milestones

Shake it Out

Well, here we are. The last week of October. I thought I’d be OK. In control. But I’m not as much as I’d like to be. I thought it was Mercury Retrograde weighing on me because I really felt it. Uncomfortable in my own skin. Pulled, contorted, strained, weighed down. But here we are. My own personal D-Day. I can feel my anxiety rising daily. I’m struggling just to keep it together when what I really want to do is burrow under the covers and stay there. House a mess? Check. No cooking? Check. Clothes unfolded? Check. Child late to school? Check. Oversleeping? Check. Irritation? Check. Sensitive? Check. Crying? Check.

And my thoughts are so jumbled and muddled. My therapist told me a few weeks ago that I intellectualize emotions and feelings instead of letting myself experience them. I try to explain what I am feeling instead of letting myself indulge in them. But I do feel them; I find it difficult let myself to be an emotional person. To be seen as someone who has feelings.

You know who I envy? People who don’t give a fuck what other people think. I’ve always cared too much. It has improved, but I still care too much. I had a conversation on Friday night about my feelings, and I’m not completely certain it went well (not the fault of the conversation, but talking about feelings can be difficult). But I know that I cried – like ugly cried – afterwards. The kind of crying that left my eyes extra puffy Saturday and experiencing an emotional hangover.

We all have history and formative experiences and god knows I have thought a lot about mine. Probably too much. Analysis is my forte. Feeling is not. I’m not going to subject any of you to my TED Talk on why I am this way. I guess I should get to the point. I think my thoughts are jumbled around vulnerability and shame (yes, yes, off to read Brene Brown). After that conversation on Friday – or frankly, any conversation in which I let loose like that – my first reaction is embarrassment. I’ve revealed too much of myself. All the ugly parts. The parts that indicate that no, I very much do not have my shit together. You know, the parts that reveal me as a flesh and blood human who is not perfect. And the fear about whether people will still like me or respect me if I reveal that I do have feelings. But I AM human! I DO have feelings! Why is vulnerability such a difficult state for us to occupy? How did we get here?

I think of this verse Rizzo sings in “There are Worse Things I Could Do” from Grease:

I could hurt someone like me
Out of spite or jealousy
I don’t steal and I don’t lie
But I can feel and I can cry
A fact I’ll bet you never knew

But to cry in front of you
That’s the worst thing I could do

And to finally, finally get to the point. I have a lot of thoughts about this week. Can I express those emotions? Should I express those emotions? Can I be that vulnerable? Is it allowed? And yes, I know it is technically. But am I allowed to feel and express these things truly? Or should I keep a stiff upper lip? What is the statute of limitations on grieving in our society these days?

It is funny to be writing this after last week’s somewhat “rah rah” “Entropy” post. Well. I feel what I feel when I feel it. THAT I have definitely learned in the last year. And I grapple with that dichotomy. I have good days and bad days. Last week was not a great week, and I have a feeling that this week may not be either. And I have to be OK with that. I have to accept that and understand that. More importantly, I have to give myself permission to feel. To let those emotions flow through.

This week is worthy of my feelings. If I feel dread, uneasiness, and anxiety every day, it’s OK. If I need to take a day and just be, that’s OK. From what I have seen, there is no manual for any of this (but if there is other than Kubler-Ross, message me?).

I’ll do what I need to get through it. Cry when I need to. And then “Shake it out” as Florence + the Machine recommend and prepare for Halloween. I have three pumpkins to gut (ugh) and carve (good luck?) and a child to make happy.

One step backwards. One step forwards. Every day.

It’s always darkest before the dawn.

I Don’t Like Mondays

I try not to air too much dirty laundry, but, well, sometimes I need to vent and share, and I like to think this is my safe-ish space to do so. I have no interest in being the poster child for “getting by” because I have lots of raw, ugly emotions here.

I hate Mondays. I think we can all say that to some degree, and a friend turned me on to “I Don’t Like Mondays” by The Boomtown Rats, and it sums it up.

I used to blithely say it, but now I really, really mean it. Mondays now mean attempted school refusal because it’s a PE day (note to self: another call I need to make). Lots of meetings. And putting on three hats: job 1, job 2 (marketing) and job 3 (mommy). It’s a long day. And it includes garbage needing to be dealt with. It sounds silly, but I don’t know…garbage symbolizes so much, and it is a huge pain. Garbage night symbolizes to me one of those tasks that I didn’t have to do previously but now must do now. And I fucking hate it. 

And my sweet boy. Mondays are a trigger for him because of gym class. He hates gym class. I hated gym class too. Do I look like someone who excelled in gym? Nope. Like I said, school refusal attempted. And then surliness at me. Demanding I speak to him a certain way. Nothing pisses me off more than being told to use a nicer tone or say “please” by my 12 year old. And this comes barely two days after taking him to a Lego festival, spending a lot of money and being told that it was the BEST day.

I am not good with this. I am too verbal and use too many words to be effective, and it angers me SO MUCH. This morning, once he agreed to go to school, he announced he was going to the woods. I muttered, “By all means, go live deliberately” and he shouted, “I don’t understand your slang.” I laughed and laughed. 

And then after I dropped him off at school, I came home and cried and cried.

I mention all of this not to shame him or myself (though the shame for me is omnipresent) but to point out the reality of our lives right now. It is not all great. It is not often great at all. 

I am lonely. I am alone. I often don’t know what to do. I Google a lot. We both have therapists. It’s just hard. And I’m OK with that being our reality because it is true: hard. But I wonder when it will be less hard. And I hope there will be a time.

I like to think I am doing my best, but when I don’t feel like I am doing my best at anything, I can’t believe I am doing my best at parenting either. But I know the tween surliness is developmental and I know that his rages at me are also due to him knowing I am a safe person he can rage to. I know that. Just not easy to take. And that all gets woven together with being the only parent and being alone and feeling alone and trying to do my job, and I just want to scream.

Me

We went to the beach for Labor Day weekend – a do-over from a few prior rainy trips and a “last hurrah” to the beach as well as an early birthday present for me. And it was wonderful!  But we did have a scary moment. The ocean was the calmest I had seen it in years and there were amazing sand bars that extended far out.  Daniel and I played in the water, swam (me) and overall had a great time. 

And then the scare happened: the closest sand bar disappeared suddenly. Daniel freaked out and wrapped himself around my neck. I knew we were only a few inches away from being able to touch, but the tide was coming in quickly and I had someone gripping me even though I tried to calm him down so I could walk or swim us closer. It was the scariest moment I have ever had in the ocean. Fortunately, there were swimmers close by that could help us progress the few inches needed, but I was devastated. Relieved. Humiliated. Grateful. Angry. I had talked to Daniel several times about not grabbing me around the neck if he was scared in the water. I know that panic occurs and how it makes our rational thoughts disappear instantly. But I could feel what could have happened, and it was terrifying. All I could think of was that this child who was berating me the night before for not doing something for him was now gripping me, hoping I would save him even though he could quite literally have drowned us both. We returned to our room, and I cried from the adrenaline and from feeling like a failure who couldn’t take care of her child and from feeling overall like a terrible mother and human.

So that’s where we are. If I’m not waving, I’m drowning. Sometimes literally; mostly figuratively.

And in the midst of all this other drama, milestones occur. Last week, on Sept. 22, I realized it was the anniversary of when I met Jimmy. We’ve always considered it a significant date, and it felt weird to me that it took me almost the entire day before I realized what the date was. We met in 1996, so it would have been 25 years. Then, on Sept. 25, I took Daniel to BrickUniverse and gave the credit card a work out even though I hate Legos at this point. September 25 was also Jimmy’s birthday, so I thought indulging Daniel might be a good idea. It was a good day. It was a good way to honor Jimmy because he would have loved taking Daniel to BrickUniverse. 

I have lots of milestones this time of year: my birthday (9/9); our meeting anniversary (9/22); his birthday (9/25). Next month is the last week of his life at the end of October. Then we have the first anniversary of his death on 11/1. Our wedding anniversary is 12/1 and let me tell you what a gift last year was with the first month of his death arriving on our anniversary. I usually enjoy celebrating milestones and important dates, but I kind of want to put my head in the sand this year. The dates are a lot, especially as they come almost all at once.

I write this not to seek pity or even condolences. More of a rumination on what it’s like to be us … to be me mainly … right now. I try to keep a stiff upper lip, but to be frank, this shit is hard. 

But I try. I try so hard every day (maybe sing that to Flock of Seagulls’ “I Ran.” That would be amusing). It’s all I have and all I can do.

I joke that many days I feel like Sisyphus, and that is true. But I also think of this video, and it makes me laugh and feel better.

“Like Sisyphus, I am bound to hell.”

Sisyphus indeed. Better days will come.

Fourth Grade

Fourth grade

He’s knobby knees and sharp elbows.  He watches Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings and Doctor Who instead of Thomas, Peppa Pig and Super Why. In the car, he sits next to me in a booster seat instead of in a car seat in the back.  We listen to the news, and he asks me to explain things like “hush money,” “witch hunt,” “flipping,” “stabbed in the back,” and “human punching bag.” I should probably change the station.

He is so tall, yet he cried when his bean plant died. He is both afraid of and in awe of his two kitty cat sisters.

He wants me to read to him still.

He is 9, and today he started the 4th grade.  We are in a bit in shock.  When did he get so big?  Where did the time go?  I can feel time’s inexorable march, but it is bittersweet. Right now, he still loves kisses and hugs, but conditions have begun to occur. Not at drop-offs. Or in front of friends. But at night, we can still hug and give kisses. Mostly.

Happy 1st day of 4th grade. Fingers crossed for a good year.

 

#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.

 

toothpillow

Tooth Fairy pillow

 

Tooth and Loot

Tooth and Loot

#MicroblogMondays: Shark Teeth

Last week, we discovered Daniel has shark teeth. That’s what it is called when your permanent teeth come in before you lose your baby teeth, giving you a double row of teeth. Two of his lower front teeth are almost completely in, but his baby teeth show no sign of being ready to come out.

We were rather shocked to see the new teeth and a little freaked out, especially since the baby teeth are still firmly in place. Fortunately my cousin, a dental hygienist, looked at them over the weekend and said it would be fine to wait because the new teeth had plenty of room.

I guess I shouldn’t have been very surprised by the appearance of the shark teeth given our family’s dental history. All four of Daniel’s 6-year molars came in months ago. I myself was a precocious teether: a tooth popped through at 1 week old and the dentist pulled it when I was 6 weeks old. I also have 4 molars without enamel.

Parenting: never a dull moment.

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#MicroblogMondays: Words

Daniel loves words right now. He asks me to spell everything. And we think he’s reading. If not 100%, he’s close. Very close. That amazes me. I feel like I’ve waited 5 years for him to read, yet now that he can, I’m awed at all that it takes to be able to read.

Today Daniel and I arrived home a little early, and Jimmy was sitting outside with his laptop. Daniel was fascinated and wanted to type words. The two of them played on the laptop for a while, Daniel intent on typing sentences.

It was honestly one of the most adorable things I’ve seen and a reminder of how quickly Daniel is growing up. He looked like a natural in front of the laptop screen.

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A Lot of Popcorn and a First Movie

Daniel in the movie theater for Frozen

Waiting for the movie to start

I took Daniel to see Frozen, his first movie in a theater, last weekend.  We had been watching full-length movies weekly for several months, and it occurred to me that maybe it was time to brave the movie theater. Sometimes I forget he’s the mature 4.5 year old he is and not the whirling-dervish 3-year-old who traumatized us for a year. Maybe traumatize isn’t a tad harsh, but I would have laughed in your face last year if you had suggested he would sit through a movie 🙂

We had a hard time getting tickets at the theater closest to our house, so we went to the theater at Southpoint in Durham because they had a 10:30 showing.  The movie’s running time is almost 2 hours, and we thought that a later showing would be asking for trouble. Daniel doesn’t nap any longer (sigh), so he can become grumpy as the afternoon goes on.  I bought popcorn for me and M&Ms and chocolate milk for him, and we found seats in the middle of the theater.  I think there were approximately 8 million previews and a Disney animated short before the movie started that left me on edge: don’t they know there are very small children waiting to see this film? Children for whom patience is not a mastered skill yet?

The movie finally started, and it was really good! I might be the only person in the world who feels this way but in general, I’m not a fan of Disney and Pixar movies, so I was worried not only about Daniel’s behavior but also my own LOL. Daniel did beautifully.  He watched attentively and especially loved the snowman.  He even kept himself from eating all of his M&Ms. Actually, he did better than I did because I ate all of my popcorn (I’m a glutton for movie theater popcorn and don’t get me started on how much I love being able to add all the butter I want with the self-serve butter dispensers)!

Daniel said he enjoyed the movie, but it may have meant more to me than it did to him.  Movies were something I shared with my father, and some of my earliest memories are of him taking me to see movies: Bambi, Cujo (my fault – don’t ask), Halloween 3, The Land Before Time, The Goonies…I could keep going. Usually these outings happened on school vacations and were what we would call a “Special Day” with a movie, pizza and bookstore. My father loved popcorn too and having popcorn at a movie was a must.

When I looked forward to having children, continuing this tradition with movies was something I couldn’t wait to do. As Daniel snuggled against me while we watched his first movie in a theater, I was so happy. In a holiday season bound by traditions old and new, it was wonderful to be able to create another wonderful memory and pass along another treasured tradition.

And I got popcorn!

Four is…

Daniel turned 4 almost two months ago, and I cannot believe I didn’t write a commemorative post (that sounds odd) or a recap of his birthday party or anything. June was a busy month, and the entire summer is zooming by.

Daniel’s birthday party went very well. Eight preschoolers jumped, climbed and bounced to their hearts’ content, and then we threw pizza, cake and ice cream at them.  Daniel was thrilled with his garbage truck cake, and he, Jimmy, my mother and I were all exhausted when we got home (although no naps were had by anyone).

I feel like I need to knock on wood as I write this, but age 4 has been so much easier than age 3…so far. I wrote several times last year how unprepared I was for the huge changes and challenges age 3 brought almost overnight, and we’ve been waiting and watching, but so far, so good. I’m not saying it’s an easy age.  Age 4 has its own delights, but we can reason with him and are beginning to be able to use logic. We can have conversations with him and that helps SO much.  He’s funny and sweet and delightful and infuriating, often simultaneously.

Four is Inquisitive

Daniel: Mommy, do starfish have toes?

Me: No, they have feet but no toes (according to our starfish book)

Daniel: Why not?

Me: I don’t know.  That’s just how they were made.

Daniel: You do to know.

Me: ????????????

Four is Inquisitive and Chatty

Daniel: Mommy, what’s your favorite color? Do you like garbage trucks? Do you know I like Word Girl? What’s that, Mommy? Do you like Thomas? Do you like Percy? Do you like…<insert every train he owns>? It starts from the moment he gets up, to the moment I pick him up, until he finally lays his little blond head on the pillow and falls asleep.

Four is Inappropriate

Daniel: Mommy, do you wear underwear?

Me: Yes

Daniel: Mommy, what do they look like? Are they pretty?

Me: ummmmm we don’t really talk about our underwear

***

Daniel: Daddy! What’s in your pants? (reaches hand down Jimmy’s pants)

He was actually referring to what Jimmy had in his pocket, but we weren’t sure at the time.

Four is Bossy

Daniel: Mommy, do not argue with me. Do not say that word. Do not call me that name. I must be first! I own purple!

Four is Sweet

Daniel: Mommy, who am I married to?

Me: I don’t know?

Daniel: I am married to you, daddy, and Word Girl (he blushes a bit and my heart melts. I also suddenly hate Word Girl)

 

Four is Infuriating

Me: You need to finish your green beans.

Daniel: No.

Me: Yes, you do or you won’t get dessert.

Daniel: But I waaaaaaaaant dessert

Me: Well, who controls that?

Daniel: You.

Me: No! You do! (suddenly feeling like I’ve lost control of the conversation). Just eat  your green beans!

 

Four is Sensitive

Daniel: I’m a robot

Me: Are you like one of Toby’s robots? (from Word Girl. Toby is a bit of a punk)

Daniel: (chin quivering, face crumbling,  tears falling) I AM NOT TOBY. I AM NOT ONE OF HIS ROBOTS. HE’S A BAD BOY. NO ONE IN THE FAMILY IS TOBY OR ONE OF HIS ROBOTS.

Me: OK, OK, OK! (Maybe it’s time to teach him about similes)

 

There is never a dull moment around our house; that’s for sure.

Three

Dear Daniel,

Birthday boy, bright-eyed and eager

I had hoped to post this on Saturday, your actual birthday.  However, your sweet voice trilled happily over the monitor before 6 AM and when your eager feet hit the floor, I don’t think they stopped moving all weekend.  As a result, that meant that mommy and daddy’s feet didn’t stop moving either.  There was no time for mommy to slip away to her laptop or even to form a coherent thought.

You turned three years old at 6:48 AM on Saturday.  Three!  You are very much all little boy now, and my chubby-cheeked baby has stretched into a 39-inch tall string bean who looks much older.  Daddy and I were reminiscing over the last year, and I’m sorry to say that it was a stressful one for our little family.  Each day was carried out under an omni-present cloud of anxiety and worry about Mum’s health and that made its way down to you as we had IMPORTANT discussions in hushed voices and upended routines.

And I cannot forget the stress caused by our foray into preschool, how miserable you were and how I doubted my intuition and scrutinized your every gesture, conversation or interaction like you were a science experiment that needed to be fixed.  And finally, the biggest change of all in May: going to daycare every day instead of your grandmother’s.

Must.Have.Coffee

I’m so sorry for how rough and confusing the year was.  We tried our hardest to shield you from the craziness going on and let you continue to be the happy, cheerful little boy you are.  I’m amazed at how much you have changed.  A year ago you weren’t speaking much, but now you are a chatterbox.  It was in the fall that I realized you had memorized the books we read each night and could recite them on your own.

You also started telling jokes – quite clever ones actually!  Daddy and I still giggle about how you called Lucy’s tail her “tender.” You’ve started to sing the songs you know, and you have an excellent voice!   You’ve handled the daycare transition well – much better than I thought you would – and you are talking about your classmates at home; it makes us smile to think that they are telling their parents about you.

You stopped that heart-stopping running off the minute I turned away when we were outside and now display a love of nature that I hope we can nurture and help last.  You see beauty where others see weeds, and I’m reconciled to the fact that any flowers we plant may be there only for you to admire and pick.  Our porch and driveway are littered with your floral offerings.  Your artistic ability astounds me: your coloring has progressed from scribbles to trees, grass, rainbows and suns that look remarkably like what you say they are.

It’s a rocket, perverts!

Unfortunately you had a few other milestones that were unpleasant, yet unforgettable.  I’ll never forget the night you coughed at your easel and out came a tell-tale bark: croup!  But croup was nothing compared to your cutting open your chin and needing stitches.  The nice doctor who fixed your chin helpfully told us that those stitches were unlikely to be your last after he observed you in the waiting room.

Sweet Pea, you are so loving.  You give the best hugs, and it is precious how you pat our backs when you give us hugs as if to say, “There, there.  It’s ok, Mommy.” You have a huge heart, and I love that you comfort crying classmates or become upset when you think others are upset or sad.  You are always on the go, racing to get a different stuffed animal from your room, bringing an armful of trains into the kitchen or building long trains on your train table, but I am very impressed with how long you can concentrate on an activity you enjoy.

I hope 3 will be a great year for you.  We’re going to the beach soon, and I’m looking for a soccer team for you since you are enviably coordinated.  I can’t wait to see how you continue to develop and grow.

Happy Birthday!

Saucy boy enjoying his cake

Our Two-Year-Old

Love my letters!

Daniel turns 2 at 6:48 AM on June 2, and I’m amazed. I’m wondering where the last 12 months went. I know, I know–the older you get, the faster time flies, and it is sadly proving true. The last 12 months have been difficult and complicated with family issues, but he has been the bright spot for our entire family.

Daniel is most definitely a little boy now. Nothing baby about him. He’s so tall! I’m not a good judge of age when it comes to children, but I think he looks older than he is. We joke that he doesn’t know how to walk, but it’s true: running is his preferred speed. He is so sure on his feet, much more coordinated and confident at 2 than I am at 33.

Despite the need for speed, I’ve noticed that he has started to slow down and focus on one activity for longer periods of time. He loves the alphabet and can spend 15-20 minutes happily playing with his magnetic letters. He knows them all and at our house, “V”, especially his purple magnetic “V,” is his favorite. When he sees it on his easel, he happily cries, “Vuh!” He also loves his Thomas trains. Santa brought him “Gordon” for Christmas and from that first train, his collection has grown to include James, Thomas, Percy, Emily, Hiro, Whiff (aka “Momma” because he wears glasses) and Victor. Sometimes we’ll build bridges out of blocks for the trains to go under. Happily, he also loves books. While he loves us to read to him, he enjoys looking at the books himself as well.

Attitude

It’s great seeing him have these little bursts of independence, but it’s a little sad too because it’s a reminder that as time goes on, he is only going to become more and more independent. And we have to be ok with it because that’s what needs to happen, and it’s our job to nurture it.

Daniel truly has a wonderful personality. He is typically in a good mood and calm though the tantrums are coming more often. Lately he has become super affectionate. He’ll hug and kiss us repeatedly, giving us big ol’ bear hugs that truly are the best hugs in the world. At other times he’ll gently caress our arms or hands. He even kisses his toys, books and on rare occasion, a kitty he has managed to catch. He’s also mastered making faces at us-what a comedian!

In the last year he has learned to walk (run), graduated from high chair to booster seat, graduated from booster seat to regular chair, moved from crib in our room to a mattress on the floor in his own room, increased his vocabulary, been to the beach twice and sadly, lost two grandfathers.

It’s been an eventful year, and while it’s bittersweet to pack away all the baby paraphernalia bit by bit, I love the little boy with whom we have been blessed. Watching him discover and explore the world is rejuvinating, and his energy is boundless. It will be interesting to see what changes are in store for my 2-year old. Daniel will start preschool in late summer, and I can feel us taking the first step on the path that leads to elementary school and beyond.

Happy Birthday to our Doodle Bug. May it be a wonderful day full of all the Oreos you can eat and a great year.

Post-bath silliness