Breaking news from ovulation station headquarters…

This just in: I got a freakin’ static smiley face on my ovulation predictor thingy!  For those well-versed in all things fertility, you know what that means!  My understanding, though sometimes I feel like reading those instruction sheets that come with these types of tests are like deciphering hieroglyphics, is that my LH surge has been detected, there’s a big whopping dark blue line on the test screen, and ovulation is mere hours away.  Why am I so giddy?  Probably has something to do with all of the posts I’ve been reading by people who are online trying desperately to conceive.  What can I say?  Their enthusiasm is contagious.  For me, though, the results are perhaps a bit less exciting.

Though, I did tell Greg this morning after he woke up that we should just “go for it”.  (I kind of knew going into this that part of me was going to feel like that.  It’s one thing to kind of sort of know around-ish the time you are probably fertile and then to be sort of careful and just see what happens and another to know precisely and to purposely let a month of potential pass you by).

It almost feels like too much control to the point that I’m a little uncomfortable.  To be honest, that’s part of the reason I never went back on birth control after having Ruth, besides the fact that I just didn’t like the idea of purposely altering my hormones with a daily pill.  After I realized the awesome responsibility in having a child, I knew that if I went back on birth control, I would probably never come off of it again.  I had the feeling that I would never be able to fully and confidently say “yes, I’m ready” and make that decision (kind of the same way I’m not able to make the absolute and final decision to say, “no more”.  Greg says I’m indecisive.  I prefer the term “open-minded”).  Better to leave it up to fate, or timing, or biology.

As a disclaimer, this philosophy does have an expiration date.  I have always thought that four would be the “perfect” number of children, or at least a nice full family with lots of dynamics and noise (the good kind, though I’m finding out more and more that with the good comes the bad) and that maybe there wouldn’t be so much of the “first child, middle child, youngest child” dynamics that comes with three (though I have heard from someone recently that has four and whose opinion I definitely put stock in that then you just have two middle children).   Anyways, after four, I think I would definitely without a doubt be able to call it quits.  Also, I’ve told Greg that I feel that I could be “open” to the possibility of another child for the next little while.  It’s amazing how fast your age sneaks up on you.  I was only 32 when I had Miles.  “A lot of people are only just having their first child at this age,” I reassured myself, “I’ve got loads of time to make up my mind.”  Though, my menstrual cycle vanished for almost two years after he was born.  A few months later, I turned 35.  Now I’m wondering, “Where did all the time go?”  I’ve recently begun to feel like the window for another is rapidly shrinking.  It seems tiny now.  I guess that’s why it’s on some level so difficult to purposely watch another month of possibility come and go.

Well, in any case, it’s fun to see a darkened test line on a test of some kind, even if it’s not a pregnancy test.  It’s still really interesting to know almost the exact timing of my ovulation.  Through all of this, I find myself thinking into the future with Ruth and how excited I am to be able to give her the tools to really understand her own fertility.  Though it is, of course, her decision how to go about her body and sexuality, I hope that she has a lot of information and is critical in the things she does and doesn’t do.  One of my main goals in parenting is to raise extremely critical and open-minded creative thinkers.  Though I (clearly) don’t undervalue intuition and other kinds of understanding that are important for a balanced and deeper human experience.  Sometimes you’ve got to go with your gut even when it doesn’t make sense on paper and you can’t explain yourself in words.

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Ovulation station

It’s not really the “ovulation station” around here.  I just wrote that ’cause it rhymes.  That makes it sound like it’s a non-stop ovulation party or something.  Really, I just bought my first ever ovulation predictor kit and I wanted to write about it.

For reasons of my own, I choose to avoid the more modern methods of birth control and instead opt for something obvious but overlooked: natural family planning, if you’re catholic, fertility awareness if you’re just a plain person.  Basically, there are only 6 days out of every menstrual cycle when a woman is actually capable of conceiving and you just need to narrow it down as best you can based off of a few metrics to find out when these 6 days most likely occur.  Yeah, just something they sort of skim over in sex ed in the public schools (don’t even get me started).  “Oh, and young women?  Your bodies?  They’re pretty weird.  And gross.  And pregnancy?  Basically you can get pregnant any time ( I swear, this is honestly what they tell you) so you should always either be abstaining or using contraceptives within a religiously condoned and legally sanctioned relationship.”  Yeah, let’s not do something crazy like give young women the power to understand their own fertility.  Nah.  Let’s just use smoke and mirrors and make it all seem like strange voodoo.

You can probably tell that I’m so going to be all up in unlocking the “mysteries” for both my daughter and sons to a woman’s fertility.  I mean: hello?  I swear this is the first time in my life I have ever actually researched and become aware of the timing of my own fertility.  Pathetic.

So, I have a bit of an issue, though.  I spent most of my twenties on birth control that altered my hormones and cycle.  Then I’ve spent another 8 or so years being pregnant and/or breastfeeding which also alters your hormones and cycle so I honestly feel like I don’t know what normal is for me.  And I don’t know if breastfeeding is still messing with the timing.  What I can say is that my last two cycles were around the same length and so, based off of those, I have my ovulation narrowed down to like a weeks worth of days.  Now, I add the tests (there are ten in a pack) to detect the proper hormones and I guess they are 99 percent effective at telling you when ovulation has occurred.  Add this to my calendar method and I should be able to get a pretty good idea for when ovulation for me happens on a monthly basis.

Is it weird that I’m excited?  Why do I feel so giddy about gaining so much insight into my own fertility?  I don’t know!  But I can say that there is a feeling of empowerment at getting to know and respect my body and it’s awesome capacity to create life.  Mind you, I am learning in order to avoid this capacity, but still.  I approach the subject with a sense of profound respect and awe.

(Hey, if you don’t homeschool, parents, at least consider taking sex ed into your own hands.  Trust me, if it’s still being taught the way it was when I was in fourth grade or whatever, it’s severely lacking.)

More park Review

Maybe our lives are so boring that I can’t think of anything to write about except a lame park review.  Or maybe everything else is so chaotic, a park review is the only thing that seems to stand out in my mind as something I can firmly wrap a blog post around.  Probably a little of both.  Hey, don’t ex out!  I saw your mouse hand moving toward the upper right hand corner!  This is gonna be sweet.  I swear.

Ok, so first of all, being with little kids all day has warped my brain (duh) in many ways.  One way is that I have become a connoisseur of the things that kids consume (juice boxes, children’s books, kids clothing, yadda yadda, you get the picture).  One such thing is play equipment and parks.  I feel like in the last seven years I have spent more time at parks than any other destination outside the home.  The kids are a little young for museums still and we’re too poor to be regulars at a lot of the indoor stuff for kids, so…that leaves parks.  That’s why you can totally put stock in what I tell you about parks.  I basically live there.

So, the other day, I went for a leisurely stroll after Greg got off work (Or I bolted out the door half-dressed in outerwear as fast as I could and yelled over my shoulder that I would be back in a little while.  Either way.  It had been “one of those days” (why does it seem like more days are those days than not?)).  Wow, me.  Way to digress.  Anywhoo….on this walk I happened upon a little neighborhood park that was so freakin’ cute, it made me want to barf and I said to myself that I would remember where it was so I could bring the kids back the next nice day which ended up taking a while because recently, I swear it rained for like 2 weeks straight (and of course it started on a day when Ruth left her extremely expensive gymnastics mats outside so they ended up getting soaked for days and I had to take them apart and dry them in the basement).

Finally!  A sunny day dawned and after our usual prolonged morning rituals and after wrestling the kids into warmer clothing, we ventured out for a walk into the sun and crisp afternoon in search of this hidden mystery park that I had stumbled across.  It didn’t take us long, maybe only 15 minutes, with the older two on their bikes and Miles in our old nineties jogger stroller.  By the time we got there, though, I realized when Joel came up to me and asked for water, that I hadn’t really planned for an extended walk/park visit as I had left pretty much everything back home.  I said a little prayer that no one would have a big poop accident or something and just hoped we would all make it home in one piece if a bit dehydrated and poopy.

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It was called “Hidden River Park” and we were the only ones there which, cha-ching, because sometimes the last thing I want to do is make sure my kids are taking turns and sharing with fellow park players (not that I don’t think these skills are valuable, but to be honest, I just felt like zoning out for a bit, not teaching core values plus, when it’s the three of them, they have their own system for working out disputes, namely, they are pretty rude and pushy with each other but in a loving sibling way).

I wondered, though, if it was called “hidden” because the people in the neighborhood wanted to keep it to themselves.  It was basically a single lot on the corner converted into a park and I swear, it almost seemed as though the residents of the surrounding neighborhood had built it themselves.  For their kids.  There was a sand pit area and all of these cool toy trucks just left there.  I pretty much was nervously glancing around the entire time we were there waiting for someone to yell at us and inform us that it was a private park and not open to the public.  No one did, though (another cha-ching)

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Joel and Miles were all about the sand pit area and I don’t blame them.  It was cool as hell with these big weird rocks all over it.

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There were even a couple of swings in the back which Ruth ran to right away.  It was just a really cute little neighborhood park with a lot of character and charm.  Off to the side there was even a little hill that, after the kids got tired of their original tasks, they started rolling down together, which, I mean, early 1900s picture perfect childhood activity, right?  Take that, Ipod/pad/phone-obsessed culture!

After a while, the lack of water was getting to the kids, the cold started settling in as the sun went below the tree line and Miles started acting crazy, trying to push one of the toy shopping carts into the street, a sure sign that he needed sleep.  So, after a little bit of a break down from Joel, we headed for home.  It was a nice way to break up our day and so good to get out and soak up some vitamin d and fresh air after being stuck inside the house for so long.

I give this park 4.5 out of 5 stars because the people that made it really did a lot with such a small space and it had such a nice cozy well-cared for feel but I take away .5 stars because of my own personal feeling of being a little bit watched or unwelcome at such an exclusive place which might totally be completely in my own head, not in reality.

In any case, happy fall park playing!  Get out there before the temps really drop!  Though, stay tuned for our backyard sledding hill/ice rink to come.

 

 

My 35th Birthday

Well another year has passed and I haven’t died of some strange disease or injury (hypochondriac joke).  Even though birthdays as I age come with less and less bells and whistles ( I barely have enough time to brush my teeth on a daily basis much less contemplate the passing years) I still find small ways to make it special and to celebrate.

For starters, I took the kids out to Ihop for breakfast.  I normally wouldn’t have touched this situation with a ten foot pole in the past but I recently had two mornings when I left the house early and took them to breakfast while we had our floors redone so I felt pretty confident that things would go ok.  And they did!  Ruth is becoming such a little big kid and seems more and more to embody that air she has about her of being an autonomous adult trapped in an infantile and embarrassing little kids’ body.  She takes any opportunity to show how grown she is.  Then there is Joel who gets so excited about things.  As long as I could keep Ruth from snapping at him, I thought, he would do just fine also.  Though he has been known, especially as of late, for making situations completely impossible.  Miles was the one I was really worried about as when he gets excited he becomes silly and starts crawling under the table, running around and throwing things (this would be his stand-up act.  Greg and I are always commenting how much he reminds us of a young Chris Farley.  All he needs is the coffee table to fall through).

I may have spent more time cutting up other peoples’ food than actually eating my own, but it felt good to get out and do something different.  After that it was raining so instead of a park, I took the kids to the mall.  Luckily, it was early enough and on a weekday so that it wasn’t very crowded and the kids could pretty much just run along looking at everything and admiring all of the glitz and glamour about without getting trampled.  As I rambled along behind them I thought how interesting it was that though it was my birthday, they were the ones getting all of the treats.  I guess that speaks to my situation.  In order for me to enjoy myself, the kids have to be enjoying themselves.  That’s just life as a full-time caregiver I guess.

The mall had one of those play spaces that was, you guessed it, empty, and my kids’ for the dominating.  And dominate it they did.  Especially Ruth who used a lot of the toy climb things as simple tools to propel herself through the air while doing back flips and the like (hashtag: gymnast parent life)  Just my luck: there was a grandmotherly type nearby that I could chat with about kids/grandkids.  If there’s anyone I reliably enjoy talking with it’s grandmothers.  Parents are good too, but I often find that, especially out here where many of the households have two working parents, that I can relate better to grandparents when it comes to just enjoying the kids and talking about the kids.  Parents are often griping about why their kids won’t do this or that thing, which is good some days.  This day, though, I just wanted to sit back and enjoy my kids.  No one does that better than grandmothers.

After a little while it was time to head home.  The kids were giddy from the wide expanse of the mall, all the glittery merchandise on display with bellies full of pancakes, waffles and all manner of flavored syrups.  I just thought to myself how freakin’ lucky am I?  I’ve got it all.  And I let it sink deep in to the core: a profound feeling of gratitude.  What better gift could a person ask for on their 35th birthday?

Love in real life

Last night, I made pumpkin soup and biscuits from scratch for dinner.  “This soup is amazing,” Greg said, “And so nourishing!”  The kids took a few timid, suspicious bites of the soup before grabbing the butter-laden biscuits, exclaiming, “Done!” and running off to play.  I nodded somberly into my own bowl as I quietly agreed, “It is good.”  The candlelight played in the darkened room, the last slanted golden rays from the day poured in through the front picture window, illuminating the fall crafts I had made earlier in the day with the kids that hung on the glass.  It was, from the outside in, a picture of a perfectly quaint little family at the end of a day in late October.  Looks, as they say, though, can be, and often are, quite deceiving.

The day had progressed like many others, in fits and starts, with ups and downs, many messes, much noise, the usual, punctuated by meals and snacks, a few quiet moments with books and (almost) naps.  What I would call your typical homeschooling day with a seven, four, and two year old.

The monotony, bordering on drudgery, of being home with the kids is something I’ve struggled with since having them.  The lack of being able to effectively lead them in any one direction is the cause of much inner turmoil and keeps me up second guessing myself into the nights as the shadows loom and taunt me with doubt.  The unpredictable nature of their moods and whims has me feeling overwhelmed on a daily basis, and waffling back and forth from authoritarian style parenting circa 1950 to a touchy-feely brand of exhaustive diplomacy.  The line between permissiveness and control has me feeling like I’m walking on the edge of a razor, never able to keep my balance, always falling on one or the other side too heavily.

“No one told me it would be this hard,” I mumbled to Greg almost inaudibly.  He doesn’t get it.  He can’t.  The more time goes by, the more disparate our existences become.  Sometimes it feels like we don’t even occupy the same planet in the solar system.  He’ll never experience this kind of isolation and ambivalence and sometimes downright disdain from the rest of society.  He won’t ever know what it feels like to have the only feedback you get in any given day be your spouse complimenting the dinner you prepared.  Everything else might as well be invisible.  All of the triumphs, the joys, the struggles and trials.  It is invisible.   To everyone except those who walk my path.  (When I find these kindred souls, I grab hold and hang on for dear life).

I’m left feeling like love in real life with kids, as with love in real life with a romantic partner, is so much less about the bells and whistles of early passion, those fleeting elated moments of utter joy, and so much more like a daily religious practice when you infuse the things you love with work, patience and time.  Love with kids is like scrubbing the monastery floor, inch by inch, with a tiny brush, chanting quiet prayers over and over in your head, donning heavy felt robes with rope belts, shaving your head, infusing each space with thick clouds of incense and intention and always keeping your feet moving, always taking small shuffling strides forward.

It’s useless to try to tell this to Greg or anyone.  It’s my own personal struggle.  My own personal religion.  Dinner finished and Greg pushed back noisily from the table to take his bowl in to the kitchen, but I lingered for a moment, said a quiet mantra to myself, and ceremoniously blew out the candle.

 

It never fails

It never fails that whenever I take all three of the kids grocery shopping, which seems to be happening more and more these days due to homeschooling and poor planning I guess, there is at least one moment when everything becomes impossible.  Two or more of the kids have a meltdown or start grabbing stuff off the shelf or refuse to go on and lay spread eagle in the middle of the aisle so that no one can pass.  There is often a lot of screaming.  Perhaps some tears (not mine though many times I feel like I could just let it fly and burst into tears at one of these moments).  It also never fails that at that moment, and possibly for none of the rest of the trip when things are going fine, someone, or multiple someones, is/are right there to witness me and my family in our darkest hour.  And then they utter those words that I have come to think of as the summation of my existence in the public eye: “You’ve got your hands full.”  (Thanks.  Like I didn’t know that).

Thank god for car carts is all I have to say because that mostly takes two out of three kids out of the walking equation (until they revolt and start jumping out and running up and down aisles or climbing up on top of said car cart which is strictly prohibited probably because it’s dangerous and stuff but like I care if it keeps us moving in a forward motion?)  That and the promise of treats along the way in the form of those weird organic food puree pouches and granola bars.

Our most recent trip to the grocery store was going so well.  So well that you know it couldn’t possibly last until we made it out the door back to our car and sanctuary.  I was in the midst of unloading the car cart onto the conveyor belt when the kids began talking gumballs.  Lately, they’ve become obsessed with gumballs and, truthfully, a gumball at the end of the trip is one way to get them to agree to come along in the first place.  They even planned ahead and found each their own quarter and put them in little baggies to carry along until the end of the trip.  Two problems quickly arose.  One was that Miles is now old enough to grasp what was going on and even before we left the house started saying, “Gumball!” in a tone of indignation.  Except two year olds and big old gumballs the exact size of a person’s windpipe don’t make a good combo.  Oh well, I thought.  I’ll have to cross that bridge when I come to it.  The second thing was that, as good as they were about having the forethought to bring the quarters in the first place, a four and seven year old are perhaps less astute at not losing said quarters and by the time we were ready to head out, one of the quarters had been misplaced.

That was ok though.  Supposedly, they had agreed to buy one gumball and share it.  So I pulled the loaded cart alongside the machine just inside the doorway so that they could claim their booty when suddenly the plan went awry and Joel, being four, rethought his agreement with Ruth and decided instead that he would not share the gumball and popped the whole thing into his mouth and began voraciously chewing.  That was when all hell broke loose.  Ruth began screaming in outrage, tears began flowing, Joel became obstinate and determined as I begged him to spit out half the gumball to squelch Ruth’s fit, Miles, already on edge to begin with, followed suit with Ruth and started crying and yelling, “Gumball!  Gumball!”  All this as patrons squeezed past us and the check out people turned to stare at the commotion.  An elderly man walked past and paused a moment to say to me, “You’ve got your hands full.”  Which sounded perhaps a bit less sympathetic and a bit more condemning or accusatory.  (Hey guy, thought I, where were you ten minutes ago when my kids were angels?  Why does it seem like there’s never any witnesses when things are going good?)

Yup.  It never fails.

“Take any sane person…”

“…and put them in a house alone with three young children all day and they will be insane by the end of the day.”  (This is what I tell Greg sometimes when he gets off of work to sum up how our day was in a nice neat little package.  Here you go.  I gift-wrapped it for you).  This might be a slight exaggeration.  They *might* be able to retain their sanity for the day.  Hell, they might last a few days.  Try seven years (Actually, I take the fact that I am not insane as a true testament to how mentally strong I really am, though staying home with kids definitely tests ones limits and let’s just say no one makes it out unscathed.  Some people call this personal growth or even the dreaded “growing up”.  I call it “no where to run from your personal demons confronting you face-to-face on an every day basis and there’s no where to hide, it’s show time, baby”).

Some people like to act like they have it all together.  Like having and raising kids is easy peasy lemon squeezy.  I don’t like these people (because I don’t like liars).  The truth is, having kids may be less difficult for some depending on the personalities of the kids and the amount of personal baggage you bring to the table to sort through.  Though, I have a hard time believing that I am that unusual and I think most people (not on facebook) would agree that it’s the challenge of a lifetime.

Then there are older people whose kids are grown.  You can’t trust these people.  They have amnesia, you see.  It’s a coping mechanism, a kind of memory repression.  Sure, people do this all the time with unpleasant thoughts and events.  (Hell, it seems like every time I go on vacation with Greg and the kids I do it.  While in the thick of it, I am often overwhelmed by stress and cursing myself and Greg for thinking that going on X trip was even remotely feasible, never mind a “good” idea.  I make mental notes: “Never again…”  Yet it seems like only a matter of days have gone by after we get back home when I find myself remembering the trip with nostalgia and longing.  All of the stress and negativity is already fading fast.  Weird.  The human mind is a sneaky Pete).

You know these people.  They are the ones who look at your little terrors with dewy eyes and exclaim how cute they are (even while said kids are glaring at this person with poison arrow dart eyes).  Did my strained polite smile falter just then when I said, “Thank you”?  It’s not their fault.  Like I said, it’s a natural coping mechanism so it’s best to just smile, accept their praise and then continue wrestling the candy out of your kids hands in the grocery check out lane.

Not that I would trade it for the world, of course.  I often have to remind myself that I chose this path (not that I really had any inkling what I was getting myself into.  Who does?) and that the highly rated public school that Ruth would go to all day is just down the block and if we really wanted to, we could make both that and preschool for Joel happen (theoretically anyway).

I recently ran into a mother with three kids of similar ages to mine who looked at me incredulously when I told her I homeschool mine.  She had to catch her breath, compose herself from the shock of my announcement before she could come back with, “Why?!” and then declare that she couldn’t wait to get her oldest into school and that she had just signed up her middle child, a four year old like Joel, for five days a week of preschool (this is not by any means an unusual response to my admission of homeschooling.  It’s really interesting to hear peoples’ reasoning behind schooling or homeschooling their kids.  Not that I blame this woman for her sentiments.  I understand them completely.  I feel them (see above)  I am right there with you, lady.  I get it. More than you probably know.  Trust me).

But I do make a different choice.  Though it’s difficult, I think (I hope) it’s worthwhile.  I also count myself as lucky enough to be able to stay home with the kids and invest so much into them.  When things get hard I try to remember this.  And I try to keep my sense of humor (you just dumped out the entire basket of crayons and the dogs water bowl for no reason?  That’s hilarious.  It’s so funny I forgot to laugh. (early nineties humor anyone?) Just endless hilarity around here).  And I try to remember that they won’t be this young forever.  I assume things will get easier at some point (though I have heard multiple people advise, “little kids, little problems, big kids, big problems”.  Not helping, people.  La-la-la-I-can’t-hear-you…”).

The last things I do to maintain sanity (which I’ve become very good at), in case you’re wondering, are invest in some kind of self care (sleep, blogging, good food, zumba) and look on the bright side (which believe me, does not come naturally to me).  Every day is a balancing act.  Even though I fall multiple times per day, I get back up with determination and purpose.  That’s all a person can do.