Real Mama: Kelli Dillion

Tell us a little about yourself…

My name is Kelli and I am a 30+ (real close to 40)-year-old mama of two insanely crazy-but-cute boys that are three and two. I was a hospitality designer (I designed/built hotels, casinos, and restaurants) before I became a mama. Now I am a proud military wife and stay-at-home-mama, who lives life out of a suitcase. We are currently stationed in Stuttgart, Germany and learning to adjust to life in Europe. Not too bad! We spend our days trying to learn German and mixing in a little Japanese after spending almost six years there. This doesn’t always go over too well but— hey— we are trying. We are doing our best to raise well-educated, well-traveled, and most importantly, respectful little boys. That is a feat within itself. I am currently applying for medical school or physician’s assistant school as I don’t seem to have enough on my plate day to day. 

Where is home? 

I was born in Texas, but moved around a ton after graduating high school and now I call the great state of Alaska, where I married my husband, home.

What are your secrets to balancing your life as a stay-at-home-mama? 

Balance— are you kidding? I am still trying to figure out that one. I went from managing multi-million dollar architectural projects to trying to keep my kids in their clothes while walking around the streets of Europe. The key to my success—if you want to call it that— is to realize that I am not perfect but my kids and I are happy.

Who has been your biggest inspiration? 

MY MOM! My mom is a retired third grade teacher of 36 years who managed a full-time job (and sometimes two part-time jobs) as well as a family. I still talk to her everyday to both ask advice and just to gab. She is my mentor, my best friend and my inspiration!

What has been the best advice you’ve received as a mama? What do you feel is the best advice, if any, that you’ve given as a mama? 

One, you are going to fail everyday but as long as you tried, you never truly failed! And two, look at the example you set for your kids. NEVER GIVE UP! 

 Are you the kind of mama you thought you’d be? 

Absolutely not!! I’m way more stressed out!

Where do you see yourself in ten years?

Living in the city (New York City) if I can convince my husband that it is a great place to raise kids….

If you could have lunch with anyone (dead or alive) who would it be?

My Grandmother. She passed away from brain cancer when I was in sixth grade and I still see her in my mom to this day. She is my mom’s strength and resilience. I would love to know what kept her fighting. 

If you could have any superpower, what would it be?

The energy of a 3-year old bottled up. You can’t tell me they don’t have something special in them; their capes are just hidden. 

Was your birth experience all that you hoped it would be? If you could go back and change anything, what would it be?

My birth experiences are drastically different. My first son was born in a military hospital in Okinawa, Japan five weeks early through induction. The techniques used were a bit dated, but I knew nothing at that time as it was my first to-term delivery. My second son was also an induction, but this time in Texas under the care of my sister-in-law’s amazing hospital and NICU staff. This was the best experience I could have asked for at 6 weeks 3 days early. Would I change anything? No! Really each birth has its own special memory and I am thankful for that. Well, OK, if you twist my arm, I guess I would have asked for drugs sooner with my second. I progressed from two cm to ten cm in 37 min. OUCH!

How has your mothering evolved since those early newborn days? Is there anything, thus far, in your approach to mothering that you swore “I’d never do…” and you are?

My mothering changed the day I had my second child. I told myself I would never compare them, but it happens daily. I was on a strict schedule with my first child and the second, well, if he made it through the day and was fed and changed, then we had a great day! 

Do you have a mama mantra? Or something you find yourself repeating over and over when times are tough?

Just get through the day! Everyday has its challenges, but if I make it through the day we are good. If it is a really rough day, I use Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”

Is there anything else you wish to share with the Mama Say What?! audience? 

I am a mama battling an auto-immune disease that I discovered I had when I was twenty. Most don’t know anything about it and most look at me and think that nothing is wrong, yet I am always sick, so I must be a hypochondriac. I am suffering through lupus and I have my great days (the ones where I can get out of bed and play with my boys) and I have pretty rough days (the ones where my husband has to dress me. Talk about tough—you should see the outfits he picks). I would say the hardest thing about all of it is teaching my boys that mommy is sick, but that you can do anything you set your mind to! 

And as I said before, above all things be respectful of others. You never know what they might be going through. 

Both my boys were induced early because of my disease. My oldest son was the roughest, yet most amazing miracle I could ever receive. He was born with two brain bleeds and had limited to no movement on the left side of his body until he was 10 1/2 months old. Each day was a struggle through PT to help his muscle development, OT to help his cognitive and fine motor development, and speech to teach him how to eat.

But, we made it.

Today he is a happy and healthy 3-year old boy who loves dressing up as a superhero and jumping off rocks, something that we were told he may never do.

Then, shortly after, came miracle number two. He survived mommy’s stress of almost losing daddy, an emergency appendectomy while in utero, and a 6-week early induction because mommy’s liver and kidneys were acting up.

So fast-forward to today. My boys are considered premies, but you would never know it. Both have developmental delays and some learning disabilities, but you would never know it. And both live life to the fullest, exploring the world with mom and dad each step of the way. That is what I want the world to know. Through all the pain, suffering and illness, LIFE is still at your fingertips.

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