February’s Adventures

My rapid-fire monthly recaps just keep a-comin’! We now move on to February, and let me tell you, this was a big one.

On President’s Day LG’s office was closed, so we decided it was the perfect chance to make a long-anticipated visit to the Museum of Natural History in Manhattan to see the dinosaurs. I prepared Smudgie for it all week, talking up the fact that we were going to take the subway to see some dinosaur skeletons. I didn’t want him to think the dinosaurs would be walking around like in the zoo, which would be an easy assumption to make since he only encounters the anthropomorphized ones in children’s books. He also has been obsessed with skeletons ever since Halloween, so playing up the combo of the two seemed like the most enticing (and accurate!) way to hype this event.

But first: the subway. Like most NYC toddlers, Smudgie loooooves the subway. The Curious George rides the subway episode is on constant repeat. Christoph Niemann’s Subway is a nightly read. And every time we pass a subway station, Smudgie asks to “Go in. Go to the subway” (so, basically, every 5 blocks or so).

Smudgie Subway

Needless to say, the D train (and then B train) ride to the Museum was a highlight of the trip. He stood on that seat the whole time looking out the window remarking on everything we saw. “There’s another train! There’s the tunnel, Mommy. It’s dark. Are you on the D train, Daddy?” Two months later he still likes to tell me that he rode the D train. I really need to plan another subway ride for him.

Once there, the Museum was crowded. We weren’t the only family with a little time off who decided to spend the day there. (Fortunately, however, there was only one family with a rip-roaring drunk father who tried to start some beef on a crowded elevator, and that family was not ours.)

Smudgie loved the “Dino skeletons” and insisted on shouting “RAWR!” every time he saw one. He also really liked: the numerous stairs and ramps in the dinosaur wing; the interactive touch-screen computers with dinosaur facts and pictures; the touchable models of dinosaur bones; the open hallways perfect for running. The day essentially turned into an indoor, dinosaur-themed track meet, with Smudgie handily besting both his parents. But he had fun and that’s the important thing. And here are some pictures of the day!

Getting his hands on some hands

Getting his hands on some hands

Trying to connect

Trying to connect

Sheepish portrait with Dino tail

Sheepish portrait with Dino tail

That's a big head

That’s a big head

Let me tell you some cook Dino facts, Mommy.

Let me tell you some cool Dino facts, Mommy.

The boy was utterly pooped at the end of the day. Score one for the dinos! I think my favorite moment out of many favorites, however, was when I asked Smudgie if he wanted to go into the Hall of Extinct Mammals. And he said, “Scary Mammals. RAWR!”

And now: bonus Nu-Nu photo. Since she spent the entire trip (you guessed it) sleeping in the ergo cuddled against LG’s chest, we don’t have any photos of her from the day. This around-the-same-time shot will have to do. She was about three months for this one, and just waking up from a nap:

The grin slays me

Don’t you wish you woke up this happy?

Another great time was had by all amongst the Dinos. We definitely want to go back, but in the meantime we have many more NYC adventures to chronicle.


January’s Adventures

In January we did a few fun things with the kids: a trip to the Holiday Train show at the New York Botanical Gardens and our first visit to the Brooklyn Children’s Museum. I’m only going to blog about the first in this post, though. Just because we didn’t do much in March that we photographed, but we did go *back* to the Museum, so I’ll save those pictures for then.

Originally we’d planned to visit the Gardens on a weekend in early January with LG’s stepmother, who’s a member. But Smudgie was running a fever so we had to postpone. And then the mother in law was going out of town which left only a weekday for our trip. Nervously, I decided to load up the car with my two-year-old Smudgie and six-week-old Nu-Nu and visit the show on a Thursday morning.

My expectations were low, which turned out great. A Thursday morning after the Christmas and New Year’s rush was slow and low-key. No big lines or crowds pushing us along. Smudgie was able to spend as much time looking at the trains as possible, which he did!

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Here was the very first train we saw (note the delightful lack of people waiting in the doorway). Smudgie ran back and forth shouting “Wanna chase it!” for about ten minutes before he was willing to move on to the next train. He saw fast little trains that looked like insects (ladybug, butterfly) that he loved. He also shouted out, “That’s a Thomas train!” a few times, but wasn’t super into them.

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He loved this little train that ran around a twisty track through log cabins and vegetation, though. You can see his gasp of delight as it rounded the corner toward him here. I had to drag the boy away, because twenty minutes in front of the same train grew a little tiresome.

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Here were some of the replicas of major NYC landmarks (Rockefeller Center, the Chrysler building) made out of twigs, seeds, pinecones, and other items from the gardens. I thought they were awesome, but the time it took to take this photo is about as much time as Smudgie spent looking at it.

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What was Nu-Nu doing during all of this, you asK? Wearing a kickass sweater, for one. Keeping her fists clenched, for another.

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And sleeping in the ergo for a third. She slept the whole time. It was fabulous.

2014-01-09 11.01.27 HDR

When our visit came to an end, Smudgie bid a fond farewell to the trains (“Bye train!”), we dragged him out of the greenhouse, and got lunch at the cafe.

It was a lovely day and we will definitely go back next year. I think the same schedule– 10 am on a Thursday after the holiday rush–is probably the way to go, though.

Hereby Resolved

So maybe we’re halfway through February. Resolutions aren’t a one-time thing, they need to be constantly evolving and reaffirmed if they’re going to work even a little. Especially mine, which is a resolution times twelve.

Life has begun to solidify again into something like its new shape–the children adjust and adapt to each other, we all learn to fit four puzzle pieces into the box, I return to writing and reading and we make plans for summers and winters to come. I wouldn’t say we’re “settled”: Nu-nu still wakes multiple times to nurse at night, the kids are not yet sharing a room, we’re both still crapping out with exhaustion at 9:30 each night and LG has yet to watch both babies (awake) for more than an hour or two. But we’re evolving to something like restabilization, feeling like all four of our wagon wheels are firmly on the ground and pulling together.

But pulling…where? That’s the question that feels increasingly imminent. We’re outgrowing our little box. The toys run rampant, the floors squeak under Smudgie’s racing feet as he rushes from one end of his little apartment to the other. We’re constantly fidgeting to make a small space fit more and more, but there’s a limit to how much matter one can cram into a finite space and we’re testing those physical maxims to their breaking point.

Sometimes I think about a house in the suburbs with longing (a basement! a garage! a second bathroom!), which worries me. It’s never a good sign when an inveterate New Yorker begins to ponder if life in New Jersey really wouldn’t be that bad. Other times I feel recommitted to our city existence and the countless, infinite benefits that I know it will bestow. (As I mentioned to Mandski the other day, when she and I were discussing this issue, I’ve never heard a grown-up city kid ruefully wishing their parents had moved them to Princeton instead of New York).

Then when I think about the fact that my job could compel us out of the city I feel sad, like our time here on our urban adventure is coming to a close.

But…what’s the good of sadness over what might or might not be? Instead, I made a resolution to enjoy the time we have here in Brooklyn, whether it’s another two years or another twenty. Every month, I want to do something special and NYC-centric with our kids, to introduce them to new neighborhoods and activities, cultural institutions and events. These don’t have to be grand or expensive, but they do have to be something our of our ordinary routine.

At the bottom of this post, I’ll update with a list of our events and adventures, keeping a wonderful record of our city life so far. I hope this turns out to be as much fun to read as I hope it will be to live!

January: the Holiday Train Show at the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx and the Brooklyn Children’s Museum in Crown Heights (posts forthcoming!)

February: the dinosaurs at the Natural History Museum (planned for next weekend!)

1 + 1 = 1 Billion

Life with two kids is amazing and intense.

On the days when I have them both together, it’s a whirlwind of insanity. And those are the good days. The Smudgie Listening (as much as a 2-year-old every does), Nu-Nu Napping, Weather Not Awful days. Then there are the other days– when Smudgie’s hosting Tantrumpalooza 2014 in our apartment, there’s a blizzard/monsoon outside (blizsoon? sharknado?), and Nu-Nu’s in the middle of a 6-week growth spurt. Those are the days when two kids feels like a lot more than one kid plus another kid.

I’m doing okay, though, I flatter myself. I bundle up my boy and girl and strap the rumble seat to the front of the uppababy (or strap the baby to my chest and pop the big kid in the umbrella stroller), haul them both down two flights of stairs and out the door and then we hit the streets looking for something to do. A new Whole Foods (Brooklyn’s first!) opened nearby? Sure! Nothing like navigating a grocery store with about 70 pounds combined of children and equipment when you don’t even need to go grocery shopping. Nu-Nu slept blissfully against my chest while Smudgie dug into a big plate of hummus upstairs at the cafe, coating it all over the winter coat and hat he refused to shed in the process. A sing-along drum circle around the corner? Located directly next to a brand-new old-fashioned candy store that might as well have a flashing neon sign reading “Smudgie Melt-down Inducer”? Sign us up! I’m sure all the other moms and nannies there won’t mind that I dart after my runaway toddler every three seconds, swiveling to keep from knocking my baby against them, hoping that I when I return my giant diaper bag and wallet and phone will still be there.

Then on the days when Smudgie’s at school, I rarely leave the house until it’s time to pick him up. Partially because it’s really freaking cold out. And partially because I need to conserve my energy for his next day at home. And partially because I’m still working during Nu-Nu’s naps: finishing up some fellowship applications, grading my students’ final papers and tabulating their course grades, reading novels for the next section of my dissertation. Just as when Smudgie was a newborn, I relish the time to use my mind for tasks other than trying to remember which breast I last nursed on or improvising clean-up solutions for poop blowouts when I’m out on the town without enough wipes in my case.

There’s so much else to say: Nu-Nu is almost seven weeks old and is chunky and long and delightful. And also fussy and gassy and sleeping like crap between 3-8 am. We survived out first full-on Smudgie illness, five-day fever and everything, without Nu-Nu getting sick, which felt like a prize-worthy accomplishment all on its own. We’re coming off one of the craziest, busiest, six weeks worth of change and celebration and drama and schedule changes and we are really ready for life to get back to normal.

But I guess I’ll end (for now) by mentioning that even if two children feels like two-times-ten children much of the time, at least I also feel like my joyful moments are two-times-ten more joyful, as well. Watching Smudgie gasp in awe at the empty plate of cookies and empty glass of milk on Christmas morning; holding Nu-Nu while she focused her sweet blue-for-now eyes on the twinkling lights and ornaments, falling asleep in bed at my parents house with my husband beside me and my boy a long sleeping shape in a crib across the room and my girl a softly snorting bundle next to me in the bassinet: if things can only get easier and better and more fun from this point (as prior newborn experience would suggest) I can scarcely imagine how wonderful next Christmas will be or the one after or the one after that.

They give me one billion reasons to smile every day.

Toddler Treats, Newborn Dreams

Nu-Nu is two weeks old now and fast coming up on three! Her birth (and the pregnancy with her) feels like a moment ago and yet it also feels like she has always been a part of our family. We fall more in love with her every day.

Thus far, either she’s a reasonably easy baby or we’re just better used to this whole parenting thing. The sleep deprivation feels much less destabilizing than it did the first time around. She wakes up every 2-3 hours to nurse at night, but since she’s sleeping in our room, it’s easier to grab/feed/change her and get her back down without too much effort. Last night she actually went for a 4-hour stretch between feeds and I felt like I’d just had a full night’s sleep! I don’t think Smudgie did that until he was close to 2 months old.

She’s also taken to the carriers and slings better than Smudgie did, though I’m not sure whether that’s because we’ve started her in them earlier than we did him or because I’m more confident about baby wearing having been through it with my boy already, or just a temperament thing. Whatever the reason, I’ve gotten out with her around the neighborhood in the carriers twice. We’ve been so much more active with her so much earlier–she’s been to four restaurants, a museum, and a family holiday party already! My physical recovery has gone much easier this time, which helps. LG and I also both agreed that taking a newborn to a restaurant feels so easy after the past year of wrestling with a wild, uncooperative toddler in eating establishments, so that doesn’t feel like a barrier the way it did the first time, either.

And the museum– well, it’s been cold and even rainy lately, so we haven’t been taking Smudgie to the park much on the days we were all home. Saturday we knew we had to get him out of the house before he destroyed it, himself, and our relationships with our downstairs and upstairs neighbors. We live a short bus ride away from the MTA Transit Museum in downtown Brooklyn– Smudgie has lately become fascinated with buses and subways, so it seemed like the perfect trip. And it was! Nu-Nu slept peacefully against LG in the ergo for almost the whole time, a lunchtime nursing session excepted. Meanwhile, Smudgie got to ride a bus (“Want to go fast!”) and then “drive” a bus and traipse through subway cars at the museum. He was disappointed that none of the historic cars moved, but had a great time nonetheless.


Smudgie insisted “On the hat, on the jacket” the whole time we were at the museum.

We finished off our day with lunch around the corner at Shake Shack–which Smudgie actually ate for a change!–and then a long wait for the bus back home after we just missed one. Smudgie melted down at that point, but Nu-Nu kept sleeping and we made it back in one piece and put the boy down for a long nap.

That was a great day, and I can’t help dwelling on it a little. Other days have been not as good. Like a lot of toddlers, Smudgie is having a tough time with this adjustment. He’s perfectly fine to his little sister, if a bit stand-offish, but he’s frequently been a beast to LG and me. Hitting if we’re not paying attention to him, whining and begging for treats, pulling power plays over dinner and dressing, refusing to listen to our requests, getting into mischief and grabbing things he knows he’s not allowed to touch. Typical 2-year-old antics,  but amplified thanks to his jealousy and confusion. I try to be very patient and understanding, to ignore the misbehavior or redirect, but it can be hard. And I haven’t even had to handle the two kids on my own yet!

Still, I know this is a phase. In between bearish fits, Smudgie is still my sweet, loving, affectionate and adorable boy. And I know that a few months from now Smudgie may still be a troublesome 2 year old, but he’ll also be better adapted to his new family. Maybe at that point he’ll even be willing to pose in a picture with his sister. Too late for the Christmas card, but that’s just how it goes sometimes.

On Pizza, Pushes, and Pure Surprise: Nu-Nu’s Birth Story

Last Friday, I had my 38-week check-up at my OB’s. I was exactly 38 weeks pregnant.

I had decided the baby was going to come a little early by that point. I figured it would be some time the following week. The night before my appointment I felt some contractions in the middle of the night, from 1-4 or so, but they weren’t strong or regular enough to constitute real labor as I remembered it. Still, they were enough of a warning that I knew I should finish packing my hospital bag and putting the infant car seat back together, which lay disassembled around the apartment after we took it apart to clean it. I told myself I’d finish all that Friday afternoon when I got home from my appointment, while Smudgie was in daycare.

I headed into Manhattan early that morning for a therapy appointment. Turned out, I had the wrong date and my therapist wasn’t there. I was tired and mildly annoyed, cramping a lot and feeling run down. I had 90 minutes to kill before my appointment uptown, so I stopped into a restaurant and ordered myself some lemon ricotta pancakes. Thankfully, given what came later.

When I met LG for my appointment, the OB asked me how I was feeling and whether I was having any contractions. I told him about the night before but emphasized that they hadn’t been a big deal. I discussed with the nurse who weighed me getting another TDap vaccine. I saw a quickie, low-res ultrasound of Nu-Nu’s heartbeat and position. The doctor showed LG where he could feel the head if he put his hands in a certain spot on my pelvis. And then he did an internal exam.

He told me that I was 3.5 cm and 70% effaced and that, given I was contracting the night before, he was sending me to the hospital around the corner to be assessed for labor. In shock, we gathered up our things, received our instructions, and left to walk the five or so blocks to the hospital.

I wasn’t in labor. I kept telling LG that. We didn’t have our bags, my cell phone was completely dead and I didn’t have a charger. It just wasn’t possible for me to be in labor. I wasn’t in any real pain. Everything was going to stall soon, I was sure of it.

But I was wrong. An hour on the monitors in triage took me to 4 cm with increasingly frequent contractions. Another hour and I was still at 4, but the cervix had thinned further. Considering we had to take the subway back to Brooklyn, an hour+ long trip, and then drive back to the Upper East Side if I should go into more rapid labor, *and* that it was now 2 pm and rush hour just a few hours away, the OB on call from my practice (Dr. B, for those who know it) wanted me to be admitted. I worried that labor would stall and I’d be confronted with pitocin, a c-section– a lot of interventions that I didn’t want. But I agreed to be admitted anyway.

By 4 pm, LG and I found ourselves in an L&D room watching TLC’s Four Weddings while I laughed through my contractions and spent the periods of time off the monitors walking the horse-shoe-shaped delivery ward. The contractions were still irregularly timed, as close together as four minutes and as far apart as ten. I doubted I was making much progress at all. But we had the doula on the way, my MIL headed to pick Smudgie up from daycare and spend the night with him at our apartment, and one of my sisters planning to pick up our bags (my mother-in-law would finish packing them per our instructions) and deliver them to us in the hospital. I’d even managed to borrow a phone charger from a nurse. I hadn’t quite wrapped my head around the fact that the baby was coming and soon–not even when I saw them setting up the warming table with its little hat and blanket (I cried, of course). But I accepted that practically speaking, this was turning out for the best. We had people to care for our son and all the things that were left undone could be taken care of later or simply forgotten about. We were having a baby.

At around 6 my OB returned. He suggested breaking my water, since my labor pattern was funky and the contractions weren’t regularizing the way he’d expect in active labor above 4 cm. But I knew that labor increased in pain a lot after the water broke and I preferred to continue as I was, with intermittent monitoring and the freedom to walk around the room and very bearable labor pain that didn’t seem to require more than some quick breathing to get through. After he examined me and found that I’d reached 5.5 cm, he agreed to let me continue as is.

Over the next several hours, my labor gradually intensified, so gradually that I didn’t quite notice at first. I started laughing through my contractions and fantasizing about the cheese pizza I was not permitted to eat (I think I hallucinated a vision of powdery, chewy crust and melty globs of mozzarella) to wincing and even moaning a little. We shut off the tv and I began experimenting with my doula’s birthing ball. I snapped at LG to get off the phone at one point and requested the lights to be turned off.

At around 11 pm, everything changed. The manageable, if strong, pain crossed over into unbearable territory. The contractions were lasting 90 seconds or more, with multiple peaks. I began shivering uncontrollably. Nu-Nu was still kicking the heck out of my ribs and head-butting my cervix, as she’d done for weeks past. My doula and I suspected I was nearing transition, but whether or not I was, I wanted an epidural.

I got the meds in at around 11:30 and was then examined. Eight cm along! I felt proud I’d made it so far and amazed that the labor pains had been so moderate for so long. The entire active laboring period was so much less intense than it was with Smudgie–the contractions were still ranging irregularly between 4-8 minutes apart right up until the end.

After the epidural went in, things progressed rapidly. I rested, shifting position in bed every 20 minutes or so. In about an hour, I began to feel pressure. My doctor examined me again around 1 and found I was 10 cm and at zero station. He decided to have me labor the baby down further with contractions rather than begin pushing right away. The pressure built with every pang. I knew it would be time to push soon.

And it was. The OB returned, suited up and ready to go. My nurse, doula, and LG took their positions around me. They started coaching me and I started pushing. Three pushes later, the OB told me to stop and breathe. I felt unbelievable pressure that I couldn’t imagine easing and then–release. Another little wiggle and I felt the baby slip out and heard the cries.

I peered between my legs and the doctor’s arms as he suctioned and prepared the baby. I thought I saw girl parts but maybe not? “What is it?” I asked, and he answered, “Take a look!” and then held up my spread-eagled daughter and put her on my chest.

I was seriously stunned. “Really? I have a girl? Really?” I turned to LG and asked him if we had a name and when he nodded, we called Nu-Nu by her name for the first time in her life. They weighed her and tended to her and then she was back in my arms and I was nursing her as they stitched me up.

We ordered a pizza into L&D and my husband fed me bites of cheesy deliciousness as I held my daughter in my arms. One of those perfect moments I know I will look back on for the rest of my life with gratitude and awe.

My Girl Nu-Nu

She’s here!

Miss Nu-Nu was born on November 16th at 1:57 am, weighing in at 7 lbs 6 oz, a full pound heavier than her big brother Smudgie was at birth. That probably explains why my routine OB appointment at 38 weeks turned into hospital admission and then birth 14 hours later: as my OB put it, people who are going to have 7-pound babies are going to have 7-pound babies, whenever that needs to happen.

We’re all well and adjusting to life as a family of four. Smudgie is still my sweet and mischievous boy, not quite sure what to make of this sudden sister but tolerating her arrival well, regardless. He’s learned her name and has learned to thank her for the amazing new fire truck she gave him. “I love it” he told me this morning as he carried around the apartment before breakfast. Not quite “I love her” but close enough for now.

Birth story to come, maybe even later today if I feel up for it. I’m still taking care of all the “nesting” tasks that didn’t get done during these two weeks that were supposed to be my pre-baby prep time. It’s all okay, though. I wouldn’t trade a moment of my little girl’s story for another day or week.

And here she is in the hospital, sporting the first of many hats that will no doubt become her signature look:


Spooky Stories and Holiday Plans

Thank you to everyone who helped encourage me after my last post. I hit kind of a breaking point that week and had a mini-meltdown to LG, my therapist, and my mom, who volunteered to come up here to Brooklyn and help me tackle some baby prep. So while we still have a lot to do, the newborn clothes are at least sorted/cleaned/put in drawers and we have the co-sleeper in our room and the infant car seat is in the trunk of the car. One of these days we’ll install it, I’m sure.

The dissertation progresses slowly. The teaching still takes up a lot of time. At 36+ weeks I’m physically coming up empty a lot of the time–heavy, tired, dealing with a lot of pelvic pain. But I also decided to stop working after 38 weeks, so I have a little rest–maybe a few weeks, maybe a few days–to anticipate. And I am looking forward to it indeed.

And my Smudgie remains such a little star. At 25 months, he is a chatting, laughing, lovable little boy. He adores helping: “[Smudgie], can you get me your shoes?” I ask and he responds with the cutest little chirping “Oka-yeee!” Lately he’s been coming up to me when I’m sitting on the couch or a chair and saying, “Hi Mommy! Hi Mommy!” and snuggling up against me. It melts my heart every time.

I’ve held a few newborns recently. God, they’re small, aren’t they? And sweet sleepy little bundles. I am still nervous about how I will manage with two, and increasingly nervous about the birth, which I don’t feel like I’ve had time to prepare for emotionally. But I am so looking forward to lying (on my back!) on the couch with a resting little nugget on my chest. As much as I want to finish all my projects first, to make it full term at 39 weeks, to have another easy birth, I know it will be okay if any of those things doesn’t happen as planned.

* * *

In other news, Smudgie had a splendid Halloween in our neighborhood. He did a little trick or treating at local stores and houses, saw a “haunted house” that a set designer who lives down the block builds every year in his brownstone’s front lot–this year’s theme was a skeleton pirate ship–and even got to watch the delightful Park Slope Halloween parade from atop LG’s shoulders. He was the most adorable Kermit the Frog as you can plainly see:


* * *

This post has taken me a few days to write. During the process, I’ve had more “Things Can Never Be Simple, Can They?” news: LG’s step-father has had a surgery scheduled for just a few days before Nu-nu’s due date, which means my mother-in-law can no longer watch Smudgie if I go into labor around then. And the sister who live in my neighborhood and was the night-time stand-by for labor is starting a new job that week, too, and might have to go to Sweden for work. I’ve got an e-mail chain of about seven people on-line to watch him at various times of the day or night, but this older kid stuff is really complicated. I remember when our biggest worry was making sure our dog would get walked while we were in the hospital. Now I’m concerned we’ll be bringing my toddler to the hospital, where LG will have to sit with him in the waiting room while I labor alone with the doula.

But at 37 weeks I’m at least feel prepared in my unpreparedness. I guess we’ll figure it out somehow and then the baby will be here and I’ll get to meet this little guy or girl (I’m thinking guy lately) and we’ll just sort it out.

Under Pressure

This is supposed to be a happy time. We are plus/minus 7 weeks away from welcoming the much-wanted, unexpected gift of another baby into our lives. I know exactly how lucky we are to be in this position– I’ve lived the reverse and it was truly the saddest, most challenging few years of my life. I know how fortunate we are to have had this baby come the “easy” way.

But lately, I’ve been sad. Overwhelmed. Anxious. Floundering.

I know I had good reasons for everything I planned for this semester– celebrations to give us happy memories (that I must plan from start to finish basically on my own), weekly meal plans to save us money (that I must coordinate and keep track of), teaching on top of my non-teaching fellowship position in order to prepare for future job prospects and bring in some extra money (and that also sucks up all the time I thought I could devote to my dissertation).

I don’t have weekends, thanks to my Sunday a.m. class. I lose an entire week monthly thanks to unexpected fellowship obligations on campus. I’m writing this post at 4:30 in the morning because I can’t sleep because I’m thinking about everything still to do: the assignment I need to write for the next batch of essays I need to grade; the student e-mails I haven’t answered yet; the clothes that need to be resorted in order to bring the bassinet in that I still haven’t even picked up from the friend who’s lending it to us; the car seats that need to be installed; the calls to insurance I need to make; the dental appointment I need to drag Smudgie into Manhattan for during rush hour; the giant dresser that needs to somehow make it down two flights of stairs to the person who’s buying it from us (and the husband who is basically sh*ting a brick over this); the thank-you notes to write from Smudgie’s birthday party; the meeting with my dissertation committee next week; the OB appointments; the freelance article I owe; the funding applications for next year; the freezer meals to make.

The freaking dissertation that’s not getting written.

Other women manage more than this, but I somehow can’t. I looked at them and I thought I could. But now as I survey the weeks of teaching and work left (the last teaching day I’ve left myself is 5 days before my due date; the last day at my fellowship is 3 days prior– and I gave birth to Smudgie three days before his due date) the fact that I don’t get a break, not at all, not one week to nest and prepare and think about this baby and the change coming weighs on me.

People ask when I’m due and when I tell them, well, first they look pointedly surprised because I’m freaking huge this time (subject for another post, sigh) and then they say, “Oh, you must be so ready for it to be over.”

No! I’m not ready! No! I don’t want the baby to come early! Stop suggesting it might because of how “big” I am!

I want to be able to just breathe and live and be happy and snuggle my little boy and prepare for this new baby. I know the person who is calm and joyful about all this is inside me, but I can’t get to her. My therapist thinks I should stop teaching sooner, but I just don’t see how that’s possible. I’m already going to miss the last two weeks of the semester once the baby arrives.

It’ll be okay. This has just been a rough week and maybe writing it all down will help me see how petty and stupid it is to be bogged down in all this minutiae. I got so used to thinking of myself as a competent, kick-ass sort of person the last two years, the kind of person who could take care of a baby, write dissertation chapters, train for a half-marathon, and bake crumbles with farm-fresh produce all in the same weekend. And now I don’t think I’m the kind of person who can brush my teeth and comb my hair at the same time. But maybe I’ll feel that way about myself again. Maybe.

Eh, enough time spent whining. I should probably get some work done since it’s 5:30 a.m. now and I wouldn’t want to waste any of this valuable alone time I’ve got.

And don’t worry Nu-nu– I know how much I love you. I know that when I get to hold you in my arms it will all be worth it. It’s just going to be a tough few weeks until we get to that point together.

House Tour (Part 1: Rationalizations)

So back to our 900 square foot apartment, which sounds I know like an unlivable box to most people. I’ve found a strange inverse relationship between space and the people in the space in the five years since we moved here–the more people we add, the more conscious I become about spatial arrangement, organization, and cleanliness and the bigger and more pleasant the apartment feels to me. It probably seemed the smallest the morning after we moved in, when LG went to work and I crawled out of bed to survey a living room full of unpacked boxes and I started crying and wanted to go back to the giant living room of our Upper East Side one-bedroom. And then I started unpacking.

Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about how to manage life better in smaller confines. For instance, we used to use Smudgie’s room as an office/guest room/all purpose holding area for a lot of crap. Before he was born, we downsized our giant wooden desk that took up half that room to a tiny cabinet unit and we got rid of the spare bed and either donated, sold, or found new storage spaces in the apartment for the rest of the detritus that we were keeping in there. The result: a much more spacious feeling room! We did the same thing in the living space, swapping out an oversized chair for a smaller one and clunky end tables we happened to have lying around for carefully chosen, multi-functional ones.

During Smudgie’s little baby days, we had to tolerate a certain amount of obtrusive baby crap in our living area, like the swing and later the exersaucer. But now that we’re free of those, we seriously limit the number of toys he has. Everything he plays with fits in here:


and here:

Bella and toys

When we pick up the clutter at the end of the night and stick it the designated bins or chests, it really feels like an adult space, not a playroom that we’re begrudgingly allowed to enter to watch some tv. And we also almost never buy him new toys. Birthday/Christmas-time/Easter. Once in a very long while we’ll get him something small at a store. And his grandmothers tend to bring him things. But they know by now not to buy anything too big to fit in the bins…or it finds its way back to live at grandma’s house*.

The thing is, he really doesn’t need more toys. He reads books constantly and dances to the music on his iPod. He plays with brooms and pots and pans in the kitchen and helps with laundry and the dishwasher. We live one block away from an amazing playground and down the hill from an incredible park with a small zoo and we’ve got interesting things to look at and see every time we go outside. So we spend a lot of time outdoors, especially when he’s getting into monkey-climbing mode. While I sometimes feel guilty that he doesn’t have as much space as other kids do, no backyard to run around in or sandbox or water table of his own, I also recognize that he has a lot things other kids don’t have, too. So it works out okay.

That said, things will get tight when the new baby comes, I know that. We are a little nervous about making it all work with Smudgie getting bigger and soon expressing desires for specific toys and the baby needing so many accoutrements. But we’re not moving yet for a number of reasons. Which are!

-School/job. I estimate with baby complications I have 2-3 years before I finish my dissertation. And then I need to get a job. I’d love to continue to work in the city, but I might not get a job here, in which case we’d have to move near the suburb where I do get a job. The thought of potentially moving twice in quick succession seems needlessly troublesome, especially when LG has an amazing 20-minute door-to-door commute via public transportation right now.

– We own our apartment. If we rented, we’d for sure be looking for something new. But the rental market in Brooklyn is insane. And thanks to refinancing a few times, we now pay less in mortgage+monthly maintenance than we would in rent for a similar place, if we could even find one. As far as buying another place goes, forget it. The market is so hot right now, we’d make a killing selling our place. But we’d then have to blow it all on another probably over-valued apartment that we only planned to live in for a few years. Doesn’t make sense.

– Our neighborhood. We love where we live. We love the streets and the people and the parks and the restaurants and the amazing family-friendly activities going on all the time. We’re in a good elementary school zone. I don’t want to move out to the suburbs, rent some place for a few years, struggle to make friends and feel connected while writing a dissertation and raising babies and then have to do it all over again when it’s potentially time to move once more.

So those are our reasons for continuing to live in a place the size of a rabbit hutch that costs us a frightening amount per month. We’re willing to reevaluate after a year of living her as a family of four. Maybe by that point we’ll be ready to move on, whatever the inconveniences.

But in the meantime, we’ll be revamping our bedroom for baby-sharing purposes. Stay tuned for the exciting second part of the series!

* (We are considering getting a kitchen set that will live in his room for Smudgie‘s birthday. I’m on the hunt for a small wooden set, so if anyone has ideas, let me know. Refrigerator not necessary).

[Edit: Sorry about the pictures! There was no technical malfunction. I pre-wrote this post and scheduled it to update on a certain day and then forgot to add the pictures in time. They’re there now. And you got a bonus Bella shot out of the deal!]