Thursday, March 21, 2013

the Con-way connection

The past week has been a pretty painful one (literally), and I've been spending a lot of time laying around, resting the inflamed discs in my lower back.  Sure, that means I had a lot of time to write, but I was either a.) feeling sorry for myself that I'm only *slightly* over the age of 30 and have to deal with the back of an 80 year old (my doctor's words...not mine), or b.) feeling the after effects of my pain killers (which, in retrospect, could have made for some pretty trippy posts), leaving me feeling too scrambled to write coherently.

Then, today I woke up feeling as close to 100% as I have in the past 7 days.  I was ready to write...something...anything...but I couldn't get the inspiration (or time) to do so.  Story hour at the library (really, it's 'Story 2 Hours') had me helping a wiggly Raegan "shake her sillies out", listening to stories about spring, and glue-sticking cotton balls and rainbow-colored strips to a cloud (p.s. glue stick + cotton balls + room full of toddlers = a HUGE oversight by the darling little volunteers at the library who come up with the crafty ideas for story hour).   #whendidthisbecomemylife

Once I de-cottoned myself and my toddler, we headed to the grocery store for a few things, and the obligatory toddler tantrum in the middle of the store.  "Awesome!"...highly embarrassing moment in life (dark cloud), followed by blog post once we got home and my blood pressure lowered (silver lining).  We were heading onto the highway toward home, when Brynn said, "Mommy, I'm going to look for a Grandpa Conley truck".

My father-in-law, Rick, drove truck for Con-way, until he passed away unexpectedly in April 2010.  Gavin has a few Con-way trucks in his rotation of toys, and every so often when I'm cleaning up, I'll find one parked near his bed, or lined up with other trucks and cars along the wall.  Shortly after dad died, I remember driving to work one morning and was in a bit of an early-morning-mom-of-toddlers daze.  I glanced into my rear view mirror, and noticed a Con-way truck behind me.  Instantly, I perked up knowing that, in some way, dad was with me--checking in to say 'hi'.  Since then, it's become a bit of a family 'thing', that has even passed on to other people who knew of my father-in-law.

Brynn has a unique relationship with her grandpa.  She only met him once, in 2008, when she was just 4 months old, and he passed away in April of 2010, just two months shy of when he was supposed to come visit us in Colorado.  When he passed away, Brynn asked more questions at the age of 2, than her brother did at the age of 4.  She wanted to know, 'why' and 'how', and 'where'.  Although her questions were that of a 2-year old level, I knew what she meant and did my best to help her understand.

Bonding with Grandpa, June 2008
Since then, she's our most excited fan of the 'grandpa Conley truck' sightings game (for lack of a better term).  When she spots one, the smile on her face is unmistakable, and her eyes follow the truck for as long as physically possible (and with Brynn's exotropia of her eye, sometimes it can be for a bit longer than you might think!)

Brynn is also a five year old.  A girl.  And an offspring of one of the most frenetic-when-there's-a-task-at-hand people I've ever met.  (*ahem*: guilty)  When she wants something to happen, it had better happen, or else you never know what dimension of Brynn you will encounter (a trait I've passed down and have discovered bites me in the ass more times than I'd ever envisioned.  And she's only 5.).

Today, as we pulled into the driveway, I unclicked my seat belt and turned around to offer the choices for lunch so I knew what to prepare when we got in the house.  I was faced with a toddler shrieking 'kitty tat!  kitty tat!' in the direction of the squirrel...and 'THE face'.  A not-so-delightful combination of pissed, annoyed, angry, frustrated, confused, let down, and disgusted; Brynn's 'face' is not one to be viewed without signing the proper release forms.  Her narrowed eyes, squinchy brow, and scowl that can be adapted for the level of disappointment she is currently feeling combines to create something that many Hollywood makeup artists would surely like to replicate for a possessed zombie look.

We exchanged a few 'Brynn, what's wrong?' 'NOTHING's before I grew exasperated and finally asked her what she'd like to do.  She told me she'd stay in the truck until she was ready to come in.  Being the *spectacular mom* that I am, I lowered the windows several inches, exited the cab, and began unloading Raegan and the bags.  Being the stubborn and headstrong 5 year old that she is, Brynn stayed in the truck long enough to make me find things to throw out, just so I could go outside and inadvertently check on her.

About 23 minutes passed.  Good lord, she's persistent.  After 10 minutes, I was kind of regretting my decision to let her stay in the truck and began peeking stealthily through the blinds on the window behind the garden tub.  After 16 minutes, I was watching the clock.  Soon, I noticed the back door to the cab slowly open and her long legs sidle out.  I dashed to the kitchen and nonchalantly began getting lunches ready.  When I put Raegan's plate down on the table, Brynn spoke up and asked for lunch.  I gave her a look that said, "spill your guts...then you eat".  Without hesitation, Brynn spoke.

"Mommy, I'm just sad.  I didn't get to see a Grandpa Conley truck.  I really wanted to, I haven't seen one in a long time and I was thinking of him.  So I needed to see one."


The little curly topped girl sitting at my kitchen table just metamorphosed from a temperamental, emotional grump to a sentimental, emotional idealist.  It took all of me to hold back the tears upon hearing this, but they were soon flowing as we shared an in-depth discussion about her grandpa over a lunch of shell pasta and veggies.  She told me how she dreams about him, how in her dreams he visits her and plays with her and how she wishes that she would wake up and it would be true.  She told me she thinks about him every day, how she wishes he didn't have to die, and how she used her fifth birthday wish to make him come back alive (yeah, that one really got me, too).  It is a conversation that I wish I had thought to record, because I fear that the day will come that I don't remember her wise words and intuitions.  She left me feeling so refreshed and grateful.  Brynn has this visceral connection with her grandpa, despite his physical absence on this planet, and when things are overwhelming and the house is running wild, I know we can count on Brynn to be our own Con-way truck, to let us know that dad will always be with us.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

To my 16 year old Brynn

My dearest teenage daughter,

I know right now it is hard to be friends with your sister.  You fight, scream, pick, tease, ignore, annoy, banter, and conspire.  There are days when I feel like I'm going to lose my mind listening to your non-stop bickering, and days when I could have earned my Ph.D. in psychology for the way I was able to diffuse your ticking time bomb.

Brynn, I know it is frustrating to have your little sister tagging along, listening in, sneaking into your room, borrowing your clothes, and (as you put it), "acting like a complete and utter parasite".  And I know you don't want to hear, "your little sister looks up to you...she wants to be just like you".  But the truth is, she does.  You've grown in to an amazing and talented young woman who has an energetic and bubbly personality, a strong sense of who you are, and a kind and compassionate heart.  Who wouldn't want to emulate that?  There are plenty of days that I look to you for a model of how to live life with such vivacity.

The truth is, Raegan has spent her entire life looking up to you.  You're the one who taught her how to take care of her doll babies with a gentle and careful hand (rather than tossing them across the room or down the stairs).  You showed her how to use a hula hoop, helped her learn to pedal a tricycle, and showed her how to color inside the lines.  You sat and read books with her, pointing out things in the illustrations that you wanted to discuss.  You cuddled her up, laid next to her, and sang her to sleep during nap time.  You smiled with her, laughed with her, and danced with her.  She learned all about the princesses and the fine 'art' of dressing up because you let her into your bedroom and actually shared your clothes with her.  She adored wearing your cowgirl boots, and rather than demand them back from her, you helped make sure they were on the right feet before helping her stand up.  You've been her biggest cheerleader, and the one who comforted her when she was hurt or sad.  And for all those things, and more, she is so grateful.

Spending time with you, idolizing you, and, yes, even annoying you are the ways she shows her gratitude.  She's craving more time to learn from you--how to navigate relationships and friendships, how to dress with style (and keep dad from bugging out about the length of your skirt, or the cost of your shoes), and how to balance all the parts of your life.  She is looking to you for sisterly advice.  I know you didn't have the luxury of an older sister, but I tried my best to help you get through whatever troubles you faced.  I think that's why we are so close, yet we butt heads so often.  I have given you pieces of me all along, and now you're assembling them in your own way.  I might not like the way you've implemented my advice, and sometimes, against my better judgement, I let that show.  But you are your own person, you have such a strong sense of who you are and what you value.  I am so grateful for that, and I know that's why Raegan admires you the way she does.

So, while it's frustrating to have a little sister who can be so nosy, clingy, and curious, it can also be the biggest compliment in the world that she finds you as fascinating as she does.  Take pride in the fact that you have the gift of giving pieces of yourself to her, and recognize the power your decision making has on influencing not only your life, but hers as well.  If you're not liking how she's utilizing the bits of wisdom you share with her, come talk to me, and we will work on improving that part of our own personalities together...because we both know I could use the work.

I've told you countless times that some day, your sister will once again be your best friend.  You may scoff, but I know deep down (some days it's deeper than others), she still holds that title, and always has.  But, just in case you forget what 'best friends' looks like because you two spend your time chasing each other around the house and slamming doors in each other's faces...I'd like to leave you with these reminders, and the knowledge that I could not be more proud of the young woman you've become.  My world is a better place because you are in it.

To the moon,


Friday, March 1, 2013

New words for new parents

I've got a couple of friends who are expecting little ones in the coming year, and I could not be more excited for them.  This week, I told one of these friends that the cliches about parenthood are all true.
1. It is the hardest and most rewarding job you'll ever have (actually, the term 'job' infers that money will change hands.  Money doesn't even stay in your hand.).
2. Time flies far too quickly, so cherish every moment (even the crying moments, the spit-up filled moments, the temper tantrum moments, and the poo covered moments).
3. It will change you in ways that you never imagined (*superspecialthanks* to the stretch marks, doughy stomach, gray hair, addiction to coffee, and absudly deranged vocabulary I've inherited as a result of it).

True, I am well-educated, well-read and I work hard to be a wordsmith when I blog, write, and speak.  So, how ridiculous could my vocabulary have become since having kids?  Let's find out.  Here's a small selection of the now-commonplace words that have infiltrated my academic mind, often times escaping my lips before I even have a moment to consider utilizing a different (more intellectual) word choice.

1. Dig Dig: a word that represents any sort of construction vehicle, whether they're used for actual digging or not.  Thanks to Gavin, I can no longer recall the correct name for any of those big yellow truck-like things that can put a kink in my driving 'groove' as I head to the beach, mall, or anywhere I don't want to encounter road construction.

2. Mankie (often times affiliated with Lovey): also known as a 'blanket'. Instead of asking the salesperson where I can find the baby 'blankets' guessed it, I look like a tool.

3.  Chickenmunk: this is another pretty obvious one, and it's pretty adorable.  If you're 3.  Not if you're 30, and over-excitedly exclaiming, "look at the chickenmunk!" amidst a crowd of people at the zoo who have gathered around to admire the peacock displaying his fanciful plumage.

4. Raffie: while visiting another area of the zoo, let it be known that people will stare at you as you smooch your lips together, making kissing sounds and cooing, "here Raffie" to the 17 foot tall giraffe.  Just call a spade a spade, and a giraffe...well...a giraffe.

5. Gravy-yard: Brynn has changed the pronunciation of this word in a cute and adorable way, however it has also changed the views I have on an otherwise delicious accompaniment to my Thanksgiving turkey.

6. Lemon-laid: this sweet and tart thirst quencher doesn't really exist.  However, that doesn't stop me from asking nearly every waiter or waitress if they have it on their menu.  Sure, they understand what I really mean, but I sound like tool when doing so.

7. Hoo-hoop: Brynn has recently mastered the art of using this retro childhood fave.
Oh. wait.  She's learned how to hula hoop.  Does that stop me from using the kid-version of this word when asking her to clean up her toys?

8. Heart-beep:  yet another cute 'kid word' that does not translate well into the adult word when unaccompanied by kids.  My OB appointments when I was pregnant with Raegan were laden with questions from me about her 'heart-beep'.  The doctor felt compelled to remind me that the human heart doesn't actually make a 'beep' sound.  Thanks, doc.  I was worried the next time the alarm went off as I left Kohl's that I was having a heart attack.

9. Ca-ca: the origins of this particular word stem back to my mom (and possibly even her grandparents), when she would tell my brothers and I that practically anything and everything we touched was 'ca-ca'.  Not to be confused with the sound of a cat coughing up a hairball, this 'word' actually does pop up in a Google search and yields results such as 'excrement' or 'feces'.  If this is so, why do I find myself compelled to tell Raegan not to touch the crunched up chip she's discovered on the floor at her sister's dance lesson?  True, the floor is covered with God knows how many germs and bacteria, but do I honestly have to say that?  Can't I just tell her not to touch it without making reference to fecal matter?  Do I have to refer to that and use the term freely and openly in public.

10. Owie: warning: if I see you out somewhere and you have a visible injury (broken leg all the way down to a paper clip), there's a pretty good chance I'll embarrass us both by acknowledging your 'owie'.

11. Potty: a commonly used 'word' among the parent-of-toddler generation, see also: a word that makes you sound incredibly ridiculous when you've asked the lady at Payless if she has a a potty that we could possibly use).  

12. Xpu-ha (shpoo-haa): our family's given name for a vajayjay.  This originally Mayan word loosely translates to 'morning dew' and doubles as the name of a resort where Randy and I had breakfast and snorkeled one morning on our honeymoon.  Perhaps it was the sun, the hangover, the lack of oxygen I had from not properly utilizing my snorkel gear, or the unpasteurized milk I drank at breakfast (that later rendered me motionless except for repeatedly dragging myself to the restroom)...but I thought the sound of this word was absolutely hysterical, and reminded me of a word you could use to replace the giggle-inducing vagina.  Thus, I adopted the word as our own, before even having kids, and now my daughters don't know that body part as another other than 'xpu-ha'.  Let me tell you, the pediatrician doesn't quite get my post-tequila humor and has told me I should probably have the girls call it by the 'proper' name.  Yeah, because 'vagina' sounds like you're ready to meet the queen.

Well, there you have it.  A 'ca-ca' dozen words that have entered into my daily vocabulary, giving others reason to stop & stare, pause & judge, or shake their head in dismay & take pity on my toddler-induced brain deterioration.  I'd like to say I hope to change my word choice and aim 'higher', but I fear that some of these changes (dig dig, potty, and owie) might travel with me to the gravy yard.