Friday, December 16, 2011

Gene Mark's Mind-Boggling Ingorance

I resisted reading this week's Forbes piece by Gene Marks "If I Were A Poor Black Kid" until today. I knew it would enrage me, and boy it sure did. But I was surprised about how very sad it made me.

After looking at some of the comments and his response to them I think Gene Mark's heart was in the right place. So how did he miss the mark so completely? Well, he showed a complete lack of imagination and empathy. He outlined what he would do if he were a poor black kid who was actually a middle aged white man. Yes, I think his heart was in the right place, but his astonishing na├»vety, his inability to understand the realities of poverty in this country were breathtaking and left me completely disgusted.

I'm embarrassed to say that he reminded me of who I was in high school. I grew up with parents who coddled me so completely that I didn't have a job (other than babysitting) until the summer before I left for college. I barely did chores, had no idea how to do my own laundry when I went away to school. Every moment was spent doing schoolwork, or activities that would enrich my resume and get me into a good school. The summer between my junior and senior year I even attended a theater program at Northwestern University. And when I landed at Sarah Lawrence I was sure that discrimination didn't exist. Why would we possibly need an ERA? I was a woman and nothing held me back! I have written about my IBS, my mental illness, my assholic-ness, but admitting who I was back then is the most humiliating disclosure I've made yet.

We are all products of our upbringing. Yes, I got into a terrific college. But I was groomed for it my whole life. I did work hard. My parents didn't do my homework, write my essays, or do my extracurricular activities. But they made it easy for me to succeed. And I was too myopic to comprehend that the circumstances surrounding my achievements were as significant as my hard work. Just like Gene Mark has disregarded the realities and nuance of growing up poor in America be it hunger, homelessness, unsafe public housing, crime, no parents, drug addicted parents, foster parents, parents with multiple low paying jobs who want to be there for their kids but can't because they are trying to put a roof over their heads. It is fantastic that Gene Mark had his basic needs met and was able to concentrate on education, but does he really think that school can be a child's number one priority if they don't know where their next meal is coming from or if they have a bed to sleep in? That sort of callousness dressed up as concerned advice truly nauseates.

So yes, I used to think the same things as Gene Mark back when I was a teenager. The thing is, I grew up. I gained the ability to look beyond myself and understand that even if I didn't face discrimination that doesn't magically make it not real. To understand I live a charmed life. To know that any success I achieve cannot be credited to me alone. To wonder what choices I would have made if I grew up as a poor black kid and to reach the uncomfortable conclusion that it is easy to make good choices when you have a safety net the size of Montana, but if I grew up in poverty chances are I would still be there as an adult. I am astonished that he hasn't been able to realize the same things. Shame on him for not growing up.

Alrighty, got a little serious there. How about some happy pictures? T put this hat on my head yesterday and said, "You look like Daddy!" 

And looking at a picture of my sweet, sleeping C makes my blood pressure drop after getting all riled up. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Next Tattoo

Last Christmas Z gave me a gift certificate for a tattoo from the only guy I want to work on me. My very first tattoo wasn't done by him, but all my others were, and he actually added a bit to that first one. When you are a dork as big as I am entering a tattoo shop and procuring a tattoo is pretty stressful. Even though I am an enormous baby when it comes to pain, I hold it together while being tattooed. It would just be too humiliating to be that girl that couldn't hack it, I'd be confirming the suspicions of all the too-cool-for-school folks in the shop. But Charlie never made me feel that way, I've never seen him be anything but kind. He worked at a shop in Brooklyn when I was going to him, but a few years ago he moved to Baltimore and opened his own shop. When Z bought the gift certificate he was hoping we'd stop in Baltimore on the way home from our visit down south, that was before we knew I was pregnant. I called and asked my doc if it was cool for me to get a tattoo in the first trimester and was advised against it. I'm sure it would have been fine, but I was so spooked from my miscarriage that I wasn't willing to risk it. So we'll try and do it this year.

I'm thinking this will be one of my last pieces. The plan is to get something for the boys. I'd also like to get something small to remind me of the twins I lost. I'm on the hunt for a font I like. Because T was born on August 13, and C on August 31 I'd like to do a circle of the numbers 1 and 3, no ending, no beginning. Not sure if I want it around my arm just below my elbow or on the inside of my wrist. I do want it to be delicate, not the traditional lettering like my "vote" piece. Any and all suggestions of font and placement are welcome. I'm at a loss for the remembrance tattoo. Perhaps the date I found out I'd lost them, perhaps an infinity symbol. That one I want to be small and not as noticeable. Because it will be for me, rather than a public declaration.

So I've had tattoos on the brain. My parents really hate mine. It bothers me because I respect them so much, but I'm an adult and I am well equipped to make decisions concerning my body. I didn't get my first tattoo until I was 28, it wasn't an impulsive action. At this point my folks just try to ignore them. But shortly after I got the first one my mom told me what bothered her and my dad was they thought my body was perfect the way that it was when I was born and it pained them to see it altered. At the time I thought it was such a bogus reaction.  Eyes were definitely rolled. But a few weeks ago Z and I were bathing T. And I was marveling at his sweet and perfect little body. The thought that he might get a tattoo some day flashed through my mind. It was like a physical pain. I might have them, love them, and not regret them for a second, but the idea that my lovely little son would make the same choice? There were tears in my eyes.

I keep thinking that C is looking more and more like his own little person. But then I take a picture like this. And I get a strong sense of deja vu.  

Until I remember a picture I took two years ago. Does my uterus only know how to make one type of baby?

Saturday, December 3, 2011

A Trip to Main Campus

Z and I were discussing an acquaintance of ours (Not you, I promise is isn't you. It's someone very much on the periphery of our lives, this person has no idea I blog) who seems to alienate people over and over, yet who doesn't have an understanding the problem is him/her rather than the other people in his/her life. Z pointed out that the the hardest thing in the world is to be self aware. I smugly thought to myself that after many years of therapy surely I was one of the few who was. Later that night I was rereading my posts since C was born (See? Told you I was self absorbed) and although there were only a handful of them there was a painfully obvious pattern. I'd talk about how well things were going this fall, and then I'd talk about how the anxiety is increasing and I'm scared it is going to take over. The funny thing is each time I'd write about it would feel very much like I was making a great revelation, rather than rehashing the same story and probably boring my kind friends who are gracious enough to read this.

It has been a good fall. It can be a good fall while my anxiety is increasing. The anxiety is going to be around for the rest of my life so it is nice to realize good times and the crazy can occupy the same space. Even if I have to realize it over and over before it sticks. At least this fall I've been making an effort to not let the crazy take over. The effort might increase my anxiety in the short term, but I am in the game. I'm not giving up.

On Thursday I dropped T off at nursery school, which is on the south campus of SU. South campus is very spread out and dotted with ugly housing probably built in the 50s. It is mildly depressing and not at all intimidating. Main campus, on the other hand, scares the shit out of me. It is huge and imposing, there is a chapel for god's sake. I went to a tiny college where you recognized every face on campus. And there certainly wasn't a chapel. But I promised Z I'd go to main campus on Thursday. After kissing T goodbye C and I got back in the car, I ended up parking only 8 or so blocks from our house, but the neighborhood feels very different that close to SU. My car sat in front of a rambling house with a screened in porch that was lined with empty liquor bottles. I rolled my eyes and made C promise to decorate with less predictability when he was in college.

I swallowed the fear that was bubbling in my stomach and rising up my throat, marched onto campus and emerged 15 minutes later with an SU ID in my wallet. Only took me two plus years to do it. One of the perks of working at a University is free classes for you and your dependents. Z has been begging me to take classes since we moved here. It is time for me to stop dragging my feet, time to start figuring out what the hell I want to do with the rest of my life. There are a bunch of things I'm interested in pursuing. I could continue with baking, go to school for psychology or social work, or try to get an MBA. And then there is my crazy fantasy of enameling and metal working classes as a way to become a jewelry designer. It is easy not to make a decision because I get to feel like all the options are open to me. I've been not making a decision for years. But the reality is life is passing me by while I do nothing. The spring semester begins on January 17th. What the hell should I take?

The new ID!
Adorable C. It's hard to tell from this picture, but his eyes are so blue they are almost violet a la Liz Taylor. I fervently hope they stay that way, they are lovely.

My incredibly handsome boy rockin' out on the banjolele his Daddy made. Photo by Ellie Leonardsmith.

My other incredibly handsome boy. Photo by Ellie Leonardsmith.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

On Turning Molehills Into Mountains

This morning I stuck my foot in my mouth a bit. I was on a walk with a friend and we ran into an acquaintance. Turns out all three of us have lived in Brooklyn and we got to talking about it. The acquaintance moved up here last year and she lived around the corner from our last apartment in the fine Borough of Kings and I replied, "Oh the apartment we owned was at the south east corner of Prospect Park!". As soon as the words left my mouth I knew it sounded like I was bragging about owning an apartment in Brooklyn. And it is not what I meant to do. Z and I lived in three apartments together during our near decade in Brooklyn. And in my mind they are the apartment we were priced out of, the apartment in Bed Stuy, and the apartment we owned. I forgot the name of the street it was on (Winthrop! Why couldn't I remember Winthrop!), so I described it in the way I think of it. In the scheme of things this was a little mistake. I sounded like an asshole. But I guess we all sound like assholes every once in a while.

If I didn't have an anxiety disorder this wouldn't even be a story worth telling, hell it's not terribly interesting even with the disorder. But I've had that swollen burn-y feeling in the back of my throat all day. The one that means I'm fighting off tears. The minute the sentence was out of my mouth I wanted to apologize. But I thought I'd sound even more stupid if I made a thing about it. After we left the acquaintance I wanted to explain what happened to my friend, but the further away we got from the conversation the weirder it would have been to bring it up.

So here I am six hours later worrying that two women I like think I'm a bragging gross person. They probably found my remark very off putting, but I doubt I have crossed their minds since the morning. And here is where the chronic insecurity turns to narcissism. Because it is narcissistic to think that I constantly occupy the thoughts of people in my life even when I'm sure those thoughts are all negative.

Really and truly it has been a great fall mental health wise. But my insecurity has experienced a marked increase. I am constantly worried that I have offended my friends. I replay moments over again and again, filled with shame over things I have said. If there is a touchy subject in someone's life I am sure to bring it up accidentally. I am convinced people only put up with me because they are friends with Zeke, I think friends are avoiding me even if I can't figure out what I've done to offend. I feel unlikeable, unloveable, an embarrassment, someone only to be tolerated. Even when I try to do something nice I screw it up and become simply an annoyance. I think if I met myself I wouldn't want to be friends.

This fall I have been making a tremendous effort not to give in to my agoraphobic tendencies. Not only have we been leaving the house, we've done some entertaining at home. When Z wants to do something I try my damnedest to make it happen. My anxiety is largely situational and putting myself out there guarantees it will increase. I am trying not to give in to the voice in my head that tells me I am pathetic and no one wants me around. So the progress is being social despite my insecurities and being able to understand it is ridiculous to think people spend all that much time and energy hating or feeling sorry for me. I'm glad about the progress, but I'm also pissed off. I'm tired of feeling like a piece of shit, I'm tired of taking chill pills, I want to be fucking normal. I hope the anger will keep me going, I want it to keep me from giving in. I'm cool with being angry if it will get the damn voice in my head to shut up.

Time for a little levity. The awesome Ellie Leonardsmith did a little photo shoot while she was here for Thanksgiving. This was a test shot, she told us we didn't have to smile. Oh my lord, I adore it so much.  

  Another test shot. Z is doing a fantastic job miming baby-holding.

      And look at these absolutely adorable gals. They started a blog with some friends recently. It's about their efforts to start a family and their friends impending nuptials. Check it out

Friday, November 25, 2011

Giving Thanks

Is there someone in your life that you totally idolize? Who you have wanted to be friends with for years and years? One who could never actually live up to your expectations in real life? When I was a freshman in college there was a first year grad student who I basically wanted to be when I grew up. If I couldn't be her, then I wanted to be her little sister. People thought we looked alike (which was very flattering to me) and she very kindly played along with the little sister thing. We didn't see each other for years and years, but thanks to the wonders of Facebook we've gotten back in touch. Over the last few years we've actually become friends. And the magic thing is she is even more amazing than I imagined her to be. She's done the impossible and managed to live up to my ridiculous expectations. So when she says something it holds a lot of importance to me.

We were visiting her back in January and she told me that she had a feeling this was going to be a huge year for me, that really good things were going to happen. So all year I've been waiting. For fame, fortune, the whole nine yards. Because I look up to her so very much I've been sure that something wonderful and life changing would happen. And now we are a couple of days away from December. Things are starting to look bleak in the fame and fortune departement. 

She and her mother spent Thanksgiving with us this year. And while we were talking yesterday, I brought up her prophecy from the beginning of the year. She was kind enough to say that I am thriving as a mom. After more discussion we decided that might be it. Having my sweet Charlie made this a huge year, my family fills every day with good things. Maybe it is time for me to adjust my expectation of what wonderful means. Fame and fortune don't seem to be in the cards for me. If the 16 year old me saw what the 34 year old me turned into she would have been deeply ashamed. She'd see me as a huge failure. But truth be told, she was a self absorbed idiot. 

Yes, a tiny bit more money would make our life feel more secure. But the stuff that matters, that makes a full life wasn't even on the radar of that idiot teenager. What I want for myself has shifted and the reality is I have a husband who is a partner in every way, two sons that I will do everything in my power to raise into kind men, a beautiful house in which we feel truly at home, Z has a job that fulfills him, and I am fortunate enough to make the choice to stay at home with the kids for now. This has been a huge year. It has been big. I need to adjust my dreams to fit the life I have, not some crazy glamorous life that not only isn't going to happen, but might not be as great for me as the one I've got going. How many women are lucky enough to feel not only adored, but actually liked by their husbands? How many get to live in their dream home? How many are afforded the choice to be at home with their kids? We might be broke all the time, but the trade off is more than worth it to me.

So here's to a big year! Here's to growing up a bit! Here's to family! Here's to dear friends! Here's to a beautiful table made by my husband's hands, filled with delicious food and surrounded by people we love! Happy Thanksgiving to you all!

 Boy, does this guy clean up good or what? Photo by Ellie Leonardsmith.

Our happy baby. Photo by Ellie Leonardsmith

T dancing along with the T-Day Parade. Photo by Jenn Mattern.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Gingerbread Latte

This Fall has been going really well. Well enough that sometimes I forget that I'm the crazy. I've been leaving the house like a champ. I've been brimming with love for my little family. We have a bit of a schedule going on and it is making the days fly by. My grasp on good mental health does feel more tenuous at night. I've always dreaded nighttime, it makes me feel lonely even when my life is full of good things. That is when I worry about the agoraphobic symptoms rearing their ugly heads, it's when I think I will fuck my boys up terribly as a mom because I struggle with mental illness. But since our New Guy showed up I've woken up feeling hopeful more often than not.

Over the last week a number of little things have happened and rather than brush them off I haven't been able to let them go. They have festered in my mind and their constant presence has convinced me that I'm worthless, that no one likes me, that I'm the object of pity, that I should just give up. Because I've been in such a good place emotionally I've been able to try and fight back a bit. I do not want the fear to take over, I want to stay positive for my boys, and I'm realizing I want to do it for myself as well. But I am scared that the anxiety will come roaring back, that this week is the beginning of the end of my carefree Fall.

Sometimes I feel so close to normal, but then I'll be jolted by a reminder of the anxiety. And normal people don't take controlled substances on a regular basis. Because I'm nursing I need to be very careful with my chill pills. They probably won't hurt C, but there is very little research. If I need one I must take it directly after nursing so most of it can be metabolized the next time C eats. And on top of that they are highly addictive. My therapist is also my prescriber, so the situation is closely monitored. I've found myself feeling so self conscious and guilty about taking the pills that I report the exact number I've taken during ever session. I'm averaging about two a week. And I know I need them. I know if I let the anxiety spiral out of control and do nothing that I'll be creating a bigger problem. But I recently explained to my shrink that I am so pissed about relying on them. There are tons of mothers out there who get through the tough shit in their days and don't have to turn to psychotropic drugs just to keep going. Why am I so weak? Why can't I just pull myself up by my bootstraps? There is no one in the world luckier than me, I've been given a great education, we have a huge safety net because of my parents. What right do I have to struggle with anxiety when there are real problems in this world? Why am I so pathetic?

I get that these aren't helpful questions. I get that it doesn't help to compare myself to other moms out there. But I can't help it.


Every fall I look forward to the return of the Gingerbread Latte at Starbucks. I know, I know, it's an overpriced gimmick and the chemically syrup added totally obscures the taste of the coffee. Whatever. I can't help it, I love them. I wanted one on Wednesday. It isn't like I didn't get out of the house that day. There was an early morning trip to the grocery store and a walk with a friend. But as the day progressed so did a creepy-crawly feeling of dread that covered my skin. The anxiety was actually making me itch. The house felt like it was closing in on me, like I needed to escape even for just a few minutes. Believe me, that was a bizarre sensation for someone that struggles with agoraphobic tendencies. T napped until almost 5pm. I got it together to make the pizza dough for our dinner, albeit later than I wanted. And I felt like I would be an abject failure if I did not get out of the house and get a latte. That stupid expensive drink became a measure of good mental health in my mind, a sure sign that I wasn't doing well in that department.

A few minutes after 5 I hustled the boys into the car. The pizza dough didn't have to be punched down until 6ish, which was when Z was due home. I remembered that a Starbucks a few towns over had a drive through and that's where we headed. The drive was only 10 or 15 minutes in the little rush hour traffic we get in Syracuse. But the closer we got the tenser I was. Did it really have a drive through, or did I imagine that? Should I have fed C before we left? Were we going to get home before Z? Was I going to get dinner on the table before 7? Was I going to spend the whole winter stuck in the house yet be unable to clean, do laundry, and provide meals for my guys? Were we going to have enough money in savings to get us through until I find a job sometime in the next few years? Was I ever going to find a job that paid enough to cover child care? Um, I was a mess when we got to Starbucks, and of course I imagined the drive through. But I got the boys out of the car and into the store. I got my latte.

The funny thing is it didn't even taste good. And the chill pill I took several hours later barely took the edge off.

 Our sweet sweet boy. Photo by Jenn Mattern.

He smiles all the time now, and I think we are pretty close to laughing. Photo by Jenn Mattern

Crazy hair in the tub. And this is the face he makes when you ask him to smile for a photo. Photo by  (you guessed it!) the amazing Jenn Mattern.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Gross. Motor. Skills.

The other night at dinner T said, "Gross. Motor. Skills." out of the blue. Z and I looked at each other and tried to stifle our laughter. T verbal skills are incredible. Yesterday after preschool one of the student teachers told me that he corrected the pronunciation of another little boy. She said she was getting ready to correct the boy herself, and T just beat her to it. I'm totally bragging, but it's true. He's a talker. Like toddlers everywhere he's a sponge. He is also taking everything that happens around him in and he is regurgitating it, no matter if he understands it or not.

After the urge to laugh passed at dinner I started to feel pretty worried. I know where he heard "gross motor skills", it was from me. And the only time I say those words is when I'm explaining that his aren't that great. Now, I am usually also saying his fine motor skills and verbal skills are off the hook. And they are. He loves to watch videos of himself we've uploaded to facebook and recently we were watching one from when he was 18 months old. Over the last 9 months his skills have gotten better and better. He speaks in sentences a lot of the time, he can start to drive a nail into wood without any help, I can talk all day about the wonderful stuff he does.

But the gross motor skills have been slower in coming. He only just started hopping, and frankly he it's hard for him not to trip over his own sweet little feet. He is constantly covered in bumps and bruises. He had one hell of a lump on his forehead a few weeks ago and I started calling him my little unicorn. And all that stuff is perfectly ok. It is extraordinary that he is so ahead of the curve in two areas of development, and really he's at the point where he should be enjoying life and I shouldn't be thinking about where he is compared to other kids. He doesn't need that kind of pressure. I don't need it either.

That stuff isn't the point of this post, though. I'm worried about him hearing me being critical of him to others, and I'm pretty ashamed of how often it happens. I'm casually unkind too frequently, and not just about him. It starts with my overwhelming insecurity, my compulsion to call out everything wrong with myself before others can notice it to quell the feeling I have that everyone in the world is pitying me behind my back. I know I've written about this before, and I understand it developed in my mind when I was extremely unwell. It just might be my least favorite part of my crazy. I've been able to realize it's bullshit, largely because people aren't spending scads of time contemplating me to begin with (hello self-absorption!).

I fall back on criticizing everything connected to me when I'm uncomfortable, so unfortunately social situations are when this behavior happens the most. I get hot, my tongue swells up and fills my whole mouth, and I just start pointing out my faults, T's faults, Z's faults because I think that they are all the person I'm talking to is seeing. And I desperately don't want to be the fool. I don't do this because I hate my kid or my husband, I do it because I struggle with hating myself. Of course, being unkind about my husband and kid makes me hate myself even more, I'm guaranteeing that my self hatred is justified.

For years Z has asked me to work on this when it comes to him. He is never unkind about me to others, he always has my back. One of the refrains from my breakdown was him saying, "I'm on your side." He still says it and it is still true. But when I start to get uncomfortable my self control goes out the window. I didn't give a shit when I was being mean to myself. When I started to understand I was being mean about Z there was progress. Yes, I was oblivious to my own assholicness until Z pointed it out to me.  With T I'm realizing it simply needs to stop. It isn't the example I want to set for him, it isn't the baggage I want to thrust upon him that will need to be unpacked in therapy in a few decades, it isn't who I want to be anymore. When people hear me criticize those I love I'm not showing them I know what is wrong in my life, I'm showing them I am a bitch. That realization was a real slap in the face. I don't want to be an unkind person. I need to be better than that for T and for his brother. They deserve it.

Sweet C nursing.  

Our friend Sue gave the boys these super tough skull outfits.  

T helping Daddy chisel during the install of a new/old door.

T is very into markers right now. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

I Yelled At My Kid

T's behavior is deteriorating in a very typical two year old way. The problem is as his behavior gets worse and worse so does mine. A few weeks back he was a little shit all morning. He wouldn't cooperate to the point that I was worried we were going to be late for nursery school. He did something he shouldn't have and it was just too much for me. I screamed at him. Like the loudest I've ever screamed at him. And it wasn't even something that was a big deal, it just was an accumulation of the whole frustrating morning. I know intellectually that when he gets a rise out of me I am giving him an incentive to continue the bad behavior. I know I need to be calm and discipline without emotion in order for it to be effective. But in that moment it all flew out of my head and I lost control, furious that he was pushing my buttons with such precision.

Um, at this point it is his job to push my buttons. And if I don't respond correctly I'm the one making it worse. He needs good positive parenting right now way more than he does when he is being an easy kid. And I fail again and again and again. I started writing this post a few hours after the yelling happened. But then parenting two kids got in the way. This blog ain't gonna get me a book deal, or make me famous, or provide me a salary. Just a few of my friends read it (thanks guys!). But writing here helps me figure stuff out and I wish I was able to keep up with it regularly. The cool thing is it has been more than two weeks since the yelling and I've managed to not lose my shit with him again. I'm sure I will at some point, but the incident did help me take a step back and calm the fuck down.

At first I was so disgusted with myself for freaking out the way that I did. He burst into tears when I lost control. As soon as I got him into his time out (still his exersaucer, he hates being in there) and walked away the adrenaline started burning off and was replaced with shame. I felt sick to my stomach for the rest of the day.

But over the last two weeks I've realized some stuff. First of all, he isn't going to remember that one time I really screamed at him when he grows up. It isn't going to be a defining event to him, he won't bring it up in therapy some day. But it can be a defining moment for me. I can either look back on it as one of the many times I lost control with my kid, or I can learn from it and remember to keep my cool. I can continue to rake myself over the coals about it, or I concentrate on fixing the problem. It's easy to beat myself up about it, but the right thing to do is change my behavior. I need to try and do better, and in the short term I've proven to myself that I can. I actually feel pretty good about it.

Z and I often talk about how lucky he is to love his job so much, the thing is I'm lucky as well. This SAHM thing is awesome in so many ways, there is no other job I want right now. But no job is perfect (yeah, for example, I don't get paid to do mine). No one loves their job every day. Being at home with the kids might not seem like work to some people, but it really can be more frustrating than any job I've ever had. There are days when I basically throw the kids at Z when he gets home. And it's usually not to relax, it's so I can get dinner on the table, or clean up a bathroom, or wash poop out of clothing. The poop thing was my Monday. Not a banner day at our house. Mommy had to take a chill pill that night.

And yes, my two year old is a royal turd sometimes. It's the truth. But he's also a sweet kid. The turd stuff is totally age appropriate. I forget that if we don't spend a lot of time with other kids. Last week I was the parent helper at T's preschool. It was a great experience all around, but it especially served to remind me that to be two years old is to be a turd at times. They were all turds at least once, every last one of them.

Identifying stuff on the wall of tools at Lowe's is huge entertainment for both T and Z. 

Seems hella uncomfortable to me, but whatever works for him. 

T working at the bench his Daddy made for him.

This baby is very concerned. 

Monday, October 10, 2011

Hard Days

And then there are the days when your son throws the biggest tantrum of his young life, one so intense that it interups the uninterruptible sleep of a newborn so there are two small beings screaming at the top of their lungs in the house. When this happens you will be shaking with hunger and will resort to shoveling granola into your mouth because you are resigned to not eating a meal for a long time. You will also be deliriously tired because the baby was up until 1am the night before, you had to get up before 6:30am so your husband could get to work. And you will be panicking because your sister and her family will be flying in that evening and your house will not be anywhere near as clean as you want it to be. The longer the tantrum goes on the more desperate you'll feel because his very limited capacity to listen to reason slips further and further away. And you'll hold him as he sobs hysterically and tries to explain why he is so upset, but your mind won't be completely with him because you are listening to the newborn wail and you feel wretched for not holding that son. You'll be grateful for the nursing pads you are wearing because the sound of the newborn crying will trigger your letdown and you'll feel milk shooting out of your boobs. And if you are me, all this stuff will make you feel so anxious and so terrible and so defeated that you'll suddenly feel tremendously fat.

So far this SAHM thing with two kids has been going incredibly well. There have only been a few days that have descended into absolute chaos. My anxiety has receded far enough in the background that I have been managing to leave the house on a regular basis and I've been wearing something other than yoga pants all day long. But when the anxiety comes back it does so with a vengeance. I've been functioning so well that it almost takes my breath away when the anxiety manifests itself in a way that reminds me I'm not normal. I'm guessing that most moms don't feel physically repulsive when things get a bit out of control. Maybe I'm wrong about that, maybe it is a perfectly normal response. I'd love it if you moms out there would tell me what it's like for you. It would make me feel less alone.

Thanks to the 3rd trimester diet combined with the unfortunate postpartum hemorrhaging I rapidly lost the baby weight plus an additional 10+ pounds within 3 weeks. That sounds much braggier than I'd like. To put it in perspective my BMI is still in the overweight column. It's not like I became a skinny-minny overnight, if I want to get to the "normal" weight range I've got another solid 10-15 to lose. But I do weigh less than I have in about 8 years. My food choices really shifted for the better during the latter part of my pregnancy and I've kept them up since C has joined us on the outside. I do have a lot to be proud of when it comes to my relationship with food. And yet, when I start to feel overwhelmed and out of control my automatic response is to feel fat. Not only to I feel fat, but I feel like anyone who sees me will be both disgusted by me and filled with pity for me. Which is bizarre because I certainly don't feel disgust or pity when I am around overweight people. Whenever it happens I feel profound relief that I'm not parenting girls. How could I model positive self esteem when mine is so damaged? I don't know how to stop the feelings, even though I want to. At this point I'm just grateful they have been rather intermittent. For the most part I've been able to cope with the craziness of parenting two boys two and under.

On the flip side, there are also the days when you are trying to not cry because your sister and her family just left for the airport at the end of their trip. And you are only doing a half assed job keeping it together as your toddler whines and begs for goldfish crackers while you try to figure out what it is he'll eat for lunch that day. The baby will be sleeping soundly when you start make the grilled cheese sandwich for the toddler and you figure you have enough time to make a quick one for yourself because yet again you are shaking with hunger. But as soon as you start you'll hear the baby take a tremendous crap from the other room. Moments later he'll start wailing. So you'll run to him and change the tremendous crap while you pray your sandwich doesn't burn. You'll run back to the kitchen to flip the sandwich with the baby in your arms and you'll have to do it with your free hand because you won't be able to find the spatula. Too late you'll realize you're using the hand you wiped the kid with and you didn't wash it. You'll realize that as the sandwich opens up and spills all over the place. The baby will still be wailing because he is starving and you'll gently place him on the filthy kitchen floor in order to fix it. Then you'll grab him and awkwardly attach him to your breast while standing at the stove (a maneuver you wouldn't have dared attempt with your first kid). As you try and put baby carrots on your plate he will start to choke because he has a cold and your letdown is so strong it would drown an olympic swimmer. He comes off the breast and you spray milk all over him, your clothing, and the already filthy floor. You'll get him back on the breast, get the sandwich off the stove, and go sit and eat with him still attached. And on this day you won't feel desperate, even though you were crying when lunch started. You'll laugh at the lunacy that is your lunch hour and life as a stay at home mom. And you'll feel pretty triumphant that all three of you are sitting at the table eating at the same time.

More apple picking. 

My beautiful and sweet nephew.  

Sisters with our babies. 

The Cordano cousins take a bath.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Loving My Boys

Part of my problem with taking a bit of a blogging break is it's somehow overwhelming to get back into it. So much has happened that I've wanted to write about but I'm worried that I'm forgetting details and missing opportunities and frankly I'm so damned tired it is just easier to look at cool things on Pinterest than to write. Have you guys checked out Pinterest? It. Is. Awesome. And yet another time suck. So here I am almost 24 hours after the last post and I still need to get writing.

It is beyond amazing to have Charlie in our lives. I remember when T was tiny feeling incredibly overwhelmed. I was happy and completely in love with him, but especially before he started smiling it was frustrating to get absolutely nothing back from him. This time there is a toddler in the house who is giving back all sorts of affection it doesn't matter a lick that the baby just blankly stares off into the distance. It's amazing to feel two completely different kinds of love at the same time. We know T, his personality is very well developed, he is becoming more of himself every single day. Our love for him is not just based on the fact that he is ours, we really do adore who he is. We are biased, but we think he's a neat kid and we are tickled we get to be his parents. And at this point our love for Charlie is intense, instincutal, almost animal. We are starting to see glimmers of who he will be, and we think he is beautiful. But we are hard-wired to feel that way. And evolutionary imperative or not, it is a heady and exciting love.

Before C was born I couldn't comprehend loving another child as much as I love T. It's not that I didn't believe it would happen, I just couldn't imagine it. But as soon as I held C my heart swelled. I'm not trying to make a tired Grinch analogy here, I'm saying I felt my heart's capacity increase. The tired Grinch thing actually happened. And I know it would happen again if we were to have another baby. In fact, it was such an intense rush it almost makes me want to have another baby. This whole impulse to continue the species is a powerful thing.

Everything is different this time around. During T's infancy I was so overwhelmed and terrified. I couldn't believe we were allowed to be parents. I was sure everything I did was somehow wrong. It is so much more relaxing this time. The nursing only hurt terribly for under two weeks. C is an amazing sleeper, he barely cries. He's just a pleasant little blob. The flip side is he spends way more time in his bouncy seat than T did. We always had T in our arms, but that just isn't possible right now. T needs too much attention.

T smiled very early at around 5 weeks. Last night Z and I were cooing over C and I said I felt so guilty about not being able to give C more attention. I'd put money on C's first smile being later than T's. We aren't constantly in his face, trying to get him to do it. I feel very conflicted that I can't give the boys the same experience. They have the same amount of my love, but I need to get used to the fact that I will never be able to give them the same exact parenting. The circumstances are different and they are different people. They are going to need different things from me, and I'm going to respond to their personalities in different ways. My parents went to extremes to let my sister and me know they wouldn't play favorites. I don't want to favor either of my boys, but I also want to be realistic about the fact that they are individuals and I will never be able to provide the exact same experience for them. I want to get over my guilt because deep down I think it is good that we recognize they are individuals. All that said, I still wish there was more time in my day. I wish I was able to spend much more time holding my sweet baby who is already growing too fast.

Brothers cuddling. 

C was not thrilled with his first bath. He's really warmed up to them recently. 

He did enjoy getting dry.

He so isn't allowed to do this.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Still Here, Just Really Burnt Out

Every morning I get up and promise myself that I'll write a blog post that day and every day I fail. And now it's after 9:30 and I really need to get into bed. So I thought I'd do a short post in which I declared I will write a proper post tomorrow. Maybe about how disorienting and difficult those first few weeks postpartum are. Maybe about how my ass is in awful shape. Maybe about how happy Z and I are to be a family of four. Maybe about the difficulties T has been having adjusting to being a big brother. Maybe about how much easier a newborn is the second time, but at the same time being at home with two kids can be really, really, REALLY hard some days. I've partially composed all of those posts in my head. Arranging the time to type them out has been nearly impossible and I miss it. So tomorrow. I'll write something tomorrow.

In the meantime here's a shot of C taken by Ellie Leonardsmith.

And here's a video of T using a hold fast on the workbench Z just made. Before yesterday I'd never heard of a hold fast and yet my two year old knows how to use one. Crazy the stuff Z is teaching him.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Love Letter to My Parents

Hey, is anyone still hanging out in this corner of the internet? No? Well, I've been pretty crappy about posting, so that is completely understandable. But I'll happily post to no one!

This morning my parents drove off to get back to their lives. The last couple of days have been tear and dread filled as we got closer and closer to them pulling out of the driveway. Granted, the emotions have been heavily influenced by my messy postpartum state. But that is a post for another day, hopefully one in the near future. Now that I'm alone again during the day I hope to get back into the swing of things blog-wise.

So Mom and Dad. They drove up here 5 weeks ago thinking I'd have C at any moment. Um, it was a really long two weeks and one day for all of us. Especially me. Especially Z. Especially my folks. Yup, for all of us.

Since I became a mom I've had several occasions to spend extended time with my parents. And unsurprisingly it makes me think a ton about growing up. My family life hasn't been perfection and daisies and unicorns, I'm not trying to whitewash anything here. None of us were or are perfect. We've all hurt each other in pretty catastrophic and creative ways. But what family doesn't do that stuff? No one is perfect. People hurt each other, it's life. It my opinion it's worth it because the good so far outweighs the bad. That comparison is something a boyfriend once said as he was breaking up with me. He said it doesn't make sense to stay together when the bad outweighed the good. It was an awful relationship, thank god he had the balls to end it. And what he said really had a profound influence on the way I view any kind of relationship, that one sentence was one of the best things he gave me in our more than two years together. Over the years it has made me think of the ebb and flow of good times and hard times in any close relationship in my life. It made me start to accept that people won't be perfect and things will be hard no matter what. It helped me start to forgive people close to me for perceived hurts that I nursed for more than a decade and made me realize I'd done plenty of hurting myself. I bet you a million bucks he wouldn't remember saying it. It's funny how small moments in life can be so important to one person and so insignificant to the other. So yes, my family isn't perfect. But there is a lot of good there.

It isn't like I won't talk to them every day. T will still see them via Skype (the world's greatest invention for grandparents who live far from their offspring). But living with them again for a month made me feel like a kid again. Or it made me remember being a kid more than I usually do. And there is something incredibly melancholy about knowing that time is gone forever. As a kid all I wanted to do was grow up. Don't get me wrong, now that I have my own family I wouldn't give it up for anything. I just wish I'd appreciated my life as a kid when I had it. The other reality is my folks are getting older. Thankfully they are in great health, but they aren't the same people I lived with in high school more than a decade and a half ago (gulp). This idea that I could exist in a world where they do not is inconceivable to me. I still need them. My boys need them. Again, they are totally fine. In my mind they are going to be around for several more decades. But it makes every moment we can spend with them feel important.

They were a tremendous help with both T and C, and frankly, with me as well. I was in pretty rough shape for the first two weeks after leaving the hospital. Having my Mom there to take care of me and my kids helped me get better faster. They did the cooking and cleaning and childcare. Z only missed teaching two classes while I was in the hospital, they helped make it unnecessary for him to have to miss anything else. We were spoiled rotten. Of course I'm going to miss all that stuff. It made my life ridiculously easy. But it isn't what I'm going to miss the most.

To me the best part of their visit was how much I like them and enjoy being around them. Swear to god. I'm not blowing smoke up anyone's ass here. I really do feel like they are friends that I look up to and seek out for advice. I also have a ton of fun with them. We laugh all the time. And the way they are with T? I'm so grateful he's exposed to their brand of silliness. Every morning my mom would bring T into their bedroom so he could wake my dad by jumping on him. And my dad would throttle him with a pillow as he laughed hysterically. My mom would shout "Cowabunga!" and jump on the pair of them. Before I put him down for a nap today T pointed to his belly and said "Operation! Liver! Onions! Bologna!" to me. Every day my dad would pretend to operate on him by pulling liver and then onions out of his belly and telling him his belly was full of bologna and it needed to be sewn up before it all fell out. When he said goodnight to T he'd pretend to pull birds out of his ears. They both would chase him around the first floor of the house, all three of them shrieking and laughing. And T's constant refrain was, "Again! Again!" My folks know how to have a good time with a two year old.

They know how to have a good time with a 34 year old as well. I admire them and I don't have the words to express how grateful I am to them for everything they do for us. I already miss them so much.

He really isn't supposed to be in the bassinet. 

And yet, here he is, having a ball.

 Um, here it is being used properly.

He loves chewing on metal. We have no idea what it means, but it makes us laugh pretty hard. 

Super-Grandma and her boys. 

The two Ts. 

Saturday, September 10, 2011

C's Birth Story

The first several weeks postpartum are completely overwhelming. Duh. And yet, I sort of forgot they would be. So sorry for the lack of posting. I keep meaning to, I keep wanting to, but life keeps getting in the way. Which I've realized is totally OK. There is a lot about the last week that I do want to write about, but I'm 10 days out from giving birth to C and I'm already forgetting details, so I'll go back to hospital visits 3 and 4 and delivery for today.

Shortly after midnight on the early morning of August 31st I felt a gush of water that woke me up. I waddled to the bathroom and felt a bunch more come out in the toilet. Then I peed. Then I woke Z and my mom and we got going to the hospital. Since it was my second visit in a 24 hour period they put me in triage. I explained what happened to the nurse and she got the resident to do the test for amniotic fluid. No dice. They waited two hours to redo the test and to see if I progressed from 4cm dilated, all the while my contractions strengthening. Again no dice. I asked what they thought happened. They said there could have been a second amniotic sack (they did an ultrasound and my fluid levels looked good) or I could have peed myself (I really didn't think so. I'd peed right after, they were two completely different sensations. But I was still only 4cm dilated, they'd talked to Doc A and he said to send me home.

At this point I was so frustrated I didn't know what to do. My contractions were really strengthening and getting longer, and I knew I shouldn't go home, but I was so confused and upset and exhausted I didn't communicate that to anyone. My mom came and got us at around 4am. When she pulled up I was having a contraction that was so strong I couldn't move to get into the car. Back at home Z took a snooze and mom timed contractions. After an hour I couldn't bear it anymore and we roused Z and went back to the hospital. The receptionist clearly thought I was a nut ball, but the same nurse was there and she said she thought she might see us again before the end of her shift. Even though we were back in triage I told her I wanted an epidural as soon as possible. I was scared it would be too late because I knew I was progressing fast.

You need to have tests and be hooked up to machines for a while before the epidural can happen. The resident came back and found I was more than 5cm, so I was admitted. Shortly after that Doc A showed up. He said I could get out of bed and move a bit to work through the contractions, even though they want a bunch of fetal monitoring before they do the epidural. It really helped to sway and hang on to Z and moan and grunt through the pain. By then the contractions were so severe that when one would happen I'd be rooted to the ground, the pain was so profound I remember thinking I wouldn't know what to do if I didn't get an epidural. I had no idea how I'd push because the contractions paralyzed me completely. Doc A checked me out, and sure enough I was already at 7cm. Thankfully the anesthesiologist was waiting. Z was fascinated by all his glass vials and needles and the two of them hit it off discussing the intricacies of the procedure. Even through the blinding pain I was amused and a little proud that Z has such an incredible thirst for knowledge. So Z watched his new buddy insert the needle in my back with great interest while the student nurse in the room suddenly rushed out. Turns out she got lightheaded.

Within one contraction I realized I had no idea what an epidural really was before. The one I got with T helped for a few hours, but when it was time to push the pain was bewildering. I had no idea what to do or how to push past it. This time I was as jittery as hell, and my left leg was extremely numb. It's not a group of sensations I'd ever seek out recreationally, but sweet jesus, it was a million times better than the contractions. After about 5 more I could sort of feel when I was having them, but the contractions were a very far off sensation, and not at all unpleasant. At the next check I was 9cm dilated. I continued to drift. Not loving the jitters. Not loving the numbness. And I did want it all to be over. But I was so grateful to be out of the pain. I started to feel some pressure, again it wasn't unbearably painful. I just knew it was time to push. Doc A confirmed my suspicions.

There was a flurry of activity. The room was filled with my nurse, the student nurse, the nurse who was teaching the student, a med student, my doc, and the Chief Resident who'd been my doc on the first two visits to the hospital, and of course Z. They gathered around in a semicircle and the doc told me to start pushing like I had to poop. So I did. Even though I thought I'd have no idea how to do it, I somehow did. I had wanted to grab Charlie's shoulders and pull him on to my stomach the same way I did with T, but there wasn't enough time. It was all over in 5 pushes. On push 3 my water broke, on push 4 his head was out, and on push 5 his shoulders slipped out right along with the rest of him.

He was set on my belly and as soon as Z saw his face he said, "Another Cordano baby!" I didn't get a good look at the face until a while later, I still can't get over how much he looks like T. Delivering the placenta was easy as pie. In fact, I pushed so hard that it shot out and Doc A said, "Hey! Slow down or I'm gonna drop this thing!" And Z did get to use his great grandfather's snips to cut the umbilical cord. As I lay there holding my baby and feeling so completely happy with everything in the universe I heard Doc A mumbling to the Resident. Turns out I tore along the scar tissue from T's birth. From what I could make out it was clear he thought the original repairs were not well done. As Z and I cooed over our New Guy I half listened as Doc A explained to the Resident how to fix me up right. It was Greek to me, him telling her that it would look fine if he just went through the blah blah tissue, but tearing would happen again unless he went deeper into the blah blah blah tissue. It was so cool to hear him teaching, and I felt like I was in such good hands. I was also 100% happy with my epidural decision. I wouldn't have wanted to go through the stitches without one.

When the stitches were done I asked Doc A if all the placenta was really there. I didn't get to see it with T, and I was shocked at how small it was when he held it up. For some reason I thought it'd be as big as the baby. I guess it's held such ominous significance in my life it really has seemed larger than life. He said it was all there and then he explained to everyone why that was so. It was something about the veins crisscrossing the entire thing. All the people in the room (save me and Charlie) had gathered around him to check it out, even Z. The camaraderie in the room among the medical staff was amazing. It was just so fucking positive and awesome to see people learning. I felt relaxed and grateful and I was thrilled Doc A was using my placenta to teach new medical professionals. It was the least I could do after having a birth where I felt supported and encouraged and comfortable with my care.

 Ellie Leonardsmith and her lovely wife/photo assistant were in town yesterday and they did a newborn shoot with C. Naturally, all photos by her.

And here is the photographer herself. Photo by Kelsey, the lovely wife/photo assistant. Thanks to both of you wonderful ladies!

Friday, September 2, 2011

New Guy Is Here At Last

Charles Abraham Cordano Leonard was born August 31st and 10:05am weighing 7lbs 2 oz at 20" long. He'll go by Charlie. We are in love with him. As much as I cringe in writing this (it's the kind of turn of phrase that usually makes me want to gag) his birth was a deeply healing experience.

There are these kind of birthmarks called "stork bites" or "angel kisses" that tend to fade within the year. T had some on his nose and eyelid. C has them all over his face, but the best one is the lightening bolt on his forehead. He's my little Harry Potter.

I can't wait to write about trips number 3 and 4 to the hospital, and his delivery. Especially his delivery. That is going to be one happy post. But I'm going to skip ahead to about 6 hours postpartum first. Get the kind of gross story out of the way so I can really focus on the happy stuff. First, let me assure you guys that I, and most importantly C, are 100% fine. Second, I know, I know, if it's not one thing it's the other with me, but certainly nothing is every easy...

Bare bones: I hemorrhaged kind of a lot. The amazing staff at this hospital handled it with compassion and efficiency. Everything is totally cool now.

Details: Postpartum it appeared that my uterus was shrinking nicely. The bleeding made me nervous, but it was more the memory of what happened postpartum with T than a super excessive amount of blood. Z was monitoring things for me and when I suddenly passed a large clot he sort of freaked and grabbed the nurse. The nurse and I thought he was being nuts. But then more came out, and then more. And then the nurse got her supervisor. The supervisor thought it wasn't a big deal. But then more came out while she was there. And then more. And the supervisor got a resident. During this process my parents and T arrived and got to see C for about 15 seconds before they were hustled out to the waiting room. 

The resident started pulling really large clots out. It was painful, I was starting to have contractions again, and I was really starting to panic. Z went to the waiting room and sent my folks and T away. I'm pretty grateful about that part because they didn't hear the screaming that came a few minutes later. A call was placed to my doc. The chief resident came in. So did a third resident who had experience with "boggy" uteruses. They were trying to be gentle because I had a 3rd degree tear along with several other tears (will explain about that in the birth post to come). But they were reaching into my uterus to get at the clotting. It hurt more than the contractions before I got the epidural. That's when I started screaming. I'm deeply ashamed that I also started begging the poor woman who was helping me by taking away the clots to stop hurting me. Z was by my side the whole time, usually he is incredibly stoic during crisises, but he was terrified.

Meds were being administered to try and contract the uterus, lots of pitocin in an IV, a shot of something in my thigh, tablets wedged between my cheeks and jaw that slowly disolved, pink pills. And the amount of clots combined with the blood flow was completely overwhelming. And the pain, the pain felt never ending. Finally the docs seemed sure all the clots were out. The bleeding began to slow. They cleaned me up and the bleeding stayed under control. Everyone became much less worried.

So what the hell happened? There was no retained placenta. A clot blocked the flow of blood, so a bunch of blood got caught behind it. And more clots formed. And more blood got caught behind them. And so on and so on and so on. My uterus seemed to be shrinking and firming up, the bogginess was sporadic. And when they pressed on my belly and it would seem soft, some blood would squirt out (sounds gross, totally normal postpartum) and it would feel firm again. My medical care was excellent. It's my uterus that is the problem.

The upshot is I lost more than a liter of blood, so I've been pretty damn weak. But I don't need a transfusion. They are giving me iron pills and vitamin C tabs to help with absorption. As painful as the vaginal and rectal areas are, it isn't as bad as it was with T. I've been rockin' the percocet and they are going to send me home with a prescription for more. My recovery is going to be a bit longer, but my folks are here to help. Z has been amazing. And best of all, Charlie is total perfection.

I'm leaving a bunch of stuff out, but it's the middle of the night. The only reason I'm up is because the percocet has worn off and I'm waiting for more. The climb out of the haze of pain relief and into my ladybits throbbing and burning sucks and I couldn't sleep.

Again I want to emphasize that everything is now cool. I'm still going home tomorrow afternoon. C is doing a great job nursing. T thinks C is the most awesome thing going. My care at the hospital has been fantastic, both by the nursing staff and the doctors. Doc B showed up briefly after the hemorrhage to check on me. She checked on me again early this morning and my wonderful Doc A was here later in the morning. It's easy feel relaxed about this whole thing when the care I've received has been so wonderful.

OK, now that we have the unpleasantness out of the way the next post will be full of the warm fuzzies and details about C, all the really blissed out good stuff.

I think we're gonna keep him. 

Yup, definitely. 

Doesn't Z look particularly handsome here? 

T dropped to the floor and begged to hold him when he first arrived. He cried when anyone else tried to take a turn. He says C is his baby.