Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Helpers

Social media, television channels, radio broadcasts & cell phone conversations... everyone is buzzing in hushed, shocked tones about what happened yesterday in Boston.  It's tempting to criticize the media for excessive coverage, but I think everyone is just trying to understand a situation that, like so many others before it, it not able to be understood but maybe there is healing in the sharing of grief, of confusion and disbelief.

The Boston Marathon is the world's oldest annual marathon and it's part of the fabric of the city of Boston, a cause for celebration and a culmination of the effort and will power required to push your body to run 26.21875 miles.  On "Marathon Monday" no one could have predicted the tragic events that unfolded.  Like Columbine, the WTC attacks, the Newtown school shootings and so many other senseless acts of unspeakable cruelty, we were left in stunned silence to try and comprehend why anyone would choose to plan and carry out such a cowardly act of violence against innocent, unsuspecting fellow human beings.

And like those other tragic events, heroes rise up and cast aside thoughts of their own safety to help the helpless, carry the wounded, wrap arms around suffering shoulders, serving as shining examples of what humanity is capable of in the face of the darkest of times.  These are the helpers, these are the ones we need to look for, to strive to be like.

I hope that if I were ever faced with a situation like this one, I would have the courage to be brave, to think not of myself but of those in need, to be a helper, one who chooses strength over weakness.  Desperate times call for hopeful measures, it's a time to think of those everyday, ordinary heroes and uplift their stories.  There is meaning in the meaningless when we see what good, true, honest and ordinary people are capable of.

People like these:

Photo Credit: Kylie Atwood/CBS News

John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty

photo credit: Charles Krupa/AP

This morning I was reading about Carlos Arrendondo a modern day hero in a cowboy hat, quickly becoming an icon of the heroes who emerged yesterday.  His story inspires, how he came to the marathon to honor his two sons, one who died serving our country and the other from the heartache of losing his brother, their proud father wearing buttons of their photographs on his shirt and handing out 199 American flags, the 200th one covered in blood, how he had no thought of his own safety and spent hours following the bombings helping perfect strangers.  

There are so many inspiring stories like his, like the two Bible carrying Lutheran pastors offering comfort to those walking on Commonwealth, the countless standing in lines donating blood, strangers opening their homes and hearts to offer food, shelter and companionship to those in need.  Acts of altruism abound and remind us who we are as a people, as a nation, when we need to unite for the common good. 

These are the images that I cling to in times of senseless violence.  These are the people I will think about in the coming days, when unfortunately the hazy feeling of hope sometimes falters, a victim cast aside in the hunt for blame, the temptation of accusation, based on religion, country of origin, or color of skin.  It's happened all too often before, and it's not because people are inherently bad, it's a grief stricken way to find purpose, to feel like something is being done, that justice is being served.  I truly believe that we are better than that, we have to be.  If only we could hold on to the true spirit of community, rallying together as a collective we, not as "us" and "them".  I earnestly pray that in the coming days, during the search for answers, we can think with our heads, and our hearts and avoid the scapegoating, blame and accusations that have arisen in the past following tragic events.  Whoever was responsible will be found and will suffer the consequences for this cowardly act, so we don't need to punish those who share only our grief, not our blame.  
I think we should all make a vow to be "the helpers", not just on days like today, but everyday, in our sleepy mall town communities and booming, bustling cities.  

Monday, April 15, 2013

Everyday Enchantment

A million years ago, or at least it seemed like it was that long ago when I was a high schooler, I was a camp counselor every summer, soaking up the rays of the sun with ragtag roaming groups of half wild, drunk on summer little kids.  Heaven.  I loved working at summer camp like it was a religion, if that could be my "grown up" job I would be set for life, it's kind of like teaching without the standardized testing and pressure to make kids perform.  Don't get me wrong, I love teaching, it's who I am, but maybe I've become a bit jaded during this crazy era of "Blame the Teacher" and ridiculous expectations that don't consider real life children~ their hopes, their dreams, their very selves.  I think it's gotten harder to accept now that I have a little one of my own.  He will never be a test score to me, nor will I ever care what a sheet of pencil-filled bubbles tells me about him.  Creak... climbing off my soapbox, I digress...

So, summer camp.  I remember during orientation before camp began we would get a job description which included a list of requirements.  Think along the lines of "willing and able to be outside all day, supervise and care for large groups of children, etc..."

Fast forward to now.  Will is 9 months old.  How did that happen?  To think I carried this tiny growing person inside of me for 9 months (+ because little man decided to come when he was darn good and ready!) and now he has been here with us for that same amount of time.  It's hard to wrap my head around.  I can still picture him as our little tree frog infant, curled into the most impossibly tiny bundle on my chest, sleeping the afternoon away while I stared at him, incredulous at the fact that he was mine, all mine.  Now we have a cheerio crazed, puppy terrorizing, crawling, climbing action verb of a little boy.  While watching him tease his pups this morning, all drooly giggles and sideways grins, I was thinking about all the things I've done during my life and how this "job" of staying at home compares.
It's simple.
Being a mom is the best thing that ever happened to me, I say that knowing how cliche it sounds, but I just don't care.
Nothing compares with this.

I laughed, thinking of summer camp, and wondered what a job requirement list might look like to take care of a William.  This is what I came up with:

We just returned from our big 9 month well child appointment at the pediatrician's and all is great, terrific actually since there were no shots this time, not that Will minds, but it makes my heart sink.  That tiny tree frog I referenced earlier is now 20 lbs, 13 ounces and 28 inches of "Wild Bill" as the veterinarian likes to call him when we bring in the pups.  He is the world and he reaches out to explore it at every moment, breathe it in, touch it, feel it and taste it.  I think we are raising the boy of our dreams, one who sees the wonder in a tiny ladybug crawling across the wooden floorboards (and then tries to eat it, protein?) and one who revels in the outside world, becoming quiet and contemplative staring at the ripples in our spring time pond and oohing as the breeze tickles his whispy hair.  I love this child.

  Mama climbing, my favorite sport, well... that and losing my socks!  

 It's IMPOSSIBLE to get him to look at the camera when there are way more interesting things, like emerald shoots popping up through squishy spring soil.

Ooh, bark feels neat mama! Can I eat it?

I think I need to rephrase something I wrote earlier in this post.  Summer camp was fun and I loved it, but the "grown up job" that most suits me is being a mama.  Like lots of families, we've had tough decisions to make lately and one of those is that I am returning to teach next fall, where and in what capacity remains to be seen.  It's sad that mothers and families don't get to choose what happens sometimes.  The one good side, if you could call it that, is that the knowledge of the precious days I have before going back to work keep me present in these magical everyday moments with William.  

I won't miss the everyday enchantment, I'll be a grateful audience to the beauty in the grasp of budding lilac leaves within a tiny palm, the feel of an open-mouthed drooly kiss on my cheek~ part lips, part teeth~ all love.  During these priceless days I will be cherishing the warm weight of a bedtime bundle, swaying to lullabies in the soft light of the nursery.  The soundtrack of our daylight hours plays the laughter and babbles of a little boy with eyes of a mysterious color, blended shades of brown, green and blue.    

Life is beautiful.

I was thinking this morning about last night's writing.  As I typed this post, I was curled up on the couch with my laptop and a quilt enjoying the peace that comes with a sleeping baby.  This morning, I am sporting the token messy bun of moms with no time for themselves, ratty old sweatpants from my high school ice hockey days, the crocs I used as "town shoes" while hiking the Appalachian Trail, and a fleece pullover with Rorschach sweet potato & mango designs, left behind from Will's breakfast.  Little Mr. was a fierce nap fighter and it took forever to get him down, then the dogs crashed through the house wrestling and woke him up... (insert swear under your breath here) so we started again and although I tried, I am sure frustration seeped into my singing of please-go-to-sleep lullabies.  My life isn't picture perfect at all moments, it certainly is beautiful, but it's also REAL.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

"Parents Is Hard"

Life is not perfect, I'm okay with that.  Take, for example, this little snapshot of my life from last night/this morning, times are approximate:

3:30      Will wakes up, I stumble to his room to nurse & rock him.  He bites me hard with his shiny
             new pearly white chompers, oh joy.  I recover without gasping, and things are cozy once more
3:35      Start feeling a warm sensation in my lap.  Will has soaked through his diaper and literally peed
             MY pants, and all over his sleepy little self, cozy fleece blankey and all.
3:40      New jams, new diaper, back in the rocking chair, "You are My Sunshine" take # 768.
4:00      Will's asleep, I tiptoe across his room and place him in his crib~ afraid to breathe the entire time
4:01      Carefully make the journey back to my bed, careful to avoid the creakiest boards in the floor,  
             and climb under the covers to find my bed no longer feels cozy and warm
4:02      Puppy barks downstairs.  Baby stirs but doesn't wake up... yet...  I swear and throw the covers
             off in exasperation, tempted to stomp down the stairs but can't because of the sleeping baby
4:03      Let pups out, step directly in vomit because Clementine decided to eat a flashlight, batteries and        
             all and it made her sick, crazy right?  (She is okay now, no puppies were injured in the writing
             of this blog entry)
4:10      Pups are all set, head back to the stairs to go back to bed, step in puppy pee.  REALLY swear
             this time.
4:15      Mess cleaned, head back to bed, trip and make a toy start scooting across the floor with glaring
             music.  (Insert favorite expletive here)  I hold my breath in fear and wait to hear Will cry.
4:18      Back in bed, blankets over my head.  Start dreaming about sleep (that's when you know you're
4:30      Will wakes up.  I am pretty bummed walking to his room, but when I pick him up and he
             nestles that perfect little head into my neck, there is nothing to feel but love.  We head back to
             my bed and snuggle, which is perfection in an imperfect world.

Being a parent is hard, or as my hubby eloquently, jokingly says "Parents is hard."  He is right, but don't tell him I said that, let's keep it between us. ;)

I've been thinking a lot lately about how there are a seemingly a million decisions to make on a daily basis and all of them feel incredibly important at the time, life changing with potentially devastating consequences for the wrong choice.  Breast feeding or formula, cloth diapers or disposables, starting solids earlier than 6 months or later, gentle sleep training or crying it out, Bjorn or Ergo....paper or plastic.  Kidding, but you get my drift.  There is this expectation of perfection that is 150% impossible to live up to, even if you had an iv dripping caffeine to keep you going like the energizer bunny, the grace and patience of a saint, unlimited wealth and a house that cleaned itself, along with laundry that washed, folded AND put itself away.  So, those lucky ones like myself learn through trial and error to listen to what our hearts tell us, and listen up good because sometimes it's hard to know what we even feel because of the pressures of being the "perfect" mom.  I've decided that each mama needs to tune out the other voices and for the most part, she knows what's best for her baby.  I might not make the same choices as another mom does, but her baby is not my baby, and therefor what I think doesn't matter.

My friend Sarah and I had an awesome chat on Facebook last night that left me feeling like a burden I wasn't even aware of had been lifted from my drool covered shoulders.  I think we both left the conversation feeling recharged~ speaking truth is important and venting is so therapeutic.   It was freaking fantastic to talk about everything from sleeping, new mom loneliness, pressures of perfection, oops moments, etc...  (This is all stuff we hope to create our own little collaborative mama blog about, stay tuned, it's gonna be awesome.)  We need to create little spaces and places to think and talk and process how we are feeling, day to day, as mothers, as people, as wives, sisters, daughters and friends.  As REAL people.

For instance, earlier this winter William fell.  Yup.  Set your caged bird free, I said it.  He rolled right off the couch and landed on the floor.  A basement floor.  I almost died.  My obituary would have read: absent minded mother dies from shock after not paying attention to her infant son who rolled on the floor and busted his brain.  With my heart in my throat I immediately raced to him (he was seriously right next to me) through streaming tears and thought crazy thoughts: he's fractured his skull, there's permanent damage, he'll never learn to read or drive a car or get into college and it's all my fault.  I called his pediatrician, googled head injury in infants, watched for signs of concussion, looked into his pupils, said a prayer (or a thousand) and everything turned out fine, but still...

Turns out, I think this has happened to just about every parent.  Babies are resilient critters, but we're afraid to talk about our parenting failures, to lift the veil hiding our oops moments where we messed up and acted like real human beings, capable of making real mistakes~ GASP, say it aint so!  Sarah's sweet little boy had a similar spill and she felt much the same until talking to some friends who assured her it had happened to them too.  In this crazy world of pinterest perfection, it's so easy to try and create this image in our minds of what our lives should look like instead of actually living.

Ginny over at Cheetos for Breakfast says it well in this blog entry that I love.
"I have lots and lots of friends on Facebook who are young moms or young moms-to-be. The choices they have before them are astronomical. The websites, the mommy blogs, Pinterest (oh EVIL Pinterest). The stakes are high. The expectations are huge. The consequences of every little decision are supposedly so dire. At least that is what they say.
Somewhere along the way we began to believe a lie. And it is a LIE FROM THE PIT OF HELL. The lie that there is one right way to be a mother. The lie that we must make every RIGHT decision or the consequences will be catastrophic. The lie that we can control our children's lives. The lie that being a failure as a mother is a fate worse than death.
And even more hilarious is Kristen over at Rage Against the Minivan (best blog name ever!) in her blog entry Let's Bring The Holidays Down A Notch, urging us to slow down and to live more simply.  Although I love doing those special things to make holidays magical, I can appreciate her view point, and her sense of humor.

...We’ve got Valentine’s Day which has became The New Halloween, because God forbid you send a simple store-bought card. You’d better include some candy or your child will be shunned. Shunned! One of my kids came home with not just a candy from each class, but a WHOLE FREAKING GOODIE BAG from each student... And suddenly Pi Day is a thing? My children expect to be served pie because someone at school told them so? And Dr. Suess’s birthday and Johnny Appleseed Day . . . all things I didn’t even know existed but am now being asked how we’ll be celebrating at home.  And do not even get me started on what Easter has become. When I was a kid my mom went to the store and bought us a new dress and a pre-made plastic Easter basket for $8.99.  THE END. There was candy and we loved it. Maybe we would die some eggs from a kit sitting in the check-out lane at Target. They would look like crap.  Now we’ve got to leave footprints from the Easter Bunny and make artful, Pinterest-worthy eggs with stencils and ikat prints and probably some that are hombre.
I don’t like the feeling of disappointing my kids. But I refuse to give into this holiday overkill. I’m overwhelmed enough as it is. Today I gave all of my kids a bath. We read with each of them for the recommended 20 minutes. We reviewed our Math Facts. We practiced guitar. We sat together at the table and ate a meal that was NOT procured at a drive-thru.  We played outside. Most days, I’m struggling to achieve all these things. I can’t have these haphazard, once-monthly overblown holidays take over my life.  I can go big for Christmas and Easter. That’s all I can handle.  But I can’t do this alone. Fellow parents . . . teachers . . . sunday school workers . . . I beseech you. BRING IT DOWN A NOTCH.  Y’all are setting up expectations that I just can’t maintain. Wouldn’t we all be just a little happier if we returned to the slacker days of store-bought valentines and kit-dyed eggs and JUST WEARING A GREEN SHIRT AND CALLING IT A DAY?
For the sake of overwhelmed parents like me, I beg you. Stop the madness.
I'm not even sure all of my thoughts are well connected in this post, but because I want to embrace imperfection and being real, I'm gonna roll with it.  Just this tired mama's thoughts at the end of the day.
I need to get my butt to bed in case this evening's nighttime adventures have more puke, pee, battery ingestion goodness in store for me.

Dear God, I just pray for sleep.  
Goodnight friends!
Some pics from this week....

Who would have thought my kid would be the most quiet, attentive one at the library today?!?!

When Life Gives You Sh*t, Shovel It!

If you are not comfortable hearing the word poop, you might just want to skip reading this post because that's what's happening my my life today, yeha!

News flash, major goings on here in my little corner of the woods in Maine! Will spent the morning climbing my pant legs and saying "mamamamamamamama", which I loved, and then went down for a nap at 10 am, which I LOVE.  It's now 12:37, hold the phones!  This is an extremely rare occurrence in these here parts, so all you mamas who routinely get hour + naps, you oughtta thank your lucky stars!  What have I been doing with myself during these two hours, you ask?

Three things:
1.  Wonder when the baby monitor will squawk me back to reality.
2.  Yard work, of the sh*tty variety.
3.  Wonder if I need to do a little look-see in the nursery, but continuing on with #2

As you know, if you've read my ramblings before, we have dogs, two of them.  They are insane little monsters, but we love them anyway... I think.  It's mud season and my love is questionable at times, especially since I have a crawling baby and keeping the floor clean is seriously causing me major anxiety.  It's a no-win situation, the kid's gonna be eating some dirt despite my best efforts, but I digress.  When Maggie and Clementine came bounding and bumbling into our family back in November there was much hilarity, four legged antics, tail wagging chaos, and poop.   Lots-of-poop.

Our sweet old girl Bailey was a tremendous dog in about 1,000,000,000,000,000+ ways and though I try not to, but I can't help but compare the new pups to her.  I know it's not fair, they are their own little personalities and I will grow to love them as much as her one day.  I do love them already, it's just a different love.  Kev says I might just remember certain things about Bailey with rose colored glasses.  Nah, I remember her through "Big Sweetie" (one of her many nicknames) glasses and saw her for the angel with fur that she was.  Sure she shed a TON, would sometimes roll in totally disgusting things, once paid WAY too much attention to a privy on the Appalachian Trail, and she barked loudly at the oil delivery truck, etc... but that stuff wasn't a big deal, she was a dog after all.  To her credit, she didn't steal food off countertops (Maggie did this just yesterday by ingeniously launching herself from the opened door of the dish washer!) or jump up on you, or scarf her food like an angry wolverine, or nip your fingers when giving her treats, or dribble water all over the house after drinking from her bowl.  Best of all, Bailey never pooped on lawns, ever.  As in, I think she would probably have made herself ill before doing that, such seriously undignified doggy behavior.  It's funny because I don't even recall teaching her to be so courteous as to always seek out the woods, she just knew.  Yup, best dog ever.  Times when the vet needed a "sample" we would scratch our heads and wonder where the heck to look.

Those days are gone.

Now, we have poop.
Lots of poop.
If only it were a cash crop of some kind, we'd be rolling in it.  Instead... well, we're rolling in it.  Springtime is coming, you can smell it in the air, but in our yard, you can also smell something else, something that spurred me to pull on my Muck boots, thick rubber gloves, old clothes and trudge out the door with trash bags in hand, what a way to spend a nap time.  Oh if you could only see me now, you might be concerned I've let myself go ;)  I'm wearing the knit sock monkey hat made for me by my wonderful cousin Jennifer (that matches Will's, and Kev has one too, we're cool like that!) jeans that I may or may not have worn yesterday too (at least I'm not in my yoga pants~ the unofficial uniform of SAHMs), a tired old relic of a sweatshirt from high school complete with holes from years of use... and the icing on the cake is my knee high muck boots, attractive? No.  Do I love them?  Hell yes!
So, yeah, I'm a hot mess.

Yeah, so anyway...
Snow banks are shrinking and receding down the lawn towards the woods, mud is oozing, and the yard is calling my name.  I love yard work, getting my hands dirty and spending time outside, so I took advantage of little man's nap to get out there and try and reclaim our yard from the presents bestowed to us from our pups.  While I was working, all of the puns containing the word sh*t came to mind and I couldn't help but laugh, I must be a 12 year old boy on the inside or something, but I couldn't help it.  I was also humming the Joe Walsh song "Ordinary Average Guys", particularly the line "pick up the dog poop, hope that it's hard", I got such a kick out of that line when I was a kid... now the jokes on me.  Oh, and why the hell are my dogs eating BRICKS?  It's gross that I even have this knowledge, but now I do... that and baby wipes, rubber bands, and other undistinguishable non-dog food items.
The unmistakable guilty look of a dog who chewed her way off her run, 
the very first time she was on it, in less than 5 minutes time.
Atta girl, now it looks like invisible fence time for the puppy pals!

So this is my life now.  I am a stay at home mom who uses naptime to pick up shit off the lawn.  I have a master's degree and I get jazzed about having 2 hours to myself to pick up dog poo.  Wow... I have made a promise to myself to write more because I like how I feel when I write, but I think I may need to get a hobby, or get out more in the very least, because I just wrote a whole post about cleaning dog poo.

Hope you still love me. :)

I'll make up for it with adorable AWAKE William and puppy pics.
My babies, love 'em to pieces, poo and all!

Crazy lil' man loves his Clementine!