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Archive for November, 2009

short stories

so here is a very short story that very clearly illustrates the wonder of life with my toddler:

this morning, jude learned to play the kazoo. and then she signed a perfect ‘i love you’ for the first time while nursing. i asked her if she was happy, and she giggled crazily. this afternoon, she tasted her first mcnugget. she danced around in backwards circles, shrieking with joy, half-eaten nugget in hand.

i am in love.

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cookies and beer.

today, i feel like sisyphus. i do not usually write about work, mostly on account of the brave dooce who has gone before us. that, and my worklife is simply not that interesting.

but today (and yesterday, too, actually) i feel like sisyphus. since my return to work from maternity leave [read: when i realized i was now the breadwinner], i have taken that proverbial rock, and rolled it up that corporate hill with gusto. hell, i’ve even spent a whole lot of energy trying to implement ways to more efficiently roll the rock. ugh, this analogy is painfully tiresome. you know what is coming: every day i start over again. all the hopes of promotions, raises, etc are dashed, and the futility of my predicament is overwhelming.

i cried a lot yesterday. i have been quick to anger a lot today. all i want is cookies and beer, though not simultaneously. i was thinking something a little more progressive. mostly, i want it to be my turn to reach some sort of new career summit. i don’t feel entitled, just deserving.

if i write anything less vague, i’ll feel nervous. so i will leave it there.

this morning, i was a ball of nerves. there are so many bills to pay, and the layer to cover them all is ever-thinning. as i was readying to leave for work, h took me in her arms, looked me in the eye and reminded me of this truth: “you’re blessed”. i placed my hand on her heart, and repeated it. we are blessed. and we are going to survive this lean season.
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pee ess, i ate a cookie.

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always emerging.

so i’m cutting myself some slack with nablopomo requirements. i am staying away from the internet for most of my weekend (ie sun-mon) these days. i am becoming downright protective of uninterrupted time with my family. jude is needing my full attention right now, and i’m doing my best to give it to her.

i really can’t comprehend the explosions of knowledge and understanding that are happening in her head. she understands everything we say. she now answers questions.

me: hey jude, guess what?
jude: what?
(we are teaching her to reply with ‘chicken butt’.)

at a birthday party the other day, there were a bunch of balloons. we gave her an orange one, tied it to her belt loop, and she proceeded to run around in bliss for hours. however, she was not satisfied with just an orange balloon. so, amidst a group of talking adults, she signed “more” over and over, pointing to her favorite colored balloon: blue. when she was ignored, she said, clear as day, “i want the blue one”. a complete, grammatically correct sentence. the room quieted, all the adults staring at this creepily mature voice. jude resumed signing emphatically, and was given a blue balloon. [later, she would try to offer my breast to this new balloon bff, but it wasn’t interested in breastmilk.]

language explosions are weird. she hasn’t said a sentence like that since sunday, unless you count the one word protest: iduhwantoooo, which is new. that exclamation is usually followed by the jelly-boned flop onto the floor. how she does not crack her head on the stained concrete when she tantrums remains a mystery. but, i digress. language explosions. i am forever shocked when my blathering baby comes out with a clearly spoken english phrase. it’s almost creepy. like dancing ally mcbeal baby creepy. i know that she is forming neural pathways for these phrases, and then can’t necessarily find her way back yet. last month she said “flower” like a fluent english speaker. now, she can’t repeat it.

me: can you say ‘flower’?
jude: a-ta
me: good. can you say ‘kitty’?
jude: a-ta
me: nice try. can you say ‘acetaminophen’?
jude: a-ta-ta
me: excellent.

one word, though, that she never forgets: cheeeeeese!

that’s my girl.

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what we forget.

not much time to write today. i hadn’t even an inkling of what to say until a few minutes ago, actually, when a friend (whom i’d link to, but her site has gone missing) emailed me with a quote of my very own. she’d been (clearly very bored and) rummaging through the archives of my old blog, which date back to 2002, pre coming out, even. from this 2007 post, she gleaned these words:

“i am trying to say that if i can find my way back to the words, peace will only deepen within me. and if i keep writing as the peace deepens, maybe you’ll see it. recognize it. and peace will deepen within you too.

when all is calm, in heavenly peace, our breaths even out. steady. rhythmic. deep and sustaining. inhale. exhale. and rest. what more can we give one another?”

my own words were a simple reflection of a deeper call by one of my most sacred of muses, etty hillesum:

Ultimately, we have just one moral duty: to reclaim large areas of peace in ourselves, more and more peace, and to reflect it towards others. And the more peace there is in us, the more peace there will be in our troubled world.

i had forgotten all about writing that post, over two years ago now. so much has changed but that one constant: the need to write my way to peace, to belief, to hope. i don’t want to just be a chronicler, or god forbid, a mommyblogger. i want to wake to wonder, and tell it well.

…to all of you.

thanks for reading as i find my way.

happy saturday.

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oh, my charley.

i once told a story about the sacred relationship i have with my dog, charley. if the good lawd ever gave me a proper guardian angel, it would be this some sort of aussie/spitz/healer mix. i am her person. she is my dog. and so it has been since may 2004. end of story.

at least, that was the end of the story until h and i moved in together. she has a dachshund/aussie mix (i’m not kidding) named lucy. though she has no legs, she is still very much an alpha bitch. [read: serious napoleon complex.] charley, too, is a very alpha bitch. the two came to blows many times during their first year living together. lucy would end up with a bloody ear and wounded ego. charley won every time. when our boy dogs, moe and clem, entered the picture, a proper pack was established. charley was, by far, the leader of that pack, submissive only to h and me. the bloody fights ceased.

until…enter jude.

in the beginning, as we were establishing just how to go about living every day with a newborn, charley’s routines were severely messed with. gone were the frequent walks, the snuggles, the acknowledgement of her existence. when she was acknowledged, it was to be told to move, or go outside, or stop licking my hands and feet already. and then there was this squawking baby, who smelled like me, but wasn’t me. wtf was that thing? also, there was a steady stream of people coming into her house.

charley does not do well with transitions, and i know this has a lot to do with her life before me, when she was left alone all the time, chained to a pole, and tormented by neighborhood kids. when we pack for a trip, she worries. when we pack to move, she really worries. she becomes tense and insecure. and here was all this change, all at once.

charley and lucy had one smackdown fight, when jude was a few weeks old. they worked out their balance soon after, but i was hormonal and a new mama bear, and i was SO angry with charley for awhile. i know she sensed this.

fast forward several months. charley mellowed out considerably, and found her place in our bigger pack. she accepted jude as my puppy, or at least as an extension of me. as jude became more mobile, charley deferred to her when she approached. she simply stayed out of the way.

and then, jude began to walk. no longer was she this crawling, squalling, little creature. suddenly, she stood eye level with charley, and was intensely interested in her. though both h and i were relentless about showing jude how to properly approach, pet, and not sit on dogs, we began to experience harrowing split seconds when jude would dive for charley without warning, and instead of nervously trotting off, charley began to stand her ground. and then she began to growl nervously when jude approached, though she never bared her teeth or snapped at her.

[a little backstory: a couple years ago, h’s rough and tumble nephew, age 4, ran up to charley and kicked her hard in the ribs with cowboy boots. charley immediately retaliated by knocking him down and pinning him to the ground by his shirt. she could have easily bitten him, but she did not. she subdued him like a pup out of line.]

i didn’t know what to do, but when i smelled a threat to my baby, the balance of loyalty tipped mightily toward jude. and so h and i began to talk about the very real possibility that we’d have to rehome charley. but who would want a 6 year old, extremely alpha dog, who would undoubtedly revert to all her old unhealthy habits when ripped away from her pack? i put feelers out, sought advice from friends who’d faced similar situations, and began to work with jude and charley together.

though i’d made it a point from the beginning to introduce jude as a pack leader (i love you, cesar), i started working with charley and jude together to put jude’s dominance into practice. i began by teaching jude how to sign “sit” to charley, and i would let her make the command while holding her high above charley. charley acquiesced quickly to this. and then i set jude down to stand next to charley and tell her to sit. this worked too. several times a day, i would make charley roll on her back in submission while holding jude.

one day, something must have clicked for charley. she simply approached jude as she does me–with deference and affection–and licked her hand. we allowed jude to pet charley on the head, on the back, and then the ears and finally the snout. charley appeared a little nervous, but was submissive. since that day, charley has shown nothing but loyalty to jude.

h & i remain vigilantly watchful of jude’s interactions with charley, but charley has learned to relax. she has taken to guarding jude as she guards me. when jude is being danger baby, charley groans audibly from across the room, so that we will pay attention. she kisses jude’s toes and allows jude to pat her over and over.

once again, i trust my guardian angel.

in honor of uncle g’s birthday today (happy berfday! i love you! let’s have some whiskey!), here is an old photo of him with charley, who will continue to be my dog.

kisses for charley.

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seventeen hours.

so here’s a little story. our drive from austin to nashville took seventeen hours. straight. no stopping, aside from the odd gas/pee/food pitstop. the trip usually averages 13-14 hours.

we decided to drive overnight. that way jude would likely sleep through the bulk of our trip. that day, however, she refused to nap. she begged to go night night as we finished packing, an hour past her bedtime. i put her to bed for awhile as we loaded up the car, and she woke up wired before we could execute our flawless plan of moving her from crib to car without her waking.

and wired she remained for the next four hours, ie until nearly 2 am, as we drove into the rainstorm that would escort us all the way to memphis, ie 3/4 of the trip.

i confess that a little tylenol/benadryl combo action did the trick for awhile, finally.

yeah. so. that rain. it came down in sheets. i white-knuckled it on the highway for hours, barely going 45mph. it was just me and those asshole trucks on the road, and over and over they splashed past my wee hatchback at 70mph, leaving me blind and hydroplaning every time.

we did pull off at one point, and i was grateful for the free wifi at texas rest stops. the radar showed a slow-moving, large loop of dark green and red rain hanging out all over texas and arkansas. we continued onward.

by daybreak, the rain had slowed enough to be simply annoying. when jude woke up for the day, she was resigned to her fate of being strapped in her carseat for the rest of her life, and coped remarkably well. we’d brought along this busy cube thing of beads and numbers and letters and a squeaky phone and lights, and that kept her entertained. this toy is only for trips, and i cannot overstate the importance of the novelty-factor.

[bonus tip from jude’s gabby for trips with toddlers old enough not to choke on small parts: blow about $10 on cheap toys from the dollar store. introduce a new one every 1-2 hours. you will thank her forever.]

our saving grace for the jude-awake part of the trip? two yo’s:

the yo gabba gabba album
yo yo ma’s greatest hits

(ok, so it’s technically three yo’s.)

yo gabba gabba is jude’s favorite program. she sure does love those catchy tunes. over and over. she’d sign “more more more” as one song faded out, afraid that it would be alllll done forever. she is just now beginning to comprehend the wonder of repeat.

nothing works better than classical music to pacify my angsty child. yank that fm dial down to about 89.1, and whatever is playing will zone her out. the trouble with arkansas is that there are many hours with no classical stations whatsoever. i happened to have some yo yo ma on my ipod. and he alone kept my child from erupting into a wailfest.

i have no idea how to end this meandering post, other than to say this: we did finally make it to nashville, where it was sunny. and that night in bed, i had visceral dreams of hydroplaning. the end.

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so. yeah. i’m still breastfeeding. i forget that you all don’t see me nurse my large baby every day. silly me. the last thing i probably wrote about the subject was this dirgeful post.

i don’t pump anymore. my boobs are definitely crosseyed pancakes. but jude sure does love them. she still giggles maniacally excitedly at the sight of them. i thought i was surely drying up, but no. i’m clearly producing enough to keep her happy. most mornings, she’ll snuggle up next to me on the couch and nurse while watching dora. on my days off, she’ll nurse for a few minutes before taking a nap or going to bed for the night. when she is done, she pats them and nuzzles them and says, “allllll done”.

you could say that i still nurse on demand, and you would be right. mostly. jude went through a phase in which she demanded the boob in inappropriate places. like, the grocery store, while i was pushing the cart. she would try to lift my shirt, and i would say “not now” and she’d scream. and then i’d be that parent, which isn’t all that bad, honestly. that parent usually ends up with an aisle all to herself.

mostly, jude is discreet about her requests to nurse anymore, but i am not averse to breastfeeding in public, or in front of friends and family. it is strange to be on the receiving end of that judgmental look i’ve heard about for so long, but i try to ignore it. the question, “how long are you going to breastfeed” isn’t so much inquisitive anymore; it carries the distinct tone of worry that i may well be nursing a kindergartner if don’t wean her now.

i know that jude is not going to nurse forever. i never thought she’d disengage from the boob as much as she has, all by herself. trusting my instincts has never steered me wrong in my small time as a mom. i am confident that what little milk i have left is keeping h1n1 at bay, when friends all around are succumbing. and as jude languishes through the slow emergence of molars, i know that my breastmilk soothes her. i also think that nursing helps jude work through the emotions that usually manifest in tantrums. nursing is her stiff drink at the end of the day.

on the whole, i still enjoy breastfeeding. i love the quiet moments alone with my daughter, when she snuggles in cozily, and is once again my baby. i see that baby less and less, and it is a comfort for me to be present and savor those moments. i am preparing myself for that fast-approaching day when she will decide she is done. but, as of today, i am in no hurry for it to come. i am simply grateful.
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stories.

so here i am, typing some words. wow. why is it that i endlessly berate myself for not making more time to string together sentences, when it is my joy? i suppose the truth lies somewhere in the land of self-sabotage, perfectionism, and mamahood-induced shifting priorities. in any case, here i am, though read the following at your own risk.

i am a cranky pants today (cd4!). i’m sure it has something to do with the fact that i had a clomid check this morning. [read: dr longbraid’s hands all up in my ovaries, as i am still menstruating.] and i also know that i am currently prozac-free, which means my anxiety levels are higher than normal, and i am tired, and my coping strategies involve more energy than i have to dispense today. thus, cranky pants. or, more appropriately, uber-self-critical pants. this morning was a body-loathing day rivaling that of my high school, eating disorder glory. every undesirable bump and roll felt like claustrophobia. i’m not a cutter or a hitter, but i totally understand why people do it. i hid my shame under a black hoodie, instead, and let the diarrhea of an inner monologue splash all over the living room as i tied my shoes. h, holding j, could only say she was sorry i felt so miserable, and as jude looked at me quizzically, i shut myself the fuck up already. i don’t want my daughter to internalize this shit. she’ll likely fight her own battles someday. i don’t want to prematurely arm her with such self-loathing.

i coped with my anxiety in a variety of ways today. i smoked a cigarette, which i never do anymore. i took a klonopin. i tucked in to my workload. i apologized to h for making her hear my vitriol this morning. in other words, i won some, i lost some. it’s evening now, and i’m feeling a little less claustrophobic. small victories, right?

non sequitur: what would you like to know, readers?
about the trip to nashville? about living with an alpha dog and toddler? about maintaining a relationship with a child? my thoughts on breastfeeding a toddler? something else?

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the new monday.

today is my new monday, due to a change in schedule. i made myself scarce on the internets this weekend in order to spend all my time with my fambly. can nablopomo start today?

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