Postnatal Angst and Gratitude

img_0800I have 30 minutes to write this, because even though I don’t have 30 minutes to spare, I’m giving them to myself. I am a martyr and a saint like that. In spite of this self-induced mayhem, I have had thoughts gnawing at me and I want to try and get them down.

I’m doing not great. Not horrible either, though horrible and I have spent some quality time together in the past couple of months. But I didn’t have the headspace or the confidence to share while the rain was really coming down. Baby number three was born 10 weeks ago now, and the baby bliss was as sweet as it was short lived.

I went back to work when Astrid was five weeks old. Back to one of the jobs, anyways, so not full time for now. But without a doubt and in spite of my most secret pre-baby delusions, even at a reduced schedule it definitely feels like I am back to work. I wasn’t mentally or physically ready, but I was determined to squeeze blood from this stone. I love this job and did not want to lose it. (Right? I love this job? I don’t want to lose it?) So there’s that. And there is the hormonal crash. And then there is the sleep deprivation. My insides are scrambled, literally, and my insides are scrambled, figuratively.

During a lot of baby’s life, I’ve existed in a merry-go-round state of mind. All that I feel and know has an equally strong and opposing feeling and conviction, and I spin – in and out, and up and down – through it. There are times I feel so lucky I could burst, while others I feel regret and failure so palpably that I cry. And while I cry, the voice that tells me that I am so lucky that I should want to burst comes through. But she’s not joyful now. She’s judgmental and mean. In the minutes (seconds?) that I feel like I have a handle on it all and I’m loving the challenge of work and baby and big kids, I am feel like superwoman. Only to be met with any tiny obstacle upon which I collapse. Because, she reminds me, I’m weak and moreover I’m to blame: I made my bed. Over these recent weeks, I’ve never been more grateful for my partner and co-parent. And yet I spew resentment and frustration with great force. The voice is back, now, telling me I’m an ingrate. And I am. But I’m also really hurting. I wish I wasn’t so mad at myself for that fact.

How are the older kids doing? Lord, I can’t even go there. They are amazing and resilient and I am awful. Not 100% of the time. I’ve been good here and there. But not mostly. My reaction towards them during this transition weighs on me, heavily.

Balance is a moving target. That’s my mantra. Life is its hiccups. There is no end of the tunnel where we are without challenges. The kids will get sent home from school, clothes soaked in vomit. Tires go flat. Dinner burns. People who shouldn’t be hurt get hurt. How wise, me with my “no duh”isms.   Obviousness aside, my balance is off. I need to adjust my expectations and my perspective, and maybe I need a pro to help with all of this. It’s hard when the answer – more to do – might involve adding to the fire that is burning you up. Whine whine whine, right?

What’s the point? I’ll let you know when I know.

But here’s what I want to say, really:

Thank you.

Amid all of this self-involved trash and maybe some legit anguish, so very many people have been there for me. And record numbers of them haven’t listened to me when I have said that I’m good. They pressed just a bit and saw the cracks. Thank you for asking and thank you for listening. Friends have come by to let me break down and every time it happened, I needed it so bad.

And others have called or visited or welcomed my barrage of baby pic texts, all telling me how beautiful that baby is; how precious this time is; how wonderful it is to hold her and breathe her in. Thank you for your kindness and warmth. It fuels and centers me, if only for a moment. When you hold my baby and you love her, you are giving me an immense gift. When you make my big kids smile, when I haven’t done that in days, you are healing me too.

There are also the meals, the coffee dates, the holding her so I can use the bathroom (and take 20 deep breaths). I struggle to make sense of this love and caring. It has helped in every way.

Thank you.

And so I am lucky and grateful and happy. I’m also floundering and sad and bad at this right now. My family has their hands full with their Jekyll/Hyde of a mom. All of the support I’ve gotten from outside of these people who need more of me than I have at the moment has been lifesaving. I know I’ll be fine because what point is there in believing otherwise?

Time is up. Lots of love,

R

 

 

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How To Break Your Foot and Live Life to the Fullest in 5 Easy Steps

Hi! Recently, I broke my foot. As a result, I can’t walk or drive and am forced to parent via couch-shouting. I now require a two-foot clearance to pass through any space, whether on my knee walker or crutches. People want to know: how’d I do it?! I assume it’s because they are considering doing it themselves. I know I make it look pretty glamorous. The trainer at the Y even said I looked like I’d been on crutches before, because I was really zooming around. So let me share my secrets on how to achieve mono-pedal status.

  1. Be on Vacation: This might not seem totally necessary, but I really think you’ve got to let your guard down to break a bone. If you can schedule this for your last day, that’s ideal. That way you will totally avoid having to help pack or clean up, but you will maximize your fun before the big event. Your spouse is really going to get a kick out of it. He’s not going to complain, because it’s a broken bone. So he will get to work managing the kids, the chores, and bringing you water, all with a twinkle in his eye and a chuckle lodged so deep in his throat that you don’t actually ever hear it.
  1. Get Moving!: You’re on vacation. It’s the last day. But you are still walking around on two feet like a nobody. It is now time to make your move. This is a delicate moment. You don’t want your story to be too impressive or tragic – you are going to tell this story a lot and it’s best if you come off sounding like a weird liar. Yet you need the activity to be dangerous enough to break a bone. What I did was attempt to do a 7 minute circuit work out with both of my kids in the same room. While I was doing 30 seconds of high knees running in place, and cheering my daughter on at the same time, I turned it up a notch because it was pretty important that I nail this workout. Then, in midair, I turned my foot *just so* that when it landed, the outside rolled underneath my foot and I landed on top of my bent in half foot. Boy are you going to be happy that working out 6 days a week for 2.5 years hasn’t resulted in losing the baby weight now! Because that extra 15lbs is going to come in h-a-n-d-y.
  1. After the fall: You are broken, and I presume I don’t need to tell you that you should have hollered so loud that both of your kids instantly started crying and wanted your comfort. Shoo them away, because you are in excruciating pain. And now wait for your husband who is at the grocery store. … … Is he home yet? Nope. Just another minute or two. …
  1. Medical attention and the ride home: Go find an urgent care clinic and refuse a shot of painkillers. Because even if you have followed my steps exactly, you are a good woman. And good women doubt themselves and apologize for everything. So you’ll no doubt think there is nothing wrong with you and worry you are wasting everyone’s time. But, in the end, you’ll get your diagnosis. And upon learning that you can’t drive or walk for 4 to 6 weeks, you can cry a little. Go ahead. This is tough news. Anyways, I know you’ll apologize for crying which will smooth everything over anyhow.
  1. Coming home! After a long day and night and then an eight hour drive, home never felt so sweet. And you’re really going to appreciate your efforts at creating “flow” in your abode, because, sister, you are going to need some great flow to move your bull-in-china-shop butt around! If you rent a knee walker, that will relieve your armpits from a lot of the discomfort that the crutches inflict. Plus, you will have hilarious arguments with a sobbing three year old who would really like a “his turn [on your] cool new bike.”

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Makes a great foot rest while you watch The Bachelorette.  For the feminist analysis you are working on.

Well, you’ve really done it! You can’t walk, making your bed take 10 minutes and showers are now exhilaratingly dangerous. Plus you have a weird and uncomfortable story to tell five people a day while riding in the elevator at work. Enjoy the fruits of your labor, mostly in the form of increasingly imbalanced calf muscle tone. You’ve earned it!

On talking about shutting up. Or: 3 Things You Wouldn’t Guess About Meditating For 5 Hours A Day!

In the final hour of the silent Zen meditation retreat I just attended, during the closing dharma talk our teacher said, among many other pearls: “Self-expression is overrated.” We all laughed. I can’t know if everyone’s laughter felt as exposed yet cathartic as mine did. But I imagine we were all mostly on different points of the same wavelength. Self-expression is overrated. Self-expression is overrated. As much as I talk, as much as I write, as much as I think about writing and talking, there is always a part of me that wants to shut up.

I wouldn’t say that I’m shy. But I am not nearly as socially confident as I appear. There’s never been a party I haven’t wanted to walk away from upon reaching the door. Rarely a phone call that I don’t wince before taking. And I have left grocery stores mid-shop because I don’t want to run into someone who I see is there, and who I know but I haven’t caught up with in so long that we actually don’t know each other any more so we will be in this purgatory of acting happy to see a stranger, fraught with awkward pauses and empty promises to have lunch. I love people. Even those I hide from in the Trader Joe’s bathroom. But y’all wear me out.

And as much as I love you, my dearie dears, I don’t let you get a word in edgewise, do I? That’s when I just want to shut up. But it is so hard. Because my nerves and my frantic resistance to just being where I am has lead me to the habit of trying to fill up the world with my hot air. These days, I literally write lists of questions I want to ask my friends, like a crib sheet on how not to be awful next time we meet. As much as I care about them, and about non-friends as well, I often cannot seem to shut up long enough to convey that. I’m working on it.

So why write about how I need to stop telling people about what I think? Ah, grasshopper. You must be in cahoots with that “shut up” voice in my head. I have been writing less lately. In part because the ol’ 9 to 5 really takes up a lot of my mental energy. But also in no small part because (now that I’ve got that super succinct Zen nugget) I have been coming to realize that self-expression is, you know, overrated. It’s a fine line between honest processing and whining and/or self-aggrandizement. Lately, I have not been sure which side I’m on when keys hit (key)board. I write. I read what I wrote. I wrinkle my nose and furrow my brow, and then drag that document to the Neverland of my tales. Then I turn on private browsing so I can Google “botox Nashville covered by insurance?” into Safari without anyone being the wiser!! All that wrinkling and furrowing, you see.

I have a lot more I could write about the experience I had last weekend. It was really profound. Profoundly difficult, profoundly frustrating and profoundly humbling. And it was incredibly joyful, as well, in these radiant glimpses that brought tears to my eyes. But I feel self-conscious and raw, still, about the whole thing. I am glad that I had something to say that felt honest, after a prolonged break.

And now, for my modern reader, a listicle, so you can get your fix.

3 Things You Wouldn’t Guess About Meditating For 5 Hours A Day:

  1. It hurts. Perching on a pillow sounds all fluffy and nice, doesn’t it? Well, physically, that much meditating it runs the gamut between uncomfortable to excruciating. Multiple able-bodied people collapsed when trying to walk after a long sit because your legs try to die when you don’t move for that long.  I actually began to wonder if getting a sweet “meditation butt” was a thing, like a “yoga butt” because such was the agony of my glutes that I was compelled to search for a silver lining.
  2. Your mind is full of nonsense. The thing is about being silent for days on end is that it is the loudest few days of your life. I did a 10 day silent retreat about five years back. I had at least two days where my mind blasted “The Thong Song” in my head. Over. And over. It was a sick way to realize it, but it became crystal clear to me then that I am not my mind.  Because I can’t get down with identifying with a thing that uses enhanced interrogation procedures on myself.
  3. Meditation-Induced-Narcolepsy is a thing. In order to resist just being, your brain will not only try to drive you mad with paranoia, judgments and one hit wonders. It will also try to just make you straight pass out. In real life, I am prone to insomnia. I never nap. Yet during these meditation retreats, I would estimate, conservatively, that I fell asleep while sitting up – and while actively trying to not fall asleep – twenty plus times a day. You won’t see any telethons for it, probably because it is not the 1980s and you just won’t see any telethons period, but now you know about this very real condition.

Till the next time… (let me see that thong, thuh-thong thong thong…)

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Meditation retreat selfie.  Am I crazy, or is this not going to catch on at all?

2015: A New Year Post and Awkward Family Photo

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I love this photo beyond reason. Firstly, I consider it my atonement for the shiny, airbrushed Instagrams I too often post. For sepia tones and pensive faces do not paint an accurate picture what parenting looks like. This is what parenting looks like: dorky, colorful, not terrible photogenic but, at its very best: earnest. I also love this photo because it was sold to us through an incredibly devious and effective blackmail scheme, wherein an aquarium employee takes your picture against a green screen as soon as you come in, making it appear a necessary process, though you are not made privy to the eventual use of this picture. And then, as you exit hours later, your photos are all printed and neatly tucked in a bag. Then you are told that unless you pay $25, they will throw out your pictures. Not verbatim, but 100% true story. So it was the puffy coats, rag doll posture of my son, and general unselfconsciousness of this photo that made me fall in love with it. But the twisted humor I found in being threatened with destroying the picture that compelled me to buy it. Well played, Tennessee Aquarium.

I’ve had some writing-fatigue lately. Back in November, I attempted to do a post each day for a month. I made it a week, which really I was thrilled with. I’ve been as busy as ever being back at work, and writing has taken a back burner. So have friends. And after that sleep. Alas. Though not all of my failure to write can be attributed to a lack of time. A big piece is that I feel I have been in the midst of a shift, a not-yet-fully-defined step in some direction. And as a result, I have stopped connecting so much with what I used to write about; namely, the stuff of mommy blogs. I don’t feel any less involved a parent. But I have let go a lot this year, or at least these last several months. And it’s felt good. I am happy to be out of the baby phase right now (though I’m not totally sure that I’m done with babies…). This is the first time in half a decade that I haven’t been pregnant, nursing, with an infant, or some potent combination of all of these. My kids are still massively labor intensive, but they feel less like extensions of me any more, and it’s a relief. Not that they ever were parts of me, of course. You know this but you feel otherwise that first year. With, at last, some distance between me and the kids, I feel more balanced and less hellbent on obsessing about them.

Another issue for me is that has hindered writing is that I’ve become more acutely aware of contributing to a narrative of crippling motherhood guilt and perfectionism. I strive to be honest. So, in the name of honesty, I am starting to see some of the folly of the pressure and blame I have put on myself. The idea that if I make every. perfect. decision. that this will somehow … make my children happy? It seems like that must be the delusion I labored under for sometime. All wooden toys will do it. No screen time will do it. The right school will do it. No school will do it. There’s no answer – at least not one I control. But there are countless of sources that seem to want to keep me feeling that way.

I’ve been on an unsubscribing of media-sources binge lately. Though the camaraderie and wisdom of other parents is precious to me, I’ve found I have to be a careful curator. From open letters guilt-tripping “the mom looking at her iPhone” to blogs lauding a parent for passing out goodies to passengers on an airplane for the inconvenience of having to be near someone who has paid just as much as you to be on the flight, but will be having a far more miserable and stressful time of it because s/he is doing the thankless work of continuing the human race. (Hey airplane people – bring headphones and if you can still hear that baby, repeat the following mantra: “I am not the center of the universe. A crying baby is not a plot against me.”) People are full of opinions on why parents are doing it wrong. We don’t adequately discipline, or enjoy every moment, or let them play outside enough, or let them take enough risks, or facilitate a secure enough attachment. And they’re all right. Because guess what?? WE ARE FLAWED, TIRED, LIMITED HUMAN BEINGS. We know that shouting “you’re doing it wrong! You’re doing it wrong!” doesn’t help our kids. So why do we shout it at ourselves and expect it to have a positive effect?

This isn’t news. This isn’t even anything I haven’t said before. I guess I’m putting it back out there because not a lot fires me up any more, but this – this self-imposed cruelty that moms are inflicting on ourselves, it does. In the past, I dealt with a lot of negative voices in my head. Oftentimes they would shout, telling me all sorts of awful things about what I looked like, what I was(not) capable of or worth, and swearing up and down that every person I saw was better, happier and more whole that me. I still have that voice. But I have another one. I like to think it’s my mother voice. And after several years of cultivating it with my own kids, through lots of trial and error (and error and error), it’s gotten stronger. My mama-voice no longer only advocates for my own kids but now it advocates for me, too. And for you. I’m pretty good. Mostly, I am okay, which I am fiercely proud of. Life can be pointless and monotonous, mean and cold, as well as breathtaking and profound. So what of it? I’m not in charge of this ride. I can only do my best to be kind to myself, which gives me a fighting chance at being kind to those around me.

So that’s what I want to do in 2015. Be nice. To you, to me, to my kids and husband. Dang it, even to my dogs. I won’t always succeed. But for now, by some grace, I have time to keep trying.

Happy New Year. I love you.

(Here’s another background, for good measure.  The kids were *pretty* impressed by this whole green screen technology.)

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Bath Paints, Two Ways

A tale of parallel universes.  Or, “On the Facebookification of Motherhood.”

Version One: Pinterest Super Mom.

With Day Light Savings time shortening our evenings, our days are cut short and so the kids and I aren’t able to have our evening adventures. Where we once enjoyed neighborhood strolls to check out neighbors’ Halloween decorations, or last minute jaunts to the playground to run off our energy the good old-fashioned way, now we have dark skies and limited options. It’s a cozy, but also somber time of the year.

Tonight, I wanted to do something special. Find a way to bring the outdoors in, and create a sensory experience we could all enjoy. Both of my little ones are getting over colds, so a long, warm bath seemed like a good plan. But how could I make it grand? I made a mental checklist of my well-stocked craft shelves, and pondered.

Bath paints! That was it. It was a project for which I had both easy components on hand: foamy shaving cream and liquid watercolors. And its set up would be almost as fun as playing with it in the bath, to boot. Edie, my four year old, clambered to help me mix the paints. With only a bit of supervision, she was able to squeeze out the liquid watercolor into the plastic bowl of shaving cream and then stir it up. She watched as the color turn from white, to psychedelic, and finally to a solid and vibrant shade. We made four colors in all.

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Our Paint Station

We then took our wares to the big bathtub, where dad and baby brother, Eli, were waiting. Then, the kids each got a “palette” and they set to work! They painted the tub walls, themselves, and of course, each other too. We played until the paints ran out, and then turned it into dishwashing fun. I piled all the dishes and spoons we’d gotten dirty, along with a couple clean rags, and they rubbed and scrubbed, much to their delight. After a quick rinse, they were both ready to get out.

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Loving it!

Even a quiet Friday night at home, where everyone gets to bed on time, can be an event to remember!

Story 2: Straight Talk.

Thanks to Day Light Savings time, I no longer stuff my gremlins into the stroller for a walk pre-dinner, to get some fresh air, exercise, and sweet sweet peace. That 5 p.m. hour is no joke, and being trapped in the house with them then can be harrowing. It’s the time of day they start their tortured dance of staying up in each other’s business until one of them snaps, and smacks the other in the face. And repeat. The screaming would be sad if it wasn’t so utterly unnecessary, essentially, self-inflicted.

Tonight, all screen time limits were off because I have a raging head cold that one of them bestowed upon me through some fateful and unbidden exchange of bodily fluid. Have you ever had a little kid ask to tell you a secret, and then when you are one millimeter from their face, they sneeze into all of your head’s orifices? It’s unpleasant, but super efficient, if you are a virus. More so, though, because Will and I had an architect over today to discuss plans for potentially adding onto our house. The central goal of this project, by the way, which, if it indeed comes to fruition, will involve ripping off the roof, is motivated primarily from my desire to sleep much further away from my children than I currently do. So, in short, Frozen was playing from 4 to 5 pm so that we could talk to an adult in our own home.

Then we ate really early since both parents were actually home at 5 pm for once. The kids each only hated part of the meal. Plus nobody cried. Or, if they did, I blocked it out. Success! Edie wanted a piece of Halloween candy, so they each got a mini bag of m&ms after managing not to gag through dinner. Job well done, entitled little American babies. I tried to show them that the proper way to eat m&ms is to make a bar graph with your colors to assess what you’re working with. Apparently this is a personal idiosyncrasy because my husband seemed alarmed, and the children were entirely unimpressed.

After no one wanted to graph candy with me, I got to thinking. It’s really early still. And they really haven’t done much this afternoon.   What if … what if they won’t go to sleep? Will kept chanting “Time for a bath!” to two uninterested children because he is nothing if not stubbornly optimistic that he can make bedtime happen if he wants it bad enough.

As I am the real brains and inspiration behind this family, I knew it was up to me to take charge. The kids were antsy, and I felt a little bad about their lame afternoon. In order to bridge the gap between a single minded husband who was stuck on repeat with this whole take a bath thing, and two kids who were bored, I thought of bath paints. It was not divine inspiration. It’s something I’ve done before for rainy day playtime, with varying success. I went through a period of compulsively buying art supplies, books, educational toys, all as some kind of therapy where I could tell myself, as I filled that Amazon cart or basket at Michael’s, that this would be the key to ending nonstop sibling infighting. End result being, I have a lot to work with.

Edie yelled after me and spastically demanded to help. I’d planned to make them myself, but, sure, actually this seemed like it would be a good project for her. So I let her climb up and participate. I did not let her dispense the shaving cream, because it actually requires a bit of finesse to do it right, and it was a hail storm of anger last time I let her try. I did let her squeeze the liquid watercolors. Until her impulse control got the best of her and then she was banned. We had a good three minutes in there.

After we got them in the bath, they were legitimately excited. It was cute. And they had a lot of fun. In between begging Eli not to eat it, and trying to convince Edie to just, please, take our word for it that she would regret getting shaving cream in her eye. The bath water actually got monumentally gross looking pretty fast. But they didn’t seem to mind. So we let them play in their grey bath for sometime. And when everyone had a meltdown about their paint running out, I dumped all the dishes on them to change the conversation. Win-win.

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“I can eat it, the bath paints?”

After I had my little Cinderellas scrub the tub, I was relieved to see that the liquid watercolors did not stain the children or the grout. I should’ve really confirmed this beforehand.

And now my pretties are sleeping, and I am on my fourth cup of tea due to what I am sure is the common cold, and definitely not Ebola.

The End.

Today’s Lesson in Zen

If you ever get the chance, eat lunch with your two year old outside, in the warm breeze. Split a delicious egg and biscuit sandwich with him.   And even though you already finished your piece of the egg sandwich while he is talking half-intelligibly about something or another, letting his portion just get colder and colder, do not, even once, tell him to hurry up and eat. Because there is no hurry. Let him listen to the birds, sing to himself, and ask you if you drive your car and if your coat is soft, and crumble leaves in his small hand. Take deep breaths and allow him to take his time. Eventually, he will finish. And the effects of slowing down will stay with you.

At least until you shove the rest of his egg sandwich into your mouth.

Rachael’s Truth Bombs

Today is day four of my promise to self to write every day for the remainder of the month. Not surprisingly, my well is a little dry, and it’s a lot late, and I just ate dinner with friends who make a mean margarita.

And so, here are some very subjective truths, or, perhaps more aptly, random thoughts and opinions on my life.

  1. Dance parties are the worst. Why do all of these mom blogs tell me to “STOP! And have a dance party!” with my kids? They claim it get their energy out while putting a smile on our faces, and thereby restore all harmony to the house. I’m not a monster. I do like music, and I like dancing. So I have tried this. Here are a few representative results. I dance enthusiastically, and both children beg for me to pick them up and dance with them. They weigh, collectively, 80 lbs. I can rotate them for about four minutes and then I give up. Which brings me to scenario two. They both cry. Maybe because I don’t pick them up. Maybe because they hate the song. Maybe because they hate my dancing. All of these have been scream sobbed at me in the past. A third and also common response is to stare at me like I am a mad person, and that they are entirely proper little children who wouldn’t dream of spazzing out to Top 40 hits. Edie once looked at me during one of my dance attempts with a mix of embarrassment and revulsion, and said “Mom. Do you have to go to the bathroom? … Because it looks like you have to go to the bathroom.” Dance parties for the pffffffffttt.
  1. Frozen isn’t great. It isn’t terrible either. I don’t love Disney movies. I attribute that to a couple things to this. First, I wasn’t raised on Disney. Disney to me reminds me of babysitting or hanging out with my nieces. It’s not nostalgic for me personally. And then there’s the whole I don’t like their messages. And I really, really don’t like the consumerism.   This, I know, is all a totally killjoy way to be. I don’t preach on it. Have your fun. Enjoy your Disney. Vaya con Dios, man. I’m all for finding your bliss. But it ain’t my bag, so forgive if I politely ask you to stop telling me what I MUST watch. That said: Frozen. I don’t think the music is as catchy as the Little Mermaid. I still think there is troubling gender representation. But it’s a big improvement. And my kids love it. And I can’t even tell you how my heart explodes hearing them sing “Let it Go” together.
  1. Last weekend I threw out Eli’s umbilical cord, because what exactly am I supposed to do with it anyways? That’s more or less all I have to say on this. I was organizing. Came across a bag in which his dried and packaged umbilical cord had been preserved for me, not at my request. I finally just admitted that I did not want this. And I tossed it. Sayonara, Cordy.
  1. Working ladies, there is no reason to deal with waistbands any more. I have discovered, to my absolute delight, that since my last time in the work world, clothing makers have made huge strides in comfortable business casual. Namely: dress pants with elastic waists. They feel so. damn. good. Nearly like yoga pants. But they’re dress pants all right. And I dare anyone to tell me otherwise. There is just no reason to wear pinchy or inflexible pantwear, women. Get thee down to a Nordstrom Rack or a Ross Dress for Less, and do it right.
  1. My kids gross me out. I can withstand a lot of ick from my kids. But that doesn’t mean their snot glitters for me, or their rank diapers hit my nose like so much fresh dew. Kids are gross. I get it. Part of it is just a baseline shift. You get used to it. And a lot of it is deliberate behavior to not body shame your kid. That’s important. But once in awhile, you’ve just got to say “No you cannot use my water bottle. Because you are a horrible backwasher. And I am a human being, so I don’t like that.”

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Good night!  From the #nofilter face of tequila-induced writer’s block.

It’s Complicated

Two separate sets of midwives, on two different continents no less, have told me upon the arrival of each of my children that I make a fine broodmare. In other words, I’m built to birth babies. One said that I must be born of “good European peasant stock.” Which is a direct quote. It’s something you don’t forget, especially when it’s eerily accurate from a genealogical perspective, given my Icelandic roots. (As an aside, true story: after both births, I was highly praised on my placenta. One said it should be in a text book.) And so it is. That’s my gift, and it’s a great one. But after the whole unmedicated childbirth feat of strength? Like, the child rearing part? My peasant ancestors left me with nada. But I’m trying.

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Four hours old.  I did good that day.

Edie is my first-born. My four year old. And today was her first parent teacher conference. It went well. Her teacher gets her. She told me not to take offense, but “your daughter is complicated.” Well said, lady. Edie’s teacher also remarked that one doesn’t need to wonder what Edie will be like when she’s an adult, because she already acts like one in so many ways. Equally astute.

But, I should clarify. She’s not an adult in the impulse-control sense. In the voice-modulation sense. Or in the knowing her audience sense, which means I hear just as many fart and poop jokes as any other parent. And so she screams and hits and generally freaks out, just like most kids her age. All from my mini grown up.

The thing that I think her teacher is getting at is Edie’s apparent discomfort in being a kid. There are times when her adult-nature is lovely. She’s a fabulous conversationalist. She loves to help around the house, and to tend to babies. But, that’s all assuming you can do things on four year old time, and that she has the capabilities to satisfactorily or at least safely do what she is trying to do. And that’s the catch. There are a whole lot of things a bitty kid just can’t do.

For instance. Back in 2012, I’m me, but super pregnant with my second kid me. I am home with Edie full time, and when I need to go far away, I need Edie in her car seat. She is less than 2 ½. I know this because of the pregnant thing. Edie asks one day if she can drive. I gently decline. She loses her mind. And we have weeks of her clammering to the steering wheel every time her waddling mom goes toward the car, apparently banking on my laziness for her success. “Well… I didn’t want her to drive… But she’s already there…” Finally one day, I wrestle her into her seat and she screams and kicks and implores me, WHYYYY can’t she drive? I told her that it’s the law.   You have to be sixteen years old before you can drive. So, for the next several months, any time someone says “And how old are you, little girl?” my smug little daughter states, in her baby voice “SIXTEEN.”

When she was an infant, I believe about four months old, my blunt and not-so-snuggly German pediatrician informed me that “Your daughter… she does not know how to turn off.” I got his point, as my 8 pound daughter stared wide-eyed and wild, seemingly unable not to follow every shape and sound with her head. Until then, I didn’t really grasp that her manner was anything unique. But that’s how she’s remained. Hyper alert, breathing in every person, every interaction, every sensation around her. It’s kind of a lot.

The other day she accidentally saw roughly three minutes of NCIS or Law and Order, or something of that ilk. Will, my husband, had taken the kids to get take out and there was a TV mounted on the ceiling that apparently she noticed, though Will can’t recall. I’m pretty sure she did, though, because that brief encounter with a show she’d never seen on a TV placed feet and feet above her, inside a bustling restaurant, led her to come home, crumble into my arms and tell me that she just “saw the police and they were beating everybody and killing them with guns! Why would they do that, mommy?” She was shaken badly and maybe a teeny bit traumatized. I had absolutely no idea what she was talking about, and I had several questions for Will. There’s just no sparing that kid trauma, though. She’s still that four month old, head whipping around, trying to make sense of absolutely everything. But nowadays, she lets so much get to her heart, too.

That’s our Edie. She wants to skip ahead so badly. “Mom, when I’m a grown up, can we drink wine, eat salads, and chit chat?” “Mom, why do I have to wait to have a baby?” “Mom, I just wish I was you. I wish we were twins and I could always be with you and do everything you do.” I know, Edie Beans. I know. Will and I were laughing tonight because Edie is in piano classes these days. They are group lessons, and they learn a lot, but it’s light-hearted, with signing, and movement. Edie has taken to eschewing practicing finding where the different keys on a piano are, instead preferring to use her piano practice time to compose her own songs. Of course, she wants to move past the learning, the memorizing, the playing, and go straight to conducting her own works. Just like she adores writing, but has many times threatened that she will never learn her lower case letters, because she just wants to write cursive like me.   From A straight to Z. Always.

Not anything we can do to change her, and we don’t try. Her temper is fierce, and we have to take measures to protect her brother now and again. Our motto is to work within her parameters when possible, and don’t give into the drama when it’s not. A lofty goal that we achieve some days more than others. But, as Edie said to me the other day, as I was mumbling about people parking badly which was making it hard to drive down the street:

“Mom, life is life. Sometimes, people just do stuff.”

There you go. She’s already skipped past college and self-help books all the way to spouting watered-down appropriations of Buddhist wisdom. Life is life, indeed.

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Dishing on her classmates.  Oh I know exactly who had to go to time out, everyday.

How’s Work?

It’s the question du jour! After a nearly five year hiatus from real office work, I got back at it this fall. I did it because I wanted to. Which is just a massive privilege that I know I can’t begin to appreciate. But though it was of my own volition, it wasn’t something I was 100% certain would go well. I had this gut feeling, basically, that it was time to shake things up. And if I was going to hate it, I wanted to get hating it out of the way and then see where my road led.

In any given week for the past year, my daydreams of the future have vacillated wildly. I have envisioned myself a full time homeschooler. A house full of kids who learn because they just love life. And that vision is beautiful. But it contradicts with my “yellow wallpaper” side; i.e. the part of me that is bored and frustrated and feels like the walls are caving in. So maybe I can work to pay for a private school, one that will give them all that hippie-dippy freedom, but not require a fount of patience that I have not yet discovered within me. Then there’s me the would-be but never-truly-has-been community activist, all helping better our schools and immersing my kids in the true community around us, and not the lovely but hyper protective bubble they generally stay within. And I like all of these visions, to a degree. Their common thread, which I am noticing with some small horror, is that they are all driven by what I want for my kids. Not for me.

I don’t know exactly what I want for me. But I don’t do well at sitting around, ruminating. I mean, I love to ruminate. Just while running around, making rash life decisions. Like going to law school. Or getting married at 23. (Whoops, did I say that?) The latter has worked out well. The former, so far, has been more about loans than legal practice. The law school part I liked. It was so challenging and stimulating. I learned a lot. But the what to do with it, I’ve never really nailed that down.

So, anyways, I just decided to look for a job. Because I had a nagging sense that I needed to try. Even if the end was a failure, it was something. And I had many visions of failing, to be sure. Hot of the heels of failing at a home business, plus having failed at getting a job back in 2009 when we lived in California, in conjunction with daily mini-failures as a parent, I view myself as nothing if not so, so fallible.

What was the question? Oh, I was saying how work is. Well, it’s a contract position, meaning not permanent. The work is nit picky and pretty dry. I don’t envision doing it as all of my job forever and ever. But. It’s great! I really mean it! And a big part of great about it is that it is mine. It is about me, and my skills, my concentration, taking on projects and seeing them through to completion.  I didn’t quite predict how much the experience of just going to an office would be cathartic. Historically, offices were not my jam.  But where the quiet and often serious atmosphere once spooked me, now it’s this balance that is helping me with my home life too, as my home life has all the drama and intrigue I need and then some.

Sure, things are crazier at home right now. Without a doubt. And fixing that will require letting go. Meals will be simpler. Farewell to playdates for now. My to-do list will have to shrink. Aspirations for an all pinterest holiday season are fading away. In my experience as a wretched control freak/perfectionist, though, once my temper tantrum is over, letting go is amazing. I am a pretty intense person. Like, really. I am hyper and emotional, idealistic and obsessed with authenticity. I am, basically, the worst. But I’ve got to give myself a bit of credit. Because going back to work has shown me that I have grown up by a good measure since those pre-kid days. Expectations have lowered, and contentment has increased. I still don’t know what the years will bring, but I feel calmer. (Not at 7:55am when it’s time to leave for school and work, and I just want everyone to GET YOUR SHOES ON BEFORE I LOSE MY MIND, but, you know, calmer on average).

Basically, this endeavor turned out to be mostly for me. It’s not merely a vehicle to impose a perfect childhood on the kids. I’m actually liking it for me. I reserve the right to completely change my mind. For now, I’m pretty good.

So, right now, I am learning to stop planning my life in order to attempt to plan theirs. A fool’s errand, in any case, to think my efforts will make or break them, or that I have the key to unlock their happiness. But I am a fool. And you know what I never expected? My kid, my four year old, who broke me in as a mom and nearly broke me on the whole, she is so dang proud of me these days. That wasn’t even in the master plan.

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Our Little Wonder

Spending any amount of time looking up “doll hospitals” is an odd experience. Because you will find information. And it will be from people for whom gussying up ghastly dolls is a passion. Then you will realize that, in desiring of their services, you are looking to get into their circle. When you post to a local moms group, asking for feedback on a local doll hospital, because no online reviews exist, and then you are met with deafening silence, you may wonder if you should not have outed your dark needs. If nary even a Yelper dare speak of such a thing, should you really knock on its door? Because you are a licensed attorney, and you are creating an electronic record of madness which is not so good for your livelihood.   That is, in any case, my anecdotal experience with it.

So why go through this hassle and potential future as a social pariah? Because:  Caitlin. Or, Katelyn. I’ve never really written it out. She is a somewhere around fifty year old Madame Alexander doll, having belonged to my daughter’s great aunt. Caitlin was named by Edie, my four year old daughter. This doll is beloved, cared for, moved about the house. And, she. is. terrifying.

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“Oh.  Hello, there. I am Caitlin.  And I have seen so, so many things….”

I am currently looking to give Caitlin a bit of a makeover, such that she haunts my dreams a bit less. Also because my husband is a good father and partner, and if Caitlin seems to appear out the ether next to him on the couch once more in her current state, we may lose him for a time. That would be sad and inconvenient. And if Edie can style her hair, that would be a big bonus.

Wish list includes:

  1. New hair that is soft and brushable, and lacks bald spots and/or plastic protrusions that give the appearance of being somewhat mangled, in perhaps a combine accident;
  2. Clean-up discolorations and reapply nail polish to chipped finger and toe nail beds, so as to liven her complexion and reduce the impression that she has crawled forth from a grave;
  3. Reinforce limbs, since they are half a century old yet played with in a new world manner, and also because if I find one of her arms or legs poking out from under my couch, I will cry a million tears of fright; and,
  4. Lastly, dip in holy water and screen for need of an excorcism. Conduct if necessary.

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“Sleep tight.  I will see you soon.  Sooner than you’d like, in fact. Tee hee!”

Ah, but even so. We love this creep-tastic doll. Insofar as I love how Edie loves her. And I want her to last. Plus, she’s a family relic, which is special. And I like the idea of taking care of what we have instead of buying something new. Reduce, reuse, recycle, and the greatest of these is reuse! No, wait. The greatest is reduce. Well. Mine’s a close second.

The question remains as to how I get Caitlin out of the house for her rehabilitation, as I would like her reveal to be a Christmas surprise. I don’t think “Santa took Caitlin” would go over well, since Edie refers to her dolls as her “children.” The story of Santa Claus: Kidnapper seems like a real buzzkill. I will have to brainstorm about that. If, in fact, I ever manage to get to the inner circle of those who stare into the eyes of broken dolls, and hum to themselves, in a minor key, while they Dr. Frankenstein their little monsters back to life.

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I must gird my loins.  For this is the coven whose expertise I seek.