Monday, December 26, 2011

The Christmas Let-Down

Ah, Christmas has come and gone too fast once again. It always freaks me out how much spectacular preparation is put in to this one single day. Weeks of planning, shopping, wrapping, chopping, roasting, baking, decorating, all to be torn to shreds within minutes come the morning of the 25th. Such begins my Christmas Let-Down.

I start to feel somewhat meloncholy come about 2pm on Christmas Day. This year wasn't so bad, we did virtually nothing all day, stayed in our jammies and played with new toys from Santa, occasionally straying from the group long enough to take a nap or eat some more leftovers. Pretty bitchin, if I do say so myself.

This year I started feeling the Christmas-is-over sadness at work that night, realizing that now all there is will be winter for months to come. Cold and depressing winter. Ugh. I get all anxious just thinking about it, and stay up late wandering through the Internet in search of warm vacation deals. Ridiculous.

Maybe the truth is that Christmas should just be a bit longer, like all year, but that would probably defeat the special quality of it, plus with all the baking I would be guaranteed to be the size of a house. No, I think the most reasonable plan is to stop putting so much effort into it, and just take what comes, through holidays and winter cold. It's all out of my hands anyway.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Visions of the Tropics

Every year I survive the harsh New England winter by planning my escape. I begin as soon as the first fall leaf hits the ground, and by the first snowfall I have become thoroughly consumed by the desire to head for a warmer climate. I frantically scour the internet for deals and ideas of where to find sun, beach, and general good times, and by March I am ready to pack up the kids and head south.
Luquillo Beach, Puerto Rico, puerto rico
Luquillo Beach, Puerto Rico
This year I have been all over the map with ideas for our winter journey, and I have finally become hooked on Puerto Rico. I have spent way too much free time investigating a fun and affordable way to cozy up to this island paradise, and I think it may be our next venture.

I am looking into the eastern coastal town of Luquillo, rentals are cheap, the beach is said to be kid-friendly, and the pictures sure do look appetizing. If anyone knows anything about this area, or Puerto Rico in general, I would love a little advice. Big drink in a pineapple, here we come!
Luquillo Beach

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Frenzy

I am looking at my last post and realizing that not only am I a slightly negligent blogger, but also I have not updated to say that Francisco made it to and from his home country just fine. He might disagree with me, as he was calling me to change his ticket to come home early a day after he'd arrived, but I declined to do so and the visit went on as planned. He flew home jolly and exhausted from the anticipation of the journey and lack of sleep in his mother's loud, cramped, mosquito-infested house. We are happy to have him back.

And now we're on to the Christmas frenzy...

I feel like a squirrel preparing for a long cold winter, gathering presents like acorns to stuff in my cheeks or burrow into a hole in my tree. All around me people I know are doing the same, buying endless battery operated things to make the masses happy. I always feel the pull of guilt and materialism snaking its way through my consciousness, but I buy it all nonetheless in the spirit of Santa and baby Jesus. And I have to admit, I love every minute of it. Christmas is my favorite day, made ten times better now that I have little kids to appreciate the magic I put so much effort into creating. I can't wait, although I hope I can tolerate all of the other squirrels at the mall long enough to get all of my shopping done.
Christmas Shoppers.jpg

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Scared Stiff

Francisco is leaving tomorrow for a nine day trip to visit his family in the Dominican Republic. Given that he hasn't been there in over a year and a half, you would think a trip like this would bring him great joy and excitement. Not so with my dear man, alas, he is scared shitless. Literally, a walking catatonic.

He decided in the past few years that flying terrified him. I have also a tremendous fear of soaring the lofty skies, and I can't help but feel a tad resentful of his copycat anxiety that followed mine. I almost want to poke him and say "Hey! That's my phobia! Get your own!" But alas, I understand it, so I just pat him on the back and tell him everything is going to be fine.

Unfortunately for him, the nerves won't disappate with the landing. My husband is gravely uncomfortable in other people's houses, and the constant visiting he will have to undergo upon arriving in his home country is a source of constant worry. The custom for him is that you visit your family and you give them a (monetary) gift. Parting with our savings while sleeping in an unfamiliar bed in a hot, loud, mosquito laden netherland has Francisco in a total tizzy.

I cannot wait until he goes and comes back (alive) to tell the tale so I can stop walking into a room to see him staring at the wall with fear in his eyes. Poor man.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Dark Days and Darker Nights

I just caught up with my last blog entry and realized that I haven't had time, or electricity, since then to write about the aftermath, and yet somehow I didn't miss it.

We were without power for six days following the Saturday night October snow storm. A tree branch fell on the lines to our house and ripped the meter off the wall, causing us a bit more trouble than most of our street in getting ourselves back and running. So as the rest of Mountain Road shined with the warm glow off the televisions and bedside lamps of our neighbors our house, and that of our next door neighbor, remained in the dark.

Initially I fled the scene. Waking up in the afternoon Sunday after work the night before to a cold dark house with no food seemed like too much damn work, so I packed up the kids and went to my mother's and demanded she make us dinner and let us watch TV like the rest of America. Two days later my conscience got the best of me and I headed home to join my husband in the pioneer land.

Really, if I'm being honest, it wasn't that bad, and I maybe even liked it just a little bit.

We have a wood stove that keeps our house toasty and a gas range for making meals, so the only change for us (after cleaning out the fridge and freezer, ew) was that we were forced to sit around in the evening by candlelight and speak to one another. Strangely enjoyable.

My kids loved reading stories by headlamp and cozying around the fire so much that when the lights came back on Nathan actually cried, he was so disappointed. They didn't run back to their plugged in lives as I had imagined, but rather continued playing dress up and wearing the headlamps, making me wonder why we have grown so attached to all of these modern conveniences. Except the dishwasher. Let's get real, I need the dishwasher.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

A Harrowing Ride Through Snowtober

Tonight the weather has gone crazy. I can't remember ever seeing snow in October, let alone a full on snow storm. I woke up at 3pm this afternoon (after working last night) to joyful cheers from the kids as they watched  the street being painted with fat white snowflakes. We headed outside for a jolly romp and a few snow angels, only to be hustled back indoors when a branch from a neighboring tree crashed down just feet from where we were playing.

I'd better get going now if I'm going to make it to work, I thought to myself, and am I glad I did. I left the house at 5:30pm and my 15 minute commute down 5&10 took almost 45 minutes. In my dad's 4-wheel drive truck I inched down an icy hill at 5 miles per hour squinting through the windshield past the flying snow, and still managed to skid to within an inch of the car in front of me. Treacherous, and not a plow to be seen anywhere.

Francisco called me about 2 minutes after I left the house to say that another branch had fallen across our road and pulled a power line into the street, blocking any way to enter or exit our street. Now he's just called to say that the power is out and a few more trees are down, making it pretty much impassable. I am afraid to see what the streets will look like tomorrow morning when I leave here. Yikes Mother Nature, what's happening?

Friday, October 28, 2011

A Day for Home School

My 6 year old son has been sent to the Principal's office three times this week. The first time was for dropping the f-bomb in the cafeteria (thank you second-grader for teaching him that little word I have spent the past six years avoiding in lieu of this moment). The second day he was sent home for bitch-slapping his friend during lunch time. ("I don't know what happened Mom, I just couldn't control my hand!"). The third day he was waving around a fork or some other boisterous movement that was mistaken for rough-housing and was called out yet again. That did it for me, on the fourth day, we stayed home.

So I spent yesterday having school at home with Nathan (and Sofie) and I am surprised to say that it was quite enjoyable. We covered all the basics, reading, writing, math, and then moved on to more interesting terrain like a nature walk gym class, carving pumpkins for art class, and Spanish games for the better part of the afternoon.

I am embarrassed to admit how little I actually have a day home with both of my kids and no agenda. I work every weekend so the only time I have with Nathan is in the afternoons or when we are on vacation. Setting aside all household responsibilities and focusing solely on their learning was both fun and grounding for all three of us. I don't know that I could go the full Monty with home schooling (5 days a week could get old for all of us pretty fast), but I am wondering why I don't have this as our routine maybe once a week, or once a month. What a brilliant concept, take a day off and teach your kids yourself.

I don't know what will come of this revelation, or how Monday will go for Nathan back in the classroom, but it certainly has me thinking about the way our current system works, or doesn't work, for us.

Monday, October 24, 2011

When You Know You're Too Old To Be the Biggest Asshole at the Party

I never thought this day would come. Ten years ago it seemed totally acceptable to be the drunkest person in the room, possibly because I almost never was. Despite the alarming number of cocktails I could consume, there was always someone in my circle of friends who had me beat. It was strangely comforting, even when I was waking up with my head nested comfortably on the toilet bowl, to know that someone else was feeling it worse than me.

Now it seems that I am old and my friends are too. We have children and jobs and better things to do than get totally smashed at a party, or so it would seem. Since becoming a mother, I tend to reserve getting impressively drunk for about once in a calendar year. Somehow this makes me feel like I'm not a lush, but when this date comes it's usually a showstopper.

We had a party this weekend and I am embarrassed to say that I was that gal, guzzling the martinis without making sure that someone was one ahead of me. I'm not sure what exactly I said to anyone, but it could not have been good. All this leads to now is feeling very hungover, and full of cringe-worthy shame the next morning. Sadly, it is no longer the hilarious elbow-jostling, laugh-at-yourself morning after comedy routine of yesteryear. Even though others may see it as no big deal I guess it's official: I'm too old. Time to retire my act and break out the cup of tea and the scrabble board peeps, because getting super wasted is just not as fun anymore. Well, until next year...

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Frosty Eagle

I spent this weekend in the mountain top town of Eagles Mere, PA. I accompanied my friend Jane to her family homestead in the small lakeside community along with our other good friend Kate, and my kids. The town is beautiful, tiny and remote, settled on a pristine lake and hidden away from the annoyances of modern technology and growling traffic, it is a haven in the summertime for those seeking relaxation.

This weekend was a little different...

Relax we did, we sat by a roaring fire for three straight days as we attempted to defrost our bodies from the freezing October air. Winter seemed to have come early to the mountains, and as the night air dipped down below 40 degrees, so did the temperature inside the old summer home. We made meals quickly with the oven open as our breath puffed out in clouds in the kitchen.

We did almost everything next to the two giant fireplaces, although the large chimneys meant that most of the heat was drawn instantly upwards and didn't reach more than about two feet from the front of the mantel, but we found a way to pull our rocking chairs up close, ensconce ourselves in down blankets and drink enough sangria to feel our cheeks flush. Nathan has decided that Scrabble is his new favorite game, as he teamed up with us and played well past bedtime. It was like very fancy camping.

The beauty of the trip was that despite the frigid temperatures, it was totally worth the six hour drive to get there and back. I love spending time with Jane and Kate, laughing until we cry, making meals together, and reading side by side. The homestead itself is beyond compare, with years worth of history in the walls and seemingly never ending hallways for the kids to run through. Visiting this magical house with my wonderful friends is worth whatever Mother Nature wants to dish out.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Fair Daze

There is something so magical about the memories of a childhood fair. For me it was the Franklin County Fair in Greenfield, Massachusetts. Every September around the first day of school the fair would roll into town with its twinkly carnival lights and fried smells wafting into the air. We lived on the parade route so the first beat of the drum from the high school marching band let us know fun was about to begin.

This year I went back to the fair with my own kids in tow. Rows of baby animals in the barnyard, scary rides swooping kids up over our heads as they screamed in delight, fried dough dripping with maple cream and powdered sugar. What's not to love?

As an adult I was more keen to the creepier aspects of things in carney-land. The ride operators were particularly sketchy this year, seemingly more toothless (if possible) and with almost no vocabulary whatsoever, just a low grunt and nod in the direction of the ride with a cigarette dangling from moss colored lips. The game operators must work on commission, luring the kids into the games like pedophiles offering candy out of a car window. Yikes.

Depite all this, the kids of course loved it, making it fun for all. I managed to spend all of my money and then some, but gained it all back in flab on my ass by eating my weight in french fries and fried dough. Nathan loved the fun house and Sofie rode a pony. Woo wee, see you next year.

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Rise of the Half-Mullet

Oh crap, Sof has discovered scissors.

This past week she found a pair in my car and snipped out a nice handful of hair from the left side of her head. Fortunately her hair was long enough that I could sort of comb it over and hide the bald spots. Not so after today, when she came across another pair of scissors at my friend's house and quickly hacked off the whole left side, leaving just the long rat-tailesque back partying all the way down.

So I waltzed her over to our local hairdresser and she insisted on having the full wash and cut experience (and who could blame her really?) The hairdresser Tracy did her best to even out the do, but in an effort to keep her hair long in the back she seems to have created a mullet monster, and now she just looks like a boy from the early nineties. NKOTB anyone?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Ache of a Summer Off

This week Nathan went back to school and I went back to the gym. Ouch.

I always feel somewhat sheepish slinking back into my morning aerobics class when I haven't been in a long time. Surrounded by the Lycra-clad muscular women bouncing onto their steps and leaping through the air with the grace of ballerinas, most of whom are ten years my senior, I keep to the back of the room as I huff and puff through the first few songs. Eventually I can barely make it up onto the step at all, and resign myself to a slow march in time with the music while I try unsuccessfully to catch my breath.

Good times. Yet I repeat this process time and again because aerobics is the only thing that will shame me into sweating for a solid hour. I cannot bear the embarrassment of crawling out of the room before the class ends so I finish it out, and am always happy I did.

Man ,do my quads hurt right now.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Reconnecting with Birth

I love books that keep me thinking well after I am finished with them. I guess most people do. I recently was given a copy of a memoir by Carol Leonard, Lady's Hands, Lion's Heart: A Midwife's Saga. It is the story of a midwife from rural New Hampshire who got her start birthing babies in the '70's and '80's, and includes many birth stories, along with her own life's trials and tragedies. For someone working as close to birth as I am this was, indeed, a very powerful read.
Lady's Hands, Lion's Heart: A Midwife's Saga

After finishing this book I came to work last night with a renewed sense of trust in birth and the body. For the most part the nurses on my labor and delivery unit share my feelings of birth as a natural part of life, one that works best if we don't get in the way. Occasionally I find that we all run through times of doubt in the process, often after a series of complications, inductions, labor interventions, or cesearean sections. We start to forget that birth works, if you let it.

My patient last night was a young woman having her first child. She labored easily and efficiently, with love and support from her family. As I went about my work I watched her follow her body as it guided her through the dance of labor and birth. I remembered the words of Carol Leonard and felt an overall sense of reassurance, even when slight complications arose. Just trust the process, birth works. I reminded myself and the midwife on call that this patient had all she needed to bring her baby into the world. I also reminded the patient of this, as she had planned for a medicated birth, and she decided in the end to birth naturally. She was a proud, strong mama as her baby came into her arms, and I am happy we did not get in her way.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Living with the FOD, once again.

I am not shy when it comes to talking about much of anything, especially my anxieties, so it may come as no surprise that I feel inclined to blog about the FOD. The FOD is my overwhelming and all-encompassing fear of death which has plagued me ever-so unfortunately since I became a mother. It sucks. And I have it.

I first figured out I had this fear when Nathan was 8 months old and he and I flew to Reno to visit a friend. I was overcome by fear while flying and have not since felt better about it. In subsequent flights I go through the motions of sweaty palms, nausea, heart palpitations, and uncontrollable fear. Needless to say, I do not look forward to traveling, although I am constantly planning the next vacation. I love to escape my life, hoping that the FOD will subside when I leave my routine (which it usually does, although not before being brought to all time new levels on each hideous airplane adventure).

Meanwhile I have recently noticed that the FOD is creeping back into my day to day life. As I drift off to sleep at night I think "one day closer to death". Sooooo depressing. I gotta get over this, if anyone has any reasonable solutions please feel free to offer sugestions. I can't explain this fear, it is totally and utterly irrational and very annoying.

Both of my parents have at one time or another suffered from the FOD, leading me to believe that it's genetic (rats!), so sorry kids. Or maybe someone mentioned it to me at one point and my imagination just went hog wild. Who knows. All I can say is I look forward to the day when I don't freak out about my own existence and just enjoy living for the right now. Hopefully that day will come soon.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Sick Daze

I have been a terrible blogger. I'll admit it, I have to wait for something interesting in my life to happen for me to want to write about it. So far I'm happy to admit that life has just not been that interesting. Until this week.

We spent last weekend at a borrowed house on Lake Ontario in Oswego, NY. The house and property was beautiful, lake front sunsets, hot tub, huge deck setup, fantastic. The downside? The place was unexpectedly overrun with fleas, and the town of Oswego turned out to be a little too bud lite-NASCAR-bowling alley-seedy bar for my taste. Oh well. The other major setback, I think my kid may have been bitten by a tick.

Nathan seemed fine throughout our trip. Better than fine, I couldn't drag him out of the hot tub long enough to towel off. As soon as we arrived home he spiked a fever that still doesn't want to come down. Boo hiss. Poor little dude (who as many of you know is anything but tired and sickly most of the time) has been up all night crying in pain, vomitting, and shaking with fever. Talk about a parenting nightmare.

I've had my share of sick days and nights with my kids but it never fails to raise my anxiety flag whenever they are not well, especially when it doesn't seem to be getting better. Moms are instinctually trained to listen for the sounds of a child vomitting, coughing, breathing funny, you name it, we have it on our radar. We lie in our beds vigilantly waiting for some sign of trouble and leap up into the night to measure out the Tylenol, man the nebulizer, give the back rubs, or whatever the need may be, while our faithful husbands snore away in oblivion. Men don't (in my experience) seem to possess the same barrometer for sickness that we do. Too bad because man am I tired.

Francisco called me to check in on Nathan this morning and was barely listening when I said that he's about the same, not much change. Instead he chirped into the phone "He's better? Great!" and then hung up without saying goodbye. Weird male denial instinct. Huh.

Tonight I am going out with some mom friends for a small respite before my nighttime duty calls. Hooray for mom friends and vodka. Hooray.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Sun, Sand, and Lobster Boats

My vacation is in full swing and we are living large here in Camp Ellis, Maine. Our rental beach house is sitting at the ocean's edge with only a wall of rock buffering us from the open sea. We spend our days and up until bedtime lounging on the porch staring out at the Atlantic, dreaming of buying the place next door.

Today my dad and I joined up with the crew of Lucky Catch Cruises and headed out into the Casco Bay in seek of Maine's pride and joy: lobster.

Lucky Catch is run by Captain Tom, a seasoned lobsterman who clearly is comfortable showing lay people around a lobster boat. Assisted by two young women, Captain Tom escorted a gang of about 10 passengers out into the waters and showed us how to bait, pull, and release lobster traps. We donned aprons and gloves and got into the fun of measuring the lobsters and deciding if they were destined to become dinner, or head back to sea for another season.

Lucky Catch runs about 5 cruises per day, each lasting ninety minutes, pulling about 8 traps per trip. Tom says that a good lobster run will pull one keeper per trap, and we managed to pull 6, so not a bad run, and buying them at boat cost at the end of the cruise was well worth it.

My skin is taut from the sun and my hair feels like golden straw tonight as I sip my cocktail on the porch and think about the boat gliding over the waves on this sunny morning. Happy vacation indeed.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Preparation Station

Why does it take so long to pack up the family for vacation?

I spent every day this week loading plastic bins with linens, clearing out the pantry and shoving it into every corner of our minivan, washing, drying, folding, and packing clothes for five people, and then cleaning up the mess it left behind so as not to horrify the housesitter. Why does it take so freaking long? Because I do it alone.

Every time we go on vacation I think "I should really insist that someone else do something to pack for this trip". Yet the mere mention of locating even a pair of shoes elicits a deep gutteral sigh and a groan from every male in the room. After all the pissing and moaning I cave and just do it myself with a small child whining at my heels every step of the way.

Once the van was loaded to the gills with all of our worldly possessions needed for a week at the beach (with much room to spare I might add) my husband rolled his eyes skyward and with a tone of sheer exasperation complained "What IS all this stuff? We're only going for a week!" Bastard.

I know that as soon as we are unloaded and lounging in our beach house he will be the first one to ask me to locate the nail clipper or some other stupid item and be outraged when I didn't pack it. Double bastard.

Good times.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Puppy Love!

Hooray for the newest member of the Cosme/Hartshorne family: our new dog Polly! She is 4 years old and has come to us from our New Jersey relatives who, despite loving her to pieces, did not have time to give her the care and attention she deserves. When I visited my aunt and her kids a few months ago, I casually joked "Hey, if you ever need a home for Polly we'd be more than happy to have her". Little did I know she would give that statement so much thought.

We have debated getting a dog for a long time, we've been ready for one but we were just not sure if we wanted to go the puppy route, the chewing and accidents make me feel tired just thinking about it. And then there is the issue of temperment. My friend recently had to find a new home for her dog after she bit her young son, what a devestating decision for a family to have to make. We were wary of getting a rescue dog for the same reason.

Polly has already proved herself to be a perfect fit for our family. She is unbelievably good natured, has never growled or barked at anyone, let alone a child, and is housebroken. We've taken her for 5 walks in the two days she's been with us and everyone is tripping over themselves to cuddle her. Canine success! Thank you to the lovely cousins who knew that this would be a great home for Polly, we are so happy with her!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Happy Camper

I got back yesterday from a weekend camping trip in cold, rainy Maine. Despite the torrential downpours and the frigid 45 degree nights it was by far the best camping trip I've ever been on. Funny how that happens sometimes.

I went with four of my oldest friends and three of their significant others. I left my family behind for a weekend of uninterrupted girlfriend time. We gals have been friends since freshman year of boarding school where we spent our formative years helping to raise each other in a dorm. We saw our parents often but spent the majority of our time living together, and as a result we are all extremely compatible, and the best of friends.

The rain did pour, some critters crossed our paths, and Jane and I spent the first night layered and cocooned in so many layers I could barely lift my arms, yet still worried about frost bite as the water dripped into our tent. Not the ideal camping scenario, but it didn't faze us in the least. Kate and Mike brought a virtual camping "living room" complete with cabinets, a stocked bar, and a covered screen house. Our ever-handy friend Caleb whipped up bacon, eggs, and pancakes on his trusty camp stove, with coffee so good it could warm up even the iciest of knuckles. These are clever people, and I don't know how I will ever camp without them.

I always forget just how good it feels to spend time with them until we are all together, and when it comes time to part ways it never fails to make me heartsick, like leaving a childhood home after a long overdue visit. We spend our days and nights laughing incessantly, and telling jokes that require only one word to set us off. It feels like these women know me better than I even know myself, I can be completely open and honest with them, they really get me.

I couldn't help but spend half of the weekend planning our next adventure together. It's in my nature to plan for the next reunion, to guarantee that it will happen and as soon as we can. (I have long since held the title of "Captain Fun", although I'm not sure how true it is anymore). I need to know that this dose of girl time will be back around before I can forget the happiness in my heart from this trip.

Can't wait to see you again soon girls!!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Night Shift Blues

I was commiserating with my brother this morning after he had just gotten off the night shift at the local diner when I started pondering the effects of working the night shift. I have been working 12 hours nights at the hospital for the past four years and while it is, indeed, the best job I have ever had, the hours certainly do take their toll.

Take this week for example. I worked on Tuesday until 3am, got to bed about 3:30 and then was rudely awakened my my young son, who found it urgent that I join him in the bathroom at 6am while he moved his bowels. Life doesn't stop for the night shift. I then worked Wednesday night from 11pm to 7am (although this is a lie, our shifts actually end at 7:30, and often much later). I slept for four hours during the day yesterday while my kids played with a babysitter. Those four hours of sleep are by far the deepest sleep I am capable of these days.

I am like a corpse after working, completely passed out before my head even hits the pillow, drooling on my drive home and often slapping myself hard across the face to keep from drifting off behind the wheel. The level of exhaustion experienced by a night worker can only be compared to that of a long distance runner after a marathon (minus the adrenaline). Nobody understands this, unless you've done it you just don't get it. Painfully tired.

The problem lies (no pun intended) with the vast disruption to the circadian rhythm that I notice when I try and get a regular night sleep at the same time as everyone else. Last night I went to bed at 9:30, unable to keep my eyes open, but was then awake every hour after about 1am, only to be dragged out of bed like a mouse by a cat when the kids wanted pancakes. Torture. No wonder I feel so crazy sometimes. 

I always take into consideration my colleagues with young children who sometimes stay awake all day after working to care for their kids, out of necessity or sheer insanity. I will do anything to get out of staying awake any longer than necessary, sometimes trying to hide from Sofie as I come in the door (please God, not another hug! Just let me sleep!) I feel for these friends who do not get to experience the sheer joy of diving between the sheets in the morning for a few glorious hours of peaceful slumber. Despite the exhaustion I feel at the end of the shift, there is nothing quite like it.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Coming Out: The Lesbian Phase

Doesn't everyone have a time where they have experimented with sexuality? A period in one's life where you want to explore your options and see what's out there, experience something new, and figure out what feels right for you. Tonight I was reminded of my own brief phase as I was cleaning out my jewelery box and came across a few choice items that sent me flashing back to my teen years.

At the ripe age of 15 I thought I knew everything. I was a sophomore at Northfield Mount Hermon, one of western Massachusetts' most elite, and as many of us know, liberal prep schools. This means that there were a lot of rich kids in really tattered clothing, various concoctions being snorted and smoked, and a whole lot of coming out. I was lucky to be in a place where the majority of my friends were gay, bisexual, or otherwise undecided and open on the issue of sexuality. It seemed like every day someone new was celebrating "Coming Out Day" with a big announcement of their own, and embracing their new found same-sex partner in earnest public displays of affection. Who was I to be left out?

I started attending pride marches with my friends, chanting loudly in time with the beat "We're here, we're queer, we're not going anywhere!" I donned jewelery purchased at such events (hence the treasures I found tonight) like freedom rings and earrings with two women symbols intertwined. I figured that if all the other people around me were wearing them I should probably get on board.

Finally, I decided it was my turn to make an announcement. The day had come to announce to the world (namely my mother) that I was bisexual. Never mind that I had never been kissed by anyone, let alone another girl. I felt in that moment that I had to keep all of my options open and let everyone know to be ready for whomever I picked (or maybe more accurately, who picked me). I waited with baited breath for my mother to come home that evening so I could bombard her with my news. With my voice loaded with seriousness I entered the kitchen:

"Mom, I need to talk to you"
"Okay", she said, one eyebrow grazing the ceiling.
"Mom, I...I...I just think you should know that I am bisexual" the words flew out of my mouth with a gasp before I could stop them.
My mom looked at me before cracking a smile "That's nice honey, I am too. Isn't everyone?" She turned away from me and continued peeling potatoes for dinner.

So much for my big announcement, I thought as I slunk back into my room. The problem with living in a liberal family is that you can't shock the pants off of anyone unless you are going to announce your candidacy for the next Republican primary.

It turns out that I am not really very bisexual. I have always seem to have chosen male partners and that has worked out just fine for me, although I do often have that fleeting thought of "would my life be easier if I was with a woman?" Maybe or maybe not, I will probably never find out, but there is always this little voice inside my head that reminds me to leave my options open because you just never know...

Friday, June 10, 2011

A Very Boring Age

This week I turned 31. Not much to say about 31 except that it means I am officially in my 30's. I'm not sure how I feel about this, it may be a little depressing. Some older, wiser women in my life have said "That's great! Your 30's are wonderful, so young! So vibrant! This is the best time of your life!" I am taking that into consideration.

I was so lucky to have the lovely mother group I hang out with on Wednesday surprise me with a beautiful brunch birthday party. They showered me with flowers, food, champagne, and cake. What else could you possibly want for a birthday morning?

Last night I went out with Francisco and my best friend Jane for a rocking dinner at Mama Iguanas in Northampton. It was restaurant week in Noho so there was a bit of a wait, but the margaritas at that place go down so easy it makes the time fly by. I did feel a twinge of regret this morning at around 3am when I awoke doubled over with stomach pain. Maybe next time just chips and salsa with the tequila and not a 3 course meal. I think it was the chocolate cornbread pudding that did me in. Overkill.

I feel good, healthy, happy, if not just the littlest bit hungover. I spent today gardening and turning the yard into my own private Eden, thank you Dad and Mom for the gift of perennials for my birthday. It's looking good.

Thank you everyone for making 31 feel a little less scary.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Cruisin' the Dunes on Block Island

I just got back from a 3 day jaunt over to Block Island, a 3 by 7 mile stretch of paradise twelve miles off the coast of Rhode Island. With my mom by my side and my kids (as always) along for the ride we were ready to start the summer.

We bunked at the National Hotel, an old Victorian era hotel with a great view of the ocean and a rocking bar and restaurant. The National is not known for its spacious rooms or air conditioning so I was not sure how family friendly we would find it, but I was surprised to find that we were quite comfortable there.

After first rejecting our 4th floor room with the gorgeous view (I have to say that I am the type of mom who will do anything to avoid carrying a child up 4 flights of stairs) we settled in to a comfortable garden view setup just one floor up from the lobby. Fine by me.

We spent a lot of time on the beach (is this obvious?) and the best thing I have to say about that is my utter amazement at my son, who at six is mostly obsessed with all things plug-in. TV, computer, video games at a friend's house, tiny ipods, you name it, he loves it. The best part of spending time on the beach with him was watching how little he needed to keep himself entertained for hours. I pack light when traveling to beaches (as in towel and sunscreen only) and Nathan made himself at home with just the sand, surf, and sea creatures he could scout out in the wake. This is the true testament to what children really need, and anytime I am feeling pressured to buy one more toy or some other plastic crap, I have to be reminded of the sheer joy that comes from spending time outside on the beach.

Our second day on island we rented bikes from a local bike shop, seemingly a harmless and fun family activity. Wrong. Biking around Block Island is not for the weak or the young (as in six). We made it (creeping along) maybe a 1/2 mile before Nathan collapsed into a heap on the side of the small winding road (no bike trails on this undeveloped patch of land) and cried "I can't do it anymore! We must turn back!" So it goes. If you're going to bike on Block Island, be sure you know your cyclists or you may be in for a huge waste of time and money. Grrrr.

Today we made up for lost time by renting a jeep to tool around the island and check out the spots we had missed. This was the highlight of the trip, and quite possibly of my children's lives. What says fun to a kid like riding around in a bright red convertible in the summer sun, screaming "Cruising the dunes baby!" at the top of your lungs. Clearly there is nothing like it, and now Nathan is insisting I look into trading in the van for a sportier ride.

Some gorgeous beauty on Block Island, I would definitely recommend checking this place out (although if you are bringing your kids also bring your car and maybe even rent a house to avoid eating out for every meal). It was refreshing to visit an island that has still avoided the built up commercialization that so many places are overrun with. With my skin taut from the beach and the smell of salt in my hair I will sleep well tonight knowing that summer has officially begun.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Planting Seeds and Giving Back

I'm happy to say that today was an incredibly productive day. In the span of a few short hours I was able to paint the fence (or part of it anyway), sow some seeds, and give back to the community. Ah summer.

Sofie and I sweated through the morning as I struggled to slap a coat of primer on the beautiful new fence that Francisco built me this month. I only managed to cover one side of about 8 feet, but it felt like progress nonetheless for this one-woman painting show. Sofie was tolerant enough of this production, (if you call stirring the 5 gallon bucket of primer with sticks from our yard and then trying to make soup out of it tolerant) but she quickly insisted we move on to other ventures as the sun blazed overhead.

After a dip in the ice cold chill of the kiddie pool (also made into "hamburger soup" with handfuls of mud) we managed to put down enough grass seed to hopefully make our scruffy dirt in the backyard into a lawn for lounging, and planted a few lovely plants that I hope to see again next year. I have not ever been known for my gardening skills but I'm trying this year, I'm trying.

After a mandatory scrub down we headed to Greenfield for some charitable giving. My dad's beloved GoNOMAD Cafe has closed down this week and he approached me with the question of what to do with so much perishable food that could not be returned to the vendors. Having just cared for a patient in the hospital who did not have enough to eat, I had coincidentally just researched what to do in just this situation.

I packed up the van with gallons of milk and cream, six dozen eggs, pounds of cheese, and the like and stopped in to the Salvation Army on Chapman Street. These lovely folks make breakfast and lunch for the needy every day of the week and serve it up right there in the basement of their building.

It is always a good feeling to know that you are helping others, and the look of genuine gratitude on the faces of the people serving the community just made my day. I realized instantly that I do not do enough giving back. I have been feeling it for a while, this nagging notion that I am not doing what I should be for those who need it. Today this feeling was a scream inside my heart, it's time to give back! What are you waiting for?!?!

OK, so let today be the first day of the rest of my charitable life. I will start making a difference, starting right now. Nothing motivates me more than the line of women with their young children lined up to eat at the little basement operation today. There is no reason why not and the time is now, so please remind me of this if life gets in my way.

Friday, May 27, 2011

I Will Remember You

Today is the anniversary of an event that I usually don't try to think too hard about. I don't often think about anniversaries at all. Generally May 27th passes me over in a haze of summertime picnics, digging in the dirt, and the overall chaos of a busy household. The past couple weeks however, I have not been home. I have been plowing through my nights at work on the maternity ward and each night haunted by memories and emotion that have not surfaced often in the past several years. These memories are with me today.

Seven years ago today Francisco and I were expecting our first child. I was 17 weeks pregnant and expecting a girl. I was going to name her Josie. He and I had met not long before, and were still getting to know each other, this unplanned growing life inside of me speeding up the process lightyears ahead of the traditional route. I was terrified by the abyss of unknown that accompanies first time motherhod, and at the same time I had never been so excited about anything in my life.

I went in for a routine check up at the OB office, accompanied by my mother, as Francisco was living in Miami, awaiting my arrival in just a few weeks. All had been well with the pregnancy until that point, and I felt healthier than ever. My closet was quickly filling with tiny onesies and I had read every baby book I could get my hands on.

The news of our baby's fate was dropped like a bomb, the words that every expectant parent dreads: "There's something wrong with the baby". We were sent to a high risk hospital in the area where our baby's fate was determined; congenital anomalies, chromosomal abnormality, incompatible with life, physician speak for the worst fate imaginable. The stoic doctor delivered the news as though he were reporting the weather, spewing forth long, complicated words to describe the loss of something so great that in four short months it had overtaken me. In minutes my world was shattered.

My body was hollow after it was over. My soul still holds an empty spot for my baby who was never to be. In the time she was with me I loved her with all of my being, and I can't help but think about who she might have become if she had lived.

The days and weeks that followed were the darkest of my life. I drove aimlessly around town and seriously contemplated crashing into buildings to put out the fire of pain that seared through my heart. I couldn't work, couldn't focus, and lost valuable friendships that I later longed for and regretted letting slip away.

The good that came of losing my baby was gaining my relationship with Francisco, who anchored himself to my side at this time and let me know that he wasn't going anywhere. We moved in together and a few months later I was pregnant with my beautiful Nathan, whose life I would choose over no other.

I am usally relieved to have another May pass by without being reminded of our loss, but this year I feel complelled to honor her spirit. I am grateful for all that I have, but my first baby comes back to me every so often and reminds me of what we can never forget.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Miss My Mamas

I have a problem. For the past two weeks I have been deprived of an essential nutrient to my otherwise healthy existence, something I need as much as my morning coffee, or lunch. I have been missing my mom-time.

I am fortunate enough to have found a nice collection of mom friends to spend time with in my community. We get together to talk, laugh, share horror stories, solicit advice, and let our kids play. Coming together with these women gives me the sense that I am not completely screwing things up for my children, that maybe I even have it a little bit together.

Last week my kids were sick and we were quarantined to the house. This week I have done nothing but work, with the goal of not bouncing any more checks. The end result? Sheer isolation with my loving (but energetic) two year old, whose conversation skills are impressive but just not cutting it. Tomorrow the mothers are getting together for our weekly playgroup. I will be sending Sofie with her babysitter as I will have worked all night and must spend the morning buried in my pillow. By the time I get up and join the land of the living it will be too late, the kids will become cranky and ready for naps themselves.

It's amazing how this time with other moms can give me the added rejuvenation to make it through the day, and even enjoy myself while doing it. I can't imagine trying to parent without having supportive friends around to help steer me in the right direction. We give each other the courage to help our children overcome new challenges, and help one another forget that sometimes being home with kids can be rather lonely. I am so lucky to have these women in my life, and if I ever see them again (probably not this week, boo hiss) I will be sure to tell them so.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Best Job in the World?

This is what people often say when I tell them I am an OB nurse. "You must have the best job in the world!" "Yes", I tell them, "99 percent of the time".

We deal with many challenges and complications in our specialty, along with some of the most joyful moments life has to offer. Birth is a marvelous thing to behold, and bearing witness to it is never short of a miracle. There are the challenges that accompany these miracles and as nurses we all know that it is par for the course. Some days there will be good and some days will be horrendous, but holding this knowledge never truly prepares you for when a baby dies.

Driving to work last night I had a wave of suspicion. A premonition that we were going to have the unthinkable happen, a fetal demise. I am unfortunately graced with the ability to often predict when emergencies are going to arise, it's happened as long as I've worked on the unit. I will get a feeling right before going in to work, or have a dream in my nap before my shift, something to let on that a challenging incident is about to occur. Last night I was sorry to be right.

The floor was busy with nurses bustling around caring for laboring women and postpartum mothers and babies. The news of the woman in labor whose baby had no heartbeat spread quickly from one of us to the other, looming overhead like a storm cloud. Those of us not caring for the patient sat idly outside her door when we could, desperately wishing there was something we could do to help, praying for some sort of miracle.

The baby was stillborn in the early hours of the morning. The mother's wail was audible from every corner of the unit, a deafening innate sound erupting from the bottom of her soul letting us know that her child's life had left his body. Rendered powerless by our inability to make this better, we wept silently as we wrapped the baby in warm blankets, dried his eyes that would never open. He was a beautiful baby, each delicate feature of his face a reminder of what could have been, what should have been.

In the aftermath of tragedy, as we soldier on to provide care to our patients, we always remember those who have suffered the tremendous loss of a baby. It shapes who we are as nurses and deepens the well of compassion that we bring to others in their time of need, all the while leaving us with a small sense of distrust in the universe for letting someone so innocent slip away.

I returned home this morning to the smiling faces of my beautiful children and was overcome with emotion for the many blessings in my life. After witnessing this kind of sadness all else seems remarkably trivial. This family helped me to remember that life is short, unpredictable, and above all precious.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Rude Awakenings

For several months now I have been thinking that my six year old son has been sleeping in. I don't hear the (generally quite loud) little guy until I open my eyes at around 7:30 and stumble downstairs. There I find him engrossed in some inappropriate television show that he has somehow figured out how to request from our on-demand cable service in the "kids" section. I have yet to decipher how to parental control these programs so I guess it's not surprising that he has technologically surpassed me. Nonetheless, it's a blow to my maternal ego each morning when I hear the Super Ninjas whacking each other with batons and ray guns.

Hence why yesterday I decided that Nathan needed a few days off from television, and while we're at it, let's throw in computers and iphones too (the kid can find video game-like entertainment with any type of screened device). Great, why not?

I soon found out why not. Apparently Nathan now wakes up at 5am, as he made very clear to me this morning by sausaging himself into my bed next to me at the crack of dawn and letting me know in no uncertain terms that he had no intention of going back to sleep. Good Lord.

So I did what every other sleep-worshiping parent does at 5am, and shuttled him back to his bed, nestling myself under his covers and trying desperately to form a cozy cocoon of warmth to lull him back to sleep. Surprise surprise, it started to work! His eyes started to close in unison with mine as we drifted back into that glorious pre-dawn slumber.

Unfortunately I had forgotten one tiny (but crucial) detail. Sofie. When I leapt from my bed trying to prevent Nathan from waking her up (because at age 2 where else could she possibly be other than wedged firmly in the bed in between her parents?) I didn't think to bolster up my empty space in the bed with pillows. My eyes sprung open as I heard the loud THUD followed by the long wail as she sailed out of the bed face first onto the hardwood floor.

One bloody split lip later we were all downstairs reading stories on the couch at 5:30, leaving the glory of slumber to my imagination. Sofie sniffled in the mirror every so often to examine her wounded face, the occasional sob shooting out of her as a guilty reminder that it is impossible to be in two places at once.

The joys of motherhood don't come easily to me before the sun comes up. I'm giving up on productivity today, tomorrow is another day to live out the dream of sleep.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Vampires on Mountain Road

Last night I was just drifting off to sleep when my husband, a native of the Dominican Republic, shook me awake in a loud whisper: "Kate, Kate, there's a vampire in the house!" My eyes darted open as I tried with all my might to imagine what he might possibly be talking about.

"Un musielago", he then told me. Oh, I mentally translated, a bat. A bat? In our house?

Suddenly I was transported back years to an almost nightly occurence at my house growing up as a kid. Bats would enter our upstairs bathroom through a crack in an old chimney and swoop in to terrorize us as we lay trembling in our beds. After my dad left, my mom (more frightened than either of us children) would crack a window and pull us under the blankets with her and whisper "Just go to sleep, it'll be gone by morning".

Fearless leader, indeed.

The first time my new best friend stayed the night at age 14 we had a winged intruder, and Jane was stuck upstairs, bewildered, as my mom and brother and I refused to leave a downstairs bedroom. We spent the night squashed into a twin bed and urinating in the closet as the bat snoozed on the windowsill in the living room. Needless to say, Jane did not hurry back for another sleepover, although she has hung on as my best friend.

A couple of years ago another bat made it into our upstairs and I sent Francisco and my dad up to do their manly duties of critter removal. I shook with laughter as my dad dove around with a tennis racquet shrieking like an 8 year old girl each time the bat flew by his head.

I certainly made no move to leap out of bed and capture the bat as it circled our darkened hallways last night, although my fear of the flying nighttime friends has subsided somewhat. Instead I closed my eyes, and my door, and channeled my mother as I happily let Francisco swat the towel around and stumble over laundry baskets to the nearest window. I'll be the fearless leader next time.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Dawn of creativity

I keep telling myself "today is the day!"

Today is the day that I am going to unleash my creative energy and send it flying out into the world. Today I am going to start taking art classes, do some yoga, ride a horse, spin pottery. Really, this is the moment. Today I will paint, draw, sing, learn guitar, write a novel. Yeah.

Then the collective pull of all of the ambitions and creative desires I have been harboring inside for so long start to feel overwhelming and soon I can't do anything fast enough. So I do nothing. Wake up the next day, repeat cycle.

The first thing I'm doing to combat this creative slump is write this down, so that maybe someone else will call me on it the next time I complain that there is nothing left for me. Please feel free to do that. Fortunately (or unfortunately) for me, it is likely that no one will ever see this, so I don't have too much to worry about. But on the off chance that you are reading this, remind me to unharness some creativity today, because this stifled feeling is getting really old.

I realize that this is a pretty common problem among mothers of young children. Somewhere along the way through the jungle of diapers and sippy cups you lose your artistic self, and with each passing year it becomes harder and harder to find her again. Soon you just feel trapped, without being really sure of what's holding you down. I get great joy out of raising my kids and spending time with them each day, but there is a chasm that divides my former self and the current me, and I haven't yet figured out how to bridge that divide. Until I do I will continue to run in circles trying to find my way over.