Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Emergency kind of says it all, doesn't it?

Actually it doesn't.

I'm sure you have taught your kids to call 911 in the case of an emergency. Some of you have probably even had "drills" with your little ones. Those drills or discussions were also likely followed by stern warnings that 911 is only for emergencies and not for fun, pretend, or when you are mad that your little sister took your doll (even if it is your favorite doll).

And how did you define emergency? My conversations with Miss B usually used the scenario of the adult in charge of her being unconscious. Surely, if the adult in charge were seriously ill or injured they would tell her to call 911, wouldn't they?

Turns out, they wouldn't.

Mid-September we had an incident involving my dad, known here and to others as Papaw. Papaw was all set to watch Miss B, as school had not yet started for the year. Usually whenever this scenario takes place I walk Miss B in the house and give any last minute info to my dad. But this time Sister Goldenhair was having a rough morning. She was very upset that she wouldn't be left with Papaw too. She was already crying when I pulled into the driveway.

I told Miss B to explain to Papaw why I couldn't come in with her that morning. I knew SG would never stay in the car without having conniptions nor would I ever get her back in the carseat if I took her inside. Miss B got out of the car and approached the house. I backed out of the driveway and could see into the living room as Miss B went inside. I saw her walking around as if looking for Papaw, before she went into the kitchen. All seemed well, so I drove away.

Ah, Gentle Reader, I was wrong.

Several hours later, as I was busy at work, I received a call from my mom. She said that she and Miss B were in the Emergency Room with Papaw.

Apparently when Miss B went into my parent's house, she found my dad on the floor. He had fallen earlier that morning. Miss B ran outside to get me, but I was just turning the corner. She went back inside and "helped" Papaw get up. She helped him to the couch, where he collapsed again. He was conscious the whole time. She fetched him drinks and covered him with a blanket. Finally he asked her to get the phone when he realized he could not stand himself up again.

If you're thinking this is where he comes to his senses and calls 911, you're wrong.

He called a neighbor to help him up (so he could get to the bathroom). The neighbors stayed for a few minutes then went home. The neighbor called my mom at work (ironically for the very hospital my dad would soon visit). He told her that dad had fallen and wasn't making a lot of sense when he talked. He thought she might want to take him to the doctor or ER. My mom asked about Miss B and was assured that she was fine.

Shortly thereafter, I received my phone call.

Parents and caretakers, please learn from my mistakes!

1. Talk to your kids about appropriate use of 911. I did this, but not extensively enough. Miss B was worried about Papaw, but she never thought about calling 911 because he was conscious and telling her what to do. This is a real tough one to explain to a kid. She knows now that she can go to another room and call for help if she is worried.

2. You always leave contact numbers for your caregiver, but give a copy to your kids. Miss B didn't know where the numbers were posted at Granny and Papaw's house. So she couldn't call me or Granny at work. My cell phone is also programmed with speed dial. Miss B knows that #4 calls Mimi, #5 calls Granny and Papaw (I have also programmed Woody's speed dial with the same numbers). Should they be with us, they can easily call someone familiar in case they are worried.

3. Men, we know you're tough. Please know your limits, especially when you're with children. My dad has always been a tough guy. He doesn't whine when he's sick (nor does he linger). He's the kind of guy who always had some sort of blister, burn, or cut on his hands, but never seemed to notice (deep down I think he believes that builds character). He worked in the building trades and was hard working and tough. It's hard for him to reconcile himself with a body that can no longer keep up. Had he been willing to ask for help, he could have been treated sooner (and Miss B might have missed this episode all together). This can apply to women too. Suck it up, people! Is it so bad to be human?

4. Understand that you are not able to forsee every negative possibility. This is totally a case of the pot calling the kettle black, but I am working on it. I try to prepare the kids for everything, but I know that I can't. This all happened about 3 months ago, and I'm finally able to not beat myself up over everything. If only I had gone inside! If only I had drilled Miss B on emergency situations more often! If only I had tatooed her with my office phone number! If only... Yeah, I can play this game all day long. All night too. Luckily, everything turned out well, or I would still be playing the blame indywriter game.

5. Sometimes all's well that ends well. This is closely related to number 4, but some things belong in the past. Use what you learned and move forward. Should you be more cautious, perhaps. But be sure that your child is not living with the event as a daily presence. Yes, this all freaked me out quite a lot. But I never shared the totality of my fears with Miss B. Have I talked to her about calling for help? Yes. Have I told her about all the worst case scenario stuff? No way! She is still a kid and while she should be educated, she doesn't need the bejeebers scared out of her. I want her to live with joy and awareness, not fear and trepidation.

And all was well in the end. Papaw is diabetic and has trouble with his legs. It turns out he had an infection in his bad leg and was running a high fever. He had also been off his oxygen for awhile, so that didn't help matters. He spent a few days in the hospital and hasn't had any problems since that day.

Oops, I did it again!

First a note... I'm sorry for neglecting you. So much has been happening in real life that I was caught up in living it, instead of blogging it. I will try to do better. Can we be friends again?


I must also apologize for using a vastly over-used song title with this post. I sincerely regret any resulting melody that may be now trapped in your brain. My bad.

Friday, August 29, 2008

I may not recover from this...

My little girl has turned 3. Sweet Sister Goldenhair is continuing to grow up. I have given both my girls strict instructions to stay little forever, but they pay me no heed. And while SG was so good at being two, I am forced to recall that three was a more challenging for age for Miss B. And so it seems to be going for SG.

What makes the terrible threes so terrible is that it's harder to figure out why they are so upset now. They can communicate so much better than when they were two, but still they fuss. You are able to give them a little more freedom, but still they melt down. They are mastering new skills and abilities, but still they scream.

I. Am. Tired.

SG has entered her threes in the fine tradition established by her sister: kicking and screaming. And it never ceases to instill a bit of awe in me that while I seem to be the meanest mom in the world to her at times, I am still the one who can hold her close and calm her down. I hug her tightly and tell her I love her. And her response is, "No." I repeat that I love her and that I know how good she can be, and she soon settles.

Sometimes this calming only works after banishment to the bedroom or corner. Then I am met with a red-eyed, tear-stained face when she apologizes. We always hug and kiss (and she will usually use this opportunity to wipe her snotty nose on my shoulder). While the end result is nice, everything before that is pretty rough.

And my girls have begun to butt heads. Their relationship seems to have gone from mutual admiration to mutual exasperation. SG loves to mimic, and it would seem that nothing drives Miss B crazier than to be copied. And it would seem that nothing drives *me* crazier than to hear the girls fight. Someone almost always ends up in tears.

This sibling rivalry is what I have most dreaded since giving birth to SG. I knew it would come. I just hope it never goes beyond superficial annoyances like copycats and tattletales. I want my girls to be friends as well as sisters. I want them to care for each other and be there for each other. If I can't have them stay little forever, then is friendship too much to ask?

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

One is not the loneliest number

So I'm back. Did anyone miss me? This has been the crazy season at work, and warm weather means more outdoor play at home. That results in less computer time.

But enough excuses...

And though I usually focus on my life as a mother, today I'm here to talk about my lunch date: me.

Let me explain something first. I have always been someone who needs and craves alone time. I can become quite grouchy if I don't have at least some time by myself. There is one exception however. I do not like to eat alone. Oh, I can grab a quick meal at home by myself, but I do not like to eat out alone. I cannot really give an exact reason why this is so. I think I feel exposed and on display.

If you've ever seen the remake of Sabrina starring Julia Ormond and Harrison Ford, then you might recognize the following quote:

"You seem to be embarrassed by loneliness, by being alone. It’s only a place to start."

And so today I started. I needed an oil change and lunch, and while the two don't normally go together, our Walmart has a Subway (ah, the joys of modern life). So I bought a book and sat alone and ate. It wasn't bad. I've definitely had worse company.

It was actually nice to be quiet and be an observer. It reminded me of something my mom once told me about when she and my dad were dating. Mom lived in West Virginia with her parents and Dad was living in Indiana with his brother and sister-in-law (so he could get a good job). Dad would tell Mom that he would try to call her on Saturday, so Mom would literally wait by the phone for his call while playing solitaire. Mom and Dad have been married nearly 41 years, but my mom does regret waiting for calls that sometimes never came. She says if she had it to do over again, she would have made Dad promise to call or set a time.

I learned many things from my mom, but I definitely learned not to wait around for the whim of a guy. And I try to keep an eye on what I'm teaching my girls. So I hope I am teaching them that they can be alone and be happy. They are the authors of their own stories, and they deserve to know who they are and to be comfortable enough with that person that they can enjoy solitude.

The character from Sabrina who I quoted earlier also said, "I met myself in Paris." While it is certainly a great deal less poetic, I can now say, "I met myself in a Subway... and the pepper turkey and the company were delicious."

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

You're Gonna Miss This

Okay, *you* probably won't miss this post, since you are here now. But what I'm referring to is actually a song. You may be shocked to learn that this mom is a serious music lover.

Actually if you've read any previous posts, you already know this. But I'm not just someone who enjoys music, I really listen to it. I know all the words. And, my apologies to those within earshot, I cannot resist singing along. I firmly believe that there is a perfect song for every situation. So music is a big part of my life.

And those songs that seem to speak to me the most aren't the romantic ballads that boast of life long love (though those are great). As is usual with me, it's all about the kids. If a song is about kids or if I can apply it that way, it gets me. I'm a total sucker. And since I can cry at the drop of a hat, I cannot duck the label of sentimental sap.

Ah but friends, it's the only way to be!

While I do live in the moment, I am also well aware of how fast time passes. Whenever I look at Miss B, I remember the days when her hair fell in perfect curls around her sweetly chubby, baby face. Now she is 7! I don't know how it happened, and though I have dragged my feet as much as possible, time keeps moving forward.

And while Sister Goldenhair in her infinite toddler wisdom swears she is a baby, my heart knows the truth. She is big girl now (though I hope she will always insist, "No, I the baby!"). SG will be 3 this summer. How can this be?

And since I am a good mom, I will forever be a contradiction. I will strive to raise strong women who grow to be wise, loving, and gentle in spirit. But I will remember and miss the times when they weren't all those things yet. Who wouldn't miss being the most important person in someone's life? And yet that what parents give up when they do their job. I know I will always be important to them, but one day they will marry and start their own families.

And while I am well aware of all that I'll miss, there are times when I wish they weren't quite so good at being kids. When they bicker, whine, and pout I find that I wish they were past the stage du jour (I blame sleep deprivation for actually believing that this will improve before they pass the teenage years). But all too soon I remember just what that means. No chubby hands holding my cheeks for the perfect kiss. No one begging me to do that silly dance one more time. No one sitting on my lap. No one wanting me to play games with them or read Llama, Llama Red Pajamas and Goodnight Moon to them one more time. Someday my family room won't be devoted to a children's play space. How terrible!

And someday, my home won't be their home anymore. Yikes!

And so I'll share another song with you: You're Gonna Miss This. You will. Sure, whenever I'm cleaning up after the latest bout of the Mysterious Barfing Flu, I say I won't miss it. But even then, I will.

And if you have kids, you know what I mean. So take a minute to enjoy Trace Adkins ode to living in the moment. And remember to remember, 'cause you *will* miss this.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Thriving on Chaos

As a graduate student in somewhat stressful one-year MS program, one of my professors required students to purchase a book by Tom Peters titled Thriving on Chaos. The overall idea is that successful people are able to adjust to the craziness around them.

This book could easily have been written by a mom. No matter how crazy it may be at work, it never compares to the stuff that gets thrown at me at home. I could write my own book: Thriving on Chaos and How To Remove the Subsequent Stains. It would be an emotional tour de force; one mom's attempt to make it through one week without anyone getting sick, injured or insulted.

But most moms know that this actually impossible.

You may recall my last post was about the scourge that is head lice. Since that post my life has been chaotic (but thankfully not in a Britney Spears sort of way). Miss B was soon louse free, but immediately thereafter was afflicted with Fifth Disease. Luckily, she seems to have had a minor case. But of course she was covered with the lacey rash that accompanied her bouts of nausea, which required some strategic fashion choices.

Sister Goldenhair escaped this ailment (as did everyone else in the family), but we had to watch out for a couple weeks to be certain. But SG did have another bout with the Mystery Fever (insert ominous music here). Nothing specific was diagnosed, and she soon recovered. I even spent a day hovering near the brink of death. Okay, so maybe I'm exaggerating just a tad. But I was an utterly miserable specimen for 24 hours.

We've had the school carnival, a mini heatwave, a cold snap, and a consuming Craftster swap. All since I last blogged. And of course there has been the day to day, average chaos that consumes us all. I often thought about posting, but would decide that it would take too long to tell it all. But finally I got enough distance that I didn't feel compelled to share all infinite minutiae of each event (lucky you!).

And so I close this chaotic entry with some of the best news I've heard in a long while (and no it's not that my criminal background check came out clean, meaning I'm a go for the 1st grade field trip to the zoo): My maternal grandmother (my sole remaining grandparent) is coming out for a visit at the end of the month! She has always been one of my very favorite people. And I am thrilled for every opportunity I have to spend with her. I'm glad she'll get to see my girls too. What can I say? I am my grandma's girl.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The two most frightening words in my world: HEAD LICE

Did your skin just crawl? Mine sure did.

Nearly one year ago, Miss B came home from school with an uninvited guest. I happened to take her to work with me as she was feeling a bit puny. We walked through the hallways near my office to get some water when I saw something in her hair. I thought it was just a piece of fuzz.

An average day went from average to one of the worst in about 3 seconds. As I tried to move the fuzz, it moved itself. I nearly screamed. My daughter's head was crawling with bugs. How had she not gone crazy? I ask this question because just a few days later, I found a louse on my head. On my head. On. MY. Head. My first reaction to this was to call my mommy and cry.

And I still haven't gotten over it. Every itch of my head triggers flashbacks to the days of RID and lice combs. If it's possible for someone to get Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from head lice, then I know that I have that. I can be very strong in the face of danger and tragedy, but I cannot in any way not lose my mind when there are tiny little bugs crawling on my head! And my husband is afflicted with male pattern blindness. Just as he cannot see dosage information on medicine labels, notes asking him to do something before I get home, or numerous other things in plain sight, Woody could not seem to see any of the nits or eggs in my hair. This meant that I spent at least an hour every night combing my hair with one of those awful little red combs with the wire teeth.

Finally one night I didn't get anything in the comb. Then it was two nights. After about 2 weeks, I decided they were really gone.

But now they are back. Some how I made it through my entire education without getting lice. And my daughter not only gets it and gives it to me, she gets it again. I'm already starting to crack. I haven't found any on me or Sister Goldenhair (though I cannot be certain since I was checking her hair with a flashlight as she slept). I just hope that all will be well with everyone else.

And so I will take my heebie jeebies and go to bed. Any bets on what I'll dream about tonight?

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

A letter to my teenage self

There's a song currently in play on country stations (I listen to a lot of different types of music, so please no harassing comments *g*). It's by Brad Paisley and it's called "Letter to Me." It's all about him wanting to writer a letter to himself at age 17. It's full of advice and comforting words.

This has got me to thinking. What would I say to myself as a teenager? What would I change? What did I worry about back then, that I shouldn't have? And so I present a letter to a teen aged indywriter...

Dear indy,

I know high school is a strange time in a girl's life. You are with your friends all day, but you're also with people who drive you crazy. You want to make your own decisions, but you still have to abide by your parents' rules. You care a lot about what's going on in your little world, but you know there is a bigger world waiting for you.

First of all, don't let that cocky guy in history class get to you. He won't be successful at that prestigious school he got into. They will finally do something about his propensity for cheating. And really, you shouldn't worry about him anyway.

Enjoy your time in music classes. You haven't found time since then to own or practice a saxophone. You will miss it.

You really might want to reconsider your intended major. While you enjoy the topic, you will never get a job in your field.

Tell your mom thanks. She deserves it for putting up with you and your moods (yes, you do have them). You guys will be friends. And when you and your dad butt heads (again), know that one day you will get along and even talk on the phone. He will mellow when you move out of the house, and he will love your kids.

That's right, you will have two beautiful children. I'm not gonna give all the surprises away, but you should know that motherhood is more than you ever dreamed possible. It's not all glamorous and guaranteed love, but it will change you in every possible way. And those changes are for the better (except for what happens to your stomach, but the trade off is worth it).

But you should know that you won't have those kids with who you think you will. You will dump your current guy when you're in college. You will be thankful for the paths you chose not to take and will wish you did it long ago. You will meet someone. He won't be a doctor or a lawyer, but he will be a good man and a good dad. Even better is that you love his parents. His mom will become a very good friend to you.

Your brother will always be a dork, but you will get along well (and not just 'cause he's your brother).

You will keep in touch with your best friend. You will still hang out, and you will be happy to see that the guy she marries loves her very much.

You know that you grumble a bit about spending every spring break in WV with your grandparents and family, but you secretly love every minute of it. But don't grumble. Don't joke about not going to the beach. Let your grandparents know how much you adore them.

Sit with Grandpa and listen to his music with him. You will learn to love it someday, but he would be trilled to share it with you. And play gin rummy with him until he's tired of it. I know you get bored with it after several hands, but you can't imagine how much you will wish you could still play cards with him. You should know that he will be gone too soon. You will hurt for a long time and you will miss him forever.

And your great aunts? They will be gone sooner than you think too. Enjoy "the old ladies" whenever you get the chance. They always enjoy you and your little ones.

Just know that the things you worry about now, will not be the same things you worry about in the future. You will be blessed in all the ways that really matter.

So take a deep breath and relax. Enjoy your life (and dump that guy you think is so great).



Tuesday, February 5, 2008

In the meantime: Life

So it's been awhile, my friends. I have been neglecting my little piece of cyberspace here. It seems that I have been quite busy with the business of life. I've been playing with my girls, sewing some very belated Christmas gifts, and remodeling my bathroom (and anyone who has remodeled a bathroom or kitchen knows that the whole house becomes involved). The girls have been sick, as have I.

But something else has kept me away. A part of life as vital to our existence as birth itself: death. I lost my beautiful, sweet-spirited grandmother. Grandma had been in a nursing home for the last several years. She was far away from me, and after my aunt died two years ago and my maternal grandmother moved away from the area, there was no place to stay except a hotel. So I hadn't seen much of her since Sister Goldenhair was born. And while this saddened me, I was also ashamed. I feel like I should have done more to get to her, but the expense, distance, and childcare arrangements made it impossible to coordinate.

I can remember talking to her on the phone and asking her how she was feeling. She would usually mention some ailment, but this was always followed by, "But I've got to grin and bear it, or die and leave it." I guess it was finally time for her to leave her suffering behind. She suffered a couple of strokes and then passed away.

I was charged, shortly before her death, with making a photo board to display for her funeral. I sorted through photos and was please to find my favorite pictures of Grandma. There are a series of four pictures taken when we went on a family vacation to Florida. I was in between first and second grade and Grandma had never been in the ocean. These pictures depict my father (usually referred to here as Papaw) and my other grandmother alongside my Grandma. They got her to kneel down in the water, and she got nailed by a small wave. I remember us all laughing and Grandma soaked in salt water and tears of mirth.

I found pictures of her as a sister, as a mother, as a wife, and as a grandmother. But I love most the ones of her alone. They seem to show so much more of who I remember. There is a picture of her with her white wig in her hand, her head covered with short, fluffy, white hair after her chemo was all over. And she was laughing. She seemed to always be in on some joke or another. Another picture showed her standing in front of a green house with her hands on her hips. She is smiling, but she looks like she was ready to take care of business. I didn't recognize the house, so I asked my mom. It turns out that it was a house that my grandma used to clean. My dad grew up working, and he learned it from his mother.

But I remember grandma from her later years. She lived off of social security in a small home. And she would laugh. I remember the way her eyes would crinkle as she chuckled at one thing or another. And she always made oatmeal cake when her kids came to visit. And she always had cookies for me (before I could say "Grandma," I called her "Cookies"). And fried apples, she always cooked me fried apples with dinner. And she wouldn't let my dad force me to eat food I didn't like. Grandma was like an angel to me.

As many young kids do, I went through a phase where I didn't want to visit my grandparents. I loved them, but it was a six hour trip. And if we stayed with Grandma, I usually had to sleep in her bed. But every year for spring break we made the trip and spent the week with my grandparents. It might have been tedious for a couple of years, but I am so glad that I spent that time with my family. And it has had a deep impact on me as a parent. Before I married Woody I made it clear that I would not be moving far from our families. I wanted our kids to be able to see their grandparents as often as possible. And they usually see them about once a week or more. I always made due with seeing mine about twice a year.

And so while I haven't been sharing my thoughts here, I have speant a lot of time thinking lately. While I'm glad that Grandma isn't suffering anymore, it's never a good time to lose someone you love. And it doesn't make it any easier to see your parents grieving over their loss. The hardest part of all of this has to be watching my dad cry for his mother. The next hardest part is trying to grieve as I need to but without upsetting the girls. Miss B is old enough to understand the abstract idea that her great-grandmother is dead. But because they were never able to be very close, it still isn't an event that deeply affects her. Luckily, I'm more to the point of remembering happy times and feel less need to cry.

And so I will leave you with my memories of a great lady. Her laugh, her spirit, and her love of the Lord. Fried apples,biscuits, cookies, Pizza Hut, cream horns, and ice cream sandwiches. She beat cancer twice, survived a heart attack, and buried a daughter. I remember her smile when she would see us at her front door. And best of all, I remember that she was always proud of me and took joy in my accomplishments (including my girls).

Friday, January 4, 2008

That wasn't in the brochure...

Motherhood is a blessing. I cannot imagine my life without my beautiful and talented girls by my side. I wouldn't change a hair on their heads.

Motherhood is just as wonderful as "they" say it is... except when it isn't.

While all those things I said were true, it doesn't mean that I haven't had little fantasies involving running away from home, entering the Witness Protection Program, or having Calgon take me away. It seems sometimes that motherhood is like a sorority during pledge week. To the uninitiated it all seems so perfect and supportive. You see all the members of Tri Gamma Mamma with their sleek hairdos and well-dressed tots. You want to be a part of this group.

But just like other misguided sororities, hazing runs rampant. And once you join, there's no way out. Let's face it, motherhood is not for the faint of heart. Yes, as a mother you will experience great love and emotional bonding with your child, but you will also experience moments of heart-stopping fear. Your body can produce and nourish a person, but it will never be the same again.

And so, for your reading pleasure, I give you a list of things I never thought I'd say:

I hope someday you have a kid just like you. -- Not my proudest moment and not because I used "the curse" on my kid, but because I'd hoped to hold onto it until she was in her rebellious teen years. What can I say? Sleep deprivation does bad things to me.

Thank God! I'm so happy I ran over the tricycle! -- No, I haven't resorted to running over toys that have fallen from favor. This one involves that fear I mentioned earlier. I was just moving my car back a few feet in the driveway. I had seen that Miss B (who was close to 3 at the time) was safely away from the driveway, but when you feel something under your wheel and hear a child's screams and cries... I lost ten years off my life that day. But luckily, the only other casualty was the trike (at whose demise my daughter screamed and cried).

Fine, do it. Knock yourself out. -- That's right. I channeled my mother. This was her preferred phrase of exasperation. Think of it as shorthand for: "Listen, dear child, you are annoying me with your persistent harping. I am giving in because my ears are about to bleed, and I don't think that allowing you to do this will result in bodily harm (for either of us)." I swore I'd never say it, but it did take much longer to come out than "the curse."

At least I learned how to get chocolate-milk-based-barf out of cashmere. -- I really think that this one is self-explanatory.

And yes, despite the fact that I have never once vacuumed while wearing pearls and high heels, this motherhood thing does live up to the hype. And when you think about the miracle that are children, it makes the sleep-depriving, barf-covered, life-span-reducing, please-will-someone-end-this-nagging moments worth every minute, even if I do resort to mentally planning my escape to Zihuatanejo.