Monday, December 31, 2007

Wheeling Out

It's something like day ten of my "vacation" from work and I'm only now beginning to relax a little bit.  I went through some seriously strange emotions in relation to checking my email, for example.  I worked like crazy the last few days before break so that there wouldn't be anything pressing for me to attend to while we were in San Diego, but then I found myself with a wicked email addiction that didn't go away when the work went away.  So for the first several days of the vacay I had to fight powerful urges to open the inbox.

It passed, thankfully, and so did thoughts of work.  Of course, the India trip looms, and I haven't prepped hardly anything for my spring class, so when I did happen to think of work, a regurgitation of panic wells up in me over everything I have to do before next Monday, and I have to hum and rock myself a little bit just so my head won't explode.  This has happened a few times, and makes me want to throw my computer against the wall so that I won't ever have to check email again, so loathe am I to even think about getting back into the swing of things.  I am like the smoker who smokes like a chimney, then quits, then gets all righteous about quitting and can't even stand the barest whiff of smoke.  Email (i.e., work) is my cigarretes at the moment.

Of course, all of this is made more difficult because of the fact that there really was no "vacation" at all.  Nolie barely slept a wink the entire time we were in San Diego, and Eric developed a snore that emanated from the depths of hell, and we slept on a hide-a-bed (need I say more?).  So I was tired and probably crankier than I realized (sorry everyone).  There were many awesome moments, no doubt about it, and I love my in-laws deeply.  The weather in San Diego was gorgeous, and I was overwhelmed with the love and generosity of this family.  I was a little wiped out by the whole thing, though.  And maybe also a little bummed that I wasn't able to relax more.  I think I was just wound so tight from the shenanigans of the fall semester that it's taken this long to unwind a little.

Just in time to head back to work on Wednesday.  I'm guessing my presentation on nanotechnology (which apparently has been given 12 minutes out of the entire ten days, one minute for every hour of time change I'll be making.  Not that I'm complaining!  I have no idea what I'm going to say, even now, a week before I leave) will get done on the plane, and the paper due for another conference will get emailed out from the airport.  I was kind of hoping to not begin the semester that way, but here I am.

Why is it such a battle to stay centered?  The struggle sometimes makes me wonder if I'm doing the right thing.  Is this the life I want to be living, so busy and fast?  I'm not sure, not sure at all.  I find myself facing another spring where I'll need to do more questioning, more reflection, to make sure I'm not just on the hamster wheel for the spinning's sake.  I need to envision what I want for my life (a big component of which needs to be peace).  So, does this mean some tiny adjustments (a massage once a month?).  Or a bit one (like a career change?).  Scary work to be done.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Winter Festivus

Addie's preschool had their winter carnival last weekend, and Addie and I went.  There were crafts, and a big potluck, and the music lady led the kids in some rousing holiday carols (including a kickass version of the Kwanzaa Song, which seemed to puzzle many of the smiling but baffled parents in the room, none of whom were African-American, I think).

Anyway, all throughout the festival, I had these moments where I was filled with swelling pride for Addie.  I was proud of the fact that she came to the festival (on one of the coldest days of the year) dressed in these little red capris, which are droopy in the drawers, a completely unmatching orange, too-big shirt with bell-sleeves, and brown and pink cowboy boots.  Her hair had some serious cowlicks in it, too.  All the other little girls were dressed in frilly, foofy Christmas dresses, tights, and little princess shoes (in case you hadn't noticed, princesses are big among the 3-5-year-old set).  But I don't think Addie noticed the discrepancy.  She is always most interested in being comfortable--she hates anything tight or scratchy, and loves what she calls "soft pants"--velour pants with elastic wastebands in bright colors, or sweats.  Princess clothing is noticeably uncomfortable, with lots of scratchy netting and itchy, constrictive bodices.  Addie is only theoretically into princesses, at this point.  Thank God.

I don't know.  I guess I was just really glad to see her there, looking all Ramona Quimby, totally at home with herself.  Her friends were really happy to see her, and gave her big hugs, and dragged her off by the hand to run screeching around the big reception room.  I know that in a year or two she'll probably really start caring what she looks like, and kids might start to make fun of her for scratching her butt in public so much.  And maybe, internally, she's starting to think about these things, too.  For now it's cool to see her just being Addie.

I was also proud of her when she didn't get a jingle bell handed out to her during the caroling, and she didn't freak out or anything.  She just held up her little fist, imaginary bells clutched tight inside it, and shook it up and down in time with the music.  And during crafts, when everyone else was making cards for "Santa," Addie was making a friendship card for her buddy Zachary.  Awesome.

The best part, though, was at the end.  This being my first Winter Festival, I didn't know how things go.  But apparently a lot of the other parents did, because the minute the last song ended, several of them swooped down into the group of preschoolers, grabbed their kid, and clawed and scratched their way into what was to become the Santa line.  By the time I figured out what the hell was going on, we were behind 45 kids all wanting to sit on Santa's lap.  At this point, the stomach flu that was about to hit me for the rest of the weekend was coming on, and I wasn't totally sure Addie would sit in the old guy's lap anyway, and so I explained to her that we wouldn't be able to see Santa this year.

"I can totally see him, Mom!" she said.  "He's right there!"
And he was!  He was right there.  She hung out in front of the stage for a few minutes, staring at him and sucking on her hair.  Then she was ready to go.  So we left!  No tantrums, no freakouts, no wailing about toys or expectations or anything.  And again I was proud of my girl, and so glad in that moment that she was her strange, quirky little self.  Because she is just one of the best people I've ever met.  Christmas blessings abound.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Pooball Effect

I was talking to another working mom the other day who was dealing with the fact that she was going to have to find a new preschool for her son because the preschool we use now has too many kids in each classroom, and it freaks him out.  She wasn't worried about her son per se, but more about the disruption of having to find a new school that would work for him, and about having two drop-offs (her older son is really happy at our preschool), and about just having to change the whole routine they were all accustomed to.

I totally empathized.  Sometimes I think the only way working parents can make everything gel is by adherence to a pretty strict routine.  Knowing what time you drop your kids off, where, how you sign them in, and that there going to be relatively safe for the eight or so hours you're at work is pretty priceless.  If you don't have the routine, then you're much more likely to forget lunchboxes, class pictures, briefcases, meetings, etc.  Then you're more likely to be cranky, more prone to conflict with your kids, more likely to think you can't hold it all together.

And, of course, the whole "holding it together" is mostly an illusion.  Things come up all the time over which you have no control, and staying organized is really unimportant in the face of big things (I'm not totally screwed up in my values here) like loving your kids, and spending time with them, and just letting everything go to shit once in a while so that you can relax and be together.

But in realistic, day-to-day terms?  The routine is really, really important.  And when those unexpected things happen to mess up the routine, it's amazing how it can throw everything else off.

Like the kids being sick for the last week.  Eric had to stay home with the girls today again, and I was home with them yesterday and last Friday.  Eric was on two days last week, too.  So that's a lot of missed work, a lot of stress on the parents missing work, a lot of worry about the sick kids, and so on. 

We hung in there pretty well until today.  Eric was grumpy from the get about having to stay home with the kids (I had a five-hour meeting at work that was pretty much mandatory).  Then I got to feeling grumpy at him for being grumpy, and felt guilty about not being home to do my job as mom.  Then I had a bad day at work that made me wonder if I had made the right decision going on the tenure-track, which made me wonder why I was busting my ass at a job I was going to fail at, all the while also failing my family at home. 

So, recap:  Feeling like a failure as a mom?  Check.  Feeling like a failure as a wife?  Check.  Feeling like a failure as a professional?  Check.

The reality, of course, is that I'm not failing at any.  What was happening is that the routine was disrupted, and the illusion of control and management was disrupted.  One area--parenting--was getting the shakedown, and so the shakedown spread to the other areas.

Snowball of parenting guilt-anger-resentment poo.  Making it a pooball, I guess.  Which is what I felt like I was eating all day long.  Big, stinky pooballs.

Here's to eating less poo tomorrow.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Soup, Poop, and Croup

I was totally wrong--it wasn't the bacon bean soup at all!  It was the puking and pooping flu!  And since last week was end-of-semester crunch time for me, poor Eric had to stay home with poor, spewing Nolie.  Luckily, it passed after a few days.

Which was just enough time for Addie to get....croup!  With record-high temperatures!  Which she still has, despite the fact we give her inhuman amounts of children's Motrin all day long! 

Really, it hasn't been so bad, though.  We got hit with the big winter storm, and cozied up with the two little snot-balls all weekend, and Eric made the best french onion soup I've ever tasted in my life, and we all hung out and drank beer and stared at our Christmas lights and watched t.v.

The kids didn't drink beer.  But they had lots of Motrin.

Anyway, we had a taste of relaxation, and I liked it.  I have some publications due out in the next few weeks and it's going to take every last bit of strength I have to rally and finish them, because every cell in my body wants to camp out on my couch and be laaaaazy.  So I'll make a little time for that, and some time for the work, and it will all get done, and life is good.  Feverish, but good.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Bacon Bean Soup Poop

I love Nolie's daycare provider.  Love, love, love her.  She is sweet and kind, smart and funny, and is incredibly awesome with the kids.  She used to be a Montessori teacher, so she's great with teaching them to be independent, but she's also really loving.  Nolie is absolutely in love with her (and if you know Nolie, who still sometimes screams when strangers look at her wrong, you know how amazing this is).  When I dropped Nolie off the other day and said, "Give mommy a hug," Nolie went and hugged Lori.  But I don't take this the wrong way--I'm thrilled that she's bonded so closely with her.  Lori is like Mary Poppins--nearly perfect in every way.


My only small, tiny, nevermind critique is this:  she feeds Nolie bacon bean soup.  Like, a lot of bacon bean soup.  I can understand the impulse--Nolie's a very picky eater, and when you find something she actually likes, your inclination is to feed her a lot of it, because who knows what and when she'll eat next?

The problem is that bacon bean soup creates the soupiest, bacon beaniest poops I've ever seen in my life.  In, bacon bean soup; out, slightly sour bacon bean soup.  This smells unbelievably foul, especially because I'm a vegetarian (though I'm not sure bean kale soup would be any better).

When Addie was talking to my mom on the phone last night, my mom asked Addie how Nolie was doing.  Addie responded, "She's been pooping a lot."  Pot calling the kettle black, though, because a few minutes earlier, Addie had tooted and Eric asked her if she was the one who was so stinky, and Addie responded, "Nope, that's just my finger!"

Anyway, when I dropped Nolie off with Mary Poopins this morning, I didn't say anything, except that she better put a lot of diaper cream on her butt if she's going to feed her more bacon bean soup.  Which I hope she doesn't.

Monday, December 3, 2007

The Thirst Calls

Since before leaving for England, my left eye has developed a funky little twitch when I get over-tired.  I don't think other people can see it, but I'm not sure.  I definitely notice it, and it makes me self-conscious, in addition to just being annoying.

I'm a-twitchin' away today, that's for sure.  Ms. Magnolia has what seems like six thousand molars coming in at the moment, and she hasn't been sleeping worth squat.  She's been waking up throughout the night for the past few nights, wanting a little extra love and comfort as she grinds those molars into existence, crunch, crunch. 

So it didn't seem that strange last night when she woke up around 9:30 and wouldn't go back down until past midnight.  Oh, she'd fall asleep in my arms or on Eric's shoulder, but the minute we put her down in her crib, she would wake and begin to scream.  We gave her tylenol, rocked her, played with her, held her, changed her, but nothing was working.  Finally, we left her in her crib to cry, figuring she'd have to get up eventually.  She didn't.  An hour later?  Still crying.

That is, until one of us figured out she might be thirsty.  Eric got her some milk, she drank it, and five minutes later was out.

How dumb is that?  Isn't that, like, the first thing you try as parents?  I don't know why we didn't think of it.  It was a good reminder that you can think you know what you're doing, and you get complacent and smug, and then end up slapping yourself in the forehead for being such an idiot.

I love parenting.