Monday, September 7, 2015

When I fell in love with music

I don't think anything in the entire world effects me as much as this cartoon does. If you scroll the comments many people talk about how sad this is, stories pets of old, and a variety of childhood memories. And while I can cite each of those as reasons why this makes me sad, the true reason it moves me as much as it does is because of my father. We used to watch this cartoon together often when I was young and this segment has come to mean something very special for us. Perhaps it's the first time we connected over music, or maybe it's because we both are overly sensitive cat loving people. The two of us are most definitely cut from the same cloth,

Yesterday the opening song to this came on my Pandora music station and I immediately started crying. I miss my dad. He's in NY. I'm in Ohio. Fall is coming. I want to be home. I went to get a hug from Hubby and we talked about this cartoon, Garfield in general, and what Little Guy will connect to and remember from each of us. It made me think of my grandmother again and how fleeting life is; but how memories last forever. I hope Little Guy loves this cartoon too, but I hope it makes him smile (or at least smile for a moment because how can you with an ending like this?).

Sunday, August 30, 2015

How my ADHD ruins my social life

So I know that the stereotype of someone with ADHD goes something like this:

NonADHDer: Something really exciting happened to me recently. I was walking down--
ADHDer: Oooo! It's a squirrel!

Just impulsivity and distractibility are the well known cornerstones of ADHD, but I don't think people realize just how many aspects of one's social skills are effected by ADHD. In some severe cases people can be misdiagnosed as being Autistic if the clinician is not familiar enough with how to tease them apart.

Now, I don't think I am on that level, but I am definitely quite frequently frustrated with myself, my apparent lack of social skills, and the impact this has on my life. Here's a few examples:

- One thing people don't realize is that when you have ADHD, you can also get hyper focused on a task or topic. When something exciting or stressful happens this can look like someone who is babbling on and on about a topic to every person they see until the excitement dies down a bit. This ends up looking like you care nothing about what other people have to say.

- On that note, hyper focused means it's also hard to be mentally flexible and change topics. A shift in topic can be frustrating if you haven't finished telling your story, but it also means you may completely forget what you were talking about if you were interrupted mid way (and getting it back is pretty much impossible). It's also possible to interrupt yourself if a new thought pops into your mind. This is extra frustrating if it keeps happening. It makes you look/feel stupid and flighty.

- To not forget what you want to say in response to someone else's contribution to the conversation you either need to stop paying attention to what they're saying to hold on to your own thought or interrupt them to say your piece. Sometimes this can turn people off and it ends up looking like you are monopolizing the conversation. Both of these things are obviously rude, but it's a hard balance to have when you want to look like you're invested in what the person is saying.

- Putting a few of these points together, when you have something you need to say (whether important or not) sometimes social niceties can take a backseat. You need to say what you need to say before you can focus on others comfortably and once again that ends up looking like you don't care since you haven't said things like "how was your day? how's your mom?" etc. when you actually do care, you just 1. forget to ask (see bullet above) or 2. run out of time and cannot ask. I force myself to not talk during whole outings with friends to show that I do care and am interested in their lives which has definitely led to me leaving out truly important stuff they should know about (oh hey, my grandma died last week). Which, in turn, looks like they're not important enough in my life to know about stuff that is actually important.

- Going back to the stereotype mentioned above, it's REALLY hard to hide your lack of disinterest. Even when you want to pay attention your mind is finding other much more interesting things to think about. This is something that everyone suffers from, but someone without ADHD can force themselves to pay attention better while someone with ADHD will miss 99% of what you're talking about while taking a mental trip to the moon. You end up looking selfish after rattling on about nothing for 20 minutes. And this only gets worse when you're tired.

- Even when you are interested in what the person says if you have a to-do list running around in your head like a hamster on its wheel, paying attention is just not going to happen. Trying to multitask to calm the jets down ends up looking rude because you may simply walk away in the middle of a conversation. It's also possible to forget that person was talking to you or even in the room at all.

 - Other fun stuff based on some of the things mentioned above: not being able to focus on a conversation because you can't let go a detail that's bothering you (like toys on the ground in my supervisor's office, or that booger that's half hanging out of someone's nose, or the spider crawling on the wall), not being able to remember words you want to use, bringing up really awkward things you think fit into a conversation but that was so 10 minutes ago, completely ignoring people because you're so focused on other things you didn't realize someone new was talking to/standing near you.

For all of these reasons it can also be hard to be friends with a group of people as you now have to balance all of this stuff with many people in one setting. Or try to remember to be in contact with such a large number of people on a regular basis. I know personally I'm shit with keeping in contact with friends. Not because I don't care about them, but because I get too focused on life that I forget they exist. In today's society people expect a lot of reciprocity and it's pretty easy to fall by the wayside as a friend if one person in that relationship does not call/text/email/etc. on a regular basis.

I think for me the hardest part about all of this is I know these things are happening and can often see it's happening, but as mentioned above, sometimes it's not possible to actively change things when I'm trying to balance my part of the conversation with others' and trying to remember the social rules I should be but am not following. That's too many things to focus on at one time and my brain is just not built that way. I also recognize the impact that it has on others in my life and there's a lot of time spent explaining myself. Sometimes people get it and are patient (Thank you Hubby!) and others don't and see it as excuses for characterlogical failings. But that's too bad for them because I bake a mean chocolate chip cookie.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

When I'm not here...

My grandmother passed away after a lengthy battle with mental illness. When someone suffers for so long after generally living a positive and healthy life there is usually a sense of relief that there is no more suffering. My mom suffered a long time as her caretaker too, so as the third generation in this equation I see more than one person who no longer had to live in pain. And when she died my initial reaction was "finally."

Finally she no longer has to live in physical and mental pain. I know she believed in heaven and was looking forward to seeing my grandpa. So if anything the thought is that finally she is able to be happy again.

Despite all of this I have been left with a low level of sadness. I keep thinking about two episodes when I was a kid and things she said to me.

The first was when I was six and she came to my first grade class to present about Russian culture (her mother was from Russia). I was so excited to have her there I constantly went up to talk to her and ask her questions that she would have no idea what the answer was. She finally, very politely said, "do what you would do if I wasn't here."

That moment has often resurfaced in my mind during the episodic declines of her health, when we thought she might pass away. Now that time is finally here. Even though mentally she hasn't been herself since my grandfather passed away about 10 years ago, she still lived and breathed. Even though I was in California then Ohio for about 90% of the time she was in a nursing home, she was still my grandmother. And don't get me wrong, I am still relived that she is no longer in pain and is happy again, but there was this little part of me that always looked for the old her and wondered if it might resurface. I never thought about what I would do when she's not here 100% anymore. I guess now it's time.

Saturday, July 4, 2015


Much of the past two months have been spent packing and then unpacking for another long distance move related to school. Let it be known across the land that I hate moving. Please add on to that statement about how it is exponentially worse to move with an infant.

In college I was the type of person who could not sleep unless everything I moved with was completely unpacked. The move into the dorm at the beginning of the semester. The move home at the end of the year. An entire car full of belongings was always in its designated space before I could relax no matter what time I arrived home after a long day of finals and 3 hours of driving. This is not the case when you have to juggle a baby who is going through a growth spurt, teething, and off his schedule with the fact that you do not have a dishwasher or any idea where any of your belongings are.

Now that things have settled down (we are in the new place almost 2 weeks now) life is less hectic, despite an increase in drool and accompanying pain for Little Guy (my heart breaks for him). I now understand why when my parents bought their house we stayed with my grandparents for 3 days. Moving with children is not recommended...I really hope we only have to do a long move like this one more time (to go home).

Monday, May 11, 2015

Motherhood vs. selflesshood

Since yesterday was Mother's Day I saw a lot of memes and statuses talking about what a difficult job it is to be a mother, it is selfless, and no one appreciates you for the work you do. Except:

1. We get an ENTIRE day EVERY YEAR devoted to the fact that we are mothers, and then there are things like birthdays, holidays, and any other day of celebration filled with the opportunity for you to receive cards that say you are loved and appreciated.

2. Motherhood is only selfless if you do not expect anything for the work that you do. Otherwise you are essentially offering service for goods in the form of hugs, kisses, kind words, and presents.

Yes, motherhood is not easy, but it is difficult and shitty? Only if you allow yourself to think it is. Remember my post from yesterday. Not everyone has the opportunity to clean up projectile vomit and deal with a tired cranky baby. Be grateful, not angry that you were blessed with the opportunity to be a parent.

Yes, I hope that one day my children appreciate me and love me. But that is not a given right based on the fact that I birthed them and thus I do not expect it. It is something to be earned over time free of conditions. If that's what makes successful friendships and romantic relationships, it will make successful familial relationships too. Will I be saddened and probably devastated if my children grow up to hate me? Yes, of course, but that does not mean I'll ever stop trying to earn their love or blame them for it (unless they've stopped taking their medications of course).

Sunday, May 10, 2015

My first Mother's Day

Recently a woman I know split up from her significant other. The gist of their break-up was that he realized she was not "the one." As we talked about how she was doing, her anger was understandable. I have been there before and I know the hurt I felt as someone I cared about told me it was not to be. The difference between my experience and hers, though, is that we did not have a child together. The longer we talked the more I implored her to think of her child and remember that her actions would have a direct consequence on the baby. But the thing that struck me the most was that while she expressed feelings of failure and frustration towards herself for not being able to provide a full family for her child, she also said that it would be better off if her child was never born. I won't go into all of the specifics of our conversation, but suffice it to say she was serious and simultaneously felt bad for her child while also feeling that its presence would make her life difficult in certain ways.

The therapist in me recognized the difficult situation she was now in and the hurt she was feeling. The mother in me was shocked and angry with her for saying something so flippant. I wanted to say "you don't mean that" but before I had a chance to she expressed the frustration she felt towards others who tried to tell her that her child was the best thing to come out of the relationship and that she should focus on the positive and be grateful but she felt that it was "not true. I meant what I said." At that point I honestly wanted to tell her to get out of my house. I kept my mouth shut as part of me still felt like she didn't mean it and I didn't want to add to the drama or my own hurt at having heard that.

Over the past few of years I have been exposed to the world of child loss and the grief that parents feel when a child is lost in someway. I know people who have had a child pass away. I know parents that have struggled to conceive a child for years. And then there are parents who choose to terminate a pregnancy, mothers who choose adoption (and either lose their biological child or have their chance at a child taken away after investing their hearts in one), and parents who for a number of reasons have children who are alive but are not in their lives. When you are not able to experience the life and growth of your child for any reason, it is one of the most painful things a parent can go through. There is no end to the pain. And while every parent may not feel that pain on the same level of intensity, to say such harsh things, as the woman I know did, may have farther reaching consequences that beyond their own self.

Little Guy was not our first rodeo. The pain I felt at anniversaries of loss was something I had to suffer in relative silence. I have had some support through the years, but it is still difficult. Difficult to think about a child that could have been. Difficult to hear people say "well when you are a mother you will understand." Difficult to hear "I wish it was never born." And difficult as I prayed all throughout my pregnancy with Little Guy that nothing would happen again.

This morning, as I looked down at a smiley, healthy baby I thought about my own loss and the loss other mother's I know have suffered. I hugged him, kissed him, and told him I loved him. He was worth the wait and I am incredibly grateful for the chance to be his mother. Because of the loss I suffered I will never wish he had never been born. I will do my best to appreciate every moment with him (both good and bad) because every moment is short, one day I will not be able to easily fix his distress (or he may not want me to), and not all women get the chance to love their children in the flesh.

So moms everywhere, know that you are loved, appreciated, and supported today and everyday.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

A list of comparisons

It has finally felt like spring in New York after a long winter that actually felt like winter. For four years I have been saying how much I missed the months of September through January in New York. The Bay Area does not get a proper fall or a winter. There is no turning of leaves and no snowfall. So I was thrilled to have my first months at home be during the time I usually felt most homesick. And I made it through most of the two seasons being happy about the weather too...Until the end of winter when I got sick of the hazard of being pregnant. Our landlord is not the best (this is an understatement) and without proper drainage on our gutters our walkway and driveway was often buried in 2-3 inches of ice. Hubby had to pick away at it with the back of a hammer multiple times a day just so I could walk to and from the car. On days he did not do this I was a prisoner in our apartment due to a realistic fear of falling. I couldn't leave wearing anything but heavy snow boots (even after the snow was gone) until our roof fully melted and dried up. It was the first time in my life I actually wanted winter to be over and I dreaded snow.

Now that it is finally Spring, though, and Little Guy has been born I am back to my cute shoe collection and am safe to romp freely. I told Hubby that this Spring would be one of his favorites he'd ever have a chance to experience as winter makes you truly appreciate the warmer weather and beauty of blossoming flowers. I think it is safe to say we both feel this way. But as is usually the case is Southern New York, spring lasted two weeks and now, in the first week of May, we have 80+ degree weather and insane humidity. Summer is here (ugh). That is the only thing that can make me long for California. The dry air, comfortable summer temperatures, and good hair days.

Of course thinking of that got me to thinking some more. As always this resulted in a list...or actually two lists.

Things I missed about New York when I lived in California:

1. Pizza and bagels - I think this is self explanatory. I've spent most of my life in the NYC metro area but the times when I have lived or traveled outside of it (even as little as 2 hours away) have left me more than a little disappointed with the local offerings. I really do think it has something to do with the water.
2. The Fall - Nothing is like Fall in the North East. Even places that have a fall season with changing colors and pumpkin festivals, etc. have nothing on the home of Sleep Hollow, Salem, and everything else that comes along with the area. Apple picking, cider donuts, not to mention the weather. This was the time I was most homesick, and for good reason.
3. Real winter and the Christmas season - My first December in California, Christmas felt so lack luster by the time is happened. I always went home for it, but when it is 60 degrees out every day, it doesn't feel like Christmastime. The same is said for a winter without snow. Even adults get snow days in the North East. For a surprise day off to sit next to my window watching snow fall with hot cocoa snuggled up to Hubby, I'll shovel the drive way and deal with frosty winds any day.
4. New York City - It's the number one city in the world. I don't need to spend time telling you why, and there were many NYC exclusive things I missed (all the Christmas offerings, certain restaurants and stores, the museums, etc.). But I think what does need to be said is the extra stuff you only get about this area if you are local. The open and honest attitudes of the people (I missed how straightforward everyone was), how people dress (I hated getting comments about my sense of style and how over polished or even how over stylish I was), and the general atmosphere of the city. Things don't close at 6pm. People drive fast. You can walk (fast) anywhere you want to go (and get easy transportation if you don't). It is dirty and gritty. You need to be tough but it makes you feel alive.
5. All the people I love here - Also self explanatory. It is hard to not be able to talk to friends and family because of a three hour time difference. It's also hard not to see them and miss out on Thanksgivings, birthdays, etc.
6. The terrain - TREES. My god I missed trees. Yes there are trees in California, but the South Bay does not have the same kind of big leafed thick greenery that we do here. To get to places I felt at home I'd have to drive. Greenery in general was not common once the winter rains were over (and we know all about the drought, so you can imagine how rare green grass is too). I'm also including in here the architecture of homes as well. This area has so many beautiful European influences and homes are gorgeous. California has short boxy things to withstand earthquakes with some random Victorians thrown in here and there. Hubby and I have spent hours just driving around here looking at trees, homes, and everything in between repeatedly saying "wow." I grew up here and I can still do that all day if I could. California never gave me that kind of a rush when driving around neighborhoods.

Things I miss about California now that I am back in New York:

1. Napa - I became a serious wino while living in California. Hubby and I also got married in wine country. It holds a special place in my heart and stomach/palate. There are wineries in NY, but the legitimate wine areas are much farther away that Napa was to us and not as good in terms of number of quality places, size, number of quality restaurants, etc....although it is cheaper so there's always that...
2. Comfortable summers - 90+ degree weather with 100% humidity describes July and August. Even when it is 80 degrees it is God awful. My cousin, who lives in the Miami area, i.e. a place with a tropical climate, said our summers are worse. Need I say more?
3. Having easily accessible chains I like - Specifically Drybar (which was within 10 minutes from us, now I must drive over an hour to get to my affordable hair obsession), Sift (an amazing local Cupcake chain), and Cream (THE BEST ice cream sandwich shop of all time. I continue to get weekly cravings for this place. Please, if you are reading this, expand over here too! )
4. Year round soccer - The one plus to lack of winters. I could play soccer all year round and never go two weeks without playing a game. There were also plenty of women's leagues to join as well (while NYC may have a bunch of options, in the burbs, pickins is slim). I've played since I was 5, but being able to play 1-4 games a week really improved me as a player. Plus I was in great shape!
5. Camp Okizu - Okizu is camp for children and their families affected by pediatric cancer that we became involved in. It was a life changing experience and we plan to be involved for years to come because of the positive atmosphere and amazing people we met/meet. But with a newborn making a trip out there right now is not easy. And even when things settle we cannot make the number of trips per year we'd like to be able to. Now that camp season is in full swing our fellow counselors have been posting status updates and pictures about their times there. I am so jealous. I miss those people as much as I miss the campers.
6. Cali friends - Similar to missing people from NY. A three hour time zone difference and busy lives as students, mommies, etc. make it hard to keep in touch. Thank God for texting and Facebook.

So even though these lists are even in number of items, there is a winner here. I will always cherish my time in Cali for the reasons listed above (not to mention I was able to make significant headway on my nearly life long career dream and I met the love of my life there), but I love New York. There's just no other way around it.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

I'm worried

Growing up one of the most fun, yet simultaneously annoying things, about any event was getting your picture taken. This simple routine ensured that you'd have evidence that the event happened. You existed. And, for a brief moment, looked as you did. Sometimes I love to get my picture taken. Other times I hate it. Either way, being able to look through my photo album and reminisce about memories, people, and a specific time in my life is something I really enjoy. But I'm really worried. Now that we have phones and everything is stored on our computers, what if something happens to those files and my kids do not get to witness their childhood from a distance? As I watch Little Guy grow so rapidly, this fear becomes more and more poignant.

The same thing can be said for video. My younger brother routinely has weekend home video marathons. He starts with the earliest tape from before I was born and watches through to the most recent one. He loves to see us a toddlers and laugh at the dumb things we said and did as kids. Now all of life is condensed into 30 second clips for Facebook as seen through a sepia filter.

I don't want that for my kids. I want them to get curious, be able to pick up a photo album, flip through it, and watch their history progress. I loved nothing more than seeing picture after picture of my parents as children. "I make the same face as Daddy!" "Wow, I really look a lot like Mommy does there."

Hard copies of pictures give all generations something so important. Hubby and I plan to routinely go through our computers and print things out for our kids. I just hope that drug stores keep allowing us to do that...

Every time I see your face 
It reminds me of the places we used to go 
But all I've got is a photograph 
And I realize you're not coming back anymore
Photograph - Ringo Starr

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Good touch vs. bad touch

I think 90% of the people who know me view me as an extrovert. I am friendly, personable, talkative, and wear my heart on my sleeve. But people who truly know me and understand me also know that I am secretly an introvert and can only be extroverted when I've had a chance to retreat into myself to take time to rest and replentish the energy it takes for me to go out amongst the people.

Because of that need for personal time I also often need personal space. My body will close up into a ball, almost as it was hibernating or entering into a cocoon, and I am filled with the desire to be quiet mentally and physically. In college this got me the reputation of "not being that into hugs" as one of my suitemates put it. Even though she got it wrong (I LOVE hugs---good bear hugs are the best), something inside of her sensed that, at times, I did not want to be approached in this way and she respected my need for space and thus the silent personal boundary I set up.

As a child (3 or 4 years old) I remember several times when this need was not respected and the frustration I felt because of it. One time in specific I was with several female family members and when approached for a hug I was very adamant that "no, I do not want a hug right now." I was told that I was being rude/mean and that I should accept the hug or risk hurting my family member's feelings because "she just wants to show you she loves you." After much arguing and a near hissy fit on my part I was forced to give in, reluctantly accepted the hug. Afterwards I felt frustrated and hurt that my need to not be touched was not respected. I wanted to cry, but after the earlier lecture I received I kept the feelings hidden and was silent the rest of the afternoon. No one noticed and the rest of the world kept turning.

I bring this up now because recently I have seen another blog post being circulated around Facebook about the importance of not keeping secrets in families and how this relates to sexual abuse. This kind of touch is universally accepted as being bad and so is any other kind of unwanted sexual touch (i.e. even towards adults). We, especially women, are taught from a very early age that if anyone touches you "down there" that it is not ok and you are allowed to say no. Yet somewhere it is often lost that there are other kinds of touch that are also unwanted, but because of manners and social niceties you are not allowed to reject them. The sloppy kiss from your hairy, lipstick stained great aunt. The pinch of your cheeks from your grandmother. The hug from your younger cousin. This list is exhaustive, but no matter your age, even if you do not want to, someone stands over you and says "do it, don't be fresh." Even though this is another form of unwanted touch, your personal boundaries and desires are not respected. People have a hard time recognizing that negative experiences are in the form of the person receiving the touch, comments, etc. and not the person dishing them out. I think this lends to itself to a very confusing message that children receive and given the fact that most sexual abuse occurs at the hand of someone the abusee knows, it is no surprise that it can be so easy to manipulate the victim into keeping silent and feeling confused and ashamed (I think it is also the reason why people have a hard time recognizing and stopping verbal abuse---but that is a different post).

Now don't get me wrong, I do not by any means want to equate not wanting to get a hug from a well meaning relative to sexual abuse. I am just trying to draw a parallel between all kinds of unwanted touch and the need to teach our children it is ok to have boundaries, demand respect for them, and that as adults we should not have a problem with a child saying no to us for this reason. Allowing our children to say no will not turn them into spoiled brats (good parenting ensures this). What it will do is show them that they are respected both inside and out.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Friends, I do not want to talk about my baby with you...that much

Recently I had a conversation with Hubby that, in summary, was that it's important for me to not be one of those moms that becomes obsessed with their children to the point of ruining friendships with non-parent friends. We are at that age where "everyone" is getting married and/or having kids. Everyone except half of our friends who are not married and/or not planning on having kids for awhile. It seems that the stereotype of the new mom is to discuss everything in the most minutia of detail about their child to anyone who will listen. I had a friend a few years back that said to me when I adopted Puppy, "I hate people who get a new dog or have a baby and cannot talk about anything other than them, right down to the number and consistency of every poopy diaper that they take."

Right now. Once and for all. Unless Little Guy shits gold or a toy action figure, you will not hear about what his poops look like. And if he does, it will be delivered in a witty package topped off with a sarcastic bow.

But the truth is that I do actually want to talk about him with my friends once in awhile. Unlike what I said in an earlier entry about every random person asking me about new motherhood, I do want to talk to my friends about that. Mainly because they are my friends and we have talked about everything else in life up to this point. Why is it ok to talk about break-ups, new relationships, stresses at work and with family, and the joys of other life milestones. But having a kid and talking about that is boring and annoying? And why is this something that only women need to watch out for? No one warns men about this (regardless of how much or how little they choose to talk about fatherhood).

Just like any other aspect of my life, sometimes I need to be giddy or vent about something for a portion of our hangout. Then I'll be ready to move on to the next thing. And it is important for me to move on to the next thing. I spend 23-24 hours a day with this kid (aside from when I get my breaks thanks to Hubby). As much as he is the main event of my life right now, he is not the only event, and sometimes it is nice to talk about other things. Just recognize that if I'm willing to listen to you tell me the same revolving story about the 324th guy you've dated, or how your mom did the same shitty thing to you for the 972nd time, this needs to be ok too.

So when did it become a huge pain to deal with newly minted moms? I know that there are those moms that surrender their identity to their children, but not every mom is like that. Some moms struggle with inner guilt as well as unacceptable pressure from those around them to be like that. That pressure starts early too. Even before we announce our pregnancy, the message that society sends us, that we are merely hosts for a new life to come into this world, starts the moment we become pregnant.

When I was looking for maternity clothes I was incredibly angry at the lack of actual fashion that exists in the world for pregnant women. Most stores with maternity lines do not reflect the fabrics, colors, and prints that are available in "regular" clothing. (I put regular in quotes because otherwise it implies that pregnancy is not a normal stage of a woman's life.) And the clothes that do exist are usually not carried in stores, only online. Jersey knit basics were all I could get unless I wanted to spend a lot, or obsessively checked the 2-3 affordable (when not marked up purely for putting the word maternity in the description) websites with offerings that found.

Then when we tell the word about the new life growing inside us, it gets worse. When talking to my mom about her experiences as a first time preggo and mommy she said that for a period of time she begrudgingly lost her identity as anything other than "Lulu's mom." I understood that more than I care to admit. All I heard was "how's pregnancy? how's the baby?" I had many things going on in my life during my pregnancy that did not revolve around the baby and few people cared enough to ask about any of it. I also often heard comments about what I ate, how my body looked, and my birthing choices as if I became a factory process to be scrutinized. No one commented about my decision to love and eat cheese puffs until I became pregnant, dealt with morning sickness where sometimes a cheesy chippy snack was the only thing I could tolerate without making me sick. These comments and lack of care about the rest of my life only made me think, that despite the fact that it is 2015, society still considers a woman's only job to make and care for babies.

Yes, I did grow a baby (but I didn't make him, that takes 2 people).
Yes, I do take care of him (but so does my husband and a whole host of other people).
Yes, I am on a kind of maternity leave (but I do have a career that's extremely important to me and I actively work on it every day because I LOVE it, not because I am afraid to fall behind).
Yes, my body did change (but whose doesn't? and it is pretty much back to normal).
Yes, I made lifestyle choices (but I am ok with them and you should be too).
Yes, I am a mommy (but I'm also a wife, daughter, sister, friend, clinician, soccer player, foodie, wino, audiophile, and most importantly, human being).
Yes. I shouldn't have to add "but" to every single one of these sentences to justify my experiences.

So, friends, if I want to talk about my kid a lot, a little, or not at all, you need to let me do that. I may be a mommy, but I'm a human being too. Deal with it.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Hardest thing about Being a New Parent

Even though I love my son and getting to be his mommy (saying "my son" and hearing "mommy" are still cheap thrills to me), it's not all giggles and nap time. There is some stress. But for me, I've realized the stress comes from caring too much.

I may come from a family of stressed out anal retentive control freaks (and I know there are plenty of people who will say that when descriving me), but I have always lived my life with the motto "work hard, rest hard." I am the person who must get everything done and out of the way as soon as possible so I can take the rest of the day to be as lazy and chill as possible. Typical weekend (when I can swing it) wake up at 7am to clean, put PJs back on by 10am to be on the couch to nap while watching TV until dinner time, drink wine, and go back to bed by 10pm.

I have spent the vast majority of my adult life in school getting advanced degrees to become a clinical psychologist. Therefore, when awake, I have spent the vast majority of the last 12 years being stressed out about something. I have learned to relish in the relaxed atmosphere I've created for myself in both my professional and personal life. And despite, what my mother may think, I am generally known as the laid back one in the clinics I have worked in. Angry or suicidal patients do not freak me out. I know how to handle myself in a crisis, and my ability to overcome them without batting an eyelash is something that my husband has said he loves about me.

But since having Little Guy that relaxed attitude has been a rare thing in these parts. I have had to pull out every therapy trick I have learned the last 5 years and use them on myself to get over the anxiety I have felt every time I look at him. "What if he stops breathing? Why does he sound like that? Does he have allergies? Is he too tiny? He's having a seizure! I can see his vein pulsing in his head. Why hasn't he pooped yet today? Is he breathing? What's that thing on his toe? HOLY SHIT HE JUST PUKED OUT OF HIS NOSE!" Every one of these sentences has had to be combated with a logical thought. Reciting statistics about SIDS. Babies have small nasal passageways. No. No. No he's not; he sleeps with his eyes partially open like you do. That's normal. That's normal. Yes. It's lint. That's normal; just clean it up.

The first week we came home I was worried I might have developed post-partum depression with a presentation that looked like anxiety. Then I realized, I'm a new mom, and I'm still trying to figure out what it's like to be a parent to a newborn. Even though I'm the oldest in my family and only have one cousin out of 7 who is older than me, I have no memory of what it is like to be around a newborn and thus everything is a new experience for me (well, except how to change a diaper and avoid being peed on, that's pretty universal). And thus, every new action gets an anxiety filled reaction out of me. But I can't really help it. I mean, I carried this little human being that my husband and I made with care and love inside of of a protective bubble for 9 months. The moment he was born our relationship became personified in the cutest littlest thing I've ever seen. How could I not love and want to protect the most precious thing I've ever held?

My husband jokes that he married his mother or that I need a wine & Xanax cocktail. I think I just need to figure out how to get that relaxed attitude back in this new context. Considering I've already reached the "just rinse it off" stage of pacifier cleaning and have been yelled at for trying to not wash Little Guy's laundry before letting him wear it, I think I'm starting to figure it out a little bit...until the next time something new happens, which I expect should happen in 3...2...1...

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Real Music for Babies

Within the first two weeks of Little Guy's life my dad says to me, "so what music are you playing for this guy to educate him?" I think, 'Dad, he's less than a month old. I'm not sure he cares as long as it's not scary sounding.' But my dad is a musician with little cognitive flexibility (despite this he is still a killer drummer able to think on his feet and improvise---why can he not do this about how to do laundry and vacuum?!) so the idea of not having music around a child is inconceivable.
The truth is, though, he did a pretty good job with my brother and I. We are both major music nerds in our own right. I can still remember the first rock and roll songs on the first mixed tape he made me (I was three), the first Beatles song I loved, the home-made recording "studio" I made out of Fisher Price tape decks, singing Michael Jackson as my show and tell at school, among a host of other music-themed memories---including a lack of child-specific music. These are all things I want for my son.

My issue, though, is that he sleeps constantly. So I needed to pick out music to play that would not cause nightmares (because he would sleep through it; he would just body jerk at every loud moment) and that I could tolerate hearing over and over and over again (I'm not ready to listen to insert pop art here sings nursery rhymes and lullabyes). Thus, like any good music nerd and former college radio DJ would, I made a mix. Granted my mix is about 8 hours long, but here is a small smattering for those of you who are interested in giving your brain/ear buds a break while soothing and educating your child:
1. Le Tombeau De Couperin - 1. Prélude  - Ravel 
2. Concerto In D Minor For Oboe. Strings I. Andante e spiccato - Alessandro Marcello
3. Jade Visions (Take 2) - Bill Evans Trio
4. Gloria's Step [Take 2] - Bill Evans Trio
5. Blue Ridge Mountains - Fleet Foxes
6. Mother And Child Reunion - Paul Simon 
7. Wheels - Jamie Cullum
8. Mind Blindness - Dirty On Purpose
9. Eleanor Put Your Boots On - Franz Ferdinand
10. The Next Time Around - Little Joy
11. I'll Follow the Sun - The Beatles
12. Dreams - Fleetwood Mac
13. I Still Care For You - Ray LaMontagne
14. Everything Has Changed - Taylor Swift & Ed Sheeran
15. Acid Tongue - Jenny Lewis
16. Pink Moon - Nick Drake
17. Those to Come - Shins
18. Aqueous Transmission - Incubus

Monday, April 20, 2015

The life of a Tamagotchi parent

Do you remember what it was like when you went away to college for the first time and at every event for the next 12-48 months people asked you: "so how is it to be away at college?" At first it was an exciting question to answer. You had waited for the moment when you could finally say goodbye to your parents and your old self to grow the wings of a butterfly and flitter off into the fun of what you thought adulthood would be like. Endless parties, sleeping in to skip class, junkfood for three square meals a day, with a little bit of self-exploration and personal growth thrown in. Life is wonderful! But after the first 15 people ask you the same question you dread these conversations and recite your publicly acceptable rehearsed answer as it gets shorter and shorter. "Yeah, my roommate is ok. I'm a psych major. College is great. No, I don't know what I want to be when I grow up. Thanks for the $20."

Talking to people about having a new baby is just. like. that. Except there is the added bonus of lots of unsolicited advice and personal anecdotes because people assume that you are suffering as much as they did when their child was born. "Oh, I'm sure you're exhausted to the point of hysterics." Actually no. He sleeps constantly; I sleep at least 50% of the time that he sleeps. "And everything must smell like baby puke." How did you not master the art of avoiding being spit up after the first time? "I know you're a clean freak, but get used to a messy apartment." He's not a toddler yet, so we're more than capable of cleaning up after our normal daily mess in a timely manner.  "You must want to kill your husband constantly." WHAT?!?! The person who actually makes my life easier???? Never!! I think they want to see that you are suffering as much as they did because it validates how difficult their early baby experiences were. The truth is, not everyone has that kind of a parenthood experience.

Baby (or as he will now henceforth be known: Little Guy), is a little over a month old now. What is it like to be a new parent to him? Boring. Yes, every once in awhile he pukes half his body weight and it comes out it nose or poops WHILE I'm changing his poopy diaper and then pees on himself (despite the fact that I covered up his own little guy...that thing sure knows how to snake itself to me just stop there because I am picturing him as a teenager and the trouble he is going to get himself into). But for the most part he just sleeps, eats, and goes to the bathroom. He is a glorified Tamagotchi.

Yes. A Tamagotchi. A mid 90s electronic appropriately looking sperm-like pet that everyone had to have. At first you were very excited when you got yours. Finally! The cool toy that everyone had, you now have too! My little egg was purple (my favorite color during childhood) and like most children, I spent the better part of at least 36 hours being completely obsessed with ensuring its survival. I fed it and cleaned up after it's poop like a dutiful mother would. I turned the light off when it needed to sleep and checked it all night long, when I should have been sleeping, to ensure that I did not wake up to a miserable electronic pet...or worse yet, a dead one. And I was in heaven. It seemed so easy! I was going to be a great nano-mom.

Then, somewhere around day two I started to space out and wanted to do other things with my time. I didn't want to be tied down to a schedule of checking up on a time-sucker when I could be playing with things that were actually alive like my cat, my friends, or even my little brother. I tempted fate often enough, wondering what would happen if I didn't feed it or let the poop pile up. It would look sickly; It would be sad; It would eventually die, right? But I had too much guilt. I would save it at the last minute every time. And when it finally did die, as devastated as I was, I took solace in the fact that I could just reset it and get a new one. I'd be a better parent this time around.

Having a newborn baby is exactly like that. Except there is no reset button. My job is to simply keep this little guy alive. And the first few days at home were bliss. Like clockwork for the last 32 days every three hours he needs to have his diaper changed, be fed, have his diaper changed, and then go back to sleep in that order. Do all that on repeat and have a happy, healthy baby. Then, somewhere around day 2, my ADHD kicked in and I started to wonder what were all the things I could do with one hand. I learned pretty quickly that, with no upper body strength to speak of, was basically work a remote and drink a beverage of my choice. I also learned that I cannot feed him and do something else at the same time or I'll miss his mouth and make a mess everywhere. I also learned that up until this week he was too small for any device we own that will keep him out of his uncomfortable bassinet for extended periods of time and that he is VERY particular about how he lies on me (his only other housing option aside from my husband) while sleeping. I now have more pillows around me at all times than I did during pregnancy to prop him and every one of my limbs up to remain comfortable for as long as possible.

But on the plus side I have watched two whole TV series and about 30 movies, learned more about classical music and jazz thanks to Pandora, grown closer with my fur babies, eaten so little that I have lost enough weight I am back into my normal jeans, napped more times than I thought I ever could in one day, and online shopped until I wallet under the coffee table where I could not get it until my husband came home and took Little Guy for his shift.

I can see why some parents become overwhelmed by their children. The brief moments when Little Guy cries are terrifying as I quickly scan over my brain for all of the things he might need until I press the right button to make him smile and fall back asleep again. I can see why hours and hours of that would wear anyone thin. These moments, though, are brief and nothing like the horror stories I was told to prepare for. My little guy is not a cryer. He's a sleeper and a snuggler and thus, after waiting and waiting to be a parent to a newborn, it has actually been pretty great. Maybe he's just saving it all up for when he turns two?

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Is this thing on?

This blog has been so defunct for at least three years now. Aside from the random entry here or there I have been way too busy with school and life to keep up.

My life has also considerably changed. I started this blog to try to learn to keep a budget and still live a nice life (which is still a goal of mine considering I am mainly dependent on student loans); but the circumstances of that life has been in constant flux. Things are relatively settled now (or as much they can be while I juggle being a new mom AND trying to finish up my doctoral degree which means moving constantly for training), but I still have little time to write. Despite this, I still want to write.

As part of our schooling we're often told about "self-care." Think about the analogy that is often used of the airplane oxygen mask. You are supposed to put your own mask on before you put the mask on of someone who can't that you are traveling with. This is to ensure that you survive and can continue to take care of that person (whether it is the simple action of putting their mask on or the more complicated one of surviving a crash and living on a tropical island with polar bears for three years). Writing has always been one of those things that is self-care for me (along with soccer, cooking, and drinking a lot of wine). Well, for the last several months 2 of those 3 things were not an option but a number of things prevented me from getting my act together to sit here and write. And now that I spend many hours a day holding a sleeping baby too small for a wrap, swing, or even his car seat, I have plenty of time to at least think up things to say.

So, yeah, I hate to be that mom who is says, "hey, I have a new baby! I am full of wise gems now that I think I know everything about life! (because having that baby suddenly granted me with the wisdom of all moms everywhere)," I sort of am that mom. Except I think the train of thought that I had was, "I need an outlet so I can share my demented thoughts with someone other than my half drunk with exhaustion husband." Even if that someone is just my laptop and my grandmother.

I can't guarantee regular updates because even now I am only able to write since I am home alone (work is being done on our apartment so hubby took the baby to my parents') and have finished my homework for the day. But at least there will be updates, and for now that's a start.
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