Thursday, June 23, 2016

That One Time We Took Our Kids to NYC, Day 1: Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

{Kate and Elli looking at the Statue of Liberty}

I've had an itch to visit the Big Apple for several years now. Chalk it up to nostalgia and the fact that half the shows and movies I love are set there. I've been once before, almost exactly 15 years ago, and every other city I've been to has paled in comparison with the history, the architecture, the bustle, the culture, and the density of The City That Never Sleeps (except London. Ah, London!).

Our dear friends who we've been meaning to visit for ages moved to Manhattan a few months ago and graciously acted excited when we announced we'd like to crash in their two bedroom apartment for a few days. Bless them.

We flew out of Vegas crazy early on Friday, 5/27. Despite the fact we'd woken them up at 4:00 AM, the girls actually fared pretty well on our flight. We barely made it to the gate on time--I think we were the last ones on the plane--but everything went smoothly. We broke down and bought a couple tablets specifically for this trip (five hour plane ride with a four year old and 21 month old!), and we brought an obscene amount of snacks, and we made it through mostly happy even with the four of us crammed into three seats since we were too cheap to buy Jayne a ticket.

{Jayne with Kiyomi and Alex}

Kiyomi met us at the airport and helped us navigate the subway system and our luggage to her apartment (yes, she's a saint). We grabbed some delicious NY-style pizza and decided that since our kids were still kinda holding it together, we'd drag them out on the town.

{Manhattan skyline. One World Trade Center is the highest building with the antenna}

While I'd have loved to go to the Ellis Island museum and see the Statue of Liberty up close again, we opted for the more kid-friendly route of taking the Staten Island Ferry: it's free, it passes close by Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, and you get a gorgeous view of Manhattan. We sat on the side deck of the ferry, luxuriating in the perfect breeze, and watched the sun spill a trail of orange light over the water as it set across the bay. Kate had recently learned The Star Spangled Banner for her preschool graduation (her teacher is ambitious), and I got her to sing most of it with me as we slowly cruised past the Statue of Liberty.

{It took Kiyomi exactly 30 seconds to completely win Jayne over. Both of the girls absolutely loved her.}

Wrestling three exhausted, cranky kids + two strollers through the subway system and back home was a bit of an ordeal, but we managed.

To recap: here are the various modes of transportation we used on this day:

Airport tram
Aerial tram

Before our trip was over, we'd also take a cab and a bus.


{Ellis Island} 

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Pregnancy, Take Three

{Photo by Katie, beginning of May 2016}

I'm right in the thick of the uncomfortable stage of pregnancy. My belly seems to brush up against everything, I'm constantly winded, and bending over to pick things up is the worst thing in the world. Sleep is fitful, and this man-child keeps me awake with his aquatic gymnastics. As I type this, I can see my abdomen ripple as he ricochets around in there. His antics are fireworks inside me.

This pregnancy has been different; though at 28 weeks, I'm finally feeling about the same as I did with my first two pregnancies: ungainly, easily fatigued, but mostly human.

The week after Christmas, Jay came down with a mild flu: malaise, some intestinal distress, exhaustion. He felt better after a couple days. A day or so later, I caught what he'd had just in time to travel to Texas to visit Jay's parents for New Year. It was a relaxed, easy visit, which was perfect because I spent most of my time huddled under blankets with chills and feeling exhausted and vaguely nauseous. We watched movies and played games and ate a lot of food. 

We came home, and I didn't feel much better. After having malaise for nearly two weeks, I started to wonder if the illness would ever pass. One morning after Jay had gone to work, I decided I should take a pregnancy test. I was certain I wasn't pregnant, but I needed to rule it out all the same. 

Ten minutes, two pregnancy tests, and four pink lines later, there was no denying it. I did some quick calculations and determined I was seven weeks pregnant.

Jay came home for lunch that day and told me he thought his receptionist had whatever it was I had because she wasn't feeling well. I had my arms wrapped around him when I said, "I'm pretty sure she doesn't have what I have. At least, I hope she doesn't." And then I gave him a meaningful look, and a broad smile spread across Jay's face. 

"Really?" he said. "You're sure?"

"Pretty sure," I said.

He laughed and squeezed me. "You're happy?" I asked. 

"Of course! Aren't you?"

"I don't really know what to feel," I said. "I think I'm in denial."

Five months later, and I'm still not completely over the denial. 

It took over a year to conceive both Kate and Jayne; with Kate, we finally hit on the right drug cocktail of fertility meds; with Jayne, the previous drugs didn't work, so we were scheduled to begin expensive and extensive testing when we found out we were expecting--she was planned, but not expected quite yet. But this time, it was truly a surprise. I never thought I'd experience a surprise pregnancy--for better or for worse--and it threw me for a loop. 

The first trimester was rough and unlike anything I'd previously experienced. I constantly felt like I had a fever (though my temperature was normal or only slightly elevated): chills, aching/sensitive skin, metallic taste in my mouth, exhaustion, nausea. Some nights, I'd lie in bed and shake with chills. I basically sat on the couch all day, feeling like I had the flu. The girls played together and entertained themselves, and Jay picked up my slack without complaining.

I gradually started feeling better starting at around 16 weeks. Around 24 weeks, I realized I no longer had a hyper-sensitive gag reflex and could even change diapers without dry heaving. Every day, I'm grateful I'm feeling better.

I still don't get much done, but it is amazing to feel mostly like myself again, even if I am lower-functioning. This may well be our last baby--though never say never!--and it is weird to view this pregnancy through that lens. While there is much about pregnancy that awes me, and while I'm incredibly grateful I've been able to have the experience, it's not a condition I'll miss.

It's true that I wasn't ready for another baby so soon (Jayne and this boy will be darn-near exactly two years apart--closer than I'd prefer), but my brushes with infertility have given me some hard-earned perspective. "Whenever they come," I used to say when people asked when we were going to have babies, and I still feel the same way.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Thoughts on Mother's Day: Autonomy vs. Privacy

I wrote this two and a half years ago when Kate was about the age Jayne is now (20 months). Reading through it, it struck me how much things have changed and how much they are still the same. 

Happy Mother's Day!

Kate begging to be held or given something. This view is a familiar one to most parents of toddlers.

Kate is currently really into belly buttons. She likes to lift her shirt, put her finger in her navel, and say, "Beh buh!" She also likes finding other people's beh buhs. This generally involves me sitting on the couch and attempting to fight her off but ultimately caving as she wrestles the hem of my shirt up my rib cage. I then sit there while she touches my belly button and says "beh buh! beh buh!" until I acknowledge that I do, indeed, have a belly button. This usually culminates with her stroking the loose skin of my stomach and saying "Sah. Sah." (Soft). Thanks, Kate.

I can't help but think, every time I see her cute little tummy with its sweet little dimple, that she will forever be marked by the time we shared my body. Nothing can erase that--we are both forever changed. And while birth was liberating, in a way, for both of us, and the physical tie that bound us was severed, we were still connected through nursing and feeding and changing and all of the work that goes into caring for an infant. While I loved most of those things most of the time, it was overwhelming to have someone so dependent on me.

As time has gone on, Kate and I have both gained autonomy in the form of her small, bittersweet victories. She gains independence and I regain pieces of myself I'd forgotten I'd lost. We are not two pieces of the same being anymore; she is increasingly becoming her own person, and I am thrilled for us and a bit sad for me that she doesn't need me like she used to. 

Autonomy is great for both of us--it allows us each our own space in which to stretch and grow. I have discovered, though, that autonomy is not the same thing as privacy. I wonder sometimes if privacy is something I will ever experience again. 

From the time Kate could crawl and pull herself up to things, she would make her way over to the shower, wedge her little fingers around the door, slide it open, then stand there and watch me. If I tried closing the door, screams would erupt. The magical bathroom acoustics amplified them exponentially, and I quickly learned to just let her watch. Once she was a little steadier on her feet, she insisted on stepping into the shower herself. Once she got comfortable with that, she would walk to the front of the shower and stand underneath the leaky handle, which meant I had to strip her down and share my shower time with a wet, naked little baby running around me who occasionally fell over backward and hated it when I rinsed her hair.

Thankfully, the shower phase has mostly passed, meaning I get my ten minutes of "me time" back (YES!).

Bathroom breaks, though, are another story. Yes, we leave the bathroom doors open pretty much at all times (except when we have people over; we do have SOME boundaries), and Kate can join us or not, as she pleases (she usually joins us). Closing Kate out generally results in a stressful (and loud) bathroom experience. There are some battles that just aren't worth fighting, and I decided long ago this is one of them. (I'm hoping it will make potty training a breeze. (Ha.))

Kate's new favorite thing is handing me my clothes as I'm getting dressed after I get out of the shower. She knows the word "bra" and sometimes runs around my room holding it to her chest ("ba! ba!").

So while I'm sometimes a little icked out by how open we are in our house with our child, we do what works for us. And I do miss my privacy (sometimes desperately), but I love our growing autonomy.

Friday, April 22, 2016

That One Time a Lady was Super Mean to Me at the Grocery Store

{All photos by Katie; Jaynie at 19 months}

It's easy to pass judgments about people when we see them for a handful of moments: the mom yelling at her toddler in the parking lot, the man in dirty clothes in the checkout line, the six year old throwing a tantrum at the park. We may feel a little concerned, a little uncomfortable, a little superior. Hopefully, most of the time, we recognize that there have been days when we've been THAT person--the one in dirty clothes, the one with no patience, the one with screaming kids. Maybe we remember the circumstances that led to these situations, maybe we don't, but there's always a backstory. 

Remembering this--that behavior doesn't happen in a vacuum--can help us to feel empathy rather than scorn, can lead us to extend help rather than judgment, can cause us to show love rather than disapproval.

I was nine weeks pregnant and had been feeling sick for weeks (both with a cold and with pregnancy-related misery). We had been in survival mode since Christmas, and I spent most of my days curled up on the couch or in bed. The house was a wreck, and my personal maintenance amounted to getting dressed and showering every two to three days. Other than Jay dragging me out occasionally on weekends, literally the only time I'd left the house in nearly a month was to take Kate to and from preschool twice a week. It was a rough time for us, but the girls were doing well and Jay didn't complain about having to pick up my slack. We were making it.

Jayne had recently stopped taking morning naps, so after dropping Kate off at preschool one day, I decided to take a much-needed trip to the grocery store (I'd been trying to get the energy to go for a couple weeks without success). I was feeling okay that morning, though we both looked a little worse for wear. Jaynie's hair was a bit crunchy from her habit of twirling it in her fingers while she ate, and she had bare feet since I couldn't find one of her little moccasins before we hurriedly left our house. I wore baggy clothes and no makeup, but I wasn't concerned about my appearance. I parked the car at the store and sat there listening to the radio for ten minutes, just trying to gather the energy to go inside.

The outing started out successfully enough. I loaded the cart with items from the produce section and Jaynie got excited about the apples. I had just grabbed some onions--letting Jayne touch their smooth, papery skin before placing them in a bag--when I stopped pushing my cart to consult the grocery list on my phone.

Jayne extended her finger toward my face and then laughed as I tickled her neck. We were playing like that, Jaynie giggling, when I felt someone behind me watching us. The woman came up beside me, and I assumed that she, like any other person with a pulse, was admiring my happy and adorable baby.

"Where are your baby's socks? You need to put socks on her," the woman said, gesturing at Jayne's wiggling toes.

I gave her a half smile. "She's fine," I said. I turned back to Jayne and the list on my phone, but the woman behind me kept muttering about socks and how it was winter and cold.

"I don't have socks on, either," I said, irritated. And it was true: I was wearing loafers but no socks because finding a matching pair had been more effort than it was worth that morning.

But the woman wouldn't let it go. "It's abuse!" she said. "It's child abuse!"

Shocked and angry, I said, "We're doing the best we can."

But the woman got increasingly worked up. "Please stop talking to me," I said, and I pushed Jayne away from her. We took up residence near the potatoes where I once again tried to consult my phone.

"You are abusing your child!" she called after me. "I feel sorry for that baby!"

I did not look back at her and pushed my cart as fast as I could past the donut case as her words followed me: "I feel sorry for any child that has you as a mother! You are not capable of caring for your children!"

I made it a few feet further to the deli counter before I had to stop, clutching my chest, as an anxiety attack overcame me. I gasped for breath and tried to hold back tears. I pressed a hand over my mouth and attempted to rein in my panic. The employees and patrons who passed me determinedly avoided eye contact, and I couldn't decide if I was grateful or if I needed help.

I started having anxiety attacks about five years ago (they usually happen at church or church activities since those are very triggering places for me). It is a helpless feeling to hyperventilate--to feel your breath come in huge, deep gasps, your chest spasming like a fish out of water--and not be able to control it. I have no shame when I'm in the throes of an attack--I don't care who sees. But when it passed a moment later, I made my way toward the refrigerated meats and stood there, my cheeks and chin quivering with barely-suppressed emotion.

I was a mess for the next 20 minutes or so and wandered aimlessly through the store, my thoughts too scrambled to function. Even as panic had coiled around me, I knew that this lady was ridiculous--she was obviously from another country and probably had very different cultural norms. I knew I was not an abusive mother. I knew it was fine that Jayne's feet were bare (we live in Las Vegas, not Minnesota, for crying out loud, and it was a sunny 53 degrees, and I carried her the whole time we were outside). Her words didn't pierce my confidence in my ability to care for my children. But my body's reaction was visceral, partly because I've rarely if ever been so blatantly harassed, and partly because I was barely keeping it together anyway and this simple shopping trip was such a monumental effort for me. That this woman, who did not know me, who did not know what I was going through at that moment, thought it was appropriate to publicly shame me for not putting socks on my child simply floored me.

I eventually regained my sense of self, and my on-edge emotions calmed. I completed my shopping trip with my posture erect and my gaze unflinching. I made a plan for if the woman approached me again (firmly tell her to leave me alone and start yelling for security if necessary), and I was no longer afraid of her.

A friendly cashier scanned and bagged my groceries, and I walked out to my car. I pulled Jaynie out of the cart and walked over to put her in her car seat. I rested my cheek on her hair, and she snuggled her head into my shoulder, her body relaxed into mine, her hands gripping my sleeves. We held on to each other long enough that the car doors automatically re-locked. I remember thinking how grateful I was to be her mother and how glad I was that she isn't abused. I buckled her into her seat in the sun-heated car and touched her toes.

They were warm.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Soon to be Three

{All photos by Katie of The Jadeite Shutter}

Mom is a bit apprehensive.

Dad and big sister Kate are ecstatic.

As for soon-to-be big sister Jaynie the photoshoot photo bomber... 

She has absolutely no idea what's coming.

...Baby boy arriving late August 2016...