Cleaning the domain

When I was growing up, my dad (a Navy guy) had us on a strict cleaning schedule. Every other weekend we cleaned the entire house, top to bottom. I’m talking toilets scrubbed, showers de-scummed, floors mopped, rooms straightened. When we were young, our only task was to straighten our rooms. In typical child fashion, it took my brother and I just as long to clean our rooms as it took my dad to clean the entire house. As we got older, he added chores until we were responsible for cleaning our bathroom too, as well as mopping/vacuuming our side of the house. When my brother moved out, I offered to take over cleaning myself. So every other week, I put on some music and dusted, mopped, vacuumed, scrubbed, shined, wiped, straightened, and more!

My internship was the first time I was free from the every-other-week schedule and I took full advantage of it. A humorous anecdote from the time: my apartment’s shower developed an orange scum. I seriously had no idea what it was and didn’t know that could happen – that’s how often we cleaned our home. I blamed a crappy apartment shower, rather than the fact that I hadn’t cleaned it in six weeks. I didn’t realize my mistake until I was cleaning for move-out and realized that the stuff wiped away. Whoops.

Anyway, ever since moving out and being gloriously free from the every-other-week thing, I’ve struggled to find an adequate schedule. I mean, no one likes scrubbing toilets, but there’s got to be a better way other than my current mode (which is to invite friends/family over and then surreptitiously wipe down the toilet with Clorox wipes while they aren’t looking after freaking out because the smell is suddenly QUITE noticeable). Plus, I’m one of the weirdos that loves a clean house. It’s like I can’t fully relax unless the living room is straightened and the counters have been wiped down. Luffy thinks I am crazy, but I embrace it.

I say all of this because I’ve gone on a sudden cleaning binge. In probably the first time since well before the dumpling was born, all of our toilets and showers are clean at the same time. (And not just wiped-down-with-Clorox-wipe clean, I mean scrubbed-with-a-toothbrush clean.) The dumpling’s toys have been put away. The ever present entryway jumble is mostly organized. And I remember again why I love a clean home. But, you know, a toddler lives here and thus a clean home takes a lot of work. So cheers to me, for fighting the good fight. The living room will devolve into chaos as soon as the dumpling gets home from daycare, but at least he can’t muck up the toilet. Yet.

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Aha Moment

I had a personal epiphany the other evening.

Luffy and I were cleaning the kitchen after the dumpling had gone to bed. He was unloading the dishwasher, asking me why I had closed a flip-down lid on the silverware basket. As I was answering, a knife got stuck in it and the whole thing pulled away from the basket. As I put it back into place, I joked that he had manhandled it. And, all of a sudden, Luffy was mad. He had even clarified first, if I meant me or him, but I was oblivious and replied him. After it was clear that he was mad, I tried explaining that I had been teasing him, but it didn’t matter.

In the immediate aftermath, I admit to being hurt and mystified. WTH? It was a joke! I was teasing! He’s just using me as an outlet for stress, I told myself. After he had cooled off a bit, he explained that he had been doing his best to help and then I had criticized him.

Now you guys, I swear I had been teasing. Not the thing where you just say you were joking because you realize afterwards that it was cruel/mean/insensitive. I was truly joking. It was a flap attachment on the dishwasher, a flimsy thing that reattached in fifteen seconds and that we never use anyway. And my husband’s mind immediately went to criticism. I was completely caught off guard and even more hurt to think that I couldn’t even make a joke without him misinterpreting it.

However, that epiphany struck and I could see the other side clearly. You know how, in an argument, you always think you’re in the right. Whenever we have a disagreement, I had been thinking of all the things I’d been doing right, rather than trying to get better at the things I’m not. One such behavior was suddenly crystal clear: I have a tendency to be critical and a bit passive aggressive. Probably the worst thing is that I sneer and get snippy without realizing that I’ve done it. I hate that. I hate that I can’t have a productive discussion about an issue before I let it undermine the best of me. And that’s brought us to the point where my husband expects to be criticized, not teased. And I hate that too.

I’ve been reflecting on myself over the past couple of days and though there are probably many things I should be working on, I think I’ve identified two issues to work on first:

Issue 1: My facial expressions. This is gonna be a hard one. Luffy mentioned that my tone of voice and facial expressions from the other night didn’t convey a joke. They said criticism. In my self-review, I think I can see what’s going on. I have a very expressive face and it’s outing me at certain times. I can picture it clearly in my mind’s eye: I want to be ok with whatever is going on, though my mind says NO! so my eyebrows go up, my forehead tightens, my face tilts down as my eyes look up. A condescending look. My words say sure, that’s fine but my tone of voice says never, and I am annoyed at this whole discussion. And the worst part is that I often do it without noticing. It’s going to be very hard to change this, but I’ll start with baby steps. First step is identifying when I’m doing it. This is probably going to be in hindsight at the start, so along with step one comes sucking it up and apologizing to Luffy each and every time. Hopefully, over time, I’ll be able to identify it as it’s happening and then (with even more time) stop doing it all together.

Issue 2: Being right. Man, I hate this one, this hang-up. I like being right. I like doing things correctly, the first time. I just really, really like being really, really good at whatever I’m doing. And when I’m not “right” I shut down, get defensive. But I need to let go of this, especially when it comes to my son and my husband. Luffy and I are a team. There’s not really a right or wrong way to raise a child. There is no scoreboard in our house that says Belle: 0, Luffy: 1. I’m not even sure how to go about correcting this, other than to acknowledge the feeling each time it rears its head and then reject it, move it aside to face the issue without raising my hackles.

Anyway, I’ve got some personal growing to do. I’m writing all of this out so it’s here, in black and white. And I can come back and read about that time I made Luffy feel so rejected even though I had been trying to tease him. Man that feeling sucked.

Blog Reruns

I got all charged up to talk about my hunt for a new bra and had this moment of deja vu when I sat down at the computer. Oh right… I’ve already talked about this.

I talked then about how my “real” band size is a 28 or 30. I don’t have any bras in my “real” size. All of my current bras are from VS because I know exactly what size will (mostly) fit me there. However, I’ve spent the last two weeks trying to purchase my “real” size through an online store. I’ve purchased two separate bras and had zero luck so far. The first was just laughably big, by every measure, because I had a moment of amnesia and blissfully forgot about the whole “real” size issue. The second bra I’m less sure about. To be fair, I probably chose poorly, in trying to buy my first “real” sized bra because this particular style was flagged as running shallow in the cup. Order a up a cup size! the site told me, so I did. And it doesn’t really fit. My boobs still seem squished in the center. I ordered another cup size up (which, for anyone keeping track, is now two cup sizes above what I really am), but I had the thought that maybe it’s just the design of the bra.

I hate that I’m paying $7/bra to try these things on (essentially, as that’s the cost to return the bra). I’ll probably try going into an actual store later on, if this third round of bras yields nothing. Or, you know, I could just forget the whole endeavor for a while and try again in another couple of years. Stay tuned!

Speaking of boobs (nice segue self!) how was your Valentine’s Day? Ours was nice. I decided on Monday to make a nice dinner for Luffy and myself. Nothing fancy, just something with a tad more effort that a typical Wednesday night dinner. I decided to do big, thick steaks and my favorite mac and cheese. We shared my good champagne and I made Luffy’s favorite mini cheesecakes. It was a really nice night if we don’t speak of the overstimulated, sugar-blitzed toddler I wrestled and wrangled from the time I picked him up to the moment I tossed him (lovingly) into bed. Poor kiddo was just plumb tuckered out from his first Valentine’s Day party.

Polishing Up the Home

But first – we finally figured out what it was that had the dumpling so upset last week. His molars. They are erupting. Aaaaaaand that’s probably all you need to know about how our week was last week. Aye yai yai.


I’m a pretty industrious sort of gal. Pre-dumpling, I could rarely spend an entire Sunday just sitting – I had to accomplish at least one thing. Be it laundry or lawn work or running to Target, something had to get done or else I’d feel entirely useless and adrift. Ticking one thing off my mental to-do list put me in a much better frame of mind. I could be in a funk over body image issues or deep into existential crisis mode and have my spirits instantly lifted by cleaning Jas’ litter box and picking up the groceries. Luffy thinks I am weird. (For the record, Luffy is the complete opposite of this. He puts much more effort into keeping things off his to-do list.)

This doesn’t mean, however, that I can’t procrastinate with the best of them. Take our kitchen lights, for instance. They have been in some state of flickering and/or not working for at least (does some math…. counts fingers…. realizes she is getting old) three years? Maybe more? For frame of reference, they were on my list of things to do before the baby gets here. The baby who is now almost 16 months old, yes that one. And it’s not like they stopped working a week before he arrived either. I was just really good at ignoring the issue.

Every once in a while though, I get a burst of motivation and energy for all things house-related. It started with light bulbs. I would swear that the previous owner of our home replaced every single light bulb at the exact same time because they’re all going out! Simultaneously! One in the guest bath, one in the office, one in the living room, two in our bathroom. Every time I turn around, I spot another bulb out. And of course, you can’t just buy an exact replacement bulb these days – have you shopped for lights lately? It’s all “10.4W equivalent of 60W”, or some such nonsense. And then you have to pick a color spectrum like daylight or soft white or cool white – which is great! Except when you’re trying to match bulbs that are already there. And you know what, I bet this is why the previous owner replaced them all at the same time.

Anyway, replacing the one bulb in the guest bath, led me to finally getting around to fixing the kitchen lights. I had previously discussed the basics of what I would need to do to replace the ballast with my dad (in November 2015 and I remember that clearly because we were visiting my parents for Thanksgiving, sans dumpling, so that just tells you how long these lights have been out) and hopped up to pull the ballast out to take with me to Home Depot. The dumpling and I searched high and low for a replacement ballast, but none could be found. I finally had to leave when the dumpling became bored with looking at ballasts and decided that running away from mama was much more fun. After some googling at home, it turns out we have an old-school ballast that needs to be semi-specially ordered and costs like $30/ea and my dad was like, just hold off! We’ll replace them with LED lights next time I’m down! which meant that I could go back to studiously ignoring the flickering lights in my kitchen.

SOLD!

But then! I decided that I wanted to replace the light in the utility room. It’s too dim for my liking (I want a near surgical-suite level of brightness in there). And you know, I’ve been meaning to swap the fan in the dining room with the fixture from the living room. With tasks mounting up, I decided to hire a handyman to take care of several items around the house that I’ve been procrastinating on for four and a half years.

YAY!

AND THEN. Jas woke me up at 2am, early Sunday morning, with her patented paw-aggressively-at-the-mirror trick that she has been doing at 2am all her life. It wakes me up because the mirror makes this weird noise. Because I never hung it up. Because it is really big? And I was always really nervous of hanging something that big. So it just kind of leans there. Anyway, the point is that I have had this mirror for at least five years and she discovered she could play this game with me on probably the second day we had it (I come out of bed swinging because it pisses me off like nothing else) (I am sure this delights her) (otherwise, why would she keep doing it so much). Ahem. Again, anyway, my point – guess what I did Sunday morning? I finally hung the darn thing! And then I went out and bought a little pet bed to put beneath it, as an offering to Her Highness to make amends for ruining her nightly fun.

I feel so productive you guys!

Back to the routine

I must say, it feels good to slip back into a routine.

That was completely me. I lost all sense of the days and, even this week, I’m still lost as to whether it’s Tuesday or Wednesday. I used to love the times of the year when you get to kick back and lose yourself in the days of leisure, but with a toddler who does much better with routine, it feels so good to sink back into our cozy routine.

Unfortunately, our routine is being disrupted yet again this Friday by the dumpling’s MRI. Luckily, it should be fairly short, all things considered. I mean, the poor baby has to be sedated for the procedure so I was concerned they’d want to keep him for monitoring. I spoke to the radiology nurse yesterday though and she assured me that we’d likely be on our way by 10am at the latest. I still plan to keep him home though, to monitor him myself, so Friday should be an interesting day.

Luffy and I were talking the other day about how strange it is, having a child, in certain situations. For instance, while I was talking with the radiology nurse, she told me that two adults can wait in radiology, but then only one adult can go back with the dumpling. She said that adult could remain with him until he was asleep and then that person (which, who are we kidding, is going to be me) will be removed from the procedure area. And when she said that, my heart just seized up as my mind conjured up the image of my son under sedation, all alone in an MRI room. I won’t be allowed to rejoin him until he’s in recovery and I’m praying that he will take longer to wake up because I don’t want him to wake up without me being there. I mean, if he wakes up and no one’s there… my heart can’t take that.

Or, another example of this odd phenomenon where my heart squeezes involuntarily: our daycare is hesitant to move the dumpling into the next class (the toddler class, for ages 12-18mo). The dumpling’s 14mo now and finally walking pretty well. He’s actually already on the school’s lunch plan and we’re beginning to shift his schedule to align to the toddler class, so we asked them about the timing of his move to the next class. When they hesitated, we pressed and they told us that they thought he was too small. At first, we were dismissive (and also probably a touch defensive), but really, he’s small?! He’s probably always going to be on the smaller side of the class, at least until he hits his first pubescent growth spurt. What’s the cutoff here? I mean, if you hold him back for his size now, what about the next transition? He just broke twenty pounds (which we know thanks to a visit last Friday to our pediatrician!*), did they want him to be 22lbs or 25lbs? What exactly was their goal?

So, I asked my mother. A long, long time ago, she worked in a daycare (actually several, including running her own in-home daycare). My first clue as to the depth of her concern was that I texted her and she called me back. (Complete sidebar here – whenever you elevate the method of conversation, it always feels a touch more dire. Like if you email someone and they text you in return – or, in this scenario, you text someone and they call you back instead. But I digress…) She told me that if the daycare managers were hesitant to move the dumpling because of his size, it was very likely that the next class has some “assertive” toddlers – i.e. the toddlers that are in the pushing and hitting phase. His teachers have told me time and time again that if another baby takes a toy from the dumpling, he just goes to find another. He has such a sweet and passive personality (most of the time!). My mother said that she’d listen to the daycare managers, because she’d hate for the dumpling to go from a stellar daycare experience (seriously, he loves his teachers and class so much) to a classroom full of “bullies” who will quite literally run him over, physically and figuratively. And y’all – my heart just hurt for my son. It made me want to scoop him up and give him a hug. Or follow him into the toddler class to run interference for him against all of those bigger, pushier toddlers. Or, better yet, just keep him in the infant classroom with the teachers who already love him! Yes! Let’s do that!

Parenthood, right? It’s frustrating and fulfilling and heart-wrenching, all at the same time.


Now for a little observation that I really want to jot down:

My sweet baby has always loved to read. He loves books and turning the pages and lifting the flaps and hearing the stories. One of his favorite books (which was actually one of my favorites as a child!) is Chicka Chicka Boom Boom. He also really like Sandra Boynton’s Doggies when he was really little, I think because of all of the doggie sounds. He’s gone one step further lately – he actually has favorite pages. And it’s very clear because he will thumb through a book with purpose until he lands on a particular page. And if we’re reading the book and I turn the page away from his favorite, he’ll immediately turn it back to have me re-read the page. Squee! Isn’t that just adorable?!

Right now, his favorite pages are the “nine dogs on a moonlit night” page from Sandra Boynton’s Doggies because we howl at the moon and he thinks that’s hilarious. His other favorite page is the “di-no-saurs sing-ing a di-no-saur song!” from her Oh My! Oh My! Oh Dinosaurs!. I think he likes it because I sing the words with much flair and embellishment. Plus, I occasionally decide to show off my skills at holding a note and hold on to the “song” until he’s smiling like a fool. Good times!

Anyway, wish us luck for Friday. I’m ready for next week when we can slip even further into our comfortable routines.

*The trip to the pediatrician last Friday was unscheduled but ultimately uneventful. The dumpling had a cold over Christmas, as I’ve mentioned. He ran a fever Friday through Sunday, but woke up fever-free on Christmas Day (Monday). He seemed to be improving and then he ran a fever again on Thursday afternoon. He didn’t have a fever Friday morning, but I spent a restless Thursday night with him as he tossed and turned and dozed fitfully. So, we went to the pediatrician’s for a clean-ish bill of health. Good thing too because the radiology people weren’t too jazzed about him having had a cold so recently and were quizzing me to make sure he hadn’t been diagnosed with the flu or RSV or something.

Christmas or bust

Sigh.

Oh you guys. I mean, after our Thanksgiving, I had really hoped that Christmas would go better. We are 0 for 2 on major holidays in 2017.

I have a hundred to be fair modifiers for our day yesterday. The dumpling has a cold. He’s becoming a toddler. I didn’t sleep well the night before. My parents, who got into town Sunday afternoon, had to cut their visit short and leave Christmas day. Our day started at 5:30am and already felt long by 8:00am. I have that telltale tickle in the back of my throat that makes me think I’m coming down with the dumpling’s cold.

Anyway, a hundred modifiers to try to explain our tiring day. The dumpling woke up on the early side, which has been happening basically since last week. He didn’t have a fever, which was good news (this cold has brought a low-grade fever since Friday). I had hoped his spirits would be better. And they were! A little. He’s not eating much right now, so our lunch out with the family turned into a pass-the-dumpling style game as we all attempted to keep him happy and quiet-ish. Luffy’s parents kept him entertained while we exchanged presents with my family. He went down great for his second nap and woke up happy, but devolved into a cranky hell-demon within a couple of hours.

Overall, the day was a bust. And then this morning, my day again started far too early. I greeted a sort of happy dumpling, but endured two separate tantrums and a litany of near-tantrums the entire morning. Over things like not being able to play with the stove and not being able to get into a child-locked cabinet and a lengthy tantrum over I’m not even sure what. He was fine one minute and had dissolved into a puddle of misery and woe the next.

Days like yesterday make me question my …. skills? Competence? Intuition? Whatever you want to call it…. as a mother. There are days, like today, when I think to myself that I’m far too selfish to do this again. I enjoy having time to myself. I miss the holidays when I didn’t have to worry about a small child’s needs – when the day could be about relaxing and enjoying time with family. I look at pictures from my friends’ days and wonder what I’m doing wrong. Their children look so happy; why did I spend Christmas picking a howling dumpling up off the floor a hundred times? I know the comparison is not fair to me or to the dumpling, but I still can’t help but make it.

I worry because I feel like all of this is so hard for me. Other families we know seem to be having a blast on Christmas or Thanksgiving – opening presents or eating turkey – and it’s just not working for us. The dumpling howls in protest over some new, infinitesimal problem. He’s sick or teething or over-stimulated in the unfamiliar place and I might as well have a newborn again. And if this is so hard for me, maybe I’m not cut out for motherhood. Maybe we shouldn’t have a second. I barely have enough patience for a tantruming dumpling as it is, how on Earth would I summon the patience for two littles? So that brings me back to the too-selfish-to-have-a-second conundrum.

It sounds trite and cliche, but parenting is so hard and I’m having doubts that I’m any good at it.

Wardrobe Malfunction

For the past (does some math…. THAT CAN’T BE RIGHT…. does math again) three years, I’ve taught an exercise class after work. Before the dumpling came along I taught Monday and Wednesday at 6:30. I just cover the Monday class now (along with my Saturday morning class), but the point is that I’ve been teaching after work for three years now. My routine has always been the same – I pack up my exercise bag the night before with my clothes and I change in the bathroom at work (the bathrooms at the center where I teach are communal bathrooms for the entire retail strip and they are a little…. gross). One time, shortly after I picked up this schedule, I left my socks at home and had to work out without socks. It wasn’t pleasant, but I made it through and I always have a spare pair of socks in my bag now – just in case. Probably at least once a month though, I always wonder what I would do if I forgot some other essential piece like my pants or my sports bra. Oh man, that wouldn’t be good.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is exactly what happened on Monday.

I was changing at work, like usual, balancing on one foot as I removed my dress socks and put on regular socks, when it suddenly occurred to me that I hadn’t pulled a bra out of my bag when I pulled out my clothes. No, I thought incredulously, I must have just missed it. I pawed through my bag again, although it was painfully clear that I did not have a bra. Honestly, I couldn’t do anything but laugh at myself. What on EARTH was I going to do now? I didn’t have time to stop to pick one up (although I briefly contemplated if it was worth being late over). I also happened to pick the worst possible top for a no-bra situation. It was a loose tank with cut-out sides, in other words, no support and a side-boob situation going on. I didn’t even have a crappy shelf-bra to console myself with!

So what does any girl do when confronted with a dilemma regarding boobs and bras and the lack there-of? I called my mom.

Moooooooooooooooommmmm!!!!! HALP!

She, of course, talked me down and suggested I just wear my regular bra. Don’t worry, she said, your students will all think it’s hilarious.

And they did! It was a lovely time to meet a new student of course (nice to meet you! sorry about the side-boob), but we all laughed about it. I joked that at least I hadn’t forgotten my pants (ohdearlordinheaven, please let me never forget my pants). It also wasn’t entirely bad. I expected my regular bra to majorly fail me through all of my jumping and hopping and lunging, but it held up just fine. I had to adjust my straps a few times, and I’m sure it helped that I just happened to be wearing a no-frills, full coverage bra (as opposed to some sort of balconette, push-up, lightly lined, unlined, plunging, etc etc contraption). But really, 7/10 would recommend.

And now I have to tell you about how hard it was to come up with a title for this, bearing in mind that I don’t want to appear in any questionable searches. Top contenders were Peek-a-boob and Don’t Fear the Nip Slip. Why no, I am not a twelve year old boy. Why do you ask?