December 31, 2012

Home again!

I know I need to upload pics, but thought I'd give an overview without them. Hopefully I'll add pictures in the next couple of days.

Big Bend was beautiful.

Restful. Lovely. Fun. Quiet. (NO lizards. No scorpions. No snakes. Thank goodness for winter! In fact, outside our cabin, we heard no sounds AT. ALL.) I'd found the cabin on line before there were any reviews. Overall, we loved the cabin itself. It was isolated, yet cozy. If Brex cried in the middle of the night, there was no one to hear. He loved to totter around outside the cabin and find the biggest possible rock he could heft.

At night we could put him down in his portable bed in the shared bedroom, shut the door and then sit in the living room next to a gas fire. We'd turn out the lights and eat dinner looking out floor-to-ceiling windows with views of the rising moon. As we watched Orion trail the moon higher in the sky, we'd talk or just look. We let the peace outside saturate us inside.

The first night, Brex woke up scared at 4 AM. I finally got him back to sleep and then went outside to look at the stars. The moon had set so the whole sky blazed with more stars than I've ever seen; I could barely make out the Milky Way because all of them were so bright. Poor Jrex, the moon set later and later each night, so he never got to see the sky without the moon.

The only real downside to that cabin was it took an hour and a half just to get to a trail in Big Bend. On the other hand, it was a lovely drive so we didn't mind too much. The last 20 minutes to the cabin were dirt and gravel roads, so it felt like an adventure each time. If we go again, we'll likely try to leave the dog in a kennel and stay in the lodge (or a cabin) inside the national park.

The two hikes we did were each five miles or less. One was through grassy meadows and down a canyon to a view called "The Window" where you could look down and out across the valley. The second day we did "Lost Mine" which climbed up 1000 feet of switchbacks to a rocky outcropping with beautiful views in all directions.

The third day (Christmas), Brex and I rested and played in the cabin while Jrex did a solo hike for a few hours. Then I made dinner and Jrex gave me a lovely card. That was it for our big Christmas celebration, but for us, it felt just right.

Marfa was a disaster.

Perhaps it was the rave reviews that set us up for disappointment. Perhaps it was the fact that many of the restaurants closed for the holidays. We suspect, however, that it's not a place to be with a toddler. Perhaps when Brex is eight or older it would be worth trying again.

In reality, the only things to do in Marfa are go look at Donald Judd art/installations/architecture, or go out to eat. Yet the only place we ate that had even one high chair was a bar. The only place with a changing table was the gas station (we mostly changed him in the back of the car). Brex woke at 6 AM both mornings we were there. The earliest place we'd found for breakfast said it was open at 8:30. We walked the three blocks in 32-degree weather and got there at 8:30. By 8:45 we gave up and went back to Squeeze (where we'd eaten the day before. So-so food. We'd had no desire to go back). No high chairs. Crowded. Full of people who don't smile at children.

Lunch at the famous Food Shark food truck. Yes, it was the best falafel I've ever had. Yes, the shrimp gumbo was delicious. Waiting in 40-degree weather for 45-minutes AFTER placing the order? Not so much. We tried to go to the famous hipster bookstore while we waited. It looked like they had an amazing selection, but once inside, we could smell what we'd been too numb to notice. No changing table meant we had to walk back to our car to change him, and by then the food was almost ready.

We'd thought to redeem the afternoon by visiting the modern art installations at The Chinati Foundation. Unfortunately the building labeled "Chinati Foundation" in town turned out to be different than the one outside of town which WAS open from 2-4 pm. Sigh. We gave up and tried to get Brex to take a nap. No go. We did to pizza take out from The Pizza Foundation (we had to order the pizza two hours ahead). It's a small town, there aren't that many people that can mob you, could you people figure out some better operation models so that these stupid hoops don't exist!!!??

Our last hope for foodie heaven was a local restaurant that was supposed to open at 8 AM for breakfast. This time we called ahead at 8 AM only to find they opened at 9. Fuggedabatit. We grabbed burritos at the gas station and shook the dust off our feet.

As we drove home, we passed Ft. Davis. It looked much less pretentious, but had an historic fort to tour, a walkable 'downtown' area and was a close drive to a mountain top observatory. Our experience in Marfa reconfirmed that as much as we enjoy good food, in the end we like to feel we got a great deal, and nothing in Marfa was cheap, or easy. Next time? Big Bend Lodge with a day or two in Ft. Davis on the way in.

December 21, 2012

We're off to see the lizards!

Well, snakes and scorpions at least. And wild pigs.

It's been a whirlwind, but the car is packed. Jrex is walking around the house checking the effect of our timer-empowered lighting. The mail is stopped and our neighbors will pick up any papers delivered against our will (the local Spanish paper will NOT stop delivering no matter how many times I call. It's free, but non!).

I'm really excited to get somewhere that doesn't have TV, doesn't have internet, barely has cell phone reception, yet still has a warm shower!

Some friends dropped off a baby backpack. As soon as Brex saw it sitting in the kitchen, with no prompting, he ran over and demanded to be lifted into it. I put him in and then kept working on dinner and doing other things. I thought he'd whine to get back out, but he kicked his feet, chewed on the pull strap and looked excited and happy. I think he likes hiking! We'll see if he likes driving, too.

Hope you all have a wonderful holiday! I bet it won't be as quiet as ours. (yes!!)

December 18, 2012

Mom reflection

I just wrote this comment on a friends blog. She was reflecting that she knows very few Mother/Daughter relationships that are good. Another person commented and wondered if part of the problem is moms projecting themselves onto their daugthers and not allowing them to be their own person. Here's my response to both of them:

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Given the caveat that a mother who has been dead for 15 years colors my view, overall we had a good relationship.

I think the previous commenter has a good point about Moms not letting the child be their own person. My Mom seems to have been very unusual in the degree of autonomy she gave each of us.

For my college graduation my Mom wrote a poem about how I'd been her teacher. That I'd been born with such a distinct personality that she learned from the beginning to let me be the person God designed me to be. She was definitely not perfect and when we shared a house she drove me CRAZY, but she had a lot of wisdom.

She let me express anger. At her. She asked for forgiveness. She viewed our primary relationship as sisters in Christ and therefore (sometimes) made room for me to speak into her life. Even when I was 7-year old who knew it all.

When I fell, she told me I'd be fine (rather than running to comfort me). When I dyed my hair black as a teenager, she said it was striking. She wouldn't let me dress immodestly, but otherwise, was ok letting me express myself through clothing (even a punk rebellion). She told me to trust my intuition. By expressing her real emotions, she showed me how to handle mine.

I think it's possible to have a good mother/daughter relationship, but I think it requires a Mom who isn't threatened by her daughter and who can make a lot of room for God to be the one who is in control.
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Do you have a good relationship with your same-gender parent? Why or why not?

[On a different level, it's a relief that I can write a post like that and have it feel good, yet matter-of-fact. I know that a few years ago it would have brought up many overwhelming emotions.]

December 17, 2012

Talking about violence

I'm seeing many friends on FB who are agonizing about how to discuss the tragedy in Newtown with their young children. It made me realize that my parents were given no option to hide such things.

Sure, having no TV meant that we didn't see everything that happened in the world every day. However, they made the choice to raise us in a neighborhood where we were exposed to life's hard truths every day. They didn't get to choose whether or not to discuss personal safety, homelessness, drug use, murder, and death. I have friends who have trouble talking about Easter with their children since it involves talking about Jesus dying on the cross so that Easter could happen. I can't remember a time when I didn't know that Jesus died for me.

When I was four, tragedy came very close. My godfather was involved with Teen Challenge. He was in a park talking with some teenagers. Without provocation or warning, one of the kids hit him in the head with a baseball bat. In trial the kid said he didn't know what came over him. For six months, my godfather was in and out of a coma until he died. I can remember visiting him in the hospital, sitting on his bed. Knowing he was watching me with love as I played in the room.

That same year, our pastor's oldest daughter was hit in the head with a hammer by her ex-boyfriend. She'd gone to him to tell him they couldn't have any further contact. Her sister was my sister's godmother. My pastor and his wife ended up founding Parents of Murdered Children after that. We watched them when they appeared on the Phil Donahue Show.

We attended both funerals, me as a four year old, my brother as a two year old and my baby sister.

While I was sad, I don't remember feeling personally scared or threatened. Why not? I'm trying to figure that out.

I remember knowing the facts about each of them. I don't remember the specific conversations with my parents so I can't remember their exact words. I know from how we handled things in general that they would have shared the facts without embellishment or euphemism, let us ask questions and then after the discussion, we would have prayed. For a child, that's a powerful thing. I totally believed that anything I asked God, he heard me. He might not answer as I liked, but he heard me in love. So I prayed earnestly for the people who'd done the violence, that God would change them. I'm sure my parents prayed for our safety. We prayed for comfort for my godmother and for our pastor's family. As a child, I felt like I was impacting things for good when we prayed. As an adult, I've become more resigned to 'how things are'. I still pray, but it's definitely not with the same undiluted faith I remember having as a little girl (Jesus knew what he was saying when he told the disciples to have faith like a little child).

I wonder if we sometimes protect our children at the risk of disempowering them? As a kid, I knew that Jesus died, but I knew that he rose again and beat death. So I knew that anyone who died knowing him also beat death. Which meant that somehow death wasn't the big, scary end point to be avoided at all costs. I learned very early that it's a doorway.

The fact that it's become a doorway for 26 people who were forced through before their time feels unacceptable. Aside from sending letters to Congressmen and the President, I guess that all I can do is pray. I'm letting my childhood self remind my adult cynic that 'just prayer' is not as small as it feels.

December 13, 2012

I blame it on Jrex

On our honeymoon, Jrex took me on my first 'real' hike. In Tucson, AZ we hiked a couple miles in the desert, up a huge volcanic 'hill' and clambered up the last part using thick cables as hand holds. I'd never done anything that adventurous in my life. (Just ask him about my blood curdling scream when I saw the cables...)

He then also dragged me along on backpacking trips. I whined A LOT. Yet, what I remember from those death marches are the views from the top and the quiet evenings when we'd go lay back under the stars and talk about the day, about our hopes, our fears, and our philosophies.

For Christmas, we're venturing across the state to check out Big Bend National Park. If you've never heard of it, you're not alone! I never heard of it before moving to Texas. Since we're bringing the dog, we can't stay inside the park.


Instead we've rented a solar powered cabin 'just' outside (it'll take 45-minutes to drive from our door to the entrance to the park...plus however long to get to a trailhead). It's on 80-acres of it's own land, so we can do a little bit of hiking close to 'home': two rooms, furnished, heated and with a bathroom with a flushing toilet and shower.


Here's the thing (what I blame on Jrex), compared to a 'real' vacation in a hotel with restaurant food, this is 'roughing it'. Yet compared to digging a hole in the ground when I need to use the bathroom, this is luxury! He lowered my need for comfort and raised my adventure capacity. The proof of this is that when I read the cabin information and they mentioned needing to shake out shoes in the morning (to remove any non-poisonous scorpions), I didn't think, "I can't bring my precious child into such conditions!!". Rather I thought, "This will be interesting! Cool."

Sigh. I used to be a nice, corrupted city girl.

In related issues, we're driving 11 hours (not including stops) with a toddler and a dog in the car. Any tips? Must haves? Warnings?

December 5, 2012

How would you complete the sentence

A friend from California had this as his status today:
How would you complete the sentence, "I really have a burden for . . ."?
It really made me think. How would you answer the question?

My first answer was, "My husband", but that didn't seem like the 'right' answer. It's true that I want him to find joy, to find peace, to be restored to a place with God where he knows how to connect and worship again. To be healed from his spiritual PTSD. Yet, that doesn't seem like enough of a vision for how to live my life.

I thought about it, read the other comments and realized that there's still the same core concern in me.

I wrote this:

Being a shelter for kids who doubt they are loved. Having a home that can be a place of healing and restoration.

I don't know what that looks like or the timing for it, but that's still really deep in my heart. Another blog friend has been posting about her relationship with a boy from her street who's in the foster care system. That's one way this could happen, just loving the kids around me here in the neighborhood.

On a more intense level, we could even become foster parents. There are many, many wonderful foster parents, and there are some who are terrible. I know enough from my work in a residential treatment center to know it won't be easy.

I also know enough that I'd never want a foster kid that's older or bigger than my biological children. Kids that have no record of sexual abuse can start  manifesting signs as they get into a 'safe' environment. That acting out can't be allowed to impact my kid for the rest of his life. If he's older, then he will have words to tell me about it, the ability to walk away and the wisdom to be part of creating a loving environment for the kid.

The other way I can see this happening is as he gets older and becomes friends with other kids. With one in four girls and one in six boys dealing with sexual abuse, the odds are high that he'll have friends who need to hang out here and experience a different model for what love looks like.

Our house in Baltimore functioned like a mini-retreat for many people. I'd love to have that here. Until we know more folk in the Dallas area, that's less likely. In Baltimore, friends could drive to our house from many other areas. Driving to Texas? Only if you're crazy! It's a big country down here.

How would you complete the sentence, "I really have a burden for..."?

December 1, 2012

Since I'm a bear of little brain...

I can't figure out how to write the deep stuff, so here are the latest tid bits.

I finally understand my sister. Before having a kid, I didn't get her relentless need to go watch TV shows after the kids went to bed. Now, after putting Brex to bed, I barely want to talk to Jrex. Many nights I go to bed early just to read something mindless. I'm now forcing myself to read something that involves my emotions (G-dog and the Homeboys) and it's good, but it just makes me tired. I totally understand the need to just shut down for a while.

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Brex is walking with confidence now. He's started to carry things (and look at us to make sure we're noticing his prowess). Just two days ago, he started to walk with his hands clasped behind his back. Jrex's Dad used to walk that way (he's NOT the guy in the photo), so it's really cute to see it.
Old Asian Man Walking

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I think I've found a church. When Dad was here we visited City Church International. It's an urban church that has a heart for the city. They also really invest in each other and seem to have a vibrant, diverse community. Each Sunday service also starts with a segment of worship songs. That time helps me still myself long enough to hear God speaking. When that's not part of a church service, I feel inundated with words without getting time to let things hit on a  personal level. I went to the membership class today and will go to the next class next week. It's taken a year and a half here in the buckle of the Bible Belt to find a church. I wanted some liturgy. Creaking pews a bonus, but with vibrant worship. An urban focus. A respect for the mind while feeding the spirit. Not divided along racial or economic lines. Being able to raise my hands and dance a bit. Solid small groups. Picky, picky, huh?

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We're beginning the round of Christmas parties tonight. First we join a Korean prof who's invited all the Korean faculty in the Oncology department with their families to come for dinner. It starts at 6:30 so we can only stay until 8 before Brex starts to get manic (his sign that he needs to go to sleep). The we drop him off at home, the babysitter comes over and we run out the door to another event. Good times!

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Of course, just because it's December doesn't mean it feels like it. We've invited friends over for dinner on the deck tomorrow night. Because it is STILL warm enough to sit outside at night without a jacket. I'm certainly not whining, but I do like at least a LITTLE winter...

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I made an Advent calendar! One of my friends here was looking for ways to make the Christmas season more meaningful for her son. I mentioned the Advent calendar my Mom made and she loved the idea. We spent last Saturday from 10 AM to 6:30 PM juggling Brex and making Advent symbols. Pics to come.

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 What are some of your favorite Advent, Christmas or Hanukkah traditions?

November 20, 2012

Threads

It's happening again. High School. College. Baltimore. Here. I'm not sure how it happens, but I seem to end up collecting friends who don't necessarily connect with each other. I did have a group of friends in high school, my art room/punk rock crowd, but I had others who didn't fit in there.

In college my four closest women friends were each in different circles of friends, but didn't click with each other. Through them I'd hang out with their circle, but I wasn't consistently part of the core.

Why the pattern? I'm using this blog to try to puzzle it out.

Thanks to my parents and our unusual 'third culture' upbringing, I learned to get along with many different people. I don't fully understand it myself, but I'm able to go deep emotionally with people in different arenas. In college, one friend was a prayer partner and someone who helped process dating relationships. Another discussed music, the creative process and books (and also dating relationships). A third asked intensely perceptive and challenging questions and we shared deeply about our family histories, spirituality, fears,  hopes (and guys). My fourth friend grew up in another country and we talked about race, about how to communicate, about family, religion and food (and relationships). 

The exception to the pattern was Rochester, I moved there after graduating from college to see if Jrex and I should get married. He was already part of a close-knit church which I joined. He had roomates who each married within a couple years of us and we hung out with them and their wives (and eventual children). When we switched to a different church, we hung out with groups of friends from that church. One of the joys that came out of that last year in Rochester was becoming best friends with two women who were also best friends with each other. Jrex called us "The Triplets". It was refreshing to have close friends who knew each other, too! All exceptions to the overall pattern.

In both Baltimore and California, most of our friendships came as I got to know people and initiated relationships. The exceptions were Jrex's group of fellow residents and lab mates. With them we'd join an overall group, but otherwise, we had a motley and fun assortment of friends.

Our developing friendships here feel like yet another collection. We have couples we really enjoy who don't necessarily enjoy each other. For Thanksgiving we tried to do an Orphan Thanksgiving gathering with two other couples, but I don't think the two couples want to hang out with each other. Instead, we met with the one couple this past weekend and will also see them next weekend and will do Thanksgiving with the second couple. It means we get lots of variety, but we don't have a default 'crowd' to see on a regular basis. Obviously, my church hopping has only added to the collection pattern!

I wonder if it relates to the part of me that always wants to find out what's next. I was always nervous to even audition for a play because, if I got in, it would confine my social world for 2-3 months. I'm not sure why a default group makes me feel a bit trapped (any ideas?).

I can't regret being a relationship magpie since our lives have been profoundly enriched by our wide variety of friends, I'm just trying to figure out if it's driven by healthy or unhealthy instincts. Why do I feel trapped if I'm only going to see the same people all the time? What am I protecting myself from? (I was in a toxic 'group' in junior high. Have I been avoiding that ever since?)

Curiouser and curiouser...



November 16, 2012

This Old House

"It's beautiful!"
"What a wonderful house!"
"You must love living here!"


This house certainly looks beautiful, the location is perfect for us, the flow and ability to entertain are amazing.

But...
"Ma'am, I have to tell you that what's happening with the wires in that crawl space is dangerous. We need a whole day down there to fix it."
"Ma'am, I'm sorry to say, I can't tell what they were thinking in how they did the plumbing for that bathtub. I've seen home owners do a better job themselves. This is terrible."
"We can't tell if we should build the deck to match the house, which doesn't have a straight line, or just do it right."
"Ma'am, we cayn't put gutters on thayat porch. Looka the line thare, your whole roof is droopin'. Lewks like thay removed a support post to get a betta view out of the livin' room windas. Ya'll need to add a steel beam up thare to reinforce thayat roof first."
From what we've gathered from neighbor gossip, here's the recent history of this 100-year old house:
  1. Mother / daughter lived here with the house in the Mother's name. Mother gets Alzheimer's. Daughter comes home from work to see the house on fire and mother sitting on the porch roof. Mom set the fire. No insurance coverage since the home is in her name.
  2. They sell to a Flipper. Flipper runs out of money to even get the house back in sellable condition.
  3. DIY Cabinet Maker buys it. His Mom lives a block away and she and her daughter stopped by and told me that when he bought it, there were holes in the front porch, the front door fell off when they tried to open it. He lovingly rebuilt it from chaos. What he knows well, he did well: the redone hardwood floors are gorgeous, we have an amazing coffered ceiling in the foyer and the oak cabinets all over the kitchen are bomb-proof. What he didn't know and shouldn't have touched? Electric, plumbing and roofing. One neighbor said, "Oh you bought one of DIY's houses. He put them together with duct tape and bubble gum!"
  4. He sells to a gay couple. B&M completely redo all the non-wood interior surfaces. They get rid of an upstairs bedroom and put in a RIDICULOUS Master Closet. We don't know who updated the Master Bath, but assume it was B&M. All finishes and fixtures are gorgeous.
  5. We buy an old house that feels totally updated and move-in ready. Based on the home inspection we knew we had to do some foundation work and get the roof replaced. We also wanted to tear off the porch and put on a deck.
But...

We're slowly having to replace and repair essential yet hidden parts of the house. Doing things right that will add NOTHING to the resale value of the house (rebuilding the front porch, redoing the electrical system in the crawl space, etc). We don't know if B (M left him) knew all this and didn't declare it (and is therefore open for a lawsuit) or if he really just left because his heart was broken. Jrex is opting for the conspiracy theory as the evidence mounts. We're not into suing people, but it's a nice mental valve to think we could.

The latest drama is that we found a huge water bubble coming down the back wall. Long story short, the plumber just left. He found the leak in the spa tub in the master bath (how pretentious that sounds!!!) and was able to shut off the valve. He got to that via a small access port in the side of the tub wall. However, some bright person put structural beams right in the middle of the opening. Our home warranty covers the plumbing repair, but not the cost to create access. Our home insurance has a $3000 deductible. We doubt that the cost to repair the downstairs ceiling and wall and repainting will add up to that much so it becomes an out of pocket expense. For this month that's in addition to the out of cost expenses for my second round of hernia repair and body work on the car (which are also out of pocket).

My sister was wondering why we feel poor given our total salary as a couple. Well, every month has involved a few whammies like this since we moved here. We keep having to dip into savings rather than add-to savings. It's very stressful.

Talk about first world problems, right? Yet all this means that we can't afford the vacations to the mountains that we promised ourselves as part of surviving a move to Dallas instead of Portland.

Am I overspiritualizing if I'm hoping that the big picture story of this house and our time in it will be one of redemption? I was hoping that would come in the form of us doing foster care, or at least being a safe place for Brex's future neighborhood friends. Before we can get to all that, it looks like the house itself is in need of redemption and healing! We keep hoping and praying that the money pit will stop growing and that we'll be able to dwell here and enjoy the house without always feeling like we're on shifting sand.

So far, not so much... Try to ignore our grimaces when you come to visit and say, "What a lovely home, you must love living here!"

November 14, 2012

Bad patient

I'm profoundly grateful that I don't live with a chronic disease.

Yesterday afternoon I grabbed a bowl of cereal for my late lunch/early dinner. I used the last of the rice milk. The same rice milk I've used in smoothies which I've shared with the baby.

Ever since, the 'stomach flu' is back...

I can't remember when I started using that particular container of rice milk, but I'm wondering how many of our symptoms have been food poisoning! Fortunately, I haven't given any to Brex for a few days and his appetite is back with a vengeance.

All day today it was all I could do to just lay around and concentrate on not running to the bathroom. There was no energy left for creative work, it was hard to sit looking at the computer for very long, and I got nothing done for work (another round of being hugely grateful that I get to work from home!).

How does someone in chronic pain manage to get stuff done? I'm in awe at the parents who are living with MS or other conditions yet who manage to love their kids and keep working. Heck, even if they are on disability and able to love their kids well, I'm impressed. Jrex offered to bring the kiddo home since he said I sounded awful on the phone.

Speaking of the making of a hypochondriac, I love how kind Jrex is when I'm feeling under the weather. It bumps me up on his very long priority list!

One final random thought, the hippies who believe in colon cleanses as a key to better health are smoking crack!

November 13, 2012

How I make working from home work

I've had various people ask if it's hard to stay disciplined while working from home. As long as I treat it as a job, it's not hard. On the other hand, graphic design is a deadline driven business and I am very good at hitting my deadlines. If I were a writer or fine artist and it was all up to me when 'it' happened, I don't think getting work done would be as easy.

Here's what makes it work for me:

1. I have a separate room.
Yes, it's shared with Jrex, but his stuff is tucked away behind me so I don't have to look at it. In 'my' part of the room, in addition to the custom desk I made myself, my huge monitor, laptop stand, scanner, bookshelfs and balance ball for a seat, there's a daybed. Not only does the daybed give us extra guest space, it's where I go to brainstorm and sketch. In order to generate creative ideas, I need to turn away from the computer with a stack of yummy (ultra smooth & thick) paper, a smooth pen, good music and time to sketch and just let my right brain loose to play. The computer tends to require left-brained mode (logic, order, language) and is therefore less conducive to true creativity.

2. I go into that room by 9:30 AM and leave by 4:30 or 5 PM.
It takes much less time to get work done when I don't have anyone to chat with as I go to and from the bathroom or kitchen. I also don't usually do laundry or clean the house while I'm 'at work'.

3. I dress for work.
Contrary to popular myth, I'm not working in my pajamas (or bunny slippers). If I don't take myself seriously, why should anyone else? Now, I DO tend to wear hats a lot and I don't usually bother with makeup, but I get 'ready' to 'go' to work

4. Unless required, the computer stays off during the evenings and weekends.
It's too easy to let work and home life blend together. Shutting down the computer signals that I can relax; it gives me a clear 'your time is your own' feeling (well, my time is Brex's time, really, but it's still a happy feeling to hit 'shut down' and walk away). The downside is that without the computer, it's hard to keep up with others' blogs, or play Scrabble on Facebook. All of that happens during 'office' hours or via my phone. When work is busy, I don't have time for any 'extras'. (November is obviously slow so far!)

5. The baby goes to daycare.
Having had him home during the workday while Mom K was here, I don't think a nanny would have worked. It's too distracting and he's too smart. If he knows I'm here, he wants to find me and be with me.

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Ways that working from home has been a wonderful gift as a working Mom:

I don't have to tell my boss I'm working from home when the baby is sick. (Well, unless he barfs during staff meeting.) If we were still in California, I would have had to work from home over 20 days this year. As it was, I was able to juggle work and baby nap times most of the time.

It IS easier to take a nap.
When the kiddo has a rough night and my work is slow, I turn up the volume for email notifications and fall onto the daybed for a nap.

When I have to, I CAN get stuff done around the house.
As I said, I don't usually do this. I try to give the time for which I'm paid to my employer, but when we have a ridiculous mound of laundry, it's amazing to be able to get some of that done during the day. Or when decorating for a baby's birthday party (a purely hypothetical example!)...


November 12, 2012

Temper, temper

I think I've mentioned that when Brex hit the one-year mark, he also hit a key developmental milestone: wanting his own way. I keep thinking of the G.K. Chesterton quote from Orthodoxy, "Certain new theologians dispute original sin, which is the only part of Christian theology which can really be proved." It's the idea that we each come out wanting our own way above all others and have to learn that life doesn't work that way.

Well, Brex is learning. I've figured out a few consequences that seem to work very effectively for his current behaviors. For each of these I give him a "When/then" statement as I see the willful moment approaching.

"When you touch that, then..."

"If you keep pulling those out, then..."

1. Move him
When he sits there staring at and scooting closer....and closer...and closer to whatever I've told him not to touch, I just say, "If you touch it, you get moved out of the room." He looks up at me and then back down. Slowly his fat little finger oozes toward the object of desire. As he touches it, I swoop down, grab him and move him out of the room. Not in any mean way, but not in a cuddly way either. He wails and gnashes his eight teeth as I leave him there to go back and finish whatever started the conflict. Then I come out and say, "I'll pick you up when you stop crying." He whimpers up at me with tears in his big brown eyes. Sniffs. Gets quiet. I pick him up and he grins and all is well.

2. Let him go
His other favorite reaction is to arch his back away from me if I say he can't touch something. (Example: we're in a store and he wants to touch the display items. God FORBID he can't touch them. What do you MEAN, 'it's not for you'?! The outrage! The horror! AAAAGGGGHHHH!!)

I have zero tolerance for that kind of tantrum, so I just put him on the floor as he's arching. (I do it gently enough that he doesn't bang his head, but quickly enough that he knows he started the motion) I leave him there to wail and again say, "When you stop crying, I'll pick you up." He usually stops fairly quickly. Yes. I've done this in a store. No, it's not fun. I figure the fits will only get worse, so it's worth it to do now when he can't yet walk away.

3. Walk away
He's just recently started shrieking if he's not getting something he wants (usually me).  I refuse to pick him up and reward the shriek. So I repeat, "When you stop crying, I'll pick you up" and then walk out of the room. The volume increases exponentially of course! When it winds down to a low whimper, I go in and get him. As soon as I pick him up, he grins like none of it ever happened. For some reason that's when I think, "Little punk!"

I figure all of this will have to be adjusted again once he can walk with confidence (since he will get up and run after me). That day is coming soon! Yesterday he had multiple times where he took 10 little robot steps (mostly towards the dog. Must. touch. her. Must. not. get. licked. in. face. Must. stand.)

So, as in most parenting thus far, as soon as we figure out a working system, we are due to enter newly uncharted waters.

For Halloween, I dressed him appropiately as a 'curmudgeon'. The shirt says "This is my costume".



November 8, 2012

Hypochondriac in the making?

How soon can a kid get himself to throw up? Last week, Brex genuinely had a stomach flu. This week?

Hmm...

Daycare called me yesterday to come pick him up since he had a 101-degree fever. I brought him home and let him sleep. When he woke up, I fed him (we're still using formula thanks to all these illnesses!! Sigh), then took him over to the park to go on the swings.

The trick with our little punk is that he's totally cheerful in-between his barfing episodes. He wants to explore, climb around, come to 'home base' (me) for a quick snuggle, then head off on his own again. It's hard to keep him occupied in the house. On the other hand, he's also really, really into me holding him ALL. THE. TIME. If we're outside, or he's in the stroller, he's fine, but inside the house, he wants to be touching me most of the time. Makes working a bit challenging if he's awake. I'm totally into him being independent, but after a few weeks now of various illnesses, he's turned into a velcro baby.

This afternoon I started to get my hopes up that he might be fine to go to daycare tomorrow. It's totally embarrassing to have it be my turn on the conference call and have him interject! Last week was horrible. During our studio meeting, it was my turn to fill in the team about my current projects. I'd told them Brex was home sick when we started talking. As I talked, I held Brex who then started to barf all over me! I cursed into the phone and told them I had to go (A bit later, I sent an email explaining what happened).

Another staff meeting today, another incident.  He woke up and started crying while it was my turn—so not that terrible, but still feels unprofessional. One of my coworkers calls these my "bunny slipper moments"—when the other person is reminded that I work from home (supposedly in my pajamas, right?).

Thus far in a year of virus after virus, Jrex has only had to be home from work one day. I have no idea how I'd handle this if I wasn't working from home, but it's really wearing on me (thus the hope that I could take him to daycare tomorrow). 

At dinner, he hurled all over the table. While I do my best to be very calm and soothing on the outside, "It's ok, buddy, get it all out. It's ok. Yeah, I know that hurts..." on the inside I'm screaming, "NOOOO!!!!!"

Got him all cleaned up (at least he loves baths), diapered, into his pajamas, read him his book, and he did it again! Bath number three for the day...

I love my kid and love spending time with him, but it's 10:45 pm and I just finished my work for the day. Since he's so attached to me these days, it's tempting to develop a conspiracy theory that he's getting sick on purpose so he can be with me.

(I offer this whiny post as an explanation for why I've posted nothing deep today!)


November 7, 2012

Public vs Private

My Mom was the oldest of 10 kids: her, one brother, then eight sisters. Without going into too much detail, her father was an alcoholic and there was abuse in the family. Some families respond to abuse by hiding it and pretending it never happened. In that pattern, you blame the victim when they want to (need to!) expose the trauma. In Mom's family, the sisters opted instead to not let secrets have power over them. As a result, in our immediate family, the greatest sin was lying or hiding something.

On the positive side, I watched over and over as Mom would share her story in various settings, and God would use it to open the door for other people to let out their secrets. She was an amazing agent for change and healing in many, many lives. When looking for an image to illustrate this post, I came across another man who is doing the same:

Another truth teller
I left for college with that as one of my deepest core values: no secrets. No shame. If I did something embarrassing, the easiest way to take the sting out of the memory was to turn around and tell someone about it. I shared deeply and openly with any of my friends. If it was happening in my life, it was fair game. As an artist and a writer, it felt like my life was fodder for my art. I joked that I felt sorry for anyone I married since they would join me in the fish bowl.

Well, it didn't work out that way.

Instead, I had to paint over parts of the glass, choose to not talk about certain things, become a participant in silence. Part of me hates it. I sometimes feel violated by my husband's need for privacy. Yet he felt violated by my need to share private things.

During a bad phase of our marriage, for a class project, I made a book that was supposed to represent the river of pain in my life. To be fair to Jrex, part of the pain was from my Mother's death, but some of it was due to issues in our relationship. I folded a long strip of blue paper, torn along the top and bottom edges, accordion style into a book. I'd written an essay that had no specific details, nothing shaming yet voicing my emotional journey. Over a couple of days, I wrote it out onto the blue strip in calligraphy. When I showed Jrex, he didn't want me to share even the little that I'd written. To honor him, I went through and wove in quotes that masked the text, tore out pieces, and basically shredded my art piece to help him feel safe. It's a stunted piece that grieves me when I look at it.

As I write this blog post I'm realizing how much it's hurt over the years to have to shut down as much as I have. And yet...

I love and respect Jrex a lot. He truly works hard to give me room to be who I am and not try to control me or pin me down. It's just this one area. Where MY story intersects with HIS story. He doesn't want his story told. At least not yet. Or at least not by me. He sees no value in telling other people the private things in our marriage. On top of all that, he's an introvert. He doesn't need to process his emotions by discussing them out loud with someone else. It's a nice to have not a need to have.

In addition, there's a huge culture gap between us. He's been raised in a culture (or at least in a family) where no one talked about 'private' things. No sex talk. No discussion of dreams. No analysis of negative family background. With a culture that believes the ancestors come back to check in after they're dead, the idea of not speaking badly of the dead is visceral. Going to therapists or counselors is unheard of! It took five years of begging, praying, pleading, crying and prodding to get Jrex to agree to go to marriage counseling.

So I've struggled to find a balance. My need to share vs his need for me to not share. I'm sure that much of the time, I've opted to just shut down so I won't need to process things. Apparently that's not working anymore. What do you do in a marriage when you each have gut level core values that violate each other? You have to compromise. This blog is an area where Jrex let me do something that dances close to his violation zones. Butchering my art was a way to retreat from hurting him.

Trying to do a series of delving posts in the context of this dynamic tension is going to be challenging. Yet, based on what I've seen, as we share our pain with each other, we give each other permission to be real. Reading Kay's blog this week about reviving her dead marriage is a reminder of how beautiful truth telling can be.

I need that like a parched, transplanted tree that needs water in order to put down roots.





November 5, 2012

From a letter that Paul wrote to his young pupil Timothy:
"First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity."
This is a letter written by a Jew living underneath a Roman occupation. This isn't some benevolent, loving, social-justice king he's talking about. Roman dictator. Jewish despot. Those were his rulers.

Yet each time we've had a democratic president, I feel like a section of my Christian family get up in arms about bringing down the evil despot who is Ruining America. This election, some of the rhetoric I've seen via Facebook has really saddened me.
  • Obama is not a Muslim.
    He's talked clearly about having a salvation experience with Jesus. Do his politics align with some interpretations of the Bible? No. Nor do many other Christians'. 
  • Romney is not a Christian.
    I've been fascinated by Mormons since visiting Palmyra in upstate New York. It's the place where Joseph Smith, founder of Mormonism, supposedly found golden plates with the Book of Mormon written on them. Among other things, as Mormons Mitt and Ann believe they will inherit a planet when they die where they will be gods. They think that Jesus came to the Americas in the 1800's. That Native Americans are the 12 lost tribes of Israel (which did lead the Mormons to treat them with FAR more civility than any other settler group). Yes, the Mormons I've known are incredibly nice, moral and kind people, but as a faith, it's not just Christianity with a few extras.
  • The rabid anti-Obama rhetoric spouted by people as respectable as Franklin Graham make me really sad. Is Obama perfect? Of course not, but he's a sincere man who seems to be doing the best he can under incredibly harrowing circumstances. Whether you agree with his policies or not, why would any Christian treat any leader of our country with anything less than respect, prayer and honor?
On the flip side, when there's a "Christian" president (i.e., Republican...), the liberals whom I love, are happy to treat him as an idiot. Just saying that the lack of respect is throughout our culture. I'm sure much of it goes back to Nixon and is an outgrowth of general cynicism, but shouldn't the rhetoric sound VERY different from those of us who profess to follow a  homeless man who "did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but humbled himself, taking on the very form of a slave..."?

Jesus never said anything bad about the Romans. He told the Jews who lived under the occupation to pay their taxes to the oppressors. He healed a Roman soldier's slave. His harsh words were reserved for those within his faith and culture who no longer cared about people and cared more for rules and figuring out who was crossing the wrong lines.

I've been really convicted lately about some of my areas of bitterness and lack of love (more on that later), so I don't have a moral high ground here. Just wanted to reflect on how sad this election has made me. I don't like it when it's hard to respect people I love dearly.

I pray that whoever wins tomorrow will be given grace for the days ahead. And that we would stop participating in character slaughter as a holy duty.

November 2, 2012

Promises, promises

Since Brex's birth, I've been skimming along life's surface. In my time with him I feel deeply alive and love being with him, but the rest of the time, there's too much to do to really feel or think about much more than the daily to-do list. When work gets busy, I don't even have time to read other blogs or do any thinking.

I had time to read some blogs today and two posts  got me thinking about the need to delve into the emotions I'm avoiding. I don't know if I'll be able to do a post each day, but I think I might try.

Snickollet is trying to do a post a day. It sounds like she's in a similar position where the busy moments of life get in the way of introspection. Until she got hit by a truck. http://snickollet.blogspot.com/

One of my local friends has been blogging about her time in the Solomon Islands as a missionary. They were there to craft a New Testament in the local language. She raised and home schooled four kids while her husband worked on the translation. After many years in the field, she found out her husband had a porn addiction. Then, the organization found out. That story is unfolding on her blog: http://kaybruner.com/blogs/

The problem for me is that much of my emotional journey right now is intertwined with stuff with Jrex. He's a private person and I don't want to air any of his dirty laundry while trying to wash mine. Yet we don't have much time together to discuss any of this (part of the emotional pain). It's been part of the complex brew that I've been avoiding.

The stuff I've avoided thinking about and therefore the topics I'm hoping to explore:
  • honesty/openness vs 'secrets' vs privacy: where's the line? What's a healthy boundary given my personality and Jrex's?
  • my feelings around church and attending it without Jrex
  • how to raise a kid in a family when the answer to "aren't you both religious?" is "it's complicated"
  • the logistics of balancing any church commitment with family commitment when they don't happen in the same place at the same time
  • dealing with discipline for a one-year old
  • the craving to do something totally non-demanding and how that saps whatever time I have to do anything constructive
  • how to do family time when one's husband just wants to watch sports on the weekends
  • how to do couples time when babysitting is expensive and being house poor impacts our comfort in spending any money
  • how long it takes to achieve emotional intimacy with other moms (time together being full of the distractions of little destructos)
  • dog neglect and the accuracy of Jrex's predictions on that score
  • continuing insecurity that if it's not funny or witty, it's not worth publishing it on the blog 
  • overall blog identity crisis: who is it for? Given the FB option for getting news out, is there a purpose? I'm hoping that using it to do some emotional delving will help give it a reason to exist again

The only way to begin is to begin, right? So. This is the beginning.

October 30, 2012

The worst week as parents so far

You'd think the worst week would have been early on due to the lack of sleep. Or the week of uncontrollable crying before we found out about his dairy sensitivity. Or the two weeks after he started teething his molars when we'd find him in bed every morning with an exploded diaper.

Each of those was interesting, to be sure. Yet it's this past week that's been the worst. We thought Brex was reacting to too much dairy on Friday morning when he threw up (we'd run out of formula and substituted Lactaid milk). Well, he then threw up three more times at day care and they called me to come get him. We went dairy free and he seemed fine. Until that night...

I'm not going to give details here, it's a disgusting topic, but let's just say that over the past five days Jrex has had to get his car shampooed, we've washed the car seat cover, the stroller, the high chair, every bedsheet Brex owns, our bedsheets and more clothes than I can count. What makes it easier is that Brex is happy once he's done. The problem has been we keep thinking he's over it, and then he proves that He. Is. Definitely. NOT.

The other bonus is that he was generous to share the joy with me.

My father arrived for a 10-day visit Saturday afternoon. I'd begun to feel nauseous that afternoon, so Jrex left me and the baby sleeping at home while he picked up Dad at the airport. Dad arrived, I woke up. I went into his room to say hi and was about to greet him with, "Welcome to the house of plague and cold" (our first floor heater has been broken since Thursday and the highs over the weekend were in the 50's. Nothing like being stuck in a freezing house!!). However, I had to sit down abruptly on the bed. It was all I could do to keep from throwing up right then. He sat quietly next to me. After a little while he said with concern, "What's going on? Are you ok?"

I shook my head and murmured, "I have to throw up!" I barely made it to the bathroom. Nine-months of pregnancy with nausea but no vomit, and I'm felled by a stomach bug.

Yesterday Jrex had to take the day off so I could do my job. I had non-stop work, no time for lunch, and crazy phone calls all day. After dealing alone with every one of Brex's many sick days since day care began in January, it was wonderful to have Jrex and Dad help out.

Right now Dad is walking around the neighborhood with Brex and I'm trying to get work done. You can tell how well that's going!

What makes this the worst week? Just the sheer grossness of it all combined with having a house guest. I want to be able to do fun things with my Dad, but we're spending most of it cooped up in a cold house. The cool thing about Dad is that he's able to roll with it and doesn't seem at all put out. It's also the fact that just when I think it's safe to resume 'normal' activities (going out for dinner, letting him drink his bottle in our bed), he proves to me why that was a silly idea. Yeah, yeah, 'this too shall pass', I get it. I just don't like it!

October 15, 2012

Belated Happy Birthday

Within a day or two of Brex's birthday, I put up a photo essay on Facebook. Since then, I keep meaning to do a blog post about it, but didn't have the urgency. I suspect that FB has taken the 'need' out of many blogger's posts.

In any case, we had a fun birthday for the boy. I thought he'd be shy when everyone looked at him; instead he beamed and waved each time he was the focus of attention.

The other revelation after planning an event for two weeks with Mom K is that most of my problems with her are that we are too similar. We both like to have things a certain way, we both want to know the agenda, make lists, plan ahead, have everything ready and make it look good. The whole visit she was also on the phone with members of her church, counseling them, chatting, laughing, and in general, staying connected with a wide network of people. The core problem is that given our similarities, she's better at everything than I am! She's a better cook, more relentless cleaner, more tireless in playing with Brex, more cheerful in serving. She sets a standard that I'll never be able to match so it makes me feel insecure and uber-critical of whatever ways I can find her being 'less than'.

When I mentioned this revelation to Jrex, he didn't disagree with my premise. In fact, he agreed that his Mom and I are both perfectionists (I retorted with known irony, "I'm not a perfectionist! I just want things done the right way...."). He did add though that I'm much better with a power drill than is his Mother. It was actually comforting.

So, here are a couple photos for those of you who aren't my FB friends (or who missed seeing them there).


In the Korean 'dol' ceremony, we put out objects that supposedly predict his future. The money symbolizes wealth & power/ thread is long life / bowl of rice means abundance / tin whistle (non-traditional) meant the arts / pen for a scholar. When I told some of my non-Korean friends about the meanings of the objects, they exclaimed, "What? None of the futures is for anything bad?" Sheesh!

Here's the boy's face when seeing one of his buddies from his old day care. Yes. It's hero worship.

In other kiddo news, he's not quite walking, but I think we have an official first word. What we're going to claim as his first word is the dog's name. He produces a mangled version of her name every time he sees her. However, what he says quite clearly, quite distinctly, quite meaningfully, emphatically and gleefully . . .

. . . is "No".

Sigh. The week after he turned one we had to have two 'obedience sessions'. He'd become increasingly defiant and so instead of moving him or distracting him, I decided to go head-to-head. He crawled over to touch the TV screen. I warned him not to touch it, he looked at me, looked at the TV and then firmly smacked it. I exclaimed, "NO!!!" very loudly (the way I'd say it to the dog). He burst into tears for 20 seconds. Then turned off the faucet, babbled at me, shook his head. Then touched the TV again.

Repeat. five. times.

While he stood holding the table without touching the TV, I praised him in a very happy voice for not touching the TV and listening to me. Then when he touched it, the loud, scary, "No!" He finally stopped trying and crawled over to play happily with a toy.

The day after, we did the same pattern with the dog's food dishes.

Since then, he's been much better about listening to us, but he's also quite excited to use a word that has such power. What have I done!?

September 26, 2012

I wasn't taking this seriously enough!

As you may or may not realize, Brex turns one on Saturday. (What, you didn't highlight September 29th on your calendar! Your WHOLE world doesn't revolve around my baby? For shame!)

In Korean culture, this is a Big. Deal. I knew it in theory, but last night, I actually googled, "dol" which is the name for the ceremony.

Oops.

Now I'm totally intimidated. Not so much because I have a thousand Korean peers I need to impress, but Mom K does and she is SO proud of this little baby. He's not going to remember it, we don't really care, but it is a tangible, significant way we can honor her (and give her photos to flaunt to her friends).

Just scroll through this page and you'll see what I mean: http://www.kokoliving.com/korean_baby_dol_first_bir/

I'm profoundly grateful that I have a Korean friend in the neighborhood. B-boy's dol was September 8th and she was relatively casual about it, but she did go nuts with handcrafts. She hot-glued two bean towers (you'll see them in the pictures on the link), one says Congratulations Birthday and the other has a bunny on it (2011: year of the rabbit), so both are reusable. Because of her I have paper chains, hanging stars and paper flowers to use for decor. She also did "happy birthday" so we can hang that behind the table. I'm making plant hangers from rafia. I've got some spider plant babies that I'm going to put in decorative glasses with water and hang those along the front of the deck. I've borrowed tunnels, a tyke mobile and a swing/slide for the back yard segment of the event.

Mom and I are heading back to H-mart (Korean mega grocery store) on Friday to get fruit, flowers and favors for the party. Then poor Jrex has to rush over there Saturday morning to get the 'dol cake'.

At 2 pm Saturday we're due to have 20+ adults and 7 kids arrive to see the Korean ceremony. Then we'll serve up Korean food and hang out in the backyard enjoying the new deck. A little bit high brow for Mom, a lot casual for us.
Our new addition: a 17 x 13 foot deck finished just in time for the party.

In other life ironies...

I hate pink. For girls, for decor, in general. It's a silly color and represents girls being told they need to fit a certain box. Studies show that a blue room is calming and a pink room is over-stimulating.  I'm sorry if you like the color, I just have strong feelings and I'm willing to take it outside if that's necessary (one of the phrases I love from my childhood, "What? You got something to say? You want to take it outside, fool?!").

So, Mom K went to Korea this spring and brought back two Korean outfits for Brex. Apparently androgyny is trendy in Korea... so, yes. My son gets to wear either a navy top with pink pants or a pink top with light blue pants. Either way, the little pope hat he wears is pink. Mom's known me now for how many years? I guess it just emphasizes that the part of the birthday ceremony that will happen in the dining room is all hers. Then we toss him in comfy clothes and let him crawl in the dirt with all the other toddlers.

September 25, 2012

Caring for your introvert

I saw this via FB a while ago. It helped clarify many things in our marriage. While in Minnesota, I chatted about it with a couple of my aunts, so this post is for them.


Our first fights as a married couple were around Issue 1: Privacy (closely related to Issue 2: embarrassment). My Mom had a bone-deep value around not having hidden secrets in the family. I'm sure she'd gone a little too far in the self-revelation direction, but I'd seen the power of not living with shame. If I did something embarrassing, turning it into a funny story meant that I no longer had to worry about someone 'finding out'. During college, I spent hours discussing every emotion with each of my close friends. How can you discuss emotions without describing circumstances? We all discussed our relationships including physical issues, emotional frustrations, etc.

After getting married, I continued to talk with my college friends and my sister in the same way I had before marriage. For Jrex, this felt like a violation. I felt like he was telling me I had to be bound by HIS embarrassment or shame or whatever and I REFUSED to live like that. Well, it took me a while to come around to realizing that even though his story and my story were now deeply intertwined, I could tell my story while trying to limit the details of his story. It's been a strange/frustrating dance for both of us. When I saw this list, it gave me an additional 'aha!' moment. It was ALSO an introvert vs extrovert issue. 

Issue 4 jumped out since within our conflicts I usually pushed him to respond. To TELL me what he was thinking. In my defense, half the time when I gave him time to formulate a response, he fell asleep! (Marriage during the PhD, Med School, Residency, Fellowship years meant he was ALWAYS tired).

We're currently working on #5. He will often have long pauses while he thinks of how to say what he's thinking. I jump in and try to finish the sentence. There's a little bit of the fun of a quiz show if I get it right, but it drives him crazy. I'm trying really hard to just sit on my quick words and wait. Sometimes I then have to remind him he was thinking of an answer... (since he's still tired).

We thought for a while that Brex was also an introvert. I'm not entirely sure anymore, but I've got this list in the back of my mind in case he is.

I also heard from a friend who was deeply trained in the Myers-Briggs personality test that the deepest conflicts in a relationship are between an introvert and an extrovert. The issue is that an introvert processes emotion internally and when speaking, states a conclusion. An extrovert process externally. Therefore, for an extrovert, there's a swirl of emotions and she doesn't know what's really bothering her until she talks it through with a friend or a counselor. There's a need for someone to ask a key question, or even to just hear the words out loud in order to have the 'aha!' moment when she can identify the THING that's at the center of the swirl. Thus, an extrovert states a premise and has NO idea what the conclusion will be. The introvert hears a conclusion and gets upset and defensive. Meanwhile, the extrovert has NO clue why there's a fight about something that isn't even the THING.

I'm not sure what the list for care for an extrovert would be. Any ideas? Obviously one would be to listen and ask questions to help them think out loud. Any others? Are there other things that should be added to the introvert? Anyone else married to their opposite on the intro/extro scale?

September 20, 2012

High Pain Threshold strikes again

So much for two weeks of lazing around. I feel better already!

The surgery was at 7:30 on Friday morning. Jrex and I snuck out of the house before the baby was awake, leaving Mom home in case he woke up. Jrex stayed with me through the check in process. Once they carted me off to surgery, he went home to get ready for work. Then he took the baby into day care (thus giving Mom some rest and the baby some normalcy).

I was home by 10:30 AM. Of course I ended up sleeping most of the day and then had trouble sleeping that night. It felt like the meds had caffeine in them, but I think I was just wired from oversleep. Saturday and Sunday I slept every time the baby slept and a few more times when he was awake. He seemed to do just fine with Halmoni. She's AMAZING with him: really loving and not TOO indulgent.

Since then I've needed less and less sleep and less and less pain meds. I really only took pills during the day Friday through Sunday. Frankly, the dreams are too weird and I don't like feeling like I'm waking up through a layer of molasses.

So much for a two week vacation! The problem now is that I keep wanting to pick up my kid, but I really can't yet. I let him stand next to me as I sit on the floor and he rests his head on my shoulder as I rub his back. He also crawls into my lap as I sit there. I miss feeding him and playing with him, but he's so active now that it's difficult to keep up when I'm limited in what I can do to intervene.

I'm grateful that we've found another fun interaction via a new 'toy'. After our trip to Minnesota I was really frustrated that it was impossible to get him to sleep without having a confining space to hold him. At home he usually cries in protest for 30 seconds when I put him down and then goes to sleep. Well, when I tried to lay him down on the floor at someone's house, he'd crawl to the door and wail until I came back. I found a used "Phil & Ted's Traveller" via craigslist.org and he's loving it. It folds up into a packable 7 lb size and functions as a crib big enough for a three-year old. We'll use it when we go to someone's house for dinner so he can go to sleep at his usual 7 pm. It also makes camping (car camping...) feel doable.

I set it up in the living room and we threw in a bunch of balls. He crawls into it on his own and then when we zip up the side, he flings himself around, laughing gleefully. There's an opening in the top so he can pull himself up and play "Where's Brex? THERE he is!" I can also kiss his hands when he shoves them against the mesh on the sides.

http://philandteds.com/us/Products/Sleep/Traveller#.UFvRsxiCOtg
It's helped save our sanity a bit since it's functioning as a play yard. His discovery for the weekend was that he can climb the stairs to the second floor. He'll accept help coming down, but only help that lets him do it By.Himself. (I've ordered a gate for the bottom of the stairs. It arrives Monday. NOT soon enough.)

Poor Mom K has been patiently going up.and.down.the.stairs.over.and.over.and.over. She's definitely a saint!

So, for those of you who prayed for a speedy recovery, thanks! (mostly...)

September 13, 2012

Dallas Moments

During the pre-op phone call from the surgeon's office:

"Please don't use lotion on your extremities, or deodorant. We'd prefer you not wear makeup, but if you have to, well... we'll deal with it."

Priorities?

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I have to budget 30% extra time with any contractor or service person for AFTER I've written the check. Apparently that's when it's time for the story swap.

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Neighbor with a thick Texas drawl, "We met some folk from Boston, but they didn't talk like they were from there! I was so bummed cause I wanted to hear that accent."

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On the radio, "It's time to start saving for college for all those little Texans..." Apparently Brex's first identity is supposed to be as a Texan, second is as an American, and MAYBE down the list as a world citizen. 

Feels like whenever I start to feel at home here, there'll be a little moment when I realize it's still a foreign country!


September 11, 2012

My vacation is almost here!

Friday morning, 7:30 AM, I go 'off duty'. This happened the last time I had hernia surgery, it mostly felt like I got permission to catch up on sleep and reading while 'recovering'.

In the same spot as my last hernia, I developed another one within 3 months of the previous surgery. I couldn't figure out a good time to be off-duty for two weeks (the time span in which I can't lift anything, like a baby, that's over 20 pounds). The doctor didn't use mesh the last time since it wasn't a big hernia and I'm not a big person. Unfortunately, it seems like the mesh is necessary! Ah well...

Mom K arrives Thursday afternoon. We'll go and pick up Brex from daycare on the way home. Then on Friday, Jrex will drop me and Mom off for the surgery, take Brex to daycare, work for a while, pick us up, pick up the baby, etc. He'll be running around like crazy while I just SLEEP.

In an unusual turn of events, I'm looking forward to Mom K being here. Since having Brex, I've lost any fear of her opinion so that's a wonderful freedom. Second, I can't imagine anyone else, including Jrex, who will be as attentive to Brex as I would be. In fact, I know she'll be way MORE attentive. The beauty is that I'll be lounging in bed reading with earplugs in my ears. She can do whatever she wants, spoil him, love him, let him do whatever his pudgy little heart desires and I don't have to care.

I'm a little nervous for Brex's sake. I know babies are resilient and he won't remember anything from this next couple of weeks, but he's definitely in his "Mommy" phase and it'll be hard to not be able to pick him up. Given how much he wiggles at this point, I won't even be able to hold him in my lap; I think I can have him sit next to me, but not on me.

Here's the real beauty of my plan: Mom K would have been here for this time period anyway. The 17th is the anniversary of Dad K's death and the 29th is the boy's first birthday. There's no way I could have kept her away! Yet this way, I'm not being a bad daughter-in-law if I'm lazing in bed.

Is it wrong that I feel so excited about my nefarious plot?

Brex's first tomato.

September 5, 2012

What's not to love?

Brex and I just returned from attending my cousin's wedding in Minneapolis. As I've mentioned before, my Mom was the oldest of 10 kids. After her there was an uncle, whose family I've never met, a childless aunt who died in a car accident, and then seven more aunts who all had children. That adds up to 27 first cousins, many who've now had kids of their own.

When Brex and I arrived on Friday, we went straight from the airport and car rental to the house that Aunt Gemstone had rented for the weekend. On the day of the wedding, a bunch of us met at a park/farmer's market in the morning. The day after the wedding, we all assembled at another house rented by the other aunts. That's a lot of family time! Yet all of it was fun and relaxing.

I kept realizing how much I enjoy our family. Here are some of the reasons why:
  1. Fun. When the music starts ALL of my aunts got up to dance. Just having all of them in the same room means the party will be fun.
  2. Relaxed. Despite having an open bar all night, nothing bad happened. No embarrassing moments, no fights, no hidden ugliness. It's amazing to have a family this large and not have any dread about a family gathering.
  3. Introverts/Extroverts. While most of the uncles seem to be non-dancing introverts, many of my male cousins were out on the dance floor having a great time. It gives me hope that no matter what Jrex does, our kid(s?) can join me on the dance floor!
  4. Caretaking. There was always someone wanting to hold Brex. He often preferred Mom to anyone else, but that's normal for his age. When I put him down to explore, there were always cousins around to keep an eye on him and play with him. After being loved by so many new people, by the time we arrived at the airport to fly home, he was crawling up to strangers and expecting they would be delighted to see him.


  5. My kind of fun. When we gathered no one watched television. Rather, people talked, played games, ate food and just hung out with each other.
  6. Laughter. Most of us have similar enough senses of humor that there are always quips flying around. Conversation is fast and interesting.
  7. Diversity. You'd think that us getting along would be because we have similar points of view, but it's not true. Opinions on the political spectrum seem to run from tea party to liberal, and we occasionally mentioned politics, but no one wanted to argue about it. It helps me remember that as much as the media wants to showcase a divided country, individuals  are willing to be kind to each other no matter what their point of view.
  8. Warmth. Come as you are, quirks are welcome. We all tend toward foot-in-mouth disease, so if it happens, we shrug and move on.

August 28, 2012

Steady....steady....

In a reversal of our usual system, yesterday I dropped off Brex and Jrex brought him home. Which meant that we were all hanging out in the living room as Brex stood next to his wooden box playing with the beads on wire loops twisting around the top. Jrex accidentally dropped the little notepaper we get from the daycare. It landed on top of Brex's box.

Now, this little kid is SUCH a fidgeter. He always needs to do something with his hands and loves to obsessively clutch any object as he goes about his activities. It's so bad that we suspect he's never going to switch from an army crawl on his belly to a 'real' crawl. Why? In the army crawl he can continue to hold onto his Baahhwwl, or whatever other random item is in his grasp.

So, he reached for the paper. With both hands. Midway through the move, he seemed to realize what he was doing and his chubby legs started shaking, but he maintained his balance as he slowly reached forward to grab the paper and then stretched one of his hands to clutch a wire loop. Phew! He looked proud and relieved as he waved his paper at us.

Then he plunked down and army crawled over to me with his trophy.

Nope. He's not going to crawl before he walks.


August 22, 2012

Blah blah or Bawwwl?

Saturday night, 9:00 pm, far past the kiddo's bedtime and he was playing contentedly at Happy's 1st birthday party. While there, he discovered the joy of playing with round objects. Somehow, I've just never gotten around to buying him any toys with balls included.

Since then, I've rummaged through our stored stash of gifts from friends and found a couple balls. Tonight he happily migrated back and forth from his big wooden play box to a couple of balls. At one point, he picked up one of them then pointed at it and made a sound that (to a prejudiced, fond mother's ear) sounded like, "What's that?" (aka "da TA?")

I pretended he'd asked a question and answered slowly, "Baaalll. That's a ball. Baaaalll."

He looked at me solemnly and slowly enunciated (tone for tone), "Baaaww". I repeated, "Baaaalll", he looked at me, "Baaaawwl". Now, technically, if I do rasberries at him, he does them back so I'm not convinced it isn't just mimicry. We'll see if he says anything close to a "B" sound when he plays with them tomorrow.

The funny thing is that I look at him and feel like I've known him for years. It's still a bit strange to me that he can't talk or walk. It's like, some part of me thinks he's just wearing a baby suit and pretending. Don't fret, I'm not pushing him to be more than he is, it's just this odd sensation when I'm around him. If I believed in reincarnation, I could latch onto the whole 'old soul' thing. I've never had a baby of my own before, so perhaps it always feels like this for Moms. Among all the conversations about cracked nipples, thrush, crazy diapers, all-nighters and other Mothering Lore I've heard over the years, I've never heard this one talked about. Am I the odd one out on this?


August 20, 2012

Hormones Suck

Once a month I have a couple days where my mood dips really low. Whatever matters most to me in my life feels doomed and horrible. In high school, I'd vent to my Mom. After a while, she'd gently ask, "Where are you in your cycle?" Of course, I'd flounce away completely offended that She Just Doesn't Understand Me! During college, I'd feel like I was the worst painter in the world. While Jrex and I were dating, I'd tell him we had to talk and then I'd paint a doom & gloom picture of the state of our relationship. At first he tried to have a rational discussion, but (wise man), he eventually learned to just listen sympathetically and not really respond much. A day or so later I'd say, "Gosh, I don't know what that was about!? I mean, everything I said was valid, but it felt so life or death and now it's not that big of a deal. Weird, huh?" He'd just nod and smile.

Yesterday was Sunday (in case you weren't paying attention). Since I'm still looking for a church, Sunday just highlights that I don't have a place to feel rooted, I don't yet have a deep Christian network here, Jrex isn't at church with me and I don't know where to bring Brex in order to experience both God's love and rich community. Hormones aside, it's become a challenging day for me. Well, yesterday, I walked out mid-way through the sermon. It just felt empty and futile (not God, just the church hunt process).

When Jrex came home after hanging out with some friends in the evening, he offered to just sit together and talk. It didn't take long before I was teary and expressing how much despair I felt about Everything. He just listened. Eventually he looked tired, which of course meant He Just Doesn't Understand Me! I left him to watch football and went upstairs, Hurt, Sad and Alone.

This morning it occurred to me that, while there is validity in the emotion, perhaps it's hormones that are inducing the thrashing, raging despair.

It truly gives me sympathy for people who's brain chemistry is out of whack all the time. It's horrible to feel buried alive by Life. Most of the time I feel resilient and able to handle curve balls. These few days of fragility and wrath are quite disorienting. I also haven't had many of them since getting pregnant, so last month and this month caught me by surprise.

Looks like things are getting back to normal... I'm SO excited!

Do any of you get involuntary crazy days? It's been 28 years of this, you'd think I'd figure it out when the wave is cresting, but EVERY time, I only figure it out as it ebbs.

August 9, 2012

Coming up for air

I've worked 61 hours since Sunday afternoon. I'd worked on the RFI (Request for Inf0rmation) for Big Korean Tech Company (BKTC) a couple weeks ago. When we got invited back for the standup, I tried to say no to helping put the presentation together. After being promised that all my paying client work could go to freelancers and I'd only work on the RFP (Request for Pr0posal), I was sucked into the worst clustery project so far.

Anyway, that's all over and everyone in the office is doing a scramble tonight and tomorrow to put the pieces together so that one of our VPs can take the finished booklets and other detritus with him to K0rea tomorrow. I'm OUT of that tunnel.

Tomorrow I'm taking a comp day and will try to avoid the computer all day and all weekend.

We have no plans, but right now, that sounds perfect.
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In other exciting news, our back porch is being torn off the house!


That red circle is around the part of the 4x4 post that held up the roof and was tenuously held together with nails and paint. One of the first thoughts I had when we saw this house was that it's perfect, but the back porch has to go. We thought we'd have to save money for a few years first, but thanks to all the life transitions in one year (move+baby+house+home office), we received a tax refund that more than pays for a new covered deck.


Not only will we end up with a 17 x 12 foot deck, with a roof and ceiling fan, we're using Garapa wood for the deck boards and a built in shelf. Garapa is a sustainably harvested Brazilian hardwood. It lasts for 50-60 years and only needs to be oiled every couple years. It contains silica and therefore is as hard as concrete. It's supposed to be gorgeous. I'm hoping it works as a file for the dog's nails!


Another side perk is that while they're working on the back porch, thereby forcing us to park in front and use the front door, the city has torn up the side street facing our garage driveway. So, two reasons we'd have to park in front are happening at the same time. Score!

The city is repaving the road after digging it up to work on the water mains. The good news is that the baby can sleep through the sounds of back hoes, bulldozers and power tools, the bad news is that our fence, front porch and all our trees are covered in dust. Looks like I'll be doing some power washing and staining in the fall! Want to come for a work holiday?

The overarching goal is to get the deck (and the yard?) done for Brex's first birthday party. The first birthday is a big deal in Korean culture and it would be fun to have a progressive party. If people want they can come early for the Korean ceremony (dress him in Korean outfit and have him pick an object that supposedly indicates his future destiny), then we'll do an open yard party in the back yard and serve Korean food.

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In the gratuitous baby photo category: here are a couple photos from my birthday. We visited the Modern Museum in Ft. Worth. Outside the museum there's a 68-ft Vortex sculpture by Richard Serra. When you stand inside it and clap, melodic echoes clamber up the sides. We brought Brex inside. While he was skeptical at first, he quickly grew excited by the noise.


August 3, 2012

Finding a new rhythm

[Warning: Mommy minutiae ahead...]

Wednesday was Brex's first day at the new daycare. Since it's near Jrex's lab, he drops off the baby in the morning, then I do the 5 pm pickup.

The good:

  • Love. So far Brex seems to be enjoying the caretakers. They are all loving him. I felt like a celebrity yesterday with various teachers (not in his classroom) telling me he giggles for them. He waved at everyone as we walked out. We'll have to work on his royal wave...
  • Conspiracy? Before beginning daycare back in January, he loved getting changed. We'd make noises at each other while I did it and he'd laugh. Then while at Ms. G's he started crying when I'd change him at home. I'm not sure what she/they do there, but none of the kids wiggle on the changing table. This morning, when I went to change him, he was happy about it again. Maybe it's me spinning a conspiracy theory, but I suspect that Ms. G was at least speaking to him very sternly.  
  • Knowing what happened during the day. They have a little book for each of the kids and record diaper changes, feedings and naps. At Ms. G's even if I asked, I only got a vague sense of what happened during the day. She did NOT welcome dropping in. She never said so, it's just if you asked about it, she got quiet and changed the subject and somehow you knew it would not be a good idea. 
  • Our social lives. There are two other couples we know with kids in the daycare and it's great to see them as we go in and out. One of them lives in the neighborhood. Once the weather cools off, we might go walking with the kids at the end of the day.


The bad:

  • Time. Jrex usually has to leave by 7:30 or 8 AM. It's really hard to lose that hour and a half with Brex. It means that instead of feeding him and then putting him on the floor to creep around and explore, I have to feed him, change him, dress him, pack breakfast/lunch and wave him out the door as Jrex drives off. Yesterday, I kept Brex home in the morning and drove him in close to 9 AM. It was nice to be with him, but meant I lost an hour and a half of work time with driving there and back twice. Not really a good option for long term.
  • The commute. This is what I thought would be hard. Instead of walking 2 minutes and carrying him back in my arms, it feels so mechanical to strap him in and drive home. The irony is that for much of the spring, I picked him up with the stroller and then we went for a 45 minute walk. Same difference in terms of physical time together, but feels less 'wholistic' or something. (Also, to put my whining in perspective, it's a 15-minute drive each way.)
  • Naps. Brex is in a class room where there's no solid wall between a toddler room on one side and the infant room on the other. None of the other rooms at the center have this set up. In between the two rooms is a shared kitchen and a shared changing area. The kids don't go back and forth, but the adults can. It means that there's ALWAYS noise. The first day he only slept for an hour at day care. When I picked him up, he was asleep within two minutes of our drive home. As I got him out of the car seat, rather than waking up when I opened the back door, he slept soundly even as I extracted the seatbelt from the fat fold in his neck. He barely woke as I carried him into the house and then was happy to fall asleep for two hours. Yesterday seemed better. He slept for two hours and managed our regular evening routine. As one of the daycare workers said, "The first couple weeks are hard, but after that, your baby will be able to sleep through ANYTHING." In the end, that's not a bad life skill to have. 
  • Food. Ms. G made homemade organic food for the kids. It was comforting to know that I could drop him off and she'd be giving him wonderful food. Now it's up to me to make the food for him and it's intimidating! What's appropriate, how much, etc. Fortunately, Jrex makes wonderful dinners and I just puree those and have baby food.
  • Socially. Working from home it was nice to have my day bookended with people contact. In the mornings I'd sit with the kids for a while as Brex settled into being there. It meant checking the big kids shoes for rocks, having them help me put Brex's stuff away in drawers (they competed to help), trying to say hello to each one, especially the quiet ones (I'm married to one of them and he was rarely noticed in a group setting). At the end of the day there were a couple other parents who'd linger and chat. Ms. G did various group bonding events through the year. The new place wants the parents in and out. At the open house, they didn't have us introduce ourselves or do any group building exercises. I think I will sign up to be the room liaison since, if you see the problem, you get to help solve it, right?
This feels much harder for me emotionally than I expected. I'm glad to get Ms. G out of our daily lives, but the loss of time with Brex makes me really sad. It's nice to see that he still seems happy and ok with it all. I like seeing him more connected with his Appa, it's just me who is grieving the loss. It's harder than him self-weaning; I was ready to be done with breast feeding, but I'm not ready for even less time with the little guy.


I do know that a nanny would not work while I'm working from home, so I don't feel regretful about that. I'm 70% happy that I'm working. One of my new friends stays home with her son and I think I'd go stir crazy. Her husband has to travel for work and is gone most of the week; I don't think I could handle the lack of peer stimulation. Also, I can see that Brex is much more confident socially, more flexible and more advanced in terms of independence and sleep than her son (who is just two weeks older than Brex). In the end, I do think we're doing what works for our family, I'm just letting myself feel my sadness about it.