Friday, April 18, 2014

A Dog and Her Girls: Bella's Story


I really don't talk about it enough but I'm not just a mom to a spirited human toddler, I am also a mom to 4 amazing dogs. I've written a separate post on Stanley and I have written about all 4 dogs but I wanted to take a minute to tell Bella's story. She has been an amazing part of my life for 7 years now! 7 years and yet it seems like not very many at all. So in honor of Bella's birthday this month here is her story:

Back in early 2007, I moved across the country to pursue a dream and live out new life experiences. I packed my bags and moved Los Angles never having been there before and only knowing 2 people. It was very therapeutic for me to get out on my own but very lonely at the same time.

Now let’s flashback to my youth (insert flowy flashback haze here.) For as long as I can remember, I wanted a dog. It seems like right around the late 80s/ early 90s, there were a bunch of dog movies out and every one of them told of an adventure between a dog and their human soul mate. An unbreakable bond, and a relationship I very much wanted to be a part of. So, after years of begging, it finally happened, my mom caved, and on my 12th birthday (yes folks YEARS of begging) we went to the animal shelter. I was so excited that we were finally getting a dog! There was of course one other thing, one small detail my mom and I had neglected to flesh out….I wanted a BIG dog. I wanted a large beast who would fetch and swim and take over half of my bed with their snuggles. I wanted a dog’s dog, if that makes any sense. Unfortunately, my mom was nowhere near my train of thought. We were (and pretty much always are) on different trains on different tracks in different continents. Heck, we are almost always on totally different modes of transportation in different universes if you get my drift…. annnnnnnd ok this metaphor has gone on long enough. 

ANYWAYS so it was no surprise when we walked out of the shelter with a small (somewhat) personalityless dog. Now don’t get me wrong, good old Scruffy was a sweet guy and did like to cuddle from time to time, but he was not the Lassie I had been picturing in my head. I did love the little guy and I did weep openly the day my mom called me to tell me he had passed away….I was at work, in LA….

So, my childhood (ok preteen/ teenage) dog passed away and I was an adult now and ready to finally have a dog of my own, a dog’s dog. Then came Bella. Let me tell you it was a rocky start at first. I had never raised a puppy and man it was a big time responsibility (just like having a newborn which we can all relate to.) After we got over potty training and the separation anxiety, we settled into our routine as best friends. We would go on walks around gorgeous Southern California and to the dog park and the beach. She got me out of the house and made me feel more at ease with my new surroundings. I’m sad I do not have more pictures of her from when she was a puppy, but back then cell phone cameras were crappy and I was not with it enough to have a digital camera. The few shots I included on here are all I have. I keep the memories with me though and now, I get to see new ones being made, but not with me, with Emma.

When Bella entered my life, never did I think that she would one day be the childhood dog of my daughter. But as it stands, the two are nearly inseparable. Bella and Emma naturally gravitate to one another. They are both gentle, playful souls at their best. Bella is very patient and loves nosing herself into everyone else's busyness (that and I think she genuinely likes the sweet, sticky smell of toddler.) They always end up in funny situations together and I think overall they bring comfort to one another. They just enjoy each others company, like a silent sense of security. It’s one of the most beautiful relationships I’ve ever seen unfold.  It’s truly amazing to see. Looking at them together I can’t help but think that now Bella has two girls, an old friend and a new friend for life. We will be there for her, loving her just like she has been for us.

Monday, April 14, 2014

It All Started with a Dinosaur…

Once again another week and weekend has come and gone and once again I find a motherhood lesson staring me right in the face. Maybe not so much a lesson as a rediscovery of a truth I already knew. You see, it all started with a dinosaur, or rather the PROMISE of going to see a dinosaur and his friends at the museum. Yes, I hyped up a bunch of bones. Bones and dust actually seeing as how the exhibit is due for a cleaning, but let me back up just a bit. 

It all started several months ago when it was brought to my attention by my father that the museum would be closing down the dinosaur exhibit for 5 years! 5 years takes you dangerously close to the end of the magical wonder of childhood. Emma is 2 and add another 5 years to that and it takes us to 7 and I feel like that is just a few years away from 10, which is when I hear everything goes downhill. I could not wait until she was 7 to show her the magnificent dinosaur exhibit (even though I am very aware she will probably not remember the outing.) The other reason for my despair was that I used to beg my dad and grandfather every Easter (around this time every year) to go see the dinosaur bones. Yes, I wanted to be a paleontologist as a child (I even had a rock collection). So the long standing, and recently often skipped over tradition was something I wanted to reestablish. I wanted to relive the magic from my childhood with my dad and let Emma enjoy the experience with her granddaddy.

All intentions were good, and after having to reschedule several times due to sickness or other priorities, I knew this weekend had to be it. It was our time to go and I wanted nothing more than to have an amazing magical time. Knowing our plans were solid, I started talking up the trip to Emma a few days before. I try to explain to her what we are going to do and why we are going to do it ahead of time so she can be prepared and have something to look forward to. Enter Friday night, after once again talking up “going to see the dinosaurs,” I get a phone call from my mom (who knows I am not one for watching the local evening news.) Apparently tomorrow, the day of our meticulously planned trip downtown, was also the day of a big festival where massive amounts of people would be. I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned it on here before but crowds of people ARE NOT my thing. Hearing this from my mom my heart sank, it looked like we were going to have to cancel our trip again and possibly wait 5 years to see the exhibit. I looked over at my husband and shook my head and then something amazing happened. From her tiny bedroom down the hall, through the closed door, as Emma was talking herself to sleep, we heard it loud and clear “dinosaur” (pronounced in Emma speak as “dine-ee-sour”). I could feel my mushy, melted heart pooling on the floor next to my husband’s. We looked at each other and in that moment we knew. We were going to see the dinosaurs, crowds and all. 

That’s when it hit me, my mom lesson, all of those years my mom would never actually promise me anything, she never set any plans in stone…she knew then what I know now, if you promise to do something you have to follow through with it, no matter what the circumstances. I want to be someone Emma trusts and that starts with keeping promises I’ve made. I know now not to promise something or talk it up unless I am very sure it is extremely likely to happen (even then who knows.)

Saturday morning rolled around and being old pros at the museum visiting game with a toddler, we were out the door by 9am. We decided to take the subway into downtown (Emma’s first time) and at first it was great. There were no crowds, we got a window seat and all was well, until we had to transfer trains. We had the stroller with us and had to fold it up to fit onto the train. Once we were on, my husband and I had to hold Emma above the crowd to avoid its suffocating squeeze. Needless to say I freaked out and almost called the whole thing off then and there but we were determined.  We carried the stroller with Emma in it up every escalator from there on out. We made it downtown in good time and to the exhibit with few problems. The only thing was, my father was running late. We ended up going to see the dinosaurs (Emma was in heaven) and went through two other exhibits and then granddaddy appeared! Of course by the time we looped back around to see the dinosaurs the crowds had doubled and Emma was beginning a hunger strike (as in I’m hungry so I am not going to be happy or care about anything other than food from here on out.) This was unfortunate but granddaddy did not seem to mind even if half of the pictures he got were of Emma’s mouth crammed full of crackers (see photo evidence below).

                      <----- Mouth full of crackers

Finally the crowds swelled past the point I was comfortable with so we sought out food. Of course the eateries were packed so we ended up shoveling our food down while standing up in an awkward corner. At this point, Emma was done (aka screaming) so we headed for the exit. We spent a few glorious moments outside running in the grass. After getting all of her energy out, we knew it was time to head home or as I like to call it, the day my husband and I become Parental Ninja Warriors. We literally battled the crowds to get to the top of the mountain in the third challenge (you know the one no one ever gets to.) Seriously, after carrying the stroller down the escalator for the millionth time, we were met with the sight of hundreds of people trying to fit through the tiniest of spaces. There were only two lanes open to exit and the stroller could not fit through either so we dug deep and lifted the stroller up about 4 feet in the air over the gate with Emma in it. I couldn’t believe it. I now feel like I know I could survive a mass exodus from a nuclear apocalypse. 

In the end everything turned out alright, we had a great adventure, saw some dinosaurs, and Emma got to share the experience with her granddaddy. All from a promise that started with a dinosaur.

Friday, April 4, 2014

The Year of the Baby

I mentioned the loneliness before a while ago, when I was in the thick of the newborn black hole. You know, the event horizon where you are unable to do anything but be sucked into the care of your new baby. Wikipedia defines an event horizon saying “…the gravitational pull becomes so great as to make escape impossible.” And that is very true. The birth of a child, a new human being who depends on you for their survival becomes your existence, escape is impossible (in the beginning). Once they get a little older and the need to get out of the house becomes greater than the fear of the germ infested world then life regains some semblance of what it used to be, but it will never be the same again. It will be different in some difficult ways and some amazing ways but one thing holds true, you are the only one who will have a total and complete understanding of what your life is like going forward. The days of living with roommates and sharing every experience together is gone. The days of hanging out with your best friend every weekend are over. Heck I get giddy when I actually find time to call my best friend on the phone these days! 

I say all of this because after almost two years floating through my event horizon abyss, I am finally going to be joined by others! For so long I have had only two other close friends who have children and can understand where I’m coming from. Everyone else has been very sweet and understanding but I cannot wait until I have some familiar faces swirling around in the motherhood chasm with me! This year there has been an explosion of happy baby news from a lot of my friends. It’s like EVERYONE is having a baby this year and I could not be more excited! Several very close friends and even my sister (yeah I’m going to mention you once) are expecting. FINALLY! Other people who won’t have time to go out to late dinners followed by drinks! Finally! A mirrored image of two loving and overwhelmed people trying to put their kid’s coat on after a Thanksgiving dinner that was served too late! Finally! Other people who have to leave the zoo at a moment’s notice because the stomach bug showed up a half hour into the meticulously planned trip! FINALLY! No more white pieces of clothing for presents! They will understand! Skiddle DOOOOO my friends! Oh happy day! 

My army of mommy friends is growing in numbers and (within know-it-all reason), I get to be like a “mommy consultant”! Don’t get me wrong, I WILL NOT be telling people how to parent or what to do, but I can try to explain to them what things were like for me or what worked for us or where to go to find good reading materials on certain subjects. I truly believe no two styles of parenting are the same, everyone does it a little differently based on what works for their family and I just want to encourage my friends to do what they feel comfortable doing. 

Being alone in this mommy journey for so long lead me to seek out other mothers who were going through what I was. That’s how I stumbled on the mom blogs. I was introduced to this amazing supportive community that encouraged me to parent the best way I could and I can 100% say that because of the guidance and honesty of others I have become the mom I am today. So I feel that it’s only right to give back to the next group of moms, to share with them my struggles and triumphs, to let them know that they are not alone. The rest of us are out here so feel free to reach out for support. I am truly thrilled and honored to share in my friend’s journeys into motherhood and beyond. 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

21 Months

It’s true I’ve been slacking on posting about your new developments these past few months, mainly because it seems I have more specific occurrences to blog about, but believe me you have changed so much in just a few short months. It is what makes moms proud and sad (see previous weepy post.) For right now though I want to reminisce about all of your wonderful little 21 month old quirks! 

Longer Hair: Your hair has grown so much (to me) in just a few short months! I can see us needing to put it up when the warmer weather sets in because no one likes sweaty hair stuck to their neck. On the other hand, you hate it when I try to put anything in your hair so we shall see what kind of epic battles ensue.

One Week On/ One Week Off: Right now you seem to have dipped your toe into the terrible twos. I say that because every other week you will be beside yourself, literally falling on the floor when something does not go your way. I’m talking every morning I drop you off at daycare you are on the floor in a fit of hysterics and when we get home every day if even the smallest thing goes wrong you’re back to the ground physically showing your disapproval. Then, the tides will turn and we will go through a week of pure joy, laughter, hugs, kisses, patience and boy is it amazing! I hope we can keep this balance for the remainder of the terrible twos but for now I’m not counting on it.

Potty Training: Since I wrote a post a few weeks back you have maybe gone potty 4 times on the potty. I am nervous 2 years will come and go and I will have to “amp it up” as one Billy Banks would say. Hey maybe I can get him to come over to tackle this potty training thing. He seems ready to take on any challenge and his coaching abilities are top notch!  

Singing: I’m not sure if I posted on this before but you have become quite the song bird. Your current favorites are itsy bitsy spider and bingo.

Repeater: You don’t always do it right away, but you WILL repeat ANYTHING you’ve heard. Even if it was said in passing like a month ago, nothing is off limits. And I hate to admit it but lately God and Jesus have entered your vocabulary and not in a prayerful way. I am hoping you didn’t pick those sayings up from me but eeerrr uuumm you do ride in the car with me twice a day every day so yeah. Just so folks don’t think we are sinful name slanderers, you do also say “oh boy oh boy” and “oooooh maaaaaaan” and “yippie!” which I find ridiculously cute!

Reading: Lately you love to pick up books and “Read” them to anyone who will sit still for you. You’ve even memorized the book “Brown Bear Brown Bear” which is adorable.

Shapes: Your other favorite thing is shapes! Whenever we color together you always ask me to draw a circle, square, or triangle. Both your father and I have geometric minds so you seem to be following right in our footsteps.

And that’s it for the 21 month wrap up. Each month seems to very so much from the next. I promise to chime in on here when new and exciting developments happen!


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Biology is Destined to Tear Us Part

Once again I have been reminded of how precious time is and I’m getting all weepy (read: WARNING this is a sentimental post).  These past few weeks there has been a momentary shift in my toddler’s never ending struggle for independence; she has wanted to cuddle at bedtime! I say struggle for independence because she’s not quite there yet. It’s frustrating for both of us, but as a mother, part of me wants to see her grasp new concepts and overcome physical boundaries but I also can’t help but be grateful for every misstep. Every time she can’t quite get her shoes on, every time she needs me to reach something means that I still have more time left.

I can see it coming all too soon on the distant horizon, my child growing up. The physicality of the situation got real a few weeks ago. Like I mentioned, Emma has grown clingy at nighttime. At first I found it to be yet another challenge in my parenting marathon but it didn’t take long for me to realize the amazingness of the situation. It was the first time in months…maybe even close to a year…that Emma has let me hold her/ rock her to sleep. Usually her bedtime routine consists of quiet playtime followed by story time followed by a kiss and then the blankie hand off in the crib. She was way too squirmy and rambunctious to hold at all. But lately, she wants to be held and rocked right before being placed into her crib and I love it! The problem is after months of not really noticing, Emma has grown to the point where I can barely hold her and rock her standing up for long periods of time!  My baby is growing up (insert sniffing here.)

It’s like the very fabric of our being is designed to encourage separation and independence. When I can no longer physically hold my child in my arms, I know time is ticking away. Just yesterday she could fit into the crook of my arm and now I am struggling against back pain and leg palpitations to hold up my sweet 30 lb little girl as her arms lovingly grasp around my neck. Her legs like tree trunks, swing toward the Earth below, ready to take root, ready to stand on their own. Every inch, every moment of growth takes her farther away from me.

Don't worry, this moment of utter weapery is coming to a close. 7 lbs, 30 lbs, or 100 lbs and 5 feet tall, it doesn't matter, she will always be my baby.