My Plates are Crashing

Wow, it has been over a week since returning home from our anniversary vacation, and I am swamped!  I feel like I am literally trying to juggle 20 different spinning plates right now and any minute they are all going to come crashing down.  I probably should not even be typing this message right now because my real job (the one that pays me to work 3 days/week) has several pressing deadlines staring me in the face.  Oh well, I loaded up on caffeine in preparation for a late night and early morning.  I need to vent for 20 minutes on this blog and then I will be able to tackle those work projects.

Coming home from vacation was bittersweet.  We were actually ready to leave Florida because we were dying to see the kids.  They made us a “welcome home” sign and showered us with hugs and kisses upon our return.  Noah, my baby, was especially clingy and maybe just a little traumatized from our absence, but he is coping (and I am coping with my mommy guilt about leaving him).  While we were thrilled to be back with our  children, we were not ready to leave the relaxation and stress-free days of vacation.  I was doing pretty well sticking to a diet (I still need to lose 10 pounds or so that I have kept on since my 3 pregnancies and kids) and surviving on 6-7 hours of sleep a night.  However, my body got spoiled on vacation and got used to at least 2 delicious meals a day (in addition to dessert) and 9-10 hours of sleep.  Needless to say, my body and mind have been fighting to get readjusted to a more deprived state and are not happy about it.  Coming home also meant coming home to our insane schedule.  Here is a little taste of our last week since returning home:

Wednesday:  Back to work for me, kids at home with Les for part of day and Nanny part of the day.  Jacob had 1/2 day at school.  No school for Bella.

Thursday:  I worked ALL day – left at  7 AM and did not get home until after 10 PM.  This sucked even more since I usually don’t work on Thursdays.  I switched my days around since I had a few presentations I was responsible for on this day.  Jacob had his last day of school.  Les did the speech drive with Jacob and brought Isabella along for the drive.  Nanny stayed with Noah during speech.  Les (super dad) did dinner, bath, and bed routine.

Friday:  I was off, but Les had to work all day.  Packed tons of kid gear for a big day in Virginia Beach.  Took kids to VB for 11 AM speech.  After speech, we picked up my dad, got smoothies for lunch, and took Noah for his first haircut.  Dropped my dad off,  went to my in-laws house for naps for boys and to celebrate father-in-law’s retirement (Les met us in VB after work).  Late night for kids.

Saturday:  Needed household supplies – groceries, home depot stuff, craft supplies, and Father’s Day gifts.  Schlepped kids to multiple stores, went to Chick-Fil-A for lunch and playtime.  Les went to work at 2 PM, and I did afternoon and evening routine with kids on my own.

Sunday:  Big Day – Father’s Day!  Gave Les father’s day presents and we took a family trip to Super Wal-Mart for MORE groceries and supplies that we did not get Saturday.  Had all of husband’s family over and made Father’s Day brunch.  Cleaned up and helped Isabella and cousins organize a lemonade stand.  Prepared food for my family to come over for Father’s Day BBQ.  After the BBQ, Les and I left to go to a Dave Matthews concert (self-imposed craziness, I know, but totally worth it).  My parents did bath and bedtime with kids.

Monday:  Les worked.  I was off because I am working Thursday again this week.  Took Isabella to camp at Virginia Living Museum.  Took boys to museum and for a walk.  Had one of Isabella’s friends from camp over for a playdate and helped them with some craft projects while boys napped.  Packed up stuff for a late afternoon outing to Busch Gardens (we have season passes and love being able to go for just a few hours).  When Les got home from work, we went to the amusement park for 4 hours and put the kids to bed a little later than usual.  Les and I stayed up late pre-cleaning the house because we were having a cleaning person come the next day.

Tuesday:  Work day for me.  Les has to sleep during day because he starts working the overnight shift tonight = the beginning of a crazy few days ahead where we won’t see each other much.  My to-do list is a mile long – work to do for my job in preparation for my meeting, Jacob b-day invitations to mail, more grocery shopping, bills to pay, birthday gifts to buy, and another trip to get ready for over the 4th of July.

Wednesday:  Les sleeps and goes right to work when he wakes up because he has a meeting before his shift.  I will be gone all day and evening because I have a big work meeting.  The nanny will be with the kids all day and my parents will do dinner/bath/bed.  I will come home at 10 so my parents can go home.  I should be staying at the hotel where my meeting is, but I have no one to be home with the kids since Les is working overnight so my boss said I could stay the night at home as long as I am back bright and early.

Thursday:  Out the door as soon as nanny arrives and at my meeting all day.  Finally home Thursday evening, but Les still working two more nights so we won’t see him until Saturday.

Friday:  A nice long day spending time with my kids – finally!  Lots of stuff to do, but probably won’t do anything except play and snuggle my kiddos.

So….. this is my life.  I know it is not much different from anyone else’s crazy life, but it mine and most days it feels like I am just trying to survive.  I have many moments during weeks like this where I really question whether I am making the right choice to work outside the home, away from my kids.  These busy work weeks make the balance seem very off and make me feel like my priorities are not quite aligned.  I also don’t have any time for the things I really do enjoy, like blogging!  I have started 5 different posts – my Fifty Shades of Grey review, Cancer Recap, Father’s Day post, my take on the attachment parenting debate, and my synopsis of the Lance Armstrong investigation and the sham that it is.  This is the good stuff I really want to be working on, along with planning Jacob’s birthday, catching up on scrapbooks, organizing my office, finally getting my finances and bills in some sort of order, and just spending more quality and consistent time with my children.  I know it will settle down and the balance will shift back soon.  It usually does, at least long enough for me to decide to keep up this balancing act of working in and outside the home a little while longer.  I just need to get through this week.  I need to look forward to a great 4th of July vacation with family and friends.  I need to stop writing and get to my work so I can maybe get 5 hours of sleep tonight.  I need to take a few deep breaths and   move forward with the tasks at hand.

Hang in there with me as I get through this week.  I will finish those posts I mentioned soon and probably start several more that take me too long to finish.  I would like to promise that I will be a consistent blogger, but I am just trying to do the best that I can managing the other very important plates that are spinning out of control at the moment.  Once I get those under control, my fun side project of blogging can resume.

Goodbye Florida

  Goodbye Florida.  It has been fun, but it is time to go back home.  It turns out that 2-3 days is enough time for a vacation without the kids- at least for the first one.  We miss our little ones and our crazy life.  We feel rested, reconnected, refreshed, and ready to tackle a busy, fun-filled summer.  It was so nice to have this little time-out together.  We confirmed what we already knew on some level – we are still Les and Jess.  Sure, we are mom and dad to our three kids, but first and foremost we are individuals, and husband and wife.  We have taken time away individually over the past five years for work trips, vacations with “the guys”, or my recent trip to see my sister in Germany.  I know those trips were very therapeutic and re-energizing for each of us, but those trips also put the burden of parenting and running the house on the other partner.  We have tried to allow and encourage each other to take time away over the past five years.  Parenting can be hard work, and everyone deserves a little break to remember who they are as an individual.  It also reminds the person at home how much they value and rely on the other person.  Parenting is definitely easier and more fun together.  I admire single parents, because I know it can be very challenging and sometimes quite lonely to do that job alone.  Of course marriage and co-parenting has its share of challenges too, but I know Les and I appreciate each other and the role we each play in parenting.

I don’t think either of us doubted that we still had it as a couple, but it was just nice to confirm that we are still crazy about each other after 16 years together, 10 years of marriage, and three kids.  We still have plenty to talk about (other than the kids), we still love each other’s company, and we still have that spark.  This vacation not only made us excited for our next trip away together, but also made us more excited for our next family vacation.  There were so many times on this trip when some of the experiences we had felt a little bit empty without the kids.  We would comment how much the kids would love to see this or play with that.  For instance, “the kids would love all the shells on this beach” or “they would have so much fun playing in this pool.”  We are in a new phase of existence as a couple, one where we can’t necessarily separate the “us” of our marriage, from the “us” of our family.  We love this phase and are immensely grateful for the family we created.  We just have to remember that without the “us” of each other, we would never have the beautiful family that we do.  I guess we’ll just have to get the babysitters on reserve and pick a date in 2013 for our next trip together.  We wouldn’t want to forget what made it all possible, right?

Vacation Rocks!

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Les and I are on our first vacation as a couple in almost 5 years, celebrating a big milestone – our 10 year wedding anniversary. We are having an AWESOME time! The past few days have been pretty fabulous actually. Before leaving for vacation we enjoyed 2 date nights in a row with friends and a terrific visit with our best friends from northern Virginia. We took the kids to a fun birthday party on Saturday, complete with pony rides and a petting zoo.

We left Virginia on Saturday afternoon and flew into Tampa, FL. Les surprised me with a very thoughtful and romantic gift. He took me to the Tiffany store and presented me with a gorgeous pearl necklace, the only jewelry I have ever wanted other than my diamond ring. It was perfect because he had surprised me 10 years earlier, at our rehearsal dinner, with my first blue Tiffany box containing a simple silver open heart necklace. The pearl necklace was a wonderful surprise, but the whole Tiffany thing was icing on the cake. Major points to my amazing husband. We enjoyed a delicious dinner at Roy’s and spent the night in Tampa.

We slept in – no alarm, no work, no dishes or chores, and no children to wake us. I actually thought my body had forgotten how to sleep in, but no, it remembered. We ate at our favorite Florida breakfast place, First Watch, before heading down to Sarasota, FL for the remainder of our vacation. We checked in to the Ritz-Carlton and have just spent the past 3 hours lounging pool and beachside, sipping frozen drinks and just relaxing. I am in heaven. This is my idea of a perfect vacation.

I love our life at home with our kids. It is not that we lead this really burdensome, stressful life and never get time to relax or see each other. It is just that we are in the throes of young parenthood, balancing 3 adorable kids, jobs, activities, a house, and plenty of responsibilities. We are finally in a stage of parenting where even the baby sleeps through the night and we have a few hours at the end of the night to be by ourselves or with each other, but usually there are dishes to clean, laundry to do, bills to pay, or work to do. The day-to-day basic responsibilities end up occupying those few precious hours at the end of the day.

These opportunities to disconnect from our “normal” life are rare. Opportunities to reconnect as a couple, just the two of us are few and far between. After this great trip, we are committed to trying to do more disconnecting from daily stressors and more reconnecting with each other. Maybe we can even pull off a yearly trip for the two of us. We are thankful to supportive and incredible grandparents,and the best nanny in the world, to help us with the kids and make this vacation possible. We are so appreciative of the help and the love these people show to our kids in our absence.

Well, I am going to go order another daiquiri and go for a walk on the beach with my man.

Jacob – A Special Kid From the Beginning (Part 2)

Looking at these two pictures reminds me just how far Jacob has come.  I wish I could have seen this picture of him running with a football when he was 11 months old and I was a frightened that he would never sit properly, crawl, or even walk.  So many people encouraged me that it would come in time, and I believed them for the most part, but I still worried.  Jacob’s gross motor skills have improved exponentially over the past year and a half.  He walks and runs everywhere.  He still falls quite often when on uneven surfaces, but we have been lucky in escaping any real injuries or trips to the Emergency Room.  He is still in physical therapy through the school and privately, working on navigating surface changes, stairs (alternating feet up and going down safely), jumping, and overall core strength and flexibility.  From initial appearances, Jacob looks like a pretty typical 2 and a half-year old, which is such a tremendous blessing and a relief.  I feel like he will eventually be able to do everything his peers can do physically, even if it takes a lot more time and effort.

Our biggest challenge over the past year has been Jacob’s speech delay.  At the age of two, Jacob really was not talking at all.  He said mama, dada, and Bella and that is about it.  All of his therapists told us that children usually master gross motor skills before mastering fine motor skills, including speech.  Since his gross motor development was so delayed, this somewhat explained his speech delay.  He also needed to imitate sounds before he would be able to imitate words.  At two, Jacob was delayed in a lot of his fine motor skills and really was not imitating much at all.  He still was not clapping, not signing much (despite lots of effort on this), and not doing much fine motor play (block stacking, pop beads, etc.).  He would gesture, point, grunt, and cry if he wanted something.  Two-year olds can be challenging, moody, and difficult to understand anyway, but most two-year olds have a basic supply of words and/or signs to communicate their basic needs and wants.  Jacob did not have this, which was leading to a tremendous amount of frustration on his part and ours.

One of the great things about the Early Intervention program is that they are a direct link to the IEP and developmental preschool programs offered through public schools.  A child can stay in the Early Intervention program until they are three, but it seems like they encourage you to get them in school for a more stimulating, therapy-rich environment than the few hours of at-home therapy you get through early intervention.  Our daughter Isabella was in a Montessori school and we were very happy with the environment and the development we had seen there with her.  I am a big proponent of Montessori education, but I also feel like different kids need different things at various points.  This is a lesson, not just of education, but of parenting multiple children.  Montessori would not have been the right fit for Jacob, and I am not sure if it ever will be.  The developmental preschool through the public school system was a good fit for Jacob.  We went through the IEP process and he started the 2011-2012 school year with 2 days/week.  Jacob’s amazing, patient, smart, and caring preschool teacher helped advocate for him to go to school 3 days/week in the middle of the year.  Jacob enjoyed going to school.  He was fine getting on the school bus (so scary to send a 2-year-old on a bus, but he loved it).  He came home from the half-day exhausted, but happy.  The classroom is a language-rich environment, with therapy built-in to the entire program, in addition to more individualized speech, occupational, and physical therapy.  Because many of the other kids in the class were also delayed in one or multiple ways, we decided to also put him in a regular preschool class at the JCC for the other 2 days/week.  This way he would have some sort of school or activity every morning of the week (much easier for creating a routine), and he would be exposed to many different types of kids and learning environments.

We did see Jacob make progress at school, but the progress was not as fast as we would have liked.  By the time Jacob had his second IEP meeting at the end of 2011 (where we were requesting 3 days/week), we felt like his progress was stagnant.  This was a familiar feeling with Jacob’s development.  When he learned to crawl, it took him another 8 months to learn to walk, and it seemed to take forever.  With his speech, we kept expecting a “language explosion”, but he spoke less than 10 words from his second birthday to two and a half.  Progress just seemed so slow, which was so very frustrating and defeating at times.  In addition to increasing his days at school from 2 to 3 days and adding the 2 days at the JCC, we changed his private speech therapy as well.

We had been seeing a nice speech therapist at our home once a week from August 2011 to January 2012.  I had suspected that Jacob may have Apraxia, in addition to some dysarthria and hypotonia.  He fit the profile in a lot of ways and this speech therapist confirmed that he probably did have Apraxia.  She really focused on building his mouth strength through focused exercises in chewing, blowing, and whistles.  Just as Jacob had low tone in his body, his mouth was very weak as well.  These exercises were like PT for the mouth.  Jacob’s mouth did seem to get stronger, but this did not necessarily translate to improved speech.  Jacob also  did not always cooperate for these hour-long therapy sessions.  Overall, we just felt like we needed to try something else.  We had Jacob evaluated by a speech therapist in Virginia Beach (a 45-minute drive away) who was an Apraxia expert when he was 18 months old.  She said he was too young to diagnose with Apraxia at that point.  In January of 2012 I decided to attend an Apraxia support group meeting in Virginia Beach and I ran into this speech therapist again.  She suggested I bring him back in for another evaluation.  We did  the evaluation and have been schlepping Jacob to Virginia Beach twice a week for speech therapy and physical therapy since February of 2012.  Although this therapist does not think Jacob officially has Apraxia, she does agree that he has dysarthria and that the low tone affects his speech – it is just a lot more difficult for Jacob to talk than for other children.  She is good – what all speech therapists should be!  The drive is a pain, but worth it for good therapy that I finally feel is helping him.

I had suspicions that Jacob had some food allergies or sensitivities for a long time.  Even as a baby, with the severe reflux and eczema issues, I knew that dairy was a bit of an issue.  I tried to alter my diet while nursing him for 7 months, but I could never pin point what exactly bothered him.  When I stopped nursing, we tried him on regular formula, which he did not tolerate.  He seemed to do better on soy formula, and eventually soy milk.  We still gave him regular yogurt and cheese occasionally, which he LOVED, but it did not love him.  If I noticed the eczema flaring up, I would try to cut back the dairy, but sometimes he would still have skin issues or crying fits at night even when the dairy was cut out.  The other problem was that he seemed to crave dairy and would cry and throw tantrums at the fridge begging for yogurt or cheese.  I understand that my job as a parent is to set limits and control the nutrition, but it is hard to constantly fight over food, especially when you can’t figure out exactly what it is that is causing the problems.  He was also starting to refuse certain foods that he used to like – pizza, pasta, and some bread.  We took him to an allergist for skin testing at 18 months, but egg was the only thing he showed a slight allergy to.

Needless to say, I really started to suspect some food sensitivities or allergies that may not have shown up on the skin test (not the best test for certain sensitivities or allergies anyway).  I have always had an open mind to alternative sorts of treatment.  I already had Jacob on a special fish oil that is supposed to help with myelination in the brain and speech, not to mention being healthy for you as well.  Even though Les is a physician and I wholeheartedly believe in the benefit of Western medicine, I also don’t believe that the medical community (especially not any one particular doctor) knows all the answers.  We had been to pediatricians, neurologists, developmental pediatricians, allergists, dermatologists, ENT, and several other therapists and nobody really had a clear idea of exactly what was wrong, what was causing the problems, and what exactly we should do to help Jacob.

Although I do not currently think that Jacob is on the Autism spectrum, some of his issues share certain characteristics with Autism – speech delay, sensory integration/processing issues, and some of his GI problems.  I had heard about parents that had “cured” (or at least significantly helped) their children on the Autism spectrum with the Gluten-free, Caesin-free diet (GFCF diet).  I ordered six books on Autism and the GFCF diet and read them in one week.  Why not try this special diet, since it may help his stomach and skin problems that I suspected may have something to do with dairy and/or gluten?  There was plenty of information in the books and on the internet suggesting that speech and behavior improved on this diet as well.  The new speech therapist in Virginia Beach was supportive and said she had personally seen significant improvements in kids on this diet, in addition to being helped by the diet herself.  She also recommended more allergy testing by a different lab (Enterolab) to confirm food allergies or sensitivities.  We tested Jacob with this lab and, as suspected, the results showed that he was allergic to Gluten, soy, eggs, and dairy.  We eliminated the soy, since we had already eliminated everything else.  I cringe when I think about how much soy Jacob has consumed (soy formula, soy milk, soy cheese, soy yogurt, soy sauce, etc.) over the past 2 years.  After gluten, soy was the next highest score on his allergy tests.  I am trying hard to minimize the mommy guilt over missing this and possibly contributing to any of his problems with the soy.

We have really seen significant changes in Jacob since January.  We have seen the most dramatic improvements in his speech.  He probably has 50 words – maybe not easily understood by all – but 50 words and often tries to imitate other words and sounds.  Jacob is also playing more like a typical little boy.  I still remember the first time I saw Jacob playing with cars in a way you would expect a 2-year-old to play with them (about 6 months ago).  I was so excited and proud that it brought tears of joy to my eyes.  Now he regularly plays with cars, trains, and other toys the way I would expect him to.  This is something you take for granted with neurotypical children, but such a big deal for kids like Jacob. It is almost impossible to say if any one particular thing has resulted in these improvements.  I think the diet is probably the biggest thing that has led to the improvements.  He does not wake up crying during the night (confirming my suspicion that his stomach was hurting), and his mood is so much better.  He can still be a moody, grumpy and whiney toddler, but not nearly as unbearable as before.   In addition to the diet, Jacob is certainly benefiting from 5 days of school/week, more frequent speech therapy with an excellent therapist, and time.  He will be three years old next month.  What a difference a year makes!

There is still a great deal of work ahead of us.  Jacob will be starting a new year of preschool in an integrated class at the local public school in the fall.  We finished his IEP, and he will continue his speech, PT, and OT therapies while attending school 4 days/week.  We will continue to go to Virginia Beach for private speech therapy and physical therapy.  We have to work with Jacob every day on his speech.  I would love for him to be putting 2 or more words together regularly and expand his vocabulary.  I can’t wait to hear him sing songs and have a conversation with his brother and sister while playing.  He still has some strange skin rashes that appear on his legs.  We went to a dermatologist a year ago about this and did not get any answers.  We need to go to a different dermatologist and push for a better answer.  I continue to look for new things to cook and serve to Jacob to accommodate his food limitations.  This diet does involve a lot more grocery shopping and advance planning on my part, but it forces me to make fresher and healthier meals for the whole family.  In the next year I would love to see Jacob learn how to walk down stairs, pedal a tricycle, jump, and sit up in a chair for longer periods without slumping down.  We have lots of goals and look forward to celebrating all these accomplishments and more.  I am so thankful for the progress we have made and more hopeful than ever that my precious little boy is starting to shine through.

Jacob is a sweet, resilient, funny, and smart little boy.  He is such a special kid!  Of course, I still worry about him every day and probably always will.  I worry about all three of my kids, but my fear and concern for him is just different.  I just want what all parents want for their kids – good health, happiness, and the opportunity to be independent and live a full life.  Despite the stress and struggles along the way, I am so honored and proud to be Jacob’s mother.  I would do anything for him.  He has given us so much joy and taught us so much already in his first 3 years of life.  I can’t wait to see what he’ll learn next and look forward to the journey ahead!

Jacob – A Special Kid From the Beginning (Part 1)

Jacob is one extraordinary little boy.  He is my first born son, my middle child, and probably the sweetest AND the most challenging of all three of my kids.  Before I describe some of the details around my handsome little man Jake, I need to provide a little context.  Isabella, my oldest, was a tough baby for the first 3 months (she did not sleep much, not a great nurser, and colicky). Around 4 months Isabella became a much easier baby, and I became a much more sane and confident mom.  Other than our rough start together (more on that in a future post), Isabella was great.  She hit most of her milestones on time or early.  She was social, adorable, engaged, active, and it seemed like she was progressing and learning new things every day.  We felt like we had the hang of this parenting thing and thought we could do this again.

We decided to start trying for a second baby when Isabella was just 8-9 months old because of some of the fertility issues we had.  We did a failed round of IVF in the summer of 2008 before successfully trying IVF again in October.   I had a very good pregnancy and a much better delivery than my first one because it was a scheduled c-section.  I was thrilled to have my healthy baby boy, a big boy at 8 lbs, 4 oz.  He was a much easier baby than Isabella that first month – eating well, sleeping often, and easily soothed.  At about the one month mark he started having some reflux symptoms that were making him fairly unhappy – spitting up frequently, lots of spit bubbles, stomach/GI pain, and fussiness.  Our pediatrician confirmed that it was reflux and we started him on some reflux meds, I altered my diet to try to eliminate things that might be bothering him, and we let him sit and sleep on an incline as much as possible.  At around 3 months, I started to be get all “psycho mom” with worry and doubt about his development.  My mother’s intuition told me something was just not right with my baby.  He was not really smiling very much and just did not seem very engaged or interested in his surroundings.  Les and our pediatrician tried to reassure me over the next few months that he was fine and that it could be discomfort from the reflux, or he might just be a late developer.

There were a lot of little things that worried me in those first 6 months with Jacob.  All I had to compare his development to was his older sister who did everything much earlier than Jacob was doing things.  Many people said that boys develop differently and that I had to just be patient and not stress so much.  My husband is in the medical field, and I know enough about a little to be dangerous.  I was worried about Autism primarily, but there were other scary disorders I did not want to even fathom.  Even Les started to worry at 8 months when Jacob was not sitting, was not really playing/engaging with toys, and not getting around at all. Dr. Lewis, a pediatric neurologist at CHKD, diagnosed him with hypotonia, or “floppy baby syndrome”.  He reassured us that he would eventually sit, crawl, walk, and talk.  As for some of the other things I was worried about, like skin issues (eczema and rashes), speech delays, and some of the sensory and temperament concerns, we would just need to wait and see as he got older.  Jacob did finally sit up at close to 10 months, crawled at a year, and walked at 18 months.

I got him in early intervention services at 8 months for physical therapy, speech therapy, and occupational therapy.  The therapists were so helpful with all of Jacob’s issues – physical, sensory, speech, play, and feeding – and with all of my concerns and fears.  I try to tell anyone who has concerns about the development of their kids about early intervention services.  No doctors told us about these services that are available in every state.  I found this on my own, as so many concerned parents do when researching ways to help their child.  Jacob received services from his early intervention therapists, and from private physical therapists at CHKD, until he was two.  We will never know where Jacob’s development would be without the early intervention services, but that is sort of the point of these services – to not have to know what a potentially worse outcome would look like.  Jacob was certainly not a “typically” developing boy at 2 and he is still not at almost 3, but we are making progress (more on Jacob from age 2 to 3 in Part 2).

As a parent, you worry about all of your kids.  If you have a healthy, typically developing, smart, talented, and well-behaved kid (like Isabella and Noah) you worry about something going wrong in the future, you fear the unknown, and you worry about how smart or talented or well-behaved they are compared to their peers.  With a child with developmental delays, you have many of those worries, plus the real fear and concern about their present issues.  You wonder if the diagnosis is right, you wonder if you are missing something, are you doing enough, are you pushing too hard, are you giving them enough time and attention with therapy, will they ever catch up and lead a “normal” life.  I could go on and on about the list of worries I have had with Jacob.  Add to that, a heaping serving of guilt and self-doubt (is this my fault, something I did or did not do to cause this?), and you have some serious parenting stress.  I know this was true for me and it is true for so many other parents of kids with developmental delays and health concerns.

I am sure I will have many more posts about our journey with our wonderful and special son Jacob.  In spite of Jacob’s delays and all the fear and worries I have had about Jacob since his first few months, he is such a sweet, sensitive, adorable little boy.  When he does reach those milestones, like walking for the first time or saying a new word or playing with a toy in a “typical” way, they mean so much more because we know how hard fought the journey was to get there.  Many of these moments have brought tears to my eyes – tears of joy, relief, and immense parental pride.  I hope that sharing our journey with Jacob, might help those who are curious or who may be going through something similar.  Please share your experiences and your journey with me.  I have learned so much from others going through similar experiences and look forward to continuing to help each other in the future.

First Comes Love

  In two short weeks, I will be celebrating my 10 year wedding anniversary to the love of my life.  I have been with Les most of my adult life – literally.  We met when I was 17 and he was 19.  We were two young kids working summer jobs at the Virginia Beach Resort Hotel, and we were pretty much together from that first week in the summer of 1996.  We have been together 16 years, and there is truly no one I would rather have as my partner than him.  We have been through so much in 16 years.

I wish I had started this blog years ago, before it was hip and trendy to have a blog, to share and record all of these amazing memories and experiences.  I have kept a journal off and on, and Les has kept a journal at times as well.  I plan to go back to many of the experiences and memories in those journals and re-visit them here .  My memory is not as good as it should be, and if I don’t get my stories and reflections down now, I worry that they will be lost over time.  The things I have been through, and the experiences Les and I have been through in our relationship, are not necessarily unique or extraordinary.  They are things most people can relate to personally or know someone else who has gone through something similar.  In just the last 10 years we have started careers, moved away to a new state and back home again, survived cancer, bought our first home, struggled through infertility, had three kids, and tried to maintain our marriage, family, friendships, and overall work and life balance.

Today we feel blessed to be healthy and happy.  We have everything we could ever want, including three remarkable miracle babies.  I am not saying things are perfect, because nobody’s life is, including mine.  I do know better than to complain too much though, especially when I have the gifts that I do have.  I am a pretty honest and open person, and I plan to share the good and the bad here, in the most candid way I can.  My marriage is strong, but it is not strong without hard work, compromise, and commitment.  My children are amazing, but not because I am some super parent or because they are any more “special” than anyone else’s kids.  They are amazing because they are mine, and of course I think they are awesome.  Parenting is full of some hard stuff though!  I had a heck of a time adjusting to parenthood with my first child Isabella – struggled to get pregnant, rough delivery, miserable first two months as a mom with healing, nursing, and probably some postpartum depression.  My second child, Jacob, brought his own set of challenges – more infertility struggles, a better delivery and postpartum experience, hypotonia, developmental delays, and a whole host of worries and stress that continue to humble me and scare the crap out of me on a regular basis (lots more to come on all that).  My third child, Noah, was the most wonderful surprise in the world – totally unexpected, yet so welcome.  I am glad to say that this has been my most “typical” parenting experience, although nothing is easy or typical when you have three children under the age of four in your house.

What a crazy and wonderful life!  I will take the crazy, hectic, challenging stuff about this life any day if it comes with a side of wonderful.  So much of what is wonderful is having my loving, smart, funny, interesting, caring, and adorable husband by my side.  Here’s to many more years of marriage and adventure!

Is Memorial Day Enough? The Case for Shared Sacrifice…

Memorial Day is a day that we are supposed to remember those who have died in our nation’s service.  It is a day to say thank you to those veterans and their families for their service, and ultimate sacrifice, defending our freedom.  It is a day to honor those few brave men and women who have paid the price of these wars – 6,400 U.S. servicemen and women have died in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and at least 48,000 more have been wounded.

To most Americans, Memorial Day weekend represents an extended reprieve from work and the daily grind.  It means a chance to get together with family and friends for cookouts, trips to the beach or pool, or maybe even a vacation.  Many of us will spend about two minutes thinking about the meaning of Memorial Day or actually remembering the tremendous sacrifice of the few that have served and perished.  This is not necessarily a bad thing, and I am not writing this to pass any judgement.  I am right there with most Americans that spent this past weekend with my family and friends, spending little time (except for this blog post) really doing anything significant to honor our fallen heroes.  The reason is that I do not personally know anyone who has been injured or killed in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  I know many who have served and currently serve in the military, my father, brother-in-law, and several neighbors to name a few.  Most people in America don’t even personally know anyone currently serving in the military or directly impacted by these wars that our country has been engaged in for the past 10 years.

In my opinion, this is one of the fundamental problems of our nation in the last decade – the lack of shared sacrifice.  We have been at war with HUGE costs to our nation – $1 trillion (recent report from Congressional Research Service), 6,400 lives lost, 48,000 wounded, untold mental health/PTSD damage, lasting impacts to military families of those who have suffered loss of life, limb, or mental well-being – just to name a few.  If you are not serving in the wars, or a family member of someone serving, how have you been affected over the last 10 years?  How have you had to sacrifice?  What cost have you felt from these wars?  I don’t feel like I have felt any cost or had to sacrifice anything significant in the past decade as a result of these wars.  Unlike previous wars that our country has fought, the general population has not seen tax increases (we have actually seen several tax decreases), major non-military spending cuts, or any threat of a draft that might make us feel vulnerable or like we have some skin in the game.

This is not an argument for or against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, this is an argument for shared sacrifice.  How is it that so few in our country bear such a heavy burden for these wars, while the majority go for days, weeks, or years without a single thought or concern about our nation’s battles?  That just does not seem right.  How quickly everyone in America would be paying attention and engaged in debate if the government asked them to sacrifice before deciding to go into war.  If people knew they would pay higher taxes, or the government would need to make major spending cuts, or implement a draft – what would the support for the wars have looked like 10 years ago or today?  I am guessing that we might actually be thinking and talking about the war and whether the sacrifice is worth it, if we all had a little skin in the game.

I am thankful to all those that bravely serve our country.  I am so sorry to all those who have lost someone while defending our freedom – you and your loved ones have made the ultimate sacrifice.  How do you honor Memorial Day?  What do you think about the concept of shared sacrifice in terms of the war and how everyday Americans think about the war?

If you want to read more on this topic, here is is the link to an interesting column by Bruce Bartlett, Economist and Writer:

http://www.forbes.com/2009/11/25/shared-sacrifice-war-taxes-opinions-columnists-bruce-bartlett.html

Dance Like No One is Watching

There are quite a few things that a 4-year-old can get away with that a 34-year-old simply can’t quite pull off:  smocked clothing, light-up sneakers,  licking the bowl after eating ice cream, and possibly dancing by yourself to a steel drum band in the middle of town center.  I guess a 34-year-old could get away with these things, meaning they would not be carted off to jail or checked into a psychiatric hospital, but they certainly would be looked at a little funny.  However, a 4-year-old doing any of the aforementioned things is a pretty adorable sight.  Last night we enjoyed a wonderful family dinner at Bravo in the Virginia Beach Town Center to celebrate our niece Emily’s 13th birthday.  It was a more relaxing dinner than usual because my parents were watching our two youngest children while we took our daughter Isabella to dinner.  Isabella is pretty good at restaurants, but she is still a picky, restless 4-year-old who has a hard time sitting through a two-hour meal at a restaurant that does not have television, video games, or a playground.  Right outside the restaurant was the temptation of fountains, a steel drum band, and lots of people.  Needless to say, someone would be going for periodic breaks with Isabella and our  7-year-old niece throughout the meal.  Because my husband Les is awesome when it comes to all things kids, he volunteered to take the girls out so they could dance and prance about.

There are many things that rock about being four years old.  My husband and I often remark how awesome it is to be our daughter Isabella.  I mean last Saturday she woke up to homemade pancakes, played soccer, went to a carnival, went to an afternoon birthday party, played with her friends, watched a movie, and got a bath and bedtime story before settling in for a restful 12 hours of sleep.  THAT sounds like an AWESOME way to spend 24 hours!  Heck, if I could just get some exercise and a grown-up movie in the same day I would feel like I was on vacation, or I would feel guilty about taking too much time away from my family.  Exercise, movie, AND a play-date with my friends or my husband – that would just be crazy talk.  Twelve hours of sleep – LOL – that is really crazy talk.  I am telling you, it is good to be four years old!

I think many of the adults, and even teenagers, in the courtyard of town center probably felt like dancing to that steel drum band last night.  Some people were swaying side-to-side, tapping their feet, or had a little bounce in their step, but only the children were really dancing.  They weren’t just dancing either – they were dancing as if no one was watching them.  Spinning, cartwheels, arm waving, jumping, and dancing without a care in the world, as a kid does best.  It was a delight to watch and almost made me want to get out there and dance too, except for the fear of people watching.

Introducing… Five Spinning Plates

Hi.  My name is Jessica.  I am a 34 year-old woman living in Virginia.  I have been married to Les for almost 10 years (and we have been together for 16 years).  I am the mother to three children:  Isabella (4), Jacob (2), and Noah (1).  I work in sales 3 days/week and am home with my children and our crazy schedule the other 4 days/week.  Call this blog my mini mid-life crisis or just my way to put my feelings, thoughts, and experiences out there for the world to read.  It could also be my way to share my experiences and create a forum for other people to share their experiences and thoughts.  It may be another outlet for me to vent since my husband, and even some of my friends and family members, are probably sick of my stories and ramblings.  I know that this blog will also force me to write regularly, to actually record those funny stories about my kids and anecdotes about life, love, politics, relationships, work, success, failure, friendship, family, and everything in between.  Maybe one day, this blog will be a wonderful, and potentially very embarrassing way, for my kids to remember their mom.   I guess there are multiple reasons for starting this blog, and I hope you will join me as I embark on this journey and see what takes shape.

Like many women who are trying to balance it all, I sometimes think I have it all together and figured out, and other times I feel like all the spinning plates I am juggling are crashing down around me.  I chose Five Spinning Plates as the title for this blog because the five people in my family, including myself, are the plates I am usually trying to keep in the air.  Sometimes I am spinning 5 different plates just at work or just with one of my kids, but the title still works.  Of course I could have called the blog 50 spinning plates or 200 spinning plates because that is usually more what it feels like, but 5 seemed more symbolic and realistic for me.  In this new world of blogging and domain names that I am entering, most of the other good names were already taken anyway.

Let me put a few disclaimers out there at the outset.

1.  This is my first time writing for an audience and my first experience with a blog.  I have no idea what I am doing so bear with me.

2.  Just ignore or overlook grammatical errors.  Please and thank you.  I will do my best to correct mistakes, but I know there will be mistakes as grammar was never my strong suit.

3.  I look forward to comments and questions from anyone interested in a conversation.  My intent is not to offend anyone or hurt anyone’s feelings that may not agree with things I say on this blog.  I am doing this blog so I have an outlet to share my stories and experiences and to express my opinions and views on things.  Those topics may include politics, parenting styles or choices, books, movies, and maybe even religion.  If you don’t like what I have to say, share your thoughts and feelings or just ignore the post.

Thanks for checking out my blog.  Join me on this journey and share your thoughts and experiences with me along the way.  Enjoy!