Wednesday, April 27, 2011

the one-armed multi-tasker

I've always been pretty good at multi-tasking.  I waitressed for 7 years through high school and most of college.  Working and going to school required effective time management.  Then I became a teacher.  You want to talk multi-tasking and effective time management?  If I didn't have those skills mastered beforehand, I would have never survived my first year.

It wasn't really until I became a mom that I truly understood the meaning of the word 'multi-tasking'.  With waitressing, I had the other servers or managers to help me out when things got a little busy.  With teaching, if I have something pertinent to attend to, I can always adjust my lesson plans as necessary (flexibility is a valuable lesson for students to learn early on!)...or, if things are really crazy, I can call in for a sub and attend to whatever I need to with the knowledge that my class is in good hands.  With mommyhood, sure, things can the laundry or the dusting.  But it's maintaining the balance of work, play, parenting, being an adult, spending time with your spouse, taking time for yourself, housekeeping, and treasuring every moment with your kids that is a tricky thing to master.

Raegan is a little over a week old and I've found myself experiencing a roller coaster of emotions in the time since I've met her.  I mentioned in a previous post about the guilt I felt as my tiny baby girl (unbeknownst to her) sat in her infant seat until I had organized a few things around the house when she came home from the hospital.  I know she is not 'keeping score' of how often she's held, or how many times I put her down to deal with other things.  But there's a tiny part of me that's keeping score for myself.  With Gavin, it was *easy*.  He didn't have any 'sibling competition'.  I could hold and cuddle, kiss and snuggle him to my heart's content. 

There were some challenges, however.  It was with Gavin that I learned how to be the one-armed multi-tasker.  Pouring cereal, emptying the dishwasher, or putting laundry into the machine required slight adjustments in their technique.  I tried the whole 'baby wearing' thing, to allow myself two free hands, plus the closeness of baby that I so desired.  And to be honest, it just wasn't for me.  The degenerated discs in my lower back weren't a huge fan of the way the carrier contorted them, I still felt 'pregnant', and was uncomfortable in the heat of summer.  Don't get me wrong, I applaud mommies who 'wear' their babies...and wish that I was able to be a little more open-minded about it.  I think I've convinced myself otherwise, and at this point, with three kids, I've mastered the one-armed technique well enough to meet my personal mommy needs. 

When Brynn was born, I had just 22 months separating the two.  I know many friends who have been in the same boat...quite a few with even less time separating their kids...and to be honest, I don't know how we did it!  Having more than one child who is essentially 'helpless' is enough to help pour a nice glass (or two) of pinot noir after a long and demanding day (speaking from experience, of course!)

Then, last summer, I had this radical idea to have another baby!  I remember Randy's hestitation on the idea, specifically because, as he put it, 'we'd be starting all over again'.  While Gav and B are nowhere near 'independent' (and what child ever really is?!), he views them as capable enough to be considered 'easy' compared to a baby.  And you know what, he's right.  They are 'easier' times.  Like right now.  They're playing together (nicely), and pretty much keeping out of trouble.  They can take care of basic things without much assistance, like the bathroom (obvisouly this refers more to Gavin, not so much Brynn!), getting their milk cups from the fridge, opening the snack cupboard and choosing wisely, dressing themselves (what attire they select is a whole different story), entertaining themselves, and cleaning up after themselves (when the mood strikes or an early bedtime is suggested!). 

But then there are moments like this very one I'm experiencing now.  Just in the short amount of time it took to write the previous paragraph, things went from a peaceful game of tag to two precious little faces staring at me, begging me for the ice cream they were promised earlier in the evening.  Obviously this is something that they're not capable of attaining on their own, and more obviously as their mom, I want to follow through on my promise.  The challenge?  Miss Raegan is currently snuggled up on my chest in the space between my chin and my laptop.  I know if I move she'll wake up, which isn't a huge dilemma, but I feel terrible in doing so.  Sure, she'll most likely fall right back asleep if I lay her down in her little baby seat, but after I'm done dipping ice cream I'll want her to cuddle with me again...and will inevitably feel guilty rousing her once again to fulfill my selfish desires.

So, what was my solution?  To rely on my one-armed multi-tasking abilities to see me through.  Dipping ice cream with an infant in tow requires a little bit of phanaglaing, along with the help of Gav and B...but I made it work, and my oldest two are currently enjoying a bedtime treat at the dining table while discussing the latest episode of Spongebob.  And my youngest?  She's resting comfortably in the space she occupied prior to our little disruption. 

I know, I probably sound crazy.  Why don't I just put Raegan down, attend to Gavin and Brynn, and then go back to Raegan?  She's little...she won't remember...she won't feel *abandoned*...all these things have run through my head.  Why don't I just ask Randy to get the kids their ice cream?  Well, currently, the Nuggets are playing to stay alive in the a few scoops of vanilla ice cream doesn't quite warrant 'emergency' enough to pull him away from the mancave.  I love him too much for that (this is part of my 'people pleasing/approval addiction'...but that's a whole other post!). 

Today I spent a lot of time thinking about how and why I've become this 'one-armed multi-tasker', as I've apparently coined myself.  And the reason?  It's totally cliche, but  Raegan is already more than a week old.  Gavin will be 5 (FIVE!!) in a little over two weeks.  My original *princess* is 3 going on 13.  And I'm going to be 30.  Thirty.  Randy was on the phone today and said something about an account he had that was opened eleven years ago.  That was the year 2000--eleven years ago.

You get the idea.  I'm having a bit of a hard time with time right now.  While I was taking photos of Raegan today with her giraffe blanket that I spent entirely too much money on at (thank you, Juliana for getting me hooked!) felt like it had been just a few months ago that I was snapping away as Brynn lay on her little pink and green striped blanket. 

So, while it might not sound practical to everyone, I've decided that treasuring every moment that I can with my sweet baby girl in my arms is the solution to my current *problem*.  I won't have these moments forever.  I'll have memories, I'll have pictures (lots and lots of pictures!).  But I won't have a tiny, precious little bundle to hold and cuddle, kiss and snuggle forever.  I pray that she'll grow up wanting to stay close to her mom, but I want to keep her like this for as long as I can.  While I can't change how fast the clock ticks, I can adjust the way in which I run my household so I can best accomodate not only my kids' needs, but my needs as a mommy.  I doubt Raegan (or Gavin or Brynn, for that matter), will ever grow up telling me, "you held me too much as a baby".

baby her cuddly little blanket

exhausted from being adorable all day long

Monday, April 25, 2011

Brynn's 'throne'

one week old...first ride in the swing...a sleeping success!

One week old.  Raegan is already one week old.  Today was the first day Gavin went back to preschool since becoming a 'big-big' brother.  He took a picture of his new baby sister in to school to share with his friends and teachers.  I wish I could have been a fly on the wall watching him talk about her.  This morning when I went in to his room to get him up and ready for school, he doted on Raegan, kissing her head and asking her how she slept.  I can only imagine how proud he was when he told his class about her.

handsome 'big big' brother

Meanwhile, Brynn spent the day at home with mommy, daddy, and Raegan.  She was quite disappointed that she wouldn't have Gavin around to play with today, so I decided it would be a good day for a movie marathon and some mommy and Brynn cuddling.  Yesterday, she received Tangled from the Easter bunny, so what better time to watch it than today.  I suggested the movie, and she was thrilled. 

Earlier in the day, we were at odds over using the potty, so I made the decision to have her be bare from the waist down (she's successful with going to the potty this way).  I was finishing up a few things I was working on, so I sent B to get the movie from the basement.  I didn't think much of it at the time, but she took a little longer than usual to come back up.  I figured she was distracted by some toys.  After a little while, she came back up and sat on her blanket on the couch.  When I was all set, I called her into the kitchen to pick out a snack for the movie.  That's when I heard it.

"Mommy, poo on my blankey!".  Oh goodie.  I went into the living room, and sure enough...she was right.  She knew I wasn't pleased (who would be?!), so she was pretty obedient as I shuffled her into the bathroom.  Before starting the movie, I headed down to the laundry to take care of her blanket.  As I walked down the stairs, I saw something odd.  When I got to the bottom, I suddenly realized what took her so long to get the movie and some back upstairs...and why I was bringing her blanket downstairs to put in the washing machine.  I guess she's not as successful with the 'waist down' thing as I thought.  Needless to say, the discovery of this *surprise* put a little bit of a damper on the mood of 'princess day', especially when daddy came home and she realized his disappointment.

Thankfully, Brynn's mood shifts like the wind, and she was able to crack a smile when we told her we'd start the movie.  (As frustrating as 4 months of potty training attempts can be...getting angry at her isn't going to make her be successful...she reads the disappointment on our face and pretty much punishes herself)  And so we spent the afternoon watching Tangled and doting a little extra on our original princess. 

Brynn and Rapunzel...chomping on some Chex

Randy went to pick up Gavin from preschool, so Brynn and I continued her 'princess day' with story time while I fed Raegan.  She chose Pinkalicious, Purplicious, Goldilicious, Princess Sparkle, Dora and the Snow Princess, Knuffle Bunny Too, and some of the Princess Encyclopedia.  Mind you, these are the same titles I've been reading to her for the past few days since I've been home from the keeping a smile on my face during the read-a-thon was a bit challenging!

The boys came home and rang the doorbell.  When Brynn went to the door, she saw a 'special delivery' just for her.  Randy had bought her a Disney princess potty, complete with a faux sapphire flusher that makes a *magical* sound when you depress it.  She.was.thrilled.  I have to say, if this $25 'fix' is all it takes to get this potty training thing to stick...I might scream.  Although, in retrospect I should have realized that it is Brynn we're trying to potty train, and that having her use the same potty chair that her brother used would be a preposterous suggestion on our part.  She requires something far more 'fancy', far more 'pink' to meet her requirements.  I only wish we would have thought of this sooner...and saved my basement carpet from being 'christened'.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Welcome, baby giraffe!

Well, it's official.  I'm officially a mom of 3 by the age of 30 (ok, I'm 29...but *that* number is just around the corner!).  Raegan Harper Conley made her entrance into the world on April 18th at 8:33 pm.  Weighing just 6 lb. 2 oz., she is the tiniest of the three Conley kids.  And, oh, is she a Conley kid!  To quote one of my dear friends, 'don't you and Randy know how to make any other kind?'

mommy's favorite bib :)

Over the past few days, I have been rolling around a million and seven ideas in my brain for what my next blog entry should be.  Of course I knew it would center around Raegan, but it was beyond that where I couldn't seem to find my focus.  So, this might be random...might be scattered...might be arbitrary...but most will be from the heart.
My labor with Raegan began early Monday morning.  I was beyond ready to meet our newest little princess, and especially to let everyone in on what Randy and I had known for months--the gender of our little baby giraffe.  As I left the doctor's office to head over to the hospital, the girls at the front desk asked me what the verdict was, to which I responded, "I'm going to have a baby today!".  The words rolled off my tongue in excitement and joy, but the aftertaste was peppered with anxiety, fear, nervousness, and a sense of 'holy-crap-what-have-we-gotten-ourselves-into?'. 

When Raegan was born, they laid her on my chest and cleaned her tiny little body off, despite her squeaks and screams.  I had been thinking about 'that moment' for pretty much my whole pregnancy, because I remembered it so distinctly when Brynn was born.  I never had 'that moment' with Gavin because he had a little more traumatic birth, so they whisked him away before I had a chance to really see him.  So, with Raegan, I was waiting for 'that moment'.  I always knew there was a possibility that I wouldn't experience it. For a brief time during my labor, that possibility was close to being reality, as my doctor informed me there was a chance I'd need a C-section if things didn't progress and Raegan wasn't able to respond a little better to the contractions.  Thankfully, things progressed along and Raegan and I officially met for the first time the way I'd wanted to all along.  I was grateful God blessed me with that experience again, being as how Raegan is our last baby. 

'Last'.  That word I've found myself saying and thinking about in a whole different capacity since having Raegan.  Yes, Randy and I have discussed how three children is what suits our family best.  And I'm seriously content with that.  As much as I loved the miraculous parts of pregnancy (that didn't leave me nauseous, wearing elastic waistbands, or having to pee every 4 1/2 minutes), as much as I cherish the amazing experience of birth; our family is complete and my ideal of perfect.

But there's going to be that part of me that recognizes the 'last' of lots of things as Raegan grows and changes.  And despite the fact that I know we're done having children, there's going to be that part of me that mourns the those 'last' moments, 'last' milestones, 'last' memories.  I remember one night last summer when Randy and I were discussing having one more baby.  I remember letting him know I will have sadness with those 'lasts', but not to worry because the sadness won't last--that fleeting feeling won't overshadow the joy I feel when I look at our three kids.

Our three kids...three!  I remember a post I wrote a while back about the mix of emotions and feelings I had when Brynn was born and my uncertainties about my abilties to love her in the same way I did Gavin.  I learned in a very short time that I love her just as much as Gavin, but in a unique way that fit with Brynn's personality (and oh, what a personality!), and the relationship I have with her.  That experience gave me the ability to know that Raegan's birth will result in my heart multiplying, my love growing in ways that match best to her own personality, and our unique relationship. 

One of the coolest moments so far about having three kids was the moment Gavin and Brynn came into the hospital room to meet Raegan.  The look of awe on their faces as they processed this little person that they had only known as 'giraffe', or 'baby in mommy's belly' is one memory I hope to never forget.  Gavin was honest--he was a little sad that he didn't have a brother, but I'm fairly confident that he'll take on that role of 'big brother to two sisters' pretty well. 

do you think he's pretty excited?
 Now Brynn...well, it will be an interesting transition to watch as Brynn moves from 'baby girl', 'princess', and 'center of the world' (in her eyes) to having to share a little of that *pink* spotlight with her baby sister.  I'm pretty sure Brynn's personality is a strong enough one to still stay true to herself, and avoid becoming the middle child who can sometimes become a little 'lost' in the shuffle between the first born and the baby of the family.  For now, she is is love with her sister...'her' baby, as she's been telling us.

Brynn *adores* her baby sister!

The realization of having three kids is sinking in, one of the moments that sort of sealed that deal was when Raegan and I came home from the hospital.  Aside from the new seating assignments in the back of the car (it is bizarre seeing three car seats behind us!), when we got home and walked into the house, Randy set Raegan's carseat down (she was snoozing soundly), and I started to clean up some things around the kitchen.  I shuffled through mail, wiped down countertops, organized some of the mess, poured milk for the kids, and unloaded the dishwasher.  I did all of this, and at one point I looked up and saw Raegan sleeping peacefully in her carseat.  Raegan!  Oh my gosh, there was a brief moment when I questioned myself as to whether I had actually *forgotten* about her.  No, how could I possibly *forget* my baby girl, who I just brought into this world not even two days earlier?!  I felt terrible as I made my way to her, unbuckled her, and lifted her into my arms.  She stirred a little, but was otherwise unphased.  I know that of course, being a newborn, she'll be 'unphased' by a lot in the upcoming days and weeks, until she becomes a little more aware of the world in which she lives.  But I didn't like that I so easily let her 'fall by the wayside' within a few minutes of her being home.  When we brought Gavin home, it was with more ceremony (I even gave him a tour of the house--which seems silly as I look back on it).  Yet here I was with our 'last' baby, and she sat in her carseat for a while until I was ready for her.  Poor thing.  Not even 2 days old and she already was fulfilling a role where she had to wait her turn. 

As much guilt as I felt about this one little moment, it makes me smile because I know that it's a reflection of life.  Our life is three kids.  Our life is spreading our attention, our patience, ourselves in three different directions to three different kids with three different needs (or more).  Our life is busy, often times unyeilding, and our own version of a mini circus.  But it's our life.  A new frontier, a new schedule (or 4 or 8) to organize, a whole bunch of 'new' things that we'll meet with optimism.  While I might have some sadness about some of the 'lasts', there are so many 'new' things that will keep me looking forward.  If anything, my life will be such a whirlwind that I won't have much time to lament the 'lasts'.  I'll just have to keep my camera close by to document it all.

the 'last' time my kids will sit on a hospital bed, welcoming a new member of the family

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Dear Dad...

Tonight marks the one year anniversary since we received a phone call that forever changed our family.  When mom called to tell us that she was on her way to the hospital and they thought you had a heart attack, I was optimistic.  But still, I began praying and sort of wandered around aimlessly, just having a conversation with God about what was going on.  I made Randy dinner and he and I sat on the couch, staring at the TV screen, with zero coherence of what show was on. 

When the phone rang that second time and mom told Randy that you had died, my whole being went numb.  I couldn't quite process what news we'd just received, and it felt like we were trapped in some horrible nightmare.  I mean, really?  It didn't seem possible that we'd heard correctly, but for some inexplicable reason, there we were...making phone calls, flight arrangements, and other plans to prepare for our trip back to PA for something I had never once imagined having to do at our age. 

Randy left a few days before the kids and I did, which was heartwrenching.  I wanted to be able to comfort my husband; the kids to comfort their dad.  Ahh, the kids.  How in the world do you explain something like this to a 4 year old and 2 year old?  Their daddy being gone at random times isn't something that's new to the kids, so I was buying a few hours of time when I came home from work, because they just assumed daddy was working. 

But then came the evening after you died.  With their daddy back in PA, I bathed the kids and got them snuggled into their jammies.  I grabbed a picture from the wall (one of favorite ones of you and mom), and laid down with them in Gavin's bed to read them a goodnight story. 

After 'the end', I closed the book and brought out the picture.  Gavin recognized you and mom, and pointed you out to Brynn.  Tears filled my eyes...spilled down my cheeks...landed on Gavin's pillows as I explained, in the best way that I could that you were now an angel with God.  Gavin asked several questions, and I did as best I could answering them...all the while praying for strength to get through the conversation (although I knew it would be just one of many more we'd have with them).  Brynn lay very quietly, a nervous look on her little 2 year old face. 

Over the next few nights until we flew east to be with the family, the kids and I lay in Gavin's bed, where instead of the usual bed time story, I'd tell them about you.  I wanted to remind them that in a few days, we'd be heading out to be with daddy and a lot of family in Pennsylvania.  I wanted them to go to PA knowing why, but more importantly to go knowing who you were.  Sure, they knew their grandpa...Gavin remembered you visiting when Brynn was a baby.  Brynn knew you from the pictures we have around the house.  But the challenge of having family out of state, especially grandparents, is that our kids are left to learn who you are through us, notby spending time with you.  I wish they had the experience to know the amazing person you were in a different way, but we rely on our photos and memories to keep 'you' alive in them. 

I told them about one of the first times I had met you.  It was morning time, I had just gotten out of the shower and was getting ready for the day when mom called up the stairs.  "Erin...if you hear gunshots, don't be worried".  Really?  Gun shots?  I remember thinking, "where in the heck am I?".  Sure enough, I peered out the window and saw you and Randy standing on the back porch.  You had a shotgun on your shoulder aimed out into the backyard.  Some poor little groundhog was just going about his business...(When Gavin asked me what happened to the groundhog, I opted to share that you were just 'scaring' him out of the yard.  Thankfully, that answer appeased him.)

I told them about how you drove us through the fields out back of your house one day while Randy and I (well, I) held on for dear life in the back of the pick-up.  I'm most definitely not a 'country' girl, but when I came to visit you and mom, I would step out of my comfort zone (usually that's heels), and get a chance to do things that I never knew growing up.  Yes, I know riding in the back of a pick-up isn't all that 'wild and crazy'...but I remember you laughing as we went over bumps and I was obviously beyond nervous.

How about the time you helped me shoot my gun for the first time.  You and Randy set me up with some sort of a shotgun, and had a target in the backyard.  You gave me very specific safety instructions, made sure I was comfortable with everything, and stayed close by the entire time.  At one point, you had me brace myself up against the tree so I didn't end up falling flat on my back because of the kickback (is that what it's called?) from the gun.  I was scared the entire time, but knowing you and Randy were there to make sure I was being safe, I felt a little more 'at ease' (well, as 'at ease' as you can be with a gun on your shoulder).

I loved how you always made sure that my car was in perfect working order before I ever started my drive back across the state.  One day you even went to the store, bought me new brakes, and you and Randy installed them for me...all because you didn't feel safe letting me drive with the ones that were on my car.  You filled up my windshield fluid, made sure my oil was good, and would take the time to make sure I'd be ok for every mile I was on the road. 

Who could forget at our wedding, when you swapped spots with my friend Kelly Ann, so that my brother would unknowingly slide the garter up your leg?  Oh my gosh, I'm so glad the photographer captured the pictures that he did.  We laughed so hard...and my brother loves that memory from our wedding. 

And on our wedding and mom dancing together, one of my absolute favorite pictures from the whole day.  You gave me such a great big hug that day, told me that I'm your daughter and that you'd do anything for me.  I felt so blessed to have married into a family where I was so immediately welcomed with open arms.

The void left behind by your amazing character and faith is one that is irreplaceable.  I have so many memories in the seemingly short time I knew you, and will share them all with our kids as they grow because there shouldn't be anyone who ever goes without knowing what an amazing man you were.  I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to be your daughter-in-law and want you to know I am going to do my best to take care of your son and grandchildren.  Tonight we miss you, tomorrow will be no different.  You're in our hearts and thoughts and prayers daily.  Your stories and memory will live on so long as Randy and I are able to share them with our kids. 

Look over our family as we still mourn, still cope, still search for guidance as we grieve your passing.  Love you lots, dad.  Have fun in heaven without us...until we are all together again.

one of my favorite photos of you!

Geoff had no idea...

one of the funniest memories from the day (hence Ross' face!)

love you both!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

16 second reality check

Whew.  What a week I've had...

Weekends are always a welcome sight, and this one is no exception.  My drama club performed Cinderella, KIDS for the school and then again for their parents.  The show was a huge success, serving as the culmination of months of work and preparations.  Aside from the fact that I spend many nights laying awake for hours worrying about all that's left to do before the show begins, 'performance day' is on my top three when listing my favorite days of the school year.  Not so much because of the insane, non-stop pace of pulling off a production with over 50 students, but because the energy before they take the stage is amazing...topped only by the energy that fills the stage as they take their final bows.  The pride they feel, the smiles they wear, and the hugs make the whole experience 100% worthwhile.

I think (or, rather...I know) Randy dreads the words 'drama club' every time I utter them; and as 'play day' approaches, his disdain grows even more.  It's not that he doesn't support me, it's that I have a tendency to...well...overdo it.  I like things to be perfect.  I have a hard time saying 'no'.  I like to make people happy.  And it drives him bananas.

This is the 5th year that I've directed drama club, and over that time, we've both grown.  I've learned how to be a more calming presence and less of an overstressed basketcase as the performance approaches.  He's learned to accept the fact that I am passionate about drama club, and I'll be a part of it as long as I'm able to.  His level of support has grown throughout the years as my level of stress about the entire thing has declined.  While I'm sure he'd much rather be spending time watching a basketball game, he brings the kids to the show each year, and watches as other people's children act and sing and parade around on stage.  And he's proud of me when it's all said and done.

This year, the timing of the play isn't what we'd call 'ideal'.  With just about two weeks until my due date, I probably shouldn't be spending the extra time on my feet, moving scenery, adjusting lights, checking sound, and organizing costumes and props.  Don't get me wrong...I have amazing help from my co-directors.  I also have a group of stage crew boys and some of the most phenominal parent volunteers who go above and beyond to help make the magic happen.  It's an exhausting group effort...and at 38 weeks pregnant, it's definitely more exhausting.  I think I was snoring on the couch last night about 10 minutes after sitting down to spend time watching House Hunters with Randy.

Everyone was keeping their fingers crossed that while we'd 'break a leg' for the show; I was praying that I wouldn't 'break my water' before the curtain closed.  Thankfully, baby giraffe heard my request and has stayed put.  So when I showed up at work today, I heard quite a few people say, 'you haven't had that baby yet?' and 'we thought for sure once you were able to relax, you'd go into labor'. 

Ha.  Relax.  What's that?  Today brought its own new set of challenges, its own new 'to do' list.  Starting with the 'impromptu observation' that my assistant principal wanted to fit in before I left on maternity leave.  Thankfully I maintained my confidence and my lesson went well.  Ok.  Now I can go into labor, right? 

Wrong.  With the preparations necessary for the performance, I had to put some things on the back burner (cooking, cleaning...).  One of those things was working on my sub plans for my maternity leave.  I have a fantatstic long-term sub for my class, and am confident that she'll close out the year with my students wonderfully.  However, I need to have some things in order for her, so that her transition is smooth and she's able to find the things she needs to make her job easier.  And right now, my plans are 'skeleton' at best.

In addition to the sub plans, I sat down tonight to make my 'to do' list of things that I need to accomplish this weekend (note: none of the things on said list include the word 'clean').  I have convinced myself that as soon as my list is checked off, my mind will be more at ease, I will feel more relaxed, and baby giraffe will feel as though it's 'safe' to make his/her appearance. 

Today at my doctor's visit, baby giraffe gave me a little bit of a fright--or really, a reality check of sorts.  I had just finished telling the nurse how I had a really odd day on Tuesday (nausea, total discomfort, Braxton Hicks, etc.).  I told the nurse how I kind of just chalked it up to the way the baby had shifted, and the organs that were being squished by tiny little feet and legs.  Afterall, Tuesday was the day we filmed our rehearsal so the cast could get a DVD copy of their performance.  I had to be there for that.  Right after telling here that, she put the doppler on my belly to listen to the heartbeat. 

The right side of my belly didn't result in hearing the comforting 'thump thump' that I look forward to each visit.  Move to the left side.  Nothing.  Right side, just a bit lower.  Same thing.  Left side.  Again, no dice.  Back to the right with a little prompting from the nurse ('come on baby giraffe...come out to play').  No luck.  Panic can't even really describe what I was feeling.  Finally, finally...after about 16 seconds of torture that felt like 16 minutes...we heard that reassuring sound at a healthy 144 bpm.  I let out a huge sigh (as did my nurse), and wiped the tear from the corner of my eye that found its way there in the brief time I was experincing a glimpse of hell. 

While I waited for the doctor to come in for my appointment, I lay back on the table with my hands on my belly, in silence.  The kids were at daycare still, Randy was on a rig.  It was just me and baby giraffe.  I felt the tiny flutters and movements that were a HUGE reassurance, and couldn't help but cry a little.  I was overwhelmed with guilt.  With all that I have going on in my world 'outside', I'm taking for granted that the most important thing I need to be focusing on is what is going on in my world 'inside'.

It's easy to feel that this little one is relatively 'easy' to care for now, compared to a few weeks from now.  But that doesn't mean that I should neglect the job I have as a mom to making sure I'm doing my very best to keep myself healthy (physically, mentally, emotionally...) so that we can both have an easy and stress-free delivery. 

I know this.  I'm not naive to these things.  I'm just a mom who is trying to do the best job I can in every capacity.  But I need to remember the heirarchy of importance--especially right now.  That brief 16 second reality check gave me a huge reminder to slow down, to relax, to say no, to do all those things that I know I need to do, and to enjoy the last few days where it's just me and baby giraffe. 

(After I finish my sub plans.)

Sunday, April 3, 2011

the heart of a giraffe

For quite some time, Brynn has been convinced that mommy is going to have a 'giraffe baby'.  She tells friends, family, random strangers at the store.  It's been a little ongoing joke with people I know, hence the adorable gift we recieved from a dear friend this week:

Baby giraffe's musical giraffe lovey
Of course the response to Brynn's creative imagination refer to the height of our family.  I'm not too concerned that Brynn's dreams will come true, as we've seen the ultrasound photos and unless they were playing a trick on us, we definitely saw a baby human.  But, it's still fun to laugh along with the joke, and enjoy the innocence of our little girl. 

Brynn's random decision that we're having a giraffe baby has sparked somewhat of an interest in the creature.  Aside from the obvious height advantage, and beautiful markings that lend themselves wonderfully to covering a Dooney and Burke bag (the pattern, not their acutal hides, of course), the giraffe boasts the largest heart of all land mammals.  They're also one of the few animals born with horns (uh-oh!).  I also found a fact that stated giraffes generally sleep between just 20 minutes and 2 hours a day (another uh-oh!). 

I could go on and on, but I'm not writing to teach giraffe facts.  I thought about that first fact, having the largest heart out of all land mammals.  It made me wonder if this baby will grow up having a generous and giving heart.  I would hope so, as that's a quality that I want our children to exhibit, all three of them.

Of course, we won't know that for a we watch the little munchkin grow and develop into his/her own person.  I know we'll work hard as parents to ensure that our children understand the importance of exhibiting compassion, empathy, kindness, generosity, etc, etc...  But, we're not the only influences on our kids' lives.  They will encounter people every day that may positively or negatively impact their lives.  It's our job to teach them how to surround themselves with the positive and avoid the negative. 

While searching around for infomation about the giraffe, I came across the website for a woman who offers presentations and workshops centered around the concept of 'compassionate communication'.  She 'uses the metaphor of the giraffe's heart to describe a feeling of connectedness to our authentic perceptions, feelings, needs, and desires' (from The Basic Giraffe).  I like the whole idea of that metaphor, and especially feel that by following her steps of communication; clarify what we are observing, what emotions we are feeling, what values we want to live by and what needs those values create, and what we requests we want to make of ourselves and others; that I can begin to foster a climate in our home where our children learn how to effectively communicate, all while incorportating and demonstrating the virtues we want them to exhibit in their daily lives.

I can't begin to count the number of times I've asked (to no one in particular), "where is this part in the parenting manual?".  I've searched for answers to questions for all kinds of parenting dilemmas; from the minor to the ones that leave me speechless and wandering how in the world I'm going to address that challenge.  Turns out (and I really knew this all along), one of the best ways to teach is to lead by example.  Model. Model. Model.  And no, I'm not talking about the catwalk. 

If I want my children to possess and demonstrate these virtues, I model them.  If I want them to communicate effectively, I model how to do so.  If I want them to surround themselves with others that help bring out the best in them, I seek out healthy friendships, relationships, acquaintances that will bring out the best in me, and remind me of what's really most important in life.  Sometimes, however, these healthy and positive role models aren't nessecarily people whom I have sought out, but rather have been 'brought' to me.

Take, for instance, the following interaction that occurred on Friday. 

I was walking back to my classroom after dropping my students off at P.E. when I noticed one of the substitutes standing near my classroom door.  I knew her well, as she subbed in the library often.  She always asked how I was, how the kids were doing, and how my pregnancy was going.  Earlier this year, she pulled me aside and told me she thought I was an outstanding teacher and she just wanted to let me know.  It was a complete surprise, especially because I generally felt like a military leader when I had my class in the library; reminding my class to keep their voices down, make wise choices with books, and stand quietly in line while waiting on their classmates.  It was one of those compliments that came out of nowhere in my eyes, but apparently she had observed me 'in action' and felt that I was doing a good job in keeping my students on the right track.  I greatly appreciated it (and still do). 

Back in the hallway, I approached the sub and asked her if she needed one of the teachers.  She replied that she was actually waiting for me and continued to tell me that in her free time, she enjoyed painting watercolor pictures.  That's when I noticed she was holding a piece of artwork at her side.  She told me that she had painted something that she wanted me to have for the baby's nursery.  She turned the picture around and I almost immediately had tears in my eyes:

We will forever treasure this special gift for 'baby giraffe'
I was floored.  The picture of the giraffe was amazing.  A-maz-ing.  I was speechless for a moment (definitely something that doesn't happen often), before embracing her to show my appreciation.  I proceeded to tell her just how appropriate this picture was, considering Brynn's thoughts on her new brother/sister.  I wish I can honestly say I remember her response, but I was still in such shock over her thoughtful and generous gift, that I can't recall how she reacted to the story about my 'giraffe baby'.  I thanked her again and told her that this picture will most definitely be hanging up in our nursery, and be one of our most treasured gifts for the baby. 
I'm still in a small state of shock over this seemingly random but overwhelmingly thoughtful demonstration of generosity.  I can't help but smile as I look at the gorgeous picture, and am on the search for a frame that will compliment it well.  I don't want to wish time away, but I look forward to the day when I can tell this little 'baby giraffe' the story behind his/her giraffe picture that will hang in his/her bedroom so long as I have a say in the decor.

Talk about a 'teachable moment' for my children (and for me as well).  I know that her gesture came from a place of generosity, benevolence, and sincerity.  She did not present me with this gift with ulterior motives.  She simply painted it, and wanted me to have it.  She didn't want accolades, acknowledgement (and here I am blogging about it!), or payment.  She just wanted to give a gift.  Little did she know the true value of her gift is priceless to our family.  Of course, we will be sending her a handwritten thank you note, and probably several pictures of the baby (to prove he/she isn't a giraffe! :)  The kids will take part in the thank you note as well, because if I've learned anything about parenthood it's that these little 'sponges' who live under our roof will best benefit from having a mommy and daddy who lead by example.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

In the house of bitter and sweet

I'm currently reading Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford, hence the title of tonight's posting.  I normally wait until I'm finished writing to title, because I never know what may transpire as I ramble on.  I tell my students to do the same thing...'don't write the title first, wait until you see what comes from your writing'.  Well, tonight, I'm doing what most of my students do: nod and smile at the instruction, then go ahead and put the title at the top of the page :)  Let's hope I keep my thoughts on track!

My day began really early.  Really early.  Like, 3:15 a.m. early.  (Thank you, 'baby giraffe').  I tried falling back asleep, but aside from my mind swirling with four thousand things, Diego decided my tossing and turning was his open invitation to cuddle up against me (i.e. bite me when I pet him, scratch me when he stretched out, and meow loudly when he wanted pet again).  Randy was sleeping soundly (loudly), so I decided I might as well get up and try to cross off a few to-do's that we were keeping me from falling back into dreamland, rather than wake him with my fideting/fighting-with-the-cat self.

Down on the couch, I settled in with my drama club materials to organize my thoughts, as our production of Cinderella is this coming week.  Enter Diego.  He purred and wound his gray body around my ankles, then joined me on the couch to spend some time together.  Adorable, right?

Almost.  See, Diego and I never quite 'hit it off' in the way I had hoped we would.  I grew up with a great cat, whose personality totally clicked with our family.  I assumed that if we did the same type of things with Diego, he would fit in seamlessly into our family circus.  Lesson learned: not all cats are created equal.  Plus, our busy and loud household is a far cry from the teenage haven that existed when we adopted my childhood family cat, Tyson.  My brothers and I weren't home often, didn't pull on her tail, put her in 'jail', chase her around the house with dart get the idea.  Tyson had a peaceful existence.

In our house, however, as time went on, we realized that Diego required far more one-on-one attention than we (I) had the capacity to provide.  He proved to be far too curious, far too ornery, far too playful (not in a friendly way, either) for our family.  He'd randomly jump onto the kids' backs as they sat and played with blocks or trains.  He gave the poor dogs a run for their money and would jump onto them, sinking his teeth and claws into their neck as though he were a lion taking down its prey (thank goodness the pugs have a few extra rolls on their neck to spare).  He would hide under Brynn's bed and then after I closed her door for the night, would hop up on her bed and sit on her head, waking her in a most traumatic way.  And his most recent venture was into the nursery closet, where he discovered a bag of baby bottles for what he assumed was his own personal enjoyment.  As a result, I now I have to purchase an entire new set of bottle nipples for 'baby giraffe' thanks to the puncture wounds and holes he *lovingly* gnawed into each one.

So, you can see the dilemma we were facing, knowing that in a few weeks, we will have a newborn sleeping in the very crib where Diego scopes out his afternoon napping spot.  We will have a baby whose binkie will be fodder for a cat who views our home as his own personal amusement park.  We will have 3 children, 2 dogs, and 1 cat...all running around, fighting, eating, yelling, get the idea.  We will be overwhelmed. 

While cats are pretty low maintenance animals, the nervousness I felt about what his response to this crying, squirming, delicate little munchkin trumped the ease of taking care of a pretty self-sufficient creature (we're in short supply of those in our household!).  Thus, the decision was made: Diego had to go. 

I have a heart.  Let me just put that out there.  As frustrated as the cat made me with each bottle nipple he chewed, each scratch he caused us, each random toy he'd bat around the tile floor at 2:00 in the morning...he was still our family member, is still a living creature.  My heart couldn't bear to watch him drive off in another person's car, because he really does have a sweet little part of his otherwise abrasive personality (we'd usually observe this after the kids went to bed, and he'd join us on the couch for some affection.  So, I asked Randy to take care of doing the search for me, and he thankfully took on the task.

Randy found a family to adopt him, and this morning was the morning he'd leave our home and become another family's pet.  I kept thinking, as I sat at the computer, doing work at 4:00 a.m., that it's as if he knew.  He sensed it and was either trying to change my mind last minute, or, most likely, say goodbye.

I came home from work, saw his bowl, the last of his food (why Randy didn't take that to the guy I'll never know), and his toy (again, why we kept it is beyond me).  Brynn called for him (slightly out of character, as she--and Gavin--had a love/less-love relationship with him).  I realized he was gone.  And I started sobbing.  Blame it on the hormones, the stress, the delirium that was beginning to set in from my ridiculously early wake up call.  Or blame it on the fact that while I know we made the right decision for our family, I was sad because we had to make the choice.  I was sad because I felt like we failed him as owners, as family.  I was sad because I opened my email and Randy had sent me a video of Diego, meowing as he nervously sat in the front seat of the truck, awaiting a fate that, to him, was uncertain and confusing.  Bitter.

But, I know that time will pass, I will get past my little pangs of guilt and know that we ultimately made a decision that is best for our family, best for what was our kitty, best for the family with whom he now lives...because they'll be able to give him the extra bit of attention that he so desperately tried to seek out in the midst of the chaos of our household.  He'll have a good life, and we'll have a scratch-free, bite-free, traumatic-wake-up-call-free, hole-in-the-bottle-nipple-free life.  Sweet.

We only had Deigo for a little under two years, but he'll always be an honorary part of our family.  There's a quote that I highlighted in Hotel on the Corner that kind of goes along with what my day was like...

It reminded him that time was short, but that beautiful endings could still be found at the end of cold, dreary days.  (ok, so we didn't have a cold, dreary day in Denver was actually mid-70's...but work with the metaphor here!)

Our time with him was short...but at the end of the day, I know Deigo is happy and well-taken care of.
Farewell,'ll always be remembered...(both in a positive and negative light, but still remembered!)

frightened kitty on his first day home

from the beginning...we should have seen the devilsh features

Brynn loves her kitty...he 'kind of' returned the feeling

our last picture of Diego...April 1st, 2011