4 AM rising / A day at home

I keep waking up at 4 to 4:30 AM and don’t go back to sleep, just lie there. I’m not in distress or feeling anxiety, I’m just awake. I try going back to sleep, but it rarely happens…unless I force myself to stay in bed to perhaps catch one more hour. In that scenario, I wake up late, S wakes up late, we are both grouchy and hungry and have a hard time getting the day rolling. I’ve been trying to get up at 5:30 or 5:45 recently, to have some time to myself in the morning, but it seems so silly to lie there not sleeping for an hour and a half after my 4 AM waking. So I am thinking I might just start getting out of bed at 4. I go to bed around 10. So that’s 6 hours of sleep. 6 hours sleep = 4 sleep cycles (90 minutes each sleep cycle). Conflicting information on the internet about whether or not six hours is enough, ranging from “you will have a longer, healthier life if you sleep 5 to 6.5 hours” to “if you think you are okay on 6 hours of sleep, that’s just your body/brain fooling yourself into thinking that, and it is really bad for you to not get 7 to 9 hours.” Any thoughts, experiences, information concerning this issue?

I definitely feel better throughout the day when I rise early. This is a big change. I’m 43, so perhaps my body is entering a new phase?

I love getting ahead of the curve, having time to write (like right now), having time to take a hot shower and drink coffee all by myself. When I go into S’s room, I am ready for him.

I am not ready for him when I get up at the same time as he does—it’s so difficult to get the day going, because he needs me to be close to him in the mornings, and I need to brush my teeth, make coffee, think, plan, etc. It’s not possible to think clearly when I get up at the same time as he does. He talks, he wants, he needs, he negotiates, he plays, he is contrary, he is joking, he makes sure he is the center of my attention whenever possible. Every once in a while, he will be so chill that the day flows wonderfully even when I wake up later/with him, but oftentimes I end up in this chaotic swirl, trying to plan the day, get us both clean, ready, fed, and definitely feeling behind the curve.

I talk to a lot of parents who put their kids in front of cartoons first thing in the morning so that they can attend to getting ready for the day. I don’t judge because I don’t know what it is like in their homes. Perhaps they have very early risers, and I can’t imagine how tough that would be. But S is not an early riser. He is a solid sleeper, and he doesn’t get up on his own incredibly early. (The only time he gets up super early on his own is when he goes to bed super late! Those 90-minute sleep cycles are no joke. Sleep begets sleep with S for sure.) So I am in the fortunate position of it being not impossible to rise earlier than he does to get things and myself—my thoughts, my needs—in a bit of order before he enters the picture. I have to take advantage of it.

I do want to mention Friday, however, and the maturity S displayed, when it came to his needs, because it was surprising and so touching to me…

I kept trying to get us out the door to do something, and S kept telling me, “Later, Mommy, I’m not ready.” He wanted to stay home and just be with me, just play. I listened, and I realized that there was no reason we had to get out the door and do something. Finally I decided to stop asking him and just stay home. After all, we’d been to parks, museums, etc., recently.

S and I need to do very little to be happy, to be learning, enjoying. We don’t have to go to a museum, a park, a music class, a swim class. But I forget this sometimes. When I see the neighbor kids going off to swim class on a Saturday morning, or hear about pretty much every toddler I know being in a music or gym class, I worry that I am not giving him enough opportunities to learn and grow…and then I check myself. He is two and a half. There is plenty of time for classes. We went to Gymboree pretty regularly when he was an infant, and for a couple of seasons, we went to Music Together classes here, but I don’t have him in anything now. Part of it is the expense, but the other part of it is just that feeling of having to be somewhere at a particular time and day. Why force that right now? Why not enjoy this time together, enjoy playing crazy games at our new home? Soon enough, he’ll be in preschool for three hours, three days a week.

So Friday turned into this absolutely lovely day at home. I was so freaking tired at the end of it, but happily. We played, played, played. But S also helped me cook jambalaya (he taste-tested and poured the oil in the pan). At one point while I was cooking, he went out back with his book and contentedly read by himself at his little table. It sort of broke my heart to see him reading out there by himself—I wasn’t sad, just realizing how much older and more mature he is now. Turning the pages, commenting quietly to himself, laughing at a picture, totally unaware I was watching him through the window.

And then he was inspired to go into the back yard and dance by himself. He was just strutting, pointing his arms this way and that, doing little jogs, punching the air like he sees his dad do when his dad is practicing martial arts. Oh my goodness. I was so happy for him. Enjoying his own company. Doing his own thing.

We read. We must read five to ten books a day. (Yesterday, I allowed him to watch a little something on TV in the afternoon and when I asked if he was ready for me to turn it off, he nodded and said, “Let’s read, Mommy!” Okay, totally proud.) At one point, we were on our big king-sized bed with all of the stuffed animals around, reading book after book. And then we pretended that one of the pillows was a campfire. I ran downstairs to get marshmallows and we put them on our fingers, to roast them over the pillow-campfire.

Then we went into the office/art/music room and I drew shapes on paper, and he colored them in with various colors. I wish I could remember the details of what we said—after that time together, I was absolutely dying to write down our conversations, but I never found the time. And now I forget. All I remember is the feeling of extraordinary closeness and wonder. Wonder at how much he is changing and learning each day.

He ended up taking his books and reading them to a semi-circle of his stuffed animals. “See the picture here baby kitty? You love it?” Ha!

The rest of the details of that day are gone like the wind, but what can you do but try to hold onto the little bits that stay…

 

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Hello, old friends: new house, new times

It has been a minute!

Well, I am sitting at my desk on the second floor of our NEW HOUSE and looking at the sunrise. Showered, dressed, and thinking in complete sentences. Getting up early is awesome!

And so is our new house. We love it here. We live in a neighborhood that is like a small town. The locals call it Mayberry. I can’t tell you how fortunate we feel to be here. We are a ten-minute drive over the bridge into the heart of the city, a ten-minute drive in the other direction into the woods of parks and nature reserves. Sidewalks and brick streets and children everywhere. We walk to a cafe, restaurants, the Farmer’s Market, a gorgeous riverfront park—all just blocks away. DH takes a 20-minute walk to work (so we still only have to have one car). On our half-block, there are three other families with children around S’s age, and we’ve already had playdates and potlucks. One family brought us dinner when we first moved in two months ago. Another mowed our lawn. Another brought us bread and salt, so we will never be hungry and our lives will have flavor. The house itself reminds me of something out of It’s a Wonderful Life–a two-story American Foursquare with attic and full basement, built in the 1940s with a big front porch, yards, a lovely dining room. It is absolutely ideal. I just can’t believe we made this happen!

Something has changed in me since we moved in. A sense of peace. A sense of belonging. I keep thinking of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. When belongingness needs are not being met, it is a roadblock to self-actualization. DH and I both feel like we can grow now in ways that we just couldn’t seem to before.

S is blossoming, too. He loves it here. For weeks, when we were out, he would say, “Can we go back to our new house now, Mommy?”

He has changed so much, so quickly. Two and a half. His vocabulary astounds me. He uses words like “frustrated” and “generous,” understands concepts like “true” and “safe.” (He once said to me: “You’re generous, Mommy!” when I gave him a treat. Ha!) Now he is imitating storytelling dialogue structure when he plays, as in, ” ‘I have to go fly now,’ said the airplane,’ ” and makes the plane fly away. His imagination is becoming increasingly complex. While we are at the table, he will imagine that the Farmer’s Market is all around us, or the beach is all around us, or his new imaginary friends (and/or new-house ghosts?) Ardor and Anna are playing with his toys, sharing them nicely. He likes to touch certain points on our heads and faces and necks very gently and murmur made-up words, Ada, Gupa, Lolo, Hama, and it seems as if he is accessing some ancient form of acupressure or reiki or something. His personality continues to take on new aspects. Lately, he has been very motivated to be part of all conversations, inserting himself, gesticulating with his hands in the way that he sees adults do, nodding conversationally like we do. He sometimes has a soft voice, so I often find myself letting people know that he is trying to tell them something, or repeating what he has said in a bit louder voice to the person he is trying to talk to, because I hope to encourage him to continue wanting to engage and connect with others.

Lately, he has been expressing ambiguity, which blows my mind. He will say, “I like Daddy, but I don’t, ” for example, trying to communicate his obvious affection for DH that exists alongside his obvious preference for me. (Preference for Mommy, or the stay-at-home parent, is a natural stage kids go through at this age.)

He and DH got to bond so much lately, as DH had time off from work. The living room forts that they made were epic. The amazing cars made out of cardboard boxes. DH is so good with him, so good, it is almost painful how beautiful it is to hear them playing in the other room. Patient, silly, energetic, encouraging, firm. We are so lucky.

I have cut bangs and lost a lot of weight. One day, I just stood in front of the bathroom mirror in front of our double-sink vanity (two gemstone sinks! am an adult now!) and cut that hair, like I’d been envisioning doing for years. They are thick, hip bangs that I adore. I look younger. The weight came off, and I’m not really sure why. Maybe it was all of the stress of getting this house together!

It was a long, long process. House-hunting was utterly exhausting, and putting in offers nearly killed me, the anxiety. Envisioning one future and the next, only to have to quickly move on. Once we determined that we would go for our favorite neighborhood, we saw this house on Valentine’s Day, put in an offer immediately, and had three months to take care of the insides. DH ripped up every bit of stained, gray carpet at night (still can’t believe he managed to do that). I spent months negotiating with contractors—floor restorers, painters, plumbers, power-washers, and the list goes on—yeah, pretty sure I never want to do that again. We had the hardwood floors restored to a gorgeous buttery-gold. The walls were beat-up, brown, mint, and neutral tones. Seeing the house empty on the day we closed on it, our hearts sank. But I set about to figuring out what atmosphere we wanted to create—truly a far more difficult task than I’d imagined it would be—and we ended up with buttery yellow walls that glow in the sunlight, a gorgeous melon for the kitchen walls, white painted stairwell handrails, dreamy blue for S’s room, and so on. The place, overall, ends up having a clean, natural, beachy look and feel, and the walls take advantage of every bit of sunlight. I had the dark solid wood cabinetry in the kitchen painted bright white, and it was the best $800 we ever spent.

A couple of weeks ago, I unpacked the very last box. (There are still a ton in the basment, but we’ll get to them some other year!) So the walls are totally blank, but everything is put away, has a place.

We recently went camping with friends who have little people S’s age. We stayed in cabins at a campground with a wonderful playground and swimming pool. So many firsts for S—marshmallows over an open fire, and boat ride (he actually steered the boat around and around Lake Arthur, with the help of one friend’s daddy). Also, one of my favorite memories ever: catching lightening bugs for the first time. It was just S and me on the playground at sunset, and we’d come out of this big wooden ship that he loved to find lightening bugs everywhere. I caught one in my hand and showed him, and he gasped. Catching lightening bugs, or simply watching them, was such an important part of my own childhood that I gasped, too, cherishing the opportunity to share this with him. Later that night, after many fun times with his friends, and after engaging with the adults around the campfire (my little man!), I took him inside to sleep and he looked at me with that wide-open expression of his and said, “Mommy, you make me feel safe.”

Is that a normal thing for a 2.5  year old to say? I just wasn’t expecting this level of complexity and emotion at this age. I was taken aback. I said, “I’m so glad, darling boy,” and kissed the top of his sweet, sweet head.

He also says really funny things. Like the other morning, he was snuggling with DH and I, and he caught whiff of DH’s morning breath, which is nearly lethal. “I smell your nose, Daddy,” S said, wrinkling up his own nose. Then he scowled and started going, “Blaahh, blahhh, I smell your nose, Daddy, I smell your nose.”

One morning he tried to very seriously explain something to me, once and for all. “Mommy,” he said slowly, making steady contact, “I don’t like food. Food is too yucky. I just like snacks.”

We started potty training on Friday—the boy has been ready for a long time, but his parents were not. I think if we had been settled I would have done it at age two, or even a little before, because he was obviously interested in it. But—life! We waited until we had a firm, settled foundation, to reduce the stress of it.

And let me tell you, it has all worked out for the best. Because not only is he having very few accidents, he is already telling us when he needs to go. On Day 3, he ran to the potty and went, all by himself, without telling us before or afterward, just like it was no big deal. Once he said, “I have to go potty, one second,” holding up his index finger, as I often say and do—one second—and as he’s running down the hallway, called out, “Be right back!”

He pooped in the potty on his second day of potty training, and we had thought that that was going to take months. He did it easily and happily and then insisted on wiping himself. Pulled his pants up. Done. The look of absolute wonder and surprise on his face when he heard his poop go into the potty. The incredible expression of pride he wore when he looked down and saw what he had done. All three of us went into wild-dance mode afterward, dancing in circles, jumping on the couch. “Right there! Right there!” S said, pointing to the potty as he strutted about.

He did have some poop accidents on the porch and living room, so I’m sure it’s going to take some time to finesse. I’m a little concerned that his preschool is starting up again very soon, but we’ll just have to trust that things will work out okay. He will most likely surprise us with how quickly he adapts. Kids are so brilliant and resilient, we adults really don’t get the half of what they are capable of.

I’ve got to get him up now—am trying to get him on an earlier schedule. New school—this one on a nature reserve!—coming up soon. I hated to leave Waldorf, which was perhaps the ideal loving, nurturing place for him and for us, and where we all made a lot of dear friends, but the expense was too much. Luckily we found a preschool that is just starting up that follows the Reggio Emilia approach and has the kids out in the woods, discovering science and nature. He’ll be there about 9 hours a week until kindergarten…and one of the incredible things about the neighborhood we moved into is that he will be able to go to the very best public schools in the area, beloved by locals.

I will try to write more often, now that I am going to start getting up at 5:30 AM. I  missed this. But it will still not be as often as before, because I have to work on my business plan. The time has definitely come for me to get back to me. More on this soon.

 

 

 

 

 

Day before Easter

This was the hardest holiday for me, back when I was losing pregnancies and my vision of the future was crumbling. It’s a fertility holiday, after all—so many eggs! Beautifully painted eggs. And children in sweet outfits. The slightly damp spring wind rustling cherry blossoms. Round pregnant bellies or little sweet babes in carriers. It was my favorite holiday, as a child—I loved the season, the outdoors, the hunting for eggs, the funny things my dad would do to reveal the sneakily hidden ones. I remember crying one Easter because he had to work a construction job, and who was going to casually pull back the couch cushion to reveal the bright pink Paas-dyed egg hiding in a crevice of our dog-gnawed couch?

Tomorrow, we will hide plastic eggs filled with candies in the yard, and we will hide an Easter basket filled with bubbles, trucks, and trains in our bedroom, and our son will be so happy. I’m so excited to see his little face—that delight of his that fills my belly with sunshine. 

I would love to report that this is all I need, that I am healed completely from the years of loss, but that wouldn’t be true. I know many who have been down this road still struggle with some vestigial gunk. I want to help lift the stigma of talking about that gunk. A friend today was saying, “Aren’t you so, so happy to have a kid now, after all you went through? Doesn’t it make you even happier? I know someone who struggled to have a baby for seven years, and now she has one, and she is so, so, so happy.” 

And I wanted to say, Yes, I am! Because I am. I’ve expressed all that here. But I mentioned the up-a-notch anxiety I sometimes have (choking, cars, losing S in a crowd) and some of the other repercussions of RPL, and how I have some concerns that the anxiety could negatively affect my parenting in ways I’m not aware of. But no one really wanted to hear that part of the experience. Happy endings, the simple kind, are so much more fun to talk about. 

There is a strange feeling I get at holidays—I’ve described it before—that is in part due to having had really traumatic childless holidays for years. It’s not full-blown PTSD symptoms, but more like a memory of PTSD that comes with uneasiness. It’s this feeling of waiting for the other shoe to drop. 

When will I be free of that feeling? I don’t know. Maybe never, completely. Can I be okay with that? Can I just hold that feeling and let it be, accept it as part of me? I’ve already accepted that I am going to have more nightmares of losing S in a crowd than your average parent. I’m okay with that. Small price to pay. And I am able to be present for S even while I’m feeling some of this weird ghost stuff. So I think the next step is just saying: Okay. This is part of the deal. Okay.

In any case, wherever you are on this IF road, I’ll be thinking of you. I always do, on holidays. 

Just another day with magic

Raising a two-year-old boy is magical and exhausting and he breaks my heart with his beauty about five hundred times a day. I don’t know what to do with these feelings. Sometimes I just grin and cry simultaneously and look at him and feel his essence. I just stand there and look and look, and feel and feel.

I am so exhausted. I am so happy.

This is not the newborn-phase kind of exhausted. This is the kind of exhausted that comes with raising up a very energetic and comedic little person whose personality is blossoming by the minute. Keeping up with his physical and emotional and psychological needs is a whirlwind of deep love, hilarity, profundity, frustration. The rapid swings from this to that are both exhilarating and annihilating. There really aren’t very many moments of the day that are just, you know, normal. Steady. Walking along, hanging. No, no. It’s all zig-zags, darts, jumps, leaps, spins, both in terms of what our bodies are doing and what our hearts are doing.

Oh, my dear, sweet baby boy! You are so magical! You are both the wildest creature and the most celestial being I have ever known!

Today, he counted to eight—eight little torn pieces of tandoori chicken around the rim of his plate at the Indian buffet. “Rice puddin and chicken, Mama? And melon?” This is what he says instead of “hello” these days when I pick him up from preschool, in order to get me to go the Indian buffet. He loves it there (and if we don’t go, he is very upset most of the way home). He wants to drink chai with me, like at a tea party, and we always “cheers” our mugs. He likes to point out the Indian deity on the wall who to him looks just like Santa Clause. “Hi, Santa!” He giggles with delight at passersby—I seem to always leave that place with phone numbers in my pocket, and I know it’s not me who draws those new friends to us.

After lunch (a fellow patron running after us with S’s lost boot) he let me know that we would not be getting back in the car. “NO CAR!” This said with the saddest face you have ever seen in your life, eyebrows peaked, lips jutting out. The dramatic expressions of S. I’ll be surprised if he is not one day attracted to the theater.

“We walk city, Mama? We see cars? We airplane, Mama?” This said with head cocked and his most charming, hey-look-at-how-adorable-I-am flirty smile.

Doing airplane means finding the chained-off parking lot where, one day, he and I stuck our arms out and acted like airplanes. He has never forgotten. It was, unbeknownst to me, a really important event in his life. And so of course I put more money in the meter and we go find that lot and “vooorrrrrooommmm” all over it. And then there are rocks to be looked at and played with. Because I am the kind of mom who will jump in mud puddles with him, I am also the kind of mom who plops down in a rocky lot with him and comes up with a story about rocks with him. There is Roundy Rock, and his friend, Square, and Square goes and gets some grass for Roundy to eat. Mmmmm, yummy. “That’s tasty!” S exclaims. Then Square balances on Roundy, and all the little pebbles cheer. “You did it!”

He then talked me into walking up a very steep hill with him because, hey, look, how neat is that hill! “Let’s do it!” he said. On the way there, he saw some dogs in a window, and he giggled with such delight I could have died. “Hi, Oowa!” he said softly and sweetly (oowa = dog), peering in, grinning in this way that is so hard to describe—the purity of it, the abandon into delight, it is something adults crave and can almost never find. “Hi there!” His voice, so soft, so kind. “Nice to meet you, Oowa! Oh, and ‘nother one oowa. Hi!”

We get to the hill and halfway up, he decided that it was time to do some yoga, so he did upward-facing dog on the sidewalk and looked up at me. “I stretchin, Mama! I stretchin!” Then he did downward dog and frog pose—and seemed to forget that we were in the middle of this adventure, climbing this dang hill. “Come on!” I encouraged him, but no, he decided in that moment that it was time for mom to carry him. “Picka-you-up, Mama,” he said, reaching. I stood my ground and said he must use his big strong legs—I am trying more and more not to give in to these requests, in no small part because my freaking knees  are now starting to give me problems (a 43-year-old mother of a two-year-old boy kind of problem). But at a certain point, there he was, side-saddle on my hip, and we were heading back to the car.

I kept checking the rearview mirror to see if he would nod off, but no, life was too exciting today. There were diggers and wee-oo-wee-oos (police cars) and all manner of trees, birds, and hills to comment on. Piles of sand. Piles of salt. An empty potato chip bag loose on the wind. “What’s that, Mama? What’s that? Look! Look!” The world is a treasure chest and I get to see every bit of the treasure, once again, just like when I was little. That is one of the most delicious gifts of motherhood.

A gift I mourned so deeply when I was having miscarriages and did not know if I would ever become a mom.

Having gone through that—for me, it does deepen the appreciation of what is happening now.

We stopped and got ice cream and then went to the park, where he greeted the ducks in the pond just like he had greeted the dogs in the window, and I stealthily teared up again. “Hi, Mama Duck! Hi, Dada Duck! So nice to see you. Bye-bye. See you soon!”

We climbed to the top of the big-kids jungle-gym, where there is a steering wheel that looks out over the entire park. S could see down, where all of the kids were climbing, sliding, swinging. “Hey kid!” he kept saying. “I drivin! Hey kid, hey kid, I drivin!” I was laughing so hard.

Fast forward to dinner, where our little lovebug sat eating edamame and, for reasons that were unclear to us, suddenly squeezed his little hands together, threw back his head, and said, “I so happy! Soooooo happeeeeee!” What struck him in that moment? Was it the way DH and I were chuckling and talking? Was it just the three of us eating dinner together? The sunny, fun-filled day?

DH took him on a hike after dinner in the woods and, DH reported to me later, he announced on the trail: “I want Mama. I love Mama.” He wasn’t distressed, DH said. He was very happy when he said it, as if he were just looking forward to coming home to see me.

He says “I love you” now quite a bit. And “I miss Dada.” And he asks to hug. He gives us back rubs. He says: Please, “Scoozie!” (excuse me) and, my favorite,”oh-thank-you!” or “geek-ooo!”—which is always said with a little note of surprise.

Once he was at home, we went through our favorite ritual: naked mouse. Somewhere along the line, S thought that “Mickey Mouse” was “Naked Mouse,” and he started calling himself “naked mouse” whenever he left the bathtub, naked. He loves to run around the house and come find me, going, “Naked Mouse!!!!” and when I see him, I call out, “Naked Mouse!!!!” and I swoop his little naked body, still a little damp from the bath, into my arms. He squeals, I squeal, and it is a total love fest, hugs, kisses, giggles. Then, of course, he runs and runs and runs and runs around the house, begging us to chase him. “I get you, Mamaaaa!” he says, and we take turns “getting” each other.

It’s hard to explain what it is like. The accumulation of these moments. The end of the day, DH and I are totally spent, our bodies aching, our brains crazy-tired, and our hearts filled to bursting. We try to explain the way we are feeling. We try to grasp what kind and loving person he is. We talk about all of the little things that happened. DH might go into detail about how hilarious it was when they made Emmet (the stomach-alien from Aliens, whom S named Emmet), Piggie, and Kitty Meow-Meow fall off the couch, and he knows that only I will truly understand the hilarity, and only I will be able to understand the magic of the belly laughter. We talk about what it was like to look at the moon with S. I tell DH that when I sing that song I wrote for S, the one about him being from the stars, he interrupts me with “stars and moon, Mama,” and I can’t quite get over that he is adding to, riffing off of, a song I wrote for him when he was born. And DH—he gets it. He gets how unfathomable that really is.

 

For a friend in need–TV and movies that don’t/didn’t trigger you

First of all, I have missed this space. It’s hard to start writing in here again when I haven’t for so long. For now I will just say that things are good! We bought a house! Holy crow, a new chapter of adulthood! The closing date is in a couple of months, and we’ll probably move in a couple of months after that. We had to take a very close look at our values, during this process, as the easier, less financially strained path came with a lifestyle we do not like—hilly suburbs without sidewalks, feelings of isolation, but more space, less mortgage (way less), more yard, etc. We ended up going the harder path, and the much harder path for me, as it will not only be smart for me to go back to work soon, but it will also become necessary soon. But I’ve gotten to the point at which I am looking forward to returning to working and am cooking up some exciting plans. The path we chose is going to be uncomfortable, financially, in the short-term, but I hope not in the long-term. In any case, we could never go upside down in this deal, because of where the house is. Small-town-feel neighborhood, sidewalks, kids everywhere on bikes, on big porches, brick streets, old brick houses, walking distance to coffee shop, to my favorite park, to various amenities, and one of the most desirable neighborhoods for young families of all because of its famous blue-ribbon school district. I’ve learned a great deal about real estate in general, during these past months, and about who we are, as a family, and what we will put first. For us, community will come first, walking-culture will come first, a sense of still being part of something when you close your front door, that will all come first. Playing guitar on the front porch and chatting with neighbors will come first. Gardening in the back yard and passing carrots over the fence to neighbors, that will come first. S being able to pal around with the boy two doors down, or his preschool buddy a block away, that comes first. Vibrant Halloween night, that comes first. Parades, block parties, and kid dance parties in the streets. First. Yes, the house is old, and we are worried about the plumbing, the roof, the boiler, etc….we know we can end up in some tight situations before I start working again (once I start working again, however, we should be fine, I hope). But we’re willing to take that risk. The house is lovely. It has a “home” feel. I think we can be happy there. I’m so eager to see what we make of it in the coming months and years.

But that’s not why I wrote this post. I wrote this post because  friend of mine is in need. She is in a lot of pain. She’s feeling terrible and hopeless (infertility, pregnancy losses, fertility treatments, you know the path) and I want to help her.

When I was going down that path, I created a list of movies and television shows that I found relaxing and enjoyable—and most importantly, non-triggering. No babies, no pregnancies, no “oh it’s a happy ending, after all, look at this positive pregnancy test very, very close up!”

But I lost the list!

Can you help me brainstorm a list to send to her? I think if she can relax with some chocolate and wine and vegetate in front of the television for hours, she might be able to breathe again.

Thank you!

 

 

2017: On healing, compassion for a fallen tree, and the okayness of pain

On this New Year’s Day, the first day of 2017, I want to say that I still carry around a lot of raw feelings about the years of multiple pregnancy losses I recently experienced. It is difficult to parse out, sometimes, what exactly I am going through when I feel depressed, angry, or just sad. After all, these are normal human emotions. But then I sit with the feeling and see behind it and there it is–the years of isolation, loss, hopelessness, suicidal ideation, grief, fear, anxiety, rage, when I was losing babies and losing my heart and mind.

Also, I am going to be 43 soon, and my body isn’t feeling so good (I know I have to–have to–develop some sort of regular aerobic exercise habit that doesn’t cause injuries, I’m thinking I’ll try Pure Barre). And at times my premenstrual days are quite brutal, emotionally (Christmas Day was a bear of a Day One of my period, and the next day I caught my dad’s flu). There is unhealed rage inside me, living there, I know it, I feel it, and I know I sometimes still act out toward others in my life (my husband, my parents) because of it. I will think I have let go of resentments totally, but then I find myself in a dark, angry little vortex that has been there since the pain of loss started in 2012. There are quite a few vortexes inside, swift-acting land mines in the vast landscape of me.

I want to be a better person. I want to be calmer, more loving, less pessimistic, less angry. But there are other hurts, too, ones that go back and back and back to my childhood, that will also probably be there forever. They can’t be eradicated. But I can learn (and relearn) to live with them in as healthy a way as possible.

I am happy often. Fulfilled. Joyous. Energetic. It’s not always anger, sadness, depression, exhaustion, and body aches in my world. I said to my husband the other day, “I suffer so much. I am a deeply flawed human being.” And he said, “But you are also a deeply wonderful human being, a lot of the time.” Which was very generous of him, since he often bears the brunt of my frustrations.

The old bear Injustice raised its angry claws during this visit home to my parents. I got into a fight with my mom, and I realize, now, that I shouldn’t have. It was very short-lived and we are fine now, but I think I took out a lot of old hurts on her. I also called my aunt and roared my frustrations about my mom to her. Ugh. I wish I wouldn’t have. I realize that Christmastime is an extremely emotional time for me for so many reasons. The explosion that led to my breakup with my first husband happened Christmas of 2007. Then there were the lonely Christmases I thought I was lost forever. Then the Christmases I was losing what I thought would be my children and felt no one was supporting me the way I needed. And the Christmas I realized that my parents have no retirement savings left and will have to work until they drop. Much percolates to the surface around this time of year for me.

All the while, my S is singing, dancing, laughing, talking in sentences, making us all feel wonderful. He is such a unifier. His natural compassion is breathtaking.

The other day, we went for a walk, and he went up to a fallen tree and had a little talk with it. “Tree fall down,” he said. “Boom,” he said. “I hug,” he said. He wrapped his arm around the trunk and squeezed. “Happy now, Tree? Better?” He walked around to the other side of the trunk and hugged it, too. Then he patted the trunk gently for a while, looking down at it. Then he walked on. This was all unprompted by me and did not involve me. I just stood back and watched. Tears in my eyes.

That night, he said, “Mama, we bed. We snugoo.” (Snuggle.) And on the bed he said, “I hug,” and gave me a long, strong hug. I know that he could sense that something was a little off with me, that I was less happy than usual, because of some of the complicated feelings I was having about past hurts. “I love you, Mama,” he said, so clearly. “Arms,” he said, patting my arms. “Legs. Mama’s legs,” he whispered, giving them little pats. He pulled my arm over his little body so we could spoon and if I moved an inch he pressed that arm back down. “I happy,” he said. “Happy baby. You happy, mama?”

“Oh yes, I’m very happy, here with you, my sweet baby,” I said.

His affection is like medicine for the soul, for all people and creatures and plants around him. He shows this same sort of closeness with my parents and with DH. He loves love. He loves happy. In fact, when he falls down, he might cry for a while, but he is quick to assure us that he is happy. The parenting challenges are getting trickier already, because I want to somehow impart to him that it is okay to be unhappy when he falls down, that he doesn’t have to reassure us. It is okay to be sad and hurt.

I have to learn to model this tricky, tricky thing for him. We hurt, we are hurt, we live on. We heal, we don’t heal. We go down, we go up. All of that is just as it should be.

I have to model how to live a life that includes the pain and rage of injustice. The hollow grief of profound loss.

If we fall down and get up, we can cry, we don’t have to be happy about it. We can rage, cry, and we can even dwell, if we want to. All feelings are valid.

And it is never his job to reassure me. It is my job to hold and reassure him.

But he came from the stars and his star-creature nature is right there on the surface of him, at two years old, pure immortality stuff. A light that radiates, and I do believe his natural inclination is to shine.

At the beginning of 2017, I am committing myself to finding my own shining light, again. Since the election, I’ve been diving down into the depths, surfacing with glee, then going under again. The practical side of less deep-muck diving: More aerobic exercise and less social media and news articles about “Trump’s America” (a phrase I abhor, by the way). I do my weekly political actions (phone calls to representatives, and so on) and then if I get sucked into media, I watch the clock and turn away at a predetermined time. Other practicalities include focusing on buying a house (appointments lined up for next weekend) and perhaps pushing for a move this summer (better to get it over with now, while I’m not working, I think, and begin focusing on creating a home we’ll have for years). Completing what I need to do to get my PA clinical social work license is also very important. And the next big step: Getting a job of some sort. It’s important that I start making money again, continue to develop my career, and contribute to retirement savings. S will still be at his wonderful school next year (I continue to be in love with this dreamy place, the time they spend in nature in the snow, the relationships he is forming) and if I need to I can bump him up from three half-days to five half-days, should I find something to match those hours. It has to happen soon, because so many of our stresses are financial. Also: I’m absolutely dying to take S on vacation with us somewhere beautiful–and to go to Europe with DH, as he has never been!

Time to get some Bailey’s and go back to my parents’ house, where DH and I are going to make pork and sauerkraut and probably play with a few diggers, cars, trucks, dump trucks, big rigs, and trains. The biggest hit of Christmas Day, as far as presents go, was a stack of musty old model-train collector magazines from 1989 that we got for $3 at a PA train museum. “Oh wow,” S said when he opened them. “Wow-o-wow-o-wow.” One morning I came out, and there he was sitting in a chair at the kitchen, reading his train magazine and sipping his milk, paging through it quietly, while his Pa-Paw sat beside him reading his own magazine and drinking coffee. Old soul, I tell you.

But he’s a toddler, too. “We run?” he asks us. And we run through the house. “Mark, go! I win! I beat Mama!” Christmas Day, he led countless “races,” the entire crazy extended family running after him in a line through the basement.

Up, down. Up, down. Compassion for a fallen tree, compassion for one another and for ourselves. Learning repeatedly how to hold it all. Happy 2017, everyone.

 

 

Two, and some other things

I have little time but just want to say:

Our old-soul sweetie turned two! We had a wonderful time with our crazy Ohio family.

S is so, so happy. Thriving. Loving life. Learning rapidly. Gentle and kind. Besotted with my parents. My hilarious little buddy—the inside jokes we have! The songs we croon together!

I am writing a sci-fi/fantasy novel for teens. One of the characters has S’s microtia—which gives him special powers…

Taking 1 mg of melatonin at 9 pm has changed my whole deal—I can sleep through the night for the past week, for the first time since the election.

We are beginning to look at houses to buy. Mortgages are so much cheaper than rent!

Over and out!

I send you my love

The unthinkable has happened. Yes. It has. It really, really has. I type these words with confusion, sadness, anger, fear, and—believe it or not—hope.

This is my son. My beautiful, loving, kind son. His teacher took this picture. She said S was reaching out to hold hands with and comfort his friend, who was having a really rough day and crying quite a bit. She said it was like S was saying, “It’s okay, buddy, I got you.”

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This is the future.

I went to yoga this morning. I was, to my surprise, feeling better. Yesterday was a dark, dark day, a sick day, and I almost literally vomited. But I woke up today thinking about people turning to their communities, doing volunteer work, connecting locally, spreading love and good works—it was just an image in my mind, but it said to me: This is possible. A more evolved world IS possible. One man does not change everyone and everything. Yes, he’s the most powerful man in the world, but he can’t control the way we treat one another in our homes, our communities, on the streets, in the cafes, in the schools. He can control a lot, but he can’t control whether I smile to my neighbor.

So I walked into yoga feeling this bizarre optimism. I dissolved into my mat and my breath and into the air and practiced unity and presence.

Then, at the end of the class, during final resting pose, I began to cry. During namaste, I sent out loving kindness to the world. I understood how many people are going to suffer, and suffer in ways unimaginable to me, because of the president we now have and Congress and the Supreme Court. Changes are going to happen that will change peoples lives for the worse forever.

There is no sentence starting with “but” to follow that statement.

I believe in the younger generations. I believe in my son. I believe in love. I also know how much pain is going to come to so many.

This morning, this very morning, S started saying “I love.” He went through a phase when he was much younger when he would say, “I-la-ooo,” imitating “I love you,” and I was kind of sad when that phase ended. So, perfect timing, this morning, he’s saying, “I love” to my husband and me, and then asking us to hug him. “Hug! Hug!” he said. Then he asked me to “cheers” his glass.

In the car, I snapped off NPR and started singing, “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine,” and S, in the back seat, joined in. When we were finished he called out to me, “Happy, happy!” I swear. I mean, how is that even real? It is. He’s real. He’s a healer—I say that in all seriousness. A natural healer.

It is time to snap out of our lulled state and do good works, at the local level. And it is time to look to our children for guidance in how to remain hopeful in the darkest of times.

I send you all my love.

 

 

 

 

NaNoWriMo

I’m going to try. What do I have to lose?

Have you ever tried? What happened? Love to hear about it.

The unexpected trip: suddenly eating pizza in the sun

I wake up with a strain in my left arm that is so painful I cry out when I try to pull up my pants. This means I will not only have difficulty lifting S, I will also not be able to do my early-morning workout. I cry in my husband’s arms. The scale reads 148. Still.

Luckily, S wakes up smiling and joking around. I have noticed that if he wakes up cranky and crying, this is a pretty good indicator that I will have a challenging day/morning. But he tries to make me laugh with his monster voice, and then he runs to his easel, where we have made Thanksgiving turkey placemats for my family by tracing his hand. He wants to put his hand on a turkey right away.

I decide that we should go into the city to Trader Joe’s for the weekly shop, but I can’t find a moment to create a grocery list. It is that Midwestern steely gray out and, even though I went to bed at 9:30 PM, I am dragging and forgetful. It seems to take me hours to get our stuff together, and I don’t finish my makeup or even look at my hair. When we get in the car I notice that there is a stain on the chest of my t-shirt.

I write an unnecessarily terse text to DH about an issue and then feel bad about it. We go to Giant Eagle for SB coffee and, even though I promised myself that I would be better about monitoring S’s sugar intake, I get him a vanilla milk because that is all they have, and we’d run out of milk at home. I put it in a ba-ba because it was in the car, and I forgot his travel cup at home, and I just don’t want to deal with vanilla milk spouting out of the carton all over him. “I’m ready for a sippy cup, Mommy,” a total stranger says to us as I lug S past her table, pain shooting through my arm. Part of me wants to tell her that he has been drinking out of regular open-top cups for many months now, and another part of me just wants to flip her the bird.

Once on the highway, I somehow miss our exit and end up in a strange area that the GPS has a hard time deciphering, sending me around in circles. When I finally get things straight, I miss my exit again. I look at the clock and realize that there is no way I will be able to get the shopping done in time for us to get home for lunch and nap. I will have to give him a Happy Tots pouch that he will or maybe will not consume during the drive home from TJ’s—the car-ride pouch lunch another thing I told myself I would stop doing—and then perhaps nap slouched over in the car seat.

I should just go home, I think. It’s healthier for both of us. Then I think, No, go to the store, you’re already out. Just get it over with. I struggle like this until I realize I need to pull over and decide what to do.

The next exit I see is for the Strip District.

As I turn onto that pretty blue-and-yellow bridge, it occurs to me that I could scrap both ideas and take my baby to The Strip, and see what happens.

We park and get out and the wind is brisk. “Wow!” S says, all smiles on my hip. We talk about the cars, trucks, buildings, and clouds. My spirits are lifting. We stop in an adult-looking coffee shop because I have suddenly decided that it will be really good for me to spend just a few minutes in an adult-looking coffee shop. Get my urban cafe fix.

We go in the bathroom first, and when I go to wash my hands, I see that my hair, which I air-dry, is plastered to my skull as if it has been soaked in oil. I feel it and realize that I had been in such a rush early that morning in the shower that I’d forgotten to rinse the conditioner out of my hair. And this is the first time I have looked in the mirror since my hair has dried…

And I look a little bit crazy.

Not only is my t-shirt stained on the chest, it is very wrinkled. My favorite black corduroy jacket is far too small on me, and much shorter than the t-shirt. Why had I thought I could still pull of that jacket? My hair looks insanely greasy and my glasses are slipping down to the tip of my nose. I have no eyeliner on and my eyes are quite pouchy. I have no hair tie to pull my crazy-looking hair out of my face…

Just then, I hear a sound. Splashes and giggles.

S has his arm in the toilet bowl up to the elbow and is splashing it around. Beside him is a mound of toilet paper on the floor. He is in heaven.

Finally make it out of that bathroom for my hipster coffee. Sans high chair, of course. S wants to stand on the bench, do downward dog, use the ramp-like walkway extending from the front door into the cafe as a place to race. “Mark-go! Mark-go!” (Confession: I hope he never starts saying “set.”) We leave after about three minutes, leave the sea of computers and lunch meetings, my coffee half-drunk.

Once back out on the street, things turn good again. The sun comes out. The clouds are almost silver with autumn sunshine. So many cars and trucks to exclaim over, and the scent of Peace, Love & Donuts doughnuts wafting down the avenue. Things are so fun out on the street that I go back to the car for our Ergo carrier and really get into it. We explore each street, soaking up the sites and scents, waving to people and vehicles.

We see: One cement truck, spinning; several pick-ups; TWO fire trucks; one skidsteer; police vans; FedEx and UPS trucks; buses; and the topper—A TROLLEY!!!

We went to the Trolley Museum in Washington, PA yesterday with Dada, so this is particularly exciting. The trolley driver sees us pointing and dings his bell as he goes by.

The firemen get out of the firetruck and walk right by us on the sidewalk. “You are his heroes!” I tell them, and they are so tickled. S jiggles his legs and bellows: “BAH-BYEEEEEE!” waving.

Then he swivels his sweet little face toward the sky, sees a phalanx of birds way, way up there. “Aw!” he says in his high-pitched wonder voice. “Bye-bye, caw-caw, bye-bye!”

I am trying to figure out where we can comfortably have lunch when S darts his finger across the street at an Italian eatery. “I this! I this!” he says.

“You’re the boss,” I say, laughing, and we cross the street. I duck in and say, “There isn’t any chance you have gluten-free pizza…?” I ask at the counter. Miracle of miracles: they do.

I tell them that we want to eat at a table on the sidewalk, and though they look at me with funny eyes and barely veiled judgment, a man takes us outside into the chilly wind. I think of Prague, where I once lived, and the children eating outside, playing outside, for hours, in winter. I think of his preschool, where he gets two hours of outdoor time every day, rain, snow, or shine. I think of how I romped around in a huge, icy, leafy puddle with him yesterday afternoon. People think kids are fragile, but they are so tough, so invigorated by the outdoors.

I do keep checking in with him, because it was quite chilly, but he says, “Ou-side!” He is having a ball, pointing to the motorcycles, cars, vans, trucks going by, making vehicle noises, waving. I do the same. He is eating ice cubes, puckering his lips, giggling: “Oooo! Col!!!” He is doing the starman handshake with me (he is the one who always remembers) but instead of saying “yay” he says “puh-tuh!” Pizza!

Across the street, a t-shirt vendor is playing wonderful Frank Sinatra music. It is all so romantic. Fall leaves raining down from somewhere. My baby so, so happy.

“Mama!” he says every once in a while, looking at me, like, Hey, I’m with my mama, and I’m having so much fun.

The pizza is delicious. I remember how I was going to start trying to feed him less things like pizza this week. As we grin and chew, I am glad I “forgot.”

“Abeeyah, abeeyoh,” he sings, shaking his head back and forth. I hope he never stops saying “abeeyah-abeeyoh.”

When we’re finished and back at the car, when I put him in the car seat, he decides it will be high comedy if he slides all the way down, so that his head is in the bottom of the seat and his legs are up. Then he takes his rain-jacket hood and presses it over his face, puckering his lips. I kiss his lips through his hood, and he cackles.

“Mama, dada, baby, bay-beeee,” he is saying in the back seat as I pull into traffic. In the rearview mirror, I see him pointing to himself with both fingers as he says “baby.”

Two minutes down the road, he has fallen happily asleep.

Now he is in his crib and I am typing. His diaper is a balloon and he still has pizza sauce on his cheeks. I need to get into the shower and finish showering this time. But I wanted to capture all of this first, and am so glad I did. These are the days I will miss so much when he is older, and I am working, and he is at school and extracurriculars or with his friends. My baby and me, in the chilly autumn air, eating pizza to Frank Sinatra music, in love with each other and with life.

You never know where, exactly, the day will lead. Feeling grateful for surprises.