Monday, August 25, 2008

Back From the Depths...

So here I am again. House, empty of guests. Stomach, empty of everything. Well, that's not entirely true. I am pretty much on the mend and apparently mentally stable enough not to equate all food intake with inevitably tossing it back up, as I did in 8th grade. So that's good (although it is a blow to my plan to buy new, smaller-sized jeans). After two days of basically gatorade and gingerale, and another two days of chicken soup and a few bites of mashed potatoes, my stomach has given me the green light to eat whatever again, but in small amounts. What I WON'T be eating again, I promise you, is the shrimp and crab salad at California Pizza Kitchen (::shudder::) I am fairly certain that was a culprit of said vomit-attack and if I never step foot in that restaurant again, I'm confident I'll be happier for it. Which is actually a shame because their goat cheese and caramelized onion pizza? To die for. But not literally, know what I mean?

If there is a silver lining, it's that it must have been food poisoning rather than the stomach bug that seems to be currently kicking the ass of everyone in Southern California because no one else in my immediate world ended up hurling into buckets after coming in contact with me. At least I am relieved that I didn't infect my loved ones with that plague because I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy (I say that just so you'll think I'm super nice; I can really think of a few people who could use a night with their head in the toilet).

But anyway, how about some pictures of the little man, eh? It's been awhile since I talked about him in much detail, and after all, he's what this blog is supposed to be about in the first place. So, behold...

Ethan apparently growing his hair out to complete his plan to go as Donald Trump for Halloween...

A mid-air Croc moment.

The Little Red Wagon o' Hope...

Grammy, Grampy & Ethan check out the musicians at a Santa Barbara street fair.

The evil pirate Ethan McGee buries his prisoner up to the ankle as the tide comes in...

Aaaand here's my child cozying up to a toddler bed in IKEA. Yes. He won't sleep at home, but bring him to a crowded multi-level shopping center filled to the gills with Scandinavian-crafted household wares and suddenly he's ready for a snoooze.

Seriously, kid. Yer killing me. How about pulling this "tuck self in!" business at home once in awhile, huh?

Ethan's first taste of cotton candy (4 out of 5 dentists agree--we are bad parents). He was not impressed, so that should save us a cavity or two.

Hollywood's newest cross-dressing celebutante...

Um, hello creepy wall-spider stalking my child at Little Gym...

Mmmmm, pretty ball pit o' germs...

Never too early to start practicing for the 2020 Summer games

Dahling, bring me a bit more sun-screen, I'm shphitzing here...

Ethan has officially grown tired of his mother snapping pictures all. day. long.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Irony, thy name is Sarah....

I'd love to tell you about the rest of our week, how Ethan had a blast at the park with a bunch of new friends, and how excited we are to have friends from home visiting us from home, but I can't.

You see, for the past 12+ hours, I've been sitting on a toilet AND puking into a waste bucket. Ironic, no? I can no longer claim, as in my last post, to have only thrown up twice in my life, because last night, I got in a whole lifetime's worth. And let's just say that multi-tasking, in that department, is the single most disgusting experience of my life. Makes what Billy Beaulieu did in the 8th grade look like a hiccup. I may never eat again.

And while I feel hideous right at this moment, I have to admit there was a tiny little glimmer of "if I drop 20lbs from the fear of doing that again, I might actually be able to invest in a pair of True Religions. Oh, sweet jeans." But that's a whole other blog so I'll leave it alone here.

So the mystery is--food poisoning or stomach bug. The storm hit within an hour of eating dinner last night (and seriously, I can't even tell you what I ate because given what the last 15 hours have been like, I want to block it from my memory, forever). Let's just say, California Pizza Kitchen is OFF my list. Buh-bye. But then, Ethan did throw up on Monday, so perhaps he really did have a stomach bug (although it was nothing like this in severity, thank goodness) and passed it on to me? I don't know.

I do know that I have a houseful of guests arriving in 30-some odd hours and I am praying that it's food poisoning because really--who wants to spend their vacation bringing me glasses of Gatorade and scrubbing their own hands raw in an effort to avoid the sickies?? Bad hostess, bad!

And with that, I will crawl back into bed until the toilet and bucket beckon again.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Exorcism on Ventura

So. We have to move. In the land of beautiful people and unreachable standards, my child did the unthinkable—he projectile vomited on Ventura Avenue, amidst the pretty little boutiques and coffee shops. I’m fairly certain I can never show my face in this town again.

Moments before it happened, we were taking an idyllic walk, mama pushing jogging stroller down the busy street, smiling at people and making small talk to people in shops. Ethan happily talking to his “police car”, which is actually a die-cast metal red & white mustang. No sirens. No lights. It looks more like the General Lee than transport for an officer of the law, but I dig the kid’s imagination, so we go along with the police car thing.

Ethan’s latest “go ahead and bribe me with it; I dare you” treat is the iced blended lemonade at Starbucks. I’m sure there’s some form of Starbucks top-secret marketing strategy to suck in the stay-at-home-mom set by offering icy beverages laced with powered animal crackers and Advanced Good Start or something, because this child could live on nothing but the blended lemonade. And of course, mama gets the chai. Sneaky Starbucks bastards.

So after stopping in Urban Outfitters (which I have sadly decided has become far too young and hip for me to be able to wear without looking comical) and Barnes and Noble, we began to amble home for a late afternoon of throwing rocks from the backyard into the sand and water table (riveting, you say? Indeed). We got a block down Ventura when I hear Ethan alternately whimpering and belching those awful, echo-y “here comes the vomit” burps. And then all hell ensued.

Let me tell you a little bit about me and vomit (I realize this is something you could probably go very happily the rest of your life not knowing, but bear with, mkay?). We do NOT get along. I knew girls in college who vomited like it was their job, either because of binge drinking or the ever-popular bulimic purging. At house parties, I’ve seen people simply lean over porch railings, puke it on out, pop a piece of gum and get back to business. At clubs and bars, friends have excused themselves from dancing or racaous conversations, gone to the rest room and returned with, “Man, I just threw up so bad in there!” and they’re off and running again.

For me? Puking is a day-ending event. If I vomit, that’s it. Show’s over, thanks for coming. Show yourself out. Buh-bye. I only have conscious memory of throwing up twice in my life and they were in the last 3 years. Bachelorette parties. Mother nature’s way of telling me that I am old and should act my age. I heard her loud and clear, apparently, as she echoed her disapproval of my behavior ‘round and ‘round my head in a big ceramic bowl. Good times.

“Sarah! That’s impossible,” you say. You HAVE to have puked as a kid or a teenager, or while you were pregnant. Or something. But no. I have had, for most of my life, an abject terror of throwing up. Once, in 8th grade, Billy Beulieu puked in class, in the row in front of me. I realized at that point (well, after he passed out, hit his head on the side of a desk and laid there bleeding in his vomit), that I’d never thrown up. It looked to be GAWD-AWFUL and I vowed at that point I would do whatever it took to ensure that I never, ever, ever did “that”.

So I stopped eating. For a month. It was pretty easy considering every time I thought about eating, the image of Billy lurching forward and spraying his desk with the contents of his stomach plastered itself across my mind’s eye and that pretty much killed any hunger I might have felt. I managed to nibble on buttered toast and the occasional cup of chicken noodle soup, but nothing else passed my lips until enough time had passed since poor Billy’s stomach flu, and my ability to conjure the imagery of the scene started to fade.

But the fear of it hasn’t left me. The two times I did throw up in my life were absolutely terrifying for me, and if I could have run screaming from myself, I would have. Or if I could have bartered my way out of puking in exchange for, oh, a root canal or appendectomy, I would have seriously considered it. I’m not the type to hold back a friend’s hair while the throw up; I unapologetically head in the other direction if someone so much as hints that they might be feeling sick.

So this is a huge challenge for me as a parent. I hear those gurgling belches that threaten what is to come and I throw back the visor of the jogging stroller to discover, as a testament to my phenomenal mothering skills, Ethan has already vomited once. The traffic and hustle of the street apparently drowned out the sound of it, so I’m just aware in time for the second act. Poor little man.

And the second act? And the third? A visual spectacle for the entire street, my friends. It’s safe to say we completely skeeved out a pair of “The Hills”-esque blonde girls in their early 20’s who may never have children now, because, ew. A poor 10-year old boy who was walking by with his father will likely have nightmares of my child doing his Linda Blair impression for the next several nights.

And me? At a total loss. Aren’t kids supposed to puke into toilets and buckets? Or where there are towels handy to wipe them down and faucets to splash water on their faces? What’s this puking in the middle of a busy street where mama barely has a travel-sized packet of wipes to clean you off??!! I did a lot of “oh, honey. Oh, Ethan. Honey. Oh no!”-ing.

That was super helpful. Or maybe not so much.

What was actually helpful was the jogging stroller. Since the BOB is like the Lincoln Town Car of jogging strollers, it is way bigger than it has any right being. Lucky for us, Ethan vomited right into the foot rest of the stroller and I didn’t have to do any awkward hemming and hawing about, “Do I leave the vomit on the sidewalk or try to clean it up?!” or whistling and looking around feigning cluelessness as I pushed his stroller away from the scene of said vomit attack. Oh no; it was all nicely contained for me to take with us. Lucky.

I pushed Ethan’s feet up so he was sitting cross-legged in the stroller (after I took his shoes off—they are so, so ruined.) and then for the first time in a long time, actually jogged, down Ventura to our street. Poor Ethan, I just wanted to get him away from al the staring people. Sure, I was mortified for myself as well, but vomiting is such an awful out of control feeling, I can’t imagine having people looking at you during and after such an nasty experience.

So when we get to our block, I stop, take Ethan out of the stroller, stinky stench and all, strip him down to his diaper and carry his weepy, weak body home in one arm while I push the pram o’ puke with the other. Thank god none of the neighbors were anywhere to be seen.

Ten minutes later? He was fine. Asking for food, running around. No fever, no more indication of sickness. Hrm. By the end of the evening, the only sign of there having been a problem at all was the BOB stroller drying out in the backyard after having been power-hosed down by a gagging mother and the little blue crocs sitting in the front yard because I’m sure as hell not touching them.

Husband and I figure it wasn’t a bug or anything he ate. We think he gagged himself on the iced blended lemonade straw and set off a chain-reaction that just had to run it’s course. So I guess we’re going to need to find a new “go ahead and bribe me with it; I dare you” treat. Because once you’ve seen the blended lemonade come back up (along with what was left of lunch), three times in a row? Not such a treat anymore.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Therapy: It's All Fun & Games...

until the therapist asks you the tough questions.

So, after a few weeks of uncharacteristically crazy behavior (and believe me, I'm not winning any awards for my mellowness even at my most chill) and some parenting that made me look like I graduated Magna Cum Laude from the Joan Crawford School of Shitastic Parenting for the Bat-shit Crazy, I decided it was time to seek clarity and some Zoloft-y solace from a professional. So I whipped out my reliable google-fingers and located someone within walking distance. As an aside, seriously with the "walking distance". With all the walking I've done here, how am I not rivaling Nicole Ritchie in a boniness competition?? Oh. Well, it might be because as I type I am sipping an English breakfast tea that's probably more half and half than water. Oh, and eating a cookie. Um. That solves that cunundrum.

My last therapist was nice, and she was great to talk to. I have no complaints about her; she let me spill my guts about a lot of stuff while I was seeing her. We participated in more of a weekly gab-fest than therapy, I think. She never asked me anything tough, really. I don't really remember many questions at all, come to think of it. So I walked into this appointment last week expecting to just chat and give some background about myself and what circumstances had led to me getting my crazy on in the past month or so.

And for the most part, I did. I talked about our move, and how sad I am still when I wake up on Thursday mornings and realize that 3,000 miles away, so many of my friends and their little ones are at play group while Ethan and I stare at each other, trying to figure out what to do with our time, me secretly hoping I can make it to noon without bursting into tears or yelling at Ethan for, oh I don't know, thinking that it would be super cool to play target practice with the cat and his sippy cup (sippy as projectile; he can't pick up the cat....yet).

(wow. that was all one sentence? Can you tell my teaching license has expired?)

So we got through that, and I glossed over the whole PPD episode because even though she's a therapist, that sort of talk seemed more like 3rd date material, know what I mean?

But she came back to it. In a big way. With, "Are you sure you should have another child?"

Um. Wow. Can you say "shut down"? My brain clamped shut with the only reaction I could fathom having. Pure and utter disbelief and insult. I mean, really. Who asks that??!!

Oh, a therapist.

She asked towards the end of my session, so I didn't really have a lot of time to do anything but stagger through "well, we've always wanted two kids. and I'd be on medication for the PPD. and yes, two kids. Two." I'm sure the word she wrote down on her notepad was "textbook". Which I hate, because of all the things I could be described as in this world, I hate to be "textbook" (which in an of itself is probably, um, textbook).

Over the past several days, though, I've been quietly ruminating over this question, picking it apart and examining my motivation.

There is the pregnancy to consider. For some crazy, kicked-in-the-head stupid reason, I loved being pregnant. Nevermind the first three months of constant panic that somethinganythingeverything will go wrong. I distinctly recall that I didn't go to the bathroom once for fourteen weeks without checking for blood on the paper. And the two times I found it? Fear down to my toenails. And the bedrest? Fourteen weeks in bed. Two of it in the hospital. But then there was also watching my belly grow, and feeling Ethan move around in there, for the first time, the hundredth time, the last time. The thought of doing all of that again, with a toddler? Makes my head hurt.

And Ethan's newborn phase? Dark times, my friends. I hate to admit that. It's hard for me to admit just how tough it was. Very few people know, but the first few weeks he was home, I would lock myself in the bathroom, sit in the tub, cry, and wrack my brain trying to figure out how to convince Husband that we should give Ethan to my friend Karen because she and her husband had been trying for years to get pregnant with no success. Seriously. It seemed perfectly rational to me that Karen should have Ethan--she so desperately wanted a child and I had somehow ended up with one that I didn't know what to do with. (Even now I write that with a cringe in my heart that you will all be aghast and horrified; but there it is).

The tears I cried then were the tears of a woman who hated herself for not being madly in love with her baby, and they were also the tears of a woman in shock at the "no going back"ness of it all.

There's simply no way to prepare for how your life ceases to be what it once was when you become responsible for the well-being of another human being. Prior to Ethan's being born, I was, well, more than a bit self-centered and I can admit that I bordered on spoiled, in that I basically could do what I wanted, when I wanted, how I wanted.

Motherhood, at least initially, changes that so completely that I think a lot of those tears were withdrawal symptoms, grieving the old me, to make room for the new me. She is, in fact, a better version of me, and I'm so glad to have made room for her. I have seen a lot of moms fight the rebirth of self they go through after having a child and I'm glad that, though it was painful, I let myself go into that cocoon and come out on the other side. And, having done that once, In a way, i don't expect to go through that sense of loss-of-self as intensely a second time around.

Stephanie talks in her book Sippy Cups Are Not For Chardonnay about being the mom who doesn't fall madly in love with her child from the moment s/he come screaming out of your body. I was that mom. It took me a long time to feel that intense love. It took me a long time to feel anything but exhaustion, frustration, disconnectedness and resentment. That? I don't want to feel again. If I knew there was no way around that feeling again, the answer to the therapist's question would be a resounding "NO. I should never, ever, ever do that again."

And I won't. Not that. The reality is that having a complicated pregnancy and a newborn IS tough. It is mind-numblingly challenging. And I'm sure with a toddler in the mix, it is exponentially more fraught with craziness-inducing difficulties. But back then? I had no identity as a mother.

Pregnancy and new motherhood forces you into roles for which you can't prepare, for which there is no personal compass. Sure, you can read every book ever written on the subject, but it's no substitute for experience. And now, at least to some degree, while I'm not old Mother Hubbard, I've had some experience, and I know, at least to some extent, what to expect of myself and of the journey.

And beyond all of what I know now, Husband is going to be the PPD police. You can be sure of that.

(And just so we're clear, I look at Ethan now and I can't fathom that there was ever a cell in my body that didn't just hurt with love for him. There is a little piece of guilt tucked away in my heart for always that I didn't immediately know just how phenomenal he was and that I didn't beam with love for him from the very get-go. But that love, when it does (finally, thank god!) take over, is the most intense emotion I've ever felt. I'm not sure I can imagine how my heart could grow enough to love another one as much as I love him, but I've seen it happen, so I have to believe it's possible.)

I also don't think our choice to have two children is based on the idea of having two babies. For some, babyhood is the part you have to go through to get to the "good stuff". Don't get me wrong, I do look forward to having another sweet, tiny, cuddly newborn wrapped in receiving blankets and nursing at my breast. Many of the things that caused me such angst then have smoothed out around the edges in my memory. No, I didn't sleep more than an hour or two at a time, but I laughed at Conan O'Brien a LOT during those first few months.

For us, having two children is about having two children, not about going through pregnancy or infancy twice. Yes, we have to do that to get to where we want to be. But it's the kids--playing together in the backyard, horsing around under the dining room table under a tent of blankets, building sandcastles together at the beach, and probably beating the snot out of each other on a daily basis for several years. That's why we want two kids. It's about watching two people learn from us, each other, the world around them, to see who they turn into and watch that development in the coming years; hopefully contributing to it in some positive way.

It's so that over holiday dinners years from now, they can tell stories to their wives or husbands and children about what crazy things they did to each other as kids. If they are like Husband and his sister, they will commandeer each other's memories so that wild and unresolvable arguments about whose memory it actually is will ensue to the point of absolute hilarity. It's so that when we are old and they are faced with losing us, that they should have each other to lean on. So that they are never alone.

I couldn't put all of that together when she first asked if we "should" have another child. All I could do was stammer and read her question as a condemnation of the depressed woman who shouldn't torture herself, her husband, toddler and newborn with her own craziness at going through the process again. And I'd like to promise that I won't go through any of that again. That next time I will breeze through it all with the grace and aplomb of a natural earth-mother. I'm not sure I will, though. There could be some craziness in the forecast. But just like now I know the colic will stop and the exhaustion will stop, I know the feelings of darkness can come with new motherhood will also stop, and that I can do something about it before I ever find myself crying in a dry bathtub trying to figure out on whom I can pawn off my newborn (especially since Karen has her beautiful and perfect Sammy now).

So, yes. I should. We should. And hopefully, we will.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

It's All About MeMe...

Thanks to you all for the words of encouragement in the past week, both about nasty Bitchmom in my class and my whole "ABBA made me cry because I am a full-on lunatic" post the other day. I really do appreciate hearing from you (and Liz, if you read this, I tried to email you but it bounced back--email me!)

And now, a meme. Sarah tagged me to share 6 unspectacular quirks about myself with you all (as if this whole blog isn't one big freakshow as it is?!) And then I have to tag 6 others. So I tag Tress , Amy, KMW (maybe that will get you to post something, huh, woman?!), Crystal, Lindsay, and Becca.

1. My favorite flower is the snapdragon. Because they talk. My grandmother taught me when I was a little girl that if you press on the sides of a snapdragon the right way, they open up like little mouths. At 36 years old, I still can't walk by a snapdragon without making it converse with the snapdragon next to it.

2. I don't know how to make a hyperlink in my blog. If I manage to get this posted with the above tagged people in hyperlink form, it's only because I made Husband do it. Please. I'm useless with the tech stuff.

3. I was way more attracted to the old guys in Mama Mia than to the young Greek hottie. I think I'm officially old.

4. I spent years growing my bangs out; now I want bangs again, but I hate the feeling of hair on my face. Damn.

5. The only thing I miss about work is the commute. I love driving, NPR and music. I don't get nearly enough of any of them anymore.

6. Tori & Dean? My favorite show. 'Nuff said.

(oh, and if the hyperlinks worked, yay for me! I figured out how to do it. But I can't delete that quirk because that would mean having to come up with a replacement quirk and dammit, it's almost time for Tori & Dean...)

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Why Mama Might Need Prozac...

Remember my therapist in Virginia? The one who told me I might want to lay off the caffeine after our first session and who told me, in the midst of my moving angst, that she didn't think I *required* medication to cope with the transition? Remember her? Yeah, well perhaps she should have cozied up to me on Thursday evening at the movie theater to witness my totally inappropriately timed emotional meltdown, brought on by...ABBA.

Yeah, that might have been the tip off she needed to see that "gee, this chick is a hot mess and could benefit from something to take the edge off."

It was our anniversary, and Husband indulged my (and possibly, to a much lesser degree, his) girly side, and took me to see "Mama Mia", the movie adaptation of the Broadway musical based on ABBA's music. Being a child of the 70's, there are two musical nostalgic certainties in my life: ABBA and the BEE-GEEs. I have very clear childhood memories of singing along to my K-Tel ABBA record, in all it's vinyl glory. I thought blue eye-shadow, feathered hair and shiny lycra bodysuits were the pinnacle of beauty. Never was there a more reliable microphone and audience than my hairbrush and mirror--cliche? Very. But true.

I always have a hard time getting into musical theater or film. The initial rush of embarrassment for the actors, because, dude, you just broke out into song out of NOWHERE, needs to wear off before I can really settle in and enjoy it. It is such a huge deal for me to suspend my disbelief in such a way as to accept this spontaneous burst into song and perfectly choreographed dance that I giggle like an 8th grade boy when they hear someone say something like, "Thank goodness it's "hump" day!"

But eventually I settle down (which is more than I can say for boys--my 33 year old husband still giggles when he hears the word "duty". Whatever, Chandler.) As a matter of fact, once after showing West Side Story to a group of my freshmen students while studying Romeo & Juliet, I offered extra credit to anyone in the class who could, within the context of our course material, successfully break into spontaneous song and dance. A couple of kids took the bait, asking questions about the assigned homework in out-of-key warbles while boogying around their desks. I don't think I ever giggled so hard in the class room, but I did give them their extra credit, because, please. That takes balls.

So anyway, the lights go down, the corny singing starts, Husband and I are giggling to each other about the cheesiness of it all. The whole movie is truly one giant karaoke orgasm. And then a washed up Meryl Streep is cajoled by her almost equally washed-up best friends to get dressed up in the garb of yesteryear, and they "Dancing Queen" themselves into oblivion through the town.

I do not know how or why, but my friends, I found myself BAWLING. Tears streaming down the face, ache in the tummy sort of crying. And all I could ponder as I wiped tear after tear away was, "What the hell is wrong with me?! This is cheesy and silly and funny. This is not tear-worthy. They look ridiculous up there!"

Oh yeah. I guess that's it. Cheesy. Silly. Fun. So incredibly outside of what I am these days.

I used to be these things. I'm not ashamed to admit that there were many Saturday nights in my early 30's when I could be found, microphone in hand, room spinning precariously, among a handful of my favorite girl friends, at the Peyote Cafe in Adam's Morgan, DC, straining to see the words on the karaoke machine, my contacts dry from hours of cosmos and cigarette smoke. Also, on more than one occasion, we could be found dancing on table tops at Cafe Citron in Dupont Circle after flirting shamelessly for free drinks from boys who didn't stand a chance with us. Those days, which started out as weekly events, slowly dwindled to every couple of months and then, as we hit our mid-thirties, were reserved for special occasions like bachelorette parties.

It's been three years since I did anything like that, and while I don't want to do it now (please, is there anything sadder than the aging party girl?), watching that scene of the movie pulled at a little piece of my lost self and reminded me of who I, at least in part, once was. And that part of me did more than shimmy to the bar with utter confidence that I'd be served the second I got there, or belt out the 80's hits with my best girls. I was simply a more confident, in control and happier "me". I was in my element. Not just in the bars, but in life.

I'm not in my element now. And I've found that not being in one's element presents a curious challenge. You can either sink into the mire of insecurities (I'll never make friends here; I'll never lose the weight; I'll never get pregnant again), or you can woman up and deal. I've not been dealing since we got here. I've had on a brave face for the most part, I think. But I find myself also doing things like needling Husband about his work hours and wondering why more friends from home aren't filling my email inbox with long and lamenting correspondence about how much they miss me. Poor me. I am sinking in the mire.

But I need to give it a rest and recapture that sense of myself that makes me feel whole, and get back into the game of being me. I used to be really good at it. But I think I might need some help. Maybe not from Prozac, but from someone who knows where I can get it, just in case...