Getaway

Prepare to be amazed.  Or, at very least, pretend to be amazed.

Yep, that’s my luggage for an overnight trip.  What’s the big deal?  Notice:  no diaper bag.  I am actually away without my two little people.  That means I didn’t pack a single diaper.  No blankets, no little packs of snacks, no Barbies, no backup changes of clothes in preparation for a blow out.  Oh, and no one to (openly) make fun of my choice of luggage.  It’s just me, a change of clothes, a toothbrush, pillow, and sleeping bag.

Cue amazingly long sigh of peace, relief, and a very tiny amount of worry.

Jay has graciously agreed to stay home with Chica and Bubba so that I can attend this year’s Get Away.  He says he’s had both of them overnight by himself before, and he’s usually right when it comes to remembering things like that.  I just don’t remember this intense, strange feeling of freedom quite like I felt it last night.  Either way, I’m here, they’re there, and I’m eating it up.

Speaking of eating…can I just say that meal time without ANY kids is revolutionary?  I spend 2/3 of my life’s meals cutting things into tiny pieces, catching projectiles, trying to interpret very confusing baby signs, and begging people to eat.  The other 1/3 of my meals are woofed down while trying to keep 45 nine and ten year olds in their seat and to a mild roar.

So last night as I sat at dinner…and sat….and sat….I marveled at the novelty of not having to feed a single person around me.  And as I sat some more trying to decide what to have for dessert, there was no banging or throwing involved.  Call me crazy, but I think I’ve teared up now twice just writing about it.

Later last night, after worship and a conference, I walked outside to my car to head to our lodge.  I was struck, yet again, of the aloneness of it all.  I had no one to carry, no one to watch, no one waiting for me.  I walked very slowly.

In my real life, I am almost NEVER alone.  Yes, I know this is what I signed up for when I got married, made two babies, and became a teacher.  But I really consider myself a pretty extreme introvert who has learned to cope in an extroverted world.  So this, this being on my own time for almost 24 hours, is a massive, beautiful gift.

Tearing up again.  Sheesh.

Most Saturday mornings at 6:15 are reserved for family wrestling matches in our bed.  There’s lots of growling, tickling, and, “Don’t get too crazy,” reminders involved.  I spend 50% of that time enjoying it, and the other 55% of the time wishing for at least another hour of sleep.  (Mistake intended, Mom.)  But here I sit, 6:15 on this Saturday morning, typing, thinking, reading.

Amazing.

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Undone

So I took a few tiny steps towards rearranging today.  I was feeling hesitant to record them here.   At the same time that I was worried about tooting my own horn, I also worried that the steps would seem too small and insignificant.  How is it even possible to worry about those things at the same time?  Yet here I am, hoping that my moments may resonate with someone else in the same big ocean liner.  (Thanks, Hope.)

This morning Bubba woke up at 4:30 a.m., and Chica wasn’t far behind.   Needless to say, we were ready to go way before I could actually drop Bubba off at school.  Chica was busy giving some kind of animal a bath in a Frisbee, and Bubba was doing what nine month olds do best—dumping every single toy out of the nearest basket.  With three minutes remaining before the time to head out the door, I sat down to read something…anything.  I landed on this.  I prayed for my day to be calmed in the same way.  (Since I’m letting it all hang out, though, I must add that Chica interrupted my attempted moment of calming at least five times.  “Moooooom.  I need…..”  Argh.  There was an awful lot of huffing and puffing and head buried in my hands for a supposedly calm moment.)

I left school today at 4:45.  See, when you write a blog and then share it with your friends, you can’t hide anymore.   About 4:15 a school friend lets on that she read my early morning thoughts.  “I read your post.  Go home and be with your family.”  Thanks for the reminder, friend.  I managed to leave a clean room at a reasonable time….30 minutes before I am usually rushing out the door.  The most interesting part is that I don’t think I accomplished any less after school than the days that I stay until 5:15.  How does that work?

I’m realizing in this new arrangement that I’m going to have to accept a greater degree of undone in my days.  I want to learn to be okay with that.  Why not start now?  I’m going to leave this post undone…without a perfect ending… in exchange for a few minutes to hang out with Jay.  Night.

On Sleep

I have now stopped and started this post about ten different ways.  I have all kinds of ideas about sleep swirling in my head, and I’m trying to determine my bigger point.  I’m not interested in backing one parenting philosophy over another.  I think my point is that parenting is hard, but not so hard that you can’t win once in a while.

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When Chica was a baby, I received a book about infant sleep.  I admit I was really green and didn’t have any idea that a huge debate about sleep methods existed out there.   I read it, followed it, loved it.  The whole book, from what I remember, boiled down to creating an eat-play-sleep routine.  Feed the baby, play with the baby, then put the baby down for a nap when she shows signs of sleepiness.  The baby will cry, and it will be hard for you, but eventually she’ll learn to put herself to sleep.  Let me just say…Chica was a rock star at all of this.

As I’ve written before, Bubba just didn’t fit that mold.  Right from the beginning he wanted to be held much more than she ever did.  I tried half-heartedly letting him cry it out a few times, but I always caved before he did.  I think one of the main reasons I didn’t let him keep going is that I was worried it would upset or wake Chica.

So fast forward about eight months.  Summer vacation is coming to a close and I literally can’t remember the last time Bubba took a nap in his own bed.  All of his naps were had either in the car while running errands or in my arms in our ugly brown armchair.  Our routine was play, eat, sleep.  I would nurse him when he seemed tired, and then we’d just stay there.  If I tried to put him in his bed, even if he was fast asleep in my arms, he would jolt awake about one half second before his body hit the crib mattress.  He would scream his shrill cry of desperation, and I didn’t know what else to do besides pick him back up and lull him back to sleep…in the ugly brown armchair.

Things started off well last week when I went back to work.  He actually slept through the night on the first two nights…maybe 10 p.m. until 4:30 or 5:00.  Not bad for him.  But things began to deteriorate as the week wore on.  One evening (things are so fuzzy I can’t remember which one) I was going on two hours of trying to get him to sleep in the bed.  I hate to admit this, but I started thinking, “It’s no surprise that some people end up truly hurting their kids.”  I thankfully realized those are not very safe thoughts to have in my hazy, sleep deprived state.  I left him wailing in his bed and came downstairs to tell Jay I was tagging out.  Bubba should be thankful he has such a good daddy.

In retelling this story to some friends and experienced moms at work, they insisted that I needed to just let him cry it out on his own.  I recalled for them at least one occasion where I had let him go for ninety minutes with no signs of slowing, but they rebutted with stories of babies who had taken just as long.

It’s been said that insanity is trying the same thing over and over expecting different results.  You can call it what you want….determination, desperation, insanity…but I gave it another shot.  Friday night I left him wailing in his crib and went downstairs to hang out with my dad and Jay.  We had the TV on to drown out the screaming.  About 30 minutes later a sound startled us…silence.  Thirty minutes, people!  My stubborn, needy, determined child had fallen asleep on his own.  Miracle.

Saturday at nap time it took 20 minutes of crying for him to give up.  And get this…I got TWO HOURS of uninterrupted time to work while he napped.  I was able to uncover parts of my dining room that I hadn’t seen all summer.  We now have a homework/schoolwork center and a place to work.  Yippeeee!  Last night it was less than five minutes until he was asleep.  This morning, after his early morning meal, it took less than one minute.  God is good.

So I’m thinking that unless you have kids this age of your own, or you’re related to me, or you’re my friend Ruth, you’ve probably stopped reading by now.  And that’s fine.  I do realize that my baby’s crying and sleeping habits are not the most interesting material for a blog post.  But here’s what I’ve learned for those who’ve stuck with me…

  • Trying the same thing over and over is not always insanity.  People change and the context changes.  At six, seven, and eight months it didn’t work.  At nine months it did.  This has reminded me, especially in the context of school, to not write off any ideas.  New year, new kids, new perspective on my part…it just might work.
  • I’m rolling around feelings that I can best describe as regret and guilt from the last few months.  At the same time that I say, “People change,” I wonder if I could have gotten to this point a whole lot sooner if I had been more committed to helping him learn to put himself to sleep.  I’m tempted to think that I wasted many, many hours in the armchair, but I know that I did learn something about slowing down in the process too.
  • I can’t take credit for this one.  While talking about this with Jay’s mom, she challenged me to see Bubba’s stubbornness in falling to sleep as the makings of determination instead.  I like that idea.
  • Finally, I am not naïve enough to think that we have solved all sleeping issues in our house.  But for right now, we have four well rested people, and that is a beautiful thing.

Innately Mundane

It’s a bit challenging to maintain a blog about being a mom when you spend only four waking hours with your kids.  We’re in that back to school for teachers week that’s full of sorting through the mess you were too tired to fool with last year and meetings that leave you feeling a bit panicky.   I’ve seen a whole lot more of school than Chica and Bubba these last three days.

I want so badly to continue this blogging thing through the school year, but I know I’ll have to be a bit more creative in order to find both material and time.  Thanks for sticking with me as I figure it out.

So tonight I have no great words of wisdom ready, nor any super funny stories from our adventures.  I’ve challenged myself, however, to see if I have ten moments worth remembering and recording today.   Not the most original idea, but maybe in this case, something is better than nothing.

  1.  I had to be at a different building other than my own this morning at 8 a.m., so there was none of the normal pressure that I put on myself to get to school early to get working.  This afforded me just a few extra slow moments with Bubba on my bed after he was fed and happy.  Today was one of those days where he looks different from the night before.  How does that happen?
  2. I love the look on Chica’s face when she emerges from her dark, sleepy cave.  We don’t do night lights, so the bright light of the kitchen nearly blinds her when she comes to find us.   This was a happy morning…no mention of watching any movies before breakfast.  I don’t know why that blasted box has become such an attraction and a battle lately.
  3. On our drive this morning, Chica asked me if she had beautiful eyelids.  Except she didn’t know the word for eyelids.  Her attempt at describing this body part was quite amusing.
  4. Nana made zucchini bread, and I got to have a piece when I dropped off the kids this morning at her house.  This was exactly the pick-me-up my up since 4:45 a.m. body needed.
  5.  A school friend invited me to go out to lunch.  Nine times out of ten my task oriented self insists on working through lunch on days like this.  Today I took her up on the offer, and we were joined by two new teachers.  I truly have to work hard at building relationships with new people, but I’m always glad when I do.
  6.  I’m thinking I may have a bit of a hoarding problem when it comes to office supplies at school.  This has only been made harder to overcome by taking over classrooms of two teachers in a row who have left.  School friends, if you ever need sticky notes, chalk, or …well….anything…I probably have it.
  7. Bubba is really getting into eating these days, but he hasn’t learned the beauty of a bib yet.  When I got to Nana’s house, she had convinced him to wear a dish towel like a cape instead.
  8. I’ll never understand why Chica protests baths so much and then protests again when it’s time to get out.  I just don’t get it.
  9. You know that clean baby smell you look forward to after a bath?  When you accidentally use a sour washcloth, you don’t get the same smell, no matter how many times you sniff their head afterwards.
  10. Tonight I had to bribe myself with ice cream to get the day’s bottles in the dishwasher.  I’m as bad as the kids.

A fellow blogger commented on one of my recent posts about the “focus on the innately mundane of your everyday life.”  I’m not sure why, but I just love that description.  There’s something about recording those innately mundane moments and seeing them all together that all of a sudden makes this day go from good to better.  Funny how that works.

Catch An Eddy

A Letter to Myself on October 14th, 2012:

Dear Tracy,

By now the newness of the school year has worn off, and the routine, as much as you will ever create, has set in.  I see you have a bag of papers that you carry home every night intending to grade, but you haven’t cracked it open in a while.  I notice the laundry pile mountain in the basement that isn’t getting any smaller on its own.  And let’s not even talk about the condition of the kitchen floor…yikes.

I know each of those things feels really heavy, and there’s no time to fix them in sight.  Instead you just ride the current of busyness mixed with exhaustion, hoping not to fall out of the boat.  Well, it’s time to catch an eddy.

‘Member last summer when you went whitewater rafting with Taylor?  Your guide explained that large rocks in the river naturally create a calm spot right behind them where we would periodically regroup before heading back out to face the rapids.  He would purposely maneuver the boat into this spot, an eddy, so that everyone could readjust their feet, wipe the water out of their eyes, and just take a breath.  Well, it’s time to do that.

Yes, the papers and the laundry and the floors are important, but your family is more important.  I think you were just beginning to grasp the reality of that in the summer.  Have you talked to Jay lately?  I’m not talking about the last five minutes before you both fall asleep on the couch.  I mean a real conversation.  How about Chica?  Have you noticed the ways she’s changed since starting school?  And Bubba.  By now I suppose he is walking.  Are you taking lots of pictures and videos of his wobbly self so that one month from now, when he’s running, you’ll remember what it looked like when he first learned?

And while you’re sitting here in the eddy, what about yourself?  Have you figured out a way to have some being still and quiet time?  Some listening time?  I’m sure the rapids ahead would be a little less likely to throw you overboard if you would.

Float on,

Tracy

Image:  Rafting on the Paro Chhu © Northwest Rafting Company | Flickr Creative Commons

Slow Down. Be Still.

There are less than two weeks until I go back to school and three weeks until the students start.  My heart rate raises a few beats just thinking it….and a few more putting it into writing.

I feel so tempted to count my summer as over.  My planning, worrying, people-impressing self says I need to be getting ready for the school year now.  I should be organizing my classroom, scouring Pinterest for back to school ideas, and figuring out what happened to Pluto so I can be ready to teach about the planets.

The truth is that I have tried already.  Yesterday I took Chica to play with her friends at her old school, and I enlisted a few of my friends to help me get started on the disaster area that is my new room.  Bubba had to come with us, and he made it completely clear that he wasn’t satisfied unless I was holding him.  We made some major progress, but there is an embarrassingly huge amount of stuff still left to be done.

But at the same time that my heart rate rises, I seem to be hearing a small voice telling me to be still.

Slow down.  School hasn’t started, and the summer is not over.  No need to mourn it now.  EnJOY the time with your sweet family that you have left before the busyness of school takes over.

I’ve been blessed with some slow moments this week already.

Yesterday I took Chica and Bubba to the park while Jay did the grocery shopping.  After swinging, sliding, and pretending, we were headed home for what was sounding like a potty emergency.  It turned out to be a false alarm (I’ll spare you the explanation I was given), so we wandered back into the park a second time.  Chica had The Colors of the Wind tune stuck in her head, and she just stood under a tree singing, making up words for what she couldn’t remember.  We discovered these really funky seed pods and enjoyed popping them open together, one after another.  Nowhere to go, nothing we had to do.  Just plopped down in the middle of a field being together.  Slow.  Still even.

Today we had a repeat of the hike we took at the beginning of the summer.  The whole time she kept asking me, “Member this?” when she’d see something that triggered a memory from our first trip.  On the way back, she got distracted by a sandy patch of ground, of all things.  She must have sat there for nearly ten minutes just drawing designs in the sand with her fingers.  If you had seen her you might have thought either A) She must be a nature deprived child to be that enthralled with dirt or B) You’re definitely going to have to cut those nails tonight!  One part of me wanted to hurry her up.  We had planned a library trip and swim after what was supposed to be a quick hike.  That small voice, however, reminded me it was okay to just be still, so I let her be.

I’ve had my fair share of still and slow moments with Bubba lately too.  I’ve finally decided, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.  If I can’t get him to nap in his own bed, but he will sleep in my arms in the recliner, then…well…why not?  Both Sunday and today I took those opportunities to nap, something I rarely do.  Today instead of thinking of all the things I could’ve or should’ve been doing, I tried to think about how much I will miss snuggling his hot-potato self when he’s fourteen (or even four maybe).

I’m hoping these next two weeks will be slow, filled with many more still moments.  Even more, I’m hoping I can carry a little of the stillness into the school year.