Thursday, January 31, 2008

And Now Back to the Secret Comments...

I just shared an email exchange with a friend. The details aren’t really relevant but the over-arching point is. In the email, I described a thought process that I frequently have, one that sensitive people tend to have, and one that I am, in the spirit of self improvement, always trying to adjust. I’m not proud of it, but I am not necessarily ashamed either. Somewhere in between, I guess.

My friend responds that she can relate entirely to my thought process. Her sentiments exactly. It’s the whole secrets thing, all over again. It’s not that she wants to keep these thoughts a secret (or me, either, as we will both divulge if we feel “safe”) because revealing them would be like offering people an instruction manual on how to deal with us. But neither of us are quick to share these sort of things, for fear of judgment or ridicule or alienation or differentness (at least, that is my reasoning, as I can’t really speak for her).

It’s not that we have to broadcast every last detail of our inner thoughts or all of our dirty secrets or all of our secret burdens. But it was reassuring to her to know that she isn’t the only person who thinks that way, and it was reassuring for me as well. Isn’t that alone worth the anxiety of sharing and the fear of judgment? Intellectually we all know that we are not alone, in thought or in action or in spirit, but I think we all need to be reminded of it from time to time.

The Secrets post comments is up to *44* (and growing!) and I am intrigued. I get so excited to log on and see if anything new is posted. I know the secrets will dry up soon, as I have a limited amount of readers here, but I want them to keep coming. I can’t stop thinking about all of these stories, and the layers and drama and sadness and pure juiciness which envelope them. There are the secret events (for example, I cheated on my wife) and the secrets behind the events (I no longer love her, so I cheated), both nuggets of such raw, human truth. We are a messy species. Perhaps it is time to revisit evolution. Opposable thumbs, good; the power of thought, overrated.

In some of the comments, you could feel the hurt and pain, it was that palpable. There is the woman who said so has SO many regrets. She didn’t elaborate, just repeated that sentence twice. I want to hear them. I think about the woman who used donor eggs to conceive, and is scared that her child will not think of her as her real mother. It makes me think of a woman I knew a while ago who had a hard time conceiving and when she did years later (with IVF) and had a daughter, I commented how she looked nothing like her. Now, I see how callous was on my part, a cavalier, off-hand, way-before-infertility-knowledge comment to a woman who probably used donor eggs. (In my defense, I know better now, and I know there are many, many paths to a family and all are equal. But remember wheh we all thought we were in control of our fertility?)

There is woman who is afraid of getting pregnant and, conversely, the woman who is afraid of not getting pregnant because her partner doesn’t want to have children. And the woman who had an abortion, and punishes herself every day for that decision.(God, I hope she knows she is not alone, and I hope she can forgive herself.) And the woman who lost faith in her marriage and husband. And the several people who mentioned sexual dry spells, which really has to be MUCH more common than most people admit. People don’t like to admit to sex issues, even to the closest of friends. Hell, if I was polled on the street by a complete stranger I would probably lie, too, and that is the truth.

All of these secret admissions, I want them expanded on and described in painstaking (sometimes literally) detail. I want to know the who’s and what’s and when’s and where’s and why’s and the for how long’s. Is there a way to share more of these stories? A way to create a secret blog, where it is safe to share and explore and lean on others. I feel like this is what blogs used to be for. Hmm…

It goes back to that self-editing thing. People, in general, don’t like to talk about things like jealousy or neediness or insecurities or abuse (sexual, physical, verbal) or relationship concerns (Is this forever? Is this a placeholder relationship? Am I really happy?). Or drug issues of chemical dependences or alcohol issues. Or rages or depressions. After all, I didn’t like to talk about the Dark Days of TTC and a miscarriage that landed me in my tub, fully clothed, crying, cutting myself with a razor blade (oh, how the secrets tumble out when I have achieved a safe distance from the events). I have my secrets and my issues and I am working hard of sharing them, for the right reasons. A goal, in my life, in general, is to bridge the distance between who I really am and who I pretend to be. By sharing, I know I will get support and encouragement and help and the all-important “me too.” It is just a question of getting to that sharing point.

Pictured above, alas, the Little Blue Box is not a secret. I saw this in Nicole’s desk drawer and my heart thumped as I thought “Oh! A Valentine’s day gift! For me!” and then I realized that it is a gift we got for her mom a while ago, which we will give her when she visits in February. Below, my view from bed each night. It is no secret that these books will need to be shipped out to my mom’s house soon, as they are a danger to the girls and in the way of what will soon be a dreaded bedroom television.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Appearances are Deceiving***

***Edited to add: Wow, the secrets keep coming, in the previous post! We are up to 24! Keep posting them! I wish we all could start anonymous blogs that deal with these very real situations and issues. Those of us with blogs, after a while of writing we start to get to know people and meet people and then sometimes family and friends read our blogs and suddenly we are editing what we say. I have to be careful what I write if I know, say, that my mother is reading this. So what starts as a very real and very honest outlet can get diluted by editing. I certainly don't do myself any favors by posting my name, Nicole's name, our children's names AND picture of us all! I might as well give out my address and social security number. But, I have to say, I am feeling more confident about sharing my secrets/dark parts. Because once I admit them to myself, and start dealing with them myself, why not let the world in? I've always been open to a fault, but now, in my thirties, I find myself being open for the right reasons. More on that in another post...

And now back to your regularly scheduled post....

I grew up on a diet of songs like “Can I Have This Dance For the Rest of My Life” (Anne Murray) and “If I Could Save Time in a Bottle” (the song where they sing about spending an eternity with you) and other ditties about forever and eternity so it seems rational that I am a person who believes in things For Life. Partners, friends, homes, appearance, hobbies, all for life. I realize this is unhealthy, but I detest change, I really do.

I have to be honest, though, and maybe it is time for me to put more thought my appearance and start thinking about some changes there. Let’s start with my stomach: Who know when you make dough and it doubles in size and then you punch it down in the middle? That is what my stomach looks like when Avery places her chubby little hand on it for balance, punched-in dough. This is due in part to what happens after your body is stretched beyond its limits to carry twins, so a part of me is proud of it and happy to have that problem. The other part of me likes to wear jeans with confidence and wishes it were gone.

Once upon a time, I wore makeup and skirts and heels and perfume and got manicures and even had matching bra-and-underwear combos. I haven’t worn makeup in maybe two years (occasionally lipstick) and, to be honest, since I never really learned the art of makeup application it is safe to say I have only really worn makeup at weddings and other occasions when friends have been on hand to help. I stopped wearing perfume when my favorite of 16 years was discontinued. My evening attire includes a pair of very oversized flannel pajama bottoms and an out-of-shape tank top with three monkeys on it. I know, sexy. My extreme insomnia (ambien no longer works, dammit and the Lexapro has been making me tired during the day) has made my early morning gym visits impossible so I am going through gym withdrawal (but hope to realign this weekend). My nails are ripped to shreds, since I use said nails as tools these days. And my hair is tinged with lots of gray, which sort of blends in since my hair color is light-ish brown-ish but still, I look in the mirror and see wrinkles and gray and feel old. And did I mention that I have had the same haircut with minor variations since I was six-years-old?

I manage to dress myself during the day in my uniform of jeans and a tee shirt, but I am in my pajamas every night when Nicole gets home. Except for weekends, Nicole rarely sees me out of pajamas. Not that she really cares, but I care, so there you go.

This is all vanity-based issues but it would be nice to feel pick-your-adjective. But I don
T even know where to start. I keep thinking one of these days I am going to Sephora and getting a full makeover And I have been thinking that for like seven years.

I am thinking about getting a completely new hair color that would require changing my base color AND adding highlights (and lots of upkeep). But I am scared it will look awful, so I don’t make the appointment.

Where does this inadequacy come from? Is it really from television and movies and ads?

Thank you, secret revealers, in my last comments. You are all brave! I wish everyone left a secret, but alas, I can’t force anyone to spill their beans, even anonymously. I love reading the secrets, even though I have no idea who wrote them or which blogs they belong to. We might seem to have it all together but inside we are dealing with our own messes/quandaries/issues. There are some really juicy ones in there!

I really really really want to see There Will Be Blood. I am a sucker for frontier anything, a la Little House on the Prairie, the best book series/television series ever!

Pictured above, even with prunes on her face, Madeline is still oh so cute. And below, a gratuitous butt shot.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Secrets and Lies and Pronouns**

**Edited to add: Post your secret anonymously in comments!! A few people did already. It's getting juicy!

I have a friend who was a lesbian for four months in college. She says she ended the secret relationship because she couldn’t face what life would be like if she were in a same-sex relationship. The discrimination, the looks, the gender-neutral pronouns, a giant part of society stacked up against her. It’s overwhelming. And she wanted kids and couldn’t imagine how to make that work without a man. So she stopped thinking about women and continued dating men and got married, had the children, got to use the “he” pronoun. She never told her husband and certainly not her family, who, she said, would not be supportive. She didn’t tell most of her friends. It is this huge secret.

For all intents and purposes she seems happy, not filled with regret or remorse. But who knows what lurks. We never discussed it again, after the initial disclosure.

But I am obsessed with people’s secrets. Saturday I was at a bookstore and flipped through that Post Secret book. It is fascinating. See for yourself. These people have huge, life-altering secrets, like “I don’t love my husband” and “I slept with my best friend’s husband” and “I embezzled tons of money from my company.” All of our lives would be so different if all these secret little facts about us were exposed, and not anonymously.

Anyone who feels like anonymously posting their secret in my comments, go ahead! I can’t trace anonymous comments. Well, I guess I could but I am not about to go through that effort. I would do it too but I’d be the only one I bet and then everyone would know it was me! Besides, all of my secrets are coming out little by little on this blog.

More randomness: I am sure this metaphor has been made before but I think our personal driving styles align with the way we live our lives. For example, Nicole drives almost competitively. In the city, she switches lanes a block away in anticipation of moving from the lane with turning traffic. She switches lanes on expressways to pass slower cars. She takes alternate routes when she runs into traffic. She listens to the traffic report. Me, I am happy in one lane. I don’t need to switch lanes, even if I am behind a slow car. And listening to the traffic report is pointless, as I won’t alter my route anyway.

Maybe the Lexapro is affecting my concentration because my thoughts are all scattered like this today. Secrets and driving metaphors and doctor’s appointments. The other Lexapro side effects du jour: Dry, dry, dry skin, crazy, crazy, crazy dreams (about giant snowflakes and being attacked by a man with a bat) and still a decreased appetite. Maybe six cups of coffee and no food is a bad idea.

We are so tired today because the girls both woke up around the 3:00 a.m. hour. That is the worst time to get up because it is too close to the regular wake-up time. So it essentially means the day begins at three. The girls got back to sleep but the damage for us was done. I am exhausted right now. I look at my two girls and wonder how I can possibly be of any use to them today.

Pictured above, Madeline, who carries all of her toys with her mouth. Yes, a spatula qualifies as a toy. It is the cutest thing. And smart, too.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Not The Most Nutritious of Dinners...But It's Delicious

Today I spent about all day making homemade pretzels. Nicole said that we could have walked to Auntie Anne’s and back fifteen times in the time I spent being Betty Crocker. Which is true. And it would have been cheaper too. But it isn’t nearly as satisfying as doing it all yourself.

I had to make the dough twice. The first recipe I got was off the back of a bag of flour and it sucked. The dough didn’t rise and it was hard and crumbly. I started all over and used a different recipe. The second recipe was perfect, with salt and flour and sugar and melted butter in the dough. End result, they are dangerously good. I also made cookies today, but that is for a friend’s birthday.

And yet I have no appetite. I had breakfast around 7:00 and that’s it. No lunch, no dinner. I ate a couple pretzels but not because I was hungry, just because they are delicious and no one can eat when they aren’t hungry like me. It’s a skill. I think this is a Lexapro side effect. I read that it could cause a change in appetite, but I assumed it would make me hungrier. But today, no appetite, kind of like how I lose my appetite on hot, sticky summer days.

Pictured above, pretzels! And cookie dough! We made special shaped pretzels…mine is the circle and Nicole’s is the heart. Her first shape was a wren but I overruled it as too abstract and hard to work with (they dough is poached before it is baked). I’m the Grinch like that.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Sleep, You Elusive Mistress

Why is it during the day I feel like I could sleep at a moment’s notice but at night I am wired and ready to burn the midnight oil? All day I felt so tired, like the kind of tired that makes your eyes heavy and then you drift drift drift oh so peacefully and for a few brief seconds birds are tweeting and a summer breeze is blowing through the jasmine in my mind and suddenly my head JERKS me back awake. Brings back fond memories of high school. And college. And grad school. Oh, and white line fever on long road trips.

I tried to nap when the girls did, but Maddie, who apparently is a robot and not a baby, had other plans. As soon as I felt my eyes get heavy and my book slipping from my hands, Maddie was chirping her special chirp, where she lets out a little cry, then listens to hear if anyone is coming for her, then lets out a little cry again. This is repeated for anywhere between twenty seconds and forty minutes before it turns into full on crying. If I don’t retrieve her before she runs out of patience, I run the risk of having both babies up. There is only so much Avery can sleep through. I don’t want to push my luck but I want to maximize the down time. It’s a fine line I tread every naptime.

So I slip into her bedroom, yank Maddie out of her crib, and bring her out to the living room. I plop her in her exersaucer and drag it in front of the couch and lay down again. Every time I open my eyes, she is staring right at me, eyes all wide in her perpetual state of surprise, mouth in that little O with drool coming out. Of course I can’t sleep, because it feels so irresponsible and wrong, with her just standing there, staring at me, looking so cute and awake.

Then nighttime comes and I should be sleeping but I am not. I want to zone out with television but there is nothing on. Though I did, in a fit of desperation, tape that Moment of Truth show just to have something, anything to watch. It is a one-hour train wreck, certain to ruin lives, which, apparently, is the new standard for television. Anyway, Nicole is away so I am alone and that pretty much doubles my insomnia. I can’t take an Ambien because as the only Mother On Call I need my wits about me. I can’t be passed out in a sleeping stupor on the couch.

Besides, Ambien is really beginning to scare me. It keeps turning up in the pill collections of people who die of unknown causes (like Heath Ledger). There has to be more to this drug than we know. I definitely have had Ambien-related amnesia, where I have no idea what I did after taking it, which has lead to some interesting conversations and incidents. That slip into unconsciousness is sometimes nice in the moment, but in retrospect, it is scary, waking up the next morning and wondering what happened the night before. How did I get to bed?

I know this is yet another long post about sleep issues, and usually when I write about the mundane and inane it [sometimes] means I’m avoiding a bigger issue. Like 44-minute therapy sessions when you talk about nothing only to drop a bomb in the last minute. There still is the Whole Big Issue that I need to sort out. I am not being evasive on purpose; there is a reason why I am waiting (until January 31st, to be specific. How’s that for evasive?!). It concerns our future, and the girls’ future, and others as well, so I need to be careful and thoughtful and respectful and considerate of other’s feelings.

Pictured above, I was serious when I said Avery has an adorable smile squint. Every time she sees the camera, this face comes out. Sometimes I can’t take the cuteness. I grit my teeth, like I do when I see puppies.

Mini Update: The girls went to bed at 5:15 on Thursday and started stirring at 4:44 this morning. I can’t complain about almost 12 hours of sleep, but I just wish it were more like six-to-six. As I write this they are playing in their cribs chatting with each other. Well, maybe not with each other, but they are both making noises, and I like to pretend they have a special twin bond/language. In mere moments I will go in and get them and the day begins. I’ve already had three cups of coffee.

I finally got to sleep last night around midnight. And I had CRAZY dreams. Like being in a shower with my clothes on and flipping though U2 vinyl records that were in the shower and putting a single on a record player and having all conditioner but no shampoo. Crazy, evocative, real dreams that probably mean something if I had the energy/inclination to figure them out.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Little Pill That Could

Today marks one week on Lexapro and I haven’t noticed anything remarkably different [in a bad way] in my personality, though I might want to cross reference that with Nicole, Knower Of All Things Me. I haven’t been particularly impatient or upset or angry, some of the side effects my doctor told me to look for. And if I do exhibit those things I may need to take a second pill to temper it, because the Lexapro apparently sometimes wakes up an angsty side in people.

I have high hopes, but I realize that Lexapro won’t fix everything, however much I wish it would. It will take a long time to undo some of the damaged thinking I have woven into my life and to pick out the bloody glass shards of bloody awful memories. Yes, I am mixing metaphors again (but repeating “bloody” for effect). But that nightly shot of serotonin has to make a dent. My doctor says it takes about two weeks to settle into your system and about six weeks to reach Maximum Efficacy. Patience has never been one of my strong suits. I am also not a fan of gradual. I realize this won’t happen, but I like instant fixes with immediate, noticeable changes. This is the appeal of illegal drugs.

So trying to sift through the days and notice if there have been any perceivable changes is hard. I think I have been a little more relaxed. I have been practicing that whole making-lemonade-out-of-lemons thing, which really isn’t my style. I am a little more relaxed about my future; it is now sort of another topic to ponder, instead of a giant elephant sitting on my chest. So maybe I can say the Lexapro is taking off the sharp edges? I guess only time will tell.

The hardest part is trying to live in the moment. That is effing hard for me. I might spend my entire life chasing that ideal. Here is a perfect example of how extreme I am: I love scented candles, but I rarely burn them because I am annoyed that the scent doesn’t last more than three seconds (aka, into the future) after you blow out the flame. So part of me won’t even bother lighting candles because they won’t waft their scent forever, and if it isn’t forever, why even bother? I’m serious, this is how I think. So I have a collection of candles I won’t burn because they don’t tattoo their scent in the air. So these candles just sit around, and I cast them dirty looks every once in a while to let them know I am mad at them.

What can I say? I like consistency. I still love Noxema and Sea Breeze, which is what I used in high school. Just the smell of those two things makes me happy. I wore the same perfume for almost twenty years and only stopped because it was discontinued. I don’t like transitions and I don’t really like change. That might make me boring to some, but, for better or worse, that’s who I am. At least now I realize this and embrace it, instead of pretending I am someone I am not, like I did for most of my last relationship before Nicole. No wonder it didn’t work, despite giving it the old college try.

Nicole left for Boston this morning so it is me and the little jumping beans all day and night. Please remind me that there are no monsters under the bed and that home invasions are rare in NYC. Apparently, Lexapro is not stopping me from being paranoid.

Pictured above, Avery has developed a squint. Smart girl realizes the camera will flash a super bright light, so she starts making this adorable face as soon as I whip out the camera. And below is Madeline, chewing on a frozen bagel. I had a fish a peach-pit–sized wad of bagel mush out of her mouth after this picture.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

This Made My [Yester] Day

Little things, like packages in the mail, make me happy. In one of my insomniac nights I was browsing all over Etsy and found a cute felt food sandwich for the girls at this shop. I’m obsessed with felt food. I like that it isn’t plastic or branded or covered in lead paint. And I am also newly passionate about Esty. I love that when you buy on Etsy, your money is going to an actual person who sits at an actual desk or table or on a couch or in a workshop. The money isn’t going into the pockets of some giant, faceless corporation. I know I love Target, but at heart, and given the choice, I would so much rather spend my money at places like Etsy.

Anyway, I found this great sandwich with all the fixings and even a side of ruffled chips. It arrived in the mail yesterday, and it really exceeded all of my expectations! It came wrapped like a present in tissue paper with a ribbon. There was a card, a real card, thanking me for my order, with two little bags of green tea in it (take that, faceless corporation). And the sandwich came in its own handmade drawstring bag. It is so unbelievably cute, and it only cost $28. I’ve spent more on plastic Dora crap for nieces and nephews that eventually ends up forgotten on the bottom of a toy pile. Even if the girls someday tire of this, which I can’t imagine, it is a little work of art that will look adorable on a shelf somewhere. The artist who made it also makes a stir fry that I am thinking of buying. And a really, really cute sock dog.

Speaking of cute, Avery is now a professional crawler. As of yesterday, she can climb stairs. She is barely eight months and she is already climbing stairs. Also, this morning, when we went to get her from her crib, she was standing up, holding onto the side with her chubby little fingers, bouncing up and down. I got out the wrench and lowered her crib mattress immediately.

I got a call yesterday from my doctor. She asked if I “had a few minutes” to go over my blood test results. Of course, my heart starting beating in my throat and I felt like I was going to throw up. There are two babies crawling around and a stack of things I need to do, but, yes, sure, I have a few minutes to discuss what I am sure will be my impending death. I was flustered and panicked. I grabbed a magic marker and started scribbling whatever numbers she said to me on a piece of paper ripped out of a magazine. She took forever, going through the normal results. The anticipation you might be feeling, reading this paragraph, waiting for me to get to the news, that I was I felt, times a thousand. Anyway, it’s anticlimactic, I hope. My thyroid function is off, which the doctor says can be because of pregnancy, or not. But I know that my thyroid function was off before pregnancy, because that was one of the things my RE discovered on a blood test, which may or may not have contributed to my failure to get pregnant or stay pregnant. Of course, this requires a follow up, so I have to go get a sonogram of my thyroid to make sure nothing is going on in there.

Pictured above, the sandwich, all stacked and ready to play. Below, the components and the drawstring bag to keep it all together. No, I do not know the woman who made this and I am not being paid to endorse her work! I just really, really love this toy! Maybe the Lexapro is doing its job.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance, It's My Fault

The stages of grief is missing the “It’s my fault” stage. There was a segment on the news yesterday (and in the papers) about how drinking caffeine can double the risk of miscarriage. Great. Every woman I know who had a miscarriage already blames herself for it at some point, myself included. We think it HAD to be something we did, as if we control what happens in our uterus. We blame negative thinking, because our tentative, worried thoughts about being (and staying) pregnant must have caused the little baby inside to die. We think we weren’t grateful enough. We assume it was because we didn’t eat enough vegetables or we walked too much or we had sex or we stubbed our toe or we were being punished for transgressions from our past. And now, thanks to some stupid study, we can add drinking coffee and soda to the list of things we did to ourselves to cause fetal death. I’m not necessarily doubting the validity of the study, but, as with most medical studies, I am sure the Opposite Study will be released and there will be a new theory in a year that says that drinking caffeine will help you stay pregnant.

I find it interesting that women inflict the blame mentality on themselves after a miscarriage, but they never turn that blame on other woman. Not a single person said to me that it is my fault that I had miscarriages; in fact, they assured me otherwise. The same women that blamed themselves tell me that I had nothing to do with a baby dying inside of me. Likewise, I tell women that they are not to blame for their miscarriages either—and I mean it—even though at times it is still easy for me to slip into that frame of mind where I think it is all my fault.

It’s sad how woman (including me) have such guilt when it comes to their health and life and choices. I have a friend who had an abortion in college. She never told her husband because she was afraid he would not respect her choice, that it would change the way he looked at her. She hasn’t told many friends for the same reason. She hides this because she knows she will be judged and she is afraid of what people think.

At what point do we stop regretting our choices and instead fear other’s reactions? It happens at some point, we cross that Blame Ourselves line and thread into the waters of What Will People Think? Yes, I just mixed my metaphors. It makes me sad, that we go around hiding these sort of things, locking up our greatest griefs and secrets because at the end of the day we fear judgment the most. I’m ok with most of my decisions but I still fear what other’s think.

Pictured above, Madeline is her cute little vest and her cute little pants, a gift from her Aunties Christi and Julie. Notice the toy strapped to her wrist. She is prepared to play at all times. Below, us, in sort of matching sweaters. I still don’t think we look alike.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

[Don't] Feel the Vibrations

I may have a hard time getting to sleep, but once asleep, apparently, I sleep like a rock. On the plus side, I can tune out noises from the street and elsewhere during this deep sleep, but on the disconcerting side I can also tune out things that I should be aware of, like the girls’ crying or a cell phone vibrating in my hand.

This weekend Nicole and I and the girls spent the night at Jen’s house while her husband was at a board certification study course. She lives in the country (in other words, more than three miles from city limits), on acres and acres with lots of trees, in a sprawling house with lots of dark spots. Naturally I am afraid of her house in the dark because I am afraid of all houses in the dark, and some in the light too. I am the type of person that sleeps with the lights on and with a Mag-Lite under the pillow when Nicole is away for work, and that is in a doorman-protected apartment building with neighbors well within screaming distance. I check the closets and shower for interlopers on a continuous basis. I always assume that someone has broken into my home and is waiting for the perfect moment to spring on me and I act accordingly.

Come to think of it, maybe I know from where this stems. Naturally I have an instant recall of the bad stuff. When I was in fourth grade, I was sick so I stayed home alone from school and as much as I want to fault my parents for this, staying home alone was more accepted in those days. We lived in Connecticut in a house with lots of land (there was a creepy grave on it too) that was surrounded by a huge preserve with fields of grass higher than my waist and deep, dark woods and swampy, boggy parts. On that sick day I remember being in my parents’ bed, nestled under quilts and holey crocheted afghans, with a glass of orange juice next to me (with a red and white bendy straw) watching game shows on one of those mini, five-inch, black and white nightstand TVs. The phone rang and I picked up and someone said “I want to kill you” over and over (until I hung up) in a chilling, low, scary tone that I will never forget. Maybe this is where all my house fear comes from. I just saved myself $175.

Anyway, so there we were at Jen’s house this weekend, just the three of us (and various children), and for most of the time my biggest fear was that Madeline would throw up on Jen’s beautiful rugs. We mentioned scary things in passing and Nicole made a joke about lighting torches around the perimeter a la The Village and keeping watch from the children’s fort. It is so easy to be glib in the daylight! But darkness falls and my fear increases and then those jokes aren’t so funny!

Jen comes back in the kitchen after putting her kids to bed and asks “Did you hear that noise?” What noise, I ask, curious, at this point, not yet terrified. “A thump thump, like it was coming from the basement. Were you guys in the basement?” she asks. I think she asked if we were in the basement twice, so certain that she heard a noise there. Something like “You sure? You weren’t just in the basement? Really?” Perhaps she saw the fear on my face because she started backpedaling with “I’m sure it’s nothing” and “We hear strange noises here all the time,” which was not particularly reassuring. A band of bank robbers could be living in there basement or in her walk-in-closet for all we know. Who knows what dangers lurk below and above and inside and next to? I know, I know, I am so paranoid.

Then we three retreated from the kitchen into the all-windowed room overlooking the thick woods and watched a documentary on serial killers.

Ten minutes later I get a call from Mina, who tells me Leif is on his way to the hospital with my brother. He fell really hard when he was ice skating and hit his head. During the rest of the day he was not acting like himself, then he starting throwing up. So off to the ER. She was worried and I was worried, but Nicole assured me that concussions are ok and Jen said she didn’t know much about concussions but she thinks it will all be ok and I trust her because (I am serious about this) her husband is a doctor, so she must know All Things Medical.

I told Mina to call me when Leif and Keith got home. I went to sleep with my cell phone clutched in my hand. Apparently it started vibrating around midnight and Nicole tried to wake me but I wouldn’t wake up. She had to wrench the phone out of my cold, sleeping hands to read the text message (all was fine, Leif was home, CT scanned and resting comfortably). Nicole didn’t want to wake me since I was sleeping for a change. I read the text message about an hour later, when I woke up for no reason at all. I sleep through a vibrating phone but wake up for....nothing.

This weekend away, Madeline did not have a good night sleep. She was not thrilled to be in her Pack and Play. She tossed and turned, crunching with each move on the plastic covered mattress, and moaned and cried. I can’t blame her, really, as she is used to her comfy cozy home crib. In the interest of getting some sleep (for us, that is) and not waking the slumbering Avery, we brought her in the bed with us. She slept between us, so cute, but then, after a while, she turned from the 6-12 position (her head at 12, her feet at 6, like us) to the 9-3 position. Nicole had the soft, downy, sweet-smelling, nuzzling baby head; I had her mini butt right in my face. This sweet little baby farted on my face multiple times. To recap: A vibrating phone in my hand won’t wake me, a crying baby won’t wake me, but a little baby fffft jars me from my sleep like a gunshot.

The Lexapro is going fine so far. I am supposed to monitor myself for any sort of adverse reactions, so I have been especially obsessed with my moods. So far, I have had a few moments when I felt frustrated and angsty (par for the course, and pretty normal for me/all humans anyway), but all in all, no complaints yet. Not like when I was on Zyban to quit smoking years and years ago and I wanted to hit and kick things.

If anything, I might be feeling a little something good. Maybe my perspective is shifting, if only in the minutest of ways. Over the weekend, on Saturday night, I stepped outside, in the cold, to look at the trees in the back. It was so still that I could hear the silence. The sky was a deep beautiful blue and the trees cut such a beautiful if somewhat imposing silhouette. I called Nicole out to come look too, out there in the freezing cold. That was living in the moment (not the past, not the future) and that is new-ish to me. Certainly not something I practice on a regular basis, which I should. So that was definitely a step. It’s either the Lexapro or a coincidence. Too soon to tell.

The scariest moment of the weekend was an unexpected one, during a moment when I felt Safe. Right before we left, Jen’s kids ran into the living room, where we adults were. The little girl was screaming RUN FOR YOUR LIVES! with all the cartoonish conviction a three-year-old can muster. It is adorable, to say the least. They both were yelling for Jen to follow them into the bedroom because there was a spider there. Jen gave us a look that seemed to say she knew there wasn’t a spider, but because she was a good mom, she feigned fear and excitement and took each of their hands and let them lead her to investigate. A minute later, Jen is coming down the hall, balancing a piece of paper with a black spider crawling on it. From a distance of ten feet I could see this arachnid, big as a squished Junior Mint and fuzzy. It probably had fangs. She brought the spider outside because she is a saint and doesn't believe in killing things, if she can avoid it. I would have killed it, then sold the house and moved, because I hate spiders that much, no matter how many times my therapist said they were a symbol of wisdom.

Pictured above, the trees and the sky in the night. Yes, I know the picture is blurry. It is kinda on purpose and kinda not, meaning I wanted the picture not focused, but I didn’t quite expect what I got. Below is the heart-pocketed butt of the tiny tooter who shall remain nameless. Madeline.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Lexapro To the Rescue

Because apparently I never learn my lesson, I tivo’d Martha Stewart the other day. I want to like her, I really do. I respect her; I think she is smart and savvy and conversant in all matters home-related. Everything about her, abstractly, I like. But I hate her television show.

I don’t want to seem mean, but she is so stiff and awkward on TV. And sometimes her show just seems like a bragging vehicle for her. I tivo’d a show for the other day and yesterday I had a moment to watch it when the girls were sleeping. The episode opened with “Hi. Good Morning. Don’t you all look fantastic. Such a great audience. Nice. I have horses and uh I needed to uh get new blankets for them….” Scattered throughout are lots of nervous laughs and little you-know-what-I-mean smiles and her general awkwardness/stiffness. She has a sly way of bragging that is so sublime it seems like she is not bragging, like everyone talks about the things she talks about (yachting in Canne; yachting in Maine; watching her boyfriend take off in a shuttle to space).

She proceeds to talk in DETAIL about buying new blankets for her freaking horses. Because she is the most generous person in the world, she decides to donate her old blankets to needy horses (yes, there is a charity). The best part is, she ADMITS it was her stable manager’s idea, to donate, not hers. That was a mistake. She continues to talk about this for minutes and then trots out her stable manager and shows videos of her horses and lovely farm that will be getting her gift of old blankets that apparently aren’t good enough for her horses but are good enough for poor horses.

Martha flaunts her wealth all the time. Remember back in the 80s when there was Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous? We actually needed that show, with its screaming, monotone British host Robin Leech, because people didn’t flaunt like they do today. Back then, we all had no idea what was going on behind the 14 carat ostentatious gold gates of people who had ridiculous money. So catching a glimpse of Joan Collins’ or Oleg Cassini’s or Ricardo Montalbon’s life was a thrill. He had a car phone and that was, like, the most outrageous thing in the world. She traveled on a private jet and that was the most decadent thing.

But now, with so much attention to the ultra wealthy and such ridiculous conspicuous consumption, nothing is shocking. That Cribs show, magazines, newspapers, internet, it all focuses so much on it. But show life in the projects or poverty and almost everyone turns the channel or flips the page and looks away. We stare at Maybachs but avert our glance when we see a homeless person. (I mean “we” in the “some people” sense, so I am not saying everyone is cold or heartless. It’s just too clunky to write in the “some people” paradigm.)

So it is kind of annoying when I have to sit through Martha and her stories about her Arabian horses and her [stable manager’s] generosity, as if donating ratty old blankets to poor horses is noble. And if they aren’t ratty and old then why is she buying new blankets? I just want to show me how to bake bread and make crafty things. I know I have a choice and I can choose to not watch the show, and I usually din’t, but I keep hoping maybe it will focus less on her Great Fabulous Life and more on what I want to see.

OK, diatribe over. Anyway, she wasn’t the most interesting thing about yesterday. I went to the doctor for my yearly physical, a two-hour event marked by the conspicuous absence of two little babies. It was my yearly physical, which I haven’t done in maybe 15 years. I promised myself that I would be more diligent about these sort of things (doctors’ appointments, health) so this was me being diligent.

My doctor is great and very, very attentive. She spent an hour in the room with me. An hour. She also wrote me a small stack of prescriptions. Most of them were for referrals: baseline mammogram, an ENT specialist to investigate my hearing issues, and a dermatologist to inspect a small cyst like thing that could be either be a single shingle or a reaction to my bruised tailbone (from pregnancy) or maybe (and I shudder to think) another pyogenic granuloma. Good times. This cyst thing is tiny but it has been on me since I was pregnant and has NOT grown, so I am hoping it is not the latter.

Blood work comes back in a week so I still feel this sense of boding. I hate going to the doctor. Hate it. I can’t separate the TTC experience from my general health experience anymore. So whenever I do blood work, I think back to beta hell. When I see a needle, I think of beta blood draws. And whenever I sit on those tables waiting for the doctor, I remember those interminable, insufferable waits for the REs for a sonogram or a follicle count or a D&C. Even the good moments in a RE office were tinged with such anxiety and heart-in-my-throat fear and dread. And because of my magical ability to extrapolate pain and frustration, I recall this dread every time I am wearing a gown opened to the front.

I went in for a prescription of ambien (hello, sweet sweet sleep) and walked out with a prescription for Lexapro (hello, goodbye melancholy). I have never been on any sort of antidepressant and I am excited. Is that an appropriate reaction?! I took one pill (half, actually) and I was running around thinking, do I feel different? Is anything happening? Do I feel any side effects? Yes, I thought maybe just maybe I would feel something within five minutes.

I have always had a sort of low-grade melancholy that exists just under the surface. This is what happens when you bury pain in a sloppy, not-really-dealing-with-it way. I do a pretty good job ignoring it but there are times when I just can’t. It’s a very strange thing: I am happier than I have ever been. I feel so lucky and fortunate and I am thankful every day for Nicole and the girls and my whole life. But that happiness, I don’t know how to describe it, but when I am happy it sort of makes what you are NOT happy about stick out like a fluorescent, pulsating, sore thumb. So those messy parts in life are glowing right now and have my full attention and distract me from my happiness. When I am depressed, everything sort of sucks so I don’t really focus on one thing. I don’t know if that makes sense.

I have been depressed before. Like really depressed, in scary ways. And I am definitely not in that place now, thank goodness. But for me, it’s like yo-yo depression. I’ll be happy for years, then sad for a while, back and forth, all my life. It’s been more happy than sad, all things considered, but there always is that sadness just below the surface. To an extent I get that this is normal, that life is hard and difficult and sad and marked with highs and lows, but the fact that I have experienced this yo-yo-ness since I was a child makes me think that maybe (hopefully) a little dose of serotonin is going to help. At the very least I hope it gets me through this slump which I still need to write about.

Pictured above, me showing Avery the joys of pulling your turtleneck up over your face. She isn’t loving it like I do. But how cute is that turtleneck? A hand-me-down from her cousin Leif.

Oh, I forgot to mention that Avery has skills. We have a lamp in their room that was broken. We figured it needed a new bulb. Normally it lives on their changing table, but because they like to twist to touch it and knock it over, and it is made of breakable marble so it will break we placed it on the floor until we figured out what was wrong with it. Yes, we thought maybe it would fix itself if we ignored it. Anyway, when my backed was turned Avery fixed it. I have no idea how. But suddenly the light was shining. I think we are going to have to get this one her very own tool belt and hammer.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

We Interrupt The Regularly Scheduled Blog to Talk About Eat, Pray, Love

I just finished Eat, Pray, Love. Yes, I jump on bandwagons way after the rest of the world does. For example, I didn’t “discover” Law & Order until 2004, fourteen years after it premiered. I still haven’t discovered Seinfeld. Or House or Scrubs or football.

I can totally see how this is the type of book that changes lives. If you read it at the right time, in the right frame of mind, with an urgent desire to find peace (or God) and happiness (or balance), then this book is almost a Bible. But it left a little to be desired. First of all, I’m sure this has been said by a million people already, but it’s worth repeating, because I believe it is the book’s biggest flaw: This type of journey, emotional and literal, and its happy outcome, is impossible for about 99.99 percent of the earth’s population. Unrealistic to the core. Tell me one person you know who can pick up and leave their lives for a year, without much concern for career or money or family? In their mid-thirties, no less? Who can wean themselves off of antidepressants with no real side effects or consequences or residual depression? Who can swap an awful, cluttered, miserable life for an amazing one in just 365 days?

Realistically, most of the people reading this book, myself included, are reading it because we are NOT in that balanced happy place. Balanced happy people don’t really read books on how to be balanced and happy. Just like, say, thin, healthy people won’t be reading books on how to be healthy and thin. So showing me a roadmap to inner peace, which includes a year-long trip around the world, with stays at Ashrams and stints in Meditation Caves and such, is just unrealistic and daunting and a teensy bit annoying.

I need someone to show me how to find peace while sitting on my couch.

And sometimes, just because I am cynical and all that, I found the book a little contrived. Elizabeth Gilbert set out on a journey to find God and peace and balance. With a notebook and pen and camera and a cash advance from her publisher to turn it into a book. Her intention from the start was to record this journey. That’s all well and good but, to me, it makes for slightly affected content. How much of this journey is genuine and organic and how much was for the sake of the book? This is also my argument with reality TV: If you wanted to make a reality show about my life, the cameras would catch Nicole and I talking about politics and the economy and articles in The New Yorker while working on the Sunday puzzle together. But if you were a fly on our wall, you would catch me in my pajamas at 4:00 p.m., green flannel things that are so big the fall off of me and so long that I walk on the cuffs; see me watching The Awful Apprentice and listen as Nicole and I exchange dialogue that includes such nuggets as the recent “He looks like a talking finger” and debate whether it is appropriate to floss our teeth in the living room. Which is not to say we don’t have some interesting conversations, but you know what I mean. Picture an audience at your next sit-down dinner and imagine how different your conversation would be. Now picture yourself writing about your day and how different is your agenda?

Gilbert mitigates, to an extent, her own demons and issues, which frustrates me because I love dwelling in that muck. She glosses over her problems, only hinting at how horrifying they are through her actions (sobbing on her bathroom floor while her husband slept in the bedroom; losing weight because she is so miserable and anxious). Her anecdotes to describe her deep depression seem more concerned with seeming witty than seeming sincere.

Instead of the good stuff, she focuses on her actual journey, an unbelievably luck-tinged series of escapades, with an at-times flippant writing style that just seems incongruous for someone seeking enlightenment. I appreciate that she wanted to write a user-friendly treatise, but I think her core audience could have handled something a bit less irreverent (at least in regards to depression). I just find it remarkable that she was able to achieves what so many of us can’t: Weaning herself off of anti-depressants and dragging herself out of depression by sheer force of will, pasta and chants. Really? So I can tell a miserably depressed person, “Buck up! What you need is four months studying Italian in Italy!”

By the end of the book, when the focus stopped being on just her and her journey, we got to know who this woman really is. Ironic how taking the spotlight off of herself highlighted her. When she was reaching out to help others (and not just herself) I really saw changes in her manifest, therefore showing by example the book’s greatest and, most likely, unintended lesson.

It made me want to try meditation, but in I’m obviously not ready for mediation because I only want to do it if someone can guarantee I will be enlightened, much in the way the author was, after two sessions, tops. Because the way she described it, that is where I want to be, spiritually. The book also made me look at my last therapist in a different way. Now I get what she meant when she would tell me to “sit with it” and “just breathe.” All this sitting and being and thinking and letting go and breathing, that whole way of being, I am so not good at, but I wish I were better. And in the end, the book offers a glimmer of hope that I can get there one day. But what I don’t know is how. Frustrating.

I wish I belonged to book club. I would love to read and discuss these sort of things, face-to-face. Then again, anyone who has ever been in a group anything with me knows that I can be...monopolizing jumps to mind but I'll just say talkative. I have a lot to say! Always!

Anyone who read this book and felt changed by it, how did the book change you? Did it literally make a difference in your day-to-day? In big ways or little ways? I really want to hear how people extracted the lessons here and incorporated them into their own lives.

Pictured above: Obviously Avery has already reached enlightenment. Look at that smile on her little face. And below, Madeline and Avery set out on a journey…for cords and wires and other things they shouldn’t play with. One thing I learned in the book was that in Bali, babies are considered Gods until they reach six months. In accordance with their God status, they are not allowed to touch the ground. So they are carried around and then when they reach six months there is a big ceremony and they touch the ground. Also I learned that Hobo is short for “Homeward Bound.” I had no idea. That makes hobos sound so folksy and fun, maybe carrying those little calico kerchiefs tied to a stick, and not like the scary, meandering, homeless drunks riding on flatbed trains that I imagine in my head.

It's a Rather Large Nut to Crack

I have a complicated relationship with my mother. Complicated as in it-would-take-a-novel-to-explain complicated. This isn’t that unique: I really don’t know one woman who doesn’t have a complicated relationship with their mom. My particular paradigm is hard to explain, like I said, but maybe think of it as this: Sometimes it is hard for me to see anything but her flaws and seeing her flaws only amplifies my own flaws or my potential for those flaws. Like seeing a destiny I am afraid I can’t avoid. Or looking at an ugly version of myself. That makes for a difficult relationship.

Anyway, when I feel especially bitter (a very much inherited response to situations…case in point….) about my childhood or adulthood, I try to remember the words of my friend Annie, who always sees in the good in people: “She did the best she could.” And this is absolutely true. Simple and true. She did the best she could, regardless of whether or not I deemed it good enough.

I don’t even know what to say here. I have been struggling with this post for days. I really want advice and criticism and stories and those I-can-relate, it’s-a-small-world comments. I wanted to be carried through all of this with the support of objective listeners (readers). I have typed and erased, typed and erased and typed and erased. I spoke with a couple of friends and did a lot of making lemonade-out-of-lemons-thinking, but I still feel so overwhelmed. And I am still finding a hard way to even crack open this whole thing in words and lay it out here.

As I mentioned in a previous post, there are always some deep dark things that we don’t share on our blogs, some relationships we don’t dissect, some secrets we don’t reveal. Because even in an anonymous way, it is awful to feel judged and vulnerable and it feels terrible to hurt people you love with your own truth.

There are many reasons this Whole Big Situation is hard to share. Part of me doesn’t want to air someone else’s dirty laundry. Part of me is afraid of some of the sure-to-be “You are [insert negative word here]” reactions. And part of me just wants the whole thing to go away. But it isn’t going away.

In the beginning, this blog started out as an outlet to express all of my fear and angst about being pregnant after a long and difficult road. I reached out to the TTC community and it reached back. I can’t even begin to describe how everyone’s support and comments and positive ness helped me through every day, but most of you know because you experience it yourself.

My blog then morphed into a place to express my fears and concerns and joys of having babies, a difficult transition for me, because it felt awful that there are people still in the TTC trenches. But I didn’t want this to be about babies alone. And now, I am trying to move away from just parenting issues and getting into the deeper issues, kind of like what happens after, say, the fourth month of therapy when you stop talking about the decoy issues that aren't really issues at all and finally begin to open up about the core issues. It takes a while to drag all that crap out. And it is buried under a lot of fluff. But there are some bigger issues here: Working through a complex relationships with my mother, dealing with my own insecurities; finding meaning through work; trying to be a sensitive, caring, unafraid, secure, loving partner; trying to let go of grudges and bitterness and regret; being more forgiving of myself and others; trying to find balance; letting go of body issues. I could go on and on. I think many of us grapple with similar issues. I struggle through some days and sail through others.

But there is in me a certain level of low-grade melancholy. And I know where it comes from. I just don’t know how to fix it. Anyone with drug suggestions, natural or otherwise?

So I need another day to finesse a post that explains this situation while not making me look like an ass or making me feel so exposed.

Pictured above, me. Nicole took this picture. It’s funny to think this is her view of me. Very "Kilroy was Here" without the military/historical implications. This is how I spend chucks of time during the day and many of my nights, glued to this screen, googling “rowing machines” (for Nicole) and “Annie Lamott official site” (my new author obsession) and a million other things and reading about everyone else’s lives.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

I'm Singing/Complaining Bitterly in the Rain

I need to shut down my brain.

Is it just me, or does anyone else see our GIANT shiny, imposing, trillion dollar battleships in Iranian waters and those itty bitty little Iranian speedboats and think “bully?” Us, the bully, that is. Are we going attack because some asshole in a speedboat was trying to wake a battleship? Really? It’s almost laughable. In other news, a sports anchor said of Tiger Woods: "Lynch him in a back alley,” and she gets suspended…for two weeks, because that comment, she didn’t mean it in a bad way. No, not is a racist, obnoxious, black-people-used-to-be-lynched-all-the-time-and-we-can-all-see-that-is-not-right-to-say-such-things Neanderthal Woman way. She was just making a joke. And yet no one is laughing. The Fed keeps cutting interest rates and probably will do so again this month and we are heading into a recession (“deteriorating national economy” is how the New York Times put it). But we are spending trillions and trillions on war. Horrifying things are happening in Congo, with the 400,000 people forced to leave their homes and all the raping and the children being forced into militias. Why won’t we help them? Surely throwing a three-ear-old into a burning fire melts the hearts of the Powers That Be in Washington? The news is just scary these days.

Right now, I can’t get my brain to quiet down. I just took two Xanax. And yet they never really help me. Obviously reading the news isn’t helping (as evidenced in above paragraph). I need to go to the doctor and get some sleeping pills because my insomnia is getting ridiculous. I haven’t been able to get to sleep until 1:00ish the past few days. And then I have very choppy, intense-dream sleep. While I prefer a more natural route, to conquering this insomnia (like in the old days: Drinking a bottle of scotch), I feel like I have no option here but to start popping some pills. I just need to end the cycle and then I will try to sleep again without pills.

I am super stressed because we are in the middle of a Whole Big Thing. I said to Nicole today that I hate censoring myself on this blog because I don’t want to feel like I am writing to an audience. I write this blog for my own selfish reasons: To relieve stress and to record memories and to find other people who share my thoughts/feelings/morals/values/crises. I think most of you blog for the same reason. And those of you who don’t blog, but just read, you are just looking to connect, to find commonalities. If you are reading this site, you have to feel something in common with me, right? But what happens when my life intersects with another’s life? What happens when my story weaves with someone else’s? I am uncomfortable airing someone else’s laundry or issues or problems. It isn’t my place.

Despite the fact that I am a really open person and willing to talk about, oh, anything, and write out our names without dots lik.e, there are times when I do censor myself. There are things I hold back or feelings that I omit, so I don’t sound mean or greedy or ungrateful or unforgiving or petty or bitter…I could go on. Sometimes I leave out the messy details. But it is that which we hid that is most interesting. The façade of me, who cares. That’s anything you want it to be, your own mirror of sorts. But underneath all that, that is the heart of everything.

And yet, I really wanted to write about this Whole Big Thing. I really wanted to know what other people think. I really need that invisible support right now. I talk about it some with some friends in real life, but I also know that they are morally obligated to take my side. That’s why I love friends, your Biggest Fan through and through. But you anonymous people, you tell it like it is, and I like that too.

So this situation, this Whole Big Thing, has me filling up with resentment and anger and just plain frustration, with a little fear and insecurity throw in for fun. It’s been brewing for a while, but it is really reaching critical mass now. I kept thinking it would go away. Snap your fingers (in a place where I can’t hear it; see yesterday’s post) and things will change. But it didn’t, it’s not. It comes down to this: I guess you can say that we have been saving our pennies for a rainy day, and now we need to use them, on someone else’s rainy day, and it is really, really pouring. Like how it poured eight inches on the day of our baby shower.

I hate these sort of posts, the kind that omit things and are really secretive. I can say this: This has nothing to do with Nicole and me, or our relationship, or anything like that. I can’t think of a single thing that we couldn’t survive, and we have never wavered in our commitment, even during the Dark Days of TTC and miscarriages and loss. If you can survive that as a couple, you really can survive anything (remember that mood altering drugs are involved). I want to go into details right now, but before I can do that I need to make a phone call tomorrow, to get a ball rolling or at least throw the ball out on the field. So tomorrow, I can blog in more detail.

It just occurred to me that it is almost like I created a cliffhanger.

Pictured above, Avery in action, dressed like a Sprocket. She looks good in all black Why crawl on the carpet when you can climb over something, like your sister? She seeks out challenges and overcomes them, that Avery. Follow the pictures…just look at her determination. Focused, capable, triumphant. Me, I would rather climb around the mountain. Or avoid the mountain altogether. I feel like I can learn from her. Madeline, on the other hand, is like “Go ahead, use my body as your playground.” She and I will be having a very long talk soon.

Oh, and my favorite thing about Avery today: She still screeches with this ear-piercing pitch. But she has also started saying Da Da. Now we agreed that when our girls started saying Da Da that we would say they are referring to the Swiss/German art and literature movement based on deliberate irrationality and negation of traditional artistic values, and not a father. But beyond that, it is the way she says it. The polar opposite of her screeches, all soft and bouncy like a marshmallow. I will try to record it tomorrow and post it because it is that cute. Oh, another cliffhanger.

Why the eff doesn’t xanax work for me??

Oh, last thing: Anyone see Into the Wild? I think I want to see it. Is it worth seeing in the theater?

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Losing The Race Against Time?

Time has put on running shoes a fancy water-wicking shirt and tight black spandex pants and runs now, really really fast.

One of the only pieces of wisdom, and that is a bit of a stretch, that my father passed on to me when I was eighteen was this: “You are going to turn around and be 40 like that.” To emphasize his point, he snapped his fingers very loudly, which is a sound, to this day that gives me shivers, like fingernails on chalkboard. If I ran into those jazz-snapping Jets from West Side Story in a dirty Broadway alley, doing that crazy snap walk, I would run for it, covering my ears and screaming. An interloper need only break into my home and start snapping to get me to acquiesce. Who needs knives and guns?

The other day I obsessed with the fact that year after year I pass the day I am going to die. Is it a day in June? Or May? Or October? I have no idea, but year after year, for 35 of them now, I have lived this day like it is nothing special. I then became obsessed with the fact that I am on a countdown of years, months, days, hours and seconds. The best part is fuzzy math I came up with: First I imagined that I was lucky enough to live to 85. So then I multiplied, in my head, twelve months times another 50 years and I came up with 60 months left. Yes, 60. I was off by a zero—it should be 600—but for a brief few moments I was literally thinking, “OK, I have 60 months and that is a lot of time so I can chill.” Then when I realized it is actually six hundred months, I just went back to taking life for granted.

But not really. I really don’t take life for granted, as much as I joke about it. I just read a book (nonfiction) and a woman died of cancer at 37. That terrifies me. My friend knows someone who died of cancer recently, and he was in his early 30s, and left behind a wife and a newborn baby. I’ve seen some of my friends parents die at random times of random things and I have heard too many horror stories of people dying too young and too randomly to get comfortable in thinking that I will get to live a ripe, long life.

I’m not a hypochondriac but these days, and by “days” I mean maybe for the past five years or so, I am a paranoid-iac. Thanks to google and the internet, I can immediately find a least 100 deadly diseases that include the usually benign symptom “headache.” Even now, sitting here, I worry. What if something happened to me? I hate thinking about that, or about the girls growing up without me or Nicole sleeping alone in our bed. I have these crazy imaginative renderings of that first night without me, her alone in our bed, curled up on my side, sobbing. These images are so clear to me that sometimes I fear they are a premonition. I also have very clear images of something akin to a giant flash in my head, then muffled silence, like when you are underwater, then stillness. So if my death, untimely or otherwise, involves any sort of head trauma, perhaps we can chalk that up to premonition as well. And, thanks to this blog, even if I am dead, I will be able to say “I told you so.”

And just to prove I am not completely narcissistic, I also have horrible visions of living life without Nicole, or the girls, but I can barely go there without having a complete fear meltdown, because if anything happened to any one them, I can’t even imagine. It better be all of us, or none of us.

I am also nervous about the ravages of aging, including losing my mind to Alzheimer’s. My memory is so awful sometimes that I fear it is beginning to happen already. And there are some cases in my family. Sometimes I just can’t recall things, from years ago, or even weeks ago. It is such a cruel disease, and I fear developing it, becoming a burden to Nicole and my children, having to live my last days in a home where I will do things like sing “My name is Avery and I’ve got a belly that’s like an old man” and roll around the carpet like a blind cat and people will says I am crazy when really I am just stuck in my own fugue of The Good Old Days.

I said to Nicole recently that maybe the whole reason why I keep this blog is because that is yet another premonition that I have, about Alzheimer’s, and I am merely preserving my memories. My whole life, I take pictures and I write the stories down. I never though that someday someone might read them to me and to remind me that I had a good life.

Right now I am hiding behind my computer. If the girls can’t see my face they don’t think I am here. They are rolling on the floor, playing, well rested after their naps and satiated from their bottles. They are so different already. Avery is such a little adventurer: She comes upon an obstacle, like her sister’s legs, and just crawls over them. It’s almost as if she seeks out challenges so she can overcome them. She already is trying to conquer the stairs. Maddie is not so much a fan of challenges. She likes the higher ground. So from my lap or her exersaucer or anywhere that she can look down on Avery, she’s happy. They both are stealing toys from the other and we are pretty certain that when Maddie holds a toy, bending her wrist up and down to wave it in front of Avery, she is taunting Avery.

And that just jinxed it because now they are both crawling in circles on the floor like blind kittens, moaning. It’s like they pick up my scent but can’t find me and won’t settle down till I reveal myself and get on the floor with them. Thus will ensue the desperation/ambivalence cycle: They will crawl-drag their way over to my legs to be picked up but as soon as I pick them up, they will lean down dangerously, desperate to get back on the floor. This will be the rest of my afternoon, but I love it.

Pictured above is Madeline. Look at that unibrow! It is the most unique unibrow I think I have ever seen, the way it dips down in the middle like a cup.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Living in the Moment: The Quest For Tight Diaper Packages

I gave Avery very, very, very diluted apple juice and she sucked it down, all six ounces, in about two minutes, then turned to me with the biggest smile on her face, as if to thank me. She was so excited to have this new taste. It must be such a welcomed change from all the formula she drinks. It made me feel like a success today. That I did something that made her happy.

Avery and Madeline are both crawling like champs. By “champs” I don’t mean we will be entering them in any crawling contests anytime soon, I mean it in the way that for two people who have only been on this planet (on the outside) for only seven months they are getting around splendidly. Maddie’s crawl is poetic: She uses her arms to drag her lower body around, legs together like a mermaid. When she feels like it, she does the all-fours thing too, and when she does her movements are so lithe and tender and fluid that I can’t imagine her being anything but a ballerina.

Avery is the break-dancer on the street who jams to a plastic-bucket beat. She slowly raises her body up, jerks one arm forward, stares at in amazement, mouth open, unibrow knitted (yes, it’s possible), drooling, as if to ask “How the hell did that happen?” then she jerks the second hand forward, followed by more staring. And then, the best part, her lower body pops up, a little hop/jump, and she lunges forward ever so slightly.

Today I asked Nicole when Avery started this whole crawling thing (she was first to crawl), and she couldn’t remember. I can’t remember either. With two babies, you spend so much time trying to keep your head above water that when milestone happens, it isn’t always convenient to get out the camera and snap a picture, then pull the Memory Book off the shelf to update it in perfect, neat calligraphy. I’m pretty sure this is difficult even with one baby, but I would have no way of knowing.

The thing that disturbs me is that I can’t even really remember her starting to crawl. Every day I feel like the babies were plopped into my world, in that size, with that hair and that stomach girth and those little scratches from their own nails on their faces. I can barley remember what they were like the day before or week before or month before. This twenty pound turkey used to weigh 6 pounds six ounces? I don’t believe it.

You think something like crawling would be etched in your memory for all time, the day your daughter takes her first tentative slither on the floor in the name of progress. Maybe it is because this new crawling movement is so gradual. Basically she just evolved from laying on the floor and rolling about to actually moving in a forward fashion intentionally. But where did it happen, this new crawling thing? What was I doing? I think I called Nicole at work to tell her this exciting news, but neither of us can quite remember if this did or didn’t happen.

I think this goes back to that whole needing-to-be-in-the-moment thing. I spend so much time worrying about the future and obsessing over the past that I forget to live in these moments. Lately the moments I tend to live in are the exciting moments when I create an especially tight diaper package, when you wrap those Velcro pieces around the diaper to create a nice, neat square of pee or poop to throw away in the ridiculous, stinky diaper pail. So satisfying.

I took the girls to the playground today, since it was spring-like in January here in the city (does this frighten and confuse anyone other than me?). Madeline fell asleep in the stroller so she missed the festivities. Avery was sporting and let me swing her in the baby seat for a while. She surveyed her surroundings like a mini queen on a throne, with her eyes heavy lidded, eyebrow slightly arched and a slight frown.

Before I left, a mom with twins came over and talked to me. She had two little girls, about a year older than mine. They were half Asian, like Leif and Skye, and just beautiful. She asked for my phone number so we could have play dates. I obliged, and took hers, and on the way out, she asked innocently “Where did your babies get their dark, exotic looks?” Avery is pretty dark, darker than me, since I am of the pale skin, blue eye, brownish hair variety. But we are all in the same area in the box of crayons, I’d say. “Well,” I said, “from an anonymous sperm donor. I have a girlfriend.” She didn’t flinch, I mean, this IS New York, but let’s see if I will get that phone call. I am such a pessimist.

Pictured above, Her Royal Highness Avery, officially, Avery the First, by the Grace of God of the United Household of Nicole, Jennifer and Madeline.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

When One Well-Worn Cliché Just Won’t Do: Anywhere I Hang My Hat/Where the Heart Is/You Can Never Go [There] Again

It's a two-post kinda day.

My brother, in his infinite wisdom, gave us a year. One year, he said, in the city with the girls, and we would be high-tailing it out of there. He was giddy, I think, for us to see and feel just how different life would be, how stir crazy we would get, feeling the walls of our apartment closing in on us and our new family. In a good way, of course. Ha, we thought. We will endure because we a tenacious and intrepid. And besides, how much space can two little people with starfish hands that smell like peaches take up?

Well, turns out they take up a lot of space, physically and emotionally.

It is hard, being in the city, in an apartment, without a yard our instant access to sunshine and fresh air, or a washer and dryer or a grocery store with aisles our stroller can fit down. And then there is our stuff. Nicole’s beloved-but-unused Mercedes sits in my mother’s garage on Long Island, undriven in two years. We pay a ridiculous amount of money to keep our other car in a garage a few blocks away from our apartment, only to find new scratches, dents and even footprints on the hood when we take it out (which is why the other car sits untouched on Long Isalnd). We have boxes and boxes and boxes of my treasured books, taking up space in non-heated garages and damp basements across the Tri-State area. Random crates of decorations and pieces of furniture scattered here and there.

And while I would love to reunite all of my books into One Giant Collection and stop paying garages to beat up our car and have storage places in our own home where all of our Things would reside together at last, I keep remembering that it isn’t about all that. It is not about me and Nicole and our stuff and our convenience and what we want. It’s all about the girls now.

There are no right answers:

• We could move to a place where the girls will be guaranteed a decent education and a yard and lightning-bug chases and capture-the-flag nights with other kids. But Nicole will have to commute into the city for work and say goodbye to her 20 minute walk-to-work, thus relegating her time with the girls to only weekends. That’s a big minus for the girls.

• We could stay in the city, but move to a bigger apartment for a ridiculous amount of money. But the girls still won’t grow up with a backyard or with neighborhood friends and maybe without a good formal education.

• We could stay right where we are, in our two-bedroom apartment, in our great neighborhood with only a semi-bad school, and buy a vacation home. But then we remember that the girls will have a semi-bad education. Adding to the fun we discuss everything on the education spectrum from private school (starting at 50K a year for both girls) to home schooling (zero-ish per year, barring supplies, but it lacks socialization for them).

So there is this new plan being bantered about in regards to our future. Plan Number 514. The plan du jour, one that involves life outside the city. It developed naturally in the course of one of our daily talks about What Are We Going To Do. And it has me all worked up, in both good and bad ways.

Even though I have lived in this city for almost twenty years, I feel like I am not done here. I bitch and complain about New York all the time—and lately I have noticed the bad more than the good—but the second I think about leaving it, I feel like I am going to hyperventilate. Right now, as I am typing this, I feel like something is sitting on my chest. Which is impossible because I am sitting up. And I feel like tomorrow I am going to walk through Central Park then go to the Met then stop at whatever café and after the girls are in bed, I will head out and take advantage of everything the city has to offer. A stroll through Times Square becomes appealing only when I think I won’t be able to do it.

It comes back to, how can I leave this city? It is a part of my identity. It is who I am. It is where I feel most comfortable in life, where my non-republican views are replicated in others; where families like mine exist; where I am a part of the scenery and a part of the life. I live and breath its pace and vigor. And I love being a part of its (oh this is so trite and cliché, sorry) colorful tapestry.

Yet, yet, yet, as I said to Nicole tonight, I have lived here for almost twenty years (eighteen to be exact) and she has lived her for a little less than that. We have had our chance to go to the museums and the opera and see the shows and walk through the streets complaining of slow-moving, picture-snapping tourists from the vantage point of People Who Live Here. We’ve had enough time do all of the things that we feel like we should do, even though we don’t always do them. In other words, we have lived the life of Riley and have had our chance to do what we want when we want. Whether we squandered that chance or lived life to the fullest, I guess only time will tell. But don’t we all feel remorse and regret on the cusp of change?

It’s a great plan for the girls. For us, well, it is good for us to, but let’s be honest: We would never pursue this plan if we didn’t have the girls. Leaving the city on the weekends, going to a place where the pace was slower and the air was cleaner, that was our plan. Leaving it for good, that was a plan for down the road a bit.

There is no perfect answer to what to do. Staying put and not thinking about what to do is absolutely the wrong choice. This new just-hatched “plan” is best for the girls. And another person (not us) would be tremendously impacted in a positive way as well. And there are some great pluses. But I’d be lying if I didn’t say that it scares the hell out of me, this new plan, even in its abstract form, even though nothing is happening yet. Moving to Washington DC, that was easier for me to swallow than this current plan.

Leaving the city. Nicole only seeing the girls on the weekends. Me seeing Nicole less than I do now. Being away from the life I love/hate. And living somewhere that I never before seriously considered living, which has some serious consequences. I’m started to breathe faster just thinking about it.

I hate omitting details but I need to keep the logistics under wraps for now. I know, it's annoying. But things are starting to happen faster now.

And I am so, so grateful, as I sit here at midnight on Sunday, with the two reasons why I am writing this post sleeping soundly nearby. It still doesn't escape us, how lucky we are to have the girls and these issues. I just wish we knew what the best path was. Forward forward forward.

Pictured above, the one that got away. The sheer potential of that place....

Skating on the Thin Ice Between Failure and Success

My soup the other day, for the one Devoted Reader who insists on the recipe, it’s just this: Poach chicken breasts in chicken broth. Yes, I use breasts and not whole chickens because I can’t debone and I hate cutting raw chicken and I am so not ready to work with whole chickens. Once, my friend’s mother-in-law made me the most delicious chicken soup I’ve ever had, but it was made with chicken necks. Just knowing that makes me almost not want to eat it. But I did and it was delicious, neck and all.

If this hasn’t been established already, I should point out that I am a very picky eater.

Anyway, shred chicken with a fork, add carrots and celery and salt and peeper and Herbs de Provence (pretentious for a mix that includes rosemary, basil, marjoram, thyme, lavender and bay leaf). Cook up some tortellini and throw them in. Add grated fresh parmesan cheese. Eat several hunks of delicious fresh parmesan cheese. Viola, which is pretentious for “done.” It was easy and good. I am making more today to eat for lunch for the week.

We went ice skating yesterday with multiple nieces and nephews and believe me there is nothing quite as physically painful as stooping on the ice while trying to keep mini people upright. I was also dedicated to keeping all hands off the ice so the mini fingers weren’t sliced off by over zealous skaters. Despite the responsibilities, it was a lot of fun. The almost-three-year-old Skye was a natural: Her first time on skates and she was already walking on the ice and balancing just fine. Leif is still learning with infectious enthusiasm. I was holding his hand or hood or shoulder or waist or arm most of the time but he was so over it. Then we had this exchange:

Leif: Can you let go please? I want to skate by myself please!
Me: But you are going to fall!
Leif: But that’s ok if I fall.

First of all, he is the most polite five-year-old I have ever met. And second, it is as if he is channeling Dr. Phil. It’s okay to fall? What, you mean you aren’t an unmitigated failure should you stumble here or there? Even though we know we might fall it’s okay to try something? We can pick ourselves back up? The thing I love about children, anybody’s children, is they can, in their innocence and passion and tenacity and unadulterated enthusiasm, impart such clean and simple life lessons. So many things I feel like I won’t do because I don’t want to fail. That’s the all-or-nothing side of me. Leif, like most children, skates happily and clumsily in the middle, with no scorecard.

Speaking of failing, yesterday I bought a bikini for the summer. My last one, which I loved, I left hanging on the back door of a hotel. By the time I figured it out, I didn’t want to deal with the hassle of having it returned. My second favorite, a pink and green striped one, never ever fit right. The top was too big and the bottom too small. Usually I have the opposite problem. This new one I bought without even trying on.

Pictured above, Mina and I skating with Skye. Next is Skye, perhaps the world’s cutest pig tail wearer. Following is Avery sticking her tongue out to Aunt Mina. And below that the sleeping Madeline and Avery, who in some sort of fit if twinness, decided to sleep the same way on Nicole’s lap, the three of them plus Older Niece all toasty warm in the hot chocolate tent.