Thursday, May 31, 2007

Perfect Storm

A few observations about my mother: First, she is a drama queen who is happiest in times of crisis. Second, she oversteps boundaries, especially those of her children. Finally, she is a score-keeper. I offer a few illustrations of each of these.

The Drama Queen
Example One: In the months preceding my wedding, my parents separated. Every day, my mother would call me with the latest round of complaints about my father. She found a way to make sure that everyone from the caterers to the wedding guests knew about the separation and how she was doing her best "to put on a happy face in this difficult time." For instance, when I sent my photo to the paper and asked that my photograph be labeled "Ms. B" instead of "Mrs. JM" (I did not change names), she called the editor and told her that I was absolutely changing my name and was just reacting to my parents' very sad separation. *
Example Two: When anything happens to one of her children---from fender benders to surgery--she immediately calls her prayer groups and prayer lists and whips everyone into a frenzy. When I was about to have nerve damage caused by E's vacuum birth surgically corrected**, she put that on the prayer list. Some things--and I include my hoo-hoo as one of them--just don't need to be the subject of strangers' prayers.

Boundaries, Schmoundaries
Example One: When J and I were fairly newly married, my mother brought her handyman to our house. He was supposed to fix the bathroom floor which was sagging. She decided she may as well have him paint the bathroom while he was there without so much as a "Hey, how would you feel about having your bathroom painted Smurf blue?" We were not amused.
Example Two: When I was in the hospital after having E, my mother resdistributed the furniture in my house, rearranged my kitchen and reorganized J and my drawers. I had a hormone induced meltdown upon discovering this.

Keeping Score
Example One: At Christmas, she spends precisely the same amount of money on each child and grandchild. Sometimes, we'll get an odd check for the $7.63 , but more often she makes a stocking and fills it with hideous items from the dollar store to make up the difference in what she has spent.
Example Two: She keeps a list of what each child has done for her lately: My brother M mowed her lawn when we were in town. However, Brother S cleaned her pool for her the week before. Therefore, it was my responsibility to do all the dishes during our visit on Sunday.

So there you have it, my mother is an attention-seeking-knows-no-boundaries-scorekeeping-drama queen.*** Who has just been diagnosed with colon cancer. It is the perfect storm. Stay tuned.

*They reunited shortly after my wedding. I did not change my name.
**I had a vestibulectomy-very painful, but effective.
***I know this sounds harsh. I do love her, but she makes me a little nuts.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Time to start a conversation

It doesn't seem right to complain about your marriage the same week a friend has lost her husband. It feels a little like when I complained about pregnancy after experiencing infertility--shouldn't I just be grateful already?

J and I have been together 17 years this summer, and we celebrated our 14th anniversary in February (by celebrate, I mean that we traded greeting cards). We've had rough patches here and there and there have been times that I've wanted to run away, but things have always gotten better. Things aren't bad now. They just aren't great.

So what's wrong?

When we were first together, we had to be in physical contact with one another. Sitting next to one another. Holding hands. Touching in some way. It was probably sickening. Last summer I bought a king size bed so there would be less physical contact. It isn't as if I expect to sustain the passion that we had earlier in our relationship, but I'm not sure the embers are even warm anymore.

Speaking of which. What about sex? What about that? We had a decent, if predictable, sex life right up until we were in the midst of trying to conceive. That pretty much killed it. Now, two children later, I am actually annoyed when J tries to start things. Once I saw a show on the animal channel in which the female large ferocious mammal almost took off the head of the male large ferocious mammal when he attempted to mount her. She looked pissed and annoyed. Like me! He looked bewildered. Like J. I cackled in delight. Take that, Mr. Horny! I totally get that the whole lack of sex thing is all my fault (though I do think that breastfeeding and being dog tired contribute to my decided lack of enthusiasm), but I don't care enough to do something about it. How sad is that?

Then there is the communication. Or lack thereof. We don't talk anymore. At least we don't talk to each other. We tend to talk at each other and then get pissed when we are ignored. For instance, J asked last night if a friend of mine is pregnant. Weeks ago, I had gone into great detail about how she was pregnant. I didn't realize it at the time, but he was giving me the "great, honey" treatment:

Me: Friend A is pregnant! I was right! I suspected this for at least a month. Isn't it great. Our kids will be close enough in age to play.

J: That's great, honey. [while watching The Simpsons]

I'm sure I give him the "great, honey" treatment, too.

J: Wow. The Braves, blah, blah, blah. Home run. Blah, blah. Pitchers. Blah, blah. Yankees. Blah.

Me: That's great, honey. [while reading blogs]

There is more. Bad attitudes. Annoying habits. Some disagreements over the best way to discipline a certain headstrong two-year-old. But nothing is toxic about our marriage.

I'm at a loss as to where to start to make things better. I think it would help to have a date night once in a while, but that is very expensive and we are already spending what we earn plus some. I think that as the children get older and less demanding that we may have more time and energy, too. In the meantime, maybe it is time to start a conversation about this. I love J too much to let things stay like this.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

A terrible method for puting things in perspective

Last week's underwhelming Mother's Day, E's terrible twodom, M's refusal to eat anything that hasn't been pureed just so, the roof that is a structural disaster--all of these are just ant hills. I wish it didn't take tragic news to remind me of this.

Last week, I made plans to take the kids to the aquarium with B, a French adjunct with whom I am friendly. It is impossible not to be friendly with B; she is seriously peppy. It would probably be annoying, but the French accent makes it rather endearing. "Bonjour! Bonjour!" she greets me each morning as I huff and puff up the steep stairs to my office. B and I were pregnant at the same time, and we both had girls. We aren't close, but we do get together for coffee and our girls attend one another's parties and are slated to be classmates in the fall.

When I last spoke to her last Thursday, B was as happy as ever. She was looking forward to her husband's return from an extended business trip and was hoping to fill the time with beach trips and play dates. Her husband, E, is Filipino. I can't remember the story of how they wound up in the U.S., but I'm sure they told me. Their daughter looks exactly like him. In fact, when I visited after the birth, she proudly held up her little bundle of joy and told me, "I made an Asian baby!" Did I mention she is peppy?

Last Friday, I tried to call B to get her cell phone number because I was concerned that the baby's nap would make us late to our Saturday aquarium date. Her cousin answered the phone. I remembered B telling me that her cousin's English was "very bad, very bad" and considering that my French is worse, all I could get out of her cousin was that B was out and would not be home until Saturday. Given our difficulties speaking, I assumed that she misspoke. I called back Saturday morning an hour before we were to meet at the aquarium. Once again, the cousin told me to call later. It was odd, but I thought that perhaps B had made a quick trip to see her husband and had car trouble.

Later that afternoon I received an email from another friend, "I just received word that B's husband, E, was killed in an automobile accident yesterday."

I had a physical reaction to the news: my stomach clenched and my heart pounded wildly. Pure shock. It was just unreal. It is still unreal. And so very unfair. She is in the U.S. alone, save for a cousin who happened to be visiting. She will raise a daughter alone. She didn't get to say goodbye.

I've not seen her or spoken to her. No one I know has seen her yet. We are all giving her space until she is ready for visitors. However, she has been sending emails. Late at night. They are full of rage and pain. She sounds furious with the driver of the car* (he "is intact and E is dead.") She speaks of being full of regret for not having joined him on this business trip as if she could have stopped this from happening. She speaks of their recent decision to have another child. She sounds so grim. So raw. I have to have a box of tissue handy when opening them.

Sometimes when I hear of someone who is losing or has lost a spouse to a lengthy illness, I think that it might be easier to lose your loved one suddenly. But I'm not sure. Maybe a long, slow goodbye is better. There is closure. Time to plan. I don't know.

This weekend, B will bury her husband in the Northeast where they lived before coming here. When she returns, I hope she will feel up to receiving visitors. However, I think it is going to be a long while before I hear a joyful "Bonjour! Bonjour!" again.

*I googled a newspaper account of the accident. The driver lost control of the car and the car went down an embankment, hit a tree on the passenger side, spun around and hit another tree on the driver side. In an email, B said they had been attending a "function" so I would not be surprised to learn that alcohol was involved.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007


I have so much to write about and yet I have nothing to write about. The material is there, but the words aren't coming. Maybe this is writer's block?

I could write:

about the untimely and tragic death of a friend's husband.

about M turning nine months.

about my frustrations with E.

about not wanting to visit my parents this weekend.

about feeling vaguely dissatisfied with my marriage.

about the ongoing struggle to lose weight.

about being happy that my television programs are all ending this week.

about the structural repairs our home requires.

about trying to embrace my research.

about being nearly ready to day wean.

about the Ann Taylor spree I intend to have when I lose five more pounds.

Clearly I have plenty of material. Perhaps the thing to do is to choose one thing from my list and write about it each day. Yes, that is what I'll do.

Tomorrow I will write about the death of my friend's husband. It isn't an uplifting story, of course, but it has me thinking about what I would do if the unthinkable were to happen.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Mother's Day Number Three

It is probably a good thing that in my cynical heart I am convinced that Mother's Day, Father's Day, Grandparents Day and other such holidays* are simply marketing vehicles for greeting card companies, florists and other commercial interests. Otherwise today might have gone down as a disappointment. Actually, it does go down as a disappointment, but it might have been worse had my expectations been high.

Here is a summary of the day for your reading pleasure.

6 Wake despite having declared --just the evening before-- that I would be sleeping in and only wanted to be interrupted long enough to nurse M. Remind self that I DESERVE to sleep in. Roll over.

6:15 Wake again wondering which child is going to wake first. Remind self that I am sleeping in. Roll Over.

6:20 E is moaning at her door. "Mommy, Mommy, Mommy." J rolls out of bed and I remind him that it is Mother's Day and I am sleeping in. He goes to deal with E.

6:25 I hear J pleading with E to move away from the door so he can open it. She refuses and blocks the door with her body continuing to moan, "Mommy. I want my mommy."

6:27 Can't take it anymore. Decide to deal with E who is now sobbing, "My mommy. My Mommy." I ask her to move away form the door and the sobs stop. She steps away from the door. Decide to return to bed and continue sleeping in.

6:28 J asks if I'll "Just take E to use the potty" before I resume my sleep-in. E refuses to go unless I pick her up. She has wet her pull-ups overnight and they have leaked onto her pajamas and now onto me.

6:29 Change E, change me, decide to continue my lazy morning in bed.

7:00 Wake. Why isn't M up yet? She is sleeping great. Maybe something is wrong with her?
Don't be silly. She is sleeping more soundly now that these tubes are in . Most babies sleep 12 hours. Roll over.

7:25 Wake. Maybe E put another toy in M's crib last night and she has choked to death on a little part. Stop. Being. Neurotic. Sleep.

7:45 Wake. She has been sleeping almost 13 hours. Is that OK? Should try to continue sleeping in.

8:00 Phew. I hear her. Go get her. Nurse.

8:15 Well I'm up now. May as well stay up.

9 Clean kitchen. Play with kids. Note that E is running a fever of 101.1.

9:00 Open Mother's Day card and unwrapped CD of a band I've never heard of.

10-12 J goes for a 12 mile run. On Mother's Day. Watch Maisy Mouse and Disney Playhouse over and over. Feel brain turning to jello. Put M down for morning nap. She sleeps for two hours. Is that OK?

12 E requests a quesadilla for lunch. I make it and she eats one tiny bite. Fever up to 102.6.

12:30 Attempt to feed M cottage cheese. She gags on the curds. What is wrong with her? Who gags on cottage cheese? She grabs the spoon and is soon wearing cottage cheese and sweet potatoes.**

12:30 Put E down for a nap. Decide to take my very own Mother's Day nap. Slide into bed and close eyes. Bliss!

12:31 Attempt to ignore the screams of "Mommy. My mommy" coming from the next room.

12:45 Kind of hard to take a nap with the wailing and gnashing of teeth next door.

1:15 Give up. Abort nap.

1:45 Allow E out of her room.

2:00 Put M down for a nap.

2-3 Put "Potty Time Elmo" in the DVD player. Worst Elmo video ever, yet E wants to watch it and a little reinforcement can't hurt. Or maybe it can. As E sits in my lap, I feel something wet and warm spreading down the front of my pants. "I accident on you," E says earnestly.

3:15 Play Memory with E. Repeatedly rescue M who has crawled under the coffee table and is enraged that she is bumping her head when she tries to sit up.

5:00 Take E, who is now running a fever of over 102, to Food Lion just to get her out of the house. She insists on wearing her sunglasses into the store. She rides in the back of the cart slightly dazed and wearing shades. It occurs to me that other adults may think I have a stoned kid on my hands.

5:30-7 Feed and bathe M. Bathe E. Put girls to bed. Collapse.

7-10 Eat dinner (refried beans), sort through bills, surf net.

10 Start blog entry and pump.

See. It wasn't an awful day, but it wasn't my "ideal" Mother's Day either. I'm sure next year will be better. Maybe I'll get to sleep in.

*Please somebody tell me there is no In-Laws Day.

**I don't really think these compliment one another, but she'll eat almost anything.