"The most wasted of all days is one without laughter." ~e e cummings

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Never Forget: Where were you?

Thirteen years ago this morning, I was sitting at a low table, in a tiny chair, in a Kindergarten classroom. Tiny, adorable 5-year olds sat around me, "writing" in their journals. I was three weeks into my Student Teaching placement in a quiet town near my University. In the weeks leading up to that day, I felt so Grown Up. I bought "work clothes" and started gathering recipes so I could learn to cook actual meals. I was eight months away from graduating with my Masters degree and beginning my Career.

In that classroom, those brand-new students viewed me as a Grown Up: they called me "Miss" and came to me with questions and observations and peer-disputes needing settling. Although I was far from being an equal to my mentor, a bonafide Master Teacher, the kids just saw us both as adults. And, standing in front of them, I believed them.

On that morning, thirteen years ago today, the principal hand-delivered a typed note to each teacher. I sat at the table with my group of journaling students and watched as the teacher in my room read the note. Calmly, with the strength and emotional restraint of a true Grown Up, who knew the importance of maintaining her composure in front of 20 pairs of watching 5-year old eyes, she crossed the classroom and handed me the note. It read: "Our nation is under attack. Planes have struck the Twin Towers in NYC and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C."

Before I could even comprehend what I was reading, she handed me her cell phone. Knowing that my dad was working in Washington, but also realizing that I was not, truly, the grown up I was pretending to be, she said, "Go call your mom."

I ran out of that classroom. I had no strength or emotional restraint. I lost all composure. I was just a kid, who needed reassurance. I ran out the front door of the school and crouched down to the sidewalk. I called my mom.

My dad was safe, but the world no longer seemed to be.

"How bad is it?" I asked.

"It's bad," my mom said, her voice steady despite the horror she was watching unfold on TV. "It's really bad."

I was 21. I had students who called me "Miss," I wore clothes from Loft and sensible shoes, but I was still a child. I needed my mom to tell me it would be okay, but she couldn't. I needed my mom to give me the answers to my questions: "Why?" "What happens now?" "What does this mean?" She couldn't...because sometimes even the grown ups don't have the answers.

Lesson Learned:

I've grown up a lot in the past 13 years. Three kids will do that to you. But on this day, I still don't feel like a grown up. This day still makes me feel sad and scared. I'm still not ready to address with them...my own babies...what happened on this day thirteen years ago. I tell myself that they're too young: seven, almost five, and two.  They're too little, too innocent to know about such sadness.

Right?

Someday I'll have to find the words to explain what happened, but today I'll just hug my babies extra tight and they won't need to know why.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

A Big Girl Bed

So....this happened today...



We didn't mean for this little peanut to grow up over night.



...but laying in Max's bed together last night, reading books before bed, Molly announced that she was ready for her own Big Girl Bed.


We had everything we needed...the bed, the bedding...so, really, there was no excuse.

We took apart the crib.

For the last time.

It will leave our house. After three babies and more than seven years, we will never have a crib in our house again. I can't begin to imagine how many times my arms have reached down into that crib to lay down or scoop up one of my babies.

I'm not ready to give up her crib bedding yet. The bedding I swooned over for the first twenty weeks of my pregnancy, knowing I'd never buy such expensive bedding for a baby who would use it for, maybe, two and a half years.  The day after we found out we were having a girl, I looked at the bedding one last time online...there was a beautiful red slash through the price: it was on clearance, discontinued to make room for a new pattern. I ordered it immediately.

 Today, I repurposed the bumper and quilt as cushions in her little reading nook window seat. I'll use the coordinating crib sheet and skirt as fabric for pillows, maybe. (Mom? Want a project?)



She loves her new Big Girl Room.


Although, at nap time, when I laid down next to her to read, she furrowed her brow and said to me, "Mommy? Why you take away my crib?" I said, "Oh, baby, it's because you said you were ready! You are ready. You're such a big girl."

And, finally, after asking me again where her crib is now ("Taken apart, baby, in the basement.") and pointing to my face and asking, "What these called, Mommy?" ("Eyebrows, baby. Time to go to sleep.") and pointing to her own and saying, "I feel mine eyebrows but no I can see them, Mommy!"

She slept.

Like such a big girl.


Lesson Learned:
I guess I'm using the term "Big Girl" loosely. We still have one more major hurdle to cross before that title is official....stay tuned! 

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Save the Children

Since becoming a mom seven-and-a-half years ago, there have been two times in which the severity of my child's illness scared me to the core. Just two; but those two moments are seared into the fear center of my brain and onto my heart for life.

The first time was when my first child, then ten months old, suffered from an anaphylactic allergic reaction to a food I had given to him. He broke out in hives, started vomiting profusely, and became lethargic. Although food allergies were completely new to me, I knew exactly what to do: I gave him Children's Benadryl and brought him to the Emergency Room. Within minutes of administering the medicine he was fine. I was still a wreck, but he was completely fine.

The second time I held a scary-sick baby was two years later, when my second baby was about eight months old. His cold had gotten worse over night. In the morning, his breathing seemed labored. While I waited on the phone with the pediatrician's office, I heard a distinct wheezing sound I had never heard before. He was still breathing, but I suddenly felt like I couldn't. I hung up the phone and drove to the pediatrician's office, instead. There, the nurse helped me to administer the first of what would be many nebulizer treatments of inhalant steroids that opened up his tiny and over-worked lungs so he could breathe. For the next three years, we used nebulizer treatments prophylactically to prevent respiratory distress and antibiotics to treat the recurrent bronchiolitis. And now, at nearly five, he hasn't had a respiratory infection in over a year. He's fine. Completely fine.

Both times, as I watched my babies suffer from a scary, sudden, acute illness, I felt my own throat constrict. I couldn't inhale deeply enough to feel like I was actually breathing, though I know I must have been because I was somehow able to care for them. And in both instances, my treatment plan for my sick babies demanded the same two things: Good medicine and Good doctors.

What would have happened, in either instance, had I not had access to one or both of the things I needed to heal my babies? What would have happened if there was no medicine? What if I couldn't get my babies to a doctor?

I can't think about it.

As a mom, even the shadow of a thought of pain or illness or...worse...befalling any of my children makes me feel sick to my stomach, literally.

My love for my children, my own physical ache for my children when they are sick, is not special. It's not a feeling reserved for a privileged class of mothers. It's not a facet of western parenting.

That feeling, a mother's love, is universal.

What isn't universal, though, is access to Good medicine and Good doctors when babies are sick.
What isn't universal is that babies will survive preventable illnesses and receive adequate nutrition.
What isn't universal is the likelihood that a child will survive beyond the age of five.

But Save the Children is trying to change that.

The United Nations outlined it's Millennium Development Goals and, while significant progress has been made in a number of areas (for example, compared to a generation ago, millions fewer are living in poverty and significantly more children are receiving at least a primary education) there is one area that demands immediate attention. Save the Children is working to increase attention to Millennium Development Goal 4: Reduce by two-thirds the under-five mortality rate.

Today, 18,000 children will die from preventable causes including disease and malnutrition. Eighteen thousand babies. Eighteen thousand mothers' hearts, devastated. And tomorrow: 18,000 more.

One million babies will be stillborn or die before the end of their first day of life. A million babies. A million mother's hearts.

It's hard, sometimes, to wrap your head around numbers so staggering, so let's look, instead, at the faces:






These are the faces of the people who beat the odds. Who, today, survived.


So what is Save the Children trying to do? 

To hold the world accountable for the promises made.

The UN set the ambitious goals to:
* Ensure that every mother, newborn, and child has access to high-quality healthcare, provided by highly-skilled health workers.
* Invest in women and girls to ensure their protection.
* Build stronger institutions and health systems with universal healthcare for all, not excluding the most vulnerable who live in areas of conflict, poverty, or rural regions.

And they promised to meet these goals by the end of 2015.
That's only 481 days away.

So I joined the movement. I'm lending my voice.

What can you do? 

You can visit the website. You can become educated on the Millennium Development Goals. You can join the movement on social media (#MDGMomentum) to hold the world accountable for the promises made to reduce child deaths. You can make a donation to help make these goals a reality.

They're half a world away, but they're mothers and babies. 

In our hearts, we're all the same.





***
This post was written in a partnership with Mom Bloggers for Social Good The photos are theirs, but the sentiment is mine. And yours, too, I imagine...so get involved. Visit Save the Children's Millennium Development Goal 4 microsite at: http://www.savethechildren.net/mdg500/

Thursday, September 4, 2014

And Now, Your Moment of Zen

"Okay, Molly! Let's go and put on your yoga clothes!" I said this morning, instantly regretting it.

We had been looking forward to Mommy and Me yoga for days. Weeks, even! And now I'd just gone and blown the whole thing.

***

I'm not what you would call an "athletic" person. I don't "work out" or "go to the gym" or "own a sports bra." I don't run unless I'm chasing a runaway three-year old down an aisle in Target and I don't sweat unless I'm outside playing with my kids. And then I'm whining about it.

I've never needed to watch my weight (not bragging, just genetics) and I don't really give a shit that I have zero muscle tone in any area of my body. So, I've never been one to "exercise." (And to prove to you how little of the activity I do, I will admit that I just wrote the word "exercise" like this: Exercize and would have left it like that if not for the red, squiggly line alerting me to my mistake.)

In college, all of my roommates Went To The Gym. They ran and got sweaty and toned their muscles and they swore to me that they enjoyed it: That it cleared their heads and made them feel great. So I tried it. And it sucked so I never went to the gym again.

But then I found Yoga.

I started practicing in college and continued on and off until I took a prenatal class while I was pregnant with Evan. Once I had the kids, I wanted desperately to get back into it but could never seem to find the time: I wouldn't have hired a babysitter to take a class, I didn't want to "give up" an evening to take a class, and I wanted weekends to be Family Time. And then, before I knew it, it had been more than seven years since I'd practiced and my muscles started twitching, yearning for some sun salutations and my mind started itching, yearning for some mindful breathing and focused concentration.

I discovered Bend: A local yoga studio that offers prenatal classes and classes for parents and kids.

My perfect re-entry into yoga. The perfect Thursday morning Zen for Molly and me.

Today was our first class and I could not have been more excited. Molly was excited, too!
But then I had to go and mention "yoga clothes."

There was nothing different about her clothes today: comfy cotton capris and a cute little tee shirt. But because I had called them "yoga clothes," she resisted. And her refusal of the clothes morphed into a refusal of the concept of yoga altogether.

"I no wear yoyo clothes!" she insisted. "And I no go to yoyo." (Arms crossed, furrowed brow, the whole bit.)

I knew how to play this game, though, so we just went about our daily routine (after a deliberate wardrobe change). Every time she said, "I no go to yoyo," I replied, "I hear you, honey!" in the happiest, most cheerful voice she's ever heard.

When it was time to go, I simply said, "Let's go to the Downtown Mall, okay?" I wasn't exactly lying, the studio is located on the Mall. And when we arrived at the studio, I said, "Hey, wanna go in here and play some games with me?" Again...technically accurate.

So we went in.

She was quiet, but sweet and happy. And she watched.

She watched as we unrolled our mats. She watched as we warmed up our yogi bodies with a breathing exercise. She watched as we warmed up our yogi ears with a listening exercise. She watched as we began our "Sun Dance" and performed our sun salutations (though she did sneak in one downward dog when she thought I wasn't looking). She watched as the other kids and mommies practiced yoga by imitating animals. And she watched, and announced loudly "I just watching," as we all lay quietly, meditatively, in shavasana, the final relaxation pose.

And as we walked out of the studio, she wrapped her arms around my neck and said, "Yes. I LOVE yoyo, ma!"

Lesson Learned:
Then, as if to fill my day with complete Zen, she refused to nap in her crib. Instead, she curled her not-so-tiny-anymore body up in my lap, fit her head comfortably under my chin, twirled a strand of my hair around her fingers, and slept. Asleep on my lap, she still smells and feels like my baby.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Deep Thoughts

These kids of mine....



"You know what just blows my mind?" Evan asked me as we crossed the parking lot. I couldn't wait to find out. What? What could possibly "blow the mind" of my seven-year old?

"It's, like, there are so many people in the world. And there have always been so many people in the world for, like, millions and millions of years. And, somehow....I was born to be me. Isn't that so...weird? Like, out of alllllllllll those people, I'm me."

And my mind was blown, too: When did my kid start saying "like" like he's some kind of pre-tween?

"Well, bud, you were born to be you because I'm the luckiest mommy in the world and I got all the best kids. That's why."

He playfully pushed me away as we neared our picnic spot, but I caught a glimpse of that smile.

***

I was taking a walk with Max and Molly. We noticed the creek and the bugs and the plants and the way the dappled sunlight lit our path in polka dots. Max, though, was quieter than usual...which means he wasn't voicing a constant stream of consciousness.

Finally, as we crested the final ridge toward home, he spoke:

"Mommy? What would have happened if the first human being that evolved to be a human being was a boy? How would more human beings be born?"

"Wha--? Oh, umm...well, you see...it was the entire species of humans that evolved together..."I started, fumbling.

He cut me off: "We were lucky it was a girl human that evolved first, weren't we?!"

At which point, the only necessary response was, "We sure were," which seemed to suffice. We went home and had some lemonade.


Lesson Learned:
They're seven and four. ONLY seven and four.

I'm in deep, deep trouble.

At least they're not too cerebral to be goofy...



(And I've said it before and I'll say it again: Thank god for Google.)

Monday, September 1, 2014

Happy? We can do happy.

By around the middle of August, I had reached the conclusion that my kids were just never going to be happy ever again.

They were grumpy, whiny, ungrateful, and bicker-y. But mostly, they didn't seem to want to be around each other.

And, for a mommy, that's like the worst thing you can imagine about your kids and their relationship with one another.

So, I sent my kids to school and just hoped that the unhappy feelings would pass.

They did. And it didn't take long at all.

Turns out, my kids like each other just fine. They even love each other. Schedules, routines, and time apart to do their own things...all things that the school year brings...are good for siblings. And that makes a mommy heart happy.

Today, we had an awesome day. A happy day. A family day.

We took part in our local farm tour and visited a few local, family-run farms. It was 90+ degrees and humid as hell. There was a lot of driving, a lot of walking, and a lot of stinky landmines left by farm animals. But despite all of that...we had three happy little farm kids in tow. The perfect way to spend the bonus day this weekend...












 We came home for some cool-down time, then headed back out into the sticky heat to explore a newly cleared trail in our neighborhood.








And the cherry on top of this ice-cream sundae day?

An after dinner read-aloud.


Lesson Learned:
Phew! We can do Happy. We just need to know our limits and allow time alone in between times of togetherness. And I need to remember just how good being outside is for the soul.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

2.5

This is the third (and final) time I'll say this, but here goes:

You guys: I LOVE two-and-a-half years old.

Can you blame me?


It's the blossoming independence coupled with the naptime snuggles.
It's the "I want to be so brave," but taking baby steps to get there.



It's the little, developing personality starting to shine through coupled with the "I Do It, Too!" copycat mentality.

Yes, Molly. You can stand in Max's First Day of School photo.


It's the way they still look so cute when they cross their arms and furrow their brow when they're Seriously Expressing their Discontent.

It's the "I still look like a baby when I'm sleeping" coupled with "I can have a full and coherent conversation with you when I'm awake."

***

Molly's language right now is Booming.

She is a pretty quiet kid, taking more after the first of my boys rather than the second, but when she talks, she sure has a lot to say.

The other day, though it was 90 degrees outside and dripping with humidity, she asked to wear her ballerina tights. I obliged, of course, because I don't fight over clothes. As soon as we pulled them up and straightened her dress, she clasped her hands below her chin.

"I look just like a ballerina, Mommy?"
"Yes, baby. You look just like a ballerina."
"I'm a ballerina!"
"Would you like to take ballet classes and be a real ballerina?"
"Um, yeah. When I'm a big girl."
"Okay, maybe when you're three?"
"Um, yeah. And I do this?" (She twirls.)
"Yes! You'll twirl like a ballerina!"
"And I do this?" (She leaps.)
"Yes! You'll leap like a ballerina!"
"And.....I....frog jump?" (She frog jumps.)
"Uh...sure! You can frog jump!"
She casts a sideways glance at me, then a smile creeps across her face.
"Mommy! Ballerinas no frog jump! Frogs frog jump!"

Then we laughed and laughed and laughed....

Oh, this girl.

My little mini-me; babywearing. Just like her mama.


One way we're not alike: She has such an opinion about her clothing and, mostly, her shoes. (I shop at Target and wear Toms almost exclusively.) I love watching her decide what to wear in the mornings....and do I think it's an unhealthy obsession with appearance and/or vanity? Hell, no. It's decision-making! It's confidence! It's an expression of taste and style! 

And, it's adorable.


She runs after her brothers in the yard, playing her own game, but keeping up with the big kids.


She is an Expert at play. And I love to watch her. 

Here, she set up an apartment building for her Littlest Pet Shop toys.

Though she's expressing some interest in using the potty, shopping for her Big Girl underwear at Target the other day was met with a general sense of malaise and the literal dragging of feet.


Afterward, she felt the need to decompress in one of the "Get Dorm Ready!" displays.


Two-and-a-half is convincing Mom that she's big enough to climb up the big ladder "All by mysewf," and then celebrating with a hearty "I did it!" I-told-you-so.


But, then, two-and-a-half is also swinging lazily in the Baby Bucket.


Two-and-a-half is loving, sweetly...gently, on her Baby Cousin, then curling up on Mommy's lap and saying, "Goo goo ga ga! I'm a baby!"


Lesson Learned:
Sweet Molly, you'll always be my Baby.