Two Weeks Later…..

A lot has happened in the last two weeks.  We traveled home from the hospital, enjoyed Christmas, visited family, celebrated New Year’s Eve, Drew’s birthday, had a few doctor appointments and went back to school.  Whew.  So today when Zack was complaining that he was overdoing it and that his belly hurt and that he needed to come home from school, I thought he was just whining.  I honestly thought surgery was more than three weeks ago, not just a bit more than two weeks ago.  I left him at school with those big baby blues crying big ol’ crocodile tears.  It was hard, but I knew he could do it.  Nice, huh?  I am not completely heartless, though.  When he called later in the day, I did go and pick him up.  I am pretty sure I’ll be winning awards.

A few pictures of the aforementioned things….




While we were in Cincinnati, Zack’s schedule at school was changed.  Instead of having three separate special education teachers, he now has just one dedicated person working with him.  The school hopes this will help Zack transition into “work mode” more quickly and allow for more actual instruction time.  When three different people work with him (in addition to his classroom teacher), time is spent figuring out how he is doing health wise and what his mood is before settling into the actual work. This impacts the amount of instruction time he receives.  It is also hoped that having just one person communicating his needs with his classroom teacher will help with planning for Zack.  When there were three teachers involved the planning logistics were much more complicated.

I think this change probably played into Zack’s tears today.  He usually loves school, but he also loves his schedule and his teachers.  I am wondering if he was just a little bit sad and/or nervous about the changes going on and quite possibly still just feeling a little bit tired from all the healing going on in that little body of his.

With all of Zack’s absences AND his actual learning difficulties, he is just not closing the gap as much as we would like.  Zack has a wonderful brain.  He is a smart guy. He can tell you more about the human body than most kids and many adults.  His vocabulary is impressive.  However, reading is hard for him and that is a pretty important skill.  Writing is physically exhausting for him.  The school is working hard to help Zack catch up before third grade where things get even more intense.

We met with Zack’s administration yesterday to go over all of these things.  I appreciate the time they took explaining it all to us. We also went to the hospital for Zack’s blood draw, met with his hospital social worker to work on medical trauma issues, had a PICC line dressing change here at home AND celebrated Drew’s birthday  It was a pretty full day.

It was also one of those days where I realized that I am not Super Woman.  I made a mistake in his blood draw appointment ( I NEVER do that, seriously, NEVER). I cried during the meeting with his administration ( You know I HATE that). I almost forgot to wrap my child’s birthday presents (I LOVE celebrating birthdays) and I ended the day with a killer headache.

I had to stop and admit that sometimes life can be a little overwhelming.  I had to admit that Zack does have a lot of different obstacles in his life and not just medical ones.  I also had to admit that sometimes I try to minimize how hard things can be because I do not like people to feel sorry for me or for my family or most importantly for Zack…and truthfully most of the time life is pretty great.  But there are moments when it sneaks up on me and the tears just come and there is not a darn thing I can do about it.

I also realized that every once in awhile I should probably share some of that because it is our reality and the reality of many other families with special needs children.  Even though this is true, it is also true that the special needs families in my life are also some of the strongest, most dedicated and resilient people I know.

I read an article on Facebook today, you know, the source of all true and inspirational things in life.  Interestingly, the article is from a blog originally posted in August of 2013, but shared by two different friends today…coincidence?  I think not.  The article spoke to me.  It was an article about prayer life, but it basically said instead of praying, “God, make it better” I should be praying, “God, make it count.”  This is the life you have given me, make it count.  Let me learn from hard things.  Help me to teach my boys to learn from them as well.  Let us learn to be strong through the hard things, do not let these experiences be wasted and, most importantly, make them count for Your glory.  It was just what I needed to help me reset my thinking.  If you want to read it for yourself, here is the link.

Going for a brisk (20 degree), endorphin producing, evening run with my Flying Feet buddies didn’t hurt either. Coming home to my four favorite guys, a warm house, a yummy dinner, a hot shower and soft cozy jammies was pretty great as well.

Hug your babies…and all of your people!

~ Dawn



Stress Relief

I’m not a crying kind of gal. I don’t usually think I have much stress in my life or at least not any more stress than most people. I held it together when Zack was in the hospital, mostly. Now don’t get me wrong. I cried when they took my baby back for the second unscheduled surgery. I cried when I left the PICU because Jim made me go home to sleep (which was good thinking on his part, shhhh…don’t tell him). But really, that was pretty much it UNTIL he was being discharged. Then the tears started to flow and I couldn’t stop them. I cried when I talked to the nurses, the doctors, the cleaning lady. I cried all the way to the car and all the way home and really, on and off for the next 3 days. I wasn’t really sad. It was like a huge flood gate of emotions that I had held at bay so I could deal with Zack’s situation just burst forth and there was no stopping it.

Stress. It’s gotta come out.

Today we had Zack’s yearly Developmental Pediatrician appointment. Again, I love all of our doctors. I know I say that a lot. I’m really happy I get to say that because, in my opinion, there is nothing worse than a doctor you don’t care for working with your child. Nothing really changed from last year – that is good. Zack is still tracking about 2 years behind. It’s good to be holding steady for once.

The thing that got me today was our discussion about ADHD medicine. Everyone knows Z is going to need it. Last year we were on the verge of trying it. Everyone knows I don’t like that or really any medicine for my kids. After discussing Zack’s stomach situation and what seems to be coming in that regard, his doctor looked at me and said, “This ADHD stuff has to be secondary to his stomach issues. Now is not the time for medicine.” And then the tears welled up. I think it was the relief of not having to deal with “another thing” right now. Relief that we could wait another year, hopefully, before going down that road.  It wasn’t a huge deal, except I guess it was for me.

Stress.  It’s gonna come out.

Since I know that there are stressors in my life, I have tried to be pro-active in dealing with them.  I want to be healthy and strong and energetic enough to take care of Zack for years to come.  I also hope to be a good role model for all of my children.  I try to eat “clean” most days, but I do enjoy eating out…I try and get enough sleep.  I spend time in prayer each day and reading my Bible.  However, for me, the best stress reducer is exercise!

I’ve always been active.  I swam on my University’s swim team, I was the slowest woman, but I can still say I did it!  I majored in Wellness Leadership (Corporate Fitness).  I kept exercising during my first two pregnancies and afterward as well.  Then came the modified bedrest with Zack.  Man, that was hard, but I still managed to get back into the swing of things after he was born and took up kickboxing.  It was so fun!

We moved to Germany when Z was 18 months and things began going downhill for me stress wise.  Suddenly, I found myself living in a beautiful place with a baby who screamed almost ALL.THE.TIME!  This is not an exaggeration.  Ask my other boys.  My husband and I were determined not to miss the opportunity to travel, so most weekends we went somewhere fun…with a screaming baby.  One of us would eat in a restaurant or bier garten with the other boys and one of us would walk with Zack.  Fun times.  It worked for us on the weekends, but during the week I ended up just staying home.  It was way too hard to do things outside of the house with Zack by myself.  You can imagine what that did to both my attitude and my waist line.

I finally realized that stress was bringing me down and decided to get out and do something about it.  I found a learn to run program on-line and built up to 30 minutes every morning before Jim went to work.  This is no small feat as anyone who knows me will attest… I like to sleep!  Once I began running, I started feeling better.  I started finding myself actually setting workout goals.  I talked my dear friends, Theresa and Adrienne, into training for a marathon for me.  I realize how crazy that sounds and it sounded crazy then, but I KNEW I had to keep exercising.

A year and a half after I started running, Theresa, Adrienne and I ran the Sparkasse 3-Laender-Marathon.  Translation, the Sparkasse 3 Country Marathon around Lake Constance (Bodensee).  It took us through parts of Germany, Austria and Switzerland and was super HARD!  The best part was that as I trained for the marathon, I felt so much better.  Not only did I get to have fun talking with my friends while we ran, but my attitude and outlook on life was so much better.  I love this picture of me and Theresa because it shows the name of one of the towns we were running through.  Hard.  So appropriate.  I just wish Adrienne was in this photo.


Here’s one with all three of us being goofy:


People often ask me why I like to workout. I joke that it is for two reasons. First, I workout because I like to eat. I like healthy food a lot, but I also tend to turn to chocolate when I am stressed. Second, I workout because it keeps my anxiety level down, clears my head, helps me sleep, improves my mood and keeps me from losing my mind. This is not a joke, people. When I workout, the stressors in my life seem doable. Even really hard things.

If you see me out running or hear me talking about doing Insanity, going to Body Pump, or participating in the Tough Mudder, don’t think I’ve gone off my rocker. Sometimes getting dirty and sweaty is just what I need to feel better!


Be assured that these things are helping me stay sane.  I do it for myself, of course, but I also do it for my family.  They deserve a well-balanced wife and mother.  I’d encourage anyone who has a challenging child or stressful life to find something they love to do and get outside.  You don’t have to do all the crazy stuff I do.  Just getting out for a brisk walk 30 minutes a day a few time a week will help you begin to feel better.  Really, any exercise you like will help decrease your stress level.  It takes a little effort and a bit of determination, but in the end, I promise you’ll feel better!