Sunday, February 11, 2018

Why pencils have erasers

I hate making mistakes.

It doesn't matter that I know that pencils have erasers on the ends because, to err is human.  It doesn't matter that I sing along with Shakira's Try Everything song from Zootopia, and remind myself that "I'll keep on making those new mistakes."  It doesn't matter that I tell my daughter these same things when she goes on a perfectionist rage (wonder where she gets that from?!).

It doesn't matter because I still get that pit in my stomach (even if it disappears quite quickly) when I realize, damn, I goofed.

Take last Tuesday morning: I put the numbing lidocaine patches on baby's thighs as instructed by the doctor, one hour before the supposed appointment for the vaccines.  And I arrived at the free appointment room only to notice that the doctor comes every other week.  As in not this week.  So I put the patches on for nothing and got baby bundled up for nothing.

I could feel the hint of a tear come to my eyes at the mistake, or more at appearing silly in front of the nurses and employees there.  But they weren't judging me or chastising me at all.  It was just me being hard on me.  Fumblingly I stripped baby down to his onesie for the weighing and visit with the nurse.  That I could still do and ask a few questions about baby's health.

I chatted with another mom whose baby boy was six weeks old.  Alexandre was about that age when I first brought him here for his first weighing with this free service.  I listened to the lady who had come to talk about children's books and asked her about books for babies Alex's age.

While talking with her she noticed my accent and asked where I was from.  There I was thinking I didn't have much of an accent anymore, but I guess I always will!  And she asked me if I knew any English lullabies.  As she goes around different communities and does singing and other activities, she wanted me to sing her one.  And so a few minutes later I was singing Twinkle Twinkle, Little Start and she recorded it on her smart phone.

Then I saw the nurse and got Alex weighed.  He is over 12 pounds now (5.6 kg) and alert as always.  I asked her about cradle cap (don't worry, she said, no need to scrape it off) and when to start solids (six months is what they say now).  And then I dressed baby back to face the cold and said goodbye to the lady who had recorded my voice singing.  I told her I could participate in an activity if she wanted in the future.

So out of my "mistake" grew a chance meeting.  A few conversations and smiles.  Not bad for your ordinary Tuesday.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Tug of war

Yesterday morning my 9-year old flounced past me with a side pony tail she had done herself.  It looked cute with her blue floral shirt and jean style leggings that she had chosen herself.  But there were strands of hair coming out and it was a bit messy.  My left arm was tied up cradling Alex as I nursed him and I couldn't have properly fixed her pony tail with one hand.  Remi is no expert at girls' hair styles and it was time for him to take her to school anyway.  So I had to let it go.

This is my life version 9.0.  As in a nine-year old and a zero-year old.  Totally different needs and ends of the spectrum.  On the one hand I am arguing with the big (no, she says, not big yet!), er, medium girl about how she needs to memorize the times tables, on the other I am trying to get a not yet four-month old to not cry when I leave the room.  With Juliette I can make silly jokes about things we've seen on TV or on the street, with Alex we are just trying to make him laugh, period.

One evening as he was crying and I was straining to hear what Juliette had said ("You never listen to me," is her new mantra), and the fatigue was showing on my face and audible in my voice, she said, "Yes, that's what it's like having two kids."  Out of the mouths of babes.  She was only repeating something I must have said at another time to explain to her that I had to share my time between them.

As Coldplay sang, "Nobody said it was easy. No one ever said it would be this hard."  Oh, Chris Martin, you said it.  My heart is full with two kids but it is also tugged in two directions.  Constantly.  Which is why the moments when they both seem to be enjoying each other's company are golden.  Like when I put him on her chest right before bed and he lifts his head up and makes her smile.  Or I pretend he is talking and telling her "baby jokes."  She is eager to have a bro she can interact with more and until he gets there, I "animate" him for her.

But the gap will always be there, with new challenges at each age.  I am afraid to think of her 13th year and his 4th one.  God help me.  Thankfully I'll be able to drink alcohol again by then, because I can see a glass of white becoming essential when the petulant years and pre-school tantrums coincide.

And since I can't drink now, I'll just blog.  As I spend these next months at home I will try and blog once a week.  To record those baby and big, oops, medium girl milestones.  And to keep myself sane.

Friday, January 19, 2018

This multiple choice life

Think quickly! You have an extra 20 minutes all to yourself.  Do you:
a) do the grocery shopping online?
b) nap?
c) update your blog?

When baby is sleeping I am faced with this kind of choice.  Practical me will probably finish up the grocery shopping.  Though the nap would definitely take the edge off my day.  Sometimes I choose to blog a bit (after the groceries).  Because that is good for me, too!

I am now officially on what the French call parental leave (congé parental).  After the ten weeks post birth, I chose to extend my time at home with baby.  And I am trying to find something of a routine without feeling tied down to it either.

My days are structured around picking up Juliette for lunch, taking her back, and getting her at the end of the day.  Remi can help out in the morning for now at least which allows baby (and me) to rest a bit longer.  Then it is feeding baby (which doesn't exactly stick to a strict schedule), putting up dishes and generally starting some other household chore.

But I don't want my time as a Stay At Home Mom, for lack of a better term, to just be defined by cleaning and cooking. These next 8 months are supposed to be quality time with my new baby and some catching up with my big girl.  I get to help her more with her homework (which sometimes leads to me pulling my hair out) and take her to the library or make cookies on Wednesday afternoons.

And being a list-maker (got this from my mom!), I have things I want to get done in this period of time.  That includes some major organizing of my house.  I don't think all the plastic tubs in the world will make my place one of those pristine clutter-free homes, but it is still a goal of mine.  I also hope to do some more sewing, an activity that calms me, finish up that scarf I started, oh, two years ago, and do more writing (hence the blogging to get back into practice).

And catch up on some tv because my busy work and home life of the past few years has gotten me way behind.  Sometimes life imitates art, too, because when I watch Jane the Virgin I am reminded of my pregnancy and newborn concerns.  Or Modern Family to reassure me that my crazy day isn't so crazy after all.  Plus I have added as a goal (yes, a serious one) to watch all things Jason Bateman that exist on Netflix.  From Arrested Development (check!) to Ozark (check!) and all mediocre films in between (getting there).  How is that for a bucket list goal?
In between the school pick ups and drop offs, the dishes and the puttering, I will try to remember to enjoy this time.  A brief pause in my working life, a necessary time to put some things aside and focus on family.  With no regrets. 

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Life A.B. (After Baby)

Any given evening will find me on the couch these days.  I will probably be rubbing my newborn's tummy while expertly (or not) making sure his pacifier doesn't fall out at the same time.  This seems to be the best way to reduce his colic and cries.  My husband, hard worker that he is, may have fallen asleep in the Ikea pong chair after a long day of physical labor.  Juliette, my vivacious and bouncy nine-year old, may be in fact bouncing on the couch next to me and insisting I hear her story about something that is on tv or happened at school.  And there could even be a young cat in the mix, Miranda, who has brought her pet mouse next to me to play fetch. 

Yes, this is the New Normal in Life A.B.  After the aches and pains and me-centered world of pregnancy, here I am happily but sometimes reluctantly in the center of a household maelstrom.  It is an adjustment I knew was coming but that sometimes I still can't believe I am really living.  This little creature who resided in my tummy for nine months, whom I fondly referred to as my bowling ball, is here and demanding our, and especially my, attention.  World, meet Alexandre. 

For those of you who don't know, he came into the world not long after my last blog post, making his entrance with a little fanfare (emergency c-section, woo-hoo!).  And he is staking his place in our family, rubbing shoulders with his effervescent big sis and making his cries heard over our daily routine.  And if I had any doubt, there are those signs, some subtle, some blatant, that I am clearly in the post-birth world.  New moms (of today and yesterday) may recognize the signs...

1. Getting moisturizer on is an accomplishment.  If I leave the house with make-up, it's a real rarity.  Contact lenses is even rarer.  It's not just laziness (see blog name) but also the morning rush of nursing baby multiple times, squeezing in time for a shower and breakfast for me, and attending to those little cries. 

2. Leaving home is like preparing for an expedition.  Car seat, check.  Baby in car seat, check.  Car seat buckled in, check.  Passenger side airbag disabled, check.  Diaper bag, check.  Stroller, check.  I have to get used to building in all those extra minutes in my leaving routine.

3.  A meal in peace is gold.  I have to say I am lucky that my little one does nap a good bit.  But there are times, towards the end of breakfast and especially dinner, where I must resort to holding him in one arm and my fork in the other hand.  Or Remi holds him while I try to eat while not gulping too much air. When my mom was here, she was on rocking duty during meals.  Thank you, colicky evenings. 

4. The washing machine is doing over-time.  In addition to the rest of the household's laundry, baby generates a surprising amount of stuff to watch.  He may have small clothes but it just takes a leaky diaper to create literally five things to wash, the changing table towel, his onesie, his pj's, his sleeping sack, bedsheets!  Sometimes, if I'm lucky, this routine happens more than once a day!

5. Sibling rivalry (already).  Though overall Juliette has welcomed her brother with eager and open arms since she saw his little face, there are times her blue eyes turn a jealous shade of green.  She says I am kissing him more than her.  Or that I spend more time with him in general.  I am afraid at this point in time it is true, but I try to explain to her that is just the way babies are.  And that I did the same with her.  We haven't quite found our balancing point yet, but I try to make sure I tend to her as best I can when I can. 

Don't get me wrong.  I am happy to be a mother of two, with all the hectic-ness that entails.  I love hugging both my little ones and seeing them bonding.  I know Life A.B. will hold more adventures as well as some times I will feel like I need a Calgon bubble bath to "take me away:"  In the meantime, you can find me on the couch if you need me. 

Thursday, September 21, 2017

On belly buttons and second babies

My belly button will never be the same.

It was already officially an outie after my first pregnancy with Juliette.  A reluctant outie but definitely not an innie any more.

With baby number two, it poked out even sooner, perhaps at three or four months.  When Juliette caught a glimpse of it she would say things like, "ewww!" or "gross!"  I reminded her it was she who had poked it out in the first place.

At first I tried to hide it with two layers of maternity shirts or a sweater tied around my waist. But I gave up trying after a while.

At any rate, I know my body has changed.  I also know that's not the only major change that will take place.

Come delivery day, our family will never be the same.  We will be four instead of three.  There will be strollers and diaper bags to trolley around, for sure. But the dynamics will shift.  From the focus on one child to two, from reserving international flights back home for not three but four people!

I knew all this before.  I had thought it over before my husband and I agreed to try for a second.  Just like I knew that we would be in for sleepless nights, explosive diapers, dawn wakenings well into toddler-hood, terrible twos and all that.

It is the advantage of having been through it all before.  It also makes it less rose-colored glasses and more, get the sunglasses ready to hide the perpetual shadows under your eyes.

When I was still hemming and hawing about whether expanding our family was a good idea (and this phase took many years), I would do what all modern folks do and google it.  "Should I have a second child?" yielded some insightful articles.  Including one* by a man who said when you have a first child it is like being pushed out of a helicopter with no parachute and having to fend for yourself.  With a second you know you'll be pushed again, but somehow you are still game for it.

Another search I did to reassure my over 40 self was "celebrity moms over 40."  Yes, I will admit it. Somehow seeing that Julianne Moore and Gwen Stefani were biologically capable of giving birth at their ages made it seem less daunting of a challenge.  Even though I know full well they have staff to help if needed, if their bodies could produce healthy babies, it gave me hope I could, too.

In the end I knew no blog or article or bevy of Hollywood 40-somethings could really decide this for me.  It was what I (and my husband) wanted for our future family.  The words of friends echoed in my mind: the friendly "tick tock" of Caroline imitating my biological clock when I expressed doubt. Or sayings like, you regret more what you don't do than you what you do.  It may have well been a Facebook meme to that effect.  I felt I would regret not trying at least.  If it didn't work, it didn't work. But I would know I had tried.

Nobody knows the future.  I know that a newborn can bring stress and anxiety but also joy and fulfillment.  I cannot know how the family will evolve but I am sure there will be moments of sweetness between big sister and baby brother, fun games on papa's lap, more silly bath songs from me.  There will also be tensions and tantrums and hair-pulling moments.  But that goes with family life and growing pains.

Only one thing is certain.  I will definitely be sporting an outie for next swimsuit season.

* I unfortunately cannot find the link to this man's article but if I do I will update the post. 

Friday, September 15, 2017

Learning to breathe and all that

I am surrounded by bellies.  All the women seated next to me, with the exception of a mother and an accompanying partner, are in various stages of their pregnancies.  No one speaks for now. Some women check their phones, others stare into space.  I look around discreetly and try to judge what month they are in, their ages.

I am here for my first birthing class, this one on contractions.  I think about starting up a conversation with the couple next to me which appears to be a same-sex one.  But I am almost afraid to break the silence.

The midwife enters, a sweet-faced lady in her early thirties at most, wearing stylish boots and her white lab coat over black pants and a white blouse.  She welcomes us and starts by asking us if we have experienced contractions.  Some of us have, including me, and we describe what we have felt. The ice seems to have broken.  Just ask a pregnant woman to complain and she will never shut up.

The midwife uses a baby doll to explain how the baby can press on us and how the uterus contracts around the baby.  When the baby has its back facing our back, it can lead to back/kidney contractions like I had with Juliette.  That would explain things!

Over the course of the next hour and a half we learn about the contractions that are supposed to happen before real labor and which help thin the cervix.  We learn to distinguish between those and the contractions that signal real labor.  You probably can't talk or stand through the real ones, she tells us.  Comforting information indeed.

The midwife tells us that if your water breaks you should get to the hospital within two hours. And she adds, they will never chide us for coming in too early or for a false alarm.  Also good to know!

There are butter cookies on the table in the middle and a few moms take a snack during the class.  I start chatting with the mom on my left.  She has a compact belly on her petite frame, putting her in the "cute pregnant" category.  She seems like a funny lady judging by her crinkly eyes.  She is worried about the long trip to the hospital from her home in the country about 40 minutes out.  She will have to factor that into the two hours max after the water breaking rule.  We learn that we both work in the training field, although she is more on the admin side.  For a moment we are back in our professional lives and not just our mom ones.

Then there is the mom who apparently has all the pregnancy woes imaginable: heartburn, leg cramps, constant need to go to the bathroom.  She doesn't have the numb fingers from swelling like me though, we learn, as we wrap up the class by talking (complaining) about all those aches and pains.

In the next class two days later, this time about breathing and positions during labor, we are accompanied by Charlotte.  She wears camouflaged pants and short faux military boots and has her blonde hair pulled up in a high pony tail.

At the beginning she asks us our "term" and if we intend to have an epidural or not.  The first lady is the picture of natural birth and optimism.  It is also her first baby, I must add.  She is there with her husband with his neat yet scruffy beard, the token male today.  She is sweet but fairly adamant about wanting natural child birth to better feel the sensations and push baby out.  And saving her perineum. She really doesn't want it to tear!

Charlotte goes around the room, each time addressing us as "Madame à côté" (the lady next to the one before) and I learn that some moms are pro and others anti-epidural.  Or at least for now.  When it comes my turn I say I know I am not so good with dealing with pain and am certainly open to the epidural.  The lady from the last time with all the aches and pains seems totally in agreement on this one.

We watch a video where the ideal husband is massaging his wife and helping her get into the right positions to ease the pain and deliver baby.  It is very sanitized as the mom is basically wearing yoga pants and a tank top.  The couple in the video is all smiles and relaxation and when the film finishes, Charlotte says, of course, this is not quite reality!

We then put the poses into practice ourselves, balancing on big balloons and nursing pillows. Charlotte demonstrates one position where the husband is behind on the balloon and helps suspend his wife by her arms to take pressure off the mom's pelvis.  Of course it helps if your husband is taller than you, Charlotte says here.

It's not my case, says the aches and pain mom.  It's not too late to change husbands, I joke with her.

We practice breathing in from the nose and out through the mouth.  This is a classic exercise to help with pain during contractions.  Natural birth lady asks if she should be tightening her perineum during this.  Forget about your perineum, Charlotte says in a friendly way, you don't need to worry about it now.  I restrain from telling natural birth mom that even with a c-section the perineum can be strained.  Don't want to wreck all her hopes right now.

I say goodbye to crinkly smile lady and wish her luck on the rest of her pregnancy.  She is due one day before me and doesn't know the sex of the baby.   When I tell her I am expecting a boy, she says, ah, well maybe that means I am too.  I don't have the heart to tell her that the conception date doesn't influence the sex of the baby, but maybe she is just using pregnant lady logic, which can be faulty.

Just don't tell my husband that we preggers can be illogical.  I still need him to think I am right (all the time!) and be there to help me breathe in, breathe out.  To be continued...

Wednesday, August 2, 2017


I am officially half-way through my vacation. I have also gone more than half-way across the US this time around.  Just so happens we had planned a great American tour and we have clocked some miles and enjoyed every minute of it.

Here are a few of the highlights and quirky moments so far!

Zika is makin' me freak-a
Before we landed in Miami there was an announcement aboard the plane reminding us we were entering a potentially Zika-infected area.  As in the mosquito-borne virus that can be dangerous to fetuses.  Yikes! I had forgotten about Zika.  My aunt had bought me natural-based bug spray, but reading online they said the stronger stuff containing Deet was ok for pregnant women (and also recommended for their spouses).  Luckily it appears there are no new active cases this year, but we are still trying to be careful with the bites.

Touchdown in Miami
Sorry to disappoint but we didn't spend more than about 30 minutes in the hotspot that is Miami.  Our true destination while in Florida was my aunt's city of West Palm Beach.  This, as its name indicates, is the city west of Palm Beach Island, where, incidentally, POTUS has his mansion.  There were certainly enough palm trees to turn my plant-loving husband's head.  We dipped our toes in the Atlantic and ate outside in a restaurant that had ceiling fans galore and a fountain with real turtles.
Thanks, Will Smith, for making this stick in my head.

When sandals lose their soles
My well-worn sandals decided to breathe their last breath after that famous trip to the Atlantic. Seems fitting they wanted to see Florida one more time before giving out on me.  As my friend Caro said, good excuse to go shopping.

Florida melting pot
We met so many interesting people in our brief time in Florida.  From a Southern lady who wanted to pray with us on the beach, to a Jamaican-born grandma taking the train back to Miami and the folks hanging out in the pool speaking Spanish and English with each other depending on their mood.  I enjoy hearing and seeing the mix of cultures down there.

From below sea level to the mile-high city and beyond
We left the hot and humid streets of Florida for the cooler mountain air of Colorado where my dad lives.  From the first view of the Rockies in Denver, it was a total change of scenery.  We climbed even higher to 8,000 feet or so in my dad's town.  Luckily we didn't get too out of sorts with the change in altitude except for some occasional dizziness for Remi.
At over 12,000 feet at the Continental Divide

Animals everywhere
To keep Juliette's attention it takes more than mountains (though she likes nature, too).  She got to feed chipmunks from her hand in a ghost town, saw cotton-tail bunnies and deer.  Not to mention the occasional dog to pet.  Have animals, will travel.

Family chill time
Got to hang out with my dad, aunt and sister in Colorado.  Yes, we were sometimes all plugged into our devices in the evening, but we also had homemade biscuits from my aunt, impromptu dance-outs from Jess and Juliette, and charades and guessing games with my sister's fun Heads Up app.  I feel like we made some great memories!

Southern comfort
Now we are back in Alabama in the home I lived in from my early teens.  Is it my imagination or did my southern accent magically come back as I strolled the streets of Auburn?  Why did I find the need to buy big cheap pearl earring studs like sorority girls wear with their themed t-shirts?  Why must I fight down the urge to buy Auburn onesies?
Auburn colors anyone?

I am sure we will fill the rest of our time with fun outings and meals and just hanging out.  That is what vacations are for, after all!  And even sweeter when you are back home.