Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Berry's Great Mis-Adventure

It all feels kind of like a dream. The instant I looked down at my phone, while attending a wedding shower in St. Louis to find that I had missed 2 calls from Matt in less than 4 minutes, I knew it was bad. He was supposed to be at the hotel, swimming with the boys, so, instantly I knew that one of our children had drowned. I couldn't breath as I waited and waited for Matt to answer my call back. He didn't pick up. I called again, and again. Diana followed me to a back corner near the laundry and fiddled with the dryer (hope she didn't damage anything) and the whole party disappeared as I focused on that phone. Finally, a voice, "Berry ran off." Huh? What? How? Why? That dog has literally never left the front yard, ever. "She panicked when the neighbor came to let her out and just took off." Shit.

Here we are, her people, 4 hours away in St. Louis. At a party. At a hotel. Breath, Erin. And start texting like mad. I tried to notify every single person I knew in Brookside. I posted to Facebook. Matt posted to Next door. Within minutes I had friends and family looking. Within an hour, someone had responded to my Instagram post that they'd seen her in Mission Hills, but that she was too scared to come and was just running. People came together from all directions, connections, neighborhoods to get the word out. To give us advice. To help us. In the same moment that I was sick to my stomach with worry, my heart was filled to the brim with amazement at all the human kindness. One of my longest and bestest friends spent no less than 5 hours searching for that dog on Saturday.

This was a dog. A silly family pet. How often had I not given a second thought when I loose dog didn't come to me? I shrugged it off, and though, "Oh, I'm sure it gets out all the time and is headed home." Never again. If I see a loose dog, if I can't pick it up, you betcha I'll be scouring those lost and found sights, calling animal control and finding it's owners.

We got that first sighting one hour after she escaped, then proceeded to have 54 hours of silence.

Berry went dark.

Matt drove, and drove and drove for days. The hope I was clinging to, was that she'd been found and they were just waiting for Monday morning to take her in to an open shelter or vet. I called every single one. No luck. The sad thoughts that whirled through  my head never ceased. I wanted to start preparing myself that she was gone. Sure that she'd either been hit, was curled-up injured, freezing and dying, or someone had found her and was simply keeping her for their own because she is simply the sweetest thing in the world.

So sure was I of tragedy, that I scoffed at the insistence by veteran pet rescue searchers to create flyers. How on earth could printing flyers and hanging them help anything? Everyone is on Next door and Facebook. Where would I print them? How many, how much, who would create it? How would I hang them. Everything felt like a mountain. Even feeding my children. Thank goodness my sister took a few for those middle 40 hours. 

This is where the encouraging stories play a vital role. Friends, family, acquaintances all started telling me their lost pet stories. How their dog was gone for 2 weeks and they found them. My mom reminded me of my sister's childhood dog, Ribbon, who ran off and was found underneath a truck almost 3 days later. Texts about neighborhood dogs being gone for 2 weeks and being reunited. The more people told me these things, the more I realized, we have to do the signs. We have to do everything.

A kind woman, named Kim, connected to me through one of my very first swim coaches sent me a long, long text explaining to me exactly how to make the flyers. This complete stranger had so much advice for me and told me to call her at anytime if I needed more help. I quickly created the file, called around to printers and found one who said he'd like to do it for me immediately and at cost (Moss Printing on Johnson Drive). He told me his own tragic pet story and said he wanted to do anything to help, and to keep him posted on the search. Matt bought a laminator and some zip ties. I got some bright colored poster board, and we went to town. Creating 100 signs. People reached out and asked for the PDF so they could print and hang signs in their own neighborhoods.

We drove around hanging signs, the kids bound up in the van watching a movie. I honestly cannot remember when or if the kids were present for most of this venture. Matt was annoyed that I insisted on coming, and bringing the children, but I told him, "I'm not currently equipt to care for them." My brain couldn't switch off. I could hardly hear my children, let alone care for them. My phone ran out of battery 9 times in 70 hours (normally this would only happen 2-3 times.) I was glued to it, waiting for something!! Anything. On any one of the 7 Facebook groups, 3 lost and found sites or Next door, or a phone call from a flyer. It got to be after 7pm on Monday night, so Matt dropped us at home so I could attempt to focus on the kids for a moment and feed them and put them to bed. So, I put my phone on the charger and spent the next 15 minutes warming mac & cheese and hot dogs.

Then, it happens. A foreign number starts ringing. "Hi, is this the person looking for Berry? I posted to Next door, but I think my husband and I saw your dog cross Shawnee Mission parkway and Santa Fe heading South. I got out and on the ground and called to her and just as she started to come to me a motorcycle scared her away. We tried to follow but she was running away full steam and we lost her." What!!? OMG. She's alive! She's alive. I got off the phone and sent Matt in that direction. I called me mom to relieve me, so I could head that way. Soon, another sighting an hour later and 10 blocks further South. I had texted friends. Matt's mom headed that way. I ran into an old neighbor who'd seen that she was in their neck of the woods and he came out with his own dog to search. Again, we drove for hours. No luck. It was snowing and freezing and pitch black.
Matt hung signs all around Overland Park and headed home around 11:45pm. Exhausted. Disappointed. And hopeful, we tried to sleep.

But, she's alive. She's crossed so many major, major intersections, has been out for 60 hours, and it still able to run fast enough that no one can catch her. She's ok. We will get her in the morning. I can feel it.
The next morning, we woke up to another post. Someone on Nextdoor said they'd seen her another 8 blocks South at 1am (79th and Antioch.) Matt headed straight that way to search and hang more flyers. Our neighbor headed out to search before work. Mimi headed out again. Our previous nanny of almost 5 years, Kerry, loaded up her kiddo and headed that way. I got the kids dressed and fed and motivated, and we started our own search party. No luck.

I called Matt at about 11:30am to inform him that the kids were done, they needed food and to be released from their car seats. He stated that he didn't want to leave the area, in case we got a call, but you could tell his spirits weren't real high. No sooner did I start to drive home, than my phone rings again, and a woman slightly out of breath says, "I just walked past your flyer and I see your dog! She's right in front of me at 81st and Mackey, I'm trying to follow her." My heart is pounding, I can't believe it, that's near where we are all searching. I turn around, I tell her to keep an eye on her if she can, but to not chase her. I hang up and call Matt, he starts to head that way. I hang up to see I'd missed a call from Kerry. I call her back and get a loud, "I've found her, Erin! I've found her. There are a few of us trying to get her." And I stay on the phone with Kerry, as she gently calls Berry's name, and finally, the terrified, panicked pup stopped. Her brain switched off survival mode, and she curled up crying at Kerry's feet. It was over.

71 hours later, a lifetime, yet a flicker, we had our pup. It all feels kind of like a dream.

If this experience taught me anything, it is this: there are still amazing, altruistic, caring, helpful people that exist in this world. So many of them. Good exists.

But it also showed me that:

Tragedy helps you really see what matters and get over past indiscretions.

Microchip, tag, collar and leash your dog. No matter how well trained or behaved they are. (Berry had never previously left the yard.)

Flyers work.

I don't know how those families that have a loved one go missing that is never found, ever function normally again. My brain really couldn't switch off into normal life function. I honestly didn't hardly eat or drink my self, let alone feed my children.

There are some people out there that are just "do-er's". And I am not trying to dis anyone, but do'er's are my favorite types. I'm not real sure I qualify as one. I describe myself as the "idea man", with poor execution skills. Which might be why I surround myself with do'ers, because, they jumped into action without hesitating. Spent hours of their weekend searching the streets of KC. They are amazing.

My eye is still twitching.

My heart is still swelling.

Things I still don't understand after this whole experience:
Why do we have pets in the first place?
So, that, my friends, was the great Berry chase of 2017.



Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Growing Like Weeds.

I've had to work late the past 2 nights, so the only time I've had with the kiddos has been the brief and utterly chaotic morning time. So, tonight, when I headed up to bed, I stopped in each of their rooms to give them a little kiss goodnight. I found each in their typical positions. Diana on her belly, wrapped in her 2 pink, fleece blankets, one nearly covering her face. Mitch on his side, fetal position holding his blanky that was given to me for Brock by Susan Kuechler while covered with a small, light quilt that was actually given to Curtis by their Great Aunt Mary Lynne. Hashtag: Fourth child problems. Brock, face up, sweaty, Giraffee across his neck, covered up to his chest with his comforter that was once Matt's. Curtis I found curled into a tight ball completely covered head to toe by the large down comforter, he has always slept with his face covered. Always. And George, fetal position, hugging his ZeeZee, under the same down comforter, as close to the edge as possible. He's our only child to fall off beds or couches when sleeping.

Not one child stirred. I kissed and hugged, each and every one. Patted them. Smiled to myself. I've long since decided that the way they sleep so soundly, every single night, is a testament to how loved, secure and at peace they feel. I have healthy kids, with strong immune systems, and lots of energy, and busy little brains and bodies, because they are so loved. They are supported and enriched. The go to bed after a full day of life. So they sleep deeply, safely and soundly. That makes sense, right? I'm convinced of it.

I reflected to myself, on the life of each child. How much they have grown. That I can't believe we have no infants. It just does not seem all that long ago that we welcomed Brock into our lives. Yet, this morning, he informed me that he was "embarrassed to wear those {IU candy stripe} pants to school" because they were going to the symphony on a field trip. Embarrassed!? When? And how? He is too young to know that word, let alone feel it! He has matured so much. He can actually be quite helpful...unless he's playing Minecraft. Then he's kind of a jerk. I mean seriously, I think it puts him in a trance. He loves chess. He awkwardly and minimally plays basketball. That {lack of} athleticism is absolutely NOT from me. He makes clever jokes that actually elicit laughter, from me as well as others. He also has this obnoxious fake laugh that he does so persistently you can't help but giggle yourself. I think the younger years were hard for Brock, he is very much a man of reason. He needs to know the whys and whens behind everything, and that's so hard for youngsters. I think he will do nothing but flourish as he ages.

Curtis is loving Kindergarten. He has so many friends already, but, of course knows none of their names. He chases the girls, and they all seem to like it. We knew he wouldn't struggle on the social end. Class work on the other hand? His attention to detail is lacking. I'm unsure he will ever write the numbers 2 & 3 the write direction. He has got the color words down, and that's about it. He happily does his work, but I'm pretty sure it's mostly motions and he's not real engaged. At his basketball game the other day, you could literally see a little light bulb go off in that extremely transparent little ball of emotion, when he stole his first ball. He proceeded to have 3 more steals and 4 attempted baskets. Watching him hop around out there and beam ear to ear is entertaining to every spectator. Curtis simply makes one smile, there's no avoiding it. Such positive energy seeping from him (of course, unless he's angry.)

The other day, George sat with his father for hours, and intently watched as Matt rewired, soldered and glued back together a lighted snow globe (that Mitch later shattered). He puts together puzzles for those double his age. He can be so intense, engaged, interested and focused. Yet, you ask him to simply put on his shoes or pick up that puzzle and suddenly he collapses, has no energy and cries "but it's going to take too long." He might be the goofiest child I've been blessed to know. But has a heart of gold. His teacher informed us that everyday he looks out for his friend "Hendry Bush", finds him a seat and makes him feel welcomed. When you give this boy a purpose, he puts his all into it, and the pride beams from his "real man" chest as well as the smile he's trying to contain.

Methodical Mitch. He, I could go on about all day, and all night, and not necessarily good things. Three is a tough, tough age for him. He does not sleep enough. He goes to bed at 8 and is up at 6 every morning. He needs to sleep another hour. I have never met someone with such a precise internal clock. He literally comes to my bedside at 6:21 every single morning. This is after he has peed. Watched some Umi-Zoomi. And gone downstairs to help himself to a granola bar or Gogurt, which is why he is at my bedside. To ask me to open it. This kid and his routines. After dinner, while the other 4 typically join me or their father in the family room, Mitch slips back upstairs to be alone. To watch a show, or read, or do a puzzle. That being said, he is such the intense, silent observer. He shocks you. He potty-trained himself at 2.5 (earlier by almost a year than any of his brothers.) He can read an entire book (Hello, Ninja). One day, I saw the emptied contents of his back pack and asked Matt...did he write his name!? There was a paper, with a very obvious "M" and somewhat obvious "i" and "c" and 2 other not to completely obvious letters, but definite potential attempts. So, the next time I saw him with a marker and paper, I asked, "Mitch, do you know how to write your name?" And his eyes lit UP! "Yeah, M-I-T-C-H". Sure enough, he wrote every, single letter. Clearly. In reverse order, but clear as day. Not one of my children has done this at age 3.  I couldn't believe my eyes, and I excitedly congratulated him, "Mitch, that's so good, you are writing your name!!" His joy vanished, he scowled at me, and said, "stop it mom." Just like when I, or my sister sing. He doesn't like hysterics.

Last, my sweet little Dee. She harbors that same infectious joy gene as Curtis. You cannot help but smile when you see her. She loves all that is little and cute. She loves to be part of it all. She hugs the dog (and hits her and laughs.) She eats all the things. I think she out eats those brothers at every meal, yet she is still in size 3 diapers. Perhaps, like Brock, she will never grow out of them. This morning, when I got her out of bed, changed her, and pulled her hair back, she immediately said, "bow". She loves to accessorize, specifically her bows and her clue where she go this! She has begun to ask "why" when we deny her anything. I find this to be so unbelievably adorable. I wish the previous 4 had done this at 20 months, instead of age 4. She received a baby doll for Christmas from her Mimi. I think it has changed her life.

These are just a few of my fleeting thoughts and memories from the past few months. So many amazing moments. They simply never stop. Thankfully.

Monday, January 2, 2017

My Organizational Mind.

This might come as a shock to those who don't know me well, and be old news to those that do, but I struggle quite significantly with "perfectionism". I am avoiding terms like A-type personality or OCD, because the first is WAYYY over-used and the second is an actual disorder, of which I'm sure I don't quite reach that level...yet.

This "perfectionism" both energizes and paralyzes me on a day to day basis and nothing is immune to it. I care {too} passionately about every single aspect of my life. I am such an extremely visual person that this perfectionism affects things like the interior of my home, my photos, my and my children's wardrobe/closet situations the worst. And a HUGE contributing factor to the paralysis is my second most notable trait: commitment. I avoid terms like persistence, stubbornness, inflexibility... hoarder...because I don't think those are quite accurate ALL the time, just sometimes. If I decide on something, it's for LIFE. Done. Sports. Schools. Paint colors. Significant other. Career. Shoes. Don't ask me how many pairs of shoes I have, nor how old the oldest pair I still wear is. (Ok fine, I'll bite...2001. In my defense, they're New Balance and coming back in style. I'm about to pull out my Doc Martin's from '96).

Lately, I have been stuck in a major Photo rut. Totally paralyzed. I used to simply load my phone photos (which were about 1/10th the number I take today), my point and shoot photos and Matt's DSLR photos on one computer, in our family room/office, and go from there. Create blog entries. Albums. Store in an organized fashion in folders on the PC. Well, now my media amount is out of control. We have a Go-Pro to add to the mix over and above that I take at least a dozen photos daily. There's not enough storage space on the computers. It takes to long to gather from all the different sources. The computer/office is no longer located in a central area of the house. So now, for a year or two, I have been trying to formulate a solution to this problem. Instead of just throwing together a family album (to at least say I have one), I have been thinking and thinking and thinking about it. I cannot just put something together, it has to be perfect. I am still annoyed about my family album from 2014 because I forgot ONE photo. One, single family photo from Christmas day is not in there, and to this day I view it as an incomplete Album that I need to remake and possibly just throw away. I'm not saying it's right, it's just who I be.

Best I can gather, I have a few problems. The first being, I need to either A.) take fewer photos or B.) figure out how to be more selective and just immediately delete ones I don't need or won't use or I guess C.) get medicated. Seriously though, how many takes does one REALLY need of one single situation? My logical brain knows this is absurd, but my obsessive brain knows there is a chance that out of the depths of my ridiculously unpredictable and vivid visual memory, I will suddenly want a photo that I might have deleted. Gasp! This creates quite the predicament...I can't hit that delete button! For example, how do I pick from these 5 photos:
I posted one to Instagram that I felt, all things considered, encompassed the moment I was trying to capture, but all 5 together REALLY brings me back to this day. The feelings. The cuteness and absurdity. Dee with her finger to nose, and adorable outfit her Mimi purchased for her in Ireland. Mitch, on his sugar crash and Holiday exhaustion. Brock, bored. George and Curtis??? But, I can't have 5 photos from EVERY DAY and EVERY moment of our lives. I shouldn't even have one photo from everyday. It's too much. Not necessary. Overkill. And impossible to keep up with, store, organize and develop.

The second is that I need a system and storage location that is convenient, flexible, operational that also preserves photo quality. A lot of these online places compress the file, even iPhoto does it.

Third, I am often terrified to order any online product because I am sooo intensely disappointed with poor quality. I forgot to mention, but stationary, albums, and, well absolutely any paper products of any type are a source of one of my most intense idiosyncratic obsessions and loves. If I told you my birth announcement "budget", you might vomit (which is why I don't tell anyone...least of all, Matt.) I view them as art, ok!?

Therefore, I've decided, this is the year. I will find one place to store top quality photos from all my media. That I will exercise extreme self restraint and compile only photos I plan to use forever and always. That I will click that button and just print it, even if it is far less than perfect. And I will start from January 1 (well, 2) 2017 and though I hope to regain those lost years, will focus on the current one.

When I do finally figure out the perfect method to this social media, camera at our fingertips, digitally excessive media madness world...I will share it with you fellow A-type, OCD, perfectionists.