, it would just be torture, but what makes it sacrifice is when it's willingly given in love a cost to himself.  That said, moderation in all things, and following my heart has led me to knowing when to sacrifice, and when to let it go.

Monday, February 18, 2013

What I want.

What I want has been on my mind today.  Tomorrow I'm getting my hair cut and colored.  I've not ever had my hair professionally colored.  It's been highlighted professionally, but never colored.  I made this appointment three months ago before my hubby finished his medical residency with the faith that I'd be able afford the appointment.  Well tomorrow is the appointment and I've got just enough in my bank account to cover it; not quite what I was expecting.  I'm not rolling in dollar bills, or finding I have tons extra cash that allows me to just buy at will.  In its place are a long list of expenses already committed, a long list of items in our home that need to be replaced, and the infamous debt.  When I think of all the expenses to come the next year, it gets totally overwhelming so I'm working on expenses one week at a time.  I'm no where near coming up with a budget for our family because our income is still somewhat unpredictable.

I'm trying not to be a downer because many families never have that payout or nest egg that starts to help them get ahead, but the debt incurred while putting a husband through a five year residency while staying in a home meant for an attending physician packed on a financial burden not for the faint in heart. 

The past few weeks I've felt as though we're on the path to recovery not just financially, but in all aspects of my life.  This is the first Monday where my day has been relatively without pain.  Last week I had an epidural injection in my spine with the help of a CT scan on the right side where my butt dimple is located.  I've been in considerable pain since I was about 28 week pregnant.  Lexi will be 10 months new next week, so I've been in considerable pain for over a year now.  Having the pain mostly gone now has made me realize what tremendous pain I've been in all this time.  I didn't realize how much you hurt when its chronic and you hurt all the time.  This injection was only meant to give me relief but is not a cure.  My hope is that my body will heal itself, but if it doesn't, with this relief, I'll keep returning for the injections.   Yesterday I sat through church without pain.

Catriona's second bunny died today; her other one died just two weeks ago.  It's a cold day outside and Kelly, Catriona, and Tristan are headed out in the dark to bury the second bunny.  I don't want to leave the baby alone in here so I'm sending my condolences from the warm home. 

Back to what I want.  Today what I want is to just not be in pain.  I want to appreciate my wonderful life, husband, and beautiful children. Today I want to be content with where I'm at as a mother and professionally.  Today I want to have a better plan for tomorrow.  Today I want to be thankful for my beautiful home. 

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Weaning. It happened.

Today is the first day I didn't breastfeed my baby in nine months.  Over the month of January, I've been gradually weaning her down from nursing every two hours during the day to one feeding every morning this past week.   I'm paralyzed with grief, and keep having feelings that I should pump just to keep the supply going, but then, I don't pump because part of me deep in my soul knows its time to be done.  My goal was to wean Lexi (my nine month old) at a year, but she got a bottle for Christmas (didn't like other bottle I'd tried to introduced), and was introduced to this new bottle and formula for the first time around the beginning of the new year, and very quickly, it was as if she found something better.  The bottle seemed to meet a need I couldn't.  The bottle was instantly, or near instantly ready, and my let down started to take longer and longer.  During the dreadfully long Christmas break, I had a terrible time being relaxed enough to nurse, and so there it goes, I've not breastfed my baby today.  Before it wasn't such a tragic event, but I'm 39, and this is my fourth baby, and my spine and hips still haven't recovered from carrying her for nine months.  Yesterday I had the emotionally exhausting day of meeting with my back surgeon from 14 years ago about my disk that seems to have flared up again; its' been 14 years.  As I type this, tears roll down my cheeks.  I'm so incredibly sad about a season that is ending for me.  My previous three kids I think I breastfed for six months tops, but this one was different.  Part of me knew this would be my last baby, my last opportunity to cherish and love every day with her.  My appetite the past week has plummeted, and I seem to be enduring waves of hormone shifts mixed with depressive symptoms.  She's upstairs in her crib not wanting to nap, and I really need her to sleep so I can get a grip.  I feel like no one in the world understands my grief.  I know this too shall pass, but at this moment, I'm very sad.  I'm sad she preferred the bottle before I preferred to stop breastfeeding.  I think this is the first baby where she seemed ready before me.  She naps now, finally.  Where did the past nine months go?  Is it really the end of January?