6.21.2015

My Father's Daughter

Happy Father’s Day!  To all friends and family, I hope today is a special day for you to make lasting memories with all the dads and father figures in your lives. 
My brother with Dad and I
This Father’s Day, I’ve thought a lot about my own dad.  Normally I don’t spend a lot of time doing that on this day, but this year I feel a special tenderness in my heart for the man I hardly know but love just the same. 
 
My parents were divorced when I was just a baby.  I never had the chance to live with my dad or really get to know him.  My mom took my brother and I to visit Dad and his side of the family a handful of times over the years when we were growing up, but I don’t remember spending any quality time with Dad.  To tell the truth, I was kind of scared of him.  He had dark skin, didn’t look like me, had a strange lifestyle and lived on an Indian reservation.  I was a shy, sheltered little girl from a small town where everyone knew each other; we all looked a like, did the same things and attended the same school and church.  I had a hard time relating to him. 
Dad Performing A Navajo Hoop Dance - Lamanite Week, BYU
Two random memories about insignificant events stick out to me about those childhood visits to Arizona.  The first one was when I was about six or seven.  We went to Page, Arizona, for a Brown family reunion at Lake Powell.  For lunch we had sandwiches and soda.  My Dad handed me a can of soda and let me drink the whole thing!  No one had given me an entire can of soda before, and I thought it was pretty cool.  The second memory was when I was a bit older, probably 11 or 12, riding with Dad in his truck to the Kmart in Gallup, or maybe it was in Page.  I needed a pair of socks so we could go bowling.  He handed me a $100 dollar bill and told me to go pick out what I needed.  I’d never seen that much money in all my life.  After that, for the longest time, I thought my Dad must be extremely wealthy to be handing out $100s to little girls for socks.  But also, I thought it was neat that he trusted me with all that money. 

This year my Dad is on my mind because he’s getting older.  I see him losing his immortally and it makes me want to connect to him even more.  He’s always been a distant sort of heroic figure to me, beautiful, rugged, mysterious, invincible, tough, enigmatic.  Now I see him with new eyes as a man on the verge of his declining years who I desperately wish to know. 
How I Will Always Remember My Dad - Handsome & Strong
 This past April, I had a wonderful visit with my Dad as our family gathered in Gallup, New Mexico, for my grandma’s funeral.  That evening after the funeral, we sat in Dad’s hogan and visited until it was too dark to see.  His extremely modest, two-room home is wired for electricity, but he has to get a permit from the Chapter before it can be put into use.  This visit was also great in that Dad finally has indoor plumbing, so I didn’t have to use the outhouse.  Before it got too late, I took advantage of every minute to learn more about Dad.  I asked him to tell as many stories as he could.  I really wished time could have stood still that day. 

Dad's Hogan
Here are a few stories I know about my Dad.  I think they’re very interesting and I hope that by writing them down, my kids will read them some day and enjoy them with their kids. 

 My Dad, Benjamin Brown, is the second of 13 kids born to Tom & Winona Brown of Lupton, Arizona.  Poverty as we know it was a way of life for Navajos of his generation.  I don’t know how Grandma & Grandpa fed and clothed all those kids!  I asked Dad one time how they did it and he said, “They didn't.  We starved.” 
Dad As A Little Boy
 
When Dad was grade school age, the Indian Placement Program, a program ran by the LDS church from 1947 – 2000, was getting off the ground.  Navajo families sent their school-age kids to live with white families in Utah, Idaho and surrounding states in order to help them assimilate into their culture.  Dad’s first placement family was in Salina, Utah.  The first family he lived with was good to him and I think he really enjoyed his experience with them.  However, they moved and couldn’t take him with them.  There were several other families who asked to let him live with them, but his “agent” didn’t approve because they smoked or were not LDS or had some other “deficiency.”  He ended up living with the seminary teacher, whose wife was very cruel.  She did not let Dad mix with her family.  He was given one serving of dinner and then immediately sent down to the basement for the rest of the evening while her kids ate more food and snacks and got to watch TV.  She was physically abusive as well.  Sometimes Dad would be out at an activity, or just out playing, and the wife would lock him out of the house.  He said he spent many nights sleeping in the barn.  She would never ask him where he had been or if he was hungry or cold.  She was just glad to have him out of her house.  One time she had been extremely cruel and Dad tried to run away.  He went to a neighboring town because he had a brother there on placement who he hoped could help him.  When Dad’s placement “agent” found out, she marched him right back to Salina.   

School Days On Indian Placement

Finally, in order to be rid of Dad, the couple decided to get him in trouble.  One of their sons had a really nice ring that suddenly went missing.  That night the seminary teacher took Dad downstairs to question him about the ring.  “Where is it?” the man asked Dad. “Where is what?” Dad asked. “The ring?  We know you took it!”  Dad had no idea what he was talking about.  When he couldn’t produce an answer, the man took Dad by the ear and lifted him out of his chair, “You better find that ring or you will be in big trouble.”  Because Dad didn’t know where it was, the story got out that he stole the ring and couldn’t be trusted.  A few days later, Dad asked the son about the ring and he showed him where he kept it safe and sound as part of a bookmark.  But that was that and they sent him home.  After that experience, Dad told Grandma he was never going back on placement.  
As A Young Man With His Parents & A Younger Sibling

When Dad was old enough to serve a mission, he was called to the Southern Indian mission.  The headquarters were located in Holbrook, Arizona.  From what I can gather, I think he really enjoyed his mission.  I know he worked hard because he told us how much walking he did and how tired he was all the time.  One story he shared was about visiting an old Navajo sheep herder who lived on land now covered by Lake Powell.  Dad and his companion arrived at Billy Many Goats house one morning to visit.  After a little while the man asked the missionaries if they would go on a short walk with him to see his sheep.  They agreed and they all began walking down the mountain, along with the man’s daughter who was about the same age as Dad.  After a very long time, they finally reached the sheep; however, they were at the bottom of the canyon and now faced a very long hike back up the mountain.  Dad said the man and daughter, the man being in his 50s or 60s, climbed back up the mountain just like goats themselves, never breaking a sweat, while he and his companion struggled and wore themselves out.  Dad learned a Navajo sheepherder’s idea of a short walk can be very misleading. 
As A Missionary
Elder Brown
As I listened to his stories, I looked around Dad's sparse environment and considered this man with hardly any earthly possessions, but who on the inside is rich with a lifetime of stories and experiences I can only begin to imagine.  After he and my Mom divorced, Dad eventually remarried and had three more children.  I love my half siblings Udo, Una and Rafferty.  Their sweet mother Edith, who I have fond memories of, passed away about 12 years ago.  I am happy to have known her.  She was always kind to me and loved to smile and laugh.  Una reminds me of her and Rafferty looks just like her. 
Una, Rafferty and Dad with Shawn & I (Udo not pictured)
I worry about my Dad as he gets older and somehow feel responsible for his welfare.  I guess that’s normal for all children, now matter how old they are and no matter how well they know their parent.  Dad is a diabetic and is probably not faithful at taking his insulin shots.  There is no refrigeration in his hogan for keeping fresh fruits and vegetables, but maybe that will change when he gets his electricity permit.  Also, he has very few teeth left and I’m really not sure how he eats.  But when I think about bringing him to Utah to live with me or live near me, I know it wouldn’t work.  He wouldn’t be happy anywhere but living up Tse de Tha Canyon in Lupton, Arizona, his home for over 70 years. 


View From Dad's House
Thank you for reading my story.  I hope you enjoyed your Father's Day this year.  And to my Dad, I love you and look forward to many more visits and lots of new stories as I get to know you better.  Thank you for being a part of my life.  I love you.
Dad & His Surviving Siblings

3.23.2015

A is for Anxiety, and Other Fun Disorders


 
I love this meme.  I came across it the other day when I was having a struggle with my oldest son and totally had to laugh because I was thinking exactly that.  What parent hasn’t felt this way at one time or another?  There’s definitely no more humbling experience than being a parent and coming face to face with your own woeful lack of parenting ability.

My husband and I are right in the thick of things as far as parenting is concerned.  Our oldest son is 13, the middle one is turning 11 on the 30th, and the third son will be 3 next month.  We are trying our best to be the parents to a very emotionally charged, strange creature called a teenager, as well as fulfilling the hopes and dreams of a very chatty, very ambitious boy who has extremely expensive taste, all the while juggling the needs of a head-strong toddler who has boundless energy and one mischievous idea after another.

I just dropped the oldest son off at his counselor appointment.  He goes once a week to talk through various issues after it became apparent a few months ago that this child needed more professional guidance than we could provide.  This son of ours has always been an extremely happy, extremely well-adjusted, popular little guy.  The only difficulties we’ve ever experienced with him are getting him to focus on tasks at hand and helping him not get so down on himself, especially when playing sports.  So when he stopped doing his homework and basically gave up on life about four months ago, we were dumbfounded. 

Before we moved to our new home here in Heber, we lived in a great neighborhood where our boys where surrounded by many friends.  They could walk out the door and find at least three or four at any given time.  Unfortunately we outgrew our little home and wished to move closer to my Mom who lives all alone. Our only reservation was leaving all the little friends behind.  Everyone told us not to worry.  “Kids adjust,” they said.  Even the ones who had uprooted their families and relocated told us stories of how their kids adjusted and eventually thrived in their new environment. 

Well, here we are almost seven months later and the pain of uprooting the boys is just as fresh as it was the day we moved.  Yes they’ve managed to make friends, but it’s not the same.  There’s no walking out the front door to find friends waiting to play, no walking home from school with your best buddies, throwing your backpack in the closet and heading back out to play until dark.  Our doorbell and home in general has never been so quiet.  Even I miss the revolving door of little boys going in and out and the laughing and shouting as they run up and down the stairs. 

About Thanksgiving time, Tyler, our oldest, finally started to make some good buddies.  Some of them were even coming over to hang out!  I was so grateful to have our house full of little boys again!  It was after Christmas when we got an email from one of Tyler’s teachers saying he hadn’t turned in any assignments since Thanksgiving and wondered if there was anything he could do to help.  After looking closer, we realized this was the case in all of his classes.  After a heart-to-heart discussion with Ty, we couldn’t get any answers as to why he wasn’t doing his school work.  Our sweet boy who had been a model student and example to those around him his entire life had become defiant; and the more we pushed, the angrier he got.  There were nights Eric and I thought we would lose our minds trying to make headway with Ty, but we were getting nowhere. 

Looking back, we realized his problems began when he finally started making friends.  Our best guess is he was so happy to finally feel included that everything else took a backseat.  Then, once he got behind in school, he didn’t know how to ask for help to get caught up.  He was too afraid to ask his teachers, or even his parents, for help.  Even now that we’ve sat down with the principal and all his teachers, Ty still finds it excruciatingly painful to ask for help when needed.

Watching my little guy struggle with his shyness and social anxiety brings actual, physical pain to my heart, along with vivid flashbacks to when I was a girl.  Reliving the pain of my youth through my son makes me wish with all my heart I could take it away so he won’t have to experience what I did.  The trauma I endured as a painfully shy child is something I would never wish on anyone.  As a little girl I was so shy I would hide behind my mother’s skirts and bury my face so I wouldn’t have to talk to anyone, especially adults.  When I got to school, I too was afraid to talk to my teachers.  Activities outside of school were the worst.  Once I was home and sitting safely on the couch watching cartoons, the last thing I wanted to do was go back out into the world.  Dance lessons, piano lessons, even going to church and primary were overwhelming tasks that I begged not to have to attend. 

 
I wish I could say I outgrew my social anxiety as an adult, but if anything, it got worse.  I’m now a 40-something and the scared, self-conscious, self-doubting little girl still lives inside me.  Yes, I’ve learned to speak when spoken to and for the most part have actually learned to enjoy most social interaction, but only because I’ve had to work on it every single day.  It is true that most things get easier with practice and in time; however, there are some things that never do.  After years of endless prayers wishing it away, I have come to accept that my social anxiety will be with me till I die.  The only silver lining is that through the grace of God I have managed to get to a point where it no longer controls my life. 


Gosh, it has taken such a long time to get here--to this point of manageability!  As I write this, a ton of painful memories are bubbling to the surface.  As if you weren’t already depressed by my tale, let me burden you a story of me as a brand-new missionary trying to learn Spanish.  My first companion out of the MTC was a native Spanish speaker.  She also lacked any tiny bit of empathy and forced me to do all the door approaches, even though I didn’t have a clue what was being said.  For the love!  That was a treat and a half!  Any of you who have lived through a similar experience, my hat goes off to you!  And while we're at it, here's a huge high five for your bravery and for not giving up.

 
Anywho, as I sit and reflect on my past, I bang my fists in frustration when I think about my sweet, gentle son going through a similar fate.  Therapy can only get you so far; the same goes for medication.  The bulk of the load in overcoming is up to the individual in the form of hard, relentless mental labor.
 
So, the moral of this story is?  Hell, I don’t know!  Yeah for genetics maybe?  I have my ancestors to thank for my anxiety -- my grandma and mom specifically, and probably my grandma's mom and her mom too for all I know.  Something fun I discovered along the way is that my anxiety just keeps on giving in the form of panic attacks.  I had my first one when I was 27 and climbing Mount Timpanogos for the first time.  I was more than three-fourths of the way to the top and having the time of my life when suddenly I froze, broke out into a terrible sweat, got light-headed and sick to my stomach, and discovered my feet would not move.  For the first time in my life I was afraid of heights.  My companions dragged me to the top and I literally felt like I would die.  In fact, I preferred death to what I was feeling.  For those of you who have had the pleasure of experiencing a true panic attack, you can attest to that feeling of sheer terror and absolutely praying for death. 


Anyway, I guess the moral of the story is, perhaps God sends us children with certain challenges that match perfectly with the experience we have gained, which uniquely qualifies us to parent them and help them through.  I dunno, really I am the furthest person from any substantial bit of wisdom, so my guess is just that, a guess.  But maybe, if you’re experiencing similar tribulations with your own children, it might help for you to keep in mind that you may be the one person on the planet with the specific qualifications to help him or her.  Best of luck!  I tend to think that somehow it will all work out.

2.07.2015

Still Here


Disclaimer:  I just finished writing this under the influence of hard-core cold medicine drugs.  The thoughts below may or may not be my own.


Wow, it’s been almost a year since I’ve blogged. Life has been crazy, I haven’t made writing a priority, and just like that an entire year has gone by. One of my last posts was all about life with a high-energy mischievous toddler we affectionately nicknamed Devil Child, aka DC. His real name is McKay Jimmer – super cute, super smart, but super naughty.

Jimmer McKay aka Devil Child
Some of you have wondered if maybe DC killed me off. If you know McKay at all, you know that’s a real possibility. So, I thought I’d write a follow-up to “Anyone Can Have A Devil Child” to reassure you I’m not dead and to give you an idea of how we’re holding up now that McKay is almost three.

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To avoid the shame of having a 3-year-old still in diapers, today we are potty training. Super exciting – even more exciting when you consider this is our third attempt. I make DC go bare bottomed so he HAS to use the toilet. It’s really the only way he will even consider sitting on the potty because he is so dang stubborn. Thus, as I sit here and write, Mac is climbing on top of me, his boy parts square in my face as he tries to stand on my head to see how high he can climb. Part monkey, part human tornado, Mac loves to climb and swing, so any body part is fair game.

McKay's ALWAYS in the Driver's Seat

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Much has happened in our lives over the past year. In many ways it has been one of the most difficult and stressful ever. I believe all that we have lived through have aged Eric and I about 20 years. I just turned 43 this past January; Eric, turned 54 but most days we act and feel like we’re 105. We have friends who are grandparents several times over, yet here we are, living with a toddler who runs like crack on steroids. The fatigue must really show in our faces since many times when we are out and about people will tell us what a cute grandbaby we have. When some kind soul told me the other day I look incredible for my age I wanted to kiss their hand.

Grandma & Grandpa Anderson
So rewind to fall of 2013. We had been looking for a bigger house since before McKay was born; then when he came we were truly bursting at the seams. We finally found the exact home we wanted in the perfect location and were anxiously awaiting a move-in date of December 2013. Unfortunately, our contractor turned out to be the homebuilders from hell. After an unbelievable amount of setbacks and frustration, we walked away from the house. It was a true nightmare in every sense of the word. Looking back we still marvel that Eric did not succumb to cardiac arrest on more than one occasion.

Then about a year ago after a Sunday visit to see my Mom, we took a drive around the valley and found an amazing neighborhood we felt would be perfect for us. A few months later we were signing the contract on our dream home in Heber.

Last Sunday in our old house  - August, 2014, Provo, Utah
Nothing rips your heart out like selling the house you brought all your babies home to
The next hurdle would be selling our current home. This is something I recommend you absolutely do not do if you have a DC. Selling a home requires that you really, truly stay on top of keeping it clean so you are ready for those last-minute calls from the realtor asking for a last-minute showing. Let me just say, with three boys and all their friends in and out of the house all day long, this was beyond impossible. DC can mess up a perfectly clean house in 5 seconds.  For 10 MONTHS, also known as eternity, I worked the s#!t outta that miracle!  Talk about sheer, drawn-out agony. We averaged about 4 showings a week for 10 months.  My personal belief is that this is equivalent to keeping all the broken pieces from ever touching the ground as the bull runs willy-nilly through the china shop, day after day after day after day after day after ...

Just as Eric was checking into mental facilities where he could admit me, our home sold! We couldn’t have been more grateful!
Woo-hoo!!!
 The next prob, however, would be finding somewhere to live for two months until our new home was finished. Fortunately some good friends just down the street offered us their house since they would be gone most of the summer. Again, we couldn’t have been more grateful! HOWEVER, the thought of living in someone else’s home with DC gave me stomach ulcers. I had visions of him breaking every valuable and/or piece of furniture they owned, or burning the house down, or all of the above.

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The doorbell just rang. It’s a friend here to see if Casey can play. As soon as the friend steps into the house, McKay springs from the couch and shouts, “Wassup fool?” and pulls a crazy face. We all burst into fits of laughter. This is classic McKay. Just when you’re ready to strangle him he does something so adorable and it’s all you can do from kissing his face off.

The Most Kissable Face I Know

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Fortunately it was summertime. As soon as DC was up and dressed we would head outside where there was less to break. I spent the summer sitting in my neighbor’s garage feeding McKay Otter Pops and watching him ride his “cooter” and car up and down the sidewalk and rescuing him from being ran over when he ran out into the road. This led to lots of intense moments, which in turn led to some poor language choices on my part. Here’s a small nugget of wisdom: if you think you’re doing a good job as a mom and that the toddler who follows you around all day long does not hear the curse words you say under your breath, you couldn’t be more wrong.  Do not be surprised when you hear your DC repeat the F bomb in the exact tone as it spills from your lips in all those moments of sheer exasperation.

A classic moment of “sheer exasperation” from my journal:

May 21, 2014 - “For the love! I cannot take my eyes off Mac for one second. At Casey’s baseball game this afternoon at Fort Utah. McKay ran around like a man possessed THE ENTIRE TIME. He will not sit in the stroller but has found that it is very fun to push it around push it into people and things. I’m sweating buckets from following him around while he does just that while at the same time trying to snatch everyone’s food and drink their drinks. I think I’ve watched two full minutes of the baseball game. When the game is over, that’s when Mac decides he’s tired of pushing the stroller. He spots my lawn chair that’s on the asphalt next to the bleachers and decides to sit in it. Then he tries to stand up in it and the exact same moment I’m trying to pack up to go home and it falls over backwards. He conks the back of his head hard on the concrete and screams bloody murder. Seriously? I took my eyes off him for TWO seconds!”
The Ballpark - Our Home Away From Home Last Spring
Bumming An Otter Pop & Laffy Taffy off the Cute Girl at the Snack Shack
Unfortunately McKay's love affair with the F bomb continues.  A few weeks ago I got a call from the poor little neighbor girl who was babysitting for us.  “Mrs. Anderson, this is Skye. Ummmmm," (long pause), "McKay just said," (long pause), "the F word."  *crickets*  "What do I do?"

Sometimes at the end of an especially crazy day, Eric and I just sit and look at each other and wonder WTF is going on? After so much trouble to get Mac here, how could we have ever guessed what we were in store for. One day I just had to sit and laugh after having to call Eric at work and tell him about yet another close call with McKay.  When the poor man got home that evening and I gave him a play-by-play of the day's events, he looked me in the eye, and I saw true fear staring back at me as he said, “The State is going to take him away from us. You do realize this don't you?!”

Within a four-month period we experienced the following:
  1. ER trip to get Mckay’s elbow realigned after it popped out of joint from a fall
  2. ER trip after poison control advised it “would be wise” after Mac ate my allergy pills like candy
  3. ER trip to get stitches in Mac’s lip after he stood up in the stroller and fell out onto the cement
  4. Trip to the dentist after falling down the stairs and jacking up his teeth
ER trip for McKay's lip from my journal, May 14, 2014:

"Monday night was spent in the ER because McKay stood up in his stroller and fell out onto the driveway. Four stitches in his bottom lip! I was jogging when this occurred so poor Eric was flying solo.  He was thrilled to be questioned up and down from the nurse on “how exactly did this happen sir?” and “tell me again how this child fell sir?” It’s hard trying to convince the professionals we are not child abusers. Eric reported that McKay was unbelievably good and brave. The nurse wanted to put Mac under to do the stitches, but Eric said absolutely not. So they gave him a little novacaine in his lip and started stitching. He didn’t cry or squirm. He made a little “ouch” sound when the needle poked him but other than that he wondered what all the fuss was about. The doctor and nurses were very impressed. The doctor was especially impressed at how “intellectually advanced” McKay is (doctor’s words).

Second Birthday
I Know This Look All Too Well - Means Something Naughty's 'Bout to go Down!
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We finally moved into our new home here in Heber on August 16, 2014.  The first night we slept here I kept waking up wondering if it was just a dream.  After so much blood, sweat and tears were we actually living in our dream house!  A huge wave of relief swept over me knowing that if DC broke anything today, it would be OK.  Two high fives and a heel click!!

Dream Home - Almost Done!
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Shower time has produced some of DC’s best search and destroy missions.  I don’t even bother getting dressed anymore after toweling off but instead head straight to locate Mac and see what he is up to.  

Journal entry from last spring about fun, fun shower time:
 
May 14, 2014:  “Oh what a crazy couple of days!  McKay is going to be the death of me!  HE. NEVER. STOPS.  Some days I cry because the day is too long and he is so hard.  Most nights I go to bed absolutely beat.  I can’t take my eyes off this little buddy for one second.  When I shower I have to corral him in the bedroom with all the doors locked so he doesn’t escape and kill himself.  Lately he has mastered the art of using the kitchen chairs to climb to forbidden places.  If there is something he wants, he will absolutely find a way to get it.  The other day I came out of the bathroom to find he had scooted the chair over to the entertainment center to keif my Dr. Pepper.  He had downed the entire can.
Chugging for All He's Worth
Yesterday while I was in the shower, McKay went into the boys’ bathroom and helped himself to the melatonin.  I don’t know how many he ate before I found him, so I immediately called poison control.  They said not to worry since the melatonin doesn’t affect breathing or have any adverse side effects other than sleepiness.  That afternoon he had a three-hour nap!  IT WAS SOOOO NICE!  And when it was bedtime he went right to sleep.

DC's best shower-time shenanigans:
  • Writing on the walls with marker and highlighter pens
  • Flooding the bathroom
  • Rubbing diaper rash ointment all over books and the bookcase
  • Squirting red toothpaste all over the carpet, walls and himself
  • Dumping out the contents of the Q-Tips jar and tampon box as well as unwrapping maxipads and sticking them on the wall
  • Smearing lotion and soap all over himself and the kitchen counters
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This year for Halloween I found the cutest Devil costume for McKay.  Talk about adorable!  He loved to wear it too.  The first day I put it on him he insisted on scrutinizing himself in the mirror.  As with all things with McKay, that activity lasted about 5 minutes before he was moving on to his next adventure.
 
Have You Ever Seen A Cuter Devil?
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After the melee of moving in and getting settled in the new house died down this fall, I found myself going a bit stir crazy. I have been incredibly blessed with a hard-working husband who has made it possible for me to stay home with the boys for all these years. But as the days wore on with just McKay and I at home, I knew I needed an out. I decided to get a job. First I had to reconcile the guilt for what felt like abandoning my baby.  It was harder than I wanted to admit that I was now choosing to work. But, I believe a healthy balance is what everyone needs, and if taking McKay to daycare a few days was the solution to saving my sanity, then so be it. After much reassurance from friends, family and my therapist (yes I have a therapist and she is amazing) to make sure it wasn’t just me, I’m now a working momma! I was blessed to find THE perfect part-time job that allows me to use my brain and feel human again, but also get the recharge I need to be a happy mommy to McKay on the days I am home.

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In two more months my baby will be three. Remember what happened the last time my baby turned three? Ohhhhh snap.

Sweetest Devil I Know