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 fiancĂ©e 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

Should you join the planner community?

Let me start by saying regardless of your profession or how big your family is (aka how many kids you need to keep track of) there may be a form of planning for you. It’s a common misconception that because I’m a stay at home mom and don’t work a typical 9 to 5 job that I have no reason to plan the way I do. What could I possibly be keeping track of? Well here’s a list of the things I write in my planner:

  • My babysitting schedule
  • Kids school schedules
  • My daughters dance schedule
  • Dinner plan each night
  • TV show schedule
  • Fitbit steps
  • Household chores – vacuuming, laundry, dusting, clean bathrooms, etc.
  • Birthdays/anniversaries
  • Drs appointments
  • Typical family events
  • Sons sports schedules
  • Husbands coaching schedule
  • Basic list of tasks – phone calls that need to be made, things to be done on the computer or bills to mail
  • List of things we need at the store
  • Notes
  • Date nights!

For a stay at home mom I have plenty to keep track of! There are a lot of other ways to use a planner though. Some people use them for journaling while others use them as memory planners where they put in pictures and captions to remember their day. If you have fitness goals you might want to look into the specific fitness planner or there are free printables online that you could add to your everyday planner. Other people use them as faith planners where they keep track of bible studies and put the scriptures they may be specifically focusing on.  Then there are the students who use them for school and activities. Professionals even use them at work to keep track of tasks, deadlines and meetings. If you fall in one of these categories planning may be for you. Remember planning doesn’t need to be as creative or decorated as I make it. I choose to make my planner fun and set aside “me” time to decorate it but again that’s not necessary. 

Still not sure you should join the planner community? Think of the things you could keep track of and write them down. Remeber there are different size planners so if your list isn’t real long there can still be a planner for you! Just for reference I use a Big Happy Planner, there is also a Medium and a Mini which is great to keep in your bag while on the go!


Happy Planning!

          – Brittany

Trusting the Process

As I sat on the couch verbally pondering over my next post my husband, who is watching the 76ers basketball game, said “trust the process.” After a slight chuckle because it’s the teams motto since they are rebuilding I actually took it into consideration. What does this phrase actually mean? Can it be applied to everyday momhood or more broadly life?

So here’s what I’ve come up with, trusting the process is = to a firm belief in the steps you take to get to an end. Stop and think about that for a second. Are you currently trusting the process?

Yesterday I went and signed my first born up for kindergarten (which I’m still trying to recover from, how can my baby be old enough already!) but the process to get to that final school choice wasn’t easy. All my life I expected my children would go to public school just like I had, but when my husband and I realized what our public elementary school would be we suddenly realized that was not an option and so the process began. Between Googling to find private schools in our area, talking to people who’ve grown up here, and deciding which schools to visit the process was stressful, after all this was going to determine my children’s future. Regardless of the stress I had to believe as a mother that the steps I was taking and the decisions I was making were best for our family. Now at the end of the process I am happy with the decision I’ve made and my son is excited to start kindergarten in the fall.

The more I think about it this concept is common in everyday life. Some days I wake up and the end for me is to just literally make it to the end of the day thanks to my crazy munchkins but some days there are definitely things I want to accomplish and so I make a list of things to do that I believe will get me to those accomplishments, most days it works. So tomorrow morning when you wake up think about what your goal for the day is and what you can do to make that happen. Trust yourself and follow those steps and you may just find happiness at the end of the day because who doesn’t love success?!

And as I finish writing this post the Sixers scored the winning basket with 4.5 seconds left on the clock. I guess they are trusting the process 🙂

Brittany

Why I Became a Planner

     Last July our schedule was crazy. The baseball team my husband coaches survived playoffs and extended their season by two weeks which meant an additional two weeks of snack stand food, driving, and sitting in the heat. By the time the season was over the list of things to do was growing. Next on the list was getting our son Brayden ready for 5 day preschool and figuring out how adding another babysitting family to the mix would work with the already 5 car seats in my SUV. Soccer registration was starting, my husband was deciding whether to coach or not, it was time to register my daughter for her first dance class and get her leotards, tights, and shoes and in the midst of it all we were planning a weekend trip to New York to visit family. Needless to say I was overwhelmed. I couldn’t get a grasp on everything going on.
Throughout the summer I had taken occasional trips to Michael’s and always stopped to check out these cute planners called Happy Planners. Not wanting to commit to the $35 expense I always just moved on and shopped for other stuff. Then one day I got an email that the planners were 40% off and I decided maybe this would make a difference in the stress I was having about our schedules and the mounting lists of things that needed to be done. That day I went to Michael’s bit the bullet and bought the big Happy Planner! Later I joined a Happy Planner group on Facebook and realized it was so much more then just writing my families schedule in the squares! Ladies made their planners beautiful with scrapbook paper, stickers, and washi tape, which I could never figure out the purpose of before! This would turn out to be the perfect creative outlet all while getting my family organized!
Later that weekend while we were in New York I spotted a Michael’s near the restaurant we were having dinner. After dinner we parted ways from our family members and we headed to Walmart to grab a few things for the night. Since we weren’t in a rush to get back to the hotel I expressed my desire to go to Michael’s (because now I knew I needed all the awesome extras) and before I knew it I was in the store picking out washi tape and stickers, my obsession had officially begun.
My Happy Planner has been a great outlet of stress and a perfect excuse for “me” time. Since my Planner purchase my family’s schedules have been organized and I feel like I have a good grasp on what I can accomplish in a week by seeing everything laid out. I know that planning may not be this awesome creative experience for everyone but if you’ve ever scrapbooked or just want to get your life more organized and under control some parts of Happy Planning may be for you and I hope throughout my blog you will find helpful tools and tips to get started!

Happy Planning!
Brittany

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My family on our New York trip at the Cornell Bird Sanctuary