Tuesday, December 8, 2009

It's Not a Bird or a Plane..

"It's Suuuppeerr Baby!"

As my fingers crawl quickly over the keyboard knocking out the rest of the day's work, I pause to delight in the play happening between my two favorite men acting out Superman tactics just down the stairs. Not knowing I was nearby, my ears cocked and my eyes brightening with a ginormous smile, I capture snippets of their conversation and picture Mike floating Lawson's little body through the playroom while he responds with squeals of delight. As toys are shoved aside to make room for knee scootches, I hear:

- "And the only thing that can fight the kryptonite are Mommy and Daddy's kisses!"
- "Your powers are insurmountable...you cannot be defeated. You are SUPER BABY!" (followed by his very own soundtrack)
- "Apparently Super Baby is allergic to cats..." (as Lawson sneezes when Sully trots by)
- "And Super Baby super farts...blowing the world to pieces!"
- "Super Baby to the rescue!"

Finally, nearly 30 minutes later, some minor whimpering because all good things have to come to an end.

Super Daddy. Super Baby.

I am the luckiest Wonder Woman in the world...

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Two Months - And Not Counting

“Buuugggg – I can’t believe it! You’re two months old today!” I squealed to Lawson in a delighted tone, yet felt the floor of my heart sink into its chambers as I knew this meant my little boy was, indeed, growing up as all children do. As I attempted to prop him against the auburn couch, the template two-month sign sliding through his sticky fingers, I marveled at how far we’ve come as a pair in the past two months, and surged with joy at all that was still to be. Though still physically tiny, everyday with him meant a mountain of milestones, from smiling to cooing to practically rolling over in a way that even the most avid gymnast would be proud of. Each blink of a steel-blue eye, each nod of a bobbing head, each cry for a feeding or well-deserved attention – this is what life has meant for me all along. In just two months, this little man had changed every passion, every emotion and every part of my being in the most remarkable and insurmountable ways…for the better.

Trying to tuck the negative thoughts of my maternity leave coming to an end, his days without Momma at day care and the stress of managing it all in just a few weeks, I ended our photo session, tucked him into his crib and began to list all the amazing things I love about the kiddo. Perched at the computer nearby as to hear his soft cries, I felt the slow, melodic thumping grew stronger in my chest as tears of unconditional love and small peeps of laughter tore through my mind in a myriad of emotions. The list, so easy to start, impossible to finish, was gripped tightly in my fingertips and lined with smeared blue ink. Its content read of some old and some new favorite things about Lawson in his short two months of life. From first burps to the number of smiles, each precious memory was logged in my head for a lifetime, now set for paper so I can revisit it whenever the diapers get too many or the crying sessions too long. Please, come along on this short journey with me, and may a few of them bring a smile to your face as big as the eternal one on my heart:

The smile factor: Lawson delights in Momma’s smile when he first awakes in his crib; his grin seems to start from the brights of his eyes and sink into his toes..and deep, deep into Mommy’s heart; he also wiggles with a jaw-dropping smile during diaper changes as he focuses on Momma’s face and the delight of getting a new nappy! Slow and steady, it starts in his left corner, creeps into the right and generally ends up with a gutteral note of glee.
Sally Sunshine: part of a Baby Einstein play yard, she lights up and plays show tunes for newborn entertainment. Again, the slow start of a smile turns into a freedom-filled grin, followed by a gurgle of glee, then a dance party that can last up to 10 minutes. Note: Sally’s speaker blew out the other day and Disney was happy to replace in 5-10 days. After two days of giving Sally the stink-eye and crying when she wasn’t singing, I paid extra to have it shipped overnight…
Tooting: I’m sorry – farting is just funny. Rip-roaringly hilarious…no matter what age you are. And how cool is it that he can pull them off at the most inopportune times and no one bats an eye? Lucky…Note: exuberant burping is also rewarded and quite humorous in the Choate household (Lawson only!)
Dislike for binkies: you know the look you give when you get fluoride at the dentist or try a liquor you don’t like? Yeah – that’s the face he gets when he’s not down with the binkie. No second guessing his feelings on that one!
Loud mouth: from the second he came home, his grunts vibrate off our neutral walls like a bounce in a raquetball court. From groaning to chirping to full-fledged grinching, this kid has something to say and wants you to listen. Regardless of what activity he may be participating in, the noise is always in existence. Bottle or nursing time? Deep, sing-song gulps. Nodding off to sleep? Loud moaning aligned with wiggling. Sleeping? Groaning. Irritated or hurt tummy? Paci in mouth, hand over it tight, with quick, low grumbles like the Grinch. Needless to say, our baby monitor sound is now turned to “off.”
Wrinkly forehead: with each ounce a few of these darling wrinkles whisk away, but when he’s listening intently, scowling, or looking up these darling things make an appearance. Married with his bright eyes and little dimples…priceless. Speaking of wrinkles…better clean them all tucked in the rolls! The boy has 3 chins, several knees and more than a pair of arms that he likes to tuck away the day’s dirt. Boys will be boys!
Saying “hi:” although technically not yet a genius, Lawson likes to say hello daily to anyone who will take it. A big fan of doing this one a 4 a.m., he yells “HI” to Mommy and Daddy as we still struggle to wake. We estimate it’s his first favorite vowel as well as the word we repeat to him the most as we grin all goofy at him and marvel in his love.
Party pal: though some nights he’ll fight sleep like a ninja, this boy loves a party. Whether it’s at a girls’ night out and five of us are gossiping loudly over a bottle of wine or there are more than 30 people watching sports during a gathering in our home, Lawson can cuddle in his blankie and dream of milk and diaper changes.
Thumb hunt: though the entire fist is still trying to make its way into the cavity, the thumb has just started to make it into the mouth, making the boy veeerrryy happy and relaxed. The rest of the fingers are a toss up during this event…either curled out, in a rock sign or hitting him on the head as he is not sure if they are all attached together.
Snoring: now that he’s swaddle free, he’s like a little old man tucked into a barcalounger…two hands over the chest, sometimes over the head, mouth wide open with deep snores of delight escaping from his nose.
Love of motion: whether I’m working my biceps to calm his crying in his carseat or placing him in his lamb swing, the boy loves motion. Slap him in a car, bounce him on your knee or rock him wildly and the boy is happy.
Spiky hair: from his darling toes all the way to the tippy top where his little Mohawk sits, his hair could not be cuter. Borderline male pattern baldness to a little mullet-esque, his rich, dark hair is fun to spike, smell and comb as he drifts off to sleep.

And there is more…so much more.

Happy two-month birthday buddy…and no, Mommy is not counting! Because that would only lead us a little closer to the truth that time flies by when you’re having fun. Thank you for giving me more fun than I could ever have imagined. And as the famous children’s book quotes: “I’ll like you forever, I’ll love you for always, as long as you’re living, my baby you’ll be.”

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Ode to a Superwoman

“Well, what do you think – ‘Barely Beige’ or ‘Kilm Beige?” my Mom said to me through a crystal clear cell connection, a touch of anxiety in her voice as we were down to the wire on yet another Team Choate house project.

“Let’s go ‘Barely Beige’ and don’t look back,” I said excitedly, the graciousness for my Mom’s help oozing out of the corners of my mouth as I thought of all she had tackled for me this week. “Ok – done. I will see you in about 30 minutes,” she said, snapping her mobile shut in the way I could always picture her doing – with a pencil and paper in one hand, her chin doing the work with the other.

“Ahhhh, Lawson – we are soooo lucky!” I say to the half-sleeping little man tucked in the crook of my arm as I attempted to pour Wheaties and milk into the paisley bowl. The green digits on the microwave read it wasn’t even 8:00 a.m., and already Mom and I had chosen a paint color, moved all the furniture and made a plan to clean the garage the rest of the day. As I paused, thinking of my next step on how to juggle a newborn and simply eat breakfast, I marveled at the kindness, patience and energy my Mom continued to provide me well into adulthood. “How does Nana do it Lawson?” I mutter to him while he shoots me a glance indicating he’s trying desperately to understand. Nearly dropping the milk (better than the baby I guess!), I gave up and grabbed a NutriGrain bar and perched on the steps waiting for the painters and my Mom to arrive.

She arrived first, her black Volvo parked neatly in the drive, her standard tee and jeans trotting up the driveway as a true woman with a mission. Armed with cleaning supplies (she knows me so well), trash bags, paint samples and storage boxes, she entered the house and immediately went into assignment mode. As I she rattled off words such as “ok…you start with this…and I’ll do this…” I smiled to myself and once again felt the warmth of blessing crowd into all the corners of my heart. Looking around, I saw the fruits of her labor – sure, I had helped, but really, she’s the mastermind – in all corners of our home. Our master was finally a room that could be walked through, where intimate conversations could be had and clothes for the next day could be found. The nursery was clean as a whistle, Lawson’s little clothes lined up by size and the other baby items lined neatly among the closet floor, from safety items to tiny shoes to stuffed bears. The playroom was quickly becoming the color we had dreamed of, the vision with family pictures, primary colored toys and accents and a comfy couch all there for the taking. Dust balls that had once lined the wood floors of almost every facet in the house had magically disappeared, while my favorite cups were lined neatly against the kitchen sink, hand washed and ready to be placed where they belong. And with winter upon us, the garage was spotless, ready for Mike’s car to live and avoid scraping the windshield, the floors so tidy that when Sully escaped out there, he could eat off them.

“Amazing…” I said to no one in particular as Mom roamed from room to room, her smart-as-a-whip brain calculating all of our next moves. “You know Ma, it’s true – everything Moms do, it’s better than we can do ourselves! You’re a super woman!”
As she laughed and shrugged off the compliment as she always does, I made a mental note as I often do of how very special my Mom is and how grateful I am for all she is and all she does. So thank you super woman, for making our hearts and homes a better place to be each and every day. You continue to amaze us with your giving heart, your hard-working hands and the ability to leave everything a little bit better than when you found it. We love you!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

That WAS It!

“Oh my gosh, you are hilarious,” said my dear friend Jennie as I worked to smuggle in the delectable Sheridan’s treats she had hijacked for us before our movie date. Giggling our way with excitement up to the theater doors, I crossed my arms and tried to look nonchalant as Jennie nabbed the tickets and I did my best to keep two large concretes tucked around my now-freezing belly.

“This is so great!” we both commented, preparing to relive iconic moments that had played such a role in our lives as kids. Catching a glimpse of the movie title above the correct theater door, we braced to struggle to find seats as this two-week event had been sold out in most theaters across the city. Instead, we were surprised by having a pick of the place and found ourselves propped front and center, up high so we could catch all the magic and sparkles of Michael Jackson.

Chatting away about the endless drama occurring in each of our lives, including sleepless nights, rambunctious students, etc., we began to quiet during the girly previews and half paid attention. Then, when the lights dimmed and MJ’s voice broke across the speakers, we melted into our seats and let the magic begin.

With smiles half drawn across our faces, we marveled at MJ’s quirkiness, the way he delivered feedback, the still precision of his voice and of course his eclectic wardrobe. “He may love sparkles even more than me!” I leaned over and whispered in Jennie’s ear as she laughed softly.

Two hours later, we were almost speechless as we watched the credits roll across the large screen. “Amazing…” we said almost simultaneously, silently reliving each word of his songs and how they affected our childhood. I recalled the endless hours I played with my MJ doll, how my parents (smartly) denied me access to the concert when I was five, dancing to “Heal the World” in junior high, and still today, rocking out to every song, knowing every word, after a long day at work.

MJ – you still inspire me, quirkiness and all. You are a legend and at times, I feel, even a friend. Thank you for the many memories that helped shape so many emotions, fun times and events. Oh – and thanks for loving sparkly things just as much as I do…they really do make each day a little more fantastic…

Testing, Testing 1-2-3

“Oooooo – look at all the pretty white coats!” I say to Lawson who is tucked neatly into the crook of my left elbow, his bright safari pajamas matching the walls of Children’s Mercy’s décor.

“Welcome back! How is he doing?” said Dr. S, a dermatology specialist we had grown to love for her soothing voice, warm eyes and understanding of Mom’s tears.

Mike and I shared a glance and filled her in on how well Lawson had been progressing since his diagnosis of Incontentia Pigementi (IP). Almost chuckling to ourselves that the room was filled with hopeful residents yearning to see something so rare, we began to tell Dr. S that his rash was now nearly invisible, his eyesight just checked out well and his development was right on track for a 7-weeker.

As we chatted on, you could see the eager-to-learn residents’ faces begin to fall, their cameras placed on the counter vs. gripped tightly in their hand to catch photographs of such a rare condition in a boy. The male resident particularly almost let out a huff as Dr. S undressed Lawson, laid him gently on the table and shown a spotlight on his now rounding belly.

“Oh my gosh – there is almost nothing there! And there are no brown streaks!” said Dr. S, her brow furrowed with both happiness and confusion as the presentation of IP was now presenting so differently than we saw her a month ago. As clinical words began to spout from her mouth, the residents in the room shifted their feet in what felt like disappointment while Mike and my grins grew wider understanding this could be a misdiagnosis and our little man could actually be a happy, healthy baby boy!

After discussing a few instructions, next steps and affirming that Lawson looked like his Daddy, Dr. S sent us down to genetics (thank goodness she could squeeze us in!). As the nurse came by with more evil tools, I stepped out as a tourniquet was placed on Lawson’s bicep now lined with little baby rolls from his healthy weight gain in the past few weeks. With just a few tears from Lawson, and miraculously, nothing but welling of tears in Mom’s eyes, we were on our way with lightened hearts.

What was anticipated to be another long, painful day a Children’s had now turned into hope and faith that our little man continued with his warrior ways and perhaps just had some rare rash that not even the greatest of the great, smartest of the smart could wrangle. Though the biopsy came back positive for IP several weeks ago, only genetics can tell.

So here we wait, patiently and excitedly, for testing, testing, 1-2-3. In four to eight weeks we will know for sure and our fate will be sealed by just a little bit of blood and chromosomes. Miraculous, isn’t it?

So please, send warm and affirming thoughts into the universe that this too, shall pass. Either way, our little guy will remain he adorable, rambunctious soul that is capable of anything. As we like to say in the Choate household – no limits! And may the sky be limitless for you and yours!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Just to See You Smile

“I can’t do it today – I’m exhausted!” I whined to Mike as I groaned and pulled myself out of bed in a way that could only be described as “gumbyesque.”

“Yes you can – you’re a great Mom…” he half muttered half snored as he turned and settled back under the warmth of the down comforter.

Mumbling something about how men should be able to produce milk from their pectorals, I trudged to Lawson’s room aching to relieve his cries. Working hard to look at it positively like: “ I get to spend time with my son now!” vs. “It’s 4 a.m. – why is he waking me??,” I flipped on the soft blue lamp, skirted him out of his swaddle and scooped his warm little frame into my arms.

And that’s when the magic happened…

My precious baby boy, rosy from the warmth of his room and in a semi-state of consciousness, looked at me in a way that cannot be described, but only felt with the heart. Slowly, his slate blue eyes pried open in the shadows and my face began to register in his little mind. He looked at me in a way similar to what Ellie does from across the room (ok, and when she wants a treat too)…a long stare that can only mean “I love you unconditionally.” And suddenly, the tiny corners of his mouth crept closer to his eyes as a toothless grin was shot my way. He had smiled at Daddy and me plenty before, but there was something about this magical hour that made it feel like a child’s first trip to Disneyland with fireworks exploding, the hug of Mickey and all the rest of the awe.

Trying to prevent my salty tears of joy from running all over his glowing face, I held his stare for what felt like a century and knew once again that no feeling could ever replace this – that THIS is all that mattered in life and what moments are made of. He continued to offer Momma his undying love, the left side of his cheek creeping up to crinkle his soft eyes, then quickly followed by the right. As his mouth widened and his eyes brightened, I melted into a million pieces and vowed to cherish every second with my amazing son.

Now, whenever the going gets tough (overtired = 3 hours of screaming), I visit this magical moment, relax my shoulders and hold him closer than ever before. Because I will spend the rest of my life doing what I can, just to see him smile.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Feels Like Home

“Awww – I love this song; gets me every time!” I say to Mike who looked as if he wanted to roll his eyes at my girliness, but instead grinned at my predictable nature. The soft voice of the artist filled the room as we were tucked under blankets on this rainy afternoon, Lawson fast asleep, and both of us flipping silently through magazines. She crooned about “Feels Like Home to Me” as Kate Hudson lovingly kissed Matthew McConahay for the first time in the script.

It was here I stumbled upon “Real Simple’s” question of the month, which was: “What does home mean to you?” Charmed, I was warmed by the more than 20 responses, the following of which I identify with:

“It’s where I don’t have to be perfect. I can put on my pjs and sit down with a glass of wine right next to the dust bunnies…and they’re fine with it!” – V. Hoffman of MN

“Home is where the rags of your life are turned into quilts, lemons become lemonade and a few extra pounds are simply welcomes as ‘ more of you to love.’ – S. Bubnowski, VA

“Home for me means total acceptance. And a dirty litter box.” – M. Williams, PA

“A warm dog curled up by your feet at bedtime.” – J. Masencup, WA

“It’s where my palm meets my son’s palm. When I’m holding his hand in mine, there is no place on earth I’d rather be.” – C. Georg, FL

“I know I’m home when I feel loved and secure and the clutter is all mine.” – B. Santoro, FL

“A good man, a good chair and a good wine.” – D. Sullivan

For me these days, home means:
• Lawson tucked tightly into my chest, breathing soundly and filled with warmth (aka: “tree frog” pose
• Clutter in every corner – but items that remind me of what now really matters such as a baby swing, kick mat, bassinet, bottles, etc.
• The sound of my husband’s key in the door as we eagerly await his arrival from work
• The soft snore (and sometimes loud grunts) of Lawson as he dozes in his crib
• The last of the birds chirping outside the windows on a warmer fall day
• “Sleep Sheep” sending white noise into our house that puts even me to sleep
• My cell phone ringing, highlighting the voice of a good friend
• A golden tail thumping, always loyal, even in the wake of change
• Frozen meals packaged with love by all the amazing people in our lives
• The kind wave of neighbors, bright mums and fallen leaves
• More PJ days than I could have ever imagined
• The kind of closeness in a marriage only felt when a new one arrives into their hearts

These days, our home is more of a sanctuary than ever before…even amid all the chaos. Now I ask you, dear reader, what does home mean to you?

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Obsessed - Again!

“Oh my gah…look how cute it is!” I shriek to Mike, clutching his elbow in what can only be defined as a death grip related to retail mania. Traipsing around Tiffany’s on our date night (I know – terrible; even worse, the KU game was on, but I digress) I was turned on by the plethora of Mommy things that designers had decided to incorporate into one of my favorite stores. Yes, I know it’s overpriced and ridiculous and we come from a family of jewelers, but I must admit Tiffany’s branding had me at the trademarked blue bag.

On this particular evening, I had my eye on adding the scripted “Mom” charm to my bracelet (saves money using existing, yes?) and engraving our little man’s initials on the back. Sans “push present” and attributing this to early Christmas plus a tough delivery, I felt justified in my move to make this purchase. As we chatted it up with the darling customer service gentleman from New York (“he should be our friend,” – I lean over and whisper to Mike), pangs of guilt filled my soul as I thought of Lawson’s hospital bills, my impending pay decrease for the rest of maternity leave, upcoming holidays, etc. But the feeling quickly disappeared as I watched the shiny object drop into packaging so beautifully crafted by the retailer and the calm soothing voice of the sales person telling me “I deserve it.” What a softie! Dave Ramsey would be ashamed.

That being said, I must admit I’ve gone completely over the edge of my adoration of Mommy items. I’m not sure if it bears a mark of honors for me, is just a new “box” I want to fit in or what, but here is a list of other baby-birthing things I’ve been obsessed with since Lawson’s arrival:

BoyMom brand: designed specifically for Mommas with sons, this gear is soft, cuddly and oh-so-trendy. Love, love, love showing off that our little men are number one in our lives! And prices aren't too bad. I scored a hoodie at Holiday Mart that says "Blood Sweat and Tears..." truly the ingredients for raising a boy!

MomAgenda: sleek, chic, bright, bubbly and organized, I almost cried when spotting this in a little boutique in Prairie Village. Feeling it speak to my soul, I did some research and discovered it was one of the most popular organization items sold in the U.S. to Moms – SOLD! Snatching it up in a metallic purple, I began scribbling furiously all my social plans, appointments and to-dos. With customized pockets, divided out notes for the kiddos, etc…it’s perfect for a Mommy on the go that is tired of all the technology with a desire to put pen to paper. Nothing makes this girl happier. When stressed – plan for fun….then glance at how cute and organized it all looks in your MomAgenda! Plus, it supports a regular business woman working her way to the top!

Customized necklace: I first spotted this perched on the lovely neckline of my dear friend Darcie. Silver with some beading, it donned her child’s name and a phrase in a simple, darling look that could go from everyday to evening. Plus, you seemingly have the statement that your child is with you at all times and is a priority. LOVE. Being the amazing friend she is, Ms. Darcie ordered me one that will be in my hot little hands in about 10 days. I’m so excited I can hardly stand it – I already have plans for it to be featured in our family photos. I must admit I’m also quite fond of Lawson’s name and long for people to ask me about it when they see it on the necklace…ridiculous, huh?!

Track suit: swearing these off, particularly when I see the word “Juicy” scrawled across the bottoms of women over 40, I sold out when visiting Old Navy one evening and a plum-colored, velour one was staring at me from across the way. Thinking of how easy it would be to slip on and send the message, “I just don’t care” today – it came home with me. Needless to say, Mike and I are still deciding if we’re embarrassed that I wear it constantly or not. But, it’s perfect for me these days when choosing function over fashion (crazy, huh? – this from the girl who wore heels all through pregnancy) and for savoring the days left when I don’t have to go business casual all-day while trying to avoid spit up and boogies from the kiddo.

Flats: a Mommy must-have for an aching back, hauling the car seat around, rushing from here to there, flats now line the floor of my closet vs. the too-cute-for-words heels I once adored. Luckily, flats are cuter than ever (check out Nordys!) and come in all flavors and styles, making it bearable to give up those sassy stilettos that were once such a part of your wardrobe.
Support groups: ok, so not a tangible accessory, but such a key tip for survival! Whether online or chatting with your neighbor/friend, this is the best part of a Mommy’s wardrobe yet. With valuable advice, someone to vent to or identify with, what would we women do without each other?

So, if you see something Mommyesque on the market, hit me up! I’m the sucker that will run right out and indulge…

And if you need a list of baby "must haves," I have that too.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Little Stars - With Swagger!

It was the time of day when one of two things occur - either all hell breaks loose or the family is calmly anticipating Daddy's arrival home, working to portray the image that all was well in the world while he was gone. Today, the house sat quietly around us, our little man tucked tightly into my chest after an afternoon of fussing and playing, the rain falling softly outside against the gray sky. As I took in the smell of Lawson's babyesque scent, capturing one of the million of moments so miraculous within a given day, I decided to take a quick mental break and flip on the tube. Navigating to the Ellen Degeneres show (I wish she were my friend!) I stumbled upon these two adorable boys showcasing not only their raw talent, but charming character that stole my heart. May their positive attitudes, strong voices and respectful nature tug at your heartstrings:

10-Year-Old Twins Sing for Ellen
Oct 14, 2009 - 05:26
Darius and Demetrice are 10-year-old twins who can really sing! Ellen chatted with them and then they performed Mario's song "Let Me Love You" in acapello. Watch them on YouTube here!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Coping With Stress - Tips from an Inspirational Gal

It was nearly two years ago when Melinda Hadley-deBoer came into my life, a woman of grace, inspiration and spirituality of tremendous proportions. Through our extensive work together on personal and professional development, one of the greatest tips she gave me was to build spirituality into my day through meditation and reading. And so it began that each morning (ok, most mornings - and now with Lawson in the pic, about 30% of mornings :))I snatch up a book and some cards from my beat-up nightstand and start my day off on the right foot. Between this practice and daily yoga, I can once again breath evenly, feel the stress melt from my shoulder blades and gain the kind of perspective on life that many only dream of. What a gift!

On this particular day, with the rain falling evenly and my child tucked snugly in my arms, I am moved by this passage in Sarah Ban Breathnach's book, "Simple Abundance." With Lawson's diagnosis confirmed and the general stress of life and having a new child weighing on Team Choate's shoulders, it was enlightening to read this passage for October 9. May you take a tip or two away to ease some stress in your life!

Coping With Stress - Passage for October 9 from "Simple Abundance"

Is there a woman alive who doesn't suffer from stress? If there is, seek her out, ask her to share her wisdom. When you find her, I'd be willing to bet she'll offer the following suggestions:

* Cultivate gratitude * Carve out an hour a day for solitude * Begin and end the day with prayer, meditation, reflection * Keep it simple * Keep your house picked up * Don't over schedule * Strive for realistic deadlines * Never make a promise you can't keep * Allow an extra half hour for everything you do * Create quite surroundings at home and at work * Go to bed at nine o'clock at least twice a week * Always carry something interesting to read * Breathe deeply and often * Move - walk, dance, run, find a sport you enjoy * Drink pure spring water and lots of it * Eat only when hungry * If it's not delicious, don't eat it * Be instead of do * Set aside one day a week for rest and renewal * Laugh more often * Luxuriate in your senses * Always opt for comfort * If you don't love it, live without it * Let Mother Nature nurture * Don't answer the telephone during dinner * Stop trying to please everybody * Start pleasing yourself * Stay away from negative people * Don't squander precious resources: time, creative energy, emotion * Nurture friendships * Don't be afraid of your passion * Approach problems as challenges * Honor your aspirations * Set achievable goals * Surrender expectations * Savor beauty * Create boundaries * For every "yes," let there be a "no" * Don't worry; be happy * Remember, happiness is a living emotion * Exchange security for serenity * Care for your soul * Cherish your dreams * Express love every day * Search for your authentic self until you find her

In this world without quiet corners, there can be no easy escapes...from hullabalo, from terrible, unquiet fuss. - Salman Rushdie

Monday, October 5, 2009

A Lover AND A Fighter

Our little man, Lawson, continues to win his fight against a series of small health battles since his birth. Below is an update on his latest condition we recently provided to our close family and friends, who remain the most amazing support system any family could wish for. Each day, we count our blessings for all of the incredible people who make this journey more tolerable, who continue to provide perspective and shine rays of hope when it seems there are none. We love you!

'Evening family and friends,

Thank you for all of your love and support as we continue to work through the challenges of Lawson's diagnosis of his "rash". After another morning at the pediatrician, we were immediately transferred to Children's Mercy dermatology and discovered the following:

Anticipated diagnosis: It is almost 99% certain that Lawson's diagnosis will be Incontinentia Pegmenti; a general overview can be found here: https://www.google.com/health/ref/Incontinentia+pigmenti; keep in mind this is just one site and prob not the best reference. We are very relieved to know it's not herpetic as that would require extended hospital time. Note: staph has now been ruled out as his condition.

Best case scenario: Lawson will go through the general stages of the condition for the remainder of his life with really only physical indicators. They will remain blisters like they are now for several months, then turn to brown streaks on his skin that will remain until he is an adolescent. It is not anticipated that will reach his face. In his teens, the streaks will lighten greatly and be a fine white. In white people, they will barely be noticeable. Most likely these marks will remain on his extremeties, but there is potentially for them to migrate anywhere on his body.

Worst case scenario: Lawson could experience some delays in development, eye and teeth troubles. Only in 30% of cases (and mostly female) do severe long-term affects occur such as seizures, neurological issues, etc. He will be closely monitored over the years via the amazing doctors at Children's Mercy.

This condition is RARE: This condition is almost NEVER found in males (less than 3% nationally); most males do not make it through pregnancy and survive this condition. What a blessing that Lawson is a fighter and made it through! In general, very few of these cases are seen in pediatric hospitals annually. It is expected that Lawson will be a great study for clinicians to review into the future, particularly given his anticipated strong outcome. His cells that have been affected are mosaic..meaning that only some are affected.

How it came about: this is a genetic condition, though not passed from Mike and I or our family, etc. Rather, it is a mutation of one of Lawson's genes. Mike and I will not have to worry if/when we have another child, rather Lawson will have to be concerned with this when he goes to start a family. Particularly, there will be more than a 50% chance that if he has a girl that she too will have the condition.

What we do now: life as usual with frequent doctor appointments to monitor growth and development; a list of indicators to watch for over his life will be our priority along with our clinicians

Final word: Lawson's biopsy results to confirm this will be available in 7 to 10 days. Our little man is exhausted as he's been poked and prodded almost his entire life until now. We are happy that he doesn't have to go back for another 13 days!!!

Again, thank you for all of your calls, texts and love. We are so blessed to be surrounded by such an incredible support system. Most days, we're not sure how we'd get through without you all!!!

Mom and Dad are exhausted but doing well. It's nice to finally have some information and cut back on meds and come to peace a bit at a time with what is going on. We are constantly amazed at how parents with terminally ill or very sick children cope - what a miraculous thing.

On a lighter note, this condition isn't getting the man down - he's still as fiesty as ever in the middle of the night, eating like a little piggy, and working on giving his Mommy and Daddy his first smile. What a champ! He is amazing and unconditionally loveable :) We'll be sure to send some more pics soon!

Meg, Mike and Lawson

And Then There Were Three

Snuggled into the down comforter despite the temperate heat of the room, I stirred awake to a kind of sensation that was new to me in my now close to 10 months of carrying our son. Trying to ignore it and take in what I kept hearing were the last moments of slumber-filled nights, I rolled onto my right and decided to pretend it was indigestion. But our little guy was announcing it was time. Calmly, I reached into the dark for the beaded lamp and let the light fill the room, listening to Mike’s soft snores and giggling to myself that I was about to interrupt what was probably a fabulous dream.

“Honey,” I said softly, nudging his shoulder in the same way as level one warning of his snoring, “I’m having contractions…this is the real thing!”

And so it began on the foggy morning of September 12, 2009 that our lives were turned topsy, turvy, upside down in the most fascinating, earth-shattering ways that only a parent could understand.

Mike and I are proud to announce the birth of our son, Lawson John Choate on September 13, 2009 at 3:37 a.m. Weighing in at 7 pounds and 19.5 inches in length, he came into this world a fighter and continues to win the war with our hearts in the most astounding of ways.

Welcome, Mr. Lawson. We love you immeasurably and hope to give you all the amazing things this world has to offer. If we thought we loved you before, there are no words to describe the growing adoration and unconditional love that builds up as each moment passes. This miracle is more than we could have ever dreamed of, hoped for or longed for in our wildest of dreams. Thank you for making them come true!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

More Than 37 Weeks...

and counting...oh the counting...

Sorry dear readers - no witty real-life story time here as my brain has turned to mush and even I'm admitting I'm tired. Just the cold, hard truth that this girl is ready to be done and Team Choate longs to hold their baby boy in their awaiting arms! Thanks for the quick drink of "whine."

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Class of 2009

“Please honey, I need you there,” I whined to Mike, who was sporting a pained face at the mention of the word breastfeeding. “I talked to my girlfriends and they said that all the husbands attended,” I went on forcefully, making a mental note not to share I’d only asked three of them and of those, only two of their husbands had partaken in the nursing adventure…oh, and none of them had been to happy about it.

“All right, fine – I’ll go …but just for you,” he said reluctantly, then sulked toward the computer to see if indeed, the class description mentioned that Dads-to-be were required by some secret code to put up with yet another slightly uncomfortable part of the whole having a baby situation.

And so it came to be that, a whole three hours later, Team Choate became members of the class of 2009, graduating from both childbirth and nursing classes. Does it mean we’re prepared? No, but a slight improvement from where we were just a few weeks ago. More confident? Sure, in that looks good on the outside yet shaking in their boots on the inside kind of way. Scared? Definitely. Thrilled with anticipation? Most definitely. So here’s to knowing that education is power and in 3.5 weeks or less, we’ll see if any of it stuck! There is still that whole application to real life thing required…darn!

Class highlights:
• Poor Mike sniffling during the entire first childbirth class due to an allergy attack while students kept checking to make sure it wasn’t the video that was sending him into a tearful fit
• The look on Mike’s face when, without warning, the woman demonstrates how a Mom is required to deliver the placenta (the face cannot even be described in words, but the thought of “holy crap, ewwwww and wtf?” come to mind…
• Learning to always point the winkie down in the diaper or pay the consequences
• The baby models and the fact that Mike and I made them dance and created accents for them
• Experiencing how important it is that both Mom and Dad have a mint supply on hand for all those fun breathing activities, particularly when Doritos was the choice of snack during break
• Remembering to clean the circumcision area only with water and Vaseline and the umbilical cord with alcohol, taking specific caution not to mix the two – ouch!
• Swaddling – there’s just something entertaining about making a human into a burrito
• According to Mike, the look on my face when women were describing their minor pregnancy symptoms compared to hyperemesis (sorry, my empathy radar has lowered)
• Noting the crazy amount of boys being born this year! Of the nearly 20 or more in each of our classes, over 70% all said they were having little guys
• Mike accidentally more than whispering, “how degrading!” when the video woman that didn’t take an epidural uses her husband as a table in the middle of the hospital hallway
• The fake breasts looking and feeling very similar to Pound Puppies
• The amount of copious notes Megan took during the sessions (some things never change)
• The passing around of the forceps and the amount of shock and horror on women’s faces
• The filing and line forming of endless amounts of women for the powder room on class breaks
• The whispered fights about baby names when the lecture is getting a bit dull
• Watching pregnant women heave themselves off the ground after 10 minutes of meditation
• Snack choices among pregnant women during class after getting a 15-minute lecture on healthy eating (think Oreos, chips, Pop Tarts, etc.); you can almost hear them thinking, “what does our non-pregnant teacher know anyway???”
• Mike reading “get in Mom’s face” as one of the coaching tips and asking, “doesn’t this lead to more black eyes than helpfulness?” Note: Megan nods yes

So here’s to you Menorah Medical, for giving us an inkling of hope that we too can do this whole delivering and feeding of the baby thing so many people have told us horror stories about. And to the happy couples we met during class, may you enjoy every moment of bringing your little miracles into this world. Hats off to class of 2009!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Oh the Drama: How SinuCleansing Led to Hormonal Meltdown #3

“I CAN’T TAKE IT ANYMORE!” came my not-so-muffled frustration through the phone to Mike, who worked his hardest to pretend this was a rational, normal conversation one may have with his wife.

“Well, what can I do honey?” he said calmly. “I promise you – you’re not getting a cold…it’s just allergies,” he tries to say convincingly. I begin to picture his co-workers gathered around his office space, giggling at the crazed woman whining about the sniffles vs. something more hard core like health care reform. What a highlight in their week it must be when the pregnant woman calls to go insane and they are exposed to it via their 5X5 corkboard walls. I see men exchanging bets and vowing never to go through it with their own wives, women without children just shaking their heads and those with families nodding understandingly.

“AUGH,” is all I can muster. “I’m going to Walgreens.”

For those of you who know me well, you are quite privy to my intolerance for any kind of illness, particularly if it involves the words “cold” or “flu” and my laundry list of meds to tackle the issue is down to about five. This is the same girl who will wear surgical gloves when she discovers her next-door-colleague has a cold or wears a mask on the plane at the first hint of a rough cough or snarfling nose. Not to mention the guilt that fills the heart of any pregnant woman who just has to give in and settle on some Tums, Colace, Benadryl or Tylenol PM just to make it through a given day…

Tearing through my third drug store parking lot, I’m half-tempted to march (ok, waddle) my behind up to the drive-through window and demand the Zicam swabs, Sudafed or hell…maybe some tequila at this point to take the pressure off of my sinuses, but instead resort to combing the aisles for some BreathRight strips and regular Zyrtec. Deciding that the entire state of Kansas and Missouri must be struggling with my exact same stuffiness issue, I retreat out of what feels like my 200th trip into the store and try to find God in my heart vs. going postal on some innocent stranger.
From State Line to 151st, Shawnee to Mission, it’s a no go for the supplies I need to manage the sinus infection growing worse by the nanosecond. Sure, it doesn’t sound like a big deal but you marry that to the many other symptoms a girl’s got goin’ on during her ninth month of pregnancy and it’s a whole new ballgame…

Finally, I settle on the infamous Neti Pot, a ridiculous but safe contraption that filters saline water through the nasal passages to provide relief. Grabbing the SinuCleanse brand, I drag my flip-flopped feet out of the store and start psyching myself up for this rather unpleasant procedure. It had been at least a year since I’d used one, and if I remembered correctly, it was similar to what it must feel like to drown in one of the Pacific Ocean’s largest waves.

Arriving at home, I dart (ok, again, waddle) to the kitchen sink and quickly scan the directions, emptying the distilled water and saline concoction into the simple, plastic bottle. Having just forced Mike to endure the Neti Pot, I attempted to pump myself up and enter into tough guy mode to get a little relief. Inserting the black plastic end on the right side, I began the ritual to freedom.

“AAAAHHHH” I screamed, sputtering and gasping into the white porcelain of the sink. “Wha? What’s going on?” said Mike excitedly, the pounding of his tennis shoes coming down the stairs as if anticipating the baby’s birth. Saying nothing, my eyes filling with warm tears, I pushed forward…because of course now I really had something to prove (by the way, this is not a glamorous thing to do in front of your spouse, particularly if you’re still into impressing him/her). Trying again, I shove the nozzle into the left side and try to remember my deep breathing from childbirth class. Instead, I’m met with the same gush of water exploding from what feels like all crevices of any piece above my neck, and a choking sensation like when you hear a great joke on your last swig of Coca Cola. Fed up, I began making noises that perhaps only a peacock or some other strange animal could interpret…

Me: “I ccaaannttt even doooo this…..” mingles in with some sobbing. “HOOOOWWW AAMMM II SSUUUPPOOSSEEE TO BBBIIIRRTTTHHH AA BBAABBBBBYYYY?????????”
Mike: “Honey – calm down.” (note: not an option at this hysterical, hormonal point) “Did you try….”
I can’t even hear his words as I bend at the waist, stretching into my belly and feeling the congestion seep into what feels like every pore in my body. Tired, frustrated and feeling taken over by some demon you might see in a horror flick, I launch into another tirade that again, does not seem to be English….

Me: “IIIII…..sssuuuccckkkk…..soooo haaarrrdddd….wwwhhhyyy ccann’tt…noooo moorreee….stttuuuppiiddd Walllgreeens….”

Tucking me under his arm, my knight in shining armor silently and swiftly removes the devil Neti Pot and leads me upstairs to the safe place…the bath. With candles lit and classical guitar playing in the background, I settle into the warmth of the waters (saline-free I might add) and let ridiculous, unwarranted crocodile tears drip down my cheeks as I sniffle like a kindergartener. Tacking on a BreathRight strip and settling in for at least 30 minutes with my latest fiction book, I sit quietly and lose myself in the plot.

The next morning I wake up hysterical again…but this time with laughter. Seriously? A freaking Neti Pot sent me over the edge? This from the same girl who can most of the time hang in the board room, work her friends through their warranted hard times and get through a sand volleyball game with a broken limb? It made no sense. Breakdown number three – check. Who knows what it will be next in the four weeks remaining…maybe something life altering like running out of my favorite jelly, tripping over a pair of shoes or dialing the wrong phone number? Unfortunately, only time will tell!

Now you share: what ridiculous thing has sent you over the edge, pregnant or not?

Fallin' for Fall: Confessions of a Reformed Shopaholic

Call it selfish, narcissistic, or just plain irresponsible in these tougher times, but this girl’s got a case of the “gimmies” in a bad way. Confession of a shopaholic: it’s feelin’ like fall and I’m fallin’ hard for fabulous fashions. And just when I thought the Mommy in me (you know, the gene you magically get that you become self-sacrificing and put all means toward your family and children) was setting in, my soul was sucked away by the upcoming season’s gem tones, grayed handbags, high-heeled boots and a brisk stroll through Nordstrom.

How it all started: on a particularly preggo-filled day, I decided to beat the blues by visiting Barnes and Noble and getting in touch with my inner Mommy. Instead, I was stopped dead in my tracks at the rows of fashion magazines, my white hot chocolate beginning to dribble out of my mouth at the blazing beauties that stunned their covers. From jewels to handbags, jeans to shoes, I was instantly reverted to my old Meganesque ways that had me yearning for an endless supply of cash, a quick flight to Chicago, a fabulous pair of heels and a game plan to cover all my favorite boutiques and department stores along Michigan Avenue. Attempting to fight the urge, I instead grabbed a “Pregnancy Fitness” magazine and pretended to flip through the pages (could this explain why I’ve only been on one 20-minute walk in the past week?). Giving up, I practically moonwalked my way back to the beauty and entertainment section. There, I greedily scooped up the basics: Vogue, Elle,Lucky, People Fashion, Glamour, Marie Claire and oh so much more. Guiltily, I tiptoed my way into a corner and tucked myself into a plush chair, giving props to myself that it was at least close to the pregnancy and child care section of the store. For hours, I poured through the glossy pages, taking time to breathe in the scent of the perfumes that lined the binding, drooling over the thin figures dressed in coutoure, marking the Lucky pages with the ridiculous stickers such as “Need! Maybe! Yes! No!” and jotting down recommended web sites for those that can actually afford an $800 dress. Ignoring the continuous vibrating of my cell phone (which is so mean when you’re nine months pregnant and you’re husband is wondering where the heck you are), I lavished in all things unessential, picturing my non-pregnant body laced with just-the-right-cut sweaters, feet propped in knee-high purple suede boots, the latest designer bag outlined in studs dangling from my wrist and the most fabulous accessories and undergarments to match. Sashaying down the street, my makeup impeccable due to Gina’s fine skills and love of Nars, the just-released Burberry scent following my every move…

“Um, mam – are you done reading all of these?” said the irritated Barnes and Noble associate, a look of “you currently weigh a gzillion pounds and have a round tummy – ain’t nothing you can buy anytime soon in those magazines you’re now forcing me to put away” look on her face.

Snapping back to reality, a deep sigh escapes from within and I say…”yes, yes I am” and waddle over to buy Little Choate the latest Sandra Boyd hard copy.

Lesson learned: you can apply the Dave Ramsey and baby pressures to the girl, but you can’t take the shopaholic soul out of the woman.

Note: my list of “if I had a million dollars to spend on fashion” has grown to include Nordy’s purple suede boots, at least three of the 12 sweaters mocking me from the second floor, a fabulous new lip gloss, a chunky, metallic ring, purple Uggs, a ginormous Marc Jacobs tote, every fun scarf imaginable, sunglasses the size of Texas and lined with rhinestones, a bump-it, a face full of fresh, sassy yet professional dresses lined with ruffles, darker, skinny jeans, the boyfriend blazer, any layered look for Baby Choate and oh so much more.

I’m off to quench my thirst by watching “The Devil Wears Prada” for the eleventh time…at least that will be a lot cheaper!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Name Bandit

Megan: Perches comfortably in tub, singing tunes to her growing belly and calling it the secret code name. Works hard to shake off tough day with candlelight, warm bath water and a little R&B magic…
Mike: Approaches semi-cautiously: “Ummmm…can I talk to you for a second?”
Megan: “Of course honey,” she says kindly, anticipating a much-needed, cozy, marital heart-to- heart
Mike: “Wellll….ummmm…” using the “I could potentially be in trouble for what I’m going to say next” voice
Megan: “Spit it out already – I love you and am here for you no matter what.” Side note: cheating,domestic issues and other hot items exempt, but I digress b/c Mike’s a rock star anyway…
Mike: “It’s just that….”
Megan: “Go ahead,” she says. “How bad can it really be?”
Mike: “Okay.” Sighs uncomfortably and folds hands. “It’s just that…” he repeats...
Megan: “Yeeeesssss?”
Mike: “I don’t love the name X. It’s just not his name…it doesn’t flow.”
Megan: Eyes darken beyond interpretation. Dreams shatter into a million pieces. Visions of acronyms no longer dance in her head. Sinks lower into tub to avoid potentially lethal confrontation…
Mike: Backs away slowly….slower…slower….
Megan: “I’d move faster if I were you.”
Mike: “Bu….but…aren’t you glad I told you now, so we can pick a name we both love together?”
Megan: Again, no words. Just a blank, devilish stare…you know; the one like the Mom in the Cingular commercial uses when she is talking with her two kids about rollover minutes? The look that injects fear into the hearts of grown men and children that women have perfected for all of its genetic giftedness?
Mike: Now halfway around the corner uses the dog’s innocent face as a shield. “I love you,” he says softly and genuinely.
Megan: Blows bubbles into the now temperate water then quickly translates it into a silent, underwater scream.
Mike: officially disappears for the evening before retreating to bed two hours after silent, very pregnant woman who was once endearing wife has taken her Unisom and gone off to bed
Megan: Seeks revenge by dramatizing the story, telling all girlfriends who will listen and blogging for the world to see.
Mike: Still standing by his decision, but sleeping with one eye open.

RIP Name X. And don’t worry, it’s still on the list and Megan plans to bring it up during active labor. Who could argue with that???

Saturday, August 8, 2009

A Friend Indeed Helped This Girl in Need!

“AUGH!” I sighed into the dim light, speaking to no one in particular as I kicked a pair of pink flats across the room and stumbled over what appeared to be two years of laundry. Strategically avoiding the situation as usual, I hopped on to our unmade bed and logged on to Instant Messenger. Here, I was immediately greeted by my dear friend and colleague, Sarah, who already had a deep understanding of my Pisces-laden, procrastinating nature and wasn’t afraid to call me on it. Eager to hear the hot gossip or enter into my daily rant (way better than domestication), we began to chat back and forth:

Sarah: Hey lady
Me: How are you???
Sarah: Good! What are you up to?
Me: Pulling a “grinch” and staring into the abyss that has become my house.
Sarah: Let’s set a date – I’ll come over to help.
Me: *contemplates if she means it and ponders if you can really accept that level of help from friends; factor in embarrassment level and arrive at “who the heck cares I need some help” stage
Me: Are you serious?! Who does that?
Sarah: Me! Just think of it as a favor to a gal that will someday need help and isn’t currently nearly eight months pregnant.
Me: Well….ok! Let’s do Friday – I’ll serve beer, ice cream and pizza.
Sarah: Deal! Make a list – I’ll want to see it advance; we’re going to tackle the hard stuff!
And so it began that Sarah came to grips with the dark side of Team Choate’s household, complete with its immeasurable stacks of laundry, sinks overflowing with dishes and enough dog hair to create at least four Yorkshire Terriers.

Days prior to the event, she began to assess the debacle she was really getting into, asking questions like: “do you own a broom? Do I need to bring basic cleaning supplies? What about a vacuum?” Laughing to myself but realizing the darling wasn’t too far off, I made a list of what was eating at my soul the most and decided then and there I’d let this non-judgmental, ever-so-helpful, rare friend into the jungle. Soon, Friday was upon us and I braced myself for whatever feedback, instructions or facial expressions she may throw my way. With a pizza on the way, beer for her and indulgent soda for me and baby, I waited cautiously for the doorbell to ring and the madness to begin.

Thirty minutes later she was already perched in our master, combing the mess with her eyes and creating a manageable plan with hopes that both of us would survive. With primal instinct, Sarah tore through our closets and picked her way through more laundry than any one person should have to witness. Amid not-so-pleasant scents, stacks of emptied purse contents and what appeared to be thousands of shoes, she asked innocent questions, provided direction and together we tackled the beast. The animals stood near the doorway in curiosity watching the room transform into something similar to what they remembered just two years ago in their trek to Shawnee. I watched her in awe, more than once the overwhelming feeling of gratitude shooting like stars toward her for being such an incredible helper and friend. I thought about what it meant to have a person like that in one’s life and how selfless it is for others to give in this way. The gifts she was giving us were not wrapped in pretty blue paper or silver bows, but in elbow grease, patience and good ol’ fashioned work. It was the best gift I could ask for.

As the hours passed, the house began to take on the clutter-free transformation that had been holding us back from letting just anyone in the front door, from fully recovering from a tough day at work and for preparing for bringing our little guy home. The smell of dog hair and air fresheners was quickly replaced with actual cleanliness accented with Pledge, Windex and Tide. Dishes that lined the desk were quickly whisked back to the kitchen, dog toys tucked in their basket, laundry folded and put neatly in organized piles where they belonged. Two gigantic trash bags were promptly filled with more towels than any two people should own and shoved into Sarah’s car with the promise to tackle them over the weekend in her own home, despite her personally busy life. And suddenly, I was left with a home…an actual home that could appropriately be cared for and loved, despite the fact it wasn’t our dream home in Prairie Village. It took on a whole new meaning and a sense of responsibility and warmth filled my soul, reminding me that this is what it meant to truly take care of yourself and your family.
As she packed to go, warm tears filled the corner of my tired eyes and my limbs grew numb with thankfulness and relief. Not missing a beat, Sarah gathered her things as if he past five hours had been nothing at all, though she had given up a weekend night, time away from her “babies” and home. I tried awkwardly to make sense of the feelings in my heart for all she had done, yet none of the sentiments came. Though the following week we swapped towels for flowers and a thank you note, I’m not sure she’ll ever realize what a difference she made by selflessly donating her time to help a sister out.

I’m happy to report it’s been nearly a month and not once have any of Team Choate’s clothes littered the floor like the horrible habit we had once formed. Instead, only one to two loads are packed tightly in our closet and managed on our newly designated laundry days. Chairs in our room are now available for reading and writing thank yous or for Sully to crawl into when he’s feeling adventurous. And walking into our home means just that…coming home. What could be better than that?

Thank you, dear Sarah, for giving of yourself and the difference you make. You truly are a star. We love you!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Peering into the darkened sky and watching the raindrops hit the cooler-than-normal for July pavement, I went into one of those “woe is me in the third trimester” modes. Irritated with myself for feeling ungrateful, I made an attempt to tackle a positive and negative list and came up with the following:

The growing imagination: you begin to picture what the little one will look like, what it will mean to hold him in your arms and the miracle it will mean for your growing family…immeasurable contentment beyond your wildest dreams
The love and support: from friends, family and even complete strangers as they tend to your every need, provide sympathetic looks and use that new soothing tone you haven’t heard since you were a child
The smell of Dreft: drifting through the baby’s room, the hall near the laundry and at rare times, even overpowering the scent of the hairy children (dog and cat)
The nursery: each glimpse you catch as you dart past in the hallway, your heart tugs at all the blue, brown, plush and diapery goodness that sit perched and ready for baby-to-be
The lullabies: from Baby Einstein to Sleep Sheep, your heart melts and the soul softens at the white noise meant to relax and calm breaks the silence
Mommy bonds: frequently misunderstood, even ones you don’t know invite you into their club with secret looks, great tips and stories that touch your heart and make you excited for all that is to come
Celebrations: watching your friends’ and family members’ faces light up as they all make an amazing effort to attend showers, help you around the house and remain positive and upbeat day-by-day; they are providing for you and your growing family in the most selfless, immeasurable ways
Pool days: lazy summer afternoons take on a whole new grand meaning when you’re growing form is immersed in water and suddenly (and literally) the weight of the world is lifted off your hips and back…priceless…
Doctor’s appointments: you get to skip an hour or two of work when you’re most exhausted and nurses and physicians are extra humorous and kind to you, even when you’re on the scale; not to mention you get to hear life’s most amazing sound…your baby’s heartbeat
The return to yumminess: this far along, your fears seem to dissipate a bit and you know begin to “pick around the feta cheese,” slip in a Coca Cola once a month and go ahead and eat that turkey sandwich
Husbandry love: as he is more able to see the baby’s movements and your growing discomfort, he does more chores, is abnormally kind and may even paint your toenails; he has also learned the long list of “what is ok or not ok to say” at this point (example: mine is downstairs using Pledge and vacuuming even under the chairs)
Outfits: at this point, people are impressed with anything you wear, don’t expect heels and are satisfied even with a muumuu three times a week; don’t forget the bonus of being able to wear a swimsuit with it all hanging out and not feeling overly self-conscious for once in your life
Prenatal massage: not only do you get to lay on your tummy again for the first time in eight months, but someone is giving relaxing goodness to all your aching parts
Nesting: your closets, carpets and bathroom tiles will never be cleaner (well – maybe if you hire it out later)
Thank you notes: though you are required to write what feels like thousands of them, it is such a sweet reminder of the amazing people in your life and the graciousness they bring to your day-to-day
The glow: even if it’s just your Bare Essentials, you hear at least once a day “you look great – you’re glowing!”; I ponder – does this occur after? I think not!
Water and milk intake: for once, you’re healthy out of a complete craving; at the Choate house, we go through four gallons of milk per week and at least 10 glasses of water per day
Kids’ books: what are more delightful than words that rhyme, pictures that make you laugh and things like “Snuggle Puppy” that you have to sing in front of your spouse?
Cat naps at work: the dagger stares no longer exist if you choose to prop your feet up in a meeting room for 10 minutes; in fact – they kinda look on adoringly from the glass like the zoo
Belly touches: though not for everyone, it’s so fun to see the reaction on others faces and share that moment with them of all the excitement to come
Baby classes: not only do you get a dose of continuing life education, you are highly entertained by men attempted to diaper and swaddle
MomAgenda: sleek, chic and oh-so-fun it’s the perfect way to ease into mommyhood and stay organized (www.momagenda.com)
New sense of purpose: you realize that they were all right - that the small things no longer matter, nor do some of the big things...for your life is about to change in the most beautiful, moving ways

New fears: from SIDS to labor pains, the stories come in droves and feed your brain during the insomnia-filled nights
Insomnia: evil hormones take over and keep you wide-eyed and wondering even after a 50-hour work week, workouts, nesting bouts and more
Craving for wine or “remember when we…” outings: at this point, you start to notice the sassy chics traipsing through the Plaza, staying out until the wee hours with their friends and going about life selfishly like you were just a year ago; did I mention they were probably drinking Pinot Grigio or a fabulous Reisling?
“You mean I can’t do it myself?”: no more pushing armoires, bending down to grab your dropped pen, bleaching the towels, or sitting just how you want in your office chair to name a few
Addiction to trashy reality TV: it starts with “Saved by the Bell” in the morning, strategic avoidance of “The Baby Story” in the afternoon and ends with “Jon and Kate Plus 8” drama in the evening; hey – it’s easier than reading a book, plus I got to meet my new bffs, “Tori and Dean”
No menu is ever big enough: you can order one of everything and you’re still hungry…or, it’s “not what the baby wanted;” it now takes 30 minutes and two reusable lunch sacks to pack enough snacks for before 11 a.m. during the work day
You can’t abuse your body anymore: lack of sleep, the wrong foods and all those other fun things make for more significant consequences than before
Purse downsizing: it’s no longer about the latest, trendy saddle bag that you spotted at Nordstrom; instead, it’s a cross-body little thing that can tuck into your super-huge diaper bag (note: you can still make it Marc Jacobs – bonus!)
Book choices: your adorable trashy chic lit books with bright covers are quickly replaced with pregnancy, breastfeeding and birthing novels with those scary graphics that almost deem them inappropriate for under the coffee table

Pinkies: tootsies that have to be painted by an 8-month pregnant girl who can no longer bend at the waist vs. a luxurious spa pedicure because you’re trying to save money for daycare
The growing belly: sure, you may think it’s cute, but you’re not balancing a watermelon between your ears and legs; nor do you generally witness the alien-like movements deemed “natural” by academics and medical folks
New trend in under garments: granny panties and over the shoulder boulder holders = not flattering, even on Heidi Klumm.
Increased frequency in trips to the powder room: there is no longer a way to get through a 60-minute meeting at work, a stroll on a beautiful morning or a quick boat ride on a summer’s eve
The waddle: though darling on the swagger of a rugged cowboy, not so much on a girl pinched tight into her maternity clothes slinking through the halls to loosen her spine
Changes in all sorts of bodily functions: we don’t need to go here; ladies – you know what I’m talking about
New home décor: instead of the latest from Nell Hills, you are now in a primary-colored haven littered with puppies, clowns, things that beep and more; your bed is also no longer made of the perfect throw pillows, but eight regular pillows (some without covers) and a body pillow
Maternity clothes round two: oh yes, there is a round two! When that “significant growth spurt happens, your doc ain’t just referring to the kiddo – put away the “regular” bohemian tops and dresses and prepare to go up a size at Motherhood
Breathlessness: unless you’re running a marathon, I’m not sure it’s normal for any woman to be wheezing or huffing and puffing at this decibel; there is also the case of the Breathe Right strips – since when did this become a requirement for we non-snorers? Oh that’s right…during pregnancy!
Whining: even if you do it in your head, your positive spirit marked with conquering the world is clouded with black thoughts of back pain, moodiness, irritation and the grievance of your old self
Your body is a tool: no longer meant for impressing, lifting, accentuating or flirting, your body is now a temple for the wee one (see “changes in bodily functions” above; at times you begin to wonder who it even belongs to…besides the growing baby of course
The cat’s revenge: now that he’s figured out there’s a new man in town, he provides lovely yowling tune mid-evening and glowing devil eyes in the middle of the night; he also likes to strategically trip you as you waddle up and down stairs
Stretching: though it feels like a million bucks, you tend to get a few stars when you’re tucked into the cat/cow position in your office or leaning over a toilet b/c it’s the perfect height to crack your upper spine; generally, your dress is hiking up inappropriately at this point too in the back, which is only accentuated when stretching

To all my Mommy friends going through this right now or having been there, cheers to you and your amazing acts of femininity and survival. And you were right – it is worth every second of the good, the bad and the ugly for the gift of a child at the end. Seven weeks and counting!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Like Sheryl Crow Says – A Change Could Do Me Good

I tapped my foot anxiously as I sat perched in my home office, my signature move of one foot tucked underneath me modified with my new pregnant state. Tackling tasks that seemed manageable while waiting for “the phone call,” I chewed nervously on a pen cap and shared sneaky glances with the dog, who wasn’t sure quite what was going on. “We’re waiting to hear about the job El!” I said to her, watching her cock her head because these words were different from “treat, eat, hungry or bye-bye.” Torn between wanting my cell to shrill and avoiding it because then it would close my fate, I placed it on different parts of the desk as if that would sway some sort of magical force of communication that I had been longing to hear.

Moments later, Kenny Chesney’s voice filled the room, indicating not that our wedding CD was playing, but that my cell was ringing. A quick glance at the screen told me it was, indeed, work calling and I scrambled to hit the right button.

“Hello?” I greeted, my voice sounding awkward when I had been working to make it sound cool. “Hey Megan, it’s Jennifer,” said my potential supervisor on the line in her always poised, professional tone. “Hi – how are you?” I say, again sounding like a fool for of course I was expectedly waiting by the phone. “Well, I’m calling….” she seems to draw out the sentence as I manically start shuffling papers around to calm my nerves and try to listen carefully and anticipate what she’s going to say next.


Now those words I hear loud and clear yet the reality of their actual meaning seems to echo loosely between my burning ears. As my heart starts beating rapidly and I start to wonder if getting off cardiac meds had been the best idea, I feel my son tumbling rapidly in my tummy and a small smile creep upon the corners of my mouth and in the tone of my voice. From then it becomes a blur as I tackle the emotions that seem to be flying at me, from a sense of accomplishment, to excitement, to fear of change, to “can I do this,” etc. Yet that ol’ reliable pit in my stomach new instantly – that fabulous little thing we call “gut instinct” that kicks in before our heart and mind get in the way of all the planning and paving that’s, in my opinion, not really in our control anyway. I battled through the day, calling Mike first, spreading the good news to trusted colleagues and friends and doing my crazy “input” personality thing of assessing, making lists, creating stories in my head, etc. Exactly 24-hours later, I accepted with glee, pondering what this would mean for my budding career, growing family and yearning-to-grow heart and mind.

And so it came to be that I will transition within my current company (Child Health Corporation of America) from a Communications Manager to a Solutions Manager, a journey that is sure to be filled with surprises, joy, challenges, growth and endless opportunities. For my faithful blog followers (thank you!) this means I will manage four groups within 43 pediatric hospitals and lead them through projects, help them find resources, attend to their needs, host meetings, and help them improve any way they can so they can deliver the best care to children within their organizations. I will travel to various cities approximately 25 days out of the year and work for a budding group of women that I’m positive could take over the universe with their intellect, talents and skills. Sounds perfect for the Miss Party Planner I am, right? Bringing peers together to solve big problems for the betterment of the world? Sign me up! Oh wait…I did!

As I tuck myself into bed each night I think about all this can mean for my growing family, my dreams laced with the impact this could make for the organization, my personal and professional life and health care in general and me. So even when those seeds of doubt trickle in or I’m terrified of the amount of change being thrown into Team Choate’s life in the next three to six months, I hold on to the my mantra of “everything happens for a reason” and look forward with anticipation and excitement for all that is ahead. We are so thankful to not only be employed, but for me to have the luxury of working somewhere that I am passionate about and fully use the skills that I've been blessed with - we are very aware this is one of life's greatest gifts particularly in these times. Thank you to our friends and family who continue to support us on this journey from new careers to new babies and so much more – you are the reason this journey is worth traveling!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Amazing Grace - How Sweet the Baby Shower!

As the dull buzz of my alarm sounded on my nightstand, I felt a smile creep upon the corners of my mouth as the baby kicked against my tummy and the realization of what day it was connected in my mind. A day to celebrate, cherish, photograph and remember as one of life’s most fun events – the girlfriend baby shower!

Normally slightly hazy and resistant to the obligation of rising, I caught site of my sassy pink dress pressed and ready, perched near the bathroom door. Tucked near the corner was the array of shoes I had strategically been testing the night before, along with my favorite pieces of costume jewelry strewn about the dresser top. Practically squealing with delight to share the majority of the day with my nearest and dearest, I trotted down to the kitchen to start the day off right with a little protein for the wee one. Grabbing the Kashi and milk, I spotted the darling invite my girlfriends had so lovingly created, taking in the gentle colors, vintage trim and scripted words. With another heartfelt squeal coupled with a gleaming smile, I raced up the stairs (ok, swiftly walked) to begin preparing for the day.

Hours later, I was greeted by “she’s here, she’s here – the woman of the hour!” from my dear friend Jenny as I breezed up the drive balancing an enormous diaper cake and hostess gifts for my incredible friends. Surrounded by blooming flowers, perfectly placed décor, lavender-scented candles and gourmet cooking, I stepped excitedly into the door and was immediately greeted by some of the most incredible women I’ve ever met. Ice water was placed carefully into my hands, my purse whisked away and after grateful hugs and cheek kisses were shared with the hostess, I was on my way to mingling with the more than 30 girls who were gracious enough to attend and celebrate our son-to-be.

As the moments passed, I was amazed and humbled by the acts of grace going on all around me. Katie, with a purposeful look, walked quickly about the room capturing golden moments with my camera, understanding I would want every detail documented. Leah straightened the gorgeous arrangement of flowers, all the while answering questions about her beautiful new home and where the ladies’ room was located. Natalie and Jennie flitted about, making sure mimosas were plentiful, each woman had a new friend to talk to and that seating was fit for a queen. Jenny sat cross-legged in front of me with trash bag in hand, plucking away the gorgeous green and blue paper designed specifically for baby as the embarrassing display of gifts was opened one after another. As Gina stood by scribbling fiercely to make thank-you note writing more manageable, a crew of girls whisked away the generous gifts to my awaiting car, making this shower-planning event look like something they do every day. Surveying the room, I was awed by the amazing women who surrounded me, each such an important part of my past and for always, my future. Sharing their love, smiles, stories of children, college memories, career woes and even making new acquaintance with those they had not ever met. As my eyes filled with gentle, warm, tears, I thought to myself – “I am the luckiest woman in the entire world.” My guess is this is what Oprah would call an “ah ha” moment – to realize that not much else matters in this world than friends, family, life’s journeys and the amazing gifts that are brought about in times of celebration.

As these amazing women jetted off to their next celebration or to save the world, nurture their family or manage the millions of things they are responsible for in life, I kicked off my shoes to help the tireless hostess’ with cleanup. We reminisced upon the day, commenting on the plethora of items now available for babies, the changes I was going through, the women they had been so pleased to meet through this encounter. And again, I thought to myself – THIS is what it means to really live. And for the first time, I felt the passion and life’s maturity fall upon me as I thought to myself that I could truly die today and feel I have lived the most abundant of lives. Now how many 29-year-olds can say that? It wasn’t the presents, the food cooked with love, the energy spent in creating the euphoric event for all, but the women – the girlfriends that make that thought become a forceful reality. So here’s to you, amazing women in my life, for always being there when it counts the most and for giving of yourselves in countless ways. May life’s journeys constantly remind of us what really counts and may we always celebrate each other in good and bad. I owe you a lifetime of celebrations for helping to make me what I am today and what I hope to be tomorrow. I love you!

PS: View the nearly 100 photos on http://teamchoatephotosite.shutterfly.com/

Thursday, June 11, 2009

What a Difference The Years Make

"Can I come in?" my colleague Carol said, gently tapping on my cracked office door. "Of course," I replied, a firm believer that any interruption from Carol was worth stopping for. Thinking it was a work thing she needed some advice on, I turned my body away from the computer to give her my full attention, only to find her eyes filled with warm, thoughtful tears. "What's going on?" I said, concerned. "You'll never believe it, but my sister received the most amazing letter..." began Carol.

And so began the story of Carol and her family making the kind of impact on an man's life that many of us only wish for (or see Brangelina do on TV). Though it can never be retold with he softness and raw emotion that Carol so artistically shared, I can summarize it by saying that with just two dollars a month for somewhere around a decade, Carol and her family nearly single-handedly aided in the success of this young man. Read his letter below:

Hi Madam Cecilia Bachman,

I am happy to be communicating to you after all this period. Yesterday, I forgot to give all the necessary details about myself under the heavy ambitions to communicate to you and repeating to make sure that you at least get message from me. I am now 34 years of age and I married to a Lovely wife by the name Midina and hopefully I will send you the recent photograph of my family and same for your concerned sisters who happen to have contributed to my sponsorship. God bless you all.

I visited U.S.A (New york) twice being Oct 2007 and Feb 08 and not accompanied by spouse because I came for UN Security which was not very successful however I passed written exams, I was cleared for DPKO(department of peacekeeping operation) based on my previous experience since I happen to have served in UN Peace keeping Mission in Siera Leone) from 2000 to 2001. I have currently decided to give a chance to B.A Degree at Egerton University(Nairobi branch) after which I may seek for Job opportunities with UN. Wish the best of Luck to Genevieve, who is pursuing a similar course to me since I have also done Juvenile criminology as unit in my course.

As I have earlier mentioned, I traveled to Siera Leone for UN Peace Keeping missionwhen it was completely a war torn region under the rebel leader of Fode Sanko. I also visited Ethiopia which is our neighbor country. The rest I passed while on transit to USA including Uganda, Neitherland, Paris and Turkey. While in New york I visited Philadelphia to meet a friend from kenya who came for a seminar. I will now keep in touch. Pass my regards to family and your sisters.

Thanks and may God bless you.

Carol went on to tell me that late one night many years ago, her family was drawn in by the infomercial of the man featured with a darling African child, his eyes sadder than any artist could even draw due to the horror this child had been living through. With aching hearts, they called in to sponsor a child, only to receive his picture and several letters over the years. Bonaya, almost too young to communicate and still working toward learning English, was not in touch often from his war-torn country, and Carol's family began to wonder if their combined $10 a month was really going toward his care. After all, this is a child they had grown to love, sent food and clothing and even slipped in notes of sentiment so that he may find some comfort in his dreary days. Though small memories of this family tradition had begun to slip from her mind over the years, the wonder of Bonaya and what had become of his future always lay dear in Carol's heart.

And so here they are, lives now filled with grandchildren, a U.S. economy feeling like it's suffering, grown children, and more that make up the gifts of life, when this letter arrives (via Facebook none-the-less ..yay social media!) that Carol and her family are reminded of what a difference just one person can make. These are the things that miracles are made of - may you find ways in which you give that fills your heart with joy and gives peace, contentment and betterment to this world.

Little Seeds of Joy (aka 1-800-Flowers)

Attention men: for we women, it really IS about the little things...or maybe the bright, smelly, gorgeous wild things. Today I was reminded of this as a bunch of beautiful flowers packed with star gazers, lillies, greens and things I cannot even name were delivered to the office to this grinning girl...

Do you see that face??? Now, take that times 10 because that that's exactly what it was...10 minutes of 10 women oohhing and ahhing over what had now become the benchmark of romance for every girl that had been married too long, didn't have a man or even one guy who wondered what the fuss was all about. With the click of a button or the fingertap of a quick phone call, this new beau had played his cards right for all the girls on the second floor who quickly returned to their offices to give their significant others the "hint." He's already ahead in our book. So here's to you, new beau, for making our girl smile in the way she truly deserves for the wonderful, fabulous, phenomenal woman she is. May you continue to bring her seeds of joy!

And don't forget, these types of little gestures can come in even smaller packages. Check out this little dazzler my dear friend Erica sent me to brighten my week...a flower fit just for a finger of a girl feeling a bit too preggo to be cute in anything but a chunky, sparkle-laden, desired flower ring. Love!!!