Monday, August 30, 2010

A Hot Mess

The last 24 hours of my life have gone down like they were straight out of a Ben Stiller movie.  You know, the kind of movies where the main character gets crapped on over and over again and you just want to scream at the movie screen and walk out of the theater?  Yeah, that's what's going on over here. 

It all started when I realized around 6:00 last night that I left my school bag at my mom's house with my computer and lesson plans inside.  A computer and lesson plans that would be very hard to live without all week.  I felt awful about it, like I had really screwed up big time as a "working mom who has it together."  That, I certainly am not, as the rest of my story will prove.

Next, we decided to make a late trip to the grocery store, which meant dinner was pushed back about a half an hour, which, in baby terms, is about a million years.  Sylvia fell asleep on the way home, and when she woke up...woah, buddy, she was M-A-D mad!  She was all, "WHY HAVEN'T I HAD ANY DINNER YET?" and "NO I WILL NOT WAIT HERE PATIENTLY UNTIL YOU WARM UP MY FOOD!" and "YOU EXPECT ME TO EAT THIS CRAP NOW THAT YOU'VE GOT ME ALL WORKED UP?  I DON'T THINK SO!!!"  I tried to shovel in a few spoonfuls of squash and rice cereal, but between bites she decided to spit it all back out and scream and cry and scream and cry.  I took her out of her high chair and put her in my lap and she settled down long enough to finish her food, but it left me covered in pureed squash and baby puke.  Mmmm, yummy. 

We knew she was really tired, so after dinner we decided to put her straight in the tub and then get her to bed.  While I was still covered in squash and puke, I reached into the tub to turn on the faucet and, wouldn't you know, I accidentally turned on the shower instead!  So there I was, soaking wet, covered in damp squash and baby puke.  Humph. 

We finally got the babe in the tub, at which point I decided I was exhausted and I was not in the mood to watch her play for half an hour.  Right after I scrubbed her down and got her all squeaky clean, she proceeded to POOP in the bathtub, which sucked for me, because I put my feet in the tub when I give her a bath (after I clean them, of course - bath time is a great excuse for a foot bath...until your baby poops on you, at which point feet in the bath are not such a good idea).  I screamed for Sylvain, he came running, laughed at me, and helped me get her out of the tub before she got herself all dirty.  He whisked her off to her bedroom and there I stood, still covered in wet squash and baby puke, ankle deep in poopy bath water.  Not my greatest moment.

I tried to have a glass of wine to help me settle down while watching some of the Emmy's last night, but I was so tired I fell asleep on the couch.  Luckily, Sylvia slept all night, so my story could be worse.  I woke up this morning, still feeling overwhelmingly tired despite having had a good night's sleep, and decided I could afford to snooze for six minutes.  Oops.  Those six minutes would have come in handy when I was running about 15 minutes late, scrambling around the house to find my keys.  I could feel the tears coming and I decided to look for one more minute before calling in sick to work and staying home with the baby.  Sure enough, I found them and we were on our way.

I dropped her off at day care and sprinted to my car, then, as I sat down and put my key in the ignition, I realized I had lost the automatic starter key pad that my loving husband paid way too much money for.  I was so late that I decided not to go back inside and look for it, I just started driving away and fighting back tears.  I drove to the front of the church and was about to turn onto the main road when I read the sign that said something really simple like "God is good."  And I took a minute right then and there to put my foot on the brake, bow my head, and pray.  I literally dropped my head onto the steering wheel, closed my eyes and begged out loud, "Please God, just help me make it through the day.  See me through to the other side of this mess.  I'm yours.  I'm handing you all of this stress and chaos.  Please take it.  I need you to take it."  And he did, of course, because that's his thing.  He saw me through this day, and although it was a long one and a stressful one, and all I could think about was my comfy bed and my sweet snuggly baby, here we are at the other end of it, none the worse for the wear.  I got my computer back thanks to my wonderful stepdad, AND I got my key pad back because Sylvain found it in the bottom of Sylvia's carrier.

And I didn't get pooped on tonight.  I'll take any small success where ever I can find it.  From now on, any day that doesn't end with getting pooped on will be a good day.  I'll be saying my prayers of thanks (and forgiveness) tonight!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Important Things

Things are still quite hectic around here, but I suppose the dust is starting to settle.  Or else we've just learned to live in a dust storm and carry on.  Anyhow, I've realized that all I can do is be as organized as possible (Ha!  Hilarious!) and let God worry about the chaos.  He seems to be pretty good at dealing with chaos.  I, on the other hand - not so good.  He can have it.  I'll just sit over here and rock back and forth in the corner until Sylvia is 18. 

Speaking of God, you'll never guess what he sent me this school year!  A handful of a child, that's what.  Some might say I have a few handfuls, but I say that most of them are nothing more than your average, squirmy, nine-year-old boys who struggle with reading and writing and therefore hate school.  Psh.  I've seen them before, nothing new.  They'll end up loving fourth grade, if for nothing else than for the fact that this year they get to do cool stuff by themselves, like build a car and throw paper airplanes.  Hellloooo, science!  Thank you for showing up in the nick of time.  These boys need you.

No, this new handful of mine happens to be a girl, which is a refreshing change of pace.  Without getting too detailed, let me just say that for the first few days I thought I might be able to simply ignore any problems and confrontations, but after this week, she has made it very clear that she is not to be ignored...and I'm so glad.  Sylvain reminded me that I have yet to pick my "pet project" this year, meaning that I usually pick the most challenging kid in my class and bust my butt to help them as much as I possibly can.  As I was putting Sylvia to bed, I realized that this little girl will be it.  And that God has a wonderful sense of humor.

Today, when this little girl was on the verge of a meltdown, I looked at her and struggled with what to say.  Part of me wanted to throw my hands up and scream, "You are being totally ridiculous!" But another, bigger part of me stopped and thought, "This could be Sylvia.  This could be my daughter in about nine years.  What would you want her teacher to do?  What would you say to her?"  I continued to handle the situation delicately and we carried on with the rest of our day.  I've been waiting for the moment that my mom side seeped into my teacher side.

After school I spent a long, long time thinking about this little girl.  I've brainstormed activities that would help her, strategies I could use with her, and phrases I could say that would make her calm down.  I emptied my mental arsenal on my new pet project.  I got very excited about the prospect of teaching her all year, and starting on some real work with her this early.  Then, I switched gears into mother-mode and started putting Sylvia to bed, but I couldn't get this other little girl out of my head.  As I was rocking Sylvia to sleep, I looked at her sweet face and thought, "Oh my gosh.  Nine years ago, someone else was rocking that little girl.  Nine years ago, a parent was putting a baby girl to bed with no clue what would happen in fourth grade, or any other grade for that matter.  Nine years ago, that little girl's future was full of promise and hope, and now it's my job to make sure she gets it."  Then I got choked up and thought, "Oh, thank you, Lord.  Thank you for my own little nugget and that sweet little girl in my class.  I see what you're trying to do.  I get it.  I'm on board.  Let's rock."

If I had met this little girl in the past; if I had been her third or second grade teacher; if she was in fourth grade a year or two ago; our relationship would have been different.  But now I get to look at her like a mother and it changes everything.  I can see her as a mother's sweetest nugget.  And I'll treat her like my own sweetest nugget no matter what.  I hope it's a good year for her.  I hope it's her best year yet.  But I know it's going to be a good year for me.      

Monday, August 23, 2010

Gaaaaahhhhhrrrgggg...... the only word that can describe my thoughts at the moment.  I spent all of last week figuring out how to send a kid to day care, and I've decided it will take me the rest of this week to figure out how to get everything done at work in the short amount of time I have each day.  I wish I could show you a chart with three columns - one for my old school-day schedule, one for my stay-at-home-with-a-baby schedule, and one for the OH MY GOD I HAVE TO DO BOTH OF THESE???? schedule.  The first two columns would look normal and the third column would look like an ink pen exploded on it.  And there would probably be some baby puke on it too. 

Needless to say, this transition from home to work has been a bit daunting.  I had a few practice days of day care, which were very useful insomuch as they gave me three days to cry before I had anything too important or pressing to do at work.  It turns out I only needed one day to cry and then I was done.  That's how much I love my job.  Last week, though, was the real, honest-to-goodness, on the go from 6am to 10pm, days.  Not counting the middle of the night 20 minute feeding sessions, which, thanks to my blessed child, have been diminished to one.  One feeding at 4 am, and sometimes not until 6 am.  This kid is good.  Really, really good. 

But people, I feel like I am running ragged from sun up to sun down - and I have a husband who easily does half the work when we're home!  How does ANYONE do this??  I wake up at 6:00 and give myself a pep talk that goes something like this: "Okay, Rach.  It's time to wake up.  DON'T HIT THAT SNOOZE BUTTON OR YOUR ENTIRE DAY WILL BE NINE MINUTES OFF!!"  And that's pretty much all it takes to get me out of bed.  I shower, get myself ready, eat breakfast (if I remember), fold some laundry, and wake up the nugget for her morning feeding, after which I slap some play clothes on her and strap her into her carrier because we have got to GO.  I drop her off, unpack her things in her room at day care, and give her a big fat kiss.  I walk slowly out of the door so I don't look like a complete idiot to all of the other well-adjusted and put-together parents, then, when no one's looking, I sprint to my car and rush to work.   I run around like a maniac at work all day, squeezing in a pumping session or two, get home, nurse the nugget, eat dinner, feed the nugget baby food, wash dishes, start a load of laundry, bathe the nugget, and put the nugget to bed, which happens to be the most amazing and relaxing 20 minutes of my day.  After bedtime, I somehow manage to muster enough energy to check my email or call my mom, before WHAM!  It's 9:30pm and I have no idea where my day just went.  Oh, but wait!  I can't go to bed until I pump again, wash some bottles, and get all of Sylvia's bottles and bags ready for day care the next day.  It's only been one week and I feel like I'm losing my freaking mind!

Phew.  But....

Seeing her smile when I walk in the door makes it totally worth it.  I have, and I'm not exaggerating, the most wonderful, adorable, delightful child on the entire planet.  I've met a lot of kids, and mine is the coolest.  Hands down.  No contest.  The three of us managed to sit down on the couch for about 15 minutes between dishes and bath time tonight, and it was the most wonderful 15 minutes of the last two weeks.  It was a nice, quiet, peaceful time where all 3 of us were just simply and wonderfully....together.  I know we'll get this down soon enough.  I know this will get easier, and at times, I know it will be harder.  For now, we're all just running around like chickens with our heads cut off, but we're enjoying every blessed minute of it!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Day Cares and High Chairs

I suppose I'll have to eventually, some day, come to terms with the fact that kids grow.  I suppose that at some point I should stop feeling so heartbroken over every tiny accomplishment and milestone that my little nugget exhibits and I should start being happy and joyful and in the moment.  Someday.  But not yet.  Today I reserve the right to rant about how fast she's growing, particularly how fast she grew this week.

Tuesday was day care day.  The day I had been anticipating since April.  I'm not going to say I was dreading it, but I certainly wasn't looking forward to it.  It came and went, I cried my tears (all morning long), and at the end of the day our family was eating dinner together and everyone survived.  It was hard, I won't lie.  I could barely speak to the day care teachers because I had a giant lump in my throat that felt like it was going to burst if I spoke one tiny word.  And, actually, it did burst as soon as one of the ladies looked me in the eyes, saw that I was choked up, and said, "Awww!  She'll be alright!  You can call as many times as you want to check on her!"  Soooo, I lost it.  I couldn't tell them half the things I needed to tell them.  I just gave her a kiss and got the heck out of there so I could cry all the way to work.  I called my mom in the parking lot and as soon as she answered she said, "Are you okay?" and I sobbed, "Noo-oo-ooo!" But you know what?  Once the day was over...I was okay. 

We sent her there for three days this week, and she ate well and slept well and smiled when I or Sylvain picked her up.  Our evening family time has become so special, something to really cherish and appreciate now that we're both working again.  I had some wonderful conversations with other teachers who have kids, I worked hard all week with my AMAZING fourth grade team, and now I'm really starting to feel like the Mom I've always pictured myself being.  The decision to go back to work was a no-brainer.  I love my job.  I LOVE my job!  Teaching fills me up in ways that nothing else can.  I am so grateful for the four fabulous months I've enjoyed at home with my sweet baby girl, but I am so excited to start this school year.  It's going to be fantastic!

While we were on a roll with new plans and routines this week, we decided to give the wee nugget her first "food."  We started her on some rice cereal this week for two reasons.  First of all, I'm hoping it helps her sleep better at night.  I've heard people in both camps argue that it will or it won't, so we'll just have to try it and see.  Secondly, and more importantly to me, we're introducing her to the idea of family meal time.  Until now, we've tried to at least sit her at (or near) the table when we eat dinner so that she understands this is a special time for us, and something we do every night.  Once she fit in her bumbo seat, we let her pull up a chair to the table and join in our conversations.  We'd say, "How was your day today, Sylvia?" and she'd smile and say, "Aaalllggrrrrbbhhhhaaa."  Which obviously means, "Lovely, thank you.  How was yours Momma?"  After her doctor's appointment on Monday, we got the green light to introduce some simple foods, so we started shovelling some cereal into her mouth while she sat with us at the table.

She didn't like the new plan.

It took her a while to get used to the idea of a spoon.  On the first night, she just made a really awful face and her tongue pushed it all back out onto her chin because, of course, her mouth has NO IDEA how to swallow something that it hasn't sucked.  I only tried about four or five spoonfuls that first night and she was just not having it.  Lots of fussing and odd looks and gurgles that clearly meant, "What the hell are you trying to do to me?"  Sylvain even looked at me and said, and I quote, "You have a lot of patience."  Can I get that in writing?

Then, on the second, third and fourth nights, she started figuring out what was going on, but she still got fussy after a few spoonfuls.  Something occurred to me.  I wonder if she thinks that cereal is just some jacked up version of breast milk?  I thought mixing it with breast milk would make it easier for her, but I bet it just confuses her.  The look on her face was all, "What IS this crap in my breast milk?  Why can't I just eat it like I normally do?"  So I thought I might start mixing the cereal with water instead, and then maybe it won't taste anything like breast milk and she'll be able to tell a difference.  Wahell!  It worked like a charm.  All of a sudden, on the fifth night - rice and water night - she was all, "Hey!  This stuff is AWESOME!  Shovel some more in there, Momma, and keep it coming!"  She actually started opening her mouth when she saw the spoon coming!  Success!!

I've been begging Sylvain to put her high chair together for the past few weeks.  In my head, I thought we could take the tray off of the high chair and put the bumbo in it so she could be elevated a little higher at the table and so she could get used to the high chair for a while until she learns to sit up on her own.  He put it together today and I was devastated to learn that the bumbo seat wouldn't fit in the high chair.  He set the chair by the corner of the table, where I always envisioned it would be, and I resigned myself to waiting for another month or two.  Then he, oh wise and wonderful husband, he suggested we should try to put her in it anyway because it has straps in it and the tray comes back far enough that she might be able to keep herself upright.  Oh. My. GOSH!  We set her in that high chair and wouldn't you know, she sat right up and smiled at us like, "Ahhh, finally!  I can SEE at the dinner table!"  I was so happy.  I mixed her cereal, slapped on a bib and she went to town on her new favorite food. 

As I shovelled the first few bites in her mouth I became teary-eyed.  I was not expecting to feed a kid in a real high chair this weekend.  I don't know exactly when I thought this would happen, but I didn't think it would be this soon.  Sylvain snapped a few pictures because he knew it too.  Sitting in a high chair is not on the doctor's list of developmental milestones.  This is a big deal.  Bigger than day care.  This is one of those things that takes you by surprise as you look at your kid and think, "Oh my gosh.  She's so big.  She's so strong.  She's so smart.  Look at what she can do!"  And she made it look so easy! 

Oh, my sweet girl.  You amaze me.

Monday, August 9, 2010

A Mama's Prayer

Dear God, Jesus, Holy Spirit, Mary Virgin Mother, all the Saints and Angels in Heaven (including Grandpas Neltner, Humbert and Eiben, and Granny, and Cindy, and Jerry, and anyone else who's living in God's love):

Watch over my baby.

Keep her safe.

Keep her happy.

Shine your love on her while she's in someone else's care. See that they are gentle, patient, and kind. See that they attend to her needs. That they dry her tears, hold her, rock her, play with her.

Wrap her in your warmth and comfort her when I cannot. Stand over her while she sleeps in another crib.

Bless her. Bless her. Bless her.

And while you're at it, help me make it through the day, too. Help me to focus on the kids in my own care, the ones who need me. Help me look at them with a mother's eyes, love them with a mother's heart. Give all of us the strength, wisdom and patience to make it through another school year.

Thank you for your love. I see it everywhere I go.

Watch over my baby.


As you can see, my baby goes to day care for the first time tomorrow. I know there are so many more important things going on the world and that I should save some room in my prayers for all of the hurt and suffering people out there, but tonight, I pray for her and for me. If you have an extra minute for us, maybe you could sqeeze us into your prayers too. Right between starving children and people who have cancer.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

A Nugget's Voice

As I mentioned in her four month letter, Sylvia has really found her voice.  I think it's the cutest babble on the planet and I could listen to it all day long.  Correction, I DO listen to it all day long, and it's glorious! 

This is another video that Sylvain recorded while I was setting up my classroom.  I decided that after this week, he (again) wins the husband of the year award, especially in the category of breastfeeding support.  Not only is he very good at warming up and giving her bottles, but today he brought her to school at lunch so I could feed her instead of pumping.  Then, when I was leaving school, I called him and he said, "Oh good, I was going to give her a bottle, but I'll try to just keep her busy until you get here."  Maybe he just didn't want to give her any more bottles today, but that meant that I didn't have to pump at all today and THAT is something to celebrate!  I hate pumping, I love a husband who appreciates a good boob.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Four Months

Dear Sweet Sylvia,

Oh, my dear.  Where do I begin?  This month arrives with a twinge of sadness.  Our honeymoon is over, little girl, and our summer has come to an end.  You and I have spent every day together for the last four months and we are very lucky to have done so.  I've learned so much about you and about myself and about our family, so I should thank you for opening my eyes to all the wonders of motherhood.  As we start our journey into a working-mother/day-care-daughter duo, I want you to know that even though I can't spend my days with you anymore, I will spend every minute of every morning, evening and weekend showering you with as many hugs and kisses as is humanly possible.  All the snuggling and loving we've been doing all day will have to be squished into a few hours at night and all day Saturday and Sunday, so get ready for some serious cuddles.  And during those days when I'm not with you, I'll be thinking of you every minute.  I'll be sending happy thoughts your way and I'll do my best to race home to you as soon as I can each night.  I'm sure if you could talk, you'd say, "Get over it, Mama.  I'll be fine in day care, and you'll be fine without me."  And you'd be right.

You've learned how to do a lot of important things this month, Nugget.  You can roll over from your back to your belly like a champ and you've rolled from belly to back at least twice, but that's a little bit harder.  You can grasp just about anything we put in front of you and you're getting much better at putting things in your mouth to explore.  Just today, while I was looking at pictures on the computer with you on my lap, you grabbed a Sharpie marker and shoved the plastic end of it right into your mouth before I even knew it was missing.  A little scary, since a permanent ink pen isn't the best of chew toys, but an accomplishment nonetheless.  Your greatest achievement this month, though, has to be - your voice!

You've been playing around with the idea of talking since you were first born, but this month you've really found your voice.  You can squeal and shriek with the best of them and it's these happy times that I know you must be MY daughter!  Sometimes you're neither happy nor sad, just exploring all the sounds your voice can make while you drone on and on in a constant hum.  You're developing a laugh and a cry and lots of silly spurts and bubbles that constantly make me and Daddy laugh.  You talk to us, you talk to yourself, and you talk to your toys in the most adorable baby babble I've ever heard.  I can tell you're going to use that voice for great things, which is why I've decided to write about it tonight.

Your voice is an important gift.  You're too little to realize it now, but someday you'll see how powerful and inspiring your voice can be.  With some very simple words and opinions behind it, your voice can move mountains and build bridges.  But with those same words and opinions you might also tear them down.  I think your voice is the most crucial of all talents for this very reason.  I've seen voices do wonders and I've seen them wreak havoc.  I've used my own voice to comfort, soothe and honor the people around me, but at times I've also misused it to hurt and condemn others.  There are voices all over the world working together to inspire people and make life better for others, but also working against each other to start fights and lay blame on others.  But your voice is exactly that - yours.  You get to do what you want with it.  You have a choice.  I hope you use your voice to do many, many good things.  To help people, to make people laugh, and most importantly, to forgive people.  I get goosebumps when I think about your tiny coos and gurgles turning into words, and those words turning into sentences, and those sentences turning into conversations that have the potential to change the world, for better or worse.  It's all up to you.  But if you want my advice (and I'm sure you do, being only four months old): spread love, my sweet girl.  Use your voice to make others happy.

With all the love in my heart,

Monday, August 2, 2010

Hello August!

Well, here we are at the end of another summer.  I have plenty of sad and sappy going-back-to-work posts, but today I'll just focus on the positive, lest I leave some of you in tears.  I've been dying to get back into my classroom all summer and today was the day!  They finally finished cleaning on the third floor and we had the go-ahead to start working, so off I went at 8:30 am, after a run through Starbucks, of course, and I left Sylvia in the loving care of her fabulous father. 

I knew I could be gone all day and I wouldn't have to worry one bit.  There was plenty of baby milk in the refrigerator and Sylvain knows exactly what do with her and when, so I was able to enjoy my drive to school.  I started to get REALLY excited about this school year.  I feel like I've been away forever!  I arrived and met the newest member of our fourth grade team, then spent a good five hours unpacking boxes and rearranging furniture. 

My hidden designer genes really get to shine when I put a classroom together.  In fact, I would go so far as to say that the two weeks before school starts are my favorite time of year!  Everything is organized and clean and new, the anticipation of another school year just builds and builds while I come up with the most scathingly brilliant ideas I've ever had.  The bulletin boards get covered with fresh paper and fabric, the desks get labelled and arragned in neat little tables, my desk is immaculate with everything in its place, pencils get sharpened, windows get cleaned, and everyone is just atwitter with back-to-school excitement.  Then somewhere around October I look at my classroom and think, "Geez, what a dump.  How did this MESS get here?"  The good news is, it's usually a productive, learning-filled mess.  Things aren't quite as new and glossy come October, but it's worth it.

While I was gone today, Sylvain took some video of the Nugget in her new jumperoo that Grammy gave to her this weekend.  She loves jumping in it, but often gets distracted by the cow, for some reason.  She'll play with all of the toys and laugh at the music, but when she catches a glimpse of the cow hanging from the barn attachment, she gets quiet and stares at it with her unblinking eyes.  She does it here at the end of this short video and I think it's adorable.

Here's my favorite picture from our trip to the Aquarium with Laura and Pete.  Sylvia loved looking at the water at the top of the tanks, I think because it was where a lot of light was reflected.  I think this is a picture of her actually looking at a fish, but I can't remember which one.

So, I get to go back to school tomorrow and Thursday while Sylvain stays with my baby girl.  Then next week....ooooh, next week.  I cringe, I shudder, I cry when I think about next week.  I'll take her to day care three days next week, and the first two are only half-days.  Next Friday will be her first full day there, then the week after that, she goes full time.  Sometimes I'm totally fine with it and other times I'm a freaking mess over the whole thing.  I think it's going to be a lot like waiting for the day Sylvain went back to work - I'll be really sad and anxious up until it actually happens, then once we get started and I realize that everyone is able to survive, I'll be fine.