This post’s just six words long.* **

November 10, 2008

My biggest problem? Finding balance, dammit.




*Not really, because a girl’s got to explain – I’m jumping on Mrs. Chicken’s bandwagon and doing the six-word memoir meme. Go read hers; it’s way better than anything I could come up with.

**Anyone remember the old song, “I’ve Got My Mind Set On You?” My guilty listening pleasure, the always amazing Wierd Al Yankovic, parodied it with his fun version: “This Song’s Just Six Words Long.” Gotta love it.


By the way, I’ll be back tomorrow with part two of my series about what’s keeping me up nights. Fun, eh?


The Weekend’s Low -and High- Points

October 20, 2008

His scream pierced the night. “Mommy! Mommy! My mommy!” Before I could move my heavy form off the mattress, Gruff was up and out our door. I heard Smooch’s voice louder – hitching sobs and cries for me. Gruff soothed and whispered and patted, but Smooch only got more upset.

“That’s enough.” Tired and frustrated at not being able to comfort our son, Gruff’s voice got a wee bit sharper. “Smooch, that’s enough.”

My mama-heart clenched to hear the refrain that -it seems in my memory- was lobbed at me so often in my childhood. My parents meant well, they meant only the best. Looking back on it, I think they were often overwhelmed by the ferocity of my storms of emotion. I was generally a happy, pleasant kid; but when I felt something, I felt it. Big, loud, unrestrained tears and long, wistful sighs and elaborate huffs and stomps. Those were my canvas, my oils. I wanted the whole world to know how I FELT. I think my parents were trying, in their way, to teach me the art of restraint – of discretion – of knowing how, and when, and where it was appropriate and safe to vent my feelings. But as a kid, I didn’t see it that way. I felt that my emotions were inconveniencing them (they probably were) and that they just wanted me to go away and come back when I could ‘behave’ (they probably did) – and, more importantly, I felt that their attempt to add a little temperance to my tempers was a rejection of ME.

Whew, did you hear all that? Don’t I sound well-balanced, to be able to reflect on all of that so clearly? It took my marriage nearly imploding and subsequent therapy to reach those realizations. Our therapist helped me to see that the pattern I learned (or assumed) as a kid – that my feelings needed to be bottled, and filtered, and made potable before being aired, or else I might be rejected – had become very unhealthy for me as an adult.

But back to Saturday night.

I joined my husband in our boy’s room, and I scooped his long body from his bed. He’s a toucher, my little guy – he seeks out skin contact nearly all day. It’s his thing, his love language, his coping comfort. He stretched his little arms as far around me as he could and started rubbing and patting my back as I patted his, and slowly his sobs quieted down. It was a long night, though. His tears flared up again and again as we tried to figure out what had upset him so, what would help him fall back to sleep. My emotions (and hormones) were close to the surface, and I cried a bit myself. Finally, around 2:00, we were all ready for bed again. Smooch had been able to tell us that he wanted to come to our bed, and we finally settled him down on his mattress on our floor – a compromise, since Mama’s ever-expanding girth makes it hard for me to get comfortable just sharing with Gruff, much less if we added a squirmy two year old to the bed.

As I laid there in the dark, quiet surrounding me once more, I wondered: am I really ready to add another babe to this mix? I want to be ready – I deeply love this little girl-child inside me, and I can’t wait to see her face to face. But there were moments, facing my son’s tears, upset with my husband, and wrestling with my own childhood ghosts, that I felt utterly incapable of the family I already have. How then can I handle one more human being, one who needs me completely and desperately and wholly?

I know I’m not the only expectant mom to worry and wonder. I read Mrs. Chicken’s blog while she was expecting Shaggy, and I loved the way she wrote about both the joy and the anxiety of bringing home the second baby. I know that we’ll find our way, as she is finding hers, and that somehow I will make room in our lives for Doodlebug. That I’ll manage, as millions of mothers before me can testify, to handle the new needs of our bigger family.

And my first step toward managing? On Sunday evening, fueled by a whole day’s worth of coffee and rest and food and time together, I approached Gruff about his words to Smooch. We talked about our expectations of our oldest – who is really not so very old, at 33 months – and how we can handle another outburst like that one. I talked about my need to be supported, even comforted and consoled, when I become emotional in the face of Smooch’s upsets. I talked about my childhood, and not wanting to communicate the same undercurrent to our kids. And then I listened – to his feelings and fears, and bless his heart!, to his apology. We ended our conversation in that best of ways, by meandering around a hundred unrelated topics, laughing and giggling, reminiscing, and cuddling.

It makes me believe that we will be ready, in 12-or-so weeks, when she joins us in the outside world.

Friday Play

October 10, 2008

I’m working on the desktop computer downstairs when Smooch walks past me with a blanket over his shoulder and a couch pillow tucked under one arm. He goes into our bathroom and then comes back out. “My tum-puter? You get it?”

“The laptop? It’s upstairs. Why do you need it?”

“Bafroom, a big storm, scare me. Pillow, blanket, shower. Tum-puter in dere.”

This is toddler-speak for “Don’t you remember the last tornado warning we had? It was stormy and scary, and you put pillows and blankets in the shower stall down here, and we sat in there watching the local meteorologist on the laptop. I’m playing ‘tornado’ and I need my props, mom!”

Unfortunately for Smooch, I’m a big believer in PRETEND play. So I found him a chalkboard to be a pretend tumputer and sent him on his way.


On another topic, I’m not a Latter-Day Saint, but I tell you what: I really envy my Mormon friends their food storage right now. Last night, Gruff was joking about how when he finishes residency he might be “out doing surgery for free on the street,” and I told him wouldn’t it be awesome if we knew we had a couple years’ worth of food down in the basement? Honestly, if we could live off of food storage right now, we’d be saving over $200 a month at least. Makes you think, doesn’t it?


October 1, 2008


It has been so long since I logged in here, my browser couldn’t even remember the address to auto-fill for me. I had a momentary blank out on my password. And then the Dashboard looked like a foreign landscape and it took me a few seconds to remember how to open up a new post.

The times, they are a-flyin’.

Fall is here, finally. We woke up to mid-50’s temps and I put on a MATERNITY SWEATER. I could just swoon. I love the look of maternity sweaters (cozy, warm, they swaddle you up and make everyone go, “Oh, look: pregnant. Not fat.”) and never got to wear them while gestating Smooch down in South Florida. After a little reminder at my last midwife appointment (“We only need 300 extra calories for the baby, dear….”) and with the date for my glucose tolerance test looming in three weeks, I got ambitious and went out for a walk in the cool morning air. It was delicious, but I still only did one lap of the neighborhood. No sense in burning out on the first day I try, right?

I’m 25-and-a-half weeks pregnant, and this Doodlebug is a funny little girl. As I type, my be-sweatered belly is thumping and rolling. Boom-digga-boom-boom-boom. Ker-thwack. She likes her private time when Smooch is out of the way… she’s most active first thing when I wake up in the wee hours, as Gruff leaves for work; and then again during Smooch’s naptime; and then late in the evening after Smooch goes to bed. It’s either early sibling avoidance, or else those are just the only times I stop moving all day and it wakes her up. One of the two.

It’s just a little more than a month until we get to vote. Gruff has the week off work (coincidentally – he didn’t plan a vacation around the election) and we’re excited to get to go to the polls together for the first time since we’ve been together. He’s a total news junkie, so he’s looking forward to staying up all night to watch the talking heads as the results roll in. Before this year, I was really clueless about politics, but -you might remember- I decided to do my very best to get educated on the candidates back during primary season, and now I’m almost as hooked on political news as my husband. It’s a little wierd that we can have an intelligent conversation about the candidates over dinner, but it’s a good thing.

And *ahem*…. have you noticed that Christmas is coming? I went to Hobby Lobby with Smooch yesterday (“Wobby Wobby”, he says, with great glee. “H-O-B-B-Y says Wobby Wobby! Yay”) and it seems like half the store is dedicated to Christmas decorations. As we turned the corner and caught sight of the green & red, Smooch lifted both hands above his head. “Kissmiss tees! I EXCITED! Kissmiss, Mommy!” Thanks, Wobby Wobby. Now I get to field that query… oh, daily… for like ten weeks. Lovely.

Also on the holiday note, I have –somewhat recklessly– decided to try to make many of our gifts for family members this year. Like I don’t have enough going on, right? I have a huge list of projects to make FOR Doodlebug, another list of projects that need to be completed around the house before she gets here, and now a list of things to make for a holiday that’s just a couple of weeks before she’s due. I’m nothing if not optimistic.

Where I’ve Been

August 10, 2008

This is how you do a vacation when your husband is a resident:

Stay at father-in-law’s house for the free room & board lovely accomodations.

Attend sister-in-law-to-be’s graduation party for the free killer barbeque and pool party familial support and memories.

Hang out in small Georgia town with mother-in-law one day to kill time and avoid a guilt trip from the “left out grandmother” and appreciate the quaint beauty in a place where time stands still.

Go back to college town and tour campus of alma mater because it’s free and Smooch likes all the dead stuffed animals in the old buildings to reminisce about where we fell in love and to introduce Smooch to the idea of college.

And finally, drive out to the middle of nowhere to the lake where father-in-law keeps his boat. Ignore the greenness of the water and pray that stepmother-in-law knows what she’s talking about when she says it’s safe. Apply SPF 70. Let the grandparents watch out for Smooch, let Gruff be in charge of snapping pictures, and relax for hours.

It was cheap. It was simple. But we all really did have a great time. Of course, now that we’re home I have a mountain of laundry to do and the cupboards are woefully bare and the tedium of getting back to normal life is a bit depressing… which just means that it really was a vacation after all, don’t you think?

July 18, 2008

We’ve been learning about the potty for the last few months here at the House of Fizz. I was really thrilled when Smooch initiated the process – we had already purchased underwear and a Bjorn Little Potty and potty seats for the real toilets, and were just waiting for him to show more than a passing interest.

One evening, during our before-bed routine (wherein we lie together on Mommy & Daddy’s “big bed” to sing songs, retell what happened in our day, say a prayer, and then usher Smooch off to bed in his own room) he suddenly reached down, clutched his crotch, and said, “I pee-pee!” with a look of urgency on his face. Gruff was doubtful he knew what he was talking about & thought it was a new stall tactic, but I took him off to the bathroom anyway. And what do you know? As soon as he was seated comfortably, he did exactly what he said he had to do!

The next morning, he asked to put on his “unna-way-uh” and it was just steady progress from then on, for a few weeks. He seemed to increase the amount of time he’d spend dry in his underwear each day, still accepting diapers for naps and bedtimes and excursions. Then one day he protested as we were on our way out the door. “Unna-way-uh to liberry! I do it!” I didn’t let him – the mental image of a puddle amongst the stacks just mortified me, so I wrestled him into his diaper and off we went. Upon returning home, do you know what I discovered? A completely dry diaper. I felt horrible – he could have worn his underwear. He was fine. So I emailed a few moms who’ve been down this potty learning road with a bit of panic in my tone – what on earth should I do?

Basically, I was advised to just chuck the diapers – other than sleeping, and even then, maybe try to be sneaky (let him fall asleep in underwear and rush in and change him into a diaper after he’s zonked out) – get a few pairs of waterproof trainers, especially if I could get my hands on ImseVimses, for outings – and buy a portable potty to keep in the car and diaper bag for “emergencies” when we couldn’t find a public toilet to use. Then, just go for it. Be prepared for messes and successes and just see what he does.

So I girded up my loins. I bought the necessary equipment, plus another dozen pair of teeny-tiny boxer briefs. And then… I don’t know what happened. Maybe I seemed too eager? Maybe it became less about his interest and more about mine? Whatever it was – a cosmic shift in the universe or something – my no-accident boy turned into what feels like a willful pee-er. He stopped telling me he needed to use the potty – so I started offering and reminding. Each of my comments was met with a forceful “No! No potty!” If I insisted he sit and try, say right before leaving the house, he’d hop off in two seconds waving his hands in the air. “All done! No pee-pee!” Then, literally moments after leaving the toilet? A puddle would appear.

My frustration level is, shall we say, rising. I’m sure it doesn’t help that I’m hormonal. I know for certain that it doesn’t help that yesterday, I raised my voice and got a little bit scolding at the last accident. (It didn’t help that Daddy has had social things after work the last two days in a row and hasn’t been home to pitch in during Smooch’s waking hours since Tuesday – Mommy is fried at this point.)

We headed out to the mall yesterday and stopped in at Bear Central, where, on a whim, I decided to try a motivational technique. We chose a new T-shirt for Smooch’s previously naked pal Bobo the Panda. Then we picked out a pair of underwear for our furry friend! Back at home, Bobo got dressed in his new duds and Smooch proclaimed him a “big boy!” A few times yesterday, I remarked that both Smooch and Bobo had dry underwear – how wonderful. We were accident free for the evening, which was a real blessing for my sanity.

Laying in bed just before bedtime, Smooch cuddled his panda and recalled what we did all day. “An’… Bobo new unna-way-uh and g’een shut too!” I couldn’t help myself, and piped up,

“Yep, and his underwear is still dry! Bobo is getting so big!”

Psssssssssssssshhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!” Smooch sound-effect-ed. “Bobo go pee-pee!”

So much for motivation.

In other news, the other thing we did at the mall yesterday? “Mama hair all gone floor!”
Photo by Fizz

Social Anxiety and Summer Sitting

May 4, 2008

I really thought I was past this point in my life, but apparently not. I’m going to have a summer job. At least it’s a darn sight better than that year I worked at a seafood restaurant all summer. I came home from that job every night exhausted, with my calves aching from standing up for my whole 6 or 8 hour shift, and completely depressed over the state of my tips in a tiny, rural, South-Georgia town.

And then there was the summer I worked at a furniture store. I’ve never been a good salesperson, and I was 18 – what did I know about purchasing a bed or a couch or a washing machine? That was an exercise in futility, but the owners went to my church and I think they just wanted to help me out as I tried to make money before I headed off to college.

This year, I’ll be babysitting two boys – 6 and 8 – four days a week, for eight weeks. Their family goes to our church (notice a trend in how I get my jobs?) and their mom posted a flyer a few weeks ago looking for summer childcare. I tore off a strip and then agonized for eight days about calling her.

Gruff thinks I would benefit from a little antidepressant or antianxiety medication, sometimes. I mean, I don’t know why – I’m generally a very happy (some might even call me perky!) young woman, and even though new places and new people freak me the heck out, years of moving and being the “new kid” have forced me to develop coping skills, so I manage to find new friends, new circles to move in, everywhere we go. When I was a kid, I did have a mild little case of agoraphobia that lasted for about a year. (It was right before another upcoming move, and in retrospect I think it was my way of acting out my fear of moving, uprooting, and starting over. I just didn’t want to go anywhere new, or anywhere without my family, for awhile. When I did– when they made me– I had a few panic attacks. I think that if my parents had reacted less to it, it probably would have resolved sooner on its own. But that’s water under the bridge now.) These days, I may fret and worry before a new social situation every once in a while, but I always make myself go – and I always have fun once I’m there. My one remaining “social anxiety trigger” is making phone calls.

This is FUNNY to people who know me well. I talk on the phone with my mom several times a week, usually for over an hour at a shot. I call my brother once a week or so for similarly long conversations, and I call a few of my friends who I’ve left behind in various states as often as I can. Those phone calls I love. Those phone calls make a long day better.

But calling someone I don’t know? Say, to offer up my services as a capable babysitter? Or, you know, to order a pizza?! Oh, good grief, please don’t make me! I know, that’s ridiculous. The pizza guy does not care a whit about me. But still, I hate doing it. Gruff has probably ordered 96% of all the pizzas we’ve consumed, because I whine and gripe and procrastinate doing it, and finally he takes the phone and makes the call so we will get our pizza delivered before the next Ice Age hits.

So, getting back to my summer job. I finally mustered up my courage (after a well-timed verbal jab from Gruff, I admit it) and made the call. As usually happens when I worry excessively about something, it went Fine. No Big Deal. (Will that help calm my nerves the next time? Nope. But thanks for trying.) The boys’ mom, J, was sweet and friendly, and we discussed the basics of what she needs. We ended the phone call with a plan to meet face-to-face after church on Sunday and a deal to each speak with our respective husbands.

On Sunday, we met briefly, and then on Friday she came over to our house. My biggest worry at that point was negotiating my pay – I knew that I couldn’t do it for the wage she paid her sitter last year, but I didn’t want to sound mercenary or rude in asking for what I considered fair. Gruff and a friend of mine really helped bolster my confidence, though – they had both pointed out that I’m a GEM of a sitter. I’m a fellow mother; I have an impeccable driving record; I’m an experienced (and nationally certified!) early childhood educator; and because I’m an otherwise stay-at-home-mom, I’m pretty flexible about the hours and days I’m available. I felt a little bit like Stuart Smalley, repeating all of that to myself, but I managed to croak out my request for the hourly pay I had discussed with my husband.

Can you even imagine the relief I felt when she smiled, and said she’d have to talk it over with her husband to be sure, but she thought that was completely reasonable and do-able and “well worth it?” Oh, internets, I did it! I stood up for something to, basically, a stranger – and I did it nicely, but I still managed to get what I wanted!

I made a call, did an interview, and found a job –at a price that’s worth it– that allows me to stay home with my son and make a great little extra income for a few months (which will go a long way to paying off credit card debt and reducing my overall financial stress). I’m so proud of myself… See, who needs Xanax?