Friday, October 31, 2008

Dead Chicken

We decided Coco should try on last year's Chicken costume to see if it still fit. She was really into it and posed for a few pictures. When I told her we should take it off and reminded her that she was going to be a dinosaur this year she replied, "Yeah, this is dead!" I asked her what dead was to which she replied, "Dead is like the frog in the road that you didn't know was there."

Will I never live this down?

Monday, October 27, 2008

Mirror Mirror on the Wall

I have always enjoyed looking in mirrors. When I was younger I was amazed at every movement I executed. As a dance student I learned in front of a huge mirror. I learned to watch for every flaw, to gain confidence from every successful stride. I learned the joy and surprise that was possible when my body would finally accomplish something for which I had been striving and failing, striving and failing.

I have used mirrors to judge myself. Like a guilty pleasure, a year after Cohen’s birth I stripped down to nothing to shame myself into a metamorphosis. Surely this would make me change my habits. Make me put down that bag of BBQ Lays and finally do away with that frozen stash of Kit Kats in the freezer. But a metamorphosis had already taken place. I found that I was that caterpillar to butterfly story rarely told. The one where the whole amazing process takes place and the fucking bug takes it for granted because her wings didn’t turn out to be the color or shape she had expected.

I took pictures of my flabby self that day in the mirror, hoping the flash might wake the self loathing upon which I have relied faithfully as the voice that gets me to eat better, go the gym… you know lose more weight so I can finally be a better person. But the flash had no effect. No matter how I tried when I looked in the mirror, when I flipped through the photos, I could not see that terrible obese woman which I have always had the power to hate into a smaller size. I could not, on that day, hate every dimple, sag, every bulge where a curve used to be. I could only see a good mother. I could finally see a good mother.

Before having carried and birthed and nursed Cohen my body had been a tool, only good for the task it performed, never good just in and of itself. My body had gotten me things that I wanted, and brought to me attention; some as I craved it and some I wish I had never received. This vessel showed me many pleasures before becoming a mother, but it never could retain the value of its actions until Cohen.

On that day when I tried to belittle myself once again I could see nothing that needed changing. The inability to need to change completely disarmed my hatred. It is not that I one day looked at my postpartum body and accepted it as beautiful. It is more like looking at the face of your baby the second he or she is born, when his or her face is still smashed in and covered with curd and blood. The nose is huge and flat, the eyes are swollen and too far apart, and this is your baby. This is what it was all about, and what your life will be about from here on. No matter what you see that day you know the work that it took to get that way. You know that eventually the swelling will go down and nose will pop out. I knew that my body would get into better shape over time, and it did. At that moment I also knew it was not the most important thing. I had better things to do than hate myself for the time being. That was a true first.

Now that Cohen is 2 ½, I find myself before another mirror, faced with a new type of self loathing. My child can stand before me at only 3 feet tall and in her I can see my every flaw reflected.

This began with her repeat story telling. Every time I get her out of the car she asks me if I remember that time I hit her with the door. I do not, and denied the action for the first week, but then it occurred to me that maybe she meant last year when I accidentally shut the back door of the old car while she was still under it and bonked her in the head. Foolishly I offer this information in the hopes of connection. “No, not that time,” she states. Now, every trip to Target, to Walgreens, to Grandmas, to pick out a pumpkin… every time she steps out of the van it goes like this…

Cohen: Remember that time you shut the door on me?

Me: No.

Cohen: Remember that time you shut me in my room? Remember when you spanked me? Remember that time you ran over that frog? Don’t run over any cats OK mommy?! Don’t run over any bunnies OK mommy?! Don’t run over any ponies OK MOMMY?!

At first, I was more impressed with her language and imagination than I was concerned with my parental abilities. But two weeks later I began to again feel like the naked flawed lady standing in front a mirror. Is this what she thinks of me? All she thinks about? How much do I yell?

Too much.

I know that I am currently still in the throws of prozac withdrawal. I know that I am stressed out beyond belief due to this economy, my personal finances, and my inability to find work. I know that I am angry for all of these reasons and yet I will not yell at my banker. I do not tell my doctor that she can go to time out if she tells me my pap came back abnormal. I do not swat my former employer on the butt and send her away crying because she doesn’t have work for me. I’m lower than a dog kicker… I take it out on my toddler.

This poor kid who just thinks that everything I do is interesting. I wish I had the time to be so interesting, the ability to stop and giggle. There is a shortage of tolerance in the air these days, and the part that hits and sticks is that I am doing my best. I am functioning at my maximum. I stop every chance I get, I laugh through the frustration, I wake up when I am exhausted, I manage to crack open a “My Little Pony” Book nightly and take a bath with Cohen once a week, but it still hurts. It is hard to look into her little face and see such curiosity regarding my state of mind. I remember looking at my father and mother and wondering what could possibly be so bad. Tom and Jerry was on. We had juice. The dog was being good. What could have been their problem?

At this point in parenting I realize that my self loathing was not extinct, rather it had been hibernating. I transitioned from facing mirrors to facing myself in the reflection of my daughter.

This reaches beyond her recapping my flawed behaviors for me. Now I see my self hatred as I watch her disobey the teacher in her gymnastics class. She refuses to sit in the circle with the other kids. She insists on being in the center. She is entitled. It is no question where that came from. And if I hate that in myself how do I deal with it in her? I cringe. I fold in on myself until I realize I am sitting in a ball outside of her gymnastics class feeling tense and isolated because my kid is being…a kid.

As it turns out I am alright. I sat in the center of the circle, and that led to me getting alot of things in life that would not have otherwise been handed to me. Here again, without knowing, she forced me to look at myself with less judgment and more humanity.

I am 31 years old now, and I still spend my time in front of mirrors, trying to correct mistakes and emulate successes. Trying to teach the toddler at my side how to look with less judgment at us both, and hoping I can learn that lesson in time.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Look...I Pooped

While many parents in the throws of potty training know that sinking feeling I get when my daughter says, “I pooped” and we are nowhere near a bathroom, so may you recognize the slight yet significant difference inferred when she says “Look, I pooped”. Look means the poop is not in the diaper, instead the poop is somewhere outside of the diaper. Somewhere to be found. She is suggesting I find it. This afternoon that place was under the covers of my bed. Up and down my pant leg.

I had lay down with her to try to get her to take a much-needed nap after having spent the morning at a friend’s birthday party at the zoo. She was so overtired by the time that we got into my bed that she was being a sleep terrorist. I was tired too and she took me hostage. Poked my eyes when they closed out of exhaustion. Picked at the dry skin on my bottom lip. Talked and talked and talked. But she was no match for “pregnancy tired” and I fell asleep. Until she said the magic words, ”Look…I pooped”. I sat straight up and asked where. Not because she had ever actually removed turds from her pants as she did this afternoon, but because I have only her heard preface “I pooped” with "look" the two times in her life I forgot to put a diaper back on her after a change and she dropped a loose log somewhere in the house. These times she had come to me as if to say “Hey buddy, something fell out of my butt back there and I am not 100% sure what’s going on but I don’t want to get blamed if the dog eats it before you find it so let’s go”.

This afternoon when she said, “Look, I pooped” it was in the same exact tone she uses to say, “Look, I baked you a cake” before she hands me a pretend chocolate cake from behind her back. She does this when I put her in time out in her room for something. She thinks if she can distract me with cake (which, let’s face it, is a fair assumption) when I come into her room after the duration of timeout to discuss her wrongdoing I will skip the lecture and just enjoy playing with her. This is classic avoidance that she has inherited from both her father and me. She is so pleased with herself when she hands me that fake cake. She is sure that she can undo whatever terrible thing she did to the dog that got her put in timeout in the first place with a little fake cake. She was pleased this afternoon too. Not because she expected that I would wake up pleased that she had smuggled shit pellets into my bed and onto my pant leg, but because she knew this meant we would be getting out of bed. Sleep Terrorist.

I did what any mother would do. I asked her over and over how the poop got out of her diaper? Did she touch it? Did she actually touch poop? I ran a bath and stuck her in it. I called Dan and yelled at him for something that was in no way his fault. I had to yell at him like it was his fault because I was so mad I could not yell at her at all. Instead I got all Joan Crawford if Joan Crawford has issues with avoidance, and told her, “Well, this means you are no longer sleeping in mommy and daddy’s bed”, “if you are old enough to dig around for poop in your pants you are old enough to sleep in your own bed”, and “Well, I really just hope you don’t get sick, because touching poop that came out after eating at the zoo can make you very very sick”.

Effective? I had to walk away. By now Dan was home and sitting with her while she finished her bath. Her response from inside the tub had been, “Yeah, and I don’t eat poop. Little girls who eat poop die, right mom?”

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Chinese Ballet

What happens when a mother charges $45 in dance accessories and decides to pay for a week of dance instead of paying her credit card bill? Her kid gets kicked out of class for dicking around with her best pal. So goes our luck…

Here’s a little background on dance. My good friend Carol started her first adoption the same time I got pregnant with Cohen. It took three years for her referral to go through, but this July she went to get her 3 ½ year old daughter, Molly. I watched Molly a few days a week over the summer. We wanted our daughters to have a summer companion, and of course hoped they would become friends. This was Cohen’s first time having a friend. She has had many day care and park “associates,” but never anyone that I could promise her she would be seeing again.

At the beginning of the fall Carol made other arrangements for Molly as I began to buckle down into my school work and grad school preparations. We made it a point to get together at least once a week so the girls could see each other. I decided to sign Cohen up for Molly’s Chinese ballet class at the Chinese dance school. We meet there weekly and then go to dinner or a park.

The dance class has been a trying experience from the very beginning. The first time that I took Cohen she was so excited to see Molly that she ran right into the class room and played with her until class began. She participated for the first 15 minutes and then realized that she had lost me.

At this studio there is no window where the kids can see the mommies watching – the mothers sit on tiny preschool chairs in a room hidden behind an observation mirror. This means we can see the kids but they have no way of seeing us. This would not have been so problematic had I gotten a chance to point this room out to Cohen before she took off to dance with her friend. For the next 20 minutes I sat in that tiny blue chair, knees buckled under a tiny grey table watching my daughter scream bloody murder. I was assured that I was not needed. The director had it under control as she carried Cohen around inside the studio trying to regain her interest – a transparent attempt to ensure our enrollment. Finally I went in. I decided it was not for anyone else to tell me when my kid needs me, at this point in the game Coco and I have an official understanding.

Carol and I discussed Cohen's meltdown later. She suggested that Cohen being the
minority for the first time in her life may be a factor I should consider. It was a Chinese ballet class filled with little Chinese girls. They were all dressed in pink. I dressed Cohen in black. She was the equivalent of what the ugly ducking would have been had he stayed with the flock and screamed and pecked at the leader. Still, I decided that at 2 ½ she doesn’t distinguish Chinese kids from White kids anymore than she distinguished the Backyardigans from the Wonder Pets. I took her back today.

I was nervous because we were late and I have laryngitis, which meant there would be no time to reassure her of the situation. I could not re-explain the mirror. I was just going to have to shove her through the door and hope for the best.

She grasped the concept of the observation mirror now and took me at my word that I would be watching from the other side. She jumped right into class, just as she had last week. I watched and waited for the meltdown – half hoping she would have it in the first fifteen minutes so I could pack her up and leave without having to pay. But the meltdown never came. Instead she participated. She followed instructions. Here I am again in the tiny chair watching my kid who 2 hours earlier couldn’t figure out how to just sit still while I changed her diaper. Now she is lying on her belly, arching her back and pulling her ankles toward the back of her head for a stretching exercise. There she goes “chasse”ing up and down the length of the room, complete with head held high and hands on her hips. She was amazing. She really did things I didn’t know she was capable of doing. And then she got distracted.

Ten minutes until the end of class she and Molly decided it was more fun to visit than participate. Had the teacher had an assistant instead of trying to man a class with 10 toddlers on her own, the behavior could have easily been corrected. Instead she stopped the music, brought Carol and I our daughters and apologized that they could not remain in class any longer.

Seriously. A couple of toddlers get kicked out for not being able to focus on one adult in a sea of 10 children after 45 minutes of successful participation? If it sounds like I am rationalizing why I wasn’t going to pay… I was. And I didn’t.

We gathered up our little rebels and packed them out into the parking lot. I whisper (in what I have for a voice) that it is a good thing Carol and I were there. This is obviously the point in our daughters’ lives where had they come to class unsupervised they would certainly start smoking in the parking lot outside of Chinese ballet and inevitable promiscuity would follow.

Letter to an Old Friend

It would be embarrassing to reveal how many friends I have let drift out of my realm of communication simply because the acceptable amount of time between contact had passed. I have done the same with this blog.

My struggle has been with my honesty. When Dan went into police work he asked that I not write about it on the blog. Well, anyone who has ever been the partner to someone in police work knows that it swallows your life whole. If I could not write about that I could not write honestly about anything. So I stopped writing. I know, I know… not a very feminist thing to do some of you might say. I let my man’s work stop mine.

Well, no, not really. My marriage is a team in which I am an active member. There are many individual decisions that my husband and I make on a daily basis, but we are in a crucial place now, and have been this last year, where sacrifices have had to be made for the team. I spent this last year in an ǖber-supportive role and as a result felt a connection to Dan that I had never felt before. This year, he is supporting me. He is giving me the night off to go prepare for the LSAT, helping me study, listening to me babble about colleges and potentially moving us all over the country to go to law school in the fall of 2009. With all of the work my current endeavor entails, it would be easy to excuse myself from blogging.

This has been a heavy year in other ways as well. We tried for nine months before finally getting pregnant with our second child. That was a frustrating and alienating time for me. We moved out of our house in Queen Creek and back into town. This was great for us except we ended up being unemployed for the first two months in the new house. Since resolving that issue the people we rented the Queen Creek house to broke their lease and left the house. We have been trying to stay afloat in this economy, batting away the newscasts reporting on “storms ahead” convincing ourselves that it didn’t apply to us and yesterday I realized I was standing in the eye of the storm. We didn’t avoid any of the damage. We couldn’t have.

And so goes our luck. Sure, we couldn’t get pregnant for a while, but then we did. We will have a long awaited son in January. We moved out of Queen Creek with a huge sigh of relief only to face foreclosure and bad credit. Still, we get to spend more time together in town, and the family walks we take down at the lake on the nights that are cool enough are worth every credit card we will be denied over the next 7 years. Our lives no longer revolve around the police force. Instead our focus is on our children and 2 dogs.

I realize now, more than ever, it is an important time to voice and to listen to the current frustrations facing most of us. People are committing suicide, killing themselves and their families because of the state of their finances. Without belittling the importance of money in our lives, credit for our future, it is my intention to assure you once again that I am not defined by my paycheck, nor will I forever be classified by those two credit card payments I missed because I decided it was more important to pay for our daughter to go to a dance class than to make sure Master Card got their payment on time.

Trust me… odds are the choices I am making now are the only choices that can be made... that should have been made in the first place. If we want to survive times of economic hardship we must return a simpler definition of family. Family is for whom I sacrifice. I do not take from the mouths of my children to pay some bullshit credit card bill which went from 0% A.P.R. to 33% A.P.R. plus retroactive interest. Not in this economy. And from now on… not ever.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

This History of Dooby and Bean... To Date

I live in a house that I rent with my husband Dan, near the university. We have a 2.5 year old daughter, Cohen, a baby boy that will be joining the face of our earth in January and two huge dogs named Alby Doo and Dexter.

When I first started this blog Dan and I rented a house near the university. I was working as a paralegal and my life revolved solely around our new pregnancy and the dog. I began “Dooby and the Bean” as a way of documenting my miserable first pregnancy, wrought with awful symptoms. When Cohen was born instead of complaining about symptoms the blog became a way of expressing the wonders of motherhood, the isolation I sometimes felt, and a sounding board for normalcy. Alby Doo “Dooby” and Coco “the Bean” consumed me, pushing and pulling me in and out of my postpartum depression. This blog became an act of survival, and proved to be both cathartic and productive.

Then things changed. Dan and I fell pray to a type of peer pressure unmatched since peg rolling your pants ravaged my middle school circa 1989. All of sudden we felt that the college town in which we lived wasn’t safe enough to raise a child. The car we had been driving was breaking down too often and would surely explode in the near future, no doubt with our kid inside of it. Shouldn’t we own a house? Wouldn’t that be the next responsible step in becoming adults.

We bought a house we never should have been approved to buy in the middle of nowhere. We signed the papers on one of those “balloon mortgages” confident that we could sell before the interest kicked in. Dan’s bike ride to work transformed into an hour and a half car ride each way. I was completely alone in a new town with a 6 month old. We bought a new car because our two junkers couldn’t survive the commute into town. We got credit card offers in the mail. We accepted. I spent my time coping with a decision I felt must be the right one. I stopped writing. Dan was miserable. 3 hours in the car everyday left him no time with Cohen when he got home at night. Then the housing market crash placed a cherry on top of our sad little Sundae.

I went back to work making great money as a paralegal. Dan became a police officer. Doing these things gave us the confidence we needed to remember who we really were. We rented out the house in the middle of nowhere, left our careers for new ones, and moved back into town.

Today, my life is larger than when “Dooby and Bean” first joined it. Dan and I function in a sea of adventures; trying to deal with the budget, the kids, the dogs, the bills, our new ambitions, and mostly importantly, we do all of this while spending a lot more time together.

If I had to summarize this blog, I would say it is about pregnancy, becoming a parent, the details of motherhood so often not discussed, the pressures of marriage and parenthood that can wreak havoc on a young couple, and how we navigate through it, for better or worse, as a team. If my goal is to do anything here, it is to let someone in a similar situation to any detailed on this site know, “You are not alone.”