The Year No One Will Forget

The year of 2020. I am not sure about you, but the year started off with so much promise. So much to look forward to. Then three months in, it all seemed to come crashing down.

Starting this year off, I had just landed a great job states away, with what I was currently going to school for.

Becoming a surgical technologist! Graduation was set for May, and my career was set to begin in July. With the plan to move more than one thousand miles away, things were looking like a great, fresh start! One that my family and I were very excited about.

Here we are now, in April, and things have spiraled so quickly down the kitchen sink; I am just waiting for someone to turn on the garbage disposal. 23 days is how long my family and I have been home in quarantine. Not because we are ill, but to protect one another and be safe.

My graduation has been canceled and possibly rescheduled to August, and that is all dependent on if we can complete the rest of our clinical surgeries in time. The kiddos, as well as my school, have taken the form of online learning. So not only am I having to learn myself, but I am also having to be the teacher for them. And I don’t know about you but having three growing boys in the house 24-7 sure eats your pantry empty before you can even manage to stock it!

Anywho, I guess I will end the pity party.

I am sure grateful for our health, especially Oliver as he is medically fragile. I am grateful for the time and bonding we have all done, even when we want to pull each other’s hair out. I am also grateful for the time I have gotten to just relax and catch up on things I love such as reading.

How much longer can I keep this up though? I have no clue. I honestly don’t want to find out, but I will stay put as long as I have to in order to keep us and others safe. I hope you all are following the same precautions and keeping a healthy and clear mind through all of this chaos!

From one quarantined family to another, stay safe and wash those hands!

Baby, it’s cold outside

You may be reading this now, bundled up with a blanket, fireplace going and sipping some warm coffee.

Maybe you are enjoying a nice warm sunrise (lucky!) in shorts and a t-shirt.

Or, you could be living in Texas like myself and be experiencing all of this in a weeks period! Seriously.

The weather here has more mood swings and tantrums than my three year old son! But when it is cold outside it is cold, and our future is only looking colder with a household move up North to the state of Maine.

That is right, this little Texan family is heading North East over 1,000 miles to Portland, Maine.

One of the most memorable responses we received from one of Oliver’s doctors when we told him was, “You know it is cold up there right?”. Chuckling, I responded, “of course”.

We are fully aware that they get multiple inches of snow in a night, and experience some serious snow storms throughout the season.

We are completely prepared for that. What I will admit that I am not prepared for, is how to raise a wheelchair dependent son in areas of ice and snow.

While we experience the cold here in Texas, I can manage the cold wheels we get and that leads to a simple fix of putting gloves on his hands to manoeuvre around. But how does one manoeuvre around in the snow on wheels?

I can barely manage to walk in it sometimes without slipping on my behind.

To give you a little insight on what I am picturing right now, close your eyes for a second.

Here is my Oliver in his wheelchair on the sidewalk covered in ice or snow. He comes to a small downhill and sees nothing but an awesome, FAST ride down.

He doesn’t understand the physics of it all, or even contemplates how he will stop on the way down. Before I can catch him, boom, there he goes!

Silly, but that’s what our minds are for; to drive ourselves crazy with all the “could be situations”.

My research has lead my to finding some awesome accessories like Wheel Blades, which are essential wheelchair skis to help the front cast wheels manoeuvre in the snow or even sand without getting stuck or digging too deep down.

It is something I will probably buy and test out, but I am very curious to hear any tips or suggestions for a newbie family like ours! How do you all manage a wheelchair in the snow?

Not only this, but are there any coats, pants, or boots that you all find helpful to keeping your child warm in this type of weather?

Comment below to help this momma out! I will be forever grateful.

Who’s path am I on?

Do you ever feel like there are things you should be doing or are expected to be doing because your child may share the same diagnosis of others?

My son Oliver was diagnosed with Spina Bifida and we are in an amazing Facebook group of other families who share the same diagnosis.

Because of this, we are able to always reach out for tips and see what progress other children are making or what they might be going through at the moment.

There is a lot I find myself comparing my son’s own progress to, or feeling like I may not be doing enough for him.

For instance, therapy dogs. I always find families looking to gather information on this so they can adopt one for their son or daughter.

This is no cheap nor easy task, and was once a hope for us, but honestly only because I felt that this is what we were supposed to be doing for our son.

He is only five and uses his wheelchair independently at locations such as when he goes to school.

I could not fathom a reason why at such a young age, it would be beneficial, and maybe it would or wouldn’t be, but I looked into it either way.

We actually ended up spending a hefty amount for what we read was one of the best types of breed for children with disabilities, a goldendoodle.

Hypoallergenic and blessed with a calm temperament that was very easy to train.

Unfortunately for us we soon realized Oliver had a fear of dogs. And I am talking to the point where he would cry and not want any interaction with the little puppy.

Understandably, this puppy was a child too and only wanted love and someone to play with.

His licks and nibbles meant no harm to Oliver, but was just too much for him. He was overwhelmed and we adopted her out to a loving family.

This path was not for us, but I felt like I should have been doing it because it was something everyone else was looking into for their children.

Time has passed since the puppy event, but here I am again with a type of surgery I see many families getting for their young children.

A surgery that has great benefits and would lead to so much independence in the bathroom for them.

But it is no small feat, and would require some pretty serious recovery time.

Not only that, but I just feel like although it would create so much independence for him, I don’t know what he may think of the decision I made or did not make years down the road.

Years down the road when he may be intimate with someone and have to explain that because of this surgery, he caths himself out of his belly button instead of through the ‘normal’ genital location.

This is something that should definitely be discussed with the child’s physician, which I will do, but sometimes I feel like I would never be in the position if it was not something I felt like “I should be doing” for my son because everyone else is doing it for their own children with the same diagnosis.

And this may just be something I will learn comes with the diagnosis.

Because our children share the same diagnosis and side effects, things we go through are similar given the physicality of it all.

2019 almost in the rearview

With 2019 almost wrapping up, what is the one thing everyone always seem to do?

Reflect! In those 365 days, some of us have experienced new family additions, death, new jobs, travel, and ultimately life’s up and downs.

Whether it was a difficult year for you or one full of blessings, there is always something to look back on.

It was a very mixed year for my household. With me in school full time, along with two jobs, we found many days to be stressed and filled to the brim with things to do.

My husband, Aaron, was working his full time job which requires he work both day and night shifts, and the two oldest boys were off in school during the day with the youngest at home with our wonderful nanny.

Many of our closest friends and family warned me though, “Life will be tough with one parent’s income gone while he/she attends school full time.” “Nights will be long and sleep will be short.”

Nearing the closure of my second semester, I can fully understand the warning lights that were going off.

But when you have been going to college for ten years, toughing it out for one more semester seems like the cherry on top of a nice big sundae.

In reflection, I am so grateful that I took the leap and applied for the program this year rather than putting it off again. I am also grateful that my children can see me graduate and understand that not all plans go accordingly, and that is ok!

You have your own path to follow, and never should compare that to others.

At the beginning of the year, Oliver also experienced his first seizure.

Test and scans later showed that it was not epileptic related, but that he was prone to them at night while sleeping, for whatever reason.

Genetics did come back with an abnormality in a gene, but we have yet to dig into that box of surprises. With him in kindergarten this year, we had every emergency number we could think of set up with the school, prepared for whatever may happen.

We may not have answers for the reason, but writing this today, I can thankfully say that he has not experienced another.

In fact, all three children have grown and thrived in their own, unique way!

While reflection won’t always lead to some awe-inspiring motivation, there may be something you can pull and learn from once it is in the past.

Although I will still be under the current stress of running a very busy household, while in school and working full time, I can at least appreciate that I have successfully completed two semesters with one remaining.

With the household under semi-control, there will be one day when I finish and understand the path set out for me was all for a purpose. Failure and all!

It’s not always toys on our list

Sure if you ask my kiddos what they want for Christmas, you would get an array of answers ranging from a new phone, to a talking robot, to even an alligator!

The list has no end, and is constantly changing.

But as every mom knows, ten minutes into playing with some of those toys, you would never see them pick it up again for the rest of the year. (Of course, only when you are trying to get rid of it and they see.)

Most do not, but has anyone ever thought to ask the parents what they want or better yet, need?

Don’t get me wrong, I am not a cold hearted mom, I would throw in a toy or two off their list; but this mom definitely knows that they would use because it is a necessity.

For instance, my son Oliver whom was born with Spina Bifida, spends most of his traveling around the house on all fours crawling.

He prefers it, he is quick at it, and it requires less space than his wheelchair. Because of this, we go through pants like crazy!! PANTS, PANTS, PANTS…. That would for sure be on my list for Oliver.

Heck, even some good sturdy knee pads would help him extend the life of some jeans.

If we were going to get on the toy subject for a child with special needs like my own Oliver, I would suggest something that could easily be transported.

I say this because speaking from experience, I am always in and out of school and places like the hospital and therapy with Oliver and don’t particularly care for lugging tons of things around; buuuut at the same time I do want to have something for him to do while waiting around.

Some good ideas for this would be things as simple as bubbles and Play-Do. I tell ya, Oliver could spend hours playing with those two things and they are small enough to fit in a bag.

They also benefit as great hands on toys, good for occupational exercises.

Not only does it let their imagination get to work, but there is no limit as to what they can create or do. (Well, until you run out of bubbles or the Play-Do dries out.)

But these are definitely cheap to replace and can be switched up with colors and wands!

In this day and age when there is a new toy coming out every single day and electronics constantly powered on, it can be beneficial to speak directly to the parents to see what they know their child could truly use and benefit from.

Ring, Ring, your career is calling

In one of my previous posts, I write about life having its own set path for you.

No one has the same path, and no one should compare theirs to others.

I mean, ten years in college and I am STILL attending it. Why? Because life happened for me.

I initially was going for teaching and changed my mind to a program called Surgical Technology.

At the time it was a year certificate medical program and seemed appealing because it was short and sweet.

In 2010 I started my pre-requisite classes with a goal in sight. But moving cities happened, I met my husband and we wasted no time on starting our family.

With my stepson being 6 years old, we knew we wanted to add a sibling to his and our life.

Blessed with a boy, we had Oliver who was diagnosed with Spina Bifida. Fast forward to 2019, Aaden is 12, Oliver is 5 and Theodore (the youngest) is 3 years of age.

Like I said, life happened! And you know what? I would not change a thing.

But back to the point, I finally applied to the Surgical program and made it in.

For certain colleges, there may be an admission process that inquires testing as well as an interview before being selected or not.

For the college I chose, I made it down to the interview process. I will always remember the one question that stood out the most to me.

“Tell me why you think you belong in the program. Why should we choose you?” For some this may be something to think about, or as simple as formulating the “right” response.

For myself, it could not have been easier to answer, as I spoke straight from my heart.

Why me? For starters, my son at the age of five, has already received more than six surgeries.

As a parent who has a child or children who are constantly receiving procedures or surgeries, this is such a difficult thing.

We pray for speedy recovery, for everything to go smoothly, and above all that the staff and doctors perform to their best.

After all, it is our children under their hands and in their care. I knew now that this was not just an easy way to getting a degree, but my calling. I wanted to be able to provide what I pray for, for other families.

I wanted to be able to truthfully tell them that I understand, because I have been there. I wanted to be that comfort for a scared child, alone in an unknown room.

What I plan to graduate in, is so much more than career for me.

It is a passion I have to create comfort and peace for anyone undergoing a procedure, no matter their age.

I may not have known it ten years ago, but this was my career calling and I am so glad I answered the call!

Coordinated Chaos

This year has been one for the books!

This momma finally put on her big girl underwear, and applied for the surgical technologist program.

I have been putting it off for so long, it was almost embarrassing to contact the many, many colleges I’ve attended for transcripts.

But, I did it and made it into the 1 of 18 seats for the program.

Before applying, I kept doubting myself and making excuses how I did not think it was possible, how I was going to find childcare for my youngest, and how it would be financially possible.

If it wasn’t for my husband pushing me to apply and assuring me we could make it all work, I would have put off another year.

Now one semester down, I start clinicals in September.

I am excited for the hands on part of the program to start and learning through great instructors and healthcare professionals.

Back at home, my kids have survived, we have still stayed on track with bills and the extra finance of going to school, I have found childcare and actually built a great friendship through that (not only for myself, but my kids with her kids too!) and life has just done its thing.

Sure dinners have consisted of a little more take out than normal, clothes have gone longer without being washed, and there have even been days where I have had to shorten play time in order to get enough study time… but like I said, life continued to truck on.

Sometimes we spend more time making excuses for something we are afraid to start because it’s new, scary and unknown.

Change is very scary for families settled and comfortable in the ways of life as it stands.

You are afraid to try and fail. Afraid to fail in other aspects of life, when you dedicate your time to this new thing.

But the worst thing isn’t failing. It is not taking that chance, because you never know what could be.

I have had this dream to become a surgical technologist since I graduated high school in 2008 and first started attending community college for my basics in 2009.

I spent 10 years making excuses and putting it off for different reasons.

I am so proud of myself for finally taking the plunge and working towards my career dream.

I encourage you to take that plunge as well, for whatever it is that you have been putting off for days, months or even years!

Five, wild and free

It sure has been awhile since we have blogged about our sweet Oliver and all his shenanigans!

We are currently surviving ( and when I saw we, I mean dad and I) Summer 2019 with all three boys.

Summers are no easy task, and I wish I cherished them more when the boys were little.

Now it is almost impossible to keep the pantry stocked, bellies fed before the next one says “I’m hungry”, and having enough activities to avoid the “I’m bored”.

I can almost see you all through the screen now, nodding with agreement. Oliver has turned five this summer and I seriously cannot believe how fast the time has gone.

Along with the notch in the year older belt, Oliver has also scored two more notches in the diagnosis department.

Unfortunately we started the year off with Oliver experiencing his very first seizure.

It was such a frightening ordeal that we really do not have answers to yet.

I always knew it was a possibility with the hydrocephalus and Chiari II malformation, but figured since he never had experienced them when he was an infant or toddler, that we were kind of “in the clear”.

But, I was wrong and it happened.

He now takes up permanent residency in our king size bed at night, and luckily has not experienced any since that one morning.

Because of the seizure, we had to see a neurologist.

During one of his visits with our neurologist, she noted what sounded like a heart murmur in Oliver’s heart.

We had never heard of this before, in all his previous doctors, so it was surprising.

We now are scheduled to see a cardiologist to hopefully rule this one out, but we aren’t holding our breathe.

My little Oliver still soldiers on though, despite how the year has started out.

He is five and starting kindergarten soon! I survived him being in pre-k this last year, and am excited to see all the new friends he makes and new things he learns in the school year.

Plus, there is nothing better than getting those adorable little crafts they make throughout the year.

From my household to yours, I wish you the best of luck in the remaining days before the little rascals head off to school.

It’s wheely hot outside!

Here in Texas, everybody knows that the summer months can be absolutely brutal with heat. Sure it might not be as bad as Arizona, but it is no joke.

One of the biggest struggles my son faces during the summer heat, is keeping cool and finding activities to do while in his wheelchair.

He loves the outdoors and everything it entails (minus the bugs) and is always begging me to take him out.

We are a household that allows screen time, so it is always nice when he wants to break free from that, but c’mon… we are talking 105 degrees Fahrenheit sometimes!

Let me paint the picture real quick to give you an idea, but his pediatric wheelchair is almost all metal, and more than 70% of it is black.

Leave that baby in the sun too long, and you could actually risk some burns.

We try to limit the activities he can do while not in his wheelchair, just because the floor gets hot as well and crawling is his preferred choice of travel.

But lo and behold, (drumroll) we have found the solution! There are these things throughout the city here called splash pads.

They are turned on by the city during certain time periods and ring similar to back in the days when kids would play around in the water from an old broken fire hydrant.

This is much safer, lol, and designed just for this purpose. It allows Oliver to still manoeuvre around in his wheelchair without the risk of getting stepped on or burning himself on the floor, and although in the long run it might not be the smartest, he can stay cool and wet in his chair.

He has been able to roll around and meet some pretty cool kids at the splash pad, and best of all… it is free!

We do not let his wheelchair sit wet and try to dry it off immediately in the sun or with a towel, so I don’t have any negative things to report about it getting wet.

If you have any ideas or tips you would love to share about keeping cool during the summer, with or without a wheelchair, let us know below in the comments!