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The Two Sides of My Hysterectomy 

It has not been unsurprising this last week for me to quickly oscillate from jumping with joy and all but dancing to a deep crippling sadness. These wild swings in emotion are all tied to the complete hysterectomy (and oophrectomy- removal of the ovaries) that I will be having this coming Wednesday. In a few short days my life will be forever changed.  I have so many mixed up emotions about the procedure and the finality of it all that I am struggling to sort through it all. 

On the one hand, I am overjoyed. Finally, I will not be in pain every single day. Due to the nature of my endometriosis, adenomyosis, and PCOS I live in a near constant state of pain and have for so long I cannot identify a beginning. This last year the pain has increased dramatically. For these reasons, I cannot wait to end that pain by removing the causes of it and to allow me the chance to be more fully present in life. Pain takes a lot out of you. 

On the other hand, I am devastated by the loss. After years of trying, years of fertility treatments and six babies lost to miscarriage it is hard to accept the finality of the situation, for sure now I will know I will never carry a baby to term. I will never be able to have that experience or give that gift to my husband. This is a hard thing to accept and some moments I am handling it better than others. 

Then, if I had a third hand, it would hold all of my ambivalence. I am so ready to close this painful chapter in my life, a chapter that has been filled with anguish and heartbreak. Simultaneously, I know the official close of the chapter will leave its own painful wound. 

When I attempt to process all of these emotions it seems like too much and I know next week will be hard. I feel as though I can see a train of emotional pain, release, happiness and confusion barreling towards me and I know it is going to hit soon but I don’t know how to brace for the impact. 

Then there comes the logistical part. I have been obsessed with this portion of my surgery for a few reasons. One, all reports show variable recoveries from the type of surgery I am having so I want to over prepare for the kids during my 4-8 week recovery so that I know it is covered regardless (all while praying I am one of the ones who bounces back quickly). When you have five kids, all five and under, with special needs it is quite anxiety causing to know you won’t be on your A game for a while and for my sanity I just needed to know I had back up. My Dad is amazing and understanding this need made a spreadsheet of times for everyone who is helping with the kids during my recovery so I can rest easy knowing it is planned and worked out. The other reason I have been so focused on logistics just occurred to me this morning. I am focusing on that because that is something easy and tangible to focus on instead of these large and confusing emotions I am feeling. 

It’s a lonely feeling when you are not even sure yourself how you are feeling. I don’t even know how to begin to really explain it so it’s not something I can easily share with others so they know how I am doing. Some moments I am ok and then some moments, like this last Monday, I find myself crying continuously without any identifiable reason. I’m thankful to have the Lord to lean on in these times. I know even when I can’t descern exactly what’s happening on my heart, I know the Lord knows, feels it with me, and is there to walk through this storm with me. 

Death Row Calls 

About a year ago God placed something on my heart. I have shared it with a few people but unlike my usual boisterous ways, I have not shared it on a larger scale. The reason has been I was concerned it was not something others would understand. However, as I have tentatively shared this with those closest to me I have found a wellspring of support and even some looking for more information. Maybe not everyone will find this calling I feel as odd as I had anticipated?

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The calling I feel is for prisoners, specifically those with extended sentences or even on death row. I do not personally know anyone living that experience and yet God has been relentlessly placing these people on my heart. I am a stay at home mom and that is where I am needed and where I want to be, however, if I were not I would love to be a counselor working in a prison. Maybe when my babies are grown and have flown the nest. That was my first idea of a solution to this calling, a vocational solution that I cannot really do anything with right now. Having found that solution did not quiet this calling though. So how can I help? How can I do anything for prisoners while home with my littles? That is when I stumbled upon the idea of writing a prisoner.

I had exactly zero ideas on how one goes about writing someone in prison, especially if you do not know anyone in prison to write to. That is when I found the website Write a Prisoner and discovered that for a fee prisoners can create a profile in the hopes that someone out there will write to them and offer a small, tenuous lifeline to life on the outside.

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One question I have gotten is why? Why would you want to write a letter to someone you have never met, who has committed (most likely) a horrific crime? My answer to that valid question is that those people are still human beings, they are still children of God and they are people whose entire existence is ruled by the worst thing they ever did. I am in no way condoning the actions that lead them to prison nor am I discounting the importance of the victims being honored. I simply feel called to be there for people in prison.

I have been playing with the idea of writing a prisoner for a while now and I had not actually done it or started the process. I felt a sense of urgency lately and I felt especially called to death row inmates. For those unfamiliar with death row, death row inmates are in their small cell for 23 hours a day completely isolated. There are many who will argue that any one who committed a crime that got a death sentence does not deserve anything better, however, I again assert that they are still human beings. I could write a novel about the flaws of our prison system and the backwards focus on punishment not rehabilitation or growth, however, that is not the point of this post.

I have found two prisoners to write to, I selected a man on death row in Texas and a woman on death row in Florida. My decision to write to them both came after prayer and asking God to show me who to write to, and I feel these two people are where I am meant to begin. I am not sure what, if anything, will come of my letters but I know I need to send them.

Have you ever felt a calling to do something unexpected? What was it and did you follow the prompting of the Lord?

Life is a whirlwind of change in Casa Rudisill at the moment. The biggest change is the Casa has moved. That’s right we have relocated the whole herd to Grand Rapids, MI. For those who have been following our story for a while you know that Grand Rapids has always been my favorite place, I lived here while in college and of all the many (many) places I have lived it is the place I always dreamed of raising our family. Now that dream is a reality and it is still sinking in….slowly. At least once a day I look around and think “holy cow batman, we live in Michigan”. The best, and craziest part, is that we were able to move into the same house I used to live in because my parents still own it. So we are renting to own my favorite little cape cod in my favorite city. Happy Cabrielle for sure. 

Tyler was able to find a job in nearby (relatively) Lansing and it is basically his dream job with his dream company. The company is amazing and the benefits are out of this world for our family. The only downside is that Tyler will be working third shift, 11pm-7am. He has been on first shift the last month and a half of training but starting Tueaday he will officially be on his third shift schedule. Eshk. In some ways it will be a blessing, he will be able to see the kids in the morning and he will be able to have dinner with us every night. However, it will definitely be a big change and adjustment for us as a family. 

The other huge change has been that Damien started kindergarten last week. How can he be old enough for school, I swear he was three 20 minutes ago?!? Damien was so ready though and absolutely loves his school, to the point that Friday he was sad to learn he wasn’t going to school again until Monday. I pray he hangs on to his love of learning and school. After the third day in school I already noticed changes and growth in our boy. He started talking about things like the Mayor, a new concept he must have learned about in school. The biggest change was the third day as we were walking up to his school in the morning, once we reached the school sidewalk he asked me to stop holding his hand- not because he was embarrassed but because he realizes the significance of him becoming a big boy. I let go with a mixture of pride and sadness at his first step away from me and towards the man he will one day become. They grow so fast and I cannot wait to see what all of our children accomplish in their lives. 

Now that the move is done and the kids are getting settled we need to shift our focus to the next change coming our way. Shortly before our move I had laproscopic surgery and learned that I have endometriosis and the endometriosis has spread into the muscles of my uterine wall (adenomyosis). There is no cure for either condition and the symptoms are difficult to manage, the most significant for us at this time is the debilitating pain I am often in from the lesions growing throughout my body. There are two ways to approach endometriosis at this stage; one is to try and manage it with a continual cycle of birth control and the other is to have a full hysterectomy. My body never responds well to birth control and it is not helping to manage my pain at all. Although I long to have one more child, I know realistically that between PCOS and Endometriosis (the two leading causes of female infertility) that it is incredibly unlikely (basically impossible) that I would ever be able to carry a baby to term. It is with a heavy heart but resolve that it is the right choice that we have begun to prepare logistically and emotionally for me to have the hysterectomy. 

As you can see life is full of adventures for us right now. We are so thankful to have our beautiful family and for the amazing opportunities before us and our children. This next year is going to be adventurous, joy filled and one heck of a ride.  💜

Surgery, Answers, and Changes

There has been a lot going on lately, as usual in Casa Rudisill. For the last few months I have been experiencing a lot of abdominal pain and again underwent a series of tests with my OBGYN to attempt to determine the source of the pain. The pain reached its highest levels a few weeks ago and I ended up spending two days in the ER. At that point my doctor and I agreed we needed to do some exploratory surgery to see what exactly has been going on inside my body.

Monday morning I had a diagnostic laparoscopy to answer the question. This surgery involved inflating my abdomen with gas and inserting a small camera to look around. During the procedure my doctor found that it appears I had an ovarian cyst burst causing the intense upswing in my pain levels a few weeks ago but that I also had endometriosis growing on both ovaries and the back of my uterus. The endometriosis that she was able to locate was burned and removed and there was nothing left of the cyst that needed to be dealt with at this time. While looking my doctor also discovered some scar tissue has appeared and attached my intestines to my abdominal wall, which will require a separate surgery to correct at a later date. The cause of that scar tissue is as of yet unknown since I have never had any injuries or surgeries on my abdomen before now but the scar tissue will also have been contributing to my pain.

Now comes the hard part, where do we go from here? We have spent the last six years hoping to someday not only get pregnant but to stay pregnant. I adore our five children and I would like one more. I always dreamed of having the experience of feeling my baby grow within my stomach, as surely as the other five have grown in our hearts. However, there comes a point in time when one must accept the reality of their situation. PCOS is one of the leading causes of infertility for women, and my PCOS has not been cooperating well over the last year. Endometriosis is also a leading cause of infertility and now we know I have that as well. All of that is excluding the other barriers we face to having a child biologically like my tilted uterus and me having hashimoto’s, a thyroid condition. Between this current health situation and the cancer scare we faced last summer we have realized the best course of action for us moving forward is for me to have a full hysterectomy. A hysterectomy would not solve all of my health problems but it would improve them a great deal and would stop my body’s hijinx from being such a painful interruption to our family life.

It has been six years of us building our family and we have five beautiful children to show for it, we have also experienced the heartbreak of six miscarriages and the all consuming roller coaster of emotion that goes along with both of those extremes. Until I began really considering having a hysterectomy I had not realized how consumed my life and thoughts have been with the possibility of someday….someday it would work, someday my body would get it’s act together. The idea of removing the possibility of such a someday existing is both heartbreaking and a relief. I am not sure how to work through all the various emotions I have coursing through me with this decision. I know that having a hysterectomy will be the best thing I can do both for my physical health, my emotional health (in the long term) and for my family but there is no doubting that it will be a hard process to go through. Please keep us all in your prayers during this time of upheaval and pain.

It is during times like these that we all must have something to cling to that brings us strength, peace and love. I am so thankful for the gospel in my life everyday but especially on days like today. I know my heavenly father is with me, I can feel the love of Jesus Christ around me and I know that I am not ever facing these trails or heartbreaks alone. I am also so blessed to have my amazing husband and our beautiful children to snuggle up with and to feel the complete love that flows through our family and home. That love also flows through our extended family and our friends who have all rallied around us to lift us up and help carry us through the physical realities of me being in pain for months and now recovering from surgery and the emotional pain of all that these physical challenges bring with them. No one should face something like this alone and thanks to God and the community of people he has surrounded us with we don’t have to face it alone. Thank you all for all the continued love and support.

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I have found a way to feel like an instant superhero, and I love it. Anytime I take all five kids on an outing, even a small one, by myself and it goes well I feel like I am officially a superhero.

Sound kind of crazy? Let me explain.

I was wondering why it feels so amazing myself and I have figured out some of the whys. To begin with there is the fairly obvious, I am still getting used to having five kids. Our youngest is about to be a year old and that means it has been almost a year to adjust to having five kids which sounds like a long time, and if we were just adjusting from 4-5 it would be a long time. However, in a little over two years we have gone from zero to five so there hasn’t been a lot of space to feel adjusted. I am just now starting to feel like I am finding my sea legs here. That means only two years of figuring out how to do life and outings with five children all currently four and under.

Still though, that is two years of going places, I should not be excited by it now right? It is not really two years of going places with the kids. Caleb, our first little miracle is a preemie and we brought him straight home from NICU. Due to Caleb’s lowered immune system and weakened lungs we were not able to leave the house with him unless absolutely necessary for the first TWO winters. So the first full year and a half of being a parent I did not really leave my house six months out of the year to avoid flu and RSV season which could have proved fatal for our little guy. During our second winter on RSV season lockdown we added Damien, Perry and Alizé to our family in the space of two days. We still couldn’t go out much until spring and that March was when Baby Otter was born. So this last year is really the first year of being able to actively be out and about and do things.

For the first half of that year we had Nannies that helped for a few outings and my dear friend Sarah (who is now serving a mission in AZ) went on almost every kid included outing with me. It was really overwhelming taking all the kids out by myself when the older boys were not listening well yet, Caleb and Alizé were learning to walk and I had a new baby along for the ride too. Then if you add in,  Caleb and Perry both having a Sensory Process Disorder that makes new environments stressful for them, causing different and complex behavioral reactions in both of them, the quick trip to the store gets  infinitely more complicated.  So, for a while I just didn’t take all the kids to very many places, I saved all my errands for Fridays, the day we have the Nanny come to help out. That meant that during the week I felt trapped in the house a lot of the time. I am a person that loves to be on the go and around other people and feeling trapped in the house makes me pretty sad and cranky. Then I realized I was the only one keeping myself trapped. I realized I had two options 1- continue to be scared to take all the kids out by myself until they are all older and continue to pout about that or 2- just start going out and figure it out together.

About a month ago I started going out with the kids more, sometimes even inventing excuses to get us out and about. The first few times went well and I started to feel on top of the world, impressed that we all survived it. Then one day I took the kids to a few stores looking for new curtains for the kitchen. On our previous outings there had been no sensory meltdowns and everything had run fairly smoothly. This outing was different. Caleb had a massive meltdown when we went into Ross’s, the open spaces and odd acoustics sent him into a sensory overload and after trying for a few minutes to calm his screaming we left that particular store. However, I was determined to not let one bad store experience change the rest of the day’s plans (which included another store, stopping for lunch and taking Baby Otter to his last birth parent visit before the adoption). I took a breath, Caleb was able to calm down and we moved on to our next stop when suddenly the van was filled with the unmistakable smell of Perry poop, trust me, it has a very distinctive smell and eliminates the need to guess who has had a blow out. Poor Perry, who is in the middle of being potty trained, had a massive blow out and it was all over his clothes. Usually I keep a bag of extra clothes in the van for just such occasions, and today of course was the day I left it at home. I had to pull over and change Perry in the back of the van which left him back in his car seat in nothing but a shirt and diaper, the clothes were so destroyed by the blow out I ended up tossing them in the trash with the diaper mess. Now our timeline was thrown off and I had just enough time to run through a drive-thru for the kids’ lunch and race to our meeting for Baby Otter’s last visit. After dropping Baby Otter off with the caseworker I ran the other kids over to Target, Perry needed new pants. Thankfully, the blanket I alway keep in the back was still there and I was able to wrap Perry’s bottom half in the blanket and put him in the back of the stroller to protect him from the cold and so he was not wondering around the store half naked. Ha-ha. We got the pants, he changed in the store bathroom, I got everyone loaded back up, we picked up Baby Otter and headed home. Shooo. That afternoon as I was hanging the curtains we bought I found myself laughing at the hijinx of the day, it didn’t go as smoothly as I would have hoped but we all made it through the day and accomplished what we set out to do. My sense of being a superhero was definitely growing.

This week’s trip was to the library. I have been wanting to start having the library be a regular stop for the kids and I, especially since we will be homeschooling and spending a good bit of time there as they grow up. I have also been avoiding this particular outing because you need to be quiet in a library and when Caleb enters full meltdown (which is not something you can always predict or see coming) he is far from quiet about trying to express how he is feeling. We have been going to a lot of different places lately though and I was feeling the boost of all those days of being a superhero, so I decided to brave the library. Half-way there Damien informed me he needed to go potty so as soon as we got to the library I had to rush us all into the restroom, which was not a great start for Caleb and Alizé who started to fuss. Thankfully, once we left the restroom they were much better. We made it through my short discussion with the lady at the checkout desk about a book I had out overdue and was returning and then we headed to the children’s section of the library. Damien and Perry scattered down separate aisles to look at the many books and I pushed the younger three in a stroller, I was able to ask the librarian for any suggestions on a topic I was looking for and then Caleb started to get upset. I quickly tried the things that can sometimes calm him down before he escalates into a complete meltdown and they were not working. Thankfully the library has an enclosed playroom for young kids. I quickly told Damien and Perry they could both pick one book and then we needed to go into the playroom. By the time we entered the room Caleb was in full meltdown; screaming and flailing.After a few minutes of deep pressure and me holding him Caleb was able to calm down enough to play with his siblings. It was actually a very short lived meltdown, sometimes they do not resolve that easily. The kids played for a while and Caleb and Alizé were able to pick out books from the selection of board books kept in the playroom while Baby Otter showed no interest in picking a book. Caleb now calm and the kids done playing we were able to pick up the mess they had made, gather our books, I was able to make a selection and we checked out and headed home. We did it!! We made it through a library trip and it went great, meaning we can start going every week. Can you hear the music swelling as my hero cape flaps in the breeze, because I sure can.

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Taking my kids out in the community doesn’t sound like a huge undertaking but it sure makes me feel like I can conquer the world and I don’t even have to wait until they can all walk and talk.

I am coming up on a big anniversary soon, the first anniversary of my Baptism into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (AKA the LDS church or the Mormon Church). I have written about my conversion here and my baptism as well, but I wanted to share more of the moments that helped build my testimony as I approach that anniversary. This weekend a year ago I attended my first service at the church and because I wanted to really see if this conversion was the right fit for me I decided to go the weekend without drinking coffee to live in line with the Word of Wisdom. When I decided to stop drinking coffee I was not sure I would make it one day, I used to drink over 12 cups of extra strong coffee a day at home and stopped by coffee shops regularly. When my friends starting teasing me that I could not survive without my coffee it brought out my stubborn side and I wanted to see just how long I could go without coffee. Meanwhile, the Spirit was working on me and I soon found I did not need the stubbornness, I didn’t even miss my coffee- I had found something so much better.

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Around this same time I began my first reading of the Book of Mormon and our oldest, Damien, really wanted a copy of the book himself. The Elders I was working with were more than happy to give him one, and Damien was in love with it! He carried his Book of Mormon everywhere, even while playing with other toys. He was so inspired by his book that he greeted almost everyone with an exclamation of, “Hey Girl, want to read my Book of Morma?” Whether or not the person was a girl had little bearing on his excitement to share what he was learning about the gospel right alongside me.

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As for me, I could not wait to begin reading as soon as the Elders gave me a copy of the Book of Mormon. I began reading from the beginning as well as reading any scriptures specifically suggested by the missionaries. From the first day of reading, the Book of Mormon changed my life, I found a sense of peace and clarity while reading that I had not felt before. I was impressed with the Book of Mormon but I was at first still looking for a reason to not accept the gospel, I was not sure if I was ready for such a drastic change in my life. Like many investigators I was actively looking for the thing I could point to say “No, this is crazy and I cannot join this church”. To that end I combed the scriptures pulling out passages that concerned me and quizzed the Elders on them, without fail they were able to provide additional scripture references to help me better understand what I was reading and every concern I raised was soothed by the power of truth found within the Book of Mormon.

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One thing I was struggling to accept as an investigator, was the concept of a living Prophet. Not being raised within the church when one who has been raised in the world hears the word Prophet they do not have a good image, it comes off kind of hokey. One night while reading the Book of Mormon I came across a scripture that completely changed my outlook. In 1 Nephi 10:18 it says:

“For he is the same yesterday, today, and forever; and the way is prepared for all men from the foundation of the world, if it so be that they repent and come unto him.”

Reading that it occurred to me that I have never questioned that men like Moses were Prophets and if God really is unchanging, as I have always believed and was proven in scripture, why would I believe he provided Prophets in the past and would not give the people of today the same blessing of having a living Prophet? This was a game changing moment in my conversion and that moment would not have come without the Book of Mormon and the encouragement from the Elders to keep searching and keep reading.

Taking Charge

As many of you know, I was diagnosed with PCOS or Polycystic Ovary Syndrome back in 2010. PCOS is one of the leading causes of infertility today and that is what most people focus on, myself included. However, PCOS is a lot more than a fertility issues. PCOS wrecks havoc on your entire body causing irregular and painful periods, infertility, and weight gain. PCOS also dramatically increases you chances of developing: female baldness, unusual hair growth in women, diabetes, heart diseases and various cancers. 

This past summer we went through a very scary time as a family. My periods were very irregular and frequent and when I went to my gynecologist she was very concerned and said she wanted to run some tests to see if my PCOS ravaged hormones were out of whack or to check and see if I had endometrial cancer. My world stopped at mention of that “C” word. I knew my PCOS increased my chances of developing cancer so I was very worried that we would be dealing with cancer. I called my Mom shortly after the appointment to tell her what was going on and for her to talk me down off the ceiling. If I let myself think about it too much I started crying- I have five young children who need their mom and they need her to be healthy enough to care for them. My mom and I discussed the idea of just having a complete hysterectomy regardless of the results, better safe than sorry thinking. In retrospect,  that would have been a knee jerk, fear based reaction. In the end I did not have cancer, I just needed to adjust my medication. This was a wake up call for me though. I have basically been pouting since I was diagnosed in 2010. I knew what I should be doing to help my body but I was annoyed with my body and pulled a complete ostrich move and stuck my head in the sand ignoring all but the infertility. 

The easiest way for doctors to manage PCOS symptoms in their paitents is to put them on birth control. That often controls the visible symptoms of PCOS however, PCOS is still able to run around the body and stir up trouble. I am unwilling to go on birth control for a variety of reasons, to include that we haven’t given up hope that we will one day have a child biologically. That leaves natural ways to manage this monsters. 

The diet one should ideally follow while on PCOS can get very regimented, if you let it, and that has often turned me off. It seems like too much effort and time on just me to spend. I realize that thinking is illogical but there it is. I have attempted to follow the PCOS diet MANY times in the past but I always get discouraged and quit. 

I have always been an all or nothing type of person, stems from being a perfectionist. So my downfall with taking care of myself better has been I want to follow any diet exactly or not at all, I want to work out and have my body do exactly what my brain says I should do and do it perfectly or I won’t do it at all. I should remember to take all my medicines and supplements or I shouldn’t take any. You can see how quickly this can get out of hand. For instance when we grew from a family of no kids to five kids and I couldn’t keep the house the way I thought it should look I just stopped trying for awhile. It’s a pride issue and I’m working on. Being a perfectionist is exhausting, especially when I would never hold another to the same expectations I place on myself. 

So now I know what I need to be doing, I got a push from the cancer scare to actually do it and I know why I have failed in the past. Now all I need is a plan to succeed. They say making detailed plans is the best way to reach any goal. 

The Plan

PCOS is a whole body, mind, heart attack so that is what I need to incorporate in any plans to beat it and I should make small changes at a time instead of trying to change everything at once. 

My goal is by July to be fully following the PCOS diet, taking all of my medications and supplements regularly and to do some form of exercise 5-6 days a week to include becoming a regular runner. How will I get there? By adding new aspects of the diet and working out every month so that it builds. 

The rest of this month will be about general prep

March-  I will start PiYO from Beachbody and walk at least a half an hour five days a week. I will also start eating something every 3-4 hours, eliminate salt (not hard since I rarely use it now), and dramatically increase how much water I drink. 

April- I will continue the work out plan and I will continue the diet changes from before while also beginning to eat mainly whole foods and having a good/lean protein at every meal.

May- I will be adding Turbo Fire also from Beachbody to my routine and will step up the walking to begin a walk/run combination. I will continue all dietary changes while I also begin to eliminate sugar and follow a low GI diet. 

June- I will continue the work out plans from May and increase the run to walk ratio. I will continue dietary changes while increasing my omega 3 intake, antioxidants and photoestrogens. 

A few small changes a month and I will be  able to more easily and lastingly make these changes. 

Old Fashioned

I think I was around nine or ten years old, the first time I remember one of my Grandmothers calling me a “little Grandma” and an “old lady”. I have always been a bit too old fashioned for our times. Now, thanks to hipsters many of the things I have always loved are cool again. You can find countless hipsters wearing aprons, knitting, sewing their own clothes and espousing love for the “golden oldies”. All things I have loved since I was a child. I remember countless evenings spent watching “I Love Lucy” and thinking that Lucy was exactly who I wanted to grow up to be .

I have been feeling a little lost lately and I realized it was all stemming from this (mean) voice in my head telling me that it wasn’t enough to be a wife and mother,  even though it was all I ever dreamed of being. I realized an easy solution to feeling so lost and a good way to shush that voice was to just lean into it, lean into being a housewife and a mother, lean in to my old fashioned dreams and ideals.

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This brought me to looking up lots of different things about the quintessential 1950’s housewife. I then stumbled on Jen But Never Jenn’s 50’s Housewife Experiement and I was intrigued. I loved the idea, so much fun and right in my wheelhouse. I excitedly told Tyler all about it and he looked at me like I had lost my mind, he has never gotten my love of the old days and he thinks me trying to live up to the expectations of a 50’s housewife is “Unnecessary”.  He is missing the fun, with his silly love of all things modern.

I have already started some of the aspects of the experiment as part of my leaning in process. I have been getting up earlier than the kids and my husband to get myself dressed (and I have been dressing up) for the day. Sometimes that means getting up at 4 am but by the time everyone else is getting up I am in the kitchen, dressed and apron on, ready to tackle the day. I cannot tell you the difference in my daily adventures and mood this one small change has made. Dressing up is always a mood lifter and being prepared to tackle the day before the kids are up makes me much less stressed. I have time in the morning to read some scripture, pray, collect myself and plan out the day.

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So far I am only adding in  a few parts of the experiment but I think I want to do the whole thing soon. Now I just need to find more 50’s inspire dresses. Now Jen goes as far as only serving meals common for the times and only uses the tools of the 1950’s housewife would have access too. I doubt I will be going that far, one I have too many children to take away the conveniences that save my sanity and my husband would absolutely hate the meals.

If anyone needs me I am going to be cleaning things, focusing on my family and leaning in some more. So far it has been great.

Sundays have been such a challenge for us in the last few months. For a variety of reason, I have ended most Sundays in tears for one reason or another.

To begin with; Caleb has been really struggling with being at church. Something was setting our sensory boy off about church and he would spend 99% of our time there having a complete sensory meltdown in the halls- which often included lots of screaming, hitting, and flailing in my arms. Basically every Sunday Caleb and I both cried in the halls of church. Him because he was feeling overwhelmed by something he couldn’t communicate to me and me because I was feeling like a bad Mom because I couldn’t figure it out and because I felt alone there in that place trying to help our son. I felt like Sundays involved Caleb and I battling something I couldn’t see or feel so I didn’t know how to help him. We have involved all of Caleb’s therapist in trying to solve this puzzle. Caleb’s behavior was stumping us all and one of his therapist even came to church with me and the kids to try and figure it out.

Added to that dynamic is that I am still not a pro at going places with all five kids by myself. When people typically have kids they do it one at a time with at least a nine month period in between to help them adjust to each new addition- we went from zero to five in less than two years. No adjustment time and with the exception of Caleb and Baby Otter the kids came in multiples. We are coming up on a year of being a family with five children all four and under and I am really just starting to get my footing. So taking the kids to church by myself (because my husband does not attend) is very stressful for me. I would see other large families who had their children all sitting calmly, or at least calmer than one screaming in the halls and four other kids that still need some help, and I would feel like I must be doing something wrong. It seemed like it was just too hard. 

The final stress of our Sundays lately has been the insane number of things that has happened to our family in the last few months- multiple surgeries, injuries and kids who were sick for about two and half months straight. So we missed far more Sundays than I am ok with- so while I was trying to hold it all together in the middle of that storm if we missed church that week there were tears then too because I felt I was failing my kids.

It has been a crazy adventure lately. However, this last week was amazing. In speaking with Caleb’s therapists we decided that Caleb just cannot handle a three hour time at church right now. Not until he can communicate better and we can figure out what is setting him off or at least what helps make it better. We even figured out a way to make that work. Tyler will come with the kids and I to the first hour of church, the Sacrament meeting, and then he will take Caleb home while the other kids and I stay at church. Yay for a solution!

Unfortunately, Tyler had a medical procedure done Friday and was not up for coming this week. I decided to take the kids and leave after the first hour, when a dear friend volunteered to drive the big boys home allowing them to stay for Primary. I woke up with a different mind set than I had in the weeks prior. I was not filled with a sense of dread, instead I was confident that it would all go well. I knew that my kids would still not all sit calmly in a pew and I also knew that Caleb might have some moments he struggled but I was sure we could navigate it. The kids and I went to the Relief Society room so that the youngest three (2, 2 in 6 days, and 10 months) could move around a little more and not fuss because they felt stuck. Caleb does better there than he ever does in the chapel. Everything went great! I mean the younger kids were running around like little terrors but they were not crying and the big boys sat fairly quietly. I realized the key to a calmer Sunday is for me to keep things easier for Caleb by letting him leave after an hour and to realize a successful day at church for us will look different in reality right now than it did in my head. Managing realistic expectations and realizing success to us will look different than success to other families is the secret. I am so proud of all five of my little miracles.

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For more information about sensory processing disorders visit The Sensory Processing Disorder Parent Support website. 

It’s Not The Coffee

Before I joined the LDS church I had a coffee problem, like I made a 12 cup pot of coffee for just me on a daily basis and frequented coffee shops on top of that. I was a coffee girl, just imagine a real life version of Lorelai Gilmore. About a year ago, right before I joined the church I gave up coffee to follow the Word of Wisdom. Suddenly, after a year of being coffee free I have been missing coffee, a lot. Why?

Today as I walked through Target I passed the Starbucks located in the front of the store and the familiar smell of a coffee shop filled my nose and at the same moment an epiphany hit me hard, stopping me in my tracks. It’s not about the coffee, not at all.

Life has been great, crazy, miraculous, and rough lately. In the last three years absolutely everything about our lives has changed. Three years ago I would have described myself as a coffee addict, a neat freak of Monica Gellar proportions, an avid reader, someone who loved things like knitting, cross-stitch, hiking, antiques, etc. Three years ago we lived in West Virginia minutes away from my best friend and Tyler’s side of the family. Three years ago we also were not parents yet, we were aching for a child. Compare that to today and we live in Pennsylvania, about forty minutes from said best friend and family. Today we also are the parents of five children four and under. Additionally, and most importantly, if I had to describe myself today it would be as a stay at home mom and a wife and that’s about it. I no longer drink the coffee, I had (until recently) completely given up on trying to fight the mess created by so many young kids, I rarely have the brain power left at the end of the day to read, I still like knitting and cross-stich but needles and crafts don’t do well when combined with toddlers and babies, I have too many kiddos not walking to be able to hike and taking kids to an antique store is a recipe for disaster.

It is not about the coffee, it all comes down to the fact that all of these crazy, wonderful changes has resulted in me now having no clue who I am anymore. I am not sure who I am in this new life we have created. We moved to a new state changing a lot of things, we became parents to a large family overnight changing lots more, add in joining the church and there is almost nothing that has not changed. I try to take time for myself, I am not good at it but I try and when I do I try to do the things I used to do only that isn’t working. I am not the same person anymore and so much has been going on that I am not sure what this new person needs to do for relaxation. Typically, you became a parent when one baby comes into your home and you have a window of adjustment to try and figure out the balance of individual and mom. We added five kids at once and the chaos meant I looked up one day, today, and realized I have no clue who I am?

Now I need to figure out who this new chick is. How do you figure yourself out?