Saturday, 14 December 2013

DIY - Activity Advent

The Christmas season is by far my most favourite time of the year.  To be honest, I am one of those people who listens to carols year round and counts down to the big day starting Dec. 26th.  I know, I've got it BAD!  This year I wanted to do something fun for Marleigh since she is 2 years old and understands what's going on this year.  Also, with having a new addition to the family, I wanted to find something uniquely special just for Mommy and Marleigh.  And so the creation of "Marleigh's Activity Advent began.  My dear friend and craft guru Angie graciously opened her craft room to me one night and let me play.  I decided to make various Christmas bobbles to stick to the mirror in our kitchen.  I glued pre-cut cardstock circles to different craft paper...adding polka-dots, stripes, candy canes etc.  I decided not to write directly on the bobble so that I can reuse them next year and the year after and so on...  Thankfully I made this decision before starting, saving me time next year :)  So, each day I decide on a new fun Christmas activity to do with Marleigh Bear.  We call it our "special Christmas activity" - not a catchy title but she gets soooo excited about it.  I also decided that for the most part we would complete the daily activity after nap time - in order to ensure she still went down for a nap every day!  Sometimes I use it for behaviour management (ie. Marleigh, if you aren't going to listen to Mommy then that shows Mommy that you don't want to do your special Christmas activity).  Not sure what child psychologists would say about my approach but it works...for December, now what to do in January????
Another key element is that I decided what the activity is going to be based on what I have the energy for that day.  Having a growing family can be exhausting and I needed to make sure I wasn't adding any unnecessary "work". I write the activity on a sticky note and add it to the mirror underneath the bobble.  I was hoping to use cute star sticky notes or find xmas trees BUT...that would be making more work and it wasn't necessary.  I had to remind the type A teacher in me of this often.   This year we will only be doing 20 days (I think...we'll see) as we will be heading to Calgary on the 20th and from then on our days will be filled.  Here is the list of activities we've done so far...feel free to take this idea and revamp it to fit your family!

1: Stay in our jammies all day and drink hot cocoa
2: Eat a pink candycane
3: Get a picture taken with Santa
4: Watch Rudolph and snack on popcorn
5: Make a snowflake craft
6: Drive around the city and look at Christmas lights
7: Snuggle and watch a movie of your choice
8: Go for a coffee/hot chocolate date at Starbucks
9: Have breakfast in bed
10: Get a Christmas manicure (green & blue sparkles)
11: Eat red and green fish crackers for snack
12: Bake gingerbread cookies
13: Play outside in the snow
14: Paint a Christmas picture

*** other ideas ***
- build a snowman
- roast marshmallows inside
- go Christmas caroling
- make snow angels
- give a homemade Christmas card to a stranger
- go watch a school Christmas concert
- go see the zoo lights (Calgary)
- go ice skating
- go sledding
- go on a sleigh ride
- decorate a gingerbread house


NICU - Earth Angels

Naturally this post should precede my last one but sometimes I just can't help the organization/disorganization of my thoughts and when I have a moment to express them.  So here it is.

Our beautiful gift, Aspyn had to spend 6 days in the NICU at the Chinook Regional Hospital in Lethbridge after she was born.  As soon as she entered this magnificent world she was a bright shade of  indigo.  Although I am a lover of purple, I knew that wasn't the best colour for a newborn.  Moments after our eyes briefly met and our hearts interlocked for what will be my eternity, she was whisked away to the NICU - "She just needs some oxygen", I overheard nurse Quinn graciously state, followed by, "but she is so beautiful".  Aspyn spent 2 days in an isolette with oxygen pumping to regulate natural levels.  Our first interactions were through 2 relatively small holes where my arms could go inside to touch her.  Her body, so tiny, so warm, so fresh, so perfect.  Watching her breath, sleep, grow from behind a plastic wall was difficult for my heart but I knew it was the best place for her.  Every 3 hours I could take her out, hold her in my arms and feed her, all while holding an oxygen tube next to her nose.  I became very good at learning to do the work of 4 arms with only 2.  After 2 days, our little Warrior had learned to regulate her oxygen levels and she could now live in an open isolette.  My heart was bursting with joy to see her growth!  On day 3, our little angel was struggling with her feeds.  Her muscle tone in her mouth and overall fatigue - all in relation to the Trisomy 21 (Down Syndrome) was causing her to be a messy eater (not keeping much in her mouth) and fall asleep during feedings.  At this point a Nasalgastro tube was placed up her nose and into her tummy.  Milk was poured into a syringe and attached to the tube where gravity would allow it to flow through the tube and into her tummy.  This would ensure that Aspyn was still getting all the nutrients she needed every 3 hours.  This is called 'garvage' feeding.

Barry and I were back and forth to and from the hospital every 3 hours to feed our little angel.  Between brief moments of Marleigh smooches, a quick bite to eat or a coffee run, we were EXHAUSTED and what I refer to as "running on pure love".  Marleigh had not met Apsyn yet as there is a Measles epidemic here in Lethbridge so no children under 18 are allowed in several areas of the hospital including the NICU.  (Vaccinate your kids people!!!!)

After 5 days and no real improvement with oral feeding, I was saddened to think that Aspyn might be in the NICU for a while longer.  Barry continued to remind me that this was the best place for her and in my heart I knew that too.  Wet met with her pediatrician Dr. Levin (most amazing woman....truly) and we were informed that because she is doing so well with her garvage feedings and we are doing so well managing them as well, there is no real reason Aspyn needed to stay in the NICU any longer.  I burst into tears as the thought of bringing her home seemed so far off and now was our reality.

That evening we were moved from the NICU up to Pediatrics and  I stayed over night with Aspyn.  I set my alarm for every 3 hours, garvage fed, changed diapers, etc. just like I would at home to ensure I felt comfortable leaving the hospital.  The next day Barry and I were further educated on garvage feeding and inserting/removing the NG tube as we would have to do it at home.  2pm, November 16th we were discharged from the hospital and on our way home!!

The nurses of the NICU, Quinn, Melanie, Stacey, Dawn, Crystal, and dozens more who may be nameless, will always be our Earth Angels.  From the depth of our souls, thank you for taking such excellent care of our hearts during a challenging time.  Our experience will forever be one of love and compassion.  Thank you!

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Inner Demon

For those who know me well, some of this may not come as a shock but to many what I'm about to share may be difficult to read and understand.  I've decided to finally and genuinely commit to working on improving my view of myself.  I've never really understood the term "self-esteem".  In theory I assume it's all about establishing a vision of one's self to the highest or at best a positive esteem.    I can see how that pertains to everyone around me, but there has always been a disconnect to the definition and how it makes sense for me. I'm not sure that I can say that I have low self-esteem because that would suggest that I actual see some self worth which sadly I do not.

EEERCH!  hold up, put on the breaks here.  I'm sure that some of you may be thinking - how can she say/think that - this is awful - (and my personal favourite) can you think that way when you have so much and there are so many other people worse off?!  Don't get me wrong, I know how awful these views are and I am very cognizant of those worse off.   Just the other day my mom said to me "at least you don't have cancer" which I replied "True mom, but what you don't understand is that THIS is my cancer".  It's time that I stop minimizing my demon, pretending it will just go away and pushing it deeper in my subconscious ready to rear its ugly head at any moment.    

So, I've racked my brain trying to figure out where these views come from.  Honestly, I can't pin point a childhood 'event' or 'experience' that caused me to - for lack of a better term- hate myself.  But for as far back as memories take me I can remember "never being good enough".  I've never been skinny enough, pretty enough, smart enough etc.  I don't believe that anyone is born to HATE so somehow, throughout my journey I have LEARNED to hate myself.  I have begun opening up to a therapist about my demon as undoing/altering 30 + years of self-hatred requires professional assistance.  I'm not sure why it took me so long to get 'help'.  Perhaps because I thought it would get better with time or I'd like myself when I became skinnier, prettier, smarter?

Now that I have two, incredibly remarkable daughters I know that moments of questionable self-esteem are inevitably in their futures.  But I never want them to experience the self-hatred I have battled for as long as I can remember.  I want them to grow up believing that self-worth is cultivated through developing compassion and empathy for others, validating the importance of what makes you happy and following your passions, learning that it is okay to feel bad sometimes and that your place in this world matters!  I need to learn to love myself in order to teach my girls to do the same.

I know that learning to change my views of myself and lessen my demon is going to be quite the feat.  There is a long endeavour ahead - I venture one step at a time - and I choose to TRUST THE JOURNEY.