Why even at 30, I still need my mom

Oh okay, 31. But who's counting?

My relationship with my mom has always been a cherished one. While it hasn't always been an easy one (ie: the teenage years) I hold her in the highest regard (and probably did then too but was too stubborn to admit it).

Growing up she often told me stories about her own mom - who died of cancer in her early 50s, just a bit shy of my mom finding out she was pregnant with my sister. Of course, then, I never knew my grandmother. She never met a single grandchild even after having 10 children of her own. It wasn't until I was in college that the I truly recognized what a void her absence must have been in my mom's life. Coincidentally, that is about the time that my mom became more of a friend - someone I needed and turned to rather than rebelled against as in years before.

Now, with every milestone in my life, I am reminded even more how difficult it must have been to experience adulthood without a mother. Our frequent conversations (often 5+ a day!) make me wonder who she turned to...who answered her silly questions or laughed at her kids off-the-cuff remarks?

So today, on her birthday, I wanted to let her know just how important she is to me...

  • She is my second brain - whenever I'm in doubt about ANYTHING, she is the first person I call. What to make for dinner? Which shoe to wear with an outfit? What to set the oven on for baked potatoes? Call mom. My husband laughs at me when I ask him a question first. He says "Just call your mommy, you know whatever she says will be what you do anyway". And he's usually right :)
  • She talks me off the ledge - when my kids are misbehaving or I've gotten myself into a tizzy with my seemingly unending list of things to do, I can always count on her to calm me down. She'll tell me to pour a glass of wine and just breathe. Then she'll tell me "now you know why I used to lock myself in my bedroom when you guys were little". 
  • She is my biggest fan - While she often finds it hard to put her emotions into words (something I must have inherited from my dad), she sends me cards every now and then "just because" and lets me know in all kinds of ways how proud she is of me. I remember getting upset one time as a tween when I heard her bragging about my sister..."My absolutely gorgeous daughter" and I knew she was talking about Lauren. Let's face it, my sis is beautiful (and in comparison to the awkward stage I was in at the time, hands down, she won). Of course I know my mom thinks I'm beautiful. But as an adult, I'm just as content knowing that she admires my ability to write or thinks I am a wonderful mom.
  • As a shopping buddy - without a doubt, there is nobody I'd rather spend the day shopping with than my mom. She can sniff out deals with the best of them and usually finds them for someone other than herself. And when that happens? She may even say "well I found this, so I'll buy it for you". Who am I to stop her from being so generous? ;)
  • She reminds me of all the good in the world - okay, actually that's not entirely true. In fact, with us much as she watches Dateline and 20/20, the exact opposite is true. She is not a cynic per say, just...careful. "Open the door with your sleeve and for God's sake don't touch the hotel remote controls" "Did you see that story about the new way people are hacking credit card numbers?" "I heard that airlines lose 30% more baggage in the month of December" Gee, thanks mom, for turning me into a paranoid germophobe! 
  • She ADORES her grandchildren - my mom would give just about anyone the food off her plate and the shirt off her back, but her grandkids? She takes it to the extreme. I've never been bothered by her spoiling my kids. In some ways I feel as though she's making up for what she wishes/knows her mom could/would have done for us. My kids know that their nana is an extension of the love I have for them. They LOVE spending time with her, always have. She is a fun-loving spirit who is always on the go and my kids think she is pretty much the coolest thing ever.
  • She gets me through the tough times - when I miscarried last year, my mom hopped on a plane and flew down here to hold my hand. When I had Aiden and she was hundreds of miles away in Florida, she cried with me, then told me it was going to be okay. When I get upset about something silly, she is the first to say "snap out of it" or "c'est la vie". She reminds me what's important and is there for me when it is.
As you can see, my mom and I are extremely close. I'll never know just how much not having a mom around as an adult impacted her - but I know that even with that being the case, she turned out to be an amazing mother herself. 

Thank you mom ~ Happy birthday ~ and I love you!

I just can't shake it

Grief is a stranger to nobody. We've all lost loved ones, dealt with emotional challenges and suffered traumas to some degree throughout our lives. As adults, we learn to rebuild with faith and move on with the grace of God. But the tragedy that took place in Sandy Hook on Friday seems almost too much to bear.

I've turned off the news. Haven't watched it since Friday when I couldn't stop watching it all day. I called my son's school that afternoon an hour and a half before pick up time and asked the secretary if it'd be silly for me to come get him early. Not out of fear, but for the simple reason that I wanted to hug him. See him. Know that he was alive.

Scrolling through my news feed yesterday I began seeing photos of those that lost their lives. It brought me back to 9/11 when I spent an entire afternoon looking at a website with pictures and names of each victim. It was as if I was searching for someone I knew - some reason that made the hurt in my heart seem justified. It's sometimes hard to remember that the grief felt during events like this, even when not experiencing it first hand is always justified. Such is the human condition. To feel. To be compassionate. To connect to others in times of need.

I sat in the nail salon yesterday after spending an "early Christmas" with my family and felt numb as holiday tunes trickled out of the speakers around me. I glanced up at the television, muted, but displaying headlines and captions, to see the father of one of the 1st graders get in front of the camera to talk about his daughter. I searched his face for emotion as the words popped up letter by letter. He described his little girl as "creative" and "imaginative" who always toted crayons with her wherever she went. She drew pictures for everyone for birthdays, when sick or just because. She was spirited and wise beyond her years. And I couldn't hold back my emotion any longer. He was not only describing his daughter...that was my Ethan. To a T.

Looking at the big beautiful eyes of that little girl I didn't know, my heart felt unbearably heavy. Those kids. Those families. Why? Why? WHY???

My grief is wound up tightly in the realities these families are facing and the unsaid moments of that Friday morning. I imagine a frustrated mother who fought with a stubborn 1st grader about what she wanted to wear, arguing over shoes or headbands or bows. I imagine a child who complained of a tummy ache but in the absence of a fever and childcare, his parents decided to send him to school anyway that fateful morning. I imagine the stay-at-home moms who hurried their little ones off to school, looking forward to a few moments of quiet in their day. I imagine the parent who scheduled an afternoon dentist appointment, not wanting their child to miss any school.

Those are the moments that will haunt these families. The "why didn't I" and the "what if's". And I guess my ability to empathize in that way is a blessing and a curse. I AM that parent. I've HAD those trivial arguments and anxious-to-get-them-out-the-door feelings. I'm constantly questioning every decision I make.

Life is precious - we never know what tomorrow holds. And yes, these tragic events have made me pause, hug and squeeze my kids and husband more often, more intently. But the truth is there is NO WAY to protect ourselves, our hearts, from pain and suffering. It's a part of life. We simply cannot control the actions of others - we cannot predict evil.

I don't care so much to hear about the gun-wielding boy who entered the school that morning. I don't seek to understand WHY he did what he did. That answer is evident. His life had ended far before he took his own - he stopped existing when he concocted this plan. That is how I have to see it anyway. Anyone who could walk into an elementary school devoid of emotion and take the lives of 26 people inside must not have had a heart beating in his chest. And while I'm confident his soul is burning in Hell, it is no consolation to the innocence that was stolen from that sleepy Connecticut town.

How? How can those families go on? It makes me want to vomit thinking about facing the hand-drawn pictures on the fridge. The closet full of hidden presents ready to unwrap at Christmas. The home videos that live on their computers, phones, DVDs. How does someone learn to put one foot in front of the other after losing a child? It has brought me to tears over and over.

Each night, I pray for the families. I pray for the children, staff and loved ones who survived. For the police and EMTs who were the first to the scene. And, I pray, perhaps selfishly, that this grief that I feel in my heart is never compounded by ever experiencing it first hand.

5 Years of Blogging...what say you?

In just a few short months I will have been blogging for FIVE years! That seems crazy to me. As I have said before, this space was started to keep friends and family informed about Aiden's medical issues. I was able to answer questions and share photos as he progressed from the NICU to home and through his many surgeries.

{ More Skees Please blog headers through the years }

As someone who has always loved to write, it quickly became an outlet for me as well, giving me someplace to vent, to delve a little deeper into my emotions. That was scary, sure - sharing that side of myself with the few who were reading my blog. However soon, I started to connect with other families who could relate not only to having a child with a medical condition, but also to the thoughts and feelings I was putting out there as well.

And a funny thing happened...I started to heal. I cycled through my phases of grief, literally pouring it all out on the pages of More Skees Please. People responded. Offered encouragement or empathy. Prayed for our family. Friendships blossomed with other craniofacial families and I was given a whole new circle of support beyond my amazing family and friends.

All because I started a blog.

It's pretty amazing, don't you think?

Now, it has taken on a whole new life. While the majority of the content is centered around our little family and the challenges of just being a mom in general, I have started to branch out and discover more ways to take this "hobby" to the next level. I've gotten involved in local blogging groups, learned a great deal about social media, and have even taught myself how to tweak HTML to add my own personal touches to this space (how? A LOT of Googling...)

While I do not make a significant amount of money from this endeavor (in fact, hardly anything at all), I am slowly learning the ropes and hope to one day earn a somewhat steady income. In the meantime, I'm setting new goals each day for More Skees Please. I'm excited to continue to build relationships with brands and be able to offer product discounts and/or reviews that appeal to my readers. However I am NOT wanting this space to turn into a giveaway/review/deal site by any means. The content of this blog will always, first and foremost, be about my family. But if presented with opportunities that allow me to meld the two together in a genuine way, I will definitely take advantage of it.

So...now, I want to hear from YOU. I want to know:

  • How interested are you in the sponsored-type posts I've written in the past. (Like this and this). 
  • Would you continue to read if I included more of these in the future or do you prefer to read only our family updates?
  • Are there specific types of deals, reviews or brands that you'd be interested in seeing here on More Skees Please?
  • Would you prefer that these types of posts be kept separate from the regular feed (like maybe I could create a "Deals/Reviews" link in the main navigation that you can visit when you choose)
  • What could I do to improve More Skees Please? (more regular posting schedule, navigation suggestions, better comment system, design, etc.)

I LOVE hearing your feedback and I value your input. 
Leave a comment here or on the link to this post on the MSP Facebook page 
answering one or all of the above questions by Friday, December 14th @ 9am EST,
and one lucky person will win a $10 Starbucks gift card!

Thank you SO much!

Our Amazing Aiden: An Update

It's been a long while since I've posted about Aiden - probably because we have been lucky to avoid any major medical issues since his last surgery back in May. Because Aiden is the reason I created this blog, and because I have so many new blog readers and Facebook fans (thanks for following our story!), I thought I'd take a moment to provide some links giving some insight into our Amazing Aiden for those who may not already know.
Aiden - Apert syndrome
Photo credit: Brandie Lynn Photography
Our sweet Aiden was born in 2008 with Apert Syndrome - a craniofacial condition that includes congenital anomalies of his hands, feet and skull. Apert Syndrome only occurs in about 1 in 160,000 births. In our case, it was a spontaneous genetic mutation. [To read more about Apert Syndrome, click here]. 
We did not know about his condition during my pregnancy. Rather, at birth, we noticed that his hands looked as if he had no fingers and his toes were webbed. The condition also includes premature fusion of sutures in the skull, called craniosynostosis. The open spaces in a baby's skull that make up the "soft spots" and allow room for the brain to grow as the child develops are not normal in a child with Apert Syndrome. Instead, those spaces are made up of skull bone that has already fused together, making it difficult for the head to expand as the brain grows. 
Aiden has already had several surgeries and will need more during the next few years of his life. If you want to read more about his medical journey, click hereThese surgeries have given Aiden a chance at a normal life. He uses his fingers well, despite the fact that he is missing one of the joints on each finger. There isn't anything he has not been able to figure out and adapt to doing on his own and is performing at the appropriate developmental levels for his age. 
While Aiden may look a little different from the average child, it is important to understand that he is just like anyone else. He loves to play, run, jump and adores his big brother, Ethan and little brother Hudson. He deserves to be treated kindly and it is my goal as his mother to educate others so that his differences do not inhibit his social acceptance. Please take a few moments to talk about Aiden with your child/family as I do believe that awareness is key! 
I know that children and adults might have questions and I always welcome the opportunity to answer them. I am always happy to talk about my amazing little guy. Feel free to contact me by email: moreskeesplease[at]gmail.com if you would like to chat.  
For an in depth, personal account of Aiden's first couple of years, watch  Aiden's Journey: Awareness and Hope - a short film documentary that provides a glimpse into our life. You can also view photos, join the discussion on Facebook and learn how to obtain a copy of the full DVD by visiting: www.aidensjourneythefilm.com

Currently, Aiden is doing fantastic. He recently started speech therapy through the school system and receives articulation instruction every Tuesday and Thursday. He loves attending these special classes - mostly because he gets to ride "the big yellow school bus" :)

There are no planned surgeries on the horizon - although I always "knock on wood" each time I say that because, well, you just never know. He will undergo his normal medical work up (MRI, sleep study, anthropology measurements, photos, etc.) every 18 months, the next time being November of 2013. Unless, of course, anything should happen between now and then that might require us to move it up.

What we know for sure? He will need another cranial vault surgery (maybe mulitple) in order to give his brain adequate space to expand as he grows. And in the next 3-4 years, we will be facing his mid-face advancement - a procedure that entails surgically attaching a rigid external distraction device to his skull. Over an 8-week period we will slowly turn screws on either side of the device to pull his mid-face forward. Why? The area from the brow bone down to the upper jaw grows at a significantly slower rate than the rest of the face, which can cause breathing difficulties and other medical issues.

Brody, a friend of ours, wearing the RED device
*Photo used with permission from his parents*

Recently, I've heard of so many kids with Apert syndrome having surgery complications or even gaining their angel wings entirely too soon. To say this makes my heart ache is an understatement. I pray each night that Aiden stays *healthy* and continues to learn and grow and I feel so blessed for each day God gives me with my special little boy.

As always, our family appreciates all the prayers and support from our friends, family and even those we've never met, but who read our story here on More Skees Please. For us, the below quote rings true:

“I never said it would be easy, I only said it would be worth it.” ~ Mae West

Family photo on canvas from Printcopia

For the past two years in Texas, local Austin area photographer, Brandie Lynn Photography, has helped us mark family milestones with beautiful photos. She captured our first family shots as Texans back in 2011 and just recently shot our first official photo as a family of five.

In 2010 and 2011, I had our photos printed on canvas. I tried two different companies using one of those deal-type coupons for each. I was happy with the first order, but last year's canvas print was not up to par. I consider myself a loyal shopper, however I am always eager to try something new in order to find the best option available, so I was excited when I found out about Printcopia.


When I logged on to their website to check them out, I was first struck by how easy it was to navigate. The product options are very clear - they offer basic photo prints as well as more customized gallery pieces like canvas prints, photos printed on acrylic, and framing options. It only took me a few minutes to upload our new family photo and choose my canvas options and voila, it was in my cart and ready to be processed.

A few minutes later I received my order notification and just 24 hours after that, another email letting my know my order had shipped! This was MUCH faster than I had anticipated as the site said to expect 3-5 days before the canvas would ship. The package arrived less than 48 hours after placing the order...and during the holiday mail rush too. Impressive.

Happy to report I am very pleased with the quality of the product. The image is crisp, the colors are spot-on and the canvas itself is thick with a durable wood mount. It came ready to be hung with a small picture hanger already attached. 

All-in-all, I would definitely recommend ordering any of your family prints from Printcopia! And with their quick turnaround time, you could order holiday gifts as well! Additionally, if your printing needs go beyond standard sizes, they offer custom banner designs on their sister site BuildASign too!

DISCLAIMER: I received a complimentary 16x20 canvas print from Printcopia. All opinions about the product are honest and my own.

Bump? What bump?

Remember how I posted about the bump on Hudson's head back in September? Well, a lot has changed since then...

As it continued to grow daily, I became more and more concerned about the proximity to his eye structures. I decided to use the "just in case we wanted to" referral from our pediatrician to take Hudson to a pediatric dermatologist who specializes in vascular birthmarks.

We felt even more at ease about the situation after visiting with Dr. H. While she couldn't predict how large it would grow or how long it would take to get to the point where it would start to shrink on it's own, she was 100% certain that it was in fact a hemangioma. She even said that the fact that the more significant growth was happening under the skin (rather than the red part growing on top of the skin) was a good thing because typically what remains after the hemangioma goes away is much less noticeable in that scenario. Apparently the skin on the head/face can stretch quite a bit without causing any damage, but if the red part of his mark grew larger and puffed out more, that could cause some permanent loose skin after it shrinks in size.

I couldn't help but feel a little silly for wanting to have him checked out by a specialist. After all, we have had our fair share of specialist appointments for more complicated things than a growing birth mark. And it was funny because almost every nurse that we saw prior to our appointments with Dr. H must have assumed I was a scared new mom blowing things out of proportion. "Is this your first baby?" they'd politely yet semi-patronizingly ask as if they already knew the answer. Each time, they seemed surprised when I said it was actually my 3rd.

I don't know, maybe we are MORE cautious and cognizant of the small things with all of the big things we've been accustomed to dealing with. Either way, we left our initial visit with Dr. H with some reassurance, but another "wait and see" plan in place.

A month later we revisited Dr. H for our follow up. She was surprised to see how much the bump had grown. She agreed at this visit that with it encroaching more and more on the eye area, perhaps we should consider a a course of treatment rather than just letting it continue to grow and go away on its own. We had mixed emotions about this -- sure, we wanted to see this getting-larger-by-the-minute bump go away, especially if it was beginning to make his eyelid droop a bit, but the medication that Dr. H proposed seemed kind of risky. Propranolol is a prescription used in adults to lower blood pressure. During the usage of this medication, medical professionals noticed that when given to patients who happened to have hemangiomas as well, the size of their marks decreased dramatically. While it is currently not an FDA approved use of the medication, propranolol is given to dermatological patients with hemangiomas requiring treatment.

We considered the risks and the benefits and decided to move forward with giving Hudson the medicine. In order to do so, he had to have an EKG to check for any heart issues and will need blood pressure and blood sugar monitoring monthly during his course of treatment. Because the medicine is designed to lower blood pressure, infants and children are given a minimal dose to start with and have their pressure and sugar checked 2 weeks after the first dose. Once it is seen to be normal, the doses gradually increase.

As you can imagine we were paranoid about side effects so Ricky and I watched Hudson like a hawk. Every little wince or cry or if he had cold hands immediately made us question if it was the medicine. We did have a scare which sent us to the hospital, but luckily(?) it turned out to be RSV and not related to the propronolol.

Fast forward 6 weeks. Hudson has been taking the med twice daily since the end of October with amazing results. In the first 48 hours(!) the size of the hemangioma shrunk significantly. We could hardly believe it. Now, what was once the size of a golf ball is barely noticeable at all. Not only has the bump decreased to next to nothing, but the red mark that had gotten to be a very dark shade of maroon is now the same dusty pink we saw in his newborn photos.

We had another follow-up appointment on Tuesday and Dr. H is extremely pleased with the results. Hudson's shown no evidence of any side effects to the med and his blood pressure/sugar levels remain normal. He will continue to take propranolol for another 4-5 months or so, or until it is clear that the growth process has stopped and the body's natural involution process has begun.

We are so happy with the results and glad we made the decision to go forward with treatment!