Friday, March 30, 2012

consequences

This song helped me write this post, so there's every good chance it could help you get through the reading of it.



This morning was hell. Well, my kind of hell, anyway. Last weekend we began putting the girls to sleep together at the same time and in their own shared room, and I think that last night all the giggling that kept them up late was them conspiring to make this morning as difficult as possible for me. Either that, or the aggregate amount of sleep they've lost this week due to the change just finally caught up with them. One or the other.

I don't want to bore you with the details. Suffice to say, Evie is almost two, and living up to it. She wants to do everything herself, but can't, so she gets mad and cries. But she cries even more if you try to help her. As a result, these days there's a lot of throwing down and wailing on the ground and repeating over and over her catchphrase of the day: whereas most toddlers say, "I can do it," Evie says, "I help!" or, more specifically, "NO! Ah hepf! AAAAAHH HEPF!!!!"

Cute, right? Yes, super cute. The first hundred and fifty thousand times.

That was pretty much her M.O. all morning, while Lena decided to simultaneously throw a knock-down drag-out sobbing/defiant screaming fit over the fact that I wouldn't let her wear a flimsy Hawaiian dress to school on a chilly gray day. She kept it up for a solid half-hour, all the while Evie kept up her own nonsense. At one point Lena was standing on her bed, uncontrollably crying in huge gulping wails, while I had my hands on her shoulders, trying SO hard to get her to look at me so I could TRY to calm her down, when Evie climbed up on the bed, too, and looked at Lena, looked at me, looked back at Lena, and then began to copy Lena's sobs in big, overly exaggerated pretend wails of her own. "WAAAUUGH! WAAAAUUGH! WAAAAUGH!" she said, then stopped and looked at me with her eyebrows raised and her little lips screwed up, questioning, as if to say, "So, did I do that right?"

I would have laughed - a lot - if I had not been so beside myself. But I was cooked. I'd already been through the five stages of parenting a toddler during a meltdown: Patient Explanation, Attempts at Distraction, Ignoring, Complete Temper Loss and Issuance of Punishment Consequences (sorry, I forgot it was the 21st century for a second), and Guilt. But it didn't matter. Nothing worked. And yet, somehow everyone eventually managed to get dressed and we headed off to preschool at last, Lena chirping cheerily the whole way there as though the morning had been a picnic complete with cupcakes and bunnies and unicorns.




And I feel like a jerk. SO glad to have the girls off to school. Tempted to leave them there over the weekend. Do you think anyone would notice? But mostly feeling like a jerk. Surely I did something wrong, didn't have the foresight to head off the fashion drama, could have reacted better to the baby, didn't really HAVE to lose my temper in the end. And I find myself wondering if the girls will remember it at all, or if they will ALWAYS remember it, that day that mommy got so mad that she yelled back. Are they going to be hurt by it, by my seeming imcompetence?  And I have the nerve to even consider having three? I am clearly out of my mind.

This parenting thing isn't easy. I think this is the point at which I'm supposed to thank my own mom for putting up with me all those years. But Mom, really, that dress was HIDEOUS, and it didn't have a waist, and you wanted me to wear it for PICTURES? And you didn't see the meltdown coming? Just because Grandma sewed that dress just for me, just because you had two other kids to manage and dress for pictures and haul off to school on time, too, is clearly no excuse. What were you thinking??




Oh, all right. Thanks, Mom. You were, and are, the best. I think of you on mornings like this and wish I was more like you. I'm working on it. Truly and sincerely, I am working so hard to be more like you were with us.  But you set a such a high example, and I know I have a long way to go.  Such a long way.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

space

Everyone in our home has been healthy for a solid two weeks, now, so we seem to be out of the evil three-month-long plague of 2012 at last. (Everybody, PLEASE, knock on wood with me.) We've been able to get out of the house, see the sun, and ease up on runs to Target for more boxes of tissues, and I think the combination is really doing us all a lot of good. I'm so relieved for the girls, for all of us, and I feel like I can breathe again (in more ways than one).

As much as I'm the classic introvert who prefers time spent at home, it really is mandatory to my mental health that I get out once in a while, too. I'm not exactly sure if that has to do with just needing to be out and about, or if it has to do with living in a 710 square foot home, though. But if I don't get out, the size of the house becomes quickly oppressive. I find myself browsing IKEA catalogs for storage systems that will fit any last scraps of space in the house; I have dreams where I open a closet and find that the house magically has three more huge stories of vast, empty rooms to fill; and if I happen to have trouble putting groceries away in our little pantry, or if I pull out one new roll of toilet paper from under the bathroom sink just to have four more come tumbling out after it, well, I'm just as likely to become angry enough to kick the cabinet doors as I am to sit down on the floor and cry over it.

Getting out is good for me.

But we didn't get out much for almost a dozen weeks, there, and it brought up all the old questions that have bothered me since we got married and moved here. Questions that all seem to be answered with brick walls. Questions that are only more complicated now that we have two little girls, one in the middle of being registered in kindergarten. It's true, our house is little. But we have a yard, we have a garage, and best of all, it's half of a duplex that we share with the best neighbor/landlord/dear friend/occasional babysitter we could ask for. She loves the girls, too, and they love her, and it's the next best thing to living next door to family.

And we love our neighborhood. I do remember that when I locked up my studio apartment in West Hollywood for the last time and left it to settle here in Culver City, I cried. A lot. But here we are, seven years later, and I've found that I like having a few trees around. I like having so many accessible parks nearby, I like catching the westside breeze in the summer, I like not wanting to violently shake EVERY other driver on the roads, and I am still blown away at how convenient most of LA feels from this vantage point. For heaven's sake, Jimmy works in Burbank, and if you know this town you might be surprised to learn that he regularly gets there in forty minutes. During rush hour. I KNOW.

All of these things are great for us, but recently we've discovered that what might be the most important aspect of this home is the school district. We never took schools into consideration when we came to Culver City, but now that Lena will be starting kindergarten in the fall, we've done our research. And when I think about that, I think about how we'll be firmly planted in this little duplex until 2028, when Evie graduates. And after that, it will be just Jimmy and I again, and who will need more space then? Especially considering that I'll be ready to lock the doors and spend the next decade seeing the world. No, really. No. Really.

So I feel good about staying here. I feel good about it until I need the girls' swim bag from the back of their closet, and when I pull it out I also knock over all of their dress up gowns, Lena's jewelry box, and the extra diapers I crammed in there because there was nowhere else to put them. Or until I remember how much I miss playing the piano, and find myself weighing the pros and cons of having a piano in the house versus having a bookcase and chair. For, you know, books. And reading. And sitting. But there certainly isn't room for a piano AND the books and chair. And if we got a piano anyway, where would we put the Christmas tree next year? Well, who needs to play an instrument, anyway?

And I remind myself that we would have more storage if I could just bring myself to get rid of the mountain of baby gear in the garage. But I can't. And I don't know why, because there really is not room for one more human being in this house. I don't even know if I really want another human being in this house, but I'm not quite ready to decide, yet. Or maybe I would be, but it doesn't matter, because there isn't room.

So I think, if I went back to work, maybe we could afford to buy a place. In, say, a hundred years. Okay, maybe in five years. Or six. But, well - if I'm going to do that, I really should dump all the baby gear, anyway.

Welcome to the interior of my brain.

I can't imagine anyone is still reading this - it's painful even to write it all out - but I've been running in these circles for too long. Writing helps me to get the crazy out of my head. Sometimes, anyway. But I really don't know what the answer is, or if there IS an answer. So I'm focusing on getting out of the house, I'm focusing on the excellent school choices we have for our girls, I'm focusing on how happy our girls are with what we do have here, and when I'm inside, I'm making sure to look out the window at the tall trees lining our street, waving, swaying, ruffling in the breeze that I know came in off the ocean - the ocean that we can bike to from our house, our little green house full of little kids running and tumbling and giggling all over each other, wrestling with Daddy, cuddling with Mama, and not caring one bit about square footage. My smart, happy babies. When I focus on them, I know: we're going to be fine.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

a room with a new view (i hope)


I feel like I'm drowning over here. This isn't about depression or medication again, it's just about someone or other in our family having been sick almost every day since the new year. Ridiculous. We have never been so sick so often before. Mostly it's just been one cold or another. We did have that weird five-day-of-high-fever paraflu thing that I'd never heard of, but apparently you can still contract an illness even if you've never heard of it. Nobody was sick on my birthday, and that was great. Nobody was sick when Jimmy's mom visited for a week, and that was also great, (but it's not as though we were getting things done, then). And technically nobody was sick the week that I threw out my back. Yeah. That's how it's been.

Truly, I'm trying not to complain too much. Nobody is terribly ill. But I'm tired of watching my little girls lie pale and feverish on the sofa, with little noses so red and sore, watching TV instead of running around outside in the sunshine. I'm tired of telling Lena we can't go to a party, a playdate, church, ballet, or an audition because she's too sick. I'm dreading breaking the news to her today that she can't go to a favorite friend's birthday party this afternoon. She's been talking about it all day long, and all day yesterday, too. Right now she's lying next to me with sad eyes, a temp of 102', asking when we can go and talking about birthday cake.




And I'm frustrated. I was supposed to be finding time for myself this year, and changing things for the better. Finally getting past the depression after twenty years of it, and both girls big enough to spend a few days a week in school - I was going to be wrapping up old projects, working more, writing more, getting some exercise. Finally.

Anyway. I know this too shall pass. (By the way - one of my least favorite sayings, that. Couldn't tell you why, exactly.) I know the cold season has been particularly bad for everyone, and it isn't just us. And I know, in the grand scheme of things, this is a minor problem I'm having.

Still, I'm cooked. And without the blocks of quiet time I want to concentrate on work, or writing, or sorting photos for family, I've been spending much, much more time than necessary checking quick things like facebook and Instagram, or scrolling through my blog feeds. I need a change, and I need another perspective. If I can't leave the house except to run to Target for more tissues and Gatorade, I'm at least going to try to spend my time inside the house looking at something different. And maybe I'll learn to handle long-form projects in quick blocks of interrupted time, like the last three months of photos I need to sort, or the pile of work I need to attack, or maybe, you know, a BOOK. I know, I've been a parent for 4 1/2 years - I should have learned this skill by now.

But all that to say - I'm going to close my facebook tab today, and will try to keep it closed for a week. I'm going to shut down my RSS feeder for a week, too. I hope to still be here, and maybe occasionally on Instagram. But if you need me, it's going to have to be via email or phone. So old school, I know. I'm hoping that after a week, though, even if we're still fighting off the next dumb cold, I'll at least be a little bit - even if just a tiny bit - less cranky about it.