Archive for March, 2010

those pesky expectations

By early evening both girls were yawning and rubbing their eyes. So we piled into bed with a huge stack of books, planning on reading until we were too sleepy to continue. Eventually we tossed the last book aside, Xi climbed into her bed, and I snuggled up with an exhausted Echo. But… as the lights dimmed and the room quieted, Echo’s eyes grew wider, her legs began to fidget, and her body twisted about until she had ramped all the way back to fully awake.

Echo: I love you Mom.

Me: I love you too.

Echo: And I love Xi.

Me: She loves you too.

Echo: And I love Bella, and Papa, and Xi.

Me: Yeah. Goodnight sweet love…

Echo: Mom? (tossing, turning)

Me: Yeah?

Echo: I just had a hard day. I just had a real hard day.

Me: Oh.

Echo: Yeah. I just… don’t… Mom…. can I…. (wiggling)

Me: Can I rub your back a little?

Echo: Yeah. I like it firm.

Me: Okay.

Echo: Can we stop now? (wiggling again)

Me: Okay.

Echo: I have to go poop Mom.

Me: Echo, it really is time for sleep.

Echo: But I have to go poop!

Me: Should I keep rubbing your back?

Echo: Okay!

Mom? I gotta go poop.

Me: Echo I feel like you are just saying that because you want to get up.

Echo: Yeah!

Me: I don’t want to get up. It’s time for sleep.

Echo: But I got to go poop!

Me: Are you being honest? Will poop actually come out of your body if you sit on the toilet?

Echo: I… just…

Me: It sounds like you want to get up.

Echo: Okay!

Me: It’s actually time for sleep though.

Echo: I gotta pooooooooop.

Me: If we get to the bathroom and you don’t actually poop, I will feel upset that you said you had to when really you don’t.

Echo: I gotta poop.

We get up, she sits on the toilet. No poop but there is: pssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss. Then we head back to bed and within a minute I hear: zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

It really was no big deal to get out of bed in the end, so why did I resist? The answer is that I had an expectation. I expected her to fall asleep quickly, and that simple thought made it so that I got all kinked up when something different happened. A million moments like this happen every single day. I expect to go grocery shopping but don’t manage to make it happen. I expect a sunny sky for the dog walk and get snowy rain instead. Millions of expectations means that I get disjointed millions of times a day. Not good! Well, at least not enjoyable for me.

If I could ditch my expectations, even the tiny ones, I’d never have to adjust to a new reality. I’d simply do whatever was happening, and probably actually enjoy it.

Once on the toilet Echo said:

Mom, the word “pee” and the letter “P” rhyme.

Me: Yeah. They are the same sound. The word “pee” actually starts with the letter “P”.

Echo: Yeah. But one says: puh, puh, puh, and the other one says: psssssssssssssss.

March 31, 2010 at 8:29 pm 4 comments

eyes wide open

Nathan and I worked together for nine months before we confessed our devotion. And even after that heart beating, pulse racing, chilled from excitement confession, we still just said a simple “goodnight” and went home. We continued to bat eyelashes, talk endlessly, and languish in the delight of one another’s existence, but we didn’t make any moves. We took it real slow.

One night while I was working he called to tell me about a particular flower that smelled delicious but only put out its scent at night. He knew where some were growing and pressed upon me the need to go by these flowers on my way home. He gave me directions. I found this romantic, and intriguing. I followed his map, thinking I was headed toward a public rose garden or something, but instead the careful directions led directly… to his garden.

And there he was. In the moonlight. Surrounded by sweet-smelling Nicotiana, and the steam from his tea. His two-year old daughter, Bella, lay sleeping just inside the door. I parked my bike, swelled with happiness, and joined him on the steps. We talked about relationships in a philosophical sense and a good book we’d both read.

When I look back I realize he was so him in that moment. The tea. The ripped jean shorts and sandaled feet of summer. The late night awake-ness. The philosophical perspective. The sleeping girl. And I was so me too. The tank top. The bike. The just read book. The frankness.

When I got on my bike, giddy with our encounter, I said: “I feel like such a dork!”. We were both dorks. Total doofuses with big grins, falling in love, smelling night blooming flowers.

It is seven and a half years later and as I write this post the scent of Nicotiana drifts past my face. These flowers now climb all over our shelves, they form a backdrop to our lives. I almost take them for granted, but tonight I saw them afresh again, and walked down memory lane to that night in the garden when I was first seeing that beautiful man. He was him and I was me. The same him and the same me.

I realize that people really are who they are. Whatever it is, they are that already. We just don’t always see it, or don’t want to see it. There really is no point in holding one’s breath waiting for the divorce, the right job, the sobriety, or whatever the life changing event you are expecting to alter the person you’ve got your eyes trained on. They already are who they are, despite the scenery of their lives.

Everything that is the essence of Nathan was available that night. I think I saw it. Or at least the fuzzy version, filtered through my googly eyes, was close to the mark. I saw enough of who he truly is to not be resentful of who stands before me tonight. The two match. I didn’t deceive myself. And I am so glad.

March 29, 2010 at 8:22 pm 2 comments

baby math

I’ve been thinking a lot about babies. No wonder, I guess, with the little bean that lives in the front house making super cute appearances each day.

With each glimpse of that sweet little bundle I find myself analyzing group dynamics. A while back Nathan and I did some reading about the number of people in a group and how it affects the stability and peace of that group. Uneven numbers are unstable, like three or five. In situations like this, one person will often peel off and find an individual task to get absorbed in, which then reduces the group to a more stable number. When all five of us in our family are together at one time, it can be pretty crazy. Trundling out of the house, or loading into the car for a shared adventure, these moments when we are attempting to work together, can be especially tricky. Other times I notice events are flowing quite harmoniously and I look around and find that one of us is absorbed in net surfing, or taking a shower, reducing us to the stable number of four.

And if one of us doesn’t peel away, we stabilize in other ways. For instance, maybe pet will play a prominent role for a time, acting as a sixth member of the group. Other times friends join us. Yesterday we had a peaceful play group at our house, we enjoyed a measure less of the usual chaos. I was perplexed by this until, after everyone had gone, I counted the people who had been present. Ten.

It makes sense. So as a fertile woman, starting to wean my toddler, and in close contact with a newborn, my baby distracted mind starts to do the math. If we add another child, we would be crazy! But we would also be creating a group of six instead of five. More peace, and more harmony. Hmmmm. But four children! Holy cow. But awhile ago we had our little toddler girlfriend with us and instead of increasing the insanity, having another child round out the numbers chilled us out. Nathan and I talked to each other, and the kids paired off. So maybe it isn’t so crazy.

But, as you all know by now, ours is a modern family. So adding a child to the days we have just Echo with us would be good for group dynamics, we would be increasing from three to four. On the days we have Bella as well we would increase from five to six. Pretty good… But on the days we have Echo, Xi, and not Bella we’d have five again. So you can imagine the logarithms I’ve been running in my mind just because I like the smell of the baby next door.

In case you were wondering, eight is the best number for group productivity. So all any of us have to do in order to increase harmony in our households is to pop out six children. No problem!

Just kidding.

Mostly these thoughts make me think about the reproductive drive of humans. And the power of babies to render an otherwise perfectly sane lady into a math scholar. It also makes me think of what I would want in place if I ever were to have another. Money, a completely weaned toddler, more time with my parents and sister. Which leads to more thoughts of designing my life, life maps, law of attraction, and the like. Heady stuff.

Oh, you babies. You get us all topsy-turvy.

March 26, 2010 at 8:32 pm Leave a comment

closer than I thought

A wise friend of mine has been leaking secrets of the Universe to me for a few years now. The latest trick she shared with me is to live the life you want starting now. To be who you want to be even if you don’t have everything you think you need in order to be that person, like money, time, particular items or living situations. And for the last two days I’ve been trying it out.

Dog walks, tea, exercise, children, friends, good food, and movies.

It turns out I am already living a lot like I thought I would if everything else fell into line. Who knew? I thought I was far from my dream life, but in the morning when I ask myself: “What would I do if I already had a bunch of money?”, my answer is pretty much what I described above. Relax, spend time with people I love, and not stress out. Well, as irony would have it, worrying about money, and believing that the life I lead is suffering because of it, makes it so that I can’t relax, can’t enjoy spending time with people I love, and can’t stop stressing out.

It seems the thoughts I have about what I think I am missing are causing me more trouble than actually missing that thing. By acting as though I already have everything I need, I have been freed. Jeez. What a mind bender.

March 25, 2010 at 8:32 pm 2 comments

crabby

Today I found myself incredibly, and surprisingly, crabby. It was curious because I don’t have any demons riding on my shoulder these days, the sky is blue, the sun is out, the birds are chirping, but come five o’clock this evening my face was all scrunched, my lips were pursed, everything about me was prickly, and then I realized: TRANSITION. I don’t like it.

Wednesdays are the days that Xi comes back to us from her other house. In the space of a couple minutes the family dynamic gets shoved around and reshuffled, and even though it happens every week, I’m never prepared. From Saturday until today we have been a three person family, which, even just because it is a lower number of people, is pretty easy. One kid, with just one set of interests, and one bedtime, and only one finicky belly to feed.

On Wednesdays we pick up Xi and smother her in love. Echo sits in her lap and suddenly has a readily available playmate. A sister has returned. It’s beautiful. But after that moment things are a bit herky jerky for me. Until we transition to being a four person family, I fight against making two separate kid meals in addition to the main meal, and refereeing disputes. I fight against plain everyday parenting things just because it is different from how we were doing it yesterday.

Once I’ve made the transition, having Xi here feels normal, feels right. But the in between time, the transitional afternoon, is tough. And, just when I have adjusted, Bella will arrive on a Friday and leave on Sunday, which means two more transitions to round out the week. It’s enough to make my head spin.

This is not what people think about when they are contemplating leaving the mother or father of their children, or, for that matter, when they are considering having sex with someone who they would never want as a parent to their future children. They do not imagine sixteen plus years of chopped up weeks. If they could possibly imagine what that might be like, maybe they wouldn’t be as interested in splitting up, or would never have gotten involved in the first place. Of course there are many, many worthwhile reasons to break up, but at this point I know I’d rather chain myself to Nathan’s leg than leave him. I’d rather participate in twenty-five years of couple’s counseling than watch Echo go back and forth, or negotiate holidays, birthdays, and well, virtually everything.

I know from experience just how tricky it can be. Not only from loving these girls and transitioning back and forth each week, but also from being a grown child of separated parents. The back and forth doesn’t end when the kids grow up. I am still negotiating how my time is spent with my family. Holidays are carefully divided, thought is pored into each visit, and still there are tears. Every time.

Luckily I am in love with Nathan and don’t even toy with the idea of being apart. In fact I feel insanely fortunate in that regard. And there is nothing to be done about having to share these fantastic girls. That is the way it is. I feel grateful for the time we have with them, and hopefully, I keep my own displeasure with transition to myself enough to help them with their transition. To be fair, I at least get to stay in the same house while I struggle with uncertainty and change. I’m sure if it didn’t mean choosing between one parent and another, the girls would rather stay in one home as well.

I would wager that transition is hard for everyone, no matter what the cause. In our world transition means we get to welcome back two phenomenal human beings into the fold, but I still struggle. Actually if I’m going to be honest, after reading this over again, I realize that I struggle on the other end as well. When the girls go to their other homes, and Echo is left an only child with only mama and papa to interact with, I wrestle with that transition as well. Seems no matter what I am transitioning from or toward my default mode is crabby.

Perhaps this means I have “work” to do in this area. To go with the flow more. To “be here now” more. Or some other such thing like that, and I’m sure I’ll give it some thought, but for now, tonight,  I think I will simply be crabby and see what follows from there.

March 24, 2010 at 8:36 pm 1 comment

mamas in training

We all know that our children learn a lot from observing the world around them, and definitely from watching the immediate world within their home, but sometimes that phenomenon is brought to light more clearly than ever. The little girl on the right in this photo is the new big sister of the new baby from the last post. So you can guess what the theme of the play was today. That’s right. Babies

When I left the room to grab the camera, these two tots had bulging baby bellies, plastic dolls jammed beneath their shirts. But when I returned, the babies had arrived. The girls were propped up on pillows, nursing their newborns. The scene was such a close replica it’s as though they were at the actual birth themselves instead of sleeping soundly.

It makes me wonder how much is learned through observation and how much is absorbed, through the air, through sound waves, through the memories and thoughts of others. Musings like this are the kind that make me want to read only wholesome books, watch only G-rated movies, and think only the very best thoughts, even if Echo is asleep or seemingly unaware because somehow they still get it. They really don’t miss a thing.

As a side note, these same two girls were close to destroying one another a couple weeks ago. Both were suffering from coughs and a symptom of their sickness was extreme viciousness. If we kept the two apart, things weren’t too bad, mostly sniffles and fatigue, but if they were in the same room, look out. Face clawing, arm biting, constant tears, and ear piercing screams. If ever there were a time to throw empathy aside in favor of straight up control, those moments would have been it. But we didn’t. Even though the empathy often couldn’t be heard above the shrill sqwaks, we kept at it. Both mamas and both papas just kept explaining, and empathizing.

Eventually the fevers broke. The girls are friends again and we parents didn’t trash our relationship with our children in order to get them to get along.

Which is a good thing because they certainly are watching, and when they have children, real children, not just plastic surrogates, they will love them just as respectfully and just as gently. Unless of course they completely rebel against their mamas’ parenting style and opt instead for kid leashes and shock collars, but we’ll just have to cross that bridge when we get to it. In the meantime I am newly inspired to keep it up.

March 22, 2010 at 7:34 pm Leave a comment

moved

Our friends, who have so graciously lent us the use of their garage-top apartment, welcomed a baby daughter into the world yesterday morning. A birth, it happens every single day, thousands of times. I’ve even heard that a baby is born, somewhere in the world, with every inhalation, but somehow every single time, it is the most wondrous event.

I live in their backyard, so happened to have the luck of arriving on the scene just after the sweet girl was born. Our cats were meowing their heads off, and I finally rose to let them out when I saw the front house with every window ablaze with light. I ran across the yard to see if I could help but was welcomed into the bedroom instead to see mother and baby already nestled cozily in bed. Grandparents from both sides were present, as well as a sister, another sister on speakerphone, a husband, and a midwife. The lamplight was low, and warm like honey. It was a magical sight.

And the magic continues. For two days now more family members have continued to gather. And this isn’t the kind of jostling, take over the house with rambunctious chatter type of crowd. They simply gather. In fact, sometimes no one talks at all. It’s as though they are here to merely witness a profound event. I can’t help but see it as empathy in physical form. By the presence of their bodies and warm faces they are saying: Wow. We see you baby, and mom. Something really important has just happened.

As an outsider, I am completely moved. Not only by a beautiful baby, (and she really is beautiful), but by the family. My god that family. The warm lamplight, the steady flow of aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, and the stillness- no one is rushing around tidying up, making small talk, laughing nervously, or pushing food on anyone. Finding this scene so intriguing, I heard my mind saying: I want to have a baby! But, then I remembered that I don’t. My relationship with Echo is still very mama/baby and my heart and mind don’t yet have room for thoughts of another. So then my mind said: Well… a baby when I’m ready, but I definitely want to give birth surrounded by my family this time. And then I also remembered that I don’t want that either. To have my extended family gathered in one small room is to invite major drama. There are politics involved, and heavy history to navigate, that’s not what I want to surround myself with when giving birth.

So I began to twist myself up about it all. Searching for some way to somehow alter my own life to better mirror what I had seen. Thankfully my waking, thinking mind, stepped in to say: Easy now. I simply like what I have seen. Nothing more. I can stop trying to recreate it for myself. Stop looking to fix anything. I can simply witness, just like the family members I have been observing. Something beautiful is happening and I will be a better person for having been able to see it. That’s it.

And then I felt better.

And I am better. I now have this image in my mind, an image of love, confidence, and health, an image of family at its very best.

March 20, 2010 at 8:33 pm 3 comments

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