Archive for Pondering

Howdy, strangers

I started to write a big twisty post last week, and then got interrupted. Boy, are you lucky!! That post is not going to get resurrected. Perhaps because I have started school and am now much more concerned about psuedostratified columnar epithelial cells and lurking variables than with my daily dose of anxiety and angst, which seems like all good news for you.

So the short version goes like this:

August was a beautiful, beautiful month, despite the two week illness and frequent absence of Mr. K.

School has started and while it is definitely challenging I am, in fact, not an idiot. So far. And people are talking to me and sharing things with me and it is a little awkward and hesitant but so very nice.

I miss my baby. I think he misses me too. But I don’t miss him enough to be sad that he is now sleeping in his crib for naps and at least half the night. Crib sleeping! Napping! All from my child! Can you believe it??

I have finally, mostly let go of my first baby, a little non-profit art making endeavor that is now six years old. It is in the hands of the board and a truly fabulous new exec-direc who is also one of my dearest friends. It is kind of a little sad/awkward/giddy with freedom kind of time, but I watched the most recent show and actually, for half a minute, really felt very satisfied to say, this. This is my art. The whole shebang – the board members in the lobby in their tshirts, the choreographers sitting next to me, the beautiful, talented girls dancing their hearts out onstage… that was what I was really making. I was too close to see the whole picture before. Or maybe not just see it, but appreciate it. But it was time to go and they are going to grow and learn and flourish (and fail and disappoint and disagree, I’m sure) all on their own… which makes me feel like I did what I was supposed to do for them. Bittersweet and lovely and freeing.

This morning, I am like 90% sure that my twee son pointed his finger at me and said, ‘Sit Down!’ while I was encouraging him to do just that in his high chair. I have come to the conclusion that the little bugger is perfectly capable of talking but just doesn’t WANT to talk. He also occasionally signs ‘more’ when he is really hungry. He has given up on ‘all finished’ for some reason – probably because I can usually figure it out anyway.

Hopefully, in a few short weeks Mr. K’s awful project of doom will be reaching completion and he will be home at night. In the meantime, he is picking up the boy when I have school, and trying to make sure dinner happens those nights (leftovers tonight, but we’re starting small). This is tremendously reassuring and comforting and I think he is enjoying a little bit more time with his little man… or at least I hope.

It is quite possible to outsource many things. But of course, you have to be willing to manage a domestic staff. Our rather modest household now has a staff of three weekly or biweekly employees, not even counting the adopted grandparent who mannies for free. At what point we began living the lifestyle of the rich and famous, I have no idea. I do love the people who are helping us live a more calm and relaxed existence than we would otherwise have, people who are giving us time and energy to devote to each other and our work.

I hate to even admit this, but being at school for even a week has already made me a lighter, happier person. The shame in this admission comes entirely from my mommy shame, that I could even contemplate a happiness outside of his world, as all ‘good mommies’ must want nothing more than to delight in their children at least 22 hours of the day. My own truth is that I love him more than my life, and if he needs that much from me he will get it. However, he has a great time being cared for by people who genuinely love him while I am gone, and I have needs as a person that he can not meet, and can not be expected to meet. Perhaps the better mommies don’t have these needs or can meet them by themselves, but I was raised by a person who sometimes seemed like one giant gaping need that I could never ever meet and left me with a lifetime of shame for being such a ‘failure’. So I know exactly how a parents needs can twist and scar a child, and I will absolutely keep that from happening to him. I don’t need to be gone all day every day, and in fact, spent the entire day yesterday just chilling with him at home. I know it’s early in the semester to be making sweeping pronouncements, but our house feels so much closer to balance and I feel so much closer to… joy.

Which leads me to where the last post got all twisty and ranty and pro and anti feminist. So maybe I’ll stop right there and walk through my clean enough house and climb into my just empty enough bed and go to sleep.

Good night, everyone. Sleep tight.

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Debuting The Word 2009

I have been thinking about my intention for the next year, about my life and what is working and what isn’t, about what I hope and dream for my family. It gets kind of complicated and bogged down and so I think that the one little word concept is pretty brilliant. I gather that the word is often a private sort of thing, like some resolutions, but I suspect that I am going to have a hard time remembering my word and so I am sharing it with all of you as a measure of accountability and also in hopes of receiving your support.

The word for 2009:

en⋅joy

1. to experience with joy; take pleasure in: He enjoys Chinese food.
2. to have and use with satisfaction; have the benefit of: He enjoys an excellent income from his trust funds.
3. to find or experience pleasure for (oneself): She seems to enjoy herself at everything she does.
4. to undergo (an improvement): Automobile manufacturers have enjoyed a six-percent rise in sales over the past month.
5. to have intercourse with.

Origin:
1350–1400; ME enjoyen to make joyful < OF enjoier to give joy to. See en- 1 , joy

Now, I will admit that I am as surprised as anyone to see the fifth definition there, but I’m not going to argue with Dictionary.com. If that’s what they say, then it must be true and I should do my best to incorporate that into 2009 as well. Heh heh heh.

My life is full of so many good things, so many wonderful blessings and treasures and honest to goodness luck. Like all sorts of people, I sometimes forget this, and get distracted and discouraged and beaten down by the minutiae and network news and heaping piles of dirty dishes. What I’ve also realized is that I have a terrible habit of handing my happiness away. If someone around me is upset or unhappy or distressed, I take it one step past empathy and become that way myself too, because surely being happy or enjoying yourself while anyone around you isn’t must be against the rules. (See also: Codependency 101)

The problem is that I’ve developed this habit of continuing to be unhappy, or being unhappy in disproportion to the problem at hand, to prove to myself or God or whoever that I really care, that I am taking things SO. VERY. SERIOUSLY. Surely even if I mess it up I will get credit for being so worked up about it, right? Even if I fail, the stomach ulcer will prove that I really really tried, right?

My godmother (in the protestant sense) gave BabyK a book that I looooved to read as a child: Scuffy the Tugboat. Inside she wrote this message: “This book reminds me of Philippians 4:11b, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” If the apostle Paul could do it (and felt that it was worth doing) then surely it must be permissible for the average janes out there too. How can I teach this to BabyK when I model discontentment so often? How can I really cherish and be present for all the discoveries and milestones of his life if I never let myself enjoy them?

Wrapped up in this word is relaxation, letting go, forgiving, permission, presence, and simplicity. Life is very short and it moves very fast, and my suffering isn’t making anyone else’s life any better. So I am going to learn how to enjoy myself, to find satisfaction and improvement (and maybe even intercourse -*gasp*) in the wonderful life I already lead.

Anyone else have a word they’d like to share? Maybe we can encourage each other.

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That one meme that everyone’s doing

1. What did you do in 2008 that you’d never done before?
Gave birth. Became a stay at home mom. Embraced aprons.

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, except a fervent wish that 2008 would be better than 2007 (limited access). Mission accomplished on that front. I don’t really buy into the resolution theory so much, but I do believe in setting intentions. So I will be intentional, and maybe boil it down to one little word (thanks to DFL for the link!)!

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Ahem. Yes. Also, A, M, H, H (twins), J, A.  Looking forward to A, V, E, V, and possibly M joining the club next year! (although A may be able to sneak in under the deadline tonight!)

4. Did anyone close to you die?
Yes. I consider it a great blessing that Grandma KF got to meet BabyK shortly before her passing.

5. What countries did you visit?
None.

6. What would you like to have in 2009 that you lacked in 2008?
SLEEP. Preferably 5 or 6 hours in a row.

7. What dates from 2008 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
June 21 – the day that changed everything.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Making some difficult but essential choices about our life as a family and being bold enough to see them through.

9. What was your biggest failure?
Pregnancy. Childbirth.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
See above (pre-eclampsia, HELLP syndrome)

11. What was the best thing you bought?
Probably a baby wrap – Sleepy or Cuddly.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
Mr. K, husband and father extraordinaire. Runner up, my mom for making some good progress.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
The in-laws, although much more depressed than appalled this year.

14. Where did most of your money go?
ICU charges and hospital bills, new car.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Being a mom.

16. What song will always remind you of 2008?
Lullaby (Dixie Chicks) or Leaving on a Jet Plane (John Denver) or Little Boxes (Malvina Reynolds) aka songs I sing to BabyK

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
a) happier or sadder? WAY happier
b) thinner or fatter? Much thinner
c) richer or poorer? WAY poorer

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Resting. Eating vegetables and drinking water. Taking care of myself (and therefore BabyK).

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Proving myself, stressing out about people I can’t change.

20. How did you spend Christmas?
Driving myself nuts trying to make the magic happen, mostly. Making new traditions – stew and bread bowls on Christmas Eve, hanging out with Family F, drinking wine and watching a movie with my sister, watching BabyK demonstrate his skills of an un-wrapper.

21. Did you fall in love in 2008?
How could I not? picture1

22. What was your favorite TV program?
House, of course. Angel and Buffy and HIMYM and Bones and my new friend Chuck. (I will try to give Big Bang another chance, just for you, DFL.)

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
Nope.

24. What was the best book you read?

*blush* The Twilight Series.

25. What was your greatest musical discovery?
Hmmm. Beirut? It wasn’t a great year for musical appreciation.

26. What did you want and get?
A healthy baby.

27. What did you want and not get?
A natural birth. A letter from my in-laws.

28. What was your favorite film of this year?
Also not a great year for movies, but I did very much enjoy Forgetting Sarah Marshall.

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
On my birthday I turned 29, took my Grandma out to lunch since it was her 90th birthday, took BabyK to see his Great Aunt and other Great Grandma, had Olive Garden with Mr. K, got to read a book when the boys went to sleep, and then had family drama with my inlaws.

30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
More sleep.

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2008?
Extreme Belly/Breast Containment Challenge

32. What kept you sane?
The interwebs!!! All the crafty mama blogs, and my new BFF HULU!!!

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
David Boreanaz. Edward Cullen. NPH.

34. What political issue stirred you the most?

Women and family rights issues – thanks, MomsRising.org. Also, the insanity that was Sarah Palin’s VP nomination. I mean,  seriously. Was that supposed to be a joke? Come on.  (There, I said it.)

35. Who did you miss?
My friends at work. C & H (and T&M). E who is keepin’ it classy in San Diego. Sisters B and M.

36. Who was the best new person you met?
BabyK!

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2008.
My health is the health of my family and I can’t ignore it if I want them to be healthy.

38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

They didn’t have you where I come from/Didn’t know the best was yet to come

Life began when I saw your face/And I hear your laugh like a serenade

Lullaby, Dixie Chicks

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For my ‘girls’

So here I sit, holding the most beautiful, warm, snuggly piece of baby deliciousness in my arms as he drifts to sleep, and I am feeling sad. Or maybe not sad exactly, but wrung out. Limp. Like dirty snow.

I guess it is not without cause. Lots of bad shit has gone down in the past few weeks, with the parental disaster that is a holiday and then the actual parental disaster which seems to have had a happy-er ending this time but which could not be accomplished without some heaping spoonfuls of assholeness. Also, a small performance, a dinner party,  a party for 20. BabyK has been to the local and very prestigious childrens hospital for his tummy issues and they put me on a ridiculous diet in which I can pretty much only eat fruit, vegetables and meat. And brown rice. Without sauces or flavorings or anything, of course. Which means that I can’t eat unless I cook it myself,  as our one expedition to a restaurant demonstrated when BabyK had a total meltdown in the middle of the night.

So it’s been some rough times. I think we’re coping okay. I’m behind on the laundry and the dishes and cleaning the bathrooms, but what’s new? The house is actually decorated and I have wrapped presents under the tree.  (None for me of course. Motherhood is gift enough. Or so I’ve been told.) While the recession is worrisome, so far we are doing okay if not great.

Still, these things are not my chief concern. My chief concern is something so petty and vain and superficial that it occupies my thoughts with frightening regularity. (Perhaps as a means of not thinking about the actual concerns?)

I don’t feel pretty anymore.

I know, you see this as a crisis too, right?? (I am imagining you nodding gravely, whether you are or not. Wondrous intertron!) I am going to talk about some girl stuff here,  so navigate away from this page if you are going to feel uncomfortable chatting with me at a dinner party after you read this, because, yes, we are going to talk about BOOBS.

I think there is no question that BabyK was a very highly desired and long awaited pregnancy. We had plenty of time to think about what we were doing and to consider our options and there was no question that WE WANTED A BABY. In the throes of that, there was very little that we would not have given up (or in some cases, did give up) to achieve that goal. And we feel very satisfied with those decisions and would repeat the entire process in a heartbeat to obtain the wonder and comfort that is BabyK.

However.

Knowing that you are going to lose some things and actually losing them is a different experience. One thing (knowing that the loss is coming) happens in your head. The other (actually losing) happens in your… some place else. Heart, spirit, gut, whatever.

Once, I had the most perfect pair of breasts. Really, they were magnificent. A truly resplendent rack. Generous and full but not too large. Beautifully colored and shaped, with plenty of perk. Being a married lady and having learned my lesson (quite painfully) about not advertising what isn’t for sale, I mostly kept them under wraps. Who can say how successful I was, but I always felt more than a little comforted that I had my secret weapon at hand. I don’t have the most attractive face, or laugh, and my hair is always difficult to manage, and [list of boring physical flaws]… but I knew I had a pair of tits that rivaled anything in the Victoria’s Secret catalog.

Through the majority of my pregnancy, I wore the same size bra. No first trimester increase for me. And that was fine, they were perfect as they were. I certainly did not need more. But inevitably, right at eight months or so, they started to get bigger. I didn’t really notice because my rib cage had already moved so I was already wearing a nursing bra. But there at the end, the first sign of their impending demise appeared. Big red stretch marks, all around them. It looked as if someone had put each breast through a playdoh factory widget. Something with evenly spaced little gears. It hurt. But I was a little distracted with the about to have a baby stuff, so I just keep slathering them in body butter and hoping to control the situation.

Then I had a baby and my milk came in. At home, trying to find ANYTHING that would fit, I measured myself. The tape measure doesn’t lie. It kept spitting out the same numbers over and over. 34J. Yes, that is the letter J. That comes before K. It is a real size. For FREAKS. This is the part where I offer my sincere apology to anyone that I may have shocked with my overflowing bounty in the first few months of BabyK’s life. It is hard to handle that much of anything, and with a newborn and all of that, it took some time to figure out. Sorry if I overwhelmed.

Now, things have shifted and deflated and accomodated. The bra that I paid $50 for is a 36F. F = DDD. What sucks about these porn star measurements is that there is no perk, no bounce, no joy in them. They hang flat and straight down. I could almost roll them up and tuck them in a bra. Thanks to the fading stretch marks, they are a dull and listless purple-grey-dead fish color. Those perfect breasts of yesteryear are a distant memory.

Why did I not take pictures of these jewels??? Why did I not walk around with my shirt off all the time? Why did I not use them for fame, fortune and glory? And now they are gone. My new natty g‘s get a lot of love, but that is because they are someone’s primary food source, and that someone has a tendency to pinch while he’s eating, so they’re sometimes covered in green and yellow bruises if I’m not on my game. It is certainly a very different kind of experience than they were once used to.

So. I am sad about my boobs. If you add in the haircut horrors of Summer 08, the part where my stomach now pooches out right at my ribs because someone used it as their house, my complete and total lack of ass from not ever working out and the huge dark bruises under my eyes from never sleeping… yeah. I need a makeover. And by makeover, I mean, appointment with a plastic surgeon.

While I intellectually can say, that is the price for BabyK’s existence and I am very happy to pay it, would pay it again if needed, hope very fervently that this isn’t the only time I’ll ever pay it… when I am getting dressed, or interacting with a gentleman out in the world, completely unsuspecting, it slaps me silly. The droves of people who are constantly drawn to the fresh and tasty adorableness of BabyK doesn’t help. Every so often you catch their eyes stealing to my face with a calculating look… is her husband the attractive one?

He is now, friends. He certainly is now.

At least he doesn’t have a secretary.

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29 Days of … something

So, according to my little calendar, I supposedly finished my 29 days of giving a few days ago. I would say I was maybe 60% successful in this endeavor. Also, I have a hard time writing things down right now so maybe I actually did better but didn’t write it down and then forgot. It’s entirely possible.

It was a nice little exercise, though. I thought many interesting thoughts. For some reason, the hours I spent cantoring at a different parish this month as a personal devotion didn’t count to me. Because I had planned it in advance? Or because I messed up sometimes? Or just because they didn’t have a vote on whether or not to listen to me sing? And does it count that I spend almost my entire existence giving to my family right now? Does that diaper change count? Or that story time? Or the dinner that I made? Because that seems like my regular job now – a base line job description. But I ran into issues when I tried to give to people outside my little family too. Does it count if you offer something to someone but they refuse? Or what if there is a few days of lag time between your offer and their acceptance? Does that count twice? Or what if you offer something to someone and it doesn’t work out and then you give it to someone else, and the gift itself is in no way diminished by the prior offer, does that count twice?

It made me remember that the only thing I can control is myself – I can’t make someone accept what I am offering. I am only able to control my actions and intentions. If I start focusing on the acceptance of my gifts, the reactions that come with them, and whether or not they had the impact that I was hoping for… I’m sunk.

It all comes back to pride, of course. Stupid flaw.

Because while I am generally recognized as being intelligent and occasionally mature and every once in a while kind, I really shouldn’t be trying to impose my beliefs and standards on the people around me. It’s way above my pay grade, as they say. Now, there are some specific situations in my life where my way is clearly the BETTER way, and I am going to defend that till I die. But when it comes to most things, most day to day, human interaction type things… I just don’t have access to all the information that would justify my interpretation. So all I can do is offer something, and let someone else decide if that is right for them or not.

This may seem like a strange seasonal juxtaposition, but one of the highlights of my year is singing the Ash Wednesday mass. It doesn’t change much from year to year, and it’s the downtown working crowd rather than our usual weekend regulars and visitors crowd, but I think that’s what I like about it. One of the songs that we (I) sing while hundreds of people get their faces dirtied is called (so fittingly) Ashes. And the verse I like best is this:

We offer you our failures, we offer you attempts

The gifts not fully given, the dreams not fully dreamt

Give our stumblings direction, give our visions wider view

An offering of ashes, an offering to you.

In looking up the lyrics online I found some people who REALLY don’t like this song and accused it of being New Age (??), which I totally don’t get. But based on their comments I don’t know that I would get their flavor of Catholicism either, so maybe that’s fair. To me, the song is about really accepting and recognizing that we all fuck it up. Everyone. At some point, there isn’t anyone who hasn’t screwed the pooch. And when you really sit and look at how badly you are making a mess of things, at least for me, there is a point where you say, damn. Maybe it would be better if I just stopped trying and then I would stop making so many mistakes. And that is EXACTLY what we can not do. Why we ask forgiveness for both ‘what I have done, and what I have failed to do‘.

A few weeks ago the gospel reading at mass was Mathew 25:14-30, about the servants and the talents. It was nice to be at this new parish, where our former priest was assigned, and hear him give the homily. It was about fear, he said. We don’t know when our time here is going to be over, but if we have been doing our work we have nothing to fear. What we really can’t be afraid of is making attempts. The servant who was so afraid of losing that he failed to act is the one who really lost out. God knows that what we are trying is VERY VERY RISKY. We are going to fail, at least sometimes, guaranteed. The point is that we aren’t going to make any progress if we aren’t willing to try.

So, back to the 29 days of giving. I failed. I sometimes failed pretty spectacularly (How about I catch your bathrobe on fire and burn my hand on your dinner, so that you must rush home from your very demanding job? How’s that for a gift?) But when I felt like I failed the most, it was because I was judging my efforts by the reactions and impact of my gifts, not on my attempts. My real failures were when I didn’t even try.

Now I am going through the Christmas shopping process (Bah Humbug. Fo shizzle.) And I am anxious, as I am so often anxious right now. Will this be good enough? Will they like it? Will they think that I am a terrible person who doesn’t know or appreciate them or understand them at all? Or will they not get us something and then I am left looking too needy and desperate for their affection? Will they think I should have spent more money, which I really don’t have right now? Will this gift expose me as the horribly flawed and self-centered person that I am?

Really productive and festive, no?

How about TOTALLY NOT THE POINT? How about, I am going to worry about my intentions and nothing else? I am going to give gifts that I have considered thoughtfully, that are reflective of my current financial situation, that are as environmentally gentle as possible. I am going to squeeze some good will and cheer and love through these gifts and out into the world. Whether my gift recipients choose to receive that or not is out of my control. My job is to try. And probably to fail. And then try some more.

So thanks, 29 day giving challenge. Even though my calendar is pretty blank, I think it was a worthwhile little project. (Also, awesome design work. Very appealing. Think I could get a new blog design for Christmas? Pretty please?)

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Darker Days

Is it me, or did the world suddenly just get darker?

I mean this both literally and figuratively, since the jack-holes that decided DST was such a great idea have fucked with us yet again. Needless to say, I have only experienced a few years (2? Maybe?) of this phenomenon and I do not enjoy it. Maybe if I had been raised to think that time was malleable to the whims of man and daylight could be ‘saved’… but I digress.

So, yeah. Some heavy shit has been going down lately. Economy. Election. Global warming. But also on a personal level, the holidays are fast approaching and the crazy is increasing daily. There are so many great tragedies and hardships available in the world, I think that it is only fair that periodically you get to swap yours for someone elses. Anyone looking for a matched pair of mentally ill/codependent parents? With bonus physical health issues thrown in for free? I am up for just about anything else – personal health affliction, financial issues, grief, etc. etc. I am just so very tired of watching them hurt themselves over and over and over again. Some new and different suffering might be just the ticket!

Although I am going to say, mad props to my mom. Because she has been working very hard at getting better lately. Too bad the rest of them have been picking up the crazy-making slack.

I guess my post-partum grace period expired and now I have to deal with it all over again, with angry diatribes from other family members to boot. [HORK.]

If  only I could find a way to handle all this crap (plus sleep deprivation, DST, terrible economy, deepset issues about not being financially independent, Mr. K’s ‘Re-org’ and overtime situation…) without dealing with my dear old friend, the panic attack. It’s like it would be bad enough having to deal with any of these things, but feeling hot and cold and dizzy and nauseated while doing it is just that extra kick in the pants.

It’s not that I can’t enjoy things –  BabyK and I had an excellent playtime this afternoon – but that my enjoyment of them is smashed so quickly, because the phone rang and it could be bad and RUN! HIDE! FIND SHELTER! THROW UP! PASS OUT! DIE! ESCAPE!

You know. Just the way you always dreamed playtime would be.

So back to the therapist’s couch I go. I don’t know that there are many other options for dealing with it as A) hello, they’re crazy and they’re not going to snap out of it and B) still nursing, so no Xanax or beta-blockers and C) Mr. K’s overtime schedule + BabyK’s schedule = not a whole lot of time to get to the gym and D) sleep what?

I really enjoyed these brief few months of not driving 30 minutes one way to sit and talk about my problems with the special friend I employ for that purpose. I like her very much and even missed her, but sadly she is not my actual friend and there was no getting together for coffee and how well do I even know her when all I’ve done is talk about myself for the past four years? It was nice to not have to go through the list every week: this person did this, and nothing is happening here, and this is freaking me out, and I feel bad about myself for this reason.

At least I have a bunch of new(er) material with which to entertain her on Wednesday. If only I could surprise her with something fresh and different. How about, well, at least they ruined my (up until that point, perfectly lovely) birthday so that whole turning 29 thing didn’t seem to matter much anymore?

I can’t really remember, but I’m afraid that I’ve used that one already.

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Make it work!

Here it is, 12:52 p.m. in Anonymous time. The vacuum is sitting in the hallway, where it ran into a giant pile of laundry waiting to be washed. BabyK is finally, peacefully sleeping in his swing. Damn Dog is staring out the front window, probably looking for his real family to come and take him away from this hellhole. At least I am dressed, my hair isn’t too ridiculous. Still no food for me, of course, but you know. We’ve been up since 10:30. I have made several calls to the pharmacy and the doctor trying to get something that might help BabyK with this relentless, heartbreaking, earsplitting pain that makes him scream like I’ve burned him everytime I try to get him to eat. He has successfully eaten a few times this morning, but it was another rough night here at Casa de K.

So. Now that I have my precious nap time, what am I going to do with it? Clean the showers? (Probably never, my personal least favorite chore) Paint the pumpkins? (no energy for scooping pumpkin guts) Eat lunch? (huh? what?) Plan-menus-clean-office-make-christmas-presents-make-playdates-make-a-million-dollars? Difficult as it is to decide, the choices don’t get any easier once he’s awake. Then I have to decide what to attempt to do with him, and what to try to do while he’s occupied. Beyond the issue of what activity he would most enjoy or what need should be met first, you get into this murky larger picture. What does his day look like? How have I spent my time today? What really really needs to get done, and what can we let slide? Does the outside world or the inside world need more attention today? Should I have rocked him to sleep or should I have let him fuss it out in his swing? Am I paying more attention to my chores and phone calls than I am to him? Or is the part where I held him all night giving me a free pass this morning, now that his little world isn’t about to come crashing down?

This is the guessing game, the part where I think you are generally just rolling the dice and hoping for the best. Maybe as your parenting experience expands, you can see how these little pieces fit into the larger whole better, but I’m not going to bet on that happening. The bigger you go, the more people have opinions (like this little spat here, ouch!) and when you’re trying to make all these choices not having a real night’s sleep in months, well… who can really say, this was the best possible decision and I weighed all the factors appropriately and I stand by that?

When BabyK entered our little world, I had a few books on hand to answer all my pesky little questions (like, how do I make sure he doesn’t die? ever?) Needless to say, there was some conflicting advice in there. People make nice livings for themselves telling you exactly how you should raise your child and why everyone else is telling you to do the wrong thing. Seeing the dark land of ppd on the horizon, I got tough, put the books away and adopted my official parenting philosophy: do what works. I don’t think that this excuses short cuts and laziness, but it helps me keep things in perspective. I’m a perfectionist, and I worry that I am going to ruin my child more from over-involvement and regulation than less. So, when I get all anxious and insecure, I try to ask myself, what’s not working? It doesn’t work for me to spend my night lumbering down the hall in the cold to rescue my crying baby. It doesn’t work for me to have to go get a bottle, fill it, warm it, spend 40 minutes trying to convince him to eat it, and then have to wash all the pieces. Conversely, it doesn’t work for me to always take him everywhere, so sometimes the bottle works. These things don’t work for a lot of people, and they work great for many other people. So while I have opinions on why these things are working or not, I don’t live in their house, I don’t parent their children, and I’m not going to criticize them as long as they are really trying.  I will criticize not trying any day of the week and twice on Sunday  – because I really doubt there’s anything more important in your life than getting it right with your kids.

The challenge, of course, is to feel that you’ve really done your best on any given day, in any given moment. Did I really give him the best I could today? Did I give my husband the best love and support I have available? Did I actually try or did I just coast?

I’m hoping that asking the questions means I’m at least headed in the right direction.

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