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Milk Paint!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Finished projects - Top - kitchen chairs;  bottom left - one
kitchen chair is used at my bedroom dressing table;
bottom right - sewing table nightstand
I love crafts, refinishing furniture, sewing, knitting…anything that involves creativity and working with my hands.  My dad taught me how to refinish furniture when I was a teenager.  Since then, I've tackled on lots of furniture redo's.

My latest redo has been with Milk Paint.  If you start looking around at home stores, you will find lots of retailers that carry either Milk Paint or Chalk Paint.  Both of these paints are easy to use and allow one to create a "Shabby Chic" or distressed look on furniture.  I prefer distressed.  I just can't bring myself to say, "I'm going for the Shabby Chic look."  Its just too much!

Milk paint can be purchased in powder form and mixed in none other but my favorite mason jars.  Yes. These jars can be used for EVERYTHING!  The paint needs to be mixed ahead of time and can be mixed to the desired consistency.

Sewing table before
For these two projects that I recently did, I chose Boho Blue and Apple Green.  The Boho Blue was for a sewing machine cabinet that we use for a bedroom night stand.  The green was to be used with some kitchen chairs.

I did the sewing machine table first.  I removed the hardware first so that I could paint without ruining the metal on the cabinet.  I washed it down with a damp cloth to start with a clean surface.  The paint for this project was mixed rather thin because I wanted to be able to see through it in places.  When painting, apply as many coats as you like.  Layer until you get the look you want.  Just pay attention to the brush strokes as they tend to show.

After I finished, I let the paint dry overnight.  I took a piece of sand paper and removed some of the paint and dusted the surface with a feather duster.  Next, a coat of finishing paste was applied.  This paste sealed the paint and provided a slightly yellow finish to distress a bit more.

Sewing table in progress
For the chairs, I did the same thing.  But, I decided that I wanted them green with a bit of the boho blue.  Once the green was on, I washed them with a thin smear of the blue.  It gave a nice mixed color and turned out great!

Both projects were some of the easiest I have done.  The four chairs were painted entirely during King Diaper's nap!  I finished with paste the next morning.

And if you aren't crafty or think you can't do this, you can!  Its the kind of project no one can mess it.  It isn't supposed to be perfect.  The imperfections are what makes the finished project great!

Kitchen chairs
So, if you have a piece of furniture that needs a face lift, give it a whirl.  Also, if you pass my a junk store on the side of the road with a piece that could find a new home with you, pick it up.  This paint is perfect for pieces like this.  Our sewing machine end table was snatched up for $10!  And I love it!

Find your inner Martha and get your paint on.  Its a relaxing and easy way to get an entire project done in a weekend.  And what is more satisfying than that???

My nurses are complaining about you

Monday, November 17, 2014

King Diaper watching his Baby Einstein at bed time.
What I'm about to tell you is part confession and part making sense of something that has bothered me for a long time.  I'll preface every word with the fact that we love King Diaper's doctors and nurses more than anyone knows.  And, every person that has a sick child in the hospital for months will loose their cookies at some point.

Four and a half months into our hospital stay, I am taking what is a rare nap on a Saturday afternoon and receive this phone call, "Mrs. Strahan my nurses are complaining about you..."

I'll stop here and come back to that in a moment, but one must understand the following:

1.  Our son had been in the hospital since late September.  It was now mid February.
2.  After having him, I went back to work in two weeks.  This was the only normal thing in my life and was a good thing even though it was hard at times.
3.  I was working full time every day.  I woke up at 5, went to the hospital.  After which would get ready and work until 5.  Come back to the hospital.  Eat dinner during shift change.  Change clothes and go back to then go to bed and do it all over again.  
4.  I had been pumping breast milk every three hours around the clock for this entire time while working and spending time at the hospital.
5.  Because of stress and lots of other factors I was barely producing enough breast milk to feed him so was now taking a drug that is to help the body produce more milk.  Only, the side effects were depression.  There were days I cried for hours.  Many times to sleep at night.
6.  We were trying to help him learn to bottle feed which was not easy.  He cried uncontrollably at nearly every feeding.  Bottle feeding a baby that had been tube fed for so long is hard.  It's frustrating to the mom and baby and until he could take 8 bottles a day… there would be no discharge date.  He was taking 1 a day.
7. His breast milk was in short and dwindling supply because of the feeding pump being used to feed him during his other 7 feelings wasted a portion of his milk each time due to the pump being primed.  By the time I realized how quickly this was happening, 42 ounces were gone.
8.  To every nurse that ever took care of him, I said thank to them for taking care of him for that shift either in person or by phone.

Ready for bed!
So back to the phone call and complaining nurses.  Yes.  I had been upset.  Yes.  I had complained about the wasted breast milk.  Yes.  I was upset and most likely had not been pleasant.  I know that I had reached a point of being irrational really.

And,  this is a mother that had slept in her own bed 3 times since September of the previous year.  I had not had 8 hours of continuous sleep since before being admitted to the hospital on bed rest.  And during that time there had been a laundry list of complications and illness related to his prematurity.  

I had slept in the waiting room on Christmas Eve with my husband as his life hung in the balance.  He had been intubated and extubated numerous times.  He was finally off the vent but remained on high flow oxygen.  Another stumbling block that would not allow a discharge date.  And throw in the infections, withdrawals from the pain meds... I could go on here, but I think you get it.

So why couldn't that doctor understand why I was so upset?  She had that chart right there in front of her and knew the facts.  But, still there I was - on the other end of that phone call.

I can remember crying into that phone and trying to explain my side of it, how tired I was, and so on.  But at the end of it, what I still remember most from that conversation was "my nurses are complaining about you."

I left the Ronald McDonald house that afternoon.  I abandoned the idea of a nap and went to work.  As much as I wanted to see my son.  I didn't feel welcome there.  I couldn't face the people I had offended.  So I worked.
Boppy time and a nap!

Yes.  I went back.  Swallowed my pride and pretended it didn't happen.  But even now the memory of it makes me cry and still hurts.  

My mom reminds me when I am frustrated that they (the doctors or nurses) can't know how you feel or what you are going through.  They see so many sick children.  They can't think about how you feel.  Because caring for a child like King Diaper has lots of complications,  I don't always understand the reasoning behind the doctors decisions.  And some medical staff communicate it better than others.

To a mother with a sick child that has been there for months, the only thing she can control is a few diapers she is able to change, the time she is able to spend with the child, the breast milk she provides, and the bottles that she is prescribed to give him a day.  And how she reacts to it all.  

Admittedly, many mistakes were made on my part during that time.  Life is trial and error.  I managed to dust off and try to keep the crazy in the closet for most of time we had left there.  We were still nearly two months from going home.  So, I did have to face the unknown complainers for quite some time after this.  And where does a mother go from there when she is dependent on these people for her child's care 24 hours a day?

I just wanted what was best for our son.  That did not involve a kangaroo pump eating 42 ounces of his breast milk.  To a sleep deprived mother that was taking medication to help her produce more breast milk with a side effect of depression, there comes a point of no return.  I had reached it.  And I had lost my cookies.  

I don't think at that point I knew how to rationally verbalized my frustration.  Today, I could.  Then.  I could not.

And to a mother who was stressed and worried about her child, the cutting words about complaining nurses cut to the core.  If my husband thought I had cried before, there was not enough kleenexes in 3 counties for the river that poured after that episode.  

So now I'll rationally say what I couldn't say then, "I'm exhausted from trying to produce enough breast milk and work full time.  The medical staff has encouraged me to breast feed because it is best but the kangaroo pump is wasting some of his milk.  What can we do so this is not so frustrating and so that he gets the nutrition he needs?"  

And finally, to the nurses I offended, I am sorry.  Yes.  I said it then and am now saying it again.  Publicly this time.  I just didn't know what else to do because the only thing I could physically do for our son besides change his diapers and hold him was produce breast milk.  He hospitalized for his care 24 hours a day.  And I so desperately wanted to take care of our son and do what was best for him.  Having a team of doctors and nurses care for your child around the clock is difficult and unnatural.  

I had hoped to have a healthy baby that I would snuggle and take pictures with after delivery.  I had an idea of  a smiling family and making happy memories.  Yet, I gave birth in fear to a tiny baby that came into this world making one tiny kitten like cry to be silenced by a ventilator for the next four months.  All the while, I was longing to hold our son and be the mother I had envisioned at the start of my pregnancy.  

It is easy to get lost in good intentions. The phrase, "the road to hell is paved with good intentions".  And I felt like I spent 6 months in hell at the hospital.  And some of the good intentions were guarding our sons breast milk like a momma cub and others were those of a frustrated doctor protecting her staff.

But at least we are home now.  And the complaining I hear now are the grunts and squeals over brushing teeth, washing his face and food he doesn't want to eat.  And it doesn't make me cry.  We just trudge on into another day.  Because I'm not hearing the complaints second had.  King Diaper makes them all quite apparent and in real time.

I'm sure that doctor had good intentions with her call.  She probably felt the need to appease her staff or get to the bottom of an irrational situation with an angry mother.  And while her intentions may have been good, they paved a quick road to hell for me sending me into a tailspin as we tried to survive the the last months of that journey.

I still see this doctor for visits.  And I just smile and discuss the necessary items at appointments.  In the year and a half since we came home, I finally feel like myself again.  I'm certainly more rational than I was at that point.  It is hard to think back to that time in my life and realize how stressed I really was.  But, I know it is true.  And the remembrance of that phone call anchors that for me.

My advice to any mother of a preemie baby that may be reading this…you may in fact reach a point where you loose your cookies.  Just remember that it is normal.  Try to choose your words carefully and make a point to say when you are frustrated that your frustrations aren't personal.  It is about the situation.  I tried to do this during our hospital stay.  But, between diapers, alarms, shift changes, working, pumping and all the rest of it….sometimes that detail gets lost.  And those intentions aren't meant to be hellish….its just the reality of a hellish situation.  

What's the rush all about?

Monday, November 10, 2014

Western Market in Mountain Brook
It seems like much of life comes down to a series of moments where I'm saying that I need to hurry up and get home.  Or, there is too much traffic, and I'll just go home.  Its out of the way.  And when I'm home or have been out of town during the week, it makes sense.  I just want to go home.  But, how many times do we tell ourselves these things when it really doesn't matter?  Are we really that busy?  And how many times do we cheat ourselves out of doing the simple things we want to do because of our internal clock and schedule?

While on the road for work, I try to take advantage of being in different places.  I enjoy eating at new and fun restaurants.  Pedicures are something that are fun to do after work.  If I am done for the day, why not?  I don't really have a reason to say no.  There is no bath time routine that I'm rushing through dinner for.  I'm not prepping lunch or anything else.  I spent my weekend doing all of that before I left to go out of town for work.  I've earned a minute.

Last week, while in Birmingham, I decided to make a quick trip over to Western Market in Mountain Brook.  I could pick up something for dinner and few things to take home.  No big deal.  I don't have any where to be until 8 in the morning.  I'm not talking myself out of this.  No matter what!

When I finished up that afternoon, it was 5:30.  Sigh.  If you have never had the pleasure of experiencing 280 in Birmingham during peak hours, it is religious experience.  You will either loose ever bit of religion you have.  Or, you will be praying with a like you are a tent revival to get you to your destination.  Either way, it isn't my idea of ending a day.

I trudge on.  And only 20 minutes later, I'm there.  Pulling into the parking lot and stepping into a meticulously organized store with lots of goodies that are hard to find at home.  So, I leisurely shop picking up things like mustard, white worcestershire sauce and a cider we have been anxious to try.  (And that my friends have teased me about since.)  It doesn't sound like much, but I enjoy cooking.  Having fun ingredients makes cooking enjoyable to me. Okay.  I don't have to justify this.

Not only do I find myself in a perpetual rush, I also feel the need to justify too many things.  Just last week, I was justifying an extra sock purchase for King Diaper.  I know.  Who cares?  My mind never stops.  That is the biggest part of my problem.

After its all over, I have some supper to take back to my hotel and I'm on the road.  Back out in the dark evening traffic that suddenly doesn't seem so bad.  And I'm glad I didn't talk myself out of this little side trip at the end of my day.

Its quiet.  My day is done.  I'll be able to rest at my hotel.  So, I turn up the Christmas music that is playing the first week in November and enjoy my drive.  Everyone at home will have some little treats when I get back this week.  Its these moments that make me smile and look forward to going back home.  And while many times it is the rush of it all, a break is okay.  Especially if I am already out of town.

Find ways not to talk yourself out of the simple things you want to do.  Take a walk.  Read part of your book or stop at a place you've been meaning to visit.  What's the rush?  Much of the time there really isn't one.

What not to say to a parent of a preemie….even if you are one

Monday, November 3, 2014

This is what 2 looks like!
November is Prematurity Awareness month.  It is something that we are aware of every month.  And even though, much of King Diaper's early life is in the rear view mirror, it never goes away.

Having a preemie has yielded both horrifying and kind words.  I am still amazed at what people feel the need to say to parents with a child in the NICU.  We lived through a day to day struggle for a long time before our son was stable and on a path that lead us home.  Here are a few gems that may or may not amaze you.

1.  "Do they think he is going to be retarded?"  Um…no and what if I answered yes.  How would that make you feel?  Really!?  I still cannot get past that one.  The question is, are YOU insane for asking that to any parent!?  Just this past week, Craig was getting some paperwork filled out for King Diaper.  When the lady at the desk found out that he was a preemie born at 25 weeks, she asked, "Does he have Down's Syndrome?"  Right there in front of our child!  So, it doesn't stop when you come home.  And yes, I am taking the paper work back to have a little chat with her.  I'm sorry, but my tolerance level for this one failed to exist prior to us becoming parents.  I was a public school teacher.  One of the things I learned many years ago is that every parent's child(ten) is the best they have.  They should be loved unconditionally.  Even if our child had a disability of any kind, he is ours.  We would love him, and that is all that matters to any parent.

2.  "I know exactly how you feel, my child/children were in the NICU (fill in the blank with any number less than 30 days)."  I hate to be the bearer of truly sad news.  But, you in fact don't.  I could do 30 days in the NICU in my sleep.  I had someone this past year say "Yeah, it was hell.  We spent 20 whole days in there.  How long for you?"  193.  I'm not a martyr.  But, I'm sorry the difference there is quite vast.  I would cry every time that someone we had gotten to know left the Ronald McDonald House.  I wanted to go home with our baby.  And it seemed to go on forever!  Plus we took home our baby.  There are many families that aren't that fortunate which is worse than any amount of time we spent in the NICU.  So, anyone that goes home is very blessed and should be aptly thankful for that!

3.  "He has all his parts!"  Wow!  Yep.  Go figure.

4.  "I couldn't hold my baby(ies) for (fill in the blank with any number less than 3 months) and I cried every day."  I would have given my right arm to be able to hold our baby.  I spent so many days crying at his bedside that I don't want to think about it.  It is a true gift to give birth to a baby that you can hold immediately or soon thereafter.  I loved my child through a box and on a warmer bed for over three months before he came off the vent.  Always remember that if you had a preemie that was not on the vent and could be held, you also were given a huge gift.  It is a big deal not to have a child growing in a plastic box hooked up to all of those scary tubes.  Thank God every day - even if you are in the NICU.

5.  "Your baby isn't walking.  Is something wrong with him?"  Nope.  He just got here 15 weeks early.

6.  "What are you going to do if he doesn't make it?"  (I refuse to respond to this.)

7.  "Is he on life support?"  No comment.

8.  "Do they think he will be normal?"  Again, the question is, are you normal?  Most people aren't.  Check out the mirror!  And, normal is way overrated!

9.  "What does he look like?"  A baby.

10.  "Do you mind if I ask how old you are?  Do you think that is what happened to your baby?"  No and no.  I'm 40ish and own it.

Sitting in Mommy's rocker
Before you ask, each comment has a real person attached to it.  This isn't my passive aggressive way to nudge anyone.  I just don't feel the need to humiliate anyone.  I think this has been adequately done by the offenders just by making these comments.

I won't throw in the endless grandmother comments that go right in there with this.  I even had a nurse to ask me if I was our son's grandmother.  Sorry.  I know that I looked like "who'd of thought it" on many days, but really?  That is just going too far!  No mother wants to hear that when she has already reached peak weight, has fried hair, no make up and has come to live in yoga pants.  That will top your day on a whole new level.  Try it out on someone and see how that works out for you.

I even had one person tell me how she had seen pictures of a coworker's preemie grandchild and it looked like an alien.  This person went on to tell me how people shouldn't show those pictures to anybody.  "Its just pitiful."  I'm aware of this, but this "pitiful, alien baby" is loved by someone.  It happened to be us too with our "pitiful, alien baby".   And he is beautiful now and was then.  I can remember thinking as this conversation went on, "Do people think our baby looks like an alien?"  Oh well.  Too bad.

Now before you judge me for all of these statements, don't think that I'm for one minute saying that any parent's feelings aren't real.  The NICU is a hard place.  If you are there for 6 days or 6 months.  But, please do remember that if you are a parent that spent minimal time there, the difference is vast for someone that spent a month to every day that you were there.

Equally, I remind myself often that no matter how long it seemed to go on, that we brought our baby home.  He is healthy and happy and growing.  So many families don't bring home their babies.  This will forever be worse than one single day that I spent in the NICU.

I read about parents now that have spent a year or more in the NICU.  So, even I had it easier than others.  I had someone say just this month, "Oh I know all about a preemie, my baby was 3 weeks early."  I just nodded and said "I know.  Its scary."

Plus, I know that I have at times and places I have lacked tact and may have stuck my foot in my mouth many times.  We have all done and said things we regret.  Think before you speak is said to people and quoted repeatedly for a reason.

I guess at the end of the day, people don't know what to say.  Or they want to "empathize" but it doesn't always come out that way.  Sometimes it is better to listen and say nothing.  And in our busy lives, what is happening to us is the most important thing.  It doesn't always register that someone else may be experiencing something similar or even worse.

And for all of those ridiculous things that people have said, I cannot tell you how kind people were and still are.  People that I went to college with that reached out to us telling about their experiences and how they made it through.  Friends that say things to us now like "Don't worry.  He will be fine.  My kids didn't….and look at them now."  Or the constant reminder that he is a miracle baby and that is the most important thing.

The longer that I am home and able to reflect on our experiences and what I learned from them I realize how precious life is.  We were given a gift.  I don't feel that we can take one minute for granted because it isn't guaranteed or promised to us.

Also, choose your words carefully.  Everyone out there is going through something whether you know it or not.  And while silence is golden at times it is also cruel at others.  During that time, I think Craig and I both lived for phone calls, text messages and Facebook interaction with our friends and family since we were so isolated from everything else in this world.  Those were the things that added sunshine on many dark days.

Mommy and her little guy!
We had friends that reached out to us in so many different ways and we were two hours from home.  Lives go on and our world was stopped for a long time.  But through it all, we had people to come by to visit us, sit with us through heart surgery and just for an afternoon coffee break.  There were friends that came and spent the night to hang out and visit.  Other invited us into their homes during the holidays.  These are all memories that I remember and smile because it is what helped us to make it through.

Our friends and family mean more to us now than at any time in our life.  Going through a crisis tends to make that happen.  Sometimes, we tend to move away from those series of events and begin to forget the important things.  I hope that no matter how much time passes or how old King Diaper is, that I never forget that lesson.  Because that is what matters most and trumps the list of crazy that we encounter.

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