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August 2015
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October 2015

September 2015

"Normal", church, gyms, anxiety, babies. So. The topics you've come to expect.

SOOOOOO everything should be good, now, right? Kids are in school AND taking the bus, which is pretty neato for all of us. Emma goes to preschool on Tuesdays and Thursdays. She'll start going MWF if a spot ever opens up, but honestly, I'm already over the driving schedule on Tuesdays and Thursdays so I'm not in a huge hurry for her to switch. And when they're all out and occupied I've been grocery shopping, drying and folding laundry (not just leaving it in the washing machine to mold for days on end) (you do this too, don't lie), and also a lot of staring at blank walls which is something I feel I deserve. At least for a little while. 

Like the gym? Yeah. I thought Emma HAD a MWF preschool schedule so I was going to do the gym each of those mornings. But she didn't get a spot (fine) and now I only have TWO Emma-free mornings and that feels like so much less time than THREE Emma-free mornings. Also, on one of those mornings I somehow mostly-committed myself to what I thought was a bible study. At the time I thought Emma could go with me and be in the new co-opy childcare set up (Catholic churches: Y NO BABYSITTERS?) and we would have four out of five mornings nicely scheduled up, but now I'm all WAIT. I'm going to be spending one of my only two kid-free mornings HERE? It's not a bible study either, it's a lay Dominican spirituality class (my church is a Dominican church. Parish. Something or other.) Which is cool if you are into that sort of thing, but I think I am not? I liked the lady leading it, but all the kid noise was distracting and several times I found myself thinking, "I COULD just read a BOOK." Of course, the point was to MEET some of the other women at my church because I'm actually ready to stop being a crotchety run-away-as-soon-as-Mass-is-over Catholic. But I don't know. One of the few women I know at my church is the ORGANIZER of this ministry thing, so I could just say HEY, plz invite me over for talking and wine with the other ladies. Then I wouldn't have to learn about St. Dominic. 

(I'M SORRY ST. DOMINIC.) (#BADCATHOLIC)

Anyway. It will take a bit for me to figure things out, I guess. I decided that next week is the week I make myself go to the gym and get back to the place where I LIKED going to the gym and it felt like a regular part of my week. Oh, this reminds me to update you on my Dosage Lowering Experiment. I was supposed to go down one step, and if I was feeling fine after a month, go down another step. Well, I haven't gone down the second step. It isn't that I'm experiencing anxiety, but I feel like I'm hovering in the place where I could easily tip over the edge. Sometimes it feels like an actual LINE, or a FENCE even, that I'm sitting on top of. A feather could knock me into the abyss. I'm not QUITE on that fence yet, but I feel like going down another step MIGHT put me there. This may not make sense unless you are crazy like me. But I'm trying to reason with myself. I could try it and see what happens. But I could also NOT try. It's not like I HAVE to try. It's not like anyone's out there pushing me to try or shaming me into it... except my own self. I really think the only hope I have for losing this weight is to consume less of this medication. But... it seems I'm not just SAYING "not anxious is better than skinny", but am actually living it out. 

I might take that step down still. I haven't completely decided. My brain doctor is out on maternity leave and there's no appointment set up for me to say definitively what's going on. I have space. I like that.

And quite honestly, the only thing fattening up this much as really changed about my life is that it's much harder to find clothes I feel good in. Which is a big deal, but not the hugest deal. I can still find SOME cute things. I don't ALWAYS feel like a whale. I haven't, you know, lost any friends or been kicked out of parties. 

I suppose there's the looming specter of diabetes. HEH.

All the moms I know are exhausted. We're all feeling a little guilty, because HELLO, school was supposed to solve all our problems. But the starting of school - getting up early, making lunches, homework, piano practice, shoehorning everyone back into that routine - is sort of exhausting! We are HAPPIER, but man we're tired. Phillip wants to take the big kids to do some outdoorsy thing with friends on Saturday and because I avoid outdoorsy things like the plague and Phillip doesn't want to deal with the still un-potty-trained four-year-old, Emma and I are going to have a nice long boring day by ourselves. 

Did I forget to tell you my baby is four? My baby is four. That birth story from hell is now four years old. I know I'm still not over it because every time someone tells me THEIR birth story my whole body contracts in fear. But my baby is FOUR. I am delighted by her every day, and also kind of heartbroken. I've got big kids now. All big kids. I'm good with babies. I'm a good mom to babies. There are a lot of babies in my family, but none close by. No one has a baby I can just borrow for a few hours to tamp that feeling down. I told Phillip last night and he was super jokey and dismissive and I got MAD. This is a real feeling. And I'm not saying I want to have another one, but I also don't feel done with taking care of them. So I don't know what to do with that. 

OKAY I THINK I'LL STOP NOW! Time to throw some pizza at the kids and head to a [deep breath] PTA meeting. WOO HOO!

 


No school tomorrow

Until I went to college, nearly every adult I knew was either a teacher or in the United States Air Force. All my parents' friends were teachers, and all my friends' parents were in the military. While I think living on military bases overseas exposed me to a great diversity of people, all of those people worked for the same dude: The Government. Systems of promotion and raises and time off were pretty standard across the board. And while I was absolutely certain I did not want to be in the military and fairly certain I did not want to be a teacher, I didn't have a whole lot of ideas about what I COULD be. (Seriously, until I decided to get married, my best guess for my future was teaching English in Europe somewhere - maybe the best of both teaching/military worlds!) 

So it's been PRETTY FREAKING WEIRD to ride shotgun along Phillip's career, a path that's taken us down a mostly Big Time Corporate Tech Dude territory. Unfortunately for him, I was never career-oriented, being mainly concerned with just making enough money to travel. I don't think he was particularly hard core on career until we had Jackson, though, and since I was very happy staying at home, he had the space and also the pressure to actually DO this work thing. And that's when Work became WORK. 

But even before it was WORK, Phillip's perspectives on it were so different than mine. I used to chalk it up to White/Asian stuff, which a lot of it was (and is!), but it's also about what our own parents did and the other adults we knew growing up. My adults were teachers/soldiers. His were white collars on corporate ladders. Before we had kids I would rant about people who couldn't leave work at work, who traveled too much, who answered every email at any time of day, who cared too much about (ugh) money. 

Little did I know that I MARRIED one of those people. HA! And THANK GOD. Want to live in Seattle and have kids and a house and maybe dinner out once in a while? YOU NEED A JOB.

Phillip has spent GOBS of time strategizing his next career move. It's amazing. I STILL come from a place where you want to be a thing and you become that thing and you do that thing and hopefully you're paid enough to do the fun stuff you want to do in your life and that's pretty much it. Phillip thinks that's nuts. Phillip's dad likes to say, "You always have to be thinking about the next job!" Which *I* think is nuts. My husband's crafty strategizing, his willingness to take advantage of opportunities, his annoying work ethic, and his NO FEAR for asking for raises/promotions is amazing. Even if I WERE career-oriented, I'm positive I'd be far behind him, terrified as I am of promoting myself or asking for anything. I do a lot of leaning OUT, people. 

He's now at a company he's wanted to work for for a long time. He's happy there, happy to be part of this big Seattle tech thing that's happening. And I'm happy for him, even if the t-shirts and morale-building emails make me want to barf a little bit. (They don't just make a product, you guys, they make a way of life.) He's a devoted employee AND likes his job, which is mind blowing to me, someone who has NEVER liked an office job. And also, again, THANK GOD.

ANYWAY. My whole point of writing this. I'm getting to it. It's been a brain twist for me, or like a REWORKING of ideas I've always had, that you could go to work for a company and maybe move around within it, doing different jobs. You could RISE. And as you did that, you had frequent conversations about your performance, what you could be doing better, what you're awesome at, and what your compensation should be. You don't just wait around for the next across the board pay raise for your chosen career, you don't just hope things will be different that year, you negotiate it. If you're Phillip, you do a crap ton of research on nine million websites, develop your self sales pitch, and ask for more. Because you CAN. You might GET it. 

And you know what I feel like Seattle teachers are doing? This is their self sales pitch. This is their "Look. We are incredible assets to the company and we have sat around waiting for this company to get its shit together for too long." There is not one thing on the list of things that Seattle teachers are striking for that I disagree with. Or don't want for my own kids. 

There ARE crappy teachers out there. I KNOW. You can't have two teachers for parents and know all the other teachers by their first names and not be aware of some REALLY CRAPPY TEACHERS. But the teachers I know and love are crazy amazing people. The teachers at my kids' school especially. I'm serious. I don't know all of them, but I have a pretty good sense of the camaraderie at that school, the devotion to their students, the heart they have for the work they do, and the extra miles they go out of school. There are several stories I can't share here, but they feature teachers who made school families part of their families when it was most needed. We are not a Catholic school like I hoped to go to, we are not a private school which a lot of people choose since supposedly Seattle schools are so terrible, we are not a gifted kids school, or even an average neighborhood school - my kids' school is over 70% free lunch. There were three and a half white kids in Jack's class (Jack was the half). The kids at our school have names I can't pronounce because they were born in different countries. Our school doesn't even try to have an auction or a carnival because the volunteer base isn't there. Creating community in that school is hard work, but I LOVE my kids' school and that is almost wholly because the teachers have made it a wonderful place to be, for both parents and kids. I 100% support them striking for more recess, less testing, and equity for students of all backgrounds and I 1000% support them for asking their bosses for appropriate compensation for HARD WORK. 

 


This week's Two A.M. Feed

Phillip is all, "Why don't you just post it on your website? What's the difference with this newsletter thing?" The truthful answer is I DON'T KNOW and maybe it's all redundant and stupid, whatever. Sometimes I sort of wish certain blogs still had the old school "subscribe by email!" link so maybe this is that. ANYWAY. Herewith is this week's Two A.M. Feed, just delivered via email and posted here for non-subscriber yet faithful blog reader enjoyment. (Or boredom.)

Subscribe here!

 

THE TWO A.M. FEED
The We Support The Teachers! Edition


 
This Week In Seattle gets bumped to the top this week because OH MY GAWWWWD the teachers are on strike andit does not look good. The Two A.M. Feed is the proud progeny of two Washington state public school teachers, one of whom spent many an evening away as part of a bargaining team. In Two A.M.'s teenage years she was forced, on multiple occasions, to give up her bedroom so the visiting DoDDS union rep could sleep over, so it's not like she's TOTALLY pro-Union, but she can't really argue with anything on this list.  The Seattle Times thinks the teachers are "at risk of becoming a symbol of excess for those who oppose more school spending", but when you read this condemnation of the Washington State legislature, you feel like throwing your shade towards Olympia instead of the picket lines. 

In other news!

DUH
Picking vs. inheriting religion: Catholics Who Aren't Catholic 

GIVE ME YOUR POOR
Where are the rich Gulf states in the midst of the refugee crisis? Social media is wondering the same thingMore from the International Business Times. No idea how I started following Hisham Melhem on Twitter; this piece of his is intense and makes you think. 

Wondering where to give or how to help? This list of organizations complied by CNN seems legit. The work being done by Migrant Offshore Aid Station is especially inspiring. Catholic Relief Services has good information too. 

RECALLING THE ICE BUCKET CHALLENGE
I admit it. I mocked. And now I take it back. Evidence the ice bucket challenge may have worked.

FANTASY ZZZZZ
This piece on Madeleine L'Engle made me feel rotten for not liking her books. Maybe I should return to them as an adult (albeit one who still hates reading fantasy) and give her another shot. 

BEST THING YOU'LL WATCH TODAY
A brief history of the British royal family. This is so so great. 

TWITTER NUNS
Bucking a trend, some millennials are seeking a nun's life. (I know a handful of young women living in an old convent near me. Some are discerning, some aren't, but none of them have taken me up on my offer to spend a few hours a week with three delightful children UNFORTCH.)

And now it's time for...

This Week in Nazis: I cannot WAIT to read this book. The Atlantic interviews Timothy Snyder who has a new book on Hitler himself: Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning. When you read this stuff you can't help but apply the things you've learned to what's happening in today's world, and the interview goes into a bit of that. Fair warning (though pointless as there is probably exactly one of you who might read this YO RACHAEL!): Timothy Snyder's previous book, Bloodlands, is the last book I had to stash in my freezer, Joey-style. I don't expect him to hold back in the new one either. (GONNA READ IT ANYWAY)

Nothing else happened this week. Let's hope next week's Feed consists of celebratory SCHOOL IS BACK IN SESSION articles, shall we? Excellent. 

Recalibration

As it seems likely the teachers will strike tomorrow - the first day of school - we will begin today's blog post with a moment of silent prayer. 

 

Thank you. 

 

SIGH. Brisk clap. Phillip and I had a productive weekend, by which I mean our friends talked some sense into us (by which I mean him, obvs) and Team Cheung is plugging away. One thing I learned this weekend is that Phillip is BURNED. OUT. Probably anyone else could see this and talk about it, but I think because burned outness is something I completely deny/ignore/avoid/fight when it happens to me, I'm pretty terrible at identifying it in someone else. It's kind of like I don't see the POINT of being burned out. I mean, you still have to keep going, right? It's not like I have the option of throwing myself on my fainting couch and letting the au pair take care of the laundry and grocery shopping for a week. So I just don't let myself get there. [If you are thinking, "Hey! That sounds like a good way to propel oneself into a confusing anxiety attack!" YOU ARE CORRECT.] 

So, poor Phillip. It's not like I don't KNOW that he's struggling, but for whatever reason I just expect him to Power Through the way I do, forgetting that Powering Through is actually one of my special superpowers, not an average skill everyone is born with. 

What IS good about living with a person with the superpower of Getting Shit Done is that once said person finally figures out her husband really IS at his rope's end, she prints out a calendar of the year and starts inserting deliberate down time into any potentially stressful week or month. We now have a fun family weekend planned for October and a relaxing just us retreat weekend planned in November. A weekend in Vegas in January thanks to my crappy trip out of the Colorado Springs airport last year and the vouchers I got for complaining about it. A potential family trip planned for midwinter break in February. And maybe turning last year's Husbands Ski Weekend into an annual thing. (December is just going to be a mess. December is always a mess. Even a wife with special superpowers is no match for December.) 

We ALSO reformulated our plans for remodeling. For the zillionth time. This has been SUCH an annoying process, but I guess we needed to do it. The bathroom HAS to get fixed. It has actual stuff wrong with it, so the bathroom is still on tap for Drastic Renovations. But the kitchen... as much as I despise my tile countertops, the kitchen is FUNCTIONAL. The kitchen can last a lot longer so instead of focusing on big bath and kitchen remodels, we're now looking at throwing some money at the living room. When I asked Phillip what things stressed him out about the house, he mentioned the hole in the carpet, still there from when we removed the fireplace when we moved in. The cracks in the ceiling from the fireplace removal. The fact that all his living room electronics are sort of patched together, wires all over the place, nothing working quite right. So now we're thinking about actually going ahead on that Wall O' Built Ins we've dreamed about, with places for everything, wiring in the walls, and replacing allll the carpet. Expensive, but probably not as expensive as tearing out the kitchen, right? 

(I've been so frustrated with the not having a remodel plan that I've taken to hunting for new construction houses on Redfin, all located thirty minutes north, of course, with four bedrooms, bonus rooms, dens with full bathrooms that can double as guest rooms, laundry upstairs, and NEW NEW NEW EVERYTHING. After the last move (done while pregnant and Phillip was traveling) I said I'd die in this house, so I should probably reevaluate.)

You don't care about any of this, but it was helpful for me to write out. PEOPLE TO CALL. STUFF TO LOOK UP. NO HEAD SPACE TO GET IT DONE UNTIL THESE KIDS GO TO SCHOOL ACK.

 


Seasonal Angst

I need everyone to know Seattle Public Schools does not start until Wednesday. Next week. The ninth. Next week. NEXXXXXT WEEEEEK. And! The teachers union just voted to authorize a strike! Mediation begins tomorrow, but it's entirely possible school WON'T start on the ninth. If that comes to pass, I bequeath the blog to the first comment on this post. 

(HA. Have just ensured no one comments on this post.)

Tomorrow a pair of sainted grandparents pick up the children and whisk them away for the weekend GOD BLESS THEM. I know I've bored you with this piece of trivia before, but I'll repeat it again - each year on Labor Day weekend we get together with three other couples we've known since college and do a rehashing of our year. What was awesome, what was not awesome, some prayer, some amateur counseling, and lots and lots of eating. I think this is our ELEVENTH year, you guys. And when you have been rehashing your year with the same friends for ELEVEN YEARS, you start to [finally] identify some patterns. As in, every single end-of-August, Phillip and Maggie, no matter HOW lovely a year it's been, IMPLODE. 

As I've been already rehashing this for a week or so now (I am an introverted internal processor, this is what we DO) with all sorts of people, even including Phillip himself, I have all sorts of insight into our August Dramz. It goes something like this:

BEGINNING OF SUMMER 

Phillip: Need to get work stuff done so we can go on trips! Vacation! Paying for vacation! Money! Budget! WORK! 

Maggie: SUMMER! WHEE! *dances*

MIDDLE OF SUMMER

Phillip: Need to get work stuff done because we went on all those trips! Still paying for them! Money! Budget! WORK! 

Maggie: Hmm. Despite library visits, neighbor kids, grandparents, tons o' outings, and emergency afternoons at friends' houses, there is still a LOT OF TIME that these kids are hovering around me asking for snacks and iPad time and more snacks and what's for dinner and what can they do now and OMG ALL THE TALKING LEAVE ME ALONE ALREADY. 

END OF SUMMER

Phillip: STA-RESSSSSSS! House is a mess! Kids are terrible! We've spent too much money! I am working so hard! No one appreciates me! Least of all that woman I live with who last spoke to me four days ago!

Maggie: *passed out on couch, earplugs in ears*

RIGHT. SO. 

During one of our Um, What Is Going On With Us conversations Phillip swore up and down that the kids not being in school doesn't affect him because HE does the same thing every day, no matter what time of year it is. True that. HOWEVER. It sure does affect the moods of his wife and children at the end of the day when he comes home, and it undoubtedly affects what they are DOING. There is no snack, homework, piano practice, reading, dinner routine in the summer. There's no structure. There's no set time for, say, cleaning up the living room so Phillip has an actual path through the house when he gets home. I say we will ALL be happier family members when the routine picks up again. 

But it's also true that by the end of the summer I am half as productive as I was at the beginning. Maybe I love babies so much because they don't talk to me. I love my big kids, you know that, but the incessant chatter and needing and in-my-space-ing is haaaaaarrrrrd. Any energy I had for doing fun stuff and going places is long gone by the end of August. At the end of August the only place that looks good is my BED. 

So I'm not, you know, asking Phillip about his day. Or being super aware of what's going on with him. Or, ah, making sure there's something other than cereal for dinner. Pretty bad at that last one. 

Even though we've had a GREAT! YEAR!, seems like our couples weekend rolls around and things are NOT! THAT! GREAT! But. The benefit of eleven years of weekending and twelve years of marriage:

Maggie: Seems like we do this every year. 

Phillip: Huh. Sounds about right. 

Maggie: It'll get better in a week. 

Phillip: Yeah, you're probably right, okay I'm gonna keep watching this stupid PRE-SEASON SO IT DOESN'T EVEN COUNT football game if that's fine with you. 

Maggie: *passed out on couch*

[You know what? Any weekend is going to be better than last year's weekend, which coincided with the "temporarily raised anxiety levels" symptom in my ramp up to the correct SSRI dosage, wherein I sat shaking and sweating and speechless while my friends drove me to Target for my emergency Klonopin prescription. I have good friends. I also still have that bottle of Klonopin. I haven't needed it since that day, but I like to keep it around. #preparedness This year? DECIDEDLY LESS ANXIETY, THANK THE LORD. More poundage, but a lot less crazy, PHEW.]

ANYWAY. 

Things I do not have energy to tell you about because see above: my wine tasting weekend in Walla Walla, my big seven-year-old girl's birthday, my haircut dilemma, more cries of desperation re: school not starting waaaahhhh. 

What do you think? Do you have a yearly pattern like this? SEASONAL ANGST? I think we have some others, but this is probably the most pronounced one. And it's another thing where having good friends/community is SO HELPFUL because you can be whining about something and they'll look at you with annoyance and say, "GAWD, I swear you guys do this EVERY YEAR."