Learning to walk the tightrope of motherhood...

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

"Thanks"giving: Catch-up!

"Thanks"giving: Day 15: Dinner Out!
    A Tuesday night dinner out is always a treat, and, when it's Mexican food, all the better! Dinner with friends and their little girl tonight was awesome nice to relax and chat about kids, work, etc. So grateful!

"Thanks"giving: Day 14: Classes
   I'm so grateful for my writing classes on Thursday nights this semester. It's such a nice opportunity to talk to other teachers about the new things they're doing in their classes--there just isn't time for many of these conversations on a daily basis. I'm also grateful for the ongoing support and troubleshooting as I try using Writer's Workshop in my classroom this year.

"Thanks"giving: Day 13: Text messages
    Actual conversation with the babysitters watching Meredith Saturday afternoon--
Me (from my crazy out of area phone number): Just checking's Mer doing? ~Katie
Sitter (response in less than 30 seconds): Wrong number.
My thoughts: Ok, minor panic, but, that's why we have 2 sitters, 2 phone numbers.
Sitter (less than 1 minute from when initial message was sent): Oh, sorry...she just woke up from nap. Not eating much, but drinking her milk.
Me: LOL...
    I really am grateful for the sitters we have worked with this semester...but I am just as happy to have had this conversation. It so made me smile! Even the tech-savy college kids make make bobbles from time to time.

"Thanks"giving: Day 12: Visitors
  Loved having company this past weekend! It's nice to see family, hang out, and show them some of the sites of H'burg.

"Thanks"giving: Day 11: Computer Lab
   It makes my Fridays so relaxing! :-)

"Thanks"giving: Day 10: Special Educators
   So thankful for all of the wonderful people who work with Meredith and also provide support for Greg and me. They are our teachers, our resources, our coordinators, and our cheerleaders and their knowledge is absolutely amazing!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

"Thanks"giving: Day 9: Music

I can't name the artist for any song on the radio and I haven't bought new music (CDs, MP3s, anything) in ages. However, I truly enjoy music and it is what I am thankful for tonight.
If I have to drive anywhere by myself (a task I would dread), you can bet that I will spend the entire car ride belting out the lyrics to my favorite musical tunes.
If I'm taking a long walk during the summer, I'm keeping pace to my IPOD.
And, if I'm hangin' out at home with a song stuck in my head, I will be "singing" aloud, making up the words as I go, and often adjusting them to meet the situation at hand...
Overheard recently in our dining room:
"Yummy yogurt, yummy yogurt; tastes so good--like it should. Mer can eat it every day, and the doc says that's okay. Yum, yum, yum. Yum, yum, yum."
I am thankful for music, though, because I can tell already that Meredith loves it as well. She visibly perks up to music and is even learning to "dance." She has learned a lot of the signs for her favorite songs, like "Wheels on the Bus" and "Itsy Bitsy Spider." Often, the only way we can get her to eat is by singing--thus the yogurt song above. 
The other nice thing about music is that it is so easy to find a variety of musical performances, at relatively low cost, that are fairly kid-friendly. And, so, a super-special shout-out to the staff and students who put on the musical and reader's theatre performance at our school tonight--Meredith loved it! Thank you for helping make our evening so enjoyable!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

"Thanks"giving: Day 8: A Meredith Morning

This morning I am thankful for "A Meredith Morning." Conferences at school don't start until 11, so I get to spend a *little* extra time with my baby this morning. What a treat for a Tuesday morning!
After dropping Greg off at work, we returned home to watch the first segment of Sesame Street and to play in the living room. The "word on the street" today was canteen, so that may have been what inspired Meredith to focus on my to-go coffee cup that I was still sipping out of as we watched. She scooted after the mug wherever I moved it, trying to get her own fair share of a morning pick-me-up. Then, she stood up at her play and learn table and started to work on cruising from one little stool-type contraption to another. We even had enough time this morning for me to give Meredith a bottle and read a couple of books. What a treat! It was a nice enough morning that I (almost!) wish conferences would come a little more often so that I could spend more mornings with my baby girl!

"Thanks"giving: Day 7: Greg

Words really cannot describe how thankful I am for my husband. In the 9 (OMG!) years I've known him, he has grown from an R.A. programming buddy to my partner for life. His logistical side keeps our bills paid, our schedule on-time, and our budget balanced--despite my best efforts. His strong work ethic means that he often leads the effort on everything from starting the laundry to cleaning the toilets. His hobbies include cooking and reading--dinner is healthy and educational with him around. He is thoughtful--buying gifts because they remind him of that person, not because it's a holiday. He is level headed--he doesn't stress out over the little bobbles in life. He is loving--he never misses a "kissortunity." He is a great father. And he is a good friend. He is my husband, in whom I am well-pleased. And whom I am grateful to have in my life.

Monday, November 7, 2011

"Thanks"giving: Day 6: Morning coffee

I've been hooked on coffee since I was a little girl and my dad started fixing me coffee like my mom's...with milk and sugar. Then I only drank it on the weekend, usually while snuggled in their bed reading the comics or watching Saturday morning cartoons. However, there was never any doubt for me that coffee would become a staple in my life.
As I've grown up, I've gone through stages with coffee...
--the late at night at Starbucks phase in high school
--the flavored Wawa coffee in Fairmart while studying for midterms phase
--the "1 cup and only on weekends" phase when pregnant with Mer
and, NOW, the "two big cups, every day" phrase I'm currently in. I'm not necessarily proud of this increasingly addictive habit, but I also figure that of all the substances I could get hooked on, caffeine's not so bad.
So, tonight I am thankful for my coffee...and I'm thankful for my husband who makes it every day for me, even though he is currently kicking the habit.

"Thanks"giving: Day 5: Skype

Being away from family is never easy, but technology has been a great blessing for those of us trying to communicate with loved ones literally half-way around the world. Leading the list of inventions I'm grateful for in this area is Skype.
With my parents living in Australia, Skype has been the glue that allows us to have "face-to-face" conversations on a weekly basis. Most of the time we spend our time just catching up...the kind of talk we'd all like to have over a glass of wine and a plate of nachos. Due to the time difference, though, only one set of us ever gets to have wine at a time...the others are still starting their day with a cup of coffee. When we're not just chatting, Skype also lets my parents watch their granddaughter as she grows and develops in the time between their visits. She tries on clothes they send and pets the cat. Together they sing "Itsy-Bitsy Spider" and play "Peek-a-boo." These are the kind of moments that just couldn't happen over the phone...they're the kind of thing that is only possible when you realize that eye-contact can be achieved via web-cam.
Though they're much closer, my in-laws in Philadelphia also love Skype for the sneak-peek they get into Meredith's life--apparently the number one rule of grandparenting is "you can't see your grandchildren enough."

Sunday, November 6, 2011

"Thanks"giving: Day 4: String cheese

Meredith eats things. She eats blocks, and books, and the tv remote control. However, she distinguishes between toys and food with an uncanny sort of sixth sense. With almost unfailing accuracy, she refuses to bring anything consumable to her mouth.
This week, amid the ever-present but recently more anxiety-ridden battle called "Mealtime at the Meyer's"- a breakthrough occurred. Spinning off the idea that Meredith loves to put the little ribbons from her baby toys in her mouth, we served her the most ribbon-like food imaginable--plain spaghetti! This met with moderate, reserved success. She picked it up and put it in her mouth. She played with it, broke it into pieces, and put it into her mouth several more times before eventually sacrificing it by throwing it onto the floor as a peace-offering to the dog.
Clearly we were on to something. Now, only one question remained: "How do we get Mer to swallow some of the food?"
Luckily, it didn't take very many glances in the refrigerator before we realized the potential of STRING CHEESE.
Slimy and smooth, like its spaghetti counterpart, string cheese never crumbles on to Meredith tongue with a rough sensation that results in automatic raspberries. String cheese is also long enough that Mer can grasp it easily, and it is flexible enough that it can wiggle into her mouth even if her aim is not dead-on. Unlike spaghetti, though, string cheese has TASTE.
Upon discovering the pleasures of mozzarella string cheese, Meredith promptly ate/played with an entire stick work of strings.
It may not sound like much to you, but to us it is a major battle won! Meredith independently fed herself some food!
Now, my next question--what else comes in string form?
*Written on September 11, 2011. However, my fond feelings for string-cheese have only increased since then, making me feel the need to include it in my list of thankfulness.

"Thanks"giving: Day 3: My job

So, it's not payday or anything, but, while I'm feeling upbeat about my class and school, I need to share how thankful I am for my job.
First, in today's economy and with the ever-increasing cuts to school budgets, I am grateful just to have a job. Yes, the pay could be greater and the paperwork could be less, but I guess that's why they call it work.
Second, I am grateful to have a job that I love. I am genuinely excited to go in to work and see 21 (or 22 tomorrow!) smiling 5-year-old faces staring back at me. For goodness sake, they are on a never-ending search for the word "the" and come show me every single time they find it. (And in kindergarten books, they find it a lot!) Their energy feeds mine, and exhausts mine, but there is never a boring moment.
Finally, I am grateful for the support I have from the other adults in my school. I have AWESOME support with all the behind-the-scenes work that goes in to actually making the classroom function on a daily basis: stuffing folders, making copies, small group remediation, math assessments, and classroom management. Wow! I am blessed! I also have a fair amount of professional freedom at my job--freedom that many teachers are losing as districts hope that scripted programs will result in higher test scores. Finally, I feel I have support in my personal life from my colleagues and supervisors. That makes coming to work so much easier.
It's not that I'm willing to forego my paycheck, but yes, I am grateful for my job!

*Note: written on Thursday in class. I'm playing a bit of catch up tonight.*

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

"Thanks"giving: Day 2: Morning walks

So, I'm crazy, but I love it!
My feet hit the floor only two rings into the much more typical extended version of my snooze alarm routine. By 5:30, my shoes were on, the cat was fed, and Ruffy and I were out the door for our morning walk. There are lots of stars still in the sky at 5:30 in the morning, and there's also lots of time to think. Quietly.
Sometimes I reflect on conversations from the night before. Sometimes I focus on the schedule for the afternoon or the upcoming weekend. Often, I think about my lessons for the day. (sigh)
But, in any case, during my 15 or 20 minute spin around the block with the dog, I get time all to myself. I'm not answering questions or redirecting behavior. I'm not rushing to pick people up on time or make an appointment. I'm not even checking email or posting on Facebook. These few minutes feel stolen, like somehow I'm taking advantage of time the rest of the world doesn't even know exists.
When I return to the house, the day will have begun. Greg will be fixing Mer's breakfast and we'll be watching every tock of the clock to make sure we get out the door on time for work. But, because of my little morning stretch-of-the-legs, I will be filled with the necessary energy and peace to make it through the day...until the next walk!
For this I am thankful.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

"Thanks" giving: Day 1-Time

There's nothing like the first day of the month to make you realize how quickly the last month just went by. When the month is November, like TODAY, you also realize how quickly the next month, or two, are going to go by.
But stop. These are two of the most special, most memorable, most fun months of the year. Think of all the awesome things you get to do in the next 60 days. I am looking forward to:

  • cheering for football teams
  • seeing family
  • seeing friends from college
  • baking pies
  • having a Thanksgiving feast for 5 year-olds
  • eating potatoes any way you can serve them
  • waking up REALLY early to shop
  • celebrating an upcoming wedding
  • cheering for basketball teams
  • "sing"ing in a school variety show
  • baking Christmas cookies
  • taking Meredith to see Santa
  • eating latkes and jelly donuts--and anything else fried you can think of!
  • making gingerbread cookies
  • seeing more family
  • skiing
  • and much more!
There's no doubt the next two months will be crazy! But, just listing all of the above things made me smile.
When things get busy, and I know they will, I hope I can take a step back and reflect on how special and memorable this season really is. Time may seem short, but it's really just being filled to the brim with fun.
So, tonight, I am thankful for time. I am thankful for the quiet moments, like this, that I get to myself, and I am thankful for the busy moments, bursting with energy, creating memories that I can enjoy now and for years to come.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Being a grown-up STINKS

There are moments when it's hard for me to think of myself as a adult. Even with car payments, doctors' visits, a mortgage, and work, the feeling doesn't always sink in. But, two events within the last 72 hours have smacked my husband and I upside the head...well, nose such a way that we've had no choice but to embrace adulthood. And, I've gotta tell you, this time it stinks.
It all began on Friday evening, at my in-laws' house in Pennsylvania. We had just gotten into town and were settling in for the about 11:30, Bubby and Zeyda (Meredith's grandparents) had gotten a sufficient number of hugs to allow her to go to bed for the evening, and Greg and I were exhausted. I took Mer upstairs to get jammies on and begin the bedtime routine while Greg let Ruffy out into the backyard one more time before bed. This is crucial. Ruffy, being a townhome dweller, is not used to the freedom that comes with backyards, and my in-laws' backyard offers the additional perk of housing bunnies in the bushes and under the storage sheds. Though Ruffy is a well-trained sleep-through-the-night-and-even-sleep-late-on-weekends dog, if he is not allowed enough "outside time" in Pennsylvania, he will wake us up multiple times during the middle of the night, begging to be let outside to chase the bunnies.
Friday evening, however, Ruffy did not find bunnies in the bushes.
He found a skunk.
And the skunk found him.
This is how, at midnight Friday night, as some people were anticipating the end of the world, Greg and I stood on his parents' porch, scrubbing the skunk smell off our dog.

Skip ahead to this evening...Monday. Exhausted from traveling this weekend. Observation this morning. Faculty meeting this afternoon. Stressing as I duck out early to go to swim lessons with Meredith. I'm walking in the doors of UREC, ready to race into the locker room, change into my suit, and meet Greg and Mer for lessons in the pool when my phone starts ringing.
It's Greg.
"Turn your butt around," he says. "We have had major CDF. No swimming tonight."
As it turns out, swimmy diapers and no poops from Meredith this weekend have combined with a game-changing result...catastrophic diaper failure. As Meredith babbles into the mirror and plays with her toys in her carseat, she is slowly ensuring that poop has touched the surface of everything within her reach.
The process that ensures when we get home is eerily similar to which occured Friday night, except that we allow Meredith the modesty of getting hosed down in the tub instead of on the porch.

The thing, besides the smell, that sticks with me after these events is the calm, matter-of-fact, yet immediate way we deal with these situations. I must say, I believe we deserve a pat on the back. There is no panic, no arguing, not even any attempt to delay the inevitable in the vain hope that some magical little fairies will come take care of the really messy parts for us.
Baths must happen.
Laundry must be done.
Situations must be handled no matter how tired you are. And smiles and a little good-natured teasing help smooth things along.
Sure, there are bigger, more serious, more critical moments in which people come of age. But there are also these moments, littler things that happen in the daily business of life, which reinforce the message.
This is what being a grown-up is...growing stronger and growing together.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Here's to an early spring...

It's Groundhog Day--a major event in my kindergarten world!
In case you missed the news, the snowstorm bearing down on Pennsylvania thoroughly obscured the sun during the ceremony and Paunxataney Phil did not see his shadow. Spring is just around the corner!
And, here at home, as if Mother Nature herself heard the news, the sun started shining this afternoon and it warmed up to a balmy 46 degrees or more this afternoon. This is such a welcome treat at this point in the winter season that, upon arriving home from work, I put on my tennis shoes, bundled up the Mer Bear, grabbed the dog's leash, and went on a walk!
Now, I can readily admit that I am not much of an exercise junkie. I got my fill of cardiovascular training while rowing crew in college and am now fairly content to grumble about my weight while munching on a Hershey kiss. However, in an effort to lose my baby weight last summer, I got hooked on walking.
My routine was simple: load up the van with baby, dog, and stroller in the morning in time to take Greg to work. Then I'd park the van in the bookstore parking lot, unload the crew, pop in my headphones, and hike all over a beautifully deserted college campus.  An hour later, Mer's nap was over but Ruffy and I were both refreshed, relaxed, and feeling good about ourselves.
Sadly, the school year has not allowed for this indulgence...and it shows on me, both physically and emotionally. However, the patch of sunshine I followed around the neighborhood today gave me hope that spring is not far away...and that gives me the optimism to handle so much more!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Oh, she's sticking out her tongue!

One of the comments we get most often about Meredith, other than "Look at all that hair!", is "oh, she's sticking out her tongue!" This is primarily related to her hypotonia, or low-muscle tone, since it takes work to hold your tongue inside your mouth. It is probably one of the characteristics that is most telling of Meredith's Down syndrome, but, if you don't know a lot about Down syndrome, as I didn't until April, you might just think she's hungry or being cute. However, at our tasting at our local wine shop today, it was Mer's tongue sticking out that led to a wonderfully supportive conversation.
When you begin reading stories about people who have children with Down syndrome, you start hearing about little whispered words of support that they get, from time to time, from other people in the community who are close to someone with Down syndrome. Since social coutesy demands that you don't mention a woman's bump until you know for a fact she's expecting, I have long wondered about these conversations, about the even more sensitive subject of a child's disability, start. It turns out, they start simply and sweetly like this...
Meredith was hanging out in her Baby Bjorn, flirting with our wine shop's owner and some of the other customers while Greg and I sipped a sangiovese. The woman next to me started talking to Mer and about the cute little tongue sticking out of her mouth. I had already mentally composed my response when she added, "My niece did that with her tongue for the longest time too. My sister used to always tap her on the tip of her tongue to get it to go back in."
I adjusted my response. Clearly, here was someone who was familiar with speech therapy and such in young children. Maybe I could explain about the hypotonia...maybe I could ask if her niece was still doing the tongue thing...I decided to go out on a limb...
"Meredith has Down syndrome," I started.
I had barely finished my sentence when she started hers..."So does my niece."
She had known. And she had reached out.
Without offense.
And over a glass of wine!