Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Not Filled with Worry

I'm tempted to use the phrase "filled with worry" in this post, but I won't.  For one thing, it's probably overly dramatic, considering.  For another thing, it's not accurate.  I'm going out about my daily life like usual, with worry more of a persistent buzz in the background, darting in now and then like an angry horsefly.

So, we think Addie is probably allergic to a second class of antibiotics now.  After this most recent round of ear infections, at the very end of her dose, she started to get red welts on her legs, welts that looked an awful lot like the welts she got when she developed her allergy to cephalosphorins.  I haven't researched yet what our other options are, but my understanding is that this doesn't leave us with much to fight infection with.  If she's allergic to penicillins and cephalosporins, and continues to be sick as much as she has been, I'm not sure what our options are.  Which is scary.  And I can't even let myself think about what happens if she gets something more serious than an ear infection.  Even the ear infections, chronic as they are, are scary and exhausting.

But there's lots of what-ifs with all of that, which is why I'm sort of able to skirt the worry at the moment while I wrap up the semester and deal with all the other little inanities that crowd my life at the moment.  While the big things--my kids, their health, go unaddressed.

Like the knock-kneed thing.  At Addie's portfolio conference last night, I learned that she is an incredibly happy, motivated, and sweet kid, with a notable ability to concentrate and a penchant for order.  The teachers did say they had noticed some significant problems with her balance, that she is prone to spill, has trouble carrying large objects, with spatial relationships.  This is probably because of the problems with her ears.  Her other school, last year, told us the same thing.  When I told her teachers that we're also looking into her being knock-kneed, they all nodded, saying that explained a lot.  "She runs sideways on the playground," said one teacher.  "She has trouble staying in line," said another.

Right.  The nurse says she'll probably grow out of being knock-kneed, most kids do, but then noted with surprise (after I made Addie run up and down the hall) that Addie was pretty severely knock-kneed, and we should keep an eye on it.  God knows what that means.  I also have not terrified myself further by googling "knock-kneed," but in place of the internet search is a rich background tapestry of fear that perhaps Addie's legs aren't growing right, and that's why she wants to be carried everywhere and can't run as fast as the other kids.

Or maybe she's just fine.  Is just different.

Or maybe she's not getting enough calcium (Eric's persistent worry) and her bones aren't growing right.

In which case.

Worry, worry, worry.  Buzz, buzz, buzz.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Geesh.  Three days alone with her dad, and here's what Addie learns:

Kidding.  This is just the old owie on the finger trick.  Still.  Pretty hilarious.  It'll be good to get home.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Going It Alone

I have to go to Arizona for a few days for work.  Addie was helping me pack tonight, and wanted me to make a list of everything I was going to put in my bags, and also a list of everything I was going to do while I was gone. 

"Who's going to be in your hotel room at night?" she asked.

"Nobody, honey," I laughed.  "I'll be by myself."

She threw herself into my arms, sobbing.  "No, Mommy!  Why don't you let me come with you?  Please let me come with you!"

What's going on here?  Is she old enough to be worried about me?  Or is she just projecting her own fears about sleeping alone on to me?  Maybe both?

Last week we were having trouble getting Addie to stay in her room and go to sleep.  After an hour and a half of tantrums and pleading, she came out of her room one last time and wandered into ours.  "It's not fair!" she cried.  "You two get to sleep with each other, and I have to sleep by myself!"  Which is the worst thing in the world, in her book.

Eric and I looked at each other and shrugged.  She's pretty much right.  To be honest, there are nights when we'd rather not sleep in the same bed.  Eric snores and I talk in my sleep, and who wouldn't like to stretch out across a cool expanse of unrumpled sheets now and then?  And there's nothing better when you're a little kid than getting to sleep with someone.  The logic's a little funky, all screwed up by sexuality and tradition.  

So don't worry, Addie.  I'll be okay for a few nights in Arizona by myself.  And you'll be okay, too. 

Friday, April 18, 2008

Sounds of Spring

Our house is situated almost at the end of our cul-de-sac.  Over our backyard fence is a slice of another neighbor's yard, and then a huge cemetery, which at our end is mostly grasses.  If I squint, I can see headstones off in the distance.  Our bedroom windows open on to a view of this open(ish) space, and on sunny days, I like to open the sliding glass doors and windows so that I can appreciate the glorious spring sunshine, catch a breeze, watch the new buds on the trees come into bloom.

Here is what we can hear from our bedroom, at any given moment: 

1)  a neighbor blasting the sounds of Journey's "Don't Stop Believing." 

2)  the roar of middle-aged men revving their motorcycles for rides along the foothills.

3)  the foxes yipping and howling over a cat or possum they've caught, in the middle of the night.  We try to keep our cats in, but the girls don't always close the patio doors.  I imagine some night we might hear one of our cats out there, but I hope not.

4)  the long, patterned pulls of train whistles.  The trains move back and forth, back and forth through the cemetery, which seems to also be the location for a switching station.  I find this comforting.  Somewhere when I was a kid--maybe at one of my dad's houses--trains went by a lot.  I find them soothing.  They make Eric question his sanity.  Being a musician and scientist, he struggles to make sense of the patterns, to order them.  This usually goes on at 3am.

5)  songbirds.  Once, last spring, one of the hawks that frequently circles the skies above our neighborhood had landed in the low branches of a tree in our backyard, and was noisily tearing a songbird apart, screeching and dropping feathers and beak below for Addie and I to wonder and mourn over.

6)  the constant, distant hum of the freeway as it bends into the mountains.

7)  the obnoxious and irregular catches of a neighbor using his chainsaw (how many trees can be left in that little suburban yard?  Let it rest!).

8)  deafening rushes of wind.  Our house creaks and moans in these moments, as if it were a boat breaking apart over an iceberg.  We both start and giggle nervously at this, joking about the noise.  We're both secretly terrified the skeleton of the house may not be sound.

9)  squirrels chattering, mating, taunting our cats through the screen doors.

10)  the yells of junior high kids on their way home.

I have contradictory reactions to each; I sleep to the sound of the train whistle, and curse the coal its cars carry.  I speak jovially and easily with our neighbor, but hate chainsaws and motorcycles, or at least what they represent in the hands of middle-aged white men.  I am glad to be in proximity to the wild animals, but also cringe a bit at their brutality.  The supposed civilization of the freeway doesn't offer any solace, either, and in fact represents its own brutality.  I miss not interrogating all of this, and would rather just stand from a place of observation and not judgment.  But it's hard to silence those voices--loudest of all sounds--in my head.

Thursday, April 17, 2008


Addie had another CT scan this morning, to see if there's some problem in her sinuses that keeps causing these ear infections to come back, again and again.  If they don't see anything major, then we're on to tubes.  If they do see sinus problems, then no tubes, because apparently they'll just drain all the green pus from the sinuses.  Yikes.  Then we're in for surgeries, with sinus washes and all that.

But she was such a brave girl, getting moved in and out of that machine.  I felt her body relax when the tube began to whir and she got mesmerized by the movement.  She held perfectly still as they slid her body in and out.  It was just a few minutes, but stuff like that freaks me out, echoes far more serious things.  Suggests what it might be like if something worse came down the line.

Addie has no such associations, though.  She hopped up when it was done, munched on some m n m's, and that was that.  She only cried when we got to school late and she had missed her group's time for music hour, which she loves.  All in all, not a bad deal.  Just a little extra radiation and a missed chance at the tambourines. 

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Thoughts on 33

I'm another year older today, and more importantly, it's almost the end of the academic year (which is how I really measure my time, having never really left school).  So maybe it's time for some reflection, because this has been one heck of a doozy.

Eric and I have been married almost six years!  That seems like forever, and also no time at all.  You're married to someone for six years and you think you know them, what they think, how they think, what they want.  And you end up being wrong because you stopped listening, filling in their blanks for them.

Like how I use the impersonal "you" there?  What I really mean is "I."  I was doing that, do that, because I've been married for six years and think I know it all, and tend to operate in shorthand anyway.  So that's my big life lesson in the old marriage arena.  Stay together long enough, and you find out you've married a whole bunch of different people, who inhabit one body but slowly reveal themselves to you in new and fascinating forms over time.  I've been taking it for granted, had fit Eric into some neat little boxes.  But, um, surprise.  He was never really in those boxes to begin with, and now, as we're learning to communicate in new ways, shows me the boxes were wrong anyway.

We're also in new bodies.  Bodies that are getting a little older.  The hair at my temples is completely gray, and when I pull it back into a ponytail, a swath of shiny silver is revealed.  My knees and shoulders--which I recklessly abused playing college sports--are creaking and painful and might need surgery.  50% of the time, a good sneeze and I've peed my pants.  The creases under my eyes are permanently purple, even if I do get caught up on sleep.  My hands are getting a little crepey.  My belly bulges.

I've been fighting against this all year, mourning the gone tautness of my twenties.  I think that's fine to do that, to mourn the passing of certain parts of yourself.  I think I can move in to new ways of being and seeing myself because I took some time to feel disappointed that my body is acting and looking a little older than I expect it to.  I'm not saying I'm thrilled about the creaky aches and pains, or that I'll stop dying my hair anytime soon.  But I don't feel so panicky about all of it, either.  Kicking ass at the gym helps the self-esteem, too.  I'm still strong, and I like that.

And the girls?  Well.  The girls.  They're shocking and amazing and incredible.  Nolie is incredibly athletic and jovial.  Her best trick right now is to stand stock still, then shoot both legs out in front of her, landing with a gigantic thud on her butt.  Then she laughs uncontrollably.  She is completely fierce in the world, and also completely tender and open.  She'll dive headfirst off the slide at the park, but always knows where I am, coming to me, demanding "Hug!" before racing off again.  She'll still fall asleep in the rocker with me occasionally.  She knows an incredible number of words and can feed herself.  There is a thin halo of brown hair that wisps down over her forehead and ears, and she glows with beauty.  She has incredible, deep, brown eyes, and my heart contracts every time I look at her.  What a spirit.

And Addie.  Addie who just turned four and seems so wise, older than her years, but who is still a little kid and often shy and afraid, too.  She understands so much, teaches me about science and kindness and about how I (often mistakenly) categorize the world.  She is funny, and already understands puns and sarcasm.  She commands my complete attention, and rebels when I can't or won't give it to her.  She moves haphazardly through space, often bumping into things, but her movements have a lovely grace to them, too.  She is knock-kneed.  She is solemn.  She is terrified of the smoke alarm in her room.  She needs more of my time.  She is so lovely it sometimes takes my breath away.  Sometimes we battle fiercely, and then collapse into each other.  She is my own spirit, halved in two, and also completely herself and separate from me. 

Such strange bonds.  So different.  Equally strong.

I'm also overwhelmed by the incredible friendships that have sustained me through all this, even when I've been out of contact, or hasty, or a jerk.  Eric, who has stayed with me through this most difficult of times.  All of the incredible women in my life who call or show up at my door or who whisk me to Florida (yes, I'm going) when I most need it.  I feel like saying I don't deserve them, but they wouldn't accept that.  They just stay in, hunkered down with me.  Immense gratitude for that, and for my family members, who are locked in their own happinesses and struggles, but who think of me every day.

Work.  Work, work, work.  What an incredibly difficult year it has been, trying to figure myself out, what it is I want, who I am.  So many mistakes made.  Errors in judgment.  Things wrongly understood.  But I feel like I've come out the other side, and am much better for it.  The path seems laid out before me now, a flow of creativity established.  I have moments where I am still filled with fear and regret for taking all this on.  I wonder if I can do it.  I wonder if I will feel sorry I did it later.  But louder is the voice that says the work is right, that I have these things that need to be said, that might have impact.  There is an alignment between belief, action, and work that feels correct.

I suppose that's enough for now.  I promise to post more in the coming weeks, now that the semester is almost over, and I'll write more about these kids, who blow my mind every five minutes.  I welcome in a calmer year, an easier one, more focused.  I'm sure with more lessons and challenges, too.  In invite the spirit of my ten days in India to diffuse more of my life.  I welcome in peace, calm, and purpose.

I let.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Bubbles Up

It's clear that Addie and I have at least this in common:  we don't like being told no. 

I've been pretty excited to head down to Florida for a weekend with  my good friend Toni.  In fact, I was hanging just about everything on that trip.  I can get through one more hideous meeting at work, because I get to have a weekend in Florida in May, I'd say to myself.  I can deal with Addie having one more tantrum because of the peas in her bowl is a little mushy!  Just hold on, Jen, and clean the poo streak off this toilet just one more time.  Because pretty soon you'll be sitting by a pool, drinking some sweet alcoholic beverage, dozing off when you like.  In Florida.

Course, then, I made the mistake of consulting Eric one last time about whether or not I should go.  Honestly, I pretty much considered this a formality.  Wasn't it obvious that I needed this trip?  Deserved it?  He wouldn't deny me that, would he?

Turns out Eric's had just about enough of me gallavanting off on trips for work, and isn't overly excited about being by himself for another weekend with the girls, and oh, by the way, we have a whole bunch of other things regarding our relationship that we haven't really been addressing and that are now bubbling to the surface. 

So, no trip to Florida.

So, now I'm on the floor having the tantrum.

Actually, that was Tuesday.  Today I'm better about the whole thing.  I'm still a little embarrassed by the fact that I had to tell Toni that (once again) I couldn't do the trip with her.  I'm still disappointed in that raw, mean, poor-kid-in-the-candy-store kind of way.  But I get it.

I get that I can't do everything.

I get that I can't have a clean house, an active social life, a full career, a happy family, and maintain my sanity. 

I get that I can't expect Eric to just be the babysitter.  There's got to be more for him in this relationship, too.

I get that this is not just about me not getting to go on the trip.  It's about me saying yes to too much.  It's about me being afraid of what my life might be or look like if it's not cram-packed.  It's about coming to terms with my anxiety in the quieter moments. 

I get that the vacation might not have "fixed" the stress anyway.  That there's bigger fish to fry here, and I can't ignore them too much longer.

I still feel a little pissed, wronged in some way, I guess.  But I get it.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008


Hello old friend, dear blog.  You thought I had vanished, been whisked away by the demands of that vicious headmaster, Herr Schedule, reduced to a wisp of my former self by the twin succubi Duty and Demand.  But I persist here, abacinated by stress, scorched with a center that has lost its hold, but persisting nonetheless.

Grambie came to visit this weekend, to celebrate Addie's big-girl 4th birthday, and to generally bring merriment and joy:

Before she left, she gave me the awesome gift of Foyle's Philavery:  A Treasury of Unusual Words.  Abacinate is the first.  It means:

to blind someone by putting re hot metal before their eyes (note:  the word occurs in many dictionaries but I can find no recorded uses of it in a text apart from the lyrics of the 1986 song 'Angel of Death' by American thrash metal band Slayer.

Isn't that great?  I've managed to turn a post about how depressed I've been, how bereft, how lost, into something hilarious, simply by incorporating the word "abacinate," which in turn references Slayer.  Things are looking up already.

I won't go on at length.  I'm mostly not sure what's wrong with me, but am thinking it's some combination of overwork and hormone fluctuations and a generally angsty temperament.  It could be, too, that the damned leaves are taking too long to bud, or that my work involves reading the constant doomsday pronouncements of environmental studies scholars.  Maybe I just need a pedicure.

There are many moments of beauty in my life, of that I'm sure.  Watching Grambie draw with Addie, and Nolie reaching out for hugs from her; a dozen kids doing their best to beat hell out of Addie's birthday pinata, to no avail (I finally ripped the thing apart with by bare hands, which was strangely therapeutic); the word "abacinate"; the band Slayer.  I'll just focus on these for now, until the next crying jag knocks me in the ass.  Abacinate, abacinate, abacinate.