Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The post I didn't really want to write

Sam had flushed a piece of his brand-new doctor's kit down the toilet. This was the fourth or fifth toy he'd flushed down, but this was a fake syringe, and there was absolutely no way this was coming out. It was jammed in there but good. I'd posted about my frustration on Facebook (always a mistake) and was told that I should just teach him not to flush toys down the toilet. I spent a whole morning crying about what a failure  I was. A friend called me up, telling me to drop Sam off at her place so I could take some time for myself. I brought him over, and spent over six hours at her house. I was afraid to go home and be by myself. I knew I would just sit on the couch crying for hours.

R had to go out and get a new toilet the night before Sam's birthday party. As we were trying to get it through the door, Sam was crowding us and getting in the way. I almost screamed at him "Why do you have to RUIN EVERYTHING???!!"

That's when I took a step back. Not only was that completely, completely unacceptable, it wasn't even how I felt. I was angry and wanted to lash out and hurt him. I've seen the distrust and hurt between a parent and child when the parent says things like that. There are some things you cannot unsay, and I knew I needed to deal with whatever the hell my problem was. I was terrified that next time I wouldn't be able to bite my tongue, and I would wound my child.

It was just a day after I got my period.

I'd already hurt my husband. Fortunately, he's an adult and he knew that how I was acting didn't mean I loved him any less. He kept begging me to get some help, and he started dreading the period around a week before I got my period. I was angry, and paranoid, and nasty. I'd pick fights with him, trying to make him as miserable I was. I didn't do any housework. And when I say I didn't do any housework, I mean dishes piled up in the sink until we didn't have clean plates to eat off, or clean cups for Sam to use. Laundry went undone, and I'd sometimes spend all day in my pajamas because I didn't have any clean clothes. I didn't pick up any toys, and you could barely walk in the living room. I would wake up exhausted. I turned on the tv in the morning and left it on all day, because I couldn't dredge up the energy to entertain my son in any other way. He'd whine, and it would feel like a drill boring into my skull. I wasn't making it day to day--I was trying to go hour to hour, minute to minute. I was constantly biting my tongue, terrified I'd scream something nasty at him.

My husband would spend a couple hours on Saturday mornings tackling the housework that had built up all week. He'd talk to me and tell me that I needed to go to the doctor and deal with this. I'd tell him that if I still felt like this in a week I'd go to the doctor. That I was just having a rough time right now. If I exercised more it would all be okay. If I ate better it would all be okay. If I was a better person, if I could just make myself into a better person, it would be okay. It would pass.

And it always did. I'd get my period, and within 3-4 days I'd feel normal again. Life would resume, I'd be nice to my husband (extra nice, since i felt so guilty), interact with my son, start cooking and cleaning again. Then a few weeks later, the cycle would start again. Only I couldn't see that this was a cycle.

(Part 2 tomorrow--spoiler: It gets BETTER. SO much better)

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Cleaning House, Part 2

So last week I wrote about, and I was hoping that having a daily schedule e-mailed to me would help me tackle the cleaning demons. And I'm checking back in to report that BOY HOWDY it works. By having set tasks to do every day, I'm not doing a ton of work in any given day, but I'm keeping on top of things. My house is noticeably cleaner. I'm tackling those tasks that I always forget to do, and then I can relax, knowing that I've taken care of what I need to for the day, and not stress about what else needs to be done.

It's not so much that I'm so into the cleaning, as much that I finally feel like I'm in control of the housework rather than vice versa. This week I haven't expanded nearly as much energy looking around at the house and wondering how the hell it got like this and what the hell I need to do to make it look more like my friends' houses. Honestly, it's a little embarrassing that I can't just clean things when they are dirty, but the plain, simply truth is that I procrastinate too well--I can always come up with a reason why something should be done tomorrow instead of today. Having the list eliminates that. Having the computer spit the list out at me eliminates my tendency to put the tough tasks (which are NEVER as bad as I imagine them) off to the next day, and the next, and the next. Feeling like I finally have control of my environment is incredibly liberating.

Monday, February 7, 2011


Last week I learned:

  • Dates are so very very good, and very necessary!
  • Thrift stores are a great place to find used books.
  • Wine tasting brings me back to when the husband and I were courting in Santa Barbara.
  • My husband is so funny and generous!
  • A little boy will still have trouble going to sleep by himself, but I know he'll do it when he's ready.
  • My boy is an amazing artist, and needs more chances to express himself creatively.
  • Cleaning my house is so much easier with a daily schedule.
  • I've been reading a ton, but now I need to start writing some reviews of my recent reads!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Good manners

Yesterday I got a an e-mail from Baby Center warning me not to force my kid to use manners. OK, maybe it didn't say that in so many words. But "experts" are now saying that you shouldn't say "what's the magic word" to get your kids to say "please" and "thank you," but instead just teach them through modeling. I don't understand why these are mutually exclusive. I model good manners for my kid, but I see absolutely no reason why I should allow him to order me about as though I am his servant. Two phrases in my parenting vocabulary are "I don't listen to orders" and "I don't listen to whining." Three is simply not too young to start teaching your child how to interact in a civilized fashion. Modeling alone may work for some children, buy my son is not so fragile that my insistence on being treated with respect will break his spirit.

The article also mentions that you should not force your child to say "I'm sorry." I know there are differing schools of thought on this, but in our family, we insist on apologies when someone has been hurt. I understand that it is important to teach your child empathy, but again, I don't think these are mutually exclusive. And also, I do think that knowing how to sincerely deliver an insincere apology is important. If my husband walks in the house just in time to hear me telling my friends that his brother is a man-whore of epically douchebaggy proportions,* I need to be able to apologize for that. But what if I'm honestly not sorry for saying that? I might be sorry my husband overheard that and it hurt them, but that's not the apology he's going to want to hear--it's not really going to make him feel better. I think especially in the workplace, being able to apologize for things you don't feel sorry about is an important life skill. Apologies are not supposed to make YOU feel better, they are supposed to make the other person feel better.

Obviously, when Sam does something I think he should apologize for, we also spend a bit of time talking about what he did,  how he might feel if someone did that to him, how the other person probably feels, and what could make them feel better. But even if he says he doesn't want to apologize, I tell him that he must do it. To be honest, he hardly EVER balks at apologizing.

Good manners must be taught.

*Not only does my husband not have a brother, but whorishness does not run in his family, so I felt safe to use this example. If he did have a man-whore for a brother, he'd probably join me in the mocking.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Cleaning house: literally.

I am not good at housekeeping. I'm a decent cook, and I've been told I'm a great hostess. I like to think I'm a good mother and wife, but housekeeping is just not my forte. At all. I think a lot of it has to do with my ADD--I simply can't keep track of what to do when. The big thing are obvious--picking up and vacuuming the living room, dishes, laundry. But the other tasks that I think distinguish a truly clean, lovely home from a home that's not quite a pigsty always seem to evade me. It just doesn't occur to me to wipe down my cabinets but every once in a while. I dust when I happen to notice dust. I hardly ever think to clean out my coffeemaker, dust the light over the kitchen table, or clean the microwave. I change the tablecloth is someone is coming to dinner or when I notice it is unbearably gross.

We just got a storage unit, and our goal is to pack up at least one box a week and run it over to the storage unit until we get all the extra crap out of the house, and I think this will make cleaning easier. But it won't help with remembering to clean.

Enter my new best friend: It lets me list ALL my chores: the ones I need to do every day or every other day--declutter, wipe down toilets, clean the kitchen. But it also (and this is the key) lets me list the less frequently performed chores: cleaning the microwave (once a month); organizing the pantry (once a month); cleaning the oven (every other month); putting all books away in bookshelves (every two weeks); throw out old magazines (every month). These are the tasks that I'm always forgetting to do. Now I get a daily schedule with several tasks on it, so I know what to do when. By keeping all my tasks in regular rotation, I'm hoping that each task will be easier since it hasn't built up for weeks or months. By having a schedule, I'm less likely to say "Oh, I'll do that tomorrow, I'm too busy/tired/hungry/lazy right now."

The site is designed primarily for chore-sharing--you enter in the people responsible for the chores, and then you rate each chore according to its difficulty or undesirability. This way, one person isn't stuck with both cleaning the oven and scrubbing the toilets. I do the vast majority of the chores, so I'm just doing the schedule for myself. But being able to rate the chores is still good--it helps me realize that all these tasks I'm dreading aren't really as hard as I think they are. I can also dictate exactly what day of the week I want any weekly chores to fall on--I've already gotten in the habit of cleaning the bathrooms on Sunday, so I put that in, and then dictated that I wipe down the toilets every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. That way the toilets are getting wiped down at least 4 days a week (a necessity with a little boy in the house!) and the bathrooms are getting cleaned once a week.

I also get to put fun things in the rotation. Every month I have "do something fun for me" and "surprise husband/child with something nice." Every 10 days I have "random act of kindness." I put in my yoga class and Sam's speech therapy--that way I don't have a ton of tasks on days when I know I have non-negotiable activities. I put in lighting the Shabbat candles, which we are trying to get in the habit of doing, but I always, always forget to do.

My house will never look like a Pottery Barn catalog, and I'm okay with that. But I want to put a lot less energy into stressing about cleaning and lot more energy into actually cleaning. I'm hoping this site makes a big difference in that!

Friday, January 28, 2011


This week I've learned:

  1. A visit from grandparents is a highlight in the life of a small boy.
  2. A small tent is the perfect way to amuse a little guy AND motivate him to help clean up. No cleany, no tenty. 
  3. Bronchitis sucks, but it helps if you catch it early.
  4. The only time my guy will nap is when he's sick.
  5. Getting out to see a movie with my husband is so nice. Date night/afternoon needs to be a priority this year.
  6. I deserve a pretty bedside lamp, and I'm going to make that a reality next week.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


Idea courtesy of Wired Monkey. Because I am utterly incapable of original ideas.

A: Adenoids. We need to get Sam's adenoids checked out, and if they need to be removed, then we get to play the oh-so-fun game of when should we do the surgery, right away or wait-and-see if he needs a second set of tubes. It's a minor surgery, very low-risk, but I'd wager no parent loves the idea of their kid going under the knife.

B: Bronchitis. BAIN OF MY FUCKING EXISTENCE. There is not a year that goes by that either my kid or I don't get bronchitis, and it is usually both of us.

C: Complaining. Because Mary Helen's C was Cancer, and although I bitch a lot, I honestly never lose sight of the fact that I am so goddamn lucky that I get to complain about things like bronchitis and potty accidents rather than things like my kid having cancer. And I am so incredibly lucky that when I worry about surgery it's adenoid surgery and ear tube placement instead of brain surgery.

D: Dog. I want one so very very badly, but between the small house and the aging cat this just isn't the time of life to do so. I told that to my brother, and he snorted that he got TWO dogs with his pre-existing cat in a smaller place than mine, to which I replied, "Yes, but I actually LIKE my cat." He conceded the point.

E. Elephants. Sam's current very favorite animal.

F. Facebook. I just spend way, way too much time over there.

G. Garden. What I cannot wait to get back to.

H. Help. I'm getting better at accepting help for what it is and not seeing it as a judgment. This is one of the hardest lessons I've learned.

I. Intelligibility. The past 10 months have, to a lesser or greater degree, revolved around diagnosing and getting help for Sam's intelligibility issues. His language is fine--he understands everything (and I do mean everything) you say, and his expressive language is pretty much right on track. But due to having fluid in his ears when he was acquiring language, and also because of some developmental delays surrounding oral motor function, he has some significant articulation issues.

J. Jokes. Sam's really starting to crack jokes, and there's simply nothing that has come along that can't be made better by a Sam-joke.

K. Klingons. Because I'm getting really worried that my child's father is going to start teaching him Klingon phrases. And everyone knows that if you're going to teach your kid a made-up language it should be Elvish.

L. Lightning McQueen. Everything in my child's life can be related to the movie Cars. Oy. Vey.

M. Miss Moira--Sam's amazing speech teacher. She comes to the house once a week and works miracles with my kid.

N. Nothing. Which is what my kid will condescend to eat. Our very worst battles are over food, and although I try valiantly to deny the battle and remain neutral, man, is it tough. One thing I've discovered is, regardless of what anyone may say, you cannot force your kid to eat. If you think you can, trust me, your child is not as stubborn as mine.

O. Oranges, or rather, clementines. There's half a box sitting in my kitchen. I need to eat them so I can be a little better on the whole fruits & veggies thing. This is a recurring theme in my life.

P. Preschool. For which I need to register my son.

Q. Quixotic. I think this may best describe my parenting style.

R. Robots. I'd love a Robot to clean my house. Even just a Roomba.

S. Sam, obviously. But also speech therapy.

T. Thistle. My other preshus, my sweet kitters cat. She hates us with the fire of a thousand burning suns, but we do feed her wet food, so she'll overlook our myriad grievous faults. In all seriousness, though, she is one damn fine cat, and so much more patient with the boy than anyone has a right to expect.

U. Unicorn. Because why not?

V. Violence. Which I wish primarily to perpetrate upon whosoever is responsible for Thomas the Tank Engine teaching my child horrific grammar. You "feel badly," Thomas? I'm sure you do, since you have no fricking hands. Or skin. Or nerve endings. However, MY child has all of those, and when he is upset about something, he should feel bad. Seriously, fuck off.

W. "WIPE NOSE!" The pathetic battle cry of the sick child. It strikes dread into my heart.

X. Xanadu. I've always had this shameful desire to see it.

Y. Yoga, which I'm finally making a priority again in my life. Thank god.

Z. Zoo. I'm debating getting a zoo membership this year to either the Reston Zoo or the National Zoo.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Parenting things about which I do not give a flying you-know-what*

  • Wearing clothes in the house. This isn't so much a "I shall not quench his precious independent spirit by forcing him to wear something he doesn't wish to" as much of a "I'm pretty goddamn sure no child ever died of exposure in a house that is kept at 68 degrees" type of thing. Clothing is not optional outside the house, but if he wants to run around in pajama tops and no bottoms in the privacy of his house I truly cannot be bothered to fight that fight. If he's cold he'll consent to pants. 
  • Daily baths. If you corner me on this I'll spout off about dry winter air and how Americans are overly germphobic and daily baths aren't good for his skin, and I do actually believe all that. But, again, unless he's dirty or congested, I'm just as happy to let him skip his bath for a day or so. I draw the line at three days--he gets a bath every third day minimum whether he needs it or not, and we usually do every other day. But I just can't find it in myself to be that worked up about it all. It's not like he's going on dates or anything. 
  • Fevers and colds. Before he got his ear tubes I'd take him in constantly, but now I can pretty much trust he's not getting an ear infection. I mean, if I even THINK something is up with his ears he goes in, but if he just has a cold or a fever, I'm not bringing him to the doctor to just to hear "He has a virus, make sure he gets lots of rest and fluids." If he seems to be getting worse instead of better I'll drag him in, but other than that, we just kick back at home. 
  • "Enrichment" activities. Until you can come up with empirical proof that there is a more enriching activity than Legos, I'm not going to buy toys with labels that promise to make my kid smarter. Legos will make my kid smart. Reading to him will make him smart. Playdough, chalk, crayons--anything that he has to think about to use creatively is good in my book. Making him figure out how to play with his toys rather than showing him the "right" way to do it. He has an amazing brain, and the best thing I can do is get out of his way and let him use it. 

*Fuck. I don't give a flying fuck.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


This week I have learned:

  1. Everyone needs some time outside in the fresh air, even in the winter.
  2. Family visits are good, not least of all because they force you to clean the house.
  3. It is super-tough on a little boy to be quiet in his own house, but sometimes life just isn't fair.
  4. Fresh-baked bread tastes incredible, especially when someone else does the baking!
  5. Homemade gingerbread playdough is far superior to anything you can find in a store.
  6. A little boy is looking forward to his grandparents' arrival, especially since they are bringing him a "special animal" to help him fall asleep on his own.
  7. My boy's capacity for unconditional love and forgiveness just about breaks my heart. 

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


The snow is just starting to fall outside, our first "snowstorm" of 2011. I put that in quotes because a DC snowstorm (last years Snowpocalypse, Snowmageddon and Snoverkill not withstanding) is really only a couple of inches. But it's more than what I grew up with, so I'm still happy every time it snows. Dr. Fancypants has a wide streak of machismo which does not allow his wife to be seen shoveling snow (although he points out that it is as because of my asthma as because of his machismo that he doesn't me exerting myself in the cold), so my snowy duties are the fun ones--making warm, wonderful meals, hot chocolate, and taking the boy out to play in the snow. He's been dying to make snow angels (the boy, not Dr. Fancypants) so I'm hoping we get a couple inches this time around.

Growing up in California, we never really had seasons. Even in Northern California, it's pretty divided into Rainy and Not-Quite-As-Rainy. But here on the East, we really have four distinct seasons, and I absolutely love it. If we ever move back to California, seasons are without a doubt one of the aspects of East Coast life I would miss the most.

Even so, winter has major ups and major downs. Fires in the fireplace! Snow! Hats and scarves! BUT--Multiple colds! Asthma! The MOTHERFUCKING asthma!!

I didn't get asthma until I was an adult, so I'm still learning how to live with this chronic condition. Most of the time it is under control, and I'm being much better about taking my meds so I don't have bad flareups. But one of the ways I keep it under control is by avoiding triggers, and one of my worst triggers is cold, dry air. Which means extended time outside in the winter tends to be a no-no for me. Which wouldn't be a problem, except it ALSO means that my boy is cooped up inside almost every day in the winter. An energetic little boy inside all day long is not a good thing.

One change I've been able to make with our fantabulous new storm door is to kick him out in the backyard by himself while I watch from inside (usually doing dishes or sorting paperwork). That way he gets some good outside time and I don't have to risk my health. I also make a point of spending time outside with him every time the weather permits me to be outside. It hasn't happened a lot this winter, but we had a warmish spell in early January and you can bet I abandoned organizing the house to take him for a tricycle ride up and down our street.

My other strategy is to simply get him outside of the house. Trips to IKEA will likely loom large in the plans this winter. Lots of playdates. Visits to the Udvar-Hazy center.

What do you do with your kids in the winter?

Friday, January 7, 2011

Yearly recap

I found this over at Sundry's blog, and it seemed like a cool idea. So here it goes...

1. What did you do in 2010 that you’d never done before?
Throw a third birthday party for my son. Go to both my grandfather's 90th birthday party and to his funeral. Took a hard look at myself and really dealt with my problem (PMDD). Took my son out on Big Bear Lake. Helped break down a couple of trees and dry our own firewood. Decorate a Christmas tree with my son.  Saw the worst and snowiest winter of my life. Held my son as he was put under and left him on an operating table. Navigated my way through special education.
2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I didn't make any resolutions last year, because they've not worked out well for me in the past. But this year I'm resolving to loose some weight, because the family history of diabetes is just too strong for me to ignore it anymore. 
3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

Three of my dearest friends all had baby girls this year! It was so wonderful to welcome those little lives into the world. 
4. Did anyone close to you die?

We lost my grandfather this year. He was 90, and went out at the top of his game. I miss him every day, but it's not a sad missing. I'm not sad he's gone, but I just miss him. 
5. What countries did you visit?

6. What would you like to have in 2011 that you lacked in 2010?
More peace of mind. 
A  vacation for just our family. 
7. What dates from 2010 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
October 8, the day my grandfather died. I'm not great at specific dates, but definitely the days my friends had their babies. 
8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Recognizing that I had PMDD and deciding to get some help. It is so amazing, and I am so humbly grateful, that now in the week before my period I can clean my house, deal with my son, cook meals, and not sit on the couch crying. Putting myself first and realizing that I HAD to care for myself before I could care for my family. 
9. What was your biggest failure?
I really fell off the exercise bus this year. And that seems like it has affected so many other parts of my life. 
10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
I spent the whole winter of 2010 sick. It was a brutal stretch, and one that I am doing EVERYTHING in my power to avoid. 
11. What was the best thing you bought?
A new storm door for the back door. It has been fantastic! I love having the retractable screen for milder days. Also new bras.
12. Where did most of your money go?
Mortgage and groceries, sadly. 
13. What did you get really excited about?
Christmas so fun this year. And finally getting speech therapy services for my son after slogging through the system for about seven months. My sister-in-law getting engaged. Meeting my niece for the first time.
14. What song will always remind you of 2010?
I'm not sure this year has a particular song for me. Which is unusual. 
15. Compared to this time last year, are you:
– happier or sadder? Happier.
– thinner or fatter? I think I weigh less, but it feels like more fat and less muscle than last year.
– richer or poorer? Richer--we're making slow but steady financial progress.
16. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Writing. Turning off the computer. More walks. Go into the city more often. Exercise.
17. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Worrying about things I can't change. Asking my husband to pick up dinner instead of cooking. 
18. How did you spend Christmas?
At home--so peaceful and wonderful. 
19. What was your favorite TV program?
Doctor Who.
20. What were your favorite books of the year?
Mockingjay. Best Friends Forever. I don't even know--I can't remember much of what I read this year. 
21. What was your favorite music from this year?

I don't think I listened to any current music this year at all! I spent a lot of time listening to Wailing Jennys, the Cars soundtrack (ugh), and whatever popped up on Pandora. 
22. What were your favorite films of the year?
REDS, How to Train Your Dragon, The A-Team. We didn't see a ton of movies this year but more than we did last year. I started Inception but we wound up falling asleep and I haven't rented it out again yet. 
23. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 32 (I think??) and we all went to the knitting store, got me some new knitting supplies, then went out to lunch and had cupcakes. It was a great day. 
24. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
If I'd gotten treatment for the PMDD earlier.
25. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2010?
I wore clothes that were usually clean and mostly brushed my hair before leaving the house. 
26. What kept you sane?
My husband. My friends. My son. Exercise. Prozac. Most especially Prozac!!
27. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2010.

You absolutely must put your oxygen mask on first before helping others. It does others no good when you black out from lack of oxygen before you can get their mask adjusted. And setting a good example of self-care is one of the most important things you can do for your children. 

Thursday, January 6, 2011


This week I have learned:

  1. It is so exciting when you learn to properly put your pants on all by yourself.
  2. For my boy with the major oral fixation, a pet store may be a better place to find him a "chew toy" than a toy store!
  3. Pumpkin bread tastes even better when you add some chocolate.
  4. Coming back to a recipe you haven't made in months is like a comforting visit with an old friend.
  5. Sometimes an angry little kitty just needs some love.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Now we sing of fair maid with gold upon her chin...

Open you the East door and turn the new year in.

I'm not just desperately hoping, I'm also planning that this year, 2011, will be the year of being more organized. I'm making a good start--I finally got some large storage bins to put away all of Sam's old clothes, which previously had been thrown in his closet since I had no place else to put them. Turns out that four bins is not enough--I'll need at least two more, and probably a third for some toys.

Living in a small house with very little storage has been tough, especially once we added a child and his multiple possessions to the mix. I think we're going to bite the bullet and get a small storage unit soon--mostly for things like the crib, which we won't be using for quite a while, but which we will need again one day. But there's a lot of guilt involved for me in taking this step--it feels like a sickness to have so many things that you can't store them in your house. What are we DOING with this much stuff??!! What kind of sick first-world, overprivileged problem is this?

So much of our stuff is gifts--a huge portion of the stuff I'm keeping and not using are wedding presents--crystal and glasses that I know I will use one day, but just don't have the space for right now. Remembrances of people who are now gone. So those will go into storage.

An interesting side effect of the little money/no space problem is that I very rarely buy things for myself now. And when I do, like a simple hand towel at Target, I get so much enjoyment out of it. It feels like such a treat, because buying something I like just isn't the norm anymore. Even if I had all the space and all the money in the world, I think I'd still keep to this new way of not buying stuff frequently. Every time I look at my towel I get a little thrill.