Getting the Hang of this Toddler Thing. Maybe.

By Angela

It feels like Matt and I have fallen into a routine again, which is why there’s been a lack of Eng Dynasty posts lately. Our days are long: we get up at 5:30, get ready for work, get Zelda ready for daycare, and depart for our respective commutes. I head to the metro, Matt drops Zelda off and drives into work. He picks her up in the afternoon, around 4, and I get home around 6. We’re just getting the hang of getting dinner started (which is easier on days I don’t telework) so that we don’t eat around 8. Then it’s a couple of hours of YouTube videos or video games before we tumble into bed. Rinse, repeat.

I’m oddly okay with this. At least, for now. I’m constantly tired, but my career is thriving and I’m succeeding at being a working mother. Every now and then I wish the days would slow down, but I’ve gotten a lot of what I’ve always wanted: a writing career, a job in a big city, motherhood, an amazing husband. Being tired is a small price to pay.

Couch time with Zelda.

Zelda is now almost two years old. I cannot believe how fast the time is flying. A few months ago I wrote about how I was nervous about having a toddler on my hands. Admittedly, I’m still nervous. I see toddlers having meltdowns in Target or read friends’ stories about living with their toddlers, and I think, “I’m so not ready.” But here we are, in the thick of it, and I wouldn’t say we are doing remarkably, but I also don’t think we’re doing a terrible job, either.

Currently, Zelda is babbling with a few words thrown in. I experience a little of that “Mommy Anxiety,” though, when people ask me if she’s talking. Our conversations go a lot like this:

Other person: How’s Zelda doing? She’s how old now?

Me: Oh, she’s great! Growing like a weed. She’s almost two. Can you believe it?

Other person: Oh wow, two? Is she talking yet?

Me: A little. She knows a few words, but it’s mostly babbling. 

Other person: Oh my niece/nephew/cousin was counting and saying his/her ABC’s by the time he/she was a year old! 

At this point in the conversation, my eyes glaze over and I have the urge to defend Zelda’s development, but I end up nodding, smiling, and escaping. I don’t know if it’s me being defensive, the other person being insensitive, or a combination of both, but my hackles always go up at the implied comment that Zelda is somehow inferior or defective in some way.

Truthfully, she awes me, which is probably why I get so defensive. She’s fearless. She started attempting to scale the couch when I wrote my last post, but now she likes to climb up on the armrest and do a dramatic dive off it and onto the cushions. She runs full-tilt throughout the house and plays small games of hide-and-seek. She plays with Torrance and tries to be friendly to Gozer (who’s not having it).

She also figures things out at an alarming rate. She knows how to work the TV remote and navigate to her favorite show (Little Baby Bum). She knows how to get to her favorite app on the iPhone (Wheels on the Bus). She asks for help when she’s stuck, but she always tries to do things herself, too. She’s learning to clean up after herself and understands the concepts of “hot” vs. “cold.”

Mid-tantrum after Matt left to walk the dog.

Her tantrums, however, are not as awe-inspiring. I put her down, and she squawks. I tell her “No, not right now,” and she wails. Sometimes she flops on the floor like a fish. I leave her there until she decides to act more civilized. Sometimes, when I tell her no, her face crumbles and she cries loudly. Just this morning she batted me in the face, and I said, “No, we don’t hit people.” She started with a pout, and by the time I got her outside and strapped in her car seat, she was full-on crying. But she didn’t hit me again, at least!  I wished Matt good luck on his commute and waved goodbye.

Mealtimes are still a challenge, but they are getting better. She eats a lot more than she used to. She loves fruit, french fries, and rice the most. On good days, she eats her dinner without a single boo. On the bad days, she eats a few bites and then sends some food over the side to Torrance. When I tell her to stop, I get one of three reactions: a cute smile, a scowl, or a sweeping gesture that sends all of her food to the floor. Sometimes she ends up wearing a lot of her food, but on those days Matt and I just smile, get the bath water running, and do what needs doing.

Mealtimes are a battlefield.

A lot of the time, I still feel like I have no idea what I’m doing. There’s so much pressure out there to do things perfectly, and there’s that weird feeling of competition I feel when reading posts online or talking to other mothers. Perhaps that’s something I need to work on, but for now I’m plowing ahead the best I can. It helps that Matt is on this adventure with me and doing the best he can as well.

Most of all, and perhaps the most important of all, is that I love seeing her out and interacting with the world. She’s changed my world, and I’m looking forward to seeing how she changes it for other people.

But not through tantrums.

Tick-Tock, Time is Ticking

By Angela

“Enjoy it, time goes by so fast!”

Every time I hear those words, they are usually in the context of a person I don’t know remarking how cute Zelda is. After an awkward smile and maybe a thank-you, the person continues:

How old is she?
16 months.
Oh enjoy it while you can. Time goes by so fast!

A disclaimer. I know these people mean well. I know they are trying to be nice. That said, I can’t stand it when I hear those words. It’s not because of the awkward situation this imparting of wisdom causes. It’s not because it usually comes at times I am chasing my 16-month old down the aisle at Target. Hell, it’s not even because a perfect stranger might be assuming I’m not enjoying motherhood.

It’s because I’ve already learned this lesson, and it’s kind of broken my heart a little.

Wrapped like a burrito.

Let me explain. When Zelda was teeny-tiny, we used to wrap her in a swaddle for bed. She slept in a pack and play napper in the corner of our room for the first seven months. Every morning, I’d take Zelda out of the napper and unwrap the swaddle. She’d yawn, stretch, and make the cutest little duck face while she was stretching. Every morning for those seven months, without fail, she’d make the start of the day perfect. Then she started rolling at seven months, and we had to put her in a crib. No more swaddle, no more unwrapping, no more duck face. Just like that, one morning that perfect start to the day was over.

Saturday, Super Lazy Edition.

Another favorite was our Saturday morning ritual before Zelda learned to crawl. She’d wake us up early, Matt would make coffee, and I’d breastfeed her. Then, with piping hot coffee in hand, we’d settle Zelda with some toys and books, drink our coffee, and watch the morning news. Those mornings are long gone, since Zelda can’t stay in one place for more than five seconds. Both of us miss those mornings so much.

Slinging it in the local record shop.

There’s a whole list of things I miss: her toothless smile, the YA DEE she used to say when she wanted something, breastfeeding her right before bed, the newborn cuddles, carrying her in a sling, giving her baths in the kitchen sink. I understand how fast the time goes, and how important it is to savor every second. I also know the aching sadness that comes with the realization that those times are gone and will only exist in my memory. It takes a lot for me not to say something like I KNOW when I hear someone tell me to enjoy it.

However, as sad as I am that these little moments in time have passed, I’ve also realized something important: there are just as many new and amazing moments to enjoy. They aren’t the same, but that’s the price you pay for being a parent: seeing your child grow.

So now, when Zelda gives me a toothy smile, says “mama,” or stuffs her face full of bread at breakfast, I try as hard as I can to savor those moments. Sometimes I feel like I didn’t savor the other ones enough. The good thing is, many more of those amazing moments are yet to come.

Valentine’s Day, 2016. Snuggles from Zelda and Torrance. Zelda was five days old.

So yes, I’m enjoying it the best I can. Every time I hear that I should, it’s sort of like the twist of a knife. I know. I miss so many moments already. But there’s plenty more to look forward to.

Telling Mr. Blake to Piss Off: A New(ish) Fatherhood Perspective

Eat it, Baldwin.

By Matt

I was doing it again. I caught myself at work staring into space. This time, it was in front of my computer at work. By Thursday afternoon, I guessed this had already occurred three or four times already this week.

Was it because I was tired? No, not that. I’m always tired. That comes with the territory of being a parent. It was something else. I sat there staring at a blank page on my computer screen, waiting for it to fill miraculously. A blank Word document is like the Bat Signal for complacency, so I figured something could be going on.

I guess you can say it was a “low point.” I’ve had them before for various reasons. But for what?

I instinctively put on some Morrissey on my drive home that afternoon. I figured I could get through most of “Your Arsenal” because I-295 coming out of DC was backed up. By the time “You’re the One for Me, Fatty” came on, I realized what was bothering me: I wasn’t where I thought I’d be.

Let me explain.

In my mind, I thought my thirties would be about crushing through my career in history. I thought there would be accolades, awards, publications, and lucrative book deals. To a degree, I’ve had a little of that. But since the birth of Zelda, it’s come to a grinding halt. I am now questioning my love for what I do and my place of employment. I often grow jealous of my colleagues who are succeeding when I am coming up with failure after failure. I think it was Jonas Salk who said, “The reward for work well done is the opportunity to do more.” I don’t know. I’m not finding a cure for polio in my research.

Jealousy is an ugly, terrible thing. It’s not my proudest moment, but remember, I said this was a weak point. Without becoming a cliché for my generation, I must implore that the emphasis is on the past tense.

Success.

That was the goal. That was the plan. Throughout my twenties, I adhered strictly to the movie quote made famous by Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross. In the film, Baldwin plays “Mr. Blake,” a shrewd real estate executive sent in to rile up a group of down and out agents. Throughout his speech, Blake has little respect for the lives of these men. He only believes in two things: money and success:

Nice guy? I don’t give a shit. Good father? Fuck you! Go home and play with your kids. You wanna work here – close!

That’s me. That’s how I wanted to be. For a while, I was. I never had the suit, but the mentality fit me fine.

After a few hours with feelings of failure and inadequacy swirling around my head, I picked up Zelda from her home care. I was admittedly in a terrible mood, but Zelda seemed in high spirits as per usual. Despite that, I still mumbled my way through the next hour at home. I knew I should stop being selfish and subjecting others around me to it. I wore it on me like a cheap coat. In a way, the feeling was a comfort. If I didn’t feel so goddamned sorry for myself, who would? It’s my right, ok? As I cooked dinner, I looked over at Angela and gave her my fake reassuring smile. She calls it my “Koala Face,” and can see through the bullshit a mile away.

I was as energetic as a hot turd at dinner. Angela said nothing. I think she could feel the heat coming off of me and knew better. I looked over at Zelda, a face full of mashed potatoes. She looked at me and smiled her bit smile. I could see bits of potato sticking out of her prison bar grin of teeth. It was the cutest thing I’ve ever seen in my life. It was almost as if Zelda was telling me, “Get over yourself dad and play with me.”

Me and My Girl

I melted. I melted fast. Tears welled up in my eyes, and I began to laugh. At that moment, there was only one feeling: love. Love for my daughter. Love for my family. Love for feeling blessed we are doing okay and that everyone is healthy. She was right: get over yourself, Matt. I did.

I picked her up out of her seat and gave her a big kiss. I didn’t care that the potatoes got on my face. She made me feel like I could kick Mr. Blake THROUGH THE DICK at that moment. I’m a goddamn superhero to her. I’m dad. What is better?

There are things we can’t control in life. Where I am in work may be one thing. If I work hard, I’ll get there eventually. In the meantime, I’ll settle for trying to be the best father I can be to the best thing that’s happened in my life. Work is one thing. Life is something completely different. I think it’s time I change my point of view and start living.

At Luray Caverns’ Giant Ass Parking Lot

Nothing will ever compare to having Zelda in my life. She is a lifetime fulfilled. She is my greatest creation, one that makes every accomplishment I’ll ever make in my career pale in comparison. She makes me proud to be a father. What better time to declare it than Father’s Day.

There are still things that matter. We need to work to have money for food and rent. I need to keep my dog and cat fed and healthy (shoutout to the pet parents). I need to ATTEMPT to not be an asshole to my wife. So, things do matter. But in the grand scheme of life, Zelda is the priority. Not the job. Not the prestige. It’s her.

Every time I see her smile I want to be a better fucking person. I try. We all try. But there comes a time when we all have to shut up and just do better for our kids. It’s not about me anymore. It’s all about her. I am ashamed it took me this long to realize it.

I win. I deal the cards. The game is mine.

My life can’t get any better. Everything else is just icing on the cake. Thanks for smiling at me, kid. You saved my life once again.

So, Mr. Blake, I will go home and play with my kid. With all due respect, Fuck YOU.

Here’s to the dads of all kinds who feel the same.

The Eng Dynasty Visits Katsucon

By Angela

This past weekend was pretty special. Historically, for me, it has always been special this time of year—for the past 21 years, to be exact. Why? This is the time of year that Katsucon happens. This weekend was particularly special because I got to take Zelda.

The Eng Dynasty at Katsucon!

What’s Katsucon? Well, it’s an anime con. If you’re not familiar with anime cons, the basic definition is that it’s a convention-type gathering that celebrates anime, manga, video games, and Japanese culture. They are held almost on a monthly basis in the US, and Katsucon is held early in the year outside of DC.

Katsucon, however, is more than just an anime con to me. When I attended my first Katsucon—Katsucon 2—it was 1996 and I was 15 years old. Anime was this quiet, weird thing at the fringes of American culture, almost underground. Back then it was called “Japanimation,” and it was hard to access. VHS tapes with two episodes on them ran 30 bucks; films were about the same, higher if subtitled. My friend from middle school, Emily, opened this world up to me and several other friends at a sleepover when I was about 13. The series we watched was called Ranma ½, and I had never seen anything like it. Then the SciFi (now SyFy) channel began airing anime films on Saturday morning: Robot Carnival, Akira, Lily C.A.T., and a few others. I found anime absolutely breathtaking. I even remember getting amped on the Sailor Moon premiere on Saturday morning cartoons when I was 14.

Yours truly as Sailor Mars (the one furthest to the right) at Katsucon 3 in 1997.

The funny thing about anime back then was that it was so underground and so on the fringes of popular culture that it also seemed to gravitate an audience of people who were somewhat on the fringes of society as well: outcasts, loners, weirdos, losers. I can’t speak for my friends, but I definitely lump myself in with more than one of those categories. But when I went to my first anime con at 15, it was like I’d found the mother ship. A huge group of people with oddball sensibilities that loved anime? That made costumes and dressed like anime characters (cosplay)? It was like I’d landed in an alternate world, and it was one I never wanted to leave.

21 years later, and a lot has changed about anime and anime cons. Cosplay is now a profession, not a bunch of duct tape and pieced together patterns. Anime is readily available on the Internet, and if you want a DVD or Blu-Ray, entire box sets are cheaper than one VHS tape cost. Anime cons are huge. The first Katsucon I attended had less than a thousand people. The one from this past weekend had 20,000. Somewhere in between 1995 and 2017 anime took on a life form of its own, and it continues to evolve. It’s bittersweet, really. What a bunch of misfits came together to quietly celebrate is now a huge event. Today, going to a con for me is more about seeing the friends I’ve made over the years than celebrating anime. Heck, I probably couldn’t even name a popular anime right now.

Steve and I wondering what the hell all these new manga titles are.

So why was this weekend special? After the rather lengthy exposition (sorry), it’s a pretty big deal for me to say that I took Zelda to her first anime con. Matt and I went for Saturday afternoon, just to walk around, see friends, and gawk at the costumes (seriously, the stuff they make these days is impressive as hell). Zelda met some old friends, a couple of which go back to that first con in ’96. She was a little shy, but gave them all smiles. She also got to see Emily (who also still goes to anime cons), her wife, and another friend from middle school I haven’t seen in a long time but was also present at that legendary sleepover many moons ago. Plenty of people waved and smiled at her, and I stopped every Zelda-related cosplayer I saw so Zelda could get a picture with them.

Zelda with Tingle and Midna.
Zelda trying to grab Link’s bow.

At one point Zelda got a little overwhelmed, so we sat in a corner and had a snack. When we resumed, we met up with another old friend and walked around the dealer’s room together, reminiscing about the old days and how tiny the dealer’s rooms used to be. More than once I remarked I felt like a dinosaur. We left around Zelda’s dinner time, and I was sad to leave. I only see these people once a year, twice if I’m lucky. I miss them fiercely, because we not only celebrated anime as a bunch of misfits, but we now are a part of the old guard that remembers what anime was like in those pre-Internet days, before it blew up and became a part of the popular culture zeitgeist.

I’m glad I got to take Zelda, even if she won’t remember it. It meant a lot for her to be there, to meet old friends, and to experience it for a little bit. I’m hoping next year she’ll give me permission to make her a Zelda costume.

“What a Le”: An Eng Nickname Primer

By Angela

Back in June, when writing about Father’s Day, Matt mentioned he had a family tradition of developing a sort of in-family language. He’s extended this tradition to me, so now we’ve got our own in-family language. A quick (and updated) vocabulary lesson:

“Hey how much?” – It’s time to make a bottle. How many ounces?

“Are you going to boob her?” – Are you going to breastfeed?

“Here comes the sadness”- We’re about to dump water over your head in the bathtub

Are you ty-ty? – Are you tired?

Not as good as “Frogurt.”

Aside from the weird sounding questions, Matt’s got a habit of naming those nearest and dearest to him, and they tend to catch on fast. Think Sawyer from Lost, only a bit more abstract. The cat is not Gozer, she’s Kee (short for Kitty), Shrimp Toast, Puddin’Cup. The dog is rarely Torrance, she’s Boo-Boo, T-Dawg, Butterbutt. Those are just examples. In many cases, the names evolve and become offshoots of one another. And no, I do not get the cute names.

Zelda, however, does. Before she was born, Matt started calling her Z-Gram, the semi-official title for policy directives issued by Elmo Zumwalt, an American naval officer in the Vietnam War era. Several friends have heard us call her this, and one who was familiar with naval history even had a laugh about it. Our last trip back to Suffolk, her 6 year-old cousin used the term and I thought I was going to keel over from the adorable.

Little Crabcake.

For awhile we called her “La,” which was a direct reference to the sounds she used to make when she was crying: “La, La, La, La.” We also called her “Little Crabcake,” because I got her footie PJs with crabs on them. We don’t really use them anymore, though.

An early one that stuck was “Plumpo,” which eventually evolved to “Plumpy.”  Offshoots include Plum, Baby Plump, and Little Plump. I try not to use this one in mixed company too much, but one time I referred to her as Plumpy in front of my brother. He asked, “Who’s Plumpy?” and I probably turned fifty shades of red. This one is slowly getting phased out in favor of “Poopy.” I’ve got to remember not to use that one in front of anyone else!

A more recent one is “Qua-Le” and its offshoot “Wah-Le.” This sort of comes from her daycare provider. She speaks another language, so sometimes she holds out her hands for Zelda I hear her say, “Cha-Le.” I don’t know what it means, but I assume its some form of “come here.” Matt latched on to the “Le” (pronounced “lay”) part of the phrase, and started calling Zelda “Le.” He still does, but only in certain contexts. I’ve noticed he mostly uses it when she’s showing signs of being tired, and makes comments like, “Aww Le. What a Le.” Qua-Le and Wah-Le came about from one of Matt’s made-up songs that goes something like, “Qua-Le, Wah-Le, a doot-doot-doot, a deet-deet-deet.” Now, when he texts me and asks how she’s doing, it’s always “How’s that Qua-Le?”

I guess it all sounds kind of silly, but I love having our own language and making up our own songs. Sooner or later Zelda’s going to catch on, and it’s all going to change. I distinctly remember my mom calling me Stinkpot when I was a kid, and I’m pretty sure I must have told her to stop at some point. Got to enjoy it while we can.

Year One

By Angela

So, here we are. One year. Just . . . Wow.

We couldn’t have a full day together—work and all—but I did get off a little early and we went for a meal at our favorite Mexican joint. Zelda ate a generous helping of refried beans and rice. The servers all sang Happy Birthday and presented her with a birthday sopapilla. It was all very low-key and fun. This weekend we’ll travel back to Suffolk to celebrate with family.

Birthday Sopapilla!

I could write about all kinds of sappy things, like what being a mother means to me, how having a daughter has changed me, and the joy of raising a tiny human. However, I think a lot of that would be a lot of pre-packaged, canned sentiment. The truth is, having a daughter HAS changed me. But not in the glossy magazine mommy-blog type way.

 

Behold, the list of things I do/think now that I didn’t before having a baby:

1. I sing a lot more. Every day, even. If you know me, you know how wonderful my singing ability is. Luckily Zelda doesn’t know any better.

2. Poop doesn’t bother me anymore. I’ve faced projectile poop, scrubbed it off walls, witnessed ones that stretched from head to toe, and tossed out many ruined onesies.

A blowout for the ages.

3. I’m having trouble enjoying horror now. I’m an avid Stephen King fan, but for some reason I haven’t been able to read him lately. I read his most recent collection of short stories on my metro rides shortly after returning to work, and one featured a car wreck in which a number of children were killed. I haven’t been able to pick up a King book since, even books I’ve already read.

4. I miss disposable income. I also miss impulsively going to movies, concerts, and restaurants. Some days I miss it more than others. I miss naps the most, though.

5. I’m perpetually tired. I didn’t know it was possible to be this tired and survive. And this is just with one kid. 8pm is a perfectly acceptable bedtime.

Matt and Torrance at 3 AM, shortly after bringing Zelda home.

6. Early into parenthood, I remember fetching Zelda at about 2 AM. While I was nursing her, Matt said, “Why are you starting vacantly into space?” Remembering an old Rugrats episode, I answered, “Because I’ve lost control of my life.” Sometimes I think that will be my state of mind forever.

7. There is no better sound in the world than your child laughing.

8. I’m more sympathetic to children who cry in public and the mothers that have to deal with it.

9. I really wish that there was a better mechanism for pumping breastmilk. The one available now makes me feel like a cow.

10. I love being a mother and would not trade it for the world.
Here’s to many more birthdays, and many more memories.

My Valentine’s Day in 2016. it was perfect.

Zelda’s First Thanksgiving

By Angela

So, Thanksgiving. When I was a kid, this holiday meant spending time together as a family. Usually we’d cook all day, watch football games, eat, and maybe play games afterwards. Later on down the line, somewhere in the late 90’s, my brother and I started the tradition of early-morning Black Friday shopping (we were trying to find Star Wars figures). Now we have families of our own and our traditions have been altered, but some, like Harrison Dip, still remain (Harrison Dip is a secret family recipe and we have had it every single Thanksgiving I can remember).

img_0071
Zelda with Grandma and Grandpa Harrison

This year was incredibly different. Zelda is now nine and a half months old, and her presence has transformed the holiday. Last year, I was massively pregnant and had acid reflux, so I didn’t eat much. I didn’t move much, either. The holiday was spent in the same house we’d spent Thanksgiving for the past 30 years. This year, Thanksgiving was in my mom and Dad’s new house in Suffolk, I ate way too much, and I was chasing Zelda all over the place. It was—dare I say it—fun.

It was a full house: my mom and dad, my brother and his wife, their three kids, and their neighbors and their three kids. It was chaos: kiddie toys strewn about, screaming children, thumping footsteps, lots of tears and even more laughter.

Spending quality time with cousins
Spending quality time with cousins

All the kids played together nicely. I think, without a doubt, one of my favorite moments of the night was when Zelda’s younger cousin came in and made a beeline for her. They looked at each other for a second, then Zelda lit up. When she did, so did he.

I drank a lot of wine and ate a lot of good food. Zelda even got in on the fun. I gave her a spoonful of mashed potatoes and she ate it all—but she also got it all over herself. Matt joked that there was an “It’s Something About Mary” hairstyle going on. We had to bathe her afterwards; she’d gotten potatoes everywhere. Matt and I were both aching by the end of the night from all the running around, but we were full of good food and ready to get some good sleep. Too bad I snore, and too bad Zelda had other plans.

Potato head
Potato head

We spent the rest of the weekend visiting small towns outside Suffolk (Smithfield, Rescue, and Franklin, to be exact), visiting friends in Norfolk and Virginia Beach, eating excellent sushi, having dim sum with Matt’s parents, and walking around the pathetic excuse for a mall called Pembroke. I finally got my mane of hair chopped off and I feel magical. There’s all the things I’m thankful for that aren’t the usual staples of family and friends: good food, a wonderful haircut, being out and about, and seeing new places.

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Playing with friends

I guess I summed it up pretty well when someone asked how my Thanksgiving was, and I said good, loud, and full of kids. I added, “It’s a big reminder how my life has drastically changed.” When Matt and I were headed to downtown Norfolk to get a drink with some friends, I mused about how I’d go dancing or something on a night like this not even five years ago. I wasn’t sad about it, but I hit an unexpected twinge of nostalgia. A life far different, sure, but full of enough memories to pass along to my daughter when the time is right.

So yeah, this Thanksgiving was different from the family traditions I grew up with, but I like this new wilder and crazier one. Here’s hoping the next one is even wilder.

Playing Catch Up

It’s been awhile. Truthfully, we fell off of posting, let the domain lapse, and just now got around to getting it back. But we’re back now, and we plan to post some more.

baby pillow
One of the rare nights she decided to fall asleep on me.

My last post was in June of 2016, which does and does not seem that long ago. In June, Zelda was four months old and just starting to become more human. We were falling into a routine. We were getting a solid five hours of sleep a night. Now she’s eight months old, even more human, the routine is pretty much the same, and we average about three hours of sleep a night right now. I’m nostalgic for those swaddling days already.

Somewhere in our four month hiatus, I had a friend ask me what it was like to be a parent. Our conversation went something like this:

Me: I kinda love being a mommy.

Friend: I can tell! I’m so happy for you!

Me: She’s pretty much the best thing ever. You know that feeling when you start a new book, play a new game, or get a new gadget? That feeling is like, every day.

Friend: Well, that is one of the most compelling descriptions of parenthood I’ve ever heard.

Me: Don’t get me wrong. There’s some days I want to ruin screaming out of the house. But the good feeling outweighs that.

I have no idea if this feeling will last or not, but I know that right now I wake up every day excited to see her. Every night, I’m sad she’s in bed and I can’t play with her anymore.

So I’ve been trying to think about how I can make up for four months of lost blog posts. She’s grown so much in the past four months: she’s eating solid food, she’s crawling and able to pull herself up to a standing position, she babbles, and her smile is still sans teeth but able to light up a room. Instead of rehash all that, I’ll leave you with a list of her five most current personality quirks:

1. She doesn’t like fruit. Put a banana near her face and she’ll scream. She’ll eat mangoes and pears, but she’s not too enthusiastic about them. She does seem to like apples. But vegetables? She loves them: sweet potatoes, butternut squash, carrots, peas, freaking zucchini. She eats them all and she’s happy to do it.

2. She wants to see anything and everything, and she takes it all in. She’s been all over the place: the National Zoo, the American History Museum, the Air and Space Museum, the National Mall, and countless other places all over DC, Northern Virginia, and Maryland. She loves being out and about, and she loves being in her carrier. She wants to be where the action is. Even when she’s in the carrier facing me, she’ll crane herself backwards so she can see what’s going on. I love her curiousity, and I love her intensity.

3. Her favorite game at the moment is what Matt calls “Mission Impossible.” You know the scene where Tom Cruise was hanging by all those wires in the super-fortified room to get the NOC List? Matt pretends like Zelda is doing the same thing, and swoops her up and down while singing the Mission Impossible theme. She laughs so hard every time he does it.

Let me play!
Let me play!

4. She loves music. Matt plays the guitar and ukulele, and he plays and sings to her on a regular basis. He even makes up silly songs about her. My current favorite is one entitled “Mama.” She even participates, since it’s the only word she knows. Fun fact: I am tone deaf and can’t sing worth a crap, but I sing to her when no one’s around. She seems to like it.

5. She is the sweetest in the morning. Usually she gives us a wake up call at five AM. I stumble in the nursery, bleary-eyed, and carry her back to the room. Matt’s usually snoring away and the dog is snoring right next to him. After I nurse her, she wakes up a little more and starts to babble. That’s when I put her in front of Matt and say, “excuse me.” Soon as he wakes up, she gives him a sloppy grin and tries to crawl all over him. We could put her back in the crib and try to get a little more sleep if it’s the weekend, or start getting ready for work if it’s a weekday, but she’s always so happy and so sweet that we’re content to stay in bed and play with her.

Matt and I are hoping to be more vigilant when it comes to posting, so here’s to more of the (mis)adventures of the Eng Dynasty.

Pumpkin patch day!
Pumpkin patch day!

Routines and Curveballs

By Angela

Ok, I’m guilty. We haven’t updated in awhile, mostly because we’re finally starting to fall into some kind of rhythm. I’m guessing that’s part of this whole parenting thing: finding a routine that works and keeping in line with it. In some ways, I’m good with that. There’s a small measure of comfort in routine. In other ways, the former version of myself wants to fight it. I never liked routine. To me, routine was one step away from being an automaton.

Right now out routine goes a lot like this: I wake up at 5:30 in the morning to feed her during the week, and the second she sees me I get a huge smile. I love that. I feed her, get her milk and diaper bag ready for daycare, and get my makeup on. Sometimes Matt changes her, sometimes I do. It depends on who’s further ahead with getting ready. We drop her off and are on the road to DC by 7 AM. I’m at work sometime between 7 and 8, depending on traffic. At 4 PM, I pack up and ride the metro home. From there it’s dinner, feedings, and killing time until bedtime. Then rinse and repeat. On the weekends I feed her at the usual time, then go back to sleep till the next feeding. We lounge around in bed with Zelda and  the dog until we decide to get moving for the day. So far as routines go, it’s not bad. Sometimes we get a curveball with fussiness or blowouts, but for the most part the days are similar. Of course, this routine could change at any time, but for now I’m content.

Then we have nights like tonight. I was trying to feed her and was getting frustrated about her nails raking all over my skin. Those little nails can get sharp! I insisted that we cut them with some baby nail clippers, because last time we tried a file it didn’t go so well. She screamed so much she vomited her last feeding. This would be much faster and more efficient, right?

What they don’t tell you: this dolphin can bite. 

WRONG.

Matt did great with the first three nails, but on the index finger he cut some skin by accident. We both went into panic mode because there was so much blood. Blood all over the place and Zelda was screaming. I had Matt wrap the finger and apply pressure, but I didn’t know how the hell to administer first aid to a four month old. If it was me, I would have slapped on some Neosporin and a Band-Aid, but I didn’t even know if you could give a baby Neosporin, or if using a Band-Aid was a good idea. So I called the doctor.

A half-hour later, she’d finally stopped bleeding and crying. In fact, she was passed out in Matt’s arms. We finally had a good look at the cut, and it looked like a really bad paper cut, nothing more. The doctor advised using Neosporin, but no Band-Aids. Keep her hands out of her mouth and watch for infection.

Okay, I take back what I said about routine. Routine trumps curveballs, especially where nail clippers are involved.

Matt nursing her wound.

New Mom, New Anxiety: Dealing with PPA

Acknowledgement: Special thanks to Erica for sharing her experiences in this post. She writes for her own blog, Mom Jeans, but was kind enough to contribute here. I found this post difficult to write due to the sensitive subject matter. However, I think it is important to talk about and I appreciate her willingness to be open on the topic.

Here we are, one month and counting into parenthood.

Matt’s already blown off some steam about the sleep deprivation, frustrations, and difficulties returning to work. Not going to lie, this is tough business. However, we knew that going in. Thanks to my mother and mother-in-law, we’ve at least picked up the tools to do this on our own. All night crying sessions have given way to trial and error routines that end with her quiet and us relieved.

Even so, like Matt, I’m struggling. A lot of my struggling, though, isn’t directly associated with sleep deprivation or frustration. Sure, I’ve been experiencing those, but I’ve surprised myself and taken them better than I thought I would. I haven’t broken down from exhaustion yet. However, I have broken down and cried from weird thoughts and scenarios that involve death and dying.

Hand pointing at a Anxiety word illustration on blue background.

The first night we were home, I did the classic new parent move of standing over the crib to make sure Zelda was breathing. I was terrified that she would just spontaneously stop. What with warnings about SIDS and such going around with no clear explanation, my fuzzy sleep-deprived head would start revving up. Eventually sleep won out, but that was clearly the first instance I can remember fearing for Zelda’s life.

In the coming weeks, my head would crowd with more vivid and macabre pictures of Zelda dying: dropping her when taking her to the changing table and splitting her head open, slipping out of Matt’s grip during a bath and drowning, seeing her strangle on some spit up or vomit and choking, being in a wreck and the car seat failing, or the dog suddenly turning on her. Then they got weirder, like someone breaking into the house and shooting her, someone taking her from me at the metro and tossing her in front of a train, or going to the store and her catching meningitis. Then I started to get afraid of Matt or someone in my family dying. It was like the snowball that jus gets bigger as it rolls downhill.

All of them sounded phobic to me, some completely irrational. I cried a lot, but I did it when no one was looking. I didn’t talk about the weirdness going on because it sounded so irrational, even to me. I wondered if I was going crazy, or if this was some strange version of postpartum depression (PPD). I wanted to be strong for Matt and Zelda, so I swallowed that fear and put on a brave face. I think the only time it slipped was when I asked my mom to stop watching so much Law and Order: SVU. All the episodes with children dying seemed to confirm all the fears in my head.

One day I offhandedly googled “I’m afraid of my baby dying.” Sounds like a cocktail for disaster, right? We all know what happens when you google symptoms. Turns out that was a good move. All the first page hits had names like, “Postpartum Anxiety and the Incessant Fear of Losing Your Child” or “Anyone Else Constantly Worried Their Baby Might Die?” After reading blog posts and forums from other mothers who had the same weird, horrifying thoughts I had in my own head, I relaxed a bit. This is, to a degree, normal. I’m not crazy.

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After realizing that postpartum anxiety (PPA) is common, I opened up a little more. I told some close friends about it, including a mother who has a one and a half year old. She related her own experiences:

Due to a history of depression and knowing an entire boatload of hormones is released just after birth, I assumed PPD would hit me hard. However, I didn’t get depressed, I started to worry. I worried a lot. You know that scene in The Joy Luck Club where the mother drowns her baby? To me, that’s what PPD was. I didn’t have PPD, so what the hell was wrong with me? I loved my baby. Every time she cried, I didn’t hate her, I hated my inability to keep her happy. The horrible and isolating thoughts about her dying crept in slowly. Images of horrific and tragic accidents, me sleep deprived and slipping down the stairs with her in my arms, SIDS sneaking up and taking her away from me in the middle of the night, our cats killing her for no reason at all. I couldn’t watch the news because every story made me panic.

It wasn’t until 6-7 months I told my doctor. When she asked, “Are you sleeping?” I broke into tears; I hadn’t slept more than 2-3 hours at a time since she was born. My heart was constantly in my throat and I had no idea why. Turns out I was suffering from PPD and PPA. I ended up getting a mild antidepressant and therapy. My moods still come in waves but they’re gentle, friendlier. It doesn’t feel like a constant storm. I no longer worry about my baby leaving me. Being able to enjoy my daughter and motherhood is the best feeling in the world. I can’t imagine if I hadn’t gotten help how different my life could have been.

 My thoughts still stray from time to time, like my friend’s, but they’re not as bad as they were those first couple of weeks. I think it might have been a perfect storm of sleep deprivation and the uncertainty of being a new mother, mixed in with those boatloads of hormones. Once i opened up about it, the thoughts got way more manageable. What blows my mind is that no books about having children really cover this sort of thing. Yes, some mention PPD and to keep an eye out for symptoms, but I had no idea PPA existed until the night I did my google search.

I’m sharing this information in hopes that someone comes across it and it eases his or her mind. You’re not alone. Talk to a friend, see your doctor, voice your concerns. It may be difficult for fear of stigma, or people judging your ability to be a mother. Speaking up is a brave thing to do, and the more women that come forward and talk about their experiences, the more other women may feel inclined to speak up.

Hang in there.

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