Monday, February 23, 2015

In which I write about parenting and then lose 2 children

I just stumbled from my bed to the coffee pot. Along the way I accidentally kicked a few toys that had been strewn in my path...from my bed to the coffee pot. After the first sip of magical coffee brew, I realized that those toys had been not been strewn there...but rather artfully placed as the children's own little alarm clock. Sure enough, I heard Eli stir, mumble a few words, but then go back to bed. Crisis averted. (gotta keep a close eye on that one...)
So here I sit now with my coffee, computer, and morning silence...trying to sum something up for myself.

You see, I was asked to speak at our Preschool Mom's breakfast in March. I am not really a speaker, but I LOVE these breakfasts, and I figured I could just write it all out and then just read it. Right? And if somehow in the smallest way I could encourage other moms, I would be so grateful.

I've known about this speaking engagement for this entire school year, but I didn't start to actually write it until this past weekend. (I am a big believer in the "let it simmer" methodology.)

Let's see...I started to write it out Friday night. Feeling inspired, I knocked out a great introduction and the first few points. Writing about motherhood. Parenting! I love writing about such things!
Saturday? I woke up with plans for a lazy day when I suddenly realized that we had a 1. birthday party and a 2. baby shower that day. (Super Planner Mom...that's me!) So we scurried around dressing children and gulping the coffee super fast in an effort to still make it to all obligations. (Note: the children did NOT gulp coffee...who am I, a monster? They only got stolen sips...and then they poured the lukewarm mug all over the floor when they tired of the activity. NO gulps.)

Then, once we got to the party, one of my children (ahem Addison) "destroyed" a beautifully decorated table AS she was stealing the birthday girl's ice cream cone. (Obviously...I am the MODEL MOTHER.)

the status explanation:
Picture a beautifully decorated extra long table at a little girl's birthday party. Picture a perfect red tablecloth...a plate set at each place with bits of leftover cake...gorgeous name place cards...cups...and favor bags carefully placed with each plate. NOW picture a certain little girl‪#‎namedaddison‬ STEALING the birthday girl's cream cone from the head of the table...taking a hike down the side of the table (which the other kids had already left) on the chairs while licking her stolen cone and helping herself to random bites of cake along the way...miscalculating a step...tripping and FALLING...grabbing the tablecloth to regain her balance...pulling the ENTIRE TABLECLOTH OFF THE TABLE...landing on the floor covered in leftover cake and party bags and name cards and cups and the now dirty tablecloth with her stolen ice cream cone held high and instead breaking her fall with her head as to protect the TRULY IMPORTANT THINGS IN LIFE...the ice cream cone. Yes, she cried...but only because she thought she had lost her one true love...the cone.‪#‎noaddisonswereharmedinthemakingofthisstatus‬‪#‎mommyspridehowever‬...

While my burning cheeks were still cooling, I then lost her for a while at the party. LOST HER. I seriously could not find her at all. (She had located the bathroom, shut the door behind her, and was in the process of undressing so that she could go potty.) Several other moms helped me search.... I felt like my name tag should read: THE MOM WHO LOST HER ICE CREAM CONE STEALING DAUGHTER...(can't you tell? I'm an INSPIRATION!)
Sunday? One of my children had a potty accident at church (think peeing all over the nursery...ok maybe slightly exaggerated here...but it's been forever since he has had an accident so he had to come home in clothes that the nursery had on hand.), And then just as I was basking in the joy of potty training, I lost yet ANOTHER child (Carter) for a few minutes during the transition from church to car. I was holding Eli, spun around to get Carter's coat off of the hanger, turned around 10 seconds later and he was gone. (I found him OUTSIDE. Yes, you read that correctly. Turns out he was with he was safe, but it still got super scary there for a minute.) Picture me as the mom frantically gathering up a search team for MY LOST SON, rudely interrupting after church conversations and racing through church with the urgency of smoke looking for fire. (I know you are going to want to know ALL MY PARENTING SECRETS!)

Seriously, I am SO careful about keeping track of my children in within TWO days I lost TWO of them. (Eli gained favorite child status through the weekend by default)

I went home Sunday with a bit more time to work on my parenting speech, and I found that I had absolutely no words to contribute to the gorgeous introduction I had carefully crafted on Friday.
Parenting? Um....just survive. ONE DAY AT A TIME, PEOPLE. (and then let me know how you do it.)

Sorry for all the caps. I blame the coffee.

So here we are. I have about one week to finish writing this...but more importantly to pull my act together first and FIGURE PARENTING OUT.

But the more I think of it, I say, nah. I am going to write this from my extremely broken, uninspired state. I think some of my favorite talks at this breakfast are ones that are truly given from the heart...confessing freely that this is HARD and no one has it all figured out but that there is a source of strength that we can rest and depend on even though the worst days. So I am going to tuck my pride way below the surface, get my fingers clacking on my keyboard, and write in the honesty that has helped me through the last 5 years. Motherhood is tricky. I find the best approach is a "I know nothing but am constantly learning every day" approach. Here's hoping someone finds this encouraging (or at least makes them feel better about themselves! I am totally fine with that. That can be my gift to the world.)

It's a new week. A new day.

I'm keeping my expectations low. Today's goal: end the day with as many children as I started it with. Based on this weekend, this might be harder than it sounds...

p.s. if the person who asked me to speak at this breakfast reads this and realizes what a HUGE mistake that was...I will understand if there is a last minute change in the speaker... I suggest someone who drinks less coffee and who doesn't lose children by the handfuls...

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Cold, Snowy Weekend Ahead?

Looking for a heartwarming book to entertain your cold, snowy weekend ahead? Don't miss out on the book that everyone is talking about....


In spite of her many flaws, she never thought she would be the type of person to commit murder, and yet right now it was the only thing that she could think about.

Stepping slowly into the room, she stopped for a moment in the doorway, holding out a trembling arm to steady herself against a tall dresser. Closing her eyes, she could feel the smooth but slightly sticky bumps of duct tape and remembered the weekend her sister insisted that they all help wrap the entire surface of this dresser in hot pink duct tape, changing it from a dull brown to a pink that could be seen from outer space. “Why don’t you just paint it?” they all asked. But sister refused to change her mind, pushing the project stubbornly forward no matter the opinions from the people that she referred to as “the peanut gallery”.

She could hear the whirling of the ceiling fan adding its voice to the almost silent air conditioner, attempting to ward off the intense heat that she had been almost oblivious to this week. All winter long she looked forward to this heat. She longed for the days that her body would immediately bead up with sweat just going from the car into the house. She lived for the long days, the bright sunshine, the picnics, the beach trips. The sticky, don’t-turn-on-the-oven, blasting heat of July seemed to take forever to get here this year. She had been counting down, and for a while there between March and April she could have sworn that time stood still. It’s as if nature knew what would be coming her way and wanted to delay the inevitable as long as possible. If only she had known, she would have thanked that blessed clock for its speed of mercy.

A crack of thunder interrupted her musings and the pattering of the rain on the roof picked up speed. Even the storm wasn’t breaking the muggy heat of today.

Forcing herself to keep going, she lifted her bare foot to take a heavy step forward, feeling almost as if there were duct tape on the floor as well, giving just enough resistance to make her question what she was about to do. Looking down at her feet, she saw another painful reminder. The room was dark, but the light filtering in from the hallway allowed her to see her brilliantly painted dark red toenails. 

Remembering her excitement at that pedicure appointment, she felt herself whispering, “Why, God why? Why are you doing this to me?”

A soft gray cat brushed against her leg, whining for attention. She ignored it.

Dragging one beautifully pedicured foot forward at a time, her body moved more slowly than she wanted it to due to this week’s events. She wanted to do this quickly— to get it over with, but just like everything else in her life right now, her legs refused to cooperate.

Only a few steps away now. She tried not to think about what she was about to do. Nestled in the blue pack ‘n play in front of her lay the baby. Up and down his tiny chest fell, no effort given to drawing each breath. His cheeks were flushed in sleep. Perfectly shaped eyes lined with long eyelashes were closed for now, but she knew all too well the look of intelligence this baby had thanks to the new album on Facebook proclaiming his arrival. His entire body, down to the little fingers balled up into tiny fists, was plump and strong— just like a baby should be.

She picked up the baby’s blue blanket carelessly thrown on the bed with the comforter that matched the hot pink duct taped dresser.

Staring at the almost unrecognizable arm holding the fleece blanket with satin edging, she felt the oddest sensation of floating out of her body to watch this all from above.

Aghast, she couldn’t believe what she was seeing let alone comprehend that she was capable of this. But it was happening, right before her eyes. A distraught woman stood weeping over the baby while moving his blanket. Moving it so slowly and yet deliberately. Moving it, over his head.

To read the rest of Motherhood Unexpected...go here...

Monday, February 16, 2015

The Perfect Storm

It is cold outside. Nose hair freezin' cold.

Don't get me wrong, I love a good cold day. The air is crisp and refreshingly clean. Footsteps crunch on white snow. The New England landscapes covered in piles of the purest white are breathtaking. Something about the chill is energizing.

But these past few weeks have taken it beyond that point of "a good cold day" and right into "how long until spring again?" territory.

The negative temperatures outside combined with the elevated temperatures of the children inside make this the perfect storm.

To me this means extra cuddles with children who don't normally like to cuddle. Extra time to just be around the house to bake fresh bread and put together yummy meals sectioned out perfectly on those Car-themed plates. Extra movies watched. Extra books read. Extra house-destroying-wall-climbing-children-mischief.
But "extra time around the house" with 3 children sick enough to not go out but not so sick as to lose energy can quickly start to make these 4 walls close in in a rather prison-like way. Thankfully I got a bit of a break over the weekend. I snuck away for a few hours on Sunday and then again this morning while Daddy took over things with the kids. I was starting to feel like my head would explode if I didn't get OUT. I'm sure these kids would like a break too...a chance to go outside. But with the fevers plus the negative temps...that is what brings me to the longing for spring (or even just high 20s?) to bust us outta here.
I have been working on contentment with this season now. Finding the beauty in the every day even when it seems IMPOSSIBLE. Long naps, hot coffee, silly smiles, giggles, hugs. long baths, chapter reading from Farmer Boy with Addison saying "get him" when we got the part about the bear in the berry patch, long block building sessions, the feel of the house after the children are finally in bed, the sound of babbling and words, singing "Good Night My Someone, Good Night My Love, I Hope Your Fever Leaves, I Hope You Stop Coughing..." into warm cheeks as little bodies tremble with giggles, Addison being able to tell me that her throat hurts (this is HUGE!!!!), children helping to clean up their messes...and I could go on forever. Because I am surrounded by beauty even when at times I feel like I am being driven CRAZY. I just have to open my eyes and see it right in front of me.

It's hard to imagine with this kind of cuteness that they could be driving me crazy, huh? I think the most mischievous things come in the cutest of packages. Cute is mischief's camouflage. (Also...when did Eli go from baby to the 3rd child toddling around my ankles? I am seriously, seriously outnumbered these days. Good thing I hold the key to the chocolate stash.)
On a different note, I wanted to say thank you to all of you who joined the conversation on the last post. I needed that. I NEEDED it, and I am not embarrassed to say so. I have been sooo burnt out from finishing Motherhood Unexpected. That project was SO important to me, and I am darn proud of myself for finishing it even though it was hard to follow all the way through. Plotting a novel has been something I have been working on for the past 4 1/2 years. It has been my latest "degree" of learning. On top of that, I NEEDED to say those things the way that I said them in that book. I couldn't move on until I did. But it emotionally exhausted me to finally be done with it, and I was having a tough time returning to this blog as I left it. Many of you not only read and supported me through that project, but took the time to comment here about ways that this blog has helped you for however long you have been reading here. Your encouragement means more to me than you will ever know. Thank you!
The fact that this little girl is changing hearts and lives beyond what I could have imagined when I started this blog makes it all so worth it. She is completely amazing, and I am more than happy to share her with you all. The fact that my novel is also making an impact lets me know that I'm not completely crazy to pursue this whole writing thing. (definitely a little crazy...but at least not completely)
So where do we go from here? (besides praying for the weather to stop freezing nose hairs?)

You all reminded me of so many reasons why I started to blog in the first place. I really needed those reminders. Your comment encouragement was a big blogging shot in the arm. The burnt-out-ness is starting to fade. I am starting to feel a bit more like myself. Thank you for helping me reconnect with my blogging roots. Thank you for caring enough to comment and help me reconnect a bit with what this blog is all about. (Some of your comments made me seriously blush. Man, you guys are nice!)

I am going to keep going. Not a ton of posts a week. Probably just 1. Maybe 2 if I'm feeling particularly chatty. But I will be here. This is an important part of me, and it's not time to give it up yet. I will update my facebook page and IG as the spirit pressure...just returning to the fun that I have always found in this.

Can I ask a favor though? Just every once in a while can you hit "like" or comment or SOMETHING just to let me know that someone is out there? I was beginning to think that my site tracker was broken...
Thank you for reading. Thank you for caring. I know I don't know you all personally, but sometimes I really feel like I do, and I am so thankful for all of you.

Keep an eye out for posts of our mundane...and a lot of cute pictures...and maybe some new stuff....and everything and nothing. You're stuck with me now. (-;

p.s. to those who feel led to leave an Amazon review of my would be much appreciated! It doesn't have to be fancy or long...just a sentence of your takeaway or opinion...

p.s.s. send happy, good health vibes our way!

p.s.s.s. and spring temps

p.s.s.s.s. and while we're wishing for things a coffee IV would be nice...

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Maybe It's Time To Stop Blogging

Lately I've done a lot of soul searching about my blog.

The blogging industry has really been changing, and I have to admit that I have seriously questioned my place in it.

I know that you don't come here for organizing tips (and if you do...sorry to let you down), cooking advice (I have cute kids pictures cooking?), fashion tips (tip: don't wear the same pair of swear pants five days in a row), exercise how tos (How To: wear tennis shoes while grocery shopping in order to track down all the little people that you brought to the store with you), or coupon suggestions (for some reason Costco would not accept my "trade a child for credit"'s puzzling).

I also know that I spent the last year really delving deep into an issue that was heavy on my heart, an issue that a short blog post just didn't resolve it for me: the goodness of God even in the face of the unexpected. Now that I have opened my heart and written it all out in Motherhood Unexpected, I'm struggling to return to short blog posts in which I can NOT make up elaborate plots and fun characters (where's the fun in that?) not to mention unable to truly discuss a big issue. (btw...thank you for the continued good feedback! I am so thankful to all of you for giving my book a chance and for so sweetly letting me know how much you loved it. Seriously...I just love all of you.)

I don't want this blog to be about over-sharing my children in a way that would embarrass them later in life. I don't want this blog to be a stay-at-home mom whining about first world problems. I don't want to pretend to be an expert a life as I preach to you the WAY TO DO ALL THINGS. Because I am not that person, I don't like to whine, and I want to protect my children any way I can.

I have been reevaluating the things I write and the reason I write them, and I haven't come up with any good answers as to the reason I must stay a blogger.

So I have wondered a lot lately if my blogging chapter should be closed.

But then...

I know that I enjoy showing first hand what life with Down syndrome is like. I know that I love to share what I am learning along the way in not only motherhood but in mothering a child with special needs. I know that I love to write, write, and write some more (I feel the word "addicted" would be appropriate here). I know that sometimes putting together a blog post of my day is the brightest spot in it. I know that I LOVE to connect with all of you.

But then again...

Facebook hides a lot of my posts these days, and it is extremely frustrating to spend a lot of time writing something that nobody sees (hello? anyone there?). Instagram is a great place to post quick thoughts and my favorite pictures. A quick status update is easier for you to read and much easier for me to write.

So blogging? Is it a thing of the past?

I don't know.

Thus the soul searching.

I mean really, mundane motherhood stuff is just NOT THAT INTERESTING. I can't believe you all have been reading my drivel for 5 years (gasp. FIVE YEARS?)

And yet-- I have never been more proud of anything than the difference I have made here on my blog when it comes to life with a child with Down syndrome. This is important work, and I have treated both the topic and my writing of it quite seriously. I love that our journey has helped others through theirs. I love that our story and perspective has brought new light to the perspectives of others. I love that sharing Addison in this way has helped the world not only love her but understand her (I use "the world" rather loosely...but you know what I mean).

See? I am torn.

I don't really have any great answers to my questions. I am just sharing the reason for some of my silence both here and on my various social media sites. I believe strongly-- if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all. So sometimes I stay quiet because I don't have something constructive to share (sick children combined with a long winter tends to drag me down to this spot). And when I reach this spot I wonder if maybe it's time for me to bow out of this blogging gig and live a quiet and gracious life mothering my brood without writing about it?

I guess I'm asking-- what sort of things would you like to see written on this blog? Or what sort of things have you enjoyed reading about in the past on this blog?

I want to be helpful. I want to be constructive. And maybe I can figure this out if you can tell me what it is that has helped/entertained you the most in the past on this blog.

What topics would you want to see covered if I continue blogging here on Everything and Nothing from Essex?

Friday, February 6, 2015

She's 5!!!!!

Dear Addison,

5 years ago today we met you for the very first time. Your body was broken. Your cry was weak. Your grasp was nonexistence. Your muscle tone was low.
I will never forget bending over your bed in the NICU isolation room with my mind full of questions. I didn't know how to be a mother, let alone to a baby who was so sick. I didn't know how to love a baby, let alone a baby with Down syndrome.
I wish I could say that after 20 weeks of pregnancy worrying about that call from the genetics counselor informing us "Your daughter has Trisomy 21" that I held you and all worries fled. I wish I could say that I wrapped my arms around your warm body and knew that your Down syndrome diagnosis meant nothing. But the truth is, I couldn't hold you. I wasn't allowed, and my worries had center stage in my mind.

As I bent over your bed in the NICU, all I had was questions.

My sweet Addison, one day perhaps you will read all of the things that I have written about you. Maybe you will know of my doubts, of my fears. Perhaps you will read about me having to answer my OBGyn if I just wanted to "let nature take its course since your baby will be handicapped" or if we wanted intervention to save your life. Maybe you will hear that we had no birth plan because we didn't know if you would make it that far...or if you would survive the birth at all. Maybe you will read about the questions in my mind as I, a brand new mom, bent over a NICU bed. Maybe you will read about me shouting "Why God? Why us? What did we do to deserve this?" inside my head as I stared at our impossibly sick baby.
Maybe you will read about your long recovery, your surgeries, your therapies, and your oxygen machine. Maybe you will read that blog post about getting your g-tube finally taken out. Maybe you will see the thousands of pictures that I have snapped of you through these last 5 years as I worked through my role as your mother.
But as you read these things, my darling girl, I want you to remember something very important.

On February 6th, 2010, the broken thing was not your body, weak and fighting. No, the broken thing was me. The strange thing is? I didn't even know it. You were whole and perfect from the minute you were born. There was never anything wrong with you.
These last 5 years I have watched you grow. I watched you go from fighting for your life to typical infant type stuff. I watched you go from infant to toddler. And even though you took your sweet time in each of these phases and transitioned quite slowly...I have now watched you go from toddler to little girl. 
These last 5 years have been the best 5 years of my life.

I know I am supposed to be the teacher, the mother. But the truth is, you have taught me more than I'm sure I have managed to teach you.
You have taught me that a diagnosis doesn't mean anything. A diagnosis is simply a medical description. You were meant to be this way. You were created this way. You are perfect exactly the way you are. A diagnosis doesn't take away or add to this. A diagnosis doesn't add sparkles to your life or utter a death sentence of gloom. A diagnosis is simply words on a page. Lines and curves that add up to mean something, but really...nothing.

You taught me how to open my heart and love even in the midst of fear. You taught me how to keep loving and how love eventually sweeps the fear away. 

(this is the first time you ever used a straw. It was a happy day!)
I can still see the look on your face when you went into your surgeries...and the look on your face when you woke up. I will never be able to forget the furrowing of your brow as you try, try, try again to master that next skill. The grasp of your hand against mine as we walk together, the sound of your footsteps pitter pattering all throughout our house, the magic of your laugh when you get tickled about something, the joy of a sweet conversation with you, your big blue eyes widening with the intensity of your words-- the imprint that you have made on our lives is the kind of imprint that dreams are made of.
I have watched you learn to breathe, eat, sit up, roll over, walk, talk, jump, and do all manner of things for yourself. I have watched you learn to feed yourself, drink your own water, and mix up a chocolate cake as mommy's big helper.
I have watched you slowly and unforgettably fix the broken thing inside of me. You have taught me how to to to simply be.
You have taught me the value of all life. You have shown me the worth and beauty and personhood that is waiting, hiding under a diagnosis for someone to simply take the time to see it.
I am so grateful for you. I was right, I didn't deserve a child with Down syndrome. Having you in my life is far better than I deserve. It is a gift far beyond my wildest dreams.
This morning I watched you jump on my bed. You were laughing, your feet were lifting off the bed's surface, and you were clearly having a great time. This morning you dressed yourself, pulling your shirt on with confidence and then tackling the tights. This morning you fed yourself cereal from a bowl. You didn't spill a drop as you guided your spoon to your mouth. This morning you built a tall tower with blocks which you informed me was a place for "shopping" and then "shopping ice cream cone". This morning you hugged your brothers and you pushed your brothers and you ran alongside your brothers to the next area of mischief.

I watched you living the life of a happy 5 year old little girl.
You are learning your letters and numbers at school. You can already recognize some words! You can follow instructions (when you choose to do so). You pick out super cute matching outfits. You can communicate with us through words all the things you need and want. You can color and paint like a pro, and you are sooo close to being potty trained. But even though you have proven to us over and over again how smart and capable you are...that isn't why I love you. Your accomplishments are amazing, and I am so proud of you. But you don't need to achieve to be loved. I love you for simply

I will always remember 5 years ago and how you stared at us, silently begging you to please, please give you a chance. Never before have we made a more important or better choice. 
I wish I could have known the things that I know now as I bent over your NICU bed 5 years ago today. I wish I could have seen into the future for just a moment and glimpsed what an amazing life you had ahead.
Thank you for choosing me to be your mommy. 
Happy birthday, baby girl. We are looking forward to many more years with you. Or as you would say 

p.s. If you haven't already...please check out my new novel...Motherhood Unexpected. It's one of Addison's birthday wishes...(-; 

Aaaanndd the winner of the $50 gift card is Bridgette

The winner of the $25 gift card is Kathryn R


Please email me dsmith0806(at)gmail(dot)com so that I can get you your prize!