Sunday, February 8, 2015

Drive Safely

"Please be careful. Drive safely, " I say for the third time as he pulls the door to the mudroom closed. He didn't respond to my warning even once. I wonder if he heard me?

"It's been an icy winter so far but the roads are dry today," I rationalize in my mind. "It will be OK. I'm being irrational."

I continue making meatballs. Feeling the ground beef and pork squishing between my fingers makes me kind of squeamish and I'm anxious for this task to be finished. I remember that the brake light was on in the Subaru the other morning. It must have been frozen and then thawed because the light went back off. I'm sure it's fine. I peek around the corner at the computer. I like this song but wish it were quiet right now. I'm restless and the noise isn't helping.

I wash my hands and turn the music off, pop the meatballs in the oven and slide my index finger around the handle of my cup of tea. I strain my ears against the silence but all I can pick up is the faint whooshing sound of the occasional car going past on the parkway and the hum of the refrigerator. "Ree-frij-er-ay-tore." Ada carefully enunciates that word and at five and a half years old still says "calepittar" instead of caterpillar. I was sure to kiss them. I was sure to press my cheek to their cheeks and I made a mental note of how silky Ingrams skin is and how I smelled that his daddy washed his hair in the shower. I focused on Ada's long, skinny pink-tights-covered legs as she danced off toward the front door.  Tim was yelling at them to get their shoes and coats - I don't know why they made him ask twice, they were both begging to go.

I can't shake this tense, senseless, gross feeling that something is about to happen. Something terrible and irreversible. It dawns on me, as if for the first time, that my entire life will be in that Forrester. Without them, I would have no reason to continue to live. My stomach feels hollow and a pulsing ache starts up behind my eyeballs. My breaths are rapid now and so shallow I check my self to find out if I'm really remembering to take them. What if something happened on this one little trip? It's a short errand. Just to the city and home. "I'll be back in an hour" he said.

I run to the window. Maybe I can stop them. Maybe I can turn off the oven and go with them. Maybe he can leave one of the kids with me after all. The car is out of the driveway and already in motion toward the end of our street.

"Please, God, please keep them safe." I whisper. The three of them drive away. Feeling at once silly and terrified I sit down to wait for them to return.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

New Towels and Grunting

It's still hot and southernly humid here in New York. Our window AC units can't really keep up. The humidity in our home makes the wood floor tacky, soft and extra creaky. I was surprised when last week I noticed more color on the road as we were driving home after a rain storm. Yellow leaves were sprinkled about collecting in the gutters of the road and the gutters of my windshield. Even though the trees are still mostly green the first leaves have started to turn color and drift to the ground. Just like that fall is nearly upon us.

So soon? I'm not fully ready to embrace fall just yet. It's my favorite season but I'm still wanting to squeeze the last drops out of aimless summer days. Nevertheless, nature pushes forward in that gradual way she has. The dreary cloud cover over the past few days didn't leave me much choice but to face the changing seasons. It's time to leave lemonade and iced tea behind in favor of spiced apple cider and hot chocolate. So, we fall-ified the house over the weekend. Yep, seasonal dish towels, some winking felt owls from the Target dollar bins and a Yankee Harvest brand candle in "Autumn Harvest" made their way to our home. Plans for apple picking and a s'mores party are taking place. Mailers with fun Halloween events at the zoo and botanical gardens are dangling from magnets on the front of our refrigerator. I even was able to resurrect the wreath Ada and I made last year.

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Ada picked all the components including the owl and the first letter of our last name. Other than the owls pupils being blown out and him looking kind of high it's not too bad.

I made alphabet vegetable soup

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We quietly played some games. I highly recommend Goldie Blox and the Spinning Machine. Ada got it for her birthday and it's awesome!

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There has been a terrible cold making the boys in the house feel miserable. Ingram had an ear infection, our first ever and I sincerely hope our last.

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Ingram was so sick that he was hardly willing to give up full-body contact with me with the exception of a couple very special people. Ada cared for him like a good big sister.

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And his dad did too

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Our family has a new form of communication that basically boils down to nothing but grunting. We're like a bunch of cavemen. Granted, this is about as communicative as Ingram can manage now and he is pretty good at getting his message across. We'll still push for using our words and that kind of stuff. I love Ada at the end of this movie!

MVI 7313 from monica shepherd on Vimeo.

Thankfully, this cold seems to have skipped right over Ada and me too. She's stayed happy and in great need of entertainment. This hasn't been easy with a sick, clingy, nap-needing baby but we've managed. She's a good sport.

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Macadamia nuts are her new favorite.

In fact, she's crossed over into some new territory like knowing the passcode on my iPhone. This is how I find her watching some video in hiding. As if I don't know where she is...

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Ada starts school again on Monday. I read so many parents who have bittersweet feelings about this. Not me. Nope, I know her school is perfect for her and I'm so excited to hear her stories and watch her learn and grow in this truly amazing environment. She's in class with all new kids and while she's fine with it I find that I'm pretty disappointed! She was a little thrown off by the idea that she'll have a new teacher I think she's warmed up to that too. More to come next week after her first day of school.

Oh, and let's not forget the biggest news around here. We finally got new towels! It's actually exciting.

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Monday, September 2, 2013

The Edge

This is a post linking up with Medical Mondays, a community for medical folk and spouses of medical folk to connect. I am an animal doctor, my husband is a human doctor.

A couple of weeks ago I sat at the kitchen counter in my friends home. She was describing this recent "ships passing in the night" thing that was going on between her and her husband. It's brand new to them. She's not sure what to do about it but knows that she doesn't like it and doesn't want it to continue. I was practicing my very best active listening skills and sipping a glass of Sauvignon Blanc. That's when she sprung it on me: "How do you guys avoid this? What do you do?"

I paused for a long moment, letting the silence fill up the space behind that series of questions. The ships in the night thing is well within the continuum of normal for us. We met when we were each working on a PhD so we've always given each other a wide berth for work. This includes months in separate locations to accommodate special training, externships and distal rotations. I remember with vivid clarity those long stretches during internship and residency when my husband was on night float. One morning I was on my way to work and he was on his way home. We stopped our cars, which were headed in opposite directions, to lock eyes for a few minutes. It was the only time I saw him awake and in person during that entire month-long rotation.

Even now that he's "out", a word that, when used in this context, makes him sound more like an ex-convict than a high-achieving professional, we still have weeks when we just don't see each other in any meaningful way. I can't tell you how often it happens that some decision or another is hanging in the balance but I need to discuss it with him first. I dread the call, "Well, haven't you talked to Tim yet? It's been three days!" because then I have to try to explain something that really isn't easy to convince most people of:

DAYS can pass before I have a face-to-face conversation with my husband because of his work schedule



Unthinkable, right? Well, I look at it this way:
For one thing, this is the life we chose. Long hours, working holidays, being's not like somebody all of a sudden sprung it on us. We knew what we were in for. It sucks slightly more in reality to be alone on a holiday than it does when it's only conceptual but we still can't really complain.
For another thing, like any other modern couple, we've pushed the envelope. We've discovered our personal edge when it comes to apartness. It's shifted a bit over time as our circumstances have changed but our edge is pretty constant.

For a long time I held the attitude that when one partner is working their ass off then maybe it is better if both parties are so engrossed in their own work lives that the absence of the other isn't so glaring. You probably have a higher tolerance for apartness when you're really into your own thing.  Now that we have kids the tune has changed a bit such that our crazy-making threshold is lower. Tim considered a couple other interesting specialties but made his choice so that he would know his kids and they would know him. My career has slowed down because for our family it really feels right to have at least one of us at home more than they are at work to captain the ship on a daily basis cause those little people can't do it themselves. 

In that long moment when I was constructing a response to my friend I realized that I needed to be careful to not diminish her concerns. It's not a who-has-it-worst contest. Rather our conversation helped me remember something important: Everyone has a limit. On that day in that kitchen my friend had found hers. Tim and I are familiar with ours. We take great care to make adjustments so as to not get too close again.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Enjoy This

A sweet song for you since Playlist went kaput: Bitter Heart by Zee Avi

There's a little sign hanging in Ingram's room that simply reads, "Enjoy This".  I found it in a tiny shop in Santa Barbara and knew immediately that it was meant to be mine. It has moved from place to place, its' homes including above my desk, in the kitchen and near the front door. Now, every time I leave Ingrams room, which Tim remarked today "smells like a hamster lives in there", I see it. Suddenly, changing Ingrams diaper for the 8th time that morning seems not altogether awful. Seriously. I never knew a baby who poops more than mine does.

A phrase as neutral as "enjoy this" could be interpreted so many different ways and I, queen of the neutral statement, really like that. Every time I see those two little words I feel inspired to connect with the moment I'm in. The state of being 'in the moment', also known as "mindfulness" in buddhist speak, seems so simple and so attainable. I've dabbled in buddhism mostly because buddhists all seem so peaceful and I crave some of that quietness for myself. Nevertheless, mindfulness mocks me with her elusive nature and that just pisses me off. Ultimately I wind up skirting the edges of buddhism once again because I don't want face how crappy I am at living in the moment. This little sign, "Enjoy This", helps a lot. I'm spontaneously snapped into the moment each time it even so much as grazes the edge of my peripheral vision. I need the practice and apparently I need very gentle, very anonymous encouragement to be mindful.

With our first New York anniversary under our belt I can truly say that I feel a major sea change. I'm a more focused, calmer person and, as a natural extension of that, a better mother. Twice today, different people remarked at how "calm" I seem about the children.  I take this as a compliment only because the kids were really well behaved in both instances! (had they been running amok I'd think it was a passive-aggressive comment) I've been working hard at positive discipline and I think I'm getting a little closer to being the mother I want to be: patient, kind but firm, loving and adventurous. Yeah, sometimes I lose my cool but that happens less often now. When it does happen I make it a point to apologize to Ada and follow it up with lots of reassurance that I love her no matter what and she's one of my all-time favorite people in the whole world! Telling her that last part makes her skip all around the room from happiness!

Feeling better about my parenting also makes it easier to "Enjoy This", whatever 'this' is. Lately it's a lot of time with my kids, which is just fine by me. As long as I'm not feeling like I'm completely screwing the whole thing up. In the great spirit of enjoyment we are gulping down the last juicy bits of summer.

We're enjoying:

Back to school shopping. All of sudden NOTHING fits her. She is a tall one, my girl is. She sat ont he floor at HandM and refused to take these pink sparkly high tops off.

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Full moon over Manhattan the night before my birthday.

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Offering nectar to the lorikeets and messin' around in general at the aquarium

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How bountiful our garden is and the fact that I am still not tired of tomato sandwiches:

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This guy is fascinated by doors and gates. He could sit for hours opening and closing, opening and closing...

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Living on the fog line in San Francisco we were only successful at growing lettuce. Our virgin harves this year is INSANE. Truly, we don't know what we're doing. In fact, I can't wait for next year just so that we can use all we've learned and do things a little differently. Still, it's awesome to be gardening. I hope something of it sticks for our kids.

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How much this kid loves corn on the cob. Want to see a really pissed off one year old? Yeah. YOU try to take away his corn cob. I dare you.

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Tim likes to joke that Ingram must be fathered by someone else since he doesn't look a thing like Tim. At least not yet. I have two arguments against that: one, all his height is in his torso and his legs are relatively short. For one-piece things he's easily into 24 months (at 13 months old). Likewise, his shirts are 24m size but for his pants he's only just now out of 12m pants. Oh, and two, he raises his eyebrows when he takes a bite of food JUST LIKE his father. Now I have photographic evidence.

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She is growing up so fast. I can't believe it. My arms and hands got all pins-and-needles tonight as I watched her riding her bike with her skinny legs pushing the pedals as hard as she could and her little dress flapping in the breeze behi. She wants to do it all herself and she is quite capable.

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IMG 1352 from monica shepherd on Vimeo.

Ingram is walking like it's his job.

IMG 1308-1 from monica shepherd on Vimeo.