Tuesday, January 25, 2011

It Could Always Be Worse

Last time I wrote I was nervous --nay, I believe I said terrified-- of the long days alone at home with the kids that I was about to experience. Well, as it turns out, I didn't have to worry about that. This last week has turned out a little different than I expected.

Anyone remember the Yiddish folktale It Could Always Be Worse? This guy visits his rabbi to complain about his crazy, overcrowded house and the rabbi tells him to move all his farm animals in with him one by one. In the end he kicks out all the animals and the same house he complained about at the start of the story suddenly seems calm, quiet and peaceful.

If weeks came with titles, I'd be plagiarizing a fable for mine.

My sister came to town to help with the kids, so I thought it would be nice for all of us to swing by my job and check in. They're working on our mid-year program report and I had planned to stop in at the end of the month and assist with reflections on our data anyway. I figured my son could play in the toddler classroom with my sister while I held the baby, glanced over what they'd done so far, and banged out a few e-mails.

Instead, it became very clear how loved and appreciated I am by my coworkers when I was overrun with a million immediate requests for assistance. And as much as I didn't particularly want to put in the time to help rightatthisparticularmomentthankyouverymuch, it's a small program with a lot of new staff and there is no one else who can help them. And they were doing their very best with some very challenging tasks. Upon which our continued funding depends. And I love them all dearly. So. I spent a couple days stopping in at work to help out, toting one or both kids, caring for my children and my colleagues simultaneously, which was sometimes fun, and other times manageable, and still others one very small step shy of feeling as if my brain was about to burst into bits and explode all over the walls from the constant and contradictory needs approaching me from every direction and at every. single. moment.

Then I spent an early morning googling projectile spit-up in infants and urinary tract infections in toddlers. And a midmorning --in just above single digit temperatures-- pulling the windshield wiper blade off the passenger side of my car, where the windshield wiper doesn't work, and putting it onto the driver's side, which works, but the wiper blade decided to do a kamikaze leap from the car to the road last time I drove. And these kids need to get to the doctor and it's snowing. And an early afternoon dragging both children down a snowy street in a stroller not designed for blizzard treks on unshoveled sidewalks where I forgot to even ask the doctor about the projectile spitter-upper because holding a screaming toddler while he is catheterized after failing to pee in a cup on command is far too traumatic an experience to leave room in the brain for projectile vomiting. And a late afternoon waiting for the drive thru pharmacy to finish my son's goddamn prescription already, please, and we'd better go ahead and fill that one for the blocked tear duct that I've been carrying around in my purse while we're at it, because suddenly it looks like my daughter's eye is getting worse after all. I see this through my own tears because we're both sobbing but she's shedding more slime than tears from one eye. (She cries when the car sits still too long; I cry when my children have medical procedures that seem more like torture than treatment, and although it was necessary, it was quite possibly the worst thing I've ever experienced, and I say that without any hint of hyperbole. It really fucking was.)

And then my husband was home for the weekend, and my sister had to leave town, and groceries were purchased, and weekly menus planned, and weekend chores tended to, and my mom drove into town, and --look!-- it's the end of the month already and now it's that time I was originally planning to go into work to help write the reflections for that report, so I was back at work, baby at my breast while typing one handed at my desk, and holding meetings where she's passed around the conference table to give my sore upper back a break and my hands a quick chance to jot down the million and one things I don't want to forget. And I'm still not entirely done with this seemingly ever-expanding task I agreed to, but I'm hoping my husband can download the program I need to access our database from home to finish up, because my mom leaves tomorrow and suddenly:

The life I feared would overwhelm me a week ago? The long days alone at home with my two kids? How calm, quiet, and peaceful it sounds now. If I could manage all this chaos with the help of my (admittedly very helpful) sister and mother, I think I'll be able to manage the three of us at home with nothing to do and nowhere to go.

I will finish that report late at night when the rest of the house is asleep. It's due at the end of the month. My children will be finished with their various prescriptions by that time. I can't tell you how glad I'll be when the last of these damn farm animals is gone.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Slowly Scrambling for Balance

I feel as if I have stories to tell, or something to talk about buried somewhere in my brain, but I haven't left the house in days now, and yesterday I held my daughter for six hours straight and my shoulders are sore, and the couch and rocking chair are likely both molded to the shape of my spine.  I breathed her in (the smell of a baby's head is divine) while my son slept in the late afternoon for the first time in what felt like forever, but was probably only weeks.

It's different with this baby. I give her what she needs, but I'm racing between the two of them, and if he's awake all day he seems to need me all day.  Part of that is change, the arrival of his sister and departure of his daily routine, part of it is being stuck indoors so much, and part if it is that since he's not napping, he's getting overtired in the evenings, and therefore more demanding.

I feel as if I get so little of the time I got with my firstborn with this baby: sitting, rocking, nursing, in no hurry at all.  He napped for hours yesterday and I just held her while she ate and slept her day away, and even though my arms and shoulders were all cramped up by the end of the evening, it was nice.  Breathing in the scent of a baby's head is calming, meditative.

And my son was so easygoing after his nap, a pleasant reminder of how he used to act every night when he napped religiously!  I'm going to try and return naptime to the schedule, but I think I have to think of it as quiet time and be willing to end it after an hour if he doesn't fall asleep.  He seems somewhere in the middle of needing and outgrowing it, and I think I'll need to be flexible.

Tomorrow my husband goes back to work; paternity leave is over.  One of my sisters is coming for a few days, so I will still have some help for a few days, and then I'll be on my own.  I'll be honest:  I'm a little terrified. When I only had one and I heard things like: Motherhood is the hardest job in the world, I always thought: Really?  It doesn't seem that bad!

I felt easy, breezy, confident, at least, much of the time.  With two to manage, I get glimpses of how this job might knock you to your knees, or break your heart in half.  But I've been practicing my breathing, doing a little bit of yoga with my boy, having an afternoon cup of tea, breathing in the scent of my girl's scalp, and keeping the clutter up off of the floor.  Amidst these little things, I attempt to find my footing.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Winter: You do not get the last word. This is my blog.

What's harder: A summer baby or a winter one?  And going from none to one, or one to two?

In the interest of killing two birds with one stone, I can simply answer: this time.  Harder.  Much harder.

Count me firmly in the camp of those who say it's more difficult to go from one child to two than it was to go from none to one.  I was afraid this would be the case, but crossed my fingers hopefully every time I heard:  Well, it's a lot easier to adapt to a second kid than it was to adapt to the first one!

My first kid, though?  He was easy.  And in fact, this second one?  She's easy too.  On her own.  Luckily, my babies have been easy ones.  And my toddler is easy(ish) for me to handle when I can give him my full attention.  It's the balancing act on the high wire of their vastly differing needs that's got me desperately seeking my footing, and often failing to find it until after a crash or three on the circus floor of sulking, tears and tantrums (the toddler's, the baby's, my own or my husband's; it's hard to say some days who'll fall apart first!).

And this whole living in your house, like, nonstop, round the clock, with your immediate family all up in your grill at every conceivable moment?  Intense.

In.  Tense.

That's all I'm going to say about that.

Except:  Can I plead extenuating circumstances?

Yes, I can (being judge, jury and executioner in these here proceedings, I vote yes, I may proceed with the plea).  Let me lay out my case for you, dear reader.  Perhaps you can serve as my witness.

Extenuating Circumstance Number One:  Winter.  This could easily equal case closed, not guilty by reason of insanity, right here, with that one word.  But there's more..

Extenuating Circumstance Letter B:  My husband threw his back out the day after I was released from the hospital.  Did we let this slow us down?  No, we did not.  I shared my Percocet prescription (shhh...) and we rearranged all the furniture in the house, including moving three dressers and a queen sized bed that had to be sawed in half and then repaired up a flight of stairs into the attic, aka our new bedroom.  Bad back and healing abdomen be damned!

Excruciating Circumstances 1.0 and 2.0:  Mastitis (1.0).  Followed by a regiment of antibiotics.  Followed by a recurrence of mastitis (2.0).  No, I did not share my Augmentin with my husband, in case you were suspicious.  I'm midway through a second prescription and just now beginning to nurse without feeling like ground glass is being sucked through my mammary glands.

Dietary Bylaw Breakage 2,011:  I abandoned the diabetic diet that sustained me through my pregnancy, and promptly began forgetting to eat.  Until all of a  sudden I find myself starving, dizzy, headachey, and in dire need of large quantities of the closest available convenience food.  Bad habit to get into.  Still trying to break it.  My dinner tonight?  The crusts of two peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, the rest of which were consumed by the toddler.  I still have some work to do in breaking this habit. 

Exclamation Oh-Fuck-No! Number Zed:  The sudden death of the afternoon nap.  That's right.  The boy has chosen NOW to abandon his long held practice of sleeping away a good portion of each afternoon.  It took us over a week to realize we could put him to bed hours earlier instead of spending those evening hours in the presence of His Royal Highness Mister Meltdown Extraordinaire.  Quick thinking appears not to be a hallmark of the post-partum period.

Strange-But-True Happenstance Letter K:  I seem to have morphed into Mrs. Martha Stewart Kiddie Home Living.  Which means there are four of us living in a home we haven't managed to organize in the two plus years we've been living here, and suddenly I find it unacceptable when the wooden toys aren't arranged just so or the alphabet puzzle is no longer in alphabetic order on the floor.  I think I have uttered the phrase: A place for everything and everything in it's place more often in the past weeks than ever before --cumulatively-- in my entire life.  I may not have eaten since breakfast, but goddammit, you could eat off my son's truck rug (freshly vaccuumed!) if I remembered to offer you something.  Which I wouldn't.  Unless you're a toddler desiring crust-free sandwiches.  Or you have a breastmilk fetish.  So help me God, if you don't take your shoes off when you enter my house, though.  No breastmilk for you!  I can abide a pervert, but don't you dare go tracking snow up in here after I just cleaned the hardwoods, motherfucker.

Final Closing Argument, Gavel Pounding in Agreement:  IT'S WINTER!  Seriously, what's a mama (of two) supposed to do?  IF it were summer (or spring, or fall) I could take my offspring into the great outdoors and allow nature to work it's magic, running my boy's energy off like he's entered a marathon, providing my daughter the Vitamin D she must resort to a dropper to get in this wintery clime, burning baby weight like the fiery sun while I pushed my younger child and chased my older one.  Winter, it's not the first time I've said it, and it likely won't be the last.  I don't care how pretty you are in pictures, dude.  You, my friend (and when I say friend, that's a polite way of saying enemy, you know, like they do in Congress): are an asshole.

Case closed.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

ReRun: A Metaphor for Winter

Scene:  My Inner Therapist's Office.  Winter's in one chair; I'm in another.  My Inner Therapist is gazing down her nose at us through cat frame eyeglasses.  We all look uncomfortable.

My Inner Therapist:  So we're here today because LazyBones *shuffling through intake paperwork* wrote some things on a blog?  Is that correct?  On the Internet?  And Winter, that made you feel.....well, why don't you tell us?  How did that make you feel?

Winter:  It made me feel terrible, just terrible.  *Sniff*  Can  I have a tissue?  I'm sorry, I just, this is very emotional for me.  The holidays always bring up a lot of emotions, and then this...this attack!  Out of nowhere!  I just...this is difficult.

MIT:  Take your time Winter, we're here.

Would you like to tell us more about these holiday emotions?

W:  Everyone wants me around for Christmas, and New Year's, but then it's just Poof!  Be Gone!  Like I'm not good for anything else!  It hurts!  Every year I give it my all, I give everything, and in the end I just...*whispers*...I just feel so used.

MIT:  LazyBones, how does it make you feel to hear what Winter is expressing here?

LazyBones:  Well damn, Winter, I wasn't trying to bring up all that.  I mean, it wasn't even personal!  It's like, you're just a metaphor, Winter.  A metaphor for the existential emptiness we all experience from time to time.  I was just using you as a metaphor...

W:  So you WERE using me!  I knew it.  I knew it.

LB:  Not like that!  I just wanted to express the melancholy and the rage I was feeling, and you seemed like a good symbol for that.  I'm sorry Winter.  I never meant to hurt you.

MIT:  This is good, this is good, we're airing our feelings here.  Winter, would you care to respond?

W:  It's hard for me to accept the apology after yesterday's post.  I was treated like a cheap floozy.  It's hard to come back from that.  LazyBones has proven that entertaining this...blog audience...comes before my feelings, and I don't think I'm ready to forgive that right now.  I'm more than a metaphor!  I am a season.  I deserve more.

LB:  More!?  More!?  You already get six months of the year, and Summer, Spring and Fall share the other six!  How is that fair?  When I lived in Arizona you barely got a month!  Now we're in upstate New York, you get six months and you deserve more!?  You take over half the year, and get all the major holidays and then you complain about being a metaphor?  Winter, I'm sorry, but when you take up six months worth of my psychic space, you end up as a metaphor.

And yesterday?  Okay, I came at you wrong.  You're not a cheap floozy; I'm just not ready to commit to you and--you're right--I shouldn't have tried sweet-talking you that way.  My Inner Playa came out as a metaphor for making up, and my metaphors got mixed.  I didn't meant to hurt you.

Besides, it's an honor to be a metaphor.  All the seasons have been metaphors for me.

W:  Really?  *dabs eyes*  Even Summer?

LB:  Yes, and I complain about Summer too.  She's stifling; she has a forced cheerfulness about her, and her expectations are always too high. 

MIT:  How does this change things for you, Winter?

W:  Well, I appreciate the apologies.  I do.  And now that I know Summer is a metaphor, I feel...better somehow.  Like it's not as personal as I thought before. I've been told I tend to make things all about me.

I guess I do need to learn to detach.  I've been working on that with my own therapist.

MIT:  Good Winter, good.  Keep that up.  And LazyBones, how are you feeling about our session today?

LB: I want to get along with Winter, I really do, but we've had issues all my life, and.....at this point, all I can say is I'll try. 

MIT:  Alright, good work you two, I feel like we really started a dialogue here.  We can continue this at our next session.  We'll leave it at that for today.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

ReRun: Wooing Winter

C' mon baby.  It don't have to be like that.  I know I said ... some things ... the other day ... that maybe I shouldn'ta said, but you know how I get sometimes.  It didn't mean nothin'.  I'm still here, you see me right here, don't you?  You really think I'd spend 6 months outta every year with you, right here in CNY baby,  if I didn't have feelings for you?  I was just bloggin', baby, I was just tryin'a entertain, you feel me?  You know how it gets out there. 

But I'm here with you now, ain't I?

What, you need proof?  Look around my house!!!  What do you see?  FLEECE!  How much fleece I got up in my house, and you're gonna question my feelings for you just causa some shit on the Internet!?  You know you ain't supposed to believe everything you read on the Internet, anyway.  I got, I got...LAYERS!  Look at this: non-cotton for next to the skin so I keep that heat in, I got blankets stacked up from ceilin' to floor, I got, I got...hoodies!  How many hoodies I got right here in this room!?  And these is just for inside the house!

Winter, I am HERE!  I am here with you baby, right here, and I don't know what I gotta do to make you see that.

Okay, winter.....it's like that, then?  It's like that?  Okay, then.  I'ma remember this.  I'ma remember this, though, winter.  This shit ain't over, winter.  This ain't over.  You'll be hearing from me again.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Half-Assed Interruption

I hate to interrupt our regular schedule of reruns, especially for a clear case of half-assery, but I just want to say, in my defense ...

It started well.  It really did.  I was determined to begin moving our bedroom upstairs into the attic.

We weren't going to do that yet.  We were going to stay downstairs in our old bedroom/the baby's new nursery.  At least until spring, if not summer.  We haven't even bought her bedroom furniture yet.  She's in the bassinet next to our bed, which makes it easier to nurse her in the night.  And I planned to use some of our tax return to buy her bedroom set, so there's really no hurry for us to move upstairs.


Well, except ... me.

It seems that giving birth makes me a bit manic.  When my son was born I directed that energy outward, visiting parks, pushing his stroller on trails, making the most of the summer weather, and even taking up jogging, which I enjoyed for the first time in my life.  This time around, since we're mostly stuck in the house watching the morning PBS lineup and the snow fall outside our windows, my manic energy becomes directed at our home.  Each day I have to not only tidy and keep up on the regular chores, I have to accomplish some task that I've deemed "above and beyond," which means that once it's done I won't have to do it again.  I need this, to feel satisfied.

Thus, the Christmas ornaments were taken down earlier than I had planned, packed away and re-stored in the attic.  Including the new ones I created out of silver and gold ribbons, bows, and beaded hooks that I made my husband take me to the store to buy the day I was released from the hospital.  And stayed up half the night making after wrapping all the presents.  Yeah, just a little manic.

The toys were thinned out to make room for new ones, and the toy shelves have all been reorganized thematically to soothe both my frenzied ambition and my teacher's need for order.  I've even purchased toys and created activities with the express purpose of expending physical energy (both mine and the toddler's), but it isn't quite enough for either of us.

So when my son emptied his dresser drawers onto his bedroom floor, in what was likely an attempt to entertain himself with some grand physical gesture to compensate for the household's sore lack of playground equipment and running space, I decided to go ahead and go through them all for a size check, making bags for the attic and the Goodwill, labeling and delivering them instead of shoving them back in the drawers and smooshing them shut, like I would have before having the baby.

And when I ran out of areas to organize on the first floor, my attention turned upward.  And all of a sudden, I felt certain that we needed to move upstairs A.S.A.P.  That way, not only could we start to organize the attic (a task that feels just as ambitious and unlikely as running a marathon) (which also means I totally want to do it! Today!), but we could clear the first floor of all our bedroom clutter --laundry piling up on top of dressers waiting to be put away, or dirty on floors where a basket should be, but isn't because it's been left in the basement, the odds and ends my husband manages to collect that have no defined place yet (these odds and ends are endless when you live with an artist/packrat!), the ever-increasing number of newborn baby/new mama supplies (where's that lanolin? didn't someone give me a box of breast pads? we need alcohol to clean my scar and her cord! and cotton balls!), and all the jewelry I've been keeping only semi-organized up until this point-- and create space for a beautifully spare future nursery/guest bedroom containing nothing but easily tidied and well-catalogued, necessary items.

The vision?  A place for everything, and everything in it's place.  Are you with me?

The reality?

I took the drawers out of two dressers and placed them --precariously balanced-- on the attic stairs.  I cleaned a stack of storage cubes from my son's room and carried them to my daughter's.  I dragged the dressers to the hallway, waiting just below their drawers to make that big move to the attic.  So far, so good.

But then, my boy:  Mommy, I need some-ting.

What do you need, sweetie?

I need some extra hugs.

And so, extra hugs were given.

And then my girl:  Waaahhh!  (Food.  I wants it now.)

And so, food was given.

And suddenly, my husband:  The snowblower broke.  I need to go to the hardware store.

And then my son needed some-ting again, and so did my daughter, and then my husband:  It didn't work, and now I need to shovel the drive.

And so it went.

The attic stairs remain adorned with dresser drawers, the hallway with dressers sans drawers.  And the bathroom: sink and toilet cleaned, tub and tile floor awaiting further attention.  And the living room: armchair halfway to the guestroom/ future nursery, piled with pillows from the couch while that cover finishes its trip through the laundry.

It's halfway there.

Of course.

And here I am, too tired to finish a single thing I started today.  Except for the beer I'm drinking.  And, apparently, this blog post.  And, presumably, the night's sleep I'm about to embark upon, until my daughter wakes me with a wail.

Whereupon I will scramble from my warm bed, gather her in my arms, snuggle her tight, and give her the breast.  She will open her mouth like a baby bird, latch on, eat heartily, and continue to grow.  Fortunately, even amidst the mess I've left in my wake today, there is nothing half-assed about that.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

ReRun: If I Meet Winter In A Dark Alley I Will Thrash It With A Garland Of Spring Flowers

Winter is coming to Upstate New York, and with it the melancholy that I wrestle every year as the season changes.  The air gets colder and the sky darker and the green earth turns grey, and before I can embrace hibernation I rage against the change.  Can there be melancholy and rage?  I think there can.  The rage is suppressed, helpless, like violence hidden underneath a heavy blanket of snow.  Like frostbite eating away at your fingers and toes while you sit, so tired and still, as if in a trance, slowly freezing.

I should be grateful that it's December (or that we can pretend it is for the sake of a rerun) and winter is only now rearing it's ugly head.  I am not.  At least not right now.  This is not a grateful post.  This is the end of a long, lonely day covered by a cloudy sky and full of dirty floors and unending laundry.  This post is about boredom, and the purgatory of transition.  It's about resistance to inevitable change and stubborn, futile defiance, digging heels in when it makes no sense whatsoever to do so.

It's about the start of winter.

I don't want to go gentle into these dark, endless nights and days.  Winter lasts for months upon months in Upstate New York!  I don't want patience.  I want to rage like the rainstorms of early spring, melting ice with explosive strength.  I want to burst into technicolor like buds on trees in March; I want to sweep away the debris that gets hidden under the snow; clean the streets with a wild, maniacal energy.  I want to bare my teeth and rip berries from their vines before they have the chance to ripen; I'm so hungry for winter to be over before it begins. 

Winter, you leave me no choice but submission, and in the meantime melancholy and a silent, seething rage.  I'll play a collection of short films in my mind tonight and in each and every one I will be the heroine and you will be the villain and I will best you with ever more colorful, creative schemes.  Tonight I will melt you with the fire in my mind.  Tonight I will annihilate you.  And in the morning I will wake to your bleak and unforgiving landscape just outside my bedroom window.

Tomorrow, you bastard, I will sigh and begin to embrace you.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Writing about Writing and Fighting with Winter

As a child, I remember one thing I knew for certain was that I did not want any sort of career that required me to write for a living.  See, I liked writing.  And while this might seem counterintuitive, I didn't want that joy to be sullied by everyday repetition, regular requirements, and deadlines.  I wanted to keep my voice for myself, to say only what and when I wanted to say, to hoard my words, a quiet source of solitary pleasure for a girl with five sisters who had few opportunities to have everything the way I wanted it, few chances to choose not to share, collaborate, compromise.

I wanted to be the whole and only boss of my words.

Though this has resulted in far fewer of them being written down, and less opportunity for development and improvement of my writing skills, I have never regretted it.  If being a "real" writer means (as I have often read that it does) that you don't want to write, but that you must write, then I am quite happily less than real.  Unreal.  Or surreal?  Whatever the case may be!  I go long periods without writing, and I am perfectly content with it.  It's not at all that I simply must write.  It's that I want to.  And I really like it that way.

Still a thrill, in my mid-thirties, to be the whole and only boss of something, even if it is only my own words, my own place to play without sharing a single thing!

So in the spirit of purely recreational writing, starting tomorrow I will be re-running a four-part series I wrote last year about winter.  I had only been blogging about a month when I started it, and I drove home from work each afternoon thinking about the next post, excited to sit down after my son went to sleep, put fingers to keyboard, and see what happened.  I had a lot of fun writing it!  For me, and for now, that's the whole point.

This winter series is apropos for another reason too.  Namely, here it is again, and here I am again, both hating its guts and trying hard to embrace and make the best of it.  Having two children is thus far lovely, but it would be far lovelier in the spring or fall, with the option to spend some time each day outdoors.  My son needs to move, and so do I, but it's hard to convince myself to do it when it's twenty-something degrees outside and it means leaving the baby and my husband indoors, carrying my cell phone and waiting for the call to rush home and nurse.

Yesterday my boy and I did an hour or so of yoga together, incorporating his new plastic play tent and tunnel as props in our stretching routine and utilizing his big alphabet floor puzzle as a cushioned mat between our spines and the hardwood floor.  I let him climb me in certain poses (Child's Pose) and ride on my back in others (Cat and Cow), and directed him to crawl, jump and run while I contorted into corresponding poses (a homemade mash-up of Sun Salutation components) and offered enough high-fives and high-jinks to keep it interesting.  But I'm not always quick and creative enough to make the best of our too-often-too-messy house to meet his needs, or my own, before we begin to get stir-crazy.  We've gone out almost daily on "family drives" just to get out of the house, but neither cruising the city neighborhoods nor ransacking the various branches of the county library offers enough exertion to wear us out the way a summer hike or morning spent swimming would be able to do.

I choose to live in Upstate New York, in one of the snowiest cities in the continental United States, and yet winter and I ... well, we've never gotten along.  And so each year I battle the elements, determined one of these days (or years) to be able to say:  I love winter!

It won't be this year.

But last year: I loved writing about winter.  And this year: I love that I keep trying to make the best of it, with plastic tents and tunnels, alphabet puzzle playmats, city drives through snowy neighborhoods, and everyday outings turned adventures with the inclusion of a new baby, the creative eyes of a toddler, and the ongoing efforts of his parents.

Much like the act of writing for my own silent pleasure in the words themselves, I like to sneak what moments of glee I can covertly gather in the face of an adversary much larger than myself.  I won't win the war with winter.  But that doesn't mean I can't score a few smackdowns in battles along the way, and take a couple moments to thoroughly savor their thrill.

I hope you enjoy reading about winter over the next few days as much as I enjoyed writing about it!  And I wish us all much joy and pleasure in the words that the cold winter weather gives us extra time to compose.  See, one more small seasonal victory!  Take that, winter!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Cast of Characters, Reprised

LazyBones, CoffeeBuzz, The Mama, The Wife, Teacher/Administrator/Yoga Instructor at Work, Resident CouchPotato and DayDreamer at Home:  Does the Mothering and Wife-ing, major in General Studies: Household Organization, minors in Laundry and Menu-Planning. Works part-time in Education and has a Yoga Jobby (job-hobby). Prefers sitting to standing. Prefers lying down to sitting. Prefers daydreaming to almost anything. Requires coffee to achieve basic, everyday life tasks. Possesses an almost supernatural ability to chill. Moves at the speed of light for the amount of time it takes caffeine to travel throughout bloodstream, achieving monumental tasks such as: tidying living room, and starting the laundry. Resumes chilling immediately upon drug exiting the system.  Waiting wistfully for the day when reading a book results in a clean house and mattress testers are finally paid what they are so clearly worth.

MoodyPants, SuperSpouse, The Dada, The Husband, Teacher/Artist at Work, Overachiever Everywhere, and Grump-or-Goofball Extraordinaire at Home (depending on the day): Does the Fathering and Husband-ing, major in Kitchen Care, minor in Grocery Procurement and Preparation.  Teaches Art all day for pay; makes his own by the light of the moon.  Achieves more before breakfast than most people do in a month. Cooks like a five star chef, cleans like a maid on meth, and works harder than John Henry with a hammer in his hand. But when it's a full moon: watch out. Possesses demon moods that have been known to escape the limits of the body and cast a dark shadow throughout the land. Attempts to harness said moods as weapon of warfare against rogue states currently ongoing. Ability to wither whole rooms with a look. Condition can be mitigated with ingestion of microbrewed beverages, so if you come calling when the moon is full, you'd better come correct.  You've been warned.  Wishing for a handyman, a million dollars, or both along with that beer, so he can take a well-deserved break.

The Boy, The Toddler, Boy Child, Big Brother, Etc.: Bigger of the two children, Toddler, Too-Soon-To-Be-Preschooler.  Communicates primarily through Squealing (with joy), Shouting (goes well with any emotion!) and Repeating (until he gets the response he seeks).  Thus far has demonstrated inheritance of the maternal capacities for both endless chatter and limitless loafing: chillin' out, maxin', relaxin' all cool. Still incapable of shootin' some b-ball outside of the school.  Capacity to surpass father in the following cantankerous skill-sets: bursting into tears for no apparent reason whatsoever (Dada has simply never mastered this rudimentary skill), and winning arguments with a single word (see: MINE! NO! and WHY DADA?) (Okay, that's two words.  But twice as effective.) (Neither parent has this skill.)  (Why use one word when you could use ten?).  Lover of cheese sticks, french toast, and those disgusting mandarin oranges that come in a can.  Generally an easy kid, but he wants what he wants, when he wants it.  And he will tell you about it.  Again and again.  Until you respond.  Correctly. 

The Girl, The Baby, Girl Child, Little Sister, Etc.: Newborn baby.  Communicates primarily through Grunting, Rooting and Attempting to Latch onto the closest available protrusion (Mama's cheek, Dada's nose, why not?).  Not a blank slate, but not prepared to be summed up quite so easily as all that yet, either.  A mystery unfolding; a tale in the telling.  A fat-faced, blue-eyed, breastfeedin' fool.  Conceived on her mama's birthday following a miscarriage and months of waiting.  Born days before Christmas, just on time to receive a tree full of presents and provide a tax break for the calendar year of her birth.  A much wanted, much loved little bambina, just waiting to show us who she is.  Certain only to be full of surprises. 

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Summer Boy and Winter Girl

Before my son was born I did a lot of reading on infant temperament.  There's something romantic to me in the idea that we are born with certain pieces of our personalities present --but hidden-- behind baby behaviors, coded in both their DNA and their daily cues.  That babies hold mysterious secrets about who they'll eventually turn out to be, and that we can decipher them if we observe closely.

I wish I had written down my predictions about my son as I watched him carefully in the weeks after he was born.  What I remember now is bound to be woven with the threads I've spun into his story ever since, and it would be tough to unravel the original from more recent interpretations.  I remember thinking he would be an easy kid, because he was an easy baby, and so far that seems right.  Sometimes I wonder if he's really the easy kid I choose to call him, or if I tell that story because infant-and-toddler-hood is a stage I like, and because I want it to be true.  But then my mom spent a week with him and confirmed it, mentioning without any provocation:  He's an easy kid.  So maybe it's not just me.

I watch my daughter intently each day to see who she might be.  I compare her to her brother, her father, to myself.  I look for clues in her cries, her sleeping smiles, how she seeks comfort and how she tells us what she needs.  She seems more particular than her brother was, more certain of what she wants, and more prepared to tell you if you're getting it wrong.  My son is easy to redirect.  She might prove to be tougher.  On the other hand, she already seems to exhibit signs of greater independence, seeking ways to self-soothe even at two weeks, and frequently succeeding.  She doesn't always need us when she fusses, and sometimes when we offer ourselves she lets out a wail that seems to say leave me alone, I'm getting there!

She's more of a fusser and a grunter, generally speaking, than my son was.  He lay quietly comfortable until he wanted something from you, and then he cried.  She tosses and stretches, contorts her face into little caricatures of cuteness, grunts, squeals and squirms, and then settles back down.  She's working things out.  She's checking to see what works for her.  She'll let you know when she finds it, or when she wants your assistance.  Believe me, when she wants you, you'll know.

Until then, take a seat.  Settle in with a blanket to match the fresh one of snow we found this morning when we opened the curtains.  Watch the winter wind outside, cup your warm mug in your chilly hands, and cuddle in close.  Enjoy the cuteness.  Like the winter, and hopefully the baby weight that seems as frighteningly endless from this vantage point as this long Upstate season usually does, it will soon pass into something else entirely.  And it will be gone.  So sink into the comfort of the couch.  Watch the baby.  Wonder.  Marvel.  And remember to breathe. 

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy, Happy New Year

Sometimes when the doctors say: No Exercise, what they mean is: No Exercise Unless the weather gets above 50 degrees in Upstate New York on the first day of January after the snowiest December on record, AND you are attempting to engage in earnest with the fact that you have 50 (OMG!) pounds you would really, really like to lose, AND your toddler has a touch (just a touch) (or perhaps a chronic case) (and you might be catching just a touch of it yourself) (or a chronic case) of cabin fever, AND your neighborhood has an undeniable chronic case of hilliness with no flat places to walk whatsoever, AND there is a reservoir within walking distance of your abode and when you hike the steep, still-snowy stairs with your boy to the top the water is so blue it's indigo in some places and turquoise in others, AND you got 12 hours of cumulative sleep last night (not uninterrupted, no, of course not, but still, 12 hours!). But if all those exemptions apply, then by all means exercise.

At least, I'm pretty sure they mean exactly that.

I'm seldom moved to blog just to record the chronological details of my day, although it was exactly that impetus that inspired my first blog entry (which actually became my second) just over a year ago. And here I am again on a Saturday, the first day of the year which seems like it must be a good omen of some sort, and a similar sort of day (walking the neighborhood with my husband and kiddos) inspiring me to chronicle the details for posterity.

I slept til 11. I think that bears saying twice.  I slept til 11.

And though it was New Year's Eve, I went to sleep at around 11 last night, too. Life is good, when such a thing happens.

We had company in the late morning (my sister and brother-in-law have been here since Thursday, and an aunt and uncle were in town and stopped by for an hour to meet the baby), and when the house cleared out ate a late breakfast of leftover quiche (we had an appetizer tray for dinner last night, with pale ales, a bottle of wine that never got opened, a fire in the fireplace, two Netflix discs of Modern Family, and more than one of us falling asleep in the living room before midnight. We still know how to rock it out, hardcore, as you can see.), took an afternoon neighborhood walk in the lovely warmth of the melting snow, then a slow, meandering city drive, and are beginning a quiet evening at home.

We maneuvered steep hills wearing ourselves and the toddler out, and I can't wait to move my body again. I never want to exercise so desperately as at the end of pregnancy and immediately post-partum. My body aches to be fast and fluid, in my command. I want to run.

Most of the time, let me assure you, I do not want to run.

And I really oughtn't to take up running before my six week post-partum check-up. I do hope that in a month from now I still want so desperately to run.

After our walk we came back for a quick lunch and then went out for a family drive, taking the easy route to putting the toddler down for a nap. We drove through downtown looking at lights, the giant tree they display every year next to ice skaters circling the rink, brick buildings hovering over our heads, humanity out in the streets en masse enjoying the unseasonable warmth of the day. Both kids slept peacefully while we wandered the city streets in my husband's car, staring out our windows in quiet contentment, weaving up and down side streets, through neighborhoods neglected backed up against those well loved, buildings swelling with light, heat and heartbeats interspersed with plywood windows and old graffiti fighting for territory. This city is my home, and the truth is, it's a version of the city I called home as a child, but with more hope. I breathed that hope in, quiet as a prayer while my children slept, breathing warm sighs into our car moving with stealth down streets of luck and ruin.

We came home to the place we make our own in this city we've chosen almost at random after a decade of flitting about. We settled in with my cup of tea and my husband's bottle of beer leftover from last night's bounty, still mostly untouched. The kids continue to sleep quietly, although the baby is starting to stir. I have time to write, and then edit one-handed with her tucked in the nook of my arm. My husband is on the couch, relaxing with the laptop his dad surprised him with for Christmas, the best gift he received by far this year.

I am greedy for the details of this day because I want every day to be as simple and exquisite as that day that finally drove me to begin blogging after almost a year of procrastination, so I would remember, have record, of the moments when the ordinary became extraordinary. I am greedy for more days as easy and magical as this first day of this new year, the second time I've been moved to jot down the details in remembrance of an ordinary day just splitting at the seams with simple happiness.

I think it was Anne Lamott who said that all prayers boil down to Please and Thank You.

Today is Thank You.

Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, and a deep inhale, and a hold, like you don't even want to exhale. You just want to pause here, for a little bit longer.