River's up north birthday party was as fantastic as her Florida one. We had to cancel last-minute due to the weather, but luckily nearly all the guests could do a lunch party the following day.
We've had quite a momentous week. On February 19th, the day before Little Miss's birthday, she took a couple of unsure steps on her own, and on the 23rd, she marched (sort of drunkenly) across the kitchen.
It's been fascinating to watch how her personality is appearing: we tried for over four months to get her to take formula-- mixed it with breast milk, tried everything. Then one day, she just decided to drink it, straight up. Same thing with walking. For a few weeks when she was dependent on walking with two hands, Jason would try to trick her into walking by letting go with one hand and baiting her with the other. She'd just get mad and sit down. Then one day she was standing and holding on to my knee, not walking at all, and she decided she was ready, let go and just went for it. We used to always take the small things she found on the ground to prevent her putting them in her mouth, then she began to just hand them to us when she found things. We're so lucky to have a baby with such a good disposition who's always happy.
The other thing I'm touched by is her natural affinity for animals. If we go to dinner at friends' houses, she always asks to be by the cat or dog. She loves peering at the horses when we go to the barn. She takes Viva's toy to her, plays a bit of tug-of-war, then hands it to me to throw. She actually mimics Viva quite a bit. She crawls into the kennel, tries to wedge herself into Viva's tiny dog bed (I wish I could post a video), and when Viva gives her toys the shake of death, she shakes her head.
Recently a reporter from the Chronicle interviewed me and asked what surprised me the most about motherhood. I answered, The entertainment. Man, that girl is funny.
I just got back from a fabulous weekend in Wellington. I went primarily to visit friends, but they threw a birthday party for Little Miss! It was awesome...all my best friends, Lendon, my dad and step-mom...it was awesome. The whole visit was incredibly special. I got to spend every one of my five nights with my best friends and Florida gang. They say they barely see each other otherwise even though they're best friends without me, and I have to remind myself that it's like when Jason goes to New Zealand: his two best friends and every member of his family dedicate the entire time we're there to hanging out all together, although their lives are usually very separate and scattered. They make the effort because we're there, and it's not like that all the time. If I didn't think of it that way, it would be anguish to think I'm missing out on such fun. I also got special visits from the Hasslers, who are so near and dear to my heart. They've been such a big part of my career since the beginning, but even without that, they're just the type of people that make my heart open like double doors and envelop them. Also from Laura Tomlinson (Bechtolsheimer), who I simply have a special connection with. You know those people who you've just met but you feel you've known them your whole life? That's us. We've actually only even met a few times, but each time has been special in its normalness. I say in my book after the first time meeting her, "it may be ten years, but just like tonight, it will be easy". And it was.
River's first birthday is actually February 21st, and Jason and I are having a party with my up north friends this Saturday. My sister's flying in from Chicago, and I'm very excited. It will be another fabulous celebration of the light of my life.
After the nasty cold we all caught after diving into the germ factory of Little Miss's activities, we skipped a few weeks in order to be well for her parties, and I'm very much looking forward to getting back into it. My sleep is still an ongoing challenge, but it's slightly better and much more manageable since I've realized what's wrong with me and stopped wondering why I've suddenly become an atrocious person. It feels good to have life return to the joyous occasion it's always been for me.
This photo is from River's swim class. Two weeks ago, we had a swim class--which she was the star of!--, a tumblin' tikes class, and went to the indoor gym. Last week, we paid the price for it by all coming down with horrendous colds. I knew those places were germ factories, but the way I see it is we're building up her immunity now, so that when she starts school it will be good and strong!
Have I mentioned how lucky I feel? I get to spend so much time with my daughter.... just watching her wake up from her many naps on my chest. Yesterday, it was particularly fascinating watching her as she figured things out. We were spending the day in the baby room that I had enclosed so that Jason can work (which, by the way, I'm so thankful we made!!), and Little Miss was using me as a jungle gym. I was sitting against the wall with one knee up, and she tackled certain tasks and then diligently worked on them. For instance, my knee was up and a toy she wanted was on the other side, so she decided to crawl under. When she got to the other side, she forgot about the toy and decided to crawl under again, but she was too sideways and didn't fit. She eventually straightened out enough to fit through, and on the other side, she sat up. I could almost see the gears in her head spinning. Then she went through again, making sure she was straight, but her legs were too upright making her back to high to fit through. She must have gone through a dozen times putting it all together. Then she tackled stepping over the lower part of my leg: back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. Then she tried stepping over the part of my leg that was connected to my body and realized that wasn't possible when she face-planted into my other thigh. My favorite was watching her practice-- she was really practicing-- standing without holding on: she'd stand holding onto my knee and then let go for a moment. A couple times, she fell on her bottom, but she was unperturbed.
This went on for a good 45 minutes. Then she put on and removed a bottle top for ten minutes. Then she pulled a ball in and out of a cup for another ten. Then together we put rings on a cone.
A friend of mine said there was a recent study on the sudden incline in diagnosed ADHD cases, and the conclusion was as follows: the way children learn is through repetition, and by repeating things for so long, they learn to focus. But with all the busy parents putting their child in front of the TV or iPad for entertainment, they never develop the ability to focus. I'm so lucky that I can spend full days just watching my daughter figure things out and helping her along the way.
Get a cup of tea, settle in and prepare yourself to tackle a little novella if you're going to read this because I have a feeling it's going to be quite long!
My vacation in New Zealand was fantastic. We spent several days in Auckland and then ten days in the Bay of Islands at his family's batch... no internet, no cell phone...so restful. I'd actually consider moving there as it would be great for River, (it's rated one of the top places to raise kids) except for the complication of visiting friends and family; Jason's are all around one city, within a half-hour drive, whereas mine are in seven different states, so spending two weeks a year in New Zealand means spending a restful amount of time with each and all of them whereas two weeks a year in the States would mean a continuos stream of chaotic travel in an impossible mission to see everyone.
The restfulness of this time allowed my mind a clarity of thinking I didn't realize was missing, and the core reason for my sudden self-doubt hit me like a slap in the face: I'm perpetually tired. It's now been seventeen months since I've utilized any sleep-aids, seventeen months since I've gotten more than four and a half hours sleep total in a night. I don't know why it took me so long to figure out; I suppose stupidity is one of the symptoms of over-tiredness. A few years ago, I was taking a shower and couldn't figure out how to change the water from faucet to shower, I literally had to have Jason come and do it for me. I called my neurologist because I was convinced that this moronic slip-of-the-mind was an effect of the high potency sleep drug we'd finally found that worked on me: Xyrem, the date-rape drug, Ruffies. When I explained the situation to him, he said, Nope, sounds like you're over-tired, and sure enough, when I took more Xyrem, my mind came back.
The absence of my proper brain caused such angst; I couldn't think of what to say at the proper times, wasn't able to follow along the meaning of conversations, was forgetting things. I felt totally inadequate. (I speak in the past tense because I figured it out, not because it's remedied.) The personal frustration and feelings of inadequacy were accompanied by severe discontent with my teaching abilities. Before, I'd always felt I was a good teacher, was thankful that if I couldn't ride, at least I could teach. And then suddenly that was taken from me, too. I don't know why I didn't realize (well, I guess I'm now discovering why the reason eluded me). Before I had River, I knew that although I could function normally on 4-4 1/2 hours sleep, to teach properly for a whole day I needed six hours, so before clinics, I'd dose up on the Xyrem to make sure I got enough sleep.
My plan was to stop breast-feeding after New Zealand anyway, and now I have a new reason to do that. I teach one clinic before she'll be completely off the breast, but I'll plan to pump and dump (pump my drugged breast milk and dump it rather than feeding it to her) for that one, so I should be good to go. I'm extremely humiliated that some people may have seen me teach during those months (I'd say since June), and judged my value based on what they saw. I'm saddened that through my poor teaching at the NEDA show, I (rightly) lost some potential local clientele. But I'm happy that I now see a legitimate reason and eventual return to normalcy rather than just lamenting that it seems I've forgotten how to teach.
I'm excited about life again. This morning I registered Little Miss for weekly swim classes as well as tumblin' tikes, which is like a start to gymnastics where they play and tumble. It's officially for 1-2 year-olds but she got special dispensation. Of course Koryn or Jason will have to get in the pool or tumble with her, but I get to watch and I feel so lucky to have that ability.
(in case you can't tell, she's leaning on a window in the photo!)
I'm leaving for New Zealand on Saturday... for three weeks!! Yippee!!! It's by far the longest we've been. One time we went for six days because I didn't want to leave my horses, and two days of that is travel!
Traveling with a ten-month-old could be a challenge, but River's such a superstar I'm not too worried. However, Daddy's been doing laps trying to prepare for his non-stop aisle-pacing!
Little Miss is standing whenever she has a chance, is furniture-cruising and loves this wagon she can hold on to and walk by herself. I have a feeling her first independent steps will be taken in New Zealand. She's so big; everyone said kids grow like weeds, but my little dandelion (because of her yellow hair) is shooting up at rates faster than the eye can see--at least eyes that are on her all the time!
Her weight is actually causing me a problem. Because my muscling is so uneven, of course my left side does the vast majority, if not all, of the work. This unevenness strains my neck in unusual ways, so much so that swallowing hard hurt. But I guess I just need to schedule regular visits to the chiropractor and get used to perpetual neck pain because it's so worth it. She's a tremendous amount of fun, and the pediatrician agreed with us that her personality is stellar.
What else can I say? Regarding the horses, it will have been a long time since I've seen them when I get back because we've had a lot going on: Koryn went on a horse-hunting trip to Holland last weekend, we need her to nanny/Courtney-sit every day this week as Jason needs to do his Christmas client-visits, then I'm away for three weeks. I can't wait to see the progress Koryn will have made. It's very satisfying to see Koryn start to flourish as a trainer. I was worried that since I no longer run a barn full of clients, her progression as a trainer may suffer, but I put one past client onto her, word of mouth about her fantasticness spread, and now she's strapped for time. A couple of her clients are previous clients of mine, and I know what excellent people they are. I feel so lucky to have been involved with such stupendous people and have them still involved in my new phase of life.
So that's my life. Merry Christmas to all, and to all a joy-filled three weeks!
A three year-old girl came to our booth at Equine affair, and Little Miss was so obsessed with her, trying to climb on top of her, the girl ended up cowering into her mother, and when she left, River screamed bloody murder. At stores and the park, she's fascinated by other kids, so she's obviously in need of some time with other little people. I was very disappointed to lose the ability to go to the park due to the cold, so to sate her curiosity, my friend told me about an indoor park and we have a play date there tomorrow. I'm very excited. I also called a daycare that came highly recommended because, as much as it pains me to think of spending a whole day without her, I think it would be good for her socially to go one day a week. Jason and I are going to go check it out, and we aim to start to take her when we get back from our holidays in New Zealand.
Talking to a wom1an at Equine Affair reminded me of something I regret never writing about before. She was telling me how wonderful it is that I'm so open and my willingness to share my journey has helped many people, and my response was, It's too bad it took the accident of a top person to inflame the attention to safety, but if it had to happen to someone, I guess I was a good person to have it happen to because I'm fine. I have plenty of other good things in my life to focus on. And it's true; I was a good person for it to happen to. I can see how many others would clam up and shut out the rest of the world, let devastation consume them, and therefore, very little good would have come from their accident. But my nature is to be open, so I was happy to share. I shared simply because the public expressed that they were interested, and they've helped me so much in the past, I figured that's the least I can do. But now nearly five years later, I'm able to appreciate the good my openness has caused
I was at Equine Affair in Massachusetts last weekend and it struck me that things like that should elevate my self-esteem. Many people tell me I'm an inspiration, that I help them get through their own struggles. Several cry when they see me, say it's an honor to meet me. That should definitely satiate my ego, give me a big head, but my head remains the size of a pin. And as my husband pointed out, people idolize and adore actors and rock stars for their their talents, but they love me for the person I am. I said, I don't know what's wrong with me; I just feel embarrassed and undeserving, and he replied, that's the thing, you've always been too humble. And maybe that's it. Maybe I didn't have a buffer of ego, so when my self-esteem was challenged, it simply deteriorated. I decided to try to have this experience inflate my ego, so I consciously replayed in my mind the instances when people praised me and purposely took them to heart. And thinking of all the thanking me and praising me on Facebook really allowed me to adopt a better frame of mind, to think of my positive attributes instead of only the negative. So once again, I owe you, the public, my deepest gratitude.
Forgive my month of soul-searching, but I promised to share the good and the bad. And now the Courtney who's inspired so many is back. And boy does it feel good! I'm sure I will still have moments of self-doubt, but now they'll be balanced out with self-appreciation.
Now onto how I am currently. I often find myself thinking, this is heaven. Whether Little Miss is sleeping on my chest or my mini dachshund is curled in my lap while my daughter is playing with my necklace. And I think how lucky I am that I can spend all this time with her. My step-sister told me that at every stage they are, you'll think this is the best age, but when River was an infant, I thought, no, for me this is the best because we're both immobile. But she's right; now when she's interactive, I'm sure this is the best age. She's a bundle of perfection, made more perfect by the imperfections I'm sure time will bring.
Of course a large part of my anxiety and self-doubt stemmed from feeling like I wasn't a good mother because of my inabilities, both those caused by my accident and those I was born with. But I've come to a heathlier frame of mind: I may not be the best mother in the world, but I'm a good mother because I try hard, and I'd bet my life I'm the most loving mother!
Oh my, this pic was taken a week ago and it seems like a different baby; she's a standing machine now! We don't feel the need to guard her anymore--I should rephrase that--I refrain from guarding her or asking my husband to all the time. It's very hard to not be overprotective!
I've continued to write my stories--I've done two and a half now--and am continuing to feel useful by using my wheelchair. My bouts of sadness have disappeared, but my self-esteem still hasn't come back. For days, I asked myself why and chastised myself for being unable to figure it out. Then the other day, we were about to leave the house, and Koryn said, " Do you want to feed her before we go?" And i said, " How stupid of me! I thought about it and then didn't do it!" and really beat myself up over it. Then it dawned on me: it was a silly mistake, it doesn't make you stupid. I've simply been too hard on myself. Perhaps that's why my self-esteem has dropped. It's always been my nature to strive for perfection and to expect no less of myself, but I need to accept that I make mistakes. As Lendon said when I talked to her about it, My frame of mind is that I'm not the best trainer in the world, but I try hard. Yes, I try hard, and that's all I can expect of myself. Of course I still chastise myself, but I catch myself, tell myself it's no big deal, and I actually believe myself. We'll see if I continue to find success, but perhaps simply changing my frame of mind will get my self-esteem back to a normal level.
It's all coming together: feel so useful! Long story of how I got here... About five weeks ago, I had to get surgery on my toe because the spasticity caused by my injury caused me to develop a hammertoe. (All the toes were scrunched so tight it caused the second one to bend all the way up and it became fixed that way.) They cut the tendon and put a plate in to straighten it. Three weeks after the surgery, the bone beneath the plate broke and they had to go back in and remove the plate. (After the problem with my pump, I guess I'm a two surgery kind of gal.) I could put no weight on it (bless Jason for carrying me hither and thither), so I've been wheelchair-bound. I started taking the left foothold off the chair so I can push myself around, and I'm totally mobile! I can follow River around, pick her up, carry her, take away my dishes, organize a bit. I haven't had time to write! I thought I'd need Jason's help to transfer to my couch to feed and let her rest as when I'm in my wheelchair, I normally have a pillow, but come to find out, now that she's bigger, it's perfect! I'm having to do weights for my biceps, she's getting so heavy! So that double-surgery was a good thing. Plus Jason doesn't need to go to the gym!
We spent the weekend in Chicago where we helped my sister warm up her new digs. River got a ton of new experiences: a boat ride down the river, swinging in the park, watching a marathon, and she was a trooper throughout. When my sister asked her friend who has kids what to do with us, her friend's response was, "Well, the kid will decide your schedule" and Greta told her,"I don't think so. I think she basically does what the parents do." And that's the truth. We're extremely fortunate that she's cool enough to do that.