Thursday, December 30, 2010


On Monday we attended a memorial service for my Aunt, who died on December 18th.  I don’t really know how to write about it.  I don’t even know if it is appropriate to write about it.  I certainly don’t want to be disrespectful.  But this blog is about hard things, and this qualifies. 

For an Italian/Irish Catholic clan, the Cordanos are pretty small in number.  My father is the youngest of 3, those three had 9 children, the 9 of us have 13 and counting between us.  And almost all of us and our spouses were there for the service.  I wouldn’t say we are terribly close in a day to day way, but when we need to be we are there for each other.  And I can honestly say to a person these Cordanos are good people.  I am grateful that they are my family. 

It goes without saying that we are all mourning the loss of my Aunt.  I ache for her, that she will not see her grandchildren grow up, that she will not be here to continue to parent her boys.  Now that I’m an adult I understand we need parenting as much as we did when we were children.  Most of all, I am so sorry that she will miss those well earned years of retirement with my Uncle. 

Her boys are, of course, men now.  And she has so much to be proud of concerning them.  They are the kind of men I hope T will become some day.  As someone who doesn’t have any firm beliefs concerning the afterlife I feel more and more like what we leave behind is our legacy.  And she left behind so much goodness, which in my book makes her life a victory. 

As an agonistic I really don’t know what the hell I believe.  Organized religion mostly turns my stomach.  God and an afterlife don’t seem terribly plausible.  But at the same time every civilization on earth seems to have developed belief in deities, even those that didn’t get far enough along to make clothing.  Are we all deluded in the same way?  Do we all need something else that badly?  Or is there really something out there?  Again, I don’t know.  But I hope there is something.  I hope she does continue to exist.  I hope she is able to somehow watch as her children and grandchildren grow and I hope she is able to continue to love.  I hope she is waiting for my Uncle and her boys somewhere.  I hope it for her, I hope it for them, I hope it for myself. 

And then there are the completely selfish feelings.  Her death has frightened me to my core.  Watching my cousins grieve has broken my heart.  Because the idea of losing either of my parents is completely inconceivable to me.  I desperately need them.  While I’m an adult with a kid of my own I also am terribly irresponsible and they bail me out over and over, they are my never ending safety net.  I wouldn’t know how to function without them.  Here’s a stupid little story of how my dad regards my responsibility level:  because of the traveling my father does he has frequent flyer memberships for my sister and me to a huge number of airlines as a just in case thing.  Recently he handed my sister physical possession of her cards for the first time.  He told me I still couldn’t be trusted to have mine. I wasn’t even offended, he is totally right.  If I can’t keep stupid frequent flyer cards safe how can I get along without a parent?  I pray to any and every god that might be out there that I don’t find out for a very very long time. 

And I hope my Aunt is in peace.  I send my Uncle, cousins, and their families love as they begin to navigate life without her.

I almost didn't include a picture, but it seemed a bit of hope and happiness was in order.  And the little man is definitely a Cordano.

Photo by Ellie Leonardsmith.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Obsessing About T's Poop

It doesn’t take much for feelings of extreme insecurity to well up and start to take over.  When my mind is presented with a scenario I assume I’ve done something to bring about the negative side of the story.  For some reason T failed to have a single solid poop in the month of November.  We went from dumping his turds in the toilet to not having that option at all.  I sort of assumed the looser poop was happening because we traveled the entire month.  As I’ve mentioned before, little man is a creature of habit.  When his schedule is messed up he starts to melt down.  When we arrived back in Syracuse his damn crap still didn’t firm up.  But for some reason in the last few days it has.  We are flushing about half the time.  I should be celebrating. 

But here is what I’m thinking instead.  When he was traveling without his dad in November he had loose poop because I was stressing him out.  When we got back to Syracuse his dad was still working and he was upset because he was spending his days with me.  Now that we are at Z’s folks house and Z is with him every day he is relaxed and happy and can achieve solid poop.  Because when Z is around T doesn’t want to give me the time of day.   And it hurts my feelings.

If I stop for half a second I realize a million holes can be blown through my “theory”.  1.  Z was with us for a week of the November trip and little dude still didn’t take a solid crap.  2.  Z was with us a lot during the several weeks at home.  There were the weekends and a snow day and there was a trip to visit him at work.  3.  T spends almost every waking moment with me.  I’m boring.  I’m old hat.  Daddy, on the other hand, is an exciting change.  Of course he wants to hang with Z when Z is available.  I felt the exact same way about my awesome dad when I was a kid.  I’m feeling pretty guilty when I remember how easily I would drop mom for him when he came home from work. 

And when I told Z my “theory” last night he said, “Dude.  You are crazy.”  His patience was already worn pretty thin because I’ve been spending a lot of time proposing causes for my miscarriage over the last few days.  For some reason he doesn’t find it useful to talk about my harebrained speculations about that event. 
Me, “It could have been the cold I had.” 
Z, stony silence.
 Me, “I let myself get really dehydrated, and they say that can cause miscarriages.”
 Z, stonier silence. 
Me not getting the hint, “I think it was because I had runny egg yolk.” 
Z, “I think it was the imaginary bed bugs.  Or the early onset Alzheimer’s you insist you have. Or the cysts in your arms and legs.  Or a pulmonary embolism.  Or that heart attack you had in August.  Do you know you are batshit crazy?”
Me, “Yes.  And shut the fuck up.”
Z, “Um, you shut the fuck up.”

When we tell each other to shut the fuck up, we mean it with love.   I don’t know.  It works for us.  Actually, it is really useful when he calls me on my crap.  Sometimes a person needs to hear they are batshit crazy.  My mind is often my own worst enemy.  Z helps me remember the hateful and self destructive thoughts can be challenged and fought.  I don’t think I’ll ever completely be able to silence the ugly and hurtful thoughts that constantly whirl in the back of my brain, telling me I am worthless and unlovable and a terrible person.  But I’ve had enough therapy to be armed with tools (Oh, the pretentious and annoying psychobabble!) to fight back.  At least when I have someone who reminds me I’m letting them take over. 

And the truth is I love having Z around every day.  We are getting some fantastic family time in, not just with the three of us, but with the whole Leonard gang.  I couldn’t have asked for a better time. 
I love closeups of his sweet squishy face. 

We were lucky enough to have dinner at a couple's home who are very close friends of the family last night and T was given this awesome truck.  I love visiting with this couple because the wife is an extraordinary cook and the conversation is always interesting.  They live in the most amazing rambling Victorian home.  When we got home last night I was telling my mother in law that I look up to the wife so much.  "I want to be just like her when I finally grow up" I told her.  My mother in law laughed and said, "Me, too."

 And I thought a shot of the little dude copping a squat was pretty appropriate for a post in which I discuss his poop.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

In Which I Complain About My Petty First World Problems

When Z and I were first dating the holidays were my favorite time of year.  Though I am not a person of faith, I have always reveled in the secular parts of Christmas.  I love giving gifts.  I love getting gifts.  I love to eat, especially cookies.  What's not great about this Christmas thing?  Z, on the other hand, was a humungous scrooge.  He feels resentful about any situation that forces him to be cheerful on a timeline and he’d rather give gifts when the spirit hits him instead of an arbitrary date in December.  The fact that my birthday is exactly one week before Christmas only makes things worse for him.  During our first holiday season Z combined my birthday and Christmas and gave me one gift, and let’s just say I didn’t handle it with a lot of grace. 

In those first few years I had to beg and stomp my feet (I was a delight) to convince Z we should have a Christmas tree.  I’d make a huge deal of the holidays and he’d be grumpily dragging his feet behind me.  I think he soon realized my love for the holidays had an upside.  He no longer had to think about what to get his family for Christmas, I’d just take care of it and whisper to him what people were getting as they’d unwrap the gifts.  And finally he stared to come around.  There was a year that I was working crazy hours at the bakery and I just didn’t have time to go get a tree.  My sister was visiting and she and Z got one to surprise me.  We were in Brooklyn at the time, so they went to one of the many places that pop up on street corners at the holidays.  The kind gentleman who sold the trees thought that they were a couple and gave them a very sweet Lovebirds ornament free of charge.   They just couldn’t tell him they were siblings-in-law, so they awkwardly put their arms around each other and thanked him.  Z and my sister are both wonderful people and they are great friends, but they are also about as mismatched at it is possible to be and for that reason this little story almost made me pee myself when they told me.

I turned 30 a few months after we moved to Providence.  I’ve never had big parties because my birthday is so close to Christmas, but I was particularly bummed because I was still conflicted about moving away from the city and our friends.  All I wanted was to be in Brooklyn for such a big milestone, but I’d recently started working at Whole Foods and the night before the 18th I needed to work inventory.  I was at the store until about 1am and I needed to be back at 7am on my birthday.  When I got home from work in the early hours of my birthday Z had decorated our whole house with 30th birthday stuff and he had made me the Christmas tree cake my mom always made me growing up.  I couldn’t stop crying.  I think it was the nicest birthday I’ve ever had.

That was the first year I was working retail.  And retail throttled the Christmas spirit right out of me.  By the time I left Whole Foods I just couldn’t get excited about the holidays anymore.  The holidays can bring out the best in people, but they often bring out the worst, especially in retail establishments.  In one particularly lovely moment of my first holiday season, a customer told me that Whole Foods and I were RUINING her Thanksgiving because we were out of that well known holiday staple, Spelt Bread.  It was the first time in my life someone had accused me of ruining her holiday.  There was the haughty new Assistant Manager of another department who obviously didn’t know I was the manager of the bakery and asked if I knew who she was when she had to wait a few minutes for her order like everyone else. Um, yes.  I know who you are.  You work at a grocery store.  Don’t get me wrong, I do, too.  But please excuse me for not being impressed.   It’s not like you are the Queen.  I was actually sort of grateful for that interaction.  I’ve learned to judge people by how they treat those below them in the food chain, and from then on I had her number.  I learned a lot about what kind of parent I didn’t want to be during November and December.  I watched a mother instruct a fellow team member to tell her children Santa wouldn’t bring them presents if they couldn’t behave themselves.  Again, WF employees are great with customers, but they are not paid to discipline your children.  When it was time to write the schedule there were always team members who seemed to forget they chose to work for a retail operation that made a large chunk of its money during the holidays and who would act shocked and cry when they couldn’t get time off.  So clearly I wasn't dealing with the worst stuff ever.  Just constant pettiness and annoyances that made me dread the end of the year and that slowly eroded my holiday spirit.

Over time buying presents felt like a chore, and frankly going to another retail establishment during my precious time off was unpalatable.  I’d just watch the customers being mean to the employees and be infuriated.  I couldn’t travel for the holidays because of work and we didn’t have family nearby. I didn’t even care if we had a tree.  The last year in Providence  Z was the one pushing for it.  I was hoping the grinchyness would evaporate once I’d left retail, but it didn’t.  T was 4 months for his first Christmas and we travelled south to be with my family.  And it was really nice.  But that super excitement and happiness that would pulse in my chest and send tingles out to my fingertips was gone.  Historically that excitement didn’t have to do with the stuff I was getting, it was the togetherness, the stuff I was excited about giving, the traditions being played out that gave me such satisfaction.   It was the best part of family distilled into a short period of time.  This year we are with Z’s family for the big day.  Last night I spent hours wrapping gifts.  And it felt like a chore rather than a delight.  I wish I could snap out of it.  Particularly because it is appallingly spoiled to not revel in the holidays particularly when we have it so good. 

Z, on the other hand, had developed an appreciation for the holidays.  He was the one who insisted we get a miniature tree at home both last year and this year.  He loves the family time and the holiday spirit and he has that sense of excitement.  He doesn't care if I haven't made the candy and cookies I wanted to.  He's just happy to celebrate togetherness.  I could learn a thing or two from him.  And next year T will have some comprehension of what is going on during the holidays.  We can start to tell him about Santa.  We will develop our own family traditions.  T brings so much joy to my life that I am hopeful that watching him discover the wonder of the holidays will help bring back my Christmas spirit.  

Z and T reading on my birthday.
Adorable T on the drive down south.  He bucked tradition and did a fantastic job in the car.  Z and I were braced for 11 hours of tears, so it was a really pleasant surprise.   

Little man playing at Grandma and Grandpa's.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Lessons From the Kid I Will Never Meet

Parenthood is the worst heartache you’ve ever experienced mixed with a heady and intense love.  T didn’t teach me that lesson, the baby we lost did.  Don’t get me wrong, I think T will remind me plenty of times over the years.  But somehow I’m glad that I’ll be a little more prepared for it.  Because the first time it hits you the pain is unbearable.  And for me, that first time pain will never be associated with T.  I will always be grateful to the baby we lost for so many reasons.  When I get pregnant again I will not experience the pure joy and hope and delight I had with that pregnancy.  The fear of losing the baby will color everything.  That joy certainly wasn’t there for me when I was pregnant with T, I was too scared.  Every pregnancy is, of course, unique; and my little lost baby gave me so much happiness in the few weeks I carried it.  So in a tiny span of time that baby gave me so much joy and taught me I could bear the unbearable.  What an extraordinary teacher it was, every day I grieve that I will never get to meet who he or she was supposed to become.   

As we head into trying to have another baby I’ve been doing a boatload of thinking.  I want a baby just as fiercely this time, but the want is tempered by my realization that the reality won’t be a fairy tale.  I was the one who initiated our attempts to conceive this past summer.  And my motivations were not in any way reasonable.  My hormones were fluctuating because I was breastfeeding less as T started eating more solid food.  The moment my period came back I couldn’t think of anything except having another baby.  I was mourning the loss of my infant’s transition into a baby and then a toddler.   I was delighted he was developing so rapidly, but at the same time it was all too fast.  In my desire for another baby I didn’t want to replace T, I wanted more time with him.  And the desire was so strong I couldn’t even think straight.  I couldn’t remember how much is sucked when T was brand new and I was nursing every three hours for months on end.  I couldn’t remember his never ending crying in the night when Z and I would take turns walking in circles around our first floor sometimes crying in frustration ourselves.  I couldn’t remember how lonely I was because Z had just started a new job and we lived in a new place and most of my waking hours were just me and the kid.  I had tunnel vision baby fever in the most clichéd way possible. 

Well, my hormones have stabilized and I do remember all that stuff.   And T is such a good time right now, he cracks me up every day.  I wonder why I was so anxious to give up my solo time with him.  Our lives have stabilized tremendously.  Z is around much more this year.  We get to sleep through the night the vast majority of the time.  We have settled into a blissful domesticity.    The great thing is I want a baby just as much despite realizing how hard it will be.  I want T to have the gift of a sibling close in age to him.  I do want to have another chance to delight in a newborn, especially now that I know how fast it really does go.  If I successfully carry another baby to term I think being prepared for the difficulties will make it a happier transition for all of us. 
Little man wandering around Kinkos as we waited for our second batch of Christmas cards to be printed.  Have you not received a card from us?  Send me your address and I'll put one in the mail! 

 That's my hat he has on...

Grandma got him the awesomest hoodie ever.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Yes, I'm Perfectly Aware That I'm an Ass. And Yes, I'm Trying to Work On It.

I’m an ass.  I’m a jerk.  I’m a selfish and self involved twit.  Yesterday’s post has been on my mind a lot and the more I think about it the more I am disappointed with myself. 

Of course Z has every right to privacy in our relationship.  He has been incredibly generous to me by being cool with how much of our life I share.  I just rewrote that sentence.  I started to write he has been incredibly generous to let me share so much of our life.  And there is the problem.  To let me.  So very loaded.  The thing is, Z has never acted like his ideas or his actions should be weighed with more consideration that mine.  He has always treated me like an equal.  He was the one that suggested we take the word obey out of our marriage vows.  He told me it would actually make him a little uncomfortable if I took his last name after I told him I wanted to keep mine.

And I feel like his equal.  I know I am just as intelligent as he is, and I have proven I can provide financially for us as well as he can.  Yet I have deep insecurities about how I am perceived in our relationship.  I am defensive and jealous that he went to grad school and I have not, even though he has told me over and over again that he would support my choice to go back to school.  I worry what people think of me because I am a stay at home mom.  When offering my opinion in the presence of his co-workers I almost always qualify my thoughts with, “I’m just a stay at home mom so I might not know what I’m talking about, but…”  My insecurities are not his fault, and they are not caused by him in any way. 

A very casual acquaintance referred to her role in her family (married with children) as second in command once and I wanted to shake her.  Why sell herself short?  Why consider herself of less import than her husband?  Why not approach family life as a team?  This particular person is the primary care giver to the kids, so I also wonder why the person doing the heavy lifting in regards to the child rearing would subjugate herself to someone who spent a lot of time away from the home.  I think the reason I was so angry with her is because I fear others will see me as she sees herself.  And for some reason it is of paramount importance that I am seen as second in command to no one. 

All of this is by way of explaining why I was being such a hard headed jerk.  And all of this is stuff I really need to work on.  In response to the commenter on the last post: Of course I agree that just writing my thoughts down is a great help.  And my brand of over sharing is going to be distasteful to some.  But I am sure there are others out there like me who are helped by knowing about the private struggles people go through.  Those folks like me who find comfort in knowing that sometimes people don’t behave perfectly or have trouble coping with life in general, not because we wish others ill, but because our own struggles seem less horrible and overwhelming when we realize everyone goes through them.  I guess the hope that those folks might magically come across my blog is the reason I do want to put my stories out there.  Delusions of grandeur, I know.  But those delusions come from a good place of wanting to reassure people that they are not alone.  My task will be to try and accomplish that without making Z uncomfortable at the same time.

Waiting to see Santa the day after Thanksgiving. 

He was really confused by the whole thing. 

 The water table at the Children's Museum we took him to was the hit of the day.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

This Blogging Thing is Hard

Blogs are enormously and unavoidably self indulgent.  They can be lots of other things as well, and I might go so far as to say all creative pursuits are self indulgent on some level, so I do not mean to condemn them.  Heck, I enjoy working on mine and I also enjoy regularly reading many of them.  My blog is particularly confessional.  It’s certainly not an original theme.  I feel compelled to write because I find it personally helpful, and because I think life would be easier if “private shames” like mental illness, miscarriage, marriage trouble, and parenting challenges were destigmatized.  I don’t have any delusions of grandeur that my blog, with its tiny readership, is going to engender this change.  I’m just trying to add my two cents to the dialogue. 

The problem is when I write about my life I am also writing about the lives of people around me.  Certain family members have made it clear to me that I need to OK it with them before I post about them, and I am sensitive to that.  Certain family members seem pretty cool with it.  Out of respect for Z I ask him to read posts that concern him and our relationship before I publish them.  He has been extremely generous about me airing our dirty laundry. 

Yesterday I wrote a post that concerned marital hurt and how our fighting has evolved over the years.  He was in his car for a long period, driving back to Syracuse from Ithaca for work so I read it to him in the hopes of getting the all clear.  When I was done he told me for the first time that he was completely uncomfortable with me publishing the piece.  He was very kind and said it was honest and fair, but he said it was too raw.  He just didn’t want it out there on the internet.  To me it was a pretty redemptive story, about the unavoidable fighting that happens in a marriage and how through a lot of work and self awareness on both of our parts we have been able to learn to fight constructively.  That isn’t to say we don’t hurt each other big time, but we have come a long way in how we navigate that hurt.

We went back and forth about the post a lot last night.  And we realized we were in a terrible position where one of us would feel guilty and one of us would feel angry not matter what the outcome was.  I also worried that I had opened the door for my content to be censored.  Z worried about the details of our life that he would like to remain private ending up on the web for anyone to find with a little digging.  Ultimately he suggested that the specific story was not necessary in writing about emotional growth in a marriage.  He said there isn’t just one way to do anything.  At first I was dismissive, particularly because the piece was already written exactly how I wanted it to be.  But then I cooled off a bit and understood he was right.  The same problem can be solved in any number of ways.  It will be a challenge, but I will try and rewrite the piece.

The balancing act of being true to myself while not making my husband uncomfortable in my writing seems a little harder.  He was so frustrated last night he said he just wants me to post what I post without talking to him about it first, and let the chips fall where they may.  Can you tell he hates confrontation?  I don’t want to do that because I do respect him, and I want him to treat me with the same respect when it comes to other issues in our life.  So I really don’t know what to do.  Tomorrow I will try and rewrite the post.  I will continue to write honestly about our marriage, motherhood, being crazy.  But I have no idea how to strike the balance between writing with uncensored honesty and making those I write about comfortable.  I’m unpardonably naive, but this whole blogging thing is a lot more complicated than I thought it would be.   

Sunday morning. 

T found Z's old drafting brush and felt the need to brush everyone's hair with it.  

Friday, December 10, 2010

No More Excuses to Stay Home

The snow has stopped, the roads are in decent shape, we got less than an inch yesterday after I shoveled, there was no reason for T and me to stay home all day.  And the little man needed some snow boots.  We got a snowsuit for him, but realized we didn’t have anything appropriate for his feet when we got him suited up on Monday.  So I decided we needed to get out and take a trip to Target and the grocery store. 

When T went down for his morning nap I was totally on track.  I made sure I could get the car out of the driveway and did a little more shoveling right where our drive meets the road.  I was nervous because a car parked in front of my neighbor’s house got stuck pulling out in front of our drive last night.  Poor guy’s wheels were spinning like crazy and he didn’t get out for almost an hour.  I couldn’t even offer help because Z was still at school and I seriously can’t leave T alone in the house when he is up at this point.  The shoveling was a quick job, I did not even get soaked with sweat.  T woke up at about 11:30 and I fed him lunch.  Then I started freaking out.   

I hadn’t left our house (or yard) since Sunday.  Even though I wanted to get out it suddenly seemed like the hardest thing to do in the world.  When it is hard for me to leave the house it manifests itself in a very physical way.  I think the best way to describe it is my limbs start feeling heavy.  No, I think it’s better to say it feels like there is an incredibly heavy weight on top of me.  I also start to feel dizzy and really tired.  Yet somehow my heart also beats too fast and I feel agitated. Talk about not making sense, tired and agitated all at the same time.   And this is the good version of anxiety because I know I'm going to a "safe place", so there isn't any fear of diarrhea.  I dragged my feet until almost 1:30, which was a problem because T’s afternoon nap is at 3pm.  I almost gave up on the whole thing, but we are having friends over for dinner tomorrow and I really needed to get to the store for that.  And damn it, I wanted to not let myself down.  I still don’t know why sometimes I’m able to get myself out of the house and other times I just give up.  I think at this point I just need to be grateful that it happens. 

So we went.  And it was uneventful.  We got his boots and all the food I need for tomorrow.  And T missed his second nap and was cranky.  And the world didn’t end.  To celebrate I had my first drink since October with dinner.  So I was drunk by dessert.  Perfect.  

T loves trucks.  This was the day before we left my sister's place. 

I believe this was the highlight of his day.  

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Hopefully It's the Thought That Counts

Last night I asked Z to read my blog post because I was under the influence of NyQuil when I wrote it (T and I are suffering from the never ending cold) and I wasn’t sure if it was coherent or not.  After he was done he continued watching Mythbusters and surfing the web.  This is typical behavior.  I finally asked him what he thought.  He told me he thought I should take T for a walk tomorrow so we get out of the house.  Clearly he forgot what feedback I was asking for.  Also typical behavior.  After he answered my initial question I told him to forget about the walk.  The optimistic high for today was 22 degrees.  With the wind chill it felt much colder.  I wasn’t taking T out for a jaunt in our weather. 

Tonight the department Z teaches in is having its big holiday party.  He really wanted T and me to go and see what the students have been working on.  Well, he wanted me to see the work, he wanted T there to show him off a little.  The department of design at SU is in a really cool warehouse building downtown; it is maybe a ten minute drive from our place.  After a lot of deliberation last night Z and I decided he should stay at school after his last class and go to the party solo.  He didn’t have the time to dig out my car this morning, he needed to be at work by 7am.  But he was really bummed. 

So I thought I’d try and surprise him.  When T went down for his nap this morning I bundled up and went outside with grand plans for shoveling.  After a few minutes I amended those plans, I’d do the front and back steps and the sidewalk, but there was no way I’d be able to clear the car off and do the driveway.  We have a snowblower, but I don’t know how to start it and I really am not comfortable using it.  But somehow I kept on going and after an hour I had it all clear.  I didn’t do the whole driveway, just around my car and to the street.  I was a soaking wet, a sweaty yet somehow freezing mess by the end of it.  All of the guilt I felt for my boredom eating yesterday evaporated.  And I was damn proud of myself for getting out of the house, even if I didn’t technically step off our property. 

I started in the back. 

Behind the car, a straight shot to the street. 

My sad car.

The sidewalk out front. 

Making life easier for our mailman.

Please note my wet-with-sweat hair and beet red face.  My face did not return to its regular color for several hours.  I'm just glad I didn't have a heart attack.   

But.  It started snowing again as I walked to the garage to put away the shovel.  And while I was out front I saw a station wagon that was quite a bit bigger than my car get stuck on our street.  Truth be told, the driver was able to get unstuck pretty easily.  I just didn’t want to risk getting stuck with T in the car, so I let go of the idea of a grand surprise for Z.  He got up at 5 this morning to get his car clear, so he didn’t get to see T before work like usual.  He decided to come home for lunch to spend time with the boy, and he saw what I did and appreciated the efforts.  And I loved having a bit of family time in the middle of the day.  

So the grand plan didn't work out.  But hey, I got some exercise.  

Little Man enjoying a chocolate chip cookie.

Well, aren't I acting like Little Miss Self-Congratulating lately!  After giving this a second look this morning I'd like to add some clarification:  We'd already had several feet of snow that was single handedly cleared by Z when I went out yesterday to shovel.  There was only about 4 or 5" on the ground for me to deal with.  And jeeze!  All those pictures of what I shoveled!  A little boring don't ya think!  I'll try and keep my self satisfaction to a minimum next time...

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


Mental illness is a tricky thing.  You can’t just take an aspirin and feel better.  You might be able to take a Zoloft and feel better.  But it could take 25mg a day, or 50mg, or up to the maximum daily dosage of 200mg, heck you could even be on 250mg a day like I was for a while, maximum dosage be damned.  You might take Zoloft and feel a shit ton worse.  You might do talk therapy and be helped tremendously, or you might do talk therapy and find it a total waste of funds.  You might even be perfect for talk therapy but the therapist you are seeing might be the absolute wrong person for you.  The variables are endless.  And the kicker is those who need treatment the most will not typically seek help.  I was so bad I couldn’t hold down a job or leave the house when Z told me I had to talk to someone.  I continued to insist there wasn’t anything wrong.  I would rather have had every person in my life think I was a lazy terrible person rather than face the fact I was crazy.  Good times. 

Personally, I shy away from the daily drugs.  Ultimately, 200mg of Zoloft helped me get much better, but getting there was incredibly painful.  It isn’t just that a drug might not work, it might make you much worse and that happened to me on numerous occasions.   When you are already crazy and meds make you twelve additional kinds of crazy it really sucks balls.  When I started on Abilify I really thought I was at rock bottom.  Sadly, that drug proved me wrong.  When my anxiety problems worsened after T was born my therapist encouraged me to go back on a low dose of Zoloft.  But the thing is there is no guarantee it will work the same way for me again.  And I just don’t want to be on a daily drug while I’m pregnant and breast feeding if I can help it.  The great news is talk therapy is very effective in my case.   Therefore, Z is a really big fan.

So this morning, after snow blowing and shoveling our driveway and digging out my car for two solid hours, when Z came inside and told me he thought I needed to call and cancel my appointment I knew the roads were really bad.  Because I was away for all of November I haven’t seen my therapist since the last week of October.  Things aren’t terrible for me emotionally, but I could really use a session.  Z asked me for a shopping list so he could hit the grocery store on the way home because we were pretty low on food and neither of us felt comfortable with me driving around with T in our lightweight Corolla.  As he was getting ready to walk out the door he said to me, “You stuck in the house for days on end, this is your wet dream, isn’t it?”  “Yes,” I said, “Yes, it is.” 

For the most part I have been loving our crazy weather.  We had over ninety hours of continuous snow for a total of 38"+ before a brief break this morning.  On Monday Z didn't go into school and we spent a magical day watching the original Star Wars trilogy in reverse.  We (and by we I mean Z) did some snow blowing, I baked some cookies, we got to hang out with our favorite 5 year old who was out of school, we just had really terrific family time.  It was one of the happiest days I've had in quite a while.  But by today snow fatigue was setting in.  Being stuck at home doesn't seem like such a prize anymore.     

The thing that makes me feel a tiny bit hopeful is my comfort in not being able to leave the house is actually making me uncomfortable.  Today I was so bored with being inside I stared eating and eating and eating.  As I was doing it I was so angry at myself, but I just couldn’t get control of myself and stop.  And I was actually a bit stir crazy.  For a gal with pretty severe agoraphobic tendencies it is huge that I’m not getting unadulterated satisfaction by being stuck at home.  Of course the next step is actually doing something about it.  Um, I’m not quite there yet.    

We had a snow day visitor on Monday.  Z is watching The Empire Strikes Back as he dresses T.

The backyard. 

Z made a wind chime out of an old fire extinguisher he found at a junkyard.  I love the way the snow has piled on top. 

Out the front door. 

Front porch. 

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

T the Charmer

Flying with a baby sucks.  It sucks for the parent, it sucks for the baby, it sucks for every person on the plane.  T and I have made three round trip flights and I am a ball of nerves every time.  He’s a pretty easygoing kid, so most of the flights have proved my worrying was in vain.  But this last time T had some trouble on the trip home.  He was a champ while we waited for the plane, and we got to the gate more than an hour and a half before boarding.  So when it was time for takeoff the wait, along with it being nap time, meant he was at the end of his rope.  He charmed my seatmates before he started squirming and emitting a loud continuous moan.  After being in the air for just under 30 minutes I almost had him asleep by shooshing in his ear and rocking him.  At that point the flight attendant was passing with drink service.  T was still doing the moan, which I’m sure was grating on everyone’s nerves, mine sure were frayed.  The flight attendant didn’t make me feel bad at all for my loud kid; in fact he was clearly trying to be nice by offering T an empty plastic cup.  T jumped at the offer and all chances of him sleeping were gone. 

The nice flight attendant wasn’t the first to offer some help.  Many of the people sitting near us were trying to engage T.  And I started to understand some things about traveling parents with whiney kids.  There might be a method to the letting-the-kids whine madness.   I know in our case once he fell asleep there would have been quiet for the rest of the flight.  All of the good folks around me were being kind and they didn’t know he was so close to sleep.  They were trying to help me out by cheering my boy up.  And when he was up for good with that cup in his hands which made very satisfying noises when he squeezed it they did help me out during the rest of the flight.  I should have been more grateful about that. 

When we landed I immediately called Z to let him know we were early.  While I was trying to talk to him a number of the people sitting near me started peppering me with questions about T.  I ended up snapping at Z, which was very unfair.  I started fielding the questions with as much grace as I could muster.  The poor gentleman next to me was nearly seven feet tall and he was unlucky enough to be in the center seat.  His knees were almost up to his chin for the whole flight.  But I couldn’t have asked for a better seatmate.  He immediately told me he loved kids, and nothing T did would bother him.  He was relaxed and friendly for the whole trip.  He noticed I was flustered and he asked if people always paid T so much attention.  I nodded and he replied that he could tell that was the case.

I thought about it a lot later.  It was a strangely baby packed flight.  There were 5 strollers at the gate when I picked up ours.  The other kids were absolutely adorable; I had chatted with some of the parents before boarding and got to see the cuteness up close.  But when I looked around as we were disembarking I noticed the other parents didn’t have eager question asking crowds around them.  And I remembered the time he was newborn and a nurse I’d never met at the pediatrician’s office saw him and exclaimed he was the most beautiful baby she’d ever seen, then she left the exam room and grabbed another nurse and brought her in to look at him.  Or the doctor I saw on a sick visit who we hadn’t met before, she told me he was so adorable that he made her want to get pregnant again.  Or the old lady at the supermarket who started crying when he smiled back at her earlier this fall.  Or the several babyless by choice folks we know who have told us they although they can’t stand babies, they can’t help but find T adorable.  He’s magnetic.  People just love him.  And I’m realizing he is objectively beautiful, I don’t just think that because he’s my kid.  I’m being very braggy and annoying, aren’t I?  This is all very strange for me, particularly because I have such self image issues.  And I can’t quite believe that my body produced such a beautiful thing.  I’m an average looking gal, and frankly what your kid looks like is dumb luck, it isn’t like I had a lick of control over his physicality.   

I think his attraction isn’t just that he’s a fine looking kid.  He is also sweet as hell.  He gives hugs at the drop of a hat, he’s quick with charming smiles, the bottom line is he is a delight.  I’m not trying to say he’s some super special human, or that he is in any way better than other kids.  It’s more that I’m trying to accurately wrap my mind around how other people seem to perceive him.  It’s an amazing realization, and one I’m glad I made.  The important thing is that now that I realize it I can monitor him.  I need to make sure he doesn’t take it for granted or learn to rely on it.  I don't want him trying to slide through life on good looks and charm.  And who the hell knows?  Being a beautiful baby doesn’t mean he will be a beautiful kid.  I mean, he will forever be beautiful to me, but he might morph into a regularly cute kid.  And that would be just fine as well.  

See? Can you handle the beauty of newborn T?

He really was pretty damn yummy.

T in the snow yesterday.  He kept pointing to his swing until I finally plunked him in it.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

On Being a Jerk and Trying to Stop

So far December is not looking good for getting pregnant.  When I arrived back here on Wednesday Z was sick as a dog.  Then on Thursday both T and I came down with a new cold.  Kissing while you can’t breathe through your nose is hard enough; sex is just not a good time.  The gods must really be conspiring against us because on top of all that Z had a cold sore.  We have been together for 12 ½ years and he gets a cold sore two or three times annually.  I’ve never gotten one and am always extremely careful when he does.  Of course, now that I’ve written it on the internet I’ll have one by the end of the week.  Back to Wednesday night, I don’t think Z would have gone for it even if he was perfectly well.  The poor guy was so happy to see T and me at the airport and I was a total jerk to him. 

Unsurprisingly, travel is really hard for me.  I’d taken a Dramamine, which prevents me from puking on the plane, but also turns me into a terrible monster.  At the airport Z went from acting like an excited puppy to telling me he was scared of me in about two minutes.  I crushed the good mood right out of him.  And when we did get home I picked apart every little thing that was wrong with the house.  He was so excited for me to see the bathroom we had renovated.  I didn’t have the good grace to tell him I love it (which I do), but pointed out all the things that were wrong with it.  I was pissed he’d done some damage to a cast iron skillet (they rock, but they do require upkeep).  I was annoyed there wasn’t any whole milk in the house for the baby (my fault as much as his, I forgot to remind him to get some).  So when we got into bed and I unromantically told him I wanted to get it on because I have tunnel vision when it comes to getting knocked up he told me to jump in a lake.  Looking back on it, I would have done the same thing.  If I had been nice to him I bet he would have rallied his sick self and done it for me.  And forget what I could have gotten from him had I been a nice person, I should have been good to him because I love him. 

I’m angry at myself for only seeing his faults and just glossing over all the wonderful stuff about him.  It’s really been on my mind since we got home.  On Friday T and I were both big fat messes.  Z came home a little early and took the boy off my hands so I could take a NyQuil, veg on the sofa, and just feel like shit.  After we got the boy down to sleep he ran out to the store in the snow to get eggs for breakfast the next morning, throat drops for me, and ibuprofen for the baby.  Unbeknownst to me he grabbed the list I had started and got everything on it.  The next morning he told me with much pride how he had to tear the place apart to find the right flavor of Ricola because he knew how pissed I would be if he came home with the wrong kind.  I was already quietly pissed because he got the wrong olive oil and canola oil.  I really hate this word, but I thought, “Why am I being such a bitch?”  He was genuinely being kind to me, we had discussed canola oil the day before and I wasn’t specific about what I wanted, and he was being nice by getting olive oil, and for him to be that proud for finding the right flavor of Ricola?  Clearly that illustrates he is always braced for my criticism.  When it comes to what he does for me why can’t I just say thank you and leave it at that? 

For the rest of Saturday Z let me rest and took care of T.  And I successfully enjoyed how wonderful he was without tearing him to pieces in my mind.  I don’t know if he felt my sincere appreciation or not, but even though I was pretty damn sick I had a good day because I was happy.  Why is it so easy to take each other for granted?  Why can’t I just appreciate what he is rather than being frustrated by what he isn’t?  Why is it so rare for me to remember to cut him a break?  He’s a good guy and I’m lucky to be his wife.  He deserves better from me.  Please feel free to smack me upside the head next time you see me to help me remember this.  And while I think I missed the boat on conceiving in December there isn’t any reason we can’t have fun practicing for the rest of the month…

T and the most patient cat in the world.   

My boys on this snowy morning.  I asked Z to read the post and give his OK before I published because I talked about sex.  "I wasn't explicit or anything, but I definitely acknowledge we do it." I told him.  "Um, we have a son,"  he said.  "I think the cat is out of the bag."

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Mea Culpa

It is a priceless gift to be raised in an environment where you are taught you can be anything you want, that everyone is equal and should be judged on actions rather than sex, skin color, religion.  I hope to give T the same gift my parents gave me.  But I want to add something for him, the lesson that life isn’t always fair, the truth is that many people aren’t given the same opportunities he will have because of their sex, skin color, or religion.  The world shouldn’t work that way, but sometimes it still does.  And we need to both be aware of it and do everything we can to fight it. 

When I was growing up I assumed everyone in the world had it as good as me.  Ideologically I was sort of like Anslie Hayes from the West Wing.  I remember an episode in which she explained that she was against the ERA because it is redundant, she’s a low maintenance woman and she was already covered under the 14th amendment.  I used to feel that way, too.  How fucking smug.  And how easy not to look beyond your experiences and realize not everyone has it as good as you, that there are people who can’t begin to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and they deserve protection as well. 

Oops, sorry for the political tangent.  Reining it back in…As a kid my world was completely fair, and when I learned the hard way the real world was not it was a real kick to the balls.  Unfortunately it’s still a kick to the balls; I can be a slow learner.  So I want to teach T that we need to be as fair as possible with our actions, but we also need to be prepared for when the world doesn’t play by our rules and we need to remember there is plenty that is out of our control.  In my last post I was critical of women who made trying to get pregnant into a huge structured event.  And my callousness has really bothered me since I posted it.  Some couples can’t conceive, some couples struggle to conceive.  Before I had my miscarriage I understood that intellectually, but the unfairness of it, the hurt, and the loss, well, now I understand it emotionally.  If I was unable to conceive with ease I would definitely keep a chart of my cycle and take my temperature every morning.  Of course I would.  I did not mean to be glib about the struggles of couples fighting to conceive, and I am sorry that I was.  

Life just doesn’t make sense no matter how much I still believe it will.  I got pregnant by accident the first time and dreaded motherhood the entire time.  Of course, it turned out to be the best thing that has ever happened to me.  So when I figure out we can provide a good environment for kids and we decide to have another one and that one is conceived with love and hope and excitement the pregnancy fails.  It just isn’t fair.  It isn’t fair.  To my friends who struggled to conceive I say it isn’t fair.  To my friends unable to conceive I say it isn’t fair.  To my friends who have miscarried I say it isn’t fair.  And to all of you I say I am sorry for your struggles, and I’m hoping  you guys don’t have the “fair” hang up I do, because I’m saying it isn’t fair like that is some big revelation instead of being an obvious fact of life.  So I'll say it another way:  To my friends, I'm sorry for your hurt, and because I love you, when you hurt I hurt along side you.  

 Happy to be home and reading T a bedtime story in my own bed.  Z built it for us right before we moved.  The tree branch in the background is the headboard.  He built that shelf in the crotch of the branch, and the branch stretches to his side where a lamp he made hangs from the end.  It's a platform bed made from reclaimed church pews and it's great for a toddler.  T has no problem shimmying off the side.  It is pretty amazing.   

Sad about the freezing weather.  

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Getting Back on That Horse

Every once in a while, out of the blue, I feel sucker punched by the loss of my pregnancy.  November has been a real turning point for me, and while I remember the baby I should be carrying every day I no longer feel like I’m drowning in unrelenting sadness all the time.  There might be a week or two in between moments when the loss comes right back to the surface and completely overwhelms me.  Our Thanksgiving was lovely, and I do have so much to be thankful for, but the loss was so powerful that day I had a full blown anxiety attack at the exact time the bird needed to move from the brine to the oven.  Z and my mom completely rescued me.   OK, to be honest it was Z, my mom, and good old Lorazepam.  But they helped in the kitchen, I rallied, and the meal went off without a hitch. 

I think part of the reason I am feeling raw is we are officially trying to get pregnant again.  And I’m freaking out.  I worry my obsessing will prevent my body from relaxing enough to get pregnant.  If we do conceive quickly I’m worried about staying pregnant.  I’m worried about telling people or not telling people when it happens.  And I can tell that Z is worried that all my worrying is going to take the joy out of the whole thing. 

Last summer it was all so easy.  My period came back, we decided not to use birth control and then we decided we really wanted kids close together in age.  I didn’t take my temperature or track my ovulation; we just had tons of sex.  And within 2 months I was knocked up.  It was a pretty stress free and frankly very enjoyable route to the next kid.  Until it wasn’t. 

I have no idea when T was conceived.  We didn’t even know how pregnant I was until the first ultrasound.  I don’t know exactly when the baby I lost was conceived either, but it was during a period of fun and ease and love and happiness.  I want to conceive again under those circumstances, but getting pregnant and staying pregnant feels so damn charged. 

Before we started a family I rolled my eyes at the women who would try to get pregnant on a schedule, or who would know their ovulation day and make the whole thing so clinical.  Where’s the joy in that?  I don’t want getting pregnant to feel like another responsibility.  But, of course, now I do understand those women. I understand that we are lucky to be able to conceive quickly and I feel grateful for that. 

Now that it is time to try again I want to let go of all the anxiety that will always surround pregnancy for me moving forward.  I want to have fun with my husband, I want to be cool with it if we don’t conceive in December, I want to not have a little voice in my head telling me it is the perfect time, the babies will be two years apart.  I want the same little voice in my head telling me my eggs aren’t getting any younger to take a hike. 

What I really want is to never have lost the pregnancy.   Or at least I want to know why I lost the pregnancy.  What did I do wrong?  Was it the cold I got?  The anxiety?  The time I asked my friend to help with my alignment during downward facing dog and it hurt?  The huge box of cat littler I lifted?  The fact I was still breastfeeding?  Why did this happen?  How can I prevent it from happening again?  Can I magically turn back time and make it not have happened?  

Being completely happy at T's first birthday party.  I was still pregnant and I had two incredible boys on my lap, life was good.  

Monday, November 29, 2010

Excitement and Melancholy

Yesterday T started walking exclusively.  Walking has come slow to him.  He’s been taking steps for almost two months, but he's been pretty tentative and he clearly preferred crawling.  He was quite the speed crawler, it worked for him, he just didn’t care to concentrate on the walking no matter how much I encouraged him.  Over the last few weeks he’s been walking more and more, taking 7 or 8 steps frequently, rather than 2 or 3 steps a few times a day.  But yesterday afternoon he suddenly decided crawling was no longer for him, end of story, he’s a walker. 

My sister and her family began the post holiday exodus from my parent’s home in Georgia yesterday morning and drove back to Charlotte.   In the afternoon my father got on a plane for Barcelona, and early this morning Z left for Syracuse.  Mom and I got on the road to Charlotte later in the morning because my flight is out of here on Wednesday.  When we arrived my sister greeted us at the door and although she had seen him the day before she was astounded by T’s walking. 

The funny thing was even though we were barely 24 hours into his newfound skill and I was very blasé about the whole thing.  I’d simply gotten used to it.   In fact, the idea of him only crawling seemed foreign.  That is how this parenting thing goes.  The changes are fast and furious and we adapt to what is suddenly normal with lightning speed. 

The thing is I have been dying for him to walk.  The average for walking is 13 months, my guy is over 15.  His cousin is six weeks younger, yet he has been walking since just before his first birthday back in September.  My sister and I have worked really hard not to make our boy’s developmental milestones into a competition, and I think we have been successful.  I’m honestly not jealous or resentful that Gabe has been exclusively walking; I just wanted T to join him.  And now he has, and of course, it rocks. 

So I’m thrilled he is walking.  Yet that joy is not perfect, it is marred by a touch of melancholy.  And this time I don’t think the emotion has anything to do with my crazy.  I suspect that all mothers, all parents really, feel it when their child makes a great developmental leap.  I'm cringing as I write it, but it's true, everything does go so damn fast when you are a parent.  My sweet baby really isn’t a baby anymore.  His face is losing that wonderful chub and roundness, he has 17 teeth for Christ’s sake, he’s even started growing a bit of hair at long last.  I am delighted by my toddler and I wouldn’t want him any other way, but I miss my baby.  And next year when he is doing all sorts of fabulous things I’ll be excited, but I’m sure I’ll miss so much about who he is right now.  

Last night Z and I were looking at old videos of T and I came across this one.
Watching it again has only added to my sense of melancholy, yet I've been playing it over and over.  I know it's dull and annoying when parents say how cute their kid is, but I can't help it.  He is fucking adorable.  I can't believe I got to hold him and love him back in April when he was that tiny little person.  I still can't believe I get to hold him and love him now, not to get all mushy but he makes my life better every day.  But I can't help mourn the loss of his babyhood as I celebrate and revel in his toddlerhood. 

And here is my sweet boy two days ago.  Still fucking adorable, if I do say so myself.