Tuesday, November 30, 2010

I Am Iron Man

I found out today that I am "moderately" anemic, and probably have been getting steadily worse since N was born. It explains so much, and makes be feel better just knowing that there is a quantifiable problem that I am dealing with and not just "oh, you have 2 kids, of course you are tired all the time." And of course, now that I know what the problem is, I am impatient for it to improve.

Yesterday I went to the gym and had a good workout, but it almost ended me. That is supposedly another problem that comes with anemia -- working out makes the symptoms worse, as does coffee, giving birth, breastfeeding, taking vitamins without iron in them, and doing laundry. Okay, so I made that last one up, but it seems like everything in my lifestyle makes anemia worse ;D I started cutting back my coffee a few days ago, so I guess I will just keep on doing that. I am down to a half cup per day now, and it is killing me... I love coffee! I love brewing it, I love drinking it, I love the smell, the warmth... And of course now that it is winter, all I want is some hot drinks. :p Small price to pay for feeling better, though.

My hemoglobin levels were pretty low -- 8.5, with a normal being in the 12-13 range. Below a 7 and I would have been admitted to the hospital for a blood transfusion! I am still waiting on the final lab results to confirm, but hopefully there's nothing there to send me straight to the hospital. Man, I reeeeeeally don't like staying in the hospital.

That's really all the news for the day. My energy has been grinding to a halt lately, so my to-do lists are pretty short (I submit my cluttered house as evidence of this fact). I am really hoping that I can see some improvement by Christmas!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Giving Thanks

I am a natural-born introvert, and usually events like Thanksgiving, with the crowds of people, loud noise, jostling (at least at our food table, I don't know about yours) and general largeness usually leaves me happy and full but somewhat strung out as well, yearning for a quiet room and some time alone.

I don't know if it's because I'm getting older or because everyone seems to be mellowing out more, or maybe it's just the confidence that family life has given me, but this year it was not like that at all. I felt completely at ease. Everyone around the table(s) just felt like "my people," and it was peaceful and happy. There were those great family moments where we all just happen to gather in the same place, and talk, and talk. Being a stay-at-home, I really miss talking in that way -- large groups of people, sharing memories, sharing ideas, all of it good-natured and friendly. We looked up everybody's birthday to see what famous people were born on our birthdays (me: Pat Nixon. B: Adam West). Dad hitched up the lawn tractor to a trailer full of hay and we had a hayride. At first it seemed corny but as we took lazy circles around the yard it seemed like the perfect metaphor for the year that passes in between Thanksgiving meals. Kind of circular, kind of familiar, slow yet over quickly too. And then you turn a corner and you see that piece of the yard (and it is a beautiful yard) in a way you never have before. Today it was a tall tree in the back corner of the yard with its leaves turned bright yellow, flaming on all the branches and scattered on the ground, all around. I stared up at the branches from below. C smiled and hugged N. The trailer bumped and jostled over tree roots. We drove figure eights around the yard that I used to wander in my childhood, singing to myself or reading books or gathering leaves like memories to press between the pages of the book of life.

Friday, November 19, 2010

A Lone Time

It has been a week since we were partying out in LA, and man, has reality come back with a vengeance ;D This week has been a blur of unpacking, deadlines, and holding back the ever-impending mess of house clutter.

And yet I feel like my trip to the end of the world helped me to get some perspective on things. Something about hauling ourselves all the way out to the mountain-y craggy beach at Malibu, seeing the Pacific, and feeling so very small helped a lot of details to jog back in place. Somehow, a trip away from home tends to make home make more sense in the end.

To be more specific:

I realized that I have been WAY too busy since Norah has been born. In the hotel and on the road/in the air, I often found myself with only one thing to do at once, and I found that I functioned much better that way. I seem to have regained some of my short-term memory capacity (which I thought was lost forever) and I think I'm being nicer, too. You'd have to ask Ben if this is actually the case, but I believe it is. :)

I am beginning to recognize too-busy-ness as an inherited trait, and I have to actively choose not to give in. I think I have already mentioned here that I have cut back from teaching for two colleges to teaching for only one, at least for the near future. It feels very right.

I realized that I need time alone every day. I got time to myself each day of the trip (weird, right?) and I just sort of instantly felt like my old self, and I think that there is a connection there.

I realized that the past 6 months or so have been really exceptionally hard, and that it is all right for me to admit that and make positive changes for the next six months. I have possibly had some PPD, which changes the way I evaluate things.

Of course, all this hippie-dippie self-awareness comes at a cost. I am more aware of being tired now, so I can't live on caffeine and denial and stay up until 3am doing work anymore... at about midnight I am totally done. This is both good and bad, although I suspect it is more good.

-The best part of all was realizing how much I worry in my daily life, and letting go of that worry. I think that the prospect of flying two little kids out to LA and then driving ourselves around, meeting various deadlines, and wearing a strapless dress could have been the perfect recipe for a nervous meltdown, but instead the fear just faded. After the 101, I-10 doesn't look like much, you know? It reminds me a lot of the way I felt right after my bad car accident when I was 17. I realized back then that had things gone only slightly differently, my entire life could have been wrecked. Rather than making me nervous, though, this thought actually freed me. I realized that I could die at any moment, and so I could see no reason to worry and no reason not to enjoy life. The fact that I am here at all is so improbable, why not relish every moment?

-I am cutting back on the sort of hyper-communication that I would get involved in, on the phone, on FB, etc. I stand back and pretend that I am a couple of time-zones away, and things just don't seem like that big of a deal anymore. In a good way.

One small interesting note is that I think I may finally be integrating the "mother of two" thing into myself and my identity. I had several moments during the trip when things were just going inexplicably smoothly -- for instance, on the way out to CA, there was a moment on one of the flights when B and C were reading Curious George together and I had N balanced on one knee, eating oatmeal and peaches from a jar at 30,000 feet. No spills, no whining, no problems. I thought, maybe the inherent inconvenience of life with two small children has somehow made me immune to some of the hassles of traveling. Long flights used to make me want to scream and pull my hair out, and now I am just like, "Wow, 3 hours and fifteen minutes with nothing to do? And my phone doesn't work? SCORE." The TSA suspicious-liquids screening was kind of a pain in the neck, but it was no worse than trying to pay with a (oops, expired, let me get out the new one... do I have the new one with me? Hold on...) debit card at the grocery store with two fussing kids.

A lot of the goodness of my experience with the trip came from B doing so much with the kids, always ready to hold them, amuse them, feed them, etc., and of course being willing to drive us on our errands through the hideous end-of-days traffic in and around LA. It really cut down on the heinous trip-related work that I had to do, and allowed me to relax in what felt like the first time in... forever.

Monday, November 15, 2010

City of Angels

The Happy Nashes just returned from a 4-day odyssey to California for a wedding. It was definitely an adventure! I will be writing more about the trip over the next few days, but for now, here are a few highlights:

--I have never wanted to give a company a big hug before, but Southwest Airlines and I are now BFF. We had four flights total, and they all boarded quickly (15 mins tops) and had timely arrivals and departures, cheerful flight attendants, nice passengers, low fares, and very quick de-boarding as well. We didn't sit at the gate for any length of time after arrival, as I have always had to do with other airlines (ahem... DELTA... ahem...). No switched departures, strange delays, or shenanigans of any kind. And they did Family Boarding which allowed us to find seats together each time.

--The kids did SO WELL with the traveling. I had so many nightmare scenarios played out in my head -- screaming children, tantrums, diapers at 30,000 ft., security issues, etc. but it went so smoothly. I feel like it was easier than a car trip. N loved to nap on the planes, I think because of the combination of white noise and motion, and because she was right on me in the sling instead of strapped in her car seat. C watched his portable DVD player, ate snacks, and only got whiny towards the very end of a couple of really long flights, when I was feeling a bit edgy myself.

--B and I reached a kind of traveling zen early on in the trip -- I would say maybe after our first flight -- and we were like a machine. We were so efficient, so cooperative, and so focused. We even had a chance to relax and enjoy ourselves and the kids were fine, and it was really fun. I was afraid it would be just a lot of work and kind of lonely, but I really got to hang out with B a lot, and it was kind of like old times. Very much a vacation from the daily grind. I loved it. :)

--Speaking of B being awesome, he drove on the LA freeways! In a car with no driver's side mirror! ;D And lived to tell about it.

--The most beautiful view ever -- right before Malibu Canyon Rd. meets the Pacific Coast Highway. You are driving through canyons and mountains, up and down and around curves, and then suddenly on your right the landscape sort of falls open and you can see the Pacific in this breathtaking panoramic view. I gasped while we were driving, and freaked B out because he thought something was wrong. But I couldn't help it. It was glittering, clear, and flat, and I felt like we could see halfway to China. It didn't even seem like Earth.

--Seeing our good friends Mark and Reina get married was the greatest part of all. They are such a great pair of people, and unlike many couples, you get a sense that they just really truly enjoy each other's company. I know they will have a long and very happy life together. And may I say that Reina was one of the most beautiful, radiant brides that I have ever seen.

More later! For now we are enjoying being back in our hometown, where "rush hour" means that it will take you half an hour to get home. ;D

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Oh, Brother

This morning I turned off the monitor at 4am and just went to sleep as N cried, because I had not yet been to sleep and knew I would be up at 8am again. In the morning, I woke up to her just waking up and mildly fussing. When I went in to get her, I saw that she was surrounded by a halo of toys. C had heard her crying and came in to give her a selection of age-appropriate toys (every single one of them was a baby toy) to keep her calm before I came in.

What a brother! :)

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Sister Mary Yellypants

When N is being especially fussy, she often gets a stern look and rejects every attempt at making her happy. She will furrow her tiny brow and scowl in a way that reminds me a lot of my fifth grade teacher and the nuns who ran my elementary/middle school. With that one look they could let you know the following things:

1. I saw what you just did
2. I know how disobedient you are, even if you are acting like you are obedient
3. I heartily disapprove
4. Your parents will hear about this

And so I call N "Sister Mary Yellypants" when she is handing out demerits to me. C had a similar persona, The Boss, who was a disgruntled bureaucrat who pitched a fit when you did not file all the appropriate forms in triplicate. This would often happen when I took a shower or went out to get the mail (or, heaven forbid, out for the evening) without prior approval, for example. Man, I used to spend HOURS in HR explaining myself...

Happily, The Boss is no longer a large part of C's personality, although there is a Napoleonic persona emerging these days... "Fire the cannons! Because I say so, that's why! Lay SEIGE to them! They SHALL NOT STAAAAND!" And then he gets sent into exile, though only to his room, not a remote island.

But I kind of hope Sister Mary Yellypants hangs around for a while. To be honest, I like a girl with a little bit of sass.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Let It Rain

I know it's just a superstition, but I love the old folk belief that rain on your wedding day (in spite of what Alanis says) means good luck. I have been thinking about our wedding a lot lately as we have been getting ready to go see our friends get married, and celebrate with them.

In a way, it was not long ago, and in a way I was the same person then that I am now. But a lot about me has changed -- I have grown up -- a LOT -- by becoming a mom. I am so much more confident, so much better of an advocate for myself and for others, because I was forced into it during C's hospital stay. I used to be so timid, and I am not anymore. That is a really nice change.

My memories of the ceremony and wedding day are crystal clear, like a hi-def movie. I had a feeling on my wedding day that was almost like my experiences with birth -- I felt like I had lived all of the moments before, or like it had all been written down already, somewhere else, thousands of years before. I can't really explain that part of it, just to say that I felt the presence of God there, and the feeling of embarrassing riches being poured out on our heads.

I think a lot about those moments -- exchanging vows, rings, kneeling down alongside my husband for the first time, just seconds after we became husband and wife, the high-five at the back of the church when the whole ceremony was finally over and done with -- and I remember how fresh and naive I was, not in a negative way, but just in an untested way. My love was a grand and glorious thing, something brand new and shiny. It's easy to look back on our clear skin and ruddy cheeks and think, "how silly we were then, how young!"

But when I think back on it, I am glad that we got married then, in our youthful abandon and our blushing glee. On that day, I cried a tear or two and got a little choked up during our vows, but nothing out of hand. Looking at his hands in mine, the shiny new rings, our best clothes, the smiling faces of our loved ones all around us -- it was easy to put aside the tears. But if it were now -- holding those same hands that I held in the NICU by C's bedside, on the news of lost family members and friends, deciding to purchase our house, telling him that C was on the way, and then that N was too -- trying to speak those vows knowing the real-life way that they would play out in our lives -- I would have started blubbering like a little girl. I understand more now about old couples who sit together quietly and happily without saying much. I believe it is not because they have run out of things to say, but because words are not adequate for expressing what marriage really is, or what it means. I would just walk around like a broken record saying, "Thank God I found you" every second of the day.

On our wedding day, it rained all day long -- from the moment I woke up, throughout the wedding and reception, and all the way up to Atlanta where we started our honeymoon journey. Even though I know it's just superstition, I sometimes think that the rain was God's way of saying that our life together would be challenging, but He would always be there, too, messing up our hair but also pouring out blessing. Catching a glimpse of myself with my messy mom-ponytail, I can see that He has. :)

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Sanity Project

N turns 7 months tomorrow, and she just got her first tooth yesterday! Chomp chomp. You can't see it yet, but believe me, you can feel it! ;D

On Monday I am going to see a dietician to figure out what is going on -- I have a bunch of random problems that I think are all related to nutrition, so I just want to go and get it all squared away and figure out a solution. I am tired all the time, can't sleep when I have the chance, can't sustain any kind of weight loss regardless of what plan I follow, and don't really feel any hunger at all. It's weird. I could eat nothing or everything and it wouldn't feel much different. I just eat when I start to feel dizzy and weird, or whenever the next meal is supposed to come. I am also forgetful, agitated, and really tired of being large.

I had been hoping to get down to a weight about 15 lbs lower than where I am, so that I could feel more confident in the dress I am wearing in a wedding in a few weeks, but I tried everything and this is as good as it's getting. Super frustrating because I feel like me effort doesn't show -- I have a "lazy" body even though I've been anything but. Luckily no one else is as concerned with my weight as I am ;D

So I'm looking forward to meeting with the dietician, to see what she can tell me. I am quite impatient for it, actually.

On Sunday I worked my last day for one of my college teaching gigs, and I am very very very glad for the break. I was burning out on it pretty quickly -- it was hard work and not very rewarding. The remaining college that I teach for is my favorite -- the work is defined much better and I really like the people. It's good. I have one more push of final grading and then I will be done with college #1 for the near future, and I am really looking forward to a saner schedule. For the past 6 months I have been teaching 3 classes at once, with a schedule of watching the kids from 8am to 9pm, chill for 20 minutes or so, then work from 9:30 or 10pm until about 1am, sometimes later if grades are due. Then fall in bed, get up 1-2 times in the night to feed Norah, then up at 8am to start again. It's no wonder my whole house is a wreck and I don't know which way is up. Am really looking forward to a bit of sanity again.

Maybe after this first bout of teething, N will chill a bit in her sleep habits. My ideal schedule would be to go to bed at 10 or 11, then get up around 6 to work for 2 hours before the kids get up. I tend to work really well in the early morning. So maybe I can find a day to "switch" my schedule -- the challenge with changing that way is that I have to find a day when I don't need to stay up until 1 to finish things, so that I can get up at 6 without putting myself at a terrible deficit. I am praying for sometime this week, maybe Wednesday night/Thursday of this week.

Is there a patron saint of mothers getting enough sleep? ;D

The only other news right now is getting ready to go on our trip to the wedding -- things are shaping up well and I am feeling really good about it. I think we will have a good time. I am sure we will have some crazy story about a meltdown in a really inconvenient place, or something really funny. Looking forward to the adventure! :)