Tuesday, January 29, 2013

My Capabilities

When I was in my twenties, I thought I was capable of anything. I went to art school, and thought I could become “the next great artist” and change the world with my artwork. I watched the Olympics and thought that with a little training, I could compete in a triathalon. I criticized my bosses (in my head ONLY) and thought that I could do their jobs better than they could. I don’t know if it was arrogance or ignorance, but my self-perception was pretty skewed.

Then I turned thirty. And then I became a mommy. Let me tell you, parenthood has really helped me clearly understand my capabilities and the things I am simply incapable of doing. In being a mama, I have discovered many of my limitations, and have also found out I am able to do things I never thought I would be able to do.

For instance, I have discovered that I am INCAPABLE of going to sleep later than 9:30 p.m. Even if 76 trombone players come marching through my bedroom. Even if the season finale of Homeland is on t.v. My eyelids go on strike every night, somewhere between 8 p.m. and 9:25 p.m. My husband told me the other night that we were invited to go see our friend’s band perform… at 9 p.m. We both started laughing (in that, “wow, we’re super pathetic” kind of way) and reminiscing about times past, when we could actually socialize with our friends AFTER sunset.

On the subject of sleep, I have also discovered that I am TOTALLY CAPABLE of functioning on 3 hours of sleep per night, for a pretty extended period of time. To be clear, it’s not the kind of functional where I would confidently volunteer to, say, operate heavy machinery or solve complicated math problems. It’s the kind of functional that is required to toast and eat a bagel. 

I have discovered that I am INCAPABLE of wearing UNstained clothing. This is not totally my fault.  I have a baby that takes spitting up to a whole new level and has incredible range with his urine stream, and a toddler who sees me as a walking tissue. Between the two of them, and my own talent for spilling food and beverages all over my body, I’m pretty much a  constant HASMAT situation. I still have grandiose delusions visions of being able to wear hip, trendy, unstained outfits SOME DAY in the future. SOME DAY.

I have discovered that I am CAPABLE of carrying around 40 extra pounds. Oh, I’m not talking about the weight I put on with my pregnancies (though that too is true). I am talking about my two children. Because there are times when both of my babies are crying, or not feeling so great, or needing mama hugs for some other reason. I can swoop up 14 pounds of baby boy in one arm and 25 pounds of 2 year old girl in my other arm, and do my best to provide them both with the care they need (and not drop them on their heads). I told my husband that we can’t have any more kids for the simple reason that I have run out of arms.

I am INCAPABLE of having limitless patience. I guess I thought I might be able to be the parent who (magically) never loses their cool, who always knows what to say to calm their child down and “keep the peace”, who never raises their voice… but alas, I too am human. I have on occasion overused “time out”s because it was easier than laboring to get my daughter to pay attention or follow rules. I HAVE raised my voice (and have subsequently felt horrible for yelling at Emmy). I am NOT a candidate for sainthood.

But the best thing I have discovered is that I am CAPABLE of loving more than I ever thought possible. Two years ago, I thought it was going to be challenging to divide my love between my husband and my daughter. It was not, because my love just doubled. In December, I worried about how I could ever love my son as much as I love my daughter. But again my love multiplied, and I am truly so in love with my husband and BOTH of my children. 

So, it turns out I am NOT a world famous artist. And training for the Olympics would likely land me in the hospital. And though I know now that I am incapable of MANY MANY THINGS, it is wonderful to know I am capable of so much love.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Pillow Talk

Getting Emmy to sleep has never been easy. 

When Em was a tiny baby I co-slept with her mostly to make night time breastfeedings convenient and less disruptive. When we tried getting her to go to sleep in her own crib (at 3 months, and again at 4 months… and 6 months… and 8 months… you get the picture), it didn’t work. We tried everything BUT the cry-it-out method (I just COULDN’T do that), but Em REFUSED to go to sleep in her own bed. 

Within the last year, we’ve had some success at getting Emmy to sleep in her toddler bed in her own room. Basically, we put her to sleep in her bed, and when she wakes up (anywhere between one to four hours later), she joins C and me in our bed. C, who once was quite opposed to the whole “family bed” scenario, has come around to liking the comfort of us all being together at night (though both of us agree that we very much look forward to having our bed to ourselves again… whenever that may happen… hopefully before we reach retirement).

But in the past few weeks, since the baby’s arrival, Em has again had difficulty with FALLING asleep. We DO have a bedtime schedule established, more or less, which consists of dinner, bathtime, brushing teeth, books, and lullabies. Despite the comfort of consistency, Em seems to have anxiety when she gets under her blankets at night, and it ends up taking up to two hours for her to fall asleep.

She’s mentioned a fear of the dark a few times. She’s also told me that she can’t close her eyes because if she does, she can’t see anything. She asks me to hug her about 94 times, and she begs me to hold her hand until she falls asleep. I would have no problem doing these things to ease her fears, except that I am also holding a fussy, hungry baby who needs to be rocked or fed or cuddled. I try to comfort both Em and the baby at the same time, but it is often impossible, and one child gets upset, which creates a strained environment rather than a relaxed environment. I think this is feeding Em’s anxieties about bedtime.  

C has tried to help by watching Oren while I sing and comfort Em, but Oren hasn’t exactly cooperated with that plan. And it is hard to get Emmy to close her eyes and fall asleep while Oren is wailing somewhere in the background.

I would ask C to maybe switch roles with me, so he could read and sing and comfort Em, but frankly that is some of the only quality time Emmy and I have to be with one another, and I think we BOTH need that mommy/daughter time at the end of the day.

So I am trying to devise a Plan C, where maybe I read and sing lullabies to Emmy while C holds Oren, but then C comes in and holds her Em’s hand while she falls asleep. Maybe that will work? Maybe that will create a feeling of calm that will help lull our little insomniac to sleep?

It seems ironic, that snoozing should be such a source of stress in our family’s life. But I remind myself that we ARE parents of a toddler and a newborn, so sleep will likely be a moving target for the next several years… we might as well get used to this craziness.

If you have experience with this kind of thing, and have advice to offer, please don’t hold back. I’m open to your suggestions!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Sleeping Around

Wait! It’s not what you think! I haven’t decided to suddenly turn this mama blog into Fifty One Shades of Gray.

So... last night, at two in the morning, poor C stormed out of our bedroom.

You see, Emmy had kicked him (in her sleep) for like the 84th time. He couldn’t take any more beatings.

I felt horrible for him, of course. It’s no fun to be kicked in the stomach and back repeatedly, when all you want to do is rest and maybe dream a little.

After he left the room to go seek refuge in our tiny guest room, I started thinking about beds (it was two a.m. and my head was sleepy, so I wasn’t going to start thinking about nuclear physics).
I started thinking about all the beds I’ve slept in (again, not in THAT way). Then I started counting the number of places I’ve called home since I was born. 

There were some real winners among the bunch. Like the studio basement apartment I lived in when I got my first job after graduating from college. The place was the size of my thumbnail, reeked of auto exhaust fumes (the one tiny window in the apartment was in direct line with the complex’s driveway), and was directly across the hall from the laundry room, which meant that the “thunka thunka” of the dryer was the theme song of my existence.

There was the apartment out in LA that I shared with a spider enthusiast who enjoyed scaring me with his black widows and tarantulas. He also loved playing with fire (literally). And also dressed in women’s lingerie constantly  when he was stupid drunk. I never slept very peacefully in that apartment.

And there was the haunted house in Providence, Rhode Island. I’m not a believer in ghosts, or a watcher of Crossing Over with John Edwards, but I can say with reluctant certainty that the home had “visitors”. Want an example? One night I was sitting upstairs in my bedroom, when all of a sudden I smelled smoke. I ran downstairs to the kitchen and discovered all of the gas oven burners on FULL BLAST.  I was THE ONLY person in the house, mind you. Also, my bedroom looked like it was straight out of a David Lynch movie. It was totally spooky.

Anyways, when I was all done recalling my former abodes, I realized I have called at least 18 different places “home”.

That SEEMED like a lot to me. I mean, for someone whose parent wasn’t in military service, anyway.

But IS it a lot? Or, nowadays, with our nomadic, on-the-move culture, is that considered an average number of homes? 

I looked it up this afternoon, and it seems that according to three year old data from the U.S. Census Bureau , the average American moves 11.7 times in their lifetime.

So, yay, I’m above average. I’ve slept around more than the average American bear.

I know it’s going to sound sappy, but I kind of hope that this is it. That THIS house will be THE house, for me and for my family, for many many years to come. Because even though it is a small house, I love the walls we are decorating with Emmy’s artwork, and the basement that is being filled with boxes of past holiday memories.  I love sleeping in THIS bed, in THIS bedroom, with my son who sounds like a pterodactyl , my David Beckham-like daughter, and my poor sleep-deprived husband. This is my home. I love calling this home.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

In Your Dreams!

Last night, between the many baby wakings and feedings, I managed to have a dream. 

A REAL dream, you know? One that took me out of my bed, out of my house, out of my mommy-head…

I dreamt that it was New Years Eve, and I was a young twenty-something whose biggest worry was whether I was going to wear pants or a skirt when I went out club-hopping with my friends after midnight (after midnight! When was the last time I was actually OUT after midnight??? Just the thought of clubbing makes me slightly exhausted).  I was acting reckless and silly and… well, younger.

Waking up from the dream was strange. I mean, one minute I'm dancing like a crazy lady among crowds of friends and strobe lights, and the next minute I am lying in bed in my pajamas, with a toddler snuggled into the deep of my neck and an infant clinging to my chest, making helicopter-like grunting noises.

My first thought was how much I missed those days, when I could hang out and get crazy with my other (young) friends for endless hours. I missed wearing short skirts and taking 20 minutes to do my makeup and drinking Bailey's like it was water. 

But then I listened to my babies breathing deeply, and felt the warmth of their tiny bodies next to mine. And I realized I would gladly trade my dream life, even my really fun, really young-feeling dream life, for my beautiful mamahood reality.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Growing Pains

I can’t say I am surprised, or that I wasn’t warned.

When we took Oren to the pediatrician for his first doctor’s visit, his kind doctor asked us how Em was dealing with the baby’s arrival. C and I answered that she seemed to be doing surprisingly well, with just a few signs of anxiety here and there.

The pediatrician looked at us with sympathy and told us that it was going to get worse, and probably quite a bit worse, in the coming weeks.

Since that appointment, Emmy has done her job proving that our pediatrician is indeed a wise woman. During our second week home from the hospital, Em developed an urgent need to be held and hugged by whomever happened to be holding (or nursing) her baby brother. During our third week home from the hospital, Em rather suddenly decided she hates school and wants to stay home with us all the time (which has made the mornings around here just DELIGHTFUL). And this past week she became afraid of the dark and pitched a huge fit when we tried to turn the lights off in her bedroom at night-night time (something we have done without any resistance for the past twenty six months). 

Yesterday, when I picked Em up from daycare, she asked where her baby brother was. I told her that baby brother was at Baba and Grampy’s, and that we would be going to pick him up before heading home. Em then asked if it might be possible to instead LEAVE baby brother at Baba and Grampy’s… like, FOREVER.

I told Em that we couldn’t leave Oren at their grandparents’ house, and asked why she didn’t want to pick him up. Em told me she was scared of the baby. I asked what was scary about the baby, and Em said the baby made a lot of noise. She’s not wrong. The baby doesn’t cry ALL that often, but he does grunt and groan and make his presence known in lots of other semi-noisy ways. And when he DOES cry, he doesn’t hold back.

Poor Em. My heart really goes out to her. Her whole world has changed. She used to be able to command 100% of our attention with her cute little songs and dances. Now she has to compete with a brother who cries often, nurses even more often, and poops pretty much constantly.

To be honest, I had little hope that I would be able to make Em feel better about the situation, or that I would be able to offer any words that would comfort her two year old brain and heart. But I told her that right now, baby brother is a baby, and he isn’t much fun for her because he can’t walk and he can’t talk and he can’t play with toys. BUT if we are patient, and we wait for baby Oren to get to be bigger, he will be lots of fun, and he WILL be able to walk and talk and play games with us.

You know what? Emmy GOT it. She started asking questions that followed this line of logic, like “when baby brother is big, we can take him to the waterfalls?” and “when baby brother is big, he can eat pizza too?” and “we can take baby brother on a choo choo train when he is big?” 

Yes, Emmy. YES. If we are patient, and if we can get through these first kind of crazy chapter together, we will be able to do all of those things together, and it will be so wonderful.