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Monday, August 31, 2009

For My Broken Heart

The last time I saw my parents alive was the day after my wedding, Sunday, August 5, 2007.

My sister and I choose to remember them most on October 15, the day we were both notified of their passing.

Sometime between Friday, October 12, 2007 at 8:00 PM and Saturday, October 13, 2007 at 8:00 AM they died of carbon monoxide poisoning. They were 61 and 58 respectively...too young to die.

My parents lived overseas and dedicated their lives to working at American international schools around the globe for 28 years. My father was the principal of a kindergarten through 12th grade school in Tunis, Tunisia and my mother was a third grade teacher. They died in Tunisia.

For those of you who don't know, carbon monoxide is odorless, colorless and is the second-leading cause of poisoning deaths in the country. Carbon monoxide poisoning claims nearly 500 lives and another 15,000 require emergency room treatment. It can kill you before you know it because you can’t see it, smell it, or taste it. A water heater vent was damaged in my parent's kitchen and it emitted carbon monoxide into their home killing them.

It's hard to be the one left behind to pick up the pieces, ask the unanswerable questions. It's stupid to walk around angry at an inanimate object. Most of the time I just feel robbed. My parents were anything but done with this life. One week to the day before their lifeless bodies were found, they had decided to retire and return to the United States. They were anxious to see your aunt, who had recently graduated from college, start her life and begin building a career, they looked forward to us both having grandchildren (they would have been amazing grandparents and would have completely adored you, not to mention spoiled you rotten!) and had a long list of things they wanted to do to their Arizona home and trips they were excited to take. It's unfair that they were taken from us too soon. I miss them every single day and ache to hear their voices again.

I'm mostly sorry that you will never get to meet them in the physical sense. I hope between me, your dad and your aunt, you will know them in a different way.

Sometimes bad things happen to good people, but I will forever believe that the best is yet to be.

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Moms Need Breaks

It infuriates me when I hear my fellow mommy friends practically begging their husbands, also known as the father of their children, to watch their kids. What is wrong with these dads? Are they afraid of a little parenting? It's a baby...their baby, and while yes, frustrating at times, they have pretty simple needs....clean diapers, an occasional bottle, a good burp and some good old fashioned interaction. Infants need to spend one-on-one time their fathers and more importantly, moms need breaks!!

The women that enable this behavior from the men in their lives irk me just as badly. When I hear these couples arguing, I know how fortunate I am that I get the baby-free time I need. In fact, your dad encourages me to get out and spend time with my friends and do things that are just for me. He knows how much time, energy and patience is involved in spending 12 solid hours with you. It's not like I don't love it, but being able to jump on the treadmill for an hour, get my nails down, or just walk around a book store without a diaper bag draped over my shoulder means everything to me. A little time a part is very refreshing and very necessary. Brace yourself, I even had a sleep over when you were just six weeks old! It was a guilt-ridden 24 hours for me, but oh so good for my psyche and provided great bonding time for the two of you and the encouragement that I believe made him feel that he could do it on his own.

Being a new parent and the primary care giver to a newborn is exhausting. I always feel like I have to be "on" when I'm with you...caring for you, comforting you, stimulating you and getting ready for your next feeding, not to mention stocking and restocking supplies and all of the other daily household chores that have to be done. I miss you like crazy when I'm not with you but I know that the time a part only makes me a better Mommy when I get home.

The best is yet to be.

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Saturday, August 29, 2009

Have Passport, Will Travel

One of the most interesting things about me is that from ages 7-17, I lived overseas. No, I'm not a military brat, just a brat. :) Actually, my parents worked in American international schools for 28 years. For 10 of those years, I lived with them in Karachi, Pakistan, Banjul, The Gambia, in West Africa and Maracaibo, Venezuela. After I returned to Arizona for my senior year of high school, followed by college, my parents and sister went on to live in Somalia, Mozambique, Myanmar and Tunisia. Needless to say, I have five passports and they are all full of stamps, visas and wonderful, rich memories.

My parents weren't adventure seekers by any means, they just loved to travel, experience new cultures and didn't mind "hardship" posts in third world countries, plus they made a much better living working as educators overseas than they would have in the United States.

People always want to know which place I enjoyed living in the most and honestly I enjoyed them all equally. Each place was located near the water, which I loved and because I was at such different stages of my adolescence when we would move, it didn't occur to me that I should have been upset about it. Don't get me wrong, it was always hard to pick up, say goodbye to friends and move on to the next location, but I knew I would make new friends and therefore welcomed the change. I also learned at an early age the importance of correspondence and how keeping in touch with people would make them feel closer even when they weren’t and to this day, many of the friends I have, I do because of it.

Our summers were spent in Arizona, (yes, one of the hottest places on earth in June and July, but my parents loved the weather and knew that someday they'd want to retire there, so Arizona it was) where we would rent an apartment and "play house" as my mom would say and did our best to help the U.S. economy by stocking up on all of our favorite stateside treats and taking in as much western culture as possible. We would spend hours in front of the TV, listening to the radio, in cool movie theaters, at the mall and eating junk food. Living where we did, we didn’t have access to the “creature comforts of home” as we called them; things like the brand of deodorant, hair products or face cream we liked to use, current magazines, or the latest style of clothing.

Not only did we live in exotic places, we also travelled to exotic places every chance we had. Some of the highlights include: Sri Lanka, Hong Kong, Italy, Egypt, and Madagascar. My very favorite excursion was during Christmas, 1990 to Kenya. We went on safari at the Masai Mara National Reserve. Always an animal lover, it was beyond thrilling to come within just mere feet of elephants, giraffes, lions and zebras. This is the trip your dad and I talk about taking you on just as soon as you are old enough.

With much gratitude to my parents, over the years I have seen so many wonderful things around the globe: the Great Sphinx of Giza in Egypt, the breathtaking Taj Mahal in Agra, golden pagodas in Bangkok, happy wild sunflowers growing along the countryside in the Loire Valley in France, the turquoise blue waters of Morrocoy, Venezuela, and the Garden Route in South Africa. I know how lucky I am to be an American, but I appreciate being exposed to so many different sides of the world and I love knowing that there are still many customs, colors, cultures and cuisines yet for me to discover.

The travel bug has definitely been embedded in me and luckily your dad has it too, and together we have also taken some great trips. Your first passport just arrived and we are taking you to Italy in November! You are now free to roam about the world, little boy…just take me with you!

The best is yet to be.

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Friday, August 28, 2009

Getting To Know You

While your dad was on a business trip in Monterey, you and I spent our very first night alone together (Monday, August 10, 2009) and I sent him this list of a few things that I had learned about you so far:

  • He is very strong-willed and moody (just like his Mommy). One minute he is happy and smiling and the next screaming his head off because the light is too bright, he wants to be in a different position, or no one is paying attention to him and then as soon as his need is addressed, he is happy again...until the next time.

  • He loves to cuddle, snuggle and bury himself in our chests and arm pits. The more awkward the position, the more comfortable he is.

  • He lights up whenever he sees me or hears his Daddy's voice.

  • He loves light, shadows, the ceiling fan in our bedroom, the plants and trees in our garden and gripping onto our shirts, his "napkins" and blankets.

  • He HATES his car seat and screams bloody murder for the first 10-20 minutes he is in it. Then he'll pass out and sleep for the rest of the outing.

  • He doesn't like to have his diaper changed, but doesn't like being in a dirty diaper so as soon as the changing is done he is all smiles.

  • He loves to eat and can barely go 3 1/2 hours in between feedings.

  • No matter how tight we swaddle him, he finds a way to get his arms free.

  • For such a little someone who doesn't do much but lay around, somehow he still manages to get grim under his fingernails. Maybe he'll be a mechanic?

  • If he concentrates really hard, he can grab my hand.

  • His smiles will melt your heart.

I continue to learn something new about you every day, buddy.

The best is yet to be.

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Thoughts Shared With A Friend

Here is an excerpt from an e-mail I sent to a friend on Thursday, May 14, 2009 (one month before your due date):

I can't believe that I'll be a mommy a month from now, if not sooner! At my last OB appointment I was told our little guy could make his appearance up to eleven days early (!) based on his size. I am still planning to deliver vaginally and without drugs, so I hope he doesn't get much bigger!! I'll be nine months on Saturday.

I think I'm ready for this adventure...sort of. His room is finally done and all of his clothes, towels and sheets have been washed, we have taken the classes and have what I am sure is way too much stuff. I mean, for God's sake, how many onesies do we need? Not to mention spit rags and wash cloths?! It's crazy. T. will put together his bassinet this weekend, which we plan on having in our room for the first few months, as I will be breast feeding and it will make it easier on me and everything else will hopefully fall into place when and as it should.

Emotionally, I'm not quite there yet. I like him being inside me where I can protect him 100% and I'm starting to worry about being alone with him and knowing how to meet his needs, once T. goes back to work, my sister has left and so has my dear, sweet, generous friend, S. I don't know if I have mentioned her to you before, but I have known S. for 10 years and worked with her at two different companies. She has two grown children, four grandchildren and is one of my very best friends. S. has offered to come stay with us for a few days once we bring the baby home and I know she will be a Godsend!! It's what happens after she leaves that I guess I'm trying to get my head and heart wrapped around....the fact that my world as I know it, is about to change FOREVER and that's a very scary thought.

Being pregnant and being this close to delivery makes me miss my own parents and realize on a much deeper level how much they loved me and cared for me and worried about me. I wish they were here. They would have been wonderful grandparents. I am in the process of making a little book for the baby with 5x7 laminated head shots of our immediate family; Grandma and Grandpa A. included. We want our son to know all about them and how much they would have loved him. It's turning out really well and hopefully will be a treasured item.

I also have these insane visions of yanking off his arm while trying to dress him or watching him fall on the floor. Ludicrous, I know, but not completely impossible!

My back has started to ache a lot in the last week and there's not much I can do to alleviate the pain. Walking helps, so I do that a lot!

Well, you can clearly tell where my head is at these days....24/7 baby!

I think it's interesting (and rather sad) to note that I don't talk to this "friend" very much anymore. I certainly didn't get the response from her that I was looking for, not that I thought I would or could, we were and are in totally different places in our lives right now. She is footloose and fancy free, AKA single and looking and I'm a mommy.

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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Secrets About Parenting

I always knew that I wanted to be a mother, but I never stopped to think about what that meant exactly, or just how much work it would entail. I now know being the mother to a newborn is a full time job!

Anyone who knows me, knows I’m a Type A personality; I keep lists, I’m always on time, I’m detail oriented, I can multi-task like nobody’s business and I seldom don’t do what I say I’m going to. So when I was pregnant, I went into overdrive! I read all the books, signed my husband and I up for almost 24 hours (!) of parenting classes, researched the latest and greatest in baby products (I had four mothers review our baby registry before making it public) and started spending a lot more time with my mommy friends, in the hopes that not only would some of their parenting wisdom rub off on me, but that I would gain greater insight into the parenting “secret”; the stuff no one wants to reveal for fear that the human race may end because of it. And wouldn’t you know it, they all held out on me! None, I repeat none of my prep work primed me for what was in store.

Aside from the obvious tidbits we all know about becoming parents…sleepless nights, incessant screaming, dirty diapers and the astronomical expense, there is so much more to it than that! There are secrets about parenting...the complete and utter loss of freedom, the trials and errors of swaddling, the “this hurts more than labor and delivery” breast feeding, the gentle negotiation with your partner regarding nighttime feedings, the crazy lint that gets stuck in between your baby's fingers and toes, the milk ring around his neck that smells worse than anything you have ever smelled before, and the fact that no one has ever looked at you with so much love in their eyes until this baby existed.

The first two weeks we had Lucas, I cried every single day and I know now that it was a combination of longing for and missing my parents who passed away tragically and unexpectantly almost two years ago, a lack of sleep, out of whack hormones, the realization that this little helpless baby boy is here and is a product of his father and I and that it is our jobs to meet his every need for the next 18 years….this was daunting considering we were only on day 14.

There was one night, shortly after we brought Lucas home from the hospital that we brought him into our walk in closet because my husband was afraid his crying would wake up the neighbors. We stood there hugging him between us and both had tears streaming down our faces. Come to think of it, all three of us had tears streaming down our faces. It was a trying and beautiful moment for all of us and the memory of it will last forever. Little Lucas was brand new to the world, our home and our arms and we were absolutely clueless!

Needless to say, things have gotten A LOT easier since that night in the closet and even though I can still (vaguely) recall my life before him, I wouldn’t want it any other way. Our son has been in our lives for almost 13 weeks and I learn more about him every day and I can only hope his trust in me grows , but it doesn’t change the fact that NOTHING prepared me for any of this....the good, the bad, the ugly and the amazing. There is no turning back now; this little person, this force of nature, this new love of my life is here for good and my heart couldn’t be fuller.

The best is yet to be.

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Dear Baby Boy

    I can’t believe I’m actually going to attempt to keep a blog! I know several mothers that do and I enjoy reading theirs, so I guess I was feeling some self inflicted pressure to have my own.
   I don't even think I'll let anyone know about it for a while, or at least not until I have a few entries. Whoever ends up reading this, please know that I don't claim to be a good writer - I get very long winded and tend to use the wrong punctuation. What can I say, I like commas.
   I want this to be a documentation of Lucas' life, a way to capture all of his milestones and record my feelings on motherhood. My plan is to treat it as an online journal and I will keep it as if I'm writing letters to my son. 
   I promise to give it my best effort for I know what smiles it will bring (both of us) later when I reread it, plus it’s way better than talking to myself, especially since I’m certain my son already thinks I’m crazy.
   What better way to start Letters to Lucas than sharing a letter I wrote him before he was even born?
Dear Baby Boy,  
   With all the words I know; all the quotes I’ve collected over the years, the song lyrics that have moved me and made me feel alive, the dialogues from movies and television shows that have brought me to tears, and passages in books that I have underlined because it felt like they reached out and spoke directly to me, I am at a complete loss for the perfect words to share with you that will convey how much you are wanted and loved and how glorious and kind I hope the world is to you as you make your journey through it. In return, I hope you are kind and glorious right back!  
   I will try my very best to be the parent you need, when you need it, I only ask a few things of you: dream big, read as much as you can, travel as far as you can, never stop asking questions, and always be good to your father. He is an amazing husband, will be an amazing father and deserves all of your love and respect.  
   You were created with love, carried with hope and welcomed with joy.  

The best is yet to be.

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