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Archive for the ‘Tired is my middle name’ Category

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Nutritious breakfast or bitter fruits of labor?

I’m going to quote me back to myself, from one of my long-running and excellent parenting groups on Facebook.

Parenting middle grade kids is basically endlessly wheedling them to display their competence even though it would be so much easier to do it (whatever “it” is) yourself.
(Unlike toddlers, where it’s easier to do it yourself because they are NOT competent.) ~ Sept. 15, 2018

(The real post contained profanity. Because it was borne of frustration.)

This tension occupies way too much of my life. I have worked really hard to start my kids on the road to independence. This means they can navigate from home to their grandparents’ house in another city via bus. They can launder their own clothes. They can do dishes, clean bathrooms, sweep floors, take out the trash. They can order at the cheese counter and at the butcher. They can handle themselves at the dentist!

But the gap between checking the box of competence in theory and in reality, every day or every week, is enormous. Let me translate: If you’re wondering how many times my children will pass through the kitchen, where the clean dishes are perched on their racks in the dishwasher-that’s-ajar, and not empty it, the answer is infinity. Which is coincidentally the number of times they will move a pile of clean clothes from the couch to the love seat and back again, rather than a) folding it and/or b) putting it away.

I mean, come on, they already used up their energy fighting over who could use the computer at 6:25am, and I wish I were kidding about that. (The answer is: Nobody – nobody – should be on the computer, playing worm.io or watching Miraculous Ladybug, at this hour or really any hour if you haven’t even cleared your dishes or brushed your teeth or are risking being late for your transportation to school. If you know my super-cool tween internet references, well, here’s a fist-bump – and I am so sorry. *bump*)

It takes a lot of energy to run a house, and I frankly don’t have the right kind, or enough, or whatever. I am not neat, organized, thrifty, motivated, or any other adjective that would indicate that I am enjoying this part of adulthood. The endless cooking, cleaning, straightening, organizing, and harping at other people to just do what I asked, Jesus, it’s not that hard.* Be careful, you might trip over my standards. Thankfully, I am way past thinking that this makes some sort of statement about my parenting. Nobody would accuse children of being poor excuses for kids because they can’t manage to keep their clothes off the floor, or turn the lights off when they leave a room.

A flashpoint in this whole schematic is, and I am not being dramatic, granola.

Years ago, I came down with an edict that We Don’t Eat Cereal Every Day. It’s expensive (here) and a fair bit of sugar for the beginning of the day (Cheerios have given way to a combination of Cheerios + sugary Cheerios +  Honey Bunches of Oats). Alternative days involved yogurts and cottage cheese or leftover pancakes or fruit or “no, it’s not a cereal day so have something else.” A while ago I started making granola as an alternative. It’s expensive to put together (nuts, peanut butter, maple syrup), but makes a lot of servings. It’s sweet and carby but also protein and whole grains, so please let me have my fantasy  of Good Mothering, ok?

It also creates a lot of sticky dishes, and I have panic attacks when the kids leave soggy leftovers because WASTEFUL and also the dishwasher will never clean that properly unless you RINSE?

I have taught my children how to make this granola; they know where the recipe is. It’s not hard. But somehow they’re never motivated to make it, just to ask me to make it, and to ask me at 6:15 in the morning (currently, this time is before sunrise) why I didn’t make it last night after they went to bed?

NB: Children ages 12 and 14 never go to bed. Actually, that’s not quite true; the 12-year-old will go to bed an hour Before Never, but he is not happy about it, you know?

Yes, they have long school days. Yes, they have to travel to school. But they also have enough hours to sit and be served before I beg them to lend me a hand for 30 seconds or five minutes. I am almost sure this is normal, but wow, is this going to drive me over the edge.

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Put on your seatbelt and stop touching your sibling.

Then my husband eats bowls of this granola for snack. After dinner. And cannot understand my fury. I feel petty and small, yet unmoved. It is the granola of my discontent.

With apologies to David Lebovitz, who is innocent in all of this. You too, can bring this contentious recipe into your life! Here.

* True story: Just today, I asked my daughter to do about six minutes worth of dishes while I was at the pool. “Sure,” she said, staring intently at her phone.
“Are you going to manage to do them before I get back from the pool?”
“I don’t know.” **
Which, I mean, points for honesty.

** She did not. But did them when I asked her to, again, upon my return from the pool. “Did you make granola?” she inquired, inspecting the many bowls in the sink.
“Yes, I did.”
“Oh, good.”
“It is for breakfast.”

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I am doing a lot better than I was three weeks ago.

But I’m still not 100%.

Exhaustion creeps in from time to time. In particular when I forget that I recently had surgery. Sometimes, I’ll get a quick flash of pain along one my scars. It’s all very Harry Potter except I can’t speak to snakes (sad about that) and don’t have a blond kid trying to take me out on a broomstick (not sad about that).

What I am is in, as I put it, the danger zone.

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There have been my own little baby milestones to feeling better. Being able to sleep on my usual side in bed – this was a huge one for me, since at around three weeks after the surgery I lost the ability to sleep on my back. (Also: Being able to roll over in bed without feeling like my insides were rearranging.) Being able to put together an entire Shabbat meal without feeling like I needed to take a nap in the middle. Being able to host people again. Going swimming without negative consequences. Having a personalized Pilates lesson to assess what I could do.

I feel well enough to behave absolutely normally, but if I do that I am probably going to be sorry.

I feel well enough, in theory, to lift that 5 liter bottle of laundry detergent at the grocery store, until I actually do it and realize that it was a mistake. For the record, my children were with me at the store, but they were in line while I had gone to chase down another item.

I feel well enough to swim, but then after 500m I realize I’m on my pre-surgery pace and have dull pains for hours afterwards. Oops. (I started out really slowly, at only 25% of my normal distance. But then I went swimming almost every day for a week, and then this happened.)

So the difference between 90%/95% and 100% is more than I might have thought. Clearly I need more supervision. Or just maybe more couch time and potentially a return to the concept of naps. Luckily, school is starting and at the very least I will spend less time and energy shouting. (That returned much sooner than anything else. One does what one has to!)

7 weeks and 2 days. Still creeping back. I’ve got this.

 

 

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Do you ever feel trapped? Not TRAPPED like “I’m going to chew off my leg now,” but more, “Hey, this hamster wheel keeps spinning, and I’m not sure what will happen if it stops, but it’s probably not a good idea to stop, so I’ll just keep going.”

(I do enjoy a good run-on sentence from time to time.)

Tangent

I used to hate even the idea of being trendy or following some sort of herd.

I never owned a piece of clothing from Benetton (when it was all the rage) or bought Doc Marten boots (my college roommate had umpteen pairs, but unfortunately we didn’t wear the same size) or got a second ear piercing.

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I could have been so cute! On someone else’s dime! WTF is wrong with you, past me?

(I made an exception for those Banana Republic shirts with the animals on the back, for reasons I don’t remember. Who doesn’t like paying twice as much as normal for a dumb t-shirt?)

This rejection of trendy did not make me cool. It made me a dork. Sometimes people invest themselves in trends that are not worth it, but sometimes brands or styles really hold up. Sometimes you really can dress something up or down; celebrity endorsements aside, some items are just worth the money.

Now I am all about the intersection of “comfort and style and branding and fiscal responsibility and I don’t really care what everyone else thinks.” So I live in Naot sandals, buy a lot of SkirtSports gear, and am pretty devoted to my few-generations behind iPhone. So I am not on-trend, exactly, but more like chugging along on a parallel track that misses a few stations.

(PS I tried to buy a pair of Chucks, which I have never owned, in America a few months ago, but the store I was at did not carry them in half sizes. WHAT? I am definitely not shelling out money for shoes that don’t fit correctly.)

/tangent
(sorta)

Into the Hamster Wheel

So imagine my dismay when I discovered that my current fragile mental state is shared by so many GenX women. Blame it on perimenopause. Blame it on money worries. Blame it on career dissatisfaction. (Not mentioned in the article, but an astute IRL/Twitter friend pointed out that the last election has engendered mental pacing on an unprecedented level. “Oh HAI misogyny and bigotry and warmongering; we thought you were pretty unacceptable, but we see you’re back in a big way. Sad panda. I am not going to be needing this pillow, as I am never sleeping again.”)

Good thing I am fine with being in the herd now.

Say Goodbye to Your Shirts

I have a problem with my shirts. Almost all of them get tiny holes in them, about six inches from the bottom, right in front. Eventually, some holes “bleed” together and make much bigger holes. I try to reserve my new shirts, or shirts that I especially like, because I know that eventually they will be sacrificed to the “t-shirts I can only wear to bed” pile.

Because I spend a lot of time in my house, tiny holes in my shirts didn’t matter that much, but they made me crazy. Nobody else in the house was getting these holes. Was it my seatbelt in the car? Skirt buttons? Was it the washing machine nibbling only my clothes? None of these ideas made sense.

A friend tipped me off – it is our Caesarstone countertops hitting me in the gut every time I prep food or stand at the sink.

Oh.

Too bad I can’t take a pass on everything in my kitchen forevermore to save my shirts.

The Call is Coming from Inside the House

Yep.

But do I not wear shirts? Do I wear the same one over and over again until it disintegrates? Do I never wear the shirts I like the most in order to save them? Do I buy 3 of the same shirt?

I can already hear well-intentioned people thinking, “Oh, she should wear an apron!” That is so sweet. It will never work. I autopilot so many *kitchen things that adding a “step zero” will never take.

*Also life things. There is a relatively new law in Israel about re-usable bags. I have had to fling them around my house and car, literally by the dozen, so I am not caught without them.

So that’s my hamster wheel.

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This smushy face would never chew holes in my clothes. She’s too tired and has her own perimenopausal stuff to take care of, presumably.

It has tiny holes and kitchen chores. It does not have enough disposable income for a cleaning person. It does not have a full-time job.

If you’re too traumatized to click through to the piece linked above, this goes right to the heart of the matter, for me:

“The message Gen X women got was ‘You can have it all.’ … That came with better blueprints and also bigger expectations,” says Deborah Luepnitz, PhD, a psychotherapist in Philadelphia, a boomer and author of Schopenhauer’s Porcupines. “In midlife, what I see in my Gen X patients is total exhaustion. That’s what brings them to treatment. They feel guilty for complaining because it’s wonderful to have had choices that our mothers didn’t have, but choices don’t make life easier. Possibilities create pressure.”

(IT’S ME AND MY MOM, YOU GUYS!)

Possibilities. We still have them in midlife, but they can start to seem so abstract. Yes, I could go get a doctorate, but where would I find the graduate school tuition? I could switch careers—therapist? Zamboni driver?—but at this stage of life, do I really want to start from the bottom, surrounded by 20-year-olds? If I went on an Eat, Pray, Love walkabout, who would pick up the kid from school?

(IT’S ME AND MY LIFE, YOU GUYS!)

Midlife is when we need to take care of everyone else while we are our most tired, to trust ourselves when we’re most filled with doubt.

(Don’t show this sentence to someone with a new baby; she won’t be able to get out of bed ever again.)

If someone would like to meet in the virtual all-night cafe of insomnia, simmering with rage and worry, I am pretty sure they have pie.

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I saw this post in my Facebook feed and thought, I AM THE ELLIPSIS.

But not just in conversation. In LIFE. My entire life is a mishmash of speech, thoughts, desires, tasks, and journeys that become hopelessly tangled like a skein of yarn. And let me tell you, I rarely have the time to sort these things out.

In my own writing – please feel free to peruse my archives, when I was clearly smarter than I feel right now – I tend towards overuse of parenthesis. So I can explain myself in the middle of my thoughts. One might think (hope?) that I would just be more clear in the first place, but that tends to lead to shorter sentences, and I really like commas, so here we are, you know? (Note: For work assignments I behave myself and write crisply and concisely, but I never monetized this baby, so I am going to be myself. Just please love me! Also send candy. I like cinnamon things now that I have drastically cut back on dairy, which is a sad story for another time.)

Unfortunately, living the elliptical life is causing me to feel like I am losing my mind quite often. We live in a duplex, and I am constantly arriving at the top of the stairs and thinking, “Why am I up here?” Usually, it’s because my iPhone cord is still plugged in to where I charged overnight, but sometimes it’s because I need to change my shoes or get an envelope or brush poppy seeds out of my teeth. But I can’t just blame the elevation of the top floor, because this also sometimes happens when I go to the laundry room-slash-overflow pantry that is tucked behind the kitchen.

This total mess in my head is exacerbated when my kids are home. Because I will go upstairs – again, probably for my phone cord – and on the way, I spot that AM’s clothing drawers are open and a total mess. I mean, total mess is expected, but nobody needs to SEE it. Just close the drawers! Instantly neater! (This is an important life skill that I am one hundred percent committed to teaching.) I also see that Miss M has been using her floor as a hamper and, um, encourage her to cut that shit out. And the kids’ bathroom basically looks like a tornado came through. Open drawers and dirty clothes! Trash that missed the garbage can! Books that I have repeatedly said cannot be in the bathroom! It’s house disaster bingo! So by the time I pass these three open doors and am in my own not-neat room, I have completely lost the plot and have to stand there mumbling, “I am here for a reason.” If I am lucky, I will remember why. If am super-lucky, I will also stumble upon my glasses, which I am absolutely going to need the next time I go to drive the car. (I do not need glasses to read, use the computer, or watch TV, so they spend a lot of time off my face — and hiding from me, in case that wasn’t obvious.)

So what is my problem, exactly?

  • Sleep deprivation (always a winner!)
  • Undercaffeination (likely, but I can’t experiment with this too much)
  • Age (being over 40 is a garden full of delights)
  • Some sort of attention deficit (I blame social media)
  • Low blood sugar/dehydration (I am not always the best at self-care)
  • Terrible housekeeping (a disordered environment is how we roll)
  • No idea (but I hear bullet points are the bomb)

So, in conversation, I tend to be incredibly annoying and full of tangents. I think I have always been this way, but now it is worse than ever. On social media I can be pithy and wise, because of the magical delete button. There is no delete when I talk. Sadly.

My workarounds for this? Ongoing conversations that are comprised almost solely of tangents. I have a Whatsapp group with two friends that’s basically the three of us dropping in and out of conversations. We try to do it once a week in real life. Or conversations that are long enough to circle back to my original point, when I have one, which is sometimes. Just today, I had a spontaneous brunch with a friend. Something else came up, we got distracted, and thankfully were still together an hour later when I remembered where I was going with my train of thought (the in-person reveal was worth it, so I am glad it worked out, instead of my having to email it later).

I am not quite sure where I am going with this, but if you stick around I might get to my point. (If the dog ever stops barking.)

In the meantime: Red Hots, Cinnamon Jelly Bellys, Atomic Fireballs, Hot Tamales. (Stay focused!)

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All cinnamon, all the time

 

 

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The last year has felt like the world has been tilting wildly and weirdly, and often not in good ways.

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The first six months were emotionally tortuous, as we applied to high schools for Miss M. Her brightness and quirkiness have not diminished over time, and her official Aspergers diagnosis from a couple of years ago was refreshed by a new round of professionals. There didn’t seem to be a school that suited her within commuting distance. Not having an answer to “where is she going for seventh grade?” as May 1, then June 1, rolled past was…stressful. As usual, I dealt with my stress by not sleeping much.

The school question was finally settled, then RESETTLED at a different place OMG LIFE ARE YOU TRYING TO KILL ME? just in time to deal with the final birth pangs of her bat mitzvah. (Which was, admittedly, super great .)

Then the whole election debacle-slash-world-upside down. I still have a lot of anger about this, which spills over into things like discussing with Taxman in front of the kids why I shouldn’t call him a rapist in front of the kids but sexual assaulter is ok because he’s admitted it. Incoming president of the United States. I just. (For my utter bewilderment, see my Twitter feed.)

Also not a lot of sleeping happening in October and November. Because time zones, and who is driving this plane; are we crashing?

So when an acquaintance announced on Facebook that she was going to run an eight-week knitting for beginners class, I said please, please pick me!

Knitting was something my mom did, and my aunt. I have no idea where they learned – maybe their grandmother? (I certainly never saw MY grandmother with knitting needles in her hands, unless by knitting needles you mean cigarette or gin and tonic.) When I was old enough to have enough patience to learn (an early attempt had been quickly shelved), my brother was a baby and then a toddler. I think my mom, who worked full time, put away her own knitting for years.

As an adult, I’ve realized I have a ton of friends who knit, enough so that I felt I was really missing out on a generational experience.

So I’m learning now.

I’m not as terrible as I thought I’d be, although I’ve managed to break two sets of not-great circular needles.

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But I’m being propped up, sometimes literally, by Miss M, the ringer I drive to knitting class. (The kids’ class didn’t fit with her schedule.) She’s a natural at this stuff, if a little overly ambitious, so has saved my ass many times with her nimble fingers and multiple crochet hooks. She can’t really keep up with the “bitch” element of the class (a lot about parent teacher meetings and planning bar mitzvahs), but she’s spot on with the “stitch” part.

So that’s a skill I’m hoping to take with me into 2017 and beyond. I’m seeing the beginning of how it becomes A Thing – beautiful yarns, complex patterns, different equipment, but at the same time a way to really turn off the world and concentrate on what’s literally directly in front of you.

I’ll be here with my in-house knitting coach, hoping to finish my hat before winter ends. (In the meantime, I had to buy myself fingerless gloves because we keep the house at like 60 degrees.)

PS This blog turned 11 today! Crazy.

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Hi! I’m still here!

My sanity is…debatable.

Miss M turned 12, and we had 120 people for dinner to celebrate.

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Actually, it started last summer, when I said something incredibly stupid, like, “For the bat mitzvah, Miss M should make 12 pieces of art, then we should auction them off for charity at a gala dinner. We will make it nice enough to justify the grandparents schlepping over from America.”

And nobody with some sense thought to stop me and my gigantic mouth.

(System failure!)

So that’s pretty much what happened. Miss M learned her Torah portion and commentaries in-depth, created art pieces, wrote explanations of them in Hebrew and English, picked charities, and there you have it. EASY PEASY. (Hahaha, plus dozens of sleepless nights. And speeches!)

We of course hired an event planner because I still don’t know how to say “easel” in Hebrew, never mind having a clue where or how to rent ELEVEN of them for one night. She also herded us through a catering crisis and a billion other things.

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My takeaway is that three detail-oriented people on one project makes for a beautifully micromanaged event, but if I never have to answer my phone or return a related email again I would be ok with that.

Anyway, it was a big enough thing that I had hair and makeup and wore heels. It was nice.

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Then we squired our American visitors around for a few more days for some sightseeing in Jerusalem and Tzipori. Then we had a big Shabbat do (more food! more speeches!) at our synagogue and had 13 relatives over for meals.

Then I legit had jet lag, trying to recover. Did not matter that I hadn’t been on a plane – I needed midday naps and freezer meals to get through dinner.

I’m better now.

Whew.

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Last week was trying for me in a lot of ways, mostly because AM was sick and kindly shared his germs with me. He gets very snuggly when he’s ill, and while I find this endearing, the fever and deep, rumbling chest cough were not appreciated. To add insult to injury, he got a pneumonia diagnosis and therefore got on some kickass antibiotics while I had “clear” lungs and muddled through on cough meds and fever reducers.

(There was also the night when I was so tired I took Tylenol PM and had a paradoxical reaction. And was even more tired the next day. Plus extremely bitter. But “one tired, bitter ema” does not have the same ring to it.)

So, to recap: sick, tired, sick-and-tired. Plus all the usual backtalk from the children, mess in the house, and, you know, life. (Taxman was around a lot, to make up for the times when I just could not leave the house, or drive Miss M to various scheduled appointments, but by Friday he hadn’t thrown in a load of wash either. Bought milk, yes; laundry, no.)

I felt crappy pretty much every afternoon, so in the mornings I tried to do the minimum I had to do for work. Sometimes with company hanging over my shoulder. Or dancing on the couch. Because why go to school when you can stay home and play Fruit Ninja on my phone? Or whine at me to play backgammon until I give in? Because the alternative — is not pretty.

Humans don’t eat their young.

I don’t know why I thought of this so suddenly last week. Perhaps because I’ve been reading a couple of books right now where mice are prominent (The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo and Intuition by Allegra Goodman); mice, of course, do sometimes eat their young.

But we are not rodents. We are in this kid-raising thing for the long haul. At first it’s all about how to keep them alive. When they are asleep at night we sigh in relief because we managed to keep them from harming themselves…sometimes with varying success rates.

We are past that stage. Honestly, we had it pretty easy (my toddler nephew is a climber; we never had to deal with that, or lock picking, toilet drinking, street running or other particularly hair-raising toddler things).

Now we are in the long muddle of making our children socially acceptable. Table manners, polite conversation–hell, any kind of two-way conversation–empathy, friend-navigating. It’s harder to score how you, the parents, are doing. The metrics are totally foggy.

  • What if other adults find them lovely but they don’t get invited for playdates?
  • What if they are happy to eat three kinds of raw vegetables but never salad?
  • What if they get great grades but collectively blitz through a box of carefully hoarded pencils from Target in 2 weeks? (Seriously, do they EAT them? Are they not children but beavers? Do beavers eat their young?)

I decided that this is part of why parents are so joyful at their kids’ big events. It means that other people find them socially acceptable and want to celebrate that too. It’s a big cosmic reward for not eating them.

Graduation –> Your kid earned a degree! They applied themselves! You probably only had to do 50% of the work/80% of the cajoling!
Good job –> Somebody else wants to PAY your child to work at something! Someone else is trusting them to be responsible! Let’s hope the job doesn’t entail putting laundry into a hamper!
Wedding –> You’ve been so successful at child-rearing that somebody else wants to live with your child on a permanent basis…and even finds some of your child’s qualities worthy of passing to a new generation. (We hope. Because how else will you exact your revenge?) Cute and breedable! Good job, parents!

This last part occurred to me because an Internet friend married off a child last month. She projects the picture of calm and happy level-headedness, but through some private messaging I know that some of her children have provided a few sleepless nights and therapy sessions in the past. But here she is, walking to the chuppah and sending off to be amazing grownups. So there is hope!

So, no, we won’t eat them. We’ll try to raise them right and turn them into real people. But if anyone would like to, say, borrow a 6-year-old who will play backgammon all day and night or an 8-year-old who is up on all kinds of 19th century diseases (yellow fever, cholera, scarlet fever), just, you know, give me a buzz.

NB: In the time that elapsed between me wanting to write this post (last Thursday) and actually writing it, I served a dinner everyone ate. It was teriyaki salmon and rice. Everyone had seconds. Civilization is coming faster than we think.

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