Dear Hormones.

11 Apr

Dear Hormones,

I first heard about you in 5th grade Sex Ed. The school nurse came in with something that resembled a tackle box full of pamphlets and giveaway maxi pads, ready to reference heady Latin-derived words like cervix, vulva and urethra. (Et tu, Uterus?) The girls were separated from the boys for the first hour, while we gawked at charts and graphs that told us, in a roundabout way, that we would bleed for one week each month, starting soon, and that this was somehow normal and okay. We were ten.

When the boys and girls reunited for Q & A afterward – a horrible idea, in hindsight – the school nurse used your name to explain why our bodies acted the way they did. Jimmy King, who had older brothers, snorted and guffawed at the word. Hormones. Everyone else did too, because he did. That’s when I suspected our relationship would be complex.

As of today, I have been pregnant and/or breastfeeding for nearly five years straight. While I’ve never enjoyed a calm, predictable relationship with you since our introduction, the past five years have taught me the true definition of volatility. It’s one thing when you’re talking about the stock market or real estate. It’s another thing entirely when it best describes your own insides.

Being hormones yourselves, you can’t possibly understand what it’s like to be affected by you. Demonic possession comes to mind. Hiroshima. The last Challenger mission. Being trapped in an elevator with a swarm of bees. Later, a gaping, yawning sadness. A black hole that steals light, even light from billions of miles of way. And then, just when everyone is ready to buy a neck brace to wear around you, enters a euphoric, creepy happiness. Oh, and you get fat and then skinny again.

Here’s what I want to say, on this, the last day of nursing my precious baby Sweet Chuck: IT’S BEEN REAL. You’ve made it possible for me to conceive and bring two children to term, and then you’ve made it possible for me to feed them from my own body, prevent illness, and bond with them in a way nothing else could have done. For that, thank you. Thank you.

But you’ve also made me hell to live with – hell to live inside of! – when I really needed stability and strength. For that, good riddance.

Until retirement,

Jaime

Sweet Chuck Salad

19 Mar

sweet chuck saladSweet Chuck Salad

Ingredients:

  • One Sweet Chuck (the sweeter the better)

Directions:

Place Sweet Chuck in salad bowl. Toss to combine.

Epilogue: I discovered soon after taking this video that Sweet Chuck had a turd in her drawers. I always wash the bowls she plays with, but this one got an extra vigorous scrubbing.

Hope for the PPD mom.

24 Feb

There isn’t time for this, or any blogging lately. Work, kids, fun, rinse, repeat. Or, more accurately, deadlines, dirty diapers, dinner, and dancing in the living room. This is what days look like around here lately.

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Eating God-knows-what and being adorable.

Seabass on his new pedal bike!

Seabass on his new pedal bike!

But a friend of a friend recently wrote me because she’s struggling with the reality of postpartum depression and news that she’s pregnant with her second child. Deadlines and dinner can wait; there’s urgent, and then there’s URGENT.

As I wrote her back, I could sense that something incredible was happening: I was happy, hopeful, and even helpful, able to pass my peace along to someone in need.

First off, congrats on your pregnancy! Really. Congratulations. My daughter, Sweet Chuck, is the light of my life. I can’t imagine life without her, though I cried and cried when I found out I was pregnant with #2. I completely understand. The first trimester was so so challenging, physically, emotionally, spiritually, etc etc. I couldn’t fathom having another crying mouth to feed and butt to wipe. I don’t know how I kept Seabass alive those first several months, but I must have somehow because he’s a thriving kid today. God knows I didn’t do much more than cry and stare out the window for a while there. It is a miracle and a mystery of the universe that we mothers are able to contend with so much on so little, if any. It pushes us down – it pulverizes us – and yet, somehow, we make it to the other side and are (I think?) better for it. This is my experience, strength and hope to give to you. Today, despite being literally suicidal after the birth of my first child, I have two kids who are healthy and happy, a loving marriage, and a sense of peace in my heart, most days. This isn’t luck. You too will feel this. Just be kind to yourself and give it time. A mantra that worked for me was “CHANGE HAPPENS.” I said it over and over to myself, and it helped me.
Change happens. Change happens. Change happens.

The little house that could.

6 Jan

This isn’t a home blog, but I’ve mentioned many times that we work on our house regularly, and that home improvement has an effect (ahem) upon our parenting and on our marriage. In fact, you may recall a good deal of pissing and moaning from me this past summer as we remodeled our kitchen. I’m weird about my space; even though I *do* want it fixed up and cute, I become a raging word-that-rhymes-with-teeotch throughout the cute-ification process. It’s how I roll.

Well, here we are in January, and the kitchen is finally done. (Clarification: a kitchen remodel, or any remodel for that matter, is never truly “done.” I’d say we’re about 97% there, and that’s good enough for me.) Walls have been knocked out and reframed. Cabinets, countertops, and appliances have been purchased and installed. Bills have been rung up and tears have been shed over them. But, best of all, meals have been prepared and enjoyed.

I hadn’t planned on writing a post on our kitchen until today, when I was happily – peacefully! – making a pot of soup for dinner and was stopped in my tracks by how beautiful our home is right now. It is the little house that could, all 850 square feet of it, all thanks to my incredible husband, who has done every bit himself. Thank you, amazing, loving, smokin-hot-in-a-toolbelt Jake.

Of course, I wouldn’t mind a few extra feet of house, and perhaps someday we’ll manage to add those. But when it comes to home, bigger isn’t always better. I’ve been in plenty of large houses that were decked out tastefully…but they weren’t home. My mom, when she was visiting last year, said that when she drove down our street at twilight, the coziest house – the house she most wanted to be inside – was ours. Coming from her, that’s a big compliment.

Here’s to making a weird, 1953 college student rental house – complete with a blood-red “accent” wall, microscopic kitchen with three drawers, and stained carpet – into a home.

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The Mouth.

30 Dec

Isn’t it crazy how some of the world’s quietest adults were once bombastically loud children? My brother, now a soft-spoken man, once yelled “LOOK AT THAT MOMMY’S HAIR!” and pointed to the beehive coif of a fellow diner at a Mexican restaurant. My mom says she wanted to dissolve into the floor as the entire restaurant stopped and stared.

I hope Seabass becomes as quiet as my brother in adulthood, but if recent events are any indication, that hope is in vain.

EXHIBIT A.

Running through the hall of the Portland Airport on recent holiday travels, exclaiming (at the top of his lungs) “I HAVE TO POOOOOOOOP, MOMMY!!!”

EXHIBIT B.

Announcing to everyone in Fresh & Easy (once again, the one at Broad and South St., poor fools) that someone in the snack aisle had “VERY, VERY DARK SKIN.”

EXHIBIT C.

Climbing a play structure, slipping, and screeching, “OW, MY PENIS!!”

…and my personal favorite,

EXHIBIT D.

At the park, staring, then pointing at our local resident cross-dresser, who was passing by and just happened to be wearing a long dress and a hat like this

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which compelled Seabass to yell, “LOOK AT THAT QUEEN, MOMMY!”

Yes, son. How very astute you are.

Just get this child to three years old.

11 Dec
Swaddle

The newborn Seabass. Swaddled and…awake.

There was this particular night, oh, about three and a half years ago, in which I sat bouncing a nascent Seabass on the yoga ball.  It was late: wee-morning-of-the-hours late. I had been bouncing for several hours, punctuated by quick, laughable attempts to lay the ‘Bass down in his crib and put him to sleep. I was depressed. I was sleep-starved. I was a roiling mess of nerves, anxiety, self-loathing, and confusion, and I saw no light at the end of my personal poop-smeared tunnel.

I recall this night because I so vividly remember chanting to myself while I bounced, “Just get this child to three years old. Just get this child to three years old. Just get this child to three years old.” For whatever reason, in my mind, I had decided that the age of three would be when Seabass no longer presented a challenge.

Remember: I had never really hung out with kids before. The milestones and expectations I could place on a child at any age were completely shrouded in mystery. Perhaps I thought he’d suddenly be really fun at that age, or really independent, like he could make himself a sandwich, change the laundry from the washer to the dryer, or clip his own toenails.

Wearing the Halloween costume my mom made for me when I was three.

Wearing the Halloween costume my mom made for me when I was three.

Here we are at the age of three and a half, and I’ll admit that some of those things I’d believed are indeed true. Seabass sleeps quite well now. He uses the potty all by himself. And he is really fun. Oh, how he can put Jake and me in stitches with some of the wacky stuff he says. And when I have the energy to answer every little question he poses, life with my precious first-born boy can be beautiful. His scintillating wit and sensitivity toward his surroundings are what make him the one and only Seabass.

But you and I both know this blog isn’t about only the good stuff. It’s about ALL OF THE STUFF. And the stuff can go from ecstatically great to morbidly horrible in a matter of seconds. I believe the correct term is volatile.

He’s moody. He’s bossy. He’s utterly implacable when it comes to what to eat or what to wear. He’s nosy. He’s loud and repeats obnoxious noises sometimes, especially if he knows it bugs me. In fact, he is more adept than anyone I know at finding my last nerve and Riverdancing on it.

He can’t stand for me to spend any affection on Sweet Chuck, so much of my cooing and gurgling with her is done in secret, when he’s not around or looking. He’s like the Cuddle Gestapo. If I so much as wink at her, he starts goo goo gooing and getting up in my stuff for attention.

The truth is I think he really needs that attention. But my skin crawls when he acts like a baby. We are still negotiating how to give him the attention he craves without feeding his lunacy, so to speak.

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I love Seabass so much I think my head will pop off sometimes. (If you ever find my noggin rolling down Higuera Street, you’ll know it finally happened.) And oh, how hard on him I am! I’ll cheerfully accept his best efforts…until they’re not good enough.

This motherhood gig is simply too much sometimes. Where is the pause button? Where is the boundary between Seabass and me? Am I even allowed to put up emotional boundaries with a preschooler? Where does he end? Where do I begin?

Slumber, my darling.

6 Nov

The act of putting a child to sleep is as ancient as the earth itself.  Since time began, mothers and fathers have used the same old patterns, tricks and routines to gather up calm and shower it down upon restless bodies in preparation for sleep.  Taking part in the ritual is a privilege, even after a day of pure horror.

Seabass has always been partial to bedtime stories and a caressing back scratch.  After reading books about dinosaurs, teddy bears, and (what else?) tractors, he rolls to his side and I let my fingers walk gently across his impossibly tiny shoulders, down his arms and over his peach-fuzzy back.  “Mama, will you sing to me?” is one of his regular requests, and I reply, happily, with something timeless, something true.

imageSweet Chuck also gets a song from me for bedtime, but hers is always coupled with a warm, cozy snuggle.  It is a joy unparalleled to feel her burrow into my neck while I sing and lull in the squeaky rocking chair.  And then, just as the last notes of my tune have decayed, she takes up the melody herself, no matter how sleepy.  She intones a couple of tiny hoots, a gurgle and a hum, mimicking the sounds that I made just seconds before, showing her support for my efforts.

Each parent has their own favorite bedtime song. For me, I like to reach across time and space to join hands with Stephen Foster, who captured the essence of love for children in his “Slumber, My Darling” from the mid-19th century.

I have, literally, never listened to this song without crying.  My mother thought these same thoughts over me as I slept, as did hers over her.

We are not alone, friends, in this helpless, knee-scraping,

reckless-abandon-love we feel for our children.

Slumber, my darling, thy mother is near,
Guarding thy dreams from all terror and fear,
Sunlight has pass’d and the twilight has gone,
Slumber, my darling, the night’s coming on.
Sweet visions attend thy sleep,
Fondest, dearest to me,
While others their revels keep,
I will watch over thee.

Slumber, my darling, the birds are at rest,
The wandering dews by the flow’rs are caressed,
Slumber, my darling, I’ll wrap thee up warm,
And pray that the angels will shield thee from harm.

Slumber, my darling, till morn’s blushing ray
Brings to the world the glad tidings of day;
Fill the dark void with thy dreamy delight–
Slumber, thy mother will guard thee tonight,
Thy pillow shall sacred be
From all outward alarms;
Thou, thou are the world to me
In thine innocent charms.

Slumber, my darling, the birds are at rest,
The wandering dews by the flow’rs are caressed,
Slumber, my darling, I’ll wrap thee up warm,
And pray that the angels will shield thee from harm.

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