Thursday, July 25, 2013

Two! Sleeps! 'Til Brooklyn!

We are coming up on some exciting weeks around these parts. Long weekend adventures to my favorite city to see a favorite auntie and her adorable son, a week-long visit from another favorite auntie and her beautiful daughter, and in a stunning trifecta, Little A.'s favorite teacher will be babysitting ALL the girl cousins during our weekend retreat to an amazing spot, all on the books. Oh and we can't forget the tentative quick trip to Boston to say goodbye to some good friends. In between we'll hit the beach and the pool and stay over at the lake. So, yeah, we love August, in advance.

My good friend (and obviously one of my biggest inspirations -- thanks for all the writing prompts, Lynn!) recently shared her feelings about traveling with kids. Hell on earth, she says. And I can definitely see where she's coming from. About 2 hours in to our 3.5 hour flight home from a recent trip to Florida (which had a whole host of problems, really deserving of its own post), Baby G. got restless and spent a good 45 minutes slapping and poking me. It wasn't malicious, really, but really. Slapping. Poking. Jumping. All the while increasing her vocal volume until people started turning around to see what the fuss was all about. Finally I dumped her into my dad's lap and hissed YOU TAKE HER NOW and went to stand by the bathroom and pretended not to know any of my travel party for 15 minutes. There might have been a quick glass of wine involved but I'll never tell.

So. Was it relaxing? No. I was utterly exhausted by the time we got home. But was it worth it? Yes. I can safely say: yes. Though I didn't get to loll on a chair and read trashy magazines or even have one fruity cocktail without wondering if someone was going to drown or get sunburned or wake up and need tending, there were so many lovely moments. Watching the girls through my fingers as they run away from my beach chair to the edge of the Gulf of Mexico, holding their grandfather's hand. Discovering the tiny baby coconut that would become Little A.'s prized possession. Reconnecting with a dear friend while our little girls slept all piled into the same room. And all of our trips are like that. Tiring/exhilarating. Stressful/amazing.

So I'll start packing tonight, for my first solo road trip with the girls. Even though I know there will be moments of hell during our 6-hour drive, once we get there, and on the way home. Even though I just spent an arm and a leg on road snacks that will be eaten within the first 45 minutes. Because we need to walk to the coolest playgrounds in the coolest neighborhood in my most favorite city in the whole wide world. Because I don't want Little A. to think Maine bagels are actually BAGELS. Because I wouldn't miss the chance to see my dear friend and her boy play with my girls. Because I need to sit on a roof with my girlfriends and see and hear the same sights and sounds of my long-gone self-centered single gal days. Because I love to travel, and goddammit, so will my kids.

(Wish me luck, though, seriously.)

xoxo, A

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Lather Rinse Repeat

Last night I had an out-of-body experience. I floated up to the ceiling of Little A's room and saw myself grab and rip to shreds a magazine. Not just any magazine, no, but her most favorite magazine in the whole wide world. It was 8:02 pm. It was hot as fuck. She was tired. I was tired. She had just deliberately spit on the floor, after 45 minutes of outrageously wild behavior -- running away, crying, laughing hysterically while kicking her legs every which way including at my face, throwing books, and so very much SHRIEKING, in the tub and in the baby's room and in her room and right next to me, directly into my ear, as I sat at the top of the stairs frantically trying to collect myself and wondering what the fuck do I do now and can I maybe just go out onto the deck and come back in 30 minutes -- and it was my very last straw. We both heard the glob of spit hit the floor and she looked at me with mingled dread and defiance and I didn't say a word. I exited my body, which slowly got up from her bed where I had been trying to just talk to her or get her to breathe or somehow get things back under control and walked directly to the magazine and picked it up and ripped and ripped and ripped. And she wailed and tried to punch me and said I was the worst mother in the world and that I hated her and that she hated me. And I wanted to wail and I felt like the worst mother in the world and I hated myself. And I spiraled back down into myself and sat next to her and held her still-small fists and just said this is out of control, we have to get it under control. I love you and could never hate you. I should not have ripped your magazine. This is out of control. We have to get it under control. I love you and could never hate you. Over and over, a chanted prayer/wish/mantra. And we did get it under control. And I should not have ripped her magazine, and she should not have shrieked in my ear. And we talked about all the scary feelings we were both feeling in that moment. And we talked about how many changes we've been through in the past few weeks. She misses her dad being around, she misses her old teacher at school, and she doesn't like her new teacher, and her cousin doesn't want to hug her at school. Big hurts and little hurts and they all fucking hurt. And I should not have ripped her magazine. I absorbed all of her hurt sobs into my body and they have settled somewhere around my heart and there they sit, so heavy.

After 15 minutes of talking and crying we went back into her sister's room (where the AC unit is) and I made her a special nest next to where I was going to sleep and we laid down together and I rubbed her back until she fell asleep. And then, finally, lying on an improvised bed between her and her sister in the dark and cool room, I cried too. Silent, guilty, stinging tears.

My oldest girl. So much like me, and so mysterious in the way any other person is. I love her with every cell of my body and her very existence fills me with joy and we dance together and play and joke and most hours are delightful but also she makes me more angry than anyone I have ever known. Since our last breakdown/breakthrough her behavior has changed. She is still excellent at school but every other night or so is a struggle. Last night was extreme, really extreme, and just after she fell asleep the skies opened and a thunderstorm rolled through just to prove the point. Thanks, Universe. I get the message. She is not protecting me anymore, I think. She is just at one of those ages, I think. She is processing the separation, I think.

This is hard and weird, guys. I am 100% convinced things will be better because of the changes I affected to our family. And in so many ways, they already are. The knot of tension and uncertainty that lived in my chest for the past two years has disappeared for one. It has been replaced by other knots, but they are MY knots and I know how to work on that shit. We are eating better and dancing and singing and doing more fun stuff. There is less stress in the house, period. We just have to get past this hard part to get to really really good but I also have to get cozy with the notion that the hard part might last a little longer than I was expecting because there are more agendas at work than just mine. And my guiding philosophy of keep on movin, don't stop, might not work for everyone in our little family. I have to just stop and be with first baby, this tough cookie, this spitter, this cuddler, and singer and painter and dancer, right where she is. And I have to just stop and be with her sister, my last baby, our 5-second tantrum-er, and goofball, and toothbrush-obsessor, right where she is. And I also have to just stop and be with me, single mother, don't wanna to go to sleep because this is my time-er, story-teller, hugger, comfort-giver, magazine-ripper, right where I am. I just need to be nice to all of us, including me. I am not letting myself off the hook for that asshole move, but by god I am going to go out tonight and allow myself to recharge so that particular brand of assholery will not reoccur.

We are here: facing off and shouting threats and throwing our plates to the floor and pulling hair and in time out. We are here: going to the beach and having cupcakes and wearing princess dresses and painting toenails and having breakfast dance parties. We are here.

xoxo, A

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

You Take the Good, You Take the Bad

My good friend (and super talented bloggess) Lynn wrote this lovely piece today. A topic top of mind and close to our hearts these last weeks, so I'm writing my thoughts out here, too.

When we found out Greg was sick with stage-4, metastasized pancreatic cancer, it was a shock, to say the least. He was so young and so strong. He was Tim's boss for several months, a couple of years ago, and they had remained fairly close. You know, beers-once-a-month close. And suddenly, here was this young, strong guy, living under a death sentence. 6 months, they gave him. And Greg, although he and his wife didn't characterize it as "fighting," boy, did he fight. He gave cancer the middle finger in the form of energy work, chemo, immunity treatments, clean eating, etc., etc. He did everything and he and his wife navigated the whole process with amazing grace and strength. And the fucking disease got him anyway. He passed peacefully at home right around the 6-month mark.

Living with animals gives us training wheels for the whole death talk. When Little A. was around 5 months old, our beloved Black Kitty died, peacefully, at home. He was old and sick but mostly like himself until the end. We buried him in the backyard, after making up a special box filled with a cozy blankets and treats. We gave him farewell pats and shed a few tears over his body, all together as a family. She was too young to talk about it, of course, but I wanted her to see that we would miss him and remember him and that was hard, but also that everything alive dies. A fact of life, albeit a sucky one. Since then we have lost another cat, a few chickens, and two fish, to causes natural and not. My grandmother passed away while I was pregnant with Baby G, and of course most recently we have talked about Greg. With every passing and as she grows, the level of discourse naturally becomes more sophisticated and more self-reflective. The questions range from why do we stop breathing when we die to where did Fifi Fishie go when she died to when will YOU die, Mama?  Her questions are hard to answer and I feel it would be doing her a major disservice to duck them. Or to sugarcoat the answers.

We stop breathing because our bodies get tired or too hurt and besides we don't need our bodies anymore when we die, I say

She went out of her body. We put her body into the ground and she stays in our memories, I say.

I am not intending to die for a long, long time, but no one can really plan that. I exercise and eat healthy so my body will stay strong. But I can't promise to live for a long, long time. What I can promise is that when I die I am going to be with you, inside your heart, I say. 

I say these things and will keep saying them and hope she understands. She seems to understand.

My heart was heavy on the day of Greg's memorial service. I had stayed up late making the chocolate cream pie I would bring to the service, so I was tired and feeling many feelings about how the whole thing would be very hard on Tim and, how, in spite of our separation, I wanted to support him because he needed it and I was the only one who could. So, I stood beside him with tired legs and a tired back and rubbed his back while tears streamed down his face, while we listened to many, many people fondly reminisce about Greg. There were plenty of tears from everyone because goddamn it, a good guy was stolen from all of us. But also there was laughter and love and light and a shitload of pies, because Greg loved pie and there was another a way for us to honor him: through the baking of the pies and the happiness of our bellies after eating said pies, all filled with love and sugar. When we got home, Addie asked how the party was. Because she insisted that it was a "party." I said it was a little sad and a little happy and she said It was sad because Greg died. It was happy because you love him and ate the pie you made and wore your pretty skirt. Did you know I got to have A CHOCOLATE SUNDAE with Nana and Grampa? And then she rampaged around a bit and went to sleep.

Little A. has made a little shrine to the ladybug husks she finds in her room and calls it "Ladybug Heaven." She notices all the little lives around her and wonders when they will die and does not seem scared. I wish for her to never be scared of life and all its hard, unfair implications.  She wants me to sing I love you forever, I like you for always, as long as I'm living, my first baby you'll be, three times every night. We add a footnote that she will be my baby even AFTER I am living. I want her to feel everything, not be closed to life, to be realistic and know I will always be here, even if I'm not. And that she will always be here, even if she's not. That is a prayer for both girls as they fall asleep (I have many): Don't be afraid, because I am here. Don't be afraid, because you are here. We will love on each other forever. And pie helps, so take a big slice.

xoxo, A