Friday, April 29, 2011

Mental Pictures

Life is made up of little moments, interactions, and events that converge to create one massive experience over the span of time.  Some seem significant at the time, and others aren't appreciated until much later.  However, when we don't pay close attention, precious moments seem to pass us by, only to be lost in time or remembered as nothing more than a blur. 

I am reminded on a daily basis of how special these moments are, however insignificant they may seem at the time.  Brief but meaningful conversations with my father, special moments shared with my husband, or an interaction that makes me laugh until I cry with the kids - I wish I had a video camera taped to my head so that I could save them all forever.

5 years from now, 10 years from now, I want to remember what Molly's hair smelled like, or what the inside joke was that made Ben and I laugh for 10 minutes.  I want to be able to recall what it felt like to dance with my dad at my wedding, or how good it felt to hug my mom after her first chemo treatment. 

I am reminded, once again, to live in the moment, take pleasure in the little things, and to appreciate what I have when I have it.  I know I need to work on all these things, but better to do it now than wish I had later on.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Outing

Well, today was the type of day that leaves me scratching my head, wondering where things went wrong.  Looking back with the clarity that only hindsight can give, there are always signs - someone is in a bad mood, being testy, not listening, or crying at the drop of a hat - a subtle (or not so subtle) hint of what's to come!
I should have known.  I've worked with these kids for a while now, and I just should have known. 

Our attempt at a quick Target run this morning should have been the indication.  When the first meltdown hit, that should have caused the little light bulb over my head to go off, or the warning light that reads "danger, do not proceed" to start flashing.  But, as is often the case, they didn't.  Anyone who has or works with kids will tell you, there are often times when you just have to get through whatever you're doing, because you know what you're doing next will be so much better.  Today, that was me!

Jack is on Spring Break this week, and one of his requests was to go bowling (an activity he only does with me and Ben on special occasions).  So, Ben, being the good sport that he is, took half a day off, to meet us for lunch and then hit the lanes!  Jack was, understandably, excited, so our entire morning consisted of me fielding endless questions of "Is it time to go bowling yet?"  Once we were on our way, stopping at Target seemed like a decent way to pass the extra time we had before we were to meet Ben.  That's where it all began.  Details aren't important, but suffice it to say that today in Target, I was "that woman".  You know the one - you sympathetically roll your eyes at her, pretend you don't hear the commotion coming from the general area of her shopping cart, and silently thank your lucky stars that your kids are actually behaving themselves.  Meanwhile, you secretly hope that you don't bump into her somewhere else in the store. 

So, we got through lunch, which was a tad rocky, but again, it was all about just getting to the bowling.  Fortunately, bowling was the hit that I had hoped it would be!  All the tantrums and tears were soon forgotten as we tried on our rented shoes, chose our balls, cheered for each other, and each eagerly waited for our next turn. 

Molly, who had never bowled before today, took to it like a fish to water.  Her attempts to roll the ball herself were admirable, though I fear we all lost some of our enthusiasm while waiting for the ball to streak it's way to the pins at a blistering 1.32 miles per hour.  But, each time she knocked over a few pins, she'd turn to look at us with a bright smile, throw her arms up in the air and yell "Touchdown!"

Jack loved showing off for his sister, by not so much rolling the ball, as throwing it into the ground and watching it bounce its way towards the pins.  He kept himself busy monitoring our scores and providing us with occasional updates as to who was winning.  He was also more than happy to announce "Gutter Ball" whenever one of us missed a pin. 

Both kids were having such fun, that when they begged to play another game, we agreed.  Big mistake!  About 3 frames into game 2 they both began to lose interest.  As boredom set in, they began to whine, fidget, and occasionally roam into the other one's personal space.  It's hard to say who really started it, and I'm sure if I ask the kids, they'll each blame the other one.  But, long story short, he was bugging her, she was bugging him, there were tears, threats of consequences, more tears, and finally, a hasty exit from the somewhat crowded bowling alley! 

The car ride home was a little better, both kids strapped into their car seats with a nice buffer zone between them, and relative silence as they began to wind down.  Then, I mentioned that when we got home it would be nap time.  Thankfully it's not a long drive, because there's only so much negotiating and tears one can take! 

Now, of course, they are both sound asleep in their rooms, and will likely wake up bright eyed and ready to play.  They'll both be sweet, we'll recount what fun bowling was, and the frustration of the afternoon will soon be forgotten.  Yes, it was somewhat painful lesson in patience, but we did have some good laughs, so I can't count the day as a total loss.  One thing I know for sure, the next time we go bowling, we are outta there after the first game!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Replacement

I'm trying to write an email to my potential replacement, and I'm having a bit of writer's block!  Not only am I unsure of how to break down my job (because it's been so much more to me than a job), but I simply don't want to face the reality of the fact that I'm actually leaving. 

 This job has been such a huge part of my life for so long, I'm having a bit of trouble handing off the reins to someone else.  Jack and Molly feel like my own children, so in deciding to move, I'm actually choosing to leave them behind.  While they have been told that we're leaving, I don't think they truly understand, or will understand until it's happened.

 Knowing what a major role I've had in their lives, only makes me more nervous to leave - I'm the third parent, I spend more time with them than anyone, I'm the constant.  I just want to be able to trust that "the replacement" will love them and appreciate them the way I do.  Which, I realize, is somewhat unlikely.  I'm guessing that anyone who comes into this job will look at it as just that, a job.  A busy week, a paycheck, a place to live, and nothing more.  Granted, I'd probably still be nervous is Mary Poppins herself floated in here with that magic umbrella, but it doesn't take away from the fact that I feel a certain level of responsibility for what happens to these kids, even after I leave.

I recognize the fact that I'm the exception, rather than the rule.  The average shelf life of a nanny is 1.5 years.  I'll be just over 4 years by the time I leave - that's crazy!  How do you not become attached in that time?  Now, I just have to wrap my head around the fact that there will be an inevitable revolving door of childcare providers over the next several years.  No constancy, no long-term commitment, no me.

I suppose the good news is that I'm not dropping off the face of the earth.  At least I don't have to worry about being forgotten, though I expect that many of the things that I have the kids "trained" to do will soon be (taking dishes to the sink, asking to be excused from a meal, putting clothes in the hamper, etc.).  There are so many things that only I did with the kids - going out for ice cream, bowling, movies at the theater - it's sad to think that they might not do those things once I'm gone.

I know that this is an imperfect situation - I should embrace the upcoming changes with enthusiasm, a sense of adventure, and as many munchkin hugs as I can squeeze in before my big exit!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A Chapter Ends

If life can be divided into chapters, then I am coming to the end of one of the key chapters in my life.  Yes, all chapters hold some significance, but there are those that you recognize as being life changing - ones that truly shift the course of your life. 

The last 4 years of my life have, literally, been life changing.  It began when I moved out of my comfort zone in Columbus, Ohio where I worked for a CPA firm as an administrative and marketing assistant, and came to Lodi, California to begin working as a full time, live-in nanny.  While it was difficult to leave my family and everything I knew behind, I tried to see it as an adventure.  Of course, I had my moments of homesickness and loneliness, but I was blessed with the wonderful people I worked for, who welcomed me into their family with open arms!  Jack, my 18 month old charge, was adorable, and we had such fun exploring our surroundings together.  I guess you could say he was my first California friend!  After a few months, I really began to feel at home in California.  I knew my way around, made friends, and even helped to start an alumni chapter for my sorority. 

As time passed, my "California Family" began to grow, first with the arrival of baby Molly in August 2008, and again shortly thereafter, when I met Ben, the true love of my life.  By some miracle, my job didn't scare him off, and he merged happily into our little family unit.  He absolutely adored the kids, and thankfully, the feeling was mutual!  Their little faces absolutely lit up when he walked in the door (and still do)!  When we got married in 2009, we moved into the guest house at the back of the property and have been happily installed there for 2 years, as a simple extension to the family.

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end.  As we've adjusted to married life, and all that comes with hitching your wagon to someone else's, we've come to realize that, while this lifestyle has been a blessing, it's time to make a change.  A combination of the stress of Ben being self-employed, a crummy economy, and wanting to have more independence has led us to decide to say goodbye to our life in California and head to Salt Lake City (Ben's home town) to begin a new chapter in our lives.  Of course this has been a process, a slow acceptance of the changes to come, and now, a gearing up for the actual move and readjustment to new surroundings.

As I face yet another bold move and drastic change in my life, I can't help but feel a sadness that this chapter must come to and end.  In some ways, I'm ready to move on, yet part of me wishes that I could just stay here forever.  This has been my home, my family, my life for 4 years.  I keep reminding myself that this isn't so much the closing of a door, but the opening of a window.  We will still be a fixture in the lives of our family and friends here in California, as they have been such an important part of ours.  While I'm still somewhat uncertain about what the future holds, I'm sure that there will be many new and exciting experiences waiting for us in Salt Lake City!  Moving on is simply the next part of the journey, and, as we come to the end of this wonderful chapter, we march ahead into a new one with faith, enthusiasm, and hopefully a little luck!

Monday, April 25, 2011

A Starting Point

They say that when life gives you lemons, you should use them to make lemonade.  My family has been given its' fair share of challenges over the last few years, and once again, we find ourselves being forced to make lemonade.

Several months ago, our world was turned upside down when my dad was diagnosed with Early-Onset Alzheimer's (at age 59).  Over the last few months, we've watched a relatively rapid progression of this terrible disease, and are now faced with the reality of what we're dealing with. 

Unfortunately, with EOA, there are no rules, no playbook, and no way to predict how things will progress day to day, week to week, or month to month.  Every day is different - some better than others, and we're all trying to adjust to this new roller coaster on which we find ourselves.

For now, he and my mom are managing life at home, but we all realize that this will surely have to change at some point.  We don't know how quickly anything will happen - this really is a "take it one day at a time" situation.  Our best estimation is that he's in Stage 4 (of 7).  They are working with a specialist at University Hospital, but unfortunately, aside from being on the standard medication, there isn't much to be done.

While we are all dealing with the loss that the slow goodbye of Alzheimer's brings, we find that we are blessed with the gift of time, however brief, to create more love, happiness, and lasting memories for our family!  

As the daily challenges of live continue to hit us, we will hopefully continue to look on the bright side, be thankful for what we have, and, of course, turn the lemons of life into lemonade.