Thursday, December 10, 2009

A Good Place with Two

Lately, the contrast between the way I've raised each of my children thus far has come into sharp focus. Maybe being that we're unemployed right now and I'd expect to somehow find myself in a permanent funk, but instead to my surprise sometimes find myself feeling pretty much stress-less has caused me to evaluate the different stages of my life in the past years and ponder what I've done differently at various points.

Thinking back to the years when little Jimmy was home with me before starting school (as Kyla is now) I recall pretty much all day Mommy and son time. We did story time together. We took walks nearly every day. We visited all the local parks regularly. We played with blocks and Lego's and puzzles. We read LOTS at home. We ran errands. We did just about everything together. And while that's wonderful and beautiful in a lot of ways, it also caused me to frequently feel like I was totally losing my mind. Don't get me wrong - I LOVED (and still do) little Jimmy and being with him, but sometimes I just really needed some alone time. And yes, we did have the kind services of babysitting from various family members which was great; still, many days it felt overwhelming. I tried to join a YMCA when little Jimmy was younger solely for the purpose of my having personal time and space, but he was very much a Mama's boy, and I found myself frequently being called to the child care section of the facility to pick up my child who had screamed non-stop from the moment I had dropped him off. Within a few weeks of joining, I was forced to cancel the membership. It didn't help either that I didn't know at the time that he was totally allergic to milk (and I'm beginning to think gluten now too). Jimmy has a very strong will - a will that I believe served him well in coming through his premature entrance into this world, and a will which I fully believe will serve him hugely as an adult. But as a baby and toddler, it was challenging. The struggle of those first few years is certainly not solely attributable to him; I completely played the role of the overprotective mother. I coddled my little boy and sheltered him just as much as he would let me. I checked on him at least twice a night until he was four years old, and I think I even gave him a sippy of milk once a night until well past the age of two (I know! - that in itself is unbelievable. . . but if only I had known the milk itself was not helping anything at all). Frequently, I cooked three meals a day for him. I don't know that I ever left him with anyone aside from family (with the exception of our short stint at the YMCA). Long and short of it - he was my first; he was early and strong willed by nature, and I was worried and hyper-overprotective and also strong willed by nature.

And then Kyla came along. In my opinion, she's been a people-pleaser since birth; not really - she's just extraordinarily accommodating. She's cranky when she's sick or tired, and the rest of the time, she pretty much just goes with the flow. Whatever's happening, she goes with it. Granted she doesn't appear to have any crazy food allergies which makes life much simpler. She wasn't born prematurely and spending her first six weeks of life being poked and prodded in a hospital. No, by contrast, she had a very easy start. I was too exhausted from caring for Jimmy rather spastically for the past four years to devote that much obsessiveness to her - and she didn't want it either (go figure). Of course I still was up with her through the night as an infant, but once twelve months hit I let her learn to put herself to sleep. Now that's not to say Kyla has always been all peaches 'n' cream; no, she definitely has her own little personality that she shares with everyone. She's just a different person with a different temperament and different experiences. We do read and play and go to parks and run errands together - just not as much. I have a membership to another YMCA now, and I take full advantage of it; and yes, I do go to get a break from the constantness of motherhood. Sometimes it's just good to not have to respond to anyone at any given moment. We usually go to the gym in the morning after dropping Jimmy of at school, and then we come home for her nap time. When she wakes up, we have lunch and play a bit before picking up Jimmy. When we get back from picking Jimmy up, it's Jimmy's homework time and Kyla's coloring time. And then it's playtime, and they play together wonderfully (usually). Yes, I play with them too, but they really can do a great job on their own which frees me up to make a decent dinner.

It's just struck me how easy this phase of life is as far as child rearing goes. Somehow I feel like I should feel guilty for how simple it is. But should I really? The kids are happy, and I'm reconnecting with some levels of my own sanity (note that I said some). And I like it like this. Kids are great and all and I'm thrilled to have this experience (and to have survived it thus far), but in my perspective at least, they're easier when they're not infants. At last both of my kids are old enough to articulate their feelings or wants or needs; do you have any idea how huge that is, and how much whining and crying that eliminates?! I don't even need to tell you that a child crying may as well be nails on a chalkboard to me, do I? Even a child that's not my own. If I can hear a baby crying at Wal-Mart per se, I will intentionally shop in an area where I am out of range of hearing that - it disturbs me. I feel compelled to *fix it,* but given that it's someone else's child, I know that my efforts at appeasing their little one will go fully unappreciated (just a hunch). I also love that I only have one child in diapers who will soon be out of that phase completely too. Again, don't get me wrong - there's not much cuter than a child toddling around the house in a diaper; but really, it's fecal matter and urine people. . I'm happy to not deal with that repeatedly all day.

I remember before Kyla was born asking some friends who had two kids when they were going to have their next one. "We're not. . . Just wait, you'll see. . " I have to say, at the time I honestly didn't believe them, and that was even as I was in the thick of raising my first. But there's been a lot of water under the bridge between then and now. I get it. Raising kids while being the most rewarding job, is also easily the most exhausting and frequently the most unappreciated job. In a nutshell: I like my sleep - A LOT. I've enjoyed reconnecting with the me who is well rested.

Once more, I can't reiterate it enough: I love my kids as much as it's possible for one human to love another. . but I don't want anymore. In August, what ended up being the week the company Jim worked for closed and the week he lost his job, Jim got the old snip-snip. It was a little touch and go there as to whether or not the insurance would be active at the time of the surgery (as the company closed on Wednesday and the surgery had been scheduled for Friday) but in the end we were both very relieved to hear the insurance would still be active. What a relief to no longer have the possibility of an unexpected pregnancy. And while I'm sure a vasectomy is unpleasant (it is surgery after all), I believe the men should be more than willing for this type of procedure after all the pain their wives have endured in bringing their child/ren into the world. I was so pleased with the whole thing being taken care of and done with that I made Jim a little cake in the shape of scissors to commemorate his bravery for the sake of his wife's constitution.

Have I regretted the decision at all? Not a once. In fact, when I see other mom's with their infants or hear about newly expecting friends or family, I actually feel a tinge of pity. Of course expecting a new little one is a happy time and all, yet there is so much work in the whole process and so little sleep. All of that to say, I'm glad to be where I'm at. I sleep, and I think more rationally. I have time for such frivolities as blogging and Facebook (gasp!). I can use the bathroom any time I feel the need. I get to read WHOLE books. I can cook real food regularly. I shower every single day! My life is not consumed with doctor's appointments. It's a nice place to be really. Ya, we may not have found a job yet after several months of searching, but that doesn't mean there's not a lot to be thankful for, and having two great kids and no more is one of them!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Nasty, Nasty, Nasty

When I volunteered to help my sister finish with cleaning out her home in order to rent it, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. It wasn't that the house was filthy or in wretched state of disrepair. No, quite the opposite. In fact everything was going along really nicely with finishing those last little bits of cleaning and repairs here and there UNTIL we made that flippant and, looking back now, foolish decision to drop off a few bags of garbage at the dump. We could've just waited; she could've just driven over the evening before garbage day to set the bags out by the curb, but no. Feeling a bit too overly eager, we decided to just get the job done straight away by driving it to the dump.

Really we weren't even going to the dump, but rather to a transfer station. It was right up the road; couldn't have been more than a ten minute drive. . simple, right? Wrong. . . dead wrong. I'd never been to a dump or a transfer station until last Tuesday, but I totally underestimated the entire situation. Completely. I was not mentally, physically, or emotionally prepared for what I was about to experience. My husband, who had also been helping with the final repair and clean up of my sister's house gave me no warning either. Having previously owned a property care business, he had plenty of experience in making drop offs at the dump. Since he had visited such places as this so regularly, I assumed it would be no big deal (and you know what they say about people who assume, right?) and he didn't indicate otherwise.

We loaded our dad's truck which we had borrowed for the day with anything we could find that should be disposed of: old blinds, garbage, scraps of laminate etc. The drive was brief and entirely uneventful. As we pulled into the station where you show your ID or pay, we decided it was best to just turn off the diesel truck as it was so loud we couldn't hear what the attendant was saying to us. We provided the necessary info and then proceeded to follow her directions up some ramp. . except - we had to turn the truck back on again first. . .this meant waiting for the allotted warm up period for diesels. . . all the while garbage trucks and recycling trucks were passing us, and we were beginning to feel just a bit out of place (at least we weren't driving my sister's Prius.)

The truck finally started and we turned onto the ramp. The ramp. How weird is that? It's not like we were merging onto an overpass or something; no, we were simply entering the ginormous warehouse-looking transfer station. Feeling somewhat awkward and strangely nervous, we sat in line waiting for our turn. At the front of the line we observed MOUNTAINS of . . . poo. Really, it could've just been actual poo; that's how bad it stunk at least (and that was before we rolled down the window). We watched as garbage trucks backed in and added to the mess followed by some huge nasty floor sweeping machine that swept the sludge and garbage more closely towards the mountains.

When the attendant at the top of the ramp noticed us sitting there awkwardly, he approached *laughing* (maybe he sensed our state of shock and awe) and told us where we could "back the truck in" when he gave the cue. The cue came quickly and let me just say there was no backing in; neither my sister or I had any interest in trying to get as close as possible to the garbage heap so as to avoid spreading the mess any further. No, sorry; they would just need to come through with the nasty sweeper machine after us and push all of our garbage into the rest of the collective heap.

Feeling pressured to be quick (given the line of commercial vehicles waiting at the doorway of the elevated warehouse) we both jumped out as soon as the truck was parked. I had only two scant days previously treated myself to a pedicure, and here I was wearing my flip flops inside the most repulsive place on the planet. A thick coat of grime and sludge and gunk made the floor very slick. My sister and I both separately envisioned our utter demise should a wrong step be made. I walked carefully towards the back of the truck, but was forced to stop when I came to a deeper segment of muddy sewage. I decided instead to try to reach over the side of the truck to grab whatever I could and then, using my brute She-ra type strength, thrust the debris as close to the mountain as possible. My poor sister; this meant that she was left doing most of the work and traversing through all the gore beneath our feet. At one point, I managed to get a hold of some sliding door blinds and was able to use my amazing javelin throwing abilities to pitch the whole thing approximately six inches from my feet. To say that we were completely out of our element is easily the understatement of the century; not that anyone could be in their element there, but clearly others there we less horrified and more prepared for the repugnance of the transfer station than we were. I actually noted the garbage truck drivers and even the attendant within the transfer station laughing maniacally at us; these weren't little chuckles either. These were out and out making-fun-of, sincere belly laughs kind of laughs. . .

When the debris in the back of the truck was unloaded we both eagerly climbed into the cab of the truck to prepare for our hasty departure. I carefully removed my flip flops at the far side of the floor by the door so as to detach the most highly contaminated portion of attire from my being. My sister had no choice (with sneakers on and the rush to leave) aside from simply getting in and driving. Of course, there was the issue again of having to wait for the the diesel engine to be ready for us to drive after turning the key. . . . How can a few short seconds seem so painfully long? When the light finally went off and we were free to leave, my sister managed to sort of peel out (which isn't a difficult thing to do given the scum on the floor). We then both commenced noting the feeling of numbness in our appendages which *may* have made contact with ANYthing in the facility. Surely it was all bio-hazard-sludge-acid that would likely give us a quick and severe case of leprosy.

The next stop on our list of errands was Home Depot. Climbing out of the truck in the parking lot, we were surprised and disgusted to see the *mud* (if only it was just mud. . just plain old dirt mud. . but we knew better) spattered across the side of the truck. Not anticipating the smell of the dump following us around, I was fully unprepared for the scent that greeted my nostrils as I walked away from the truck, and I'm not joking: I gagged. . I nearly vomited at the smell of the truck. We weren't even at the dump and the smell on the outside of the truck was still that strong. As we walked in, we both noted that the other smelled like a dump, so we chose to head strait to the bathroom to wash our shoes and feet and hands with soap. I felt a bit like what I imagine a homeless person might feel like with a one foot and then the other sudsied up in a public restroom sink. Still, it made a huge difference in our odor to simply wash our shoes and feet. Later we took the truck to a car wash which helped some but did not completely eliminate the odor that lingered over us and the truck for the remainder of the day.

I have never in my life experienced such abhorrent filth. I didn't know a place that horrific existed in our state. As amazing as it sounds, that was just one of many transfer stations where garbage is collected before it's driven out to the real dump - which I'm presuming is far bigger and grosser on many levels. I have a new found respect for garbage collectors; that is some nasty work, and I'm really glad I don't have to do anything like that every week. I asked my husband about not warning us of the horrors of the transfer station, and his response was basically that he thought we'd been before and knew what to expect. Um, ya - NO; that will never be happening again. The experience has made me surprisingly conscientious of how much garbage our household produces, and also eager to implement more recycling and reusing. And it's definitely high time biodegradable materials were implemented into every possible consumer product made.

I'll leave with this final and parting thought on garbage collection sites in general: Yuck-o.