Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A Whole New (Wednes)Day

I am never hesitant to say how much I love Wednesdays. Wednesdays are one of my two part-time days, and for the past year, I have taken the morning off. I wake up knowing that it doesn't matter what I put on or how my hair looks. I don't rush to make my coffee or hurry myself into the shower. I have more patience with Sadie and with Daisy. After dropping Sadie off at preschool at 9, I go for my long run of the week and usually run 70-80 minutes. Then I come home and take Daisy for some ball throwing or a walk. I play around on the internet a little bit. I dilly dally while taking my shower and getting ready. Sure I look at the piles of projects that need to be done, but I don't think I have spent a Wednesday morning yet accomplishing anything major. It is just a nice slow time. It is time for me.

Tomorrow my Wednesdays will change for the summer, and I am excited. Sadie's school has finished for the summer and while she has 6 weeks of camp starting later this summer, she is largely living the summer of freedom that I still relish in my memories. Swim lessons for this week and for next week. Ballet camp for a week taught by her best friend's nanny. Maybe an art class. And our beach trip. But generally, nothing stressful. And our nanny, who is was nothing short of an answer to our prayers last Fall, has her own life, her own marriage, her own long to-do lists, her own sanity to preserve too. I am thankful that she is motivated by so much more than larger paychecks for more babysitting hours. And so, I am taking Wednesday mornings and Friday afternoons and devoting them solely to Sadie this summer.

I am excited about this honestly. While I need my own time,  I have seen more and more in the past few weeks how Sadie will react to the moods that Mark and I project. She has watched the rocky rides that have pulled Mark out of town on trips twice or three times a week to visit his mom or dad and manage their heathcare issues. She has seen me worry about Daisy, worry about work, worry about the house, worry about her own ears. I have heard her say things about herself being "stressed out" or equating my stress with being super strict like my own mother was.

And I have learned that I can create my own time in windows with Sadie, and windows alone. That's the beauty of being 4. She doesn't ne

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

You asked, I answered.

On my morning off today, I woke up to Sadie in bed next to me, crying that Mark was not there to play with her in the morning. Daisy wanted to go out right away, and Sadie did not. I sent Sadie next door to Gran Fran's, and Daisy and I walked the alley for 10 minutes while Sadie colored at Gran Fran's house. We talked to Daddy on the speaker phone to learn that Granddaddy, who was released from the hospital yesterday after a week there and moved to the nursing home in their assisted living community, was taken back to the ER at the hospital last night for his heart.  Got Sadie out the door to preschool, and went for a 7 mile run. The sun was shining and my run was strong and fast, both rare occurrences for this 3 day a week jogger now. Home to shower and change, took Daisy out for a short walk, threw some tennis balls to her in the alley all the while checking my blackberry. Hit Tropical Smoothie Cafe, which is my Wednesday lunch spot, on my way into work, and met a man who described himself as wearing a blue and white striped shirt at 11:45, at our appointed spot.

My meeting with said man was set up by a call from him to me last week. One of our former neighbors who lived next door to us for a year or so, 3 or 4 years ago, was applying for a Top Secret Security Clearance with the U.S. State Department, and he listed me as a character reference.

This would be fun, I thought. I used to have a Top Secret Clearance when I worked at the State Department back for the summers in college. My brother, my sister in law, and my brother in law also all worked for the Government and all had Top Secret clearances for their jobs. I know what goes into these labels, and I thought it would be neat to be on the other side of the questions.

I met the man at our appointed spot and he shook my hand, promising that our conversation would take between 10 and 15 minutes. He started with his questions -- they were not simple yes or no questions, and I had to think back hard to remember things like what year did I meet our neighbor, what was his job then, etc. I made sure that the interrogator knew that my meeting our neighbor came at the same time as the birth of my child, so I was sleep deprived. I can't remember if I ever knew what he did for a living. He had a dog, we had a dog, he had a child, we had a child, neither child was sleeping so we often talked a lot when we were both drew the lucky straws to walk the dog.

At the end of the interview, the interrogator leaned closer to me and said "Mrs. Webb, I am going to be honest with you here. You seem to be hiding something from me... I have asked you numerous questions and many times, you diverted your eyes from mine and answered by looking away. Is something on your mind? Because this is a matter of national security."  OK, he didn't say that last part, but he clearly insinuated it.

"Is something on my mind?" I answered him, looking straight into his eyes. "Yes, I have a great deal on my mind. But none of it has to do with my old neighbor Albert." 

- My daughter has parent observation at ballet today and her other parent is not going to be there to observe. We did not warn said daughter about this occurrence, which might very well mean that said daughter will refuse to perform or storm out of the room. Neither will look pretty.

- My father in law is in the hospital again, and my husband is very torn between being the son that takes care of his elders and the parent that needs to care for his young one, especially when his wife is tied up at work. I am torn with guilt and resentment. And I am scared, because if it hurts this much to go through it with someone else's parents, how will I survive going through it with my own.

- And I am hungry, because I haven't eaten my smoothie yet. Because I thought it would be impolite to have the smoothie in front of you while you had nothing. But there it is, tucked in my tote bag, melting away, and this makes me very sad.

- And I have to get to work, because I have a memo due that I haven't started on. And while this time last year I was a partner and had people working for me, this time this year I seem only to work for someone else, and no one ever wants to do work for me, and at almost 42 years old, I am not very good at working for someone else and I was actually pretty good at managing people, and this sucks.

- And it is Wednesday, again, which means that the cleaning lady comes tomorrow and I really dislike Wednesday nights cleaning up for the cleaning lady and why oh why oh why cannot I not for the life of me keep our house picked up so I don't have to go through this every freaking Wednesday night. How can I both love Wednesday mornings and hate Wednesday nights. I feel like it is a bipolar day.
- And my sister is probably going to get married, to a guy who she loves, but who lives in Denver and has 2 young children who live in Denver which means we will not see her for Christmas like we always have and she won't travel as much like she always did and will this be our last year at the beach together, and if so, a professional photographer would be nice,  and while I can understand this and be happy for Sadie, I hurt for Sadie, who I really wanted to grow up seeing my sister a lot.

- And speaking of getting a photographer at the beach, I need to price bike rentals down there because we are so loving the bike right now. And why didn't I write that down on a list, that has been something just in my head for the last couple of weeks. And where is my list anyway? Mark's birthday is this weekend and I have done nothing for him. Actually, I did do something, come to think of it, and ordered two batches of things from the internet and they haven't arrived yet. Which means I need to call and follow up on shipping date. What a pain. Why can't anything be easy. And the cake, I need to make a cake. Come to think of it, I really just want to eat cake.

So this is what goes through my mind during this interview. So I divert my eyes to his questions? Yes, I guess I do. I so crave order, and I have relatively none.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Ordinary time.

I love holidays. We decorate for Christmas to the absolute excess, and I listened to Christmas carols from Halloween through the start of March this year (exclusively). I love hosting Thanksgiving dinners for 15, and all the planning and cooking that goes into them. I love the 4th of July decorating traditions that we had growing up in the Misage household. And, we celebrate every birthday we can in our house... even Daisy is never without a cake and numerous cards and presents on her birthday. Now that Sadie is old enough to paint words for banners, we are rarely without one (the banner she made for me for Mother's Day is still draped the length of the dining room table).  If we can have a party, we will have one. We are celebrators. Mark, Sadie and I... we are all extroverted, all loud (well I am the loudest, followed pretty closely by Sadie), and all very happy to be in a hectic social setting.  We are energized from activity.

But recently, I have really craved Ordinary Time. Time to just be. And that time just doesn't seem to come around. It has been one thing after another for the last year or more. We had a nice "respite" for Christmas where everyone was healthy and happy and Sadie slept until 8:45 a lot of mornings, making us wonder what she might have been resting up for. And then, life just took off this Spring.  One ear infection after another for her. Upsetting drama as we saw Mark's parent's health take very real turns for the worse. Even our wonderful vacation to Disney seemed to have no restful moments.  Then we did a Garden Club home tour, and we were worn out.  And really, in the past two weeks, I have wondered when we will have some time to just be still.

But I looked at the calendar today, and saw that we are upon Sadie's last week of school. She will be in Pre-K next Fall, and we will start the process of testing for entrance into private schools. Next Fall we will know where Sadie will go to school from K-12th grade. How scary is that!  And before that, we have swim lessons to schedule, new camps to get prepared for. A trip to the beach which will be fantastic, I am sure. But restful? No way!  My sister Carolyn is bringing her new beau to the beach and all predictions are that they will be engaged and married very soon. More celebrating, more moments to savor. Not moments to sleep through.

Mark was leaving after dinner tonight to head to Williamsburg to see his parents and then to a meeting in Virginia Beach tomorrow. He makes the trek down to Williamsburg 2-3 times a week these days. I am thankful that my own parents are currently in excellent shape health-wise... I am not sure how we would survive dealing with more ailing parents at this stage. But my mother is turning 70 this October. My brother called on Saturday suggesting that we plan a party. Perhaps that will coincide with Carolyn's wedding - wishful thinking - so two gatherings with the Misage family are likely. How fun! How exciting. When to rest? Or rather, what to wear? Can I find a dress like Pippa's by then? Can I find a body like Pippa's by then?

So after dinner, Sadie wanted to finish up some coloring that she was doing on the island. I no longer need to help her with her art... she decides what to do and does it, often with scissors, a glue stick, and a lot of markers and papers. Today she was cutting and decorating a surfboard for a female character that appears to be on Jake and the Neverland Pirates (thank you Disneyworld!). Deep in concentration, she was cutting out a head, a neck, a body, legs, and then finally toes, all to glue on paper where she had glued the surfboard (which was decorated with flower petals). I have never seen this female character (though the theme song for Jake and the Neverland Pirates has been in my head all week), but if she is half the girl my daughter made her to be, she is one lucky surfer!  Bedtime routine is supposed to start at 7:30, and here it was 8:05.

I stopped myself before launching into my "We need to be on-time people, Sadie!" which I seem to say every morning and every night.  Instead, I grabbed the camera from the opposite counter to capture my four year old daughter. This is ordinary time. Lanky legs. A cheerleading costume. The hat I wore to go running last weekend (where was that hat?). A glue stick and some scissors. And her mind going a million miles a minute. She's so independent in her art now, it is hard to believe that she is only 4. She picks out her own clothes, she dresses herself exclusively now. She is her own person. She is no longer mine. She is her own.

Ordinary time. You have to look for it. And it passes too quickly.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Moms and Daughters

I can still remember the exact moment I had at about 16 weeks pregnant when I was swimming laps in the indoor pool at our Downtown YMCA and I had this overwhelming feeling that I was having a boy. Overwhelming, as in THIS IS A SIGN, I had no doubt that this child was a boy. Mark and I had tossed around both boy and girl names (Max for a boy, and Sadie for a girl) and I loved them both. Admittedly actually, I was more in love with the name Sadie than Max, however, because Mark was insistent that Max's formal name be Maximus, which I was not so crazy about. But I was sure, mid-lap that day in the pool in fact, that that baby was a boy baby Max and that was the end of any doubt in my mind.

So I was surprised when our wonderful doctor told me a few weeks later that he was pretty sure that the baby was a girl. Mark and I laughed when the doctor said "Its either a girl, or it better be a boy with a really good sense of humor."  And in hindsight, I wasn't really surprised, given what we knew about "boy swimmers" and "girl swimmers" and the timing of when I actually ovulated that month.
I wasn't disappointed in finding out that she was a girl exactly, but I was worried. While it is laughable now that I thought then that I had any clue about what raising a child of any gender would be like, I was worried about the mother-daughter relationship. 

My mother gave 100% of her own life to raise three daughters and one son, and today, I have tremendous respect for that. But our dynamic has never been ideal, and perhaps that is saying it nicely. I never remember a time of not fighting with my mother, not back talking to her, not having my feelings hurt by her. Not wanting her love and approval, and not feeling like I was ever getting it. I was obstinate, strong willed, "horrid" she would later tell me laughingly, like in the nursery rhyme about a girl with a curl in the middle of her forehead "...when she was good, she was very very good, but when she was bad, she was horrid."  Even as adults, it is still my father who I turn to for affirmation and a listening ear. If I want a fast lecture, my mother is always ready to give it though.

I was worried that this girl baby would have the same relationship with me that I have (or lack) with my mother, and would prefer instead her father. What if I screw her up, I often thought.

Yet, one thousand times since the day she was born, I have thanked God for giving me just the daughter I deserved. I have no doubt that it is her love of me that has made me a great mother.

Just this morning I noticed something that something that has been developing over the last few weeks - and that is a true team mentality of "Girls Rule" in our house. You can see it in the picture above where Sadie is just over-the-top to have both Tyler and I there together. She adores her father, and she is the first one out the door for the promised Daddy Daughter Daisy Donut Dates that seem to happen about every other week at Krispy Kreme.  But just in the last few weeks, she has started this funny way of seeking affirmation that she and I have a bond because we are mother and daughter. This morning she went to go to the bathroom before we were leaving for preschool and saw that Mark had left the toilet seat up. She came to the kitchen and this is what transpired:

          Sadie [with head cocked to the side and eyes a little bit squeezed, as if we were gossiping]: Mommy, Daddy left the toilet seat up again today!

          Me: Well did you just put it down and go tinkle?

          Sadie: Yes, but Mommy, we really need to do something about this. He has done it a few times now. We need to send him an email and tell him that there are more girls in our house than boys, so we get to make the rules, right? OK Mommy?

I am getting a lot of "Right Mommy?" these days, at the end of what she is saying (which, by the way, what she is saying doesn't appear to ever end really... it is a series of long diatribes but interspersed throughout I, she will redirect me with a "Right Mommy? or "OK Mommy?" and I nod, and she can move on with her story). Last night Mark joked with Sadie that he had eaten the rest of her Easter Candy and she turned to me and said "He's just joking, right Mommy?"  Again the side head tilt, the eyes squeezed together, as if to suggest that she and I are on the Side of Truth, and Daddy is stuck in the Land of Silly.

I admit that I love this. I love it with all of my heart and soul and mind. I have no doubt that boys have a wonderful bond with their mothers, or that daughters are also very bonded to their dads, but I just feel like ours is so incredibly wonderful right now. My daughter pretty much had ear infections consistently from March 17 through May 1 and, even with the magic of a multi-thousand dollar trip to Walt Disneyworld thrown in there, had her share of horrid moments over our difficult spring. But the last couple weeks have been so full of sunshine and love and laughter and bonding with us.  In the midst of getting seven shots at her four year check up the other day, when the doctor gave her two purple lollipops to cheer her up, she held the other one in her hand and said "this one is for Tyler." What kind of kid thinks charitably like that?

I still lay down on Sadie's bed every night when I put her to sleep. When she was an baby and in her toddler years, I feel like we tried every sleep training method under the sun. But ever since she has moved to her big girl bed at about two and a half, I have given in to the reading books together in bed and then laying together as we say our prayers and share our reflections on the day, in the dark, and she eventually drifts off to sleep. Sometimes it takes 2 minutes, other times it might take 15, but never more than that.

She's my only child, and I have 15 minutes to give her. The only thing waiting for me is generally housework, or television, or work emails. All of the other tasks eventually get done, though I complain about them all a lot and I never feel organized or on top of all the things I am supposed to be handling at work or at home. But I love our nighttime routine, and I kind of hope that we do it for a long long time. I love laying there and feeling like my daughter thinks that she and I are a wonderful team. As I said before, she makes me a wonderful mother.