Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Birthday Letter to Grace

Dear Baby Girl,
            Well Tootsie, another year has passed and you are almost two-years-old!!  I can’t believe how much you are growing.  Just this week, someone asked me if I was going to cry on your birthday.  I almost said yes because, well you know me, and I’m a crier.  However, after thinking for a minute, I realized I’m not sad at all.  While I’m certainly not ready for you to hurry and grow up, I LOVE watching you grow up.  I love seeing the beautiful little person you are becoming, and I’m so happy to be a part of your life.  I am so proud of you!
            It has been quite a year for so many reasons, both good and bad.  Through everything, you have been my constant source of joy and hope.  Mommy has had quite a year with being sick.  I was unfortunately diagnosed with cancer in December when you were just 14-months-old.  I’ve had quite a time with surgeries, chemo, and infections.  It would have been easy to give up, but every day I thought of you.  I hope that all you remember from this time is the fun we had and that I had funny hair for a while.  When you are old enough to read this though, I want you to know that you saved my life.  Every time I hurt, every time I was sick, every time I was scared, I thought about my baby girl.  You deserve to have a mom you can be proud of, and so I have strived to be that person.  I have prayed every day for God to help me not only be a survivor, but to be one who walks with grace and strength.  I know that He sent you to me to save my life.  Despite your young age, you have always known exactly what I’ve needed this year.  You knew when to give me a hug, when to say I love you, when to make me laugh, and when I just needed to sit and cuddle.  I was terrified of your reaction when I started to lose my hair, but you didn’t care.  In fact, you made me feel all better about it.  You even would lovingly wash my head for me when I gave you a bath, and you would wear funny hats around the house for me.  Martina McBride sings a song called “In My Daughter’s Eyes.”  While the entire song reminds me of you, one part especially rings true.  She sings, “When she wraps her hand around my finger, oh it brings a smile to my heart.  Everything becomes a little clearer.  I realize what life is all about.  It’s hanging on when your heart has had enough.  It’s giving more when you feel like giving up.  I’ve seen the light.  It’s in my daughter’s eyes.”  This always reminds me of you because you’re my reason to always fight!  On a bright note, my surgery did get everything out.  I only did chemo to make sure that I get to spend a long, happy, healthy life with you!  So, never fear, Mommy is not going anywhere!  I just know that one of the reasons God put me on this earth is to be your mom, and I’m definitely not done with that job yet!
            On to brighter notesJ It has also been a big year because we have had so much fun!  Now that you are getting older, we have been able to do so many more things togetherJ  For instance, we redid the backyard for you!  Your Grandma and Grandpa Bronson bought you a swingset and our friend Amber gave you a little house.  We have spent hours back there playing!  You also got to be a part of the summer library program for the first time!  You’re not actually supposed to join until you are in preschool, but they let you come ahead.  You weren’t behind in the slightest.  You had such fun dancing, reading, and doing crafts!  You especially loved the picnic hat you made, and you looked so cute dancing around in it!  In addition to these, we got to take your first vacation!  You, your dad, and I went with Aunt B, Aunt Jacque, Uncle Jeremy, and Alex to Branson.  Your favorite part was being on a boat on the water when we rode the Ducks! 
These are just a few of the many fun things we have been doing this year.  You and I are always on the move.  We probably make your poor dad tired.  Even when we’re home, we’re usually up to something—playing, giggling, laughing, and having fun.  We are definitely partners in crime;)
You have also learned so many new skills this year.  I am so proud of you every day.  You are so so smart.  Even though I know you’re smart, I’m still amazed at just how much you know and learn every day.  You’re amazing!  I am especially excited that you have learned to say, “I love you!” this year!!!  Every time you say, “I love you, Mommy!” my heart just melts.  I also love that you love to read and learn from books.  I can’t even count the number of books we read together.  Many nights, you want to read more than you want to play and you’ll bring me book after book after book.  Your favorite books of the moment are your Clifford books and Goodnight Moon.
Well, in just a few days we will celebrate with our family at our house for your birthday.  You love Minnie Mouse, so we will be having a Minnie Mouse partyJ  Then, next week is your actual birthday.  For your present, I am re-doing your room in Minnie Mouse!  I can’t wait to see your face when I show you.  I hope you’re excited! 
Above all, I want you to remember always how much your “mommy ma” loves you!  I’m so proud to be your mom!!  I love you to the moon and back!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Expect the Unexpected

Here's my Illustration essay I wrote to share with seniors:)  I think it is SO important to write along with our students!

           “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass.  It’s about learning to dance in the rain” (Author unknown).  This quote sums up both the hardest and most valuable lesson I have learned in my life.  Ever since I was a little girl, I have been a planner.  That is the nice way of saying that I am a control freak.  I make lists.  I research topics until I feel like a walking encyclopedia on a subject.  I ask questions.  However, I have had to learn to adapt.  I have had to learn that I cannot always plan for everything.  Several instances in the past few years have taught me that things do not always go as planned.
            One example of a time in my life where things did not go as expected is when I went on a cruise a few years ago.  One year, my husband’s grandparents decided to take everyone in his family on a cruise to the Caribbean to celebrate their fiftieth wedding anniversary.  Of course, I was extremely excited.  I planned for months—what excursions to take, what activities to do on board, and what to wear.  I made lists of every possible item I might need on my trip and spent hours packing the week before we left.  Then, much to my dismay, my suitcase did not travel by at baggage claim.  We waited by the revolving belt until all bags were out of sight, but, still, it did not arrive.  Despite the fact that airport personnel assured me that my bag would be found and sent to my hotel before our boat departed the next day, my bag was never found.  When I realized late that night that my bag was, in fact, gone for good, I cried and yelled.  Then, I decided I had to get a better attitude.  The next morning, my husband and I went on the fastest shopping spree of my life.  I had to pick out new everything, including dresses and a swimming suit.  For some reason, the experience (along with my attitude check) made me feel more free than I have ever felt before.  I had the most relaxing time on my cruise and learned that sometimes, you just have to deal with a situation and be happy regardless of circumstances.
            Another time where I have had to learn to fly by the seat of my pants, so to speak, is when I became a mother.  Anyone who thinks that everything always goes according to plans does not have small children.  No amount of planning will make an infant (or toddler for that matter) go to sleep when you want them to, get hungry when you want them to, or really do anything at the time that would be most beneficial to you.  As an infant, almost without fail, my daughter would fall asleep when we were getting ready for some big event (and you do NOT wake up a sleeping infant).  She would be hungry the moment we were trying to get out the door.  In addition, she usually threw up on me the moment I had finally gotten to take a shower and put new clothes on.  Parenting taught me that while things may not always go as planned, sometimes it is better that way.  Every day with my daughter might be crazy and hectic, but it is also beautiful and filled with wonder.
            Finally, and probably most surprising, I was diagnosed with breast cancer in December 2011 at only twenty-seven-years-old.  This change in my life was most definitely not planned for, nor expected.  I was healthier than I had ever been before in my life—I had just lost eighty pounds (in a healthy way, not from cancer) after the birth of my daughter, I had just finished nursing my daughter for a year (lots of benefits for Mom, as well as baby), I took vitamins, I ate healthy foods, and I kept all regular doctors’ check-ups.  Then, one Saturday I was playing with my daughter.  She happened to jump on my chest and I happened to put my hand up to catch her in exactly that spot.  I felt the lump and knew it wasn’t normal, although I also knew that it could be from just finishing nursing.  I sent up a prayer to God to let me know if I should take care of it.  I said, “God, you know how I am.  I’m a worrier.  If it’s nothing, please let me forget about it.  If it’s something, please let it bug the crap out of me.”  Well, on Monday, that lump was still bothering me.  My doctor, thankfully, took me seriously and ordered tests right away.  Later, after tests and an excisional biopsy, I found out that I had stage 1 breast cancer.  Although this was by far the worst and most unexpected event in my life, it has also been one full of blessings.  I don’t even know that I would change anything.  It has taught me a lot about love, friendship, family, and unfaltering faith. It has taught me strength, courage, and the power of prayer.  It has taught me that things will not always go my way and, while I can’t change that, I can change how I respond to these events. 
            Hugh Downs once said, “A happy person is not a person in a certain set of circumstances, but rather a person with a certain set of attitudes.”  Through many unexpected events in my life, I have had to learn to adjust my attitude and make the best out of any and all situations in life.  I’m still a planner.  I’m still controlling.  I’m still a researcher and a questioner.  However, life has taught me to be prepared for anything, hope for the best, and be happy about whichever happens.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

A Whirlwind of Fun

I wrote a descriptive essay to share as an example for one of my classes:)  I thought it was fun, so I thought I'd share:)

            When many people think of their favorite place, they imagine some far-off land with gorgeous scenery or some picturesque city.  However, one of my favorite places is my crowded and cluttered house.  If someone else walked in my front door right now, they might think a tornado had somehow snuck into my house, terrorizing just this single household on the street.  Too often, toys are scattered about the rooms, along with hats, slippers, blankets, pillows, and books.  Instead of the disaster area an outsider would see, I see tangible reminders of quality time spent with my daughter, Grace.
            Probably the messiest room in the house is also the first a person sees—the living room.  This room is where I spend the majority of my time indoors with my daughter.  As I look at the “mess,” I recall all the fun we have each day, especially on quiet mornings.  My hands can still feel the cool plastic of the Little People toys that Grace and I use to play “house.”  She especially loves the tiny yellow-and-blue-clad baby.  My head can still feel the scratch of Grace’s sombrero that she loves to put on my head and the soothing gentleness of her baby-soft hands as she pats my face or runs her fingers through my still-short hair.  My ears still happily hum with the sounds of “Mommy!” and “Hugs!”  They can still hear my baby girl’s tinkling giggles and big belly laughs.  My mouth is still quietly humming the songs we sang today and thinking of the stories we read.  My feet are still dancing, remembering the countless times Grace and I danced to the “Hot Dog” song.  Thinking of our action-packed day, I remain unembarrassed with my debris-littered floor.
            Stepping over the stack of books by my rocking chair, I make my way to the kitchen.  Although we don’t spend as much time here, it is full of happy memories nonetheless.  Making my way across the room, I dodge our dog as he runs from my daughter, who is trying yet again to make him wear a hat.  The table is littered with crayons, paper, coloring books, finger paints, stickers, and other various art supplies used that day.  Cups line the counter, since Grace wouldn’t decide what kind of “didi” (drink) she wanted.  I can still hear the clink of pots and pans as I make my daughter’s favorite dishes (i.e. all food) and the sound of her yelling “D!” (dinner) from her high chair.  The smells of homemade pasta sauce, baking bread, fresh garlic, and other staples of our house permeate the room.  No matter how cluttered this room, it radiates the essence of home.
            Finally, I make my way up the stairs to the final stop of my daily journey with Grace—my bedroom.  Although Grace sleeps in her own bed, we lie down together in my bed first, winding down from the busy day.  This room is equally messy and evokes just as many memories as the rest of the house.  However, these memories are quieter and more relaxed.  Here I see the colorful patchwork quilt that Grace and I use to cover up when we snuggle.  Since this blanket has kept me warm since I was a little girl, it is worn-out and frayed, but it is also soft and comforting.  My skin feels the coolness of the pale blue sheets, in contrast with the warmth of my daughter lying next to me with her head upon my chest.  As she hugs me goodnight, my arms still recall the many times Grace has run to give her mom a big hug that day, warming me to my very soul.  My lips recount every word of our favorite nighttime tale, Goodnight Moon, and the final “I love you” of the night.  My heart just about bursts from happiness with each return of “I love you, Mommy!”
            “A child’s creativity is only inhibited by her parents’ willingness to clean up after her.”  Although I don’t recall the author of this quote, the message is one that continues to stick with me.  As someone who is a little OCD, I have always kept a neat and tidy household.  As a mom, however, I’ve had to learn to let go of pristine floors and clutter-free countertops.  Although I continue to fight the never-ending battle against the whirlwind of playthings, I also recall the myriad of wonderful sensations and memories that accompany them.  It is in this remembering that I’ve learned to let go.