Completely Off Topic

Last spring we met a lovely couple at the bridal shower for Z’s sister and our now sister-in-law.  In less than three weeks the ladies we met are tying the knot themselves.  One of them has been blogging about the impending nuptials both on the weddingbee website and on her personal blog.  So although Friday is our 10th wedding anniversary I have been reading wedding blogs, both hers and ones I have found through her site. 
Sometimes it is hard for me to read wedding blogs without thinking, “Oh Jeeze, these ladies think this stuff is so life and death, but it isn’t!  The wedding is one day, it doesn’t matter if everything is just so.  The marriage is what matters!”  I know, I know, I’m an ass.  When I think that I remember two things.  First, I am sure the moms of older kids who read new mommy blogs think a very similar thing.  And second, I felt the exact same way as these brides ten years ago.  And to their credit, many of these women are incredibly thoughtful about the whole process including life beyond the big day. 
Today I was reading a blog from a recent bride in which she discussed her choice to take her husband’s name and asked readers to explain why they made their choices.  Though it was my first trip to this particular blog I actually commented, which is unusual.  I’m much more of a lurker than a commenter.  But I explained that I kept my name because I love it and it is a big part of my identity.  I also wrote that I’m glad women have to opportunity to make the choice and everyone needs to do what is right for them.  Directly after me a new bride commented that taking her husband’s name made her feel fully committed to him.
At first I was all riled up about that.  You have to take your husband’s name to prove you are fully committed?  Are you fucking kidding me?  No one expects a man to prove his commitment by changing his name, yet there is still an expectation that the woman will take the subservient role and trade her father’s name for her husband’s. 
And then I thought perhaps I should calm the fuck down.  First of all, my last name is my father’s last name and I received it in the traditional paternalistic way.  My mother took my father’s name and I respect her decision.  And who is to say someone didn’t read my comment and think, “What?  Is she saying I’m shedding a part of my identity by taking my husband’s name?  How offensive and wrong!” 
The great thing about this blogging and commenting situation is we are able to express how we feel.  And it would be super boring if we all felt exactly the same.  It is legitimate that I felt I was keeping my identity by keeping my name; it is legitimate that the new bride feels she is fully committing to her husband by taking his name.  I love when the wise internet teaches me a lesson!  And I would like to ask the same question here.  Married or almost married friends-what last name choice did you make?  Why did you make it?  Does it even matter that much to you?  If you are a parent do you have the same last name as your kids? 
For the record, T has Z’s last name.  I have male Cordano cousins who have procreated, so the name lives on.  Z is the last male in his part of the family, and it didn’t bug me in the least that he wanted T to have his last name.  Z recently said if we have another kid it should have my last name to keep things fair, but I shot that down. It really doesn’t matter to me that much and I think it would be weird for the two siblings to have different last names. 
I’m glad I’m reading wedding blogs right now.  Strangely I’m also reading a bunch of divorce blogs, and they are also instructive.  I don’t know about you guys, but for me it is really useful to read about places you and been in your life, as well as places you haven’t been.  On second read, this might just be the most obvious, duh inducing post ever.  With all the mommy blog reading I’m doing I think I’m losing perspective.  There is so much one-upmanship, so much meanness, and judgement, and hurt feelings that it took a wedding blog to remind me we can have constructive conversations here on the old internet.
My sweet boys swinging in the back yard.

Visit from the In-Laws

For the last five days my in-laws have been in town.  The first really neat part of them visiting is they have been taking T off my hands for large chunks of the day.  It is fantastic for me to get a break from T because then I really miss him.  And it makes me grateful all over again that my job is to spend all day with him.  No one loves their job 100% of the time, but all things considered I love it way more than I am frustrated with it.  It makes me feel incredibly lucky.
I also have had the opportunity to write much more frequently.  In fact, I’ve been choosing writing over napping.  Which is pretty big because napping is my number one favorite thing to do in the universe. 
The other thing it has me thinking about has actually been on my mind since before T was born.   About two months before my due date I started to want my Mommy.  I mean, I wanted her in a way I hadn’t since I was a little kid.  Basically, I wanted her to take care of me.  Turns out I got my wish because I developed preeclampsia and was on bed rest for the last 3 weeks of the pregnancy.  Mom was with us for the 3 weeks before T was born, and then for an additional 5 weeks.  Yes, I am a spoiled brat. 
If you had told me at the beginning of my pregnancy that Mom would be living with us for 8 weeks I would have laughed in your face.  I haven’t lived with my mother full time since I left the house to go to college at 18.  My family is close, but very independent.  When I was 20 my folks moved to the Middle East, and frankly having them that far away didn’t affect my life any more than when they lived in Texas.  But when she left to go help my pregnant sister when T was 5 weeks old I wept as she drove away and frankly for the next several days.
Additionally, at the beginning of my pregnancy I would have been shocked to find out I wanted Mom in the delivery room with me.  And yet there she was holding one leg while Z held the other as I pushed T out into this world.  Granted, I sort of hated both of them at that moment, but I also would have been devastated if they were not there. 
Bottom line—I have wanted my Mom a lot this past year.  I have needed my Mom more than I ever thought I would need her again.  Because she was around so much when T was brand new she developed a wonderful closeness with him.  At first T still seemed to be a part of me.  I think this is true no matter how the baby is fed, but if you are breastfeeding during those first few weeks the baby is constantly with you no matter how supportive your partner is.  It is the nature of the beast.  It really felt like all I did was breastfeed and try to nap in between sessions.  And I was so raw physically and emotionally.  Mom helped me get through that time.  And by doing that she also developed a lovely intimacy with T.
So in our case (and in the case of many of my friends who I’ve discussed this with) the relationship between the maternal grandmother and grandchild is different than that of the paternal grandmother and grandchild during the first year of life.  I think this difference will pass by the time T is a couple of years old and really becomes his own person.  It is already lessening.  And I think it is totally natural.  The relationship my mother-in-law had with my niece during her first year was much closer than hers with T.  Once a month either my mother-in-law went to my sister-in-law’s home or vice versa.  In fact, my niece is almost 3 and the monthly visits continue.  Before I was a mom I remember thinking that was a lot of visiting, but now I understand perfectly.  My sister-in-law needed her mom, and her mom has been there to support her every step of the way.  I’ve seen my Mom more this year than I have since I was 18.  And I’ve been grateful for every second.  Our moms have been around for us, and it stands to reason that through supporting us they have developed a special bond with our kids. 
I was so happy when we found out T was a boy.  I just feel more equipped to deal with a son.  I mean, I was a teenage girl and it was awful.  The mother/daughter relationship can be so toxic at that time.  Before I got pregnant I didn’t realize that our relationship was going to have the opportunity to deepen dramatically.  If I end up as the mother of only boys, that will be a beautiful thing.  But now I don’t dread the idea of a girl.   And I know that it is a special gift to be a maternal grandmother. 

Note: This entire discussion presupposes both grandmothers are alive.  And I understand how very lucky we are to have both grandmothers in T’s life and how many people don’t have that opportunity.  I am grateful for them both every single day.  The fact that I can think about the subtleties of their relationship with T is an absolute luxury. 
T’s granddad took some great pictures over the last few days.  I love how this one captures the mischievousness that is always there alongside the sweetness.  

Friends: I Have Two Questions for You

 Friends and parents:  I need your help.

Here is my story…T definitely understands the word “No”.  He doesn’t really care to stop doing whatever it might be that Z or I think is a bad idea, like playing with the cat food or water, crawling into the unbaby-proofed pantry, or pulling the safety plug thingies out of the sockets.  We usually have to remove him from the situation and try and distract him.  But he will pause when we say “No” and he will also wave at us.  He has actually started waving as soon as he’s started doing something he knows he shouldn’t.  It does crack me up that he sells himself out that way.  Sometimes I haven’t realized he’s doing something forbidden until I see the wave.  I can only pray he will continue to tell on himself when he’s a teenager.
Anyway, we are at the stage where he knows he shouldn’t do something and he does it anyway.  And more than half of the time when we stop his behavior he has a little tantrum at us.  Not the most charming of stages.  I know he is too little to understand why we don’t want him to do things.  He probably thinks we are pretty arbitrary and mean, although we try and be as consistent has possible.  He has to be as frustrated as we are, or maybe even more frustrated because he doesn’t understand the whys of any of this. 
We are stumbling through the best we can, but he has started doing something that is completely not cool with me.  He has a sweet little friend who is just about the same age.  They both are at the point where all they want in the world is to play with whatever is in the other one’s hand.  Totally normal, totally fine.   The un-fine thing is he has started to hit her in the head right before he grabs whatever she is holding.  I firmly (and I admit loudly) say, “No!” and try to distract him with something else, but I don’t know what else to do.  I ended up removing him from her immediate area, but it seems like such a crappy solution because I want him to get used to playing with another kid.  I am comfortable with him being with me full time until he is 2, and then I think it is important to get him into a preschool a few times a week to get him socialized, but Z is already worried he doesn’t spend enough time with other kids.  I understand this is a stage, that this too shall pass, but I am looking for another solution so I don’t have to pull him away from her.  What would you guys do it this situation?  I need experienced parent help!
This shirt is one of my all time favorite gifts for T.  It has a lovely appliquéd hammer and was made by an artist in Providence.  Man, we miss Providence…
Now on to the second question and a tiny bit more about Love:
First of all, we are major NPR people in this house.  I mean, we aren’t just listeners we are members.  Scott Simon, host of Weekend Edition Saturday, is out with a new book about the adoption of his two daughters called “Baby We Were Meant for Each Other” and he has been all over the radio doing interviews about it.  A few days ago he was the guest on Fresh Air and he was talking about the exact moment that his eldest daughter was placed in his wife’s arms.  I am paraphrasing here but the gist of what he said was at that moment he loved his wife more than he had 20 minutes before, and he loved his daughter more than he had ever loved anything in his entire life. 
It was particularly interesting for me to hear that so soon after writing about my feelings concerning love in the nuclear family.  And I guess it really drove home to me what should be obvious, everyone’s feelings about love are specific to their own situation, and it goes without saying valid.  And while my feelings about love in my little family haven’t changed since I wrote the previous post, it made me curious about how you guys think of love within your families. 

As this is a two parter I thought a bonus picture was in order.  Dude is really bald, huh?

Love

Here’s a quickie…

Since T was born I’ve thought a lot about love. What new parent doesn’t? I’ve written about it before, but it drives me bonkers when existing parents tell expectant parents that they don’t know what love is until they have a child. That sentiment insults me so much. I feel like it trivializes the kind of love you feel in your life before parenthood. And those who choose to remain childless? Does this mean they go through their lives never really experiencing love? What an ignorant and insulting thought!

And yet the love a parent has for a child is a powerful thing. I maintain that I do not love T more than I love Z. And I don’t want to love T more. Part of it is self preservation. In 20 years T is going to be out of my daily life. But, God willing, Z will still be in it. I don’t want to forget our relationship, or put it on the backburner because our relationship is my every single day for forever.

But back to the love for a child—here is my theory for what it is worth; the love you feel for a baby is the easiest love in the world. Parenting is hard work, but loving that little creature is so effortless it is insane. My love for Z is unbelievably difficult in comparison. We need to work on it all the time. In fact, it became so hard a few years ago we almost abandoned it. I know T will drive me crazy over the years, but I don’t see it ever getting harder to love him. Who knows, maybe I’ll be completely wrong. I’ll have to remember to revisit it in a decade…

Yup, loving him is the easiest thing in the world.

Agoraphobia

The really wonderful news is T turned one last Friday. And the super duper fabulous news is my family was here to help him celebrate. It was awesome. We had a little party in the backyard. Z was happy because I made his favorite food. I was happy because so many people I love were under one roof. T was happy because he got tons of attention and to hang out with his cousin. Perfection. And to top it all off the following day one of Z and my best friends came to hang out with everyone. Side note-isn’t it satisfying when you and your spouse have a friend that is equally yours? We love this person so much and we are constantly amazed that he fulfils such completely different things in each of us.

This morning my mother left town, that coupled with the fact that T and I are sick and my hormones are all over the place has made me very blue. Kind of nervous makingly blue. And it has me thinking about my pesky agoraphobia, which has slowly gotten worse since the move to Syracuse.

It isn’t a problem for me to have people over to my house. Over the last year I’ve made one good friend here in sunny Syracuse (hey-one friend a year is really good for me) and most of the time we hang out at my place. Occasionally I will head over to her place, which is doable because it is less than two blocks away. And very occasionally I will take a walk with her and her kids. Luckily we have discussed the agoraphobia, so she understands where my crazy behavior is coming from. She has invited us over to her place for a lovely cook out for friends on Easter, when Z was out of town she invited me over for dinner, two days after T’s birthday (which she gamely attended with her kids) she invited us to her son’s 5th birthday. T and Z attended Easter and the birthday party; I attended none of the above. For Easter and the party I was sick, but even if I wasn’t I don’t think I would have made it. Just thinking about social events where I don’t know people makes my stomach cramp up in fear.

And to be crystal clear this woman is my friend. I thoroughly enjoy her company, the company of her kids and her husband.

I feel so guilty that I can’t seem to reciprocate friendship when it requires me to leave the house. When we lived in Rhode Island and I was in charge of supporting us financially the agoraphobia became more manageable than it had been for years. In order to pay rent I had to go to work. So I went. I even made it to the vast majority of meetings I was required to attend at the regional office, although I made excuses in my head to get out of them up until the moment I got in the car every single time. And getting to work made it easier for me to make it to social events. I had a couple of friends. We socialized. I even went to a lot of Z’s grad school events. And art school events are trying even to those without agoraphobia.

But there isn’t an imperative that requires me to leave the house any more. And the longer I stay home the harder it gets to leave. I need structure. I need a reason to leave, but it is so easy to ignore that. We love our house. We love our yard. I am happy for the most part. And that is what scares me the most. Being happy to indulge in my agoraphobia is not acceptable. I’m just not sure how to do anything about it.

Don’t Let the Bed Bugs Bite

Three nights ago I woke up in the middle of the night scratching my legs. I can’t fall back asleep unless I pee, so I dragged myself to the bathroom and when I was done I glanced in the mirror. I had swollen bug bites all over my arms. On closer inspection they were all over my legs as well. I was itchy all over and starting to panic. For the next hour I researched bed bugs online and when I developed a plan of action I went back to bed. Z was stirring so I showed him the bites. He said he didn’t have any and promptly fell back asleep. He had to get up a few hours later to get on a plane so he wasn’t around for my manic cleaning session the next morning.

We are not tidy people. When it comes to cleaning I seem to move dirt around rather than eliminate it. My mother is a talented cleaner and I wish a tiny part of her cleaning genes were passed on to me. But instead I got her self proclaimed crappy hair. But I was so horrified about the bed bugs that I went into crazy cleaning overdrive. While T napped I got started on 5 loads of laundry and I vacuumed the mattress on all sides, pulled it off the base of the bed, and cleaned the wooden frame. I didn’t see a trace of bed bugs anywhere and after my hour of research on the computer I knew exactly what to look for.

That evening I got T down for the night without incident and ordered takeout from my favorite place. Turns out there was a NCIS marathon on TV (NCIS is my shameful guilty pleasure), Z might have been gone but it was turning into a pretty darn good night. Except I was getting more bug bites. And I was having an allergic reaction again. I was freaking out-there must be bed bugs in the sofa. I went to bed slathered in anti itch cream. And the bites and reactions got worse. A lot worse. I had the lights on and desperately searched for bugs yet I saw nothing. I felt like I was going crazy. When I woke the next morning the bites and rash were gone.

I spent a long time vacuuming the sofa in the morning. Again, no sign of bugs. The idea of spider bites had been floated by several people I called in a panic. And then later in the afternoon a friend came over and I told her the story. She very surely said it was clearly an anxiety reaction. I very surely said I didn’t think so. My anxiety is pretty damn reliable. It has manifested itself in the same ways for more than 20 years. I just don’t randomly get new manifestations. But a few hours later Z floated the same theory over the phone. So I thought about it. There really weren’t any bugs at all. What the hell was going on?

As soon as I had T down for the night it started again. And it was by far the most severe outbreak. I googled anxiety rash and found pictures of hives. They looked exactly like my reactions. I tried my best to relax so the itching and marks would go away, but no luck. It spread all over my body, I think knowing what it was made it worse. Finally I took some Benadryl and was able to sleep through the night. In the morning the marks were again gone.

Zeke is home tonight. I’m curious to see if the hives come back. If so I’m going to have to call the doctor. And this is definitely going to be the number one topic at therapy this week. The thing is I don’t like being in the house alone overnight. I get scared. I had been dreading Z’s trip since we figured out he needed to make it without us. But despite the dread I thought I was handling it really well. I thought I was totally fine.

There is a big part of me that doesn’t believe that mental illness is real. I should be able to pull myself up by my boot straps. I had a privileged and charmed upbringing. People like me are so lucky they don’t deserve to have mental illness. The shame I feel about my condition only ends up feeding it. Then every once in a while something like this happens. And I am floored by how powerful the brain is. My brain is actually making my body have a physical reaction. Without my permission. It is amazing and horrifying and embarrassing all at the same time. A few nights ago I didn’t think there would be anything more embarrassing than having bed bugs, but turns out being bat shit crazy wins every time.