Blogging Daily

Today’s prompt for NaBloPoMo is the following:

Tell us what you’ve learned so far about daily blogging

What I’ve learned is that it is not easy.  What I’ve learned is that just because you have completed the NaBloPoMo challenge successfully two other years, it is no guarantee that you will complete the third one or find it easier to blog.

I always enjoy participating in NaBloPoMo. I participate because I enjoy the challenge of blogging daily for 30 days, and I enjoy finding it easier and easier to blog as the month goes on.  I seldom rely on the supplied prompts, reveling in finding words spewing from my fingers and blog posts practically composing themselves as the days pass by.  Or something like that…perhaps not quite so gushing.

I’ve felt constrained all year when it came to blogging for a variety of reasons, some mundane and some less so.  There were too many times I sat down in front of my laptop and tried to write but felt nothing flow. It felt like I had a clogged drain in my brain (ha! It rhymes!).  I looked forward to participating in my 3rd NaBloPoMo because this year I really needed the exercise, the challenge.

Unfortunately, I still feel blocked. I have a thousand drafts in my folder, posts I’ve started furiously and with a great deal of purpose and passion.  And 3/4 of the way through, the enthusiasm wanes, and I look at what I’ve written and I cringe.  The thoughts don’t meld. The words don’t flow. And worst of all, I’ve lost my enthusiasm for the topic, wondering what in the world I could possibly have to contribute to it.  Each year I usually have a few of those posts, but this year, 2013, it has been really bad. The ennui has been very bad.

My brain works and churns and composes, but my body sighs and gives up, the mood past, the muse long departed.  How do you entice the muse back once she has departed? What is her currency? Food? Wine? Glory? I wish I knew.

Maybe part of my problem is that I never had a chance to get into a groove because I had to go out of town a few days after NaBloPoMo started. Maybe a better blogger would power through. Maybe a better writer would know how to unclog the drain between my brain and my fingers.

I’m all ears or eyes. Share your tricks with me.

Oh, Christmas Tree

I used to be one of those people who felt it was blasphemy to start decorating for the holidays before Christmas.  You know, when I used to have all the time in the world.  Maybe it was my time in grad school (gee, it sounds like prison, doesn’t it?) and the fact that I was super busy from mid-November to almost mid-December, but I started to realize that if we didn’t begin to decorate right after Thanksgiving, there was a good chance we might not get to decorate until the day before Christmas, which kind of defeats the purpose.

We’ve really enjoyed starting to decorate the day after Thanksgiving the last few years.  As December and the requisite insanity begin, it is so nice to be able to check off “decorating” from our mile-long to-do list.   As with Halloween, Christmas gets my decorating juices flowing.  I have Griswold aspirations but lack the energy unfortunately.  But I can dream and vow that one day, we will have an impressive light show.  Our neighborhood is fun in that it is full of both tasteful light displays and ones that show more enthusiasm than planning with mismatched lights, inflatables and whatever else they can dream up.

Confession:  we have an artificial tree.  I know.  It shocks me a bit too.  I grew up with live trees, but there are advantages to having an artificial tree.  In recent years, our tree decorating routine goes like this: bring down tree in 2 parts (we stopped trying to cram it back into its box years ago), fluff it (the inspiration for many a fight over whose job it was to fluff the tree), and decorate it (totally my job).

Our old tree started to give up the ghost towards the end of the season last year.  Entire strands of lights stopped working.  When we started contemplating getting ready for the holidays about a week before Thanksgiving, we both recalled the dead lights.  A different couple who had lived a different year might have decided the tree was easily fixed.  We, however, acknowledged that while the tree was fixable, accepted our many limitations this year and decided to throw money at the problem and buy a new tree.  In our defense, we bought that tree almost 10 years ago and for a different house.  It had done its job well.

We settled on a  handsome 9 ft tall pre-lit tree that would make the perfect statement in our living room (statement of what, I don’t know.  Hopefully a tasteful statement).  Multicolor lights because that is Jimmy’s one request and I figure I can honor it.  We found one that didn’t cost a ridiculous amount, bought it, and it arrived a few days before Thanksgiving.  We were fully prepared and excited to set up that baby in the living room the day after Thanksgiving.

Jimmy set up the tree, plugged it in and discovered the entire middle section of the tree didn’t work.  No problem!  That’s why they sent extra lights, right?  WRONG.  Turns out that the problem light was a master light.  I’m no electrician, but apparently, the broken master light was not replaceable although we tried.  We concluded we would have to call the manufacturer to order a replacement section the following week.

Weekend 1: unfluffed, undecorated, unlit gargantuan tree in our living room, mocking me.

The week after Thanksgiving, we talked with customer service and they agreed to send us new lights in the interim while they made a new middle section for us.  Yay!

Weekend 2:  the new lights have arrived!  Surely our tree will be decorated by the end of the first weekend in December. We attempt to string them, and they are weird lights structurally, kind of like a double helix.  I have no idea how to string these lights.  We give up, and Jimmy thinks he can wire a workaround.   Yet another week in which we have an unfluffed, undecorated, unlit gargantuan tree mocking me in our living room.

Weekend 3: Jimmy performs wiring magic, and all the lights on the tree work!  I spend Sunday fluffing the tree, cursing under my breath the entire time.  It takes me a good 3 hours to fluff it, and we decapitate the tree to fluff the top, since we can’t reach it without a ladder.

Topless tree

Sunday, December 9:  Daniel has gone to bed.  It’s 8:30.  By God, I’m going to decorate the damn tree.  I add strand after strand of gold beads.  With the help of a chair and stool, I manage to place the decorations on the tree, carefully spacing them out so there are no dead areas.   No necks or legs are broken due to graceless lumbering on and off stools.

Are we the only ones who have a train table in our living room?

Are we the only ones who have a train table in our living room?

I don’t think it looks half bad!  Surely the haphazard, imperfect look of the beads adds a quaint touch.  It’s an accessible tree.  The next step will be to figure out how we’re getting the star on top. Oh, and a new tree skirt.  I swear, decorating the tree this year has been death by a thousand, tiny cuts.  Maybe, hopefully by Christmas it will be finished.

Close up view

Close up view

Oh – guess what was waiting for us on the porch when we got home yesterday?  The new section of the tree.  I wish I were kidding.  That sucker’s going upstairs to the attic.  Maybe next we’ll be able to find an extension cord for the lights on the bushes so that both sides will be lit.

How do you decorate for Christmas?

Not Bending It Like Beckham

Daniel has had three soccer classes, and they have been by turns hysterical, frustrating and mortifying.

Hmm. This grass is interesting!

The Hysterical

Imagine 32 3-year-olds and six coaches.  It’s like herding cats. They divide them into groups to maximize the potential to focus, but you still usually have 2 or 3 kids in each group running off in opposite directions as the coaches try to organize them into a line or coax them into chasing after the ball.  And the grass and occasional weed on the field often prove to be too tempting.  Why pay attention to the coach when you can pick a flower?  Better yet, pick the flower and offer it to the coach! Each child has his or her own soccer ball and during one activity, the coaches tried to get the kids to run down the field, grab a ball and run the other way.  That plan backfired because the children only wanted their individual ball, and the activity stalled as the children pawed over every ball, oblivious to the shouts of the coaches to pick up any ball.

The fields also have cones marking off certain areas, and those cones are irresistible.  The first week, Daniel wanted to pick them up and move them.  The second week, he and several other children wore them like hats.  The parents are supposed to remain on the sidelines and usually we are doubled over, laughing.  Each session has a carnival-like atmosphere, with coolers, folding chairs and parents, grandparents and siblings watching and chatting.  I am amazed at the patience the coaches have with this age group as they try to teach them a skill or have them go where they need to be (usually without much success).

Who says you can’t use hands?

The Frustrating

Soccer has been very eye-opening for us.  Daniel says he likes it, but he is not doing a good job of paying attention to what is going on around him, acknowledging that he hears or following directions. He delights in doing his own thing, often running off in the other direction or losing interest in the activity after kicking his ball once or twice.  He’ll frequently stop what he’s doing and come running over to us with a big smile on his face.  We urge him repeatedly to return to the circle and sit on his ball, follow the other kids, etc., but it doesn’t help much.    It’s especially frustrating because the majority of the children manage to stay on task and follow directions, so to us, it seems that Daniel’s desire to do his own thing is especially noticeable.

I know. He’s 3.  I know.  This team is for kids who won’t turn 4 before August 1, 2012, so there is a good chance that a many of the kids on his team are closer to turning 4 and that age difference is a lot different developmentally than a child who turned 3 in June.  Maybe they’ve also participated in soccer before because they all seem to know what they are doing.  Maybe our expectations for him are too high.  It’s not like he is the only one who is zigging while everyone else zags.  A couple of kids cling to their parents and watch.  We observed (happily) another child appearing to cast spells with a plastic fork while spinning in circles last night.  We like that he has spirit, energy and personality, but sometimes we wish he’d conform just a little.  It also doesn’t help that soccer is on weeknights after not napping at day care and before he’s eaten.  I don’t think that it’s at the best time for him to be able to focus, but that was the only session they had. And seeing him in group settings makes me wonder whether he’s just socially immature or if there’s something else is going on.

Daniel’s the one lagging behind, focusing on stepping on a cone.

The Mortifying

Daniel in a group setting with other children can be unpredictable right now.  The first session he was fascinated by a bigger girl and kept chasing her and bumping into her until she started to cry.  It was like he stalked her.  Then he turned around and bopped a little boy.  When he sits with the other children, he will invade their space and try to pat them and nudge them.  We spend the hour watching him closely and trying to defuse the situation if he gets too handsy.  It’s exhausting and so embarrassing because our child is not only not following directions but also bothering the other children. Accurately or not, I feel like the other parents are thinking, “their child is a problem child.” I don’t like what we turn into either.  We hiss at him to behave, to leave the other children alone.  We hiss at him, “Do you want to go home?  If not, you need to listen to watch the coach is saying.”  We turn into cold disciplinarians, and I simultaneously wonder if the other parents think we are being too hard on him or not hard enough.  And Daniel will look at us like he’s trying to figure out where these hard-asses came from.

And then yesterday’s session came.  Of course it’s one thing for you to feel frustrated by your child’s behavior but quite another for anyone else to say anything.  Yesterday was picture day.  Daniel did well for his individual picture but the team picture was a bit of a nightmare.  Lining up 32 kids would be.  After what seemed like an eternity, three rows of children were somewhat neatly arranged.  Daniel was in the back row and supposed to be standing but often bobbing up and down.  The photographer was ready to take the picture, and the coaches were trying to keep Daniel standing up and facing the camera.  You know, doing what all the other kids were doing.  Finally, exasperated, the photographer said, “If I had my Ritalin with me, I’d give you some.”

I was so embarrassed that it took me a minute to realize what the photographer had said.  Was he voicing what everyone else was thinking?  That our child was too hyper and needed medicating?  That his poor impulse control is more than being a three-year-old?

The team picture finally taken, everyone left.  Daniel, sundowning from no nap, started to cry because he didn’t want to leave.  He wanted to stay and play soccer.  We strapped in our poor little boy and then Jimmy went to talk to the photographer about his comment.  We drove home, Daniel crying and me wondering if we were expecting too much and hating that I felt so disappointed and frustrated with our sweet boy.

Maybe soccer’s not his sport.  Maybe we should look into hockey; he could be an enforcer.

The infamous team picture; note the head coach holding Daniel’s arms.

Just Call Me Angel of the Morning

Last fall I posted on our morning routine, and that routine has changed drastically since Daniel started daycare.  And since he turned 3.  There will be an entire post soon on the seemingly-overnight personality change he has had since he turned 3.  Here’s a glimpse into what mornings are like in our house lately.

My first alarm buzzes.  I hit snooze.  The second alarm goes off.  I hit snooze, but by then I’m no longer drowsy, so I snatch my iPhone and check email, check Twitter and then visit a few celebrity gossip sites.  You know, because my brain is fuzzy at 6am, and I try to ease it gently into that good morn.

I stumble to the bathroom, trying hard to come to terms with the fact that I am awake and must get up and get ready.  I peer into the mirror, so close that I could lick it because I am crazily impaired without glasses or contacts.  I sigh at the bags under my eyes and scrutinize my chin for any burly hairs that might have erupted overnight.  Because I am of a certain again at which springy black hairs gleefully erupt like weeds.  One of my earliest memories of my great-grandmother was watching her shave her face with an electric razor in the bathroom.  This little old lady in a house dress would purse her lips and push out her chin to ensure she achieved the closest shave possible.  Despite that memory, I don’t come from a line of sasquatches (except when it comes to height), but I do wonder if a Norelco is in my future.

Teeth brushed, face washed and makeup on, I hear the tell-tale signs that Daniel is awake: a little chatter, the ripping of the diaper as he flings it off and the thump of his feet as he runs to his potty.  Then I hear, “I go pee pee. Pee pee everywhere.” And then, “Mommy, come here.”  I drop what I’m doing and run down the hall, tripping over yowling cats indignant that they have not been fed and open his door.  I am greeted by a half-naked little elf grinning up at me as well as so.much.pee on the floor.  I scratch my head because his potty is in one corner of the room and has a goodly amount of pee in it (success!), but the huge puddle is in front of the door (fail!).  I’m going to need forensic splatter experts to help me figure out this one. He’s so excited to see me that he jumps up and down, slipping in the pee.  So I now have a half-naked little boy covered in urine – still smiling though.

I scoop him up, trying to ignore his uriney dampness and take him to our bedroom to wipe him off and get him dressed for daycare.  As I take off his sleep shirt, the only remaining article of his pajamas, he argues with me about wanting to keep it on (although he says “Leave it off” because he is mixing his words) because it is a Thomas shirt, and I try to convince him that the shirt is for sleeping (“cuddling” he corrects me) and not to wear in public.  The dressing battle won, we head for the kitchen and breakfast, and this is the point at which my child turns into Sibyl.

I have been called a morning person by my family for years, an accusation to which I, to echo the words of Demi Moore’s character in A Few Good Men, strenuously object. I can function in the morning, get up and do what I need to do, but I don’t have an especial love for mornings.  Daniel, on the other hand, usually wakes up happy and distressingly chipper before turning moody and whiny as I shepherd him through all that needs to be done to get us out the door at a decent time.   I’m not at my best in the mornings because there is a lot to do and my temper is often short and on edge.  Daniel pushes these buttons with masterful contrariness.  I offer him pancakes; he screams, “No!  Gra-lol-a bar!”  I put on his everyday shoes, but he whines for his water shoes because he wants water play, which is of course not that day! I made the mistake of putting his trains back on the train table the night before, not realizing he had placed them on the floor in a deeply meaningful arrangement.  He flips out, starts to cry and yell, “On the floor!” as I watch him dumbfoundedly.  At first I try to cajole, apologizing for my egregious error.  As the crying and yelling continue, I say “Ok, put them where you want them” but I’m thinking, “WTF? I don’t care! Put them where you want them.” Or maybe he wants to watch a movie or color, but we’ll be leaving in 5 minutes and my attempts to explain this to him rationally (my big mistake) are met with howls of outrage.

We finally are in the car and on our way.  I mention that it’s raining, and he disagrees emphatically, “it’s not raining.”  I have two choices.  I can continue insisting that it is, at which point he might lose it or I can reply with a simple “ok.”  I cowardly choose the latter.  I inquire about what he’s going to do at school and with whom he’s going to play, and he tells me decisively, “I not going to play with anyone.”  Ok. He begs to go get gas (?).  He begs to go to McDonald’s (??).  I defuse those bombs.  He announces that he wants to cuddle mommy, which is a tad bit impossible – not to mention unsafe- when I’m driving. When we pass the winery, I ask him what we do with grapes, and he replies happily, “Smush them!”  Apparently, I have a pint-size vintner on my hands.

We pull into the parking lot at daycare, but the battles are not over.  He begs to take a toy with him as I try to convince him the toy might get lost or broken and should stay in the car. Tears dried, Daniel insists on being carried in, and I acquiesce, feeling him cling tightly to my neck and suddenly regretting my short fuse and barked orders.  He’s still such a little boy.  We lumber to his class.  I put him down, put his lunch box on the table and hang up his bag in his cubby. He is standing right beside me and whispers, “Pick me up.”  I scoop him up, cuddle him, kiss him and remind him what a great, fun day he’s going to have.  I put him down, and we walk to the door so he can wave to me.  On the bad days, his little face crumples and the teacher picks him up to comfort him while I wave and blow a kiss before walking out, shoulders slumped.  On the better days, he smiles at me, waves enthusiastically and blows me a kiss before turning around and walking back to the other kids.  He doesn’t exactly look enthusiastic about it and my heart hurts a bit, but I am grateful for no tears and walk briskly to the exit.

Back in my car, I’m alone.  It’s quiet.  I turn on NPR or plug in my iPhone to listen to my “Ire” playlist (what?  you don’t have a playlist named after one of the seven deadly sins?) as I drive to work.  I’ll deal with other tantrums there, but for the next 20 minutes, it’s just me, my coffee and my thoughts.  And I’ll do it over again the next day.


The Eye of the Storm

Daniel and I walked in the door at 6 last night.  Despite the fact that he had not napped that day (quickly becoming our new normal), I didn’t feel the usual stress to rush in under two hours to get him fed, into pajamas and have story time before tucking him in.  Even though the adults in my household had grumbled about the time change and its potential impact on our routine, I liked that it was still bright outside when we came home.  I felt calm, peaceful. 

As I started dinner preparations, my peace evaporated.  I felt tired as I maneuvered around three grouchy felines demanding their dinner, eyed the chaos of the refrigerator, and sighed as Daniel spit out a sweet potato fry after taking a bite of it (hey, at least he’s past the throwing food phase). I snapped at him for something so trivial I can’t even remember what it was, and his little face sort of crumpled, I felt like crying myself.

When Jimmy came home, he commented, “You look frazzled.”  I started to launch into why and then I realized that I didn’t really feel frazzled.  The evening was proceeding smoothly for the most part and we were on schedule.  My day had been quiet and tolerable.  Why did I feel so irritated?  And then it hit me.

“I hate our house right now,” I told him.

I hate our house.  I hate our house.  I hate our house. I hate it.  I hate that we are still living in chaos thanks to the damn carpet beetle infestation.  Most of our clothes are in storage at the dry cleaners and the washable items we kept are in 3 laundry baskets haphazardly placed throughout the living room because we can’t put anything back into our drawers until we get the all-clear.  Each night I move among different baskets to pick out an outfit for Daniel for the next day or pajamas for that night.  Toddler socks jumbled together with towels and big people socks and tshirts and underwear, and I’m always afraid I’ll accidentally send along a pair of MY underwear in his bag to grandma’s.

And I wonder if houses can suffer from the Broken Window theory because as I look around, I see disorder and chaos  everywhere.  The sink overflows with dishes again despite being empty only two days before and there is a slightly off smell coming from the sink even though I can’t identify the source.  The three bulbs in my flower beds that have survived the demonic squirrels that proliferate in my area are fighting for space with lush…weeds.  My dining room table and counters are cluttered with mail, paper, receipts and preschool artwork.

The first thing I do when I come home in the evening is check the window sills for the adult beetles because Daniel likes to play there with his cars and trains.  “Lady bug! ” he exclaims, and I rush over to kill it, feeling a tiny niggle of remorse because bless their hearts, the damn things are trying to get out; they don’t want to be here either (and it is their larvae that destroys our clothes, not the adult beetle).   I’m embarrassed by my house and the chaos in which we’re living (because we aren’t filthy people I promise), yet when I try to figure out where to start, I just feel overwhelmed.

And then I wonder who is mirroring whom because when I think about it, I too feel cluttered and messy, barely put together and in need of maintenance.  And old and unlovely, with gray hairs appearing every day and permanent bags under my eyes. 

I want to be able to wave a magic wand and empty the house of everything , make it all go away and start over as I did with my new work computer last week: when the IT guys asked me what I wanted brought over from my old machine, I said, “nothing,” and it has been freeing to have a blank slate.

At times my house has felt like a sanctuary but now it most often feels like someplace I don’t want to be.  That night, I wanted to scream.

But then.

But then.

A small voice said, “Daddy, make pizza with me.”  Jimmy went over to the kitchen table and helped Daniel with the mise en place of his felt pizza toppings.  I joined them, and we giggled as we put the sauce on the triangles upside down and called peppers “plus signs.”  Jimmy and I watched as Daniel carefully put a slize of pizza on a plate and put it in the oven to bake.

It was only 10 minutes, but it was the best 10 minutes of the day.  The house was silent except for our playing, and everything felt calm and peaceful as we focused on nothing other than helping our little boy make the best darn felt pizza ever.

Can 10 minutes be enough? Last night it was.  I feel calmer today, and I know that our family life (and house) will return to “normal” eventually.  We’re still reeling from the blows we’ve been dealt recently.  One step at a time.  That beautiful 10 minutes gave me grace to take pause and acknowledge the small moments.  I need more of those moments, but it is my job to seek them and for now, that’s enough.

The most beautiful slice of pizza in the world

Twiddling My Thumbs

Alas, I have nothing new to report. No baby yet. Not even close to having baby. We hit 39 weeks on Wednesday and like magic, I expected the call to come for real. No such luck. F has been pregnant four times before. Each time she has never gone past 39 weeks. Until now. We’re all a little dumbfounded. I expected to have a baby this week, and he seems to be quite content where he is. We had our weekly doctor’s appointment today, and there has been no further dilation. As a matter of fact, F feels great. Lots of energy, good appetite. She has been cleaning like mad. I’m torn between pride and irritation that our baby boy is charting his own course.

We do have an eviction date, however. Our OB practice thankfully will schedule inductions as early as two days after the due date. After we cleared up confusion about our due date again (they persist in using June 8 despite our being given a date of June 3 by the RE and every other calculator I’ve ever used), the doctor said we could schedule an induction for June 8. F really liked the doctor we saw today, and she isn’t on call until June 9, so we agreed to postpone the induction until June 9. So that’s possibly WB’s birth date: June 9.

Am I happy about having a date? Yes but mostly no. Frankly, dear reader, I am PISSED! I want him here! We are soooo ready for him! His clothes and bottles are washed and put away. I’m killing time at work. His room is ready. The floors are 100% done. We are ready!! I had prepared myself for him to be here this or even last week, and now I have to wait another full week and two weekends? ARGH. And F is SO thrilled because she gets her favorite doctor, and the date works out well for her. And that pisses me off too. Did I mention that I have a bit of a short fuse right now? I have been pretty stressed this week because I expected the call at any time.

I realize that there is nothing we can do about the induction date. It could be no earlier than June 8 unless they suspected fetal distress or some other issue. I understand that. So I’m kind of just mad at the world right now. We are sooooooo close to having him here but yet he’s not. And we have waited almost 4 years for him and would like to get on with our lives and out of the suspended animation we have been in. So envision me stomping my foot like an irate toddler. Humph.

In calmer moments, I take a deep breath and realize that WB could still come on his own before June 9. It’s very possible. And frankly, given the personality he has exhibited so far, it wouldn’t surprise me at all. He wants to chart his own course and do his own thing, so maybe he’ll come next week. Or tonight. Who knows?!?! And, it is nice to know that no matter what, there is a firm end date to this pregnancy. June 9, no later than June 10, we should have him.

So, J and I will try to enjoy this weekend. I left work a little early (thank you governor and your mandatory furlough time!) and bought flowers to plant. My flower garden is in dire need of attention and the plan is to address it this weekend. I can imagine taking WB outsite to admire the flowers later in the summer.