“Mama said, there’d be days like this….”

It was one of those days. I got out on the wrong side of bed, and then things just seemed to conspire against me, with mishaps small and large piling up. I was so irritable I wanted to throw something through the window. However, in the midst of all this, I want to note a couple of positives. One, I set aside time to practice, and did so. I have decided to focus on etudes for a while, go to basics and rebuild carefully. Two, Hazel accepted and followed through on spending an extra 30 minutes in her room, which was the consequence she knew would pertain if she came out of it during her nap. (Which she did, and woke up the babies in the process, and it took me a full hour to get them back to sleep.) Three, I got to spend some time this evening watching Emily trying to eat a book. Good times.

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A great day, including a visit to the zoo

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Today, it being our no-nanny-adventure-day, I took the kids to the Zoo. We brought our new stroller, and it was a huge success. When we left the house it was drizzling lightly, as is its wont here in the Pacific Northwest (which can be described as verdant on good days, and as interminably grey on others). When we arrived, it was, of course, raining more heavily. However, the sunshades on the stroller (Contours Options, by Kolcraft, in Valencia) are quite substantial enough to provide adequate cover. I set up the seats facing each other. Emily went to sleep fairly quickly, though I had to keep moving in order to keep her in dreamland, and Joanna relaxed in her seat, watching the scenery go by. We saw gorillas, flamingoes, and poison dart frogs. Eventually, the twins woke up started crying for food, so we headed over to a building where I could nurse the babies and Hazel could play. I got myself set up, told her where I’d be, and watched her run off quite happily. She climbed the 1.5-story structure, and when I went to go collect her, was playing with a couple other kids at the top of it. She asked for another minute to play, which I gave her, and when I came back she came down readily and ran over to get her coat & boots on without being prompted.

We had lunch when we got home, and then went up for our communal nap. In the middle of that, Hazel half woke up and started trying to climb over me to get down. When I told her to go back to sleep, she did so with no complaint. When she woke up at the end of the nap, the twins were still asleep. I told her I wanted to let them snooze a bit longer, so she just turned on her night-light, curled up against me, and snuggled for a while.

It is lovely to have days like this one, in which Hazel and I are in accord, enjoying our time and each other, and working well through the logistics of food, naps, nursing the babies, and playing.

The act of compassion

Today during my Pilates session, my teacher and I talked about empathy and compassion, and how hard it is to really understand certain things unless one has experienced them oneself. I think that one can nonetheless extend compassion without requiring understanding, and that doing so is an important spiritual as well as inter-personal act. It’s also important to forgive onself for not being able to make that extension, as it is quite hard to do. It requires a real willingness to attempt to put oneself in someone else’s shoes, certainly. But almost more importantly, it requires a willingness to accept and value the validity of someone else’s choice despite not being able to imagine making those choices oneself, given sometimes entirely different experience, feelings, and opinions. And compassion is probably a pre-requisite for forgiveness, which can be even more challenging. To extend compassion is an act of love. Those are the things I am working on these days: treating people with respect, extending compassion to others and to myself, and forgiving myself and others for the very human difficulty we all have in these areas.

Scalp wounds and other hazards of cooking

So, it’s been one of those days. A series of miscommunications has resulted in a morning of screaming babies, burned stew, and generally unpleasant levels of tension. This evening, when I was dealing with the stew, I managed to catch my foot on a chair and fall, hitting my head on a set of shelves for good measure. I have never before had personal experience with the maxim that head wounds bleed. They do. So, there was a crash, and then I found myself lying on the floor crying. I knew I could stop if I made an effort, but hadn’t yet gathered myself to do so when Hazel and Ted came running in. In that moment, a pre-schooler’s incessant questions take more energy that I really wanted to deal with, but on the plus side, they were effective at motivating me to stop crying. I got up, staggered into the bathroom, and started running water over my head, watching blood drip into the tub, and attempting to field all of Hazel’s inquiries. Really, 3-year-olds would make good interrogators. They don’t give up very easily.

Then I asked Ted to get me an ice pack, which he did. A minute or two after I got it on the back of my head, our dinner guest showed up. She is a nurse, and was able to tell me it wasn’t too bad, and that skin just bleeds that much. We sat around the table for a while, fielding more repeating questions from Hazel, and then my friend and I went out so I could have a break. Walking outside and breathing fresh air was quite helpful. I felt a ton better when we got back. I decided I really did want to cook the second dish I’d planned to make today, polenta with turkey bacon, corn, and fontina cheese. Wow. I’ve never actually made polenta before. The dish was easy and incredibly delicious. So, now we have an unintentionally smokey but still edible stew, and the polenta for the week. Tomorrow I’ll do the veggie stir-fry.

I have a few bruises, but no concussion, and no headache. I’m glad I wasn’t carrying something sharp at the time. And I will work on finding the humor in the endless repetitions of questions and stories that are sure to flow from Hazel in the coming days. She’s still telling people that she was in a car accident, and then describing what (actually) happened to our babysitter. And when I had a canker sore last week she had one too, though I couldn’t help laughing when she told me it was on her toe. Now she’ll be talking about blood and head wounds. Life is never dull.

Friends

A dear friend came over for lunch today. She’s an honorary auntie, and Hazel loves her very much. There’s a serious illness happening in the family, and we talked about it, explaining to Hazel at a level we felt she could understand. I am glad that we’re keeping Hazel in the loop, albeit not with all the detail we’d give to an adult. I don’t want her to experience a loss totally out of the blue. I was proud of all of us today for having direct but pretty drama-free conversation around that topic.

Later on, after nap, we went over to the house of some other friends. They have two pretty new kittens, which are very used to being picked up by Hazel’s friend (her age) and carried around. The two girls immediately ran off to play with each other and with the kitties, and we got to spend very enjoyable time with our friends and the babies. The guy of the couple right away asked to hold one of the babies, which warmed my heart. He is a lovely, nurturing guy, with whom Hazel has always been very comfortable. Unfortunately, Emily began crying in fairly short order (the babies have just recently started doing that when held by people they don’t know well). But, we tried a few times during our visit, and Joanna was more amenable. We had a lovely couple of hours together. Hazel has known their daughter since she was just about a year old. I love seeing them run around together. And Joanna reminds me of her, in her quiet, elfin, observant centeredness.

Tonight I am working on this year’s family calendar and marveling at all that has happened in the last year. I am grateful for our full life and our beloved community.

Scheduling life

In an effort to include more of what I want in my life, I’ve devised a schedule, and am going to attempt to stick to it. The biggest issue for me is that at night my desire for awake alone time is in conflict with my need for sleep. But when I stay up, I’m tired and don’t get up early enough the next day, and then I don’t get done what I need to, and the whole cycle continues. So I worked out a daily schedule that allows for me to get writing, practicing, and working out into my routine, and also includes a bedtime. I stuck to that last night, and consequently didn’t have time to write a blog post. The nice thing about maintaining a schedule, though, is that if I run out of time to get something done, I already know when I’ll get to it next. That helps me feel more relaxed. It also helps me balance the various competing needs in my life, and gives me a way to deliberately prioritize my well-being as well as that of others.

Today, we had Hazel’s second swim lesson, at which she was willing to relax her death grip around my neck to some degree. We played a game where we tossed a toy ahead of us, and then she reached out for it. She got into that enough that I was able to reposition her so that I was holding her body and she wasn’t holding onto me. She also did some kicking, and jumped off the wall to me a couple of times. The next class level doesn’t have the parents in the water with the kids, and that seems like a really big challenge right now. But I have to remember that Hazel will do it when she’s ready, and that is fine.

Before the swim lesson I went to the gym for the first time in 9 months or so. During the time I’ve been away my personal trainer has gotten engaged and found religion. She is happy. I am happy for her. She is also still quite good at kicking my butt. She wants me to come to the gym every other day. I managed to prevent myself from laughing out loud at that suggestion. But I am aiming for three times a week. I’ll be quite pleased if that happens routinely.

Emily knows her name. Yesterday Hazel was posing with the two babies, and when I said, “Emily,” she looked up. Consistently! I may have even managed one shot with all three looking at the camera.

Teaching an old dog new tricks?

I am writing this blog post with voice transcription software called Dragon Naturally Speaking by a company called Nuance. For some reason that I don’t entirely understand, staring at the screen and speaking into a microphone and seeing words appear on the screen seems to be short-circuiting my brain. So this is an experiment: can I talk and think at the same time? Previous data would suggest that I can, at least some of the time. One thing that’s happening is that I am spending a fair amount of time just staring at the screen. I think one reason for that is that I’m trying to avoid transcription errors by not speaking until I’m 100% sure of what I want to say. This means that I’m quasi-editing what I create before I express it. The physical act of typing seems to be more free flow, which lends itself to more unrestricted thinking and expression of that thought. So when I was trying to think about what happened today, I found that I was just staring at the screen and nothing was coming to me. Ultimately, I had to look away from the screen or close my eyes and then I was able to talk to myself about what I did today. Because speaking is faster than typing I’ve been able to produce greater quantity than if I were typing, but the quality appears to be suffering.

One of the things I did today was to start creating a daily schedule. My idea is to post it in the house, and make a reasonable attempt to follow it every day. I’ll also be able to get some support in this effort from our nanny, because she will be involved in making it happen in terms of what she does with kids and when. My goal is to complete a minimum of three cello practice sessions, three writing sessions, and three physical activity sessions in a week. Ideally, it will be more. But I think the most important thing to achieve right now is greater consistency. I have a tendency to try to do too much, and then when that fails to stop altogether. I think once that habits are established it will then be easier to gradually increase the amount of time that I give to each activity.

Another thing I did today, which contributed to a pretty long-lasting cheerful mood, was to put away one of four big stacks of music on the piano. I’m pretty sure that those four stacks were the result of my most recent attempt to completely organize my sheet music, once and for all. That effort, I think, was made either at the end of my pregnancy, or sometime this summer when the babies were very small. Those stacks have been taking up space, either on the floor or on top of the piano, for a very long time. It’s something that niggles that me every time I come into the studio, and so it was extremely satisfying to make some progress. I’m going to tackle one more stack each time I practice, and it won’t take me very long finish it all off. It’s funny how such a small thing can feel so good. After a lifetime of struggling with internal resistance to housecleaning, I have learned in the past several years how doing a chore of that sort can actually help me unstick myself and increase my overall productivity quite significantly.

The other really positive development today had to do with my relationship Hazel. After nap, I went downstairs with all three kids. I put the babies in a bouncy chair and our Nap Nanny (which I reacquired from our cat, who’s been sleeping in it – which is altogether understandable given that it’s very soft and is usually positioned right in front of the heat register under the china cabinet, a perfect spot for a kitty cat) and deliberately focused most of my attention on Hazel. We had a very nice lunch together, unhurried and with time for good conversation. We paid attention to the babies when we needed to, but our primary focus was on each other. After lunch, it was time to feed the babies again, but this time, instead of allowing nursing to shift my focus away from Hazel quite so much, I continued the conversation we began at lunch. This included a fair amount of silliness, and it was wonderful to hear Hazel giggling and to see her beautiful smile.

After that I had chiropractic appointment, the first for a while. The Pilates sessions have been paying off, and my chiropractor really noticed positive change. It’s so great to start feeling stronger again. I’m looking forward to my first postpartum gym session on Friday.

Then this evening, after I taught, I got to run an errand all by myself. It’s funny how it feels almost sinfully wonderful to leave the house by myself, carrying no bags or any kid related paraphernalia. And, when I got home, I got to have some incredibly delicious fettuccine with turkey bacon and spinach, made by Ted. I’m really glad he’s started cooking more; this way, not only do we have a more equitable division of the task, we have a more diversified menu, because Ted picks different recipes to try.

I am so grateful for my family.