Many of you know that I write freelance from home to earn a little extra money. Anyways, there’s a yearly contest to win $1500 or $1000 and I really feel like I have a shot at winning. I need people to help by nominating me. You can nominate me in less than a few minutes. All you have to do is login (or create) a yahoo account and then visit my profile here: http://contributor.yahoo.com/user/700813/samantha_van_vleet.html

Then click on “Nominate Samantha Van Vleet as Contributor of the Year” and fill out the little box saying why you think I deserve it.

You can help even more by scrolling through my articles and choosing the ones you like the best (as many as you want) and clicking the yellow button that says “Nominate this article as content of the year.”

A few of my best articles include:

Three Reasons the United States is Failing to Promote Breastfeeding

Five Toxic Shampoo Ingredients to Avoid

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome: The Dangers of a “Good” Sleeper

Bathed in Toxins: Baby Shampoos aren’t as mild as they claim

Could “crotch dangler” carriers be bad for my baby?

Buyer’s remorse: The dangers of a meth house

Inside the mind of an anorexic

An adult on ritalin: The stigma of seeking help

 

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, since my kids where going to Brooksfield School I didn’t have much time. 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.

Want to look young again? You need to check these out: http://www.liquidfacelifts.org.

I haven’t updated since I posted about Ava’s diagnosis.

Sometimes it still feels fake. Sometimes it still feels like a really cruel joke and someone’s going to jump out from behind a wall and tell me I’m on candid camera. Unfortunately, as much as I wish this were true, it just isn’t.

This isn’t a joke.

I can hope and wish and beg and plead all I wanted, but it doesn’t change the fact that this is now my reality. Try as I may, I can’t change that anymore. Maybe I never could. All of the “could have” “should have” and “would have’s” in the world can’t save me now… No matter how hard I wish they were. Sometimes I wish I was a kid again. Life wasn’t complicated and bad things just didn’t happen… Except, the reality is, bad things DID happen… But children don’t see those things or understand those things.

Ignorance is bliss.

Ava is lucky, in the regard that she has me for a mom. I know it sounds conceited, but biology is my field. It is the subject I have studied and studied for years. I may not be an expert, but I understand more than most people do about it and I don’t need every little term explained to me. She has the benefit of having a mother who is more capable than most of understanding, dissecting and interpreting the things that are affecting her health. This is a positive thing for her, but sometimes I think its negative for me. Maybe if I didn’t understand these things, it wouldn’t hurt so bad, or sting so much. If I could just accept the dumbed down version the doctors use to explain it to those who don’t know, maybe it wouldn’t be so terrifying.

Tick tock.

I find myself going back and forth. I know everyone tells me not to feel guilty. Not to feel as though I am to blame, but even if I’m not to blame, I still have guilt. I go back and forth from wanting to hold Ava close and never let her go… To wanting to be as far away from her as possible. I go from sad, and sorry and compassionate… to finding myself saying “I didn’t sign up for this..” or even worse, wishing I had just stopped with two kids, and never experienced this kind of grief. And then I feel worse. What kind of mom thinks like that? I love her more than anything, but even though I love her, it doesn’t make reality’s cruel punch to the face hurt any less.

It can always get worse.

When I wrote my last post, I thought it couldn’t get any worse than it already was. I learned very quickly, it could and it would… Several times.

I just wish I could trade places with her.

I’ve been through a lot of stuff. Things most typical people have never had the misfortune of having to endure. But of all the awful things I’ve been through and had to overcome, nothing could have prepared me for the news Friday morning brought me, and our family.

Absolutely nothing.

Ava has had issues since the beginning. Always fussy. Always crying. So inconsolable, so angry. It was frustrating, and upsetting. There were a lot of nights I cried right along with her. And other nights, I related to her pain, her cries, her sadness in a way that I never imagined I could. She has been a challenge for us from the very beginning, but we don’t love her any less.

I got in touch with a local program for infants. They started visiting, and then put us in touch with a physical therapist. We also saw a couple doctors. Then, we were referred to a neurologist. I thought, perhaps it was colic. I thought it was food sensitivities. I thought she might need chiropractic, or massage. I thought maybe she was just grumpy, or frustrated with the world around her. I thought of everything except for this.

Ava has spastic diplegia cerebral palsy.

At first, it didn’t seem real. At first, it didn’t seem bad. At first, it was just another anatomical term being thrown around to describe syptoms. At first, it wasn’t anything… Just a couple words. But on the drive home, it hit me. And in the waiting room at the doctors office, it hit me even harder. Then, later, searching online, waiting for my own doctor’s appointment, it hit me like a semi. I felt like I had been hit with a truck, and I was laying there, in agony, bleeding to death, but instead of dying, I just keep bleeding out, and the pain keeps intensifying. It keeps building, and it’s not subsiding.

Then I started crying.

At first, I just teared up. Then, I started crying. Really crying. Every time I thought about it. Every time I looked at her. Every time I said the words out loud. Every time I read something about it.  I heard the song “Firework” on the radio on my way home on Saturday and all I could do was cry. Even harder. Every time I typed something about it. Every time I was alone. And even now, as I type this. I cry.

My baby is sick.

There’s something wrong with her, and I can’t fix it. I can’t wave a magic wand. I can’t kiss a booboo and make it all better. I can’t abra-cadabra it away. I can’t make it disappear. I can’t wish her better or well. I can’t be sick for her. I just want to make her happy, and healthy.

And then comes the guilt.

Then I started wondering, what I could have done to stop this. Was there something I did wrong? I didn’t take medications when I was pregnant… But I didn’t take my prenatal vitamins as regularly as I should have. Should I have just had another cesarean? Did that contribute to it? Did I do something wrong? Did I overlook something stupid and simple? Did I cause this somehow?

And then, even more guilt.

How could I not have suspected this? How could I have thought it was just colic? How could I have been so blind, and naive? How could I have been so frustrated with her? Why was I so upset and angry with her? All this time, something was wrong, and I was so selfish… Upset with her because she wouldn’t stop crying for hours and hours. She must hate me and think I’m an awful mother, not seeing her pain and distress… Not acknowledging it the way I should have. Instead of compassionate, I was frustrated and angry.

And now our entire life is different.

And now, in a mere matter of moments, our lives have changed. Everything is different now. Nothing will be the same. I don’t know what I am supposed to do, or feel. I know what I have to do, and I’ll do it, but when it comes to me… My thoughts, my emotions, my feelings… I’m a complete and utter trainwreck. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what to say. People keep asking me if I’m okay and I don’t know what to tell them. I’m not okay. I’m not even close to okay. I just want to make her better. I just want her to be okay. I want her to smile and be happy, but I don’t know how, and all anyone can say is to let them know if I need anything… But how can I do that if I don’t know what it is we need? And all I do know, is that this hurts, more than I can put into words, and that I’m not okay. Not in any sense of the word.

I just want to make her better.

We’re quiet on the ride, we’re all just waiting to get home.

Over the course of this summer, I’ve been through more chaos, more insanity, more hurt, more despair, and just more than I could ever begin to put into words. I saw a woman’s entire lifetime of mistakes shatter to the floor like a crystal chandelier that’s been dangling precariously over a make-believe tea party for the last four decades. I watched as she scrambled to glue it back together, trying to pretend that no one saw, that the show must go on. Every time time the cieling started to collapse, and little flecks of paint begin to fall… We all saw it. I know we did. But we turned a blind eye; doubted our own recollections, and let others manipulate our memories. I sat there, at that table, for twenty years, so deluded with the lies that I was fed, that I never thought twice. This was how it was. This was as “real” of a life as I had ever known. That is, until a shard of glass sparkled on the floor and it all came crashing down beyond repair. And now? There is no make-believe.

Every chance to leave is another chance I should have took.

I was covered in lies before I even took my first breath. As I grew, even more lies were planted… Little seeds that I didn’t know different from.  It isn’t easy to break free from that. A lot of people don’t.  These things have a way of making you doubt your sanity; wondering if perhaps, you’re the one who’s lost it. A healthy person is taught to rid themselves of the negative, but when you’ve known nothing but the negative, you don’t always recognize it. When you do, everyone around you does their best to smother the thought and turn the blame to you.

You live life like everyone’s an enemy.

Relationships are complicated. Family dynamics are intense. There is no simple solution and there’s simply too much background, in anyone’s story, to put all of the pieces together in a way that makes snese. No matter how you weigh the options, you will always hurt someone, even if that isn’t your intention. It isn’t just you. It isn’t just them. It is everyone. And there is no solution that leaves everyone unscathed. You risk upsetting the others involved, or you sacrifice yourself. It took me a long time to figure that out. Despite the guilty feelings, I can’t let my myself go for the sake of the story.

I don’t ever want to be here.

Alice jumped down the rabbit hole and fell through the looking glass a long time ago. The looking glass is cracked and covered in dust and the garden is nothing but withered, dead thorns. Or it could use some snow removal services for the mean time, but they definitely need a landscaping company as soon as possible. I might not have seen it before. Perhaps I’m guilty of turning a blind eye one too many times, but there comes a point where there is only one of two options; perpetuate the sickness and continue the cycle, or start over, completely new.

I thought this wouldn’t hurt a lot
I guess not


I don’t know of any significant, life-alter decision that anyone has made that was easy. Some of the hardest decisions a person has to make are the most painful. Sometimes, doing what’s right for you isn’t easy. In fact, it can feel impossible. I don’t know that I have ever felt so guilty in my life, but slowly, that guilt transforms into relief, and relief into confidence; confidence that you did the right thing and your life is now better for it.

And after a week of fighting, as more and more it seems the right thing.

I may not have found resolution to the story I was thrown into, but the antagonists have been written out of the script. Finally, a sense of peace. A feeling of normalcy. I may never find solutions, but at least I’m not finding problems.

Today sucks. Just like it does every year.

Its 8:30 and I’ve already decided that.

Sure, it gets easier to handle, the more time goes by, but just because you get better at handling it, doesn’t mean it hurts any less… You’ve just learned to control your reactions better… Surpress your heartbreak and attempt to move on…

But that’s what they don’t tell you. There really isn’t any “moving on.” Yes, you can find happiness after the fact. You can learn to love yourself, and accept that there was nothing you did that contributed to the heartbreak… But no matter how “okay” you tell people you are, or how “okay” you believe you are, it still hurts.

It still hurts more than you could ever explain, and its days like these, that you can’t pretend it doesn’t hurt. Its days like these, where that hurt comes the closest to the surface as it ever will.

You can hold yourself together, however you like, but there’s only one day a year that you can’t, because that day is the one that changed everything.

If my mother was truthful with me, there is now only one possibility remaining as to who may be my father, and this is all I know about him.

His name is David (Dave?) Blanchard.

He is in his early to mid-forties.

He was in the army. Possibly the 1-17th unit.

He was stationed on Fort Richardson in Alaska sometime in 87-88, when I was conceived.

I don’t know anything else. I’ve searched and searched, but have found nothing but dead ends. I don’t know where else to look or who to ask for help. All I can do now is hope that someone sees this, and someone knows how to find him.

A little while back, I started working on an article on the chaos revolving around the Cloth Diaper Foundation. I probably started the article in early to mid-May but I didn’t finish it until June. It was reviewed, approved and published a couple weeks later and has been up since the middle of June. I wasn’t calling names. I wasn’t being mean. I wasn’t lying. My intention was to organize the pieces of the story as best as I could and convey how people felt about what happened with the Cloth Diaper Foundation. The article can be viewed at;

The Cloth Diaper Foundation: Corruption or Compensation?

Recently, some people behind the Cloth Diaper Foundation found the article. It was inevitable, and I never expected it not to be found, but I definitely didn’t expect the reaction I got. One of the main leaders, Kristy Burt (who was referred to as the interim CEO, but says she is not the CEO, so now I’m confused) responded to my article in both a comment, as well as on the Cloth Diaper Cafe on Facebook.

“Samantha Van Vleet….. I am not the CEO, CDF no longer has a CEO, I was formerly the chairman of the board, now Toni is the chairman of the board, as last week due to health issues during this pregnancy I need to take on a more minor roll for the time being…. our website is not updated due to the resignation of our web designer a while back. Please be careful about publishing articles without the facts. Nice plug in there for your own co-operative btw. Also you may want to know that a 501 c 3 is allowed to pay there staff or compensate according to the IRS. after many phone appointments with the IRS and an attorney we learned A 501 C 3 is under the same category as a church, informational center, charity, and animal shelter and is allowed to pay\compensate staff. Even the real diaper association has minimally paid staff. CDF is working well with many of the new cloth diaper charities that have opened in the last few months. As we are closed we are doing our best to supply these charities with diapers to help other moms. We have sent out hundreds of diapers to these charities and redirected many donations so that moms in need are being helped while CDF is getting situated. It might be in your own co-operatives best interest to work with and not against already existing charities. What did you hope to gain by writing such an article as this? A Good journalist does her research educates her self on the subject, interviews and checks her sources to have a fact based accurate article. journalism is not supposed to be about opinion but about the truth.”

Now, so we are clear, I am posting this to clarify some points. I have no ill-intention in posting this. There is no “bee in [my] bonnet.” I just feel the need to clarify a few things.

  • “Nice plug in there for your own co-operative”
    I did mention the Cloth Cooperative in the article. Regardless of the fact I help run it, there is no benefit for me mentioning it. The Cloth Cooperative is operated completely different from the Cloth Diaper Foundation is. There is no incentive, whatsoever, for the work I do on the Cloth Cooperative. The diapers are never in either Liana’s or my possesion and go directly from the donor to recipient. The Cloth Cooperative is a legitimate suggestion for those looking to donate diapers; especially considering that donations go straight to those in need.
  • “Also you may want to know that a 501 c 3 is allowed to pay there staff or compensate according to the IRS.”
    I didn’t really delve into the legalities of paying volunteers, at least not very deeply. Of course non-profits pay their employees. Planned Parenthood. The ASPCA. Christian Children’s Fund. Salvation Army. Etc. They all pay their employees. The controversy over Burt taking diapers wasn’t over the fact she was receiving the diapers as “payment”, but rather that she got to pick and choose (while recipients did not), and that this information was not disclosed to donors from the very beginning. Even though it may be legal, it still left a bad impression on the public.
  • “It might be in your own co-operatives best interest to work with and not against already existing charities.”
    The organization I am a part of, the Cloth Cooperative, runs separately and individually. We are not working “against” other organizations and have the same goal in mind, however, the Cloth Cooperative is run differently doesn’t require the backup or monetary resources that the other organizations require. I don’t see how the Cloth Cooperative could work with other similar groups since the structure and set up of the organization is so different from most existing cloth diapering organizations. I am, however, open to suggestions if anyone has any.
  • What did you hope to gain by writing such an article as this?”
    I didn’t hope to gain anything. My intentions were simply to organize the events that led up to the current state of the Cloth Diaper Foundation in one place, and express the disappointment that many are feeling as a response to those events.
  • “A Good journalist does her research educates her self on the subject, interviews and checks her sources to have a fact based accurate article. journalism is not supposed to be about opinion but about the truth.”
    I am by no means a journalist. I wrote the article with the information I had available and the information I could find. Nothing in the article was a lie (although I am somewhat confused about the job titles at this point). My article may have come off biased, I can admit to that, because just as some of those who were generous enough to provide me with quotes, I am quite disappointed in the Cloth Diaper Foundation as well. Even so, I never interjected my own opinion surrounding the events. I could have requested interviews or sent emails; maybe I should have. I didn’t intend for the article to be a huge deal, and didn’t feel that an interview suited the angle and the direction of the article. I would, however, be willing to do a follow-up piece giving those behind the Cloth Diaper Foundation a chance to “set the record straight” if they wish. In which case, they can email me.
  • Categories