Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Thoughts at 7:47 pm on a Monday Night

Zu has a rash that's worrying me.

Coco is eager to pee on the potty and quick to help me clean up any mess (two qualities that her sister certainly did not share at age two), but she's just as quick to have a bone melting breakdown over something that is inexplicable to the rest of us.

I am home alone Monday nights while David is in class. We miss him. I tire of a dinner hour that sometimes feels like the girls bark orders disguised by a "pease, Mommy" tacked on the end, and I run circles in the kitchen, scrambling eggs, refilling milk, shooing the dog outside, reminding them to sit down, use a napkin, don't shout, ask nicely. Then I clean up the kitchen while they wreck another room of the house. Tonight it was the basement bathroom--they turned on the shower and soaked the floor (and themselves) trying to bathe some dolls. It's hard to be the only one here, but I also love it.

"Girls night!" Zu will say, as though we are going to do something different from any other weeknight. And there is something festive, somehow, in the rush of dinner and play and bath and brush and bed.

My favorite, though, (like so many parents) is bedtime. Both girls with me in the rocking chair. Reading books. Rocking. Singing. Both asleep on my lap. I breathe in the smell of their hair, the baby lotion that I love so much, the fruity toothpaste breath.

There's still laundry to fold, appointments to schedule, a guest bed to make up, towels to pick up off the bathroom floor. I should run the vacuum downstairs. But in this quiet moment, a fan whirring, Cooper snoring gently on the rug, the girls' warm bodies leaning on me, I just want to savor it. The quietness. The trust. Despite all my doubts and worries and fears, for this short sliver of time, I'm enough. I'm their comfort and their safe place as they drift off to sleep. It's such a gift and responsibility and it awes me still that I'm The Mom. That somehow all of this is mine.

And still the fear that if I hold it too tight, it just might slip away.

I spent a lot of hours with my therapist talking about how not to live a life in fear. Discussions of mindfulness and being in the moment. Controlling the fear. Believing that my paranoia won't protect me (or them), nor will it be a catalyst for tragedy. Even when things are troubling (this rash!), I am usually able to let logic beat terror.

As I worry about this rash, I try not to spin out into excessive anxiety. But I'm always aware that we are not exceptions to the rule of chance. It's a challenge every day to take that awareness of the great fragile gift of this life and treat it with joy instead of fear.

Being home alone forces me to be totally present, and it's exhausting but also exhilarating. 

I've always borrowed the line that I love my kids SO MUCH, but I love them 10% more when they are sleeping. And it's never truer than the nights I'm home alone, when our snuggles are extra long, their hugs and kisses extra sweet, the long list of chores pushed off a few more minutes. It won't be long until the three of us don't fit on one chair, until Zu is reading books to herself, until pajamas don't feature footies and zippers and Disney characters, until the smell of baby lotion isn't part of our evening ritual.

So I'm taking the mess, the water on the bathroom floor, the potty talk, the temper tantrums, and I'm doing my best NOT to live and appreciate every moment of the madness (impossible!), but to hold on to the pockets of quiet as the crucial reminders of how fleeting this is, and how incredibly, unbelievable precious and sweet these girls are--at least when they are sleeping.

Monday, September 26, 2016

So, This Is Us...

Have you watched this show on NBC? This Is Us? Warning: I'm about to PLOT SPOIL the hell out of the pilot, so you may not want to read further...

My friend Monica told me that it was really good, but that there was baby loss in the first episode, so I approached the show with caution. It's not that the story line scares me--at least, since I knew what was coming. But I was scared of how they would handle it. Would it be smoothed over? Would it be a story about silver linings? Would there be some saccharine moment that suggested "everything happened for a reason"? Alternatively, would the mother be portrayed as a grief monster? The oversimplification of any story line is pretty necessary for TV, so I just wondered how they would present this one.

Anyway, I'll tell you that I think they did it pretty well. I fast forwarded through a lot of hospital scenes, because the truth is that I don't like watching fake pregnant women have fake birth scenes in fake hospitals. It's just something I would prefer not to see.

The first time I watched it, I also fast forwarded through the scene where the doctor tells the dad that they lost a baby (I say "a baby" because you find out early on she's expecting triplets). But then Monica said that was the "best part" and after I got over my shock that she would describe the conversation that way, I realized that I was probably reading her tone wrong over text and she actually meant that the conversation was really important in terms of how the show was dealing with the issue of losing a baby during labor. So I went back and watched it.

Here's the clip:


(You can also watch the whole episode on nbc.com)

There are a lot of good things here. I love the doctor's compassion. The dad's bewilderment is heartbreaking.

Many of my baby-loss friends were like me in that their husbands were with them in the same room when they were told that their baby had died. I know a few people who found out at a routine appointment and had to call their husbands. But this scene makes me think of my friend Mark, and how he was the one who knew that his son Matthew had died before his wife (my friend Christine) woke from her emergency c-section.He, then, was the one who told her. (It probably goes without saying that I was bawling my eyes out while watching this, but I'm not calling it a grief-trigger because it didn't come out of no where. It's intended to be full of pathos, and I think it does what it sets out to do, which is not to dismiss the loss of a baby during pregnancy or labor.)

And, of course, I was especially appreciative that the doctor says that he thinks about his first child every single day (even though he's now an old man).

I will say that I'm not crazy about the lemonade analogy--it's tired and kind of trite, and I think they could have done better. But whatever. A lot of people say stuff like that, and at least he didn't act like things were "better" this way. And I can see how the analogy works, as most of us do go on to do the best we can to have lives that include plenty of sweet to accompany the bitter.

One of my friends mentioned that she thought it was all pretty well done, although the scene with the parents home from the hospital show them beaming with smiles over their living children instead of still wracked with sobs and crying their faces off. But it also shows the mom back to having a waist after presumably delivering triplets just a few days earlier, so true-to-life obviously isn't really happening here.

What does happen is a pretty good conversation about the way losing a baby changes your life, and about the way you try to make meaning out of that tragedy. My friend Caroline says that she thinks about how having her son Cale turned her life in a new direction and she has the family she has now because of him. I think that's true for many of us, and while that doesn't make their deaths any less devastating, it does speak to the impact of their brief lives and, hopefully, to the hugeness of that love.

Anyway, if you've seen the show, I'd love to know what you thought of it.  

Friday, September 23, 2016

Right now...

Reading: I just posted about the books I'm currently reading here. This weekend I hope to get mostly through Dept. of Speculation.

Watching:  Stranger Things. I know everyone else has already seen it, but we are slow on the TV watching around here. It's so good! We are about halfway through and I want to watch all of it! I also want to watch this season of Survivor (Gen X vs. Millennials!) but haven't started it yet. Zuzu and Coco have been watching the occasional episode of old-school Mr. Rogers since I saw this TED Talk about kids and TV. It doesn't hold Coco's interest for long, which is totally fine with me.

Listening: I went to Minneapolis a couple of weekends ago and had the BEST time. I visited my friend Natalie, her husband Rob, and their adorable baby, Pete. Looking back, I realize that I should have done more to be helpful to Natalie (new mom and all of that), but she really seemed to have it together, and Pete is an easygoing baby, and so they just took me out to great restaurants and we did a bit of shopping and I learned how to play Settlers of Catan and I showered with Aveda hair products and didn't have to take care of anyone but myself, and it was basically a spa weekend. Except I held Pete a lot and missed Coco a lot and that literally made my boobs ache, which was kinda weird since I stopped breastfeeding Coco two months ago. ANYWAY, all this to say that Natalie and Rob took me to a fabulous bookstore in Minneapolis and I made an impulse purchase of a Roald Dahl audio book on CD: Fantastic Mr. Fox and Other Animal Stories. So we have been listening to this in the car on the way to school and it. is. fabulous. The narrator is so great and obviously Roald Dahl is great. Some of it feels like it might be a bit beyond what the girls can follow (at least Coco) but they are both pretty riveted, and even I enjoy it.

Drinking: Hot tea today. I've come down with a cold--all the sinus drippiness and a sore throat. So unpleasant. I've been popping Cold Calm and drinking tea, but I'm so bummed because I'll have to miss book club tonight as my friend who is hosting it has a new baby and I am not about to be the one who introduces Baby's First Cold Germs at the start of Cold & Flu Season. So I'll be sitting at home with a hot towel on my face.

Eating: Just had a granola bar. Having a cold wipes out my appetite since I can't taste anything. Maybe I'll make a grilled cheese when I get home. Comfort food.

Wearing:  Jeans. It's Friday. But a sleeveless top because it's still 90 degrees here every day.

Loving:  My Ello travel mug from Target. I bought one with a cork bottom and I wish I would have grabbed another one when they went on sale. This one looks cute too. I'm really picky about travel coffee mugs. They must have a screw top (otherwise they leak) and they need to be stainless steel inside (plastic holds flavor and ceramic is for tea. That's just my rule, but I'm strict about following it.)

Anticipating: My brother and his wife, JoAnna, visiting us next week. They are driving back from Seattle to Pittsburgh and stopping in St. Louis for a few days. I'm really looking forward to seeing them.

Hoping: That Zuzu's bug bites clear up. So TWO and a half weeks ago when Zuzu retired from soccer, you may recall that she did so by running off the practice field through an unmowed field of grass and weeds at the park. I gave her a bath that night when she got home and noticed a couple bug bites on her legs. The next night a babysitter put her in pjs while we were at parents night at her preschool. Friday I gave her another bath and HOLY HELL her legs and bottom were covered in angry red bug bites, and there was a smattering on the back/elbow of both arms. I treated with Benadryl itch gel (though they didn't seem to bother her) and then when they got kind of scabby, I put Neosporin on them. The next Monday I pointed them out to the pediatrician at her check up and he agreed with the Neosporin treatment. But they didn't seem to be getting better. She started to look diseased. Some of the bites were getting bigger instead of smaller, and appeared to have bruises spreading from them. I was sending her to school in leggings to cover them up but her teachers were asking me about them, so I kept having to tell people, "I just took her to the doctor; he didn't seem to be concerned." But after a few more days of not getting any better, I called and spoke to a nurse. She suggested Zyrtec(oral allergy medicine) and a hydro-cortisone cream, so I tried that. It made no difference. So on Wednesday (at the two-week mark), I took her back to the doctor. He said it looked like a combination of an allergic reaction and a mild staph infection (cue freak out). He insisted (twice) that she does not have MRSA. He gave me a prescription for an antibiotic ointment, which (thankfully) seems to be taking care of the situation. If it weren't looking better, he was going to call in an oral antibiotic, but I think it's doing the trick, though I already had to call in for a refill because I've used up the entire tube in two days of spreading it all over her arms, legs, and bottom three times a day.

Following: Election numbers with a sick feeling in my stomach. (For the record: I'm with Her. And I have the car magnet to prove it.)

Wondering:  If I can get my kids to sleep by 7:30 and binge watch Stranger Things all night long.

Trying: New hair and make up products because Natalie convinced me to subscribe to Birch Box. She had all these awesome sample size products at her house! And she sent me home with some! And I wanted the excitement of a pretty package arriving in the mail each month! It's definitely an indulgence, but it's pretty fun.

Planning: Weekends for the next couple of months. I'm amazed at how quickly they are filling up, but with fun stuff to do (NOT preschool soccer games!). BBQs and out of town visitors and a trip to my parents' house and shows at the Fox. It feels busy but not too busy, which is pretty perfect.

Contemplating: When to give Zuzu the Halloween costume she's been asking for. She wants to be the Owlette character from the PJ Masks TV show. (So basically no one will have any idea who she is.) I ordered her wings and a mask from Etsy, and I have them hidden downstairs, but I know she will love playing with them so I plan to give them to her early. I just don't want her to lose interest weeks in advance. Coco is going to be Minnie Mouse for Halloween, although Zuzu keeps asking Coco if she wants to be Catboy (from PJ Masks) or a Rainbow Butterfly. I picked up her costume at a consignment shop. It's going to be adorable.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Reading Lately

Even though it's sort of my job to read for a living, I confess that I can get bogged down with the day-to-day assignments (my students probably know the feeling!) and not spend nearly as much time as I would like reading for pleasure, or thinking about what I'm reading in relation to my own writing, or taking my own writing seriously, thinking about it as a craft instead of mere record-keeping.

I'm still not finding time to do as much reading as I would like, but I am making my way through a few different books at the moment that are fascinating in totally different ways.

One of them is Far From the Tree by Andrew Solomon. I checked this out from the library first and couldn't get all the way through it before someone else requested it. So I bought it used from abebooks.com because I didn't want to rush through it and it's the kind of book you can read in pieces because the chapters can stand alone. It's a book about parents and children that's particularly concerned with identity in the face of disability or disease or some kind of "otherness" that shapes the way the child and family function in our society. It's fascinating (and really long) and there are chapters on deafness, dwarfism, Down syndrome, transgender, among other things. I like it because it's well researched (oodles of endnotes) and well written. Completely fascinating. I've just finished the chapter on dwarfs and I was especially struck by the idea that parents often take their child's diagnosis much harder than their children do--the children don't know any different, but it's the parents who set expectations for their child before that child is even born, and then have to adjust to a different kind of life.

Back in April when I flew to Colorado for my friend Monica's birthday, I actually talked to the person next to me on the airplane (basically the first time this has ever happened to me). He turned out to be a writer and journalist about my age, and he just came out with a new book: Original Gangstas: The Untold Story of Dr. Dre, Eazy-E, Ice Cube, Tupac Shakur, and the Birth of West Coast Rap. Believe me when I say that this is not a subject in which I expected to be very interested, and also believe me when I say that I did not want to put the book down last night to go to bed. Ben gave a reading last night at Left Bank Books, so I bought that book and Teddy Wayne's new novel, Loner. He's giving a reading at Left Bank on Monday, but David has class so I'll be at home with the girls and won't be able to attend the reading.

A friend of mine gave me an unexpected birthday gift of $20 to Amazon and I used it to buy Krista Tippett's book Becoming Wise. I like her podcast On Being (her voice is so soothing!) and I'm excited to get further into this book.

I'm realizing that most of these are nonfiction, which is kind of weird for me. I guess I go in spurts. I just recently finished listening to the novel Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff which was fantastic (I listen to library books through the Overdrive app on my phone). I wasn't sure I wanted to read it (the synopsis I heard was like "story of a marriage, a husband and wife who don't know each other as well as they think" or something like that, which made it sound meh), but even better than the plot was the writing--the word choices and descriptions were just fantastic, so original and unexpected and exactly precise. It had me looking forward to my commute for over two weeks.

As far as what the girls are reading, Zuzu has started getting really into writing letters. She writes random letters (and sometimes just squiggles) and then wants to know what it says. (Um, oooeeeiioo?" and one of her favorite books to "help" me read is Chicka Chicka, Boom Boom. Coco likes it, too, and is adorable about singing the alphabet at the end. We're also still reading a lot of Baby Listens (I love the illustrations). Zuzu has recently gotten into Mo Willems--she finds that naughty pigeon so appealing and cracks up laughing when we read The Duckling Gets a Cookie?! and Don't Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late!. I remember reading her Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus from a library book when she was about Coco's age and thinking that it did not live up to the hype, but maybe she was just too young for it. Now she gets so much pleasure from reading these books that I guess I see why Mo Willems is so popular with the preschool set.

Another book we've been reading lately is Hajime in the North Woods, which I bought used at a thrift shop and can't find on Amazon (I don't know why the cover shot looks like that--it has lovely pictures in real life, though our thrift store copy is missing the dust jacket). It's about a baby who understands the animals and visits them in the woods but then wants to go home to his mommy and daddy. The baby cries until the animals take him back home, and Coco is so interested in the pictures of the crying baby. It's beautifully illustrated, and she read it by herself last night, basically just acting out the crying parts "wah! wah!" while turning the pages.

So, that's what I'm reading now. My book club is discussing The Girl on the Train tomorrow night, which I read a while back, and my next novel up is Dept. of Speculation.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

This Week

I have been finding it difficult to get posts written. Insert all the usual excuses... I'm tired. I'm working a lot. I'm trying to be present with my kids except when they are just whining incessantly and then I hide from them using the excuse of folding or putting away laundry and read other people's blogs on my phone. Just being honest. At any rate, I'm going to write something and then go to bed.

Highlights of this week... (And by highlights, I also mean memorable low points).

Zu got chiggers the day she stomped off the soccer field and ran through unmowed grass in the park. We went home and I put her in a bath right away, but she basically got eaten alive. She still has bites all over her legs and bottom. It looks like measles or something. She hasn't been especially itchy (considering how bad they look) and doesn't complain about it. Still, it looks horrifying. I've been putting neosporin on it after bath (our pediatrician approved when I asked him about it) to try to get the bite/sores to heal faster.

Mornings have been rough. I've accepted that I need to shower at night to save my sanity, but it's still hard to get the three of us out the door with the dog still inside. Just when I think we are ready, I turn around and find Coco has removed her shoes and socks (which she insists on putting on herself, as it's a current focus in the Toddler House) and is wearing Zuzu's flip flops, so we have to start the sock/shoe process all over. Or I lock the door only to realize Coco let Cooper out and he's smiling at me from the yard. The other day Coco spilled a cup of milk as I was trying to clean up breakfast dishes and then pooped her pants as we were walking out to leave. Monday morning she fell down on the way to the car and scraped her knee so it was bleeding and required clean up and a bandaid and lots of TLC. I try to build some cushion into our mornings because I don't want to spend the whole time saying, "Hurry up, girls! We're going to be late!" but some days just go smoother than others, and we had a week full of "others" this week.

I'm still making Zu choose outfits the night before--right now I'm making her wear leggings to cover the horror of her bug bites--and her choices still drive me batshit crazy sometimes (it's not that I don't like the dresses she chooses to wear, it's that I love so many she won't wear, and I've resorted to putting some of her favorites up out of sight so she'll wear a more even rotation).

In other news, I called my mom one evening this week, and as we were talking, I remarked, "I think my couch smells like pee." Then I turned over a pillow and discovered a huge pee stain on it. WTF. I'm blaming Cooper only because I think Coco would have cheerfully announced it to me.

Coco has peed on the potty at home a couple of times this week. When I suggest she pee on the potty at school, she says, "NO! Mommy!" which I guess means she only likes to pee on the potty when I am there to observe. She continues to delight in her self-appointed role as Pee-Pee Concierge, for which she accompanies us to the bathroom, stares intently as we do our business, hands us a handful of toilet paper, congratulated us on a job completed, and then insists on flushing the toilet for us. I can barely remember how to use the bathroom without an assistant.

Zuzu has memorized Chicka Chicka Boom Boom and I love reading it out loud with her reciting along with me. We always sing the alphabet song at the end, and last night she suggested that instead of saying, "Next time won't you sing with me" we sing, "I'll beat you to the top of the coconut tree!" So we did. "Wasn't that a good idea?" she said. So proud of herself. Coco is a creature of habit and right now wants the same three books each night: Chicka Chicka Boom BoomThe Very Hungry Caterpillar, and Baby Listens. Zuzu corrects me when I read The Very Hungry Caterpillar because she insists the plums that he eats on Wednesday are actually blueberries. The picture does kind of look like blueberries, but the book says plums. It's an ongoing dispute.

Coco, according to teachers and her own report at the end of each day, LOVES school. She grins so big when I name her friends and ask if she played with them. She says, "YESSSSSTH" when I ask if she loves her teachers. She tells me every morning she wants to go to school and she affirms that she's going to have a good day. She walks cheerfully to the toddler house, holding my hand. And then suddenly, right on the threshold, she realizes I'm going to say goodbye and she starts clinging to my leg and saying, "Uppa, Mommy! Uppa!" Then when I kneel down to hug her, she starts sobbing into my shoulder. It is the WORST. I believe her teachers when they tell me that it's just that transitional moment and that it's probably harder on me than her, but holy moly. We're in the fourth week here, and I need to be able to walk to the car without my heart bleeding.

Took the girls to the pediatrician on Monday for their well-visits for turning four and turning two (a few months late for Zuzu, but I wanted to take them at the same time, and then when I called at the end of JULY to schedule these for what I assumed would be mid-August, they couldn't get me in until mid-September, so I made appointments for a Friday afternoon at 3:30 and then got rescheduled for a Monday afternoon at 2:30, which meant smack dab in the middle of nap time--much to Zuzu's delight). Coco did better than usual (she typically cries the moment she lays eyes on the poor nurse), but it was the first time I'd taken both girls in at the same time and I found it very difficult because neither of them wanted to stop talking while I was trying to talk to the doctor.

They went ahead and gave them their flu shots, so Coco had to get two vaccinations and Zuzu had to get FOUR! Poor little noodle. She's my brave one with the high pain tolerance, and she only cried a little bit, but she seemed so shocked, "She's poking me!" They were delighted with the smattering of bandaids they received, and when I asked if Zuzu wanted an ice cream treat, she just wanted stickers and to go home and play with the little boy across the street. So that's what we did.

Tuesday seemed to go fine, though she was exhausted after school and later complained her stomach hurt. I thought she was constipated and that seemed to resolve itself Wednesday morning, so off we went to school (that was the spilled milk + poopy diaper morning) but then David called me at lunch to ask me if I'd gotten the voice mail from the girls' school (I'd missed it because I was teaching and then went immediately to a meeting). Zuzu had a fever. I was finished with class for the day, so I canceled my office hours and picked up the girls. Zu was indeed a sad little droopy version of herself, so I spent the afternoon babying her and feeding her popsicles and letting her sleep on my lap on the couch.

Of course I was wondering if this was a virus or if it was a reaction to the vaccinations, and then there was a tiny part of me that was suddenly seized with the fear that she could somehow have contracted polio from the polio vaccination like it was 1950. Fortunately, once I got some Motrin in her and her fever broke, she felt so much better, and since she'd literally napped for about five hours over the course of the day, she was up until 10:00pm. David stayed home with her today, and she was not quite herself in terms of energy levels, but certainly doing much better.

Since Zuzu has been sick and droopy, Coco has been eager for attention, and kept yelling at me tonight to watch her sit on the arm of the sofa and then tip over onto the cushion. Over and over again. "Is dat funny?" she would ask each time. She's also super jealous of a bug bite on Zuzu's inner elbow crease that is gross and requires a bandaid, and so Coco demands a bandaid for the mostly healed scab on her knee.

So that's what's happening around here this week. Thanks for the nice comments on the soccer post. The coach e-mailed me back and was very nice about Zuzu's retirement and said it's better to wait and not force her to play, so we shall see how things go. She's going to start a tumbling class in a couple of weeks, and I'm going to start working out with a student personal trainer again! Should be awkward.

P.S. Looks like a busy September is par for the course around here. Here's what was happening last year around this time.
And this was just two years ago--home on maternity leave with squishy baby Coco and Zuzu the two-year-old--yikes!
Three years ago, I was contemplating a return to Facebook. Still haven't done it!

Friday, September 9, 2016

Soccer Season

Well, friends. Soccer season has officially ended at our house. Three practices, zero games, and Zuzu has declared herself absolutely finished.

David took her to the first practice and (according to him) she basically half-assed all of it. I gave her lots of pep talks before week two, and took her to practice, and it seemed to go much better (thanks in large part to the mom/coach who held her hand and gave her lots of special attention). She had told me she wasn't sure she wanted to go back because she felt "shy of everybody" but she ended up having fun. Coach was intense, but at least she participated and seemed like she was having a good time.

This last practice was rough, though. David didn't give her a snack on the way there (I still maintain that was the fatal flaw) and she was put in the group with the dad coach first instead of the mom coach and he didn't know her name and she would only whisper it so he couldn't hear her and she wouldn't listen and she didn't want to kick the ball and kept wandering off the field and saying, "Mom, I need to tell you something" but actually had nothing to tell me except vague whining or complaints.

Exasperated, I told her (through clenched teeth) to get back on the field and listen to Coach.

She stomped her foot, but turned around and headed for the soccer field. I felt the quiet satisfaction of a parent whose child listens to her. And then she kept going. And going. Off the field on the other side. All the way across the park. Toward the racquetball courts and playground.

We watched her for a moment, and I could feel the other parents behind us shifting, watching, wondering how long we would wait before going after her. I was silently pleading for her to turn around and come back, but I knew that this was Zuzu and this girl gave zero f*cks about whether we were following behind her or not.

I also knew, deep in my gut, that this was the last soccer practice we would be attending this year.

David and I kept looking at each other and looking at her little braided pig tails getting farther and farther away. Finally I said to David, "I think you'd better go after her."

He told me to meet him at home and then took off, walking quickly through the park. Zu was already a hundred yards away. I gathered up our blanket and water bottles and Coco and her toys and then grabbed the snack sign-up sheet and hastily scratched out our name. Pretty confident that the Duckworths will not be bringing snacks to the game in mid-October.

Not embarrassing AT ALL, right?

She got home and we talked about how you can't just freaking take off and run away from everyone when you are upset. And then she asked for an ice cream cone and I said, very calmly but firmly, "Absolutely not. When you don't listen to your coach and you run away from your parents, you don't get special treats."

To my mind, I sounded like a reasonable, though mildly frustrated parent.

To Zuzu, I might as well have obliterated all the hopes and dreams she had in life. Because she COMPLETELY lost her shit. Screaming, crying, and then running into the living room and deliberately throwing three bins of toys off the living room shelves in her fury.

That earned her a trip upstairs to her room so she could think about the consequences of her actions, which resulted in similar destruction upstairs--books flung off shelves, blankets ripped off the bed, dirty clothes strewn everywhere. And SCREAMING. SO. MUCH. SCREAMING.

David and I tried to stay calm and kept trading off and taking turns with her as we tried (unsuccessfully) to calm her without giving in to her demands. She just kept SCREAMING and demanding things (raspberries, ice cream cones, and milk) and instead I would offer the rest of her dinner and water (she'd already finished her milk), but that only made her angrier.

We got home at six o'clock and she raged until after 8pm. I am not exaggerating. I thought for sure she would wear herself out and be asleep by seven. But that was not the case.

And as much as she was driving me crazy and making me angry, she was also breaking my heart. She was SO upset and I didn't know how much of it was maybe from feeling nervous or uncomfortable or out of place at soccer practice, or exhausted from school, and I felt like a bad parent for putting her in soccer to begin with.

I mean, it's four-year-old soccer. I don't care if she plays or not. I thought she might enjoy running around and kicking the ball, but really I just hoped that she'd make some more friends in the neighborhood and have fun being outside. Well... obviously that didn't pan out.

I just want her to be okay. I want her to be happy and have fun, but I also want her to not be afraid to try hard things or new things. I don't need her to be extremely outgoing or popular, but I do want her to feel safe and secure and confident. I want her to make friends easily and to be assertive. But she didn't seem to feel confident at soccer practice, and that worried me.

Unless maybe she was just hot and tired and bored, which... who could blame her? I mean, I was hot and tired and bored and I was just watching.

So in the aftermath of her temper tantrum, as she's finally dozing off and whispers, "I love you, Mommy," I just started crying. Why didn't she have fun? Did we not prepare her enough? Should we have introduced soccer earlier at home? Am I not doing enough to facilitate neighborhood friendships? What am I doing wrong that is preventing her from enjoying soccer? How am I failing her as a parent now that will have a devastating impact on her future?

I'm THAT parent, overextending my child in extracurriculars, even though I know kids need down time and playtime and time to just be kids. And maybe she's not getting enough sleep at night because I have to get her up early for school. And if I were a stay at home mom, then she wouldn't be exhausted from a day at school, and she'd want to go to soccer practice... So basically all my life choices are terrible.

And of course once I started spinning into hypotheticals, I couldn't help but start thinking about how different her life would be if she were the little/middle sister instead of the big sister. If she'd watched Eliza play soccer last year, she'd be so excited to play herself this year. And she wouldn't feel shy around the other kids, because her big sister would help her out. And she'd know more kids because I wouldn't feel a brick in my stomach every time I met someone whose daughter started kindergarten this year, or who has three living daughters. (Oh, hello Anxiety, meet your close friend, Grief.)

I kept coming back to worrying about her confidence, and I was trying to figure out why she is perfectly comfortable chatting with strangers at a party of all adults from my work, and yet she won't talk to other four-year-olds playing soccer with her. Is it because we don't do enough play dates with other families? Most of my close friends with kids live way out in the county and I feel like we're busy enough as it is, but maybe I should be doing more to socialize her besides sending her to preschool?

And somehow I got from preschool to freaking out about where she'll go to grade school (we still haven't made a final decision on that), and then suddenly I was SOBBING and telling David that I'm so scared she'll have an eating disorder and cut herself and we won't be able to prevent it or to help her.

David was not quite sure how I got from Zuzu quitting soccer to Zuzu becoming an anorexic cutter, but I swear it didn't feel like that big of a leap.

Anyway, I'm trying to have a better perspective on it now. Yes, we're out the fee to play and the cost of a pair of cleats and a pair of shin guards and cute soccer socks. But our Saturdays are free again!

(Okay, fine. If I'm being really honest, there's a little part of me that is still embarrassed about the way it all went down in front of the other parents--especially having to grab the Sharpie and scratch her name of the snack list before doing the walk of shame up to my car. Coco wouldn't even hold my hand: "No! I wok!" But since we never do neighborhood playdates anyway, I guess I won't have to face them again any time soon...)

Zuzu is asking us when she can start gymnastics again, so maybe she's just not going to be into team sports. She loves swimming and gymnastics, and she's obviously more comfortable with a smaller kid-to-coach ratio, so maybe soccer just isn't her thing. I had zero interest in playing team sports when I was a kid, and I'm a somewhat well-adjusted adult (emphasis on somewhat).

ALSO she's only four. Maybe she'll want to try soccer again when she's six or seven.

And if this is our only soccer season? It's not a straight shot from dropping out of preschool soccer to dropping out of school and buying drugs on the street, right?

I know it's not a direct correlation, but when she has a fit like she did this week and I can't figure out how to fix it, it's hard to imagine how I'll be better able to cope with bigger problems than not having an ice cream cone after dinner. I want her to maintain her independent streak; I really do. But I also want her to know that, no matter what, I am always, always on her team.