Tuesday, April 01, 2014

holding my breath

I'm staying home from work today. To rest. It wasn't the original plan. But suddenly I reached my due date and passed it. And all of the energy I'd been rounding up day after day—to get myself out of bed, get the girl fed and dressed and off to school, get to work on time and work a full day before coming home to make dinner, pass out on the couch and wake up to do the same the next day—suddenly, I couldn't quite scrounge up that energy anymore. It has completely dissipated.

And here I am lying on the couch, listless and lazy. It's a foreign feeling that I haven't known in some time. I know I should make the most of it and just BE, but at moments, there it is: the guilt. Of not being fully productive. Of not working. Of sending my girl to daycare, when I SHOULD be spending some of our last precious days, hours, as a family of three TOGETHER.


The breathlessness comes and goes. The crampiness. The contractions day after day. Still no baby. I'm feeling impatient to get on with this next phase of life.

Where did this impatience come from? The routine of non-stop-ness? Is this the American family way? Or am I just turning into my father?

Instead of holding my breath, why can't I just breathe deeply and enjoy it?

The blissful moments when we are able to slow down are so seldom, they are SPECIAL. Last night, for example, I was tired after dinner, so I went to lay down on the couch. Mealy came to join me with a stack of books while Col cleaned the kitchen. We read together for what felt like hours (though it was probably 5 minutes) and it was lovely.

All of a sudden, she started looking around with concern and said, "I peed on Mummy."

"What?" I asked in confusion and jumped up from the sofa to discover a giant wet spot beneath us.

"Run to the loo," I exclaimed! "Run before you pee anymore!"

She ran to the loo and I ran to get some cleaner and was scrubbing up the pee before you could say, "itsy bitsy spider."

And just like that we were back to normal.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

I don't read parenting books

I work with some amazing people. Many of them are full-time working parents. On any given day, you can walk into the staff kitchen during lunch and witness some of the most interesting conversations about parenting: discipline, spousal relationships, work life balance, potty training, healthy cooking, sickness. You name it. There's usually banter, since not only are my colleagues smart and multifaceted, but they're also passionate and opinionated.

Today the lively conversation was about a parenting book called duct tape something or other. I missed the beginning of the conversation and I missed much of the middle and end, to be honest, because I found myself sucked in to obversing the conversation unfold. One was trying to give advice, based on what she'd read and had success with. Another had read 2 pages and was already skeptical, based on her own parenting experiences. Here I chimed in briefly, "you guys read parenting books?!"

People read parenting books?! One time last year in a moment of sleep-deprived desperation, I succumbed to a book on sleep. I didn't get very far, before I felt completely bewildered. None of the suggestions felt right. They felt too hard, too unnatural. And my baby rejected them too. As a new parent, it took all the courage within me to set aside self-doubt (and that dang book) and rely on my gut. And my baby. 

Sure there are nougats of truth in those books, but if you're a parent searching for answers or hard and fast rules, it's hard not to take the words of the "experts" for gospel and live by them without exception. And the problem there is that as a parent, with living breathing children, you will never fully live up to that gospel. You will ultimately make a mistake or veer from the path and feel like a failure.

I'd much prefer to observe my colleagues at the lunch table and pick and choose the parts that sound good. I'd much prefer to get advice from a friend who is in the same thick of it that I am. I'd much prefer to see how my sister handles a situation, and then choose my own variation. I'd much prefer to watch my own child's cues and let her help direct our path. To get and weigh and assess feedback from teachers. And see how my husband handles working through the trials. 

And make mistakes, but feel ok about it.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

is this dialogue?

Two nights ago, as I was getting ready for bed, my husband walked into the bathroom and began, "I think I'll wear my new Vans tomorrow." I searched his face to do a quick read of emotion and all I could see was a stoic, weary visage staring back at me. This was serious.

It was a few minutes before midnight on a Monday and our first meaningful conversation all day (and last chance at any conversation for 2 weeks) was a barebones declaration of his foot fashion choice for air travel. But I had no good alternatives to suggest, so...

"Really?!" I replied. "I'm so happy for you."

He looked back at me quizzically and then relaxed his face into a soft chuckle, finally I suppose realizing the comedy in the moment. But we didn't go on to talk about shoes, socks or otherwise. It was late and we were exhausted. We kissed goodnight and fell into bed.

He would wake up 4 hours later and get on a plane to China.

Fast forward a couple days and again I find myself searching for the right words. Time is short and so are characters counts on my iPhone. I type out a quick message from work hoping Hubby will get the message in the next 24 hours. Bonus if I get a response.

I type, "You make it to China ok? Mealy went to dr with me this morning and got to hear the baby's heart beat. She was wide eyed and fascinated. So cool. Baby is healthy. Strong heart beat."

Ten hours later, I do get a reply. Positive and affirming in under ten words.

I don't really need much more than that. Really. Let the words live in the subtext or in a good book. Or a good argument. (But let those be few and far between.) This is how we communicate these days when life things get in the way. 

We learn to adapt our expectations and interactions in a way that works with what we've got, right now, in the moment.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

fresh start

It's early January, it's a Saturday and it's rainy. I just got home from a shopping trip downtown and returned with two boring things: a pedometer and a new yoga top. This is not about New Year's resolutions. At all. I don't believe in those. But something about this soft, quiet, wet day inspired me to think forward. Holy crap, I'm going to have a baby in two and half months. 

It knocks my breath out to climb a few stairs. How the heck am I going to make it through child birth??

So the top is to encourage the inner yogi in me and the pedometer is to remind me to get off my butt and walk.

And the return to writing? I guess maybe that is some kind of resolution. But I hope it lasts. My friend share an article recently about the therapeutic nature of writing. Something I've always known to be true, but have lost sight of. It was a good reminder. So there you go. 

Hello again!

Monday, September 02, 2013

due east

We just arrived home from our annual family trip to Maine. This year, because our usual rental house was unavailable, we decided to try somewhere new: Eastport. The town of Eastport is pretty remote—about as far east as you can go and not far from the New Brunswick border. It took us 9 hours to get there from Burlington.

If you're looking to get away from it all, this is the place to do it. The last hour and a half of our drive took us through a great pine forest on route 9. Nothing but woods and road for miles and miles. It was breathtaking and terrifying at the same time. Before we even arrived at our rental house, our phones switched into Atlantic time zone and started picking up the Canadian phone carrier, so we had to turn them off or else be charged international roaming fees. No cell service for a week. I was plenty okay with that.

The house we rented for a song was situated right on Passamaquoddy Bay (a smaller bay in the Bay of Fundy) overlooking Deer Island, New Brunswick across the way. The tides in the Bay of Fundy are some of the biggest and most intense in the world. When the tide was out, it went out far far far, leaving us with tons of muddy tidal flats to explore and find crabs. When the tide was in, it came in up up up, all the way up to the edge of the lawn leading to the house.

The tides factor in very much to what you can see or do in the area, a fact that is both interesting and irritating at the same time.

One day, we took a ferry boat over to Deer Island. We were hoping to catch a glimpse of Old Sow, the largest naturally occurring whirlpool in the Western Hemisphere. We caught the ferry at low tide, which meant we had to walk down a long beach to where the ferry was docked in the wet sand. It took us forever to even find the ferry, since it was not well-marked and the boat was just pulling away as we arrived. But the fine gentleman running the ferry saw us and had the captain come back to pick us up. We hopped on the boat, paid the gent our $3 and enjoyed a lovely semi-private boat ride across the bay. There were only 4 other people on the boat besides us.

About a half hour later, we docked on another wet beach, this time on Canadian soil. Before we could get off the boat, two border guards jumped on and approached us to do the usual border crossing questionnaire and presenting of passports. Colin wanted to ask for a stamp, but figured they probably didn't carry them! It was one of the most bizarre border crossings I've ever done. But also pretty cool. As we headed toward the beach, the ferry gent warned us: "When you get on the ferry to come home,  make sure you see me on the boat. Otherwise it's the wrong boat and you'll end up on Campobello Island!"

We didn't see Old Sow. The best time to see it is right before high tide as all of the tidal waters converge and bubble and swirl into a magnificent funnel. But we did see plenty of wild-life, making it some of the best $3 ever spent. Turns out, going at low-ish tide was a boon, because as the tides started to come in and the waters of Old Sow began to churn, the porpoises and seals gathered in large numbers, presumably to find their lunch. We sat by a small lighthouse overlooking the bay and Moose Island on the US side, as the porpoises danced and played right before our eyes. An eagle soared above us out and over the water. And even the cormorants had their fair share of fishies for lunch.

The Deer Island ferry ride was my favorite part of the weeklong trip, which included two more excursions to Canada—Campobello Island, where we saw more eagles and whales and picked a ton of wild blackberries on a hike, and St. Andrews by Sea, which you can get to easily by car. We explored the small town of Eastport, enjoyed some pretty delicious (albeit very rich) seafood and went hiking at Shackford Head State Park, where at the overlooks we could see many working fish farms in Cobscook Bay and also where we were attacked by stinging red fire ants (not a highlight of the trip, but a good story I guess).

We even visited a mustard museum at Raye's Mustard, the only stone ground mustard factory left in the US. Why mustard in Eastport? Sardines! There used to be over 20 sardine plants in Eastport alone, and all of the factories packed the sardines in Raye's Mustard. Now that the American sardine industry is no more (the last plant closed a couple of years ago), Raye's has entered into the specialty foods market and they make some pretty amazing mustards there. Being mustard people, we bought 4 large jars and probably would've been happy for more.

Back at the house, we enjoyed our daily explorations to the beach and every night the boys built a bonfire on the beach, which most of the gals passed up in order to watch some guilty British pleasures on TV—Sherlock Holmes and Fawlty Towers. But on the last night, we let the kids stay up late and we all went down to the fire after dinner to make s'mores.

The next morning, we headed home. We were ready. I think if I didn't have a child and I really did want to get away from it all, I could have spent days and days there happily writing and painting. But with a 1 1/2 year old, by the end, we were all ready to get back to our routines—and civilization.

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