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


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


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!