The Second Kid Dilemma

It’s begun.

That dreaded second kid syndrome. You know the one. Where the more kids a family has, the less pictures or mementos are kept around. By the time the third or fourth or fifth kid enters the brood, there’s nary a picture to be found.

We won’t get to that crazy level, because this is the last time I will be pregnant.

But I’ve begun to notice that, despite all of my changing thoughts, little tidbits of things I ‘want to write down,’ I am choosing differently this time. I don’t know if it’s mindfulness, or exhaustion, but the zest for documenting has left, in part.

In the past few weeks I’ve thought about writing on:
-the incredible pain I’m feeling with an out of alignment pelvis (and yay, how good my first chiropractic appointment went in getting me to not walk like a 107 year old)

-the fear of turning my sweetness into an older sibling, and the pressure that goes with that responsibility. I know, both Boof and I were the eldest.

-the  “holy shit we’re doing this again? for real? is it too late to back out now?” panic thoughts that overshadow my motherly imaginations of those sweet snuggle sessions and watching a new person grow into the person they already are. My mind is mostly obsessed with poop. And nursing. And poop. Diapers. Poop. Nursing. Poop. Sleep deprivation. Poop.

-the fear that, as exhausted as I am right now, with 24 teaching credits, a part-time job, 25 weeks pregnant, a 4 year old, etc. etc. etc., that I am already stretched too thin in the love department. I am most afraid of becoming the Cruel Mother, rather than staying the 95% empathetic mother. I worry that I will hold my almost 4 year old to a higher standard of behavior simply out of sheer exhaustion, leaving him bewildered at the change.

These are just snapshots of things that flutter through my head on my daily commute, while I’m in the shower, or getting up at 3am for my 5th potty break of the night. They are the same fears, only modified, that I had while pregnant with Potamus. And my higher self knows that all will be okay. But I also know, that I have enjoyed looking back. Seeing a fossil record of those fears, and while I’m zenfully in the moment of anxiety (is that an oxymoron?), I also know, that in 6 months, or 6 years, I won’t remember these little tidbits if I don’t write them down. Like the funny conversations between a mother and her child on the commute home. It quickly evaporates if not set in stone.

I don’t hope to capture all of the moments. But some. So the record isn’t Potamus and then nothing. But I’m also tired. And trying to form cohesive sentences only adds to my exhaustion.

So tell me, mothers of multiples…how do you handle the inequity of time spent worrying/writing/thinking/loving that first kid, and try to create balance with the other one, two, or five who come along behind?

This is how Potamus envisions his new baby brother. <3

This is how Potamus envisions his new baby brother. ❤

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I wrote a thing! It got published!

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Since quietly moving my blog over to Egypt Titchenal, I have been trying my hand at writing pieces for publication by online magazines, and I’m proud to announce that yesterday I was published over on Mutha Magazine! Maybe head on over there and show me some love? I’m hoping to write more pieces like this in the future!

And while you’re at it, go ahead and follow my new blog!

78 Pages and a Sprinkle

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“Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere.” Ann Lamott

The challenge is complete. Last night, at midnight, the NaNoWriMo challenge officially ended, and not a moment too soon. Though I can honestly say I’ve enjoyed the act of sitting down daily to write, pushing myself to think of memories that don’t always come readily, like the time I broke my arm sliding down the slide wearing sweater tights, or how my brother kept saying “my feet are nice and moist,” when he got a concussion mopping the floors with his sock clad feet while I was his high-school babysitter. I have no idea the quality of the writing, or the quality of the memories, but somehow, bit by bit I wrote, daily, to complete a whopping 78 pages plus a few little sprinkles. I used three wheels of ink for the typewriter, and a partial ream of paper that I might have ‘borrowed’ from the office copier. Living dangerously on borrowed paper.

Today I borrowed a few more pages, and made myself a photocopy of the original. Because someday I’m going to want to revisit this ‘masterpiece,’ and do some edits. Or maybe that’s overly ambitious the day after the challenge is over. Maybe I’m always looking forward to new projects. A year barefoot. A year without shopping, or buying books. Three years without shaving any body hair. 30 days of yoga in a summertime. A month of daily writing, 78 pages later. A few tiny accomplishments, which leads me to my new favorite podcast, A Tiny Sense of Accomplishment, by Sherman Alexie and Jess Walter, two Spokane poets. Sherman’s on my mind a lot since I’m teaching one of his novels next quarter.

Maybe I’ll look over these stories in the springtime. Read them. Edit them. See where they can be tweaked and shaped into something new. For now they’ll go in my folder of completed words that live a life unseen by the public, unlike this blog.

Word Count. Page Count.

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I managed to bum my parent’s old broken word processor for the month of November. Well, technically forever, since my mom was adamant “just take it to Goodwill when you’re done.” I’m in the throes of NaNoWriMo, and find myself cycling between ‘oh, this is really fun, I hadn’t remembered that memory,’ and ‘this sucks ass, why am I doing this, who would even read this terrible shit?’

Thankfully I’ve read enough Ann Lamott over the years to know that my shitty first draft monkey mind is probably right on par. The word processor part is broken, but I have managed to get it on the typewriter setting, so I spend my nights “typing away furiously like Angela Landsbury,” according to Boof. I manage to get at least two pages a day, sometimes three, or four, and at my last count I was up to a whopping 27 typed pages of pure memory drivel. While the rest of the NaNoWriMoers are coming up with complex stories rivalling the best selling romance Twilight, I am putting down words around every Halloween costume I’ve ever worn. And all the Halloween candy I stole as a kid. And why I can’t stop eating these damn mini snickers bars. Memoir writing at its finest.

What’s lovely about the whole romantic writing style, is that I can’t edit, delete, or save. When a page is done, with it’s terrible margins and weird spacing from the time the paper got caught up on the little banged up metal thingy inside, it gets put in the mounting stack. Hopefully my house won’t burn down anytime soon (mostly because that would suck, but also I would lose all of my work…and my house). I have no idea if I’ll make the 50,000 word arbitrary NaNoWriMo goal, mostly because I can’t actually do a word count on typewritten nonsense. But I already feel like a winner. To see the ever growing stack of finished pages sitting next to me on the table, and to know that I have 11 days of sitting-down-and-writing-regardless-of-how-I-feel under my belt, is something to be proud of.

Pass another mini-Snickers, let’s celebrate!

An Audience of One?

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Back when I was a college Christian, there was a lot of talk about living your life as if for an “Audience of One,” which was a nice way of saying “God is watching your every move, kid, so you better not doing anything to mess up. Like get drunk, or have sex, or even think about lying to your parents.” It was pretty terrifying if you think about it, that idea that you’re always being monitored (which is probably WAY less scary for kids these days, with all the social media monitoring and such). But for someone with an anxiety disorder, the thought of measuring up to some golden standard, and that I was never truly alone, always being watched by some less-than-benevolent Creeper in the Sky.

I’ve had some rousing conversations and thoughts in the past couple of weeks on the topic of writing. Just this morning my dad, who’s visiting for the weekend, and I were talking about writing a book and how different people approach the process. Like most things in my life, I am waiting for a zap of inspiration, which I know goes against every writing book ever written. But it’s my truth. These conversations, though, have made me think about the idea of an audience. Who do we, as writers, bloggers, journallers, write for?

I know that when I write by hand, especially if it’s in anything similar to a journal, it is for myself only. My ideal self, maybe, or my higher self, but definitely I’m writing a letter of sorts to myself. This writing can be taken and turned into something for someone else, but it’s a translation process. Sure a reader could come inside my journal and read what I wrote, get it in its raw form, but I prefer that doesn’t happen, just like I prefer for nobody to read my mind. Because I enjoy the art of censoring  my own self and deciding what exactly others are given access to.

When I write, here, I imagine an audience of faceless other moms who might stumble across my words. I forget that, at this point, there are 300 something ‘followers,’ and that the people I know who actually follow along are people I really know in real life. I rarely think of them when I put words down on the page, though, and think that blogging is much like journalling, but with that added little censor or self-filter that wouldn’t happen with a pen-to-paper journal.

The thought of writing, though…really writing, like my favorite dashboard saints do, is daunting. Who is THAT audience? When JK Rowling wrote Harry Potter, she had an audience in mind, right? She imagined young people reading her story. I doubt she thought it’d be as popular with adults, but I imagine she had some sort of reader in mind. C.S. Lewis is said to have created his stories for a young child in his life. He wrote the stories down for her, and they could relate to others. But who is my audience? Who am I writing these (yet to be written) stories/memories/vignettes for? If I wrote a book, who would it be for?

The further I get away from the overwhelming life changing feeling of the first few months/years of motherhood, the less I feel inclined to write to other struggling moms as my audience. My thoughts and experiences and feelings and memories cannot be boxed into that mommy-blogging idea.

The other day I posted on Facebook that I wanted a typewriter. I know it’s merely fantasy, but it’s this idea that I would type (and thus eliminate the pen-to-paper journalling feeling, skipping toward a less censored self appearing), without the instant publishability of a blog post, without the distraction of being online and in-touch to the internet world. I don’t seem to have the self-control to just type in a word document on the computer, without getting onto Facebook or WordPress. Maybe it’d feel like the accountability, to myself, of writing with fewer distractions and instant gratification. Or maybe it’s just a pipe dream.

Take the Edge Off

In class I have my students learn about their procrastination styles, and one of them, The Dreamer, appeals to me, especially as far as writing goes. The Dreamer is a type of procrastinator that spends most of their time dreaming about a project, and rarely even starting (let alone finishing) the project. I ask the question to my students, “anyone here want to write a book?” Hands sometimes raise and then I say, “but do you actually want to sit down and WRITE that book? Or do you just want it to appear.”

That’s when the class laughs, because typically my merry bunch of high school dropouts are filled with The Dreamer affliction. They’ve wanted things to happen, but haven’t quite gotten around to doing those things. Because other, cooler, things have gotten in the way. The moment takes precedent over the future self, which wants to have written a book.

While the class is comprised of all the other types of procrastination styles (taken from It’s About Time: The Six Styles of Procrastination and How to Overcome Them), I find that The Dreamer category is usually the largest. And it’s something I’ve been thinking about for quite awhile, even talking with bestie Ruth about it. Because on good days I think about the things that I want to write, the stories I want to tell, and while I’m not sure fiction lives in me, I’m certain that I have enough material for a book. Now whether I have an audience or not remains to be seen, but can’t be seen if I never even write. And I wonder about how living in 2014 affects our ability to get things done. Because blogging, a form of writing, is an instant form of gratification. I can write, not edit if I like, and send this out to at least 345 people who are currently subscribed (though based on readership numbers, only 10 or so ever actually read this. So there’s that).

Blogging takes the edge off. It’s like posting a picture to facebook for some likes but not taking the time to go out to coffee and get ‘likes’ in person. It’s like eating a power bar instead of a meal. Am I a writer who takes the edge off of that desire to have written a book. I’m a writer who thinks about writing, but rarely ever sits down to write, especially not intentionally write something with a direction of book attached to it. A blogger I can safely say I am, but a writer? And I wonder, if the pressure built up enough, and I didn’t take the edge off through blogging, would I sit down and actually WRITE?

A Picture’s Worth a Thousand Questions

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I posted this picture over the weekend, and I realized the power of visual images to spark conversation. Mari’s husband asked me why I had posted it, and after I clarified that it was Potamus (and not somehow a picture of me), I was struck with the thought that I often put things out into the world (writing, photos, words) that have a definite meaning to me, but may be misinterpreted or misunderstood by others. Or maybe there’s room for both my interpretation and someone else’s experience of my image to both be true and right at the same time.

It made me think of poetry, and how I loved the college classes where I had to buckle down and analyze a few lines of poetry, trying to figure out the word choice and how it intersected with history and the author’s life. And yet, when I write my own poetry, I am hardly so careful as to make sure I choose the word eggshell vs. white in describing that lady’s shirt. Though sometimes I am that careful, but how does the reader/listener know my intention fully when they bring their own thougths, life experience, emotions to the table?

The conversation about my child’s image, which I had taken in a moment of pure love, noticing that tiny little mole that dotted his neck (in contrast to the many moles that are all over Boof), my mind wandered to the thought that this is how I one day could identify his body if he were to die tragically. Maybe it was morbid, or practical, we argued a bit about it, but the exchange clearly showed different perspectives, neither right or wrong. I looked at that “morbid” detail of identifying a body by a little birthmark from a future-nostalgic motherhood place, the remembrance of his less-baby-more-little-man stillness as he sat on my lap in the sunshine watching TV and I stroked his little curls that look like mine did at that age. I don’t know what prompted him to comment on this particular picture (of the thousands I’ve posted), but I’m glad he did, because the dialogue and thought process made me take a tiny moment and examine it in light of all the things I do online (or in person, too).

It makes me wonder about every picture I post or text and the story that’s being told on the receiving end, or the intercepting end, or when you turn to your neighbor and say “hey look at this.” Maybe it’s my arrogance, or self absorbed way of living, but I often think that the way I intend a picture to be interpreted will be how it’s interpreted. But like the lines of poetry that I analyzed in college, we bring our own biases toward it, and meaning may be lost or changed or questioned, and it’s really a neat process if you think about it.

After college I took a communication class that detailed how miscommunications can form, and as she diagrammed Speaker A putting words into the universe, and Speaker/Listener B hearing and interpreting the word, it struck me that it’s really a miracle any of us can communicate effectively. Even recently in conversations with Boof, I said a word, that to me has a ‘standard definition,’ and we clearly were talking about different things, from different perspectives based on our gender, age, life experience, etc. It’s a really remarkable process to sit and sift and be vulnerable to get to the point where understanding occured.

That one image sparked a thousand words, a thousand questions. I might have posted it and forgotten about it, like I’ve done with the thousands of other images. But the dialogue brought me back, and almost like a meditation drishti point, I will think of that moment I thought how beautiful my child was, and how sad I would be to have to identify his body by that tiny little mole.