What Super Bowl?

The Super Bowl has started, but we aren’t watching. We do actually know the teams in the game and while we aren’t huge football fans, we usually watch the game. You know… For the commercials! This year, though, we’re just “meh” on it. It’s not a big deal to us.

I wouldn’t think anything of our not watching the Super Bowl if it weren’t for the fact that a similar pattern of ennui has infected our other TV watching. Downton Abbey is on. Season 4 of Downton-freaking-Abbey! The post-Matthew season! And we haven’t watched more than an hour of the new season. I don’t think we’re bored with it, but I wonder why a show that made me jump with anticipation the last two seasons garners no more than a “whatever…I’ll catch up on Amazon” reaction.

I think we are hibernating a bit. We spent January catching up on the last few seasons of The Office and the time spent in Scranton was just what we needed. We finished up the last episode last night & deemed it one of the best series finales ever. I remember when I refused to watch The Office because it was too real. Then, a few years ago, we binge watched the first 6 seasons and loved it.

So now we need to decide what we’ll watch next. Downton? House of Cards 2? Game of Thrones 3? We’ll see. I think we want an escape from reality: work is crazy for both of us & will continue to be for a while. I’m also stunned at how quickly time is flying. January, usually my least favorite month, passed quickly. Maybe this speed is our new reality.

So tonight we continue to bury our head in the sand. With the snow last week, it was a weird weekend. Today we made crepes for Candlemas Day and I was thrilled that though Daniel rejected the marmalade filling in his first one (at his request I might add), he loved the nutella filling(!!!!) in his second. We used a family recipe, and it was a sweet moment.

May your team win or whatever is your marker for the night. Maybe we’ll feel more in tune with the world soon.


The Anti-Sunshine Award

My friend Furrowed Fox is letting her sick time go to her head and is nominating several of us to reveal deep, dark secrets. Sounds fun, right?!?!

This is my attempt to be normal and answer the questions I was assigned by Furrowed Fox.

  1. Who/What’s your go to music/song/artist when you’re feeling down and need a pick-me-up?I’m weird and like my weird songs. I prefer my NIN, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Lit, etc. Nothing makes me feel better than “November Rain” on the radio. But I also like hip hop: DMX, Eminem, Mary J Blige, Dr Dre etc. All make me feel more chipper.
  2. What accomplishment are you most proud of? Grad school. I had always wanted an advanced degree. Bachelors degrees weren’t that unfamiliar but graduate were new to my family. Grad school wasn’t difficult, but it took a while.
  3. What is your go to comfort food? Oh wow. So many. Mac & cheese most likely. I’m a sucker for mac & cheese.
  4. What advice would you give your 20 year old self if you could?  If you don’t want to teach school, it is not the end of the world and there is a LOT you can do and the salary is good.
  5. To date, what was your happiest moment in life? Holding my newborn son in my arms after our amazing gestational surrogate had given birth.
  6. And what was your saddest? Saying goodbye to my father. I wasn’t ready. Who is? But he was gone. I wish so much I had been able to have a thorough, lucid conversation with him for closure.
  7. If you were a Muppet which one would you be and why? Honestly, I’m not sure if I know enough about the muppets to answer this question. Maybe Gonzo? Ack!
  8. Dark chocolate or milk chocolate? Neither. I don’t eat chocolate ever.
  9. Who – person, character, alive, dead, fictional, cartoon – would you most like to have a conversation with? Queen Elizabeth I. I love her approach to politics, and I don’t judge her for not being perfect when it comes to race relations and tolerance. It was the 16th century!!! But I admire how hard she tried to keep everything together and to make sure she was aware of the latest opinions when it comes to, well, everything.
  10. Cake or pie? Cake. A nice pound cake w/ awesome caramel icing.;

That was fun! But I’m going to break the rules and not nominate 10 other bloggers and think of more questions. See… The anti-sunshine 😉


Trying to Find the Magic

When we left work on Friday, it was our last day of work for 2012, meaning that today Jimmy and I are on vacation.  Daniel is at daycare and will be going all week.  I feel a teensy bit guilty about him being at daycare and us being home, but the reality is that we have almost no preparations made for Christmas and need this week to finish buying gifts, figure out menus, order and mail cards, wrap, etc.  Oh and try to relax.  I almost forgot about that part.  We decided that today will be our officially designated “day of relaxation” in which we do absolutely nothing.  As a matter of fact, I should be back in bed trying to sleep, but the huge mug of peppermint coffee next to me likely won’t help that endeavor.

It seems a little silly that we must designate a day to relax, but it won’t happen otherwise.  Does that make us Type A planners and schedulers? And this is it.  This week is our only chance to get things done and rest because Christmas for us officially begins on Saturday with a trip to visit my mother and stepfather and won’t end until December 27.

I haven’t been sleeping well either thanks to the cold virus from hell.  My right ear is still stopped up, my voice is not as terrifying as it had been, and I now have a hacking, phlegmy cough (you’re welcome), but I’m finally starting to feel somewhat human again.  The holidays wait for no one, so preparations must continue whether I feel up for them or not!

The problem is the magic.  I don’t yet feel the magic of the holiday.  Christmas has crept up on us and slapped us in the face, and it feels like everything is conspiring to keep us from enjoying it.  Everything feels like a massive to-do list, and that’s not how I want it to be.

I’m not a religious person, so I celebrate Christmas as a holiday about love and family, which, if you don’t want to get technical about it, is the symbolism behind the season.  I love Christmas, and we love making it special for Daniel.   We are firmly on Team Santa Claus in this house.  There is a spirit to the season, and I want to help Daniel know about it and experience it.

The Newtown tragedy makes it difficult to find the magic also.  How can we think about mundane things like Christmas presents and reindeer food when there is such horror and suffering in the world?  It seems …unseemly…to be thinking about wrapping paper and what to serve for Christmas meals when there are those suffering so horrifically.

Life goes on, however.  We may feel embarrassed by it, but it’s true.  That sentiment is both reassuring and cruel.  Reassuring because it gives structure to our days; cruel because no one person can stop the wheel.  Jen wrote a great post that gives us permission to live our lives when tragedy happens around us.  And she’s right.   Feeling guilty and sad about our own celebrations won’t change what happened to those children.  We should spend that impulse fighting to change or enact laws to prevent such tragedy from ever happening again. That is a better way to honor their sacrifice.

Fake it until you make it.  Isn’t that what they say?  Today is only the first day of vacation.  Maybe I’ll feel better after more sleep, more medicine, more hugs and cuddles.  We don’t have to be superhuman parents.  Just a few small activities will help create the magic for our 3.5 year old.  Holiday stress is yet another topic left out of the non-existent parenting manual. Maybe I should give myself permission to relax and focus on only a few important things, memories I want Daniel to have.

How do you find holiday magic when life is overwhelming?

Vomit: the Little-Known Cure for Melancholia

I’d like to thank the Founding Fathers for reminding me that when powerful, smart people get together to work on stuff, it is possible for them to accomplish awesome things like forming a new nation and inspiring the world (Yeah, I’m looking at you, Congress).

Our 4th was very low-key and felt underwhelming since it was on a Wednesday.  I tried to think of it as having two Thursdays and Fridays with a short weekend in between, but it ended up feeling more like Monday and less like Thursday.   We had made tiny plans to make the day special: steak on the grill and legal (boring according to Jimmy, the pyromaniac) fireworks at twilight; setting up the sprinkler in the back yard and running through it to beat the heat.

Nothing quite went the way we thought it would. The sprinkler idea didn’t work so well, so we power washed the back porch and gave a few spiders a really bad day before setting up the water table for Daniel to play with (which he loved).  No nap for Daniel (boo) but a nap for me (awesome!) meant that we were running behind with our evening routine.  Instead of steaks on the grill, we had steaks cooked in olive oil and butter in my trusty cast iron pan (I feel very French when I use it for steaks.  I’m back in a quaint bistro in Paris, eating steak and pomme frites). I had briefly considered making a festive dessert – maybe a pie or custard of some sort – but Daniel was happy to eat chocolate ice cream.  The sun hadn’t set yet when we shot off fireworks, but it didn’t matter to Daniel.  After he was tucked in and it was dark, Jimmy and I walked down our driveway to watch the good (illegal) fireworks our neighbors were shooting off.

Daniel and the water table

It was a perfectly nice day, but I felt unsettled and a touch melancholy all day because I couldn’t get in the groove of celebrating when we would return to the real world the next day (holidays should never be in the middle of the week).  I kept promising Jimmy that next year, we’ll have the big fireworks again and will have a larger celebration.  The 4th of July is his favorite holiday like Halloween is mine.  I realized that too often this year when faced with a special occasion or holiday, we haven’t had the energy to approach it like we normally would and “next year” has become our official refrain.

The truth is that I’m tired.  We’re tired.  It’s an all-encompassing exhaustion and ennui rolled up into a tidy little package.  I used to love to cook and entertain, but after 2 years of family illness, death, work and family stress, school and those damned carpet beetles, I simply don’t have the energy.   It feels like our lives have been living us instead of us living them.

I was looking forward to the end of June because it would signal the end of an insanely busy six months.  Jimmy and I have had many chats about all the work we want to do around the house and the plans we have, and it’s a lot, but it will feel great to feel like we are doing something productive and making our house look like a home again.

But once the end of June came, I felt blah and overwhelmed by all that we want to do and whether we would accomplish it.  It also felt a little like a few days after Christmas when you realize all the fun has ended and now you are left with mundane daily life and resuming everything you had put off for the fun stuff. As a result, all last week I felt melancholy.

Cue Saturday.

Saturday I heard Daniel cough, gag and start to cry over the monitor.  I grabbed my glasses and went to see what was going on.  I opened the door and said, “Oh my God.” My poor, pitiful boy was sitting on the edge of his bed while vomit was everywhere.  And in case you are wondering, vomited raspberries make a room look like a crime scene.  His stuffed animals looked like they had been massacred.  His green blanket had spots of fuchsia on it.  I gingerly took his hand, closed his door to let Jimmy deal with it and cleaned up Daniel.

That vomiting session was followed by several more.  Looks like we had been given the weekend gift of a stomach virus!  The washing machine hummed all day.  Jimmy walked around with a stressed look on his face, trying to stay ahead of the next vomiting session while I kept Daniel entertained and cuddled in between folding laundry and putting it away.  By the end of the day, Daniel’s bedroom, the living room and the kitchen had been scrubbed out of necessity.

Poor, sick little boy rests on the couch.

I may never want to smell applesauce or yogurt ever again. Or hot dogs or chicken noodle soup.

The virus continued its Sherman’s March through my household, inflicting me late Sunday and Jimmy today.  The house is messy again but oddly, the melancholia is gone. Maybe it’s because we had to accept that while a vomit-filled weekend was not at all what we had in mind, we dealt with it and cleaned furiously.  We moved with a purpose we hadn’t had or been able to have in a long time, and it felt good to fold clothes and scrub floors.  Maybe we will be able to find the energy to do everything we’ve planned. Maybe I’ll open up the 2012 Southern Living Christmas book collecting dust on a shelf and plan a dinner party with simple food like coffee-infused beef wellington and souflees.

It might be a little too early to tell, but I certainly didn’t expect to feel this content after a weekend spent scrubbing vomit. Who knew?

Working Mom’s Lament

My eyes fly open, and I sit up. I look at the clock and curse. 2 AM. I’ve been asleep only for 4 hours. The only sound in the room comes from the monitor from which I can hear Daniel’s wheezing and coughing, sounds so weird that it seems he is almost speaking in tongues.

I listen to his labored breathing and hope he’s better by 7AM because I need to go to work for a two-day workshop after two sick days at home. Unable to go back to sleep, I surf on my iPhone, visiting blogs and trashy celebrity gossip sites.

My alarm goes off, and I stumble to the shower to start getting ready. Daniel wakes up, and I get him from his room. His forehead is hot, and his face is flushed and puffy. He’s whiny and crying, “Momma, hold me” while I kiss and hug him and turn on Super Why so I can finish getting ready. He begins to cry, and my heart breaks. He should stay home today. I should stay home today with him. Finally ready to go, I put on his jacket over his cozy footie pajamas and feel grateful that he is going to his grandmother’s house where I know my sick boy will receive lots of cuddles and hugs.

At work I make his doctor’s appointment, booking the only available time, a time that of course is the most inconvenient one. I exhale, pull myself together and go to my workshop, prepared to razzle and dazzle despite sounding like I swallowed a frog and having a scratchy throat and throbbing head. Calm and focused on the outside, twitchy on the inside as I await the verdict from the doctor’s office: an ear infection. I immediately replay the last 4 days in my head, searching for any clue that would have told me Daniel had an ear infection instead of letting him suffer longer than necessary.

Class over, I head to the required evening dinner and working session, checking in with Jimmy. Daniel is miserable: no nap, feverish, needy and clingy. He won’t eat or drink anything. Guilt, today’s constant companion, waves hello. I should go home. A good mother would go home. Previous generations of women fought hard so I could sit at that table and think about being at home. Should, should should. Always should.

The moment I swallow the last bite of braised lamb shank (while Jimmy is eating leftovers if he has even eaten at all), I make my excuses and fly. I race home, but I’m too late: Daniel is already in bed. Jimmy and I chat about the evening and how pitiful Daniel was. No longer racing anywhere, I slump, my body reminding me I’ve been awake since 2AM.

I get ready for bed and wonder why I do this routine each and every day. Why I go to work. I have good days during which I accomplish a lot and make a difference:  I’m queen of the world.  I have bad days during which I feel tied in knots and tripped up by processes and people, making no progress and feeling like it is impossible to make even the smallest impact.  On those days I resemble that poor guy in Munch’s The Scream painting.  He looks like he might understand the special hell that is working with bureaucracy.

Birth and death and sickness and health and change and carpet beetles cycle around and around. Lately I feel like I’m constantly moving and running and getting nowhere, especially during times like this. Exhausted, I wonder why I bother. I gave up ambitions of setting the world on fire years ago; I’m just a rat in a cage.

I go to bed, thankful that the breathing coming from the monitor is smoother and less labored than the night before.

Four hours later, my eyes pop open. It’s 2AM. Time to do it all over again.