But I thought we were going to Italy?

Last Friday, Colton had an anaphylactic response to his first exposure to scrambled eggs.  No one has said the exact words, “Your son almost died” but when they review his ER chart from 7/5/2019 at 2:25pm, I hear them say, “His response was quite severe.  I’m very glad you got to the hospital when you did.”

When I thought about my life with Colton, a severe food allergy was not in the plan.  But this is now our daily reality.  And as I’m discovering, we are not alone.

Eventually, I want to share how it all happened so should you ever need to know, you’ll be more equipped to identify and react than I was. But as I start to recall all the details on paper, I freeze.  And so for now, I’ll share this poem that I can’t stop thinking about.

Welcome to Holland, by Emily Perl Kingsley

When you’re going to have a baby, it’s like planning a fabulous vacation trip – to Italy. You buy a bunch of guidebooks and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum, the Michelangelo David, the gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It’s all very exciting.

After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, “Welcome to Holland.”

“Holland?!” you say. “What do you mean, Holland?” I signed up for Italy! I’m supposed to be in Italy. All my life I’ve dreamed of going to Italy.

But there’s been a change in the flight plan. They’ve landed in Holland and there you must stay.

The important thing is that they haven’t taken you to some horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It’s just a different place.

So you must go out and buy a new guidebook. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.

It’s just a different place. It’s slower paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you’ve been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around, and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills, Holland has tulips, Holland even has Rembrandts.

But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy, and they’re all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life you will say, “Yes, that’s where I was supposed to go. That’s what I had planned.”

The pain of that will never, ever, go away, because the loss of that dream is a very significant loss.

But if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn’t get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things about Holland.

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Why I Cried Last Thursday

I haven’t shared much about this part of Colton’s story but the more I do, the more I’m discovering the vast net of support, shared exhaustion and encouragement.

I know I have it generally good.  I am healthy, employed, married (and actually like who I’m married to), and have two beautiful children.  We live in a home we love, have a wide net of friends, and vacations planned.  But that doesn’t mean my life feels easy right now.  Actually, this is probably one of the most difficult seasons I’ve ever experienced.

Colton has all kinds of issues with his mouth: three upper lip ties, a posterior tongue tie,  and a high, extra-sensitive palate which causes hyperactive gag reflex. All of this has resulted in lots of tension in his face (homeboy can suck in his bottom lip so hard you can’t even tell it’s still there).  He’ll be six months old tomorrow and we were just diagnosed a few weeks ago.  Over time, these issues have made eating increasingly more difficult.

addie and colton

We made jokes early on about his disinterest in pacifiers. He did not like the bottles we used effortlessly with Addie (or the 8 different kinds we tried after that). And then came the big, flashing sign — his early weight gain tapered off and by the time he was four months old, he had dropped to the 6th percentile.  Our pediatrician didn’t seem too concerned but my mommy radar was going bonkers.  On my drive home, I called Tyler and then immediately called a lactation consultant.  What is happening?  Why is he waking up so often to eat yet dropping off the charts?

I say this delicately because I know his health is generally outstanding and we are truly grateful for that. But this has been hard. Watching your kid nearly fall off a growth chart when your one job is to help him grow SUCKS.

Before we were properly diagnosed, I tried EVERYTHING to figure this little boy out.  (If you know me even remotely well, this will not surprise you.) I had Addie sleeping through the night at 8 weeks so this felt so confusing, unsettling and if I’m honest, I was pretty frustrated. I read all the blogs, all the books, prayed all the prayers. Maybe he’s too cold at night? Maybe he’s too hot? Let’s unswaddle one arm.  Let’s let him cry.  Maybe if I held him while standing rather than rocking, he’d settle.  What if our bedtime routine isn’t consistent enough? Maybe I should take more fenugreek? Should we move him back into our room? Did we travel too early and push him too hard? Maybe if I buy EVERY SINGLE PACIFIER that Target sells, I’ll find one he likes!

I would get so excited sometimes, thinking I was onto something with a little tweak to how we cared for him which just feels foolish now. I was so desperate. Waking up five times a night for six months was/is not fun but looking at his little limbs and the numbers on the scale is heartbreaking.

We now realize that he was taking less and less milk over time as a result of fatigue and the physical limitations of his mouth composition so in turn, I was producing less and less. And when we learned this, we could have chosen to switch to formula but this kid won’t take more than an ounce or so from a bottle.  So here we are.

After a four week wait, we reached the week of our appointment with a specialist.  This doctor was going to take two hours to fully diagnose the issues at hand and we’d walk out with a plan in place.  THANK GOD.  And then… he got sick.  And because of the number of infants in the clinic’s waiting room, we couldn’t keep our appointment.  Another three weeks until the next opening.

We finally saw the specialist last week and she took two and half hours studying Colton, talking us through her diagnosis and ultimately, we decided to move forward with the first of two recommended procedures.  While it was difficult to watch him be held down, poked and clipped, the moment I cried came when the procedure was over.  His cry… it sounded different.  Rounder, fuller.  My son’s cry had changed because he could actually lift his upper lips the way other babies can.  I lost it.  I think because it gave me hope that he wouldn’t be hungry all the time anymore.

No parent should have to watch their kid be hungry and not have a solution to remedy the problem.  Not Jenn in Seattle.  Not the single mom across the world.  Not the dad next door.  I have a renewed fire in me for feeding children everywhere.

His next procedure is in an hour and I am a mixing pot of feelings.  I’m terrified it won’t make any difference.  I am hopeful that it will.  I am disheartened that we didn’t catch this sooner (yet who can I find fault with?  Myself?  His pediatrician? The multiple wellness consults we got at the hospital when he was first born?  There’s no clear culprit in situations like this.)

I don’t need any pity — that’s not why I’m writing this.  I think I would like you to join me in keeping hope alive though.  Colton is hungry.  We are tired.  I need to be reminded that it’s all going to be okay and we are doing enough.

kissing colton

 

Books to Read (and Not Read) in 2018, Part 1

Bill Gates once said that if he couldn’t get through one book per week, then he was too busy.  His time is worth a lot (like, a lot) so if Bill thinks it’s important to read, then read I shall.

I completed my 2017 reading goal just in the nick of time and thought I’d share in case you’re looking for a little reading inspiration in 2018!

16. Of Mess and Moxie by Jen Hatmaker (10/10): It hit all of the hot topics for me — the joys and trials of being a mom who works outside of the home, what church is like for millennials, politics in this trying time, and lots of giggles along the way.  Highly recommend — my favorite Hatmaker book yet.

17. Option B, Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant (8/10): Such an honest book following Sandberg’s journey after unexpectedly losing her husband.  She co-wrote it with a psychologist which gives it a science-based look at grief and getting through things that weren’t in your original plan.

18. Born A Crime by Trevor Noah (8/10): I didn’t know much about Noah before reading this one but I appreciated his humor and undeniable intelligence as I now understand the masses do, too.  Noah outlines what it was like to grow up under his mother’s strict rule in a post-apartheid South Africa and how his tumultuous childhood influenced his adult life. (I recommend this one on audio book as his story-telling is phenomenal)

19. Wonder by R. J. Palacio (8/10): a nice story (soon to be made into a movie ft. Julia Roberts) about a little boy born with facial abnormalities as he enters a main-stream school.  I’ll call it charming and touching.  It’ll make a solid “feel good” movie. Good beach read as it’s written from the perspective of the kid so pretty simple/straightforward in its delivery.

20. Perfect On Paper by Maria Murnane (5/10): Meh.  I just wanted a little rom-com to break up my self-reflection book streak… but it was kind of a lame story about a young female journalist who dates around in San Francisco. I’m not saying I could have written something better but… meh. Skip.

21. It’s All Relative by A.J. Jacobs (7/10): I have read everything that Jacobs has written and he did a great job with a tough topic.  I wasn’t ga-ga over the study of ancestry before reading this book so I think that’s why I gave it an average rating.  Although, it did spike my interest enough to order a 23andme genetics kit… more to come on that!

22. Ready Player One by Ernst Cline (7/10): This is going to make an awesome movie (especially in theater, maybe even baby-sitter-acquiring-worthy) but I think all the video game nam-drops and Dungeon and dragons references were a little lost on me.  It was intriguing enough albeit a bit overdone.

23. What Happened by Hillary Rodham Clinton (10/10): Oh my goodness.  I don’t care what you think of Hillary or her policies — this book covers way more than democratic politics.  You start to remember the humanity of people (and hey, even politicians have feelings!) I was equally blown away by how much I didn’t know about the 2016 election and how new information continues to surface.  I would recommend this to anyone willing to try it out.  Alarming, enlightening, and full of hope for the future. Bonus points for listening to this one via audio book — it’s read quite poetically by the author.

24. The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken (3/10): Alright, I’ve read some books that just don’t keep my interest and some that feel a little slow… but this is the only book that I read this past year that I really wanted to quit.  I had to read a paragraph two or three times before I could understand what it was trying to say.  Don’t do it.  Sorry Bracken.

25. The Lost Wife by Alyson Richman (9/10): Wow, this one sucked me in (in the best kind of way).  The story line follows a young man and woman who fell in love but were quickly separated by the Nazi invasion and went on to search for each other for years. It’s more than a love story.  It highlights the resilience of the human spirit and the strength of our sacred memories.

The Most Important Career Decision That A Woman Can Make

When I returned to work after a year of paid parental leave from my awe-inspiring employer, Tyler assumed morning duty on the home front while I took on the pick-up and dinner brigade.  A majority of the time, I head to work or an exercise class before Addie even wakes up (a difficult choice made less prickly with a two minute FaceTime at the breakfast table).  Tyler is on his own to get her dressed, continue to carry the valiant torch of potty training, make her breakfast, find his own left shoe (which she loves to hide) and get her to daycare (ahem, school) before starting his own workday as a bustling real estate broker.

Pause… I am so grateful that a) I have a husband and co-parent which is not a given b) that the nature of Tyler’s career allows for this morning flexibility and c) he chose to incorporate this into his career, his life, and his partnership with me.  When I read Lean In shortly after returning to work, I was struck by the chapter called, “Make Your Partner A Real Partner,” in which Sandberg says:

“I truly believe that the single most important career decision that a woman makes is whether she will have a life partner and who that partner is. I don’t know of a single woman in a leadership position whose life partner is not fully—and I mean fully—supportive of her career. No exceptions… and contrary to the popular notion that only unmarried women can make it to the top, the majority of the most successful female business leaders have partners.”

When Tyler takes care of Addie in the morning, it has not only supported me and my career, it’s developed a unique relationship between father and daughter.  I will admit… those first few weeks back at work after caring for Addie full time for a year, I often thought, “Can anyone care for Addie the way I did?” Drilling this down a bit, I was actually quite convinced that I had figured out the “right” way to raise Addie and worried that anyone else would be 2nd string.  Will he do breakfasts the same way I do? Does he choose the same outfits I would?  When she asks a question or toes a line, will he say the same things I do? The answer is no.  And that’s not “wrong.”

Tyler caring for Addie in the mornings not only affords me the ability to pursue my career, it has also humbled me as a parent.  Tyler parents and cares for Addie in his own unique way… and it’s taken me awhile to realize that she’s better off for it.  While we do try to stay aligned on the big-ticket items in parenting, most things (like how her ponytail is styled) are subjective.  Daily, I feel a calling to surrender my own arrogance as a parent and recognize that I am not a better at loving Addie.  And she’s is more well-rounded little person because of it.

3 Easy and Quick Weeknight Dinners

Addie is going through this phase of being hungry all the time (I mean… I am hoping it’s a phase??) She’s always been a fabulous eater, chowing down on 90-100% of what we put in front of her (I know, #blessed).  But let me hit you with a recent real life example…

After picking Addie up from school, I took her straight to Nordstrom Rack, my go-to for kids shoes (…let’s be honest, mama likes their shoes, too). Snack time at her school is at 3pm yet just a mere 90min later, Addie was beside herself with hunger. Had you been at the Rack on that afternoon, you would have found me hushing my darling, sobbing daughter who was shouting, SHOUTING in the check out line, “Mommy!!!! Why won’t you feeeeeeed me?? Mommy, I’m SOOO hungry my tummy hurts!!! Mommy, whhhhy?!?!!!” *cue kidless store clerk judgy eyes*

Needless to say, when I walk into our home after a long day at work with an apparently nutrient-deprived daughter, I need dinner on the table STAT. If I had it my way, our timeline on a weekday would look like this:

4pm: walk out of the office
4:30pm: elbow my way through traffic, arrive at Addie’s school
4:50pm: walk into our house, embrace Addie’s pleas for a snack
5:25pm: dinner on the table, forks in mouths (I know, I have some high expectations)

And now that we have our kitchen (mostly) back up and running, I’m back doing what I love to do… cooking fresh and delicious food for my people.  It’s what I look forward to at the end of my workday.  I try to cook from nearly scratch at least three times a week which is about all I can muster.  Here are three quick, simple (6 ingredients or less!) and fork-lickin’ good recipes for you to test run with your family.  You’ll get folks to your dinner table in a split:

Sausage + Kale Skillet by Budget Bytes – 5 ingredients

  • Time Saving Tip: rather than buying a pack of sausage and having to de-case them, pick a healthier (and conveniently easier packaged) Italian chicken sausage like Isernio’s, found at in most grocery stores.

Chicken, Zucchini + Prosciutto by Real Simple – 5 ingredients

  • Time Saving Tip: the most time consuming part of this dish is pan-cooking the prosciutto (since you have to do it in batches). Shave off time by laying out all of the prosciutto on parchment paper on a cookie sheet and bake at 350 for 12-13 minutes. Presto prosciutto!

Salmon with Lemon-Cilantro Vinaigrette by Real Simple – 6 ingredients

  • Time Saving Tip: When you purchase your salmon, ask the store butcher to slice the skin off. Leave it to the professionals and save yourself the fishy hassle.  And if you’re carb averse, this pairs wonderfully with pan-cooked zoodles.

Because I’m always looking for new recipes to add to the rotation… what’s your go-to weeknight meal?  It doesn’t have to be fancy, it just has to be delicious.

How to Get An A+ in Parenting

Remember what success looked like in high school?  In order to obtain that coveted 4.0 GPA, you had to do it all.  Complete all the homework, do all of the extracurricular activities, get all the right answers and write all the papers to the exact specifications outlined in the syllabus.

But now, as a married, working mom, when people ask “How do you do it all?” my answer is not “I pull all-nighters.” In fact, I do not reply to every email or attend every event or have every answer. And so most often, my out-loud answer is, “I can’t and I don’t.”  This is a statement that I know to be true and have most often ACCEPTED as truth.

But then there are times I resist it.

Listen, I want to get straight A’s in all of life’s subjects: Wife, Mother, Full-time Employee, Daughter, Sister, Friend, Christian.  I want it bad.  And there are moments I try pretty darn hard to do it all… until a ball drops, a deadline is missed, texts go unanswered.  And then I’m faced with a choice.  Do I allow myself to dive head first into the shame spiral or do I let the small things slide, have a good chuckle to myself and move on?  What if I forgot to send those thank you notes… everyone will get over it.  Maybe I left some wet clothes in the dryer (twice)… whoops. Better luck tomorrow.  What if I had to say “no” to that friend’s invitation (again!) because the week was already just too jammed… catch you later and you’re still dear to me. Perhaps on a Monday morning, I realize that we are completely out of coffee beans and also out of the back-up instant coffee packets (WAIT, THIS IS ACTUALLY UNFORGIVABLE.)

It would be so very easy for me to list out the ways I got an F this year.  We are four (4!!!!) months into a full-on kitchen-turned-home renovation and I’m losing my innovative edge with my toaster oven. My husband broke his arm and just found out he needs surgery (THIS WEEK!!!!) and I am patient and compassionate but only to a point.  Addie started at a new school full time a few weeks before I began a new job at the foundation while offloading the job I’ve had for the last five years.  As a dear friend of mine says, “It’s a bit of gong show around here.”

But I know I need to redefine what success looks like now.  It’s NOT doing it all, getting it all right, being perfect in every which way.  It’s getting the right stuff right.  It’s picking the important ones and sloughing off the rest.  It’s reading my toddler one more book before bedtime (even at the expense of my expanding inbox).  It’s giving my parents and my sister a five minute phone call to say hi and I love you and letting the dishes wait.  It’s putting on my rain boots, walking outside in the dark up the stairs to the sunroom to get my husband some more ice for his arm (because that’s where our refrigerator is right now, DUH.)

I was exactly the student you think I was in high school… I aimed high.  And maybe it’s okay to keep working toward that 4.0… but it’s due time to reinvent our grading rubric.

Best Gifts for Teachers Under $20

Let’s be real.  Teachers are heroes.  Shower your teachers with love and thoughtfulness this year and here’s one way you can do it without breaking your back-to-school budget.

Addie’s first day of school is tomorrow!  And by school, I mean daycare.  But explaining the concept of “school” is much easier when conversing with a two-year-old, so it’s off to school she goes!  My sister has been a teacher for many years and I’ve come to deeply appreciate the dedication to education and the individual care and thought she gives to each and every student.  So, I wanted to do our very “first” first day of school up right for Addie’s teacher!

T.J. Maxx is my first stop for many-a-things.  Don’t get me wrong, there is a time and a place for Target but sometimes I can find just what I’m looking for at T.J. Maxx for half the price and with about half the distraction.  Plus, I know I am not the only one who gets a cheap thrill out of the “Regular Price” vs “Our Price” mind game. (See what I did there… “cheap thrill…” Oh, bless it.)

Best Gifts for Teachers under $20

Trail Mix: The way to a teacher’s heart is through their stomach.  That’s how the saying goes, right?  Grab a small bag of nuts, trail mix or dried fruit that they can stash in their desk drawer and sneak out during recess. $3.99 (originally $6.00)

Stationary: Cards are one of those things you always hope to have on hand but rarely think to buy, amiright?  Help your teacher stock up on thank-you notes and blank note-cards and let her focus on educating young minds.  Bonus points for fun and colorful designs! $1.99 for 10 cards (originally $8.00)

Nail Polish: Forget the Wet & Wild polish of your youth. Grab the good stuff for the person who is going to do you the favor of caring for your kid for eight hours a day. Some stellar brands include OPI and Essie. $3.99 (originally $10.00).

Travel-size Lotion: Pamper your teacher with some fresh, lightly fragranced lotion.  Pick a scent that’s agreeable like lavender or coconut.  Travel-sized bottles are perfect for stashing in their bag or school desk drawer for the drier, winter months. $1.99 (originally $5.00)

Small Candle: Our teachers are responsible for so much during the day.  Let them wind down in the evenings with a yummy, scented candle in a pretty jar.  “I hate candles.” – said no one ever. $2.99 (originally $8.00)

Gift Bag: Stash all the small gifts in a bright, fun bag, add some tissue paper and voila! Just remember the cardinal gift bag rule: refrain from writing on the bag tag so your thrifty teacher can re-use as they please.  It’s the gift (bag) that keeps on giving. $1.99 (originally $5.00)

Parents + Teachers: What’s your favorite back-to-school gifts to give or receive?