WHATEVS…

Sierra's online journal

Take Me Back… July 17, 2020

(Day 16: Write about something that you miss.)

Here we are. Mid-July. [When did THAT happen, anyway?!] The United States has been trying like hell to fight against Covid-19 since March. And my home state, Connecticut, which began as a hotbed of infections, has led the charge in flattening the curve and getting transmission rates under control. Our reward? We’re currently on “phase 2” of Governor Lamont’s reopening plan with an eye toward “phase 3.” Great news, right? Well, yes. But there’s still a long list of things that I miss. Things that aren’t back to normal yet. Today, I’d like to talk about the number one item on that list.

Bring it in because I’m only going to admit to this once. Are you ready? I miss working from my office. In mid-March, as I was packing up a box of necessities from my desk, I felt an excitement in my belly. The plan was to work remotely to adhere to local “stay at home” orders. There was no talk of how long the arrangement would last but I think most of us envisioned a few weeks, tops. And when I locked the office for the last time four months ago, I was ready to be remote. Ready to stop incessantly pumping hand sanitizer onto chapped hands in an effort to protect those around me. Ready to let some of my anxiety over the virus fall away finally. No more co-mingling with possible carriers. No more constant worry about whether or not I’ve touched my face.

The beginning of working remotely was an adjustment, but not necessarily in a bad way. I pulled my daughter from daycare, glad to have her home safe with me. I enjoyed a fluid work station, having traded my desktop computer at work for my laptop in bed or at the dining room table or on my couch or lounging in the backyard. It felt freeing. A little fun, even. A girl could get used to this, I thought. But as the weeks became months, I soon realized the folly of my initial excitement.

These past four months have reminded me why I’ve never chosen to be a WAHM (work at home mom). And the main reason is because it’s virtually. fucking. impossible. In the beginning, I told myself it would get easier when the school year ended so I wouldn’t have to play teacher for part of the day during “distance learning.” I was wrong. In the middle, I told myself it would get easier when my daughter was able to get back to the hobbies she loves, soccer and dance. I was wrong about that, too. Lately, I’ve been telling myself that it would get easier if I just re-enrolled her in daycare. But let’s face it. The mom guilt over even contemplating sending her to daycare when I’m “just at home” is rooted too deep to ever actually allow me to do such a thing. So I forge on. Constantly distracted.

My work day begins, as it always has, at 8am. Only instead of settling into my office, firing up my workstation with its two monitors, and focusing on my tasks in a distraction-free space, things are a bit more chaotic these days. The physical space in which I work varies based on whether my laptop needs to be plugged in or whether or not I’ll need to print anything imminently. It varies based on what my daughter is doing at the time; sometimes the TV is too loud for me to answer phone calls, other times I need to be within earshot of her to thwart arguments between her and the neighborhood kids. It varies based on the time of day and what non-work-related thing is in demand at the time; has she had lunch? How many snacks has that been today? She wants to take a bubble bath at 2pm?

Sometimes I have to apologize to clients for the sound of my dog barking in the background. Sometimes I have to barricade myself in the bedroom to get enough privacy to complete a Zoom meeting. Sometimes I need to pretend like I didn’t just step over and around three thousand and twelve toys on the living room floor to get a glass of water. Sometimes I need to be okay with my daughter running the hose all. day. long. because it keeps her happy and lets me work in peace. Sometimes I’ve got to walk away from work briefly to get ice for her scrape or to help her decipher a word she can’t figure out or to let the dog in for the millionth time.

By the time my husband comes home from his office—that lucky bastard!—I’m a ball of nerves. At the end of my patience. Often on the verge of tears. I’ve spent all day being pulled in a dozen directions, trying to please everyone by filling two roles—mom and worker. And feeling like a failure at both. I give all I can, leaving pieces of myself everywhere. And by the time hubby’s home, the task of gathering all those pieces to make myself whole again feels daunting. But wait. There’s more. I remind myself to show him patience. He’s worked all day, too, I remind myself. I feel guilty that his welcome home is so frazzled (emotionally) and messy (physically). I feel guilty at not having picked up all the toys she’s taken out and for not having started to cook dinner yet. I feel guilty about being grumpy. I feel guilty about not having any more grace left in me to help my daughter with the simplest of tasks without snapping at her. And all of this leaves me feeling like a failure at my third role: wife.

I’m confident that my story is not unique. There are millions of other people in my shoes right now. Trying to make the best of juggling working from home and parenthood. Trying to give more of themselves than even exists. Trying not to lose themselves completely in the melee. To them, I say, I see you. I’m with you. And it’ll get easier when we can get back to the office. [Famous last words.]

 

30-Day Writing Challenge

 

A Day in the [Quarantined] Life May 13, 2020

(Day 15: Bullet-point your whole day.)

img_20200513_0019421890282439609068590.jpg

THE WORRY MONSTER – Just wait. We’ll get there.

7:15am – Wake up to the sound of my alarm, which is set to play a random song from a Spotify playlist called Wide Awake. Today’s selection? “You’re Too Weird” by the Fruit Bats. Feeling attacked, I turn off the music and lay in bed a bit longer, listening to the birds outside and feeling thankful to see sunshine through the curtains.

 

7:30am – Head to the bathroom to get ready for work, which entails:

  • Brushing my teeth
  • Using my fingers to comb my messy hair into less messy bun
  • Tying a robe around my mismatched pajamas

 

7:45am – Hunt for a shaker cup in the kitchen. Find it in the last cabinet I’d expect to. Silently curse my husband for putting it away someplace weird then silently thank my husband for having put the dishes away at all. Make a protein shake using unsweetened chocolate almond milk (because I bought the wrong kind…I prefer the unsweetened vanilla) and vanilla protein powder (because I bought the wrong kind…I prefer the chocolate).

 

7:58am – Begin my commute to work which entails walking ten steps from the kitchen to the dining room, firing up my laptop, and opening all the websites I need to access for work.

 

8:00am – Cram as much of a regular work day as possible into the three hours my company has authorized me per day. Today’s interruptions were minimal and included:

  • 8:35am – Kissing my girl good morning and supervising her breakfast selection.
  • 9:40am – Discussing with my girl the fact that I don’t want her to go outside to play with Neighbor Child 1 and 2** yet because I want her to do her school work first.
  • 9:55am – Bathroom break.
  • 10:00am – Discussing with my girl the fact that I didn’t like that she snuck out the front door to play with Neighbor Child 1 and 2 while I was in the bathroom. Subsequent to that, accepted her pinkie promise that once I was done working, she’d come in to do school work “straight away.”
  • 10:45am – Diffuse my girl’s emotional upset over an ongoing disagreement between her and Neighbor Child 1.
  • 10:55am – Agree to my girl grabbing a morning snack for her and Neighbor Child 2. She stated that Neighbor Child 1 is home doing school work. I remind her that she’ll be doing school work soon, too. She pretends not to hear and bounces out the front door with two packs of mini Oreos. She’s wearing a bike helmet. She’s always wearing a bike helmet.

 

11:15am – Call out the front door to tell my girl it’s time to get school work done. Endure a brief spurt of grumpiness from her about leaving Neighbor Child 2 to come inside. Begin watching the three required videos for the day and try my best to keep her engaged long enough to write 5 “snap words” and a list of 5 words each for -er, -ir, and -ur words.

 

12:00pm – Grant my girl a bathroom break. With her tablet. Which lasts 30 minutes.

 

12:30pm – Refuse my girl’s third request for lunch. Promise her said lunch when her last assignment is done. Continue to battle over her task of writing a realistic fiction story. Ignore huffing and pouting for as long as possible before snapping and shouting like a lunatic, “Fine! Let’s stop doing school work! You can just repeat the first grade!”

 

1:15pm – Rejoice over the fact that she finished her story AND tackled her art project: creating a “worry monster.” Tell her she’s done a great job when she proudly proclaims, “My worry monster is wearing blue and purple pajamas and he’s surprised because he has a brand new bed.” Serve lunch to my girl and breathe a sigh of relief that she’s chosen to eat at the table on the porch.

 

1:20pm – Make myself a sandwich, which I shovel into my mouth while standing up over the kitchen sink.

 

1:45pm – Sort laundry. Decide it’s time to put on actual [non-pajama] clothes and brush my hair with an actual hair brush.

 

2:00pm – Unload the dishwasher. Immediately reload it with all the dishes that have been piled up in the sink for the past 24 hours.

 

2:05pm – Hear the hose turn on. Run outside to tell my girl, who’s still wearing a bike helmet, to turn off the hose. Listen calmly as she explains that she and Neighbor Child 2 are “watering the flowers” [that we don’t have] out front. I concede and tell her to turn it on just long enough to fill her watering can then turn it immediately off. She complies. Repeatedly.

 

2:20pm – Venture out into the light of day for the sole purpose of telling my girl that the flowers are watered enough. Decide to make an outing of this trip outside by setting up a camp chair and reading a book in the sunshine while my girl and Neighbor Child 1 and 2 play outside. Encounter the following interruptions:

  • 12x – “Mom, watch me…”
  • 1x – “Mom, can I grab a snack for all of us?”
  • 1x – “Mooooom, I’m hurt!”

 

3:30pm – Let the wind get the better of me and finally relocate from the front yard to inside the porch. Continue reading until my girl follows me. Wearing a bike helmet. With her tablet. On full blast. Ask her to turn it down some, which she does. But it’s not enough. Give up. Close my book and resort to playing a game on my phone.

 

4:00pm – The husband returns from work. Breathe a sigh of relief while he takes over parenting. Escape inside to sit in solitude for the first time all day. Except for the dog. Who is whining to get outside again.

 

4:30pm – Heat up dinner for my girl, which she again chooses to eat on the porch. In her bike helmet.

 

5:00pm – Negotiate with my girl about dessert. She proposes she gets two scoops of ice cream tonight and promises to not have dessert for a week. I remind her about our weekly Family Movie Night coming up on Friday and point out that she’ll want dessert then. She insists she won’t. I know she’s lying. I counter her with one scoop of ice cream tonight, dessert on Friday, and no dessert otherwise until next Wednesday. The offer is accepted. She chooses to eat on the porch. Neighbor Child 1 and 2 bring over their dinner to dine with her.

 

5:15pm – Contemplate baking banana muffins, which would require me to get up off the couch and actually do something. But I’m enjoying doing nothing. And eating tortilla chips. In peace.

 

5:45pm – Finally bake the muffins.

 

7:00pm – Wrap up a half dozen muffins to send home with Neighbor Child 1 and 2. Shout the “one more hour” warning to hubby and our girl, who have started hockey practice in the driveway. She is not wearing a helmet. Curl up on the couch to read a little more.

 

7:58pm – Cart the musical instruments out the front door for “Bell Time.” (Every night from 8:00 to 8:02pm, residents in our town are encouraged to ring bells and/or otherwise make noise as a showing of “alone, together” during the pandemic. We participate nightly, as do Neighbor Child 1 and 2.)

 

8:00pm – Shake my tambourine while shooting a pleading look toward my husband that screams, “Is it 8:02 yet?!”

 

8:02pm – Shout good night across the street to Neighbor Child 1 and 2. Cart the instruments back inside and begin the nightly prodding that is getting our girl off to bed. This process includes:

  • Having her brush and floss her teeth, use the bathroom, and put on pajamas.
  • Snuggling with her until doomsday or until she falls asleep, whichever comes first. [Spoiler alert: It’s usually the former.] Thankfully, it was a dad night. WINNING!

 

9:15pm – Watch 3 episodes of Community on Netflix with hubby while eating dinner, which tonight is reheated cheese tortellini.

 

10:20pm – Contemplate baking cookies because why not? Decide against it and proceed to watch 3 episodes of Some Good News on YouTube with hubby while wishing I had cookies and reminding myself how much I effing love John Krasinski. Sob like a hot mess during Zac Brown’s new song.

 

11:30 – Lay on the couch and think about tomorrow. Realize it’ll look a lot like today only with 200% more Zoom calls, thanks to virtual dance class (for my girl) and virtual PTO meeting (for me). Chastise myself for not having made cookies earlier.

 

12:30am – Press “publish” and get ready for a shower and bed. Only to rinse and repeat tomorrow.

 

** Yes, we are supposed to be in quarantine. And we are. However, we do fraternize outdoors with Neighbor Child 1 and 2 (brothers, age 6 and 5 respectively) and their mom. My logic: If my [former] daycare is open and offering care to multiple families right now, surely I can let my girl play with the two boys across the street whose family has the same level of potential exposure as ours does. And that’s to say women and children stay home, dads report to work at staff-only establishments. So, yeah. Playdates for daaaaays.

30-Day Writing Challenge

 

Opened Doors April 20, 2020

Filed under: Daily Writing Prompt — sierrak83 @ 3:08 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,
(Day 9: Post words of wisdom that speak to you.)
“When one door is closed, don’t you know, another is open.” – Bob Marley 
Today is the one-month anniversary of the signing of Governor Lamont’s “stay at home” order in Connecticut so suffice it to say there are lots of closed doors lately.
Literally.
Movie theaters. Restaurants. Casinos. Amusement parks. Schools. All closed. There are no concerts, proms, beauty appointments. We can’t visit our family members, hug our friends, or step foot inside “non-essential” retail locations.
But today, rather than focusing on all the doors that are closed, I’m going to take a moment to appreciate the metaphorical doors that have opened for me, thanks to this pandemic.
people wearing face mask for protection

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

I have a renewed appreciation for essential workers, especially those in healthcare.
This one’s important because while I’m worried about my work hours having been cut and whether or not I’ll have a job to go back to, so many others are putting on their uniforms and marching in to their jobs, where they face potential exposure daily. I couldn’t do what they do. But they’re there, doing what’s necessary to keep us moving forward. Taking tiny steps toward normalcy for us all again. And in the meantime, I’m going to focus on the blessing that is staying home and safe with my girl.
Never again will I have this opportunity to bond with my daughter on this level. 

My Two Kids

My two babies

Speaking of my girl, it’s not lost on me that this time with her is precious. And please don’t think that means this time has been all Pinterest-worthy craft projects and Montessori-inspired “distance learning.” There have been plenty of times when all I have the strength to do is slap some chicken nuggets and a Netflix cartoon in front of her so I can get a moment of solitude. Some days there are power struggles and, let’s be real, I don’t always win them. I yell more than I should. I often count the hours until her bedtime. But you know what else? We read together more now than ever. I get the chance to see first-hand (better than any report card could ever demonstrate to me) her strengths and weaknesses, academically. I’ve been able to teach her new things like navigating online apps to access school content and I’m in the beginning stages of a presentation to answer her repeated “Where do babies come from?” question. Not having to leave the house for her school or my work has afforded us more time to play games, laugh, talk, and just enjoy each other. At first, it was easy for me to not see past this “closed door.” I mourned the loss of her spring soccer and dance competition seasons. I was sad for her that she’d be “missing out” on having a birthday party or finishing the first grade IN school with her teacher and friends. But when I look past all that, I’ve realized that she is truly thriving through all this. Other than brief moments of pouting over the lack of a (non-canine) sibling to play with, she has loved every minute of all this mommy-and-me time. She’s going to look back on this pandemic fondly, of that I’m sure.

 

brown paper bag

Photo by Lisa Fotios on Pexels.com

It has forced me to reconsider how we stock our fridge and pantry.
We are so fortunate to be living in a time and in a country where the infrastructure already existed to facilitate changes like “curbside pickup” at stores, Door Dashing take-out to our front porch, and having grocery items delivered to our homes. Before all this, our family typically did a Costco run once or twice per month and I went to the grocery store on Sundays for what we’d need for the week. Beyond that, my husband would schlep to the store for whatever I’d forgotten and/or whatever we decided on a whim that we “needed” at 11pm on a weeknight. Now, though, stocking our house takes a bit more planning. To stay out of stores, we order groceries for delivery. And lots of you are doing the same because the typical one- or two-day delivery from Stop & Shop now takes about 14 days from reservation to delivery day. It takes a bit more pre-planning to make sure we don’t forget items and we think harder about what we “need” before taking a jaunt to the store for something, and never past 8pm since most essential businesses are closed after that. We cook more, order out less, and are more mindful of what we actually need to get by for a couple of weeks. And that’s something I hope to continue even after COVID-19 is nothing more than a mention in the history books.

 

My new schedule allows more hobby time.

background book stack books close up

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Pexels.com

At 2pm on a Monday afternoon a month ago, I’d be just punching back in after my lunch break. Maybe I’d be submitting payroll or on a conference call with a client. Maybe I’d be elbows deep in title transfers or planning an agenda for our staff meeting. But right now? I’m sitting in a camp chair with my laptop on my lap, blogging while watching my daughter play in her sandbox. This past month has afforded me more time for writing, more time to tackle my to-be-read pile of books, more time for binge-watching trashy reality TV on Hulu. I bake more. I relax more. I smile more. Instead of rushing home from work to whisk my girl off to whatever extra-curricular she has on her agenda and then home to get her ready for bed only to rinse and repeat the next day, we can breathe. Everything outside the walls of our home has been paused. And that has given us an unprecedented opportunity to pursue true happiness rather than obligations.

 

white printer paper with be kind text on plants

Photo by Lisa Fotios on Pexels.com

This is my chance to reassess and reinvent my life.
When this “stay at home” order is lifted (or even relaxed) and life starts to return to normal, I hope to not just revert to the way things were. This pause has taught me to not take the little things for granted; an over-booked weekend of soccer games and kids birthday parties, a night out with friends, stopping by to see my dad “just because.” There’s a whole list of things that I can’t wait to do again the minute I’m able. And every last one of them are things I never really appreciated doing before all this. I hope to be kinder to strangers, more patient with my loved ones, and more resolute in the pursuit of my own happiness. And I sincerely hope I’m not the only one.

 

So today, I urge you to stop what you’re doing. Put the worry and doubt aside. Don’t dwell on what you can’t do or where you can’t go. Stop feeling sorry for yourself and for your kids. Sit out in the sunshine and breathe some fresh air. Pause. And see things from a different perspective. Look at all those open doors!

joy painting brush

Photo by Bekka Mongeau on Pexels.com

30-Day Writing Challenge

 

A Map to My Heart April 13, 2020

Filed under: Daily Writing Prompt — sierrak83 @ 12:13 pm
Tags: , , , ,

What’s the way to my heart? Hmmm. I haven’t really had any reason to give this topic much thought in a long, long, looooong time because my heart already belongs to the hubs. But how did HE win it? And how has he managed to keep it all these years? THAT I can answer.

1) Be able to hold a conversation.

I like humor. I like logic. I like organizing and listing. I like daydreaming. Some of my favorite times are after our girl’s in bed and we’re up talking about our days or future plans.

2) Try to understand my anxiety.

It doesn’t always make sense, even to me. I often can’t tell you why I feel it or what will make it dissapate. But he always listens and tries his best to reason with me without judging.

3) Kick ass at parenting.

There’s no rule book or instruction manual. We’re all just winging it, doing our best to raise kids who are well-adjusted members of society. I’m so thankful that for the most part, he and I are on the same page when it comes to how best to raise our girl. And when we’re not, we’re always able to find a happy medium. Every day, no matter what, I’m a thousand percent certain that our girl has the type of father who will show her by example how a man should treat the people he loves.

4) Do the “boy jobs.”

Look. I was raised by two loving parents who didn’t really put much emphasis on gender roles. My sister and I were taught to be independent, to never rely on a man. So it took me a long time to feel good about giving up control of anything, even in my relationship. But once I did, it was like a weight was lifted off me. I’m still self sufficient in most things but see no harm in splitting responsibilities, either. Equal partners. Except for when it comes to killing spiders or cleaning up dog vomit. Those are boy jobs, for sure.

5) Never give up or walk away.

I’m often hard to handle. I can be irritable, grumpy, hard to live with. I sometimes try to isolate myself. But he’s held onto my heart all these years because he doesn’t give up on me. He’s patient, he pushes me to open up when all I want to do is disappear inside my own head, he often knows what I need even when I don’t.

 

Pet Peeves: Quarantine Edition April 8, 2020

If you’d asked me to list my top three pet peeves a month ago, you’d have gotten a very different list. But this is where I’m at now…

1) Feeling both overwhelmed AND bored. At the same time. At all times.

My day begins with three hours of working remotely. And most days, that’s not enough time to get the job done, which leaves me feeling…spazzy… for several hours after. And during that time, I also encourage my girl to start her school work, which she’s not always able (read: willing) to do without guidance. So when I’m done working, an hour or two or three of being a teacher begins.

I prepare eleventy bajillion snacks and meals daily. And pick up twice as many toys/messes.

I do my best to keep my girl connected to school, teams, and friends…. Taught her how to use Microsoft Teams, encourage her to video chat with friends, got her tablet set up with the various apps—and there seems to be a new one added at least weekly—our district is relying on for “distance learning,” and staying on top of all the email updates from teachers and coaches. Which reminds me. I still have to Venmo her dance teacher for the Zoom dance classes.

And when all this is done, we’ve got HOURS left in our day to decompress, though it never seems to be enough time.

At 8pm, we head outside for “bell time.” (Town-wide, people are encouraged to ring bells or otherwise make noise from 8:00 to 8:02 as a show of solidarity in this social distancing era.) And while we play our musical instruments, for lack of bells, my girl dances and I silently think, “One day closer to normalcy.”

After our girl is in bed, it’s time for dishes, laundry, picking up toys (again), and cuddling up with hubby on the couch. By this time of night, I’m ready for a giant glass of wine as a remedy for the anxiety that’s built up all day.

Rinse and repeat.

2) Having to repeat myself.

Here’s a smattering of the phrases I catch myself uttering multiple times per day, every day day…

– “Just because we’re home doesn’t mean you don’t have to brush your hair.”

– “I said ONE snack.”

– “No, it’s not lunch time. You JUST finished breakfast!”

– “3:00 is NOT dinnertime.”

– “Turn off the tablet!”

– “C’mon, we have to get this school packet done before we go outside.”

– “If you want to play outside, you need to put on actual clothes. Not pajamas.”

3) People who don’t stay home.

I’m following the rules. Other than outdoor time in our yard and walks around the block, my girl and I have left the house exactly once in the past three weeks. And that was to take part in a birthday parade for my cousin’s twins, which didn’t require us to get out of the car. Hubby goes to work and occasionally the grocery store. That’s it. If everyone did the same, we’d all be able to get back to life as we knew it sooner.

 

Poop Happens September 23, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — sierrak83 @ 2:08 pm
Tags: , , ,

One thing I have learned since becoming a parent is that poop is important. And talking about it is perfectly acceptable. You, my dear readers, will learn that from this post, if you haven’t already.

Before I was a parent, I didn’t realize you need to know when a kid poops. Not only when but how often and—gasp—what it looks like. (“Greenish and kinda seedy” is a common utterance in our house.) And this past weekend, I learned that poop is never more important than when it’s not happening. As was the case this weekend.

Friday night is a bath night for Rylin. Chris usually puts on a bathing suit and jumps in with her; it’s easier than trying to get her to sit still in the bath seat we have. So when she didn’t do her usual afternoon poop on Friday, Chris and I decided that we’d bathe her “after she poops tomorrow morning.” That turned into “before bed tonight after she poops” which turned into “Sunday morning after she poops.” Several times over the weekend, she got that real concentrated look on her face which was coupled with a little grunting and general fussiness. But when we changed her…no poop.

So we did what any parents in our shoes would have done. We busted out the big guns. We fed her Kirkland brand formula. Now, Kirkland makes some wonderful products. Don’t get me wrong here. But their baby formula seems to go right through Rylin. Which was a nuisance when we first discovered it but is a lifesaver when she’s having a hard time going.

GrinWhen Sunday night rolled around and there still hadn’t been poop, we admitted defeat. “She HAS TO have a bath tonight,” I decreed. Chris agreed.  While he drew the bath and suited up, I laid Rylin on the changing station on her “pack and play” which, for the record, is about five steps from the bathroom door. I took off her outfit and diaper. She smiled at me. It was a wide, tight-lipped grin which when flashed my way at 6:30am means “Hey, mom! I’m glad to see you!” But apparently when she does it at 7pm it means, “Brace yourself. I’m about to pee on you.” I let her finish, dried her legs with a baby wipe, and passed her off to daddy in the bathtub while I changed the wet pad that lines the changing table. Phew, I though. At least she peed BEFORE I picked her up to bring her to the bathtub. Because THAT’S happened…she’s happy as a clam in the bathtub and I’m standing there with a pee-drenched shirt. Not fun.

Rylin loves water. Be it the pool, a bath, or a shower, she kicks excitedly and tries to grab at the water. So bath time is usually all smiles and laughter. But last night was different. Chris bounced her up and down in the water and let her splash a little. Then all of a sudden, she started screeching like a tween who was just told that Justin Bieber has retired. Bright red face, pouty lip, hands balled up in fists. Inconsolable. Chris did what any concerned parent would do. He lifted her up out of the water and pulled her to his chest for a hug. And that’s when I saw it.

Poop.

“Keep her up out of the water!” I instructed Chris and I ran to grab some baby wipes. And that’s how I came to be bending over the bath tub, catching poop in a baby wipe. The whole time she was going, she kept trying to turn around to see what on earth was happening back there, fussing and straining all the way. And finally she was done. I dropped the “gift” into the toilet, flushed, and told Chris I’d be right back with another baby wipe to clean her before he puts her back into the bath water.

Photo credit: Bree Kohler-Priester

No sooner had I walked out of the bathroom to get more baby wipes, I heard Chris say, “Oh, boy. The Kirkland formula has kicked in.” I came back to the bathroom to find what I was hoping we had managed to avoid. Poop. In the bath water. Rylin smiled at it as it floated away, towards the drain. Not that tight-lipped grin. A big, gaping smile that says, “Look what I did!”

And all we could do was try not to laugh and remind each other, “She’s lucky she’s cute.”

 

 

Audiology and why I’m a terrible person July 17, 2013

Somewhere during my third trimester, probably over a bowl of ice cream and certainly while rubbing my belly, I mused to Chris, “Our job as her parents is to help her become the person she’s meant to be.” We had been playing the what-if game that all expectant parents play. (Don’t they?)

What if she hates us? How could she when we’re going to teach her and listen to her and love her unconditionally?

What if she’s gay? I just hope she finds someone to love and grow old with.

What if she decides she want to be a vegetarian like her momma? I’ll be happy as long as she’s nourished and growing.

And I had decided that I would never be disappointed in who Rylin becomes because my only expectation is that she becomes herself. Those parents whose lives shatter when their children choose the “wrong” career or marry the “wrong” partner are surely only devastated because their children have failed to live up to what mom and dad have already carved out for them in their minds. If we just roll with it and watch Rylin unfold into the young woman she is, how could we ever have regrets? I was so confident in my ability to clear my mind of all expectations for her future and remain open to all the possibility that was curled up and kicking inside me.

It wasn’t until her two week check-up that I began to question my willpower to not start to fill in the blanks for what lay ahead for her. “When do we retest her hearing?” I asked her pediatrician. She received a “refer” on the hospital’s infant hearing screening prior to us being discharged. Refer, as far as I can tell, is a nice way of saying “fail” without making new parents feel like their kid is anything less than perfect. Anyway, the staff pediatrician at the hospital assured us that it happens to lots of kids and that “the vast majority of them test normal at the recheck.” We tucked that information away and assured ourselves that Rylin would be like “the vast majority.” So there was nothing to worry about.

“We can recheck right now, as long as she stays quiet like this,” her doctor replied. She pulled out a machine that was about the size of a walkman (yes, I’m dating myself) and put a tiny earpiece into Rylin’s left ear as she dozed in my arms. A few seconds later, she withdrew the earpiece, made an adjustment, and replaced it in her left ear again. And then, she said what I was afraid to hear. “She’s still not passing. I just checked twice.” We were told that additional testing would be required and that a specialist from the children’s hospital would contact us to schedule an appointment.

In the days leading up to the appointment with her audiologist, I convinced myself that nothing was wrong. She probably just had fluid in her ear from delivery still. She startles to loud noises, so clearly she’s fine. Right? 

The audiologist began with a test that, she explained, tests whether or not there is any blockage in the ear canal. There wasn’t. No debris, no fluid…just a clear path to the ear drum. I breathed a sigh of relief, certain that that meant the fluid that was in her ear before—the fluid that prevented her from passing the initial screenings—had drained. She’d pass this test with flying colors.

Next, she pulled out the same walkman-looking machine that Rylin’s pediatrician used in her office. This, come to find out, is called an OAE (oto-accoustic emissions) test. Greek to me. Anyway, she checked both ears. “We like to test both, even though in her case we aren’t concerned about her right ear. We like to gather information from both ears.” The news wasn’t quite what we were expecting. She wasn’t passing on her left ear. But her right ear was behaving in a similar way. Does this mean neither ear works correctly? 

The audiologist explained the final test to us as she affixed tiny round stickers to Rylin’s forehead and behind her ears. In the BAER (brainstem auditory evoked response) test she would attach electrodes to the stickers and those electrodes would measure Rylin’s brain’s response to various tones played through a tiny earpiece inserted into her ear. One at a time; again, both ears would be checked.

We sat as quiet and still as possible, hoping that Rylin would remain sleeping long enough to complete the test. I watched the computer screen in front of the audiologist and wondered what all the lines meant. They’re moving a lot. That’s a good thing, right? About an hour into the test, the earpiece was moved from her left ear to her right. And we continued to sit quietly. Until about 15 minutes later, the audiologist explained that Rylin was starting to stir too much to continue the test. “I was able to rule out profound, severe, and moderate hearing loss.” I felt relief until she continued. “But I haven’t been able to rule out mild hearing loss.” And, again, her right ear (which passed the initial screening) is behaving much like her left. She showed us the computer screen she had been working from and pointed out what the lines meant. “This line here is the sound I played. And this line here is her response to that sound. With normal hearing, you’d expect to see a distance between these lines.” Rylin’s report didn’t look normal. Additional testing would be needed. When we come for our second appointment, the audiologist said, we would retest both ears. And determine whether or not Rylin might be a candidate for hearing aids. Hearing aids? Rylin doesn’t need hearing aids. 

When we opened the exam room door and entered the hallway leading back to the waiting room, I caught a glimpse of my future. A young boy was on his way in. He looked to be about five years old. A bit unsteady on his feet, clutching a toy truck in his arms, thick glasses perched on his nose. The woman walking next to him—likely a speech pathologist—chatted with him and I couldn’t help but notice that his pronunciation was off.

Suddenly, the what-if game took a different turn. What if she really can’t hear? What if her hearing loss affects her speech development? What if she needs hearing aids. I found myself googling to learn more about infant hearing loss. Could infant hearing improve? Could the BAER test results be wrong? Do children with mild hearing loss perform as well in school as children with normal hearing?

I expressed my concerns to Chris. “If both ears are behaving the same, that means her left ear is only barely failing, right?” And what I thought was, “Or her right ear is barely passing.” I admitted that I was worried that she may need hearing aids. I was worried about how others would receive her, how her peers would treat her. Will she still get to be a normal little girl? I watched her closely for signs that she was hearing. She startles when the dogs bark. Her eyes flinch when I replace the cap on her bottle after a feeding. She can’t possibly be not hearing, right?

A week passed between that day and our next appointment. Same office. Same test. Different audiologist. After about two hours of sitting quietly, watching my sleeping newborn with electrodes all over her head, the audiologist turned to me with news. “She is testing in the normal range. She is responding to all the tones I’ve played and I’ve been able to duplicate those responses, which rules out the possibility of it being a fluke.” Both ears. No more retesting. No hearing aids. Completely normal.

I let a tear slip out and broke into a huge smile. I have never felt so much relief.

And then I felt guilt. I realized that despite the fact that I vowed to not plan my daughter’s future for her, I somewhat had. In my mind, she’d learn to talk early and excel in school. We’d whisper secrets to each other before I tucked her in at night. She would tell me long, winding stories about her days and her friends. I hadn’t planned out anything that didn’t seem like a given during my pregnancy. But I had planned enough to be shattered by the reality that a hearing loss could change the things I wanted for Rylin’s future.

I felt like a terrible person for allowing myself to spend the last week thinking that a mild hearing loss was the worst possible thing that could have ever happened to Rylin. I thought back to that little boy at the audiologist’s office and felt ashamed that I saw his imperfections before I saw the fact that he was a happy, well cared for little boy. I felt disgusted that my biggest concern was possibly needing to have my newborn fit for hearing aids when other parents are dealing with much bigger issues than mine. I thought of my cousin and her wife. My cousin was due to deliver her baby girl exactly one month after I was due to deliver my baby girl. But instead, she delivered a sleeping baby ten days after Rylin arrived. How could I have been selfish enough to worry about a possible mild hearing loss when she’s dealing with child loss? Isn’t adapting to a future slightly different than I expected for my child better than kissing my baby goodbye on delivery day? 

I’ve talked to my cousin about my guilt over the fact that she and I got to experience pregnancy at the same time…and now I’m left with a healthy baby and she’s not. I feel a pang of regret when I share photos of Rylin to Facebook because I wish she could be sharing photos of Delaney growing, too. She told me not to feel guilty. “Life isn’t fair at times,” she said. “But the fact you guys have a beautiful healthy baby and we don’t isn’t considered one of those times.”

This post is for Sasha. And Racheal. And most of all Delaney. When life throws us a curve-ball in raising Rylin, I hope I can see past the set-back and remember how blessed Chris and I truly are.

On a related note, my cousin’s grieving has brought her to blogging as a way to get her emotions out. You can read her work here: http://sakoh1113.blogspot.com/?m=1

 

The Learning Curve June 5, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — sierrak83 @ 3:19 am
Tags: , , ,

After a 29-hour labor (by induction, post-due-date) including an hour and twenty minutes of pushing, Chris and I welcomed our daughter at 10:30am on Tuesday, May 7. And tonight, while I listen to the metronome-like sound her swing makes and silently pray that she falls asleep soon, I’m reflecting on what I’ve learned from my first few weeks of parenthood.

Photo credit: Heather Katsoulis http://hlkphoto.com/

Photo credit: Heather Katsoulis
http://hlkphoto.com/

1. Blogging at 3am (or any other time the baby is sleeping) is perfectly acceptable. – Or maybe it’s stupid. I should probably be sleeping. I should definitely be sleeping.

2. Sleep as I knew it is a thing of the past. – Friends, family, and medical providers all warned me in the days leading up to delivery day that I should “sleep while I still can.” Not that the broken bouts of shut-eye between trips to the bathroom (thanks to the mini-me dancing on my bladder) felt all that restful. But now I know the truth. That WAS restful. I can no longer squint through bleary eyes to check the alarm clock and then reason with myself that I can make it another hour until the alarm goes off before I really have to go pee. Now, the minute my daughter makes the first coos of her wind-up to fussiness, it’s time to pop out of bed to tend to her needs. And forty five minutes later (if I’m lucky and if she cooperates), I can crash back between the sheets.

3. Fatherhood is sexy. – The way to my heart is to do chores around the house. Bonus points if those chores involve heavy lifting (as defined by lifting anything I can’t…or don’t want to) and/or power tools. Save the flowers and lavish dates. Just throw in a load of laundry from time to time, kill the spider in the bathroom, lug the 50-pound bag of dog food from my car, and repair the fence and I’ll be putty in your hands. It has nothing to do with clean laundry or dead spiders or chores at all. It has everything to do with my partner meeting me halfway and being responsible. Which is why there’s something incredibly sexy to me about Chris changing diapers, prepping bottles, and making silly faces and babbling in baby voices to our girl.

4. There’s no use planning. – As soon as we found out our little shrimp would be a girl, I waddled my way through our local baby store with Chris to carefully select everything we would surely need to properly raise our daughter. We read reviews and worked our hardest at forecasting what our daughter would need and want in her room and elsewhere in the house. And what we ended up with was a bassinet that she won’t sleep in, a sling carrier she screams about, blankets she won’t keep herself swaddled in, a bouncer chair she’s afraid of, and a bather she slides out of. What can you do but adapt? We let her sleep in a travel bassinet instead–one that was handed down to us from some friends…which we almost didn’t accept because we didn’t think we’d need it. Pffft. We shelled out quintuple the price for an Ergo Baby carrier, agreed to not swaddle her, don’t use the vibration feature of the bouncer chair (less scary that way), and, thankfully, Daddy dons a bathing suit and jumps in the tub to hold our girl while I bathe her. So glad we planned for all this.

5. You have to try pretty hard to screw up this whole parenthood thing. – A baby has four basic needs: to eat, to sleep, to have a clean diaper, and to be loved. Fulfilling those needs really isn’t that difficult. I know. It’s only been a few weeks. More experienced parents will likely beg to differ. I’ve mostly just added this one to the list so that I can look back in a few years and mock myself and my naivety.

6. Taking care of (and being kind to) yourself is almost as important as taking care of your child. – During my first few days home after being discharged from the labor and delivery ward, I would find my stomach grumbling only to realize that it was 4pm and I hadn’t eaten anything yet. Which did nothing to help my mood. Not to mention the dizziness my anemia was causing. Chris took that opportunity to remind me that I’m important, too. And I can’t care for her if I’m not caring for myself. It took some coordinating and planning in the first couple of weeks but I’m easier on myself now. I find “me” time–to unwind and be myself. I find “us” time–to maintain a bond with my husband. I find time to nap. I eat three meals a day (usually), get at least 15 minutes of uninterrupted time to shower, and remember to get dressed every day instead of sitting on the couch in pajamas. The icing on the cake will be when I can finally return to the gym…I miss zumba sooooo much and look forward to shedding the 30 pounds I need to drop to be back at my pre-pregnancy weight.

7. Setting goals is important. – I set at least one per day. Easy stuff. Goals that can be attained while tending to the whims of a newborn. Some of my goals over this past month have included…paint my toenails, take a walk, have dinner ready when hubby gets home from work, schedule the pediatrician appointment, clean the bathroom. I don’t get too mad at myself if the laundry doesn’t get folded or dog fur rolls like tumbleweeds across the floor because I couldn’t get to vacuuming. There’s always tomorrow.

8. Work isn’t so bad after all. – Before delivery day, I was counting the days until maternity leave from work would begin. Now, four weeks in to my leave, I find myself hunting for a reason to leave the house each day–even for just a few minutes. One day, I packed the baby into her stroller and walked to the mailbox down the street to mail birth announcements. It took about ten minutes but doing so made me feel like I had a purpose. And that made my day completely, even if my only “purpose” was to turn off the trashy daytime talk shows for a bit. I have begrudgingly realized that going to work is a wonderful excuse to leave the house and am (somewhat) looking forward to returning.

9. Life is too short. – The feeling of “when can I get back to work and return to normal society?!” is coupled with a feeling of “OMG there’s only two more weeks of maternity leave…where did the time go?!” I’m not sure where the time went but I’ve got a month-old baby now. (Or is a 4-week-old not really a month-old child? Maybe she’ll be a month on June 7…?) Anyway, my point is, it’s a blaring reminder that time is fleeting. And I’m doing my best to embrace every minute and be thankful for all the highs and lows.

10. Motherhood is amazing. – I know this because she snuggles her face into my neck when I burp her mid-feeding. And because she grips my finger tightly when I’m getting her dressed. And because she stops crying the minute she hears my voice or feels my arms around her. I talk to her about important stuff all the time. I tell her that she has to take my dating advice when she’s older because “I know stuff…after all, I picked your dad.” I tell her that nothing bad can ever happen as long as I’m with her. I tell her I love her more than anything. I confide in her that I’m still trying to figure out how to be a mom and promise her that I’ll get it down pat before she’s old enough to notice that I have no clue what I’m doing.

 

Dear Rylin April 23, 2013

My husband makes me smile. A lot. Today it was because of an email he sent to me. Which was intended for our daughter. Who is currently receiving mail in my uterus. It made me teary. Admittedly that’s probably just due to the wonky pregnancy hormones coupled with the “is it over yet?!” third trimester crankiness. Even so, I feel the need to share….

DSCN3033

 

Dear Rylin,
This is your father.  I would like to tell you that I’ve spent the last nine months plus thinking about you.  I have dreamt and imagined what it will be like to hold you, talk to you, and snuggle you.  I have thought about watching you play in the yard with your mom, Bob, Gracie and me.  I think about who you will be when you get older and hope that I can guide you to the best life possible.  I want to teach you to be a good person.  Your mother and I are so excited to finally meet you and complete this family.  No matter where your life takes you we will always be there to support you through it.  The big key to all of this is we need you to arrive to begin this journey together.  So if you will kindly get things moving and come see us that would be great.  I love you with all of my heart and soul and can’t wait to take our first jaunt together with your carrier.
Love,
Daddy
P.S. Tell mommy you like MaryBeth for your middle name and I’ll make sure you get some extra candy on your 1st birthday.
P.P.S. Funfetti is the best cake. I’ll make sure that’s what you get.