Sunday, January 31, 2010

Me time, part 3

I've come to look forward to my Sunday morning alone time. Today was no exception, and I couldn't wait to get to my reading for the morning. I chose to leave Bella at home and concentrate, instead, on the book my new friend let to me on Wednesday. I'm amazed at how much I've read in the book. I've made more time for this book than I have for anything else for myself in quite a long time. That, of course, is the whole idea right now, and is much of the reason my friend lent me the book.

Healthy Selfishness by Drs. Richard and Rachael Heller is a book about finding the balance in your relationship with yourself and with others. It's about not cheating yourself of the things that you want and need. It's an aid to those of us who deny our feelings and thoughts, replacing them with false beliefs about ourselves and our relationships. According to the authors and their matrix for measuring self-denial, I am a Level 3 Self-Denier. I suppress my feelings and needs in favour of meeting the needs of others. I discount my own feelings when faced with what I perceive to be opposition to those feelings. I suppress my needs so as not to conflict with the needs of others. I overly accommodate. I overly sacrifice. I don't serve myself first, I leave myself out.

This past several days, since I began reading the book, have been a time of discovery for me. This book describes the struggle I've waged against myself ever since I can remember. I've been thinking about events and situations in my life in an entirely new light. I'm beginning to see how I got to this place where I am prisoner to self-depricating thoughts, and a total lack of respect for myself.

I'm not one to reach out for help, especially not from a book. I am at a place in my life, though, which is not a place I want to be in. I am riddled with guilt, fear, and uncertainty in almost all aspects of my life. I've convinced myself that I am destined to live this life, and that there is no other way. I am realizing that dating back into my early years, I have denied my needs, invalidated my feelings, and worked to please others at the risk of losing my own happiness.

The act of going out each Sunday morning has not been an easy one for me. There are so many things involved that most people probably wouldn't think about. I was assigned the task of leaving my house for a set period of time at a set time and duration on a weekly basis. This could be Friday night, it could be Saturday afternoon, as long as the date and time are consistent, and everyone knows and expects it. My husband and I, together, agreed that Sunday mornings would be my time. I chose 8-10AM, which we both agreed was a good time. Sunday mornings are his day to get up with the monkeys, under the assumption that it would also be my morning to sleep in. OK, let's be real, sleeping in is something I haven't done in over 5 years now, and I find it almost impossible to do. I hear the kids stir before they stir, and once I'm up, my brain hits the ground running long before my mind and body catch up. My brain is already making lists, planning days, scheduling chores, and thinking about meals. It's pretty brutal. So, Sunday mornings are a good time for me to get up and go, since it doesn't interfere with my sleeping, any activities, and is generally an open time for all of us. The idea behind my leaving the house is to give myself a break from my role as Mommy (at least in the physical sense), and give my husband that time to embrace the role of Daddy without my interference. Interference meaning that the kids will know they have to turn to Daddy, and Daddy is allowed to play his role without my putting my nose where it doesn't belong. We both need to be allowed to play our respective roles without being made to feel we're doing it wrong, something which Daddy gets cheated of more often than not with me around.

Breaking from my role is not easy. I have become a control freak to an extreme. Leaving the house, and leaving things behind me is one thing I don't do enough of. Getting in my car that first Sunday morning was the first step in my taking alone time. Next was the battle of where to go.

I described my choice of venue after my first outing a couple of weeks ago. Originally I had thought about the library, but for one thing it's not open at 8AM, and for another, I wanted some place where I would not be quite so alone. I don't need a mall or huge crowd, but need some noise around me. So, I settled on Panera, and my alone time assignment began.

Aside from the library, there are few options to choose from which are entirely free, at least in the winter. I can't sit in the park, I'm not an avid enough runner yet to consider a morning run in near zero degree temps, and visiting a friend would be fine, but wouldn't really give me true "alone" time. I know I don't *have* to be solo every week, but, for now I need to be in order to return my focus to me. With so few free options, my mind reels over how much my alone time will cost me. See, for me, money is a huge issue. Even spending $2.00 for a refillable cup of coffee is very challenging. I can't describe it in terms that would make much sense to others, but, spending money, especially on myself, has become next to impossible. I find it hard to justify myself getting anything when I know we have unfinished projects in the house, the kids might need x, y, or z, and if I could instead spend that money on food for my family, that's what I'd do. One year I tried bi-weekly manicures, and I kept that up for about four months. Then when finances were tight one week, I canceled the next appointment and never went back. The following year I decided to do something I'd never done before and got a haircut with a color. Yes, I'd had hair cuts before (never with any regularity), but never the color part. That has always seemed so frivolous to me, and I never felt that it was something I deserved, or should spend my money on. But I did it. I think that year, I went four times. That was a LOT for me. Again, though, before that last appointment, finances were tight, and rather than reschedule until after the next pay day, I canceled and never went back.

I try to find the negative in things when I see them at the store, convincing myself why I should not buy it. The kids are too young for that toy, that game will suck up all of Daddy's time, that thing would be cool but I'd get bored of it quickly...the inner conflict continues. It goes on in the background of my mind, but it takes front and center in my decision making. Only when I decide to deny my thoughts, and throw all caution to the wind will I actually slap that money down and bite the bullet and buy something. Push really has to come to shove, though, and usually I am faced with the option of buying said item, or explaining to someone why I don't want to. That would mean, though, revealing my inner struggle, and nobody wants to be burdened with that, so I give in and put all the dangers of spending that money aside, and I'll buy it. It could be something as simple as a candle, something that would make me feel good, but I won't do it.

So going to Panera is a huge step for me. To spend money on myself, and combine that with time spent on me, that's monumental. This morning, seeing a $5 in my pocket, I felt secure that I would be OK even getting a little snack on top of the coffee, and I headed out.

Today I brought Healthy Selfishness rather than Twilight, and I was excited to get to reading more of it. I carved out time Wednesday and Thursday nights, and I knew I'd make much more progress this morning. When I got to Panera, I brifely scoped the seating, only to find that the two comfy chairs and the booth I sat in the first week were all occupied. Today is a bright, sunny day, so I decided to sit near the front of the restaurant and take in the beautiful light. No booths over there, no big comfy chairs, though. There are two long bar height tables, but I ruled those out because I am one person, those would be for a small group. Even though I'd benefit from the most direct light, I opted for a little 4-seater table next to the tall tables. I'm not confident enough to stand and look around long and hard to find that just right spot in the restaurant, so I quickly chose an open table and stuck with it.

I mentioned the first week how anxious I sometimes get when ordering a coffee at one of these coffee places. Luckily, Panera has three sizes, and despite having names other than 'small, medium, large' on their menu, they still acknowledge this language and will give you the size you are looking for. I've gotten used to it in my now three visits. What I'm still unsure of is how one gets the elusive mug instead of disposable cup. The disposable cup has its merits, since I can refill and take a hot coffee home with me when I leave. Still, I feel like I haven't graduated to the elite level of the ceramic mug. I also tend to prefer reusable over disposable, but, I'll save that Earthy talk for another post at another time. Anyway, I figured today I'd mix it up a little and instead of ordering a large or grande coffee, I'd tell the girl taking my order that I wanted a cup of coffee. So, I did just that and ordered the chocolate pastry and a cup of coffee. Sadly, I discovered that the 'cup of coffee' is not the mug, it's the small disposable cup. Next week I just might tackle the ceramic mug issue, but for now I was satisfied with my choice, and I took my seat.

I sat with my back to the door, with a not so great view of the ordering counter. I did this on purpose because my tendency is to people watch. With this book in hand, I knew people watching had to take a back seat, and my focus needed to remain on the reading. Still, there were some people that caught my eye regardless. My table was situated in the middle of the carpeted area at the front, with benches and small tables along the wall, tall tables along the windows, and a select few 2 and 4 seaters. A vulnerable position, being in the middle of the area. Still, it worked. At the benches were two gentlemen, probably in their 60's, casually dressed and reading the paper, having breakfast, and discussing the issues in the news and their community. The table next to me on my right hosted a gentleman of about the same age as the other two, alone, reading the paper. He was dressed in a nice yellow sweater over a dress shirt, and a nice pair of pants. Perhaps this was his before or after church stop, or perhaps he dresses well in general. Either way, he was also enjoying some alone time. The lady seated behind him, at the end of the benches against the half wall dividing the seating area from the bagel cutting machine, was in her own little world. She reminded me of a movie character that someone like Olympia Dukakis or Shirley Maclaine would probably play. Well kept, dressed a step up from blue jeans, slightly eclectic, small reading-type glasses, colored hair, and a stack of well-worn books atop a spiral bound notebook. She was deep in thought most of the time, reading a page or so, then holding the book veritcally on the table top, eyes closed, breathing steady, concentrating on the words she's just taken in with her eyes, absorbing them with her mind. Seems that each time I glanced up, she was doing so with another book from the stack. The spines of these small paper back books were quite worn, so I wasn't able to see what kinds of books she was concentrating on, or what she might have been writing about in her notebook. Toward the end of my stay, she was on her mobile phone with her hand over her mouth as she spoke, leading me to believe that she was taking in some pretty important words, or at least only wanted to share them with the person on the other end of the call.

Amazing to me this morning was the number of customers who were so picky about their breakfast foods. More than one of them led the women behind the counter to specific pastries, bagles, or muffins, because apparently all the others were just not right. A couple had very specific requirements about the toasting of their bagels, and one woman seemed to be buying for an entire church congregation, keeping the girl behind the counter very busy for quite some time, grabbing 8 of these bagels, 4 of these, 7 of those. Then a very peculiar couple of customers arrived, and I couldn't pull my eyes away. A woman and (I believe) a man, most likely siblings based on their utter resemblance to each other. The woman had blonde hair with waves that seemed difficult to style, and I think her glasses only stayed on her face because of her keen ability to raise her upper lip, tilt her head upward, wrinkle her nose and furrow her brow as she tried to read the menu. Her companion, whom I believe was a man, brought the name "Pat" to my mind immediately. I'll leave it at that. I don't know why these two characters drew my attention like they did, but, they did.

Despite the people watching, I was able to absorb quite a bit of this book, suddenly finding that I've now read over 100 pages of it. That's more than I've read any book in as long as I can remember. It's a great feeling, and what I've learned brings me more positivity than I've felt in a long time.

Before I left, a group of three women, probably late 40's, early 50's, sat at the table behind me. Before they'd all ordered and taken their seats, they greeted a young man, about my age, who apparently has a pulled back and just joined a gym, and grew up in DuPage county. It's funny the things you learn about people you're not even talking to in such a short time!

At first, it seemed like just Sunday morning coffee for the ladies as they updated each other on the events of the past week. One got to sleep in and "go marketing" on Thursday (apparently this is her speak for "grocery shopping"). One spent a day driving around a lot getting to various appointments and obligations. The other is considering a part time opportunity to work somewhere like a library or something. Before I knew it, they were talking about how to get a job collecting for the US Census. They all made it obvious that they don't want to go door to door, but, they definitely want roles in data collection. One woman even pointed out that by working on the Census, you'd get this attractive tote bag, and it's a good credential to have in your arsenal of "I've done this" for a resume. I decided to wrap up my reading when the women, and the young man, began to voice their displeasure with citizens who don't wish to disclose information about their lives to the Government. Realizing that this is a hot button topic and one which I would tend to disagree with these folks about, and since my two hours were nearing an end, I chose a good spot to end my reading in my book. I refilled my coffee as the young man with the pulled back was filling his first cup. After exchanging a quick agreement that coffee is a morning necessity, I returned to my table, finished my chocolate pastry, gathered my jacket and book and bid my neighbors a good day.

Morning coffee in hand, I returned home to the sounds of excited giggles from my children as they watched Daddy play a race car video game. More relaxed than I've been in a while, I'm enjoying my Sunday with my family, and have agreed to take the day one step at a time. Writing has helped me to sort my thoughts, and to escape the hurtful dialogue that my mind holds every moment of the day.

I now look forward to Sunday mornings with my coffee and a good book, and to returning to my husband and children. I'm excited to know that this is only the first step in my long journey toward happiness and freedom. Who would have thunk that a cup of coffee could serve me such a wonderful new beginning. I certainly didn't.

Until next time...

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The journey of exploration

I feel sometimes as if I need to be rescued from myself.  I am a prisoner to the whilring thoughts and statements in my brain which I can't seem to turn off.  There is a constant chatter in my head (on top of my Tinnitus), and it has gotten to a point where I am unable to escape it.

I am a wife and mother, I have a full time job outside the home, I have friends and family.  Despite all these things, I still view myself as a failure.  I can't seem to not beat myself up, and I don't ever give myself credit.  I feel riddled with guilt and doubt, and it prevents me from making the simplest of decisions. 

This week I have also discovered the onset of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.  My fingers and hands are experiencing periods of numbness, and my forearms and elbows are beginning to ache and hurt.  I try to be aware of my hands and arms as I work at my desk at the office, and when I use the computer at home.  Still, I know that I have many corrections to make to my posture which would probably alleviate some of the stress on my arms while I work.

I know that stress can also manifest itself in different ways in different people.  I would categorize my stress level as pretty high right now, which could be contributing to my poor posture, tense muscles, and the onset of the numbness and pain.  I know there's no quick fix, but, I'm trying to be more aware of my body so that I can try to help myself prevent the symptoms.

In trying to be more aware of my physical presence, I'm also trying to be more aware of what is going on in my head.  My mind plays cruel games with me, and I often find myself at a stand still when it comes to making simple decisions, like whether or not to go to the store to get milk on the way home from work.  While not actually a complicated task, my mind complicates it.  What store should I go to?  Who has milk on sale?  Is it worth another $1 a gallon to go to store X so that I can get milk before collecting the kids from day care?  If I stop, what time will we get home?  What will I do first to get dinner ready?  What will I have the kids do while I make dinner?  Do I have enough money to get the milk?  If I get it now, when will I have to get milk again?

This is what my head does.  All the time.  Even thinking about going to bed is a challenge sometimes.  Sometimes I just decide not to do anything.  I can't even decide to get milk, what's my problem?  Now I go on with the reasons I am unable to make a decision.  I blame myself, put myself down, and generally feel badly about myself that I have so little capability as to go get milk. 

This is not healthy.  This is self-denial.  I have to learn to be more accepting of myself, and more nice to myself.  Why am I so mean to myself?  Why do I criticize myself like this?  Why is it so hard for me to accept my successes, and not focus on my failures?  Seems when I think about something, my first thought is why it won't work, why I can't do it/get it done, why it doesn't fit into my schedule, why I can't afford it, why I don't deserve it, why it's not worthy for me. 

It's making me crazy.  It's keeping me from being happy.  It's keeping me from enjoying every day's simple pleasures.  I need to find that happiness.  I need to be freed from the prison I've created in my mind.  I need to find that place in life that's just right for me.  I need to enable myself to make plans, provide for my family, and give myself credit for the things that I do, and not blame myself for the things I don't do.

As odd as it sounds, finding ways to deal with the Carpal Tunnel are almost crippling to my mind.  I can't buy a brace for my wrists, I don't have it badly enough to require surgery, and I lose my concentration on my posture.  There are three negative statements that I have just given myself.  First, I have issues spending money.  Second, I have discounted my symptoms as not serious, and basically decided that I don't deserve treatment.  Third, I have so many of these negatives in my head, I don't focus on me enough to correct physical symptoms like this pain and numbness, and the other side effects of my negativity. 

These are the things I'm trying to overcome.  I'm trying to overcome my inability to reason with myself, be positive with myself, and allow myself to focus on me, rather than denying myslef that basic necessity.  From there, I hope that I'm able to move forward and be a better wife, mother, and friend.  I will write about my journey here. 

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Goodnight kisses from my babies

This is my favourite part of the day. Everyone is in their PJ's, stories have been read, and the kids are ready to lay their heads on their pillows.

In short, their hugs and kisses are enough to melt my heart. The addition of "I love you, Mommy" is the icing on the cake.

Monday, January 25, 2010

A very sweet Monday moment

With my husband working 10 hour days, off on Monday, I'm able to take my time getting ready for work this one day during the work week. I catch up on my Facebook friends, watch the news, get myself ready for the day, and get my coffee (not necessarily in that order). We now also have a guest room, and I'm able to do all of this with the guest room door closed, so as not to wake my husband or the sleeping monkeys. I really enjoy Monday mornings.

Generally on Mondays the kids aren't yet awake when I leave the house at 6:30AM. There are exceptions, like this moring, though. I opened the door of the guest room, which sits directly across the hall from Ethel's room, and could hear a tiny voice. "Great", I thought, "Fred is up and Daddy is still sleeping". I stood still, looking around as my eyes adjusted to the darkness in the hallway, looking for signs of movement. Nothing. Just then, I could see the glare of the street light through the white sailcloth panels on Fred's window in his room, meaning that his door was ajar, and he had escaped. Now to find out where he'd escaped to.

Quiet as a cat burglar, I tip-toed into my bedroom where I found Daddy still sleeping. Not here. Then I crept toward Fred's door to see if I could hear him perhaps playing in his room. Not there. Then I heard Ethel, talking sweetly in her gentle, teacher-y voice. Ah ha! Slowly I approached her room (how I missed this when I first passed the room I have no idea), and didn't see any children at first. Where could they be hiding? The answer - under the covers. Ethel had coaxed Fred up onto her bed where she was adjusting the covers and making room for him beside her. As I got closer, the creak in the floor beneath me gave me away, and Ethel peeked out from under her brightly colored comforter to declare, "Look Mommy, I found Fred by my radio! So I told him to come lay down in my bed!". Then Fred, peeking out without fully revealing his face, said to me, "Mommy, you have to go back in {the other} room, we're sleeping.". I wish I'd had the camera on me at that moment.

I have to admit that when I first realized Fred was up (and out of his room) and Daddy was still sleeping, my first thought/feeling was, "Why the hell is he still sleeping?! Fred is out of his room! When is he going to figure that out and wake up?". Then I calmed down and remembered how stealth Fred can be. Once I saw the two monkeys under the covers in Ethel's room, all the anger and negative thoughts washed out of my mind, and my heart swelled with pride. These two monkeys are painfully adorable.

As I left the house with all my gear, and my coffee, the vision of Fred curled up on his sister's bed, and the two of them talking and getting comfy, was enough to keep me warm for the ride to the office.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Me time, week 2

Despite a late start, I returned this morning to the local Panera to rejoin Bella as she acclimated to life in Forks and her new high school. While I was there, I studied some reading material my new friend gave me and took notes like she asked me to, trying to reach inside myself to grasp the full meaning of the words on these copied pages. Being there a little later than last week, I wasn't sure what kind of seats would be available to choose from. I started to feel some anxiety about the potential that there would be no seats. Before I knew it, though, I had ordered by coffee and turned to find that the two big comfy chairs in the corner were both empty. Without thinking twice, I claimed one of the soft, leather chairs which afforded me a full view of the back 3/4 of the restaurant, and an partial view of the counter where orders are placed.

Being no fashionista, I was first taken by the three young people in front of me in line. They looked to be in their mid-20's, young, confident, and probably fresh out of a morning church service. Perhaps not, though, given that the girl had a nicely fitting peacoat, which from behind only revealed the deep red fishnet stockings and snake skin high heels she was wearing. Her blonde curls rested at the top of the collar of the coat. Both of the guys were wearing sport coats, one with a nice new white pair of Adidas, a white dress shirt, and designer tie, the other in what looked like a suit with well worn dress shoes. The one in the suit ordered some bottled drink, and nodded to his cohort in confidence at how well he had ordered this drink, and offered that the guy touch the bottle to confirm that it was properly chilled. After confirming that they were putting all their choices on one tab, they settled up and retreated to their seating of choice.

I nestled into the brown leather chair and read my copied papers, took notes, and tried to absorb what I was learning. All the while, the restaurant was full of life and activity. A hispanic man and his son, who looked to be about 6 or 7, enjoyed some breakfast at a table facing my direction. One of the girls who probably acted as a cashier was on a break, and could easily have passed for a young Juliette Lewis. I kept looking over at her to confirm that it wasn't really Ms. Lewis, and it wasn't long before that was obvious. It seemed that I was in quite a coveted spot, as patrons passed the two brown chairs, turning quickly once they saw me seated in one of them. Sitting in comfortable, close proximity to others was obviously not a popular item on the menu this morning.

Suddenly, a woman breezed by me, and had I not taken a second look, I would have thought that she had chinchillas grasping her ankles, fighting for freedom. I'm all about warm boots, but these things looked like they were doing the walking for her. As she removed her coat and laid it on the bench seat she'd chosen, she revealed that she was probably returning from, or planning to go to, the gym. A tight, off the shoulder top offered a peak at a bright, thin strapped sports bra, and her black yoga pants offered a bit of explanation as to why the gym would have been a better choice than the breakfast she'd ordered here. Again, a mean thought, and I struck it from my mind. I digress.

As Bella found herself confronted, again, by Edward in a most confrontational fashion, a young mother entered the restaurant and perched her baby's carrier/car seat on the floor beside her. It wasn't long after her friend arrived that I learned that the little baby girl was 3 months old, wears size 6 months clothes, and there had been some family strife at the recent baptism of said baby. I lost the conversation when a 30-something couple arrived and sat at a table between myself and the young mother, encouraging their young son, probably about 2 or 3 years old, to try the breakfast quiche they were each enjoying. After his initial protests, he gave in, and his mom's voice expressed her obvious excitement that he'd ventured into this new territory of the quiche.

As I sat in the brown leather chair, I began to reel as I thought about all the things I needed to get done today, our being short of money, and felt guilty about the $2 and change which I'd spent on my coffee. Finances have been a big stressor for me recently, and knowing that there were only a few dollars left in my hidden jar of cash really adds to that stress.

A group of friends and I have challenged each other to get ahead of our Christmas shopping for 2010, hoping to purchase one gift each month until the holiday arrives (or more, if possible). I had grabbed some money this morning for my coffee, and for some possible gifts off the clearance tables at the Barnes and Nobel next door. Trying to purge the guilt from my mind, I headed to B&N and found the clearance table. The clearance tags had obviously done some good in the past 7 days, as the selection was greatly diminished, but, still offered some suitable choices.

As the table said the goods on it are now at 75% off, I chose two small puzzles which were reduced to $1.98 each, seeing them as stocking stuffers for Ethel and Fred. I let go of my guilt and took them to the register, feeling happy when I got change back from my $5 bill.

Knowing I was going home with two gifts, as well as some money still in my pocket helped ease my guilt. I am now two gifts ahead for this year's holiday season.

I took my coffee, my book, my stocking stuffers, and headed home. Me time accomplished, gifts purchased, money in my pocket. Not too bad for a Sunday morning of me time.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Those poor ears

I should update on our sleepless week. We slept well Thursday night after I dosed Fred up really well before bed time with some Tylenol and Motrin and got this room nice and steamy. We had a morning appointment with the ped, who confirmed an ear infection in the right ear.

In addition to the EI, Fred had some wheezing in his lower lungs, so she recommended the use of the inhaler to help clear that up.

He's on a 5-day z-pac and we've done the inhaler a couple times, one being right before bed last night. Mistake. Child + Albuterol + bed time = not going to sleep for hours.

Fred got tubes in December of '08 and we've had great success so far. Unfortunately, it seems that the one in the right (the infected) ear has probably fallen out. We hope this EI is just a one time deal, but will watch to see if it recurs in that ear, and then we'll have to consider replacing that tube.

I would like to wait it out to see if he grows out of it, since he'll be 3 in March, but knowing my and my mom's history of ear problems, I am not confident that he will.

For now, he's on the meds, on the mend, and Mommy is enjoying some morning coffee without any grumps in the house. For now.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

It's a two coffee cupper Tuesday

19 January
Children are such strange little creatures. I mean, we all were children at one time. We are all humans. Our biological children come from our own gene pool. So why the hell are they so complicated and hard to figure out?!

The kids had a stay home day yesterday. Daddy has Mondays off, so it was a Daddy stay home day. As planned, they played with Daddy Legos and Kids Sequence, a hand me down which sat in our closet for the better part of six months until this past Sunday. As an aside to the greater point here, Kids Sequence is pretty fun, and we played it after dinner Sunday, our first official family game night. Fun.

Back to confusing kids. Think about it. There are different doctors for kids. This has long been something I've wondered about, even though I know, logically, why the pediatric specialty exists. They are young versions of us, so what is so different that they need their own specialty? OK, I get it, but it's still one of those things that makes me go hmmmm.

While home with Daddy yesterday, Fred had a slight cough. Nothing persistant, nothing serious, but, enough that Daddy mentioned it to me when I got home. The cough was a rather barky cough, which is identifiable from a mile away. First thing that came to my head was, of course, croup. He's had croup a couple of times, the second time worse than the first. Visions of a sleepless night passed through my mind. Great, just what we all need.

Bed time was interesting. By that time, his nose had started to run a bit and he coughed that barky cough a few times. After lights out, I was in the other room on the computer when I noticed that the light in the hallway had been switched on. Assuming it was Daddy, I ignored it. Then the light went off. And on. OK, this isn't right. I walked out into the hallway to find Fred playing with the light on the side table in the hall. Sigh. Time for bed time redirection.

When he first moved into his big boy room with big boy bed, Fred would get out of bed and lock his door. Mommy and Daddy weren't bright enough to reverse the door knob when we finished the room, so we kept a paper clip handy and popped the door each time. We proved to be even less bright when we somehow found that the door was not latching. All we needed to do was push the door to enter the room, locked knob or not. On one hand I was pretty proud to have figured out that we could get in the room without the aid of a paper clip, and I used that to my advantage when I would surprise him by entering his room when I would hear the click of the door lock. At the same time, I was a bit ashamed that we'd been outsmarted by both a two year old, and a poorly hung door. Sigh.

Anyway, the futility of locking the door won and he has ceased the behaivour, replacing it with singing loudly in his bed and banging his feet against the walls. This was quickly replaced by leaving his bed and getting out his cars and trucks, or his books, and playing or reading on the floor. Soon, he realized that the poorly hung door was no obstacle, and so began the frequent exiting of the bedroom.

Like Elmer Fudd being vawy, vawy quiet hunting wabbits, Fred somehow figured out how to soften his footsteps and reduce the swish-swish sound of his diaper in order to avoid being heard walking across his room to his door. Sneaky kid. Now the first sign of his escape is the sound of whatever mischief he finds himself in outside his room.

Back to this morning's antics. Some time around 3AM, give or take some time, I was startled from sleep by the loud barking cough. It didn't repeat, and I somehow fell back to sleep. The next thing to wake me was the tell-tale swish-swish of a diaper, sounding like one of the monkeys was out in the hall running laps around the floor. Then the sound changed, and before I knew it I stumbled to my feet, trying to gain my balance and figure out where I was and what time it was. Time on the clock: 4:00AM. I darted into the hallway, fearing that Fred had figured out that he could go downstairs and mess around down there. My fear was not of him failing to navigate the steps, but of him finding fun elsewhere in the house, resulting in seemingly endless play at all hours of the night and then Mr. Super Cranky Pants the next day. Luckily, I found him just outside our doorway. Unluckily, I found him crawling out from under the small side table in the hallway, upon which rests the lamp I mentioned earlier which he enjoyed turning on and off last evening. The table is an antique sewing table handed down from my husband's grandmother's mother. The lamp that sits atop the table is also an antique, acquired by my mother at some point in the last few years, and is glass. Flashes of a toppled table and shattered lamp flew through my head until Fred emerged from under the table and I scooped him into my arms. I guess scoop isn't really the right word, especially at 4AM. At a hefty 33 pounds, it was more of a good lift, the kind you do using your legs, focusing on your core and keeping your back straight. I laugh when people tell me that I should start working our or something. They obviously never had to lift a young child the size of my kid. OK, I digress again.

After picking him up off the floor and getting him to agree to rest his head on my shoulder, I brought him back to his room, laying him gently on his bed. Realizing that the humidifier was pretty much out of water, and fearing that his cough would return with worse presentation, I tucked him in and left to fill his vaporizer. Vaporizers really irk me, and I find them to be the most difficult household tool known to mankind, but, when they're really needed, I have to admit they do come in handy. Filled with cold water and a generous sprinkle of salt, it wasn't long before ribbons of steam were pouring into the air in his room and I could feel the humidity level begin to rise. The sweet smell of success for a Mommy who usually has a battle of wills with these awful inventions. That's a whole topic in and of itself, so I'll save that for another day.

After a few deep yawns, a few rubs of his back, and a gentle kiss on his cheek, I wished him night night, closed his door, and returned to my room. I listened as carefully as I could for a cough, a diaper, footsteps, anything, and heard nothing but quiet. Eventually I drifted off to sleep. Until 4:12AM. Again, I woke suddenly to swish-swish and footsteps. I shook my husband who lay snoring beside me, to no avail. Mommy to the rescue once again. This time I found him walking and holding the banister, trying to make his way to the top of the stairs for a possible adventure downstairs. After some coaxing and refusal to let him go down the steps, he quietly agreed to return to his room. Now he claimed to be scared. Ugh. Dude, my alarm is going to go off at 5AM. This is not what I need to be going less than an hour before I'm supposed to be getting up for the day. Come on! Again, I returned him to his bed, kissed him good night, and returned to my bed, finally drifting off to sleep. Until 4:23AM. This time, I shook my husband harder and got him on his feet and into the hall to retrieve the stray child. Then I heard, "No, I want Mommy to get me. No Daddy, I want Mommy!".

This kind of statement would often warm your heart, or at least provide a virtual pat on the back for Mom. Not at 4:23AM, though, and not in repsonse to the one time that Mommy was able to get Daddy out of bed from a deep sleep! Fearing that his loud and continued protests would soon wake his big sister, I rushed into the hallway and lifted him into my arms, calling Daddy off the job. This time, I knew it was a game and I wasn't going to play any longer. After tucking him in, kissing his cheek, and reminding him not to leave his bed, I sat in the glider beside the window and listened to the drone of the Baby Beethoven quietly playing on the CD player on the dresser. At this point it was barely audible (perhaps a blessing) over the sound of the vaporizer, but it was enough to cover up the clicking of the glider as I rocked back and forth (or was I gliding?). I only stayed a few minutes before retreating to my bed, hoping for at least 15 minutes of sleep before the morning show on the alarm clock radio would blare in my ear, warning me of the dawn of another day (ironically, well before dawn).

Mission accomplished. Fred finally got back to sleep and so did I. Listening at his door before I got ready, I confirmed that he was sound asleep. It was obvious by the loud breathing, bordering on snoring, that was coming from the other side of his door. I guess only moms can appreciate the sweet sound of their babies breathing in slumber. Partly because that sounds changes as they grow up. Partly because it means they're asleep!!

I dreaded the morning wake up time today because of the missed sleep for both myself and Fred. I hoped to not be Crabby Pants, and hoped more that Fred wouldn't be Mr. Super Crabby Pants. Both kids can be tough to wake in the morning, but you know it's going to be a daunting task when they have been up at some point in the night. To my great pleasure, morning wake up routine was just fine.

With him in a deep sleep, I knew I was safe to enter his room and turn on his bedroom light. This is one of the very few situations where I appreciate the delayed illumination of CFLs. Rather than a blaring bright light, the light was soft, not bright enough to startle the dead like most regular incandescent lights. I was able to gently sit on his bed, rub his forehead and hair, and whisper his name. There's just something about a young child when they first wake that makes me smile. Their unbalanced walk, their messy bed-head hair, and the often dazed and confused look on their faces as they try to compose themselves. When they rest in my lap and hug and kiss me and tell me good morning, I wish nothing more than to be able to do this all day, because I know that time goes way too quickly and before I know it these moments will be mere memories. Despite the fact that he had me up at an hour which should be stricken from the clock, his hugs and morning greeting are enough to help me through the morning, if not the whole day.

By wake up time, his cough had less bark to it, evidence that the sauna I provided him to sleep in was effective in keeping the croup away, if even just for last night. He'll sleep in the sauna again tonight, and each night until I'm certain that he won't have a croupy spell. We were all in good spirits for our wake up time routine, and the kids got to school today bright eyed and bushy tailed, ready to play with their friends and have glorious adventures throughout the day.

Mommy then headed for work, holding on to the hope that the coffee pot in the office would be full. Mommies need a bit more than a soft light, rub of the hair, and whisper of their name to be ready for their days. Luckily, java is there to help us through our adventures in parenting.

Monday, January 18, 2010

It's ME time

17 January

Alone time is something that I don’t treat myself to, and hadn’t had any of until this morning. At the urging of a new friend, I’ve been instructed to leave the house once a week and depart from the rigors of life as a mom, if even for a short time. Skeptical, I agreed and began the assignment this morning.

My husband is entirely supportive of my having “me” time. We discussed and agreed on the best, or at least a good, time for me to have this time alone, and Sunday mornings won. For one thing, it’s his day to “wake up with” the kids. Now, I generally am the one who is woken by one or the other monkeys stirring, or coming into our room in the morning. So really it’s his morning to get out of bed with them and begin their day. This morning was a great one, starting at 5:50AM. I was woken from a pretty good sleep to the sounds of, “Daddy….I have bleeder coming out!” coming from the next room. Poor Fred has suffered nose bleeds for a while now, and he had a pretty good one this morning.

I got him settled and cleaned up, laid a towel over the stains on the sheets so that he could lay back down for at least a short time. He rocked with his Daddy for a bit before they agreed that he would just read a book in bed. I, then, laid in bed listening to him turn the pages and talk about the book, and sing whenever it popped into his head. Daddy has that desirable ability to fall back asleep, which he did, so I pulled out my iPod Touch and checked my Facebook page, played a little Scrabble, and tried to pass some time in hopes of being able to drift off again. Nope, didn’t happen.

I think my husband got out of bed some time between 6:30 and 7AM and got the kids dressed and downstairs for breakfast. I, then, got out of bed and hopped on the computer for a bit to look for the hours of some places I’d considered going to this morning during my scheduled alone time. 8AM-10AM is a great time for alone time, but, there isn’t much open at that hour, especially on a Sunday. Book stores (my first choice), closed. Library, closed. This left breakfast places and coffee shops. I don’t want to go somewhere and spend money I don’t really have to spare on breakfast alone, and I don’t want to go spend a ton of money on coffee which I could make myself at home for a fraction of the per cup cost. Yes, finances are tight and if I’m going to treat myself to time without the family regularly, it can’t add up to a small fortune.

OK, so venue chosen, I finally prep myself for public presentation. Well, I basically spruced up enough to allow myself to be seen without looking like a homelss person. Ponytail, contacts in the eyes, jeans and a sweatshirt, and I was all set. Here I go!

I chose a local Panera and grabbed a few dollars from a little jar which I keep spare singles in so I could get a coffee. I’ve been to Paneras over the years, but never alone and just to sit. So I grabbed a book, hoping to get a few pages read if I found a comfy enough spot at the restaurant. See, I guess I still see restaurants as places where you go, you order, you eat, and you leave. The whole coffe house, hang out at Starbucks was big when I was in college, but, that just wasn’t my bag. Plus, I didn’t really start to drink coffee ’til I was a junior in college, and by then I was quite happy with my seat at the library. It was there or the Shoneys out by the highway when we pulled all nighters, but getting a ride off campus wasn’t always the easiest thing to do, and nothing was close to campus.

Anyhow, I was a little nervous, I have to admit. Unlike some people, I’m not that confident in doing things like this alone. I enjoy being with others. On top of that, places like this tend to intimidate me when they make it impossible to order coffee by name. It’s almost like being in a foreign country. Actually, it reminds me of trying to order tea with cream and sugar in New Zealand. I distinctly recall standing in a bakery in Queenstown, NZ trying to figure out how to order a tea with cream and sugar. I had mastered ordering pies after meeting a Kiwi on my flight into Auckland who not only showed me the sights of the city, but, introduced me to the variety of pies found everywhere in the small country. I’m part English, have been a tea drinker all my life, and couldn’t for the life of me figure out this half white, half and black, whatever it was that they called it. I just wanted a tea!!

I digress. My hesitation at ordering coffee in commercial, or even local, coffee places is based on my own insecurity, but, suffice it to say I don’t generally enjoy having to learn how to order something as basic as a coffee. This is one of the reasons I opted for Panera. They offer coffee. And it’s good. And I can refill my cup. Enough said.

As I drove from my house, I felt a little strange. I’m not used to doing for me. This is a common thing among women, among moms. We get so used to doing for others that we lose sight of what it’s like to do for ourselves. I focused on this as I got out of my car. Donned in the only pair of jeans that fit me right now (which were hand me downs), my Eastland shoes my mom got me at least 8 years ago, my husband’s old sweatshirt, I realized how little I’ve done for myself over the years. I can’t even tell you the last time I shopped for myself. Part of this is due to lack of funding for such an operation, but I have always had a hard time spending my money, especially on ME. Ugh, it’s so annoying. Now, I have likely painted a picture of some perfect candidate for the show What Not to Wear, but I assure you it’s not that bad (wait, don’t they all say that???). My point is, I neglect myself, and as I walked into the place, I was glad I had taken on this assignment for me time.

I approached the counter after seeing that they did have some flavoured coffees on tap. Whew. I don’t inherently like the taste of coffee, and I pretty much have a little coffee with my cream and sugar. Then I realized that they have some appealing breakfast options which would not break my small bank (pocket). Another sigh of relief.

I ordered, grabbed my cup, receipt, and square “your order’s ready” contraption and found a booth to sit in. The two comfy arm chairs (yes, only two, grrrr) were taken, so I opted for a booth, figuring I’d move to a table if the place got real busy. Luckily, it didn’t, at least not that I was aware. I say that because, as I’d mentioned, I brought a book. Not just any book, some might say. I brought with me my borrowed copy of Twilight. The rock I live under isn’t big enough to shelter me from the phenom that is this book series. I also am witness to the craze every day in my close-knit online community of moms that I’ve been part of for the better part of my daughter’s life. A coworker of mine read the books and lent them to me on a “return them whenever you’re done” basis. I was an avid reader as a kid until high school when reading was assigned, not just for fun. I think that’s really when I lost my childhood interest in reading. Of course, that’s not to say that I didn’t read an occaisional book for fun, not like I did as a kid. I brought the book with me figuring that I’d look less silly being in a restaurant alone if I had my nose in a book, and if it didn’t hold my interest, I’d leave and find something else to do and somewhere else to go.

So, I entered the world of Twilight this morning. I’m learning about Fords, WA and the strange people that live there. As I sat reading the book, I peered up only a few times, seeing the other patrons order their morning fare and find that just right spot to enjoy it in. Watching people order their food and look for a seat can be entertaining at times. At one point, a younger couple, I’d say in their late 20’s, came in and got their coffees. They looked over the layout of the place, then she took one for the team and roamed the aisle, examining the seating for that just right spot for her and her male companion. It didn’t take her long to come back and shake her head, indicating that nothing in that direction was suitable. I peered out of my booth after they turned the other way and noticed that most of the booths were empty, as were the two-seater round tables further down. I don’t know what criteria they had for their just right spot, but, apparently they weren’t met in that direction. I didn’t bother to see if they stuck it out at the front of the restaurant, I just went back to my book and experienced Bella’s first day at her new high school.

A nice couple in their 40’s or 50’s sat in the booth across the aisle from me with a newspaper and a book. They had coffee and I don’t believe either of them uttered more than a few words the whole time they were there. In fact, at one point I looked in their direction and saw a father daughter team in the same spot. Either I was engrossed in the book or they were really stealth, as were the father and daughter. Hm. The father and daughter were dressed nicely, probably for church or something, so I could tell that they weren’t out just giving mom a break. It was really cute, and you could tell the little girl, probably around 7 or 8, was proud to be out with her Daddy carrying her purse and wearing a pretty skirt with party shoes. Does anyone call them that any more, ‘party shoes’?

I wasn’t expecting the book to read as easily as it does. I’d been told over and over how easy a read it was, but, usually when I hear that it turns out to read like The Oddyssey, anything but what I would call easy. This, though, really is easy and I flew through 60+ pages that I read this morning. Having only gotten through roughly 4 chapters, I will reserve any review of the story itself, but will admit that I’m enjoying it and can envision carving out some time to read it throughout the coming weeks. Not sure it will take me that long, but, my reading time is scarce and once it’s dark outside, an open book is as good as NyQuil for me.

My morning out, alone, was refreshing. As the clock rounded 10:00, I saved my page with a napkin, got my coat on, and topped off my coffee before heading to my car. I wasn’t leaving quite yet, I had one thing I wanted to do first. Barnes and Nobel. At a play date the kids and I went on yesterday, a great responsibility chart was recommended by the hosting mom. This thing is just what I’ve been trying to come up with myself for my kids (and myself). I spent my time on me and now I had to do something that would make me feel better, even if it’s kind of for someone else. I knew these cost around $20, and that’s really all I had on me, so I only was able to buy one today. I’ll get the second in a couple weeks after the next pay day (or I’ll get it online for less!). Honestly, despite the fact that I spent money, it made me feel better to get the chart, knowing that I could begin to apply the responsibilities and impending rewards with Ethel as early as today. This made me feel almost as good as treating myself to me time!

As I left, I felt relaxed, not worried about my day, and actually looking forward to time with my kids and husband. That hasn’t been the case for the past couple months, though. Funny how a mere couple of hours out of the house can recharge me. Even if it’s just for today, I’m happy to have had this time to read, drink coffee, and people watch. I look forward to doing it again next week, and more often as time goes by.