Safety Dance

(First, look up! There’s a new header! It’s perfect. Big thanks to Jen at Dress My Blog for making my very poorly expressed vision a reality. She was an absolute pleasure to work with from start to finish.)

I picked Eli’s first car seat out the exact same way I picked out almost all the baby stuff- I used a book someone gave me and found a car seat with an A rating. I remember clearly installing the bases into our cars in a rush at 36 weeks when we thought I was leaking fluid. I remember reinstalling them a few days later when we realized that we installed them just totally wrong (Honda does not allow center LATCH borrowing, in case you wondered). And on that day, an obsession was born.

Yes, I am obsessed with car seat safety. I love car seats. I love helping people pick the right one. I love helping people install and use them correctly. I love the way new carseats feel, I love reading through the manuals. I love car seats. Don’t worry, I judge myself, too.

And so Monday, I’m taking my obsession to the next level. I’ll be taking a 4 day course to get my Child Passenger Safety Technician (CPST) certification. It basically will allow me to register with SafeKids as a person who can help others install car seats and will certify me as an official car seat/safety nerd. I am just unbelievably excited.

I am beyond hopeful that my obsession and subsequent piles of knowledge about car safety will never be necessary (side note: the car behind me got rear ended on the freeway today. That was good times), but I also really like the comfort of knowing that I’ve removed all the variables I can and have given my child the best possible shot at being safe in the car. And the idea of being able to help others do the same for their kids is something I’m so excited for. Down the road I hope to take an additional course to expand my knowledge to include special needs car seat situations, but in the meantime, just being able to help families is exciting enough.

So, that’s what I’m doing next week. I can’t wait to share all that I learn there. I feel like I’ve already learned so much just having a toddler in a car seat, so I’m excited to fill the gaps about future car seat situations (forward facing, booster, no booster). As far as hobbies go, it’s a little dorky, but I’m pretty at peace with that.

In Defense of Protective Parenting

In the past few months there have been several articles about overprotective parenting and the ill effects of being a helicopter parent. I have opened all of the ones that have crossed my internet screen and find myself, time and time again, rolling my eyes.

There’s this one that says that being overprotective will cause your child to be depressed and incompetent in college. Or this one, that says that if you’re overprotective, your kid will be bullied. Or this one, that says we’re raising a “nation of wimps.” And let me be clear, it’s not that these results are insignificant. No mother wants their child to be depressed or incompetent (whatever the limits of that term may be) and certainly we never want our child to be bullied. I’m not saying that. I’m just saying that I think we need to take a look at what overprotective parenting really is, because I think the definition is getting a little lost.

My child will be 2 next month. He rides rear facing in a car seat, and he will until he outgrows his car seat. He wears a helmet whenever we go bike riding. We put shoes on when we walk outside. We put sunscreen on him in the sun and we wash his hands after he plays outside. We force him to hold our hands when we walk across streets or in busy public areas and we even sometimes use a cart cover when we put him in the cart at the grocery store. And these things, simple though they seem to me, have me pegged by many parents as overprotective.

I am an overprotective parent because I read research about car seat safety. I am an overprotective parent because I eliminate risks in my child’s life and because I watch out for safety hazards. I am an overprotective parent because I love my kid so damn much that I don’t want him to get hurt. And I just have to say, I’m really sorry that I’m not sorry.

The leading cause of death in 2010 for children was unintentional injury. Obviously not all unintentional injuries are avoidable, but a whole lot of them are. My child suffered a preventable, unintentional injury that could’ve been catastrophic. I wish I had been more protective and I know that many parents across this country feel similarly.

The leading causes of unintentional death in children in 2010 includes suffocation (under age 1), unintentional drowning (ages 1-4), car accident (ages 4-24). When spelled out this way, it’s hard to not see how some of these can be prevented. There are safe sleeping guidelines to prevent suffocation and following those does not make one an overprotective parent. Unless you ask in the internet. In which case, suggesting that a new mother not use crib bumpers, because they’ve been shown to increase the risk of suffocation, makes you a worry wart and a person who sees a risk in everything and these people feel sorry for our kids. Or suggesting that one needs a gate around their pool or an alarm on a door going out to the pool means you don’t trust your kids or that you’re a bad parent. Keeping your child rear facing until the NHTSA recommended age of 4, and keeping them harnessed until they max out their forward facing car seat or keeping a child in a booster beyond the bare minimum and until their seatbelt actually fits them makes you a hovering, uptight, helicopter parent.

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve read that I am handicapping my kid for life by keeping him rear facing. I can’t tell you how many parents I’ve seen say that we don’t need to keep kids in boosters beyond the age of 8, even if they’re small, because “we survived.” The implication is that if you put your child’s safety, and current research, ahead of what has always been done, you’re somehow a lesser parent. You’re somehow weaker and by connection, so is your child.

And here’s what I think every time I read one of these studies. Yes, my child’s emotional health is incredibly important. Yes, letting my child experience life is critical to his development. But ignoring safety laws and regulations is not overprotective parenting. It’s being a good parent. It’s being a protective parent. And I would rather be called a helicopter parent every single day for the rest of my life than have my child become a statistic. I would rather get my child help for depression and incompetence in college, or manage bullying, than be another tally on the list of avoidable deaths or injuries.

Being a helicopter parent may result in more cautious kids, but since when is having a healthy understanding of safety a bad thing? Since when is caring about the safety of your child a joking matter? It’s not.

I am a protective parent. And I’m really not sorry about it.

What a Difference 23 Months Make!

Typically lion pictures are fun for all of us, but today was not typical. We’re in the midst of some weird virus that involves snot, drool, a 101+ degree fever and high levels of misery. I was only able to snap 2 pictures before he completely lost it and we had to abandon ship and they are saaaad. Which is really too bad because he’s normally just a really happy kid. Hopefully we can capture that next month. When he’s 2. Sniff.

1 day old!
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1 month and 1 day old!
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6 months and 1 day old!
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1 year and 1 day old!
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1 year, 1 month and 1 day old
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1 year, 2 months and 1 day old!
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1 year, 3 months and 1 day old!
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1 year, 4 months and 1 day old!
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1 year, 5 months and 1 day old!
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1 year, 6 months and 1 day old!
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1 year, 7 months and 1 day old!
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1 year, 8 months and 1 day old!
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1 year, 9 months and 1 day old!
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1 year, 10 months and 1 day old!
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1 year, 11 months and 1 day old!
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(For the full list of pictures from the first year, see here)

Elijah: Month 23

Eli,

Today you are 23 months old! You celebrated by waking up at 7am and throwing up in your bed, which truthfully is not my favorite celebration. You’re napping now and we’re crossing our fingers that you’re on the mend. You are the saddest sick dude and nothing makes us feel more helpless as parents than not being able to fix what ails you.

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This month has been a truly fun one. You are at the best age and every day is a new adventure. You love EVERYTHING and mostly only dislike transitioning to a new thing because you’re constantly having so! much! fun! doing whatever activity you settled on. You give hugs and kisses and tell us you love us. You are passionately devoted to me, which is both lovely and tough because while I love you even more than you love me, it’s also hard to leave you when it breaks you the way it does.

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Your language skills have been developing fast and furiously. Your new phrase is “I want a/my” and it is followed by any manner of things. The other day you walked up to me with your magna doodle and said, “I want my name” and then proceeded to spell it E-L-I-J-A-F. I thought you had finally gotten it after weeks of forgetting the A and now a week of skipping the I. You request that the letters E, L, F, Q, K and J be written on your magnadoodle quite a lot. And you would color every second of every day if we’d let you.

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You love, I mean capital letters, bold LOVE water. You would wash your hands a hundred times a day if we’d let you. You want to jump into every pool you see, want to climb into every fountain and stomp in every puddle. This bodes well for my late summer plans which consist almost entirely of living at the pool in our complex. This weekend you had a pretty decent time at the zoo, but you had THE BEST time playing in a free fountain with your cousin even though it was freezing cold and you were exhausted.

(I can’t get the video to post today because Flickr is new and different (and change is baaaaad), but try the link)

You are not (yet) a fit thrower. I think there was one time you tried to last week, but it ended with you getting stuck in downward dog and forgetting what you were upset about. When you don’t get your way, you say you’re sorry and oh my God, it is so sad. Last week we were trying to get you to choose between a stuffed hippo and stuffed zebra at the zoo and you chose the zebra, but when I went to put the hippo away, you started sadly whimpering and saying, “Sorry mama. Sorry hippo.” I wanted to buy you that hippo so badly, but it was one of those parenting moments where I had to clench my teeth and do the right thing and stick to the pick one directions we had given (I did ask if you wanted to put back the zebra, trust me, you did not). You also broke out in repeated “sorry mama” when you realized daddy was taking you to daycare instead of me last week. I’m still putting the pieces of my heart back together from that one.

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Your likes this month include: coloring, ketchup, rice, noodles, applesauce, yogurt, walking everywhere instead of being carried, kitties, grandparents, water of any kind in any context, lining up your cars, washing your hands, jumping (or trying to), any animal that will let you hold it down and pet it, dirt, balls and legos.

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Your dislikes this month include: diaper changes, public bathrooms, vacuum cleaners, when your cars don’t stay in line, blow driers, holding hands in parking lots, leaving whatever water you found to play in/with.

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It continues to be apparent that you are a very sensitive kid and I am trying hard to support you and let you experience things, but it is a challenge because I also want to protect your sensitive spirit at all times. You are learning how to interact with other kids and it’s so fun to watch you navigate friendship, in the earliest sense of the word, and interactive play. You desperately want to be a big kid, but it’s tough and you get left behind at times, which I know is a part of growing up, but it doesn’t make it any easier to watch.

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Next month you will be 2. I thought I would be more emotional or wistful about this, but here we are a month out and I find that the only emotion I have is excitement. You are such a cool kid, such a wonderful person to be around, that I can’t feel anything other than happiness about every day to come. You light up my days, I get excited to see you each morning, and after work each day. I know that 2 is going to present its own set of challenges, that you’re going to get more strong willed and we’ll have more issues to manage, but I can’t help being excited.

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There are times where I feel hopelessly lost as a parent, this morning was one of those times. But there are other times where I don’t even have to think. I know what to do next, know how to help you, how to heal you, how to be a family. I know that we are incredibly lucky to have a child as “easy” as you, and I know how lucky I am that parenting has come easily to me in these past few months as it has. Things are just so good right now and it’s hard to imagine being any happier than this.

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Happy 23 months, Eli. We love you so much and can’t wait to see what next month brings.

Love,
Mom

Housing Update: The (Maybe) Final Installment

Since the last housing update things got easier, then tougher and then easier again.

On Wednesday? Thursday? I’m not even sure anymore, I finally came to a decision. I had spent hours talking and thinking about whether the apartment or condo was right for us, and ultimately I realized that I was picturing our family in the apartment every time. The difference in space is really significant and it just had several features that were really appealing (the washer/driers, the hard wood flooring in the dining room, the massive patio, etc). I was completely content with the decision and was excited to get home to tell my husband.

And better yet, my husband came to the same conclusion that same day. All was well in apartment/condo decision making land. So, naturally we got an email that evening letting us know that the condo price had dropped 50 bucks a month and was now 120 dollars less per month than the apartment. Cue drama.

I felt like someone took the wind out of my sails. We didn’t know what to do and the apartment had given us through the weekend to decide or we’d lose the deposit and the unit (which we had secured at a lower than normal cost for several fortuitous reasons).

We went back and looked over the floor plans and tried to figure out what was best. We realized that if we went with the condo, we would absolutely have to rent a storage unit because there just wasn’t room for all our furniture, which doesn’t entirely negate the cost difference, but it narrows it significantly.

We also briefly considered looking closer to my husband’s work and upping our budget a bit, basically, taking traffic/gas costs and storage unit costs from the apartment/condo that are further away and adding them to our rent budget. We looked at precisely 2 places and I was just done. I couldn’t imagine more weekends of ruining Eli’s nap to look at apartments that check some but not all boxes, or are too expensive. Or apartments that will leave me trying to get 2 kids and myself ready and out the door by 7am. It was just not happening.

So, we’re going with the apartment. We don’t need a storage unit and though my husband’s commute will suck, he will survive and we’ll find ways to make it more bearable for him. And also, we’re done. We’re done. We’re going to live somewhere. And it’s somewhere I really like, somewhere my kid(s) will really like and somewhere we’ll be comfortable for the next year.

And then we get to do this ALL OVER AGAIN OMG.

Giant Boon Bathtime Giveaway!

The contest is closed!

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The winner is Cassandra Eastman! Look for an email in your inbox tonight!

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(Start of original post)

So let me start by saying, this isn’t a review, it’s just a giveaway! What could be better? I know I’ve taunted you for a few days with this, so I’ll get right to the good stuff.

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Housing Update #10000: The Condo/Apartment Showdown

Siiiiiigh.

So, the latest installment of the housing hunt is at least promising in terms of progress. We have found two options that we really like and are completely stuck when it comes to choosing which one we want. I am not actually expecting you guys to choose where we’re going to live next, but I’m hoping that input from people who aren’t my husband and I might help us see some other perspectives.

Before I get into things, a little background. We cannot afford to live right near my husband’s new work because we’re not wealthy (and you have to be seriously wealthy to live around there). We limited our searches to a budget of X and required a minimum of 2 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms. We looked in several neighborhoods and finally settled on this one. It is a pretty significant drive to my husband’s work, but there are several toll road/options that will get him there quicker (though for a cost) and there is a train that will get him there much more quickly that he can also get a monthly discount for through his job. It’s closer to my job and I’ll get into specifics with distances in a second.

The Apartment
So, the apartment is 1000 square feet, 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms. It is a first floor unit (of a 2 story building) and the rent is X+20 dollars a month, which is because of the 30 dollar a month pet rent, and is not ideal cost-wise.
It has a HUGE kitchen (I mean HUGE. I could lay down on the counter and not touch anything.), separate dining and living rooms and a spacious patio (with a sliding glass door from the living room and another door from the master bedroom) that we are allowed to keep a BBQ on, not that we own one, but fun fact. There’s also a small storage closet on the patio.
The bedrooms are good sized, the master has a big closet with sliding doors, the kids room has a walk in closet. And the bedrooms are separated by the living room between them.
The bathrooms each have a tub/shower and a single sink, though the counter space is meh.
There are full size, side-by-side washer driers in the unit with a shelf above to store detergent stuff on.
There is plenty of grass and a nice sidewalk path for bike riding outside the unit and it is in a relatively quiet and secluded area of the complex, but also near enough to some nice BBQs and picnic benches.
It comes with one covered parking spot, the other car will have to park in first come, first serve guest parking.
It is 22 miles from my husband’s work, 3 miles from the train station and 7 miles from my work.
There is a huuuuuuuge park 3 blocks away (3 uphill blocks, but still) that Eli will love.
My favorite parts of this unit are the size- it feels big, the kitchen is ENORMOUS and it has new full sized washer and driers.
My least favorite parts are the cost and the fact that I’m tired of living in apartment complexes where people move in and out and don’t take care of stuff and the fact that it’s 20 dollars over our budget.

The Condo
So, the condo is 915 square feet, 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms. It is a first floor unit (of a 3 story building) and the rent is X-50 dollars a month.
It has a small kitchen with a super fancy enormous refrigerator, separate dining and living rooms and a small patio that overlooks great outdoor space and some gorgeous mountains. There’s also a decent sized storage closet on the patio.
The bedrooms are good sized, the master has a walk in closet, the kids room has small sliding door closet. The bedrooms share a wall and the kids room is against the living room. The hallway is pretty narrow.
The bathrooms each have a tub/shower and a single sink with awesome counter space. The master has a separate dressing area/sink and toilet/shower room, which is nice.
There are stacked washer and driers, which they say are full sized, but I’m not completely sure.
There is a nice grass area and a big sand volleyball court that Eli can play in and it was very quiet while we were there. There are a few tables with benches nearby and the view is unreal.
It comes with one covered parking spot and one uncovered parking spot.
It is 20 miles from my husband’s work and close to the ideal freeway onramp that will spare him some traffic, and is 3 miles to the train station and 9 miles from my work.
There is a nice park about half a mile away, which Eli will love.
My favorite parts of the condo are the stability of the complex- people own and live here and so the turnover rate is small and people care for the space. There is an HOA we don’t have to pay for. The fridge is also pretty amazing and the price is within our budget.
My least favorite part is really the size. It feels small inside. The kitchen is more cramped than the one we already have and the patio is small, though the grassy spaces outside help make up for that.

So. There you have it. Two very comparable units with pros and cons that basically completely equal each other. If it was you, knowing only what’s above, what would you do?

There is a secret third option, because my husband got a job offer that will include a monthly stipend all year next year in the amount of exactly X, which would allow us to move closer to my husband’s work, however, it means more money on the place we live and significantly more money for daycare/preschool because it’s just a more costly area in general. Plus, it forces my husband to work at his current hospital for 3 years, which isn’t inherently bad, he’s just not sure he wants to commit to that yet.

Help?

These are a Few of my Favorite (New Pregnancy/Baby) Things (Sponsored)

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Read the rest of this entry »

Housing Challenge Accepted

So when I last wrote about our housing situation, it was because some creepy man climbed on my patio wall in a ski mask and tapped on my sliding glass door for no apparent reason. And I kinda thought that things had peaked. We were in agreement that we needed to move sooner than July, but the need was not terribly pressing.

About a week later, I noticed that our laundry detergent was missing. Again. Our laundry is on our enclosed patio (the one surrounded by a 5 foot wall that attracts people who don’t live here, apparently) and the doors to the laundry closet were shut, but not locked, because apparently I’ll never learn and also because I assume that most people aren’t assholes who climb into other people’s enclosed patios to steal their almost entirely full containers of Tide Free and Clear. Mostly the first part.

So I was pissed. Pissed enough that we marched down to our front office and told them that we were done. This wasn’t working, clearly their security sucked and we didn’t feel safe in our apartment. I was extra feisty because I had not slept well the night before due to a film quality nightmare about having our apartment broken into. I’m not sure why this pregnancy is all about crazy nightmares, I really miss the other pregnancy dreams I had with Eli. The, uh, enjoyable ones.

Anyway, so they said they’d talk to the manager and have her call us tomorrow because she was off with a potential renter at the moment. Fine. Great. Of course no one calls the next day and we get a flier that they’re going to enter our apartment the next day to change out the lighting. Whatever.

The next day, my husband and I arrived home about 2 minutes before me, and I found him sitting outside, which is odd. He asked me if I came home first and I said no, and he informs me that our front door was open. Not like, unlocked, like wide open. So we dropped our stuff off, closed our door (SUCH A CRAZY CONCEPT) and walked back to the front office.

The manager was there this time and she was appropriately horrified that our front door was left open for at least 15 minutes and also by the guy on the patio and the laundry detergent. She said that she knew that the security company they had was not great, but she couldn’t fire them until she had a better one in place and she hadn’t been able to find one yet. And she was going to put lights up outside our apartment, which is needed. I told her very honestly that while I appreciated it, there really wasn’t anything she could do that was going to make me feel safe, and it’s true. It’s not her fault, she’s working hard, but I don’t feel safe here anymore. I’ve had too many instances where obvious issues have put my family in danger.

So we’re apartment hunting now. We found one we really liked, it is at the upper end of our budget (okay, 20 bucks over with pet rent, which, side note inside a side note, is the biggest crock of crap ever. My toddler makes an INFINITELY larger mess than the cats do and most places are charging 50 bucks a month PER CAT. My cats barely move off our bed for 90% of the day, they are not doing 50 bucks of damage each month) and in an area that will allow both of us to get to work reasonably. It will shift the commuting burden more to my husband for the first time in 5 years, a fact that everyone is upset about (everyone being his family) and I can muster absolutely zero sympathy about it because I’m terrible. 1 year of 20 mile commuting is really not that bad, especially when there’s a train option as well.

But then I made the mistake of inviting family to look at the apartment and while they all agreed that it is beautiful and lovely (the kitchen is HUUUUUUUUGE), everyone balked at the location and now we’re probably not moving there. Except we have no place else to move. And we’re supposed to move in May. To nowhere. And people keep posting fake rental ads online and if you think I’m going to send you money without stepping foot in your place and then wait for you to send a key, you are dumb. Really dumb. For real.

And that’s where things are. We are moving out of here before July (without penalty, thanks to the sheriff’s transcript of the call from the guy on our porch), to nowhere. And we’re going to live there for a year + a month and then we’re going to move again (to wherever my husband decides to work for reals). I don’t think I can get hugely pregnant again by then so I don’t have to do any work, but it’s a challenge I’m seriously considering taking. And then we’re never moving again.

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A year ago today was the absolute worst day of my life.

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It started out well. My husband had to go to an early conference session, but Eli and I had a nice breakfast in our hotel, we were packing so we could go home, but first we were going to swing by an amusement park nearby since we had only gotten to spend a half day there earlier in the week (and our tickets were still valid) and we just knew Eli would love it. And then it happened. In the blink of an eye, my 10 month old fell head first off the bed and hit the very hard flooring of our hotel room. He screamed a scream I can never unhear. I laid him on the bed and when I picked him up, his head lagged behind and bobbed. He wouldn’t open his eyes. He wasn’t okay.

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The next four days included 3 ER visits, 2 admission processes, and 3 nights in the hospital. It included 2 CT scans that showed blood on Eli’s brain. It included frank conversations with neurosurgeons who told us that there was no way to know if our child was going to be okay or if he’d have long term issues. It included IVs, vomit, and more fear than I can ever describe.

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And now it’s been a year.

My son is now a hilarious, busy, incredibly profoundly normal toddler. If you looked at him for any duration of time, you’d never know that he had a brain injury last year. And I could not be more thankful for that.

If you looked at me for any measure of time, you might not know how profoundly damaged I was either. A year and a day ago, I had a level of parenting innocence I cannot ever get back. I obviously knew that there were risks, but I had never faced the reality of those risks. I had severe anxiety about something happening to my child but even with that fear, I had never truly faced the consequences of something happening. My introduction to the reality that my child was fragile wasn’t a skinned knee or a busted lip. It was a bleeding brain. And it devastated me on every level.

I had months where I didn’t sleep because all night long I tried to rescue my child from situations that would harm him. I had months where I didn’t smile, where I functioned at the bare minimum, working just as much as I had to, parenting just as much as I had to. I had months where I never thought things would ever be good again, even though I could see this incredible person in front of me who despite what happened was fine. I was not fine.

A full year has passed and much has changed. I have a level of awareness that in some ways I’m grateful for. I have a level of appreciation for modern medicine that I cannot possibly convey in words. And more than anything else, I am happy again. My marriage is better than it has ever been. I am more appreciative of the things I have in my life because I am truly, immeasurably fortunate.

I will not pretend that Eli’s injury a year ago is something I am thankful for, because I am not and if I could go back and undo it, I would, a million times over. But I have worked hard to make it mean something for my life, for my child’s life, for our family. I have worked hard to use it as a way to be a better parent, not in the helicopter overprotective sense, but in the awareness of reality sense, in the being grateful for my family sense. I have worked hard to be a better parent, a better wife and a better person this year.

And a year later, I am happy. I am truly, genuinely happy. A year ago I didn’t know if I’d ever be able to feel that way again. 6 months ago, I doubted that I’d ever feel this way again. It has taken hours of therapy, a medication I never wanted to take and time. And here we are.

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I am not the mother I was a year ago, and I will never be her again. But I’ve stopped mourning that reality, because I realized that now, a year later, I’m better than I was last March. I’m now the parent I wanted to be, not the one who was so held back by the fear of something happening that I couldn’t give my child space to explore. I’m not the parent who was so afraid of tragedy that I couldn’t fully attach to my son and be present with him each day. I am not that mother anymore. I am attached. I am present. And I am truly, in my bones, to my core, happy. And I am grateful for every single day that I get to be this way. For every single moment with my family. I know what is truly at stake in this life and while this year has been indescribably difficult, I’m so glad for all I have learned and for all that I have.

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Welcome!
I'm Katie, a 30-year-old, wife, mom, former teacher-turned PT, who also had brain surgery in November of 2007. This blog chronicles my daily life, from mundane to crazy, often with far too much detail. Sit down, get comfortable and stay for a while.
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