Saturday, July 14, 2012
I can't believe it's been thirteen years.
But it feels just like yesterday.
I remember finding out I was pregnant.
I took the test right before work. Something you should probably never do if the results may be shocking.
I remember just sitting on the edge of my bathtub and staring at the two dark pink lines.
They had come up instantly.
There was no 3 minute wait.
I stayed in shock for a long time. Not sure how to tell anyone.
After all, I was 22 and single and was raised to know that that was just not how you did things.
I didn't even tell my parents until I was 4 months along.
At the time I lived in the smallest one bedroom apartment ever known to man.
The stove top was practically the same measurements as the bedroom.
If you sneezed hard, you could blow out a window.
But it was what I could afford on my deli worker salary, and Jared's the only person I know who ever got rich off of a deli.
I remember wondering where I'd put a baby.
Worrying I'd have to move back home.
I remember feeling sad I wouldn't have a nursery to decorate.
It was going to be hard, but one thing was for sure. Whether or not to keep the baby was not negotiable.
I don't remember feeling scared, though.
I had been born wanting children.
But all those years of wrapping up Cabbage Patches could never have prepared me for what was next.
Alena Nicole Santorineos was born in room 7 of Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital on July 15th, 1999.
I would later go on to have three of my four daughters in that very same room.
She weighed 7 lbs. 2 oz. and was 19 inches long.
She was the most beautiful thing I had ever laid my eyes on.
I'll never forget the feeling the first time they laid her naked, just-born body on my chest.
She immediately turned her little face up towards mine and squinted to see me.
It was like she was sizing me up.
Making sure I was prepared for the job.
Like she was saying,
"So. Are we in this thing together, or what?"
There was a lot of bustle that day. Grandparents being called. Visitors popping in. Passing her back and forth. I barely got to see her.
But then night came and we said our goodbyes.
Visiting hours were over.
Time to rest.
But I couldn't.
I will never forget sitting in that quiet room with the murmur of the tv on in the background. There was just one dim light on as I sat up and laid her between my legs on the bed.
Who was this little person?
The heaviness of sole responsibility laid heavy on me.
I prayed over her and her future.
I prayed for myself.
Then I started to unwrap.
Layer by layer,
until there she laid.
She was so tiny!
Red and wrinkled and completely asleep.
I was overwhelmed by the wonder of that moment.
It remains in my mind as one of the most life changing moments I've ever had.
Like putting a drop of food coloring into water and watching it spread until slowly it's all transformed.
-The moment when it hit me that it was just her and me-
The two of us were a family.
I was responsible to feed her and clothe her and to make her a PERSON.
I can honestly say that that moment turned me into who I am today.
And now she has grown.
I hardly recognize her.
Did that beautiful thing that's as tall as I am really come from ME?
I think back to being annoyed when, at three, she HAD to give a sticker to every person who walked through our door.
"Alena! Not now, Honey! They might not even want one of those!"
I remember fussing at her that she really didn't need to bring 15 books with her everywhere that she went. (something she STILL does)
I remember her fascination with Sleeping Beauty and how she'd fall asleep with this old fabric rose we had clutched to her chest so she'd be prepared for True Love's kiss.
I remember worrying that surely she was Autistic because she didn't so much PLAY with her Polly Pockets, but she categorized their clothing into rows based on type and color.
I remember all this and I can't help but think that I didn't hold on enough.
Maybe when she came out with an arm-full of books, instead of fussing, I should have just helped carry.
Maybe I should have worn my stickers with pride, instead of peeling them off before I went out in public.
Maybe I should have told her more that she didn't need to pretend to be a princess.
She already was.
We had it hard.
It was lonely and hot in that one bedroom apartment.
Money was tight, and I was so tired.
And in between the giggling, tickling times, there were times I wanted to bang my head on the wall.
But that little girl made every long day worthwhile.
The feel of her hand in mine was so comforting, because it meant I'd never be alone again.
I was hers and she was mine.
As time has passed she has changed so much.
She is smart and beautiful and incredibly funny.
But she isn't the one who has changed the most.
She changed ME.
What a beautiful gift to be given.
She is my helper, my friend, and my most proud accomplishment.
I look at her and think, "I did that."
And what a joyful thing it has been to do.
So Happy birthday to the book carrier.
Happy birthday to the sticker-giver.
Happy birthday to my very first princess.
The one who changed my life.
I took the kids for their well-child visits the other day.
When we were done, the doctor handed me a developmental checklist for each of them.
I took one look at Tessa's and laughed.
Were they sure they'd gotten the right age?
Here is what it said:
All kids develop at their own rate. At this age, you may notice that your child:
*Climbs up and down stairs
*Jumps off the floor with both feet
*Balances briefly on one foot
*Pedals a tricycle
*Eats on his or her own
* Washes and dries his or her hands
* Copies a circle
* Unbuttons clothes
* Says more words
* Describes actions in books
* Speaks in sentences and asks questions
* Knows his or her name, age, and sex
* Counts to three or higher
* Joins other children in play
* Starts to take turns and share
* Starts to know the difference between boys and girls
I just blinked at it, then made an amendment to the checklist.
This one is more accurate.
All kids develop at their own rate. At this age you may WANT TO RUN AND SCREAM AND ROCK IN THE FETAL POSITION BECAUSE TWO IS BAD BUT THREE IS PETRIFYING.
You may now notice that your child:
* Climbs up and down stairs TO MESSAGE THE RUSSIANS SHE WORKS FOR IN THE PRIVACY OF HER OWN ROOM
* Jumps off the floor with both feet FROM AN AIRPLANE TO COMPLETE A MISSION GIVEN BY SAID RUSSIANS
* Balances briefly on one foot BEFORE DOING A ROUND-HOUSE KICK TO A SIBLING'S HEAD UNPROVOKED
* Pedals a tricycle THAT POWERS A GENERATOR SHE HAS BUILT FOR HER VERY OWN SECRET ENERGY SOURCE
* Eats on his or her own PLATE BEFORE EATING OFF OF YOURS, YOUR MOM'S, YOUR FRIEND'S AND POSSIBLY YOUR FRIEND'S FRIEND'S.
* Washes and dries his or her hands. YOU HOPE. BECAUSE GOD ONLY KNOWS WHERE *THOSE* THINGS HAVE BEEN
* Copies a circle ON TRACING PAPER AS PART OF AN ESCAPE ROUTE MAP SHE IS CONFIGURING
* Unbuttons clothes TO REVEAL A GIANT "S" LOGO ON HER CHEST
* Says more words THAN YOU THINK IS HUMANLY POSSIBLE. EVEN WHEN YOU TELL HER YOU'LL PAY HER A QUARTER IF SHE CAN WIN THE 'QUIET GAME'
* Describes actions in books TO ADULTS IN WORDS THAT THEY CAN UNDERSTAND, THEN ROLLS HER EYES IF THEY DON'T
* Speaks in sentences and asks questions THAT CAN RENDER EVEN DOUBLE MAJORED ADULTS SPEECHLESS
* Knows his or her name, age, and sex AND CAN ENTER IT ALL IN COMPUTER FIELDS IN ORDER TO LOG ON TO YOUR COMPUTER AND SET UP HER OWN AMAZON ACCOUNT.
* Counts to three or higher WHEN NAMING THE AMOUNT OF SNACKS SHE WANTS YOU TO MAKE HER BEFORE 10 am.
* Joins other children in play THEN HAS MOST OF THEM CRYING SHORTLY FOLLOWING.
* Starts to take turns and share, BUT THEN RE-THINKS IT AND STOPS ABRUPTLY.
* Starts to know the difference between boys and girls AND THEN SAYS TO YOU THAT SHE SURE IS GLAD SHE'S A GIRL BECAUSE "THAT THING IS WEIRD ON BOYS' BUTTS."
I know kids develop differently, but that just had to be a joke.
Tessa wouldn't surprise me if she could recite the Pythagorean Theorum.
Just NOW being able to count to three or higher?
Sometimes I WISH.
At least then I'd have time to catch up.
She's almost too smart for me.
I spend a lot of time feeling confused when I'm trying to reason with her.
Like I've been blindfolded and spun in a circle and then told to run.
This morning I saw her eyeballing the same scissors that she'd used to cut her own hair last week.
I told her not to even think about it.
That cutting hair made it SHORTER and I knew she wanted long long hair.
She didn't reply with a question of why.
She didn't say OK and wander off.
Instead, she started weaving a tale:
"Once there was a girl who had magic scissors, and those scissors made hair GROW instead of be shorter. And the more she cut, the more it grew...."
"Tessa. That girl doesn't exist."
"Yes she does. I saw her at the pool."
Then five minutes later, Justin came downstairs asking who it was that had doodled on Buddie's mail.
"No one. No one did that. Not me and not Chloe."
"Well SOMEONE had to have done it because it was there."
"It was Phoebe. Phoebe did it. "
"Dogs don't doodle, Tess......I know! Whoever tells me the truth gets a surprise."
"ME! ME! It was ME!" She shouted as she raised her hand and bounced up and down.
I'm not sure if she actually even HAD done it or if she was just volunteering in order to get the surprise.
She was disappointed when the "surprise" ended up just being a kiss on the cheek, followed by a lecture on lying and drawing on things that aren't ours.
When we have to punish her, secretly we're having to hide that we're laughing because darned it if that evil genius isn't a FUNNY evil genius.
I feel honored that God saw me as capable enough to manage parenting her.
I've got so much love for this little Tazmanian.
But there is no checklist on earth that can prepare anyone for what to expect from her.
Monday, July 2, 2012
At first I thought maybe it was a one night thing.
That he was just really exhausted and his nose was stuffy or someting.
But now, on day 14, following night after night after NIGHT of snoring that is so loud I'm positive it can be heard from space,
now I'm starting to worry.
I've tried everything.
I've tried nudging him.
Telling him to turn over.
Poking him, kicking him in the shoulder blades, hitting him with, and even just *lightly* covering his face with a pillow.
It might not be such a problem if I wasn't such a light sleeper.
Something that has served me well through years of having babies in the house who might need attention.
If left to Captain Coma, all three little ones would have choked to death on mucus at one point or another as he slept a mere foot away.
He sleeps through anything.
Car alarms, and earthquakes included.
Thank God I don't.
It's saved our lives before.
There was one time when the next door neighbors had put a lit cigarette but into a dry tree stump that separated our properties and the faint crackle of embers was enough to wake me up.
I got us up, called for help, and got us all to safety.
In minutes there were flames 8 feet in the air.
So I've been conditioned.
Now I'm ruing the day.
I've tried to drown it out.
I turn on the fan and the cd player and the humidifier.
To any other person that alone would keep them awake, but THAT I can sleep through.
His incessant Hoover powered breathing three inches from my ear,
And I get bitter.
I imagine all sorts of evil things to do to him.
All sorts of un-Christian things.
Last night I imagined capturing large spiders and dangling them until JUST the right moment of inhale, then......RELEASE!
Into his mouth they'd descend.
I thought about how great it would be to own an air horn.
I wondered if holding a pillow over his face would REALLY kill him or if it would just put him into a deeper, more silent, sleep.
What's worse is that when I DO wake him and ask him to turn to the other side, he gets all confused.
"Justin, can you turn over?"
*insert confused, scowly stare*
"Can you TURN OVER please?"
"What are you asking me?"
"I'm asking you to TURN OVER. Like I do every night. Multiple times."
Non-Discernable mumble...."I can't figure out what you're saying."
"TURN. OVER. On your other side. To sleep. Sleep good. Cheif wantum sleep."
Then he sighs like I'm asking him to write a six page essay on sleep, and turns over.
Only to start snoring literally 4 seconds later.
Last night I didn't drift off until after 3:00 and even that glorious three hours I slept was broken by episodes of wall vibrating snoring.
THREE HOURS? Seriously? This just can't be.
I'm trying t figure out nice ways to tell him I'm kicking him out of our room.
I've thought about pitching a tent in the yard and luring him in with smores placed on the path like in E.T.
He likes the outdoors.
I used to sort of place scorn on couples who had separate rooms.
Now I realize how fabulous it could be.
All that leg room.....
I tell people about his snoring and almost every time get back a look of concern and a comment about how "Sleep Apnea can really shorten your life expectancy" or something.
I nod, and inside am tapping my fingertips together and thinking,
"Oh....So there's a chance it could be over soon?"
I know I've got annoying habits, too.
He often asks if I need him to build a retaining wall to keep all my clothes I have piled on my dresser from avelanching off onto the floor.
But piles of clothes don't keep you up at night.
Piles of clothes don't lead to bad moods the next day and bug eyed children gawking at "scary mommy" who's got THAT LOOK again.
It's really not my dream to glance over at my 34 year old husband and see him wearing a C-Pap machine.
Looking like some sort of Robotic Elephant of Sleep.
But, you do what you have to the keep your wife from ending your life....er....stay alive.
He's otherwise mostly healthy.
If you forget about things like the bad ju-ju of being Native American while eating a Costco sized box of cinnamon rolls, that is.
This just has to stop.
I'm getting mean.
A person is not designed to take care of four kids who are all perpetually on the verge of nervous break-downs on only 3 hours of sleep a night.
It's not good when you start recalling old Dexter episodes as you lay in the dark.
It's not good that when he kisses me goodbye in the mornings as he heads off to work, I'm tempted to bite his lips because I'm mad at his loud snorey mouth.
I just heard a motorcycle drive by while I typed this and I jumped, then thought,
"Oh great. Now I have PTSD from it."
I wonder if I'd qualify for a therapy dog.......
I've thought about Breathe Right Strips, but I just don't see how those would work. The sound isn't coming from his NOSE, it's coming from the deep recesses of his being.
Like instead of a skeleton, his insides are formed around a leaf blower.
Now I must go.
I need a nap today.
It's the only way I can function and have the energy to set up his tent later.