Archive for the ‘Mommydom’ Category

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.

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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.

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).

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!

A great business prospect…for someone

January 14, 2011

During my first pregnancy, my sister got me a book called “Hot Mama.” It’s a guide on “how to have a babe and be a babe.” I’m thinking I need to thumb through this right about now at 28 weeks pregnant and seemingly unable to keep food out of my mouth. Did I really need to eat a vending machine bear claw yesterday? No. Did every fiber of my being crave it and thoroughly savor the cinnamon laced dough topped with icing? Oh yeah.

But “Hot Mama” isn’t solely about diet and weight gain. It touches on such other topics as hot mama clothing–an area I need to ponder as I peruse my limited selection of maternity clothes. I am roughly 12 weeks out from delivering a baby. Do I really want to spend money on clothes that I may never wear again? But at the same time, I am so sick of the five-day rotation of clothing and my relative dearth of maternity pants, which I have adamantly refused to purchase this go around, that it seems I will have to augment the selection or continue down my path of not-so-hot mama.

Let me share with you my dilemma. I am five feet 10-and-a-half inches tall. It’s challenging enough in a non-pregnant state to find fashionable clothes that fit my goonish frame. I can think of at least three bridesmaid dresses I’ve purchased over the years and on which I’ve had to spend at least an extra $30 more than the other attendants simply because extra fabric was needed to accommodate my longer than average body. I actually refuse to shop from stores that charge more for their tall sizes. There’s absolutely nothing I can do about my oversized body people!

But I digress. Imagine now being visibly pregnant and needing to sport maternity clothes for both aesthetics and comfort. Now imagine trying to find affordable, cute, LONG maternity clothes. Not an easy task. As a result, the outcome often looks something like this:

And while there are a few outlets out there that sell maternity frocks for us giants, they’re few and far between, and the selection is not always as broad as one might like. So, I put this out there to someone looking for a new business venture in 2011. How about a fashionable line of clothing for tall pregnant women? Sure, we’re not as numerous as our smaller counterparts, but we’re desperate and willing to pay!!

If I didn’t have eight million balls of my own in the air, I’d pursue this myself. Until then, I would firmly support (aka feverishly buy from) such a business and shamelessly promote it on my blog! 😉

This won’t change your life…maybe just help organize it a bit

January 5, 2011

In the spirit of sharing little parenting tips that I think are handy, I thought I’d pass along another one I recently came by. It certainly won’t take your breath away, but it might just help you get a little more organized, and who isn’t all for that in the new year?

I should preface this tip by noting that my daughter was born with a full head of hair, which though everyone told me she would lose shortly after birth, she never did. See exhibit A.

Exhibit A

At 21 months, she continues to sport a thick, full head of hair (with gorgeous curls that leave me envious and more than a little curious as to from where they came). See exhibit B.

Exhibit B

Needless to say I need to contain her hair via pigtails, ponytail, barrettes or some other assortment of hair accessories. I’ve accumulated quite a collection of such things since her birth, so many so that I often find tiny hair ties in the oddest of places (my laptop bag, the cup holders of my car, the kitchen floor, the dog’s water dish…you get the idea). And since I am so often losing these tiny hair ties, I am finding myself at my favorite place to shop (Target) on a somewhat regular basis to purchase more rubber bands, toddler barrettes and the like. Though I try to keep them contained in a zipped-up cosmetic case, I still find my supply depleted on a regular basis.

So imagine the “aha” moment I experienced when my sister-in-law whose two daughters have sprouted luxurious locks of their own produced a pill box neatly containing and organizing dozens of hair ties by color. I loved it! And I let her know. She promptly shared that she stole the idea from her own sister-in-law. So I found myself at Target upon our return from our holiday trip to the in-laws’ to find just such a container for my daughter’s many hair ties. And not a day has gone by since then where I haven’t been able to find matching hair ties for my daughter’s pigtails.

So simple. So practical. So portable. Thanks for the parenting pearl of the day Jessica!

Discovering mom in the Christmas tree

December 17, 2010

My 21-month-old daughter idolizes her dada, and it warms my heart. But from time to time, I get to feeling a little bit like chopped liver. Especially when she pulls family photos off the shelf and points out only daddy in images that very clearly and prominently feature the both of us. No mention is ever made of the fair maiden (aka mom) on her beloved father’s arm. Even when asked, “who’s that next to daddy?” she typically has no response.

With the holiday season in full swing, we have a Christmas tree trimmed and on display in our living room. It contains many ornaments with photos of her or of her mom and dad  on their wedding day. Of course in these photos, her eyes zoom in on her hero, and she loves to pull the photo ornaments from the tree to gaze at dada and repeat his name. Honestly, it’s getting a little old.

But the other day, she came running to me with an ornament she had retrieved from a tree branch and began shouting “mama, mama” as she approached. I looked at what she was holding and couldn’t help but smile. She saw some resemblance to me in one of the “nine ladies dancing” that are part of a set of ornaments representing the “12 Days of Christmas” that were passed down to our family from my parents.

And it wasn’t a fluke. She has done it several times since then. While I don’t know that I am the lightest of foot when it comes to dancing, I quite like that she thinks I resemble this young lass who obviously keeps on top of her roots (me not so much) and is way more curvy than her real life lookalike.

You can bet this ornament will remain in the rotation for years to come!