#MicroblogMondays: Wiped

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I think this picture sums up our feelings about the weekend. Daniel was soooo full of energy & we were not. It would be nice if it didn’t rain for a while too :-)

In other news, we are ordering new couches & a mattress! You know you’re adults when purchases like that make you happy :-)

Wrestling with Control

Two very different pieces about having children made me catch my breath this week.

Mandy, my friend and 2014 Listen to Your Mother: Raleigh-Durham cast member, had her first piece published in Mamalode this week and in it she muses movingly on the pros and cons of having a fourth child:

I want my two living children to have another sibling.

I want them to have the playmates I never had growing up. (I am one of four, but my siblings are from my mother’s first marriage and are much older than I.)

I want them to have a larger support system when they get older and have to deal with their aging parents.

And, more than anything, if through some terrible and cruel fate, we lose one of them, I don’t want the other to be left alone. Our daughter was only 17-months-old when she died—we have decades left during which something could happen to one of our two living children.

I want my two living children to have another sibling.

And concludes:

What I understand now is that I am not in control of very much at all that happens to my children, and in order to manage my fear, I must accept how little control I have.

And then there was this article making the case for having an only child by Wendy Thomas Russell.  One-and-done by choice, Thomas Russell aims for a bit of levity with a not-so-funny Top 10 list about why having one child is great, but she makes a similar point as Mandy did:

Listen, I’m not saying the only-child scenario is a perfect one. I’m the first to acknowledge that there are some disadvantages to capping our family tree so soon.

Once, at a hotel in San Diego, Maxine, then four, found a friend and began skipping along the concrete rim of a courtyard fountain. The rim was plenty wide and not much more than two feet off the ground, but my husband was hovering. Every 30 seconds or so, he reminded Maxine to “slow down” or “be careful.”

At one point, he turned to me. “I know I’m over-protective,” he said, “but I can’t help it. She’s our only one. We don’t have a backup.”

And it’s true: If we lose our daughter, we lose everything. It’s like we’ve put all our money into one stock without knowing whether it’s a high- or low-risk investment. Parents who have two or more children are diversified; the experts would surely agree that’s a smart way to live, right?

Smart, maybe. But it’s not foolproof.

There isn’t, and would never have been, a replacement for my Maxine. A second child could not lessen the grief of losing her. Perhaps the distraction of a second child would help me get up in the morning during those early months — but I don’t believe in bringing children into the world to act as a distraction in the case of some theoretical tragedy.

Having a child is a risk of the heart. Every day we parents get to experience the unrelenting joy of watching our children drink from the fountain of life while crossing our fingers that they don’t fall off the edge. We all do. Whether we have one child or five.

Both pieces were kicks in the gut. I’m thrilled and happy for Mandy but envious as hell. And it isn’t only she I envy; there have been many pregnancy announcements in the last year that have roused my green-eyed monster. Let me be clear: I can be envious AND happy for them at the same time. But I still feel the hot wash of shame in admitting I am envious. There seems no room for that emotion in polite society. And while it is inappropriate and inaccurate to say someone “deserves” good fortune (what is the criteria for that??), my shame at my envy is more acute with Mandy since she has had some truly horrific experiences. It feels churlish to feel envy even though my envy is more about me than it is about her.

Like the author of the second piece, I suppose we are technically “one-and-done” by choice as well. It doesn’t really feel like a choice though. Not when we consider our ages, our jobs, the huge cost just to try, and the fact we have a young child to whom we want to give a good life. And he will be 6 soon. At what point is there a diminishing return at having a sibling? Which leaves the other option as doing nothing, which is painful since we have 5 frozen embryos. Six-year-old frozen embryos.

I researched definitions of choice today because again, it doesn’t really feel like a choice. I discovered there is something called Hobson’s Choice, meaning that you really have only one option: accept it or don’t. That seems to be accurate – either we try for a sibling or don’t – but it doesn’t convey the weight and variables involved. Then I researched dilemma. Dilemma means two possibilities, neither of which is acceptable. That definition gets me closer to how I feel. It acknowledges the major hurdles we have to try for a second child as well as the cavernous hole I feel about not having a second.

Of course, this is an academic exercise. We try so hard to define different types of choices in order to make sense of our world, to reassure ourselves we have an iota of control. In fact, control is an illusion. We like to think we have broken the world to our will like a stubborn horse, but the joke is on us.

Both of the pieces I linked to are ultimately about control and our lack of it. What I am angry about is our inability to control our family building and what our family looks like. The fact that we had so little choice in how things turned out, so few options.

But that’s me. Us. Others may feel and find that lack of control and the illusion of choice in other areas, other pain points.

I cannot control much, but I can try to start making peace with that realization. Focusing on what we do have instead of what never will be.

That’s a choice within my power. In truth, it is freeing to know so much is beyond our control. That frees us from blame and fault. And guilt, that ever-present foe.

I don’t know about you, but I could use a life with a lot less self-blame and guilt.

#MicroblogMondays: Snaggletooth

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We had been on loose tooth watch all weekend.  One of Daniel’s lower front teeth was so loose that he could bend it all the way forward (fun fact: loose teeth are disconcerting). We had the tooth pillow. We had been talking to him about losing teeth and the Tooth Fairy’s job.  We were ready.

Sunday morning Daniel bounds into the bedroom around 7:30 AM. “Mommy, my tooth fell out,” he announces calmly.  I squint and ask him if he has the tooth.  I feel something drop onto my palm.  A tiny, perfect tooth. High fives and hugs are exchanged.

At bedtime, we put the tooth pillow on the door knob outside his door.  He is so excited.  Jimmy and I change our mind about 14 times on what we want the Tooth Fairy to give him for his tooth.

Daniel’s tiny tooth is tucked in our safe, and we wonder how long it will take for his adult tooth, already emergent, to make its way forward.

There’s something special about that first lost tooth.

 

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Tooth Fairy pillow

 

Tooth and Loot

Tooth and Loot

Submissions Open for 2015 Listen to Your Mother: Raleigh-Durham

It begins!

I am pleased to announce that Marty and I are now accepting submissions for the 2015 Listen to Your Mother: Raleigh-Durham show! I know you have stories to share, and I’d love to hear them all. Please consider submitting or passing along the information to your book clubs, neighborhood groups, church groups and school pages or lists.  We are looking for diverse voices to share their stories, and remember you do not need to be a mother or a woman to submit.  The submission deadline is January 31, 2015. You can find more information here, and if you’re curious about what the show is about, check out the videos from the 2014 show.

If you are outside of NC, I encourage you to find a city close to you and submit.  There are shows in 39 cities this year.  I was delighted that Arch Mama was in the St. Louis show last year, and I’d love for you to participate!

The Oven Lives!!

I wrote of our oven woes earlier in the week.  By Tuesday, Jimmy thought he had identified the problem but couldn’t find any place to obtain the part.  He called a few repairmen but none of them returned his call.  Wednesday he located a Whirlpool parts store in the area, picked up the part and replaced it.  We weren’t sure if it would solve the problem, but we hoped.  That night, we preheated the oven for bread. So far, so good.  We baked the bread according to the instructions, and the oven neither exploded nor beeped incessant error codes. We used the oven again the next day without incident and ran diagnostics, confirming the problem solved and for under $100.  Yay, Jimmy!

And, as a bonus, we got to clean the (filthy) sides of the oven and the space behind it.  Yippee.

jimmy fixing the oven

#MicroblogMondays: The Oven

Sunday night, we were doing a million things since Monday marked our household’s return to work and school. We were prepping ingredients for beef stew, a hearty multi-day meal that would relieve us from cooking and be perfect for the polar vortex due later this week.

I slipped the beef into the oven and was surprised and aghast to smell something charred and smoky coming from the oven an hour into the stew’s first cook. All the liquid had evaporated and was charring on the bottom of the pan. Baffled, I separated the meat, scrubbed the pan and added triple the liquid I normally did. The beef and its veggies seemed to perform as expected the next hour.

An hour later, I put a pan of 4 burritos into the oven for 20 minutes at 350. Twenty minutes later I start to smell the charred, smoky smell again. When I took out the burritos, I saw some of the cheese had blackened. Technically the dish still had another 10 minutes, but there was no way I was risking that.

I was confused. Neither recipe was a new recipe. I make beef stew every few months and hadn’t deviated. Same thing for the burritos. Plus, I’m a good cook. I’m no Food Network Star, but I can follow & tweak a recipe into something pretty good. I take pride in my cooking, so the oven trouble inexperienced was disconcerting. I chalked it up to chance and the weather. It had been an odd winter day with temperatures in the 70s and rain & severe storms. Maybe cooking on this day was like making fudge, in which the temperature and humidity mattered?

Tonight I turned on the oven to bake mini pizzas for Daniel’s lunch and the oven flashed “Failure!” That was odd. Jimmy reset it and we were able to finish the pizzas. A pan of rolls did not fare as well and soon, the oven had that familiar charred, smoky smell. And it was beeping “failure” messages again. Clearly, something was wrong with the oven. I felt vindicated because I now knew that it wasn’t my fault we had the cooking issues the night before. The bad news was that our oven was obviously on the fritz.

We bought that oven over Thanksgiving weekend in 2008. I remember it because we were just out of the first trimester with Daniel and had blood drawn a few days earlier for the quad screen. I was a panicky mess. Our microwave had broken that week, so we needed to get a new one. Thanks to Thanksgiving sales, Jimmy wanted to get a new, matching stove too. I vividly remember sitting in the rocking chairs outside of Lowes as we debated the pros and cons. I was at the point of our pregnancy in which I wanted to bury my head in the sand until someone told me everything would be OK. Maybe I thought I would hate the stove if bad things came to pass; it would be the Stove of Doom (I wasn’t very rational at that time). I agreed to buy the microwave and stove. I also decided to resume my anti-anxiety medication.

There isn’t any real point to that story except I have vivid memories of buying it thanks to the time in our life it was. But I need a stove/oven that works. And I’m glad my cooking doesn’t suck suddenly. Damn it.

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2014: Kilroy Was Here

In prior years, I felt very sentimental on New Year’s Eve and spent time plumbing the depths of the year to acknowledge the good and bad, come to terms with my feelings and (often tearily) say, “godspeed” to the year, recognizing this year would never occur again.  More recently, I can barely be bothered to shrug and raise a glass. Heaven knows I don’t see midnight very often any longer.  The shrug isn’t meant to denote antipathy; it is more of a “holy shit. The year is ending already?  How is that possible? It feels like it just started!” Life has become a blur, and I’m not sure I could sift through it comprehensively if I wanted to.

But our year deserves something on its way out, doesn’t it? A virtual “Kilroy was Here.”

I don’t think I’d describe 2014 as a great year, but it wasn’t bad.  It was stressful and full of worry and anxiety, especially about Daniel’s school situation.  Full of change. I went through another re-org at work, got yet another new boss (who is amazing by the way) and moved offices twice but packed three times. When I return to work on January 5, I will be in a(nother) new space in a new building.  We’re up-ending systems and technology, and there are so many new faces at work that I have trouble keeping them straight. Jimmy went through a lot of the same although he is now able to work from home, which brings its own highs and lows.

2014 brought lots of snow; snow is different as an adult with school-age children, especially living in an area which still shuts down at the threat of snow.  We had two months of sickness, and I wore glasses for 6 weeks thanks to episcleritis.  No, I don’t think I would classify the first half, definitely the first third, of the year as good.

Our second year of Listen to Your Mother was a success with two nearly sold-out shows, and I can add another dozen wonderful women to those I met in 2013 during our first production year.

Daniel is thriving at his school, and his kindergarten year is going well. He is reading and doing simple math. He is sassy, funny, bossy and sweet.

It sounds so positive, yet why do I feel so down? Part of it may be my own over-sentimentality when it comes to change and endings. Part of it may be due to the holidays.  They were stressful, as they tend to be when you the adult in charge of making magic.  It didn’t help that it rained on Christmas Eve, as well as several days before and several days after.  The back yard is soggy, and little boys need to expend energy they haven’t been able to.  I think we all have a touch of cabin fever, and I feel precious vacation time seeping away faster and faster, making me fret: “have we made memories? Have we done good stuff this year? Can we point to any accomplishments or successes? Are we happy???”

Two beach trips.  Lego Fest. A house over-run with Legos built by a little boy who has become an amazingly proficient Lego builder. Snow. Maybe too much snow. Good food. Lots of books. Lots of good shows watched on TV.  A $250,000 grant awarded at work. Rewatching The Office. Making friends. Defending loved ones and standing up to people when they need it. Laughter. Love.

Not too shabby.

I have stopped making resolutions, and I’ve realized that years are seldom good or bad but usually a mix, especially as we age. So I’ll say this:  goodbye, 2014.  Welcome, 2015. It’s a blank slate, and may it be kind to us all.