And Then I Stepped in Gum . . .

Thursday, October 28, 2004

For Halloween, I Think I'll Be "Supermom"

I've decided Halloween must be the new Christmas. After all, Christmas is so associated with icky religion, making public celebrations of the holiday complex (and leading to a huge proliferations of snowmen -- ask me sometime about my theory of a future religion being founded around Frosty the Snowman). Look at how big Halloween decorating is these days. I'm resisting being sucked into that -- just jack o'lanterns for me, thanks. Oh, and some Halloween luminarias. And maybe a pumpkin-shaped basket or two. But I draw the line at hanging lights for Halloween!

I am fully sucked into making costumes, though. In fact, that's what I've been consumed by for the last week and a half or so, and is the reason for the lack of bloggage. This year, Katie wanted to be a horse, and I decided Ian would be a dragon. Actually, Katie started out as a unicorn, and I thought the dragon would be a cute complementary costume, but then Katie changed her mind and well, I couldn't think of anything else for Ian and I thought I might be able to change Katie's mind back and, well, that's what they're going to be. Maybe. Because after a week of working on Ian's more-complex-than-I-realized costume, I finished yesterday, and he refuses to wear it. Sure, if you talk about Halloween, he'll say, "Da [Katie], , I bleah." (Bleah is his word for dragon, stemming from the cute dragon puppet in the Baby Mozart video that turns to the camera, sticks his tongue out and says, "Bleah!") And he's been doing that for days. But when I tried to get him to put the costume on, he said, "Nah" dismissively. And when I forced him into it, he had a fit. This doesn't bode well for the next few days in which we have 4 or 5 events to attend.

Katie's horse looks almost like a horse. It's furry, and has a mane and tail, and that's pretty much the most you can ask for, I think. (Remind me, though, never to let the children be anything furry again -- there are tufts of white fake fur all over the house.) And isn't it good that I planned a fake fur costume for one and a fleece costume for the other to keep them warm on Halloween -- and it's going to be 85 degrees? Oops.

I also spent a solid hour this morning making pumpkin-shaped peanut butter sandwiches using orange bread and a cookie cutter for Katie's class's Halloween party today. And I was assigned this task. Good grief.

Anyway, I know sewing the costumes is over the top, but something in me rebels against store-bought costumes, even though I know they've come a long way from those plastic smocks and masks that came in the cardboard boxes. Remember those? My mom never bought us those. Instead she made us beautiful and creative costumes every year. When I was 7, I wanted to be Juliet, so she made me a green satin ballgown with rhinestone trim. My little brother, that year, was Cookie Monster, complete with blue shag fake fur. Oh, the horror for my little newly formed sensibilities of what kinds of things coordinated appropriately -- to my mind, Renaissance princesses and monsters just did not GO.

But I got over it. (Yes, I did -- I'm just retelling it now, for those of you who weren't there. No, I'm not still obsessing over it.) And over the years I was a butterfly, a geisha, and an Indian girl, among others. John (my brother) was once a Pepsi can -- that was an impressive bit of work. So obviously the importance I place on handmade costumes comes from my mom. Sometimes I wish I could let go a little more -- I mean, on the one hand, I look at, say, Disney princess costumes at Target and think they're pretty cheaply made and cost $20, but on the other hand, I spent more than that in money for the materials for the kids' costumes and waaaay more than that in time. But maybe that's an investment in fond memories for my kids. So maybe it's worth it.

In the meantime, I haven't had time to think of a costume for myself. Maybe I'll just go with a big red S on my chest.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

What Is Normal, Anyway?

Something upset me last night, and I started to cry. On Monday, too, I broke down in tears of frustration after visiting six daycare centers looking for a good place for Ian and being unsatisfied with every one of them. In contrast, a few weeks ago, it occurred to me that it had been a long, long time since I'd had a crying fit.

What changed? I decided to stop taking Zoloft, which I've been on for about 10 months now. Back around the beginning of the year, I was having a hard time controlling my temper. I was snapping at the kids, I was tired and frustrated, and I had no energy to do anything at all. Even on days when I thought I had everything under control and I was doing my "job" of mothering well, something would sneak up on me and I'd lose it. I went to my doctor to get a referral to a therapist, telling her that I believed the primary causes were hormones related to nursing/post-partum (though Ian was about a year old) and to my being sooooo tired because Ian was still waking up every 2-3 hours at night. She felt that talk therapy would be little help with the sleep issues, and she suggested Zoloft. I agreed, and I started a low dose.

Within two weeks, things got so much better. For a little while, I could still feel the temper tantrums in the back of my brain, but I was able to keep them from coming out of my mouth. Then they went away, and within 2-3 weeks, I felt almost normal again. When I looked into information on SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors), things clicked into place. Your brain produces serotonin, a feel-good chemical, during REM sleep, and if I was waking up every 2-3 hours, you can bet I was probably producing very little serotonin. The SSRI made sure that what serotonin did get produced wasn't reabsorbed by my brain. Hence, I felt better.

For quite a while, I was nervous about what would happen if I went off Zoloft. I began to understand psychological drug dependency, as opposed to physical dependency, for the first time. I was so worried about going back to the way I felt before that I was johnny-on-the-spot with taking my pill on time.

But then a few months ago, Ian started sleeping through the night. I got more lax about taking the drug and sometimes skipped days. I finally decided I'd like to try to go off, to see how I was doing and to save the $20 copay each month. I did make a mistake, though, and quit cold turkey, which according to my new doctor, many people can do from the low dose I was on (50 mg). I, however, had some debilitating dizziness as a side effect. Oops. So I went to the new doctor and got a lower dose so I can wean myself off gradually, like you're supposed to.

So here's the thing: The reason I went cold turkey? My prescription from my old doc ran out of refills, and I was embarrassed to go to my new doc and ask for more. Being on Zoloft has run me smack into some of my own internal prejudices and mental hurdles. I've always been very encouraging of people to seek therapy or medical treatment for mental illness. I firmly believe in the physical origin of chemical depression. My grandmother, we all say, was probably chemically depressed for years and it was never treated until she became senile and was in a nursing home, which explains why she was such a harridan of a woman.

And yet it's been extremely difficult for me to say I was/am a victim of depression. Sure, I speak up about it to my friends and family. But when it came to things like filling out medical history forms with a new pharmacy, I couldn't bring myself to check that little box. I know that depression isn't something to be ashamed of -- in my head -- but apparently my heart feels differently. And I hate that. It's counter to all the progressive views I hold. But it's there, under the surface. No wonder we can't get past these prejudices in our society.

I try to be outspoken about how hard mothering is, in order to dispel the myth of facile motherhood. If only it was as easy for me to do the same with depression.

Anyway, so now I'm crying again. And cranky again. And hormonal again. But isn't that normal? Is it better to be on an even keel, possibly eliminating both highs and lows, or to feel things within normal limits. Zoloft never made me feel like a zombie, but the contrast between my musings of a few weeks ago and the rough couple of days I just went through really stands out, and I wonder which is the right path for me to choose now.

Fortunately, I have the support of a caring partner who can help me with reality checks. Of course, he may just blame it on PMS -- in which he may be justified. So I'll keep on this path of weaning for now, and see where it gets me. Hopefully, it will get me to normal -- whatever that is.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

I'm Famous!

Wow, nothing like a self-plug on CE-L to get the site's stat numbers up. I went from about 15 page views a day to 111 yesterday. (Of course, some of those may have been me checking on my own site [sheepish grin].) I hope some of you like it enough to stick around. Feel free to leave comments. I'd love to know who's looking in on me.

I also found out, thanks to a new hit counter from Site Meter, that there is at least one page out there that links to me (other than the blog written by my husband, who's sort of obligated). The local newspaper's website (yes, CE-Lsters, that's how I've decided to style that -- it's a conscious choice) has me listed under "Alabama Bloggers" in Mobile. That's kind of freaky, since I never signed up for that and don't know how they found me. I also discovered the other day that that one of the blogs I like to read, "Musings from Behind the Maytag," has a link to my blog. It's gratifying to know that someone likes your writing enough to go to the effort to amend their HTML!

So now I feel sort of famous. Not as famous as when I was on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, since no one's stopped me on the street (or in Michael's, as the case may be) yet after reading my blog. That's reserved for Angela, apparently. And no old boyfriends have stumbled across the site. Or at least, I don't think they have. You'd tell me if you were an old boyfriend, wouldn't you?

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Scroll Down for the Good Stuff

Oh, great. I post that I have a blog on CE-L, and 32 people come to look at it immediately. Of course, that's wonderful, but then I realize that I have at the top of the blog posts a brief political snipe followed by a list of my 21-month-old son's vocabulary. Scintillating, aren't I? So if you're here for the first time, scroll down a bit. A couple of entries that are more typical of my posts are Katie's Choice and The Mother's Curse, Updated. Hope you like those.

Oh, Come On!

I'm just going to take a page from Dave's blog here and have a brief political rant. On NPR's Morning Edition this morning, they said that Bush spent yesterday trying to cast Kerry as an old-style tax-and-spend liberal, and that he said that if Kerry were elected, that would be the end of fiscal sanity in Washington.

Oh, come on, really? Because his definition of "fiscal sanity" is tripling the national deficit and bringing it to trillions of dollars, the highest it's ever been???

Dave's reaction was that it's one more piece of evidence that Bush's campaign manager is really George Orwell.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Forgot Some

Ian also says "yawp, yawp" for frogs and bunnies (hop, hop), an imitation of Dory's whale talk for whales, and sniffs whenever he sees flowers. And then this morning when I told him he could have one more cookie, he very clearly said, "I-na doo." So he got two cookies. Gotta reward him for the communication, right? (And I hear my mom's voice in my head telling me that my first sentence was, "Me want cookie." Again, the apple doesn't far fall from the tree.)

Friday, October 08, 2004

Ian Update

Hallelujah! After a week of waking up for an hour and a half in the middle of the night, Ian finally slept through the night again last night. He fussed a couple of times, but didn't require us to go in to get him back to sleep. I almost feel like a normal person again, although it meant I had no excuse not to go to the gym this morning.

I've been wanting to get some things written down about Ian. I mean, it's not like he really has a baby book -- heck, Katie doesn't even have a baby book. So since my blog is sort of a diary/snapshot in time for me, I thought I'd put it here.

First off, there's his vocabulary, which is not as big as I'd like it to be. At 21.5 months, he has three categories of "words": actual words that people other than us can understand; words that consistently mean something, but which bear little relation to the word they're supposed to be; and sounds. The last category is probably his biggest; he is onomatopoeia boy.

Actual words: all over, mama, dada, bye, uh-oh, bowl, towel, ball, yeah, up (although this sometimes means down), bubble, pop, door, stop (dop), Boo (when he's pretending to be the girl from Monsters Inc.), other

Ian words: oh-low (color, yellow), Dah (Katie), I-na (I wanna), eth (yes), duh (done), dar (star), nuh (no), ba-ba (baby or bottle), bah (Wiggles), nap (map -- thanks, Dora), mah-mah (grandma, sounds different than mama), bup (butt), nuh (nurse), zzzz (Pez)

Sounds: He makes sounds for cat (yow), monkey (ee-ee-ee), dog (woof, woof), car/truck/bus (brrrm, brrm), horse (pretty authentic neigh), bird (tweeting sound), donkey (ha-ha), owl (ooh, ooh), train (ch-ch), airplane (engine noise), rocket (engine noise, but different than that of an airplane), shark (like the Jaws theme -- doo-DOO, doo-DOO), fish ("popping" his lips), cold (shivers and says "ohhh, ohhh"), hot (blows), monster (growls "bah-BAH"), bug (same as monster; I don't know why), bee (zzzzz)

I'm sure I'm forgetting some. Dave, feel free to add whatever you can think of.

The funny thing is that he'll imitate sounds right away, and be really proud of himself for it, but I can't get him to copy our words. I don't know what that's all about.

He knows all his body parts (though he still mixes up his cheek and his chin), and this week he learned to identify all of the planets on Katie's model of the solar system. I wouldn't believe this, either, if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes.

He's in a phase of lining things up -- rocks from a gravel yard, blocks, squares of cork -- and making them trains. He lines them up and then stands back, proudly pointing and saying "ch-ch." He also likes to stack his blocks, and is building rockets out of his bristle blocks.

This morning we had a moment that crystallized why I had two kids. Katie has made two paper bag puppets over the last week in kindergarten, a cow and an alligator. She had them both out this morning, and Ian wanted to see them. First she put on a brief puppet show for him, then she actually gave him one without a fuss. Then they ran around the house in circles, shrieking with hysterical laughter, as his alligator chased her cow, trying to eat it. No crying, no fighting, just playing together. It was really, really nice -- if a little loud. It made me smile, which isn't all that easy at 6:30 a.m.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Katie's Choice

For the last couple of days, we've been living a re-enactment of Sophie's choice -- if, that is, Sophie were a five-year-old girl obsessed with horses.

It all started way back, such a long, long time back . . . for Christmas last year, Dave's brother, who is a nutcase, albeit a fun uncle, got Katie a practically life-sized stuffed circus horse. I mean, this thing is huge. Even bigger than the practically life-sized stuffed tiger he'd bought her the year before. Which was bigger than the 3-foot teddy bear he'd bought her the year before. So he is largely responsible for the ban on stuffed animals as gifts for our children that we've instated. We just don't have enough room anymore. They are "allowed" to receive Beanie Baby-sized animals, but anything bigger than that is frowned on.

And if you have young children, you know how difficult it is to weed through their possessions and get rid of them. Occasionally one can do it while the child is at school, but sometimes they notice. And wouldn't you notice if a life-sized stuffed horse went missing from your bedroom? So we've been stuck with the tiger and the horse.

On Sunday, we went to Target. Now, Katie really doesn't beg for that much at stores, and I even more rarely give in to her when she begs, so I don't usually have a hard time saying "no" when she asks for something. On this trip, she saw a stuffed horse of a much more reasonable size --
"only" 28 inches long -- and she asked for it. She's asked for this particular horse before. And Ian, at the same time, picked up another stuffed horse and snuggled it. The two of them together were pretty cute.

And a flash of brilliance hit me -- what if I could get Katie to exchange this horse for the giant one? For $15, we'd have much more space in her bedroom, and she doesn't really play with Jewel (the giant horse) anyway. So I made her a bargain: I'd buy her the brown horse if she would give Jewel away to charity, so that a little girl who didn't have any toys could have her to love. She jumped at the chance. I bought the brown horse.

Those of you who have kids know where this is going, right?

Ten minutes after we got home, Dave came to me in the office, saying, "You get to deal with this." Katie was in her room, curled up against Jewel, crying as if her heart would break. "I'm going to miss Jewel," she sobbed. I talked with her about it, reminding her that I only bought the brown horse because she said she'd give up Jewel, and I offered to take the brown horse back to Target. In the end, that's what she decided to do, though there were several sobs of "I wish I could have both." I had her take the brown horse and put it in our room so I could take it back to Target.

Yesterday Ian liberated the horse from our room and played with it for a while, dragging it around the house using the cat's leash. So when Katie came home from school, brown horse was out in the open. Big mistake. Soon she was sobbing again. She tearfully brought me a picture that she'd drawn of the brown horse, to remember it by. Ten minutes later, more tears and a picture of Jewel, because she'd decided to keep the brown horse and give up Jewel. But she didn't think the drawing was good enough, so she wanted me to take a digital picture of her with Jewel. I did, gladly, but couldn't even get her to smile for the camera. More leaking tears and a very sad little girl.

I finally gave in. Who am I to inflict such trauma on her for no apparent reason? I should never have started the process to begin with, but I couldn't follow it through to its conclusion -- not if it was going to cause such ongoing heartache. Sometimes you've just got to pick your battles. I surrendered this one. We now own two stuffed horses.

And Katie is one happy little girl.

Monday, October 04, 2004

Reason #327 Why People Who Need Coffee to Function Should Not Have to Make Their Own

Or, Why I Wish I Lived Next to Starbucks

Let's get this straight. I am a coffee drinker. Not out of choice, but out of necessity. I drink coffee for medicinal purposes. With both of my pregnancies, I went to decaf soda and have stayed with that. But when I have to wake up in the morning enough to fix Katie's lunch and get Ian dressed after a night that is interrupted by--and this is only an example--a toddler screaming for an hour and a half straight, I need coffee.

Dave prefers gourmet tea, so I have a one-cup coffeemaker. The process for this device is seemingly simple: scoop beans into little grinder; grind beans (these two steps have only recently been added as I devolve further into coffee snobdom); dump permanent filter from coffeemaker into sink and rinse; replace filter and fill with ground beans; fill coffee cup with water from the fridge; pour water into reservoir; turn machine on.

The conundrum with coffee is that if you need coffee, you're usually not capable of following these steps with the precision that is necessary to actually produce coffee. I have been known to miss one or more of the above listed steps, which results in, decidedly, not-coffee. I've forgotten to pour the coffee grounds into the filter more times than I can count, ending up with a cup of hot water. I've even forgot to replace the filter and just dumped the coffee grounds into the thing that holds the filter, and boy, did that take a while to figure out. But this morning I reached a new low.

As I mentioned, somebody in the household has recently decided that from 4 to 5:30 a.m. is the ideal time to throw uncontrollable screaming fits. This means that all of us are cranky and unrested. This morning, after approximately 4.5 hours of sleep, I got up to make Katie's lunch, and I started my coffee. When I'd finished packing the lunch, I pretty much just collapsed on the couch for a while as the children watched (educational, of course) TV, and I decided I'd just reheat the coffee in the microwave later.

When later arrived, I walked over to the area of the counter where the coffeemaker is. There was the coffee cup. But there was no coffee. In fact, it was totally empty. Hm. I remember pouring the grounds in the machine. I even remember turning the machine on. Where was the coffee? Hey, the cup's not even under the machine. Hey, there's a big puddle everywhere. Hey, that's the coffee!

I couldn't deal with it. I halfheartedly mopped it up and left to take Ian to daycare. I decided to break my vow to make exercise my first priority and I came home to go back to bed. I lay down in my bed, snuggled up with the comforter, and--hey, this is wet. It's wet! The @#*@&#! cat peed in the bed again! Argh!!!

I stripped the bed. I grabbed my pillows. I headed for Katie's bed. I napped.

Any chance this day is going to improve? It can't get worse, can it?