‘Cuz you’re a heartbreaker, dream maker…

It has been a little over a week since 2/5 of my heart was punted across the river to the east. I am starting to adjust to this new life of just “littles”, and I have to admit that I am missing my “bigs” terribly. I have been Livia-less for a little over a year now, so my heart has become accustomed to such. I miss her of course and I have more than once contemplated showing up on her doorstep to have a sleepover already, but the newness of being Tasha-less is stinging a bit right now.

15 months ago I received a voicemail that would begin a 3 day explosion of frustration, turmoil, and emotion. “If you want her, come get her.” (Don’t curb alert your children.) To see the panic, longing, and desperation on Livia’s face gave us no option to second guess. Even though taking on another teenager wasn’t exactly on our wishlist,  we love Livia so much that we knew that we would do whatever it took to get her reunited with her biological sister and best friend.

Over the course of 15 months, our simple little family has gone through some very emotional and challenging times. Last spring I agreed to be the cheer coach at my old high school. This was before we knew we would be adding 2 more permanent members of the family. By the time we knew I was expecting another baby, it wouldn’t have been fair to back out on that prior commitment even though I knew how hard it was going to be on me. To my surprise, Tasha joined my cheer team for the football season. She started her cheerleading career with me when she was a freshman before moving to the big school and up into the big leagues of competitive cheerleading, and then she ended in the little leagues again with me. In fact, it was cheerleading that started our bond 4.5 years ago and it was special to have it come full circle in a way. Since Allison was born in the middle of basketball season, Tasha wasn’t cheering, and Allison decided to keep things interesting until March, the coaching chapter of my life just kind of ended abruptly. Tasha is one of the few people who knows exactly how passionate I am about cheering, about innovating new ideas,  and about revamping school spirit and energy. She got to be my listening ear as I talked myself through some hard and sad conversations about what I feel was a failed attempt at something in my home town.

Tasha was with me the day that I found out Allison had cysts on her brain. I had invited Tasha to go with me during my anatomy scan with Allison. She would get to be the first person in our family to know whether we were having a baby boy or girl. I will never forget how disappointed Tasha was when the technician said GIRL! She was so mad!! She wanted a brother and she gave me the silent treatment for the next 20 minutes as if I had something to do with it. Cracked me up! After the ultrasound we were waiting for the doctor and as soon as she came in I could tell something was up. She explained to me that the technician had found some spots on the baby’s brain that were most likely cysts. She also explained that these cysts are often nothing, but that they can also be linked to trisomy 18. We would not know for sure until we did another ultrasound in 4 weeks. Even though it was a good possibility that the cysts would be gone in a few weeks, it is our natural instinct to worry. Tasha quit pouting about the gender and quickly acted to turn the solemn mood around. Thank goodness I had invited her because there would have been a lot less dancing and laughing on the way home without her.  Multiple times over the following few weeks she would find me deep in thought and I wouldn’t have to say anything before she was assuring me that everything would be fine.

The first three months after Allison was born were tough. I was adjusting to two babies at home, worrying about my classroom from home, our attempt at keeping their biological brother united in our home failed dramatically, Allison gave us the scare of our lives, and then we discovered my heart condition.  It was a lot of emotional turmoil shoved into just a few months. Tasha was just “cool” through it all. She never wavered in her loyalty and she never took advantage of the situations. In fact, she was sure to always be around just when I needed her to be. Countless times she would take Abbi downstairs to play when she knew I needed a break or to rest and she kept the house together when I physically couldn’t.

Tasha is a human teenager and of course there were a few times that shone brightly, but thats part of what makes raising teenagers fun and interesting. Like Livia, she had to “start over” at the beginning of her senior year in a small and unforgiving town. She overcame a number of challenges throughout the year very gracefully. She never let her disadvantages get the best of her. She continued to work hard, remain at the top of her class academically, and gained some much needed confidence. Liv would disagree that she lacked confidence, so before she calls me out on that I better clarify… She gained the confidence of a young woman, replacing that of a junior high kid. HA! Sorry, Tasha, its true.

Tasha is drop dead gorgeous on the inside and out. Her witty sense of humor keeps us laughing constantly. She is the only kid that can keep up with Ray in humorous banter. We tease her about being “heartless” because she isn’t snuggly like Liv and she can be a bit of a heartbreaker. I sang this song to her a time or two.  Truthfully, she is one of the kindest girls I have ever known. Her thoughtfulness is proven time and time again to everyone in our home, but one of my favorite examples would be how sweet and kind she was to two foster children that we had in our home this summer. They were 7 &5 and absolutely adored Tasha. Even though there were times that she was annoyed, she never let it show and she gave those children comfort that they needed.

Trauma affects all people differently. I have worked with enough youth and young adults to know that these girls’ story could be very different right now. Even though it makes me a special kind of angry that others could just toss her out of their lives like the daily trash, I am very glad that the stars aligned perfectly to bring her to us.

Every day this past week I have looked anxiously for the little red bomber in the driveway and when it isn’t there my first instinct is to issue the ever so famous, “Where you at?” text from mom. Then I remember that she isn’t here because she is out there owning her world; a world that exists because of her own determination to prove her success and a refusal to back down.

Two and a half years ago, our Liv literally showed up on our steps.15 months ago, my husband and I were feeling so unsure of whether we could handle any more teenagers.  These things don’t “just happen”. I can’t begin to tell you how often people dotingly tell us, “You are such good people for doing this” or “You guys are Saints.”  But, these two girls have been just as good for us as we have been for them. Thank you God for blessing us with not one, but two, beautiful souls that we had no idea were missing from our lives.

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Just wait until Allison can play, too!
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Dear Third Grade Teacher,

Tomorrow is the last day of school with our students. While we are all looking forward to that much anticipated peace and quiet, I can’t help but feel my heart sink. Tomorrow is the day that I hand over a precious gift to you.

Two years ago I was packing up my middle school classroom into a moving trailer. I had tears streaming down my face, my arms full of middle school students, and swore I would never love any students as much as I did those ones. I was scared of what my “teacher future” looked like. First grade? I student taught in Kindergarten, but still, small people scared me a little.

I didn’t know a whole lot about first grade since I had spent the first three years of my career in a middle school hallway. I felt like I was in a whole new world with picture books, big print, and little chairs. I was so nervous on that first day I could have puked and then only three of them showed up! I could not believe it! What do you do with 3 students on the first day? I think the most students I had that first week was 5, and I thought “Wow, this is going to be a breeze!” But then Labor Day weekend passed and my full roster was present and accounted for. Turns out, first grade and middle school students are a lot alike- talk constantly, a little smelly, can’t or won’t read the directions, and have tiny bladders.

At the end of the 2016-17 school year I learned that I would be teaching 2nd grade in 2017-18. Both first grade classes would be combined and I was looping with my kiddos. I was instantly excited! How awesome to be able to “hit the ground running” in the fall! That is exactly what we did, too! Now that we are at the end of our 2nd grade year and our 2nd year together it is fun to reflect on how close we have gotten. In two years as their teacher they learned how to read, how to add and subtract all the way up to 3- digit numbers, almost all of them can do at least 100 math facts in 5 minutes, and they know how to put their thoughts into writing. I know all about their grandmas and aunties, how many dogs they have, and what size shoe they wear and soon you will know these things, too.

They are bossy and talk non-stop, but they are also very sweet and funny. Watch out for the quiet ones, they need some guidance in navigating through the bold personalities of the room. When these 18 beautiful souls come to you in August, don’t be afraid to push them to the limits because they want to learn and they want to be here. They work hard even when things are difficult and they love to dance it out when things are easy. They can easily be bribed with extra recess or lunch with the teacher.

If there are dark days in your life when you just want to leave your house in the morning and keep on driving or a time when you are questioning your teaching career, don’t worry, these kiddos will keep you on a path of lightness.

Prepare yourself to be challenged in the best ways possible. Prepare to ask them to stop talking 13 dozen times a day. Prepare to laugh your guts out and get lots of hugs. Prepare to fall in love 18 times over.

So when you see me across the hall tomorrow with tears rolling down my face it is because I am gifting you something that is very near to my heart and something I have worked very hard on. I am excited for you to open it in August and I pray that you find as much joy in them as I have.

Sincerely,

2nd Grade Teacher

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Quality vs. Quantity & Inspirations

Sunday Ramblings….

Quality vs. Quantity

Recently, during a graduation ceremony that I was attending, the keynote speaker was speaking about keys to success in life. I was drifting in and out between the speech and my own thoughts. It wasn’t until today that something the speaker said filtered through my subconscious jungle.  ~Surround yourself with people of quality, not quantity.~

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It is so easy to get smothered in the negativity of some people, and if you are like me you have your own negative fortress to tackle every morning. I have terrible anxiety, especially social anxiety, and I would focus on whether or not “this person” or “that person” was my friend or if they liked me; I worried about how I looked and talked.  Instead of thinking about whether or not someone was actually good for me, I would worry about whether they accepted me or not. Shamefully it was not until after Allison was born that I realized that this is just not a healthy way to live!I feel embarrassed sharing these thoughts because isn’t this what we tell our kids all the time? To not worry about what other people think and just worry about our own happiness? For me, that advice is so much easier given than taken. After Allison was sick and I had my own health scare I finally decided enough is enough, no more worrying about what other people think.  With four kids and a family and friends that love and care for me, it is time to start focusing on quality people. Not only surrounding myself with quality people, but also spending quality time even if it is difficult at times.  Who says resolutions are only for the new year? I am ready to be a better person today than I was yesterday!

Inspiration

So while I was dying a slow and painful death during my run last evening, I was trying to direct my thoughts to something happy. Because I am a nerd and enjoy distracting myself, I will occasionally ask myself interview questions to get my mind elsewhere.

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Who inspires you?

This really got me thinking because lately I have leaning pretty heavily on my mom. She is so totally my rock. She is so smart and strong and has the best ideas to solve all of my problems. A day ago, her and her co teacher posted some really touching thoughts about their school year that is now over. I know they have had a tough year. My mom says this has been her toughest in 30 years and that is saying something! But reading those thoughts about how much they love their students, even though it was hard, was really inspiring. Her co teacher is young like me and  as someone who was ready to give up and throw in the teaching towel just a couple years ago, I really needed to read that emotion of a young and passionate teacher.

This led me to think about a few other people who have been inspiring me to be that better person that I so want to be. So, social media is basically the only social life I have and I scroll through facebook, instagram, snapchat several times throughout my day. (its my only addiction now since I gave up soda 🙂 ) There is this girl who is about my age who has been sharing her weight loss experience with the facebook world. Her posts always make me feel so positive! I have struggled with my weight all of my adult life and I have been working on it pretty consistently for the past 3 years despite being pregnant twice.  Even though I have made great progress and I am really proud of myself, I have yet to be brave enough to share it with the public. Maybe some people don’t think it needs to be broadcasted, but I for one know how hard it is. I might never be brave enough to flash some before and after pictures with anyone but my closest friends but, on the days when I get discouraged I think about this young lady and it reminds me that this is hard work and that it doesn’t happen overnight. Speaking of brave, I have a friend who used to be one of my best friends growing up and holy moly is she brave! She recently moved her tiny family back west and then decided to go back to graduate school even though it meant that she would have to go back into school mode – long study hours and travel away from home.  I could not even imagine how she feels some days, but I have mad respect for any one who makes a sacrifice to better themselves and reach their goals. And what an incredible example she is setting for her little girl?! I bet she grows up wanting to be a doctor just like mommy! So how does that inspire me? Well, I have been playing around with the idea of getting my masters degree now that the two big girls are going to be away at college and I am NOT having any babies for a while. I am starting to feel like I am ready to hit the books and keep on learning! Certainly I have been influenced by many, many people and I could go on and on about each one of them, but there is something really special about the people who don’t even know they are inspiring you.

Somehow this all ties in together. I don’t know what any of these ladies think of me or what they consider me in the rankings of friends, but I really don’t care. (Except my mom, I know she loves me.)  I think that the bit about surrounding yourself with people of quality doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be best friends, hip to hip, with that quality. I think that just being in that presence and reflecting in their thoughts and positivity is what counts. Stay positive, because you just never know who is standing by needing their own light rekindled.

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My Sunshine Girl is 2!

Highlights of Abbigail’s 2nd year!

What better place to start than with the celebration of birthday #1!? Look how little!

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She got a new big sister, Tasha! She adores her and much to Livia’s dismay, she said “Tasha” right away!

Swimming and fishing were two of Abbi’s favorite summer time activities.

She was the flower girl in two weddings!

Papa and Unc are a couple of her favorite guys.

Cows, Cows, Cows! Abbi loves cows!

Loves her Mimi! Pumpkin Patch, Sledding, Dying Eggs, and all things silly with those two! ❤ When Mimi pulls into our driveway Abbi runs to get her shoes and if we drive past Boomdock’s Abbi will cry for the next 7 miles!

Christmas #2! She got to meet Santa! …kinda 🙂 She slept through the whole thing!

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Cheerleading Stuff with Mom

Through MANY fortunate (and some not so fortunate), Abbi got to spend LOTS of time with Nana and Papa in the last 365 days. Her and Cousin Dean are going to be best friends!

She loves her sissy, Liv!

Her new baby sister arrived in January! She LOVES her and is always trying to hold her and kiss her.

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It feels like year #2 flew faster than any year before! Abbi is my sunshine girl. She makes me laugh continuously, she melts me with her sweetness and frustrates the hell out of me with her stubbornness. She loves her family and she keeps us all on our toes. She enjoys going to daycare every day with Kasey and all of her friends.

We are preparing for cake and ice cream on Saturday afternoon and Watiki on Sunday! Message me for details if you would like to join us!

Hello, Paul Harvey! Nice to meet you!

I didn’t actually meet Paul Harvey. Mostly because he is dead, but also because he isn’t a cardiologist.

So, How’s Mom?

Probably my most dreaded question when talking to people lately. Most conversations go, “Ohh! Allison is so cute and tiny! But, look at those cheeks! She must be a good eater. How are you doing, momma?” And I either just laugh and say “Doin’ good.” or I go into a full blown monologue about how I am actually doing.

While I was pregnant with Allison I kept getting these weird moments throughout the day where I would feel my heart go kind of funky and I would get a little light headed and sometimes feel hot and sweaty. I brought it up to my OB several times, especially the last few appointments because it was getting to where I would feel it very strongly and much more often. But every time I said something it got brushed off and chalked up to some kind of weird pregnancy thing. I can respect that since being pregnant does do some weird things to you. Some nurses thought it could maybe just be anxiety, to which I have to laugh because I have anxiety since I was 9. Trust me, this is not anxiety or panic. Even though it kept getting brushed to the side, I couldn’t help but keep thinking something isn’t right.

Laying on the operating table, preparing to be sliced open for my baby and the anesthesiologist  says, “Woah, whats wrong with your heart?!”

Seriously? I don’t know! I have been asking the doctors for months!! I wanted to scream. My heart was out of control, just doing its own thing. Everyone in the OR was joking that I must drink 5 energy drinks or pots of coffee a day. Nope! I have never drank an energy drink in my life and I don’t drink coffee. Needless to say, I wasn’t having much fun with their jokes. My OB ordered an EKG after my c-section, but nothing came of that. I decided to wait a couple weeks post partum before looking into it further just in case it really was just something strangely related to pregnancy.

A couple weeks into post partum recovery and I was still having episodes, but then this happened: Allison vs. RSV 

When we got back from Sioux Falls, I made myself an appointment with my primary provider right away. We visited about everything that had led us to that point and she then ordered me a Holter monitor to wear for 7 days. I didn’t have that monitor on for 24 hours before the cardiology team in Rapid City was calling me.  Dr.: “LeeVi, how are you feeling?”  Me (super confused!!): “I’m good. Why do you ask???” Dr.:”Well, about 10 minutes ago your heart rate was over 200 and we think you need to go to your ER for monitoring.” Me(laughing): “Ok, but I am just sitting in a chair, holding my baby.” Dr.:”Yeah that is even more concerning. We need you to go to the ER as soon as you can.” At this point I am borderline annoyed because I am just thinking about having to load both babies up and take them to town to sit in the ER where I won’t be able to hold them or control them because I will be hooked up to a bunch of stuff and just the mere thought of all of that was about to give me a heart attack. Pun intended.  I also didn’t want to actually have a heart attack so I made a couple phone calls and made it work.

The nurses and doctor in the ER were really great and worked really hard to get my arrhythmia captured on the EKG so that my cardiologist would have something to look at. My heart rate was just fine while I sitting there. Hardly even half of 200. I was prescribed something to keep my heart rate under control, but at a really small dose to start because I also have very LOW blood pressure. No one wanted me passing out every time I stood up. Go figure. Two days later, exact repeat! Why me?  I do not have time for ER, or monitors, or a heart attack! My prescription was upped and we had an echo scheduled.

Our first appointment at the cardiologist office and I could not stop laughing. I was surrounded by old people! Like really old… Thankfully we discovered that my heart is structurally sound.  I was diagnosed with paroxysmal atrial fibrillation.  Cool. Except not really. Obviously lots of people have afib, its not really that rare. But when you aren’t even 30 and looking at a lifetime of medication, its a crappy feeling.

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Right now, my course of treatment is just medication to keep everything under control. I did go back to the cardiologist recently to wear the monitor for another 48 hours (all was good with medication). I felt like a celebrity. All the nurses knew me as that 28 year old who they thought was having a heart attack. I had Tasha and Allison with me. Tasha had the same reaction that I did while we were there. She couldn’t stop giggling about all the old people! Good grief. I am not a cool mom.

Somewhere in between all of Allison’s stuff and all of my stuff, my six weeks of maternity leave expired. We hadn’t even hardly gotten to know each other yet! My doctor wanted me to take 6 more weeks so that I could have time to actually recover and actually bond with my baby. My additional leave was granted.

So, now what?

Taking an additional 6 weeks of leave felt like a really terrible ultimatum. Take 6 weeks and you are betraying your students, don’t take 6 weeks and you are betraying your baby and your body. Anyone who knows me knows that I would easily sacrifice my body for my students, but my baby? I had to draw the line somewhere. I do not regret having more time with my baby. I am headed back to work on Monday and I am a hot mess of excitement and nerves. All of my next doctors appointments will have to wait until summer because good gravy I can not afford to take leave without pay due to my sky rocketing day care bill!

As for the hours outside of Monday-Friday, 7-4? Survive. Two under two has been the biggest challenge of my parenting career so far. My family has proven to me time and time again that they will not and can not live without me. So, survival is my only option at this point!

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I am so going to miss kissing this sweet face any time I want to during the day!

 

 

Just in case you missed it…

It has been two months since Allison made her spectacular entrance into this world. It is hard to believe how much has happened to our family in just that short amount of time. So, grab some popcorn or grab your phone and sneak into the bathroom for a good “poop” and catch up on our crazy life.

What’s in a name?

Allison Eloisse. She wasn’t planned necessarily, but we did plan for a repeat cesarean birth on January 30th at 7:00 AM and for once in my life something went according to plan. The only part of the process that I would have changed would have been to not have a rookie doing my spinal. A ginormous needle poking me several times and literally digging into the bones of my spine wasn’t enjoyable and my back still has stabbing pain, but I got my sweet, angel baby out of the deal so, I will live with it.

When they pulled Allison from my body she was screaming the most blood curdling scream I have every heard from a teeny baby. I was beginning to think that everyone in the room wanted to put her back in! But when they placed her on my chest and I started to talk to her, she immediately quieted down and snuggled in while they put my body parts back. I looked at Ray and said, “She looks just like Abbi!” ❤

We had quite a bit of trouble getting pregnant with Abbigail so, in my mind I wanted to make sure that we honored our mothers in her name just in case she was the only girl we ever had. But then our little unplanned miracle arrived on scene. Ray and I both love the idea of having a name that means something or is family oriented in a way.  My Grandma Alice has been one of the sweetest influences on my life. She has taught me how to work hard,how to cook without measuring, and to roll with the punches of life with humor and grace. She is also not my biological Grandma, but I have never known the difference and that is the kind of love and acceptance that I want my baby girl to grow up knowing and emulating. This is where the name Allison comes from.  Eloisse… I can not begin to tell you how many comments we got on her middle name while we were in the hospital (the first AND second time). Not sure if its because people think its cool or because people thinks its a weird and old name but allow me to explain. I have two other grandma’s, Carolyn Lois and Sheila Louise, two of the strongest women I have ever known.  Also, my sister Megan’s middle name is Loisse. So, Allison got her very own variation of those middle names. Eloisse.

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Bright Eyed Beauty! Newborn pictures. Hard to believe what she looked like just a few days later. 

RSV or Respiratory Syncytial Virus or…

the scariest thing that I never imagined would nearly take my baby from us or land us in the PICU of Sanford Children’s for 10 days.

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I knew my baby was sick. We took her to the ER on a Monday and they confirmed that she had RSV. Her stats were good, her oxygen levels were fine, she was just sleepy and a little congested. Monday evening went okay, my sister Megan (the family nurse) was home for the week and so she came spent the night with me to make sure all was well. Tuesday morning, Allison seemed almost back to normal. She was hungry, awake and alert, and breathing fine. As Tuesday went on Allison seemed to get lethargic and congested again. Her breathing also started to seem labored. We took her back in on Wednesday morning. Her oxygen levels were bouncing between 60-70%. There was hours of pokes and XRays and tests before it was decided that Allison would be flown to Sanford Children’s in Sioux Falls. When the flight team arrived, they could not get Allison’s breathing stable enough for the trip. They were not confident that she would keep breathing all the way there. So,Allison was intubated and off we went!  Ray took Abbigail south to Kimball, NE so that she could stay with my grandparents. We were not sure how long we would be gone. Then, Ray turned around and made the long trek to Sioux Falls to be with us.  When Ray got to the hospital, I met him at the door to Allison’s room. I was not sure how Ray was going to handle seeing his baby like that. The last time he had seen her, she was snoozing in my arms while we waited for the flight crew. No tubes, IVs, or wires. Allison was heavily sedated and almost seemed lifeless. I almost remember feeling Ray’s heart sink as I was standing next to him.  I look back at the pictures of her in that bed and my heart hits my butt every time.  The doctors said that she would get worse before she got better and they were right. Her little body was fighting three different viruses and also pneumonia. Every doctor that we came in contact with would say “She’s a fighter, not many babies would make their way back from all of this.” They told us that should would be on the ventilator for at least 10 days and then probably spend the next 3 days after that on oxygen and then another couple days on the regular peds floors. Well wouldn’t you know that little stinker must have decided she was going to kick some ass because about day 6 she started to make some wild improvements! She was breathing over the ventilator and they eventually shut it off and she was breathing on her own. Her pneumonia was also starting to heal. She would wake up and look at us for long periods of time. Day 7/8 (hospitals don’t really run on days, more like one hour at a time) the breathing tube came out and the ventilator went bye bye!! 🙂 She spent the rest of that day flying through all of the respiratory tests and only needed a little oxygen. We were moved to the pediatric floor and stayed there for a couple more days before FINALLY getting the green light to come home!

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Going home! Can you believe she weighed her birth weight on this day? She lost so much weight! 

 

When you go through deep waters…

Those two weeks in Sioux Falls were very surreal and I am really terrible at articulating the emotions of the experience. There are huge chunks of time that I have no recollection of because the days just seemed to roll together. However, I remember the first night very clearly. It was about 5:00 in the morning and we had just gotten checked into our room. We were both so exhausted after staying up for nearly 48 very stressful hours. I flopped onto the bed and Ray laid next to me. We hadn’t looked at each other all evening/morning for fear of making each other cry. I felt Ray bury his face into my back and he said, “I just want to know if we are going to take our baby home with us.”  Hearing that out loud made my guts hurt. Up to that moment, of course, no doctor could promise us anything. Looking back at how amazing her recovery was, it is hard to imagine those couple of days where her future was uncertain. And then the guilt sets in as to how could I let my baby get so sick that she could possibly die? I couldn’t sleep for more than about 30 minutes at a time for the first three days because EVERY time I closed my eyes all I could hear was Allison crying. Guilt. That guilt punched me in the face every minute that I was in that hospital and it continues to sneak a right hook in every now and then.

We kept some weird hours during those days. Hospitals don’t do days, they do hours. It wasn’t strange to be at the hospital from 8 AM to 3AM and then go to our room for a few hours and then be back to the hospital at 8 AM again for rounds. There wasn’t really a need for us to be there that much but we couldn’t sleep anyways and we had no where else to be so we might as well be with our baby.  On day 3 or 4, when things were starting to turn around slightly, I remember going back to our room for a bit to take a shower and I was so overwhelmed that I collapsed to my knees in the shower and wept. I prayed to God prayers of thankfulness for giving Allison to us and letting us keep her here with us on Earth and also prayers to continue to heal her. It really is a overwhelmingly humble thing to be so thankful for what you have, but to also ask for continued help.

I have no doubt in my mind that Allison made the recovery that she did because of prayer. We had a CONSTANT outpour of people texting, calling, messaging, etc. who were praying for us and with us. I would find myself often overcome with emotions just knowing how many people were praying for us. Allison was baptized in the hospital by a pastor from our sister WELS Lutheran church in Sioux Falls. My father, Carey, connected us with Celebrate Church in Sioux Falls. They were phenomenal. They came and visited or called and prayed with us almost every day while we were there. They also brought us dinner a couple of times in the form of Pizza Ranch gift cards. We even took in a service while we were there. Even though there was so much uncertainty and wondering going on around us, I felt so loved and surrounded by God.  My friend Madison sent this graphic to me at the beginning of this little adventure and I went back to it many times. Absolutely so true.

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Thank You

There is no way to express it that would do it justice. If you prayed for us, thought of us, messaged us, called us, liked our updates on facebook, you name it… We love you and we are so thankful for you. Admittedly, there had been times before this that I felt like I was drifting away from friends and becoming buried in the depths of “life”.  I had no idea how many amazing people are in our lives. It is unfortunate that it took such an event to remind me, but I will not forget it and an excellent reminder to be that person for others.

I don’t want to get started on shoutouts because I  am terrified of making anyone feel as if their thoughtfulness was not appreciated. But I am also afraid of not giving some credit where credit is due. Carey, my father, did everything in his power to do everything he could for us  while we were in Sioux Falls. He helped Ray get there on that first night, traveling together because he knew how tired and worried Ray must have been. He drove numerous times back and forth between Chamberlain and Sioux Falls to visit us. He connected us with all the right people to get us things that we needed. He even brought Allison and I half way home when we were released. I know he was doing all of these things while also working his regular “more than full time hours” job. Barb, Carey’s girlfriend, was the first familiar face that I saw when we landed in Sioux Falls. AND she brought me something to eat. FREAKING HERO! She took us out to eat at least once or twice and gave us a place to get away from the hospital for a couple hours. My sister, Megan was there with us every day. She works at Sanford and so she learned the tunnels from her floor to Children’s and she gave up her lunch break several nights to come see Allison. All Star Aunt Status! Our oldest daughter Livia came to visit a couple of times. She had only met Allison one time before all of this happened. Seeing her cry on the first night she was there was one of the hardest things I have had to see. I wanted to comfort her and cry along with her at the same time. My best friend McKayla also visited and gave us some much needed laughter and hugs. My brother even made an appearance during state wrestling. My mom and Paul, even though they couldn’t be with us, were so supportive and my mom let me cry through several text messages and gave me the kind of comfort that I needed. Ray’s Aunt Nicole was also a huge help to us navigating the inner workings of Pine Ridge Hospital and we could not have done it without her help. She also came to visit and it was so nice to see someone from Ray’s side of the family step up and come through for him.

But, if we are really going to talk about who needs to win the lottery and a private cruise, and an island getaway and three billion dollars, it has to be Grandma and Grandpa Story. These are two very incredible people. They are MY grandparents, so Abbigail’s great grandparents. She spent TWO WEEKS with them. How many of you can imagine spending two weeks with your great grandparents? I can’t. I couldn’t have when I was two years old either. They are the most special people in my life. We missed Abbi so much and there were a lot of times when we needed her sunshine but she was exactly where she needed to be. She was happy, warm, fed, and safe. We did not have to worry one tiny bit about where she was resting her head while we were with Allison. What an absolute relief that was. There is no money amount to put on that feeling. I am truly blessed to have those golden people.

To be continued…

I had originally planned to get you all the way caught up. Can you believe there is more to this saga?? If you have made it this far you are surely bored of my ramblings! I will work on the rest of this story. (Read that in a Paul Harvey voice)

As I wrap this up, I do want to add that the care that we received at both hospitals was amazing. Sanford Children’s takes so much of the worry away because you know that your baby is in the best place possible. I have heard plenty of criticism of Pine Ridge Hospital in the past, but in our experience they did absolutely everything they could for us. The nurses and doctors devoted their entire attention to us while we were there and they helped Allison get the help she needed. I have an even deeper respect and love for the medical profession and I continue to pray for all of those people that give so much to others.

People!

God is good. ALL. THE. TIME.

Don’t forget it.

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Christmas 2017

Just when we thought that 2016 could not be out done, 2017 happened.

Abbigail turned 1 in May and we celebrated her birthday on the same day that her big sister Livia graduated high school. We were blown away with how many visitors we had at our house that afternoon to help us celebrate. She is one incredibly loved little girl. Abbi has developed a ‘little’ attitude over the course of the year. She already has her own ideas about how things should be done and isn’t afraid to tell you about it. She adores her older siblings and loves to be “one of the big kids”. Her daddy is still her favorite person over anyone and they are two of a kind. Abbigail loves to play outside no matter what the temperature is and she is OBSESSED with cows. Abbifall 2017

We welcomed Chad into our family at the end of the 2017 summer. Who knew that adding a boy to the mix would change things so much?! Chad is a sophomore this year. He played football this fall and learned a lot and enjoyed himself even though he had never really played football before. He suffered a broken ankle during the football playoff game and was very worried about what that would mean for his favorite sport: basketball. Much to everyone’s relief, the ankle healed and just in time to be cleared the day before basketball practice started. Basketball is currently keeping him plenty busy, but he plans to run track and play high school baseball in the spring and also play summer baseball. He also works for my dad, Paul, in his very few spare hours. He keeps Ray and I very busy, but we are extremely proud of the way that he has maintained his grades and also helps around the house as much as he can. He and Abbi have also developed a  special friendship. He is a great big brother to her!

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Another beautiful addition to our family this year came to us in a small package of dynamite that we like to call, Tasha. I specifically remember thinking that after Livia graduated that I would have 18 years before having another senior. I was so wrong! As a senior, Tasha has participated in football cheerleading, Science Club, Key Club, Art Club,  choir, was nominated to Homecoming Royalty, and earned a trip to All State Chorus.  Not too bad for moving to a new school as a senior! She also has two part time jobs and plans to have another one this summer as she saves for her college fund. When she isn’t working or tending to her other responsibilities, she is “chillin” with her good friend Marcus. As of right now, she is leaning towards University of South Dakota in Vermillion, but she does not have a major in mind yet. Tasha has also been my right hand gal this year as I have taken on extra responsibilities. She is my comedic relief and I feel very lucky to have her in my family.

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Our girl Livia is killin it at college! She is a freshman at University of South Dakota in Vermillion. One of her first goals this fall was to be invited to a sorority. She experienced rush and she is now part of the Pi Beta Phi sorority. Livia persevered through a tough schedule and some tough classes her first semester out of the gate. I mean, who takes 8:00 AM Chemistry their first semester of college!?! She also worked as many hours as she possibly could at the DQ in Vermillion. Between classes, work and the library she passed all of her classes! She is currently majoring in dental hygiene. At the end of the semester she was able to job shadow for a few hours. “Oh my gosh, mom! That was so much fun and I have no doubt about what I want to do now!”– that was possibly the most relieving phone call! I never had a single doubt about how well she would do this year, but I appreciate so much how hard she has worked. She has so much to be proud of already!

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Ray and I have spent 2016 in a whirlwind of emotions, events, and blessings. Ray has stayed busy working for a local rancher while also picking up other part time jobs to help support our rapidly growing family. He has also spent plenty of time taking kiddos to and from places and accompanying me to as many of the kids’ events as possible. Ray also stays busy as our live-in mechanic with five vehicles and teenage drivers. He is a great dad and I am lucky to have a partner that doesn’t mind sharing all of the parenting jobs, even the stinky ones on occasion. 🙂 I am in my second year as a Batesland Eagle teaching second grade. I LOVE my students and I feel very accomplished so far this year. I also agreed to coach cheerleading in Bennett County last spring (before I knew I would be taking on two more teenagers and a pregnancy). It has been a challenging schedule addition at times, but I have a really great and dedicated group of young ladies that I enjoy working with. Early June 2016 Ray and I discovered that we would be blessed with another little Big Crow. She is due to arrive in just four short weeks from now. So, 2018 is already set to start off with a life changing event! We can’t wait!

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For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted. —Ecclesiastes 3:1-2

We truly understand how blessed we are as a family and we pray every day for God to continue to provide guidance to go along with our blessings. It is the closest thing that we will ever have to an owner’s manual for this life! One lesson is sure to have come from 2017: All in God’s time.

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 Thank you to all of our loved ones who played a part, big or small,  in making 2017 the best year yet!

 

Is there such a thing as “Has Like 100 Kids” Anonymous?

I love to write, but not always to publish.  If I am not writing, I am thinking about things that I want to write about. Often times, a specific topic will cross my mind several times and I just sit on it and wait for the right motivation to do something about it. My motivation is coming to me in two ways tonight. One being that I am so exhausted that I can not even move from the dining room table and I am really avoiding the cakes and goodies that I need to make for tomorrow, so I might as well do something while I channel my avoidance. The other one came in form of a Christmas card today.

Not long ago my best friend Christina jokingly suggested that I have “like 100 kids”. That seriously cracked me up, because most days it really feels that way. One at college, a senior, a sophomore, a toddler and a baby on the way, on top of my own teaching and coaching obligations… Most days I need to be in AT LEAST two places at once, which try as I might, I just can’t do it.

I am swallowing a great deal of pride on this statement, so be gentle with your judgements, but… things are hard in this house sometimes. “Duh. What did you expect?”

I wish I would have been keeping track of all of the “I don’t know how you do it.” or “I know I couldn’t do what you are doing.” or “That must be so hard.”  statements. At first, I would always think or say, “You would do this too if the opportunity came into your life.” But, as I get through more days doing this, I realize that no, not anyone and everyone would make the same decisions.  This is in NO WAY saying that we would choose differently, but I have definitely learned a lot of things in the last 20 months. First of all, kids are expensive. I know… I am a discoverer of all things new! ha! This isn’t a complaint, but rather an explanation because some people tend to believe that there is some kind of money to be made from “the system”.  Because of the nature of the situation for our oldest children, we chose the quickest, easiest, and safest route for them to be a part of our family. This meant that we chose to take them on with zero assistance. Again, we would make that choice a million times over because we know without a doubt that was the best choice for them in the short and long run. We have had to make sacrifices and stretch pennies into some interesting places, but our kiddos haven’t had to go without much. Even more than expenses, I am always in constant debt with TIME. Oh how I wish I could spend ample amounts of one on one with each of them. I know that I am doing the best that I can, but I always wish I could do more. The third strand is that our oldest three are also our newest three. Imagine trying to weave three young adults, who despite being siblings, have had very different traumatic experiences, into your very young family. It is a damn rollercoaster. The neat part about getting to raise children from babies is that you get a nice 12 year runway to the teenage years. We didn’t get a runway! But despite a batched take off, these kids are amazing. They have dreams and determination and they are so much fun! I love being their mom, even if most days I feel like I am doing a crappy job.

The mom guilt eats me alive some days. Ray and I prayed for a child for three years. In those years, I met a lot of women who had or have the same struggle. I am currently keeping three near and dear women in constant prayer in hopes that they will soon get the blessing that they so deserve. I know what it is like to be on the other side and  I feel like a real butt for even muttering an annoyance. For this reason, I am always wrestling with “What makes me deserve five children in 2 years?”  It can be exhausting in my head some days.

The second part of this saga is that we received a very special Christmas card this evening. It is actually the first card that we have gotten this year and I was just pumped to be getting something cool besides the usual mailbox residents. Looking at the return address, I was a little surprised because I am not sure how they got our address, but I was flattered that they thought to add us to their Christmas mailing list. The thing is though, this was an actual very personal card. The words that were written inside touched my soul. I think Ray thought there was bad news because I immediatly started crying. This beautiful couple not only gifted us monetarily, but they acknowledged our hard work and lifted us up with support. It was an amazing and generous gesture that I know I will never be able to repay.  However, we will be paying it forward at our local angel tree. Please, if you are the praying type, lift these wonderful human beings up with prayers of gratitude with me.

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Chad and I in our glitter wreath/sombreros! Feliz Navidad! 

 

 

 

 

Room 208 is a HOT mess!

It’s November, friends! The time of year when we are frantically trying to keep our head above freezing cold water while we wait for the “Christmas Break Life Boat” to arrive. The freshness of the school year is behind us and we can really start to feel the weight of the school year.

The time crunch between the holiday breaks bears down on my goals that I set at the beginning of the year and that is aggravating. We aren’t nearly as far into the curriculum as we should be. That 6 weeks of poorly planned maternity leave is getting closer. Deadlines for district paperwork has come and passed and I’m still not done with everything I need to do. We have had early outs and late starts and assemblies and presentations for umpteen miscellaneous reasons. I swear it feels like we have had about 4 regular school days in the last month. I have all of this happening around me while I have testing goals and expectations staring me in the face. I feel like I could work for 3 days straight in my classroom and not make a dent!  Any one else get caught in that stupid trap of  “I have so much to do, but I am so overwhelmed that I can’t do any of it.” ?!?!

This is only my second year in this district, but I know that they have been through several curriculums in what most schools would consider a short amount of time. Our test scores aren’t pretty, so this year our entire district K-8 has undergone a massive curriculum overhaul. New everything. Everyone likes new and shiny things right?!?! Not teachers! LOL! Or at least not in such huge doses. 3-4 new curriculums in one year is a ginormous task!

So here is the precedent to this blog: Last week, I had one of THOSE mornings. My life was a mess because my own kids were being shits, I am sure I cried all the way to work. I had one student bawling because of infected bug bites all over her hands and arms. I had another student bawling because of an illness that had gone one too many days untreated. I had one kiddo bawling because dad went to jail the night before. Mind you, its not even 9:00 yet! You guys, room 208 is a freaking hot mess! Unbelievable, and yet so much of my daily reality.

We take quarterly progress tests to track our students growth. At the beginning of the year, my class average showed that we were one full year behind in reading and math.  So, according to the national norm, my second graders were actually only ready to be first graders. That was discouraging at all. I taught first grade last year, so this is my second year with these kiddos. I “looped” with them, so I know how much they are capable of. I have embraced our new curriculums and have given it everything I have for 9 weeks. We took our 2nd growth test last week and you know what!?! We are 3 tiny points away from Beginning of the Year 2nd grade status! I am so damn proud, I just had to share this. I am exhausted. Physically and mentally exhausted at the end of my day. BUT, so are my students! WE.ARE.LEARNING!

I teach in one of the poorest counties in the nation. You can look up all the lovely statistics that go along with that if you want, but it’s not much fun. If I am being completely honest, when I took this job I was preparing for the worst. Even though I grew up less than 10 miles from it, people would tell me really negative things about the kids and the schools of “the rez”. Luckily for me, I have experience in a few other school districts and let me tell you… This is my favorite. My students, despite their challenges outside of school, are some of the most respectful and hard working little people I have ever met. Most of my co-workers are the most dedicated and loving educators that I have ever worked with. So, think and believe what you want, but my kids are awesome and they are kickin’ ass!

I have no reservation in saying that teachers are the most under appreciated professionals in society. Unfortunately, while the outsiders are beating us up, it is all too easy to beat ourselves up too. Teachers, my friends, I feel ya. You is tired. You is ready for break. but… You is amazing! Keep pouring your guts into your students. The victories, no matter how small, are coming!

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The 411 on the 4-1-1

Hey friends!

I’m going to try and make this as short and sweet as possible because here’s the deal… Mommin’ ain’t easy and Teachin’ ain’t easy, so I decided I should also coach from August to March. And guess what?!? Coachin’ ain’t easy either! It’s the middle of August and I already have the drowning brain feeling.

If you have been following along, then you know that we went from a family of 2 to a family of 4 very quickly about 15 months ago.

If you saw this picture,

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then you probably were like “WTH?” because I didn’t disclose many details. Still won’t. Sorry guys. But, you can know that Tasha, followed by Chad, are here and ready to start the school year and to join this crazy family of ours.  Oh, and they are Livia’s two biological siblings! How awesome is that?!

So, 2 to 4 to 6 in 15 months! This would be the kind of record I would hold! HA!

To say that the summer has gone by quickly would be an insane understatement for me. What summer?? Between welcoming two kids in, preparing our Liv to leave the nest, chasing Abbi around, thinking about school, and having a coaching obligation at least once a week, there just hasn’t been much time for anything else! At the end of the day though, I feel like super woman. A very tired, make-up-less, underneath a mountain of laundry, super woman. I have my husband to thank for that! Bless that man for keeping me upright and upbeat! And thank you to my very best friend, McKayla. My Gracious! I would say everyone needs a best friend like her, but I am pretty sure there is only one and I am NOT sharing. Cards, calls, texts, snaps… that girl does it all and I would surely be in the fetal position without her.

Anyways, Abbi is currently hulk smashing crackers onto her tray that they are hitting the ceiling. That might be my cue to wrap this up.

One more thing! We are also celebrating Abbi’s big promotion! She is joining the BIG SIB CLUB! Welcoming Big Crow #5 February 1, 2018!

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God is good all the time.