Thursday, December 4, 2014

When to Expect the Unexpected

A former client that I used to work with had a great saying, "there's the plan, and then there's what happens."  It was a poignant comment given the project that we worked on together; planning a three day conference attended by more than 300 people from across the state of Minnesota who all had a variety of quirks and personal needs.  I found myself thinking of her comment this past week in relation to our Thanksgiving Holiday plans, and what actually happened.

My wife only had Thursday off, but our plan was to head to her parent's place to celebrate the holiday.  My goal was to have the van, yes the van, packed up and the girls ready to go by the time my wife would be home from work on Wednesday so we could hit the road.  The two hour trek would put us there just in time for dinner.  We'd celebrate Thanksgiving Day with a traditional feast, watch some football, and stick around for an early supper to cash in one more free meal before hitting the road.  We'd put the girls in their jammies before leaving and they'd likely fall asleep on the way home, providing for a seamless transition from car to bed.  I could spend some time on Friday putting our life back together and unpacking all of the extra items we always seem to return with after visiting the girl's grandparents.

Great plan right?  I thought so.  I had the snacks packed in the diaper bag and the suitcases by the backdoor ready to be loaded in the van, yes the van.  We were tracking perfectly until a crying toddler woke up from her nap and wanted nothing to do with anything that wasn't being held.  As a parent, it takes a little time to figure out the cues of when your kid is not feeling well, but after a while you develop this sixth sense that something is just "off" with them.  It's not always something that you can explain, or immediately recognize, but you start to notice that glaze in their eyes before they projectile vomit their last meal, which always seems to be chili or one of your favorite foods, which becomes no longer your favorite food.

Luckily it wasn't the projectile vomit this time, just a 102 temp.  We have a baby thermometer that gives you three options for body temperature analysis - armpit, oral or rectal.  To this day I have yet to use the rectal option, and can't foresee myself doing at anytime in the future, ever.  If you take rectal temps, you are an amazing person, and also a little crazy in my view.  Usually my weapon of choice is the armpit adapter, but Havi was not interested in that approach.  We agreed on taking an oral temp, which resulted in her giving me a 5 second window to put the thermometer in her mouth.  Seeing as she was not going to let me put it under her tongue or close her lips, I figured the 102 reading was probably indicative that she really had a fever.  Our normal readings tend to hover around the 95 degree range, which I recently learned is when initial signs of hypothermia set in.

So the audible was called and Havi and I spent Thanksgiving together in our pajamas while Jess and Isla went to my in-laws.  My wife was certainly bummed.  More so probably by the fact that she would now be the one behind the wheel of the four hour round-trip (she hates driving).  This was not our first foray in adjusting Holiday plans. We had to interrupt our regularly scheduled Christmas programming last year when all four of us were suffering from a variety of ailments in the days leading up to Christ's birth.  Luckily, or unluckily since it probably extended the length of the plague over our house, all four of us were able to hunker down together.  I thought maybe it would be the start of a new family tradition.

And so it goes with kids, and life in general.  You prepare yourself for one thing, and then the power goes out and you have to scrounge for the flashlights.  I used to work in the event planning field, and on a daily basis we would have to improvise our operation because of something that came up that we couldn't have foreseen - like the power going out.  This happens all the time if you work with or interact with people, which I'm assuming 99.99% of you do.  People are people, and they're going to do whatever they want to do.  Kids are little people; little people with a very undeveloped prefrontal cortext (the part of the brain that  manages complex cognitive behavior; aka forethought; aka thinking before you throw yourself on the floor of a grocery store to kick and scream at the top of your lungs because your sister is sitting in what you believe is your designated seat of the plastic car on the front of the grocery cart.)

Don't get me wrong, this doesn't negate the importance of proper planning or being prepared, whether at work or in life.  I don't adhere to the philosophy of keeping the bank account as close to zero as possible because you just never know if Publisher's Clearing House might show up at your front door.  But you have to learn how to be able to play the cards dealt your way.  Or, to utilize another metaphor from Jon Kabat-Zinn - "you can't stop the waves, but you can learn how to surf."  Mahalo.

There is also a certain level of hilarity that comes with embracing whatever life throws at you.  I had the amazing opportunity to study abroad while I was in college, and one of my traveling mates said something pretty memorable early in our trip, after we managed to board the wrong train.  10 years later it still resonates frequently with me.  She pointed out that "if everything went as planned, there would be no good stories to tell."  Remember that day when everything went as planned, when your spouse/kids/coworkers did everything you asked of them - you actually didn't even need to ask, they just intuitively knew what they needed to do keep your perfect day in tact?  Of course you don't, because that never happens.  But even if it did, it wouldn't be memorable.  Where is the suspense in that?

Toward the end of my semester abroad, I actually made a list of the all the "Not Sweet" things that happened to me during the semester.  Here is a small sampling:
-Lost countless numbers of times
-Multiple wrong trains/buses
-Lost three weeks worth of traveling photos from five different countries
-Pick-pocketed - wouldn't have been a study abroad experience without that happening
-Debit card expiring mid-semester
-Got crapped on (literally) by a bird

Of course these were all frustrating and aggravating experiences at the time, but now when I look back at that list I can hardly contain my laughter.  These are the stories I tell, because they are the most memorable.  In the past four years, my kids have provided me with countless additional stories with the hilarity amplified to a new level.  I'll leave you with one that happened to me today as I was finishing this post.

Somehow I managed to get two nappers this afternoon, something that doesn't happen very often.  It took some serious effort though - putting our two year old in our bed while her older sister screamed herself to sleep in the room and bed that they share.  This was done after allowing them two attempts to "rest" in the fort they had constructed in the living room.  They thought sleeping on a wood floor would be comfortable (prefontal cortex hard at work).  When that didn't seem to work out, and the fort collapsed, I made the executive decision to relocate them to better napping quarters.  I sat at the top of the stairs for a few minutes after Isla's blood curdling screams stopped just to make sure they were both sleeping soundly.  When I concluded that they were, I made a mad-dash downstairs to try to accomplish everything I felt I needed to get done.  This blog post included.

30 minutes in, Havi starts crying.  I make my way to the bottom of the stairs and the crying stops - strange how that can happen sometimes.  I wait motionless, because we live in a house that creaks, for a few minutes to make sure she's fallen back to sleep before sprinting back to the computer to resume typing.  15 more minutes pass, and she's crying again.  Back to the bottom of the stairs, and this time Isla is up.  She wanders over to her sister without noticing me at the bottom of the stairs, and the crying stops.  Thinking I might have bought some more time, I try to escape undetected, but Isla comes out of our room and spots me.  Busted.

She looks at me, and I can tell she is still exhausted.  She slides down the stairs on her rear and when she gets a few steps from the bottom, jumps into my arms.  She's still tired so she puts her head down on my shoulder.  Our moments like this seem to be getting fewer as she gets older, so I'm totally cashing in on this perfect daddy-daughter Hallmark scene.  We're swaying to the Mason Jennings' song playing in my head that always makes me think of her whenever I hear it.  I'm positioning my mental camera to take a picture that will forever capture this wonderful memory.  And then she farts.

Expect the unexpected.      

The Fort

The resters in their fort




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