Friday, January 31, 2014

New Year's Tribute: The Robin's Nest and My Village

For the past few years, I've written a New Year's Tribute to someone who helps make my work possible.  It's fitting that I'm barely getting this post in before February, given our current state of muddling through, and the fact that I have the time to write it at all is owed to the objects of my tribute:  you guys.

I've sent thank-you notes in the past few months, but not enough, and I bet some of you got two (and while I probably owe you five for the many blessings you've sent our way, the duplicate is likely representative of my inability to keep track anymore).  In other words, we are indebted; we are blessed; we are so overwhelmed by love and generosity we can't keep up with the gratitude you so deserve.

Which is no excuse.

During the past six months, friends and family have traveled far to help us.  You have picked up our kids and dropped them off.  You have kept them for an overnight, a week, or more.  You have showered us with gifts.  You have cleaned our house.  You have cooked and delivered dozens of meals.   You have given us time off with no questions asked. You have shared NICU stories, postpartum stories, parenting stories, tough-time stories.  You have offered walks, beers, time, babysitting, and kindnesses we haven't even been able to take you up on, but not for lack of want or need.  I've been able to return to work with some semblance of success this time due to your willingness to bake, hug, deliver, reassure, encourage, understand, reach out, believe, love, and support us.  And I've learned to accept my own vulnerability and the help you've offered.

My colleagues worked overtime in my absence and have been patient, generous, and understanding as I continue to get the lay of the land and fumble here and there.

Meanwhile, I tell myself, we don't have hardship; we have a third baby.  The circumstances of 2013, nevertheless, circumstances intertwined and layering, meant blessings brought unforeseen challenges. I grapple with the guilt that what brought so many struggles amounts to so much wonderfulness.

Last spring, as graduation loomed for the Class of 2013, the mother of a graduate, her third and last from our high school, anticipated her empty nest. She offered me and another colleague who was expecting a baby childcare in her home.  I knew she was an amazing mother, having watched her three children pass through our high school.  She taught me one of the most important lessons I learned while I was an assistant principal.  What I didn't know was how special and she would become to our entire family and how much of a Mother Mentor she would be to me.  "The Robin's Nest" is not only a home away from home for Tootsie, but a daily source of comfort for me.  I am grateful for her calm demeanor, her confident care of our daughter, her loving understanding of our two elder sisters, and her words of reassurance just when I need them.  I include an excerpt from a message she sent me in the fall: 

I just read your latest blog and I can so relate to how you feel. I have felt that... How could I be all things to all people?...What worked for me was simply saying upon waking in the morning... "Can I get through just this day with grace and love for all?"    I would always answer, "Yes."   I did this so I wouldn't think about tomorrow or Friday or the carpool on Saturday's game or the guilt I felt dragging my newborn around to all the outings and spending little to no quiet time with her... It's that old saying, 'one day at a time'.. otherwise the mind won't quiet down.

She gets it, which makes it all so much easier, and Tootsie lights up each time I hand her over to her much-more-than-a-babysitter. 

Our Village, complete with nests and meals and so much love, is amazing and so very, very appreciated. 

Thank you.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Six Months...Half a Year!

Dear Tootsie,

You are six months old today (!), and this morning I left as you wriggled on your playmat, gurgled away, and chewed on your Sophie giraffe.  It was hard to leave your gummy grin, bright eyes, and chubby cheeks and rubber-band-ringed arms and legs.  It's such an easy love, loving a baby.  And you make it really, really easy with your cheery demeanor, ready smile, and snuggles.

You used to coo in soft sighs, a determined and wonder-filled look on your face as you made each satisfying syllable-exhalation.  Then you stopped talking for a while (only making me worry a little...), but you were just waiting to unleash your new lower-toned guttural gurgle and excited exhortations, which you manage around whatever toy, finger, or foot you have in your mouth at the time.  By the way, you always want something in your mouth.  Watching you duck your head to lock your gums around a toy attached to your exersaucer makes me laugh, and your sisters love when you shake your head like a ravenous tiger and clamp on to a finger waved in your face.

Let's talk about sleep.  You sleep very well at night, and when I say that, I don't mean you sleep in your own bed for a very long time or "through the night" anywhere.  I mean that you sleep in between your many nightly feedings, mainly in my arms, and often in between your father and me. I am lazily (and mostly happily) maintaining this practice because 1) you're my baby, 2) I fall asleep breastfeeding, 3) you snore so sweetly in my arms, 4) I am invested in continuing to breastfeed you, and 5) I'm not interested in initiating the battle to move you into your own bed.  Truth is, I would miss you.  And you've let me know you would miss us too.  Let's just go ahead and put out there now that when we decide to make that transition, it's going to be ugly (insert link to that future blog post here). 

Your sisters adore you.  And despite the fact that you're huge (could be that all-night breastfeeding?), they still manage to carry you around, and it doesn't always frighten me and other bystanders.  You're still learning to roll over and sit up, but you do awesome ab crunches in an attempt to assert your verticality. 

Needless to say, we feel like you've been around more than half a year (it was actually January 11, 2013 when you first became my reality), as you've become so huge in all of our lives.  We love you, baby girl. 

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

This Week

I'm hesitant to announce that I'm back to work in fear I'll fall off the work wagon again, but I went back to work this week.  I'm tackling life 30 minutes at a time and that's working for me, particularly when I start worrying about May and June and next year.  Or tomorrow morning.

Our refrigerator is woefully empty.  The girls are buying lunch and I'd have to cobble something together for dinner each night if it weren't for our amazing Village.  I owe the universe many, many delicious meals. And cookies. And some Tupperware.

On the sidelines of Big Sis's soccer practice I struck up a conversation with a dad who gravely surveyed my work clothes, my infant (being slung around cavalierly by Little Sis), and her scrimmaging Big Sis.  Our life is a little crazy right now, I acknowledged.  We talked about how hard life can be, even when it's wonderful.  And how wonderful life can be, even when it's hard.  We connected enough to hug goodbye before gathering our kids to head home.

Tonight Big Sis beckoned me to the computer to admire what she'd built on Minecraft and I geared up to exclaim seasick interest in the aerial, diving view of her pixelated landscape, until I realized she had created a version of Camp Half Blood from descriptions of that setting in her book The Lightning Thief.  I suddenly gained new respect for the game and the amount of time my daughter wishes to dedicate to it (almost as much as she dedicates to reading).  Kids, make a Minecraft Book Report!  (Works every time).

I called my cousin, whose mom, my aunt, my mother's big sister, died last week.  I marveled at my cousin's maintainenace of her sense of humor amidst her grief, admiration, and affection for her mom.  My aunt was so creative, artistic, generous, smart.  My cousin has her charisma and fortitude.

My therapist suggested a hot bath with detoxifying salts tonight and I'm pretty much doing what wise (calm, balanced, serene, and kind) clinicians are telling me to do these days, so I lit a candle and soaked.  Little Sis came in and scrubbed my back with lavender sugar and giggled at her Mama in her tub.  I felt like her child for a minute there.

My sister called from the airport; she's heading here to see my uncle (by heart if not blood), who is ailing.  He was my first uncle and a real one to me in the absence of any others.  He was one of the first men to make me feel beautiful and smart as a child (while beating me mercilessly at Scrabble).  He is wise, kind, generous, and faithfully calls me "Fer" after my toddler name for myself.  Dancing with him at my wedding is a cherished memory.

So many families grieving this week.

Today was a rich patchwork of thirty-minute segments.  Despite sadness, anxiety, and uncertainty, I'm thanking myself for being here for each half hour.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

New Year

2013 brought us many blessings, including our amazing baby, new house, and my new job. But lots of change, much of it unexpected, and the loss of family members and our cat made last year a tough one, too. I feel like I limped my way to the end of 2013, but have resolved to embrace the new year with some key verbs for better balanced living:









What is your verb for 2014?