Friday, April 30, 2010

Sick Sick

After being sick with worry about traveling with a toddler, and then heartsick over having faraway close friends, I find myself just plain old sick. For what seems like the thousandth time in two years.

I've written about this before, but it still seems noteworthy that I was never sick with this kind of frequency before Westley was born.

"That's the way it was with us," my dad told me, when I complained to him about yesterday's Stomach vs. Food smack-down. "Your mom and I were like Clydesdale horses before you and your brother came along. Then we caught everything that came down the pike!"

Apparently, I should have expected this. But it still doesn't make sense to me. I mean, I would be willing to accept the demise of my healthy-as-a-horse self if Westley were in daycare and bringing home every illness the Pacific Northwest has to offer. But Westley and I don't really go anywhere (a problem I'm hoping to remedy in the near future). Rob goes off to work and presumably brings home writer-germs on a daily basis. But you'd think that if that were the issue, my husband would get sick at least as often as I do. (Right?)

So I've concluded that one of two things must be going on here. Either I'm much more physically depleted than my doctors or I realize, or else I'm just a giant wuss.

On the microbiological level, of course.

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Monday, April 26, 2010

Awaysick

Well, we did it. Two trips, two weddings, two weekends in a row. With a two-year-old. And as lovely as it was to sleep in my own bed last night, and eat a dinner tonight that I prepared from fresh, local produce, I'm sad that it's over.

I don't want to be home.
Not that the "being away" thing was all that wonderful. I'm a very cranky traveller, in general. I want my bed, my shower, my kitchen. Not having my creature comforts close at hand while also caring for a child who refuses to sleep anywhere but home makes me even crankier. The first trip was characterized by near-constant misery for all of us. But this time, I got to see my best friends. Which happens once a year. Maybe.

I spent four and a half days feeling overjoyed to be surrounded by the fun, intelligent, eccentric, neurotic, wonderful women I rarely get to see in person. But I worried about shifting so much of my focus away from Westley, leaving Rob to wrangle, entertain, and soothe our child alone. Socializing with old friends was both refreshing and guilt-inducing, a balancing act between "It's so good to see you! How are you?" and I really hope Rob and Westley are okay.

If I'd known how physically and emotionally exhausting it would be to travel with Westley, I almost certainly would've made arrangements for him to stay home while Rob and I took on the double-whammy wedding weekends. Choosing to bring Westley on what might have been a vacation meant, in a sense, paying to be miserable.

On the other hand, I desperately want my friends to be part of my family's life, too. I gain so much from their presence; I'm certain they have even more to offer Westley. How could I deprive him of the wisdom, love, and practical skills of half a dozen fairy godmothers?

Now I find myself missing them not only for myself, but for my son as well.

And despite my much better judgement, I'm already searching for our next set of plane tickets.

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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Astraycation

I keep trying to think of something nice to say about our trip to San Francisco this past weekend. It's proving difficult, to say the least.

Wait. I got it: Rob and I got to see our wonderful, beautiful friend get married. And we got to hear her say over and over again how glad she was that we were there. That was lovely. Especially since she's not the kind of person to say something when she doesn't really mean it.

Just about everything else about the trip, however, was a completely miserable experience.

It started out badly, when we had to wake Westley up so he'd be ready to go out the door at 5:30 AM. Westley managed to run away from us no fewer than six times before we'd even made it to security. I was not allowed to carry him; only Rob would do. Which left me and my unpredictable back responsible for the bags, everyone's boarding passes, and the huge-ass car seat (which doesn't seem so huge-ass when you don't have to schlep it through the airport).

There were a few moments of peace on the plane. Rob theorized that tiny robots and tiny animals would amuse our tiny dude. He was so, so right.

In the five years since I was last there, I'd forgotten that San Francisco is a terrible place to drive, and an even worse place to try to park. We arrived at the "no-rehearsal rehearsal dinner" late, with an exhausted toddler.

Exhaustion seemed to be the major theme of the trip, in fact. Between being woken up on Friday morning, flying for the first time, and all of the excitement and confusion of the airport, shuttle buses, a rental car, and a hotel room, Westley's nap schedule completely dissolved. No naps (plus the new location) meant almost no nighttime sleep. For any of us.

Fortunately, we were able to eat pretty well (something I always worry about when traveling), thanks to the kitchen in our room (a pleasant surprise) and our close proximity to both a Whole Foods and an all-vegan Asian restaurant.

Then there were all the little upsets and frustrations (made worse by lack of sleep, of course): realizing we hadn't brought enough changes of clothes to get us through the trip without doing laundry; realizing the clothes we had brought were completely wrong for the sunny, summery weather (Long sleeves and sweater dresses? So not the right thing); Rob discovering a large hole in his only pair of jeans; me discovering several small, but structurally significant holes in the dress I'd planned to wear to the wedding; getting all set to swim only to discover a Jacuzzi that was too hot and a pool that was way, way too cold; Westley discovering the existence of hard candy...

Westley's one nap that didn't happen completely by accident in the car was only somewhat successful. Once again, Rob and I had to wake him up to get him out the door on time. Although, this time, there were wedding clothes to deal with.

Naturally, Westley refused to wear them. And, because we were exhausted and not about to start a fight with him, we let this one go. So while the other young wedding guests wore tiny suits and fancy dresses, Westley wore his new (thrifted) Mickey Mouse T-shirt.

And once we got him to understand that we couldn't eat cake the second we arrived, Westley actually had fun.
He even got a chance to show off his sweet dance moves.

Rob and I, on the other hand, merely survived. Despite the exhaustion, we were positively giddy when the shuttle driver who took us back to our car asked if we were glad to be back. Just the idea of being home, with our own bathroom and blankets and mattress, gave me a jolt of energy that temporarily masked my fatigue and propelled me through Sunday evening.

Then, when we finally got Westley to sleep, and climbed into our own warm, soft bed, I discovered that the kitty had peed on everything.

The comforter, blankets, and sheets were washing well into the night, while Rob and I spent our first night home shivering side-by-side, swearing that we'd never, ever do something like this ever again.
Except that we're going to. Tomorrow.

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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Keep Calm and Carry-Ons

This afternoon, when I'd normally be attempting to restore some order to my kitchen, I instead climbed up to the attic and pulled down our two largest suitcases. Right now, I should probably be figuring out exactly what I need to stuff into them. But then I'd really have to come to terms with the honest-to-goodness travel in our future. And that might launch a full-blown anxiety attack.

On Friday, Westley will be getting on a plane for the first time. In fact, as though to make up for my not taking him with me on my beach vacation last August, Westley will be taking two out-of-state trips in the next few days, one right after the other.

Fortunately, I won't be traveling alone with a tired, clingy, congested toddler; Rob will be there, too. Unfortunately, we'll all be going to unfamiliar cities, with dietary restrictions and nap schedules to worry about, trying to sleep crammed together in hotel beds.

I keep reminding myself that this is supposed to be fun. Or, if not fun, at least not crazy-making. People travel with toddlers all the time and live to tell the tale. Not only that, but we're going out of town because two of our close friends are getting married (not to each other, on subsequent weekends). We're supposed to be celebrating life and commitment and togetherness and love. All wonderful things! Yay!

But I can't seem to get to a celebratory place, even though I know I'm deliriously happy for my friends. (I swear I am.) I'm too busy dreading the next ten days.

Now, faced with suitcases to pack and itineraries to print, I keep reminding myself that when I made these travel arrangements, I also made up my mind to be calm. I so want to be one of those people who happily jet off to wherever with their kids, framing it as, "Hooray, we're going on a family adventure!" But I'm so not that person right now. I'm too anxious a traveller and too neurotic a mother to be that person. It's entirely possible that I will become that person after this upcoming travel experience (though I'm not counting on it).

In the meantime, I'm focusing on keeping calm, labor-and-delivery style. Deep breathing and such. In with the love, out with the jive. The theory is that if I'm calm about traveling, Westley will be calm about it, too.

I just hope it actually works out that way. I'm not sure what I'll do if it doesn't.

(Of course, if I'm calm enough, I just won't care.)

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Monday, April 12, 2010

Houselife

I should know better than to answer strangers honestly when they ask how I am.

"How're you guys doing today?" the cashier at Whole Foods asked. She directed the question more to the two small, not-quite assistants in my cart than to me. Westley and Kaylee sat side-by-side in the double shopping cart. (Am I the only one who had no idea such a thing existed until last week? These things are genius.) The kids were driving each other (and me) so crazy you'd swear they were siblings.

Instead of the predictable response, "Fine, thanks," I said something about how it had been a pretty rough morning, but we were managing. I was trying to be good-natured and funny.

Cashier: "At least you don't have to go to work today."

Me: [uncomfortable laugh]

Cashier: "Do you work?"

Me: "No, I'm home full-time."

(I wish I'd said, Yes, I nanny for this little girl a few days a week. Or even just, Yes, I do. But getting into the whole he's-mine-she's-not kid-discussion is always kind of awkward, and takes longer than I think it should. I don't know why people are so confused by the idea that you could care for your own child and someone else's at the same time. Also, I guess I don't really think of what I do as "work." But that's a separate issue.)

Cashier: "Oh. That's nice."

Me: "Yeah, we're very lucky that I...uh..."

Cashier: "What do you do for fun?"

[Westley is pulling my hair.]

Me: [laughing uncomfortably] "Uh, right now, not much."

[Westley throws his arms around me and pulls me into a hug.]

Cashier: "Aw, that's nice. Little boys and their mommies... Have a good one!"

I think I let this exchange bother me more than is really necessary. People say things all the time that the listener receives in a completely different way than what was intended. The cashier was just trying to be nice, or funny. (I think.) Nevertheless, I was pissed off the rest of the day. I'm still a little pissed, thinking about it.

"What do you do for fun?" What the hell kind of question is that?

Part of what bothers me about it is that I didn't have a good answer right away. Walking to the car, I found myself wondering, "What do I do for fun?" Nothing leaps to mind. I blog, but I wouldn't exactly call blogging "fun." It's not not fun, either; it's more an exercise to give my degree in English Language and Literature some sort of real-world application (as well as a fantastic forum for working my shit out) than it is something I do for recreation.

Fun. Still racking my brain. (Thinking! Thinking is fun. In a way.)

Ha! I've got it! I go out for coffee once a week with my mom. Take that, cashier lady!

If I'm honest with myself, though, I have to admit that I don't really do much "for fun." Sometimes I think my life is incompatible with fun; my time is taken up either by home and family responsibilities, or my attempts to squeeze in some self-care. When I try to imagine doing something for fun, my mind stops short of actually coming up with the something.

Which is not to say that I don't enjoy being home. It's more exhausting and exasperating than any job I've ever had. But when Westley and I have had a really stellar morning, say, "tickling" the fish at PetSmart, and he's napping and soup is simmering and I'm scrubbing all the grime off my kitchen counter - worshipping at the laminate-counter-top altar - I can feel the peace, the satisfaction, the enjoyment settling in.

And when Westley wakes up in a good mood and tackles me with a hug, and we eat bananas and invent games and dance ridiculously to the music on the CD player, and it dawns on me that I don't have to do anything for fun. Life at home with a toddler will bring the fun to me.

Unfortunately, my growing sense of spiritual housewifery isn't enough to ward of negative energy from strangers who speak without thinking. People will always ask rude or personal or insensitive questions, especially of mothers. I wish I had the mental dexterity and the guts to say tell those people, calmly and politely of course, "That was a rude [or personal or insensitive] thing to say." I wish I could go back and tell that woman at Whole Foods to mind her own business. Or, better yet, describe to her how much fun it can be to grocery-shop with a two-year-old, especially if you give him a pen and let him "guard" your list.

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Thursday, April 8, 2010

New to Me

I love used things. Objects that were previously owned by someone else delight me. I grew up on a steady diet of "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle," so I do feel a sense of environmentalist pride when I buy something used. It's nice to know that I'm keeping, say, a perfectly good laundry basket out of a landfill somewhere, reducing the demand for new laundry baskets to be produced, and, hey, all right! Ninety-nine cents for a laundry basket!
But as I wander through resale shops and thrift stores, the thing that gets me most is the story. Or, rather, what I imagine the story to be. How did these things end up where they are, donated to be resold? Was the practically-new orange sweater dress a case of buyer's regret? Did those boots never really fit quite right, or did someone just get sick of the sight of them after years and years?

I'm always painfully curious about the former owners of the wedding dresses that always hang alongside the other thrift-store formal wear. I imagine that the bride wasn't sentimentally attached to her gown. Or else she was, but is no longer attached (sentimentally or otherwise) to the groom.

Whenever I wear something that I bought at Goodwill, I wonder if I, or rather it, will be recognized. Years ago, my mother donated a jacket that she later saw on a stranger walking down the street. She and I both had "Second Hand Rose" stuck in our heads for a week.

My mother gets my passion for used things, and we regularly hit up thrift stores together. But I can see Rob not really being able to wrap his head around my excitement over looking through other people's rejected stuff. Of course, my passion for "used" didn't really affect him until we started looking at houses.

So much of the construction in the areas we were looking to move to was new construction. Lots of townhouses and condos, springing up where previously there was nothing. Evergreens and dirt replaced with "Eastside Excellence."

We looked at several new new homes, and my feeling about every single one was that it was fine, "but I really like the idea of living somewhere people have lived before us, you know?"

Rob didn't know. He doesn't share my nostalgia for other people's lives. Still, he admits to getting a warm, fuzzy vibe from our current place, even four months later.

I felt the love instantly when I walked in the door. And when I look around now and quiet my mind, I still feel it. Maybe I feel it because, unlike the wedding dresses at the Goodwill, our house has a story that I sort of know. According to our agent, this house was the former owner's first home when she moved to the area, and she was very happy to be purchasing a home and moving into it on her own. I can feel that this house has been loved.

Or maybe the love-vibe I experience is just me projecting. Because when we bought the house, I felt so lucky to have found such a nice, well-cared-for place that we could actually kind of afford.

Whether or not my imagination has a story to hang on to, I continue to love used (or secondhand, or nearly new, or pre-owned, or whatever) things in large part because they're just cheaper than new things. Sometimes a lot cheaper. At a used book store, for the price of one new hardback book, I can often get three...and two paperbacks besides.
And as I settle down to read them, I can't help but wonder about the person (woman?) who read them before I did.

My most recent batch of pre-owned titles came with some thorough notes.
And a surprise quiz!
And lines to memorize!
Owning pre-owned things makes me feel like I'm part of another person's life story, without really being a part of it at all.

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Thursday, April 1, 2010

Treat-Hugging Dessert Worshiper

I will openly - if not exactly gladly - admit to creating some less-than-desirable traits in my son. His fondness for certain annoying turns of phrase? My fault. His paci-attachment? I started it. But I will not be held responsible for this one:

The only thing Westley will eat without argument is dessert.

Last week, while Rob tucked in to sweet-potato-and-lentil stew and I munched on brown rice and veggies wrapped in seaweed, Westley had a cupcake for lunch. It was a mostly-organic, all-vegan carrot cupcake, sure. But still a cupcake.

Ice cream sandwich with for dinner.

I'm not about to delude myself and argue that because the ice cream sandwiches and cookies of which Westley has suddenly become so fond are vegan that that's somehow better. I truly believe that a plant-based diet is the way to go, health-wise. But, animal-free or not, sugar and flour and fat are still sugar and flour and fat.

Now, it's true that I bought Westley that particular cupcake. But it was an experimental cupcake. Typically, when he gets a treat, Westley gobbles it up on the spot, sometimes before it's paid for. I wanted to see if I could slowly wean him away from this sugary speed-eating. On a weekday when Westley and I were going to have lunch with Rob, I told Westley he could pick out a treat "to eat at Daddy's work." He chose a cupcake, and it was no small miracle that it made it to lunchtime in one piece.

Even though I'm something of an enabler, I still claim innocence on the dessert-worshipping-toddler issue. Because I'm not the one who introduced Westley to sweets in the first place. I'm still not entirely sure who did. It was probably my mother, who treats vegan ice cream like a pantry staple. But Rob is also a prime suspect, based solely on my observation that every single one of his teeth is a sweet tooth. (Along with the cupcake, Westley picked out a cinnamon-oatmeal cookie to give to Daddy.) Regardless, dessert was something I was in no hurry to bring into my son's life.

I don't "do" dessert. I've never been passionate about it the way some people seem to be, which might be because I didn't grow up with dessert. I was raised on health food before health food was cool. Until my mom started graduate school, she cooked every one of our meals more-or-less from scratch. There were always cakes for birthdays and cookies for holidays, but we didn't start keeping dessert-like things in the house regularly until I was in my teens. I experimented with desserts in college, but it turned out to be a phase. Now, my idea of dessert has more to do with guacamole than it does with chocolate.*

I feel completely ill-equipped to deal with Westley's passion for sweets. I know toddlers go on food jags and that as long as I don't make a big deal out of it, everything will (I hope) turn out fine. But why couldn't he have chosen a food jag that I understand? (And one that I didn't associate so strongly with health problems now and in the long-run?) Right now, it feels as though the only way I'm ever going to get Westley to relish my cooking is if I give up on root-vegetable chili and start baking cookies.

Does anyone have a healthy(-ish) cookie recipe? I'm not looking to sneak veggies into my kid's baked goods. It doesn't fit with my food philosophy; I prefer to be forthright and honest with my muffin. (Never mind that so many of those hide-healthy-things-in-dessert recipes call for a measly quarter cup of sweet potato...and yield twelve servings). But if he's going to load up on sweet-tasting carbs and fat, it would be nice if they were good carbs and fat. Westley will happily eat cookies, and I want to be able to give them to him without giving myself a heart attack in the process.

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*When I needed to jump-start my labor, my midwife suggested castor oil. Specifically, a castor oil milkshake. Supposedly, blending the castor oil with ice cream makes drinking the whole bottle easier. Huh. "Mix it with something you don't like," she advised, so as to not spoil positive associations with a favorite ice cream flavor. I bought some chocolate Silk along with my castor oil, which I blended up with chocolate non-dairy ice cream from my parents' freezer. The result was pretty foul. The midwife was surprised I'd chosen chocolate. Because we all know about women and chocolate.

There is one thing comes close to being a chocolaty, dessert-y thing I can get behind: chocolate avocado pudding. Westley thought it was only okay, Rob deemed it "too avocado-y" for dessert. Which is just the way I like it. But if I'm only making it for myself, I'll just make guacamole instead.

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