Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Jackson, Pre-Six

Jackson’s 6th birthday is one week from today. I know, how did this happen, right? It feels like just yesterday I was whining about sciatica and sleeping in my “nest” as Stu so lovingly called it. 

My Nest. 

Last belly picture, almost 42 weeks pregnant. 

And now he is such a smart, funny, artistic little man. Here are some things about Jackson, pre-six:

(Photo cred: Mary-Leah Moore)

He is an artist. While my other two are content enough to draw or color from time to time, Jack is my left-handed, talented creator who loves all things art, music, and abstract. He can easily mimic another drawing, or create from his imagination with paper and pencil, legos, or any other medium he can get his hands on. He also has an ear for music and can identify songs and sing the chorus after hearing them a single time. This has gotten me into trouble a few times when I didn’t think he was paying any attention to the music I was listening to, and then a few days later he starts singing Wiz Khalifa from the backseat. Whoops. Yes, art is his world and he totally rocks at it.  

Ever since Jack was little, he has always thought of things in a different way than the rest of us. He is intuitive in ways that freak me out, and he cares deeply about the things he loves. Alternatively, he also could not care less about things which do not interest him. His siblings tend to have an opinion about almost everything, but with Jack, it is live-and-let-live unless it is about something he is deeply passionate about.

But mostly, Jack is the biggest people-person in our little family. He is always the funniest, most charismatic guy in the room, and people are drawn to his little personality. I can’t wait to see who he will grow into, but I know whatever he chooses for his life, he is going to do it effortlessly, and happily. 

I love you, Jackson! I can't wait to see what six brings!

My Master's Degree Graduation

I sucked at the promise to actually start blogging again. So I’m just going to catalogue some of the fun stuff we have done of late, before it fades into the background of life. First up, Master’s Graduation!

I think part of why I was so bad at keeping up with the blog is because my master’s degree was actually more work than my undergrad was. I’m not certain I was prepared for what full-time work, full-time grad school, and full-time parent-of-three actually entailed. I’m ashamed to say my house was frequently dirtier than it was clean and I easily gained 30 pounds throughout the saga. But looking back on the experience as a whole, I would say I have learned a lot, and my priorities have been even more streamlined than before.

Here are my takeaways: My kids are happy, so apparently I didn’t create any noticeable lasting damage to their psyches being absent too many evenings.

My marriage is intact, and strangely, even stronger than before we decided to double the stress in our lives. I feel like Stu and I understand each other even better now, and we have learned how to keep up our communication, even when we don’t see each other as often as we would like. This has made us more efficient communicators, more understanding of each other, and I think has built the mutual respect we have for one another, as we have each had to take on more tasks, all while being the “single” parent while the other is in school (spoiler alert, Stu is working on his master’s degree right now).

I actually learned a lot! This seems obvious, right? That at the end of a degree, I should probably have more information than when I began it. But honestly, so much of my undergraduate degree was just going through the motions and taking classes that did me no real good outside of getting the degree itself, that I just assumed a master’s would be along the same lines. Instead, I have a decent-sized arsenal of tools now that I can draw from. I feel like there was not a single class I took that I will not draw from in some way in my career down the road.

Lastly, I have learned that life is too short. Both in general, and specifically, it is too short to not be doing something you just love doing. I mentioned I will do little bits-and-pieces blogs, but another spoiler in the meantime: 2016 has been pretty hard on my family so far, and Stu and I have made some decisions that will be changing the nature of our life soon. As always, it is a true pleasure to have this supportive guy as my teammate and by my side for this life, and it is due to his unending faith in me as a person that we are moving forward with the next chapter in our lives.
For now, here are some pics from graduation. See you soon! (But seriously this time.)

My Master's Hood. 

Entering the ceremony!

My view of commencement, from the stage.

My sweet family!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

A Long Time Coming…

So here’s what happened… I wrote this blog post almost two years ago. I was so excited to graduate, and go to Hawaii with my Dad and my sister, and to have life calm down just a little bit after graduation, where I would slip into the easy, idyllic life that I had been looking forward to since I started my undergrad degree.

Yay, Hawaii! 

…But then life happened. Less than three weeks after we got home from Hawaii, which I was so excited to blog about, but in catching up with work and school, I hadn’t had a chance…

On the morning of Lila’s second birthday, I woke up to a voicemail from my Mom left overnight. That was weird and out of the ordinary. So I cued up the voicemail and listened to my mom, in a serious voice (which has NEVER happened on my voicemail) say, “Hey Sydney, it’s Mom. Um. Dad was in a car accident, and he’s not hurt bad, but he’s awake and talking, and they’re transporting by ambulance right now. I’m waiting for him at Kootenai. So as soon as I know something I will call you back and give you an update.”

The voicemail had a time stamp of 1:33am, so I immediately called her back, as it was now a little after 6:30am. And so began the conversation that changed my life.

She told me my Dad was being prepped for surgery and they wouldn’t know the extent of the damage until they “got in there,” but that x-rays had shown my Dad’s back was broken, and he couldn’t move his legs.

In all the years I spent growing up around my Dad, one thing stood out in our conversations about life and death and the prospect of living assisted: My Dad was of the mind that to be disabled and unable to care for himself was a fate worse than death. I told my Mom as much. “Mom! This is worse than if he would have died!” And she said she would have assumed so as well, but that he was actually in good spirits and feeling very positive. Then she let me talk to him. He sounded groggy and medicated, but calm and peaceful. He said that I didn’t need to worry, called me buddy at least ten times, and said he would work through whatever was in store for him. As my parents had been separated and living in different houses, my biggest worry was what in the world he would do. Back on the phone with my Mom, “But, who is going to take care of him?” Mom, “I will, of course.”

I hung up the phone feeling the heaviest I have ever felt in my life and went downstairs to tell my husband my dad broke his back in a car wreck.

As you can imagine, after this began a whole new series of life for all of our family, I couldn’t just come back to my blog and write a jolly and bouncy story about our trip to Hawaii (and amazing trip at that). I couldn’t even bring myself to talk about the trip, of watching my Dad walk down the beach, literally his favorite thing in the world, or scuba diving, or the doors-off helicopter ride…. while he was lying in the ICU with the prognosis of likely never walking again. 

After a few days of getting second-hand information from my Mom and Maddy, my overly-realist, control-freak brain couldn’t take it anymore. While I didn’t feel like they were withholding anything from me, I just couldn’t wrap my head around what was really going on without seeing for myself. I couldn’t focus on anything, and I had read enough about spinal cord injuries in the past week to have a good working knowledge of his chances. So after talking with my husband and professors (here I was, barely two months from graduation, I couldn’t fail now…), and having the amazing support of my boss, Gina, I packed some stuff and drove up to Coeur d’Alene to see everything for myself and to try to give my Mom and sister a break.  

The whole ride was a mind trip in addition to the physical trip. I thought so much about all the things he wouldn’t be able to do, and how awful this was for HIM especially, with his outlook on life. I wrestled with whether it really would have been better if he had died, so he didn’t have to suffer the rest of his life, just so, selfishly, the rest of us could have him around for just a little longer.

When I got to the hospital, my mom had run home to shower and Maddy was at work, so Dad’s mom, my Nana, was there snoozing in a chair while my Dad slept in his bed. I walked into the room and was hit by the reality of it all. I looked at my Dad, in the dimly lit room with his brow furrowed in dreams, or pain, and his legs sticking out from under the covers, at an odd angle from the rest of his body. It looked uncomfortable, and then I realized he couldn’t move them anyway, so he probably didn’t know he was uncomfortable. Tears sprang to my eyes as I surveyed the room and then Nana woke up and welcomed me with a hug, telling me he was doing really good today.

If you’ve never had the experience of seeing your parents incapacitated, it is hard to imagine, but there is something severely disconcerting about seeing someone I had always equated with strength and who was so able-bodied, reduced to being trapped in a hospital bed.

I got my stuff arranged and picked out a spot on the couch to hang out. Eventually Dad started coughing (he had been upside-down in the car for some time before a passerby spotted his headlights and came to help him… they had to cut him out of the car, so his lungs had some fluid from being upside-down for so long) and said, “Hey buddy!”

I got to spend a week with him and watch him go through the suckiest parts of learning to be paralyzed, while also healing from a car accident and all of the bumps and bruises that did not help with the pain portion. I got to talk to him about how he felt and he assured me, repeatedly, that he was ok. That now that he WAS paralyzed, that being paralyzed was NOT a fate worse than death. That he would figure it out, and he would be ok. I was skeptical, but watching his determination was nothing short of inspiring. I was the one crying because he couldn’t poop 9 days after the accident and it was time that physiologically, it was a necessity. Me watching him, frustrated and fully helpless, learn how to be paralyzed.

But my Dad is a freaking champ, and with the help of my Mom every freaking day, he DID overcome so much. From that first day in his hospital bed, unable to even sit upright without help, to weeks spent at in-patient rehabilitation at the AMAZING St. Luke’s in Spokane, he learned to crawl, to stand, and eventually, to walk again. Slowly and shakily at first (and to this day, there are still some terrifying, unstable moments), but he is walking.

The hardest part for me to endure now is the day-to-day part, knowing he still cannot pee or poop on his own, and that is the hardest aspect for him. I wish his story could be one of full recovery from his devastating accident, but those are not the cards he was dealt. And while I get caught up in my daily life, I often feel guilty for not calling enough, and not being around enough. 

He can’t feel significant portions of his body, and likely never will, but this guy is still as inspiring as ever. I called him last week to check in and lament about some stupid issue I was having, and he said that he is lucky to be alive, and for that he owes the world. A man who is paralyzed and faced huge obstacles to be able to merely walk again… is “lucky to be alive.” I will never be such an awesome person as my Dad.

I feel like our whole family has been impacted for the better as a result of my Dad’s wreck. We are all more loving toward one another, we have SO much fun when we are together, and we appreciate that we can be together. Our family has always been close, but this has definitely brought us closer, and given us a new perspective on the power of love, watching my parents fight through this as a united front, in spite of not even living in the same house.

Here is the video I made for my Dad commemorating his one-year anniversary of the accident.

And speaking of my life, a lot has changed since I wrote that ominous blog post almost two years ago. The good news is I DID graduate with my bachelor’s in Criminal Justice, and my Dad walked (albeit with arm crutches) into my graduation, three months after the accident.

…but that’s the end of where the things I predicted, happened. Right before I graduated, I got accepted to the Master of Public Administration program here at BSU and I have been working hard on that degree. Ironically, I will again graduate this coming December, but with my Master’s this time around. I also got a new job this past October, and I love it and the people I work with. I feel so much happier and this is such a better fit for me.

Our family is doing awesome and there are so many things we have done that I have wanted to blog about, but I could never bring myself to do it, because I can’t ignore the last two years and their impact on my life, so I just kept skipping it. I couldn’t bring myself to even try to write this post. 

Nevermore! I want to start cataloging our adventures and stories again and putting my words on the things we’re doing because being able to look back on our adventures from Abu Dhabi and beyond has been so important for our family. I feel like we might be missing things without the accompanying dialogue about them.

Also, my baby brother got married to his beautiful new bride in January. :) See? SO MUCH MISSED!

So, with that, I announce my return to my blog! Haha. Stand by for stories and photos to come!

Friday, May 3, 2013

This Summer.

While right now is incredibly stressful, and will be for the next couple weeks, the light is growing ever brighter at the end of this tunnel. We have a lot of plans for this summer, and I can’t WAIT to have the freedom (most the mental freedom from stress) to get to them!

The best part of my babies not really being babies anymore (which I hate, I just want them to stay little), is that they are basically easy now. Heh. When we get in the car, we don’t really have to worry about the diaper bag and snacks and drinks for a quick trip to Lowe’s anymore. And they CAN be rational and understand the concept of waiting now (sometimes they choose not to of course, they ARE still 1 and 2, but still…).

As a result, this opens up a world of fun and exciting activities that we haven’t been able to partake in for years now.

We are going to start the summer by heading over to Seattle on our first real road trip since Lila was a little baby, for my cousin Hannah’s graduation. I am still skeptical that they will sleep in a strange place, and with anyone else in the room, but they will work it out and we will all be a little unrested, I am sure, but I am excited!

Then, we have decided Lila is probably old enough that camping won’t be the hell it is with a little baby, so we want to plan some camping trips this summer. With me being the only one in school, and even that is so limited (squeeee!), we will definitely have more time to do things that are actually fun.

Toward the end of the summer, we will head up to CDA for the annual pig pickin’, which we always look forward to, and we will get to see “Beebee Keegan” (who is also NOT a baby anymore!), and Aunt Justiney and Uncle Kemer.

THEN, my Dad is taking Justine and I (since he took the other two last year) on a Hawaiian vacation! Woohoo! At first I had totally talked myself out of it when he asked. I told myself there was just no way I could swing it, that I am a Mom and wife and I can’t just abandon my family for a week to go lay on the beach… I have work obligations, and school… there was just no way.

Then I thought about how much I’ve sacrificed for my family, and what it has taken to get through the last three years, how I never have the time to just be with my Dad and my sister (or myself for that matter) and just truly enjoy the time and moving slowly and taking things in, and dang it, I deserve a vacation (pffft, and a medal)! My Dad doesn’t have the best of health and when will I ever be offered the trip of a lifetime again, let’s freaking do it! (I still feel fully guilty btw, but I put on a good front. :))

So Steen and I talked and talked, and talked with my Dad, and worked out a time that works for all of our insane schedules, and we are doing it! We are going to Oahu (I know very little about Hawaii) for a week. I am so excited, and have been using it as an “end” focal point, to just get there and something to look forward to at the end of the summer and to start the last semester of my undergraduate career. Which is also going to be a crazy time. Here’s what my August looks like: Weekend class on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, immediately leave for CDA, pig pickin, drive home with Stu and the kids, pack, Monday meeting at work for our annual statewide meeting, leave on 6 AM flight the next morning for Hawaii, vacay for a week, fly home on an 8:45 PM red-eye with two layovers, get home mid-day, start class that night at 6 PM. WHEWWWW. It’s going to be busy, but hopefully amazing as well. :)


So, I unequivocally FAILED at my super awesome plan of writing every day for a year. It has been almost TWO WHOLE MONTHS since I have written a post! Wow! At least when I fail I go for the gold. But, I do still want to keep up blogging because when I do and when we can all look back and read the things we were doing, it is freaking awesome.

So, fair warning, I am about the make a bunch of excuses:

I really WANTED to write every day, but I missed one day and then that turned into the whole weekend, and suddenly it was a week and the thought of catching up on a week's worth of blogs sounded so daunting.... well, alas it has been two months. 

BUT, Stuie is going to graduate in 2 (!!!) weeks! I can't believe it is finally here for him, and it sure has been a difficult couple of months getting here. We have been busier than we have ever been, which sounds improbably, but I assure you, we somehow managed to fit even more into our lives. 

Couple that with some seriously fucked up mold and bathroom tile contractor issues, (which I am not going to discuss now because it both makes me sick, exhausted, and decidedly cynical about the whole of society, AND because there is likely a lawsuit in our future), my trying to finish up my biggest project of the year for work, and trying to finish classes and prepare for finals, and I have had it up to here (insert hand gesture). 

I feel like all things considered, I have been handling everything that is going on pretty decently. I'm no saint, but geez, how much can one person be expected to handle at once? So I have been literally counting down the day until this is all over. 

Also, there are two very positive things that have come out of this. First, my bullshit capacity has been reduced to nearly zero (this is the cynicism). I do not care, nor WANT to care about any level of bullshit, and my detector is in prime shape. As a result, I am more efficient, more rational, and worry about much less. These are all good things. Second, and this is my favorite: Because I had to take one class this coming Fall (my waiver that I get from the university for discounted class fees maintains that I cannot take more than one class during "work hours," regardless of how much time I am willing to make up early in the morning or late at night. So, this summer, both of the final two classes I needed to graduate were offered during the day (and during different sessions, I might add), and as a result, I had to pick one or the other and not both. The other classes I was registered for were at night, so they were moot and unaffected. 

BUT, because I couldn't graduate until December, I had to switch my catalog year, which expires this coming August. Switching to a new catalog is tricky because it can change the requirements you need, and can results in suddenly having to take more classes to graduate. So I switched to the newest year, which did waive some of the new requirements (foundations classes) automatically, but the math I took didn't count on the new year because it is no longer even offered anymore. Crap. So, I worked with my awesome Department Chair (not my adviser, lol. He always sends me to the chair) to get an academic adjustment, which is where the dean of the college I am graduating under says, “sure, we’ll accept that as an approved class” and I don’t have to retake math.

All of this means that I have 8 fewer required classes on this catalog than my old one, so I got to drop two whole classes this coming summer! Woot woot! So, I will have one measly little class (senior seminar, which is not a measly class and is condensed into half the time normal people take it) this summer, one one-credit weekend class (a single weekend, on the Isreali-Palestinian conflict and movies), and then I will take ONLY Statistics this fall and I will be done!!! Oh my goodness, ten years in the making, I cannot believe I am but two classes and a weekend away from that piece of paper. So stoked.

But before that, we do need to get Stuie all graduated, so there have recently been a lot of late nights for him, and just generally a lot of stress in the house in general. I talked to Kaden’s teacher on the phone last night for an HOUR, chatting about everything that is and has been going on, and actually giving her some advice about her own son, and it is nice to be reminded that my kids ARE little and they will have few if any memories of this stressful time. For now, I am encouraging my super awesome and ever supportive family to take one or two kids with them when they do fun things, just to give the kids a break and have a good time. This weekend, I am pretty sure Marcia and Mimi and going to take the boys to the dinosaur exhibit at the Expo. They will LOVE that, and I can work on my final presentation for Research Methods, and Stu can finish up the 3 (!!!) huge papers he’s working on.

Then it is all up-hill from there, but I will save that for a second post. :) 

Here's some pics of the babes. :)

I showed Jackson how to blow a dandelion and he thought it was SO COOL. (I will probably regret this decision when my whole yard is yellow, but it was worth it at the time. :))

Jack and I watching Duck Dynasty, one of the top 4 greatest shows on the planet. :)

Kaden man, waiting for Mimi and Papa to pick him up for school. 

My beautiful Princess Lila, enjoying the sunny day in the swing.

I seriously have the cutest kids alive. :)

Miss Lila and I, after a long, stressful day, hanging out and spending quality time.

Friday, March 8, 2013


My baby sister and Stevie (surrogate brother) came down to visit this weekend. Tonight we hung out (made a jammie party out of it) and played pool, watched funny shows, and otherwise just hung out and chatted. It was lovely. I sure wish they lived closer.

Thursday, March 7, 2013


Normally I am indifferent about my Forensics class, because, let's be honest, it is completely unneccesaary for me to take it. I will never be a crime scene analysis (you need a science degree, which I am not getting), and I will never work in law enforcement, so it is just a necessary evil that I tolerate.

Other times, it is freaking cool. Today in class we dusted for fingerprints, and used heated super glue to see latent prints. It was pretty freaking cool AND fun. Here are some pics: