Sunday, August 28, 2016

The End of Summer, and the Resulting Stress

I'm feeling lots of anticipatory stress about going back to work. Last year was just so hard. I felt stressed to the max, and exhausted, so much of the time. There wasn't much enjoyment of life, or of my children. It felt like I was sprinting from 5:30 AM to 6:30 PM every day. And after the final big push to get them to bed on time, I just collapsed. Didn't so much enjoy my evenings and use them to try to recover. So I've been thinking a lot about how to make this coming school year better. I don't want to just survive my days. I want to actually 

I've finished, mostly, a giant decluttering of the house after we finally spent some time at home after all our travels. My motto was "get the low hanging fruit" so it's not that every drawer is organized -- maybe someday -- but there's just a lot less STUFF in my house. I made a new rule that nothing is to be kept on the floor. The standing and push toys were purged. Scooter and stroller are in the closet. 

I feel like I can breathe again. but the week or more process nearly made me insane with stress. it's like cortisol just starts pumping through my veins at the sight of clutter. Lnowing that, i shouldn't have done anything else until it was done but naturally, being away so much of the summer, i was also working on my long to do list. i'm mostly caught up with that, too, and i feel like i can breathe again. It's funny how having things be neat helps me have the energy to keep up with it, and accomplish other tasks to boot.

I'm also rereading a book about dealing with anxiety and am trying to get into a habit of meditation. The book recommends a meditation practice of 30 minutes a day and just thinking about a 30 minute commitment makes my blood pressure rise -- i still do my 30 minute workout nearly every day, and I think I can only have one habit like that, time wise, per day -- but i can work on doing 1-5 minutes of focusing on my breath each day, maybe even multiple times a day. 

I've hired also babysitters to bring Calliope home from school 3 days a week and the same sitters will pick up Eleanor 5 days a week, so it would be easy enough to increase to 5 days a week for Calliope as well, if necessary.

Last year i worked out shortly after we got home from school, which was nice in that I didn't have to get up super early to work out before work, as I had done in years past. It's so hard for me to climb out of bed and immediately do something hard, physically. as a result, i always got up and puttered for a while beforehand... but of course that takes even more time. What do you guys think? is it better to get it done, even if it kind of sucks? My body definitely feels better if i do it later. it was nice this last year to do it in the afternoon. Maybe i should find a way to do it in my office at work? Not ideal for logistical reasons -- not that big a space, and having to bring changes of clothes -- when it's cold out, I'd need post-workout clothes to travel home in. But maybe. If i was going to do that, i might have C get picked up by a sitter every day. Since Eleanor is getting picked up anyway, it wouldn't be so expensive.

I'd love to not get up any earlier than i have to, because, of course, getting more sleep means being less stressed. And it's hard for me to go to bed super early... but on the other hand, i wonder if i might be a lot less stressed if i didn't have to worry about squeezing the workout in? With Calliope getting picked up, I could stay longer at work. which sounds nuts, TRYING to stay at work longer, but not having to rush out of work sounds strangely relaxing. it's that constant rushing that makes me so stressed. last year felt like i was sprinting every day from 5:30 AM to 6:30 pm every day.

I also just joined a subscription food service called Su.n Basket. It sounds not entirely UNstressful, because they send me a bunch of pre-measured ingredients that I have to cook, and each meal takes roughly a half hour to prepare. I generally cook simple meals that take a lot less time than that. However, I really, really miss going out for nice restaurant meals. It's one of my favorite things about living in NYC. I'm definitely a foodie. I find food and flavors so interesting. So this is a nice compromise for me -- I get to try interesting foods without having to schedule babysitters to go out to eat, not to mention spending a lot more money. Not the same as eating out, for sure, but a step up from having the same boring meals every week. And this particular company offers gluten free meals, among other options (also Paleo, which is gluten free and dairy free, and vegetarian). The first week I had chicken shakatori meals with a ginger dipping sauce, Vietanemse stir fried beef with roasted sweet potato slices with ginger topping, and Mediterranean cod in a fresh tomato broth. All delicious and organic and for the fish, and meat, sustainably grown or harvested. Not cheap, but feeding my soul as well as my body and I certainly couldn't buy all those ingredients that cheaply. So I'm feeling really good about that.

If any readers are interested in trying it, let me know and I can send you a promo code for three free meals! I got to try it because my brother and SIL had some meals they couldn't use and gifted to me. So good.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Sixteen Months and Home Again, Home Again

Phew. Sixteen months is TOUGH. She is opinionated and cheerfully defiant. She moves fast, with confidence, and absolutely zero common sense. She hits and scratches both me and Calliope. At least it doesn't hurt. Yet. But it does hurt when she pulls Calliope's hair.

She's also ridiculously charming and adorable. Both her speaking and signing abilities continue to develop quickly. She's finally getting front teeth. She delights in puddles. Other New Yorkers seem taken aback by my willingness to let my baby squat in a puddle and poke at it with her finger. They haven't gone to battle with her.

Despite her strong opinions, she's a happy girl. Apart from our all to common disagreements, she almost never cries.

She's generally fearless. Loves people. The other day at a baseball game, she kept running up to one woman, a random stranger, and passionately throwing her arms around the woman's leg and hugging.
Likewise she walked up to an unknown dark skinned woman, peered up at her, and asked, "Mama?"

I think she may be keeping her options on the mother front. Just in case things between us don't work out.

Mostly we are good but today... It's possible that I roared at her, "Amelie, would you chill the f*ck out???!!!!"

I was trying to bring a stroller-full of old blinds (we had new black out blinds installed -- I'm in love!) plus some cardboard, plus both girls, of course, downstairs by elevator then across the building lobby to the trash and recycling area at the far end of the building. Amelie loves to walk, rather than ride in the stroller, so I was hoping she would cooperate. But instead, every time my amazingly helpful almost five year old tried to cheerfully coral her little sister, said younger sister would scream at the top of her lungs. Meanwhile I'm trying to move several loads at once, plus not leave any child stranded in either the elevator or a floor other than the one I'm on, and this particular elevator door closes rather violently, so I had to keep everyone's limbs out of harm's way... and the screaming just pushed me over the end.

Especially since we were on our way to a new playground (admittedly after dropping off a package at a UPS drop location) as soon as we got this ugly mess of cardboard and blinds out of my apartment.

So I figured that cursing my toddler out, at the top of my lungs, and probably in the hearing of other adults, was the only reasonable option.

It worked out really well, of course. She burst into tears of abject terror. I didn't stop working to comfort her.

Luckily once we got outside, all was forgiven. She happily toddled along, mostly letting me hold her hand to cross streets (I held her hand regardless, just to be clear, but it's nice when she lets me and doesn't fight.)

I remember that this was the hardest age for me with Calliope, and that things started to get easier at about 18 months. I think. I hope.

In other news, we are home from Woodstock. We had a fabulous time but we were ready to come home, too. I miss the laundry room and the playroom in Woodstock quite keenly, but I could never live so far from civilization. We went swimming all the time, and did a little hiking, but I could never live in a place where there isn't more to do. I'm a city girl with a love for the outdoors.

Calliope had a great final week at camp, admittedly a bit subdued without a friend there to give her courage. She started swimming underwater -- figured it out on her own. She also managed the monkey bars on her own, if a slightly abridged version. She wants to work next on jumping into deep water. She's practicing her (self taught) ballet skills all the time through invented wobbly poses, and is keen to get pointe shoes, despite the fact that I tell her it won't be before age 10. She's thinking about giving up her thumb sucking... but isn't quite ready to commit. And perhaps because of my reading in Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings or maybe just because of her own sweet self... she's become such an amazing little helper. She helps with Amelie constantly. She's my other pair of eyes and hands whenever we go out. She offered to do the dishes tonight. She shares her treats with her sister without stinting or complaint. I don't know what I did to be so lucky but I'm beyond grateful.

As for me... coming home was challenging. Unpacking and cleaning up is exhausting without help with the children. I actually had help for the first few hours -- hired our fall after school babysitter to come hang out with the kids. So I did as much as I possibly could while she was there, but of course I was already tired from packing up the Woodstock house (after a monthlong stay there's a lot to do) earlier in the day, plus driving into the city. So I couldn't finish everything. And since then, it's very much two steps forward and one step back. I get a little done while the kids are awake, but it feels like such a slog sometimes, because of course I'm still cooking meals and serving them and cleaning up from them, and changing diapers and sunscreening small bodies and... and then I feel compelled to get them out of the apartment once or twice a day... not much time for actually connecting with them. I can't quite figure out how to deal with that. Is it better to get them outside for fresh air and exercise and a change of scenery, or to stay home where it's eventually pretty boring but at least we can actually really focus on each other?

Rainy day exploration of the driveway in Woodstock

How much fun can a person have???

Calliope couldn't muster a smile because she was STARVING. It had been at least ten minutes since her last snack.

Building fairy houses together. Can you see the mushroom table inside with
berries and "salad" on top? 
Not all who wander are lost.
But this wanderer usually is.
Such a thrill to see my girls enjoying nature with relative freedom.
Our annual summer vacation with SMC Jenn and Luna. 

Summer daffodils, freshly scrubbed.
Happy Interdependence Day! (Calliope and Eleanor)

Monday, July 25, 2016

Embryo Donation?

A few months ago, my close friend Kate asked if I would consider donating my embryos to her friend Leslie (not her real name). Leslie had, I think, entertained thoughts of becoming an SMC herself but then met a lovely man in her early forties. Leslie made it clear that having children was a relationship deal breaker for her, and the man agreed. They got married in her mid forties and set about adopting a child. A beautiful baby girl was delivered to them.... and then taken away a few short days later. Leslie and her husband were devastated, but after taking some time to grieve, began the adoption process again. They were about to receive another infant when Leslie's husband had a change of heart. He announced he didn't want children after all.

Leslie had a terrible decision to make. The marriage versus a child. They went to counseling. First once a week, then twice a week. In the end, the decision was made for her. The husband moved out. And two weeks later, Kate shared with Leslie my offer. I hadn't known that Leslie hadn't known of it until then. But Kate was worried that Leslie would feel pressured if she had known.

Yesterday Kate emailed to say that Leslie was very touched by my offer, and would probably be in touch in a few weeks.

My mind is swirling. Will she even want my embryos, when she knows my family's full health history (nothing shockingly bad, but a fair amount of ADHD and some depression and anxiety)? What role would I play in this child's life? Would he or she know me? What relationship would he have with my girls? Would we be honest about their biological relationship? What would they call each other? Brother (or less likely, sister) doesn't feel right, doesn't honor my girls' relationship with each other, but they obviously aren't donor half siblings, either. Would we keep her son's biological origins a secret for our shared community of acquaintances? Would my own siblings know of the origins of this child?

I'm nervous but excited. It feels right to share my wealth -- I've been so lucky in conceiving so many viable embryos. Leslie is a good person. I don't know her well, but what I know of her, I admire. And I know and trust Kate deeply. She wouldn't be close with Leslie is Leslie wasn't good people. So I guess I'm going to lurch forward with this crazy plan, if Leslie chooses to.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Mama Update

This is a harder one to write that monthly updates on the kids.

This has been a hard, hard year. I think Calliope's transition to PreK, and especially to commuting with me, was in many ways harder than being a working parent to two. Mornings weren't so bad but afternoons, while she was tired (and I was too) were draining. I felt like I had to drag her out of the school building and to the car each day, then coax her out of the car at the other end. Errands on the way home were a near impossibility. Having to rush through my work to get her, or leave work for the next day, was exhausting, especially with the implementation of an electronic medical record which slowed my pace considerably.

And then... summer arrived. I feel like I can breathe again. I feel like MYSELF again for the first time, after so many months of battling what might have been a mix of depression and anxiety but might also have been total exhaustion from what felt like a daily sprint from 5:30 am to 6:30 pm each day.

I'm exercising every day. I'm sleeping enough. Usually. I'm enjoying my girls. Mostly. I'm eating so much less! What is it about racing through the day that makes me so hungry???

I'm trying to brainstorm ways to slow the pace next year. I'm going to try Bethany's idea of Mason Jar salads. Maybe having a fabulous fresh meal each day at lunch will help me recharge. I'm hiring a babysitter 2-3 afternoons a week to pick Calliope (and Eleanor) up from school so that I can travel alone and do an errand if needed and otherwise enjoy not cajoling and pleading someone to keep moving. I'm also going to have the sitter stay late 1-2 Friday nights a week so I can go out from work and catch a movie or dinner.

And I'm trying to soak up every last bit rest and relaxation. It's taken me a couple weeks to get used to a slower pace -- at first, Amy and I were racing around, filling every last moment with activities, cleaning, cooking and preparing for the next activity. This week we have my friend Jen and her daughter Luna here and we are enjoying a much slower pace. It's easy for me to start feeling restless... I have to remind myself that this is what summer is for!

I'm hoping, somehow, that I can retain some memory of this slower pace when the school year begins. Fingers crossed!

Monday, June 27, 2016

Fifteen Months

Saying "I'm [gonna] get you!" A [very slow] game of trying to catch her is definitely her favorite thing in the world.

And my other girl, Amelie, is fifteen months! She's become a walking fiend after starting walking only a couple of weeks ago. After spending so long practicing, she stopped crawling almost immediately after starting walking. She walks with her right foot turned out, which I keep meaning to mention to her doctor, but otherwise, she's doing great.

She moved from the 10% at one year to the 13th and 14th percentiles for height and weight, 29.2 inches and 18 pounds 8 ounces, at fifteen months. And her 6-12 month onesies are finally getting snug, especially over her little round belly. I finally bought her some real shoes, and the very smallest toddler shoes are still way too big.

She's become quite opinionated, and has strong feelings about where she wants to go and what she wants to do. Mainly, she wants to go into my room and empty out my toiletries drawer onto the floor. And she absolutely wants to go into the hall of our building and down in the elevator whenever anyone is leaving. She cries when friends leave as well as when I do because she hates being left behind. So whenever we all go somewhere together, I always let her walk next to the stroller until we get outside and she swings her chubby little arms with such a sweet and self important happy air.

... Two weeks later and I still haven't posted this. Life is very, very full. I'm off work for the summer, hallelujah, and living in a house in Woostock, NY with our closest friends from the nanny share. It's crazy and chaotic with four children under five (two four year olds, two toddlers) but everyone is (mostly) having a blast, apart from the occasional melt down. Calliope and her bestie are going to the wonderful day camp up here that Calliope went to last summer. Calliope is slowly getting accustomed to it again, but is loving the pool there without reservation. Eleanor loves every minute of camp and was disappointed to hear that today is Saturday and there is no camp.

It's a rainy day here so I've decided to take the plunge and do a very early attempt at potty training. I think I'm probably being ridiculous to even try it but she's been having a lot of successes on the potty when I put her on it at certain predictable times, like right after sleeping and after waking up. I know this does not mean she's potty trained but I really do hate diapers so... I'm giving it a try. So far we've had one success today, after breakfast. No accidents that I saw, but we went outside and she was sitting in a puddle for a while (with a dress and no pants) so I couldn't know for sure. Then she came in for a nice bath in the kitchen sink with her buddy Leo. She could've peed in there, too. I did put her on the potty beforehand and she didn't go so... maybe she's been holding it all morning? No luck before nap, either.

... And now she sat on the potty a good long time, nothing, and peed on the floor fifteen minutes later. I'm pretty sure this is practice in my letting go.
But isn't this a pretty awesome potty training photo, regardless? 

She's also a maniac for crawling up the stairs in our beautiful rental house. No luck coming down the stairs yet -- she won't go down backwards, insists on walking down like a regular person despite her extreme shortness... so she lunge/falls off each steps in terrifying way despite a restraining hand on the arm.

In addition to walking and exploring and tasting every rock and stick Woodstock has on offer, Amelie is also talking up a storm. Today she pointed through the clear vegetable drawer and said "carrots!" How did she learn that word? No idea. Given that she's a second child, I have no idea how many words she has, especially since she has a new one or two every day, but it seems like it must be north of 50. My favorite is definitely "Dappy" -- meaning Calliope. Other favorites of mine are "guck" (milk), "kock" (quack), "gook" (book).

And I love that when I ask anyone a question -- whether direct at her or not -- I get a cheerful "mmm hmm" or "oh-tay" in response. She'll often stop fussing in the car if I tell her we are almost home and ask her to hang on -- she says "oh tay!" and abruptly quiets down.

Of course, she also is known to pitch a fit if I separate her from a beloved rock or stick, or insist on carrying her when she won't cooperate with my agenda of walking purposefully in one direction. Diaper changes can be peaceful or akin to wrestling an alligator, depending on the moment.

Unlike Calliope, who was rather introspective and quiet (but cheerful) from birth, I've seen a big change in Amelie's since she started walking. She has become much more determined and I see a big personality blooming. She's always been happy and social but now she's also fearless and opinionated. She plunges right into the water at the stream and when she topples in, face first, she comes up sputtering but without crying.

I have been reading the Aha Parenting book on siblings, Siblings Without Rivalry, and seeing positive dividends -- since we've been in Woodstock, it's become a point of pride for Calliope to put Amelie's shoes on her and walk her slowly, carefully, to the car, heaving her body precariously down the couple of steps. The best thing about the book is the frequent reminders to have empathy for kids. So hard to remember, but I really see a payoff in my relationship with Calliope (and hers with Amelie) when I remember.

Two sets of best friends in Woodstock (Amelie, Eleanor, Calliope and Leo.) 

She's Officially A Kindergartner

Lately she's taken to changing into her bathrobe and (plastic) heels when she gets home from
school. She looks like a miniature sex worker. It's probably wrong that this cracks me up.

My big girl is officially a kindergartner! So proud of her. What a transformation she has undergone, from a quiet thumb sucking ear twiddler to a boisterous girl with lots of friends and interests who has even become, according to her teacher, a class leader! I'll take that one with a grain of salt but I'm still exceedingly proud.

Big kindergarten girls are old enough to go the movies. Obviously.
And even keep their 3D glasses on. Not like babies. They have to stay home.

She's becoming interested in sounding out words and is still drawing a ton. I can't believe how far her drawing has come! As soon as we gets home she disappears to either play with her dollhouse (which features a large assortment of stuffed and fisher price animals as well as dolls) or to work on her art, which often involves a surprising amount of masking tape.

Drawing by Calliope in late September (called "A Pagish"). She couldn't even do this in early September.

Today there is no school and tomorrow is the last day, a half day, so she is skipping that and doing a week of local day camp with her best friend Eleanor instead. Despite loving her school friends Maya and Peyton, she's beyond thrilled to be with Eleanor -- her nanny-sharing friend for the first four years of her life -- again. Despite the fact that they fight and make up constantly.

Same artist, exactly nine months later. Working carefully with ink and napkin.
There's eyelashes! And pupils, hair ribbons, inner ears, paws with individual toes, whiskers...
I'm so proud and impressed by her.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

I Spy With My Little Eye

Calliope: "I spy with my little eye a man in a flame colored shirt riding a bicycle."

Me: Is it that man in the flame colored shirt riding a bicycle?

C: Yes! You're right!
Me: Ok, try another one but try not to give quite so many clues -- we have to guess what you are thinking.
C: Ok. I spy something pink. (many unsuccessful guesses ensue.)
Me: Can you give us a LITTLE clue?
C: Okay, I'll whisper a clue, but only to Mommy (we were playing with another child and mother).
Me: No, you have to tell all of us.
C, whispering: Ok, it's that pink building.
Me, normal voice: Is it that pink building?
C: Yes! You're right!