Saturday, December 31, 2011


"If you think back, and replay your year - if it doesn't bring you tears of joy or sadness, consider the year wasted." (John Cage, from Ally McBeal). 

Replaying highlights:
January:  Finish round 1 of Clomid started on B's first birthday. Start paperwork for faculty job I was offered at the end of December (!) Start lots of resolutions to try to reclaim my body, relationship, friendships, career, and self after B's first year and before (hopefully) getting pregnant again. Miss scheduled IUI due to huge snowstorm and resigned to waiting another month, because we certainly need additional people in the room to make babies. Test at end of month because period is a day late and I want a glass of wine. Oh My God. Test again. And again. And again. Yup.
February/March/April: Whirlwind of nausea, exhaustion, and anxiety interspersed with wicked winter viruses and 5 ear infections for B. Have scary (to me) numbers on first trimester screening but opted to forgo CVS. All resolutions clearly went down the toilet along with most of my meals.
May: Emerge. Travel to see friends. Find out we're having a brother for B and that he is perfect. Turn 35. Cry a little on the bus on my way to work that day because I am just so happy.
June-September: Get huge, hot, and uncomfortable. Cry one weekend because I am JUST. SO. TIRED. and cannot enjoy B or anything else. G takes on most househould tasks and a large percentage of toddler-wrangling, and is subsequently also exhausted and depressed, and I feel like a waste of space (oh so much space, too!) Put in 2 major grants and defend masters thesis at 36 weeks pregnant. Start this blog. 
October: L arrives. Breastfeeding kicks my ass for a bit but in the end I emerge victorious!
November: Our first weeks alone as a family of 4. Glorious. L starts sleeping better, too. Bliss.
December: Back to work. Faculty position kicks in. Struggles with MIL and in my relationship with B. L is becoming such a delight and a balm to my soul. G & I grow closer through all the tumult.

Excuse me while I get a tissue. It's been quite a year.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Press Play to begin

As I've written before (here and here) I've been struggling lately to accept and truly live this life that I've spent so long building. I'm so used to overcoming hurdles and trying to fast forward through the challenging times that I really don't know how to just be. I've been told recently by several (older, wiser) people that "these are the years" to cherish; these times when the kids are still in that cuddly and needy phase yet growing and developing so quickly and amazingly, when our careers are taking off--and the slope of the trajectory will be set by what we do in these early years, and we still have our relative youth and health in order to manage and enjoy it all. Busy, chaotic, and oh-so-full.
This living-in-the-moment sounds so easy in theory, yet so difficult to put to practice. Sometimes it's like my fingers itch to grab the remote and hit the rewind or fast forward buttons, going backwards or forwards to a time that in my mind is simpler, easier, or more exciting. I fantasize sometimes, as I walk home exhausted from work yet gearing up for the next few hours, about skipping ahead 5 years through these challenging little-kid years, or going 5 years to back to a life spontaneous and free. And on rare occasions, I even think about the completely different paths that I could have taken in life.
Yet for so many years I longed for exactly what I have right now. I wonder why I cannot embrace it. Is this just my personality? Am I inherently unable to enjoy my life for what it is, constantly wanting something more or less or maybe just different?
It isn't that I'm not grateful. I am. Every single day I am grateful for my amazing fortune. And it isn't even that I don't find joy and wonder in so many moments throughout the day. Because I do. And I recognize that. It's more a general physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion sometimes. It's that sinking feeling on Friday night, that the weekend will be busier and more exhausting then the weekdays and then the ache in my heart on Monday morning when I miss the constant togetherness with my boys.And perhaps also a lingering wistfulness for the girl I used to be. The girl that may still be there, but is buried under to-do-lists, sensible shoes, and emerging worry lines.
I think maybe it's just recognizing that life as an adult can be rich and fulfilling but will always be tough and tiring. I think it's growing up. And I'm not sure that I like it.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Worst. Christmas. Ever. Part 3: A lifetime of pain?

This is the last MIL-drama post for a while, I promise! I have so many more cheerful and useful topics I want to discuss, but I need to finish the saga!

Part 1 and 2 deal with the specifics of MIL's recent crazy behavior. This part will get a little bit into our ongoing struggles over the years. This is something I've wanted to write about for ages, but couldn't really bring myself to, as the whole thing was too painful & I've been avoiding thinking about it; but now that it's front & center in my everyday, here it is.

So G is an only child. His mother got married young & had him right away. Mom & dad moved to the U.S. while G stayed with his MATERNAL grandmother for a couple of years, and then came over. The marriage was not good. Eventually G's dad up & left when he was 9. Divorce papers came in the mail, but no money or support. There has been no contact. MIL worked multiple jobs trying to support the two of them. She's had a hard life, and probably feels like she missed out on a lot of fun times with her child. She lost her job in 2009 and has been trying to find another one to no avail. Unemployment has run out and we are sending a lot of money to support her. G insists she was different in the past, but since I've known him, she's always been bitter & controlling, wanting to keep G with her all the time & run his life. She has lots of family around, but few friends, and while she is uber-religious and believes a lot of nonsense and superstition, the religion doesn't seem to bring her any true comfort or bring out any generousity or empathy.

I've left something out of my retelling of the recent fights we've had with MIL--the real crux of it all is that she believes that she should LIVE WITH US. This has been her mantra from the beginning of time.  In fact, before G & I married, she bought a big house without consulting anyone believing that G & I would live there with her. (Just to assure you, G had never told her anything of the sort, she just made it up, or perhaps he may have said it once as a young kid, and she's glommed onto it in her crazy head). In fact we had firm plans to move >1000 miles away. Yet EVERY SINGLE DAY she mentions this on the phone to G (yes, she calls him EVERY DAY, repeatedly). Every time she visits she gives me a 30 minutes lecture about it and he gets a separate one with more crying and emotional blackmail. She is fixated on this. The end of every visit is always a nightmare because of this. She cannot be happy with what she has---quite frequent visits with us and her grandkids, either here or at her house. No she wants it all and will be unhappy until she gets it. When we had our big fight she said she thought I was the one telling G not to have her come live with us, because in her mind G has always wanted that arrangment. I told her that was a big lie, and of course she was pissed that I called her a liar.

Now when G & I were dating, we talked about this a little; he told me that when his mother was old and couldn't care for herself, he wanted to take her in & not put her in a home. I said "of course"---I really can't imagine putting my parents in a nursing home unless they had needs beyond my ability, so I get it. However, since she's been out of work for a few years now and we are basically supporting her and her stupid empty big house, we've discussed potentially having her come stay with us sooner. I was frankly depressed a lot of the past few years because of this. Its constantly in the back of my mind---I feel like all our lovely time together as a family of 3 and now 4 is on borrowed time. That any day it'll come to a head and we'll have to take her in, and I'd be miserable for the rest of my life. I thought about how I could leave the family, thinking through all the details, the visition, the finances, etc...

Then I realized I was making myself miserable  so I spent most of 2011 trying to come to terms with what seemed to be a foregone possibility. I didn't want to leave my family and I understood that G couldn't abandon his own mother, so I'd have to find a way to live my life with her in it.

It took a LOT of soul-searching, and "happiness-project"-style exercises. but I came to accept that perhaps it could be to all of our advantage to have childcare available and a third person to love the kids, plus something to bring joy to a lonely and sad old lady. She was always so loving towards B and lately had been making an effort to be nice to me, as well. She was here for 3 weeks in October while I was on maternity leave and while she did little things that annoyed me, it was nothing major and life was quite pleasant. I told myself that if she came to live with us, she'd be even better, because she'd finally have what she's always wanted. I was the one who asked her to come for 5 weeks so that she could help watch the baby while I transitioned back to work, and be here with us for the holidays and B's birthday instead of being alone.

Yeah. This was BEFORE. As miserable as I am about what's been happening lately, at least we've both realized that we CANNOT have her live with us. I flat out told G I would leave him (taking the kids) if she came to live with us. We talked a lot about it, and he asked if I was sorry I married him and I said quite honestly "yeah, kind of, but not because of you". And I reiterated that I could never live with that woman because she is poisoning our lives and I will not subject my children or myself to that. I am the primary breadwinner in our family and I have my own savings. I can and will leave if it comes to it. She will never be happy unless we concede to all of her wishes, and as that will not happen, these power struggles & fights will continue, creating a toxic and stressful home environment. None of us deserve that and I'm not going to do it.

G says he agrees, and we'll have to come up with some other way to support her (he won't abandon her). He talked about getting her an apartment nearby so that we can help her out if needed (she's pretty young, only 59, and has no major health issues, but eventually will, as she doesn't take great care of herself & does have high blood pressure & cholesterol on top of her obvious mental health issues that she refuses to acknowledge), and she can see the kids. If it comes to a point years down the road where she needs to be cared for, then we can take her in. I told him she won't accept this, and he said he'll tell her the only other option is her staying >1000 miles away. Yet, when she mentions living with us, he never tells her flat out that its not going to happen. He always says "now is not the right time", as if there will be a right time. He says its because she won't get it, but I think she needs to hear it. But its his mother & I'm certainly not going there with her.
The only other good that's come of this is that G & I are talking openly about it. Before I completely avoided the topic because of the anxiety it caused me. But I thought about it constantly, literally every single day of my life, and not talking to him about it created a huge rift in our relationship; I realize now that I distanced myself from him. Now I feel we are coming closer together as a united front against her & for the children.
We're trying to figure out the best way to navigate the next 3 weeks, because she refuses to leave & he won't throw her out. One night we decided we'd just avoid her & use her as free babysitting....go out to dinner, a movie, shopping. Then we felt bad abandoning our kids just to get away from her and scrapped those plans. I just can't spend too much time in the house with her there. She's not talking to us, but her silence is so dramatic it's deafening. She refuses to take her bad mood to her room, she insists on parking it right in the middle of the house where we have to see it and feel the toxicity. I'm sure B knows something is up, he's been really weird, he was on her lap this morning when I came to say good morning---she give me a mean look & then he refused to let me kiss him; when she left he ran up and hugged me. Thankfully L is too little to be affected.  
Part of me is hoping she snaps and does something truly horrendous like hits me (nothing to the kids, of course) so that we have ammunition to keep her the hell away.
I was telling G that these holidays should've been so joyous for us. We have everything we've ever hoped for, and so much newness to look forward to with our sons. Its really a shame that one person has the power to ruin it for our whole family.

UPDATE: since I've written this, things have been calm on the surface. She is talking to us (barely) and we are trying to let her have more time with B to keep her placated until she leaves. I know its a bit like negotiating with a terrorist, but I honestly don't want any more blow-ups, for the sake of my health & sanity. Yesterday evening went so well, I actually felt happy for the first time in weeks. 17 more days to go!!

Worst. Christmas. Ever. Part 2: The birthday

(go back and read or skim part 1 for the backstory). B=big brother ( just 2), L=little brother (12 weeks now) and G=my husband. MIL=crazy bitch from hell ruining my life.

This is how my crazy MIL ruined B's birthday.

She had gone to get him when he woke up, and we let her be there with him for a while while I fed L. Finally we decided to go down together and wish him a happy birthday. We found him in her lap, they were reading stories and she had already given him some presents. When we came in, she handed him to G without a word and went to the bathroom and slammed the door. B cried when we wished him happy birthday, and wouldn't let me hug him. I was planning on just saying happy birthday and going back up to pump and change L's diaper & clothes, and G was going to take the dog for a walk, but now I had to watch B, so I took him down for breakfast, waiting for MIL to come back. B wanted me to read him a book, but I had L in my lap who was crying, so I stalled him and told him grandma would read it. She came down soon after & I told her he wanted to read the book but that I needed to go upstairs for a few minutes. I really thought she'd be happy to have one-on-one time with B.

Later that morning she wanted to Skype with all her family so they could say happy birthday to B. G forgot his account info and it was logged onto my account, so his relatives couldn't find him online. She didn't know what to do so he told her to tell them to look up my name as a contact. Something about that pissed her off (because it was MY name, and I have kept my last name, maybe?) and she started yelling at him. So he took the phone & told the relatives what to do. She called & chatted with B in her lap, as if he was HER son. She called me over to say hello & show off L and I did, quickly, but I was trying to both console an uncharacteristically fussy L and finish up B's birthday cake decorating. Then it was time to call the next family member. The same nonsense ensued, and G was pissed and kind of threw some books off the coffee table to make room for the laptop. The dog was terrified & ran away shaking. I was feeling sick and anxious again, hadn't eaten anything and it was nearly noon.

At the end of the conversation with this relative (I was sitting there, too, showing off the baby at her insistance), they asked when he would have his cake. We were planning to do it after his naptime, around 4ish, but all morning he saw us making the cake and was freaking out to try it. Plus the friends that were coming over canceled due to being sick so it was just us. So G decided at the spur of the moment to do it at lunchtime. MIL told the relatives "oh we're doing it in the evening", then G came by and said "No, we're doing it now".

She FLIPPED. She insisted that we all needed to dress up so she could pictures to "treasure" and that she should've been consulted on when to do it and we could NOT do it now. It was just a quick decision so we sighed and said fine, we can do it later and G said sarcastically "whenever is convenient for YOU, since its all about YOU". She proceeded to completely LOSE IT. She made me and G come over to her and lectured and YELLED at us for about 20 minutes (yes, in front of both kids). Mostly actually she yelled at me and I kept my mouth shut and just stared at her. She kept saying I wasn't supportive, wasn't acting like a daughter-in-law should: "since 2005, you've never once supported me" and then "you should see how daughter-in-laws get treated in other families" and that "I am such a nice person and so nice to you and this is how you treat me" and "What goes around, comes around, I hope you will be treated so badly by your sons and DILs in the future". It was like a soap opera or something, she was crying and yelling and had just the worst most hateful look on her face. I have never been yelled at like this in my entire life, and here it is the third time in 2 weeks, and all in front of my boys.

She kept insisting that we should dress up so the day is special, and that I should support her in that. G told her basically that this is our son's birthday, we can plan it however we want, and it is not her place to tell us to dress up or anything else. He told her "you've had your chance and did whatever you wanted for my birthdays, and now it's our turn"

She stormed off. G went up to tell her we would do the cake at 3:30 and she was all "WHO decided that?". He told her to come or not but that was the plan. We debated going to the park with B but it was already noon and close to his nap. We gave him some food & then he insisted on seeing grandma so we took him upstairs and she took him into her room. We left, taking L in the Ergo and went to go get some lunch and a drink. I was too anxious and sick to eat a thing, but I a managed a few bites of sandwich & had a glass of wine. We decided that this birthday was not going to count and we would do another celebration in January after she left, when my parents were here & my sister would come up with the twins and we'd invite friends. My parents are out of the country now, and I'd invited my sister & friends but canceled last week because of how stressful & tense things have been in the house with MIL, I didn't want anyone to come over. I saved the books I had bought B for his birthday because I figured I'd never have a chance to sit and read them with him anyways.

At 3:45 she came down, all dressed and made-up (she insists on putting on her "face" all the time, but says its not make-up). She held him during the cake, and got her precious pictures. She didn't smile or say a word to us, except to ask me to take the pictures. G & I tried to act like everything was fine, and B seemed to like the cake. She gave him a card at the end and told him to give it to daddy. Instead he brought it to me, since daddy was busy, and I told him to open it. Money fell out. So I told B to pick it up, but he was just playing with it and she huffed over and grabbed everything out of his hand, muttering about something.

After all this, she took B with her to play with the gift she gave him. G & I took L and the dog for another long walk, and then it was dinner time. I took L up for a bath & feeding while G heat up B's dinner. When I came down, she was sitting/sulking on the couch and G was feeding B. B was so happy, he actually ATE some dinner and then asked for some cake and we obliged. I joined them and then we both went up for B's bedtime routine and he was so so happy. I hadn't seen him so happy in days, it was like he was trying to be good for us. He didn't protest the bath or toothbrushing, and picked all the books we like to read to him. He told me "I wuv you" several times, and leaned in for kisses. It was such a wonderful time for the 3 of us, we snuggled on the floor and sang "snuggle puppy" together twice and acted out all the parts of "guess how much I love you". He went to bed without a peep (no nap again today), and I finally felt some calm in my soul.

Part 3 will have more backstory on the craziness & how I am (trying) to deal with all this.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


I have Part 2 & 3 of the MIL saga written and ready to publish but I'm hesitant. I think I will end up publishing them, just to complete the story, but I want to take a step back for a bit...

I came into work Tuesday morning anxious and upset, unable to concentrate on anything. So I just sat and furiously wrote out the events of the weekend in 3 parts, trying to purge all my frustration and sadness through my fingers onto the screen. It felt pretty good. Reading over the details reinforced my belief that I was in the right, and that I had every reason to be angry and depressed.

But now that the words are out there, I wonder what my real intention for posting about this is. If it was just to release my emotions, why did I publish it? Couldn't I just put it in a journal never to be seen by anyone? Why place such raw ugly honesty where the world can see? And poorly written, at that! These words are not going to entertain or educate. They aren't designed to encourage one to think or grow. They are reality. Yup, these posts are like reality television. And I HATE reality television and have never ever watched it. I have no interest in watching other people's trainwreck lives. Why am I contributing to this phenomenon, adding my own side-of-the-road freakshow? And why defile this lovely space, that I have created to record and store my thoughts and ideas, with such ugliness and hatred?

Am I looking for support? Possibly. I don't have many readers, but I've been touched by the empathy and thoughtfulness of the comments and emails I've received here. Sure I could talk to some friends about this, but I really didn't want their pity and "I told you so's". I certainly don't want my family to know---imagine what my parents would think! They might try to DO something, or talk to her...which would worsen the situation immensely! So yes, I think a lot of the reason I posted was to get some sympathy, or empathy, or maybe some advice on how to cope.

The other is that I want to have a tangible reminder, when things are going OK and I think "Oh, she's changed! That was just an anomaly! It's not so bad!". I want to be able to read these words and remind myself how terrible this weekend was and ensure that I will never subject myself or my children to this kind of torture again. Because these things have happened before. It's been long that I thought things really HAD changed. But no. Some people never change.

In thinking this through I've realized how much emotion and thought are likely behind all the blogs and posts I read, and that for everything I DO read, there may be a couple of saved drafts that never see the light of day. What someone reveals about themselves is usually very carefully filtered---whether on a blog or in real life---and we should never assume we know the whole story.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Worst. Christmas. Ever. Part 1

Warning. This is really really long. I just need to get it out of my system because I really can't think straight.

Ugh. Just....ugh. My MIL is seriously mentally unstable and managed to completely ruin Christmas and Big Brother's (B's) birthday with her craziness. I've been trying to be nice to her since our big blowup a couple of weeks ago, without becoming a total doormat, yet I guess doormat is what she wants in a daughter-in-law.

So to back up, the reason we fought in the first place was that I felt she wasn't letting me spend any time with B. They had just come back from a 2 week trip (she, G, and B had gone overseas for G's cousins wedding...I stayed home with L), and I had a few days before going back to work that I had hoped to spend soaking him up. Yet, she constantly had him with her, on her lap, in her room, such that I didn't really have a chance. Of course, being the toddler that he is, the more time he spent with her, the more attached he got and the more  he didn't want to come to me...and so it perpetuated.  I was trying to explain to her that I missed him when they were gone & he kind of grew apart from me, and I really just wanted some time to re-establish our relationship, yet I felt like she wasn't allowing that....she said I was being crazy, that she isn't doing anything wrong, and that I should WANT her to spend time with him as his grandmother (which of course I do! I never said otherwise!) and then she went on to say that I was ALWAYS rude to her and a terrible daughter-in-law, and breaking up the family (?). Anyways, I had to apologize.

Then the daycare wars began. My husband (G) wanted B to go to daycare to get back into the routine---he'd been out most of the fall, with my parents being here for 3 weeks, then MIL again for 3 weeks around Little Brother's (L's) birth (she insisted he stay home then & I capitulated because I didn't want him bringing germs home when L was so young), and then the 2 week trip. She insisted that B stay home with her and L at least a few days because she wants to spend time with him. I thought that was fine, so I convinced G to have him stay home a couple of days each week. I thought she'd be happy with that, but no. Every daycare day she huffs and puffs and sulks. However, even on NON-daycare days, she sulks in the evening that she didn't get enough time with B because she had to take care of L. Ummm. yeah. That's the reality of having more than one kid.

She continued the naptime/bedtime battles, too. She hates that we have strict nap and bedtimes, and always complains when we try to put him down for naps or take him up for bathtime after dinner. Its EVERY time..."oh poor thing, mom and dad are making you go." "Oh, I wanted to play with you but THEY say you need to go" And the ugly ugly faces at us when we insist.

Sunday (Christmas) evening she flipped. We are all home all day, didn't go anywhere, she had every opportunity to hang out with B, yet she was being sulky because we insisted he stay in his crib from 1-3 and TRY to nap (he didn't). She kept making these little digs "Oh, I wanted to come see you baby but mom & dad said NO. They make you a prisoner in that crib". By the evening, G & I just wanted to get away, so we planned to go take the dog on a long walk with L in the Ergo. We were going to leave B with MIL so she could have some one-on-one time & we could walk quickly without bringing the stroller and snacks and entertainment for B. She said no, she wanted to get some cooking done, and we should take B. We were gone for an hour or so, and when we got home, she grabbed him and had him help her cook. We all had dinner soon, but B was insisting on grandma reading a book for him. She told him she'd do it after she finished eating, but it was already 7:20 (we TRY for a 7:30 bedtime, and the potty/bath/brushing/stories takes more than 30 minutes, so we were already late). G said "No, its getting late, maybe tomorrow". I was planning on taking B up for his bath but I started feeling uncomfortable and told G to take him, while I grabbed the baby. I had just left the kitchen, G & B were on the stairs going up, when I heard a crash 2 feet behind me. The crazy bitch had thrown her plate full of food on the ground and it shattered. I shouted "HEY WHY DID YOU DO THAT?", and she started yelling at me "Don't ever yell at me that way! Don't talk to me like that!" G & B came back down to see what happened and then we all left. I went up to the 3rd floor, and G & B to the bath.

I was livid. Shaking. Wanted to vomit. I just sat there with L and tried to calm down. After the bath, G brought B upstairs and insisted we come down to his room for the 4 of us to do bedtime stories and try to have a nice family moment. We were at the end of one book, and B was giggling and happy when she stormed up to his room and asked to read him stories. G hesistated but we really didn't want shouting in front of B so we said OK and left her with him.

We hoped she'd just hide in her room but she apparently wanted to say something to G so she just kept coming up to him to talk, and he told her he didn't want to listen to her, so she parked herself on the couch and STARED at us while we cleaned up the kitchen & did our thing. We retreated to the basement but she was still SITTING there so I told him to go deal with her then or else he'd have to deal with it later and we were tired. So he went up to "talk" (i.e. listen to her explain how everything is our fault, and we drove her to it). I could hear them talking from the basement. The gist of it was that she felt like she had no time to spend with B, that I acted like they were "just my children" (um yeah. they are) and that SHE should get priority to spend with them, since she is the grandmother and is only here for a few days (um. like FORTY DAYS, I AM F&&ING COUNTING THEM DOWN). She complained that I'd come home and swoop up B saying "Oh I haven't seen you all day I missed you!" (yeah.) She hinted that she was "more important" than me, but wouldn't come out and say it when G asked her "WHO are you more important than?" The daycare stuff came up again and she complained that we didn't respect her opinion in how to raise the kids. G listened to her, and then told her that I am their mother and I do get priority over her and that the two of us make the rules for the kids, not her, and that was the way it was and if she didn't like it she could leave (yeah, we should be so lucky). So that was that and we went to bed while she stayed on the couch watching TV.

I was so anxious I barely slept that night, and had terrible dreams. B woke up crying once and G went down quickly but not quickly enough, she had already gone in & we didn't want to create a fuss. We both heard B wake up the next morning (his birthday) but knew that she'd get there first, so we let her. Finally we decided to go down and see him....

Part 2 will go over B's birthday. If you think THIS was bad, just WAIT.

Friday, December 23, 2011


I wanted to write one of those beautiful birthday posts people have for their children, delineating all the wonderful recent developments and the promise of what's to come. I just can't pull it off, though, because this most recent stage? Its breaking my heart.

Through what I believe is a combination of the new baby, his being away from me for 2 weeks on a trip (they returned more than 2 weeks ago), my return to work, and his staying home part-time with my mother-in-law, my darling boy has decided I no longer exist. It's "bye mummy". "Go away mummy." "No mummy, gramma do it." Refusing to look me in the eye, sit on my lap or even near me, and pushing me away when I try to get a hug. And last night, a major screaming, writhing fit when I tried to do his bedtime stories (my favorite favorite thing) that couldn't be stopped with all the usual distraction techniques and only abated when I told him I would call his daddy to come. I come home from work and he runs away, into grandma's lap. On one of his daycare days I left work super-early & went all the way across town to go get him and he screamed when I got there & asked to go home to grandma.

Really, I want to cry, it hurts when your child prefers others. Instead I put on a happy face and try try TRY to obtain his interest. I sing, I dance, I try the tickle games & the lifting him up in the air, I try to read the books with all the funny voices. I feel desperate, like a woman trying to "win back" a boyfriend that has SO TOTALLY moved on, and everyone pities her because "how pathetic, can't she see that he is so OVER HER?" I thought it would get better with time, but it seems to be getting worse; his attachment to his grandmother grows stronger (and she's here for 3 MORE WEEKS) & he's losing interest in all of our "inside jokes" and games. I've read that we need to not give in to his preferences, but its hard when he screams & tantrums, especially at bedtime when we really don't want to get him wound up and affect his sleep. My husband says I have to "keep trying" but its exhausting, especially when I get no reward.

I knew going into motherhood that one day my children would grow away from me, I just wasn't expecting it so soon.

Friday, December 16, 2011


You know how people say "when you look back on your life, you will only regret what you HAVEN'T done"? Hmph. Clearly these people have never lost their temper and acted ugly & shamefully.

I am full of deep shame & regret after a fight (yelling, screaming, childish, ugly ugly) that I instigated with my mother-in-law, mostly because I can no longer say that "at least I've always treated her nicely & acted like an adult". I have completely lost the upper-hand in our ongoing power struggle. To paraphrase what my husband said: "I've got your back & I will always take your side, but it would make it a LOT easier for me to do this if you act irreproachably and SHE is clearly the only one being unreasonable."

My friends have told me to forgive myself...that it was completely expected for me to lose my temper given what has been going on lately (too complicated & don't feel like talking about it lest I get worked up again!). And in fact, I never said anything nasty or hurtful to her (which she certainly did to me), but the tone I used and the overall act of starting the fight is not appropriate behavior towards an older family member. I've apologized profusely (hell, I'd say I GROVELED) and I'm putting on a great show of calmness and respect. As Scarlett O'Hara would say "Butter won't melt in my mouth".

But the fact is, it happened, and it is a large and very dark spot on my otherwise unblemished record with her. And it has obliterated any confidence I had in my success in deliberately creating inward and outward calm & balance in my life. Clearly I haven't changed at all, I've just been packing and packing all the worries & annoyances & sadnesses deep inside and I finally burst open like a too-full suitcase. I really thought I had made some progress and I am severely disappointed in myself.

Life is really really hard sometimes.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Blah humbug...

I used to love the holidays...our family always celebrated the secular aspects of the Christmas season with great enthusiasm. We did the tree, the decorations, the presents, the baking. In my memory, a lot of our holiday activities centered around my mom & sister & I getting crafty & creative--from iced sugar cookies, to pine cone ornaments and cross-stitched stockings, we embraced all the cheesiness of an American Christmas & our home in December looked no different than that of all our non-immigrant neighbors, minus the nativity. When I think upon this now, I realize how much effort & thought my mother had to put forward to make this happen; as an immigrant from a country that did not celebrate Christmas, I know she did this all for us.

As I grew up, the intense excitement leading up to Christmas day & the opening of the presents under the tree certainly faded...but my love of the season continued. What's not to love about twinkly lights brightening the darkest days? The smell of cinnamon and nutmeg wafting out of coffee and cookies? "It's a wonderful life" and "The Christmas Story" on TV?  The end of December isn't just about Christmas, its about the turning of the year, marked by the calendar and by nature. Its the end of the semester (and the fiscal quarter), a break in the routine, a time to focus on family & friends.

But once I stopped being able to slow down and be with family & friends (I worked 4 out of 4 Christmas Days during residency) my enthusiasm for this time of year was hard to keep up. It doesn't help that my husband is a bit of a grinch. When I met him, it was my waning enthusiasm up against his staunch negativity. I think it was the family obligations and general abundance of tackiness (this was Texas, ya'll) that led to his distaste of the festive season. Our first few years together, I tried to overcome his influence, but I've since succumbed.

I want to change this. I'm tired of apathy & negativity killing all the joy in life & I've decided  to put some work & caring into this holiday season. I've put up the tree & the wreath, and I'm hunting for ornaments. I want my kids to experience the love, excitement and magic that I recall from my childhood. And as I sit in front of the tree, looking at the twinkly lights, and smelling the gingerbread baking in the oven, I realize I also want to experience it again myself.

Thursday, December 1, 2011


A comment by a fellow blogger about infant colic and parental temperament got me thinking the other day. We talk about & expect a lot from our little ones in terms of self-soothing, yet how well (and HOW) do we do it ourselves?

We expect babies to learn to "self-soothe" at a very young age (after 2 months, say the experts!) by holding a lovey, or sucking a pacifier. My toddler sucks on his blankie &sings to himself or recites lines from books when he's trying to wind down at night or naptime. 

What is my in-the-moment tool to assuage anxiety and fear so that I can function or sleep? Its hard to think of an answer. Long-term, sure, I try to exercise, plan well, socialize, get enough sleep, get alone time---these things help keep me from feeling overwhelmed & burnt out. But despite my best efforts to live a calm and peaceful life (hah!) there are moments when I am angry, afraid, worried. Moments when I just can't calm my racing mind to be able to relax or sleep.

Honestly, my soothing techniques are decidedly NON-self. I am not one to meditate or use calming imagery or the like. When I am anxious and can't sleep I go straight to my favorite life-avoidance activities: games on my phone, reading blogs, re-reading old books.  Anything to take me out of my head & stop the incessant thinking. If I can finagle it, it also helps to get a backrub from my husband. After a particularly tough day, a glass of wine might do the trick.

Turns out, though I am a full-fledged adult with 30+ years of practice, I still require lots of help to soothe myself. Helps me empathize more when the 2-month-old or even 23-month-old just won't "calm the f*() down and go to sleep already"!