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Category: Kids

Blindsided

After Jules’ therapist suggested I take him to see a psychiatrist for medication, I called the one he recommended immediately. Everyone at their office was booked for 3 weeks. I didn’t want to wait that long, so I called another place that takes his insurance. They had an appointment a week away, so I took it.

Yesterday, we went to that appointment. When they called his name, I went back with him. I figured they’d go over his symptoms and pick a med to start with.

Instead, she just started asking questions. Questions about our family. Questions about his feelings.

The next thing I know, we’re knee deep in a therapy session.

At first, I didn’t mind. Jules was telling her things I already knew, but I did worry that he was uncomfortable because he was shaking his foot uncontrollably the entire time.

When we saw his other therapist, he specifically asked to speak with him alone. I knew he was hiding something. I just didn’t know what.

Well, the next thing I know Jules is talking about cutting himself.

The therapist doesn’t bat an eye. She keeps scribbling on her notepad as she asks, “And how many times have you cut yourself over the past year?”

He doesn’t look at me and answers frankly, “Maybe 40 times.”

“Where do you cut yourself?”

“My arms, and sometimes my sides.”

I’m in such disbelief. When? How? WHY???

Then she asks to see it.

He pulls up his sleeve, and they they are. Scars and fresh cuts all over his arm. One looks so bad, he probably should have gotten stitches.

I can’t breathe. My chest is tight and it feels like my heart might beat right out of my chest.

I want to cry. I want to scream. I want to grab my boy and hug him so tight that all the sadness will just squeeze out of him.

But I just sit there, unable to move, unable to speak.

The therapist asks him when was the last time he cut himself.

He tells her 2 weeks ago when he decided he couldn’t do it anymore because he has friends who started doing it too.

He says he’s trying to fix his friends and he can’t get them to quit if he’s still doing it himself.

I’m still in shock that he’s been able to keep so much from me.

She asks him about his suicidal thoughts.

He claims he hasn’t made any plans to kill himself since November of last year.

She asks him how he planned to kill himself and he tells her a few of the options he’s thought about: homemade cyanide, hanging himself with his belt from his bed, and using one of our guns.

I immediately feel relieved that we got a gun safe for Christmas and chose not to give him access even though he stays home alone and could need it one day.

Then I realize there’s not much I could have done about the others. I mean, I guess I could ban fruit and belts from the house, but then he’d just find something else to use.

He tells her that his girlfriend is the reason he hasn’t made any plans since then.

Thank God for her!

At least he’s had someone to go to.

At the end of the session she tells us that she thinks Jules needs to see the psychiatrist and get on meds as soon as possible (Yeah, that’s what I thought this appointment was for!).

She also tells Jules that if he has any more suicidal thoughts he has to tell me so I can bring him to the mental hospital. He promises to do so.

I make an appointment with the actual psychiatrist for next week and apologize to Jules. I honestly didn’t know all of that was going to happen.

But he tells me he’s glad that I know and it was easier for him to tell me through the therapist.

I ask him if he wants to get something to eat with me.

“Sure, how about Hardee’s? We haven’t been there in a while.”

So we go to Hardee’s and eat our emotions with bacon, onion, and cheese covered burgers and fries.

I go to pick up my girls from my best friend’s house and we talk for a couple hours.

It feels good to be able to vent to someone, someone who has dealt with even more crazy in her life than I have.

But I’m still so sad. I want to believe that it’s hereditary, that it’s hormonal, that it isn’t somehow all my fault, but I’m having such a hard time.

I keep thinking about every time I’ve lost my cool, acted irrational, let my anger or frustration get the best of me. Did I push him too hard? Did I not push hard enough? Did I nurture him enough? Did I abandon him to care for his sisters? Did I not show him how very much I love him???

Because truthfully, when he tells me he loves me, it doesn’t sound sincere. And when I look into his eyes, I don’t see the happy little boy who loved me more than anything in the world.

He sounds dead inside. He looks dead inside.

And all I can think is: I’m going to lose him.

I hope, more than anything in this world, I don’t.

I hope that he’s on the road to recovery, that the medication is going to make everything better.

But I’m so sad and so scared.

And I know what he would say. The very thing I always tell him:

“Don’t worry about something until you have to. Don’t grieve for things you haven’t lost.”

So I’ve cried my tears and wiped my face.

It’s time to be strong.

Not to fall apart.

The meds WILL help. He WILL get better. He WILL find joy again. He WILL live.

And he WILL know how much he is loved.

 

Battling Depression

Depression. Ugh. I hate that word.

Depression reminds me of my father’s suicide and my mother’s substance abuse.

Depression is the last thing I thought I’d have to worry about when my son became a teenager.

I was expecting for him to want more time to himself.

I was expecting he might not care about the same things he cared about before.

I was expecting mood swings and a stinky room.

I was expecting him to eat like a garbage truck.

I wasn’t expecting him to stop eating and lose weight.

I wasn’t expecting him to stop showering or leaving the house.

I wasn’t expecting for him to lose interest in life itself.

At first, I thought: It’s just the hormones. It’s just a phase. He’s still happy…

Then I started noticing: He doesn’t ever seem happy at all, about anything, like ever.

I went from teasing him and calling him Eeyore to wondering if I had done something to make him hate me.

I tried not to take it personal. I just cried alone in my bathroom.

Then I thought about my father.

I wondered if my son might be depressed.

So I asked him.

Much to my surprise, he said YES.

He’s always been open and honest with me, he’s just never been good about going out of his way to clue me in.

I asked him if he wanted to talk to someone.

He said YES.

So I took him to a psychologist.

He said things went well, but he didn’t tell me what they talked about, and that’s ok.

The therapist believes my son is suffering from depression.

So he gave me a referral to a psychiatrist.

He will still continue counselling him though.

We don’t know if he’ll have to go on medication, but medication sounds better than suicide.

Depression makes my son feel hopeless.

It makes me feel helpless.

I asked him if there was anything that happened to make him feel this way.

He said NO. He just feels sad all the time for no real reason.

I asked him if there is anything I can do to make him feel better.

He said NO, but he’s thankful I’m getting him some professional help.

I feel hopeful that by noticing his symptoms and getting him help that he can overcome this.

I still worry that he won’t.

I know so many don’t.

He looks so much like my father.

It terrifies me.

But I can’t become depressed myself.

He needs me.

And I really need him.

 

14 Things I Will Say to My 14 Year Old Today

Today is my first born’s fourteenth birthday! Each year, we are one year closer to the dreaded send off to college! Of course, he could always go somewhere local and stay home with his family 😉 😉 (He claims he’s moving to Germany for college. Not happening. I don’t care how good the school is. My hubby doesn’t call me “Dream Crusher” for nothing! LOL!)

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Here are 14 things I am going to say to him today (not in any particular order):

  1. It’s noon, time to get up.
  2. Fix your hair.
  3. No, not like that.
  4. Eat your noodles.
  5. Just kidding, it’s zucchini, your favorite! Bwahahaha!
  6. Can I pop that zit?
  7. Pleeeeeeeaaaaaaaazzzz???
  8. Are you sure you have deodorant on?
  9. Yes, you have to come with us, it’s Family Day, and you’re still technically part of the family.
  10. I don’t care if you have better things (like absolutely nothing) to do.
  11. I love you.
  12. Tell me you love me.
  13. Give your mother a hug!
  14. HAPPY BIRTHDAY Juli Bear!!!

You see, my son enjoys staying up late, sleeping in, the bed-head look, eating anything microwavable but hardly anything that grows in the ground, spending all of his time in his room (watching TV and YouTube, playing video games, talking to his friends online or on the phone, reading comic books and science articles, and lifting weights), and pretending the rest of us don’t exist. He smells, even though I see him shower frequently and know he owns deodorant (I make sure I buy the 48-hour stuff, which must be a typo b/c it doesn’t even hold up 4-8 hours on him). He still hasn’t found a girl he likes because he’s “too busy with school to worry about girls” and “isn’t old enough to take one on a date by himself” anyway.

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Every night, I knock on his door (because it’s locked to keep the rest of us out), tell him good-night and make him wrap his arms around me and tell me he loves me. It’s much different than it was a few years ago when we’d read a story together and he’d give me more kisses than I could count without even asking.

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It’s hard to watch your kids grow up. It’s amazingly fulfilling to watch them become their own person, but with that comes a separation from you.When they’re little, they need you, they want you around all the time!

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I can still remember when he was my only baby.

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I can still remember when he dressed up like a super hero and played with Legos and Hot Wheels.

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And then overnight, he was taller than me!

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And now, he wants nothing to do with me anymore. 🙁 I can still remember what it was like being a teenager, so I know it’s perfectly normal, it’s just hard. I’m glad I have my girls to fill the gap, but what on earth am I going to do when all 4 of them are teenagers???

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I can’t even think about it.

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For his birthday, Jules requested cash, to go out to eat to his favorite restaurant (IHOP) so his “friend who’s a girl” Carolyn could come, along with one of his other best friends, who he wanted to come home with us to spend the night, and plenty of junk for them to gorge themselves on as they stayed up all night.

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Check!

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Check!

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Aaaannnnd check!

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IHOP was a nightmare. First of all, I think the only reason he requests to go there every year for his birthday dinner (at least for the last 3 years) is because I don’t like IHOP so we never eat there. The food is always meh and the service eh. Last night was no exception. It took an hour for the waitress to take our order, which might have been understandable for a party of 15 if they were even remotely busy. There were 3 tables of two when we arrived, and they had already been served. She just kept disappearing to bring the kids more crayons, menus, and condiments…for food we hadn’t even ordered yet! It took another hour to get our food. Mine and Joe’s bacon crusted chicken came with no bacon and pink chicken. Our side of steamed broccoli wasn’t cooked at all. Thankfully, the kids’ meals were free because between paying for my mom and Jules’ 2 friends, we still spent $70 on one of the most horrible food and service experiences I’ve ever had. It was also so cold in there, that all 15 of us were shivering the entire time, taking frequent trips to the bathroom, where it was warm, to defrost.

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They did sing ♫Happy Birthday♫ and bring free ice cream to the birthday boy and girl. That was kinda nice.

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I think Jules just enjoyed being with his friends…who hate pictures just as much as him.

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Unfortunately for them, I don’t care if they don’t like taking pictures. 😉 I told Jules after we left that I hope he enjoyed it, because the only way he’ll get IHOP for his birthday again is if we order just him something TO GO!

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He and Wesley maintain that he and Carolyn are just friends. All I know is, he’s been a much nicer person since she came around, so I’m fine with whatever they want to call themselves.

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Despite his fuddiness, Jules is a good kid. He gets straight A’s in all of his classes (which are all advanced), and pretty much has every year of his life.

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He watches the girls anytime I ask without complaining (and actually comes out of his room and watches them responsibly). I never have to ask him to bathe, clean his room, put up his laundry, or do his homework. Heck, I don’t even have to wake him up in the morning! He wakes up on his own at 5am and wakes me up at 6am!

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I’m so proud of how smart and responsible he is. He amazes me with the amount of information he can retain (we don’t call him “The Walking Encyclopedia” for nothing)! He makes my heart sing when he helps me with the groceries without me even asking. He drives me nuts by constantly changing the wallpaper on my computer and leaving his Ramen noodle trash on the counter until after he’s finished eating. Considering what some parents have to deal with from their kids, I think I’ve got a pretty good one.

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So today I celebrate all that he is, and all that I hope he will become (hopefully rich so he can take care of his ol’ ma and pa 😉 ). He will always be my baby, but I can see him turning into a man before my very eyes, and the view is spectacular!

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Happy birthday baby boy! Mama loves you!

 

Trini’s Birthday Week

 

This past week my 4th child, my 3rd girl, Trinity Faith turned 5 years old!

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It’s a little hard to believe it’s been 5 whole years since I welcomed her out of my body and into our lives!

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When she was first born, I couldn’t believe how chunky she was! She was over 8lbs (my other 3 were 6-7lbs) and had rolls for days! And over the course of her first 2 years, I watched those rolls slowly disappear. Now, she’s a skinny little thing just like her brother and sisters (although she still has those cheeks I love to squeeze)!

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Last year, was Trini’s first year at school. I didn’t worry about how well she’d do one bit. She’s so much like her brother and picks up on things really fast. She already knew most of what they teach in pre-k before she even started! I did worry about whether or not she’d show her temper. She’s got a fiery spirit like her mama. You don’t want to see us mad! LOL! But on her last progress report, the teacher said that Trini was one of the kids they used as an example for model behavior! And oddly enough, her temper tantrums have dissipated over the last year.

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Trini is the summer baby (we have 2 birthdays in the spring, 2 in the fall, 1 in the summer, and mine and Joe Daddy’s are in the winter). Summer is my favorite! For her last 4 birthdays we’ve had pool parties at the house. This year I wanted to try and go off somewhere, so I asked her, “Do you want to invite all of your classmates and friends to Catch Air OR go to the water park as a family and get bicycles for you and your sisters?” She picked the water park and bicycles (which is what Mama was really hoping for).

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She agreed to use the money her uncle and great-grandmother sent her on a trip to the water park, so we used the money we would have used on a party and a couple small presents to get her and her sisters bicycles (since no one had one and we want to try and go riding this summer as a family), bells/horns and doll carriers for their bikes, as well as helmets for them and their dolls.

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At the end of May, my sister and her family came to visit us from Kentucky. My other sister and her son had birthdays around Memorial Day, so we decided to have a big family barbecue and outdoor movie night while they were here. Trini really wanted her cousin Bailey (who is only 2 months older than her) to come to her birthday celebration, so we celebrated Trini’s birthday while they were here too.13320353_10206464002294413_4642617454908139386_o

The outdoor movie was so much fun! We made tickets, had popcorn, gave everyone their own personal box of candy, and had plenty of glow in the dark accessories to keep everyone visible in the dark.

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It was a great way to celebrate 2 of the 11 cousins’ birthdays while they were all together!

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As her actual birthday approached, Trini remembered that Tristyn went to Chuck E. Cheese with her grandfather for her birthday, so she made a new request. She agreed to use the money her grandfather gave her for her birthday, so the day before her birthday (on her Daddy’s day off from work) we took a trip to see the mouse. I was really impressed that she so generously gave up so much of her birthday money to do stuff with her family! I’ve done something right with this one!

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Taylor’s another story…her present to her sister was a doll house separate from the big one that was supposed to be for all of them, LOL! She even convinced the girls that they were getting quite a deal.

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They have been enjoying it, and I guess that’s all that matters.

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Since we’d been so busy over the first couple weeks of summer finishing the floors in our house, hosting my sister, and getting the pool set up, we hadn’t spent any time with our best friends and neighbors, so I decided to invite them over on Trini’s birthday for a pool party. Trini was a little bummed that I didn’t invite her cousins (although, in my defense, we talked about why I didn’t before hand), and once the party got started I realized it wouldn’t have been so awful to have a few more kids here. I was just thinking that we had already celebrated with them and having 8 neighbors over would be plenty of company for the day!

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I tried to keep it simple with hot dogs, chips, and some sparkling watermelon lemonade, but of course, it turned into a real party, with decorations, gifts, and party favors. Apparently, I don’t know how to keep things simple, LOL.

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The kids loved the party, and so did I! Who doesn’t love a good luau?

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On Friday, we spent most of the day with the cousins. We took Chase with us to the foam party at the local library, where they got to play in foam…

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…throw water balloons…

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…play with some inflatable toys, and even do a little reading.

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Then we came home and swam in the pool…

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…ate some boiled peanuts…

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…played in the sandbox with Holly…nekkid…

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…and jumped on the trampoline…again, nekkid, LOL!

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The funniest part was when my sister called and Trini got on the phone and said, “You forgot to give me my birthday present!” This girl has the memory of an elephant and has kept very close tabs on who has given her what! LOL! So when my sister came over to pick up Chase, she told Trini, “I already gave you your present…you’re swimming in it!”

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In my opinion, she gave her the best present of all! Trini loves the pool and it’s something we can all use for many summers to come! It’s hard to believe that I almost didn’t put one up this year!

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Yesterday, we had a lazy day. We spent most of the day in the pool. For dinner, we roasted hot dogs and s’mores over the fire pit.

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When Joe Daddy got home, he hopped in the pool with us for the first time! The girls were ecstatic!

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We finished up the night with snuggles on the couch, which has been our favorite thing of each day. No more worrying about bedtimes or wake-up times (although The Littles have pretty much stuck to a routine of getting up at 8am and going to sleep by 10pm). We clean up ourselves and the house, snuggle up for a show or a movie together, everyone passes out where they may, and Mommy and Daddy carry them off to bed before we make our way to ours. Oddly enough, Tristyn doesn’t like to pass out anywhere but her bed, so around 9:30pm, she gets me to tuck her in.

Today, we plan on hanging out at the house with Daddy (mostly in the pool) before we have to be at our first night of VBS. The girls are so excited for what they know the next 5 nights will bring. I’m excited to get to do a bunch of crafts with 3 year olds, possibly my own (I thought I was going to be with Trini’s group, but I was mistaken)! I’m even more excited about not having to cook dinner for the next 5 days since they are feeding the volunteers! Joe Daddy and Jules are on their own! LOL!

We still have plans to go to the water park, but it’s looking like it’ll be next month now. Regardless, Trini has had the best birthday week ever, I just know it! I love that girl so much and am so proud that God chose me to be her mommy!

 

10 Things I Hope My 10 Year Old Knows

Today is Taylor Grace’s 10th birthday! If you follow me on social media, you’ve seen the eventful weekend we had celebrating her entrance to the double digits! I am completely exhausted, but it was all worth it. Truly, it was.

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Because I love number themed posts, I’m sharing 10 things I hope Taylor knows, in honor of her 10th birthday.

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How much I like her!

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A mother’s love is unconditional, but I can honestly say, I like my child! She’s funny, sweet, and easy to talk to. She actually enjoys spending time with her family still, which is something I miss about my teenage son! I really like who she is as a person. I hope she knows that.

How proud I am of her!

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Taylor has had her share of challenges, mostly in school, but definitely with listening at home as well. It took me a while to figure out that she can’t completely help her difficultly focusing or retaining information. Once I realized better how her brain works, I was able to change a lot of the ways I approach parenting her and things have been sooo much better! Her last report card didn’t have a single C! I am so proud of what a hard worker she is, how much she’s improved, not only in school but at home as well, and how impressed I am with her ability to overcome so many obstacles. I hope she knows that.

How thankful I am for her helpfulness!

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Taylor is my mini-me. She may not look like me, but she has my OCD personality. She is a visual person, striving for perfection in the way her surroundings look. She has my compulsive desire to have everything organized, which is hard with three little kids in the house. She can get pretty upset when her sisters mess with her stuff, but she’s taken my advice and has taken it upon herself to teach them how to be organized! I am so thankful that she not only gets her sisters to clean up after themselves, but she helps them with homework, gives them baths, gets them ready for bed, and so many other things around the house! I have long wished for a clone to help with the never-ending duties around the house, and I feel like that prayer has been answered! She is so helpful to me. I hope she knows that.

How glad I am she loves gymnastics!

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It could have been cheerleading, soccer, softball, karate, even football, I’m just glad she found a sport that she loves and works hard to improve in. I’m not gonna lie, out of all of the sports she’s tried (cheerleading, soccer, softball, and karate), gymnastics is my favorite. It’s indoor, it’s once a week, and I can drop her off. I don’t like the price so much (it’s $86/month if I pay for 4 months at a time, which is over $1,000/year), but I hope to one day have enough in the budget for all 4 of my girls to take gymnastics! I thoroughly enjoy watching her flip around at the gym, and at the house with her sisters. I hope she knows that.

How beautiful I think she is!

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I think Taylor is such a beautiful girl, inside and out! She has such a big heart, full of compassion and love for all of God’s creatures. She’s tall and slim, so I’m completely jealous of her body (oh, to be young again!).

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She has such a pretty face (those sapphire eyes! those freckles! those slightly crooked teeth!). Her hair looks great short or long (again, jelly!). She’s honestly one of the prettiest girls I’ve ever seen, and I’m not just saying that because I love her! LOL! I hope she knows that.

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How I adore her little obsessions!

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Taylor has been obsessed with American Girl, Brataley, and Shopkins for a while now. She spends every dollar she gets on adding to her collections. I’m not a collector, so it was pretty hard for me at first watching her “throw away” all of her money on “stuff.” But she really enjoys and takes care of her belongings (and “her” money is supposed to be for whatever “she” wants). I get [almost] just as excited as she does when she gets a new addition. Her obsessions have led her to a love for making her own YouTube videos, which I think are ridiculously adorable. I’ve even started helping her make and post her videos to YouTube! What can I say? Somehow, she’s managed to suck me into her world! I’m so glad to get to connect with her through the things she loves. I hope she knows that.

How grateful I am that she’s such a great big sister!

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I’m the oldest of 3 girls, so I know what it’s like to be a big sister. I remember having to baby-sit and drive my sisters around. I hated it. My sisters and I didn’t get along until we were pretty much grown. My girls are the complete opposite. They are best friends, even Taylor, who’s 4-6 years older than the rest of the girls. I love that she plays with them, teaches them, and nurtures them. She’s like their second mother! She is such an important part of her sisters’ lives, molding them into who they will be when they’re older. She is such a great role model, sister, and friend. I hope she knows that.

How confident I am that she will be successful in life!

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For me, success isn’t defined by the amount of possessions you own, how high on the career ladder you climb, or how big your bank account is, it’s how happy and how loved you are. If you love your life and the people in it, and you have people that love you and make you happy, you are successful. If you happen to have a great career that brings you the money to be able to afford nice possessions, that’s a great bonus! I just know that having all the money in the world can’t buy happiness or love, so without those things, money is worthless. I’d rather my kids be poor and happy than rich and miserable (not that I’m saying all poor people are happy or all rich people are miserable…I’d prefer my kids to turn out to be rich happy people if possible! LOL!). Over the last 10 years I have witnessed the things that are important to Taylor, and I am confident that she will be successful because she cares deeply about others and knows how to go after the things that make her happy. She is responsible, reliable, honest (to a fault), motivated, and confident. I hope she knows that.

How hard I try to be a good mom for her!

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Growing up, my mom worked a lot. When she came home, she was tired. Between being gone all day and being too tired to do anything but cook and clean for us each night, my mom didn’t do things like go on field trips, eat lunch at school, take me to extracurricular activities, plan play dates and sleepovers, or even drive me to my friends’ houses if I was invited out. My mom didn’t ask me about school or help me with my homework. She didn’t talk to me about my body, or boys. She didn’t cuddle with me, read me stories, or tuck me into bed. The things I remember my mom doing were working, cooking, shopping, and cleaning. I never equated those things as part of being a good mom. When I became an adult, I realized they are! My mom showed her love in different ways, but growing up, I felt unloved, unwanted, abandoned, alone. I decided as soon as I got pregnant with my first child that I would show my kids so much love that they would never ever doubt for a second how deeply I care for them. I try so hard to really listen when she speaks to me, not push too hard, encourage her enough, let things go to keep the peace, give her the freedom to make many of her own decisions (which is really hard for this control freak!), be active in her school and social life, and accept her for who she is, to love her unconditionally. Just like any mom, I fail constantly, but I never stop trying to be better. I hope she knows that.

How blessed I am to be her mom!

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Taylor is such a blessing in my life. She makes me a better person. She has forced me to see life from a perspective unlike my own. She has challenged me as a parent, making me a better parent. I can already see that we are going to be the best of friends for the rest of our lives, and I’m grateful for that. I’m so blessed to get to watch her spread her wings and fly. It’s hard to let go, but I hope she flies as far and as high as she desires…and if she ever needs a place to land, my arms are always open wide. I hope she knows that.

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Happy 10th Birthday Taylor Grace! No matter how old you are, you’ll always be my baby!

6 Things I Love About My 6 Year Old

My sweet little Tristyn Mikaela turns 6 today! Sometimes I can’t even imagine my life before she was in it, and other times, I can’t believe it’s been six whole years since the day she was born!

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What a happy day that was! I went to the hospital to be induced on a Thursday night and by Friday afternoon, she was here! All 7 lbs of her!

Tristyn's First Year

She was such a cute baby, and such an easy going one too, which really worked out for me since I got pregnant with Trini when she was only 5 months old!

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I am so happy to be this little girl’s mommy! In honor of her 6th birthday, I’d like to dedicate a post to her and share with the world (or at least the 10 people in the world that read my blog ;)) 6 things that I love about her.

Her Name

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I hate to start this tribute off with something negative, but because it’s such a part of her personality, I have to go there! We call Tristyn “The Wailer.” All of my girls can be dramatic, but no one gets quite as loud as Tristyn when she’s upset…or excited…or just talking! LOL! When she’s upset, whether it’s because she’s gushing blood from an injury or she just can’t find something she’s looking for, she wails. There’s just no other way to describe it. Imagine long, high pitched, ear piercing moans and shrieks: wails. It’s literally enough to make you want to stick pens in your own ears, but somehow, over time, I’ve learned to tune it out enough to calmly talk to her when she’s upset (instead of putting her out of ear shot until she stops so I won’t lose it). It’s an acquired skill that has come in handy in other situations as well. I can now eat lunch inside the enclosed McDonald’s playground for one thing! LOL! Oddly enough, the name “Tristan” stems from translations of words meaning “noise,” “bold,” “sad,” and “sorrowful.” Coincidence? I think not! LOL! I didn’t like the meaning of the name when I picked it (I named her after Brad Pitt’s character in Legends of the Fall), but man does it suit her!

Her Resilience

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When I got pregnant with Tristyn, I was working full-time as an Assistant Manager at Aldi. My job required a lot of physical activity: lifting, bending, walking, etc. Twelve weeks into my pregnancy, I tore my placenta and had to go on bed rest. I didn’t have any further complications with my pregnancy (other than not being able to work), but she was born with a Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD). I’ll never forget how terrified I was when the doctor at the hospital told me my baby had a hole in her heart. It didn’t make it any easier when he said there was an 80% it would close on it’s own (that left 20 whole percent that it wouldn’t!), or that the worst case scenario was she’d have to have open heart surgery at one year old. Of course, I had faith that she would be OK, and I prayed like crazy that the hole would close on it’s own, but it was still pretty stressful. We saw a cardiologist once a month to monitor her condition. She never had any issues despite having a “moderate” sized hole in her heart, and by the time she was 6 months old, they couldn’t hear the murmur anymore. At 10 months they confirmed via ultrasound that the hole had closed on it’s own! We were beyond thankful! But the fun didn’t stop there!

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She was diagnosed with Eczema herpeticum when she was 18 months old. We realized pretty early on that she had eczema, since her skin felt like sand paper despite all the lotion I constantly rubbed on her. Then we realized she had herpes since she started getting fever blisters around her mouth, which we had experienced with Taylor quite often during the first four years of her life. What we weren’t ready for was a combination of the two! The first episode was sooo bad. Her entire body was covered in blisters, she couldn’t stop scratching them, and everything I put on them made it worse. I had to take her to the children’s hospital in the middle of the night just to get pain medicine because they didn’t know what else to do. We started seeing a dermatologist after that. The dermatologist put her on a regimen of weekly bleach baths (1/4 cup bleach added to her bath water) and a topical corticosteroid to keep her eczema maintained, as well as an oral antiviral medicine for when her herpes flares up and an antibiotic to cure the infection. For a while, it got much better. Her skin didn’t feel like sand paper anymore, and her herpes was only flaring up once a month or so.

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Towards the end of last year, she started having more outbreaks than normal. We discovered she had mononucleosis after I insisted the doctor investigate. She’s still having multiple outbreaks every month, but not six like she had in November of last year! As bad as the herpes is, as long as we don’t let it go untreated, it doesn’t risk getting infected, which can be life-threatening.

Tristyn asthma

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She also has asthma, which is far scarier to me than anything else we’ve dealt with. Two years ago, my son ended up in the hospital for four days, unable to breathe on his own for two of those (despite a ridiculous amount of medicine). There’s nothing scarier than a doctor telling you they’ve done all they can do and it’s just not helping. Fortunately, in Jules’ case, it just took the medicines an extra long time to start working and the children’s hospital had machines that could force air into his lungs until then. He’s been on maintenance meds and has been fine ever since. With Jules, I didn’t even know he had asthma because I never heard him wheeze and I never saw him struggle to breathe (until it got really bad of course). With Tristyn, she wheezes and struggles, and it scares the crap out of me! I have a stock pile of rescue inhalers, and she takes 2 maintenance meds daily, but sometimes thoughts of the meds not working and my baby not being able to breathe creep in. Thankfully, God has given me the strength to endure. He has given me comfort that I cannot get from anywhere else, not even medicine (and I am one of those people who puts a lot more faith in science and medicine than I probably should). While Tristyn isn’t the only one of my kids with health issues (Jules and Ty both have asthma, and Taylor has chronic stomach issues), she has had the most frequent ones. And she seems totally unphased by it. She takes her meds and probiotics like a champ. She tells me anytime she gets an outbreak (sometimes it’s on her torso or thighs where I don’t really see unless I’m bathing or dressing her, which she’s able to do herself now). She even carries the topical cream we use for her herpes so she can apply it as she needs it. She’s one tough cookie!

Her Brain

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Tristyn is a lot like my oldest daughter Taylor: creative, social, honest (to a fault), and smart. When someone says their kid is smart, they’re usually saying that they “get” things before other kids their age, things like colors, letters, numbers, shapes, math, etc., “school stuff.” Taylor and Tristyn exhibit almost all of the signs (except the speech problems) for dyslexia and ADHD (although their cases don’t seem to be severe by any means), so they struggle in school. It took both of them longer than anyone else in their pre-k classes to memorize the alphabet, recognize and write their letters (including their names), rhyme words, count syllables, and they still both have trouble sounding out words and inverting letters, numbers, and math signs. When I say my girls are smart, I mean they understand how things work. The are both very good at watching someone else do something and then mimicking it.  Most people are highly surprised that they struggle so hard in school because they don’t come across as the type who would. They are both highly observant and well spoken. They could talk to you all day long about stuff they’re interested in, just don’t ask them to take a written test on it. I may not be able to brag about their grades, but I’m so proud of how hard they try and never give up! Despite all the challenges she faces, Tristyn has still learned to read this year in kindergarten!

Her Love For Everyone

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Tristyn, unlike myself, is a people person. She always wants to be around her sisters and her friends. She gets along with everyone she meets and I think it’s because she’s just so welcoming and sweet. She loves the people at church, at school, in our sports groups, and of course in our family. She even loves animals…like all of them (again, my total opposite! LOL!). I may be an introvert and avoid people most of the time, but that doesn’t mean I like it. I wish I could be more like Tristyn and love everyone!

What a Great Sister She Is

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Tristyn and Taylor

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Tristyn is slap dab in the middle of the kids. She has two older siblings and two younger siblings. She may be the middle child, but you’d never know it. She’s really great at being a little sister and a big sister. She’s the youngest in one “set of kids” and the oldest in another. She listens to Jules and Taylor and she looks out for Trini and Ty. I call her “The Ring Leader” because she’s usually the one coming up with the ideas for what The Littles should do next. She’s pretty much Taylor’s mini-me! LOL!

Her Personality

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Tristyn personality

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Tristyn is such a sassy girl! But she’s no princess. One minute she’s putting on my high heeled shoes, grabbing a purse, some sun glasses and a “cell phone” and strutting around the house with her hands on her hips. The next she’s in her underwear rolling around outside in the dirt. She loves to have her nails painted, but she enjoys fishing with her dad too. She’s very outgoing and energetic. She’s always singing and dancing (and not just at the house). She cracks me up! She is such a light in our home and I’m so glad to call her mine!

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Last night, I gave my five year old little girl Eskimo, butterfly, and regular kisses and hugs for the last time. Tonight, I’ll be snuggling with my six year old!

If you have a baby, don’t blink! It really does go by so fast!

What it’s Like to Have a Teen, Tween, and Toddler

Teen, tween, and toddler. Those are pretty scary words to a parent. Parenting is a challenge at any stage, but it seems like these stages come with an extra layer of difficulty.

You get pregnant and you imagine your baby will be a perfect little angel from birth through all of those stages. You know you’ll be a better parent, so your kid will be better than all the others you’ve seen.

You have your baby and you’re convinced: this baby is the cutest, most awesome baby that ever lived! You just know your baby will do great things!

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Then that baby becomes a toddler. Suddenly, your precious perfect angel isn’t behaving the way your thought she would. Tantrums ensue and you’re convinced that your baby has become possessed by Satan himself. You know it isn’t your parenting, because you’ve got that locked down. After all, you read all the books and articles on how to be the best parent ever. You’ve watched every episode of Super Nanny just so you’d know what not to do.

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Somehow, by the grace of God, you survive the toddler years. Preschool starts and your child is able to follow simple instructions without a complete meltdown. They aren’t the perfect angel you envisioned, but they don’t test your sanity on a daily basis. With each year, they get more independent and self-sufficient, which allows you to take a breather so you can handle those moments when they aren’t so well behaved without having a complete meltdown yourself.

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Suddenly, your child thinks they know everything. They become so independent and self-sufficient that they don’t think they need your guidance or supervision. You have to slap yourself to make sure you’re not dreaming because you thought this was what happens when they become a teenager…your baby is only ten. Surely, we have skipped a stage.

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Then the teenage years come. The mood swings, the attitude! Your child now knows that they know everything. Trying to convince them they don’t is like trying to walk on water. It’s impossible. They don’t want to come out of their room except to eat, and even then, they try to convince you that they should be allowed to eat in their room. Their entire life is consumed by the desire to do what they want with whom they want to do it with. 

I haven’t made it past the teenager stage, so I can only hope that what comes next is a well-rounded adult who can take care of themselves, start a family and get the hell back that they gave me from their own child. That’s the dream anyway.

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Having a child in any one of these difficult stages is challenging, to say the least. Now imagine you have one in every stage at the same time! That is my current situation. I have a toddler, a preschooler, a kindergartner, a tween, and a teen.

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My current toddler has been the easiest of all 5. She still has her moments of fit pitching and being completely unreasonable, but not nearly as much as her brother and sisters had at her age. Thank you God. Thank you.

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My preschooler is my most stubborn child by far, but she gets easier and easier to deal with as she gets older. Her meltdowns are getting shorter and fewer, but they still make me give into her much more than I have with anyone else. My philosophy on parenting is: Do whatever works! You should definitely not let your children walk all over you, but there are just some battles that aren’t worth fighting. I have certain rules and expectations that are non-negotiable, but there are plenty that I don’t strictly enforce, depending on the child. I expect much more out of my older kids than my younger ones, but there are certain things I let my 4 year old get away with that I don’t let anyone else get away with because I’d rather save my sanity.

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My kindergartner is a bit of a drama queen, but she’s at that stage where she understands that there are consequences for her actions. When she gets upset, she makes sure everyone knows it, but it’s always usually short-lived.

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My tween is usually a very big help to me. She’s a fabulous big sister and usually wants to help me with anything I ask. She’s also in that “tween” stage, which means she can be very unreasonable, very moody, and thinks she knows better than her parents at times. She has definitely tried to grow up faster than my son. I have allowed her to do things I would have never thought I’d allow at her age, but because I know my child, I know that she wants to wear make-up, shave, “date,” and have a cell phone because she’s mimicking me. It’s actually natural and healthy for a child to want to do these things, and I’ve realized that as long as she’s not acting inappropriately for her age, there’s no real harm in allowing her to do them (with a lot of supervision). To her, having a boyfriend just means that she plays with her “boyfriend” on the playground at school and talks to him on the phone. I have read her texts, listened in on her phone calls and actively talk to her about their relationship. All of it has been very age appropriate and innocent. I know that it might not always be that way, but for now, I don’t have any fear that allowing her to shave, wear make-up, call a boy her “boyfriend” or have a cell phone means that she’ll end up pregnant at 16. I actually think it’s more often the kids whose parents refuse to talk to them about that kind of stuff and let them experiment with it age appropriately who are the ones that end up pregnant at 16. Here’s my philosophy: It’s my job as a parent to educate my children on how to be independent, not to try and control everything they do. Yes, it is also my job to keep them safe, so if I see them doing something that I feel has more risk than benefit, I will step in. I know that by letting them make as many decisions on their own as they can, I’m leaving the doors of communication and trust open so that I can “supervise” them without making them feel the need to hide things from me. If you think that you can control everything your child does, you’re wrong. They will find a way to do the things they really want to do, they just won’t let you know about it…and by the time you do, it’ll probably be too late. I want my kids to take my advice and heed my warnings. They won’t do that if they think I’m always being unreasonable. If I don’t have a good logical reason behind my rules, they’ll think I’m just being mean for no reason. I’m super honest with my kids. We talk about everything. That’s what builds trust. Does that mean I’m guaranteeing they won’t make mistakes? No, but I know that I’ve given them the tools to make the best choice. That’s the thing with choices. Just because you know something is wrong doesn’t mean you’ll choose to do what’s right. Like I said, it’s my job to educate, not to dictate. 

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My teenager hasn’t been a teenager very long, but so far, he’s not so bad. He can definitely get that know-it-all attitude from time-to-time, but for the most part, he listens to his mama like a good boy. He knows I am the true owner of all his prized possessions and I can take them away just as fast as I gave them. He’s definitely become more picky about what he likes, which I guess is just part of growing up and becoming your own person. I try not to harp on him too much, because he’s very responsible and self-driven. He’s in all advanced classes at school and still manages to make straight A’s despite never asking for help from me anymore. In his spare time he reads science articles and tries to learn foreign languages and HTML code (yeah, that doesn’t sound like my idea of fun either). He baby-sits the girls for me anytime I need it, and he actually takes it seriously (and he doesn’t even get paid for it!). He still treats Taylor like she’s scum of the earth, but as long as she keeps her distance, there’s peace. He’s never tried to hurt her, he just has no patience with her. I guess I can’t expect everyone to get along all the time. I didn’t like my sisters growing up, but we’re the best of friends today, so I know there’s hope!

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Having a teen, tween, toddler, preschooler and kindergartner is exhausting at times, but there is good and bad with every stage. Sure my threenager can be a real pain, but she’s the most laid back of all my kids. Because she’s able to play so well on her own, I’m able to spend a good amount of time writing, making this blog possible. My 4 year old can have moments of stubbornness that I can’t seem to overcome, but she’s also the first one in my lap every night and tells me I’m “the best mommy ever” more than anyone else. My 5 year old wails like she’s dying over the most trivial things, but she’s the leader of the Littles, keeping them entertained and happy in a way that no one else can. She’s constantly telling me I’m beautiful and keeps me smiling with her incessant singing and dancing. My 9 year old can be moody and unreasonable in her requests, but she helps me take care of our family and our home, taking some of the burden off my shoulders. My teen might make me want to punch him in the throat sometimes with the smart ass things he says, but I know he’s got my back any time I need it. And even though he acts like he doesn’t want anything to do with the rest of us most of the time, he still wants to talk to me about what’s going on in his life and occasionally watch a TV show together. He may act like he doesn’t need me, but I can tell he still wants me around.

Like I said before, parenting is a challenge, at any stage. You have to figure out what works best for you and yours. What works for me might not work for you. The most important thing is that you don’t get bogged down with what other people think. Parenting is hard enough without all the shaming and judgement that goes on. I’m sure some people shudder when I post a pic of my kids in their underwear. If that bothers you, ask yourself, “What is the big deal?” So long as their privates are kept private, I see nothing wrong with them hanging out around the house in their undees. If I start bringing them to Walmart dressed like that, feel free to start worrying.

What has been the most difficult stage of parenting for you? Is there anything you do as a parent that you said you’d NEVER do?