It all started with a really crappy day.
For some reason, I’ve been feeling down. It started Wednesday night, when I found myself crawling into bed in tears for no reason at all. I was just crying. Just sad. And that’s okay with me. Sometimes it happens, and I just let it come, especially when it’s night and I’m by myself and everything feels private.
On Thursday, I went to an acupuncture appointment with a new acupuncturist. Well, she’s not new. She’s the acupuncturist who performed our pre and post embryo transfer acupuncture in June. I’ve been to several other acupuncturists, but her treatment was by far the most strong, and I liked her bedside manner better than any of the others. She has a calming, centered way with me, and really, that’s exactly what I need in my life – more calming and more centering.
Anyway, I told her I had been dealing with two extremes – extreme anxiety and extreme sadness. Most recent, my extreme has been of the anxiety type. I had an inkling it was going to switch because I knew I was ovulating. I find my anxiety worsens dramatically at different points in my cycle, ovulation being one of them. And I was fairly sure I had just ovulated, meaning I was also fairly sure the anxiety was going to go away. I neglected to mention that last point, however – the fact that I expected the anxiety to decrease. When she did my treatment, she did several powerful points for anxiety – points to bring my mind into slow speed from the warp speed it had been doing. I think this was a mistake.
I think it was a mistake because now I’m at the
and if I could find a way to sit on the couch all day and cry, I’d do it. If I could find a way to curl up and cover up and sleep for days, that’s where I’d be. Doing nothing and being slow sound good to me.
After my acupuncture appointment, I stopped off at the mall. I picked up this book. If you are a scrapbooker who is behind on your scrapbooking, run to the store. Get this book. It will be worth it. As a result, I’ve spent the last several days pouring over photos – my favorite photos, like
and this one
and this one.
And all the while, I started remembering the things I like to forget. I guess it’s not really that I like to forget them. It’s less painful to forget them – not because it’s painful to remember the sleep deprivation and fog that comes with early parenting, but because I know what I’ll be missing if we don’t have another baby. I’m a baby person; give me a choice between a toddler and a baby and I’ll pick the baby every time. I would rather get up with a screaming, hungry six times at night for several weeks in a row than deal with two or three tantrums on even one day. I wish I had another chance to do my favorite thing.
Earlier today, Tahd and I were discussing Gabe and how disrespectful he has been lately. We’ve implemented a little system to help him understand when he’s being disrepectful and learn to make respectful choices when he’s angry or upset. But it’s trying – for all of us, I think. It’s also hard for Tahd to come in on nights and weekends and pick up where I’ve left off. We also notice that Gabe seems to raise his voice more at me – even not in anger or frustration. He just hollers at me. This led to a critique of my parenting – one I solicited, but one that smarted nonetheless. There are two ways to go with this. If I were the mother I wanted to be, a hundred things would be different. I don’t want to begin to account for them because my lists of ideals are always discouraging. It’s enough to say things would be different. On the other hand, if I were the parent I felt like being – at least since this ivf ordeal – I would sit in bed and accomplish absolutely nothing. I’d put a tv in my room and entertain Gabe all day with shows while I “rested” my misery away. We’d occasionally punctuate our time with me reading him stories, or lately, him reading me stories. He’s getting very good at that, even reading stories he’s never seen before. I buy him new books to see how much he can really read, and I’m always impressed and surprised. His latest is Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. I’m not kidding – he’s four and he reads that book. It blows my mind.
I’m neither of those things. I’m not the parent I want to be, and I’m not the parent I feel like being. I’m in the middle. I’m often disengaged and distracted. Or busy. I have several responsibilities, and sometimes they steal my attention. But I also play (not as much as he would like) and prepare and discipline and read and take little trips to the park or the beach. It could be better. But it could be worse.
Tahd is a perfectionist, I think. Maybe it’s better to say he has high standards. So when I elicited the critique of my parenting, it hurt because I was being compared to his ideal, which is also mostly my ideal, and I don’t come close. I generally don’t mind failure; it used to bother me more than it does now, but I’ve embraced the fact that most everyone fails at some point in life, and the people who don’t are probably deluding themselves somehow. The fact that I feel like I’m failing in some areas of mothering is a harder pill to swallow because the identity of mother automatically guarantees that your successes and failures affect a fledgling human being. But I still have a general sense of peace about the fact that my child will eventually require therapy, and some of what he discusses with his therapist will be a direct result of my inadequacies. I wish it were otherwise, but I’m realistic, and I’m moderately okay with that realism. Tahd isn’t, really. Failure is less of an option and he has higher standards, maybe rightly so. So by early afternoon, I was feeling pretty down on myself.
Tomorrow, my family is having a joint birthday party for Tahd, my sister, A, and my mother. Everybody has different dietary needs, and we want everyone to have their birthday favorites. I volunteered to make a chocolate cake for Tahd. I make this one, in case you’re interested, with this frosting. Because I was also trying to be my version of a model mother, I suggested to Gabe that we make cupcakes, too. A little extra batter, and I figured he’d be in heaven with the chance to decorate his own petite cakes.
Except this afternoon I slipped further down the slope of inertia. It wasn’t until Tahd was putting Gabe to bed that I finally summoned the energy to make the cake(s), thereby missing Gabe’s bedtime routine. I was feeling like it was yet another strike against me. But I was trying… trying to balance everything – cakes that needed to be made, a child who needed to get to bed, a husband who has been so busy we’ve hardly seen each other, movies we wanted to watch together, a project adrift on my living room floor, a house that hadn’t recovered since last weekend’s party. So I baked the cakes.
This time, however, I screwed up the recipe. I didn’t know it at the time, but in trying to convert it to make additional batter for cupcakes, I didn’t make proper calculations. This was okay, really, because the flavor of the resultant cakes was fine. The pans overflowed, however, leaving a colossal mess in my oven.
My oven always stinks when I bake. I always forget to clean out the messes, intending to run the self-clean feature but never remembering at appropriate times. “How fortuitous!” I thought this evening. I’ve made a mess and I have time to run the cleaning feature! For the first time! In my oven that’s at least two years old!
So I turned it on and left it to run, and settled on the floor to work on my mess while Tahd and I watched our movie. Until Tahd said, “It smells awful in here!” And I went to the kitchen to turn on the fan and saw smoke BILLOWING out of all corners of the oven and then the smoke detector started screaming at us because, hey, there was a lot of smoke in our house. A lot.
Did I mention “a lot?” Because there was. It was pouring from the vent at the top of the oven, from an area near the bottom of the oven, and all around the oven door, in spite of the fact that it was sealed and locked. I debated calling the fire department; how did I know there wasn’t an actual fire in there? Or was there supposed to be a fire in there? I didn’t know. All I knew was it was impossible to stand in the kitchen for more than about 15 seconds and not feel like your eyes were burning or your throat was on fire or you were going to pass out.
After much running around, shutting doors, opening doors, turning on fans, turning off fans, and generally feeling crazy and desperate, we settled on a plan: turn on a fan in the kitchen aimed to an open door, close up the kitchen as much as possible, open every other window/door in the house, and keep checking on Gabe’s room to make sure he was okay.
So that’s what we did. The smoke billowed for around an hour and then stopped. I wish I had realized that I should have lightly cleaned the oven manually first. Or maybe I should have just cleaned the oven from top to bottom manually anyway. I’m not sure I’ll ever be brave enough to run the cleaning cycle again. And then I started the smoke abatement with laundry and washing of the walls and floors. Because everything stunk.
Meanwhile, the cakes had cooled. I had rescued them from the kitchen first thing when the smoke started billowing, but forgot the cupcakes in the closed-up kitchen. And the icing. I forgot the icing, which is unfortunate because I only eat cake as a means to injest icing in a socially acceptable format. They are a vector for icing. When I’m home alone? It’s “icing spoons” all the way. I embarked on the adventure of getting the cupcakes and cakes out of the pans.
First, I took care of the cupcakes. They gave me a hint of what was to come, them falling apart as I grasped the edges to remove them from the muffin cups. I made a new batch of icing and frosted a tester, promptly realizing they tasted exactly like smoke. Go figure.
A dozen cupcakes, thrown in the trash. They were my evidence that I was trying. I was trying to do something fun for Gabe even though I had to miss bedtime. With the evidence gone, I was left only with the evidence of a nauseous stomach. Because I did, in fact, eat the whole smoky cupcake. There was nothing wrong with the new icing, and the new icing required a vector!
Then the cakes. They stuck. They stuck something awful. That phrase sounds really country-ish to me, but it fits. I pried and wiggled and gently shook, all while whispering. “Please come out! Please come out!” Finally, half a cake round fell out onto the plate, the other half sticking stubbornly to the pan. Plop.
The I cried. Not so much because I broke the cake, but because of all the failures.
Tahd won’t care. He won’t care about the birthday cake. His birthday was actually last month and I made him a cake then. This was a bonus, and given my penchant for baking strange things at strange times, he can be certain he’ll have another chocolate cake soon. But I hate appearing – and being – so unreliable around my family. I don’t think they judge me, and certainly not over something as insignificant as a cake. But when I fail around them, I think I’m reminded of times gone by when I didn’t believe in failure and experienced success at all costs – times when I judged myself more harshly than now. But I don’t have the time, ingredients, or drive to make another cake, so Tahd will be cakeless at his birthday party and we (i.e. I) will just have to make our peace with it.
And Gabe? Well, in all likelihood he’ll forget about the cupcakes and the cake, at least at first. But I won’t forget, and I think I’ll feel like it’s just another time I let him down. I feel like I’m doing that a lot lately.
So that’s why I’m laughing. Except I’m not. Maybe it’ll seem funnier tomorrow. For now, I think I’ll move to Australia.