Sunday, 10 November 2019

Another milestone

We celebrated AJ’s 5th birthday on the 9th (a bit after her actual birthday as she has friends with similar birthdays and had other parties to attend. Lucky girl.) 

At her party AJ had a dance lesson with her friends. Her theme was unicorns. I enjoyed the fanciful nature of the event and appreciated the distraction of organizing it. AJ and Dani wore unicorn dresses and I bought myself unicorn leggings to match. All the kids had a good time.



AJ has been saying she’s an artist for the past few months. And she has expanded her creativity exponentially since starting school.  Many of her presents involve making different crafts (which is great but  I am only going to let her open more as they are completed as I get twitchy at the thought of multiple incomplete projects: got too many of my own likely.). I bought her two sketchbooks and a book on how to draw animals.

AJ drew this picture of herself feeling happy on the day of her party.





Anyway, I have kind of a thing about fives and it occurred to me today that we have now been a family with children longer than we have been a family without children.  Counting from the year of our wedding, it was Mr Turtle and I from 2010 to 2014 and  then a family of three, later four from 2014 to 2019. Four years without kids, five years with kids. Since infertility was such a major issue in our lives I feel like I should acknowledge that. And barring some tragedy, the number of years with kids will continue to accumulate  while the years without will never change and will become the tinier part of the ratio. Kinda puts it in perspective.

It’s interesting; the year I started the blog, 2013, feels longer in a way than all the years since AJ was born. And I suppose I could count the early agonizing weeks of the first pregnancy in there. But when I look at AJ now the song lyric goes through my head: “Time started moving on the day we met.” So hold on, hold on the chorus continues. I try. Precious hugs and kisses and conversations.

Sunday, 3 November 2019

Maximum responsibility revisited

So, a couple of months ago I wrote about anticipating a return to work while keeping a bunch of other balls in the air....I mean trying remember what the balls are and periodically fishing the ones I dropped out from among the dust bunnies under the bed....so how's that going you might ask?

The answer is not particularly smoothly. I have certainly been pushed to the limit the past few weeks. I won't go through it all, but I'm still at my job, and it's been about a month since the first time I seriously questioned if I was losing it and had made the wrong decision. The family is well. AJ has the "best day ever" at kindergarten, like, every day. Dani seems to have adjusted to daycare and just graduated to the toddler room.  I have counseling and mental health through work and I'm using it.

A few snapshot details:

  • During my first appointment with my counselor, I said at one point: "I feel like I've been through this before....like it's my old demons all over again" (words to that effect.) I meant it felt like other times in my life where anxiety led to feelings of overwhelm and depression. But she asked me to clarify and then went through the oh, 5 or 6 major stressors I'd told her about and said "Actually, it sounds like you are dealing with A LOT you've never dealt with before. There is a lot of new stuff." Oh. Yes. She is right. Admitting that took a lot of angst and self-blame off, oddly enough.
  • I'm working hard at coming out of my shell and talking through the various challenges with colleagues and other people to turn them into things we can deal with, not a dozen problems that I can't solve on my own before the next dozen hit. It's an ongoing process. But when I manage this I feel more optimistic and clear in my head.
  • I saw the doctor earlier this month because I was overtired and anxious and had most of the depression symptoms. And because I was waking up hot and with racing heart and hadn't had a period since July. He gave me a few days off work, directed me to counseling, and took some bloodwork. The results were fine, but my FSH levels (over 100) confirm early menopause. (I turn 40 in December). So yeeeeeeaaaaah....there's that. Even more thankful for our two miracle kids. I don't know how I feel about this. I haven't really processed it. It's not a surprise: fertility doctor told me I was in periomenopause at age 33 after all. And we weren't planning on having any more children so it's not the devastating news it would have been three years ago. Still, knowing that early menopause is likely is different from it happening in real time.  I did recently have something resembling a period finally (very light though) so I'm not in full menopause yet.....but there's little doubt in my mind I'm leaving my (semi) fertile years permanently behind. This blog had documented many beginnings and endings....and here's another one.
  • One bright side: Remember all the anxiety I had about planning birthday parties in previous years? (Well I do.) I totally am not stressed about AJ's 5th birthday party. (Coming up next weekend).  I'm cool with it: I hired a facility, personally designed the invitations, hunted down RSVP's more or less successfully, found deals on goodie bag junk....so not stressed (so far). AJ is very much into art the past few months. She wants to be an artist. (I can't help telling her it's totally OK to have a job on the side, too.) I found a arts centre that would do a party based on visual art, clay or dance. I expected her to pick a project....but she opted for a dance class party. With a unicorn theme. So that's what we are doing. She and her guests get a unicorn themed dance party. We bring the cake and food and other stuff. Sounds awesome. And I'm glad that money I'm spending is supporting artists in our community....I think we could do worse.

Anyway, I have finished my work assignment for the day and have the rest of the weekend to enjoy, so I am going to go enjoy my imperfect, complicated, often hard to deal with but still precious life. And I wish the same for anyone reading.

Tuesday, 27 August 2019

The day before

My maternity/parental leave ends tomorrow.

August 28th, 2019 sounded like a very long time into the future when I was filling out my leave forms in January 2018, which I still clearly remember doing. The last weeks of work (as it turned out, the last at my former school) passed in a haze of appointments and squeezing in just-one-more-task. 

But this is the crazy thing about the future: if you are lucky, it does actually arrive one day. Tomorrow’s the day.

I am probably the calmest now that I will be about it, as my expectations are still unformed. I wasn’t able to go into school early because somebody broke into the building and made a mess, and teachers were specifically told to stay away till official entry day. That probably was not a bad thing (for me: obviously not at all a good thing generally).

I’ve tried to prepare my personal life and my kids’ lives so that for the next few days I can focus on the preparation and teaching part. Won’t go into all the details (there are a lot of details, and not gonna lie, I really kind of enjoy fussing over them). But underneath it all is a feeling of stillness and rest I hope I can maintain. And it comes from the knowledge that everything is passing.

The past two days I took Dani to visit her daycare, which is AJ’s old daycare. And I remembered (sometimes) crying a little after I dropped off AJ, especially the first year. Then I remembered crying - a lot - a few months ago when we withdrew AJ and had to say goodbye to all the staff. Will it be a similar story with Dani? Either way....none of this is permanent. All the busyness, all the nerves, all the details and preparations. It reminds me to live in the moment, which does make me less anxious. The anxiety will be back, taking up residence in my stomach in a few hours: I know this. (Do you have any good smoothie recipes to recommend? You will be doing me and the people who depend on me a world of good.) But these moments, of anticipation, of breath-stopping reality, of potential weaving with time into kinetic energy: they will never come again. And so whatever else they are, they are endlessly precious.

Onward.

Friday, 16 August 2019

Maximum responsibility

At some point in my early 20s, I realized my greatest fear was being useless.

It was probably the year I spent being unemployed after my first degree. I learned a lot about who I was during that year. Prior to that, if you asked me who I was, I would have talked about how I was a creative person, thoughtful, intellectual etc. I certainly would have described myself as hardworking and conscientious, because that was true. The other things are true too. But my life experiences also mainly involved going to school and university and working at summer jobs, getting good grades and job reviews, and having people tell me how smart I was and how I could do anything. I certainly experienced difficulties , but nothing that took me apart or sent a broadside into my world view. 

After I graduated with my BA  honours, my plan consisted of finding a job somewhat related to my degree, working for a few years, then maybe going to grad school. Unlike many of my fellow grads I had taken the cooperative education program, and worked in areas such as web development, conference organizing, marketing and desktop publishing. I thought I had it going and would find work easily.

Instead I spent a year living with my parents and applying to jobs, and getting almost no response. It might have been that there was a recession. It might have had something to do with the fact that when I was a student, my employers got a subsidy from the government for hiring me, which gave me an inflated idea of my employability. Whatever the case, I had two job interviews in a year, and I wasn’t offered either job. However, they are representative of the sorts of things I was applying for: one was to work for a wine seller writing descriptions of their wine, the other  was at a small academic publisher. 

By the end of that year I had reached a conclusion: if it was this bloody hard to get a job, then the job had better be worth it. I was not going to expend my energy doing something trivial. And that’s how I decided to go back to school and become a teacher. 

In hindsight I am extremely grateful for that year of unemployment and failure. If I had gotten one of the jobs I applied for, it might have taken me longer to learn that crucial lesson about myself. I might have continued with the delusion that I knew and was enough, when the truth was I needed to take risks and try things that I wasn’t (yet) good at. But that year really, really sucked. If you gave me a choice between reliving the worst moments of my life, and reliving the year of unemployment, I’d choose the worst moments of my life. Except for the time I thought I was miscarrying. 

Fast forward to the present:

I return to full time teaching at the end of the month after an 18 month leave. AJ is starting kindergarten and Dani will be in AJ’s old daycare (which we liked a lot.) I am starting a new job in a program I haven’t taught before. I teach special education which is partly like typical teaching and partly like having another family: a very big complex one involving A LOT of patience and skill and teamwork. 

Beyond that, Mr Turtle is also working full time and in the process of registering as a psychologist, which takes a significant amount of money and some time too. It will be worth it in the long run but it is part of the reason it makes sense for me to work full time, as is the fact that Mr Turtle also has a chronic condition managed in part by expensive medication.

My mom is also in her late 70s and increasingly needing more help with things. Our relationship has been changing the past couple of years as more and more she comes to me and my brothers for help in crises and for basic problem solving. She still manages her regular routine well and is physically healthy but anything out of the ordinary is a problem. It is a challenge but we are using resources in the community and doing assessments and trying to address each issue methodically. We all agree that we need to plan for the future before there is a real crisis.  We still have fun with my mom as a family, so that’s heartening.

Overall....this feels like a lot. And of course those are only the things I know about....what about all the unexpected possibilities? It’s enough to keep me awake some nights and I know the anxiety and intensity will cause me to lose at least five pounds in September....no doubts there. 

What calms me is the realization that this is who I always wanted to be: a person who matters. I could have made different choices in my past, maybe better ones, who knows. But whatever I did couldn’t have been too wrong because it has brought me to the point where I can take on maximum responsibility. Of course that is a subjective term: what is the maximum? I can’t say for sure but it is probably more than I believe I can do. That doesn’t mean I won’t ask for help or delegate: it’s one of my goals to do exactly that in the next few months. What it means is I’m (mostly) not trying to run away from what I can and should do. I’m not seeing it as an oppressive force denying me the life I “should” have.  The life I have is exactly the life I should have. 

More thoughts on responsibility  that I have found helpful and thought provoking.

 Not to be too heavy, I also plan to have a lot of fun. Looking at the last week:

  • I helped my mom at the bank when she was targeted by a scammer. (She didn’t lose any money). Worked with very helpful bank staff to  put in place protections. Communicated successfully with my brothers so they can help too. 
  • Did some fun back to school shopping with my daughters and my mom cane along to help as well. Ok it’s not always fun to shop with my almost five year old VERY opinionated daughter but it all turned out well. 
  • Had a play date with my good friend at a community event, then took care of her son for an afternoon while she took her mom to an appointment for cancer diagnosis (I know, nothing gets simpler and easier. But the kids and I had fun.)
  • I managed to make a pot of soup for a former colleague who had foot surgery.
  • Something about August makes me want to bake. Latest was a cake pan of blueberry lemon bars. It happened to be a day I was doing a lot of errands and appointments so I divvied them up and left a few with every person I saw. This made me happy.
  • Went to an appointment with my mom, a social worker and occupational therapist (still need to write that one up). Saw a lawyer to update her will and other documents, then helped her but a bathing suit and we went swimming with the kids.
  • Washed and organized all my work clothes so I don’t have to think about them the last week of vacation (which Mr Turtle also has off) except to feel good about how on top of things I am.
Well I could go on and on but you get the idea. Life is happening. It comes at me and the people around me in waves and we grab the nearest floaty thing and surf them. It can be scary and overwhelming and also fun.

Tuesday, 30 July 2019

Dani @ 18 months

Dani is turning 18 months and here’s everything I can think of while she tosses and turns in her crib, hopefully going to sleep.  It’s like watching paint dry, but noisier.

Nicknames:
Dani bear, D-bear, Super Bear, Bear,  Little Googoo (that’s AJ’s)

Favourite.....

Books:

Brown bear brown bear, Little Miss pocketbooks, Waddle


Also Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl. I am not kidding. She flips through it entranced, gives it stroller rides, and if I put it on a high shelf will risk life and limb to recapture it.



We don’t need no light summer reading.




Activities:
  • Playing in the sprinkler (gets soaking wet and totally ok with it)
  • Swinging (she throws back her head and says “wheeee, wheeee”)
  • Throwing and kicking a ball (bouncy balls send her into fits of giggling glee)
  • Picking up sticks. Anything outside really, but bonus if sticks are available.
  • Picking up tiny treasures (child proofing with a second child is very hit and miss....and we were hit and miss even with AJ. Luckily Dani doesn’t put things in her mouth much anymore.)
  • Putting on necklaces and bracelets or anything that can reasonably pass as such. 
  • Baths (she has started grabbing the bath mat and bringing it to me saying "Bath!"
  • Trying on shoes. Hers, sister’s, mom’s.



Building a campfire?

Foods 

  • Noodles (“noo-no’s)
  • Everything is second to noodles but also fruit, cheese, crackers, cookies. Dani will eat most foods including meats. Not showing much pickiness yet.
  • Feeds herself mostly successfully with spoon and fingers
  • Drinks from a straw cup and open cup sometimes

Toys
  • Balls
  • Sticks and brooms
  • Stuffies, especially her blue dinosaur, blue dolphins (hmmm she might like blue), her shaggy Duke the dog toy, shaggy mammoth toy adopted from AJ, and her blob kitty toys, still. Dani likes matching pairs of toys which kind of defeats my purpose when I buy two of things for the girls so they don’t fight over them.
  • Toy stroller she can push things in at breakneck speed
  • Musical toys such as harmonica, recorder, whistle, kazoo (she can make noises on all of them)
  • Sidewalk chalk 
  • Anything big sister is playing with, of course. Bonus if it’s totally inappropriate for a toddler, like hundreds of tiny beads


Curlers will recognize the victory pose.

People:
  • Big sister AJ. They still have a mostly sweet and affectionate relationship. Sometimes there is friction but AJ is generally tender and sensitive to Dani. I can easily redirect any misunderstandings so far. Dani often wakes up a bit cranky but turns to all smiles when she sees AJ. 
  • Dani’s favourite comfort object is a very soft dress of AJ’s she calls “Mama.” Luckily AJ is ok with this: it used to be a favourite dress but it’s too hot to wear it now; also it’s getting too small. She does have a bigger version she can wear next fall. I used to joke that I was interchangeable with the dress but in the past few weeks Dani has started calling me “mommy”. So I have my own title now and I love it.
  • Dani is developing more of a relationship with Mr Turtle.  She goes running to him calling “Daaaaaaad” in a very sweet way. I do think AJ is a bit defensive of her special relationship with dad however. Understandably so.  Luckily Mr Turtle is also very sensitive to these things. 
I could write a whole other blog or series about how relationships change and develop but in interests of brevity, it’s been mainly awesome. We are not perfect but if you walk in on us at any given time there’s a 80% chance we are having fun.





Notable:
  • Dani tries to sing along to songs and she’s really kinda good. AJ was off key or monotone  until she took some music lessons, but even though Dani can’t say words, she sings some notes. 
  • Lots of words, imitating constantly. Still calls most animals “kitty” but does many animal sounds. I think she actually might be starting to play the kitty thing for laughs. (“I know what it is but if I call it kitty they will all giggle.”)
  • Starting to show clothing preferences. Mostly for fluffy dresses.



And.....(not pictured) we have a sleeping toddler. Goodnight and happy half birthday birthday little bear. Beyond grateful everyday you manifested in our lives.

Friday, 28 June 2019

Expansion

On Friday I went to my school for the end of year goodbye breakfast: the school I started at in 2015, that lovely yet heartbreaking year where I grew into my mother role, started a new job, and witnessed my father’s ultimately fatal illness.

I will be starting at a new school when I return to work in the fall. The reasons are similar to 2015 too: due to changing enrolments, budget issues, and who knows what else, special Ed programs are periodically reduced or expanded in size, and teachers moved around. I am lucky to have a permanent contract where I am placed in  a new job when this happens, even coming off of an extended leave. Lots of teachers (and students) deal with far more uncertainty.

Despite the fact that I once again have a transition on top of a transition to negotiate, I am quite happy about this new start: in fact I’d say mostly happy.

My experience at, we’ll call it Second High School, was mostly good. It would certainly be a stretch to call it bad. But it was marred to some degree by something I can best describe with that vague, angst inducing phrase from my childhood: I didn’t quite fit in. And for whatever reason, I wasn’t able to entirely overcome this issue. It grew (in cycles) from a feeling of awkwardness to something that stunted professional relationships. Why couldn’t I deal with it? Was it reduced IQ from parenthood? Too many demands on my social awareness? Unease from my changing life roles? Simple exhaustion? Not the work culture I thrive in? A mismatch of values at some subterranean level? I’ve thought about it, a lot, often with a feeling of shame and inadequacy, and I can think of possible reasons why but I don’t exactly know, and maybe I won’t know till there is more distance from the environment.

Anyway, I am glad I went on the last day to see people one last time (odds are we will run into each other in other places too), and I was genuinely moved by the little goodbye speech my closest teaching colleague made: it had personal anecdotes and observations and was genuinely warm and funny. I am looking forward to the new adventure in the fall: also special ed, but a different program, different ages. I have a clearer mental map of what starting a new job is like after my first experience, and I intend to pay closer attention to the social aspect of the job. I also think I’m a more stable person now than I was four years ago and I have a better support network myself.

The other reason I’m relieved to not go back to Second High School is that the place is saturated with memories of trying to get pregnant with a second child (and later being pregnant). No, we weren’t having sex there, haha, but there are plenty of other associations apparently.

In no particular order:

-Peeing on an OPK during our short lunch break, then wrapping it in paper towel and trying to place it horizontal in my pocket, while eating my lunch or rushing off to debate club or whatever. Finding a surreptitious moment to check it later (and photograph if it was a promising one). Always afraid I’d leave the damn thing somewhere or it would be visible in the wastebasket and somebody would think it was a positive pregnancy test. 

-explaining my increased nausea and moodiness on Clomid to my EAs

-Swallowing my collection of vitamins and supplements at lunchtime. This might not sound like a big deal but I frequently struggle with eating a decent meal when I’m anxious, and adding a bunch of pills in addition to food can feel really gross and gag inducing.

-When pregnancy finally happened: the frantic effort to balance nausea, anxiety, appointments and emotions with teaching, planning, sub planning, offsite activities, individual program plan writing, report cards, early morning meeting (yecch!). I was extremely lucky in this regard: everyone was VERY supportive. But, it was effort that took me to the limit, nonetheless.

-taking blood draws later in pregnancy when I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes, and working this ritual behaviour into all the other ritual behaviours that one has as a teacher.

-this one was outside of school but deserves a mention: finishing my IPP updates  in the hospital while waiting for my second ECV procedure (to turn the breech baby head down: it ultimately was unsuccesssful of course).

-finally, this is one of the most vivid: alone in the staffroom, a couple of weeks before due date, filling in the form requesting my leave of absence. That feeling of relief mixed with nervous urgency and the realization I’d almost forgotten to do it with everything else on my mind. But the silence, the stillness, the reality pushing through the unreality (and the memories of lunchtime OPKs and gaggy pills) that THIS WAS HAPPENING. 

I realized the weird power of association last Christmas when I went to visit to the school and my former class. I walked in the door and was overwhelmed by a sense of I NEED TO GET PREGNANT NOW. I am not 100% reconciled to the end of my reproductive years, but I do NOT typically fantasize about being pregnant or even think much about it, and I have ZERO desire to resume the trying-to-conceive lifestyle. I ooh and aah appropriately at teeny babies but easily move on. So the broadside of emotion was a shock. I can only conclude that the environment triggered a whole bunch of very powerful mental associations that were going mercifully dormant and perhaps slowly disintegrating. I am not kidding; that experience was causing me to dread returning to that school this fall. I am more than a little relieved I don’t need to be buffeted by those memories in addition to all the demands of teaching.

I could go on and on, but as I mentally adjust I find myself grateful for closure, and ready for the next adventure. I am ready for my life to EXPAND, which is why I chose the title of this post rather than all the cliches about change I could have written. 

Onward.

Wednesday, 8 May 2019

Dani 15 months, AJ four years, life now

Why not, another random update.

Dani at 15 months:

-walking, sometimes almost running
-climbs on everything
-bumps her head a lot 
-words most often heard: “kitty” (means anything with a....face?) and “mama” (refers to a dress of AJ’s made out of very soft fabric which is her favourite comfort object. Sometimes refers to me.)
-other words heard occasionally: monkey, banana, blanket, ball, puppy, dad. Animal sounds: meow, rawr, ruff, hisss, moo.
-eats with a spoon fairly successfully. Likes to feed other people.
-drinks from a straw and an open cup, but will fling her drink given the chance
Likes:
-Going through her clothes. Sometimes expresses a preference what she wants to wear.  Trying on everyone’s shoes. Putting on necklaces and bracelets
-playing with dirt. Likes to taste
-scribbling with sidewalk chalk
-picking up tiny treasures outside and in, always the stuff she shouldn’t have 
-playing games with people: peekaboo, hiding objects
-passing a ball back and forth or kicking a ball.
-swinging and bouncing
Happy noises: whee, whee and maniacal laughter (she has my laugh I think: “H-hnh H-hnh H-hnh!). Sometimes starts chortling  with laughter right when she is supposed to be going to sleep
Loves: big sister, big sisters clothes and toys, taking everything out of drawers. 
Music. Always tries to play the piano beside AJ. Tries to play the recorder and harmonica (she makes sounds)
Smiling and making friends.

Definitely one of the sillier and more amazing people I have known.



We are enjoying life in the spring. Lots of time outside. I have applied to go back to work full time in September (I am on an extended leave). I think about it a lot but so far not with too much anxiety, just nervous about how busy it will be. I don’t know for sure if I will go back to the same job, but haven’t heard otherwise.

Childcare for both kids is decided and kindergarten orientation for AJ is later this month. She is so excited to go. We have been doing a lot of activities the last few months: yoga, music, swimming, ballet and for the most part she is very excited to learn new skills and it’s fun to watch. She is also starting to learn what it feels like to be frustrated and have difficulty and not meet her own expectations, which can be painful to watch especially since I have perfectionist qualities. But it is not overwhelming I think and I remind myself it is not my job to protect her from those tough feelings but to teach her to understand them. It is an interesting challenge to do that.  Parenting can be very humbling. I knew already that teaching requires me to be introspective and face up to my fears and flaws and it is similar with little kids. 

Enjoying the adventure, and these rare moments of stillness haha.