May 21, 2012

A Southern Summer.

This picture of Tessa and me from Saturday: It sums up exactly where we are. I want to eat her, inhale her. And she? She's already thinking of what path she can scamper down next, of the green balloon just beyond her reach.

I am settling into the idea of this being her new phase. It's painful, as I wrote, when she says mean things to me, but I'm gathering from other moms that this is pretty par for the course, and I have to remember that she doesn't know what she's saying and maybe just maybe she's already rebelling against the idea of a new baby. I started digging into a good book, Parenting with Love and Logic, that's giving me some techniques for responding to her when she's mean or mad or just plain ridiculous. And when she's not being any of those things, it teaches me how to uplift her and build her confidence and give her choices so that she feels more in control of her life. 

I just never know what I'm going to get with her, and I have to savor the sweet moments. Exhibit A: On Friday night, we were all watching The Fantastic Mr. Fox, and she melted into the space between the couch cushions and me and laid her head on my chest. "Daddy?" she said, "I've got Mama. She makes me happy."

Swoooooooon times infinity. 

Saturday we took Tessa to a fundraiser called Springaroo for five people who have cancer in my small hometown, Kingston Springs—one of them a close family friend. There was bluegrass music, and hickory smoked everything, and, at the edge of the property, a shallow creek that flows into the Harpeth River, clear and cold as can be. Tessa ate it all up with a spoon. And it reminded me that, even though we live in an urban area, I need to find ways to get us all out in nature more often. I'm on the look-out for an amazing swimming hole to splash around in this summer. I think Tessa needs some more country in her life. (And not just in the form of the country radio I play in the car when Nekos isn't around to make fun of me.)

between Nekos and my mom
with friend Susan
hot dog time! 
My mom, friend Shelley, Tessa and me
We're getting over her fear of water, one little body of water at a time 

May 20, 2012

Baby Love.

I realized I was pregnant with this one on March 20, three days before Tessa turned two.

My period was only a week late, I estimated. Though I wasn't used to keeping track of it really, I knew that there had been that one night a couple weeks back, after a campfire at a friend's house, when it was possible that Nekos and I had conceived a baby. At that very party, half-drunk, I'd pressed my hands against a friend's pregnant belly. She and I stood under a canopy of tall trees. While she stared up at the full moon, I stared at her belly. "There's magic happening inside you," I told her. "You know that, right?" I obviously had baby fever, even though we had planned to wait a little longer. Once we get it into our heads that a baby is waiting in the wings of our lives, Nekos and I tend to be more careless. That's the way it was with Tessa, too.

After Nekos left for work that day, I packed Tessa into the car and drove to Rite Aid to buy a pregnancy test. I'm a compulsive pregnancy test taker. I probably take a half-dozen a year. I don't know why. Some times I want them to say I'm pregnant, sometimes I don't want them to. I wanted this one to say I was pregnant. And it did, faintly, but enough so that my heart cartwheeled into my throat. Only Tessa was there with me, and I scooped her up and held her to my heart and offered my gratitude to God, and then, of course, called my mom.

By the time Nekos got home from work that day, Tessa and I had worked out a scheme. When we heard Nekos's keys in the door, she'd run to greet him like always. But this time, she'd have my pregnancy test in her hand and she'd say, "Baby!" Which she did, just perfectly. Nekos took a second to put his bag down and started to kneel down to see what she was bringing him when he registered what she was holding. He looked at me, standing expectantly in the doorway of our living room, "You're pregnant?!"

"Yes!" I said, crying. Because I always cry about babies. And because I was relieved that his first reaction was pure joy. Our apprehension would come later.

That night I sat in bed, propped up against the pillows, and made a list, jauntily "setting my intentions" for this pregnancy. Here, let me go find it.

OK, I'm back.

I wrote then,

This time ...

I will not worry or fret about what-ifs.

I will document the pregnancy in writing.

I will stay fashionable.

I will read more about breastfeeding and figure out how to make it work this time. 

I will workout religiously to help with insomnia and stress and keep weight gain to 25 lbs. 

I will take supplements to help with moods so my mom doesn't think I'm a beast this time around.

I will visit the chiropractor for help.

I will make things for the baby: blankets, clothes, toys, a mobile.  

Ha! Hahahahahahahahaha. Ha. Haha. Haaaa.

These "intentions" lasted for two weeks. And then I got sick. I'd been working out at the YMCA four times a week, and felt proud that all the employees there knew my name and Tessa's. But I stopped going, abruptly. Instead I spent my time Googling things like "When does morning sickness peak" and "When does morning sickness end" and "Morning sickness cures," hoping for different answers. I stopped wearing makeup, and I stopped making anything, much less for the baby. I stopped blogging about anything because I wasn't doing anything other than sleeping and feeling sorry for myself. The good part: I kissed my insomnia goodbye. I haven't lost a wink of sleep during this pregnancy because I've been so exhausted. I used to have to take two Xanax and read for 30 minutes just to take a nap; now all I have to do is close my eyes for 30 seconds and I'm out.

I also remember, in that first week after I knew I was pregnant, feeling miserably sorry for myself and shedding actual tears that I couldn't drink a Yazoo Pale Ale, which is, like, the best beer in all the land. Luckily, the idea of beer or any alcoholic beverage soon made, and still makes, me want to

And though I'd been dogged about giving up Diet Coke pre-pregnancy, wouldn't you know I started drinking it again when I got pregnant? Because it was the only caffeine I could stomach and because I needed desperately something to help me stay awake to care for Tessa, even though some days all I could do was lie on the floor and read her Berenstain Bears books and throw blocks and stuffed animals in her general direction.

This time I have read less about pregnancy, but I've still been reading about it because it's just so neat-o, and because, like I told that poor pregnant girl that fateful night, pregnancy is magical. (I loved Beth Ann Fennelly's Great with Child and totally recommend it, by the way.) I haven't joined any online birth clubs like the ones I populated when I was pregnant with Tessa, but I have worried. Because that's what I do. I've worried about miscarriage, and I've worried about how the medicine I'm taking for nausea and headaches might be affecting the baby. I've worried less than I did the first time though. I know better now than to Google rare genetic diseases and cleft palates and stuff like that.

And I think I might be ready to get back to the gym. I miss it. And I mean it about "staying fashionable," even though that sounds silly. I dressed like a bag lady during my last pregnancy. I didn't know what I was doing. This time I'm going to keep maternity clothes to a minimum and try to work with looser regular clothes.

This, it turns out, is another of my imperfect pregnancies, of which I am so swell at pulling off. And so be it. I am so happy to be in it, warts and all.

Do you think this new bean is a boy or girl? We are thinking boy. I change my mind every week about what I want, but this week I want a son.

May 18, 2012

Terrible Two.

Oh, hey, two weeks ago I wrote a post about how awesome two-year-olds are. This week I'm going to retract that and say the exact opposite thing, OK?

This week with Tessa has been terrible. She's made me mad before, and she's worn me out and she's frustrated me, but she's never actually said or done anything that hurt my feelings to the core ... until now.

It started with a quick road trip that we took to Memphis last weekend to visit Nekos's 95-year-old grandfather. We thought it would be good practice for future road trips with her because we'd decided we want to travel more with her, and dream of taking her to Grayton Beach in Florida, to Louisville, to Charleston, and on and on. She didn't nap on the way there, and also, she didn't want me to nap. As soon as I would doze off in the passenger seat, she'd command me to wake up. By the time we got to Memphis, she was in a rage, was mean to Nekos's grandfather, and threw a fit so heinous, so loud and so hysterical at a BBQ restaurant that Nekos and I both embarrassed ourselves by losing our cool with a two-year-old. We had to take our food to go, and we let the incident put a damper on our whole weekend. Who is this little person? we wondered. Why is she so pissed off? 

And then, on Monday, when I told Tessa, "Oh, Tessa, I love you," like I do 95 times a day, she looked at me and said, "No. I don't love you." I told her to never say that again, and she must have seen the hurt in my eyes because she's pulled the same sentence out for use over and over again this week. It's her artillery, and when I get pummeled with it, I have to pretend it doesn't hurt. It does. It hurts so bad. And she only says it after I tell her I love her so I guess I should just stop that for awhile? She also started saying that she doesn't like me this week. And she repeats herself, just so she's clear about it. 

Other things have happened throughout the week. There was a tantrum in the car when I was driving on the interstate. She started slapping herself in the face and screaming and there was nothing I could do but bite my lip and cry. 

And for the first time, there was a time this week when she preferred that my mom hold her instead of me. This didn't bother me too much because I adore my mom and I love the relationship she and Tessa have. But when Tessa fell down last night at a playground and started howling and refused to let me comfort her--instead going running into the arms of one of my girlfriends--I felt totally dejected. 

And then there was today. I always have a babysitter on Fridays so that I can go get some work done at a nearby coffee shop. But this week we had to have a new girl come, not her usual 'sitter. And Tessa wasn't pleased with the personnel change. She threw the worst fit I have ever seen her throw, and that's saying a lot. She was kicking and hitting the babysitter. And when I left, I could hear her hurling herself against our front door screaming bloody murder. 

I drove only a block away from house before I pulled over to cry. Again, who is this little person? Why is she so pissed off? And, of course, What am I doing wrong?

Tessa's feelings scare me. But so do my own. This whole week I've felt terrified by the thought that I don't like my own kid. I love her, but I haven't liked her, not this week. I really, really hope next week is better. 

May 17, 2012

Barefoot ... and Pregnant!

I have the best excuse ever for my absence from blogging, from my friendships, from my housekeeping, my hobbies, and my life over the past two months:

Nekos and I are expecting a baby at the end of November!!!!

And we are going to figure out a way to take care of two kids without imploding. I mean, we totally are ... right? I have been pleading with God that this baby be an easier baby than Tessa was/is. That would rock so hard. If not, we know how to handle a demanding/sassy/bossy/picky (not to mention totally captivating) baby, too. We got this.

We had an ultrasound this morning and saw the baby kicking around and heard that very reassuring heartbeat. During a doctor's appointment on Monday he hadn't been able to pick up a heartbeat, and I was worried sick.

Today I feel the happiest I have in months.

That might not be saying a lot though. I have been in misery for the past two months. I'm not just saying that for hyperbole's sake. The all-day morning sickness has usurped my life, and I can't remember the last time I enjoyed a meal. I actually lost weight during the first trimester. And I've had to boil my life down to two priorities: Take care of Tessa or make sure that someone else is taking good care of her, and get my work done. Even when I'm sick, the bills need paying.

One upside? My boobs are amazing. 

But I miss my friends, I miss my hobbies, and I miss my life! But hopefully the nausea will subside soon; I'm three months pregnant today. And we are so very happy to be able to finally spill these beans!

May 2, 2012

On Loving a 2-Year-Old.

I love her, I love her, I love her. But it’s different now. Different than it was when she was a baby and I was a new mom. It’s so much better now. I’m so much better now.

When we brought her home and she was so tiny and new and grunting and squawking, I knew I loved her, but I was scared of her. Too soon there were too many decisions that had to be made about how to care for her (Should we clip her frenulum, which was too short and made nursing excruciating for me? Should we let her cry it out? Should we leave her with my mom for five days and go to the beach, just me and Nekos?) The decisions felt impossibly large. At the time, I felt that the decisions I made about Tessa defined me as a person, but now I think they just defined where I was then as a person. Then I was a new mom who didn’t know what was to come. I didn’t know that everything was going to be just fine and that Tessa was going to be so very lovely.

I thought those first days would be filled with play and laughter, but what they really were was … boring. I so often found a reason to open a beer by 4:30 p.m. and sit out on the back porch with her in her vibrating seat, swatting mosquitoes away from her tawny skin and feeling sort of suffocated and at a loss with what to do with her. She didn’t talk or walk or sit up, just grunted and looked deep into my eyes like she was searching for her reflection there. But, still, oh how I loved her. I just didn’t know what to do with her.

Now not only is there so much to do, but I’m doing it well. I know it. More often than not, I think, Today I was a really good mother. I’ve had a lot of good feelings in my life, but for me there is no better feeling in the world. I find the deepest contentment in knowing I made a good day for her and that she’s sleeping, sweaty and deep, worn out from play and full of food and having been kissed excessively.

The change came when Tessa started communicating with me and when she began to understand what I’m saying and to trust in it. Both deeply satisfied, it was a turning point in our relationship when I could say, “Hey, Tess? I looooove you,” and know that she knew. Now when I say it, she cocks her head, grins and says, “No! I love YOU!” And the way her eyes glitter, I know she means it, too.

I’ve had more than one mom, sensing my uneasiness, tell me that, whatever I do, I have to be 100 percent confident in my decisions as a mother. But I’m just not. I never will be. I’m just winging it, doing the best I can, taking it day by day, hoping that more days than not I’ll fall asleep with that deepest contentment thinking, Today I was a really good mother.

And, also? I love two-year-olds. I just love them.