This, That and a Little Bit of Everything

Has life ever run away with you? Have you ever just wished that you could stop time and catch your breath? Well that is me this past month or so. Since last I posted so much has happened. So much that I should make it into three or four blog posts but life, time, kids have made that nearly impossible. (I know it has been way too long, I hope there are still people out there paying attention!) My plan is as follows: I am going to give you the bullet point version of events and you can comment on what you would like to hear more about! The topic(s) with the most interest I will “flesh” out and make into a longer blog post with more details. MMMM-kay here we go.

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1. This is the year of the Disney World birthday celebrations. So Far this year everyone in our party of five has celebrated his or her birthday at Disney World Orlando. It’s definitely a perk to live only an hour’s drive away. Our trip in May was to celebrate our daughter, Aubrey, turning one. We threw in a dinner with my niece and her family too! This visit was my 6th with small children in tow….. I know, I know I am crazy!!! Here are a couple of my lessons learned:
*Don’t do Disney with a broken toe! It is way less fun.
*Perfectionists (myself included) need to get over themselves and just let their 3 yr old stand in the middle of the walk way and let the Alladin ride camel spit on him- it doesn’t matter that you are going to miss your fast pass! Cancel it! It is not about you!
*The baby care centers are not just for babies!! It is a great place to take little ones who need a break from the heat and noise. The best one is at Animal Kingdom but they’re all great for a family break.

Mystery Fever 2017
2. Aubrey came home from Disney feeling puny and so began our 3 week self inflicted quarantine. (Three kids stuck at home not able to go outside due to extreme heat and lots and lots of rain…. yeah it was as bad as you think it was!) Here are a couple mommy tips I’ve picked up in my almost 6 yrs of parenting. (NOTE: I am not a Doctor! I just take their advice!)
*According to my pediatrician: The number on the thermometer doesn’t matter until around 104 degrees in children over age 2. It starts to matter for infants to 2 year olds around 101 degrees. So Mom and Dad need to calm down and evaluate their kid before freaking out and running to the ER. (ER’s are gross and filled with germs! Also no-one wants to be in the ER with a little one at 2 am – NO ONE!! Trust me!)
*Sometimes calling the on-call doctor line for your pediatrician’s office can save you a few hundred dollars in ER costs!
*Things to look for if your child is sick with a fever: Are they acting normal? (running, playing, talking, etc.), Are they drinking and eating? (Drinking is more important that eating though.) Are they peeing and pooping? Are there any other symptoms accompanying the fever? (runny nose, cough, trouble breathing, hives or other skin discoloration/rashes) acting as if in pain or discomfort, extremely tired and hard to rouse?
*You know your kid – you are their parent- If you think something is really wrong never hesitate to seek medical attention! I have learned that “mommy intuition” is very real and should absolutely be trusted! (Goes for Dads too!)

First Birthday Parties
3. This is our 3rd first birthday party. I look at it as a celebration for both the parents and the child. I mean come on…..you’ve just successfully kept a tiny, uncommunicative, helpless human being alive for a full year! It is totally worth celebrating!! This is why I keep it small and simple: Family only, a birthday deco kit from Party City, a set of balloons, and a homemade cake. This way I am less stressed and I get to enjoy the party too! I go all out for the rest of the birthdays though! Some of you may remember that we have children with food allergies, because of this I have learned to make a fantastic egg free cake and I’ve learned some things about cake decorating too! Let me know if you want the recipe and a blog post “how to”.C5155DB0-C965-426B-BB82-1B460AEBF83E

Honey-do lists
4. I am a list maker! Much to my husband’s dismay. I make lists and I enjoy checking things off. So when my hubby was able to get a few days off around the 4th of July I had a full page list of things I wanted to accomplish!!! What I love about my husband is that once I get him going he gets on board and goes above and beyond!! It was so awesome to knock out some projects we had been putting off. Here are couple of tips for your honey-do list:
*Be specific and prioritize! Don’t say clean the whole house. A- it sounds daunting, B-it will take forever to be able to check off your list; which is discouraging, and C-Men need a specific task i.e. “pull out old dead bushes in the front yard” not “yard update” that leaves too much to be interpreted! LOL
*Be an active participant – My hubby and I sat down and we discussed which projects would be best completed by him, by me, and by us as a team. We even considered which projects we might need child care to be able to complete and which ones we could include the kids in.
*It is OK not to finish everything and it is important to take time to enjoy what you have accomplished. DO NOT become slave to the to-do list!
Potty training
5. We have a 5 year old, a 3 and 1/2 year old and a 14 month old… I’ve researched just about every possible method to help potty train our kids. I even have a Pinterest board dedicated to potty training! They say boys are harder to potty train; I’ve heard that so many times but I have to say I’ve found it to be true. With my oldest, it took longer due to a fear of the big toilet, and with my 3 year old this is our 4th attempt at potty training….
*Boys are busy and hate to stop to go potty.
*Kids can be terrified to poop in the toilet – google it – it is an actual thing and it happens a lot to kids.
*Kids need to be physically ready to go potty – when they are – potty training can be very easy!!
*You can not force a kid who isn’t ready to go potty – the result will be a ton of laundry, frustration for all involved, and possibly urinary tract infections or bowel blockage for your child. Read this article by a pediatric urologist. https://www.babble.com/toddler/dangers-potty-training-early/
*Your kid will not go to Kindergarten in diapers – so breathe and relax! It will happen for them eventually. I have adopted the try for 2-3 days – if unsuccessful stop and wait a month or 2 and try again. This time when we tried with Hudson; he was ready and it happened pretty much within a day!
*Praise goes a long way!

 

Eye Exam Chaos
6. My husband is a genius, he has a high IQ score, he’s read all of Tolstoy’s books (understood and enjoyed them), and he is really annoying to watch jeopardy with because he knows all of the answers. Fun fact: he can remember the lyrics to almost every song! I love him and he is wonderful! (No he did not pay me to say that!!) So my highly intelligent, wonderfully helpful, husband decided that he, myself and our five year old all needed eye exams. He called and scheduled them, he made a plan for how we would swap the little kids, and then came the day for the appointments…….
*Eye exam appointments take longer than 30 mins??!!! Uh oh!
*3 yr old, cape wearing, newly potty trained children do not do so well in an eye clinic setting.IMG_3159                                                                                          *1 yr olds always pick the worst times to poo their diapers.
*Leaving the diaper bag in the car because “this is just going to be a quick hand off of children”….was not my best decision!
*Changing a poopy diaper in the front seat of a mini van in 300 degree heat when you hear “I have to go potty!!” at a volume that would wake the dead – can cause a panic attack.
*Why for the love of GOD are there so many buttons, cords and hidey-holes in an eye exam room????
*Yes I can totally hold a squirmy 1 year old in my lap and read a chart with letters the size of ants from across the room….. said no mom EVER!
*Eye dilation + Florida sun + driving = a headache
*Genius or not – Hubby will not be making any more appointments for the family medical needs! LOL

So there you go! The shortened, mildly comedic version of our last month. Please comment with which topic(s) you’d be interested in reading a full blog post about!

Struggling to find “Normal”

Do you remember your childhood? What are some things that you loved as a kid? Myself, I loved being outside all day, having sleep overs, and playing little league sports. I’m sure some of you would agree that those things were some of your favorites too. You might even say those things are “normal” childhood experiences.

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Myself playing little league softball. Age 8

Here is where my struggle begins. You see I want my children to have “normal” childhood experiences but my kids aren’t “normal”. My oldest son is 5. He is funny, sweet, and has an incredible vocabulary. He’s amazing if I do say so myself! But…. He has food allergies, Asthma, and is allergic to bug bites. So in my need to protect him and keep him healthy he often loses out on “normal” childhood experiences.

I was asked recently if I had signed him up for summer t-ball. Of course I didn’t sign him up for summer baseball! They play baseball out side in the evenings in Florida and the mosquitoes swarm in the evenings. When my son gets a bug bite his body reacts in a way that is painful for him. The bite will swell, itch and get hot. The swelling will not stop until the bite bursts and oozes. The swelling can last for days and the itching and tenderness can last for weeks. So, of course, I want to try and protect him from this. I could cover him in a DEET bug repellent but did you know that DEET has been linked to 3 deaths? Google it! So in other words, I could cover my first born in a chemical spray so that he can play ball outside…. UMMM, how about NO!! We have tried the organic bug sprays, the bracelets (one on each arm and each leg), and a few others but Florida mosquitoes are aggressive. I let the boys have lunch out side last week around noon; I put the mosquito bracelets on them just in case.

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Sawyer’s first mosquito bite. 

I was thinking that there should not be any mosquitoes out because its the middle the day. About a half hour later my middle child had 8 mosquito bites and by the next morning his eye was almost swollen shut! So no I did not sign my son up for a summer sport. I am a horrible mother! At least that is how I feel. I want him to have the experience of playing a team sport, of winning a big game, of having buddies that become life long friends. I want all of that for my kids but the short term pain they would suffer isn’t worth it… is it? How do I knowingly put them into a situation that will yield pain? Or on the other hand, will they remember the experience of playing ball, making friends, and having fun more than the constant pain and irritation of the bug bites?
This is my struggle!

Well, how about a sleep over? Why can’t my child do sleep overs? I mean those are inside so there won’t be any bugs. Sleep overs were the best when I was a kid: staying up late, eating junk food, watching movies, telling ghost stories, etc. Who doesn’t want their kid to experience that? Well, that is all fine until you get to the food part, or the going to bed part…. My oldest has to have several medications at night to keep his asthma under control and of course there are his food allergies to consider.

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Just some of Sawyer’s nightly medicines. 

It is a lot to put on a friend to make sure that they don’t accidentally kill my son by forgetting to read a label or assuming that just because the food doesn’t contain the allergen that it is safe. Cross contamination is one of my constant worries. I understand that most moms don’t have this worry. So here is how I see my sons first sleep over going awry: the Mom makes s’mores she uses chocolate bars that do not contain peanuts but are made on equipment that processes peanuts. My son has a reaction and his EPI PEN is not used quickly enough, 911 is not called, and my son dies! Okay, Okay, I know this is a long shot and I’m sure that I would give the mom plenty of training and information about my son’s allergies….BUT COME ON!! It is a lot to put on another person to say “Hey it’d be great if you could not kill my kid in the next 12 hours!” Again, this is my struggle: to give my kids the normality I know they deserve. I know my fear is keeping them from these experiences but my fear is justified, my fear is real and it is powerful. How do I overcome my fear and place my precious child in the care of some one who might not take his allergies seriously? If I had a dollar for each time a trusted family member has not been cautious enough or not taken this seriously, I’d be a very rich woman. So if his own family isn’t careful, how can I trust someone I barely know?

There are so many things that are more difficult because of my son’s allergies: going to the movies, flying on an airplane (I physically threw a bag of peanuts back at the flight attendant once! I didn’t hurt them, it was just an automatic response. It surprised both of us.), school, and well just going out anywhere really. Peanut protein can survive on a surface until it is wiped off with disinfectant or a really strong soap. So going to the park is really hard because I can’t wipe down the equipment like I can the seats at the movies or on an airplane. So when I see a kid running around eating his PB&J sandwich on the jungle gym.. don’t be surprised if I remind my son to not lick his hands, rub his eyes or his nose! IMG_2146Birthday parties are difficult as well because I always bring food for my kids. Other moms and especially the hostess can be offended. I guess I could call and have her go through each food she is going to serve and have her send me pictures of all the labels… but I know that she has a lot to do in planning a party for her child and guests. So I just bring safe foods with me. I’m not trying to be rude but I have to keep my son safe.

I wonder how it is going to be for my kid as he gets older? How am I going to deal with the new challenges, like say, a girlfriend? Did you know that my son is going to have to ask “What did you have to eat today?” before he kisses his love interest? Like your first kiss isn’t awkward and nerve wracking in itself! Kids are mean. I know because I am a former school teacher. Is my kid going to feel left out sitting at the peanut-free table? By the way, as a teacher, I know that this table is not always peanut-free… well at least it hasn’t been at the schools in which I’ve taught. The peanut-free table, the EPI PEN kept in the office and not with my child, and the food in the classroom were some of the factors that went into our decision to homeschool our son. It wasn’t the only reason but it definitely played a part. (I’ll explain more about our decision to homeschool in another post.) So now I struggle with that decision because he isn’t having the “normal” school experience his friends are. I am a worry wort, I know this and I own it but when it is your child’s life on the line the worry can be all consuming. So how do I give my kid a “normal” childhood without going insane with worry?

I pray. I think through all of the awful scenarios and then breathe. I come up with a plan and I educate others. There is going to come a day when my little boy is a man and I want him to look back on his childhood with fond memories of me cheering him on at a swim meet (Those are inside! Ha! See what I did there!!), having all of his friends come by for sleep overs, and taking him to fun parks. I don’t want him to remember my worry, my fear, or a constant NO. I have to teach him to be his own advocate, how to handle his own allergies, and how to be responsible for his own safety. So at five years old my son can tell you what his allergies are. If you offer him food he will ask you if it contains any of his allergens. He is able to administer his own daily medications, and he knows to tell someone if he doesn’t feel ok. What a champ, right?! Me? I am going to trust that it is okay to create our own “normal” and I am going to pray for a cure.

*******1 in 13 children suffer from food allergies and 1 in 12 suffer from asthma; so chances are you know a child / family that deals with creating their own “normal”. You could make a difference in their lives by educating yourself about these issues. Below are links to follow for more information.

https://www.foodallergy.org/facts-and-stats

http://www.aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments/asthma

Cherishing the Last Firsts

Some of you out there are already mothers, some are new mothers, and some are hoping to be mothers some day. Well today I’m writing for all of you out there; this is a post in which I hope to take you back to your own child’s firsts, to help you to remember that special time in your life where little fingers were so tiny but held so much of your heart. And for the future Moms out there, it is a bittersweet taste of what’s to come.  Some of you will relate right away, while others may need a few years to understand the joyful (yet difficult) phase of mommy-hood I am living through right now; but some day I hope all of us appreciate how precious this season of life truly is.

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My last baby just had her first birthday. After my sweet girl was born I had a tubal ligation so I will have no more babies. I will never go through childbirth again to meet someone I already love. This has been harder to accept than I ever dreamed it would be. I think if I was able I’d have at least one more (if not a few more), much to my husband’s dismay. Being pregnant definitely has its trying moments, but there is something wondrous about feeling your baby kick for the first time, hearing their heart beat for the first time, and of course the excitement of seeing them on the ultrasound screen for the first time. I will miss all of that… but not the swollen ankles, heartburn and never ending morning sickness. In the end when you hear that first cry, hold your baby close and look into their brand new eyes all of the suffering vanishes and you are swept up in the love you have for your child. Simply put: it is one of the most powerful moments of your life. I have been blessed to experience it three times.

My daughter’s first year has been  filled with all of her unique firsts; her first smile, her first word, her first laugh. Each one has been glorious and it has been so very special because they are her firsts; but they are my last firsts. I held her a little longer tonight because she is already walking and dancing, so it won’t be long before she is running and won’t let me hold her still. As I held her I thought about all of her firsts this year. While it is sad to think that I will not have anymore babies, I am so excited to see what this little girl of ours will do next! For a moment though, if you will allow me, I’d like to relive these amazing moments of her first year.

Her first cry: I remember vividly each of my children’s first cries. It is a moment for each mother that is so incredibly meaningful. This tiny being that has been kicking and squirming around for 9 months is finally breathing on the outside and that first lusty cry is your signal that they’re okay. My daughter, Aubrey,  well her first cry didn’t come right away. In fact, as the seconds ticked on, I became nervous when I didn’t hear her cry. She had swallowed some fluid as they pulled her free and she had to have her airway cleared. Just as the fear started to set in… she cried. That first “waaah, waah, wah” was the best thing I have ever heard because in that moment I knew she would be alright.

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Her first word: I wanted her to say “Mama” so bad but as with most babies her first word was “dada”. I really don’t mind because she has an amazing father. My kids have done extremely well in the Dad department so I do not begrudge my husband his one special first.

Meeting her brothers for the first time: Sawyer, my oldest, was so proud to be a big brother again. Hudson, my middle child, was less excited and more curious. In fact we caught a quick picture before he pushed her out of his lap. It was a good thing her Papa was right there to catch!

 

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Her first day home: No one sleeps well in a hospital! NO ONE! So when we first brought her home I was exhausted. My boys on the other hand were anything but. I remember them being so excited; excited we were home, excited to see their sister again, and excited to hold her. Hudson was understandably nervous and standoffish. He had been the baby for so long he didn’t understand all the changes that were going on. However, on that first day home Aubrey fell asleep on my chest and I started to dose off… when here comes my sweet Hudson so very softly and he lays his head on my chest next to Aubrey and snuggles in. He had wanted nothing to do with her at first. He had all but pushed her off my lap not once but twice earlier in the day. So him coming over and snuggling in was a huge moment and it began a wonderful relationship between them. I was lucky enough to have my husband catch it in a picture.

 

Her first major movement— rolling over: It took her awhile because her brothers insisted that she should not cry—ever! So they would come and talk to her, roll her over so she didn’t have to do it herself and bring her a toy. She was being spoiled rotten by them. I had to start staggering nap times just so that I could get her alone for tummy time. She hated it at first but once she got it … she was off! She would roll from one side of the room to the other! The boys thought it was great fun!

Her first steps: Aubrey took her first steps the afternoon before she turned 11 months. So technically she started walking at ten months but by only a few hours. Her brothers were there cheering her on, her Daddy was behind her to catch her if she fell and of course we caught it on camera! This is the moment when all babies start that transition into toddler-hood….I’m so not ready!1488430111245

These were just a few of her firsts but they’re the ones I’m going to treasure always. So to all my Mama readers, I hope that this reminds you to B.E. present and cherish your babies a little more today. Revel in the wonder of this human being you were blessed with because before you know it that little one is going to be all grown up.

 

I love Someone with Food Allergies

In honor of Food Allergy Awareness Week I am going to share a bit about our allergy story. My oldest son Sawyer was born in September of 2011. He was 8 pounds of little boy perfection. 470898_10200215131564493_1991050783_oWe were exhausted but happy new parents, fumbling our way through diaper changes and bath times. When in doubt, though, we would turn to our parents and friends for advice. In particular, a couple who lived right next door to us who had 2 boys of their own. The youngest son was in my preschool class and he had food allergies. My husband was very good friends with them and spent a lot of time around the kids. We thought we understood food allergies but we never thought in a million years our son would have them. No one in our family had food allergies. We joked with our friends about their son’s allergies. We didn’t take them very seriously. We were clueless and confident that it could never affect our kid. Oh how wrong we were!

When Sawyer was 8 months old we moved from Texas to Florida in two vehicles packed to the brim with our most important belongings. We stopped for the night at my in-laws home in rural Alabama. We were exhausted. My husband, myself, Sawyer, and my mother had been on the road for nearly 10 hours. We all slept really well that night. I can’t tell you how grateful I was when I woke up the next morning to a big breakfast I didn’t have to cook! It was beautiful; from scratch biscuits to sausage, bacon, and scrambled eggs. Sawyer was being loved on by his grandparents and I was able to eat a meal while it was still hot! I thought I was in Mommy heaven. Sawyer had just started eating table food and we had introduced a few veggies and a couple of fruits. His grandmother asked if he had tried egg yet, and I answered that he had not. She proceeded to feed him a tiny bite of egg. No big deal, right?

The reaction was instantaneous! The hives started around his lips and within a minute or so he was covered head to toe in huge red welts. IMAG0015Then he started vomiting. As a new mom who had never experienced a severe allergic reaction I was panicking! I wanted to put him in the car and head for the nearest ER – which was 20 minutes away. However, my mother and my in-laws tried to calm me down and proposed giving him Benadryl. But there was none in the house. My father-in-law drove to a gas station and bought some Benadryl and returned with it some 20 minutes later. (We could have already been at the ER!) Sawyer was too young for the full dose so after discussing it we gave him a half dose. It made him tired and he fell asleep. I undressed him and let him rest on my chest. Forty-five minutes later he woke up itchy and screaming. At this point I put my foot down and acted on my initial gut reaction and started to put him in the car and head for the hospital. Our car was full of stuff and I just threw it on the ground so that I could make room for myself, my husband and my father-in-law. He insisted on driving since I didn’t know where I was going – smart right? Except he was not driving nearly as fast as I wanted him to go.

Once at the hospital they took Sawyer back right away and the doctor berated me for not bringing him in sooner. Luckily his airway was clear but the reaction was continuing to escalate. They had to X-ray his lungs and make sure they were clear and they had to give him 2 doses of Epinephrine. It was approximately 2 and half hours after ingestion that my son received the life saving epinephrine. Coming to the realization that my son could have died was earth shattering because I thought I understood food allergies. But I knew NOTHING! Absolutely nothing! We were so lucky that day!IMAG0016

We got Sawyer into an allergist as soon as possible and they ran blood work that revealed both an egg and peanut allergy. We had to change the way we ate, what foods we allowed to come into the house, and where we could go out to eat. We had to learn to read labels and memorize all of the different names given for his allergens. (Thankfully, they now they have the top 8 allergens in bold print on labels.) Grocery shopping took 3 times as long because I had to read every label, sometimes twice, just to make sure that I didn’t accidentally miss a deadly ingredient. We also had to carry an EPI Pen with us everywhere we went. He had to have one at his grandparents, in the diaper bag and one at home. Those things are expensive.

I think the hardest part of this process has been convincing family and friends that Sawyer has food allergies. Several of our own family members did not take his allergies seriously. It’s like they needed to physically witness a severe reaction before they could believe. I felt like I was in some twilight zone episode where I know that the food is deadly but everyone keeps trying to get me to feed it to my son! It has taken awhile but finally everyone seems to understand Sawyer’s allergies and is more cautious about giving him food I have not approved. It also helps that now he is able to talk and ask if an item contains egg or peanut, so in a way, now he can be his own advocate.

When we had our second son, Hudson, we had him tested for food allergies because of the family history. His blood work came back with only one food slightly elevated, almonds. The allergist felt pretty confident that Hudson would not have an allergic reaction to almonds. She asked if we wanted to do the skin test or just assume the food was probably safe. IMAG0168We decided to do the skin test; in which they prick the back with a solution of the allergen to see if the skin reacts. Sure enough, Hudson had a skin reaction to the almond, enough so that the allergist changed her tune. She told us to avoid almonds and that Hudson would need to carry an EPI Pen as well. So I now have two children that require an EPI Pen to be carried with them at all times and more allergens to be aware of.

Today is so much better than that fateful day nearly 5 years ago, but each day I have to be vigilant. Each day I have to check and recheck foods. Companies change their ingredients from time to time so brands that were once trusted can no longer be trusted. It is a tough job being a parent but it gets exponentially more difficult when your kid can die from a common snack food. Some day my sons will take over the management of their food allergies and maybe I will relax a bit but until then I am on high alert. And to our neighbors back in TX who we didn’t take your son’s allergies seriously enough – I am extremely sorry. We get it now!

And to anyone still reading this; If you are a new allergy parent please know that you are not alone. It all seems so overwhelming at first but it does get easier and you do find a new normal. There are many support groups on social media to help you navigate the questions and concerns that come with this diagnosis. I encourage you to reach out and become active in those communities. I swear every time I turn around someone from an allergy group has taught me something new and I am grateful for the knowledge. In fact, we will be exploring Oral Immunotherapy (OIT) for our sons this year. We are not sure if we will go through with the treatment as of yet. We are still gathering information, but we never would have known about it if I had not been active with a food allergy support group.

To those that read this till the end – Thank you for learning more about food allergies.

B.E. educated about allergies: 1 in 13 children suffer from food allergies so chances are you know a child / family that deals with these issues. Below is a link for more information.

https://www.foodallergy.org/facts-and-stats

Lessons From My Mother

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Photo by Danielle Vennard Photography

 Mothers are interesting aren’t they? I mean no person in this world can comfort you like your mother, but on the other hand no one can irritate you quite like your mother. They have this way of nurturing us, keeping us safe while forcing us to try things on our own, pushing us to test our limits. My mother, Bonnie Elaine, was this and so much more. I loved her dearly, still do, but oh could we get on each other’s nerves. She was an incredible mother and I strive everyday to live up to her memory. She wasn’t perfect but she was pretty darn close (at least to me). Her life had so many ups, downs, and sideways paths that I find, even now, I am in awe of her. She wanted me to write about my life. (She thought my experiences would make a funny comic strip! HA!) She wanted me to push beyond my shyness and share what she felt was important; my self and point of view. So this blog is just that, me sharing my experiences, my point of view, my day to day comedic chaos as a mother.

First, a little about my Momma, Bonnie Elaine. She was born in 1948 and passed away just shy of her 65th birthday in June of 2013. She grew up in a suburb of Oklahoma City. Her father worked for the railroad and her mother was a seamstress. Her parents had 4 children, 2 boys and 2 girls, my mother being the youngest.  She was married twice and, sadly, divorced twice. She had two children, my younger brother and I. She became a single mother back when it was taboo to be a single parent.

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Bonnie Elaine with myself at 6 weeks old

She put herself through night school and college by correspondence. She became a respected practitioner in her chosen field of Respiratory therapy. She made her dream of buying a home for us a reality after years of renting and low-income housing. She worked hard to make sure we had everything that we needed and most of what we wanted. She made things fun when she could but she never sugar coated the truth. She was an amazing person and she loved us fiercely. My momma taught me four important lessons; Generosity to others, strength of character, love for people, as well as faith in myself & God. I’d like to share the lessons I learned with you.

Generosity to others: When I was a kid my mom had a used, avocado green station wagon; you know the ones that had the faux paneling on the sides and no seat belts in the back. She lived in low income housing, was recently divorced, and was raising two young children on her own. She worked every shift she could get at the local hospital, and even took call. She wore the same dress to work every day and hand washed it every night. She did without so that she could earn enough money to get a better vehicle. She could have used that old beat up station wagon as a trade in but instead she gave it to another struggling mother. She took what little she had and met the need of someone else who needed help. I wish we could all be more like that.

Strength of character: Growing up in the 80’s in rural Oklahoma with a single mother wasn’t exactly easy. It wasn’t the accepted norm it has become today. Very few of my classmates came from single parent households. My mom faced the rumor mill of a small town and somehow came out with her reputation intact. Mostly, she kept to herself and definitely didn’t date. She was asked out a lot… I mean a lot. But she never dated. Later in life she shared with me how lonely it could be, carrying the weight of the world with no-one to share the load.

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High school graduation 2000

However, she was determined to raise her children and she wasn’t going to let anything get in the way. She had the courage to raise us on her own.The whole world said she couldn’t do it and that she definitely wouldn’t be able to do it with much success. I know I’m a bit biased, but I think she did a fantastic job! My younger brother is a doctor and I am a teacher by profession, we are both decent, hard-working people who serve in our communities, trying to make this world a better place. Really though, I have no earthly idea how she did it on her own! I have an amazing husband who helps me when the kids get sick, helps clean the house, do the laundry, fix the dinners, wash the dishes and put the kids down at night. My momma did all of that on her own and she got up at 3 am to be at work by 4:30am; all so that she could take her lunch break and drive my brother and I to school. I feel exhausted most days and I have it easy in comparison!

Love for people: My momma loved people. She wasn’t a social butterfly but she had a heart for people. It was a driving factor in her career. She loved to help others. She was the happiest when she had done something for someone else. Even after her stroke, she wanted to return to her job because she loved helping others. Her love for people spilled over to my brother and I. I believe this to be one of the reasons we both chose fields in which we are able to help others. What a wonderful legacy my mom left to us. I wish we all could love people and serve others more.

Faith in myself and God: My mom took night classes and went to college through correspondence classes – this is before the internet and online classes. She wanted to obtain her degree so that she could show it to her children. She wanted us to know how important education is to a successful and productive life. I remember her struggling through algebra so much that she even asked me to explain it to her. She overcame all of her struggles though and earned her Associate’s degree. So how does this correlate to faith in myself or in God? Well, I remember helping my mom study for her tests and her explaining to me why she was taking all these classes. She wanted me to go to college and dream big dreams. She wanted me to accomplish anything my heart desired and she truly believed in me. From that time on I never doubted that I would go to college. The only question was which one? She prayed with me and for me. She showed me her faith in me and in God. She was open and honest with me about her struggles and she shared with me how she coped with them. She prayed and had faith that God would make everything work out in the end, or as she liked to say “ it’ll all come out in the wash”. I wish my momma could be here to see what her faith and prayers have brought to my life.

She wasn’t the trendy mom, the social mom, or the cool mom but she was a strong, generous, courageous and loving mother. I miss her every day and I would give anything to spend just one more hour with her. This June will be 4 years that she has been gone. I’d like to say that with time the ache of grief gets better, but if you have ever lost a parent you know that time only dulls the pain… it never truly gets better. Someone once likened it to waves crashing over you. I think that truly fits. At first it comes in strong powerful waves that seem to beat at you and leave you gasping for breath. As time goes on the waves come less frequently, sometimes with less ferocity, but they still come. This is how it is for me. There are days when I am able to get through the day with just a few thoughts I wish I could share with her.

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Photo by Deborah Rodgers Photography

Then there are days when I cry in the shower from the ache of missing her. But my Momma didn’t raise a quitter. As much as I would like to wallow in my grief some days and cry “Woe is me”… I know my Momma would kick my butt if I did that! I have children to raise and I must keep putting one foot in front of the other. My momma taught me that no matter what life throws at you, you can not give up. You have to B.E. faithful, strong, loving and generous to have an amazing effect in this life.

Happy Mother’s Day in Heaven Momma. I sure do miss you!

~ Julia