Two weeks…

Two weeks ago the kids and I boarded a plane unsure of what life was going to hold. Now two weeks in I can tell you we are surviving and making great strides in becoming settled and also preparing for the looming school year. Don’t let my “were surviving” fool you, a lot of things are different in Arizona then back in Pennsylvania.

Let’s just get it out in the open – the H.E.A.T. – yes it is Arizona and it is hot. Temperatures have been anywhere from 110-120 and yes it’s HOT! The heat is totally different though, in PA as soon as you walk out of the house you get drenched with sweat from the humidity but here instead of getting sweaty you can feel the sun on your skin hence why on the 100+ degree days you stay inside, go to a park under a canopy or stay in a pool and don’t get out. 


Grocery shopping is different too, they don’t believe taco kits should come with soft shells so now I have to buy a shaker of taco seasoning and  a package of shells separately. Grocery stores also don’t carry Italian sandwich bread in their bread aisles which is all we use in our house so this was a major issue but finally I found some at Walmart and all is good on the bread front again. 


Street signs. In Pennsylvania we were used to seeing signs for Bethlehem, Allentown, Harrisburg, Quakertown and Philadelphia. In Arizona we see signs for Phoenix, Tucson and the one I still can’t believe I see is Los Angeles! It’s so unreal to me because I just never imagined I’d ever see a sign for L.A.  

You also have to be conscious of things like – will my electric bill skyrocket if I do laundry between 12pm and 7pm on a weekeday? The answer to that question is yes since electricity is triple the price during those hours (in the summer months). So you adjust and do laundry first thing in the morning, late at night or save it for the weekend! 

I don’t want this to be seen as one big complaint because it’s not. So far I have loved being in Arizona, heat and all. I of course wish my family was here but thanks to technology texting, Facebook and FaceTime is making it easy to communicate with our family and friends. One of my favorite things is the amazing mountain views when I’m driving. They are so spectacular I don’t think looking down the palm tree lined road to the mountains in the distance will ever get old. 

In two weeks I’ve accomplished a lot. My Arizona drivers license is on its way, Brayden is registered for kindergarten, Makayla is registered for preschool, we took care of finding a new bank and the boxes are starting to disappear from our house. There is still a lot to do especially with the school year only starting in a mere 40 days. This life change hasn’t been easy but taking it one day at a time seems to work best. 

Stay cool,

– Brittany

I’m Done.

This is currently my view…


If you can’t tell I’m sitting in the corner of my sons room with my Starbucks with only one sip left sitting to my right. This is just a very tiny glimpse of my life, my disaster, my stress. I’ve got an overflowing laundry basket full of stuffed animals (we’ve already filled two trash bags and donated them), I have another (my 4th) bag from ThredUP that I’m packing and will ship off next week, Bray has trains (which he hasn’t touched in months) scattered on the floor, I have clean laundry in piles from vacation I can’t bring myself to put away because I need to be packed for an unknown amount of days in just 5 short days and well I’m done. I don’t want to sort anymore. I don’t want to take things out to put them back because I can’t pack myself. I don’t want piles of – donate – sell – trash – laying around. I don’t want to finish going through boxes in the basement. I don’t want to coordinate roofers, drywallers and property management companies. I don’t want to go through Toys for the fourth time and I definitely don’t want to be in this move any longer. 

It’s coming quick with only 11 days and 56 minutes until the kids and I arrive at the airport to start a new chapter, one I’m not sure the three of us are ready for. Regardless it’s coming and I try to remind myself at some point these trash bags and boxes won’t be my life. Until then it will be Starbucks, take out and plenty more trash bags for me. I never expected this move to be easy but I definitely didn’t expect it to be this hard but when you’re alone in a situation like this how can it be anything but hard? My exhaustion and lack of motivation will have to step aside because time keeps ticking and these things don’t take care of themselves. 

Happy Fri-yay everyone,

   – Brittany

Preschool Graduation

It’s hard to believe that last night my baby boy graduated preschool closing this chapter of his life. I am so proud of how hard he’s worked and the determination he’s shown, especially in the last few months where he really worked on the areas he was struggling most. He’s a social butterfly and will play with any child which is a quality that puts me at ease as we get ready to move. His love for learning is amazing and the way he absorbs information like a sponge is so impressive. I’m serious the facts he remembers during different class topics and lessons blows me away heck half the time he’s teaching me new things! 

As proud as I am I couldn’t let the opportunity to celebrate his achievements pass me by, yes even at this age I believe it is important to show your children just how proud you are. Let’s be clear though it wasn’t a blow out type of celebration. Who doesn’t love a beautifully decorated cake with balloons and plates matching the occasion? 

For me not only was it a celebration of his achievements but also a celebration of his life. Does that sound morbid? Well I apologize if it does to you but for me every milestone Brayden gets to hit is a celebration of his life and now I’m sure your asking yourself why. When Brayden was diagnosed with his heart defect I still had plenty of time left in my pregnancy to think. What a lot of people don’t know is that in those last 15 weeks of my pregnancy I had a lot of dark times. There were songs on the radio that instantly triggered me to cry. There were days where my brain acted as a tv screen playing reruns of the most devastating episodes of Greys Anatomy, you know the episodes where the patients don’t make it?  And even though his diagnosis had a high rate of successful outcomes it was hard not to fall into the slump of what-ifs. And for the record continuing to here “it’s all going to be okay” and “he will be just fine” are really not comforting after about the tenth time. Fast forward 5 and a half years and here I am out of the dark slump I once found myself in being able to look at the little boy who I once couldn’t think about without crying sad scared tears thrive and bring me to the happiest proud tears I could ever imagine. These emotions I have during these celebrations are so much more then just the event, they are the overwhelming emotions of “we did it, look how far we’ve come together after all we’ve been through” because not so long ago I really believed I would never get to share these moments with him. 

So when you see the pictures of the pretty cakes and the balloons and decorations it is not to make anyone feel less about how they celebrate it’s just that these celebrations are everything to me because I’ve been given time with my child I never thought I’d have and I intend to make every part of this time -his life- a memorable celebration. 


Take the time now to celebrate anything and everything because time goes fast and these moments will be gone before you know it.

Brittany

The Low

In every journey there’s a low. I mean how can you expect there to not be since nothing in life is perfect. Every new adventure has its downright unforgiving moments. Yesterday morning was my low.

Our Sunday morning started off better then most I made chocolate chip pancakes and we sat down and ate together at the table which hasn’t happened lately (mom fail). The kids went and played while I folded and put away all the laundry and cleaned both the bathrooms. I got a nice hot shower with only one little visitor and without any fighting the kids got ready and packed up. Shockingly enough I even had time to grab my morning frappucino from Starbucks and no not the unicorn one. 

The soccer field parking lot was full when we got there but without hesitation I backed into a spot between two cars like a pro, you should understand I never back in to spots so go me! We got to the field and set up our chairs while Bray practiced and then the game started. This soccer season is frustrating for Bray and I because well to put it frankly his team sucks. I know I know they are 5 and 6 but I swear half of them don’t know which way the ball should be going and the other half just stand there and don’t even try. Regardless we made it 50 mins into the game before Bray ran off the field to me telling me he had blood on his finger, well he didn’t in fact there wasn’t anything wrong at all. So then it began, he refused to go back on the field so he got the ultimatum; go on the field, go to the bench or we were leaving. This confrontation of course resulted in tears for him and me feeling embarrassed and like a failure because this was the second crying incident from my kids at the field. Thirty minutes prior to this Makayla had a meltdown resulting in tears and drama all because I wanted her to sit in the new chair she picked out instead of my lap. 

In these moments how can you win? You have two choices 1. Let them have their meltdown and ignore it or 2. Fight with them making the issue worse. Problem is regardless what you do their is a scene made on the behalf of your children and everyone around you is judging your parenting. For me it’s hard because there’s a lot going on in my kids lives. We have just hit 6 weeks of Daddy being in Arizona and yes he has gotten to visit briefly twice but those visits are never long enough for the kids. In 6 weeks we have gone from a structured house with 2 parents to a divided house with one parent having to be the good guy and bad guy and getting few chances to really have a conversation with the other parent. It’s hard. It’s hard for me so I know it’s hard for them. In no way did I expect this to be easy but how did we get to this point? Where/when did I start failing my kids? Yes I cried on the way home from soccer because I couldn’t believe what just happened they were basically telling me something was wrong, actions speak louder then words.

How do you come back from the low? I made the kids lunch and put them down for naps and then I sat outside and thought about what’s been going on since dads last visit home, what adjustments I could make, how I could make the next 54 days easier on them. Do I have all the answers, no. What I did have was an ice cream date last night with my kids to end what started as an enjoyable turned to disaster turned to minor heartbreak kind of day. 


And yes today was better 🙂

    – Brittany 

Mommy Guilt

Last night, well really early this morning, laying in bed trying to fall asleep mommy guilt started to set in. I had cleaned the house did all the laundry laid out their clothes for the next three days and even somehow managed to pack myself and although everything was done to make my trip away easier for them I still felt guilty. Why mommy guilt? Well for starters Makayla is 3 years old and I’m pretty sure our time apart has only ever consisted of one night away from each other. She’s my sidekick, my extra arms, sometimes a pain in my ass but nonetheless my baby. For Bray it’s different. We’ve spent time apart I think really just Jay and I’s honeymoon but he’s also older now and I know if he needs something or something is out of routine he won’t be afraid to voice it, a comforting feeling. But then there’s his soccer game, the first game of the new season this weekend and as the involved mom I always try to be my heart is breaking I can’t be there but again all of his stuff is laid out and the latest email about our weather conditions and instructions has been emailed to the family member caring for them so really everything is taken care of and his Grammy will be there too so his support system is in place.

So as I sit here and try to eat this oversized greasy slice of pizza waiting for my plane my heart still breaks. Being a stay at home mom is a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing that I get to be with them everyday watching them grow, helping them when they need it and helping shape them into the little human beings they are becoming. A curse because being with them everyday is my place so when separation which should be extremely exciting for me because breaks like this are as often as seeing snow in the town we are moving to in Arizona I should be ecstatic. Not sure it helps that Bray followed me around all morning like a lost puppy instead of his usual routine of going downstairs and playing with his cars or on the iPad. 

Regardless of my feelings and anxiety about the kids I am excited to see my husband and the town I am uprooting mine and the kids lives to live in.

 So here’s to new adventures🍻


– Brittany

Parenting what?!!

Five years ago I was in hell…parenting hell. You’re probably wondering how that’s possible but I can tell you with 100% certainty that the temper tantrum your child threw at the grocery store over the candy bar you told them they couldn’t have doesn’t even come close to what watching your child be rolled away on a gurney towards the OR feels like. Maybe at the grocery store you are embarrassed, angry and ready to lose you’re damn mind but it doesn’t compare to the downright devastating and scared feelings of scenario #2, although the ready to lose your damn mind might be a close similarity at times.

Five years ago scenario #2 happened. I watched my sweet 5 month old baby boy be rolled away towards the OR to fix the heart defect that we had found out about when I was 6 months pregnant. Constantly talking about the possibility of surgery and then actually scheduling the surgery doesn’t prepare you for the feelings actual surgery day brings. As a parent you want nothing more then to be able to protect your child, fix their problems and take away their pain and in the hours I sat in the waiting room, next to his bedside and fighting with the pain management team I felt completely helpless. That feeling of absolute helplessness is why I relate this to hell. There was nothing I could do but trust his team of doctors and make my voice heard when things didn’t seem right. I am happy to say hell lasted about two days, when he finally started to take a bottle again there was a light at the end of the long dark tunnel from a few days earlier. 

Now I look back and I can still feel those feelings on days like today but now five years later there is so much more to my sons story. He has been through so much since his surgery with the additional specialists we had to add to his team and the two additional times he had to go back in the OR (non heart related). Through it all he has stayed strong and in turn he has given me more strength then I thought I could carry. He has taken a love for things like collecting Hot Wheels for Toys for Tots and in those proud moments I’m reminded that the parenting hell I was once in only lasts for a small time and is replaced by these amazing moments. 

So as a mom who has lived through this form of hell I am here to tell you to hang on, speak up and pull strength from the amazing warrior in you’re life. At the end of the long dark tunnel there will be some form of peace and I hope it’s the kind that brings you tears of joy and a smile.


– Brittany

On the Eve of Change

As I sit and indulge in a vanilla iced donut from my favorite local bakery in my hometown these are the things running through my head:

  1. It better NOT snow tomorrow because let’s be real it’s MARCH!
  2. Is my little girl seriously turning 3 in one week?!??
  3. My husband leaves tomorrow and what the heck are the next three months going to bring

Tonight while I made the requested final meal of chicken quesadillas we discussed the things that needed to happen, in the forefront is booking all the plane tickets we need for the next three months. I haven’t been on a plane in years and now I am going to fly ALONE, umm yeah still not sure I’m ready for that one. 

Later while our family sat in the living room our son kept saying he was going to miss daddy, what do you even say to that? All we could do was remind him daddy would be coming home and in a few short months we will all be together in our new home on a new adventure. Easier said then done. Although I’m optimistic this first week will be okay since we are lucky enough to have my husband come home for our daughters birthday, I know after that as time goes on it will become difficult for them or will it become normal? I say this because the earlier conversation about plane tickets proved just how long the kids will have to wait between daddy’s visits home. Don’t get me wrong I know we are lucky we have this luxury where those who serve our country go months and months without seeing their loved ones so in a sense we are blessed.

My duties now as Mommy are to make sure this doesn’t become normal. Of course we will fall into our new routine of me juggling dance class and soccer practices at the same time but where there is a will there is a way and I will do my best to make sure the kids have the fullest last few months in PA and as much FaceTime with daddy as physically possible. 

Reminder to myself…

 

Here’s to making it to the end🍻

          – Brittany
P.S. Doesn’t it look like we are packing a college student?! (picture at the beginning)

A Sudden Whirlwind

Three weeks ago it was any typical Monday morning. My son Brayden was at preschool, my daughter and the kids I babysit were playing in the living room and I was taking a quick second to hide and chug my Capri Sun in the kitchen. It was a little while later when I got the text message that another plant in my husbands company was hiring for a position he had been commenting about for weeks prior.

First reaction: this is such a great opportunity! 

Second reaction: Arizona is across the country from Pennsylvania…

After lots of conversation the decision was made to submit his resume and see what happens. Little did we know a little over a week later he would be on an airplane to interview for this job in a state nether of us had ever been to. Sounds crazy right? Things got even crazier a week later when my husband received an offer that it didn’t seem we could pass up. More conversations about our life here, family, friends, baseball, dance, our house ensued and the lingering in the back of my mind was if we don’t try we will never know. Then there was the conversation of positives- our kids could be outside almost all year long of course except the afternoons in the summer when it’s 115 degrees, they had baseball and dance studios, and even some of the schools had higher ratings then our current situation and well I haven’t started my career yet so besides missing my babysitting kids my sacrifices were minimal in the work department. 

Then there were the dinner time talks with our kids consisting of daddy might be getting a job in Arizona, how do you feel about moving? Of course our 5 year old was hesitant he had just started to play sports and had school friends – those of which he wouldn’t be going to school with next year anyway but that concept he doesn’t quite get. Our nearly 3 year old doesn’t totally seem to get it, I explained to her that there are 3 dance studios we can look at and she can pick one and that’s all that really seemed to concern her. 

So what do we do? Do we pick up our life and move nearly 2,200 miles across the country? Is this an opportunity my husband would have here? Could the kids adjust? 

The new opportunities not only for my husbands career (huge opportunity) but for our kids and our life as a family outweighed our reservations about moving. Now don’t get me wrong leaving our family will be the hardest thing ever but agreeing to have a plan in place on when we visit home and a separate account to fund our plane tickets was reassuring.

Now I remind myself, if we hate it it doesn’t have to be permanent and if we don’t try we will always wonder what could have been.

And now I have to deal with my husband leaving in 3 short days to start this journey without us.

I look forward to sharing this crazy journey with you all.   

       – Britttany

Diagnosis

     It’s February 1st which means the start of Heart Health Month! Yes I know Valentines is this month too and 6 years ago February to me just meant Valentines Day, chocolate and roses but now it means so much more. 

     July of 2011, it was hot, I was about 6 months pregnant with my first child, a son we named Brayden, I was sitting at baseball 4-6 nights a week and did I mention it was hot. Well also in July on a visit at my local Maternal Fetal Medicne they noticed extra fluid in Brayden’s brain and referred us to The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia for a follow up. This in itself was a huge hit to the excitement of being pregnant. How could my baby need to be seen by a specialist before he was even born? 

     The Center for Fetal Diagnosis and Treatment at CHOP got us in quickly to be seen. Before we knew it we were making the hour drive (without traffic) to the city for an early morning appointment for a day filled of testing. The day started with a Fetal MRI. I was put in a tube with protective gear for the baby and the techs did their thing while my then fiancée took a nap in the corner (sorry Jay I had to). The humming of the machine is hard to forget. Afterwards we headed for a regular ultrasound where they checked every single thing on Brayden’s growing little body. We then moved on to a meeting with a genetic counselor. She asked every question under the sun about us and our families medical history. We got a brief break to go grab some lunch and no it wasn’t all that healthy it was McDonald’s but when your pregnant and hungry in a time crunch sometimes that’s the best you can do and well at the time it tasted good too. 

     Back upstairs in the center we went in for an echo with the Fetal heart program. This is something we were unaware would be happening before getting to the hospital but it, thankfully, was a requirement for all mothers coming into the center for fetal diagnosis. It was during this part of the day where things started not to feel right. It started out like a basic ultrasound, I had warm jelly smeared all over my stomach, we could see the pictures on the screen, and hear his heart beat but the more and more people coming in and out of the room was not normal. Different doctors and techs were taking turns coming in and in the pit of my stomach I knew something was wrong. They printed us some more pictures and we were sent into the waiting room.

     And then suddenly the waiting was over. We were called to come back to a conference room where we were greeted with not one, not two, but three different teams of doctors. First up was neurology, they told us that the fluid in the back of his brain was indeed fluid and not a tumor – in my head I’m screaming “yes good news!” Second it was urology’s turn, Brayden had struggled with enlarged kidneys since almost the beginning but after the ultrasounds they determined it was within the normal range for boys and that his kidneys were fine – in my head I’m screaming “yes more good news but who are these other people!?” Then the last group of doctors introduced themselves, they were from cardiology. Immediately my head started spinning why is cardiology consulting us right now we didn’t come here for his heart? The first cardiologist started with something to the affect of “we found something wrong with your babies heart.” Umm, what, come again?! The next doctor pulled out a packet of papers she laid out on the table. They informed us that Brayden appeared to have a double aortic arch which is rare to find this early since their hearts are still so small. With the help of a heart model and the picture diagrams they explained that Brayden’s aorta had two branches instead of one. The second branch wrapped around his trachea and esophagus. They couldn’t tell how tightly it was wrapped so he had the chance of being born not being able to eat, breath or both. If he did have or develop symptoms he would need surgery to cut the extra branch to release its grasp on these two important structures. They ended their presentation of Brayden’s diagnosis by placing a box of tissues on the table and gracefully exiting. 

How in a matter of minutes could my heart shatter into a million little pieces? How could suddenly a relatively easy pregnancy turn into a nightmare? How could I have prevented this? Did I do something wrong? What if this ends badly? How could this be happening to my baby? Is this really my life right now?

     Jason and I sat in tears as all of the above questions swirled in my head. The only positivity from our devastating news was that it could be fixed whatever that really meant. We wiped our eyes and made our way to the desk to make my next appointment. The next step was telling our family what had just happened, but first we went to Chickie’s and Pete’s and sat in silence. After managing to get down whatever food my sad and shaking body would allow we started the trek home and the journey of breaking the news to our parents. 

A few facts on Brayden’s defect.
A normal heart vs Brayden’s heart

Never Underestimate a Little Human

So it’s Saturday night which meant a movie and pizza for the kids and I. It’s unbelievable that with all the DVD’s we own, Netflix and On Demand the kids (and I) could not come to an agreement on a movie. Like seriously 20 minutes of back and forth because Brayden wanted to watch Hop and Makayla wanted to watch every Disney Princess movie we own. Finally as I was 2 seconds short of saying “forget it no movie” I went into the kids DVD bin and found The Peanuts Movie still wrapped in cellophane from Christmas. Finally we had an agreement and better yet it was a movie none of us had seen.

With our pizza and drinks on the coffee table we started the movie and to be honest about 10 minutes in I wasn’t sure I was going to make it to the end.  I am happy to say it did get better. Brayden (5) sat through the whole thing while Makayla (2) was watching while bouncing around on the couch and demanding more pink lemonade. After awhile we made it to the part where Charlie Brown sees his crush practicing dancing in her window and to impress her he goes home to learn how to dance for the winter dance at school. The kids enjoyed the dancing but they really enjoyed the song. Then the winter dance scene finally comes on and the song plays again, “Better When I’m Dancin'” by Meghan Trainor. It is really upbeat and catchy and the kids loved it, Makayla was even up dancing!

As the movie continues you see all the disappointments Charlie Brown goes through it’s like nothing ever goes his way but then finally at the end of the movie he has success; he flies the kite and talks to his crush. Now as a Mom I’m thinking “aww what a cute ending he finally talked to his little girlfriend and we seriously need to download this song for the car!” So the kids and I went on iTunes and downloaded the song, the kids danced for a little bit and we headed upstairs for bed. As I got Brayden’s toothbrush out I asked if he liked the movie and his response caught me off guard:

Brayden – “I did! Charlie Brown never gave up!”

Me –  “Wow bud your right he didn’t give up, can you tell me what he didn’t give up at?”

Brayden – “Talking to that girl and he flew the kite.”  (5 second pause) “I’m like him I don’t give up.”

Me (with a happy heart) – “You’re right you have never given up.”

We exchanged big smiles and I went about brushing his teeth. You don’t realize just what your 5 year old picks up on until moments like this. For those who don’t know Brayden’s story he has been through a lot. He had heart surgery at 5 months old. A second unheart related surgery at 15 months old. He’s struggled with medical issues from his heart during the winters and this past December had oral surgery. So yes at a mere 5 years of age him recognizing that he doesn’t give up is HUGE for me as a mother. He has been a fighter from the beginning and he is where I have gotten my strength on my weakest days. (I will be writing more on Brayden in the next few weeks during congenital heart defect awareness week.)

So lesson learned don’t underestimate your 5 year old, they may drive you crazy and make you want to pull all of your hair out but they are paying attention. They are paying attention to the journey they are on and all that’s going on around them.

And if you’re ever having one of those rough mommy days listen to this song it’s a good pick me up and bound to get you dancing 🙂

Better When I’m Dancin’ – Meghan Trainor

– Brittany