I hereby deputize you to remind me of the following, upon threat of force:

My husband and I are innately different people. He is an optimistic, experiential, confident, next-step-at-a-time kind of thinker. (In my world, we often call this personality “an engineer.”) I am a cynical, predictive, worried, let’s-think-ahead-to-all-the-things kind of thinker. (In my world, we usually say this person is “a project manager.”)

Lest I forget, which I tend to do in a haze of wishful thinking: this is not good when it comes to any sort of projects. GAWD HELP ME, I want to hang the man out a window by his toenails.

Thing is, we share a sucker-ness for good deals, discomfort with “what they say,” and overinflated sense of how much we can accomplish in a given time. He thinks it’ll be easy; I forget we’ll fight most of the time.

So, while this frustration is fresh in my mind as I dance around staying out of it versus fully project-managing it, I will say, to the world: WE SHOULD NOT BUY ANOTHER DIY HOUSE. We should spend more on something smaller, not worry so much about ease of increasing the value by doing projects X, Y, or Z, and accept that while the quality on something might not be as good if we don’t do it ourselves, and we’ll likely pay more than we’d like, we will kill each other if we do this again.

Oh, hey, someone forgot how to blog!

So, my last post was supposed to have more going on but I was a little quick on the Publish trigger, so…

You do this Day in My Ideal Life exercise and suddenly you see what matters. To this point, I’d always focused on work – where would I be, what would I be doing, how would I make that work with my family’s needs?

When I was ready to jump back into my career, I did this and realized I’d eventually have to be in an office rather than remote and working from home. Talking with Joey about the details that mattered to me made our discussion much richer and more productive than if I’d just tried to put my feelings (of dissatisfaction and discontent) into words.

Now, though, in Limbo Land, I’m realizing I need to point my lens on my home life – what kind of place, what kind of neighborhood, what kind of rhythms would we like best?

So I did it. And though there weren’t (m)any surprises, it did solidify what I’m looking for in our next home:

  • Our bedroom fits a King bed.
  • Our neighborhood is very walkable and we have a number of places to eat very nearby. The area is also dog-friendly.
  • In the vicinity of the places to eat are at least two options for things to do on weekends, including parks and treat options. (I forgot to mention a Farmer’s Market!) Also in the walkable vicinity is a place to get basic groceries like milk and dog food.
  • We can walk to a library.
  • Javi’s room is far enough away from the hubbub that he can sleep while we keep doing things (ie: not right off the living room).
  • We have outside space, a lawn to mow (?) and a garage or workshop for DIY projects.
  • The kitchen is open and we have room for Javi to cook with me.
  • From the kitchen or living space, I can easily access and see the backyard.
  • We have outdoor eating space.
  • We have places to play and sit outside, even into the evening. Bonus for a fire pit.
  • We have neighbors we encounter as we go about our day (over the backyard fence?).
  • Our neighbors have kids and are friendly enough to come over on spur of the moment.
  • Javi’s room is accessible enough to the main living area that we adults can watch over visiting kids while sitting on the couch or in the kitchen.
  • We have a dishwasher.
  • Our home life is manageable enough that we have “nice things” like comfy couches, soft (non-cat-hair-covered) blankets, and we live in a “finished” house (since I didn’t note that we spent all weekend renovating or painting or gutting anything).

 

Since this wasn’t a weekend with visitors, the need for a third bedroom didn’t come up, which is an important point since I keep thinking a third bedroom or finished basement is a must when really, the percentage of time we’d really benefit from it would be limited. It’s more important to our everyday life to have outdoor space accessible from the living area. In fact, now that I think through our day-to-day, a second bathroom is more important than a third bedroom!

I realize that I’m really focused on our interaction with outdoor space because it’s something our Knoxville house didn’t do well. We had more than an acre of woods and yard but we didn’t use it much because it wasn’t easily accessible from our living area – you either had to go out the front door and around to the fence on the side or out the kitchen door and down a flight of really steep steps. If we left Javi playing out there, we couldn’t see him from the house, so we never did. Poor dude’s playing time was always limited by the adults wanting to go back inside. Conversely, my mom’s house is open plan and he goes in and out all afternoon and evening. Though we can’t see him in every corner of the yard, the blind spots are limited enough that he doesn’t need adult supervision to get to go outside.

All of these are really helpful insights as we approach a whirlwind trip to Seattle to try to buy a house. Given the tight housing market, we’ll likely have a few non-ideal options we’ll have to choose from quickly in the hopes that our bid is accepted. Ugh, I’m getting anxious just thinking about it, so I have to remind myself that this is an opportunity to focus on and maybe get what really matters, not just what we think we want (like a ton of square footage, which we’ve learned we aren’t organized or clean enough to be responsible for).

I should be doing other things…

… work things. Power Point things. Productive, useful things.

Instead, I am trying valiantly to avoid stalking Redfin.com for new listings in our preferred Seattle neighborhoods. We have the financing approval for a range we’re (mostly) comfortable with, we have paid the tuition at the school we so love, and our stuff is in a very nice, big, climate controlled storage facility somewhere in Washington state.

We just need to sell our damned house in Knoxville.

In the meanwhile, I’m

Waiting and Being and Not Doing and other lessons

I am here, half a country away from our (finally on the market) house. My husband is there, managing the myriad of details remaining to be completed. I listen as he vents his frustration about not enough time and too many things and not enough sleep. He listens as I try to find the energy to tell him about parenting an adjusting child who misses his daddy. We’re pretty disconnected, both focusing on the things that will get us all back together… ironic.

From here, all I can do is send photos to mimic and suggestions for priorities. I can look at houses in Seattle and try not to panic that they sell in a week for more than list price and are often tiny AND out of our comfortable price range. I can try to find patience for being the sole parent* for my adjusting child.

There isn’t a whole lot of doing I can do, though. Surfing realty is mostly making me anxious, so I’m trying to impose a moratorium for a few days. Not Doing is hard for me. I’ve done a better job of Being – putting my phone down, going for walks, not multi-tasking as I go from one room to the other or sit at a stoplight or have a few beats of silence – but Not Doing is, well… WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO BE DOING WHILE I’M NOT DOING?

Yea. Clearly room to grow.

I’m going to focus on Hoping and Not Planning for a little while. I don’t really know where the line between “creating backup plans” and “settling” falls, so I’m going to try to not think, find faith, remember that things will change anyway, and wait.

Talk about a growth opportunity.

*I’m not solo parenting, by any means. I am living with two loving grandparents who do everything they can to give me a break and/ or help me and I have a nanny who comes in three mornings a week. I am the one parent here with Javi, though, so there’s only so much they can do (as opposed to my partner in parenting who can shoulder the load fully when we tag team).

Day in My Ideal Life

One of my favorite exercises for so many situations is called “Day In My Ideal Life”: without any prepping or forethought, take a quiet moment and write down what a full day in your ideal life would look like while you focus on picturing it, beginning to end. Include any level of detail you find intriguing but don’t try too hard; if you happen to notice what you’re wearing, great, but if not, don’t sweat it. Once finished, walk away.

The next day, come back and reread it and I bet you’ll find a few surprises you didn’t see coming. The details you thought to include are telling. In my ideal work day, for example, I’m wearing a skirt and heels and in an office with other people doing work. I am not in jeans and flats, nor am I in a coffee shop or out in the field. The details you didn’t include are also telling! In all of the ideal work days I’ve described, it’s never been noted what industry I’m in, or what my team and I are actually working on. Clearly it doesn’t matter to me so much whether I’m working on software or not, directly with a customer or not, in Engineering or not.

The interesting thing about the exercise is how adaptable it is. My current living situation is most certainly not ideal – I miss my husband, I don’t have enough focused time to work, and my work day is spread across various not-ideal venues like a coffee shop, the back porch, and my car. HOWEVER, running through my ideal day right now reminded me that I do need focused time to work so it’s time to firm up my transition boundaries to make sure I get some of what I need, at least.

Living in limbo and finding the bright side

When last we met, our hero and his mama were going to move cross-country to live with grandparents while his daddy finished working on the house. Or, in his words: “We goin’ to Amas wif Mama and Daddy workin on da ol house wif his tools!” And, more importantly, “I don go school at Amas!”

And now he is [living with Amas and Papu - his grandma and grandpa - and Mama] and isn’t [going to school, because we don't go to school while at Amas' house].

And we are doing pretty well.

~~~

We have enough experience by now, my son and I, that we know what transitions look like for us: a period of no sleep and partying, a period of no sleep and Mama is about to lose it, a longer period where sleep happens and Javi is clingy, and the final adjustment where Javi loses his shit a lot while being whiny and kinda mean to Mama but at least she’s sleeping so she can survive it.

We are, right at this moment, in that last phase, which is hard, but familiar. He misses his daddy and doesn’t know how to verbalize those feelings, but luckily he’s old enough to project so I get more insight than I used to. His toothbrush is sad, he says to me, because he misses his daddy. Then his toothbrush finds his daddy toothbrush and they all dance! And then they are happy!

So, every inanimate object in the house is sad these days – and obviously because they’re missing their daddies – and we talk about how their daddies would like to be with them but are working hard to finish fixing their old houses. Only once have we then had to talk about what a toothbrush’s house looks like, so all in all, we’re doing okay.

Sometimes Javi is just a bear of overwhelming emotions for no apparent reason; he’s slept well and eaten well and napped well and pooped recently but is still a whiny, falling-apart kid. On those days, I drink more we get Daddy on the phone for a long Facetime session, a new discovery that has helped them both reconnect and be happy again.

We’ve made such a big change in his life and he’s doing really well with it, really, helped through by lots of sleep and Mama time and having fun with his grandparents. He doesn’t like mornings with the nanny, preferring instead to “work wif Mama,” so he breaks my heart on the regular by crying for me as I (or they) leave, which sucks, but we’ve adapted by making sure they leave the house right when she gets here so he has something to focus on other than not being around me, and I’m back to sneaking around so he doesn’t see me until after his nap. And honestly, we’re both feeling the hole in our family where my husband always functioned – as the more insistent, less understanding, more fun and romp-y parent. It’s only been a month, but not having him as my partner in parenting seems to be contributing to some whining and babyish behaviors that I’m not appreciating, but dealing with as best as I can since regressions often happen when big changes do.

~~~

Me? I’m dealing. We have many decisions to make that can’t be made now, which is a very not-ideal situation for me, but I’m finding opportunity to learn from it. Sometimes you just have to be since you can’t do. I spend a lot of time looking at real estate listings and thinking about what’s important to me and what kind of life we want to lead since my usual DIY and buying things pastimes are on hold. My husband and I are fairly disconnected right now, owing to different time zones and long days, but we’ll catch up with each other again. We’re both doing everything we can to make this all work out.

I’m thankful that we get to be here with my parents, who not only took us in but were excited about having us here, such a relief after such a worrying and sad period of sickness. We found a morning nanny who is really sweet and good with him (my second success via Care.com); she comes over from mid-morning until he’s down from his nap, then I keep my fingers crossed that he’ll sleep until my afternoon calls are finished. Once a week he joins my mom at her work (a high school), something they both look forward to. (Eating lunch in the cafeteria! Waving to the kids during class changes! ROTC trucks in the parking lot!) Her coworkers not only don’t mind, they look forward to his visits!

All in all, we’re very lucky and we’re doing pretty well. We’ll be very sad to leave my mom’s — and all the help and sun and family time — and a little nervous to be on our own again in a new city with new schedules and big changes, but, as with everything else I’ve talked about, there is a bright side: we will have gone through a partial upheaval already so we’re well-practiced.

OH, HEY, the most important thing: Javi’s health is SO MUCH BETTER HERE, and compared to Seattle, this place is still allergy-challenging! He’s down to maintenance inhaled steroids only, having not needed the rescue inhaler/ treatment beyond the first week we were here, and I’m about to discontinue those given his total lack of symptoms for the past few weeks. He no longer coughs, at rest, while sleeping, or EVEN DURING OR AFTER RUNNING FOR HALF AN HOUR, which is so amazing I had to put that in caps. Amazing. Amazing! So, yea, moving here was a great idea. We expect similar (if not better!) health in Seattle.

Bear with me; I’m processing.

It’s been a rough few weeks, ending in a fairly major decision to move my son and I away from our home (and my husband) to my mom’s while my husband finishes getting our house ready to sell. I know most of you reading this blog know about these developments through the various outlets in which we share, but I’m realizing that I have not fully processed much of what’s going on and I’m hoping writing about it helps me through that.

First thing: my son has a chronic, potentially life-long condition (asthma, currently uncontrolled, with many triggers) and I need to accept that it is what it is. His full experience of life will depend on our ability to successfully manage that condition, and while I wish it wasn’t so, it is, and I need to process that. It is what it is.

If you’d asked me six months ago whether I’d processed this news or not, I’d have laughed it off. Of course I have! We have an asthma treatment plan! I know all the protocols for both my pediatrician’s office AND the local children’s hospital! I’ve got this! …

… but when my son’s respiratory rate started to climb, I’d avoid jumping into treatments. When he’d cough, I’d tell myself it wasn’t an asthma cough and so didn’t need to be treated… yet. When my husband would stand in the hallway, arms full of treatment equipment and meds, I’d wave him off. “Not yet,” I’d say. “We don’t need to do anything yet.” I’m the mama so he’d follow my lead.

The problem with denial (or, more accurately, delaying) is that with a young child whose asthma is still mostly uncontrolled, you have a very small window of opportunity to head off a full flare-up. Miss the window and you’re just chasing the symptoms, fervently hoping you catch them in time to prevent a hospital stay. I did not fully absorb this information until very, very recently, choosing instead to hope and wish and avoid the fact that my son isn’t like those other kids who can wait out a fever and be okay without medical intervention. We can’t wait and see until tomorrow when overnight is when we end up in the hospital. He almost always needs steroids and antibiotics if he picks up some bug at school. It is what it is.

I’m learning that despite what they say about over-prescribing of antibiotics and not waiting out viruses – which can’t be treated with medicine anyway and over accessing the medical community for common conditions, with my child, quick and effective intervention with totally non-natural, lab-created, physician-prescribed medication is key to keeping him breathing well. I may agree with the articles and research and let’s go back to basics community, but in my life with my child and his history and body and respiratory system, I have to act. Those people report on averages; my son is an instance. It is what it is.

I have to process this other thing, too: I had a c-section, which has some correlation to asthma prevalence in children, and there is nothing I can do about that now. I may curse my body for not relaxing and opening, and my brain for being too thoughtful and stressed out and anxious (and maybe preventing my body from relaxing and opening?), and my choice to go for the c-section when I could have maybe insisted on another number of hours of labor, but it’s done. I can’t rebirth this kid. It is what it is.

I have to remind myself that while I did choose to go ahead with the c-section right then, while moving me to the operating room my kiddo’s heart rate dropped dramatically. And even if my follow-up response is that maybe we just over-monitor births and maybe that’s normal, my totally hippie OB said it was critical and we needed to act. While I’m at it, I also have to remind myself that I didn’t choose to go into the hospital and be induced, I was sent by a team of totally hippie midwives and their totally hippie OB (same one) who unanimously insisted it was time to get that kiddo out of my body. It is what it is.

Next thing: we are splitting up our family temporarily to be able to get our house listed. No, we didn’t get as much done as quickly as we might have. Joey and I just don’t. We know this. We work hard one day, don’t accomplish much the next. We bicker. We take on too much and then blame each other. We each flip flop about “make it perfect” versus “get the damned thing done,” often in opposition to each other. We DIY because we think it’ll be less expensive or better quality (or both!) and then get pissed that it takes so long. We do this in the middle of a commitment I/ we made to move us to Seattle… an agreement I made last October. We can’t redo the last six months. It is what it is.

And now, we’re a little bit stuck. We can’t paint or sand or stir up any particles lest we continue to push the asthma flare-up my son has been in for two weeks. We can’t finish the half-finished bathroom or patch and paint ceilings or do any of the thousand little (and easy!) tasks that we have left to get the house listed. We can’t hire anyone to do them either, because it’s not about who does the work but about what ends up in the air. Perhaps if we’d done the work earlier, before February hit, we could have avoided the asthma trigger challenge, but it’s too late now. It is what it is.

Every year since Javi has been alive, we just realized, he’s been — we’ve all been — sick from February 1 through July. Every year. The first year we blamed daycare germs. The second year we blamed… I don’t remember. The pollen? I think we were just grateful that it wasn’t as bad as the first year, but my mom reminded me that each time we arrive for our summer visit to her house, we’re all sick. Oh. Somehow I never connected that. We have had to leave town to get better. How did we miss this? How did we not connect leaving town with no longer sick?

So now we’re leaving town to be no longer sick. In a week my son and I will hop on a couple of planes and move to my mom’s for a while. Joey will finish the remaining house work. We’ll list our house and hope somebody buys it… soon. We’ll do this later than we should have and more slowly than we wish, all while I battle my own guilt and the indirect work pressure I’m getting to be in Seattle already.  I can’t, yet. I don’t have childcare or a support system or an end game in place. I can’t until we know what’s up with our house. It is what it is.

This, though, is where it is what it is is good. We are very lucky people and it’s time to stop wishing and start appreciating.

I have a solid support system (my people!) in New Mexico and a job flexible enough to allow us to move there for a while. I have a husband both capable of and willing to finish up the house who thankfully has a flexible professional situation too. I have the means (and that work commitment!) to move us to a place better for my son’s health and to fly in the family we’ll be leaving behind.

We’d already set the wheels in motion… then slowed them down… and can now accelerate them.

We have health insurance, a great team of medical professionals, and the ability to pay for out of pocket costs as they arise without thinking twice. We live in this time with these meds and this amazing ability to intervene and manage (and succeed) in all manner of medical conditions.

It is what it is, and we are very lucky.

~~~

My son’s toddler-hood is a little different than it might have been. Natural consequences can’t be our primary learning method when they lead to the inability to breathe and hospital visits. Insisting or forcing (a med, a treatment) doesn’t work when his overall long-term health depends on his cooperation. Parenting has become very much an art based on my ability to pause and go with my gut versus a team event where my husband and I fully agree. I can’t cave to what they say I should do, even when “they” might be my husband or my family. We’re in it for the long term, this kid and I, and that means a lot of side-stepping show-downs and looking for low-pressure ways to enlist his help, for now. I’m trying to find the middle ground where we can have normal experiences with tantrums and not wanting to put undies on but make sure meds and treatments get done. I’m relying a lot on my network, such a corporate term for something so magical that I can put out a request for a connection to the mama of an asthmatic kid around 3 or 4 and be connected with one within hours. “These are my people” is something I think a lot, both when thinking about my family who unquestioningly respond to my calls for help and my friends who do the same.

It is what it is, the kind-but-firm-because-she’s-a-mama pediatrician reminded me. This is his life and you must must MUST accept it and help him learn to manage it, control it, own it. This is your job.

This is your job.

This is your job.

This is your job.

This is your job.

And so it is, as it is also to teach him that

people love him,

people will help him,

it takes a village (even if we pay some of them),

we’re very lucky,

not everyone is, and

we do what we must, even when it’s not easy or typical or like everyone else.