Got Confidence?

So, it was 6:30 in the morning and my husband was spending a few minutes with the kids before he left for a trip.  He was sitting on the sofa looking at these cardboard animals with holes punched in the edges. I could tell that he was trying to figure out what purpose these could possibly have.  I said, “They are lacing cards.  Sissy is still having trouble with lacing, and little man can’t do it at all.  We spent time on it yesterday but, they were both getting frustrated so, we stopped.”  My husband then tells my son to bring him a lace from the box and says, “Little man, do you want to see how this is done?”  My son flings the lace at him and smiles.  My husband then says, “Watch daddy son!”

My husband shows little man how to tie a knot in the end and then asks him to pick a place to start lacing.  My son picks a hole on the cow’s nose for the starting point.  My husband then asks him which hole the string should go through next, and my son points to one on the opposite end of the cow – “The tail!” my son says.  My husband responds with, “Come on !  It would be this hole right?”  I laughed because my husband was seeing what I have to deal with on a daily basis.  I think to myself, “Not so easy, is it?”   It is easy to forget how illogical a toddlers thinking can be, and how hard it can be to teach them, seemingly, simple tasks.

Well, my husband then says, “Don’t worry son.  You can do this, and I will show you how!”  My husband proceeds to lace the entire cow with surgical-like precision while talking my son through every step.  When my husband finished lacing the cow, he held it up so we could all gaze, at the cow, in shear amazement.  He then says, “And that my friends, this is how it is done!  This is how a MAN laces a cow!”  He called my son over and asked him, “Son, have ever seen such a good looking cow?  Dad just did an awesome job on this!  I worked very hard and I nailed it!  Absolutely awesome isn’t it?  If you try hard, you will be able to do it as well as me!   OK son, I love you!”   Then, my husband stood up and went to get his briefcase.

I thought about how differently my husband and I approach things with the kids; it is quite funny actually!  I thought about the pride that my husband took in lacing that cardboard cow.  He was giving it 100%, which is not a bad thing.  It also did not matter to him that he was only lacing a cardboard cutout of a cow.  He was able to look at the finished product and feel pride; he knew he did his best.  This is how he approaches everything in his life.  I wondered if this is why he has a wall of framed medals and I have a little box of blue ribbons.

I have laced that cow multiple times and have never thought to myself, “Wow, I just totally laced that cow and I did a freakin awesome job!”  Maybe I need to add a little more of my husband’s confident self-talk to my day.  Maybe I should pat myself on the back more, and take more pride in the little things that I do every day!   Although, I have no plans to take my new-found confidence to the same level as my husbands; I mean, honestly, we can only handle one of those in the house!   But, I am already psyching myself up about the awesome dinner that I will create tonight.  Guess who is going to rock that frozen broccoli tonight?  That’s right, Mom is!!   Lucky Kids!

Not A Fairy Tale!

I was in the grocery store this morning and noticed a woman staring at me from the next check-out line. I think she was trying to place me, but I recognized her immediately. Our daughters attended the same school. These people were new to the area and their daughter had joined the class only three months before the end of school. She also had a small baby, so she was always in a hurry. I never really had a chance to get to know her. Our daughters played a lot and, by the time school ended, they had become fast friends. My daughter kept asking to have her new friend over to play, but I could never catch the mom to ask. It was not until the end of school that I actually met the girl’s mom, and I am not sure that I made the best impression. This is what happened.

It was now the last day of school and all of the parents were invited for a little ceremony and class parties. I was in front of the school when I saw the new mom, smiled, and waved. It was the first week of June and the temperature was 95 degrees. It was obscenely hot and I commented on the weather. She walked toward me and her husband, who I had never before seen, followed. I then said that my daughter has loved having their child in the class and we would love to have a play date this summer. She looks at me and then back at her husband and tells him, “This is Gia’s new friend; the one that I told you about.” She then looks back at me and says, “I finally got to meet your daughter this morning”. That was all she said, and then she looked down like she was trying to think of something to say. The lady was not smiling; she just stared at the ground.

I was concerned that my child had been rude to the woman, because her behavior was a little odd. I tried to throw in an excuse just in case my child had done or said something inappropriate. I then said, “I have wanted to introduce myself, but we keep missing you in the mornings. Very often, we are the first ones here. Like today, my daughter woke up at 4:45 am, to use the bathroom. She never went back to sleep, so we got here bright and early. She usually wakes around 6:00, which is early enough, but she has woken around 5:00am every day this week. She does not seem to sleep well after busy family visits. ” The story was true. My daughter was seriously sleep deprived and I hoped it would explain any bad behavior.

At this point, the schools’ director came out and called for us to move inside for the start the ceremony. I did not feel like this woman was interested in making a new friend or even speaking to me further, so I said, “I better go find a seat. See you later!” and walked away. I found a seat across the room from the couple and sat there wondering what my daughter said or did to cause this reaction. My child is pretty shy, and is not known for being rude to people, so I did not think that she would say anything to offend the woman. I then wondered, was it what my daughter was wearing? My child was in a weird headband phase at the time. She insisted on wearing two or three headbands at once; none of which matched each other, or her outfits. But, their school was full of gardens, creeks, pools of colored water, and mud piles which got the children absolutely filthy. The children could not wear nice clothes because they came home stained with food coloring, paint, dirt, sand and mud. The clothes that she wore to school were a complete loss, so I never cared what she put on or whether it matched. But, all of the children wore stained play clothes so I doubted that my child’s festive headbands (although they did bring her much attention) would be enough to cause such a negative reaction.

I then wondered if it was me. I was a little different from many of the women at the school. I wore trendier clothes and did not wear, or own, Birkenstocks, crocs, or velcro sandals. I am sure they are comfortable and I think they are great for other people, but they are just not for me. I also knew that many of the people at the school were vegetarians, and made sure to compost leftover food. I ate some meat, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t love and support animals. I recycled and tried to respect mother earth. Is this why my daughter was being judged? Was it because we didn’t seem “hippie” enough? I looked around the room, at the other women, and wondered how many of them judged me. I often saw them gathering outside the school talking about their jobs and “educational outings” with their kids. They would just look at me, and although they did not smile, I always smiled and said “Hello”. I was starting to feel more like I was being judged and disliked. I started to feel like the women probably didn’t like me (even though they knew nothing about me), and my daughter was suffering because of it.

The program ends and we go to her class, where many of the families bring food for everyone to share. I always bring a lot of food because my daughter will not eat anything that the other mom’s bring. So, we are late getting in to the class and the only open seats are at the table with Gia and her parents. I am friends with one mom at the school and she is at the next table over. My daughter and I were talking quietly, when Gia’s mom says, “So you mentioned that your daughter was visiting with family.” I smiled and nodded. I did not want to say too much, so I replied with, “Yes, last weekend”. We ate for a while, and watched as the class gradually emptied. Things were now very quiet.

Suddenly, Gia’s mom says, “So, this morning when I was talking to your daughter, I asked her how she was doing and she said, “Well I am OK. I am just really tired from all of the work that woman makes me do!” Gia’s mom then says that she asked my child what work she had been doing and my daughter replies, “I had to vacuum, mop, dust, and scrub everything! That stepmother of mine is so mean! She makes me clean and scrub, and I am not ever allowed to play! It is very hard for a little girl!” My daughter hung her head for a minute, and then said, “Come on Gia, let’s go play!” and they ran off together.

I looked at the woman and said, “My child does not have a stepmother. Her father and I are still married. I do not know what she is talking about!” My friend from the other table walks over and sits down beside me, and our little girls walk across the room together. I looked at my friend and repeated what Gia’s mom just said to me. I said to the table, “It’s true that no one ever see’s my husband, but we are happily married, and there is no stepmother! Nor are there any child labor laws being broken in my home!”

I then looked at my friend and it hit me! I said, “OH, NO. My mom brought Sissy her first Disney movie this weekend; they sat upstairs and watched it together. The movie was Cinderella! That is where she got the mean stepmother, and all the scrubbing the floors stuff! Little miss imagination!” My friend leaned back and started laughing very hard and said, “That is priceless! Only your child!” I started laughing too, but Gia’s mom still looked horrified! I don’t know if she did not believe me about the movie, which was TOTALLY true. Or maybe she just still did not think we were her kind of people, but the playdate never happened! I also did not think this was going to help my image with the other women at the school. My family, once again was making a good impression!

Oh Well! My life may be a little different from some of the other women’s lives, but it is my life and it works for me! After all, nobody ever said that my life would be a fairy tale! But if I could relate to any fairy tale princess, it would  be Cinderella (in her pre-Prince Charming days only). Many days it feels like I am up to my elbows in cranky people, dirty dishes, and dirty diapers; I often feel like I can’t keep everyone happy and the work is never done! I also think it is funny how all of the fairy tales end, before the children are born. The stories end before the sleepless nights, the colic, and the weird poopy diapers! Yep! My Life is not exactly a fairy tale, but more like a badly written comedy.  I guess it is a good thing that love to laugh!


Good Friends, Bad Luck!

I have a lot of acquaintances and people that I am friendly with, but I have a small group of very special friends.  My good friends may be few, but they are unbelievably awesome.  These are the girls that I call when I am sad, and they are the ones who show up on my doorstep when things are bad.  These girls have been in my life for years (some for 15 years, some for 30).  They know all of the bizarre things that have happened to me and they never judge.   I seem to attract crazy people (stalkers for example), so I am very thankful for my relatively normal friends.  So after one of those fabulous friends left yesterday, I found myself thinking about some of our first memorable experiences.  These early experiences taught me about the value of friendship, the sheer unpredictability of life, and the importance of a good sense of humor.

Yesterday I was trying to organize the kids’ playroom.  I was up to my eyeballs in polly pockets and little die cast cars, when the phone rang.  My friend said, “I’m on my way home from the beach and my GPS says I’m pretty close to you.  I’m sick of driving.  Do you want to have dinner?”  I say “of course” and she heads to my house.   After we have loaded all of the kids in my car and have pulled out of the driveway, I ask her how the beach was.  She said, “Well, the Outer Banks were beautiful but, I am never going in the ocean again!”  I asked why and she said “It was so terrible.  I got caught in a riptide and swept out into the ocean.  I could not get back and I had to be RESCUED!” Most friends would be horrified, and I was, but I started giggling as I told her how “truly awful” it was.  I then said, “I’m so sorry that I’m laughing, but these things only happen to YOU and ME.  I mean, if I had been there, I would have been floating away with you.  I would have been screaming for help and saying how dangerous we are together.” I could just picture us both being drug up on the sand while people gathered, pointed, and whispered about the two beached women.  Only If I had been there, I would have had a bikini “malfunction” and flashed the entire beach; the whole ordeal would have made the national news and probably YouTube.  She and I have bad luck, but a good sense of humor.

I remembered the time when we were teenagers and had gone to an amusement park.  We decided to ride a new roller coaster (called The Cyclone) that went upside down and in corkscrews.  We rode it once and loved it.  When the roller coaster was coming to an end and pulled back up to the loading area, there were no brave people standing in line for our first row seats.  The man who worked there walked up to us and said “Hey, if you want to ride again it’s cool.  There’s nobody waiting.  It’s a slow day.”  We said “Great. Sitting is better than walking” and we sat back down.

Well, the ride starts and we have made it over the big hill.  We clutch the harness and close our eyes already preparing ourselves for the twists and turns ahead.  We make it through one loop and are starting the corkscrews when the roller coaster stops; the ride just completely stops in midair.  As it was grinding to a halt, we were still hanging to the side of the corkscrew.  My side was leaning toward the ground and I was forced to stare at the place where my body would go “splat” if I were to fall from the seat.  Suddenly one last chug pushes us forward and through the corkscrew.  We were now sitting more upright, but we were definitely stuck.  We were stuck on that roller coaster for about 20 minutes and we were pretty convinced that we were going to die up there.

After the panic and sheer disbelief passed, I was cracking jokes even then.  “This is not how I want to die” I told my friend.  “Not with a mass of tangled hair, smeared mascara and wet pants!”  “Did you pee your pants?” she asked.  I said “Not yet, but that was a really big frozen lemonade.  It’s no longer frozen and almost ready to come out!”  She started laughing and it lightened the mood.

Then, about two years later, we got terribly lost.  We took the wrong exit and ended up in a town where dreams, and probably other things, go to die. We needed to stop and get directions and our only options were a very scary motel, or a very sleazy pool hall.  We looked at the motel and found that there was no lobby, just a sign labeled “Office” on one of the guest room doors.  Since the motel reeked of “horror movie”, we opted for the super creepy pool hall.  The men inside had minimal teeth, but lots of hair (which was not necessarily on their heads).  A man walks over to us and we ask for directions back to the interstate.  This creep says that they will only help us if we play pool with them.  I was a fairly sheltered child, but my friend was not.  She was the youngest child and like 12 years younger than her big brother.  She adored her brother and grew up playing pool with him.  In fact, she played pool with him from the time that she could reach the table.  I would watch her play pool in her basement and she was really good, I just didn’t realize how good.

So these Neanderthals say we have to play.  My friend steps up and says “I will play you.  I’ve actually played before.”  This creepy man laughs and I am just trying not to cry.  This was around 1991 and before the days when every teenager had a cell phone.  Most cell phones were still bolted in cars or carried in big black bags.  This was also before the days of Facebook when I could have just updated my status to:  “Help!  Being held captive by Billy Ray Cyrus’s toothless twin and I want to get the “Achy Breaky” out of here!”  I was looking frantically for a pay phone but none to be found!

So my friend starts to play pool with this guy and other super scary people are gathering to watch.  I am trying to physically disappear onto a green stool that was against the wall.  My friend gets a smile on her face; she is actually going to enjoy this.  She put on her game face and whipped Bubba’s butt.  He was ticked, she was elated, and I was terrified.  My friend was only 16, I had just turned 15, and once again I was sure that we were going to die!  He accuses her of cheating and some old guy steps in and helps us.  Long story short, we got out of there with a cocktail napkin sketch of our route back to the interstate.  This was one more time that we escaped death, or at least serious emotional trauma.

We managed to get ourselves into these precarious situations every couple years.  The positive side is that, so far, we have also managed to find our way out of them (just sometimes more scathed than others).   I spent a lot of time trying to figure out if we had great luck, or terrible luck?   For many years I thought that it was just me.  I thought that they are only drug into these situations due to my sheer presence.  My friends’ story today reassured me that it is not just me. She is also a victim of crazy luck.  Maybe that is what connects us.  I mean these girls don’t even flinch when they hear my daily drama.  My friends are the best!  It is so nice to have other people who actually understand my level of crazy!  I love you girls!    P.S.  I am going to the beach next week.  Be sure to watch the news in case they have to fish me out of some tide pool.  It will be amusing, I’m sure!

Back Labor Really Sucks: part 2 of “my water broke…”

OK, So I am now positive that I am in labor. I had been trying to convince myself that was not having this baby a month early. I was relieved that my husband was no longer in New York, but I was fairly stressed that he was still three hours away. Evidently, I was pretty certain that I was in labor during the dinner with my parents. My dad later reminded me that I came back from the restroom and said, “I think I’m in labor”. The funny thing is that I don’t remember saying it. I only remember spending every extra minute staring at my watch and trying to find some consistency to the back pain. I finally found that if I completely ignored the trembling in my legs, I could basically time the pain. I was no longer in denial about being in labor, but I remained horrified that my water broke and did not come out. I worried about my little girl and wondered why she just would not move.

Well, it was now a little after 11:00 pm and my back labor was in full swing. I had only been in labor about 8 hours and the average (duration of labor) for the women in my family was around 20 hours; I still had a long way to go and it really hurt!  When the contractions would hit, I could not breathe and the trembling in my legs only got worse.  I was shaking so hard that the sheets were just jumping on my legs. The nurse came in because some alarm was going off. She looked at the machine and then looked at me shaking and said that she was calling the doctor. I was very scared but extremely calm.  My dad popped his head in at midnight and said, “Well baby, this is it! I have to get up at 5:00 am, so I am going to go home and get some sleep. Call me if you need me. Good Luck!” A tear slid down my face when he left. This was all getting very real!

At 12:30 a.m. a doctor, whom I knew from Dr. D’s office, walked in my room. He said that I was still not very dilated, but that I should call my husband. He was looking at my monitor and he was not smiling. The fetal monitor kept going off, but no one was telling me anything. My mom picked up the phone and called my husband, who was sound asleep. She said, “Well son, it looks like this is happening. The doctor wants you to come now!”  Mom handed me the phone and I said, “I know you are sleep deprived and jet lagged; please be careful! Oh, and I need you to bring the suitcase that is sitting in my closet. Oh, wait! Don’t forget to bring the car seat!” He then says, “OK, I just need to take a quick shower.  I need to wake up, and then I’m on my way!” We hang up and I tell mom that I am very worried about him driving. “He is so sleepy and it is raining! I need him alive! I can do this without him. I don’t need the additional stress of worrying about him right now!” My mom said, “Honey, he will be fine! He needs to be here!” I said “You know that I want him here, but things have a tendency of not working out the way I planned. I already know I could have this baby before he gets here!”

A nurse walked in and said that the doctor ordered some pain medicine for me, but I refused to take it. I told her that I wanted to be completely alert since my husband was not here. I remembered our friend telling us that the pain meds knocked her out while giving birth. She and her husband said that the nurses would have to wake her up to push and then she would literally pass back out. That was my worst nightmare right now. I needed to know what was going on! My mom tried to help by saying, “you can easily have this baby without drugs. Look how far you’ve already come. I’m impressed!”  But all I could say was “This sucks!”

My pain was becoming more constant. There was very little break between the agonizing back pain and the shaking in my legs, so I assumed that the contractions were getting closer. They had the fetal monitor turned so that I could not see it, but it kept going off. The alarm would ring and a nurse would come in and say “Where is dad? Is he here yet?” I would say no. My husband called at 3:00 am and said that he was still about 45 minutes away. He said it was pouring rain and he was driving as fast as he could, but the storm was terrible. I thought, “Great! Could this get any worse?”

The nurses are running in every few minutes to stop the alarm. My doctor is standing in my room around 4:00 am. I see his face and I know that there is a problem. He has already told me that I was not dilating and I knew that I was having a C-section. He then says, “Look Jennifer, we can’t wait much longer. The longer we wait, there is more risk to you and the baby. I am sending in the anesthesiologist to talk to you.” The anesthesiologist asks me some questions that I now can’t  remember. It was all turning into one big blur. The anesthesiologist walks out of the room, and my husband walks in. I let out a sigh of relief and said “Glad you made it!”  The nurse runs in and says “Is this dad?”  I nodded, and she told him that they are moving me to the operating room. She brought in some weird paper jumpsuit for him to put on. She said “You are pretty big. This is the biggest one I could find”. He put it over his clothes and it ripped in three places. He looked very funny, but my sense of humor was now gone. They wheeled me past him. I looked back. I tried to smile and then said, “Here we go!”

They took me in the OR for the epidural. Now my entire body was shaking, probably from pain, fear, and exhaustion. I looked over and saw my doctor sitting on a chair. He was bent down and breathing deeply. He was concentrating so hard, you could almost see the thoughts running through his head. My husband was a former athlete, so I recognized this. He was “getting in the zone” and I was happy to see that he was taking this seriously. Go doctor, Go!

Things were staring to move very quickly. The nurses were talking to me, but I hardly noticed what they were saying. I only noticed that they had looks of sympathy on their faces. I even heard one say, “Poor thing” while she shook her head. I did not know if they were saying this because of how hard my legs were shaking, or because I had been waiting for my husband to arrive. I hoped they were not saying this because they knew that my baby was in trouble. I was now officially scared, and just wanted to have this baby.

Having a C-section is definitely not pretty. They lay you on the table, completely exposed for the world to see. I remember my husband’s face when he walked in and saw me lying on the table.  I was just lying there, basically nude and really shaking, while the anesthesiologist hooked me up. My husband tried to smile at me, but I could tell that he was a little worried too. They barely put up a barrier before the surgery started. I could see everything, but my actual belly. My husband could see everything that they were doing; he could even see them cut my stomach.  Things seemed to be rushed and the pain medicine had not really taken effect, because the surgery was pretty painful. My husband said that when the doctor made the cut and was reaching for the baby, there was a huge gush of fluid that shot up and out.  Then, immediately after the fluid, he saw a baby’s hand sticking out of my stomach. The doctor reached for the baby and then said, “Did you guys just see that?  That baby is trying to get away from me!” My baby was trying to wiggle away from the doctor.  I could feel all of this weird pressure and movement in my stomach and I just wanted it to stop. I kept thinking, “Just get the baby out – Please!”

Finally the doctor said, “I got her!” My husband smiled at me and said, “There she is!” “Is she OK? Is she OK?” I kept asking. I wanted to hear my baby scream, but there was a long pause followed by a tiny little cry. Very soon, a nurse took her to a table beside us. I could see four nurses surrounding her, but that was it. My doctor kept looking back over his shoulder at the table. He asked the nurse the baby’s gestational age and a few other questions. My baby made a few more sounds. The nurses brought her over so that I could kiss her head and they said they were taking her to the nursery.

They took me to recovery, and my husband was right beside me. I was exhausted from being up all night and worrying about the arrival of the baby (and my husband). The only thing separating the beds (in the recovery room) were long curtains. From the next bed over, all you could hear was crying and yelling. It sounded like a very young girl and she just kept screaming “It hurts!” Her mom was talking loudly into her cell phone and informing the family that her daughter and the baby were fine. Finally a nurse went over there and told the girl that she had to stop screaming. The nurse said, “Honey, you are just fine! The other women in here went through the same thing. You and your baby are fine! You really need to quiet down so people can rest!” Evidently the girls’ screaming was wearing on everyone, even the nurses.

I was in there for about an hour before the nurse told me that my daughter was stable, but  was in the neonatal intensive care unit. I had a feeling that something had been wrong, but it was horrible actually hearing those words. They said that she was currently doing well, but had turned blue and stopped breathing. They told me that when I was well enough to go to my room, they would wheel me through the NICU to see her. They told me I could leave recovery, only when I could move my legs and wiggle my toes. I tried so hard to move them. I kept asking my husband if they were moving, but it took a while. I kept telling him to leave me there and go check on our daughter, but he would not leave me. He kept telling me to focus on moving my legs. “You can do it”, he kept saying.

Finally I had some movement in my legs and toes. They left me on the bed and wheeled the entire thing out of recovery and onto an elevator. We finally reached the NICU and I got my first good look at my baby girl. She was hooked up to these tiny little electrodes and IV’s. Her monitor was making these awful noises and it was buzzing. The nurse said, “Don’t watch the monitor; only watch your baby!” I asked if she was OK and the nurse nodded. She wheeled us back out and told my husband how to get back down to the NICU since my room was not in the maternity area, but on a surgical floor. We got to my hospital room and my mom was waiting to hear the news, but I just burst into tears. The birth of our daughter did not go quite as planned, but we were still very lucky.  My little girl has been a fighter from the moment she was born and, it is obvious now that, she always will be!   P.S. Back Labor REALLY Sucks!