Friday, January 29, 2010

Onto Number 2?

As soon as Eleanor turned one, we started getting the question: When are you going to work on #2?

Disregarding the complete invasion of privacy, the question is an interesting one. How close in age do you want your children? As close as possible, to be (hopefully) constant playmates and friends? A few years apart, so you never have more than one in diapers at a time? More than 5 years apart, so the first is off at school and you can still have quality alone time with the second? And there's so many other factors to consider, including your age, whether you're planning to have more than two, if you would ever like to have spare time/money/energy again ....

I'm not going to lie to you: I found Eleanor's first 6 months to be really tough. Partly because we were having such a hard time with breastfeeding, and partly because my personality does not go well with words like "play it by ear," and "just wait and see," and "relax." It was a very stressful time for me.

In contrast, Eleanor at a year-and-a-half is a completely different experience. She is a wonderful, unique person with her own wishes that she asserts regularly, at length, with volume. She is doing new things all the time, and I'm really getting to enjoy her company.

Plus, many of my friends are onto Round 2. Most of their first children are older than Eleanor, but not always by much. I envy them the second pregnancy; I imagine that they feel calm and confident the entire time, since they know exactly what they're getting into.

You would think that this would make me think about getting pregnant again. And yet, the opposite is true. Yes, I want to have at least another child. But I find myself saying, more often than not, Maybe we should wait a little bit longer. At first I definitely wanted to wait until Eleanor turns two. But now I'm wondering if maybe we should wait until she's 2 1/2, so she's definitely out of diapers by the time the second one arrives. Or if she's 3, she'll understand so much more and be such a help .....

I am reluctant to go back to those early days of sleep deprivation and worry and stress (although I would hope the worry and stress, at least, would be at least slightly eased the second time around). Every time I try to think back to that time, my gut reaction is "I'm not ready!!" I think I'm more worried about it now, having been through it once, than I was pre-parenthood.

On the other hand, I am also reluctant to give up this time with Eleanor. I'm not eager for a fourth, unknown person to intrude on our cozy family circle of three. (Plus pets, of course!) Even though we all know we would love Littler L as soon as he/she arrived, the abstract concept of another child really just makes me yearn to spend time with the child I have. I want to appreciate her, and show her how she is the sole center of my universe. For now.

Because I'm sure at some point, the scales will tip. Instead of my first reaction being, "I'm not ready!" it will be a sense of openness and hope at the possibility. Just like it happened the first time around. A gradual change from "I'm not ready to be a Mom!!!" to "Well, maybe ...."

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Settling Back In as Professor

We're a few weeks into the semester, now, and I'm settling in much more readily this time.

Have I ever mentioned how much I HATE the first day of a new job? It's not the actual work that's the problem; no one gets anything done on the first day. It's all of the other bits that you don't know about—the fabric that makes up the background of your days at work. Where's the coffee maker? Where's the bathroom? Which toilet never flushes, and needs the handle jiggled? Who do you avoid? Who is fighting with whom? Is it de rigueur to outfit yourself bounteously from the office supply cabinet, or should I only take one pen and a pad of paper?

I hate not knowing all that stuff. All the little stuff that adds up to a lot of questions and feeling stupid. Everything that isn't technically part of your job, but creates your total job environment.

Every day last semester still felt a little like the first day of a new job.

There's so many different requirements for different times of the semester. There's the literal first day of class. Then there's the first time you have to make copies. The first time you ask for a room change. The first time you are required to post progress reports online. So many tasks that are spread throughout the semester, in drips and drabs, so you know that another unknown is always just around the corner. It makes me twitchy.

Or, I should say, made me twitchy. This semester will be different! Don't get me wrong—there's still plenty of unknowns. I'm teaching two classes I've never taught before. Plus the new students always make it interesting, I'm sure, no matter how long you've been teaching. I am using Blackboard for the first time. I still don't know who all is fighting with whom, or much at all about campus politics.

But I do know how to make copies. And submit grades online. And that I have survived one semester intact, so surely I can make it through another one. Right?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A Crayon Badge of Honor

Relating to my last post about wearing Eleanor's hair bands: Don't you think we, as parents, should get some slack in our personal appearance? Maybe there's some kind of pin or ring that we all have so that, when we're out in the "real world," our messy hair, mismatched socks, and frumpy, lumpy sweaters all fall into context.

Of course, this wouldn't really help. There is only one standard for personal appearance, and it's set by Hollywood. So I don't come anywhere near it, even on my best days. It's not a sliding scale, that gives you slack for the fact that you only got 2 hours of sleep last night, because of a crying baby. It does not grade on a curve, based on the fact that all 3 of your children simultaneously had different sports activities/clubs at 3 different locations for the past week.

The standard, unfortunately, is set. There is no changing it, or getting a free pass. The only question is: what is my response? Do I keep striving to get as close to perfection as I can? Or do I pack it, and consider an outfit that is 1) washed, 2) not jeans, and 3) matching to be good enough? In case you can't tell, I'm leaning towards the latter option.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Very Professional

As I was driving across town this morning, I turned my head slightly, and my hair fell in my face. That's when I realized that I didn't bring anything with me to put my hair back, if needed.

How could I let this happen? I thought. I'm a Mother!

Then I realized that I probably do have several of Eleanor's hairbands stashes in various diaper bag pockets. She refuses to ever wear them, but I like to keep them handy in case she EVER changes her mind. In a pinch, I could wear one of those. In particular, she has a few fuzzy pink and blue ones shot through with silvery bits that are a good size for my hair. I know because I ended up wearing one around the house the other day.

And that's when I realized that it's inevitable. One day I WILL leave the house wearing one of Eleanor's hairbands. One that is totally inappropriate for a moderately professional, occasionally fashionable woman in her thirties to wear. And it will be the day that I'm getting observed in the classroom, or I run into an old high school classmate.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Stumpy Is Recovering Nicely

I posted two very traumatized entries about Gomez's unfortunate accident ... and then never mentioned it again.

So I did think I should take a moment to say that she is healing nicely. Don't let the serene expression fool you—she hates the plastic cone. But the vet gave us dire warnings about how we need to watch her carefully without the cone because she could rip out the stitches and cause major damage in a minute flat. I take off the cone when I know we can spend some time together and wow, does she do a lot of grooming! I never knew until now. I used to call Becket the teenager of the family because he sleeps in until noon and sighs a lot. But I might be changing my mind, based on grooming habits.

You have to look closely in the second picture to see what's left of her tail, otherwise you might miss it. Oddly, the worst part is the fact that it's not furry. Thankfully the fur is starting to grow back in so it's looking better every day. She gets the stitches out this coming Friday. I am so ready to put this whole incident behind us! (Sorry, that seems like a bad pun. Cut this traumatic episode short?)

It does make me concerned about what happens when, for the first time, Eleanor does herself some serious damage. I know it's kids and life and it's bound to happen. Have I mentioned that Eleanor now likes to bungee jump? She gets in her Johnny Jump Up, then climbs on her little plastic chair and jumps off. That's my girl! So I do foresee trips to the emergency room in our future. But if I couldn't sleep or concentrate for a week when my cat got hurt .... what am I going to be like for my kid?!? Yikes.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

A Good Idea ... Not Entirely Thought Through

For Christmas, we gave a LOT of books. I also made bookmarks to go with them. I thought it was a nice idea; there was no way I could make everyone's gifts, but at least this way I could include a small handmade item.

And the bookmarks did turn out quite well, if I say so myself. For my family, I included a fall picture from the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. For Keith's family, it was a beach sunset picture from Costa Rica. Every bookmark had a picture of Eleanor on the reverse side.

I did forget one thing in all my careful planning and detailed work. I didn't take into account how much babies love pictures of babies. My sister Erin called me the day after Christmas to say her son Gavin (15 months) had stolen both her bookmark, and her husband's right out of the book. Not long after that, my book was sitting on the coffee table. Eleanor saw it and her eyes lit up.

"Baby!" she cried.

"No!" I said, but it was too late. The bookmark was already out of the pages, being eagerly grasped in tiny hands, caressed by chubby little fingers.

Next time, maybe I should put the dog's picture on the back?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Is It Really That Hard?

Why is it, every time I place something Very Important in a Very Special Place so I can NOT lose it ... I can never remember where that very special place?

On the other hand, I'm also capable of losing things that I use all the time. Where are you, glasses? I miss you!

Friday, January 08, 2010

Snowed In, Black & Blue

By 5 o'clock the next evening (Tuesday), I'm a wreck. I've spent the entire past day worrying about Gomez. Is it bad? How bad is it? It can't be that bad, right?

I barely see her all day Tuesday. I go to campus for a few hours of technology training, while Erin watches Eleanor. When I get back, we feed the babies, we eat lunch, the babies go down for a nap .... I try looking for Gomez in all the usual spots, but to no avail. She had spent Monday night under our bed. I could hear her moving and licking throughout the night. I didn't sleep well. I tried to stay in position, the way she likes me, with my arm curled just so, perfect for a small cat body to curl into my warmth in the middle of the night. In the morning I woke up tired, stiff, and restless, but she never came.

So by Tuesday afternoon, I'm getting worried. I understand that, if she's hurt, she's going to want to be alone to lick her wounds. But I need to see her, and make sure she's not looking worse than the day before. Plus, if I don't know where to find her or at least what area of the house she's in, how are we going to catch her to even get her to the vet? Keith is already leaving work early so he can get home, we (gently!) stuff her into the carrier and I can get her to the vet by 5 o'clock. We don't have a lot of time to spare, waiting for Gomez to grace us with her presence.

Erin and I are both in the kitchen, talking, and I think I hear Gomez's collar clinking softly in the basement. I look at Erin, and she hears it, too. I go to the basement, closing the door behind me. Again, I call for her and she comes to me. I love that cat. She is looking a lot better, and my heart soars. She's cleaned off all the blood, so the fur on her tail looks normal, but it's still bent at a funny angle. So what if Gomez's tail always has a kink from now on? I'll still love her!

I pet her and scratch behind her ears and tell her how wonderful she is. Then I give her the "good news" that we're taking her to the vet in a few hours to get checked out, so she'll feel better. As the word "vet" crosses my lips, she turns away and runs back under the couch.

How does she even know what that means?!? Our friend who runs the shelter where we first got Gomez comes to the house to give her vaccinations every year, so other getting spayed at 8 weeks or so, she's never been to the vet. But Beckett must have told her it was bad news, because she was off like a shot.

But at least I saw her, she was looking better, and I knew what part of the house she was in. I closed off the basement and went back upstairs. On second thought, I grabbed the cat carrier and took it back downstairs with treats in it. She came out again to sniff the carrier, and I started feeling better about our prospects for that evening.

By 5:30, I'm angrily texting Keith from the waiting room at the vet's. We've been sitting for a half-hour without even being shown into an exam room. Very frustrating when they gave me a hard time about being prompt for our appointment! Finally, we get shown into a room. I explain what happened—by this point, I've adopted my mom's theory that Gomez must have been playing with the stockings from below, because otherwise how could the stocking holder have landed on her tail? Or rather, I explain what we think happened, and that I'm certain her tail is hurt.

"I don't know if it's broken," I say, "but it's definitely cut. I think I saw flesh when she let me get close."

The vet's eyes widen. "Flesh?"

I shift uncomfortably. "Maybe not. Maybe I was wrong about that." This is my first indication that this appointment might not go as well as I'd hoped.

The vet and the assistant take Gomez in the back to cut away some of the fur and take a good look at the tail. The vet is back in short order, with bad news. She says that the tail is seriously lacerated. She's not sure if she will be able to suture it back together, or if she'll have to amputate.


I was completely shocked. I was so worried about whether it was broken or not, I never considered that the cut would be the worst part. Skin heals, right?

She said she would like to wait until the rest of the clients were gone, so she could take time to sedate Gomez (who was in a lot of pain during the exam) and get a closer look. If it looked like she could suture the tail, she would do it that night and I could take Gomez home the next morning (Wednesday). If she would have to amputate (amputate!) the tail, she wouldn't be able to do it until Thursday. She would call me that evening with the results.

I signed the paperwork for the sedation and left in a daze. I had told Keith I'd call him as soon as I knew what was going on, but I couldn't. I was relatively certain that, if I called and talked to him, I would cry. And I really didn't want to be driving home in the snow, bawling.

I walked in the kitchen while he was cooking dinner. Eleanor ran over and gave me a hug. Keith took one look at me and his eyes widened. "Where's the cat?" he immediately said.

It wasn't too much longer before the vet called to say that the cut was too deep, and she would have to amputate. They asked whether we wanted to bring her home on Wednesday morning and bring her back first thing Thursday for the surgery, or have her stay at the vet's until after surgery. I asked them to keep her, because I was too scared of her doing something else while she was home, and trying to catch her again.

The house felt so empty without her all day Wednesday and Thursday. I couldn't stop worrying about her. I kept wondering whether the outcome would have been different if I had brought her to the vet earlier. I asked Keith if I should pose that question to the vet, and he said, "No!"

What would it change, really? I wanted to hear that I did the right thing and it wouldn't have mattered, but what if that's not the answer I got? I'd rather live with not knowing than live with knowing I cost Gomez her tail. Besides, the stocking holder is already in the garage, in the Goodwill pile. This is a situation that I hope to never encounter again, so hearing what I should have done would not be useful knowledge.

The surgery was Thursday morning; the vet said they'd call in the morning and I could probably pick her up in the afternoon. I lasted until 11:40am, picturing all kinds of worst-case scenarios because they hadn't yet called, and finally called them. The receptionist confirmed that Gomez was out of surgery, it all went fine, and I could pick her up at 4 o'clock.

That was wonderful news, and my heart lifted a little. I just had to stare at the clock for 4 hours .... Eleanor and I arrived at the vet's at 3:53pm. After another long wait in reception (which I didn't mind so much, because I was pretty nervous about the "reveal"), we were ushered back into a room to see Gomez. The assistant brought her in, already in the carrier and set it on the table. Once she left, Eleanor and I peered in.

Gomez peered back. I don't know what I was expecting. That I wouldn't recognize her? She looked just like Gomez! From the front, anyway. From the back .... she's much more ... compact. The tail is just a little stub, now. We thought she'd have more tail than that, because the cut was much further down. But the vet explained sometimes there's issues with blood flow if you amputate too close to the injured area, so she wanted to be safe and cut the tail shorter to prevent any future problems.

I'm now sitting on the couch, typing. Gomez is curled up underneath the couch, refusing to come out. I think she's embarrassed by her restraint color and bandaged stump. But mostly by the collar. It's not very dignified. We did try taking it off for 30 seconds, and she immediately started attacking the stump. So, undignified though it is, it will stay on.

Now that I've finally poured out the whole entire saga (I know, this was way too long, but it was very cathartic for me. Thanks!), I'm going to bed. I will curl myself in the perfect position, on my side with my arm extended. Just right for holding a healing cat with a tail stump, should she decide to join me. I love that cat.

Photo courtesy of Keith, as nearly all photos are. The good ones, anyway.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Snowed In and Bluer

So you remember how I was feeling all sorry for myself on Monday morning, because of the weather and all? Little did I know how much worse it was going to get.

First, I ruined the oatmeal. How can you ruin oatmeal, right? Well, a few months ago I switched from instant packets to steelcut oats (are you proud of me, Gege?) to make it a bit healthier. With the steelcut oats, you boil water on the stove and then add the oats and let them simmer about 20 minutes. (FYI, Eleanor LOVES them!) I've done this about a million times. But for some reason, Monday morning I measured and poured in the water, and then measured and immediately poured in the oats, into the cold water.

I watched the oats falling into the pan and thought, "Why in the world did I do that? I've never done that before. Is this a sign that today isn't going to go well?" I tried to convince myself it wouldn't make that much of a difference, but it really did. The resulting muck was neither tasty nor texturally pleasing.

Fast forward to lunch. (The rest of the morning was fine.) I am feeding Eleanor lunch in the dining room, when we suddenly hear a big crash in the living room. Gomez goes streaking past us, on her way to the basement. I see a Christmas stocking on the floor, and realize that she managed to knock the heavy metal stocking holder off the mantel. I put everything back and go on with lunch. For the next 10 minutes or so, I occasionally notice that Gomez is completely spazzing out. Not that she's anywhere near us. First she's in the basement, then in the attic, then back to the basement, running around like a cat possessed. This is not a good sign, but not a terrible sign. She did this before when she was playing with yarn and got it wrapped around her leg and it freaked her out.

Eleanor and I do a brief tour of the house, but can't find the cat. Now I'm getting worried. What did she do?!? I take Eleanor up to her room for her nap. Thankfully, she's asleep in 10 minutes flat. I quietly close the door and then race around the house, trying to locate the cat and (hopefully) get the offending piece of yarn off her leg so we can snuggle.

I can't find Gomez anywhere. But I do find blood on the stairs down to the basement, and on the doorframe up to the attic. This, plus her conspicuous absence, is definitely not good. My heart and mind are racing. What could she have done?!?

I look under our bed, which is where she usually goes to hide when upset. She's definitely not there. At first, I can't find either Gomez or Beckett, and I stop breathing. Did both the pets escape? But all the doors are closed! It's a weird, animal-version of the locked room mystery. But the mystery is solved when I realize that Beckett actually managed to get himself all the way under the covers for once, and is sleeping in a tight, warm little ball on the bed. I yank off the covers and say, "Beckett! Have you seen your sister? I think something happened, and I'm worried. Do you know where she is?"

He doesn't say anything, but it's clear that he's not at all concerned. I decide to look on/under the guest bed. As I'm looking under the guest bed, Gomez comes running down the hall to me. I love that cat. I couldn't find her, but she made sure to come to me and tell me that she was okay.

Except, of course, she wasn't. She purred and headbutted me, but she was still agitated. I saw blood on one dainty paw, and her tail was matted about 3/4s of the way down. She patted me down and climbed all over me. I pet her and talked to her, hoping that she would settle in on my lap long enough for me to assess the damage. But instead something spooked her and she ran off again.

I decide to settle in on the living room couch and call for her. Clearly, I can't find her if she doesn't want to be found. And she usually does find me when I'm sitting there and curl up on my lap (part of the reason why I don't always post as many blog entries as I mean to).

So that's what I do, and she does come to me. I love that cat. She had to be in pain, but she took the time to reassure me that she had everything under control. She patted me down and sat in my lap for awhile. This time, it was clearly her tail that was the problem. She was running around just fine, so I decided the blood on her paw probably came from her tail. I can see that one spot on her tail that is completely matted, and there is a definite kink. Once I see it, it's obvious. It hurts to watch her try to move the tail, and the end just .... doesn't. The lack of cohesive tail movement freaks her out again, and she's off.

So: What do I do? My plan for the day, if you'll recall, was to hunker down in my pajamas and not set foot outside. Everything is covered in snow and I'm not even sure if I can get the car out of the drive, much less what the state of the roads would be. I don't want to take Eleanor out in this weather unless I absolutely have to.

Do I absolutely have to? I mean, Gomez seems to think that she has everything under control. She's reassured me several times. I've conferred with Mom and Keith and Mary Lou. Everyone agrees that since she doesn't have a concussion, there's probably not much that can be done. If the tail is broken, the vet will take an x-ray and splint it, but it's not a treatment that warrants taking the baby out in this weather.

On Keith's good advice, I do call the vet and see what time their latest appointment is that day. It's 4:40—still too early for Keith to be home from work. I am not at all confident of my ability to get a wounded, scared cat into the hated carrier all by myself, or with Eleanor's help, rather. So that's what really makes up my mind not to take her in that day. I make an appointment for 5:00pm the next day.

(to be continued)

Monday, January 04, 2010

Snowed In and Blue

I was going to call it the "Post-Holidays" blues, but that's not quite right. First, I'm not a big fan of New Year's, but I'll blog more about that later. I know that I am a bit sad about Christmas being over, because Eleanor enjoyed it so much, and I enjoyed buying presents for her.

But Christmas has been over for awhile, and we've moved on. I'm more depressed because Keith went back to work today (hence why I'm already up and typing before 7.30am), after being off since Christmas Eve. It was so easy to get used to spending the entire day together. Keith, Eleanor, and I would all have breakfast and play together. Maybe one of us would run off to workout or run or accomplish some small task on the to-do list. If Eleanor was driving me crazy, I could just say "Here!" and take a short break to replenish my patience supply. Once she went down for her nap, we would play a quick game of Bananagrams before moving onto laundry, cleaning, or whatever else needed to be done that day. It was a life that was very easy to get used to.

And now it's gone. No more mid-morning workouts. No more naptime Bananagrams. No more handing off the baby when I'm out of patience.

In this situation, I would typically run some errands to get out of the house and out of the rut. Eleanor and I might go to the bookstore, to pick up some 2010 calendars. Or swing by the grocery store for some necessities. But it snowed all weekend. We went out yesterday afternoon and the roads were in worse shape on our way back home than they were when we first left. I don't really relish the idea of taking Eleanor out on snowy roads unless I really have to, and I don't.

So here I am. Staring at the Christmas tree, feeling sorry for myself. But I'll do my best to enjoy it. Since I have no intention of setting foot outside the house, I dressed in warm, comfortable old clothes. I don't have to worry about my hair. (We won't even pretend like I bother with makeup.) I can't even imagine what I'm going to do to entertain Eleanor all day, but I guess I've done it before and I will do it again!

And in-between games of Pat-a-Cake or knocking down towers, I'll gaze wistfully into space and sigh, wallowing in my self-pity, thinking of all the people who have an easier life than me. That way both of us will be entertained. And then I'll go back to reading board books or playing with puzzles.