WARNING: Emotionally Distressed


It’s safe to say that I’m ready for 2014 to be over and it’s only the second week of March.  While our year started with both of our grandparents in the hospital, it has increasingly gotten worse on the home front.  After Ben’s grandpa passed, other sicknesses arose and there’s the never ending winter it seems that there was really no end in sight for not so good news.  That was until last Friday when my mom sent a text saying that dad had a fall at work, his boss was picking her up and they were on their way to Froedtert.

Seeing news like this as you’re about to walk into a meeting it heart stopping.  How was I to sit and concentrate when I have my dad to worry about?  Without explaining myself, I kept my phone out and in touch with my mom the entire time.  All while trying to pay attention to what I’m sure was a very important insightful meeting.  Finally, when mom told me dad had broken his leg and needed surgery, I about lost it right there in the middle of a Google session.  I politely, while holding myself together, asked if I could leave and headed to pick up Henry.  While I wasn’t rushing to my dads side, I couldn’t sit there any longer.  It was giving me serve anxiety.

Most of the next few hours was a lot of uncertainty.  Found out that dad broke his femur, needed surgery and was in a ton of pain.  I kept in communication with both my mom and brother, whom were by my dad’s side.

Saturday afternoon, Henry and I made the trek to visit dad.  It was mostly an unplanned visit, so stopping to get lunch for my mom and brother with a hungry one year old, juggling food, stroller and a diaper bag, in an unfamiliar location made me frazzled.  My dad was still in surgery when we arrived.  This was partially alarming to me as it had been well over six hours.  We sat and waited for what seemed like forever.  Luckily, Henry is quite the kid to put a smile on your face when it has a frown.  Not to mention, my brother can make the kid laugh like no one else.

My brother has an awesome beard, be jealous

My brother has an awesome beard, be jealous

When my dad came back, it was really hard to look at him.  He’s the strong, hardworking, outdoorsman of our family.  In my 26 years, I can’t remember one time when I saw his strong guy physique shattered, until this weekend.  A rod in your leg and gaping wound will do that to a guy though.  Due to extreme swelling they weren’t able to close the incision, so he was hooked up to the vacuum to get the excess fluid and blood out before another surgery to close him up.

Though he was out of it, I know he was happy that we were there, even had a few jokes to crack. You could tell that Henry wanted to climb up in bed with GRANDPA.  Dad had a sore throat from the tube being in it, but he still managed to try and get a few of Henry’s favorite squeals out.  Even helpless, the man still knows how to make Henry smile.

We went back to visit yesterday.  Dad was in better spirits.  Henry was all over the hospital, wanting to visit every last patient.  Luckily, he’s cute so the nurses were easily won over by his smile.  Due to the severity of the break and wounds, he ended up having to get blood transfusions. It wasn’t something he was happy about, but knew it was the best of the two options.

Ready to take care of GRANDPA

Ready to take care of GRANDPA

There was another surgery today to help close the wound.  It was mostly unsuccessful as they could only get the 46 centerimeter opening down to 14 centimeters.  This now means that yet again, dad will go under on Wednesday to see what more they can do.  If unsuccessful again, they will do skin grafting and he’ll be in the hospital even longer.

I’ll admit that I’m scared.  It makes me beyond sad to see my dad so helpless.  I get scared knowing that he’s going under again.  Three surgeries in less than a week is no walk in the park for anyone. The tole that it will take on his body will only add to the expected six month recovery.  My heart aches for him.  I fear he’ll never be the same.  I pray that he’ll be back building some new project, cutting endless piles of wood and shooting something big, in no time.

While my dad may have ‘just’ broken his leg, it’s so much more than that. The femur is one of the worst bones to break.  My dad is not a young buck, so the healing process will be a bit longer.  To put into prospective, my grandma broke her femur in December and just got out of the hospital. Granted, she’s 93, but it just goes to show that breaking your femur is no walk in the park.

If you know my dad, he’s a hands on always on the go type of guy.  A lot is about to change for our family.  It’ll be months before he’s crawling on the floor in his underwear coercing Henry to do lord knows what.  The family vacation that my parents surprised us with for Christmas, may now be postponed.  There will be lots of family dinners to help out and give my mom a break from her new duties as a wife (ones that she never imagined when she said her vows 30 years ago), helping out with things my dad used to do (David joked we’d learn to find joy in yard work) and keeping my dad’s spirits up in the process.

At the end of all of this, I know it will have brought us all closer together.  As David said, it’s time to unite as a family.  Not that we aren’t, but it has a whole new meaning now.  Times like these remind you to put the selfishness aside and do what you have to for others.

I wish I could be at my dad’s side all day long.  To help him when he needs it, read him stories, keep him company and hold his hand when he gets scared.  For years my parents took care of me and did those exact things.  Now my inner Soetenga (or Aunt Claudia as I like to say) wants to come out and do all that I can. While it may not be humanly possible to help as much as I need, I know my emotionally unstable self can always pray, a lot.  There’s a reason for everything.  Having a hard time seeing what that is right now, but someday it will all make sense.

Even though I’d love to wish 2014 away, there are some great things happening (babies being born (not mine)) that I have to look forward too!!  We have a long road ahead of us, but I don’t doubt for a single minute that the thickness of our skin and blood won’t be able to get us through it all.


My Kid Has a Kindle, So What


One of my friends works for a local news affiliate and posted on her work page an article about a new “real barbie” coming out.  It sparked some talk about the lack of imagination in children today and how technology plays a big part in that.  Well, it’s funny that I felt the need to chime in because I’ve had the title of this post sitting in my draft box for the last week.  So, nows a better time than ever to sit down and put my thoughts out there.

Yes, Henry has a Kindle and yes, I know people judge me for “spoiling” my one year old with a piece of technology that he doesn’t know how to work.  False, he does know how to work it and he’s pretty dang good at it too.  Before you get all judgy judgy on me for sticking a piece of technology in my sons hands instead of interacting with him, let me lay my point of view out there.

Five years ago I started working at Washington Middle School, a 1:1 school.  For those of you who don’t know what 1:1 means, it’s one device (iPad, computer, etc) per one child.  When I first heard of this I was beyond excited.  Technology is my thing, heck I have two degrees and a certificate in it.  Then after awhile I got irritated.  Our technology person, whom I now consider a wonderful friend, took me aside one day and said, “Allie, why won’t you conform?  You teach technology all day long, but you won’t allow the students to bring their devices to your lab and you don’t collaborate with others.” I expressed my concerns with him and he then took me for a walk.  The man is quite the talker with all his analogies, so as you can imagine, I wasn’t all too phased at first. However, as we walked and he took me in the room of teachers doing GREAT things, he opened my eyes. These teachers weren’t just putting technology in the students hands and saying good luck.  They were using the technology as a tool. There’s a different between using it as a tool and as a crutch.  One thing I vividly remember from working with our technology person, is he’d always say to me, “Allie, a teacher doesn’t put a book in front of a kid and say good luck. The book is the tool.  The device is a tool.  It’s not doing the job of the teacher.”

I went on to work at Washington in that environment for 3 years, I became the assistant to our technology person, helped roll out the 1:1 iPad program and am beyond proud of the things I learned while working there.  Now, I’ve helped propose bringing a 1:1 program to one of the schools I’m working at.

You see, technology in the hands of children is what you make of it.  Kids don’t learn to read just by picking up a book. Technology doesn’t limit creativity, but it helps enhance it.  I’ve been blessed to work amongst AMAZING teachers, teachers that I’d kill to be, and the things they’ve done is mind blowing.  They’re still teaching, but they’re doing so much more than that.  Eyes have been opening, ideas have been put to work and great pieces have been created.   There are even teachers  who don’t even want to use technology because it goes against what they’ve taught for years. Schools aren’t just puddles of technology.  If someone finds one, can you please point me there?I’d love to work at it!

I’ve also seen teachers abuse the technology and I’ve also seen teachers abuse textbooks.  A crutch, not a tool. One person commented on the thread this morning that her child is on an iPad 4 hours a day at school.  Are you kidding me? That’s ridiculous.  Not even I, who forces technology down peoples throats, think that’s right.

Someone else brought up that  recent college graduates won’t know how to teach because there’s an app for that.  From my experience in college and working with recent college graduates, they don’t get to dabble in as much technology for teaching as others think.  It’s because each district is different with their technologies.  A lot of teachers will learn Web 2.0 and have sessions on technology, but that’s not all college is.  New teachers still have fresh new ideas and may find a way to use technology along the way, but is it wrong to help reinforce a topic my using an app?

People will continue to argue that teachers aren’t doing their jobs and the technology is.  I urge those people to step into the rooms of teachers and see what’s really going on.  It will amaze you. Technology is here to stay, it’s not going anywhere.  We should embrace it in our education system.  I still use paper and pencils for lots of things in my classrooms because I find it important. If I taught math, I’d certainly teach them how to do it with a paper and pencil before ever giving the students technology.  Sometimes I get irritated when I see collages hanging up in the hall, but then I think, awesome people still use magazines, glue and scissors.

Flipping gears, when I brought to Ben’s attention that I wanted Henry to have a mobile device he looked at me funny.  I know our one year old (he was 10 months when he got it) doesn’t need it, but I wanted him to have it for no reason other than I think it’s a great learning tool.  Originally we settled on an iPad mini, but thanks to an awesome Black Thursday sale at Best Buy, we went with the Kindle.

Reading books

Reading books

Guess what, Henry uses it and I love it.  It’s loaded with tons of free apps from Fisher Price and free ebooks.  He LOVES the sounds, colors, and interaction.  He LOVES books.  He’s getting something from using his Kindle, his books are coming to life.  We didn’t teach him what the duck says, he learned it from his ABC app.  Did we teach him what the cow and horse say, absolutely? We maybe pull out the Kindle once a week and usually it’s me on Mondays when Ben is gone and I’m trying to cook dinner while making sure Henry doesn’t get into anything.  So, after I’ve plopped him in his highchair, I’ll break it out turn on the ABCs and we’ll go through things together.  I’m not using technology to babysit my child (well except when we were road tripping this last weekend and he’d had enough of the car.  The Kindle was the only thing that kept him quiet).  We’re learning together.  He’s not dependent on his device to function.  He still plays with his toys all night long and has showed us he has quite the imagination.  He knows where it’s stored and never has he sat screaming at the drawer waiting for me to pull it out.  Every night he gets read too and spends more time playing with books than any child I’ve EVER met.

Reading a book in public....sssh don't tell anyone

Reading a book in public….sssh don’t tell anyone

You see, technology in moderation is fine in my opinion.  It’s how you use it and approach the tool that matters. We don’t bring it in public to restaurants with us.  At the grocery store he’s far too busy looking around (or trying to climb out of the cart) while we talk about different foods to even care about my phone with the grocery list on it.  Heck, he still loves my phone as a chew toy (and taking selfies of course).

Personally, I see where people think that technology is taking away the creativity and imagination of kids.  I’ve found, professionally and as a parent, if you are using it correctly, it only enhances their learning and imagination.  Henry won’t be allowed, as he gets older, to use his Kindle when he wants.  (The best part about the Kindle is the parental controls and the ability to turn off after certain periods).  He’ll still be outside finding adventure and hopefully loving books as much as he does now.  We won’t allow game consoles in our house and he sure as hell won’t watch SpongeBob.

Before you judge teachers, schools and parents for giving todays children, 21st Century learners, a piece of technology, look at the approach. Yes, I’ve seen parents use technology and TV to babysit their kids (I’ve even done it while trying to mop the floors on a Saturday morning), but there really are parents and teachers who find great ways to use it with their children. In the end, people do what works for them. Sometimes we need an electronic babysitter so we can breathe for a few minutes!

It’ll be a never ending debate as people will continue to abuse the tools in schools and at home, but the drinking age, smoking age, when kids should be allowed to drive and numerous other things have continually been a debate for my 26 years of life.  Society feeds off politics and debates, lets just add technology use to that list.


Reinventing ME


Last year for lent I emailed Katie to tell her I was giving up pregnancy.  She responded with something along the lines, “is this for real or have you just had enough?”  Well, it was true, I went into labor and had Henry on lent last year.  Best thing I ever gave up 🙂

While I’m not Catholic, I feel the need to give up things for lent to prove to myself that I can live without certain items.  This year however, instead of giving up pregnancy, I’m going to focus on Reinventing ME.  You might ask what does this mean, but really I’m not quite sure.  I just know the last time I reinvented myself it was to become a mom.  Now that I’ve been at this gig for one year I feel even more confident in myself as a mom and person.

Recently, I’ve had an eye opening epiphany that what I think is important, really isn’t.  I find that a lot of what I think it important can be too materialistic or vain.  Not necessarily who I am, but who I’ve become. Since I’ve survived the first year of motherhood, almost four years as a wife, and twenty six years as myself, it’s time for change.  My main New Years resolution was to do more for myself and find inner happiness.  I can honestly say that I’m well on my way to doing that, but theres so much more I want to do for myself and my family.

To be honest, a lot of days I don’t feel all that grown up.  Sure I have a family, a house and a job, but that doesn’t necessarily make you a grown up.   I still spend money like an irresponsible teenager, have terrible eating habits and spend more time social networking than I should.  Lately, it’s just become to monotonous.  I feel like a lot of who I am and have become is holding my family back from being the family that I truly see us being.  I want dinners at the table, a new house, go to church often, family vacations, grow my blog, movie nights, more babies, dinner parties, etc.  Sure, I have a lot of that now, but our life is so fast paced that there really isn’t that time to breathe.  Or is there? Am I just picking and choosing what’s important? I decided that now is as better time than ever to start fresh. Find what’s truly important and make it work.

Yesterday, I did something that hasn’t been done since my freshman year of college.  I paid off our credit cards (not too shocking, it happens monthly), cut up the one that I have memorized and cancel it.  All of this for no reason other than I’m a one click shopper.  It’s SO easy for me to store my credit cards in my accounts, find something I like and then click order completed.  It’s RIDICULOUS! My family members often joke that UPS will never go out of business because of me.  My closet is FULL of clothes that I NEVER wear.  I also own tons of shoes.  Instead of ordering something new everyday (really I have a problem) why not create new outfits out of what I have.  Hopefully we’ll see an increase in our bank account and comments will stop being made about me and the UPS man!

While cutting up my credit card is just a very small (actually HUGE) move on my goal of reinventing myself I feel refreshed already.  A huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders just by doing that. I’ve unsubscribed to ALL shopping emails, made us eat dinner at the table as a family last night and spent far less time on my phone after work.  I also have been getting up at 5am again, am working on a healthy eating style for our family and am truly contemplating a “make older”  (that’s a hole different post)!

I’ve told my husband none of this.  My inability to change is something that he has brought up many times in our relationship.  He even mentioned it this weekend while we were away.  It’s time, really it is.  For the record, we have a great relationship, albeit odd at times, but truly wonderful.  I know with letting go of stupid things, putting other things first and taking a little time to smell the roses, it will be out of this world.

I don’t anticipate this is a change that will happen overnight, but with spring coming, maybe coming, why not start off on a great note.  Take the next step to a new and better you!