2016 Mama’s Night Out, San Diego

This is my son, Hans: 

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Hansie-bear. Cute, right?

Hans is 2 1/2 years old and cannot (or will not) say the word “milk”.  He can repeat nearly every word in the English language, even the ones he should not, and quite a few in Spanish, but he still doesn’t say “milk”.  He does drink gallons of it, weekly. He drinks so much “milk” that we quit buying organic, because it just wasn’t in the budget…

So when Hans asks for his “milk” he still says “My Mmmmmm…” while giving us the sign for milk, fist squeezing good “Mmmmmm”!  This is adorable, and endearing, but has nothing to do with Pediatric Cancer, right?

WRONG!

While volunteering checkerboardSTUDIOS’ photography services to the 2016 Mama’s Night Out, San Diego, I had the privilege of hearing Parker’s Grandma speak on behalf of his parents.  Parker Landis is a spunky six year old kid living with DIPG, a rare and lethal childhood brain cancer with no cure.

This is Parker: 

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Parker is a kid that I have never met, a kid that I’m positive is a super-star, but also a kid that I previously had no connection with… But then his grandma said in the midst of her speech that Parker, for the longest time, could not say “helicopter”…

And that’s when it hit me. That’s when I lost it. That’s when I knew this could be MY kid. My kid living with brain cancer.  My Hansie-bear, who can’t say “milk”…That could be me up front giving a speech, begging fellow moms to support this cause that does not affect them and their children.  That could be me talking about Hans and his “Mmmmmm”, praying that he can live long enough to learn to pronounce it correctly, “milk“.

This is Mama’s Night Out: 

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In preparation for the 2nd annual Mama’s Night Out in San Diego, I spoke with several fellow mama’s (really, really great mamas I might add) that admitted that they “just couldn’t attend”.  Emotionally, it was just too tough.  And first, let me say, I GET IT. I really do get it. This stuff is hard.

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Really, really hard.  

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There were moments that I had to hide behind my camera lens because I felt guilty.

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I was near sobbing.  Crying so hard, when there were Warrior Mama’s right in front of me, pictures scrolling on the slideshow of their kids that are dying, or have already died.

It is so, so hard.

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But then again…

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…Our support…

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…this community…

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…and these moms…

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…are so…

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…so important.

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After spending hours, laughing, talking, drinking, crying, and then laugh-crying with these women, I learned that these beautiful, strong, incredible women are just moms.

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They are just moms that have been thrown into their worst nightmare.

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They are just moms that look forward to waking up with their babies.

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And they are just moms that look forward to those sweet moments when everyone’s head has hit the pillow and they can sip on a glass of wine, alone.

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They are just moms.

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They are just moms that need a hug.

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They are just moms that need support.

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And they are just moms that understand that sometimes this stuff is “just too hard” …

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…but unfortunately, for them, there is no way out.

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What was one evening of ‘tough’ for me, is a lifetime of tough for them.

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And that makes me want to do all that I can to give back to these women, their families, and research for a cure for DIPG.

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If only I had unlimited funds to throw at this horrible disease.

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If only I could do more.

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For now, I have a camera…and a blog. Please join me in spreading the word and helping stand up and fight the reality that is pediatric cancer any way you can.

Support | Share: Unravel

Donate: unravelpediatriccancer.org/donate/ 

Follow | Attend: Mama’s Night Out

View all photos here. 

 

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Partners

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My husband and I are partners. Partners in life. Partners in business. Partners in parenting. Partners in all the crazy. And while I typically use this blog to share our family, our work and our life’s passions, this weekend Geoffrey blew me away with his patience and talent, and I feel compelled to share one of the many blessings I have in my PARTNER! A blog post to say I love you. A blog post to say THANK YOU GEOFFREY.
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If I were writing a post about photography (or even about parenting), I would advise each of you that 38+ weeks is NEVER the time to squeeze in a maternity shoot. In fact, the only thing a mother-to-be should be doing at 38+ weeks is laying in bed and deciding if she should go pee before telling Netflix that she would like to ‘continue’…
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Sketch Relief – Panda Express 

With the adult coloring book trend circulating in full force, I figured why not try a little Sketch Relief. Took 20 minutes this afternoon to reflect on my time spent with my sweet son at the San Diego Zoo last Friday.

Super affordable season passes to both the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park make it really easy for us to pop in for a 2-3 hour excursion rather then exhausting a whole day with my rambunctious two year old. Hans and I flew solo, (Daddy had to work) and spent the majority of our time with the giraffes “g-affs!”, shared a packed lunch with a statue of an extinct wolf, shared an ice cream cone in near empty (weekday) patio, watched a camel ‘poooooo!’ and were able to spend a few precious hours to bonding over funny birds and fuzzy pandas.

Life is crazy with a two year old (and one on the way), but spending a few priceless hours with out any agenda really provided some much needed R&R, even more so then the Panda Sketch Relief (above).

Here is to uninterrupted moments with those we love.      ❤️🐼

Snuggles Instead of Pies

If I were being completely honest, the last time I felt pure, unexplainable joy during the Holidays was probably a year that I still believed in Santa and purchased my family’s gifts from my Elementary School’s make-shift Dollar Store.

As enjoyable as Christmas with my ever-growing family can be, pure joy has not been on the menu for some time.

Presents, yes.
Warm hugs, yes.
Fireside chats, yes.
Food that warms your soul, yes.
Great friends, yes…

But PURE JOY, not so easy to come by.

But this year was different:

This year I finished my shopping on Christmas Eve at 3pm. This year I only sent 25% of our Christmas Cards. This year I invited my family into a dirty house. This year I ‘bagged’ 90% of the gifts. This year I doubled the flour in TWO apple pies… Oops. This year the apple pies were disgusting. This year I wore my hair in a pony-tail. But this year…. was full of pure, pure JOY.

My husband asked me if I had smoked pot before this year’s family gatherings…

My mom joked that I had consumed a cup of Christmas ‘cheer’…

No, I didn’t smoke anything. And Yes, I was completely sober…

So what was different?

EVERYTHING.

I experienced the joy of Christmas through the eyes of another. My younger, wiser, 9 month old son.

This year his laughter filled all the voids.

He cackled as he saw his reflection wearing an elf outfit. He cooed as he tried new foods for the first time. He babbled while his Grandad prayed. He sang aloud during the Candlelight Service. He found hilarity in cardboard boxes, wooden spoons, and ceiling fans. He clapped when he was happy. He slept when I was tired… He made me realize that everything I was doing for the holidays, and even for others, paled in comparison to the pure joy that laughter, relationships, and love can bring.

His joy set an example of peace and simplicity, and for that, I am so very thankful.

I enjoyed snuggles instead of pies, hugs instead of presents, and laughter instead of stress. And what a magical Christmas it was.

Merry Christmas friends and family. I hope you have a wonderful New Year full of laughter, love, and PURE JOY.

Love,
Emma

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I am The Poof

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I’m not sure when I became so comfy.

Maybe it’s my softer than usual post-baby-belly? Or maybe it’s because I constantly smell like food — smashed baby food and dried breast milk have become my constant aroma… But you can go ahead and call me the ‘Poof’, the Poof chair that is. You know, the GIANT BEANBAG chairs that don’t fit through doorways and swallow you whole until you’ve digested your Thanksgiving dinner? Yes, the ‘Poof’, the worlds most comfortable human being.

I realized tonight that I am my family’s snoozing point, their ‘Poof’. If it’s not the baby, it’s the dog, and if it’s not the dog, it’s the husband… Sometimes I think if I just sprawled out on the floor, all by my lonesome, the beings would sniff me out and pile on.

I am the dumping ground for all Zzzzz’s, toots, slobbers, wet noses, dirty paws, and hairy beasts.

And tonight…I got frustrated.

So frustrated, in fact, that I passed off my crying baby to my hairy beast of a husband and plopped myself down on the hardwood floor, ALL BY MYSELF — for an entire 90 seconds. Then I was wallowed by the dog and succumbed to the fact that my boobs bring joy. So much joy that I got back up and nursed my little boy until he fell asleep in my arms. He cried and he nursed, but then… he fell asleep. And in my whirl-wind of frustration I realized that I am the ‘Poof’. One giant Poof, where all beings go to sleep.

Then I smiled. Because I am not just any Poof, I am the Momma Poof…

Yes. I get the slobbers, and the poots, and all those dirty paws, but I also get the love. All that love! The puppy love, the baby love, AND the hubby love. I get all the snuggles, all the kisses, all the laughter, and all the love. And tonight, I am the luckiest girl in the world.

Go ahead family…lay on me, breathe on me, fart on me, sleep on me. Do what you gotta do, because all I’m going to do is love on you, and cherish every stinky, slobbery moment.

*poof*

 

 

 

Little Love Letters

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The past month has been a whirl-wind of joy, love, visitors, and the newest little love of my life.   Thankfully I was able to keep up with a bit of the action in my hand written journal – so I thought I would share a few of the little love letters that I have written to my precious boy.

Sunday 3/2/14

Guess what Boggle?! Tomorrow should be your BIRTHday! Apparently you are super cozy in my belly and do not want to make an appearance on your own, but the doctors have reported that you are getting too big for your momma…so now, we are in the hospital!

I just had phase one of two of the induction medication.  This first med is supposed to be pretty light and just prep me for more to come in the morning.  However, we are in the middle of a super ICE STORM! (I believe they are calling it Storm Titan).  A predicted .25-.5 inches of ICE before the snow.  So, the nurses are trying not to let me go into labor too quickly – hoping that my doctor can have time to make it from her house to the hospital first thing in the morning.  The nurse actually just told us that car doors are already iced shut! Yikes!!

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So, Boggle, not only are you going to share a zodiac sign with your daddy, but now you are also going to share his birthday, and birth in a ice/snow storm in March.  And (side note) speaking of ‘ice’… We are sitting here watching the Oscars and Idina Menzel just sang the latest hit from Disney’s “Frozen” – I imagine that it will be one of your favorites.

A little while ago we FaceTimed your Uncle John and Uncle Brandon from the hospital bed.  Your two fabulous uncles were a little shocked to see us calling from the hospital, but were equally excited to know that things are progressing as planned.

Uncle John is doing well out in California, and he is really sorry that he could not immediately get a plane ticket to be here for your birthday.  He might be here for a visit in the next couple months… but if not, we are going to figure out how to take a newborn on an AIRPLANE!

Uncle Brandon is going to be catching a flight from Utah sometime in the next week – and your Grandma and Grandpa Plagemann are hitting the road tomorrow.  Depending on the snow/ice, they should be here on Tuesday!

Grandma and Grandad Perry are SO excited and patiently waiting, 20 minutes away, at home.  I think your Grandma wanted to come here and just sit in the waiting room all night, but Grandad convinced her that he could get her to the hospital through the winter storm.  Not to mention, the waiting room is PACKED.  Must be a good day to be born!

Waiting on a baby,

-Your Momma

 

Monday 3/3/14 – BIRTHDAY!

Well Boggle, your ‘bag of waters’ has just been popped! And I now feel like Niagara Falls is happening under the sheets!  My OB made it in safe and sound in the snow this morning and she plans to stay at the hospital for your birth.  YAY!

All grandparents are en route.  I am sure the Perry’s will be here soon, and the rest of the extended family is busy texting and facebooking us.  Your daddy even live-tweeted some of last nights events along with the Oscars.  Hope you don’t mind a little social media…

My contractions are already a bit stronger, and for now the doctors are holding off on further inducing with Pitocin.  (Your heart rate dropped a couple times in the night so the doctors are avoiding any additional strain on you.)  We are 4cm and, OUCH, having contractions every 2-3 minutes! So exciting.

We are so very excited to meet you, and hold you, and finally find out if you are a boy or a girl!!

Big smiles,

-Momma

 

Thursday 3/27/14

You are 3 weeks and 3 days old today!! Which may be a very lucky ‘3’ day for you and your 3/3 birthday.  But for now, I am the lucky one.. I am holding in my arms, the most absolute, perfect angel.  You, my dear, are perfect.  Probably not for long, but for now, you have never even made one wrong.  You are perfect, and I will cherish every moment.

I never want to forget your soft fuzzy hair, and the way it feels when I kiss the top of your head.  You love to lay on mine and your dad’s bellies.  Belly to belly.  I call it your ‘frog position’.  I could gush over your adorable snuggles page after page, but it seems like I should record a few of the facts here…

First of all, WELCOME to our world:

Hans Geoffrey Plagemann

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You were born a big, healthy, baby boy on March 3rd, 2014 at 6:06pm.  You weighed in at 8 lbs, 1 oz.  Smaller than the doctors predicted, but still in the 75th percentile at 21.5 inches long.

After 10-ish hours of labor and never progressing more than 5cm, my OB informed me that either,

A. You were too big to be born naturally, or

B. You were tangled in your umbilical cord, and smarter than all of us for not ‘exiting’ on time.

With this, she recommended that I have a c-section to ensure a safe delivery.  I cried, your daddy held me, then I knew that I must follow the doctors recommendations.  You see, your heart rate was dropping every time I had a contraction, so I kind of knew, deep down, that something was not running smoothly.  I even recalled all of my inducing tricks, and how none of them seemed to work… Not the clothes pins on my toes, or the 3 mile walk, or the spicy food, or the mandatory sex — none of it worked, and deep down I knew that you were keeping yourself safe.  And sure enough, you had the cord wrapped around your belly and your neck!

I am so thankful I chose the cesarean, scar and all.  Once I had ‘ok-ed’ the c-section things moved so quickly!  Your dad went out to the waiting room to tell my parents our decision, and by the time he had returned we only had a few precious moments for him to try to fit in the tiny sterile suit and snap a couple of priceless photos.  Then I was immediately wheeled into the delivery/surgery room.

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It all happened so fast.  I remember being nervous that they would start the surgery before they called for your dad to enter the room, but he made it, just as they finished prepping me.  I had been given the epidural back when I first reached 5cm – so they continued to numb me though that.  It didn’t really hurt, I could feel what was happening though, which was strange! The even stranger part was that I literally felt the doctor SCOOP you out of what felt like my rib cage…  It was insane, and a huge relief!

You were out in 7 minutes!  Your dad held my, strapped down, hand the whole time, and then you cried! It was one of the happiest sounds of my life.  You sounded like a cat, then a lion cub, testing out your RAWR!  Then I could see you.  Then they called your dad over.  I was jealous and thrilled to watch him hold your hand.  Then he re-cut your cord.  I watched him watch you, and then I felt the largest wave of peace come over me.  I was in pain, pretty terrible pain at that point, as they stitched me back up and removed my epidural, but all I really remember is watching you squirm and feeling warm, soft tears roll down my cheeks.  You were perfect.  Then your dad brought you next to me! First to my hand, then to my face.  We were cheek to cheek, and I knew I loved you with my entire being.  Then they let me hold you!  Then, just like that, it was over.  You were off to the nursery, and me to the recovery room…

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I believe you met your Grandma and Grandad outside of the nursery.  Your dad told me that he rolled you out and said, “Want to meet Hans?” and that is how your grandparents found out you were a boy…  For us, the doctor yelled out ‘It’s a boy!’ right before you began to cry…

Honestly, I felt like I knew that you were a boy all along, but hearing it aloud was so amazing!  I remember sighing to myself, ‘It’s Hans!’   I guess it would probably not have mattered if you were a girl, but once everything had happened, I could not imagine it any other way! You are my perfect little boy!

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Days and weeks are passing so quickly now, and I what was so very vivid in the moment is now fading into sweet, sweet memories.  I will hold tight to each moment and I will love you forever!

-Your Momma

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West Virginia Girl, All Bottled Up

“We are not going to change our life because of the Water Company”…

This post is a little different than my usual, but then again, my life is a little different than usual.Image

As I walked into one of my favorite coffee shops in town today, I cautiously asked, “Are you still using bottled water?”  The cashier politely responded, “No, sorry, we are not” So I longingly looked at the perfect slice of tiramisu behind the glass and replied, “Ok, that changes things then, I will just have a bottle of water”.  I then took my water, reserved my usual seat, and jaunted to the restroom.  As I left the restroom, I imeadiately realized that I needed to dig out my own personal stash of hand sanitizer before unscrewing the cap of my bottled water and pulling out my laptop to work.

As I settled in, I began to reflect on the past 2 weeks:

From the announcement that Freedom Industries had a chemical spill, to my church providing my husband and I with bottled water, to the national media seeming to ONLY report on Chris Christie while my home state was in a panic, to my ‘zone’ being cleared for the ‘big flush’, to the steam from my dish washer burning my nose, to my husband and basement being covered in contaminated water after a valve broke on our hot water tank during the ‘flush’, to only having 3 showers in 13 days, to seeing the flashing warning on national television for pregnant women to, once more, discontinue use of tap water, to the pile of dirty dishes in my sink, to the loads and loads of laundry that need done, to yesterday’s conversation with my OB, reminding me to stay away from the water at all costs until more information is released, I realized that this is A LOT BIGGER than my 34 week pregnant self having to turn down a tiramisu craving.

I no longer feel safe bathing, drinking, eating, cleaning, I am even leery of the hospital visit I know WILL occur in the next 6 weeks, and I am even more concerned about how I will wash my little one’s clothes, or give him/her a bath, or the dangers that could occur if I make one mistake while breastfeeding.  I am worried for the health of my unborn baby, and I am worried that my life will never be the same.

As these thoughts flashed through my head at 100 miles per hour, I overheard the sweet cashier remind her boss that people were continuing to ask about the coffee shop’s water source.  At first her boss explained their machinery to her. He described the filtration system and hot temperatures that the water was raised to before dispensing, but then he followed by saying this: “We are not going to change our life because of the Water Company”…

Well, I would agree that this situation is much larger than West Virginia American Water, and believe it or not, it is even larger than Freedom Industries, although their name does imply that they would be much more concerned about my inability to consume water on their behalf.

I realize that there have been many, many oversights on local and national levels, and that I am nowhere near educated enough to point fingers at exactly who is responsible.  But here is what I DO know:

I am 34 weeks pregnant, and as I approach delivery I am closer and closer to NEEDING a safe water source every day, and despite my favorite coffee shops’ “life not changing” I am scared in knowing that my life and ‘freedoms’ HAVE changed dramatically in the past 13 days, I am terrified that I do not see an end in sight, and I am even more terrified that local businesses, politicians, and the  government as a whole seem far more concerned about getting back to ‘business as usual’, than they do for the health and safety of my community.

I am not sure exactly where to go from here, or what action this extremely pregnant and distraught girl can take to truly make a difference, but I would like to let everyone reading this know that life HAS CHANGED for me, and it may never be the same.

Please, get out there, share this news, and do what YOU can to help protect our country’s PRIORITIES and WATER SOURCES.