Tuesday, August 27, 2013

SMC Camping

A couple of weeks ago, Calliope and I went camping with my SMC friend Jen and her daughter Luna.

I've been wanting to take Calliope camping since long before she was conceived... but the realities of life with a toddler made me feel extremely intimidated by tent camping. But when another SMC friend mentioned cabin camping in state parks since her own childhood, I was inspired.

I found a cabin camp near Bear Mountain in only-slightly-upstate New York and made a reservation several months ago, once Jen agreed to come along. We'd never spent more than a few hours together on a few occasions, but bonded over hundreds of nighttime text messages over the nearly two years since our daughter were born, just three weeks apart.

It only took four sweaty trips to bring all of our stuff downstairs, via the elevator, and outside to Jen's full size van. Natually, Calliope insisted on accompanying me on each and every trip. Jen graciously agreed to bring the lion's share of kitchen and miscellaneous equipment since she lives in a one story house with parking immediately outside (I live in a very large building, on the 6th floor, and parking is a crapshoot.)

We finally loaded up the girls and set off for Bear Mountain. The drive was only about ninety minutes, and the girls did great. I was thrilled because Calliope has a long history of miserable screaming in the car, starting with her ride home from the hospital. Luckily, it's been getting better and better since I turned her car seat to forward facing.

We were stunned by the beauty of the campsite when we arrived. It was simple and rustic, yes, but amazing. The cabins were fairly close together, but surrounded by tall and majestic trees, with all the underbrush cleared out so the light filtered beautifully through the leaves. The lake was large and serene and deep blue, reflecting the light of the bright sun.

Because Jen and I like a challenge -- or else are just totally crazy -- we had planned ahead of time to potty train during our trip.

We kept to our diaper routine the first night as we set up, but waking up our first morning, I heard Jen say to Luna, "Ok, let's take your diaper off. No more diapers. You wear underwear now!"

Inwardly, I groaned. It was freezing that morning, and I didn't relish the thought of Calliope's skinny little tush being exposed to the elements. Soon enough, I took the diaper off, and put training pants and pants on. Luckily it warmed up fairly quickly.

There were laundry facilities at the campground, so for me, washing wet underpants was actually easier for me at the campground, when I could leave Calliope (crying) with Jen, versus having to bring her downstairs in the elevator with me at home. But not having a bathroom in our cabin was certainly challenging while potty training! Luckily the bathrooms were very nearby... but even short distances feel long when you are accompanied by a slow moving and easily distracted toddler or two. Let me just say that we spent what felt like the vast majority of our days going to, coming from, and hanging out at the bathrooms (where we also did our dishes).

Our first full day was really challenging, because we got lost trying to find an (unmarked, as it turned out) Target, and getting stuck for hours in outlet traffic. After that, we started to find our groove, and to enjoy ourselves.

The girls were great together. Luna was an amazing cheerleader for Calliope -- she would jump up and down, clap excitedly, and scream with exhilaration every time Calliope peed on the potty. Which Calliope, naturally, loved. Calliope, to her part, loved peering into Luna's potty and saying quietly but with great excitement, "Pee pee!"

They also reveled in getting into trouble together -- slamming doors shut, running back and forth between the two bedrooms, jumping in puddles, and making as much noise as possible.

Luna was a champion puddle jumper

And whenever Jen was out of sight, Calliope would call, "Mama? Mama?" Since she calls me Mommy, it was clear that she had adopted Jen as her second mom for the week. I'm sure most folks at the campground assumed we were a lesbian family. With Luna being so much bigger than Calliope, I figure they thought Luna was the older sister (instead of actually being three weeks younger).

One of the things we both appreciated about the campground was how friendly everyone was. I hadn't expected this at all, but it seemed very much a community. People came back year after year after year... the same weeks of the summer. Some had been coming for twenty years or more. Children ran wild in packs across the campground, from the ping pong area to the swings to the beach and down to the bonfire area. At night, they played "Man Hunt", slipping quietly past us with a polite "sorry to bother you" as we sat by the campfire. Parents smiled wryly at us in the bathrooms and said they hadn't seen their own children since they had arrived -- the kids were too busy catching up with their annual campground friends.

It was also an incredibly diverse crowd, with Polish and Puerto Ricans and blacks and whites and everyone in between. Which was just nice. Being from the city, this is normal to me -- well, I don't see a lot of Polish folks in my daily life, but Jen does -- but it's a rare thing in my experience camping. I liked that the campground felt welcoming to all.

Everyone was already discussing their plans to come back for Halloween weekend, when folks dress up in costumes, trick or treat, and have "best decorated cabin" contests. Although we don't have any plans to return in October, we loved the feeling of continuity within the community.

The girls loved the swings and the especially, the lake, though Calliope's lips turned blue and she started shivering within a minute of being in the water -- she just didn't have enough body fat to stay warm. But the water was beautifully clear and there was always a lifeguard on duty despite the fact that there was rarely more than ten people at the beach.

Lakeside. Notice that Calliope is sitting on a potty while she plays in the sand. I took that thing everywhere with us.

One day, we loaded up the big van and drove to Bear Mountain. Jen was familiar with the area from her motorcycle-riding adventures, but it was new to me. The views were spectacular and I was thrilled when Calliope successfully used her potty from the scenic overlook. The weather forecast wasn't good that day, but the clouds were high so the views were still magnificent.

Exploring the peak at Bear Mountain
Potty break with a view

Walking together at Bear Mountain

We were glad the next day that we had already taken our big adventure, because Calliope started vomiting repeatedly during the wee hours of the morning, and Luna was holding her left arm with her right and saying "Owie, Mommy" after an incident where Jen had grabbed her arm to prevent her from rolling off the bed in her sleep. All through breakfast (which Calliope skipped), Luna refused to use her arm and whimpered.

We agreed wryly that their timing was convenient, in terms of their maladies coinciding, and loaded up the van with potties and snacks and dry clothes after breakfast. Luna suddenly pronounced "Boo boo all gone Mommy!" and raised up her arms trimphantly -- something about sitting in her car seat seemed to have cured her! Calliope, meanwhile, wailed inconsolably until she finally fell asleep as we arrived at the first urgent care center, then fell asleep in the baby carrier as we went inside... only to be told that they only operated without appointments on weekdays. And never saw children. So we re-loaded up, Calliope screaming, and went to another urgent care center. She curled up in the baby carrier and once again went to sleep -- something that hasn't happened since she was an infant -- until we were seen. The doctor was kind and ordered a rapid strep test -- negative -- and Motrin (turned out she had a high fever by that time) and Gatorade and prescription diaper cream for the rash that had sprung up in her groin. And pronounced Luna as having a spontaneously resolved "nursemaid's elbow" -- a dislocation of the elbow that is common among toddlers. And a diagnosis I had mentioned to Jen already. But I was glad to have someone else pronounce her well again.

Calliope soon felt better from the Motrin. She refused to try the Gatorade until Luna sampled it... then both girls happily slammed some down. And by the next morning, both were completely back to normal.

We had one final day to enjoy the campsite, though we were already organizing the mighty packing up job ahead of us. We stayed up late loading the van, and woke up to grey skies and pouring rain the next morning, the perfect time to return to NYC.

We are both excited to come back next summer, to see our friendly Polish neighbors and to spend a lot more time at the beautiful beach and a lot less time at the communal bathrooms.  I'm thrilled to have established a vacation tradition that doesn't involve my family of origin, but something that is my very own. And now we know -- don't try to go food shopping (or anywhere else) near Woodbury Commons on a summer weekend.
We kept our collective sense of humor...
Despite potty training, too many hours in
the car, vomiting, fevers, dislocations, 
tantrums, poor napping, cold nights, and
a million trips to the communal bathrooms.
Go mamas!

Family portrait. In the van, of course.

Monday, August 19, 2013

What Does That Even Mean?

So now that my old flame has officially filed for divorce, he seems much more comfortable being affectionate with me in public. We spent nearly the whole weekend together, not attached at the hip, but fanning out to talk with other people, then circling back around to check in with each other with a pat on the back or a hug. It was nice. It felt very comfortable. And as my friend Salt Lick describes me, I'm a pair-bonder, so it works well for me in group situations. I like having a home base.

But by the end of the weekend, I was ready to come home. I've had strong feelings for him for seven years now, despite going months and sometimes years without contact. (I've never mentioned him on the blog before because it just felt wrong, somehow, to give a not-single man (he has only been married part of the time I've known him) that much space in my life. If that makes sense.) But spending so much time together over the weekend, our differences became more noticeable. The main one being our communication styles. I like to process things to death. To mull, to ponder, to analyze... together. He's an engineer. He's not silent by any means, and indeed, to my discomfort, he wanted to process his separation quite a bit. But he's less inclined, for example, to compare the disparate personalities of a couple who just became engaged and to discuss in what ways they might or might not be a good match.

Sometimes, when we were kissing, he'd give me one of those long, smoldering looks in my eyes. I mostly didn't think about it too much, or tried to close my eyes.

So when Salt Lick and I were boarding the bus to come home on Sunday, it came as a total shock to see him mouth three certain little words from ten feet away... and even more to have him come rushing back a few seconds later to kiss me and say out loud, "I said, 'I love you.'"

I paused, gave him a cheerful smile, and wordlessly boarded my bus.

Oh, and I forgot to mention: the previous day, he also semi-jokingly offered to be my sperm donor when I T42... and then brought up the topic again that morning. And said, "I can't believe I said that to you. But it's been something I've been thinking about."

So what does this even mean?

Does "I love you" mean "I am in love with you?"

Seems doubtful, because it's not like he's asking to spend his life with me or anything like that.

Does it mean, "I love you like a good friend?" Possible, but seems unlikely, given that we aren't good friends, exactly.

Does it mean, "I love you like a piece of art, something I admire from a distance?"

I've always felt like he's had me on a pedastal, just a bit. Like he only saw the good things about me. Several times (during multiple visits over the years, always at hashes), he's looked at me and said simply, "You're awesome."

So I guess that seems the most plausible. Only I don't actually consider this love. So maybe that's not what he meant?

He also said, "I want to see you again." Something he's never said before. So I responded lightly, "Okay, so be in touch."

Feeling a little bad about not responding to his last minute "I love you", I texted him today to suggest he come to our NYC Red Dress Run in late September -- an event where the entire group dresses up in, yes, red dresses, to streak through the streets of lower Manhattan. At the end of the day, he wrote back, "that could be fun. let me check my travel schedule."

If he was truly in love with me, I think he would leap at the opportunity to see me. And want to be a part of my real life, not just the hashing part. If he just admires me on a pedastal, he might prefer to only see me at far away hash events.

I don't feel like I have a ton invested either way. I'm happy in my life, and not at all convinced that we have relationship material (a few years ago, I felt totally differently, and was convinced we had a future together, if only he broke up with his wife). Which is really disappointing, actually. To have the object of your heart's desire -- the only man I've been physically drawn to in years -- finally, at least somewhat, available... and to find that you're not sure you care. It's disappointing.

I'm trying not to give up on him entirely. To give him time to work through his divorce -- luckily he's already in therapy to help process it -- and to give him the opportunity to get to know me in real life.

Still, I'm not about to discard my frozen embryos. It seems extremely unlikely that I will change my plans about forming my family... but I'm trying to keep an open mind. I think my ideal scenario would be an occasional friend-with-benefits who would be willing to travel to NYC monthly to see me... and wouldn't mind helping out with babysitting so we could go out for a nice dinner. And then come home and have heaps of sex.

My hunch is that this is not the scenario he is envisioning... but who knows? I'd love to know what he meant by his offer to be a sperm donor -- I'm guessing he really meant that, and not to be a co-parent, but I'm only guessing.

All very confusing... but luckily, somewhat entertaining as well. It's fun to have gossip to discuss, for once, instead of just potty training and sleep schedules.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

My Weekend Away

I just returned from my weekend away.

And I feel... rejuvenated. And so joyful.

I used to belong to a group called the Ha.sh House Har.riers. They define themselves as "runners with a drinking prob.lem." I never really loved the NYC chapters, but a long ago boyfriend introduced me to "travel hashing" -- going to far away events hosted by other "kennels." And I was addicted to these travel hash events. Until I started the TTC life, and it (and pregnancy and early motherhood) felt too much at odds to continue with hashing.

One of the things that I like about hashing is that it's a total escape from real life. Everyone has "hash names" that are generally rude and crude and totally anoymous. (Mine is AARP*nis, because of my tendency towards older men.) We don't talk about work, or families, or health problems, or money. We just hang out and have fun. There are no rules, really, besides the unspoken rule of being kind.

So my very good friend Salt Lick and I boarded a bus on Friday morning to take us to the beautiful Ithaca, NY, for a hash camping weekend.

What an amazing weekend!

Everyone was so friendly and kind and full of smiles. People were glad to see me back... though many didn't recognize me, now that my hair isn't so short as it was a few years ago.

It was wonderful to travel with Salt Lick -- we can talk for hours -- and fabulous to connect with... and old flame, I guess you could call him. We've never dated, but we've had an intense connection since we met more than seven years ago. And now he's getting divorced. He came to visit me shortly after Calliope was born, and after that visit, I told him that I couldn't be in contact any more, what with him being married and all. So he just got in touch with me a couple of months ago, after he filed for divorce. But we hadn't seen each other since Calliope was tiny. Before that, it had been 2-3 years.

We had sex an impressive number of times over the weekend -- I think eight times in a little over thirty-six hours? It was glorious. I had forgotten how much fun sex with another person can be.

We also spent a lot of time just hanging out, just the two of us and also mingling with others. It was fabulous.

Saturday, late morning, the whole group headed out on trail. There were chicken, turkey, and eagle options -- various lengths to accommodate all levels of athletes, from serious marathoners to walkers. I love that about hashing -- it includes everyone. The trail meanders through the woods, marked with flour, sometimes on established paths and sometimes bushwacking through brush and swampy water. There are many false starts, so the fastest in the group have to stop and search for the "true trail", allowing for slower folks to catch up. Along the way, there are several "beer checks" where folks stop and drink.

I almost never drink -- I had a single Jello shot on Friday night, and a couple of ounces of beer on Saturday for being publicly recognized in the circle for "coming out of retirement" for the event -- but that was it. But it's fine to not drink there, too.

Anyway, it was amazing to be in the woods again. I loved the feeling of freedom that being outside brings me.

And I loved the total acceptance and love I felt from the group.

And it's true, I loved the sex.

I loved dancing in my underwear on Saturday night -- there's quite a lot of nudity sometimes, and people often skip down to their skivvies for dancing. I felt strong and confident.

And I loved the fierce hugs I received.

And not talking about my darling child for two whole days.

When I saw her tonight, I dropped to my knees, completely choked up and barely able to speak.

"Hi Calliope, " I said.

"No." she said, and looked to the nanny for reassurance.

She was very quiet for a minute, then reluctantly came to me for a hug. But with a few minutes, she relaxed. Getting ready for bed, she sang out in a super high pitched baby voice, "Hi bir-day Cay-o-pee" and I burst out laughing. Then she cupped my face tenderly in both hands and kissed me twice on the lips.

My delicious girl.

I'm so grateful to be back, refreshed and recharged.

I'm definitely not waiting two years to do that again.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Potty Training 2.0

Last Sunday, six days ago, I, or rather we, attempted potty training again.

I'm pleased to say that it's been very successful!

I, once again, went with the diaper-free boot camp method. But this time I had a better plan in place.

We went camping for a week with another SMC, Jen, and her toddler, Luna, who is two weeks younger than Calliope, and who was doing well with part time potty use up until she transitioned to a new daycare recently.

Jen was instrumental in cheering me up after the first, quite messy, day. And Luna was an amazing little cheerleader for Calliope -- every time Calliope had a success, Luna would clap wildly while screaming and jumping up and down. Her enthusiasm was hard to beat. Calliope's enthusiasm for Luna's successes was a bit more subdued, but she still clapped and cheered... and also loved to peer into Luna's potty for inspiration, I guess.

The few days before we left, Calliope had suddenly had some successes with the potty, so I told her that when we went camping, she wouldn't need diapers anymore. Jen and I both talked it up with the girls on our travel day, Saturday.

Sunday morning was chilly in the mountains, but Jen put Luna into underwear so I felt like I had to follow suit and keep my word. The girls had plenty of accidents but we kept talking about it and kept offering the potty.

We had to go shopping at one point for supplies -- a short drive that turned into a hellishly long time stuck in outlet traffic -- and while we were in Walmart, Luna piped up, "Pee pee, Mommy."

I was carrying Calliope's potty with me everywhere, so I whipped it out and put it on the floor, right in the middle of the aisle towards the back of the store. We pretended nothing interesting was going on, to try to avoid attracting attention, and we did our best to shield Luna with our carts. A few moments later, Luna stood up... and Jen realized that Luna had pooped, right there in the middle of Walmart. Hilarity ensued while we tried to determine a plan for the poop. Finally Jen put paper towel over it and stashed it under her cart. Of course, as she made her way towards the bathroom she just happened to run into an acquaintance she hadn't seen in years. Oops.

After the first day, with its many accidents, I decided to try the Babycenter's method of leaving Calliope without any underwear or pants whenever possible. This led to an immediate decrease in the number of accidents. Plus, of course, it made clean up really easy.

It was great being in a small cabin for this endeavor, as the girls could never wander out of our eyesight, and the floors of the cabin were pretty durable. Plus, we were mostly outside, and a little accident in the sandbox or on the beach (the camp included a beautiful lake) seemed like a non-event.

Anyway, on our sixth day in, she had only one accident all day long! (I know some kids train with fewer accidents by waiting to a much older age, three or higher, but I'd much rather have more accidents and train younger... I really dislike diapers.) She peed a little bit on the playground, but stopped herself.

And this evening, she sat on her potty right on the boardwalk of Coney Island and peed (after I suggested she try -- I try to avoid reminding her, but it had been several hours) and then a couple of minutes, sat down again and pooped on our potty. Right there on the boardwalk. Which was thankfully not crowded, and she was mostly under our table, and wearing a sundress that draped over the potty beautifully so no one could see what she was doing.

And this morning, while I was eating breakfast, she went to play in her room. Stark naked, because potty training has made her decide to become a nudist. A few minutes later, she came running back in and announced "poop!"

I followed her to her room with a sinking heart, envisioning poop nestled into the white strands of her cream colored shag carpet... and was shocked and thrilled to see that, instead, she had successfully used the potty on her own for the first time! Go Calliope!

Now we are in MA for the week and yet another change in location/schedule/people and I'm afraid she's not doing quite as well today. I feel guilty about throwing too much at her, all at once. I'm hoping for a better day tomorrow -- she took a two and a half hour nap this afternoon (and thereafter had several potty successes) and was in bed a few minutes early this evening, for a change.

Still, I'm thrilled to be mostly done with diapers (she still wears them for sleep) and I can tell that she is too. She becomes indignant now when I try to put one on her unless it's just before sleep.

Actually, she's decided that in addition to not wearing anything on her bottom (we're still mostly avoiding underwear, unless we're out), she'd also prefer to wear nothing on top. Yesterday she walked into my mom's kitchen and was greeted with gales of laughter by the rest of the family, because she was stark naked except for her eight year old cousin's backpack. It was quite the look.

Her latest development is becoming very interested in using the regular toilet. Despite my encouragement to use her little potty. She's still small, and needs help getting up there, and despite her confident perch, I hold onto her the whole time. She tries and tries -- and peers under herself to look for action -- but doesn't seem able to relax enough for anything to happen. After a minute or so, she hops off and scurries off to the next bathroom, to see if she might have better luck with another toilet. This is no doubt also adding to an increased number of accidents.

I ordered a folding potty seat with handles (to be used on a regular toilet) that should arrive tomorrow... I'm hoping this helps.

Still, despite the setbacks, I'm so excited by her progress. I think that once we're back home in a few more days -- this is her last trip, and my second to last (I have a three day weekend planned without her next weekend... eek!!!) and she's on a regular schedule, she will do great. I'm very proud of my girl!

Friday, August 2, 2013

Made My T42 Decision

... And I'm going to go for it!

I think my mom's illness, and especially her difficult recovery from surgery, has crystallized things for me. In two ways.

The first: I'm so grateful not to be enduring her illness alone. Maybe that's a terrible reason, but I'm very grateful to have siblings who share (more than their fair share nowadays) the burden. Not just the work, but the worry.

The second, and better reason: I realized, thinking about her mortality, that when I imagine looking back at my life from an older age, having a child is the very best thing I've ever done. Nothing else comes close. Calliope brings me unspeakable joy.

How can I not want to experience this one more time?

Another blogger wrote about her decision not to have a second child, and I completely respect her choice, and her reasons behind it. Namely that she can't be a good parent to her first child if she doesn't have time to herself.

I worry about this, also.

I wonder how much my decision is influenced by the fact that Calliope is an excellent sleeper. I can't bear to share the exact details, for fear of jinxing myself, but suffice it to say, I'm very lucky.

Then, too, my job has good work:life balance. I'm savoring the delicious flavor of summer vacation right now, rolling it around on my tongue. Camp was hard and not at all fun, but now that that job is over... oh, life is grand.

True, I'm a little bored at work. But work will never hold a candle to life with a small child, so I wouldn't have it any other way. I don't want to be absorbed and delighted by work just now. I want a consistent paycheck, work that is moderately engaging, and to work as few hours as possible. Unfortunately for me, that is still full time... but with lots of vacation time.

I know I'm supremely lucky, and I'm counting on that luck to continue with a second child. Which is probably a foolish assumption. But I believe that whatever happens, I will rejoice in a second child as I rejoice in my first. And I will find a way to make it work.