Things I have learned this week

  • I don’t need as much conditioner as I thought I did. In fact, I only need about a dime-sized amount. My hair looks, feels, and dries much better for this piece of knowledge, which makes my day go that little bit more smoothly.
  • Lemon curd, while delicious, has way too much egg in it for my touchy tummy. Which means that if I make that lemon cream cake again, I’m going to have to find another means of lemoning the cream part. (Didn’t stop me from having cake for lunch for three days straight. I just had to take an antacid afterwards.)
  • My son can say “ice cream.” And make pretend ice cream out of Play-Doh. And serve it to Mommy. And then really eat the Play-Doh after Mommy pretends to.
  • Working at a computer while sitting at a table in a wooden chair causes a tremendous amount of pain. I’m going to have to revamp my work setup for working while watching kids.
  • The Deep Focus playlist on Spotify does, in fact, help me focus. It helped me power through some 18-hour work sessions this week.
  • I may have to consider mobile data for my tablet, for freelancing purposes. Thanks for that lesson, Cindy. But at least it allows me to work on offline files while the power company deals with the downed lines, and mobile data on my phone lets me contact my clients and let them know I’m in the dark. Technology is cool like that.
  • I maybe learned more this week, but I’m too tired (and now running behind on things) to think of anything else right now.

The calm of June? Right.

I’ve just about decided June is not my month.

I can’t bring myself to give up on the month entirely, as my anniversary is in June. So good things have historically happened in this month. But this year’s June is sucking. Last year’s, engagement aside, wasn’t so hot either. I’ve had not one but two miscarriages in June. (Not this June. Or last June. If you’re counting.) June’s scales are definitely tilted towards suck, in other words.

Anyway. I knew things were going to be rough this month, with R and I both starting new jobs — on the same day, even. But these past few weeks have gone beyond anything I’d expected. Rejections and losses and failures, big and small. Not that I’m a stranger to rejection. And I of course understand that part of a new job, a new routine, is screwing up. If it were just my job I could blow it off. But I feel like I’m failing spectacularly at pretty much everything I attempt lately.

Except my web editor job — I had finally hit my stride with that. And then the company went under.

The relentless pace at which the hits have been coming have me curled up in a metaphorical ball. Okay, the PMS and peri-m aren’t helping. But still.

I’ve kept up the meditation — sometimes I even meditate twice a day. It’s not really helping. Or maybe it is, and I would be off the rails otherwise. At any rate, it helps put the kids to sleep in pretty short order, and has also kept me from taking up smoking again, so I suppose it’s not a total waste of time.

Not eating or sleeping much. I knew about the sleep, but I thought I was eating enough until just a little bit ago, when I noticed after nibbling a couple of graham crackers that my headache had gone away.

Angst. Do I ever get old enough to get a break from the angst?

Hashtag momfilter

Change is the watchword.

And me, being me, am packing as many changes as I can into a short period of time. Like how I went through college — signing up for summer classes almost every year so that even though I changed my major in the second semester of my junior year, I still graduated on time.

I kind of regret that now. I wish I’d taken a little more time, explored a bit more, not pushed myself to burnout at the age of 22. But it’s my nature, I guess.

After looking pretty much exactly the same from the age of 20 onward, sometimes I look in the mirror and wonder who the hell is looking back. I’ve given birth to two children, breastfed one of them for an extended period of time, and plunged into perimenopause in little more than 5 years. Most women spread these events out over 10 or 20 years, but like everything else, I’m doing this on the fast track.

The person in the mirror is a bit more recognizable now that I’m back to my normal weight, but life has edited my body into something both familiar and all together foreign. The obvious changes — how I dress, how I wear my hair and makeup — were brought about by the fact that instead of working in an office, I spend a great deal of time wrangling squirmy, tantrumy, gooey children. I’m down two moles, but have picked up more freckles and a tan. If I tighten my abs, my belly looks as it always did, but if I relax, it becomes a mom pooch even on my thinnest days. My face, hands, and arms are more lined than they used to be — partly age, partly sun damage.

All of this is to be expected, I know. It’s the speed with which it’s all come about that is sometimes disconcerting.

I see my mother, my grandmother, and other women in my body. Plus my advancing years. Fat has left the places it used to hang out and shacked up with other body parts; my boobs now think my lower back is a great place to be, for instance. My calves and arms, once slender sticks, bear the small but sculpted muscles I failed to build with 15 years of concerted exercise.

But I’m still in here, you know? I see me, beneath all these alterations. Me at 20, 25, 30, 35. It’s like someone slapped a Snapchat filter on me — a Mom filter. All I need to complete the image is a pair of mom jeans. (Which, I’m old enough to know, used to be just jeans until the people who wore them became mothers).

An exchange that took place between me and my offspring this weekend:

Kai: Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!

Me: Why are you chanting my name? Am I a rock star?

Anya: No, you not been a rock star in 20 years.

Me: I’m not a rock star?

Anya: No.

Me: I’m a has-been?

Anya: No, you cool.

Me: What am I, then?

Anya: A mom!

Too right.

Blink and you miss it

The paint splatters on the floor, the ones that won’t come off — those are Anya’s childhood.

As are the scuffs and scrapes on my particleboard kitchen furniture, the stuff I bought with my ex-husband. On the particleboard everything in this house, to be honest. (Which is pretty much all the furniture, save the kitchen table and chairs.) I have already started mentally planning painting and mosaic projects for when they stop being so destructive.  The walls, the carpets, my clothes, my car…everything they touch bears marks from both kids.

Or I suppose I could just buy all new stuff.

But in just a few years — 20? 10? 5? — there will be no evidence that they were ever here in this house.

When I was a child, we moved from Illinois to Tennessee. Before we left my childhood home, I wrote my name and the date inside the closet: black Sharpie on powder pink paint. (And probably something about that being my room FOREVER, because I was 14.) That was nearly 30 years ago; someone has surely painted over the words by now. Probably more than once. No marks are forever, even Sharpie.

This morning, as I sit here PMSing and also hot-flashing (which is a really bizarre mix, let me tell you), I’m getting all misty thinking that these marks last no longer than they do. That childhood lasts such a short time. That in a few brief, brilliant moments, these tiny, beautiful creatures who depend on me for everything are going to turn into adults and move on.

I know it’s ridiculous, but I just wish I could hold on to these years for a while. Even the bad moments, where Kai throws toys at the other kids in the library, when Anya lays claim to every toy in the house and won’t let her brother play with so much as a half-deflated ball.

But I am also so looking forward to getting to know the adults they will become. So I cannot wish to keep them small forever. I’ll just have to compromise by taking 13.4 million photos of them, so when I’m old I can look back and remember these days. Unfortunately, photos and videos can’t capture the smell of their hair, the feel of their skin. So hopefully they will provide me with grandchildren, and thus allow me to recapture a little of these days.

How did I ever think life moved slowly? It goes by so brutally fast.

Today is Library Day

I decided Monday (or maybe Tuesday; this week’s already been at least two weeks long) that Wednesdays would henceforth be Library Days. Because I want there to be a Library Day this summer. Monday is Art Class Day and Tuesday is T-Ball Day, so Wednesday it is. Thursday has been Laundry Day for years now, and Friday is alternatively Cleaning Day and Fun Day (when it’s not just a regular old Work Day).

It would be easy to say “I have too much work to do; let’s put off Library Day.” (It’s true; I do. This week is trying very hard to make up for my lack of work these past few months.) But I cannot put off art class or t-ball, and I think the library deserves that same level of dedication. So here we go.

See, this is why I don’t understand why people say “Mommy _____” with such derision. “Mommy jobs” and “mommy bloggers” and “mompreneur” and the like. Because at the same time I am making the executive decision to put my children’s literacy above my workload, thus guaranteeing me a couple of short sleep days as I scramble to make up the time, I am also managing cleaning and laundry and shopping for essentials, contacting the landlord about the rotten deck and pest control about the wasps in the garage, checking in on my parents, and ensuring my kids (one of whom got up at 4:30 this morning, so of course I have Apple Jacks ground into my living room rug already) are safe, happy, fed, and don’t burn the house down while I’m on a call. As a freelancer, I’m juggling four different jobs (this week; I have more) while all this goes down.

Scheduling and organization are key. Having a time and a place for everything, and keeping everything in its place. I have to-do lists of to-do lists.

I thought I was an organized multitasker before I had kids. I did not know what it meant to multitask back then. I could clean the house and it stayed clean. Now I scrub the kitchen floor three times a day.

Moms work hard; moms that work from home work even harder. There is no window of time during which everyone is out of the house and someone else is caring for the kids, so the chaos is literally neverending. I never have nothing to do, ever.

So yes, I am a mompreneur. A mommylancer. A work-at-home mom. If I mention my kids in context of work, I’m not telling you that I will need lots of flexibility or sick days (though let’s be honest, I will). I’m telling you that I can put out fires with a watering can and make s’mores from the embers. Your project will therefore be no problem.

And now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go change a poopy diaper and get back to work. I only have a few hours before we leave for the library.

 

Everyone learns at their own pace

“Remember when I went to my speech lessons, Mommy?” Anya asks. I know instinctively that she means the private speech therapy she was enrolled in at the age of two, not the speech classes she attended in pre-K. Sometimes I understand my daughter perfectly. Other times, not so much. Hence the speech therapy.

“Yeah, baby. I remember.”

“Don’t you think it’s about time Kai went to speech?”

To her, speech class is a normal part of growing up. She’s gone off and on as far back as she can remember. I’ve told her of my (short-lived) stint in speech therapy, as has her grandfather. Her dad never went to speech therapy, but she knows he, too, was a late talker and had speech issues. Kai is talking more and more, and not all of it is intelligible. So he needs speech therapy, right?

Thing is, Kai doesn’t appear to need speech therapy. Sometimes he forgets and calls me Daddy and his father Mommy, but it’s not like his sister’s melding every adult into Daddy — it’s more like how I call him Anya and Anya Kai from time to time. Rather than shying away from books, songs, anything that appears to be intended to teach him, he asks to be read to. He’s absorbed the lessons we’ve worked on with his sister and can continue counting and reciting the alphabet — not just adding “B, C” to “A” anymore, but “T, U” to “Q, R, S.” He has shown that he is not merely reciting numbers by counting my breasts. He sings, though he does not know all of the words just yet. He points to things and names them. He either knows some of his colors (yellow, red, orange, green) or is a damn good guesser. He calls my mother on the phone (for real, not just pretend — and bypasses my PIN in order to do it) and has 5-minute conversations with her. They are mostly gibberish…but not all gibberish.

Anya knows that she and Kai are different. She is grown up (her teen years are going to be fun), and Kai is a baby. She is a girl, and Kai is a boy. Now the delicate work begins: Helping her to see that Kai, like some other kids, has an easier time learning words — and that it doesn’t mean that she’s not as smart as he is, but just that she learns differently. At their age, words are the yardstick by which everyone is measured, but it will not always be that way. I have the same IQ (if not higher) as many scientists and others regularly lauded as highly intelligent. However, society does not value linguistic skills as highly as it does science, so nobody’s basting me with the genius brush anymore.

Having children has been highly educational for me. For starters, it’s made me think deeply about what is truly important in life. I used to value intelligence above all else, but upon further consideration, I have to admit that being intelligent doesn’t make me happy. It makes it easier for me to absorb certain types of knowledge, that’s all. What’s made me happiest is knowing what I want and taking steps to attain it. A secondary key to my happiness is nurturing an inner calm through meditation and simplification. It took me an embarrassingly long time to get to this point, though, so I am taking pains to teach these lessons to my kids early.

And also the alphabet, numbers, colors, and shapes, because otherwise their teachers send me homework. I never did like homework.

Settling into the new normal

House listings are my porn. I have accounts on Trulia, Zillow, and RedFin, and visit HotPads from time to time. I have saved hundreds, perhaps thousands, of listings. Any time I see a for-sale sign in a neighborhood I’m interested in, I grab my phone and search for the realtor listing. How many bedrooms? Is there a garage? Separate laundry room? What unfortunate color scheme would I have to paint over?

I’m not buying a house anytime soon. I’m too far in debt to even consider it. Nor are we moving away in the foreseeable future; my parents’ health is waning, and they are beginning to truly need our help. Even if that were not the case, my kids enjoy living close to them too much to leave right now.

No, my house shopping is just a dream. But it’s pretty much a harmless one, so I indulge myself.

The other day, I learned that I did get one of the jobs I’d applied for, a part-time contract gig. It’s flexible enough that I can do most of my work before the kids even wake up in the morning, and squeeze in my other freelancing while Kai naps and after R gets home from work. Which leaves me the rest of the day to take care of the kids and help my parents out.

This is not how I’d pictured my days. I was anticipating having to decide between a daycare and a babysitter — a decision I’ve fought since I became pregnant with Anya. Now I’m the daycare. It’s the goal I aspired to before I had kids. I didn’t expect it to feel this scary, though.

If I bust my hump and the work stays steady, with this new job I will be making close to what I made when I was laid off…but without benefits. If we manage to get married later this year, come tax time next year R’s tax return will offset my tax payment…but we may just barely break even. The security of the job I didn’t get was so great that I admit I’m having trouble seeing the bright spots in how things turned out.

But if I am to be honest about it, I think things turned out just as they needed to.

My mother, while not as bad off as we had feared this time last week, is very ill, and recovery is going to take at least a year. My father has health issues of his own that he’s been putting off treating until Mom gets well — and the time has come that he can no longer do that. They need me to help them out.

My kids need me, too. My daughter, while she thinks she is grown, is still little enough to want to spend time with me. And I’d be a fool to regret having the time with my son that I missed with her because I was working so much.

My debt is at times utterly overwhelming to me. Because we had to rely on credit during both of my maternity leaves, my current debt is roughly half my annual income. The first thing I’d intended to do once I started receiving a steady paycheck was to use my freelancing income (because of course I’d intended to continue freelancing, at least for a while) to start paying down my debt. So I could eventually pay back what I took from the kids’ savings accounts and our down payment savings account.

Now it’s going to be a while before all that happens. Years, perhaps. And unless I do return to work full time, the down payment account may never come back at all. My house hunting will remain a pretty dream.

But I’ll hang on to that dream just a little while longer.