# Emotional Blackmail by our Daycare!

I hitched Potamus onto one hip and entered the door code early yesterday morning. We were running late because of the rain and traffic, and Potamus was dawdling in the parking lot wanting “up, up!” instead of splashing through the puddles like he normally does. I set him on the counter inside, signed him in, and was cheerfully accosted by the daycare director holding out a packet from Lil’ Buckaroos photography.

I had seen the signs for the past few weeks, about the pony ride and pictures happening, but assumed it was something that parents had to opt in to participate. Not needing pony pictures with my kidlet, I just ignored all the paperwork. But there it was, in my hand, 7 prints, of my son on the back of a pony, dressed in cowboy gear, and the instructions to pay $25 within a week, order prints online, or return the proofs to the office. How could I return such adorably overpriced western posed pictures with my one and only? He looked so cute perched on Dakota the pony, tipping his hat, and staring moodily into the camera. I’m a sucker for photos, anyway, and so I ponied up (pun intended) the$25 to pay for the proofs. I won’t even go online to see the package options, because I might end up spending his entire college fund on pony pictures.

But it made me laugh, because it was the best marketing strategy ever. How many parents are going to return the already printed photos of their adorable children riding ponies? I’m guessing not many. The strategy worked, though if it had been something else besides pony pictures, I might have been legitamtely mad. Or if I had an aversion to ponies and felt like I should have been given the option to give permission for my son to ride atop those sometimes vicious little creatures.

I came home and showed Boof the pictures, and he agreed they were cute. Though his heartstrings are not tugged nearly as much as mine, though he loved the idea of giving one of them to his dad for Father’s Day, because Potamus is in love with his “Buppa” and they do manly cowboy things together, like tromp through yard with tools, and I think he’ll love the picture. And who wouldn’t, because my child is adorable, ammirite?

# Parenting and Identity Sweet Spot

I’ve had a really good week. My sleep has been adequate (never quite enough, but just enough to stave off the crankies), I got to visit with some friends and my sister this past week, Potamus is mostly over his snotty-nosed cold, and I  fit back into a pair of pre-baby pants. Whoa, doing well all around.

This is what I call a ‘sweet spot.’ Where everything just seems to be going well. Well enough that I fantasize about adding another baby into the mix, or starting up a counseling practice on the side, or doing something else entirely crazy like going on a road trip. I dunno, sometimes I live with anxiety and stress so much that I crave it, and so the sweet spots pass quite quickly because I drum up some sort of drama to keep my monkey mind entertained.

These sweet spots sometime seem so few and far between. Oasis in the midst of desert travelling. Maybe they’d stick around longer if I didn’t pass through them so quickly, trying to get to the next desert. I don’t let myself enjoy the here & now for fear that it is going to leave so quickly. Or I try to hold too tightly to the sweetness and end up squeezing the life out of it ala Lennie in Of Mice and Men.

So today, on my Veteran’s Day holiday, I tried to enjoy the sweet spot. I dropped Potamus off at daycare and drove back home, trying not to feel guilty about my day off. I watched TV and puttered. I took a nap. And when I awoke from my nap, I took another nap. And it was glorious. I feel recharged and ready for my Monday night therapy. I’ll try to just enjoy this moment, because Lord knows it’ll pass quick enough…

# They call them mood swings for a reason…

Yesterday was amazing. My best mom-friend came and spoke to my classes about her job and how she got into the tech field. Not only was it amazing to spend from 8-4 hanging out with a friend, it was also really nice to have her get to spend time in my world. She got to meet all of the students that I complain brag about daily. And it was so lovely to have her speak to the students and to see  (and read) their reactions to her story. We wanted to inspire and inform them, and it happened exactly how we wanted!

And then, since we carpooled, she got to see our daycare routine and I got to see hers. It was this brilliant exchange of life-experience that made me really happy. Despite my introvertedness, I came home feeling chipper and full of love for my son and my job and life. It was one of those feelings where you think “YES, I got my life together!” and delude your mind into believing that this kind of awesomeness will continue.

But then I woke up today, at 5 am (after only 5ish hours of sleep) and tried DESPERATELY to get Potamus back to sleep. Which means I have very sore not-yet-fully-weaned-but-not-used-to-nursing-for-an-hour-straight nipples. Yeah. I tried for a good hour (off and on). And then we tried watching Handy Manny on our smartphone. And then I tried nursing him some more. Nada. At 7:30 ish we just got up for the day. At which point the dog went insane, chewed up 5 toys, kept barking like a maniac, peed on the floor. And kiddo? All he wanted to eat was cookies. And mandarine oranges. His poor little bum is so raw from his diet of only-oranges. I guess last night all he would eat was french fries and oranges with daddy, and he ate virtually nothing at daycare, so I don’t know if this is just a picky phase or what?

Then my phone did this weird black-screen-of-death thing and I had to go wait at the Sprint store for 45 minutes. And then he nursed for another hour to take a nap. Finally, exhausted, at 1:00 pm we were BOTH asleep in bed together and I did at least get a nap (which doesn’t negate that I got 5 hours of sleep the night before). He tended to be better once he got a nap, but he’s in this phase where he’s really testing boundaries. And I hate enforcing my stern “no hitting the tv table with your hotwheels cars” threat, because then there is tears and hitting me and tantrums. But I’m doing it and trying not to lose my shit.

And thankfully he ate some protein tonight.

So I noticed this morning, that my mood was really surly. I was tired and hungry and hungover from all the awesome of the day before. I wish that I could have hung on to the peaceful post-yoga calm from last night, and the friendship glow from yesterday afternoon. But I didn’t. I was crabby (at least internally) and I was even more annoyed with myself than the annoying things that kept happening around me. Also, my farts smelled really really bad. And that’s never fun.

How quickly my emotions can change. It feels like being on a roller coaster sometimes. And I wish I could just go with it, rather than trying to fight against it, but I rarely do.

# Maxed Out…this American mom is on the brink…

“We were all living the lives we’d chosen. We had what we thought we wanted- wonderful children and a level of financial independence that our mothers never knew. And yet, most days, it felt as if our lives were being held together by Band-Aids and Elmer’s glue. None of us could make sense of the wretched state we found ourselves in. What were we doing wrong?”

After forwarding a powerful  article  on burned out mothers to a friend, we decided to buy the book mentioned in the article (Maxed Out: American Moms on the Brink), and have been sending rapid fire texts and quotes to each other ever since. Because this book has spoken to us. It speaks to my greatest fear, and how I’ve actually been feeling for a few weeks now. That everything is held together by Band-Aids and Elmer’s glue.

Katrina goes on to explain, “The last few months had been a carnival ride of constant motion that left me dizzy and sick to my stomach. I wanted off. I wanted someone to pull the brake. I wanted to make it stop, but I didn’t know how to make it stop. I  ddn’t even know what stopping meant.”

Um, who can relate? Whoa.

Her book is so honest and real in chronicling the trials and tribulations of working motherhood. It left me feeling validated, but most of the time I read it and vacillated between being completely freaked out about the future with a potential 2nd child and feeling like ‘I got this,’ because part of what she talked about what the magical aspect of working part-time. She called them “Magic Fridays” when she had a 4 day work week, which is a phrase I think I’m going to borrow. But…there was one piece that I’m still chewing on.

Because, when I take a step back, which is like a layman’s term for almost depersonalizing, I realize that there is actually nothing in my life right now that should be making me feel this crazy-carnival way. My husband and I have been in a really good place. Potamus is teething, but sleeping much more, and we’re down to one time nursing. My class is going pretty well and my advising schedule isn’t too crammed. Flexible job. Yoga class. Therapy. From the outside of my own mind, looking at my life, I’m actually in a really calm content place. And yet…..and yet…I’m not.

I know that everyone has different thresholds, but I’m actually not okay. I feel like I might start crying at any moment over any little thing. So I’m back on my meds. I got the prescription filled yesterday, and hopefully they’ll kick in next week. I felt like I was heading toward this cliff and I didn’t want to go there again. Because even my coworkers and students have noticed a change in my mood this last week especially. My irritation with things being out of place in the classroom is an all time high.

And part of me worries that if I am like this with one kid, what will happen if I have another? I know that’s a long way off from needing to think about, that I get to just enjoy the next several months and don’t even have to talk about it, and trying to project how I’m going to feel into the future isn’t really that great anyway, because it’s rarely true. Though, if I’m totally honest, thinking about it too much might send me into a panic attack.

Where is the line between intuition and anxiety? Because, in my mind’s eye, I can see us having another child. Feeling that completion feeling that I really do want. And I can also see myself having a nervous breakdown in the same picture. That just the stress of two kids, even a part-time job, and doing all the parenting things that are never ending, will kill me. That’s how it feels. I know the reality is one step at a time, but I do get terrified. Because:

“The line between ‘Everything’s okay’ and ‘I’m on the verge of total collapse’ is so thin.”

So true. And yet, when I finished the book, I felt really hopeful. Because, while I might feel on the edge a lot, I’m not alone. And I have supportive friends, partner, and am taking all the really good steps to beat back the anxiety and depression. And I’m learning more about myself, like going back on meds when I see the train-wreck coming, or choose to NOT go to yoga because I had been gone every night of the week and just wanted to relax (which feels different than just not going because I’m anxious/depressed), and taking sweet advantage of my Magic Friday today to rest while Potamus was resting.

Moms, I recommend this book. Working moms, I definitely recommend this book. Mom with anxiety, read this book. It’s so good.

# So many feels

flying in the backyard

I am so proud of my boy. He’s made the transition to 3 days a week daycare (soon to be 4 days) and he is doing so amazing I can barely write about it. I mean, he’s doing so well that I feel guilty we ever tried to have him not be in daycare every day. Which I know is my mama-guilt-brain, because my heart knows that while he cried during daycare days, he was also with grandma, and me, and that’s priceless. But seriously, in one week he has gone from needing to be carried into school, promptly crying, and me tearing myself away…to walking into his classroom after carefully selecting the Dora-doll (he’s not allowed to have Dolly at school) and crying a little bit, but sitting at his breakfast table eating his breakfast. And today I picked him up from school and he was sitting at the table doing a little art project, and I suddenly saw his future flash before my eyes. And I got that creepy mom in I Love You Forever thought, that someday I’m going to sneak into his room and watch him sleep and miss my baby. Who was so sweet and snuggly and happy. Because he’s growing up so fast I can barely stand it. Which is the ultimate mom cliche and when I hear it I want to barf.

And that though, of him growing up so fast, is what makes me think about having another kid. I know, make up your damn mind Monk-Monk, one day you’re wanting to hold off, the next you’re talking about having kids. Yeah, I know that sounds like I’m confused, but I’m not. I know I don’t want another kid right now, I actually know that I’m a 1 kid person who would stretch to be a 2 kid person in that situation. Just like I was a 0 kid person until we had 1.

But God, I miss that newborn in my arms. I wonder about what it’s like to only have 1 birth story to t

\ell, that I won’t somehow get to experience that terribly difficult and powerful and beautiful experience again. And while I have felt very present and mindful through most of the almost-two-years of his life, there have been times where I’ve been angry and resentful and not present, and I regret that. But overall I am doing an amazing job of being present in this moment of time with Potamus, but the nostalgia and sentimental feelings persist. Where did my baby go?

Today Potamus did the hand motions to the “Wheels on the Bus” and yesterday he tried to put his socks on. He throws his hands up in the air and exaggerates the “what?” look when he does something naughty. He’s sleeping mostly through the night (in our bed) and is mostly- weaned. He nurses at night, once, but it rarely puts him to sleep. And sometimes I nurse him for 10 minutes in the morning to get him to fall back asleep. So it’s between 1 and 2 times a day, at most. There’s been days where he’s gone 24 hours without nursing. And his attachment to Dolly has ramped up. But we’re all sleeping well and in this little sweet spot that is so very good.

And yet we’re right on the back of a really hard summer interpersonally between Boof and I, between me and my own concept of myself, and while we’re in a little parenting-problem-lull, we’re struggling in other ways. Like schedules are still so crazy that I feel as if we are two separated-single-parents co-parenting, and doing a remarkably undamaging and also shitty job of it.

But my transition back to work has been stellar so far, though I’m tired more than I thought I’d be. Teaching starts officially on Tuesday, so that’ll add a new dimension to the weeks, but I am excited. for the challenge. I don’t know how something can both be such a hard time, but also such a good time at the same moment. It’s a very strange feeling to be straddling all of those feelings at the same time.

# Summer in Review

first day of school (work) for mama!

Summer is over, and I am back to work (shh, no I’m not blogging from my desk when I should be putting together packets for the beginning of school). I decided that I was going to handle this transition differently than others, that I wouldn’t begin thinking or talking about it ahead of time. I have noticed my tendency to process, re-process, and then OVER-PROCESS impending transitions, and that actually contributes to my increased anxiety. So this time I ignored the transition. Maybe it was denial, or maybe it was really awesome coping, I’m not quite sure. And while last night I had a touch of restless sleeping, I’m going to chalk it up to that rascally 20 month old lying next to me.

To allay the back-to-work-mama guilt that started to spin my wheels around 5pm (all those ‘but I should have done this’ or ‘is it going to be hard for Potamus to go to daycare 4 days from only 2 days?’ thoughts, I decided to focus on what I HAD accomplished this summer. And it turns out that I was a pretty freaking amazing mom in the past 3 months of summer:

• Road trip to Cannon Beach
• no less than 6 trips to the zoo
• no less than 5 trips to KidsQuest Museum
• Road trip to Cama Beach State Park
• Road trip to Eastern Washington
• Splash park shenanigans
• Weekly lunch dates (with tot-in-tow) with mom friends
• Puyallup Fair
• barbecues with the grandparents
• splashing in our backyard ‘pool’
• endless bubble blowing excursions
• lunch dates to Panera
• driving around listening to Macklemore to get Potamus to take a nap

I mean, the list could go on and on. Where I failed, in my grumpy attitude toward my husband, and resenting him working 3 jobs, I also excelled in rolling with the punches in a lot of cases I re-defined my identity as a summertime-stay-at-home-mom, and am now back to work, and I will miss out on certain aspects of life with Potamus, but I will also gain a lot, as well. I’m trying to focus on what I did, the moments we snuggled, and the experiences of him hugging me voluntarily for the first time, how I’ve really gotten to see him develop into a funny little person with a personality as big as the moon, and a sense of humor to rival any tv comedian. It was a good summer. Yes it was hard, but, like labor, I remember all the good parts, all the love I felt, in betwen all the sandwich making, diaper changing, tantrum avoiding messes. In wistful moments I think of how much of a sweet baby he was at the beginning of the summer, and how a ‘short’ three months has turned him in to quite the ‘little man’ toddler. Sigh. Those hugs he gives me, though…I mean, that’s gold.

# Babysitting

My tranquil night plus long stretch of sleep left me slightly crazy. Crazy, as in, I accepted the last-minute urgent request to watch my friend’s daughter. She’s a work-from-home mom who does some financial consulting and clearly her husband couldn’t get off work in time for her to make it to a client meeting. If it hadn’t been last minute I wouldn’t have said yes, because, let’s be honest…I don’t really like kids all that much. I mean, other people’s kids are cute to look at, but they’re pretty exhausting, and come with a whole other set of rules and expectations that don’t always fit into my schedule.

So, my friend shows up in a dither, clearly already late for her meeting, and drops her daughter off without even so much as a goodbye snuggle. Whoa. Stressful for baby AND for babysitter. I did the “look at the balloon” method that I see the daycare teacher’s use, and it worked…for a few minutes until mom came back inside to drop the carseat off. Whoa, set off a whole extra set of crying and tearfulness that lasted on-and-off for about twenty minutes. No big deal in the grand scheme, especially since her cries were WAY less nerve grating than my own kiddo’s cries, but still, we were heading into the witching hour and one toddler crying on my lap was bound to be two.

Potamus was so cute. He clearly has developed some baby-empathy, because he was hamming it up for her. He appeared to be trying to cheer her up…doing a little dance…bringing over all his new toys and wanting me to hold them and show them to her…and when she finally still wouldn’t calm down, he lost it. Which meant two toddlers crying on my lap. I think the glass of wine helped me to not totally freak out, and so I ended up mostly going about my evening routine…watering the yard, straightening some dishes, putting some toys away…

Potamus figured out shortly that being held by mama was boring and so he went off to play. Little Miss decided that playing, and having animal cookies, seemed fun, too, and so she toodled off to play with Potamus. They had a good time inside and then went to explore the backyard where full-on-witching hour reared it’s ugly head.

sharing is hard

Let’s be honest, sharing is hard. Sharing when you’re a toddler and it’s almsot bedtime is even harder. When I told Potamus that it was Little Miss’s turn for the cart, his face looked so crushed. His feelings were SO hurt. And then he made that face. But not to be outsmarted by this, he went over to some random toy item he found on the back deck and got Little Miss’s attention. He then threw it into the flowers, distracting her enough to steal the toy back. While it wasn’t exactly what I wanted to happen, I was pretty proud of his problem-solving skills. It was cool for me to observe this interaction and to see, so clearly, his intention and smarts written all over his face.

Our crazy adventure only lasted an hour and a half. Dad swooped in as fast as mom had swooped out and tried to juggle the screaming kiddo while putting in the carseat (that he had never done before). It was quite the circus, but I’m trying to not judge, because it all seemed stressful and I had managed just fine. Potamus was wiped out, and fortunately fell asleep quite easily after all of the commotion. And it helped me to have another TV/media free night (with the exception of instagramming these adorable pictures).

Bonus. Today is my last day of work for the summer. Booyah!