Sometimes you look up from where you re enjoying you breakfast on a wintry Sunday morning to see puzzling things. Or, at least, you do when you live with Charles:
Sometimes, I feel like the weight of the world is on my shoulders. Kids, you know? Feeding, clothing, cleaning, developing them. There’s just so much, and it barely leaves room for me, and I sure as hell don’t think I deserve to think much about me during this season of my life.
Tony and the boys went to Leland’s to watch football yesterday, while I took two hours to clean the whole house (much of which was dirty again by the evening because of dirt on shoes and dog feet), do laundry, dishes, and go to the store. You know the story: mom gets time to herself, mom does nothing but work for other people. Anyhow, so I was called back to feed the kid in the middle of the shopping trip, which caused me to forget several items on my list. Tony, bless his heart, doesn’t mind taking the kids for the afternoon, but he gets so engrossed in the football game that he doesn’t pay attention to them. So, I’ve been notified that we are no longer welcome for football games if I’m not there to take care of the kids. There goes my two hours of “me time” (and by “me time” I mean, working for everyone else rather than doing something that is selfish and just for me) every week.
And Charles is so clingy right now – when he gets hurt (which is six frajillion times a day), he screams/whines “I wan’ mine mommy!” Simultaneously heartwarming (he wants me!) and annoying, because no one else will do, even if I’m nursing Jamie or making dinner or going pee, it never fails to make me feel a twinge of guilt. Is he getting enough love? Is he secure enough? Does he fall and get hurt and then look around and worry that I’m not there to comfort him? And then, when he’s going to bed at night, he begs me to sleep with him. “Nuggle me, mommy. Seep wif me. Jus for a little while.” If I lie down with him, I can’t do the household chores that need doing or spend time with Tony. If I don’t lie down with him, he cries softly, eventually falls asleep, and I feel like a wicked person when I check on him and see his angelic face snoring into his pillow. What kind of an asshole am I that I can’t lie down and snuggle my son to sleep? Do I think that this will last forever? Do I honestly believe I have all the time in the world to do this? We all know he’s going to wake up tomorrow and be over it, over me, over us. And then, when he’s 30 and has kids of his own, he won’t hug me anymore.
Jamie eats so much and SO frequently these days. We’re both recovering from a nasty cold (yesterday, Tony said something about how it sounds like I smoke twelve packs a day, and even though neither of us knew how many cigarettes are in a pack, we’re pretty sure that a person would have to smoke one after another 24 hours a day to make it through twelve packs a day, but yeah, the cough sounds that disgusting) and that really threw his sleep schedule off. No longer does he sleep for three to five hours for the first chunk of the night, oh no. Now he is awake and hungry every 45 minutes ALL DAY LONG. I am exhausted, and when I am exhausted, I forget things.
I’ve been pumping one side while Jamie nurses on the other every morning, resulting in about 5 ounces of milk that I bag and freeze every other day. It’s a good system, and I’m hoping it will keep me from having supply woes later when he is in daycare. Here’s how it goes: I sit down with the pump on one side, start nursing on the other and then attach the pump to my breast with the hand that isn’t holding Jamie. I pump until he de-latches, set the bottle back on the pump, put myself back together, grab a burp rag, and burp the baby. Then, I usually find somewhere to set Jamie down while I clean up the pump and either stash the milk in the fridge for the next day or transfer the contents to a bag and then the freezer. Except for when I am tired and forgetful, and then I leave FIVE WHOLE OUNCES of pumped milk (liquid gold!) sitting on the pump because I am too caught up in getting teeth brushed and clothes changed and backpacks together and coffee in my to-go mug and I FORGET THE MILK. I forget the precious milk that is so hard to pump and costs me so much in energy and calorie usage (dear Lord, why have I not skinnied up already?) and brain cells and I LEAVE IT THERE to go bad and be thrown away when I get home from work. And then I hate myself a little bit, do a lot of mental self-flagellation, and die inside.
I forgot the milk this morning.
Seriously, why am I so forgetful about this? Do I have some sort of mental block? I don’t forget to put on mascara. I don’t forget to feed the dog. But I forget the pumped milk, which I know I will pay for later when I am pumping all day and all night long just to get enough to sustain Jamie during part-time daycare.
Also, do you think babies can be bored? I get the distinct impression that Jamie is bored out of his skull with us. He really loves his exersaucer, so thank God I decided to get that out from the garage, but if I lay him down under his jungle-gym thingy, he plays for a bit, grabbing at stuff, and then settles down with his thumb in his mouth, looking at me expectantly. We play, we read stories, we go for walks, and he couldn’t care less. He sucks his thumb and falls asleep. He only gets really jazzed when Charles is around, kicking and gooing (probably trying to ask me, in his baby language, for protection from the unintentional violence of Charles’ affection). My baby is bored with me. Gol-ly, I knew I was getting old, but this is ridiculous. It only makes it worse when I take five minutes to stuff lunch in my pie hole and Jamie is just looking at me, waiting for me to entertain him. I would almost prefer wailing.
The other small person in our family had a checkup, too. Healthy, happy Jamie weighs in at 15 pounds, 8 ounces, and is 26 inches long.
He’s only rolled over, like, twice. Too much work, you know?
He’s his own boy with his own personality, but it sure is tough to keep from comparing him to Charles at this age. I guess that’s normal, when you have more than one child. As much as you totally understand that they are completely different, you still search your memory and your blog archives to see how they track compared to the other(s). And it says a lot about how skewed our perception of infants was when we had Charles; I mean, I know he was a big boy, but Jamie is top-of-the-charts and still comes nowhere near Charles’ stats. Charles was 19 pounds at four months of age. NINETEEN. Makes our chunk of Jamie seem small.
I tell you what, though: I can’t find those 3.5 pounds in photos at all.
The same rubber-band arms, the same chubby cheeks.
Jamie has really perked up in the last month, as one would expect a four-month-old to do. Well, really, he’s almost five months old, now, but we were late with the doctor appointment so we could combine the kids’ checkups. Anyhow, Jamie has started to recognize people and things, and he’s moved onto that stage of what Tony calls “It Doesn’t Exist Until I Put It In My Mouth.” He’s also laughing and smiling a ton, which is just so rewarding.
I’ve fallen into the trap of babying him a bit more than I probably should just because, well, he’s the baby. With Charles, as the first, I was constantly reading and researching the stages of development, moving him and challenging him to do the next thing. This time, I’m not working as hard, and so I haven’t, perhaps, kept Jamie as engaged as I could have. He’s just so mellow, it seems sort of natural to let him play with his toys. Not to mention that it’s convenient – the fact that he plays alone while Charles never really did makes it easier to take care of Charles, the dog, dinner, laundry, etc. But last night, after pouring over blog archives (what a great resource), I realized that at 4 months was about when we started putting Charles in the exersaucer and scooter. So, I got those toys out. And Jamie loves them, of course.
It’s really great how you get just what you need. We had a horrible experience as new parents with Charles. Tony doesn’t remember most of his first six months. I remember lots of good times, but also lots of tough nights. Colic, chronic diaper rash, lots of feedings for a growing boy. But Charles is a really fantastic kid, and if all those experiences were what was needed to add up to the three-year-old I have today, then I wouldn’t want it any other way. And the fact is, we were NEW. We didn’t have other kids who needed our attention. We had nothing but time and energy to devote to Charles’ needs.
Now? We have Jamie. And he’s easygoing, mellow, sure, but he’s not lacking in interest. He’s silly and funny, vocal and active. He’s cuddly and self-soothing. He sleeps a lot better than Charles did (even if he still wakes up every two hours to be fed, he doesn’t fuss as much as Charles and he goes to bed for his first 2-hour chunk early), he doesn’t have the colic or diaper rash (thank you, cloth diapers), and it is such a relief. What do people do when they have their easy baby first and their tough baby second?
I’m glad I don’t know. I’m glad I have Jamie. What a love he is.
“"Well," said Pooh, "what I like best -- " and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn't know what it was called” –A.A. Milne
It’s no secret that I like surprises, and I like parties, and I like holidays. It’s the planning, rather than the realization, however, that really turns my crank. For this reason, I always thought that a fun job would be Event Planner, but I am not foolish enough to think that it doesn’t come with several huge downsides, including the loss of weekends forever and bridezillas and crazy people.
The downside to this personality trait is a bit of a let-down when things are realized. Are you following? Because big things have happened in my life lately, and now that I’m on the other side, I feel a bit, well, not anticipatory, and I LIKE to anticipate.
It’s not that I’m not happy I’m here, it’s just that one of the things that makes me really happy is missing.
It might also have something to do with the fact that in my big anticipatory states, I have been the center of attention. I’m not naive; I know that one can only be the center of attention a few times (really) in one’s life, and most of those acts necessitate turning the spotlight on someone else shortly thereafter, but it’s tough when you experience a bit of loss, a bit of mourning for that attention.
When Tony and I got married, it was all about us, and mostly me. I loved it. I loved planning it, I loved living it. And then, I went to school and I missed it. Nearly a year of preparation and then it was done! And it was marvelous, and we had photos and gifts, but it was over. Fortunately, I had graduate school to work on and look forward to, and that filled some of the void.
But the bigger struggle for me has been babies. Once again (well, twice again, now), for the better part of a year, I planned for and anticipated having a new baby. And then he was here! In my arms! And suddenly, all that planning is put to the test and we get to live it and breathe it and clean it up every single day and it is truly fantastic. Oh, I love my boys.
But I miss being pregnant. Not for the soul-crushing morning sickness, or the weight gain (it’s nice to see the scale inch in the other direction), or the stretch marks (I got ONE GIANT ONE, which just isn’t fair, I’m telling you, as it is a monster that will eat your face if you stare at it long enough and will be the bane of my bikini existence assuming I ever get back to bikini size), or the pressure on my ladybits, or the huffing and puffing up flights of stairs, but for the air of excitement. Preparing for baby! People asking me when I was due, how far along was I, did I know if I was having a boy or a girl! Anticipating labor. Anticipating a squishy, million-degree, mewly newborn. Folding adorable tiny clothes that you dream about remembering your child wearing, even though you know from experience that sleep deprivation will cruelly rob you of the best memories.
And now that’s gone. And I fill my days with work and household chores and kids and it’s not about me and the life I am creating anymore, but rather the boys.
That’s as it should be, of course. Ask me about my boys! Do it! I’ll tell you how awesome Charles is lately, and how Jamie has started to recognize people other than me and thus lights up with a big, open-mouthed smile when they enter the room. Those kids deserve all the attention they can get because they are seriously cool and I never thought that having them around would be this much fun.
And Tony, too! He just got a new job that will mean great things for his career and work/life balance! Attention to him!
But what about me? I have nothing interesting to tell you about me. So I guess I kinda miss being pregnant because it gave me something interesting to talk about, it meant that I was more than just the drudgery of daily life. And before I got pregnant, I had activities and events, fun things to anticipate. Now, I anticipate trying to lose the baby weight and that makes me sad.
I think that most people like anticipating great things, even if they’re small things. Do you anticipate new movies in the theaters? New books? I anticipate new books because I don’t have time or babysitters for new movies, but then I usually talk myself out of buying the new books I want to read because I’m too frugal for my own good. Or maybe you are lucky enough to have a date night with your sweetie once a week or once a month (we don’t do this. Should we? Well, probably, but the kid won’t take a bottle, so our together time is limited to Netflix after the kids go to sleep and a little “How tired are you? *wink, wink*” “Too tired and I smell like baby vomit.”).
I know how Huey Lewis feels… I want a new drug, too.
This cake was agony, from the beginning. Charles HAD to have a dinosaur driving a car. There was a choice between new or old buttercream frosting – and I chose poorly (if you’re getting a cake a Haggen, go for the old, the new is pretty gross in large quantity). Another kid stuck his fingers in the cake (right under the 3 candle) and nearly caused a meltdown.
When all was said and done, however, he was completely enamored with it. Success!
The past year has brought some major changes to Charles’ life. Potty training, a new baby brother, the resulting potty regression, eventually figuring it out again. First plane ride, a ton more awareness of things around him and experiences. Trips to the zoo, aquarium, kite festival, and countless adventures to the beach, the park, the swimming pool.
He’s still in the 90th percentile for growth at 38 inches tall and 39 pounds, just barely under the weight limit for our old Britax Roundabout car seat. I figure that just about the time we transition Jamie from the infant carrier, we’ll upgrade that seat for Charles (it’s in the truck – he has a Graco Nautilus for the car). He’s in the EXACT same size of clothing that he was at this point last year, but he sure fills it out differently. He’s longer and leaner, though still sturdy. His speech expands every day, and almost everything is understandable now, with very few words in an alternate toddler language.
He loves to run. He knows how to ride a bike (with training wheels). He jumps and swings and is generally the most physical kid I know. He’s learning his letters, though it’s slow going, and he knows his shapes very well.
I’m so proud of him. I couldn’t have asked for a more loving, silly boy. Charles is so happy all the time, he makes me happy and keeps me positive. How lucky we are.
I will admit it: I have gone completely overboard for Charles’ 3rd birthday. Watch while I try to rationalize it:
If we’d just done a small party at the house, I would have ended up cooking and cleaning for any number of people who came. I would spend money on the food, and LOTS of time on the cooking and cleaning.
It’s cold outside (really cold) and so an outdoor party for a November birthday just isn’t in the cards. For Jamie’s birthdays, we’ll go to the park or something every time.
The kids at Charles’ preschool love the opportunity for a party, and the piñata was a great way to use up all the rest of our Halloween candy.
Jungle Playland will be fun for everyone, and Charles will burn off all the cake he eats playing all afternoon.
Do you want to know the real reason, though? I love birthdays, and I think a big deal should be made out of everyone’s birthday. It’s amazing to make it through another year! For me and Tony and for Charles. I love making him happy and I love celebrating his life and another year of joy and fun. Will he remember this birthday? Maybe. Will I? You bet.
For all I am extremely frugal, and for all the planning I do for the future, saving and allotting and working, I also try to live my life thinking, if I were to die tomorrow, did I do the best that I could while I was here? And we have the means to throw a pizza party at a fun location for Charles and ten of his friends, so we’re going to do so. And his cake will have a dinosaur driving a car, just like he wants. And he won’t even care, at this age, that our “present” to him is a weekend revolving around him having fun and celebrating his life, and not a tangible item.
And maybe, someday in the future, I will tone down birthday celebrations. After all, when my boys are teenagers, they probably won’t want a party like I like to throw. That would be uncool.
So, for now, let’s have piñatas and brownies, cake and pizza!
“Don’t take Jamie,” Charles tells me as I wander in during Daddy Stories (Mommy Stories are first, followed by bellowing “Daddy’s TURN!” as loudly as possible down the stairs). “Just leave him right there,” he says to me, insisting that the only place James belongs is right next to him in bed.
The boys stare at Tony with rapt attention, Jamie contorting his little body to get a better view of the book.
Tony whispers, “Look at this,” as if to say it louder would break the spell.
I pick up the camera. Charles spies it and says, loudly, “CHEESE!”
“Oh no!” I think, as I snap the photo, “I’ve ruined it.”
But I didn’t. They turn their little heads back to daddy and proceed to listen to the rest of the story.
I just picked up about ten pounds of dog poop from the back yard. I’m estimating, but I think that’s pretty accurate. After all, it was less than my sixteen-pound baby but more than a five-pound sack of sugar.
I’m on intimate terms with the bodily functions of the majority of my household. I can tell you how Charles, Jamie, and Buster are feeling just by how often they’ve pooped or peed and what the consistency and color of their excretions were. And that is something I just never realized went hand-in-hand with motherhood. I mean, I wipe three asses in this household and physically pick up poop from another! Thank God Tony can handle his rear end himself, right?
The truly ridiculous thing about it is that, in teaching Charles how to take care of himself, he now wants to “help” me in the bathroom. This imitation is, of course, all part of normal preschool development, but it’s still weird. I can’t honestly think of the last time I went to the bathroom alone for any reason, but Charles wants to turn it into a party. He’ll open the door and ask, “Are you going poop, Mommy?” Then, he’ll say, “Tell me when you’re done, I’ll help you wipe.” Oh, sweetie. The last thing you want to do is volunteer to wipe someone else’s ass. Save up your turns for when you have kids.
That reminds me: is it in boys’ genes that they must take a long time in the bathroom? Seriously, Charles will sit for ages on the toilet, doing his business. Tony once said that sometimes it just takes awhile, but I don’t find that I ever need more than a couple of minutes. So maybe it’s just boys? By the time they’re teenagers, I will have to claim a toilet as mine and mine alone just so I don’t get locked out of all three toilets in our house at once for half an hour while they do their marathon poops. Sheesh.
I’ve been on the phone for most of the day, fighting with phone companies about getting phone and internet to our new office building. As it turns out, business phone/internet is LOTS worse than residential utility services but the same sort of scheduling: instead of “We’ll be there between 2 and 8 pm,” they say, “We’ll be able to do that between 2 and 8 weeks.” Well, that’s not f**king good enough. Our business runs on a website, internet-based credit card processing, and VOIP phone and fax lines. Without internet, we are screwed. I have been on the phone many times a day for weeks now. But today, today, I feel like crying each time I talk with someone. Our installation is currently set for December 6, and there is so little communication within the utility company that no one can get ahold of the construction people to escalate my order. Will we lose so many customers due to down internet and phone that we have to close? Only time will tell! Step right up and enjoy the ride!
Add to that the fact that the ONLY thing Charles wants for his birthday is a cake with dinosaurs driving cars and flying airplanes on it, and even though I thought I had this one covered, it fell through. At ALMOST the last moment. I have until Friday to make this happen, so I’m scouring the internet for a decent photo and working within the many suggestions people have given me, which include gluing toys together and taking a photocopy of a shirt.
What’s really hurting about that right now is that I just want to do this one thing that he wants for him. He couldn’t care less about new toys, but he wants dinosaurs driving cars and airplanes on his damn cake. It’s his exuberance for life that frequently keeps me afloat, and I want to make him happy. But no! In addition to all the crap at work and frustrated phone calls, I now have to scramble on the cake, something that was already on my “done” list! Oh, baby Charles. His dancing put a smile on my face today when nothing else could. I’ll get those dinosaurs driving cars, I swear.
Do you ever just feel ineffectual and unappreciated? For all I know of my family’s poop habits, I don’t get a whole lot of praise for what I do. And if you’re a mom, you know how much that is. Me, all I want is some extra love and thoughtfulness – the same sorts of things I give everyone else in my family – but for all the nice things I do for them, I’m feeling like there isn’t much done for me. Certainly no one is making me feel any better about the size of my ass, which, at my rate of weight loss, looks like it’s here to stay. I guess I have to wait until Mother’s Day to get any love and appreciation. But then again, probably not, because children don’t understand that holiday and Tony doesn’t believe in it.
And that brings me to the great unjust rule of parenting: your kids will never know how much you did for them or appreciate it until they have kids of their own. Mom and dad, I love you. Thank you for everything you did for me, every sacrifice you made. I get it now, and I know it was difficult. I’m sorry.
This might come as a surprise to some of you, but I did not dress up for Halloween. Perhaps the first time ever?
Let’s face it, I’m not doing so hot right now. I am still 25 lbs up from pre-pregnancy weight. I’ve been losing weight at the rate of 0.5 lbs per week since my six-week postpartum checkup, which is not very fast at all, when you think that in ten weeks I have only lost five pounds. I look hideous, even though I do a pretty hardcore workout two or three times a week, plus running and walking when I can fit it in, which is less often than I’d like because now it is cold and dark and cold and cold. The pressure of work is nearly too much for me; we have been in the process of moving Goodwinds to a larger location for a couple of months now, and what started out as negotiating leases (no easy task) has turned into managing cash flow (moving can sink you, and leveraging ourselves further is not something I want to do) and construction and fighting with the utility company to get phone and internet service. You know, because we run a web-based business and it would be “helpful” or something. Or vital. Or impossible to continue doing business without. Take your pick, I guess. Before then, Leland was out on vacation and then Paul, so September was crazy, too.
There are the cakes to bake for school and church parties, there’s Charles’ 3rd birthday to plan. There are my parents and their dog to host while they’re in town helping us move, and there’s the horrible eating I do while they’re here – we eat lunch out every day and dinner isn’t nearly as lean and easy as I would normally make it. Then, next week, we have LOTS of people in town for Charles’ birthday, and isn’t it so wonderful that he has family that is willing to travel to celebrate with him? But what am I going to cook?
And then there’s the sleeping. I don’t get much. James goes to bed early these days, waking up for the first time around midnight. From that point on, he wakes up every one to two hours, which is a lot, especially after four months of this. And I shouldn’t complain because I know it could be worse; it was SO MUCH WORSE when Charles was this age. But still. AND he is a champion pee-er, soaking through diapers and clothes several times each night, throwing the whole get up-change diaper-feed-sleep thing off a bit. Woe is me if Jamie wakes up completely during any of those stages, and a full outfit change will do it.
Long story long, I haven’t had the brain power to devote to a costume.
My how things change. The week before Charles was born, I wore two costumes for Halloween.
At least the kids dressed up. And we don’t have to do any work with trick-or-treaters anymore. Charles took right over in that arena and it was adorable to watch.
Here’s Train Engineer Jamie:
And Spiderman Charles with a whole bunch of cake on his face:
I told Leland that I was just going to go as “Harried Mother” and he asked me what I was the other 364 days of the year. I guess it’s not a costume if you wear it all the time, huh?