Saturday, October 18, 2014

Another turning point, a fork stuck in the road...

...time grabs you by the wrist, directs you where to go
So make the best of this test and don't ask why
It's not a question but a lesson learned in time
It's something unpredictable, but in the end it's right
I hope you had the time of your life
-Green Day, Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)

This blog used to be a place where I regularly made jokes about daily life, but apparently it has turned into the place where I drop big news and/or bare my soul then disappear for a few months.  Tis the life with three small rugrats I suppose.    Behold, more dropping of big news:

I left my job on Wednesday.

(Let me let that sink in a moment.)

Yes, I left my job as Director of the Goodnight Scholars Program.  The one I loved, my dream job in academia.  The job where I was respected and appreciated by the best students on campus.  The job with wonderful colleagues who worked hard and truly cared about students and their success.  As I sit here writing this, the only thing going through my mind is "What the hell was I thinking?!"

But here's what I was thinking:

This kid wants to play hide-and-seek, and I always say no.

This one desperately wants me to volunteer for Farm Days at his school, but I just don't have time.

And this one?  Oh my word.

I know time flies, but I am completely incapable of understanding how we went from newborn to this in approximately 5.2 seconds.

This has been brewing for a while - maybe since she was born, maybe even longer.  I tried to find the elusive "balance," and had the ideal situation that any working parent dreams of.  I had flexible work hours, a part time schedule, and the best childcare situation on the planet.  But I became more and more bothered by the time that I was missing out on with them, and more convicted that I needed to do something different to capture this time.  I finally came to the realization that I can do it all, but I can only do a halfway job of any of it.  So I'm stepping off the higher ed treadmill for a few years until I've got my feet more securely under me.

I am planning to go back to grad school.  I'm halfway done with my Master's, but I'm not sure that program is really what I want anymore.  Of course, I'm not really sure what I *do* want, so I am going to spend a little time figuring out which direction I want to head.  I know that this isn't the end to my working career, but I am really unsure what the next chapter holds.  I do hope it's back at NC State, and I fully expect that it will be.  But in my heart, I need an outlet to create, whether that is writing, photography, cardmaking, or crafting.  I am re-energized when I make things with my hands, and that desire has been ignored for a long time.  Who knows what might happen when my creative juices start flowing again?

Saying goodbye to the people I love at State has been so hard.  My students threw me a going away celebration which was just perfect.  There were lots of hugs, some favorite stories from back in the day, and a goodbye video which created the perfect mix of laughs and tears.  One of my students is Native American, and she performed a smudging ceremony, which I had never seen.  She wrapped me in a blanket as a sign of honor, then smudged me using smoke to cleanse my spirit for the next phase of my journey.  It was beautiful and touching and meaningful.  And I cried some more.

I'm in the center with the blanket around me as a shawl.  

I am not stretching when I say that this was one of the hardest decisions of my life.  I've always said that I didn't want to be a stay-at-home-mom, and frankly, I'm not sure that identity really fits me, even when I've chosen that path for myself, for this moment.  I've already lined up some very part-time work that I can do from home during naptime.  And I've promised my scholars that I won't be a stranger, so I hope to surprise them at some events here and there.  And maybe I can finally publish that book I've written in my head a thousand times over.

So far, it feels a little like playing house.  I folded 6 loads of laundry yesterday, and I had the fleeting "You quit your dream job for THIS?!" moment.  And of course the answer is no.  I'm not sugar coating the hard work or expecting that every day will be filled with picturesque moments of my children frolicking at the pumpkin patch.  But I do believe, in my heart of hearts, that this is the right choice for this season.  I can't even count how many people have said, "You will never regret this time."  Most of the time, I believe them.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

It ain't always pretty, but it's real...

That's the way we were made
Wouldn't have it any other way
These are my people
-Rodney Atkins, These Are My People

I hate "life is perfect" blogs.  Frequent blog readers know the kind of mommy blog I'm talking about - the kind that is all rainbows and unicorns and sunshine and "I am blessed; Thank You God!" and perfectly composed pictures of adorable, well-dressed children.  The kind that say things like "Oh, my life isn't totally perfect!  I haven't dusted in 2 whole weeks, but I just decided to leave that dust bunny under the bed so that we could go outside and dance in the rain!" Y'all know that my household is less tiny-dust-bunny and more gigantic clutter elephant.  It's less dancing in the rain and more slogging through mud puddles, then wiping muddy feet on the couch, the carpet, and the comforter.  I try to be honest about my life's messes, both literal and figurative, because I very much want this blog to be genuine and authentic.  I want to accurately portray real life, in all its mix of beauty and ugly.

And yet.

I also want my life to look pretty and perfect and polished.  I want to come across to the world as someone who's got her shit together.  I don't, of course, but we all want to look that way, right?  I want clothes that make me look skinny, even if that requires heavy duty Spanx.  I want to dress my kids in adorable matching outfits.  I want everyone to hold hands and behave in public, even when we are occasionally tearing each other's hair out behind closed doors.  I want just ONE photo where everyone looks at the camera, smiles, and no one has visible bodily fluid on their clothing.  Appearances matter.  They shouldn't, of course, but we all know that they do.  And now and again, I want to appear like I am doing something right.

Welcome to Mother's Day 2014, where I display to the world just how not together my shit is.

Since my mom died, Mother's Day has been really hard for me.  I want to hide under the covers and avoid people, and then I'm pissed when I don't get treated like a queen.  I get annoyed at the stream of "My mom is the bestest in the world!" on facebook.  I get angry when I see the pictures of 4 generations together.  I want that for my family.  I want this for my kids:

Me, my mom, Appie, and Mama Mildred.
Don't those outfits just scream "Late 70's?"

So in an effort to seek out joy and turn Mother's Day back into a day of celebration, I decided to have Meg's baby dedication on Mother's Day.  Sounds lovely - present her to God surrounded by our family and church community on a day designed to celebrate the love of mothers.  Lots of bad ideas sound lovely in theory, don't they?  Here's a tip - never put more pressure on a day that has more than enough already.  (Seriously, read that link.  Beth W. nails it.)

It started out okay.  The boys treated me like royalty, fixing a lovely breakfast and giving me flowers from the yard (even if I had to hint on the flowers!).  I got a beautiful necklace with all three kids' names engraved on it.  It was just what I wanted (I had given a hint in the past, but that just means he payed attention!).  Everyone got dressed and we made it to church only 15 minutes late.  For half a second I thought we were going to pull off a miracle - that we could make it all go smoothly.  I had this brief vision that Mother's Day could be redeemed.

Enter TheGirlWhoWillNotNap.  She didn't take a nap in Sunday School, but we still had plenty of time to rest before going into the worship service.  We fed her.  She pooped, but kept it in the diaper.  We got her dressed in her beautiful gown.  She spit up, but it wasn't too obvious.  We waited patiently outside in the hallway, where she and her brother were, if not complete angels, at least presentable.

And then.  Then.  It was time for us to walk into the sanctuary.

And the little miss began to let out an ear-splitting wail that could be heard throughout the entire city.  And she sustained said wail for, oh, approximately the remainder of the service.  Oh yes. I have seen a lot of baby dedications, but I have never seen one where the kid screams the entire time.  It was relentless.  When the minister went to hold her, it was as if she intentionally turned and screeched into the mic.  People cringed.

And it wasn't just her performing for the crowd.  The boys danced around like it was a stage.  Luke attempted the same forward-roll-down-the-aisle maneuver that his brother had attempted 4 years earlier at his dedication.  Jay wouldn't stop pulling on Meg's dress, wrapping it around himself like a scarf.  They did anything and everything they could to call some attention to themselves - which would have actually been nice if it had helped the congregation attend to something other than the Tiny Screaming One.  It didn't work.  Everyone who was willing to make eye contact gave us a look of such pity.  And the only thing that went through my mind was "No!  This is not how I wanted it to go!  This was not how I planned it!  I want a DO OVER!"

I know.  I KNOW.  I heard it all afterwards.  "It doesn't matter, really."  "She was just auditioning for the choir!" "You wanted to raise a daughter who isn't afraid to voice her opinions in church, and she sure can speak her mind."  "People love to see babies in church, even when they cry."  "She was just making a joyful noise."  (Actually, it wasn't at all joyful, for her or any of us.)  I heard all of those things after the service, and I tried to laugh.  I even said some of them myself to make it seem like I wasn't so disappointed.  People tried to joke with me about it.  I smiled.  We took pictures.  I fake smiled some more.

But if I'm really honest, I am so sad.  The only thing that anyone has said to me about it since had to do with her screaming.  No one mentioned her beautiful dress or what a special thing it was to dedicate her on Mother's Day.  No one gave me the pleasantries about what a nice service it was.  No one even gave me the sympathetic "Wish your mom could have been here for this beautiful occasion."  No one noticed anything about the service except her powerful set of lungs.  Afterwards, I asked my 4 year old friend what she thought.  Her response?

"Well, it was pretty much a disaster."

My thoughts, exactly, kiddo.  Unfortunately, those were my thoughts exactly.  (Direct quote, y'all.  I couldn't make this stuff up.)  She did give me an extra long hug, though.  My fake smiles couldn't trick a perceptive little girl who somehow knew I was nursing a bruised ego and slightly broken heart.

I know that there are real problems in the world, and if a baby who cries in church (even one who cries so loudly and so screechingly that she ruins her own special day!) is my biggest problem, well then I'm pretty whiny.  If two rambunctious boys is the worst part of my Mother's Day church experience, I've got it pretty good.  But still, I'm gonna whine.  (It is my blog, after all.)  I had envisioned it as a special day, and it won't be remembered that way, either for me or for anyone else who saw it.  And I'm not going to pretend I'm okay with that because I am not.  I am disappointed.  I am sad and disappointed.

And then, after a teary-eyed email to my wonderful angel of a friend where I finally admitted how bummed I was, I got this reply:

People will remember the real baby with the real family who made themselves vulnerable enough to stand before their church family and pledge to point this precious baby girl toward the goodness of God in a world where few things go the way we plan.

Yes.  That.  She may be the only one who actually remembers it that way.  But I'm going to pretend that's the case for everyone who was in the pews yesterday morning.  I'm going to look again at the family picture I posted at the top.

I'm going to ignore the fact that Jay appears to be wearing Meg's dress, and Luke seems to be flossing.  My smile is fake, but it's a smile, and we are all, in fact, looking in the general vicinity of the camera.

"It ain't always pretty, but it's real.  These are my people."

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Like a river flows...

...surely to the sea
darling so it goes
some things
were meant to be
take my hand
take my whole life too
for I can't help falling in love with you
-Elvis Presley, I Can't Help Falling in Love With You

Welcome to the world, Margaret Katherine Foster!  Meg made her arrival at 7:43 on January 8th, and is lucky enough to share a birthday with Elvis.  She is adorable as can be, and the song isn't just cliche - we really can't help falling head over heels in love with her already.

Derek and I headed to Rex (really) early on Wednesday morning for my scheduled C-section.  After killing a forest of trees for all the consent forms, 2 IVs, and a couple liters of fluids, we headed to the OR. Derek waited in the Dad Room (the hospital equivalent of a man cave, complete with saltines, apple juice, and a Sports Illustrated from fall 2012) while they got me ready.  I think when they called it the "dad room" he was really hoping for big screen TV and cigars, but having had nothing to drink since midnight, I'd have been overjoyed at the apple juice.

Check out those awesome overstuffed recliners in the Dad Room!
Then 30 minutes after rolling into the OR, baby Meg was born at 7:43am. Weighing in at 6lb 6oz and 20 1/2 inches, she can actually wear newborn size clothes, unlike her two brothers who popped out looking like football players.

After getting settled into our sweet corner room on the 3rd floor, we have had a steady stream of adoring fans, including two really excited older brothers (who are quickly teaching her the finer points of silly face pictures).

And I am quickly introducing her to the world of all things girly.  We first got her hair done at the salon...

...then her nails...

and finally put every cute hat, hair bow, and accessory we could on her little head. 

Check out the headband Mommy made!

My AJ is a champion hat knitter!
 Everything has gone quite smoothly (except for getting that first poo off her little bum), and she is settling in to our crazy family. Thanks for all the kind words and prayers!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Well I just heard...

...the news today
Seems my life is going to change
I close my eyes, begin to pray
Then tears of joy stream down my face
-Creed, Arms Wide Open

It's not exactly as if I just realized I'm going to have a 3rd kid, as the song lyric would imply.  But it's what's been running through my head for the last 3 days, so I'm going with it.  It's better than "I just can't wait to be king" which is what my darling son has been singing incessantly since we watched the Lion King on New Year's Eve.  Not sure what he's trying to tell me with that one.

So what has changed?  THE date.  You know, the date that Baby Girl is going to make her big entrance into the world.  I remember when I was pregnant with the boys that I would finish up every workday by cleaning off my desk and making sure that I didn't leave anything in a state of halfway-doneness.  (Confession time - most of the time, most of my projects at home and at work are in some various state of halfway-doneness.  Those who have seen the inside of my house should try to contain their shock and awe.)

This time?  We know a date.  A very set, definitive, choose your baby's birthday kind of date.  Well, if I was really choosing her birthday, she'd have been born in October when the weather was nice.  But I did at least get to semi-choose within the 37 week block the doctors approved, and I got to choose my fave doc while I was at it. And the date is?

Drumroll please...

Wednesday January 8, 2014.

Yes, people.  Next Wednesday.  As in, 5 days from now.  THAT soon.  Less than one week from today.  (I am repeating this concept for my own benefit - I believe that you, my incredibly intelligent and competent readers are getting the idea.  I, however, am definitely still in denial.)

I was totally counting on her being late and arriving in February, but I was totally wrong.  And now I'm totally behaving like a chicken with its head cut off, running around saying things like "But I have not packed my hospital bag yet!" and "But her room's not even close to ready yet!" and "But we do not have a middle name yet!"  Literary types, please note the repetitive nature of "But___Not___Yet!!"  I have lived in the but not yet phase for several weeks, totally in denial that this is happening.  

The docs kept promising to check one more time in the hopes that things would change and I could go into labor on my own.  Yesterday was the last of those checks.  Nothing has changed since 18 weeks, so c-section is the way this wee one will arrive, and early is going to be the timing.  It wasn't my plan, but I've heard the phrase "life threatening bleeding risk" enough times in recent weeks that I've come around on the idea.  Bleeding to death during childbirth is definitely not on my life's To Do list.

So, one last belly shot (bwahaha - that would imply that there have been other belly pics on the ole blog, and I think we can all agree that my posting schedule has gone from weekly to monthly to something more like bi-annually):

Poor Guacamole.  Third child problems - my pregnancy with this little one has not been documented and detailed like it was with the first two.  And I probably won't end up with over a thousand pictures of her first week of life like I did with Jay.  (I am not making this up - we have >1000 pics of him from ONE SINGLE WEEK.  I mean, it was a big week, but that's a little much, even for me.)

For comparison, similarly timed belly shots from all 3 kids:

Who looks biggest to you?  I really think that my belly looks bigger this time around - or at least it sticks more straight out.  But I'm actually measuring pretty small this time around, and when she's born at 37 weeks, she will probably be ~5-6 lbs.  That's a far cry from the 10 pound mammoth baby you see growing on the left.

And just for good measure, I'll throw in what is my fave pic of me and the boys (and girl!) ever, taken in mid-November.  Huge thanks to Liz Hunter Photography for the most fun, laid back photo session. There was headbutting, leaf throwing, rolling around on the ground, and lots of laughing. Plus the occasional tear, but that was to be expected when there's headbutting involved.

And yes, I did notice that I am wearing essentially the same thing in these pics.  That gray cardigan has been my uniform this time around.  I do have some cute maternity clothes, but I am all about comfort at this point.  Sigh.  Comfortable clothes, and Tums.

Seriously, I am trying to not wish away these last 5 days.  I feel quite certain that our family is complete, and these 5 days are the last days I will ever be pregnant.  Given my heartburn + swollen legs + general pregnancy-induced misery this time around, I kinda want to shout "Hallelujah it's almost over!"  At the same time, I do love those little kicks and I know what a blessing it has been to carry all 3 of my babies.  And in some ways, I don't want that to end.

So that's what's new in my world.  Still trying to wrap my brain around the fact that by this time next week, I will be holding my dear daughter in my arms.  Now, remind me - what *do* I need in a hospital bag, anyway?