Friday, December 31, 2010

Year's End

As I sit here on New Year's Eve with my favorite four people in the world, I can't help but think back on the year that was. It wasn't a remarkable year by any means, but it was one where I feel like things began to fall into place.

There were definite ups and downs this year. but I feel so content going into 2011. Don't get me wrong, my kids frustrate me at times, the house is always a mess, there are times when Pat pisses me off (I seriously doubt that I ever piss him off) and there are always bills to pay, but I really feel good about the coming year. I have no idea what this year will bring, but something tells me it will be a great year!

My hopes and dreams for 2011:

To spend more time really enjoying my children
To have more patience so that I can enjoy my children
To spend more time working on me
To spend more time with my husband
To make my 40th year the best it can be.

More concrete goals:

Continue my workout schedule
Run a 5K with Pat in the spring
Become more organized when it comes to menu planning
Get my budget in check

Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

basement renovation

A few months ago, we decided that the time was right to finally finish the basement. We've lived in this house for over four years and we had intended to do it three years ago, but instead we had another baby!

The contract was signed on Nov 2 and work began on Dec 1. Once finished we will have a full bath and some adult, as well as kid, space. We are very excited.









I will update periodically as more work is completed.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

candy anyone?




I just realized that I forgot to write about Emma's first trip to the Emergency room a few weeks back. I got sidetracked by other issues.

Sarah, Emma and I were sitting on the couch watching TV just before bedtime. I was playing on my laptop while they sat next to me finishing up some Halloween candy. I can't remember what Sarah was eating, but Emma had a roll of Smarties and was gingerly nibbling the edges of them, one by one. Emma starts fussing and Sarah yells, she's got an M & M up her nose. I threw the laptop to the ground and grab Emma and try to look up her nose. All the while, asking her "did you put something up your nose". She just started crying (I probably scared her to death) and wouldn't answer me. Pat jumped off of his couch and got a flashlight. WE laid her down, and then I saw it. A rounded edge of a yellow Smartie was clearly evident just beyond the main cavity of her left nostril. Pat asked if I was sure it wasn't an M&M. I have no idea where Sarah got that idea from, maybe she was eating the M&M's but Emma was definitely eating Smarties.

I scooped up Emma, grabbed my shoes, wallet & keys and headed out the door. Thankfully, we live half a mile from the hospital. In retrospect, I 'm sure I could have handled this at home, but I panicked and didn't want to make it worse. She was crying pretty bad at this point and giving me looks that made it seem as if it were burning the inside of her nose.

I got to the ER and we ended up having to wait for what seemed FOREVER before they even talked to us to find out what the problem was. Eventually, the called us to the desk and we gave them the scenario and Emma got her pretty green and white bracelets. by the time we sat back down to wait some more to be seen, Emma had stopped crying. I think that all the tears and snot melted the bugger away on their own.

The nurse called us into the Pediatric wind and got us situated. I turned on some TV for Emma and she sat calmly on the bed. They took her vitals and then the doctor came in. She was great, her bedside manner was wonderful. We laughed about the candy and I told her that I think it had already melted away. She took a look and asked me if I knew what color the candy was. I told her yellow, she responded, "Yep, sure is!"

We laid Emma down and she used a long swab to scoop out what was in there...bright yellow goop. Then she used a saline was to rinse things out. Emma did not like that at all. But, she recovered quickly. We picked out a sticker and were discharged.

the whole time we were there, I was texting Pat with updates. He was telling me that Sarah was so worried for her sister. I had to take a picture and send it to him so that he could show her that everything was ok.

She remembers it all, and probably will. She has a great memory! Last week she had a cold and told us that she had boogies in her nose and that we had to go to the hospital to get them taken out just like when she had the candy in her nose!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thankful

This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for so much.

For family that lives nearby so that my children can have wonderful relationships with Aunts and Uncles, Grandparents & cousins.

For friends who let me vent and be myself.

For children who give me hugs, even though it was just after they royally pissed me off.

For my husband who puts up with me as much as I put up with him. Who is my best friend and companion, and the love of my life.

We have our health home filled with love and laughter, a roof over our heads, food in the cupboards and clothes on our backs. We are blessed.

Monday, November 15, 2010

love

My birthday was last week, and it fucking sucked. I didn't get to see any of my family before I left for the day, which isn't anything that different, but usually Pat gets up and we have coffee while reading the paper together. Normally this wouldn't be a big deal, but in looking back, it just adds to my shittastic day.

I am able to squeeze a quick workout in after work and go to pick up my kids from aftercare and daycare. Sarah wishes me a happy birthday, and then as we drive away from the school, she proceeds to fight with me about going to choir. We get Emma and head home to where I find cards and birthday gifts, unwrapped, set out on the kitchen table. I open the card from the kids and it's great, I love it. Pat's card is nice, but there isn't a thing written in it. The gifts are fine, strange, but fine; he got me a pillow and a lap desk for my laptop-neither of which I needed or wanted. My husband got home, and figured out what we would have for dinner and went and picked it up. He could tell I wasn't thrilled about the gifts, but never said a word to me about how my day went, never said happy birthday, never gave me even a hug or a kiss. We went to bed and he fell asleep as soon as his head hit the pillow.

I woke up Thursday morning in a horrible mood. As I got ready for work, it hit me that the only person who hugged me the day before was the toddler. The only person who told me they loved me on my birthday was the toddler. I cried on my way to work and got so angry with my husband for being an insensitive jerk.

I had a long talk with one of my best friends at work and she told me that I needed to have a talk with him about how I felt and that it wasn't anything to do with the gifts. She worked with me on finding the words to tell him that I need more affection, things needed to change.

I followed her advice and we had a great talk after dinner that day. He agreed that he needed to do better and that we needed to work on things. He neglected to give me the hug and kiss that I needed though. Our evening was interrupted by a trip to the ER with the little one, but he genuinely seemed concerned and willing to put forth more effort.

The next few days, he was working in the evening, but he made it a point to kiss me goodbye and tell me he loved me. But that was the extent of it. Last night, was our first evening together in a few days. We were having some decent conversation during the Steelers game, despite sitting on two separate couches (something I told him was getting in the way of our emotional intimacy). He wasn't that into the game and had said that if the Steelers fell behind by 14 points, he was turning off the game. At halftime, we closed up, went upstairs, and got ready for bed. He cleared off his side of the bed and then went downstairs, I assumed, because he had forgotten to do something. He never came back up. The game continued to be a blow –out and he stayed downstairs. I began to get pissed. The later it got, the more pissed I became. Emma woke up and needed to go potty, and when I got up with her and he still wasn't in the bed, I was fuming.

Maybe I'm overreacting, but I really felt like we needed to spend time together, talking or just being close, considering what went down on my birthday and the fact that he just came off working an evening shift which means we don't get to see too much of each other.

I am still pissed off this morning. I really feel like he wasn't even listening to what I said the other night. I need to feel appreciated, I need to feel as though I am important, I need you to ask how my day went, I need you to touch me, a hug, a kiss, a hand on my back. I need to feel like you are putting me and our marriage first every now and again. I need you to realize that when I tell you that I had a rough day with the kids, that I need some support from you, a hug, something.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

hiatus

It has been a while since I've written anything here. I just ran out of time be able to put anything coherent down in writing. I promise to be better!

Here are some highlights that I hope I'll be able to write more about later.

I had an amazing night out with college girlfriends last weekend. It was so much fun and so needed!

We finally decided on a contractor for our basement renovation project, and signed the contract today! He says he should be able to start in two weeks, maybe sooner if we can get the basement cleared out fast!

Sarah's soccer season has been going well, they were undefeated until this past Saturday, which means even though they probably have the best record, they won't be playing in the championship next week.

I started, and just re-started, the Couch to 5K program (C25K). I am very excited to be doing this. Hoping to participate in a virtual 5K with the Sisterhood of the Shrinking Jeans. and then sometime in the spring, Pat and I want to do a real 5K together.

Friday, October 1, 2010

pain

Last week was a bad week for two friends of mine.

As a counselor, I am used to hearing bad news, and helping people through a crisis. However, it is sometimes much harder when it is people you know. And when the crisis they are gong through is one that you haven't even come close to experiencing yourself.

One of my closest girlfriends at work called in sick last Tuesday. I assumed it was something with her little one, until she came into work the next day. It turns out her 2 year old was fine. Instead, she informed me, she had suffered a miscarriage. Since she was 12 weeks along, we all had thought she was in the "safe zone". She was devastated--is devastated. She is in so much pain, and is trying to find ways to overcome it. She hasn't talked much about it, because she says it hurts too much. She feels as though her husband just doesn't understand the connection she already felt with this baby. She had named it, thought about how she would decorate the nursery, made plans that now she has to put on hold. She struggled to get pregnant with her first child and it took a while for this pregnancy to come to be as well. She knows she is older and things aren't going to get easier. I am sure this experience has also opened fresh wounds from her first pregnancy-she initially was pregnant with twins, but due to serious medical complications, she had to selectively reduce one of the babies. Thankfully, I haven't lost a pregnancy, nor have I had to make the devastating choice to save one child over another. I can't imagine what she is going through, and I hope that my open arms, open heart , and caring ear has, and will continue, to help her in the grieving process.

Another woman, who I consider a friend, even though we have never met face to face, is going through a horribly painful, life shattering divorce. She has been struggling with so many issues for so many months, only to learn of horrendous betrayal that multiplied last week. It is much harder to offer support over the many miles between us. I send encouraging words and positive thoughts her way, and take comfort in knowing that she has an incredible circle of friends to lean on during her darkest hours. The written word, through tweets and emails, is not always the best way to express oneself. I struggle to find the right combination of words to express my concern, and support.

It is times like these where I wish I had a magic wand to take away the deep pain that both of these women and their families are struggling with.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

I hate sundays

I am not sure what it is about Sundays that get my children to decide to make my life miserable. Without fail, my Sunday morning is spent yelling and screaming trying to get them out of the house so that we can get to church in time for Sunday School.

Today, the argument was primarily with Sarah who refused to put her clean clothes away from yesterday. Pat yelled at her that her play date would be cancelled if she didn't take care of it. Of course, the hysterics began. It becomes all about how horrible we are as parents, not about her responsibilities.

I hate the fighting that always precedes church. I hate yelling at my kids. I hate feeling this way on a day when you are supposed to rejoice. Part of me wants to just leave them at home. Of course, that defeats the point of teaching them about God and religion. Part of me is so jealous of those who don't go to church. To wake up with no agenda, no rush to be somewhere. To be able to leisurely plan my day. But then again, I'm sure my kids would fight me about that too!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

potty time

One of my good friends had a daughter a few weeks after we had Emma. We've been comparing their developmental milestones ever since. Emma sat first, M spoke first (I'm pretty sure M spoke in full sentences before Emma said 2 words, Emma walked first, M recognized colors and letters (seriously, this girl is smart). Well, my girlfriend decided that when M was 18 months old, she was ready to potty train. She bought pull-ups and got some books and videos and was determined to have her potty trained. She told me stories of friends who potty trained their kids that early and she was determined. I was skeptical, but she was a first time mom and, well, you know how they can be (wink).

So as the days-and then weeks-went on, L shared her frustration with the whole process. She was upset that the daycare provider was not working with her, she was upset that her daughter didn't seem to be making progress, even though she would use the potty at home a few times a day. I tried to tell her that it was probably too soon. I also shared with her my suggestions on potty training, but she brushed them off. I don't know what it is about this process that makes mothers so defensive. Friends have come to me with numerous parenting questions from breastfeeding advice to what first foods should they try. However, when it comes to potty training, everyone thinks they have the best solution. I certainly don't profess to be an expert, but I am on my third child and I've learned a few things along the way. But, whatever, you keep trying your method and let me know how that works.

I am a firm believer in naked potty training. Pull-ups are only used for outings, naps & bedtimes. The way I see it, if you teach them to pee in a pull up, it is no different than peeing in a diaper. We go naked in the house, wear pull-ups only when necessary and once it seems like the child has figured out when they have to go, we try training panties (those thick multi-ply cotton ones that Gerber makes). It is often two steps forward, one step back (or even one step forward, two steps back). Usually the first few times in panties, end up in accidents. all three of my girls could go accident free for weeks when naked, but then as soon as a cotton pantie went on, they would pee. It must be something about just feeling something on their bottom.

About 8 months or so, we brought our potty out of storage and let Emma get used to seeing it. She took to it pretty quickly. We spent a lot of time naked, a.lot.of.time. Then Summer hit. It is hard to do naked potty training when your are outside all the time playing with the neighbor kids. So, I didn't push the issue. We were still naked most of the time in the house, but I wasn't pressed to get it done right then.

Then one evening, Emma decided to go poop in the big potty. We were amazed and excited! She was so proud of herself for pooping in the potty like a big girl. It seemed she turned a corner on her own. Then came Elly. Elly was the new girl at daycare who is a bit older than Emma and was already close to being potty trained. That was all it took. Lina, the daycare provider started taking Emma to the potty along with Elly, and the next thing I knew, Emma was coming home in the same diaper she left home with. Last week, Lina handed me a huge bag of diapers and said she didn't need them anymore. Instead, I sent in a few pull-ups and panties and a change of clothes. She's been wearing panties ever since!

My baby is potty trained!! My baby is potty trained. I'm not so sure this milestone is a bittersweet as some of the others.

Oh, and my friend's baby M, she's still walking around wearing pull-ups as diapers. And, she finally asked me to tell her what to do.

Friday, September 10, 2010

cat people, rats & goldfish

To be honest, part of me felt as though no one would understand my grief after Zoe's death. I kept waiting for people to say, "but she's just a dog". Fortunately, everyone understood. everyone seemed to sympathize and many grieved with us.

However, there was a conversation last week that still has me miffed, to say the least. This conversation was with a couple who are cat people. We were greeted with the usual, "we were so sorry to hear about Zoe", etc. There was a brief conversation about what happened and then a comment that still bothers me, "We know how you feel, we've lost a rat and about 5 goldfish. It's tough".

Really, you are comparing the loss of an animal that should not even be domesticated and a few goldfish to the death of my companion of 11 years. Seriously?!? WTF!!

There are clear differences between cat and dog people. There is something seriously wrong with them.

Or maybe it was just this cat person.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

a letter of love


Rest in Peace
Zoe
May 8, 1999 - August 30, 2010

My Sweet Sweet Zoe,

My first "baby", my companion, my kids' protector and playmate, my loyal friend. You gave us so much over your 11 years on this earth. You were always there with a sloppy kiss and your famous full body wag. A bad mood or sad day could easily be turned around with some of your puppy love.

I remember picking you out of your litter. [Pat still gives me grief that I chose the active pup instead of the laid back one -I had read that a lethargic pup could indicate an illness]. That first year or two with you were so important to me. Your companionship got me through the lonely nights as a newlywed whose husband worked long/late hours. You were there with me when I had moments of doubt, moments of fear, and moments of joy. You listened, without judgement, when I rambled on about God knows what.

When Sarah was born, you were so curious, yet cautious. It was as if you knew a great friend had come into your life and you so wanted to play with her. But you knew to be gentle and patient, in ways I had never seen. You became Sarah's companion and she came to love you like I did, maybe even more deeply.

As each new baby arrived, you learned the joys of a never ending stream of crumbs and treats that would end up on the floor. Always patient with the girls, you let them climb all over you, try to ride you like a horse, and pull your tail. I am so grateful that you never snapped at them, never growled, never gave us any cause for concern. In fact, you were so giving and forgiving, that you would allow Emma to sneak kibble from your bowl, even as you were eating it.

I know that as the years went on, the attention we showered with you began to fade. It never meant that we loved you less. There were times when you demanded our attention and would flip your head up under our hands so that we would pet you, over and over again. I wish I could go back and make sure you always felt loved and needed.

You were a wonderful dog, but a horrible Labrador. I will never forget our first trip to Deep Creek Lake, Maryland; you refused to go but knee deep in the water, and were afraid of the ducks. You rarely retrieved anything. You barked at anything (or nothing), but surely would just lick a burglar upon entry. You always seemed to be underfoot, but that was only because you always wanted to be around us. You were never content to spend long periods of time outside or away from us. You always seemed to want to be in the same room as us, and that was just fine.

This last year aged you and I don't know why. Just Sunday afternoon as we laid on the floor petting you, I looked into your eyes and I saw how tired you were. Little did I know that would be the last time we would share that moment.

I want you to know that you were so important to this family. We miss you so much in all that we do. In fact, as we were driving your body to the veterinarian's office, I turned to Daddy and said, " you know, I looked at the food on the counter and thought 'we better put it up or Zoe will get it'". It turns out that Daddy thought the same thing! We both shared a laugh and at that moment I realized how your presence touched every aspect of our lives.

We are healing, slowly. Sarah was upset, as you can only imagine. You and she had a special relationship, one that can never be duplicated. Daddy and I are grieving for our first baby and it is hard.

I hope that you didn't suffer in the end, but I am grateful that you passed away while Daddy was off of work, sparing the girls and I from coming home to find you after their first day of school. I hope that you knew...know how much you were loved and appreciated. I hope you are chasing the bunnies, and maybe a few ducks too!

Love,

Mommy

Thursday, August 19, 2010

views of hatteras



Now that I am back at work and am staring the start of a new school year down, I thought I'd post some more pics from our vacation a few weeks ago.

My tan is fading, but the cold I caught while in the Outer Banks still lingers on.

Seriously, we had a great vacation with wonderful people in North Carolina and I wish we could afford to go for 2 weeks! You would think that with 13 "kids" (a few of them aren't really kids anymore) and 10 adults that it would be hectic and full of drama. So far from the truth. We get along better with Pat's cousin's and their families than we do with some of his brother's and their famlies. It is such an easy vacation, I wish they could all be this easy.




Sarah on the beach


Megan digging a big hole in the sand.


Emma enjoying the beach



All the "kids"

Our last evening at the beach

Sunday, August 15, 2010

performance art

When we were at the beach house, Emma routinely asked to be put "on the wall". It wasn't until I was in the room one time that I understood what she was talking about.








hardwood snowball

After the debacle that was the mysterious leak in June, we have almost finished the restoration projects. The fans and dehumidifiers were gone after a week, along with a 4x2 section of the kitchen ceiling. The house was declared to be dry and the insurance adjuster determined how much it should cost us to fix the place and issued a check. The carpet in the dining room was deemed a loss, so we began the process of determining what to put in it's place. I have never been a big fan of carpet in the dining room, and we had be thinking about eventually replacing it with hardwood, so we figured this was the time!

The more we thought about it, the more we realized that if we lay the floor, we need to paint the walls. Then we got to thinking if we're painting, we need to finally put up curtains. So, the home improvement project snowballed, just a little, and we finally ended up with a completed dining room. Eventually, I'll get a bigger table and chairs that match, but that can wait.

Here is a partial picture of what the dining room looked like before. We are notorious for NOT taking before pictures, and this is no exception.



And here is the after! The pictures aren't on the wall yet, but everything else is.





Tuesday, August 10, 2010

the apple of her eye

The video capabilities of my little digital camera is not that great. So the footage I've posted and am about to post it a lot grainy and a little hard to hear.

While we were on vacation in the Outer Banks of North Carolina Emma got a chance to really get to know her extended family. For the past two summers we've vacationed with Pat's cousins, Dee & Dennis and their families, as well as Pat's aunt and uncle. Add another couple, a girlfriend, and a best friend, and you've got a big awesome house filled with 24 great people.

This year, the weather was perfect and the kids were so well behaved. For many people, getting along with family can be difficult. I'll be the first to admit that there are some members of our large family that I don't think I could spend a week in the same house with. But, not so with this crowd. All of our personalities seem to mesh together well. The kids all get along great, and we even had a few built in babysitters.

Shortly after we arrived, Emma attached herself to one of her second cousins and didn't let go. She was all over him all week. Poor Piz, I felt bad for him by the end of the week. Here is a really bad video of her attachment to Chad, whose nickname is Piz.

video

Monday, August 9, 2010

maiden voyage

Yesterday, Megan learned to ride a 2-wheel bike without training wheels! Earlier in the summer, our neighbor, and her main playmate, learned to ride his bike in one day. She was so motivated to learn to, so we tried and tried. And she was so frustrated, she just couldn't get the balance down right. Then, we put it aside and she didn't ask for the longest time.

Last night, Megan asked her father to get her bike down and take the training wheels off so she could practice. He got her up on the bike and in no time she figured out the balance. I told them to stop so I could run and get a camera. Of course, the video camera had no charge. My small digital camera was not where it was supposed to be. My new DSLR (Nikon D5000) had video capabilities, but I haven't figured that out yet. I yelled for Sarah to come in and find my camera (since I knew she had been messing with it last). She tells me, in a very matter-of-fact voice, "It's in the little couch". We finally got the camera and I ran out to get the following shot. The camera ran out of power just as she stopped, but at least I got her maiden voyage on tape! If you listen carefully, you can hear a group of neighbors a few houses up the street cheer her on, it was so sweet.


video

Saturday, August 7, 2010

world breastfeeding week: the end

Here is a post from when I stopped breastfeeding Emma. It was a very bittersweet time in my life, one that still gives me mixed feelings.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009
The End

[Disclaimer: I am truly a breastfeeding advocate, but do realize that it is not ideal for everyone. I pass no judgement on those who chose not to, or could not breastfeed. This is just my experience. One for which I am grateful for choosing.]



I've been formulating this post in my mind for months. It has been almost two full weeks since Emma nursed. Seeing that she is 19 months old, many would consider it well past due. There is a large part of me that weeps inside knowing that I will never get the opportunity to enjoy that wonderful bonding experience again. A few weeks ago, I read a wonderful post about another mother's experience with breastfeeding. Anymommy is most definitely a gifted writer and I am sure that my post will pale in comparison.



When I began the journey of breastfeeding almost 9 years ago with my first child, I had hoped that I would be able to nurse her for a while, but was so unsure of what that really would mean. I had no preconceived ideas of how long was the right amount and what I would do if I needed to formula feed. I just fed her and it worked. She had no difficulty latching on and even with a slight bout of jaundice, we were able to nurse with little fanfare. As she was born in February, it was so nice to just snuggle in and get cozy in bed or on the couch and spend uninterrupted time providing for my baby the way nature intended.

When I returned to work, I pumped. I felt like a cow and struggled mightily with supply problems. I took pills and drank teas and tried all I could do. It got to the point where I had no "freezer stash" and was living day to day hoping that nothing would happen. I can't tell you how painful it was to discover that I had forgotten to put my milk in the fridge one day and found it the next morning still in the cooler compartment of the breast pump. I'm sure I violated some tenet of breastfeeding when I poured that precious liquid gold right into a bottle and NOT down the drain. It smelled and tasted fine to me, so I just banked on the magical properties of breast milk to keep it safe. Thankfully, Sarah came out of that just fine and we were able to make it 12 months of nursing and pumping. She finally weaned herself around 15 months and I was fine with it. Part of me missed it as we snuggled at bedtime, but I also enjoyed having my body back.

When Sarah's younger sister Megan was born, we (my ta-ta's and I) were able to fall right back into the rhythm they learned a few years earlier. The time spent actually nursing her was wonderful, the time spent hooked up to a breast pump-not so much! The same supply issues I had with Sarah were still there. Megan always seemed to enjoy the nursing more than her sister and that was painfully evident in the almost 20 months we spent joined at the mouth/breast. I had to force Megan to wean and it was not a pretty sight. But, again part of me was a little sad to be done with it.

When Emma was born, my job situation had changed some and I knew I wasn't going to be able to nurse her in the morning when she woke. Which meant she was going to drink one more bottle a day than the other girls had, and knowing how my supply was with the other girls, I had a sinking suspicion that I would have some real problems keeping up. Emma was definitely a bigger eater than her sister, it didn't hurt she was born 1.5 lbs heavier. Nursing was not an issue, but of course, supply while pumping was. I posted last fall about my meltdown and my realization that Emma was going to be my first child to have formula. At the time, I felt like a failure. Thank God for friends and family who kept me from losing my mind and helped me to realize it was far more healthier for my child to have me sane, than to insist upon breast milk only.

Emma and I both made it to 12 months and lived to tell about it. When one of her first words was "nurse", I knew I had another addict on my hands. (It was adorable when she would walk up to me at bedtime saying "Nurse? Nurse? Peas, peas, nurse?") I knew it was time, but I couldn't bring myself to wean her. Over the past few months I had gotten her nursing down to just at bedtime and then the last few weeks, I've been slowly using other means of getting her to sleep. I would nurse her for a little and then take her up to her room to read Goodnight Moon and then down she would go. The Wednesday before Thanksgiving I decided this would be a good time to try to wean. Her bedtime routine that night consisted of just the book and nothing else and no complaints. Thanksgiving night, the same. And now we are going on almost two full weeks. Now that doesn't mean she still doesn't ask, but after I tell her a few times that its "all gone" she seems to give up. That also doesn't mean that I don't miss it.

I miss the feel of a baby nestled in my arms and rooting for a familiar smell. I miss the tell-tale feel of the good latch of a hungry baby. I miss the sight of a sleeping baby drunk on mother's milk. I miss the warmth and bonding of skin on skin contact. I miss the sweet sweet smell of baby breath. I miss the joy of knowing that I was the sole source of food for my child. I miss the feeling of total contentment and an indescribable emotion when I would look into the eyes of my nursing child; a feeling only another nursing mother can fully understand.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

world breastfeeding week

I breastfed all three of my children, some would say for too long, others would say not long enough. However, I never wrote about my experiences until Emma came along. I am a HUGE breastfeeding proponent, while I do understand when others aren't able to do it. I try not to judge another's personal decision, while encouraging as many to do it as possible. My friends and co-workers have come to me for advice over the years and I am happy to pass along any information that I can.

In honor of World Breastfeeding Week, I though I'd re-post a few of my own breastfeeding centered posts.

This post was in the height of my frustration with pumping breast milk at work:

Monday, January 26, 2009
Here Comes Bessie

I feel like a cow.

No this is not a post about my weight loss attempts. This is a post about being milked...you have been warned.

I absolutely love breastfeeding my little one. I always have. There is nothing more special than the bond you form with your baby while feeding them the way nature intended. I love to watch her nurse and see her little jaw quiver as she suckles. The look in her eyes as she gazes up at me just melts my heart. Her little hand reaching out to touch my face as she snuggles in for the long haul. She fits perfectly in my arms and knows how to find her way with her eyes closed. It is a comfortable routine. It is home for both of us.

I have many friends who were not successful at breastfeeding and a few who never tried it. I respect their choices, but part of me feels as though they've missed such a wonderful part of motherhood that cannot be replaced. When I see another nursing mother, I am always reminded of my own experiences (past and present) and often feel as if I am a member of a special club. I was sad when Sarah weaned herself at 15 months. I wasn't as sad when I had to help Megan wean at 20 months, but I missed it none-the-less.

While I love nursing, I CANNOT STAND PUMPING! As a working mother, I need to pump at work so that little Emma can reap the benefits of breast milk while at daycare. I dread pulling out that pump and hooking myself up to it. It is time consuming, uncomfortable, an inconvenience, and a total source of stress for me. I struggle with supply and often am not able to pump enough to cover the next day. I use the weekends to "catch-up", but usually have to thaw a bottle's worth from my freezer stash once a week.

Since Emma is now 9 months old, I am beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. As it is she is eating more and more "food" and slowly dropping off on how much milk she gets. I just keep counting the months and hope that April gets here soon!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

is that sewage on my head?

It's always something.

Monday night, Pat and I were cleaning up from dinner (isn't he wonderful?) and yelled out, "there's water dripping down the wall!"

I ran up stairs knowing full well that the water was coming from the girls' bathroom that is directly above the kitchen. There was water every where. It hadn't gotten to the point where it was spilling out of the doorway into the hall, but the entire area around the toilet and tub was about 1/2 to 3/4 inches deep in water. It didn't appear as though the toilet was overflowing from the bowl, but it was running and the tank was empty. I pulled up the float to stop the flow of water, while I looked below for the shut off valve.

Once the water was turned off, I called for the girls to get me towels & lots of them. After cleaning that mess up, I went back down to the kitchen to see how bad the damage was. As soon as I entered the room I saw the tell-tale wet spot on the ceiling. It wasn't huge, but it certainly was there. Pat was emptying out the cabinets above the stove as it seemed water was seeping in. Water was dripping out of the corners of the soffits above the cabinets as well. While cleaning some of this up, I realized the carpet in the threshold between the kitchen and the dining room was wet. I grabbed a towel to soak it up and headed downstairs to see how bad it may have gotten.

As soon as I turned the corner at the bottom of the stairs, I was greeted by a large puddle of water on the floor. I yelled up to Pat that we had a situation. I had Sarah bring me a few buckets and I began moving things out of the way. The water was coming down in a steady drip, but not a major stream. It appeared that the water was running along the sewage pipe from upstairs. As I'm placing buckets strategically on the floor, I get hit with numerous large drips. Pat asks me, "is that sewage, or clean water?"

We get a few more towels and mop up the mess. Meanwhile, the girls were getting madder and madder. Right before the water started flowing from the ceiling, the girls were getting ready to head to the pool for the swim team ice cream social and raft night. They were beginning to realize that they were not going to be able to go. I am sure they will remember this for the rest of their lives as the night the toilet ruined their whole existence!

The water was all cleaned up and the kids finally put to bed while Pat and I pondered what on earth we were supposed to do next. We speculated on the cause of the problem (busted wax seal under toilet, cracked pipe, broken toilet, clogged toilet) and then do we try and repair it ourselves, do we make a homeowners claim, or not? So much to decide. Pat goes to get himself a bowl of ice cream to help him think and realized the water spot on the ceiling has grown and brought a couple of friends to the party. The initial spot has now started to bubble. He grabed a knife and poked a hole and then the small drip we had, became a steady stream of water for about 5 minutes (I might be exaggerating-and I think I tweeted that it was 10 minutes- but it sure felt like it).

Yesterday morning, we contacted the insurance company. They suggested we call a restoration service to have the water damage cleaned up and informed Pat that the policy doesn't cover the actual plumbing repair. While I went to work, Pat got busy making phone calls. I came home to 7 industrial fans and 3 dehumidifiers set up in the house. Insulation along the pipes had gotten soaked, the wet carpet was worse than we thought and actually might need to be removed. The area rugs we had in the basement have been taken away to be cleaned. The plumber was on his way and the insurance adjuster is set to come out on Friday.

We were just debating getting estimates for finishing the basement. Thankfully, it is not finished, the damage would have been SO much worse.




I took these with my BlackBerry, so they aren't the best quality. Sorry!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

heart attack

Last week and part of this week, the big girls are attending Camp Daddy. I have to work and didn't want the girls to miss out on morning swim practices. I didn't want a repeat of last year's pre-team experience for Megan. Pat was off on Mon & Tuesday and then was scheduled to work evenings the rest of the week. IT was perfect. I didn't have to pay for camp, the kids didn't miss out on swim practice & they got quality time with Daddy! Win-Win-draw!

The girls had dentist appointments on Thursday. Pat was not thrilled to have to take them, but knew there was really no option. I always hate taking the girls because at some point I'm going to get a lecture about how they need to brush better, no fruit snacks, etc. The last few times we've gone, Megan has ended up with a few cavities. I, think I have come to dread her appointments more than she does. I can't think of anything I would rather do less than go with her to get a cavity filled.

After their appointment, Sarah called me at work to let me know that she had 5 cavities and Megan had 3. My mouth dropped and I couldn't even muster a sound. I knew that their brushing wasn't the greatest, but I had not anticipated this. Part of me was in disbelief and I think I finally muttered a "you're kidding, right?" I still can't remember what Sarah's response was, I just sat there at my desk trying to get my mind to grasp hold of what she had just told me. Finally, I heard Pat's voice on the other end of the line. He chuckled, "I told Sarah there was no way you'd fall for that."

Evidently, Sarah is following in her father's footsteps. He is always trying to shock me and get me to believe his outrageous stories. Both girls had a perfect visit to the dentist with NO cavities and little chastising by the dentist. Go figure!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

loopless

I hate being left out of the loop.

Can't go into any more details than that. Just suffice it to say, it bothers me greatly.

I also hate being the one who is always thinking of others. For once, why can't I just do things for me and my family.

I guess it just goes to who I am, the very fiber of my being.

I am a pleaser. I don't like controversy and confrontation. I will go out of my way to avoid conflict. I want everyone to like me, and if they don't, I need to find out why.

I should feel happy that I've been left out of the loop on this occassion, as it does make things easier. But Damn! Did you forget about me, did you think I wouldn't care, did you think it was right?

I need to let it go.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

post-op

Yesterday morning, I woke a little later than my usual time and headed out to drive myself to the surgical center by 6:45. My surgery to remove my gall bladder, a cholecystectomy, was scheduled for 7:45 and I needed to be there an hour earlier. In order to get the girls off to school and daycare, we decided that I would drive myself and then Pat would come later so that he could drive me home. We would leave a car there and pick it up later.

I was taken back to get ready for surgery and given gown and fashionable no-slip socks to wear. They started my IV and I waited for the Dr to finish his first operation of the day (I can't imagine how early I would have had to be there for that one). I met with the doctor and physician's assistant as well as the anesthesiologist and answered the same questions over and over (any allergies, what am I having done, any previous surgeries, etc). When that was done they walked me back to the operating room, strapped my arms down and the last thing I remember is taking a few deep breaths of the anesthesia.

The next think I know I am waking up in recovery a little freaked out. The few times I been under general anesthesia, I wake up either too giddy, or upset. This was an upset one and it really freaked me out. They moved me to a chair to sit and I was beyond thirsty. The rest of the time I was there is pretty much a blur. Pat joined me, but I really don't remember much of what was said to me during that time. I changed into my clothes and was wheeled out to the car to go home. I really feel as though they rushed me out and I could have used a little more time to sit and get my bearings.

I came home and slept and vegged out much of the rest of the day. The kids were anxious to see me when they came home from school. All three rushed up the stairs to check on me and see my wounds. Poor Emma wanted only to give me big hugs and lay on top of me. I felt so bad having to push her away. She is too young to understand. Bedtime for her was the worst, I think. She was ok with Pat reading her stories, but once she was in her crib, she kept calling out for me. I went in once and hugged her from outside the crib, but could not pick her up. Pat finally got her down, but she was not happy. Tonight might be even worse.

Today has been somewhat better, but the meds don't seem to be doing much to relieve the pain. I just get foggy and light headed. The doctor has called in a new prescription for me and hopefully, that will be better.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

pondering my navel

Tomorrow morning I will undergo a laparoscopic procedure to remove my gall bladder-through my belly button. I am not looking forward to this procedure, but will be happy to not have to deal with the pain waking me up in the middle of the night.

A few months ago (Palm Sunday, to be exact) I had horrendous stomach pain that hit me on the drive home from a wonderful evening at my parents house. I was up most of the night with the most uncomfortable stomach pain I had ever had before. I couldn't get comfortable, I felt nauseous, but not like I would throw up. I don't often have stomach issues, so it was concerning. At some point in the night, the pain subsided and I fell asleep. The next day there was no pain and things were fine.

Easter Sunday, a week later, at my in laws in Pittsburgh, I felt the same pain, but it was so much worse. I didn't sleep much and it was awful. In the morning I was describing the pain to my Father-in-law and he thought it sounded like my gall bladder. I started Googling and began reading and it seemed to me that he was right.

From that point, I started watching the fat content in the food I was eating and tried to do a little experimentation with my diet. For a while I was OK, but then out of the blue I would have an attach even when I consumed very little fat. I finally got in to the Dr's office and she ordered an ultrasound as well as blood work to determine what in fact was going on.

The only ultrasound's I have ever had, prior to this, was for my babies. Let me tell you, this was no where near as fun! Instead of looking at tiny toes and fluttering heartbeats, I was trying to see if there were stones in my gall bladder. The technician also checked out my pancreas, kidneys, and liver. I did a lot of rolling onto my side and taking deep breaths and holding it while she shoved the device into my ribs. So.Not.Fun! Plus I didn't get any cute little pictures to take home with me.

The result was a chronically inflamed gall bladder with lots of stones that needs to come out. The surgeon agreed with my Dr. and surgery was scheduled.

So, here I sit, waiting to go in at 6:45 tomorrow morning for surgery. Since my diagnosis, I've had a few more attacks, including one on mother's day, and a horrendous one a few weeks ago that I likened to labor pains, just 6 inches higher up in my abdomen. I really don't want surgery, but I also don't want to have this pain anymore.

I'm not too nervous, but I wonder if I should be. It is general anesthesia, and there is always a risk. I made sure I tucked my babies in with lots of hugs and kisses tonight, but I'm sure all will go well.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

finally

When we bought this house 4 years ago, we were a little disappointed to be leaving our brand new fridge behind for all old appliances. It didn't take long for the washer and dryer to die. We replaced them with the larger, more efficient front loaders.

About a year later, we noticed the dishes were coming out of the dishwasher almost as dirty as they went in. We hit the sales at Sears and purchased a stainless steel dishwasher with hidden controls. I loved the look and figured that we would slowly replace all the appliances to match.

In December 2008, I came home to find water on the floor in the kitchen. The 14+ year old fridge was dying. Since we were about to leave for the Christmas holidays, I was rushed to find a replacement ASAP. The last thing I wanted was to come home from a trip to find a fridge of spoiled food and a warped wood floor in the kitchen. So, I found a stainless model that matched pretty well with the dishwasher.

This spring, a few of the burners on the stove finally died and the oven didn't seem to be regulating the temperature well. After a few dozen burnt cookies, we realized we had to bite the bullet again and purchase yet another appliance. Once again, we headed to Sears and I picked out an awesome stove with 5 burners and a warming drawer and convection oven. I had been monitoring prices and managed to get it at the cheapest I've seen before, or since. In order to complete the set, we also purchased the matching micro hood.

I was thrilled to finally have matching appliances for the first time EVER. No more white fridge, black dishwasher and cream stove!

We had the stove installed-you know what with the pesky gas line and everything. But we figured we could handle a microwave! after discovering that the range hood was hardwired into the electrical system and the micro hood required an outlet, we put it on hold. One of Pat's co-workers was solicited to help install the thing, but one thing after another kept getting in the way. I was about to give up hope. The gigantic box sat on the floor of the dining room for 3 months.

Today, after a shitty day dealing with emotional issues, abuse, and thoughts of suicide (not mine, but a student's) I came home to this-




It is so beautiful.

And my husband is so wonderful for getting it done, finally!

Monday, May 31, 2010

busy

Spring is always so busy. There are soccer practices and soccer games, T-ball practices and T-ball games. School events and swim team registration, choir practice and brownie meetings. It is exhausting. I've meant to post so much in the last month, but never seem to have the time, or energy, to do so.

The school year is winding down, as are many of the girls' activities. This weekend, the holiday gave us the opportunity to take a break from the hustle and bustle and just enjoy the good weather. We spent time with family and went swimming twice this weekend. Both of the big girls had swimming play dates today, and fell into bed exhausted!

Emma is fearless when it comes to the water. She loves it with almost reckless abandon! Last summer she would jump into the water without any care for whether or not there was anyone to catch her. This spring she took lessons and we discovered that with age, she has learned to be somewhat cautious. Now that she remembers how much fun the pool is, she is back to thinking she can swim. She jumps into me without a care, then squirms to get away from me as though she can really swim. She sinks down and has a slight panicked look on her face, but when I pull her back up, she just smiles and wipes her eyes! It truly amazes me how different she is from the other two at the same age.

Clearly, I will not have a relaxing summer ahead of me!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

6.10

I know that I am way behind on an Earth Day post, but when the aha moment hits, you gotta go with it.

In keeping with my running theme of numbers as blog post titles this month, today's is 6.10.

6.10 represents my family's ecological footprint. I took this quiz, and discovered that while I feel like we do a lot for the environment, we still suck. 6.10 means that if everyone on the planet lived like we do, we would need 6.10 earths.

I recycle everything that I can, but I know that I could be reducing the amount of things that come into my house need to be recycled. While I am proud of the fact that my big blue bin (for paper recycling) is full every week, It really shouldn't be. I have tried to cut down on the amount of paper and packaging that comes into house, but it is an ongoing, never achievable task.

After spending years thinking about it, I have finally decided to get a compost bin. I am amazed at how much kitchen scraps I throw away or run down the disposal. It is time I do something about it!

With spring here and my garden ready for planting, I have decided that this will be the year I get a little bit greener. Here are the two bins I've been thinking about:


The Earthmaker composter has a 3 compartment system where I think it will be easier and faster to compost my waste.



The Deluxe Pyramid composter is one big open bin that I think will take forever to fill enough for it to start breaking the waste down for compost. However it is cheaper, but requires more turning of the compost. Decisions, Decisions.
After deliberation with Pat this morning, I think I've decided on the 3 chamber Earthmaker. Now I just have to order it and figure out where to put it in the yard. I have a small back yard with limited flat space, so I am not sure where it will go.

***I haven't ordered it yet, so if anyone has any advice for me, I'd LOVE to hear it!***


Sunday, April 25, 2010

six

Today, my oh-so-middle child turns six.

Evidently, six is a big birthday. Megan has been planning and talking about this birthday for months. We have been told that she does not want a gift from all of us combined, she expects a gift from each person. I am to have pizza, cake and cupcakes (I don't understand that one) and little cups of ice cream for all the guests at her party next weekend. She knows exactly what she wants and will not be happy if it doesn't go her way.

That is most definitely Megan.

Six years ago she came into this world on her own time table...fast as hell! I was admitted at 3am and she was born at 3:45. She has been calling the shots ever since!

My hard drive crashed a few years ago and sadly I don't have all the pictures from her first days. Here's the best I can do:



Megan at 3 months


Megan today, opening her gift

After a birthday dinner at Cheeburger Cheeburger, we came home and she opened her gift. Yes, she did receive a group gift, a DSi that she has been wanting for MONTHS. She was beyond thrilled!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

two



Emma turned two yesterday.

Blowing out the candle on her Carvel ice cream cake.


Must get every last drop


I am not sure where the past two years have gone. I cannot believe that my baby is now two years old. My sweet Emma has turned into an amazing little girl with loads of personality, just like her big sisters. She talks up a storm from the moment she wakes until the moment her head hits the pillow, and sometimes after that! She is exhausting, but I can't imagine life without her.

How did we get
From This

To This

Saturday, April 17, 2010

eleven

Eleven years ago, I married my best friend.

Corny, I know, but true.

Lately, my friends and I have been talking about marriage and relationships a lot. Throughout these conversations, I have come to realize that while my marriage is good, it is not great. I have absolutely no doubt that my husband loves and respects me and I trust him completely. However, I don't think we are running on all the cylinders (is that even the right metaphor?).

We love our children, but they have taken over our lives. We rarely have a conversation that doesn't involve the almost daily activity pick-up/drop-off schedule. We can't have an adult conversation without being interrupted while the kids are awake. By the time they are asleep, we are barely conscious ourselves. I am convinced that we need some time to reconnect as a couple without the kids around.

We keep saying we need to get away for a weekend, or even a night, and dedicate some time to us. Unfortunately, we just keep plodding along never able to steal the time to do so.

By no means is our marriage in trouble, but I really feel that it could be so much better. I am determined to make this coming 12th year of marriage the year where we get a chance to reconnect.

What are we doing to celebrate our anniversary this year, you ask? Absolutely nothing! Pat is working tonight and I will be home alone with the girls. He told me that they Popeye's chicken we had for lunch with the girls after a morning of soccer and t-ball was my anniversary meal. Clearly, we need to dedicate some time to getting the romance back!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Signal 13


Early Easter Sunday morning, Hector Ayala was killed in a one car collision as he rushed to the aid of a Signal 13. A fellow officer who was responding to a fight call at a nearby restaurant needed assistance and called for a "Signal 13"-the police code for an officer in trouble. When this code goes out, all officers know that one of their brothers may be in a life or death situation and all effort is made to render assistance quickly.

Officer Ayala lost his life trying to save another. From what I have heard, this was par for the course for this amazing man. He touched so many lives in his short seven-year tenure as a Montgomery County Police Officer, including saving the life of a man attempting to commit suicide at the Glenmont Metro Station. He worked the midnight shift, but often came out on his off time to help translate Spanish for fellow officers. He was devoted to his wife and 15 month old son; coworkers described how happy he was to learn that he and his wife were expecting triplets this June.

As the wife of a police officer, this is hard to process.

As long as I have known Pat, I have had to struggle with the idea of him being put in harm's way; when we met he was already attending the police academy. Of course, I had no idea that early on that I would become his wife. I had no real idea what that would mean.

While we were dating and definitely after we got engaged, people would often ask me if I were scared for him, or I ever worried when he worked? They were difficult questions to answer. I would answer of yes, I worried, but I couldn't let it consume me. But, I didn't find myself worrying as often as other people seemed to think I should. I hadn't really be faced with anything that had caused me to worry too much, I guess I was in denial.

A few months into our marriage, I received a phone call from Pat's Sergeant that brought it all home to me. He called to tell me that Pat was on his way home and to "not freak out if he was covered in blood-he was ok." WHAT!?! How do you not freak out to that? A signal 13 had been called for a County officer responding to a domestic situation. While it was out of Pat's jurisdiction, he was one of the first on the scene. When Pat arrived home, he was NOT covered in blood, but did have some on his shoes. He filled me in on what happened and it felt good to know the whole story. That was the first time I remember being faced with the fact that at any time he could be that fallen officer.

Since then, there have been a few more local police deaths, including a young man that Pat attended the Police Academy with. Each one tugs at my heart and reminds me how quickly things could change.

As a police wife, I have learned that there are two types of police marriages. One in which the officer talks to his spouse about his or her day and gives them a glimpse into what they go through. The other, where there is a clear and distinct separation of work and home life. Mine is the former, more rare type of marriage. Many officers believe because it would make it too scary for those at home and would bring the stress of their job into their home. I believe to the contrary.

Maybe it is because I am a counselor by profession, or maybe it is just because of who we are as people and the mutual trust and respect we have for each other, but Pat and I couldn't imagine our marriage without full disclosure. Especially now that he is in a management role, Pat often runs situations past me and we bounce ideas back and forth. He recommends to his officers to keep their spouses informed to relieve the stress of the job. Unfortunately, not a whole lot of them follow his advice. I am a firm believer that ignorance breeds fear; if we have no idea what is going on, we build up an amazing fear of what could be going on instead of what is really happening. I am sure, Pat keeps some things to himself, and that is fine. But hearing about the types of calls he goes on and the way he handles situations, helps me to know the type of officer he is and that he has the skills to keep himself and those around him safe.

Thankfully, when he reached the rank of Sergeant, the amount of actual street time decreased. Now that he is a Lieutenant, it is even less. However, there is always that fear and concern in the back of my mind (and his) that keeps us on our toes. There isn't a day that goes by that I don't offer up a silent prayer for his (and his brothers in blue) safety.

My heart goes out to the Ayala family and especially his wife. Thank God for the kindness of legislators and strangers that there is financial help for the families of officers who die in the line of duty. Both the Federal and State governments have set up compensation for the families and COPS (Concerns of Police Survivors)does a wonderful job of providing many services to the family. There is also a fund set up by the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 35 to aid the family.


In Memoriam:
Officer Hector Ayala
Badge Number 2128
End of Watch 4/4/2010



Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Crazy B*tch

I have been so busy lately, I just haven't had a chance to get on and blog about things. Not sure if that really matters to anyone but me, though. However, I had one of those holy-shit-what-did-I-just-do moments last week that I need to write about.

In preparation for leading Sarah's Brownie meeting last Friday, I had to go to Home Depot and pick up some gardening supplies. On Wednesday my after care plans had fallen through, so I rushed out of work to get the girls from school. Knowing that I had a good hour to kill before picking up the little one, I figured that would be the perfect time to get my shopping done.

Of course, I was running late and worried the girls would panic when I wasn't at the school right at dismissal. Thankfully, they weren't the last kids picked up, but they were not pleased that we were taking a detour before heading home. Megan just about melted down over the fact that she wasn't getting a snack right away.

We got to Home Depot and it finally clicked with Megan that we really weren't going home right after school. In an effort to preempt a tantrum, I offered to buy her a snack at the checkout. While Sarah and I picked out what seeds the troop would plant, Megan played on the tractors. We had a few more items to pick up and Megan was about to lose it. We finally get to the check out and there are no snacks, Megan is fit to be tied. We walk outside and I tell them if the snack truck were outside I would have bought them something. Sarah looks around and realizes that the truck was parked way off to the side of the other entrance. The girls run ahead and after quite a bit of deliberation, they finally choose their snacks.

We get to the car and Sarah starts complaining that Megan's pretzel is bigger than her bag of sun chips and that I ate some of her chips and it wasn't fair. Somehow it was all my fault. At this point, I'm trying to drive through the parking lot without losing it, but the constant bickering is killing me. I finally pull over to yell at them and I pull up right on a gentleman getting out of his car. He says to me, "Hey lady, you almost hit me." In my total rage at my kids, I break from my usually calm self and yell back, "whatever, I saw you." Pissed off that he was arguing me and keeping me from unleashing on the kids, my patience melted away and a side of myself that I had never released in public came out. I actually told someone (who was totally innocent) to "screw you"...in front of my kids. I became that crazy parking lot lady that everyone has a story about. I am totally embarrassed and ashamed of myself. I guarantee that man was walking away muttering to himself, "crazy bitch".

Saturday, February 27, 2010

99 Things I ought to have done

Found this on a friend's blog, and thought I'd share mine.

Instructions:
Copy the list, bold the ones you've done (with explanations if needed), share with friends.
1. Started your own blog
2. Slept under the stars
3. Played in a band (does a school band count?)
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than you can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyland
8. Climbed a mountain
9. Held a praying mantis
10. Sang a solo
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched a thunder and lightning storm (nothing beats a summer storm!)
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch
15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
18. Grown your own vegetables
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitch hiked
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill
24. Built a snow fort
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping
27. Run a Marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
29. Seen a total eclipse
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset
31. Hit a home run
32. Been on a cruise
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors
35. Seen an Amish community (Lancaster county, Pennsylvania)
36. Taught yourself a new language
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David
41. Sung karaoke
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt (I was a child on a trip visiting family in Montana, but won't ever forget it)
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance
47. Had your portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling (snorkeling in the Bahama's on a trip with a girlfriend)
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in theater
55. Been in a movie
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies
62. Gone whale watching (had the chance to when I went to a conference on Cape Cod, but was the typical "good girl" and didn't play hooky with the others--should have!)
63. Got flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma (can't anymore due to some weird results 2o years ago)
65. Gone sky diving
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a check (not proud of this one. Total accident- bank read one of my checks written for $200 as $700 and it messed everything up!)
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy (it's still at my mom's- Sorry Mom!)
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten caviar
72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job (It was a temp job. I took a day off to take my brother to get his wisdom teeth out. I thought they told me they would call me when I had another job assigned. They thought I would return to the site I was at before I took the day off-they told me not to come back when I didn't show up)
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone
78. Been a passenger on a motorcycle
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
80. Published a book
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had your picture in the newspaper
85. Kissed a stranger at midnight on New Year’s Eve
86. Visited the White House (as a child, my girl scout troop went down to see the trees decorated inside. I don't remember much of it)
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
88. had chickenpox
89. Saved someone’s life
90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous
92. Joined a book club
93. Got a tattoo
94. Had a baby (times 3)
95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a law suit
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee

Wow, I've only done 34 of these things. Clearly, I haven't done enough

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

back to the grind

Today was the first day back to school since the snowmageddon of 2010. We had a delayed opening which made the day even more disjointed than normal.

I left the house with plenty of time to get to work early this morning. Of course, "the best laid plans..." and all that jazz. It ended up taking twice as long to get in to work than usual. Traffic was gnarled by snow plows and front end loaders removing snow, people walking in the streets because the sidewalks hadn't been shoveled, and poor timing of a 2 hour delay for schools and the federal government. AND THE POT HOLES. Holy cow, the potholes. I think I saw one the size of Delaware!

After arriving to the parking lot 10 minutes after I should have already been in my office, I was blocked from parking in my usual place, by what else, a snow plow and front end loader clearing snow from the staff parking lot....while students and staff are arriving. I had to fight for a parking space in the staff lot that is usually not crowded. Someone should have been checking for parking permits today. I finally found a spot at the back of the lot. I think I have to walk a half a mile to my car this afternoon. So stupid!

I really wish the county would get out and actually ticket the people who haven't shoveled the sidewalks. So many kids were walking along the side of major roads in order to get to school this morning. I am amazed that no one got injured (so far). It is absolutely crazy!

As insane as my commute to work was this morning, it felt so good to get here and do SOMETHING. 10 days home with your kids and not much to do is painful! I love them, but there is only so many craft projects you can do!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

reflections on a life lost

If you haven't heard, the DC area got hit with a ridiculous amount of snow this past weekend. During my time "off the grid" I thought about a lot of things, one of which was this post. It has been rattling around in my head since about last Wednesday or so and I am just now getting the opportunity to put fingers to keyboard to get it written.

I love my job as a high school counselor. I enjoy being able to work with kids and make a difference in their lives. There are few perks to the job (yes, I know, I get holidays and SOME time in the summer off- I do have to work 4 weeks in the summer beyond what a teacher has to do), but really the only real rewards of the job are knowing you've helped someone. there is the occasional note from a parent or student to say thank you, but that is about it.

However, last week was one in which the exact opposite happened. I told a colleague of mine on Tuesday, that it was just these occasions that make me wish I had a job where I didn't have to worry about the mental health and well being of anyone other than myself. Sometimes, the responsibility is too great, the depth of a mental illness too deep, and the ability to help becomes futile.

On Monday, February 1st I received a phone call that I will never forget. The head of my department called to let me know that there had been a crisis involving one of my students. My mind raced to a few different students who I knew were troubled, one of which had just been in my office the week prior in crisis, threatening to hurt herself. When I heard his name mentioned instead, I almost collapsed. It was all I could do to hold it together until the end of the phone call. Pat knew there was something wrong, as the call itself is unusual, but he heard the tremor in my voice. He walked out to the kitchen where I was on the phone, ending the call. As soon as I hung up, I leaned on the island with my head down and sobbed. I sobbed like I had lost one of my own family members. One of my seniors that I had been working closely with had committed suicide. Emma thought I was laughing and began to laugh along, until Pat told her I was sad. He told the girls I needed to be left alone and the big girls listened, Emma followed me into the dark living room, crawled up into my lap and just hugged me. How on earth she knew what I needed, I don't know, but it surely helped.

This is the second time I have received a call about the death of a student in a little over a year. I can't exactly put words to my feelings, but this one is different. It completely shook me to my core. When T. died in November of 2008, it was a tragic and random act of violence. In this case, P. decided, with thought and determination, to end his own life. I can't but think of all those left behind in the wake of this horrible event. So many of us asking why and what if.

Everyone was in shock that next day. As I drove into work, I was preparing myself for a stressful day of grief counseling. Of wounds opened and re-opened with the news of another classmate dead. I was prepared, I kept telling myself I needed to hold it together for the kids.

My strength lasted all of 2 minutes. As soon as I entered the building, I started tearing up. By the time I reached my office and saw the beginnings of the crisis team setting plans in motion, I lost it. I remember my vice-principal coming in and talking to me about the plan to follow P's schedule and talk to his classmates. I hadn't even taken my coat off and I looked at him through teary eyes and he said to me, "Oh, I guess you were close with him." Yes, I worked closely with him.

I then realized, there was no way I should be talking to already emotionally fragile teenagers. The contagious crying would never end. At that moment, as my wonderful co-workers came in to see me in a steady stream, the counselor became the counseled.

Over the course of the day, the pieces of the puzzle began to fall into place. P was an incredibly bright young man who, a year ago, had such great promise. He was a gifted writer who often used his talents to write lyrics for the band he formed with friends. He was a great football player and enjoyed his time on the Varsity team since his freshman year. A broken ankle sidelined him during his junior year, in a rush to get back on the gridiron he permanently damaged his ankle. I believe that this was the beginning of the end for him. He lost his identity and from this point forward, he continued to search to find another way to find his "place" in this world. The band was one way, but it seems it wasn't enough.

Last spring, I began to see P's grades suffer. I was concerned, but not majorly. We met, we talked about it, and he knew what he needed to do to get back on track. This fall, his grades continued to drop and he was often in my office. He would come in to see me, knowing full well what I was going to say and what he "needed" to do. He flashed his big, bright winning smile, and would leave telling me exactly what I wanted to hear. There were flashes of serious problems early in the year. Child Protective Services came to meet with him based on a call they received about him having been kicked out of his house by his mother. Through the whole interview, P was evasive and denied that there was a problem, but in such a way that I was sure there was some truth to the matter. He would bob and weave and you never felt like you were getting a straight answer out of him. That is how many of my conversations went with him.

There had been such a dramatic change in P, that I was concerned that something major was going on with him. We had a conference with his mother and his teachers and everyone voiced their concerns. There wasn't a single teacher in my office that day that didn't truly feel as though there was something amiss with this young man. We so strongly wanted to see him get his life and grades back on track. At the same time, I was beginning to get word from my colleagues that indicated there may have been more going on. His friend's parents had contacted another counselor in my department concerned that P was talking to himself and was declaring himself the son of a king and proclaiming that he was destined for greatness. Another counselor mentioned to me that one of his students felt as though P was stalking her. He had expressed feelings for her that she could not reciprocate, and he took it hard. He was calling her often and was found sitting on her front porch one night.

I spoke to P's mother about my concerns and she had expressed that she was having difficulty at home, but seemed reluctant to pursue anything. I was concerned that there were serious mental health issues that sounded suspiciously like schizophrenia. P's mother did ask me to send home numbers for counseling resources but I also encouraged her to contact his Physician for a direct referral that would work with her insurance.

As the second quarter wore on, the grades were not improving. P seem in denial that there was a problem and refused to let me move him out of his AP English class. He was convinced that he could pass his classes and earn his way to a half-day schedule for second semester (something he really wanted and that his mother said he could have, if he could pass his classes for 1st semester). Around Thanksgiving, his mother asked me to make changes to his schedule to place him in an on-level English class, so he might be able to pass it. It was way too late in the semester to make the change, so we had to wait to make the change until second semester.

Through out all of this, his teachers never stopped communicating to me (and P, as well as his mother and sister) their concerns about his grades and dramatic lack of enthusiasm for school. I met with P regularly and he always left my office with that trademark smile.

During exam week, P. came to me to adjust his schedule for the next semester. He knew he failed English 12A and would need to retake it after school in order to graduate. He seemed to have a different aura about him, as if he had made his peace with his grades and determined to do whatever it takes to get to graduation. I thought we had turned a corner. Just a few days later, I spoke to his music teacher and she expressed that he was not doing anything in class and just kept his head down. I made it a point to write myself a note to see him when all the start-of second-semester hubbub died down. He had also just submitted an application to a local college and I needed to go over a few things with him before I could write my letter of recommendation.

I never got to meet with P. The sticky note with his name on it still hangs off of my monitor. All I could do that horrible day last week is think, what if I had seen him, what if I had noticed something, what if I could have reached him, what if...? I suspected mental health issues, but I never saw him as a suicide risk.

As a counselor, I know that I worked hard to help P, I did what I could with the information I had, but I still couldn't help thinking that there was something more I could have/should have done.

When I met with P's mother that day, I know she was looking to me for answers. Part of me was angry with her for not getting him help, for not being able to look past the cultural stigma of her upbringing to see that he needed help. But all of me was mourning with her, I could see her genuine pain and that her tears, as she clung to me during our embrace, were real; a mother, lost in her grief.