Mommy Mondays

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Someone once asked me what I thought was the scariest thing possible.  I replied, quite promptly, “Jumping out of a plane with a zombie attached to my back.”

Their eyes widened a bit at my answer… before they promptly burst into laughter.  But I was quite serious, thank you very much.  I have always been terrified of heights (particularly of falling from heights), so the very thought of jumping out of a plane gives me the shivers.  And zombies?  Well, is an explanation necessary?

Terrifying, am I right?

Being a mom can be terrifying too sometimes…  Like when your baby is learning to crawl, and you’re scared that he might fall and bump his head.  Or when he refuses to sleep, and you worry that he’s not getting the rest that he needs…  Or when he’s starting out on solid foods, and he decides to squeeze a handful of dry cereal into his mouth instead of just one piece.  (Nate caught that one on camera).  ;)

But mostly, it’s good.  A warm, content, exhausting kind of good.

I don’t necessarily want to turn my little corner of the internet into a mommy blog; but there are just so many mommy stories, lessons, and experiences to share.  So I thought I’d start a little segment called Mommy Mondays.  It’s when you can expect honest and real stories of the mommy life.

I’m kind of excited about it  :)

Mommy’s Night Out – Paint Night!

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Art has never been my strong suit.  In fact, I’m quite bad at it…  I’m still stuck somewhere between stick figures and puffy paint; and although I can appreciate a beautiful painting or sculpture, my personal ‘artwork’ generally resembles that of a six year old.  Actually, scratch that.  I have nothing on a six year old.

My artistic side is more musical based, although I love doing crafty / colorful things.  Painting canvas, doodling, playing with glitter, and molding clay is all therapeutic.  It’s just looking at my finished product that usually stresses me out.  ;)

(For the record, I was just pretending to paint that picture…  I wish I had the talent to actually do so).  :)

That being said, I was more than excited when my friend Ann asked me to join her at a Paint Night event.  I have always wanted to try this out!  Basically, a painter instructs the class on how to paint shapes on a canvas until everyone has a finished ‘masterpiece’.

Also it sounded like the perfect mommy’s night out!!  My days have been filled with toy cars, pureed sweet potatoes, and lots of baby giggles.  All wonderful things, but oh how lovely it felt to dress up a bit and to go out to have some fun.  :)

The gallery was pretty exciting, as it was filled with paintings from previous classes.  Aprons lined one of the walls…  There were specks of paint flickered everywhere…  It was all very inspiring!

I found the first portion of the evening to be the most challenging, because we had to gradually blend solid black into a soft white.  But still, it was surprisingly doable thanks to the instructor’s guidance!

After the shading was complete, we had to paint a moon, the silhouette of a tree, and cherry blossoms.

I struggled a bit with the tree trunk, because I think I was trying too hard to copy the instructor when I should have really concentrated on my own canvas.

That being said, considering how little artistic talent I have, I was excited about the end result!  (And Ann did an amazing job)!

What a fun mommy’s night out!!  I definitely recommend doing one of these paint nights if there’s the option in your area.  They’re a blast!

Be Back Soon!

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Hi.

My name is Nicole.

I blog… sometimes. ;)

I’m soooo sorry that I’ve been missing from this blog so much as of late!  I was so tired and stretched thin from the amazingness that is mommy life that blogging felt more like a chore than a fun thing (like it’s supposed to).  So – as of late – during the moments that I had free time, I really just tried to unplug a bit.  (Gosh, unplugging from all the electronics that take up our world really does feel so nice sometimes)!!  :)

But I’ve missed blogging SO much!  I mean, it’s been so long that Brady is driving now!

DSC06535

Anyway, I wanted to send out a ‘hello’, and to let you know that I’m still here.  I’m taking one more week… and I plan to start blogging next week.  I can feel the blogging itch picking back up, and I’m raring to go!!

I hope you’re all doing well.

My First Mommy’s Night Out

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I did it!

I committed to having a mommy’s night out last week; and despite the fact that my mommy guilt dial was turned all the way up to red, I left my tater tot in the very capable hands of his daddy… and I went out!

I realized, as I closed the door behind me, that not only have I restricted my ability for alone time due to Brady needing me (which is valid) but also because mommy guilt is a real thing (maybe not so valid). I know just how badly I need to make time for myself, but – as a mom – it’s SO easy to feel as though you need to be with your little one 24/7. Which usually is the case anyway… So it’s most definitely okay (and good!) to make time for yourself sometimes!

So while I struggled with leaving my little guy behind, I was – in the end – most definitely glad that I did!

My bestie Liz and I decided to pick up smoothies from a local cafe and to go for an early evening swim. We totally lived it up! Whipped cream swirled high atop chocolate, banana, and peanut butter smoothies!  ;) I was so excited and hungry that I pretty much attacked the whipped topping, lapping at it like a starving animal.

“We don’t get out much,” Liz said, eyeing me and giggling.

I looked up at her, my tongue hanging out mid-slurp, and then I lost it. Completely lost it! We laughed so hard that we both started crying. Man, that felt good! :)

The cool lake water felt good too. We walked out until the water reached our shoulders, and we just stood there, cooling off from the summer heat. We chatted about mommy stuff, girl stuff, and wife stuff. And it was just so incredibly refreshing!!

I came home feeling human again. And guess what? Brady was snuggled up in his crib, fast asleep. :) Three cheers for my first official mommy’s night out! :)  It was sooooo needed!!!

When Miracles Come True (Part 2)

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From the moment I first rushed to his side in the ICU through the months following the assault, I never let Nate see me cry. I could see in his eyes that he needed me to be strong for him, and so I was. When watching him fight for his life or struggle to get through a day was too much for me, I’d excuse myself to a hallway or a closet.  I’d crumple into a ball, burying my face in my hands to keep the crying quiet.

But I never, ever let him see me. I’d compose myself, wash my face, take a deep breath as though it had to last me until the next release, and I’d put on a smile. And although it was hard, I know – even to this day – that it wasn’t a fake smile. It was a smile that said, “I love you,” and “we’ve got this,” and “I’m here by your side no matter what”!

Because no matter how hard the moment was, I truly believed that.  I had to!

During the summer of 2013, however, Nate had an appointment with the neurosurgeon who had so skillfully removed the shank from his neck. Nate was doing well, although the numbness below his waist was still greatly bothering him. He likened it to having that part of his body fall asleep, only he couldn’t wake it up. There was only the faintest of sensations, sometimes accompanied by pins and needles; and it made even sleeping difficult.  His biggest question for the doctor was what could be done to help ease this.

I’m not sure what we were expecting, but I guess we hoped that there was a new miracle drug. Or maybe the doctor would look at the MRI and snap his fingers in glee, telling Nate that a minor surgery – or maybe even exercises – could help alleviate the numbness. We were very optimistic and so the surgeon’s sad shaking of his head caught us off guard.

There’s nothing I can do. The doctor was so apologetic, obviously wishing that he could promise us more. The nick beside the spine can’t be fixed. That’s permanent. I’m sorry.

Nate paused a moment, staring at his feet, then quietly said, “It’s not my leg that bothers me so much. I mean, it does… But… We want to have kids…”

The doctor sighed. I’m sorry. If it doesn’t heal within the next year, it will be permanent.

The numbness below Nate’s waist had stolen intimacy from our marriage; and at 30 years old, we were being told that we’d probably never get it back. We wouldn’t be able to have kids without assistance. We’d never again make love.

Nate and I walked back to our car in silence, the weight of everything sinking in. He sighed, looked up at the sky, and said, “Please, God, don’t take that away from me.”

For the first time since the assault, I let him see me cry, because – in that moment – there was nothing I could do to hold it back. I buried my face in his chest, and I let the sobs rack my body. I couldn’t be strong anymore. This was too much, and so we just stood there in the quiet parking garage and held onto each other.  I cried for all that Nate had gone through already and for the pain that I knew he was facing right now.

They say that God never gives you more than you can handle… That God knows the desires of our hearts. I believe both, and I also like to think that God had a plan for our story. That He rewards faith (although sometimes His plans are not our own). And I believe that even before conception, God had a plan for Brady’s life; and an attack in a prison wasn’t strong enough to change that.

Because while Nate’s leg is still completely numb, the numbness in his waste lowered as though sinking with each passing month.  With each fervent prayer that we prayed.  With every single prayer that our prayer warrior friends were sending up to the heavens on our behalf.

And although Nate is still limited in what he can do with that leg, intimacy was restored back to our marriage.

The nick in the spinal chord never healed.  The nerves that were damaged still show damage in the MRI.  His leg is still numb.  But that one miracle we still needed in order to heal and move on to a bright future was given to us.  Because not only are we able to truly be husband and wife in every sense of the word, but we were also able to have the baby we longed for.

This all came flooding back the other day, as I was watching Nate cuddle our seven month old baby boy. A rush of emotions hit me, as I realized that my life could look so different. I could be surrounded by wheelchair ramps and visiting nurses. I could be a widower.

God not only blessed me by giving me more time with Nate, but He also blessed us with our miracle baby. I fall asleep in my husband’s arms at night and am greeted by the brightest of baby smiles every morning, all because miracles come true. Because sometimes, even when things seem to be at their worst, God is working all things together for good.

In reality, I shouldn’t be able to kiss my baby boy’s head and feel his hair – like peach fuzz – tickle my lips.  I shouldn’t smell peaches on soft baby skin after bathtime. I shouldn’t fix myself morning coffee to the sound of Sesame Street, as Brady and Nate watch morning cartoons.  I shouldn’t spend my afternoons with a little man and his daddy who are my entire world.

But I do. I do every single day. And I hope that I never, ever take this for granted. Because this almost wasn’t… And I am so very grateful to God that it is:)

When Miracles Come True (part 1)

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If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile now, then you already know the story, but – as I have many new readers – I thought I’d begin this blog post with a bit of a recap…

Three years ago, my husband (who worked as a Corrections Officer) was brutally stabbed in the back of the neck while making his rounds through the prison block he was assigned to.  The inmate had jumped him from behind, and the makeshift knife sliced through the back of Nate’s neck, almost coming out the front.  The shank missed his spinal chord by half a centimeter.

At the hospital, I was told that Nate would very likely be a quadriplegic for the rest of his life.

But…

This pic was taken a month later…

Quite frankly, doctors couldn’t explain how quickly Nate recovered.

The second day in the ICU, Nate was vomiting, failing to breathe at times, panicking over the traque tube in his throat, and choking up blood.  By day four, doctors were talking about rehab hospitals.  By day six, he was released home and the rehab hospital stay was canceled.

My pastor always likes to remind people that he wasn’t the first person to use the ‘M’ word.  ;)  The surgeon, after operating on Nate for seven hours, had walked into the ICU waiting room, looked me in the eyes, and said, “Your husband is a miracle.”

Those first few months at home were still tough.  I’d always been queasy around blood and oozing bandages, and suddenly I found myself cleaning his feeding tube and bandages.  It took Nate time to gain his strength…  And there were health scares and visits to the ER on an almost weekly basis. But honestly, as exhausted as we both were, I think we were much more focused on the miracles.  We were spinning with the joy of realizing that not only was Nate alive; but he was also hobbling around, talking, and beginning to eat solid foods on his own.

Since that day though, our lives have never been the same.  Some of the aftermath has been tough…  Nate is still on disability pay, and the State is just now deciding what’s going to happen in terms of his job.  (I’ll blog more on that another time).  And his left leg is permanently numb, so he can’t do some of the activities that used to be really important to him.  (Funny how you take things for granted…  Had I known that my jog with Nate in June 2012 would be the last time we could run together, I would have treasured it so much more).  But it’s one of those things…  It’s tough for a man to be limited physically, but – at the same time – how can you complain when the original verdict was so much worse?

Our focus was always on the positive…  On the miracles…  On the hope of a bright new future!  But then, a doctor’s appointment in 2013 left us feeling defeated…

(to be continued…)

Who Are You? Who… Who…

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There’s a balance when it comes to being a new mom. On one hand, your entire world now revolves around a beautiful, squishy baby who needs your loving care 24/7. And on the other hand…

Oh, who am I kidding…

There is no other hand.  ;)

Your entire world just revolves around that beautiful, mini version of yourself. There is no turning it off. The concern, the affection, the protection and caring, the constant need to make their day the best that it can be… It consumes you with the fiercest of loves.

And you wouldn’t turn it off if you could, because – as tired as you sometimes may feel – you wouldn’t want anyone else taking over your job.  You wouldn’t trust anyone else to do it the way you do, because you give with all your heart and with every part of your being.

Of course in that beauty, it’s easy to lose sight of who you were… and of who you are now.

I still remember the first time an older woman warned the pregnant version of myself, “Enjoy being ‘Nicole’ for now, because it’s all going to end. You will become ‘mom’ going forward. You won’t have your identity anymore. You will be ‘mom’ or ‘Brady’s mom’.”

She said it with a touch of heartache and heaviness, or else I would have shrugged it off. But I saw, in her eyes, that she wasn’t telling me this to frustrate or worry me. She was warning me. Advising me to prepare myself.

But still, even if I felt bad for her, I didn’t – for a moment – think it would happen to me.

And honestly, I may have had more of a fighting chance had circumstances been different. But Brady was born in November, and the cold winter months quickly arrived, bringing with them an intense flu and cold season. That, coupled with his stomach issues, forced us to stay cooped up indoors for so long that being home and surviving each day kind of became part of our routine.

In this survival mode, I kind of lost myself (as I blogged about already the other day). I let go of hobbies, and passions, and activities that helped me feel like myself. I didn’t make time for anything that wasn’t baby related, and the lack of ‘me time’ in this new phase of my life most certainly caught up with me.  And, even worse, I let myself get stuck in a rut of how each day should look.

But as I already mentioned, I plan to incorporate ‘me time’ back into my life, so that I can still be myself… while being the awesome mom I strive to be.

Who knew that being a new mom came with such a learning curve?!?  :)

“Are you technically even a new mom anymore?” Nate asked me the other day, after I’d shared some of my scattered, confusing feelings with him. “Brady is seven months now.”

I started rambling off numbers that looked something like this… I am going to be a mom until I’m like 97 years old, and I’ve only currently been a mom for seven months. So that means I haven’t even been a mom for a year yet. Which means that, yes, I am most definitely a new mom. So, please, don’t take that away from me, because – at this point – it’s the one identity that I am secure in.

Oh men… The one thing that Nate took away from my tirade was, “Wait, you want to live to be 97? Why not just aim for 100 then?”

It’s a good thing he’s cute, an amazing daddy, and that I love him.   Ha!  Honestly, that was SO Nate.  He’s scientific and literal right down to his core, and it’s one of the things I love about him… when it’s not driving me crazy.  ;)

Anyway, as I’ve been challenging myself to designate some ‘me time’ into every week, I also realized that my daily regimen was killing my spark a bit too. It’s so incredibly easy to fall into a pattern of basic survival… Wake, eat, nap, eat, play, sleep, and fit in a few chores.

My friend Liz reminded me the other day that it’s summer! As silly as it may sound, our conversation lit an excitement within me. I’ve always seen life as an adventure, and I (the Nicole who existed before she even had a baby) have always done my best to make every single day count. Even with so much changing, now that we’ve added a bundle of joy to the family, that doesn’t need to change.

Quite frankly, it shouldn’t!

It’s just surprisingly easy to do, if you’re not careful!

But honestly, building up the confidence, drive, and sometimes the energy to make every single day (even the simple days) special has been a huge energizer to my ability to see the cup half full. Because now we’re doing things together that I love. And even if I haven’t had the chance for ‘me time’ quite yet, the time spent with my hubby and baby has been much more fulfilling.  (Don’t worry, I still have an entire week ahead of me, and I WILL make time for myself this week, I promise).  :)

The other morning, Brady woke up ultra early, so I nudged the hubby awake. We ate breakfast at the lake, and then Brady took a little dip in the water.  I can’t remember the last time we were spontaneous like that, and it was amazing!

Since then, we’ve escaped the summer heat by browsing bookstores or by looking at the bright fishies at Petco. (Brady loves looking at the fish; and it’s both free and local, unlike going to the aquarium. I’m just concerned that Petco is going to start charging me for my visits pretty soon). ;)

We’ve browsed Target, played outside on blankets, walked through the neighborhood, played at the playground, and had picnics.

They’ve all been simple activities for brief moments of a morning or afternoon, but sometimes you just need to get out of the house! So far, it’s really been fun, even if it was as simple as taking Brady and his toys outside in the backyard to play! :)

I guess maybe the challenge for every new mom (because, yes dear Nate, I am still a new mom) is to not only make time for herself but to also discover the mommy version of herself.  And this mommy wants to make each day count, to balance chores with plenty of exploring and fun, and to teach her baby boy to just live it!!

I keep learning that I don’t have to let go of who I was…  And that I still have time to grow into this mommy roll…  AND that it’s okay to embrace the process, because life would be dull if we didn’t have learning and growing to do!   ;)

Brady’s first Vacay

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I was more than a little terrified about this year’s family vacation, only because – well – we actually have a little family now. It’s not just me and Nate anymore. Gone are the days of throwing a couple of outfits into a suitcase and then taking off for the airport or a road trip. Because apparently, as tiny as babies are, they require a ton of stuff. I mean, I tried to teach baby Brady the art of packing light; but he insisted that he needed his bottles, two blankets, outfit changes, diapers, toys, and lots of fruit’n veggie snacks. ;)

So needless to say, the Jeep was quite full, when we left on our two night get-away.

In the past, we’ve always gone away for a week, but we felt as though we shouldn’t spend the money this year. And this was our first time going away with a baby. We felt that two nights was the perfect blend of getting away and not overdoing it, in case things didn’t go very well.

The approximately 3 hour drive to Cape Cod went surprisingly well… Brady slept two hours, we stopped to feed him a bottle when he woke up, and then I hopped in the backseat and played with him for the very last portion of the trip. By the time that he’d had enough of sitting in his carseat, we pulled into the Mariner Motor Lodge.

Vacationing with a baby is much different than going away without one, kind of like the packing proved to be. BUT that being said, it was amazing. Absolutely a blast, crazy fun, and I can’t believe I worried about it.

Normally Nate and I go a little crazy in the we-have-to-see-everything department, and that wasn’t an option for us this time. Brady has specific meal times, and heaven forbid we miss one of his naps. So our 2015 vacation was actually relaxing and restful, just as vacations should be. :)

On the drive down, we stopped for lunch in the beautiful town of Falmouth. I instantly fell in love with the shops (particularly the children’s bookstore, where we bought Brady a few books) and a quaint French cafe, where I ordered a mozzarella, tomato, and basil sandwich on crusty bread. Soooo delicious!

We grabbed our sandwiches and ate across the street in a lovely park. Brady had fun rolling around on the beach towels and playing with his toes, while Nate and I chatted. My heart just warmed with complete happiness!

The rest of our little getaway was honestly just as amazing.

We stuck to outdoor dining, which is hardly in short supply around the Cape. It just worked best for us, since Brady is a very energetic – and sometimes loud – seven month old. ;) I’d sit him on the picnic table, and he’d play while Nate and I ate.

And activities were obviously all baby friendly…

Our motel had a small mini-golf course in the back, which we had access to play for free. Nate and I took turns handing Brady back and forth while the other person took their turn. The little guy thought it was hilarious fun until he fell asleep in my arms, at which point I forfeited the rest of my turns so that he could nap. ;)

We also had to hit the gorgeous Cape Cod beaches while we were there! I try to keep Brady out of direct sunlight for the most part, because I’m terrified of him getting burnt. But since he’s an early riser anyway, we made our way to the beach for 7am and ate breakfast to the sound of crashing waves. (Bagels and cream cheese for me and Nate; oatmeal for Brady). It was Brady’s first time at the ocean, and he absolutely loved it! He wiggled his chubby toes in the sand, laughed at seagulls, and splashed in the water.

He also had his first ‘swim’ in the pool. I just splashed his legs in the water, but – still – he thought it was the greatest.

Because our days started early, they ended early too.  We’d grab dinner and head back to the hotel for quiet time in the room.  Both nights, Brady would play in the bed with his toys and then fall asleep by 6pm!  So Nate and I were able to read or quietly watch TV.

So, yes, our first vacation as a family was definitely a success!  :)  I can’t wait for many more!!

Oh Say Can You See…

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I was really looking forward to July 4, 2015, although – honestly – looking forward to Independence Day is pretty typical for me. I love any reason to celebrate, whether it be a holiday or a birthday. I’m excited for any excuse to indulge in some of my favorite foods. ;) Nothing makes me happier than time spent with my loud, bubbly, hilarious, and maybe-just-a-little-bit-crazy family.

And I’m patriotic through and through!

But there was something even more exciting this year, as Nate and I have a new addition to our family; and baby Brady was celebrating his very first July 4th. Celebrating Brady’s first anything is special in ways I don’t necessarily know how to put into words. It’s like experiencing every single holiday, season, food, and activity for the very first time. And since Brady was only a day old for Thanksgiving and a month old for Christmas, this felt like the first holiday that he was big enough to really be a part of.

This made going into Target particularly dangerous for me, I might add. A quick trip to pick up cat food turned into a stop by the baby section. This is where I discovered the baby sunglasses… the red, white, and blue top with the matching red shorts… and the perfect patriotic bucket hat. I purchased them all with Brady’s well-being in mind, or at least that’s what I told Nate. Sunglasses to protect baby eyes and a bucket hat to keep the sun from glaring down on his head and neck. Besides, I’m really good at buying discounted clothes or accepting hand-me-downs for Brady’s outfits, so surely a special holiday called for a special outfit from his mommy.

Too bad that it ended up being cloudy on July 4th. Because I totally would have invested in a red, white, and blue umbrella too, had I known. ;)

Anyway, the day was as special as I could have hoped. The cookout was at my parent’s house; and my sister, cousin, and Pepere were also there. (The gathering was small this year, but it was still nice to see the people who were able to make it).

And the food was traditional BBQ fair. Hotdogs, hamburgers, potato salad, tossed green salad, corn on the cob, watermelon… and vanilla buttercream cupcakes baked / decorated by moi! :)

Sooo much deliciousness…

At the end of a long, but satisfyingly perfect day, Nate and I were just opening up our books to read when the fireworks began.

Every year, one of the houses located on a hill behind our home sets off fireworks. I’m talking a full, 20-minute firework display. Although we can’t see it from the backyard, thanks to the tree-line, we usually get to watch it from one of the upstairs rooms.

Poor Brady woke up to the sound of ‘bombs bursting in air’, and he began to scream in pure terror. When I couldn’t soothe him, due to the explosions sounding off just over the house, I tried one last idea and opened his bedroom blinds so that he could see the colors cascading through the sky.

His screams instantly quieted, and his jaw dropped. His eyes widened. And he stared mesmerized at the bright, sparkling colors.

Nate, Brady, and I sat there together in the dark bedroom and watched the remaining fireworks. Every once in awhile, he would sigh deeply, reach out a little hand to take mine, and then look at me as if to say, “Do you see the pretty colors, Mommy? Do you see them?”

I melted every time.

The moment hadn’t been planned… or photographed. But it was beautiful and memorable. And it will definitely go down as one of my favorite July 4th memories. :)

The entire day was perfect like that. Simple but magical at the same time.