Growing up, being a mom was always a dream of mine. When people asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, it was always “a mommy.” Maybe a marine biologist… and a mommy. Or maybe a teacher… and a mommy. But I hadn’t planned on having children as young as I did. I was still in my last year of college when I became pregnant with my first son. His dad (now my husband) and I were 21 and 22 years old, respectively (I’m the older woman!). At the time, having children didn’t mesh well with our carefree, late-night rendezvous in his parents’ basement. I had plans to finish my English degree and find a job as a writer or an editor. Then I would get married. Buy a house. Have a baby. Become a mom. Maybe when I was 30.
Life doesn’t always work as planned (especially when you don’t use birth control), but I’m so thankful that in this case, it didn’t. My son may not have been in my plans at the time, but being a mother always had been. And because of that–scared though we were–abortion wasn’t an option. Adoption wasn’t an option. Somehow, we would find a way to care for this unexpected baby boy.
Flash forward through a lot of hardships and struggles to getting married to my son’s father, picking out our first house as a family, and making plans for another child. But this time, it didn’t seem like having another child was going to happen as we had planned. It took nearly two years of on-purpose trying to get pregnant before my second son was finally a reality. And although this child was planned and desperately longed and prayed for, finding out that I was pregnant a second time gave me that same, scared feeling that I had the first time.
My story of becoming a mom, twice, leads me to believe that there is no “right time” when it comes to having children. While I do recommend using birth control until you’re “ready” to have children, I am also writing to say that whether it’s a part of your plans or not, becoming a mom is elating, terrifying, and rewarding in ways I could have never imagined. And in the 6 1/2 years of being a mother, I know that the only thing that you really need to make a decision to become a mom, whether the pregnancy was planned or unplanned, is the ability to love.
Although being a mom was always in my plans, I am blessed by both of my children beyond anything I could have ever dreamed. And I wouldn’t trade either of my unique and drastically different experiences of becoming a mom for any other dream I’ve had.
I have a powerful story to share with you today. I have a guest post from an incredibly inspiring woman named Heather Von St James. Heather contacted me earlier this week, asking so genuinely and graciously if I could share her story on Close Families. She needs to tell it. She needs you to hear it. I could not wait to share with you the story of this woman, her supportive husband, and their beautiful daughter. Please visit Heather’s website, www.mesothelioma.com/blog/authors/heather, to learn more about her family, her life, her courage, and the cancer that she has beat all odds against today. You won’t regret your time spent over there; it’s a beautiful blog. And here’s her story:
The Power of Hope in Treating Cancer
When someone asks my daughter about my cancer, she always tells people that she saved my life. This is my 7-year-old’s automatic response. It is as natural for her as it is to say that she feels sick or tired. People may not understand what she says, but I will be the first one to explain how true it is.
My husband Cameron and I were married for seven years until we thought about having children. At the time, I was 35 years old and nervous that my age would cause issues. Luckily, we became pregnant within three months and my pregnancy progressed wonderfully. After having an emergency C-section, I was finally able to hold my daughter for the first time and the experience was unmatched by any I have ever felt. In my arms was this perfect, beautiful creature. All I could think of was loving and nurturing the adorable child in my arms.
Within a few months, my life changed for the worse. A few months after my daughter’s birth, I was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma. This type of cancer is especially dangerous and kills 95 percent of the people who are diagnosed. According to my doctor, I would die in 15 months if I did not immediately start treatment. I knew I had to decide what to do, but I could not. I was paralyzed with fear as I sat absorbing the news. My husband decided for us and we began to travel to Boston for treatment.
The treatment process began with a risky surgery called an extrapleural pneumonectomy. In it, they removed my left lung, and part of the lining of my heart and my diaphragm. The surgery was so traumatic that I had to spend a month recuperating at the hospital and in an outpatient facility. Afterward, I spent another two months at my parents’ house in South Dakota where my daughter was being taken care of throughout the entire ordeal. Due to all the time spent in treatment, I was forced to spend a month without seeing my newborn daughter. The only thing that helped me get through it was the thought of Lily growing up without a mother.
Once I had recovered enough, I returned to our home in Minnesota. At home I started chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Through all of the pain and suffering, I kept strong because I knew my daughter needed me. She needed a mother to take care of her and guide her as she grew up. I could not allow myself to give into cancer no matter how painful or long my recovery was. Today, my daughter tells people that she saved my life and that couldn’t be more true.
We have been back from our AWESOME trip to Tampa, FL for an entire week now, and yet I still feel like I’m in vacation mode. It’s hard adjusting back to life of chores, bills, and daily life when you’ve been floating around in vacation mode. It’s even more difficult to come back to reality since we’ve made a 2-year plan to officially move there… More on that decision to come in a later post.
It’s a dreary, cloudy, cold day in the Midwest today, and I’m missing the Florida sunshine and salty air coming off of the Gulf of Mexico. Visit our family vacation one more time with me through some photos we took along the way… And maybe next week I will be back to posting normal stuff.
We are almost three weeks into growing our first family vegetable garden, and we are having good results so far. All of the plants that we started over two weeks ago have now sprouted (the green peppers were the last to pop up from that group; just as I was starting to worry about them, they started peaking through the soil!).
Last Sunday, we started our second group of plants which includes two kinds of tomatoes and some lavender. None of those have sprouted yet, so they are still under their plastic “greenhouse” cover. Once they begin sprouting, the cover will be removed, and they will find a sunshiny spot in a windowsill too.
I’ve been researching natural remedies, and I have found that dried lavender is potentially useful for things from digestion/anti-bloating, to keeping your dresser drawers smelling fresh and keeping the moths away (which is a problem I’ve never actually experienced… Does that really even happen?), to a calming aide for better sleep. These uses are all supposedly due to the relaxing properties in the lavender. Of course, be sure you do your own research before you go munching on a bunch of lavender flowers. (I do have a Lavender Butter Cookie recipe from a friend that I can’t wait to use! They are YUM.) This is all knowledge that I’m just beginning to acquire, and by no means am I an expert, but it’s very interesting!
One of the most pressing reasons that we wanted to start a vegetable garden this year is to get back to eating more “real” foods. There are so many digestive issues out there that really can be solved or soothed by simply getting back to the foods that God and his natural creation has provided us. It makes sense, doesn’t it? When humans get ahold of something, we try to alter it, process it, to fit it for our own agenda or convenience, and doing so takes away some of the natural, perfect properties of the food. The more wholesome foods we can get our hands on, the better off our bodies will be. Simple. And what a rewarding experience it will be to get to eat the “fruits” of our labor.
Stay tuned: the next step is to plant these babies (and more) into the GROUND!
Have you started a garden this year? How is it going for you so far? Please share your tips and tricks with us below! I love learning from YOU.
As I pulled on my tennis shoes, I had lovely thoughts like, “I feel great today. The weather is perfect for a nice 3-mile run.” Or “I’m going to glide like a gazelle across the pavement.”
I gave my husband and the boys a quick wave, put on the headphones, and left. I started a fast walk as I fiddled with my iPhone: music on Pandora; tracking the workout with MapMyRun. And I ran.
As I began, my steps fell in sync with the music. “I could run forever,” I thought.
.25 mile later, my breathing started to get ragged. “Breathe in through the nose, out through the mouth. I can do this.”
Breathing under control, I turned onto a gravel road and faced nothing but fields and a farmhouse. My legs became heavy, tired. I focused on my arms, imagining they were parts of a machine, pumping and pulling me forward.
The farmhouse was on my right, a small house with several out-buildings. “Probably for storing equipment,” I thought. But I read a book recently about a family of country boys that were buying women and killing them, storing them in buildings just like those. I moved to the other side of the road.
Halfway up a small hill, my calves were on fire. “What happens if they burn right off my body?”
Then I heard, “Distance. One. Mile. Time. Ten. Minutes. And. Forty-Three. Seconds.”
“It’s only been a mile?” I tried to pick up the pace, but my legs didn’t seem willing. “I’ll just do 2.5 miles instead of three,”I thought. And then, “No. Three miles this time. I’m doin’ it.”
Finally, I reached the turn-around point. I paused the app, stretching my calves and catching my breath. A truck rolled slowly over the top of the hill. “Oh great, they’re going to stop and ask if I need help. I probably look like I’m dying.” The truck passed without pause. “Well I guess they’ve never heard of small town kindness. What if I were dying?”
I tapped the Resume button and started running again. “Halfway done. I can do this.”
My thoughts wandered until I heard, “Distance. Two. Miles. Time. Twenty-one. Minutes. And. Fifty-eight. Seconds.”
My calves started to burn again. I felt the back of my ankles tightening. “I can’t do this anymore,” I thought.
The next song started playing: “Die Young” by Ke$ha. I thought about my son. Cystic Fibrosis. Stories from adults with CF, swearing that running is what keeps them healthy. Ke$ha sang, “We’re gonna die young.” I fought back the tears. Pounded fear into the pavement. With each stride I thought, “Not if I can help it.”
When I crossed our driveway, I heard, “Distance. Three. Miles.” I shut it off.
I was finished. I did it. I will do it again. For myself. For my son.
My little guy is now 10 1/2 months old, and looking and acting more like a toddler everyday. He is standing for a few seconds on his own, walking while holding on to furniture, and climbing on everything his short little legs can pull up on. He can crawl across the living room and be halfway up the stairs in less than ten seconds!
His meals are also becoming much more toddler-like, in that we are avoiding purees as much as we can (sometimes those handy pouches like the Sprout or Happy Baby brands are convenient for on-the-go snacks!) and focusing on “real” foods. With this change, I have to repeat to myself almost daily, “I am not a short-order cook. I am not a short-order cook.” Sometimes it can be hard not to let his CF (cystic fibrosis for new readers) get the better of me. With CF, growth and maintaining a healthy weight can be difficult, but it is an important factor for good lung health. Also, once I give him his dose of enzymes (which he has to take before he eats, every time he eats or his body can not process the fat and protein), he only has an hour time frame to eat, and there is a limited amount of enzymes he can take in a day, so if he doesn’t eat well, then I have to wait at least a couple of hours before I can give him more enzymes to eat again. So for that reason, I struggle with the feeding choices. The part of me that is always concerned for his health wants to keep offering him things until I find something that he’s willing to eat. However as his dietician pointed out, doing that is teaching him to be in control of the food, which can lead to unhealthy habits. I know that this is true from experience: my now six-year-old only ate cereal, chicken, meatballs, corn, grapes, and snacks for the first four years of his life. Why? Because I would give in to his pickiness. If he wouldn’t eat the spaghetti and broccoli that we had for supper, I would make him his own separate meal of one of those things that I knew he would eat. Today, he’s a much healthier eater, but I wish I would have been persistent when he was younger about encouraging a variety of healthier foods for him. And so with my 10 month old, I am being persistent. I will give him a couple of options at snacks and 3-4 different foods for meals, and he eats what he eats. If it’s all or most of it, I feel good. If he barely touches it, I worry a bit about him gaining weight, but I don’t give in go through the fridge or pantry, shelling out food after food until I find something that he will eat. I does help me to know that I still nurse him or give some some formula after each meal, but the amount of that is slowly decreasing, and starting next month, we will begin transitioning him to whole milk! Stay tuned for next Munchkin Meals to see how that goes!
So, what does a day like this look like? I’ve taken a lot of pics to show you! (All from my phone, so I apologize about the poor quality. I’m definitely not a professional photographer!)
Breakfast: Whole wheat bagel with cream cheese and a banana. He ate about 1/4 of a large bagel and several bites of the banana, and then I nursed him.
Mid-Morning Snack: Chobani greek yogurt. He has one of these almost every day, because it’s so healthy for him and high in protein. He almost always eats the whole thing like he did with this one!
Lunch: Grilled cheese and avocado (such a yummy combination!) with strawberry slices and a few yogurt drops. He ate about a 1/4 of a full sandwich (and I finished the rest of it!) but barely tried the strawberry or yogurt drops. A pretty light lunch. Then I nursed him again.
Afternoon Snack: Honeydew melon, string cheese, and Annie’s Organic Bunnies cheddar crackers. This was his first time with the melon, but he usually likes the cheese and crackers. However, this particular time he was completely uninterested. I did give him a bottle, for his vitamins and salt intake, but only 4oz, because I do not want him to fill up on formula alone. After the bottle, he ate a couple of crackers, but most of this snack went untouched. (PS-I also realized after taking these pictures how messy our highchair cover was that day! Just keeping it real.)
Supper: I made Creamy Cauliflower Soup (a recipe shared by Allyson at Domestic Superhero, except we used “real” foods instead of the low-fat versions. We need the higher calories and fat for my little CFer!) and BLTs. He was hungry and crabby before the bacon was finished baking (Anyone else cook bacon in the oven?? So much easier!), so instead of the BLT, I made a slice of whole grain toast and spread some avocado on it. He ate his whole bowl of soup (probably 1/2 cup) plus several bites of the toast. I nursed him afterward, and then he was ready for bed! Being so active (and down to only two naps a day) wears him out!
Some days are better. Some days are worse. But I refuse to let the fears of CF run our kitchen. Nutrition with CF-specific supplements will run it instead. And starting while he is young is the key.
Thanks for reading today! Be sure to check out the other Munchkin Meals link-ups for more healthy meal and snack ideas for babies and toddlers!
My son used to love Hot Wheels cars. He wanted a new one every time we went to the store (and for only $1, I have to admit that I sometimes used them as a
bribe reward for good behavior!). But as he has gotten a little older, he has found new toys like Beyblades and Legos and any sort of sports equipment he can get his hands on that have taken over his interest. His huge bin of Hot Wheels cars have fallen by the wayside and been slightly forgotten. He will still get them out for a race down his ramp occasionally, but nothing like he used to. I suppose this is just the natural effect of a little boy growing up and forgetting his first fascination with cars. I’m sure that fascination will come around again by the time he’s 15 or so…
Until then, I wanted to try giving our Hot Wheels collection a new life. For a more creative play experience, I added some unexpected materials to go along with the cars. It really makes their little minds stretch… And parents’ minds too, for coming up with the ideas!
Create Your Own Hot Wheels Dirt Track
-Empty egg carton filled with “dirt” materials (I used coffee grounds, unsweetened cocoa, and flour)
-Empty shoebox lid
-Spray bottle with water
-Hot Wheels cars
I set out all the materials, and when my son (6YO) came home from school, he asked (somewhat skeptically), “What’s this?”
So I said, “It’s a Create-Your-Own Dirt Track and Car Wash for your Hot Wheels cars! You can play with it however you like.”
“Oh. Okay!” he said, and he got right down to playing. Since there was mostly snow on the ground at the time, he wanted his track to have a lot of flour in it for some snow. Once he had his dirt track made, he raced and crashed his cars, demolition derby style.
I think he enjoyed getting them dirty just so he could wash them off in the “car wash.”
Build Your Own Hot Wheels Town
-Large piece of butcher paper (you could also use the white inside of wrapping paper)
-Markers, crayons, or colored pencils
First, I drew a road, making sure that the lanes were large enough to fit the Hot Wheels cars. Then I made a couple of buildings and labeled them. I also made a couple of trees out of the blocks and drew a few flowers for decoration on the town map, to encourage my son to add more.
However, he was much less interested in this activity. He barely played with these materials, only wanting to build a few more buildings out of the blocks and then move on to something else! The baby boy, however, really enjoyed it! He colored on the roads with the colored pencils and pushed the cars along the streets with me. Never underestimate the little ones!
Even though my older son was much more excited about the dirt track than the town building, I wanted to share both ideas with you in case your child is the opposite of mine! What I love about these play “invitations” are that they are a simple way to encourage creative play, without demanding it and without too much adult structure or intervention. You can simply set out the materials and let them create (or not create!) as they like. If you’ve never tried something like this with your children, I encourage you to give it a go! You can find many more awesome ideas on Instagram using the hashtag #invitationtoplay or #invitationtocreate. You can also follow me on IG @closefamilies.