Wednesday, November 25, 2015

What's Your Normal?

A few nights ago, I sat on the couch, watching Grace and Laura play with the same Melissa and Doug fruit puzzle - which means Grace is saying "No no no no no!" and Laura is grabbing at every piece she can. Will's ER shift goes till 2 a.m., so I was playing zone defense. When the fighting starts (mainly Grace getting territorial), it was time to break out the blocks. I build towers for Laura to knock over, and Grace built her own too.

After I finally got them to bed, I collapsed on the couch to eat second dinner and watch the latest episode of Bones before beginning the Great Cleaning Escapade of Late Night. Which means, no vacuuming till morning, but at least the dishwasher was loaded and unloaded and all the extra food cleaned up or thrown away. I tried to work on my philosophy (I have my last paper due on Saturday), but since I turned in a post two days ago, I let myself have a mental break. (Which is now over!)

Morning happens when I wake up before my alarm clock, check on the girls through the video monitor (still sleeping, high five ladies!), and fall back to sleep until my alarm actually goes off, which corresponds perfectly to Laura popping her head up and deciding the day begins NOW. Grace is sleeping in, which is uncharacteristic, but she's going through a nice growth spurt - two more inches and two more pounds in the past few months.

Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day, so we prefer to have a more luxurious meal - even if time is shorter. We like milk, oatmeal, yogurt, apple slices [Cortland is a new favorite!], and/ or english muffins. Wegmans (our favorite grocery store) has the most delicious seasonal bread - cranberry orange. We're enjoying this treat as toast lately. I've thought about introducing Grace to hot chocolate as it's getting so cold out (she loves sipping on our coffee), but then... all that sugar. We hardly let her drink juice, so I think hot chocolate should be preserved as a special day treat. Any thoughts on that? Or experiences?

The nice part of this week is that I am off school - teaching, that is. We celebrated Thanksgiving on Tuesday because Will was off (otherwise, night shift till the weekend). We will go over to his married attendings's house for a department Thanksgiving once he wakes up too, which will be nice change of scenery and to see more colleagues of his than I usually do.

I'm working at capacity right now, especially at distracting little hands from my laptop. (Okay, climb into my lap and we'll read a book.) Paper due, final exams next week, grading due (for my own students), and we're going to a wedding this weekend, so packing for two small children and all their potential needs ain't no thang. Thank goodness for all the leftover feast right?!

Last week, I got an e-mail inviting me to apply for a job that - a few years ago - I would have taken in a heartbeat. What do we call those jobs? Former dreams? Without sounding too depressing, of course, because I'm creating new dreams. But: managing editor, traveling, speaking, testifying and lots of writing.

Like a tall glass of water on a hot day, I drank that e-mail and then told Will about how delicious the job sounded. He asked if I wanted to apply and I told him honestly: no. I cannot imagine traveling so much with the girls and Will's schedule. Besides, journalism is not my passion any more. The farther away I get from it, I wonder if it ever was... the experience was essential, and I have no regrets pursuing it. But I like having the opportunity to shut the door. I can say, I did it well! And be done.

I'm in the midst of changing my dreams, and changing my reality. It's good, it's hard, and it's about being me vs. becoming me. I'm writing less, and I'm loving more. My normal is class prep, class time, Grace's therapies (she has another speech therapist now! Yay! The wait is over!), taking care of our home, running errands, family time, study time, couple time and me time. It's getting colder out, so I've cut out exercise time... but I have workout DVDs, so the excuses are limited. Besides, this is the time to stay healthy, right?

With Will's job, I hear a lot of stories, and some of them are really tragic. They make me think, Is it worth the stress of extra $$ to finish an article? Sometimes, yes, sure. But we've cut out most extras, so that saves a bundle of money this year to pay for our second student loan kicking in, more baby food, and soon, more diapers.

What?! Another Baldwin baby? Are Will and Julie crazy?! I'll admit, two of Grace's therapists burst out laughing when they heard. Not in a malicious way - more in a, Oh, you two!! I'm the first to admit, it's not everyone's style. Residency, by itself, is a stressful time - and Will starts job searching next spring. I'm still teaching part-time, Grace will still be in therapy, and Laura is still moving faster than you. Life is uncertain - another little person to take care of is no chump change. 

We're really excited. God has such a special plan for this baby, and honestly? We're already rolling in the baby life. I'm the first to admit that we're pretty isolated here - no family, closest friends are in NYC, the occasional play group, and plenty of trips to the hospital to take dinner to Dad and say hi to the department. The support we've already received, and will continue to receive, makes me feel even better about bringing this baby into a scary, uncertain world we live in today. This baby is going to know love, be loved, and share in love. 

As Advent approaches, and we wait for the Christ to enter into our world, we will know the beauty of babies. We will know new beginnings and we will "be not afraid" of what is to come. I am grateful for my friends, far away and online, and my blog readers. I am grateful for my extended family, my immediate family, and in-laws (+siblings) who truly do feel like family. I am grateful for our little family: my hilarious husband, my spunky Grace, my sweet Laura, and my growing bebe. I am grateful that God is with us on this journey of crooked paths. 

I hope you are grateful for your normal (whatever it is!), and I wish you all a very, very happy Thanksgiving! 

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Thursday, November 12, 2015

"If you tame me, then we shall need each other."

Hello, I'm back in PA now! It took us 12 hours (including rest stops) to drive home, and it was as good as it could have been... minus, perhaps the man who started shouting obscenities at Wendy's because the person behind the counter gave him the side eye or something. He had just smiled at the girls. La la la la Grace and Laura!

This post will be a short update because I've had some sort of bug and it keeps waxing and waning (this weekend was the worst - Will ended up writing me a script on Sunday because I was so bad and that really helped), and now I'm in recovery mode.

Fortunately, my MIL was able to help Sunday through Friday. Unfortunately, she left. Fortunately, Will is on anesthesia right now, so he's usually home by the afternoon and on weekends. That has made a huge difference - especially this past weekend, when I was not in a good place to watch the girls.

It's really humbling having your husband take total care of you while you moan, are not exactly "nice" company, feel nauseous and are utterly helpless to do anything besides sort of watch the girls while they play in front of you. We're going on three years of marriage, and the word that comes to mind is "tame" - not in the calm down!! sense, but "The Little Prince" version:
What does that mean -- tame?"
"It is an act too often neglected," said the fox. "It means to establish ties."
"To establish ties?"
"Just that," said the fox. "To me, you are still nothing more than a little boy who is just like a hundred thousand other little boys. And I have no need of you. And you, on your part, have no need of me. To you I am nothing more than a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world....” 
It's important to need people. I reflect on my former ultra-independence, always willing to be a friend and give to others, but less willing to expose a more vulnerable side. I'm able to have that with Will, and I'm able to give more to others with his encouragement. But even before I met Will, I met and loved "The Little Prince" by Antoine de Saint-ExupĂ©ry. The stories from this other world always brings me to tears ("What is essential is invisible to the eye.") and makes me laugh and has me think.

So, of course, when my sister Marianne sent me this trailer... I immediately cheered up. Release for the US is March 18, 2016, so y'all have plenty of time to read and/ or re-read this short, concise book.

“People have forgotten this truth," the fox said. "But you mustn’t forget it. You become responsible forever for what you’ve tamed. You’re responsible for your rose.”

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Thursday, October 29, 2015

Days 25-29: When Three's Company (Missing Dad)

So, the end of our time in the Midwest fast approaches... I finished my classes today, and tonight will be my last night at my in-laws's house until Christmas. I love spending time with them and being here, and am also very ready to go home to Will... the girls are ready too, I think. These trips are important, though, and here's how we survive through 3+ weeks without Dad.

1. Helping Hands

As I type this post, my MIL is pushing Grace in her little tykes care, complete with noises and peeled clementines. (They're going to the "drive-in" to watch Sesame Street!) Laura is napping, and I was able to teach two classes today without once wondering how she is doing. This was the biggest reason we went home for so long - Will's Trauma schedule makes him less helpful than say, his ER schedule, and since October is a conflict-free month, we headed home for extra help and lots of loving arms.

2. Adjusting nap times

The girls still cannot sleep in the same room together well, even with the dueling sound machines. So, adjustments abound. But the bonus adjustment is ME getting a nap time occasionally (or, at least, sleeping in!!!!!!!!!!), and that alone is worth coming home for these days.

3. FaceTime

This is probably my sanity savor. If I know Will is off, I can call him to show him the madness/ cuteness. Yesterday, we chatted after my AP class and before his night shift. It was just in time to walk into the nursery where Grace and my MIL were dancing to the Wheels on the Bus. It was the cutest thing, and Will was able to see Grace dance! On the weekend, I called him while we were out to dinner with my family, and he got to see Grace walk outside while we waited for our meals. Watching her lift her right leg higher and have an improved gait was such a treat. When we left, she was walking/crawling about 55:45. Now, she's walking 95 percent of the time.

Same with Laura - she is moving and grooving, pulling herself up and babbling. She turned 8 months yesterday and is the joy of my soul. Who else laughs so hard at my funny faces? Who else smiles when she sees me? And FaceTime allows Laura to have a similar contact with Will - she recognizes her Dad and tries to grab the iPad, as if to grab onto him. 

Then, of course, we have FaceTime dates where he studies and I do school work. Long distance dates are such a need to me, and I'm so grateful for this technology! There is something about seeing someone's face when you're talking to them that is much more personal-feeling.

4. Leniency

Even though we are around more people (= more help), our schedule is still very, very different, and I need to remind myself that when I'm still stressed out, everything is okay. When I miss phone calls or am disorganized or am still behind on grading, it's okay. I'm keeping my workload at manageable, the girls are happy and it's good to spend time with family and friends. 

5. Talk About (and to) Dad

We bring up Dad in conversation every day. Grace likes seeing pictures of Dad (and says "Dada!"), and we take pictures to text him. Grace likes cell phone pictures (and will take 6 zillion of herself if left alone with the iPad!), and when he sends the girls a message, I can give them another connection to their far-away father.

Now, do the girls really know what's going on? Do they understand passage of time and that we're going to be in the car for another 12 or so hours on Sunday? Probably not. But they know who their dad is, and that's a good connection to have.

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Saturday, October 24, 2015

Days 23 & 24: They See Me Rollin'...

Mimi and Grampy (I mean, my parents) took Grace and Laura out for groceries. Whole Foods will never be the same.

Sweaters: Hanna Andersson
(thanks Mimi and Grampy!)

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Thursday, October 22, 2015

Day 22: Superhero Status

"Darkness can only be scattered by light. Hatred can only be conquered by love." - St. John Paul II

“Remember that you are never alone, Christ is with you on your journey every day of your lives! He has called you and chosen you to live in the freedom of the children of God. Turn to him in prayer and in love. Ask him to grant you the courage and strength to live in this freedom always. Walk with him who is “the Way, the Truth and the Life”!” —John Paul II; World Youth Day, 1997

"Only in Christ can men and women find answers to the ultimate questions that trouble them. Only in Christ can they fully understand their dignity as persons created and loved by God. Jesus Christ is "the only Son from the Father…full of grace and truth." —John Paul II; World Youth Day, 1993. Denver, Colorado


Happy feast day to the only pope I've seen in person!

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