The Million Dollar Mom: Cyborg Mommy and Tremendous Twonagers

SO we left off in a bit of a to-be-continued holding pattern. There was our little two year old.

Her whole life ahead of her. Endless potential. And boundless energy.  Kangaroo farm tours be damned, she's happy to mill with the less animated animals and poke her fingers through the gates.  That will continue to continue.

And then there was her mamma. Looking a little bedraggled on the peak of her thirties.

Well, I mean, looking FAAAAGULUS (as Chaya would say, before rounds of Oooopah and "raise roof raise roof"). But a little physically worse for the wear recently. It all held together pretty nicely for the first two years of ignoring my physical health to tend the baby. But it certainly has started to catch up with me just in time to devour any remaining deductible on our health insurance.

So let's see. I've not made any returns to the Emergency Room (sorry, Chaya, I know you had a blast in the hospital). I'd call that a win, yeah? For about a week there, I got some pretty amazingly deep sleep. Just kind of out of nowhere. One day I was reconciling myself to a long slog out of insomnia and the next I'd passed out in my own drool by 8:30 p.m.. The last week has been a little less magnificent on those terms, but not as bad as the total sleepocalypse of mid-August. I am truly looking forward to cooler evenings, as I think some of the cooler nights have definitely helped. The heat and humidity are paralleled only by the click and WHIIIIIIIR of the air conditioner for sleep disruption.

I'm mostly back to my regular activities. Running pretty well. Doing a few mini-hikes. Walking in the mornings on my treadmill to get the blood pumping.

I'm currently drinking a small saccharine ocean every day. I hope it's helping. I've gained a great glob of weight, so there's that, I suppose. My blood pressure tends to remain low regardless. And some days - I imagine the poorly slept ones in particular - I still feel pretty light headed and "off," but not in a way as to completely interfere with everyday Chaya worship. This is a blessing in and of itself.

In fact, it's been a whirlwind of a fortnight.

Chaya's bestie joined her in the ranks of TWONAGERDOM!

And then there was a PARTY!

At Hillcrest Park. I was berating myself for being unable to get it together and go reserve a picnic space since we were meeting up on a beautiful, sunny day in Saturday. But apparently that was not necessary.

Chaya was surrounded by friends. Naturally, she spent much of the event attempting to leave for various other neighborhoods. But she also came back and stomped in the cornbread. Ate half a cheese plate and some other peoples' crackers. Discovered that the sprinkles on cupcakes are the best thing ever. And generally Wonder Womaned up the place. 

These kiddos have been buddies since about 4 months old. Can't believe how much they've grown.

AND then... The Falconers returned!!!!

And there was much bouncing.

And restauranting:

And more bouncing. 

So sometimes, I feel a little less yippee yippee woo and more just whoah, but not in a way that's stopped me from having a pretty incredible couple of weeks.

And back on the weight counter: Currently still gaining like a well selected index fund. I'm roughly 13 pounds up from the death knell dehydrated low. Which translates to about 5 or 6 pounds up from my summer average. And a healthy pound and a half up from last weeks weigh in. Technically a healthy BMI at the moment, though just barely and still leaning pretty heavily on some serious sodium-bloat. 

Of course I'm resentful that I'm being so terrifically compliant in my salt guzzling and weight gaining yet my body has the temerity to exhibit anything but the happiest of health. I mean, yeesh, I'm doing my best here.

Ah well. I have lots of medical excitement in the next few weeks.

But first, a product review(ish)

Humpty Diggety Dog Mamma got a brand new braaaacelet. On my birthday, I was still having transient symptoms of any unpleasant variety. Either the stress or the massive salt increase seemed to also be producing an uncharacteristically high resting heart rate (... for me... 70s...which was just strange). I'd asked to borrow Andrew's heart rate monitor. He tit-for-tatted and offered my non-materialistic (sure sure) wrist with a brand new Garmin VivoFit-HR.

I admit I'd been curious. I've trained with heart rate before, so it's something I do find fun to know about even when I'm not wondering if I'm having "an episode" (I'm embracing being old and transitioning from saying "I feel randomly whack" to "having an episode"... it makes me feel like a character in a British Romance)

But this is so much more than JUST a heart rate monitor. It gives my phone a run for its money by fulfilling many of its major functions: (1) stalking the heck out of me with GPS tracking, (2) buzzing with various notifications and rewards and other things that allow me to paw absentmindedly through various screens and otherwise jolt myself out of any present moment with data about THE PRESENT MOMENT, (3) needing charging just often enough that my brain must fixate on finding perfect times and places to plug it in.

Also it manages to notify me in a meaningful way when I receive a phone call by vibrating. Since I never notice my phone when such an event occurs, this has been life changing.

The Garmin is an activity monitor. As such it seeks to encourage activity. Possibly not the ideal urge for somebody who is apparently back at the old game of "gaining weight," but a putatively noble goal. Garmin does this by picking a few goals at seeming-random and rewarding you with a fulfillment countdown and little badges when you meet your apportioned "goals."

The first goal is naturally "steps." Which doesn't really mean steps. It means some degree of movement-based bouncing. Sometimes it doesn't seem to count steps. It definitely counts when I bounce up and down on my exercise ball. It does not count moving your hands while sitting. It only sorta counts riding in a car.

The second goal is "stairs." You're supposed to climb and descend ten a day. On the day I went running and hiking, I apparently "climbed" 36. On days when I actually go up and down the stairs repeatedly, I'm told I have gained zero stairs. This maddens me to no end. I typically go up and down our basement stairs roughly 5 times in a day. I grant our staircase might not count as a full flight, but there's more to the story, since I've also managed to get 3 flights of stairs before breakfast. And yes, I've paced up and down the stairs several times in a row to see if I get any "stairs" - it doesn't seem to change anything.

And then there are "intensity minutes." These are apparently minutes that fit into the weekly recommended "164 minutes of moderate activity or 64 minutes of vigorous activity". Considering I do the same treadmill walk, with roughly the same heart rate maxes, I couldn't tell you why my only intensity minutes were accrued on Thursday and Friday this week.

It also tracks "sleep," but this is inaccurately tied to "stillness" and maybe HR. According to Garmin, Andrew barely sleeps at all, while my most insomnia plagued evenings are counted as a chock-full of deep sleep, because I do a pretty good job of laying still and letting the gymnastics occur in my mind.

It's just enough information to drive a woman mad. Possibly driving her to desperately charging it during the only still moments, and then bounding up and down on her yoga ball to make up "lost steps" (thinking she's cheating, and yet actually raising her HR higher by doing this than pacing).

It's an odd sort of nag. On the one hand, I don't really care about being "more active!" If anything, I have typically benefitted from nagging to be "more idle." Or to "eat more." Nutritionists and professionals have been telling me for years that I'm more active than I think in all my little fidgets and whatnot. Perhaps I expected a little more confirmation from Garmin than I've received.

Probably doesn't help that I have a typically low heart rate, but one which elevates pretty well during aerobic activity. It also doesn't help that garmin has no metric - or any clue - about the breastfeeding, since my heart rate typically goes quite low during a Chaya feasting session.

This could be a problem if I were paying more attention. I've long given up on tracking my food (once quite a helpful metric for adding calories but totally confounded by my "eat everything in toddler range all day long and not a lot of contained meals" approach to eating. I know how to have "an additional 500 calories at least" by just adding juices and drinks where I wasn't. But if I were to compare my logged caloric intake and garmin's estimate of my activities, I suspect I'd be seriously underselling mysefl.

But enough about my bangles, I got chest-gear too!

On Monday I was fitted for my very own ZIOPATCH.

This thing is my first step towards becoming a cyborg. It is a smallish little pod that is glued over my chest with two electrodes in order to track two weeks' worth of heart rhythms. When it's all done, I mail it in and they plug it all into a computer and ... I GET MY VERY OWN ALBUM OF SICK HR BEATZ, baby! No, I think the computer analyzes it and looks for irregularities. There's a huge button on the top so you can record when you're having symptoms. It produces a little marker for that period to make it easier to locate and analyze. And then say "dude, panic button much?" Because lord knows if you've pressed it at an appropriate time. I spend a lot of time wondering if it's worth pushing the button for various non-events. Like how do you press a button for "felt lightheaded for several hours." Or "Kind of had a pain in my chest but really that was probably my skin reacting to this itchy adhesive stuff" Anyways. Many of my recorded symptos will likely be "toddler started tearing at the big shiny button on mommy's chest." But I'm almost grateful for the sporadic return of smoky air and sleepless hot conditions during the wear time. I'd like to pick up whatever can be found during the wear period. I'm not going skydiving, but a little nudge towards "seee THAT" wouldn't be minded.

And Chaya has been far less frenzied with it than expected, though it's taken some maneuvering. Since you aren't supposed to submerge it and Chaya only bathes if she's allowed to start the bath nursing, I haven't really cleaned the beast all that recently. We'll have to try it before I take it off (in two weeks)

... in Port Townsend! OOOOOOH AHHHH. Just because August is over doesn't mean the summer fun is! We'll rock this toddler right into The HOlidaze at this rate!

Finishing up the household tasks and Konmari is totally overrated.

I'm more excited about my upcoming stress test and - if I'm really lucky - lots of blood letting. With all the sodium in my system, it should at least come shooting out this time!

Third and Thirty-Sixth Slices of Heaven: A Tale of Two Birthday Girls with a Medical Mix

Chaya's SO very two now. No questions about that (though there are questions about everything else, because despite her articulate two-ness, sometimes spending time with a two year old is like playing angry drunk charades). Going on three. Rocking the starry eyed wonder. The sing-songer self-story omphaloskepsis of children and her parental lineage. Running with the abandon of a teeny kiddo. Taking excellent, albeit violent, care of her animals and friends. And otherwise being amazing.

Her birthday has been an unfolding celebratory wave. We began with amazing Indian with the Uber Aunties on the 14th (Happy Due Dateaversary)

(the phone was a lender not a gift. She named it CHAYA due to the selfie-camera, and she thoroughly blew Siri's mind)

On the day proper, mommy and Chaya had an amazing time with balloons, stickers, and all of Chaya's favorite foods.

Peanut-butter rice krispies for breakfast (Rice Krispies in milk with hempseed and then scooped in PB). Mac and cheese and three kinds of popcorn for dinner. Baby corn and mushrooms and cheese for lunch. We even had a strange power outage in the morning for a little extra adventure.

As she's currently refusing to drink anything that I've laced with the increasingly necessary Miralax, her week has been a little intense (anyone who thinks I cringe when she's offered cheese or highly refined baby-crack-crackers... it's not the inner health nut, it's the inner "but she ALREADY WON'T SLEEP because she's backed up... please just slather that wonderbread and corn syrup in metamucil and we'll call it even). With high moments. Good sleeps. Then bad.
Head Shoulders Knees and Toes!

 And of course, she's two, so there are no middle-grounds between agony and ecstasy.

Ok enough of the cute child.

Almost. Here she is with her cousins. She was a bit intimidated at first, until she was able to retreat to her crib and hold court for several hours, while they returned various animals and toys to her. Then it was love at fifty-millionth sight (we have a photo calendar of them that is one of Chaya's most cherished toys)

I think they fit right in together, don't you?

OK, but moving on...

How about Humpty Dumpty (but ne'er DUMPY) Mama?

Did I mention I'm falling apart?

Not exactly, but this August lead-in has some serious hangover to add to my self-reassembly project. Dental work, done. PT begun but derailed by several spine mangling postures in the hospital bed and at home. And now...

So it's twin issues in that they both began around the same time and probably have roots in that similar incident. Official current diagnoses include: dehydration/electrolyte imbalance, low blood pressure, and nighttime anxiety/insomnia.

 I don't really know what triggered off the bodymaggeddon. If I had to guess I'd say that I'm sensitive (duh) for whatever reason. Underlying condition may exist or sensitivity may be the underlying condition. The smoke and heat gave me a wonky GI tract in addition to a stuffy head. It all made me lose water in any variety of ways. Then Chaya, little sweat monster, started nursing in triplicate to add to the load.

I tried to make that up drinking more water, but just-water essentially continued flushing out electrolytes and the water itself wasn't retained. So, dehydration escalated. Meanwhile the GI discomfort meant I wasn't eating much, which threw things off further. Then all the symptoms made it harder to sleep. Which made the idea of sleeping more stressful, especially when I felt like i was maybe about to kick the ice-bucket at any moment. Re-enter heartburn, upset stomach, insomnia related lightheadedness.

I had a visit with the cardiologist On Wednesday. My blood pressure was like 50/75 or something insane like that. My pulse at least was in the upper 40s, due largely to the sheer shots of adrenaline and shaking going on in that waiting room. But not exactly ideal. The Doc so helpfully said "oh no, don't lose sleep over this. It's really a simple thing. You'll be fine."

You'll never guess what the medical prescription is for the cardiac issues. Never!

Ok, you might not know what a Ziopatch is, or exactly whether I get to do a stress test in a month.

But the main advice could have been culled from so many medical files over the last decade. I'll start this the less ubiquitous one: I need to be consuming significantly more salt. When he said 8 grams, I was a little shocked, until I did the math and realized that's "just" 3100 mg of sodium. While that's pretty par for the American diet, I imagine it's still a lot lower than what I often get. And I'm sure the imbalance was pretty nuts when I was almost exclusively consuming unsweetened iced rooibos tea and cucumbers.

Oh yeah, also... He wants me to gain 10-15 pounds by our follow up in November. Deja entende?

You'd think the number of times I've been told to gain weight, it woulda stuck by now. And actually it does kinda. I am definitely less scrawny than four years ago. I have pictures to prove that point but I'd have to download them.

Anyways, some sticks. Then it drifts back down when I get stressed or distracted. And I'm kind of a defiant person, so the more that people (my beloved loved ones, especially) tell me to eat ice cream or whatever the less I want to. I'm not actually as rigid about my diet as the belief goes. I snack on chocolate through the day. Eat crackers and peanut butter habitually. Munch on Chaya's mac and cheese. I have my preferences. But the more I get pushed to eat more/saltier/sweeter, the more I want to go full purist to prove some kind of point. I'm going to have to get over that.

In many ways, that's actually a lot easier than it used to be. I've done this before. There's a litlte sinking feeling in that. I did in fact gain 10 pounds in the past (per doctors' orders) and it didn't magically clear up all my fertility issues, etc. I also feel like I have been pounding the saltwater and caloric intake this last week, while issues intermittently persist. My resting pulse seems to have shot up, at any rate. I don't know about my blood pressure. But I'm not magically rehydrated in a way that makes all the lightheadedness and occasional weirdness pass. There may be more to it. But I suppose we have to start somewhere.

I think maybe my error in the past has been making it just to healthy. Which is all well and good when I am healthy, but as soon as I'm stressed (traveling, moving, having a child), I immediately lose a little weight and that can slip-slide pretty quickly. If I were smack dab in the middle of healthy, I'd actually have some cushion (har har). And if there's something else wrong, having a little extra weight seems to improve outcomes, so either way/weigh...

Since I'm not walking astronomical miles on the treadmill everyday, It feels like I'm starting in less of a hole. You only need an extra 500ish calories a day to gain that kind of weight in that timeframe. And  I also know that I lost about five pounds in the last few weeks, which I am 90% certain is water weight. As soon as I got back from the hospital, I'd gained it all back (though it didn't remain).  I'm holding at that same steady and a little more this week after an insomnia related dip on Wednesday

I imagine adding a teaspoon of salt to two electrolyte recipes a day should handle a lot of that..

Not to mention the salted nuts Dr. Parmar's prescribed on my chocolate ice cream. I swear doctors LOVE talking to me. They're all frustrated chefs and i think they get extremely sick of telling people to knock off the salt and eat more celery. When they get to lay it on with healthy indulgences, they get incredibly creative! I should write a cook book of "Delicious Delicacies Docs Swear Will Gain You Weight in No Time!"

For now I'm adding tablespoons of nut butter to my usual snack breaks and channeling my grazing behavior with heavier ammo. Have almond butter on a cracker instead of a carrot stick, dried fruit and larabars instead of cauliflower etc etc. Sprinkling everything with hempseeds, chia, and other ground nuts. Doubling up my dairy (cottage cheese is pretty darned salty, after all), adding a glass or two of milk, and adding fruit juice back into the electrolyte mix doesn't hurt. And going with "when I usually would take a nibble, I will take a HUGE bite." It sounds minor, but I need sustainable lifestyle changes. And I still really just don't need to eat an ice cream every day. Though of course there will be some birthday ice creamery in there somehow.

There certainly was birthday cornbread with strawberries. And then cornbread with chili. And then cornbread because there's still cornbread and probably that needs some chocolate.

(Also, cars)

As for the sleep, well... that's going to be a slow process.

Since just before the ER, I was getting to a point where my heart would start pounding, my mind racing, and my body jittering as soon as I hit the pillow. I could feel utterly fine and drowsy until then, but as soon as I hit the bed, it all went acidic. Recently I've alternated between falling asleep fairly immediately, but then waking up feeling shaky AND just not falling asleep for a really long time and sleeping fairly lightly between restfulish chilling.

I should add that I have fairly fastidious sleep habits, due to a youth spent with bouts of insomnia. I unplug well before bedtime. I unwind. I turn off lights. I use the oft recommended sound machine (to Andrew's angst). I deep breathe. Write away my thoughts before bed. Etc. etc. But honestly, until I was married, my one hands down cure for riding out these periods was going into the living room, putting on tv/netflix and just passing out on the couch. That's not exactly workable when I want to go to bed ninety minutes before Andrew usually does. And the inevitable in and out of the bedroom is fairly disruptive to any light sleepers.

On many nights I've realized that as long as I'm not technically trying to sleep, I can coax myself into it. Sitting in bed with the light on. Laying on the couch and reading with my head propped on a pillow. If I can just trick myself into a certain coma, I might be able to transition. But of course, if I wake again.

It's seriously like self-sleep training. Learning how to fall back asleep again and again! It's actually gotten better the last couple of days, but I don't want to jinx anything.

And with that, we're off to the races, off to third and thirty-sixth year amazingness, and I'm off to uplink my fancy new Garmin (thanks to my very sweet husband who made an emergency birthday stop at Best Buy yesterday evening)

One-foot in the Grave-y: Terrible Two (Weather Weeks) and ER Excitement!

I'm not dead yet!!

...Buuuuuuut my ascent up that proverbial hill (five years to go!) to being the 35 year old mum of a certified two year old still has a couple of days left to throw at me.

What a month. August - that high holiday month of Wright-lady festivity - entered like a sweaty barmaid staggering home after a rough night. The predicted WEATHER EVENT of our blissful PNW summer season!! Always something. Always riveting. Always occasion for obsessively reloading weather station discussions, Cliff Mass and various news sections.We started with predictions of heatwave and then somebody jumped the shark, went rogue, blew off piste, and otherwise said heck to it all and unleashed Smokezilla (credit to Cliff Mass). Originally, it was anticipated that temperatures would reach into the mid-nineties mid-week. That was not to pass, but it left us better prepared, since we finally relented and installed the air conditioners in our respective bedrooms.

The heat and smoke gradually sidled into town last Tuesday. I took Chaya on our last anticipated outdoor excursion to her first official spray park. Inevitably she spent more time exploring my car and running up and down the slide than the actual park. Once she'd wet through her swim diaper and I'd changed her into ordinary clothes, she naturally developed an interest, but mostly for running near the water and fleeing.

She got a little wet, then returned to the car. It was not the bath-substitute I'd hoped it would be, but it was fun.

It was also my last "good day" for a good stretch.

Along came Wednesday: The Day of Smoke. Followed by Thursday, 2 Smoke 2 Furious with a nice twist of upper eighties to complement that completely sealed off home. Things weren't great by Friday. They cleared a bit by Saturday and Sunday in time for an outdoor birthday party in Bellingham.

 Crappiness resurged, although the temperatures were lower and things started to clear up overnight before getting worse again.

Let's just say it didn't sit well with me. I'm not sure what conflagration of misfortunes were exactly to blame: minor dysentery, heartburn, a pulled pectoral muscle, insomnia, general sensitivity to poor air quality, heat intolerance... It was pretty brutal. I think there were about 3 days running where I seriously had to contemplate whether this was the kind of thing somebody goes to the ER for. I'd say every time the only reason I didn't was because it seemed like it would be a huge hassle to screw up a baby nap and possibly be forced to stay overnight and maybe I'd just wait and see how I felt after a half hour in the air conditioner. And I still wasn't sure it was right call. Lest we forget, I also have been dealing with a wonky lumbar area, for which I'm just starting PT. And for fun, I seem to have twisted my knee. Humpty Dumpty momma was getting less and less fun. And yet I persisted. Entertaining a two year old and keeping a house maintained is kind of a biological imperitive.

The smoke finally cleared. Sadly, I felt even worse! Or, I felt generally better, except that the times I felt worse, I felt a lot worse. Three nights of really uncomfortable insomnia with chest discomfort. Plus a good dose of peri-syncope and parasthesia (I dun' lerned myself some medical terms) on the last night when I got up to consult with my husband.


We celebrated Chaya's almost birthday by revisiting her origin story: BACK TO THE HOSPITAL.

The official discharge papers posit that my heart rate is always alarmingly slow and that isn't a problem alone but maybe it makes things look  a lot worse when I nearly pass out in hallways because I'm possibly dehydrated... Or I have the same thing as my dad, to the extent that his sick sinus syndrome began with similar symptoms. But it isn't an imminent threat to my life if I keep taking it easy (har har). Labs didn't show any markers of heart attack, so after about eighteen hours of prodding, echocardiograming and a ton of waiting, I was released back into the wild with some paperwork and imminently scheduled cardio tests for all kinds of birthday fun.

Andrew is jealous that I may get to actually discover my VO2 Max in the upcoming treadmill stress test.

They didn't find anything clinically off with my electrolytes but after several saline bags being dripped into my very tender veins, I definitely have regained several pounds of water weight from a pretty concerning pre-admission low. Thus I've concocted my own electrolyte drink based on the cardiologist's recommendation. Hopefully that will keep things from slip-sliding down the water spout for a while longer. 

At any rate, this all tanked our original happy baby birthday preview plans. Chaya seems to have had more than enough fun, regardless. Instead of going to the County Fair, Chaya got to wake up with daddy (my first morning ever of not being there to greet her in the morning was very bittersweet for me, but she's a big girl now and rolled with the novelty). Then she got to watch YouTube BEFORE breakfast. She got to entirely skip that pesky table and toothbrushing in exchange for breakfast on the run - daddy's cafeteria potatoes, a snack pack olio of favorite foods and a very beleaguered banana. Played and munched in a room full of beeping objects, strange remotes, chatty beds, doting medical experts, and her maternal grandparents. She even got a park break between meals. And then instead of a birthday venture to the local tea room with Grandpa Ian, Chaya got to eat very sweet tomato sauce from Grandpa Ian and climb gramma Pam's pull out hide a bed while dressing her giraffe in the new clothes Grandpa Ian had bought her. Only thing she really missed was mommy's midnight ambulance to the hospital. She would have liked that I bet. Next time... Next time...  She was pretty sold. I think I might need to reserve a room at the hospital for her third birthday party at this rate.

And... whew...

It's been a surreal little experience all around. Before falling into the wall, I was having those reflections of gratitude and awe at having been able to be a part of Chaya's life for this long. When she was nine months, I wrote her a letter lest she not grow up with me under any number of circumstances. As we approach, two years, I don't have a letter, but I do also recognize that her memories of me will still be largely instinctive and retellings of stories others have told.

And no matter what, she'll continue becoming a different Chaya every few days.

And I think there's something about a life lived where you can't have regrets, per se, because of where you've ended up. I would never want to relive many slices of my life. I don't miss them or ever want to go back. I've done those things. They are ompleted. And I wouldn't want to ever try to do it over differently. Because any single change may have interfered with the existence of this Chaya.

I could have avoided years of mental draining if I knew some things in advance. But what if I was healthy enough to be in a good relationship with somebody other than Andrew? When I was younger? Before I had issues with fertility? What if I had other children? I'd love them all too, but the absence of Chaya would hang like a specter over even the most prosperous of circumstances.

If I'm told tomorrow that I have no more time with Chaya, I would rage. I have a healthy appetite for life, but losing the future of Chaya's life would anger me most. It still, however, would be worth it.

And instead of a letter, I'm just going to leave a little prayer. for her. I suspect even in the likelihood she'll be plagued with mommy for many years to come, this mommy and this Chaya will be many evolutions past. So I send this to the future. It's an approximation of the prayer I say to her at bedtime each night.

Now, it's time to come down... let go of the energy of the day and give way to dreams.

As you do I'm sending you all my love and energy.

Energy to your eyes as they slowly grow heavier. Staying closed just a little longer with every single blink. Filling with moisture. Washing away the light of the day. Leaving a still space for the images of your dreams.May you see the light in every dark place. And may the shadows bring you nuance and meaning.

To your nose as it pulls in soothing, calming oxygen. And presses out the dust, the dirt, the frustration, and the tension of the day. Pulling in calm. Pushing out tension.

Energy to your mouth, so full of words. As your tongue becomes moist and heavy like a sponge. Your lips uncurl. Your teeth healthy. When you wake tomorrow may you be ever more able to say the words you need to say. May you speak with the wisdom, truth, kindness and insight.

Energy to your ears as the pressure slowly fades, and all the noises of the day wash away in the ocean, leaving only the steady baboombaboombaboom of your heart. May you hear the music in the world around you. May the truth rise out of the noise. May words of love and honestly speak louder than those of fear and deception.

Energy to your throat as soothing air passes in and tension rushes out. Calm in. Tension out. May you find your voice. May you sing your song. May those that hear it, stop and wish to sing along.

Energy to your lungs, puffing out your chest, wide with air, then squeeeeeezing out the tension. Breathing wide. Squeezing out tension. Every breath deeper, fuller, cleaner than the last.

Energy to your heart with its steady baboombaboombaboom. Pressing blood through your body. baboombaboombaboom  through your cheeks to your hair. baboombaboombaboom. Out your arms to your fingertips. baboombaboombaboom. Down your back to the bottom of your feet. baboombaboombaboom. May your heart remain whole despite hurts and uncertainties. May it beat with the rhythms of the world. May it always remain open to the beauty and kindness around you.

Energy to your belly, as it grows big with air, and presses out all the tension. Expanding and contracting. Calm in. Tension out. Light yet full. May the knots untie and the butterflies fly away.

Energy to your legs, your knees, your feet... as the springs slowly release and they grow limp like linguini. Resting, healing and growing stronger. May they help you dance a million dances. May they take you on a million journies, then always home again.

Energy to your arms as they too pull into the ground and release their energy. Giving in to gravity. May your arms remain wide open to life. May your hands always be open to another in need. And when you reach out, may you find a hand to hold. 

Energy to your brain, buzzing with new ideas, new discoveries, big connections, and even bigger emotions. May it come down now like a feather falling from the sky. Releasing and giving into dreams. When you wake tomorrow may you be ever more confident to navigate all those big thoughts. Make those new connections. Hold those big feelings. May you honor every part of yourself but let none overwhelm you.

And to your body. That you feel my arms around you, now and even more when I'm no longer there. And you know that you are safe, you are loved, and you are held by something so much greater than just me.

I love you so much, Chaya. I pledge to try every day to create and discover worlds worthy of your wonder. I look forward every day to discovering the world that you create. I pray nothing stands in the way of you becoming your truest self. And I thank you every day for all that you have brought to my life.

Happy birthday baby. I hope to celebrate oh so many more with you. But I am honored for these last three.

Two weeks to TERRIBLY TERRIFIC and a Konmarriage of Semi-Convenience

I remember a year ago, I was musing that Chaya was something of a twoddler - not really an infant, but not quite a toddler. 

Things have changed. 

She's pretty much the middle-age of toddlerdom, and fully inhabiting that role. 

I love it. I rue it. I sometimes find myself melting down over some really incidental thing my darling husband has said before wandering straight into a wall and wondering who replaced my usual blood with gunky car-oil. 

She's verbal and opinionated. As feministish parents, we're not going to use the word "bossy" but boy does she have some strong conceptions about what everyone around her should be doing and is ... um... very assertive about expressing these expectations. Mommy and daddy get quite a few commands to cough, yawn, sneeze, feed various animals, feed each other, eat something, wear something, take something off, put Chaya somewhere... It's hard to keep up with the little tyrant, but it's mostly like one long game of Simon Says around here. Only 30% of the commands are things that we sooooooo are not doing right now. 

We're at that stage where I have been describing her as "two" for a month or two. Occasionally appending "almost" or "in August" but less often these days. And possibly that stage where I've idly browsed various preschool options just to get a sense of "oh wow, three hours a day for 3-5 days a week sounds like both A LOT and hardly any time at all." But, dude, Children's Museum has a preschool. I want to go!

It did remind me how little "extra time" preschool really buys and how fortunate a family has to be to afford it and daycare and so on. This in turn makes me grateful that we can afford my hiatus from the working world, while also making me realize that any ambitious career building is not heavily on my agenda in a year's time. 

Staying-at-home-momming is complicated and I feel like the world continues throwing dire warning about losing one's identity, drifting from one's partner and so on and so forth. I mused on this a bit in a Facebook conversation that I'm partially quoting now: Anyone can tie their identity to a single aspect of their lives - parenting/work/dance/sports/working out/following a certain diet/political beliefs or activism - and take it to an unhealthy place. I've never been good at being a "true believer" about pretty much anything in that sense! I guess I'd call myself spiritual but not religious about pretty much everything. I could never be a pinterest mom. Could never be fully embraced by motherhood anymore than Chinese, lawyering, or any of it. There will always be a little pinky toe reserved for an inner chamber in my mind, always saying "wait wait... here I am!" Which is a strange contrast to my generally immersive personality, that also wants to go above and beyond in any venture I choose.

For me, the SAHM gig has been a cool extension of being at work staying myself. Work and study have always provided more of  a language to express parts of myself or a prism through which to cast my inner chromatics than a tailor-made-identity. This current incarnation is not so different.

There's something utterly awe inspiring about making space for a life to become itself. Letting something you love get hurt and try and fail in a safe space. Not wanting to let it happen for surprisingly selfish reasons (holy crap a moody miserable frustrated toddler is a PITA, it throws off anyone's patience and daily plans - and the ER seriously SUCKS).Something massively introspective about (pretend) calmly telling a screaming child that I can see she's feeling ____, and I'm there with her, but knowing and respecting that I cannot fix that as much as give her the support to navigate into and through her emotion. Explaining that negative emotions are important too if we learn how to process them. Letting myself be re-enchanted with the perfunctory. Following and laughing and sometimes just realizing how much there is to my own failures and shortcomings that can be celebrated somehow. For failing and letting down my kiddo repeatedly and thinking that's good, because we reconnect in the repair.

I watch language develop. I watch my barest human instincts play out when there aren't years of cerebral conditioning, cognitive developments, and socialization. I learn so much about myself and this little species of ours every day. I philosophize. And sometimes I take long breaks and rant about politics or feminism or weird artwork and poptarts on the internet. But all in all, it's been a pretty cool extreme experience.
I'm not sure where that leaves the future, but for now there's a certain exhausted contentment in that. And I am fortunate to have a very supportive husband, who has really tried to rise to the 50-50 parenting occasion when he isn't work. I know I've reflected on the mental load of mothering, and that's still an aspect, but we both have heavy loads and take on loads. And it inspires me that we both still try to ease the onus either of us holds. 

And now, I return to our regularly schedule WHOA.... 

We're at the precipice of the craziness of August. It always accelerates around now. We were trying to get as caught up as we could in July, and we did ok, but there are several projects that will never quite get gotten to until next year, or at least mid-fall (before the holidaze kicks in). BBQs, County Fairs. A million little birthday fetes. Relatives from all about the boughs of my family tree. And a big trip to the Woodland Park Zoo for the Ms (W)rights' birthdays. Then September and... the first part of September is always an extension of August.
So, where are we? 

Mt Vernon, duh!!

But I'd say we have the nursery pretty well hacked. We have a few thoughts for the outside areas. And my shower door doesn't really need to work if I just take a bath or two a week with the toddle-waddle. 

And we're maybe mid-Kando. But with all the harder categories to go. Just in time for birthdays!!

I can't review Kondo and have no intention to write yet another beautifully pithy "why I - as a parent - abhor Marie Kondo and all her silliness" type articles. For one, I don't have any strong feelings about her method beyond "maybe there are some interesting ideas to pick from maybe?" For another, well, I have never read her book. Any organizing and purging I'm doing peripherally to Andrew's Konmari experience is largely because I'm a wee bit excited to get some spousal buy-in to my preexisting desire to get the madhouse back into some semblance of manageable before our wee Chaynado amps it up another exponential level or twenty. 

I admit, I am a wee bit disappointed to discover that this new wonder-system (let's trot out a collaborative law trope and go with "paradigm shift" in Andrew's case) isn't actually that purposed for managing toddler wrangling. Or, at least, he is clear that Konmari is premised on the idea that you manage your stuff and do not involve others, or attempt to steer their ownership relationships; he thinks all the comical articles from parents who "HATE MARIE KONDO" just really miss the point. Sure, we can model behavior for our children. Sure we can move their stuff all to the tatami room. But we're not really Konmarying our kiddos in any systematic or wonderful way.  

So, Kondo sounds wonderful for all the single ladies. At least for those who don't already have a pretty functional system in their lives. But for those who have been esrtwhile organized single folks, the majority of stressors and challenges typically come from the collision of your way of keeping things and that of those around you. The more common-space and common-possessions, the less utile the careful and fastitdious curation of one's personalties seems to me. Most of my personal possessions are hidden in closets, minimal, and fairly sorted. When I was a single grown-up, I was quite comfortable with my balance of organized and "creative." I had my areas of chaos and my cultivated quiet space. I never felt particularly buried, and could always find things as needed. I reviewed everything on a regular basis.

I can unclean that clean kitchen with my mind, mommy. 

My material world now consists of (1) common household possessions like kitchenware, cleaning supplies, glasses and mugs, towels, sheets, random baby proofing items that didn't quite work out, etc (2) BABY stuff. My "purse" is a bag that packs full and regurgitates diapers and wipes and snacks and baby drinks and baby medications and baby sunscreen. (3) whatever small personal cups and plates and items that Andrew and I left out that would ordinarily be minimally impactful but which now serve as both tipping points and a toddler-temptations. 

So no Kondo? Maybe to Kondo? 

I have my evolving systems. 

There are some challenges that must be addressed to find a system for toddlerdom and sanity.   

1. Out of sight out of mind. If Chaya sees something - phone, soap, razor ... - she needs it, and typically not for a kid-safe or mother-approved purpose. If it's potentially messy, breakable, or toxic, it needs to be out of sight. Things that trigger associations with other things need to be off sight to avoid a tantrum at certain times. If Chaya sees a toothbrush, she remembers the YouTube toothbrushing video wants to watch videos for the rest of the day. If she sees a shoe, suddenly we must go outside... Etc. There are two rooms Chaya can't go into. Neither of those are useful because they cannot be entered while Chaya is awake. At least not worth the tantrums. Chaya routinely opens and disembowels any storage below mommy-chest-level.This means things typically vie for space on the limited upper-storage space.

2. But then... out of sight out of mind. There are some things I just forget to do if the proper tool isn't right in front of me. Toothpaste, face wash... Sometimes I sit down to dinner having forgotten my food because it was still in the fridge/microwave/wherever. So I kind of need to figure out new ways of returning things to sight. So far this involves a pre-meal staging process. I put everything away after meals (while she's restrained) and superfluous items out of the way while getting ready for meals. But then I take out everything I might need for the toddler tapas that is one bite of cottage cheese and flax and yogurt, two bites of dadda's trail mix, two snap pea crisps dipped in peanutbutter, one tablespoon of ketchup, one teaspoon of ketchup and mustard, a quarter serving of rice krispies mixed with milk and hempseeds, a bite of toast, two slices of momma okra, a small bowl of green beans, a serving of mushrooms, a last minute urgently needed bite of banana, half a rosemary sea salt cracker, and a blend of every cereal in the house served dry so we don't get her stuffed loris puppet all wet...  

Plates come and go from the table back and forth through the staging area as needed. I don't mind hte up and down, because ultimately if there's more than a few nibbles of food in front of her at a time it will end up on the floor or wall (accidentally or on purpose, who cares?)

3. Out of sight, probably out of easy grabbing distance. I know in manufacturing technology there's a logical idea that proper organization focuses more on "ease of putting away" versus "ease of access," but that doesn't always pan out when you have a toddler (a/k/a triage tyrant). Sometimes I need food/wipes/diapers/random-piece-of-shiny-junk-to-distract-from-nefarious-plans-and-tantrums-object right now. If something's behind a latched door, then it is dead to me. It already takes us several hours to get out the door. Now, yes, having piles of things out effectively creates the same chaos that makes it impossible to reach something, but it's hard to anticipate which things will SUDDENLY by needed in a given moment. Which confounds things. There are little triage kits in every room: a few books/magazines, wipes, diapers, and some random junk to offer if an immediate distraction is needed. 

4. And out of sight... Possibly out of existence. Forever. I have no idea what happened to: my toothbrush, my credit card, Chaya's favorite farmer/cow/sheep/horse figurines, several books, scads of socks... at least 75% of my prior vocabulary... In fairness, I just found my electric toothbrush at Sebastian's house, so that's a win! Hey, my electric toothbrush was at Sebastian's house in his toybox, and the sippy cup full of milk... we eventually found that! I now keep my most needed possessions in various containers nearby on top shelves. I can take them out quickly then return them quickly when the beast is distracted with mischief. 

So, yeah, if I had one more kid or a job, I'd surrender to my junk pile sweet junk pile (rats make great pets, right?), but I'm still fighting the fight. Returning things routinely. Sometimes Chaya enjoys participating. Trash throwing and putting things in boxes is a fun one for her. 

Now if I can just kondo my calendar to have a nice bit of joy-sparking down-time and a few moments alone in a shower with a closing door (hey this weekend, I got a plunge in the uncomfortable bathtub alone while the kiddo played at the park with daddy!)? 

Happy almost-August. Let us all age beautifully together and find our toothbrushes when we most need them... probably about five minutes before mommy really needs to leave and it suddenly sparks less joy and more of a need to WATCH WATCH WATCH a half hour of videos about toothbrushing 

Clutter-Free Cluster-Fun? Holidaze Hankerings Edition

And then there was one... less than one... month to TWO!! AGH!!!

Actually, Chaya's already embracing her twoness in many wonderful ways.

I'm learning many of my most oft repeated words from her burgeoning little linguistic repertoire: "pretty cool," "awesome," "oh really?", "oh goodness," "careful!", "nervous," "BABY DOWN" (my attempt at neither escalating nor minimalizing Chaya's frequent pratfalls), "accursed mountebank"... the usual.

And she has coined what appears to be the word FAGULOUS... which I'm not sure I think she should be repeating in polite company, but could be appropriate uttered in very narrow circumstances. Along with her continued insistence that we must call a spoon "booze" and use a work for "fork" that definitely has some cacophemistic qualities to it.

She also does high fives and raises the roof (or possibly razes; "RAIZ ROOF RAIZ ROOF"), and says "OOOOPA!" for her daddy and "OOOOKRA!" for her mommy.  And ABDs, ONE-TWO-THREE-FOUR... THEEE-FOOOR-FIVE-NINEs.

And the emotions. They be big, as promised. I hear that two actually isn't that terrible compared to what lays ahead. I hear that two-year-olds are walking bags of frustration and angst because they ought to be understood and want to understand and it's just damned frustrating (little artists). I hear that then they're three and they understand and they're like "fork that noise, mommy and daddy." And then they're four and they're all that but big enough that it's even harder to physically restrain them from hurting you and ... seriously parents of older kids love horror stories. I get a little nervous that Chaya already can trigger me, exasperate me, and get my mommy-goat (mah mah here and mah mah there) despite all my gentle meditative mindful effort, already! Before she even really is trying to do so.

At any rate there is a flavor of two that we're definitely imbibing at the moment, for good and ill and all adorable. There's an iron will, for sure. Vivid concentration. Immaculate memory and object permanence. A desire to test boundaries and assert identity. The gleeful bacchanalia that tips into ovestimulated decompensation at a second's notice. And of course the wonderful wonder and sense of discovery. It's a barrel of wowza.

As we wind into year two, the household continues to adapt.

The Schtuff schlog persists. We've wended through accessories (bye bye amazing earring collection languishing in dusty desuetude), and special purpose clothing (note to self: modern maternity bathing suits are beautiful and go a long way towards celebrating the non-existent BUMP, creating a rather eerie vacuum in your post partum midsection and it's time to let go).

And we continue to contemplate acquisition in regards to the little schtuff magnet.

It's strange to reflect on certain joys and 'filias of my childhood; and then choose to do something differently than my parents. I had an amazing childhood. I think Chaya should be half so lucky with her parents as I was with mine. And I have such strong positive memories of acquiring things. I blanch at some of the things I took joy in. If it was bored, I liked just going to an accessory store and buying earrings. Or a shirt. Or anything. I loved to buy things. And receive things. And acquire. And store things. But in a sense, we all evolve. I evolved with my mother and father after their divorce. What gave me joy then is different. And it at the very least reinforces that no matter what we start with, Chaya's preferences (and ours) will be two hundredfold different by the time she's an adult.

I can only do what I can do. And for all our sakes, I'd love to promote a less congested world. At the very least so mommy doesn't die strangled in Chaya's undersized shirts or tripped down the stairs of WonderBlox.

** Standard Disclaimer- Omphaloskeptical Skepticism of Everything Else I say Above and BelowAhead **

Apparently the key word into the cultist version of my yen to simplify with a child is "clutter free." Welcome to the handy world of blogs, listicles and hand crafted sustainable advice.

Clutter free also represents the kind of fastidious minimalism that doesn't appeal to me either. I think there's merit and logic in allowing a little chaos and celebrating objects and possessions.

The fixation on experience over possession only goes so far. One can just as readily clutter one's time with meaningless business or obsessions (like, say maintaining a minimal lifestyle in a society of pullulating consumption). Of course we clutter our time with busy-ness, phones, etc. But I'll get to that in a sec. 

I get the sense that the emphasis on leisure time over possessions is pointedly a signal of participation in a certain class of American society. Time is valuable in a way consumable goods no longer are. In a culture where time is the true premium - where we are flooded with so many cheap and available goods and junky mass-produced food as to have no limitations on our acquisition of it before it become deleterious to our well-being - of course it becomes a certain endemic that people will feel oppressed by their stuff.

 Of course classist strains of "virtue" will attach itself to those who have time to: (1) live sustainably, (2) cultivate their possessions, (3) eat handmade food with minimal processing, (4) optimize their free-range learning opportunities, (4) etc. And that the time and energy required to keeping only what is needed, organizing and caring for what is kept, and otherwise maintaining a lifestyle that might be the only option in a less "affluent" society, is only something available to the wealthier. 

Besides, as an introvert, I really do value my empty time as much as my empty space. Sometimes I hear the suggestion of offering to take a beloved child on a trip and I think of the many relatives I would have hated traveling with or being left alone with for a period of time. Or classes I would never want to be obligated to attend any more than hanging onto something. 

Not all clutter free sermonizing is blind to this one. There's a heavy emphasis on the screen-free. The Nordic fetish with playtime and Hygge... But, still, keeping a perfectly balanced and clutter-free home for your free-range child smacks of "stuff well-off white people like" about as much as day hiking with a structured pack (ahem, not that we've done that recently), farm-to-table foods, or paying to pick berries (uh huh) at the local farm. 

Not that this is bad intrinsically, but it's worth the reflection that I am pointedly a product of my culture.

And, let's just be honest... it all comes down to a fetishization of some sort. One can be minimalist one of two ways: (1) basically an anorexia of ownership- turning compulsive consumption into compulsive non-consumption until it truly consumes one's life, (2) putting all one's energy into consuming and possessing only the highest quality items. There's an Epicurean delightfulness in this, but it certainly manages to again prioritize consumption. So we're all somehow in the same situation. We just have different resources for our consumption. And it's nice to have time and resources to be mindful. But seriously, with a toddler, I don't have that much mind left, so maybe I'm not the right target for anything too thorough on any grounds. 

Finally, I am NOT a mom-blogger who thinks my kid should make her bed every morning, donate all her toys, and keep the fridge totally clear (seriously??)

Ok... that out of my system. There's too much stuff in our house!! Chaya and I are both overstimulated. Let's manage instead of cultivate for now...


My current fixation is on occasions, particularly with the little one's second coming up. How to celebrate them and bring the magic of my childhood holidays into her life in new ways.

Right now I'm trying to figure out the balance between object and experience. Receiving and giving gifts is an experience in itself. There's a place for this far beyond any mercantile exchange of goods. And there's something even more important about tangibility in an increasingly virtual world. 

 I remember holidays and the magic around gift-giving so fondly. Christmas and the brightly colored packages. The crinkle of ribbons. The visceral satisfaction of stockings. And the Easter baskets. Objects become totems for tacit and deeply held mutual affections. The act of exchanging them in certain ceremonial ways become reinforcing rites that glue families together in tradition. There is a joy in tangibility that I cannot deny. I miss that joyousness even now, though I less frequently get hand wrapped gifts. When I do get a stocking, even if nothing in the stocking is particularly interesting, there's some magic still clinging.

Which makes me wonder: how do I preserve that tangibility and festivity without relying on (1) junk, or (2) junk food. Really, I have no desire to replace clutter with crap. Not that certain holidays won't be devoted to the mindless consumption of things, but ultimately... well, I'd rather find a third way.

A few thoughts I've had so far:

* I enjoyed my childhood Easter Tradition of finding dyed eggs, then making them into an Easter meal. I also enjoy Claudia's Easter tradition of using shelled eggs, brightly coloring them, filling them with confetti, and then cracking them on the ground at the end. OOOPA!

* I recently discovered a group called Skagit County Rocks! They are centered are painting rocks found while exploring, then hiding them again for other members of the group to find, then rehide. I like the idea that these are things people can paint creatively, and then give forward

* I like the idea of planting a tree each birthday. Maybe a similar green plant experience for other holidays?

* Chaya's recently become obsessed with stickers. While not exactly being consumable, they tend to stick on things briefly, get torn off and go into the trash. Major win.

* Chaya's always obsessed with balloons. And they too die over time instead of sedimenting.

* I love "adopting" an animal and sponsoring a child in a poorer country when I was younger. I "had" an orca, a goat, and a leopard. And I actually corresponded with a few children in various parts of the country. There are also magazine subscriptions. I loved Zoo Books as a kiddo.

* Of course there is a place for experience. I do want to do an outing and a special family meal/hang out for each occasion. This year, we're going to the zoo. I'm sure we can think of something special associated with that. Maybe animal feed for the chickens if we go to a farm? Something silly like that.

* Well, this is highly material, but new "big girl" clothes are always useful at this age. That will slow down, but... shoes and socks, hats, coats, etc. Still highly consumable.

* I am playing with the idea of doing a small annual time capsul. A small note. Maybe an item or two of special importance. Seal it up somewhere and wait 5-10 years to open it again. Possibly asking all participants in a baby party to bring a small memento to be interned until the future. That one's all very theoretical. It creates a certain kind of clutter in a basement somewhere, of course, but still...

* Of course there are always really creative and weird foods. And one of my favorite adult traditions is something of a "food challenge" in which my father and I (usually by accident) acquire odd ingredients and are then forced to ad lib some fabulous meal with them. I kind of like the idea of giving less common fruits and veggies and edibles and then doing something with them.

* Seriously, Chaya would be happiest with several rolls of floss, a few spinny toothbrushes, some plastic gum containers and a few piles of dirt.

At any rate, there's a little less than a month to improvise this year and start fantasizing about Christmas.

And/or survive the terrible terrific twoness.

Wish us luck and lots of love!!