Sunday, July 3, 2016

FIRST National Family Conference 2016, and Mom rides the trolley...

I realize I am SUPER late on posting more updates about the FIRST Conference in San Diego last week, but any spare moment I have had had this week has been dedicated to trying to catch up on sleep.  I promised updates of shenanigans, and let me assure you, shenanigans were had, mostly involving my mother.

On Fridays at the conference we always have a free evening, where we are on our own to sightsee, eat dinner, shop, whatever we want to do.  So Jordan and I decided we wanted some real, authentic Mexican food, and the best place to get that in San Diego is Old Town.  So we set off on the trolley, where Old Town should have only been about a 10 minute ride from our hotel.  About half way there, mom realizes she left her cane sitting at the trolley station, and has to go back to get it or she wouldn't be able to get around without it.  So she and Gavin waited for the next trolley going back to the hotel stop, while Jordan, Sadie, Ashlynne and I took off for Old Town in search of promised good food.  We settled on a place that looked very authentic, so it had to be good.  I wasn't very hungry, so I just ordered some queso, I love the white queso that you can get at "real" Mexican food restaurants.  When the food finally came, my queso was sat in front of me, and I asked for some chips to go with it.  The waitress looked at me like I grew a second head, and brought some back.  I went to dip my chip, and it broke.  My queso was a semi melted block of cheese.  I lost what appetite I had, so Ashlynne proceeded to embarrass me by molding the cheese like it was a glob of play dough.  We met up with my mom and Gavin after they arrived and ate, and my mom said her cane was sitting in the exact spot she left it, just standing up.  She was laughing so hard she was crying... Oh the little things.

Here's the culprit.  The walk of shame
after her fun night on the trolley
Leaving Old Town involved another incident with the trolley.  As I boarded the train, and turned around to help Jordan lift the stroller up, the doors shut, leaving Jordan and Sadie, my mom, and Tracie, another one of our FIRST friends.  So we take off for the hotel, and decide to just wait for them at the trolley stop.  About 15 minutes later, I get a text from my mom, "Unbelievable, they left Jordan and Sadie again!".  At the same time, the trolley arrives with Jordan, Sadie, and Tracie all getting off.  So I decide I better call my mother, when I find out she is on the first car of the train that has just left our stop, not realizing they all got on, and got off of the second car.  I explain Jordan and Sadie weren't left, they're standing right by me, and where is she?  Well, she didn't get off because she was so upset that she thought they got left again, that she didn't even realize the train had arrived to Rio Vista Station.  She was just toodling along on the San Diego trolley, with no clue where she was.  I explained to her she would need to get off at the next stop, and ride the next train back, because she only had 20 minutes to make it back before the train stopped running, and she would be stuck wherever she ended up.  Eventually she made it back, but she spent more of her "free evening" on the trolley, rather than taking in San Diego.

Sleep evades me at the conferences because I am normally up late talking with everyone, and having our little pow wow's in the lobby.  This year however, sleep evaded me because of the snoring taking place in the bed next to me.  I have spent nights in hotel rooms with my dad before that I thought were miserable, but let me assure you, Mom puts him to shame.  It sounded like someone was starting up a chain saw.  I'm pretty sure it was incorporated into a nightmare I was having involving Leatherface.  I remember yelling in the middle of the night for her to turn over multiple times, and at one point I remember tossing a pillow in her direction.  This led to her going to sleep in the other room.  I felt bad about that, honestly, so the next night I decided to sleep with my Beats on, and call it good.  No wonder my dad is always tired!  (Love you, Mom!)

Before we lost Grandma at the beach.
Gorgeous :)
And last but not least, I lost her at the beach.  Ashlynne wanted to play games on the boardwalk, and
Gavin wanted to go to the water, so after Mom assured me should would keep her phone on her and answer it, we decided to divide and conquer, she stayed with Ash, and I went with Gavin.  After taking pictures, my phone battery was getting low, and I decided I better meet back up with mom so that we could call the Uber driver.  I called.  She didn't answer.  I called again, she didn't answer.  Repeat this several times.  Finally, after walking the boardwalk twice, we decided to check behind some of the buildings.  There she sat.  Just chillin on a bench, phone in her purse, oblivious to the fact that it had been ringing off the hook.  So after the troops were rounded up, I sent for the Uber driver, where immediately after, my phone dies, and we miss our ride.  I'm gonna make this long story short, and cut out how mad I was, and just sum it up by saying I downloaded Uber onto Ashlynne's phone and got another ride.  She, of course, rubs it in my face by saying with a smug smile, "Aren't you glad you finally got me that smart phone?".  Good point, Ashlynne.

But the actual conference was amazing, as always.  I don't think these things can be bad.  Once every two years, these kids, and adults, get to see other people that not only look like them, but that also know exactly what they go through, both physically, and socially.  That's a lot for me to wrap my head around.  I can't imaging how isolating that must feel during those in between times.  So it is during these conferences that I see my child, and others, thrive.  I see their guards let down, and it is their time to shine.  I never leave without shedding my body weight in tears.  It warms my heart to know that the FIRST Foundation has created a safe place for these kids.  I don't know if the women of this organization realize how much they have changed all of our lives.  They pour their blood, sweat, and tears into these conferences, and an organization, and none of them have ichthyosis, nor do they have any family members that have it.  That is dedication.  They provide us with resources, samples, genetic diagnoses, and support that we wouldn't have without them.  So Jean, Chris, Moureen, Mo, Lisa, and Madeline, thank you so much.  Thank for you changing our kids lives, and giving them hope, a safe place, and a network of support that they never would have had without you.  You are our Angels!  No words can express what you have done for our family.  So I will leave you with this, smiles from two of the most beautiful people I know, and just two of the lives you have changed with your work!  Love to you all!

Ashlynne and Bailey, waiting for Grandma to
return on the trolley

Thursday, June 23, 2016

F.I.R.S.T. National Family Conference 2016- Day 1

And we're off!!
Well, last night my mom, the kids, and I started out for our third trip to the FIRST Family Conference. The bi-annual conference takes turns where it is hosted, this year being held in San Diego. Normally we drive, and just make a vacation of it on the way, but there was no way I was going to attempt this drive knowing I would have to be doing a majority of the driving. So Delta it was!

The first leg of our trip has been pretty uneventful so far. We had to be up and at the airport for our 7 AM flight out of Kansas City. It was Gavin's first trip on an airplane, so sleep seemed to evade him, and the giggling prevented me from getting much sleep. I was a little worried about how Mom would maneuver through all of the crowds and the airport with her leg since her accident, but she kept up pretty well! The only thing rough about the flight was the gas that someone was nice enough to keep sharing with the rest of us. By the end of the flight my senses were so offended, I think I had gotten used to the smell. Apparently it wasn't turbulence, so much as flatulence we needed to be concerned with.

After being stuck on the tarmac for over 45 minutes when they told us it would be about 5 minutes before we could taxi, my back teeth were floating, and my kiddos set foot in California for the first time. During our 3 1/2 hour layover in LA, during which we could have driven to San Diego, they entertained themselves by seeing if they could spot any celebrities... mostly the YouTube stars they follow. No luck. I told them they were lucky enough to be in my presence every day. That, however, didn't seem to cut it. But, after 20 minutes in the air, we landed safe and sound in San Diego.  We hopped in a cab, where I'm 99% sure I saw the cab driver eat his own booger, and headed to the Mariott, where we were greeted instantly with friends, lots of friends!  Many we keep in regular contact with, but others we hadn't seen or talked to in two years. It's like a giant family reunion! Except without the hidden drama
The view from my balcony for the next 4 days

It takes me back to the first FIRST conference we attended in Denver 4 years ago, when I saw Ashlynne actually be herself for the first time outside of our home. I had never seen my child so relaxed around people as she was that week, and we get to revisit that feeling every two years. Once again, I see my kid at peace, I feel supported, in the presence of other parents watching their kiddos struggle, and in just a few hours, it will all officially begin when the registration reception starts.

The classes are always so informative, and very often pretty emotional. I love everything I get out of these gatherings. They feel less like a "conference", and more like a class reunion, or a gathering among family and friends where we throw in some medical advice, and a whole lot of support. I so love this family that we have all formed, and am so excited to see what this year holds for us, and what new connections we make! !

We are patiently waiting for Jordan (aka, Sister Salmon) and Sadie to show up, but it's hard to wait to get my hands on my precious little "niece". So we are trying our best to kill time. So far, the kids have found the pool and hot tub, a killer pizza restaurant, and of course, a gift shop, and I have stained one pillow with my fresh hair color. I will be posting more updates along the way, with many shennanigans to follow (I'm sure!). I have joked several times that we will see if either my mom, or I, comes back from this alive after traveling with the kids, and spending this much time in a hotel room together... because chances are, only one of us will make it out unmaimed! So hang around and I guess you will see!  Stay tuned, folks!

Monday, May 16, 2016

Ichthyosis Awareness Month 2016: Ashlynne's point of view

Every year for Ichthyosis Awareness Month I write a blog (or a few) from my perspective.  I write about what Ichthyosis means to me, how it has affected MY life.  But I can't tell you how it feels to be the one that actually lives with it each day.  So I figured, why not go directly to the source? So here is Ashlynne's story, from Ashlynne's perspective.... Enjoy :)

"Hi, my name is Ashlynne and I'm 13 years old.  I have ichthyosis.  I've had ichthyosis my whole life, so I don't really know what it feels like to be normal.  I want to know what it feels like to be normal.

Ichthyosis makes my skin red, dry, and flaky.  It makes it really hard to bend my knees and my arms.  Sometimes my tummy is tight too.  That just depends on the day.  I also get hot a lot easier.  And I can't sweat, so that really sucks because I can't cool myself off.  I don't get to do a lot of things that other kids get to do because I might get too hot, and because I don't bend very well, like Gymnastics.

I don't like having ichthyosis.  I have to take really long baths every night.  I hate to take baths.  And I hate how long they take.  I would rather take showers.  But I don't get to take showers very often because my mom said its not as good for my skin.  And I have to eat a lot because I need a lot of calories for my skin.  My mom is always yelling at me "Eat Eat Eat!", but I'm not always hungry.  I think Ichthyosis keeps me from making some friends.  Like, the popular girls may not want to be friends with me because they don't think I'm as pretty as they are.  I also hate it when people stare at me.  Sometimes when kids stare, their parents don't even do anything about it, and that's just rude.

But there are some good things about having ichthyosis.  I do have some really good friends.  And we get to go to conferences every other year.  This year, we get to go to San Diego!  I'm really excited about that.  At the conferences, I get to meet people like me, and I get to see other people that I already know, like Jordan, Abby, and Bailey.   And some times I get seconds at school lunch.  And also, sometimes, when people stare, I make crazy faces at them, and I know I wouldn't get away with that if I was normal. Someone has to teach them not to stare!  And a couple of weeks ago, there was a show on TLC called "Two in a Million", and that week it was about Ichthyosis.  It was really cool to see people that were like me on TV. 

What I want people to know about me is that I am normal on the inside.  I may look different on the outside, but I'm really just like them.  I have feelings too.  I love my friends, and my family, and my dog and cat.  I'm a big sister, and a good friend.  I like Slim Jims, and doing things that other, normal 13 year old girls do.  I LOVE Miranda Sings, and her husband Joshua David Evans.  They're YouTube stars, if you don't know who they are, go check them out!  I also really love reborn babies.  They are dolls that look very life like.  I like when I am out in public, and I have one of them, people stare at the doll instead of me.  Also, I don't want people to feel sorry for me.  I don't like it when people say "Oh honey, you poor thing!"  That's rude too.  And you shouldn't be rude.  In the words of Joshua David Evans, be nice to people!"

Sunday, March 20, 2016

All dogs go to Heaven, at least mine do

My fur baby, Hurley
Nothing will rip your heart out quite like losing a pet.  Those little furry animals that can drive us crazy getting into the trash, or chewing up our kid's toys,  or taking an occasional dump at the top of the stairs, leave a huge whole in our lives when it's their time to go. 

Hurley was six on New Years Day this year.  She was a puggle, a pug/beagle mix, the kind of dog I had wanted for years. We got her on a whim on a trip to Kansas City on a weekend in March of 2010.  It was slushy out, and my car had slid into a ravine, and gotten banged up a little on the way down, so I was a little down in the dumps.  Russ, not knowing how to cheer me up any other way, told me we could go look at puppies.  I don't think he realized at the time I would have my heart set on coming home with one.  So my friend and I set off to the mall, and in Petland, there was a puggle up for adoption.  My heart was hooked.  I went back to our friend's house, where Russ was waiting, and pulled up Puggle breeders in the Kansas City area on line.  After calling several, we found one that had one male left, ready to go that night, and the price was considerably less than any of the others.  Bingo, there was my dog.

So my friend and I took off to meet the breeders at a half way point, leaving the guys back at the house.  The halfway point was a casino called "Terribles".  The lady told us to meet her at the very back edge of the parking lot.  While waiting in the pitch black parking lot, and making many references to "The Hill Have Eyes", a van that I was surprised was even able to travel at highway speeds pulled up, and out stepped a little old lady, rollers still in her hair, ready to hand off my puppy.  She opened the back of that van, stuffed full of dog kennels, and pulled out the cutest puppy I have ever seen.  And when she handed him over, the smell hit me like a brick wall.  This dog smelled like it had been rolling around in a pile of dead carcasses. 
The cutest, smelliest puppy I had ever seen

Straight to Wal-Mart we went to buy dog shampoo, a collar, and other puppy essentials.  But we couldn't leave this new puppy in the car alone... thank God for big purses.  My friend cleaned out her purse, in went the puppy, and in we went to Wal-Mart.  The only problem was the still un-named puppy didn't realize that barking and whining was not supposed to be coming from the inside of that purse.  We got some rather strange looks from strangers as we were walking through the aisles getting what we needed, and even more looks when the smell would hit the passer-byes.

The bath was the first thing in order as soon as we got "puppy" home.  The name could wait.  This smell was a dire situation.  Several shampoos later, "puppy" smelled better, but there was still a faint stench.   What did this crazy ladies with the rollers in her hair keep these puppies in?  And after several names tossed back in forth, we somehow settled on "Hurley". 

The kids were so excited when we brought this puppy home.  And even my dad, who was pretty convinced I didn't need another dog, could help but fall in love with this dog.  He just kept laughing and saying "Yup, that sure is a cute little BOY", and stressing the last part.  I didn't know why he thought it was so humorous that I got a male dog.  He decided that instead of calling her "Hurley", he was going to call him "Himley".  After about a week of letting us wonder what was so funny, he decided to let us in on the joke.  "Did you ever notice your dog squats to pee?"  Well ya, but "he's" a puppy, so he just doesn't lift his leg yet, I've seen other male dogs do that... But he picked Hurley up, and pointed her belly at me, and proceeded to point out that what I thought were Hurley's "balls" was actually a hernia... "Her" privates were definitely innies, not outies.... We had a female.  The vet confirmed it a couple of days later.  But we already loved her, there was no way we were sending her back.

So she weaseled her little way into my heart.  She was Russ's first pet, so she got rather spoiled there.  She was too cute to resist.  And she knew it.  While trying to housebreak her, one night she jumped onto my bed, looked me dead in the eye, and took a dump right in the middle of the bed...  She was bold.  She was going to be noticed, and this never changed.  She always made sure everyone knew she was in the room.  And if you turned your back on her for a second, she was either in the trash, or into something that she shouldn't be. 

Over time she got increasingly fat.  We even discovered if I picked her up and squeezed her, she would fart.  And she regularly got the walking farts.  She fill a room with love, but she could clear one with her gas in no time flat.

Hurley and Zailey waiting for their treats
Then Friday, I got home from work, and she was just gone.  She looked like she was just sleeping in her kennel.  I knew when she didn't jump out at me like she always did that something was very wrong.  My heart broke instantly.  Then I looked over at Zailey, our other puggle, and she was just staring into Hurley's kennel, whining, and all of the hair on her back was raised.  She knew.  She had just been to the vet this fall, where they said she was healthy, just needed to lose a little weight.  I don't know what happened, all I know is that my heart is broken.

We buried her next to Bill, my 15 year old min pin that passed in January.  I still have Zailey, who is getting very spoiled, but I don't think I will ever get another dog.  They just break your heart when they leave.  They fill it while they're here, but there's a huge void when they're suddenly not.  They're not "just a dog".  They're a part of the family.   A huge part.  They play their own little role just like the rest of us.  And for those that say that dogs don't have souls, I think you're wrong.  I think they have more of a soul than most of us humans.  And I don't want to picture a heaven without dogs.  Especially without mine that I have lost.  Hurley is up there waiting for her humans along with Bill and Annie (my boxer that passed in 2011).  My heaven will definitely include them.  I wouldn't have it any other way.
I'd like to think that these 3 are up there playing together again,
waiting for the day their "humans" join them

Monday, February 15, 2016

Happy Wife, Happy Life? I say "Happy Hairdresser, Happy Life"

Ever heard the saying "Don't piss off your hairdresser" or something along those lines?  I hear it all the time, jokingly, from people sitting in my chair.  However, after 13 years in this industry, I have realized this actually holds some water.  The sad reality of it is this:  Many people (waaaaay more than you would ever think), don't understand common courtesy in a salon.  So, here, my friends, are a few little tidbits I'm going to toss out there to help you avoid finding yourself in a situation where you have just made someone angry, who just so happens to be holding very sharp shears. 

1.  Put your cell phone down.  The other day I did an entire eyebrow and lip wax on a woman who was talking on her cell phone the entire time.  She was on it when she walked in and made the appointment, she was on it when I took her back to be seated, and she was on it the entire time I was applying hot wax to her face.  Seriously woman, put the phone down, or next time, I'm waxing around it.  So rude.  There is nothing that is so important it can't wait the 30 minutes that an average haircut takes.  And if something is that vital, you need to be off dealing with that, and not sitting in my chair.  But the next time someone comes in, talking about the guy they met on and refuses to put the phone down... I'm serious, I'm cutting and or waxing around it.  Consider yourself warned.

2.  Don't bring your children to your color appointments.  Many hairdressers have children as well, it's not that we aren't sympathetic to you trying to squeeze your appointment into your busy schedule.  We actually very much appreciate that you are making time for us.  However, I personally, come to work as a break from my kids on some days.  It can be an escape from all of the craziness going on at home.  Many other guests in the salon at any given time are also doing the same.  None of us have time to try to entertain your child while we are working.  I LOVE kids, LOVE THEM, but when I have my hands covered in color and lightener, I can't play with your child.  Nor can I have you turning your head, and moving all around trying to see where they are, or what they are doing.  Your hair WILL BE tiger striped if you do this.  Promise.  And it won't be my fault.  Also, do you know how expensive those hydraulic chairs are?  The levers are not mini trampolines.  And let's be honest, a 2 hour color appointment is a LONG time for a kiddo.  Unless your child is getting their haircut too, I pretty much guarantee they aren't having any fun either. 

3.  Do NOT ask me if I am any good at my job.  Rude.  That's all I have on that one.  Oh, and most hairdressers I've met that aren't any good, don't realize it, so you're not going to get a "Yes, honestly, I suck" answer.  It's not going to happen either way. 

4.  Find a girl (or guy) and stick with them.  Attention picky clients!!!:  If you are that particular about your hair, and you want it done JUST like the lady did it last time, go back to the same lady!  I am not her, she is not me.  We are going to have different techniques, no two hairdressers are the exact same.  I can do my best, but more than likely I will not be able to duplicate someone's work.  Be loyal.  Pre-book your appointment before you leave each time.  It will get you further than you realize.  If I have to hear the entire appointment, about how great "Judy" was last time, and how I'm not doing it just like she did, you're probably NOT going to get my heart put into that haircut.  NOT saying that I would ever mess it up intentionally, but if I already know my best won't be good enough for you, then I'm probably just going to do my best to just get through the appointment.

5.  Don't put your hands in your hair while I'm cutting.  Piggy backing off of that last one... Please DO NOT try to check my work while I am still cutting your hair.  Do you realize how sharp my shears are?  That's a quick way for one of us to lose a finger, and chances are, it won't be me.

6.  Don't try to help me at the shampoo bowl.  Getting your hair shampooed is a way for you to sit back and relax during any service.  Just let me do the work.  So many people try to "help" by lifting or tilting their head when they are trying to predict where the sprayer is going next.  Do not do this.  More often than not, this is when you see people with water down their backs, or in the worst case scenario, when you see one or the other of us, if not both, get sprayed in the face.  I appreciate your eagerness to help, but it is absolutely not helpful.  And if I get sprayed in the face... I'm mad.  Promise.

7.  Just remember we are people too.  We have our good days and our bad days, and as much as we try to leave our problems at the door, you never know what someone is dealing with behind closed doors.  We try to conduct ourselves in the most professional, courteous manner, and we would appreciate the same from you.  Don't take your bad day out on your hairdresser.  In fact, if you've had a bad day, in all honesty, that's one of the worst days to come to the salon.  See Below:

8. Don't make drastic hair decisions on bad days.  When I went through my divorce, my hair went through a transformation.  I went from long, gorgeous blonde hair, to short, chopped 2-toned reds.  That day, I loved it.  Looking back, I ask myself what I was thinking.  If you want to change your hair because your life is changing, awesome.  I'm all for drastic changes, in fact, it's an adrenaline rush for me.  But the last thing as a hairdresser that I want, is for you to hate your hair.  So please, don't come in and chop all of your hair off because you are mad at your boyfriend, and he likes it long.  You WILL regret it, and chances are, you will be mad at me for letting you do it. So please, just don't put either one of us in that position.  There's a saying "A woman who is about to change her hair, is about to change her life".  Let's just work together to make sure that's a positive change!

Seriously, there's clip art about this?
Bring a picture, then!!
9.  Bring a picture.  If you are going for something "a little different", please have a point of reference.  Nothing will irritate a stylist faster than you expecting us to read your mind.  Just remember, "a little off"  to you, could be way different to me.  With Pinterest and Google, there is no
excuse for not having a picture with some general idea of what you want.  Not mind readers here...

So, there it is.  Just a FEW tips on how we can all peacefully coexist.  I love my clients, and I don't think any of them would intentionally do anything that they would consider rude.  However, there are different professional courtesies from industry to industry, and how is everyone supposed to know if we don't enlighten them?  That's what I'm here for folks... Until next time...

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

An Open Letter to my daughter, as she becomes a teenager

My sweet baby girl,

I know you're probably rolling your eyes (because by this age you have perfected that so well) at the fact that I just called you that, but that's exactly what you are.  My first baby.  And that's exactly what you'll always be.  I can't believe that my sweet little baby, that I brought home nearly 13 years ago is now entering into her teenage years.  And when you enter those adult years, and become a mother yourself, you will still be just that.  My baby.

I remember bringing you home after two weeks in the NICU, wondering how your life would be.  Wondering if you would even make it to 13, for that was so uncertain at the time.  Wondering if you would struggle more than most.  Wondering if you would have friends, or boyfriends.  Wondering how this big, mean world would treat you.  I had so much anxiety for you for these upcoming years.  Everyone always talks about, and it's no secret, the fact that middle school can be the toughest years of your childhood.  God, I was scared.  But guess what I have figured out?  Your teenage years are going to be freaking awesome!  Because that's exactly what you are... Awesome.  You will approach them with your contagious smile, your amazing sense of humor, and those big blue eyes, taking it all in, just as they have done since the day you came into this world.

While I know that you will take these tough years and make the best of them, like you do most situations, I also want to warn you that you will be facing some tough times ahead.  No one makes it out of these years unscathed, sweet girl.  Even the most ideal of childhoods produce less than ideal memories from this age.  You will fight with your friends, have your first boyfriend, break up with your first boyfriend, lose people you love, experience your first heart break.  And I will be there to hold you as you cry during all of this.  As long as I am walking this earth, I will always be a safe place for you to fall.

I am prepared for the fact that as you grow older, and your social life becomes more important, that movie and snuggle nights with mom will become less cool.  I am well aware of the fact that my opinion won't matter quite as much as it did a few years ago.  I am somewhat prepared for the fact that there may be a time where "I hate you" or other terms of endearment are thrown my way.  Why am I so sure these things are bound to happen?  Because I was 13 once too.  But just as I know they will happen, I also know that some day, you will chose to drive home from college to see me "just because".  I also know that you will beg me for a girls night or weekend.  I also know that you will someday call, crying telling me you're sorry for all of the times you told me you hated me, because you now realize how much I have loved you when you look in the eyes of your own children.  Why do I know this?  Because I have been there too, sweet girl.

The first time I ever held you in my arms.  A moment frozen in time
As each day closes in, I know that you are closer to becoming an adult, and you may not "need" me quite so much.  But I also know that you will some day replace that need with a want.  The more and more independent you become, you will need me less, for a time not want me at all.  But then some day, that pendulum will swing, and you will want me back by your side.  But we aren't there yet.  Right now we are in that transitional period that so many moms have warned me about.  The teenage years are supposed to be as trying, if not more, than the toddler years.  You were a very easy toddler, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed that these teenage years don't break us!  But when you get to the point, and you feel broken, know that I am always here to help put those pieces back together.  Know that I will never let you completely fall apart.  Know that I love you with my whole entire heart.  Know that the first time I held you, was the first time my heart ever felt whole.  And it has been whole every since because of you. 

Please, go easy on me these next few years.  Remember, you are my first child, so being a mom to a teenager is all new to me too.  Let's forge this road, just as we have done all the others: Together.  Remember baby girl, It's us against the world.  Let's take it on.


From the most precious little baby...
To the most spirited young woman I know,
Happy birthday baby!

Sunday, January 3, 2016

What you have to know when raising a strong willed child, coming from one herself

I got spoiled with my older kids.  They were so easy, although I didn't realize it at the time.  Last but not least, came Breckyn.

For the past 4 years I have said if B would have been my first child, she would have been my only child.  Being the youngest of four, she has definitely been my challenge, and I guess many would say, my payback.  Time after time since she has been born, I have heard it said that she acts just like me.  And while many days I have felt like I want to either rip my hair out or overdose on happy pills, I can also say that I get her.

Being a very strong willed "child" myself, I can remember some of the frustrations of being a little
Here we have a ruffled sleeve shirt,
some Nike shorts,
and some ballet flats. 
Who says this doesn't go together?
person that has so many rules to follow.  Some of the most common fights can be avoided with her by simply picking my battles.  I have learned I can't put too many restrictions on the choices she gets to make.  One of the most common battles we have had is our morning routine, and deciding what we are going to wear.  I battled this for so long with her, until I finally just gave up.  I remember being younger, and laying out my clothes for the next day and hearing "No Cora, pink and red don't go together", and I've found myself saying very similar things to B in the mornings.  Then I remembered how frustrated I used to get by that.  To me, it didn't matter if it matched, I like the pants, I like the shirt, and I wanted to wear it together.  And today, many times I have heard my sister say that she never would have thought an outfit I bought looked good on the rack, but once I put it all together, she loved it.  Maybe in her mind, B is doing this too.  So one day, I let go.  I just let her wear it.  And the most miraculous thing happened, we had a good morning.  So I decided that's how it would be.  As long as it's weather appropriate, she can wear it.  Who cares if she looks like one of the kids that came out of a Gap Kids ad?  She's happy, and "expressing herself".  She's not hurting anything at all by wearing a pair of rain boots with a Christmas dress.  As of lately, we have been wearing our swimsuits to bed, and guess what?  The world is still on its axis.

I HAVE to answer her.  If  don't, she will just keep at it.  Fighting for her place among 3 siblings, sometimes I think she just wants to know she is important too.  I can't get away with just telling her to wait a second, or ignoring her until I get done with what I'm doing.  She needs to know, and she needs to know now.  It doesn't take that long for me to simply look away from what I am doing and give her an answer.  I don't have to give her exactly what she wants right then, but I do need to give her an answer and acknowledgment of what it is she is saying.  It may not always be the answer she wants, but I have learned that if I at least answer her, the meltdown lessens. 

To piggy back off of that, she needs explanations.  Simply saying "No" won't cut it for her.  It wouldn't have for me at that age, and it still doesn't work for me.  I want to understand reasoning for things.  If there is a reason I should or shouldn't be doing something, I want to understand why.  She is a little person, growing every day towards adulthood, so why shouldn't I help her understand things?  No, I don't cater to her, or bargain with her when she doesn't like the answer, I simply explain why it is the way it is, and most of the time we can just move on.  She simply wants to understand the way of the world, just like most of us (though little does she know, we will never fully understand how most things work the way they do).  Another thing that I can attest to from first hand experience, is that most of those famous Breckyn meltdowns come from frustration.  I know, because I had them, and sometimes still want to!  Strong willed kids are so black and white, that they just don't see why it can't be the way they want it.  You have to take the time to explain things to kids, and that some times things just don't go as planned.  I used to be that mom that would say I didn't understand why people would sit there and explain things to their kids after they had said no.  NO means no, right?  Why sit there and debate over it?  Don't let your kids be in control.  Tell them no, and let that be the end of it.  Well, for some kids, that's enough, but for B it isn't, and it helped me remember that it was never enough for me either.  Explaining isn't letting your child be in control, it's YOU taking control of the situation, and avoiding a meltdown, potentially in a very public place. Help them understand, and remove the frustration.

Pick your battles.  Every once in a while, you just have to give in.  You/I may be busy cleaning house, or getting caught up on binge watching Netflix, but it won't kill to me to stop and put in a Monster High DVD and watch it with her for a few minutes.  Besides, soon she will fall asleep because she has been going a hundred miles a minute all day, and some day, hanging with mom won't be cool.  When she is "bugging" me, hounding me about putting that movie in, what I really need to understand is that she is asking me for a few minutes of my time.  While she might be doing it in a very demanding manner, she is simply wanting me.  The laundry can wait.

On the flip side of that, you also have to be consistent.  You have to stand by your words.  If you say no, for whatever reason, don't go back on that.  If they aren't allowed to play outside for the night, don't give in just because they are pestering you about it.  If you give in once, they will see that, and never forget.  You will forever be pestered about changing your mind, because you've done it before.  Trust me, I know.  I did it.  They can be stubborn, but you have to be more stubborn.  You can win this battle!

My mini-me and I, having the time of our lives
Let them be them.  Don't dampen their spirit.  That strong willed nature, or stubbornness if  you will, will carry them through some down right hard things in life.  That nature may be what gets them through certain things that other people would give up on.  Very rarely will these kids take the easy way out.  They're
going to do something, or finish something, simply because people thought they couldn't.  They are going to try their hardest to prove everyone wrong.  And because of this, they are going to do great things.  These kids grow up to be leaders.  That can be good or bad, depending on how we shape them.  So mold them into something amazing, and they will do their very best to make you proud!