Monday, November 11, 2013

A Melting Pot of Emotions

This weekend was to be celebratory and fun.  My sister was turning 31 and her daughter Sydney, my niece and Godchild, was turning 1.  It is a huge milestone.  Last year, my sister turned 30 while sitting in the Children's Hospital NICU in St. Louis, MO peering at her tiny 5 pound newborn lying in a crib hooked up to so many monitors because shortly after she was born, while my sister was nursing a babe for the first time in her life, her tiny daughter stopped breathing.  Sydney was full term, had great Apgar scores, and my sister was holding her in a correct and comfortable nursing position.  There is no explanation, even to this day, for why Sydney should stop breathing. 

My mom and I had rushed to Quincy, IL from Minnesota, hoping to be in time for the birth and we were!  Except it was the middle of the night, we were stressed, we were exhausted, I was incredibly motion sick from the flight and then subsequent terrifying drive through dark and stormy night to get to the hospital.  So even though my sister was probably mere hours away from pushing, and we'd traveled so swiftly and so far to get there, my mom and I wussed out and left the hospital to get some rest.  We both regret it to this day.  Instead of being present firsthand for Sydney's miraculous birth and subsequent near-death, we received the paralyzing, bone-chilling call to, "Come quick!  She stopped breathing."  We didn't even know who "she" was as we tore through the small town streets of Quincy to get back to the hospital.  That weekend was pure anguish.  And this weekend was a reminder of it all.  This was the first time I'd been back to Quincy since.

And this could very well be the last time my mom makes it to Quincy. 

The elephant in the room was in the back of all of our minds this weekend, I'm sure.  This Fall, my mom was diagnosed with Mesothelioma, a type of lung cancer that results from exposure to asbestos.  She has made the very personal decision to treat her cancer naturally, holistically, and to eschew all invasive forms of treatment including pleurectomy, radiation, and chemotherapy.  When we first got the news, we were absolutely gobsmacked.  The only signs my mom had of being sick were some chest pain and coughing.  This turned out to be a result of a pleural effusion (fluid around the lung) which was originally misdiagnosed as pneumonia.  In order to determine the cause of the pleural effusion, a biopsy was completed.  Since my mom had been absolutely healthy until now, this was just a matter of "making sure" and no one in the family was the least bit prepared for her diagnosis.  For the first several weeks, we all lost it, moping around, sobbing at the turn of a hat and my mom worked her butt off to cheer us all up.  She assured us all that she had already (so quickly?) made peace with her diagnosis and with her decision to attempt to treat her cancer with food, supplements, and the like.  Her positivity was infectious and we all started to believe that she was going to cure her Mesothelioma, or at least keep it at bay for many years to come.  That's what I believed anyway.  Until I road-tripped to Quincy with my mom and dad and kids this past weekend.  When I spent nearly all day for four days with my mom, I could see how stressed and scared she was.  How she chronically coughed and cleared her throat.  How stressed and scared for my mom my dad was.  And I think, this weekend, the illusion cracked just a little bit.  Because the reality is that most people, when diagnosed with Mesothelioma, live for about 9-12 more months.

I did make an effort to have fun.  And did have fun some of the time.  And my family had fun, too.  And we are happy and blessed that Sydney is a healthy, happy, well-adjusted, EASY little baby girl.  But, still, it was a melting pot of emotions this weekend.


Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Time for I'm a WONDERFUL MOM Wednesday!

This is a post that is supposed to be hopeful and uplifting.  Some people in the webosphere post funny things about what screw up parents they are.  I hope to provide a place to celebrate our successes, no matter how small.  Parenting is hard and we need to pat ourselves on the back every once in a while, yes?!

So, to be honest, I did not want to go trick or treating with my kiddos this year.  I was tired, stressed, had new foster kittens in the house, and needed to prep for trick or treating on my own since my football coach husband was unavailable.  But, I put one foot in front of the other and made the kids an easy dinner of corn dogs, fries, and carrots.  I patiently helped them with their costumes and makeup.  Stu got home once everyone was ready and our friends and neighbors came over to join us.  It is a Halloween tradition that the Stewarts and the Stevens trick or treat together.  The Stevens brought beer and hard cider for us so we each popped a tab on one drink and set off.  The kids were old enough this year that we adults lingered in the street while the kids ran from house to house.  We made it farther around the neighborhood than ever before. was FUN!  And the kids got tons of candy loot and had fun, too!

Adam - Boba Fet (spelling??), Ryann (Vampire), Max (Army guy), Mackenzie (Doc McStuffins), Cooper (Green Ninja)


We have the coolest neighbors
It was neat to see all the kids in the neighborhood this year
Max showing off his pillowcase stuffed with candy!

Stevens and Stewarts
Ryann made a sign and we put our candy out on the step.  There was still some left when we got home so we think kids actually read it and followed the rules :)

Please chime in and pat yourself on the back for a job well done!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Growing Pains

I admit it, I often wished my kids' babyhood away.  My sisters both have babies/toddlers and I am watching them with stark, raving, envy.  I thought that once the constant physical labor of having babies/toddlers/preschoolers was over that life would be so much easier and less stressful.  It is maniacally stressful to have a baby.  You can never tell for sure whether something is wrong or they're just having another freakin' growth spurt.  But as just this evening illustrates, the parenting stress just morphs into something new and equally as frightening as your children get older.  

This year I sent my oldest off to third grade, my girly off to second grade, and my baby boy off to half-day Kindergarten.

This afternoon, my friend and daycare provider confided in me that my youngest, Adam, has gotten off the school bus several times in the past few weeks with full on drag makeup all over his face.  He reports that an older girl who he doesn't know, has no idea what her name is, doesn't even know what grade she's in always has makeup with her and once asked if she could put makeup on him.  He allowed it and thought it was fun so now he's requesting to be made over on the bus ride home.  From the sound of it, Adam's care provider is worried this girl might be taking advantage of a cute, innocent little boy and having fun at his expense.  How do you explain this to a boy who just thinks he's getting attention and having fun? 

Next up is Ryann who is doing very well at school and is complaining that her work is too easy.  During a recent parent-teacher conference, we were assured that Ryann is in the correct work groups for her skill level.  How do you navigate that?

Finally, Max had a bit of a rough day today.  He forgot his jacket at school, couldn't find his math flash cards, or his spelling words, and forgot his lunch at home this morning.  Forgetting has become the norm for him and it is immensely frustrating for both him and us.  I try to use natural consequences when possible so if he's forgotten his homework, I don't sign off on it and Max has to deal with his teacher.  He was freezing without his coat today and I asked him to use his discomfort as a teaching tool and maybe he'd be more inclined to remember his jacket in the future.  But I don't want my third grader to get "bad grades" because of forgetfulness and I don't want him to be cold but I feel like it's the right time to stop doing everything for him.  How does a parent know it's the right time to loosen the apron strings a little?  How do we do it effectively and retain our sanity at the same time?

Anyone out there with the right answers, feel free to chime in!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

2013 Highlights

I went on my weekly walk with my friend, Cally, tonight and she had some excellent suggestions for getting Stewart Snippets caught back up.  Working off of her suggestions, here are the Snippets of what's been going on in our life for the past year or so:

- I decided that not only did I love volunteering for rescue organizations in all capacities but I wanted to take the plunge and start my very own small rescue.  I had a cute idea for a name and started to do my research.  In February, Diamonds in the Ruff was officially launched.  Since January, 2013 we've personally fostered 10 dogs and 2 kittens and found homes for 23 animals!
Shadow was my first Diamond in the Ruff, pulled from Lake Traverse area, S.D.

Ryann with one of the kittens from the second litter we had born in the care of Diamonds in the Ruff

- Max had a great time playing baseball in the spring and early summer.

- We took a trip to Disney World in June!

- We hosted a fun family picnic at our house for the 4th of July and then went to Central Park to watch awesome fireworks.

- Stu FINALLY got a motorcycle.
See the bike back there, behind the cute girl on her first day of second grade?
 - Max joined Ryann and Adam and now has glasses.

- All three kids were able to ride two-wheeled bikes this summer (Adam was the last to learn but the earliest learner of the bunch) and they each got a new bike.  I got a new bike, too, for the first time in probably 20 years.

- We spent an amazing week at my dad's cabin on Big Trout Lake.  We hope to spend more time there next summer since my dad is retiring this December after 35+ years as a Robotic Engineer!

- As usual, we had a very fun trip to the MN State Fair.

- Stu's team had a great run with a record of 7-4.  They lost a heartbreaker of a game in overtime to end their season (they would have been section champs, had they won).

- Adam had his annual checkup with Dr. B. and his eyes look amazing.  He can see well and everything looks physically healthy, too.

-  We got to see my sister's family a couple times this year and once, my niece and god-child, Sydney, spent the weekend with us.
Adam, Evelyn, Max, Ryann, Sydney

- Ryann started gymnastics in the fall and absolutely loves it.

- Adam is taking a karate/self-defense class and is learning some much needed self-control ;)

- Ryann took horseback riding lessons at Woodloch Stable again this summer and loves that, too (what little girl wouldn't?!).

- We had a pretty serious thunderstorm toward the end of the summer and got a new roof out of the deal.

- One "low-light": My mom was diagnosed with Mesothelioma in the fall of this year, though the highlight is that she is still alive and kicking and we all pray that's the case for many years to come!

And those are just the highlights (I know I've forgotten some) of the first ten months of the year!

Beginning again...

It's been nearly six months since I last posted.  I've created books from my blog posts and shelved them away with all my photos (I need to catch up on printing and putting photos in albums!).  Yesterday, Ryann pulled out "Stewart Snippets: Year One" and "Stewart Snippets: Year Two" and I remembered how much I love blogging.  The best part is being able to look back and remember the little bits.  Especially for me, if I don't write something down, it's gotta be really important for me to ever remember it.  So I want to try to get back to blogging.  But being the conscientious perfectionist I am, it's going to be hard to start again after a six month hiatus and very spotty posts for some time prior to that. 

Do I try to recap the last year and a half or so?  Do I just skip past those parts and start anew?  Suggestions, please!

While I'm deciding how to proceed, here are some photos of the boys carving their pumpkins this year.  Ryann decided to draw her face on, rather than carve, this year so no photo of her.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013


My youngest child, a little boy who wants to be a scientist when he grows up, turns five tomorrow.  And I keep crying about it.  I was SO ready to be done with the newborn crying and the toddler tantrums and the potty training and the sleepless nights and suddenly, it's here and I'm NOT READY.

I've said it before and I'll say it again - after surviving raising three children from baby-dom to school age, I want to go back knowing what I know now and do it again so I can really savor it, drink it in, and enjoy all of it instead of freaking out about a lot of it.  Don't you hate it when people with grown children tell you over and over, "It goes so fast!".  Well, I'm here to tell you as a young mother with still-young children, it's true.  All the stressful moments of having a baby in a highchair in a restaurant and three kids who needed to be in carts at the same time at Target seem like distant dreams I once had.

The crying started when I signed Adam up for Kindergarten in February and continued when I got the last statement from Adam's preschool.  I should have been rejoicing about not having to pay the monthly bill for preschool anymore but instead my eyes welled up and I thought about how I'll never again take my own child's little hand and guide them into a school room with tiny tables and chairs and toilets that are about 3 inches from the ground.

I started participating in a family blog around the time Adam was born and shortly thereafter started writing Stewart Snippets.  All of my photos from years of blogging are saved behind the scenes here (I hope!)...let's see what I can dig up:

Here's Adam in preschool last year

Here's Adam with his precious great-grandma
A fresh newborn!

Not so sure about this big sister and big brother business!
I now declare May 15, 2013 national "Hug your Baby" day!!  Quick, snuggle them while they're tiny because 5 year old snuggles are awesome but they're just not the same.

I love you, Adam!!!  Happy 5th Birthday!!!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Been away for a while...

I've been extra, uber busy the past four months or so but it's high time to check in with the blogosphere.  Especially because Adam had a checkup recently.  And it was a-ma-zing!  I absolutely love Dr. B.  He was practically dancing around the exam room at the University of Minnesota, singing out to me that Adam had the most lovely looking optic nerves he'd seen in a while (?!).  Adam's vision has improved and there are no signs of glaucoma or any other issues.  He needs a new prescription but not desperately so we'll wait until insurance will cover it in June at which time we'll let him pick out new frames, too.

The cause of my uber busyness is a some new business I've gotten myself into.  I couldn't just stop at fostering dogs....instead I decided to form my own non-profit corporation.  I launched Diamonds in the Ruff ( in February of this year and it's going amazingly well.  I've made tons of new friends and contacts, am currently 501(c)(3)-pending, and have helped SIX wonderful dogs so far:






Running my own business in addition to working 32 hours a week in addition to being a full time mom has been extremely time consuming, stressful, harrying, and incredibly fulfilling and wonderful and I feel a little like an addict.  While fostering a dog, I long for the days when I can sleep in and not worry about how best to work with any issues and why hardly anyone seems to be inquiring about said dog.  Yet the minute someone is adopted out, I'm on the Internet searching for the next dog to help.  It's the best kind of crack, I guess.

I have loved this year of school.  Having Max in second grade, Ryann in first grade, and Adam in his last year of preschool has been super fun.  All of them are at great ages/stages.  They all eat pretty much like normal people, sleep like normal people, joke like normal people, tell stories like normal people, listen like normal people (sort of) and are usually very well behaved (usually).  The days of all four of us crying in the mornings while trying to get ready to leave the house seem so distant now.

A couple things I'd like to remember about this time in our lives are:

1. Adam is starting to enunciate his th's, l's, and r's and they don't all sound like w's anymore (happy and sad about this)
2. Adam LOVES preschool and for some reason, LOVES the receptionist at the church that houses his preschool.  He likes to make her special cards during school and drop them off for her as we're leaving the building.
3. Ryann is turning into a mini-woman.  She tells me about the excitement and drama of the day and shares things she's learned.  I am so blessed to have a daughter.
4. Max is growing up too and has started using words like "boss" and "cra-cra".  Teenager-dom seems right around the corner (yikes!).
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