The Other Side II

April 24, 2018. Surgery Day. Nerves and excitement all rolled into one emotion as we headed to the hospital early that morning. Max was going to have surgery to get her ostomy taken down. The day came quickly and slowly all at the same time. The thought of another surgery was scary, but we were also excited at the thought that she wouldn’t have to live with the ostomy any longer. The nurse-mom in me was starting the internal tug-o-war again as we were heading back, to the other side.

As the surgery date approached, we went over logistics and made preparations for Max’s possible week long stay in the hospital while planning to keep things as normal as possible for Scar. We agreed that I would stay with Max for the majority of the time in the hospital and we would enlist the help of our family to get Scar through the days, and Josef staying with her at home in the evenings. This time around seemed easier to plan as we learned a few lessons from Max’s first surgery and hospitalization. The main thing we focused on was that we couldn’t expect Scar to spend the majority of her days and evenings day after day in a hospital room. She’s (almost) three years old and will go crazy if she is confined to a hospital room for more than a couple hours, and even a couple hours is pushing it some days. So we arranged pick ups and drop offs with our family who graciously offered any and all support they could give us.


Waiting in pre-op

We arrived at the hospital at 6:30 a.m. as instructed and made our way to the scheduled surgery registration area. We checked her in, received our parent ID bands, signed some papers, paid our co-pay and went to the waiting area. We were called in shortly after and were taken to the pre-operative holding area. They weighed her and I changed her into a little hospital gown. The nurse said the anesthesiologist and surgeon would be by in a few minutes to talk to us and answer any last minute questions. My first thought, I’ve been working at this hospital for almost three years now and I’ve never been in this particular area, even more so, I don’t think I’ve ever been on this floor. Seeing familiar faces from the pediatric surgical team eased my tension a little bit as they did their assessments and pre-operative checklist. Not only were they the same team that cared for Max when she had her first surgery, but they are also people I work with. It was now 8:00 a.m. and the time had come to roll her to the operating room and we took a few turns here and there and then it all became familiar. They were the same double doors they wheeled her to in an incubator while I followed being pushed in a wheelchair the day after she was born. The same faces taking her in and assuring us they’d keep us updated and take good care of her. We gave her our hugs and kisses and waves as the doors closed behind her.

Now all we could do was wait. And pray that everything goes well.

While eating breakfast at a local cafe, Josef and I passed the time talking about anything and everything–food, business, work, Scar, Max. While trying to focus on our conversations, which at times come too far and few between work and home life with two young children, I found myself starting to play the worst-case-scenario game in my head. By some divine intervention at this exact moment, the text messages started coming in. Kind words, thoughts and prayers and some most needed distraction techniques from my friends and family got us through the next three hours. I received a call at 8:45 a.m. from the OR nurse. She told us everything was going as expected and they would continue to keep in touch. We finished our breakfast, picked up some sweet treats for the nurses, then headed back to the hospital to wait in the cafeteria.

It was probably about 10:30 a.m. now and we had yet to receive another call. Anxiously waiting for any news, I kept checking the patient status board to see if there were any updates. Patient in Operating Room. Finally at 11:15 a.m. the surgeon herself calls me and tells me that the surgery was done. They were waiting for an x-ray to check the placement of Max’s epidural which would provide her pain relief for the next few days. We would receive another phone call when she was being transferred to the Pediatric ICU for recovery. An hour goes by and still no call. Now I’m starting to worry again.


Getting settled in the PICU after surgery

At last 12:30 p.m. hits and the surgeon calls me and says she’s up in the PICU now; the anesthesiologist had to redo her epidural which is why it took so long. We got to the PICU and she was still drowsy from the anesthesia, but at least she looked comfortable. She only had one IV this time but they also had to put a tube in her nose to suction her stomach contents until her bowel function returned.

The next few hours went by without much incidence, so Josef decided it was a good time to go home and pick up Scar. As soon as he was going to leave Max starts fussing and getting extremely uncomfortable. “Oh no, what did we do?” The mama guilt started setting in. “The surgery was elective, she was doing fine at home with the ostomy, why did we put her through this?,” I started asking myself. Thankfully the night shift nurse that first night was AMAZING! I hadn’t met him before, but I’m so thankful that he was Max’s nurse that night. He literally did not leave her side for the first half of his (12 hour) shift. He tried all sorts of things to make her comfortable. Watching his critical thinking process and nursing assessment skills put my mind at ease as I could really tell that not only was he an excellent nurse, but he also cared for my baby and was doing everything he could to genuinely help her. At that moment, I finally felt like I could relax and just be mama instead of playing the nurse-mom role.

She stayed in the PICU for a couple days and then was transferred out to the pediatric ward, which was also the floor I work on. The number one question I was asked was, “How is it being on the other side?” Since this was Max’s second surgery and second time in the hospital, I’d say it was a little easier in that we knew what to expect in terms of bouncing between the hospital and home. And also, I felt a lot more comfortable since I knew all of the nurses and doctors. She did very well the first four days and by the end of the week Scar was asking me to stay home with her and I felt comfortable enough to go home while Josef stayed at the hospital with Max. In true fashion, the next couple of days were not so good; cue Murphy’s Law. She couldn’t hold anything she took by mouth down. Her IV went bad and her foot got swollen so they had to take it out, thus they had to stop the epidural a day earlier than originally planned since she had no venous access. Her pain seemed very well managed at least, but the vomiting started to concern the surgeon. They did an ultrasound to see if they could find a reason for the vomiting but didn’t find anything abnormal. By the time I got to the hospital it was about noon and she was still not holding anything down and she had no IV. She has small veins like me, so they decided to place a PICC line and start her on special IV nutrition and fats since she hadn’t eaten for pretty much a week.


Shortly after getting a PICC line in her right arm

Feeling discouraged doesn’t begin to explain what we were feeling. We thought she’d be out of the hospital by now, but instead she was getting more anesthesia and a new line placed. Thankfully her primary surgeon and one of my favorite anesthesiologist were there and everything went smoothly. Of course by that evening when we decided that I would stay with her that night, she rounded the corner and started holding down some pedialyte. The next morning we tried some of my milk and she did really well except for one little spit up. By the afternoon, the IV nutrition was turned off and they let her start to breastfeed again. We opted to stay one more night to make sure she did okay overnight. Without any other road bumps that night, she was discharged early on Thursday morning, May 3, 2018.

Being on the other side for the second time reminded my good ol’ nurse complex to not try to control things that are out of my control. And honestly, it was much easier to do this time around. Max definitely made it easier by showing her incredible strength again through it all — hardly complaining and being able to sleep well while being in the hospital. As I prepare to return to work from maternity leave in a week, I do believe that being on the other side of things these past few months will make me a better nurse. I’ve been a pediatric nurse for almost 11 years now and I can admit that I have probably become somewhat desensitized to seeing sick children in the hospital. While some people have computer screens and telephones on their desks every day at work, I have IVs, blood draws and medical procedures flowing around me on a daily basis. However, I now realize that it wasn’t until just about 5 months ago that I could honestly say to my patients and their families, I understand. I understand the fear and worry that takes over you when your child is in the hospital. I understand how frustrating it is to not be able to take your child’s pain and discomfort away. I understand that a mere five minutes of waiting feels like an eternity. And I understand the feeling of losing control. Yes, I have always given my compassion and offered all that I can to comfort them in their time of need, but now I actually get it. I’m looking forward to taking all that I’ve learned these passed few months and applying it to my daily work flow. If I can make just one patient and family feel that much better by sharing my personal experience, I’d say it was all worth it, being on the other side.

A New Adventure

Ever since I started crafting I always kept an idea in the back of my mind that it would be really cool to make some money out of it one day. Yes, I have a full time job and a family to take care of, but I have been hopeful that something would eventually come along. I stumbled upon a post in one of my mama groups on Facebook about an opportunity to not only craft but also make money doing it. Could this be what I have been looking for?!

Many direct sales opportunities have presented to me through friends and family, but none that I really felt passionate enough about to join. So what makes this one different? The post came from a fellow mama I’ve never met, in a Facebook group with hundreds of other mamas I’ve also never met. Hmmm.. not really an exciting story when I say it out loud, but that’s how it happened. After reading her post about this crafting business opportunity I felt compelled to message her for more information, something I’ve never done before. Ever. After a couple days of messaging back and forth and getting more information on the company, I felt really excited about the opportunity; excited enough that I actually did it. I signed up for a direct sales company.


And then it hit me. OMG, what did I just get myself into?! Where am I going to seriously find time to do all of this? My loving husband topped it off with a simple palm to the face and head shake (LOL love you.) All in the blink of an eye, or rather, all in the press of the JOIN button, I was added to several Facebook groups, getting tons of notifications and emails about where to start and how to get my business rolling. Getting through training videos and reading through business documents is no easy task with an almost three year old and an almost four month old. Their nap time is when I’m learning how to utilize social media and expand it past posts about my family and friends. Gearing up towards making how-to videos and going “live” in the near future is both exciting and nerve-racking at the same time. I’ve never been one to attract attention to myself, but it’s exciting to try something so new and different and get myself out of my comfort zone.

So what’s this company all about?!

Chalk Couture. The most versatile home decor ever created. Create your own masterpiece, no matter what your crafting ability may be.. over and over again. Beautify your home and spice up your life when you join the Chalk Couture family as a Designer.

The company launched on July 1, 2017 (yes, it’s only nine months young!) and is making it’s presence known in the crafting world. We sell Chalk Paste, Chalk Ink, Vinyl Transfers and everything else you need to make beautiful, hand-crafted projects. I’ll be doing my first “live” video on Facebook (hopefully today) to unbox my starter kit, so I hope you get a chance to view it on my Facebook Page. The company is still very new and there is more than enough room for anyone interested in joining the Chalk Couture Family as an Independent Designer. If you’d like to learn more, please feel free to contact me! In the meantime, I’ll let the art speak for itself through social media posts, blog posts, and how-to videos. And feel free to visit my Chalk Couture Online Shop to see all of the fun products we offer! I’m excited to share this new adventure with all of you. And I hope you stay along for the ride!


I’ve been a planner girl for as long as I could remember, but it wasn’t until just recently — maybe the last four or five years — that it seems like it became “cool” again. The struggle of finding printable inserts, project planners, dashboards, dividers, notepads and stickers is a thing of the past and there is a huge community of awesome planner people that has come out of hiding. And I’m lucky that I found not only an online community of planner people, but I also have some close friends that share my love for all things planner related.


Current Essentials

So, what is this PlannerCon thing all about? I get that question often when people ask me what I did the particular weekend that I attended PlannerCon. This year was the second international convention and had literally over one thousand attendees. Yes, 1-0-0-0 planner people all in one hotel! It was held at the Hyatt Regency at SFO and it was definitely a sight to see planner people from all over the country and even some from other countries. The weekend was filled with speakers and workshops and the part we all love the most — shopping! Planners, Traveler’s Notebooks, pens, washi tape, stickers, stamps, notebooks, paperclips, bags, hats, pins, charms, apparel; you name it, someone was selling it. Some vendors even had pre-order items that you could order online and pick up at the conference. Some also had special PlannerCon items and pricing. And of course, we all got a swag bag with lots of free planner goodies.


Badges & Swag Bags from PlannerCon 2017 & 2018

So now let’s talk about some details. Registration opened at 7:30 am. The line for registration/check-in was a bit long and intimidating, but actually went really smoothly and quickly since they separated the attendees by last name. Once I checked in and received my swag bag and name badge, I met up with my planner peeps (Les, Mai, Law & his hubby Jeff and a new planner friend, Rosanna) and we found a table to sit at.

28754820_10213692434297640_686896124_oOf note, for those of you thinking about attending PlannerCon next year, there are VIP tickets that include table seating among some other perks. Assembly seating without tables is included in the regular ticket price. The conference opened with a welcome and introduction by Louise Umeki, the visionary and mastermind behind PlannerCon. Hearing about how PlannerCon started and how much it’s grown in just a mere two years is incredible. All the hard work, time and TLC she and her team put into PlannerCon has definitely paid off. They have already extended PlannerCon to smaller PlannerCon Parties that are at different cities each year. I have not attended a PlannerCon Party yet, but I hear they are just as fun but take place in more of an intimate setting.

I absolutely loooooved the opening keynote speaker, Kristy Dickerson, the CEO of STARTplanner. If you haven’t heard of her, look her up! She is an inspiration for anyone who just wants to be more productive in life whether it be starting a personal blog, organizing your life, or even opening up your own business. I ended up purchasing her Daily Hustle Planner and I started reading her book, START balancing. Did I mention that she is only thirty-one years old?!? It’s only been about a month since I’ve been using her planner and I feel so much more productive than I have been in a while. 

The first workshop I attended was a Travel Journaling workshop with one of my faves in the business, Amy Tan(gerine). I met her for the first time at PlannerCon 2017, but I’ve been a fan of hers since I saw her on HSN (I love Home Shopping Network!) demonstrating some of her new craft products a few years ago.

She graciously provided all of the attendees of her workshop with a packet full of fun craft items from her shop–scrapbook paper, stickers, washi tape, decorative tassels and even a travel notebook insert. Aside from teaching about her journaling techniques, she is also a great speaker/presenter with a great story of how she got to where she is today.

The next workshop I attended was a lettering class taught by Jessica Park from Sakura of America. She has also done quite a few online brush lettering tutorials for some of the biggest names in the industry. I took a lettering class at last year’s PlannerCon as well taught by Sharisse of Pieces Calligraphy. It definitely takes lots of practice to get as good as these lettering instructors. Sharisse teaches brush calligraphy all over the place and recently launched a full online brush lettering class that I’m slowly getting through. I wish I could practice lettering all the time! They make it look so easy.

Starting to see a theme here? PlannerCon is more than just making pretty things and buying stuff, which, don’t get me wrong, is really awesome, but it’s also about productivity (because that’s what planner people strive to be) and living up to your potential. It’s also a great place to network and meet new people with similar interests. There were also so many small business owners handing our free goodies with their business cards attached as a way to promote themselves and their businesses. Aside from the wonderful speakers, presenters and workshop instructors I mentioned, there were panels of more people with successful, inspirational stories and a few more keynote speakers who spoke throughout the conference.


Me & Erin Condren at PlannerCon 2017

One of the Diamond Sponsors, Erin Condren, creator of the Life Planner, closed out the day with yet another motivational talk and gave all of the attendees a swag bag with goodies from her store. The rest of the night was spent with a plan-a-thon where everyone was able to do some planning, check out all of their purchases and just have a good time. The shops were open late for even more shopping in case people didn’t have enough time to shop between their workshops.

I bought my (regular) ticket already for PlannerCon 2019 and I am looking forward to another weekend filled with planners, friends, fun and inspiration.

Wedding DIYs

With wedding season approaching, I thought it would be fun to do a post on our wedding DIYs. I’ve always liked doing arts and crafts but I think my love for crafting really developed when Josef and I started planning our wedding. After getting a few quotes for wedding invitations we quickly realized that costs were going to add up FAST if we did not make some things ourselves. Though the process of doing a DIY wedding can be super stressful and time consuming, it’s also really cool to see the end product and be able to share it with your loved ones.


When deciding on the type of invitations we wanted to send out, we wanted to keep with our modern theme and have something unique, so we decided on invitation booklets. When getting quotes, designers were going to charge us $8.00 – $12.00 per invite. Yikes. Our guest list was upward of four hundred people (yes, I know!), so you could do the math and calculate how much that would have cost us. So, we decided to take a leap of faith and make them ourselves. With some self-taught Adobe Illustrator skills, Josef was able to create the graphics that we wanted for each page. We had them laser printed since the gray background we wanted could only be done with laser printing. Once they were printed, I used a Martha Stewart Scoring Board to make a one inch margin on each of the pages. Then, I punched two holes and set two white eyelets with a We R Memory Keepers Crop-a-Dile. We also opted for electronic RSVP options (email, phone, website) to save on stamps and avoid having to print out RSVP cards for people to mail back to us. All in all, we estimated that it cost us about $3.50 to make each invite! We mailed the invites in brown kraft paper envelopes and just used our home inkjet printer to print the addresses.

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Reception Programs & Menus

We continued with our modern theme to create our reception programs and menus. Again, Josef designed them on Adobe Illustrator. Since we were going with a white background, we were able to print them out on our home printer. Using the same technique I used on our invitations, I punched a hole in the top corner and set a silver eyelet with a crop-a-dile.

Place Cards & Meal Tickets

We wanted to do something different for our place cards and meal selections that was fun and functional at the same time. For our place cards, we printed each guest name on a 4″ x 9″ envelope and also stored the utensils inside of it. We included a fork and knife graphic as well as our names and the date and location of our wedding reception at the bottom.

The meal tickets served two functions. The top portion was used to tell the servers which meal option each guest chose (meat, veggie or kid’s meal) when they RSVP’d and the bottom was a favor ticket. We decided that instead of spending $300+ on individual favors for each guest, we would raffle off three Nexus Tablets (we’re an Android Family) throughout the reception. I used a Fiskars Rotary Cutter with a perforation blade to make it easy to tear off the bottom portion to place in the raffle bowl.


Bride & Groom Place Setting :: Kara Miller Photography

Fun Extras

Our cocktail hour was held in a separate room from the main reception so we were able to put our seating chart and guestbook/gift table in this room. We kept our seating chart simple since we had about three hundred people to list. We separated the names alphabetically by last name and printed them out on white card stock. I made the alphabet tent cards out of brown kraft paper card stock and chalkboard paper. I bought wooden frames and used chalkboard paper for the large signs. Finally, I made our guestbook out of 5″ x 7″ chipboard and white card stock and used binder rings to hold them together to form a ring bound book.

We also put up a gallery of pictures that Josef got enlarged and actually used them when he proposed to me. The easels were hand made by Josef as well, so I have no idea how he made them, but they turned out great!

Most Filipino weddings include the infamous money dance and ours was no exception. Instead of having someone pass out the pins, we thought it would be more efficient to have them on the tables already. My sister came up with the idea for the pins storage. She used small styrofoam balls to stick the pins in. She used a Cricut Machine to cut out the bases out of yellow card stock. She used the Octagon Box image from the Tags, Bags, Boxes and More 2 Cricut Cartridge. She finished them off with a small label made out of a toothpick, twine and gray card stock.


Money Dance Pins :: Kara Miller Photography

We used wooden frames and chalkboard paper for pretty much all of the signs we used for our reception decor. We used the Tolsby White Plastic frames from Ikea for a few smaller signs and for all of our table numbers. All of the signs were had written with chalk markers by my lovely sister. She has since taken up hand lettering and modern calligraphy (IG: @smudgedletters) if you need any custom lettering done = )

Looking back, I learned quite a few things about doing a DIY wedding. First and foremost, just like everything in life, DO NOT PROCRASTINATE! We ended up sleepless and stressed the last week before our wedding trying to get everything done in time. Secondly, ask for help. That’s what your wedding party is there for! It’s always been difficult for me to ask people for help, but enlisting the help of our wedding party turned out to be such a big help, especially that last week of craziness. Utilize them and delegate tasks that don’t need to be done by you. And lastly, don’t sweat the small stuff. Your wedding is supposed to be fun and enjoyable and it goes by fast! Five and a half years later our friends and family don’t really talk about our invitations or the signs we made for our reception, but rather they talk about all the fun they had celebrating the day with us.

So have fun with it and enjoy crafting your Happily Ever After!

The Other Side


Max a few minutes after she was born

As a mother, you live for your children and give everything you’ve got to make sure they are protected from anything that may harm them and do all you can to prevent them from experiencing any type of pain. As a pediatric nurse, you comfort families during what is often the worst time in their lives, when their child is sick in the hospital. You are used to having things under control and staying calm in some of the scariest situations imaginable. So, what happens when you have to be both?

When I got pregnant with Max, Josef and I pretty much agreed off the bat that we would schedule a repeat c-section since I had to have an emergency c-section with Scar. The nurse in me had this grand idea that everything would go as planned, in a well controlled environment. Yes, the delivery went as planned and within an hour of being in the OR, our beautiful Max was in our arms. “Hmmm .. does her stomach look okay? It looks kind of big doesn’t it?,” I found myself asking shortly after the delivery. She was examined and we were reassured that everything checked out and that she was being monitored. The next twenty-ish hours went by as smooth as it could with a newborn — she was feeding well, she passed stool a couple times, and she wasn’t super fussy.

The next morning told a different story. During her routine exam by the morning nurse, we noticed her stomach was a lot bigger and it actually felt hard. All at once I felt the nurse and mom in me at a vicious tug-o-war. “I should have been more persistent in getting her checked more thoroughly. I know better than this!” .. “She’s being monitored, they know what they are doing, let them do their jobs, stay calm.” The nurse in me was staying calm and trying not to jump to irrational conclusions, while the mom in me wanted answers. Right. Now. It wasn’t until I noticed the NICU attending and two pediatric surgeons waiting outside of our room for an x-ray to be done that I knew something was really up. As a nurse, you know doctors NEVER wait at the bedside for x-ray results unless they have high suspicions that something is wrong. They found air in her abdomen, a sign that there was probably a hole somewhere in her stomach or intestines that was causing air to seep out. In a blink of an eye she was being wheeled away to the NICU. Within ten minutes she had a couple IVs in, blood being drawn, a tube in her throat decompressing her stomach and an OR was being prepped for her. Our baby was going to have emergency surgery twenty-six hours into her life. The mom in me took over and the panic set in. The calm, rational nurse in me was gone.


Max post-op day one in the NICU

I’ll save the details of our NICU experience for another day, but I will say that those ten days tested us as a family, as parents, as husband and wife and all the ways in between.

“You never know how strong you are until being strong is your only option.”

During this time, I learned what it felt like to be on the other side; to be the worried, emotional parent instead of the calm, collected nurse. I learned to find the balance between being a nurse and a mom, and that it was okay, even necessary, to be both at the same time. I learned to split my time between my first born, whose world was flipped upside down, and my newborn who was healing in the hospital. Josef and I have been together for eighteen years, (again, I’ll save those details for another day) but we had to learn how to lean on and support each other in ways we never had to before. Though it was not the greatest of circumstances, it made us better parents and also better partners.


Physical Therapy

Now, three months later, doctor’s appointments, home health visits, boxes of medical supplies and physical therapy appointments have become the new norm in our household. Ostomy bag changes that were once full on productions have become as routine as diaper changes. We are looking forward to (hopefully) another surgery to take down Max’s ostomy and are preparing for all that it comes with — the stresses of her going through surgery again and being in the hospital to heal while trying to keep somewhat of a routine for Scar and still giving her a fair share of our attention and affection. Through it all, Max is growing and thriving as well as we could have hoped, if not more. She’s shown us a strength that most three month old babies shouldn’t have to. Her infectious smiles and non stop babbling can immediately turn a bad day around, and seeing that makes it all worth it, being on the other side.


Max @ three months old <3

Funktional Chaos

IMG_20180131_192312Hello and welcome to my blog. This is something that I’ve been wanting to do for a long time and I finally decided to just do it. Not sure what will come of it, if anything, and honestly I don’t know if I expect anything to come of it, but I figured let’s just see where this journey takes me.

According to the Urban Dictionary, funktional is defined as: describing a product or design that is funky, or unique, while serving its purpose well. So I named this blog Funktional Chaos because it pretty much sums up the grand design of my life as a wife/mama/pediatric nurse. Chaotic and unique, yet functional in its own way. My older daughter will be three years old in May, so though I may not have all the answers and insight of a seasoned mother, I definitely have experiences on a day to day basis that may not always be perfect, but such is life. And that is the beauty of it all.

Like many people, I have so many things I want to do in my life and so many interests and hobbies I want to pursue, but let’s face it, there aren’t enough hours in the day/week/year to do it all, especially with two little ones to look chase after. So for now, I’ll also be using this blog to share my love for crafting and planning.

Starting a blog was one of my goals for 2018, and though it’s already March, I say better late than never.

Here we go <3