Monday, September 17, 2018

The Aftermath

Hurricane Florence has come and gone.  It rained...and it rained...and it rained some more.  However, there were only a few pockets of heavy downpours in our neck of the woods.  We were lucky. 

As Isabella and I went for a run this morning and I surveyed the "damage" in our area.  What I saw appeared to be the result of any weekend long bout of rain.  There were lots of fallen leaves, limbs, and puddles.  But for the most part our neighborhood looks much the same as it did before. 

Of course that is not true for all NC residents.  Wilmington has become an island for the time being.  Flooding is still an issue in various areas around the state.  The death toll (though minor compared to what it could have been) continues to slowly creep upwards.  Lives have been changed.  Even if I don't see it--I know. 

As we were in the final stretch on the way home, the sun started peeking out behind the clouds.  A new day was dawning.  Things had changed, but we would continue to move forward much as we had before.

The same could be said for the aftermath of my family "bombshell".  The weekend continued with little mention of this new-to-some-of-us revelation.  We enjoyed games, food and laughter and things continued forward much as they had before.

The bottom line is this:  Decisions were made using the information at hand and using what was felt to be sound judgement in the best interest of those involved.  What's done is done.  It cannot be undone.  There is nothing that can be changed no matter how many times I swirl it around my brain. 

So with God's help I let it go and, while the things I know to be true have changed, I will continue to move forward much as I had before.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Hurricane Florence and Family Secrets

Leave it to my parents to be some of the only people headed to the Carolinas right now.  As Hurricane Florence whips around in the Atlantic moving at turtle's speed, they came down for a weekend as had been planned for weeks.

They came a day early to avoid the impending storm.  They came with the items left behind by Isabella and I during our August visit.   They also down ready to share a family secret that had been hidden for a very long time.

Parentage has become an interesting concept to me.  This is especially true now that I have successfully given birth to an amazing, living child yet have no biological children.  Despite reading the blogs of other women in my position who seem to magically forget this fact, I don't.  It doesn't diminish the love I have for my beautiful daughter nor does it change the fact that she is exactly who God designed to complete our family.  It is just something I don't forget.   

Well as it turns out Isabella is not the only member of my family tree to whom there is not a genetic link.

There is another member of my family tree whom I grew up thinking I was biologically related only to find out after my nearly four decades this was, in fact, not the case.

This family member was born to a mother and a father who were married to one another.  At the time of his birth only the mother was aware that the father who was present, the father whose name was entered onto the birth certificate may not be the biological father of this family member.  For reasons that may seem obvious but are truly clear only to her, the mother kept this piece of information to herself for some time.  She kept this information to herself until three years later when she and her husband were determining whether or not there was hope for their crumbling marriage.   She chose that moment to divulge her secret.  The marriage did not survive.  The secret did.

The secret lived on for decades.  The secret lived on until medical needs have arisen in the next generation which have necessitated opening the circle of secret holders just a bit.  The secret lived on even after the family member whom it most impacted had gone.  He died never knowing the truth.

I asked many.. many...many questions all of which were answered.  As the next generation searches for information from the newly discovered branch of the family there was another significant piece of information.  You see my family member died of a condition similar to one that killed a half-sibling he never knew he had over a decade before.  This led to the one question that got to the tip of my tongue and stopped,  "What if he had known of his half-sibling?  Could that have changed...".

No, can't go there.  Can't be the only one to have thought that.  Can't change what was.  Can't change what is.

While I am quick to digest information, my emotions seem to process at a glacial pace.    So as Hurricane Florence continues to loom I am fervently praying this bombshell of family history is the most dramatic part of my weekend.  My emotions and the storm moving side by side at that same glacial pace.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

By Jove, I Think She's Got it!

I was so excited to watch her take her steps and start walking.

I love hearing her sweet voice call me Mama.

I am continually amazed at the heights she can climb.

But the most satisfying milestone to date HAS to be her newfound ability to regularly sleep past-wait for it...

Game. Changer.

Transition to one nap was helpful in that it reassured me she was not getting too much daytime sleep.  The girl can only sleep at most between 13-14 hours a day and two 90 minute naps (one hour would just make her cranky) was leaving us about 10 hours of nighttime sleep.  But now with this one nap business (usually lasting about 2 hours or so) I felt confident she could handle another hour of nighttime sleep, I just had to convince HER she needed it.

Found the answer in this article:

So starting last Tuesday when she woke up before 6:00am, I just went in her room, told her it wasn't time to get up yet (miraculously she just laid back down!) and put the blanket we use for nap time on her.  After about two days she just.kept.sleeping.  Monday I even had to WAKE HER UP at 6:50 so we could go to the store before the other kids arrived.  Wow!

Now J.T. gets up between 5-5:30 each weekday morning so I still get up, but it is REMARKABLE the amount of stuff you can get down when you don't have a toddler ankle weight!    Tuesday I got ALL of my housework for the day done before she woke up.  I almost cried from sheer joy.

It's the little things, people.  The little things.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Unexpected Blessings

I joined a One and Done:  Not By Choice Facebook group earlier this summer.  I'm going to be honest--for the most part it is relatively depressing.  Most of the posts are from individuals who seem to be going through secondary infertility and as a result many of their (very justified!) laments remind me of my days on infertility message boards once upon a time.  There are however several very positive reasons I stay.

First, these women have children of all ages and have opened my eyes to only child experiences I likely would not have considered.  For instance if your family of three goes on a vacation you may consider bringing along a friend otherwise you the parents may become pretty haggard from serving as playmate for days on end.  Also, (even though I was probably guilty of it myself) I failed to realize how often being an only child is brought up by teachers and other caregivers as a reason behind (mostly negative) behaviors.

There is also one unexpected, but amazing blessing I have gotten from this group and it is this:

Given that many of these women have experienced secondary infertility they have spent years of their only child's young life focused on providing a sibling for that child.  They of course loved their child and gave them as much of their attention as they could, BUT given what I know the absolute mindf*&% (sorry there is no other word that comes to mind) infertility of any kind can be I could very easily see how distracted one could be during this time even with their most precious loved one.

Also, these poor, unsuspecting women acknowledge assuming they would have more than one opportunity to experience babyhood, toddlerhood, starting school, and the like and openly acknowledge their regret for not savoring these moments as they could have if they knew they would only get one shot.

When my sweet girl calls me mama using her still small voice--I know.

When she wakes up early from a nap and I get to hold her while she continues to sleep--I know.

When she hits a new milestone--I know.

When she goes to preschool--I know.

And the list goes on and on.  I know.  And what a blessing that is.

Monday, August 27, 2018

First Day of School and (self-inflicted) Stress

Last year I have a vague recollection of the first day of school, and discovering that North Carolina Public Schools could in fact start a school year without me:).  But since I was covered in babies, toddlers and doctoral classwork it kind of came and went mostly undetected.  This year however I got to enjoy the many (many, many) first day of school and preschool pictures posted by friends and it hit me:  I have been a stressed out fool (mostly) of my own making.

Well I mean I did not bring Cancer and speech delays into my home intentionally, but these unforeseeable stressors were layered upon a huge mountain of stress I pretty much built myself.

You see when I started my doctoral program I had a pretty fantastic course that set a great foundation for being successful in the program and as a part of that course I mapped out my proposed schedule for the program.  I had a three year version and a four-five year version.  The three year version was chock full, but ultimately would save time and money and would obviously allow me to enter the job market earlier.  The four-five year version allowed me to go to school full time for the first two-three years (good use of time and money), but the final years were weird given that several course and comps are only available in the spring.  To me this meant spending tuition money unnecessarily to stay at least part time each semester (which is required) and dragging things out needlessly (or so I thought at the time). 

Despite the professor's very clear and confident recommendation that it would be in my best interest to take the longer road I dove into the fast track headfirst.  At the end of the day I don't completely regret my decision.  Yes, last year was SOOOO stressful (and the year before that sooooo busy).  BUT given the activity levels of the kids now and the fact that if they are awake I cannot maintain focus on an assignment long enough to do anything of value it is likely a good thing that I knocked it out when I was pregnant and they were tiny as I could type/read while they played on the floor/activity mats. 

Speaking of the kids (plural) that's another potential for stress that is of my own choosing.  Starting around the New Year J.T. began to say very clearly there was not a need for me to continue with the "daycare" if I didn't want to.  He then proceeded to get a raise in the spring which prompted him to again remind me that the "daycare" was not a necessity.  While what he was saying was true from a financial perspective now that I knew that our baby girl was going to be our one and only I NEEDED her to have kids to play with regularly.  Not only is she super interested in hanging out with other kids but it is important to me that she spends time learning to get along with other kids in a pseudo-sibling way. 

While each of the reasons behind me taking on these self-inflicted stressors continue to remain valid I NEED to remember that the stress that comes with them are born out of CHOICES I have made.  Given the fact they are choices I can make (responsible) CHANGES to them at anytime.  So if I graduate next summer (or December) instead of May so be it.  That is a choice I will make if the need arises.  I choose to have AJ and Andi come to our home and at any time I can choose to let their family's know they need to find other arrangements. 

It is amazing the freedom and breathing room CHOICES can provide.  It is a privilege I will not regard lightly again.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Leap #10 in the House

Not a perfect science but Wonder Weeks has been eerily in the ballpark for Isabella.  It dawned on me after several days of fussiness and a lot of "stop" from me that something was up.  I thought briefly it was a tooth (we have been stuck at 8 forever), but after checking the app come to find out it's the 10th and final leap.

As per usual it made me feel somewhat better that there was a (semi) justifiable reason for the whining, tears, and meltdowns.  It also allowed me to review several things I could be doing proactively to head some of the "stop"s off at the pass.   Usually a scenario that ends with "stop" plays out like this:

Isabella:  (grabs something she shouldn't have)
Me:  That is mommy's/daddy's/doggies'.  I need that please.
Isabella:  (meltdown that involves a death grip on said object and requires the jaws of life to extract it from her very tiny, but very-vice like hands!)
Me:  Stoooop (but imagine a very exacerbated, dramatic stop usually accompanied by an eye roll, and the desire to cry)

When I write it out it seems minor but when it happens like 50 times a day it makes you want to stick something sharp into your eye.  So during nap time I Isabella-proofed every room except for hers and took care of that once she got up and she hung out with Daddy.  Our home is of course baby proofed (gates, socket protectors, door knob covers, etc.), but Isabella proofing requires a different lens.  To Isabella-proof one must look at a room and ask:

1.  What can I climb?
2.  What buttons can be pressed?
3.  What has a cord?
4.  What belongs to a four legged friend?

The playroom is already Isabella-proofed and even includes an end table-couch combo that has been padded with cushioning to allow for safe climbing, so of course she wants to spend as little time as possible there.  That left four other rooms and a sunporch to tackle.  Basically that was taking anything on a surface a finding it a hidden away home, and taking every chair/stool/similar object that provided access to higher elevations and finding it a new home in the garage.  The bathrooms and J.T.'s office now have doors shut 90% of the time and each room has a fun box of toys or other safe to play with objects (that have yet to be touched!). 

This took me about 2-3 hours total time, but I am pretty sure I tacked 2-3 years back on to my life as my stress level has diminished significantly.  Girlfriend still has some leap/toddler related fussiness going on, but the amount of toddler on mommy "combat" has reduced drastically.  Counting this as a win--for now!

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

First (time) in Flight

I am good at going to sleep at night but will occasionally wake up throughout the night and have trouble going back to sleep.  Often times it is just general racing thoughts that won't hush up.  However, last Thursday when I woke up at 2am unable to fall back to sleep there was only one thought keeping me awake:

I was flying to PA...

with a toddler...


2 1/2 hours in the air seemed way preferable to to 8 hours on the road when I booked the flight to see my family last month especially since Isabella flies free given the reasonably short flights--one 90 minute and one 60 minute--would allow for her to just sit in my lap.

However, that morning I woke up with a huge knot in my stomach. 

What if Isabella decided to be THAT kid?  The kid who scream cries at take off and continues until we land.   I have never personally been on a flight with THAT kid but have heard horror stories.  I did not want to be on the receiving end of death stares even though the trips would be reasonably short.  I suspect death stares double or triple the perceived flying time!

What if I couldn't keep Isabella entertained in the airport?  If I'm chasing her around then I can't keep an eye on our bags and you KNOW leaving what they say about leaving your bag unattended.

What if I forget to pack something imperative?  I'm super cheap and without looking into booked the least expensive flight.  Turns out basic economy doesn't include a carry on.  Say what?!?  Didn't even know that was possible.  Found out a personal item could be a backpack and that a diaper back doesn't count as anything so....challenge accepted!  I packed for us using just a backpack and diaper bag (diapers and other bulky items to be purchased in PA and brought back with my parents the next time they come to visit).  I was now having second doubts about my packing ability especially since it would be just the two of us en route.

Then there are the various and sundry issues that come with plane travel.   Missed connection, stuck on the runway for hours on end, plane falls out of the sky...ya know the standard concerns.

Lots of prayers and 9.5 hours later we landed at our hometown regional airport after a successful trip!

Two tips from a friend (board last and seat by a window) coupled with (what will probably be the last) the use of the Baby Bjorn, a couple downloaded episodes of the Bubble Guppies and a sticker book helped turn our seatmates nervous glances to compliments by the time we landed. 

There was one touch and go moment on the second flight when the puddle jumper started down the runway.  Isabella started crying (loudly!) but fell asleep before we were in the air (phew!).

Our return trip was equally uneventful (though the regional flight was replaced with a three hour car ride to Baltimore since I'm a dummy and booked the flights too close together and enter basic economy requires the purchase of a brand new ticket-smh) and we had lots of fun with family in between. 

We may have to try this whole toddler flying thing at would be the same, right;)?