Archive | February, 2011

Happy Valentine’s Day

14 Feb

A photograph of a jar of dull pencils with nubby erasers and my shopping cart rolling past the aisle of supermarket valentine’s cards whizzed me back to perhaps one of the best parts of being a teacher. Valentine’s Day. There is something so sweet and innocent in the chaos of 20+ 2nd graders racing around delivering Scooby Doo and Hannah Montana valentine’s into paper lunchbags decorated with construction paper hearts.

It is easy to look back now and realize it was the silly and often crazy moments that were special about teaching. When you are in the midst of grading, deadlines, and the enormous pressure you put on yourself to make sure every student is getting exactly what they need, things like a Valentine’s Day party can seem like one more thing to just get through. But teachers do it, year after year, no matter how far behind they may feel or how big of a headache they will leave with in the afternoon.

This Valentine’s Day is much quieter around here. Abigail is taking a nap. Hank is, too. Neither one really has any idea that today is different from any other. But Ryan and I do, and we think this Valentine’s Day is pretty special. There is more love and happiness in our little family than we could have ever imagined – but I realize this most everyday. So isn’t it funny that who I’m thinking about most today are my fellow teachers. I hope each and every one of you got an extra hug, piece of chocolate, or thank you today. You are happy memory makers whether you realize it or not.

A Dog’s Best Friend

10 Feb

My friend Heather always told me I need to write a story about Hank.  I have had the beginning of Hank’s story in my heart for a long time.  Today I knew how to finish it.

A Dog’s Best Friend:  A True Story

Hank, the Newfoundland, was a friendly dog. The little girl across the street thought that Hank was the biggest dog in the universe. He wasn’t, but his extra large size had helped him make a lot of friends.  Hank’s very best friend was Calla. Calla was graceful and lean with short hair. Hank was big and clumsy with too much hair. They had an ordinary friendship, but to Hank it was one of a kind. They enjoyed playing chase and eating ice cubes. Calla was a fast runner, sometimes too fast for Hank. But Hank was extra slobbery, sometimes too slobbery for Calla. Whenever Hank’s big, blue van drove up to Calla’s house his tail would wag and Calla would run out to greet her friend. They were different, but together they were great.

One day, a big truck came to Hank’s house. Three men got off the truck and began to pack up the family’s things. When all that was left were a few dust bunnies, the truck drove away. Soon Hank’s family piled in their big, blue van. They drove the familiar route to Calla’s house, and when they arrived Hank’s tail began to wag and Calla ran out. “Stay, Hank. It’s time to say goodbye.” The people friends hugged and promised to stay in touch. Hank whimpered and laid down. Something seemed wrong.

They drove for many days. There were windy roads in West Virginia. Iowa was full of farmland. In Nebraska a tumbleweed danced across the highway. On they traveled into rocky Wyoming and the mountains of Utah. They passed an onion truck in Idaho. When they got to Oregon they saw many things – a desert and a river and a forest of evergreens. It seemed liked the big, blue van would never stop. But it did. “This is your new home, Hank. Come and see.” Hank got out and felt the crisp ocean breeze and smelled the salty air. This wasn’t home, but he liked it.

A few months went by and Hank grew to love the beach. When the weather cooperated the family would go for a walk there. Many nice people wanted to pet Hank, so he let them. Some dogs wanted to play with Hank, so he played. Other dogs barked at Hank, afraid, so he stayed close by his family. He always had fun, but he missed his friend, Calla.

On one particularly sunny day, Hank was loaded into the big, blue van extra early. “We’re going to meet a friend.” said his mama. They drove a few miles and got out. From around the corner came a black dog with short hair. “This is Bella.” Hank sniffed Bella. Bella sniffed Hank. Bella and Hank raced down to the beach, where they chased a tennis ball and splashed in a creek. Bella was sometimes too fast for Hank, and Hank was sometimes too slobbery for Bella, but their tails wagged and wagged. Hank knew Bella was different, but together things felt great again.

Mother of the Year?

3 Feb

The most dreaded sound in the world has to be the dull clink a pacifier makes through a baby monitor as it flies out of the crib and lands on the floor. This sound is usually always followed by crying. That is what woke me at 5:46 this morning. Hearing running water in the shower made me realize that this early morning baby situation was all me, Ryan was unavailable. I rolled out of bed and stumbled down the dark hall tripping, of course, over the vacuum cleaner that was still lying around from the day before. Not wanting to give Abigail any hint that it was anywhere near a reasonable time to wake up I left the light off and began my usual routine of getting down on my hands and knees and running my hand along the carpet next to her crib, hunting for the missing paci. When it became clear that the pacifier hadn’t hit the floor I looked up from my all fours position and saw it resting in the crib. Abigail stood watching me as she gnawed on the top rail of her crib, one part hamster, two parts cuddly baby. I reached through the crib slats and grabbed the pacifier. Success! I had found it quickly enough that I knew Abigail would soon be drifting back to dreamland – and so would I. But, my arm was stuck. Yes, my friends, I had managed to stick my entire arm, including elbow, through the slats in the crib which was a ridiculously stupid idea. Why didn’t I just stand up and reach down into the crib like a normal person. I’ll tell you why. Because getting my arm stuck would solve this problem so much faster! Calmly I tried to pull my arm out by moving it it up or down the slat, but what do you know the slats are spaced evenly apart. I then tried to contort my arm into an assortment of odd angles to pry it out. That didn’t work either. Time was ticking. I had to get this arm out and fast because this is the kind of thing you don’t live down if your husband sees it. So I gave my arm a good final yank and out it popped sending me tumbling backwards. It did not feel good. But I sucked up the pain, handed Abigail her pacifier, laid her back down, and made a beeline to my bed. I held my breath and waited for the crying to start pouring out of the monitor, but it didn’t. YES! I was just about to fall back asleep when I heard the drawers in the guest room dresser opening and shutting frantically. (The guest room is down the hall and just happens to back up to Abigail’s room.) I had time to ask myself what in the world Ryan was doing making all of that commotion when the crying spilled out of the monitor again. Darn it! “Hello awakey-pants!” NOOOOOOOOOO! Ryan walked back into the bedroom holding Abigail and I immediately asked. “What was with all of the racket in the guest room? You woke up the baby!” “I had to pick out a t-shirt because I don’t have any clean white undershirts.” Oops. “Well, you DO have clean white undershirts they just aren’t DRY* yet.” (*For the record. I had washed the shirts but I’m still training them how to put themselves in the dryer.)

At this point, I should have just gotten up and started our day. I know that and I wanted to. I really did. Just the previous week I had been on the verge of a mommy meltdown. It felt like all of the chores and obligations in my life were piling up into Mt. Impossible. I didn’t even know where to begin. Piles of laundry and long lists of everything that needed cleaning, plus a baby who wasn’t napping much at all just was too much. It took a trip to the grocery store by myself one evening and the biggest bear hug Abigail could manage when I returned for the stress in my life to wash away. That little hug changed my attitude in a big way. I knew that as a mom I was doing just fine. My child was loved and she knew it. And isn’t that what it is all about anyway? So I decided to start appreciating the chaos that seemed to be my life. There would be time for long showers and a tidy living room later. I knew that this mess was something to celebrate. I took inspiration from my sister-in-law who documented just that – she made a book of all of the special moments both big and small that she shared with her family for a whole year. I wanted to do that, too.

So I ordered a “Project Life” kit off the internet and called my sister in law. She was going to do one, too, and together we would motivate each other to stick with it. Immediately she started sharing some blogs that had some really good ideas. One happened to be called “Super Organiser Mum.” I casually started reading about her approach to tackling the project and then drifted over into other sections of her blog. Each section more perfect seeming than the last with ideas and photographs to match. I had to get off the site. Each posting made me feel more and more inadequate with questions swirling in my mind about how she manages to make homemade candies and have perfectly coordinating everything and keep her khaki living room spotless all while blogging about it.

So you can imagine that I was definitely thinking of “Super Organiser Mum” when I hurridly changed Abigail’s diaper and slipped her back to bed just as Ryan left for work. I knew “Super Organiser Mum” was up writing her acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize, but I just needed a few more minutes. When I finally did get up at 7:00 I knew I had some major catching up to do. I fed Abigail and put her in the pack-n-play while I cleaned the downstairs bathroom, vacuumed and mopped the floors, and folded a load of laundry. Take that “Super Organiser Mum!” I was feeling pretty great. I took Abigail out of the pack-n-play and she was off and crawling around. Before I knew it she had gotten over to her high chair and pulled herself up. She’s so awesome, I thought. Oh, and did she just eat a leftover banana from breakfast off of the high chair seat that I had forgotten to wipe down? Why yes, yes she did. And although I knew “Super Organiser Mum” would never have forgotten to wipe down her kids’ highchairs I didn’t care. Because I’m happy with just being “Mum.”

A Lighthouse

2 Feb

I love to vaccuum. Ryan and I decided to get our Newfoundland, Hank, just for the reason that I have a vaccuuming addiction. When we heard Newfs shed a lot we thought, perfect. Hank could shed and I could vaccuum. It was a match made in heaven.

Hank is my first dog. Ever. I like to tell people that I waited 28 years for a dog, so I needed a really big one to make up for all of my dogless days. (10,219 to be exact.) I got Hank the day before I turned 28. He was instantly a pefect fit into our family. He was big and messy and boundy and wonderful. He also became my favorite walking partner.

When we first started walking together. I took the lead. He was nervous to walk too far from home and we spent most of our days walking back and forth in front of our house. He grew more confident, my belly grew rounder, and on and on we walked. We were walking fools. There was something so theraputic about walking with Hank. He always fit into my schedule and I didn’t have to talk about anything. We just were.

A few short and a few long months later Abigail had arrived. Spring came and melted into summer. And while I’m sure that Hank sometimes wondered why it took so blooming long to get out the door, the three of us continued to walk. Until Hank got too hot and then we moved to Newport.

Walking in Newport wasn’t always easy. (See my previous post.) But we tried our best until the rainy season had other plans for us.

We were getting doused in rain, over 7 inches in one weekend kind of rain, and right before I changed my address to: Houseboat, Newport, OR 97365 the sun started shining. It wasn’t easy to peel off my rainboots and exchange them for running shoes, but eventually I loaded everyone up and headed out to try a new running/walking path I had heard about. It was a two mile loop up to the Yaquina Head Lighthouse and back and it took my breath away. Well, maybe it was the hill coming back that did that, but it was gorgeous. A windy road hugging a cliff leads to a quaint lighthouse with views for miles. Abigail and I ran it first, then came back to pick up Hank to walk the same path.

Since then we’ve been out there every chance we get. Sometimes we even stop to watch the surfers floating in the waves. And everytime I look from the Pacific back to the two little pink sneakers sticking out from the stroller and the four black furry bear paws beside me I think of how lucky I am to have found not four, but six perfect feet for walking with me. Wherever we go.