Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Noises in the Night

I was lying awake at 1 a.m. last night listening to the noises around me.

At the foot of our bed in her sleeping bag was Sadie. She comes in every night to sleep in our room. She used to come into our bed, a habit that grew much more common this summer. Someone gave me the idea to insist that she sleep in a sleeping bag, thinking that sleeping on the floor would lose its appeal soon enough and she would be back to her wonderful bed in no time. It has had the opposite effect, and now she wonders down around 9:30 pm. She doesn't want to be alone, she says, when the rest of her family sleeps in one room.

Next to Mark's side of the bed was Daisy on her dog bed. For much of the summer, Daisy had not been coming to sleep in our room where she traditionally slept. I would find her on the bathroom floor most of the time and thought that she must have chosen that place because she was hot. More and more often the last few weeks she wouldn't make it up the stairs at all and would sleep down in the den. But after our scary brush with death last week, she has been coming up to our room the last two nights and taken her old place in her dog bed next to us.  She is acting younger and healthier just the last two days. Like our old dog again. But this is making us realize that she really was different this summer.  Except for  our week at the beach, Daisy grew much older this summer.

So there we are, a family of four in a 5200 square foot house, all sleeping in a 7 foot by 7 foot square.

And then, all of the sudden, Sadie started laughing in her sleep. Giggling away. I sat up and peered over at her but her eyes were still closed, and she tightly held her blankie and bunny that have been her companions for life. But her face was lit up in happiness.  What was she dreaming, I wondered. It went on for more than a minute. She was so joyful.

I looked over at Daisy then, and she too was awake watching this. My ever present companion, she has always woken with me in the middle of the night. When Sadie was an infant, Daisy woke up for every feeding with me, coming downstairs to make the bottles and then up again with me to give them to her. Guarding us from what? Loneliness maybe? Solitude? Fear?  There is a reason why the yellow lab is the most popular dog in America. She has never chosen her own needs over the needs of her family. She is ever devoted to Sadie, Mark and me. She watched the laughter, and looked at me for a few minutes. She waited until I laid back down before she resettled herself. Now her head was facing Sadie's body. I bet she watched for longer like that.

Today, we don't know what the future holds for Daisy. The past two days, she has acted almost completely normal with us, full of smiles and tail wagging. But this morning she had a bit more blood in her poop. And she wanted to lay outside instead of coming in to eat. Could she sense that we were out of ground beef and she would only get chicken breast with her rice?  Of course not Daisy girl, we will just need to defrost some more for tonight. You will have steak, I told her!  She eventually came in.  We have a vet appointment on Friday for some more tests. Perhaps I should bring her in today with the appearance of more blood, I think my discharge instructions say to do so. But she hated the vet. She needs a break I rationalize. She will be fine at home with us for a few more days.

Sadie said to me this morning over breakfast, matter-of-factly "Daisy knows she is going to die soon."  I feel my heart breaking. We don't know that, I want to say --  we will get some treatment, she may be fine, she is only ten, if she has Cushing's, she might be able to have treatment and live another 3-4 years, I want to say. Then I see that Sadie has gotten down from her chair and is laying on the floor next to Daisy and Daisy gives her a lick on her cheek. I start packing my lunch and can see out of the corner of my eye that Sadie is sneaking Daisy cheerios from her bowl one by one. "Don't tell Mommy" she whispers. I just look away. Surely Cheerios don't violate the bland diet instruction.

We will make it. Tonight I will lay awake longer and thank God again for my blessings, all right beside me in the small space together. We will make it. Mark and I raise good caring loving beings, one human and one furry. We will make it.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Good Enough.

Last night, I started a book that I truly believe is going to be fabulous. Just 50 pages into it and I was trying to wake up my sleeping husband with by gleeful revelation that finally I have discovered it is OK to feel the way I do.  He didn't really seem too excited, and continued falling asleep. So this morning when we both woke up, I immediately tried to explain the main concepts of the book as I understood them. The problem was that I could not, at 6:30 am, remember the names of the two groups into which the authors had divided mothers who are working professionally outside the home. I grabbed the book to find the terms, but despite the bright light in our bedroom and me locating the correct page, I could not read the words on the page!!  Another added bonus of motherhood in my 40s -- I can't read fine print for the first 20 minutes of waking up. I couldn't even find the reading glasses.

Now several hours later, I can recall the two groups... it is something like the Always Perfects and the Good Enoughs. They did a study and determined that the Always Perfects are pretty miserable and the Good Enoughs are pretty darn happy.

Like a lot of the women featured in the book, I used to be a classic Always Perfect. I fundamentally believe that the private practice of law in large firms grooms women to be this way - it is likely in the drinking water.  As a transactional attorney, we were expected to work through the night when a deal so dictated, and fight for the smallest detailed points, such as where a comma goes in a a document. I laugh now when I think back to a several hour debate that we once were embroiled in at the printer over the use of the words presently and currently (for the curious among you, they don't mean the same thing). I was the perfect keeper of every last detail. It isn't like our profession lacked times of fun and laughter too, but the expectation was pure and absolute dedication, whatever time the day or night a client needed you.

When I first had Sadie, I tried to continue my Always Perfect personality at work. And I attempted to bring it home too. And slowly but surely, I kept falling short.

I couldn't fix Sadie's birthmark on her face over my maternity leave, notwithstanding that I researched the issue for hours upon hours a day. I couldn't fix projectile vomiting problem either, notwithstanding that I stood in line outside the Babies R Us before it opened after determining that perhaps the slow flow nipple was too slow and the fast flow nipple was too fast and thus that very moment I needed to find and buy some medium flow nipples to solve this issue. I couldn't fix her sleep issues that began at six months notwithstanding that I have bought every sleep book (and even bought a few of them twice, having thrown away the first copy one night when my kid was crying it out and I was having an emotional breakdown).  While I personally thought mothers who made their own baby food were obsessed and had too much time on their hands,  there were several times when I went ballistic on Mark for buying Sadie's diapers at the grocery store instead of the Target across town which had them $0.50 cheaper with the coupon that I had cut out. 

The more I tried to control everything around me at home, the more everything was falling out of my control. And the more I tried to get back on the train of being the super-star girl lawyer that I had been to as a partner at the firm, the more I felt like I was failing Sadie.  Great - I was a failure at home and at work.  Now what?

It seemed so obvious when I read about it in this book last night!

As opposed to the Always Perfects, there is a breed of much happier working professional mothers that are the Good Enoughs. And a year after I have moved firms and gone part-time, I think in this group is where I finally am located.  (Though I will admit, this morning when I begged for verification from Mark "I am in the Good Enough group, right? Listen to me Mark. Right? Right? That is me now, Right??" So I might still have some obsessive tendencies).

The Good Enoughs, have re-set their own bars measuring success so they can actually meet them. It isn't about settling for less than you want, it is about adjusting your wants so you will succeed and be happy with yourself.

Sadie slept in her bed all night last night (instead of the sleeping bag in our room where she has been since we returned from vacation). Big milestone for my girl, who has been in and out of our bed 95% of the nights for the last 2 years. So quickly I run to the shelf in our laundry closet where I keep a stash of presents for birthday parties, new coloring books, etc. for these moments, and I pull out a set of unopened Brain Quest for 4-5 year olds. Sadie was never crazy about the set we used a year ago (3-4 year olds perhaps) but honestly, our gift shelf is pretty depleted right now. So they were waiting for her at breakfast.

She ate a microwaved leftover pancake for breakfast that I had folded into a sandwich and filled with peanut butter. Success for my quest to get some protein into her, since they don't give morning snacks at her camps and fun at camp is wholly dependent, we have learned, on her eating a solid breakfast. Breakfast ended, time for Mommy to go take a shower.

But she wanted to do the Brain Quest cards.

Sure we have time for a few, and a few we did. No, she wanted to do them all. And she was good at them. How much harm can this be? I said to myself. I am not with her all day, and all she is asking is for a little more time with her mother. My hair is longer now, it doesn't need to be washed every day. And I haven't put on a stitch of make-up other than daily lipstick since I got married 7 years ago I think (how sad is that). So my getting ready routine can be shortened.

So we sat there and played with the cards until we had exactly 12 minutes for both of us to get dressed and get our bags packed to leave for camp, and then me for work thereafter. We made it. I took a speedy shower and Sadie did her own hair. It was good enough.

After I dropped Sadie at camp, I hit the newly remodeled Kroger to grab a few things we were out of and something for dinner. While I was there, I got an email from one of my co-workers saying "Before I come up to meet with you this morning, I wanted to tell you I was wearing my Talbot's green skirt in case you were wearing yours too."  I didn't respond.  The Almost Perfect in me would have felt guilty that here she was working while I was at the grocery store, and would have responded that indeed I wasn't wearing the green skirt, but did we have a meeting scheduled? The Good Enough in me was 90% sure we had nothing scheduled, and was 100% happy that I could grab something from Kroger this morning instead of fighting the traffic this direction to get there tonight after work but before dinner. It was 8:45. I happily went on my way, and my refrigerated groceries are in their bag down in the firm's refrigerator on 2 now, from which I will grab them and head home tonight. We didn't have a meeting, she just had a question. Which I answered 90 minutes after she emailed.  It feels good enough.

There are so many things in life that I can't control right now. Sadie's birthmark and whether or not we should operate. Mark's parents' health and the demands of time that is taken from him to deal with way too many issues.  Where Sadie will get into kindergarten, and if several places, which one would be best suited for her.  The real estate market in Richmond, which governs where we live right now.  My lack of friends at my new office. And my inability to effectively carve out time for most of my old friends.

But if I open my eyes and look, there are far more things that are given to me as opportunities for success. An ability to walk with Daisy after Sadie has gone to sleep and feel the cold front coming in after a few scorching days.  Time to play games with Sadie in the morning.  Not washing my hair and having ten extra minutes. Grocery shopping on the way to work. Exercising every day during lunch.  Those things I am wildly successful at. I have exceeded my wildest expectation on how to make do, fly by the seat of my pants, get what matters done. Those are my successes these days.

Sadie has the Misage family genes for anxiety and I sense that she will go through an Always Perfect phase. While she loves to hear the story of her birth, a few weeks ago she got very upset upon thinking of having a baby cut out of her tummy one day. Last week she told me right before she fell asleep "I wish I was a boy."  Oooh, gender identification issues already at 4, I wondered.  But when I asked why, her answer was "Because boys don't have to have babies, and I don't want to have babies. "You don't have to have any babies if you don't want to... You have many years to decide... That is not going to happen for a long long time."  "Like 100 years?" she asked me. "Close to that," I told her, "Why are you worried about it now?"  "Because I don't want the doctor to have to cut the baby out of me" she responded. "By the time you have a baby, in 100 years or so Sadie, the doctors will have invented a new way to get babies out of their mommies that don't hurt at all, so there is no use worrying about it now." I told her.

She was quiet for a few minutes and said "You mean like... out of my hand like this?" and she motioned her hand as if to be sprinkling something out of it. "Just like magic fairy dust?" she asked. "Yes" I said, "they will probably figure out a way that a doctor can help you sprinkle the baby out of your hand just like you sprinkle the magic fairy dust!" I told her.

Maybe an exaggeration, but good enough.

Thursday, July 7, 2011


What a wonderful time we had at the beach this year.

Going to Duck, NC is something that Mark and I have done since we started dating. He went to Southern Shores just south of Duck as a young child with his family, and I spent a week at the Outer Banks every year with friends from college too. So our dedication runs deep. There is a particular sensation that we get just driving across the Wright Brother Bridge onto the island that I can close my eyes and imagine, even in the dead of winter.  It is our happy place.  It centers us.

We took Sadie when she was just 6 months old, and she loved it of course... she learned to sit up in the soft sand and even more so, the Bermuda grass in our front yard (something we don't have living on Monument Avenue in Richmond). Mark and I missed the relaxation that we had counted on for all of our previous trips, the long bike rides on the trail, the dinners out at Blue Point, walks up and down the beach whenever we wanted.  But we took Sadie again, of course, when she was 18 months old and she dug and dug for hours... happy to entertain herself with the monotony of this experience and allow us some peace too. And we went again when she was nearly 2 and a half. This time, she needed closer supervision as she ran in the waves and threw ball to Daisy for hours on end. It was still relaxing for us though, as we had lots of family members and friends who came with us. And then we went last year when she was 3 and a half.  She loved the pool and the beach, but was far from a swimmer in her water wings. She dug sand holes and filled buckets but counted on Mark and me to actually construct the castles.  We never complained.

This year was different even still. Our near 4 and a half year old is entirely self sufficient in a pool and has no fear of the ocean at all. She builds her own castles, and even perfected Mark's famous "drippy sand castles" technique after 30 minutes of watching him and spent hours upon hours making them. I could sit in my beach chair and converse with my sisters and our friends, while Mark was kayaking and know that Sadie was having fun. She was thrilled to play with her older cousins and older friends and she no longer me hovering over her to protect her from anything.  She would call "Watch this Mom!" 1,000 times a day.

We ate lots of seafood dip from Dockside in Duck and boxes of Wheat Thins every night. Mark made lizard drinks with the blender lots of nights. We drank lots of wine. We grilled out and ate dinner at 6:45 instead of 5:45, and bedtime was never a struggle. We woke with the sun and had coffee and Duck Donuts or eggs and leftover shrimp every day. We watched the dolphins from our living room window. We collected shells and walked along the beach for long stretches. I was able to run five days on the sand in low tide, it was amazing. We just enjoyed every moment.

It was perfect this year.

So perfect that being back just sucks. Sadie's having a tough time readjusting to camp. And I am having a tough time readjusting to life. Just walking Daisy at night around the Fan is unbearable when I compare it in my mind to our walks at dusk up and down our street at the beach, no leash in hand, no alleys and trash and broken glass that abounds in our Fan life.  The drama of Mark's "sandwich generation" life is in full force again and the phone rings incessantly at night. Hurtful emails. Division. Work is busy.

I love vacation. But taking one does make it harder to come back.