Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Landefeld Ladies go to Lansing

Wait. What? Is that me? How did I end up sharing my story before a Michigan House Committee ? Let's take a quick trip back.

MARCH 28, 2014: I wrote this post about Uber describing how much I was loving the freedom their service allowed me. This was not a sponsored post from Uber, just an independent customer review. Knowing the company's presence was somewhat new in Michigan I forwarded my post to Uber Detroit, so they could see the positive impact they were having. I received a very gracious reply from Mary Ellen,  Detroit Community Manager along with a customized promo code.

NOVEMBER 11, 2014: I received a phone call from Michael White, GM of Uber Michigan. He had been forwarded my blog post and was wondering if I'd be willing to speak at a legislative hearing in Lansing on Thursday to tell my story and how Uber has impacted my life.
Being a new technology platform, Uber is not covered under existing Michigan law. To address this, new legislation is being considered by Michigan State House Energy and Technology committee. Passage of this bill would confirm Uber's (and like-service Lyft's) place in Michigan and open ways for them to operate throughout the state.

I was a little surprised and very flattered by the phone call. The idea that my story, my voice,  could potential impact legislation was mind-boggling. Of course I was going to do it, I just needed to figure out how.

Except I didn't.
Not really.
 Potential solutions to my initial concerns were offered before I even voiced them. I could bring my daughter if I chose to, or childcare would be reimbursed if I chose to leave her at home. Transportation would of course be provided. I could ride with members of the Uber Michigan team who would be travelling from Detroit to Lansing that day, or they could certainly send me an Uber. Staff would be on hand to assist with Emy while I spoke and basically we wouldn't have to worry about a thing.
The only thing they were asking of me was to write a 2-3 minute statement sharing my story and explaining why I support Uber and the passage of the bill.

As Emy would say it was "Easy, peasy, lemon squeezy."
Me and my little lady - ready to take on Lansing.

NOVEMBER 13, 2014: 
Today even began with a huge success. Emy and I were both dressed and ready to go by 7:30 AM. This was no small feat considering most days she doesn't even get out of bed until 7:45. Clay & Cal two members of the Uber Michigan team picked us up and we were off!

Our drivers and chaperones for the day, Cal and Clay from Uber Michigan. These guys were amazing. They took such good care of us all day long ensuring that Emy and I felt comfortable, welcome, and had an enjoyable experience! I like to think you can judge a company by its employees and our new friends only solidified our love for Uber. 

We arrived in Lansing and met GM, Michael White and some members of his team to prepare for the hearing. We were joined by several Uber drivers who had agreed to share their testimony in front of the committee Emy and I were the only riders present. Shortly before 10:30 we walked over to the building where the hearing would take place. As we entered the hustle and bustle of the 3rd floor I was surprised when Emy broke away from me and ran straight into her daddy's arms. Josh had surprised us both by sneaking away from a conference he was attending to meet us!

Coincidentally Josh was attending a conference in Lansing on Thursday. He took some time out of his day to provide moral support and keep an eye on Emy during the proceedings.
My husband never ceases to amaze me with his unconditional love and support

It was exciting to watch the process of a proposed bill being introduced a House committee. Uber's GM, Michael White did an excellent job explaining Uber's role in the legislation and fielding questions from the committee members. The hearing was only allotted 90 minutes. With approximately 10 minutes left, the Chairman explained that straws had been drawn and 2 people who had requested to speak were granted time to give their testimony. I was one of the 2.

Nervously I approached the podium, stumbling as I took my seat. Thankful for the years of public speaking experience teaching elementary school had given me, I quickly got control over my nerves and remained calm and poised while I delivered my testimony.
It went really well. I felt as if I delivered my message clearly and eloquently and that the committee really got to hear a different side of why transportation technologies like Uber are important.
This was the room we met in. I didn't feel comfortable snapping photos during the proceedings, so imagine it full of State Representatives, Uber supporters, and observers. 

Once the hearing had ended we went to lunch with the Uber employees and several of the drivers. It was so fun meeting all these people from all across the Lower Peninsula who had come out to support Uber. There was a feeling of jubilation as we swapped stories and shared our experiences. We had done it. While the bill had yet to be voted on, and would most likely require some revisions along the way, it was clear that we had made an impact. The feeling that my voice and story had contributed to that impact was exhilarating and reinforced my belief that the sharing of stories can make a difference. In this instance, perhaps  it can even shape the law.
Celebrating Mommy's testimony by catching as many snowflakes as possible. 

I was thrilled that I was able to bring Emy with me to witness such a powerful display of civic responsibility. Her presence that day also made an impact. After all, she is an integral part of my story. The stress and concern I felt about how she would handle the long car rides, her behavior in governmental buildings, and her general "fourness" turned out to be non issues. I should have known better. Emy is a rock star among strangers. She thrives on meeting new people and was completely in her element Thursday. Every person she encountered was a new fan she could show off to, and her cute, precocious personality shone all day long.
All in all I think it was a successful day - the Landefeld Ladies had come to Lansing and we rocked it.

The Capitol Building. Lansing, Michigan. 

Here is the statement I prepared.

Good Morning.
My name is Christy Landefeld. I am a visually impaired stay at home mom. I live in Rochester Hills, a city that I love dearly as it is the community where I grew up and where I taught elementary school for 9 years.
I lost my vision when I gave birth to my daughter Emeline, 4.5 years ago. Adjusting to motherhood can be tremendously difficult and my adjustment was made more so by my vision loss.
 Prior to 2010 I rarely thought about how limited transportation options are in suburban metro Detroit. I never needed to think about how I was going to get from one place to another. I just got in my car and went.
All that changed when I was deemed “legally blind” and therefore unable to transport myself or my daughter independently. Now every day is filled with the logistics of our transportation needs. I rely heavily on family and friends to cover the essentials of everyday life – grocery shopping, preschool drop off and pick up, doctor’s appointments. Places I NEED to go. I am lucky to have such a network, but the loss of independent transportation has hit me hard. I am so dependent on others to help fulfil these needs and this dependence can be frustrating on all involved. Life can’t always be planned.  I frequently found myself in situations where I wasn’t doing the things I wanted to do because I didn’t want to inconvenience anyone for something that wasn’t absolutely necessary.  
Uber changed all of that for me.
For the first time in 3 years I found myself with an affordable, convenient alternative that didn’t require hours or days of advance planning. I was able to take my daughter to gymnastics class, the library, our local YMCA on our own schedule. Safe, reliable transportation with courteous drivers was literally at my fingertips.
Being that I was travelling with a preschooler safety was one of my utmost concerns. Through experience I found that every Uber driver I rode with had a clean, well-maintained vehicle with a LATCH system that I could easily install my daughter’s car seat in. Several of the drivers that have provided us rides over the last 9 months have gone above and beyond in their interactions with us. One driver, Blake played Disney songs and sang along with Emy, another driver went out of his way to return a doll shoe we had accidental left behind in his car, before it was even noticed as missing.
Uber has restored a feeling of independence and autonomy in me that I thought was lost. I am so grateful to have the option of safe, affordable, and convenient transportation once again.

Thank you. 

Monday, October 20, 2014


I've been struggling.
Struggling to focus, to produce, to create.
Struggling to be kind to myself, accept reality in all its harsh wonderfulness, be present, be accountable.
Struggling to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and articulate these feelings. Putting them into words identifies them, breathes life into them, and then it is even harder to deny their existence.

I feel as if I am in limbo. I'm undefined. I am a SAHM because I couldn't be a teacher. At least that is how it feels on the dark days. That accepting my disability was an admittance of defeat. Man, I hate the idea of failing. And there are days where I feel as if I am failing at everything. Being a mom, a wife, a woman, a writer, even at being blind.

Because I am not really blind, I am blindish. I am significantly visually impaired but I am really good at getting by. Therefore the question am I really disabled enough rings true at times. This is the question that runs through my brain on a seemingly endless loop especially after any contact with insurance companies.

Most days I know the labels don't matter. I am who I am and can respectfully honor all my limitations physical, emotional, and mental. I am enough. I relish in these moments and hold on to pieces of the peace this acceptance brings to shed light on the dark days, hoping someday I will be enough, be the light to vanquish the dark for good.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

"What's That Doing Here?!?"

I am not a neat person. While I'd like to blame my insufficient housekeeping skills and messy eating habits on my visual impairment, these traits have been around much longer than the damage to my retinas. The low-vision just exacerbates my messy nature.

One of the million things I love about my closest friends is they embrace my slovenly ways. They don't flinch when entering my house requires them to hurdle over piles of shoes, laundry, and dog toys. They point out the toothpaste, smudged makeup, leftover food remnants on my face, clothing, and in my hair in the most casual, non-judgy way possible - occasionally even going full-on mom and just wiping it off with a saliva soaked finger. Friendship doesn't get much closer than that. Once you've spit on your finger and wiped mascara off my temple we are bonded for life.

Some of them even speak my language. Take this text I got tonight.

And then I shared this little gem.

 Which led me to thinking about all of the times I have gotten undressed before bed and tiny scraps of food fall gently to the floor. Evidence of the day's happenings. Sometimes I nod, and say, "Oh, yeah, that's where that almond went." When Emy was a toddler, identifying the source of  random Cheerios was a no brainer. Other times it's a complete mystery as to how uncooked macaroni got in my shirt - especially when I don't recall the last time I cooked macaroni.

So fess up people - What's the craziest thing you've found in your shirt? I can't wait to read your "How'd That Get Here?!" stories! If you're anything like me (or my friend Amanda), I know you have at least one!

While you're reminiscing, you can listen to my current favorite song off my favorite Spotify playlist, courtesy of my friend Jo Ellen. She too, has a story of finding noodles where they should not be, hours after eating. Thankfully, it while she was compiling a great list of songs and inspired the name -  A Bra Full of Pad Thai

Best Coast - When I'm With You [OFFICIAL VIDEO]


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

I Quit

Tonight I quit.
I quit bedtimes that last over an hour.
I quit whining.
I quit crying.
I quit "Daddy is my favorite."
I quit the word. "No."
I quit the incessant, "Mom! Mom! Mom!" (Didn't I used to have a name?)
I quit sinks full of dishes and piles of laundry.
I quit negotiating about what healthy food must be eaten before a "sweet treat" may be consumed.
I quit debates over the merits of underwear.
I quit before sunrise awakenings.
I quit reminders about "please" and "thank-you" and "excuse me."
I quit "I'm full!" when "I'm hungry!" is followed minutes later.
I quit stepping on tiny, plastic toys.
I quit feeling like a failure and that I'm never doing enough.
I quit 'Daniel Tiger' and 'Backyardigans.' Don't even mention 'Doc McStuffins.'
I quit the Frozen soundtrack. For the love of humanity, Let. It. Go.
I quit brushing teeth, hair, trimming toenails, washing hands and faces.
I quit nagging.
I quit quiet time that is never quiet.
I quit hyperactive puppies that will chew anything left on the floor.
I quit.
I quit!

Except you've been asleep for 45 minutes now and I kind of miss your dimple, your voice, your 4 year old sass. So...
Tonight I quit.
Just until tomorrow.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Flashback Friday: Freedom & August Revisited

Emy is staying over at my brother & sister-in-law's house tonight. From the time she was picked up this afternoon until the time Josh and I go get her tomorrow evening I will have spent (GASP!) 30 hours child-free. 30 hours! In. A. Row.

I'm a little excited.
Of course I miss her, but since there aren't people lining up at my door to take the Humongous Puppy off my hands for a day or two, and crate-training isn't an acceptable form of parenthood, I'm going to relish this break from the one creature I'm responsible for who can not be left unattended for any length of time.

Not that I have any majorly fun things planned either. In fact, I didn't even manage to snag a much needed date-night with my husband because he had to work late. It's all good though, I'm getting a chance for some much needed me time.

Having no maternal obligations, and choosing to ignore the laundry obligation, I decided to spend my hours this afternoon doing what I love to do. Playing with books. A dear friend and former colleague recently changed classrooms and surprisingly inherited about 10 boxes of books with her new classroom. Missing the anxiety-ridden thrill and routine of setting up a classroom in August, I readily accepted.

Being back in my old stomping grounds filled me with a variety of emotions. There is so much I miss about teaching. I am also acutely aware of my limitations although there is still a part of me that wishes to deny they exist at all. When I went to write about my feelings, I had a prevalent feeling of deja vu. I'd felt these feelings and perhaps even articulated them before. After a quick glance through the blog, I had indeed.
So here is a link to a post I wrote last August about summer ending and my absence from the classroom. It still rings incredibly true. I hope you enjoy.
New Beginnings

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Not So Little Anymore

Sometime over the past 3 months my daughter became a big kid.
I didn't notice it at first, especially because physically she has remained relatively the same size. Barely tipping the scales at 32 pounds and easily fitting into last summer's 3t clothing she is slight in stature. But size has little to do with this change.

Emy has always been fiercely independent, but quick to ask for help when required. A character trait I relish and adore. I learned very early on in parenting her that unless her safety or overall well-being are at issue, it's just not worth the time and energy to fight her on issues like clothing or hairstyles. She knows her own mind and is quite quick to share it with the world. She's verbal and a problem-solver, and uses her developing leadership skills (okay, bossiness) to easily hold her own with her older cousins and family friends.
But she's still been little, my little snuggle-bug, thumb sucking girl.

Not so much anymore.

I am not sure when this change happened. Perhaps when she began using the term  "best friends" to describe people she loves to be around. The 9 year old granddaughter of our neighbor, and her best little buddy Noah, and her cousins top this list, but she often includes friends from preschool that she hasn't seen since May, and whom I barely know.
Perhaps it began with the "big girl bike" her grandparents gave her for her fourth birthday. The bike that she rides fast and furiously throughout our neighborhood leaving me gasping for breath as I try in vain to keep up.
Perhaps it was the addition of a puppy into our family. Calling Harper her "baby sister" and taking on the role of "big sister," Emy proves daily she is a compassionate and responsible pet owner. Traits that I wouldn't have predicted she'd posses at 4.

I'm sure these all have something to do with her leap into kiddom. But it was on the playground that I could no longer deny this transcendence.

We were at the playground and Emy was happily bouncing from one climbing structure to the next, climbing every ladder, crawling through every tunnel, and whipping down every slide. She was pretending to steer the pirate ship of a play structure when a bigger boy came over and grabbed the steering wheel away from her abruptly. Josh was with me and saw this mild altercation occur and said nothing until Emy grabbed it back, ready to dig those stubborn heels of hers in until he let go. He didn't, instead raised his hand to move her out of the way. Josh called her over and crying tears of anger and frustration she came running over to us. She quickly recovered after a quick talk about sharing and letting other children have a turn. As much as she wants it to be the playground does not belong to her.
She wasn't really in the wrong, but we attempted to teach her that the only person she can control is herself. A hard lesson. One that is forever being relearned by her mother.

 A little while later we ventured over to the other side of the park where there is an even bigger play structure, complete with 2 sets of monkey bars and a climbing wall. Although Emy has been perfecting her climbing skills since she was 8 months old, she has always needed an adult to spot her as she attempted the 6 foot climb. She made a beeline for the rock wall and I followed closely behind, hands ready to provide reassurance and moral support. I was literally 2 steps behind her, yet  I reached the base of the wall in barely enough time to watch her reach the top and pull herself into a beaming stance, relishing her achievement. "Did you see me Mom?!" she boomed from the platform above my head.
I grinned and shook my head in amazement, admitting I hadn't. "Don't worry, I'll do it again!" she proclaimed as she barreled down the slide, arriving at my side before I could reply.

Calling Josh over and hurriedly pulling out my phone so I could capture this momentous occasion, I was beside myself with pride and awe. When had she become so strong? So quick? So confident? So independent?

She continued to play. To climb, run, and jump as I sat there marveling in her strength and quickness. A short while later the same boy joined her at the base of the rock wall, cautiously assessing the situation and before proclaiming that it was too hard, he was too little. Emy was standing beside him, patiently waiting her turn. She encouraged him to try, saying it's not that hard, it just takes practice. He gingerly pulled himself up to the first holds, lost his footing and released his grip. "It's impossible, There is nowhere for my feet. It's too hard." He stated.
"It's not too hard for me." Emy replied. "Watch."
He looked at her much the same way I had, in amazement and disbelief, and uttered only a single "Be careful" as she ascended the wall confidently.

When she came back around, he told her she was good at climbing. To which my precocious daughter replied. "I know. It takes practice."
Then she ran off, hell bent on trying the uneven monkey bars one last time before we headed home, focused on the next challenge she wanted to master, leaving her little girl self (and me) in the dust.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Packed & Ready

From the archives: I found this while going through some unfinished posts and thought I'd share.
July 1, 2014

The night before Emy and I embarked on a road trip with my mother-in-law to visit her family in south-eastern Ohio, Emy was full of questions and excitement:

"Will Dad come?" (No, he has to work. Just me, you, and Grandma Jane.)
"Will Harper miss us? (Probably, but Dad will take good care of her. ) Follow up - "Dad is taking Harper to work?!?" (No, she will stay home, Dad will be home in the evenings and night with her and Luna.)
"Will Luna miss us? (Probably not.)
"Is Grandma Jane's sister in Miami?" Adorably pronounced "Me-am-ee" (No, although there is a Miami in Ohio, it's not the one you're thinking of)
"Is Ohio in Florida?" (No, it's a different state. Like Michigan and Texas)
"I know you mean fly-on-a-plane-trip, not road trip, right Mom?" (No. I mean road trip, because we are driving there in Grandma Jane's car.)
"Will my cousins be there?" (Not the cousins you see all the time in Michigan, but other cousins you may not remember.)
"Can I ride a tractor?" (Probably not, Uncle Donald uses his tractor for working, but I bet we will ride a four-wheeler.)
"A tricycle?" (No a tricycle has 3 wheels, a four wheeler is different. Remember when Joey took you to deliver eggs? You rode on a four-wheeler then.)

So much excitement and anticipation. Woodsfield is a pretty great place.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Flashback Friday - When I Saw Myself as Mom

What's your first memory of motherhood? Was it hours of grueling labor? Was it the moment you first gazed into your newborn's eyes? Was it the first time you held or fed your child? Was the moment you realized you were a MOM when you first took your child home, realizing with increasing panic that you were now responsible for this being?
Was it something else entirely?
For me it was.
I never experienced any of the above scenarios. They weren't part of my journey into motherhood. In fact, my daughter was 3 months old before any of the "momness" clicked in. As many of you know I was too sick after delivery to be a mom in anything but name. I couldn't even take care of myself, spending 9 weeks of my daughter's first 12, in hospitals, relying on nurses, family, friends, and strangers to pick up my motherly duties. I am so thankful for all of those who did what I couldn't. Especially, my husband who, without flinching, became father and mother to Emeline.
The first time I felt like "Mom" was in mid-late August of 2010. I was healthy enough to have stayed out of the hospital for weeks and was slowly regaining my strength. I wasn't quite ready to be left alone with Emy, but Josh and I were slowly establishing a routine.
Each morning, around 7 am, when E would wake, famished (as would become her norm), he would roll out of bed to prep her bottle. As he did this, I would enter her room, get her, and change her diaper. Josh would meet us in the living room, handing me the bottle before going back to bed to catch a few precious moments of sleep. Emy and I would snuggle into the dark green recliner we purchased the night before she made her dramatic arrival, and she would happily begin to eat.
I vividly remember holding her, unsure of whether I should stop her mid-bottle to burp, or take my cues from her. In the end, I left it up to her. At 3 months of age she had far more experience with this whole feeding thing than I did. Most of the time she would drain the very last drop before stopping. I'd prop her upright on my shoulder, her toes barely reaching my belly button, gently pat her back for a few moments before she'd let out a monstrous belch. A sound that made this mama proud.
We'd settle in for a cuddle. One arm would drape around my neck, the other would find her mouth. She has always been a thumb sucker. Our first 3d ultrasound revealed this about her.As well as the fact that she had my nose, and often liked to sleep with her arms stretched above her head. There is no denying that she is my kid. 

We'd drift off to sleep that way. Emy stretched out, her full weight - all 8 + pounds of it, pressed against my chest. It was the first time in months that I felt whole - at peace, able to sleep deeply. For close to 3 hours we'd sleep. We'd sleep through Josh getting ready for work, making coffee, and I'd wake only slightly, when he kissed me goodbye before he left the house. At some point the doorbell would ring and it would rouse us enough that we'd be able to start the day. Usually it was my home care nurse Kathy, quickly followed by whichever dedicated soul had signed up to care for us that day. Their presence, while welcome and very much needed, was enough to break the spell and return me to reality. The reality where I was sick and blind and couldn't care for my daughter in the way she needed.
But that time before. In the early morning hours, with the shades drawn tight, my baby snug against my chest, that is when I became "Mom".

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Truth & Consequences

"Honesty is hard. Telling stories or lies to cover up the truth is easy. But Mama will never be angry with you for telling the truth. Lying is what makes me angry."
Those were the words I said to my daughter as she snuggled into the crook of my arm tonight before she fell asleep. The lie I told her.
While it may have been mostly true there is certainly an element of dishonesty to my statement. While I may always welcome honesty over a lie or a denial of involvement, there will will certainly come a time when I am angry with her for telling the truth, owning up to a mistake or wrong-doing. It's human nature and completely unfair of me to promise her otherwise.
At 4, Emy is experimenting with truth. She walks a fine line of admiring her mistakes and concocting elaborate stories to prove her lack of involvement.
Tonight was perhaps the most ridiculous experiment to date.

When we entered the bathroom to brush her teeth and use the potty one last time before bed, I noticed something amiss. The toilet water was a distinct purple color. Sensing my observation and predicting a round of questioning she immediately attempted to distract by announcing how sad she was. Feeling particularly sad myself today - my aunt had passed away that morning after a lengthy battle with cancer - I paused long enough to ask her why she felt sad. Slamming the lid to the toilet shut and plopping herself on top she replied with a smirk, "No reason."
Well played child, but it's not going to work.
I gently lifted her off and placed her on the edge of the sink, handed her "buttered" toothbrush, and lifted the lid.
"Emeline. Why are your pants in the toilet?" (Add this to the ever growing list of phrases I never thought I'd utter before becoming a parent.)
"I don't know."
Hmmm. Really?
I've watched enough Richard Scary Busytown Mysteries this summer to  know that the first thing I should do to solve a mystery is to look for clues. Feeling clever, I decided to verbalize my connection to her current favorite Netflix series by saying. "Looks like we have a mystery." My statement was met with a deliberately blank stare and a reiteration of the excuse, "I don't know how they got there Mom."
On the floor were her recently worn shoes, socks, and T-shirt. Inside the toilet bowl were the purple, polka-dot leggings that had accompanied the day's outfit.
"Emy, how did your pants end up in the toilet?"
"I don't know."

And so it went. My darling daughter has inherited the stubbornness of both her parents, but being 4 she hasn't quite learned the art of giving in, so a battle of will is often where we end up these days.

After a couple of minutes of this stand-off, I decided I was too tired to play. I really didn't care that the pants were in the toilet. Yes it was a little gross and soggy fishing them out,  but they were going straight into the washing machine anyways. What I cared about was the lying. I want Emy to admit and learn from her mistakes, take responsibility for her actions, and above all be truthful to herself and others. These are hard lessons to learn, I've sure struggled with them, so the issue of honesty was a battle I was going to fight.
"When you are ready to tell Mama the truth of how the pants got in the toilet, I will be ready to listen. Until then it's straight to bed, no books, no songs. You're in bed until you're ready to be honest."
Not surprisingly this brought on tears. What did surprise me was her further slide into deception. She now knew what happened  and although greatly flawed logically, her stories were highly entertaining and imaginative.

Emy's Stories of How The Pants Got in the Toilet
1. A person, maybe a man or a boy came in the front door, snuck into the bathroom, picked up her pants, threw them in the toilet, and left before anyone could even see him.  
2. The pants became magic and flew really high, to the ceiling, and then fell - SPLASH into the toilet.
3. A ghost put them there. 
4. Vampire bats that were really ghosts who live in our roof flew in through the window and scooped them up and put them in the toilet. 

Over the next 30 minutes I had to stifle laughter several times as she fired one explanation after another - insisting on it's truth for a few minutes before inventing another far fetched tale. I was torn between being proud of her storytelling abilities and aghast at the depth she was willing to go to avoid admitting involvement. 
Eventually she gave up and began pleading for her books. At this point she lay in her bed, gripping tightly to my arm, tears streaming down her face. I looked at her and recognized defeat and helplessness in her eyes. She had dug herself into a hole that she had no way of getting out of on her own. I pulled her closely and with great empathy threw her a rope.  

"Did you put the pants into the toilet on purpose or did they get there by accident?" - accident
"Did you take your shirt or your pants off first?" - shirt
"Did you pull your pants off or kick them off?" - Pulled until they got stuck
"When they got stuck, did you pull hard and throw them, or did you kick it off into the air?" - Kick into the air. 
"Did they land on the floor or on the toilet?" - on the toilet 
"Did they fall in or did you put them there?" - They fell in.
"Did you think you were in trouble?" - yes 
"Is that why you didn't tell the truth?" - yes

Both of us exhausted and relieved by her admission, we lay there quietly for a few moments. I wasn't quite finished but wanted to be certain she understood that I was not angry. 

"What could you do differently next time?" - Next time? 
"The next time something that doesn't belong in the toilet falls in, what could you do? How would you handle it?"  

We talked about different ways she could ask for help and I told her that there have been one or two (okay, MANY) occasions where I have dropped things into toilets by mistake. I understood, but being truthful and telling me what happened is always the best choice. 

She fell asleep mere minutes later. I know we will have this discussion time and time again, but hopefully each time she'll hear a little more, learn a little more, and maybe one day she'll be honest from the beginning. Until then I will write down all her stories. The kid has some ideas that would make for an entertaining kid's book. 

Friday, June 27, 2014

Flashback Friday: Embracing Her Sense of Style

When Emy was a baby my vision was much worse then it is today. It took weeks for me to regain the ability to identify colors, months to regain the majority of my peripheral vision, and years for my retinas to heal so I can see distance. Even with all that healing, my vision is still dramatically impaired and there are times when all three of these aspects of my vision still give me trouble. Especially color.

Growing up, I was always someone who loved the box of 64 Crayola Crayons. It seemed somehow inaccurate to relegate all shades of colors to just 8. Colors like teal, chartreuse, crimson, cerulean were much more descriptive ways to identify a certain shade.  In the weeks and months after Emy's birth I was often frustrated at my inability to distinguish color accurately. I will always remember the first time I walked into my living room after three weeks in hospital. My beautiful plum purple couch looked identical to the forest green chair in the corner - blurry, grayish-black shapes, the couch slightly darker in hue than the chair, but it was my memory, not my eyes that supplied the missing color.
One of the first OTs I worked with at home, put fluorescent duct tape on the edge of every step and the entrances to rooms where there was a transition in height between the floors. It wasn't until September, almost a full 3 months later, that I could see that the fluorescent color tape was pink, not the highlighter yellow, color I'd been envisioning.

So even as my eyes and body healed, there was still so much frustration. Losing my vision had been like turning off switch. Regaining it was a slow, agonizing process of constant adaptation and adjustment. For a long time various shades all blended into one of the three primary colors, slowly I regained hues of green and purple, although orange remained indistinguishable from red or yellow for a long time. Anything black or white pretty much looked kind of gray and murky. Forget seeing patterns or design details.

I was very thankful that my illness and recovery allowed me to dress in yoga pants and T-shirts so I didn't have to worry about coordinating fashionable outfits for myself. I was far more worried if my IV port and drain could be hidden by my clothing than whether or not I looked fashionable. But I did have an adorable baby, with tons of new, stylish, clothes that were begging to be worn.  As is the nature of babies, she required multiple outfit changes each day, which thus provided many opportunities for me to freak out.

Somewhere in the midst of everything else I was dealing with I decided to add a brand new neurosis to the mix. Everything I dealt with on a daily basis was incredible frustrating and completely out of my control. My frustration at my current condition manifested itself in anxiety over clothing, baby clothing to be specific. It wasn't like getting Emy dressed didn't provide enough of a challenge; with the wiggling body, flailing limbs, and trying not to decapitate her while pulling shirts and onesies over her (not-so) little noggin. Nope. Doing this 4-5 times each day wasn't enough stress, so I decided to become OBSESSED with making sure that every outfit was perfectly coordinated. I became so worried that my darling child would look like her blind mother dressed her (which of course I did) that I'd agonize over whether the shade of purple in her leggings complimented the the polka dots on her onesie. If Josh or some other well-meaning person, pointed out that they didn't I would immediately burst into tears. I would also get all panicky when Josh would dress her, (as the practical and sane man he is) by just grabbing the first clean top and first clean bottom he could find. I was well aware that in the grand scheme of things it didn't matter if she wore a red onesie with gray sweatpants, but that didn't stop me begging for him to change her when he did.
Seriously, how could I protest this cuteness?
Well, she is wearing pink socks with a red shirt!
Visual impairments and blindness can often be an invisible disability. To the outside world. This fear that I would be "found out" by the clothing my daughter was wearing was irrational but pervasive. I was terrified that my limited vision made me  less of a mother, less of a woman, less of a human. I needed people to have proof that even though I struggled I could still pull it together enough to make sure my kids socks matched her T-shirt. I've had enough therapy to realize how ridiculous that last statement sounds, but it doesn't change the fact that my anxiety and fear were real at the time. I was so busy judging myself that I couldn't possibly handle the judgement of another human being. Clothing was something I could control. And control I did.

But as all children are wont to do, Emy grew up and started having opinions. Opinions on everything, but especially on what was put on her body. Around 10 or 11 months old she began rejecting any article of clothing that didn't allow her to access her belly button, and it spiraled from there. Bathing suits in subzero temperatures, snow gear in the summer, Spiderman t-shirts with pink leggings, I lost all control. Her exertion of her own ability to choose what she wears was fierce and I had to let go of the neurosis of coordinating outfits and quickly.

May 2013 - pajamas and snow gear. Why not?

It is so important for me that my daughter feel confident and happy in her skin and in her clothing. This is far more important than any anxiety I may feel about being labeled as a blind mom. As she grew I frequently would offer her two choices - both ones that didn't make my palms sweat. That worked for a while, but now that she is 4, Emy is pretty much in charge of what she wears. Getting dressed is her job. Yes, she needs to be dressed appropriately for the occasion of the day. And there are days, like today, when she tries to leave the house in a snow hat and mittens (which color-coordinated perfectly with her outfit by the way) on an 80 degree day, that I need to step in and say something. Otherwise I let it go. She is learning what clothes are acceptable for school and what outfits are better for play time.
I relish her independence and applaud her creativity. She feels such joy and pride in her choices and nothing could make me prouder to be her mom.
This was the outfit she decided on for the park today - June 26, 2014, minus the
snow hat and mittens.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Further Evidence to Why I Shouldn't Operate Motorized Vehicles or Machinery

I honestly have to chuckle at the idea of driving. As you may have read in my latest FBF post my last attempt didn't go so well. Honestly it's not like I should have been surprised. I can barely make it through a day without rendering something completely useless just by using it as intended. Here are some recent examples of my uncanny ability to destroy.

I can't even keep track of my cell phone in my own home for an entire day without having to send Emy or Josh on a frantic search for it in the harried moments before we leave the house. Since February I have lost one phone, utterly and completely mystified by its disappearance, and a mere two weeks later, after shelling out mega bucks, I shattered the screen of my replacement. Even though with the replacement phone I decided to buy the extra insurance, I've been living with the broken screen. Until shards of glass get stuck in my fingers or the phone is no longer operable it's just better this way.
Along with the actual phone, I'm prone to destroying all of it's accessories. With my previous model (which did last me 3 years!) I managed to break 2 "Indestructible" phone cases, one of which was supposedly Life Proof. Ha! Not to my life buddy! I also go through at least 1 set of headphones every month or two and I just discovered this morning that neither of my power cords are working correctly. WTH? I swear I didn't do anything to them!

Mowing the lawn has been a fairly enjoyable summer chore for me. Although we have approximately 3/4 of an acre of grass to mow and it takes about 2 - 2 1/2 hours to mow both our front and back yard, I really don't mind. Josh is so busy with work in the summer and when he is home Emy is desperate for his attention (and I for a break) I almost look forward to mowing the lawn. I pop my headphones in, put on my favorite podcast, and enjoy some relatively quiet activity in the sunshine. Due to my limited vision I'm not the most accurate grass cutter, but luckily neither Josh nor I, care very deeply about the overall uniformity of the lawn. As long as we aren't in the running for shaggiest lawn on the block, we're pretty happy. Over the past two summers I have had a couple minor incidents where I've misjudged the distance from a drainage pipe and our rain gutter and nicked them with the blade, but nothing too terrible. Minor damage to both of those metal tubes but our lawn mower is a champ and took these mishaps in stride.
Until the incident this week.

A stump, hidden by tall grass in our backyard was to blame. I didn't see it - couldn't differentiate the stump from the shadows the surrounding trees in that part of the lawn. It wasn't until the mower shut off suddenly with a loud thunk and I couldn't easily retract it that I realized what I had hit. I restarted the mower and attempted to finish the last 10 yards or so, and promptly stopped when I saw the grass was being cut down to the soil. Oops. Upon inspection I found one end of the blade bent at almost a 90 degree angle. Guess it's a good thing this happened way in our back yard. Further evidence that a lawn service may be the way to go. 

Apparently I can't even operate a washing machine without eventually rendering it useless. Laundry and dishes are the two chores I do most frequently and were the first ones I felt confident in resuming when my vision began to stabilize. They're so routine that they are virtually mindless and although I dread the endlessness of them I do find comfort in the routine. Laundry in particular, because it offers me opportunities to rock out to music while sorting, watch TV while folding clothes, and listen to audio books while putting them away. Because I am home all the time and there is always laundry to be done, I try to stay on top of it and do a load or two every day. By incorporating my media consumption into the task I have built in Me-Time every day. Although it may be hard to tell, doing this goes a long way to keeping me sane. 
Today while Emy was napping I went to start a load and found (not surprisingly) a load I had started yesterday evening that was left in the washer. No biggie, rewashing may make me feel somewhat guilty about the wasted water, but it is worth it to not have clothes smelling dank and mildewy. I started the machine and went to work on a blog post. This blog post. About how inept I can be with machines. When I went to change the laundry I discovered  a 1/2 inch of water covering my laundry room floor, and the washer still completely full of water. 

Uh, okay Universe, I get it. You're super funny and ironic. You win.
 Now STOP IT. 

Friday, June 20, 2014

Flashback Friday - Why I Don't Drive

It was a clear sunny summer morning in August of 2013. I had volunteered to work the early shift at the local Farmer's Market, assisting a community organization, Raising Rochester, in selling produce grown in raised garden beds to benefit the Rochester Area Neighborhood House. Feeling somewhat apprehensive I decided to drive there. Familiar roads, ideal weather situation, little traffic, I felt ultimately confident in this decision. My vision is such that I am on the cusp of being a legal, but restricted, driver in the state of Michigan. A few months prior I had a lengthy conversation with my ophthalmologist regarding the pros and cons of me driving. According to him, I passed the legal requirements and should attempt to reintroduce driving into my life. Although extremely skeptical, the possibility of increasing my independent mobility was tempting enough to try. I had driven a handful of times in the months following our discussion, mostly supervised, a couple independently, but today's destination, a mere 3.2 miles away marked the furthest distance I had traveled independently since May of 2010.
I got there no problem. Easy peasy and a major confidence booster. Perhaps driving was in my future, maybe we should even look into purchasing a second car so I could continue practicing and increasing my confidence with local trips to stores, the library, friend's houses. I was practically giddy with the excitement of it all.

In the years that had passed since I'd driven with regularity I had reverted to a beginner driver. Actually, that's not quite accurate because I distinctly remember a feeling of invincibility while learning how to drive at 16. This time however, I was cautious, almost overly so. I turned my cell phone to vibrate and kept it stored safely in my purse in the backseat. The radio was off and my hands were firmly placed at 10 and 2. No distractions. I was far more focused than I'd ever been as a teenager. Even in those first few days of driving lessons with my teacher. Age and experience had taught me how dangerous cars could be and I wasn't about to risk making a careless mistake because I was jamming to Pearl Jam on the radio.

In the end, it didn't matter how cautious I was, or how familiar I was with the route home.

Stopping at a four-way stop outside of the Administration Building for Rochester Community Schools, I patiently waited my turn to proceed as a delivery truck made a series of Y turns to back into a driveway on the other side of the intersection. Once the truck had backed in, parked, and the driver had emerged, I decided it was safe to go forth. Within seconds I heard an enormous KERTHUNK which was immediately followed by a BUMP,  and an audible POP.


I was shocked and had no idea what happened. Shakily I pulled to the side of the road and got out to investigate. I had watched enough bicycle safety videos while teaching 3rd grade Health, that I was certain I would find a mangled bicycle and maybe even (GASP!) rider sticking out from the front end of the car.
Thankfully that was not the case.
What I did find was a peninsula curb that created a barrier for street parking. Parking spots that I, myself had parked in dozens of times over the years. I also saw that by driving over this curb, even at the low-speed of 10-15 mph I had popped both tires on the passenger side of my husband's car.

I was beside myself. Shaking and crying I dug my phone out of the backseat and called my husband. By the time he answered I was hysterical, and I am sure for a minute or two he thought I had killed someone by the way I was reacting.

Inconsolable, I sobbed until Josh, Emy, and our dear friend Amanda came to the scene of my misery.
A tow truck was subsequently called, the tires replaced, and the accident was over.
But the damage had been done.
I couldn't stop thinking What If?
What if it had been a person on a bike?
Or a child?
Or a dog?

How could I take the risk of getting behind the wheel of a car again? It's not like I could tell myself, "Well, next time I'll be more careful." I was as careful and cautious as I could be. What it comes down to is I just didn't see it. Not because I was distracted or wasn't looking. I didn't see the curb - only the width of an intersection away, and I didn't, COULDN'T, see it.

I've been thinking about this incident a lot recently. So often I want to test my limits, push my boundaries and try driving again. I acknowledge the fact that many, many drivers makes mistakes - hit curbs, even pops tires and still continue driving. Life is risky. But as much as I want to muster up the courage to keep trying I feel comfort in accepting my limitations. There's maturity and growth that comes with the acceptance.

Side Note: The ophthalmologist who thought I could resume driving, has since done further testing on my actual visual field and determined that it is probably not the safest choice I could make. I had to break our my favorite catchphrase from the early 1990's when he shared that news with me.  Uh... DUH!!!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Flashback Friday - World Cup 2010

This week's Flashback Friday is brought to you by my husband, Josh Landefeld. Enjoy! 

For as long as I can remember soccer has had an impact on my life.

Many of my early childhood memories involved a soccer ball or game. From chasing my brother around as he practiced, to playing on my first team with my Northside classmates, to watching my brother and hoping that I could one day be as good as him, to the phone call asking me to be on my first “select” team, to the hot chocolate at halftime during a cold Saturday afternoon game.

The highlights were many as well. Making my first travel team. Assisting on the game winning goal
in middle school. Scoring the deciding goal to win a state cup semi-final. Being a high school soccer
star. Being recruited and committing to Michigan State to play soccer. Playing on the same team as my
brother as a 16 year old (he is 9 years older than me).

There were just as many low lights. Not winning a game on that first “select” team. Losing to our cross
town rivals to end my high school career. Injuries. Not making the NCAA tournament in college.

But as time went on, soccer became less about the victories or losses, goals or assists, but more about
the relationships that they created. The hotel stays with teammates and the fun in the pool after hours. The opportunity to be seen not as Doug’s little brother but a peer to my boyhood heroes. My 314 Oakhill roommates who have become by life-long friends and brothers.

The 2010 World Cup created an amazing bond during the most trying times of my life.

On May 27, 2010, my daughter was born and came into this world. On that day, my nephew, Kellan, had a game that I had planned to attend after work. However, I spent the day at the hospital with my
wife who had developed an acute case of pancreatitis during her third tri-mester and instead of cheering for Kellan, I spent the majority of the day unsure what the evening would bring.
As the day progressed and Christy worsened, I feared for the worst. Just before 11:30pm, I was informed that I had a baby girl and that neither her nor my wife were doing well. Around 11:45pm, I saw my daughter for the first time and upon hearing my voice, she finally showed some signs of response that had been lacking since the birth.

Over the next few days and into weeks, our family learned that our daughter, Emeline (named much later than planned), was getting stronger and would be fine. But Christy would not recover as quickly or completely. During that time, I was thrown into fatherhood and briefly into a role as an in-home nurse.
Those first two weeks of Emy’s life and Christy’s illnesses, left me dazed, confused and tired.

On June 11th the World Cup started in South Africa, which is 6 hours ahead of us. Many of my soccer friends were complaining about the early start times for the World Cup games. However, I was not one of those complainers as Emy’s schedule had me up. And during those first months, I made sure to do everything in my power to keep her on that schedule.

Over the next 31 days her schedule of feedings and sleep began to include early morning soccer time with her dad. I would like to tell you that during those games, I explained to her the rules of the game
and the nuances of formations as we both sat at the edge of the seat. But the reality is that I spent the
majority of those games staring at her as she lay on my chest. I assume that she felt my heart pound
during great goals or near misses. I imagine that she heard the excitement in my voice as I cheered or
complained during one of the greatest sporting events in the world. I hope that she developed a love of
a game that I have spent my whole life playing. I know that is a lot to believe took place in the mind and body of a newborn baby. But one can hope.

Time may tell what kind of effect all of those games have on her love of soccer. But I know for a fact
that those moments in the early hours of June 11th – July 11th  have had a lasting effect on me.

Some say that they kept me sane.
Some say that they gave me peace.
Some say they were a distraction.

But soccer has always been more than a game to me. Soccer has given me a livelihood and many of the
best relationships in my life. Those moments in the early summer of 2010 strengthened my bond with
daughter and provided the greatest memories of my soccer life.

A HUGE thank you to my husband for sharing his memories with me and with all of you. If you enjoyed hearing Josh's perspective on Flashback Friday let us know in the comments or on the Facebook page

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Summer Routines

I'm exhausted. By 8 o'clock every night this week I am holding tight to my last remaining bits of sanity and patience. My husband would probably argue that my hands are in fact empty - patience and sanity lost long ago.
I thought 4 was supposed to be easier than 3. I was counting down the  days until E turned this magical, grown-up number. I was looking forward to our summer break, didn't even really worry about the fact her preschool officially ended two full weeks before anyone else in our area began summer vacation. That would give us two weeks of long lazy days with sunshine adventures thrown in and lots of quality time together as mom and 4 year old.
Ha. After two weeks of power struggles, tantrums, and general grumpiness I am ready to admit defeat. I am also not ashamed to admit that Emeline has not been the only one demonstrating those undesirable behaviors.
I'm not sure if it is the fact that she is (we are) both missing the routine of going to school 3 mornings a week or the addition of a puppy to our family dynamic but we are definitely out of whack. And it is making me tired. And grumpy.
We need a routine. Stat. I need something we can stick with, something that is easy to stick to and doesn't send either one of us in a tailspin if we deviate from it, something that balances my desire to go-go-go, and our reality of limited transportation. And since I pretty much suck at sticking to routines, especially self-imposed ones, I'm reaching out to you - what is your summer routine? How do you keep your kiddos and more importantly yourself from going stark raving mad? Please share your ideas in the comments below or on the Facebook page. Let me learn from your experiences. I'm too tired and grumpy to try and recreate the wheel.

Thank you in advance for your wisdom and support!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Flashback Friday - The Maternity Clothes that Started it All

In the Fall of 2009 I found myself at an after-school meeting for our Elementary Green Committee. My fellow third grade teachers and I had agreed to spearheaded this PTA committee the prior year and were stoked about working with members of our parent and student community who felt equally as passionate about reducing waste and recycling. If memory serves me correctly, aside from the four of us teachers, there were two other people who attended our meeting. Not exactly the turnout we'd expected.
I had recently announced to my close colleagues that I was pregnant (FINALLY!!!) and after we had swiftly gone through our agenda and one of the parent attendees had left, our conversation turned to the very exciting topic of my growing baby bump.
 Yes, there was a new Kindergarten parent still present, but I was in my first trimester, and altogether too excited to really pay much attention to the adorable woman who sat there knitting throughout our meeting, let alone worry that she might tell any other parents before I was ready to announce the news.
I like to think that it was my intuition about her, rather than my oblivious and almost delirious state of newly pregnant that led me to confide in her, that yes I was pregnant, about 8 weeks, but I wasn't telling the majority of our school community for at least another month.
The next day, she showed up in my classroom with a grocery bag of maternity clothes in hand. (Paper, from Whole Foods if you're wondering. She was a member of the Green Committee after all.) Taking a long look at her fit, athletic frame, I said I doubted anything would fit my ever growing figure, and laughed disbelievingly when she assured me they would. I graciously accepted the bag and I was pleasantly surprised a few weeks later when I pulled out a pair of black Old Navy Maternity pants, identical to the two non-maternity pair that I could no longer button, hanging in my closet, and lone and behold they fit perfectly. As did a fantastically comfortable sweater/sweatshirt and two of the three tank tops that were in the bag.
The fantastically fitting, black pants are LONG gone - wore a hole right through the knees, but I
uncovered this gem in the box of maternity clothes I was selling at my latest garage sale.

These articles became staples of my pregnancy wardrobe and although I couldn't remember her name, and I'm not sure if I recognized her if/when we passed in the hallways I frequently thought of that adorable kindergarten mom who gave me maternity clothes out of the blue or "Maternity Clothes Mom"(MCM), as I called her in my head.

Flash forward to the Summer of 2011

Having moved to Rochester in preparation for returning to work part-time in the fall, Josh and I happily set up a new Saturday morning routine.  It was summer, and venturing to our local Farmer's Market, eating breakfast downtown, and then heading to the library became our favorite way to spend a weekend morning with our energetic and delightful 14 month old daughter.
Although Rochester had previously been my home for almost 20 years, and I had worked in the community for 7, I hadn't been a resident since 2003. In preparation for taking up residency in Rochester, I'd begun following a local online newspaper site via Facebook that often shared articles and entries from local bloggers and residents. I was fascinated by the dialogue happening on the website, and was intrigued when I vaguely recognized one of these locals as "MCM."
I began following her blog posts and really liked what I read. We shared alarmingly similar opinions on a variety of topics and I found her ability to express an opinion in a manner that was both honest, respectful, and humorous very appealing.
Rochester is a large, but tight community. Everybody you meet, knows at least 5 people you already know. It's kind of incestuous that way. So it was of very little surprise to me when I began to see "MCM" at the Farmer's Market. Having recently read something she'd written for The Patch I wanted to share my appreciation for what she had handled the feedback from readers. I wanted to tell her that I saw where she was coming from and people that didn't were basically idiots. It's funny to me now that I have no idea what she wrote about or even if I ended up talking to her about it at the market that day.
As we continued to run into each other frequently, "MCM" now thought of by her actual name, Amanda, and I became friendly acquaintances.
Once school began I saw her frequently in the halls, stopping to share friendly greetings, but I was so consumed with returning to work that pursuing a friendship wasn't high on my priority list. At some point that fall, I had arranged an appointment at a local consignment shop and needed assistance in getting the large amount of baby stuff out of my house. Having exhausted my limited transportation options, I sucked up my pride, and accepted one of Amanda's many offers to give me a ride.

Adjusting to my lack of independence was still very challenging for me, but our conversation flowed easily and I felt my awkwardness and worries about being an inconvenience fade. Especially, after Amanda made a blind joke.
I don't recall it word for word, but it was definitely a deliberate crack about me not being able to see something we passed on the street. As soon as the words escaped her mouth, she began to apologize. I laughed. Really, truly laughed. I may have even snorted.
I was forever cracking jokes about my vision, often making others feel uncomfortable, but I wanted, no NEEDED people around me who could laugh at the absurdity of my visual circumstances.
That joke, and her incessant worry that she offended me, solidified that she was indeed the type of person I wanted to have as a friend.

A few weeks later, Amanda helped me pick up Emy from daycare and was driving us home. In the 1 1/2 mile ride from the daycare to my house, my beautiful 16 month old daughter puked all over herself, her car seat, and the back seat of Amanda's husband's car. I was mortified. Being a mom of 3, Amanda was so calm and reassuring, completely unfazed by the disaster zone Emy had created.
Near tears I offered to pay to have the car detailed, and Amanda flat-out refused. In fact, she was going to take my car seat home with her and clean it out there so I could take care of my filthy, frightened, hysterical child.
That sealed it. There was no going back. From maternity clothes, to blind jokes, to cleaning up my kid's puke, Amanda was officially my favorite person on the planet. 2 1/2 years later she remains so.
I could go on and on about how lucky my family and I are to have her and her clan in our lives, how our friendship has helped heal broken pieces of myself in ways that have left me better than before, how we are so similar and in sync at times we have determined we may actually share a brain.
I could explain and elaborate on all of these and many more elements of our very quirky and close friendship, but I won't. I don't need to gush any more than I already have.
You get it. She gets it. And to think it all began with a paper bag of maternity clothes.

Yoga Retreat in Ojai - April 2014

Do you have a friendship that started in an unusual way? Take a trip down memory lane and share your story in the comments below. Or send me an email, I'd love to hear from you!

Friday, May 30, 2014

Flashback Friday- Birthday Blues

This week being Emy's birthday week, naturally I've been thinking a lot about birthdays and her "birth day" in particular. And just so we are clear, when I mean thinking a lot, I mean obsessively. Day, night, and just about every minute in between.  I've talked about intentionally during conversations with friends and family, and unintentionally blurted out memories to poor, unsuspecting grocery clerks.  It's ridiculous how much I live in my head sometimes.
And it is not fair to my kid.

This year I tried really, really hard to be present. At least when she was in my presence. And as a result I probably went a little overboard with the birthday party fun. Emy chose a superhero theme for her party and even though the guest list only included family and our very close friends, we stuck to that theme. From the pinata, party favors, decor, and her birthday dress - ie. Spider Girl costume, we inundated our home with super hero paraphernalia. We spent too much money on items that would only last the day, but it was totally worth it to see her and 5 other children zooming around the yard pretending to save the world.
Spider Man (don't you dare call her Spider Girl) and her trusty sidekick Wonder Dog!

Present time - wearing her new mala beads from her "Aunt" Amanda, aka Little Bird Soul

For this week's flashback, I thought I'd revisit the posts I've written over the last 3 years regarding her birthday. As I reread what I had previously written regarding my feelings about her birthday I was a little surprised at how much the sentiment expressed still rang true. I thought I'd done a bit more healing, but it turns out that I still have a long way to go until her birthday becomes truly about the birth of this incredible little girl than the struggles and loses I underwent. 

Click here to read about Emy's 1st birthday party Peace, Love, & Cupcakes 2011
and here to read the first letter I wrote to Emy (and the only one published on the blog) Birthday Letter 2011
2012 was a light year for writing and posting but I did write this here post full of hope and wonder immediately following Emy's 2nd birthday. Healing? 2012
Click here to read about last year's birthday extravaganza and the struggles it brought up. Birthday Weekend 2013

To the few readers I have had since the beginning of the blog I apologize for the reposts. Between Emy's birthday last weekend and yet another garage sale this weekend, I've had precious few minutes to sit down and write. Or sit for that matter. Man, I am tired.
Luckily, many of you have probably never delved into the (skeletal) archives of the blog, so maybe these will be brand new reads for you.

Do you experience the birthday blues in regards to your child's birthday? Or your own? Send me an email or comment below, I'd love to hear your story. 

Monday, May 26, 2014

Four is a Big Kid Number

Tomorrow my kid turns 4. Which means she is officially out of Terrible Two's and the Even More Terrible Three's toddler stage HALLELUJAH! Emy is as ready as I am. Potty-trained for months, she's eliminated the need for Pull-Ups at nighttime. Just yesterday, she traded in her reliable tricycle for a big girl two-wheeler with training wheels and  is already questioning when she can get rid of those. She's making friends in the neighborhood, and I know we are much closer to the days where she will choose to spend her time with them rather than me.
As Emy says, "4 is not a baby. 4 is a big kid number." But it also means that now she is a full-blown kid, she needs to be doing full-blown kid stuff. Stuff my husband and I may have let slide during the last 3 years. It's not that we are lazy or "bad" parents, we just often take the path of least resistance and choose our battles carefully. And if you have ever met our daughter, you understand that we are constantly choosing battles. Emy is fierce, ferociously independent, imaginative, headstrong, innovative, and opinionated. These character traits will serve her well as an adult, but man, do they suck at times. There are certainly things we are sticklers for - interacting with politeness and respect, saying please and thank-you, but some behaviors we don't prefer have certainly let slide.
For some reason, four has been our magical age. Maybe because it's the year before kindergarten, and once she begins elementary school she will be spending the majority of her days with peers and teachers who are not us. Maybe because shrugging an annoying behavior off with the words, "Well, she's only four." don't have the same effect on me as "Well, she's only three, (or two)."  Or maybe it's because a child of four is more able to handle rational thought than a child of two or three - I'm keeping my fingers crossed that this is true.
Regardless, we are about to put the smack down.

Behaviors/Habits we wish to target:
Using silverware appropriately, at EVERY meal. 
Sleeping in own bed for the entire night. (More on this topic to come)
Dressing self in a timely manner. 
Hygienic habits
Being responsible for toys/games/personal belongings 

If I'm truly honest, they're behaviors I struggled with as child and even at different points as an adult. While not necessarily life threatening in their lack of consistency - it's not like the world will end if my kid goes to bed without brushing her teeth or stays in her pajamas all day, they are important life skills and habits to develop that will lead to Emy being a more responsible and healthier individual. Consistency will be the key to make improvements in these areas but we're ready. 
Let Four Year Old Boot Camp begin. 

Friday, May 23, 2014

Flashback Friday - The Monster at the End of This

There was a time when I thought I'd never be able to read to my daughter. In the days, weeks, months after her birth my vision loss presented many challenges, but this idea was by far the most devastating.
It's no secret I love books. I come from a long familial line of educators, librarians, booksellers - all avid, almost compulsive readers. My love of children's books and passion for literacy drove me to a Masters degree in Reading, and I had dreams of pursuing a Ph.D. in children's literature.
And here I was, a new mom, unable to see well enough to read to her child.

The first time I uttered this pervasive fear was to a kindly surgical nurse named Karen. I was at St. Joe's in Pontiac, where I'd been since delivering my daughter. My most pressing health concern was the complications from pancreatitis. Along with a whole slew of health issues, my pancreas had leaked infectious fluid into my abdominal cavity, creating abscesses, or fluid filled pockets. In efforts to relieve my discomfort and minimize further damage to my digestive system, the doctors had determined that draining these abscesses was the best course of action.
Lying flat on my back outside the procedure room, I could hear the hustle and bustle of the hospital all around yet I was unable to see anything or anybody more than 12 inches from my face. I began to panic. I was in such tremendous physical pain and the idea that my vision might not fully return took root. Heart racing and short of breath, moments away from a full-fledged panic attack, I felt a gentle hand on my arm, quickly followed by a soothing voice, "I hear you have a baby girl. Tell me about her."
"Her name is Emeline. She is home with her father. I don't really know what she looks like, but I'm told she has my nose."
These initial words of our conversation will forever be imprinted in me. I had spent precious few minutes with my daughter and didn't really know her. Yes I was a new mom but my days were filled with hospital rooms, needles and medical procedures; very far away from my bay and the more traditional ups and downs of new motherhood. My grief and sorrow were evident. Karen, as she introduced herself, skillfully ignored them and kept talking. She was one of those glorious people that realized the best way to ease pain was through distraction. For the next 90 minutes, she engaged me in conversation. She spoke to me of her own children and asked me questions about myself, and explained every step of the procedure to ease my fear and discomfort. One of the many topics we discussed was our shared a love of children's books. Her three children had loved being read The Monster at the End of This Book. My younger brother also enjoyed this as a child and I had memories of reading it to him. It was at this point when I verbalized my fear of not being able to read to Emeline. Karen patted my head and said with conviction, "Don't worry. You will."
We talked about the days that would come, life outside hospital walls. Never for one minute did she talk about or allude to the fact that I wouldn't heal, my vision might not return, or that I wouldn't be able to be the mother that I desired to be. Aside from her comment about being able to read to Emy, she never said those things would happen either. The comfort and reassurance her presence provided was more subtle than the generic words of encouragement I'd become accustomed to receiving.
Hours later, recovering in my hospital room I immediately perked up when I heard her already familiar voice. Coming to check on the drainage tube inserted that morning, Karen also came bearing gifts. In one hand she held a cuddly brown bear - "to snuggle with until you are home and can snuggle your baby." and in the other, a copy of The Monster at the End of This Book - "to read aloud to Emeline. When you're ready."
A week or so later I had to have a similar procedure and was lucky enough to have Karen as my nurse again. Although I am not sure luck had anything to do with it, she had requested to be there once she saw my name on the schedule. This time during her post-surgical visit, she brought the sequel there’s Another Monster at the End of this Book and an adorable panda bear for me and Emy to share.


My favorite books at the ones that have stories other than the ones contained within the cover; books that evoke memories of certain moments, places, or people - the story of the book itself.
Last week, snuggled in bed with Emy, having just finished reading The Monster at the End of This Book, preparing to read the sequel, she asked me, "Where these books from Mom? The library? Is they mine?"

Why, yes my darling, they are yours, gifts from a wonderful woman named Karen.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

TbT vs FbF - Teaser

In the spirit of Throwback Thursday I have decided to dedicate Friday as "Flashback Friday" on the blog. Why not just join in the Throwback Thursday phenom on? It's all about word choice.  To me a "throwback" is something fun, a blast from the past, a memory filled with strange fashion and regrettable hair styles. Throwbacks are great. I probably need to share more of them -laugh at past Christy a bit more often. Flashbacks on the other hand, seem uncontrollable to me. They're memories that wash over you like a giant wave, triggered by a smell, an action, recognizing the medical jargon on Grey's Anatomy. Flashbacks plague nightscapes. worming their way into dreams, leaving one dizzy and disoriented.
Alas, flashbacks are more my thing.
So under the pretense of healing, moving forward, and living in the here and now more often than naught, I have to allow the memories wrapped around the events of May 27, 2010 to surface. Rather than try to forget about them I've decided to share them. Breathe some life into them, relive them and really feel them. Hopefully by doing so I can add some details to my "birth story" that I'm often asked about and maybe in time they'll begin to blend into the landscape of my memory.

Tomorrow - May 23, 2014 we begin. Are you as ready as I am?

Friday, April 25, 2014

Every Mama Needs a Break

It's been a long year. Between adjusting to being a stay-at-home mama of an extremely vocal, albeit tiny, dictator, surviving the longest, snowiest winter in Michigan history, adding a furry family member who will chew on everything left on the ground, except her toys I am exhausted. This mama needs a break.

Thank goodness I am getting one. Tomorrow morning, my best friend and I will fly out to California for a Women's Health and Wellness Retreat. Yoga, raw food cooking classes, massages, acupuncture and much needed relaxation in hammocks await us. I have high expectations for this trip. I expect to catch up on sleep and get reacquainted with myself. I expect to return next Wednesday refreshed and recommitted to my health and not be so daunted by all the dietary restrictions that includes.

Bags are just about packed and I can't wait.

California, here I come.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Adventures with Uber

It's no secret that this particular Michigan winter has been brutal. Long, cold, extremely snowy and has well over stayed its welcome. Everyone feels this way around these parts. Emy and I have been feeling the winter doldrums pretty severely as the weather has made independent travel almost impossible for the two of us. Not driving and living in the suburbs makes getting around challenging to say the least.
Thankfully my amazing network of friends and family members don't seem to mind too much. I rely on them almost completely to get to places like the grocery store, preschool, and doctor's appointments. Being so dependent on others has been by far one of the most difficult adjustments to make in regards to my vision loss. Every time we go anywhere requires planning ahead, organizing, and arranging  and since these are not my strongest character traits I often drive myself and my loved ones crazy with frantic last minute cries for help. Thankfully they love me enough to put up with this - over and over again.
But I am ridiculously proud and there is still a big part of me that hates to inconvenience anyone so I limit these requests to "needs" as much as possible. I've had to accept that the days are gone where I can just pick up and go wherever strikes my fancy but it makes me sad. Maybe it's because I spend the majority of time with an extremely stubborn 3 1/2 year old, but I want to do what I want, when I want to do it, and not worry about how it affects anyone else. Except Emy, because what I really wanted to do was sign her up for a Thursday morning gymnastics class.

So I did.

And this is where Uber comes in. Have you heard of Uber? It's AMAZING! It's an app, a transportation service, and my ticket to a little more freedom all rolled into one. I've been hearing fantastic things about this company for years but was a little reluctant to give it a go. Would it really be as easy as I'd heard? Would the cars have the LATCH system so I could safely hook up E's car seat. Would they give me trouble about traveling with a young child? The answers were yes, yes, and not a bit!

All I did was set up the app on my phone and request a car.
Screen shot of the app from my phone

 Within 1 minute I received a phone call from a very courteous driver who confirmed my location and said he'd be there soon. Which he was. Less than 15 minutes later I was installing the car seat and Emy and I were off to gymnastics. BY OURSELVES. Well, as close to by ourselves and we can get when the trip is not walkable.

Emy and I have had great adventures that day. After gymnastics we walked a couple blocks to have lunch at one of our favorite restaurants downtown and then we contacted Uber again and grabbed a ride home. Easy as could be. And relatively affordable. Of course Uber costs money, all transportation does. But is the cost of feeling a greater sense of independence is something I'm totally down with.
Emy showing off her suburb balancing skills.
Lunch out!

Waiting for Uber

After 3 successful Uber trips I contacted the nice people of Uber Detroit to share my pleasure with the experiences. As a thank you they've created my very own promo code. You get to reap the benefits of Uber along with me! If you are new to Uber use the promo code ls9ss and you get up to $20 off your first ride! Simply click here to sign-up! Let Uber be a part of your next adventure - it certainly will be part of mine!