The Highs and the Lows

Oh boy. Oh, today has been a day of the highest highs and the lowest lows. My emotional roller coaster has twisted and turned so much that I am now sick at my stomach and unable to sleep. Tonight, all I want is to hold Luna a little tighter and never never let go.

okay

I had an appointment with my hypertension specialist early this morning, which is an emotional roller coaster in itself. He literally looked me in the eye and said that I’m ridiculous and to stop being so neurotic. Thanks Doc, easier said than done. It ended on a high note and I walked across the street to the Children’s Hospital to visit my friend. My 5 min walk knocked me down about 5 pegs on the emotional scale. I wanted to hug every single parent I saw. Watching them walk the halls while pulling their sick babies in wagons or picking up lunch with their teen attached to an IV never ever gets easier.

My time in the hospital room with one of my favorite little girls was a blast, as always. We finger-painted, made Christmas cards, practiced math skills and had a dance party to Taylor Swift’s Shake it Off. At lunch, she barricaded the door and refused to let me leave, which worked. I spent four hours playing games, singing and dusting off my teacher skills.

You CANNOT listen to this and NOT dance. It's impossible.
You CANNOT listen to this and NOT dance. It’s impossible.

I left with a huge smile on my face and Taylor’s lyrics in my head…then, I got on the elevator. It was me, Luna and a priest. A priest. In a children’s hospital. Holding what looked like a Bible. He got off before me and headed to someone’s room, and I wanted to jump out and ask him “why?!”. What happened? Why is he needed? Where is he going? HOW DOES ANYONE HANDLE ANY OF THIS? Again, I left in tears. I left with my happy healthy baby, thinking it’s so unfair. I felt very low.

Tonight, I got to see Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer the musical at TPAC, which I will be reviewing tomorrow! It was adorable, and Luna got to come! She loved the show and I can’t wait to tell you about our experience. I came home to Husband standing in the driveway waiting for me to pull-up so he could turn on the lights he had just put on the house, all by himself. He spent all of his time at home alone, baby-less, putting our first lights on the house. It was the best Christmas surprise! I oooh’d and awww’d over his hard work, then hurried in to put Luna to bed. I was definitely on a high.

Our house looks nothing likes this, but this is how I felt when the lights turned on.
Our house looks nothing likes this, but this is how I felt when the lights turned on.

As I rocked her to sleep, I began browsing my phone, which I hadn’t done all day. That’s when I learned the lowest of the low. That’s when I learned about Pakistan.

moms

 

How? Why? WTF?!

I have spent the rest of the night reading article upon article about the tragic school shooting in Peshawar, Pakistan today. 132 children dead. 132. As I began reading the horror story that took place today, I didn’t think about the government’s reaction to the attack or the extremist terrorist and their perverted beliefs. All I can think about are the students, the teachers and the families.

The students who ate their breakfast thinking about their upcoming math test and set next to their best friend in class, maybe even passed secret notes about their crushes. The teachers who stayed up late last night planning a science project and probably forgot their lunch on the kitchen counter. Then, the parents, the parents who send their kids to school to learn, think, dream, grow and become hard-working successful adults. No parent sends their child to school thinking they won’t come home. How many of those parents rushed their kids off to school without a second thought? What if they forgot to kiss them good-bye? What if they argued over something silly, like what they were wearing? What if that was me? Us?

I didn’t intend on writing about such a serious topic tonight. If fact, I planned to go straight to bed and writing nothing at all, but that was before I knew. How can I not address it? As a mother and a teacher, it feels too close to home. It’s important for us to talk about these issues, to recognize them, pray for those families, acknowledge their loss, look for answers and show support. They need us. Those families need all the love they could possible receive. Hug your kids a little tighter tonight, send them to school with a thankful heart tomorrow and keep Pakistan in your thoughts. I cannot imagine the loss they feel. My love, peace and courage outweigh the fear that is trying to be instilled.

xo

My Volunteering Experience

After having Luna I knew I wanted to begin volunteering. There are lots of reasons why volunteering topped my to-do list. One, is an obvious, to be a good example to Luna and to introduce her to a helpful and positive environment. I also always wanted to volunteer when I had a full-time job, but rarely had the time, or flexibility in my schedule. Mostly, though, I want to volunteer because I want to give back. I want to help people. I want to do what I can, even if it’s small, to make this world a little brighter.

When I was in the hospital with Luna, I was so depressed and scared, but so many people continued to show up. Friends, family and strangers did not give up on me. They showed up, they brought me food, they made me laugh, they messaged me, believed in me and eventually made me believe in myself again. When I was finally able to come home with Luna I knew I wanted to “show up” for others. I wanted to help someone feel a little stronger, happier and braver. I spent hours trying to find the right volunteering fit for me. There’s actually a website (volunteermatch.org) that uses your likes and skills to match you up with a volunteering job in your location. In fact, I found something that seems to be a good fit, but it’s been a VERY long process. Every single volunteering gig seems to require a background check, a medical release, a personal record, a fingerprint, a signature in blood and your firstborn child. I’ve been patiently waiting for all my appointments, paperwork and documentation to go through and get filed so I can get started, but geez it’s a bit ridiculous.

Then, right when I was feeling disheartened, I was asked by a friend of a friend to visit a little girl in the children’s hospital. No paperwork required, just me. The little girl they spoke of, spends a lot of time alone in the hospital and the thought maybe I’d be interested in spending time with her. I was absolutely interested and immediately began making plans. I broke out my box of teacher Christmas activities, grabbed my favorite children’s books, packed some art supplies and headed to the hospital full of nerves and excitement. I was finally going to make a difference! BUT, it require me being in a hospital…my biggest fear.

The Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital in Nashville is basically Disneyland. It’s gorgeous. It’s so full of colors, animated animals, activities, treats, toys and events. I was beyond impressed, but quickly depressed. It’s so wonderful that these children and families have a safe and beautiful place to take their children, but it’s also hard to know that it’s there because there are so many kids who need it. As I roamed the halls, passed the food court and watched some local performers single Christmas carols my heart felt like it was breaking with each step I took. Before I even made it to the little girl’s room I began questioning whether or not I was capable of taking on this particular volunteering opportunity. Maybe, this isn’t the right fit for me.

My first day began with the children’s musician who goes from room to room singing and playing instruments with the kids. Before she left the room, she had me, the Dad, a friend, a volunteer, a nurse and Luna playing instruments and singing Feliz Navidad. It was a beautiful moment. Thirty minutes later it was just me and my new friend (Oh, and Luna!). The sweet little girl is painfully shy. I was told she wouldn’t talk, but would communicate with me by pointing and nodding. I decided to just talk and talk in hopes of breaking the ice. I danced around, showed her how to make ornaments, read How the Grinch Stole Christmas (which she had never heard), wrote a letter to Santa and asked her every question I could think of that would require more than a nod. Ten minutes in I got her to whisper, and by the end of our time together I couldn’t get her to stop talking! We had a blast! I was a big ball of anxiety half of the time, but when she hugged me as I packed my stuff to leave, I knew it was worth it.

Luna playing along with the music.
Luna playing along with the music.

She called me a couple of days later to invite me back, and I’ll be back a third time on Thursday. She hugs me, laughs at me and seems to enjoy just talking to me, but I think she likes Luna most of all! I don’t think Luna has ever had someone play with her and love on her as much as this sweet girl. I get hugs when I show up and when I leave, but Luna gets hugs and kisses. I got to know one of the nurses who was giving a breathing treatment during my last visit. She found out that I used to teach and she went on and on about how much respect she has for teachers and how she could never do such a hard job. I think my jaw was on the floor. “You can’t be serious?? Yes, teaching is hard, but ummmm, you’re a nurse. I have no idea how you do your job everyday.” Nurses are very very special people and are probably some for of superhero.

I have loved the little bit of time I’ve gotten to spend with my new young friend, and look forward to more, but it doesn’t make that walk through the hospital any easier. I cry the second I get in my car, thank God for my healthy baby. I think “I just can’t…I just can’t understand any of this. How is life so hard and so unfair for these kids?” I am in such awe of every family I pass. I have so much respect for everyone working and volunteering at the hospital each and every day. While I think “I just can’t”, they just have to. They have no choice. I do though, I can choose to show up, and while it may be hard, it’s not near as hard as if that little girl was sitting in that hospital room with no visitors.  Seeing that little girl’s smile and her whole face light up when I walk in the room is worth any bit of uncomfortableness I may feel. Yeah, visiting a children’s hospital isn’t exactly sunshine and rainbows, but you may be their only sunshine.

If you’re fortunate enough to have some time to volunteer this year, please consider it. I know it’s not easy to sign up with an organization. It takes time and often a big commitment, but there are many simple ways to help out. Visit an elderly neighbor, bring food to a local shelter, walk your sick neighbor’s dog, babysit someone’s kids who needs a break, wash your Grandparent’s car or call someone you know is lonely this Holiday season. Sometimes, we think we aren’t strong enough to help or make a difference, but we are. We are enough. So show up as you are and I promise you won’t regret it.

Cheers!

Baby’s First Symphony

In the past month I have been fortunate enough to attend the Nashville Symphony three times. I told you about my alone time at the Coffee and Classics series, but I also saw Phantom of the Opera (complete in masquerade attire) this week and yesterday I took Luna to the children’s show. Throughout the year the Symphony puts on a Pied Piper series for kids and Saturday was the “Under the Big Top” show.

symphony

I took two of my girlfriends with me and Luna to the show and we arrived about an hour early so we could enjoy the pre-show festivities. They had arts and crafts, a book nook with readers, face painting and an instrument petting zoo. I was most excited about buying coffee from the Cherry Street Eatery and Sweetery, but was second most excited about the instrument petting zoo. It was really cute to see about a hundred little kids waiting in line to bang on a gong, play a flute and play a dozen other instruments. However, hearing all of the instruments being played by a hundred preschoolers or so also made me want to hold off on buying Luna an instrument anytime soon.

Reading together in the book nook
Reading together in the book nook
the newest member of the orchestra
the newest member of the orchestra

We found our seats early enough to walk around and show Luna the stage. We got a good look at the orchestra members as they came in and they were all in circus themed costumes. It was fantastic! Seeing the orchestra in costume is so much more fun than seeing them all dressed in black fancy clothes. There were clowns, lions, tightrope walkers, jugglers and the conductor dressed as a ringmaster, of course. The conductor was Vinay Parameswaran and I had the pleasure of chatting with him the day before the show. He was very friendly and told me all about what to expect to see at the show. He actually started playing the drums when he was very young because his parents noticed his love of percussion and were brave enough to buy him a drum set. Hmmm… I guess buying Luna an instrument at some point wouldn’t be the worst idea in the world.

stage

The show began and we not only got to enjoy many familiar and famous classic songs (Flight of the Bumblebee, Can-can, William Tell Overture  and the Entrance of the Gladiators) , but we also got to enjoy some actual circus routines. There were dancers, hoop performers, aerialists and clowns who kept us very entertained. The show and comedic tricks were obviously geared towards children, but it wasn’t so cheesy that it bored us. I enjoy watching dance more than just about anything else, so I can be a bit picky when watching routines. These performances weren’t exactly Cirque Du Soleil, but they were skilled, entertaining and I never cringed during the show. We were all equally amused and honestly enjoyed the show a lot.

Luna was incredible during the show. She watched, jumped up and down, squealed with excitement and looked as if she was trying to clap her hands, but couldn’t quite figure it out. I am definitely taking her to the next show. If you want to join us, you should check out the symphony schedule here. They’ve got some great shows coming up!

Cheers!

Everything I Know About Parenting I Learned While Being a Teacher

Nothing can prepare you for parenthood…except teaching. Teaching totally prepares you for having children. I babysat through my teen years, worked at a daycare in college, taught elementary school and taught movement/gymnastics/dance/yoga to babies and preschoolers. I loved those jobs and always felt I was learning a lot, but holy cow, I did not realize just how much they taught me until having Luna.

Here’s my Top Ten Ways Being a Teacher Prepared Me for Parenthood.

  1. I have absolutely no problem looking a fool in public. I cannot tell you how many times I left work (school) wearing stickers on my shirt, pipe cleaner jewelry, flowers in my hair, paint on my face, a costume, random stains, name tags and tacky holiday accessories. There were many times when I wondered why the store clerk or Starbuck’s barista was starting oddly at me, only to look in the mirror in find I was still wearing a Dr. Seuss hat or necklace made of yarn and candy wrappers. Clearly, a little spit-up or mashed carrots on my shirt now is nothing. dry eraser
  2. I am not afraid of germs or getting a little (or a lot) dirty. Throughout my teaching career I had to deal with blood, vomit, urine and one kid even pooped under his desk. Kids let entire bottles of glue leak in their desk, dumped glitter containers out, rubbed entire tubes of chapstick all over their face and somehow always managed to have sticky hands. I cannot tell you how many kids I watch pick and eat their boogers and I know 90% of them didn’t wash their hands, like ever. They also wanted to hold my hands, hug me and share food with me constantly. I tried to be as sanitary as possible, but we all know teachers are just one big walking germ. Luna is just one child and she’s my child, so her germs are the least of my worries.
  3. I am an awesome multi-tasker. In my classroom I lead a reading group, corrected a math paper, kept on eye on the trouble maker near my computer and the other eye on the little girl about to give herself a haircut. At any given moment every single teacher is doing 15 things at once, and we all have eyes in the back of our heads. This comes in handy with a baby. classmate
  4. I’m crafty. I can create 20 center activities with $10 and a trip to the Dollar Store. I can make play costumes for an entire class in a matter of hours. I know how to put together a safe, easy and affordable science project that will not only be educational but memorable and I can turn one children’s book into a weeklong reading/social studies/math/writing lesson. I can entertain Luna with a spoon for hours.steal
  5. I can function really well on virtually no sleep (and a whole lot of coffee). Coffee is some sort of magical bean that makes us super human, am I right? One student called me Super Woman once, but it was really just me plus 8 cups of coffee.
  6. I can tune out just about anything. One time, Husband came to visit me at work (probably dropping off something I forgot). He stayed and visited for a minute and walked with us to recess. When I got home he said “How do you stand it?”  Stand What? “I was only there 15 minutes and I must have heard kids say your name at least 400 times! Everywhere we went someone was yelling for you, needing you or saying hi to you. It would drive me crazy.” Oh…guess I didn’t notice. At some point all teachers and Mothers develop selective hearing. This can be both good and bad when Luna is crying.
  7. If need be, I can get ready in the blink of an eye. Typically, I like to take my time doing my hair and putting my face on for work, but when you teach you cannot be late. There’s not such thing as showing up a few minutes late and working later to make up for your missed time. You have got to make it to your classroom before the 24 seven-year olds do. On more than a few occasions I have jumped out of bed after realizing I overslept by an hour, threw on a non-wrinkle cotton dress, some slip-on flats, grabbed a handful of jewelry and applied mascara and lip-gloss in the car.
  8. I can hold my pee for basically ever, which has already come in handy multiple times since having Luna.
  9. I am a wealth of knowledge when it comes to children’s books and songs. Seriously, I have a song and a book for everything from compound words to patriotism. Luna has inherited my classroom library and, unfortunate for her, my endless singing about everything we do.clap
  10. I am oh-so patient with little ones. Not in traffic, not in the grocery store, not with Comcast, not with the pets, not even with the slow barista at Starbucks, but with children I’ve got all the patience in the world. I love watching their little wheels turn as they try so hard to solve a problem or understand what they’re reading. Watching that little light turn on when they discover something new is my most favorite thing.MIB

What prepared you for becoming a parent?

Cheers!

It’s Possible

thoughts

It’s been a while since I have discussed my anxiety because my anxiety has improved so much since I began my medication and healthy habits. I still deal with it daily, but it doesn’t seem as tremendous as it used to feel. So, I’ve been able to focus more on my daily life, travels, and events. I feel guilty though, because I started this blog to bring more awareness to anxiety and mental illness, and I have left it to the wayside lately.

The tragedy in Boston today reminded me of the anxiety and panic attacks I faced as a child. As an adult my panic attacks occur when I am compulsively thinking I am going to die of a terrible disease or when there are major scary changes happening in my life. As child though, they happened when others died and when major scary changes happened in the world.

I was an extremely sensitive child (okay fine…I’m still pretty sensitive), and I couldn’t help but put myself in everyone else’s shoes. If I heard of any tragic story…cancer, death, Oklahoma bombing, the book of Revelations, a sick dog, Princess Di, divorce, etc…I couldn’t handle it.

At night, I would dwell and dwell over the stories I overheard on the news or from the grown-ups around me. I began by crying for the people in the situation. Then, crying because I imagined myself in their position. Eventually, panicked because I had no control and no way to help anyone who was suffering.

I remember the Oklahoma bombing so clearly and I was only 10 years old. What I remember about this tragedy are the stories of the children, and the parents who lost their children. I couldn’t believe such a horrible thing could happen, and I felt heartbroken for those families because I imagined my own parents losing me. I panicked at night because I believed this would just keep happening.

When I learned about the book of Revelations in church (and through a weird brochure some radicals were handing out in the K-Mart parking lot) I had panic attacks for years. I thought the world was ending everyday. I panicked at night because I thought I’d never graduate, have a first kiss, get married, have kids, or have a chance to change the world. I had the most anxiety over my friends. I thought everyone was going to hell and it was my job to save them. At night I drove myself crazy thinking What if they don’t listen? Don’t believe? What if I can’t tell EVERYONE I know about Jesus and the end of times?! What about the kids in Africa!?!?! What about the kids who are raised Buddhist? How can I save EVERYONE!?!?! This isn’t fair.

I even stressed over much smaller things. If I saw a dog on the side of the road that had been hit by a car, I would dwell over the fact that his owners lost their pet. I would create an entire family in my mind and imagine how the little kids must feel when they find out what happened to their dog. By the time I got home, I had imagined a name for the dog, his owners, and their lives together. I now realize my compulsive thoughts started a very long time ago.

There seemed to be something tragic happening everyday and the little girl-me had a lot of trouble handling the world around her. Being extremely sensitive and sympathetic towards other people is a big reason for this, but I obviously suffered from anxiety and panic attacks for the majority of my life. Eventually I learned to deal with a lot of life’s major challenges, but more importantly I learned that I have an illness that can be helped, and I got help.

I wonder how many children in today’s society suffer with the same issues…and what kind of help is available for them.

Today, I cried. Of course. I thought about the fear the runners most have felt. Then the fear their friends and family must have felt. I put myself in their shoes and thought about them all afternoon. I have thought a lot about the people affected in Boston today, but I also carried on. I finished the day. I clapped along with DWTS, and I’ll go to sleep tonight without crying and without having a panic attack.

There is a happy medium. It is possible to be sensitive and not a mess. It is possible to have feelings, be on medication, and not be a zombie. Whatever you might be going through, remember that it can get better, you can get help, and things can improve. It is possible.

Cheers!

I Really Love This Place

We had a blast at the Holiday Train Show last weekend, but it was not the only event at the Botanical Gardens. Once we left the Train Show, we headed over to the Children’s Adventure Garden to see what exactly was happening in the Gingerbread Adventures.

IMG_3559 IMG_3561 IMG_3557

The Gingerbread Adventures program is a hands-on and educational exhibit meant for children. I looked around anyways, for research purposes of course…. It’s super cute and makes me want to have children just to take them there and force them to take hundreds of adorable photos.

gingerbread house cookies IMG_3564

After exploring the Gingerbread Adventures, we walked around the gardens in the rain just long enough to numb our feet and then decided it was time to head home.

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If you are in the city for the holidays or if you are a host to visitors during the holidays I highly suggest making the trip to the NY Botanical Gardens. It’s an experience unlike any other in this town, or most towns.

I hope you are all getting time off to spend with your loved ones and enjoy special events like this for the holidays!

Cheers!

P.S. We found this in the trains station on the way home…

Don't ask because I do not know.
Don’t ask because I do not know.

Hate

With the upcoming elections, the recent riots in Egypt and Libya, and the season finale of Keeping Up With The Kardashians, I have seen more hate on the Internet then I can bear. Religion, Politics, and reality stars are all obviously sensitive subjects that people are very defensive and devoted towards, but do all the opinionated comments, tweets, and posts have to be so heavily tainted with hate?

I asked myself this question over and over all evening as I read numerous articles about the cause and effects of Libya’s riots. The best answer I came up with is that hate cannot be eradicated by hate.

Almost every time I face a difficult life question I attempt to solve it by deciding how I would respond to this question to a first grader. I am a big believer that we should all behave the way we expect our elementary students to behave.

So, if a first grade girl told me that a little boy was bullying her best friend on the playground, how would I respond? Should she hate all boys and assume that every boy is going to be mean and hit girls? Would I tell her to be violent and aggressive back towards the little boy?

No.

I would tell her to stand up to the little boy and explain to him that he is hurting her friend’s feelings (and of course to let a grown-up know). I would also explain to her that this little boy needs kids like her to teach him how to be kind, compassionate, and a good friend. I would then remind her that he likely came from a home where that type of behavior is used and he may not be very happy with himself. Being nasty back will just encourage his negative behavior, not stop it.

When I was teaching first grade in 2008 (The Obama/McCain election) I taught the basic facts about each candidate, presidency, and elections without any bias. Being an educator I wanted to give the facts and allow the students to come up with their own choice. However, every child is swayed by their environment, naturally.

After reading a children’s book about either Obama or McCain, one opinionated 6 year old jumped up and announced, “I’m voting for Obama!” Before I could respond with my monotone non-bias “Cool”, another brave 6 year old looked up at him and said “My Daddy says that if Obama is president all boys will have to kiss and marry boys!”

After all the “eeewwwss!” died down, a banter of Presidential candidate bashing ensued. Seriously, imagine 20 six and seven year olds shaking their fingers in each other’s faces while trying to mimic the words they’ve heard at home, from the TV, or even their other friends.

I knew several of their parents fairly well, and I KNOW most of them are awesome and loving parents who only teach their kids to be caring and understanding towards their friends, but six year olds are surprisingly devoted and protective when it comes to their family’s opinions. Towards the end of my little classroom riot I heard “I don’t want to play with you anymore!” and “I’m not your friend!”

So. Sad.

I quickly put on my Mary Poppins face and sweetly but sternly had them sit down, be quiet, and look at me. After a minute of silence I began explaining to them how important it is to get along with people who think differently from us. I did my very best to teach them that the world is a better place because we all have different ideas and opinions. I even informed them that one of my best friends does not vote for the same person I vote for, but I still love her, spend time with her, and even enjoy learning why she likes that particular candidate. We can all learn from each other and appreciate each other!

We talked about how strong words like “hate” and statements like “We aren’t friends anymore” only hurt people’s feelings, these words do not help or teach. “How would you feel if….” was used often during this conversation.

I explained this very important life lesson in the best simplest terms I could form at such short notice. (Who would have thought first graders would be so passionate about the election!?!) I believed I got the point across after one little girl raised her hand and said, “If my best friend doesn’t like jelly beans I shouldn’t stop being friends with her! We can both like different foods.”

Correct. (I just love their sweet genuine thoughts!)

*I should also mention that other times we had conversations about how you may not love everyone or be best friends with everyone, which is OKAY for sure, BUT you still have to treat those people with respect and decency too.

We may not have gotten around to our math groups that afternoon, but we still learned a big lesson. Impromptu lessons like this are the scariest and the most memorable in my teaching career. I never know what life lessons will transpire when working with children.

Don’t even get me started on the many times students asked me about religion. Teaching first grade involved so much more than Eric Carle books and addition problems. We kept it real in my classroom… Did I ever mention the moment during Red Ribbon Week (Drug Free Week) when one girl innocently asked, “What are drugs?” and another responded with “My Daddy was arrested last night for selling drugs!”

True story, but I’ll save that for another blog.

So the moral of this blog is please PLEASE pretty please take a moment to think about the language being used in opinionated posts, tweets, and comments. We can express our opinions and thoughts without being hateful and hurtful. I know this is possible.

AND, the next time you are questioning your actions ask yourself “What would my first grade teacher say?” I do all the time. WWMFGTS? Simple.

Love and Cheers!