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Surprise Gifts

March 24, 2010 6 comments

Usually this would be a Wordless Wednesday post, but I have too many words about what I am sharing.  We have started a family tradition where Aaron’s best friend, Jeremy, visits us for Christmas.  This past year he came and brought his girlfriend and her son, Xavier.  It was a real treat because Xavier is very close to M’s age and very much like him when it comes to personality.  We spent the day together at my in-law’s as the boys got to know each other.  Then that night we came home and stayed up late laughing and playing.  It was one of the most perfect evenings of my life as a mother.  M was full of smiles and just giddy with joy.  They danced, jumped, ran, hugged, tickled, shared.  It was amazing.  M is our only child so to see him connect so well with another child was amazing.

This week Jeremy and Ashlee came to visit again for a day and Jeremy had a surprise.  He had created a video of the evening and set it to music.  It is incredible!  Jeremy is the most talented video guy I know.  He recently had a great success with a music video he completed.  I was so excited when he said he had made a video.  Below is what he put together.

Keep an eye out for our niece, Lilia, M’s break dancing, and a spitting dinosaur!

Each time I watch it I get choked up.  It is so amazing and completely captures the joy of that day.  You can see M and X in the beginning, a little unsure of each other.  You can hear the laughter and joy.  And as it continues you watch two little boys forge a friendship.  It truly was one of the best nights of my life.  I was so thrilled to see my little guy having so much fun and I felt like I was literally watching him grow and mature before my eyes.  It really captures the essence of what I hope M’s childhood is.  These are the types of memories I hope he holds on to.  This will bring smiles (and some tears) to me for a long time.

Thank you Jeremy, for being so incredibly thoughtful and talented and for capturing a few moments of my son’s life that I am so glad to have forever!

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Wordless Wednesday 3/10/2010

March 10, 2010 Leave a comment

M's first chess lesson with daddy

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Categories: Family, Wordless Wednesday Tags: ,

Radical Parenting

March 4, 2010 7 comments

Tonight I took some time to watch a special on Discovery Health called “Radical Parenting”.  I found out about the special through my Twitter feed because someone I follow, FeministBreeder, was featured on the show.  I have followed her blog for a while and was excited to see what she would have to share.  The special was interesting and I was glad to see many of the parenting styles that we have chosen being highlighted and shown to the world.  And I chuckled to think that any of the items were really considered “Radical”.  I learned some things from the show too.  The main styles of parenting that were highlighted were “unschooling”, attachment parenting, full-term breastfeeding, elimination communication, and gender neutral parenting.  Personally, Aaron and I have experience with attachment parenting including co-sleeping and baby wearing, full-term breastfeeding, and gender neutral parenting somewhat.

The first segment on unschooling followed a family with two children who do not attend any form of school.  Their learning is solely based on life experience.  Personally, what I found to be the most radical part of this family’s approach would be their non-discipline cooperative style of living.  They go far beyond not sending their kids to school to allowing their children to make almost all of their own choices (when to go to bed, when and what to eat, what to learn and how, etc).  They have a household with no rules or discipline.  There are safety guidelines, but that is about it.  I have to say, their kids seemed well adjusted, well behaved, and very bright, but this would never work for me or our son.  I think that some kids can thrive in this environment, but that some need boundaries and structure.  I agree with respecting the needs and voice of the child.  I agree with working with, instead of against, them.  I agree with avoiding power struggles.  The thing for me is that this seems like it is a major swing in the opposite direction of the “helicopter parent” and both seem to have some pitfalls because they are both an extreme.  What it really boils down to is the need to parent the child you have.  Each one is different and has different needs.

The second family was focused on attachment parenting.  I was so pleased to see them discuss full term breastfeeding and its importance and relevance.  I also loved to hear her talk about not using commercial baby food.  I was so disappointed in the “expert” who tried to say that her experience shows that children that nursed for years and years felt different from their peers.  Every ounce of evidence I have seen has supported completely opposite findings.  I have to say that this female expert definitely seemed to be the most biased against the various “radical” styles of parenting.  She made a statement about attachment parenting being “demanding on the parent”.  This really didn’t sit well with me.  So should we instead demand things of our children that are not developmentally natural?  I think that is a very bad way of looking at it.  Yes, we do have to be aware of our own needs and limits, but to use that as an excuse to not be an attached parent is a cop-out to me.  I love when the father said this: “They’re telling us when they are done being breastfed, done being carried, ready to move in their own bed.”  That really is what sums up attachment parenting to me.  It is about having that dialogue and raising your children in an environment where they know you are there to be the one to meet their needs while they have them.  So many parents spend their kid’s childhood battling with them to get them to move on to new things and new stages before they are ready.

Finally, Gina’s segment was on gender neutral parenting.  I honestly hadn’t heard this term much prior to this show.  Little did I know that this is something that we already kind of do.  A and I have agreed early on that we should not impose things on M.  We should support his interests no matter what.  Now, yes A will joke about not letting him have dolls or other “girly” things, but the reality is that he is pretty supportive.  He does have a comfort zone, but does recognize the importance of not making M feel negative about any of his interests.  M has walked around in my heels for as long as he could walk.  He loves ponies and to cook in his kitchen and ours.  He also loves to use tools and play football.  He sees both mommy and daddy use tools around the house, do the dishes, and cook.  We recognize that he will be a better partner and father if he is comfortable in many roles and comfortable in his own skin.

Overall the show was pretty good.  I was disappointed with the one “expert” and her consistent negativity and ‘Debbie downer’ role.  And of course I was annoyed with the formula commercials aired during the show.  But any time these parenting styles are shown and talked about the parents on these paths gain validation and a greater chance of support.  The reality is that none of these parents were really radical.  They all looked pretty normal.  And the real triumph… it was great to see so many happy, healthy, and well adjusted kids and families on TV for once!!!

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Goodbye dear friend

February 23, 2010 10 comments

Baxter when we first brought him home

This month our little family faced yet another deep and difficult loss. Our precious dog, Baxter, passed away on February 18, 2010 at about 1:00 am. Words can’t explain the bond we felt with Baxter “BB”. He came into our life unexpectedly in June 2004. He had been abandoned by his owner and was being kept at my cousin’s house. They didn’t really have space for him and so we offered to bring him home. From that moment on, he was our first baby. I had never known immediate love before. I didn’t realize that it was even possible with anything other than your own children. But we did. We loved him deeply from the moment he came home. I remember he wandered off that first night and I was in tears. I was crying over a dog I had only known for about 5 hours. That was how instant it was. We got him home, cleaned him up, removed ticks, and fed him. We spent hours snuggled up with him. He was so sweet and easy to love. He burrowed his way into your heart and you just couldn’t let him go. He made an impact on everyone he met. I don’t know many dogs that have their own theme song, but our BB did.

Baxter the week we lost him

Baxter during the last week with us

We made it our mission to give him all he had missed in life and to make up for the pain he had suffered. He went with us hiking, canoeing, camping, traveling, shopping at Lowe’s, boating, and visiting family and friends. He LOVED to get dressed. He would prance around so proud. I think it was all the attention he received. He wandered off quite often… he loved to catch a scent, but always came home to us.

Baxter gave an immense amount of love and companionship. We joked that he was an equal opportunity lover. There will never be a dog like him. He was the best gift we could have hoped for. Several years ago, at a routine checkup we discovered he had a heart murmur. Over the next 4 years it progressed until the last year when it was as bad as it could get and he began coughing. The coughing turned to hacking and then to a distressed breathing. It was heartbreaking to watch our best friend deteriorate, especially when his mind and spirit were so strong and sharp. We don’t know for sure how old he was when we got him, but the vet guessed 5. So, he would be almost 11. Until the end he seemed so much younger than that. On the evening of the 17th we knew it had gotten bad. He had already had 2 bad days and a bad night and was now stressing to breath constantly. We called our vet at midnight and told her that this was it. We were not sure that he would make it through the night and we didn’t want him to go into distress. We knew it was coming, since she had told us a week ago that it was really up to us at this point as to when would be best, but we just didn’t expect it so soon. But we knew this was it. We met her at the office and spent an hour crying, sharing stories of him with her, snuggling with him and finally, saying goodbye. His weak heart only had 5 beats left in it and he was so peaceful. And in that moment our hearts were shattered.

Never would we replace Baxter. This was a truly special dog that had a place in our heart that will never belong to another. We cried and cried. On Friday, we brought home his ashes and felt some peace knowing he was home. More times than I count I would expect him to be there. Split seconds of forgetting he was gone. His loss has been unmeasurable.

So, a few days later, yesterday in fact, we did something we never thought we could or would do. We rescued another dog. Yes, less than a week later, we have invited a young puppy into our home and our family. We NEVER thought we would find ourselves here. We had wanted another dog many times, but always decided not to because Baxter needed to be an only dog. We were happy to make that sacrifice for him and his happiness. When the end of his life was nearing, we were in agreement that it would probably be a long time before we got another dog. Yet, here we are. How did we get here? How did we come to this decision for our family when we always felt it would only be proper and necessary to wait for a while after losing a pet?

Anyone that has lost someone very close to them will tell you that each day without them in the beginning feels like an eternity. And that has been so true. We have tried to just be open with our emotions. The first few days we cried as we shared stories and memories. We cried as we looked at his picture. But we started to realize something. We realized that we will be mourning him for a very long time. We realized that no dog will ever replace him. He has a place in our heart that will always belong to him. We realized that loving another animal doesn’t diminish him, doesn’t take away from him, but to us it honors him. It is a way to pay it forward. He gave us so much, we want to give to another dog.

We also realized how many dogs there are without homes that love them and commit to keeping them happy, healthy, and safe. It was heartbreaking. We realized that not everyone can rescue, but we can. So many insist on pure breeds for a number of reasons; always had a certain breed, wanting to “know what they are getting”, etc. But that isn’t true for us. When we started seeing this and realized this, it suddenly didn’t make sense any more for us to not give a dog a home as soon as we could. We will be mourning regardless, why not be loving and supporting a dog who needs us too? When someone has two dogs and one passes, they don’t stop loving the other dog. They mourn and learn and grow. There is enough love to go around. And that is what we learned. We are only limited by ourselves. We are capable of mourning and missing Baxter and wishing he were still with us at the same time that we learn about and love a new member of our family.

We never imagined ourselves here, but yet here we are. I am processing the loss of Baxter and remembering all the joy he brought, while Reagan is sleeping next to me. I think Baxter would be proud. He would be happy to know another dog has a chance at a home that will give him anything and take the time for him. And Baxter will always know his place in our hearts, we are confident that we did a wonderful job of loving him during his time with us.

Reagan on the way home

So, here is the new member of our family. Reagan Gold. He is a four month old Schnauzer, Yorkshire, Beagle mix. His mommy got pregnant unexpectedly and the owners surrendered the 3 pups. He was the last to go and we knew the moment we met him that he was meant to be a part of our family. Aaron is still sleeping with Baxter’s collar in his hands. I still cried as I wrote about Baxter. Our family has a lot of healing to do still. But we have also laughed and smiled many more times in the last two days. We have something positive to focus on if we feel stuck. And with all of the loss we have faced this year, Reagan is a gift for which we can’t even begin to say thank you enough.

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Wordless Wednesday 1/6/2010

January 6, 2010 5 comments
M building

M building

Categories: Family, Wordless Wednesday Tags: ,

2009 in review

January 4, 2010 Leave a comment

I had big intentions for this holiday break. I planned to clean and organize around the house, write, and relax. But, as is often the case, life had other plans. 2009 went out with a storm to match the rest of the year. I can say that 2009 was one of the hardest years of my life, easily. Interestingly, A doesn’t feel the same way which intrigues me. People really can experience the same things and have very different feelings about it. Since we are starting a new year, new decade in fact, it is the time for reflection. I find it easier to to move forward after I have reflected on and processed the past. So what did 2009 hold for me? Even though it was a difficult year there were many blessings.

  • January, February, and March were painful, literally. I was experiencing severe pain when I was supposed to have my cycles and was on various rounds of hormone treatments to try to get things fixed. The pain was awful and we were close to heading into surgery. But a blessing came in April in the form of a recommendation from a friend to go see a specialist. We went to the reproductive endocrinologist and felt relief finally after an in-office procedure.

    M Meeting Mickey and Minnie

    M Meeting Mickey and Minnie

  • May was full of fun as we took our first family vacation to Disney.  It was an incredible week!  We had a long road trip, stays at various hotels, the Georgia Aquarium, Disney, MGM studios, and Ruby Falls.  It was wonderful to watch M experience all these new adventures and the awe on his face.  It couldn’t have been a more perfect way to celebrate M’s birthday or spend time together as a family.
  • We also had some frustrations in May and June.  We have two rental homes and one of them had come open.  We had two different people back out on us after signing leases, one of which had already started painting!  It was so frustrating, especially when we work so hard to provide good homes.  I worked non-stop at the rental for two full weeks to have it ready and we did finally end up with wonderful tenants.
  • In July we found out that we were expecting a baby, but then lost her that same week.  It was an incredibly difficult time.  I had a D&C that month and in August the pain from the start of the year was back again.  I had to have the same in-office procedure done again and begin to recover emotionally.
  • We welcomed our new niece, L, in August.

    Holding my new niece, L

    Holding my new niece, L

  • In September I celebrated my 30th birthday, but not in any way that I had imagined I would.  I was still quite depressed about the miscarriage so I just didn’t feel up to partying it up.  It was a nice birthday spent with friends at dinner, very low key.
  • October was a respite from chaos.  We enjoyed our Halloween and the fall season and M started his big boy school.
  • November started the holiday season and brought mono back.  I never even knew I could get mono again after having it as a teenager.  It totally knocked me down.  I was very thankful to have a job with generous sick time because I had to use it as fast as I earned it.  This is also when I started this new blog.  Oh, and there was the whole ER trip for M when he decided to stop urinating!!
  • December brought the usual family gatherings, M’s broken arm, illnesses for M and A, and some much needed time off work.

    In the ER with M

    In the ER with M

This was the first full year in our new home, a blessing I am so thankful for.  A and I weathered the rough financial storm the U.S. has been in pretty well.  We both retained our jobs, but are taking a pretty significant monthly loss on one of our rentals that can make some months tight.  This has been a VERY tough year for me professionally.  I have missed so much work and had a very difficult time focusing when I am there.  I have always prided myself on my work ethic and abilities, but for the past year I have been spending all my energy on only surviving (emotionally and physically).

I truly believe that life is about balance.  It is usually pretty easy for me to see the balance in things.  This year has been difficult to see the balance.  I try though, daily.  I remind myself that I am truly blessed and that pain and heartache is only temporary.  I am hopeful that 2010 will be an easier year, a year to progress and grow.

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Child ornament ideas

December 16, 2009 1 comment
M's first ornament

M's first ornament

I don’t claim to be uber-crafty, but this is one thing I think I have done right.  When M was a newbie we wanted something for him to give at Christmas so we bought the kits to make those hand print ornaments and we made those for each set of grandparents, aunts, uncles, and ourselves.  We could actually say that our brilliant 6 month old made the gift and it ended up starting a wonderful tradition. (We even had our pup make one that year!)

The next year, we needed something that M could do that would keep the interest of a 1.5 year old, be easy enough, and be beautiful!  So, we bought plain glass bulbs. (only ONE broke in this whole process!!  Seriously!)  We also bought some craft paint in red and green.  We did two different types that year. Some we let him use a sponge brush and paint them, which he loved until he became bored.  Then we took a gallon size ziplock bag, put some paint in it, put the ornament in and let him shake it.  When it was coated, we let it dry for a few minutes, and then did the same with the other color.  As you can imagine, he LOVED this!

M's ornaments from when he was 1.5 years old

M's ornaments from when he was 1.5 years old

M's ornament at 2.5 years old

M's ornament at 2.5 years old

Last year, at 2.5, we were able to let him really go to town with it.  We bought wood carved hearts and let him paint two colors and add some glitter.  He was also old enough to tell us who each one was for as he was making them.

This year he will be painting wood snowflakes and adding glitter and ribbon.

These have been a huge hit with the family.  We love that we are instilling in him the value of thought and effort instead of monetary importance when it comes to gifts.  We love that we look at our tree and see how he has grown over the years.  And, of course, we love to watch him create these gifts on his own.  It is a gift in so many ways!

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