6/29/09

Let's stay together

Today is my seven year wedding anniversary.

CG was an academic when we married, a PhD student who hoped to become a professor one day. I saw my life stretching out before me as a professor's wife with all the leather bound books and elbow-patched trappings. I imagined myself pedaling around an idyllic college campus, wondering which young coeds had a crush on my husband.

When we got married, I was a dancer/Pilates instructor/massage therapist/grant writer. I worked 7 days a week and was often gone from the house, with my huge bag full of snacks, meals and changes of clothes, from 7 am to 10 pm. I rarely sat still.

We are not who we used to be.

Getting married is a promise. I didn't quite grasp that it was a promise to stay together as we each grow and change in ways no one could predict.

In a few short weeks, CG is leaving academia, after much tortured soul searching, for his new job in Virginia. He will not be a professor.

I haven't danced, really danced, in over 4 years. I often spend whole days in my 9 x 13 living room.

Last year, CG discovered flying. He now has his private pilot's license and is working toward his instrument rating. I never imagined this as part of our story. My ambivalence about his flying is something we work through. It is worth working through because I love him, pledged to stand beside him as he searches for meaning and joy in his life. It is worth working through because I've never seen him so happy as when he is talking about flying. Except maybe when he's actually flying.

Two years ago, I discovered blogging. I've always kept a journal, working through my thoughts and experiences through writing, wading through words looking for understanding and expression. CG sometimes struggles with this blog. He, like some other friends and family, is more private than me and isn't always comfortable with me sharing personals stories about our family with the interwebs. He's come to accept it because he knows how important it has become to me and wouldn't keep me from something that I care about.

We've come a long way, baby.

Seven years ago today, we were this young, impossibly happy couple who couldn't seem to stop grinning as we pranced our way through our choreographed first dance.

Every time I hear this song on the radio, I remember this day, seven years ago, when we promised to stay together. To support one another. To grow together.

Happy Anniversary, CG.

Let's stay together.

video
(I couldn't figure out how to get the video onto my computer, so I used our camcorder while it was playing on the TV. That would explain the moment when Eliza fusses halfway through! Somehow, that feels appropriate.)

6/25/09

Playing with the big boys

We get to Kidspace early, right as it opens and Zoe wants to know if any of "our friends are here". I tell her "I don't think so, but maybe we can make some new friends". She nods, thinking about this, "I can ask them their name and they can ask me my name!".

"That's right, that's a good way to meet new friends, Zoe." I say.

She races straight for the "big girl bikes", the ones that you ride around a track, the ones she was too little, too unskilled to ride on the last time we came. I read her the rules and make her repeat them to be sure they sunk in.

At first, she is the only one on the track. She jumps on a bike and starts pumping her legs, sticking out her tongue in concentration as she follows the arrows chalked on the ground to show her which way to go.
Soon, she is joined by two bigger boys, maybe 6 and 8. She is mesmerized, smiling at them when they get near, murmuring "My name is Zoe" when she crosses paths with the older one, trying to show off by going as fast as she can when she's near the younger one. Watching their every move causes her to run off the track and go the wrong way several times. They wizz around her, yelling "TOO SLOW little girl!".

She comes in to park her bike and says, teary and deflated, "Momma? They went off the track to pass me. They didn't tell me their names."

I pull her into a silent, helpless hug that she quickly wriggles out of.

Later, we move to the "construction zone" where the same two boys are rushing around building a big house out of large striped blocks, barking orders at one another. Zoe stands at the edge and says, too softly to be heard, "Guys? Can I build too?".

They don't respond.

She looks at me, sad eyed, and I say, just as desperate for her inclusion, "I don't think they heard you. Go ahead, Boo. Put a block on."

She tentatively picks up a block and puts it on top of a wall. The older boy frowns and says derisively ,"No. Not there." and takes it off.

She comes to me and whimpers, "He said no. I wanna build too."

The mom next to me hears this and calls out "Boys, let the little girl play too." and they glance at Zoe, apparently appraising her building skills.

"She can decorate when we're finished."

"Everyone can build and everyone can decorate, DAMMIT." my inner feminist silently roars in my head as I watch my daughter trying to find a way in with the big boys.

She watches awhile longer and sees that they are putting the triangular pieces on top. She picks one up and places it next to another, carefully lining up the stripes. The boy closest to her says "that's right." and places another next to hers.

Her entire being smiles and she skips around finding more triangular blocks, pausing to proudly inform me, "I'm building!".

The older boy mumbles from the other side of the house, "you're decorating".

Her radiant, jubilant face, her sideways glance at the boys looking for approval, her skipping step: the whole scene KILLS me.

I am struck by how little I can actually do to help her navigate the confusing world of playgrounds and friendships and "big kids".

Later, on our way home to a much needed naptime for all of us, she says sleepily, "I'm gonna tell Daddy about how I helped build a house with the big boys."

"Yes you did, Boo. You sure did."

6/22/09

Hostess with the least-ess


"Hello and welcome to our home!"
"ACCCKKK!!! THEY'RE HERE! HIDE!"

(I will surely spend the entirety of our visit displaying the excellent manners my parents have instilled in me!)
(I will surely spend the entirety of our visit with either my fingers in my nose or my underwear showing!)

"Here are my favorite toys. Want to play?"
"These are my favorite toys. NOOOOOOO! DON'T TOUCH THEM!"

"Would you like to play chase? No? What would YOU like to do?"
"CHASE ME! CHASE ME! CHASE ME! CHASE ME!"

"Oh, you're leaving? That's too bad. Thanks for coming! *kiss*"
"WAAAAHHHHHH!!! I don't want to say goodbye! NOOOOO!!!!! *throws self on floor*"

6/21/09

Two dads

There are many reasons to love this man.



I didn't know most of them until we had our beautiful daughters.

An awesome father is the best gift I have given my girls.

Happy Father's Day CG.


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My father's chemo is done.

I hope to have many, many more years with two wonderful fathers to celebrate on Father's Day.

Happy Father's Day, Dad.

6/19/09

Dear Eliza

Dear Eliza,

Your umbilical stump fell off weeks ago. My hospital adhesive tape marks and bruises are FINALLY gone. You are getting over your first cold. You have outgrown your 0-3 month clothes.

You are one month old today.

Before you were born, I was deeply concerned about your inclusion in our family. I couldn't fathom who you would be, how you would possibly fit into our family's tight little dynamic, how you could be different from Zoe and still be lovable.

I had so many doubts about how this whole two child thing would work out. In my mind, you were an interloper in my love story with Zoe. I worried about everything. How would you change my relationship with Zoe? How would she suffer? How would I? When I thought of you and how our early days together would be, my thoughts were filled with confusion, concern and anxiety.

You have taught me so much already.

Everyone comments on how peaceful and alert you are and though they really are probably just searching for something, ANYTHING, to say about a big, drooly grub of a baby who can't even hold her head up, I have to agree. You spend a lot of time in what the books call a "quiet alert state", staring with wide eyes at the world around you as if you are taking it all in, not like it is new and unknown to you but as if you are an old soul who's been here before.
I am a bit obsessed with your exquisite, expressive eyebrows.

And then there are your cheeks. NOM NOM NOM.

How is it that you've only been on this earth, in our lives, for a month?

My worries were all for naught; my love for you was just THERE from the beginning. I am admittedly shocked that my crappy pregnancy, my constant fretting over the difficulties of having two children and, most of all, my overwhelming love for Zoe didn't prevent me from loving you the moment I held you in my arms. If anything, my love for Zoe seems to have primed me for how much I would love you, as if my heart already knew how to love someone this much, making it even simpler and easier this time around.

And you have been so easy to love, my dear. The obvious, overwhelming, overstuffed beauty of you is one reason. Then, there is the fact that so far you have been a good sleeper, a NIGHT sleeper even, and for that I am forever grateful. Maybe it's how large and fully cooked you were at birth; starting that first week, you were allowed to sleep at night for as long as you can. You seemed to immediately understand that nighttime is sleepy time and we both regularly turn in around 9 pm. After that I am usually up with you only once in the wee hours of the morning. Can I get a HALLELUJAH? Even if when you stop sleeping so well at some point in the future (and don't we all know how much I am tempting fate by even daring to call you a "good sleeper"??!), I am grateful for the rest it has allowed me to have. As a result, I have more sanity, energy and patience for you and your big sister than I ever expected.

Plus, unlike your sister at the present moment, I can dress you however I want.

I know this has been a stressful transition for Zoe and she hasn't been all sunshine and roses since you were born, but one thing that has has never wavered is how much she loves you.

She's constantly kissing and hugging you, clapping your feet together, inspecting your fingers, patting your back, and stroking your head.

We all want to eat your fingers.

She always asks if you can come in to pick her up from school and she delights in pointing things out to you when we're all in the car together. She loves her new "buggy board" on the stroller for the simple reason that it allows her to be close to you, to watch you for the entirety of our walks. Seeing Zoe love you so readily and easily, watching her grow into her role as a big sister, has taught me volumes about loving you. Zoe is very matter of fact about you; it's as if she's saying "Of course Eliza's here and isn't it grand?".

It is grand. It is so very grand.



Love,

Your Clueless But Hopeful Mama

6/17/09

No wonder I had heartburn

Once upon a time, there was a belly:



And that belly was casted in plaster to capture its hugeness for all eternity:


That plaster mold was meant to serve as a reminder that my body was a once spacious home for a baby girl.

That home doesn't look quite so spacious now with my four week old baby girl lying in it:


I mean SERIOUSLY. How did she ever fit in there??

(Speaking of bellies.... NOM NOM NOM)

6/16/09

It's your placenta in a, uh, pill

Rereading yesterday's post, it seems apparent that my lame little advice points 1-10 were all a prelude to the shocking reveal: that I'm ingesting my placenta, in little freeze dried bits, three times a day. But that would presume that I can think clearly enough to intentionally set up a big reveal in a post rather than just banging out random advice, that happens to include one decidedly unusual practice, in a half an hour while both kids were napping.

So. Here's a little explanation about my placenta pills (once again, banged out at naptime).

My doula is the one who suggested it. I told her I was concerned about post partum depression since I was so depressed in my first trimester and I didn't want to go through that, or put my family through that, again. She mentioned that several of her clients swore by "placenta pills" prepared by an acupuncturist out the valley (the same acupuncturist I saw for induction treatments). At first I was..... shocked, alarmed, even disgusted by the thought of ingesting my own placenta. But I talked with the doula and read a bit about it (honestly, that website describes the theory behind it better than I could ever summarize) and decided it was worth a shot.

The logistics? We wrote a request in our birth plan to have the placenta put on ice ASAP after birth. At the hospital, we signed a bunch of forms (about removing "medical waste") and asked them to fill our Coleman cooler with ice. My acupuncturist came to the hospital and picked up the cooler the day after Eliza was born. She processed the placenta ****I try not to think too much about it, I don't know where or how she did it and I don't really want to know**** and sent me the capsules (all 300 of them) via UPS next day air. I take three at every meal.

Of course, I have no way of knowing if it's made any difference in my emotional and physical recovery. But I am feeling really pretty good, much more emotionally stable than I felt after Zoe was born, certainly much better than my first trimester. In the last four weeks, CG has only had to deal with 2 weepy breakdowns and a couple of cranky, snippy comments. That may sound pretty bad but WHOAH, that's actually better than normal.

I haven't noticed any negative side effects (there is no after taste, thank goodness, because... YUCK *shudder*). If the pills have made a positive difference, AWESOME. If they haven't, well at least I feel that I did everything I could to recover from the birth as quickly as possible, both physically and emotionally.

And that peace of mind is priceless.

6/15/09

Assorted Clueless But Hopeful Tips for Surviving the First Month

1. Take a shower every day, preferably in the morning if only to remind yourself that 8 am is supposed to be the start of a day instead of some meaningless marking on a clock. Use your best shower gels and lotions. Scrub and pamper your body. Revel in how amazing it is to have survived labor/a c section/the adoption process.
2. Sleep when the baby sleeps you have someone around to be vigilant for you. If you are like me, you will try to sleep when the baby's asleep but you will have one ear listening for her cries and every little hiccup will take you off your train to dreamland. Best times to sleep? When your mother/sister-in-law/husband/neighbor are around to hold the baby while she sleeps or at least listen for her so you don't have to.
3. Lanolin cream is overrated. If you are nursing, try those cool gel pads that you can put in the fridge. Spread some milk around, let your nips air dry and then slap those cool puppies on. They won't stain your clothes like the cream and they feel SO GOOD.
4. If you are lucky enough to have friends/loved ones offer to bring you food, do not be the polite martyr you normally are, say: "YES PLEASE", "THANK YOU", and "DON'T FORGET DESSERT".
5. Adopt a "be here now" approach when things are good and a "nothing stays forever" approach when things are hard. When your infant is happily asleep on your chest while you stroke her poreless cheeks and your husband is doing the dishes, DRINK IT IN. When your infant will NOT go back to sleep and is crying for some unknown reason and all she wants you to do is rock her/bounce her/sing a never ending song explaining the financial crisis in minute detail for HOURS, keep reminding yourself that this too shall pass.
6. Take an "all things in moderation" approach to all things junky. Junky TV? Good for a late night nursing session or a quick recharge during nap time. But if you find yourself mindlessly channel surfing or watching the infomercial for "Flirty Girl Fitness" for the 12th time, you need a break. Junky food? A little chocolate/ice cream/root beer float (*ahem*) here and there never hurt anyone and may have made their life a little sweeter. However, keeping your nutrition needs in mind when you are engaged in the ultra-marathon known as "parenting an infant" is never a bad idea. It's okay to use food for some comfort, just remember it's also FUEL and that sugar you crave will only leave you pissy and tired in about an hour.
7. Drink plenty of water. If you had major abdominal surgery, if you birthed a baby (and a ton of bloody junk) out of your ya-ya, if you are creating milk from your body, if you are not sleeping much (That should cover all of us new parents, no?), now is the time to hydrate. Seriously. Right now. Stop reading and go get a glass of water.

*big drink for me too*

8. Do not extrapolate stable personality traits/future success/your parenting prowess from your one month old infant's temperament. This applies even if positive ("My child is sleeping so well! She is an easy going person/sure to be a genius/proof of my AWESOMENESS as a mother!") because this tendency will haunt you when your child has a bad day ("My child is a FAILURE as a sleeper/eater and is clearly the fussiest child alive. I must be the worst mother EVER").
9. Take a walk as often as possible. This is not necessarily for weight loss or physical recovery, though it will help both those things, it's mostly for emotional health. You will see the sky (even if it's gray and covered in clouds). You will smell fresh air. You will see something, ANYTHING, besides the view of household decrepitude that is visible from your indentation on the couch.
10. Do not get cocky when you are feeling better than you thought you would the first week after bringing home a baby and skip opportunities to sleep, thinking that you aren't really THAT sleepy. The sleep deprivation sneaks up on you and before you know it BAM you're putting your keys away in the cereal cabinet and forgetting the name of your dog.
11. If you are concerned about your emotional stability because you were just a little depressed during your pregnancy, try any and all measures presented to you as post partum depression prevention. Even the possibly wackadoo ones like, oh say, ingesting your own freeze dried placenta in capsule form. Because at least then you will feel like you have done EVERYTHING you possibly can to stay sane.

(Just in case you think I'm kidding.)

6/11/09

Common assvice for the early days of baby #2

"Ignore the baby, pay attention to the toddler. The baby won't know the difference, the toddler will."

I try not to kiss Eliza or sniff her head or gaze at her too adoringly when Zoe's around. I've tried to pay extra attention to Zoe whenever possible. I often tell Eliza "I need to put you down now and help your sister" so that Zoe hears me say that to Eliza in equal measure to the times I have to say it to her.

(Luckily, Zoe is still in school a few days a week so I have a few days where I get to nibble baby toes all I want without worrying about sending Zoe into a fit of sibling jealousy. )

Zoe remains a huge fan of her baby sister but she is still acting out with us - OY THE WHINING- and every day she seems to require more and more and MORE attention from us as if we are increasing her appetite for it, so I say this is a bit of draw.

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"Involve your toddler in helping to care for your infant in any way you can."

We've been rockin' on this one. Zoe loves to help change "Baby Eliza", pick out her clothes, pat her back for a burp, turn on her vibrating chair, and cover her with blankets - "but not on her face! I'll 'member that! She needs to breeevve!" I think involving her in as many activities as possible, and giving her lots of attention for doing so, has helped Zoe feel protective of her sister. It also has helped keep me sane as I can attend to one thing at a time for those few seconds that Zoe's doing what I'm doing instead of needing help or attention in another room.

This one is, so far, a success!

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"Buy some new toys and put them in a special 'nursing toys box' for your toddler to play with only when you are nursing your infant. This will help your toddler associate your time nursing with positive activities for themselves as well."

I don't know where I heard/read this but it sounded good to me and it was good, for the first week or so. Every time I went to nurse Eliza, Zoe would jump up and down and say "YAY nursing toys!". This was also the time that we had my sister-in-law visiting, CG was home and the sleep deprivation hadn't quite caught up with me and, well, maybe I should have held the 'nursing toys box' in reserve for NOW. My sister-in-law is gone, CG is back to work and the toys have apparently lost their allure. These days whenever I say, hopefully: "Zoe, Eliza needs to nurse, do you want your nursing toys?" I hear a polite but disappointing "No, thank you." as she begins her preferred nursing time activity: launching herself repeatedly at my knee caps from her perch on the nursing stool.

Another draw. Maybe I need to rotate the toys with some she hasn't seen in a while??

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"If your long-since-not-nursing toddler suddenly gets interested in nursing, allow her to taste your breastmilk. She will not like it but she will come to that realization on her own and it will keep her from being jealous of the baby."

Dude. DUDE. I went with this. When Zoe asked for some breastmilk, I simply smiled sweetly and asked her if she wanted to taste it. I gave her a few drops on my finger and watched as she tasted it, both of us curious.

SHE LIKED IT. WANTED A CUP OF IT.

(WTF.)

FAIL.

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Coming soon! Assvice of my own!

6/8/09

It's all relative

Getting only one five hour stretch of sleep before baby: Impossible! Horrible! "I'm such a wreck!"

Getting a blissful five hour stretch of sleep with a 2 week old newborn in the house: Amazing! Awesome! "I feel great!"

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Home alone with a newborn the first time around: OMG. I'm ALONE. I am not prepared for this. I cannot handle this. What if something happens? I NEED A BREAK.

Home alone with only a newborn because your awesome husband took your toddler to the farmer's market: OMG. I'm ALONE. I'm FREE. What junky reality TV is on? Shall I have cookies or chocolate for a snack? YIPEE! What a great BREAK! (Oh. Hi baby!)

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Successful day with one three year old: Educational activities undertaken. Nutritious meals cooked and eaten. House clean. Laundry clean and put away. Ditto dishes. Tantrums (from child or parent) small or nonexistent.

Successful day with one three year old and one newborn: All life forms in house are still alive at the end of the day. (Plants don't count.)

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Getting ready for an excursion before having two kids: Shower. Wash face. Brush and floss teeth. Put on sunscreen, eye cream, cover up, blush, eye liner, mascara, lip gloss, deodorant, body lotion, perfume, matching clothes.

Getting ready for an excursion with two kids: Use toddler's washcloth to rub soap on armpits. Start to brush teeth but get interrupted half way through by toddler: "I need to POOP Mommy!"
Grab clothes off floor that may or may not be clean/fit/match. Realize as you are pulling out of the driveway that half your teeth are furry, your brows rival Frida Kahlo's and your shirt is totally stained. Keep going anyway.

6/3/09

Because I couldn't exactly let you stay impressed

I really did mean everything I said in that last lovely post.

Unfortunately, I also mean this less-than-lovely one.

Not 5 hours after writing Tuesday's post, I was the lone adult in the house, wandering back and forth from a toddler who would NOT go to sleep and an infant that would NOT go to sleep and tripping on a dog who would NOT get out from underfoot and somewhere in there I LOST MY MIND.

CG had put Zoe down for the night and left to deliver a saw he was selling to a friend. On the way, he had the nerve to unwittingly go OUT OF CELL RANGE (cue ominous music). Which meant that by the time he came back into cell range there were 5 missed calls from me and one message that may or may not have sounded like this: "Are you on your way home now? 'Cause I need you HOME now. Can you come home?! NOW. HOME?! NOW?!"

The poor man left the house with a wife that was totally fine, feeling good, ready for a little R & R before bedtime. Same man came home to a wife that was a spit up and snot covered mess who was seriously in need of both a hug and a stiff drink.

Unfortunately the hug will have to do for awhile.

Both these posts are true. We are doing well, appreciating our gorgeous little girls and how blessed we are. I am often able to look at one or both girls and just BURST inside with how lovely they are. AND we are (okay: I AM) just a leeettle hormonal, a little close the edge at times, wondering how to juggle it all. The reality of two is like this I guess. And I know it will get easier in some ways and harder in others.

I"ll be over here, learning to ride the waves.

6/2/09

The benefits of being ignored

Zoe is standing at her craft table, intently pounding big red splotches on crisp white paper. Her brush's bristles are all smushed from the pounding and her apron pulls sideways and I almost point these things out to her but don't. Eliza is nursing away in my arms and I suddenly realize that she's in need of a burp so I carefully disengage her Hoovery pucker, grasping firmly under her chin to hold her wobbly body upright.

At which point Zoe discovers red paint all over her apron and, since it is pulled to the side, her shirt.

Cue tantrum.

I can't get too involved with, or worked up over, the tantrum because I've got to go change a freshly poopy diaper. So I leave Zoe to it and tell her I'll be right back.

When I return, Zoe is back in action, pounding away, this time with green paint. I notice there is a rag from our rag basket lying on the craft table, covered in red paint. The smushed paint brush sits on top of it, discarded for another, better, not-smushed-yet brush that she found in the paint bin.

Seems she figured some things out for herself.

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We are playing in the living room and Zoe wants a snack. Eliza has just finished nursing and is in a milk coma. I tell Eliza: "Mommy has to go help Zoe now. I'll be right back." mostly for Zoe's benefit but partly for Eliza's too. I buckle Eliza into her vibrating chair and cover her with a blanket.

After a few minutes spent setting Zoe up with her snack, I return to find Eliza, eyes open, staring at the wall where our black and white photographs are rimmed with thick black frames. Her eyes focus in and out and I see her sizing up her world and taking it all in, in her own time, by herself.

I pick her up and hold her, alone, just the two of us for just a few minutes. My breathing slows. My lips and nose brush back and forth over the downy fuzz on her head, the soft spot in her skull making my lips do a dip now and again. For just a moment, I am truly here with her.

Zoe calls for me and I return to the table, baby sister in my arms.

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They both have me but they both don't have all the attention, all the time.

I'm really starting to understand how this can be a good thing. For all of us.

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