Before Dan met me, all he wanted to do in life was travel the world. The summer after he graduated high school (in 2005) he spent a summer in Europe. Even now, seven years later, he still talks about it all the time. The idea of traveling sounds fun, but it’s never been my dream. But it’s his dream, and because of that, I want to be part of that. It took me a long time, but I surprised him.

This is a map Dan brought home from Europe the first time he went. Guess where we’re going on September 12th?

I made the most disgusting dessert to ever be seen on this planet.

Strawberry almond tapioca pudding.

Of course, the kids loved it. It was their idea in the first place. I had made normal tapioca and was making a second batch with almond milk for Ava and next thing I know, the kids are begging and pleading with me to add strawberry powder to it. So, I did, and it was absolutely disgusting.

And of course, I forgot a few ingredients in the cupboards. I am the most inefficient cook there is. I end up going to the same cupboard six times to get things out, rather than making one trip.

Because I used strawberry powder in the unsweetened almond milk, I went ahead and skipped the three tablespoons of sugar that you’re supposed to add to the pot.

And of course, I rand out of regular tapioca. At first I was just frustrated, but then I realized I had the giant boba tapioca pearls that my neighbor left at my house forever ago. I figured I could grind them with my Magic Bullet to about the right size and it might work.

I ground it up a little bit smaller than it looks like in this picture. Lucky enough for me, it worked! It turned out like normal tapioca, even using the big boba pearls. Just be sure to grind it all down pretty small, otherwise you might end up with undercooked tapioca and that’s just gross.

So, just like regular tapioca, I added the whipped egg and put it in the refrigerator to cool. Of course, Maddi and Danny had to ask me every five minutes “Is it cool yet? Can I have some yet? Is it done yet? I want some, mom!” I wanted to gag just imagining how it would taste.

Thankfully little kids think that all sorts of disgusting things taste great. I don’t remember what it was, but there was something I was all excited to eat because I used to love it when I was a kid… Then I took a bite and it was disgusting. Thankfully my kids aren’t picky and are apparently immune to bad cooking. They loved the tapioca. Maddi and Danny even asked for seconds.

My poor kids, having to put up with my cooking.

Today was fun… Not really. It was long, boring and a waste of time.

Right now, we’re down to one car because Dan’s truck keeps having one problem after another. We could get it fixed. We have the money…  But at this point… We aren’t so sure the truck is even worth fixing. We also don’t know how much longer we’ll even be here if Dan’s interviews go well… So, for the time being, we’re working with just the one car. Which for me, means I have to work with Dan’s schedule. Today, it meant going to the college a couple hours early because he was helping his sister with programming homework. I really didn’t want to leave early, but at least I got some work done while we were there.

After I got home from class, we did Maddi’s hair. I have had her new hair extensions for a few days now, but she hadn’t earned them yet. She was having a hard time listening to mom and dad and keeping her room clean. But, today she really tried and I gave her some credit and we did her hair. I do have to admit, I like the quality of her new extensions better than the old ones. Maybe they’re just softer. I don’t know, but I really like them. I really like Jenns Haircare Blog, she has some really cool tips.

And of course, I tried to get a cute picture of her and all she would do is make faces and be a goof for the camera.

Miss Goofy loves her new hair

No idea what's going on here.

Oh god. The four-year-old is doing the duck face.

And, just for fun, all three of the kids.

And yes. Danny has a couple of extensions in too. The poor kid saw me doing Maddi’s extensions and wanted some too. Poor little guy doesn’t understand that it’s a girl thing… So I just let him have a couple of the ones I took out of Maddi’s hair. They just look like highlights on him. Of course, I cut them short to match his hair. He isn’t even three yet. He doesn’t understand that it’s a girly thing. Who am I to tell him no while he sits there and watches his sister get her hair done? He just felt left out.

I have been writing a lot lately.

I have been following a debt payoff plan similar to the Dave Ramsey method. The first step is done. I have $1,000 in savings. I paid off my first debt. I paid off my car. And now I’m working on debt number three out of four. I’ve made so much progress. It’s almost hard to believe that I have paid off so much in such a short period of time, but I really want to eliminate all of my credit cards and other debts. It’s a big deal to have that money freed up each month. That’s money that can be put toward other things, like savings, retirement or just fun. Hell, I’d love to go on a vacation to one of those houses from Twiddy outer banks vacation rentals near the shore. I’ve never been on a vacation.

That is why I have been writing so much. I made a goal to write three articles per day, every day for the month of march. I don’t have to write them every  day, but I have to have the equivalent of three every day. If I want to write six today, I can skip tomorrow. So far, I’ve done well and I’m even a day ahead on all of my articles.

I have been trying to think of it as a real job. No way do I spend eight hours a day on it, but I have been trying to treat it like a “real” job. I haveto finish my three articles every day. No excuses. It has to be done. If I want that debt to keep disappearing… I have to put in the work to make it keep disappearing. It felt so good when I finished the $1,000 savings. It felt even better when I paid off my first debt. It felt even more amazing when I paid off my car.

I have two debts left and my goal is to pay them both off by the end of summer. That is my goal. Sometimes I feel like it’s impossible and I’ll never be able to do it. Other times, I feel like it’s completely manageable and nothing can stop me from doing it. I go back and forth from motivated and determined to overwhelmed and defeated. Regardless of what state of mind I’m in… I do those three articles a day and slowly but surely it adds up. I am 12% of the way through debt #3.

I have been thinking about giving myself “treats” every $250 and $500. Smaller treats for $250 and bigger treats for $500. It might seem lame but I think the four-year-old is on to something with her reward charts! Maybe some new clothes or getting my hair dyed. I don’t know. I’m thinking a $50 treat for the $250 marks and a $100 treat when I hit the $500 mark, paid in cash of course, not credit! I am not using the credit cards as freely as I used to! Not going down that road again!

Anyway, that’s my life as of lately. Making money. Paying off debt. Playing with the kids. Having a grand old time. Never a dull moment.

It took me three months, but I respect my friend who was recently approved as a foster carer in Swansea. This was the first time anyone had ever humiliated and hurt me over my daughter’s special needs. Here’s a copy of the letter I sent. I feel sick even thinking about everything that happened that night. I am completely disgusted and sickened by everything that transpired that night. I hope they will take action to prevent this from happening to another poor mother and her special needs child.

I have debated contacting your company for a while regarding one of my experiences at your restaurant. I was really shaken up and upset by what happened and I feel that I need to let you know.

I visited your Anchorage location when I was on federal jury duty. I live three hours away from Anchorage, but was staying in a hotel with my friend and my nine-month-old daughter. We thought it would be fun to go out to eat, and I had always enjoyed dining there any other time I had visited Anchorage.

My daughter was diagnosed with failure to thrive, along with spastic diplegia cerebral palsy in August of 2011. She was and still is, much smaller than most babies her age and has special health concerns. These issues, quite frankly, are no one’s business but mine and my family’s.

My daughter would go into frantic fits if she was in restrictive clothing such as socks or a coat. Most likely a sensory processing issue, which is common with children who have her issues. Because of this, we wrap her in blankets when we go from the car to indoors. We did the same thing that we always do while we were visiting your restaurant. We wrapped her up snugly in blankets and carried her in and took the blankets off when we got inside.

Our server asked how old my daughter was, and not even thinking about her small size, I told the woman she was nine months and she looked shocked and I instantly regretted telling her.

While I was up getting my plate at the buffet, a waitress approached my friend to talk to her about how we need to have a coat on my daughter and that she’s just trying to look out for the little babies she sees and how she hopes we aren’t offended, but she wanted to let us know that the other waitresses were talking about calling children’s services on me because we didn’t have a coat on her (we used the blankets as I described) and because of how small she was.

When I returned to the table, my friend told me what happened. When the waitress came back I asked her what was going on and she told me. I was so upset I couldn’t stop crying. This was the first time I had really gone out and done anything with my daughter and this was how I was being treated. Waitresses criticizing my parenting, threatening to call the authorities and staring my daughter and I down during our visit. I couldn’t even eat my dinner, I was so upset. I was going to ask for a refund but I was so angry and hurt that I couldn’t even speak to my friend without sobbing, let alone speak to a manager. I was so upset, I felt like I was going to get sick. We ended up leaving without eating our dinner and I cried the entire way home.

There are children in this world that have special needs that the general population may not understand. I understand that and I do my best to make my daughter’s issues known to those who they are relevant for. However, I should not have to give a medical history to my server at a restaurant. Nor should I be persecuted, gossiped about and tore down for something they obviously knew nothing about. I was appalled at how I was treated and even now, three months later, I still cannot believe that my daughter and I were treated so poorly.

Needless to say, we have not returned to your establishment, and nor will we. Our experience and the lack of understanding and compassion has left a sour taste in my mouth that I don’t know that I will ever be able to get rid of. You may consider further training for your employees in regards to how these issues should and shouldn’t be addressed. I would hate for another mother and child to experience the horrific treatment that I did while I was at your restaurant.

Samantha Van Vleet

Ava at the restaurant before anyone said anything.

 

It’s here. Finally.

I know it’s nothing spectacular, and nothing amazing, but it’s something, and something I earned. It’s the first of more to come. It’s the first big step down on a very long and trying path. I got a degree. It may not be an impressive or even specific one, but it’s a degree, and it’s the first step in the right direction.

Now, I’m faced with another decision. I was accepted into the biological sciences BS program, but I’m thinking of switching to the BA program. The BA has all of the prereqs I need for medical school, and I can do it all on the peninsula. I don’t have to move to Anchorage for a semester or worry about any of that craziness. I can do it all here, and then apply to med school in portland when I finish. There’s also the time advantage. I could likely finish the BA in three semesters if I plan it well.. The BS would take me at least five more semesters.

I’m torn. I know a BS looks better because it’s more in-depth, but unfortunately, a BS would put much more strain on me and my family, financially and geographically. Odds are, I’ll apply for the BA at the end of this semester and see where it takes me.

For now, I’m nervous. I have a degree now. The next step, is to get the bachelor’s, whether it’s a BA or BS, I just need to get it… Then, I wait. I wait to see if the medical school gods deem me as “good enough” to be admitted into their program. It makes me feel so anxious. I worry that perhaps I’m overestimating myself… Maybe I’m not as smart as I’ve been led to believe. Sometimes when I’m especially anxious, I wonder who I think I’m kidding when I say I want to be a physician.

I guess only time will tell. All I can do for now is keep chugging along.

School

School

There is one thing I am incredibly proud of. No, it’s not my kids, despite how amazingly in love and proud of them I am. But, anyone can have kids. Not everyone can do what I have done in regards to my education.

In a way it’s funny. So many people had their bets against me. I got pregnant my junior year of high school. I was married that same year and gave birth the same month my senior year started. Everyone was betting against my marriage, my future and my education. I don’t think anyone really thought I’d make it through, no one thought I could get enough exam preparation to pass the year. Everyone assumed I’d do what I was already doing and what most other young moms do; drop out and never look back.

But I didn’t.

At the time I found myself pregnant I had already dropped out, but my pregnancy really opened my eyes. I didn’t know what I was doing or where I was going but I knew it wasn’t going to be where I saw so many other girls with no diploma, no GED, an entry-level job, living off of assistance and lucky if their baby’s dad stuck around, let alone married them.

I didn’t want that and that wasn’t going to be me.

I re-enrolled in school. I started with home school in the summer. I caught up all the credits I had missed and started working on the ones I had left. Then I went back to public school. I hated every minute of it, but I dragged myself through it. I walked the block and a half to SoHi every day. I left my classes barfing my brains out on more than one occasion. My teachers knew I was pregnant. I could tell they were trying not to make a spectacle of it, but they did with obvious special treatment; no hall pass needed for my morning sickness runs. I barely made it through the semester. At that point, I was obviously pregnant and I just didn’t think I had it in me to keep going. I switched back to home school full time. By the time I had my daughter, I only needed three more classes. I finished those three classes at Kenai Alternative. I spent seven weeks, riding the bus there at 7 in the morning with a brand new baby, dealing with breastfeeding discrimination, and trying my best to keep up while my head was swimming in demerol and dilaudid. Even so, I did it. I finished an entire semester before I was originally supposed to and I walked at graduation the following May.

I see people who make excuses about why they didn’t want to, couldn’t or wouldn’t finish high school or get their GED, but really, there are very few real reasons not to. It isn’t easy. I’ll agree there, but your education isn’t something you should expect to be handed to you. You have to work for it. If it were easy it wouldn’t be worth being proud of, would it?

I spent the next year in marital hell.

My husband and I, like most young couples weren’t doing so hot. We had a lot of problems and looking back, I don’t know who or what caused them. We were both to blame in our own ways. We were young, selfish and we didn’t know each other the way we should have before we decided to get married, let alone have a baby. Dan and I separated that summer. I had no idea what to do. I was sitting in the living room of my apartment, upset and crying after getting off of the phone with Dan. I asked Derick to drive me to get the rest of my stuff from Dan’s place, but he needed to stop by the college for something on the way. I don’t know what he was doing, but Maddi and I ended up wandering around the commons. A lady with dark hair started talking to me and I don’t really know what happened but the next thing I knew, I was registered for classes.

Of course, my immature behavior and lazy attitude got the best of me and my first semester of college was my worst.

Dan and I were too chaotic and I didn’t have a license. I couldn’t drive and I couldn’t take care of my own needs. I completely flopped that semester and I was lucky it didn’t turn out worse than it did. Thankfully, Dan and I mellowed out, started to enjoy the company of one another and began to really build on, work on, and strengthen our marriage. We found out that same semester we were expecting our second child. I decided to keep going to school, but chose my classes a little wiser that semester. It worked out and for the first time ever, I made Chancellor’s list with all A’s and one B.

I continued school and for the most part, I did well. Until the fall semester my appendix decided to go boom. For the second time in my life, I was learning that algebra and morphine don’t mix well. Even so, I continued going that spring semester, took the summer off and then decided that I needed a longer break and decided to sit out fall semester. I was stressed. Newly pregnant yet again, and decided that I needed the time to focus on my doula and childbirth educator certifications. I did just that and the picked school back up the following spring semester.

During that semester, I was taking 13 credits. I took the bare minimum to be considered full-time and despite the guidance counselor urging me not to come back that semester because my baby was due to be born two months into the semester, I did it anyways. And guess what? It was the first semester I ever made all A’s. I made all A’s, traveled five hours from home, sat in a hotel for three weeks and had an all natural vaginal birth after two prior cesareans and made all A’s that semester. I didn’t take easy classes either.

No one has an excuse now. If I can do it in the midst of that situation, no one has an excuse.

At this point, I decided I was done taking breaks. I wasn’t skipping summers anymore. I took part-time during the summer and went full-time the following fall at 19 credits.

And now? I graduate.

I get my first college degree in December of 2011. As you can see from this documentation of my academic history, it hasn’t been easy. People talk to me about school and tell me that I’m “lucky to be smart,” but it has nothing to do with luck. I wasn’t any smarter than those people are at one point in my life, but I put forth the effort, I did the work and I learned and grew from the experience. It has nothing to do with just “being smart.” Sure, having a natural inclination can help, but if you have the will and the desire, then you can do it. If you don’t, then stop making excuses as to why you can’t, won’t, shouldn’t or couldn’t. I really hate hearing it. I wasn’t any better than most of my peers when I was in high school, and now I am. Not because I’m full of myself, but because I didn’t give up and I did the work. That’s all there is to it.

I am beyond proud of myself for this accomplishment. I know an associates of arts isn’t a huge deal. It’s just a general study program, however, I am beyond thrilled that I will be the first of my siblings with a college degree. I am beyond thrilled that I will be one of the very few people my age I know with a college degree. I am amazed that I will be the only girl my age who had kids in high school and now has a college degree.

It means a lot to me, but it should. After all, I worked my ass off for it.

And this is only the first step.

I’m not done with just my associates. I applied to the bachelors of science in biological sciences and I was accepted. I couldn’t believe it. I honestly didn’t think I would be accepted, but I was. And now? It’s all downhill from here.

I can do this.

And no one can stop me.

Who would have ever thought that I, the human milk machine, would ever be writing a post from the recipient side of milk donation?

In 2007 I donated a small amount of milk to two different babies. Not a lot, but still, some. In 2009 I donated over 2000 ounces to several babies. I had laundry baskets full of frozen milk inside the deep freezer. It was ridiculous.

My supply was one thing I was never concerned with, however, Ava was losing weight and we needed to up her intake since she was only processing a small portion of what she was taking in. Unlike the majority of parents, I didn’t jump to formula as my second option, but sought out donor milk. Ava has been able to receive milk donations from four amazing women, two of them possibly continuing. For this, we are more thankful than anyone can imagine.

In the few weeks she has been supplemented with donor milk she has gained over a pound. She’s happier. She babbles. She smiles. She’s more interactive. I’m convinced it’s helping, and if it helps us avoid the gtube, then I’m all for it.

Whenever someone asks me what’s wrong, it’s hard to know what to say to them. Do I tell the truth? Do I shrug it off? Part of me feels terrible laying that kind of emotion and sadness on them if I’m honest… But another part of me feels equally as awful if I lie or minimize how terrible I actually feel.

The last month has forced me to live a life I never would have imagined I would. I’m finding myself thinking and feeling things I never imagined I would ever need to. One of the strangest things I find, is how sensitive I’ve become. I’m sensitive over the tiniest things. Things people don’t even notice. Things I didn’t notice before, but now, I can’t help but notice.

Now, I can’t help but shift uncomfortably every time a stranger or even a friend or acquaintance asks me how much she weighs or how old she is. She’s tiny. I know this. Her skin does not look good. I’m not blind. Although this revitol skin tag remover on Webmediaeu.com have helped us, If you want to bring your skin back to looking young check out RENU Advanced. I don’t need eighty perfect strangers to point this out to me or interrogate me about how well she does or doesn’t eat. But I really don’t like being asked the weight question. I also don’ t want to explain what exactly is wrong with her to everyone who happens to ask. I also don’t like the shock and almost accusatory looks I get when I do answer the question. I also don’t like people who keep pressing for answers after I’ve already made it pretty clear I don’t want to talk about. My child is fed well and taken care of well. I don’t owe any one an explanation, and I’d really appreciate it if people stopped pressuring me and making me feel as if I do.

Maybe I’ve gotten mean since everything with Ava has happened. I feel like I have. I’m less tolerant of people now. I have a hard time caring about trivial “problems.” I’m really lacking in the empathy department. Your boyfriend dumped you? I’ll trade you. You’re broke? I’ll trade you. Your boss is a jerk? I’ll trade you. It all seems so stupid now.

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It’s kind of hard to stay positive right now… But I have a few positive things going on….

I got all of my sewing totes and craft area organized… Looks really good and everything is easy to access now! Makes it faster for me to finish projects now!

We found Ava’s umbilical cord… That was a weird story. I had lost it and don’t know how… I cried for almost five hours, tearing my house apart to find it…. And nothing. Then, a few weeks later (two days ago) I’m on the phone and Bre about tackles Danny because he came out of the kitchen with it… We still have no idea where it had been and Maddi just kept calling it the “Big Scary Snake.” Surprisingly it hadn’t broken or cracked or anything…

I finally made my Chanel-inspired mei-tai that I’ve been thinking about making for a while now…  I’ve been planning on making a mei-tai for about a year now… but only had a design in mind for the last month or so… Turned out cuter than I thought it would!

So yeah… There’s some positive, I guess.

My grandpa has been such an incredible influence in my life, especially considering how long he served as my parental figure and guardian. Sure, I remember feeling angry and annoyed with him all the time as a teenager and as a kid. As I got older, and even now, I’ve begun to see that he’s got faults, just like the rest of us, but he’s also an amazing man who has taught me more than I can ever describe. The more I grow and the more I mature, the more I realize that, “Yes, Papa. You were right.” If you know my grandpa, you know he loves to say “And what are those famous words I like to hear?” All in fun and teasing though. He’d never say it to be mean. And of course, I always half-roll my eyes and give him a sideways smile and comply, “You were right, Papa.”

One of those things I’m realizing now, even more so than ever, is that he was right when he told me to get an education. He told me “No one can ever take that away from you.”

When I was in high school, I either got all great grades, or I got all bad grades. I went back and forth between over-achieving and not caring. When I do well, I do extremely well. When I do poorly, I do extremely poor.

I have ADHD and OCD… Anyone with either of those conditions knows that individually, they’re horrific… But combined? They’re hell. If either one of them crops up more so than the other… It can be difficult. I find the most difficult of the two being the ADHD. I have a certain order, and routine I do things in. When I have issues concentrating, I can’t do these things and it stresses me out even more because I still have the compulsion to do these things in that order or routine, but I can’t focus long enough to do it, and while there is conflicting evidence, many people strongly believe that supplements for adhd are having a big impact on their children’s behavior.

Recently, I told my grandpa that it’s his fault. I get an 89% and I feel like I may as well have gotten an F. In my head, I know an 89% is good, but to me, it’s not good enough. Despite knowing it in my head, it doesn’t help how I feel about it.  My teacher says to read a chapter… I read the chapter three times and write a 1-2 page paper on each section of the chapter. My teacher says to do even problems 1-100, I do them all.

That is how I keep myself so sharp. I’m not just smart naturally. Intelligent, sure. But being smart and knowing your books takes time, practice, memorization and application. I know this. And I know that if I want to retain what I’m learning, that this is what I have to do. Ultimately, these strange routines and habits pay off in the form of high test scores.

Back to my original thought though… My grandpa told me that no one can ever take my education away from me. He’s right. And although he never said it in words, he taught me that an education sets me apart from the rest of the world.

I know I’m not amazing. I know come December, I’ll only have an associate’s degree under my belt… But I’ve learned so much in my education pursuits… Not just regarding academia, but about how much people care, and what kind of effort they put into themselves and their lives. Before, it was just about getting by and hoping for something better… Now, it’s about being better, and doing what it takes to get there.

I can’t help but notice how different I am compared to the girls my age in similar situations… heck, even to just kids my age without kids.

Sometimes I feel like I’m one of the few who have my head on tight.

Sorry if this was rambling or hard to follow. I’m just so scatterbrained today.

 

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