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


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.