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March With Me

If it’s in your heart to give, we pray you’ll consider donating towards Oaklee’s team in the March for Babies on May 5 in Grand Rapids, MI.

Pre-NICU experience, my knowledge of March of Dimes was this: In March, as a kid, you read a lot for this program that was once called “Book It” which has something to do with this thing called March of Dimes, but you get a free personal pizza from Pizza Hut at the end, which is really the motivating goal.

I never knew.

I never knew that 1 in 10 babies are born premature. I never knew that prematurity was the #1 cause of infant mortality. And I never knew that my child, my baby, would be born three months premature.

So what does March of Dimes do? Allow me to borrow their simplest definition: “March of Dimes leads the fight for the health of all moms and babies.” And then let’s add words from their materials to explain they, “focus on fighting birth defects, premature birth and infant death with innovations like newborn screenings and surfactant therapy; education for medical professionals and the public about best practices; and lifesaving research. [They] provide comfort and support to families in NICUs and advocated for those who need [them] most, moms and babies.”

So what did March of Dimes do for us? I’m literally in tears as I look back through Oaklee’s discharge summary and type this up – March of Dimes grantees helped develop surfactant therapy, which was introduced in 1990, and has since then reduced the rate of death by Respiratory Distress Syndrome (which Oaklee was diagnosed with upon birth) in half. They’re also working on new approaches to deliver inhaled nitric oxide (a treatment Oaklee also had) to where it is needed in the lungs to prevent Bronchopulmonary Dysplasia. This is the type of research we need people to do, and the frontrunner for why this little family of three wants to raise money for an organization that may have literally saved Oaklee’s life.

On a smaller scale, the March of Dimes NICU Family Support is also a great program. Being in the NICU is hell. I wouldn’t wish any amount of time there on my worst enemy, but I’m so very grateful for the good things the NICU Family Support program is doing because the little things make a huge difference. They gave us booklets of information that took words like “surfactant therapy” and “bronchopulmonary dysplasia” and put them into laymen’s terms that even the just-gave-birth-and-desperately-in-need-of-a-transfusion woman could understand. They offered educational classes with previous NICU parents and Lactation Consultants and other various experts. They gave us keepsake books, milestone markers and little gift bags. And, oh my gosh, the little rubber duckies we found at Oaklee’s isolette on the holidays she spent in the NICU… It truly is the little things, isn’t it?

Simply put, raising $1000 is not enough to repay March of Dimes for what they did for us, but we’ll start there, and someday we’ll find a way to continue giving, to continue improving the outlook for premature babies like Oaklee.

So if it’s in your heart to give, we pray you’ll consider donating towards Oaklee’s team in the March for Babies on May 5 in Grand Rapids, MI. And if you’re local, we’d love to have you walk on our team with us. So many of you have already proven your place in the village that will raise our child and it is such a blessing to have you on Team Oaklee.

Click Here to Donate or to Join Team Oaklee

Book Review – Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

For my birthday in December, I got a six month subscription to Book of the Month from my in-laws. More than I love reading, I love reading really good books, and this feels like a sure way to make that happen. I was ecstatic as I chose the first of my six books, one I’d recently had my eye on, and boy, was it a good pick!

For my birthday in December, I got a six month subscription to Book of the Month from my in-laws. More than I love reading, I love reading really good books, and this feels like a sure way to make that happen. I was ecstatic as I chose the first of my six books, one I’d recently had my eye on, and boy, was it a good pick!

Book 3
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine
by Gail Honeyman

Genre:
Psychological Fiction

Published:
May 2017

Synopsis According to Mandi:
Without spoilers, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is about a girl, Eleanor Oliphant, who is the definition of simplicity. She’s an odd duck, but she’s never cared. Growing up and paving her way through life on her own, she’s simply “fine” – nothing better, nothing worse. Her world is turned upside down when she and a co-worker help a stranger in need, bonding over the experience and leading her to deal with the happenings of her past relationships as she sorts out what relationships look like for her now.

Favorite Quote:

All you hear these days is that everything’s going to hell in a handcart, how everyone’s a pedophile or a crook, and it’s not true. You forget that the world is full of ordinary decent people like yourselves, Good Samaritans who’ll stop and help a soul in need.

― Gail Honeyman, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

Awards (based upon my brief research):
Debut Bestseller
Costa First Novel Book Award winner 2017

Pages:
327

My Overall Rating:
4.5 – Ugh, I take my ratings so seriously, and this one was hard. I could not give this a 5 because the ending felt abrupt. However, in every other way, it was a 5 to me. Either Gail Honeyman has the most impressive vocabulary I’ve ever seen, or she put in a ton of work to make Eleanor Oliphant come off as such a unique person with a hilariously verbose way of thinking/talking. Even when the plot was slow, the content was fun. Plus, I think we all have a little Eleanor Oliphant in us, it’s just that Eleanor has a lot. I loved how Honeyman essentially intertwined two plots in one, using the same main character and bringing the plots together in the end. I highly recommend this book. 

P.S. I have to share my second favorite quote:

I have often noticed that the people who routinely wear sportswear are the least likely sort to participate in athletic activity.

― Gail Honeyman, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

First Steps

Three days after finding out we were pregnant, we finally started trying to take action on those “first step” pieces of the journey. 

1.19.17

“It’s weird, finding out you’re pregnant, yet life remaining relatively normal.”

Three days after finding out we were pregnant, we finally started trying to take action on those “first step” pieces of the journey.

1 – Picking an OB/GYN – This is something I regretted not having done research on, prior to starting a family. I lost my chance to ask, guilt-free, if any family members or friends had suggestions for which OB/GYN to see. Instead, I picked based on my very well thought out, extensive list of two criteria. I wanted a woman, and I wanted somebody close to home. Having found one who met my highest of standards, I scheduled my two first appointments with the doctor I thought would one day deliver our baby. People say you’re supposed to have this great relationship with your OB/GYN, that you’re supposed to have a strong connection and bond over the course of your pregnancy and their delivering of your baby. I felt so much pressure to like my doctor as a person, that I never took into account what would happen if our pregnancy turned sour and our needs were out of her realm of assistance. Never again will I choose a doctor based on how well she likes my jokes.

2 – Planning out vacation days – Kevin and I examined our remaining vacation days for the year and imagined how we might ration those as best as possible to have more time at home when our baby arrived and yet still enjoy one last, nice vacation as just the two of us.

3 – Dreaming up the nursery – In the midst of a kitchen re-model, we knew our next big project would be the nursery. Not yet knowing the gender, there was little we could do aside from setting a chunk of time aside in the future to paint, decorate, craft and put furniture together. I imagined we would tackle this as soon as we finished the kitchen, and then put our other house projects on hold until the baby arrived and we got settled in.

I took my dog for a long walk on this day, listened to a few episodes of a pregnancy podcast because I realized how little I knew about pregnancy and drifted off to sleep at the early bed time of 9:00 pm, which would soon get earlier as I got deeper into my first trimester.

My symptoms were fatigue and tender, um… breasts… and they felt difficult because they were different. It is a hard stage, having symptoms of being pregnant, but not being allowed to let on about what you’re experiencing. I just had no idea how much harder this pregnancy was going to get.

In the stats: 
Gestational Age: 4 weeks, 5 days

The Positive Pregnancy Test

It was January 16. Kevin and I had entertained the idea of starting a family, and on this day, it felt like we only blinked before that journey began.

1.16.17

“Three words to describe my thoughts, emotions and body in the past 24 hours… positive pregnancy test.”

It was January 16. Kevin and I had entertained the idea of starting a family, and on this day, it felt like we only blinked before that journey began.

I sat at my desk at work, feeling “off”, three days late and certain the pregnancy test I’d bought months ago in preparation for this day that I would take when I got home would be positive. Getting antsy, and needing to confirm my suspicion, I left 20 minutes early and drove home in silence on a rainy, January day. My mind raced and I tried to convince myself my gut could be wrong.

I got home and quickly took the test and watched the two pink lines appear immediately. The instructions say to wait three minutes, so I forced myself to leave the room as if the lines might disappear before I came back. I returned to the same two pink lines and fell into a pattern of heavy breaths and tears.

Filled with emotion, I quickly conjured up what it would take to take a second test, as if the first positive wasn’t confirmation enough. With the second positive, I launched into preparation mode for telling Kevin when he got home. Inside the pregnancy-test-sized-gift box I’d also bought months ago, I placed one of the positive tests and wrote, “You’re going to be a dad!” I set up a camera and paced the kitchen for what seemed like hours, but was realistically minutes.

When Kevin got home, I shared the news, and we entered into the first leg of our journey – the secret keeping stage. We celebrate any milestone with dinner at a restaurant around the corner from our house, so this stage began with that celebratory dinner, while we talked about how much we didn’t know. How do we pick a doctor? At what point do we tell people? How will we tell people? Who will we tell first?

We knew little about having a baby, but we knew less about what this journey was going to look like for us.

In the stats: 
Gestational Age: 4 weeks, 2 days

P.S. Spoiler alert – our story ends with, all things considered, a healthy baby. As it progresses, however, things get wonky. Much of our story will not be for faint of heart, and by faint of heart, I mostly mean men. Follow at your own risk, as there’s no way of fully telling our story without sharing the literal ins and outs of this pregnant woman’s body.

Book Review – Wonder

Wonder was a very quick read, but still, I would recommend it. I hope my daughter reads it when she’s in Middle School, and I hope she’s a Summer and not a Julian. 

The past few years I’ve tried to read at least two books per month (24 books in a year). 2018 is off to a great start as I finished this gem, my second book of the year, within the first week of the year. I don’t always read this much, but when I have the time, reading is what I generally want to be doing.

Book 2
Wonder
by RJ Palacio

Genre:
Children’s Literature – Fiction

Published:
February 2012

Synopsis According to Mandi:
Without spoilers, Wonder is about a boy, August Pullman, who was born with a “facial difference” and is infiltrated into a prep school in the 5th grade after being homeschooled for all of his previous schooling. The book spans the length of a school year, and shares August’s experience throughout that year from various character’s perspectives. He’s new, he’s “different” and he’s in the 5th grade… I think you get the general idea.

Favorite Quote:

If you act just a little kinder than is necessary, someone else, somewhere, someday, may recognize in you the face of God.

― RJ Palacia, Wonder

Awards:
The New York Times Best Seller list

Texas Bluebonnet Award master list.
2014 Maine Student Book Award
Vermont’s Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children’s Book Award
2015 Mark Twain Award
Hawaii’s 2015 Nene Award

Junior Young Reader’s Choice Award for 2015
In Illinois, it won both the Bluestem and Caudill Awards in 2014

Pages:
316

My Overall Rating:
3 – Over the course of the book, I felt there wasn’t a significant plot, but in the end, I gained an appreciation for the writing style and was satisfied with it as a whole. I want to give this book a higher rating, because it really was a great read and such a feel good book (I was literally smiling as I read the end). What holds me back from rating it higher is simply the fact that it’s very much a children’s novel. Wonder was a very quick read, but still, I would recommend it. I hope my daughter reads it when she’s in Middle School, and I hope she’s a Summer and not a Julian. 

Book Review – The Life She Was Given

In pregnancy, and life in general, one thing that has helped me immensely to get through is reading. While I will not be including the books I read throughout my pregnancy, I will share reviews of my 2018 reads. Here is the first on that list.

In pregnancy, and life in general, one thing that has helped me immensely to get through is reading. While I will not be including the books I read throughout my pregnancy, I will share reviews of my 2018 reads. Here is the first on that list.

Book 1:
The Life She Was Given
by Ellen Marie Wiseman

Genre:
Historical Fiction, Mystery

Published:
July 2017

Synopsis According to Mandi:
Without spoilers, The Life She Was Given is about two girls, Lilly and Julia. Lilly was born into unfortunate circumstances and kept from the public eye until being sold to the circus. She journeys from her own personal hell to a new sort of hell in… the life she was given.The author frames the book to make the reader beg for redemption for Lilly, and she gets it, but not at the predicted time. Several years later, the other girl, Julia, inherits the family estate and begins uncovering dirty secrets of her family’s.

Favorite Quote:

Then again, she didn’t like small talk either, so she was glad he wasn’t commenting on the weather or the landscape. Life was too big and too short and too important to talk about the lack of rain or the latest gossip. She wanted to know how people felt about themselves and one another, whether they were happy or sad. She wanted to know what made them feel loved and what hurt them to the core. She wanted to know about their past, how they got where they were, and their relationships with their mothers and fathers and siblings. She wanted to know if she was the only mixed-up person in the world who felt completely and utterly alone.”

― Ellen Marie Wiseman, The Life She Was Given

Awards:
A GREAT GROUP READS Selection of the Women’s National Book Association and National Reading Group Month
GOODREADS Best of the Month

Pages:
356

My Overall Rating:
4 – I thought this book was very good. It had such a great plot with the perfect amount of both expected and unexpected turns. I found the point of redemption for the main character’s life to be unique. It managed to be a satisfying plot without the anticipated ending. There were just minor things that bothered me, like the beginning of each chapter being a recap of previous chapters, but as a whole, I would highly recommend it.

My Christmas Letter

What a year it has been. 2017 saw some of my most joy-filled moments walking hand-in-hand with some of my most horrifying experiences of my life. In 2017, everything changed.

Friends and family,

What a year it has been. 2017 saw some of my most joy-filled moments walking hand-in-hand with some of my most horrifying experiences of my life.

In 2017, everything changed.

I became a parent, which is what my year was almost 100% about. My rollercoaster to parenthood seemed to have fewer peaks and deeper valleys than most. Any excitement I experienced was quickly muffled by the reality of our situation, but in the end, my husband and I brought home a beautiful baby girl, the joy of our life and the thing we’ve most prayed for this year.

Not only did we add to our family, but I switched jobs. I left two non-profits I care deeply about in order to reorient our lives around our new little family. I began working part time from home, and spending my days off being mommy.

In 2017, we learned how to keep big secrets, how scary pregnancy can be, how valuable our friends and family are and how challenging parenthood is.

I have to take a moment to thank the people who rallied around us this year – the ones who prayed for us, the ones who brought us dinners, the ones who checked in on us, the ones who journeyed with us. I deeply believe you are the ones who carried us through. Many a people complimented us on our strength, but this was a year where we relied on others for our strength. So thank you for being strong.

This year was anything but easy, but as much as I’m glad it’s end is nearing, I’m also glad it happened. 2017 will forever be the year I became a mommy, and being a mommy is my new favorite thing to be.

Journey with me, here, in 2018, as I revisit the events of 2017, remembering and reflecting on each stage of our pregnancy and our first few steps into parenthood with a preemie.

Merry Christmas and happy New Year!

Meet Mandi

I’ve been staring at my screen for probably 10 minutes trying to decide how to introduce myself. Here are the things that are the very core of me right now and some things that have, at some point, rang true about me.

I’m going to be honest, I went back to Why Things Are Like That in hopes I had written some sort of introduction there that I could reuse because I’ve been staring at my screen for probably 10 minutes trying to decide how to introduce myself.

Here’s the thing, though, 2017 was kind of a wash. So here I sit, at the end of an entire year that I was not allowed to be myself, and I don’t even know how to introduce myself. Here are the things that are the very core of me right now:

  1. I live in Michigan.
  2. I’m a Christian.
  3. I got married in September of 2014.
  4. I had a baby in June of 2017.

But you probably want to know more than that? Here are some things that have, at some point, rang true about me:

  1. I studied Communications at Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
  2. I like to be on time, organized and productive.
  3. I like to be active – biking, hiking, walking, cross country skiing.
  4. If I could be anything, it would be a writer. I love words, and grammar, and other nerdy things like syntax.
  5. I work part time from home for a non-profit, doing communications, marketing and IT.
  6. In my spare time, what I want to be doing is traveling, having new experiences and seeing new places.
  7. In my spare time, what I’m probably doing is trying to get my baby to giggle or reading.
  8. I have a dog.
  9. I was a cheerleader and a cheer coach and miss doing both dearly.
  10. I love the Olympic Games. Love them.

I’m sure you’ll learn more along the way in this next writing project – and maybe I will too as I learn how to be myself again!

Thanks for stopping by. Stay tuned. The beginning of the next project is near!

Drumroll Please

With fewer opportunities to write, I had to put a lot of thought into what my next project would be. I’m only laying the foundation of the project over here so far, so while this post is not the beginning of my next writing project, let it serve as the drumroll of what’s to come.

Friends, it’s been so long since I’ve written publicly, but it’s time to put my hat back in the ring.

With fewer opportunities to write, I needed a solid next project – one that would push me and give me good traction.  I’m only laying the foundation of the project over here so far, so while this post is not the beginning of my next writing project, let it serve as the drumroll of what’s to come.

For two and a half years, I blogged here -> Why Things Are Like That for fun, and fun, it was, but here’s my warning about this next project: it’s not fun. This next project is about growth, and growth is hard. Here are some thing you will find in this next project:

  • honesty
  • pain
  • deep thoughts
  • shallow thoughts

Here are some things you will not (most likely) find:

  • crazy traveling adventures
  • lavish recipes
  • latest fashion trends
  • pictures of my dog

I hope this helps you envision what’s to come. (wink)