Friday, May 31, 2013

I'm Not Dead Yet.

Okay.  Well.  Hmm.

I haven't been writing lately.  I can think of three main reasons:

1.  Both laptops got seriously ill about a month ago.  I'm back on tonight because the Winemaker spent a couple of days this week doing the long-delayed emergency surgery, and it seems they will limp along for some more time, much like an old car, or, sad to say, my 81 year old father.  Since I'm not under 25, blogging on my phone didn't work for me.  Blogging at work didn't seem like a good idea either.

2.  The only time I have for writing is after the kids go to bed.  This happens about an hour before I SHOULD go to bed, and about two hours before I DO go to bed.  I'm trying to get closer to the 'should' time, and anyway, even two hours a day gets rapidly sucked up in other stuff, like paying bills and randomly surfing the internet.  (Do people still say that--"surfing"?  It sounds dated, but how else do you describe wandering from website to website until you say, "Oh shit, now I'm only going to get 5 and a half hours of sleep!"?)

3.  Things have been pretty lousy lately.  It started on Mother's Day, and hasn't really eased up since.  When I tried to schedule extra therapy, I couldn't find any slots in our therapist's calendar, because, she explained, her calendar "exploded" (her term) the day after Mother's Day.  So, there's that--we're not alone.  But the wall-to-wall disregulation, which has now even spread to the one remaining sane member of the family, is hard to write about.  Plus, frankly, it eats up a lot of time, meaning that 1-2 hour window at the end of the day finds me exhausted and way behind on all tasks. 

Wednesday night I went to bed and realized that the most productive thing I'd done all day was wash my hair.  One's day shouldn't really peak at 6:20 am.

Thursday was better.  So was today.  We're not out of the woods yet, but catching my breath (and a repaired computer) made me decide to write even if I only have time to write a little bit.  It won't be great stuff.  But I kind of need it.  Reading the lovely, inspiring and/or hilarious words of other writers is great, but I need to write my own mediocre stuff in order to work on my own life. 

Monday, May 6, 2013

In Which I Attempt to Amputate a Digit

Six-thirty in the morning.  I'm dressed, my lunch is packed, I'm putting together a grab-n-go breakfast for myself before slipping back upstairs to get our not-a-morning person daughter out of bed and dressed, thus saving the Winemaker from a solid hour of nagging as he gets the kids ready for school after my departure. 

As I cut the French bread, left by a guest from Saturday's party, the knife slips and nicks my finger. 

Only, as I realize even before the pain hits (it might have been the way I had to yank the knife back OUT of my finger that clued me in), I didn't just nick it, or even slice it.  I chopped.  My finger.  Not to the bone, but deep, and wide. 

So my husband's day started with me standing next to our bed, hand wrapped in a towel, saying, "Get up!  I hurt myself!"  There are actually 3 of us that are not morning people, so the way he instantly lurched to his feet and got to work on my wound was truly impressive.  We decided that I couldn't just slap a bandaid on it and head to work, so I called the school and arranged for a sub.

We got the kids up, and I had the rare treat of walking them to the bus stop.  We went into emergency at the local hospital, and had the surreal experience of being treated by a good friend's ex-wife.  She seemed so...professional.    I got a tetanus shot, a numbing shot, and a measley four sutures.  It all took just long enough that I missed the half day cutoff for the sub, and wound up free about five hours earlier than usual.

I'm going to back up and seemingly change topics here, but I've got a point I'm working towards.  Trust me.  (To which my mother invariably responded, "Last time you said that, we had twins.") 

I've been binge eating lately.  I've never had eating disorders, and although I've steadily gained weight as I've aged, it hasn't been to an alarming extent.  I was pleased to drop 10 pounds during my first six months as a mom--they kept me so active, and I was modeling healthier eating habits.  But the past few months, I've kind of gotten out of control.  Most of it is secretive--I have a candy stash at work.   I stop on my way home at the grocery store and plow through a bag of cookies in the car.  Late night scarfing of chocolate chips.  I can see the weight gain.  My kids have both asked if I'm having a baby.  Clothes are getting tight. 

Today was different.  I still had sweets (because, duh, I'm still me), but without compulsively overdoing it.  There were a few times I could have snuck something, but it just didn't sound that great.

Here's my theory.  I was being taken care of a lot today.  When I called my work to find out about coming in, they told me they'd hired an all day sub, so I should just relax.  My husband was solicitous about carrying things, making dinner, doing the dishes.  The kids were gentle with me (if morbidly excited to see the actual stitches when we changed the bandages tonight).  There were times when I didn't really have anything to do.  May I repeat that?  There were times when I didn't really have anything to do.  I sat in the sun, skimming Karyn Purvis's book and watching the neighborhood kids play soccer. 

I let other people take care of me, take care of "my" resonsibilities. 

And I didn't feel an urge to be a sugar whore glutton. 

Hmm.  I'm going to mull that over for awhile.  I think it's time I find a way to take care of myself that doesn't involve gorging my way to a bigger me or slicing off digits to get a break. 

Sunday, May 5, 2013

A Dozen Things I've Learned So Far

I've been reading a lot of adoption blogs lately, for obvious reasons.  Some are really well written, which kind of kills me.  I'm just flailing around here, and while it means enough to me that I find the time to write (and read!), I certainly don't have time to craft my words.  And saying that, of course, is purely sour grapes.  I like to write; I have a pretty solid writing voice; but I'm just not that great of a writer.  I can't plot fiction, and I can't really make MEANING out of this narrative meandering.  As an avid reader, I am deeply envious of those who can do those things. 

Some of my favorite bloggers (see right column) take what parenting has taught them--about themselves, about life--and make it universally applicable.  See here and anything by Stacy at Anymommy to see what I mean.  I am too much in survival mode to see any such bigger picture.  But at 10 months in, I've learned a few things that at least apply to my own tiny world.

1.  If a kid does a chore, it will not be done as well (or, most likely, as quickly) as if you just did it yourself.  However, a half-assed job beats an undone job, and sometimes I just can't force myself to clean the damn bathroom find time to keep up on everything.  Plus, you can comfort yourself by saying you are giving your kids the chance to practice valuable life skills.  This is related to the marriage lesson that there are actually TWO right ways to do most jobs, and sometimes letting someone else do it their way beats having to do the job yourself.  Make that "most of the time."  Possibly "always."

2.  I spent most of the winter months hating myself for how much time screen time my kids were getting.  Now that the weather's better, I'm struggling with how obsessed they are in playing outside with the neighborhood kids.  I know, that doesn't sound like a bad thing, but we are still working on attachment and bonding, and our kindergartener doesn't even want to come home for a snack after school--she gets off the bus expecting to head over to her friend's house and is furious each time we say no.  Two lessons here: one is that things go in cycles, and the other is that it's an ongoing process to decide which things need addressing and which can be waited out. 

One thing that helped with screen time was building in the Quiet Box part of the day.  One thing that's helping with the blurry lines between family and friends is using really clear language to talk about it--"We're having family time now, so let her know you can play tomorrow."  The other is establishing some rituals and rules that prioritize that family time.  If the time between dinner and bed
includes doing dishes, doing homework, having dessert, brushing teeth, and reading stories, then there is only time to play outside with friends if we've had an early dinner or if we ate leftovers and don't really have dishes to wash.  This clearly all leads to...

3.  Routine, baby. I have ALWAYS sucked at this, even as a classroom teacher. I'm more like, spontenaiety! Woo-hoo! Who needs the 'organized' in 'organized chaos' anyway? So when it was the first warm evening of the year, and the kids wanted to play outside 'just a little longer,' I let them play. And then bedtime was an awful, awful experience for all of us, involving tantrums and misery and defiance. So the next night, another beautiful evening and this time not even a weeknight, I call them in at the regular time. They whine and ask for more time. I say, "Nope!" in a cheerful voice. They come in. Bedtime goes beautifully. Duh. EVERYTHING we develop a routine for goes better. Especially when Mama actually follows the routine.

4.  Now that screen time isn't stressing me out, I'm finally accepting--make that gleefully accepting--that our weekend morning routine is the kids get up, come into our bedroom and whisper, "Can we watch a movie?", get permission, and let us sleep as long as we want.   Electronic babysitting has its time and place, and we have found the perfect one for us. 

5.  Therapy rocks.

6.  I've finally found an up side to being so freaky mean sometimes.  It makes me far less likely to stress out and feel guilty about "normal" mom failings--the snappish response to whining, the reluctance to play My Little Pony, serving packaged food.  Occasional flashes of insanity give me great perspective on regular ol' humanity.

7.  Little girls can make a mess peeing in the toilet too.  It took me awhile to realize that it is often her, not him, that needs to come back and dry off the seat. 

8.  Of course, don't judge other parents.  While it's amazing how easily I STILL do this,  I have gotten better about not judging strangers based on the snapshot that I see in public.  The horrific scene my family created in the Heathrow airport on our way home burned that lesson into my mind. 

This also means respecting that the parent knows their child in ways nobody else does.  Yesterday a friend was asking if I could recommend a therapist for her boy.  Part of me wanted to do that, ''Oh, he's fine!" thing.  Because seriously, he seems fine to me.  But I've heard that from others, and it's maddening.  Who's going to be a better judge of whether or not this kid needs therapy, his mom, or his mom's friend?  Hmm.  I told her I'd ask our therapist if she had anyone to recommend.

9.  Affection breeds affection.  The more I pour on kind words, warm hugs, and quick smooches, the more my kids start to develop the same tendencies.  The other night my almost-nine-year-old jumped off the bed into my arms and started dropping little love pecks on my neck, just like I do to my kids whenever I get a chance.*  I about dropped him, I was so startled.  Then I felt a huge rush of love and pride.  I TAUGHT HIM THAT.  Another recent evening, the Winemaker headed out on a quick errand, and both kids bolted out of their chairs and tore out the door after him.  "Wait!"  they hollered.  "Hugs!"  This is all such a change, and one of the few instances where we can already see that what we are doing is having a positive influence. 

10.  It's important to recognize the internal signs that you are about to Lose It, and get help pre-emptively.  I did that twice this weekend.  Once, the Winemaker stepped in and took over kid stuff while I pulled myself back together.  The second time, he pulled me aside for some encouragement and shoulder massage and let me cry a little over my own hurt feelings.  For the longest time, I thought my freaky rages came out of nowhere, but I'm finally starting to see at least some of them coming, and head them off with his help.

11.  Which reminds me: single parents are fucking amazing.  Just sayin'.  Is there a Single Parent Appreciation Day?  Becuase I think they deserve one. 

12.  I need to get to sleep.  I'm thinking of getting that tatooed somewhere.  "Up too late" is the only time I get to myself, though, so it's a tricky trade-off for me.  I stuck my head in a bucket of hose water today, because that's how hot Cinco de Mayo was in the Pacific NW this year, so I guess that means I don't have to take a shower tomorrow morning, right?  That'll let me sleep at least six extra minutes in the morning.

*(The little kisses, not the leaping on them from the bed. That would crush them, which would look bad on our post-adoption reports.)