Latest Addition to Our Lullaby Playlist

July 25, 2012

I heart Pandora for many reasons not the least of which is exposure to fun new renditions of old songs. Loving this version of Dumbo’s “Baby Be Mine” by Alison Krauss circa 1996 I heard via Pandora today. Misty eyed…

p.s. The entire “The Best of Country Sing the Best of Disney” album is worth a listen.

A Book Worth Knowing About: “I Will Hold You in My Heart Forever”

July 9, 2012

I recently worked on a three-part series on grief for Metro Parent magazine. It looked at grief and loss from three perspectives: parents grieving the loss of a child; children grieving the loss of a parent; and parents grieving the loss of their spouse. It was a humbling experience.

For part one of the series, I came into contact with Michelle Murray. She is the mom behind “I Will Hold You in My Heart Forever…A Baby Book for Little Angels.” I drafted a sidebar on this book that didn’t make it into the final story that ran in the magazine.

I’d hate for the world not to know about this special book, so I include below the short article I wrote on Michelle and her creation. Please share the info below with anyone you think might be in need of this special book. Thank you Michelle!

Bereaved Mother Creates Baby Book for “Little Angels”

Michelle Murray of Toronto gave birth in 2006 to her first child, a boy she named Tyler. She knew from early in her pregnancy that Tyler would be fighting an uphill battle because of a severe heart defect detected during her 18-week ultrasound. Still she held out hope that her little guy would survive the three major surgeries he would undergo during the first five years of his life. Sadly, that was not to be. Tyler died at home in his mother’s arms at seven weeks old.

Devastated, Michelle and her husband Jason went on to have two beautiful and healthy little girls. While filling out her second daughter’s baby book while home on maternity leave, Murray realized that she had no baby book for her firstborn.

“He was here. He lived,” Murray reflects.

And so she embarked on a mission to find a baby book appropriate for accurately telling Tyler’s story. Murray had little success finding something for chronicling her son’s short life and the grief journey that followed.

“I didn’t want a baby book that called for me to write in things like Tyler’s first word,” Murray recalls. “A book like that would be incomplete.”

In her search for something appropriate, Murray came across some somber memory books but nothing that captured the happy moments of her pregnancy and the almost two months she had with her son before he died. She decided to take matters into her own hands working with her sister-in-law, a graphic designer, to create a baby book that works for any parent who has lost a child at any age.

“This book is good even for those who miscarry,” Murray says. “If you miscarry at five months, you have still gone through a lot of happy things from learning you were expecting to ultrasounds.”

Titled, I Will Hold You in My Heart Forever…A Baby Book for Little Angels, the book Murray created includes space for the happy moments every expectant and new parent experiences but also includes space for parents to share their experiences after their child’s death.

The book includes section titles like “The Day You Died,” “Where I Go to Think of You” and “What I Would Have Thought You’d Be When You Grew Up.”

“I wanted my two daughters who never met Tyler to see his life story. This was a way for them to get to know their brother,” Murray says.

The book is laid out in binder format so the pages that aren’t relevant can easily be removed.

“Tyler lived for only two months, so I took out the pages for ages three months on,” Michelle says. “Originally, the book only extended through baby’s first year, but funeral homes that carry it have asked me to add pages for children who were older when they died.”

Murray has also found that some parents who have lost older children are transposing the contents of the child’s original baby book into this one.

“It’s a more complete story of their life,” Murray explains. “I’ve heard from parents who have it out on their coffee table to make it easier for visitors to broach the topic of the child.”

Murray has received letters from many of parents who’ve found the book to be a source of comfort.

“It’s unbelievable the positive feedback I’ve gotten,” says Murray, who is expecting her fourth child—a boy due in May. “Tyler has touched so many families.”

Retailing for $39.95, I Will Hold You in My Heart Forever…A Baby Book for Little Angels, can be purchased online at www.foreverheart.ca.

Has it really been 10 months?

June 26, 2012

Sheesh…time flies, and I have certainly let this blog get away from me. I have been writing–only in different places. I’ve been back at it on the Detroit’ News MichMoms blog writing about the zany journey of motherhood. I’ve also been knee deep in a very emotional series for Metro Parent on loss. The first in the three-part series takes a look at the grief journey for parents who have lost a child. The second looked at the experience of children who have lost a parent through the eyes of three local kids and their surviving parent or guardian. The third hits newsstands this week and takes a look at the experience of three local parents who lost their spouse and co-parent. I wrote an essay about my experience writing this series that shares a little bit about the process of putting together this emotional series. I can’t say thank you enough to the local parents (and kids) who shared their stories. As I said in the essay, I am humbled by you. May God Bless you!

I am looking forward to writing about some more lighthearted topics here on the MichMoms blog and for Metro Parent in the weeks and months to come. Got lots of ideas, now to find time to get them on paper…er WordPress…er here on my blog. Thanks for checking in!

What to do when you come upon time to pause and reflect on things

August 31, 2011

They say men do business on the golf course. OK. To me, that begs the question where do women do business? Well, while I’m sure that the answer to that question varies widely, lately — for me, anyway — business is getting done in the basement floor changing room of my office building (a.k.a my pumping place).

You see, in this crazy life of mine, the one that involves a toddler and an infant, full-time employment and management of a house that currently sports eight brown shutters and four green ones (much to the dismay of the neighborhood association, I’m sure), idle moments are few and far between. Not that I would have it any other way, of course. Still, it does leave one with little time to pause and reflect on things.

Enter lactation.

Twice a day, while at the office, nature calls, and I visit the basement to pump in the one area of the building where the walls are not glass (aka see through)! And I sit for about 10 minutes or so hooked up to my bestie with some of that oh-so-elusive time to pause and reflect on things. It is often in these twice daily stretches that some of my best ideas come to me. Free from my BlackBerry (as my hands are — how should I put this? — otherwise occupied), I actually close my eyes and think. Imagine that!

But aside from the several “aha moments” that my pumping time and place have afforded me, I am also meeting new people! You see I work on the second floor of my office building, and I might never otherwise visit the basement bathroom where I now run into my new cronies: Gail and Lucinda** on a regular basis. And who knows, down the road when I need a programmer, I may just call on Gail. Or when I need a recipe to entertain a dinner party of eight, I just may ask Lucinda for a recommendation. Business done! All because of a little pump that could!

This all leads me to wonder what innovations, ideas and possibly even companies have been born of breastfeeding sessions when the sisterhood of nursing mothers have sat unattached to technology to pause and reflect on things. If we harnessed that collective time and brain power, just think what we could do!

Or if you simply want to use this time to close your eyes and think about George Clooney, Denzel Washington or insert your crush’s name here while reliving the moment in ninth grade when you scored the game-winning goal in the regional soccer finals, please do that. After all, when a mother comes by time to pause and reflect on things, she deserves to be able to do whatever the hell she wants.

**All names have been changed to conceal the identity of these frequent visitors to the loo (yes, I used the word “loo.” It’s just fun to say).

Hi Ho Hi Ho….It’s back to work I go!

June 16, 2011

Well they say all good things must come to an end. And so it is that I will soon bid adieu to my maternity leave. Please don’t feel sorry for me as I will have had 12 weeks at home with my munchkins when all is said and done. I am so very lucky to have had this time with them, BUT it is not without a heavy heart that I return to the office for I will miss my little sidekicks very dearly when I am back in my nine to five routine.

So to rally for my return to work next Wednesday, I thought it might be helpful if I scrounged up some inspirational quotes on the value of work. Perhaps if I read them enough my mind will give my heart a hand in mustering the strength I need to do what I need to do in a few short days. Oh and it doesn’t hurt that yesterday I made a trip to my happy place Target where I purchased a complete new set of colored gel rainbow pens and a crisp clean notepad for the first day back (am I the only one who takes great pleasure in a good pen and a brand new notebook)?!

So alas here are some quotes that will be my rallying cries for the next five days:

“The only place where success comes before work is in the dictionary.” -Donald Kendall

“Satisfaction lies in the effort, not in the attainment, full effort is full victory.” -Mahatma Gandhi

“Work spares us from three evils: boredom, vice, and need.” -Voltaire

“Work joyfully and peacefully, knowing that right thoughts and right efforts will inevitably bring about right results.” -James Allen

“We work to become, not to acquire.” -Elbert Hubbard

“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” -Thomas A. Edison

“Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.” -Theodore Roosevelt

”I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it.” -Thomas Jefferson

So I will read these wise words spoken by wise people and remind myself of all the good things that result from my working outside of the home (not the least of which is the ability to fund my bi-weekly trips to paradise Target). So wish me luck and send any of your own personal words of wisdom or inspiration my way if you’re so inclined…I may need an extra large dose come Tuesday night!

Liking me some Rascal Flatts

May 25, 2011

If you know me, you know I don’t really know music. So while the country music band Rascal Flatts has been around for more than a decade, I’m just now coming upon its music. (Thank you Oprah farewell extravaganza.) I love this song performed during part one of Oprah’s farewell tribute.

R.I.P. Sweet Mandy B

May 18, 2011

Well here I am again, in a familiar albeit heavy hearted state–writing a tribute to a beloved family member–our dog, Mandy. Some eight months after saying good bye to our golden retriever, we now bid farewell to our yellow lab. Sweet Mandy is surely in a better place, or at least that’s what I choose to believe. And if I had to guess what her Heavenly experience resembles, I’d wager there are sand dunes, lake waters and wood-burning fireplaces at every turn.

On Friday night we had to make that decision that millions of pet owners before us have reluctantly had to. We put Mandy to sleep when it became clear beyond the shadow of a doubt that keeping her with us was causing her suffering. I had always imagined with both of my dogs that I’d be there to stroke their ears as they took their last breath, but in neither case would fate allow for it. With an infant and a toddler now in our household, only one parent could get away to take Mandy to the 24-hour emergency veterinary hospital. And rightfully it was the guy who first came upon her as an eight-week old pup, the last remaining member of her litter to be claimed. This is the guy who would so successfully train her that she’d never need to walk on a leash, would stop on a dime if told to halt and obeyed every command ever directed her way. I suspect he wanted to be alone with his girl to say their good byes. How could I argue that?

So my good bye to Mandy took place in the driveway as I helped hoist her failing 90 pound body into the back of our Saturn Vue for her last ride in the car–an activity she had always enjoyed throughout her life. I had only a few seconds to kiss her nose and hug her to my chest before I had to run back inside to make sure our two-year-old wasn’t lying on top of our six-week old. It wasn’t enough of a good bye for a pet that to me was more like another child in many ways, but to prolong our parting would have only prolonged her pain.

I’ve known Mandy about as long as I’ve known my husband. It was she who first greeted me when I made the first trip to my then boyfriend’s home in Chesterton, Ind., when we were newly dating. I was a bit nervous–making this trip from the city to the 219 area code meant we were getting serious. All my nerves went out the window though when a friendly yellow lab greeted me in the driveway putting this dog lover at ease in an instant.

I can assure you that the stories of Mandy and her big heart are many. She was loved by all who ever met her. She was Lassie to our golden’s Marley personality. My husband used to call her the goodwill ambassador, and I can’t think of anything that more accurately describes her nature. We had many other nicknames for her, including “D,” Deeter dog, Mandino and the yellow dog under the bed–(the impetus for a children’s book series I’ve been working on), and I’m sad that I’ll never again be able to call them out and hear the tags on her collar clink in response as she scampered my way.

Mandy loved more than anything to be outside. When I first made her acquaintance, she’d literally tremble for joy en route to the Indiana Dunes State Park to climb and then descend the dunes headed at full speed toward the waters of Lake Michigan. Later when she and her dad moved to Michigan where I had relocated, she enjoyed walks around our neighborhood–anything that would allow her fresh air and a chance to play fetch with a tennis ball or frisbee.

More than once Mandy served as courier between her dad and me. Stressing out over a statistics assignment that had me on the verge of a nervous breakdown during grad school, I looked up one afternoon to see Mandy headed my way with a red rose from dad tied to her collar. Who couldn’t feel a little better with that visual in mind? On another occasion, she couriered a note from my husband to me with some words of love and encouragement that I’ve now since forgotten, but the sentiment is still very much remembered.

Mandy was a teddy bear at heart but was also an astute watchdog letting us know when a stranger was at the door. And when we expanded our family and our infant daughter would fuss, Mandy would pace the floor like a worried mother. She was our ultimate protector, and I don’t doubt that if an emergency had ever arisen, she would have done everything in her power to assist.

Mandy was everything a dog should be, and she is already missed. Seeing her tattered bed out with the garbage cans this morning literally caused my stomach  a moment of pain And coming upon her red collar and leash on the counter has had me closing my eyes for a moment to acknowledge again that it’s better for her–and–us–that she isn’t here anymore, not in the state she had been in. The state that had not allowed her to go on a walk in several years. The state that meant if she wanted to join us in our bedroom in her home under the bed that we’d have to carry her up to that spot. The state that meant we’d hear that labored breathing only intensify with time.

So, she has joined her pal Riley on the other side. And one thought that has made me mentally smile since her passing is that some day (hopefully a day far from now) when I go to that side, I’ll be greeted by wagging tails full of enthusiasm. And a fuzzy yellow goodwill ambassador will be there to show me the way to all His wonder.

He loves me, pump and all

April 22, 2011

I’m not sure there is anything sexier than being hooked up to a breast pump. I jest of course. In actuality, I’m pretty sure this task registers on the hubby’s “could have lived without ever catching a glimpse of that” list of things to which he must bear witness in this lifetime. And lucky for him, he gets to see this occurrence transpire several times a day as I attempt to create a stockpile of breast milk for our infant son.

It has become such a part of my daily routine that I have gotten somewhat lax in my discretion. For example, lately I have given to pumping at the island in our kitchen as I surf the Internet on my laptop. That means I am pretty much in a fishbowl for anyone who might be passing by our home. Thankfully we live on a cul-de-sac with no outlet, so random traffic is rare.

Today as I pumped, I about a had a heart attack, when out of the corner of my eye, I saw movement out the back window. It was a man spraying our lawn and though I doubt he was looking in the window (and if he was, I further doubt he would have caught on to what I was doing), I ducked down out of view of the window and dragged my pump with me–after all breast milk is like liquid gold–hard to come by and second to none for baby’s nutrition. I simply couldn’t let good milk go to waste.

So there I was pumping on the floor of the kitchen under the island–my sexiness factor at an all time low. No one was there to witness my predicament, but it had me thinking about the positions we sometimes find ourselves in once kids enter our lives. For example, a few days ago I was on the ground attempting to slither through a multi-colored tunnel that was a recent birthday gift to my two-year-old daughter from her aunt and uncle. What she seems to like most about this new toy is watching her parents struggle to fit into it. I thought I was doing well losing the baby weight until I entered this tube and attempted to emerge  from the other end at my daughter’s prodding. Let’s just say it wasn’t a pretty sight.

But before I had time to worry too long about whether my husband still sees me as attractive given the somewhat compromising positions I seem to find myself in more and more now that we have two munchkins, I received an unsolicited e-mail from him that has set my mind at ease.

It was a simple forward with an attachment showcasing breathtaking photos featuring Grecian landscapes. His note accompanying this slide show read simply, “To my beautiful bride…….we should take a trip to Greece…..put it on our top 100.”

And in an instant, I felt all was right with the world again–despite, at that moment, being hooked up to a breast pump.

Stealing a stranger’s sentiment

April 12, 2011

We welcomed a son into our family on March 30. We are so blessed and thankful for his health and his very being! I see God in this little boy at every turn it seems.

Prior to giving birth to the little guy, I had a conversation with my sister, herself a mom of three, about how I could ever love another child like I do my two-year-old daughter. I just couldn’t comprehend being able to have that much love for another child. She assured me that I would.

As per usual, she was most certainly right. And for the past 13 days, I’ve been thinking about how I could convey this feeling of love for my now two children. It came to me today in the words of a woman by the name of Heather Lende, a stranger to me but someone who shared her story in the May issue of Woman’s Day magazine that arrived in the mail earlier today. The issue is devoted to moms in this, the lead-up to Mother’s Day. At three points while reading through the issue and pumping breast milk into freezer bags, I was brought to tears. Seems the post-pregnancy hormones are still very much circulating through my body (as if I needed more evidence–thank you chronic night sweats).

Ms. Lende is the mother of five, four biological children and one daughter she adopted from Bulgaria 11 years ago. In the article, she talks about how when each of her babies was placed in her arms, she had a similar overwhelming sense of love and responsibility for this new being. She experienced those same feelings when a nine-year-old Bulgarian gypsy became her daughter through the miracle of adoption. Ms. Lende writes, “There is no occupancy limit on a mother’s heart. It expands with each child, whether you gave birth to that child or not–you just add another room.”

I loved it–particularly the “no occupancy limit” bit. Another room has indeed been added to my heart. It’s baby Brendan’s. Love you with all my “no-occupancy-limit” heart little boy. Welcome to our world!

What I know for sure…round 2

March 8, 2011

I’m about four weeks shy of my due date with my second child, and we’ve slowly but surely been pulling the nursery together for his arrival. Last night I went into his room to see what final details needed to be put in order before his debut. My heart grew a little heavy when I opened his closet door to see a solitary item of clothing hanging—a hand-me-down bathrobe from his sister. When I think back to this time before my daughter was born, I can recall this very closet overflowing with clothes—new clothes in all sizes and for all occasions.

Don’t get me wrong—I have stocked up on some boy onesies that are neatly folded away in his dresser drawers. But comparatively, my son is starting out with way less in the clothing department than my daughter did. I guess that’s just how it goes.

I’m hoping though that what I lack in attire for my baby boy I more than make up for in motherly experience having done this child birth thing once already. For any of you who’ve read my blog from its early days, you may recall a post I wrote on “what I know for sure,” which is also the title of Oprah’s column on the last page of each issue of her magazine. At that time in 2009, I was writing what I knew for sure about pregnancy up to that point. Today, I write what I know for sure about parenting now two years in.

What I know for sure…

  • The sleep deprivation of having a newborn is like nothing you’ve ever experienced before, but it too will pass.
  • No matter what advice veteran working moms send your way, it’s extraordinarily difficult to go back to work leaving your (in my case) 12-week-old baby in the care of another.
  • No matter what advice veteran stay-at-home moms send your way, going back to work (however it is that you choose to do so) is beneficial to you, your spouse and your child in myriad ways (and not solely financial).
  • There’s nothing like having your own mom there to help during your first days home from the hospital (thank you MK)!
  • The famous quote by Elizabeth Stone couldn’t be more dead on: “Having a child is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.”
  • The words “I love you” have never held more meaning than when said out of the blue by a curly-headed toddler giving your leg a giant bear hug.
  • Breastfeeding is hard.  Breastfeeding is rewarding. A lot of people have very strong opinions on the topic. Listen to their opinions and those of others you respect. But ultimately, make the decision that is best for you and your child.
  • The best is yet to come!

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