Dear (Not-So-Much-Someday) Daughter,

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lu1 lu2 lu3 lu4 lu5 lu6 lu7 lu8 lu9 lu10I have dreamt you into being.

I knew you when I was 4 and first decided I was going to be a mother.

I cried when the ultrasound tech informed me my first child was going to be of the penis-variety. I was supposed to be the mother of girls. At the very least, I was supposed to have a couple of girls first.

The universe is funny that way though. Giving you what you don’t plan for and showing you how perfect it really is. (Although I admit I cried again when I learned that my 6th-born child would also be of the penis-variety. Just. Like. The. Five. Boys. Before. Him.

Don’t get me wrong having six boys is a serious blast. It’s never dull. It’s bravery and glory and puddle splashing ad slaying dragons and midnight firefly catching in mason jars and mud castles and watching earthworms wriggle and superheroes and fantasy and starrtripping and always having a dance partner for living room dance parties and having doors being held open and ladies first and 6 little gentle men to love and protect me. I have grown to love being a mother of boys with all that is within me.

But something …..another deep part of me kept longing for the relationship that only a mother and daughter can have. The one I never full had with my own mother. The one I see some of my friends have with their daughters. I heard all of the “Be thankful you don’t have girls, they are so filled up with drama and they act like bitches.” and it always made me sad that that is the relationship so many have with their own daughters. Because I knew what I was longing for would be so much more. One day, my dear friend Christina, who has a grown daughter, wrote to me and told me how wonderful, how truly wonderful raising a daughter can be She said “Don’t listen to the naysayers. Keep hoping for a girl. My daughter is my best friend.” And then another friend, another Christina, began to tell me about HER daughter, whom was younger ad so much fun with her out-loud personality and quirks and all around spectacularness. I saw my future in those two girls. My hope. And Claudia, whose daughter has blossomed from an awkward child to a more self-assured, wise-beyond-her-years young lady. And I see how much Claudia truly loves mothering her, how they are friends as well as parent and child, how she passes down her understanding of life to her every day. And Christeen, who has this amazingly powerful relationship with her oldest daughter, and shares photos online of the two of them, standing side by side, like fierce warriors with laughter and passion for life.

I wanted that for so long.

I wrote you letters before on this blog. “Dear Someday Daughter” they would begin. Because I nveer stopped believing you existed somewhere out there.

When I was pregnant with you, when I didn’t know you were my long -awaited daughter, I spoke your name aloud one night into the silence of my bedroom. “Lucy Diamond Rainbow” I said, clearly, with purpose. And chills went through me. A shiver of yes. I knew it was you.

The day you were born. Your Daddy stood down by my legs, his face beaming with excitement as you emerged, as I roared you out from within me. You came out all pink and glorious and he was appointed the job of announcing your sex at birth but as the doctor lifted you I caught the very first glimpse between your legs and in that second I was the only person on earth to know my someday daughter had come home. And then he announced, loud and proud, “Its a girl.” and I bawled. Cried right along with you at the wonder of life. I had dreamt you into being. Here you were.

That was 365 days ago.

I haven’t shone through all  365 of those days. I’ll be perfectly honest. Postpartum Depression and Anxiety stole a large chunk of those days. I didn’t always mother you the way I intended to. I feel guilty for that, that I failed you in a lot of ways. I wish I had a do-over but you are so busy growing. The first year has flown by and I have a million photos and so many precious memeories and you are bound and determined to head straight into toddlerhood with your eyes wide open. You have purpose. A mission. Meaning. Power. You are my spirit wrapped in a whole new vessel. You are very much OF me, but you are not me. You are not my mistakes nor my flaws, not my hopes nor my desires. You have a pathway all of your own to carve and I am here praying with every thing within me that I can provide you the tools to get where you want to go, chin held high, eyes on the prize, magic in your heart.

Never stop believing. Ever. Never give up in what you feel truly matters, even if everyone else says it’s foolish. Stand firm even when you stand alone. Treasure the ones who walk beside you. Show gratitude. Dance with your arms up high. Sing as loud as you care to. Be brave. People will tell you girls cannot be brave. Ignore them. Keep a journal. Look back in gratitude for lessons learned. There is no such thing as regrets or mistakes. Only lessons. Never forget you are your very own spectacular version of beautiful. Know you are loved. So very very deeply truly loved. On the day you were born I posted the birth announcement and the first photo of you and I on my Facebook page. It got thousand of views, 424 likes and an outpouring of congratulations. You are adored. On the days you feel like you might not matter so very much in the grand scheme of things, just tell yourself how loved you are.

11 days after you were born I wrote you a letter. Part of that letter said : ”

” I love that you have the eyes of a mermaid and the smell of heaven and the sounds of ancient secrets on your tongue”. I was already amazed with you. I still am. You are brilliant and perfect and everything I always knew you would be and will be.

Happy Birthday starshine.

Love always and forever and even beyond that,

Mommy.

xxxxxxxooooooo

 

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Day 8 Word Prompt Blog Challenge: Beginnings

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I am a huge advocate of breastfeeding. Not one to judge mothers who choose not to breastfeed, but I can spout out the benefit of it if you ask me to and many of my most treasured memories with my children  as babies and toddlers are of me breastfeeding them. My first son was a preemie and I knew nothing of proper latch, good pumps, donor milk, etc as a new mom so we only lasted 6 weeks in our nursing relationship. But my next 5 babies all nursed like pros, each for at least 2 years. It was a joy. Were there issues sometimes like a clogged milk duct or a milk blister? (Blisters on your nipples are NOT , in fact, quite as fun as they might sound.) Sure. Nothing in life is perfect all of the time. But the good outweighed the struggles. My children grew up healthy and strong and happy on my milk. They were easy to soothe. Boo-boos were made to feel better with some nursies. Sadness or sleepiness or general grumps all were helped with mama milk. And the feeling I got at the end of a tough day, cradelling my child in my arm and watching them drift to sleep filled with breast milk, their sleepy little eyes rolled back in euphoria before passing out, a tiny drop of milk glistening on their rose petal lips…..well, nothing makes me feel more at peace and more accomplished.

Lucy was tricky from the get-go. Being my 7th child you would think she would be easy for me. After all, this wasn’t exactly my first rodeo.

But apparently it was going to be different.

She wouldn’t latch. Couldn’t latch. Had a lip tie. Needed a nursing shield. Needed different positioning. I was learning as we went along right with her. I got advice from a friend online. I powered through. And it got better. Gradually. But it got better. And all along the way I shared photo on my Facebook. I began posting a daily nursing photo. Hashtagged it 365 Days Of Lulu Nomnoms.  I wanted to show others that breastfeeding was normal and natural. Plus I was so in love with my baby girl and thought breastfeeding was such a lovely part of parenting her and I wanted to share small glimpses into that world with others.

So I did. For nearly 8 months. Everyday. nurse2

nurse3nurse4nurse5

And then December came. With a huge wave of PPD that threatened to drag me under in tidal waves. And I tried to keep on keeping on, but every thing required so much damn effort. I skipped a nursing session here and there, just one or two a day with formula in a bottle instead. Handed her off to a big brother or to Justin to feed her. I was lost in my own darkness. And she sensed it. Of COURSE she did, she was cut from the very fabric of my soul. She sensed it and took space, began to fuss at the breast when it was offered to her, began to squirm away in my arm. One day in mid December she simply quit nursing. I don’t know what day. I don’t know what day because I didn’t realize at the time it was her very last time. You never DO pay much mind to the last time of anything until after the fact. It started with one day she just refused to nurse. Then two whole days, then three……then it became weeks.

WEEKS.

I was failing at this. It was exacerbating my depression. In every single other area of my life I saw failures. All I had that I knew I was needed for on this earth was nursing Lucy. It was the ONLY thing I could do that no one else could do. The thin thread that kept me here. And it was gone.

I found myself on a dock one rainy  day, staring into the ocean water at the patterns the rain was making and contemplating dark thoughts that were darker than any I had ever had. Stuff that didn’t even scare me to think about despite the fact I always thought it would. About how drowning works. About defeat and uselessness. About how maybe my kids would be better off without me. About how nothing really mattered. About how it had been a really long time since I had heard Gods voce and I tried talking to Him out there that day but all I got back in return was the way the rain sounded on the hood of my sweatshirt over my ears.

I’ve lost people to suicide. I know what it is. What it does. How it works.

But I am infuriatingly stubborn.

I stood there and kept thinking. About my kids. About love. About God. About purpose. Kept thinking until my thoughts started circling back to where they were proper again and in a sane place. I understand now how so many folks get caught up in that point and choose death. Those dark moments wrap you up tight. There is no hope in them. No feasible escape. You cannot see it possibly getting any better. I am lucky. I am wired in such a way that I am no quitter. It was something I got into trouble for as a kid all of the time, my stubborn tendencies. I latch on and start biting and screaming and fighting and I don’t let that fucker go until it’s dead. Tell me I can’t do it. Even if I didn’t INTEND on doing it….well, now that you said I can’t I sure as fuck am going to. I am thankful for this quality in myself because that day at the dock alone I talked myself down off  of a ledge so to speak. I made a choice that day. The cards were spread out before me and I had a choice to make. I chose life.

I walked back home in the cold  rain. The kids were in the living room. They didn’t know where I had been. I told them I had gone on a walk.  Justin went to go get pizza. I went to go take a hot bath and remove the chill from my bones. Life continued. As it will. As it always does. And I was grateful.

Meanwhile, I had been trying for 3 months now. 3 months of daily failing failing failing to nurse my baby daughter. She wouldn’t. I would offer her the breast and she would scream and arch her back and turn her face away from me as if breast milk was awful. I found donors and I was so very deeply grateful for the sacrifice they made, the time they spent to help Lucy stay strong and healthy. But she was drinking another womans milk and refusing mine.I made jokes about how my milk wasn’t gross and she was cheating on me with another mama but I didn’t really think it was funny. It broke my heart. I couldn’t pump.I tried but it wasn’t helping. My supply kept dropping until it was gone. It took me 3 days just to manage to pump a quarter of an ounce. I would pump for a half hour and get maybe 3 drops. I was failing. I bought a new pump. Took fenugreek, took milk thistle, drank 4 cups of mothers milk tea a day drank dark beer, drank malted milk, massaged my breasts, tried hand expression, power pumped, pumped every 3 hours, meditated, tried positive thinking and visualization, kept offering her the breast, drank my greens every morning, ate so much oatmeal I grew sick of it, put flax seeds in everything, drank tons of Gatorade, tons of water, tried brewers yeast, bought ANOTHER pump, this one costing almost $300, found an SNS on ebay for only $30 brand new, ordered domperidone online, NEVER. GAVE. UP.

Because I am obnoxiously stubborn.

And I thought “How stupid am I being about this? When is enough enough? She is 11 months old now. Isn’t it time I quit? No one will understand why this matters so much to me.” Because it did. More than anything. Not only was it the very best for HER, but it was something I had to do for me To prove to myself I COULD, that I am no quitter.

And the SNS arrived. The pump was working better than the old one. The domperidone arrived and was making a true difference. Bit by bit. She still hadn’t latched on but one night she BIT my nipple, and I was ecstatic. Not about my nipple being bitten. That part kinda sucked. But the fact she seemed to understand my goal here was to FEED her from my breast. As if she had some vague recollection of it all. So, Justin ran to the store and bought a nipple shield. And I tried again. What a pain in the ass it all was. Figuring out how to hook up the SNS and fill it with donor milk, get her positioned , keep her from tugging on the feeding tubes, keep the nipple shield in place. I wished I was an octopus with a few more hands.

And she latched.

SHE. LATCHED.

I sat in perfect awed stillness for a moment, watching her little mouth and jaw work at it. I had been trying to do this for 3 straight months and had pretty much convinced myself it would never happen and now holy shit it was. “Get the camera!” I whispered urgently to Justin. I was afraid at any moment she would stop and it would be over. Like it was a dream I didn’t want to wake from but knew the dawn was coming soon. He found my camera and snapped a  couple of pictures. I wanted to share this moment. With those who had supported and encouraged me throughout this journey.

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I cannot tell you how happy I was.

Grateful.

Excited.

New beginnings.

And how moved I was at the outpouring of support I received when I shared the photos. I expected a few close friends to say “Great job” and pat me on the head. What I got was dozens of responses, strangers commenting how I inspired them,people shared my post because it meant something to them. folks were celebrating with me. It made me cry, realizing I really did have a community. I had lost sight of that that day on the dock.

Lucy turns 1 in 8 days. I am currently on a regimen of flax seeds, blessed thistle twice daily, domperidone  4 pills every 6 hours, pumping every 4 hours, power pumping once a week (pumping ten minutes on, ten off for a cluster of hours) and babywearing as much as possible to stimulate milk production. I can now pump an ounce per 20 minute session. She has continued to latch on with the help of the nipple shield and SNS. Today she will  drink MY milk from the SNS. I am pretty damn excited about that. It takes me 2 days to fill a bottle. But I’m doing it.

Sometimes it pays to be so stubborn.

Cheers to new beginnings.

Just please be careful not to spill the breastmilk on the table next to me when we clink our glasses.

I worked hard to get that. And it was worth every drop.

 

 

 

 

Donna Day 2015

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A child is diagnosed with cancer every three minutes.

Donna was one of those children.

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Not all children who are diagnosed with cancer die. In fact, many don’t. Not to make it sound like cancer is no big deal in that sense. Death is not the only potential side effect of cancer. It just happens to be the worst one. Cancer survivors are scarred by a loss of innocence, a cloud over their head threatening to open back up the flood gates and let cancer back in again someday, sometimes cancer is kind in a way by only robbing a person of an organ or a limb or their sight……

Donna was one of the ones who died.

Donna was diagnosed in 2007 at 20 months old. That was the day her families world was flipped upside and shaken around like a snow globe. I can’t even imagine the terror and heartache her parents walked through. She passed away peacefully at home in bed between her mom and dad. I wept the day I first read her story. Wept hard at the atrocity nd havoc that cancer has the ability to wreak.

Today is Donna Day. Today is the day we honor the memory of not only Donna, but of every child who has ever been lost to cancer. Today is the day we make a difference. Raise awareness. Give money.

Yes, money.

Money is what can make a huge impact in our work to find better treatments and ultimately CURES.

Go to http://www.stbaldricks.org/ and find out how YOU can play a part in this fight.

Do it for Donna.

 

 

 

Day 7 Word Prompt Blog Challenge: STRAWBERRIES

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There are moments, tiny seemingly-insignificant moments that linger in your mind for your entire life.

This was one of those moments.

I was little. About five years old. It is summer time. I am visiting my Grammy in Vermont. She has a big house on a huge hill. As an adult I will go back to this house and discover it is really just a trailer on a small hill but at five years old it is much larger.

My Grammy and I like to go for walks. Everyday. There are lots of flowers growing along the country road. My most favorite are the milk thistles that grow around the mailbox at the bottom of the hill. I am both scared of and have total respect for their tenacity with their sharp spikes surrounding their soft beautiful purple flowers. I want to be that: both strong and pretty.

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Today we are bringing a basket. But not for flowers. Today we are going strawberry picking. Grammy leads the way to a field a quarter mile down the road. It is laden heavy with wildflowers. Some of them are taller than I am. I could get lost in this wonderland wilderness. I stick my face right into a giant Queen Annes Lace. There are a lot of bees here. A LOT. I am nervous but Grammy says if I don’t bother them they won’t bother me. So I don’t and they don’t. Grammy is really smart.

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Grammy tells me wild strawberries grow here in this field. She stoops down and plucks a tiny red berry. It is smaller than a marble. I think this is not very big and won’t be very yummy. Strawberries are supposed to be fat and plump. She offers me the tiny fruit and I place it in my mouth.

I am thirty-five now. That was three decades ago. But I still remember exactly how it tasted when I bit down and it exploded on my tongue. Like sugar and sunshine and juice. Amazing. Delicious. Sweet and tart and perfect. It was like a kiss from God. Every single strawberry I have eaten since then pales in comparison.

And that is one of my keeping moments. The moments that make up life. The moments I imagine will flash like polaroids through my mind when I breathe my final breath. That is one gift my Gram has given me. A keeping moment. She doesn’t know how many more she is responsible for. This is her legacy. Love and time-spent and joy and strawberries. These are what I will remember. About her. About life. Always.

What are YOUR Keeping moments? The moments that encapsulate this experience called LIFE……<3 Will you create one today perhaps?

You just never know…..

Day 6 Word Prompt Blog Challenge: FAERIES

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I believe in faeries.

I believe in mystical, magick. In wonderous affairs. In miracles. In soul mates and rainbow gold and the power of wishes made on shooting stars and dandelion seeds sent floating on the breeze.

I believe in these things because in the past, when all around me other folks chose to turn to bitterness and jaded sight, I clung stubbornly to a blind faith in the potential of a situation. When I was living in a loveless marriage, I still believed in love. When I was poor, really truly struggling to survive, living-in-a-tent dirt poor, I still knew in my heart I would see easier days with financial blessings. When I felt all alone, I knew I was still cared about. When I was walking down a path that had a ton of disappointments I still trusted that eventually my pathway would lead me to brighter days.

I’ve seen it. A million times over.

Sometimes I forget for a bit.

Like in the days after my fiancé Ken died a few years ago.

Losing him was like losing the sun in my sky. I was ripped raw, tore up, broken down. I got on a bus to make an 18 hour journey to his funeral in Ohio. On the way was a layover for a couple of hours at a bus stop. At the bus stop was a man waiting to board another bus. He was telling a group of passengers about his journey. He explained how his sister had been beaten to death by her boyfriend. How he had “known some people” who had dealt with the boyfriend and they had beaten the boyfriend to death, his body found frozen in the snow he next day. And now this young man was on a bus to go identify his sisters body so they would release it for burial. I listened to his story in horror. A week ago I had been happy. living my simply little life with a man I loved who was my best friend, and our 5 sons. Life was good. But then I discovered that life can take away people you love in a blink. And I listened to this mans story and realized how much darkness and evil and horrible things truly exist. My faith in things like faeries and magick and love wavered. I was scared.

It took me a long time to believe again. I admit I lost my childlike belief system for a time. I quit believing in love and light and hope. It got beat out of me by the storms of life, by fists, by words, by broken promises, by my own doubt in God and myself.

But the sunshine can never stay away for long. Some things have no explanation or answers. Some things ……you just never find closure or comfort or peace in. But life is meant for the living. So, we have to. We must. To live in mediocrity within our own hearts is to live a half-life, a life dishonest to our own hearts.

So, I believe in love again. I once thought I would never love again like I loved him. But I am. I do. I believe in prosperity even when bills pile up. I believe in laughter and hugs on the darker days. I believe this world to be a simply amazing beautiful place and I believe people to be more good than bad.

An inscription was found scrawled on the wall of a cellar in Cologne,Germany, where Jews were hidden, that read: “I believe in the sun even when it is not shining. I believe in love even when I am alone. I believe in God even when He is silent.”

This is simple truth. That things exist despite what we may feel or be walking through or think or rationalize. That life has so much to offer, even when we refuse to reach out and grab it.

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In The Dairy Of Anne Frank, a young but wise-beyond-her-years Anne wrote: “In spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart. I simply can’t build up my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery, and death. I see the world gradually being turned into a wilderness, I hear the ever approaching thunder, which will destroy us too, I can feel the sufferings of millions and yet, if I look up into the heavens, I think that it will all come right, that this cruelty too will end, and that peace and tranquility will return again.”

Call it naive. Call it gullible. Call it foolish to see the world through rose colored glasses.

All I know is, sometimes, if I hike out far enough into the forest, and sit very very still, I swear I can hear the rustling of grass from tiny faerie feet dancing.

I swear they exist.

RARE DISEASE DAY 2015

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Today is the 8th Annual Rare Disease Day.

When I first began to do research on rare diseases I became quickly overwhelmed with the inundation of information. There are more rare diseases than I had ever even heard of. Many that I had because friends of mine live with them, many new ones I had to read up on to understand better because I had never known anyone with them in my own circle of peers. It is a fascinating subject, science and how the human body and brain work. I am an obsessive researcher at heart. What I quickly discovered was simply this encapsulation: one can never know what direction life will take. You can carry a child within you, filled with hopes and expectations, only to find out during a routine sonogram or at the birth, that this child will live with struggles and pain. You can live the first 2 decades of your life perfectly healthy mind and body and wake on one random normal Wednesday with one small random odd symptom and by the time you go to a doctor three weeks later you will be told your entire world is now upside down.

One of my dearest friends lives with rare diseases. Plural. She is one of the lucky ones who has been touched by rarity in more than one way. And I use the word “lucky” in a sarcastic way. Like, a  “This bullshit isn’t fucking fair at all” kind of way. In her younger years (and God knows she isn’t old now, she’s my age right now.) she was active. She was vibrant, healthy and filled with life. She ran track & field. She worked in social work. She served and played and lived. Fully. With ease. But over the past few years she has been in and out of a wheelchair. She has lived hours and days ebbing and flowing in and out with pain unimaginable.Pain so bad she would cry and her own tears on her face felt like searing burn. Laying in bed screaming because you are all out of options. Brain fog. Frustration. Her children in the other room being cared for by her phenomenal husband who has chosen this life out of his ferocious love for her, no matter how tough the journey may become. There are days she is prisoner to her own body. And then there are days she walks and plays and lives just fine. Days that pain is a shadow of a bitch that crouches in the corner and doesn’t bother her. She is my soul sister, my spirit animal, my hero on a million different good days and bad days both. And I can’t do a damn thing to help her. This is living with a rare disease, an invisible illness. This is loving someone who has a rare disease, a rare illness.

It is the parent I know who worries deep into the night for her teenaged son. He will be going away to college soon and it is with a mixture of pride and fear that she is preparing to send him off. He is incredible. Funny and kind and so smart. He has dealt with more than I ever have in my 35 years. He has fought his way through disappointments and pain and frustrations. He has always wanted to play basketball. But can’t. But ironically his disease makes him appear as if he should and could play, with his height and long limbs, so people who do not know jokingly ask him if he plays. It’s a slap in the face every time. He says “It feels like I’m being sucker punched every time someone asks me that.”   Tough for a kid. Dislocation of hips at school. And now this odd chest pain……and the EKG and blood tests come back inconclusive and his mom is scared. Because a few weeks ago I made mention of a friend of mine who had the same thing her son has and my friend passed away from complications of complications of the illness. An unlikely scenario to repeat in her son , but the worry remains.

It is the woman who lives daily with fear her kidneys may shut down. Symptoms of her struggle are painful. And can lead to death. Stress makes it worse. Imagine knowing stress can shut down your organs and lead to you leaving behind two young children as a single parent. Imagine knowing that fear every day.

It is the woman who some days gets up and goes to work and some days stays curled up in her bed like a pillbug biting her tears back and breathing through the pain that medicine doesn’t help. It is the man who used to make 3 figures and now lives alone in a small apartment with his wide array of pill bottle son the counter and his constant far that there will not be enough time, never enough time, before it all ends. He is only 6 years older than I am. I cannot imagine.

It is the woman who longs for the things she used to enjoy doing so much but now she must avoid those things for fear it will lead to serious injury. Something as simple as being around animals on a farm is now a danger because what if she passes out and gets trampled unseen? Consider that for a minute…..imagine a life where you cannot do certain thinsg if they require simply STANDING for too long because standing causes you to pass out. Constant pain. CONSTANT pain. Contemplate that for a moment. Dizziness. Moving slowly with caution so your joints stay in place where they belong. Loss of quality of life is what it is called. And what is life without quality?

It is still life.

It is life filled with screaming echoes and doctor tests and walkers and pain and pills and home healthcare aids and agony and fears and worries and one more funeral for one more friend and people looking at your child funny and someone asking “why is that man in that wheelchair, mommy?” and tubes in your throat keeping you breathing and a body in constant rebellion and a brain that used to be so able but now is caught in a fog and worries and another friend passes away………and another and another…..

Too many die as a result of rare diseases. And those who don’t are left to find their way through this spiderweb. It is an estimated 7,00 rare diseases that we know of. And out of those thousands, only around 400 have therapies in place for treatment. Rare means a whole lot of misinformation, ignorance and lack of understanding. This means lack of funding available for treatments and cures.

My desire is that you read this blog today and get a better understanding of the daily intricasies of living with a rare disease. That perhaps you can see a glimpse of yourself in the what-if of being one of these folks. Because the fact of the matter is, not one of these folks planned this or intended it to be their existence It can happen to anyone. If not to you, then to someone who you care more than anything about. I cried through writing this blog. Because the people I wrote about I  know and love. They are not statistics or labels. They are loved ones. They are dear friends, family members, the woman who will be my maid of honor in my wedding in a few months. They are my world. They matter so much to me. I wanted to put a face on some of these diseases and syndromes. You can Goggle symptoms yourself. Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, Marfan Syndrom, Budd-Chiari Syndrom, Facial Hemiatrophy, Reye Syndrome, Tay-Sachs Disease, Sandhoff Disease………and more and more and more……Read. Learn. Imagine it is you. Be thankful it is not. Never take your healthy body and mind for granted for a single moment.  Donate. Raise awareness. Raise money.

Or, if it IS you, or your loved one or your friend, if you have danced with this demon personally and looked straight into it’s eye of fire and fear and pain and worry and frustration….if you know because you live it every single day, I applaud your courage. Your incredible bravery. Your phenomenal strength. And I wish you didn’t have to be so courageous and brave and strong every damn day of your life. Call it genetics. Call it fate. Call it shitty luck. Call it chance. It is like a tornado, touching down on one side of the street and demolishing homes and leaving tragedy in it’s  wake…..but the other side of the street is untouched, pristine and safe and whole.  If you are one the latter side, be grateful. Be part of the help in paving a way to healing. If you are on the former, please know  that you are not alone. That is the purpose for this day. World Rare Disease Day. Raise your flags. Bring awareness. Help find cures. There is always hope.

Day 5 Word Prompt Blog Challenge: Peaceful Parenting

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I have seven children.
I do not discipline with corporal punishment.
I do not make empty threats, bully, scream and yell.
My kids are not out of control brats.
They do chores. They help with younger siblings. They respect their father and myself.

It goes against what many people believe when I say I do not use physical force and yet my children are still well behaved.
I am not here to debate who is parenting right versus wrong. I am simply writing this blog to explain why I parent how I parent and how it works for my family.
I’m a Christian. And in that circle, spanking as discipline is touted as the correct way to raise a child. So I will start with that point. First of all “Spare the rod, spoil the child” is NOT EVEN IN THE BIBLE. It’s not. The closest one can find in the Christian bible is in Proverbs chapter 13, verse 24: a verse that says “He that spareth his rod, hateth his son but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.” (King James Version) In the New International Version the verse translates as: “Whoever spares the rod, hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.”
Many folks take the verse at face value and assume a rod is a stick to beat with. But in the book of Proverbs the word shebet (rod) is used 5 times. We need to keep in mind that the book of Proverbs is a book of poetry and it does not neccesarily need to be taken in the literal sense of the word. In Psalms, we all know that popular group of verses that mention “Thy rod and thy staff comfort me.” In those verses is the same word “shebet” but it clearly is speaking about a tool of guidance and safety. Shepherds used rods and staffs while working out in the fields to keep their sheep from wandering astray and to protect them from wolves. They did not BEAT their sheep with the rod, they gently but firmly guided them. If we are honest with ourselves while studying the word of God we will see how violent that culture was historically. (example:they stoned adulterous women to death.) But Christ himself stepped forward and did away with that form of dealing with transgressions, did he not? You know the story where he stood up and said “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” If he was in opposition for corporal punishment of an adulterous adult woman, why in the world would he be in support of hitting small children? Perhaps we have been interpreting that verse incorrectly for far too long. A rod as a form of discipline, not cruel painful punishment.
At the end of the day it comes down to this for me. I cannot love, trust and worship a God who says it is acceptable practice to cause physical harm to a child. It is cruel. And my God is not cruel. He is firm and wise and holds me to high standards. But he is not cruel. I utilize wisdom in raising and guiding my children. My discipline is my rod my shebet. It is not a large stick to beat my children with.
The research is there. Statistically speaking, children who are raised with corporal punishment are more likely to grow up to be felons of violent crimes. I am not saying ALL children by any means. I am just saying the facts are there that violence begets violence. If a young child is taught that a proper penalty for a wrong doing is to hurt a person, they may grow up and feel justified to right wrongs physically themselves. I am not saying it happens to every person. I am saying the risk is higher. Just like every person who smokes will not get lung cancer but your risk goes up the more you smoke in comparison to a non smoker.
There has to be significant changes that take place in a child’s psyche when they are hit by a parent. It is pure logic. For the first few years of a child’s life they understand that their parent will be there to protect them. That parent keeps them safe 100%. Then all of a sudden one day that same parent inflicts pain. This causes confusion in a child’s way of understanding. Suddenly the dynamics have changed. Personally I have always found it a bit twisted that we teach our children to respect their privates and not let anyone touch nor see those certain body parts but then we hit them on one of those private areas. I was spanked one time as a young girl of 9 by my stepdad and I can honestly tell you I was more humiliated by the fact he spanked me on my butt than about any pain the spank might have inflicted. I was mortified and embarrassed. It was not a bare butt hit but it might as well have been by the way I felt during and after. Ashamed and confused. We are sending mixed messages to our children. My assumption is we encourage hitting on the fleshy buttocks because it leaves little to no marks. This rationale makes perfect sense to me because I was a victim of domestic violence for 4 years. I understand all too well the intricacies of abuse. Abusers go for the parts of a body that won’t show marks so easily or can be covered up by clothing. It is easy to not feel guilty if you don’t see the proof of your abuse.
The fact is, the long term effects of hitting a child are psychological, not physical. Marks on flesh fade away for the most part. But the changes that take place in our understanding of the world around us, about discipline and love and trust and security, are all morphed when we are hit by a person we fully trust. Don’t tell me it doesn’t. I can tell you with vivid clarity exactly the way I felt the very first time my ex husband shoved me down in the grass that day. He was never the man I fell in love with after that moment in my mind. Never. We are teaching our children by our actions.
I am raising 6 sons. And I have heard the argument a million times over. If I do not spank my sons, they will grow up to be out of control punks. Can you just IMAGINE? Six boys growing into hormonal raging teenagers in one house at one time??? It will be chaos and anarchy!
But yet…..
It isn’t.
My oldest son is 14 now. He is one of the most calm, focused, studious teenagers I have ever known. He is not rebelling. He is not up in my face yelling or throwing stuff or punching walls. He understands how to communicate his feelings, how to resolve conflict with patience and a matter-of-act attitude. I think he, at his age, is a wonderful testimony to the fact that a child CAN be raised in a loving home without violence as a threat of punishment and still carry all of the tools required to function in society without being a criminal.
My greatest hope is that this legacy is carried down to my grandchildren some day. That I can set a snowball in motion to ensure that my children are the kind of loving parents who know how to teach and discipline without becoming physically abusive and that they can raise children themselves who understand what true discipline IS: training, teaching, preparing for life.
Children do not learn the lessons desired by being hit. And if they manage to, it is in a roundabout way. I am teaching my sons that hurting another human being solves nothing and simply causes damage. My hope is that they will apply this concept to the rest of their journey.
I wish more people practiced empathy and peace in their daily lives. Imagine what this world would be like if we all did. Imagine a world where we were all taught as children to sit down and discuss differences in a respectful manner, where we could be taught the WHY behind the rules and come to respect the need for order and laws because we truly understood them, where communication is key and respect means being and giving not just receiving.
I want to live in that world. I am creating it for my children in our home.
World peace begins at home.

Day 4 Word Prompt Blog Challenge: CONTENTMENT

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Irony: Missing a day of blogging because you are so distracted and feeling obligated to tasks and at the end of the day you are kicking yourself in the butt because you have a to-do list ten miles long and have barely made a dent in it in a solid week and the stuff on the list is BIG STUFF and you basically sucked as a productive human being today and you failed and you didn’t even blog and what the heck was the word prompt anyway?
Oh.
Look at that.
Contentment.
Oxford dictionaries defines contentment as: A state of happiness and satisfaction.

So. I can sit here and tell you how overwhelmed I am with wedding planning or how frustrated I am with myself for not helping my son more with his reading work or how I didn’t work out at all today or how the dog STILL needs a bath…..But how about no. How about instead, I focus on what creates a sense of contentment in my heart?
My list of 30 random things that have recently brought a sense of contentment to my spirit. Which is a really big deal when you are a type-A, OCD, anxiety, aspie. Trust me. Letting go and just being in a moment can be tough for me. But I am learning. Because peace, love. joy and contentment are delicious.
1) The way Lucy smiles wide and her eyes roll back all silly when she throws herself back over and over in my arms.
2) The way Drezdyn says Good morning
3) A snoring dog on my lap.
4) The birds singing outside of my bedroom window
5) warm grass under my bare feet
6) he smell of fresh baked bread
7) when Justin comes home
8) coloring in my Hello Kitty coloring book
9) coffee in the morning
10) the still silence of 2 a.m.
11) reading a good book in a hot bubble bath
12) a ice cold beer while soaking up the sun in my backyard in a lawn chair
13) my children all eating a healthy, vegetarian meal that I prepared for them
14) feeling safe in my own home
15) a letter from my Gram
16) the painting on my daughters wall of the mermaid mama nursing her merbaby
17) Lucy sleeping on my chest
18) laughing with my sons
19) holding hands in the theatre with Justin
20) taking baths with my merbaby
21) snuggling with Justin after lovemaking
22) my son Aidan giving me a foot rub
23) sitting at the park feeding Lucy and watching my boys play
24) the neighbor kids knocking on the door asking if my sons can come out to play because I know we are in a good place now.
25) an afternoon nap on the couch under my electric blanket
26) looking at my engagement ring on my finger
27) dancing
28) complaining out loud how my dog Sasha is such a pain always being up my butt but secretly savoring how loyal she is.
29) Roses in a vase by my bed
30) My bathroom cabinet stocked with all of my own products and knowing I am living my dream step by step

There is far too much to be content about. Why bother wasting time berating myself for not being perfect. I never wanted perfection in life. I simply wanted happiness. And I damn sure have it. And I am unbelievably thankful for all of the not-so-small things that draw me to a place of contentment.
So, what’s on YOUR list?

Day 3 Word Prompt Blog Challenge: LAUNDRY

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laundry

If there is one thing I know, it is laundry.

Back in 1998 when I lived alone I would tromp down the 3 flights of stairs (ugh) in my apartment building where I lived alone with my 2 loads of laundry and dutifully wash and dry them in the basement machines. And I complained about that chore. Because laundry sucks. I did this chore every 2 weeks.

I. Did. Two. Loads. Every. Fourteen. Days. And. Bitched. About. It.

Ever just wanna go back in time to your past self and smack her/him in the back of the noggin?

Fast forward seventeen years later. Seven kids in. One in cloth diapers with cloth wipes. Another in cloth diapers at night. One that wets the bed. We use Family Cloth instead of toilet paper. Cloth “hankies” as my Gram calls them, instead of tissues, rags instead of paper towels, cloth napkins,…..Six boys who wrestle in grass, ride bikes through puddles, play soccer in mud and simply demolish clothes, and a baby girl who is a master at grass-staining the knees of all of her pants and tights. My 1 load a week has become 3-5 loads per day. Yes. I am serious. All of you who complain about your 3-5 per week…shut your dirty mouths. My life is laundry. I never see the end. My machines are going all day long. Let’s shoot low, below reality, and say I “only” do three loads per day. In one year, my washer and dryer have done almost 2,000 loads. On top of that, is folding and put away time. the older boys do their own but that still leaves 4 kids, two adults, plus linens, towels, diapers, etc.. I put in approximately 3.5 hours per week simply folding and putting it all where it goes. That’s 182 hours a year folding clean clothes and putting that shit away. That’s 7.5 DAYS of my year every single year folding clothes and putting away. OVER A WEEK OF MY LIFE.

So, my point here is twofold, clearly. (twofold….hehehe..pun intended? mayhaps.) Anyhoozle: 1) If you ever plan on having 7 babies and being environmentally and health conscious and using cloth products for everything, join a damn nudist colony. It’ll save you a whole ton of time and money, and 2) I know a thing or two about doing laundry. Lame? Maybe But maybe I can pass on a little wisdom to you. Say, ……a detergent recipe?

This is the detergent recipe I have used for the past 4 years. And I SWEAR by it. It gets clothes flawlessly clean without any residue left over and no harsh chemicals. For more info on the most common ingredients and risk factors of prolonged exposure in most commercially sold clothing detergents you can check out this link:

http://www.diaperjungle.com/detergent-ingredients-glossary.html

My recipe is safe even for sensitive skin and infant clothing/diapers.

And cost wise: it costs $17.50 to make enough to wash  512 small/average sized loads or 256 large/heavily-soiled loads. That averages out to about 3 cents per load. In comparison, here is rundown of the lowest prices of some of the most popular powdered detergents and how many loads they wash per box:

  • Cheer-$10.97-80 small loads
  • Tide-$17.97-102 small loads
  • Gain-$19.47-150 small loads
  • Sun-$9.97-177 small loads
  • Oxi-Clean-$10.84-92 small loads

So, as you can see, the homemade stuff is better for the environment, better fr you an your loved ones, and much nicer to your wallet.

Homemade Laundry Detergent (Powdered)

Need:

2 boxes of washing soda (55 oz. each)

1 small box baking soda (16 oz.)

1 bar Fels Naptha, grated (it’s a soft bar soap and grates very easily.)

1 box borax (76 oz.)

All you have to do is mix all of the ingredients together. Voila!  And all you need to do is use 1 Tablespoon per load. (2 for large loads) So, if you do 1 large load daily, you can expect this stuff to last you about 8 1/2 months. Not too shabby for less than $20! Don’t expect lots of suds nor a strong perfumey scent. It simply CLEANS. If you prefer, you can add about 10 drops of tea tree oil and 15 drops of your favorite essential oil. (I use lavender. )

So, there is my laundry wisdom, imparted on you mere mortals of the laundry universe. Take, make, wash, and enjoy. 🙂