Groundhog Day ’17

12:00 am

Groundhog Day 2017 is pretty close to picking up where Groundhog Day 2016 ended… sitting at work scoring sleep studies.

While midnight marks the start of Groundhog Day, I don’t know where my actual day begins.  My alarm went of at 3:15 this afternoon (yesterday?).  I woke up to discover 17 missed calls and voice mails.  I only listened to one of them before running out the door at 3:17 pm (seriously, I was still in my pajamas).  Annelise had gotten sick at school.  Somehow my phone got switched to “block all”, instead of allowing “favorites” through.  When the school couldn’t reach me they tried my emergency contacts, who then also tried to reach me.  No one who had authorization to pick her up could get to the school before it was time to get on the bus and that was their big concern. They thought she was too sick to ride the bus home.  I felt completely horrible but in reality it was less than a half hour from their first call until I was there to get her.  She was running a fever and complaining of head and body aches.  I really didn’t want to leave her to go to work, but we really can’t afford for me to miss any shifts right now. I decided that if I couldn’t be with her, I’d give her the next best thing… Grandma.  So after I collected her from school, we went back to the apartment so I could shower and dress and then we drove to Hart.  It’s almost a three hour trip from our place to my parents and then to Holland for work, so I was about a half hour late for work.

I only have one patient (normal is two).  They are a little needy but not too difficult.  At midnight it’s still too early to determine if they will need to be started on CPAP.  I make sure the study is scored up and then kill time searching online for literature and studies for a research project.

1:00 am

Patient has enough sleep/study time to determine an AHI (apnea hypopnea index).  I get the study scored up (no CPAP tonight). My internet search has taken several sidetracks.  I did find several articles that I’ll print off when I get home.  But I’m getting too distracted and I’m putting in more effort than I’m getting in return so I decide to focus on something else.

I decide to get something to eat, but my patient is awake again.  I know that as soon as I get my food they’ll call out and I won’t get back to it until it’s cold (it’s like Murphy’s law for Sleep Techs).

While I wait for them to fall back to sleep I search Zillow.  If we’re going to be here for more than two years I want to get out of the apartment.  I always do a realistic search for a small 2 or 3 bedroom in a neighborhood close to GR. And then a “what if” search… farms in Floyd County.  Nothing new or interesting to look at.

2:00 am

My patient’s back to sleep.  I wait to do my 2 am check and then go heat up some food.  I had planned on having leftover meatloaf and potatoes but in the hurry to get Annelise to my parents’ my lunch got left in the fridge so I had to settle for frozen microwave pizza.

3:00 am

Continue scoring.

3:45 am

Patient calls out.  Check on them. Scoring’s current, so I search Netflix for something to watch.  I recently finished OA and haven’t found anything new.  My fall backs when I get bored are to rewatch The West Wing or Longmire. I choose Longmire.  I should probably be studying, but I think Chemistry might put me to sleep right now.

5:30 am

Half hour until it’s time to get the patients up.  I review my study, catch up on scoring, and start the morning paperwork.

6:05 am

Wake up my patient and get them disconnected.  Clean the wires, strip beds, finish scoring and all the other end of shift tasks.

7:33 am

Punch out and leave work.  Both Annelise and Kikapu are at my parents so I head straight there.

7:50 am

Stop for breakfast. I’m really hungry so I stop for a sausage biscuit.  I contemplate a coffee but decide against it and hope I can stay alert without it for the trip.

9:03 am

Arrive at my parents’ house. Kikapu is overjoyed to see me.  Annelise is up, dressed and playing.  She says she feels fine.  I’m relieved because I figured this was either going to be a short 24 hour thing or she was going to be out for several days.  I was really nervous that this was the flu.  My mom said she was given Motrin at 7:15.  I take her temperature and it’s normal.  I tell her that if she continues to feel fine she can go to dance tonight.  I had also planned to go to a lecture at the college but figured since she was sick that was out. But if she’s back to normal maybe our entire day won’t need to be cancelled.

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9:15 am

I take Kikapu outside and she does her yearly impression of a Groundhog.  It’s hard to tell in the photo, but there was a slight shadow.  Does that mean more winter?  I can’t remember.

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9:30 am

I head upstairs to one of the guest rooms ( that we use to live in) change into my pajamas and crawl into bed.  Kikapu comes with me.  She prefers to stay with me even though I’m not doing anything other than sleeping.  In the hurry to get up here I’d left her bed so I make a small nest for her with my dirty scrubs.

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9:40 am

I’m asleep.

11:50 am

I’m awake. Check the time on my phone which is probably a mistake but it is the only clock in the room. See that I have a couple of messages.  Return the important ones and then lay back down.  I can hear Annelise and my parents down stairs it sounds like they are having lunch.

12:00 pm

I fall back to asleep.

1:30 pm

Awake again.  This time I get up.  I head downstairs.  Annelise is playing with my mom. She says she feels fine and wants to go to dance.  Her cheeks look a little flush so I take her temperature.  Fever’s back, 101.  I’m guessing that it was the Motrin suppressing her fever this morning.  I guess that means no dance for her and no lecture for me.  Since we’re not in a rush to get back to Sparta I let her continue to play and I head back upstairs to get ready.  I dawdle a little bit.  Check emails and messages.  Scroll through Facebook.  And generally just spend some time being lazy.

2:00 pm

Decide to take a shower since now we’re not in a rush to get back to Sparta. I’m cold and taking a hot shower should warm me up. I’m a little concerned that I could be getting sick.

Kikapu comes into the bathroom with me.  When we’re at my parents’ she stays pretty close to me.  I think she’s afraid I’m going to leave her there.  This time she curls up in my pajamas.

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2:45 pm

I’ve finished my shower but am still sitting in the bathroom wrapped in a towel because it is nice and warm in there.  Some day I really want a hot tub and sauna.

3:00 pm

I’m finally dressed and starting to get things ready for us to head back to Sparta.  I load up the car while Annelise is watching a Veggie Tale movie with my mom.  After loading everything I sit down and watch the rest of the movie with her.

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4:00 pm

We are finally on the road.  Annelise falls asleep as soon as we’re on the highway.

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4:45 pm

Stop at Meijer for some supplies including more Children’s Tylenol.

5:45 pm

We’re finally back in Sparta.  I carry Annelise into the house and then unload the van.

6:00 pm

My original plan for tonight’s supper had been chicken in the crock pot.  But since our day didn’t go as planned and we were up north, the chicken didn’t make it into the crock pot.  I thought about warming up the meatloaf and potatoes I had forgotten to take to work, but that didn’t sound very appetizing to a sick little girl.  She just wanted yogurt.  So I fixed that for her and she ate it while I unpacked all the stuff we had taken up north.  Now that it is just Kikapu, it’s Annelise’s job to feed her.  She gets a quarter each time.  Even though she isn’t feeling well she still insists on putting Kikapu’s food down and reminds me that she fed Kikapu while they were at Grandma’s so I give her a couple of quarters.

6:30 pm

Annelise has changed into her PJs and is curled up on the couch watching TV while I clean up the kitchen.  The last few days had been hectic with ski lessons and work and Annelise getting sick and me taking her up north and then more work, so the kitchen had been neglected.  There were stacks of dishes to be done, but first the dishwasher needs to be unloaded.  So I was busy in the kitchen while she was resting on the couch.

7:00 pm

Seven is Annelise’s usual bedtime, but since she was resting quietly on the couch I let her stay there a little longer instead of sending her off to bed.  I’m done in the kitchen so I sit down with her for a few minutes.  I have a knitting project that I’ve been working on since Labor Day, that I am very close to being done with.  I work on that for a little bit while she watches Cat in the Hat.

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7:30 pm

Time for Annelise to head to bed.  We go through the nightly routine of teeth brushing and story, plus add in another temperature check (101.9) and some Children’s Tylenol.  I typically don’t give her medication for fevers unless it gets dangerously high or I’m leaving her with someone else.  But I don’t like sending her to bed with a fever so I drugged her up and sent her to bed.  Added some Vick’s to the humidifier to help with congestion.

8:10 pm

Annelise is in bed.  I sit down and start printing off and reading the articles I saved from last night.

8:25 pm

Check in on Annelise.  She’s sound asleep.  She moves a lot when she sleeps, so I have to cover her back up.  Go back to my school work.

9:00 pm

Realize I haven’t eaten anything all day other than that sausage biscuit on the way home from work this morning (over 12 hours ago).  Suddenly I’m starving.  Heat up a frozen pizza.

9:25 pm

Turn on the TV while eating the pizza.

9:45 pm

I should really start working on my school work again, but instead curl up with Kikapu on the couch (she’s being very clingy and cuddly, typical after she’s been away from me).  Tell myself as soon as Scandal is over I’ll get back to work.

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11:50 pm

I don’t remember the end of Scandal so I must have fallen asleep sometime before 10 pm. I go in and check on Annelise.  And cover her up since she has kicked off all the blankets.  Kikapu is whining to go out so we walk downstairs.  I shut all the fire doors on my way down.  The people in my building are constantly leaving them open.  It’s extremely annoying.  I slam them shut whenever I go up and down the stairs and since I typically go to bed pretty late (occupational hazard) I always go through the building and close them before going to bed.

11:59 pm

Groundhog Day is coming to an end.  I’ll probably be up for a couple more hours thanks to my nap.  I’ll attempt to go back to my school work, but most likely I’ll watch something on TV while surfing the internet and probably go to bed in a couple of hours.  I have a feeling tomorrow is going to be a laid back day.  This is my weekend off and I had a lot of things planned for us, but I have a feeling Annelise will be recovering so we’ll lay low.  Hopefully I won’t come down with whatever she has.

FIVE!

I have a five year old!  How is that even possible?  We celebrated with grandparents, aunts and cousins.  Her “big” gift was her new bike.  But it wasn’t much of a surprise because you never surprise a serious cyclist with a new bike.  These are very personal things.  She’d seen it at the bike shop, and had tried it out.  But she didn’t think she’d be getting it until summer, so she was surprised to see it when she woke up that morning.  She tells me her favorite present was the Paw Patrol suitcase I gave her.  I almost didn’t give it to her as a gift.  She goes back and forth between our house and my parents’ frequently.  We had been carrying stuff in bags, so I got her a suitcase.  I almost just gave it to here, but then wrapped it up with the other gifts.

We’ve developed a few birthday traditions.  We do a birthday countdown, where she takes a ring off a chain each day.  We started it on New Years.  It was a nice way to deal with the post holiday let down.  It gives her something to look forward to.  We bake cupcakes together on the day before her birthday and then I bake a cake to surprise her with.  This year she requested that I surprise her with a dinosaur cake.  And then after all the celebrating is done mark off her height.  I made a board while we were in Virginia to mark her growth.  That way we could take it with us if/when we moved.  I’m glad I did that.  I would hate for those first marks to be left on a door frame in a house we left behind.

 

Every year on her birthday we conduct a little interview that I record.  It’s interesting to see how she changes each year.  Unfortunately unless I want to upgrade this account I can’t post videos.  But here is this year’s list of what she’s up to.

Annelise at five…

  • she’s about 41 inches tall and 36 lbs.
  • wears size 5t (still has some 4t) and her shoes are a size 8 (still, but I’m buying 9s now)
  • had her first hair cut this year
  • we ended afternoon naps this summer, although she sometimes falls asleep during rest time at school.  (we did moved bedtime up by an hour)
  • she is in PreK at Sparta schools.  She loves school.
  • she has several school friends.  I hear about Silas, Alondra, and Naomi about everyday. She loves playing with her cousins Lincoln, Henry, and Miles and lately shes been getting to spend more time with Carson and Alison.  John Henry is still her BFF.  And after a year and a half she still asks about Heys.
  • Her stuffed animals are still her favorite things.  The menagerie has grown.  Lately her favorite thing is to create a “nest” to cuddle with them. Basically she takes all the blanket and pillows and makes a nest for them.
  • She’s into Paw Patrol right now.  She takes them with her in a back pack.  She also always keeps a little stuffed dog with her that is “baby Izzy.”
  • She still has a “boo” but she doesn’t carry it with her anymore.  It stays at home, but while we’re home its always with her.
  • Her favorite TV shows are Paw Patrol, Dinosaur train, WordWorld, and The Cat in the Hat.
  • I don’t know how high she can count.  We get stuck at 30, but only because she struggles with the “th” sound so it turns into “f” which then skips us to 40.  But she has a general concept of how counting and numbers work.
  • She’s starting to do basic math.  She can add and subtract numbers less than 10.  And can do 10 + (any single digit number).
  • She knows all the letters both upper and lower case.  Knows their sounds and is starting to identify letters that thing start with.  She can identify several sight words.  She loves letters and words and wants desperately to be able to read and write.  She follows me around with a magnadoodle writing letters and trying to link them into words; constantly asking, “does (series of letters) spell anything?”
  • She loves to “read.”  She’s memorized several of her favorite books and will recite them to her puppies.  She loves to read anything Paw Patrol or anything about Christmas.  I read Rudolph to her year round.
  • She can write her first and last name.  Sometimes she can write my name, but the “u” tends to throw her off.
  • Her speech has become an issue again.  I’ve gotten a call from her school and they are going to have her evaluated by a speech therapist.  Initially they thought it might just be that she was trying to say words that were beyond the normal scope of a preschooler.  But we knew when she completed therapy before that she may need to revisit it when she’s older.
  • We still have regular game and puzzle nights.  The games are getting more advanced and the puzzles are getting more pieces.
  • Lately she’s been into making “art.”  She has a collection of craft supplies and will spend hours cutting, glueing, stamping, and coloring.
  • Still not into dolls or barbies.  She will occasionally play with her doll, but she prefers her stuffed animals.
  • She wants to be a Paleontologist and a farmer when she grows up.  She says she doesn’t want to get married or have kids.  She wants me to live on her farm with her and help with the animals while she is digging up fossils.
  • She still rides her bike with the Dirt Dawgs.
  • She started taking dance.  Loves it.
  • Her favorite colors are red and blue.
  • She still doesn’t like to wear dresses.  And now she doesn’t like jeans or anything with buttons, zippers or snaps.  She’s happiest in basic cotton outfits, yoga pants, tee shirts and sweatshirts.
  • Her goals for this next year are to play with her racoon and to have dinner at the Brown Bear.  (I think we can make that happen).

Headed into 2017

When I took down the Christmas decorations this year, I wrote a letter to myself and tucked it in with the decorations to be read next year when I haul all that stuff out again.  I got the idea from a post on Facebook, and since the putting up and taking down of the holiday decorations frames my year and causes me to reflect I thought it would be interesting next year to see what was going on in my life and how I was feeling.  It’s the unfiltered, not safe for the internet version and I keep thinking that if something happens to me this year, whoever ends up with the Christmas boxes is going to be in for an earful.

The overall state of our country and the world in general has me feeling very pessimistic about the coming year, but on a personal note I’m feeling slightly optimistic about our future.  I am slowly inching my way through school.  Each semester brings me a little closer to being done.  I’m narrowing down the choices for finishing and I think once I have a definite start and finish date for nursing school I feel a little less anxious about it.

Over Christmas break we went to Virginia and while I was there I visited Jefferson College of Health Sciences with the intention of applying and starting their second degree BSN program.  While I would love to go that route I also realized that it would be next to impossible to do.  The program would cost me $45,000, and I wouldn’t receive aid because I would technically be coming from out of state.  I could move to Virginia work for a year to (re)establish my residency and then start.  But the job prospects just aren’t there.   So while I would love to be back in Virginia as soon as possible, the right decision appears to be staying in Michigan, finishing school here and then moving back.

Right now I am focusing on the Associate degree program at MCC, but still considering the second degree BSN program from GVSU as an option.  Later this week I’m meeting with an adviser at MCC, hopefully after that I will have a better idea of when I can start the program.  If it’s going to be a year or more out I may use that time to focus on the GVSU program.  And then the other day I got this crazy idea.  I’d focus on the MCC program, and then as soon as I finish start working as an RN.  Not getting my BSN is not an option so even if I do go the route of ADN first, I’ll start on an RN to BSN program as soon as I can.  The crazy idea part is that at the same time I do that I’ll finish off a second degree in either Biomedical Sciences or Medical Laboratory Sciences.  I know, kind of crazy but not impossible.  The “why” of the second degree goes beyond the scope of this blog post, so I’ll table it and maybe come back to it another day.

So anyway… 2017 looks like the year I’ll figure out which nursing program I’m doing and hopefully maybe even start.

For the first time in a number of years I made several New Year’s Resolutions.  I typically make some sort of general resolutions of things I would like to focus on in the coming year, but this year I made concrete, measurable goals.  I had Annelise do the same only for her they are more like a list of things she wants to do this year.  We put them in our memory jar for 2017, so when we empty it out on New Year’s Eve this year we’ll see if we accomplished our goals.

Last year was the first year we did a memory jar (another idea I pulled off of Facebook).  Every Sunday night we sit down together and write our favorite memory from that week and then put it in a jar.  I also had her write her name on each of hers so I could see how much her hand writing improved over the year.  We had fun opening the jar on New Year’s Eve and recalling all of our favorite times.  We had a very laid back New Years.  It’s kind of like that now.  I think Annelise’s first NYE was the only one we did anything for.  Now if I do something its earlier in the evening and we’re home and at least she’s in bed long before midnight.  I think next year I may let her stay up until midnight and celebrate the actual event.

Our Christmas was also low key and very lovely.  It was the first Christmas it was just Annelise and I for Christmas Eve and Christmas morning.  I was nervous that it might feel kind of lonely but it was actually really nice.  My parents,  sister and nephews joined us for dinner so we did have some extended family time and then the day after Christmas we got together with all of my sisters and their families.

One of my resolutions was to blog more frequently.  I initially set a goal of every week, then decided that every other week was more practical but seeing as it’s the third week of the year and I’m just now getting out a post I obviously have some work to do.

Hopefully you all had a great Holiday Season and I look forward to sharing 2017 with you.

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At Home in Sparta

The apartment is quiet.  The only lights on are those on the Christmas tree.  Annelise is on her little cot in the living room.  She wanted to spend one night this year sleeping by the tree.  So I relinquished the living room to her this evening and am trying to be as quiet as possible so that she can sleep.  Last night was my last night of work until after Christmas.  I spent today shopping and wrapping presents while she was with my parents, so all we have to do before Christmas is bake cookies and enjoy the time we have together.  Over all life is good right now.

It’s the time of year when I reflect on the past year, and look forward to the new one.  Last year when I packed the Christmas decorations I had no idea where we would unpack them this year.  I knew we probably wouldn’t be at my parents any longer, but I hadn’t quite decided where we’d go.  We ended up in Sparta.  And as I had suspected, nothing went as planned.

My schooling plan got off track a bit in the Spring, and then a bit more in the Fall.  At first I just decided to postpone applying to the BSN program at GVSU.  If I had stuck to my original plan I knew I’d be facing a heavy work load and a large financial responsibility this year.  I just wasn’t ready for that.  Annelise was a year away from Kindergarten and I wanted as much free time with her as possible.  Going to school full time seemed like too much.  And with moving out of my parents’ house I was suddenly facing additional financial burdens.  I vowed not to take out any Student Loans until I’m actually in a Nursing program.  I already have a degree so I’m ineligible for any grants.  The burden of tuition has all been on me.  So a delay of a year seemed like a good idea.  I decided to use that year off to fulfill the prerequisites for the MCC ADN program  That way I’d have a back up plan if I didn’t get into GVSU.

We ended up in Sparta, because it was cheaper than living in Grand Rapids.  It also put me part way between Muskegon and Grand Rapids, which seemed like a good compromise since I wasn’t one hundred percent sure where I would be going to school.

Moving to Sparta felt like a bad move from the beginning.  I kept trying to reassure myself it was the best decision, but it didn’t feel like it.  We’re in an apartment building that I wouldn’t quite call rundown, but it’s definitely seen better days.  Our apartment looks like all the other ones in the building, very beige and blah.  I remember the day I got my keys and went in to look around.  I felt this wave a depression sweep over me as I moved from room to room.  I don’t like apartments as a general rule and had vowed to never live in one with Annelise, but here we were.

I signed the lease in June, but we didn’t start living here until September.  Over the summer I would stay here on days I worked, and very slowly I moved the things from our storage unit and my parents house so that it could be ready for us when Annelise started school in the fall.  As I was unpacking and putting things away I found myself chanting this mantra, “You will be happy here.”  I knew I could let the situation overwhelm me or I could choose to be happy in this space.  I decided we would be happy here.

I began to feel better as the space filled with our things.  Things that had been sitting in storage for the past year.  At first it felt awkward.  These were the things from our Roanoke house.  Almost all of them had been bought to fit our little house on Maiden Lane, and now they felt out of place in this apartment.  It felt kind of silly to put up the bookcase and unpack all the boxes of books.  I was only planning to be here a year and I would never read them in that time.  But as I put them on the shelves it felt like I was becoming reacquainted with old friends, so I’m glad they’re sitting there even if they won’t get read and I’ll just be boxing them up again in the Spring.  I hung pictures on the walls and very gradually this space became ours.

We hit a rough spot financially in August and September.  Since I wasn’t working full time, I was only paid when I worked, no paid time off.  I had scheduled some time off in August, but on top of that I was called off about half my shifts.  With less money coming in and the added expense of the apartment we went under very fast.   I have found that financial insecurity will send me hurtling toward anxiety and depression fasting than anything else.  By mid September I was in a very bad place.  I made the difficult decision to prioritize work over school and accepted a full time position so that I could at least stabilize my income.  Things have gotten better since then.  It means taking longer to finish school and I probably will have to go the ADN to RN to BSN route rather than getting my BSN right away which wasn’t what I wanted.   But without financial stability it’s unlikely I would have been able to keep going anyways.

There are some bad days.  And the bad days tend to be really bad.  But over all life has been good in Sparta.  We don’t know anyone, so we keep to ourselves a lot.  Annelise loves her school and has friends there.  I’m busy with work and school.  And on the days when were home it’s just her and I.  The year we lived with my parents caused a little bit of a disconnect between us.  This time alone has fixed that and then some.  I feel like we have grown even closer.  We spend our weekends riding bikes and going to the park.  And we have a lot of game and puzzle nights.

There have been many times the past few months when I’ve thought about dropping out of school and just living.  Not because school is so bad, but because just living is so good.  I love being a mom and doing the mom things.  I think that if it weren’t for the fact that we live in an apartment, I’d be very happy with our life now.  But then I think about the big picture and how if I want to eventually be in a place where I can focus on being “mom” I need to get out of Sleep and off third shift.  I need to have more earning potential to give us a better future.  So we trudge onward.

I had started to put together a plan to move back to Virginia, because if were going to “just live” that’s were I want to do it.  But the reality is that that is not going to happen.  We made a quick trip to Roanoke over the weekend and I began to realize that Roanoke is very much like an ex boyfriend.  It didn’t work for us there.  I had to make a change and I did.  But now that we’re a ways out from that, I question the decision.  Was it really that bad?  Could we have made it work?  And I keep going back for these hook ups, and entertaining the idea that we can somehow still make it work.  I realized last weekend that at least for now we can’t go back.  I don’t have work there.  School is twice as expensive there. And no matter how much I want to be in Roanoke, I have to think about our future and that means finishing school.  The easiest way for me to do that is here.  So barring some major change of fortune we’re staying in Michigan.

I was determined to be happy in Sparta, and I think that we are.  I hate the apartment, other than that we are happy.  We are outdoors people.  I want Annelise to be outdoors.  She’s at an age when I should be able to just send her outside to play, but being in a third floor apartment has made that difficult.  I try to get us both out as much as possible, but I still feel like we spend too much time inside.  I want us to be in a house, with a yard and maybe a garden.  Annelise wants a “fetch” dog.  Tonight she said, “I think next Christmas we’ll be in a house.”  I hope so baby.  But where?  We’re here until June, and then I’m not sure where we’ll go.  I hate moving.  I hate moving her.  She’s had three different homes and three different schools in as many years.  Next year she starts Kindergarten.  If it’s going to take me two to three more years to finish up school, I want to plant us somewhere that can be home, but I haven’t figured out where that is yet.

Right now things are peaceful.  The bills are paid.  There are presents under the tree.  And we’re looking forward to some fun events this winter.  I’m trying hard not to stress about what comes next.  But most likely when next Christmas rolls around we’ll be unpacking the decorations in yet another home and I’ll have another plan for our future.  Hopefully we’ll still be moving forward, getting closer to the end goal and where ever we are we’ll be happy.

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Our Summer Bucket List

I guess it’s time to wrap up the summer post now that it’s almost Christmas.  I spent the first part of the summer in class.  It was a summer class so it was on a shortened semester which meant I went four days a week.  On top of that I was picking up an extra shift every week to help cover some of the added expenses due to moving, paying a higher tuition and so that I could take more time off in August.  My summer vacation basically boiled down to that one month, and Annelise and I tried to make the most of it.

Starting in the Spring she started collecting brochures of different activities that she wanted to do.  We saved them and I promised her that once I was done with my class we would attempt to do as many as possible along with some of the other tradition summer events.

Asparagus Festival

The Asparagus Festival is in June. And it’s sort of the kick off of Summer.  It’s usually the first week that school has been out and summer is just getting under way.  We usually attend the parade and the craft fair on Saturday and then on Sunday go out to the airport for the Fly-in Breakfast.  This year Annelise was particularly interested in the watching the airplanes take off and land.

Fourth of July

Over the Fourth of July weekend we usually attend the open house at Country Dairy.  Annelise likes to go through the cow barns and watch how they milk the cows.  She’s not a fan of ice cream, but every year she tries a little bit and then I get to eat the rest.

And then of course there is the fireworks.  This year we rode our bikes to John Gurney Park and watched them from across the lake.

Canoeing

The first thing we got checked off our summer bucket list was canoeing.  She wanted to go canoeing.  We were able to do this one while we were in Virginia in July.  Our friends had a canoe and morning John and I took the kids out for an Urban canoe trip.  Beth said she had some shopping to do but I think she was really dodging the heat.  It was a very hot triple digit day.  We launched on Tinker Creek and then went onto the Roanoke River.  We’d packed a lunch which we ate under one of the overpasses.  We weren’t out too long because it was very hot.  I had hoped that we’d get more opportunities to go canoeing later in the summer but our schedule got too busy so this was the only canoe trip of the summer.

White Pine Village

The week we returned from Virginia (literally the next day) we went to White Pine Village.  I had visited White Pine Village several times as a kid and was excited that it was still around and that Annelise was interested in going.  Unfortunately, it was one of those things that looked interesting on the brochure, but really wasn’t for her.  She wasn’t into looking at old things, and she doesn’t like interacting with strangers so the period actors bothered her.  The one room school house briefly held her attention because she had heard stories from my mom about attending one, but that was about it.  When we toured the farm house I explained that it didn’t have a bathroom and that people had to use an outhouse.  When I asked if she wanted to go see the outhouse, she looked at me and said, “Why?”  We only went in a couple of buildings before I called it quits.  Thankfully, there was a Blue Grass Festival happening so we got hot dogs, chips and soda and sat and listened to some bands.  It made the trip not feel like a complete waste.  While we were sitting listening to the music, I caught bits and pieces of the conversation behind me.  It didn’t feel weird to hear “Floyd” and “Pulaski” and “Floyd Country Store” until I remembered that I was in Ludington Michigan.  I apologized for eavesdropping, and commented that I had just come back from Floyd Fest.  Turns out one of the couples was from Pulaski and was up visiting.  The women commented that she had been watching Annelise drink from a Carilion water bottle and how it had seemed normal but off because she was in Michigan.  We chatted a little bit and it was nice to talk to Virginia people again.  When we got home my dad asked Annelise if she liked White Pine Village.  She said, “Yeah, we looked at old things, but it wasn’t very much fun.”  Oh well, maybe when she’s older we can try again.  It was such a dissappointment that I hadn’t taken any pictures.  So this one from their website will have to do.

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S. S. Badger and Milwaukee Zoo

Next was our other trip of the summer.   We took the S.S. Badger car ferry across Lake Michigan from Ludington, Michigan to Manitawoc, Wisconsin and then drove down to Milwaukee to visit the Milwaukee Zoo.  This was basically recreating a trip I took with my parents 41 years earlier.  Although when I went as a child the ferry went directly from Ludington to Milwaukee.

We were both very excited for this trip and had been planning it for a couple of months.  We took the morning ferry across from Ludington.  I decided to take my van over because it wasn’t that expensive and would make getting around in Wisconsin easier.  After parking our car who went on board and checked out the ship.  There were two levels, with food and places to sit on each level.  On the lower level there was a small movie theater, a gift shop and a children’s play area.  After watching them load our van, we found a spot on the deck to wave good-bye to my parents who were on the pier.  We spent most of our trip over exploring the ship, playing in the kids area or having snacks and coloring in the enclosed deck.  Occasionally would walk around the outside deck to see if we saw any land.  It was a four hour trip across and we arrived in Wisconsin around lunch time.  We did lose an hour due to the time difference but since Annelise can’t tell time that hour really didn’t make that much difference.  We drove to Sheboygan, which was about half way to Milwaukee, had lunch and then checked into our hotel.  We spent the afternoon swimming in the pool.  I had originally planned to attend a museum that day, but she was having fun just swimming so that’s what we did.  We ordered pizza for supper and then swam some more before relaxing in our room, watching the Olympics and playing board games.

The next morning we had breakfast at the hotel before driving into Milwaukee and to the zoo.  I hadn’t originally planned to use a stroller, after all she was four years old and very capable of walking, but since they were only $7 for the entire day I decided to rent one.  Turned out to be an excellent decision.  The day would have been miserable if she had been walking.  I’m sure I saved myself from the whining.  I quickly learned I had to let go of any agenda I had and just go with whatever she wanted.  And so we spent the entire day meandering the zoo without any sort of direction or plan.  She had a map and when she decided she wanted to see something, we’d go find it, never mind that it was on the other side of the zoo.  We zig-zagged our way around, and I think we hit everything.  We stopped for lunch and a trip to the gift shop to add to her menagerie.  The only time I got to dictate what we did was when I insisted that we have our afternoon snack of popcorn and lemonade next to the elephants.  I love elephants.  I have mixed emotions about zoos, and about elephants being kept in captivity, but I knew this might be the only opportunity she’ll have to see a live elephant so we were there sipping our lemonade, munching on popcorn and marveling at those great creatures.  Her favorite animals were the giraffes, the polar bear, and the snow leopard.

After leaving the zoo we drove back to Manitawoc.  She slept most of the way which was a good thing because it was going to be a late night.  I had booked us on the night crossing so that we could get a state room and she could sleep on the ship, but it didn’t leave until 1 am so we had some time to kill.  After getting supper I took her to see a movie.  This would be her first movie in a theater.  We saw the Secret Life of Pets.  I was a little nervous, because I heard that it had some cartoon violence that might be too much for her.  But she was easily distracted, and didn’t seem to notice some of the comments that might be a little much for someone so young.  She was really enjoyed the experience.  She wore her ear muffs because it was so loud.  Thankfully there were only a couple of other people in the theater because she didn’t quite understand theater etiquette and with the muffs on she couldn’t tell how loud she was talking and laughing.

We got onto the ship around midnight.  After getting our stuff settled in our room we found a nice spot on the front deck where we could lay and watch the stars.  I got a cocktail and she got popcorn and we laid out there watching the stars.  There were several people who planned to sleep on the deck, and if I hadn’t had Annelise with me I would have loved to stay out there all night but she was eager to get to our cabin.  The rooms seemed much smaller than I remembered.  She fell asleep quickly.  I laid awake for quite awhile keeping on eye on her, but I did manage to get some sleep before we docked.

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This was the trip that she and I needed.   We’ve always been close, but for the year we were at my parents we drifted apart some.  I was busy with school and work and my mom was doing a lot of the daily stuff for Annelise.  There were times when I felt like we were just living in the same house and my mom was doing all the parenting.  I really felt the disconnect while we were in Virginia.  I also felt it at the start of this trip, but after a day of wandering around the zoo together we were back on track.

Pentwater Homecoming

Right after we got back from Wisconsin it was time for Pentwater Homecoming.  We kind of made it a Pentwater Weekend.  There was the parade, the Fireworks and then we come back to have a beach day, since building a sand castle was on our list of things to do this summer.

County Fair

The Oceana County Fair is always a highlight of Annelise’s summer and I like the nostalgia of it.  We went with cousins again this year.  Annelise and Lincoln rode the rides together, we visited the livestock barns, and ate all the varies fair foods.  This year when it was time to ride the Ferris Wheel cousin Abigail wasn’t around so Mama had to do it.  I thought I could be brave and overcome my fear of heights for the sake of my kid, but wow was it hard.

Camping

Over Labor Day weekend we went camping in Silver Lake.  My sister’s family was also camping and our trips overlapped by several days so Annelise had cousin Lincoln to play with.  When we put camping on our list of things to do this summer I was hoping for something a little more rustic than an RV park, but this turned out to be perfect.  We were in our tent in an RV spot so that was a little awkward, but other than that it was a great time.  We camped for three nights.  The first two the camp ground was full and Annelise had fun playing with her cousin and swimming.  Most of the camp ground emptied out on Labor Day, but we stayed an extra day.  That night we practically had the place to ourselves and in the morning we got one more swim in before packing up.

Mac Woods Dune Ride

While on our camping trip we went into Silver Lake and went up on the Dunes.  In all my years of living in Oceana County I had never been on a Mac Woods Dune ride, so I was long over due.  It was a little windy but otherwise a beautiful day for a ride on the dunes and a stop at Lake Michigan.

Lewis Farm Market

Once again we got season passes to Lewis’.  I don’t think we went as often as we did last summer, but we still went often enough to make the passes worth it.  I love having the passes because we don’t feel like we need to cram everything into one trip, and if we only have an hour or two to go, that’s fine.  It was fun to watch the baby deer and goats grow over the summer.  We ended the summer with the fall activities and pig races which were a hit although Annelise was slightly disappointed because she thought she would get to ride a pig in the pig race.

Sandcastles Children’s Museum

I also got us a pass to the children’s museum in Ludington.  We would typically go on Fridays and make a day of it, first going to the museum then to lunch at the House of Flavors followed by a stop at the lakeside park.

Dirt Dawgs

The other big summer thing was Dirt Dawgs.  She rode on the Dirt Dawgs bike team again.  It was always a great time.  They mastered the Strider Loops and the last couple of weeks ventured off onto the “real” trails.  In addition to riding with Dirt Dawgs we did a lot of riding together this summer.  She started using her pedal bike more so we took a couple of trips into Mears and Shelby via the rail trail.  She also started riding a little on the trails with it.  This was her last summer on the Strider.  Next summer it will be pedals all the time.  I’m looking forward to it because it means more riding for me.

 

The only thing on our list that we didn’t get to was horseback riding.  Annelise had wanted to go horseback riding and while I had planned to do it and looked into several places, we didn’t make it happen.  One place would require her to be on her own horse and the other place would have required she rode with me.  I wasn’t sure which situation I was more comfortable with and she couldn’t decide whether she wanted to ride alone or not.    I didn’t intentionally put it off, but it happened and then school started and we got busy and she stopped asking so maybe next summer when she’s a little older will be better.  She did get to ride on Sandy though, does that count?

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We’re putting together a winter bucket list.  It includes things like skiing and skating and sledding along with a couple overnight trips.  We’ll get started on those right after the first of the year.

Contemplating our Mortality

Last week the SMC blogging community experienced the loss of one of our members.  Oberon at “B” is for baby” died suddenly leaving behind her five year old daughter.  The news was both shocking and scary.  As parents our worst fear is losing our children.  But closely following that is fear of leaving our children alone.  I think this fear resonates strongly with Choice Moms.  There isn’t another parent to be there if something happens to us.  For our kids we are it.

I never met Bethany (Oberon) in person, but we’ve been apart of the same blogging community for almost six years.  Like with so many other bloggers in our community it’s easy to forget we only know each other online.  We’ve gone through fertility treatments, pregnancies, births and parenting together.  We’ve been watching each other’s children grow up and because most of us don’t have a large network of other SMC to connect with in person, we use each other as resources for navigating our unique parenting choice.  When the rumor of her death was confirmed I found myself wanting to turn to her blog for answers for what happened and what happens next. But her voice is silent now.

There were many parallels between her and I.  We were the same age, our daughters are less than a year apart and we were both “one and done.”  As with others in our community, her death has me considering my own mortality.  Because it could happen to any of us.

When Annelise was potty training I had an epiphany; my job as her mother was essentially to prepare her to live without me.  She was on her little potty and I was in the other room talking her through it.  In order to be considered potty trained for school she had to be completely independent and she didn’t want to be.  Every time she’d call me in to help, I’d say “What would you do if mama wasn’t here?” and then talk her through the next step.  I remember thinking, “This is basically what being a parent is about, teaching her how to do things for herself so that someday she won’t need me.”

Like many families we have a plan to follow in the event of a fire.  We started practicing our fire plan when she was two.  But we also have plans for what to do if you find yourself alone in the house, what to do if mommy’s not at the bus stop and what to do if you can’t wake mommy up.  While all families should have emergency plans for us it’s imperative.  Every morning when I put her on the bus and then get in my car to drive to class or run errands I worry about what would happen if I were in an accident.  What happens if I’m not there at the end of the day to meet the bus?  She knows she’s not suppose to get off the bus unless I’m there but what if she gets caught up with the other kids and doesn’t look until she’s off the bus.  We’ve talked about where she can go to ask for help.  But still everyday on my way home from class I imagine myself getting in an accident and my daughter being alone outside our apartment building.  There’s also been several nights when I’ve called or texted family members and friends asking them to call or text me in the morning and to make sure I answer.  While am sure the tightness in my chest is anxiety and not a heart attack and the throbbing in my head is a headache and not a stroke, if something were to happen to me during the night who knows how long before anyone would notice and come to check on us.  For the first time in over a decade I have a home phone line, specifically so I can teach Annelise to call 911.  Bethany’s death made me realize I may not be crazy for worrying about these things and making plans for Annelise to deal with them.

Her death was also a reminder of why I blogged.  As the news of her death was shared online someone mentioned her blog and if her family knew about it.  It’s a record in her own words and with pictures of her journey to have her daughter and their life together.  Some day that will be priceless to her daughter.

When I started blogging at It’s Definitely Possible, I did it as a way to connect with women experiencing the same thing I was.  Then during my pregnancy and the early years with Annelise it became a record of our story.  I know I could have  just as easily written it in a private notebook, but for me it was important to send those memories out into the Universe. The first memories I have are at age three and there are only a handful of those.  Without another significant person in our lives I knew that I was going to be the person who held all of Annelise’s early memories.  I wanted to make sure they survived me.  So I gave those memories to anyone who was willing to read them and trusted that if Annelise should ever need them they’d find their way back to her.  The posts from It’s Definitely Possible, have been taken offline but they still exist and should anything happen to me Annelise will have access to them.  My blogging here is less confessional (and less frequent) but I still try to keep a record of our life together.

I’ve been reflective this past week.  Thinking about the legacy I’d leave Annelise and what memories she will have of me.  I know at this age, if I were to die she would have very few concrete memories of our life together.  What she’ll know about me she’ll learn from the people who knew me or the words I left behind.  More than anything I hope she’ll remember feeling safe and being loved.

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Annelise’s rendition of our family.  Her teachers tell me whenever she draws her family she draws me and then a smaller identical person as herself.

Take me home…

Every morning at FloydFest there were ukulele lessons for the kids in the Children’s Universe which we were camped right next to.  One morning they sang John Denver’s “Take me home, Country roads” and changed the words to “western Virginia” instead of West Virginia.  At the time the sang was written and when John Denver recorded it, none of the song writers had ever been to the area so they may as well have been singing about Southwest Virginia.

I never thought I would fall in love with a place the way I have fallen in love with that little corner of the world.  It was never my plan to live in the South.  I had been trying to move out west and not having any luck with employment when the job in Roanoke became available and I decided to take it.  Even then it wasn’t my plan to stay long.  I thought maybe it would be a stepping stone to a position out west.  Now I can’t imagine living anywhere else.  Well… I guess I could still see myself living out west.  So it must be the mountains.  I apparently need mountains.  But it’s more than the landscape.  I have grown to love the culture, and community.  I plan to move us back someday (hopefully sooner rather than later) and I’m torn between living in Roanoke (the convenience of a city, but still with a small town feel) or living out in the country where we could have same land.  One of my favorite “I’m bored at work” pastimes is looking up land and farms for sale in Floyd.

I jokingly refer to Annelise and I as Appalachian refugees, so our trips back each summer are more like homecomings than a vacation visit.  This year we were there for just over 10 days.  It’s never long enough.  I’m already trying to manipulate my schedule next summer to be there for a couple of weeks.  We never have time to visit all our old stomping grounds or see all our friends.  So if we missed you this time around, don’t worry we’ll be back.  I’m definitely planning a trip for winter break, and possibly a long weekend in the fall.

We left for Virginia right after I took my exam for my summer class.  Drove straight through and got into Virginia about 2 am.  Annelise was a great little traveler.  We only had to stop once in Ohio for gas, supper and a potty break.  She managed to stay awake until we crossed the Virginia state line.

Measuring to see how much Annelise has grown since last summer…

 

We spent the first couple of days in Roanoke trying to catch up with our friends.  First thing I did the morning after arriving was to  go for coffee at our favorite coffee place.  I was experiencing a bit of whiplash.  I had been going nonstop since January and I could finally sit still.  As I sat there sipping my coffee chatting with friends I had these waves of panic feeling like I should be doing something.  I wasn’t use to being able to just sit.

Of course our visit coincided with a heat wave.  Triple digits almost everyday.  So we sought relief in the water.  We spent a day at Smith Mountain Lake.  An urban canoe trip on the Roanoke River.  A morning playing in the Elmwood Park fountains.  And several trips to the Johnson-Deel pool (seriously the best kiddie pool in town).

Of course the highlight of our trip was FloydFest.  It’s always hard to write about FloydFest.  It’s something that needs to be experienced.  I hope we can continue making it part of our summer tradition for many more years.  This year the kids were a little more independent which always makes it easier on us parents.  There was a lot of talk this year about them having their own tent.  Annelise slept in it the first night and did fine, but I didn’t.  I kept getting up every few hours and going to check on her to make sure she was covered.  She spent the rest of the nights in my tent but everyday would drag her cot back to the kids tent.  They’d sit in there and talk about whatever preschoolers talk about.

Pictures are always better than words anyways so here’s some of the highlights this year.

Annelise was particularly drawn to stilt walking, juggling, and hooping.  At some point she may join a circus.  I bought her a Chinese Yo Yo which she has enjoyed trying to get to work and we brought home a set of block stilts so she can practice.

Leaving Virginia is always hard.  While we were there it began to feel like we had never left.  As I drove around town it just felt like we’ve always been there and that’s where we belong.  We got a later start than I had planned so we drove straight through the night.  Its been a long time since I’ve had to do that and the first time doing it without the dogs.  I always felt safe stopping for power naps in rest areas when  Izzy was with me.  I made it all the way into Michigan and to about three hours from home before I had to stop. Annelise was once again a great little traveler.  She slept most of the way and woke up at just the right time for me to get gas and a coffee refill.

I had to jump right back into work when I got back.  But I still had several weeks before classes started, so I kept my work hours at a minimum and we had some other adventures.

This trip confirmed in my mind that slowing down and waiting another year before nursing school is the right decision.  Annelise and I seemed to have disconnected.  This trip made me realize how much I missed this past year while I was working out of town and taking classes.  We just weren’t in sync like we use to be.  At times I almost feel like I was  already dealing with a teenager.  Things have been a little better since we’ve been home and we reconnected on a trip we took to Wisconsin the week after we got back from Virginia.  She’s growing up, I want to hold on to these moments as long as I can.