Making Space for a Growing Family

Posted: January 6th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: City Livin', Miss Kate, Preg-o | No Comments »

Once the mayhem of work died down, it was immediately replaced with an endless stream of household chores based around the displacement of the office for Kate’s Big Girl Room.

It’s been nothing short of maddening not being able to roll up my sleeves and do my fare share of the work. But the half that doesn’t involve lugging heavy boxes, furniture and electronics involved dismantling and re-establishing computer equipment, wireless internet service, etc. So either advanced pregnancy or lack of tech know-how has stymied my usefulness. And turbo-charged with the nesting instinct as I am, this leaves me to just pester Mark, sit and watch, and pipe up with occasional undoubtedly aggravating suggestions.

The whole endeavor has been extremely stressful on Mark, since A) I’m nagging, B) he’d doing all the work and C) he’s wedging it into whatever free time he has on weekends. Also because this process entails adding more stuff to a small house and trying to figure out where the hell to squirrel away the stuff we already have.

Can we jimmy another human into this space–replete with its own wardrobe and cavalcade of gear–and still be able to find our 2006 tax returns? At this juncture, that remains to be seen–though we seem to be close to emerging on the side of success. Everything is still not in its final resting place. For example, all our important (and some not-so important) documents still reside in a towering 5-drawer file cabinet in Kate’s new Big Girl Room. Good to have them at hand for her in the event that she wants to review our life insurance policy, or check out some detail of Mark’s birth certificate on some sleepless night.

And just when you think it’s the adults who are in charge of the house-space wrangling, Little Miss Toddler has to get into the mix. When I recently came home from a long car ride and was making my way to the bathroom, Kate stood in my way. “No use this bathroom, Mama,” she said sternly. “Why not, honey?” I asked, trying to be patient and not sweep her aside as my pea-sized prego bladder prepared to burst.

“My alligator in this bathroom,” she explained. “My alligator need privacy.”

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Too Busy to Even Change My Mantra

Posted: December 27th, 2007 | Author: | Filed under: Career Confusion, Misc Neuroses, Preg-o | No Comments »

With three weeks to go before my maternity leave started–which was also when the Christmas holiday was beginning–lots of things happened.
a) I got a new boss.
b) Three days later a client pulled out of some projects leaving a gaping hole in my P&L for next year, upwards of, well, a monetary figure with many many zeros in it.
c) We got a chance to pitch for new work.
d) My nesting mode reached bionic heights and I went on an obsessive Excel-monitored Christmas-gift shopping bonanza in all of the time that I wasn’t a) trying to make a good impression on my new boss, b) doing damage control over the significant loss of work to my team, c) writing PPTs to win a new client
e) I began to understand what being an insomniac is like, which for anyone who hasn’t experienced it should know totally sucks, but it does allow for you to run threw a lot that’s on your mental To Do list between 3 and 6AM.

Oh sure, I’ve been diligently taking my prenatal vitamins, along with a host of other supplements that will help my little inner parasite be the healthiest, smartest and most emotionally balanced being ever produced. But really, I don’t think all the other factors had a positive effect on me.

Working long hours, sitting in epic commuter traffic, subsiding on the copious amounts of holiday candy, popcorn and chocolate-covered pretzels, and trying to tap dance fast enough in front of a new boss that she doesn’t notice that the shit has hit my division’s fan–none of these things are pretty when you are waddling around nine months pregnant.

For the past month or so my internal mantra had been, “Cope, cope, cope.” When needed, I can draw on considerable reserves of energy, optimism and drive. And if I push myself hard enough, I won’t have enough time to stop and feel sorry for myself. This, plus allowing myself an occasional half-caf latte at Starbucks, can provide much of the necessary energy to light up whatever grid we’re on here out West.

Yet, aside from the lack of loving attention I’ve been focusing on this little baby-to-be, I was also dreadfully lacking the holiday spirit. Sure, I was get the family’s gift shopping done. But in the rote emotionless way an astronaut runs through a pre-take-off check list.

Then, something happened–but what was it? Oh, Neice Maia’s dance performance. Sitting watching a group of urban kids interpret the Nutcracker with everything from ballet to hip hop to break dancing, while my sister held Kate–who was enraptured–on her lap. It was just enough to make a knick in my steely outer shell of “Cope cope cope” and left me considering briefly a change to “Savor savor savor.” I got a small hit, akin to those you can get watching a grocery store commercial during the holidays when PMS makes you sentimental.

But it vanished more quickly than a spritz of fake Christmas tree scent.

Next thing you know, work was over. I was out of there. And then we were in the wind-up to Christmas. I realized that on the same day our nanny would be leaving us, it would be Kate’s last day of preschool before the holiday, our house was being cleaned for the last time pre-Xmas, and I was heading out for maternity leave. Thankfully my insomnia gave me plenty of time to process the convergence of all this the night before–while panicking about the appropriate gifts for the house cleaner, teachers and my team–all of which had been ruefully forgotten until my most awake refreshed part of the “day” over the course of the past month, which happened to come while lying in bed between 3AM and 20 minutes before my alarm went off.

And the other thing is, this baby has continued to gestate! Despite my utter emotional neglect. And while I was spending time realizing how unfocused I was on the holidays, I was even unfocuseder on how damn soon this baby will arrive.

3 weeks to be precise. And, given the holidays are past, work is behind me, and we’ve actually finally (and successfully, I may add) moved Kate into her new room and Big Girl Bed, I’m suddenly staring into a abyss of space and time in which thankfully there is one thing left I can do so I won’t feel totally bereft–realize that we are about to have another baby. That I am in fact. Out of this here body.

I never made the change from “cope cope cope” to “savor savor savor,” but I’m hoping that I’ll be able to get “baby baby baby” in under the wire before I’m moaning in Labor and Delivery and it’s much too late.

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Project Managing the McCluskys

Posted: November 8th, 2007 | Author: | Filed under: Husbandry, Miss Kate, Preg-o | No Comments »

Turns out that my past life as a project manager has served me well for parenting. At least in terms of the schedule management. Or so I thought.

So in 11 weeks or so New Baby arrives. Got that down as a milestone. There are a few dependencies associated with that, such moving Kate’s room into what’s now the office to free up the crib for the young’un. And to do that we need to move the office downstairs into this weird little basement room, which means that Mark needs to move all his bike stuff from the weird basement room (multiple bikes, a bureau of cycling clothes, cases of Gatorade, bike tools, helmets, shoes, and a gazillion water bottles) along with tents, beach towels, and sleeping bags, into the the garage.

Mark has already started the bike stuff migration, but the office is still very much intact, and very much teeming with bookcases, books, computers, file cabinets and a bunch of musical equipment.

Every project manager worth their MS Project Plan knows that it sometimes takes completion of one task to spur on the onset of another one. And as it happens I got a flyer in the mail announcing that a huge kid-stuff store is having a furniture warehouse sale tomorrow. So Kate and I are going big girl bed shopping. A field trip which, if fruitful, will result in more urgency around the need to make way in the office for Kate’s new swingin’ big girl boudoir.

And, of course, in my manic state of nesting, I can’t wait to obsess over what all I’ll need to get and do to make Kate’s new room appealing for her, but moreover cute as the Dickens in my own eyes. The potential for endless runs to Ikea and Target to meet this objective makes me giddy with delight. This because I have already overhauled and or re-organized almost every other room in the past two months due to Crazy Lady Nesting, and it seems silly to do them all over again. I need a new outlet for this beyond-my-ability-to-control animalistic phase.

Back on my gantt chart of What Needs Happenin’ Before Bay Comes, is the issue of Kate and preschool. At one point a few months ago, in the productive early morning hours of prenatal insomnia I realized with intense clarity that what I’d need more than anything was for Kate to have a place to go (a nanny share or preschool) 2-3 mornings a week when I was tending to the new baby.

And driven Mama that I am, I somehow took that middle-of-the-night self-assigned action item and made good on it. So now Kate is in preschool. And since no sudden moves can descend on the project plan of family dynamics, we were lucky enough to get her started with plenty of time to acclimate before her little sibling started sucking parental attention away from her like a vacuum cleaner.

And initially it seemed Kate was going to oblige us neatly with little to no transitional issues or new school trauma. But then the “outside time” at the school started to overwhelm her. The kids from her classroom and a couple others pour into the school’s playground all at once and the mayhem and unstructured time seems to throw our Little Miss for a loop.

Give her noodles to glue to a paper plate and she’s fine. But in the wilds of the outdoors she’s been coming undone.

One of the teachers has told us when Kate starts bumming out outside, she takes her in and they hang out and play in the classroom. And at the end of the day when you ask Kate about playing outside, she cheerily reports, “I cry outside,” as if she’s telling you, “We had muffins at snack time.”

Hearing about this has been heart wrenching for Mark. But, especially with the unemotional way she reports this to us, I wasn’t too concerned. By all other reports Kate seems to find preschool pretty groovy. And to be honest, it seemed to me that it wasn’t in the plan for Mark to get waylaid by this little development. It will work out! We will move on! I will buy new curtains for the basement office room and everything will be okay. See how well we are moving through our tasks?

Today the nanny is on vacation. (Selfish.) So I blasted out of the office at noon, feeling a certain amount of work-neglect guilt, to fetch Kate from school. Surprisingly for the time of day I got enmeshed in traffic and drive 15MPH for a solid 30 minutes. I realized I’d be late to get Kate. All the kids who spend the full day there would be lying down for their naps. Then the gas tank went from kinda low to the red light going on. I decided the traffic hold-up left me no time to get gas, but the longer I sat in traffic the lower the indicator needle moved to the bottom of the last white line. (It’s never a good sign when you find yourself rationalizing about where on that last line of tank emptiness you are.) Add to this my desperate need to pee.

Suffice it to say I wasn’t feeling at one with the universe when I skidded into Kate’s classroom 10 minutes late, and then saw she had a big scrape on her nose and a bloody upper lip. When I asked the teacher who was with her what happened it seemed like she was on a slow record speed responding to me. I mean, I think she just said hello to me or something before starting to tell me, but I was already in Crazy Mode and just wanted to know right away what the $^%(# happened to Kate?

The fact is, Kate was fine. Yes, she’d fallen off a log, and sure she cried for a while afterwards, but she was over it. But for me, I felt a disturbing inner lurch as I went from feeling great about our latest foray into preschool into a mode of “wait, this might not all be perfect and settled in my mind after all.” There are some things that I’m going to need to get used to here.

I’d heard that after a couple good weeks an otherwise “adjusted” preschooler may backslide into some transitional issues. But no one prepared me for the fact that that could happen to me as well.

When Kate registered my presence, she started to wimper and demanded a kiss on her owie. And the teacher, after finally sputtering out what happened, decided to launch into details of how she comforted Kate and then what they did, and this is how she was the rest of the day which was really very happy and doing well for the most part blah blah blah, which I suddenly had no interest in hearing about. I just wanted to get Kate and get out of there. (And I wanted to pee.) The thought of Kate having had a bad experience outside, which was already the Bad Place for her, just seemed unbearable. We needed to go home home home.

I struggled down the sidewalk holding the car seat Mark left me when he dropped Kate off against my big belly, and trying not to drop my keys or Kate’s sweater and extra pair of pants. Ten paces behind me Kate dawdled along, dangling her lunch box and looking like a pathetic waif with her barrettes sagging in her hair and her face scraped up and bloody. It seemed like miles to the car and worlds away from our dear sweet home, as Kate announced she wanted to walk on the “crunchy leaves” and slowed down even further. It was all I could do to not sit down on the sidewalk and bawl.

In any given project there is always the unexpected unplanned for snafu that jumps out at you, invariably when you’re also having a bad hair day. And no matter how much of a bad-ass you are, you can’t always rally on the spot and regain your firm grasp. For some project managers the lack of control is probably a fairly familiar feeling, but for others, knowing it could have been avoided devours us.

In all my transitional strategizing and well-laid plans to ensure everyone moved through all there is to do before the new baby arrives, I totally overlooked the potential for me to put a kink in the plans. Without expecting it, and certainly without wanting it, it became apparent that it was going to take me a little longer to adjust to preschool than I’d planned for. It’s not that I suddenly felt like it wasn’t a safe place for Kate to be, or that I even really had any misgivings about the place. It was just its utter newness.

Finally at the car, I heaved the car seat in and was preparing forlornly to climb in with my big belly and crouch over it to install it. My internal dialog was chanting “Home, home, home.” When I looked out at Kate to make sure she was staying safely by the car, she peered up at me and said “I don’t want to go, Mama. I want to stay preschool!”

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Keep an Eye on Your Snakes

Posted: November 2nd, 2007 | Author: | Filed under: Husbandry, Misc Neuroses, Preg-o | No Comments »

When I was pregnant with Kate I had the usual spate of irresponsibility nightmares. You know, the garden variety leave-the-store-and-forget-the-baby-in-the-shopping-cart type nightmares. Or the, “Where’s your new baby?” question that the kindly neighbor asks and you think, “Oh shit! That’s right! Where is she?” I also had one in which the baby was very small and I kept her in a Tupperware (before you judge me, I didn’t put the top on it–duh), and then I realized I forgot to give her water for a while–not something one generally gives an infant, but in my Dream Land it was appropriate. Oops!

Last night I woke Mark up in the middle of the night. “The snakes!” I implored him. “I forgot about them and they are loose!”

The situation being, that I was caring for two very large white snakes and realized that I was forgetful about ensuring they would stay in their bag or crate or whatever. I’d woken up from my dream, but was still certain that those snakes needed corralling before God knows what happened. (Sure, these snakes aren’t a baby, per se, but the lack of tending to them made me feel they ranked with the hapless mother dreams.)

Mark didn’t seem to care so much about this dire scenario. In fact, I’d categorize his reaction to the news as more annoyed than anything. “What?! I was asleep! It’s 1:45!”

Weird. If someone told me there were some huge loose snakes lurking around I’d hardly be feeling sleepy.

Anyway, ten minutes later after I assume we both dozed off, I woke up once more feeling an even more hellbent on imparting to Mark the extent of the danger I’d put us were in. I’d been irresponsible with these snakes–which it seemed were somehow the property of work, kinda like when you could sign up to take the classroom hamster home over a holiday–but with Mark’s help I figured we could get out of this pickle.

“Mark!” I called out to his side of the bed again. “The Sunset snakes! They are loose. I let them loose!” Again, Mark expressed apparent disinterest, and an even more ardent desire to sleep sans my reptilian jibber-jabber than he did when I first woke him up.

This morning after his alarm went off Mark informed me that I was talking in my sleep to him about snakes. “Oh, I was totally awake,” I assured him. Sure, it all started out with a dream, but when I woke up, the urgency I felt to get him to intercept the consequences of my irresponsibility was very real.

And he really didn’t seem to care much. Maybe I should scream out “Fire!” in the middle of his REM cycle tonight, just to see how he reacts.

Anyway, in the breaking light of day we laughed for a good ten minutes about it. But I still looked around good and hard before reaching into my closet for my shoes.

When I got to work I saw a woman whose family lives in San Diego, and realized where this whole snake thing hailed. She’d just told me that her parents are back in their house after the wildfire evacuation, but they have 6 inches of ash in their pool and throughout their yard. If that’s not bad enough, there are rattle snakes that have come down from the mountains (biblical, no?) that are lurking under the ash, so they’ve got to be vewy vewy careful when they walk anywhere outside.

Um, iiiiick!!!! A perfectly good plot line to inform my night’s dreams, no?

On NPR I just heard a sleep expert saying that pregnant women report having lots of weird dreams. It might be hormonal, the guy said, or it might just be because you’re sleeping less soundly and remember more of your dreams from waking up a lot. In which case you are always having freaky dreams, but just don’t remember them.

I think I’m just doing my part to ensure that my sleep–and God knows, Mark’s–takes on the restless and unpredictable pattern that having a newborn in your house presents. Just trying to ease the transition. And reinforce in Mark that as the man of the house, he has a responsibility to protect us women and children from whatever evils, real or imagined, dare to disrupt us.

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26 Weeks? Is That All?

Posted: October 15th, 2007 | Author: | Filed under: Preg-o | 1 Comment »

For the love of God this pregnancy may stretch out for all eternity!

I mean, mostly I feel like the holidays will be here before I know it, then the baby will be due. But that’s only if I can get out of this Twilight Zone which seems to be the tail end of the 20-something weeks.

At yoga yesterday during show-and-tell time, once again all the other mothers-to-be were able to show off their ability to retain how far along they are. (Show offs.) And when it was my turn I just decided to ‘fess up. “Um, I’m not really sure how many weeks I am,” I said weakly. “Maybe, um . . . 28?”

In the tub last night I decided to flip through some of my old pregnancy books. You know, nurture an interest in this developing child in order to maybe foster more healthy fetal development. You know, try to muster up the fascination that I had with the whole process when I was pregnant with Kate. You know, fake it.

But it’s like the “Your Pregnancy Week by Week” book was written just to mock us second-timers who have no sense of what week we’re in. I just skimmed the 27 to 29 week range and figured I had it covered. I read about some of the horrific things that can happen from “What to Freak Out About When You’re Expecting” and thought to myself that I should remember to tell Mark the crown to rump length of the baby at this point, so I could alleviate any guilt he might have about not reading anything this time around either.

Finally this evening I remembered to go to learn how far along I really am. What I don’t know, The Internets will tell me! Thank God.

Well, it turns out that after using their handy dandy pregnancy calculator thingy I discovered I’M ONLY AT 26 WEEKS. This seems utterly impossible. Wasn’t I 26 weeks along about a month ago at my last midwife appointment? Did I slip into some reverse coma where instead of losing the last few weeks, I feel like I’ve experienced them but time has really stood still?

For all I know I could get a BabyCenter email newsletter next week telling me that I’m at 21 weeks. I mean, at this point I really wouldn’t be surprised.

Well, given that I am where they tell me I am, what I learned is that the nerve pathways in the baby’s ears are developing now. And that if it’s a boy–which I’ve been feeling lately like it is–his testicles are starting their epic descent into his scrotum. It’s “a trip that will take about two to three days.” You know, a nice weekend-length itinerary.

Learning a tidbit like that helped me to realize what I’m missing out on by not closely monitoring each stage of this baby’s development. Or maybe what I’m not missing out on.

This time around, looking down at my belly every once and a while and commenting to Mark, “Yep, I’m getting bigger alright” might just be all I need to do.

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I Didn’t Barf!

Posted: September 8th, 2007 | Author: | Filed under: Preg-o | 1 Comment »

So here I am 21 weeks pregnant. I think. I mean, I know for sure I’m pregnant, unless I’ve just started really retaining water in my abdomen. It’s just hard the second go-around, as I’ve heard, to remember how far along you really are. I mean, with Kate I’d know at any time how preggers I was down to the day. “Oh, 23 and 3/4 weeks!” I’d sunnily respond to anyone who asked. These days when someone inquires I mutter that I’m due at some point in January, and hope that’s enough info for them.

I was obnoxiously healthy happy and fit when I was pregnant with Kate. One of those women with skinny arms and legs who was “all belly.” This time, uh, not so much. Let’s just say I saw a reflection of my butt in the mirror when I was getting into the shower the other day and I was stunned. It is vast. I am growing at a furious rate.

The first time I had the benefit of getting knocked up soon after my wedding when I was in peak physical form. I’d worked out like a demon pre-wedding, determined to have the arms of a goddess in my strapless gown. (I can’t help by imagine that our guests are still cooing over my buff upper bod three years later.)

So anyway, I hadn’t really “let myself go” as they say since Kate was born. But I was hardly the hard body I used to be. Besides, your body has this kinda “memory” to it from being pregnant before. So before you’re even ready to tell anyone you’re in the family way, your shirts start riding up like cropped tops.

Since liposuction during pregnancy is probably ill-advised, I guess I have no option other than to try to get some exercise now, and wrangle with postpartum saddlebags postpartum.

All that said, we are thrilled, delighted and generally giddy over the prospect of welcoming another creature into our family who has the potential to be even 1/8 as amazing as Miss Kate. And aside from my 7-week eye episode, I’ve felt fabulous, if a bit more flabulous than I’d like.

I’ve had friends who couldn’t even wear necklaces during their pregnancies because the chain around their necks made them nauseous. I’ve heard all about those who kept Saltines by their beds to calm their stomachs before their feet even touched the floor in the morning. One friend had evening sickness that was so dizzying she couldn’t even read or watch TV–she had to just brace herself to stop the room from swirling.

Comparatively, I’ve been one of those “I am woman hear me roar I’ve never felt so beautiful” kinda pregnant gals. Good hair, good skin. No stretch marks. Not a lick of nausea or food aversions. Happily making my way to prenatal yoga two times a week through Week 41. (That’s one week after Miss Kate should have qualified me for the Mom and Baby Class, for those who are uninitiated with the human gestation period.)

So, it was dismaying last week when I’d finished off yet another excellent meal prepared by my person chef (and life partner), Mark, that I felt not so fresh. I wasn’t nauseous per se, but strapped with a wicked case of heartburn. Heartburn is without a doubt the worst malady for not seeming like a bad thing when you don’t have it, and feeling like sheer medical trauma when you do.

I thought my chest would burst into flames. And that thought was actually kind of appealing, since I thought it might not be pleasant, but it’d probably feel a lot better after. Anyway, I ate 93 or so fruit-flavored Tums and tried to steady the ship. But at one point I had one of those saliva-rising-up-in-the-throat rushes that has undeniable portent to pukedom, and I sprinted to the bathroom without even stopping to pause the Tivo.

Any other normal human would be in the moment, but for me I clutched the porcelain god thinking to myself, “No, no!” And not because I simply didn’t want to deal with the unpleasantness of barfing–because I didn’t want to wreck my Perfect Pregnancy track record. No longer would I be able to smugly boast, “Never sick once!” to a friend who clearly wanted to stab me for it. Though that might not be such a bad thing…

Thankfully, my episode passed. I mean, subsided with no dinner passing back out my lips. So, my record is someone tarnished but still intact. And I’ve learned some tips from my friend Megan who has done a truly amazing job “cooking” twins alongside my silly little single pregnancy. She’s had episodes of heartburn which I’m sure make mine look like nothing more than a case of garlic breath. (Her advice: No lying down right after eating, and when it’s clear Tums won’t do the trick, go for the Pepcid.)

For now at least, I’m happy to report having a handle on the heartburn. The next step is reining in the expanding booty.

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