Tag Archives: chaos

Melting Away

After several returns of summer-type weather, we finally seem to be immersed in autumn. The leaves are wildly different colors, and are falling off the trees, causing Maggie to yelp “Uh-Oh, the leaves fell down!” half a dozen times every time we step outside.

Because it has cooled off some, we’ve started once again taking nice long walks in the afternoon. We walk in the cool air and watch as the Halloween decorations in our neighborhood go up, becoming more and more elaborate. (We have two carved jack-0-lanterns sitting outside, but other than that, we’ve relied on our neighbors to provide the ambiance.)

When we go for these walks, Maggie has started asking to walk for the first leg of the journey instead of being pushed in a stroller, and so yesterday when we left the house for a walk, Maggie walked next to David. I walked behind them pushing Beckett in his stroller.

As we walked, I had the opportunity to really look at Maggie for what felt like the first time in months. Of course, I look at her every day. I spend all of her waking hours in the same room with her. And yet, I realized yesterday that I had not really seen her for what seems like a long time.

She was wearing an outfit that she had picked out herself: red, polka-dotted pants; purple fleece jacket; bright blue sun hat. She chattered away to David as we walked, asking questions about the leaves and trees and pumpkins and Halloween.

And maybe it was the distance. Maybe it was the fact that I was just watching her instead of interacting with her. Maybe it was the few moments that I could spend around her, but not working to meet her immediate needs, but she suddenly seemed so grown up. I could not see the baby she was even just a year ago.

On the one hand, this is hardly surprising. Anyone who has spent any time around children knows that they tend to grow and change over night.

On the other hand, this is MY kid. She’s my firstborn, and I thought I would notice.

Instead, her babyhood has simply melted away. She has become a kid – one who talks and can walk to the library and back, instead of riding in a stroller. She is steady on her feet. She crawls only in solidarity with her brother. She can peel her own banana in the morning. She even sits and “reads” to herself when I need to work and write.

It’s not heartbreaking, or even bitter sweet. I love her independence. After all, this is what we all want for our children. We want them to grow into amazing, interesting, inquisitive people who can peel their own bananas.

But I really thought I would have noticed when it happened.

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On Inspiration

This is a post in response to Small Assignment 4. Also check out responses from Anecdotaltales and Prajjwal. Thanks for writing and sharing!

A few years ago, I had a supervisor who drove me crazy. The reason for the crazy-making is that I was supposed to get a written review every quarter, but quarter after quarter, I did not get a written review. Then, all of a sudden, I would receive four quarterly reviews on the same day. This was… unhelpful. The excuse that my supervisor gave for the late reviews was that he needed to “be inspired” to write. Let’s be clear. He had to be “inspired” to simply do his job.

Now, years later, I am a writer. I get assignments and deadlines, and I must meet those deadlines or not get paid. When I get to work (often still wearing my pajamas), my first step is staring at a blank screen, or maybe write a little chicken scratch on a notebook or on the back side of an envelope. But at the end of the day, the deadline does not move, and the deadline does not wait for inspiration.

The experience of writing professionally and on deadline has crystallized one thing for me: writing is NOT about inspiration. Writing is about, well, writing. The moments when I feel inspired are wonderful moments, but if I’m honest, I must admit that those moments are rather few and far between. I am always more capable of finding an excuse to not write than I am of finding “inspiration.” In fact, not feeling inspired becomes a wonderfully convenient excuse to avoid writing. It’s right up there with “I have two babies” and “I don’t get any sleep.”

Last week, some old friends came to visit us for a few days, and then we drove out to middle Tennessee a rented a cabin for the weekend. While there, all gathered under one roof, we decided to work on a little group art project, which took the form of a book for each of the three families. Most people drew a little picture or a sketch. The kids who could be trusted to not eat the pens made drawings of their own. Now, I am not an artist. The best I can do on most days is draw a cartoon cow, although I do think I happen to draw a mean cartoon cow. So it was suggested that I write a little something.

Now, we were in a beautiful cabin out in the woods. We were half a mile from a beautiful lake, surrounded by friends and children and a hundred different reasons to feel inspired. But I did not feel inspired. I felt pressured and on the spot and a little weird. I was busy trying to keep my kids from destroying the other kids’ toys, and I really just wanted to pour another glass of wine. But one afternoon, I sat down and wrote a little something to put in the memory book. It was not the best something I’ve ever read; in fact, it was a poem. I am really not a very good poet. But it fit on the small sheet of paper, and it was written.

I believe in inspiration. I do believe that there are times when the Muse whispers in my ear and the words fit together like pieces of a puzzle. But most of the time, writing is just about getting the words down. So let me go and pour myself a glass of wine, (or coffee, as it is not yet noon), and let’s get to work.

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The Impossible Days

I’m working on thinking up a new Small Assignment, but in the mean time, I want to talk about impossible days.

Since we have gotten back from Nashville, writing has been kind of like… pulling teeth?  No. Pulling teeth is kind of cliche. More like trying to catch fruit flies in a butterfly net, except not quite so whimsical. Maybe it’s been like walking through foot-deep mud – the really thick kind that clings to your boots and sucks the shoes right off of your foot.  So I’m left wading through the mud with my butterfly net. Or something.

Of course, Maggie has been kind of sick since the return from Nashville, though no return of the puke-like symptoms. She just occasionally wakes up in the middle of the night whimpering “My tummy hurts.” It is both the most adorable and the most pathetic thing I’ve ever seen. We have continued the experiment of the shared room, and while it is getting better, Maggie seems to prefer sleeping on the floor right next to Beckett.  When she whimpers, he wakes up.  And the cycle continues.

So I’m tired.  I feel like creativity is kind of leaking out of my ears.  I have tried writing on the computer, in a notebook, on scratch paper, on a great big tablet with a sharpie.  Most of what I keep coming up with is halting and weirdly worded, at best.  Most of time I just end up doodling.  I can draw a MEAN cartoon pig, let me tell you.

So here I am.  Tired.  Trying desperately to remember that word.  You know, the one that means… that thing?

My guru Anne Lammott says we all have impossible days, and maybe even impossible weeks. During those impossible times, we need to keep on writing, even when it’s just a wet trail of snail slime.

So, here goes. Writing snail slime.

Time to strap on those boots and grab that butterfly net.  I’m hunting some words.

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A Sunny Disposition

(This post is written in response to my second Small Assignment.)

I honestly don’t have many memories of my elementary and middle school lunches, but the few that I have are important.

I remember a classmate named Stuart breaking a lunch tray over another student’s head while the whole cafeteria full of kids shouted “Fight! Fight!” I did not actually see the lunch tray being broken, because I remained seated at the table, hunched over my sandwich, until it was over, willing the violence to come to an end, scared that somehow the violence would bleed onto me.

I also remember that Stuart did not graduate from high school with me, and it wasn’t because he moved.

I remember approaching the cafeteria with a certain dread.  The school building in which I attended elementary and middle school was a three-floor building with carpeted hallways. The carpet color coded the floors.  The top floor was red, or rather burgundy.  Burgundy was kindergarten, first and second grades.  Blue was the middle floor, and third, fourth, and fifth grades.  The school cafeteria was also located on the floor with the blue carpet.  The green floor was sixth, seventh and eighth grade.  The green floor was in the basement.  Keep the inmates as far from the door as possible.

So I remember approaching the cafeteria, staring down at the dingy blue carpet, turning the corner and smelling the stale, greasy smell of cafeteria food.  Most days, I brought my own lunch, with a turkey sandwich, carrots, and some kind of fruit, so I didn’t need to stand in line. I would go straight to the tables.  Some of the tables were round, eight-top tables, where, if you had eight friends to sit with, you could occupy an entire table.  Those tables, though, filled up very quickly.  In all my years at that school, I almost never sat at the eight-top round tables. The other tables were long tables with built-in stools.  The stools were uncomfortable, and the tables always smelled like industrial cleaner.  Often the stools broke.  The worst possible scenario walking into the cafeteria was that you would end up being required to sit on a broken stool at the long table.  The jagged plastic would dig into your thighs, and if you were wearing a skirt, it would snag your tights.  I hated those seats, and I always seemed to be the person who ended up sitting on them, because at the time, I hadn’t yet learned how to advocate for myself.

My final memory in this montage is of one teacher, who always seemed to have lunch duty.  Her name, paradoxically, was Miss Sunny.  So far as I can tell, Miss Sunny was about a thousand years old, and was there forever.  I don’t actually know what she taught, as the only time I ever saw her was in the lunch room.  She took a zero-tolerance approach to noise, with a husky voice that had to have been shadowed by years of cigaret smoking.  When the volume got just a little too loud, she would flap her arms as if she was about to take off and yell, “WHOA.”  If the noise did not immediately stop, she would impose silent lunches, during which every child in the cafeteria was required to sit and eat lunch in total silence, under threat of detention and a call to the parents.

I was a good kid in school.  I was even a bit of a teacher’s pet, and so the very idea that I might get detention for sneezing a little too loud during a silent lunch scared the pants off of me.  When the volume in the cafeteria started to go up, I would focus all of my efforts on being quiet, thinking that maybe, if I were quiet enough, I could compensate for the loud kids who were sitting at the round tables with their seven friends.

It never worked.

Eventually, I finished middle school, as most of us do, and went to high school. There, I learned the joy of eating lunch in the band room with a group of other kindred spirits – other kids who had been forced to eat lunch in silence while sitting on the edge of a broken plastic stool.  Together, we would have filled up an eight-top round table or two.  But I still really hate the thought of that blue carpet.

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The Shared Room Experiment

Over the weekend, David and I began (yet another) great adventure.

We assembled an IKEA bed – a real bed – a twin-sized bed – for Maggie.

Now, Maggie hasn’t always been so good with the transitions.  She, like most toddlers, likes her things just the way she likes them, and that’s that.

So we were a bit nervous about transitioning her into a bed from the toddler-type crib-without-a-side bed into a real bed.

To make the transition a little bit easier on her, we spent about a week hyping up the “Big Girl Bed” that was soon to be hers.  We also spent a lot of time telling her that the crib would be Beckett’s bed soon.  And then… we let her help assemble the bed.

Anyone who has ever assembled IKEA furniture knows just how… edifying… the process of furniture assembly can be.  Throw in a 2-year old, and, well, let’s just say the process went about as smoothly as we could have possibly expected.

The very best part about the process, though, was that as Maggie “helped” to screw in the various bolts and push in those God-forsaken little dowels, she continually said (on her own) “Maggie’s Big Girl Bed.  I build it!”

Points to us for indoctrination.

When it came time for Maggie to actually sleep in the bed, she did!  Just like that!  She seemed a bit skeptical at first, but with a little encouragement, she fell asleep and slept the night through in bed.

So of course, getting Maggie transitioned so easily into her bed, we got smug, and decided to try our luck.

Beckett has been sleeping in our room since he was born.  At first, he was in a side-car co-sleeper, which I loved for the little baby.  But then as he became more aware of his surroundings, having him right next to me didn’t work so well.  So we detached the bassinet and moved him across the room.

Then he got HUGE.  (He’s about 25 lbs now, at 9 months.)  So we got rid of the bassinet and moved him into the pack n’ play, still in our room.  That worked for a while until he learned how to pull himself up.  So now, he can peek over the edge of the pack n’ play during the night and look at me and David.  It’s so much fun that he doesn’t really care to sleep.

So last night, in a brazen move of pure hubris, we decided to try moving Beckett into Maggie’s room.  We put the side back up on the crib that Maggie had called home for the last two years and put them both to bed in the same room.

It did not go well.

The first thing that happened was a feedback loop where Beckett, in unfamiliar surroundings would kind of complain.  Maggie, hearing Beckett’s complaints, would get out of bed and go to his crib and make him laugh.  Eventually, one of us would go into the room and instruct everyone to lay down and go to sleep.  Then the cycle would start all over again.

Eventually, they did both go to sleep, for a few hours.  Beckett woke in the middle of the night, and would. not. go. back. to. sleep.  So we bailed and moved him back to the pack n’ play in our room while David and I moved to the futon in our den.

We’re all tired today, and the kids are off their schedules, because we all slept in this morning.  But, it was the first step, and David and I got to experience the joy of being able to put away laundry after the kids have gone to bed.  That, my friends, is success.

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Mastitis

There is really never a good time to get mastitis.  I mean, let’s be honest here.  An infected breast?  That is never, ever fun.

I had mastitis about a week or so after Beckett was born.  It started with chills.  I couldn’t get warm, though it was not cold in the house.  I put on a sweatshirt, snuggled in closer to David, who was in the bed with me, and desperately tried to go back to sleep.  Eventually, it was time to get Maggie up for school.  I got up to try to help get her ready, but I was so cold and so chilled that my hands were shaking.  I couldn’t lift her.  I could barely stand up.  Now, I realize that this was a week after giving birth, but I had never experienced anything quite like that. I took my temperature at one point, but the thermometer told me that my temperature was normal.  Okay, I thought.  Maybe it was some mild anemia or something.

That afternoon, my midwife was stopping by for a home visit and to take some blood for the newborn screening.  (My midwives did home visits after Beckett was born at home!  It was great!)  I told her about my symptoms, and she immediately took my pulse, which was high.  Then she had me take my temperature again.  Surprise!  I had a fever.

Now, since I was in those early, newborn days of nursing, both of my breasts were sore.  There was really no clear distinction between “sore breast” and “regular, overly-full, engorged breast.”  So we just had to guess that this was mastitis.  The midwife held Beckett while I took a shower and tried to hand-express some milk.  Then when I had put on some clean clothes, she shooed me back to bed, brought me some orange juice and other Vitamin C-rich foods.  She gave me a prescription of Vitamin C, hot compresses on the infected breast (or both, since we didn’t know which was infected), lots of sleep, and LOTS of nursing. If the fever wasn’t going down after 24 hours, I would need to get an antibiotic.

So I slept.  I drank orange juice, and I stuffed a heating pad in my shirt while I napped.  And that night, about 24-hours after my symptoms started, my fever broke.  I was sweating and tired, but my fever was going down and I had stopped shaking.  I thought, “well, I guess that’s my nursing complication this time around.”

….

Yesterday was a very good day.  I’ve been busy lately, in the good way.  I have some new clients coming online, and some new and interesting projects that are taking my focus away from the interwebs (consequently, I have failed to write much on the blog lately.)  I had a productive meeting in the morning, answered some emails, and the writing came easily and fluidly.  In the afternoon, after Maggie came home from school, we decided to take a walk.  So I strapped Beckett into the Ergo, and we set out.

It was in the high 80s in Memphis yesterday, which means that by the time we got back from our walk, I was covered in sweat.  I walked into the house and felt the chill of the air conditioning.  Then I went about getting the kids dinner, getting the kids into bed, and making dinner for David and me.  By the time we sat down to eat, though, I had started to feel “off.”  My skin was prickly and overly sensitive.  My left breast felt sore and engorged.  I felt tired, but it was the evening, and I always feel tired at the end of the day.  As the evening wore on, I became cold.  I put on socks to keep my feet warm.  I put a sweatshirt on over a long-sleeved shirt and then huddled under two (2!) blankets, though the thermostat told us it was 77 degrees in the house.

This started feeling familiar.  But I was in denial.  At one point I took my temperature.  99.6.  A half hour later it was 100.6.  I made my way to bed after washing down a Vitamin C supplement with a glass of orange juice.  In bed, I stuffed a heating pad on the inside of my shirt and tried to sleep. After about an hour, I woke up, feeling terrible. I roused Beckett, who was sleeping like a champ, and nursed him for a while while he slept.

At some point during the night, I woke up, drenched in sweat.  I had to get out of bed to change all of my clothes.  Rather than change my pillow cases, I just turned the pillows over. When I woke up this morning, my fever was back down to 99.2 degrees.  It looks like maybe I have had my nursing complication for the quarter.

David is going out of town this weekend. He left this morning, in fact.  We loaded the kids into the car at 6:30am and drove to the airport.  I still feel like I’ve been hit by a truck, but it’s clear that I’m on the mend. So I’ll survive to take care of the kids for the next couple of days until David gets back.

 

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Playing in the Dirt, revisited

Several weeks ago, I wrote about planting herb seeds with Maggie.  At the time I was unsure of just what would end up growing where, and how well it would grow.

In case anyone was under the impression that I am a gardener, let me disillusion you now.  I am no gardener.  In fact, this has really been my first attempt at growing anything, ever.

When I was growing up, my mother maintained beautiful gardens.  My brother and I spent time weeding and helping to do things like mulch, but I suppose the kid version of me was just never interested enough in what was actually going on to really learn much except the proper way to pull a weed.  (Get the root.  Also, it’s easier to do if the ground is wet, though a bit messy.)

So several weeks after planting seeds, we have… some plants.  I have been able to identify with certainty basil, marjoram, oregano, and thyme.  Also dill.  The dill is growing like… I don’t know.  DILL!  This summer we will be required to eat lots of salmon and vegetable dip.  The mint just decided not to come up, so David and I packed the kids into the car and went and bought a couple of mint plants, along with parsley and lemon balm.  So we now have mint, parsley, lemon balm, dill, basil, marjoram, oregano and thyme.

And then there’s this… other plant.  See, I had thought that I had planted sage, and so I assumed that the very tall, grassy plant coming up was sage, since I could identify everything else.  The problem is, this is a plant that looks nothing like any sage plant that the Interwebs can show me.

Like a genius, I threw away the seed packets, thinking “I won’t forget what I planted!”  Of course, two weeks later, I’m looking at these grassy shoots and thinking, “What on earth did I plant?”

On the one hand, I’m kind of excited to see what these plants turn into, whether they are something edible, or if I grabbed a wonky packet of seeds.  On the other hand, the hand that likes to be in control and who really prefers to know everything, it is a little frustrating to know that I don’t know what this is.  I have resisted the urge several times to just pull the stuff up because I can’t identify it.  But then there’s this voice inside me that tells me that this is a garden that was planted with love and largely for fun.  Some things grow well.  Others don’t.  We seem to have a volunteer tomato plant that we’re not pulling up, so we can afford to wait and see.

So once again, I have been schooled by plants.  I am waiting and seeing, and most of the time, I’m okay with that.

(Oh, and here are some pictures of our plants.)

Basil

Lemon Balm

Rose

Mystery Grass-like Plant

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