Small moments

Elegant_Sparklers

A few weeks ago, I was out at the playground with my two kids. They were playing together, while I sat on a bench and stared off into space (a favorite pastime of mine). A little boy, who may have been about two, came over to me and started babbling. He put his hands on my knees and acted very familiar with me. I started feeling really uncomfortable and also like the parent would not be happy seeing me so close to their kid.

My two sons saw my distress and came over, and I asked them to play with him. They tried, but he would not leave me. I asked him where his parents were, and started to look around. About ten minutes later, a man came over and stopped when he saw me.

“Is he yours?” I asked.

“Yes.” He tried to take the kid’s hand, but the boy slapped him away. “Sorry, you look like his mother, who died last month.”

I was too stunned to say anything, and the man walked away, leaving me with his son. He had given me no guidance as to how to act, and generally parents frown on a stranger even touching their kid. My kids eventually got him to play, but he kept coming over to talk to me (I couldn’t understand anything) and trying to pat my hair. I let my hand rest on his shoulder, but the dad wouldn’t meet my eye, so I don’t know if he approved or not. I also let my kids play in the park for roughly two hours, because I didn’t want this kid to see me leave. I also hope that seeing me did not scar the kid somehow further.

If you can stand it, here is another emotional incident! Last week I was at the grocery store getting some things for my son’s seventh birthday party (how did that happen?). I was in the aisle that has decorative plates and whatnot, and a woman in her 70s was also there. She held up a black plate with a picture of a purple birthday cake on it, and asked me if I thought it was “too girly” for her son, who was turning 31.

Now, I’m not the type to start talking with an older woman about gender norms, especially when she was just trying to be sensitive to her son and do a nice thing, so just I told her I thought it was fine. We started talking about candle choices, and I convinced her to get the same ones I got for my son, which were sparkler candles (Note: They weren’t as spectacular as the packaging would lead you to believe, but still pretty cool.)

We talked about our respective “kids” for a few minutes, and she gave another glance toward the paper products and asked, “Do you really think it’s okay?” I told her that if my mother had been alive to celebrate my 31st birthday with me, not to mention being thoughtful enough to contemplate whether the decorations would please me or not, I would have been so grateful. We hugged and then I went to sit in my car and cry for a good ten minutes. And then I pulled myself together and continued being a mom.

Missing both my computer and imaginary friends

If you’re the type of person who likes unfocused, general blog posts, then you will love this one!

So, what’s going on with me? First, I don’t have a computer! That sucks for anyone in general, but if you are struggling to put out the last book in an urban fantasy series, it perhaps really sucks. It’s been over a month now, and I miss having a computer a great deal. However, I just started a new job after being home with the kids all summer (read: not making money), so while I’ll hopefully have one soon, it hasn’t been able to happen yet.

Another thing: I was in two regular RPGs, and now both are on hiatus. I know this shouldn’t seem like that jarring an occurrence, but these were two people who I was very close to, and I do miss them. This happened at around the same time when I finished writing the first draft of Fresh Blood, so I also had to say goodbye to my protagonist. And for those who weren’t clear from reading above, the people I am missing are the characters I played in the games.

Thing of change the third: My older son started attending kindergarten in a public school this fall. He had previously only attended a private pre-k at his daycare. For those who don’t have kids, daycare hardly ever closes. Public school is closed all the time, for holidays I would never have off from work. In addition, daycare gets out at 6pm. Public school gets out at 2:20pm. So it was a bit of an adjustment, to say the least, with a ton of scrambling for childcare. When both parents work outside the home (and in different boroughs) and both kids attending different schools, commuting can be very difficult.

IMG_0958

My son on the first day of kindergarten!

So in conclusion, there have been a lot of changes lately, and I am looking forward to having things calm down a bit, if that ever really happens.

Sleep props and cough drops

If you’ve heard the term “sleep props” before, it was most likely in regard to babies. A sleep prop is something that you need in order to fall asleep. Probably the most common sleep prop is a pacifier. The danger of having a sleep prop, if you haven’t guessed, is that when that sleep prop is no longer available (like if it falls out of a babies mouth), the person then wakes up.

My first child had a sleep prop, and yes, it was a pacifier. He didn’t sleep through the night until he was over a year old. When he was two, I had to go through this whole rigamarole of the “Binky Fairy” in order to convince him to give up the pacifier. My second child does not like pacifiers. Not bragging but he slept through the night since he was six weeks old.

binky
Unfortunately there is no fairy out there who can help me.

I have more in common with my first child when it comes to sleep props. No, I don’t use a pacifier (I’m not sure if I ever did), but my list of sleep props is embarrassingly long. I would like to eventually give them all up, but I realize it will be a super long process. Here goes:

1) Benadryl: When I was pregnant with my first son, I had terrible insomnia. I was told I could take Benadryl every night if I needed it. It’s now more that five years later, and up until a few weeks ago, I was still taking it every damn night. The only reason I stopped was because after my Lasik, they told me it was too drying for my eyes. But I’m done! Not taking it again unless medically necessary.

2) Ear plugs: This is a very difficult one to understand. I started using ear plugs because my ex-boyfriend snored extremely loud. So we are talking about 20 years ago. When we broke up, I was so used to the ear plugs that I continued to wear them. I was sleeping alone in a quiet apartment and I used earplugs! When I started dating my husband more than ten years ago, he didn’t snore at all. Unfortunately, now he does occasionally snore, so I wake up and have to put them in. But I am able to get through some nights without.

3) White noise machine: Yes, this seems completely crazy when coupled with the ear plugs. But I started using a white noise machine almost five years ago when my son was born so he wouldn’t hear me doing whatever while he was sleeping. When he moved to his own room a few months later, I found I had gotten so used to the machine that I couldn’t sleep without it. I don’t really know if I’ll ever give this up, nor do I particularly want to. My bedroom faces a street, and I’d probably wake up every time a car went by if I didn’t have it.

4) Halls Menthol Sugar-Free Cough Drops: This one is the most embarrassing because I think there’s a chance I could actually die from it, and also because it’s most like the pacifier. I cannot sleep without a cough drop wedged in between my teeth and cheek. Like absolutely cannot. As soon as it dissolves completely, I wake up coughing. If I try to fall asleep without one, I cough so badly I nearly vomit. No, it has never lodged in my throat. I only sleep on my side, and whatever side I’m on, the cough drop is also on that side. I’m not even sure when I started doing this, but maybe it was while I had a cold around 6 or 7 years ago. I would really like to stop doing this, but unfortunately there is no “Halls Fairy” to help me out.

I rarely use this blog to write something depressing or overly personal and I’m only doing now in the hopes that I’ll feel some sort of catharsis when I’m done writing.

What do birthdays mean to an adult? Maybe nothing. After I turned 18, I think mine all kind of sucked. Were my expectations too high? I don’t know. As I’m much older now, I’ve thought about what I wanted from a birthday, and it’s this: at least a few people around me who I know want to be around me, some type of baked good that was made or purchased by someone other than me, and a wrapped gift (that doesn’t need to have cost any money [it could have been handmade or whatever (the wrapping is important though because it indicates thoughtfulness)]). This year, I didn’t have any of that. I was disappointed, of course, but my kids are too young to do anything, or remember on their own, so it was easy to dismiss. Whatever, I’m an adult, so I didn’t have the birthday I wanted. Maybe no one does. Just because my expectations may be lower than some doesn’t mean I’m going to get what I want.

Anyhow, this post isn’t about that. Tomorrow is my younger son’s first birthday. When my older son turned one, a ton of friends and family came. It was an amazing day that I still remember in vivid detail, even though he doesn’t. I know my younger son will never remember his first birthday either, which is fortunate because every person I invited declined. All with valid reasons, but they all declined. My sweet baby’s birthday will be celebrated with zero guests. Everyone who has declined says “Don’t take it personally.” Of course, I should be able to not take it personally. And I know that no one loves my son as much as I do, so it feels extremely painful to me, when to everyone else it’s no big deal. And no, I don’t want to remember this day as the day my beautiful son turned one and I cried myself to sleep because I don’t think there are enough loving people in his life.

But I cannot help how I feel and how I feel is just miserable.

Doing less is sometimes more

Like many people who have their first child, I was in a hurry to sign mine up for a lot of classes. Even though he was in full-time daycare, he had to have soccer, music, or something else on the weekends. And even that wasn’t enough, because then we would also try to fit in plays, museums, and whatever else we felt was lacking. When I became pregnant with my second child, I was forced to slow down a bit. At the time, my older son was in a soccer class on Saturday mornings, but that was it. I was so pregnant and uncomfortable toward the end, that I maybe made it to every other class, if that.

soccer

My older son kicks a ball at soccer class while I have to stand in a field for an hour very uncomfortable during my eighth month of pregnancy. 

Now that my second child is almost a year old (where did the time go?), I realize that that soccer class last summer was the last one that my older son was in. We have been relatively busy, and with the getting ready and the travel, an hour-long soccer class could easily eat up three hours of time. And time is one commodity that is non-renewable.

The other thing is that there are weekends when I spend a lot of time and money running around to try to do everything, and in the process, feel like I’ve done nothing. Then, when I ask my son what about the weekend he enjoyed the most, he will almost always say, “Going to the park.” This is somewhat annoying to me because the park is free, you don’t really need advanced planning to go there, and it’s only three blocks away.

Generally I think I could have saved a bunch of time and money, and been more relaxed in general, had we actually planned to do less on the weekends and instead spent time just sitting around in the park. (That would be me and the baby sitting around, while the older one goes off and plays.) So this summer I am resolved to relax more and plan less! This is our last summer before the older child goes to school, and I want it to go by as slowly as possible please!

My love of the library

Growing up in an urban area (Queens, NY), I was able to walk to many different stores that were within a few blocks of my house. There were no bookstores, but there was a library. Sadly, most of my family members were not very into reading, so I was not taken to the library until I noticed it one day on the way to the grocery store, and specifically requested of my grandmother that we go there.

I still remember the feeling of amazement when I realized I was able to not only read any book I wanted, but I could also borrow them and take them home. After that, I visited the library at least once a week. Today, I am fortunately enough to live within three blocks of my local library. Unfortunately, due to budget cuts, it’s not open on the weekends, but I do take my sons to visit whenever I’m home with them during the week.

Last week, we stopped in and my older son immediately picked out two books for me to read them. He’s only four, and thus has very limited reading ability as of yet. But I do love reading to them, and hope they grow up to love books at least in part due to my efforts. Anyway, we got through the first one okay, but then I realized the second one was quite long, and my ten-month-old had already fallen asleep in his stroller, and my older one’s lids were fluttering.
read
Of course, it’s also very important to read to your cats.

Suddenly, the idea came to me that we could borrow these books! I usually don’t borrow books because I’m afraid I’ll loose them and never return them, but due to my recent experiments into mimimalism, my house is (slightly) less cluttered, so I decided it was worth the risk. My son was so excited at getting to borrow a book, and it brought me back to my childhood library experience. I realize I’m very lucky to live where I do, and hopefully the library will be around for my sons to enjoy as they grow up.

Little break down in tears on the prairie

One of my favorite book series when I was young was the Laura Ingalls Wilder “Little House” books. I read them at least once a year while I was in elementary school, and then every few years as I grew older. Now that my older son is almost five, I decided to start reading them to him. Of course, I started in chronological order, with “Little House in the Big Woods.” It was less exciting than I remember.

lh

Poor Jack had to walk all over the prairie through the first few books!

For those who haven’t read this series as recently as I have, “Big Woods” basically goes through a year in the life of the Ingalls family, without having much of a plot. The most memorable part for me was when the kids blew up the pig bladder and tossed it around like a ball. The next book, “Farmer Boy,” about her husband growing up in upstate New York, was memorable for all the vivid descriptions of the food. In the next book, “Little House on the Prairie,” the family attempts to settle on the Osage Indian reservation, and there were a lot of very negative things said about Native Americans, so I ended up skipping over quite a bit. “On the Bank of Plum Creek,” which comes next, has my very favorite part in all the books, where Laura has a party and takes all her school friends to go wading in the crick, and there scares Nellie Olson with the crab who lives in it.
A few nights ago, we started on the next book, “On the Shores of Silver Lake.” There is a gap of a few years between the start of this book and the one before it, and Laura is now 13 years old instead of 9. The tone is very different, and a lot of horrible things have happened, such as Mary going blind and the death of an infant. I knew I had to read the part about Mary going blind, because it is such a prevalent plot point in the rest of the books, but I paused in my reading to make sure my son understood what blindness was before going on. (I edited out the part about the “Scarlet fever settling in her eyes,” because Scarlet fever doesn’t make one go blind. One theory is that she actually had untreated meningitis. But I digress.) And although I swore the part about the baby dying happened right away, I didn’t see it. Perhaps they cut it out of the book, since I have a very new edition? Whatever the case may be, the youngest sister is already born at the beginning of this book, and she was their last born child, so chronologically, it already happened.
The second chapter of the book is memorable because Jack, Laura’s childhood dog, dies. I was prepared for this and fully expected to be able to read it. It’s an important part of the book, because it’s supposed to represent Laura’s transition from childhood to adolescence. But I’m not deluded enough to think my four-year-old child would grasp the significance of that. So as it went on, I started breaking down and crying, and eventually had to stop reading at this part:
“Good Jack, good dog,” she told him. He turned his head to touch her hand with the tip of his tongue.
Then he let his nose sink onto his paws and he sighed and closed his eyes. He wanted to sleep now.
Strangely enough, I don’t remember crying quite so much about it when I was younger. Since I’ve had kids, I’ve definitely gotten more emotional, and everything I see I tend to imagine seeing through their eyes. And while I want to be able to talk to my sons about anything, the death of a fictional bulldog is obviously too much for me right now.