Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Lucky Fin Project Weekend 2019!

How do I put into words what this weekend means each year? It seems like I go to write this post and never know how to start or what to even say because I am speechless. To start, look at this... 

Do yall get this?! There were 26 states represented. 4 countries and she confirmed that there were over 700 people at this conference. What amazing thing for not only Molly (the organization leader) but for all the families and people who attended! 700 people that you can relate to in one way or another. 700 people that have a limb difference or a family member who does. 700 people who flew from all over to be here this weekend. Now you know why I have a hard time putting into words how incredible this weekend is for us. 

This year I decided to take my youngest with me; I thought it would be great for him to see that his brother wasn't alone in the world with a limb difference, that there are other people out there who have a lucky fin too! Well we had a blast getting to Michigan because the boys were excited. We at one point had to sprint all the way across the airport to make a connecting flight so picture this. I have my 4-year-old in a carrier on my back, my big carryon bag on my shoulder and carrying my 4-year old's backpack. Then my lucky fin is trying to run next to us, but his backpack is weighing him down, so I take that and we all take off together. I'm sure it was a site to see and holy cow was I exhausted when we got to that gate! But we made it just in time! We then got to our destination where our other lucky fin family picked us up and we took off to the hotel! 

This weekend was the same set up as last year, so it was nice since we had done it all before. We saw some old friends that we had met and of course made new ones. The kids were super happy to be able to run around after being confined to airplanes and cars all day but we for sure passed out early that night because we were all so tired. 

The next day is the big main event day at the park. It's so nice to be surrounded by so many amazing families and share stories. We watched as the kids played and all swapped the typical questions; "Did you know before your child was born?" "How did you react?" "Have they had to have surgeries yet?" 

As I type these out I realize that they are not typical questions you ask other parents in a play group, but at this weekend, it's safe and comforting to know, as a mom, I'm not alone and these questions are normal. That other moms and dads out there understand what it was like to not know before your child was born. To understand that terrifying feeling of your 8-month-old going into surgery for the first time. To know that other parents have felt the same way is something I am forever grateful for with the Lucky Fin Project organization. 

One of the best parts is to see your kid playing with other kids that are just like him. To see the light bulb go off in his head knowing that he isn't alone in this world, that he might be the only one in his school or that he plays with but that he isn't alone. If there is one thing I hope he takes away from these weekends is that he isn't alone and luckily I think he is already learning that. 

So after a full day at the park of playing, seeing police dog demonstrations, firetrucks, making crafts, eating BBQ and having a great day we went back to the hotel for a much needed nap before the night festivities began! Every year Tony Memmel, a one-handed guitarist, plays a concert that the kids love and we as parents get to sit back and watch them sing and dance and be in awe of how he plays. 

Once the concert is done we have the luxury of talking to all the other parents some more as it is our final night. The kids continue to run around (how they still have energy I will never know!) but it is such a fun and safe environment that you can't help but enjoy. We got to meet some amazing people from the Florida Lucky Fin chapter so that will be nice as we go through the year to have meet ups and keep up with our Florida Lucky Fin family. 

To say that I am grateful for Molly and the organization she has created would be an understatement. She has helped me as a mom realize that it's ok to have questions and to be scared. And she has given me a community of other parents to be able to talk to and rely on when I feel like no one else gets it. But more importantly she has given my son a community. I realized this last year but now that we are another year in and another year older I was really able to see him make friends and grow friendships from last year and it made me realize it's all going to be ok. She has provided a community that we will always have and that will just continue to grow. We have started the countdown already for when we will be going again next year! 


Thank you Molly and Ryan! We love you guys!  

Not on purpose at all but the boys matched and the girls matched and then moms matched with our hats! 

When you think you're cool because you got your mom's sunglasses

The three amigos

Have a Blessed day!

Sunday, July 7, 2019

For all you moms out there

This post is going to be long and a little different than normal but it's been heavy on my mind lately. 

One of my best friends is going back to work tomorrow from maternity leave so this topic has come up quite a bit. Why can't we work remote? Why do we have to leave our kid and go back to work? Why do we have to sacrifice our time with them to also provide for them. Why? We both have asked this question, her more recently than I but it brought back all those familiar feelings I had gone through when I started back to work.

As a mom, there is this love for your child that cannot be explained and no one can parent better than you right? It doesn't matter if your chosen day care has a 1:1 ratio, it's not you. It doesn't matter that dad get's to stay home with your newborn, it's not you and it sucks. 

I remember when my kids were both first born thinking, how could I ever leave them? At the time, I was lucky enough to stay home for the first few years but then things got tight and I needed an outlet so we thought, why not try a temp position and give me working a shot. It was great! I got called real quick, interviewed and them hired all within a week and I was so excited. But then reality set in of leaving my boys, my babies. They would stay with their dad some of the time when he wasn't working but then the other times I would drop them off and pick them up from a baby sitter. Now, she was amazing and I couldn't have asked for better, but she wasn't me. Their dad was their dad, but it wasn't me. It was so hard getting those message during the day of what the boys were doing, how they were playing or napping or whatever it was that day, it was hard but I loved it.

I had finally found a job that I was good at and actually enjoyed so I struggled with feeling like I shouldn't be happy to go to work, I felt guilty that I was leaving my kids, that "someone else was raising them", and I felt guilty that I loved my job. Where is that line? Why can't I, as a mom, feel good about both? Why has society created this thing of working mom vs stay at home moms? There's shouldn't be this divide and should be support from all around.

Again, I was a stay at home mom for 3 years so I know all that goes into that and just needing a break. I remember those exhausting days where my newborn wouldn't stop crying and my 1 year old wouldn't listen and I just needed someone to come help. Help me with dinner, or laundry or taking the kids for 10 min so I could cry in peace. Those days that felt endless because everyone was crying (including me!) I remember this one time I locked myself in the closet. Jude was super attached that day and Cooper wouldn't stop crying. No one was listening and I was home alone with no help and I just needed a break. I put the TV on and made sure Cooper was safe and walked into my closet and locked myself in there. It wasn't more than 2 seconds later, Jude was banging on the door yelling while Cooper screamed in the background. I know the struggles of being a stay at home mom all too well and it can be exhausting.

But now I also now know the struggles of being a working mom. The getting up super early and having to wake the kids before the sun, get me ready and get them ready and rush out the door. Some mornings are great and go without an issue and others I am almost in tears when we are getting in the car because nothing has gone as planned. I'm telling the kids to please just give mommy a moment without saying anything.. Then dropping them off at school, rushing to work to get there on time and be a good employee. Talk to people all day because that's my job and then hurry home to feed the kids, bath, books and then bed. - Somedays I feel like I barely see my children but when they go to bed I am relieved but miss them so much. - Oh, and then after dinner do all the housework, clean up from dinner, take care of the dog, shower and maybe get some TV or a book in before passing out so we can repeat it all the next day.

As exhausting as all of this seems, I wouldn't trade either for anything. I loved being a stay at home mom and feel blessed that I had that opportunity because not everyone does. Being able to have those days that everything flowed perfectly. Playdates with other kids and moms, pool time or going to the zoo. I remember it all like it was yesterday and I miss it. Or the days where we all get up happy in the morning and they get ready for school while I now get ready for work and we get in the car happy and I cry as I leave them because I just wish I could stay and play all day.

But what about that guilt? How are we supposed to deal with it? If we stay at home, society says we should work, if we work, society says we should stay at home. We can't win. But what we can do is show up for our kids. Whether we work or stay home, we can be there. Don't get me wrong, everyone has a bad day or kids that don't want to listen but that's when we can show them compassion. Show them it's ok to have a bad day, mom has bad days often! But it's how they act and respond to that bad day that will determine how the rest of the day plays out.

We can stay at home with our kids knowing that this is what is needed in life right now. Don't feel guilty for "not contributing" because you are! I'm sure we have all seen it but you are the chef, the maid, the butler, the homemaker, the educator, the business manager, the _____ fill in the blank on what you do everyday and feel good about yourself! What you are doing is some of the hardest work as being a stay at home mom. It's not easy and not everyone can do it so I applaud you. You don't have to be that "Pinterest" mom because guess what, she doesn't exist! But kudos to you stay at home moms!

And to the working moms... Stop feeling guilty for working! Trust me, I feel like that often, especially when my kids are sitting in the back seat as we go to school and they are asking why I have to work and I can't stay and play with them. It kills me every time but I also get to show them what a hard working mom looks like. I get to be excited when we can splurge on a new toy because I worked for that for them. To see their little faces light up when I come home with new Nerf guns for a war we are going to have. I feel guilty leaving them almost everyday, but I know that I get to provide and show them a hard working mom and for that, I am proud.

Last thing that I want to pass on is this: Create new traditions. 
             When I was a stay at home mom we had some things that we did weekly, whether it was a bible study, weekly play date, one on one time with them, it was something. So when I started working I felt terrible that I couldn't do all of that with them. Especially since their dad and I share time, my weekends are precious time and it's hard to fit everything in that we want. But I started movie night with the boys. Every Friday night that I have them, we watch a movie. They always want to stay up late and I am always exhausted from work but wanted special time with them so movie night happened. We have what is called "snack dinner" (A bunch of healthy items they choose from to eat little bits of; strawberries, cheese sticks, peanut butter crackers, etc.) and they eat in front of the TV watching whatever movie we decide on that night. When they are done with dinner they climb on the couch and I attempt cuddles which sometimes works and other times not. Either way, my kids love this new tradition and it has helped me not feel as guilty being a working mom. 

Anyway, hopefully this helps, or maybe it's just me being able to feel better about it all, either way your kids will grow up knowing you loved them. Stay at home mom or working mom, it doesn't matter.

Hopefully some of this can help!

Have a Blessed Day 

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Thursday, May 23, 2019

Hello 5k!

So I am super excited to announce that we have officially launched a 5k for April of 2020! Yes, that is forever away but if we want to make the most of it, we have to start now right?! This will be the first of [hopefully] many races to come to benefit the Lucky Fin Project. It has been so near and dear to our hearts and I can't imagine my son not having the support. We went to the LFP weekend last year and he still talks about it to this day and asks when we are going back. He loved to see that he wasn't alone and other kids "like him" were out there. We are hoping that this 5k can do that on a local level now too. How cool would it be to have a ton of kids with limb differences start this race off?! I'm pretty sure I would ball my eyes out!

Anyway, how did this come about you might wonder? Well I personally decided in 2019 that I would run at least 1 5k a month or 12 in a year depending on how hot summer can be here is sunny Florida! I ran my first one in February and my little lucky fin ran the race with me and loved it! Since then I have run several and each time he hears that I am running one without him, he gets upset. He loves loves loves to run 5k's with me and he is actually really good at it for only being 5 years old! So as I started running these, I started thinking about hosting one. Me and my party planning background got thinking that this could be totally do-able, especially if we have a year to plan and prep for the race. Once I decided that I would do this for my son and the LFP, it was all over. I have been working non stop for the last few weeks on securing location and possible vendors and sponsorships. Where do we get shirts, who will help with all of this? Those are all the things that have been going on and then some! Luckily I have a super solid team of people who have stepped in to help me make this run come true and I am super blessed to have them! So now let the games begin!

On another note, all is well in the crazy lucky fin house over here. My lucky fin has his VPK graduation next week and I am already crying now. How is he already this old and going into kindergarten?? I remember when he was born like it was a month ago! Trying to figure out mom-hood and then all of his fingers and toes and surgeries and doctors appointments and now we are going into kindergarten?! Holy. Crap.

And my youngest is loving school and also loving anything and everything his brother does. Until it's annoying and then he is miserable! Hope my kids are not the only ones like this! They love the heck out of each other and then in a matter of seconds they are fighting. I just don't get it, but overall the boys are doing great and we are excited to go back to the LFP weekend coming up in July! If you don't know about it, check out the LFP website (under Helpful Sites) and you can learn more about it there. I highly encourage anyone with a child who has a limb difference; go. I promise you wont regret it!

Some updated pictures! 

My brother came into town from California and I convinced him to run a 1 mile with my little lucky fin because he was mad he didn't get to run the full race with me.

They finished! 

So proud of him! And love that he had to take his short off LOL

Our Easter together 

My sweet sweet family

We had a great mothers day! Like their winks??

How could this not make you smile?! 

Have a blessed day :) 

Saturday, March 2, 2019

What a Year

Holy Crap. So honestly, I forgot that I had this blog. Oops! But we have an event tonight at Shriners and it made me remember that I used to tell my sons story. Although things have slowed down for him I still want to be able to share his life (and ours) in hopes to help others and show that all will be ok!

Let's catch you up... 2017 and the beginning of 2018 were a long year for us.. We went through some household changes where my boys dad and I split and it resulted in divorce. As you can imagine this is not what anyone wants when they get married and I think even more so when there are kids involved. But after a long year we are all doing very well. They boys have adjusted and I am so so grateful that they have. I have tried to be open and honest with them now that I am a single mom, show them that it's ok to be upset or struggle or have bad days. That everyone is able to have their own feelings and emotions but it how we deal with those that will effect us and those around us. The past few years have really taught me so many different life lessons that although they were hard to learn, I am grateful that I learned them at young age. I truly believe that one day my story will be able to help my kids with whatever they might be going through. And to always be honest with them so they know they can trust me as their mom, even when life throws big curve balls that no one was expecting.

With all of that life has brought many new and amazing things for me and the boys! We have a great little place that they helped paint and pick out everything for their new room which I think helped with the transition of our new life. We also got a puppy and he was a perfect addition to our family. Although it's like having 3 toddlers in the house sometimes, it's still so much fun! Plus when the boys are with their dad, I have a little companion that I get to hang out with and he makes sure to protect me from all the big bad scary squirrels in the backyard! lol. On top of a new place and a new dog, I got the most amazing job a mom could ask for! I wasn't looking for a new job as I was very happy where I was but this was the most perfect time and such a great opportunity that I couldn't pass it up. I get to run my own department and have the flexibility to be there for my kids at any time needed. I have been able to create processes and procedures and new programs within the company as well which I love being able to do! On top of all of that, I met the most amazing man ever., and I couldn't be happier! Needless to say that even through all the bad, there were so many great things that came out of it all that I can't help but look back and see that we are going to be alright.

Now for my little lucky fin update! He is doing so well! His teachers in VPK say that he is excelling above normal and that he is all set and ready for kindergarten next year. (Ask me if I'm ready though! :( the answer is no!) But he loves school and loves all of his friends there, it's great to see him thriving and to be so happy. We had a check up this week at Shriners, our yearly visit and we got the awesome news that we don't need to go back for another year!! This is great because his toenail was growing back and we weren't sure if it was going to need surgery or not so I am thrilled that the answer was no for that.

And like I said earlier, we have an event tonight for Shriners that he is so excited about! The local college has an organization and they are raising money for Shriners hospital! They told me that about their dance marathon when I was there learning about opportunities for my company. Well I immediately felt like we should be part of this with my company and with my lucky fin. So I went into our CEO's office and told him what the school was doing and that we could sponsor if he was open to it, his response was lets do the highest level sponsorship that we can! I was so surprised and started crying at my desk. How lucky was I that I could do this even for work and for my kid! Plus, the students can't sit for 24 hours and they tell people that "they are standing for kids who can't", now tell me that doesn't get you right in the feelers?! I have goosebumps even thinking about it. So we are doing that tonight and hopefully get to meet some other Shriners kids while we are there but my lucky fin also gets to share his story to others. We are so so excited!

My youngest... oh Lord. He is the biggest cuddle bug ever but also the biggest fireball ever. Boy does that child have a hot head and is stubborn but when he is sweet, it makes you forget everything else! I tell him he's lucky he's so cute lol. But he is doing really well and in preschool, we have the option to hold him back another year or put him in VPK so now are are trying to asses what is best for him in the long run because he has that weird birthday where he could do either or.

Both boys are so creative and come up with elaborate make believe stories that sometime blow my mind. I love that I get to be their mom and watch them grow and learn and become such little men! My oldest will open my car door from time to time (so he can climb in) but he also makes sure to say that he open the door for his pretty mommy because that's what boys do. Talk about melting my heart! Don't get me wrong, this is rare but it sticks with me and I hope that one day they will grow up to be such great little gentlemen that make me proud!

Here are some picture of us over the last few months!

This is Spencer! The newest addition to the family. 

Took the boys to a baseball game and they absolutely loved it! 

He's amazing and the boys love him! 

Fresh new haircuts. When did they get so big?! 

Some fun quality time when I was off work. 

He was so mesmerized and stood there for so long.  

We ran a 5k! It was supposed to be a stroller walk but my lucky fin wanted to run so I took off with him while his little brother relaxed in the stroller the whole time! 

It was raining the other night and my lucky fin wanted to walk his little bro out to the car so he wouldn't get wet! These boys have a brotherly love that is beyond adorable! 

Have a blessed day :) 

Monday, July 23, 2018

Lucky Fin Project Weekend

Holy Crap. That is the only way to start this post. What an amazing weekend Jude and I just had up in Troy, Michigan with the Lucky Fin Project. For those of you that haven't heard of it, please go check it out here:

This organization was started by Molly and her daughter Ryan who was born with a limb difference on her hand. When Jude was born I found this organization online through Facebook I believe and as a new mom with a son effected by ABS, it was a lifesaver. It was nice to know that I wasn't alone and that there were other kids out there like him. As Jude got older I kept seeing this thing called Lucky Fin Project Weekend and I always thought how cool it would be to take him. Well this year we got to go! Within 3 weeks, I decided that this would be super beneficial because he is starting VPK this year and I wanted him to know that he wasn't alone, that there were other kids out there like him and that it was ok to be different.

So Friday morning we got up super early and drove to the airport, the whole way there he was so excited to fly on a plane! It was adorable, until he asked me for the 1,000th time, "are we there yet." I finally had to tell him that I promised to let him know as soon as we got to the airport! Well we get there and all goes well and we are sitting by our gate with this young lady walks by who is missing part of her arm and she is wearing pants that say Lucky Fin Project on them. Now, we just drove almost 2 hours to get to the airport so I said, "you must be going to the Lucky Fin Project weekend I assume?" Of course though, why else would she by flying to Michigan?! Either way it started an awesome conversation with her and the young man that was with her who was missing an arm and a leg. They were so sweet to Jude and showed him their "robot" arms and legs and he was in awe. This is where I think it all started to make sense in his little head.

The first night we were there was just a socialization for every parent and child that was going to be part of this weekend. Jude met friends right away and started running around the hotel with the other kids while the parents and I talked. It was amazing to hear their stories and see each childs difference. Not only that but the kids didn't seem to notice but when asked, they all showed you their limb difference. As the kids were running a mom and her daughter came up and started playing and talking to us. We immediately hit it off and hung out the rest of the weekend and the kids became inseparable, it was beyond adorable and we can hear the wedding bells now! We will call her miss lucky fin. We ended up hanging out at the pool with them and Jude got to show off his amazing swimming skills. Really won over his little girlfriend ;)

The next day was the picnic and this is where it hit home for me. There were 500 people registered for this event. 500! So picture this, 500 people there either as part of the family or the person with the limb difference, but here, it was normal. Siblings were used to it, parents talking to other parents about their stories and their lucky fin kid, and kids playing with other kids that were just like them. Unique. It was amazing and I don't have quite the capacity to describe the feeling as a mom. But Jude lite up and would come running back to me and say "mom! There are so many other people like me!" It made me smile and get tears in my eyes. The other cool thing was when the Lucky Fin ambassadors would dote on my child. They entertained him when he wanted to see their "robot" arm and he was fascinated.

Side story: 

We went to Starbucks on our way to the picnic and one of the Lucky Finers was there who we hadn't met the night before. Jude saw her and said "Mommy, she has a cool robot arm, can I go tell her that she's my hero?" I immediately said yes and we walked over to tell her and she was so sweet about it! She came back to our table to talked to us while we all waited for our drinks and she showed Jude her amazing arm and all that she could do with it. She was so amazing with Jude and made such an impact on both of us, I can't thank you enough! You are why he became so comfortable showing his hands and he talks about you still. 

Anyway, so after the park we went back to the hotel to rest and clean up before our Lucky Fin concert that night! Tony Memmel is a one handed guitar player and is amazing! He was playing baseball with the kids earlier and then put on a concert for us later that night. It was so cool to see so many people try to jam into a tiny conference room and to know that everyone had been through roughly the same thing. If you want to see more about Tony his link will be at the bottom of this post! So Tony played and all the kids sang and Jude loved it and said he can't wait to play guitar one day like him! After the concert was over we hung out with little miss lucky fin and her mom, as we had been doing all weekend but this was our last night :( . There were so many people hanging out and playing together as parents continued to talk and share stories. It's just something that can't be forgotten.

The next morning we woke up and met up with miss lucky fin and her mom to have a fair well breakfast as they live in Chicago and we are in Florida. So the kids ate and played and then we sat with some other ambassadors from the Lucky Fin Project and put stickers and gems all over each other with some Stump Kitchen tattoos (see that link below too!!) It was a perfect way to end the trip. To say we were sad to leave is an understatement but to be able to have taken my son and see how much he changed in the matter of a few short days. By the end we would take pictures and they would all show their lucky fins, so proud and happy. It makes me tear up when I think about it and to have seen him grow so much. Not only that but I was able to talk to other parents. I went into this all for him, to make sure he had a good time and knew that even if he was the only one in his school like that, it was ok because there were other kids out there just like him. But I was able to get ideas off other parents, share my story and my struggles with people who understand exactly what I am going through. With that, I was able to see older kids with no problems whatsoever and it gave me hope. Not that I thought Jude wouldn't be able to do anything but it's comforting to see that he is not alone. That we are not alone.

We flew back on Sunday with reluctance. Jude did not want to go and neither did I, we had made such good friends and memories that we are counting down the days until next year! We got on our plane with the pleasant surprise that the young lady and gentleman who were on our flight there, were also on our flight back. Jude was quite excited to see them as we had hung out with them a few times this weekend. As we got off the plane and looked and me and said, "there they are mom! Can I go say goodbye?" And with my yes, he ran up yelling their names to make sure he said goodbye to them.

Lucky Fin Project was a big aspect of our lives before this weekend but since then it has become even bigger. Jude has come back talking about our trip and showing people his fingers and toes and telling him that he is not alone, that there are people like him and that he is super cool! It brings so much joy to see him be so proud. Thank you Lucky Fin.

Here are some pictures from our trip:

Waiting to board our plane! 

This kid had the hook up for the flight over! Finding Nemo pillow included ha! 

Making sure he looked cool in all his new swag

Molly and her daughter Ryan! Can't thank her enough! <3 

Miss Lucky Fin! Melt my heart! 

Jude loved Brian who was a one handed drummer

Ashley, one of the ambassadors who flew there and back with us! 

Rebekah who is also an ambassador! 

This is the lady who runs Stump Kitchen! 

How cute are they?!

Tony Memmel before his concert

Rocking our Lucky Fin gear

Love our new friends! 

Saying goodbye to Molly :( 

Some of the amazing kids Jude met! 

Tony Memmel - http://tonymemmel.com/wp/
Stump Kitchen - https://www.stumpkitchen.com/