Saturday, August 31, 2019

When it Happened Here

“Won’t we be more likely to be shot if we just stay in here?”
It’s Wednesday morning at 9:30am, and I am not teaching realism. I am silently huddled in the closet inside of my dark classroom with my 27 American literature students during an active shooter drill. The student that asked me this question is 17 years old. I recognize I am the adult in this situation, which means I should provide reassurance. To my left, another student is visibly upset by the drill, which has become routine at the start of each school year. 
“Let’s stay quiet now,” I whisper, “and we will talk when it’s over.” 

When the alarm sounds that the drill is complete, I turn on the lights. I start by answering my students’ questions: “our campus police have thought seriously about this situation and have told us a lockdown is the best chance we have to stay safe.” I reassure my students that though we see many reports of mass shootings, the odds are that we are still very safe. We are unlikely to be impacted. We live in Midland, Texas, a town most people couldn’t find on a map. 

Three days later, I will find myself answering texts from concerned family and friends: an active shooter in our town and neighboring Odessa will leave 21 injured and 4 dead before being shot and killed himself. “Yes, we’re fine,” I respond. Then I look online hoping it’s all a misunderstanding. But it’s not. 

One location where people are shot is a movie theater and bowling alley Brendan and I have taken our English honor students to for end of year parties and the like. Rumors begin that there is a shooter at the mall and Home Depot and the hospital too, though those will later be debunked. I text our friends. Our boss’s wife was on lockdown at a nail salon and his daughter, a nurse, has been called to work. On social media, Brendan sees that the judge from one year of our school’s poetry contest is reporting her friend’s granddaughter is injured. The child is 17 months old—the same age as our own daughter. Later, I will hear she has damage to her mouth, tongue, and chest from bullet shrapnel. A friend of a friend’s brother was one of the police officers shot. This is our home. Less than a month ago, a shooting in El Paso, a few hours away, left 22 dead and 24 injured. I struggle to process it all. I’ve written about my opinions on this topic so many times on this blog. You can read one such post here: https://lolaandzoe.blogspot.com/2018/02/someone-slams-door-at-work-and-i-think.html?m=1

This past year, I was too anxious to go to graduation after I overheard colleagues discussing how a disgruntled employee that had been banned from the campus may try to show up. I watched on the computer feeling both anxious about my husband and ashamed at my own fear, like maybe I was letting this all go to my head too much: my baby slept in her crib in the next room, and inside me, another baby was growing. I tried to quell my anxiety but didn’t relax until I heard my garage door open signaling that my husband was home. These emotions are not normal. These situations are not normal. But we’ve perhaps come to accept them as such. You could be paralyzed with fear or you could be numb: sometimes you feel both ways at once.

 When our baby started daycare at age 4 months, the director told us not to come during a lockdown. “We won’t let you in, but we will keep your child safe.” We signed a paper saying we understood this. But can this be comprehended? I felt tears welling up and tried to assure myself I was just experiencing nerves about going back to work like many moms, only it wasn’t that. I don’t think my own mother ever grappled with this. 

I have no faith that things will change unless we make some kind of change. But on Wednesday, I recognized that at least several of my students desperately needed some reassurance, and I said to them “you are safe.” And I desperately wanted to and want to believe we could live in a place where this is a truth. 

Next Wednesday, when we go back to class, I am sure this weekend’s events will come up; and I will say “you are still safe,” and I not sure they will feel it, these young people who have signed up to read plays and poetry and stories with me and discuss them three times a week. I’m not sure they will feel safe anymore. And honestly, that will break my heart. I will say to them, “I am doing everything in my power to make things safer.” We all know that this isn’t a lot, but I think of what my daughter’s daycare director said to us. I think of that paper I signed. I think of the 28 of us huddled in and around that dark closet. I think of the society I wish they had. They are somebody’s children. Surely, we can all agree each of their lives is sacred, irreplaceable. I will wonder when we will all agree that making a few changes to our laws would be worth a try. Because doing nothing is definitely an option...but we have already tried that. 

Monday, August 26, 2019

Baby Boy Pregnancy: Weeks 17-20

Greetings faithful blog readers,

When we last left off in the pregnancy updates, I was feeling good in Connecticut seeing family despite battling allergies or a cold, and I'd said goodbye to morning sickness.

Week 17
Baby Size: A pomegranate

At the beginning of the week, we're in Long Island seeing my college friends, and I'm feeling pretty good but still fighting allergies or a cold. There's something about being with friends in the same stage of life that is so essential for the soul. You can talk about things that are relatively boring to other people (nap schedules! sippy cups! pregnancy pains!) but they also remember who you are as an individual, and you have all these awesome memories together. It's fun to see your friends and their husbands as moms and dads, and you need people around you with a shared sense of parenting humor. I feel like the secret to parenthood is this: don't do it alone. Find a HUGE network of people in the same boat, and nurture those relationships because you need each other, and your kids will love each other too one day. At the same time, nurture those friendships with your non-parent friends too. They provide you with much needed relief from kid talk and can encourage you and help you stay true to your goals outside of parenthood. Anyway, the week ends with a float with my cousins and a wonderful sprinkle for baby boy, and it's such a fun day. Our generous family and friends gifted us with some sweet outfits for baby boy, some big sister matching stuff too, as well as essentials for life with two kids. Seeing and celebrating with family fills me with joy, and I'm so glad my cousins were willing to go to all the effort to host a sprinkle (they hosted Willa's shower less than two years ago). 


Week 18 
Baby Size: a bell pepper 

Back at home with two weeks to go until the big 20 week ultrasound, I have some anxiety surface. I try to put that energy into writing, which is an effective strategy. It feels great to be back home and be in our normal routine, plus we try to soak up as much summer fun with Willa as possible (swimming, snowcones, farmer's market, etc). This week is special because I feel baby boy kicking for the first time! I felt movement earlier with Willa, so I was getting a bit nervous, and though I had some "maybe movement" before, 18 weeks is when I notice baby boy is definitely in motion. I start thinking about nursery plans for this baby too. I'm researching space saving solutions, so we don't have to give up the guest bed but also have a room that's mostly for baby boy. It's going to take some work (and serious closet cleaning), but I've already dedicated the summer to other projects, so it will have to wait. 


Week 19 
Baby size: A mango


Sleep is a struggle this week! I keep waking up to pee around 3:30 or 4AM and not being able to go back to sleep. Willa is starting to get up closer to 5AM rather than 6AM (she's going through a transition to the toddler room at school), and the combination is pretty brutal. It's our last week of summer, and we definitely make the most of it. Brendan and I even go see a matinee of Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark for free thanks to Cinergy's teacher appreciation week. At the end of the week, Brendan gets to feel the baby move for the first time. He says that the kicks feel really strong. Miraculously, I have not pulled out the pregnancy pillow yet. I started using the snoggle much earlier in my first pregnancy, but I'm still able to sleep normally and be comfortable. Also unlike my first pregnancy, I've had no nausea or vomiting since week 14, so that part is great. Unfortunately, I think this baby is on my bladder more. I feel like I have to pee more frequently than I did with Willa. 

Week 20
baby size: a small banana 

We go back to work this week, so I'm pretty exhausted. The couple of days leading up to our big ultrasound, I definitely have anxiety and even some tears. Hands down, the hardest part of pregnancy for me is not physical but mental and emotional. Thankfully, everything at our 20 week anatomy scan looks great. We find out that I have an anterior placenta, which is totally normal but explains why it took longer to feel this baby move (that just means his placenta is at the front of my uterus). Baby boy's brain, all four chambers of the heart, kidneys, stomach, diaphragm, bladder, spine, feet, profile, and bone measurements all look good. He's in the 25th percentile, so smaller than Willa was at this point but not a concern or necessarily indicative of what he will weigh at birth. His first weight estimate is 11 ounces. Just like his sister, he loves to keep his hands up by his face making it hard to get a good view. We don't get the fancy ultrasound machine, so I don't have guesses about who he'll look like just yet (I was accurate with my guess that Willa would look like her dad when she was born and have lots of hair!) I cry tears of relief and happiness throughout and feel so much better once the appointment is done. My weight is exactly the same as it was with Willa at 20 weeks, though since I started this pregnancy 7 pounds lighter than where I started with Willa, I'm up 13 pounds for the pregnancy (and, as I've written earlier, I think I showed much sooner this time). I've definitely indulged in my fair share of apple pie, ice cream, and snowcones as of late, but I do try to eat healthy otherwise, and Willa basically makes sure I never sit down. 



Well faithful readers, thanks for following along with our baby boy's pregnancy journey. We'll be back in a month, pregnancy recap wise, with a weeks 21-24 update. Before then though, I'll have other adventures to tell you about, including back to school (we meet our students tomorrow). Please keep us in your thoughts, prayers, hearts, etc. as we continue to grow this baby. We're grateful to have your love & support!  

<3 

Monday, August 5, 2019

Sprinkled With Love

Greetings faithful blog readers,

My cousins Amanda and Matt win the award for most thoughtful: they brought up the idea of getting our family together to celebrate baby boy Egan and their willingness to host a sprinkle, and Brendan and I were super touched. While we have most of what we need, celebrating this baby with those we love felt really important to us. We picked this past weekend because we'd already decided to get as many Austin cousins together as possible for a floating trip, and we figured it made sense to pick a weekend when many of us would already be in the same place. My brother Graham came in from NYC, my aunt Annette came in from New Orleans, my cousin Jeanne from North Carolina, and my cousin Gant and his family from Houston. It was so wonderful to see my family from my dad's side, and I was just filled to the brim with love on Saturday. All photos were taken by Amanda unless otherwise stated!

Amanda and Matt are above and beyond hosts and made us feel really special. They made this adorable photo background, and Amanda managed to get a picture where all three of us are looking at the camera (miraculous, I tell you).


Amanda did an elephant theme for the sprinkle. She ordered the cutest cookies, and our guest book this time was that everyone signed a copy of Horton Hears a Who. It was super adorable. She even framed cute pictures of us to display. There was also delicious food from Rudy's BBQ and delicious caffeine free tea for me! 






There were yard games, balls, and bubbles for the young and young at heart. Willa had a blast. 



Atlas and Willa (Photo by my friend Kelsey, aka Atlas' mom) 

Uncle Graham and Willa (photo by Kelsey) 
We had a spectacular day, and I wish I had taken a big group photo with everyone in it (as Amanda pointed out, we forgot to even get one of the two of us!), but we truly enjoyed the time visiting with everyone and received some adorable books, onesies, wubanubs, and blankets for our baby boy (also, we now own Merlin's Magic Sleep Suit in blue too. Yessss). 


The boys helping me open the double stroller from my parents. <3

Life is never going to be the same once we have two babies in the mix. We still have a ways to go, but I have a feeling we'll never truly be able to prepare for the chaos; however, it's so nice to know that our soon to be family of four is loved and supported beyond measure.


Just like after the shower, we stayed at Amanda and Matt's until almost 11PM visiting with family. It was a day we'll never forget. The float trip that morning was so so fun too. Man were we tired by the end of the day!



We love you family! Thanks for sharing in our joy as we celebrate baby boy E! We cannot wait for him to join the gang. And thanks Matt and Amanda for being the hosts with the most. We felt your love in every detail.
<3


Friday, August 2, 2019

So Much Summer Fun + Travel with a 15 Month Old

Greetings faithful blog readers,

We've been enjoying time with family for almost two weeks, and I wanted to check in with some photos and updates.

15 Year High School Reunion 


Two Saturday's ago was my high school's 15 year reunion, and I had an awesome time catching up with classmates (thanks to Lelie and Pops for babysitting). I always tell Brendan that my high school experience was so special in terms of feeling like people there generally respected each other and rose above a lot of the typical high school drama. Though Brendan doesn't fully believe me, I swear it's true. While this wasn't a huge turn out (our graduating class had 369 people), it was fun to see people I hadn't seen in a decade and a half. We had to leave early because we had an early flight planned for the next day, but I definitely hope to reunite with a few people before year 20. Also, I felt like everyone looked the same! I had this weird moment where I was like "how has it been 15 years since I graduated?" We missed my cousin's sweet sixteen in San Angelo on the same evening, and I think it's crazy I've been finished with high school almost as long as she has been alive. Whoa, am I old?! I definitely don't feel like it!

Grandparents (and Family) Galore! 

We made it to Connecticut two Sundays ago, and Willa was in grandparent heaven with Gigi and Buddy and her great-grandparents, Boompa and Grandma and Grandma and Tom, plus her Aunt Annie. Also, we got to see Brendan's cousin Katie and her daughter Laila, born a few months after Willa. The babies played together and raced to climb the stairs at their great grandmother's house. Seeing everyone was been so great and was worth all the travel days and then some.






Buddy's Retirement Party 
On Wednesday, Brendan's mom and sister surprised his dad with a beautiful retirement party at the Spicer Mansion in Mystic, CT. My father in law has been teaching high school art and coaching high school track for 27 and 35 years respectively at Montville High School. We saw tons of family, but my favorite part was hearing my father in law's students and athletes talk about what it meant to have him as a teacher and a coach and toasting to his amazing career. There is a scholarship being set up in his name for a student athlete from Montville High who exhibits tenacity, honor, teamwork, sportsmanship, and leadership. 1 out of 3 students there are from low income families, and the family's hope is that this will help a student athlete to attend college (not necessarily for athletics) and thrive. If anyone out there is interested in donating, you can do so here. My second favorite part of the party was watching Willa laugh when everyone else did at the toasts and seeing her play with the happy retirement balloons. It was such a great evening, and Brendan's parents treated us to a babysitter for Willa and an extremely fancy suite at the mansion for the night (Willa had her own bedroom in the suite!)


Mystic Aquarium
My in laws treated us to a day at the Mystic Aquarium and our whole crew had so much fun. We saw everything there, including the sea lion show, which Willa clapped a lot during. We packed plenty of snacks and a sippy cup in the diaper bag and Willa did great (we held her while she napped inside at one point). Willa loved seeing the beluga whales and the penguins. We also got lobster rolls afterwards at Ford's. Yummm.





Willa's First Beach Day
She isn't crazy about the water (yet!), but she sure had fun building castles in the sand and getting ice cream afterwards. We lucked out with beautiful beach day weather.



College Friends
Last weekend, I had a reunion with some of my best friends from college that I hadn't seen in 3 years. Our gang has grown with the addition of husbands and babies (Lauren's husband and kids were at home in North Carolina), and we had so much fun catching up, staying cool in the pool, and playing with the babes. Brendan and I stayed with my friend Cheryl and her family. Her daughter is just 2 days (36 hours) younger than Willa, and she is currently expecting baby girl #2 due in November. I loved chasing our crazy toddlers around, eating delicious dinners, and watching the Bachelor, which Cher was able to catch me up on. Great friendships evolve over time, and I have so appreciated having this set of friends to make it through this stage of life with. We had a blast and look forward to more reunions in the future!






Long Island Game Farm 
Our crew on Saturday included 3 babes and 7 adults, and we had a hot but good time at the Long Island Game Farm. Children 2 and under are free, so only the grown ups had to pay. The kids seemed to enjoy looking at/feeding the animals. There are honestly tons! Willa seemed to like the deer and ostrich the most. Tip: go early in the summer as it gets hot.



Long Island Children's Museum 
Brendan and I took Willa to the children's museum on Tuesday, and she had a blast. You can reserve a play time in the tot area, and you can also get a stamp and come back later in the day. We went and had lunch at nearby Mac and Melts, which Willa LOVED and the afternoon at the museum was much quieter than the morning (when there were lots of field trips).





Travel with a 15 Month Old 
A lot of my tips from this post last summer still hold up when traveling with a 15 month old (especially 1-5). Just a few things to add:

I can't believe I forgot to mention to go ahead and get TSA pre-check. I don't believe in the concept of pre-check. It just seems plain wrong to be able to pay money and be treated differently by a government agency. Yes, I know it's not a ton of money ($85 for 5 years--kids don't have to pay for it) but the principle bothers me. However, with a baby, I do think being TSA pre-check is worth it. The pre-check line was closed at the Long Island airport, and having to take my laptop out while managing getting the car seat and stroller through security was "nutso-bananas."

I still recommend booking early flights with SWA and bringing a carseat in a carseat bag in case there is an extra seat on the plane (if not, you can gate check). We ordered a $50 carseat (evenflo Tribute LX Convertible) in case it got messed up with gate check. We lucked out and there was an extra seat on the first 3 hour plus flight. Willa slept half the time and stayed in the carseat happily the whole time. It was a huge win, and I highly recommend this carseat because it's super lightweight (12 pounds). On the way home, we flew later, and she still did well (just slept a little less). We were able to get her car seat on both planes, which was awesome. I passed on the tip to one mom that was very disappointed she'd just gate checked her seat when there were still 4 extra seats on the flight. Now she knows and you do too! We had a three hour layover on the way home, so we made sure to find an empty gate and let Willa run around and wear herself out.

I bought several toys for the flight, but the only one Willa really cared about was this one which you can stick to the tray table on the airplane if you don't have the carseat installed. It's a pretty decent solution to entertaining a lap child. She also is starting to get into this.

Also, make sure to pack extra clothes for yourself in addition to the baby. Trust me.

When gate checking, always specify that you are only wanting to gate check. Our stroller got checked all the way through without us realizing it, and it was a long walk to the next terminal and back (a mile and a half) with Willa in our arms (they switched the gate back to the original terminal the moment we got there-seriously).

Try to give your toddler some walking time while you're in the airport for your connecting flight.

Pouches, Peanut butter sandwiches, granola bars, Belvita, puffs, and yogurt melts are all great toddler snacks for the plane/airport. Make sure to travel with a sippy cup too (but dump it out before security and refill, or they're going to have to test it).

Well folks, we're still traveling with much to look forward to in the coming days. Hope you're all out there having some summer fun of your own.
<3

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Baby Boy Pregnancy: Weeks 13-16

Greetings faithful blog readers,

When we last left off in the pregnancy recap, we'd told our families we were expecting, I was still battling sickness, and we'd had a recreational ultrasound at school. It's fun to look back at my recaps from this same point with Willa and see what's different and what's the same. I think the main difference is that I have way less time to focus on being pregnant this go around. In fact, I constantly forget that I am, which I think is actually a positive thing because I'm less anxious.

Week 13
Baby Size: A Plum 

We're traveling for the fourth of July holiday, and Brendan and I are taking our first trip away from Willa since she was born to celebrate 6 years of marriage. We announce that we're expecting a son this week, and get tons of wonderful messages of support from family and friends. Thankfully, I'm feeling really good for our anniversary trip, and it definitely helps that we get some really good sleep. I booked the trip before I knew I was expecting, so wine and beer tastings are out for me, but we have a good time exploring Fredericksburg and eating fancy dinners and indulgent breakfasts. Plus, Brendan buys me really nice chocolates, which is basically a pregnant lady's dream.



Week 14
Baby Size: A Lemon 
Back at home, I do my best to get back to my normal exercise program, but my plans (and photos apparently!) are a bit thwarted by pregnancy sickness. At least I felt good for my trip, and though I don't know it at the time, it seems to be the last of the sickness. It's funny, but I already feel like I look about six months pregnant at night. I've heard that you get bigger faster in subsequent pregnancies, but that you don't continue growing (just look 6 months pregnant for longer). We'll see if that's the case. I've noticed that if I wear maternity clothes, the bump is really obvious, but if I wear normal clothes, it's less noticeable.

Week 15 
Baby Size: An Orange
The week starts off with a fast doctor's appointment. The nurse finds the heartbeat right away, and I'm at my pre-pregnancy with Willa weight (I started this pregnancy about 7 pounds lower than my pre-pregnancy with Willa weight, so I'm up about 7 pounds for the pregnancy so far). We're traveling again, and I enjoy being the most sober person at my 15 year high school reunion.


Week 16 
Baby Size: An Avocado 
We have an amazing week with family in Connecticut and weekend with friends in Long Island. I'm battling allergies or a cold and Willa's sleep is never the best when traveling, but I still feel I'm holding up well even though we're staying so busy. I'm relieved that my morning sickness is over much faster with this pregnancy. I'm glad I'm not super pregnant during the heat of summer because I definitely notice that being outside tires me out quickly, and I need to drink tons of water to stay hydrated. I can only imagine what it'd be like to be late second or third trimester pregnant in 90+ degree weather!


As you can see, not the most eventful recap, but that's a good sign. I'm enjoying the start of the second trimester and feeling good. I haven't even busted out the snoggle (pregnancy pillow yet) and I'm not uncomfortable. Pregnancy is going faster this time around for sure, and while my anxiety is still there, it's definitely less difficult to manage. I'll be back in about 3.5 weeks with a weeks 17-20 recap, and in the meantime, I appreciate all the well wishes for good health. Before that though, I'll be back to recap all the fun we've been having while traveling. Stay tuned!

<3



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