Archive for January, 2010

nothing much

Two weekends ago, while Nathan drove Bella to her other house, Echo and I sought some adventure and climbed a mountain. Today, Nathan is driving again and I don’t know if it is because it’s a snowy wintery day, that we didn’t sleep enough over the weekend, or what, but today we didn’t climb any mountains. Instead we walked around the block.

It’s easy to give myself a hard time, for doing too much (I really should slow down a bit, play more, or plan less for our days. The kids are wiped out and could use some down time.), or, more likely for me, too little (I didn’t get very much done today, and gosh, maybe the kids need to go out in the world more, to gymnastics, or play group, or to the library…).

But kids don’t seem to worry too much about this. I notice that our girls don’t know what time it is, what day it is, or  whether or not they have left the house at all. When they feel driven to learn more about numbers, they find them everywhere they look, on the back of the cereal box, on the stove clock, on the telephone. If they are enamored by fairy magic, they encounter evidence of its existence at every turn, in the dust motes that fluff off the couch, and in the condensation collected on the window. They enjoy what their life brings them.

So I think I’ll take a cue from them, not only in how I raise them, but how I live as well. If I need to learn about struggle, I’m sure struggle will find me. If I need to learn about communication, I’m sure my relationships will bring that to me. If I need to use my muscles, I’m sure there will be boxes to move, or kids that need picking up. All I require is right here before me if I choose to see it, so I’m going to stop over thinking it, or even thinking about it at all.

Right now I need a blank mind and less motion, so instead of fretting over whether or not Echo’s brain will get enough stimulation, I am going to embrace the opportunity to sit together on the couch. We’ve got an episode of Planet Earth selected, two cups of tea propped on a stool before us, and I’m gathering some blankies.

No mountain climbing today, and that’s okay.

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January 31, 2010 at 4:38 pm 3 comments

good golly

VOMITFEST 2010

PUKERAMA

Hey, it’s: “Everybody pukes night!”

If these statements haven’t given you  enough fair warning, BE WARNED now. The following post is about vomit.

Life sure is ironic. One day I’m singing the praises of the mama life, and the next night, I am elbow deep in puke. We were up with sweet Xi this time. I guess I already knew that no child is alike but I didn’t realize that theory applies to their vomiting technique as well. It turns out that Xi is the kind of puker that gives herself no warning. There are no preliminary  signs, at least that she recognizes, so we started the night off by a doozy of a barf. A full bed stripping and thorough shower were necessary, so you get the idea. Aside from Xi needing emotional support, her puking style also meant that tucking her back into bed with a bucket wasn’t going to cut it.

In my last post I described how “me time” isn’t something I always need to sustain myself as a human and that I don’t like being made to feel that giving myself time away from the children is a must. But what I realized last night, is that even though I don’t crave “me time”, I sure do cherish “adult time” – those hours after the girls are asleep where we do everything illicit, like eating chocolate, or perhaps having sex. Well … let’s just say none of that happened last night.

Instead, Nathan and I took turns holding the pot for Xi, again and again and again. I made her tea and sat next to her, telling her embarrassing stories from my childhood, while dear Nathan wiped every possible surface down with bleach. He even gathered up each tiny Play-Mobile figure, and Lego and dunked them in a bleach bath. That gives you an idea of how over the whole puking thing we are.

By one thirty, Nathan, the night owl, took over all caretaker duties and I went to bed. I crawled under the covers and snuggled up to Echo while counting my blessings that she was done being sick. And then … she rolled over … inched up close to my neck, and … BARFED.

We, of course, hopped up and repeated the stripping bed and showering routine. But there must have been something invigorating about the process because Echo was quite lively after that. Too lively. It wasn’t until four that she finally, and reluctantly, fell asleep.

WOW.

So … here is wishing you a healthy weekend.

January 30, 2010 at 6:59 pm 2 comments

me time

Nathan took the girls on a date today. They went downtown to the carousel and to Butterfly Herbs. This isn’t unusual, our little ladies love to accompany Papa on excursions, and when they depart I ordinarily do mundane things, like clean the house, walk the dog, and work. But today was different because we planned this outing a week in advance with the idea that I could have a couple hours to do other things if I so desired.

I walked Henry in the sun, practiced yoga, and took a shower.

Ok, I walk Henry every day, and I take showers too, (at least every now and then), so we certainly didn’t need to plan ahead for those things to happen, but an hour of yoga sure is difficult to squeeze into a typical day. And to be fair, the shower wasn’t my usual type either. I actually pumiced my feet, and it was the middle of the day (not after midnight), and I didn’t have to hurry through the drying off process in order to scurry to the bedroom to help Echo get back to sleep. In fact, the girls came home and helped me trim my toenails and push my cuticles around. It was fun. All of it was fun.

But here is the thing. People like to call this kind of mama focused time “self-care”, and they generally advocate that ALL mothers SHOULD take time out for self-care, that it is SUPER important to take time away from the children to replenish oneself so that you are a satisfied human being and even a better mother.  And if you don’t do this, you are somehow either wrong or fooling yourself. I think this is bullshit.

It sounds almost martyr-like, but there is nothing more self-caring in my life than tending to our girls. It is almost entirely self-serving. Sometimes I tell myself that it is in the best interest of the children, that attachment parenting raises independent, intelligent, successful adults, and though this is true, it is not why I do it. I do it for myself. It feels good. And though it is uncommon, or even blasphemous to say so, I don’t actually want too much of a break. Perhaps as a novelty, or an odd treat, but certainly not as a necessity, not as the only way to restore myself to health or sanity.

Don’t get me wrong, I certainly did enjoy myself today. But I want to be careful what stories I tell. Am I really suffering because I don’t get to attend a yoga class five times a week? Am I really suffering because I don’t get enough “me time”?  No.  It’s true I don’t go to a yoga class five times a week and I’m not sure you could call any of my time “me time”, but I am not suffering, I am thriving.

In ten short years I will be begging my children to pile on top of me, play with me, and occupy all of my space and time. It won’t be long before they are gone and I have nothing but time to fill, and start taking long showers just to pass the time. There will come a time when I am, like my own grandmother, alone in my living room waiting for it to be late enough to go to bed.

But tonight I am not alone. I am freshly groomed, washed, and wishing the clock would move a bit more slowly instead. Tomorrow I will carry on a more typical day filled entirely with fairy pretend and nursing, and though a reprieve from these feisty children is not in store, I am certain that I will feel just as loved, and just as cared for … only in a different way.

January 29, 2010 at 12:19 am 9 comments

sneaky thoughts

One idea is that feelings come from thoughts. At times thoughts flash so quickly that it feels like the feeling is alone, that it bubbled up from the well of your heart all by itself. But, theoretically, if you slowed down time, or photographed your emotional state with high-tech stop motion photography, a tiny flash of a thought would be caught passing through right before that feeling. So sneaky.

I’d like to stress the word theoretically, because if someone is actually in a difficult emotional state it isn’t always possible for them to see the thoughts that are causing their feelings, nor do they particularly care about this theory while feeling upset. In other words, I haven’t found it helpful for anyone to say to me: Just change your thoughts and then you won’t feel so sad/mad/scared!, while I lay in a heap, bawling my eyes out.

I consider empathy the only effective first aid technique when I am experiencing emotional trauma. Don’t try to fix me or the problem – no advice, no helpful suggestions, and no oh-that-happened-to-my-roommate-once kind of stories, just hear me being upset. That’s it. Or if I’m by myself, I can do this for myself. Man am I feeling scared. I am so scared. Without any further effort the feeling usually shifts to something more comfortable.

I believe that only from this more comfortable emotional state is it possible to look at this thought/feeling connection. I bring this up because, (again in theory), you can feel better by changing your thoughts about an issue, or if that isn’t possible, you can think about something else entirely. If the thought brings you good feelings then reach for it like an aspirin.

If you don’t believe it works in this way, look at it from the opposite end. I have noticed that sometimes I like crying. So at these times, I look for something to add to my thoughts, something even more upsetting that will get the juices flowing even more. If I tell myself a really good (meaning bad) story I can invite an entire family of heart wrenching feelings.

Another example might be:

Your husband is late getting home from work. At first you imagine he has stopped for a couple errands on his way home. (You feel irritated). He didn’t mention any errands when he left in the morning. As the minutes tick by you wonder if perhaps he is having an affair. That jerk! You figure it’s probably the new intern at his office that he claimed he wasn’t attracted to. The liar! (You’re spitting mad now). You imagine you’ll probably take the kids over to your parents tonight because you certainly aren’t sharing a bed with him! But you hate your parents house and you cannot believe he has forced you to move back in with your parents. (You are livid at this point). Your husband walks through the door a moment later, you realize he is only five minutes late, nevertheless you give him  a chilly hello.

Sure, this is just a made up story, but actually all thoughts are stories. Conjecture similar to this can occur to any of us without our even realizing it. We notice the intense anger but not the path by which it arrived. I do think there are feelings that are simply feelings, not preceded by a thought. But I know there are these other feelings too, that are literally created by sneaky little thoughts that flash by without our knowing it.

This happens for our children as well. They feel panicked, scared, or mad and they get to that place really fast. I suggest that, as a parent, before you do anything else, break out the empathy and watch the emotion shift, even if it takes longer than you’d like. Then, after they feel completely heard and understood, you can ask them about their thoughts. It looks like this:

Are you mad?

Yeah!

Yes, you are so mad.

I’m mad and I just want to hit her!

Yeah you’re so mad that you feel like hitting her. You just want to punch her.

Yeah.

Yeah.

(etc.)

Did you think she was taking that toy away? Were you afraid you weren’t going to get a turn?

Yeah and I was playing with it first! And I don’t want her to take it from me!!

No, you don’t want that. I did notice though, that she didn’t take it away. She pushed it to the side to pass by.

Oh.

You were really worried about that.

Yeah.

I would say that eighty-nine percent of the time empathy alone does the trick. But misinformation, or miscontrued actions can get a child more upset than anything else, so, if after giving pounds of empathy and letting enough time pass, the child still needs a little help, look for the thoughts that got them to that point.

I know I could use that kind of help at times.

January 27, 2010 at 9:26 pm 4 comments

home

I am home with little, sick, Echo today. She is no longer throwing up, like she was yesterday, but she sure wants her mom close by, to snuggle and read with, and just touch. I look outside and know that we won’t be stepping foot into that outer world. The little monkey clinging to my chest isn’t ready for an outing. We won’t go get cat food, we won’t adventure down to the corner bakery, we won’t run any number of errands that make me feel like I’m ticking things off the list.

As I feel my body slacken with lack of rigorous use, and feel my mind running in circles, looking for some way to “make use” of this downtime, I realize: you really have to have your emotional shit together to stay at home with your kids. Big time.

Four walls and a sick, sleepy child make you stop jumping from one distraction to another, and though you may try to squirm away from the view, the view remains.

For example, to stay at home, organizing your day around the needs of your kids means that it is imperative to be okay with how your thigh looks crossed over your leg. There will be no running to the gym to burn off some extra calories if  the girth of your limb makes you uneasy. There is no escaping that thigh, it isn’t going anywhere.

To stay at home, pinned to the couch by a sick, sleeping child means that you have to accept the dirt on the floor and the dog hair on the couch. The child cannot wait while you turn on the loud vacuum or scurry to sweep the mess away. In fact, someone important might be dropping by that very afternoon, and will certainly sit in the chair covered in dog hair, and you will be forced to be okay with this, and with whatever his impression of you and your untidy house might be.

To stay at home in this way, means that if you are triggered by the wrinkles around your eyes, you’ll have to find a different way to address those feelings other than shooting over to the health and beauty department for some hydrating creme.

To stay at home like this, means that it is essential to be at ease with your own company. There are no girlfriends, or strangers, or coworkers to distract you with gossip, news, or simply stimulating visuals like outfits and hair-dos. And although our children are distracting, it’s not usually in an escape kind of way. In fact, they will more likely show you more of who you are by highlighting issues that set you off.

To be at home like this, means that you must have the mental stability to withstand a repeat viewing of the same episode of Olivia that your daughter has selected for the last three days straight. You must remain sane from the catchy jingle at the beginning through to the same catchy jingle at the end. You also must remain sane while your daughter certifiably “loses her shit” when it is time to turn off said episode of Olivia.

To be at home like this, rendered immobile, means that when the phone rings, you don’t answer it. Even if  you’ve finally figured out the ever illusive motives behind your girlfriend’s husband’s strange behavior, you can’t call her. Or when you’d like someone to tell you what they are doing with their day, so that you don’t feel so lonely, you have to accept that the phone isn’t within reach of your pinned down body, and accept the loneliness that wants to accompany you.

To be at home like this is a spiritual undertaking. To be at home like this, without crawling up the walls, is to truly be at home with who you are.

January 25, 2010 at 8:00 pm 5 comments

tender

My heart is full with the loving responses I have got about my sleeping vs. nursing predicament. I am honored to hear your stories, to feel your support, and to receive your shining doses of empathy. My life both in the microscopic sense and the macroscopic sense has changed for the better due to your words.

On the local level, when I lay with Echo at night and she snuggles up for nursing, I am now aware that I am not riding a dangerous precipice, that nothing need be done right this minute, that I am not in crisis. I have this sense now because each comment that I read that says “I have been there” reminds me that this is only a moment of time that I am experiencing, just a teeny tiny blip on the graph of my whole life and Echo’s. There will come a time when I look backward at these days, and merely remember.

She will not nurse forever.

And for those of you currently nursing three children, or that have nursed four children in sequence without a day of pause, you inspire in me further strength. If you nursed all those babies for all that time, then I can nurse this one baby for all of our time together as a nursing team.

Perspective is what you have given me.

I also feel less alone.

Before, awake in the middle of the night while Echo nursed, I felt like the only person not sleeping in the entire world. The cats snoozed, the dog snoozed, Nathan snoozed, the girls snoozed, and I did not. Now I know that, despite my loved ones blissfully dreaming around me, I am not alone. That you too are nursing your babes, yearning to stretch your back or roll over. Or, I know that even if you are sleeping now, you remember what it’s like to watch the moon move past the window, and you are awake with me in spirit.

Thank you.

And many of you, while reading the post, relived a past weaning experience with pain. I will not try to take this away from you, not because I think you deserve it   ( you do not), but because we all make decisions every day that we alone live with and no one can remove the emotions that accompany those choices.

Sometimes we make decisions with other people in mind, the aunts, grandmas, or friends that have walked the gauntlet before and want to ease our passage, or ease their own insecurities by watching us make a similar decision. These choices can rattle around in your heart as emotions that spring up with surprising sharpness when reading a blog post years later. Other times we make these difficult decisions wholly on our own, with much thought, and immense love. But because they involve a child, sprung from your body, and cleaved from your deepest dreams, even these independent decisions still carry pain.

It is quite understandable. Nursing is so tender a spot, that no matter what decision you make, to poke it again will certainly cause an ache.

January 24, 2010 at 7:29 pm 1 comment

not a baby anymore

I’ve been in a walking stupor for the last few days. I am simply not getting enough sleep. I start each night with prayers and high hopes and end it each morning deeper in the pit of sleep deprivation. It is no wonder that denying prisoners sleep is used as a method of torture because it is tortuous. I can handle a night here or there of not enough sleep, usually due to staying up too late with Nathan with a movie and late night conversation, but several nights in a row is unmanageable.

Here is where I point fingers and complain…  I am currently getting less sleep nursing my almost three year old through the night than I did when she was an infant. Yes that’s right… start the gasps… Echo is 30 months old, sleeps in our bed, and has been nursing eight to nine times per night (basically the entire night). I know this is culturally unusual. I know I would get more sleep, at least at this point, if she were in her own bed. I know it is “all my fault”. I know that there are some of you reading this right now that are filling up with incredulity and anger.

I also know that I will head to bed in a little bit and make all the same decisions again.

I’m not sure what my plan is. I only know that I am unwilling to turn nursing, which has been the ultimate form of unconditional nurturing love in Echo’s life for three years, into something contentious, and negative. I just can’t do it. I want to be an unwavering pillar of strength, consistent, and loving. I do not want to suddenly (at least in her eyes) sprout spikes and leap out of the darkness, angry and self-righteous. She isn’t doing anything wrong, merely following her own interests and desires. It is only because I have changed my interest that her behavior feels inappropriate or unwanted.

I know my body can handle this. I have not forgotten the amazing capability of the human body, something I marveled at during pregnancy. I felt I could climb mountains after giving birth. My own power, strength, and stamina is real. It would be easy to simply declare that my body can no longer handle the strain of nursing any longer, but it would be a lie.

Still, I am not finding it easy. In the morning my nipples are raw, my back is tight, and my hips are sore. I am also nearly delirious, crying at the drop of a hat, and recasting every single aspect of my life in a negative light. I am mad at Nathan (for any reason I can conger) and completely bereft of any emotional stamina.

Still I am unwilling to aggressively withdraw my nursing love.

I am not stubbornly staying the course either. I talk to Echo about stopping nursing, or at the very least nursing less. I have told her outright that I do not want to nurse at night. She agrees to this, saying she is willing to just snuggle through the night and nurse again in daylight, but somehow she doesn’t remember, or care, about this deal at 4a.m.

I also arm myself with a banana, a big bottle of water, and a large glass of milk, and offer these to her each time she nuzzles up to nurse. She happily and groggily accepts these new nighttime delights, settles back in, almost nods off, and then turns to me to nurse herself all the way to sleep. Again and again.

You could say it’s not working. Maybe it isn’t. But it also kind of is too. I am being my true, most loving (of myself) self by being the kind of mother I want to be. This is my version of lifting the heavy automobile off of the baby in order to save it’s life. No, Echo isn’t actually in danger, she certainly would live if I decided to never nurse her again. But I am accomplishing an amazing physical feat every night that I nurse her longer than is comfortable. I am not resting, but I can rest assured that our relationship is not threatened by a sudden, jerky change of mind on my part. And in the end, that is what is important to me.

I can sleep later, when she is twenty and living in a grimy apartment off campus (at least a little more!). I can catch up then when getting more sleep doesn’t mean breaking her heart and causing her to wonder who her mother really is.

January 21, 2010 at 10:07 pm 13 comments

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