Thursday, January 19, 2017

MJ Hammer

Given the title, I imagine that everyone is picturing something cool like this...

The reality is that it is more like this....

OK friends the story starts like this. I actually got the nickname MJ Hammer from volleyball. Those of you that know my height are very well aware I am not actually the amazing hitter the name would otherwise suggest. Friends yelled the name to encourage me to attack the volleyball as hard as I could despite the large possibility of the ball hitting the back wall or into the net. I must of been doing an ok job since I still have the name. It is sweet and enduring...and now the name has a whole new meaning. 

I would guess that most moms feel like they "manage" the family. After a recent friend gathering, only one person at the table could identify the father being the enforcer over the mother (not a large sample size). If asked, I would say I have the larger portion of the kid responsibility. P.S. I am not keeping track, but can you sue me for a feeling. However, I am willing to take bets that if scientifically put to the test it would come out a higher percent. 

If you don't believe me let me bring your attention to some proof:

See exhibit A.

So not entirely odd that my daughter (Jocelyn) wrote a letter to Dad, but odd that the other daughter (Aaliyah) told me she wrote her letter to me so I would not be left out. I actually feel like even though they were in different classes that they somehow coordinated the effort to not leave mom out. 

This theory was solidified when the second item made its way home from school. See exhibit B. 

Dad's item came home with a clear message of why the kids clearly prefer to jump into Brett's Honda Odessy over mom's when we leave church, but again my item from the other daughter (Aaliyah) came in with some uninterruptible writing and inability to tell me what it said. As far as I knew, it said Mom, Dad is cooler than you because he takes us to Arby's and let's us play Pokemon Go!

It is true, I am MJ Hammer. I am the enforcer! I don't have the answers of how to do this or what works. Kids are different and they have different needs. I feel like I "get" my kids and  can manage them because of that. I don't enjoy all the moments but feel really good when I get them all on the bus alive. And that achievement alone deserves a participant award regardless of the chaos prior to opening my van door to shuffle them into a bus door. 

May the force be with you friends! I'll take the force, gods, trolls, lucky charms, vibes, wishes, magic that anyone can spare. I am very fortunate but in this case I will take charity. Love, MJ

Monday, December 19, 2016

Relate or Not

I am not entirely sure why I am even starting this post. I haven't posted for almost a year and a half when Aaliyah and Jocelyn graduated from YMCA preschool. I wrote about the challenges of that time and now I look back wishing I could have just a moment when my kids were a little simpler. The problems back then were waking up too early in the morning, teaching them how to say please and thank you, 5 buckle harnesses, making sure we packed enough snacks and formula, putting on 8 shoes, and getting them to stop pooping in their pants. These were the simpler things in my life friends. Then they did it...they went and grew up (a little). I was so excited for school (aka: free daycare) and then it got harder. I turned in packing 4 lunches to forking out hundreds of dollars on canned peas, pizza dunkers, and chicken surprise. I turned in walking 4 kids into a building for dropping 4 kids at the corner and just praying that they don't lose anything on the bus because if they get to school without it they are only allowed to play on the blacktop. I turned in zero backpacks to 4 backpacks full of left over, mushed snacks, crumpled papers, and literacy bags (which don't always make it home). 

Don't get me wrong, there are so many things I enjoy about the kids growing up. For example, their creative, social interactions, and enjoyment of playing together. There is an advantage to having 4 kids close in age especially when it comes to amusement parks and picking a movie. Not asking for anyone to fix it, but this is my blog. And today as I was driving the kids home from the the grocery store - yes I took them all in by myself - I was thinking about other times in my life when I was so overwhelmed and it just felt better to write it, not to mention that someday my kids will read this and apologize about standing on the donut counter to see the red and green sprinkled donut on the top shelf. People, all I wanted was grapes and bagels! Anyway, it is what it is. 

There probably is not another person out there that can totally get it. The combination is different and the chaos is unending. We just traveled to Jamaica, so there was an entourage that all took their time with the kids, however, not one person was "lucky" enough to take on the entire experience. A few people commented, "I don't know how you do it" when I think "and you got to leave!" It was also a nice reminder that I might actually be doing something good. I probably should be more relaxed after nine days in the beautiful sun but coming back to life was a wake up call of how much I am responsible for. I am guessing my friends in Jamaica won't believe me. 

This feels like the most difficult year, but unfortunately most likely not. As I plea for help from the teachers, call my sisters asking for advice, complain to Brett about the awful mornings and let's not forget the "fix it" slip in Bennett's bag...I really need to remember I am ok because they are ok. I am not perfect but they don't expect me to be. 

I leave you with a picture of the 4 most amazing (and cute) kids in the world. I better catch up!

Friday, May 22, 2015

Class of 2015: Aaliyah and Jocelyn Last Day of Pre-School


Aaliyah and Jocelyn working on their cards for Miss Melissa and Miss Colleen the assistant pre-school teachers.




Dear Miss Katherine,

It is crazy to think that we met 3 years ago in September of 2012 when I first enrolled Ethan and Bennett in YMCA pre-school. Those pre-school drop offs still haunt me to this day. The girls would veer to the left, the boys would veer to the right. I would  just pray we could get to the pre-school room before losing a child. Then in Summer of 2013 the girls joined in on the fun. With several weeks of Summer Power, they were ready to join the class in September of 2013. You only had to survive a summer of very recent potty trained girls who took forever to figure out brown went in the toilet. You then took on the great task of all 4 PairSquared kids (Ethan, Bennett, Aaliyah, and Jocelyn) in one class together. Despite the sibling disputes you came out undefeated on another school year. We took the summer off what now seems like the best decision in order to let you recuperate and gain energy to take on Aaliyah and Jocelyn for 5 days a week from September 2014 to become your 2015 graduating class. You did it! I know this year was not an easy one and those girls really made us work hard. But having you on my side made it all the easier.

This might be one of the hardest end of the year good-byes I will have. I think pre-school teachers should know the impact they have on a family. It is our first introduction into school and parents have anxiety about their kids doing well, fitting in, and generally being an ok student. You always gave me a sense of security and I never once questioned your care. You have really grown in your role as a teacher over the past three years. Every year has been filled with additional creativity, academic development for the kids, and educational playing. Your expertise and skill set is so valuable and has not gone unnoticed. The last two things that made a difference was your patience and kindness. You get tested every day and when kids figured out how to push buttons you worked on redirecting them. You kind heart and love for your work makes you an exceptional teacher and friend.

I have some thoughts on how to remind yourself you are a pre-school teacher:

You know you're a pre-school teacher when...

  1. Most of your uniforms have paint stains

  2. You know glue is non-toxic

  3. You manage to not get lice even at the worst outbreak

  4. You keep broken crayons in the box to force kids to work on fine motor

  5. You sing songs in between every activity

  6. You think glitter is the best thing on the earth even though parents can’t get it out of their dryer lint traps

  7. You are willing to make a mess with kids so they can learn and use their senses

  8. You eat goldfish during the day because you actually like them

  9. You know how to trick kids into doing classwork by making it fun

  10. You know who Pete the Cat is

You will always be remembered as one of the most influential people in my kids lives. I hope you continue to strive for greatness in all you do.

Love, MJ and Family

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Ethan and Bennett turn 6!

Happy birthday to these boys! Thanks to all our friends who helped us celebrate. We love all the loot and of course the bike ramp has been a hit.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Jane’s Jubilee 2015

This year’s journey brought the Souhrada women to Stewartville, MN. At this time, Grandma was still residing in Stewartville so we could easily transport her to and from her apartment for her comfort. We had recently visited the City of Stewartville for the Souhrada Gathering in February. How fortunate for Stewartville that I could grace them with my presance for a second time in one year.


Upon departure we were all charged with the task of “writing” a thank you to Grandma for another celebratory weekend with the family. What better way for me to “write” to grandma (and the world) by summarizing the weekend highlights on my personal blog.

Dear Grandma,


It goes without saying that you are hands down one of the most amazing women in my life. Your patience, kindness, and unconditional love are just a few of our stand out traits. I think I can speak for the ladies of The Souhrada that we are grateful you have been a solid beam in all our lives.

The Souhrada ladies weekend, better known as Jane’s Jubilee since the passing of your daughter, sister, and our Aunt, will always be remarked as one of my annual highlights. It tends to arrive at this pinnacle time in the winter when I feel like a need a get a way the most. Who better to “get away with” than my family.

As promised I will recall the highlights of the weekend for you. Some you will remember and others…well it is best that you probably did not participate in them.

Memory Making #1 – Oil Party

S. Souhrada brought her supply of young living essential oils for us to “make and take”. We made cold bomb roller balls, pain cream, and hand soap while we smelled the sweet scent of lavender and citrus from the diffuser. We were all scanned to locate the specific oils to support our needs. We won’t talk about what was recommended for me.  

Memory Making #2 – The FREE Garage Sale

CJ Lamon brought old boxes of “stuff” to give away to her fellow family members. Stuffed away in the boxes were pictures of weddings for us to remember and embarrassing letters and cards that we didn’t want to remember. I came away with Grandma Lamon’s cake cutter and a beer chicken cooking device.

Memory Making #3 – Massages

Oh yeah, as always these are wonderful.

Memory Making #4 – Sewing

We did a little, but we get so distracted that sometimes we don’t get as much done as we hoped.

Memory Making #5 – Hanging with the Cousins

I love staying up at night with the cousins and getting caught up. We giggle and laugh and just enjoy each other.


Memory Making #6 – Best Night Eva!

We had some good ole fun eating dinner, having drinks, and dancing! Kelly won a t-shirt and we cured her pinched nerve. Who loves Landshark?



Memory Making #7 – Drive by CJ’s New Digs

Sister CJ is moving to a new townhome in Rochester and boy she is excited. It was great to see her new place in anticipation of moving.IMG_1523

Memory Making #8 – Seeing Grandma’s New Digs

We stopped by Rochester for Grandma to show us her NEW apartment. You were so excited and I think her exact words were, “More than I ever dreamed.” Followed by, “Can I move in early?”.


I am sure there is more to tell but these are the memories I will take with me. I don’t for a moment take for granted this weekend that is gifted to us Souhrada girls. We are so fortunate to have this weekend opportunity to re-energize in life. More importantly, we are fortunate you are with us.

Thanks for a wonderful weekend Grandma! I look forward to next year.

Love, Molly Jane

Friday, February 20, 2015

2015 Presidents Day Weekend: Souhrada Gathering

2015 was another successful year. Grandma Cookie has been residing in Stewartville, MN for several years so this year brought us to Iron Wood Springs Ranch in Stewartville, MN. There was plenty of space for our huge group to sprawl out. Activities for the kids included the snow tubing hill, petting zoo, and riding the elevator up and down. Grandma is still looking great!

Had to add in this last picture for fun!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas 2014

Nothing like holding present opening over their heads if they don’t give us a good picture! Apparently we didn’t hold them to a “good picture” on this one below.

20141225_092616 (1)

We celebrated Christmas Eve at our house and our neighbor, Wendy, came over. The kids adore her. You will often find our kids on a sunny day camped out on her porch reading books that Wendy has for them.


In other Christmas news, there were presents! A LOT of presents!

DSC_4796DSC_4811DSC_4813 DSC_4800 DSC_4801 DSC_4804 DSC_4817 DSC_4824DSC_4794

It got messy!


But it was amazing watching these kids have fun.


Sunday, December 21, 2014

Unilateral Hearing Loss

Call it an early new year resolution with a plan to continue into 2015. I got some of the summer snapshots up, but I have to back track to the Spring of 2014 before our lives turned upside down.

April 2014

Aaliyah and Jocelyn were scheduled for their early childhood screening. We walked out of the building with a two failed vision tests and one failed hearing test. Jocelyn had a follow up with our ENT Dr at Park Nicollet who verified Jocelyn had a hearing loss in her left ear. Since we were in the dark on what was going on with a future of multiple tests and prodding we were sent to the University of Minnesota Lion’s Hearing Clinic. A one stop shop. Appointments scheduled for May.IMG_0752

And no we did not notice their vision or Jocelyn’s hearing loss. Jocelyn’s speech has always been great and she is spot on developmentally. Unilateral hearing loss comes with its own set of challenges. Brett’s cousin’s daughter also has unilateral hearing loss and she created a video to explain what our girls experience. Watch it!

May 2014

Jocelyn had her first appointment at the Lion’s Hearing Clinic where she saw a pediatric ENT, Speech Language Therapist, geneticist doctor, and an Audiologist. The hearing test confirmed that all previous tests were accurate and Jocelyn had a moderate to severe hearing loss in her left ear. IMG_0495 A CT scan and blood draw was ordered for Jocelyn. Confession…I was very nervous for these tests even though I have seen and aided several other children through them. Even though I am a Certified Child Life Specialist, I cowered at the thought of my little girl having to endure the next phases. Regardless of my training and knowledge that kids are tougher than nails I wanted to put her in the car and drive home. After I returned to reality I called in the reinforcements, my Child Life friends at the U of M. My past Children’s volunteer, Carin, assisted Jocelyn for her CT scan (and on a later date a ultrasound) and another Child Life Specialist in the lab. IMG_0603Luckily Jocelyn is obsessed with iPad’s so we went with a visual barrier and she didn’t even flinch. Jocelyn’s CT scan showed she didn’t have a normal cochlear nerve. More to come on this.

Later in May 2014

Both girls went in for vision tests. Final results, they both are near sighted (thanks Mom) and have an astigmatism in one eye (thanks dad). Aaliyah had a greater preference for one eye so the pediatric optomologist ordered up some glasses for her and asked for them to come back in one after 6 months.

IMG_0373 IMG_0377

Later, Later  in May

Late one night, I heard a thump in the girls room. Aaliyah had fallen out of her bed. In the middle of the night she asked me to put her back in her bed, but the next morning she said she couldn’t move her arm. That morning we headed to Children’s hospital in St. Paul to find out she broke her clavicle. 6 weeks of an arm sling. She did a great job on her recovery.


Thanks to my Child Life friends for sending Aaliyah home with a a medical play kit.

And than later, later, later in May 2014

Aaliyah’s glasses are in!


June 2014 (thank God May is over)

Jocelyn gets fitted for a hearing aid.

IMG_0600 IMG_0601 IMG_0602

Jocelyn had a mold made of her ear for the silicone insert. She got to pick the color. We opted to borrow her first hearing aid through the Lion’s loaner program. The professionals did not know how much she would benefit from a hearing aid.

Later in June

Jocelyn got her hearing aid. After several tests and hearing aid calibrations we left with a very expensive device that we hoped would help Jocelyn hear more in her left ear.

IMG_0018 IMG_0019 IMG_0020

There is a little learning curve on putting it in and even more difficult to remember we needed to take it out. Jocelyn tolerated it very well which the audiologist commented on several times.

Later in July

Since the CT scan showed Jocelyn’s cochlear nerve abnormal, we opted to do an MRI. However, an MRI for a 4 year old requires sedation which means IV. Called in the soldier, Child Life Specialist and long time friend, Amy Wynia.

IMG_0727 Jocelyn did excellent with the IV and the procedure. It was the waking up which got hairy. There was a lot of crying and inconsolable Jocelyn. Don’t worry, she eventually came out of it.

IMG_0729 IMG_0730

August 2014

Results of the MRI finally came in. Jocelyn did in fact have a cochlear nerve, but it is smaller than normal. No one knows why. The smaller nerve does not make her a candidate for a cochlear implant but technology continues to change. So we opted to stick with the hearing aid and ordered her very own model.

Later in August 2014

A quick stop at the Hearing Clinic to get Jocelyn’s hearing aid.


Later, Later in August

Jocelyn and I did several appointments over the summer with District 196 for testing. The deaf and hard of hearing team have her in the system. Jocelyn received an IEP (individualized education plan). The deaf and hard of hearing coordinator visits Jocelyn once a month at preschool. They will continue to follow her until graduation. This team has assured me that Jocelyn will not fall behind. She is in their sight and they will investigate all options to ensure Jocelyn is getting the most out of her education.

September 2014

We had boys get their vision tested. The doctor’s were not sure they passed their test.

IMG_0824 All is good and they are just fine!

October 2014

We finally get Jocelyn’s genetic testing back. Jocelyn has the TECTA mutation. The TECTA mutation is associated with unsyndromatic hearing loss. They asked me to get tested, but really thought my mom should get tested. Why….well, because my mom lost hearing in her left ear in January. Mom did get tested and her results were the same. She had the TECTA mutation. The medical team could not tell me 100% if I (and Aaliyah) had the same mutation, but science would say that we do. I decided not to do the testing because it wouldn’t change anything for me (more to come) and since Aaliyah and Jocelyn are identical we can assume she has it.

Later in October 2014

Aaliyah went in for a hearing test and her results were normal. Note, just because you have the TECTA mutation does not mean you will lose your hearing. Many people have gene mutations that never activate.

November 2014

I went in for a hearing test and results were not normal. They weren’t horrible but I do have a hearing loss in middle tones. I explained my story to the audiologist before the test and when she explained my results she said my loss is consistent with genetic hearing loss. Her recommendation was that I get tested every year in addition to Aaliyah. The boys and Brett were also to get tested.

Later in November 2014

Ethan, Bennett, and Brett go in for hearing tests. Results all normal. I guess Brett just has selective hearing.

December 2014

Jocelyn and I just went in for her check up. For the first time I saw her get frustrated with her hearing loss. She struggled with identifying the words and finally recognized what was going on. We made it though the tests. We opted to keep the hearing aid. There was talk about other options some more permanent. We decided she needed to be older to participate in making the decision. In the meantime, we will keep going with what we have. The audiologist didn’t say she has an increase of hearing in the left ear, but has not gone backwards and in a few areas has a small increase. We will not return to the Lion’s Hearing Clinic until the spring. Once year after all this started.

I feel fortunate for living in an area that has great and specialized healthcare. Our travels have been easier with everyone by our side. Thanks to everyone who helped during appointments and learning about her hearing loss. Big picture…Jocelyn is a very healthy and happy 4.5 year old!