Tuesday, April 30, 2013

More on Violence

Every time I turn on the radio or go to check my e-mail, it's there: news about somebody hurting someone else. Sometimes—too often—that someone else is a child, and I just...I can't. It's gut-wrenching, now more than ever, because I can look up and see my own children. It's too easy to imagine somebody hurting them.

Sometimes I imagine I'm the somebody.

I will never forget when Ivy was five weeks old, and I smacked right into a news story about a 5-week-old baby whose mother had killed him. Probably a case of postpartum psychosis. At the time, I was absolutely high with love for my tiny daughter, and I didn't feel depressed. But I'd had intrusive thoughts about harming her.

It seemed like pure luck that I was not the psychotic one.

* * *

I'm not afraid of hurting my children. I know my bad thoughts are just that—bad thoughts. I also know that intrusive thoughts are very common among people with clinical depression, and that they even occur in about 7% of non-depressed people. Totally normal.

But still disturbing.

I take Westley's violent play personally because it reminds me of the violent thoughts I have. Playing violent scenarios and talking about hurting and killing are an important, psychologist-sanctioned developmental stage. I'm cool with that. At least, I'm cool with it to the point that I'm not really worried about my children growing up to be axe-murderers. But when Westley plays at solving problems with punching, it's easy to remember all the times I wanted to solve a problem by punching...or shouting in someone's face...or jumping off a bridge...

Westley has been in a few situations where a peer hurt him on purpose. Once, another child made him bleed. I wanted to rip that kid in half. (And when I think about the incident, I still want to rip that kid in half.)

So. I'm not as peace-sign-flashing, flowers-in-the-hair as I wish I were. I do believe in kindness and mercy and helping each other. But violent thoughts creep in too. I still believe that lumping people into "good guy" and "bad guy" categories is wrong. But I've fantasized about hurting "bad guys" before.

This, for me, is one of the most wonderful and terrible things about having children. They spin me around and make me face my own shadow. It's painful sometimes, and ugly. But I'm doing it anyway, and I'm grateful for the experience.

The wonderful thing about facing your shadow is knowing the Light has got your back.


Monday, April 29, 2013

Stand in the Place Where You Live


Now face North
Think about direction
Wonder why you haven't before


Now stand in the place where you work
Now face West


Think about the place where you live
Wonder why you haven't before...


* * *

Ivy's new skill = Much happiness for her, earworm for me.



Thursday, April 25, 2013

Alone Time Nostalgia

Guess Whose Back

On Westley's very first day of preschool, I didn't know what to do with my alone time. I hadn't expected it to be so quiet with him gone for a couple of hours. It took me a few weeks, but I eventually got into an alone-time groove: I worked out at home; took long, luxurious showers; went to yoga. Once, I even took a book to a coffee shop and read for a couple hours. For a split second there, I actually had enough time to do a few things for myself.

That seems crazy now. Like science fiction. Reading? Alone?

As I drove home from preschool drop-off today, with my restless-going-on-cranky baby in the back seat, feeling deep-down exhausted and dreading stepping foot in my messy house, I envied my former alone self. I mean, look at her, sitting there all by herself, smug with her giant chai latte and her semi-intellectual book and her non-nursing-friendly maxi dress!


I don't want to want to be somewhere else. I want to be present here, now, and happy. But could everyone just leave me alone for a while first?

I'm still so ambivalent about parenting full-time, and I hate that. I really feel as though I should've hit my stride by now—or at least have gained some perspective. This is only for a short while. They'll both be in school full-time before you know it.

And then you'll miss having a baby at home.


Feeling nostalgic about time alone makes me extremely uncomfortable. I acknowledge that everyone needs some alone time, and that there is no one in the world I want to be around all the time. But this desire to be away from my children—and the intensity of it—makes me feel like I'm failing at life. Like I'm not cut out for the job of stay-at-home motherhood.



Monday, April 22, 2013

Swing Times

November 8, 2008
(Westley, 11 months)

April 20, 2013
(Ivy, 8 months)


Friday, April 19, 2013

The Results Are In

My MRI results came back, and the good news is it's not back cancer. But it's also not nothing, which I guess is also good news because it means the pain isn't all in my head.

I have a couple of bulging discs in my lumbar spine, at L2-L3 and L3-L4, but the real trouble is at L5-S1. (You sunk my Battleship!) The report mentions "degenerative endplate changes" and "severe disk [sic] space narrowing." The disc at L5-S1 is desiccated and severely decreased in height. It would seem that my back is considerably older than I am. It's not catastrophic, but it's not good either. Now what?

My doctor is optimistic that we can make a difference in my pain, and her treatment plan includes at least three months of physical therapy. This will be my third round of PT. I hope it will be more effective now that we know what's actually going on in there.

I'm also continuing to reevaluate my diet. I already know that more I stick to low GI, anti-inflammatory foods, the more manageable my pain is.

A couple of humorous points on this journey so far:

I'm not a small person, but the size-XL scrubs they gave me for the MRI were a touch roomy.

MRI Couture

Down at the very bottom of my report it says, "The visualized pelvic cavity is unremarkable." I don't know about that. My husband seems pretty happy with it.


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Eight Months

Eight Months

This is a few days late. Sunday was officially the beginning of Ivy's ninth month (or her 3/4 birthday, which I just...I can't even. I mean...wasn't she just in my belly?), but I am behind on everything because  of the emotional roller coaster that is chronic pain and waiting for test results. But that's another subject for another time.

Right now, Ivy!

Eight Months
Eight Months

Ivy, who is more wiggly than ever. She refused to lie down for her monthly photo shoot. I think it might be time to throw in the towel on this whole "take a picture of the baby on the Wonder Woman blanket every month" idea. She just doesn't want to be still. She has stuff to do.

Look! Droids!
Basket Fun
Where's Ivy?


A few days ago, Ivy's navy-blue-green-brown eyes started to look mostly brown. The bluish tinge is gone, but they still seem to have a little green in them. I think they might settle on hazel. Her hair had a growth spurt recently. It's definitely dark blonde—much darker than Westley's hair was at this age, and closer to the color of his hair (and my hair) now.


Ivy finally has a tooth! On April 7, she woke up from her afternoon nap with a little white point peeking through her gums.


I know the date because I wrote it on the calendar. I had a little first-tooth dance party. After months of miserable teething, it was so exciting to see some progress. Of course, now she's working on about five more teeth. Still, fingers crossed that the worst is behind us.

More milestones: Ivy also started clapping earlier this month, and today she pulled up to stand a few times. She is still so tiny, as humans go, but she also seems like such a big girl all of a sudden.

Ivy is incredibly driven. She's already difficult to distract, because her focus is so intense. It's fascinating to watch her take in the world; I try to imagine what it's like for her, to have her whole existence taken up with getting bigger and learning things. It's so much fun to watch her grow. She loves new experiences so I try to make sure she gets to do something different and interesting every day. This usually means some errand out in the world, but yesterday she was very happy just to sit on the kitchen floor in front of the cupboard where we keep food storage containers. I opened the cupboard for her,  and she pulled out everything she could reach and made a ring of plastic lids around herself.
Besides kitchen implements, Ivy's favorite toys are the kitty, anything Westley has left on the floor, and my feet.

I feel like I see more of Ivy's personality emerge every day. She is serious, inquisitive, friendly and funny. She is our sunshine, our crab cake, our social butterfly and shy snugglebunny.

She is one of my favorite people ever.


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Poke and Destroy

I married a man who loves tabletop games, superheroes, and Star Wars. There are comic books and tiny plastic people holding weapons all over our house. I have lots of issues with superheroes, but the biggest problem right now seems to be that once they're introduced, there's no going back. PBS kids' shows and Yo Gabba Gabba with their encouragements to solve problems by "working together, helping each other" just aren't as exciting as heat vision and punching.

Once the word "battle" entered Westley's vocabulary, it became the be-all and end-all. He wants to play battle games and—this one just baffles me—"pretend video games." (For the record, a "pretend video game" consists of lots of punching and kicking, while jumping and making blaster noises.)


It's become a daily struggle as Rob tries to keep his own toys and adult superhero paraphernalia away from Westley, while Westley whines and carries on about how grossly unfair it is that there are superhero things in the house and he's not allowed to interact with them.

I find the whole issue incredibly upsetting, so I try to stay out of it as much as possible. I also get a lump in my throat every time Westley does or says something pro-violence.

I don't care if I'm being overly sensitive. I know he's only playing. But that in and of itself is part of the problem; I'm tired of the violence, real and "pretend." I hate to see my child play at bombing things. And I feel torn, because I believe in peace, I believe in kindness and teaching kindness—but all around me, the message is "boys will be boys."

Just give up, in other words.

Who says celebrating weapons and fighting is all just the epitome of being a little boy? There is nothing laudable about "kicking ass." There is nothing cool about dividing people into groups of "good guys" and "bad guys." Why is it so difficult to find toys, games, and visual media for my male child that don't involve solving conflict through violence?

Why do I take it so personally when my son wants to pretend-bomb things?


* * *

Westley got in a fight last week. The other boy was a stranger, just a friendly-seeming kid who'd said, "Let's go play!" And then he and Westley had disappeared out of sight.

I didn't see who started it. A woman standing nearby bouncing her baby (she was not the other boy's mother) said it looked like the kids were "play fighting" at first. When I arrived, the boy was holding Westley down, kicking him in the neck.

"STOP!" I shouted.

Westley stayed frozen, looking terrified for a long moment before he managed to scramble over to me and burst into tears. I hugged him as best I could around Ivy in the front pack. Westley clutched his throat where he'd been kicked. I felt the mama bear inside me rise up, ready to rip that other kid to shreds. I kissed Westley and said something sympathetic about how scary and not fun fighting is.

"Well, I like it in Mega Man!" he sobbed.

* * *

I had just been listening to the news yesterday, wondering why anyone would bomb anything ever, when Westley asked what my favorite word was. The first thing that came to mind was Peace. But I didn't say that. The last time I said that word (not in the context of favorites), Westley had recoiled. "I HATE peace!"

So I thought about my favorite yoga teacher asking us to set an intention for practice at the beginning of class. The same word always came to mind then. I settled on that as my favorite.

"Patience," I told Westley. Westley said nothing.

"What's your favorite word, West?"

He didn't miss a beat. "Attack. Or maybe destroy."

I swallowed. "Those are some pretty powerful words." I asked him what he liked about them.

"They're just my style."


 * * *

How do I persevere in teaching kindness when the world seems so fucked up and mean? When people with real guns and real bombs hurt people—children—on purpose? When even "let's play!" means throwing punches?

How do I teach kindness amidst the mixed messages, the backward gender roles, the incessant marketing of toy manufacturers?

How do I teach Peace when War seems so hard-wired in?


Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Problem

This isn't about my MRI results. I don't know what they are yet, so I can't share them with you. But I will say briefly that being inside the MRI machine is surreal. I didn't expect to feel anything, but it felt like my blood was vibrating.

* * *

There is a chiropractic office near my house with a reader board out front that says PAIN ISN'T THE PROBLEM.

The first time I saw this, I was sure I'd read it wrong. It didn't make any sense to me. But the next time I drove by, I got a better look, and sure enough—PAIN ISN'T THE PROBLEM—that's what it said.

And that pissed me off.

Like HELL pain isn't the problem!

When I can't lift my daughter up off the floor, or buckle my children into their car seats—when I can't get a good night's sleep because it hurts to roll over in bed—pain is most certainly the problem! Fuck you, sign! Who asked you anyway?

For about a week, each time I saw the sign, I'd answer it with a defiant mental "Yes it is!" Then I began to wonder if the person who had chosen that phrase for their reader board meant it in a new agey, suffering-is-only-in-the-mind way. That I can get behind, a little bit. I'm definitely trying to put some gratitude in my attitude, and I'm working on embracing what I can do. I also decided that instead of being overly anxious, I would fill the time between scheduling the MRI and talking with my doctor about the results by taking exquisite care of myself.

This evening, while I was working up a sweat after a day of anti-inflammatory, alkalizing, veggie-full meals, I realized that, pain-wise, I was doing pretty well. After a brief celebration ("I feel a little better! Go me!"), I got curious. If self-care can help relieve my pain, I can fairly assume that lack of good self-care may have led to the problem in the first place.

In other words, my pain and my problem are two different things.

How embarrassing that it took a literal sign to get me to see it.


Monday, April 8, 2013

MRI and I

After five-plus years of pain, I'm finally going in for an MRI. On Wednesday. This should have happened much sooner, I'm certain. But I guess I was in denial.

I'm a free-spirited hippie girl, and I really wanted some natural, groovy remedy for my pain. Herbal tinctures made no difference. Acupuncture seemed to do more harm than good. A squeaky clean diet, chiropractic, yoga, physical therapy... There's a long list of things that help a little, and while I'm all for "slow and steady wins the race," my tortoise could use more power.

But first, we look inside.

And then we bring out the big guns. The look will just determine which guns we choose.

I'm both relieved and afraid. Relieved to be heading down this new path of healing; afraid of what might be lurking inside to heal from.


Thursday, April 4, 2013

Dailies 4/4


Looking through my recent photos, it seems like the only things going on lately are:
  1. Ivy sitting.
  2. Ivy crawling.
Piano Girl
To be fair, having a baby who can see a toy (or the cat, or her brother) across the room, crawl over to it, and then sit and play with it for a while is AWESOME. And totally game-changing. She's so much happier now that she can get around on her own. But there is no longer such thing as "Stay here for just a minute, Ivy." Because the moment you decide it's safe to dart into the kitchen and take the chickpea burgers out of the oven, the baby goes for the cat food.
Whatever the adults or (even better!) older kids are doing, Ivy wants to do it too. Preschool, housework, Aikido practice, she wants to participate. Last Saturday, we met some friends at a park with a water-play area, and Ivy couldn't get in there fast enough.
Water Ball
Water Ball
Westley was not quite this...adventurous as a baby. But he didn't learn to crawl around a busy five-year-old sibling.
Egg Hunt
Easter weekend, which was originally going to be very low-key, ended up filled to the brim with activities. Things were very thrown-together-at-the-last-minute, from the thrifted Easter baskets to the impromptu get-togethers. Some year, I hope to throw a fancy-schmancy Easter brunch with extended family and Spring dresses and baked things garnished with berries. But low-key, casual celebrations are special too. 

From Westley's perspective, it was the best Easter ever. He got to do two egg hunts in the same morning, and rocked them both.