Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Playing Pretend

I awoke around 7:30 this morning to Julien rustling next to my chest in our bed.  At the same time I heard Colette’s tiny feet come down the hall toward our room, whining for Dad and milk (she tends to prefer whomever put her to bed the night before, but forgets her preference, as soon as one of us puts two feet on the floor).

 As usual, Jeff worked/dicked around on his computer late, so I get out of bed, and leave Julien to hang with a semi-sleeping Jeff, while I encourage Colette to put on underwear and pants (not sure what this girl has against pants, but every morning she puts up a fight).  Once I win that battle, she wants to draw, but she wants to draw with me and she wants to sit on my lap. As much as I would like to do that, I need coffee, to brush my teeth, nurse Julien and make us both something to eat. She doesn’t want to color solo, so I offer up an episode of Curious George. It’s lazy of me, but it the easiest and most enjoyable way to ensure that the kids are fed, I’m caffeinated and that Jeff gets another hour or so of sleep.  Once the priorities are taken care of, we turn off the T.V. and color together, while Julien watches in the swing beside us.
Let's try this getting dressed thing one more time...

Raise your hand if you think pants are stupid!
I wake up Jeff at 9AM to help me get Colette ready for daycare, and like as with most toddlers brushing hair and teeth, washing peanut butter off the face, putting on a hat and putting down the two dolls and three lovies takes quadruple the amount of time it takes an adult.  As usual, it’s an enjoyable but incredibly slow process and at 9:38 we’re out the door.  Normally she would scoot to daycare, but there was too much snow today, so we walked instead, drawing with our gloved fingers in the snow along the way.  Once at daycare, I kiss her goodbye and turn for home, just a 2-minute walk around the corner.

Just as I enter the apartment Jeff passes Julien back to me so he can get to work and I can get on with my maternity leave, you know like get my nails done, meet a friend for lunch, go shopping all with Julien in tow…and it really hits me. TODAY IS THE LAST DAY OF MY MATERNITY LEAVE.

My favorite maternity leave accessory! A must-have in fall 2013!
I’m going to miss this late-rising, slow-poking, family-filled lifestyle so so much. It’s been some of the hardest and most enjoyable weeks of my life. I know that I wouldn’t be a good/happy stay-at-home mom, but man it’s been an amazing twelve weeks of playing pretend.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

And Then There Were Four

It’s 4:30 AM and I should be sleeping.

However, everyone else in my family is asleep and I’ve been trying to post a blog since Julien was born 6 weeks ago. Turns out, newborns and toddlers aren’t big on giving you free time to pursue your personal creative endeavors, and I need to take advantage of this rare moment.

The last month and a half has flown by in a mixture of amazing, stressful, beautiful, crazy moments of time.  

In the afternoon on the day of my last blog post, I suspected that my amniotic fluids were leaking.  I casually mentioned it to Jeff and he made me call my OB.  I called reluctantly and just as I knew she would, told me head to the hospital to ensure everything was okay.  I didn’t want to go.  I just wanted to sit at home and wait for my induction appointment the following day.  Jeff said I was being stupid, I believe my Mom said something similar.  My Mom and Dad were already en route to Brooklyn to watch Colette. I think my parents had been waiting in their car, ready to jump into action, since my due date the week prior.  I had been so worried about them not being able to get to Brooklyn in a timely manner, but my fears were quickly quelled because they seemed to make 3 hour drive in 15 minutes, or at least it felt that fast to me.

While Colette was being watched by our interim babysitter/friend extraordinaire, Danielle, Jeff calmly drove me to the hospital around 5PM on a Tuesday night. Oddly, there was hardly any traffic from Brooklyn to the Upper West Side.  And even more oddly, there was no patient traffic in labor & delivery triage and I was seen almost immediately.   That never happens! In New York City there is a line/waitlist/lottery for everything…especially for having babies!

Hot Mess in Triage Room 1. Admit ASAP.
Almost as soon as I was hooked up to the fetal monitor in triage, the mild contractions I had been having for over a week, got a little stronger.  The resident checked me, and given the fact that my fluids were low, I was past due, and was in the early stages of labor made a case for me to be admitted, even though I wasn’t more than a few centimeters dilated.  We were all for it, since we didn’t want to head home without a baby at this point. 

Much better feeling,
looking and ready to push!

Once we were settled in a labor and delivery room, my contractions kicked into high gear and Jeff kicked into low gear.  Jeff fell asleep so hard and so soundly in the guest recliner, that I was tempted to page the nurse to wake him, since I was hooked up to monitors in bed and he wouldn’t respond to me calling his name.  I would have thrown ice chips at him, had he been awake to refill my cup.  To be fair, once we were admitted, the stress and anxiety we had both been supressing for weeks dissipated.  Jeff knew that Colette and I were in good hands, and he finally felt at ease.  I have no doubts that once I was in the comfort of medical professionals, my body relinquished control and finally went into labor.  Miraculously, my contractions regulated and intensified, without the help of drugs, through the night.  Even more miraculously, the pain of my contractions vanished with the help of drugs.

By 11:30 AM the next morning Jeff was well rested and I was ready to push, which I did for about 25 minutes.   Delivery was a little harder than what I experienced with Colette, but the second I saw Julien’s little penis (and giant baby balls), the pain subsided.  Julien James was born at 12:08PM on September 25th and weighed 9lbs 1oz and was 20 inches long.  We were thrilled to welcome him into this world and our family.

Our big baby boy!

Our hospital recovery experience was lovely and my favorite part.  We upgraded to the private suite and it was worth every extra penny we paid.  Colette and my parents visited us and Colette was more into the baby supplies in Julien’s bassinette than him, but she took the whole experience in stride and has been very sweet to him since the day we brought him home.  

Tired, Happy, Hungry (the both of us...he's sucking my pinky)
I hear a baby rustling, which means I need to end this aruptly. I’ll fill you in on what it’s been like having two little ones at home and maternity leave next time I see a window of free time, which means I’ll probably be back at work by then.

First family of four picture...hopefully, not the best.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Baby, Where Are You?

It’s 2:00AM and I can’t sleep. Luckily, it’s an extreme rarity.

I can’t find a comfortable position in bed, I’m anxious, feel a little nauseous and I’ve been having mild contractions for days now.  The contractions aren’t painful, progressive or worth timing, but they’re constant and just annoying enough to be distracting.  During the day, I feel confident and ready to take on labor, but every night, usually starting around 10PM, I get nervous and feel like the world won’t be ready to respond if I needed them to, even though I know that’s not the case.  We’ve got family and friends ready to take care of Colette, and I know Jeff will take care of me, but I just wish the world would stay awake with me for the next few days.

Best $20 I've spent this entire pregnancy....jelly Crocs that expand with my swollen feet.
I've worn them daily for the past 2 months.
It was almost exactly two years ago that I was in a similar situation waiting for Colette’s arrival. Her due date, (and my Dad's birthday) September 27th, came and went and here I am tonight waiting for the arrival of her sibling, roughly a week past due.  Colette was born 11 days late with the help of several induction techniques, but most efficiently, Pitocin. If this baby doesn’t make an appearance by early Thursday morning, September 26th we will head to the hospital to start the same process.

Aside from the first trimester, I’ve had a smooth pregnancy, but even easy pregnancies get hard to towards the end.  Mentally and physically, I’ve given this baby all I’ve got with getting just a few daily kicks of validation in return.  I’m ready to feel this baby’s weight and warmth in my arms as opposed to my lower back and undercarriage.  Plus, I can’t wait to give Colette her story time lap back and to let her climb all over me like she does her dad.

Baby's tiny diapers that Colette uses on her doll.
 I limit her two a day, because she doesn't like to resuse them.
Once she uses it, she balls it up and puts it in the empty diaper pail and I dig them out after her. 

Come on, baby, the world is ready for you - day or night!

The work of Colette - no help needed. 

Monday, September 16, 2013

The Secret Gardener

My number one complaint/issue about city living over the past 8+ years has been about not having enough nature in my life.  When I first moved to Brooklyn, it was into Jeff’s apartment in Bushwick/East Williamsburg, an up and coming hipster ‘hood with more rats than blades of grass. The continuous palette of grey cement, red brick, and blacktop sucked my soul.  Jeff, being the smart man that he is, knew he had to get me out of that place if he had any chance of keeping me from leaving him and the city.

Who gardens after dark? Jeff, the Secret Gardener 
 After living there together for three years we headed several miles south to the tree-lined streets of Prospect Heights, Brooklyn.  I was no longer dodging rats on my way to the train, but instead, kids on scooters and triple-wide strollers. Our apartment, was walking distance to Prospect Park, Mount Prospect Park and the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens. It changed our lives. We use those parks weekly, if not daily for morning runs (well, not at the moment, but I’m looking forward to it once again), evening concerts, family play dates and picnics, fireworks, farmers market, etc.

Over time the amount and type of outside space I’ve wanted and needed has changed. Having grown up in Connecticut suburbs and attended college in outdoorsy Vermont, I used to think that a private large backyard with an in-ground pool was the minimum requirement I would need to feel human.  But now, that seems a little over-the-top and the thought of spending a Saturday (or every Saturday for that matter) pulling weeds or mowing a lawn is daunting. So I’ve lowered my standards just a bit.  Ideally, I need a place to sit in private, drink a glass of wine, and connect with nature.  Um, oh yeah, and place for the kids to play outside would be great too...so a fire-escape converted into a balcony is never going to suffice.

Well, Jeff’s still a smart man, and he still doesn’t want me to leave him or the city. So earlier this summer he got to thinking and then he got to working.  Let me give you some background info first…we live on the first floor of a 4-story apartment building and we are the only tenants with access to a small, private weed/cement garden.  However, even though we could access this space though the sliding door in our dining room, it wasn’t safe (no stairs from the door), attractive or included in our lease. So yes, it was there, but only to look at, but it was hideous, so we barely did that.  Earlier this summer, during a rare glance out back, Jeff and I both agreed it was such an eyesore we should just clean it up, even if we couldn’t use it.

Weed forest

Death trap exit from our dining room


We asked our landlord, whom we’ve become friendly with over the past year, if he would mind if we cleaned it up.  At the very least we would make it safer and more attractive…and we would incur all costs.  It took him over a month to give us the go-ahead, but as summer passed us by, Jeff was anxious to get working on it, and secretly started doing yard work when I wasn’t home to notice. It became his garage, his man-cave, and his hobby.  He kept the curtains closed, so except for muddied boots drying in the hallway, I was clueless to the amount of time he was spending out there and progress he was making. 

When our landlord came over to give us his approval to do with it as we pleased, he was just as shocked as I was to see Jeff’s work. Over the course of a month, Jeff had removed tree-sized weeds, snails, hundreds of pounds of cement, metal debris, garbage, and filled holes.  I was amazed and wanted in on his man-cave and defiantly saw the potential of this becoming an awesome space for a growing family.

In a race against the end of summer, my incredibly talented Dad built us the steps needed to prevent us from falling to our death every time we opened the slider, we hired a landscaper to install mulch, a few vines and high-quality, super soft turf (best thing ever!). We also bought/borrowed some lawn furniture, added electricity, and accessed the basement for water.  The final touches include the playhouse we just ordered for Colette and a projector to watch movies outside. 

My Dad building steps. Made it look way to easy.


Post sand, pre turf

It’s a beautiful, petite, private oasis in the city and I can’t believe it’s ours to use. Like magic, every time I find something to complain about in regards to city living, Jeff comes to my rescue, or perhaps, his own.


Mulch pathway

Didn't take long for us to fill it up!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Just Add Water

Summer is not even over yet, but I’ve done some reflecting, and it’s been a great one. I've learned from my mistake of last year, and made a point to take some longer chucks of time out of the office/city and take more advantage of summer in the city when we weren’t traveling.  This June, July and August have been action-packed, yet relaxing at the same time.  I have no regrets this time around and my maternity swim suit is busting at the seams, either from overuse or my growing size, but perhaps both.
Rockaway playdate with the D'Elias
Our highlights include a five-day visit to San Diego, a rented a beach house in Northfork, Long Island, a day trip to Rockaway Beach, two weekend trips to my parents lake house at Bashan Lake in Connecticut, many park picnics and play dates, dinners at Celebrate Brooklyn (our local park band shell), and a handful of BBQs and pool parties. 

Northfork, Long Island.
$25.00 inflatable pool = hours of Colette having the time of her life
Back in June, as a gift to Jeff for Father’s Day, I made a list of activities for us to do in the city either as a family or couple.  It was an attempt for me to show him that I’m committed to living in the present, ie. the city and that I wasn’t going to let our final year in the city be anything less than amazing. The list includes visits to restaurants, parks, events, playgrounds, farms, zoos, exhibits and museums we’ve never been to but always talk about.  The list is hanging on our fridge and it seems like once a week I am crossing something off of it. Damn, I love that list and the feeling I get when something is crossed off….it’s almost as much fun as the actual activity.

Future swimmer/nerd 
I’m certain Colette has enjoyed the summer as much as I have. She gravitates to all things “summer” ...ice cream sandwiches, sunblock, rock collecting, sunglasses, flip flops, bathing suits, French fries, beach balls, airplanes, car rides (minus the carsickness), poolside naps, chips and dip.  I’d say her most favorite thing about summer is WATER. Any kind of water….hot water, cold water, dirty water, bath water, sprinkler water, splashing water, bubbles in water, turtles in water, hippos in water, her mother in water (the last two are hard for most to differentiate).  I could go on and on. It turns out there is something I do enjoy more than swimming, and it’s watching how excited she gets when in and around water. She is so my daughter.  

Sprayground at Museum of Natural History

San Diego....we spent most of the time in the water.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Zip Code Therapy

I mentioned in the post before last that I have therapist and we plan to move out of NYC in the summer of 2014.  Those two things are closely related, mostly because I talk a lot about moving in therapy.  Let me fill you in…

I’ve been seeing my therapist weekly for nearly a year now (before the pregnancy-related depression was even a thing).  I decided to see someone when I realized that for a happy, healthy person, with a great family, job and life I was feeling stressed, anxious and guilty too much of the time. I was hard myself, and Jeff and it was wearing us both down.  Originally, I suggested couples therapy to Jeff, and he gave me a look that said “um, I’ll do whatever you want, but I think you’re the one who really needs the help”.  Turns out, he was right, I was/am the crazy one! And for the most part, if I’m happy and sane, Jeff is too. It’s like getting two therapy sessions for the price of one!

I'm trying to prelive less
It’s still and will forever be a work in progress, but over the past year I’ve learned to loosen up, stress less and live more in the moment.  I feel less guilty about time spent away from Colette, whether it be for work or for a manicure, and less guilty about turning down invitations to events I have zero interest in attending (nope, I do not want to go to a 3-day music festival on a farm in Tennessee) and less anxious about staying still. It’s a skill that was not passed to me by my fabulous, but also crazy (in a good way) Mom. No joke…it’s seriously mentally and physically harder for the Leonards to stay still than it is to keep on moving, which can be great at times, but also exhausting for those of us with this disorder, as well as our loved ones.

For a while, I was blaming all my stress and anxiety on living in New York City. It’s true; NYC is a high-intensity environment, a place where an average subway ride can put a native New Yorker dazed on Xanax on edge. But through talking about it more, I’ve realized that although the city is the cause of some of my discontent, it’s really only a small-fraction. In truth, the city and all the craziest associated with it, is a huge part of my happiness.

Yep, we'll take her with us. 
It’s taken some soul-searching, professional help, and talks with supportive family and friends, but I do believe that if I can’t find happiness and peace within in NYC, then I won’t find it anywhere else.  I’m learning that contentedness comes from within and is not associated with zip codes.  With that being said, I want to move.  I’ve wanted to move to Connecticut for a while, but now I finally think I want to move for the right reasons. I understand that Connecticut can’t make me any happier or calmer than NYC can, and that Connecticut might solve some problems, but will create others.  A move to Connecticut is in our future, and my only hope is that our life will be just as good as it is now.