Monday, May 11, 2009

Mother's Day, 2009

I had a good day yesterday, in some ways special, and in some ways like all others, filled with such ups and downs, give and take, and just general everything-at-once kinds of things going on, that it can only be described as motherhood:

1. Woke at 5:30 when Noah came and jumped on me. Elation, because he slept through the night for only the second time since weaning completely two weeks ago!

2. Got up with Noah because he wanted me first this morning instead of his father.

3. Helped Noah get dressed because he can take his pajamas off by himself now, so wants to do it immediately.

4. Started the makings for strawberry muffins then went on to clean the catbox (pee-yew) and organize the pantry while Matthew joined us and and he and Noah made the muffins.

5. Sat to a yummy breakfast of eggs and toast and muffins made by Matthew and read a heartfelt card from both of them. Highlight #1 of Mother's Day.

6. Helped clean up, packed the diaper bag and other sundry items needed for any trip out of the house, while Matthew showered.

7. Took a shower and got dressed while Matthew packed lunch.

8. Calmed husband after he freaked out that we were leaving the house an hour later than he'd hoped, although the only task in front of us was to pick up some garden tools at Job Lots for the groundwork happening at one of his schools tomorrow.

9. Calmed myself from having to calm him.

10. Noah fell asleep in the car, but woke 10 minutes later when we arrived at Job Lots, so we all shopped together. Matthew bought his tools and some reflectors for the end of our driveway. Noah bought more toy golf clubs, to add to his collection.

11. We drove home.

12. Unpacked the car, and Noah played golf in the dirt piles around our house that will be used to fill around the foundation, while Matthew raked some of the deep ruts left by the dumptruck that left said dirt piles.

13. This led to Noah learning about worms! Which he loved, because they have no eyes and no teeth. Image for mental forever file: Noah walking toward me with a big handful of worms wiggling all over the place (the worms, not Noah) yelling "Want to touch them, Mama?" Me settling my gag reflex and saying casually, "Sure." Highlight #2 of Mother's Day.

14. We all walked down the driveway together to put in the reflectors, with Noah and Daddy finding new worms all the way. "Wow, this is a big one Mama!"

15. We opened the garage to put something away, which led us to spend the next 45 minutes organizing the garage while Noah moved his worms from dirt pile to rut to dirt pile.

16. We came in and washed up. We changed Noah's entire outfit.

17. I went upstairs and read to Noah on his bed, then lay down with him for a few minutes to help him fall asleep for his nap. He cried because he wanted to come downstairs with me and Daddy and Sidney, our cat. The next moment he fell asleep and stayed that way for two hours.

18. Matthew and I eagerly began to sit down to work on some schoolwork that has been weighing on him and which it is impossible for him to get done during the school day. Moments later, my sister and brother-in-law stopped in to pick up our truck, which they are borrowing for a few days.

19. We visited through Noah's naptime, and I practiced maintaining inner flexibility in expectations around getting anything done in any given window of time, an Essential Strategy for a parent.

20. Noah woke and said hello to Auntie and Uncle on the porch as they headed out, then watched some PBS Sprout on television while I helped Matthew do said work for school. We plowed through two projects and completed them, what teamwork! Highlight #3 of Mother's Day.

21. Matthew and I declared that night "cereal night" and ate granola and yogurt. Rules for cereal night: anyone can call it and anyone else can veto it by volunteering to cook something. I cooked an additional dish for Noah, a big bowl of steamed broccoli with butter. He ate everything.

22. Matthew suddenly became grouchy in the kitchen over another pile of paperwork sitting there, and I brought Noah upstairs in a small huff, temporarily fed up with the seemingly never-ending emotional roller coaster that results from his work demands.

23. I helped Noah into his pj's and was enchanted by his sweet smile and his love for his racecars. My heart softened again.

Digression: Recent funny racecar story. Noah's most recently purchased racecar is one from the Pixar movie "Cars." It's lime green with racing stickers all over it. When we bought it, we were walking toward the registers in the store and he yelled out to a passing employee "I'm buying a new racecar! Want to see it?" The man walked over, and as he did the walkie talkie on his belt blared. Noah said, "Your body talks!" I looked at the man's name tag as I lifted the racecar to show the employee. "Noah, his name is Billy and he has a walkie talkie," I said and pointed to the walkie talkie at the employee's waist. Noah inferred instead that the racecar's name was Billy, and he had a walkie talkie, and so henceforth, that was the racecar's name. I explained once what I had meant, and then let it go. "Billy is a fine name for your car." Now back to Mother's Day.

24. Matthew came up and helped Noah wash up and brush his teeth, while I got into my pajamas and washed up. Division of labor, another Essential Strategy of parenting, although sometimes the trading off feels like we are just cogs in a big oily machine, rather than an actual loving married couple.

25. We read to Noah, and I lay down with him to help him fall asleep.

26. Matthew went to bed. He staves off any work-related anxiety by "banking sleep" as he calls it.

27. Noah asked for a made-up story about Thomas the Tank Engine and I obliged. In this one, Thomas made temporary rainbows by splashing through the puddles gathered on the tracks of his branch line, but they didn't last once the misty water dropped back down, so he waited eagerly for a real rainbow. He was not disappointed, and neither was I. Noah smiled a big grin in the dark when the story ended with a banner of colors glowing above Thomas.

28. Then I asked for quiet. Finally, right?

29. Moments later, when Noah began deep sleep breathing, I headed into our already dark bedroom and pried my way into my husband's sleepy arms.

30. I silently called it a day, a good one - Mother's Day, 2009.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Dancing Queen

So I did actually just watch "Mamma Mia" two weekends ago, but that isn't exactly inspiring this post. It's a few weeks of using our new YMCA membership that has my spirit tripping the light fantastic. Our local Y has an in-house babysitting program, which means that Noah can happily play with other kids and zillions of toys in a secure room with trained adults while I spend one hour moving my body as much as I can in the cardio room upstairs. This has already proven incredibly freeing and energizing for me, after two-and-a-half years of parenting without regular play groups, programs, classes, or childcare.

I quickly created a routine at the gym, half an hour on the treadmill and another twenty minutes or so on the bike machine, devouring whatever magazines were left on the shelves there. This was great for the first several visits. Although I don't necessarily have lots of baby weight to lose in terms of pounds, there has definitely been a redistribution of things since having Noah, which doesn't feel great. So I quickly was feeling hopeful about that, after a long time of lowered energy, coupled with the inevitable winter-will-never-end physical shutdown.

Then last Thursday I introduced music into my workout. I dug out my black and yellow walkman from the packed up boxes in the garage. It has a radio and tape player in it. I loaded new batteries in it. I also found my two boxes of cassette tapes, some dating back to high school, which include a wondrous stash of mixed tapes. Many of these are from college, including the music lineups from some of the best campus-wide parties. Even more are from after college, during the stretch of years when I danced at Zootz in Portland at least once a week, even after I'd moved back to central Maine.

So my first cassette selection was a mixed tape of dance music I heard at Zootz all the time in 1994. I felt a smidge self-conscious on the treadmill because the women on either side of me had tiny ipods smaller than credit cards, and were wearing ab-baring tops and shorts to my Adidas sweatpants and white men's v-neck. I felt righteous too, but old. Parenting has a way of making me feel that way at times. Used up. Not an ounce of hip left in me.

It took me two songs to figure out how to make the headphones work, which meant I missed hearing "Move This" by Technotronic, and "I Want You" by Julie Roberts, but then it kicked in when I accidentally hit a switch on the walkman that I didn't remember about. A dance beat! Loud! I started running much faster, and grinning at the memories flowing from each song. "A Deeper Love" by Aretha Franklin was poignant, as she just sang at the Presidential Inauguration earlier in the week. My heart was working much faster, and endorphins flooded my brain. I was dancing and running, and fantasized about everyone in the gym noticing how attractive and hip I really am, and giving me an ipod as a group gift so that I wouldn't have to listen to the old walkman any more. It's amazing how music and dancing can torch up the inner flame. I used to feel this way when I'd go out, caring less about whether I interacted with other people all that much, and more about getting this natural buzz going. I used to go to Zootz and dance from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. straight without stopping, and usually without alcohol.

I felt like I could run on the treadmill forever, even though I had to tap the right ear piece regularly to keep the sound streaming on that side. "Life" by Haddaway. Ace of Base, often described at that time as the next ABBA, but really, not so much. I went a half hour, and then the walkman ate my tape when the first side ended. I had to slow to a fast-walk so I could pull on the ribbon and get the twist out. I felt a smidge self-conscious again. Proud and embarrassed to be so old-school. But I fixed it, and ran again. "Good Vibrations" by Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch. I wondered if Mark Wahlburg looks back fondly on his beginnings. It's a great song, and I ran another twenty minutes. I picked up Noah downstairs in a state of total euphoria, and recreated this bliss for myself on Friday, and Sunday.

So, all to say that in the frozen wasteland that is Maine right now, the passion exists again. These few weeks of getting physical have helped me recapture a small amount of that old strut after way too many years. It's not just parenting, and the stress of going back and forth from feeling that glow of parenting a perfect child to wanting to commit terrible violence to myself so they'll have to take me away from here in an ambulance. It's years before, of doing difficult violence prevention work, dating people who didn't dance, seeing my wardrobe change from mostly interesting clothing to mostly conservative, growing up and leaving clubbing behind... But it's amazing what dancing did for my body, and how it elevates me. Latest lesson learned. If anyone out there is feeling less than, find that song that rips it up, and let it move you.