When It’s Bad, It’s Very Bad

I’m fairly embarrassed that I haven’t blogged all year and the year is already into month three.  I don’t have a good excuse, but I have plenty of bad ones.  Should I start with February being short? How about January being f*&$ing ridiculous with the ice and cold and FOUR DAYS of school closures in less than a week? Maybe my children wearing me down to a nub by the end of the day so that I think I am only capable of drinking wine and surfing Facebook in those precious 90 minutes before my bedtime?

No, while all are sort of contributory, none are the real reason.  The real reason is that the only time I feel compelled to write is to moan, wail and complain about how hard everything seems to be.  When things are going well and right, I just want to sit back and bask in the glow of my perfection.  When things aren’t going so well, I want to jump on the keyboard and pound out a diatribe against whatever is lousing up my day, or month or even year (yes, you got that reference, didn’t you?).

So, I finally decided to say f*ck it and write about things that are genuinely on my mind, which truth be told, are usually the difficult parts of my life, not the easy ones.  I cannot and will not be the blogger who gives you a happy ending every time. Because, who wants to read that? I personally would much rather read about other people’s struggles and how they have managed to hack their way through it, however ugly it may be, than read a nice little present with a bow on top.

Right now, what is on my mind is that this winter is just kicking my ass, and I am not even in the snow zone.  We’ve had some pretty crappy weather (see January above) but overall, we in the south are guaranteed a faster exit from winter than pretty much anyone else. No, the ass kicking has come from Little Miss.  Poor child has been averaging at least one illness per month since October.  Kidney infection, pneumonia, random fever illness, tick bite (where I had to remove the tick – OMG).  I had really hoped that when she turned 1 in November, the bug train would slow down, but so far, she’s still attracting the germs like flies.  In January, we actually managed a 6 week period of no illness only to get BACK TO BACK hand/foot/mouth in February followed not a week later by adenovirus with inflamed tonsils and high fever.  I have had to resort to sending her pediatrician a gift card to the local movie theatre to take his family out because I have been pestering him so much.

And my poor baby girl is just miserable which makes me miserable.  It breaks my heart when she whimpers and I can’t do much to help except force her to take some ibuprofen. She doesn’t understand that it will make her feel better.  She doesn’t get why she feels like crap and her mouth is on fire.  She just cries and cries and throws little baby daggers of guilt straight at my heart.  If she could use the phone, she would have the grandparents on speed dial to tell them how much we suck as parents. I can only hope that spring will bring better weather and better health for all of us. Otherwise, I may have to start hitting my pediatrician with gift cards weekly.

The Battle on Burrito Hill

By Stefan via CC

By Stefan via CC

Late afternoons and early evenings on Sundays are fraught at best at our house.  We’ve all been together for 48 hours straight and are pretty darn tired of each other.  This Sunday was no different. Little Miss was Mega Cranky due to her failure to take a nap.  Rex was hyper from having spent a good hour and a half at our neighbor’s house playing with their different far cooler toys and three boys.  He was not pleased to be told that it was time to come home.

While I was giving Little Miss her nightcap bottle, Mr. X was finishing up dinner with Rex.  I heard the usual chatter and occasional falsetto singing that Rex swears is really him making the sound of a siren.  And then I heard the Whining Wail, unleashed by Rex in response to a fairly reasonable request that for whatever reason just rubs him the wrong way because he’s 3 1/2 and everything is drama.  I knew then that Daddy had drawn a line in the sand on the very hill that Rex had chosen to die on.  Turns out it was Burrito Hill.

I asked Little Miss what could have possibly caused the conflict. She had no opinion, she was busy sucking away on her bottle.  So, I took her with me into the kitchen and there was Rex in his booster seat, tears streaming down his adorable cheeks and Mr. X sitting across the table from him.  

Mr. X had made the very reasonable request that Rex finish his burrito before he could have his two requisite pieces of Halloween candy.  Rex, eyes solely on the prize, did not like the idea of having to eat any more of his burrito.  Given the limited logic skills of a 3 1/2 year old, he and Mr. X continued to have the same argument over and over again.

“I want my treaaaaaaaaaaaatts!” wailed Rex.

“You can have your treats after you finish your burrito. You have maybe 5 bites left.” said Mr. X.

“But, I want my treaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaats!” wailed Rex even louder.

“Like I said, you can have your treats after you finish your burrito.” said Mr. X.

And around and around the merry-go-round they went. We’ve lived with a 3 year old long enough now to know that it is completely normal for him to spend more time moaning, crying and wailing about doing something in order to get a treat instead of actually doing the thing. We also know that he is extremely stubborn and persistent in getting what he wants, despite the “obstacles” that we put up in his way.

I left them to their sparring knowing that I couldn’t help the situation and they had to work it out. Sure enough, Rex ate enough of his burrito that Mr. X gave him one piece of his candy. The Battle of Burrito Hill ended with a whimper and Snickers, not a bang.  

We Are in This Thing Together

I’ve been obsessing over ruminating on my Ex and his divorce ever since I saw him last weekend.  He was the left-ee in this situation – left with the kids by his wife.  Every time I think about it, I can’t help but imagine what it would be like if Mr. X did the same thing to me. All I can think about is that I would be without my best friend and how much that would suck.  Because, that is what Mr. X is – he is my best friend with benefits.  We are each other’s other.  Thinking about it actually makes my stomach squeeze up a little waiting for the blow.

We are in this marriage together, for better or worse, and have to weather whatever comes together.  When it comes to the kids, though, it’s been hard to put this concept into practice.  Inevitably, rather than supporting each other, we are silently blaming the other for not helping enough with the kids or the housework or giving the other enough decompression time.  It doesn’t feel like we are in the battle together but in reality are battling each other while fending off the onslaughts from the children.

I finally realized this – it takes me a while these days, what with sleep deprivation and a metric f*ck ton of shit to do every day – when I was asked what thing I would give up that is only bringing me down.  I knew pretty quickly: I wanted to stop feeling like I was responsible for Mr. X’s happiness. I was getting very stressed about how I was managing the kids so that they wouldn’t make him more stressed. I was trying to control everything that could touch his life so that it wouldn’t cause him more stress than he was under.  You know how this doesn’t work, right? I didn’t.

I told myself that I was being a good partner – I was trying to lighten his burden because he was so stressed all of the time.  Of course, what I now realize is that in assigning myself the role of being his happy maker in addition to that the kids and the cats and the office and the clients, we were no longer working together. I was working for him. And when he didn’t appreciate the effort I was putting in to make his life less stressful – because we all know how easy kids are to control! – I would get angry at him and myself for the precious amount of effort I had expended on this monumental and now mostly futile task.

The person to whom I confessed this to is very wise, and also happens to have children out of the insane toddler years. She suggested that we be each other’s resting place.  The more I thought about this, the more I understood and appreciated what this meant.  Rather than trying to control the external factors of his life to make it more easy, I could instead become the person who gives him that outlet to just be or to recharge.  This doesn’t mean I will stop doing laundry or feeding the cats, it just means that I’m not going to stress about trying to make his passage through fatherhood easier. Maybe the happiness I get back from that alone will make him happier.

* And wow, two posts in one month!

** Double wow, I also forgot that I’ve been doing this blog thing for six years – twice as long as I’ve been a mom.

A Shadow of My Former Self

I took a trip back in time on Saturday.  I left Mr. X and our napping children, stole his car and headed across the lake to meet up with two of my friends from college, both in town for our 15th reunion.  I was very excited to go.  I looked forward to the reminiscing, the visiting of old haunts and the telling of old stories.  And, frankly, I was just as excited about not having any children or husbands in tow.  I was a single gal, at least for an afternoon.

Image

Photo by zimpensifh, Creative Commons

I was also excited because one of the two friends I was meeting up with was an ex of mine.  I had a major bee in my bonnet for this boy for most of college and frankly, a few years afterwards.  Even when we were dating, though, I knew that we could not be together for any long period of time because we just brought out the worst in each other.  But, we did have a chemistry that was undeniable.  The last I had heard from him before the Facebook Era was right around the time I was getting married to Mr. X.  The Ex called to see how life was going and to report that he too had found someone and was getting hitched.  I was surprised, to be honest, since he had terrible commitment issues when I knew him and I couldn’t see him changing this so quickly. I wished him well, but was a little piqued that I still wasn’t the right lady for him.  Ten years later and he is now divorced and a single father of two.   And I am a happily married mother of two.

I would be lying if I said that I didn’t have at least a spark of attraction left for him.  But why? Because he was the one who sort of got away even though even at the time I knew he wasn’t right for me? No, I think it’s mostly because I never quite knew where I stood with him – did he like me, did he not like me? I could go through a garden full of flowers picking petals right and left and still wouldn’t have found out the answer. I wanted him to like me, I wanted to be The Girl He Wanted because he was the boy that I wanted.

When I joined Facebook in 2010, we reconnected.  We caught up and eventually came around to discuss our time together.  He apologized for leading me on, and I apologized for coming on too strong.  But, neither expression really captured what was going on. We were playing a game of push and pull with exquisitely bad timing and misreading of signals as only young adults can do so well.  At that time, I allowed myself to think about actually being with the Ex again and felt an almost immediate rush of … revulsion.  He wasn’t what I wanted.  But, I still wanted to be what he wanted. I still wanted to know, once and for all, if he really ever wanted to be with me.

So, fast forward to yesterday, sitting in the university center which was at once so familiar and also so modernized to be unrecognizable.  His mannerisms are driving me crazy again and we’re bickering, just like we always did. I said something about how I loved that my phone chirped and he said, “God, I missed you.”  “Missed who?”, I said. My phone? “No,” he said. “You.”

Later, after dinner hearing the really terrible tale of his divorce, I hugged him and kissed him on the cheek before leaving.  I realized in that moment that I still care about him, but now, it’s the same care I would feel for a brother (if I had one).  I wanted to mother him, make sure he was doing ok and find him a nice girl. I wanted to give him words of encouragement for getting through the tough years of being a single parent and getting his business off the ground.  Most of all, I wanted to tell him it was ok, I know that he did want me, just the way that he should.

Taking Care of No. 1

Hello, there, Internets. It’s been a while.  Nothing crazy going on, no hecticness about the weeks these days, just lots of things that need doing – like putting the kiddos’ laundry in the dryer before I retire for the evening lest Rex have no shorts to go to school tomorrow. While I’m sure he would love to show everyone his Cars underwear with Mater on his booty, I’m guessing it would be pretty distracting.  Before I did that, however, I wanted to stop in and say hello and let you know that I’m actually doing pretty ok, considering.

We’ve been in Louisiana now almost a full year and the ache of missing our friends and life in Texas has begun to fade.  Moving to our current house and neighborhood really helped with this because it is alot like our old neighborhood in Texas. Plenty of large, mature trees, a great neighborhood, and a house that we feel we can make our own.  The first neighborhood we moved into looked like post-apocalyptic Louisiana with scrubby palm trees and spindly pine trees.  Our current neighborhood is the Amazon forest in comparison.  We have a babysitter next door, a kid to mow our lawn lives down the street and Rex has two new little friends across the way. All I need is a Mah Jongg group, and I’ll be set! Speaking of sets, I also just bought a vintage 1940s Mah Jongg set with bakelite tiles and racks that I can’t wait to get my hands on to play with.

I still miss our Golden boy, but I’m knowing more and more that we did the right thing at the right time.  Still, I miss him something awful.

I’ve started in therapy again, after my last go round to address some basic non-infertility issues was rudely interrupted with my pregnancy with Little Miss and our move. My new person is also a mom. In my days of infertility therapy, I would have only accepted a therapist who was a mom if she had been through infertility. I wanted the tiger with the stripes. Now, I just want someone who has been close enough to the toddler and newborn years to remember them and offer constructive coping mechanisms for when Rex asks me to repeat something for the third time in 5 minutes.

She’s also helping me to be much more focused on marveling at Rex rather than losing my patience with him.  I’m still relatively new to the concept of coping with something by looking at it differently – rather than trying to change it.  It certainly makes accepting things as they are a lot easier. It also helps me appreciate what a wonderful little boy Rex is – even when he is driving me batshit insane.  Funny, his whining has seemed to decrease exponetially as well.

Finally, I’m listening to what my mind and body have been trying to tell me for a while: if I don’t have time to myself EACH AND EVERYDAY I will be a blubbering, patience-losing, physically and mentally drained person. Me time is not a luxury, it’s a necessity.  I don’t necessarily need to take more of it per day, I am focusing on really enjoying the amount that I have.  That means not using it to fold laundry, empty the dishwasher or tidy up.  It does mean sitting on the porch swing, reading a book or just listening to good music.

There you have it. I promise not to take two months before posting again.

The View Through The Soda Straw

Myopia is a neat word, but a terrible condition. I know because I had it for many years, starting in elementary school. I could only see objects very close in front of me and everything else was just a colorful blur.  Glasses helped, but the blur bled through on the sides where there was no glass resulting in myopically good vision only in front of me. Contacts were better but sticking stuff in my eyes daily – or worse, sleeping in the contacts – was not particularly fun.  Then, in 2004, I had Lasik.  Angels sang, the heavens parted, and I could see the trees and the forest and the individual leaves.

Via Creative Commons

Via Creative Commons

While I can see everything clearly now, myopia is still ruling my life, only this time its of the metaphorical variety.  I realized recently that for some time now, I have not been able to see my forest for the trees of Little Miss, Rex, Mr. X, work, and household management.  I feel like I’ve been on a Sisyphean treadmill of laundry, dishes and poop control (dog, baby, pre-schooler or cat) and It. Will. Never. End.  Rex will never be potty trained.  Little Miss will never sleep through the night.  I will always be telling Mr. X to continue to look in the fridge for the cheese because yes! it is there! I will never be able to relax when I get home from work and enjoy 5 minutes of peace.  I will always be catering to someone else’s needs.

Intellectually, I know that this is not the case. Time will march on, hopefully magically depositing Rex’s poop in the toilet with it and encouraging Little Miss to snooze for at least 6-7 hours straight.  But, I can’t see into the future. I can’t see the light at the end of these tunnels. I cannot predict when these magical events will take place.  On the other hand, I can predict the next time I will have to empty the dishwasher (tomorrow morning), change a diaper (later tonight), or fold laundry (again, probably tomorrow morning).  I can see the very myopic view of the future and it looks a lot like the past days.

I want to see the bigger picture, though, because it helps me to appreciate the tedium of today.  I worked really, really hard to get this family and I want to enjoy these days that will never be here again.  I’m trying very hard to get the long view, to love every minute of this time because it will disappear.  Except that there is not an insignificant part of me that asks, “Do you promise?”

At any given time of the day when I reflect on these challenges, motivational slogans run through my head: “It’s a marathon, not a sprint!”, “The days are long, but the years are short!”, “It won’t always be this way!”  Frankly, they just make it worse.  I want someone to say something more like, “Hard things are hard.”  Four words that recognize that sometimes life sucks the very marrow out of you and it’s ok to be tired, to maybe whine a smidge about the hardness of it all. Sure, many people have it a helluva lot worse than I do, but these are my challenges. They belong to me and I’m the one who has to live with them.

Maybe recognizing that I have been missing the bigger picture is step enough for now.  Frankly, between all of the potty training histrionics, sleep training failures and daily living, I’d just as soon focus on a big glass of wine at the end of the day.

 

The Madness of March

I honestly don’t know or remember how I made it through the month of March.  These past few years, March has been either very good or very bad for us.  This year, March was just BATSHIT INSANE.  I can’t think of a more polite or accurate way of putting it.  It was a perfect confluence of events and (literal) shitstorms that made the 744 hours that called March home nothing short of tornadic.

It started with the business trip during which you would think I would have been able to get five nights of blissful restorative sleep except that the bed was about as comfortable as marble. It ended with the final cleaning out of our old house in which our prolific hanger collection clung for dear life to the goddamn wire shelves in our master closet almost sending me into Faye Dunaway-esque fits of wire rage.

In between,  there was every kind of drama, large and small imaginable. Some highlights:

Little Miss had her first illness, a lovely combination of sinus infection and bronchiolitis with possible pneumonia, culminating into a three hour epic doctor’s appointment complete with a chest x-ray, breathing treatments and antibiotic shot to the thigh.  My usually sweet smiley girl was a hot, feverish and snotty mess who made a full recovery within 24 hours, as little ones are so easily able to do.

We got into heated negotiations with the seller of our new house over some furniture he had that we were willing to take off of his hands. It came down to a difference of $140 at which point, he offered to include with the furniture things like … old bricks to the house, floor mats in the garage and the manuals for the appliances.  Really.  We ended up taking his offer only because it also included the original blueprints to the house which we knew would come in handy when we went to renovate the architectural travesty that is the front of the house that he designed. We think the look on his face when he sees the changes will be well worth the $140.

We celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary with a beautiful dinner party for 20 of our closest friends at a gorgeous old restaurant in the French Quarter on a picturesquely beautiful New Orleans spring night. Except, Mr. X wasn’t there because he had come down with a terrible stomach bug the day before which he proceeded to give to me and his parents who were staying with us. May I never have to hear of my in-laws digestive troubles in such detail again.

The next – yes, the next – day, we celebrated Rex’s 3rd birthday with a windy race-car party of running 3 year olds and alcohol-wanting adults.  That night, I began to feel stomachly challenged and had to miss work the next day to lay on the couch while my in-laws begged for death in the guest bedroom and bathroom.  Oh, and the appraiser from the bank came around to do an appraisal on the house for the new buyer.

We packed, closed on the new house, moved, unpacked, cleaned the old house and closed on it in a space of 9 days.  NINE DAYS.

There were also the usual shenanigans of work, laundry, baby care, toddler wrangling, husband soothing, and kitty snorgling.  In other words, I never want to do this again.

Don’t Speak

I have one business trip that I take each year. BossMan and I go to a convention where a lot of our clients also go so that we can feed them and get more work.  I’ve gone for at least five years.  For the past three years, the final night of the trip has been reserved for BossMan and I to have drinks and fancy cheese to cap off the whirlwind of meetings and greetings.  It’s meant to be a wind down from the crazy schedule but each year, it turns into a pit of oversharing.

Every year, I feel like I drink too much (free, stress-relieving booze materializing at my fingertips without further effort on my part!), eat too much and say too much.  It only occurs to me after the second drink or so that I’m deeply uncomfortable discussing my daddy issues/post-partum depression/personal worries with my boss.  But I just keep talking.

The problem is that even when I am sober around him – which I am 99% of the time – I still feel this need to overshare with him.  He has that quality about him that triggers in me the intense need for approval (hello, daddy issue no. 1!) coupled with a very good ability to listen and offer sage wisdom which equals my need to tell him just about anything that comes out of my mouth or show him whatever shiny new toy I have.  I am like my 3 year old showing random old ladies in the grocery store his new shoes that light up when he walks.  No boundaries whatsoever.

Except that I am not 3 years old (nor do my shoes light up – I’m not a stripper). I am a 37 year old adult and he is my boss, not my dad or my psychiatrist.  Our relationship, while laced with friendship, is one of employer and subordinate.  We are not equals, either in age, experience or views.  This is probably why I feel rather skeevy talking with him in depth about sensitive issues.  I know he wouldn’t use the information against me, but it makes me feel vulnerable nonetheless.  Next year, I’ll remind myself of this before I order the second glass of wine.