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!