2016 Review

So 2016 seems to have been a tough year for a lot of people.  Whether you had personal heartache, were saddened by the events happening in our country and world or were dismayed and brokenhearted at the election results, I think most of us can say that we are ready for the calendar page to turn.

I’ve tried to re-frame our own year which certainly had it’s hard parts, but also to celebrate all the good that occurred.  And as in last year’s 2015 review, you’ll get to see some of the visual representation of all our goodness from 2016. Thank you Instagram and Google Photos.  And full disclosure (this may go without saying) but a certain someone stole the show in 2016.  So glad you joined our family JPC.

January 2016

One of my favorite pics ever.  From our Babymoon at Butterfly Gap Retreat. So sad to hear they’ve sold the property due to family illness, but hoping that another owner will reopen. This place holds a lot of special memories.  Good thing we settled on a name for Bebe during our time here.  If we’d only known what would transpire two weeks later.

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February 2016

June Parker Cracraft came catapulting into our world on an early Saturday morning, February 13th at 1:57am.  Stay tuned for more of her birth story as we approach her first birthday.  (Seriously…birthday?!?!?!?!) 2 lbs 2 oz and 14. 3 inches of pure sweet and spiciness! Our lives haven’t been the same since! This is one of my favorite pics–3 days old here.

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March 2016

This was one of the biggest milestones for me as a mother.  On her 47th day of life, I got to nurse my sweet JP.  Breastfeeding was something I really wanted to continue for as long as I could, so when our journey didn’t take near the path we had planned, I couldn’t have been more thrilled to be able to nurse June.  And I’m proud to say we’re still going strong 10 months later! We also celebrated Easter together as a family.

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April 2016

April 11th.  Taking our girl home from the NICU.  Zoom in and you can see the look of excitement and fear on the beau’s face. He was terrified of the drive home. Oxygen tank, monitor, and two folks who were oh so excited but oh so scared.  What a mix of emotions.  I’ll never forget that day.

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May 2016

My 35th birthday.  Our first date out after June came home.  Thankful for amazing in-laws who have stepped up in so many ways that I can’t begin counting.  And thankful for an amazing dinner at Distilled that night.  Sweet Sweet Snuggles after we arrived home that night.  Also very thrilled to celebrate my first Mother’s Day although it was somewhat bittersweet.  2016-05-11-22-19-30-1

June 2016

These two. What a bond they have. I cannot imagine this year without this guy by my side. We celebrated his first Father’s Day and also what an incredible support he has been. He worked 4 nights a week while June was in the NICU (because we had decided that him picking up extra shifts was a good idea before the baby came).  I also went back to work 4 days a week in late May and we celebrate and remembered my Mom on her birthday.  Quite an emotional month–he really earned his keep in June. We had our first house guest as my Aunt Ruthie came to visit for a few days and some good friends stopped in from out of town!  Also JP was able to come off oxygen this month! Yay for no more tubes!

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July 2016

July brought our first big road trip as we went to Virginia to see my family.  I will always treasure this sweet picture of my Grandma and June.

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August 2016

June spent a lot of time with Gigi and Pops this summer once I went back to work.  This was her first trip to the Disney Store and can we say someone has her Pops wrapped around her little finger?

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September 2016

Big milestones for June this month–sitting forward in her stroller and sitting up (assisted). We spent a LOT of days getting out of the house when June first arrived home taking walks around our small town and enjoying time with the girls at the coffee shop. The summer was a bit hot, so we got out on the town quite a bit in the fall.  June really enjoyed the ArtWalk, although she was asleep for most of it.  She also started physical therapy this month, but like the rock star she is, only needed two sessions! We do lots of work at home with her and she’s continuing to make big strides! I also got to celebrate my favorite season with my favorite redhead!

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October 2016

We took our first little vacation as a family of three. The beau and JP were able to tag along to a work conference in Atlanta, but first, we hit up June’s first Cincinnati Reds game. Although they lost, they lost to the Chicago Cubs so June got to see the World Series winners! How exciting! We also got to meet Aunt Tammy on the way to Atlanta and try out the pool at our hotel. October also brought starting solid foods, drinking from a sippy cup and enjoying Halloween.

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November 2016

Turkey Turkey Turkey!!! Our little Turkey LOVED Thanksgiving at her Aunt Walene and Uncle Donnie‘s! It was her first big family gathering and she was quite the center of attention.  She enjoyed turkey, sweet potatoes and peas herself! I also went with Mama to vote in this historic election.

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December 2016

Holidays.  How magical through the eyes of a child, right?  June got to meet Santa, enjoyed lots of love from friends and family, tag along on Mama and Daddy’s Christmas date and we had a lot of quality time together–the BEST gift.  June is sitting up on her own, army crawling and into EVERYTHING.  We were grateful to get an overnight in Cincinnati to reflect on our year and set some goals for the upcoming one.

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Truly as the year has come to a close, we are just so grateful for all the wonderful things brought our way through June Parker.  We have a lovely, healthy girl, sweet puppy, wonderful partnership in our marriage, two great jobs and a house over our head.

Tending

As I have been on this journey of motherhood for the past five months I’ve had a lot of time to think about things I wanted to share.  However the thoughts in my head as I’m doing laundry, nursing June or at work don’t equal out to time it would take to actually put pen to paper. The time spent on those things that are most important trumped the time that I would have spent getting those thoughts down. But now I think I have a routine and some tools in my toolbelt that will allow me to share these things.

One of the best books that I have read recently has been The Fringe Hours by Jessica N. Turner (I also have a N. middle initial and love she always uses hers as well!). This book was queued up in my kindle long before June arrived, however it was not the right time for me to read it. I love it when God has a plan even down to the timing of when we read a particular book. The Cliff Notes version of this book is essentially a way for women in particular to grasp the most out of the little moments that pass by in life. It’s not necessarily multitasking but being more intentional with those moments in time that are somewhat wasted because we are scrolling on our phone or aimlessly doing things that are inconsequential. Since finishing her book I have read more books and accomplished more things than I thought possible with a newborn at home EVEN after returning to work.

So with that said I have realized that this space is something I want to tend to. I know that writing is very cathartic for me through all that I’ve experienced over the past year.  I feel that this is something I need to do. I realized in looking back that through the encouragement of my counselor and even my chiropractor that this space is important and healing for me and need not be neglected. Even if it’s a discipline for me as time can be hard to carve out to tend to this. But that’s just it…tending is a daily effort–not something done all at once.  You don’t magically go out once or even once a week to your garden and magically have a harvest–it takes small bursts of time and effort–along with some large bursts! And I’ve learned to use the tools necessary–I may be sitting here right now dictating most of this post via voice-to-text on my phone (ps-this is a new/nursing mama’s BFF!).

So with that I am hoping to share (at least) weekly on a combination of faith, parenthood, wellness, community and practical tips I’ve learned along the way as an encouragement to all those who may find their way to this place. I’m finding my niche in the intersectionality of all of those things and I want to share what I have learned as well as hear from you on your tips advice and wisdom on all of those same things. The past 5 months (and let’s face it–year) has been challenging and isolating at times but it’s also allowed me to really determine what I’m made of and how to best steward the time and resources I have on those things that are life-giving to me and necessary in the multiple identities that I hold.

And let’s face it, there’s bound to be some cute pictures of our sweet June Parker from time to time.

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#MoreThanAMom

I think it was the day after June was born, I noticed an invitation to join a Facebook Group for Mom’s who work in Student affairs. I thought the colleague who invited me wasn’t wasting any time–turns out, it had just been formed.

The group has quickly grown to over 4,000 members and I’ve been able to see the amazing women out there in my field and connect with other NICU mamas who work in Student Affairs.  I’ve gleaned wisdom from some pioneers in our field sharing their journey of motherhood.  And I was intrigued when the founder encouraged folks to share how they’re more than a mom–what are the other things you do to help bring balance and boundaries to your life.

Since balance and boundaries are a favorite topic of mine, I thought about what I’ve learned in motherhood in these 6 weeks (now 7). After writing, I realized what often happens after I write–that the writing has been cathartic for me; apart of my healing and growing process.  I hope my sharing can bring you some peace today.  And regardless of what role you’re filling–Mom, Wife, Daughter, Sister, Caregiver, Employee–know that there’s more to you than just that.  You know it.  It’s okay to let those other parts shine.  We all need them to make this world brighter. And if you are a parent, a mentor, a friend, a neighbor–let those folks see all the wonderful facets that make you YOU.

I’ve been a mom for a little over 6 weeks, but I’ve been a caregiver for quite some time as I was the primary caregiver for my Mom for many years.  Her battle with Rheumatoid Arthritis and several other health concerns ended this past November.  One of the biggest things I learned as her caregiver is that I can’t be there for her 24/7 and if I’m not taking care of myself, I can’t take care of her.  She taught me a lot about being a mom.  My daughter is in the NICU at our university hospital and I came back to work on Monday to have 6 weeks with her once she’s released. I’m taking advantage of a super supportive office and supervisors by coming in early and making the 15 minute walk to the NICU a few times a day.  It’s been a challenge thinking about how I’ve been #MoreThanAMom since June came into our lives. But then I think about the ways in which I had already implemented boundaries and balance and desired to place presence with others over perfection. I still love my friends well, enjoying hosting in our home even though it’s rarely perfect (especially in the remodel phase) and enjoying taking care of myself holistically—mind, body and soul.

Here’s how I’m sensing that I am #MoreThanAMom:

  • Being present where I am. When I’m in the office advising a student—I do my absolute best to be fully present (even if I’m a few minutes late if June has had a milestone or I need to chat with someone at the hospital). When I’m in the NICU with June, I do everything possible to not let my mind wander to what students are on my calendar that afternoon.  Walking to the NICU each day—that’s my self-care time.  And I’m learning NOT to basically run even if I’m running late. What am I thankful for?  What will I fix for dinner? What’s the schedule when I get home? What laundry must be done today? I literally flip a switch when I go through those rotating doors of the hospital—what questions do I have for the nurses, is there anything I need to address while here?
  • When I realized after a walk to the NICU that my neglected toenails were literally causing me pain on my increased walks, I immediately texted a friend to see when we could get a pedicure next week after I leave the hospital one evening.
  • I’ll take the time to S L O W down and grab a Starbucks (Thanks to the generous gift cards from friends)
  • I’m doing my hair and putting on make-up each day. Even before coming back to work, this made me feel human (at least the make-up part—a top knot was my BFF until Monday!) Plus, a good concealer helped with the bags and dark circles!
  • We are still planning on hosting supper club in May for our friends.
  • Agreeing to go with a friend to Cincinnati a few weeks ago to see Newsies when her husband unexpectedly had to go out of town and she had an extra ticket.

Sometimes being #MoreThanAMom is almost a state of mind rather than things we do. Seeing all these posts has made me think hard about how I want to parent our daughter. I want her to know that she can do lots of things and that so can I.  I’m her mom, but also an Academic Advisor, friend, worship leader at our church, theater buff and lover of coffee and good meals around the table with those I love.

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One month of being a mom

I’ve been a mom for over a month now. It seems so odd since I’m currently sitting in my bedroom alone, the beau at work, pumping to give my daughter breast milk to make her strong. No cries in our home. Nursery still isn’t done. Heck-we haven’t gotten the first bit of furniture. But I’m a mom. 

But what I know-and what I was taught by experience-is how to be a caretaker. To call the hospital to check in every night. To build relationships with the nurses and doctors. To know sometimes sleep and self care is just as important-and necessary-to survive. 

I learned all those things from my mom. She was teaching me about motherhood all along. 

What I also know is that God has given me more than a glimpse of his faithfulness in sweet June. Not only has she been a rockstar growing in the NICU, but she gives me a little glimpse of my mom every day. Countless Friends and acquaintances–some who only knew her through social media pictures- have commented on how June resembles my mom. 

  

Her wide set eyes and the bridge of her nose. Her little delicate eyelids and those sweet little forehead wrinkles all scream my mom. 

What I also hear them saying over and over is that God is real. I’ve always been a believer of God when I look at creation. The trees, wind, mountains and waves of the ocean beckon me to believe that God is real and he is who he says he is. But looking at these pictures,  I have to believe even in those moments when I doubt (and believe me, I still have those moments) because I can’t look at those faces and say God doesn’t exist. God is tenderly carrying me through this season of grief and celebration. Fear and faith. Questioning and belief. I’m clinging to belief and faith and celebration. God has been too good to us not to believe. 

Maybe you’re in a season of grief and fear and questioning. It’s ok. Just know beyond it all God loves you. 

And if you want to dive more into who God is and why we believe,  join me for. Study of the Nicene Creed with the new IF: Gathering app. www.ifgatheringapp.com

  

7 months

The last seven months have honestly been a blur. I’m sharing this as apart of my own healing, journey and testimony so please don’t think this as a pity post. This is a celebration of what we have overcome with God by our side. 

The Beau and I were walking down the hall to the NICU to see our daughter the other day recollecting all the has happened since late July and it was like each event was a sucker punch to our life that still leaves us reeling at times. But as we’ve stood and caught our breath, we also realize just how fortunate we are to still be standing. Even if we’re walking down this hallway.

   
We decided last spring that it was time to grow our family. A steady nursing job for the Beau had been secured, we were making progress on house renovations so we decided to keep moving forward on those hoping that we would be well finished before a little one would come along.

On a steamy Friday in late July we got the call that Lew’s Granny had a massive stroke with a bleed on her brain. She passed away about 24 hours later.

In August, Lew took me on his dream cross-country road trip. We drove to Seattle and back in 10 days. We got home on August 12th and I took a positive pregnancy test. We could not have been more thrilled.

  
September brought the start of school and the first trimester. I was so fortunate to not be sick, just a lot of weird stomach cramps, food aversions and exhaustion.  But we could not have been happier. We told our parents on Labor Day weekend (fitting right?). Taking his parents to eat at the Smokey Valley Truck Stop before it closed and visiting with my Mom in the nursing home that Sunday afternoon over ice cream. They could not have been more ecstatic!

We shared our news publicly on our 6th wedding anniversary–October 2nd– and were flooded with well wishes from family and friends. It was real. I had made it through the first trimester and had no concerns or complications. We continued to work on the house, start dreaming about our little babe whose gender would be a surprise and move toward the holidays.

  
Late October my Mom went to the ER with some complications in her legs from swelling.  I stayed the night with her as she was admitted and slept in a somewhat comfy chair in what I think are the smallest hospital rooms in the city.  For the next three weeks, we spent nearly every day and several nights by her bedside seeing her health decline, her legs and toes worsen and conversations about amputation of her toes, feet and possibly legs.

  

Three weeks later, on November 13th, the beau and I were headed back in to try and get her moved to UK hospital because we felt there was more going on that we were able to really see. We stopped for a quick breakfast knowing it would likely be a long day and I got the call that her white blood cell count had risen overnight and she was being moved to the Critical Care Unit. We rushed to the hospital and spoke with several doctors, chaplains and a resident from UK that the beau has worked with before. Her body was shutting down. We were able to have clarity on her wishes and I thank God for that daily. She did not want surgery. She did not want to be revived. She did not want to be vented and have a machine breathe for her. Around 4:30 that afternoon, she received complete healing as she went to her eternal home. While we were so sad, there was also a sense of relief that her pain and suffering had ended. The next few weeks were a blur as we traveled to Virginia, made funeral arrangements, coordinated her transport from KY to VA, went through the motions of Thanksgiving and eventually headed back to work. It is still hard some days for me to believe she is gone.

  
During this time, I had some increased blood pressures at my OB visits.  I went on medication and we monitored it, but knowing the stress I had been under, it wasn’t much of a surprise.

As I processed grieving, Christmas approached.  My family in Virginia had planned a shower for us so we headed to the Beau’s parents Christmas Day and were planning on leaving early on the 26th for Virginia, Baby Shower on the 27th and then back to the grind the following week. Our Gracie pup was going to make the trip with us.

10 minutes away from their house, we were hit head on as we went through an intersection.

 

I was 24 weeks pregnant at the time. All I remember was screaming “Oh, God! Oh, God! Oh, God!” After an ER visit, lots of time laying on the couch, a vet visit for Gracie, lots of bruising from the seat belt, a visit to UK’s OB Triage, a 4 hour heart rate monitor on the Bebe, some panicked moments, and an additional ultrasound, we were SO fortunate to find out that the babe was fine.  And certainly a fighter.

  
The new year came with lots of insurance paperwork and phone calls, car shopping for a new ride, and navigating back to work.

Before we knew it, we were in the third trimester came and we realized that with all that happened with Mom and the car accident, all our renovations had been put on hold and we had 12 weeks before Bebe would arrive! We got to work and in the midst of all this I was prompted to host a small IF: Gathering in my home the first weekend in February.  At first, I had signed up to host this back in October but only 2 gals had registered so I contemplated cancelling.  However, the day I was going to do so, another 3 gals registered. So we went forward with the plan to host in our imperfect home and 10 of us crowded around our TV to hear amazing truths.  Presence over perfection. My takeaway –who will my domino fall into to impact for the Kingdom?–was threefold.  My word for the year is SAVOR and this ties directly in–I need to STOP doing things.  I need to focus on JESUS and his word and truth, not a million other (all the while GOOD) voices out there clamoring for my attention.  And I need to focus on my little FAMILY and discipling them well–investing in my marriage and our little babe.

  

On February 1st, my OB appointment landed me a really high BP reading so my OB sent me to UK triage to be checked out. After 2 hours, my BP was in the normal range, all my levels came back clear as a whistle. We did some additional testing over the next 24 hours and had a follow up on February 11th with my OB.

On the 11th my pressure was up again and my OB sent me back to triage and wanted a 24 hour overnight observation of me to figure out what was going on.  As I left her office, I asked, “So what happens if my Blood Pressure doesn’t decrease?”

“Well, you’ll be having a baby sooner than you thought.”

I walked back in to the room where Lew was and immediately burst into tears. We had 9 more weeks before her due date. Our nursery was nowhere near complete. I hadn’t had my baby shower. There was still so much to do.

At 1:39 am on Saturday, February 13th, our little June Parker Cracraft was brought into this world by an urgent C-section delivery.  I’ll share more about her entrance into this world here in the days/weeks/months to come when I’m ready to process and share more publicly.

She was 2.2 lbs and 14.3 inches long. She was immediately rushed to the NICU at UK where she’s been hanging out and growing for the past 10 days. She is amazing. Our brave little fighter.  

And her name. We were able to get away for a little baby moon 2 weeks before she arrived and the main agenda was to come up with a name. We had a boy pool and a girl pool and wanted to see how the little nugget turned out (gender and personality wise) before attaching a name to it. June Parker was at the top of our girl list.  After her birth and knowing all she had come through the 7 months in utero–and all that we had come through in that time as well–June Parker was the perfect name.  June after my Mom who was born in June and Parker after the Beau’s best friend Michael Parker who was paralyzed in a kayaking accident in 2007. Two of the strongest people we know. And she’s certainly living up to her namesakes. And my takeaway from the IF: Gathering is coming to fruition a lot sooner than we had anticipated. I get to pray and sing and love on my daughter the way our heavenly father does with us. And it is amazing. Heartwrentching. All-consuming.  Just the way our Father must feel about us.