Thursday, May 31, 2012

Pretending I'm Totally Normal

Life has been pretty fucking terrific since the boys and I returned from our trip to North Carolina a few weeks ago. The weather in Syracuse has been amazing. Z is done teaching and has been home with us for much of the time. His parents, sister, and her wife visited last week and it was a blast. Despite my son's pissing on the furniture issue I've been actively happy. Like the kind of happy where I walk up to Z in the middle of the day and tell him that I love our life and I'm grateful. It's all very sappy, please feel free to roll your eyes.

I've written before about being content in my cocoon of a life here. And how that happiness is like a narcotic that helps me forget that I'm scared to leave the house. I've written before about being aware that I'm making the same realizations over and over on this blog. Sorry about the repetitiveness, friends. But that is part of the mental illness game-realizing all this stuff about yourself over and over because it is so damn easy to slip back into the safe, comfortable patterns and stop doing the necessary work.

Starting tomorrow I'll be jerked out of the safety and comfortableness big time. We are taking our annual sojourn down south, and this time there will be a weeklong stay in DC tacked at the end for Z to work with a Modern dance company he's gotten involved with. Long story. On the way down we are stopping in Charlottesville, VA to stay with one of our best friends. Well, I went to high school right outside DC, and over the last few weeks I've been blithely making all sorts of plans to see various former Robinson Rams, many of whom I haven't laid eyes on in 17 years or so. Many of whom I wasn't really friends with back then. It turns out I regret not knowing these people better when I was actually seeing them everyday. All those years between graduation and facebook being ubiquitous I thought I didn't give a crap about keeping in touch with the folks I used to know. I was an idiot and seriously missing out on some amazing people. I'm glad I know better now.

My family moved away from the area as soon as I went to college, and I never spent much time there in the years since. So I've jumped on this opportunity. And I'm seriously excited. The boys and I are spending the Tuesday of that week with a woman who became a librarian. She was a couple of years ahead of me in school and we weren't more than acquaintances then, but it turns out we have stuff in common. And she's just a really interesting person. Wednesday we are spending with another woman who I didn't know well back in the early 90s. But she cracks me up constantly with her posts about her kids. She's the kind of mom I want to be with my boys. Friday night we are staying with one of my favorite people from school and his family. I can't wait to meet his wife and kids, and I can't wait for him to meet Z and my guys. One of those evenings I'm going to try and arrange a meet up for drinks with various folks.

Now that it's nearly time to get in the car I've started to question myself. I have serious agoraphobic tendencies. I have an anxiety disorder that still requires medication. My IBS flares up whenever I'm in stressful situations. And I've willingly agreed to drive stick shift, which I still can't do well, from Georgia to DC with my two boys in the backseat. Z is flying to a conference in Maine in the middle of our trip and will be going to DC from there. I've decided that I can handle driving my kiddos around DC in that car for the week, having tons of social interactions. Who the hell am I? How am I going to be able to do this? My biggest fear is I'm going to fuck it all up. I don't want to flake on my friends. I don't want to spoil my good time by giving in to the anxiety. So the bottom line is I'm scared. But I'm going to try and plow through anyway. I'll let you guys know how it goes.
Z made me a paper hat like the one he wears. Evidently he expects me to wear it while outside just like he does. 
I really adore this kid. Even after all the peeing on furniture stuff. He came outside with me on Wednesday morning so I could deal with putting away the empty trash and recycling containers. And he walked up to our bin, grabbed it, and walked it all the way around our house to where it belonged. I didn't prompt him at all. It was amazing. And now I'm planning all sorts of chores he can do....
We are mostly giving C finger foods now. He digs it. His aim does need a little work, though.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


This day started out with a lot of promise. I mean, C has been getting up at 5:30, so that sort of sucks, but other than that it was a nice morning. My in-laws have been in town, which means we've been doing home improvement stuff, always a good thing. I had a particularly good therapy session at 10am. And when I got home Z took his folks to the airport while the boys and I had an early lunch and then fooled around in the sprinkler. I have a massage scheduled for 4pm, a major treat. Z ran into work for the afternoon. I just needed to deal with nap time.

T picked out Return of the Jedi to watch while I got C down, and he asked for two more minutes when I came downstairs. I told him no problem. When I went to collect him I saw that he'd peed on the couch. In two places.

He did it yesterday for the first time in a week. He wasn't angry at me, rather he was mad that his brother touched his collection of diggers. You guys rock and the advice you gave me on the facebook link was especially amazing. Thank you times a million. I didn't lose my cool yesterday, didn't let him see me sweat. I clearly told him if he did it again he would have to wear diapers duct taped on. I made him continue to sit on the couch for a few minutes. And I asked if he wanted to do time out on the stairs with me sitting next to him or in his room. He opted for the stairs, so I sat with him. All things considered, I thought it went really well.

Today I let him turn off the TV (his ritual) and took him upstairs where I grabbed a pull up and the duct tape (We tape them to the diaper, obviously not to his skin. If we didn't do this he'd just pull the diaper off). When he understood what was going to happen he lost his shit. Like major huge awful tantrum. I let him cry, I told him he was being punished for peeing and I understood he was upset, punishments are really upsetting. I didn't get angry, but I told him he was allowed to be angry. This went on for about 20 minutes. He begged to go to the bathroom the whole time. I told him he was free to go in the diaper. He doesn't do extended tantrums, so I started to second guess myself. Even though he'd just peed I worried he'd hurt himself from holding it. So I told him we could go to the bathroom, but he'd have to have a diaper on again afterwards.

After he peed, and he really had to force himself to do it (I shouldn't have worried-his bladder was pretty empty) he asked for a diaper rather than a pull up. I told him to wait in his room and I'd run downstairs to get one. When I returned to his room that little fucker had managed to squeeze a few drops of pee onto his bed. Somehow I managed not to freak out all over him. I told him that was fine, I wasn't changing the sheets, he could sleep in the pee or on the floor. And I wrestled him into the diaper and footie PJs on backwards. He begged me to change the sheets and I told him no and left.

Back downstairs I listened to him melt down and tried to call Z, but couldn't reach him. Thankfully my sister picked up when I called her. She couldn't talk because of work, but she listened anyway. I told her I couldn't fucking do this. His reaction to the situation was so outrageous that I felt like I was damaging him for life. She said all the right things and she just listened. After I got off the phone I went back up and offered to lie down with him for a few minutes. He was asleep within 5.

There are days when I feel like I have no fucking idea what I am doing here. I think I am inflicting huge damage on him, I feel totally clueless, I feel like the whole SAHM thing is a terrible idea, they'd do better in day care. I feel useless and hopeless and frustrated as hell. At T's parent teacher conference last Tuesday his teacher told us he was more emotionally mature than his classmates, that he was able to recognize when the other kids were upset and he was also able to articulate his own feelings. So what the fuck is going on with the peeing on the sofa? I just don't get it.

Drinking from the sprinkler about an hour before peeing on the sofa.
 My fabulous sister-in-law was in town this weekend with her lovely wife. Obviously, she the rest of the photos are her work.
 This one cracks me up.
We look like such a normal family here...

Sorry if this is riddled with typos, got to get to that massage. Hopefully it'll help put me right. Frankly, the blog venting is already helping. Thanks for indulging me by reading, friends. 

Friday, May 25, 2012

Fair Warning: This is About My Period

In early December of 1988 my family had just relocated to Wellington, New Zealand. It was summertime down there and one day we made plans to go to the pool with our new friend and neighbor Kylie. A few minutes before heading out I got my period for the first time. Bummer city for an almost 12 year old. After a few years I was getting cramps so severe that I was missing a day or two of school a month. My mom took me to see her midwife and that very kind lady put me on the pill. I wasn't sexually active at the time, but it turns out that the pill was developed to help ease symptoms of menstruation and the whole controlling birth thing was a happy side effect. I know the pill doesn't work for a lot of women because the side effects are too severe, but I loved it. My period was regular and so light I only needed a panty liner. And after I did become sexually active the controlling birth thing was pretty awesome. I was on it for 15 years, long enough for my risk of ovarian cancer to be significantly reduced.

In December of 08, 20 years after my first period, I found out I was pregnant with T. I'd stopped taking the pill two months earlier because Z and I were talking about trying to maybe have a kid down the line. I'd had a conversation with my GP about it. She told me it would be 6 months before I'd start ovulating again. So I didn't worry about birth control. When I told my midwife what the doctor had said during our first pregnancy appointment she was appalled. She said my body hadn't released an egg in a decade and a half, that it was immediately ready to start shooting them out, that my risk for pregnancy was majorly increased.

T was about 8 or 9 months when my period showed up again. But I was pregnant within another 2 months. After the miscarriage early that September I got pregnant again in late November. Charlie will be 9 months old in a few days and my period still hasn't come back. My time of the month hasn't been my time much over the last 3 1/2 years. I've gotten very used to not dealing with the inconvenience.

Why the rather boring rundown of my menstrual history? I'm starting to think mine is going to be reappearing any day now, and I've been dreading it. The thing is I'm pretty damn terrified. This annoying, but rather benign regular part of my existence suddenly feels very menacing. After T's birth there were the huge clots that were the result of a piece of left behind placenta. After the miscarriage and D&C there was the trip to the ER because of more clots. And a few hours after C's birth there was the hemorrhage. My body is not very good at no longer being pregnant. And my recent history with bleeding has been pretty horrific.

Until I stopped bleeding weeks after C's birth I was scared every time I went to the bathroom. Actually, I was scared all the time. Just waiting for that terrifying sensation of passing a clot. After the hemorrhage was under control I confided to my doc that the thought of having my period again made me lightheaded with fear. He explained I absolutely wouldn't hemorrhage with my period, that they were two different kinds of bleeding. But knowing that hasn't really quelled the queazy feeling I get every time I remember what happened 6 hours postpartum.

I've written about the hemorrhage a few times before. Probably because I really haven't come to terms with what happened. Not because of my care, like with the left behind placenta. Even when you receive excellent care a health "event" is hard to move past emotionally. One of the worst parts, and there were a lot of worst parts, was how scared Z was. He doesn't show he fear in the moment and he always lets me know that I'm being a huge baby. Which is legitimate, I'm almost always being a huge baby. But when the clots started he was the one that insisted there was a problem. And when the hemorrhaging began in ernest he couldn't hide the terror on his face. The pain as they reached into my uterus was as bad, if not worse, as the contractions before the epidural took. It hurt so much I wondered why I didn't pass out, frankly I wanted to pass out. And seeing the fear on his face when I looked at him to reassure me everything would be OK made my terror so acute I couldn't catch my breath. And now I'm scared every time I bleed I'll be transported to those awful memories.

The return of my period also is my body's way of telling me I'm ready to have another one. My sweet little baby is starting to grow up. He's gotten so long lately. I can't really say big, dude it a skinny-minnie. But he isn't going to be a baby for much longer. And he might be my last. We haven't decided if we are going to try for a third. If we do try and have another, what then? Is it safe to put my body through childbirth again? My doc says we'll just do all the drugs that stop hemorrhaging right after delivery if I have another, but based on my previous experiences I suspect it won't be that simple.
It is crushing when your body does not behave properly, complications surrounding childbirth make you feel like a failure. Facing either alternative is frightening. Do we accept we are a family of four and mourn the lost possibility of a third child? Or do we risk further complications by bringing another child into our family? My looming period feels like a monthly reminder of a difficult decision we have to make soon. I'm not getting any younger.

I thought some of this stuff would get easier with time. What 35 year old is scared of her period? I suddenly feel like I have a lot in common with the 11 year old who couldn't go to the pool in December of '88.

Do you see my handsome man? I'm not gonna lie, I like making babies with him.
Our porch is falling off our house. The big project this summer is to fix it. T is ready with his crowbar and hearing protection.
And sweet little C is hanging out in the yard.

Monday, May 21, 2012


Friends, friends, friends.
I've got a problem in the shape of a toddler and I need some help. Here's the deal, the potty training has been smooth sailing. I was worried about nothing, T got it super fast. And I surprised myself by being incredibly laid back when he did have accidents. I'm not a laid back gal. I was worried I'd freak out at him, but I never did. I told him accidents happen, I told him not to worry. Now he isn't even wearing diapers at night. Every few weeks he'll pee the bed, but even at three in the morning I keep my cool and we just change the sheets and get him cleaned up.

Dude has a bladder of steel. He is scared of public bathrooms because they are loud and he refuses to use them. But he is able to hold it for hours on end. When we flew down to see my sister he wore big boy underwear without issue. On the way home he was constipated and hadn't pooped in a couple of days. I told him if he didn't poop before the flight we were going to have to do a diaper, not to punish him, but because he might have to poop when we couldn't get up during the flight. He tried so hard to go with no success, then he told me the poop was sleeping which cracked me up. We put the diaper on him at 8:30 in the morning. He fell asleep in the car on the ride home from the airport and we let him nap there so I didn't get the diaper off until after 3 in the afternoon. And that fucking thing was bone dry. Seriously, bladder of steel.

So what is the issue?

He pees on furniture when he is pissed off at me. Yup. You read that correctly.

Tonight he told us he needed to pee during dinner, so I took him to the bathroom. A few minutes later he landed himself in time out. We had a friend over and T was done eating before us so we set him up with a video in the living room while we finished our meal and chatted. He whipped off his underwear, sat down, and got this look of fierce concentration on his face. We were telling him he needed to put the underwear back on or he'd have another time out. It was Z's turn to deal with him but he didn't get to the couch in time. T managed to pee all over it. Back in time out he went. When I retrieved him I asked him if he knew why he went in time out. He told me it was because he peed on the couch. I asked him why he did it. He told be because I put him in time out. I knew with absolute certainty that he'd been peeing on stuff to get back at me, but strangely it felt good to get conformation.

He did it a few times when we were visiting my sister. He even anger pooped and got it all over their playroom minutes before my nephew's first birthday party started. We are awesome guests. So after the boys had gone to bed that night we were all talking about it. My dad laid it out like this: T does something bad. I respond appropriately, discipline him in the form of time out. I win. T is angry at me. He gets back at me by peeing on furniture. He wins. Especially because I don't have a next move. And until I figure out my next move he continues to win.

Dad is right. And I get angry when he pees and it isn't an accident. Really really angry. Which is really really unhelpful.

I've started to take him to pee before time out. I've gotten gun shy about time out because I'm worried about retaliation. What the hell is my next move?  I tell him it it unacceptable. I've tried other punishments like taking away treats for the day. Should I tell him I'll duct tape a diaper to him for the next 24 hours? I can't just diaper him, he'll take them off. I did do that during nap recently after he peed inappropriately, and unsurprisingly the diaper was dry when he woke up and I cut it off. Does anyone have any ideas? This kid is killing me. Of course he has foiled being a really easy kid to potty train by using that control for evil.

He also does awesome stuff, like figure out how to scramble up onto the toilet himself so he can go to the bathroom unassisted. He doesn't tell us he has to go a lot of the time now, he just disappears and scurries on to the toilet himself. Honestly, I'm staggered by his critical thinking. I never problem solved the way he does when I was a little kid. I'm so grateful that his mind works like Z's.

C had his 9 month wellness visit at the pediatricians today. He's 50% in height, 90% in head circumference,  and the big 3% in weight. T took a nosedive in the weight department at the same age. Both of them have their daddy's body type and Z is a skinny guy. The doctor isn't worried about him at all, but I'm terribly insecure that he is so small. Makes me feel like I'm doing something wrong. I look longingly at the little babies with delicious rolls of fat. But he did a great job feeding himself banana and avocado at lunch.

Chewing on Chewbacca. Dude is so skinny if he wants to eat a Wookie it is totally cool with me.

Sunday, May 20, 2012


A few weeks ago a gal that I went to high school with and who is a fellow IBS sufferer sent me an email to let me know about her success in managing the IBS symptoms with a gluten free diet. The note contained this sentence:

"Now, when I feel nervous or anxious about something, I just feel that emotion, rather than also feeling like I have to run to the bathroom."

Ladies and gentlemen, it fucking blew my mind. I just feel that emotion. I. Just. Feel. That. Emotion. I JUST FEEL THAT EMOTION. That right there is the most terrifying and exhilarating proposition to me and my anxiety disorder and I can't get it out of my mind. Because I will go to extreme lengths to avoid feeling that emotion, whatever it is. My subconscious would rather trap me in my home, keep me close to my bathroom, distract me with suffocating self loathing, make fear my "at rest" state than let me feel whatever true emotion is out there. I just had to take a break from writing this to visit the fucking john because this whole topic is so overwhelming. JUST FEEL THAT EMOTION. The author of the email, who I have not seen since 1995, just become Superwoman to me.

I've had IBS for more than 20 years, diagnosed for more than 10. Been in therapy for well over a decade trying to sort all this garbage out. A lot of my time has gone towards trying to get better. So it really cracks me up when I realize something so fundamental to my anxiety disorder. How could I not know that the anxiety directs me away from having to feel authentic emotion in the moment? But that's what this struggle is. Unpacking "why" takes herculean effort because the pesky anxiety symptoms are designed by my self conscious to protect me from ever dealing with that very "why". True, my self conscious is not actually protecting me, rather it is making me worse. But its sweet little fucked up heart is in the right place.

Earlier this week I had another major mental illness breakthrough in the john. Or as a dear friend once called it, The Thinking Room. It was the morning I was getting ready to fly back to Syracuse after a visit to see my sister and her family in NC. My stomach (and the rest of me) was a royal mess as I faced the prospect of boarding a plane with my two kids. I was thinking about how Z and my dad (two men who are so very different, but also have kind of a lot in common when it comes to dealing with me) often point out the thing I am dreading never turns out to be as bad as I think it will. And I am usually forced to admit they are right while feeling like an idiot for letting my anxiety get so out of control.

But here's the thing. My current diagnosis? I suffer from Anticipatory Anxiety Disorder. Anticipatory. So of course the actual thing I'm anxious about is never going to be as bad as I think it will. It's the fucking anticipation that is the problem! That's what we should be focusing on! How did I never realize that before?

More importantly, what the hell am I going to do about these breakthroughs? Because follow through isn't, um, exactly my thing. The class I talked about signing up for almost 6 months ago? Hasn't happened. But in big news a couple of days ago I did make an appointment to get the tattoo. Saturday June 23rd at noon. I can't wait.

In the last week my almost-9-month-old baby decided he suddenly wanted to use pacifiers all the time. Z saw this one online and begged me to get back when I was still pregnant with C. I'm glad I caved.

My beautiful T playing in the extremely early morning light this morning. I'll tell you what, getting up at 5:30am isn't my cup of tea. But I'll do it when the boys are teenagers just to wake them and pay them back for all the early mornings right now. Yes. I'm that petty.
Cousins playing the piano. I believe this was their version of "Jingle Bells". They are adorable, but be glad there is no audio. 

Friday, May 4, 2012

The Soul Crushing Minutiae of Parenting. And a Little New Order.

Two warring impulses in my life 1. I want to strangle my toddler and 2. I adore my toddler. This whole toddler thing is like living with someone with multiple personality disorder. Patience is important (and lacking on my part), but consistency and follow through with repercussions is even more critical. I blow it every single day. Right at this very moment it is after 10pm and my son is throwing a tantrum in his room. He woke up his little brother who is also crying. Z won't be home for two days, I took a chill pill a few hours ago and it isn't working very well right now. The last thing I told T was if I went back up there he couldn't go to play group tomorrow. I really want him to go to play group. I also really want to fucking go to sleep and get him to shut the fuck up. If I go up there I have to take away play group. And that sucks. It was the only major thing on the horizon that I felt he wanted enough to bring him to reason. Instead he is banging on his door wailing, "Mommy! Mommy, help me! Mommy!" I'm so done right now.
Ok, I'm back and all is quiet for the moment. I did go to T, he was so hysterical that I needed to try and defuse him. I told him I was angry, but I held him until he got the sobs under control. I asked if he could hear C crying and he nodded. I told him I was really upset because he woke his brother. He told me he really wanted to go to playgroup. Against my better judgement I gave him one more chance, and it seems he is taking it. Of course, I then needed to nurse C back to sleep. Waking at this time of night is highly unusual for him, so I'm not looking forward to the fallout from this development.

You know what? The story I was going to originally tell doesn't feel like it matters anymore-it was a rather funny one in which I lost my shit at him in a grocery store because he was messing around while holding my hand and fell down almost taking me and his brother (who was in my Ergo) with him. Like I slammed into the shelves, sending pill bottles flying. We were getting baby ibuprofen for teething C, not just hanging in the pill aisle for fun.
Another time jump, next morning here. Last night's bedtime was a perfect storm of all the reasons I want to strangle him. Yes, the story lacks the flair of the grocery store/public humiliation event. But that helplessness and fury directed at your kid, that second guessing yourself-is he having a tantrum because I did something wrong? Because I give in too much? Because I don't give in enough? is enough to drive you mad. Throughout the event I did take away other things-dude went from not getting a treat after lunch tomorrow (now today) to losing treats for the whole day. The more punitive measures don't work as well at night, it's just too far from the actual event to matter. No book before nap tomorrow? Tomorrow doesn't even feel real to this kid. And time outs don't work-the kid already is in his bedroom. The thing about the playgroup is he needs it to burn off energy so he can take a nap and sleep tomorrow night. But the flip side is I don't want him to think I'll just cave over the big things. Last night it felt like the only thing he'd listen to, but I should have realized he was way beyond listening to anything. His limited capacity to be reasonable had long left the building and I shot myself in the food when I brought up playgroup.

Of course, the first thing he said to me this morning was, "I want to go to playgroup." I told him it was still up in the air. But I told my friend who is hosting that I was bringing food, I really need him to run around with other kids for a few hours, hell it will help the day go faster for me.

So why am I making such a great big harry deal over a little tantrum? In the scheme of things this wasn't a big deal. But not only was it frustrating as hell, especially because I was solo, I also feel like these are the moments when we are shaping who he will be. How he will deal with disappointment, how far he can get with the whole parental manipulation, how he begins to understand what is expected of him. Every little situation builds on the next one and teaches him how to behave. If we lived in a vacuum it would be so much easier. Then I wouldn't give a shit that he was screaming hysterically and banging his door so hard the whole second floor was rattling. The problem is the baby he woke up. And if I'm going to be honest, my nerves were frayed. When I need him to be quite so the baby stays asleep, suddenly he has the power in this situation. That's what I've got to get past. Tonight I resolve to not cave to T and to just deal with C if he wakes up. Today I will try to do better. For all of our sanity.
Clearly I've gotten pretty carried away with the length of this thing, but quickly the pleasant story:
A couple of weeks ago I came across a mix CD in my car that I made years ago. I, like most members of my generation, am always trying to put together the perfect and illusive mix. I hadn't listened to this one in ages, but I find it supremely satisfying. Like all of my "Trying to Achieve Perfection" mixes this one includes my favorite song of all time "Temptation" by New Order.

So I've had the CD on nonstop in the car. Z plays his music for T in the mornings, think folk, old country, bluegrass, all the stuff a guy who makes cigar box banjos would love. I told T that it was time he started listening to my music. He seems to dig it. When "Punk Rock Girl" or "Birdhouse in Your Soul" comes on he asks me to turn it up. I was singing along (well, more like wailing, I don't have a voice to speak of) to "American Girl" and he told me to stop-said it was his music! But every time "Temptation" comes on I tell him it is my favorite. I crank it up and sing loud.

The other night at dinner we were talking about eye color with T. You know, Daddy has brown eyes, Mommy has blue eyes, what color eyes to you have? We told him his eyes were blue and he was talking about it, trying the words out. A couple of minutes later when we again asked what color eyes he had he said, "Blue, like in Mommy's song." My favorite part of "Temptation"? "Oh you've got green eyes, Oh you've got blue eyes, Oh you've got grey eyes". I know he's just being a little parrot, but my heart was bursting with pleasure. Sharing stuff that is important to you with your kid is one of the biggest highs of this parenting gig.

So for your listening pleasure here's the 12" version of "Temptation". The 7" is what is usually played, this was an early recording and it is much more Joy Division-y in feel. I love them both so very much.

Standard outfit: underwear, tool belt, suspenders  

Bubble bath! 

Brother time.
Bottom line, even though he drives me up the fucking wall, I do dig my toddler. Thank god for his adorableness. Makes it much less likely I'm going to feed him to the wolves.