I’ve talked about Project Reveal here a time or two. My recent absence from regular blogging can be attributed directly to this amazing nonprofit organization and my role in planning its first-ever event.
The organization’s creator, Stacey Godbold, and myself have been working on birthing the baby that was named Embrace Your Body. This baby was a fundraising event Friday night and an outreach event on Saturday. We certainly are not the only two involved; lots of other people played big and small roles in bringing this baby into the world. But I’m not sure if anyone else went through the “labor” that Stacey and I experienced with this amazing event.
I’m not going to lie though, it was pretty painful. Remember, I’m just three weeks shy of birthing another baby (this one actually is a human!) I was so tired and sore when I dragged myself home after 11 p.m. Friday night that I couldn’t even walk upstairs to bed; I slept on the couch.
Let me first say, baby Embrace Your Body came into this world at 7 p.m. on Sept. 5 at 56/58 Adams Avenue and was a healthy, happy and super inspiring gal. OK, enough with the metaphor … The event was fabulous. There were more than 200 people that came through the door; we raised a lot of money; we had a great time; and, most importantly, we touched and inspired a lot of people! That was the most important part of what we did.
The super-talented photographer Erin McCracken took hundreds of photos of women from the Evansville area of all ages, shapes, backgrounds and ethnicities back in June. And let me point out that these women were in their underwear! They were truly embracing their bodies and entrusting us. We narrowed the photos down to 24 and made huge prints (seriously huge — two feet by three feet.) Those photos were then displayed in a swanky feeling gallery space in Evansville’s Haynie’s Corner Art District. Add to that live music, a fun photo booth, delicious food, a bar, an amazing green lemonade and the inspirational words of Stacey and Erin and you have a perfect night.
We also made sure those that attended the event (and also supported us with their positive words, encouragement and donations) felt like they could be a part of Project Reveal. They participated in our interactive art piece that will forever be a part of Project Reveal and then also had the opportunity to either “embrace their body” or “reveal” something about themselves on luminary bags that meandered and glowed around the Haynie’s Corner fountain.
I’m not going to lie, when I walked outside and saw that at the end of the night my eyes got a little wet. It was beautiful. Not only was it just an impressive site seeing all the luminary bags glowing and the words written on them but it was validation for what we’d worked so hard to do.
Each of those bags represented someone that believed in something that I’d invested so much of myself into recently, something I’d made so many sacrifices for in recent months and something that I too really believed in.
It meant a lot that my mom, twin sis, family friend and boss all took their time (and money, this event wasn’t free folks, it was a fundraiser after all) to support me by showing up. There were other co-workers there supporting the organization as well. It really meant a lot.
I know my husband is so very, very tired of hearing me say, “I’ve got to work late tonight on Project Reveal,” “I won’t be home until 10 or 11 because of set up for the event,” “I’ve got to leave to do a radio spot for Project Reveal,” “We’ve got a Project Reveal event all afternoon, sorry I won’t be home.” But every time he said, “Go, have fun. It’s fine.”
Without him completely taking over all of the house maintaining and child care duties the last couple weeks I’m not sure what would have happened. I certainly couldn’t have done what I was able to do with and for the event.
I know I wasn’t the only one making these sacrifices. Stacey, mom of triplets who just turned 1 and a 4 year old, made even more sacrifices and put even more blood, sweat and tears into the planning. And Erin, who got married in the midst of all this event planning craziness, also was super dedicated and involved.
And the most important thing to stress here is that I WANTED to do it all. I’m the kind of person that likes to be involved in something. I want to channel my passion and energy into something I believe in. I hadn’t really had that in the last few years, especially since I’d had Miles. I’d get involved with specific events (I was on the planning committee for Relay for Life in Madison County, was on the Heart Walk team here, etc.) but had not really found a place where I really felt I belonged and could have an impact.
But I think Project Reveal is it. The mission of the organization is to create a forum where “women can help other women by sharing their stories, strength and hope about a defining time in their lives.”
So until I hear otherwise from Stacey, she and Project Reveal are stuck with me.
But I have to say, now that baby Embrace Your Body has made it’s debut it is time for me to focus on the other baby I’ve been working on for the last eight-plus months — baby Owen. His debut (if all goes as planned) is in 21 days. It’s been hard to focus on preparing for his arrival with all the event details and deadlines. So now my focus is on this baby and back on my amazing and supportive husband and kiddo Miles.
If you want to learn more about Project Reveal visit projectreveal.org.
My first pie ever!
Parties are my thing. I love being a hostess. I love everything about it — themes, baking, planning, making lists (seriously, I really enjoy lists), making people happy … OK, you get the picture.
So when I was thinking about my son’s third birthday weeks ago I got pretty excited. We weren’t going to go nuts or anything. It was 15 people and was going to be a small cookout with the kiddos playing in the little splashy pool we got Miles as an early birthday present. But I was stoked.
But, as often is the case, things don’t always go as planned.
I was released from the hospital after three VERY long days a little more than 12 hours before his party was scheduled to begin. And if that wasn’t enough to put a damper on plans the fact that I was released with strict orders of bed rest flooded out any plans for a party.
My son deserved a party. I’m not sure if he really understood what was going on or what he was going to miss, but every kid needs a party. And my body was just incapable of providing one. Of course my amazing family wouldn’t let Miles be deprived of anything. My mom brought the party to us — an amazing Thomas the Train cake, a spectacular Thomas balloon, Mickey straws and noise makers and Spider-Man plates and napkins — and we had a little get together. I celebrated from the couch, but Miles was happy. He had CAKE! And to top it off, my mom and sister took Miles to the zoo Saturday so he could celebrate with my nephew, the monkeys, otters, giraffes and jaguar.
As much fun as I know he had at the zoo and during our impromptu, multicharacter/theme party it made me a little sad. OK, I’ll be honest, it made me a lot sad. I even cried when they were leaving for the zoo.
You can blame it on hormones (I am eight months pregnant) or the emotional roller coaster of the past days in the hospital. But what it came down to was that my little guy was now 3. Yes, I was sad I didn’t get to celebrate with him like I’d planned. But deep down I know he had a great time, maybe even more fun than he would have with the party I’d imagined.
Another year has passed. Sentences are the norm now; he is out of his toddler bed and in his very own big boy bed. My baby is growing up, and I can’t do anything about it.
Will every birthday be this tough?
We all have that place in our head — it’s dark, scary and typically void of all rational thought. And no matter how hard we try, we are sucked into that spot every once in a while.
I’m learning, through experience and advice from family and friends, to not beat myself up for the trips to those places but instead to make each of these “adventures” a time to learn and become a little better, a little less likely to venture back to that place.
I made one of these trips Thursday.
Since last Saturday night I’ve been one giant, itchy, swollen poison ivy blister. That morning my son and I were outside in our backyard. While he played on the swing set I decided to tackle a patch of poke weed that was staring me down. I made sure not to touch anything that looked suspicious and immediately came in and washed all exposed skin well. It did no good.
By Sunday my face was swollen with the rash threatening my eyes and I was itching like crazy everywhere. Since I’m about two-thirds of the way through my pregnancy I checked with my OB about what to do. She sent me into the OB emergency department Sunday where they prescribed me a steroid. In the coming days it just got worse and more intense. Wednesday, during a regularly scheduled appointment with my OB she sent me to a dermatologist that afternoon. He prescribed a high dose steroid shot. I got the shot in his office with the assurance that in a few days I should be feeling better.
I left the office feeling itchy but fine. I was walking to my car thinking about what I had ahead of me for the rest of the day at work.
Then I woke up, sun beating down on my face blinding my eyes from what felt like about 20 people (but probably closer to eight) leaning over me as I laid on the hot asphalt of the dermatologist’s parking lot.
I’d passed out and was unconscious. A man thankfully noticed me in the spot he’d started to pull into and didn’t run over me with his truck.
All I could say was, “I’m pregnant with a pacemaker. The baby!”
The rest went fast — stretcher, ambulance, needles, EKGs, tears.
I’m not really your standard pregnant woman considering I’ve got a pacemaker. And on top of that, I was covered in this monster-like rash. I went to the same OB emergency department I went to on Sunday, only this time it really was an emergency. Their concern was to determine why I passed out. My concern was for my unborn son. Had he been hurt when I fell to the ground? I had a huge knot on the back of my head so there was an obvious impact. Was he OK? What did this mean for him?
Tests, monitors, ultrasounds — they all assured the doctors and me that my little guy was OK. Around 10 p.m. that night they transferred me to another part of the hospital where doctors could better monitor me and my heart and would send people over to monitor the baby every few hours.
I didn’t sleep, at all. Part of it was the misery of the itching and the pain from hitting my head and back so much. But mostly it was the guilt and anxiety.
Passing out is something that happens with this lovely heart condition I get to call my own; but it hasn’t happened in more than a year and never happened during my last pregnancy. And while it is never fun and always scary, the intensity of my fear, anxiety and guilt of what happened that day and what might happen again felt incapacitating, like I almost couldn’t breathe.
All I could think was, “Thankfully my little guy looks great. But what if it happens again? What if the outcome isn’t the same?”
I couldn’t live with myself. What would my husband think or do? Friends, family, strangers? It would be my fault.
All day Thursday people were coming and going telling me I was doing fine, the baby was doing fine. I didn’t want to be at the hospital; I wanted to be home with my son who didn’t understand where his mommy was. But I was terrified to leave. “My baby was safe there,” I thought. “He might not be safe with me.”
Rationally, I understood that “I” was not hurting him; it wasn’t my fault that I lived in Bangladesh 10 years ago trying to help people as a Peace Corps volunteer, and I seemed to have caught some virus that damaged my heart and forever changed my life and is now impacting his life.
But when I was sitting in my hospital room feeling his tiny, helpless body rolling around inside ME, and I know I am the one responsible for keeping him alive and healthy, rational thoughts aren’t really the first ones to rise to the top.
No shiny bow. I’m still scared out of my mind. And I know that I’m not the only one; others are going through much more terrifying things. That thought only makes me grieve for them, not take comfort.
But, with my promise to myself to make these trips to irrational, scary land more productive, I left the hospital late Friday night in a much better place. I had a plan; the doctors had a plan. I can take good care of myself and this baby but I can’t change the fact that I have a heart condition that might impact my pregnancy again. I can’t loathe myself for that fact. I have to accept that and accept the limitations that come with it.
One of those is living the next week from my couch, overstuffed chair or bed and allowing those around me to help during this (hopefully just) week of doctor mandated bed rest.
I’m blessed with amazing family and friends who have made this experience manageable. My husband didn’t skip a beat, taking over full responsibility for Miles while I was in the hospital and doing his best to help me maintain my sanity. My mom swooped in, providing a birthday party for my son this past weekend and is keeping him for the week so I am truly allowed to rest. My sister provided clothes, S’mores pizza, company and support. And friends kept me sane with phone calls, visits, baby snuggles, a fridge full of food, perspective and milkshakes.
So, writing this from my eerily quiet house while my husband slaves away in the yard, I am reminded — even in the midst of some scary and uncertain times — just how lucky I am. And this little guy that is thankfully happy and healthy dancing around in my belly will be equally blessed when he gets to join the rest of us in about 10 weeks.
My husband and I are pretty experienced travelers as our entire relationship we’ve lived several states away from either my parents (in Indiana) or his parents (in Louisiana). And growing up driving six to eight hours away for a long holiday weekend was the norm as our extended family is that far away.
But travelling with a toddler is a whole other ballgame.
The stuff, the chaos, the challenges!
Because our priority when we’ve had time off has always been to see family, Michael and I have never had a real vacation together besides our honeymoon a few months after we married. We’ve always just traveled to see family. So when there was talk about planning a vacation among the members of my extended family I was pretty stoked. We are a pretty tight-knit group but only get to see each other a handful of times a year because we are all spread out and have busy lives of our own.
And even though it is “my” family, Michael has said he feels as if he’s been accepted as a McLaughlin and is a part of the family too. And my cousins’ have little ones that Miles LOVES to play with.
So the idea of a vacation was very exciting… until it got to the getting ready part.
We were to spend a long weekend (we left Thursday late morning for our destination and returned home around 6 p.m. Sunday) at a lake house. My cousin Annie did an amazing job picking a location with lots to do and that was as centrally located as is possible with as many of us as there are. The spot was Innsbrook, Mo., a resort-town built around dozens of lakes. We rented three large lake houses among the nearly 30 of us (with six, seven and under) but all gathered together at least once a day during the trip.
As happy as we were about the idea of getting away, the sheer notion of getting all the needed items together, packing them and fitting them in the car was pretty exhausting. So actually doing all that was even more exhausting. We had a box and cooler of food, an array of swim items, a handful of toys, a cot and sleeping bag for Miles, camp chairs, our bikes, Miles’ seat for our bike, clothes, beach towels… You get the picture.
But once we got there it was an amazing time. We went to the beach, boated, biked, walked, explored, gabbed, played games, laughed, ate too much, napped and every once in a blue moon even relaxed.
I’m ready to do it again, just give me a year or two to recover from this one!
What’s been your best vacation survival strategy? Best vacation with a toddler? Share your ideas!
I’ve talked about this before but it is something that still is at the forefront of my brain nearly every morning as I walk out the door to go to work — guilt.
The concept of mommy (in my case) or daddy guilt is very real. I think no matter how prepared or experienced we feel as parents, that dreaded “pit in your stomach” sense of guilt pops up; and in my case I feel like it pops up pretty frequently.
And the source of this mommy guilt for me is varied when it comes to my son Miles — is he watching too much television, is he getting the right foods, was that reprimand too harsh, do I spend enough time with him? And the guilt with my yet to be born son has already started — am I resting enough, did I forget to take my prenatal this morning, am I pushing it too much, how is my bad heart impacting him?
But the biggest and toughest guilt hurdle I’ve encountered is working. I have several friends who are stay-at-home moms and I see the joys and challenges they face in raising their children. And heck, my husband is a stay-at-home dad so I see firsthand the things that I miss.
But you know what, I have this messed-up guilt complex when it comes to the me working part — I love my job. It’s rewarding, stimulating and it’s something I’ve always wanted to do. So this, of course, causes me to have some guilt because in many ways I’m happy I get to go to work.
The other side of that guilt sandwich comes in, and for the last few weeks has been coming down on me pretty hard, when my son says he’s going to “play mommy.” He goes and grabs my shoes and purse and says, “I’ve gotta get ready for work.” He walks around the house in my shoes carrying my purse. “Gotta go to work. Kiss, kiss. Hug, hug. Love you, bye. See you tonight.”
Over and over and over again. And each little gesture and phrase — while initially kind of cute and made me laugh, especially when he was walking around with no pants doing this — hits me in the gut. Guilt.
When my son is “playing mommy” he pretends to leave. Ack. That kills me to think about. Are those the memories my little guy is going to have of me — me leaving for work? I do my best to be engaged and make lots of memories in the limited time I am home but it’s this repetitive task of getting ready and leaving for work five days a week that sticks with him not the frequent trips to the zoo or playing in his pool outside for hours or riding bikes up to Garvin Park.
And these last few weeks have been even busier and longer work days for me meaning there’s even been a night or two where I’ve just come home in time to put him to bed. The guilt sinks in even deeper.
How do I combat it? What’s the solution?
Not working certainly isn’t an option for several reasons — we depend on my income to support the family and I NEED it for my sanity. I’d miss it terribly. I think in a perfect world where money weren’t a factor (I know, I laughed at the thought too) working part-time would be the solution. But that perfect world doesn’t exist, at least for us it doesn’t.
What I can continue to do is do the best I can — the best I can to savor every moment I have with my little guy (and soon to be little guys) and the best I can to push those feelings of guilt aside confident that I’m doing just that — my best.
Do you deal with mommy (or daddy) guilt? How do you counteract the at times crippling feelings that it can bring on?
We are a family that is often on the go. I think if my husband had his way it would be a lot less go, but both Miles and I are often doing our best to get out of the house and up to some “new and exciting adventure.”
I put that phrase in quotes because it is kind of relative. Sometimes adventure is just walking down the street to get his very first library card. Or maybe it is just the very back part of the yard to check out and water the garden or harvest some of the leaf lettuce.
This weekend we had a couple farther flung adventures with a fun-filled day at Holiday World and a quieter day of adventures in the confines of our own home.
Saturday, although we didn’t really leave the house, was a pretty awesome day. It started out for me by sleeping in until nearly 9 a.m. For those that aren’t yet parents yet that seems like nothing. But trust me, in my world 9 a.m. might as well have been noon. It was glorious!
The majority of the time I get up with Miles (like 95 percent of the time) because Michael is home with him all day, every day during the week. And it isn’t as if he gets to sleep super late on weekdays either having to get up a little before 8 most days so I can get off to work. So on the weekends when we don’t have plans I let him sleep until 11 or so and Miles and I typically leave the house for some of our mini-adventures — garage sales, zoo trips, grocery shopping or some kind of festival. But I’ve been especially tired with this whole other life growing inside me so all the boys in my life (the hubby, Miles, the not yet born little guy and the dog) all let me sleep in. It was AMAZING!
After that we “fired up” Miles’ very early birthday present that we got him last week — a really awesome blow up pool with a little slide and sprinkler. My nephew and twin sis came over and we had a mini-pool party until lunch time. And after Miles’ nap (I was down right lazy during this two hour time frame, while my husband worked his tail off straightening up the house, doing dishes and mowing the lawn), we went back outside to the pool while Michael grilled out. We had chicken, sausage, zucchini, squash and salad made with lettuce from our garden.
You should be jealous, it kind of was a perfect day!
Sunday started a little rough with Miles refusing breakfast and being a total crankster insisting on going down the water slides at that exact moment (hours before it was a possibility.) But the day went pretty well with a few typically almost three year old meltdowns. He got to hang out with his best buddy Ethan and Michael and I were able to spend time with Ethan’s parents (better known as Dan and Stephanie) as the Holiday World outing was our company picnic. It was a pretty awesome perk!
And as we rolled back into town late Sunday afternoon I was thinking about how great of a weekend it was. But I also was wondering how this time next year the same weekend might look with an almost four year old and an 8 month old. Will I still be able to handle our crazy adventures both near and far from home on my own with two little ones.\
Parents of more than one, what are your tips or tricks to manage?