Lessons from a Kansas graveyard: What a 1903 outbreak of diphtheria can teach us today

There is a huge debate in our country about vaccinations. I don’t think we would if we saw first-hand what devastations these diseases cause. I just hope and pray that it doesn’t take an outbreak and large casualties before people wake up.

Diana Staresinic-Deane

In a shady corner of St. Mary’s Cemetery, a curious collection of little headstones, all of the same size and age, surround a large hooded monument. Unassuming and unadorned, the large family headstone does not prepare you for what you will read. This little cemetery just south of Hartford, Kansas is the final resting place for the “Children of James & Anna O’Marra,” eight of whom died in 1903.

James and Anna O’Marra and their nine children, ranging in age from six months to 21 years, lived seven miles south of Hartford. Their family was in mourning for James’ brother John, who had died of pneumonia on March 30, 1903. The newspapers are not clear as to exactly what happened next, but John O’Marra’s funeral may be a clue, as family members from outside the area came to Lyon County to pay their respects.

According to the Neosho Valley Times

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Why staying in a hospital rocks after giving birth

A couple days ago my first nephew was born. They live like 2,000 miles away so I won’t get to cuddle up with him for awhile. This also means I am not in a place to help out my sister and her husband. So, on their 2nd night in the hospital I wrote this list up of why hospitals are awesome. Now, let’s be honest, hospitals are not a good place to get rest. That happens when you finally get to go home and fall into your own bed. But a little humor never hurt when you are awake at 3:45 in the morning when the baby won’t sleep and the parents haven’t slept in 48 hours.

Why Hospitals Stays rock After Giving Birth

1. Catered meals in bed – you can’t beat a hot meal delivered right to your bed. And most importantly – no dishes or kitchen clean up afterwards!
2. Nursing hospital nightgowns – the draftiness is great for those middle of the night sweats
3. Lactation consultants – because who doesn’t like their boobs getting man-handled? (And we even ask for it!)Image
4. Gratefulness – Because those beds are immensely uncomfortable, your bed at home will never sound so good. It is helping increase your gratitude for the little things.
5. Tiny showers – my shower was so tiny I didn’t have room to shave my legs; this giving me a legitimate reason NOT to shave my legs.
6. Free massages – those tummy massages were so relaxing…(ok, not so much)
7. Free diapers, wipes and laundry service!!
8. Free cable! Too cheap to splurge for that cable package? Have a baby at our hospital, get free cable!


Natural Childbirth. I NEVER want to do that again.

68968714_b3799ffb3f_bThere seems to be a movement back towards a more natural lifestyle.  Natural foods raised organically, non-genetically modified foods, essential oils instead of antibiotics.  There has even been a movement back towards medication-free child birthing because it is more “natural.”  Well, I’ve had a delivery with an epidural, and then one without.  And let me tell you something, I’m calling bullshit.  There was nothing natural or beautiful about my med-free childbirth experience.

Let’s start with my first birth.  I promise to keep it PG-13 (In other words, no gory details).  In 2010 I was pregnant with twins.  I went in to labor spontaneously at 36 weeks.  Prior to delivery I had talked to my doctor about my options.  He strongly suggested that I have an epidural because twin births can go wrong in the blink of an eye.  Sometimes one baby can be delivered vaginally, and the other baby flips so they have to deliver the second by C-section.  If that happens, the doctors have to move quickly to get the second baby out.  If that was the case, and I didn’t have an epidural they would have no other option than to put me under general anesthesia.  It makes it infinitely more complicated for the doctors, and I would miss the delivery of my babies!  I happily told them I would take the epidural.  

Even though I knew an epidural was the best option, I took a birthing class because I knew I might have to labor for awhile before they gave me the medicine and I wanted to be prepared.  The day labor started and I arrived at the hospital I was already far enough for the epidural.  Both babies were head down I was able to try and deliver vaginally.  By the time I got my epidural the pain was intense enough I wanted it!  And by the time the epidural was wearing off I was ready to deliver so they didn’t give me anymore medicine.  However, all in all, the delivery was pretty easy and no big deal.  

Now, let’s move onto my last delivery.  I went into labor at 4 am.  By the time I got to the hospital at 5:45 am (yes, same day – only 1.75 hours from the first contraction), I was far enough along that they whisked me away to a delivery room but not before I asked several times if I could get an epidural.  The nurses were so calm and I was in sooo much pain.  It was a flurry of activity getting me to the delivery room, calling my doctor, and getting the room prepped for a delivery.  By the time the anesthesiologist came in to set me up for an epidural, I was writhing on the hospital bed with the pain.  He was asking me stupid questions that I can’t even remember what they were.  I’m sure they are important but all I could think about was “STOP TALKING AND GET ME MY MEDS!”  He told me that he was afraid the epidural wouldn’t do me any good because I was so far along, the medicine wouldn’t start working until after I had delivered.  He also said I would have to lay really still to get the medicine and that wasn’t going to happen.

The laborist on call came in the room and reiterated what the anesthesiologist had said.  I was in denial.  I thought, “No, no, no, no.  I can’t do this.  I can’t do this.”  I was also saying that over and over again out loud.  “I can’t do this.”  “I don’t want to do this.”  “Is there anything else you can give me?”

It was the most intense pain I have ever felt and was the scariest experience of my life.   My husband tried pushing me back against the gurney during one contraction since I was flailing around like a crazy lady.  I turned and yelled at him “DON’T PUSH ME DOWN!”  (Sorry honey!)

My husband told me later that he looked at the resident on call, who is a good friend of mine, and she gave him a look that said the epidural wasn’t an option.

So, I had to do something I never imagined I would have to do.  I was worse than the screaming ladies you see in movies.  When those contractions came it was like I was on a completely different planet, and the doctor had to call me back to planet earth.  She probably had to say my name half a dozen times to get my attention.  I remember hearing her voice and thinking “Oh my, I’m still alive!”

And as soon as my beautiful baby was born I blurted out, “I NEVER want to do that again.”  It wasn’t “Oh, look she’s beautiful!”  Nope, it was “I NEVER want to do that again.”

My aunt and I were talking afterwards and she made a good point.  You can have a tooth pulled without pain medication, but why would you want to?  You can have a bone set without medication, but why would you want to?  If you know childbirth is painful, why would you want to go through it without medication?

The point of this is not to scare people into having an epidural, but I also want people to realize that childbirth is no joke either.  Natural childbirth is painful and scary and not for the faint of heart.  And if you have delivered naturally then hats off to you.  (I personally think people are NUTS for deciding to purposefully do childbirth without pain medication!  And no amount of talking will change my  mind! 🙂 )

Next time I am pregnant and a month away from delivery I am going to rent a room in the hospital, and as soon as I feel the first contraction demand an epidural.  Hook me up baby, because I never want to do that again!

I just wanted to go to Target.

Target Shopping Carts
Getting anywhere on time is impossible.  Let me rephrase.  Getting anywhere is impossible.  Anyone else feel the same?  I see moms walk into library programs late looking a little frazzled.  I hope that they don’t think that there is any judgement in my eyes because I get it.  In order to get somewhere I typically start two hours in advance getting everyone dressed, fed, and out the door.  And I still wind up leaving late.

Today was one of those days.  We have a wedding tomorrow and I am trying to responsible and purchase a gift prior to the day of the wedding, so I am being extra prepared!

I was feeling extra motivated this morning to get all three of us out of the house and head to the store.  Usually I don’t try and go to the store with all three girls because the process is crazy, and when we get to the store it takes five times longer to get it than if I had just waited for my husband to stay home with the girls and I run into the store.

But as I said, I was feeling positive that today would be an easy day to just run to the store.  Two of my girls already had clothes on, and In theory, all we should have had to do was the following:

  1. Twin girls Katherine and Layla go to the bathroom.
  2. Katherine gets on clothes.
  3. Twin girls put on shoes.
  4. Twins get hair brushed.
  5. Baby gets a diaper change.
  6.  Mom puts on shoes.
  7. Leave the house.

But an hour later, we still hadn’t left.  This is what happened.

Me: Girls, we’re going to the store.  We all need to go to the bathroom.

Katherine: I DON’T WANT TO GO.  I JUST WENT TO THE BATHROOM!  Throws a fit then goes to the bathroom, and then walks around butt-naked because she doesn’t want to put her underwear on by herself.

Layla: I just went Mommy.

Me: You’re right, thank you for reminding me.  Katherine thanks for going potty.  Let’s get your underwear on.  You try for a couple minutes and then if you can’t get it I’ll help you.

K: I DON’T WANT TO TRY.  IT’S TOO TRICKY.  (Now, let me tell you that her idea of trying is to sit down and start crying.  We’re working on her giving an honest effort, so we walk her through step by step.  Usually we are successful after a looooong fit.) Insert a 15 minute fit.

By this point, the usually happy Josephine is now cranky and ready for a nap so I nurse her and try putting her in the crib.  She doesn’t fall asleep because she has a leaky diaper and needs not only a new diaper but a new outfit.

I finally talk Katherine through putting her underwear on, and she is so excited that she did it all by herself.

So now, we’ve checked off #1, 2, and we’re ready for #3.  Which just happens to cause another fit.  Do you see a theme for this morning?  Can you guess who was throwing it? 🙂

15 minutes later and 2,000 tears later we have shoes on.

Thankfully, the hair brushing is smooth-sailing.  I leave the living room and go to the bathroom and go get a drink and a handful of trail mix.  I come back into the living room and am greeting with marker-covered faces.  Layla looks like she was trying to put on eye liner.  Katherine informs me that they were putting on make-up so they could go to the store.  A little surprising since I have put on make-up maybe a couple dozen times since they were born three years ago.

At this point (about an hour later), I am done, and Josephine is definitely needing to go down for a nap.  So she goes to the crib and I write this post.  As soon as I am done, I will be scrubbing off markers from my precious cherubs’ faces.

And when the baby wakes up we’ll start the process all over again.  Then again, maybe I’ll just wait until we leave for the wedding and run in and grab a gift card. 🙂

Why my husband is a great father

Toy Truck

When I was dating Eloy I had quite a few opportunities to see him with little kids.  But nothing could prepare me for how great of a father he would be for our three little girls.  (We have twins who turn three next month, and a seven month old baby.)

Every night before my husband heads to bed, he always checks on the girls.  For the baby it means turning off her lamp and tucking the blanket around her nice and snug.  If she fell asleep with her lovie on top of her face he gently removes it and puts it within reach.  Can’t forget the kiss!  For the older girls he usually has to carry them back to bed.  For some reason, they fall asleep on the floor.  Before he can tuck them into bed he has to remove the pile of books they have fallen asleep in bed with (or on top of!).  Then he tucks them into bed and gives them a kiss.  I love to stand at the doorway and watch this simple act of love from father to daughters.  It always brings a smile to my face and peace to my heart.  This man loves his little girls and would do anything for them.

The feeling is reciprocated too.  His little girls love him!  Most mornings, Eloy leaves for work before the girls and I wake up.   And every morning the girls ask, “Mom, where’s Daddy?”  Me: “Daddy’s at work.”   And some other time throughout the day, they ask again just to make sure that the answer hasn’t changed.  Sometimes, when I feel that little tinge of annoyance at getting asked the same question again I start acting goofy and say, “Daddy flew to the moon,” which always gets a little giggle from the girls.  They just want to make sure he isn’t going to get away from them, and that he is coming back!

Sometimes when Josephine (our baby) is crying I’ll say out loud to the older girls, “I don’t know why she is so cranky!”  My girls usually respond with, “It’s because she misses her Daddy.”

When Eloy does make it back after work, the girls are so excited to see him.  Tonight, he watched them while I taught a piano lesson and I kept hearing my girls giggle.  I asked him later what was going on and found out he had been doing a puppet show, and making their dolls talk to them.  Other nights it’s truck and car noises.  Every time he does things like that he is making memories for these girls that they are going to cherish for the rest of their lives.

Eloy walks through the door and walks past Josephine, she gets so mad and starts crying until he picks her up.  It is pretty stinking adorable.  When she hears his voice she always perks up.  There have been many times when I swore she was asleep and she hears Eloy’s voice.  What does she do?  Her eyes pop open and she twists her body around trying to find her Daddy.  She loves her Daddy!

Things can get a little crazy with several little kiddos, but I am lucky to have such a great partner to raise these kids with.  I know that work can be stressful for him, and sometimes coming home to crying kids, blowouts, and a cranky wife isn’t easy either.  I just want him to know that his greatness as a father isn’t being overlooked, and I love him more for it.  

I love you Eloy, and thanks for being an amazing father to our three little blessings.

Thirsting for community

There are so many days when staying at home is a joy.  And there some days when I just feel alone and isolated.  I say this not to complain about staying at home with my children, which I love, but to acknowledge and share something that I feel is missing in our society.

Awhile back, my husband and I started a documentary called “Bela Fleck: Throw Down Your Heart” about the American banjo.  I never finished it, so I can’t tell you what I think of the whole thing.  But there was one scene that has stuck with me, and brings a longing to my heart every time I see it.  When I saw it the first time, I was in such a lonely place I was trying not to cry.  (Yes, leave it to me to find something to cry about in a documentary about banjos!)

In this scene, women in the Village of Nakisenyi in Africa are gathered outside around some pans laid on the dirt.  Some are crouched over the pans, washing dishes.  Others are standing or sitting around, singing a lively call and response song.  Nearby, the children are around, playing together. What strikes me is that the women are not holed up in their homes, doing their own dishes after eating by themselves.  They are working together.  It is a community job.  They work together to do a task that we do on our own.  They are sharing each other’s daily burdens.  And what better way to get something done than to sing while you do it?

The next scene is in the same village, of a big group of villagers singing and playing instruments.  There is a HUGE marimba made out of logs.  The marimba must be 10 feet long, resting on the ground.  It is so long there must be five men playing it, each with two sticks.  Standing around them are more people singing and playing other instruments.  Some are clapping if they don’t have another instrument.  Everyone seems to be enjoying themselves.  The children are nearby in a group, dancing and clapping.

Something about that struck a chord in my heart.  These people do not have fancy houses, the newest gadgets, or in-style clothes.  But what they do have is something I crave – a true, ever-present community. We are so busy in our individual family lives, we miss out on the joys of living in a community.  

Think about it.  We wake up in our own little houses, get in our cars with the windows up, do our business, then drive back to our houses.  Our evenings are spent doing things for our individual families – grocery shopping, dance lessons, softball games.

When we finally get together with another family, it usually involves this complicated dance around each family’s schedule – so much that a simple dinner requires families to reserve a date several months in advance.  Even play dates can take weeks to plan out. Some days I wish for a simpler life.  A life where I know my neighbors and they know me.  A life where we don’t have to work so hard to get together.  

45 Simple Things that Make my Children Smile

It has been awhile (about a year!) since I blogged.  I stopped writing since I wasn’t feeling the best – I had “morning sickness” all day long.  And then I just got lazy. 🙂

We welcomed our newest addition to our family on 12-12-2012, a joyous occasion!  Josephine is a sweet and easy-going baby, though I think she is going to be a handful when she starts moving.  She is never still – always busy.

Over the past three years of being a mom, I have come to the conclusion that children do not require much to make them happy.  Even as babies, they only need food, clean diapers and a face to smile at.

I don’t think much changes as they grow into toddlers.  Simple toys and activities are best.  Who needs expensive toys, just give them some of the plastic and cardboard recyclables!  They don’t need a water park, just fill up the kitchen sink with bubbles and water.

Most important, they do not require much of us, their parents, but our time, which for some reason is sometimes the hardest to give.  Such a simple request, with such a joyous outcome.

I was reminded of this today, as I looked for ways to bring about joy to their faces.  Here’s a list of some of the things that make my children smile and giggle with happiness.

  1. Marshmallow cereal.
  2. Recyclables.
  3. Dance parties.
  4. Smiling at them.
  5. Praising them for something they did right or well.
  6. Their sisters.
  7. Silly noises.
  8. Drawing.
  9. Scissors.
  10. Playing with them.
  11. Imagination.
  12. Reading to them.
  13. Pushing little carts in the grocery store.
  14. Tickle wars.
  15. Sneaking a sip of Daddy’s frappuccino.
  16. Their favorite pajamas or shirts, clean and ready to wear.
  17. Electronics.
  18. Trips to the park.
  19. Friends.
  20. Accomplishing a new task for the first time.
  21. Babies.
  22. Putting a puzzle together.
  23. Family movie nights.
  24. Popcorn.
  25. Story time.
  26. Pretending to be a baby so we carry them.
  27. Hugs and kisses.
  28. Grandparents.
  29. Aunts and uncles.
  30. Water play.  (Outside pool time, or inside playing with bubbles in the sink.)
  31. Sand.
  32. Gardening.
  33. Roly polies. (Poor things.)
  34. M&Ms.
  35. Stickers.
  36. Laundry baskets.
  37. Pictures of themselves when they were babies.
  38. Hearing stories about what they did when they were babies.
  39. Baby wipes. (Who knew they would love to clean so much?)
  40. Rocks.
  41. Mud!
  42. Necklaces.
  43. Painting toenails/fingernails.
  44. Crazy hair.
  45. Large cardboard boxes (The ones dishwashers come in, or even the value packs of diapers.  Either way, they love to climb in and play).