What is happening now:

  • We found the perfect program for S to start in the fall. It is my dream school! Very earthy. Our values. I participated in a day and I didn’t want to leave—that slow pace, enjoying the outdoors, forming relationships, was healing for me. S was in heaven. More on this later, but in short: This was a gift. We were on the waitlist with little hope. And then: the email. The visit. The rapid succession of good things. The peace it gives me to know that he is going to participate in something so enriching, and to know that I will have enough time to revamp my career in earnest, is invaluable.
  • My health: Wellbutrin for my head and Prilosec for my GI system, my friends. Wellbutrin is a strange drug! It doesn’t feel like I’ve taken anything at all. I just feel steadier and happier. More on this later, but I’ll just say that I realized there was no point in waiting any longer. (Thanks for the nudges, commenters. You were right.)
  • Two or three times a week of aerobic exercise at the gym. Ahhhhhh…my poor body was hurting! And I’m curing it, slowly, with oxygen and movement.
  • Got a mouthguard and my jaw pain and headaches are pretty much gone! So simple!
  • My esophagus: I was terrified, and still am a little, about something going on. This dates back to 2003. I will write an entire post about it. I have an endoscopy coming up at the end of the month and would appreciate vibes, prayers, or whatever you have.
  • My anxiety, fears of death, and recurrent miscarriage PTSD: I am much better now, but there were days  I couldn’t get out of fight-or-flight mode. I had flashback-like experiences. Not actual flashbacks, but acute memories of being “on the table” hearing no heartbeat, acute memories of feelings and thoughts. Racing thoughts about things being very wrong with my body. Terrifying thoughts about dying young. I found myself saying, I can’t have my baby, the universe won’t let me have my baby, the universe is going to take me away from him. Which are the exact type of thoughts I used to have when experiencing the pregnancy losses. I can’t have my baby, the universe is going to take my baby away from me. A few days and nights in a row I was shaky. It felt exactly like it did during recurrent miscarriage hell. Tears would come to my eyes as I kissed my boy’s head because I thought, What if I die and have to leave him? What will happen to him? My fears had mostly to do with what has been going on with my esophagus and throat. I fought with the University of Michigan to dig up my old health records from 2003, because I lost them long ago, and they finally found them and emailed them to me—and what I saw put me at ease! So. I am much better now. But still nervous about the upcoming scope.
  • Sidenote: I’d like to write much more about how health scares, any kind, often bring back recurrent miscarriage fears, anxieties, inconsolable sadnesses. Probably always will. It’s good to be aware of what is happening.
  • Money: I love you all for your helpful advice. Thank you sincerely. My head was spinning. Now it is not. Now I am using this iphone App that keeps track of expenses and I can’t get over how easy it is! No more late nights with receipts. Now that we’ve been at this budgeting thing for a few weeks, we are already learning how to save money. It’s like writing down everything you eat in a day in an effort to lose weight. My spending habits are slowly changing. We are learning how to lower our grocery bill—two weeks in a row, it has been less than we projected. And DH is packing lunch almost every day, which saves us enough to have a modest meal out or two. It’s working. I’m a little worried about how preschool costs are going to impact us in “real life,” but we’ve put it in the budget and it at least looks like we’ll be okay. Small steps, but I think we’re heading in the right direction.
  • DH and I have been getting along much better. We’ve been affectionate with each other, sweet and nurturing.

That’s the Relief Update, for now. I’ll keep you posted on how things progress. I have a lot of doctor’s appointments coming up, targeting health issues, and it’s my hope that by the end of it, I’ll have more self-care tools, and less worry. In the meantime, I’m drinking 1 cup of 1/2 caff a dat and no alcohol, tomatoes, citrus, and so on, to keep acid and inflammation low. I did find a study online that said drinking one glass of wine a day is actually associated with fewer esophageal problems! Well, hot damn. Still, I’ll be safe for now. I told myself that if I can’t go a month without drinking alcohol, then that’s kind of ridiculous. More soon, all. And thanks again.

Money after fertility treatments, and its relationship to body, mind, marriage

Woke up after five hours of sleep with my period and that deep sigh of relief—let’s get this blood out of here, already. Guys, the lead-up to my period has been about 1 to 2 weeks of a lot of intense stuff: body pains and stiffness, bloating and GI upset, insomnia, and extremely erratic emotions.

But I keep telling myself: wait before you get a prescription for anything, like an antidepressant. Wait until you try regular aerobic exercise and yoga. Wait, wait. Try, try. Try and see.

Got the $70 membership to the community center with free child care. Can exercise there for 1.5 hours at a time. Do it, do it, doooooo it. Two doc appointments, one Monday, one Tuesday, then doooooo it.

Monday is for S. Physical required for daycare. (Daycare will be $10/hour, a few hours per day, two days week–so about $60 a week.) Tuesday is for me. Have to see a GP because we’re HMO insurance (hooray). I have a list of ailments so long the doc might think I’m a hypochondriac. I’ll have to explain how long it has been since I’ve seen a doctor and all of the stress I’ve been under. Problems: Anxiety; esophageal spasms/dysphagia/esophagitis; GI issues; chronic pain; insomnia; PMS (or PMDD?); need to see an allergist re: food allergies; need OB appointment. Also need dentist appointment for check-up, bite misalignment, teeth grinding, jaw pain. All of this paints a picture, doesn’t it? Yikes.

Money. I do believe our money struggles are closely related to my stress and health problems. Money has been a major source of stress for so long that I have that helpless/hopeless attitude toward it. I’ve got to adjust my thinking, because money worries suck so much energy from me. Money thoughts, lately especially, are literally toxic to my mind and body.

It is difficult for those outside the fertility treatment world to understand what a huge role money plays in our struggle. And that struggle is oftentimes just as bad or worse when a couple pursues adoption.

The repercussions of investing so much money into trying to conceive a baby and carry a pregnancy have been long-lasting for us.

We had to ask for help from DH’s parents for IVF. Before that, we were on our own (as graduate students, no less) footing the bill for supplements (oh my god, I blanch to think of what we spent on supplements), acupuncture, three times a week yoga (saved me), and any not-covered medical stuff (I didn’t have the best insurance). As many of you know, we decided to go to Colorado  and Dr. Schoolcraft for our one-shot IVF. I’ll never know for sure if that was the right choice (strike that—of course it was, because it all led to my beautiful son in the end), but at least it means my body went through the hell of IVF meds, etc, only once. But although DH’s parents helped by paying the (insane) medical costs, we had to foot the bill for all flights, hotels, supplements, medications, anything else extraneous—and it added up big time. Then we used our entire savings—$30K—for the donor egg program. Again, that covered only the program, and all else we had to put on credit cards.

Then we had our incredible little boy, who is this kind, gentle, sweet, funny, generous-spirited angel from the stars and who is, of course, invaluable. So none of this is to say this hasn’t been worth it!

But just to write out how the numbers have affected and continue to affect our lives…. We bought a LOT of stuff for S when he was an infant and young toddler. A lot. I did most of the buying. I didn’t know what I needed. There was a lot of trying things out. There were a lot of purchasing mistakes, and very few hand-me-downs. I was also alone, so I did a lot of shopping on Am.a.z.on, which was a lifesaver. Click, click, click, and the products would show up at my door two days later. I’m sure I could have been more careful, but I also know that I was dong the best I could, and that when I compared what I bought to what other parents bought, we were being very conservative.

But we are not other parents. We are two people who went into 3-4 years of extremely expensive fertility treatments right out of graduate school, career-changers without careers established yet, one of whom had to drop out of the income-game and not work after her 6th devastating miscarriage, a donor-egg pregnancy, so as not to lose herself entirely and try to heal enough to become pregnant and stay pregnant. Who had to stay home during pregnancy to ensure that she was doing absolutely all she could to maintain the precious pregnancy that finally stayed. Number 7.

And now here we are, with our 19-month-old wonder child.

We don’t want to put him in day care 40+ hours a week while we both work. I honestly cannot imagine it. Not just because we waited so long, and not just because he will be our one and only. But also because of the bond, because of what we are building together. I’m not judging those who do put kids in daycare 40+. In fact, I kind of envy those who are able to do it. But for us, it just does not feel right.

S is a healthily attached little boy, I’m very proud to be able to say. I see how free he is to explore. How friendly he is with others. How he naturally shares, without prompting. He amazes us with his gregariousness, agreeableness, his loving attitude toward adults and other children. And I see how he comes and checks in with me, or with DH, and then bounces back into the world after having touched his home base.

I am always there. This is what we have established. Now it is time for him to spend more and more time away from me and gradually ease him into the world of school. But I don’t want to do it abruptly. And I don’t want to spend more time at work than I do with him. I don’t want him to be in daycare and then aftercare. Just having dinnertime with us and then he going to bed.

He’s a December baby , so he won’t actually be 2 in time for 2’s preschool programs this fall. He will be closer to 3 by the time he can participate in those programs. We don’t want to push him into things early because a) we’ve read that that is almost never the best decision, and b) he is very small for his age, not even on the growth curve, but growing steadily below it.

In essence what we are looking at is probably 5 years before he is in full-day public school: 1st grade. (I believe kindergarten is still half-day, no?)

I have to figure out what I need to do (another licensing exam, problem, UGH!!!), and do my requisite yearly continuing ed (thus the tiny bit of day care now) to practice social work again. But I’ve seen the preschool options and it would be tricky if not impossible to find a part-time job to match those programs’ hours. Especially the programs we could afford, and the programs we prefer.

I’m not saying I can’t eventually figure out how to work within that 5-year span before 1st grade, and still maintain the time-with-parents we want for S’s young life.

But I’m saying that I am not able to figure it out right now. That it looks almost impossible. And it scares me.

But the other thing that is looking almost impossible is surviving on DH’s salary alone for 5 years.  It is $89K here (before taxes, insurance, etc), because his salary was adjusted for cost-of-living in PA. We knew that would happen, but we also thought it would be so much cheaper to live here. And 89K used to seem like a lot of money. But when we calculate our modest bills and rent, then add in our grocery bill, we basically end up in a situation where we are once again living on very little spending money per week. Almost impossibly low.

And it is my job to maintain the budget. I’m the one going out into the world with S, collecting receipts, tallying, buying groceries and supplies, managing the household. DH takes out $50 for the week, uses that on his lunches and coffee at the cafeteria, and that’s it. My calculations are much more complicated.

It’s so stressful, guys. After S goes to bed, I am doing math for at least half an hour, bleary-eyed and back burning.

But I have to keep doing it. We went into serious credit-card debt for the two moves in a row. Things are seeming so painfully tight. There are also still student loans to pay off!

When I look at our Excel spreadsheets, I feel so depressed. I see that there is little to no money for clothes, for eating out, for toys. Forget getting my gray hair dyed. Forget going on trips. Forget furniture and lamps.Forget massages. Off, off, off the list.

All of this does a number on our (non-existent, really) sex life. We just feel so weighed down. Also so tired from work (DH) and taking care of a toddler (me) and being older (40 and 42) doesn’t help.

I want to enjoy life now, while S is young, while we are relatively young, but it always seems like the freedom is down the line, not now, not now.

I have got to see past the numbers and learn how to feel hopeful about our life, about what we can do, now, not just in the future.

I am looking up “cheap recipes” every week and am trying to cook with less and less. I am conscious of everything I buy, from a cup of coffee to a poster for S’s wall. I am trying not to focus on the beat-up walls of this rental and focus instead on its beautiful yard and sunporch and bay window. Trying not to think of how we can’t even buy painting supplies for the walls that are the worst. Trying not to think of how we are uncomfortable because we have a cheap, uncomfortable couch (that at least looks nice) and few places to sit…we are often just on the hardwood floor (we have one rug so far) with blankets. The walls are blank. We have a plastic patio table for two to eat on. There is a mentality of knowing what is missing. Knowing what I could do if I had the money to make a beautiful, comfortable home. I’m a natural homemaker. It kind of feels akin to being an artist trapped with a canvas, day after day, but never any art supplies to do something with it.

But I am writing all of this out because I know that the problem is with me, in part. The numbers are undeniably bleak. Yes. But. The word “bleak” is a soul-sucker. The mentality behind it is an energy-sucker. I have to learn how to get past the numbers. This is my only life, and S’s only childhood. I have to figure out how to live it with hope and optimism.

I’m trying. But writing this out—I’m crying as I type. I need to give myself at least another month. Things won’t always feel quite so hard.

An unleashing update

Hello! It has been a minute. I don’t know if anyone is still reading this blog, but if you are, I say hi, thank you for reading. I feel compelled to apologize for being MIA in terms of posts and especially in terms of comments on your blogs, if you’re a blogger, too. I do read blogs in my WordPress reader (not as regularly as I used to) but I very rarely check my Blogger reader because it requires signing into a separate email account, is not easy to do from my phone, etc. God, that’s lame. But it’s the truth. I’ve missed your stories, Blogger bloggers. WordPress bloggers, I rarely can think of anything great to say, in terms of comments, so I just read it, “like” it with a star icon.

I haven’t been writing in here because of fatigue, time, toddlerhood, and two moves in row.

I feel, at times, a level of fatigue I can only describe as crushing.

Things are about to change. I can sense the beginning of the shift. I am putting things in motion to regain my sense of selfhood and my mental and physical health.

My face hurts, I am so tired. My back hurts. My limbs hurt. I have insomnia often. I collapse in a heap and fall of a cliff into sleep often. I have trouble thinking clearly. I am not the greatest conversationalist because I can’t find words.

All this said, I know that I’ve just been through a lot and I have to cut myself some slack. Two moves in a row with a budding toddler (NINETEEN MONTHS OLD NOW!) is effing insane. And I am only now really starting to pull all of my resources together…

These are things I must take advantage of as soon as possible in our new city: Daycare. Community Center. Exercise at community center with free child care. Mommy’s Helpers. Library programs. Mom groups. Set up playdates with  new friends. Writing, writing, writing during daycare hours (about three hours per day/two days a week). Continuing ed for SW license during those same hours. Research what you have to do to practice in PA. Start the search for part-time jobs, even though it’s far away.

Write fiction. Submit fiction. Do it for yourself. It matters. It creates meaning for you. Don’t treat it like it’s a luxury.

Carving out a shelf of selfhood. Taking care of mind and body. Cutting yourself some slack for needing time to work out how to find and utilize all the resources in a brand new environment.


I was running for a while, before the second move. I would come back from a run (most runs) feeling high, feeling better than I had in ages, and the thought would be: Aerobic exercise is not optional.

The first problem is fatigue. Usually I am so tired that when I have a moment, I collapse. I go still and quiet. I try to zone out and not move, or I fall asleep.

The other, and related, problem is time. I try to get up early to exercise first thing, but I have become even more tired in those wee hours than ever before, and then there are the wild-card mornings when S gets up earlier than usual, and my plans are derailed. I try to exercise after he goes to bed, but that’s even less possible because of an even greater level of fatigue than in the morning. The only solution is the Community Center, where they will watch S while I go to class or do some sort of exercise on my own for 1.5 hours.

It can and will happen. I just have to take a deep breath and be patient. I’ll make it happen at some point this week. (I only discovered this resource last week.)

I have been irritable. Snappish. Sore. DH and I are fighting more. My patience is threadbare. All of this is due to lack of self-care.

The move went smoothly except for two things. The first is this: MIL. Long-time readers, you know her well. I thought things were going to be better, they seemed like they were on an upswing, but that was perhaps foolish of me. I gave it my best. But at this point, I think I might have to go the route of her other daughter-in-law and protect myself with rigid and high boundaries. It makes me sad. But I have to accept the situation. Perhaps it will change—ugh, I just typed the words I need to stop saying. It probably won’t change. It won’t. I need to learn the lesson once and for all not to let her in. She is unpredictable, pushy, contrary, disrespectful, superior, victimized, hot-cold, and just not consistently “in my corner,” so to speak. I don’t think she knows how to consistently love. I think she lives in a state of mind in which she is wronged always and she is looking for that. And although I realize this is armchair psychology at its worse, I think it’s true: I believe that on a deep-down level, she would rather be the one married to her son (and to her other son). There! I said it.

Long story short: She helped us with the move by watching S. I flew with her and S from LI to PA (while DH drove). Many things happened. Her treatment of me was not good. I lost my patience twice, as I honestly believe any human being would have done in my shoes. She booked an earlier flight home and said that I ruined her time with us and S. She wrote an email that was so filled with revision of facts, demonizing portraits, and victimization that I thought, “Oh. OH. She is actually not mentally healthy at all.” It all caused an enormous amount of stress during an already extremely stressful time, and the lasting effect—well, I feel that we are still feeling the reverberations. It did a number on my relationship with DH, but he did what he should have done years ago and wrote to her an email in which he defended me and tried to clear up what she claims is confusion about why I (and other people) get frustrated with her. I read his email but I have not asked how she responded, nor will I. It’s time to remove myself (yet again) from the toxicity.

Being with MIL triggered my anxiety in a major way. Why we thought it would be okay to have her watch S while we packed and moved (moving being already such an anxiety-provoking situation) I do not know. But we needed someone, and we couldn’t afford to pay someone. By the time we got to PA, I was so frazzled and exhausted, my stomach in knots, my mind buzzing, my chest tight. Classic anxiety. I wish I’d had some medication, but I didn’t. Now I know that it is a good idea to have anxiety medication, just in case. For those fraught times. I wonder if a doctor would agree to that—to give me a prescription just for those once-in-a-while peak moments, which might come every few months? I definitely don’t want to take it daily. But I wish I’d had something then, I really do.

After she left, DH went through a period of mourning. He cried. He thinks the situation is very sad, because his mom has always had so many problems with driving people crazy—him, his brother, his brother’s wife, his dad, her friends. Once, he told me, his beloved high school English teacher ran into his mom somewhere, and the next day in school, she asked DH: “What is up with your mom?” It was one of his first moments of truth about his mom. Once when he was a kid, his mom went on a trip, and when she came back, she asked his dad how things were while she was gone. His dad took her by the shoulders and very pointedly and somberly said: “Peaceful. It was so peaceful.” And she was furious with him for a very long time. He said that was another time he realized how objectively difficult she is.

After that fiasco with the MIL, I had to deal with our landlords—who also happen to be Asian. An older Asian couple. I’ll call the woman L and the man J. It doesn’t take formal analysis for me to understand that the woman’s incredibly frustrating communication triggered all the recent stuff with MIL. Also, the previous tenants hated these landlords and advised us to not ask for anything or interact with them much–we still wanted the place because it is so awesome and for relatively inexpensive rent. In any case, warnings from previous tenants aside, I thought things were going well. L was annoying, but it seemed she was responsive. At least at first. The big problem came when there was an issue with the gas, and the stove, and the sunporch windowsills, which were a mess, and which little S was getting into (splintered, rotten wood, paint chips, fingers, mouth, you get the picture). The first issue was vital because it involved the gas line—not something to mess around with. The second issue was also very important to us because it so clearly involved S’s health. After an enormous struggle, we resolved the first issue. But the windowsills—that was a bigger struggle. Communication was so difficult. Language barrier, yes, but also that communication style and positioning so familiar to me from my MIL. In the end, the windowsills were scraped, filled in, and repainted, a job they had promised to do and that took no longer than two hours but took a month of infuriating communication and power-struggling to actually get done. We will do everything else that needs done ourselves from now on, if we can (which I’m sure was the whole point of the struggle).

All this said: the house is lovely. The neighborhood is lovely and filled with families and children. We love our sunny sunporch. We love our giant, flat back yard. We love our big bay window. The trees all around. It feels like a summer cottage. It feels like a home. (Mostly. It is still rather institutional, in terms of the bare, white walls, but we will have to decorate slowly, due to budget concerns.)

S loves it there. He runs with abandon. He runs naked through the back yard, going for dips in the kiddie pool, pushing his red wagon all over the place. “Go, Hercules!” we call after him. He plays with his big trainset on the sunporch, the one that’s been in my family for over twenty years. The trains are his hobby, his passion. Trains and cars. He giggles, pointing out the windows at the squirrels, rabbits, groundhogs, and the wild turkeys. We have five wild turkeys who frequent our yard, along with five little fuzzy baby turkeys.

S shrugs his shoulders up and down to imitate the squirrels. He thrusts his head forward and back to imitate the turkeys.

The evenings—dinner, playing in the yard, running, pool, sandbox, ice cream—are absolutely sweet and pure and good. We laugh so hard. S will get so overcome with joy and go, “Mamadada!!!!” He’ll spontaneously blow us kisses or kiss us on the lips or thrust out his finger to do the Starman Handshake. “I la oo!” he still shouts out, for “I love you.”

Because throughout all of the changes, all of the adult concerns, the anxieties and stresses, he is there, this small Starchild, looking at everything in wonder. He points. He talks. He wants to see and say everything. He starts “working” the second he wakes up–pointing, commenting, touching, smelling, watching, bellowing, laughing.  Doing.

We’ve already made new friends. I left a city park one Sunday morning (one of those free music fests) with four new phone numbers and offers of playdates. And then there is sweet R, shy little girl, and her mama, whom we’ve seen the most. We’ve gone to the toy library with them (yes, a place where kids can play with all variety of toys together and also check out toys like library books, volunteer-run for 40 years) and to a Music Together class that is amazing, and over to their house for lunch. He holds R’s hand and swings it. He laughs at her jokes (she likes to point at him and call him “Buh-buh”). He is so friendly. He seeks out and finds R’s hand and her mama’s hand when we leave so he can shake their hands and say, “Bye-bye!”

He sings and sways and plays instruments in his music class. He pumps his arms like Arsenio Hall or he does very expressive free-form circles with his arms, thowing back his head. He hangs back on my lap and safely observes. He runs into the center of the circle and grins around. He runs over to the chalkboard to where there are Christmas lights and, with the other children, he “blows out” the lights. The “O” of wonder on his sweet little face.

He and I are so bonded. It’s like nothing I have ever known. It really does grow deeper with each day, as the adages go. There are so many inside jokes, at this point. Many established routines that we love. Many ways we know how to make the other feel loved.

There is the brand new riverside park with totally amazing playgrounds, hiking-distance away. The zoo. The aviary. The museum. The nature trails. The free park festivities on Friday nights and Sunday mornings. Folk music. Ragtime music. Belly-dancing. Circus. The pool right on the river. So much of it free.

Right now we are at my parents’ house, having taken advantage for the very first time of the (relatively) short distance between our homes. Hard to express how moving it is to see him running and playing with my cousin’s boys, with his beloved Ma-Maw and Pa-Paw, my aunt and uncle and cousins. He entertains them all with his gorgeous singing. He loves for everyone to have a different instrument and “jam.” His piano-playing is just unbelievable to me. It’s so pretty and musical. And he sings along, in key! Wow. He can hear a tune once and remember it—later, we’ll hear him “la-la-ing” to every note.

There are days when I say, “Agh, I can’t do even one more thing! This is the end of all thing-doing!” Because of three meals a day, the endless cooking and cleaning up. Because of all the nitty-gritty of caretaking. The lack of space to think a thought. The runs to the doctor for unexpected emergencies, because of hand-foot-mouth disease and tick bites and burns and fevers. Because dressing a toddler for the day or for bed is like trying to dress a very strong feral cat. Mama’s back burns. Mama’s eyes burn. I yearn for The Good Wife and the papason. But about an hour after he is asleep I miss him and yearn to hold him and can’t wait to see his funny little smile in the morning. To lean on his feet as he gives me an airplane ride. To hear him exclaim with delight and belly laugh and show me how truly stunning the world actually is.

I’d better go now, but it has felt good to unleash! Everyone take care out there. I’m going to start the self-care up on this end as soon as we reach home.




PGH and peeing in the potty

Hello! I’ve missed you. Things have been, as usual, in flux. The thought that we are approaching a time when life can settle down…it’s a hard thought to believe.

We are moving in three weeks. To Pittsburgh!

DH got the job.

We visited the city for a week and found a lovely home, signed a lease. We are absolutely thrilled.

I will be back, I will dish more, but I just wanted to report that news for now, and also say that S continues to thrive and delight. Almost a year and a half old!

He peed in the potty last night during a hilarious episode…First he darted off into the kitchen, alone, after his bath, naked as a jaybird, as my Ma-Maw used to say. “Why is it so quiet in there?” I asked, and found him smiling so ornery, a tiny puddle on the floor. I said, “Looks like you peed on the floor, buddy. Why don’t you pee in the potty? Want to try that?” Lately, he has been really pulling and tugging at his diaper, not into it, and I know that that is one of the signs of readiness. We’ve had the potty there, beside the toilet, since he was about a year old, because he seemed so interested in what we were doing. He loves to tear the toilet paper off for me, shove it between my knees, say bye-bye to my urine, and flush. Anyway, after I asked, he tore into the bathroom and stood/squatted over his potty—but nothing came out. I think then he had the thought, “It comes out out there,” or something like that, because he went running back into the living room, squatted a little, peed a little on the rug. So I went and got the potty and brought it to him in the living room and said, “Try the potty,” and he basically rested his “junk,” as my husband calls it,” on the rim of the bowl, squatting, and dribbled a drop into the bowl. He looked at me and grinned.

Isn’t it funny…imagine S as a teenager, as an adult…the changes he will go through. He won’t remember the first time he dribbled a drop into the potty. He won’t know that all of his accomplishments and achievements—complex, intricate tasks—have roots in this, this experience with the potty. He won’t remember his mama, in her stretch pants and ponytail, beside him, cheering him on, there to receive his proud grin.

Okay, I’ve gotta run. I’m supposed to be writing fiction right now. I dug up an old story, fell in love with it like it was someone else’s, revised it, and am going to send it out for publication. Baby steps back into selfhood.


Reblog of a post that amazed me

Wow. Just wow.





Well, sh*t

I fell off course this week with the running and have, three nights of this week, had 1 glass of wine in the evening. Gluten is still not in my tummy (hooray, human). I have tried to go to the gym but S had a separation anxiety attack one time, and the next evening, I drove to the gym and fell asleep in the parking lot while listening to Radio Lab and then drove home. (This is not the first time that has happened.) As for rising early? The only early riser in this house this week has been S. My sleepy S. Rising at the crack of dawn for days now. So last night we put those black-out curtains up because he was a loony-toons man with so much less sleep, and mama was a loony-toons mama. It worked. He rose at 7:30 this morning and I am crossing everything that his old pattern will come back.

Sigh. Oh, well. Will just get back on course. But holy freaking hell am I tired! To make things really interesting, I got insomnia last night and was up from 1:30 to 4:30.

Went to a great playdate with many mamas and babies today. Giant playground near swan-studded lake. I realize that at 85% of our playdates, I am so tired I can barely hold a conversation. But I do. I have conversations. I laugh. S has a ball with the other babies. We’re all in the same state: Delighted and depleted.

Speaking of which, I can’t type anymore. Over and out!

The farm at 6 months old, 16 months old

On Friday, we went to a petting zoo with a group of mamas and babies, the same place we went on the day S turned 6 months old. This time, he was just past his 16-month birthday. So there it was, all laid out for me, a picture of the difference 10 months can make in a baby-turned-toddler’s life.

At six months, I was carrying him most of the time, in the carrier or in my arms, or he was in the stroller. He didn’t really seem to recognize what was going on when I fed the goats a bottle of milk. When I held him up to the friendly camel, he just kind of hung there like a lump, and the camel got bored and turned away.

This time, my boy hit the ground running, pointing at first to the fish in tanks, making fish lips with his mouth. It was a cold, windy, grey day, sprinkling just a tiny bit, so the farm was almost totally empty. Which meant I could let S run and explore all he wanted, and I could keep my eye on him easily. It was so. Much. Fun.

In the bird sanctuary, S started flapping his arms, going, “Caw! Caw! Caw! Caw!” which is his word for “bird,” and what he and I do on our back patio when the birds are out. He bent down grinning to greet the unfazed birdies on the ground, who were used to little toddlers tromping around.

When I held him up to the friendly camel this time, he giggled and squinted his eyes shut. I swooped him toward the camel again and again, and he giggled louder with each swoop. He touched the camel’s nose. He gave his mane a pat.

He ran off to the playground, where I let him climb up into a wooden ship—holding my breath a little, because it was so far off the ground, and I could not go up there with him. He found the slide, and I was able to reach way up and hold him steady as he slid down the long wavy yellow curve of it, giggling.

He giggles exactly like the Pillsbury Dough Boy.

He’s still a very smiley little boy. I took a series of photos of him that are among my very favorite ever: His approach to the alpacas, his lean in and grin, his sweet little happy Buddha dance-trot alongside their pen, then his arms straight up, more grinning, walking toward me. He is wearing a brimmed cap and blue jeans.

He was, as ever, a social little dude, putting his arms around other babies’ shoulders, climbing into the laps of other mamas. I took a funny video of him running into the wind, trying to get his friend to chase him, and his friend started to but then got distracted and ran in another direction.

He kept running into that cold wind, making sounds of exhilaration. The other mamas keep saying things like, “He’s so dramatic!”

Hmm, wonder where he gets that. Hmm, hmm.

He also sings to himself all the time. Little songs he makes up. And he wobbles side to side really, really quickly whenever he hears music, the cutest, funniest wobble-dance, his head bobbling, too. “La, la, la. La, la, la,” he goes, wobbling away, totally enjoying himself.

I remember that 10 months ago at the farm, my hips were killing me. I remember that I could not figure out my Ergo carrier to save my life. I remember the exasperation. The feeling like a mess.

This visit, I was three weeks into my running program, easily swooping my toddler boy up onto my hip. (Hips still get out-of-whack easily, but it’s so much better.) Having intimate moments peering at him, talking quietly with him as he straddled my hip, showing him salmon sushi (which he ate!), telling him softly, “I love you.” This time, I did not feel like a mess. I felt like I was starting to experience motherhood as I used to picture it, before he was born.

It just gets more and more fun. Yes, there are days when I feel awful. Strung out. Annoyed that I can’t finish my thoughts. I often feel a bit brain damaged. Depleted. So behind on everything that gives me personal fulfillment. Days when I can’t get my exercise in because of the things that crop up, mothering a toddler. Days when I can’t get to bed early enough because of the laundry and so on. It’s rough, without much outside or family help. There is a lot of recalibrating. A lot of cleaning up spills, dish-washing, picking up clothes, tripping on toys, and moments of collapse in exhaustion. Disappointment that I didn’t get to do that one thing for myself I was just dying to do all day. But. But. It’s all such a lesson in letting go and letting in.

And it’s getting easier to keep things in more of a balance. What am I saying. No, it’s not balanced. It’s almost never balanced. But life is somehow a little easier. The house is a stand-alone home for a family, with baby-proofed patio, and all sorts of other safety features installed by me so S can run around. There is much more flow in our daily lives now. That matters immeasurably!

And in the meantime, S’s mind, body, and spirit are blossoming wildly. He is a kind, loving, happy little boy, and I am still, every day, shocked by our luck.

I remember in my twenties when I fantasized about having children, I fantasized about their abilities, about what they would be able to achieve. I don’t do that with S. He’s a really interesting kid who can seriously rock the harmonica, but I don’t fantasize about him being a musical prodigy. I don’t fantasize about high test scores, precocious writing skills, amazing athletic ability, none of that. I just see that he is, in a fundamental, essence-level way, happy. I see that he offers love with purity of heart. I feel his gentleness when he hugs my legs, as I’m washing dishes, and kisses the backs of my knees with a soft, “Mmmah.” And that is all that matters to me. If we can help him hold onto his natural ability to be happy and loving, that will be the greatest gift we can give him.

In line the other day at a deli, I said, “Nom, nom, nom, we’re gonna eat some good food, my partner,” and smiled at the little Buddha on my hip.

S cocked his head to one side, gazed at me, and smiled at me in a way I can only describe as motherly. I realize now that he was probably imitating the way I smile at him. He leaned in and and kissed me on the lips, patting my shoulder. “Mama,” he said, sweetly. Pat pat, pat pat.

A post about me

Changing. Forcing myself to make an effort in new directions. Forcing myself to do hard things in order to have the life I want, the body I want, the mind I want. That is what is going on with me.

Emerging from a flabbergasting time. Within the span of 1.5 MONTHS, ALL OF THIS:

Packed, moved homes, unpacked, roadtrip with toddler 11 hours one way and 9 hours the other for DH’s important job interview, got the stomach flu twice (once before roadtrip, once upon returning), more unpacking and settling and very late nights, managed the phone calls, paperwork, and actual going to TEN doctors appointments for S (it’s a long story), went to an all-day surgery with anesthesia for S (he’s totally fine—was harder on me, thank God), planning DH’s 40th birthday celebration in Brooklyn and creating a mix of songs for him by collecting titles (and attached memories, stories) from about fifty friends…

And there’s more, but I’m getting tired of listing. What I want to list now is what I’m doing to feel better in my skin:

—I’ve started going to bed at 9 or 10 and getting up at 5 AM to write and do yoga.

— I’ve started a running program.

—I’ve been gluten/wheat-free again for 20 days and plan to never return to gluten/wheat-land.

—I’ve cut out alcohol altogether, to help with GI stuff, exercise, my new morning schedule, and mood.

—I’ve joined the Unitarian Universalist Church with my little family.

—I am making an effort to cook delicious dinners.

I do feel proud. I do feel adult and badass and able to accomplish anything I set my mind to right now.

I was not feeling okay at all. Getting the stomach flu twice in a row (perhaps it was a resurgence of the same bout of flu) really shook me. It was a terrible stomach flu, with violent retching. DH had just taken a lot of time off to go to PA and his interview, so he could not take time off, and I was managing the retching, fever, aching, shivering, while taking care of S. It was not good. It’s hard for me to even think about that time! My babysitter was not available and we have no backup sitter. And I did not have the wherewithal to figure out how to find another sitter, organize the whole thing—it’s not an easy process when the kid is so little.

I had, thankfully, already babyproofed the entire house, so I could lie on the couch while S ran around, and I knew he was safe. But he needed me and I could not give him all that he needed and that shit is hard. And there was only so much TV he could watch.

DH did manage to come home early eventually…and the next day we had a crazy fight in which I let him know how hurt I was that he had not made me a first priority. He had not been warm toward me and had seemed only inconvenienced by my resurgence of the flu. He was so cold toward me! And I had done so much for the raodtrip, had driven 11 hours straight to PA all by myself (while still recovering from the first bout of flu) so he could sleep and be fresher for his interview the next day. On Monday morning, when I woke up and told him that I’d had a fever again all night, he didn’t even allow me the time to take a hot shower before he went off to work (and S was up). He was under a lot of pressure, having recently asked his work for so much time off, but there is no excuse for the way he treated me. I’ve since forgiven him, as he has recognized what a jerk he was to me. It was seriously hurtful, and I’m still a little weirded out by what happened. I now have a cold and he has been careful to ask me how I am doing and what he can do for me. He is also, in his limited free time, reading a book on creating healthy marriages, so I know that he, too, was shaken by his behavior and how much he hurt me.

This is sometimes really hard. This raising a kid thing while not having much help (other than the universe’s most amazing babysitter—but she’s $12/hour, low prices around here, but expensive for us). Also, DH, who has had the cervical-cancer kind of HPV for decades, has an outbreak so bad right now that he needs to go under anesthesia for minor surgery on his wiener, so there has been no sex for us for a looooooong time (he couldn’t get a surgery date til mid-April!). Add to that the fact that we don’t sleep side-by-side at all because of his intense, chainsaw-like snoring. We used to fall asleep in each other’s arms, but now we don’t, because sleep is precious and neither of us can afford to go through the wake-up that happens when I leave the bed once he begins snoring. Because it can be hard to fall back to sleep. I miss him and his arms. We do it anyway sometimes, but if any amount of insomnia occurs, we don’t do it again for a while.

We did, however, watch an entire movie together (yay!) one night in our living room, and that was really fun. We did hire our beloved babysitter (I feel actual love for this young woman) one night and go to a new couple friends house for an incredible dinner and lively conversation. We have been going to the Unitarian church every Sunday for a month, now, in an effort to do something positive, spiritually uplifting, and community-minded, and with an eye toward raising S with spirituality and community. (Neither of us was raised with Church and have never been churchgoers. It’s a new experience, one that I’m really enjoying. More on this later.)

We do have the sweetest, loveliest evenings and weekends with S, even throughout all of the recent stresses. Almost impossible to capture in words…just last night, the three of us snuggled on a pile of pillows, S squealing with glee and kissing our cheeks. He is a ball of love. S running up to us and hugging us passionately (he loves our family group hugs). The three of us having dance parties that leave my tummy sore from so much laughing.

I decided that I had to do whatever I can do to ward off the following:

illness; gross feelings about my body; sad feelings about my unused adult brain; down feelings about my nearly platonic relationship with DH; isolated feelings re: LI; etc.

…so that we can have as much of the snuggling and dancing as possible, and as little of the stress and sickness as possible.

So I got serious and looked up a running program online, wrote down the details in my calendar, and told myself that no matter what is going on, I must do what is written on the calendar. For the most part, I have done just that—with some flexibility because of my recent cold.

I have gone running outside with the jogging stroller. Running on the streets of our new neighborhood in all kinds of weather. And I’ve gone running on the treadmill at the gym while the “Kid’s Corner” gym people watch him—not an easy step for me, as it’s two caretakers in there with lots of kids, many of them older and rougher. But I can watch the playroom on a monitor on the treadmill, and they do an excellent job. I’ve just got to let go and trust. Maybe someday I’ll get to the point at which I can even turn off the treadmill monitor.

I eat specific things before running and eat specific things afterward to help with recovery, and I am sure to do at least a little myofascial release with the foam roller afterward. Intense DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) has always been my killer when it comes to running, that and injury, so I am being very careful this time around. I used to run when I lived in Brooklyn and had a body that fit into size Small clothing. It’s very different running with a size Large body that has been through pregnancy and drawn-out recovery…

I am heavier than I’ve ever been and I just cannot stand the way it feels. I don’t like the way I look, but I’m also worried about my heart—my brother had a heart attack at age 43, and my cousin had one at age 46, my uncle at 50. Heart conditions are rampant on both sides of my family.

Plus having had multiple miscarriages puts me at greater risk for heart problems and death due heart conditions.

Being an older mama, I think of S. I want to be around for many, many years and see him go through all the things!

I want to be healthy so that I can enjoy all of it. And enjoy retirement with DH.

The going to bed early, getting up early thing is the most recent addition. Which is why I am here, typing away with my cup of coffee, at 5 a.m. I was tired of hearing myself complain about how I do not have enough time to write. Enough time to use my adult-brain.

I was boring myself.

Stop whining, I told myself, and make drastic changes to have the life you want.

If I stay up until 11 or 12 at night, what do I accomplish? Nothing. I am too tired. But if I get up early and watch the sun rise while at my desk with a cup of coffee, I have so much more energy and focus. I start to feel “like myself” — one of my biggest complaints, not feeling “like myself” because of how adult-mind-numbing caretaking can be.

I also have more energy lately because I have cut out my enemy, gluten/wheat. I can’t believe it took me this long to say farewell again.

So this is what happened: I went gluten-free and on an anti-inflammation diet in order to prepare my body for pregnancy with S. It was part of a huge body/mind makeover. Once S was born, I was like, I cannot do this any longer. I did not have the time, I thought, and it was so difficult, or it felt so difficult, to stay GF when taking care of an infant. No doubt, there were some moments when I absolutely had to get food in my gut and had very few options.

But also, to be real: I was sick and fucking tired of monitoring myself!

The monitoring! Monitoring my diet. Getting monitored at the RE’s. At the OB’s. Again and again. Jabbing myself with twice a day.

And taking vitamins. Before pregnancy, all those months of taking vitamins and supplements, hoping that something would help…aaaaack! I was sick of being sure to take my vitamins. I haven’t taken a regular vitamin in 16 months! I tell myself I’ll just get it from food. But I should probably start taking one again. Also: I should be taking that, since I have MTHFR. And I should probably be taking a daily baby aspirin for my Factor V. But I’m not. Because rebellion. Because too much. But it’s time.

After I cut out the gluten, I began to feel this…difference. A lightness. My stomach was not drawing so much of my attention away from other things. My stomach was pretty much okay! Didn’t need to think about stomach! And I was pooping healthily. I had forgotten how healthily a person can poop! Fewer body aches, more energy, fewer stomach problems, better poops.

Never. Again.

Never–you hear me? (Am talking to self. Am schooling self. No, no, no. Be a smart human.)

Cutting out alcohol was not as hard as I thought it was going to be. Making cocktails in the evening with DH was one of our fun, adult-time activities, and we started getting into it, buying the equipment, vintage cocktail books, and so on. But A) It was certainly not helping my current weight problem, and B) I have to admit that it affects me. A lot. Like, way, way more than it does DH. Even if I have just one drink, it can have some effects on GI tract, sleep, mood, and so on. Such a bummer. If I do it carefully, with a meal, a certain amount of time before bed, it’s okay. But for now, I’m just going to cut it out while I’m making all of these changes. Surprisingly, I haven’t missed it yet.

I was also very tired of hearing myself complain about how my cooking has gone downhill. I make great breakfasts for S & me, but my dinners were these thrown-together affairs that I did while feeling rushed, pressured, exhausted, and disgruntled. I made a strong decision to stop the pattern. To give myself a full hour to make dinner. To not shy away from meats that take a long time to cook and require some planning. This week, I made buffalo burgers, beef braciole, elaborate BLTs, nice salads.

Writing all of this out, I realize that I really can accomplish anything I want. If I make the decision and follow through, anything is possible. I hope in a month I can return to this post and take note of the positive changes that have resulted from all of this effort and say that I’m keeping all of it up.

The Force is with me!

But patience you must have, padawan.


Enormous changes all at once

It’s been a tsunami of change. I can’t catch my breath. Last week, I almost wrote a post entitled , “I am losing my effing mind,” but thought better of it. Or more like passed out on my computer mid-sentence while writing it. Because thought is a luxury these days. The universal flow is pushing us to do, do, do.

The details will come. I just want to flow -write (as much as one can with thumbs on an iPhone). Big interview for DH tomorrow in our beloved Midwestern city and here we are, after an 11-hour road trip, in the same B & B we came to 3 years ago when I was recovering from a harrowing miscarriage. Except this time we have a chubby musical prodigy with us, a sweet boy I just rocked to sleep in my arms while singing spirituals. 

His harmonica and singing and keyboard skills are making our jaws drop. And he has a vocabulary now that is more like that of an 18-22 month old. It’s all happening so fast, his mind growing exponentially each day, 15 months on planet Earth and everyone’s friend, his heart boundless. 

This has been a VERY STRESSFUL TIME Aieeeeeeeeeyaaaaaaa!!! But he keeps me grounded and grateful. 

I got the flu. It was bad. I had to recover for my family. For DH. For this extremely important trip. 

Considering that we had just moved homes, with a toddler, with zero help, and with only 4 hours help from movers, no wonder. And I said, “Watch–you’ll get a call right after we move for a job interview in PA.” And he did. After more than a year of sending out apps, he gets THE CALL right after we moved homes in LI. A beautiful house that we love, but we will of course leave it to jump on this life course change we’ve been dreaming about…

So I got the flu. Of course. I took S up to the finished attic so he could run around while I shivered in a fetal position on the floor. He kept checking on me. Eventually he nestled against my tummy, took my hand, and said, “I-la-oo,” looking me in the eyes. 15 months old. I just don’t even know how to express what that was like for me.

Needless to say, I got better pretty quickly after that.

Okay. More when I can. Send luck vibes our way tomorrow! 

Singing (edited)

(accidentally hit “publish” too soon before…) Just want to record that S is singing now, in key, and singing real words. I realize that this is a normal-ish thing to happen at 14 months but DH and I feel like we’re witnessing a miracle and hold onto each other, not breathing, while he does it. ohmygodohmygod—did you hear that?? he’s singing in key! Last night, he sang, “Bye, bye, baby,” that slow, sweet Mel Torme song, right along with the words, and in key. The night before that, I had Amy Winehouse on and he sang along: “No, no, no!” to the song “Rehab.” Whoops!

So the first song he sang along to, not just ah-ah-la-la but in words, is (recording this for posterity) “Rehab” by Amy Winehouse.

We write songs every morning at breakfast. “La! La!” he sings, pointing to the guitar, and so we get her out, and we sing “The Berry Monster” (a wistful number we wrote while S was covered in blackberries) and “Awoowa,” a song about his beloved stuffed chocolate, lab Awoowa.

I thank the lord every day for my fingers (to quote Paul Simon) because I eat my breakfast in a fraction of the amount of time it takes him to eat, and I don’t want to leave him there eating alone, so I just play and sing and write songs.

The other thing is the harmonica-playing. Is it possible for a 14-month-old to play harmonica in key along with songs? Because at first we thought it was a coincidence. But after about 4 months of coincidences, we’re beginning to believe that he is doing this purposefully.

I can hear him singing himself to sleep in his crib right now. “La, la, laaaaaa,” the song Dada wrote, hitting the notes perfectly. In the car yesterday, he was singing disco with me and doing his Stevie Wonder car seat dance.

This is fun!


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