Tuesday, November 30, 2010

give me give you

The other day I came home and told Justin that a new mom we knew got an iPad for a push present.

"A what?" he said.

"A push present. You know, because she gave birth."

You know, because after spending almost ten months of her life growing another human being (which might entail not sleeping despite insane exhaustion, throwing up at the whiff of a french fry, and watching stretch marks map her belly) - after all of that, she then has to push that human being into this world.

And some celebrity dads thought that deserved a bonus, and then regular dads picked up on the idea.

"So where is my push present?" I said.

Justin stared at me. Finally, he said, "You got a baby."

Indeed. Two.

We are a couple who fails at gifts. I bought Justin a French press to celebrate a Friday morning, and that was at least a year ago. I cannot remember what I bought him for Christmas (if anything) last year, and I usually mark his birthday with a sweet letter but no surprise. The last gift gift - like, it was purchased to celebrate an occasion and was actually purchased before the arrival date of that occasion - the last gift I remember Justin giving me was a hand held Kitchen Aid mixer that I picked out for Christmas and begged to open early because I had dozens of cookies to bake. That was six years ago.

But I want gifts. We decided to "do birthday gifts" and I assumed that because we decided this before my birthday, I'd get a gift. Surprise me! Instead, I spent my birthday half-waiting but fully knowing that there was no surprise. Still, at the end of the day, I asked. Justin apologized. I pretended it was okay.

The next day he brought home a few groceries and handed me a plastic bag. "This is for you," he said. Inside were a bag of parmesan Goldfish crackers, a box of golden raisens, and a small tube of M&M Minis.

"Happy birthday?" I said.


Which means I'd better think of a good gift for his birthday or we'll continue this sad, sorry cycle of lousy post-birthday gifts.

We aren't alone. I know other couples who skip out on gifts. And we aren't lacking for things we just want. Last year in India I bought some beautiful silver bangles and a pair of green amber earrings. Anytime Justin goes through an airport, he stocks up on books. We buy things for ourselves, but don't often buy things for each other. A friend of mine mentioned the effort it takes to get a gift: just a little bit of sneaking around to get the gift, the secrecy of hiding it. It is easier to just slap a gift card or cash into an envelope, or to say "Honey, why don't you pick something up for yourself in Jordan?"

But I want the fun of that effort. Christmas is coming.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

the glamour of it all

Sometimes I think that would be interesting to post to my blog. An entire post devoted to Kuwait highway signs that read "Speed = Death" and "Be Aware of Drugs" among others. Or the latest Claire anecdote. Or my mamaland musings. Maybe a link to some recipes I've been trying or a list of the books I've been reading.

But then life happens. You can count on this post being short and random. It's bedtime for one thing. I've just bathed Grant and he's sitting next to me sucking his fists. I don't want him to fall asleep before I nurse him and put him to bed. Claire is finishing up her bath. She loves all things bath, except getting her hair rinsed. We've yet to convince her that looking up really works.

It isn't a sudden realization and it isn't a new one to me, but life is mundane and fast. I want mine to count. I want mine to be one of joy and peace.

I've been learning to listen instead of just firing my requests in prayer. I want this and this and this. Quiet, I tell myself. Be still. Learning to be still is agonizing. I am much better at listing everything that God needs to do by tomorrow and then wrapping it up with a quick thank you for all He already has done. I don't always give Him much time to talk. So I'm trying to learn to empty my mind of me so that I can really meditate on things above. I hope He honors the fact that I am actually trying very hard to be still.

This is not spiritual or insightful at all, but: I'd like to fit into my skinny jeans again one day. My body has changed with both pregnancies and breastfeeding. I have a greater respect for my body and treat it much, much better than I did even five years ago. But I'd still like to fit my pants from five years ago. Vanity. I'll let you know if it happens. Or if I just throw out the skinny jeans.

Well, now Claire is on the toilet. And Grant has given up on getting milk from his fist, and I have a haphazard blog post. All done.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

what he does do: a lot

So the last post was about one thing Justin doesn't do: wake up at night. He has stepped in a couple of times since Grant's birth to change a midnight diaper or see to firstborn if I was busy nursing in the night. And a couple of times when Grant was inconsolable, Justin got up to calm him and let me take a break. But yeah, night is mostly my job.

Oh well.

If it were all my job, then we would have a problem. Instead, Justin is very "on" when he arrives home from work. That impresses me. I get to four in the afternoon, five o'clock and I want to be done. He gets home and knows he has a wife waiting to be done, and he steps in to take Claire for a walk, or out to play, or holds Grant while I get dinner together.

Someday the kids' bedtime will really feel like our downtime. Right now, Claire is in bed at seven but Grant is usually still getting his last evening meal and neither Justin nor I are always able or willing to put our stray coherent thoughts into words. Sometimes we park in front of the latest episode of The Office and eat Baskin Robbins ice cream out of the tub. Or we just read. On our more let's-be-couple-ish nights, we play gin rummy or Sequence.

Then we pass out. Around eight-thirty. Yeah, eight-thirty.

So it's a tired time for us both. I keep thinking a five and three year old will surely be less exhausting. But what energy I might gain in nighttime sleep, I'm sure will be burned chasing them. And I doubt I'll mind too much. Most days.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

A: pretty much all. the. time.

Q: What is, "When is Sarah tired?"

Claire was sleeping through the night by six or seven weeks. She still woke up at four-thirty or five in the morning, but I could count on a nice seven hour stretch. Grant is not sleeping through the night. He might wake up once or three times. I cluster feed him in the evening, hoping he'll be stuffed enough to give me a good night's rest. The longest chunk of sleep I've had since he was born is five hours - and even then I woke up once to make sure he was still breathing.

I know he is only two months old.

But I am still tired.

In the morning, Justin might ask if Grant woke. In my weaker moments, I've fantasized blowing an air horn each time Grant wakes.

With Claire, and now again with Grant, I've excused Justin's sleeping while I fumble to get the baby to my breast. I've said, "Well, he has to get up and go to work." But a few weeks ago, a friend told me that she and her husband took turns with the night feedings too, even though she is also a stay at home mom. "I mean, I have to get up too," she explained. Since then, in my tired-er moments, I consider this: I have to get up in the morning too.

And while I'm not teaching algebra or grading quizzes or keeping teenage boys from sneaking into the bathroom for a cigarette, I am teaching a two year old to stay in her bedroom until the more reasonable hour of seven (instead of wandering out at five o'clock asking for juice), and I am feeding an infant every two to three hours, and I am preparing lunch and dinner (not always very involved or creative, but we are eating, aren't we?), and I am doing all of this on interrupted sleep.

Love isn't about keeping score though, contrary to the short list I just started above. I don't want to trade my days with Justin - although I miss lunch break with colleagues and mid-morning coffee orders. I just want to sleep. I want to start my days rested. But none of that makes me special as a mom of two. I still remember our friend Phil - after congratulating us on our first pregnancy with Claire - adding that our sleep would never be the same. And I look at my nervous, just pregnant self half-laughing at Phil's quiet comment and want to tell her: No, really, it will never be the same.