Monday, May 26, 2014

Six years!

Yesterday marked the 6th anniversary of the day The Barbarian and I got married in a super casual ceremony officiated by his aunt, Auntis, in my parents' backyard. Our goal was for everyone to have a good time, and according to most everyone, we totally rocked it. My dad still mentions how many people approached him that day to comment on how it was the most enjoyable wedding they had ever attended. Not too shabby, right?

I still wonder how many of them were truly wondering how long it would last, however. The marriage, that is, not the wedding. The wedding, especially the ceremony, which I wrote, was famously short. My boss at the time commented on how the ceremony was generally longer than the kiss, but he liked how ours was the opposite. Heh. Not quite, but long, drawn out ceremonies are definitely not our thing, so keeping it short and sweet was of utmost importance. To set the mood, we, to my everlasting pleasure, managed to keep secret the opening of the ceremony, which Auntis pulled off perfectly. It went like this:

Mawage. Mawage is wot bwings us togeder tooday. 

If you don't get the reference, all I can say is that I am very, very sad for you. And you need to watch The Princess Bride right now. DO IT.

That movie has been a favourite of mine for forever, and it's one of The Barbarian's family's super special movies, so it seemed very appropriate. And totally our style. She said that first word, nearly everyone erupted in laughter, and I knew our wedding was a smashing success, no matter what else occurred. And it was.

But back to the part where everyone was all, "Ummmmmm... Hmmmmmmmmmmm..." about us getting married. Really, I can't blame them. From the outside, we seemed like the most bizarre match and we had had the craziest courtship and beginning to our relationship. And we admittedly decided to get married pretty damn early on. But when you know without any inkling of doubt you've found your life partner, why wait?

The Barbarian LOVES to tell our story. Like, he tells it any chance he gets. And being that he's constantly meeting new people, he tells it A LOT. Dude cracks me up. I, however, don't get many opportunities to tell it, so, in honour of our 6th anniversary, because that's clearly a totally special and celebratory number in this our version of reality today, I will give you a (probably not really very) brief account of how we met and fell in love.

SO. When we met, I was living thousands of miles away in Montreal with my ex, who I had been with for nine years. Ours had always been a troubled relationship and the relative stress of living in a foreign city was taking its toll. He was much older than me, was not interested in marriage or having children, was working while I was going to school, and we were essentially living parallel lives at that point.

We had moved in February and that following December, I flew home after my semester was done to visit family and friends for the holidays. It was during this first visit home to California that I met The Barbarian. I had heard a bit about him here and there from my family, as apparently he was my younger brother's new friend and coworker, about whom my brother had only the most praiseworthy things to say. I think it's only fair to admit that my brother fell in love with The Barbarian first. They had entered into a deeply devoted bromance, but my family had yet to meet him. He was a bit of a mystery, then, and from my brother's accounts, cooler than anyone had a right to be, so the prevailing theory at that point was that he didn't, in fact, even exist.

Once I was back home and hanging out much of the time with my brother, Uncle Duder (after all those years of mutual hate, we had only just realized we actually really liked each other right before I moved to Montreal, which was like totally shitty timing), I was regaled with tales of the man I was to eventually call my husband. I was forced to admit that he--if he did indeed exist--sounded pretty damn awesome, but in a somewhat douchey way to my, shall we say, more conservative younger self. He was basically your typical early 20's party guy, and that was so totally not my scene. And, of course, my brother had to impress upon me the fact that ALL the girls liked The Barbarian. And, of course, I was all WHATever. He can't be THAT cute and charming.

Well, as I've stated before, it really is quite a rare occurrence, but occasionally I am wrong. And I was, in fact, terribly wrong in that assumption. My first hint of wrongness was when my brother showed me a picture of him on his phone and I was all, huh. That's him? ...huh. Then I actually met him in person, and...well...shit. My wrongness was glaringly apparent.

My brother and The Barbarian, to further solidify their bromance, were moving in together and had even made their first purchase together--a very large, bromance-worthy, flatscreen TV. My brother had invited me to come with him in my dad's truck to pick it up from the store, where my brother happened to work, so a small crowd of friends and coworkers had gathered around the truck, as it was late and the store was closing. All of a sudden, this car whips around the parking lot, pulls up behind my dad's truck, and this tall, dreaded, extremely handsome guy wearing a Santa hat of all things hops out to the excited greetings of the crowd. The Barbarian had up until recently worked at that same store--how he and my brother met--and, ever popular as he is, everyone was happy to see him. I was also happy to see him because, ummmmm, yeah. Dude's SMOKING hot. Like, seriously.  

So I'm standing by the passenger side door watching him chat with his former coworkers (mostly because I couldn't take my eyes off him) when he eventually noticed me and literally came leaping over the truck bed in his eagerness to introduce himself, having apparently deduced who I was. That's when I realized he wasn't just criminally attractive--he was polite, charming, and well-spoken, too.


After we got the TV securely loaded, The Barbarian decided he would follow us back to my parents' house so they could set it up and ooh and ahh over it a bit. We mentioned we were stopping at the store for snacks, as we had a late night of movie-watching ahead of us, so he followed us there first, and that's when we realized someone needed to stay with the truck. I offered to run in and get the snacks while they stayed outside, and wouldn't you know it, but The Barbarian decided he really had to pee all of a sudden and said he'd come in, too--even though we were only a few minutes from my parents' house and I would be right back. And even though in that situation, I later came to know well, he would normally just find a bush.

Uh-huh. Sure he had to pee.

So we went inside, him to "pee," me to scrounge up some munchies, and he met me a couple of minutes later at the checkout. We were at the local grocery store known for its rewards card, but as I was not frequenting it anymore, I didn't have my handy-dandy rewards card in my wallet. But he, ever helpful, quickly produced his and handed it to the checker. At this point in time, the checkers were required to look at your receipt while handing it back in order to ascertain your last name so they could politely say, "Thank you, Mrs. So-and-So." Well, the name on the card was not, of course, my own, so I received a, "Thank you, Mrs. The Barbarian" instead. This made his face light up like little else I've seen since, and he proceeded to skip alongside me to the door singing, "Thank you, Mrs. The Barbarian..." in the most adorably obnoxious teasing manner.

My thought in that moment?


We saw each other a few more times while I was there, and it was pretty obvious there was a connection between us, but eventually I went back to Montreal and that was seemingly that. However, I found myself thinking about him A LOT over the next few months, and became more and more excited as my spring semester came to a close and my next trip home quickly approached. I flew back home in mid-April, and suffice it to say, we began looking for more and more ways to spend time together--in a strictly platonic manner, of course. But things were happening, man. The more I got to know him, the more I liked him, and the more I realized the party guy persona was just that, a persona. He was wicked smart and super witty and studying history, my major as well. We talked for hours and hours on end, of religion and politics and history and education and foreign policy... You know, the euge. We were hitting if off so well, in fact, that I ended up extending my trip by a week, and it was in that last week, on one specific night actually, that I'm pretty sure we fell madly in love. And this was still all strictly platonic. I am basically monogamous to a fault. But keeping it that way was definitely one of the most challenging things we've ever undertaken. DUDE.

The next day was the last time we would see each other before I flew back to Montreal, and that goodbye involved lots of tears and one tiny, brief peck of a kiss before I left him fairly broken on his front step and headed back to my parents'. I then made the most important decision of my life the next day on the way to the airport--I decided I was coming back to be with him and texted to tell him so. I arrived in Montreal, broke up with my ex that very night, and exactly two weeks later was in a U-Haul with my dog and my belongings, beginning the long drive home with the help and support of my best friend from high school, who flew out from California just to hop in that U-Haul and drive all the way back. I mean, who does that anyway? Madame LeStrange does. That's who.

I arrived back home, basically straight to his doorstep, on the 25th of May, 2007. We were together from that point on, officially got engaged that fall, and were married exactly one year later on the 25th of May, 2008.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is our story. Or, the beginning of our story, I suppose. We have all sorts of crazy stories to tell actually. Seriously. But those are for another time.

Happy Anniversary, my handsome barbarian. May our beer be ever flowing and may our dear progeny be ever covered in dirt among the beloved dogs.

I wouldn't trade our life together for anything.

Not even a lifetime supply of Haagen-Dazs.

And that's saying something.       


Monday, May 19, 2014

Toddler assertiveness

Otherwise known as "tantrums," I believe.

And I think we experienced our very first one a few days ago. It was basically not very awesome, which is not really very surprising. But in the end, it was a good lesson in how (not?) to set toddlers, and children in general, up for failure.

Children in general, but toddlers especially, thrive on routine, in an environment where they know what to expect and when to expect it. This is a bit of a challenge for The Barbarian and me because we are not creatures of routine and habit. We sort of just do whatever, whenever it suits us. And while many would argue that babies also need rituals and routines they can recognize and feel secure in, I find they're much more go with the flow than toddlers. But once children reach the age where they are truly exploring who they are and where they fit in their world, and most importantly, how they can affect that world and the people who populate it, the need for a recognizable day to day existence becomes very important. At this stage, then, it's all about preempting meltdowns and tantrums, as that's exactly what said routine helps mitigate. Making sure they eat, drink, and sleep regularly, and making sure they know what to expect--and what's expected of them-- and are given the chance to transition from one thing to the next in a manner and time-frame that's agreeable to them (within reason) is key. Because of the importance of this, we've really been making an effort to create a more constant, predictable environment for them where and when we can.

One area in which I really feel my children in particular benefit from regularity is naptime. Now that we've gone back to someone lying down with them for nap, it's easier to schedule it and know about when they'll actually sleep (instead of crossing our fingers and waiting...and waiting...and waiting). But some days, like tantrum day last week, I am overwhelmed with a house that quite literally looked like a toy, laundry, and dishes-filled bomb went off, and was struggling with the exhaustion and general stress that comes after a few days solo with the children. So I made the decision to drive the wee folk to my mama's just so I could come home, clean my ass off like a madwoman for a bit, and then drive back and pick them up to bring them home for nap. At the time, it seemed totally worth it. They got to have a fun outing to Nana Banana's and I got to indulge myself in the glory that is cleaning the house without the ever-present "help" of tiny humans. Definite win, right?

Well, not really when the drive home is during the start of nap and one tiny human falls asleep on the way and then both refuse to actually nap once home. I could have just let it go, but a no-nap day is generally not a great day, and The Barbarian was due home that night, a bit later than their typical bedtime of late, but we had talked about pushing bedtime later anyway to see if we couldn't convince King Toad Agooga to sleep in a bit. If they didn't nap at all, they'd be down long before he got home, but if they got a late nap, they would still be up when he got home and that was an exciting prospect (it's exciting when The Barbarian gets home, people!). Later that afternoon, I decided to try again and they slept for two hours solid, meaning they really needed that nap. However, this put them waking up close to dinner time, and they were confused and still a bit sleepy, and that's when all hell broke loose.

All things considered, I don't truly miss nursing. I mean, I do, yes, of course. But I don't, no, not at all. Except, that is, when I suddenly find myself with two wholly inconsolable toddlers. And when I say "wholly inconsolable," I mean that in every sense of the phrase. Nothing I offered was anywhere near the realm of what they wanted. They didn't want to eat, they didn't want water, they didn't want a show, they didn't want to go outside, they didn't want a tubby, they didn't want to be picked up, they didn't want to be put down. Apparently they just wanted to scream and sob and not be made to feel better. And it got old pretty fast. I often have a wealth of patience for my children. Sometimes, I most definitely do not. This was one of those times. So not knowing how else to help them, I just let them cry. Occasionally that's all you can do. It sucks and it's hard, but after letting them know a dozen times I was there for them when they were ready, there wasn't much else to do. 

I had dragged the glider out from the bedroom to the main room during the initial phase of trying to find something to soothe them, and eventually, after nearly half an hour, The Goblin Queen allowed me to rock her until she stopped crying. She also ate a few bites of a snack, which I think especially helped, as I have a suspicion low blood sugar was at play. The Barbarian was extremely sensitive to low blood sugar as a child and I think these two are as well, making this drama even more my fault, as I hadn't made sure they had a protein-heavy snack before their nap. The freakout begins to make more sense, no? 

During this time, King Toad Agooga was standing in the corner of the kitchen screaming. He was really, really, really pissed off. Occasionally he would come into the main room to scream at me, but if I tried to touch him or talk to him, he would flail and throw himself on the floor and then run back to his corner. Once or twice he let me pick him up, but when I then also tried to pick TGQ back up, he would lose it and kick and shove her and fling himself around until I had to put him back down. Finally I was able to soothe TGQ to the point where I was able to put her down without her crying again, and only then was I able to pick KTA up and hold him one-on-one until he calmed down. That was about an hour after the whole affair had begun. And once I was able to get a real meal into them, all was right with their world again, as if the entire terribly disruptive episode had never even occurred. Toddlers, man. They are nothing if not resilient. 

Sometime later that evening, I was reflecting on the fact that even though they both started out equally upset, TGQ was mostly sad and wanted to be comforted, but just didn't know how to allow herself to be, or what form she wanted that comfort to take. KTA, however, was angry. Very, very angry. And that's why his behaviour seemed more like a typical tantrum to me. And that made me realize that perhaps this is something we need to be extra careful of in our efforts at preempting, as I think he may be a bit more prone to them.

Why do I think that? Well, there is this man, you see. His name is Uncle Duder. He is my brother. My little brother. And once upon a time, he tantrummed. Hard. Definitely expert level. And KTA is like my brother reincarnated in so, so many ways. He has his eyes, his hairline, his butt chin (everyone calls it that, right?), his body type, his propensity to "point and grunt," as my father terms it, instead of talk when he clearly has the intelligence and ability to talk if he chose to, his love of anything with wheels, his "mouth noises," his sweetness... The list goes on. Some of these traits were also shared by The Barbarian when he was a boy, and KTA is very much his father's little barbarian. But there is no denying the many common traits he shares with my brother, and this inkling into possible future tantrum behaviour may yet result in another to add to the list. 

As an aside, one day I will go into some detail about my relationship with my brother. We are the very best of friends now, and, in fact, I married his best friend, so you can imagine the closeness. But once upon a time, we hated each other. With a vengeance. Like, for reals. The complete turnaround for us is nothing short of amazing. Siblings, man. Craziness abounds, I tell you. 

Anyway. Toddler assertiveness. It can be the dickens. But I will end with something that helps me in those moments, when I remember to allow it, of course. It's one the absolute best quotes I have ever heard in regards to those stressful moments of parenting:

My child is not giving me a hard time--my child is having a hard time. 

Working from a place with that perspective in mind can make all the difference in the world, especially with toddlers. 

So here's to regularly scheduled naps and snacks. And happy toddlers.


Saturday, May 17, 2014

This crazy train chugs on

Well, it seems getting back on the wagon that is blogging will take some serious effort and determination at this point. I really thought we had successfully created an environment wherein the mama got lots more time to herself, but turns out, no one but the mama (and the daddy, of course, ever supportive as he is) was quite ready for that.

To recap the past month or so...

We eventually got to a point where not nursing to sleep became a fairly acceptable arrangement to the wee folk, and shortly after, we decided to take it to the next level of weaning them off needing someone to lie down with them as well. It just felt like time. And we decided that we were okay with some crying to get them there, which is not our normal MO. But being that they are older now and can at least grasp the concepts we explain to them, we figured it wouldn't be a huge deal or take very long before they got it. 

Well, it's certainly a rare occurrence, but we were wrong. So very wrong. It was basically a disaster. King Toad Agooga took it the worst. He would rarely, if ever, go down without an hour or more of sobbing at the door, running back to the bed in relief when we'd come to check in every few minutes, only to climb down and start up again when we'd say goodnight yet again and leave. It was tragically sad. The Goblin Queen did actually get used to the idea pretty quickly and would normally go right to sleep without a fuss--that is, when KTA wasn't keeping her awake sobbing, during which she could sometimes be heard saying, "Bubba... Bubba... SHHHH!!!" Thankfully, The Barbarian caught that audio one night with his phone. It's pretty much the cutest thing EVER.

So we tried various arrangements, especially at naptime, which was worse than bedtime for KTA. We even set up the other toddler bed in the playroom and tried separating them. But for the most part, he basically stopped napping and she was getting maybe an hour. Compared to their previous 3-4 hours, this was a huge difference. 

Then something happened. I woke up bloated and uncomfortable one morning. I tried to ignore it, but by midday, I knew my stupid fucking diverticulitis (if that's even what it turns out it was--more on that at some point) was rearing its totally obnoxious head again. I took my mama's advice of going on an extremely low fiber, mostly liquid diet to see if I could calm it down, but three days later, I was still not well and all of a sudden, the telltale lower left quadrant pain began. 


They didn't run labs this time, but assumed it was the same thing and so, therefore, prescribed antibiotics. Again. So I had to emergency wean my children. AGAIN. Like, seriously? Is this a fucking joke? It's been two weeks now and I really haven't even allowed myself to think of it much or come to terms with it at all. I'm not letting myself feel the feels I need to in order to process this because I just can't handle it right now. Because I would be sobbing a dozen times a day when my poor girl either asks to nurse or, more frequently, pulls my shirt down just enough to expose the tops of my breasts, lays her little head against them, closes her eyes, and inhales deeply, over and over. 

Dammit. Tears. Enough. I'm done. 

Anyway. During all of this, we also decided to start them at a little toddler playgroup that meets down the street at the local church twice a week for a few hours. It's sort of like pre-preschool and is small, casual, and headed by two women who have been there since their own grown children attended and clearly enjoy what they do. KTA took to it like he'd been there for years--literally the teachers' words. But TGQ was not okay with me leaving her there AT ALL. They would literally have to wrench her out of my arms as she scrabbled to hold on for dear life and SCREAMED. But I knew in the end that this was a great experience for them, that I really needed the downtime, and she would totally get used to it soon. 

It took me until last week, on my birthday, in fact, when I couldn't bring myself to do that to her on my special day, even though it fell on a day they were scheduled to go, to really stop and realize my kids were not okay. KTA, and, therefore, everyone, had started waking up at 5am most mornings, a huge departure from his more normal 7-7:30 wakeup time of days seemingly long past. If we make it till 6am now, that's considered a good morning. So their 10-11 hours at night and 3-4 hours during the day had turned into 8-9 hours overnight and 1-2 during the day if we were very, very lucky. They were clingy, especially with me, and were sad and fussy and unhappy much more so than usual. They were also demanding shows much more than normal, as they tend to do when they don't feel well. They had circles under their eyes. They were not okay. 

Then I stopped and thought about it and realized we had completely turned their world upside down in a very short amount of time. They are still getting used to The Barbarian being gone for extended periods on a very regular basis (we all are...), they had only just gotten used to falling asleep without nursing when they were forced to wean completely (cold turkey) a second time, then all of a sudden we weren't even lying down and cuddling them to sleep, and they were left with strangers in a strange environment twice a week. And all at once, my heart broke and I saw just how hard and impossible all these changes were for them. They were suffering in a very real way and I felt HORRIBLE. How did we not realize this was way too much, way too fast? What the fuck were we doing? I felt so selfish and out of touch with my children, like I had completely betrayed them. They had been trying to tell us they were not okay and we hadn't been listening. We had just been powering through, thinking it was hard now, but that this was all good for everyone in the long run. But at what cost? Our happy, healthy children? Nothing is worth that. NOTHING. 

So I tearfully told The Barbarian that night that I wanted to start lying down with them for sleeps again, and a few short days later, I decided playgroup was too much right now, especially since KTA's early alarm clock makes it so they're ready for a nap halfway through. We can't (or rather, aren't willing to try to) change the fact that The Barbarian travels for work, and we can't change the fact that I needed those stupid antibiotics again and we've weaned for good this time. But we can change our expectations regarding how they get to sleep and whether they're ready to be away from home with people they don't know on a regular basis. 

So we did. And you know what? The positive change in them was almost immediate, to the point where both families commented on it that very weekend during our Mother's Day celebrations. It was obvious they were feeling SO much better. They are getting more sleep (mostly...we're definitely still working on that one) and aren't using up precious energy attempting to cope in stressful situations. A little normalcy has been restored for them and their needs are being met again more fully. And it shows, confirming we made the right choice in backing off as much as we could. 

So we'll wait and try again in a few months. And that's okay. A little disappointing, yes, but ultimately not a huge deal.

Honestly? I kind of missed our naps together. Because I like naps. All kinds of naps. I could nap every day. 

And now I can again.