Monday, July 6, 2015

If this is 40...

The celebrations started clear back in February with a very fun and relaxing trip to Cancun with these lovely ladies! Six of the 10 of us who went are welcoming the Big 4-0 this year. That completely justifies a trip to a warm, tropical place, especially when it's grey and cold at home. The party started on the plane and didn't end til we got home to an ice storm in DC. It was such a fabulous weekend!
 

When the mimosas start pouring at 9am it's tough to keep everyone
together for a group shot of all 10!

Blue skies, blue water, white sand... bliss!

Really fun group that was celebrating the Big 3-0 in style!
 
After recovering from Cancun I had another 2 months until my birthday. I'd alternate between thinking "I've totally got this! I'm going to rock 40!" and "Dear God, I'm going to lay in bed all day with the covers over my head". It's not so much the number that is the issue. It's just how ridiculously fast time is flying by. How is it possible that I've lived half of my life already? And if these last 40 years have gone by this fast, the next will be here, like... tomorrow. That's the part where I start to hyperventilate. I just need it all to slow down.
 
I'd been dropping hints to Brad for over a year about what I wanted for my 40th. Okay, no hints, I just told him and everyone I knew (to make sure he'd do it!) that I wanted a surprise party. I LOVE surprises! They are kind of my love language. I gave him a list of names and told him to pick a date and send out invites but make sure I know nothing about when he was having it. He started talking about dates in July and I tried REALLY hard not to be annoyed and just be "appreciative" that he was trying. Regardless, he put it together (with some help from a few great friends!) before my birthday and truly surprised me. And the icing on the cake was that our dear friends, Shawn and Theresa, drove all the way from Ohio for just one night so that they could
celebrate with me!
 
Theresa brought a box full of photo booth stuff and managed to get pictures of everyone!

Cancun girls

Cadence hamming it up

Love this girl!

This one cracks me up! Theresa's arm looks like Cadence is holding the beer!

Some of my oldest friends (not old, oldest!)
 
A couple of weeks later I rounded out my birthday celebration with some good friends from my old hood. Miss seeing them everyday and was so happy to have them join me!

 
Theresa managed to get in one more surprise for me!
She sent two of my favorite things to work... cupcakes and
Adam Levine!



It was a great couple of months celebrating with family and friends, old and new. I have to say that if this is 40, it ain't so bad!

Friday, May 22, 2015

Jolie

We have a new(ish) girl in our home who has totally captured our hearts! After Shiloh died last year Brad had a hard time thinking about getting another pet. The girls were all ready, but we had to wait until Brad felt it was time. These four legged animals really do find a place in your heart and home and when they are gone it can be difficult to think about opening up that place once again. One day last September, though, Brad saw this picture.
 
 
Jolie is such a beautiful girl. She's a mutt... a little husky, maybe some shepherd, something small! She's only 30 pounds. But those eyes just draw you in. She was with an organization called
Animal Connections. They rescue dogs from shelters and put them into foster homes until they can find a forever family.

She was in a foster home not far from us so Brad and I went to visit her. We didn't tell the girls because we didn't want them to be disappointed if it didn't work out. As soon as we sat down on the couch Jolie came over to Brad, gingerly climbed up into his lap, laid her head on his chest and looked up at him with those eyes. He was sold! She loves attention and will sidle up to almost anyone she meets and test the waters to see how much love they will give her. She can be protective when someone (men usually) come into the house. Her hackles are raised and she is high alert if it seems like someone isn't a friend. She's very intuitive.
 
Jolie was found as  a stray in Abingdon and Animal Connections rescued her from a shelter down there. We think she's about two years old and she had had puppies fairly recently. She didn't bark until she was in our home for almost a month and she still doesn't bark much now. We noticed shortly after she came home that she cowers when we hold an umbrella, so we realized that she's not been treated well at some point. We didn't know how bad until I took her to the vet because she limps sometimes. The x-ray showed that she is full of buck shot. Poor girl. Maybe she
was shot on purpose or maybe someone mistook her for a fox. Regardless, she has had a hard life before we found her.
 
 
Despite all of that though, she is completely full of love! She
gives and takes all the love she can get. If anyone lies down and
simply says her name she shimmies on over, tucks her head
into their neck, and is in 7th heaven!
 
 
 
Jolie's position of choice!

I think she fits into our family very well!

 

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

My journey through nursing

It's funny, the looks that I get and the things that people say when I tell them that I work in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. Often there is a look of shock or horror along with "I don't know how you could possibly to do that" (it's my job) or "That must be terrible" (I wouldn't do it if it was terrible all of the time) or my favorite "I just can't stand to see kids hurt" (it's not my favorite thing either, but there is lots of healing going on too). I understand that nursing can be a hard profession to fathom, especially for those who faint at the sight of blood or hate invading other's personal space. Working with sick babies and children can seem like a completely foreign concept for many.

At some point in high school I decided to become a nurse. I had wanted to be a vet but I watch our vet do something to a dog's anal glands and I was out! No thanks! It's quite ironic considering some of the not so charming aspects of nursing. I went to college, worked for a year in adult critical care and then became a travel nurse. For those who don't know, this is truly the best gig in town. Travel nurses go to a different city of their choosing for thirteen weeks and her/his company puts them up in a furnished apartment. If they like it they might stay longer, if not they move on, no commitment. I was in my early 20's and had lived in Ohio my whole life and it was one of the best things I've ever done!

Eventually I met Brad, we settled in Virginia and I needed a change of scenery from the adult patient population. I took my first job in pediatrics before we got married and I absolutely loved it! It was a whole new world of nursing that invigorated me. Honestly, though, I think part of what made it work was that I didn't have kids yet. Once I had Sierra things definitely changed. After being back at work for a couple of months we had a 2-year-old boy who had fallen out of a second story window and suffered a severe head injury. I went home that night and cried to Brad that I couldn't do it anymore. It was just too hard. I saw Sierra's face, literally, saw her face, on every single patient. It didn't matter if they were a baby or a teenager. The SIDS babies, the tragic car accidents, the newly diagnosed cancer patients... it felt too close to home. That could be my child, the one who holds my heart, lying in that bed. I could imagine their parent's pain in a way that had not been tangible before I had my own child. It was a whole new perspective that I had a very hard time dealing with. Sweet Brad talked me off my ledge. I'm so glad that he did. I have since left the PICU for a couple of years simply to have more control over my work-life balance, but when I returned to the PICU I absolutely felt like I had come home.

Last year I went to an ELNEC conference (End-of-Life nursing education consortium) where I did a lot of reflecting on my nursing career, the patients that I've taken care of and my relationships with them. I did notice that most of the patients and families that I remembered the minute details about and felt strong connections with were primarily patients that I took care of before I had kids. There have been plenty of families that I’ve taken care of in the last 12 years that I remember and who impacted me, but somewhere along the way I had to figure out how to “leave it at the door” when I left work… at least most of the time. Don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t happen all of the time. I have the kids that I go home and dream about, the parents that I cry for when I lay in bed, the patients that I get to hug when I’m lucky enough to see them walk back into the unit whole and healthy after they’ve been discharged. There are many, many who have left their mark on my heart and in my memory.

People often give nurses high praise for “being able to do that…”  Honestly, though, I feel incredibly lucky to have this job. I love the patients that I work with and my coworkers are some of the best people around in so many ways. I feel honored to be able to be a part of peoples’ hardest moments and to be able to at least try and make it a little better. It’s humbling to be with a family as their child receives new life or moves out of this one. As challenging as it is to have face hard realities everyday it also makes me completely aware that we cannot take this one life for granted. No one knows how long they will be on this earth so they need to live fully. Every. Single. Day. I hug my kids tighter each night because I see this each day. And while there are days that I leave a little piece of my heart behind at work, there are many days where I get to witness and feel overwhelming love and joy around me. I get to be a part of the celebration of healing and miracles. These are the moments that define why we do what we do.

And that little boy who affected me so much that I almost left pediatrics... check him out here!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

The beauty in our differences

As Cadence is getting older she's having more "new" friends over to our house. Most have only known Cadence for a few months or a year. Almost none of them know that she has a cleft lip/palate. If they ask why her nose is flat on one side or that it looks like she's missing teeth even though she hasn't lost any yet, she'll easily tell them that she it's because of her cleft palate. Of course, I don't think that any of them know what that means. But they got an answer and off they run to the playground.  Until they come to our house.

We have Cadence's referral picture in a frame. The picture that introduced me to my third child. The picture that I stared at endlessly, getting lost in her eyes, wondering if she was being loved and taken care of. Worrying about how she would transition into our family. Wondering if our love would be enough to help get her through whatever has happened to her before she was placed in our arms.


Another one of my favorite pictures that we have out is the first professional ones of my three girls. I swear my heart grows every time I look at the pure joy on their faces! Cadence's big, beautiful cleft smile... I fell in love with it because it was her. I even had a hard time when she had her lip repaired. I missed her cleft smile desperately.


When I look at those pictures now I don't see her cleft lip. I just see her. However, when new friends see the pictures, the cleft is all that they see. It does look dramatic. Most kids have never seen a child with an unrepaired cleft. And I think it can be hard to relate that to the crazy, giggly girl that they know.  Most of them ask questions about it, understandably. Some are a little confused, some listen and move on. A few have said things that can hurt if Cadence is really paying attention. "I'm sure am glad I wasn't born with a cleft" and "That is soooo weird". I don't fault them. They are young kids. I'm sure my kids have said inappropriate things in similar situations.

I know from our six months that Cadence was first home with her unrepaired lip the reactions that happen in stores and on the street. We're standing in the grocery line and Adult makes every effort not to look at Child with cleft. Kid can't stop staring at Child with cleft. Adult grabs staring Kid and whispers "Stop staring" and tries to hustle them away from Child with cleft so they can't see. Back then, I made every effort to reach out to that family though. To explain to kids that this a cleft lip, it's how Cadence was born, just like staring Kid was born with brown hair/freckles/blue eyes. Yes, it looks different and because it makes it hard for her to talk a doctor will fix it one day and her lip will look like most kids. I wanted to use the moment to teach them that it's okay to look and ask questions (hopefully politely) but mostly I wanted them to know that she is a kid just like they are... just one that looks different. Because all of us are different and that's what makes the world kind of awesome! There is beauty in our differences and they don't have to be ignored, just respected.

Cadence is a pretty self assured little girl but I worry that as she gets older about comments that she hears might not roll off her back like they do now. For now I'll try to help my kids see the beauty in everyone's differences as well as the things that makes each of them different from every other person in their class or on the street. Hopefully they will carry that with them where ever they go and with whomever they encounter.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Community Day for Cadence

Last week was Community Day at Cadence's school. I had signed up to help out for 4 hours (!) and wasn't completely enthused about it. My work needed help and I contemplated bailing on volunteering to make a few extra bucks. Ironic, huh, that I was planning to bail on helping out the community ON Community Day! Anyway, I decided to go into work a little later and complete my chore at the school. Before I know it Cadence won't be
 begging me to come volunteer during her class anymore.
**cough, Sierra, cough**
 
I am so glad I did it! The amount of work and energy that was put into this by the teachers was amazing! The kids had 10 stations to go to and a bag of money to spend. They are learning about money denomination and spending habits. I was in awe at how orderly the whole event was considering the volume of 5-6 year olds involved (all of the kindergarten classes). There were a ton of parents to
help out. The kids' excitement and positive energy in the room left
me feeling all warm and fuzzy! I truly feel blessed that we
have found our way to such a great school and community!
 
 
Riding the bus

Stop at the Soda Shop

Everyone needs to do yoga during their busy day

Grocery shopping

I worked the shoe shine station which cost 10 cents. We showed them how to
do it, they handed over two nickels, and shined each others' shoes
 
 The kids absolutely LOVED shining the VP and teachers' shoes

They watched a "movie"

At the post office they wrote a letter to a friend

Reading at the book store

They got to take home the book that they bought

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

My last first sentence

 
Warning **Brag post**
 
I am so proud of my littlest! Earlier in the year I was told that she passed her basis kindergarten assessment but "just barely". Because she has "The Best Kindergarten Teacher Ever" Mrs.Abell was on it. She sent home a computer ABC sight/song for us to use as well as a baggie of other goodies for Cadence to play and learn with. Since Cadence loves to "play school" she was very excited about this. Cadence also started working with a book buddy one on one during the school week. I only freaked out a "bit" when this all started. We've been very lucky that school and learning have come pretty easily to my kids so this was my first experience with one that needed extra work.
 
Last week Cadence came home with this drawing and sentences that she wrote ALL ON HER OWN! We were so proud and she was so proud of herself! Let me translate the phonetic
spelling for you.
 
My family is a good family. We go to the movie theatre. We are go to
 
Once space ran out she was done and her speech deficit shows up in "theatre" because that is how she would sound it out. But, dang! Thanks to her fabulous teacher, book buddy, and lots of hard work, she's come a long way, Baby!
 

Monday, February 2, 2015

A gift from the heart

When I was 8 years old my grandfather gave me a dollhouse for Christmas. He had spent almost 1 1/2 years meticulously working on it. The details in the house are amazing! Popsicle sticks for the roof, actual wallpaper inside, handmade furniture, some of which were replicas of antique furniture in our very own home. Our current address at the time was 4484 Wrangell Place and that was the painted on the house. There was even a tiny framed picture of my brother and me! Included in the attic storage space was a Christmas tree with presents. Inside the house was tiny magazines, a toilet with a moving handle to "flush", a washer and dryer and even a holder for the silverware. My Gram helped pick out the rug and wallpaper and my great grandmother, Dub-dub, made the curtains, bedding, and baby clothes. The dollhouse and my Pops had a write up in the local Wheeling paper too!
 
Even at a young age I knew that it was a special treasure. It was one of a kind and made with love and his whole heart. And now I am so lucky to be able to pass it on to my girls. It has been at my parent's house where they would play with it when they visited but we decided it was time to have it in our home full time. Laurel and Cadence are thrilled! They have loved setting it up and playing with it together. It makes my heart full to see it! I feel very lucky to be able to pass the love and hard work of my Pops be appreciated by my own children. I can only hope one day that their kids will play with it too!
 
I love how the whole house opens up. And so much storage
space in the attic (cue the realtor's voice!).

Even the back and sides open for easy access.
 
I loved playing with the miniature board game and presents.

The detail in this furniture is amazing!

A tiny picture of me and my brother!

The local write up that states "a gift which will be a part of their lives forever...
possibly a part of their childrens' lives". That is my Pops and Dub-dub.
 
I always loved this tiny storage spot with the washer and dryer.

My girls enjoying it now!