Cowboy is back. Through gritted teeth, I rejoice.

I’m sitting outside.  7 p.m. Glorious weather.  It’s like 75 out here.  My kids asked to go to bed at 6 p.m.  No freaking kidding you.  When Abby finished dinner right at 6 she said, “Ready go bed.”  Then, she proceeded to lay her head down on her tray, close her eyes and say, “Night, night.”  Woah.  Sophia followed suit, though I’m pretty sure she’s in bed looking at books… Oh well.  I’m outside.  😉

I thought it’d be a good time to tell you a little story.  The story of the treasured animal who was lost… and then she was found.  Cowboy.  In case you hadn’t heard by being around us… or Facebook… Twitter… or the blog, Cowboy was lost.  A sad period of grief followed as we all dealt with the loss in different ways.  Sophia was immediately wonderful about it, but I think reality set in later when she “needed” her.  At seemingly random times she would just cry out for her.  A few times when she got in particularly bad trouble or felt particularly ashamed, she would call out for her in this grief-stricken voice.  Read–60 year-old Russian woman throwing her body of her dead husband’s coffin kind of grief.  This happened just days ago.  She would come and ask me if she could look at pictures of her and Cowboy.  She was pretty big about it all around, but it was hard on all of us.

Well, I got a call 3 weeks and 1 day after we lost her–Sunday night.  The Container Store at FlatIrons mall in Broomfield called with the news.  Apparently she was hidden in a container. Woah.  Step back.  This was out of nowhere.  My immediate impulse is, “Let’s take a roadtrip first thing in the morning.”

Now, if I had had this call 2 weeks ago, I know that I wouldn’t have jumped to that thought first thing.  My heart softened over the weeks as I really saw the grief and loss set in.  I also saw that Sophia can survive without her and that she has learned that toys, even our most beloved toys, can get lost.  2 weeks ago I would’ve said, “I think that this is for the best.  Cowboy is a crutch that makes her act like a baby.”  Sunday night, when I got the call, that thought didn’t even occur to me.

Well, Cowboy has been retrieved.  And, now I have mixed feelings.  Monday, all I wanted to do was celebrate.  But, as soon as we got Cowboy back, Sophia regressed.  She sucked her thumb and cuddled all day.  I had to coax her to do ANYTHING else.

Let me tell you the story of how Cowboy re-entered our lives:

We jumped into the car early Monday morning after breakfast and an assured surprise to come.  After an hour of driving and Sophia asking if we could turn around to get Piglet (who she left at home), we arrived at the mall.  I asked Sophia if she had any idea what her surprise might be.  She asked if it might be a “new Piglet.”  Curious.

We walked into The Container Store, and I whispered to the front desk about our situation: We lost a stuffed animal a few weeks ago, and I’d like to surprise my 3-year old upon the return.  This woman was ecstatic.  She was working when the animal was lost, and she told me about how the two who had closed that night had really scoured the place. They were all sad for us.  “We are all moms.  We understand.”

She left to go get the stuffed animal, and we waited.  We waited and we waited.  I interviewed Sophia.  She still didn’t understand that we were in the place where we left Cowboy… A few other sales people passed smiling really, really big.  Everyone was so excited.  About 5 minutes later, the saleswoman arrived with a wrapped package with a huge pink bow.  The saleswoman helped Sophia open it, and of course, Sophia was thrilled.  Eventually, the saleswoman teared up.  Sweet story.  I think I better go back to The Container Store and actually buy something!  They were wonderful.  (Video at the end if you really need to see it…)

We left straight away to go to the indoor playground.  Sophia sucked her thumb and held Cowboy the whole way.  When we got there, we removed shoes and got ready to play.  I turned around for just a minute and I lost Sophia.  I then found her in lying down in a tunnel cuddling with Cowboy and sucking her thumb.

Now, I should have understood: Sophia needs some time with Cowboy.  Time to reconnect.  Time for her to get over the surprise and enjoy her friend.  But, because of my fallenness, I wasn’t immediately gracious.  I was judgmental, a little miffed.  All I could see was my 3-year old turned baby.  I tried to just let it go.  I tried to coax her out of the tunnel to play with the other kids.  All the while I felt a pang of fear and anger rising in my chest.  What have I done?!  

Here is where I wish I could see like the Father sees:  Gracious.  Loving.  All knowing.  Instead, I fear.

She’s crawled up on a dinosaur and she’s sitting at the top sucking her thumb, holding Cowboy.  I go to her and I say as graciously as I can, “I will hold Cowboy for you.  I will keep her safe.  You will have her the rest of the day.  Let me have her now so that you can play.  You only have the playground now.  Soon, we’ll have to go.”

She would play about 5 minutes, and then come to check on Cowboy.

Again, my fallenness failed to realize how normal this would be.  Instead, I was just annoyed.  I tried to let it go and finish my intended celebrations for the day–lunch and ice cream.  We had a fun time, and I did my very best to celebrate Cowboy’s homecoming.  I did my very best to ignore the thumbsucking, the dazing, and the complete aloofness… for the rest of the day.

This story is starting to look more and more like the story of the Prodigal Son in which I’m the older brother…

And, then there was today.  It continued.  Her thumb sucking and her moping made me so angry!

And, then there was her behavior!  I found myself ready to threaten Sophia with, “Cowboy is going to have to stay in your room if you’re going to act like a baby.”  Her behavior today also regressed.  Lots and lots of crying.  😦  So, what in the freaking heck do I do now?

I don’t doubt my decision in reuniting my daughter with her most beloved lovey.  I don’t.  I just wish it didn’t have to be this way.  There will probably be limits that will eventually have to be set for Cowboy–Cowboy doesn’t leave the house unless we’re going on a big trip, etc.  And, eventually, it may be (if thumb sucking and dazing off don’t get under control) that we have to confine Cowboy to nap/bed times…  And, that’ll be okay.  In the meantime, I can be aware of my heart.  I may not know what to do with it.  But, I do know that if I was reunited with my long lost best friend, I would sure want my mother to rejoice with me.

 

For those of you hard-core fans (and especially those of you that asked), the following is a video of the event, i.e. the retrieval of Cowboy.  Warning.  It’s not for those with time restraints.  It’s long and slightly anti-climactic.  Though, if you absolutely love Sophia, then you know how important this was to her.  Hope you enjoy it if you watch it.

I want to dedicate this video to the kind-hearted people at The Container Store.  Wow.  What a great bunch of folks.

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An homage to a long lost friend

Cowboy.  That stinking cute animal has been the thing I love to hate for almost 2 years, now.  Cowboy has been that over-loved, stuffed cotton dog that has been the bane of my existence every day at 1:00 and every night at 6:30–sometimes spending up to 1 hour looking for the blessed thing!  The emotion I have spent being angry with that little stuffed animal!  I have retrieved her from all manner of hiding places, washed her after trips into the potty, cleaned her when her face was green with snot.  And, of course, consoled Sophia countless times for said trips to the washing machine.  “Cowboy needs a bath.  She’ll be back soon.”

I have thanked God for Cowboy every night.  Yes, that’s right.  Sophia would add Cowboy to the list every night when we thanked God for Mommy, Daddy, Abby and Sophia.  (Nighttime talks.)

Cowboy has been with us in nearly every picture that has been photographed in the last year.  Cowboy has gone with us on nearly every trip the store.  She’s been introduced to every stranger we met along the way.  Cowboy’s been on every camping trip and every hike.  How many times have I said, “Let’s leave Cowboy in the car so we don’t lose her.”

I have listened countless hours about how much Sophia loves her, how she’s her best friend.  I have spent every trip out worrying about that stuffed animal as if it were a 3rd child of mine.  I have said, “Do you have Cowboy?”  or “Where’s Cowboy?” so many times a day that I’ve nearly lost my mind over that animal!  How many times have I snatched up that stuffed animal and hid her in my bag so that Sophia wouldn’t lose her?  I have felt so much anxiety about keeping up with her that now that that anxiety is absent, I feel empty somehow.  Cowboy was my daughter’s best friend.  Ugh.  I’m nearly sick to my stomach about the loss of this… this… lovey.

“Cowboy” now is this word I dare not say aloud.  A word that I used to use and hear, literally, hundreds of times a day!  It’s now a word that brings up heartache at my daughter’s first loss.

If this sounds over-dramatic, then I fear you haven’t been a mother to one who was so attached to a doll…

Thankfully, though… it seems that it has been harder for me….

We lost Sophia’s lovey at a huge shopping mall this weekend.  He got dropped somewhere along the way… and, well,… nobody noticed.  Until it was time to go home, many hours later.  No one is blamed for the disappearance, other than the fact that she got dropped and lost.  (By the way, Cowboy is a girl in case you hadn’t gathered.  This is very important.)  Sophia was so exhausted from the trip that she conked out in the car while Will and I took turns going back into the mall looking for Cowboy and leaving our name and number with all the stores that we went to.  Her falling asleep meant that we didn’t have a huge, dramatic scene, but it meant that the drama would be post-poned… and, we would have to tell her about it after there was nothing we could do.  As we pulled out of the parking lot and drove the hour-long drive home, the reality was looming and settling in and the loss was real.  Will and I both cried as we imagine the devastation that Sophia would feel when we had to tell her, the difficulty it would be for her to soothe herself without Cowboy.  She’s too young to deal with this kind of loss.  It’s too soon!  We mourned that loss for the next hour.

By the time we arrived back in Fort Collins, we stopped and got popcorn and a movie to watch together, hoping to soften the blow.  After we got home, we sat Sophia down and told her what happened.  She cried.  She told us that she missed Cowboy.  But… she seemed to understand… (I fear that I’ve been warning her that this day would come.  She’s kind of aloof sometimes.)  She’s asked about Cowboy only a few times (bedtimes), none of which I have heard.   It’s so strange how this word has disappeared from my every day.

I’ve noticed something different about Sophia, though.  Since the loss of Cowboy (3 days), I haven’t once seen her suck her thumb.  She’s acted more grown-up.  There’s no whining about “where’s Cowboy?”  She’s wanted to cuddle with me more–not something she’s ever been that crazy about.  It’s been very strange.  It’s the complete opposite of what I expected.

Today, I heard this: Sophia walked into her room. “I’m going to get Cow– uh, Piglet.”  Officially, Cowboy has been replaced.  Replaced with a larger stuffed animal that used to be Abby’s before Abby attached to a Pooh Bear…  And, she’s sucking her thumb again… I’m. Left.  Feeling… Well. Strange… I guess, I feel bad for Cowboy getting replaced so quickly, though I’m relieved that she didn’t feel the loss more strongly.  Is it her age?  Is she not old enough to really understand the loss?  Or not old enough to have fully developed attachment as I see it?  I mean, Cowboy has been around longer than Abby!  Abby knows that Sophia and Cowboy go together like french fries and ketchup.  She would constantly take Cowboy to Sophia when Sophia didn’t have her….  And, now what?  Is this it?  Do we now live life as before but with Piglet?  At first I was encouraging a new attachment, but keeping up with Cowboy was getting out of hand.  And Piglet’s at least 3 times the size that Cowboy was, maybe 5…

Well, it was really good for me to look through all those old pictures.  (There are many, many more.  These just happen to be what’s on my MacBook.)  Well, it was good for my grieving… though, I probably won’t show Sophia for a while…  I do feel a lot less angry about Cowboy making it into all those pictures, now… funny, how things change.  Maybe, this will help me let him…er, her go.

Confessions of an angry mother or How often I want to throw in the towel

I think I may retitle my blog, “Confessions of an angry mother.”

I have never used more self-control in my life.  More than a sugar junkie at a free chocolate festival.  More than a 3-year old and an open bag of marshmallows.  More than a 16 year-old boy alone with a stack of dirty magazines.

Okay, I don’t know about any of those, but I have seriously never used so much self-control… and it be so stinking difficult.

I’ve been having a hellacious time with my 3-year old lately.  Shew.  The terrible twos are NOTHING compared to the tantrum threes (or whatever we’re calling it).  The talking back.  The yelling.  The screaming.  The drama.  Sophia has no idea what to do with her feelings.  She’s so angry.  She’ll take swings, or she’ll draw back to take a swing.  We’re doing a lot better about not getting into power struggles, but every once in a while I find myself in another with her because I’m trying to follow through on a bad idea…

My current thought on parenting:  Discipline bad behavior immediately and concisely (usually via a time-out). Move on as quickly as possible.  Ignore tantrums and other outbursts like hitting.  But, sometimes I have NO IDEA WHAT TO DO!!!!  I just can’t keep my cool and think clearly in the moment.  I need to chant this mantra so I have it at the ready (which would probably be appropriate in most situations): “I don’t like that.  Let’s have a time-out.”  I feel like I need to start meditating or something.  My anger just keeps escalating at inappropriate times.  Sophia knows Mommy’s anger button all too well.

Okay, there’s that pep-talk to myself….  Self-control was what this post was going to be about.

After an enlightening conversation with my wonderfully wise mother, I realized a few things.  One of which is this: Sophia needs more positive attention from me.  She’s been telling me that she wants to learn to read.  This afternoon I decided to give it a try.  After a near mental breakdown trying to figure out how I’m going to find any time to spend one-on-one with her, I let her spend 30 minutes before naptime playing a letters game with me.  She was, literally, a maggot in hot ashes.  She kept saying how much fun she was having, how happy she was, while we were playing this letter game.  All the while, she was literally bouncing off the floor to the coffee table to the couch and back again.  Over and over and over.  She did not, could not, stop moving.  She was doing okay with the letters game, though not as well as I’d hoped.  Eventually, I couldn’t take the bouncing any longer, so we moved to her little table.  The bouncing syndrome was lessened a bit, though she couldn’t at all sit still.  Then she couldn’t remember “G.”  “G.”  We’d only gone over it and over and over it.  And, then she couldn’t remember “J.”  We went back and forth and back and forth.  She was happy as a lark.  I was patient as a saint.  She still couldn’t remember “G.”  She couldn’t remember “J.”  If I had had someone else’s child, I know that the anger wouldn’t have fueled my head like it did.  I spoke softly, and sweetly and graciously, and it took EVERYTHING I had.  I felt hot, burning anger.  What the $%(*# is my problem?  It’s just the motherflipping alphabet.  And, I was trying to get an overtired, overanxious 3-year old to sit still and think.  I think my daughter is part wild-animal.  If I don’t let her out to run wild, or at least walk her, she bounces off the walls, bites my head off, or both…

Sophia loved this time, though.  She was SO happy.  She was enjoying the game.  And, other than being completely unable to sit still, she was being “good,” i.e. she wasn’t being “bad.”  This speaks to how much she longs to spend time with me.

Wouldn’t it be easier to just send them all to playschool and go get a a day job?  Yah, I’m pretty sure it’s in my DNA.

Oh, but I love spending time with the boogers.

UTAH.

Utah.  It’s hot.  It’s sunny.  It’s dry and desert-y.  It’s stinking gorgeous.  But, I may not want to go back for a while.

I had never been out West.  I had never been much farther west than where we live right now.  Until we took a nearly impromptu family vacation to Moab last weekend.  The conditions weren’t quite right, but we thought we better go soon if we were going to go this summer.  I was itching for a camping trip; it was really still too cool to go here.  And, we’d neer been to Moab and really wanted to visit the national parks there…

We looked at the forecast and planned the trip.  Just as soon as we got everything in order: asking for time off, booking a campsite, etc., Will got some kind of stomach virus (the Monday before we were to leave Friday morning.)  Will, the strong-man that he is, didn’t let on how debilitating this virus was to his body.  He powered through, as he always does.  (Maybe, he can give birth to our next two children?)  So, not knowing how yucking his illness was, we continued on with our planning.

After stress building because of his recent illness (and my unknown onset) and a regretful argument the night before, we were on the road by 7 a.m. on Friday.  Woohoo.  May I count the plentiful reasons to leave so early!  Wowee.  It was the most wonderful car trip we have ever had.  It was perfect, really.  The kids had breakfast in the car, “read” 20 books a piece, had more snacks and sang songs, and all of a sudden we were half-way.  We stopped at a park for a super-early picnic lunch (10:45).  After letting them run their energy off, they sacked out in the car right as we crossed the UT border.  We made it by 2:00!  It’s like 430 miles!  Anyway, great trip over.  We were able to set up tent, get some ice cream and head into the park for a little sight-seeing, all well before dark.

Dark.  That’s where things turned evil.  In the night, Abby kept waking up making these wretching sounds–like dry heaving.  She never cried for me to get her up, but the wretching was awfully disturbing.  She had had diarrhea that evening.  It got me to thinking about my own constitution.  Queezy.  I tried not to think about it.  Only imagining it, right?  By the time morning came, my belly was not in the mood for a 7 a.m., 5-mile desert hike.  In fact, my belly was only in the mood for diarrhea and vomiting for the next 12 hours.

After crapping my guts out in the camp bathroom about 30 different times,  my body ached and my fever got up to 101.4.  Since we were camping and the forecast now told us the highs were around 99 for the next two days, we thought we had better pack it up and head home before things got worse.  At 11 a.m. Will miraculously got the tent packed up, and we headed out.  He was such a trooper that day.  You can imagine that we had to stop a few times on the 430 mile drive back home… It was rough.  I’m not gonna lie.  We all napped, though.  A LOT!  I was basically asleep the whole time.  My girls were so wonderful.  They could tell I was miserable, and the minimal amount of whining and crying can only be attributed to a gracious God.  We made it home, and now have the stories, the memories, and the pictures…

YAY!  Pictures.  Here’s a few fun pictures of what we did get to see during our VERY short trip to Utah.

Who am I.

I have recently been named in a meme by a fellow stay-at-home mom blogger.  Her blog, Blogging While Nursing, is pretty fun.  I’ve been draggin my feet a little bit, as talking about the kids is often a lot easier than talking about me…  Let’s face it.  They’re cuter, funnier, and snugglier.

These are pretty fun questions, so let’s give it a go.  It’s a cold, rainy day here.  I’m snuggled on the couch with my coffee–kids are asleep (woohoo!).  Here’s to a few answers about me.

If you can go back and relive one moment, what would it be?

Definitely not childbirth… not my wedding day… I’ve got two, dead tie.  1) Summer of ’07 before Sophia was conceived, my husband and I were running around Prague in the middle of the night “barhopping” with two very dear friends.  It was our last night with them, and they wanted to show us a good time.  It was beautiful, romantic, fairy-tale like, a wee emotional, and oh-so sweet.  Miss those friends, and would give an arm and a leg to hang out with them again.  2) October ’07. Barely pregnant with Sophia, husband and I went to see Wilco at the Orpheum in Omaha, NE.  Besides Wilco being fantastic and playing for more hours than my bladder could stand, we got introduced to Andrew Bird who opened up for Wilco.  This was when he was playing solo.  What a show!  Wow, his music, voice and presence completely enveloped the room.  It was perfect!  I don’t know if that night could be recreated.  We’ve seen both bands since, but not at all the same show.

If you could go back in time and change one thing, what would it be?

With out a doubt my major in college.  I majored in math and got a masters in math ed.  I hate math now… no… it’s just that you shouldn’t expect an 18-year old who has no idea who they are to pick a major that will determine their career choices.  I found out that I LOVE little kids!  And, I’m pretty good at teaching them.  If I could do it again, I would get an elementary ed. degree and a masters in library science.  I don’t know.  Maybe, I’m a late bloomer, but as I inch closer to 30, I’m finally getting a little taste of “who I am.”

What movie or TV character do you most resemble in personality?

Kristina Braverman from “Parenthood.”  She’s very type-A, super hardworking, slightly anal and overprotective.  She LOVES her family, tries not to muddle and hover but winds up muddling and hovering…

What TV/movie character would you most like to be?

Joan Allen plays Arlene Groden in “Off the Map.”   Simple movie, worth watching.  She’s a beautiful, gracious, hippie wife who lives “off the map” in New Mexico.  They live with almost no income completely off the land (and the dump).  They do everything for themselves.  She has no worries in the world.  She’s a great gardener, cans much of her food, and cooks everything from scratch (of course.)  She invites everyone for dinner, loves everyone she meets, and is so gracious to her husband through his battle with depression.  What a lady.  I want to live just like her.

Name one habit you would like to change about yourself. 

My inability to be a morning person.  I’d love to hop out of bed, chipper and alert ready to tackle the day.  Instead, I usually feel like an 80-year old woman every morning.  Complete with aches and pains, grunts, snorts and general cantankerousness.  Ah, hypothyroidism.

Describe yourself in one word.

Hopeful.

Describe the person who named you in this meme in one word.

Frank.

Why do you blog (answer in one sentence)?

I blog because sometimes I want to shake my kids; reflection and storytelling helps me gain perspective.

Name at least 3 people to send this meme to, and then inform them.

I’d love to hear from…

@freshoutofnormalcy

@faith,hope,love

@iamasojourner

The most trouble I’ve ever been in

Here’s my first attempt to begin the challenge of posting once a week for 2011.  This is the first prompt: What’s the most trouble I’ve ever been in?

It was 5th grade.  I was a saucy little brat, and my mom had me signed up for piano lessons with a fellow teacher-friend of hers.  I remember this day like I remember my wedding day.  It was fall, sunny, beautiful and breezy.  My piano teacher Stephanie was nice enough.  I’d been to a lesson or two of hers.  It had gone o-kay. I definitely had no “raw talent.” And, frankly, I had started piano lessons a little late in my childhood.  Let’s just say that my left hand was not on speaking terms with my right.  I didn’t like failing, though.  I DID NOT like NOT being a natural at something.  Well, 5th grade year, what I was a natural at was socializing and chasing boys.  So, that Thursday afternoon after school during said piano lesson, I socialized.  I played hooky, and I chased boys.

What a beautiful day it was.  I remember feeling so free. and independent. and POWERFUL.  Whew.  Until I saw my mom: marching across the blacktop of the playground, hair blowing in the wind, temper blazing with the sun.  She was as mad as I’ve ever seen her. It was my most blatant act of disobedience thus far in life, and honestly, hence forth.  It may not sound like much to you, and at the time I was actually surprised at how mad she was, but I was grounded, completely grounded for 1 whole month.  And, my piano career was burned up with my social status.  My left and right hands are still not speaking.  Thanks, Mom.  Oh, and sorry about that… blatant disobedience thing…

Thinking about this was fun. I dread my girls going through those 5th grade pre-teen years. I suspect that my feisty little daughters won’t be the goody-two-shoes that I was; so, I pray this is the worst of their offenses.

I’m posting every week in 2011

I’ve decided I want to blog more. Rather than just thinking about doing it, I’m starting right now.  I will be posting on this blog (at least) once a week for all of 2011.  I want to be motivated to think, write, and blog.  I want to fine tune my storytelling.  I’ve decided to sign up for “postaweek2011,” which means that I may have some interesting prompts…

I know it won’t be easy, but it might be fun, inspiring, awesome and wonderful. Therefore I’m promising to make use of The DailyPost, and the community of other bloggers with similiar goals, to help me along the way, including asking for help when I need it and encouraging others when I can.

If you already read my blog, I hope you’ll encourage me with comments and likes, and good will along the way.

Thanks,

Angela Spicer