Monday, December 29, 2008

inner calm.

I have to say, ever since I decided maybe two kids is enough I've been enormously relieved. Relieved. I do want to revisit the idea again later, when Clark's a few months older, but for now it seems pretty clear what's right for me. Relieved that I'm 9 months through the worst of the heavy lifting; relieved that things will only get easier (physically anyway); no longer tortured about how we'll possibly travel, or go out to dinner, or keep up with the laundry, or afford it, or ever have any time to ourselves again. The truth is that I function better when my living area is in a certain amount of order. If there are stacks of papers on the counters, piles of laundry to fold, and scattered general crap, I am agitated. And what I want to be in my life is calm. This is a major goal of mine, in fact: calm. There are some people who can stand in the middle of the tornado and feel inner calm, but I am not one of them. What I feel is frazzled and in a hurry to do all the things that need doing. Also, I have to do these clean/straighten up things before I can start any kind of creative project, which means that if things are a mess I never get to the creative stuff. For my mental health I HAVE to have a creative outlet even if it's just sitting on the couch and knitting or writing on my blog.

Relieved. And although we will talk about this again this summer, I feel 80% certain the decision then will be that two is enough. I'm rather sad I won't be pregnant again, however. I do like being pregnant. Two things about our lives that would change the decision for me, were they different: one is having family nearby to help and the other is my age. It's not that I'm worried about the genetic stuff--more it's my energy level. I'm tired. And every time I carry both kids up the steps at the same time I feel it in my knees. In fact, I understand why we were meant to have babies when we're twenty. The lack of sleep would be nothing--I didn't sleep in my twenties as it was and I could function just fine.

My house has been overrun by kids toys, btw. Tent in the family room, play kitchen in the dining room, swing and slide in the basement. Baskets of toys in the living room, our room, family room. Interestingly, it occurs to me now that there are very few toys in their own rooms. Hm.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

holiday madness

Well, we left early--between storms--for our crazy christmas travel chaos. Over 14" on the ground and snow coming down as we pulled out. I know my neighbors probably think I'm nuts to say this, but I'm sort of sad to miss all the piles of snow. I'm told there will be more. Now we're in NC and I've been without wireless for a few days so haven't blogged though I've been wanting to.

The kids have been troopers. Several nights running we've had them up hours after their bedtimes and mostly they've done well. The night we opened presents in Virginia at my dad's was kind of traumatic--Clark had gone down for the night before we even sat down for dinner since he missed his afternoon nap, but we kept Frances up for presents. We thought she'd be all right, but it was too too much. She had a full melt down complete with floor kicking, taking swings at mom, trying to rip her clothes off, refusing to put on pjs. We had to pin her down and forcibly dress her. It was exasperating, but, again, not emotionally hard for me, even with the possible embarrassment of having other family members to witness such excesses. I wasn't embarrassed, just felt bad that they were having to listen to it.

Two nights later she was up late again--this time in NC at my Aunt Judith's house--and she did really well. We put her pjs on her before we loaded up in the car to go home and as we dressed her she said, "I not upset. At Peepaws I upset." It was so interesting to me that she remembered and made the connection--that perhaps she chose not to throw a fit. (Not that she chose to throw one at my dad's--I feel certain she was completely out of control and didn't choose much of anything at the time...) In any case, she felt proud of herself for holding it together.

She really is cute.

Another interesting tidbit: we went for a walk at my dad's house and she brought her stuffed puppy with her. At one point there was a loud barking dog that frightened her and as we moved past the yard she said to her stuffed puppy, "It's okay, puppy. Don't be afraid." She was able to soothe herself by using the puppy as a stand-in. I love watching this developmental stuff.

And Clark--Clark is attached. I think I've said that before, but it's become apparent in a new way. He didn't do quite as well at my aunt's house; poor guy was tired when we got there, before dinner even started. He wouldn't fall asleep though I tried to put him down in the crib in the back room, and as he got more and more sleepy he didn't want anyone but me to hold him. He'd holler and holler, not crying, just complaining loudly, and when I finally took him he'd pop his thumb into his mouth and snuggle down on my chest. Yesterday at the moravian love feast service he was the same way. I was the only thing he wanted... Mitch tried to relieve me for a bit but Clark was having nothing to do with that idea. "I have to go get your brother," I say to Frances, "Do you hear him hollering?" and she nods like she understands and relinquishes me.

This is all new, a new level. Generally he'll go to anyone and smile big jolly smiles at them, at least for a bit. It's overwhelming to have him want only me, but it's also sweet to have him be so snuggly. It's a stage I know. Frances never went through it which was a surprise to me, but then I wasn't her only caretaker. She had Mitch 3 mornings a week and her sitter C 3 afternoons. For Clark I'm always around and have always been.

So we've done 4 christmases and tonight we're done. We've already told everyone that we're not traveling next year; all are welcome to come see us if they'd like. I wish I had some pictures to post but I haven't downloaded them from the camera yet... Maybe soon.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Frances the tantrum tornado

We have entered a new dimension: tantrum world. She's been having tantrums for ages, of course, but this is all together a new level. It's not the intensity so much, though the pitch has changed and the upper register is operatic. (It's so bad that I simply can't hold her when she's screaming like that. My ears can't take it. She also fluctuates the pitch up and down, like a siren--a new sound for us.) Rather, it's the frequency. They are constant--all day long. About everything. Literally. This morning it was changing her diaper, then putting on her clothes, then what kind of juice she wanted, then having to turn the tv off, then wanting her paci, then when we got in her crib where her paci is allowed it was the color of paci. We had a brief reprieve while Clark was napping--we went outside for a lovely walk in the wind. (It's really windy here.) Last night before bed it was wanting some "medicine" (damn the makers of tylenol for making the stuff so yummy), then another book, and on and on until she passed out in her bed.

I'm not talking about crying fits; these are tantrums. She loses complete control and shakes and flings herself and can't stop. I feel bad for her; they've got to scare her. It could be just her age and all, but Mitch and I suspect the problem was that she was sick this weekend and we let up on all kinds of rules like how much tv she can watch, how often she can have the paci, etc. Now she doesn't know where the boundaries are, so she's testing them all. From what I understand (the little bit of toddler psychology I've read) the tantrums come from a lack of feeling in control, from feeling unsafe. Toddlers want boundaries so they can feel safe. And the lack of control she has during the tantrum mimics the lack of control she feels in her life.

So today I'm reinforcing boundaries. That's about all I'm doing. We have enough leftovers in the fridge for dinner so I'm not cooking, not doing laundry, not accomplishing much of anything except boundary reinforcement. It's interesting--although the screaming is tiresome and loud, I actually find this easier than usual. I mean, it's very clear to me how to deal with this. (Not that everyone should operate this way, or that it's effective for every kid, but it seems Mitch and I have figured out how to deal with her in this struggle.) When she's screeching I tell her I'm going to put her on the floor and that once she's calm I'll come back. Then I go and do some dishes or straighten up or whatever, so she can still see me--I haven't completely abandoned her--but I don't give her any attention until she quiets down. I want her to be allowed her feelings, but she needs to learn that this behavior is not okay. She can pitch a fit if she wants, but she can't have my attention while she does it.

Usually when she's in some new place I struggle with whether I'm doing the right thing, how I should respond, and often I feel like a bad parent. Maybe because this time it's so constant I'm more prepared for it, or maybe it's just deciding ahead of time how I'm going to deal with her so I'm not questioning it in the moment, but I just don't have the self-doubt I usually have in these situations. I'm exerting much less emotional energy and the tantrums don't actually seem hard to deal with. I'm actually calm, not riled, and she's not pushing my buttons. I find this quite ironic. It makes me think that when Clark gets to this stage it won't be so hard on me because I'll have more confidence about how to do this parenting thing...

It could also be the prednisone. Yesterday morning I was still in a lot of pain and called the doctor on call out of desperation. He prescribed another round of steroids since I discovered the last round was half the dose that I'm usually prescribed. No wonder they didn't work. So I'm headache free to deal with tantrums (which makes the screaming much more tolerable), and maybe have a kick of energy to boot! Still, I'm going to nap as soon as I finish this post, since both babes are sleeping. Oh, I hear the girl awake in her room. Onward I go.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

bitch and moan

I'm here to complain. I understand fully if you don't want to hear the moaning of someone who is so fortunate in so many ways and won't be offended if you stop reading now.

I'm exhausted. Having little kids is exhausting. We've been talking about getting pregnant again soon, but I can't. I simply can't do it right now. I can't have another baby this close together. I can't stay in this little-kid-no-time-to-myself universe for another 3 years. I've decided we'll wait until June--Clark will be about 15 months--and we can rethink it then.

But my real issue right now is my migraines. I don't know how much I've written on this blog about my headaches in the past, but I've had them all my life. Sometimes they're better, sometimes worse, and right now I'm stuck in a cycle that's knocking me down. It's been almost 3 weeks and I simply can't kick them. The anxiety I was struggling with has lifted but now I find I'm depressed, but last night it occurred to me that it's simply the headaches. (well, not SIMPLY the headaches... also the exasperation, the exhaustion, the frustration of my life w/ two tiny kids, but these things would only tire me out, not depress me if it weren't for the headaches.) It shouldn't surprise me that I'm depressed after this run of chronic pain--who wouldn't be depressed?

And Frances is really sick. Clark's already on antibiotics for the crud he had a week or more ago, so at least he's feeling good. Frances doesn't have any symptoms except fever, but it's pretty high--she won't eat, and we're having trouble getting her even to drink anything. She clearly feels horrible. What this means, of course, is that she wants me all the time. Wants me to "hold..." Wants me. Wants only me. Yesterday morning I left Mitch here with the kids and went to the grocery and as I was checking out he called me on my cell to ask when I was going to be home; Frances had been having a full tantrum for 30 minutes because she wanted Mommy Mommy Mommy. She only stopped screaming at the very top of her lungs when she saw the car pull into the driveway.

Clark wants Mommy too, but that's because he's 9 months old and very firmly attached. I just want to lie in the bathtub for an extended period of time. I feel like I haven't had a break of any kind in weeks, which could be true and not just my skewed perception. Because Clark is so attached and Frances is so needy, having my regular sitters here isn't the same kind of help as usual; the kids don't want the sitters when I'm in the house too. Ugh ugh ugh.

I understand now why folks w/ little kids move near their own parents. I fantasize about the kind of relief it would be to have family near who could help out. But that's not my situation, and it won't be. Gotta make use of what I can. At least we can afford sitters...! I don't know how on this good earth single working parents do this without completely losing their minds. Really.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

daily life

I'm having some trouble finding the time and energy (when I have the time I don't have the energy) to post. Or at least to think coherent and interesting thoughts about which to post. When I finally got Clark sleeping 12 hours at night, he started teething. Then he got sick. Now he's on antibiotics and is much better, and just the last couple of days the tooth of interest has broken through, so maybe we're on the mend. Then today, 45 minutes after I dropped Frances at preschool, the school called to say she had a temp of 101.4. At home I set her up on the sofa and halfway through a Blues Clues video she asked to turn it off and go to her bed. Poor girl. Hopefully soon Clark will go down for his nap, and maybe then I can get a shower.

On the bright side, the kitchen is fairly clean, some of the presents are wrapped, I only have two loads of laundry to fold, and Clark is doing quite a good job of entertaining himself. That means I'm off to tackle the laundry. And chase Clark away from the dog's bowl.

Hopefully more soon.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

upward

We've moved into the "Watch me, Mommy. Watch me!" stage.

"Watch this!"

"I'm watching."

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

to get a cry

Today I ran upstairs for a minute to grab I don't remember what, and before I came back down I heard Clark's wail start up. When I left he was standing up and holding onto the ottoman which is pretty sturdy, so I had my suspicions. When I got to the family room I said to Frances, "what happened?" "I push him," she said. "And then I hit him." "Why did you hit him, honey?" I asked. "Cause when I push him, he didn't cry. I want him to cry," she said. I suppose it's kind of like when she pulls the dog's ears to hear him squeal. Poor dog. Poor Clark.

Monday, December 1, 2008

teacher Susie is my friend

In the mornings we watch a show on PBS called Sid the Science Kid (by "we" I mean "Frances"). The majority of the show takes place at Sid's school with Teacher Susie, who is Frances' favorite character. Other times during the day Frances will say, "Where Susie?" which I've taken to mean "I'd like to watch Sid the Science Kid," but I'm starting to suspect means something else. A couple of days ago when I got Frances up from her nap she said, "Susie tickled me." "Did she tickle you in your bed?" I asked, and Frances said yes she did. Hm. Later I told Mitch about this exchange and he said she'd been talking about Susie for days. Mitch wasn't aware of the tv character and had asked Frances, "Is Susie someone from school?" and Frances said yes, which technically was true. Now Susie is morphing into a present member of our household, which fascinates me. Just a bit ago she said, "I want Susie to come," and I had no answer for that. When we asked her tonight if she wanted Mom or Dad to put her to bed she said "Susie!" Mitch said, "Susie can come too. Let's pretend she's here and she can help put you to bed." "Where Susie?" Frances asked. "Here with us, in your imagination," Mitch said. "No," Frances said and looked quizical. "Susie on TV." Yes she is.

But then, when I went to say goodnight, she also told me "Grammy coming on Wednesday, (which she is) and Susie too." Yesterday carried Susie downstairs in her closed hand, and tonight she named one of the bystanders in a book Susie.

What I can't figure out is why Susie is so interesting. She's an adult, rather than one of the main character kids in the show. She's a teacher, a woman (when she comes on the tv screen Frances says, "Susie have boobies."), a very encouraging and enthusiastic advocate for these kids. Maybe she just likes her hairdo.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

living up north


It's winter here. I've been meaning to say that. It snowed every day last week and was wonderful. Today is a bit warmer and the world has turned to slush. While it's kind of a pain on school days to have Frances's mesh bag of snow pants, snow boots, mittens, fleece, and hat, it's just one of the things you do, like dishes I suppose. Frances loves to play outside, or go for a "walk" which is really a hop, because she insists we both jump our way down the sidewalk. Clark likes it too--not the jumping, but the hanging out in the backpack. He screams and hollers while I put on his snowsuit and buckle him into the pack, but as soon as I lift it he's quiet and content. I can't understand why he doesn't see that something he likes is coming, why he isn't pleased about the snowsuit...

Frances is so sweet to him. Sometimes when she doesn't know I'm looking she kisses him very softly on the top of the head. When he's fussy she not only brings him a paci in a hurry, but she gently touches his head with her fingertips. It's lovely.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

job description

Sometimes I forget why I'm here. I forget that the reason we're on this planet is to love each other, to give our love, to connect. I become confused and think my job is not love, but management. I manage tantrums, hunger, naps, trips to the grocery, amount of tv watching, sharing of toys, the rationing of candy. I manage laundry, and dinner, and preschool drop off. I manage babysitters, baths, bedtime, tylenol for teething, and night feedings. I'm always on alert to what might drive the ship aground. I am always prepared to act, and I forget to just be. I forget that in the middle of baths and bedtime, even in the middle of tantrums, I can relax. I can get done what needs to get done and be relaxed about it. I can look fully at my children and give them love while we're doing these other things. What happens instead is that I turn my focus inside and lose sight of what's going on around me, save the necessary. I forget that while these busy things do help the ship run more quietly and smoothly, they are not what's important. They are not actually my job. My job is to give love so that these children grow up feeling safe and valued and protected, so they don't struggle with the same anxiety and fear and uncertainty that plagues me.

I think this is what that woman at church last year was talking about when she said her "third was her blessing". She said it was after the third was born that she realized what was important, and that she could no longer hold everything together, so stopped trying. As long as everyone was fed and clean, that's all that mattered. At the time I thought she was nuts, but I think I understand now. It would be a blessing if I could let this go--I would feel blessed to see what's truly important, essential.

This isn't just about me. I notice that when I'm most distracted by trying to get things done, Frances slowly becomes a crazy person. But when I slow down and look straight at her without my agenda, she calms down. She feels safer. I don't just want her to feel safe in this house or community, I want her to feel safe in an existential way: safe on the planet, safe in her skin. Is that too much to hope?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

imperfect parenting

My counselor wants me this week to think about imperfect parenting because, he pointed out, no one is a perfect parent. We all do it wrong, we all screw up. I've never before had a 2-year-old so how can I know how to perfectly parent one? I of course understand this idea, but I'm having trouble applying it. It's hard to have a toddler. Sometimes it's really hard. Frances is--I don't know--something strange is going on with her. At first I thought she was getting sick and wasn't feeling well but now I think it's a stage, and not a fun one. She's very clingy and whiny and needy, and everything upsets her. Tiny things that go wrong are terrible traumas, complete with flinging herself on the floor, shrieking, throwing toys, and sometimes it all just puts me over the edge. On the way home from preschool today I dug out some tissue from the glove compartment and used it as ear plugs to dampen the intensity of the crying. This was after pulling over and climbing into the back seat twice to try to comfort her and get her to tell me if something was wrong past the tiny bump she got on her knee while climbing into the van.

Oh, I remember. She was asking for her juice but I hadn't brought it with me; I'd only brought milk. So maybe she was crying not only because she couldn't have something she wanted, but perhaps because I hadn't provided for her as well as she would have liked. (Or as well as usual, because usually I have her juice with me as well as a peanut butter sandwich when I pick her up from school.) Hm. Going to have to think more on that.

As I type this she is screaming at the top of her lungs in her crib, screaming in her outside voice simply because I told her not to. My approach this minute is to ignore it because I frankly don't know what else to do. At least her brother isn't napping right now and, really, the sound doesn't travel too well through these plaster walls. I know she's testing limits, which is what toddlers do. Sometimes she'll accidentally hit Clark with a toy or something and when I say, "be careful, Honey. Don't hit Clark," she'll look at me out the corner of her eye, pause, clock him very deliberately, then gleefully hold up her arms for me to carry her into time out. What to do? Just the same thing I've been doing? Just repeat myself? Over and over tell her, "no hitting," then put her in time out? When I tell her no and she laughs it makes me completely crazy.

The other thing my counselor and I talked about is the difference between being authoritative and being harsh. I'm not sure I know the difference in practice, frankly. And sometimes when I want to be authoritative I have trouble reigning myself in, keeping down my own anger. When I keep it down well I don't know if I'm authoritative enough. Isn't there someone who can come and tell me how to do this???

A few minutes ago the shrieking upstairs turned to crying so I thought I'd investigate. And when I opened the door Frances was sitting in her crib naked from the waist down, holding out her hands to me, hands that were completely and totally covered in poop. "Mommy, I need a wipe," was what she said. And that was true. So I ran a bath, took the rest of her (poop covered) clothes off, and carried her wrapped in an old towel to the tub. The poop was even in her hair. After washing her I left her to play in the bath while I stripped the bed of its sheets, blankets (security and regular), pillow, babydolls, stuffed animals, books, pacis (multiple), and finger puppets. About the time I came back upstairs from running all that to the laundry room, I heard Frances saying "Mommy this is hot." I thought maybe she'd turned the water on but when I went in I found she wasn't saying it was "hot" but "hard", meaning it was hard to squeeze the bottle of baby wash into the water. The reason it was hard was because she had already squeezed it ALL out. At least she was clean. *sigh* While this was happening, by the way, Clark was happily entertaining himself in her bedroom by chewing on the cord (unplugged) to the fan. It's comical this is my life. I do prefer the comedy to the drama of earlier.

Monday, November 17, 2008

pooping for candy

For awhile Frances was all about sitting on the potty. I think it was the novelty of it--being like mommy and daddy, the pull-ups, the good times. She was particularly excited about the full-size toilet and preferred that to the little potty in the family room. Then a few weeks ago she suddenly decided she was done with that. She no longer wanted to sit on the toilet, didn't fall pray to any suggestion that it would make her a big girl.

Until we resorted to candy.

I'm not above a bribe, and a candy reward, it turns out, is very effective with the girl. At first it was M&Ms, and when we ran out of those I dug out some jellybeans, and now we've moved on to gummy bears. She's not picky. She's so excited about getting candy that she sits on her little potty several times a day. She now can pull off her pants and diaper by herself which is particularly helpful since I often have my hands full feeding or changing or carting around the baby. She'll sit on the potty even when she doesn't have to go, and she's pretty persistent about her success. Even when there's no action at all she'll sit and sit and sit, saying "I poop! I poop--then candy." She gets up, bends over to peer in the potty, then sits back down again. I say, "Are you finished?" and she says, "No. No. Poop, then candy!" She's very optimistic. It's a good trait to have, I suppose.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

who likes Music Doug?

I've got tennis elbow. Not that I play tennis. I'm going to physical therapy and doing what I'm supposed to do but it does make typing on the blog kind of difficult, which is why I've been a little absent here lately. Just to let you know.

Frances goes to school on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and on Thursdays Music Doug comes to their class and sings and plays the guitar. One day a few weeks ago Frances's teachers talked to me after class about how anxious Frances gets when Music Doug comes to play. Apparently as soon as they say, "let's clean up because Music Doug is coming," she cries and ask for her paci and says she wants to go outside. So we started talking about it at home. She doesn't have the language yet to tell me why she doesn't like the man. I still don't know why. The teachers thought that maybe it's the guitar but that's not it; the teacher in our Music Together class plays the guitar and Frances actually goes up and strums it at the end of class. Her teachers insist that he's a very nice fella and I'm sure he is.

Last week on Wednesday night as I put her to bed I said, "you have school tomorrow," and she said, "Music Doug?" "Yes, Music Doug will be there tomorrow," I said. "Cece read books?" she asked. I thought at first she was asking to read more books at that moment, but what she was saying was that she wanted to read books while Music Doug was there. The previous Thursday, I'd been told, one of the teachers with her sat at a table across the room from the music circle and did puzzles and read books. At first she wouldn't even look over to where the kids were; since then she does watch the singing and sometimes sings quietly to herself--a lot of progress from their perspective.

This morning on the way to school she asked if Music Doug would be there and I said yes. "No like Music Doug," she said. I asked why (yet again) but all she could tell me was, "Carson like Music Doug. Sophia like Music Doug. Cece no like Music Doug." She's always had strong opinions. Always. I still have no idea what this one is about, but it's interesting to see her reveal some of her inner life, some of what she experiences away from me. It's also interesting that she recognizes that other kids in the class like him fine; that she's allowed her own opinions separate from theirs. And watching a two year old develop language and social skills and personality is kind of like getting to know someone new; although I've known her for a long time now, I feel like she's a new friend and I'm learning who she is and what she's like. It's rather a good time.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

they are their own

Just moments ago Frances was playing with the dog rough and loud, stealing his toy and making him chase her, pouncing, yipping, everyone having a good time. It was fun to watch, with Frances laughing from her belly. At one point she wrestled his toy away and turned running for him to chase her, but when she whipped around she ran smack into the post that separates our family room and kitchen. A look of complete shock proceeded the necessary wail, a look so funny somehow that Mitch and I had trouble not laughing while we soothed her and kissed her head.

She doesn't do that kind of thing very often; she's a careful kid. Ever since she started moving around she's been that way. If she fell flat on her face climbing the stairs without the rail, well, she didn't do that again. Not Clark. He's so much more physical, and he'll pull the laundry basket over on himself trying to pull up on it, then he'll right himself and do it again. Mitch joked yesterday that maybe he's not the sharpest knife, but I suppose the reward for making his body learn and reach and move is much greater than the pain of having the edge of the laundry basket whack him on the cheek.

She hasn't climbed out of her crib again, for instance. It's funny how different kids are, straight from the womb, no doing of ours. That's a major reason I had more than one--to make this very clear to myself. I didn't want to be confused about my role in my kids' lives. I don't want to over estimate my influence, good or bad. As large as I loom right now, overall I will be just one of many influences that shape them. And much of who they are is imprinted before they even come to me.

Friday, November 7, 2008

posting while waiting for the sitter

It's been a big week for the boy. Just two days shy of 8 months old and he's crawling. Also--a tooth! Oh, the excitement. Clark The Amazing; he stands! he crawls! he sprays his strained peas! He's also (still) the jolliest little gumdrop ever. It's a lot of fun to watch the development of the 2nd one. With the first one you're so shell shocked and fearful that anything they try will result in injury. With Frances I also felt guilty anytime she played by herself. I knew in my head that this kind of solitary focused attention was good for her, was her way of learning, but I couldn't stop feeling that I should be interacting with her, helping her learn, teaching her. Clark, by contrast, has all kinds of opportunity to play uninterrupted, to pull himself up on Frances's toy box (a lidless wicker crate) and fish things out to put in his mouth or to bang together. When he's entertained like that I feel no guilt at all--what I feel is relief for the moment of peace, as well as excitement that he's learning. It's very clear to me that my presence would only interrupt.

I have a load of laundry in the wash, one in the dryer, five more separated out on the floor of the laundry room, plus a load of diapers to wash. Do you think the logic holds that if we had less clothes we'd have less laundry? Maybe I'll throw out half of everyone's wardrobe. I have a friend with 4 boys under 6 (crazy!) and she recently told me she has eight (eight!) loads of clean laundry in her dining room that she can't find the time to fold.

The sitter should be here any minute. This morning I was reminded that the anxiety hasn't left the building, though for now it's mostly backstage. It's a really nice day here (really nice for Nov), the last of the warm days probably until spring, and I had this mini breakdown because I have a sitter coming and shouldn't I be out playing in the sun w/ Frances this afternoon rather than have a sitter here with her? While the sitter is here I will run a couple of quick errands and then I am going walking w/ a neighbor. I don't know why I feel I shouldn't enjoy the sunshine myself--on a walk with an adult--rather than with the kids. Anyway, I got over it and am now excited I get to experience the lovely sunshine without being distracted by general kid chaos. Yippee!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

american democracy

While this post has nothing at all to do with mothering, I have to put it here. It's my blog, after all...

I am overjoyed (overjoyed!) about the election. Last night I couldn't stay up to watch the results because I thought I might die if I didn't get to bed, so I missed the acceptance speech (as well as the concession speech). This morning first thing I watched them both (in the correct order) online, and I just wept. McCain's speech was the classiest thing I've ever heard, and Obama is so amazing and inspirational--he makes me believe we can be better people, truly. I feel a kind of warm relief that spills over from politics into my personal experience of the world; I actually feel safer on the earth than I did yesterday.

Fall has let up for a moment and summer is bleeding back in, and the warmth is lovely.

Monday, November 3, 2008

no no no perspective

People keep telling me that it all gets easier (having two tots ridiculously close in age) after the first 2 years. What I can't tell is whether the difficulties I'm having staying home w/ them are difficulties anyone would have (well, anyone in their right mind...), or if there's something wrong w/ me that I'm not relishing it more, or if it's just the ppd, or all the crazy amounts of changes I've been through in the last year and once I settle in things will be better, or if I should simply go back to work. I have no perspective.

It's not that I don't enjoy it. I do. But it also completely exhausts me. It exasperates me. I don't want to be exasperated w/ my kids. It's exasperating and it's wonderful and it's tiring and it's hilarious and maybe I just see the glass as half empty rather than half full. Maybe it's all about perspective, of which I have none, as we've already covered.

I'm trying to decide what to do about childcare next fall. It's a little early for these thoughts, you might be thinking, but the school where Frances goes needs to hold places now for any siblings next year. Clark can't go to their half day program (the one Frances is in now) because he won't be two yet. But they have the option for full days. And it can be any number of full days--can be only two days, for instance. Oh, the idea of having two FULL days to myself, without kids, quiet in the house, where I can quilt or make jewelry or cook or garden or write on my blog or listen to my music really really loud. But would it screw up their naps? I have full control right now of their naps and so am able to keep a regular schedule (I'm very big on the schedule). I don't know. Anyone with thoughts about this, plusses or minuses, please post here!

p.s. Halloween was fab. Will post adorable picture of dragon-girl only, as boy went as himself and slept in the backpack. Next year will be his year!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

balance and change

1) My daughter tried to climb out of her crib. I suppose I should say she did climb out, but that's only partially true, as once she got her leg slung over the rail she fell on her head. I was in the kitchen at the time, which is directly below her bedroom, and the thump-boom completely freaked me out. I thought maybe the crib had broken. When I got to her room she was standing on her feet, her mouth wide open in a full wail. I sat her down on my lap (completely abandoning the baby downstairs on the floor of the family room) and held her awhile. The crying would slow, then start up again as she remembered. She said she landed on the top of her head, which I kissed repeatedly, and also said she wasn't going to try again to climb out of the crib. At one point she looked up at me and said, "somersault!" It had to scare her to death. That was four days ago and she, true to her word, hasn't tried it again. Will see. I'd like to keep her in the crib as long as I can, but maybe we'll have to go to a toddler bed...

2) My son can stand! Well, he can pull himself into a standing position. He, of course, has no balance, so he still needs me to keep him from tipping over. But still! He looks hard at what he's holding onto, concentrates, and then tests letting go with one hand, then the other. It's a slow movement, a slow motion grasp, ungrasp. It's unbearably cute. He's much braver than Frances was, though I have trouble remembering much about what Frances was like. (it's funny how it leaves you--I guess your brain just moves onto the next thing, or maybe you're so overcome by the whole experience that you can't hang onto it for long...)

They are both going through the most massive developmental changes right now--it's amazing to watch. It's like I can see Clark's brain making all kinds of connections, like the electricity is glinting through his lack of hair. And Frances too--her changes are less physical and more emotionally developmental. For example, Clark has had a cold and I've had to suction him in the mornings. He hates it and screams like he's dying, and this perplexes Frances. I mean, usually when she makes Clark cry she has to go to time out, but here mom is making him cry on purpose. Afterwards she helpfully gets him his paci (which he still won't suck on but does play with and enjoy). Yesterday while he was sitting on the family room floor playing with a toy, she got out a pretend syringe from her medical kit and aimed it at his mouth. She said, "Here's your medicine, Baby Clarky. No cry. No cry, Baby Clarky." He looks at her star struck. LOVES her. Just loves his sister. Seeing that look on his face, and seeing her try to comfort him makes it all worthwhile.

Friday, October 24, 2008

how many hours in the day?

I'm behind with the blog. I'm behind with a lot of things in my life. I keep looking (glancing very briefly in the two minutes I have after kids-in-bed-clean-up-kitchen-put-away-toys-collapse-on-sofa-and-moan, and before bed) at these crafter's blogs and they depress me. Some of these people have kids too, and where on earth do they find the time to not only sew scraps of fabric the size of my thumb into life size sculptures of Barack Obama, but take photos and blog about it? Seriously. Mitch said these folks and olympic athletes make you realize there are a lot more hours in the day than you're taking advantage of. So here's my short I've-already-cleaned-up-the-kitchen update:

Mitch finished his dissertation! And defended it! And passed! Oh it's a good life. It's been a long long long time, and though it's his PhD, I will take any congratulations offered. It's my success too! I suffered! Tomorrow one of the neighbors is having us and some other folks over for a surprise celebration--how sweet is that? (It's a good thing Mitch doesn't read my blog :) I got a Duke-colored ice cream cake today and stashed it in the neighbor's freezer.

The anxiety is okay for the moment, as is my patience level. Today we played hooky from Music Together class simply because I didn't want another day with a schedule. Instead we went to the post office where Frances said she could carry the big package because she was a "big girl". Then we went and bought some green rain boots with turtles on them. While she napped I put the baby on my back and raked the yard.

When dad got home things deteriorated but that's not new--maybe I'll write about that later. She's in a real needy phase and wants dad's attention when he comes home; she hit the baby while Mitch was changing his diaper. After her time out she couldn't seem to get it back together and it was meltdown after meltdown until bedtime.

I've got the baby going to sleep on his own!! Used to be that he had to be rocked to sleep (I'm well aware of the mistakes we made early on) and now I've retrained him. We have a whole (short) bedtime routine that involves putting on his sleep sack, turning on the sound machine, reading the very same baby faces book and holding his bunny. He cries for about 60 seconds and then passes out. I'm so proud of myself.

That's all I can do for now. I want to write more exploring this motherhood thing; I think a lot about it and talking with my counselor is helping enormously. He pointed out recently that it's hard to feel successful about it since their needs are bottomless. Good point.

Friday, October 17, 2008

it's fall here.


This is our street. I like it here.

Monday, October 13, 2008

friends?

There's a girl in the neighborhood (we'll call her Sally) who isn't nice to Frances. She's 5, an only child, and is somehow threatened by Frances's wanting to play with her. Some of the way she behaves is familiar to me--I'm an only child too and I can remember being singularily ungenerous--but it's so hard to watch. Sally tells Frances to her face that she doesn't want to play with her, yanks things out of her hands, is generally taunting and mean spirited. Her best friend (we'll call her Rose) lives next door and is a really sweet kid. She's 6 and has a 2-year-old brother, so is used to toddlers. But she's also just a nice child. When the two older girls play together they don't want Frances to join for obvious reasons, but Rose at least acknowledges Frances and talks to her like a person of value. She notices what Frances is wearing and asks her questions and interacts with her before going off with Sally, who is hanging around impatiently in the background waiting for the attention to return to her.

Most of this summer Frances didn't understand what this dynamic was. She didn't realize, I think, that Sally was being mean, didn't let it bother her one way or the other. Frances would look perplexed when it happened, then would go on playing whatever she was playing before. But now she's gotten a bit older, and now she understands. Today we were over there and I had stepped away on the lawn to look down the street for another neighbor when Frances came running and crying to me. When I asked her what was wrong she could only say "Sally..."--couldn't tell me any more. I asked, "Did she hurt you?" and Frances sort of nodded, sort of not, big tears in her eyes. I asked, "Did she hit you? Did she push you?" and Frances said no. So I asked, "Did she make you angry?" And Frances said, "Yes! Yes she did. She made me angry." Later, after more crummy interaction and general meanness, and after poor Frances told me she wanted to play with Rose and I had to explain that the girls had this special game (Polly Pockets for goodness sakes) that they were playing and Frances couldn't join, we walked home. On the way I said, "Sally is sometimes not very nice, isn't she?" Frances said, "No, she's not nice." I said, "Sometimes people are like that. You like Rose, though, don't you?" Frances said, "Rose nice. I like Rose." We talked about it a bit more and it hurt me that she's having to go through this though it's part of life and we all have to learn it. But one thing that struck me as interesting was that the thing Frances kept coming back to is how much she likes Rose, how nice Rose is. She didn't harp on the meanness of Sally or how her feelings were hurt. I hope this attitude stays with her. It certainly wouldn't do her any good to dwell on her anger or hurt feelings. Nothing accomplished by that.

So it hurt me for her. It also illustrated some new cognitive developments that are pretty fascinating. And it made me think about my role as a mother, and what kind of mother I am--I liked what I found.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

slowly through the sludge

I don't think I'm myself these days, but I don't remember what I was like before, what my real self is.

I think I've figured out something about the sitters that's helpful... I've wanted them here to give me a break and so I can have some space to get some things done, but neither of those things have been happening. But I don't really get a break--not a full break--because periodically either kid needs me and I have to stop what I'm doing and go to them. But yesterday I stayed awake when they were napping (I usually nap then too) and I used that time to do things in the house. When the kids woke up and the sitter arrived, I went to lie down. It was great! Because I was upstairs and couldn't see the kids and the fun they were having with the sitter, I didn't feel like I was missing out; instead it felt luxurious, restful. Finally! Hopefully it will continue to work that way.

I keep trying to manage my anxiety--to anticipate when it's going to strike--but the truth is that it doesn't seem to matter what I do. But resting when the sitter was here was GREAT and made me feel like maybe I have some control. It could have been a fluke. It could have been just that day. But hopefully I've figured out a trick that will help.

Friday, October 10, 2008

navigating

I have a hickey on my chin. I look like someone popped me there, or like I fell into the blunt edge of something chin first. (Which perhaps is an appropriate metaphor for my life these days....) My son put it there last night around 3 am. I was trying a new approach: to soothe him back to sleep in the night without feeding him. He didn't buy it. He was wide awake, touching my face, squirming, singing "dadadada da da", and sucking on my shoulder and chin. After an hour of such fun I decided my sleep was more important than the current lesson, and gave in and nursed him. I suppose this is how parents get into these bad-sleep-habit spots, by deciding that sleep now is more valuable than long term results. Besides, who's to say that whatever approach will give the intended results? You could be doing all this for nothing anyway, an exercise in foolishness.

He used to sleep like a champ. From 9 pm to 5 am, and then a couple hours more. But that changed this summer during one of our trips south, and we haven't been able to break the cycle since. I think it's just habit. I want try something radical, something that includes Mitch's staying up for a couple of nights in C's room. I don't think I can be the one--he knows I've got the goods and why should he not have them if I'm there? But this weekend M's in NYC for a conference and next week he's in NC for the dissertation defense (finally!!!!!) so it won't be immediate. I feel rather strongly that much of my current struggle has to do with this sleep situation. If I could only get 6 hours straight, maybe my body wouldn't be so out of whack.

Yesterday I was doing just fine until the sitter got here. And I like her, like the way she is with the kids. It was a really nice day and I suggested they go outside and play. When I held the door open for them Frances said, "Mommy too?" and I said no, I was going to stay inside and fix dinner. But as soon as the door closed behind them I was completely overcome with guilt and panic such that I couldn't chop the broccoli. I really thought I might throw up. I felt like I was missing something--like I should be out there in the sunshine with them, that F's childhood is going to go by too fast and I'm going to have missed it. Unfortunately, this summer my mother said something to me to this effect--suggested that I go out with the sitters to have them help w/ Clark, etc, because "Frances is in such a good stage and you're going to miss it." Which, first of all, I know intellectually to be completely not true--I see her plenty and I'm the one that gets to experience all the good stuff. Mitch pointed out that if anyone's missing anything it's him with the working and all. But somehow this statement lodged itself deep in me and I keep having these mini anxiety attacks that I am missing something, that I should be with them more, that I'm doing them a disservice when I take time for myself. Mitch keeps pointing out that taking time for myself actually does them good, since it rejuvenates me and allows me to be a better mom when I am with them. Again, I know this intellectually. But the ppd and anxiety is completely disconnected from anything I know in my brain. It's a storm all its own in my body, a sort of tempest, motoring through the barricades I keep erecting. (I keep trying to navigate it--to do things to keep the anxiety at bay, like going to the gym while F is in school since taking her there brings it on, or scheduling my sitters at the hardest part of the day, or giving up sometimes and lying on the floor.) Yesterday my response was to tell the sitter to hang out with Clark while I played outside w/ F. I thought C could use some undivided attention and that would give me an opportunity to play w/ Frances without distraction. We pushed her babydoll stroller down the street to where some neighbors were playing in their yard, and we rolled a basketball back and forth, and we had a good time; but the anxiety wouldn't go. Once it had arrived it was there, and nothing I could do about it. It was this intense physical pain just under my ribs and it was still there when I sobbed in the grocery store parking lot an hour later.

Today, after the lovely night of very little sleep, I gave in and took some of the anti-anxiety drugs I'm hesitant to take. Today is a much much better day. It's amazing really. I don't know what that means about where to go from here....

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

to have a daughter

My girl loves to accessorize. It's funny--she's not a girly girl, not into princesses, doesn't like pink particularly, picked out a dragon to be for halloween, mostly likes to ride her spring rocking horse and play with blocks and push her shopping cart. But oh does she love necklaces and bracelets and watches and barrettes and purses and any kind of accessory really. She loves her back pack and hats and sunglasses and belts. Recently F requested (from what I considered nowhere) to have her toenails painted. I thought that would be all right. I gave her options of pale pink, light frosty blue, and bright pink. She chose the bright pink. She's been so excited about it that she removes her shoes to show everybody her toenails, including folks on the phone. After that she wanted her fingernails painted too. I don't feel comfortable with that because she still puts her hands in her mouth, so I told her painted fingernails were for older girls. Little girls could have their toenails painted but not their fingernails. And see, Mom doesn't have her fingernails painted, does she? But, I'm sure I don't need to tell you, that hasn't worked, and the request for painted fingernails has continued unabated. I have to admit that another reason I don't want to paint her fingernails is that she's only two and I feel like most folks (strangers) would not realize she's demanded this, but assume it's about my tastes and that I've decorated my daughter, that I want her to be a girly girl (which I really don't). I suppose I shouldn't care what they think, but I am trying to make friends these days, assessing nearly every mom I come across.

Today when I picked her up from daycare her teacher stopped me when I first came in the room and apologized--Frances had used magic markers to paint her fingernails. Of course, "painting her fingernails" really meant coloring from her middle knuckle up, as well as some of her palm. AND she not only did her fingernails, but she put on lipstick as well. Red fingernails, orange lips (and much of her cheek). They had tried to wash it off but had been only partially successful. All the way home she held up one of her hands to admire and said, "painted!"

Maybe I should just paint them for her....

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

going for perspective

I feel incapable these days of writing well on this blog. I have this ache in the pit of my stomach nearly all the time but I have so little ability to describe it well. I know one of the major characteristics of depression is the lack of insight--the forest for the trees and all that. I initially wanted this blog to explore challenges of being a mom rather than be a place to simply dump my feelings, yet I feel when I write about ppd that I'm just unloading like I would in a journal, not making interesting connections or observations about parenting. Then again, ppd is part of parenting--certainly my parenting experience right now. And this is my blog, after all. Writing about how I walk around feeling like I'm going to either throw up or burst into tears isn't interesting or helpful, however. Yet there it is--that's my experience.

Today the way I tackled it was to slow down. To try to realize that nothing needs to be done N O W, that it's okay if the schedule gets off, if naps are delayed, if we get to school late. It's not important. Perspective. It's hard to have.

Monday, October 6, 2008

party recap


The party was oh so much fun. We had balloons and streamers and cupcakes and presents . . . Frances says her favorite thing was the singing. When everyone started she stood completely still and got this stony look on her face, the same one she always has when she's really enjoying something and concentrating hard. She used to look like that on the carousel and at first I thought she wasn't having any fun. It took me awhile to realize that blank look meant MUCH enjoyment.

I toyed with the idea of requesting no presents since we have so much already, but in the end I decided that presents were part of the birthday party experience and I didn't say anything. Now I'm glad for the presents--so many of them are things I never would have thought of and are certainly more developmentally appropriate than her old toys. And, of course, she's so completely excited about them. My favorite gift was from a neighbor--a plastic tub of handmedown Fisher Price Little People that had been her daughter's. When my neighbor said a couple of weeks ago that Frances needs some Little People, her daughter piped up and offered her old ones. I suggested they give them for her birthday--and I love that they are handmedowns. Why do we need new ones? And they came already contained in a tupperware tub! I think it might be Frances's favorite too. She opens the tub and dumps the whole thing on the floor and then spends all kinds of time placing people in the school bus and driving around the family room.


Oh, and I feel like I have friends. Relief! The party helped. I have in fact made one new friend whom I like a good bit so far--her daughter is in Frances's preschool class. When Frances first started going I asked her if there were any kids in the class she played with. She said yes, and that the girl's name was "Apple." Hm. I asked the teacher and it turns out that F plays a lot with this one little girl named Sophia in the little kitchen with the bucket of apples. So Sophia and her mom have come over once and we've gone to the toy library together (why doesn't every town have one of these??) and we're going to their house later this week. Hallelujah!

But you know, even when you have people to hang out with (as I THANKFULLY do here in our neighborhood), it takes so long to really get to know folks. It takes a long time to become close, to develop real friendships. In the meantime, even with people around (which--don't get me wrong--is really really helpful), it's lonely. I miss my close friends. I miss having them come over with their kids to play. I miss going for walks with them. The counselor I'm seeing (finally!) suggested that my crazy anxiety about the health club is not due to my not knowing anyone and being all alone there (which I am), but to my family's aloneness there. That no one knows us or really cares about us as a unit. That folks I don't know are caring for my children; we're just some random people--could be anyone. And the anxiety is the pressure of feeling I have to protect my children all by myself, only me. Forces from the outside and all that. It makes sense to me. And this is why our house and yard is my safe place these days. It's expanded now to a stretch of about 5 houses down our street. We walk that stretch w/ our babydoll in a stroller nearly every day, Clark on my back.

It's fall full on now. Trees orange, leaves falling, jackets and sometimes scarves but not yet hats. It came on a little too soon for me, but it is lovely. Bright sunny today. When F gets up from her nap we'll have to take her baby out for a walk.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Party today!

Today is Frances's birthday party! Her birthday was last week but since my mom was going to be here now, we scheduled the party for this weekend.

The anxiety comes and goes, freefloating. Some mornings I wake and find that it descended in the night. It sits heavy in my stomach and I eat very little for breakfast. Yesterday was one of those days, and no reason for it. Today is better, and no reason for that either. One side effect of it all is that the pregnancy weight I had left is falling off me, sliding away in the wake of anxiety, and I'm able to wear some of my clothes again. I'd been wanting to lose the weight but it's funny--I feel ambivalent about it, almost disliking the way my jeans hang on me. I think it's because it's the anxiety that's caused it rather than exercising and eating well. Still, I'm losing weight, which is good I suppose.

The first couple of days back Frances had a bit of a hard time and I think that was just adjustment. She'd been away and perhaps resented us a little for leaving her for so long, though she had fun, but now she's great (most of the time), a real joy. I love this stage. Two years old is a great age--finally able to tell me that she wants to be the one to open the door to let the cat out, to understand that if she pulls the dog's ears again she'll go into time out, and to bring me the wipes for the baby. She can hold up two fingers and say "two years old" about herself and she can hold up six fingers and say "six months old" about brother.

My mom's here now and it's been a great visit so far. I don't think I'd be able to do this party without her. Speaking of which, I've got to go frost cupcakes!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

here again.

She's upstairs talking in her crib right now and I'm down here with the baby trying to breathe normally. I dreamed about the death of family members, grief and crying and ache, and I don't know why I can't look at the world with more humor and less angst. It's gray with rain out the window, or maybe morning just hasn't fully come on yet. It's hard to tell. Yesterday afternoon and evening were difficult but maybe it's not all me... maybe I should give us all some slack, as it's hard for a 2 year old to sit in the car for nearly 8 hours and, besides, to adjust back to being w/ mom and dad after such a (relative) long time away with grandparents. Have an appointment with a counselor but not for another 2 weeks... perhaps will call and see if he can work me in sooner.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

anxiety about the possibility of anxiety


Frances comes home tomorrow. It's been a really wonderful break, a much needed recharging of the batteries. And I miss her. I've talked with her on the phone and we skyped the other night, two things that were quite exciting for me, but I'm nervous about her coming home. I've been so much more relaxed while she's been gone, and I'm nervous that once she comes home I'll feel overwhelmed all over again. Hopefully, instead, I'll be rejuvinated and refreshed--isn't that supposed to be the result?

But for the moment it's just C and me. I think he's a bit bored with me, as used as he is to the chaos that is Frances. My bet is he'll be excited to see her, excited for things to go back to the way they usually are. Will see.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

recharging

I don't possibly have time for a full post because I've just come back from a meeting of "Mothers and More"--a mothers group here in Rochester--(note that I'm getting out and meeting people!) and I want to lounge and read the Marilyn article in Vanity Fair before bed (also trying to have some down time to myself!). But I wanted to post quickly and say that we went to Michigan last weekend to visit my in-laws and it was so wonderful... It was a real vacation, Mitch not working, his folks around to help w/ the kids, great weather, sitting on the veranda and watching the ripples on the lake, dozing on the hammock. The second day we were there I was completely exhausted, like I was hungover or hadn't slept in two days, and I think it was simply from finally relaxing. I didn't realize how long it had been since I relaxed. No wonder I've been having panic attacks. When you have to be on alert for extended periods of time it probably just builds up and builds up until it erupts in misguided and random anxiety. It all makes me think that perhaps my ppd counselor in Durham was right when he insisted (well, suggested strongly) that my anxiety was due to my not taking breaks, not giving myself down time, not recharging. I put a lot of pressure on myself.

When we left I was emotional. Frances kissed us each and was clearly unconcerned that we were leaving; she wanted Grandpa to come with her to the swing. As we pulled away she was already swinging back and forth and as I watched her there was an awful pain in my stomach, a kind of ache that made me feel a little sick. I think it was mama-bear stuff, some kind of primal instinct to keep her near me, like being in being away from her I wouldn't be able to keep her safe.

We're home now, and we left Frances there for the week. It's just Clark here with me during the day and let me tell you it is quiet. I can't get over how quiet. (and again I think: "what did I think was so hard about this when F was a baby??") I'm trying to get the house organized. That's my job this week. When we first moved we unpacked all (most) of the boxes but we put everything away w/out really organizing it. It's been making me crazy, the lack of organization. I mean, if this house is going to be my island, and it looks like it is, it's got to be a settled island, not like some tornado came through and uprooted all the trees. If I'm going to recharge here I need it to be a place of calm, or at least a place that could be considered calm when children are asleep.

And, despite my intentions, this looks like a full post. But I've got so much more to say! Hopefully soon--

Thursday, September 18, 2008

the benefits of lying on the floor

I've got this middle school girl from down the street who comes over now and then as a mother's helper. I pay her $2/hour (what a deal!) and all that's great but in reality I think it would be easier to do it entirely on my own. For one thing, Frances doesn't fully trust her somehow and spends half the time whining "mommy, mommy, mommy do it." Which makes me completely out of my mind. I also have to say something to the girl about not texting while she's here. Today I watched her holding Clark up absently w/ one hand and texting w/ the other. He, of course, fell over. I suppose these things aren't common sense when you're 10. That's why they make you wait until you're 16 to drive. (and maybe 18 to vote? Can't have folks w/out common sense voting...! Ahem.) But she did get F out of the bath (after I got her in and washed her hair) and put her diaper on and dressed her. That was helpful. I was trying to finish schleping the laundry up and down the stairs and also create piles for packing for the trip this weekend, and Clark was mostly playing nicely on the floor of my bedroom. But then he was done w/ that (and screeching) and Frances was STILL whining for me to hold her and Mitch called to say he was on his way and for me to get dinner ready, and I just had to lie on the floor. It was the best thing, really. I did it beside Clark so he would stop the screeching. (It's this new thing he's started, and it's most unattractive.) (I would like to comment here that the hubby's request was not such an outrageous demand as it sounds... it was the result of a discussion last night about what time things are happening in the evening and how to best get both kids in bed without feeling like we've got zero time for ourselves.) The floor was wonderfully comfortable and I closed my eyes and the sounds of neighbor kids drifted in the windows. It sounded like a regular summer afternoon from some space far off, like the space in my dreams. When I closed my eyes, it sounded idyllic. I wished I could stay there a long long time. I was still there when M got home. He said, "what are you doing?" and I said, "lying on the floor." Which was about all of it.

Lying on the floor was healing in some way. Just giving up--realizing that I don't have to pack or get dinner or respond to F when she wants wants wants me. I don't have to do these things; my world will not melt. These are, of course, things I'd like to get done, but they are not essential. The are not the sum of ourselves, the measure of my life; they are just things.

I sometimes think that if I had the time and space to have a proper meltdown where I could lie in bed and not bathe and not eat and listen to self-depreciating indie rock, then I could recoup some of this energy that dribbles out like rain from the gutter seam. I'm reading Franny and Zooey right now, the first time probably since college, and I'd completely forgotten what it was even about. For those of you who don't remember either, Franny is in the middle of a nervous breakdown, a kind of spiritual crisis. She has the luxury to lie on the couch and cry and refuse her mother's offers of chicken broth. I'm a bit jealous. It was, however, what I spent most of my 20s doing. I'm due to move on.

But having the kids (and not just one!) keeps me from doing that. It keeps me from doing nearly anything except what it is we do: pour a bowl of dry cereal and slice a banana for F's breakfast, change diapers, breastfeed, change diapers, spoonfeed Clark pears or avocado or carrots, clean up spills, wrestle shoes on F, help her pull off her pants and diaper to sit on the potty, reclothe her, pour sippy cups of milk and water and juice, fill zippy bags with raisins or cashews or goldfish for snacks, make peanut butter sandwiches, keep F from yanking toys away from her brother, put her in timeout when she whacks him over the head, let the dog out, let the dog in, feed the dog lunch, clean up more spills, fend off requests for more more more t.v., breastfeed, change diapers, bargain w/ F to eat some of her lunch, read a book and sing a song before nap, listen for the crying to stop, carry Clark around while I make a sandwich and put some dishes in the dishwasher, breastfeed, change diapers, walk walk walk a crying Clark to get him to go to sleep and hope he doesn't wake Frances so I can please god get a short nap myself before they're both up again. All that's by one pm.

For awhile I was panicked thinking that my life would always be like this. So tiring, so constant. Several mothers reminded me that sooner than I'd like it will change and my kids will be so grown up. They won't even want me around. At first I was relieved, knowing eventually I will have space again to myself. But lately I've had this new panic (trading one panic for another! Awesome.) that I can't slow the time down, that their babyhood will be too short, that I'm not paying proper attention, that I can't box and keep it.

My mother called a few minutes ago and I didn't answer the phone because I knew I wouldn't be a good conversationalist just now. So she called my cell. I didn't answer that either. Then she called Mitch's cell (which I heard vibrating on the desk since he's gone to the gym) which meant she thought something tragic had perhaps happened to keep me from picking up a call. So I called her back simply to tell her I was alive and not bleeding in a hospital (though metaphorically?) and that I didn't want to talk. A minute later M's phone rattled on the desk again and it was she, this time calling to say how sorry she was that I'm not feeling so great and to suggest perhaps I need more sunshine. Seriously--sunshine. Ah, yes, that's the problem. (sigh.)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

yay for preschool!


We need to leave earlier for preschool. We were almost late Tuesday but things went pretty well. Frances wanted me to stay with her but she didn't cry, and once I told her I was going she sat down at the playdough and seemed to be enjoying herself. I stood in the hall watching through the glass in the door. After a few moments a woman came over, smiled at me, and introduced herself as the center director. She shook my hand and asked which child was mine. I started to point out Frances but then suddenly I couldn't say anything, my throat all closed up with crying. I felt so ridiculous. The woman (who I'm sure has seen that plenty before) said, "I know. It seems so aggressive, doesn't it? It feels just as aggressive when they go to college."

Aggressive is the right word. That's how it feels.

But Frances had a great time. When I came to pick her up the teacher said F didn't shed one tear and never once asked for her paci or blanket. In the car on the way home F told me about the playground--the slide and the tunnel. She even said she wants to go back.

That was Tuesday. Today she was anxious about going, said she wanted to play in the yard, wanted to go to the mall, wanted to watch t.v., anything. Once we got there she clung to me a bit again but then she started to make "coffee" at the play kitchen. When I watched through the door from the hall, she was cutting a plastic hamburger with a plastic knife. This time when I came to pick her up she had her paci and blanket. The teacher said she was fine until about 11am when it suddenly seemed to dawn on her that she was missing these things. And she cried. I feel no pain about that, by the way. She was just fine when I got there. The aggression of the situation seems to have limited itself to the first day--the actual transition in my life, going from having a baby to having a toddler who goes to school. We need to note these transitions in our lives. I suppose I did it by crying in the hallway.

BUT what interests me about all this is how much I am enjoying having her go. When there are sitters here I have a little space because they are entertaining her, but she's still here. When I come home with C after dropping her off at preschool, the house is so quiet. I have all this space to think and breathe and make a nursing necklace, like I did today. (I'll try to post a pic of it if I can muster up the energy to take and download one.)

I'm feeling a bit better at this moment. Yet, this seems to be the nature of my illness right now: it comes and goes. This is why I keep getting confused and thinking I'm fine. But this moment, home after preschool with both kids napping, I am fine. It's a nice thing to be.

Truth

In the spirit of full disclosure I'm going to tell you all that I've got a smidge of postpartum depression. I haven't been blogging about it because (honestly) I didn't want my mother to call repeatedly and say, "How are you feeling?" with that fearful tone in her voice. (Mom, I still want to talk to you on the phone and I know you want the best for me--want me to feel well. I'm doing my best. For awhile, just assume that I'm not going to be fully myself.) I've wondered for a bit if I'm struggling with something under the surface. My approach was just to keep doing all the things I knew I should be doing as a well person--going to the gym, cleaning the house, meeting new people. But it just kept getting more and more tiring to do these things, took more and more energy to get me up and going. I do think these things have kept me from falling fully in the hole--that and the anti-depressants I'm already on--but I feel like I've run out of all the reserve I have to keep doing them.

My postpartum coordinator in Durham emailed a link to another blog about ppd (postpartum depression) and reading her experience and her frankness about the way she's feeling motivated me to write also.

And let me say, before we get rolling, that what I'm dealing with isn't the bottom of the barrel. At the ppd support group I used to go to in Durham there were a few women who had really tumbled down the hole. Their experiences were something entirely different than what I've got going. I'm just circling the drain. Most days I function (fairly) normally and only feel moderately crappy. What I'm scared of is completely falling out. For awhile I think I believed that talking about it (or blogging about it) or even thinking about its being ppd would somehow make it more likely. But that's silly. What I was, in fact, doing (I now believe) was ignoring it in the hopes that it would go away.

Yesterday I talked with my ppd coordinator on the phone and one of the questions I had was--is this ppd? Is it just regular adjustment stuff, the regular results of major life changes? Does it matter which? He pointed out that yes, it was quite reasonable for me to be experiencing all kinds of emotional crappy crap because--hello!-- major move, new baby, new job for hubby, trying to finish dissertation, abandonment of career for me, uprooted from everything that's familiar, etc etc. Yet what I described as the struggle seemed to him to be particular to the fact that I'm a new mom.

I've been obsessing. About stupid things. Not sleeping kind of obsessing. Like about which photographs to order of the kids. And then, once I'd made the decision, intense panic that I'd decided the wrong thing. And the gym thing still has me all in a muddle. I'm still going, but I get so anxious around anything to do with it--driving there, taking the kids to kidtown, being in the gym. My ppd fella (interesting that he's a fella, no?) suggested that being a new mom brings forth a desire (or need) to hunker down, to nest, to provide a safe home space to be in with the kids. Perhaps this is why the anxiety came on full force when we were traveling last. I did pretty well until we'd been gone about 10 days, but then it was all too much. Ever since then, ever since we got home, I've been struggling. Now Mitch wants to go see his folks 8 hours away and the idea of another big trip makes my throat close. He got really frustrated with me the other night, saying that I was being so negative about doing things like this, and that's when I started to question myself--why was I being so negative? I liked the idea of the visit, so why did it make my stomach hurt? And it's all made worse by the fact that I can't find the time (and now energy) to organize this house. We're still not fully settled in because when is that supposed to happen??? I have this great big house that I can't clean up or fill up and it's my only island of safety.

So what to do? I don't know. I need to find a counselor. That's one of the first steps. And I think I need to respect my anxiety about going out of my comfort zone. For awhile I was forcing myself to do things (go to the gym, visit other folks I barely know for playdates, berate myself for not wanting to go on a roadtrip) but now I'm going to try to keep my anxiety to a minimum. Perhaps my body knows what I need better than my brain does. Perhaps after a bit of time staying in my safety zone I will feel a bit more confident venturing out of it. That's my newest theory, anyway.

I'll keep all you friends updated. I think it will help me to write about it, to admit what's going on. It still feels like a failure of a kind, though I know intellectually this isn't the case.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

preschool

Things here have been changing a bit. Used to be that Frances stayed with sitters a couple of times a week and she loved it. But in response to my recent anxiety about hiring sitters and figuring out which hours I need them, I got rid of them all together. (I know, I know, a bit extreme.) It's been nice being home with her, frankly, and we've finally been able to get into a routine, of which the lack was making me crazy. But now M and I notice that F is suddenly more dependent on me, sometimes to the point of not allowing even her dad to soothe her. She hollers, "No! Mommy! Go way Daddy! Mommy!" and wants only me. She doesn't want me to leave her in the kidtown at the gym, though before she had no problem and would in fact wave at me and say, "Bye bye Mommy." Now she gets this panic stricken look and holds her arms out to me. It breaks my heart, though my resolve has gotten more steely and I just smile at her like it isn't happening and say, "Have fun, Frances. I'll be back in a little while." The first time it happened I thought I would melt right there on the linoleum and considered turning around and taking her home. M reminds me that exercise is not just for me but for her too because it makes me a healthier person and better mom (both of which are more true than I can express here). But that's hard to remember when her lip is trembling and she's huddling around my legs for protection.

So we've decided two things. One is to continue on with the preschool (perhaps I forgot to say in my last post about it that it's only 2 half days/week--a total of 6 hours for goodness sake) and in addition, get a sitter for her one afternoon. I think she needs both. M pointed out that having someone other than me (or him even) is what she's used to--having someone else to comfort her, pay attention to her, soothe her, discipline her. Being only with me is a change in her life, something to which she's had to adjust. I've always been so pleased with how little separation anxiety she's had, how easily she goes to other people. So we're going to try to fix this recent regression.

ALSO--I want to say something about comments on the blog. I think I didn't realize the protocol about blog comments--that I should be responding to them here on the blog rather than privately to you, when I do. I love comments. I heart them. So please feel free to leave them, and I will now post responses to them here.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Growth

C can sit up! By himself! He's like a trick pony! When he teeters to the side he can even sort of catch himself. He also, of course, can propel himself forward flat on his face. It seems to me that all this development stuff is happening faster than it did with Frances. Not that he's ahead of where she was developmentally, but that time is going by more quickly. I suppose that's probably the case, since when she was a babe I was sitting around staring at her and waiting for her to do nearly anything, and now C is changing despite my divided attention.

F has started potty training on her own. She frequently asks now to sit on the potty and she wants to do it all herself--she goes to the bathroom and pulls down her pants and takes off her diaper and climbs up onto the toilet. If I come to help her she hollers, "Go way Mommy, go way!" And then when she needs my help getting her clothes back on she shouts, "Come back Mommy, come back!"

From her car seat in the back of the car she says, "Know why, Mommy?" I say, "Why?" and she starts in on a paragraph of babble: "Doodle skook namina gambi do lala," which perhaps is what our explanations sound like to her.

So big. So big so quickly, and I'm the parent of a short person, not a baby anymore.

more to obsess about

Frances is supposed to start preschool Tuesday. I've been having second thoughts about it all, at first wondering if she's ready and obsessing about whether I should keep her out another year. I've moved on to admitting that it's not her readiness that's the issue; it's mine. Maybe I'm not ready for her to go to school. Maybe I want her all to myself awhile longer. I don't know don't know don't know. We finally have a little rhythm going, a sweet schedule with the three of us (baby included) that involves library time and walks and feeding ducks at the canal. Isn't that enough? I think the answer is yes, it's enough if I want it to be. The answer is that there is no right answer and no wrong one either. School would be good for her in some ways, but it wouldn't do her damage to wait another year. Maybe school would give me some space with the baby and myself to get things done (or just relax). Or maybe school would make me feel (already!) like our lives are scheduled and rigid and lacking in joy. (Okay, an overstatement.) On I agonize.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Here is where I am

Things seem to have gotten measurably easier recently. C is nearly 6 months old and I think this age is some turning point. He can now play for longer periods of time by himself and can simply hang out with less frustration. He really enjoys his exersaucer and doesn't mind the car seat as long as he has a toy to suck on. This means mostly F has a bit more space to lollygag. In the car C isn't as impatient to get moving so I'm more patient while F jacks around before climbing in her seat. The other day C fell asleep on the way to the library so I put his carseat, with him sleeping, in the stroller when we got there. During our visit he woke up but just looked around from the comfort of the stroller. As we left the library F wanted to go to the playground that's behind the building. Normally this wouldn't have been possible, but I parked C in the shade under a tree and he just enjoyed the light coming through the branches while I pushed F on the swing.

He thinks his big sister is the most fabulous person on the planet. She stands in front of him and sings and he squeals at the absolute top of his lungs. He doesn't get this excited about me, and I've even got the boobs. It makes me so happy to see him respond to her like this. And she loves him to pieces. Lately (and I need to knock on wood as I write this) she has stopped hitting him and is just so sweet. When he fusses she strokes him, very softly, on the head. She brings him toys and wants to help with his diaper. She pushes him gently in the little swing outside. She's mostly given up on insisting he take a paci, but sometimes it's worth another try. Yesterday she tried to pick him up from where he sat in his Bumbo on the floor. This entailed wrapping her arms around his head and pulling. When I saw her I said, "No no no nonononono" and she just let go, which made him sort of sproing back into his seat. He looked so startled. The whole thing scared me to death, though it was minor I'm sure compared to things to come.

It's funny to me that this is my life. I, an only child, have two children very very close in age. Funny. My life.

growing pains

We've got a Johnny Jump Up, a seat that hangs in the doorway that the baby can jump in. It was one of F's greatest joys. She was still using it before we left NC though I'm sure she was past the weight limit. I'd put her in and she'd jump like a crazy person. At the end she learned how to twirl, one foot on the floor as a pivot, and once twirled with such vigor that she tossed her cookies.

Yesterday while F was napping I put up the seat for the baby. He thought it was a good time. When F woke up, first thing, she saw the seat in the doorway and wanted in. Though it was just a couple of months ago that she was playing in it still, I worried that the smaller door moulding here wouldn't hold her and, besides, she really is too big. So I told her she couldn't get it, that she was a big girl now and it was a toy for a baby. Oh my goodness did she cry. She cried and cried and cried, not because she couldn't have her way, but because she loved that seat so very very much and wanted to be in it so very very badly. I took it down from the doorway but that didn't help. I explained again about how she used to be little like the baby but now she's gotten so big though sometimes it's hard to tell when you grow. Because she's a big girl, she has a rocking horse on springs that she bounces on instead. I sat on the floor and comforted her, let her put her blanket on my shoulder and cry. When I explained about growing up she'd stop crying and listen to me, thinking about things, then she'd remember and start up again, a wail that revved up like a siren. Once she pointed to my eye and said, "Green," the first time she's noticed my eye color. We discussed her blue eyes and C's blue eyes and dad's grey-blue eyes and how some people have brown eyes. She asked for more, and then she remembered her grief again and oh the sorrow. We finally had to go for retail therapy. It's amazing what some new ponytail holders and some bubbles will do for angst.

Monday, August 18, 2008

schedules


The boy is 5 1/2 months old (already! I can't believe) and his little body is trying to get on a 2 a day nap schedule. I was so organized and consistent with my time when F was a baby and it really paid off in her disposition I believe. She knew what to expect and she's been accommodating since about taking naps and going to bed. Her schedule is still firm, but Clark tends to nap on the go since his nap time falls when F and I are going. I fear that if I were to be consistent with his naps too, then I'd never leave the house. He'd nap and then she'd nap and then he'd nap again, and then it'd be dinner time. Yet I feel so strung out lately, so chaotic and disorganized, and I think a schedule would help everyone out. Working on that. It's my latest project.

The other thing happening is that M and I are doing a trial membership for a health club. It's an expensive club; the upside is it's literally a quarter mile from our house, which means we might actually go. I've gone to a couple of classes so far and they kick my butt--a good thing. I've been feeling so stiff and achy and low on energy, and I was recently complaining to M about how I'm getting old. He nicely pointed out that perhaps it's less my getting old and more my being out of shape. This hadn't occurred to me. (I have, after all, given birth twice in less than 2 years.) I want time at the health club to be part of my schedule--they have a "kidtown" which F has already decided she likes, which makes working out (ie: doing something solely for myself) less guilt-ridden; I'm struggling with that anyway when I'm there. The anxiety of being a mom is endless. I'm hoping that a morning leg of my schedule will include Clark's napping at kidtown. Will see how that goes.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

to have offspring

Today a baby bird lay dead on our front walk. It was so tiny, curled up like it just came from the egg, its eyes not yet able to open, a patch of fuzz on its tiny wing. Maybe a robin--a mama robin hopped around and didn't go far when I came close. She picked up worms off the driveway and they squirmed in her mouth. I watched her and waited to see where her nest was but she just kept messing with the worms. After awhile I scooped up the dead baby and he lay in the palm of my gardening glove, curled up no bigger than a quarter. I carried him to the back bushes and lay him under a tree. Having Clark with me so little makes me ache about the bird. Sometimes I look at C and I wonder about the children in the world that aren't loved or cared for and I wonder what it is that makes us care for our young. Even people who don't want to, who don't want children, most of them feed and comfort their babies. I suppose there's no answer other than instinct. All animals do it--it sometimes seems strange to me. C was sleeping inside while that mama bird hopped around wondering what happened to her baby.

Friday, August 8, 2008

home home home

We've been gone for 2 full weeks during which we changed locations every couple of days. It was exhausting. The first week was pretty good, then somewhere in the middle of the 2nd week I found myself standing in the shower crying. F tired of it too and daily demanded "Cece's house!"

Interestingly, though I loved loved loved seeing everyone in our old neighborhood in NC, I found myself homesick for our new neighborhood in NY. I don't know if it was just my *home* that I longed for, my personal space, or the actual place we now live. I do think the safety and cleanliness and staidness of it all lowers my anxiety quite a bit. All that stuff I complained about at first--how white collar and stepford-wife-ish, that stuff appeals to me now, which is funny to me. The house itself is nice but it has it's problems, things I'll change if we stay here forever, but I love the feel of the neighborhood and the location and the manicured lawns and the nice cars driving slowly and the kids playing basketball in the driveways. One of my neighbors just today said he sometimes feels like he lives in a movie set in a 1950s neighborhood. It's all a bit surreal.

We have a new sitter, but she's temporary. I like her a good bit and am thinking of trying to convince her not to go back to school. When she asked F how old she is I said, "She doesn't know the answer to that question." I thought the answer was "One" but then F said something that I didn't understand. I asked again, "Frances, how old are you?" and she looked at me plainly and said, "Twenty two months." Who taught her that? Did she just overhear me tell someone?

Today I took a video of her in her sunglasses pushing her shopping cart and saying, "See you later!" She watched it over and over and over. It's got to be strange for someone with so little self-consciousness to see herself from the outside like that.

C has just turned a developmental corner and he's so active. It's surprised me--I believe I thought he'd be three months old forever. I think, anticipating the move, I got stuck in a particular space and was startled when time moved beyond that. He's rolling over all the time and trying to sit up and grabbing at everything. He watches really intently when we eat, watches the food go from hand to mouth and he's thinking about it. I don't know when I'll feed him solids... I think I'll let him lead the way.

With both kids I'm feeling a bit of angst about their changing. They are both going through such major shifts right now and I want to hold onto this; I feel anxiety that time is sliding by so quickly. Is that always the way with parenting? Will it always be this way?

p.s I bought a camera. Photos coming.