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Thursday, July 29, 2010

Working

Those who know me well, or even just those who have followed this blog for a few years, know that I have a very conflicted relationship with the balance between work and home. Before I had kids, and even when I was pregnant with Bryn, my students used to ask me if I would keep teaching after I had kids, and I would always respond with some degree of, "Of course!" I just could not see myself staying at home. I figured that I'd just be so bored.

Then Bryn was born, and my world turned upside down. I couldn't imagine leaving her, but I couldn't imagine leaving work either. I loved both with intense ferocity. By that point I was managing the Performing Arts Center and was the Director of Student Activities, and the up side of that job was that the far-from-traditional hours it entailed allowed me to keep Bryn with me much of the time. The down side of these hours was that I was basically living at my job, often logging 80 hours a week while still attempting to take care of a newborn. (A newborn, I might add, who nursed every 3 hours like clockwork and slept a grand total of 6 hours a day.) I was also making significantly less than I had been as a first-year teacher. I was willing to put up with all of this because I really did love that job, more than any other "grown up" job I've had before or since, and because my principal assured me that once we got past that first year (which was the first year that the position existed and was a bit of a "test run" for us all), that my hours would drop significantly and my pay would raise significantly. But at the end of that year, instead of these promises actually materializing, he told me that 1) my pay would not increase at all, 2) my responsibilities and hours would actually increase intead of decrease, and 3) I would no longer be permitted to take Bryn to work with me. Since my salary was not enough to pay for daycare for even one child for the hours I was working, I basically had no choice but to quit, in spite of the fact that I loved my job.

And thus I became a stay-at-home mom.

When I left that job, I didn't intend to stay at home permanently. I didn't want to get back into teaching at that point, so I started looking around for a job in another industry. And what I learned was that while all of my college advisors had told that that "you can do anything with a degree in English," I was actually qualifed to do nothing except teach. Of course, by the time I realized this, the school year had already started, and I was out of luck for finding a teaching job for that year, thus my stay-at-home status. I was not happy about this.

At that point, all of my friends were still working. We were in the process to a new community. I couldn't find a job, so I felt like a failure in the working world. We wanted to have a second child, but I had two miscarriages that year, and I felt like an utter failure as a mother. I dealt with a nasty case of depression. I didn't feel like I fit in anywhere. It was at that time that I started this blog as sort of an outlet--thus the title: "Neither Here Nor There." Not part of the working world, not really part of the stay-at-home world either. Random thoughts not really on one topic or another. (As a side note, also the title of one of the essays in Mommy Wars, which I had just finished reading at the time and perhaps provided some subconscious inspiration.)

In the spring of 2007, I took two college courses to renew my teaching license. I thought that re-entering the teaching world would help me to find a sense of belonging again. But just as I began to look for jobs, I was assailed by morning sickness, and little Shay made herself known. After much soul-searching, I decided to stay home for another year to have this baby and give it a good start. And I felt an overwhelming sense of peace at that decision. And I realized that, somehow, without me even realizing it, I had started to find my way in the stay-at-home mommy world.

Since then, I've danced back and forth between staying at home and working. I have been fortunate enough to have three teaching positions (two short-term and one long-term) fall in my lap, and while it has been hard to be away from my kids during those times, the financial boons that these jobs have provided my family have been absoutely invaluable in getting us through these years of economic uncertainty. These days, I look at our jam-packed calendar and can't imagine how I ever thought I'd be bored as a stay-at-home mom.... or, for that matter, why they call it "stay-at-home" when I'm constantly on the go.

But as this fall approaches, I feel a little funny. For the past three years, I have intended to stay at home with my kids, but in the past three falls, I have received phonecalls offering me teaching jobs out of the blue. I have been incredibly blessed with amazing friends and childcare providers who have helped make these jobs work for our family. But this year, it will be different. Recent college graduates can't find teaching jobs, so I seriously don't think that one is just going to fall into my lap. I think this lands me squarely on the "stay-at-home" side of things for now.

Obviously, I still have some ambivalence, or at the very least, some unresolved feelings, on this subject. Recently, my girls have made a couple of comments that make me wonder if maybe my own confusion about work has rubbed off a bit on them.

Situation #1:
While playing house, Shay announced that she wanted to be a boy. When I asked her why, she said, "I want be the daddy. I want go to work and make the monies." I explained to her that mommies can also go to work and make money and that, in fact, her own mommy has worked at several points during her life. Then Bryn chimed in and asked, "Oh, but if Mommy works, then does Daddy stay home with us?" I explained that this was true in some cases, like that of their friend Mary, but that in our family, when I have worked, Daddy worked too, and this was when Miss Lauren used to watch them. Shay had lost interest in explanations by this point and was happily "playing Daddy," but I could see that Bryn was really struggling to understand. She apparently didn't get it though, because....

Situation #2:
Lately, both girls have been talking about how they want to be teachers when they grow up, and they love hearing about how Mommy is? used to be? a teacher too. We've also spent a hefty portion of our summer at libraries, and as we drove home from our most recent trip, Bryn was talking about how much she loved the library. I thought this was a good opening, and I told her that yes, Mommy loves the library too, so much that Mommy is going to take classes to learn to be a librarian. Bryn's jaw dropped. At first I thought she was excited, but then she got all teary, and she asked, "But if you do that, then who will be our mommy?" I explained that I could do both, but she said, "No, if you work at a library, who will take care of us?" I tried to explain that my classes would take a long time to finish, and that at least she will be in school full-time long before I get my degree, but all of that went right over her head.

So really, even after four and a half years of trying to strike a balance between work and home, it seems that I'm still no good at it. I know this is a battle that all mommies--really, all parents--fight, and that there are really no easy solutions, especially because that ever-elusive balance is constantly growing and changing. I have been both blessed and cursed by getting to spend so much time on both sides of things and thus being able to understand both sides of the work/stay-at-home debate. At the end of the day, though, I guess that each family can only do what's best for them at that time, and recognize that what's best for them is not necessarily what's best for anyone else. For us, right now, what's best is me taking care of the kids while working to get a second degree that will make me more marketable when the time comes for me to re-enter the job market in a job that will actually pay for childcare. I wish you all the best of luck in your journeys toward striking that balance as well.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Budding Photographer

Today we went to the zoo and enjoyed the butterfly exhibit. While we were there, Bryn asked if she could borrow my camera to take some pictures. Another mother standing nearby looked at me like I was crazy when I handed my over my nearly-new camera to my four-year-old, but when she takes pictures like these, why should I argue?


Sunday, July 25, 2010

Does A Body Good

This could be one of those milk ads....

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Swimming Stud

Today was the last day of the girls' swimming lessons so, to celebrate, our family and some of our friends stayed afterwards for a picnic and some additional swimming. We put Liam in his little swim trunks for the first time ever and took him in the water too. He looked like quite the little studmuffin! :)
Can't you practically just hear him thinking, "I'm too sexy for this carseat..."

Friday, July 23, 2010

Bedtime

Bedtime is cuddletime!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Rockin'

So here in Bburg, there is a music store. It's really a guitar and drum store, but they do carry other basic items as well. So I went there last night, with Bryn in tow, in search of a music stand and some clarinet reeds. As soon as we walked in, Bryn's eyes grew wide as she stared at the full wall of guitars. She pointed and said excitedly, "Mommy, I want to play that violin!" The music store guys cracked up. After that, they were endeared by pretty much everything she did, including begging to play the drums (which, for the record, I did not actually allow her to do). As we walked out, I heard one of them say to the other, "Dude, that was the cutest kid EVER." I think she may have made some friends for life.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Wordless Shearing

Look at my little shorn sheep after her (rather aggressive) haircut tonight! What do you think?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Paintings Complete

It occurred to me that I never posted pictures of the paintings I did for Bryn's friend Hannah after I finished them. They are very similar to the ones that are on the walls of Bryn's room, but on a smaller scale and with a purple background. I did have to take the mice out of the Cinderella picture because I couldn't get the detail right on the smaller scale, but I was happy with how the rest of it turned out.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Good Things

Lest you think that our entire last week has been nothing but misery, here are some of the good things that have occurred:

1) On Tuesday night, I went to band practice with the Zville Community Band. My friend Kathleen has been in this band for several years, and I worked with them several years back from a scheduling standpoint when I was managing the Zville PAC. I really enjoyed the rehearsal and was somewhat shocked to discover that I was actually able to sightread some of the music. Not all of it, as we did play two Sousa pieces, which were out of my octave range even when I was good, but some of it. It was great to play with an ensemble again, and I'm looking forward again to going to practice again next week.

2) On Wednesday, I spent the day at Camp Tecumseh. Nationally, it was the 125th anniversary of YMCA (or now, just "Y") camping. Camp T celebrated with a few special events. In the afternoon, I helped run the whole-camp game of the "History Mystery," which involved cabin groups solving clues to guide them to various parts of camp that were built in each decade that camp has been open (starting in the 1920s). I worked the 1990s station with two other former counselors, and we had a great time breaking out our old '90s gear and rocking to '90s music for the event. Then Ben drove the kids up in the evening, and we all enjoyed visiting with old friends celebrating National Campfire.

3) On Thursday, I got to partake in a Girls' Night Out and a yummy dinner at the Cheesecake Factory as a surprise event / baby shower for my friend Carrie, who is currently pregnant with baby #2. It was great to have some time out with just the girls, and it was wonderful to catch up with some friends I hadn't seen in quite a while. And delicious, of course.

4) On Friday, Kathleen, Cathy, and I got to introduce our friend Tina to the joys of the Children's Museum. She was in town for a visit with Carrie and was instrumental in helping us set up the surprise shower, then stuck around for an extra morning to play. It had been far too long since the kids and I had been to the museum anyway, so it was a great excuse for a fun morning, and getting to play with Tina and her adorable little man Evan was just the icing on the cake.

5) Bryn spent the whole week attending VBS at Messiah Lutheran, which is the church where I do MOPS. She had such an awesome time! Very different than then 1000-person VBX at our church. While I adore our church, I'm so thankful that we also have close ties to this church, to allow our kids the chance to have some experiences in a small, close-knit church environment too. I love that they can just run wild with the other kids around this church, take themselves to the bathroom, and all that without me having any fear of them getting lost. Bryn sang the VBS songs all week, and since we purchased the cd and listened to it in the car, Shay knew them all by the closing ceremony on Saturday as well.

6) We've got some spoiled kids at our house, because they were lucky enough to have visits from both Nana Helen AND Grammy Tina this week. Ben's mom came down on Tuesday night and stayed with the kids on Wednesday while I was at camp. They had a fantastic time playing with her all day. Then my mom drove over on Friday night, stayed all day Saturday, and went home Sunday afternoon. We did a belated birthday celebration for her this weekend, and in addition to seeing her, we also got to spend some time with my sister Kristin and her boyfriend Brian, which was also wonderful. I think Shay might try to give Kristin a run for her money on Brian's affections though! ;)

Intertwined with all of that, we've kept up our usual repetoire of games, stories, craft projects, playing outside, and general fun. Perhaps not surprisingly, between all of our activities and dealing with everything with the dogs, we were all completely wiped out by the end of the week. We've laid low all day today, mostly just watching movies, doing some crafts, reading stories, and doing puzzles. Hope you're all doing well!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Reactions

Telling the girls about the dogs was incredibly hard to do. Ben and I decided to tell them separately. We figured that Bryn, being older, would have more questions than Shay and wanted to give her the time to ask them.

We told Shay first. We stumbled through an explanation of how her doggies had started to get old and hadn't really worked right anymore and had, eventually, needed to go to heaven. We both started crying during that explanation, and it ended up with her comforting us instead of the other way around. She said, "Look--I be a crazy girl! I make you happy! I run!" And then she proceeded to run circles around our downstairs, checking in on us each lap, all the while telling us, "I be crazy! I make you happy!" And eventually we couldn't help but laugh at our beautiful little girl, trying to cheer us up in her own unique way.

Telling Bryn was harder. We started in to our explanation, but before we got too far, she stopped us and asked bluntly, "Are my doggies dead?" When we had to answer that yes, they were, it was instant waterworks. She kept saying, "But I want them to come back!" And there was nothing we could say except, "I know, baby, we do too," because it was fully true. Eventually she asked us if they were in heaven, and if they were with Jesus. She cried herself to sleep that first night. Honestly, I think we did too.

The next morning, neither of the girls brought it up for the first several hours. I felt like I was walking on eggshells, just waiting for one of them to say something, but we got out the door to our Kindermusik class without any incidents. On the way home, though, out of the blue, Bryn turned to Shay and said, "Our doggies are dead." Shay immediately responded with, "No they're not." I don't know if she was just trying to be contrary, or if she had just forgotten, or if maybe (gulp) Ben and I had never actually used the word "dead" in our explanation of "the doggies going to heaven," but in any case, I had to pull the van over then and there, climb in back with the girl, and explain as gently as possible that yes, in fact, the doggies were dead. And we had to have the whole thing out all over again.

Shay cried. Then Bryn cried. Then I cried. Bryn said she didn't want the doggies to be alone. I pointed out that they were with each other. She said, "No, I mean they need someone to take care of them." Before I could even think of anything to say, sweet little two-year-old Shay chirped, "It okay, Brynie. Jesus takes care of them for us." More waterworks on my part.

Ben and I had always viewed the dogs, not just as pets, but as part of our family, which is why making this decision was so incredibly painful for us. Apparently we passed this mindset on to our kids. Bryn kept talking about how she didn't want our family to be apart. Eventually, she said, "I wish the rest of us could die and go to heaven so our whole family could be together again." I did explain to her that it wasn't time for us to go, but I couldn't help but think that there was something kind of beautiful about this. Four-year-olds aren't afraid of death. Bryn trusts utterly in the fact that she loves God and will be going to heaven to be with Jesus. I don't know at what point people begin to fear and doubt those things, but I'm so glad my precious children aren't there yet.

At any rate, there have been a few more crying spells throughout the week, but the worst ones were those first few days. Bryn has taken to telling everyone she sees that her doggies are dead, and after seeing big sister do this a few times, Shay has started following suit. So if you see us in the next few days, don't be surprised to have the depressing news delivered to you very matter-of-factly. Thank you so much to all the dear friends that have expressed encouragement during this time. We miss our Dag and T very, very much, and we know that it will be a long time before we stop looking over our shoulders for our hairy black shadows.

Go hug your pets. Or your kids. Or if you're lucky enough to have pets and kids that can co-exist happily together, both.

******

Addendum: On Monday afternoon, when I went in to get Shay from her nap, I found her sitting on her floor. She had her toddler Bible open in front of her, and she was paging through it, looking intensely at the pictures. She looked up at me and said, "Mommy, I askin' Jesus to give my doggies back." So, so sad.

Friday, July 16, 2010

In Canine Memoriam

It has been an incredibly rough week at our house. The sad conclusion to several rough months, actually. I'll just start at the end of the story and say that we are saying farewell to our beloved dogs, Dagny and Tela.

The dogs first came into our lives nearly eight years ago, in October of 2002. I was teaching at ZCHS and Ben was in his senior year of college. One one cold, blustery, fall day, we took an outing to the Humane Society. I really can't remember why we thought this was a good idea. I don't remember consciously deciding that we wanted to get a dog; I think we had actually deluded ourselves that we were going there "just to look." I do know for certain that we had certainly never dreamed of getting two dogs. I lived in an apartment and Ben lived in a rental house. We were not equipped for multiple pets, especially large dogs.

But then we saw them. Two little black puffballs of fur in a kennel together. The tag outside their door said "Meg and Peg," which we agreed were silly names for the gorgeous little things inside. After seeing them, we didn't even look at any of the other dogs. We took them each into the play room one by one. Both of them peed on the floor while we were in there playing with them, and we were so smitten with them that we didn't even care. We agonized over it, unable to choose between them. I forget which of us suggested it at first, but once one of us brought it up, it seemed the perfect solution to get them both. After all, they were sisters, from the same litter--it would be cruel to separate them.

So we took home two dogs. I'd never had a pet before, but it wasn't too long before both of them were living in my apartment. Ben named them both. Dagny got her name from the Dagny Taggart, heroine in The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand, Ben's favorite author at that time. Tela was named after the heroine of Phish's (Ben's favorite band) epic song cycle of Gamehenge.

I let both dogs sleep in my bed at night. I spoiled them shamelessly. I adored them.

Over time, the little black puffballs grew up. They got bigger than I had expected. They grew to 50 pounds. 60. 70. An overweight 80. We went through obedience school with them. I moved to a rental house, where we lived with two roommates and their two dogs. Ben and I got married, and the dogs acquired roommates in the form of our cats Jag and Dashel.

When we first got married, Ben and I laughed about how we argued over who got to sleep with which dog on their side of the bed. More often than not, he got the cuddles and I got the "pointy end," all feet poking into my sides.

When I was pregnant with Bryn, Tela laid next to me on the bed and stared at me with those sympathetic, soulful brown eyes while I was puking up everything I put in my mouth and suffering from migraines. She snuggled in close and tried to reassure me.

When Bryn actually arrived, Tela and I started going grey together. Before that, both dogs had been all black, not a white hair on them, and in spite of the fact that Tela's features were more shepherd and Dagny's were more lab, people had a hard time telling them apart. But with a baby in the house, Tela kind of stressed out.

We had a ranch-style house. Bryn's door was directly across from ours. We slept with the door open, and we had a baby monitor in our room, so it was pretty much surround sound whenever she cried. But just in case we missed it, Tela would come bounding into our room, jump up onto the bed, lick us furiously awake, and stand there panting over us, refusing to let us have one more second of sleep while the baby was crying.

As a result of all this baby-induced stress, Tela started to turn white. At first it was just one tiny little patch, and we joked about how mothering Bryn was making her go grey. But by six months later, she was nearly half white. Strangers stopped us on walks to comment on our strange-looking dog; no one had ever seen one like her before. The vet could find no medical explanation for her rapid whitening except that, quite literally, living with a child stressed Tela out.
While Tela stressed, Dagny withdrew a little, but still in a very sweet way. In those early days, she took to sleeping under Bryn's crib. She didn't exactly want us to bother her, but she loved the baby.
When we moved to Bburg, it was a bit of a trade-off for the dogs. We have a smaller backyard here than we did at our old house, so they had less space to run. But we also have a full unfinished basement, and right away, they loved being able to retreat to the cool, dark cement floor when it got hot outside.
When Shay came along, they reacted in much the same way as they had with Bryn. Dagny looked at us a bit reproachfully, slept under the crib for a few days, and then proceeded with life as usual. Tela's whitening picked up pace again. Both dogs were patient with the antics of the girls, which often included, but were not limited to, chasing them around the house in efforts to hug them.
But the dogs weren't as happy as before. Part of it was that they were starting to get old and fat and cranky. Dagny's joints started to give her trouble, and she could no longer hop up on the bed to cuddle us, except every now and then when her overwhelming fear of thunderstorms would drive her to super-canine feats of strength. Tela got a couple of infections over the years, but nothing major. Mostly, they just sensed the slowly shifting balance of power from dogs to children, and they didn't like it.
And then Liam came along. Now children outnumbered dogs. Apparently our dogs considered this to be the final insult. Dagny didn't want to sleep under his crib. Tela didn't come get us when he cried. Instead, she took to the basement. Permanently. After he was born, she pretty much took up residence down there. She would go down first thing in the morning, immediately after eating breakfast, and refuse to come out until dinnertime. Not even to potty. At least once an hour, I'd try to tempt her out. Calling her, tempting her with treats, going down there and trying to haul her up. But she'd run away from me and hide in corners behind stacks of stuff, digging in all four feet and all eighty pounds, refusing to come out.
And as the months wore on, things got worse. Eventually it got to the point where she started to skip breakfast some days, dinner on other days. She started to sleep down there other nights. In fact, pretty much all she did was sleep, about 23 hours a day. She began to poop in the basement, then pee. Then sleep in her own pee. While this was absolutely repulsive, it was actually preferable to her only other method of relieving herself, which was sneaking up to the top of the stairs, peeing in our playroom, and then retreating back to the basement immediately. This made absolutely no sense, as we repeatedly tried to take her outside and she refused to go.
It was clear that peeing inside had become her preferred method. We got to the point where we were mopping up puddles of pee and steam cleaning our playroom on a daily basis, and all the while, Tela utterly refused to come out the basement and interact with us at all. Visits to the vet could uncover nothing physically wrong with her; it seemed that the baby-induced stress that had started four and a half years earlier with Bryn had finally driven her over the top.
It was then that Ben and I begab to dance around the issue of putting Tela down. Neither of us wanted to do it. We wanted to stick to our original plan of the dogs living forever. We used to say that since none of us would ever want to be without the others, we'd all stay together until someday, when we were all old and assembled on a nice shady porch somewhere, with Ben and I in rocking chairs and the dogs at our feet, we could just say, "1, 2, 3, die," and all go together.
But it had become clear that this dream wasn't going to happen. We weren't going to all get old together. Tela was so unhappy; her quality of life was just so low. And she wouldn't let us do anything to help her. She kept looking at us with those big, mournful brown eyes and heaving these deep, long-suffering sighs. If we managed to convince her to come out of the basement at all, she'd just lay down again immediately and heave a big sigh with the exertion it took. All she wanted to do was sleep. And really, how good of a life is that for anybody?
So as much as we wanted to deny it, it became clear that we needed to put Tela down. We did consider trying to adopt her out, but then, who would want an eight-year old, 80-pound dog that refuses to interact with people, pees all over herself, and does nothing but sleep? It seemed kinder to just let her go to sleep permanently than to put her through the chaos of staying in a shelter or the stress of adjusting to a new household.
But that left the question of what to do with Dagny. True, she was getting old, and true, she was overweight, but otherwise, she was healthy. Surely we could keep her. But we learned that in cases like our dogs', where they've been together for their whole lives, the remaining dog often becomes very depressed after one leaves, looking for them and waiting for their littermate to return, often wasting away themselves in the process. We certainly didn't want that for Dagny. And if that should happen, we didn't want that for our kids, to have to put them through the awful process twice.
And then the decision was sort of made for us. Dagny bit another dog and drew blood. She didn't do it maliciously; they were playing and she got a little out of control. But as easily as that can happen with another dog, it can also happen with children. Back when Dagny was younger, she had once bitten another dog then too, when she was in obedience school, and then trainer flipped out, suggesting that we put her down then, saying that dogs always know what they're doing with their mouths, that biting is never an accident, that a dog that bites is one that cannot be kept around. At that point, we decided just to watch her carefully, and she never gave us another problem until now. But all of that combined with our worries about how she'd do once Tela went made the decison for us.
And so our beloved dogs left us this week. It has been incredibly hard on all of us. Perhaps more on that at a later time, but I wanted this to just be about some of our memories of them. Here are some of our recent pictures of them, taking by our budding photographer Bryn:
Dagny Jane
Tela Marie

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Diaper Drama

I mentioned in my monthly update on this year's goals that Shay is progressing nicely with her potty training and is now in Pull-Ups. Then I wrote yesterday about how she now sleeps in a toddler bed and occassionally likes to lay out her own clother and remove her own dirty diapers. What I did not realize was that these things were a recipe for disaster.

This morning, I realized that Shay's trash can had gotten pretty nasty, largely because she had missed the trash bag when depositing some diapers in there. Ben took it downstairs to clean it, and I didn't give it another thought... until after naptime, when Bryn came running to find me, shouting that Shay "had dog poopy in her box."

Ben and I hurried into Shay's room and found her with no pants on, a Pull-Up around her waist, and a vile stentch in the air. It took us a few minutes to sort out what had happened, but apparently it was this:

Upon waking from her nap, Shay realized that her diaper was wet and, without calling out or letting anyone know she was awake, set out to change it herself. She got the dirty one off successfully, but when she went to put on a new Pull-Up, she put both legs through one hole, thus lodging the whole thing around her waist. She didn't realize this was wrong, though, and commenced to play and read stories to herself as usual, all while not making nosie or calling out, so no one realized she was awake. Unfortunately, she then had a poop. On her floor, because the Pull-Up was around her waist. And she panicked, because she realized that poop was clearly not supposed to go on the floor. So she tried to clean up after herself. She picked up the poop and tried to throw it away. But her trash can was gone. So she cast about for somewhere else to throw the poop, settling on the nearest empty container.... which happened to be a box that we had decorated as a bank during the week of VBX.

So when Bryn entered the room upon hearing Shay crying, she saw a box of poop sitting on Shay's table. While she was mistaken about it being dog poop, she got the basic note of panic in the story correct. Shay was crying hysterically, as the whole experience was pretty traumatizing for her, especially as she realized that her beloved VBX craft was now ruined. So after sanitizing both Shay and her room, we had to have a long talk about how only mommies and daddies change diapers; kids do not. And how if she wakes up, she should call to us so we can come get her. Yeah, the drama just never quits around here!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Sleeping Arrangements

I just need to take a moment to brag on my sweet big girl, Shay. A few weeks back, she started intermittently going to bed in her toddler bed, but Ben always moved her over to her crib in the middle of the night. One night we decided to see what would happen if we left her in the toddler bed all night, and she was so freaked out when she woke up and found herself loose in her room that she cried and cried and refused to go to sleep in the toddler bed for a few weeks afterwards.

But last week we decided to give it another go. We talked it up, then put her to bed in her toddler bed. And she slept though the night. And in the morning, she laid playing quietly in her bed, looking at her books and waiting patiently for me to come get her. What a good, big girl!!

That day, she went down for her nap in the toddler bed without a murmur of dissent. Again, she stayed in bed at the end of the nap, waiting for me to come get her.

That night, she was a little anxious about going to bed in the toddler bed. She wanted her crib again. But Ben decided we weren't turning back, so he took the side off her crib, turning it into a "day bed." Since then, we've let her pick which one she wants to sleep in, which she gets a huge kick out of. She's actually fallen out of the "day bed" a few times, but she doesn't seem any worse for the wear. One morning, when I had to wake her up in order to be somewhere, I actually found her asleep on her floor, complete with carpet imprints on her face. But she's sleeping soundly at night and at naptime, so no complaints.

However, she has now started getting out of bed when she wakes up. I'm never quite sure what I'm going to find on the other side of the door when I hear her murmuring and go in to get her dressed. Most days, she's sitting and looking at books, but some days, it's a little more entertaining. Thankfully, she cannot yet turn door handles, so at least she's contained.

Yesterday, she had opened most of her dresser drawers and dug around in them until she had picked out her own clothes for the day. She had laid out a Pull-Up, jean shorts, her Daddy's Little Sunshine shirt, and purple socks. She had even moved the changing pad from the top of her dresser to the floor and put the clothes on top of it, so she was totally ready to go when we came in.

Today took the cake though. As Ben and I entered the room, she looked up from her bed, where she was sprawled with her feet in the air, looking at a book. She had stripped off her own pajama pants and wet diaper and was completely naked on bottom. Well, aside from the pair of Hello Kitty rain boots. Hi-stinking-larious.

I think we're going to have our hands full with that one.

Friday, July 09, 2010

God Bless the Good People of Chick-Fil-A

Today we had quite the traumatizing experience.

The morning started off well enough. I loaded up the kids and headed over to the church where our MOPS group is held to have an outdoor potluck breakfast, visit with some of my MOPS friends, and let the kids run off some steam on the playground. Due to some rain last night, the weather was blessedly at least 15, if not 20, degrees cooler than it has been the last several days, and it actually felt great to be outside.

So breakfast was really nice. The kids had fun, I had fun. Good friends, good good, good fun. All that a morning should be. I should have quit there.

But no. Chick-Fil-A was having Cow Appresheeation Day, which meant free lunch for anyone dressed like a cow. And since we do love some Chick-Fil-A and we have a cow costume in size 2T (which both girls have now worn for Halloween) that will soon be too small for Shay to squeeze into, it seemed almost silly not to take advantage and go. My friend Kristin decided to join us, and she set to cutting out two sets of the cute printables from the Chick-Fil-A website in order to cow up herself and her daughter Audrey. In retrospect, this may have been where things very first started to go wrong, as Bryn discovered a deep mud puddle while Kristin and I chatted. Bryn lost interest soon enough, but before long, both Shay and Audrey (both of whom are a little, how shall I say? more adventurous than Bryn) were crouched on its edges, floating leaves in it. Then their hands. And then, in Shay's case, her entire lower half.

I dragged Shay off to the car to strip her down while Kristin took her kids into the church for a potty break. Shay's shoes were absolutely rank, so I just shoved her into the socks I'd brought for the Chick-Fil-A playplace and hoped that the cow costume would cover her feet--which it did not, as she is really too tall for anything in 2T. Kristin arrived back rather breathlessly from the church and stated that she'd had a hard time convincing Audrey that cows do, in fact, potty in bathrooms rather than on the ground. That one is her story to tell, not mine, although perhaps another indicator of the rough afternoon ahead.

We eventually got all the kids loaded and made the drive over the Chick-Fil-A, which was quite crowded with people dressed in varying ensembles of black and white spots. Kristin and I herded up our little bovines and ushered them through the door. Kristin was carrying her bucket carseat with 6-month-old Nathan in it and had 3-year-old Audrey in tow. I had Liam in the bucket seat, 2-year-old Shay, and 4-year-old Bryn. Shay was wearing a full-on cow costume, complete with stuffed rump, and Bryn was wrapped up in a large piece of cow-spotted fabric that I bought many moons ago with the intention of turning it into pajama pants, but have never seemed to find the time. Since basically every other kid in the place was just wearing black spots taped to white shirt, they were garnering lots of stares even before the drama began.

I didn't exactly see what happened. Maybe it was the sheer amount of people in the restaurant. Maybe it was the cow fabric. Maybe she was confused because we headed straight up to the counter to order instead of claiming a booth first like usual. Maybe it was just one of those things. But somehow, before we made it past the first row of booths, Bryn took a flat-out tumble, resulting in a rough bang to the head and splitting open her bottom lip.

Somehow I managed to get her on her feet while still holding the bucket seat, and Kristin and I managed to get all the kids up to the condiment counter, where there were less people and more space for me put down Liam and crouch down to check on her. She was crying hysterically. A woman appeared out of the blue and offered to get us ice. She returned, first with ice in a napkin, then with ice sealed in a sterile plastic bag. Bryn continued to wail. People continued to stare. Part of me wanted to make some remark about oh, she's fine, she's just a drama queen (because usually, she is), but darn it, there was enough blood that I couldn't tell how deep the cut was and I just wasn't sure. The same nice woman, whose family was about ready to leave when all of this happened), guided Bryn and I over to the table that her family was about to vacate, thus ensuring us a place to sit down in the midst of of the noontime crowd.

This was when the second drama occurred. Kristin didn't exactly see what happened. Maybe Shay panicked at seeing me led away. Maybe she tried to follow us too quickly. Maybe the cow costume got in the way. Maybe it was that she was only wearing socks and no shoes. In any case, Shay went down too, and now her wails matched her sister's in bringing down the house.

I ran back and scooped her up. In a show of absolutely superhuman strength, Kristin somehow scooped up both bucket seats and got both babies and Audrey to the table. We were clearly creating quite the spectacle, because when I got back to the table with Shay, the manager was there, placating the sobbing Bryn with a dish of ice cream. He put his hand on my arm and said, "Don't worry, ma'am, I'll be right back with some help for you." Before I could even wonder if he meant physical or mental (because that that point, I felt like I could use both), he was back with the sweetest little waitress. He introduced her and told us that she was there to take our order and that absolutely anything we wanted was on the house.

Wow. Talk about customer service.

First thing was first. As I held the sobbing Shay, she kept pointing at Bryn's dish and crying, "I need ice cream! It help me feel better!" And Audrey got some too, just so she wouldn't feel the need to go injure herself to get some later.

Kristin and I both felt a little hesitant to take advantage of this kindness and ordered our kids the smallest kids' meals possible. The sweet waitress kept urging us, "And what to drink? And what on the side? And what for you? And what to drink? And fries, right?" And in the end, we had full meals for all five of us (which is really saying something, considering that my kids usuallly split a meal). Plus books from the kids' meals for all 3 kids. Plus ice cream x3. Plus the manager came back with stuffed cows for my kids. Plus the big mascot cow came over to hug my kids, which sent Shay over the moon with excitement.

In short, I received better customer service at Chick-Fil-A today than I have EVER received at ANY other restaurant, no matter how fancy. God bless the good people of Chick-Fil-A!!

And although Bryn was left with a nasty gash on her lip, the bleeding did stop partway through the dish of vanilla ice cream, so I'm assuming that means she's okay. She is, in fact, okay enough that she requested to play in the playplace at the end of lunch, which I took as a good sign, so I let her go. Shay had long since recovered from her fall, which I think just scared her far more than injured her. So Kristin and I had about five minutes of blessed quiet to recover from all the drama. Then Bryn was back, crying that some girl in the playplace had told her that her name was "silly," and I decided that it was definitely time to go.

As I got Bryn's shoes on her, Shay eyed the chair I had pulled up to the end of the table. "I climb on that?" she asked. "Absolutely not," I replied in what was left of my firmest voice. "We've had enough injuries in here today to last a lifetime." No sooner were the words out of my mouth than she grabbed the back of the chair and tried to scale it. I dropped Bryn's foot, shoe and all, and tried to grab Shay, but not quick enough..... the chair fell backwards, pinning her to the ground, eliciting a fresh round of wails from her and stares from the other customers.

I scooped Shay up. "I need more ice cream to feel better!" she wailed. That one learns quick. "No!" I told her through gritted teeth. "We're going home!" I jammed Bryn's other shoe on her foot and grabbed the bucket seat, then headed for the door. When seeing that I meant business, Shay changed her shouts to "Daddy! Daddy! I want my daddy!", thus eliciting even more stares. Another sympathetic mommy got the door for me as I exited with all the dignity I could muster, bucket seat slung over one arm, a sobbing, squirming Shay clutched in the other, and a bloodied Bryn trailing behind.

"I'll see you later then?" Kristin asked sympathetically.
"Nope," I replied. "I'm never leaving the house again."

Thursday, July 08, 2010

June in Review - Amy

I'm a few days late posting this due to all the Fourth of July festivities, but here's my monthly check-in. I'm still not thrilled with my progress in some of the areas, but I guess I still have six months to go, right?? Or at least that's what I keep telling myself...

1. Read the Bible.
I did fall behind on this for a few days this month, but I am now all caught up.

2. Read at least one pleasure reading book per month.I finished reading Twelve Extraordinary Women by John MacArthur, which my Mom To Mom group started during the spring semester but never finished, as there were more chapters in the book than weeks we met. I'm really glad I finished it, as the chapters at the end really turned out to be the most interested to me, particularly the one on Lydia, who I knew basically nothing about before. I also read Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin (which I already talked about in a previous post) for my MOPS book club. For what it's worth, I liked her writing style (although not that book) so much that I've already read her next one, Something Blue, so I guess I can already check off this goal for July. :)

3. Join some kind of musical group and perform with them.
I actually got out my clarinet and played it. At first it was kind of rough, as I had basically no range at all for those first few minutes, but after a few minutes practicing, it all came back. My practicing did wake Liam up, which I feared would put an early end to my endeavors, but he played contentedly on his play mat and listened to me. Then Bryn refused to stay in her room for "rest time" while something so interested was going on, so she came downstairs and listened too, eventuallly getting out her recorder and joining me for an impromptu duet. All in all, I actually sounded much better than I had any right to hope that I would, although obviously not nearly as good as I did a decade ago, when I was in the habit of playing daily.
On the Fourth of July, our whole family went and heard the community band that I hope to join. The girls loved hearing the band and were excited to think that Mommy could be part of it, promising to come and clap for me. :) I actually planned to go to practice for the first time on Tuesday night and almost made it there, but then several family responsibilities intervened and I was unable to go at the last minute. I do plan on going this coming week though. So I'm getting closer to this one!

4. Blog daily.
I do think I've missed a couple days here and there, but my grand total numbers are still on track.

5. Get back down to (at least) my pre-pregnancy weight.The great weight loss of 2010 has now come to a halt. I really have absolutely no room to complain, as I'm now 15 pounds lighter than I was before getting pregnant. I'd ideally still like to lose 10 pounds, as so to be in my "ideal BMI" range, but I also know that would require fitting an exercise regime of more than just "chase my crazy children around" into my schedule, and that is just not going to happen right now.

6. Get involved in some kind of theatre group and help out with at least one production.Still no progress here.

7. Teach Bryn to read.
It's funny how often strangers ask me if Bryn can read. I can see why they are fooled; she carries around books and stares at them so intently that it looks like she's reading them. Her handwriting has improved vastly over the summer. But we seem to be stalled out on reading. I'm starting to wonder if it will be like every other milestone she has hit, where she just masters it one day out of the blue and we never look back.

8. Potty-train Shay.She's doing great. She's wearing Pull-Ups most days now and often tells us when she has to go potty. Whenever we sit her on it, she always produces something. Unlike her sister (who has just started pooping in the potty this summer), Shay already does #1 and #2 in there. She's incredibly proud of herself and can't wait to wear real "underwear like Brynie." She does still go in her diaper sometime, but she's making great progres.

9. Frame our portraits.
Finished in March. I'll have to frame our new portrait once we get it printed though!

10. Finish up some of my murals.Need to decide which ones to start next....

11. Paint the kids' bathroom.
Ahem..... someday......

12. Get Shay into her big girl room.Achieved in January.

13. Breastfeed Liam.
He's still on 100% breastmilk through the pumping method.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Wordless Exhaustion

Completely passed out in his Bumbo seat in the midst of Fourth of July activities. What was our little dude thinking during all of this? Suggested captions?

Monday, July 05, 2010

Yearly Portrait

Every year, we get a family portrait taken on a date near our anniversary to document the growth of our family. You can see last year's shot in my sidebar (although it will soon be replaced by this year's shot) by way of comparison. Last year Liam was present only in my belly. :) I'm hugely amazed by photographer's ability to get everyone to look at the camera and even actually kind of smile! We're a pretty cute family, if I do say so myself. :)

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Fourth of July

We spent the morning enjoying a picnic in the park and a concert by a community band (which I hope to soon be joining... more on that at a later time).

After an afternoon of relaxing, playing, and grilling out with Aunt Kristin, we set up camp to enjoy the local fireworks show. The girls had a great time playing with sparklers while we waited, and after some initial hesitancy, even Shay proclaimed the fireworks to be "not scary."

We are all completely wsiped out now, so I know that I at least am looking forward to a fairly low-key day tomorrow!

Saturday, July 03, 2010

July 3: Let the Fun Begin!

Let the holiday weekend begin!

Since the Fourth of July falls on a Sunday this year, our town did its annual parade this morning instead. Our girls thought that waving their little flags and waving to all the cars was pretty cool.... until they realized that everybody threw candy, at which point it turned into a mad dash-into-the-street free-for-all. Luckily, we had anticipated this and set up close to the start of the parade route, where it wasn't very crowded. There were no other kids anywhere near us, so no one competed with our girls for their candy (unlike last year, when they were getting run over by bigger kids who kept basically snatching the Tootsie Rolls out of their hands). They had a great time, and we were able to make a (relatively) speedy getaway when it started to get too hot out for Liam to stay outside any longer.
We went to church in the evening, and then we took the kids to the local carnival. Liam had a great time riding around with Daddy and taking in all the sights.

Bryn had a wonderful time going on every single child-friendly ride the carnival had to offer, starting the second that we walked in. This was her first one, which she got so excited upon seeing that the attendant let her ride for free, since we hadn't even had time to go buy tickets yet. She can be quite a charmer when she wants to be.

Shay only went on two rides (one of which was the carousel, which the whole family rode, making it Baby's First Ride for Liam), declaring that the rest were "too scary." Maybe she's finally outgrowing some of her daredevil tendencies? That would definitely be a relief for me! In spite of avoiding rides, however, she did want to play the "fishing" game. I thought for sure she'd be too little for it, but much to my surprise, she hooked one of those things almost immediately. Papa Tom would surely be proud!
Here you can see Shay hugging the penguin that she won as a result of her fishing skills.
Of course, no trip to the fair would be complete without funnel cake. With powdered sugar. And chocolate sauce. And an accompanying lemon shakeup. Yum.

More fun and festivities on the way tomorrow!

Friday, July 02, 2010

Berry Picking

Today I got to take the kids to do something that I've always wanted to try--berry picking. For years, every time we've driven up to Michigan for vacation or to visit family, I've said that we should stop at one of the many little farms to pick our own blueberries or cherries, but we've never made time. Recently, some friends recommended a place here in Indy. It's not quite as amazing as Michigan blueberries, and it's way on the other side of town (about an hour drive for us), but it was still a lot of fun and a very good excuse to see some friends from over in that area.

Here's Liam, looking very studly in baby's first pair of sunglasses (which he promptly ripped off and chewed on as soon as I was done snapping this picture):
And Shay, extremely proud of herself for picking the berries directly off the bush:
And Bryn, with her hand en route to her mouth:
(All of the kids ate far more berries than they put into their baskets. It's a good thing that the people in the shop didn't weigh the kids before and after the picking, or we would have owed them a whole lot more money.)

So even though Shay didn't seem to understand the concept that she was only supposed to pick the BLUEberries, we all had a great time!

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Yet Another Reason

Did I take my kids to the beach?
Nope.
A gigantic sandbox?
Kind of.

The library.
Yet another reason to love it.