Wednesday, October 30, 2013

the internal conversation right now

This installment of WTF Wednesday is more of an internal dialogue from my own head.
It goes a little something like this: Vanessa, WTF are you doing with your life?!

Now, don't get me wrong. I don't hate my life. (Well, not usually at least.) I am grateful for the life I have. I am grateful for a husband and three beautiful kids that make my life worth living. I have supportive and loving family members. I have my good health - well sort of... (I am giving you the middle finger right now, Diabetes.) I have a roof over my head and food on my table and an amazing bed to sleep in.  And now that I have acknowledged that I do indeed appreciate all the truly positive things in my life, I can move on to what I actually want to say.

Some days I just can't help but feel a little Meh. And some times between cleaning up a diaper explosion and witnessing a fight over a fake carrot (seriously) for the 4th time in 10 minutes, I think to myself,
"This is my life?"

And that's not to say that I didn't want this life, because I did. And still do. I was never 100% positive of what I wanted to be when I grew up. But I always knew I wanted to be a mom. I imagined reading  books and pushing swings and watching my kids play together in the yard while I baked something chocolaty in the kitchen. And there was a husband floating around somewhere in all of this too. I knew I wanted all this, but I needed to add more to the game plan.

So I took our guidance counselor at her word when she said our grades were important if we wanted to get good scholarships for college. Being able to afford college sounded like a good plan, so I worked hard and did well. And when senior year rolled around, I was expected to answer the usual question: what do you want to do with the rest of your life? the rest of your life. Keep in mind, high school seniors are all of like 17 or 18.

Well, I picked nursing. And picked is the right word.
I didn't feel nursing was necessarily my "calling."
I didn't receive a visit from an angel of the Lord bathed in white light, letting me know nursing was the right career path.
I just picked it.
I went to school. Anatomy and physiology almost kicked my ass, but I soldiered on. I transferred schools and found a better fit. I barely passed pathophysiology with a C, along with about 99% of the rest of the class. And while it took a semester longer than expected, I graduated with my Bachelors degree.

I worked for a couple of years on an intensely busy and challenging floor at a large hospital. And while some days it was God-awful, some days it was fabulous. There were times when I was doing something intense and challenging and downright cool, and feeling all empowered I thought to myself, "I'm a nurse, and I'm badass!" I was managing four to five patients a day, pushing Ativan to detoxers like a pro, and safely navigating the occasionally treacherous waters of the CNA-to-RN relationship.

But then Bailey came and things changed. My husband and I looked into daycare, but I couldn't imagine leaving our tiny 3 month-old baby (with a cleft and special feeding needs no less) in the care of someone else. Someone who probably wouldn't love her the way we do. The 12-hour shifts, rotating days and nights, working every other weekend - it wasn't going to work. At least not with both of us doing that. I found a new part-time job, and Jared and I arranged our schedules so that one of us was always at home with Bailey. And when Avery arrived 14 months after her sister, our arrangement didn't need to change.

But then came Graham. And boy did he have his ideas of what would be convenient* for him. (* = Mom's boob, in his mouth, whenever needed, no substitutions.) This guy went on 24+ hour hunger strikes if I left for a day. And even if he would've taken a bottle, 3 kids under 3?  Forget about it! There is no point in working just to pay for daycare.

So here I am.

And while most of the time it is where I want to be, there are those moments when I miss what I did before.
I miss the interaction with patients.
I miss hearing their stories.
I miss IV drips and assessments.
I miss chats (especially the inappropriate ones) with coworkers.
I miss feeling like I am making a difference.
I miss having an identity that is truly my own.

And when someone asks what I do, I truly miss being able to say, "Oh yeah, I work *here*."
Because if we are being honest, the worst thing about being a stay-at-home mom is the body language and the "Ohh... That must be nice" response you get from other people - especially women.
I get the feeling that many are either jealous of you for the "luxury" of being able to stay at home with your children OR they envision you lying on the sofa popping chocolates in your mouth all day.
{Get real - I pop chocolates in my mouth all day while doing the dishes. There's a difference.}
And while I know how hard it is to work and be a mom, it isn't a walk in the freakin' park being with your kids 24/7 either. {Especially in the winter. Please God let my children love the snow so I can throw them in the backyard to buy myself a few minutes of silence.}

It's hard work. Because even as bad as some days were working as a nurse, I got to leave it all behind and go home. Now? Umm... work IS my home. And my office is a toy-strewn living room. If the kids are driving me insane, I can't start counting down the minutes of my shift until I can leave.
Because my shift doesn't end. Ever.
And that is when being a SAHM sucks. I want to actively love them every minute of every day. But I can't. Because I am human. And they are toddlers. And toddlers whine. A lot.

So that is why I get annoyed when a stay-at-home mom says things like, "I stay home with my kids, and I love every single minute of it!"
Oh shut up.
No you don't.
And quit saying that crap just to let everyone know what a wonderful mother and person you must be. Do you love your children and love most of your minutes with them: yes.
But I think you would be hard-pressed to find someone loving those individual minutes when their child throws a colossal tantrum in church or when they find that the dog has crapped on the floor and their 9 month old is playing in it. (No personal experience on that one or anything...)
Admitting that there are times when you want to get in the car and drive far, far away from it all doesn't make you a bad mother.
It makes you human.
And since we are human, we have a limit. And sometimes that limit gets reached more quickly than others, which might be due to those very early mornings - every. single. morning.

And it is in those weak moments when I have those thoughts:
WTF are you doing, Vanessa?!
You busted your ass at college just to spend your morning cleaning up fruit snacks that were ground into the carpet?

It's also in those same moments that I can't help but wonder if I am squandering away my knowledge and the skills I learned while working. I imagine that I will have to start over from the beginning whenever I return to the workforce. How am I going to spin this big ol' gap in my resume into a positive? Yes, working with some health care patients is sort of like dealing with crabby toddlers, although I doubt any future employer is going to appreciate that view being shared in an interview.
Am I going to find a job I like? I even know what I like???

It's just that some days it is harder than I thought it would be, and I already knew it would be hard to begin with.
I try my best to love these regular days as much as I can.
I don't love breaking up fights over a stuffed Elmo and a random slipper, but I do love my kids.
I know it is a gift to be able to be such a huge presence in their little lives - something many, many women would give almost anything to be able to do full-time.

So right now I am trying to focus on the positive aspects of being a stay-at-home mom and not worry so much about the future. I hope to pick up some PRN shifts again one of these days. I pray that one day I am lucky enough to have an outside-of-the-home job I like, not just one I go to for the paycheck. And benefits. And the quiet drive to work.
So I guess the answer to my initial question is
... the best that I can.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

turning 29 and other randomness

Yesterday was my birthday.
My last hurrah before the big 3-0 hits.
Jared baked me a cake from scratch, complete with my favorite frosting.
I seriously love cake.
And with all the candles adorning this bad boy, I could have easily started a small forest fire. Regardless, it was delicious and as of noon today, there is only 1 piece remaining. Thankfully I had some help devouring it, because trust me when I say I could have handled quite a large portion (read: easily 3/4 of it) of it all on my own.

I got some thoughtful gifts. Jared loves to buy presents. I don't know if gift-buying is considered a talent, but if it is, he has it. He has a way of listening to little things I mention wanting throughout the year, and then Christmas rolls around: BAM! there is the gift I forgot I even wanted.

He also loves a good clearance.
The earrings: $0.20 on Etsy.  This time the clearance was so good he had to brag about it - to me.

My sisters also got me some Etsy deals.
This one is random, but sometimes I just love random.
This cute little guy is perched on our windowsill above the sink. It came with a sponge, but I can imagine it holding all sorts of things: rings, a tiny plant, or any other tiny treasure.

Mother Nature's belated birthday gift to me today?
It's too warm out to stick around, but just the sight of it was odd against the backdrop of all the pretty colored trees down our block.

The cold, wet weather outside has made for a good day for other things.
Bring on the demolition!
We are preparing to say goodbye to the purple bathroom.
Actually, we are more than prepared. I am completely ready to watch pieces of this ugly room hit the dump. And while I am not pumped for the two to three weeks of construction (ie: noise that disrupts naptime), I am excited to see the finished product.

Hopefully in less than a month I will be sharing before and after photos instead of complaining about our retro-gone-wrong bathroom.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Grandpa Norm

Jared's grandpa Norm moved in with Jesus today.

We knew it was coming. Just yesterday his condition rapidly deteriorated. His death didn't come as a shock to anyone.
It is actually a relief.
Norm is now relieved of his suffering.
He is relieved of his pain.
He is relieved of all the burdens of his earthly life.

I didn't know Norm very well.  And honestly, I don't know if Jared ever truly did either.
He seemed to be a man of little words, at least whenever I was around.
He was independent and opinionated (because when you hit 80, the filter is gone... and I can't wait for the I -am-old-so-I-can-say-what-I-want excuse.) 
He wasn't a hugger - although I got a few out of him to Jared's shock.
He was of a different generation where sometimes the I love you's were a bit harder to say.
I think he showed his love in deeds rather than words, helping Cathy remodel her bathroom or fixing up Jared's old trikes for our kids to ride. {Good work on the trikes, Norm. They love-love-love them.}

And while out of our three kids, he only got to meet Bailey, Jared could tell he enjoyed seeing her. I am glad Norm got to see Jared and Bailey again one last time this past summer.

In a week or so we will be traveling to Colorado for the funeral. We have never been back as a family of 5. Heck, we haven't even been back as a family of 4, so this visit is long overdue. And while it isn't the best of reasons to visit, I know the kids will enjoy seeing Gramma Cathy and giving her lots of hugs and kisses to cheer her up.

Rest in peace, Norm.
I hope you are enjoying your first night in your new place.
From what I hear, it's pretty fabulous.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

a little sink swim

the only cute thing resulting from our dysfunctional plumbing and non-functional bathtub:

And while yes, sink baths are pretty stinkin' cute, I am getting very tired of the trek downstairs and across the house for my middle-of-the-night pee sesh.
#First World Problems, I know.
Oh, how I promise to love you, new bathroom. Please, please come soon!

Monday, October 14, 2013

the great Kansas road trip

Only a few hours after I wrote my last blog post, Jared's step-grandma passed away. She had a long life and her passing was a blessing to her and those who loved her.

They live a good 8+ hour drive from us. All the way up in the northwest corner of Kansas. We hadn't been back to visit since Greg and Lina's wedding last summer. Unlike last July, this time we decided to split the trip into two days.

So last Tuesday we spent the morning packing and loading up and were on the road by noon.
Last Tuesday also happened to be Jared's 29th birthday. Don't worry he got to open some presents. However, I did get off pretty easy - since we were on the road, there was no meal for me to prepare or any cake for me to bake.

The kids did well in the car; a little Disney Mulan and Hercules action always helps. But if we drive for too long of stretches, I feel guilty since that means Graham doesn't get many chances to eat, so we drove as far as Lincoln, Nebraska and got a hotel room for the night. The kids swam in the pool {and the bathwater warm hot tub} and then hung out in the room.
The highlight of the evening had to be the half-hour search for my swimming suit that yielded no results. And since we had already promised the kids they could swim, and Jared couldn't take all three by himself, I presented to the pool in a nursing cami and underwear. Pure class. Thankfully no one was there when I entered or exited the pool.  What we won't do for our kids...

(At this point I am sure you are thinking to yourself how awesome we do it up for Jared's birthday, am I right?)

I must say, they have gotten a bit of practice lately and they are all now pros at hotel sleeping. These kids sleep better in a hotel than they do at home! I am always amazed at how Graham just passes out completely and even sleeps in late.

The next morning we were on the road and made good time. After a quick lunch at PHB (That is Pizza Hut Buffet for those of you unfamiliar with my abbreviations), we arrived in Herndon in the early afternoon. We had some time to get settled in and get ready in time for Esther's wake that evening.

The next morning was the funeral. The kids did well. Since Jared was a pallbearer, he sat on the other side of the church. So it was just me and the kids. Bailey sat beside Papa Alan (Jared's dad) looking solemn and clasping her hands in prayer at all the appropriate times. Graham nursed for a few minutes and then fell asleep for the entire duration of the funeral. And Avery... well, she was just typical Avery. Thank goodness for Jared's cousin Rachelle who helped keep her entertained. I don't know what I would have done without her!
The funeral itself was a nice service. Esther was an extremely devout woman. She had great faith and it played a central role in her life. (Seriously, the woman prayed the entire rosary multiple times each day.) At the graveside, a group of younger relatives played instruments and sang her favorite songs. They sounded so great and the songs were so moving, even I had tears in my eyes. I thought it was a great tribute to a woman who had such unwavering faith.
The trip wasn't without its awkward moments. After all, Esther was Jared's step-grandma and that left us in a sort of weird position: the "steps" of the family. Jared wasn't her blood and he was the only one who was "related" without truly being "related." It is just awkward because you are on the fringes. And while you aren't considered family, you still feel like family.
Jared knew Esther better and longer than he knew either of his other two grandmas (one dying when he was only a few years old, and his other suffering from Alzheimer's most of his life). He told me how he used to ride his bike out to her house just so he could sit with her and hear her tell stories. Stories of life back in Herndon in her youth. Stories about life during World War II. Stories of her days working as a nurse in California. She was part of his life for over 20 years, so when Jared talked about Esther, he didn't refer to her as his step-grandma. He just called her his grandma.
So even though we might not be her blood, we still made the trip. And I am glad we did.
We stayed an extra day after the funeral to relax and enjoy some time with Jared's relatives. Alan wanted to take the kids to visit the horses again, just like last year. Last year Bailey wasn't too keen on the idea. What a difference a year makes!

The girls haven't seen much of their uncle John in quite a long time, so it was sweet to see how quickly they took to him. Every morning Bailey woke up and asked if we could go see Papa Alan and Uncle John. When I would answer yes, she would say matter-of-factly, "Oh good. Papa Alan loves me. And Uncle John loves me, too."
The kids also got to meet their cousin. (Their first and only right now.)
Lucinda (or Lu or LuLu or Lucy) is almost 8 months old. In fact, Bailey and Lu share the same birthday. She is Jared's sister Val's daughter. All the kids were pretty taken with her and even Avery had her name down after the first day.
Papa Alan and all his grandkids

We spent part of an afternoon visiting Jared's aunt Jane. She raises dogs, so she always has puppies around. Once the girls got past the loud barking, they enjoyed holding the puppies.

And on our last night in town, we left the girls with Jared's dad and went to supper at Greg and Lina's. We saw their new home and Lina cooked a delicious meal for us. We also drank a lot of wine. Like three bottles. Between just Lina and me. So basically it was a fantastic evening. We shared a lot of laughs, and at one point I looked at the clock and realized that over three hours had passed in the blink of an eye. We had a really great time with them. I definitely wish they lived down the block rather than 8 hours away.

The next morning was a bit rough. Thank God for Ibuprofen. Lots of it.
(Is it possible that I am already too old to drink like that??!)
Regardless of our hangovers, we loaded up and got on the road. We made the whole trip home in one day. I was ready to sleep in my own bed and avoid the expense of another night in a hotel. However, we did make a quick stop in Omaha to see Aunt Fe and Aunt Beaner and eat with them. (It's what we do best!)

We only got pulled over once the entire trip. (It was Jared's turn this time.)
I will consider one written warning a win in my book.
And we only experienced one pull-over-the-minivan-on-the-side-of-the-interstate moment to break up a fight between children, so that is also a small miracle.
It was a good trip, and while it was only five days, I am very glad to be back home.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Moving in with Jesus

Tonight's bedtime prayer session with the girls led to a look through a photo album and a discussion about death, Jesus, and Heaven.
Let me explain.

Jared's (step) grandma Esther turned 99 years old in April of this year. She lives with Jared's dad and step-mom in Kansas. She is a very sweet woman. I remember meeting her 8 years ago and being amazed at how sharp she was. She had opinions on all the latest political issues. She was funny. She was interested in our nursing classes and told us stories of what life was like as a nurse back during the second World War.

Esther with Bailey in 2010.
Man, did Esther love loving on Bailey during this visit!
And Bailey was all too content to just sit there and enjoy it.
(Along with trying to steal/break/eat Esther's glasses of course.)

She hasn't been in good health for quite a while after suffering a fall last year, but recently it has become apparent that she is nearing her final days. Over the past 2 weeks she has barely eaten or drank anything - with the exception of when she sat up in bed and asked for a piece of pie last weekend. She has been in a constant state of sleeping for the last few days. This strong woman is ready for her journey into the next phase of her life. Actually, I think she has been ready since I met her! I hope and pray the rest of her time here on this earth passes quickly and with little pain.

Jared's other living grandparent is his grandpa Norm.
Great Grandpa Norm meeting Bailey for the first time in 2011.

Norm is in his 80s now, and up until a couple years ago, he was in phenomenal health. He was attending the gym and working out every single day up until last year. But over the last few years, he had been starting to forget things and it became apparent that this wasn't just forgetting, it was the start of dementia.

It's been a long road for Jared's mom. She has basically been his sole caregiver for the last few years: paying his bills, preparing meals for the week, cleaning his house, taking him to appointments... And worrying - lots of that. He lived an hour away from her home in Loveland, CO, and eventually she just couldn't provide the care he needed to be able to stay in his home. Earlier this year he moved into a care facility near Cathy.

He has had some falls recently, leading to several trips to the Emergency Room. On his most recent visit it was discovered that he has bone cancer, which metastasized from previously undiagnosed pancreatic cancer. It was a complete shock to us when Cathy called a couple of nights ago to tell us his doctor said he has one to two weeks to live.
It's just crazy.
I think Cathy - and all of us - were prepared for a long road, watching him lose more and more of himself to this thief we call dementia. And now it appears that won't be the case.

I am not sure what to be feeling.
On one hand I know that this sucks. For Cathy to hear this news is hard. Losing a parent is never easy, no matter what your age. On the other hand, the before-dementia Norm wouldn't appreciate his life the way it is now. He would hate it. He was always a very capable, independent, no-nonsense person, and he would hate all this.

He is now on hospice care, especially to control the pain from the bone cancer. He is one strong man; up until recently he hadn't complained of any pain at all and wasn't on any pain medication. His confusion has greatly increased lately, partly due to a urinary tract infection, and he has lost a lot of weight.

I know Jared is thankful that he was able to go out and visit this summer. He had time over a long weekend to go help his mom pack up and organize Norm's house in order for it to be sold. Jared took Bailey and they went to visit Norm. He knew who she was and seemed really delighted in their visit. Hindsight is 20/20, but we both have said we wish we could have taken all the kids. We probably should have. But at the time they were trying to get a lot of work done in just a few days, and I did not relish the thought of a two-day road trip with three kids under the age of 4, especially with a breastfed baby wanting to eat every couple of hours. So it didn't happen.

Bailey remembers the visit to see Grandpa Norm though. I asked her about him the other night: "Bailey, do you remember Grandpa Norm?"
She replied, "I saw him in Colorado with Grandma Cathy!"
We talked about the fact that he is sick. She immediately correlated that to Jared being sick in the hospital recently. I explained that this is different because Grandpa Norm isn't going to get better. And neither would Grandma Esther.
She asked me, "Are they going to die?"
And I had to say yes.
"Will they go to Heaven like Max did?" (Max is our dog that died earlier this year.)
A pause. "It's okay, Mommy. They get to live in Jesus's house."

We then said some prayers for Great Grandpa Norm and Great Grandma Esther. That they have peace. That they have no pain. That Jesus "takes them to his house."  Afterward Bailey asked to see a picture of both of them. I got out her photo album, and we looked at a few of the pictures. I am very glad we have those pictures.

I like Bailey's simple view of Heaven: going to live in Jesus's house.
It's as simple as that.

Jared and I have talked about Heaven quite a bit. The whole unknown-ness of it all. We have talked about what we hope Heaven is like, while believing it to be better than anything we can possibly imagine. Jared hopes that when you reach Heaven you get to know all things. You have the answers to all your questions from life.
What really killed the dinosaurs?
Are UFOs real?
Where is Jimmy Hoffa?
(Just kidding, neither of us really cares about Jimmy Hoffa.)

I have always hoped that when you die, you get to see a playback of your life. A highlight reel you might say. Consisting of my best times, allowing me to experience all the good stuff one more time. Favorite holidays with family. A fun day in the snow with a childhood best friend. Falling in love. Moments of hysterical laughter. The births of my children.
The good stuff of a blessed life.

All random thoughts aside, I have some questions about my faith, as I think most people do. But I believe without a doubt there is something else after this life. It makes me sad to know that two members of our family are preparing to leave this world, but it helps to be able to tell my children - and myself - that their journey is not over.
They are just moving in with Jesus.

Friday, October 4, 2013

the first one

Today, a photo in honor of World Smile Day.

I know, I know... There is a stupid day for anything you can possibly imagine.
But this particular day made me want to share the special little smile we had for such a small amount of time.

Bailey Marie
2 months old
 with the smile we knew and loved first.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Big Sister, Little Sister

Aunt Beaner sent our kids a little package in the mail today.

For the girls she included some hair accessories - always a big hit around our house - and two necklaces.

One for Big Sister.
One for Little Sister.

I don't think most people would guess these two to be sisters.
Most times if I go somewhere with the girls and Justy comes along, strangers inevitably assume Avery is Justy's child - not mine.

They do look different. And not just because of the hair.
Bailey is a skinny little thing while Avery is more "built" - to put it nicely. Bailey has her dad's greenish-tinted eyes and Avery has my blue. 
They have different personalities too.
Avery is quick to decide and her only volume is a near-screaming level at all times. Bailey is more reserved and takes her time with almost all things.
But they already share so much.
They are both goofy and love to make people laugh - especially each other. It thrills me to see their sense of humor emerging in everyday things. Avery loves doing all the things her big sister does, like wearing dresses and quoting "The Lion King." They love to dance and read books and play cooking and trap each other in the toy box. Together they both badger me daily to watch "Word World." (Oh, how I loathe you "Word World"...)

They fight frequently. Someone is always stealing a doll or wearing the other's shoes. Avery can't get away with anything because Bailey is right there to rat her out. But despite all that, they are each other's biggest cheerleaders. Twice a week Avery is at the front door, waving to her sister as she boards the school bus, yelling, "Have fun at school, sister!" And Bailey is frequently right outside the bathroom giving encouragement and then praise for Avery's potty successes. Or failures. "Accidents happen, Avery."

There isn't a day that goes by that I am not thankful they have each other.
Those who know me know that I grew up with three younger sisters.
I cannot imagine not having them in my life.
They are the ones I text funny "New Girl" quotes to. They are the ones who attend slightly odd concerts with me. They are the ones I laugh at the same family stories with again and again and again. They are the ones who love and tolerate me even when I am being bossy and overly opinionated. They are the ones who know everything there is to know about me. They have been there since forever.
They get it.
They get me.
When I was pregnant with Avery, so many people asked me, "You're hoping for a boy, right?"  And I have to be truthful - I wasn't.
Obviously I knew Jared wanted a boy, and I would have been fine either way, but deep down I wanted a sister for Bailey. Having three sisters of my own, I wanted that for her.
For both of them.
I wish for them a relationship like the ones I have with my sisters. It really is a bond unlike any other. And while we might know exactly how to annoy the hell out of each other, the laughter and love is always right there too.

And I hope my girls have as many laugh-until-you're-red-in-the-face moments as we do.