This spring break was a bit out of the ordinary for Elena and I (Dani) and our two kiddos. If you’ve been around Daily Mom at all, you know that we have a bad case of wanderlust, especially when it comes to us two. Half of the grand travel gestures we toss around never come to fruition, but this time was different. Elena decided to spend every extra minute she had – and trust me, there are not many extra minutes in this power woman’s day – on planning the perfect kid-friendly, with an educational twist, ten day trip on the other side of the country. Her hard work paid off, and we are currently – I’m literally sitting on the lawn of Tanque Verde Ranch writing this post – traveling through the state of Arizona, soaking in all the sunshine, desert heat, and cowboy facts we can find. Our first leg of the trip landed us in Tucson, at the best dude ranch in Arizona, the Tanque Verde Ranch. We’re pretty okay with just staying here for the whole week, as it’s a western paradise that fulfills us in every way, but our restless souls will ultimately move on tomorrow. So here is our diary entry into these last three days that were spent on an authentic ranch, together with our little cowboy and cowgal, Eli and Lexi.
As I sat breastfeeding my infant while entertaining my toddler, half-listening to a doctor (a gastroenterologist to be exact) tell myself and my husband that he was being diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease, I was overwhelmed to say the least. This made no sense. How was my 29 year old, strong, healthy, weight lifting, food-loving husband being diagnosed with a disease neither of us had ever heard of? A disease that in the middle of a cold night in January 2012 crippled my husband, sent him to the hospital, and resulted in him being admitted for over a week. A disease that would change the course of our lives forever.
“Seriously, what are you looking at? Who are you talking to?”
“No one. I’m just on Facebook.”
“Facebook, Instagram. You’re always on there. I don’t see what could possibly be so entertaining.”
It’s true. I’m on my phone quite a bit. And in talking to my other mommy friends, so are they. In fact, I can see that they’re active on Facebook right now, or how long they’ve been inactive. I can tell that they were up with the baby at 4am or that it’s dinner time because social media is radio silence. So why are moms on their phones all the time? What exactly is your wife doing as she stares into that bright screen?
There’s certainly no shortage of “special moments” when you are raising a family with nine children. Those moments have brought laughter, tears, hugs, kisses, regrets, apologies, and my favorite: love. As parents, we just want the best for our children, just like parents of one or two children. However, when you have nine of them, those moments are expanded across nine little human beings, each with their own distinct personalities. If it wasn’t for some of the physical similarities, we’d even think that a couple of them were adopted… surely that one wasn’t from my side of the family!
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Seasonal and environmental allergies affect so many people all year long. You may end up snotty and coughing in the spring with everything outside blooming. Pet allergies can cause suffering all the time, as can allergies to dust and other stuff that hides in your home. Over 50 million Americans suffer from these kinds of allergies every year, and while we all experience allergies differently, we can all relate to the suffering that comes with the signs and symptoms involved. You are not alone. Here is the story of my family and how our different allergies affect us and how we learned to fight back and deal with the annoying symptoms.
It is not your fault. It is not always your fault that you are all alone. It is the nature of the beast. It is the way you were raised, it is inherent in you, and sadly, you cannot change it because you are a teenager and you simply don’t have the ability to do so. Your brain is not fully developed, your hormones are raging, and you are angry. I know. And I have failed you. I have failed you because I am so often at a loss as to how to help you. You tell me I don’t understand, and you are right. I was not there for 9 years of your life, 9 of the most formative years of your life. I do not know what you went through, I do not know what happened to you, I do not know how to manage all the feelings and emotions you try so hard to suppress.
“Read me another chapter, Mommy” is the nightly mantra in our house as I turn off lights and tuck in covers… there is no end to the creative ways my children will find to get me to read them more stories. And I know, this doesn’t seem like it should be a problem, and it’s really not, but as we already read at least five story books and two chapters of whatever series we are currently engaged in nightly, there truly isn’t enough time. As an avid reader myself, and the progeny of a lawyer and an educator, it is no surprise my children love books. My gift from my parents for my 1st pregnancy was a full-size crib FULL OF BOOKS… and I mean full. Since then I have carried on this collection as I too love children’s books.
Being pregnant for me was like being a kid in a candy store. Literally. I ate whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted, because I was totally fine with packing on the pounds if it meant making sure my oven was warm, toasty, and nourishing to my little bun.
With this being my first child, I napped at my leisure and meticulously decorated my nursery with the notion that it would be seen and not touched. I planned to breastfeed and make my own baby food and fully expected my child to be a member of Mensa while never being sick a day in her life. Today, we’re six months in and only a handful of these things actually came to fruition.
Although it seems like it’s been around forever, body shaming is a relatively new issue facing our young girls today. The age of social media and reality television has taken the act of critically looking at women’s bodies away from scouts of runway models and puts it into the hands of every person who has a smartphone. Even before this new generation of technology, women were praised looking a certain way, but the era of photoshopped magazine covers and edited Instagram photos have given us regular folks a false sense of what a person’s body – no matter their size – actually looks outside of staged shoots.
My Darling Children,
I do not consider myself a political scholar, or even possessing extensive political knowledge. I cannot relate to all the woes of the world – because I am only one person. I only know what it is like to be me – a white woman in trying times. Times that will test us, bring us to our knees. I cannot speak for the minorities or the masses. I can only speak for myself – and as your mother – I must speak up for your future.
When thinking about getting on a plane with two 4 year olds and flying 5 hours across the country just to spend 2 days hiking and then repeat it all over again to get back home, most moms would start hyperventilating. It’s true, preschoolers aren’t the easiest to hang out with in general, then put them in a tin can for hours straight and the resulting nightmare can give anyone a heart attack. Between the why’s and the constant whining and the snacks and having to sit still for 5 hours, you would think that the majority of sane people do not plan short stints across the country. And we say they are missing out!
Travis and I have a tendency of describing the stage of life we’re in just like this, “Oh, we’re in the TRENCHES.” I’m pretty sure the “trenches” part comes across a bit dramatic, but it’s true. We have 4 kids under 5.5 years of age. If that’s not the trenches (at least of parenthood), then I don’t know what is. We have one in kindergarten, two in diapers, three who need help brushing their teeth and wiping their bums, and four crazy-different-awesome-unique-scary-smart-challenging personalities.
Having debated with my husband for the umpteenth time about whether to give a store-bought cake or a bouquet of flowers as gifts to both my mom and mother-in-law for their birthdays (we sent them flowers and a card last year) a few months ago, it dawned on me that I had been putting so little effort into my gifts year in and year out — so this year, I had to come up with more meaningful gift ideas for my mom and mother-in-law who love cooking.
This may not be a story you’re accustomed to hearing, but it’s a story many mother’s who struggle to have their own children may long to hear. The story of the opportunity to simply be… a mom. To carry a child in her womb, experience the hiccups, kicks, and the precious heartbeat that exhibits a new life growing within her body. Now, this has been made possible through embryo adoption. An adoption that was made possible straight from conception, giving you the full experience to “Mom” even though the child is biologically someone else’s, just like adoption. Through the heart and eyes of Anabelle Peterson, she gave life from her womb into another’s.
Nobody said marriage would be easy. And you certainly don’t hear people tossing around phrases like “it’s all rainbows and butterflies” when describing those first few years of parenthood. I’ve been married for 8 years, and a mother for 4 and a half of those years. The first 4 years of our married life were full of self-discovery and growth as individuals and as husband and wife. Then, just as we were getting comfortable in our new roles, our first child was born, and life became a series of chaotic days turned to months turned to years that sent us down the path of self-discovery once again.