Procrastinate no more!

Microblog_MondaysI am a creature of habit.

I am also a creature of to-do lists.

Nothing helps quiet my mind better than lots of lovely organized planning. With lists full of items I can cross off.

I like crossing things off. I have been known to add things on to a list that I have already done just so I can cross them off.

For years now I’ve been using the same annual diary/agenda/planner: the Moleskine 12 month weekly planner, large, black, soft cover. It is absolutely perfect for me because one side has the days of the week and the other side has a ruled page for “notes and ideas” (according to Moleskine). I use it for my to-do lists:

This was my week starting the 29th of February 2016 (right in the middle of semester):

2017-01-10-11-28-01

This was my week starting the 6th of June 2016 (so the week before the week P was born):

2017-01-10-11-27-35

Q and I use Google Calendar (we have a joint calendar plus separate work calendars), and there is a paper calendar hanging in our kitchen (usually train-themed, as chosen by E), but these little black books are my brain. I would be completely lost without them. I keep them all because I like the idea that I can look back at these snippets of my day-to-day existence.

And yet, EVERY YEAR, I have the same argument with myself.

They’re not cheap- $25.00 on Amazon or in the stores. And I know that they get discounted once the next year starts. So every year I debate in December whether I should buy one at full price or wait to get a discounted one.

The thing is, the discounted ones are never easily found online. I have to physically go search the stores. Some years I luck out. Other years I have to buy one that isn’t quite right- it’s the pocket version, or it has a hard cover, or it’s the 18 month planner.

This year was no different. I quibbled and delayed until they were all sold out and the best match I could find online was a green one (GREEN! THE HORROR!) that was hard cover AND pocket-sized AND still full-price.

I don’t have time to scour the shops to save 50%. So I ordered the green one and it was finally the straw that broke the camel’s back.

I love my planner and I want it to be exactly the same every.single.year.

It gets more use than probably 90% of what is in our house.

So I swear that this year will be the last year where I have to buy the wrong product because I’m too miserly to buy what I really want.

Do you have a yearly planner you can’t live without? Do you also try to play the waiting game to get it on sale?

This post is part of #MicroblogMondays. To read the inaugural post and find out how you can participate, click here.

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Filed under Butter scraped over too much bread (a.k.a. modern motherhood), Microblog Mondays, My addled brain

A Day In My Life (January 2017)

(I’ve never done one of these before, but I got the idea from Non Sequitur Chica’s post. This turned out to be extremely long and I didn’t take any photos. Bonus points if you actually read all the way through to the end!)

10 January 2017

Turia is 37 years old.
Q. is 39 years old.
E. is 5.5 years old.
P. is 6.5 months old.
The cat is 12 years old.

3:14 a.m.: P wakes up crying. This is early for her to be up for a second feed (she was already up at 11:26 p.m.), so I wait a couple of minutes to see whether she’ll settle herself. She doesn’t, so I get up, put on my housecoat, and trundle down the hall to feed her. While she’s nursing, I rock quietly back and forth, kiss her fuzzy head, and try to stay present in the moment, enjoying the cuddles, rather than letting my brain wake up.

3:33 a.m.: I am back in bed. It’s touch and go whether I’m going to get back to sleep easily but tonight I manage it.

6:09 a.m.: P wakes up and immediate starts squawking and shrieking in a happy, “I’m really awake and excited!” way. I sigh. This is too early for her to wake up for the day since she won’t be able to nap until after we’ve dropped E at school. I get up and look out the window- there was some snow overnight but it seems to have stopped. I go into her room and can immediately tell she needs a diaper change. I put on the big light rather than just the monitor light, unzip her sleep sack, turn off her heater, and put her on the change table. It turns out she is still in the process of filling her diaper but the mess is contained as it’s one of the first real “I’m eating food now!” poos she’s had. I put her in a clean cloth diaper, get her back in the crib, and go deal with the dirty one.

6:14 a.m.: I bring P with me back to bed in the hope that she might nurse and snuggle and maybe fall back to sleep for a few minutes. No dice. She pops on and off the breast and chats to me and Q. (who gets up soon after P and I get in the bed). When the cat appears, P spends her time trying to grab as much fur as she can (while the cat does not help matters by trying to sit on top of me, which puts her within reach of P).

6:47 a.m.: I give up and get up with P. I make the bed while making sure P can’t grab the cat’s tail. We go downstairs.

6:50 – 7:18 a.m.: Downstairs I put some toys on the kitchen floor for P to play with. I make E’s lunch (and think for the gazillionth time that I really need to start making his lunches the night before), sort out my breakfast (overnight oatmeal, English Breakfast black tea, and a glass of water) and P’s breakfast (the last of the jar of carrots), and get the top rack of the dishwasher emptied. Q. is making his breakfast while also cooking a five grain mix to make a salad for lunch. I also remove P three times from the bottom shelf of the bookcase, which is where E’s craft supplies are currently stored. I make a mental note (again) that I need to prioritize baby-proofing the main floor.

7:20 – 7:35 a.m.: I go upstairs and wake up E, who is not impressed with the return to the school day routine. Eventually he asks for Cheerios for breakfast. I give him a kiss (which he accepts grudgingly) and go back downstairs. I get his Cheerios ready (sans milk) and set them out on the table along with his milk and his Vitamin D tablets. I get the bottom rack of the dishwasher emptied. Around 7:30 a.m. I start listening for sounds that tell me E has gotten out of bed as sometimes he needs a nudge. This morning, however, he gets up right on time and gets himself ready without any complaints.

7:40 a.m.: E, P, and I all have breakfast. Q. has mostly finished his and is back in the kitchen putting together the salad. There is the sound outside of our neighbour shovelling his front porch (and possibly ours as well). Q. reports that it is snowing heavily now. E is still grossed out by P eating so eats his Cheerios while facing the other way in his chair, even though we’ve moved P’s high chair so she’s as much out of his line of sight as possible. P is excited about the carrots and eats up almost all of what is left. She insists on also holding the spoon and seems to want to lick the food out with her tongue. When she’s finished I clean up the high chair tray, her bib, and her hands and face and then put her down on the floor with a couple of toys. Then I eat my breakfast. E finishes his bowl of Cheerios but doesn’t touch his milk- fair enough, there was a lot of milk in his cereal bowl. I put the milk back in the fridge for dinner.

7:57 a.m.: I go upstairs to use the bathroom and bring P with me. I put her in the crib and open the curtains so she can look at the snow. My phone buzzes- my weather app has sent me a warning that there is a 95% chance of snow in my area in the next fifteen minutes. The snow is pouring down outside. My app seems to specialize in stating the obvious. I barely get a chance to use the bathroom before E is coming up the stairs shouting, “I have to use the bathroom!”. Q is in the downstairs bathroom showering, so I finish up and get out of E’s way. I go into P’s room and change her diaper as she’s now quite wet. Then I put her back in the crib and go into my room to get dressed.

8:06 a.m.: Dressed, I go back into P’s room and get her out to see if she wants to nurse yet as she hasn’t had a proper feed since the one just after 3 a.m. She isn’t really interested and soon enough E is calling me to ask me to do a check wipe. I put P back in her crib (she protests a bit at this), and help E finish in the bathroom. Decide we might as well brush teeth now as if we go downstairs we’ll only have to come back up to brush them in five minutes. I even have time to floss. It’s clear from the state of my gums I haven’t been making the time to floss over the holidays. E alternates between brushing his teeth, asking me whether I can hear the noise from downstairs (which he says is the vegetables singing in the fridge), and asking me how you make a timer and how much bigger would a timer for an hour be than his two minute timer.

8:13 a.m.: P is really cross now, so I go into her room and pick her up and give her a cuddle. We go back downstairs and I load the dishwasher with one hand while holding her with the other. E runs back and forth in the living room telling a story. I put P down in the living room so she can watch E and she laughs at his antics. I run down into the basement to feed the cat, who has at least now figured out that her food has been moved down there (as P kept cheerfully rolling over to the bowl and unpacking the food). I check my phone on the way back upstairs- there is a photo from E’s Australian Granny of a kangaroo hanging out next door to the beach house where they’re on vacation. I show the photo to E. “Where is the beach?” E wants to know.

8:25 a.m.: I start pulling out all the clothes we need for the school run. I zip the panel back into my winter jacket, find the carrier, and make sure my phone, wallet, and keys are in my little purse and not the diaper bag. E puts on his clothes, complaining the entire time about not wanting to go to school. He was sick yesterday so today is his first day back and he’s having a hard time with the change. I tell him that all the other kids probably felt the same way yesterday and tell him that Q saw one of his friends when he was walking home yesterday after work and E’s friend was having a huge tantrum on the sidewalk. I tell E that J was probably tired and upset about being back at school and after-care. E eventually gets all of his winter clothes on correctly, including his socks, despite originally starting with his jacket and mitts. I get P bundled into her bear suit and put on her hat and then load her into the carrier and zip up the panel. We go into the kitchen to kiss Q goodbye.

8:33 a.m.: We are out the door, five minutes earlier than we really need to be. I tell E we’re leaving a bit early so he can play in the snow at the schoolyard before the bell goes. On the walk to school E asks me to tell him a story involving him and the two cats (the cat we lost last April lives on in his stories). “Can it be a story where they make a snow train?” he asks. I ask whether he means a train that runs on snow tracks or one that uses snow for fuel. He wants a train that uses snow for fuel. So I make up the story as we walk. A few people are out shovelling. The snow is still coming down and it muffles all sound. We stop to listen and E asks why snow does this. I tell him I think it’s because the snow interferes with the ability of sound to travel through the air and hope that I am right. E asks whether rain does the same thing. I say I don’t think it does- rain drowns out sound if it’s pouring. P is getting fat snowflakes on her face and looks resigned.

8:39 a.m.: We arrive at school. We are the first ones at E’s door and there is a whole bunch of snow with no footprints in it yet. I hold E’s backpack as he goes off to explore. There is a thick sheet of ice directly underneath the snow and E is enjoying shuffling back and forth on it. One of his friends comes over and is excited to see him. They have a short back-and-forth conservation about the friend’s upcoming birthday party- it’s always a relief to me to see E responding properly to his age peers. I say hello to a few of the other mums. It feels too late to be saying Happy New Year on the 10th, especially since we missed the first day back because E was sick. E starts to become more and more agitated about going in and asks me repeatedly if I can see his teacher. I point out that she’s not going to come out and stand in the snow before his bell goes.

8:50 a.m.: E’s bell goes, so he takes his backpack from me and goes over to stand in line against the brick wall. His music teacher comes out and I can see E relax- he loves music and he loathes substitute teachers. They march in fairly quickly and E isn’t crying or looking too upset. It’s a smoother drop off than I was expecting. I chat to a couple of other mums and then walk back towards home with one of them as she still has a key to the house from looking after our cat while we were away. She fishes out the key and we chat for a bit longer until I notice that P is getting a dreamy look in her eyes, so I head home. P looks adorable with snowflakes on her eyelashes. She still has carrots on one cheek- didn’t do a good enough job cleaning her up after breakfast. The snow falling in her face is uncomfortable enough that she stays awake on the walk home and I don’t have to take off her hat to make her head cold like I was doing in December. Q has done the first round of shovelling and put the garbage bags we’d thrown out the side door into the bin in the shed.

9:11 a.m.: I walk in the door, get off our winter gear, and straight away take P upstairs. I change her into a disposable diaper (she protests this), put her in her sleep sack and take her down to my room. We sit on the bed and she finally has a good feed. She is falling asleep while nursing as now she’s been up for much too long.

9:23 a.m.: I take P down the hall to her room, switch on the white noise machine, close the curtains, and then call her name loudly several times until she wakes up enough that I can put her in the crib “awake”. She immediately falls asleep. Normally I would sit in the rocking chair and sing lullabies before putting her in the crib and then sit in the chair and read a book while she fell asleep but today I just walk straight out.

9:24 -11:44 a.m.: P naps. I start drafting this post, answer a few work-related emails (the new computer I ordered back in early November is finally available for me to pick up), pay the Master Card bill, email my counsellor and arrange a meeting next week, transfer money into the HISA, claim a few prescriptions online, order a 2017 agenda (and get so annoyed with myself I prep another blog post for the next Microblog Mondays), chat to labmonkey on WhatsApp (who has the unenviable task of trying to balance all the parents wanting to come and meet Spud) and catch up on my blog reading.

11:45 a.m.: Holy cow, is P still sleeping?! Now the internal debate starts: do I wake P up? If I don’t wake P up, we’re getting awfully close to the point where she won’t go down again properly before I have to get E from school (#secondchildproblems). My anxiety starts creeping up. I hate when my children sleep much better than they usually do. I’m not used to it and it makes me nervous they’ve died in their sleep. E is going to be six in May and I still sometimes catch myself panicking about him if he has a big sleep in.

11:55 a.m.: Ok. That is a two and a half hour nap. I am sure I will regret this in the afternoon but I decide to wake P up so there’s a chance she can nap before we have to pick up E. I go up the stairs and enter her room. She’s on her back, awake, playing with her feet through the sleep sack, so she must have woken up right before I decided to come up. I get her out of the sleep sack, change her into a cloth diaper, get her dressed in a onesie and pants, put emu oil on the dry patches on her face, and take her to my room to nurse. She’s not interested- pops off as soon as I get a letdown. We giggle at each other in the mirror and then I take her downstairs.

12:05 p.m.: I put P on the floor in the living room near the basket of blocks E got out yesterday. She spends a happy few minutes taking blocks out and chewing them while I take some pictures with my big camera. I am having trouble getting a precise focus when I’m shooting with a wide aperture. Not sure if the camera and the lens aren’t communicating properly or if it’s me. It’s probably me.

12:20 p.m.: P is still playing with the blocks so I decide to go clean up the kitchen and wash the dishes from breakfast (and Q’s salad making) that don’t go in the dishwasher. P gets fussy half way through so I bring her and some of the blocks into the kitchen where she proceeds to roll around until she’s directly under the sink (and in between my feet).

12:40 p.m.: Kitchen is tidied. I want to get lunch going but P needs to nurse before I want her to have any solid food. I offer again in the kitchen but she’s still refusing to get down to business. This isn’t usual for her- normally she’ll happily nurse every three hours like clockwork. I suspect her tummy is bothering her or it’s teeth. Feels like she’s been teething for ages now but her gums are now super puffy. I decide to cut P’s nails as they’re getting long again and she’s starting to scratch herself. P sits between my legs and I only have to add a couple of non-canonical verses to “The Wheels on the Bus” (there’s a seal and a monkey on the bus) to get it done.

12:54 p.m.: Phone call from E’s school. E is having a very rough day. The teacher and I talk about it and we both agree it is probably the stress and frustration of going back after the holidays at home. We’ll talk about it with E after school.

1:05 p.m.: I again try to get P to nurse. She doesn’t have a great feed but it’s enough that we can now do lunch. We go back downstairs and I mix up sweet potato with her baby oatmeal. I have a five grain salad with dill and kale and red pepper, thanks to Q. Left to my own devices I would probably be eating peanut butter on toast. P eats with enthusiasm for about five minutes and then starts yanking at her bib. She is clearly all done.

1:50 p.m.: Time to try for the second nap. P finally nurses properly. It’s clear from her behaviour that her tummy is the issue. She’s eaten a lot of solid food over the last couple of days and her system must be struggling to adjust.

2:03 p.m.: P is almost falling asleep while nursing. I debate just lying down with her and letting her have a nurse nap but as soon as I lie down she wakes right up. I take her down to her room instead.

2:16 p.m.: P is desperate to fall asleep but can’t manage it. Now she needs a diaper change. Hopefully her tummy will feel better.

2:20 p.m.: P is back in the crib and proceeds to spend the next fifteen minutes shrieking, rolling, chirping, and patting her hand against her mouth to make a “wha-wha-wha” sound like she is some stereotyped Native American. The cat pushes the door open, meows under the crib, and then jumps into my lap. P is ecstatic at the distraction.

2:35 p.m.: I am just about to call it quits and get her out when P goes very quiet and stops thrashing about.

2:37 p.m.: She’s asleep. Brilliant. She has time for a twenty minute nap before I have to wake her up to go get E. I’m almost tempted to see if one of my neighbours is home and able to come and sit in the house while I’m out, except that I know I have to talk about the day with E’s teacher and I promised E we could go sliding if it kept snowing (which it has). I don’t want to change the plan if he’s had a rough day. Hopefully P will sleep in the carrier.

2:40 p.m.: I go downstairs and pump until it’s time to wake P up. I pump 50 ml, which is my usual amount left over if P’s had a good feed.

2:55 p.m.: I wake up P, stuff her into her winter gear, and put her in the carrier. P is not remotely pleased by this turn of events. She is in tears as we head out the door. I zip the panel up all the way so she can’t see anything and put her hat over her eyes for good measure. I grab the crazy carpet off the front porch.

3:05 p.m.: Pick up E. Amazingly he managed to pull himself back together after his rough morning and had a perfect afternoon. Everyone agrees it was a decent day overall.

3:15 p.m.: We take the crazy carpet to the field. The snow is rapidly turning to freezing rain and ice pellets. Underneath the snow on the ground is a slick layer of ice. I almost fall down as we’re walking. The snow is perfect for snowmen so E gives up on sliding and starts to roll a huge snowball. Eventually it gets too big for him to push by himself and some other kids help him. When it gets too big for them to move any further they start making a new snowball while E sits happily on his. My tactics with P appear to have worked! I can’t see her eyes but she’s making very sleepy sounds. Have a moment where I feel like I’m rocking being a mother of two- everyone’s needs are being met.

4:11 p.m.: We get home to find that Q. has come back early from the library before the weather gets any worse. He’s shovelled the sidewalk again. P sleeps all the way home and wakes up on the front porch as I unlock the door. I hang up all the wet clothes while E unpacks his backpack. E wants hot chocolate with his snack and we have just enough left. He refuses to eat the leftover banana bread from his lunch. I tell him there’s no more snack unless he eats it. He insists he will be fine just with the hot chocolate. While E’s drinking his hot chocolate I clean up all his lunch containers. P is happily rolling around on the floor.

4:30 p.m.: E is finished his hot chocolate and writes an apology note for the lunchroom monitor; she was so upset by his behaviour that she left me a note in his lunch bag- it’s the first time this has happened. E says he understands that playing on ice is dangerous and even though he was having fun he needed to listen to her when she asked him to stop.

4:40 p.m.: E does his English reading practice. He sight reads one book really well and then reads another one he knows. P is still rolling around on the floor- she’s over by the bookcase unpacking her books.

4:55 p.m.: I set E up with his videos (he’s been on a Thomas kick for the last few days). I nurse P and then pump again as I need some more for tomorrow to make up her oatmeal. P takes advantage of my being tethered to the pump to roll over to where E keeps his toys. She comes very close to pulling a large bin of Lego down onto her face. Her reach is surprising and it’s clear that she’s intentionally trying to stretch up to pull things down that are above her. She rolls over to the other coffee table and attempts to pull down the magazine that’s dangling over the edge but can’t quite reach it.

5:30 p.m.: Q. is up from his study and is making dinner. E. is running around telling a story. P is watching him and laughing. I set the table and tidy up all the bits and pieces lying around (receipts that need to go into the baggie to be reconciled, recycling to go downstairs, mail for Q., etc.). I come back from a trip to the basement and find that P has discovered the cables for the internet modem and is chewing on one of them. Not good. I remove the baby and again resolve to baby-proof this week.

6:04 p.m.: Dinner is ready! Q. has whipped up penne with calamari with bread crumbs, parsley, and a lemon, oil, and garlic sauce. P gums on some pasta while the rest of us tuck in (we all opt for seconds, even E). P ends up on the floor once she’s bored with the pasta and immediately rolls underneath E’s chair and gets stuck.

6:36 p.m.: E has finished his dinner and is clearing his spot. P is getting fractious. Q. is still finishing but I take P upstairs to get her ready for bed before her mood degenerates any further. We’ve done well to even have her with us at dinner- usually she’s in bed by now. Before going up I ask E to please clean up P’s toys and blocks that are strewn all over the living room. Upstairs, I get P into a clean diaper, her sleeper, and her sleep sack. She’s a little difficult to get to nurse but she does settle eventually. Once she’s done I take her down to her room, turn on her white noise machine, turn on her heater, and sit down in the rocking chair. She puts her head on my shoulder as I rock and sing lullabies and I can feel her relaxing. I give her a kiss goodnight, tell her I love her very much and I’ll see her in the morning, and put her down in her crib. As I sit and rock in the darkness, waiting for her to fall asleep, I can hear E picking a fight with Q about whether or not he’s going to come up for a bath. Q eventually comes upstairs, runs the bath, and starts to pretend he’s bathing E. E comes running upstairs, gets his clothes off, and gets in the bath, where he proceeds to be extremely rude to Q. I’m so frustrated. E can be so very horrid to his father and is far more difficult to deal with than he is with me.

7:11 p.m.: P is asleep, so I take over from Q, who heads downstairs to finish tidying up the kitchen. E gets a few more minutes in the bath. I try to talk to him about his behaviour. E insists that he just doesn’t like what his father tells him to do (even though it is exactly the same things that I would tell him to do). E gets out, dries himself off, and puts on his pjs while I drain the bath. He goes downstairs to apologize to his father.

7:20 p.m.: E opts to read one of his Highlights High Five magazines for his bedtime story. We get about halfway through the magazine before it’s time to brush teeth. E goes into the bathroom, uses the toilet, and brings his toothbrush, toothpaste, and timer back to his room. He does most of the brushing and then I do a round. I inspect his two loose teeth- not much change since the last time I checked.

7:35 p.m.: E opts for more snuggles instead of his book time, so I lie down in his bed with him. We talk a bit about the day.

7:40 p.m.: E doesn’t want me to go, but I stand firm. He gets one more kiss goodnight and then I’m out the door.

7:40 – 7:50 p.m.: I wipe down P’s high chair, the counters, and the table, while the kettle boils for tea. I have to go back upstairs once to help E. turn off his side lamp once his last five minutes of book time are over. Q. is eating ice cream and reading for the tutorials he unexpectedly has to teach tomorrow (one of his TAs is in the hospital with pneumonia).

7:50 –  8:20 p.m.: I read the final response to the readers’ reports on our book proposal which Q. has drafted. I pick up a couple of mild grammatical errors but otherwise it looks good.

8:25  – 9:07 p.m.: I add to this blog post.

9:08 – 9:25 p.m.: I waste time on Facebook. I have refused to put Facebook on my phone, which means I only check it when I’m on my ancient laptop, so the time I waste on it is fairly minimal.

9:30 p.m.: Q. and I get ready for bed. My brain is having trouble shutting down- I shouldn’t have been on the computer right up until bedtime.

10:20 p.m.: I am still awake. P. wakes up. Seriously? This is very early for her. I wait ten minutes to see if she is going to settle but she just gets more agitated so I get up and go and nurse her.

10:47 p.m.: I am back in bed. Outside it is now pouring rain. At last I fall asleep.

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Filed under Blink and you'll miss it, Daily Life

(Not) The First Day Back

Microblog_MondaysE should be back at school today but he’s ended up with one extra day of holidays due to vomiting yesterday. So instead he’s had a lazy day in his pjs and has been generally cheerful (once he finally stopped being too hangry to eat breakfast when he first woke up).

I’m the one who’s out of sorts.

I miss our routine.

I was looking forward to seeing all the other Mums at drop off.

I was looking forward to some quiet time when P was napping.

I was looking forward to sitting down with a cup of tea and organizing what I need to get done over the next couple of weeks. I function best with to-do lists and planning. Right now I have a whole bunch of amorphous “I should do this” thoughts floating around in my head, and I find that quite stressful. They’re easier to quiet when they’re written down somewhere.

I was looking forward to having a few hours most days without E’s incessant questions. I am so glad he is so curious but it can be exhausting, particularly when his questions outstrip my ability to give accurate, detailed answers. Currently his main interests are the universe and microbes (the macro and the micro), neither of which is an area of strength.

I feel a little guilty feeling the way I do, as E is a homebody at heart and would love nothing more than to be able to stay at home, with me, all day, every day. I get it- he’s an introvert, just like I am. The difference between us is he can recharge by being with me, whereas for me to recharge I need to be alone.

I miss school, even if he doesn’t.

If you have children, do you look forward to the end of the holidays and the return to the usual routine?

This post is part of #MicroblogMondays. To read the inaugural post and find out how you can participate, click here.

 

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Filed under Brave New (School) World, E.- the sixth year, Microblog Mondays

New year, old grief

I’m not sure what I thought was going to happen.

For months now, my family has been marching to the drum of “just get through 2016”. And even though it threw up one more unexpected complication (in that my poor Mum developed shingles right after Christmas, which meant that we couldn’t go and see her since P. isn’t yet vaccinated), in the end we all sent each other relieved/celebratory messages when the clock finally clicked over (or the next morning in my case since the idea that I will stay up until midnight, even to see a festering, wretched year out, is laughable).

And then 2017 got started in a big way with the birth of labmonkey’s son (on New Year’s Day, no less). I’m excited to meet the little guy, and excited that P & E will have a close cousin (geographically speaking), and relieved that everything went relatively well (actual message to a good friend of mine: “My sister had her baby and no one died!”).

And yet.

*********

My mother is still widowed.

I am still wrestling with what I discovered when I went to stay with my mother for a week in October. As her executor I helped her sort out a number of administrative issues still outstanding from my stepfather’s estate. Along the way I learned, to my abject shock and horror, that my stepfather had been steadily digging himself and my mother deeper and deeper into a financial hole, one that within a few years, if he had lived, they might not have been able to get themselves out of.

It has changed my memories of him.

It has forever altered our last few conversations, when he lay in his hospital bed and spent so much time telling me (telling all five of their children) that he could die at peace because he knew that my mother would be looked after financially.

It wasn’t true. My mother is not facing a lifelong sentence of poverty in her retirement solely because my stepfather died the day before his 65th birthday and not on the day itself (which would have invalidated the life insurance policy that has meant my mother could square their debts and start with no financial burdens, although no financial cushion either).

My mother should be able to be comfortable. She should be able to do some travelling. She should be able to spoil her grandchildren a little bit (because she will always spoil others and never herself), but she needs some luck in the next year or two for that to be true.

And it was so very nearly a disaster.

I don’t remember my dreams very much any more- too many nights of broken sleep thanks to P. But when I do dream about my stepfather, I’m usually fighting with him about his funeral.

I’m sorry that he’s dead.

I’m relieved that he died.

I’m carrying so much anger and there’s nowhere for it to go.

*******

And then there’s my Dad.

Because of the shingles, we ended up staying with my stepmother for the entire visit. We saw as much of my Dad as we could, but juggling two kids in an ICU room is not exactly easy. It will be easier when they have bought a new house (or renovated their current house), but this visit really drove home that it will never be easy again.

I don’t dream very much about my Dad either, but there was one dream, the first dream, that I will never forget. I had it in September, when E. had started school and P. was still sleeping well and I finally had a bit of quiet space to myself. In the dream, we drove up to their house and Dad answered the door. He was old Dad, the Dad from before the accident, right down to what he was wearing (black jeans and a green pullover sweater that my youngest sister had bought for him). He invited us in, and then the dream jumped to the dinner table and Dad was pouring wine for everyone. In the dream, I said to him, “Wow, Dad, so the operation with the pacer gave you back the use of your arms!” And then, in the dream, everything went blurry and grey and Dad’s face became so sad and there was a long pause before I finally said, “But how are you walking?”

Even in my dreams, I knew what I was seeing was impossible.

It still hurts so much.

It is worse when I see him.

When I’m at home and getting his emails or Skyping, it’s easy to take the most positive view of the situation possible, to focus on the future and the next steps that need to happen, to plan and organize. It becomes possible for my mind to skirt around the realities of my father’s new life.

You can’t skirt around it when your son is helping your father eat his dinner and casually wanders off after putting a piece of naan bread in your father’s mouth and all your father can do, your great, tall, powerful father, this pillar of strength in your childhood, is open his eyes really wide and make some noises around the bread that is clogging up his mouth so that you notice and come over and take it out.

My father is a real-life superhero. He has chosen to embrace the life that he has been handed, a life unimaginable from the one he was living a year ago. He has defied the statistics and the likely outcomes and the risk factors time and time again. In the last eleven months he has relearned to eat and to talk, twice. He has mastered using an eye tracker to control a laptop and has moved on to voice-controlled software. He can drive a power wheelchair with his head. He is on the diaphragm pacer (and off the ventilator) fifteen hours a day, every day.

He wants to live at home.

He wants to travel.

I honestly believe they will be writing about him in medical journals.

I could not be prouder.

But every time I see him my heart breaks again.

**********

I don’t cry very much these days.

This surprises me, as I used to weep at everything even before I had children.

When I saw Star Wars: The Force Awakens, back in December of 2015, when I was pregnant with P., I cried for pretty much the entire last third of the movie, plus the entire way back home (real ugly crying too).

I cried a lot in February, and March, and April.

But I don’t cry anymore.

I know I haven’t processed my grief, my anger, my loss.

I know it’s all sitting there under the surface.

I don’t know if I’m not crying because I’m just worn too thin to feel or if I’m afraid if I start crying and feeling I might never stop.

*******

I’m so angry.

There are lots of healthy, happily retired couples in my neighbourhood. They like to go and have breakfast together and read the paper, or they have morning tea with scones, or they have lunch with wine and salad and paninis. I see them when I’m out walking (always with one or two children in tow).

I hate them.

It is an instinctive, visceral reaction when I see them.

My parents should be doing that too.

*************

2017 happened.

2016 ended.

My mother used to like to say that “The calendar fixes everything.”

Time heals all wounds, and all that.

But the calendar didn’t make it better.

It didn’t make it go away.

There was no magic, no miracle.

No unexpected happy ending.

We’re still moving forward, one day at a time, in a reality that we could never have imagined a year ago.

Time heals all wounds.

I don’t know how much more time I’m going to need.

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Filed under Family, Grief, Loss

News of the World

Microblog_MondaysLast night, Q. subscribed us to The Globe & Mail (online access). This means we can now both download a virtual copy of the newspaper onto our iPads every day. It’s a better option than just paying for full access to the website because a) Q. likes the discipline of reading an actual paper rather than just flitting from story to story and b) The newspaper is available offline once you download it, which means Q. can read it while commuting.

It’s not cheap.

It works out to be basically $1/day, and I have to admit, I balked a little when I totaled up in my head the full cost for a year.

But Q. was really excited about it, and he so rarely wants something that it was hard to argue the point.

And then he said this:

“I really think, given the current climate, that those of us who can afford it have a moral obligation to support reputable media outlets.”

Word.

If more people read the paper instead of whatever random “news” story popped up on their feed or was shared by their friends, maybe things would look pretty different right now.

It’s small potatoes, in the grand scheme of things.

But it’s something we can do.

This post is part of #MicroblogMondays. To read the inaugural post and find out how you can participate, click here.

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The best silver lining

2016 has been a horrible year.

I will be glad to say goodbye to it.

But then there is this:

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Four stockings, when we had been certain there would only ever be three.

I am so grateful.

Merry Christmas to all of my readers (who celebrate it). Wishing everyone peace, love, joy, and laughter in 2017.

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Filed under Family, Joy

The sixth month

Dearest P.,

Happy (belated, I’m sorry) half-birthday! Or, as your big brother would say, “Happy Food Day!” (he’s been really looking forward to you being big enough to start eating solid food). You can stop getting bigger any time now. It feels like I blinked and this month vanished. Yet all I have to do is look at you to realize just how much you’ve changed.

I was a little surprised at your six month appointment to discover that you’re now 27.5 inches long (still off the charts for height) and weigh 14 lb 4 oz (down to the 3oth percentile for weight). I feel like you grew so much more. I’ve started to really notice it in my back and my wrists if I carry you around the house for too long, and I’ve removed any clothes from your dresser that were 6 months or smaller. You pretty much only wear 9 month clothing now (or 12 month pants with cloth diapers on). We also switched you over to the 6-18 month sleep sacks. You’d outgrown all the 0-6 month ones (except the longer Grobags) before you were five months old, but I kept squeezing you into the Grobags because you were so far off their minimum weight. I finally had to just make the swap. You took it in your stride; in fact, I think you like having more fabric down around your feet to play with when you’re getting ready for a nap. And we moved you to the next size of prefolds (again, well before you hit the weight limit). You’re just a super lean, super long baby! Lastly, we shifted you out of your infant bucket seat to the convertible car seat. You still had a couple of inches to go in the bucket but we knew you would have outgrown it by February or March and we wanted to be able to pass it on to your cousin who’s coming along in early January. You seem happy enough in the new seat and the baby in the mirror is still there to smile at.

I know I said last month you really became a baby on the move, but that was nothing compared to what you got up to this month! Right from the very beginning of the month you figured out how to pivot on your belly to change what you were looking at, and it didn’t take too long before you were able to combine that movement with your expertise at barrel rolling to produce what we call “rolling with intent”. There’s no crawling yet, but you are remarkably fast now, and we’re going to have to thoroughly baby-proof the main floor of the house once we’re back from travelling over the holidays as I’m getting very tired of having to constantly remove you from the cat food, the water bowl, your brother’s books, the boot tray, etc. We set up the Christmas tree, put you down in front of it, and realized that we’d just provided you with even more motivation to get wriggling! You are a constant source of frustration for your brother as you roll with military precision into the train track he set up lovingly underneath the tree. You are desperate to chew on all the tiny wheels and pull apart all the carriages.

What’s impressed me the most this month is how you’ve learned how to navigate the tiny step between our kitchen and the rest of the main floor. This was the step that your brother famously face-planted off of when he first learned to crawl, just as your Daddy and I were standing right next to it discussing where we should put a baby gate. You do still occasionally misjudge and barrel roll right over (landing with a very surprised thump), but most of the time you’re able to push and wriggle and roll until you slide down feet first. You always look very pleased with yourself as you escape into the living room when I’m making breakfast. By the end of the month you could get your chest and belly off the ground entirely, or get your knees right up under your bum, and you’d mastered using your knee or foot to push yourself over rather than launching an arm into the air and hoping the weight of your head would pull you over.

Your favourite things are (in order): 1. Your big brother; 2. The (long-suffering) cat; 3. All the plastic links from your play gyms, which I’ve attached into a long chain; 4. Sophie the Giraffe; 5. The panda from your play gym (his arms and legs are perfect for sucking on, it seems); and 6. The musical caterpillar that I put in your crib to keep you entertained when I’m in the shower or washing my hands. You love banging your hands (or a toy) on the hardwood floor. You’ve also started tossing your toys over the side when sitting in your high chair. Quite often you send one sailing into the abyss and then you look at your Daddy or me and make a clear “heh-heh” chortle. You also love “reading” books. We sit on the floor and I prop you up between my legs and then you try desperately to grab the books to eat them as I read them. You start to fuss and cry if I wedge one out of your hands to read, so usually we compromise and you chew on one book while I read another.

You’re not showing any interest in sitting yet- you’re far too busy rolling around exploring your environment. You particularly enjoy wedging yourself under chairs and licking anything inappropriate (the top choices being stairs and the cat scratching post). And you’re still boasting a 100 percent gummy smile despite spending the entire month looking like you’re going to cut a tooth or two at any moment. You have lots to say, and our day is punctuated by a wide range of chortles, coos, shrieks, grizzles, gasps, and songs, but they’re all vowel sounds at this point. I’m sure babbling is right around the corner. We’re all still enjoying your full body smiles and arm flaps of excitement. You’re becoming quite a good traveller in the car. We had some longer drives this month- to go to the baby shower for your cousin (coming soon!) and to cut down our first live Christmas tree. On both occasions you were happy to just fall asleep in the car even if it wasn’t your usual nap time, and you even once fell asleep without crying in stop-start traffic (normally you prefer the smooth and steady vibrations of highway driving). We’re very hopeful this might make for relatively smooth driving over the holidays.

Finally, finally, I can report some good news when it comes to sleep. I’m not going to lie- you and I hit rock bottom this month. At the start of the month you were still waking up four or five times (or more) every night. You hadn’t put together a stretch longer than three hours since before you were four months old and I was reaching the stage where I couldn’t be a good Mum to you or to your brother. So we did something I swore up and down I would never do- we let you cry. You woke up one night at 10:15 and I checked your diaper and gave you a cuddle and put you back in the crib and sat in the room with you and told you it was bedtime and then listened to you as you cried and cried and cried. Honestly, I thought you had it figured out in the first ten minutes as your crying tapered off and you started to make sleepy sounds. But then you escalated again. This was a pattern you repeated over and over and over again. You would almost go to sleep and then you’d suddenly start to cry again. At 12:45 a.m., I gave up and fed you. You were so excited and happy to be out of the crib that instead of nursing and falling right back asleep again like you normally did, you stayed awake to smile at me and make your happy pterodactyl noises and show how manifestly not scarred you were by the experience. It was after 2:00 a.m. before I finally got you asleep again, and then you still woke up at 5:00 at your usual fussy/gassy time.

I was convinced the entire evening had been a total disaster. But then something amazing happened. The next night you didn’t wake up until after 1 a.m., and the night after that you slept until after 2 a.m.! What changed, we think, was that I started sleeping in the basement with your Daddy (he’d been sleeping down there for weeks so he could function at work), which meant we didn’t wake you up when we went to bed. When you did wake up, I’d go upstairs to feed you and then I’d sleep the rest of the night in our room. For the first few nights I kept waking up in a panic at 11:30 or midnight, thinking you were crying and I hadn’t heard you. I was so used to you getting up all the time.

The whole thing made it clear that you were ready to be in your own room, so we moved the crib a week and a half before you turned six months old. We moved it (and lowered the mattress) the same weekend we moved you up a size in sleep sacks and prefolds and changed your car seat. There were a lot of changes in a very short amount of time, but you sailed through it all. And your night sleep has continued to be remarkably good. Many nights you only wake up at 3 or 4 a.m. and then go back to sleep until 6:30 or so. A bad night now means you’re up around 1 and then again around 4, but even that’s a massive improvement over what was happening previously. And you always go back to sleep in the crib if you wake up around 5 or 5:30 a.m., which used to be almost impossible.

And, the most exciting thing of all, you now put yourself to sleep completely independently at bedtime and at naps. You no longer nurse at bedtime until you get really sleepy- we nurse with the lights on and then you go into the crib wide awake and you settle yourself. And for naps I can now put you in the crib as soon as you’re done nursing and I’ve sung you a lullaby. I don’t have to try to settle you on my shoulder until you’re very sleepy, and I don’t have to pick you back up again in the crib when you get really tired and start to cry. You just roll around and talk to yourself and play with your sleep sack until you’re ready to sleep, and then you roll over onto your right side (always your right side), bang your head against the mattress a couple of times, and close your eyes. You usually fall asleep perpendicular to the long sides of the crib. I’m still sitting in the room while you fall asleep as you’re in a bit of a pattern of producing a dirty diaper in the crib and needing a change before you can nap, but otherwise you do it all yourself, and I’m so very proud of you.

I’m not sure if you would have consolidated your naps anyway or if we have your new independence to thank for it but you’ve also settled into a fantastic nap routine this month. Your first nap is usually 90 to 120 minutes and your second one is generally an hour or even longer. We’ve been lucky this month in that Grannie was visiting at one point and your Daddy has been able to work at home a fair bit, which means I don’t have to wake you up every time to go get your brother from school. You absolutely hate taking a catnap in the late afternoon and you fight me, even if you’re really tired, so we’ve decided that if you sleep until I have to get your brother (or even a bit later if I can leave you at home) then you’re ok to get through to 6:30 when we just put you straight to bed for the night. If you wake up from your second nap before 2:50 p.m., the late afternoon is a struggle. I wish it wasn’t winter outside as I know if I could put you in a carrier and go for a walk you’d fall asleep for that last catnap, but your brother and I don’t really want to be wandering the streets in the cold and the dark. The nap routine does make it a bit of a challenge to get anything done outside the house as your awake time overlaps with when I should be eating lunch, and I can’t push your awake time at all as otherwise you go down too late to have a good nap before your brother gets out of school. But I’m not complaining- having a well rested baby is wonderful, and I’m also enjoying the chance to have a cup of tea and maybe even read a book.

We’re entering the golden age of babyhood now, and even though I know I’m going to be chasing you all around the house very soon, I can’t help but look forward to what’s coming. Your personality is really starting to emerge. You’re so cheerful and chatty and curious. You charm everyone you meet with your huge brown eyes and your cheeky smile. I never get tired of the smile you give me when I go to get you out of your crib in the morning or after a nap. Your whole body shows how much you love me. I love you just as much.

Love always,
Mummy

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Filed under Letters to P., P.- the first year