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

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Fly on the Wall

 I've been spending a lot of time alone with Jackson lately, with Ayla at preschool and Elliot almost perpetually napping. He's quite an interesting character. Almost every interaction begins or ends with some sort of manly swordfight / light saber battle / crayon stand-off / being wrestled to the ground.

 Jackson really turns up the antics at bedtime. He'll go straight to sleep for every other person on the planet, but I have to yell at him twenty times to stay in bed or lie with him until he's finished talking to himself, kicking or trying to continue the mischief of the day.

The other night, I was sitting quietly in Elliot's room, holding him until he fell asleep... and I was watching Jackson avoid bedtime by messing with the dog. I had attempted to put Jackson in my bed so that Ayla could get to sleep. Instead of sleeping, he unloaded almost every drawer in the room, dumped all of my books on the bed and drew all over himself with a marker. (HOW DID HE GET A MARKER???)

 But the boy knew to stay in the room.

He didn't know I was watching, but he was engaging in a serious marker battle with our dog, Baxter. Jackson wouldn't step over the carpet line from our bedroom into the hallway... but he was waving that marker like he was defending the ends of the earth. He kept losing his balance as he tried to fight Baxter and would nervously step back into the bedroom. He would look around to see if he was going to get yelled at and then resume taunting the dog with his weapon of choice.

I couldn't be angry, but just marvel at how his personality is budding into a little man. I'm not rationalizing that a "little man" gets to be violent, but that by engaging in battle - that's the way he knows best how to interact with other people. He doesn't talk a lot, but it's a universal truth that almost anyone can have a light saber battle without conversation.

I was a little fly on the wall - seeing how he chooses to entertain himself: with a marker and a defenseless dog.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Now that's Multi-Tasking

The International Breastfeeding Symbol
This icon is posted in the front window on our house. I put it up when Jackson was first born because I loved what it stands for: the recognition that breastfeeding mothers should be welcome to feed their babies anywhere they may need. Because as ludicrous as this may sound: it is not a protected right. Women have been kicked off of airplanes (and not kindly), asked to leave public shopping malls and restaurants, etc. because they were feeding their babies. Breastfeeding doesn't have to be weird: in fact, if we were thinking naturally or in an evolutionary standpoint - bottle feeding is weird. I firmly believe that women should be allowed to breastfeed in public. It's a sad state of society when we are comfortable oggling boobs all day long with women walking around with low-cut shirts but we want a breastfeeding mother to hide herself in a dirty public restroom because we are uncomfortable with it. And it has to be protected by law. If you're interested in seeing what different states protect, go to the Mothering magazine website.

Some women choose not to breastfeed, believe me, I'm not judging. But I sometimes think that the same courtesy is not returned to those that breastfeed. I personally was not always comfortable nursing my kids outside of my home. And then... I had more than one kid. I have things to do - I can't hide in the house 24 hours a day and pump milk for a bottle in case I'm going to be in public when my kid gets hungry. But I got an Udder Covers cover and now I can modestly feed Elliot anywhere. And I have to, he's not predictable and it really wasn't my design to have to bare my chest every time he's hungry. Take it up with God... that's what boobs were ultimately made for. 

 But my point tonight was not to get into the legal logistics of breastfeeding, but how often I find myself doing the oddest things while I am feeding Elliot. I have to keep two other impatient children occupied, and on a normal day - I am feeding Elliot almost every hour.

 Here's some of the serious multi-tasking I've been up to while trying to nurse a baby:

-  Defending myself in a light-saber battle with Jackson.
- Stirring boiling pasta on the stove.
- Eating my own dinner (without spilling it, too!)
- Getting the mail.
- Reading many, many books to Ayla and Jackson.
- Writing thank you letters for all of the amazing baby gifts we've received!
- Breaking up wrestling matches and fights over toys.
- Putting on and tying my shoes (I was NOT successful with this one).

 I'd be interested to hear of anyone else's breastfeeding experiences and the crazy ways you've had to do it to get through the day! And one more note, I'd like to express my appreciation to my friends that are NOT weirded out by it. It means I can still have a nice, normal human interaction when I sometimes feel like a farm animal. :)

Friday, September 17, 2010

Saying Goodbye

 Today was the day. Gregory got in his car and left for the air traffic control training in Oklahoma City.

We've been talking about it, stressing about it, planning for it, theorizing about it for two years - but today was the day it happened. It's surreal, to say the least.

What is the quote, "Today is the first day of the rest of your life"? Something like that? It's hard to feel that sentiment when the "today" we're speaking of is just another 24 hours that passes quickly and we do nothing out of the ordinary.

But we woke up at our new early time to get Ayla dressed for pre-school - only knowing that we were about to experience a shift, a tilt in our lives that we haven't felt since having children. It really felt like maybe the morning you wake up when you are getting married, maybe upon hearing that someone important in your life has passed away or on the way to the hospital in labor with your first baby... you know something big is happening, but you feel very ordinary about it.

It's September 16th, big deal! A Thursday. Bo-oring. Only today Gregory was leaving to venture on a huge career change. Goodbye bartender, hello vitally important federal employee. (Not that bartenders are not also vitally important parts of society.) Our small and young family about to experience a separation we are in no way accustomed to or prepared for. I am suddenly in charge of a household and three children for every minute of the day. I'm a mother that's used to walking away when their father is watching the kids and not worrying about a thing. While I have an incredible support system - I still feel ultimately responsible to make sure that every minute of the next three months is figured out ahead of time. 

Days like this always put me in a weird spot. I'm both living my life and watching it at the same time. As we prepared for his departure, feeling the pain for Gregory as he had to first say goodbye to precious Ayla, as she says, "But I'll miss you, Dada. It's hard to be apart." and then Jackson, who doesn't and DOES know what is happening at the same time. And me, holding a newborn Elliot who will never remember living here in Pittsburgh, and trying to console myself and my husband for what we both know is a going to be a long time apart..... what will we think of this morning ten years from now? A fantastic no-looking-back decision or the beginning of a series of changes that will take us to many cities and many challenges?

I don't know for sure, but I think what I know is that we are willing to risk it. Don't all of life's huge changes ultimately happen on ordinary mornings on ordinary days? That's how we all left home for college or the first time we rented our own apartments or moved in with our partners for life. Big decisions carried through little, insignificant changes.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Muppet Philosophy

 When asked on the meaning of life...

" Message? I got no message! I'm a puppet, man. This is all sham... make believe! Like everything! Everybody! We're all puppets! That's why we gotta boogie boogie boogie!!!"

- Dr. Teeth

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

TLC Therapy

 The deadline is approaching for Gregory's departure to Oklahoma... and while I'm worried about the logistics, how my kids will react, how Gregory will deal with the immense amount of silence and calm he is going to experience... I'm also worried about my own mental state.

My plan is to immerse myself in TLC Therapy - yeah, watching The Learning Channel. Or more appropriately, it should be called "The Perspective Channel". No where else on TV can you watch more shows about parents crazed with too many young children. I know when I'm here alone with three kids, I sometimes feel like my life couldn't get more ridiculous. I'm holding a crying Elliot near boiling pasta, while Jackson is having one of his blue-outs over nothing and Ayla is screaming in her room over her outfit not being "princess enough" and the dog just peed on the bathroom floor. Exaggerate much? Yes, but I do have a moment every day where I feel overwhelmed.

But TLC is a quick fix for that attitude. Seeing parents rush around to take care of one year old quintuplets or the listing of all of those Duggar children gives me a quick dose of perspective. I may think my life is busy and that I don't get the time to pursue many activities other than cleaning, but it really is nothing compared to the people on these shows. I used to like Jon & Kate Plus 8... but I think the world can agree that Kate is the definition of the obnoxious, know-it-all woman.

The Duggars are a little too perfect and religious for me - but I love Quints by Surprise and I Didn't Know I was Pregnant is just fascinating. On a bad day, I can tell myself that at least I didn't show up at the hospital and drop my newborn baby into the toilet by accident!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Preschool Counts!

 Ayla is off to school!

 This Monday, she started the Pre-K Counts program at Osborne Elementary. It's another full circle event, which one often finds themselves if living near Sewickley, as I dropped Ayla off at the same school I first attended in 1985! Of course now it has been renovated and looks more like an outlet mall than a typical elementary school.

The program is five days a week, starting at 8:45 am and lasting until 2:45 pm. Coming from her pretty lackadaisical existence in our house for the past four years, that is a big transition. She's attended group activities like library story time or her dance and swim classes - but to be away from home for six hours at a time, eating meals there is almost like taking on a full time job.
Faithful fuzzy was taken to school, too.
The new tutu dress from Eve helped us to get her dressed without a fight.

Good thing Ayla isn't grumpy in the morning! Check out that cool backpack!

But in reality, I was more stressed out about it than she was. It's hard to extract information from Ayla when she gets home. I try to use the open-ended, "School must have been fun today..." conversation starters... but she usually responds with a "yep". I ask about story time, lunch, new friends, the teacher and so on. Should I assume that no news is good news? She has no complaints and was so involved with talking with the other kids that she didn't even notice when I came to pick her up the first day.

I'm so curious to know what and how she interacts with people all day long! Does she actually take the nap for rest time? Is she grumpy when she wakes up like at home? Does she say excuse me after burping at lunch? It's hard to believe that at four years old - I'm already sending her out into the world.

 Along with her transition to school, we are enjoying some extra time with Jackson and Elliot on their own. Jackson finally gets some control over the toys, TV and how he gets to spend his day.

We are also shifting our schedules to what "normal" people tend to be... last night I had everyone in bed by nine thirty. Ayla passed out around 8:45 (after a little resistance to taking off her princess tutu) and Elliot was snoozing as well. Jackson spent some extra time awake watching TLC with me until he was grumpy enough to fall asleep. It has been a very rare occasion for me as a parent, to be sitting alone on the couch that early in the evening.... thinking about how to spend the rest of my night.

However, Baxter is not pleased about this whole school thing.

 Preschool has been a success this week - I hope it continues to stay that way!