August 29, 2010

SuperMommy Mania

DD and Peaches
Being SuperMommy is a little bit much for anyone.  Let alone the perpetually underachieving and generally lazy.  Yes, that's how I see myself.  Perpetually underachieving, and generally lazy.  I always figured it was really more of a lifestyle choice than an actual character attribute.  I'm beginning to think I was wrong.  In order to test the theory that I'm just sort of lazy, I signed myself up for a lot of stuff.  And what do you know, it's kinda hard.

SI is going to eat your face.
SuperMommy has a lot on her plate.  First of all, there's being a mother to twins nearing their first birthday.  That's a bit daunting.  Baby-proofing is a constant process, as they learn to crawl faster and FASTER and FASTER, as they learn to walk (that's coming quick, you better believe), and as they generally figure out that those drawers OPEN!  And that cord COMES OUT OF THE WALL!  The world is an exciting place for a baby and an exhausting place for a parent.

Then there's the general load of being a house frau.  Cooking, cleaning, entertaining... not to mention the parenthetical duties of being a social secretary and dietitian.  Along with this comes the not completely standard duties of being a wife- which includes being a medical advocate, dutiful taker of various notes, and occasionally a broken record.

SuperMommy is also a social creature- she loves he friends and family and does her damndest to make sure that she and her domestic unit attend all the weddings, parties, and whatnots that they are able.

SuperMommy has recently returned to actually taking care of herself as well.  This has included (not so) regular gym attendance, and coming soon MARATHON TRAINING!  Why?  Because SuperMommy is absolutely insane.

A book, DD's best friend.
Part and parcel of caring for SuperMommy is the cultivation of SuperMommy's relaxation tools.  This includes regular time in the studio, the occasional book, and cooking.

So what could SuperMommy do that could possibly make her life more chaotic?  What could she come up with that would add even more stress, more pressing demands on her time, and the ever present panic of deadlines?

That's right.  SuperMommy is in school.  She's taking twice as many classes as in the spring, and for the first time since getting married they are ALL in her major- which has the weighty title of Urban Policy and Public Administration.

The girls, SI and DD, are not oblivious to the changes taking place around their environment.  They notice every new gate, every new fence, every baby-proofing measure, and of course they notice SuperMommy's conspicuous distraction and absence.  While DD, in quintessential DD form, copes by being ever more affectionate and loving whenever she sees SuperMommy, poor SI is a little more distressed.

I can't leave a room.  I can't hand her to her father.  I can't pay attention to her sister.  And I sure as hell can't do my homework.

SI happily clinging to SuperMommy
SI wants to live in my arms.  She wants to sit in my lap and pound on my keyboard.  She wants me to hold her hands while she walks the length of our condo over and over again.  She wants me to ask her ad nauseum, "How big is SI?" so she can spread her arms, "SOOOOO BIG!"

I remember back in the winter months, Daddy was SI's favorite.  And I can't lie, it made me a little sad.  It was nothing compared to this.  To make it worse, Daddy is also in school.  When the going gets tough, the tough go to grad school.  So Daddy is back in school as well, with more classes and a more demanding workload than SuperMommy.

Life is pretty crazy right now for SuperMommy.  Between her children's newfound SuperMommy fanaticism and her own building mental breakdown, life is fairly chaotic.

The good news is that we're getting used to it.  We're adapting to this new existence, building new routines.  I'm teaching M to cook more meals so that when he gets back from night classes and I'm engrossed in my homework, he can make his own healthy dinner instead of living off of PB&J and corn chips.

So has SuperMommy bitten off more than she can chew?  Only time will tell.  But for now, please take this as one long apology letter.  I might not be updating this blog as much as I'd like.

...but I promise you this, faithful readers: Whether or not I find the time to tell you about all the new teeth the girls grow all at once (SI cut three in one day), or all the new things they're learning to do, or the beautiful relationship I'm watching grow between them, I will keep posting the occasional picture filled post.  So at least you can get a bit of you baby fix.

DD and SI.  Happy, happy babies.

Until then- SuperMommy out!

August 20, 2010

The Long Haul

Yesterday was my husband M's birthday.

For most of us, when we get a little older we feel a little defeated.  Like we've lost something.  I don't know how much of that M experiences, because for him each year is, as he puts it, "...a little 'fuck you' to cancer."

M aging makes me think about time.  About how much of it we have, about how fast it goes, about how so much changes while other things stay constant.  About the part of it that's already gone.  A life is, hopefully, a very long time.  So is a marriage.

M found himself in the hospital with brain cancer the day after we got engaged.  We never got to enjoy being giddy and in love and the excitement of GOING TO GET MARRIED.  We went straight from announcing our intention to spending sleepless nights in the hospital, hearing what certainly seemed like the worst news possible.  We altered our plans about when we wanted to have children, partially because of the sense that time was a luxury we couldn't afford.  We learned to function as a unit in what you might describe as a dysfunctional paradigm.  We learned to behave as though each moment were filled with weight and meaning, priceless gems to be treated with care.

And then we sort of forgot about all of that.

M got better.  Unexpectedly, miraculously, essentially completely better.  We learned to ignore the constant fear of seizures, of brain damage, of death.  We started acting in what is most likely a very normal way- taking each other for granted, accepting the status quo of our life and our existence at face value.  Forgetting how precious each moment was.

It's easy to forget.  Living constantly in a state of perfect love and euphoria is nice and all, but it's exhausting.  It keeps you from honoring your commitments, prioritizing your mundane responsibilities instead of your ethereal ones.

When you get married to someone in a state like that, your expectations are a little different from the norm.  I remember one day during his radiation treatments, M told me he had a goal, to have spent more of his life married to me than not.  I cried, because twenty five years was a long time- an inexpressibly long time- and still so painfully short.  The goal wasn't to spend the rest of OUR lives together, it was to have as much time truly together as we had had apart.  We didn't really talk about "forever," we talked about "as long as we can."

And here we are.  We have two children that we absolutely adore.  M has aged another year.  With his particular diagnosis, every year he lives his prognosis improves exponentially.  Every year he lives he has better and better odds to live another one.  In another five, he'll essentially be risk-free of dying from his astrocytoma.  We forget how precious each moment is, because as they become less full of constant threat, they become more simple and ignorable.  Despite how truly amazing they are.

But I can't help myself from maintaining my terror.  I can't help myself from the occasional reminder that I might not have much time with the love of my life, that his children might not have that time with him.  That all of this could just get snatched away.  It's infectious- it spreads.  It keeps me up at night until I'm sure that the doors are locked and the girls are breathing softly in their cribs and that M is snoring with his arm draped over me, and all is well with the world.  It keeps me taking pictures of my husband and my children, not just so that I can remember these fleeting moments but so that my children, if the worst should happen, will know how much their father loved them.

I take silly videos of the girls laughing as they stick their fingers up Daddy's nose, of Daddy feeding them their cereal, of Daddy playing silly games with them.  And inside, my heart is breaking.  Perhaps the most perverse part is that I'm aching not because I'm thinking about what will happen if my husband dies, but because I'm thinking about what will happen if my husband dies.  Who needs to sit around thinking about that?  Who needs that kind of morbidity lurking in their head?

So he's aged again.  In six weeks, his daughters will celebrate their first birthday.  For me, birthdays are now always tainted- they aren't about living, they're about surviving.  My girls surviving their critical first year, my husband surviving his twenty eighth.

And our marriage, in of itself a kind of life, continuing to thrive as well.  Despite the constant stress of having children, of being unemployed, of managing our debts and digging ourselves deeper into those holes, of car crashes and illnesses... we're still married.  We're still stupid in love with each other, and we're still working at it.  At maintaining our marriage despite forgetting constantly how important it is.  How it's the most important thing that either of us has going.

As I've said before, the best advice I got on child-rearing was that the best thing you can do for your children is have a good relationship with their other parent.  I would amend that.  The best thing you can do for yourself is to have a good relationship with your co-parent as well.  You don't need to constantly remind yourself that each day is a precious gift, it's exhausting.  But it is important to maintain honesty.

I don't tell M every day that I am grateful to have another day with him.  I don't know what he'd read into it, and frankly I don't like thinking about what that means.  But I do tell him every day that I love him.

Someday very soon, he'll hear it from the girls as well.  Every day they learn more and more, picking up the basics of words and patterns and games, and before we know it they'll be running after him, giving him hugs and forming permanent, meaningful memories of their own.

And it's not every birthday, but every single day, that's the little "Fuck You" to cancer.

August 9, 2010


Just ask me, my children are perfect.  Angels, sent from heaven.  Not a malicious or unkind bone in their bodies.

That doesn't stop them from being human, though.  And part and parcel of being human is just plain screwing up.  Not knowing better.  And it is for this essentially human characteristic that the word 'no' was invented.

They have lived in a bubble where everything they did was cute.  Everything they did was harmless.  That time has ended.  Now when SI has a toy that DD wants, instead of tricking her into dropping it or just taking it away, DD has advanced to grabbing her sister by the shoulder and throwing her to the ground.  This is not malicious behavior, she simply doesn't understand that her actions might hurt her sister.  "No" has entered our parental vocabulary, but not yet the grubling lexicon.

Our biggest battle?  Both girls have taken to headbanging at mealtimes.  This causes their chairs to teeter alarmingly on their back legs before falling down again.  We are trying desperately to teach the girls not to do this, which brings me to my philosophy on rules.

I believe that if you can't say why it isn't allowed, there's no good reason it shouldn't be allowed.  So anything that isn't permitted to my children is limited to an extrapolation of one of the following:
  1. You may not do something that will hurt yourself or others
  2. You may not do something that will break wanted property
  3. You must be polite/avoid rudeness
 My husband has added his own fourth rule- "Because I said so," but I don't like it.  While I understand his logic, I am determined to parent and discipline with a foundation in reason.  I want my kids to grow up and know that if they're not allowed to do something, there is a VERY GOOD REASON.  I have never, even as a very small child, found "because I said so," to be adequate explanation.

That said, there is a cardinal flaw in my discipline plan.  Not that M and I see discipline differently- after all, what couple is actually always a unified front?  No, I am counting on the idea that I will be trusted as an authority on The Way The World Works a priori.  And I see the conversation regarding, say, headbanging in one's seat, as going much like this:

DD - "Mommy, why can't I headbang in my seat?"
SM - "You will knock the seat over and therefore hurt yourself and break that chair.  Two of the three things you are not allowed to do."
DD - "But I'm being careful!"

How does a parent come by the authority to know what will happen before it happens?  Will they simply trust me to know that it's true?  Or will they have to experience the mighty forces of gravity and momentum before they accept that they might knock their chairs over, that they might hurt themselves or the furniture?

Saying "No!" is hard.  So much harder than changing diapers or kissing bruises.  What's worse, they simply don't understand it.  Having no experience with scolding, they find it hilarious.  Mommy and Daddy make such funny noises when grublings slam their heads into their chairs.  Mommy and Daddy make such funny faces.  Babies simply don't come understanding that might not be allowed to do all those cool things they've figured out they can do.

Right now, my technique is to say, "No!" firmly, and then ignore the child until she starts doing something else.  This doesn't work with tossing your sister onto the floor, but it does seem to work- a little- with the headbanging.  The fact of the matter is that I have never actually been an ultimate authority before, and I don't quite know how to do it.  I've been an authority on things on which I am an authority, but I am not actually an expert in the areas of right and wrong.  I'm more experienced in this department than my children, but still...  It's a strange thing, this business of being in charge. 

Parenting just gets weirder and weirder, doesn't it?


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