Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Parenting -- the good, the bad, and the vomit...

When I was pregnant, I pictured all of the wonderful things my daughter and I would do together. My mind was full of first steps, cuddles during story time, baking together, dance classes, prom dresses – you know, lovely Hallmark moments. I cheered for her like a crazed twelve year old at a New Kids on the Block concert when she walked at 11 months. We cuddle daily for many stories (some of which she and I have both memorized) and I love to bake her favorite blueberry muffins with her as my trusted sous chef. However, there are many moments I did not imagine and these are the moments that I have come to believe define being a parent. Motherhood is not spun in pink tulle and is certainly not glamorous. Some examples…
My daughter is not a great sleeper, however, she recently moved to a big girl bed and slept through the night for two solid weeks in a row. Two solid weeks of beautiful and uninterrupted sleep. This was a record and my husband and I were finally seeing the light at the end of a very sleep deprived tunnel. Well, we definitely counted our sheep before they hatched because after a terrible nightmare, she became terrified of her room (honestly, who wouldn’t be scared after dreaming about your sound monitors attacking your beloved penguin humidifier?). After much coaxing and lots of convincing, she ventured back to her bed. Bryan and I high fived our awesome parenting skills and then two days later she got sick. I’m talking double ear infection, screaming at night, can’t sleep, sick. Ugh.
Speaking of being sick, in the past three weeks, I have been sneezed upon, coughed upon, and thrown up upon. The best was when my husband just stared at us on the bathroom floor after she threw up in my lap. Just stared at us. For any of you that may someday find yourself in this position, fetching a towel is a nice gesture. In Bryan’s defense, he said that he was waiting for “direction.”
As a grown up, I frequently have ear infections but after three in six months, it was suggested I see an ENT. He asked many questions, reviewed my file, and thoroughly examined my ears and nose. After finding nothing out of the ordinary and declaring that I have excellent eardrums, he asked if my daughter was in daycare. I answered that she attends preschool two mornings a week and has since September. Six months ago. Yep, you guessed it. The lovely germs she is bringing home with her are causing my congestion and subsequent ear infections. Awesome.
I have also found myself doing things around the house that I never imagined. I now routinely vacuum the coffee table because it is the most efficient way to pick up all of the cheerios, pieces of play dough, broken crayons, and other miscellaneous debris. Our mantle looks like the holding ground for the world’s lost and misplaced objects because it is the highest spot to stash items out of Teagan’s reach. On that note, I frequently find strange objects in my purse while out and about – one stray sock, Minnie Mouse’s shoes, a broken barrette. I can only imagine what the sales people think of me while digging for my wallet when Teagan is not with me to prove my ownership over these items is not the beginning stages of hoarding.
But you know what? There is beauty in the sleep deprivation, vomit, ear infections, and random objects because they are real. They are the foundation and substance of daily life as a parent and it would be a shame to miss out on so much. Plus, I still have dance classes and prom dresses to look forward to.


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's Day Redefined

For those of you that hate Valentine’s Day, I am here to tell you to RECLAIM and REDEFINE it! It is NOT a day about overpriced flowers, crowded restaurants, and jewelry boxes. It is NOT a day to be enjoyed only by those in romantic relationships. It IS a day to unabashedly celebrate LOVE. Family love, friendly love, neighborly love, love for your pets, love for yourself – well, you get where I am going.  
After a rough start involving an incredibly cranky toddler, a trip back to preschool to deliver a forgotten hat, and one killer headache, this is my plan for the day…I will bake brownies for my husband because they are his favorite (if you are reading this, please politely feign surprise). I will pack a special lunch for my daughter and enjoy seeing the obligatory pink hearts through her fresh and admiring eyes. I will reach out to friends and let them know how happy I am they are part of my life. I will deliver small surprises to our neighbors to thank them for being so welcoming and kind this past year. I will remember how patient my cat is with my curious baby girl and let her sit in my lap for an extra few minutes. I will treat myself to a small cup of pear sorbet made by hand at a bakery I just discovered near our house.
Could I do these things on an ordinary Tuesday? Sure (and perhaps I should). But I am a sucker for a holiday and Valentine’s Day is a great reminder to appreciate and celebrate ALL of the love in my life. I urge you to do the same and would love to hear about it.


Sunday, February 12, 2012

Short and Sweet -- Lessons for My Daughter

My husband says, “Parenting is a full contact sport around here.” And he’s right. Parents spend so much time worrying and competing over stupid stuff. Cases in point…
Am I pushing the right stroller? Ummm…does it have wheels? Is your child comfortable and willing to spend more than two minutes strapped into it? Does it have a cup holder? If so, you are probably good.
Is my infant enrolled in enough enrichment classes? Full disclosure: Yes, I admit that my daughter and I did Itsy Bitsy Yoga BUT it was an awesome way for to me to acclimate to taking her out of the house by myself and I frequently used some of the techniques in the real world to successfully calm her down. Plus, I met two amazing moms that I still spend time with…okay, maybe I should not pick on the infant classes. Although, I stand by my stance that six month olds do not need art appreciation.
Why doesn’t my child sleep according to the schedule in the book? Maybe if you leave the book open for your child’s perusal during tummy time, they will pick it up.
Will my toddler’s preschool prepare her for an Ivy? All I am looking for is a safe and comforting place for her to get a little bit of socialization, play outside, sing some songs, and make a few crafts. Plus, the few hours twice a week help keep me sane. Everybody knows that a happy mom makes for an even happier family!   
I have only been at this mom gig for a little over two years but I am sure it just gets more intense from here. This area is full of highly educated, driven, and successful people, therefore, it should not be surprising that everyone wants their children to attend the very best schools (even if it costs $35,000 a year), be on the most competitive athletic teams, and go on to prestigious universities. With all of this nonsense in the air, it could be easy to lose sight of what is really important. With this in mind, I have been giving two questions a great deal of thought this week: 1) What do I want to pass on to my daughter? 2) What do I consider the truly important lessons? This is a work in progress but here is what I have come up with so far. Short and sweet -- much like my lovable toddler.
Use your manners. “Please” and “thank you” are a few of the words that keep our society from completely spiraling out of control. Do your part – yes, even at two years old. 
Make good choices. The popular one is rarely the best option.
Books are your friend. Losing yourself in the pages of a good book is one of life’s sweetest pleasures.
Relationships with friends and family can sometimes be hard work – do not be scared to put in the effort.
Fight for your own happiness. Nobody else can do it for you. (Ignore the people that say going after happiness is a silly pursuit. They will get it one day.)
It is not a bad idea to always have a snack with you. You never know when your blood sugar will need a pick me up. Plus, you will be able to share it with others and sharing your snack with a hungry friend will make it taste even sweeter.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Dorothy was one smart cookie...

We moved into our house a little over a year ago and I still miss the condo. Does the house have more living space? Yes. Is there a yard for Teagan to play in? Yes. Do we live in a family friendly neighborhood with nice neighbors? Yes. Do I feel ungrateful for still missing the condo and wishing we still lived there almost on a daily basis? Absolutely. But here is the thing…this house does not feel like home to me. The condo was so sublimely me. Every inch of space felt like home. I loved being on the sixth floor, having a great view, and a pool to use in the summer. I adored my red dining room, large bedrooms, and endless hot water. I thoroughly enjoyed walking to the grocery store, Starbucks, multiple places to eat, and the library. The gut-wrenching part is that I also feel like I left so many precious memories there. After we got married, Bryan moved in and we happily lived as newlyweds spending Sunday mornings reading the paper in bed. We adopted a cat and Bryan learned to love his very first pet. I spent a full day having contractions there before it was finally time to go to the hospital at midnight and meet our baby girl. It was Teagan’s first home and where I rocked her as an infant. We celebrated Teagan’s first birthday there with food, cake, friends, and family. We took walks in the hallways during Snowmageddon to alleviate going stir crazy and the night person at the front desk always greeted me by saying, “There she is! How are you darling?” Did I mention that our skyline view included the building where we had our wedding reception? I was attached to that.
Of course, we have started to make memories here as well. This Christmas was the first time we had both sets of grandparents together for the holiday. Growing up, that was never an option for me and I was thrilled to be able to provide that special experience for Teagan. I gave Bryan a grill for his birthday last year and he happily spent the spring and summer making food for anyone that would eat it.  We finally have a proper guest room and it has been lovely to have friends and family take advantage of it. But I still miss the condo.
I am inspired as of late to shake things up around here – to make 2012 a better, inspiring, and more fulfilling year. The first item on my agenda is to make this house my home. Going back to the condo is not an option and living in the past is an ugly way to spend today. I need to accept this house, open my heart to it, and forge a way to transform it into my home. We have painted several rooms and even redone a bathroom…both have helped a bit. However, I think I need to concentrate on the little things…hooks by the front door for my keys since the bowl I previously used simply does not have a place in this new setup. Accepting that the bed frame I chose for the master bedroom condo is just too large for our new room. Hanging up a magnet board in the kitchen so that I am able to proudly display Teagan’s greatest masterpieces.  I have started a list of these small things and it is my plan to dedicate time to one of them each day.
I have begun to think of myself as having a relationship with this house. I need to learn to work with it, not against it. I need to accept it for what it is and be proud to bring out its best qualities. And I must stop comparing it to past homefriends.


Sunday, February 5, 2012

Starting a blog...

Lately, I have found myself comparing my brain cells to lemmings – they are all on the edge and lined up to be the next one to fall off the cliff. In an effort to convince a few to retreat and continue the good fight, I have decided to blog. Blog, blog, blog. Part of me worries that it is too trendy of an enterprise…everyone has a blog these days – does anyone really need my take added to the masses? However, I think I will find satisfaction in seeing my words appear somewhere else besides the back of eyelids. In addition, I am hopeful that satisfaction will convince me to keep coming back to the keyboard. A blog it is.
I have an English degree and I was so happy pursuing that degree in what I lovingly refer to as Auburn Part II. I adored spending my time reading, writing, and talking about reading and writing. I was happy to surround myself with the quiet peace that only a library can provide (not to mention the intoxicating smell of so many books). I loved sharing my thoughts, choosing just the right word, and challenging myself. I think that blogging might be the real world equivalent of being an English major. Now, if only it came with required reading lists and heated discussions, I would be in bookworm heaven.
I am pretty confident I will only have one reader. Valerie, I am looking at you! (However, you always were my best critic so I eagerly anticipate your feedback!) But I am creating this blog for myself  – gaining readers would just be the cherry on top of a long overdue sundae.
For now, I am happy to be joining the party! Brain cells, you better WERK!