Monday, October 20, 2014

Cirque du Soleil's #Amaluna at Atlantic Station (Enter to win!)

Celebrating its 30th Anniversary in 2014, Cirque du Soleil brings a new show to Atlanta! Amaluna invites the audience to a mysterious island governed by goddesses and guided by the cycles of the moon. Amaluna's Tony Award-winning Show Director, Diane Paulus, drew from a series of classical influences when creating the concept of the show; including tales from Greek and Norse mythology, Mozart's The Magic Flute, and Shakespeare's The Tempest.

We got the opportunity to check out Amaluna on opening night in Atlanta and the show did not disappoint! With lots of heart stopping action and beautiful artistry, Cirque du Soleil is always one of the most anticipated shows in Atlanta and it's no wonder!

Amaluna's adventure under the big blue and yellow tent features 46 Cirque artists and the focus in this show is all on the women including the all female band! A sweet and familiar love story is intertwined in the heart of the story here and is told through breathtaking imagery. Each artist is responsible for their own makeup before each show. A body scan is used to make a detailed mold of their faces with the intricate designs cut out so they can be sponged or sprayed onto them instead of hand painted, allow for both continuity and consistency!

Experience Amaluna from Cirque du Soleil, now playing under the iconic blue and yellow big top at Atlantic Station. Save 20% on a Family 4 Pack and take an adventure to an island governed by goddesses. CLICK HERE and buy your tickets today.

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*I was provided tickets to Amaluna to facilitate my review. All opinions are my own!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Why My Kids Do Chores

Seems like lately I have seen a lot of those charts for what age your child can do certain things. Not academic things, household things. Like cleaning up after themselves, helping with laundry, etc.. I've seen as many different ideals as I have pins. Some expect more, some less. Some think scripture memorization is more important, some focus more on what they can reach.

Thing that really caught my attention is that the common comment with these lists and charts is generally along the lines of "I really wish my kids would do this stuff" or "Wow, my kids would never xyz".


My boys have always been my helpers. Granted, they like to help but its also because they've always been expected to. Especially over the last few years when I had to return to work and was doing it on my own for awhile.

Kids need responsibilities. More than just doing their homework and putting their plate in the sink. They need to learn to be a productive member of a household. They need to know that the laundry fairy doesnt wash, dry, and fold their dirty clothes while everyone sleeps. That those dishes they put in the sink don't magically disapper. The bed they sleep in? Doesn't make itself either.

They live there too. I am their mother, their caretaker, and love them more than life but I am not their maid.  I simply could not do everything it takes to run a household without their help and still get to spend time with them. I want them to be able to be independent and a productive member of their household without feeling like their partner should take care of them.

The boys do chores depending on what needs to be done and what they can handle. Little things like cleaning up their toys and putting things where they belong but also helping with the yard maintenance, sweeping, and cleaning bathrooms. I spent time making sure things were organized in a way they can be independent and not require help. I pared down the things we use to clean to two spray bottles. One with vingar/water and the other with diluted lysol cleaner. Those two bottles will clean anything in your house and both are kid friendly.

D knows how to use the vaccuum correctly while K usually sweeps the hard surfaces because the vaccuum is too heavy for him.

They want to take their lunch instead of buy it? They know how to put together a pb&j.

Not that they do all of those things all the time but they can do it and they don't give me lip about it if I ask them to. It's all simply become part of how our household runs. No charts or special prizes needed*. We all have to care for it and they understand that.

Of course that doesn't mean it's all work around here. The chores and things they do take at most half an hour a day. The difference is that when you do a little every day and there are more people doing it, it goes faster and leaves a lot more time for fun and snuggles. So its a double bonus. The house stays cleaner and the boys get more of my undivided attention!

It's mostly about trusting your child with responsibility. Start small and understand it might take some guidance at first. Given the chance, any one is going to sit back and let someone else do all the dirty work but given direction any one can learn to help. Even kids.

*Not to say we've never used charts. We have used a ticket system in the past but it fell to the wayside. They just didn't seem to care about the ticket part and did their "jobs" anyway. Just another reason my kids rock my socks.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Gage Jason: His Life (Part Two)

Part two of my little Gage's life. His life. If you are just tuning in, start here.

I waited in the quiet delivery room for a bit before a nurse came in and told me that they never got me registered and she had to get me put into the computers. She was very sweet and comforting to me saying they had a great NICU and she was sure that he woud be just fine.

They finally asked if they could bring me something to eat and for the first time, I realized I was starving. They went and grabbed me some breakfast and I was still picking at it when Michaels mom came in. I filled her in on everything I knew and told her Michael had gone with him and was supposed to report back to me as soon as he knew something.

About an hour later Michael came back and said he didnt look good. They were hooking him up to some machines, getting some iv lines in, etc, and they were supposed to call when they got him stable enough for us to come back.

The next hour was torture. They moved me into a recovery room and the nurses cames and went, bringing snacks and drinks and explaining paperwork. The lactation consultant came in and brought me a pump. Michael's father came in, my father came in. Each time, we had to tell them we still didnt know anything. I was trying so hard. So hard not to panic but every time we called the NICU number they were still woorking on him.

Finally we got a call that Michael and I could come see him. They needed to talk to us about his condition. The nurse brought us a wheelchair for me and we went to the NICU, scrubbed in, and went to Gage's side. I could tell from the first look things werent good. He was hooked up to a myriad of machines and there were 8 medical staff members standing around working or watching. I held his little foot in my hand while they explained what all of the machines were. The oscillator to help him breathe, chest tubes on both sides to try to drain the fluid out of his lungs, an iv and pic line in his belly button and a bunch of monitors to keep tabs on his stats. They were also doing an echocardiogram on him to check his heart. Whatever the cardiologist was looking for, she was having a hard time finding.

The perinatologist pulled us out in the hall after a while to explain more of the why and what. He had what was called pulmonary hypertension. His lungs were not expanding like they should. She showed us the xray of his lungs and explained how much bigger they should be than they were. She explained that the capilaries in his lungs had been damaged because he had not gotten the fluid squeezed out enough during the birth process.

Overall, She was hopeful. She told us that he would most likely be ttansported to Egelston (the childrens hospital) when he was stable enough and they had a machine that could help clear out and expand the capilaries. She explained that he was considered extremely critical but that it wasnt hopeless. They would do another xray in a bit and we would see if he had improved. She recommended we go see him for a few more minutes and then go back to the room for me to rest. So that we did.

We went back and shared the news with the family waiting. They started asking when they would be able to see him and we told them they were supposed to let us know when he could have more visitors.

So we waited. I posted to Facebook that he seemed to be doing better but to keep praying. I texted my mother and told her to come on to the hospital with D and K.

Then the phone rang. We spent a few minutes talking to the neonatalogist again and she said that his lungs were actually improving. She wanted to know if anyone in the house had been sick in the last few weeks. We told her no one and she said he appeared to have contracted some kind of infection but they were treati NH him with antibiotics to try to get on top of it.

She also said it was okay for the family to come down to see him. At that point there was a mass exodus. Everyone went to see him except me. I stayed and waited for my mother and best friend to come. I sat and waited but ached to be back to my baby. My friend Steph, who works at the hospital, came by to see me and check on me. It was such a relief to see a loving face.

When they came back, only Michael came into the room. The rest stayed outside and my heart immediately sank. The look on Michael's face is one I'll never forget.

"He isnt doing good at all." He said. "He's completely purple from the chest down. He has an infection and all the doctors will tell me is its not good. They are trying to figure out what kind and started him on more antibiotics."

We sat in silence for a few minutes letting it sink in. I wanted to go see him. So Michael wheeled me back to the NICU. My poor baby looked bad. He was still hooked up to all the machines and he was the most scary shade of mottled purple from the nipple line down to his toes.

We stood at his side crying, begging him to fight. Begging him to get better. "We need you Gage. Please."

Crying to God "please dont take our baby. Please heal him.".

We stayed for a long time. People rushing all around us pumping him full of antibiotics. Encouraging him. The neonatalogist came back in and kept saying she didnt understand where he got the infection. Transport to Egelston was no longer an option. It was up to Gage now. His chance of survival had dropped.

I had to go back to my room to be checked. In the hall leaving the NICU, we ran into my best friend, Lisa. I told her he wasnt doing well at all and she comforted me the best she could.

Everyone was back into the room and the boys arrived with my mother. Thats when the dam broke. All I could do was drop to my knees and hold them close while I sobbed. They both wrapped their little arms around me and hugged me back. My boys were my strength right then and somehow they knew it. They didn't say a word. They just stood there, faces buried in my neck and hugged me back.

Michael's sister and aunt came in asking what was happening. I tried to make a coherent answer but all I remember getting out was "I cant bury my baby" and then sobbing into my mothers shoulder.

Eventually I came back to reality. The room silent around me. The boys went and got a hug and kiss from Michael and we turned the tv on. Michael went out in the hall and cried, eventually wandering back in to sit.

When I settled down, I moved back down to the couch next to Michael when the phone rang. It was the neonatalogist. She said that they had done everything they could but his organs had begun shutting down from the infection and they were still waiting on the lab results to come back. I asked if this was something he was going to recover from and she replied that it didnt look good. I asked what his prognosis was now, days, weeks, what. She sobbed quietly and said "more like hours". We said our goodbyes and hung up the phone.

Everyone was staring at me, waiting for an update. I uttered the words that no mother should ever have to say: "He's not going to make it".

Chaos ensued in that little room. Crying, questions, hugging. General disbelief. Someone took the boys to the hall to play and we cried harder. 

A few minutes later, the NICU called back and said we needed to come. He was declining and decisions needed to be made. We all rushed down to the NICU. All of us.

As we all got into his room, Michael and me went straight to him, kissed him and cried. At 7:30 pm, my Gage took his last breath, shuddered and was still.

What seemed like forever but was probably only seconds, a kind faced blond nurse made eye contact and simply said "He's gone. Im so sorry".

And then... I died. I died a horrible, painful mama death. One you cant put words to. I couldnt move. I couldnt breathe. All I could do was continue to stroke his tiny hand in my fingers and say "I love you." Over and over.

The sound that came out of Michael seemed like it came from another room. It wasnt until he folded down onto the warmer I even realized it was him. I couldn't move. I couldn't breathe.

The room was full of our family. They were all struggling to understand what was going on and all we could do is sob. We were asked if the nurses should clear the room and I remember looking up at the faces of our parents and Michael's sister and aunt. There was no way I could send them away. Instead I asked that we could find some chairs and all hold him.

They unhooked my youngest son from the machines that were supposed to save him and swaddled him. They brought him to me and layed his sweet body in my arms. He was so warm and soft. I snuggled him close and kissed his nose again. I prayed and cried and kissed.

Then, Michael held his son for the first time and he did the same. Kissed, hugged, cried. If there is anything I could go back and do from his birth, it would be to let him hold his son before they took him to the NICU. His live son.

Everyone took turns holding him. No words to say we just cried and held each other. At that time we were all one family and I would not change that for the world.

One by one, the family went home. To their babies and homes. My father made the trek home to his fiancée. My mother went to get my boys to bed. My best friend kept at us until we agreed to have her sister, a Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep photographer, come and take pictures of us and our little bear. Michael's mom and dad stayed with us and Gage and I'm so glad they got that time with us.

After the pictures and the snuggles, after midnight, the nurse came in and told us the funeral home would be there to collect him soon. We gave him a kiss and tucked him into his little bassinet and did the hardest thing we had ever done. We walked back to our hospital room with empty arms, knowing we would never hold our little bear, Gage Jason Hendrix, again. 

Gage Jason: His Birth Story

This is a story that is so very hard for me to tell so forgive me. On March 27th of this year, I gave birth to a baby boy at 8:01am. We named him Gage Jason. He was born at 40 weeks and 1 day. My little man lived only 11 hours. This is part one of his story I suppose. His birth story. 

I woke up at about 6:30 in the morning to some pretty intense contractions. Something in the back of my mind said "He's coming." but I was determined to not rush to the labor and delivery department this time and get sent home again. So, I got up and went to the bathroom. The contractions were getting sharper and fast. I got a message from Michael saying he was headed home and all I could muster in response was "good".

As he got home, I unlocked the front door and got into a warm bath. It seemed to help the pain a little but I could tell they were coming together in a more regular pattern. After a few minutes, I decided we needed to get moving to the hospital, got out of the bath and went to wake Michael up. I woke him, not very gently, and told him we needed to go. Now.

From there it was a whirlwind. He got up and got every thing in the car and woke up my mother to tell her we were leaving while I struggled to get dressed. It was kind of like it is in the movies with him running around doing everything while all I could do was try to breathe and moan. He ended up coming and helping me get pants and a t-shirt on and we made our way to the car after kissing D and K.

The ride to the hospital was not easy. It was rush hour so the normally 5 minute ride to the hospital took much longer. By the time we pulled into labor and delivery I wasn't sure how I was going to make it upstairs without having a baby in the elevator. Michael let me out at the door, made me promise to wait for him and parked the car.

We got to the desk at triage and I couldn't speak. I seem to remember someone asking if I was in labor and Michael saying "Does it look like it?" before they strapped an armband on me and sent me to yet another triage desk to wait for a nurse to check me in there.

We waited for a few minutes there before a med student came wandering up and asked some stupid questions like "are you sure this is real labor" before ushering us to a room and instructing me to strip and put on the gown.

I was in constant pain at this point. The contractions were hardly dipping before coming back at full speed. I was moaning and screaming trying to get the clothes back off that I couldn't even get on myself to begin with. I knew I was past transition and he was coming soon. Michael came into the bathroom and helped me get the clothes back off and the gown on before I told him he needed to go get me some help. 

"Go get the nurse and tell her I need help!".

He went out and told the nurse what I told him and she said "I can hear her. Tell her to give me a minute.". I've never wanted to smack someone so bad. Give me a minute indeed lady. I have a baby trying to burst his way out of me.

She did send the med student wandering back to try to get me on the monitors. She was still trying to coax me into the bed by telling me they had to monitor me for half an hour before they could admit me because my water had not broken yet (and that meant it probably wasn't true labor) when the nurse came swaggering in. I say swaggering because she was certainly not in any hurry to come help the screaming, laboring woman and the intimidated med student trying to tell her this might not be real labor. They did finally coax me into the bed and started strapping the monitors to me by telling me that if my contractions weren't stopping, it could mean something was wrong with the placenta. When I told her I was fine but he was coming they needed to get me a room, she finally stopped with freaking monitors and checked me.

10 centimeters and crowning.

Told you so.

She quickly sent the med student to call my midwife and get us a room number. I remember telling her I needed to get in some hot water and she said I wouldn't have time. I also remember thinking some very unkind things about the med student which it turns out I actually said out loud and made her cry. I was informed of that later.

Anyway, we were headed down the hall to room 306 when my water broke. I immediately felt better. Even though only a little water came out, it relieved just enough pressure to make things easier. When we finally got to the room, it was already buzzing with people. Talking and discussing me and my lady parts and progress and get her to the bed. The one that rings the loudest to me now was "call the pediatrician, make sure he knows we have one on the way".

As soon as they got me scooted over to the actual bed, my midwife came in. It was Kim. I was so glad to see her. She was the one we had seen the most and the one we both had fallen in love with. She got her gloves and gear on as quick as she could. She said "I see hair" as she slipped into her gloves and then I pushed. 25 minutes after we arrived at the hospital and 80 minutes after I woke up, Gage was born. According to Michael he came "flying out". All I know is it was a one push deal. That's the way to do it for sure.

They put him up on my chest and I immediately fell in love. He was pink and perfect with just a little brown hair. Noticeably smaller than my other two but it struck me how very much he looked like his daddy. And how he wasn't breathing well.

He was trying to breathe. He was squeaking and breathing a little but his color was not good. He was struggling. I kept repeating "c'mon baby Gage, breathe for me" and rubbing his back. After about a minute, Kim clamped his cord and the nurse tried to take off with him before the cord got cut. There was a rather tense exchange between her and the nurse before she let a very stunned looking Michael cut it and the nurse took him to the baby warmer.

Michael went to be by Gage's side while they worked on him and I just lay there and watched. I birthed the placenta (which was perfect) and made small talk with Kim while she stitched me a little. 

All I could focus on though was the little sounds coming from the warmer. He was so quiet. He was crying here and there but not enough. Not strong enough. The pediatrician came in. They were working hard to get him screaming but there was a rising tension and quiet between the nurses.

It was deafening.

When they got done with me, they brought in the isolator and I knew immediately what that meant. My little man was going to the NICU. I was trying to keep panic at bay but I've done the NICU thing before and it was all too vivid in my mind. 

They brought him to me all swaddled up to snuggle for a minute and he was still very blue and squeaking a pissed off little squeak. As soon as he heard my voice, he stopped squeaking. He seemed to calm down and relax a little while I talked to him but he still just couldn't breathe. I snuggled him, told him I loved him so very much and I would see him soon. I kissed his warm little nose and forehead. I said a quick prayer for God please make my baby okay.

And then they were gone. The whole room left in a wisp and I was alone.


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Where I'm At

Absence. They say it makes the heart grow fonder. I'm not sure about that but I do think it brings things into focus and helps you move forward in a clearer, more purposeful direction.

The last several years have been doozies in my little world. Full of drama and heartache but also full of love and growth. Since the failure of my first marriage, I have learned a lot. Some harder than others. The worst has been in the time since the death of my third child (more on that another day). Add that to the struggle of learning a new way as a mother, working again, and a deepening divide within my own family. It's been stressful and heart breaking to say the least.

On the flip side, I have also had the amazing opportunity to watch my boys grow right before my eyes. They are growing hard and fast. D is looking, acting, and thinking like a bona-fide big boy. 1st grade has been a breeze for him. Except for his handwriting  (It stinks). K is getting smarter and dare I say more coordinated as he grows. He has always had a bigger personality than could possibly be contained in that little body but he is my spice. They are mama's boys through and through. The way they look at me melts me and I hope that never changes.

I've also found love. Real, gritty, hard love. Traditionally perfect love? Maybe not, but is that actually a thing? Is it perfect for me love? Absolutely. I am lucky and thankful for what that has brought me. Strength and courage at the least. To be loved and treated like I matter is a powerful thing.

I say all that to say this: I feel like my life is moving in the right direction for the first time in my life. Which generally sucks at 33. Do I mourn the past? Absolutely. Even more so though, I look forward to the future. The past made me who I am. It made me a mother. It made me grey. It made me the kind of person that has no doubt she will endure.

All of this has caused a funk in my journaling here though. I'm working on fixing that. I've got one story in particular to tell about my 3rd son that is... hard. If you've been along with me this far, I hope you'll stick around. I need all the help I can get.


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