I Always Feel Like... Somebody's Watching Me!

Friday, July 31, 2009

5 years!!!

Earlier this week, Gregory and I were able to escape to Ohiopyle for two nights of kid-free camping! The opportunities to get away from work are rare, so we wanted to take a relaxing retreat into the woods and use all of our great camping equipment that we received as wedding presents 5 years ago!! 5 years!

Look at how young and innocent we were....

It was one of the greatest days, July 31st, 2004. I've never been to a better party. And it was the start of quite a journey for the two of us. Marriage has, so far, been extremely exciting and rewarding. I couldn't ask more from Gregory as a husband (and as a father for that matter). I feel like we meet each other half-way and we're moving in the same direction. I simply cannot imagine my life without him!

From our first apartment(s) in Carnegie ...

To buying our first house in the 'dale

And after creating two amazing people...

Here we are, five years in! I am thankful every day to have a partner who exceeded all my wildest expectations. I love you Gregory, Happy Anniversary! We make an awesome couple.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

In the middle of the night

Jackson sleeps through the night. Ayla, on the other hand, doesn't. She usually cries a little because she is uncomfortable and can't find her binky (see earlier post). This is probably a combination of her personality and the fact that, as first born, we were always jumping out of bed to comfort her with every little sound...

Recently, Ayla has been having nightmares. We know it's a nightmare when (a) the screaming is out of control and (b) nothing will calm her down. She seems to still be sleeping through the tears, runny nose and inconsolable screams. We've tried calmly talking to her, holding her, sitting her up in bed and telling her sternly to "wake up!" It's sad to see her so freaked out and beyond upset. And you begin to wonder to yourself, is this going to stop? Do I have to douse this little girl with a cold shower?

One night I had to take Ayla outside on the porch and make her stand up. That seemed to pull her out of that sleep/awake limbo and the fresh air helped her calm down and come back to reality. We then had a nice conversation about Wall-E, the stars and his spaceship coming back to earth. You know, the usual.

Last night was a very similar situation. We're watching tv and then hear Ayla's cries. These nightmares seem to occur only about an hour after she has fallen asleep. I'm not sure where this puts her in the sleep cycle - but I'm assuming it is before any deep REM brain waves start flowing. Gregory was doing his best to wake her up without scaring her any more than she already was. It took another trip downstairs (and waking Jackson up as well) to pull her out of hysteria. And now, she is finally able to verbalize what scared her so much. Bugs.

And I admit, bugs are creepy. But we've always tried to not push any of our own adversions onto her. She used to enjoy holding any bug I found in the garden and loved holding worms. But this past summer, I think Ayla figured out the creepy factor in how it feels to hold a squirmy worm or bug. The goosebumps down your back as something with six or eight legs scurries over your arm.

So, as Ayla was getting over her episode and in between those cute little crying hiccups, she said she was afraid that another bug was going to bite Momma's leg. (I have a bite/rash on my leg from camping at Ohiopyle. I hope the look of it alone wasn't enough to traumatize her.) It's nice to know she's concerned about her mother being attacked by bugs!

Gregory had night terrors as a little boy. He has memories of a black cat crawling on the walls. I slept-walked for a short period in elementary school. And all of us still have the occasional nightmare. It's always that irrational fear as you wake up, unable to move and looking around in the dark - was it real? Am I awake? And to try to work through those feelings with a toddler brain? Poor Ayla. But in a house with little kids, there is always something strange happening in the middle of the night.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

I'm not racist, but....

If you ever hear someone say this, "I'm not racist, but...", simply ignore them. They ARE racist. No legitimate comment is ever prefaced by those words.

Gregory and I watched Prom Night in Mississippi last night on HBO. It is a documentary about Morgan Freeman's plan to fund a prom in his home town. Up until 2007, the town had two proms: one for white students and one for black students. There aren't two separate high schools. One high school - two separate proms. Decided by the school board, racist parents and that dangerous sentiment of "tradition". Mr. Freeman promises to pay for the prom as long as it isn't segregated. It went down with a little drama. The white parents still decided that they needed to have a white-only party (lame), but the new "mixed" prom happened and without any dangerous incident.

Even before it started, I couldn't believe this still existed. But then I do. In this so-called enlightened age, I still encounter a lot of racist people. And I'm not living in the deep south. It's a sad and pathetic sight to meet a truly bigoted person. I can't speak for minorities when I sense that racism is now a very confusing and muddled issue. It's simply not okay to say that you hate black/Mexican/Indian (although in some circles, they love to hate anyone of Middle Eastern descent). I'm sure it used to be. The racism and discrimination is less blatant (for the most part) and therefore harder to change. People won't say it to your face, but they might turn you down during a job interview without real reason.

Here's where the phrase, "I'm not racist, but..." comes into play. It's annoying to me that other white people feel free to unload their bigoted statements around me - like I'm part of their racist club because I'm white. Gross. I've never expressed that opinion or given any inkling that I hate anyone for their color. But it doesn't stop them from dishing out annoying comments.

"I'm not racist, but I don't like to go to Sandcastle with my kids. Too many black people there - and they're loud." (A white person)

"I'm not racist, but I don't want to live near black people." (This gem was spoken by an Asian person).

"I'm not racist, but Barack Obama is a terrorist. My church told me so." (A relative)

"I'm not racist, but..."

But nothing! Do these people realize how stupid they sound? Loud talking is not dangerous at a freakin water park. God forbid your white children ever understand what it feels like to be in the minority for even 10 minutes. The only bad neighbors I've ever had were white people! And I cannot even acknowledge the Obama = terrorist comments.

A lot of these people know better. They are just living under the guise of tradition or what "has always been done." I don't buy that excuse. Many people in my family are racist. They wouldn't agree with me, of course. I remember very disturbing comments from my youth. But somewhere along the way - I began to think for myself. I read books; I made friends; I went to college. I began to learn about socio-economics.

And perhaps I've still got a ways to go. I'd like to think I'm not prejudiced - but how would I know for sure? I'd have to be anything but a white person to truly understand.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

When cats and exercise don't mix

As if I don't need another reason not to exercise... my four cats do not help the situation. When we lived in our first apartment in Carnegie, which was THE smallest place - we had an Xbox and a game called Yourself Fitness, which featured a personal trainer named Maya. We had to move nearly all of the furniture out of the way to fit ourselves, the balance ball and to have enough room to do side kicks. Now add three cats. Add their fur that sticks to your body when you are sweating and trying to do sit-ups. Koko is the most intrusive... if I would lay down on the floor for a yoga pose, he would become concerned that I was dead and sniff in my face and lay his big fat butt on my legs.

We have upgraded a little since that first apartment. I sold "Maya" on craigslist when we got our Wii (thanks Thaddeus!) this past Christmas. We alternate between Wii Fit and EA Sports Active (which is no joke). But the cat problem remains. Now add four cats. Koko still freaks out if we lay on the floor... instead of thinking Zen thoughts, I have the sounds of his heavy breathing in my ears. Last night, Pockles decided to attack the resistance band. And perhaps it's the added energy in the house when we are exercising, but it always incites the cat battle of the century. Dragonski is racing up and down the stairs, there is uncontrollable hissing and fur flying.

Maybe they are jealous that we haven't gotten them their own kitty fitness center - because God knows they need to work on their own paunches. Just leave me alone while I work on mine!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The "Stanton" Cranium

This is a photo from my 1st birthday party

Most people will tell you immediately whether they think your kids look like you. Babies tend to look like their fathers at first, and then the other traits come out that link them to their moms. I always looked more like my father's side of the family, and my brother leaned towards the traits on my mother's side. Eve, well, she looks cooler than all of us!! (Adopted, get it?) So, I've always gone with the theory that in some families - it's a match-up between mother/son and father/daughter.

I've personally never been able to see it in my own kids. I can see the resemblance between my baby photographs and theirs... but I've never said to myself, "Oh wow, I really see myself in them." They look like, well, Ayla and Jackson. Two new people in the world. A lot of Gregory's family sees a resemblance between Rachel (his older sister) and Ayla, and well, it's back to comparing pictures for me. I can see it sometimes and other times, not at all. Ayla makes the same faces as me - and that's when people say she looks like me. Is that just imitation or really a trait being carried through? Jackson is of course, compared to Gregory - but we have a picture in our house of Gregory's father that REALLY is Jackson. I think only a few people would be able to spot the differences.

But this is how I know Jackson is mine. The size of his head. The enormity of it. I come from a long line of large craniums. And bald, to really put an emphasis on it. :) When the nurses measured Jackson after he was born, they were shocked that I was able to have a natural delivery. Something along the lines of 14 1/2 cm around. His poor little skull had been so squeezed during delivery (luckily it was only about 30 minutes), he had broken blood vessels in his eyes and was quite the conehead. And every doctor's visit thereafter, Jackson has measured off the charts in head size. So his head is bigger than 100% of all babies out there? Poor guy.

When I've asked around in my family, this is a recurring trait. All of the boys have always been off the growth charts. My cousins' children, my uncles, my brother, my cousins themselves. The pediatrician measured me after her inquiry into whether the trait came from my family or Gregory's - I measure in the 98th percentile! I didn't think I'd ever be described as having a big head!

But I'll take it. I don't mind the extra space for my brain to grow. Jackson may be a little top-heavy sometimes, but the look is working for him. Most strangers will comment on his "distinguished" look, saying that he is handsome and one time a man actually stopped me to say that "Your little boy looks like he is going to be a genius." Ok! Awesome!

All of the physical, emotional and deeply psychological traits that we pass on with our genetics are fascinating. What's even more interesting is when they skip a generation and we see our parents in our children. Oooh, I just gave myself goosebumps.

I'll let you be the judge though, and compare one of my baby photos to Jackson and Ayla. It's always interesting what different people can see!

Ayla at just over a year

And more recently with her Dada

And this is our man Jackson at his own first birthday party.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Life at 102 degrees

These past couple of days have been rough. Tiring. HOT. I spent many of the hours from Tuesday morning until yesterday in bed with a fever. It wasn't until Friday that it hovered at a comfortable 100 degrees, previously spiking between 103 and the normal 98. I called off of work three shifts in a row (which is not a task done lightly when your boss can look out the window and see your house). I cried, I sweat, I was miserable. I don't hear of many adults having fevers such as this - it's more of the random childhood illnesses - chicken pox, the flu, whatever. It's been so long since I've experienced a fever that I think I was quite shocked by it.

But whether the cause was virus or infection - that's not the point of this story. The point is, I was completely absent from my life for 4 days. Not a big deal, right? Maybe if I was taking a planned vacation or maybe if I wasn't deeply entrenched with toddler care. But it felt like a big deal to me. I missed being a part of the daily process. Maybe I missed it more because I wasn't enjoying the forced option I was sweating out while watching TLC.

Our families saved me. Saved my kids. I don't know what other moms do when they are sick. It's the most impossible situation. No energy = no involvement = grumpy kids = no recovery. Gregory's parents quickly stepped up and took Ayla into toddler heaven. She could plant in the garden with Nano, read books with Genevieve, chase kitties, help Gramps with projects and chill with Uncle Matthew. She was certainly getting much more attention there than she would have received from my cave of misery. She spent the nights there and I'm sure she had many a tasty meal. And I knew she was fine, I'm not the type of mom to worry when there is no cause to. In fact, I knew she was having a great time and just might not want to come back?

My mother came over to entertain Jackson. She fed him meals when the thought of cutting up pieces of chicken was too much to bear. She changed the diapers and watched him crawl around the living room.

And Gregory, he managed the world. All of the arrangements had been made before I could ask what we should do. He was getting up early and feeding me, delivering tea and waffles and hot dog buns (ALL I could stomach in the first day)... all before going to work. I could hear him cleaning up the house, mowing the lawn, fixing the bathroom shelves, doing the laundry. It goes on and on.

I was lying in the midst of this - thinking of how things would be if I wasn't there. Indefinitely. Yeah, so I'm morbid. But who hasn't thought it as a parent? Perhaps the high temperatures changed my brain chemistry and I'm now overly sentimental. But, I know, because of family - they'd be taken care of. All we needed was to ask for help and it was there, in abundance.

When Ayla came home last night, she came up to the front door and was knocking, yelling, "Momma, momma!". In my weak emotional state, I cried and hugged her and she pulled away, held my face in her hands and just wanted to look at me. She's got quite a bit of empathy for a little girl. And after a few days of not getting Jackson out of his crib after naps or carrying him around on my hip, he woke up at 3 in the morning (thankfully this is not a habit of his) and wanted to cuddle. He fell asleep in my arms, his cheek to mine, but woke up and clung to me like a monkey when I neared the crib to put him back in. That's the thing with kids, they are just so honest about the love and attention they really need. And it felt good to be back in the mix.

So thank you Gregory and thank you to my mother and especially Gramps & Nano for taking crazy-pants Ayla. I am so lucky to have people to depend on, especially when I'm the type of person who doesn't exactly looooove depending on others. But as responsible and as competent I want to be, I still get sick. And I've been so lucky to have my health and I'm struck by the families with long-term illnesses. It was exhausting for us after only a few days. How do you get through cancer? Through paralysis? Family, that's got to be the only answer.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Who's watching the kids?

"Who's watching the kids?" Oh, how often I get this question. 99% of the time is when I am at work. The other 1% of the time is when I am talking about work. Who watches the kids? How could it be anyone but their mother?

We live in a society that is coming along in assumed equality. Gregory and I share a very equal household (my Libra senses would explode otherwise). Most of my friends who are parents operate in the same way. I hear stories of how both the mother and father share responsibilities, adjust work schedules, change diapers, etc. It isn't her job or his job or well, this is how everyone does it. We are making choices now about what is logical as opposed to following the traditional gender roles. Who makes more money? (Gasp! It's NOT the man??) Who would be happier spending more time in the home and away from a social network? Who has the potential to be more successful in the workforce?

Even thirty years ago, couples like us would have been the rarity. No one would ask a pregnant woman, "Will you return to work part-time" or even "What are your work plans?" It was assumed. You will have this baby, stay home from the beginning and probably churn out a few more children right away. Not that there is anything wrong with that! Work-at-home-moms are amazing and shouldn't be made to feel like losers for it. What I'm talking about here is the choice.

So when people continually ask me, Who's watching the kids?, I begin to feel like there is still a strong latent bias that I shouldn't be anywhere other than watching the kids. Reason being, no one asks Gregory this question. Seriously - no one asks him. It may be worded differently, "Your wife is home with the kids? Your mother-in-law watches the kids?" The sentiment is the same. We feel like women should have the option to work, but we just shouldn't take it?

I know that people are often only asking to be polite or find out how we are handling our childcare. I'm never quick enough to just say, "Oh my god - I don't know. And I don't care." when the question arises. I just explain that the other person who helped create them is spending time with them.

I know I'm lucky to have a husband who makes these decisions with me. Gregory took a 3 month "paternity leave" with Ayla when I returned to my job when she was 3 months old. We could afford to do it and it helped ease the anxiety of leaving her for 40-plus hours a week. I'm not unemotional about it either. I cried leaving her the first time, as I drove and listened to Stevie Wonder.

He would have stayed home permanently if that had made sense for us. But the fact is, during the childbearing years, it doesn't make sense for us if I decide to be breadwinner. Let's just subtract 3 months pay every time we decide to increase the family - plus the denied promotions, etc. (I was denied a promotion after taking my FMLA leave for Ayla and my boss tried to include it in my review. SO illegal.)

The current solution is working. Gregory and I work opposite shifts most days of the week. We occasionally need a babysitter on Saturday nights. It's all about the balance - time together with the kids, time alone with the kids, time to relax, time to get out of the house and work a little. We both contribute financially (although stay-at-home moms should be paid out at least $60k a year!!!) and I think that does wonders for equity in a relationship.

But I'm not saying we're perfect. I think some women would be miserable in my situation. I didn't like being away from my kids as much when I hated my job. But I see the reward in it now - as Ayla approaches her third birthday and Jackson just starting to walk. Before she was born, I envisioned a time when I wouldn't have to go to work, I could stay home with her and live an idyllic domestic life. Now that I am completely entrenched in diapers and cleaning and laundry and wonderful trips to the park and being there when they wake up most days of the week.... well, it's just so different than whatI expected. Amazing, for sure, but challenging too.

So what's the point of my story? Please don't ask moms who's watching their kids. Re-phrase it. Think about how she feels getting the same question every day. She knows where they are and she may not like it that someone else is feeding them dinner... but this is the modern world. Moms are allowed out of the house for extended periods of time. Thank you breast pumps and post-modern men!