Thursday, April 23, 2015

Goodbye, my love


This afternoon, I did one of the hardest things I've ever done.  I laid on the floor of a vet's office, stroked my baby girl, and watched her fall asleep for the last time.  I said goodbye to my best friend of 14 years, my constant companion and my favorite pet.  The picture above was taken moments before we left for the vet this afternoon.  Look at that beautiful face. 

Brandy has been with me since she was 5 weeks old.  I often called her the dog the school district bought me since I used money I won from winning the district's Beginning Teacher of the Year to buy her.  Cutest puppy ever--just a butterball of fur!  She was a mischievous puppy who loved to destroy paper.  She was a sock thief who took every opportunity to steal people's socks.  She hid them all over the house, tucking them into couch cushions and under my pillow.  When I was pregnant, she was my shadow at all times.  I have so many memories of her lying her head on my pregnant belly while I watched TV.  I used to joke that if she could crawl in the womb with me, she would have. 

She was the most loyal dog I could have ever asked for.   

Brandy has been through everything with me.  I got her at 23, so practically my entire adult life has been spent with her by my side.  She's been there through the birth of all three of my girls, Allie's death, my divorce, my single mommyhood, and my  new marriage to Rob.  She's been with me through all the tears and all the joys.  She laid beside me at my darkest moments when I literally couldn't pick myself up off the floor.  
There were times she was the only one I knew truly loved me. 

She started rapidly declining over the past few months. We had to coax her to eat most days.  Don't get me wrong, she still managed to steal a cheeseburger from me recently, but she had lost most appetite for food.  She was skin and bones, weighing in at only 39 lbs today.  She had lost all control of her functions about a month ago and we've been containing her in the kitchen to help control the messes. I wasn't ready to let go.  On April 9th, the girls and I threw her a 14th birthday dinner, getting her cake balls from the local doggie bakery and a cookie cake for us.  We loved on her lots, as we always have. 

We made the final decision on Tuesday night after she had five potty accidents and fell multiple times. She was falling all the time now and struggling to get up.  She hasn't eaten well in months.  I picked her up and put her on the scale with me.  When I saw that my once 65-70 lbs dog was a mere 39 lbs, I knew.  We had to do this for her.  The state testing was Tuesday and Wednesday for Maggie, so I knew I couldn't tell her until after it was over.  We waited until last night to sit down to have a family meeting.  

Telling the girls was agonizing.  Both sobbed and kept saying they weren't ready for BB to die.  I invited my ex-husband to come over and say goodbye.  She was his dog for 10 years and she loved him very much.  He and his wife came last night and loved on Brandy.  She perked up a little at seeing him and wagged her tail happily.  I offered for him to take the girls out to dinner to help cheer them up and I know that helped them a lot.  

This morning, Katie came in crying that she needed one more day with Brandy and didn't want us to take her to the vet.  We calmly explained that because we love her, we had to.  I hated watching my 5 year old say goodbye to her beloved pet.  She and Brandy always had a connection together.  She used to call Brandy her horse and would ride her.  She hasn't done that in over a year since B was way too fragile. The girls hugged Brandy this morning, gave her a treat from each of them and headed off to school.  Thankfully, they are at their dad's tonight to give them a little distraction.  It helps us too since I've been sick during all this too and my fever hasn't broken once today.  So, I feel miserable both with my heart and my body.  

Rob and I stayed with her until the very end.  I stayed on the floor and he was in the chair behind me stroking my back and giving me love.  He and I both cried along with the vet when we were told she was gone.  I'm so glad I had him next to me through it.  He told me how proud of me he was for staying strong and how much he too will miss her (even though she made him nuts at times!)

I'm going to miss my girl so much.  Life in this house will not be the same without her, that's for sure.  Dinner will certainly be quieter without her barking at us (the barking got worse and worse the more old and senile she got).  I won't have her Darth Vader breathing in every video I take of my kids now.  We might be able to leave a loaf of bread on the counter without her swiping it and eating the whole thing.  Her absence will be felt strongly.  Even our other dog Bandit, who has never lived without Brandy, will have to adjust without her.  Those two were buddies and laid back to back in Brandy's dog bed every day together.  Who will follow my every move now?  I feel as though I've lost my shadow.  After 14 years of having her right behind me, I'll have to adjust to being without her.  

Goodbye, my love.  I'll miss you always. 


Friday, April 17, 2015

Monday, April 13, 2015

Working Mom

I've been a working mom for eleven years now.  I vividly remember a student's mom asking me at 6 months pregnant with my first child what my plans were once the baby was born.  I told her that I would take my maternity leave and return to the classroom to teach when it was complete.  Looking at me condescendingly, she responded with "Oh, well, I guess that will be nice for MY child."  Well, ok then.

I have an advantage now that I am a teacher again.  Yes, I get more time off with my children.  I no longer travel like I did when I was director of the charity.  That was difficult and took a large toll on my family.  I love my summers with the children when I get to be home with them, but I am always ready to be back to the academic rigor of the school year.  During the year, I work long hours, both at the school and home grading papers after the children go to bed.  Often until late in the night.

I think the struggle is balance.  Most working moms feel like they are doing an inadequate job in one or both areas of their lives.  I can't always be the teacher and employee I want to be because of my commitments as a mom. I can't always be the mom I want to be due to the commitments I have to my job.  I often feel like I am failing one or the other.  I question my abilities and I find comfort in other working moms who have the same issues.

It's a constant juggling act.  

As a teacher, I can't take my kids to the early morning dentist appointment and simply arrive late to work.  I ask for the latest appointment available in the day, explaining with a slight apology to the doctor's receptionist that I am a school teacher.  I have 24 minutes for lunch, so I can't bring my girls lunch from Chick Fil-A and enjoy seeing them with their elementary classmates.  School parties or assemblies?  Forget it.  I have to be in the classroom.  My girls understand, though they do complain on occasion that I can never be there.  Cue the mom guilt!

All in all though, I wouldn't change it.  I love my family and cherish my time with them.  I love my career and feel strongly that I was called to be in the classroom working with students.  My daughters are proud of me for being a teacher.  They love to come up to my school and meet my students during evening activities.  They enjoy hearing stories about the students.  Maggie has even written a prompt about it in class over who she most admires and why.  

I chose this life.  Daily, I continue to choose it.  It's not the easiest and it certainly is not meant for everyone. However, it's my life and I love being a working mom.

Monday, February 23, 2015

This is Family


This is my family.  It's complicated and hectic.  It's a blend of his and mine; of different ways the children were raised and different traditions.  It is a hectic schedule of coming and going with kids often all over the place.  It's not what I originally set out to have when I became a mom.  

It's so much more.   It's wonderful, fun, crazy, loving, hilarious, insane, frustrating, and loud.   
It's mine and I love it so.  

I've fallen in love with my life.  That's so ridiculously corny to say, but it is so true.  I love this life.  Sure, it's challenging and has it's moments where I think maybe I'm not cut out for the blended family/divorced mom sharing her kids/run around crazy hectic life that I have.  Then I stop and look at what I have.  What I have is AWESOME.  

These kids, y'all.  They are so terrific.  Oh my goodness they are funny.  The laughter in this house is beyond what I ever thought imaginable.  Each of them have a unique humor too.  17's sarcasm is unparalleled while 5's insanity keeps people bent over laughing.  They can be so thoughtful at times.  12 and 9 are our most giving and thoughtful towards everyone else.  They will work hard at creating plays/variety shows for family gatherings, make cards for everyone, or go out of their way to buy little gifts with the limited money they have.  They are creative and artistic.  They are incredible as sisters.  They have found such a love for one another that the label of "step" is unnecessary.  They are sisters.  Each girl brings something to our family that without, we would not be complete. 

Then there is the man.  Never did I imagine life could be so loved.  Never did I imagine *I* could be so loved.  This man is the most loving towards me.  Not a single day goes by without being told I am beautiful, loved, special, or a wonderful mom.  Not a single day goes by without "I love you" repeated more than a few times.  He works hard for our family.  He focuses on what he needs to get done with his business so that he can better our family.  He appreciates and values my work ethic, often staying up late at night with me while I grade papers or lesson plan.  He is funny and kind, liked by just about everyone.  You know, one of those all around good guys.  Seriously, I got the better end of the deal.  He ended up with neurotic me!  LOL.  

It's not perfect and it never will be.  I will struggle.  I will get frustrated and angry at times.  I will not be the perfect wife/mom/stepmom.  However, I will strive to take care of this people to the best I can.  I will be thankful for them and love them.  I will appreciate who they are and how they make our family better.  

I will appreciate that this is family.  This is MY family. 

Monday, February 16, 2015

Great Granddaughters with Mom Mom

Two months ago, doctors told us my Mom Mom was near the end of her life. She was in the hospital and everything shutting down. Our stubborn old lady and awesome Mom Mom proved them wrong! Here she is last night at family dinner at my house with our four girls. So thankful our girls are growing up with this amazing woman in their life.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Happy 5th to my Buggy!

My baby is FIVE. Our oldest turned 17 last week and now our youngest is 5. I'd be lying if I said I didn't shed a tear today. I swear I only blinked and she stopped being a baby....

Friday, January 16, 2015

Parenting the Headstrong Child

My awesome Katie is about to turn five.  She is hilarious, smart, and loving.  When she is playing, she loves to run back in to the room where I am and kiss me before barrelling back out of the room.  She constantly entertains us with her antics and the way she loves to perform for us.  She likes to script our play time, telling us exactly what we are to say next.  Some of the things she busts out with are the funniest I've ever heard.  I honestly don't think I've ever laughed harder than I do from Katie.  Recently, she came in singing the alphabet backwards.  My husband joked it was her already preparing for her first DUI.  She's free spirited and loves life to the fullest.  She took her first karate class last week and we're now calling her the "Smackdown Princess."   Seriously, it was the greatest thing ever to watch her in karate class. She came out screaming "I LOVED IT!!"  Katie is in constant motion.  She NEVER sits still.

This child is a force. 

With all that said, Katie has her VERY challenging moments.  Once this child gets something in her head that she wants to have, do, eat (you get the point), the word NO is utter and complete devastation.  The last big meltdown was Wednesday morning when she came in announcing she was wearing her slippers to school.  Um...no, you're not.  That lasted a good 25 minutes.  She screamed that her other shoes hurt her too much.  They don't.  She screamed that she is allowed to wear her slippers to school.  She isn't.  She cannot be reasoned with once she gets like that.  She will sometimes put herself in her room until she cools down, but most of the time, she will badger us, scream, cry, etc.  By the time it's all over, all of us are WHOOPED. 

It's not every day, but it a frequent enough occurence for us and her teachers that we are talking all the time about how to help her.  Creating incentives for her to work towards.  Issuing her consequences.  Praising her for correct behavior.  Sometimes it helps.  Sometimes she couldn't give a crap.  Over the years, it's definitely improved.  I think we're at once or twice a week and most she can snap out of easier and faster than a few years ago.  About a month ago, she had a fit at school and woke all her friends up during naptime.  After they finally got her to calm down, she looked at the teacher and said, "uh oh, Mama is going to give me a consequence."  Sure did--no sleeping in my bed that night which she had planned to do since my husband was out of town.  She loves to sleep with me when it's just me so that was definitely something she was sorry to miss out on.  Of course, I then got to deal with the "please, please, please, I'll be better" all night when she knew sleeping with me was a no-go. 

Everyone says "it will serve her well later in life to be so strong-willed."  OK, I get that, but oof, I need her to make it through childhood without losing what little sanity I have too!  We all know I'm a little crazy already, haha!

Do you have the strong-willed child?  Any advice?

At least it's a good thing she is damn cute!