Summer Blogging

I have delusions of continuing this blog. I have been working on a recap/ reflection of the first year of motherhood for about 6 weeks.

However, this summer you will most likely find me here:

…doing some gardening while chasing a toddler.


OMG My Baby is Mobile and My Life is Over

Cheeks (a new nickname S got from a friend last weekend) is crawling and cruising. She is also tumbling and head bashing. She is also not napping longer than 20 minutes. (That’s just enough time for me to check email while she falls deep enough into sleep for me to take my boob from her, go pee, drink 2 glasses of water, and scarf something to eat while shoving laundry into the washer.) I haven’t had time to do anything, especially writing. Boo.

Here are some random thoughts that have been on repeat in my head lately:

I’ve run several marathons. I’ve backpacked for many days over mountains. I’ve hauled a stupid chainsaw two miles into the woods every morning and out again every evening for two weeks while working on trails in northern MI. But I am EXHAUSTED after chasing, flipping, and holding my 23 pound child during diaper changes.

My kid isn’t in love with solid foods yet. She eats three spoonfuls every day and then quits the business in the high chair. I don’t have any concerns that she will grow up and not like food. What is the idea (that the pediatric nurse is all worried about)? That the kid will wean and only be able to drink SlimFast for the rest of her life? A friend sent me a text message today that said something like, “Wanna come over and let the babies play with the dogs, maybe go for a walk, and have some cranberry cake and ice cream?” And I swear the words describing food GLOWED. My child will love food. No prob.

This whole Schweddy Balls boycott by the Million cranky moms is so much nonsense. That SNL skit is like the broccoli of humor. Everyone needs their green leafies. And I have yet to get my hands on some Schweddy Balls in this town. Kids should not be anywhere near the ice cream aisle, anyway. Geesh!

Naomi Wolf is giving me migraines with her book _Misconceptions…_ about pregnancy, childbirth, and motherhood. And I’ll probably keep reading it anyway because it is pretty much word for word my life. And yours. And everyone in The Motherhood. I can’t find it in ebook, though, so I won’t finish it until Cheeks is in kindergarten.

I heard a woman at the Y say, “I am free tonight. There’s a program on at 10 that I’d like to watch, but other than that…” It’s been five months since I’ve watched anything except 2.5 Weeds episodes in 10 minute intervals and a handful of Modern Family season 2, but I have to watch each episode three times before I see enough to understand them. I asked B if he thought that maybe when Cheeks is 3 we might be able to watch a movie again.

I usually have profound thoughts in the car.

That’s it. I have to sleep. Hang tough, mommas. Or hang ten.

Deep Breath

As a parent, and especially the mom, it’s my job to worry and plan, two things that I’ve never really done in proportion to their need. It’s in my nature to worry too much and plan too little.

When I started teaching middle school, I got much better at both of these things. First, you simply must plan well when you are faced with 20 13 year-olds in a confined space every day for 180 days. Second, after waking up at 2 AM every morning awash with anxiety for several months my first year of teaching, I had to do something to stop worrying. And I did. I decided that I would either get up out of bed and take action, or if I could not solve the problem right then in the middle of the night, I would let myself forget about it, take lots of slow deep breaths, and fall back asleep. It got better.
Fast forward to mothering a 9 month-old. Both my worrying and planning take my mind, spinning like a gyroscope, to the outer reaches of my actual experiences. If I let my worry and planning take me away, I find myself in strange lands, surrounded by unfamiliar and imagined creatures, landscapes, and dangers. Instead of sticking with plans to start saving for college, or limiting my worries to things like actual high fevers or actual bleeding cuts, I drift way out and worry that my child is autistic because she rubs everything on her face while she does a little seated dance. I need to do some work.
I used to think of teaching middle school as a kind of spiritual practice. All day long I was presented with small challenges that got in the way of my plan or agitated my ego: an angry student, a needy coworker, an unscheduled fire-drill. My challenge was to condition myself to act and react in ways that were helpful and put out the fires of drama rather than stoke them. All around me were lots of people who were fanning the flames of drama. There were plenty of opportunities to get a spiritual workout.
Funny, that habit hasn’t necessarily carried over naturally into my current situation. There are plenty of reasons why, but one reason is that this is all still very new. And I’m starting to understand that it’s never going to be all that predictable! So, it’s a new challenge that requires slightly different skills.
In some ways, I can do what I’ve always tried to do: pay attention only to the worries that I can act on. “Oh my god I think my baby hates me and is bored with her life and isn’t getting enough stimulation she’s going to fall short of her potential and live a life of regrets oh my god!” really should be, “okay ¬†kiddo, time to get out of here and go play…maybe we can pick up a new book, too.”
Or, on another front, “oh no my husband doesn’t want to talk to me while he cooks dinner I can’t believe he doesn’t love me anymore and now our marriage is in tatters after having a baby and we will suffer through 18 years of stunted conversations and finally get a divorce when S moves out and goes to college because we’ll realize we have nothing in common anymore.” Instead of, “B must have had a long day at work. He would probably enjoy some time to chill out, cook dinner, and listen to the news for a little bit.”
You know what I mean. This is by no means a state of mind unique to me.
I’ve had this song on repeat in the car for two weeks:

Chris Smither, “Outside In”¬†(“I know that you think worry is your ever-faithful friend/ ‘cuz nothing that you worry over ever happens in the end.”)

And with T-Day around the corner, I’m thinking about gratitude. Someone suggested to me that I pause before starting a new activity to realize the things I am grateful for right then. As I came home from a jog the other day and was walking up the walkway to the front door, I stopped for 5 seconds to consider my good fortune. My body and mind were refreshed by the quiet time and the endorphins. On the other side of the door were my two favorite people, both of whom would likely make me laugh countless times before the night was over.

So, that’s the plan. I’m one lucky mother. I want to dwell on that as much as possible.

Getting In Touch With My Inner (Outer) Slob

S had broken me of my ridiculous need to clean and arrange and organize everything all of the time. It wasn’t a helpful kind of obsession I had with these things. Mostly, it was years of procrastinating grading middle schoolers’ papers that had made me a little too fond of cleaning toilets and sweeping floors. You could always tell by the state of my house when I’d assigned an essay to my students.

Fast-forward to the birth of S. As I’ve mentioned before, once or twice, the first couple of weeks (months) of baby care is tough. There’s blood, pain, sitting on the blood and pain for too long, and lots and lots of NO SLEEP. Sweeping the floors isn’t a priority. S did a fabulous job of readjusting my priorities when it comes to cleaning. I don’t have anxiety attacks when there are piles of clean, unfolded clothes on the couch and it’s time for Baby StoryTime. We just get out of this filth-nest. I still keep this place clean enough so that the roly poly bugs aren’t dragging dust bunnies behind them as they trek across the hallway, and I’m feeling much better now that my OCD seems to be under control. My quality of life is better when I don’t snap at a loved one for leaving their backpack in the wrong place or pooping on freshly-washed blankets.

Fast-forward to the clingy, non-mobile baby phase. S lay on her back or belly, scream-whining or sucking on the carpet/ tile/ yoga mat. She could roll around and reach crumbs and stones and bits of plants that B had dropped on the floor. I could sit there and sit there and sit there with her, or I could grab the junk on the floor, jump up and run to the trash, and deal with her shrieking. So, I adapted, just like a good mother should: I just chucked the junk out of reach. It was not a problem for us behind the TV or down the hallway. Awesome.

I have adapted so well that when S and I were invited over to a friend’s house for a one-year birthday party, I didn’t even think twice. Goldfish crumbs and puffed rice were reproducing and starting colonies on the carpeted play area, and here comes my little choker and a couple of gluten-free kids. Like a ninja, I cleared the path for the crawling slobberers and nearly invisibly tossed the bits behind the furniture. Well, almost invisibly. The living room owner saw me and said, “Yeah, just throw it behind there.” It took me a couple of seconds (days) to realize that that probably wasn’t the best a ninja could do: there was a plant just a couple feet away! I forgot the ABCs of “crumb triage.” A)lways look for a plant to throw shit in. B)efore you do anything, make sure no one is looking. C)huck object. After I was caught, I tried to deflect any judgement by telling a story about how B picks his nose and puts it in the plants, when really, that’s just what we all do in this house. (S will learn.) Happy First Birthday, friend! Here’s a pile of shit behind your furniture! Next time I will not forget crumb triage. Or, maybe I will have a better plan…

Fast-forward to mobile baby. Crap poop poop crap! Now I have to clean again, and my motivation is: Baby Will Not Eat Dusty Hairballs and Dead Millipedes. This is not easy. Babies have radar for all of the Danger and Disgusting in a place and they head right for it with their mouths open. So, it’s kind of a priority again. And all the plants are banished to the hallway until S goes to college. Crap, pooooooop!

S on her second day of crawling:

B in South Dakota: Days Two and Three

We are surviving here. Unfortunately (?) I ate chocolate chips for lunch yesterday. But no one forced them into my face. I chose the chips. So, I can’t complain.

However, the Boo and I have had really good things to eat for dinner the last two nights. Friends (with children!) invited us over or “out” for dinner where veggies and protein were abundant. It was mostly fantastic not to be alone during that scary hour of the day when the sun light turns from happy-sunny-this day-doesn’t-have-to-end slant to spooky-cue-the-werewolves-and-vampires slant. Evenings are the hardest time of day when you’re alone with a baby. So, I was just giddy that people were willing to love us during this time.

But dinner with friends is a little bit of a disappointment when you don’t have the second string to come into the game so that you can eat food and savor a couple crumbs of conversation. When S was just a kid, she used to just scream from 4:30 until 9:00 in the evening. Now at night she gets really hyper, with fussiness on top (if you’re lucky). This is when she gets her spaz on. It’s entertaining to watch her give herself raspberries on the back of her hand and hum while flipping her lips with her fist to make silly noises or scream-grunt while smiling at you. But not when there are glistening grilled red peppers and portabella mushrooms winking at you from the table. This whole enterprise of eating with a spaz baby in your arms is reminiscent of the game Hungry Hungry Hippo, but instead of reaching out to grab as many marbles as you can, it’s the food bits you’re hoping to score. Why not put her down, you ask? Hmmm… why didn’t I think of that? HAHAHA! No. She tends to flail-arch and scream. You might be able to distract her with a weird, semi-dangerous game, like waving a plastic bag at the dog, or flipping the Bumbo seat onto her head, and thus, get some calories in.

One of the nights were were outside where there were mosquitoes and dogs in addition to a hyper baby. Think of it as a video game. The object was to eat enough good food to make it to the next level (Peaceful nighttime sleep on a full stomach). One of the maneuvers is swatting mosquitoes and putting the bowl of food down in a place that a baby and a dog cannot get to, but you can. Like under a very large red mushroom or behind the trap door. Anyway. Everything I ate was a shade of orange. Pumpkin pie, winter squash, vegan no-bake cookies, cornbread, and macaroni and cheese. I was able to reach the next level of the video game, but I think it took a little longer because of all of the sugar in my bloodstream. (Again, really, I had a choice. I didn’t need to make 50% of my dinner out of cookies and pie. The tabouleh is just harder to eat with fingers. But I digress.)

So, while we were nourished by food (that really didn’t need to be chewed anyway, right?) and in the company of good people, I realized that I need B here to enjoy situations like this. You have to be able to hand off the babe when she’s a spaz like this so that you can eat dinner, but also so that you can take a breath and enjoy the company.

Here is cutie pants Boo boo just before we went to dinner at a farm:

Boo-boo’s Favorite Song

Last night we were driving home at 7:30 and S was tired and hungry and ready for her bed, but I had stuck her in the car seat instead and she wasn’t happy.

She began screaming almost immediately and I was sure that the ride home was going to be a disaster. I started planning places to stop and stick my boob in her face. Then it finally occurred to me to turn on the magic. I started playing this song and not only did she stop crying, she was asleep after three minutes. I don’t understand it, but it works. Just last week it had worked instantaneously in a similar situation. It is nothing short of baby hypnotism. Her favorite song has been “Foux Du Fafa” by Flight of the Conchords for about as long as she’s had ears, but lately I’ve been noticing that there seems to be more to it. Like maybe there is something fishy about this song, as in if you play it backwards it becomes Death Metal and initiates the Apocalypse. I’ll let you decide:

I don’t know, it could be her French heritage.