Thursday, March 31, 2011

2 Boys, 3 Girls, 2 Dogs, a Banana, and 1 Parakeet

This morning we were running super late as I dropped Charlie off at daycare.  We raced in--all of C's necessities for the day tossed in a plastic Target sack.  Charlie was barely clinging to my shoulder with one hand, and gripping a banana in the other (we hadn't had time for one bite of breakfast--am I a bad mother or what?)

As we banged through the door, we were greeted as usual by Nicole's yappy little dog named "Teddy".  Nicole scooped Teddy up quickly and tried to hush the little dog as the mellow, old, chocolate lab lumbered over to us for the ritualistic 'good morning sniff'.
"We have a bird," she whispered.   
"A bird?" I clarified.
"Yeah, the boys found a Parakeet in the driveway last night so we rescued it for now," she explained. "It was in a little kennel thing, but it escaped and now it's....." and she pointed to the chandelier above their dining room table.   

At that moment, Nicole's youngest son began to show me the fliers they had made describing the found bird and the phone number to get it back.  He was very proud of his fliers and began a long explanation of where they would be strategically placed and who was most likely to see them.  As he was in the midst of his dissertation, the 4 year old beauty queen that Nicole watches bounded over to me.

"Kay-wah! Kay-wah! We have a bwird!  We have a pay-wot! And Teddy can't bock 'cuz then he'll eat the pay-wot!  Oh, I hope Teddy doesn't eat our bwird," she said in one breath.

As she made her dramatic entrance, her little friend, a 3 year old princess looked up at her with big eyes.  "NO EATING PAY-WOT!" she shouted and pointed at Teddy.  As she was scolding Teddy, the Parakeet swooped from the chandelier to the window sill, nearly grazing the single hair on Charlie's head.  I gasped and Charlie giggled, pointing at the bird.

Meanwhile, Nicole's oldest son had come downstairs and was busy dousing his frozen waffles in syrup and feeding his little 14 month old sister some Cheerios.  Both seemed completely oblivious to the chaos. Poor Charlie, who's negligent mother had not fed him before leaving, was saying "Nana! Nana!" and waving the banana around my head. 

I gave Charlie a quick kiss, placed him in the high chair, gave Nicole a wink, and had I been a religious person, might have said a little prayer for her at that point.  I glanced at the pretty blue Parakeet perched back on the chandelier and ducked out the door.  As I jogged to my vehicle, it dawned on me: no wonder Charlie adores daycare--Mason and I definitely pale in comparison at the moment!  But who's to say that someday our house won't be just as exciting??  For now, I'll take advantage of our quiet little family of 3 (plus 1 furry friend).

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Run-Play-Run

So the last time I exercised was Sunday, June 28, 2009.

I know the exact date because I ran 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) after riding my bike 40 kilometers (24.8 miles) after swimming 1.5 kilometers (.9 miles) in the Hy-Vee Triathlon.

Two days later, I took a pregnancy test and we all know how that turned out!

While I walked and swam throughout my pregnancy (and did snowshoe a couple times but then it got too hard to put the dang things on b/c I couldn't bend over) I always kept my heart rate below 140.  Therefore, I didn't feel like I was "working out".  After Charlie was born, I felt so tired and malnourished, and weak to even think about exercising until I knew I was finished nursing.

Now, 4 months after weaning Charlie, I felt it was time to get back in the groove.

Last Monday, we threw Charlie in our awesome Cadillac of a jogging stroller , and headed out to run. We seriously had barely made it to the top of our hill (maybe a block) when I had to stop talking and concentrate on breathing.  By the time we made it to our destination (1/2 mile) I thought my lungs were going to burst out of my body.  I couldn't breath, I had phlegm and snot choking up my throat, tears stung my eyes, and I couldn't talk.  (Although I have to admit my feet felt great in my new Brooks !!)

We walked home (after letting Charlie swing for a good 5-10 minutes) and it was hard for me to believe I had ever done that in a casual fashion.  However, the next time, we jogged the way home, and the next time, I added 2 blocks to the jog home.

Last night, Charlie and I met two little girls playing at the park.  I wondered where their parents were and was kind of sad that they weren't taking advantage of park time with their kids.  (Although I totally understand that making dinner is an important task as well!)  And as I added two more blocks to my run, it dawned on me how special this time is with Charlie.  I hope to be teaching him about the importance of being active and enjoying the outdoors. And hopefully, he can remind me of how fun it is to crawl up the playground equipment, peer through the plexiglass "windows", and slide down the static-ridden plastic slide.

Do They Really Grow Up Too Fast?

Yesterday Charlie "celebrated" his 13 month birthday.  Last year, when March 28 rolled around, I remember thinking, "Really? It's only been ONE month?" In so many ways, it felt like we had been a sleep deprived, hungry, irritable family of three for much longer than one month!  When April 28 finally crept up, I remember feeling the same way.  In many ways, I felt so guilty because everyone would say, "Don't they grow up too fast!?  Just cherish every second!  They get big so fast!" (Bla bla bla.)  I found myself thinking, "Isn't it time for him to go to kindergarten?" and "I can't wait until Charlie heads off to college--then I'll finally be myself again!  I'll get to read books and play in the garden and go out for happy hour like I used to!"

I honestly was not prepared for the rigor and emotional instability that came with a newborn.  I dreaded logging onto facebook on Fridays because everyone would post things about how they loved the weekends and I would think to myself, "Who cares?  It's all the same as yesterday.  And it will be all the same as tomorrow and all the rest."  It was so hard to see into the future--to imagine having a clear head, non-throbbing breasts, an appetite, and a quiet house.  While I will never regret taking 12 weeks of maternity leave, there were many days that I did not love spending the entire day with my little, 100% dependent, swaddled up, baby.

I think a few factors played a part in this.
First of all, it was winter.  And mostly very crappy outside--while we did get out, it was never for too long.
Second, I lacked confidence in parenting a newborn.  I never felt like it was natural for me--even immediately in the hospital--I didn't even think to count his fingers and toes or look at his face. I just held him and even that felt somewhat awkward.  I knew we were bonded and I loved him more than anything, but I lacked a feeling of connected-ness that I had been told would happen instantly.  I think in many ways, I kept hoping that feeling would just one day arrive and consume me, but it didn't.
Third, Charlie was a colicy baby.  There.  I said it.  After 13 months, I can finally admit that he was not just "fussy" but he most likely had colic.  He did not cry constantly, in fact, his days were pretty good--but he was never a baby to just chill out on the floor or in the swing or in a bouncy seat--even for a few minutes.  (These moments usually produced deafening wails)

So our moments crept slowly by.   And by.  And by.  And then one day, as Mason was heading downstairs, Charlie giggled.  This was not an accidental giggle--but a real, smiling giggle.  We were elated!  (Not only because he had another emotion other than grumpy--but because it's the best sound in the world)  Shortly after that, he began smiling more, and cooing, and reaching for objects, and looking around, and holding his head up, and rolling over, and sitting, and eating rice cereal, and laughing, and reaching, and eating solids, and pointing, and scootching, and eating finger foods, and crawling, and cruising the furniture.

And now, 10 months later, I find myself in a completely different position than last year at this time.  I feel clear headed, happy, confident in my abilities to parent a child and raise a family.  I feel like a decent (and sometimes even good) wife and friend to my husband.  I (mostly) love spending time with Charlie as he grows and explores and discovers the wonders of childhood.  From the time he was 3 months old and hit the incredibly GIGANTIC, HUGE, milestone of "hanging out" (one night for 30 minutes without crying!!), each "stage" has become my favorite.  I loved how alert he became when he could sit up and look around, I adored interacting with him as he started communicating better, and now I can't get enough of "chase" and "peek-a-boo" games.

Not too long ago, someone asked me if I missed him being a little tiny baby.  I probably answered too eagerly, "No!"  However, in some ways I'll always hold a little nostalgic sappy spot in my heart for those days (probably more as I get older and forget the sleep deprivation and emotional lows that came with those days) but I really am cherishing the "now".  In 18 years, I might think this time went by too quickly, but for right now, I feel like it's moving along right on pace.  I wouldn't want to slow things down because then we would be 'stuck' in a phase and I am quite enjoying the constant changing and growing.

When Charlie heads off to college, I'll be able to look back and reflect on which stage or age was my favorite (and therefore might wish I could rewind time a little).  But for now, I love to watch him become a toddler and dream about the kind of little boy he will be.  I am not wishing away the time, but I do look forward to hearing him string words together and communicate with us.  I am excited to learn about his interests and curious about the way he will handle his world.  I can't wait to find out "who he is" that makes him different from Mason and me.  But for now, I'll just enjoy looking forward to tonight when we spend a half hour crawling up the stairs over and over and over.  And one more time.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Death of a Bookstore

This past weekend, Mason and I traveled to the Northwoods of Wisconsin.  It is truly a beautiful place--one of my very favorite places on Earth. But the description of the Spahn cottage and outdoor scenery is for another time.  This particular post is about another favorite thing--a bookstore called Jabberwocky.

Jabberwocky is the coolest bookstore! Picture a large bookstore (like Borders or Barnes & Noble) with a local, eclectic feel.  It has a huge children's section complete with plush animals of Clifford the Big Red Dog and activity books that would be perfect to pick up while families are on vacation.  The adult fiction section is amazing--and has an entire section devoted to local authors and illustrators.  In addition to having a new and used movie section, it also hosted tons of "gifty" "bookish" items--the kind of thing you'd find in a Signals or Wireless catalog.  (Flannel pants with bears reading books in pine trees,  coffee mugs with clever sayings like, "balancing the books", or bookmarks in the shape of snowmobiles.)

Not surprisingly, I always looked forward to my trip to Jabberwocky.  Mason would usually pop in a movie, and I'd head to the bookstore where we both would be perfectly content in our separate places for two hours.  On Saturday, Mason & I both headed into town because we desperately needed some fresh coffee! (The drawback about a semi-stocked cottage is that you never know how long stuff has been in the pantry until you try it....which we did. Yuck.) When we walked into the coffee shop next to Jabberwocky, there was a small printed sign on the door that read, "Jabberwocky has moved down the hall--next to Bonson's entrance".  I was a little startled, but didn't think much of it and we headed down that way once we had brew in hand.

But when we turned the corner, my heart sank.  I seriously had a pang of sadness--like I had just heard some really bad news.  Jabberwocky was now in the old pharmacy-- a store about the size of our living room.  One lone employee was working (there used to be a bunch!) and the store was now only a minimal housing of few select books and movies.  I wanted to cry, and Mason noticed right away.  He put his arm around me and without saying a word squeezed my shoulder to show he knew how sad this was for me! 

I wandered over to the children's shelf (not section) and picked out a few board books for Charlie.  We paid for the books and chatted with the lady working--who told us they had moved on Halloween.  I thought to myself, what a cruel trick.  As we were leaving, I had such mixed feelings about the fate of my beloved Jabberwocky.  Afterall, I am the biggest fan of Amazon.com and online shopping. I love that I can find unique things online and have them sent directly to me while Charlie naps.  I love being able to access things only found in cities from my house next to a cornfield in tiny ol' Iowa.  But there is nothing better than a good bookstore with real books and people who love them as much as me.  And as they go away one by one across the country, I find myself wondering how technology and old-fashioned books can co-exist peacefully in a beautiful bookstore.  I am sowing seeds of hope that it is possible--though I'm not exactly sure how. 

Blog seeds have been planted!

Welcome to my first attempt at a blog!  While a person might think living in a small, rural, town with two stoplights would be incredibly boring....they are probably correct.  I never thought I would end up living in a small rural town, but with the right attitude, a little creativity and a willingness to drive a few miles, we manage to keep pretty busy.  Hopefully this blog will highlight things our little family is doing--or just random thoughts about being a small town mama.  We'll see how it blooms over time...