Tuesday, September 21, 2010

No one to tell us no, or where to go

One thing that's been on my mind a lot recently: children.

"No duh,* " I hear you saying. "You're a stay-at-home-mom, Caroline. Of course you're thinking about children."

And you would be right. I do think about children a lot. (Although most of the time when I'm with my children I'm actually thinking of other deep, meaningful, important things, like 'When can I make an appointment to get my eyebrows waxed?' and 'I hope my UPS package comes today.' It seems I have to go away [and get away] from my children in order to have them return to the forefront of my thoughts. Which is what I did this past weekend - go away, that is - and as such I pined for my children as though they were gone forever.)

But I'm talking specifically about the NUMBER of children we have, which is two.

And that question that friends new and old (and well-meaning/pushy family members) ask you with increasing frequency:

"Are you done?"

Meaning, "Will you be having any more children?"

And I don't really have an answer for them.

KB has mentioned several times that he is quite happy with our quota of offspring. Two's good for him - we've got the heir and the spare, so to speak. I think this is a common position for the breadwinner in the family (if your family is so structured). They are worried about the bottom line, and three kids are more expensive than two kids.

Me? I am not so sure. Part of me wants very much to have another child. I am one of three, KB is one of three...it feels like the right number, the perfect number, the magic number. (Right about now, you should have De La Soul's "Three Is The Magic Number" stuck in your head...you're welcome.)

[Also, to be honest, I would like to have a girl. I've written about this in the past, and my want/need to have a girl has not waned. I have a good relationship with my mother, for the most part, and I'd like to have a daughter in my life. I like the idea of a built-in female friend and of having someone I can mentor. Of course, I also tell myself that maybe my very need is the reason I shouldn't have a girl child - my idea of what it's going to be like (and why I want to have one) is probably not going to line up with reality all too well. And having a child should be about wanting to bring another person into the world, whomever that person may turn out to be, not about my own personal yearnings. Right? Plus there's no guarantee a third baby would be a girl...]

I recently turned 36 years old, which, while not technically ancient, is getting up there in terms of ease of procreation. If I were to have another child now I would be dubbed a woman of Advanced Maternal Age and subjected to extra rounds of fun pre-natal testing events that weren't deemed necessary when I had Miles and was a spring chicken of 34. Amniocentesis, anyone?

So part of me feels like, if we're gonna do it, we should probably do it soon. It's not going to get any easier, both in terms of the actual conception and pregnancy, and also in terms of how tired we're going to be when the baby is a newborn. (See what I did there? I started talking as if it were already a foregone conclusion. I should have said "how tired we would be if we had another newborn.")

Another argument in favor of getting on the stick (so to speak) sooner rather than later is that I often feel now, as a Stay At Home Mom, that my life is not my own. My life is almost totally devoted to the care and feeding of two small human beings, and when that starts to change back into a more half-and-half situation (i.e., when both boys are in school part or most of the day) I'm not sure how willing I'll be to return to the land of the enslaved after having a brief taste of freedom. The real world! Adult conversation! Working on my writing more than once a week! I can...almost...touch it...

Of course, the flip side of that argument is that maybe after I've had a couple years of more regular, reliable "me time," (god how I hate that phrase) in the mornings while the boys are at school, I'll feel more relaxed and groovy and ready to handle another baby. So maybe we should wait. Who knows?

Or maybe we shouldn't have another baby at all.

My trusty brain likes to remind me of things like massive, crushing sleep deprivation, varicose veins and unwanted C-sections after 36 hours of labor. Sibling rivalry, carpooling and endless dirty diapers. Toilet training. Spit-up. Post-partum depression. Massive, crushing sleep deprivation.

Do I really want to put myself through all that again? I had Nolan a year almost to the day after KB and I got married - we didn't have a lot of together time before we had kids, and our marriage could certainly use some Us Time. Another baby will bring up all the old "Whose sleep is more important, yours or mine?" arguments that pit us against each other, instead of reminding us that we're on the same team. (Him: "I'm a doctor! People's lives depend on me! What if I'm sleep deprived and I make a mistake and someone DIES because of me?" Me: "I'm a mother! Our children's lives depend on me! What if I'm sleep deprived and crash the car and we ALL DIE?")

Essentially, I think it comes down to a war between my head and my heart (or perhaps my head and my ovaries.)

The desire for another baby is strongest when I'm doing something like putting Miles down for his nap, and Miles is doing something lovely like falling asleep on my shoulder and snoring softly. Then all the More Baby! cavewoman hormones cascade through my system and make me KNOW, for sure, that I definitely want another baby. It will happen. How can it not? Babies are lovely and I want another one.

And then, an hour later, I have to wake Miles up from that same nap even though he's not done sleeping because it's time to go pick up Nolan from school. And he's cranky. And we get in the car and drive 20 minutes and I forgot to bring milk or a toy, so he's miserable. And then we come home with Nolan and they start fighting. And I have to cook dinner while holding a 25-pound toddler in my arms who's screaming because his brother won't let him play with his Transformers car. And when KB (finally!) gets home we try to eat together and have some conversation before the boys start to fall apart and we have to split up, one parent per kid, and wrestle them into and out of the bath and into PJs so we can get them to bed before it's time for US to go to bed. There's no room for a third kid in that scenario, is there?

It's like my mom always said about having three kids versus two: You have to switch from man-to-man to zone defense.


No easy answers. I'm stopping there because Hey, Guess What? It's time to go wake up Miles and pick up Nolan from school!

Thanks for reading.

* Total linguistic tangent - why do the phrases "Duh," and "No duh" mean exactly the same thing? Shouldn't they be opposites? Am I exposing my grammatical ineptitude when I use "No duh," like people who say "irregardless" when they really mean "regardless?"

Monday, August 23, 2010

Sail on, silver girl

Oh lordy, how I do not want to write.

It is a lovely sunny day here in Berkeley, the first sunny day they've had in months, according to Ann. It is 80 degrees and I am sitting in Ann's backyard garden in the shade under the bougainvillea tree with my laptop. Kevin took the boys to the playground and I have just come from having a pedicure, where I had my toenails painted a lovely light sparkling teal blue. I had a coffee from the original Peet's and a cheddar roll from the Cheese Board for breakfast this morning. The coffee was strong and thick, and the scone had a nice lacy crust of cheese from where it melted onto the baking sheet and then cooled into a perfect salty, cheesy crunchiness. I have already read not one, not two, but three books ("The Innocent," by Ian McEwan, "Love Is A Mix Tape," by Rob Sheffield, and "City of Thieves," by David Benioff) from Ann's bookshelf in the last four days and have started on a fourth ("Lark and Termite" by Jayne Anne Phillips).

How little do I want to write? So, so, little.

The only thing disturbing my peace right now is an alarm clock from a neighbor's apartment that seems to have been set and forgotten - it has been peep-peep-peep-ing for the last twenty minutes and shows no sign of stopping. It is very much like the voice of my conscience in my head telling me I need to write - almost ignorable; just a little annoying noise in the background of all this loveliness. But it persists. It keeps on peep-peep-peep-ing, relentlessly. It will not stop, not ever.

So, I shut my e-mail window. I close Facebook. I open Final Draft. I open my script notes in Google Docs. Ah, yes. Page 108 - Misty frees the deer and realizes what it is she has to do (or thinks she has to) to free herself.

Back to it.


Friday, July 30, 2010

We can't rewind, we've gone too far

Facebook killed my blog.

I know that sounds like a cop-out, and in some ways it is, but I think it's also very true. Today is July - let's see, what day is it? - July 30th and I have not updated this blog since March. Now, I was never the most prolific or reliable blog updater to begin with, but four months is really pretty sad.

Has nothing been going on worth blogging about? Has Miles not learned to walk and has Nolan not learned to put his face in the water in the swimming pool? Why yes, they have. Have we not gone on vacation to Washington D.C. and seen the National Zoo and the Portrait Gallery? Why yes, we have. Have I written a blog post about any of these momentous events? Why no, I have not.

And I was thinking about it and rationalizing to myself and blaming my busy busy busy life, and my kids, and my kids' busy busy busy lives. But the truth is, I have always been busy (or perceived my life as being busy) and I have always had kids (since I started this blog) so there's really nothing different there.

Any my life is actually, finally, a bit more settled now that we've been in Richmond for not-quite-two years. We've met some great people and found a neighborhood we really like. I've got membership cards in my wallet for no less than seven local museums, parks and attractions. I'm volunteering for Nolan's school, I've got most of the playgrounds in town on my radar, and K and I are even having quasi-regular "date nights" and attending actual cultural events.

So what's different?

And I was, as I said, rationalizing to myself and thinking about my big writing project that I've currently got going and how maybe all my writing "urges" are being funneled into that. And my BFF 4-evah, Erica, and I are keeping a running document that, well, uh, documents our progress on our individual projects. (She's not writing, she's more of an artiste, but we're trying to hold ourselves accountable to each other and subvert our usual procrastinatory ways.) And that document has sort of morphed into a bit of an online diary where we tell each other what's going on and bitch about our husbands and also do a bit of, you know, documenting of our progress.

So maybe all of my writing "urges" are being funneled into that.

Or maybe, just maybe, it's Facebook. What with the status updates and the long-lost friends, the cute links and the political rants, the self-censoring (my mom's on there!) and the cyber-stalking and the frequent checking, I think Facebook has sort of obviated my need to connect with the world "out there" through this blog.

And I'm not saying Facebook is a bad thing, necessarily. Do I check it too often? Yes. Do I go through days of self-imposed exile to try to combat the checking-it-too-often-ness? Yes. Do I then fall off the wagon and compulsively check it 17 times in an hour? Yes.

But it's not all bad. I get a sense of connection there. I find out how my long-lost friends are doing and feel like I'm a teeny bit more involved in their lives. I find out about things my local friends are doing and invite myself along. It serves a definite purpose in my life.

But I was thinking about it, and feeling guilty for not posting more on this blog, and then chiding myself for feeling guilty and blah blah shame spiral blah and I realized - you know what Facebook can't do?

No, not toast your cheese sandwich.

It can't provide a forum for the lengthy examination of a particular thought.

Think about it:

You're limited by the format to a certain number of characters.
You can only really post in your status update, or in comments on your friends' status updates. (Sure, there's "notes," but who the hell uses those anyway?)
People sometimes have a little back-and-forth in the comments, but then you end up using a lot of "@" symbols and scrolling up and down to see who said what and it's so fragmented that it rarely makes sense.

There's no way to really, I don't know, DIG IN to a line of inquiry. There's no room for considered thought. You post, then you forget about it. Half the time when I get comments on my status update (and I can't for the life of me figure out how to get my phone to STOP SENDING THEM TO ME ALREADY) I've already forgotten what I posted and have to check my own status to make sense of the comments.

Some of it may be just a generational inability on my part to adjust to this new format. I grew up in the age of three-hour phone calls to my best friend to re-hash the day. With a corded phone, mind you, dragged all the way around the corner from the kitchen and into the bathroom so I could shut the door and have some friggin' privacy. I wrote all of my high school papers and research reports on a typewriter. When my grandfather gave me a computer to take to college, it was the size of microwave oven, and that's without the monitor.

So maybe some of it is just that I can't quite cram my thoughts down to Facebook size (don't even get me started on Twitter) because I'm Generation X and not a Millenial, or whatever they're called. Maybe I need to stretch out a bit and meander and have some virtual Tourette's in order to get my thoughts in order. I like to spell out the whole words "you" and "are" when I'm texting, God help me.

I'm not going to go cold turkey on Facebook or shut down my account completely, because I think there's definitely a place for it. What I am going to try to do is be a better blogger.

Heck, even once a month would be an improvement, right?

Thanks for reading.

Monday, March 15, 2010

He ain't heavy

Miles turned one on the first of March.

We just had a little family party with my Mom and us. Cupcakes, balloons, presents and all that, but pretty low key overall.

While his presence in our lives has had effects, both joyful and not-so-much, on all of us, I think it's fair to say that the person most impacted by Miles's arrival has been Nolan.

Nolan loves his brother, of this I am certain, but I also know that a lot of the time, Nolan hates his brother. Or rather, he hates that all of my attention and love is not focused solely on him any longer.

I suppose this is quite natural and something that happens with all siblings, and indeed must have happened to my brothers and I growing up, but there are times when I am blown away by the sheer force of his rage. Thankfully, he mostly directs that rage at me, rather than Miles. There are occasional "Oops, I didn't realize that spinning him so hard in his jumper would cause his head to crash into the door frame" moments, of course, but they seem to be genuinely accidental for the most part.

It is only recently that it's dawned on me and KB that this is the reason for Nolan's rather precipitous slide into violent behavior in the last few months. (We're a bit slow on the uptake sometimes - this whole two kids thing is new to us.) Over just the last couple weeks I have been bitten, punched, kicked, pinched, screamed at and more, as Nolan seems to be saying, "Damn you, woman! Damn you for bringing that other baby into this house!" (The conflict at hand is never about Miles, of course - it's usually about why I won't let him watch more TV or how come I cleaned up his super-cool train track before he had a chance to take a picture of it. Perhaps that's why it took us so long to figure it out - he can't come right out and say he's pissed at us for having another baby, so he expresses it in other ways.) It wasn't so bad at the beginning, when Miles was just a little podling, but now that he's a full-fledged one-year-old (he hasn't quite qualified for official "toddler" status, yet) Nolan is having a very hard time.

I suppose we should have known the jig was up last fall, when Nolan wrote a play at his school. (His school, if I haven't mentioned it before, is a kick-ass Reggio Emilia-inspired preschool that really lets the kids expend their creative energies in a variety of ways. Check out the atelierista's blog. You'll get to see pics of Nolan in action at school.)
The play was basically just a cast of characters and some pictures illustrating the action (no dialogue or stage directions just yet), but the cast of characters was as follows:

The Only Baby.......................Nolan
The Mother............................Caroline
The Father.............................Kevin
The Dog..................................Miles

(There was also a special guest appearance by a boy from another classroom as Santa Claus.) Now, if that doesn't tell you that Nolan is having some adjustment issues, I don't know what would. But we just laughed about it and told our parents and friends in an "Isn't this cute?" kind of way, and I think we failed to really take seriously Nolan's deep ambivalence toward his brother.

So we'll be trying harder. I'm going to make a special effort to carve out some Nolan-and-Mommy time, and I won't make the mistake of sending him to (or, actually, picking him up and forcing him into) his room when he gets angry and violent. That just makes him more angry - probably because he doesn't want to be separated from me. Sigh. Poor Noney.

Thanks for reading.