Building a Village

So far this year has been nothing short of an epic disaster. The washing machine broke, the car broke, Starman ended up in the hospital, the other car broke, I managed to give myself a concussion in an embarrassing miscalculation of the spatial relationship
between my head and the top of the girls' bunk bed, and last but not least, The Husband ended up in the ER with suspected heart issues (they run in the family) not once, but twice in one week (still no definitive answers, but we have ruled out a few things).

The good news (there really is some, I promise) is that all these things are irrelevant. Money is just money, things are just things, and everyone is recovered and healthy (for the moment). The best news, the thing that struck me as I was first trapped for three days in a hospital room with my little Starman, and later when I was stuck on the couch for three days post-head injury is this; I couldn't have pulled it all off without my social support system, and I am blessed with a fantastic one. Taking the main caregiver out of the equation throws everything off kilter (I would say taking "Mom" out of the equation, but that would downplay some awesome Dads who are excellent primary caretakers). After all, when one person is in charge of feeding the animals, the kids and the plants, medications, transportation to school, appointments, extracurriculars and keeping track of routines it makes it very hard for someone to step in and hold the fort down. It would be like an accountant stepping in for a baker or a baker stepping in for an astrophysicist. It is a tough job that requires a delicate balance of multi-tasking, hard work and organization.

That is the moment when you need a support system. But, as I was laying on my couch post-concussion with a throbbing migraine and gut-wrenching vertigo I realized, it isn't just the big crises that require a social support system. It is little moments as well. It is having someone to commiserate with on the day when nothing seems to be going right, or the kids won't stop fighting. It is someone to call and check on you when you haven't shown up to morning drop-off at school, or you have been MIA on your usual social networking site. It is the person who shows up at your door with soup when you have the flu or who picks up the kids and takes them back to their house when you are late getting home from an appointment. These people are the key to keeping your life lubricated and running smoothly, like the cogs in a well-oiled engine. These people can be family members, yes. But since so many people do not live in the vicinity of family, and even if they do family is not always sufficient alone, it is crucial to expand that network to include friends and neighbors.

Without a sufficient social support system, in the event of an emergency, the machine of the family comes to a grinding halt. For example, when a baby is hospitalized they cannot be left alone. Someone has to be with them at all times. Nurses aren't babysitters, so what happens if you don't have someone to help out at home? If you have other children? A hospitalization could be a devastating event to a single mother, or dual-income family with no social support system to fall back on. What do you do when one person is taken out of the equation? You turn to the village around you. But, what happens if there is no village?

We spend so much time as parents researching and participating in our children's education, their social and emotional development, their medical care, their nutrition, and yet, we spend very little time on building our own friendships and relationships. However, if we think about it, social networking is a critical component to creating a safety net for our children. It is also one that many parents find that they have little to no time for. It takes time to build the kinds of relationships that could be called on in a moments notice. We need to, as parents, allow ourselves to see our friendships and relationships as vital and crucial to our children's development and give ourselves the time and permission to pursue them.

So, how in our busy, busy lives do we take the time to find and create relationships that are deep in quality? I have spent a lot of time thinking on that. How have I met the fantastic people in my life who hold me up when chaos reigns in my life? What allows us to stay friends when I don't always have time for them when my life gets crazy? What holds people together? How can you make deep connections in America's fast-paced, over-scheduled lifestyle?

My conclusion is this; you pay it forward first. You make deep connections by seeking out needs in your community, neighborhood, school, or church and filling them with your own unique abilities. If you like to cook, you deliver food to people going through difficult times. If you are good at organization or cleaning, you offer to help out the pregnant woman at church or at your local PTA. If you are an accountant and you know someone who needs taxes done and can't afford the help, you offer to help for free. You seek out needs that you can fill and as you fill the needs of others you embody the grace and kindness that people value in a good friend. When people speak, listen. Remember the details. Ask them about their child's accomplishments, their grandmother, their father that just got out of the hospital. Don't be afraid to share part of yourself if they ask. Be authentic, not what you think they want you to be. Use your manners and follow etiquette protocol, not because it is convenient, but because it is the right thing to do. Before long, you will be seen as a kind person, someone who may be busy, but is worth getting to know. These things will lay the solid foundation for your own personal village. You can build it brick by brick. It takes effort, but not monumental amounts of time. If you are authentic and kind it will come together.

Building a village is a gift to yourself and your children. Having a large circle of friends and family has given my kids a strong sense of community, a feeling of safety, the knowledge that many adults love them and are safe to turn to. It has given me a sense of peace as well. Even when the things around me seem to be coming apart at the seams, it never feels like the world is ending because I have so many wonderful, caring, fantastic friends and family members who hold us up in the midst of the chaos. Also, it sure is nice to have someone to call when I have had a day that leaves me wishing I could sell the kids down the river.

Jinxed! My NEW New Year's Resolution

I jinxed myself. It's true.

I normally don't believe in "jinxing" per se, but in this case it sort of feels like I did. Not more than 12 hours after I posted my last blog entry about looking forward to enjoying a boring and uneventful 2013 my little Starman, who had been suffering since Saturday with what I strongly suspected was the flu, had a bad asthma attack he couldn't recover from. I gave him his inhalers twice and was contemplating hauling out the nebulizer when it dawned on me I better take him in to urgent care, stat! Urgent care took a quick look at him and sent him straight to the ER and after two hours of observation and treatment he was getting worse instead of better so, we were transferred upstairs to a room. We have been here since. We are going on 36 hours in the hospital and I am not optimistic about going home quite yet.

To add to the drama of the already dramatic evening, on the way from urgent care to the ER a problem with my car that had been threatening to become an issue finally did.

For months our car has had this weird short in the electrical system where, when you go over a bump, all the dome lights snap on for a second. Then after a minute they snap back off. It is highly annoying, not to mention a safety issue when driving at night with the light snapping on and off all the time. We just added it to the list of broken things we will fix eventually (the lift gate pistons have been out for months and one of the power windows doesn't work in the other car). Unfortunately on the way to the ER I went over a bump on the highway and the lights snapped on....and never snapped off. The whole 15 minutes on the way to the hospital I drove with one hand over the front dome light so I could see where I was going. I pulled into the ER and unloaded Starman. I locked the doors and waited, and waited, and waited. The dome lights stayed on. I quickly loaded him back into the car, climbed in and played with the light settings a bit and then climbed back out. No luck. Now I am panicked about getting Starman into the building so he could be treated, so I pried open the dome light in the front disconnected the lights by prying them out with a pen, but was unsuccessful with getting the back dome off. Then I noticed the outside lights were on too. Unable to do anything else, I unloaded the baby, locked the car and went to check in. I told the lady at the ER that if people reported a vehicle matching my car's description with all the lights blazing not to worry. I would deal with it when I left.

The plan is for someone to come get us from the hospital when we finally get discharged and I will deal with car when I get to it. It is most likely in need of a jump start and then we will drive it straight to the mechanic. In the meantime, we had to arrange for someone to be at our house when our new washing machine is delivered today (our old one broke on Christmas Eve). If things happen in three's I should be golden now. Unexpected expenses: 3, Me: 0.

So much for a boring start to 2013

Starman is doing better. He feels much better but his oxygen levels still are concerning. Now that he is coming around though, he is busy traumatizing the nice nurses with his inquisitive and stubborn personality. I strongly suspect our day nurse yesterday probably went home and hit the bottle after my little man encouraged her to ever greater heights of creativity throughout the day in attempt to keep him from ripping off his sensors and oxygen tubes. I was pretty impressed as some of them were quite ingenious, but to no avail. Then, every time he ripped off his sensors his oxygen levels would crash and he would send the nurses scurrying through the door. I am pretty sure he thought it was hysterical. He also spent a long time attempting to climb out of his crib and found he could reach the nurse call button which he then pressed repeatedly. Adding to that, his less than charming 'roid rage directed primarily at the respiratory nurses coming to give him his nebulizer treatment, and I am fairly certain that the nurses, as cute as they say they find him, will secretly be relieved when we are finally discharged. His saving grace is that he is fond of flashing his famous toothy smile at them in random moments of disarming charm. (I will definitely have to keep a close eye on that one when he gets old enough to notice girls).

So, I am looking forward to going home. And next time I write, I will not celebrate the mundane. I will accept that my life is a roller coaster. I seem to attract craziness and Murphy's law-type shenanigans like a magnet, so my NEW New Year's resolution is this; I promise to embrace my crazy life with grace and dignity. I accept that normal and boring do not exist for me and I will no longer covet them. I will strive to maintain patience in the midst of the craziest scenarios and remind myself to be grateful that somehow, no matter how crazy things get, they always seem to work out for the best in the end.

Ready for a Boring 2013

Well it is time to ring in the New Year.

The last year, 2012, was eventful to say the least. Starman ended up in the hospital in February with RSV, got some teeth, learned to walk, started talking, turned 1 and we witnessed his emerging personality. Snowflake lost her first two teeth, learned to read and tie her shoes. Raindrop learned her ABC's and is starting to put sounds to the letters and, as hard as it is to believe, it was less than a  year ago that Raindrop was still struggling with her ongoing potty training issues. Now those tear-filled days, wringing my hands and wondering what I had done wrong as parent or human being, seem like a life-time ago. With any luck the last baby will be easier to potty train. 

It was the year that I lived through the most horrible bout of depression I have ever encountered. It was also the year I found and was rejected by my birth mother and then found and was unexpectedly accepted by my birth father and his family who are happy to have me fly out and meet them whenever I am ready.

This last year also brought us the Aurora theater shooting, the Connecticut massacre, the horror of the Jessica Ridgeway case, the loss of my good friend's son in a tragic car accident and the loss of my mentally ill neighbor, who could have very easily been another Adam Lanza had all the pieces fallen differently.

Last year was what you might call "newsworthy" to say the least. But, like the Chinese curse, "May you live in interesting times" I am very much looking forward to 2013 being blissfully uneventful. While my adventures have provided much fodder for this blog, I am very much hoping to be boring and completely uninteresting this year. I am hoping this year brings only small moments of contented happiness, small milestones and a deeper focus on the little things in my life. I am worn out on "big" events, both happy and sad. I don't need anything else to "write home about."

So, in the spirit of my new boring life, I am sitting here writing with a sleepy Starman on my lap. The most exciting thing that is happened today is the 10 min I spent listening to his snuffly breathing and it was wonderful. Snowflake is playing PBS kids on our laptop next to me and Raindrop is watching PBS in the family room. All is quiet and still.

It is a good start.