Friday, January 29, 2010

A fresh perspective.

Over the summer, my sister came to town to see a client and she and her boss stayed at our house. They worked long hours during the day but we got them all to ourselves for dinner each night. It was wonderful, as always, to have Auntie Moose in the house, and fun for us to play host and hostess to someone new.

Later, my sister told me that we'd have to have her boss and his girlfriend out to visit us again sometime.

"Of course," I told her. "Anytime."

"He told his girlfriend that she has to see how you guys live because that's exactly what he wants their life to be like someday."

"Seriously? But we barely even spent any time with him at all."

"Yeah, but the way you guys hang out and make dinner together and listen to music and have conversations - not everyone does that. Like, not at all. Being at your house feels really really good."

I was completely flattered, even if didn't exactly know what she meant. I mean, who doesn't want to hear that her house feels like a home? It felt like the ultimate compliment.

But tonight while relaxing in the tub, the sound of Bill's new playlist* and aroma of his latest and greatest recipe** floating through the warm air of the heater vent, it dawned on me: that was so not my compliment.

Sure I do a lot to make this house a warm and welcoming place to live, but when my husband's not here, it's a far cry from home. I wouldn't have known this of course, had he not left for a few days. But he returned this morning from a 3 day business trip (because he's awesome and earned a promotion) and this evening our house feels, once again, like a home. As I lay in the bath listening to the joy and goodness bubbling up from my kitchen, I experienced what my life must feel like to an outsider. And it made me feel grateful beyond compare.

*On the playlist: The Kings of Leon, Avett Brothers, Phoenix, Frank Sinatra and The Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs to name a few.

**On the menu: Buffalo Chicken Chili. Oh my spicy goodness...

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The squeaky wheel gets the chiropractor.

When I was about 17 years old, I started getting headaches. Because I went from having no headaches to having headaches all the time, I assumed the worst: obviously a giant tumor was growing inside my skull and taking over my brain. I mean, what else could it possibly be?

I broke the news to my mom. She wasted no time at all debunking my diagnosis in her very best Arnold Schwarzenegger voice: "It's not a tumah!" (I really appreciate that Schwarzenegger is in spell check.) She had had enough of my borderline hypochondria over the years to know that my best guess was usually more like a worst case scenario. Like the time in 4th grade I called her from the school nurse complaining of a double ear infection and she left work in the middle of the day to rush me to the pediatrician to find out that I actually had nothing more than sore muscles from hopping around all night on my new Pogo Ball.

Good for building neck muscles and pissing off moms.

If it hadn't been for that time in 1st grade when she almost sent me to school with a stomach ache from "eating too much damn Easter candy" and it turned out my appendix was about to burst, she probably never would have believed I was sick EVER. But once you give your mom a scare like that, you've pretty much got a free ticket to the doctor for life.

So when the headaches started, she was as eager as I was to find out once and for all what was going on. Fortunately, the doctor ruled out a tumor right away. Unfortunately, once she crossed that off the list it was as if she had absolutely no idea what else it could be.

"Great news! There's nothing wrong."

"But I wake up with blinding pain in my head like four times a week."

Blink.

It was really annoying (and sort of made me feel like a nut job).

Many months later, my mom saw an ad in the Reno Gazette for a chiropractor who claimed to be able to help with headaches. Now, typically I wouldn't think my mom would go for something alternative and hocus pocus like a chiropractor, but she had read about it in the local paper. That's practically like her bible. I mean, if it's printed in the paper, it must be true.

(A few years ago I got an article published and was so excited I called to give her the news right away. I also happened to mention that there was a picture of me and Liam in the free neighborhood newspaper that week. Guess what my dad called me later to congratulate me on?)

When I first went to the chiropractor, he did some x-rays that revealed my neck was all kinds of messed up (probably from being dropped out of a cheer leading stunt the year before...I mean, I did kind of land on my head). He came up with a treatment plan for me that, in retrospect, must have been the absolute slowest way possible to fix my neck. He suggested I come in three times a week like, forever, which I actually went along with for quite some time. Then one day I added up all the $35 checks I had written to the good doctor since I started seeing him and almost died from sticker shock. I mean, being a college student and babysitting once in a while was lucrative and all, but I could think of a lot more fun ways to blow my hard-earned money.

Years later I found a different chiropractor who was AWESOME and could crack my bones and fix my problems without making me mortgage my soul or promise my first born son. He totally renewed my faith in all forms of alternative medicine. If I could I would have standing weekly appointments with a chiropractor, an acupuncturist and a massage therapist for no other reason than it feels so good. But, since this stay-at-home-mom gig is not exactly bringing in the big bucks, these types of luxuries are few and far between.

Yesterday, for the first time in a long time, I got to see a chiropractor. And, wouldn't you know it, it wasn't even my bones getting cracked. It was THE DOG'S. Yes, that's right - I took my dog to a chiropractor. It was Bill's idea. Evidently her pacing all night and accidentally pooping when she walks to the back door each morning had made him wonder if we were doing enough for her bad hips and arthritis. When he read an article in the paper about a local chiropractor who worked on pets, he made an appointment right away (At last! Something he and my mom have in common!).

In the car on the way there I told her how lucky she was to be getting such special treatment. "Cloey, trust me - just relax and enjoy this. Your body will feel feel so much better when you're done. Almost like you're taller or something. It's awesome - you're gonna love it." But as soon as we arrived at the vet, it became painfully clear that she'd been ignoring me the entire time. As we walked toward the front desk to check in and pay our $60, she showed her gratitude by dropping a steamy trail of poop that Liam promptly walked in. "Hi, we're here for our 10:00. Also, my dog just pooped on the floor and my son tracked it all over the room. Is cash okay?"

The appointment itself went a lot better than our entrance and it did seem like Cloey's back legs were a little taller when we left than when we arrived (she usually looks like a giraffe with her hips several inches lower than her shoulders). She's been pacing less than normal and has spent time in the back yard without barking (a vast improvement). We have to go in again next week (of course...) and after that the vet will decide how often she would like to see her. And I guess after that, we'll decide how often we're willing to drop sixty bucks on the dog.

(I swear I'm not heartless; just jealous. Of the dog. Oh boy...)

Monday, January 25, 2010

Pregnancy, take two.

There's a reason I waited almost four years to get pregnant with my second child. Actually, there are a lot of reasons. But right up at the top of the list? Pregnancy and childbirth. For as much as I love being a mom and having Liam, getting him here was a whole different story.

For starters, I was totally freaked out when I found out I was pregnant. I had forgotten just how freaked out until a couple of nights ago when we were watching old home movies and stumbled across the one we made the day we found out about Liam. It was my sister's idea. She was in town visiting at the time and was the one who convinced me to take a pregnancy test. When the third one came back positive and Bill said "dammit" under his breath and I started to cry, she decided video documentation was in order.

It was bizarre watching ourselves struggle with something that has been such an amazing step in our lives. If only we knew then what we know now! Watching those scared and overwhelmed parents-to-be, I wanted to jump into the TV and hug them. "Don't worry - you will be wonderful parents! And you don't have to stop being who you are to raise a child. You can be parents and people. I swear! Your child will blow your mind and grow your heart and turn you into the people you are meant to be. Everything will be amazing...you'll see."

(When my sister put down the camera and said, "You guys? You know you have...options," we finally got our shit together. Yes, having a baby is a big deal but it's not like we were teenagers or had gotten knocked up having casual sex or something. We were twenty eight years old and had been married for five years. Yes, it would take a little getting used to but come on.)

I was completely surprised by how much I hated being pregnant. I always thought I would feel earthy and maternal, loving my body and nurturing the miracle I was growing inside, but instead I felt like my my body had been hijacked by an evil alien who made me look like someone I didn't recognize and feel like everything was broken.

For the first trimester or so, it was mostly the way I looked that bothered me. When my regular clothes got too tight to comfortably wear (like, the second I peed on the stick), I didn't feel pregnant, I just felt fat. Buying maternity clothes so early felt like a sham so I just made do with unbuttoned jeans and baggy tops. Finally my friend Anna who was also pregnant (and is this time as well!) made me go maternity clothes shopping with her and I nearly had a panic attack in the fitting room. It was official: I was pregnant. (And damn that elastic waist felt good!)

When I was about four months along, the physical discomfort started. My feet hurt all the time and I had round ligament pain (aka - "it felt like the baby was about to fall out any time I walked or stood"). I couldn't so much as walk around the grocery store without feeling like my vagina was about to detach from my body. I compensated by not exercising at all and sitting in our big leather chair with my feet up most of the time. Nothing to make you feel even more disconnected from your body than not moving it for several months!

Then came childbirth. You know how they say women have to forget what it's like, otherwise everyone would be an only child? I finally believe that to be true. It took until about 6 months ago for the details to become fuzzy enough that I could convince myself I was ready to do this again. Before that, the memory of that day was painfully clear. Like "there's no way in hell I'm having another baby" clear. I knew I was ready for #2 when I could see super pregnant mamas at the pool and think, "Aw...she's cute," instead of, "You fool! You have no idea what you're about to go through. Do yourself a favor and schedule the c-section NOW!"

But now that I'm pregnant, that seems completely absurd. Nature is funny like that - it gives you just the right mix of amnesia and optimism during pregnancy that you wholeheartedly believe anything is possible.

Like, dare I say it?, I'm actually excited to give birth again. This obviously has a lot to do with the amnesia and optimism but the fact that I switched to the Nurse-Midwives practice at Vanderbilt doesn't hurt either. I really liked my doctor (and would definitely recommend her if you're looking for an OB/GYN) but would have a hard time expecting a better outcome without changing at least some of the circumstances. So far I LOVE the practice and am super excited to meet my primary care midwife this week.

Pretty much everything about this pregnancy has been different from my first. When I took the (one) pregnancy test and it came back positive, I simply smiled and called my husband to give him the good news. There were no tears, no mixed feelings, no anxiety at the unknown. We were more or less like, "awesome" and that was that.

I've also felt different about my changing body. Maybe it's because I already have a closet-full of maternity clothes to choose from but I am just totally not bothered by the fact that growing a baby in my body will make it get bigger. In fact, it's almost the opposite. I love my little baby bump (and my stretchy waist jeans!) and like wearing things that make me look even more pregnant than I actually am.

I feel really good, too. I know it's still early and anything could happen but I'm confident that this time around will be better. I'm stronger than I was when I got pregnant with Liam and will continue to exercise throughout this pregnancy. (I'm opting out of high impact stuff and sticking with light weights, swimming, walking and yoga. Did I forget to mention that the round ligament pain started after I got picked last for a kickball game and tried to show everyone that just because I was pregnant didn't mean I couldn't kick ass and take names? Yeah. Not sure if it's related or not but I figure I'd rather be on the safe side...).

I'm also eating well and vow to keep the "pregnancy cravings" to a minimum (I mean, did I really "crave" cupcakes from Sweet 16th Bakery twice a week when I was pregnant with Liam or just like having an excuse to request them?). I figure the more healthy my weight gain, the less undue stress I will put on my body (and I won't be kicking myself in the big fat ass 7 months from now).

The only thing that I have to believe will be the same as my first experience is the ultimate outcome: the perfect, healthy, strong, beautiful baby we will get to bring home and love on for the rest of our lives. People try to tell me that because Liam is so good we will be punished with #2 but I refuse to believe it. We make good babies - that's all there is to it! We've got nurture and nature in our corner. Not to mention an exceptional big brother to help guide the way. The way I see it, it's impossible for this kid to be anything short of extraordinary.

(I'm telling you, this pregnancy's got me on fire with the optimism! Woot!)

Monday, January 18, 2010

A boy who knows what he likes.

Last week Liam and I spent an afternoon at the Opry Mills Mall: a never-ending loop of outlet stores that has a magnetic force irresistible to tour buses and old people alike. While we typically try to stay as far away from places like this as possible (especially on weekends), once in a while we too find ourselves pulled in, lured by such attractions as the stage in the kids area at Barnes & Noble, the animatronic hippo outside the Rainforest Cafe, and the Gap-Old Navy-Banana Republic cluster conveniently located near a single exit.

On stage at Barnes & Noble.

Liam and I had a clear goal in mind when we pulled into the vast and endless parking lot: replace the pair of Croc shoes we lost and check out the bookstore. I also happened to be starving (go figure) so we did the unthinkable and parked outside the food court. This was a dicey choice not only because food courts tend to be kind of gross and I was craving something really specific (a bean burrito from somewhere like Baja Fresh with tomatoes and sour cream) but also because I am totally unfamiliar with that side of the mall. We rarely make it all the way over there - my inner GPS would be useless! Unless we found one of those "You Are Here" maps, we could literally wander the wrong way for days.

But once we made our way past the random thugs and smokers outside and were safely inside the food court, I could tell this trip to mall was going to be great. I immediately spotted a Blue Coast Burrito sign (yes! perfect! exactly what I wanted!) and then found myself in line at Subway ordering a 6" turkey sub. No one ever said pregnancy made a girl predictable!

While I ate, Liam eyed the merry-go-round with a new found interest and curiosity. He tried the one at the zoo once a couple of years ago and spent the entire ride crying, "All done merry-go-round! All done!" Ever since, he has been all too happy to watch from the sidelines. Any time we have tested the waters to see if today is the day he's ready to try again, all we get is a cheerful, "No thanks!"

But this day was different. He wanted to go on the merry-go-round. He brought it up. He dragged me over to find out how much it cost. And when we found out it was $2 each, he dug through my wallet until he found four $1 bills. (I actually got to ride with him for free - but I'll take any opportunity for a little math and problem solving!)

video

He loved it; just like he knew he would.

After the carousel, we set off in the direction I thought the shoe store might be. And wouldn't you know it, I was right! Well, I was right about the location of the store but wrong that it would be a good place to find Liam some Crocs. They didn't carry kids' shoes at all. But, all was not lost. Right next to the shoe store was the hippo at the Rainforest Cafe! And next to that, a Dairy Queen!

If you save $2 on a merry-go-round and an ice cream costs $2...

We sat on a bench for some time while Liam ate his ice cream. Every few minutes, the empty mall train would circle back around and the conductor would lean out his little window to ask us if we wanted a ride. Each time he said it, it was as if he had never seen us before. It made me think that working at the Opry Mills Mall must be a little like living in a fish tank: if you couldn't somehow make the same old things day after day look new and different, you might totally lose your mind. (Fish: Ooh, a treasure chest! Bubbles!! Oh, look! A treasure chest. And bubbles! Wow! I wonder what's going to happen with that treasure chest... Conductor: Oh look! A child who probably likes trains! Do you want to ride the train? I wonder if anyone will ride the train today... Wait a minute! There's a child right there on that bench! Do you want to ride the train?)

When Liam was finally finished, we walked back the way we came, hoping to find the bookstore. Just past the food court, my inner GPS kicked in and I felt confident we were going the right way. We may not have found the shoes we came for but at least we didn't spend hours wandering past Sham-wow kiosks and stores that sell nothing but hats. As far as Opry Mills Mall goes, that is a very successful trip.

But then, just when we were about to turn the corner for Barnes & Noble, I spotted something unbelievable: an entire store selling nothing but Crocs! A Croc shoe outlet! I had no idea such a thing existed.

Liam immediately made a beeline for the shoes he wanted: the exact same pair that he used to have. Well, they were almost exactly the same. For some reason, instead of wanting the pair of shoes that fit him, he wanted the ones that were a size too big. Which in Croc sizes meant they were comically humongous. But he was adamant. He refused to get off the floor until I saw things his way. "But Mama, I can barely walk in those shoes! They feel too crazy! These are the shoes I want. They make me run really fast!" While he never got off the ground to prove his point, I could tell he was lying: no one can run in a pair of Crocs.

While we were sitting on the floor arguing, I overheard the clerk tell another customer that all items under $35 were buy-one-get-one-free. Now that's what I call a win-win!

Not only did we come home with a boat load of matching Croc shoes, we also picked up some of those little letter doo-hickies so we could stick L I A M onto his shoes (dork on dork footwear!). The only problem is, how in the hell do you get those things in?! I am kicking myself for not letting the guy at the store do it for me. At first when he asked me I said yes but then I thought, Really? How hard could it be? I will just do it myself when I get home. Psssh. As it turns out, it is truly impossible.

Yeah right.

I even went online to get help and while that did provide some comic relief, it did not actually help me get the things stuck in the holes. Here's the best answer (as chosen by readers) that I found:
Just don't wear Crocs. They are out and quite ugly. Especially with those little trinkets.
Aren't anonymous people online hilarious sometimes? I love it!

But really, if anyone can help me (saying just stick them in the holes and push down really hard is not actually as helpful as one might think) Liam and I would appreciate it. Shoot, he might even jump for joy!

4T striped pjs on Liam, 3T on his bed, 2T in his drawer...

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

It's okay to be smart (and different).

When I took Liam out of mother's day out, I immediately started looking for other options to fulfill the structured school part of his life (I think we used to call this "mommy's me time" but it's been so long I can hardly remember). We visited preschools and dropped in on a couple extracurricular activities like dance and gymnastics (that's as macho as it gets for the 3 and under set) and I requested an application for Encore - the gifted and talented program offered in our public schools (kids as young as 3 can attend).

It's been a year. And aside from a brief moment in time when he was this close to starting a new mother's day out, he has been at home with me. No wonder I am just now getting around to finishing the Encore application. Mama's got her hands full!

I have tried filling it out several times but each time I pick it up, I hesitate. More than half the packet is information about Individuals with Disabilities. Because apparently, being smart makes you different and being different makes you disabled. I know I shouldn't care. It doesn't really mean anything. But it still bothers me.

Duh.

I'm probably just remembering how awkward it felt when I was sent away with the other smart kids to dissect cows' eyes or learn how to etch glass once a week. It made me feel different from the "normal" kids in class but since I didn't quite fit in with the "smart" kids either (sorry but dissecting cows' eyes is not exactly my idea of fun) I had no choice but to feel like a weirdo. That's a far cry from fitting in (which is all I ever really wanted).

Maybe it's because I was a girl. Or because I was super self conscious. Or because there were not that many "gifted" kids in my class. Or because they always pulled us out on the one day a week we got to do art. Or because I was waaaay shy and never made friends with the smart kids (or so much as opened my mouth to speak). Maybe it's because I was lazy and didn't want to learn more or try harder. Quite possibly it was all of the above.

But Liam is not me. He's a lot like me, but he's not me. And I need to remember that. He might love Encore. He might not. He may or may not even be given the chance to find out. But none of that is up to me. By filling out the application I'm not casting a vote or making a choice. I'm just opening a door, allowing an option to be explored. It's sort of like a job interview. Sure you want them to like you but it's just as important that you like them. No one wants to be hired for a job they hate. But if you didn't put on your best suit and check it out, you'd have no way of knowing either way.

So, I'm going to send the application today. And we'll see. If it's the right fit, we'll move forward. And if it's not, at least I got a big pile of Individuals with Disabilities crap out of my house!

Liam makes a sentence! "Go up the sky."
He knows it's backwards; he likes it that way.
And he couldn't find an "S" for "Sky" so he used a "C" instead.
Because "Sky" with a C is different. And different is good.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Knocked up.

Over the years I've witnessed some pretty clever pregnancy announcements. My friend Trish gave all of us girls cards over dinner one night and when we opened them at the same time we found an ultrasound picture and her due date tucked inside. My friend Summer tied a ribbon around her positive pregnancy test and left it on the bathroom sink for her husband to discover when he woke up. A girl I work with gave "World's Best Grandma" t-shirts to her mother and mother-in-law for Christmas and made sure the video camera was rolling when they both unwrapped their gifts (their reactions were priceless). Another girl I know served her family baby back ribs, baby corn and baby carrots for dinner and tried not to giggle as she waited for them to make the connection.

You would think that with all this inspiration in my life, my pregnancy announcement would really be one to remember. And I had hoped it would be. But... I've got nothing.

I've known I was pregnant since December 2nd. And for at least most of that time I've been racking my brain, trying to come up with a clever way to break the news (for about 2 weeks during Christmas I was just trying not to barf - but I'm better now). Do you want to know the most clever thing I came up with? Ugh. Here goes...
I would start yet another post about how much I love my Snuggie. Maybe I'd say that when Liam gets cozy with two Snuggies, he calls it a matate (one of his made up words). Or tell about how fun it was when my friend brought over her Snuggie and we had a Snuggie-fest/movie night. I would say how happy I was that I got not one but two Snuggies for my birthday - one from my cousin and one from my husband. Then I'd say something like, "but that's not all my husband gave me on my birthday..." And then I'd post this:
and say something like, "I think R. Kelly would be proud" (you know, because he has that awful song called "Birthday Sex").
I know! It's terrible. Especially when you consider my mother-in-law and other grown ups I respect and admire read this drivel from time to time. Really, the last thing I need is people like that thinking about me having sex. Even though, obviously, the jig is up. (Being pregnant is a dead giveaway: sex has been had.)

I also wanted to wait to tell people until it was "safe". Until I was out of the danger zone for miscarriage and could easily share the news without crossing my fingers and hoping it would stick. I spent 8 days in Reno with all of our family and didn't tell a soul (except my sister but that doesn't really count). As much as I would have loved to tell them in person, I couldn't tell them without telling Liam and I didn't want to tell him until I had gotten a big thumbs up from my doctor. That would be really hard news to take back from a 3 year old.

So I waited.

The week before Christmas I had an ultrasound and Bill and I got to see the teeny tiny beating heart (and the tail!) with our very own eyes. It was just the confirmation I was waiting for. I couldn't stop myself any more. I had to tell Liam.

He was thrilled. He made me tell the pets and all of his stuffed animals "the good news" (individually) and immediately started referring to his "sister Gretchen" who was growing in my belly (Gretchen is the name of our fluffier cat). He makes sure I am sharing my food and drinks with the baby and has already decided where she will sleep when she comes out.

His excitement made me wonder if I had jumped the gun. What if something went wrong now? What if I miscarried? What if there was something wrong with the baby? What if, what if, what if? But miscarriages happen. Babies are stillborn. Toddlers get cancer. Kids get his by cars. SHIT HAPPENS. If I'm waiting until it is 100% guaranteed safe, I'll be waiting forever. We're never really out of the woods. But who the hell wants to live like that?

So I told him. And I'm telling you. And I'm not scared or worried or crossing my fingers. I'm just really, really excited.

My only hesitation in "coming out" is that I haven't had the chance to personally share the news with everyone I would have liked to. Perhaps I'll still get the chance but it's hard. For one, that's a lot of phone calls! But more than that, it just feels kind of awkward making the "enough about you, let's talk about me!" call. And I've totally missed the boat for telling anyone in person. I can still do it, of course, but it won't exactly be an announcement. "Hey, super cute...um, are those maternity jeans you're wearing?"

Yes. Yes they are.

I don't know if this is a 2nd pregnancy thing or what (although now that I think about it, I showed right away with Liam too), but I'm like really pregnant already. The other night I was asleep when the dog started to pace. I sat up really fast and turned around to point her back to bed (since she can't hear we have resorted to air traffic control tactics) and pulled an ab muscle I didn't know I had.

Ouch.

But I suppose it's all just part of the journey. I'm one fourth of the way there and picking up speed. Gretchen, here we come!