Wake Up Call

She is okay now.  She is okay now.  She is okay now.

I have to keep reminding myself of this.  I catch myself taking a lot of deep, cleansing breaths.  My left eye has started to twitch every once in a while.  Nausea comes and goes in waves, and it feels like something is pushing on my chest, forcing all of the air out of my lungs.  My nerves are raw and exposed, but I am eerily calm.  I may or may not look it on the outside, but my head is a mess.

You see, yesterday, for almost one full hour, I believed that my oldest child was dead.

On Saturday morning, just after 3 a.m., Sheepdog and I got the phone call that no parent ever wants to get.  The voice on the other end said that Kid A had been found, unresponsive, in her dorm hallway and she had been taken by ambulance to the hospital.  She said we should get there as quickly as possible, but could offer no additional information.

We woke Kid B and asked her to sleep in our bed in case the boys got up in the middle of the night, and we assured her that we would call as soon as we had news.  We drove down silently to Grady Memorial in Atlanta.  Sheepdog and I held hands.  Phone calls to the hospital during the cold, long trip resulted in the confirmation that she was there, but they would tell us nothing else.

Nothing at all.

My imagination went to all of the very bad places.  I thought of all of the risky choices I had made in college.  All of the insane, dumb, moronic stuff I had done.  All of the times I sat around with my friends, recounting the bits and pieces from the night before, wondering how we managed to survive the night.  It was crazy.  We were so stupid.  We were so lucky.  How did we get so lucky?  How did we get out, relatively unscathed?

I felt I was getting my answer now.  In my mind I heard a nagging whisper, “Pay up.  Nobody rides for free.”  Was Kid A going to be my price?

Unresponsive.  Unresponsive.  Unresponsive.

images

We found the emergency department, cleared security, and went straight to the front desk.  We were quickly directed to ambulance triage.  I rounded the corner and saw Kid A sitting up on a gurney.  I went from zero to sixty, or sixty to zero (I’m not quite sure which) in an instant.  Thankfully, my worst-case-scenario had only happened in my head.

Scan

I have never hugged someone so vehemently in my life.

The doctor reassured us that she would be fine, and later she was discharged.  We drove her back to school and tucked her in with instructions to sleep and hydrate, even though my first instinct was to bring her back home with us and smother her with love and over-parenting.  But I am learning that I can not protect my kids from all of the things.  Sometimes they need to feel a pinch.

“A hard lesson to learn!  I’m sure it will be something you will work out with her and a good lesson was learned without tragic results,” said my mother-in-law.

“Is the lesson ‘Don’t Have Kids?'” I replied.  “I seem to have learned that one a little too late. They’re likely going to be the death of me.”

“Hopefully the gravity of it will scare her,” is what one sister said.  Hopefully.

And, hopefully, this experience will encourage her make better choices.  I hope that she tells her friends about it, too, and that they realize that none of them are invincible.  I realize the hypocrisy of this advice coming from me, but my job as a parent is to advise and guide my kids to be better than me.  Do better.  Behave better.  Make the world a better place.

Pretty please with sugar on top, because Sheepdog and I don’t think we can take another wake up call like that one, and we still have four more kids to go after this one.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

Firstborn

Today is Kid A’s NINETEENTH birthday, but I’ve been incorrectly telling people for about six months now that she was going to turn 20 this year, and who can believe where the time has gone, and I’m too young to have a kid that old, and wasn’t she just a little baby a minute ago, and …(insert Charlie Brown teacher voice).  But I stand corrected, as she is not 20 yet.  And I can totally believe that she is 19.  Just not 20.  So, we’re good.

She was born in a blizzard.  Well, not actually in a blizzard, but in a hospital during a blizzard.  Although, the wife of a co-worker delivered one day before and she almost did have her baby in the snow as she was being taken to the hospital on a snowmobile (I am a little bit jealous of that super cool birth story).

I was overdue by five days and I was ready to evict my tenant.  When the oxytocin kicked in, I tried to rip the side rails off of my hospital bed.  Sheepdog hung out with me early on during the slow part of labor, but he seemed kind of bored, so I sent him home to have lunch and a beer and to shovel the driveway.  It’s what I wanted to be doing if I hadn’t been otherwise occupied.  Then he almost missed her actual birth.  He literally ran into the delivery room while nurses were putting his paper hospital costume on him.  He rounded the corner and burst into the room and BAM! he got a full frontal view of leg spread with a side of crowning baby head and extra sauce.  Welcome to fatherhood, pal.  That’s probably gonna leave a mark.

Kid A was, of course, perfect in every way.  She was the first grandchild on both sides of the family, so she had no shortage of doting fans.  And I was extremely enthusiastic to try my luck at parenting a human being, so I was very excited that she let me practice with her.  If she was a boy, I wanted to name her Speed McCoy.  Fortunately, that did not happen.

Hi there.  I'm your mommy.  It's very nice to meet you.

Hi there. I’m your mommy. It’s very nice to meet you.  I truly thought you were going to be a boy, so I’m sorry about all of the blue sailboats on your nursery wall.

Thus began almost two decades of me coming up with crazy ideas and theories and names and opinions, and (usually and very luckily) fate intervening when I’ve gone too far.  Kid A was my introduction to this insane, exhausting, fulfilling, scary, take-your-breath-away experience called parenthood.  She is smart and beautiful and funny and makes me so very proud, even when she is giving me gray hair and making me talk to myself.  She is driven and passionate and so very strong.  I am very proud and lucky that she is my firstborn.

Happy 19th Birthday, Kid A.  Sorry for all of the bad haircuts.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

Spare Time

Sheepdog has a hard time sitting still.  I feel that he was born with some horrific “can’t relax” gene.  He still complains of being tired all of the time and that he feels run down and exhausted, yet he rarely listens when I wisely advise, “take a nap, dummy.”  Naps are the best part of parenting as far as I’m concerned.  They are the diamonds of Minecraft.  My precious.

But, back to Sheepdog.  The man is unable to just be.  I tease him all the time about his lack of quietude, yet I secretly find his buzz intoxicating.  I don’t want to be him, mind you.  But I am thrilled that he is on my team.  And he’s fun to watch.

This summer, my mom and dad gave Sheepdog a GoPro helmet camera.  I do not think in the history of things created that there could be a more appropriate gift.  Sheepdog is even more excitable than usual because of it.

Snake Creek Gap Sign

He has already begun filling his dance card with mountain and road bike races throughout 2015.  His first mountain bike race was the Snake Creek Gap 34-miler, which he completed last Saturday, January 3, in the cold and pouring rain in just over five hours.  He was so muddy at the end that the ladies who give out chili to the riders afterwards asked him to pose for pictures because they had never seen anyone so filthy and caked in mud.*

And because he can’t sit still, Sheepdog came home from the race and promptly made a movie about it.

I told you he is fun to watch.  How about those thighs, huh?

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

* Reminder to have Sheepdog build an outdoor shower in his spare time

Christmas Come and Gone…

In the history of Christianity and the modern world (and without thinking about it too hard), I can not for the life of me come up with another single day for which there are so many preparations, so much forethought, such grand anticipation, and so much egg nog.  The planning, the lists, the shopping, wrapping, cooking, baking, stamping, mailing, decorating… all for ONE SINGLE DAY.  And it happens every single year!

I get it.  I really do…  I am trying to hold true to the real reason for the season, while still making special memories for my family.  Don’t overdo it, but don’t make your kids feel like freaks because all they got from Santa was an orange.  I mean, I read John Grisham’s Skipping Christmas.  I get it.

This year, I approached Christmas with calm.  I figured I’d aim for yin and things would all balance out in the end.  I had sprained my ankle in a freak (okay, slightly drunken) slippery, gravel road incident on Thanksgiving, so I had an actual reason not to do a lot of running around anyway.  I worked hard (fortunately, it didn’t take much) to keep the joy of Christmas in my heart every day and to spread that joy to all* I met.

(* Except for that one lady in the parking lot near Homegoods.  There was a bit of a car jam at the traffic light and she didn’t wish to wait.  In the meantime, my cell phone rang and I answered it manually before switching to Bluetooth.  The red light lasted for, oh, about a decade, so her impatience just kept mounting and mounting.  She directed it all at me and screamed through her windshield, “HANG UP YOUR PHONE!  I AM CALLING THE POLICE!”  I was like, “It is a red light.  I’m not even driving.”  So she all-caps yelled at me again.  I may have misplaced my yin a little when I yelled back at her (just like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman), “Fine!  You’re calling the cops?  Great.  Tell them I said, ‘Hi’!”  Then I laughed out loud and mouthed to her, “You do see the irony in the fact that you are PICKING UP YOUR OWN PHONE to call the police and tell on me for being on the phone, RIGHT?”  And then the light turned green.  Merry Christmas, Lady.)

It has taken a full week for me to recover from my family’s awesome Christmas.  And it truly was awesome.  I am a very lucky girl.

Today is New Year’s Day.  It is the day that represents starting over and clean slates and all things NEW.  I am not a big New Year’s Eve partier anymore, so I usually wake up early on January 1st and I get to enjoy all of the newness by myself for a little while.  It is one of my favorite mornings of the whole year.

So, here for your enjoyment is the Swiger Family Christmas card for 2014.  I know I’m a whole week or so late, but it does say, “Happy 2015” on the back.  Technically, I guess I am scootching in on the tail end.

Swiger 2014

Swiger 2014 - back

But I’d like to think that I am actually sneaking in at the beginning of the NEW.  May 2015 bring you joy and hope and lots of opportunities to live the life that makes you happy.

Wish me luck for 2015…