T Saves the Day

Class starts in about 6 hours, just when my parent’s plane is supposed to land in Syracuse. I need to be cleaning the kitchen and writing a grocery list. So naturally I’ve decided to blog. The last couple of days have been supremely unpleasant. While I pride myself on being self aware when it comes to the mental illness I’ve been blindsided by the staggering anxiety surrounding this silly class. Two days ago I was getting myself a coffee treat at a shop two blocks from my house with the boys. As the woman was making the glorious, frozen, whipped cream covered, completely unnecessary and ridiculously expensive concoction I started thinking I might come to the shop to do my homework at some point this semester. Instantly my bowels liquified.

I hustled those kids out of there fast and high tailed it home. Didn’t even pause the 5 seconds so T could pick up his fishing pole (broken stick he found on the walk over) that he left outside the coffee shop. What a huge mistake. We got across the street before he realized we didn’t grab it and he howled the rest of the way home, throwing himself on the ground twice. Which took a hell of a lot more time than stopping for the stick would have in the first place. I was covered in a cold sweat by the time we got back and then he refused to enter the house. It took almost half an hour to calm him down once we were inside.

A small victory is I’ve managed to get through the week so far without taking a chill pill. But I’m violently reminded why I hate rocking the boat. Any change, even good change, is so fucking overwhelming for me. The anxiety starts to convince me that I’m not stronge enough to take a stupid class. I think about other people who can try new things without completely falling apart and I’m eaten up with jealousy and self loathing. Then I think about how much easier it would be if I wasn’t taking this class. How this week would be full of blissful sameness and safety if I didn’t put myself out there. But that safety wouldn’t really be blissful. It would be suffocating. Both choices actually have negative and positive repercussions. Choosing to live life has more of both, I made the right choice.

Yesterday I went back to the coffee shop for another drink I can’t afford. T didn’t want to do, I had to force him. It had been a rough day for him and me. He hit his brother for no reason multiple times, he wouldn’t listen to me, I was done with him. He was freaking out while I was on the phone with my sister-in-law and I didn’t have the emotional fortitude to redirect or engage him or do any other positive parenting and I didn’t even give a shit that I was being a bad mom for an audience. I’d been trying all morning and I was done. After the call I told him we were getting Mommy a coffee drink. He whined and said he wasn’t going. I told him he could either come or we’d stay at home and he would have a nap in his room. He put his shoes on.

On the way down the driveway he asked if I remembered him crying the day before because we didn’t get the fishing pole. I told him I did remember and that I was very sorry for not stopping. Unprompted he told me he was sorry, too. We had a great walk to the shop, and damned if that broken stick wasn’t still on the sidewalk in front of the shop. I let him take it inside after he promised to be careful and he fished for stuff while we waited for my drink to be made. He handed me imaginary napkins, fish, Baby C, birds and I pretended to put all the things away in my pockets. It was awesome. On the walk home he told me that he had so much fun at the coffee shop. It was time for his siesta when we got home. I put Sesame Street on for him while I put C down for his nap. A few minutes later I came down and hung out on the sofa with T. I ended up drifting off for a nap of my own. I’m not an attractive sleeper, I snore, I drool, I thrash around. My shirt rode up during my snooze exposing my stomach. When I woke up T reached over and touched my flabby and stretch mark covered skin. “Mommy, your belly is bootiful.” Toddlers are hard, and my belly is anything but beautiful, but god damnit, sometimes the unconditional way that they love is more healing than anything I can possibly imagine.

Monday was Z’s first day of classes. He has freshman for the first time at SU this semester, as well as sophomores and seniors. 
And here’s my back to school picture from this morning.  

A huge branch came down in our yard yesterday. I guess the chainsaw I didn’t want him to get does come in handy sometimes…
This is my favorite chainsaw.
Our sweet little house got a bit of a facelift this summer. Z remade the porch railing to match the latticework on the sides and the porch and front entrance got a fresh coat of paint. Now if we could only afford to get the asbestos shingles abated and restore the original clapboards that are underneath….
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Worry

The great part about signing up for a class less than a week before it starts is there is not tons of time to psyche myself out about it. Unfortunately my evil anxiety doesn’t need tons of time. Almost immediately the high of actually doing something started to fade and that fucking little voice began whispering in my ear, and it has gone for the jugular. I won’t get home from school until 9pm at the earliest. C’s bedtime routine starts at 6:30ish and little man is in his crib somewhere between 7:15 and 7:30. I know it is crazy early, but he gets up at the ass crack of dawn even if he goes to bed much later. So it makes sense to keep the early bedtime at this point.

Class meets two days before C’s first birthday. He only drinks breast milk, has never taken a bottle, and I haven’t introduced any cow’s milk yet. I nurse him before bed and I have every night of his life. That time is special for a couple reasons. I love holding him close, love looking at his beautiful face and marveling at how perfect he is. I also love having a few minutes to read on my Nook or just to think, a few minutes when no one gets to ask me to do anything. Even though I am with C it’s like a mini-break from life. But it’s better than being alone, it’s special time with my littlest man. I am overwhelmed with guilt at the thought of not nursing him before bedtime.

The plan is for me to pump so Z can give him my milk in a sippy cup. And if C really freaks out, well, it’ll be a pretty unpleasant couple of hours, but I can always nurse him when I get home. When we discussed the situation Z asked if I should just start weaning him. I jumped so far down his throat that I reached his intestines. It wasn’t an unreasonable suggestion, the problem is I feel pretty damn defensive about my choices in the nursing department. I’m not ready to stop and he’s not ready either. The World Health Organization recommends nursing until a child is 2 years and beyond. I point that out not to make people who can’t or don’t want to breastfeed feel bad, I firmly believe that everyone needs to make the choices that are right for their family. Rather, I feel self conscious about my decision to nurse beyond a year. I worry that people are going to think I’m some damaging breastfeeding kook. I worry that I’m being selfish about nursing because I get so much out of it. It makes me feel connected to him, at this point it’s also so easy. Never dealing with bottles is a beautiful thing to someone who sucks at housework.

Listen, I’m terrified about this class. My anxiety is telling me it is going to punish me big time for rocking the boat. I know that it isn’t the end of the world that I’m not there to put C to bed for 15 Wednesdays. In fact, I have the feeling it’ll be harder for me than it is for him. But I can’t stop thinking about it. I look at him and I feel like I will be betraying him on Wednesday night. I feel like a selfish ass for doing something for myself at the expense of his comfort.

Dude. These thoughts are mega unhelpful. And mega ridiculous. Do I think that it makes you a bad mother or person not to be there every single bedtime of your child’s existence? Abso-fucking-lutely not. When I frame it that way it helps me remember that my anxiety is a lying asshole. C will be fine. I will be fine. C will be fine. I will be fine. If I say it enough times hopefully I’ll start to believe it.

This sweet kid is a major hugger. It is impossible to resist his charms. 

We visited Daddy at work.

The lovely H reads to the captivated boys.

I Did It!

Yesterday’s post was a really great idea. I felt like I was obligated to go to campus and register for the class today. I was going to do it first thing, but C has been sick and I didn’t want to mess with his nap. Then I was going to do it after nap time, but C slept extra long and the city had a tree removal company take down a huge tree across the street and another around the corner and T was riveted, some friends from down the street hung out and watched as well. I think little boys can smell construction vehicles from a mile away-they led their mom right to our house. After that excitement it was lunchtime. So I told myself after lunch we were going. Seriously, for real this time.

The parking garage closest to where we were headed was free because it was move in day for the students, a pretty good sign. Did I feel like a little bit of a fool walking into the University College building wearing a baby and holding hands with a toddler? Yup. Did I feel like a bigger fool when I approached the main desk and asked if that was where I could sign up for a class and the woman pointedly but kindly said, “You REGISTER for classes at that window.”? Um, sure enough. Did I feel like the biggest fool of all time standing in front of the very young woman who registered me as I stuttered an excuse as to why I hadn’t managed to fill out the form properly? Yes, yes I did. But whatever. I signed up. And it only took about five minutes.

T mostly kept it together and his reward for that Herculean feat was to pick something out from the pastry case at the Starbucks next door. I opened the door and realized it was a stupid idea to even go inside. I couldn’t actually identify the end of the line. Did I mention it was move in day? But T would not be deterred by a long line, the repercussions of which (behaving himself for a very long time) he clearly did not understand. There were long haired, skinny, impossibly young girls in sorority t-shirts everywhere. They all looked exactly the same. We snaked our way to the end of the line and stood behind two of them. I had the startling realization that I was technically old enough to be their Mom. As that thought was rattling around my brain I heard one call out to a friend she obviously hadn’t yet seen this school year. “How was Milan?” “Fabulous!” an unseen girl replied, “I miss Europe SO much, I HAVE to get back.” My eyes rolled so hard I almost got whiplash.

And I realized a couple of things. It’s easy for me to feel superior around the undergrads. Because if I don’t feel superior I’ll just feel like a very old hag. Also, I was those girls a short 15 years ago, so I’m just rolling my eyes at myself (ok, not exactly those girls-no sorority, no looking polished and blown out and manicured, but just as annoying in different ways). I got snarky because suddenly the class thing seemed real and scary. The act of signing up for the class made me feel like a bumbling fool, I haven’t been in a college classroom since 1999. I’m going to be the oldest person in the room, including the teacher.

That’s the other thing. I know the professor. He’s actually the father of the boys who were hanging out with my boy as they watched the trees come down this morning and he happens to be one year my junior. So yes we’re friends. The other day he dropped by with his sons and we were hanging out in the backyard shooting the shit. I asked what he was teaching this semester and he told me about a new class he was developing. It’s called “Farm to Fork” and the first part of class is a traditional lecture about CNY food sources. Then the class moves into a teaching kitchen where a local chef will lead the students in creating a meal out of CSA baskets. How fucking awesome does that sound? Awesome enough to get me off my anxiety paralyzed ass and sign up for it!

So yes, I’m feeling stupidly proud of myself for doing something very easy. I’m also scared. Really scared. I shall be taking a metric ton of Imodium on Wednesday afternoon. Class runs from 3:45-8:45. I am fucking doing this thing.

Brothers cracking each other up. These two were my fabulous entourage at campus.
 He slays me with his adorableness and sweetness. I actually miss this kid while he is sleeping.
Action shot! He’s got the balance bike thing. I’m super proud of him even if I can’t convince him to wear clothing. 
Oh, and he was a rockstar at Starbucks, which was hard for him. It was a lot of standing still and not touching stuff. But he got his brownie, damn it. And he enjoyed the hell out of it. 

And Hello Fall

This morning when I pulled into the parking lot at therapy there was a moving van straddling five parking spaces right where I always park. When my routine is messed up I become sure that something bad is going to happen, so while I was planning on talking about other stuff during my session it made sense to bring up how unexpected changes in my routines completely wreck me. It was embarrassing to tell my therapist that I thought something bad was going to happen while we were talking. I’m not sure what the bad thing was supposed to be, she rightly pointed out we didn’t tend to have “bad” or “contentious” conversations.

And it wasn’t a bad conversation. I explained that I resent my anxiety for demanding that I be a creature of habit, for requiring that I must always do the same thing in order to feel safe. But she reframed the situation. She said that my anxiety wasn’t forcing me to do the same things, rather I was battling my anxiety by finding comfort in my patterns. She said the routines helped me get through the day and I should cut myself some slack when it came to them. I’m still on the fence about the discussion. Cutting myself slack always seems suspect-like taking the easy way out. But it was a lot of food for thought.

New things, transitions, the unexpected they are all hard for me. But the truth is there is so much to feel good about right now. Fall is my favorite season. As a kid I was excited about the start of a new year of school, which led to Halloween, which led to Thanksgiving, which led to my birthday, which led to Christmas. It’s a couple of months that are filled with awesome. As an adult there is the added fantasticness of our wedding anniversary kicking things off on September 3rd. I’m happy for T, he wants to go back to school with every fiber of his being. I’m happy C will get more of my attention. I’m looking forward to apple picking at local orchards and the many Jewish Apple Cakes I’ll make. My parents are visiting next week, our friends from Brooklyn might be coming up, our sisters-in-law are planning on coming on October, my folks will be back for Thanksgiving. That is a shitload of good stuff.

And tomorrow I’m going to drive down to campus and sign up for a class. Seriously. I’m going to do it. I swear. At least I’m desperately trying to talk myself into it. By writing it here I’m hoping there will be no way to back out. If I make it happen tomorrow I will definitely post about the class. It sounds unbelievably cool. If I do make it happen I will be unabashedly proud of myself.

We got T a balance bike! 

And a fireman bike helmet! 

Here he is demonstrating how little he needs a nap. 

Smooching my sweet and sick little man.

Goodbye Summer

Yesterday really felt like the mother of all Sundays, the way Sundays felt a million years ago when I was in high school. The day would start out as a weekend, but by noon the specter of another school week loomed large and suddenly it wasn’t the weekend anymore at all, it was a school night. Z let me sleep in until 8am because I was up twice with Master C in the night. And we did have a lovely lazy morning. But yesterday was the last real day of summer, the last day before Z went back to work full time and dread settled in the pit of my stomach in the afternoon and is still sitting there now.

I know that it is small and selfish of me to resent the start of the school year. But it is more than just being sad that our magical family summer is over. I feel stuck. Classes begin next Monday and it looks like I won’t register for one yet again. I’m telling myself I can’t because Z is teaching so much this semester that his office hours are already limited to less than he likes. But mostly the anxiety is winning, and goddamn it I feel trapped.

How did this become my life? I was a good student, I got into an excellent college, and here I am in my mid 30s without a career. How did this happen? My 20s were lost to temping while I never quite successfully pursued acting jobs, then to mental illness. Yes, I eventually began working in bakeries and that did lead to the gig at Whole Foods which went really well. I loved working there, I was able to make a good living for me and Zeke while he was in grad school. But even if we didn’t live several hundred miles from the closest store I don’t think I would still be there. Retail work is taxing on family life, in store leadership there were no set hours. You had to work two opens, two mids, and a close. I was always tired because some days I needed to be at work by 7:30am while on others I was at the store until 11pm. I worked at least one weekend day. There was no traveling possible during Thanksgiving or Christmas. That lifestyle doesn’t work for us now that we have small kids. We don’t live near family, holiday travel is important, as is weekend time.

So now I’m a Mom with a capital M. And I think about Z getting to eat lunch, and take a shit, and have conversations with other adults without a three and one year old climbing all over him. I think about how fulfilling he finds his work. And I am eaten up with envy and guilt. I don’t really begrudge him those things, I am proud that he is so happy at work. I want him to be successful. I just feel left behind.

I know finding a career is my responsibility and well within my means. But my anxiety whispers that I am useless, that no one wants to hire someone who is starting out at 35 years old, that I am a failure and pathetic, that all my friends are laughing at how little I’ve done with my life, that the mental illness took the best years, the formative years from me. But the only thing standing in my way is me.

The decision for me to stay home with the boys was not arbitrary. We love that they get to be with a parent all day. I feel lucky, we really can’t afford this set up but we are managing anyway. I want to give this time to them. It’s also really hard. I miss grown ups. I miss working and getting recognition for what I’m doing. No one gives you a raise or a pat on the back for cleaning up yet another poop diaper, or for successfully potty training a kid (ok-not buying diapers does equal a small raise), or for getting dinner on the table again. The boys themselves are the reward. But when one of them is going through a bratty stage it feels like you are the real failure for not raising him better. And the anxiety disorder makes me feel like this is the only thing open to me.

The set up Z and I developed as he was teaching a summer course over the last month and a half really worked for me. My Monday and Wednesday writing mornings helped me get through the rest of the week. It’s not like the writing is leading to anything, or making us any money, but it has made me feel better to be producing something for me that has nothing to do with the boys. It’s made me feel like more of my own person. I’m writing this as C naps and T watches the Muppet Show and I feel guilty as hell for not playing with him in order to indulge myself. Once T starts back to preschool I’ll try to continue to write during C’s morning naps, I know it is good for my mental state to work things out on the page and I don’t want to fall out of the habit again.

So, yes. Back to real life. I need to figure out how to stop hiding from it.

My littlest Jedi. 

Practicing his lower case letters. 

Z and our friend C rehung a wind chime Z made from a fire extinguisher from a cluster of trees in our yard on Saturday. 

While I was wearing an apron in the kitchen while making lemon bars. Because we like to perpetuate stereotypical gender roles in our house. I kid, I kid. I swear I’m a Sarah Lawrence girl. 
Our friend C hanging out in our tree. I really love this one.

Brothers

Last week I walked into the kitchen and saw C standing in the pantry playing with stuff he shouldn’t have been touching. And Z was right there just staring at him. I was all ready to be snippy with Z for not pulling C away, but then I realized exactly why he was staring. C didn’t look like a baby, for the first time we saw a card carrying toddler hanging out in front of us. The depth of my understanding of the word “bittersweet” is limitless now that I’m a Mom. Of course we’ve gone through this stage with T, but that doesn’t make it less meaningful the second time around.

Our boys have completely different parents. Ok, that is not some weird disclosure about their paternity, biologically they have the same parents. Unless Z has an evil twin no one knows about, then all bets are off. But in my upbringing my parents were very focused on “fairness” and treating my sister and me in exactly the same way. They were vigilant in making sure neither of us felt favored. We had lots family friends who openly favored children. I remember one awkward dinner when a neighbor told us that one daughter was her favorite and the other was her husband’s favorite IN FRONT OF THE GIRLS! Even as a kid I felt like that was cruel.

I respect what my parents were working to achieve by trying to parent my sister and me the same way, but Z and I don’t want to choose that exact approach. I will be just as vigilant in making sure they don’t think we favor one over the other, but they are individuals and I must approach them as such. Forget that they are individuals, I’m a different person when I deal with them. With each of T’s milestones it feels like Z and I are pioneers who are building our homestead from nothing. When C reaches the same milestones it feels like Z and I are moving into an old house across town from where we currently live. Poor T is faced with parents who are inventing the wheel every time he grows up a bit. C’s parents are pretty relaxed about just slapping a new paint of coat on the walls before settling in.

If I could continue my rather clumsy analogy, I don’t think Z or I prefer homesteading to moving in to an existing house. They are completely different, but different is good. It’s exciting and terrifying to create something from scratch. It is comforting and we feel relaxed being somewhere we’ve already been. Neither is better, we just need to acknowledge and respect the differences.

I don’t write about C very often. One of my smart friends pointed out that I blog as a way to figure stuff out. C’s personality is bizarrely easygoing. He is delighted by pretty much everything. He’s an observer, he adores his brother and loves watching him do anything. And eventually he’ll try and jump in. I’ve never been around a kid who is so giving with smiles. He’s a cuddler who actually hugs back, and he’s been doing that since he was quite a little baby. When you combine who he is with where we are as parents there is little angst accompanying his development.

It’s hard right now, parenting two little ones so close in age when they both need a lot. But for our family it was the right choice to have the boys close together. Yes, I wish there was more of me to go around, but they’d get different parts of me if there were 10 years, or 1, or 5 between them. No matter how much time I wish I had to give each one (and can you ever really feel like you give your kid enough time?) I am able to love them both completely. They get different parts of me, but I love them both with my whole heart. My sister and I were born 2 years, 1 month, 3 days apart. When I was a kid dreaming of parenthood I’d say I wanted two girls with the same spread. I got two boys born 2 years, 2 weeks, and 4 days apart. So while the gender was wrong I pretty much nailed the spacing. B and I were unusually tight as kids. We moved so much (my high school was my 8th school) that we had to be friends. We even had the same group of friends in high school. And we ended up going through our pregnancies at the same time, which was an amazing gift. Who knows what will happen with my boys’ relationship? I have lots of friends who don’t have tight relationships with their siblings who are close in age, on the other hand Z has rich friendships with his sisters-one who is 4 years younger, the other who is 10 years his junior. At this stage my boys really dig each other,  I hope that love develops into deep and lasting friendship throughout their lives.

I am deeply in love with this picture because the look on his face is so completely out of character, yet so adorable.
Photo by breedemandweep.

Tiny hiney! 

Ah, there is my sunny little boy.
T’s favorite birthday present. His Granddad knows the key to his heart! One of the millions of things I love about T is when he gets super ridiculously excited about something he becomes very solemn and still. 

Good Day Despite the Stupid Anxeity

Writing to you from the middle of an anxiety attack, so doen’t expect a lot of coherence today. I hate taking chill pills midday, if I need one I try to make it until the boys have gone to bed. But late this morning I realized I felt like I’d had an extra 5 cups of coffee. My hands were shaking as I got lunch together and my mind was racing all over the place. Mostly about how I was going to die sometime in the next week. Yes, I think I’m going to die. Could be a car accident. Could be an aneurysm. Could be a freak stroke. Could be a late stage cancer. You get the picture. The crazy train has pulled into the station and I have eagerly climbed aboard.

Yes. This is bad. But I do realize it is bad. I realize it is insane and dumb that I think I am going to die in the next week. Progress. And that is what I’m focusing on today.

We have a wonderful family of ladies visiting. And I don’t give a flying fuck that they are seeing me in all my crazy glory. They totally get it. And amazingly they seem to love me for who I am.

We do quite a bit of entertaining here at Chez Cordano-Leonard. We love having people come from out of town. We love having local folks over. We try and find “our people” as we call them, you know, what Anne Shirley would call “kindred sprits”. We decided to do a low key party for T this year. Including our boys there were 8 kids and 10 adults. It was the first year that T really understood his birthday and was excited about it. But he’s still young enough for all the adults to sit around and get their buzz on. T’s party was full of kids he loves and “our people”. Z and I were thrilled by how much fun he had and by how good it felt to be surrounded by folks we really care about and want to be part of his life. Life is good and we are grateful.

We even managed to not overextend in the quest to make it a perfect party. I let myself be talked into using a cake pan shaped like Darth Vader even though it made the part of me who worked for a wedding cake design company weep. We were going to make a Death Star Piñata, but when I found a Vader one at Party City for under $15 I called Z and he said to buy it. And T loved the cake and the piñata with all his heart. We were going to make light sabers out of pool noodles, but I found blow up ones at Target for a pretty reasonable price and the kids had a great time wailing on each other with them.

So I’m having an anxiety attack today, a pretty ugly one. And yet my friends still love me. We have had so much good and love and fun this summer. We have a couple who we’ve clicked with over the last few years. They are over several times a week. They have their own keys and come and go as they please. We can talk to them about anything. They are the good stuff. Suddenly our lives feel very rich here in Syracuse. Maybe it’s the late summer talking, but I love it here. I’m happy here. We have a good life. And we share that life with people who like us enough to put up with crazy anxiety attacks and a guy who insists on wearing a hat made from a paper bag.

Some days I think he might be as crazy as I am.

With that thought I’m going to try and sleep this puppy off. Hopefully when I wake I won’t think I’m dying anymore. Our friends want to watch the boys tonight so we can have a hot date. Pretty damn cool, huh?

This boy can spot a pretty lady from a mile away, and he will fight hard to win her heart.

Kissing my, gulp, toddler.
Photo by breedemandweep.

Sweet and patient H teaching T to read.