Team Cakes

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Dear Addie...

Oh sweet girl, here we go again. Another surgery on your perfect baby blue eyes. My heart is broken. You've had two surgeries so far to replace the lenses in your eyes because of massive cataracts that were caught just in time. And now...

...on Wednesday April 1st we will wake up early and you'll ask for your breakfast and I'll tell you no, not yet. We will load up in the car with your Grandpa, Grandpa Dave and Nanny Carolyn. We will drive to the place you've been two times before. The people who love you will entertain you while I check you in. "Team Cakes" we call them. They are a mixture of family, friends, and fans who support you any time things get rough. You'll have even more friends and family all over the country and even the world who will be supporting you with thoughts and prayers too. The members of Team Cakes who can be in the waiting room will be there - we will take up half of the waiting room as usual - everyone shows up for you sweet girl. 

I'll carry you back and hold you tight as your nurse helps get you in your gown and we get ready for the eye drops. I'll restrain you through my own tears as you cry. And then I'll restrain you again as they hold the mask up to your face and you fight like hell before you drift off to sleep. It is so hard to watch but it is also inspiring. You are my fighter girl - it's why you are even here.

Never stop fighting.

I'll return to the waiting room and I'll hold it together long enough to say I need to use the bathroom. And then, as I always do, I'll finally be alone, and I'll weep - for everything you've been through, for everything you've yet to go through. I'll jump to my feet the moment I see your surgeon. I'll be there when you wake up, thrashing and angry. I'll see the pain in your face and I'll feel it and wish to God I could take it from you. I'll comfort you as best I can through something I can't begin to explain to you. We will be greeted by Team Cakes as we walk out of recovery and you'll be held and loved by everyone before I get you back into your car seat and drive you home. Grandpa will sit with you and hold your hand, I'll play Taylor Swift, and we will all try not to cry. 

We will take it easy, try some juice, cuddle, nap, and relax. Grandpa will stay with us and make sure we are okay. The next day it will be you and Mama and your great Granny. We will have visitors to help take care of us, it will be a better day. Then the next day Tutu will stay home and help Mama take care of you. This will be the day I might leave you for a few minutes to shower, Tutu will hold you when I can't. Mama needs a shower. 

Then, if you are feeling up to it, your Dada will come and pick you up Friday so Mama can have a night off. You two will cuddle, take it easy, and you'll keep Dada up all night because you have him wrapped around your little finger and I know he wouldn't have it any other way. You'll see your Mimi and your Papa and you'll be the happiest little girl with an eye patch ever. You smile through all your pain, you are so strong. 

Then you'll come home and we will sleep because the next day is Easter Sunday! Mama already got your Easter basket made and your dress picked out, we are ready to go. You'll be surrounded by more of Team Cakes and even though your eye will still hurt a little, you'll be able to do all the things you love and we'll have fun hunting eggs and playing outside. 

Monday we will stay home again, just to be safe. Lots of cuddles and lots of love. We might go to Mama's office to see if anything super important needs some attention and you'll charm the socks off of everyone. Tuesday, God willing, you'll go back to school and life will get back to our normal and Thursday we will visit your doctor for your post-op. 

Why is all of this happening?

Well you have strabismus in your left eye. You have hypertonia in your extremities but mostly on your left side, we think it's all connected. I could tell you big words like "perinatal hypoxic ischemic brain injury" but for today just know you are so incredibly unique and sometimes being unique means you have to fight a little harder. 

Never forget that, sweet girl, no matter what. You may always have to work harder but nothing is out of reach for you. Not one single damn thing. 

We are going to rock this surgery my darling girl. 

“One sees clearly only with the heart. Anything essential is invisible to the eyes.”  ― Antoine de Saint-ExupĂ©ry,

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"Will you have your own?"

Monday, March 16, 2015

I already do. 

And to answer the slightly insensitive question...


Life is so uncertain. Today I am a mom to my OWN little girl. And one day perhaps she will have brothers and sisters. 

And no matter what little one's enter my life or how they enter it, if they need my love, they'll be my own. 


Settle: Why "don't settle" is possibly the biggest lie you've ever been told.

Monday, March 2, 2015

"Just promise me you won't settle" I heard, rather felt, him say. The words registered in my head but it was his eyes filled with tears that marked my heart.

Don't. Settle.

I turned the words over and over again in my head for days and I just couldn't see any truth in them at all. Why would moving forward ever be settling? Why would choosing to be every amazing thing I could be but in a different place with different people be less than in any way?

I think as a culture we are too easily swept up in this idea that there is some combination of things outside of our control that must align perfectly on a Thursday at 10pm in the middle of a rain storm when our hair is just right to allow us to be fully ourselves, to unlock every great thing within us.

And that idea is why we run around creating our own chaos.

The secret of a happy life is not found in bouncing around from place to place, job to job, or person to person. The secret is found in committing to allow yourself to be every good and beautiful thing you are right where you are and being damn thankful for the people who allow you to do just that.

The truth is that happiness is often found when we do, in fact, choose to settle. When we look around at where we are, who is next to us, what we are doing and we say "this is my one beautiful life and I am going to live the hell out of it right here, right now."

How do I know this, you might ask? Because I am well versed in doing all the wrong things and blaming all the wrong people. Take my advice and skip over some of the unnecessary and profoundly devastating consequences.

Is the job you have right now perfect? No. I am sure it's not. Maybe you could pour yourself into it a little more or find a part of it that reignites your passion for your career? Focus in on where you see your job taking you and start taking steps to get there. If it's a promotion or even another job you truly want make a plan and take those steps. But part of getting to the next promotion at your job is rocking the place you are in right now. Part of being ready to interview and move on to a new company is leaving behind a job where you left an impression.

Are their other (better, higher paying, more flexible) jobs you could have? Absolutely. Buy right now you don't. You have this one. Rock it.

Are you thrilled with the space you are in right now? Maybe not. Maybe you'd like to move somewhere warmer (If we get one more winter ANYTHING I am moving anywhere warmer than here). Or perhaps you are just not completely relaxed in the place you call home.

Stop complaining and buy a beautiful scarf and a can of paint.

But seriously... make the best of where you are right now. Find one thing you could do that would bring you one step closer to loving this space you are in, and do that next little thing. Maybe it is a fresh coat of paint in the kitchen or buying some warm snugly scarves, gloves, and hats at Target to get you through the NEVER ENDING winter feeling good. Just take that next little step.

Would you rather be somewhere else sometimes? I'm sure. But you are here. Be fully present wherever "here" is for you.

Is that person sitting next to you the man or woman of your dreams? Doubtful. Why? Because we don't dream in real life! We dream in a world with no laundry or late nights at the office; a world where big fights, ugly words, and nasty morning breath do not exist. But in this real world with it's not-so-dream-worthy bits and pieces is where you find the real people. The people who know what you look like when you wake up in the morning without a stitch of makeup but still want to wake up next to you every damn day. The people who don't leave your side when it gets hard (Or when you're puking. Everywhere. Sorry.) and instead pull up a chair and settle in next to you. So why don't you wake up tomorrow (literally and figuratively) and really chose to love the hell out of the real people in your life at this moment. Choose to love them every day moving forward and I bet you'll find out you are, in fact, living the closest thing to a fairy tale you can get without needing a singing snowman sidekick. Love is a choice. Choose it.

Could you be surrounded by different people right now? Yep. But guess what? They. Aren't. Here. So let's focus on the family, friends, and significant others who are. Go all in and commit yourself to them. You won't regret it.


...Settle yourself on in.

Settle in to this beautiful mess of a life that you are blessed to be living. Because life changes. Circumstances change. You will be the one constant you take with you wherever you go and whomever you go with.

Sit back, take a look around.

This. Is. Your. Life.

Stop looking for something outside of yourself, stop thinking a change of scenery or company is going to change anything. Settle completely in to where you've chosen to be and who you've chosen to be there with. Embrace every bit of the moment you are in right now.

I still remember the exact moment I chose to stop reliving the past, questioning the present, and wishing for the future. I settled on in. And guess what? I found my happy. It was right here all along, just waiting for me to show up and embrace it.

And when I finally allowed myself to settle all the big and little things I had been breaking myself in to pieces to have effortlessly came right to me.


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Little Bites: Big Deal

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

It's slow going, but we are making progress. 

Addie is still in feeding therapy once a week and the issues we address are varied. Some are results from each other, and all combining into this perfect storm that makes food anything but fun sometimes... 

Sensory: Addie doesn't like to touch wet or slimy foods. Can't say I blame her. We do sensory play with things like play dough, noodles, whipped cream, etc... and also use the Z-Vibe. 

Immature bite/chew: It seems the things most kids just naturally learn Addie has to be taught. I have Chewy Tubes (still on red) to help work with biting down using her back teeth and a Z-Vibe to help teach her what to do with her tongue.

Tone: Addie has low tone in her mouth which makes chewing and biting more dense foods hard for her. Chewy Tubes and the Z-Vibe all help with this - and so does practice!

Gag reflex: As babies move from liquid to more solid foods their gag reflex moves back on their tongue... Addie's has not. When a piece of food gets on the middle/back portion of her tongue she has a "fear" response and tries to get rid of it by gagging or pushing it out of her mouth. The only remedy for this is to keep on trying and working through it. 

Fear: Addie is afraid of a lot of food. It's overwhelming sometimes and not a pleasant experience for her to eat. I have her iPad that she watches her show on (current favorite is Signing Times) and I focus on getting calories and nutrition to her through liquids in her straw cup (Thank you Isagenix!) and let solid foods and puree's be fun for her.


Loving new foods: It started with anything crunchy, moved to anything on a grilled or toasted sandwich, and now we are up to things like a cheese quesadillas! Meat is still hard but she has tried a hot dog and chicken nuggets with success. She will now try anything with confidence which is huge for her. It's been fun to try new foods and see how she takes to them - I've found some surprising winners! 

Crunching: She is learning to crunch her bites in the back and to keep on crunching. She used to take one bite and then use her tongue to mash and dissolve the food. There is something magical about the sound of multiple bites of crackers on the ride home from school. 

Independence: Addie is a pretty independent little thing and she doesn't like being fed. She's started having her snacks on her own and does much better when food is on her terms. I have no clue where she gets her sass from.

These were from her birthday lunch where she dipped fries in ketchup and ate them like a pro and finished half of a grilled cheese sandwich while enjoying her Shirley Temple drink...

...Little Big Things.

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The Girl In The Mirror

Thursday, February 19, 2015

About a year ago I stood face to face with myself in the mirror and I didn't even know who I was looking at. All I knew is that I really didn't like her. 

Who was this girl in the mirror? This girl with the thin frame from months of wondering if she mattered, her tear soaked eyes that started to believe they'd never dry, her fake smile that belied the horrors in her heart...

...she was the most sad, confused, and broken person I had ever seen. 

To be honest I didn't know what to do about her - this stranger I had become when I thought I lost everything. Slowly, and I mean slowly... 

Painfully. Slowly. 

...I started to realize that the material things and even the people that were so easy to lose really weren't what I had lost at all. Things mean nothing and people who can walk away, even when they have every right to walk away can't be a reason you believe you are not worthy of love.

What I'd truly lost were not things or people, I had lost was the person I wanted to become. 

The problem...

...was me. 

And although that realization hurt like hell it was also one of the most empowering moments of my life. Because if the problem was me, the problem was mine to fix. 

Let me tell you friends, fixing the girl in the mirror was a lot harder than tossing out some old pictures, deleting a few messages, or blaming someone who was gone. Every time I looked at that girl in the mirror and tried to point my finger at someone or something else she was just pointing right back at me. As the months have gone by I've been on a journey to turn that girl in the mirror into someone I like to look at. 

I surround myself with people that I want to be like. 

I wanted my passion for my job back and my feisty spirit when it comes to raising my daughter. I craved a life that was transparent, genuine, and completely lacking in fake smiles. I wanted to be more independent, forgiving, loving. I needed better priorities. Strong single moms, loving and forgiving couples, genuine and tough loving friends, hard working and devoted people. I have so many amazing people in my life. 

You are the company you keep so keep amazing company. 

I am okay with admitting I want something that someone else has - and I'm going to work to get it. 

If I see a coworker who is more organized and focused I recognize that as a chance to change something I am doing so I can say the same thing about myself. Recently I wanted to get back my passion for advocacy and channeled that into working with some great coworkers to put together a bus trip to Richmond on Brain Injury Awareness Day. 

When I look at a friend who is fighting like hell for her relationship I recognize that as something I want for my future - no fairy tales - just choosing love every day even when it means doing the hard work.

Work hard to capture the qualities you admire in other people. 

I seek out the truth about myself. 

It hurts like hell sometimes. I don't always want to hear it and I certainly don't always like what the truth means for me when it means I have to make changes... but I crave truth. I have one friend in particular who does not sugar coat a thing and I find myself going to her, knowing full well I wont like her response. But she puts me in my place and she sets me straight. She shines light into the dark parts of myself and then walks me through them with love and understanding. 

Let the hurt of the truth challenge and change you. 

I say goodbye. 

I had to learn the hard lesson that breaking myself apart to fill in the pieces of someone else's brokenness not only couldn't make them whole, it was slowly destroying me. I could patch up some hurts, hold together a few broken pieces... but I had to hide my missing pieces and shield them from the pain I was in. 

 No thanks.

I have wounds too. I need to be held together sometimes, I want someone to see my broken pieces and want to help me put them back together. I'll do the same for the people I love too but if we aren't in this together and if I can't count on you to care enough to hold me if I happen to be falling apart...

...I've learned to say goodbye. 

Do not rip yourself into pieces to make others whole. 

I'm all in. 

When I find people who are real, who accept me for who I am, who see my flaws and don't run away but run right towards me, who allow me to see their broken pieces too - there is nothing I wouldn't do for them. If it's making brownies and talking until 2am, dropping everything when I get that text, picking up lunch, thinking of the next little thing to make someone smile, doing the hard stuff, choosing love...

...if you are in, so am I. 

Pour yourself into people who fill you right back up.

I know my worth. 

I went through a period of time where I let others make me feel like I wasn't anything special. I let my past scars and the things about myself that were not all shiny, happy, and covered in puffy red hearts take over. I now know I am one beautiful mess. I have chapters of my story I'd rather keep unpublished and scars I'd rather hide but I am in no way less because of them.

I'm a survivor, I am strong and determined. I can be fierce and feisty and calm and loving. With love and support I am one amazing single mama raising a lovely little girl. I am committed to my passion of working with and advocating for individuals with disabilities. And I am surrounded by people who love the heck out of me just as I am. 

Do not accept less because you believe a little is better than nothing.

It's taken a while but I have to say...

... I'm liking the girl in the mirror a lot better these days. 

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