Sunday, July 31, 2011

Home Again

After almost nine hours, my pets and I are finally, finally home.  The universe made up for its extreme heat (I was so anxious that the boys were going to get heat stroke in my un-air conditioned car that I needed to call a friend for reassurance.) by giving me a parking spot right in front of the apartment.  This never happens, so you can only imagine my relief when I realized I was not going to have to a) tote everything (dog, cat, luggage, lamp shade, bookcase worth of books) six blocks or more, or b) pay $50 to park the car overnight in a garage.  I very nearly cried tears of gratitude.  Now I'm sitting on the couch, feeling all sorts of overwhelmed.

During my absence, a chair we bought was supposedly delivered "to the front door."  Said chair is nowhere to be found, although, rest assured, its matching ottoman was waiting calmly by the mailboxes.  Whose front door?  Or was it by the mailboxes? If so, it sure isn't there anymore.  To my door on the fourth floor?  Highly unlikely, and also, if so, it sure isn't there now.  The man I called at FedEx was extremely nice as well as supremely unhelpful.  He told me they would ask the delivery man "exactly where he left the chair."  At this point, I'm thinking that wherever he left it, someone decided it was a nice enough chair for them to steal and I'm shit outta luck.  I will be making very annoyed phone calls to FedEx and until I get my chair (That thing wasn't cheap.  More importantly, I was really, really looking forward to sitting in it tonight.)

The apartment is scary-looking.
Before I left to visit my parents, I did laundry and cleaned the bathroom.  That barely scratched the surface.
I'm sitting on a small cleared island on the couch, blogging, mostly because I have no idea where to start.

I think it's starting to sink in that I'm here, alone, for the next few months.  All of this is up to me.
I mailed the rent that is due tomorrow.
I called FedEx.
I unpacked the ottoman.
Can I be done now?
Yes, if you were five.  You're twenty-three.
Oh, right.
I'm an adult, aren't I?
Is there an instruction manual?
Does it come via FedEx?

On a Whim

The house that my parents live in now is not the house in which I grew up.  Although my six siblings and I were all born in California, we moved to Western New York when I was eighteen months old.  For this reason, all of my memories center around the rambling farmhouse and its overgrown grounds that I called home until I left for college.  My first visit home from Smith confirmed my worst fear: an obnoxiously yellow and red "For Sale" sign stuck crookedly from the frozen ground in front of my beloved house that Thanksgiving.  By Christmas, it was sold, and by my birthday, my parents had moved an hour north and west to their dream retirement house, a pint-sized, winterized cabin on Lake Ontario that requires enough renovations to keep them busy for decades yet.  I've long since gotten over the hurt and anger I felt about the selling of my childhood home, but there are moments when the old scars twinge slightly. 

For instance, it takes me an hour to drive to my hometown to visit my one remaining friend from high school.  She and I share not only a first name and an identical tattoo, but a history that is full of memories, inside jokes, old hurts, healed wounds, and fiercely-kept secrets that only a friendship that spans so many years can acquire.  On a whim, we had decided to start our day together by visiting a dress and boutique shop that has been in my town for ages.  It's where giggling teenage girls go to get their prom dresses, where grandparents pick out tiny soft pajamas for their family's newest additions, and - the reason for our visit - the first place a girl goes to look at wedding dresses.  We wandered in, laughing as we reminisced over our cringe-worthy prom dress choices we made in that very shop more than five years ago.  We meandered over to a large rack marked SALE that was full of white dresses.  "This looks right," I said, glancing around.  "I don't know what I'm doing," I whispered to Cait.  "Me neither," she said, helpfully.  "I've never done this before either."  Sighing, we dove in, quickly realizing that looking in the size 20 section was probably a bad idea.  We pulled one down off the rack that looked vaguely promising.  I hefted it high into the air, surprised at how heavy it was, and remarked as much to Cait.  "That's the weight of commitment, honey," she said, and we laughed.  I saw another dress I thought I liked and asked Cait to pull it down.  She did and I sopped short.  "I really like that one," I said, all laughter gone.  "Me too," she said quietly.  "All right, well, let's go for it, soldier.  Into the dressing room you go!"

A few requisite jokes about my Christmas tree-printed underwear later later, (in my defense, I did not pack nude-colored underwear for this trip because I was not aware that I was going to be going wedding dress shopping, even if on a lark) I emerged in the first dress.  It was underwhelming.  "I look like a tablecloth," I said.  "Or a sheep," suggested Cait, ever helpful (Our unflagging honesty with each other has sustained our friendship over ten years and six hundred miles.  I wouldn't change a thing.)  Back in the dressing room, I slipped into the second one and emerged for my zip-up.  I tiptoed, barefoot, over to the mirror, clutching the too-big dress to my chest and looked in the mirror with a gasp.  Cait grinned from behind me.  "I think...I think this is it..." I said, trailing off as I stared transfixed.  "And it's on sale!" quipped Cait, making me laugh, because I could see how much she loved it too without her having to say it.

We headed downstairs and I wrestled my way into another four gowns, mostly for the sake of saying I tried on more than two.  Eventually though, I slipped giddily into the other dress for one last look - this time with the help of the shop owner, an old friend who's known me since I was in diapers.  She held the back closed with four clips and assured me that it would be easily altered to fit "my tiny self" (Let's not get into that, shall we?).  "Is this your dress?" she asked me, smiling at me fondly.  "Yes!" I said, in a barely audible whisper.

I couldn't believe it.  On a lark - on a whim! - I had found the dress.
Today, for the first time in a long time, I felt beautiful.

Tonight, at my parents' gorgeous lake house, we enjoyed the bounties of the season and the last sunset views of the garden for this trip.

I still can't bring myself to drive past my old home.  Maybe someday I will, or maybe I'll decide that there's no point.  For now, I'm just basking in the gratitude for a day well-spent.  After all, it's not every day that a girl gets to pick out her wedding dress with an old, dear friend right by her side.

Friday, July 29, 2011

A Good Day

I went swimming in the lake today.  To get down to the lake from the house, you have to scoot on your butt down a grassy embankment too steep to walk down, and then when you hit the rocks, if you look carefully, there's a sort of hidden stone staircase down to the beach that you skip down to get to the water.  It's usually necessary to admonish oneself to slow down before you slip and fall and crack your head open.  Oh.  Right.  Once I was down there, I waded carefully in up to my waist (the rocky bottom requires the surefooted-ness of a Shetland pony) before diving under, emerging gasping as the cold water soaked me.  I couldn't help it - I laughed.  The sun was shining down on me, I was immersed in water, and I remembered that it is this, these moments that matter.  Those are the ones you go back to when you're sad or lonely or broken-hearted.
I made a good day for myself today.  Besides the swimming, I mean.  I drove to a neighboring town and got coffee from my favorite coffee shop of all time. It's called The Orange Cat.  How can you not love it?  I read my book, Three Junes while I sipped my coffee, and talked to a grandmother about her two-year-old grandson.  He and I played peek-a-boo around the chairs and he gleefully handed me every leaf he'd collected on their walk, one by one.  He also tried to share his scone with me.  What can I say, I make those boys weak in the knees.
'Tis aptly named
I biked to a yard sale near the house and got a bright red bowl that I'll eat oatmeal from.  I also got a small wooden box that will be exactly perfect for what it's intended.  I love when you find those things.  Especially for fifty cents.  I biked home, smiling at my purchases, and then lazed in the sun, taking zillions of pictures (mostly of my boy) and eventually heading to the water for the aforementioned dip.

It was only after all that fun that the fact that my insomnia is back and woke me up at 3:20 this morning caught up with me.  I woke up an hour or so ago from my "nap" and now will probably be awake most of the night.  Ah well.  At least I'll have good memories of today to get me through the nighttime loneliness.  Maybe I'll be awake to see the sun rise over the water.  It's magical.  And who says I can't have massive amounts of coffee tomorrow to get me through?  Not me, that's for sure.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Getting There

Last week, on the same day, I found out two things.  I found out that Alix was leaving for an indeterminate amount of time (at least a month and a half) and I found out that I was losing my job.  It was not a good day.  Just as I was becoming fully responsible for the rent, utilities, electricity, and pet care costs, it turned out that I am no longer employed.  In addition to the fact that yesterday morning, I had to hug the person who I love most in the world goodbye in the bustling lobby of an airport, both of us trying not to cry, as I told her, "Be brave.  You got this.  I love you."  I got home to the apartment and promptly burst into tears.  Huge, shuddering, gasping sobs (I am not a pretty crier.), snot pouring down my face, the works.  I know she's coming back.  But in the meantime...I miss her so. much. 

Today, I drove eight hours to visit my parents in their house on Lake Ontario for a few days.  Rupert gets to frolic off-leash, Tucker gets the run of a real house, and I get to hear things other than car horns and sirens: the grandmother clock ticking, the pages of my father's book turning, the fan as it slowly oscillates around the living room.  There is a rhythm and breath to this house, these lives of my parents, that is as sure and as peaceful as the steady lapping of the waves on the rocky beach below.  Often, when I'm here, I feel as if I'm shifting everything just slightly off-kilter.  In I barge, with my high-energy dog, my grumpy cat, my strange eating habits (or lack thereof), my tumultuous moods, and my glaring computer screen.  I try hard to believe my parents' reassurances that my presence here is welcome, because I know they mean it.  I just don't know where I belong anymore - here, this is their place and their lives, and, welcome visitor that I may be, it is not my forever home.  In New York, the apartment without Alix feels like it's waiting for something as simple as her return from work or a visit to her dad's house.  Meanwhile, the rent accrues, and I remain unemployed.
Life's like this, I tell myself: up close, it may look dark and ugly and scary.  But behind it, if you look around, past, and beyond the dark and scary parts - there's light.  There's a whole lot of beauty and hope and good, waiting for me and Alix.  We just have to get there.  And getting there is the hardest thing I've ever had to do.

Thank you to everyone who wrote or thought kind words about my last post.  My struggle with eating disorders has been a topic that I have considered discussing for a long time before finally deciding do do it.  Your support and encouragement mean the world to me.  Thank you.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Slipping Away

Today is Saturday.
Today, I ate a Clif bar.  I also had some coffee.  I agonized over putting sugar in it because there was no zero calorie sweetener available.  I didn't add milk.  If there had been Splenda, I would have been allowed to add milk.

Yesterday was Friday.
Yesterday, I ate a Clif bar.  I had the same battle with my coffee.  Sugar, no milk.  Those are the rules.

The day before that was Thursday.
Thursday, I ate a falafel wrap at midnight after riding a bus for five hours after working nine hours.
Ten minutes after I ate it, I was holding my hair back with my left hand while kneeling over the toilet.
I washed my hands, splashed my face, brushed my teeth, and turned out the bathroom light.
All better.

Am I starting to sound like a twisted version of that kids' book, The Very Hungry Caterpillar?  It wouldn't be that far off from the truth, because lord knows I'm hungry.  Or, at least, I think I am.  I don't know what the word "hungry" means anymore.  It's certainly better than full.  Often, it means empty.  It always means success.

I could continue with the daily food report for at least the last three weeks, but it'd get pretty boring.  The brief summary given comprises the tenets of yet another diagnosis I can plaster across my forehead, lined up neatly beneath that of BIPOLAR DISORDER.  This one reads: ANOREXIA and BULIMIA.  Or, if you want to get technical, BULIMAREXIA (but that just sounds like some extinct species of dinosaur, in my opinion).

I could write a long-winded post about when this all started (nine years ago), when this wormed its way to the surface again (December), and when it turned into its current, monstrous form that has effectively taken over my life (February).  That would be a very long post.

What matters is not the duration or the dates or the numbers or the weight or the calories or even the fucking food.  It's not about the food.  It's not about the weight.  "Well," you might say, eyebrows furrowed, "Then...what IS it about?"  And there is not a single person with an eating disorder who could answer that question truthfully.  Because the real truth is, we don't know what it's about anymore. (And Lord have mercy on your soul if you so much as suggest that it's about that ever-present, overused word control.  Trust me.  It's not that simple.)

I am not unique.
There are millions of people with eating disorders.
There are thousands far sicker than me.
But if we're being honest here, I'm pretty damn sick.

Since I graduated college, I've dropped four clothing sizes.
Since February, I've lost almost forty pounds.
I don't own clothes that fit me because I cant afford (or have any desire) to buy newer and smaller items.
I hide behind baggy sweaters and loose leggings in the ninety degree heat of the New York summer.
When I look in the mirror, all I see is too much.

The face that looks back at me - eyes bloodshot from the burst blood vessels purging causes, cheeks hollowed, eyes sunken and with dark circles underneath - I don't recognize myself.  It is not myself anymore.  I don't remember who myself is.  What I see in the mirror is every imperfection, every shame, every bad thought or nasty word, every choked back cry and hateful look written all across my pale, freckled skin.  They merge to form one word, one thought, one theme that runs my life: Fat.  I am both too much and yet not enough.  I am success and failure.  I am numbers up and numbers down.  I am a vessel, a shell of who I used to be.  And while the eating disorder is eating my flesh and muscle, it's also eating my soul.  I can feel it slipping away.

And I want it back.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Taking It Slow

I move quickly through life.  I walk fast, with the quintessential New York face on that says, "Get the f*ck out of my way, before I knock your expensive touristy camera out of your hands with my oversized nanny bag."  (It's worth noting that I was a fast walker long before I moved here.  I was notorious for sighing loudly and impatiently when stuck behind large groups of ambling Smith students on the narrow path that led from the Quad to the academic buildings, particularly at 8:55 AM.  You may not care if you're late for your 9 AM class, but I CARE, DAMMIT, SO GET OUT OF MY WAY.)  Even as a kid, I flaunted the rules and scampered across pool decks and made my lesson horses gallop when the instructor wasn't looking.

Now, as a rule, I am very patient when it comes to raising children.  I keep my voice steady when doling out time-outs.  I wait calmly with one eyebrow raised until a "pweeze" is added at the end of a request.  I've spent countless hours doing a slow step/circle/swing/hush maneuver with many a swaddled baby until sleep overcomes them.

But I am not perfect, by any means.  I rush the boys along sometimes, hurrying us through crosswalk signs, getting exasperated by small things, taking over cleaning-up projects that I feel are going too slowly, and the like.  Yesterday, though, I had a kind of mini-breakthrough.  We were walking to a new playground and as is our usual custom, I was briskly pushing the stroller with Bean and Bee inside, and periodically looking over my shoulder at LM, walking half a block behind me.  He runs to catch up at the corners, we hold hands while crossing the street, and then we resume our positions.  This time, though, I looked over my shoulder and I really saw him - I saw his too-long brown hair, hanging into his eyes as he scrutinized the sidewalk under his Keens.  He was humming something to himself and his hands were doing some sort of flappy dance at his sides through the humid air.  I stopped walking.  I waited for him to catch up, the surprise lighting up his eyes as he saw me standing there.  I smiled and silently held out my hand.  Usually, he furiously protests holding my hand.  This time, he smiled back and slipped his grubby paw into mine.  We resumed walking.  Ambling, really.  We missed lots of crosswalks and instead stood in the hot sun, waiting for the light to change.  He asked me questions about boats.  And firemen.  "Firefighters," I corrected, gently.  "Firefighters can be girls too."

At the playground, instead of carrying Bean around in order to keep an eye on the older boys, I put him down on the rubbery play surface.  He was delighted.  We pushed a ball back and forth and I let go of the worries and concerns about what LM and Bee were doing.  If they need me, I'll hear it, I thought wryly to myself.  Twenty minutes of calm playing went by.  "Caywin, can we go home now?" asked LM.  "Sure thing, bud.  You boys hungry?"  Nods of assent.  We packed up, LM in the stroller with Bean this time, because it was Bee's turn to walk.  We meandered home.  Bee kept a tight grip on my hand as we walked at exactly the pace his two-and-a-half-year-old legs set.  The sun was hot, but we didn't mind.  When he asked me questions, I gently asked for a repeat (four, five, six times) until I could understand and answer, instead of doing what I sometimes do which is give a noncommittal "Uh-huh," or "Mmm" when he says something unintelligible.

That afternoon, the house was peaceful.  There were few - if any - time-outs.  LM and I read a couple of chapters from The House at Pooh Corner during nap-time.  I let Bean feed himself cheese and blueberries at snack (a slow, but humorous process) and I watched patiently while LM cleaned up every last Lego piece by himself.  The look of satisfaction and pride on his face when he finished let me know that I was getting it right.  I had slowed down, and it had made a difference.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Join the Party

Welcome to The Happy Radish, new followers Jaime and Holly!  You know what to me your contact info and a lovely shipment of homemade baked goods will be headed your way.  We can discuss preferences, etc, via email.  I'm so happy to have more readers!  It's started my Tuesday off on a good note (the scent of brewing coffee doesn't hurt...mmm).  Here are random pictures to make this blog post less boring!  (Also, hence the overuse of exclamation marks!)
Signs of summer
Signs of...Northampton.
Have a wonderful day, everyone!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Look Me in the Eye

I sat in the still, humid air at the train station and let out a quiet sigh, lamenting the fact that I had just missed the last train and was going to have to wait forty minutes for the next one that would bring me back into the city.  I was thinking about Rupert, and stressing about how late I was going to get home in order to take him out.  I was thinking of how uncomfortable the chair I was sitting in was.  I was thinking about whether there was a mosquito on my left foot.  Oh my, was I doing some heavy thinking.

A trio of people came walking down the concrete platform.  I was mildly surprised, since the next train was still forty minutes away and I had been counting on spending at least thirty of those minutes alone.  I glanced up from my book and noted a mother wearing a head scarf, a gangly pre-teen boy who was clearly her son, and a tall woman (an aunt? a friend?) who seemed at once both regal and gentle.  They sat near me, on the only other available chairs, and it soon became clear that the boy was on the low-functioning end of the autism spectrum.  He was having a hard time of it.  He used almost no words, and when his mother gently told him that he could have no more bread because he was throwing it instead of eating it, his violent reaction was so intense and so unexpected that I flinched.  He swung his head up and around and caught his mother directly under her eye, leaving behind what I'm sure will be a nasty bruise.  She gave a small gasp but said nothing to her son, except, even more softly and quietly than before, "Look at me, please.  Gentle head, now.  Gentle head."

I reached over and touched her shoulder.  "Are you alright?" I asked quietly.  She nodded.  "I'm sorry," I rushed, "I didn't mean to interfere.  Would you like some water or anything?"
"No, but thank you."  She gave me a small smile and I saw in her eyes something that took my breath away.

I saw a love so deep, so unflinching, that it withstands unintentional abuse and outbursts from her son whose future is so uncertain.  I saw in her eyes that she understands what it means to love without any hope of reciprocation.  I saw that she knew pain that I couldn't begin to understand.  She was so calm.  She was at peace.  I was not.  I went back to my book and swallowed the lump that had formed in my throat.  Stop, now, I thought to myself.  Stop and appreciate this moment.  You may be dealing with a lot right now.  But her - right there - you've got NOTHING on her.  

I wished for the ability, for the grace, for the power that none of us have to take away her pain.  It didn't come.  I didn't open my book on the train ride home.  I gazed out the rain-streaked window at the slowly darkening sky and tried to swallow the lump that wouldn't go away.  I don't pretend to understand what it's like to have a differently-abled child, particularly one with severe autism.  But I sure as hell understand what that mother is doing: she is staring straight into the eyes of the challenge that faces her and she is not backing down.  As I watched in my window the reflection of her cradling her now sleeping son across the aisle from me, I thought to myself, Looking life's problems in the eye may not take them away.  But it sure beats the hell out of backing down without a fight.

A Place to Call Home

I love the city where I went to school.  It's got Character, with a capital C.  I purposely arrived a few hours early for my visit with my senior year nannygirls so I could wander Northampton again and take it all in.  It didn't disappoint, that's for sure.  The first thing I saw, once I had located a bathroom, was this:
Ah yes.  Apparently unicorns are still among us.  And if anything rules, it surely is time.  Toilet paper dispenser wisdom.

Then I indulged in some iced coffee at my favorite coffee shop (where ha! I didn't have homework to do!  So there!) and had a deliciously long and drawn-out visit to the used bookstore where huge, industrial fans stir the musty air and people unashamedly spread themselves out on the floor, surrounded by books.
Then, I spent the evening with the family whose girls I cared for my senior year at Smith.  I am blessed to have them in my life, and I know they will be there forever.  The girls will be surrogate big sisters for my babes, and their mother is a gift of a friend and confidant.  I love them.  I loved eating chili and drinking milk.  I loved snapping photos of the girls, running and jumping and posing, and occasionally I'd grab one while they weren't paying attention, and those were the best:
I am so lucky.  To love and be loved. 
"Come back soon!" their mom said, as she enveloped me in a tight hug.
"I love you, Cakey," whispered Sage as she hugged me goodbye.
"I love you to pieces," I whispered back.

My heart calmed as I drove home.  I may have graduated, but I didn't leave them behind.  They're still with me.  I will see them grow up.  And that is the most priceless gift a nanny can be given.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Loyalty Has Its Rewards

I may have shamelessly offered compensation in return for following my blog, but hey, I deliver.  Sarah has been following my blog for months, and in exchange for her loyalty (and, more importantly, her INTEREST), I whipped up some delicious chocolate chunk cookies that will be en route to her Monday morning.  Get a load of them:
Any more takers?

Come on, you know you want to...

Friday, July 15, 2011


I thought I knew what loneliness was.  When I first arrived at college, when I went through a huge breakup, when I was hospitalized my junior year - those were lonely, isolating times.  None of that holds a candle to what life is like now.

I wake up after two hours of sleep every night.  I spend an hour or so in bed, trying to fall back asleep.  Finally, I get up and spend the next several hours on the couch wandering aimlessly around the internet and occasionally trying to read.  I don't have the attention span for books anymore so that's kind of a lost cause.  Eventually, I'll shower, get dressed, say goodbye to a still-sleeping Alix, and drop Rupert off at daycare.  I spend my day having conversations with toddlers and not interacting with anyone over the age of four for nine hours.  I watch the kids playing, as if from a far distance, too dizzy to stand, and curse myself for being an inadequate nanny.  I pick up Rupert from daycare, come home, and collapse.  And then it begins.  The slow and steady slide into a pit of loneliness so dark that  it is damn near impossible to comprehend if you haven't felt it yourself.  The apartment is still.  The dog sleeps.  I do...nothing.  Until around 8 PM when I take Rupert out one last time, get ready for bed, dutifully take my sleep meds and hope, stupidly, that they'll work tonight.  Then I'll collapse, exhausted for what is the equivalent of a nap.  When I do get up, I scoot over Alix's sleeping body and dizzily make my way to the couch.  I wait for the sun to rise so that I can try to forget that I've been awake since 1:00, 2:00, or 3:00 AM. 

And then I do it again.  I don't remember the last time I had a conversation with Alix that wasn't slurred through the sleep medications we each take.  I've given up on waking her up when I can't sleep - something we used to do for each other when one of us couldn't sleep.  She won't wake up or she'll speak gibberish for ten seconds before nodding off again.  I can't blame her, she's worked to the bone at her summer job.  So instead, I climb over her each night and dread the day to come.

There's nothing romantic about real, true loneliness.  There are beautiful poems, books, and essays on the topic that are all a crock of shit.  Loneliness doesn't bring you closer to God (or whoever).  It doesn't give your brain a "chance to contemplate things."  It's the sinking awareness that no matter how many people surround you, no matter how busily you fill your day, you are always alone.  Always.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A Guide for the Non-Sleeping

Here's a formalized list of what one should do in the event of severe insomnia:

1. Wake up.  Pretend to not be awake.  Lay with eyes closed and imagine self still asleep while growing more and more awake.
1a. Or, conversely, if you can't fall asleep (as opposed to not being able to stay asleep), lie in bed and try to think calming thoughts about boring things like the life cycle of mushrooms and pretend you don't notice all the worries gleefully whizzing through your head.  What's my bank balance? Did I mail the rent check or did I only imagine I did? The dog needs his nails trimmed.  I think I left the coffee grounds in the coffee maker again today.  Lovely.  What time is it?  How long have I been lying here?  What time do I need to get up for work tomorrow?  Did I set my alarm?

2.  Finally give in to inevitability of wakefulness.  The responsible thing to do is probably get up and do something else for a bit and hope that a fresh wave of tiredness will kick in and send you back to bed.  After all, lying motionless in bed (especially while your bed-mate sleeps peacefully beside you) isn't helping anything.

3.  Take Advil for the inevitable headache that a severe lack of sleep has brought on.

4.  Idly check twitter, facebook, blogs, email, Etsy, etc, until you've vaguely committed to spending lots of money on beautiful touches for your home or person.  They're always the kinds of things that you see and think, "Ooooh, I didn't know I needed wanted that, but now I do!  How lucky I am to have found it!"  Like this jewelry hanger that I legitimately do need (my jewelry currently sits in a massive heap next to the bed where it gets tangled and thus, rarely worn).  Or the highly enticing idea of having a t-shirt quilt made using all the sentimental t-shirts that I have collected over years of college, organized sports, marching band, 4-H fair shows, and life in general.  I don't wear them anymore, but I can't bear to part with them.  Speaking of...are there any quilting readers out there?  I'd love to hear your thoughts!

5.  Grow slightly bitter about everyone in this apartment's ability to sleep so naturally and for so long.  Even the nocturnal cat is conked out, for chrissakes.  Nothing like a little insomnia to make you feel alone in the world.

6.  Send an idea out into the blogosphere that I'd be too scared to do during the light of day.  Here goes: I want to get my baked goods "out into the world," as it were.  I love to bake and it's something for which I can honestly appreciate my skill.  I enjoy making all kinds of treats, including (but not limited to!): chocolate chip cookies, peanut butter cookies, fudgy brownies, banana cake with chocolate frosting, flourless chocolate cake, cherry-topped gingerbread crumb crust cheesecake, raspberry-topped summer cheesecake, black-bottom cupcakes, fruit crisps, breads of all varieties, cinnamon buns, and most of all - pie.  One of the reasons summer is my favorite season is because of the abundance of fresh fruit in the farmers' markets that are pie-ready and delicious in a way that store-bought fruit just can't ever be.  Here's the thing - I'd honestly be willing to give my goods away in exchange as a drawing for more blog followers, etc, but I'm having trouble getting around the idea of how to ship food goods so that they're still spectacular when they arrive.  The other option is to try to find a way to get them out and about here in New York but again, I don't have a clue how to do that.  Thoughts, anyone?  I wish I could send you all something delicious to brighten your day, feed your family, or delight your coworkers!  Baking is a hobby that I miss dearly, but that isn't practical for Alix and I right now.  After all, I can only pawn off my wares to my nanny family so often.  It brings me such joy to bake.  I wish I could do it more.  Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

7.  Have fun imagining the future changes to the apartment that (we hope) are going to make us feel less stir-crazy and more organized.  The kitchen table is being given the boot and the space will be occupied instead by bookcases and a comfy chair (cannot wait for this change!).  The Container Store shopping spree will be put into use this weekend, making our closets and storage areas much more useful and accessible.  Once I accomplish one thing, it snowballs nicely and I find myself feeling capable of taking on another task, and then another.  Pretty soon, I'm checking things off the to-do list that have been there for weeks/months.

8.  Read new library book and pretend it's a normal time, and not 4 AM (when you've been up since 2:30).

9.  Blog.  Uselessly.  Sorry everyone.

10.  Feel sorry for oneself.

11.  Try to go back to sleep.

12.  If it's a fail, resign oneself to the beginning of a new day.  Make some coffee, drink it while the sun rises, and look forward to giving one's psychiatrist a piece of one's mind this evening about raging insomnia and its resistance to her prescribed medications.

13.  Try to be grateful for the good.  Try, try, try.

love to all.  hope you're all sleeping peacefully.  i wish you sweet dreams.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

(Don't) Hit Me Baby One More Time...

LM tried to hit me at least three times today.  More than once, he actually made contact.  There is a very instinctual reaction to being hit and that is simply this: hit back.  Obviously, I didn't.  But I was shocked at the intensity with which my blood pressure spiked and then how much will-power it took to calmly look him in the face and tell him, "Hitting is NOT okay.  It hurts me and it is disrespectful.  Go sit on the bench.  Now."  Particularly after the third or fourth time that this happened.

His father reassured me that it was not just me that was on the receiving end of this new phase of attempted power displays.  That made me feel marginally better and less like I'd crossed some line with LM that left him feeling like he hated me for reasons unbeknownst to me.  Still...the hitting has to stop.  Consistency is key, I remind myself.  If I draw the same line, every time, he'll eventually realize that it's not going to get him anywhere.  Neither is spitting, yelling inappropriate words, or other various impulses that I'm sure I'll wrestle with in the coming weeks/months. 

Oh, nannying (and parenting).  If it's not one thing, it's another.

Off to bed.  The only real solution.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Baby Steps

We were having a quiet afternoon inside today after a very busy morning.  We'd gone to a new playground, dug in the sandbox, danced in a sprinkler fully clothed, walked all the way home, had baths, had lunch, had naps, and the mercury was pushing 93 degrees - I'll be damned if I'm sunscreen-ing them all again and going outside, I told myself.

When Bean woke up from his afternoon nap, I brought him upstairs and sprawled out on the living room rug where the older boys were involved in some elaborate game involving pillows and an armchair being built into a den and the two of them pretending to be jungle cats (a decorative bear-skin was playing a crucial role in this dramedy).

For fun, I stood Bean up (he's been standing unassisted for the past week or so, much to his delight).  I sat in front of him, only two feet away with my hands out.  "Come on, punkin!  Walk on over!"  He giggled, reached out a hand for my finger, but stayed put.  I tried it a few more times, patting the ground in front of me for added effect but gave it up after thirty seconds.  Ah well, I thought.  He'll get it soon.
"Can we have some music, Caywin, pwease?" asked LM.
"Sure," I said, and scooted the three feet over to the stereo to turn on the nursery rhymes CD.  I turned around to see Bean standing with a big grin just where I'd left him.  Before I could even blink, he planted one pudgy foot in front of the other, sure as can be, as if he'd been doing it for his entire life - and walked straight into my open arms.

My heart literally burst.  I laughed and the tears started falling of their own accord.  "Oh my gosh!  Bean!  You walked!  I'm so proud of you, my punkin pie!  I am so proud of you!!"  His expression was one I'll never forget.  As he held tight to my fingers, staring into my eyes with his big blue ones, his face said it all: "Did I just do that?  Did I just do that?!"  "You did!" I crowed.  "You did it!  You walked!  You are such a grown up, gorgeous, precious boy and I love you so much!!"  I scooped him up, smothered him with kisses, and called my nanny friend to commiserate.  She knew exactly how I felt, and almost started crying with me.

Just to be sure, I set Bean down in the kitchen and stepped back.  Without a second thought, he toddled toward the dryer and started banging on it with both hands - a very satisfying sound to any boy under the age of ten, I'll wager.  When the boys' father got home, I told him all in a rush and Bean proudly demonstrated his new skill as I cried....again.

I saw a priceless, unrepeatable moment today.  I will treasure it forever. 

There is magic in seeing life, real, honest-to-god life happen in front of you.  There are beautiful, wonderful things that we experience every day, like the sunrise and the scent of coffee and the click of the door behind you when you come home from work.  There are also moments that only happen once.  A baby's first steps only happen once.  And when those steps are to you, into your arms, there aren't words.  There just aren't words.

Today, my heart broke and burst and healed all in a moment because there is nothing in the world like seeing real-life magic happen before your very eyes.  Loving a child is just that - magical.

Sunday, July 10, 2011


Allison Kraus played on the stereo and a cool breeze blew through the room.  I sank sleepily into the couch cushions and felt like my heart would burst with love for the girl in front of me. She rocked her nannyboy slowly back and forth until his 12-week-old body sank into sleep against her shoulder and I simultaneously dozed off on the couch.  I'm in Cambridge this weekend, visiting her, and oh, you guys, I don't know what I'd do without her.

Her name is Hallie.
She's my life twin.
I am so blessed that the universe tossed me a handout as great as her during this awful, crazy, time in my life.

Sometimes, you're lucky enough to find a friend who is exactly what you need and the two of you lock into each other's souls and worlds and lives irrevocably.  I was that lucky.  She gets me.  She's also like a better version of me: she's a nanny, she wants to be a midwife, she's obsessed with books, she's smart, she's an awesome photographer, and her blog is much more well-loved than mine. (Sigh). Um...I'm a nanny, I want to be a midwife, I want to be a photographer, and I wish my blog were more loved.  But it's all good.

Most of our time together we spend in stitches of laughter, quoting Ellen Degeneres and making inappropriate jokes about sheep.  Some of the time, she holds me while I cry.  We listen to music in the dark while we talk for hours until we drift off to sleep.  When I wake up in her yellow room with the fan blowing, I feel at peace.

I'm calling it now - someday, not long from now, we'll be working together as midwives, catching babies and having our own (I gotta find her a babydaddy) and raising them all in a giant joint-family commune that has a vegetable garden and too many animals and cloth diapers drying on the clothesline outside.

Sometimes, the universe deals out a lot of shit.  And sometimes, it sends out blessings so big and so unreal that they take your breath away if you let them.  She's one of those, and I thank my lucky stars every day for her.  Because now that I've found her, I'm not ever letting go.

Friday, July 8, 2011

It's Not All Sunshine and Rainbows...

There are days when being a nanny is the best form of birth control (short of being gay, of course).  Yesterday was one of those days.  The day's outlook didn't start off so well - I was running a bit late and my stomach was indignant about the two cups of strong coffee I'd just funneled into it.  When I arrived at the boys' house, Bean was already screaming because his mother was frantically trying to clip his nails before leaving for work.  Her face told me all I needed to know about how the day had been so far.  It was 8:35 AM.  Dear God, I thought.  Here goes nothing...

It started out with an awkward dodging of a "play date" with another nanny who cares for a 2.5-year-old boy.  I use the term "care" loosely, because our previous play dates have consisted largely of me watching four children instead of three, while she texts constantly and has long, drawn-out phone conversations in Hungarian.  The other day, she showed up at the house with the two-year-old and, inexplicably, his nine-year-old sister.  Suddenly, I had five children to take care of.  Joy.  So yesterday, I ignored her texts and phone calls and sent a vague reply about how the baby was napping so long that we wouldn't be able to meet up with them.  (This was actually true, Bean slept for two and a half hours.)

Further information: Bee is in the midst of potty-training.  He's been doing great so far, doing all his pees on the potty and the occasional number two.  When I helped him do his first pee of the morning yesterday, I noticed that his mother had put him in underwear instead of in a diaper (we've just been doing the remove-the-diaper-to-go-to-the-potty thing and then putting it back on when he's done).  Huh, I thought.  I guess she thinks he's doing well enough that he doesn't need a diaper at all...?

The morning dragged on, and by the end of lunch, Bee helpfully announced that he was tired so I promptly scooted him onto the potty and then into his crib for his nap.  "LM, you need to clean your plate before you may leave the table." (He had two cherry tomatoes left on his plate.  He'd already eaten four or five, thus, they are not a food of contention.)
"No!  I don't want them!"
"LM, don't speak to me like that.  I asked you to finish your lunch.  You have two minutes to eat those last two tomatoes."
**screeeeaaaammmmiiinnnggg child**
<Moments when you become an ineffective nanny: when you yell at a child to stop yelling.  Yeah.  Go me.>
I took a deep breath and said in a quiet, steady voice, "LM, I will not tolerate you screaming like that.  Either finish your lunch, or go sit in the stroller."  ("Sitting in the stroller" is a one-up from sitting on the bench because the stroller is in the entryway and is thus closed off by doors if necessary.  I use it when screaming is involved and the little guys are napping because otherwise, a tantrum-ing LM will keep everyone awake.)
**more screaming, in frantic, higher and higher pitched volumes**
"Okay, you've made your choice.  To the stroller, please.  Now."
Once in the stroller, still screaming, but slightly muffled, I cleaned up from lunch and let Bean play for awhile before putting him down for his nap.
Twenty minutes later, when LM had finally stopped screaming and had been quiet for three minutes, I opened the door.  "LM, when I tell you to do something, what do you do?"
"Listen to you and do it."
"That's right.  Are you ready to apologize and come out now?"
"NO!" **more screaming**
<deeeeep breath>
"Okay, you can stay in the stroller until you're ready to come out calmly."
Twenty MORE minutes went by until he was calm.  I repeated the prior conversation but this time, he apologized and came out to the living room.
"Caywin, will you play with me?"
"Honestly, LM, no.  You've disrespected me today and I don't really feel like playing with you after that.  You may play with your Legos by yourself this afternoon."

Now, you may not agree with how I handled that.  To each his or her own, I say.  I was being honest with him and quite frankly, when someone treats me that way, I'm not so keen on getting chummy with them over Legos.  I lay on the couch and prayed for the day to go faster.

The afternoon dragged on, with the little guys waking up too early (Bean) and too late (Bee) for us to do anything fun.  Bee did two more pees on the potty and each time I asked him to try to do a poo as well, even though he'd already done one in the potty that morning.  He insisted he didn't have to go, so I didn't push the matter.

As I was getting dinner ready for an overtired Bean and glaring at the clock, wondering why the boys' father wasn't home yet to help me with the dinner-time chaos, I glanced at Bee's pants from where he and LM were playing in the backyard.  He was suspiciously wet all down the front.  I sighed.  "Bee, did you pee your pants?"
"Yes!" he cheerfully replied.
"Bee, you need to tell me when you need to use the potty.  When you feel like you need to pee or poo, you come tell me quick as you can and we go to the potty.  When you're wearing underwear, you can't just go in your pants, understand?"
I put a hotly protesting Bean in his high chair and went to strip Bee of his pants before taking him to the bathroom to wipe him down.  As I pulled them down, I was greeted with the site of not just pee, but...well, you can guess.  It was everywhere.  It had run down his legs and soaked through his pants.  "Bee!  Why, oh why did you poop in your pants?!"
<Again, fine nanny moments: asking a potty-training child questions about "why" they go in their pants.  Because it's the only place they're used to going.>

From there on, it was chaos.  I attempted to carry a poop-covered Bee into the bathroom, prayed that LM wouldn't do anything too terrible while I wasn't watching, and ignored Bean's yelling.  I cleaned up Bee, gave him a bath, tried not to gag at the poop everywhere, put him in a DIAPER and pajamas, fed Bean his dinner, disinfected the tub, brought LM inside and instructed him firmly to, "Sit on the couch and look at a book.  That's IT."

Finally, finally, their father arrived home - forty minutes late.  I grunted at his apology and mixed a bottle for Bean, asked LM three times to calm down and stop running around the house hitting his brother.  On the third time, I stopped him, squatted down, told him to "Look into my eyes and listen.  If you do not stop this, you will go back in the stroller.  Do you understand?"  His eyes narrowed and I could see the spit being gathered in his mouth, ready to be aimed right. into. my. face.  I flipped.  This child, this monster, was about to spit at me.  I know he's four.  I know that he was mad.  But I also know that this had been the day from hell.  "Don't you ever disrespect me like that, LM! EVER!"  I marched him to the stroller, put Bean to bed, collected my money from their father silently and told him, yes, it had been like this all day, k thanks bye.

As I skedaddled, I stopped in the entryway where LM was still in the stroller.  I squatted down and looked him dead in the eyes.  "You will not disrespect me like that.  Ever.  Again."  He nodded silently and I left.

Like I said, you might read this and think that I'm the worst nanny in the world.  I certainly wasn't the best one yesterday.  But dear god, I would have to be the Dalai Lama before I would be enlightened enough not to lose my cool during a day like that.

Monday?  Be better?  Awesome, thanks.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Bounty of the Season

Can't be the fourth of July without a blueberry pie.

Monday, July 4, 2011

It's Only the Beginning

So there was this girl.
(All good stories start this way.)
She was cute - she had brown hair and she stood like she didn't care what people thought of her.
I thought, Damn.  Too good for me.
There was tequila involved.  Otherwise this never would have happened.
Want another drink?
My friends and I are having a barbeque tomorrow in Queens.  You should come!
(please come please come please come)
Um, maybe...

The next day, there was a great barbeque going on that I was largely unaware of.  My best friends were all around me.  Inside, I was quivering with excitement and trepidation.  She said she was she actually coming?
And then, she was there.
Walking up the driveway towards me.
And something clicked.
This is it, the voice in my head whispered (the one you should never, ever ignore).  This is the girl.

I'm so glad you came.
I'm glad I came too.

My arm around her waist felt like it was the only place for it to be.  Her hand in mine felt like it had finally come home.  The fireworks that night were just for us.  They always will be.  You can say there's no such thing as love at first sight.  Two years and one day ago, I would have agreed with you.  But now I know better.

This is it.
This is the real deal.
The shit they talk about in movies.
The big guns.


And I'm the luckiest girl in the world.
Not everyone finds the love of their life.
Two years ago, I found mine.