Some Q & A

A picture of the boys just because. Got your attention!

A picture of the boys just because. Got your attention!

At the end of June I quit my job to focus on studying for the MCAT full time. I cleared the old mail and neatly stacked piles of junk from the desk in the office, plugged in the dusty, unused lamp, and proceeded to cram as much knowledge into my brain as possible for 6-7 hours a day, 5 days a week. The judgmental part of me has been berating myself for not gaining more ground last month in spite of the holiday and family gatherings, and the frantic part of me has whipped herself into a froth of anxiety over how much there is left to learn, how little I’ve retained, and how unprepared as a student and a human being I am to take such an important exam. I have less than a month left until test day and I’ve barely scratched the surface of physics and am starting to believe that all of this studying is actually making me forget more than I remember.

At times of intense pressure, I find myself cycling through different coping mechanisms to find the right combination that allows me to feel stressed, feel important for feeling stressed, feel self-righteous about how other people just can’t understand the pressure I’m under, and feel holier-than-thou for (outwardly) handling it so well without getting to the heart of the issue. It’s a very difficult balancing act, suited only for those with advanced “Look at me, I’m important!” skills. But these “coping mechanisms” are akin to plucking a few spots of mold off an entire loaf of bread while proceeding to choke down said loaf with a smile; they are superficial ways to deal with real problems and ultimately lead to a gut-full of bad feelings.

This past month I have tried to choke down my feelings of inadequate self-worth while attempting to learn the intricacies of oxidative phosphorylation and the Lympatic System, but they continue to constitute a lump in my throat that has grown to undeniable proportions. It’s no longer a question of if I can learn the material well enough with my remaining study time, if I am smart enough, studious and disciplined enough, if I am capable of doing well. It has metamorphosed into a question of if I am worthy of doing well and succeeding.

I attended 4 different colleges before earning my bachelor’s degree, started and stopped taking classes towards a dietetics degree twice, and have been plodding through pre-med prereqs at a rate of 1 class a semester or less for the past 3 years. To give myself some credit, I have been busy with other life events during that time like getting married; having kids; moving states 3 times; and taking care of houseful of boys, some who ask me if I’ve done laundry after they used their last pair of underwear. However, there’s part of me who feels like she’s given up her chance for further academic success. If I had quit quitting years ago my professional life could be on an entirely different level.

But I stopped and started and stopped and now I’m starting again. I tell people almost nervously that I am on the pre-med track because I feel their judgement come down on me maybe even before they have time to assess the situation. All of that schooling will be hard on the kids, on your marriage, on your entire life, they say. A good mother wouldn’t willingly volunteer for so much time away from her young children, the voices in my head confirm. These are hardships that I haven’t ignored and that make me question what I’m doing every day even though I have no doubt in my path. However, studying for the MCAT has been slowly teaching me to embrace the questions – scientific and otherwise –  and ask them of myself before anyone beats me to the punch. The questions are the easy part. It’s giving, understanding, and sometimes believing the answers that can take time. I’m working on some of those answers.

The Week of Ugh

As far as weeks go, this one suuuuucked. Not only did it last for forever, the damn thing isn’t even over yet. It is the week that refuses to die. I’m not sure what brought it to this distinguished level of baditude, but what makes me feel so horrible about it is my inability to control my frustrations around the boys. They have seen me clench my fists while forcing deliberate and dense groans from the back of my throat. They have seen and heard me slam doors (in the very unsatisfying way that pocket doors “slam”), berate the dog at high volumes, yell, and walk away in several forms of huff. I have been set off by the dog eating granola bars and crackers right out of Ike’s hand as he raises them to his mouth for a bite. I have had absolutely enough of Connor’s aggressive obsession with everything that is Ike’s head. I’ve been worn thin by requests of “Just one more” and “Mommommommom” and “Not yet” from a 3-year old who may only be a quarter of my weight but who’s incessant pleas to be held are just as taxing on my patience as they are on my biceps.

But, probably more than any of that, I am worm out by the fact that this week the boys have probably seen more anger and frustration come from me than love. I remember being praised for holding my emotions in check when I was younger, and while I don’t glorify shutting emotions into a closet to fester and mold, I don’t often let my “more unseemly” feelings reach out and affect others. This week they did and the unfortunate victims were Connor and Blue Boy. Those emotions reached right out and lectured Connor up and down about practically everything. They shot down many of his requests to play, to be held, to be read one more story, to sit in my lap. They caused me to scold Blue about barking and eating Ike’s food and scratching at the door to be let out just so he could be the neighborhood pest – the dog barking into the silent night as people were turning off their lights and locking their doors for bedtime. They left me with no patience, no insight, not a moment of pause to think about what I was doing in that moment until it was over and I immediately felt bad about it.

And all week I’ve been collecting that guilt, packing it into a ball that I held in my pocket until it filled up that space and I needed to put it on a leash so we could keep track of each other. Tonight that ball of guilt is sitting in my lap, waiting to jump up and follow me to the kitchen for a snack or roll onto my pillow in preparation for bed so it will be the first thing I see in the morning. The thing about guilt though, especially when it’s on a leash, is that am the one who put it there. No one else tethered that guilt to me.  I did it all by myself, and keeping it there means that I’ve chosen each day to carrying it alongside me, to let that guilt grow and keep doing the jerky thing that guilt does best: make me feel guilty and bad about things that have already happened that I also need to unleash and set free.

So right now I am choosing to unleash the guilt – to stop walking it with me down the hall or to the kitchen or into bed. When I wake up tomorrow and open my eyes it may still be there because I’ve fed it and made it such a cozy home. But if I stop feeding it, it will realize that I’m not a good owner. Guilt isn’t meant to be owned but acts as a reminder, and once it’s done it’s job it should feel free walk out the door and get swept away with the breeze. This week I got caught up thinking that the guilt and I kept each other company and I built a cocoon around us that was nice and warm and full of self-disgust and frustration. But no butterflies came of it. And since I’ve gone as far as I care to with this metaphor, bye bye guilt. I already have a pet, haven’t you heard me yelling at him all week?

Affection, Reflection, and Receiving

Affection is sometimes the only thing I have to give. When money, patience, and time have run out, love never does. When I have had it uptohere with Connor, I can still always muster a hug for him, a hair ruffle, a kiss on that sweet, soft cheek. My voice may be rough – grated and chopped up through a tight-set jaw – but even in that state I can’t keep from giving him a squeeze or kissing him on the head. It’s like a compulsion to feel the curve of his 3-year old head, to brush his peach fuzz cheek, to ruffle his soft hair. Am I sending him mixed messages or reinforcing my message by backing it up with an unwavering wall of love and affection? Is this more fodder for the “Mommy Issues” vault? The more I think about it, the more I feel frantic, like I’m knowingly creating a monster, a preschool-aged ball of frustration and confusion not just at a world built for adults but at a parent who has no idea what the hell she’s doing. Oh what a tangled web we weave.
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If I stop thinking about it, though, if I just feel about it, I think I’m doing what feels right. I write “think” tenuously (and ironically in conjunction with “feeling”) because feeling isn’t something I do as well as thinking the hell out of things, even if no answers come if it. I’m trying to feel this one out because thinking it out has gotten me nowhere. I’ve often written about how I’m going to let go, to just feel my way through things because that seems more natural, more intuitive. But that’s not me. I would like it to be, but there seem to be more setbacks than steps forward on my way to being an all-feeling earth mother love angel music baby.

My voice of feeling and intuition is small, like a little nagging tap in the back of my brain, like me in grade school. It is a voice that is mindlessly railroaded when it’s time to make a decision, and many times after that decision is made I see the wisdom that my subconscious held, a wisdom that is often and quickly ignored. A friend recently quoted me Dr. Spock (not that Dr. Spock), “Trust yourself. You know more than you think you do.” The good doctor is asking me to do something that I have trained myself to not do. I rarely trust myself. I probably mistrust myself most out of anyone in my life. My decision-making process is made up of often shallow yet compulsive thinking, followed by a tentative decision, always rounded out by a hefty round of second guessing. It’s a three-course meal of guilt and uncertainty. It’s foolish to think that such an empty diet would sustain me and enable me to provide and care for my family, yet I continue to gorge on it daily. Mentally, I’m done with it. Really. These bitter pills need to be flushed down the toilet to rest forever with Connor’s trusty yet moral blue fish Dirder.

The irreplaceable G of Momastery talks of the need to be receiving mode. When giving gets to be too much, when it starts coming from the wrong place, it behooves us to move into receiving mode. As mothers and parents, receiving mode is probably one of the hardest modes to move into out of boss mode, chef mode, chauffeur mode, or drill sergeant mode. These latter modes are ones of control and sources of dark frustration, like being stuck in an unlit closet, banging on the door that you’re in control while someone outside has reign over the lock. But receiving mode is one of the most beneficial modes to embody. We often feel that we give as much as we can and more than we can to everyone but ourselves. We drain ourselves, sometimes exhilaratingly so but more likely exhaustingly so. But receiving mode, receiving mode is where we can be replenished, refreshed, and open to what the world has to offer. It makes our world feel bigger, and acknowledgment and recognition of a bigger world leads to a bigger, more receptive mind. Forget losing 15 pounds or whittling away love handles, I want to grow a big, beautiful mind, heavy on the chocolate sauce.

From Band Practice to Being Vulnerable

I’ve been trying to change my mindset. Please don’t call it a New Year’s Resolution. Instead, I like to think about it as a long-overdue change in my perspectacle prescription. I’ve made the choice to soothingly bathe my brain in gratitude-filled love juice instead of pickling it in ire and self-pity. I haven’t been doing too well.

Tonight, Z left for band practice at 4:30 p.m. He expressed what a monster rehearsal it was going to be; likely a 7 hour fingerprint-shredding, song-hammering, beer-drinking, socializing grind. Ok, maybe he didn’t mention the beer-drinking and socializing part, but that’s all my abandoned mind latched on to. “Let’s just say I don’t feel sorry for you,” I thought snarkily but conveyed softly. When he leaves for band practice all I think of is how I’m “left alone” to take care of my own kids. God forbid. But I also think about how band practice signifies that he has a life away from the boys, a very important thing to have. He has band practice and I have friends who live multiple zip codes away. He has to practice his base guitar at night and I have to switch the laundry over and wipe down the dining room table from Ike’s dinner-turned-food-finger-painting-project. He has bandmates to kick a few back with and I have a cup of tea at night as “something to do.” I am leaving quite a bit of the big picture on the cutting room floor, but my big picture also feels very small sometimes, when I allow it to.
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Parenthood is such a time and mind warp. In the heat of trying to get a 1-year old strapped into his car seat, it feels like a 10-minute battle (which it actually could be). But in what feels like a few months that same child is climbing into the car on his own and going maverick by unbuckling himself as he sees fit. It may feel like a huge deal to not let a 13-month old watch any tv, but when child 2 comes around he’s hanging out while his 3-year old brother watches his second (ok, I’m lying, probably his third) movie of the day because mom and dad have no idea what to do with him on a single-digit degree weekend. Time doesn’t move the way you’re accustomed when you have kids. And your mind can have a funny way of warping around the smallest details or, worringly, glazing over something that may become a big deal down the road.
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The thing is, working too hard at being a parent almost feels like the wrong thing to do. Raising kids is crazy hard work, but when I feel like I’m working too hard to raise “good” kids I feel my temperature rise, my patience shorten, and my sensitivity to guilt become uncomfortably high. When I try to feel my way throught it, when I use my instincts over my brain, that is when things feel more natural. Things aren’t necessarily any easier and the battles don’t always lessen, but the guilt goes down and I can maintain my patience more when I don’t feel like I’m fighting against a 3-year old. Because, let’s face it, then can win. They may be tiny, adorable warriors but they know how to fight.

So I’m going to try to use my instincts to replay Zach leaving tonight: I still feel that jealous sense of abandonment, but I am also seriously happy that Z gets to do what he loves best – play music. I want to hold it over his head that I’ll be spending all night alone with the boys on a Saturday night, but I also know that that is just a mean thing to do and the beginnings of an internal and marital fight that I don’t have a need for. As much as I try to feel out my parenting, I need to try to do the same with my wifering spousering being with other people, including those over 3-feet tall and who can run the DVD player on their own. I’ve been reading about vulnerability and how, according to Brené Brown, it is a sign of strength and not weakness. It seems like if we really care about someone, we should allow ourselves to be vulnerable to them. If we can’t open our hearts and hurts to them, then who can we truly lay ourselves out for? I often feel that my beating, bleeding heart is laid out for Connor when he does something that hurts or disappoints me. It isn’t up to our children to mend us, but we owe it to them to see what being vulnerable is and how real and human it is to be open and exposed. It’s an emotion that should be shown in times of great happiness and those of sadness, too. Vulnerability is easier with kids than adults because kids haven’t felt the shame that comes along when one adult bears themselves to another. Guilt is something that we often put upon ourselves and struggle with daily if not from moment to moment, but we have the power to not shame others. We put enough on ourselves, why try to throw another chip onto someone else’s shoulder? They may feel like they’re carrying the weight of the world without your help.

How to Raise an Ivy-League Child

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Ikey will be hitting the big 0-1 this month. As an extremely successful parent of two young children almost both over 1, I’d like to share with you my secrets to child-rearing the Ivy-league set:

1. It’s ok to not like your kids sometimes. I mean, really not like them. They smack you in the face at night, act like gobs of jello when you try to dress them, and spit mouthfuls of water out around the house in “secret” spots. Some people refer to them as drunken little people, but I’ll come right out and say it: they can be real assholes sometimes.

2. It’s ok to love your kids for the exact things about them that drive you crazy: They climb into your bed at night only to repeatedly kick you in the back, but you get those few minutes of warm, soft, kiddo cheek to snuggle with before the next barrage of roundhouse kicks comes along. They repeat everything you say, good or bad, but damn is it cute no matter how inappropriate. They make you late for work because they dawdle and delay, but it’s because they’re doing important kid stuff like playing with dinosaurs or hiding from Cheeseburger spiders. They live in a land of creativity and pretend that kids should get to revel in.

3. It’s ok to cry along with your child once in a while: I’ve had a few explosions that have left both Connor and I in tears. Some moments he needs to cry it out on his own. Other times, it has been better for both of us to cry in each other’s arms. Kids don’t fight with words like adults do, they fight with wide open, heart-beating emotion.

4. It’s ok to give your kid food off of the floor: I’m not talking about giving Ike a Cheerio found on the bathroom floor of the women’s room in Wal-Mart or giving Connor a saucy meatball coated in dog fur. I’m talking about non-fur coated dry goods like an untouched yogurt puff that might have hit the floor at the Corner Cafe. Hey, baby food is expensive. PLUS, half the stuff Ike puts in his mouth is germ-coated anyway. The kid crawls around with used (or as Z calls it, “strange”) socks in his mouth for godssake. We’re building the next generation of super immumans (super immune humans. I just made that up, my creativity is that good) people, gotta start ’em young.

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5. Get mad, but know what you’re getting mad at: It probably isn’t worth getting mad when your kid leaves their toys in the middle of the hallway, but the reality is that we get mad not at the toys but at being overwhelmed, exhausted, and not respected. Your kids aren’t purposely overwhelming you, though, and they’re not usually purposely disrespecting. Now, if your 7-year old thinks throwing a hot iron at the back of his sister’s head is a good idea, well, then, rage on, mama, rage on.

6. The choices about how you raise your child are yours, own them: I used to get self-conscious about using the cry-it-out method until I realized how well it worked for my boys. It might not work well for someone else’s kids, though. I used to feel guilty about sitting Connor in front of a movie and Ike in the middle of the play room while I did something without little eyes watching, little hands grabbing, or little voices hassling me. Now I know I’ve earned those minutes and the few extra I get thanks to YouTube. You’re not a bad parent for trying to maintain your sanity even if it is with the aide of smartphones, inorganic food, and non-developmentally aimed toys.

This list comes with no guarantees and is not all-encompassing. I hate when lists guarantee things and pretend to be all-encompassing. The only guarantee is that you are now a parent and that it is awesome at times and horrid at times and while love is a lot of it, work is the name of the game. Love is work, beautiful, glorious, exhausting work.

Ike Hates Me

I’ve been driving myself crazy the past few days with these thoughts:

  • Ike is just not a happy baby. Connor was my happy kid and now we’ve got an angst-y 1-month old. Ike already hates my uncool guts.
  • I’m raising an insecure child because of my lack of a rigidly-structured routine.  Ike hates me because I put him in the carseat at unexpected times of day, his crib is like a foreign country to him, and he never knows what’s coming next.
  • Ike’s head is just going to loll off of his neck one of these days because those limp-noodle baby necks are just so damn inconvenient.

Are you catching the common theme in all of these thoughts?  I’m projecting parental hate on a human whose vision has just started to focus enough to allow him to see me.  Ike cries much more than Connor did (there I go again, comparing), at least from what I can remember of my romanticized maternity leave with ‘Rado.  I’m trying to just let it go, but my just-let-it-go meter feels like it’s being overloaded every time Ike lets out one of his pterodactyl cries or when he grunts and struggles his way through the night.  Why does he sound like he’s trying squirm out of handcuffs at 2 o’ clock in the morning?  Why does he cry and yell when all I’m trying to do is love on and play with him?  I’m not familiar with this version of kid and am having a hell of a time trying to figure him out.  Five weeks into maternity leave and Ike still feels like a complete stranger to me.  

I’m trying to figure out how much I’m willing to tailor my life to Ike. Of course, there is a huge level of adjustment happening here in for all of us.  What I’m talking about is the should-I-just-go-to-the-store-or-wait-until-after-I’ve-fed-Ike-and-he’s-done-napping type of tailoring.  Am I a bad parent for opting to just pack up the little tyke and go, come what may?  The one great thing about being Ike’s cafeteria is that food is always available which makes our lives that much more portable, something that I’ve been taking advantage of.  With that freedom comes that nagging and reoccurring issue of staying on a schedule and sticking to a routine, the current bane of my existence.  Many aspects of parenting are intuitive, but there are those items that could be rationalized both ways; By taking Ike out based on my needs and schedule he will be more adaptable.  Then again, by taking him out based on my needs and schedule, he will not gain any sense of repetition and will feel insecure and uncertain about his life.  I take some comfort in knowing that I’m probably blowing this way out of proportion, but I remember suffering from the same syndrome with ‘Rado – every little thing becomes a huge, looming conflict and making the wrong decision could scar my child for life.  Ok, Jojo, Just Let It Go.  However, I welcome any discussion on this issue because, you know, I can’t really completely Just Let It Go.

The past month has gone quickly. I will be heading back to work next week, after which we will all fall into a natural routine of getting ready, heading to our day jobs, and rushing back together at the end of the day like sand spiraling through the funnel of an hour glass. I am looking forward to the restoration of the natural order of things. So much of my day with Ike feels forced; I’m shoving myself in his face to make sure he’s being exposed to all those things Babycenter.com and Parents.com and Don’tbeadeadbeatparent.com tell you to do so that your kid scores at least a 24 on the MCAT. Somehow, the acknowledged ridiculousness of all of this hasn’t been enough to stave me off of it. I’m forcing so much with him because I’m trying to raise Connor Jr.

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I’m not sure what needs to happen for me to internalize the fact that Ike is Ike, Ike is not Connor. Ike will be smart and kind and fun and the love of my life in a way completely different from Connor but with the commonality that they are both my kids – sensitive pieces of my heart running exposed in a sharp world. Our hearts are such complex things, how could I expect Ike and Connor to be the same?  Because that would just make things easy, that’s why. This isn’t easy, though, and that’s why it’s so worthwhile and fulfilling when that first smile gets cracked or when I can hear Connor galloping around the living room with a stuffed guitar telling me that he’s a rockstar. The beauty is in the struggle. The beauty is here, too:

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Day 1 With Boys 2

Today was the first day I’ve ever been solely in charge of two kids, let alone two who are mine.  It wasn’t a pretty day.  Sure, the first half of the day was relatively attractive – Connor and Ike decided to take it easy on me before the noon hour.  But when we got home after a morning out, oh ho ho did they pull a 180 on me.  Ike decided to cry uncontrollably and inconsolably for what felt like an hour but was probably more like six minutes then remained awake for a straight four hours.  Connor was sated by 30 minutes of Cars 2, but once I turned it off he turned into a 3-foot, pale mini-Hulk who repeatedly told me he didn’t want to take a nap until I told him that I needed him to take one.  My only outlet was sending out needy texts and waiting greedily for responses.  Combine that with my gritted-tooth talking, endless counts to three, and sanity-saving episodes of Paw Patrol, Team Umizoomi, and Cars and I can proudly say that no one was locked in a closet (or locked herself in a closet) and I resisted the urge to scream from the top of my lungs.  We’ll call that a win.

But regardless of how and how often I want to vent my parenting frustrations, there’s that immovable mom part of me who can’t bear to tear myself away from them even for a few hours regardless of how many clumps of hair I leave in my wake.  While I grind my teeth trying to zip up Connor’s coat as he goes all jello-legged on me I also want to kiss his mooshy, smooth toddler cheek.  As Ike wails I just want to nuzzle his little tree-frog body against mine and rub my cheek against his baby-bird down head.  My hardened I’m-parenting-here voice holds me back from putting the hug-down on my boys when I’m trying to be the boss.  That’s one of the reasons parenting is so hard, right?  Withholding affection isn’t easy.  It’s like seeing the most adorable puppy with the most delectable ears in a glass box and all you want to do is pet those ears.  Or am I the only one who ever feels that way about canine ears?

The Tale of Ike

He’s here.  Little Pea, officially deemed Isaiah “Ike” Philip, slid into this world at exactly 12:00 am on Christmas morning.  In retrospect, what I thought were originally stomach pains from an excess of tacos were probably the start of contractions on Christmas Eve around 7:00 pm.  Following family tradition, we opened presents later that night during which I was so uncomfortable I couldn’t even sit down.  My night was made up of pacing and deep breathing, which reached a head at 11:30 when I told Zach that we had to head to the hospital after warning my family that this baby was likely coming soon.  I remember us driving the three blocks to the hospital, me breathing deeply and seeing 11:35 lit up on the car dash.  I thought I could walk to the OB floor, but my water broke in the hallway not 10 steps from the ER.  They wheeled me quickly down the hallway, up the three floors to the Labor and Delivery suites, and into a room while I wailed and cried the whole way.  My doctor magically appeared in his scrubs and a baseball hat, and by midnight Ike was out, large, and coated in newborn wax.  Zach said Ike started crying right away.  The only sound I remember is Z crying and me looking at him in disbelief because he was the one who had to tell me that our baby was born.  In spite of my deepest wishes, the entire birth was carried out without a drop of anesthetic.  Totally not my style.  But our little guy is healthy, beautiful, and here.

Connor might have known something was going on before I even did.  He was whiny and irritable during the entire gift-opening tirade that started around 8:00 pm.  We were able to coax him through brief periods of distraction when he uncovered his Chuggington Koko Safari train set and his new set of Cars books.  But mostly he was a mini terror, a 2-year old Godzilla knocking over stacks of gifts, throwing anything in his reach, and kicking anything that might be in his way.  He was very un-Connor-like.  Add to that that fact that by the time we left for the hospital he was still awake, refusing sleep up through the time Z went back to the house at 2:00 am after Ike had been born, and I’m almost positive Connor knew the winds of change were blowing hard.

I stayed in the hospital less than 24 hours on my request.  The only hospital-administered substance coursing through my veins was a bag of saline, I was feeling decent, and it was Christmas, after all.  My doctor agreed that it would be ok for Ike and I to head home that day.  I spent the vast majority of my hours at the hospital in and out of sleep while Z ran around getting things ready for Ike and I and making sure that Connor was doing ok.  When Connor was born I didn’t want to leave my birthing suite even as they wheeled me down to the car.  The second time around I couldn’t wait to get home and check on him to make sure he knew that I didn’t leave him.  I just wanted to get home and get back to normal, even though at this point I’m not sure what our new normal is just yet.  The holidays, while wonderful, will further stall any semblance of a normal schedule for any of us.  I’m sad that soon we’ll be staring at the bleak month that is January, but I am also looking forward to getting a routine and figuring out life as the mother of two.

My body is still malfunctioning on the way to recovery.  Back are the days of painfully engorged, leaky boobs that look horrible no matter how fancy the nursing bra (mine are not fancy at all), back are the days of still wearing maternity pants because between them and my pre-pregnancy jeans I’d rather give my “flannel puppy” – as Anne Lamott dubbed it – room to roam, and back are the days of just feeling uncomfortable in my achy, sore, overstretched skin.  I’m frustrated because I think I’ll blow my stitches when I pick up Connor even though I do it anyway.  I grit my teeth when ‘Rado runs into my stomach or pads at my breasts as I imagine milk coursing from them, soaking yet another shirt, and making me wince with pain.  I’m annoyed that people think I should be right “back to normal” less than a week postpartum, but I’ve already started thinking that the 6 weeks I took off for maternity leave might be too much.  In short, I’m going through all of the feelings I went through with Connor but with the added guilt of not being able to give Connor all of the attention that he’s used to.  Ironically, we gave Connor a sibling for that exact reason – so that he would learn to share our attentions and not be the center of them all of the time.  Ike is only five days old and we have our entire lives to create our family dynamic, but in these early days I feel like a foal trying to move on unsteady legs, uncertain of where to look or how to start.  Breathing deep is probably a good place to start.  It’s like I’m still having contractions; just breathe.

The Holiday Cliche & Parenting

Written on 11/30/13:
The kitchen smells like pumpkin pie (Marie Callendar’s on sale after Thanksgiving, bitches!), holiday classics are streaming through the speakers, and there are boxes of Christmas decorations in our living room just waiting to be busted into. Oh man, and Nat King Cole’s Christmas Song has just started to play; that’s my jam. I’m in full holiday mode. There isn’t a flake of snow on the ground, but Connor and I have already watched Frosty the Snowman and The Little Drummer Boy today. Love for this time of the year is in his DNA. I have some pointless regrets about Little Pea’s birthday coming at such a packed time of year, but he will be born when people are full of holiday warmth, hot cider, and festive cookies. Doesn’t seem like such a bad time of year to be born after all.

Z and I have debated the commercialization of the holiday, but no matter where you stand on the subject I believe that if you hold onto any shred of the meaning of the season you can enjoy giving even if you’re standing at a long checkout line or waiting to click the “Submit” button on your online order or as you pull your umpteenth batch of cookies from the oven way too late at night. Hopefully, though, the real joy comes from reconnecting with yourself and others, because taking time to appreciate yourself is just as important – if not more so – as giving someone else a hug, kiss, or pat on the back. I hope I say “I love you” and “Thank you” as much all year as I do in November and December. It doesn’t matter, though. Saying it at all and meaning it at any time is makes living worthwhile.

Written on 12/4/13:
It’s hard to make many plans for Christmas and New Year’s because we don’t know when Little Pea will make his arrival. I’ve heard people say that if you carry your baby a certain way it’s likely to be a boy or a girl. Even though we know Little Pea is a boy, I think I’m carrying him in my booty. Whenever I get up from a reclining position my butt cheeks ache when the most strenuous thing I’ve done all day was try to put my socks on, which can be hella difficult with basically a watermelon under your shirt. Heck, getting up from a reclining position is a workout in and of itself at this point.

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I’m comforted by the thought of Little Pea’s infancy; what I will be concerned with after he’s born is purely his survival. It’s so primitively simple – he needs to eat, sleep, and be cleaned. Done. On the other end of the spectrum is ‘Rado. Eating, sleeping, and staying acceptably clean are givens – what concerns me now is his social development and how to deal with his toddler ‘tude and anger. When my nephew was younger he would “hulk out,” meaning he would clench his fists and jaw and just shake for a few seconds. Connor does that. He will also clench his teeth and say, “You listen to me, mom/dad,” he will throw things on the floor to observe our reactions, and he will say “No!” with the voice of a possessed elf. Standard toddler fare, right? I just don’t know how to handle it or if it’s even worth handling right now. Can I use the “I’m pregnant” excuse for everything I want to run away from?

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Then again, it’s ridiculous to think that we won’t make mistakes as parents. If to err is human, what is to be expected when an older, tainted, uncertain human is completely in charge of an innocent, utterly trusting, new one? It’s great, the variety in the world because of crazy, good, honest, loving, parenting parents.