Friday, July 31, 2009

A Few Bullets at the End of the Week

  • Well, it's looking pretty definite and official-- my parents are moving to Chicago. They actually seem somewhat better now that decisions are being made, and maniacally busy now to boot. I talked to them on the phone one day this week when my dad told me about a bunch of stuff they are going to do to get their house ready to sell, and when I went over to visit them less than 24 hours later, they had painted a bathroom, installed all new faucets and hinges and door knobs in that bathroom, nearly emptied out two closets, and so forth. I felt a little baffled that it was possible for two people to get so much accomplished in so little time because I have become accustomed to small-children-and-babies levels of accomplishment when I feel good that I manage to stay caught up on our laundry and feed us. Someday, will I too manage such seemingly impossible levels of productivity?
  • I went to a La Leche League meeting this week, which is always nice and cheers me up and makes me feel like I've found MY PEOPLE. It is quite funny to sit in a room with all these other moms and hear everyone discussing cloth diapers and where to find local free-range eggs and making your own baby food like it is NORMAL or something. It's refreshing and reduces the whole cultural isolation feeling. But then sometimes refusing vaccines comes up and I realize, "Hmm, I guess you can't agree with everyone on everything."
  • I am at a low ebb as far as energy and sleep and whatnot. I find that these things come and go as the girls go through more and less independent phases, Violet's nursing at night increases or decreases, and Rob's commitments at work leave him various amounts of time to be here. I'm sure the drama and stress of my parents' situation, my reactions to summer in Texas, and so forth do not help. I believe I tweeted this a few days ago, but lately I have felt like I would pay actual money to be able to take a nap. I wonder what the going rate is for a good nap? I wonder how many other people, parents or not, feel similarly? I do remember reading in some magazine a while back that sleep is the new sex, and I get it. I really do.
  • I am not really exercising right now, which is NOT GOOD. Violet has taken to indulging in only these super short naps (unless she is napping with me), so short that I cannot even get through the 20 minutes of 30 Day Shred. She is still screaming her protest at childcare at the gym (or church). And it is too hot for me to stomach the idea of walking outside, especially with Violet somehow strapped to me (we only have a single jogging stroller). I am trying to come up with solutions to this problems and so far I have come up with getting up early to exercise before Rob leaves for the day (see previous bullet to deduce my feelings on this option) and somehow trying to exercise for 2-3 minutes at a time (which is how I manage to check email, blog, sew, etc). The exercise/tiredness issue is one I have contemplated before, as magazines and experts seem always trying to convince me that exercising will make me less tired rather than more. I don't know; I remain dubious.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Parental Units

There have been all sorts of happenings in our parents' lives this past week and we've been spending a lot of time thinking about them and chatting on the phone and whatnot with them. Rob's mom had a routine colonoscopy (last week I think?) and they found a cancerous mass. They whisked her off to the hospital on Monday for surgery and things seem to be going well now. She went home at the end of the week and is now gingerly up and about, apparently on the road to an uncomplicated recovery. The pathology came back on her cancer and that also appears to be excellent news, with no spreading or anything. It seems that they caught it at a stage where it is easily dealt with, so lesson learned for us all-- don't avoid all the recommended cancer screenings. The outlook is now very positive, but it has still been a week of concern and uncertainty here for us far away from them in their sunny California town, and I'm certain a lot more intense feelings for them as they deal with a dramatic diagnosis and major surgery and all that out of the blue. And right after her birthday, the unlucky woman. She had to go into the hospital for her surgery the day after her birthday so she spent the day not eating and taking the medications to prepare for it. Fun, right?

My parents' week was also eventful. My dad (who's an electrical engineer) has been out of work since January, his job having fallen victim to this recession we keep hearing so much about. Getting laid off was totally unexpected to him (and thus all of us of course) and wow, did the current economic climate seem PERSONAL all of the sudden. The past months have been full of ups and downs and a lot of mental processing for my parents; like with anyone you love, I just wanted it to be FIXED and for them to be happy and secure. Their original goal was to stay in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area; they moved here when my mom was pregnant with me, lo these many years ago, and this has been Home with a capital H for them. They are in a house they planned to retire in and felt settled-- profoundly, comfortably settled. The first months of his job search were spent with changing location not an option, but as the months have passed, his severance has run out, and the initial mad flurry of job possibilities have settled into the quiet of this recession's hiring scarcity, they have become faced with moving seeming more of a necessity. One of the companies that made my dad an offer earlier in the year came back to him recently to see if they could convince him to be interested (in a job he would be really excited about, fortunately) and thus, my parents are now confronted with the very real possibility of moving to Chicago.

There is an opportunity for us all to go, "Hmm, life's funny," because they actually moved FROM Chicago to Ft. Worth in 1978 and this process has been complicated by the fact that they did not enjoy their couple of years in Chicago back then. Thirty-plus years changes a city, of course, and their life situation has definitely changed as they are no longer fresh out of grad school in their first "real" jobs. Anyway, they spent a good bit of this past week up in Chicago, letting the company bring them up to visit and see the part of town where they would work and live. We spent Saturday with them after they returned and their stress and heartache are nearly palpable. They are confronting a huge life change that is unplanned for and unwanted-- they're confronting it with much grace and acceptance, I must add, but also with sadness for what they thought the rest of their life was going to look like. I wish I could somehow transfer some of my own wanderlust and glee at the idea of moving to their melancholy hearts, but no, they are the ones who will likely have to go, lukewarm to the idea or not. It is certainly backwards from all our expectations, as we ALL expected that Rob and I would be the ones to move away from Dallas and leave my parents behind. From the depths of my own selfishness, I feel disgruntled because their presence here was always #1 on the list of things I like about living in Dallas. I guess that how very affordable everything is gets the top place now?

While they were there in Chicago, they looked at a dozen houses or so with a realtor, just to get an idea of what the neighborhoods are like and "try on" what life might be like there. I am really glad they got to do this, and one reason is because they found this house online. They did not actually go to see this house in person, just to clarify, but seeing the pictures was enough. Go ahead, go click on the link and look at the pictures. The exterior looks cute, right? Keep going. Having bought houses twice and sold once in the past 5 years, I just cannot get over those pictures. I am giggling again that someone actually PUT THOSE PICTURES ON THE INTERNET. "Not your typical Betty Crocker home", indeed! And then it makes me a little sad to think about a person actually living like that.

Rob and I were talking last night about how explaining all of this to Grace, even just a little bit, and seeing the situations through the eyes of a 3-year-old makes the anxiety/sadness/unease real to us as adults in a new way. A new way that feels a bit like someone has punched you in the gut. Rob prays with Grace during her bedtime routine and they have prayed for his mom this past week or so, causing her to ask, "Why does Garner have to go to the hospital?" Trying to explain the answer in a way that a 3-year-old will understand feels like a punch! To the gut! And hearing all of our real estate talk and our looking at possible houses for my parents caused her to ask, "Why are they talking about houses?" Another punch! Here's hoping that there is less dramatic stuff for us to have to explain to Grace next week.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Christmas in July

Another installment in the grand video-editing efforts Rob has been making:

This video of Christmas 18 months ago makes me by turns homesick for our house in Connecticut and AMAZED at how much Grace's speech has changed. She is just shy of her 2nd birthday in the video and the first time I watched it I was flabbergasted at how I could barely understand her, although me-in-the-video apparently understands every single word coming out of her mouth.

Also, I am just in love with how she pronounces stroller-- "froller!" Sort of German-sounding, right? I love how toddlers often sound like they are non-native English speakers. For a long time, Grace sounded French, especially with how she said no. Watching all this video has made me a little heart-achey for Grace as her smaller selves but at the same time, it makes me excited to see what funny, sweet, goofy things Violet is going to do and say.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Ear Worm

This song has been stuck in my head for going on a week now, so in an effort to exorcize it, I shall share it with you all today:

And it's true-- I do in fact never go to work! On the other hand, I never LEAVE work either, which is a downside to the SAHM life. We have a couple kids' albums from They Might Be Giants, and I've got to say that, ear worms aside, I really love them. So funny and good and sweet-- highly recommended.

Speaking of Grace's entertainment, she has finally discovered Mr. Rogers. I have tried to show it to her before now, but she would never watch it and was strictly a Blue's Clues/Backyardigans kind of girl, with perhaps a smidgen of Sesame Street thrown in. She watches TV most days while I shower, and also sometimes while I cook dinner, depending on how well I have planned and her mood at the end of the day. I tried an episode of Mr. Rogers out on her a few days ago and she is really liking it, which makes me feel kind of nostalgic and happy. Watching it as an adult makes me realize how lovely and sweet and gentle that show and its eponymous host is-- sweet jazzy piano music, serene explanations of how socks are made or what Tai Chi is (or of course breastfeeding), calm Mr. Rogers being all benevolent and kind. It's very soothing, which is refreshing after the intensity of most children's shows.

And then speaking of refreshing, I am about to leave this house in search of some air conditioning because ours has broken. I KNOW. There's a heat advisory today to top it off. I'm trying not to think about it too much and just move forward with my day because I know I am just on the edge of a black, black mood about July and Texas and other aspects of my life here. I am going to the mall with my two sweaty girls in tow until the repairman comes. We will soak up the cold AC and I will try to keep myself from indulging my emotional neediness by either a) eating something bad for me or b) buying things I don't really need.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Location, Location, Location

I did not intend to sound like we have great plans or changes or anything coming in my last post when I mentioned moving away from Dallas. It was a statement more about our general long-term thoughts than about any concrete, immediate plans. I do think we will move away if we get the opportunity for it. Where? I am tempted to shout, "Anywhere but here!" but that is not fair or consistent with the attitude of contentment I am trying to foster in myself. And not true, really, either. I think this next move is one that we will consider a bit carefully and hope to be a settling-down kind of move to a place where our kids will go to school and we will both have permanent jobs-- you know, the kind with no end-point. That will be a first for us, as our adult lives have been taken up so far with 3, 4, or 5 year stints in pursuit of various degrees, residencies, and the like.

Anyway, this makes us think about what kind of city we want to call home, what kind of city we want to raise a family in. I think I mentioned at the end of this post some of what we want in our ideal future-- a city that is pedestrian friendly and where we can live in a neighborhood with places to walk and/or bike to, a city with less extreme summers and not too dramatic winters, and a city with a character that is more in line with our interests and values than Dallas is. It turns out that we are WILDLY UNCREATIVE because the cities we think we would like to live in turn out to be cities that EVERYONE wants to live in and thus there are not a lot of jobs to be had-- you know, Portland, Austin (although the weather there would be no improvement, obviously), Seattle, and the like. Rob has started asking around just a little and it seems like the market for allergy/immunology jobs is pretty saturated everywhere we think we would like to live. So we don't know what will happen, or where it will happen for us. This is all made more uncertain because Rob still isn't sure what he wants to be when he grows up. His uncertainty is admittedly not conducive to making grand 5-year plans but it is one that I am very sympathetic to, seeing as how I haven't ever quite figured that out either. This next year or two of his fellowship should help him gain more perspective on what he wants to spend his career doing, or at least knock another thing or two off the list of possibilities.

I've been spending probably more time than I should pondering where we might move away, which I suspect is directly linked to the horrific weather we've been having. Last summer I joked that I had some sort of reverse culture shock upon moving back to Texas after living in the Northeast and this summer, my joke is that I have a case of reverse Seasonal Affective Disorder. It is so, so hot; even the overnight low temperatures are warmer than where I am comfortable. The sun blazes white in a sky that is grim and oppressive with no clouds, a sky so pale that it seems to be burning white-hot as well. It burns down on the flat, prairie landscape that has been paved over with concrete and strip malls and highways that shimmer in the stifling heat. In the midst of this heat, we've passed the one-year mark of being back in Texas and I will admit to feeling gloomy and downcast about it all-- the culture here, the climate, and so forth.

However, I am endeavoring to do better. Wallowing in discontentment is not consistent with what I believe about God and who I am and all that, and there is so much in my life to be joyful about. I certainly don't want to waste any moment of Violet's babyhood or Grace's toddlerhood in being unhappy about something I can't change. This is the only time Grace will ever be 3 and 1/2, the only 6-month-old moments I'll ever get with Violet, and I don't want to squander them because of where we happen to live. And it's the middle of July already, which means we're about halfway through. We've already made it through May and June, with just August and September ahead of us. It is usually comfortable by the time we get to October (although I notice that I waxed complain-y last year in the middle of November). Anyway, I still believe that being content is more about the choices I make that my circumstances, so I am going to
  • reflect on how much I have to be thankful for,
  • be more mindful in my daily life about the small things that bring me joy,
  • not do things that involve being outside,
  • try harder to build a happy social life for myself (although that may sometimes conflict with that last one because PEOPLE KEEP TRYING TO DO THINGS OUTSIDE-- sheesh, crazy people...),
  • make time for the activities that cheer me up like sewing and reading and whatnot.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Dog, Rugs, Houseplant, Mice

Our sweet dog Abbey has been working hard to send us to the poorhouse lately. Earlier in the year, there was the mast cell skin cancer. Then last month there was her mammary gland cancer and the subsequent doggie mastectomy. And then last week, she got a hematoma in her ear, a big squishy puddle of blood under her skin as if she were a boxer from olden times headed for a nice case of cauliflower ear. It turns out that that's exactly what she would have ended up with if we hadn't taken her to the vet, but we did so she doesn't. Instead, we have let our vet swipe our credit card yet again and we sigh as we try to plan to pay off the resulting balance.

In recent years, I have made great strides in living within a budget and keeping a firm handle on my love of buying and shopping, but it always seems like something unplanned for comes by and disrupts our plans for saving or the extra things outside the normal day-to-day budgeting. Currently, the "extra" I am longing for is a rug for our living room. We had one that was a very light off-white. In our living room in Connecticut, the traffic pattern was such that it held up quite well and didn't ever get too dirty. Here in our new house, however, it was always walked on and after a year here looked just AWFUL. I was struck with a deep regret about purchasing a so-nearly-white rug 4 years ago and wished I gotten one that was more the color halfway between dirt and our dog's hair. (A brief aside: if you are ever in the position to choose the color of grout for a floor, get grout the color of dirt. You will not be sorry.) I sold the rug on Craigslist before I realized that our ability to purchase a new one was going to be delayed by Abbey's various and sundry illnesses, so we currently have no rug at all in the living room. A fact which I find slightly depressing every time I'm in there.

Actually, I've sold a number of things on Craigslist and eBay lately, and we also have taken a HUGE load of books, DVDs, and CDs to Half Price Books. (A store I missed very much when we lived in Connecticut-- what a happy, happy place...) We are in a mood for purging. It is partly that we have been in the house for a full year now and it is easy to look around and think, "I have not once used/touched/looked for/thought about that item." Do I really want to store and dust and give space in my house to things I don't use in an entire year? No, dear reader, I do not. Rob has grown more supportive of the simple-living, purging aesthetic lately as well, so now I meet less resistance about getting rid of things. In fact, he may currently exceed me in his zeal to clean out. Our desire to purge was also whetted by the recent move of some of our close friends away from Dallas. We helped just a tiny bit (well, really it was just Rob helping as I was standing around with Violet in the Ergo and keeping Grace out of trouble) and all the horror and misery of moving came crashing back into our memory, making us very eager to own less stuff. And finally, I think we are eager to purge because we are feeling more convinced that we will be moving away from Dallas in the not-too-distant future. Letting go of material possessions is much easier when you are faced with the prospect of moving them.

We haven't been entirely successful about culling our possessions and actually gained a very large one recently. The academic year in medicine runs from July to July so a cohort of people (including the afore-mentioned friends) just graduated and finished their programs; one of Rob's colleagues who was finishing and moving across the country asked us to take their houseplant. When he came by with it, I was a bit surprised by its SIZE. It is significantly bigger than Grace is, a good 4 feet tall or so. I don't think Rob's friend realized that we are not really plant people; this is in fact the very first houseplant we have had in our married lives. I am assuming that he saw that we have children, a dog, a garden, etc and thought we must be responsible, nurturing types who could care for a plant. Hopefully he is right; so far, it appears to still be alive.

As we have entered July and the medical academic year has rolled over, Rob has moved from clinical responsibilities (i.e. seeing patients) into the research section of his fellowship. He no longer sees any patients but instead will work in a lab doing experiments with proteins in cells and running gels and whatnot. The specific proteins he will be working with come from cells that come from mice, it turns out. The mice do not require Rob to wear a tie or a pager, which is nice, but he is a little unsure about how much he is going to enjoy this endeavor. He does get to take a bunch of orientations with amusing and/or attention-getting names like "Radiation Safety" and "Mouse Handling". Mouse Handling! All about mice, and how to go about handling them!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Little Grace

For Mothers' Day and my birthday this year, I asked Rob to go through all of our unedited video and, you know, edit it and stuff. It has been such a delight to find it all and get these glimpses into our life from many months ago. It was NOT such a delight to discover that our video of Grace's first year of life has disappeared into the ether; we are pretty sure that it got transferred from tape to a hard drive at some point and then after being ignored for years that hard drive got formatted or something. I feel pretty sad about it, but we are drawing the lesson from our mishap that we really have to stay up-to-date on editing the video if we don't want it to get lost.

This video covers from the spring just past Grace's 1st birthday until when she was about 18 months old, so about two years ago. I have talked a big talk in the past about not really missing Grace as a baby and not feeling sad about the past being past, but I will admit that these videos make me ache with nostalgia for the way she talked, the way she wanted to be held all the time, and for heavens sake the way she walked. Her newbie toddle just KILLS me.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Like a Fish

Drinking, you ask of my blog title? Has the life of a stay-at-home mom finally gotten the better of you and you are indulging in some mid-afternoon Booker's? No, I merrily retort, although now that you mention it a mojito does sound good on these hot afternoons... No, no, it is swimming time!

Cool in the pool

Grace is taking swimming lessons at the YMCA and every afternoon we find ourselves up at the pool there as she splashes around and learns the rudiments of swimming. They do sessions where the lessons are Monday through Thursday for two weeks, so it feels a bit like swimming lessons take over our life. We've done a few sessions so far this summer (although never two sessions back to back) and are now nearing the end of this latest one.

We did some swimming lessons the summer she was 18 months or so, but these are her first official lessons where she is in the pool without me and learning more actual swimming skills. We didn't do any lessons last summer in the midst of the packing and moving and settling in and whatnot, so I'm sure she had no memory of lessons at all. She sure did enjoy the pool last summer, though. She was exuberantly confident and gleeful in the water a year ago, and had absolutely no sense of self-preservation. She was fearless, jumping off the side and getting her face wet and occasionally trying to drink the pool. In fact, she would often try to wrench herself out of my grasp and purposefully jump from the side out of my arms' reach, despite the fact that a) the water was much deeper than her head and b) she did not actually know how to swim. I had a few moments of terror but none of it bothered her in the slightest.

When we started lessons this summer, it was an entirely different kettle of fish. (Ha! More fish!) Apparently, Grace at 3 and 1/2 has a much more realistic sense of her own abilities than Grace at 2 and 1/2 did; she started out much more timid and cautious. She's gained a lot of confidence through the course of the lessons, though, and I would say she is now back up to about last summer's level of comfort and delight in the water. As I have seen Grace and now Violet deal with the circumstances life has brought them, I am struck with how change is so constant is dealing with a child. They change so much so quickly; my adult desire to categorize and have expectations is often for naught.

Violet herself has recently changed and taken an intense dislike to being left in any group childcare setting. The church nursery and the childcare room at the gym both elicit wails and protests that none of the workers are able to calm. Church isn't such a big deal because I can still keep her with me in the sling without bothering anybody, but it's been weeks since I've been able to really work out at the gym. The last time I made an attempt, I settled Grace & Violet in the little childcare room, then went to do one weight machine before finding Violet screaming her little lungs out. I calmed her down, then went to try another weight machine, only to have to return to my wailing baby yet again. I continued this cycle a few more times before throwing in the towel. (An actual, literal towel. You know, they kind they have at the gym for working out with.)

My original plan with Grace's swimming lessons was that I would work out during them while Violet played in the childcare room, but that is not turning out quite as I expected. I shall have to wait out this particular temporary foible of my baby daughter before the gym is a good option again. In the meantime, some days Violet and I sit sweating inside in the quasi-air-conditioned vestibule right by the pool and some days we put on our swimming suits and play on the steps during Grace's lesson. It's much cooler there and Violet uses her little chubby hands to splash splash splash as the summer heat drones on.