Thursday, June 30, 2011

Phoenix, Arizona

(Enzo running in the free air conditioning of the mall.)

Our week long Phoenix, Arizona road trip vacation is well underway. We left Campbell, California at 5am on Monday morning and drove until we were about an hour east of LA where we spent the night. We don't want to keep the kids strapped into their car seats too long so we are making it a two day trip each way and stopping for hour long breaks once in a while. Yesterday we got into Phoenix in the afternoon and went over to my Nina's house and introduced her to Ana and Enzo. We also visited with some of our cousins there. Enzo was happy to be playing with his two and a half year old cousin Joe Joe. Enzo is so good at sharing, sometimes even offering to share things that are not his. He gave Joe Joe his toy cars to play with first, then his baby Mono (stuffed monkey) complete with direction on how to place the baby on the shoulder, pat the baby's back, and say "baby." Enzo literally demonstrated and then placed Mono on his cousin's shoulder. Then he tried to give his water bottle to his cousin but his cousin was not interested in Enzo's water bottle. From there Enzo thought it would be nice to share his cousins own shoes with him by constantly finding them, exclaiming "shoe" and then taking them over to Joe Joe who would kindly accept them and then throw them somewhere else away from Enzo's reach. Enzo managed to keep quite a bit of attention for himself by playing with and examining any button he could find. Cousin Sylvia and my Nina think he'll be an inventor with so much curiosity. Nina also commented several times on him being so good looking. While Enzo had the most look-at-me-play attention of my two kids, Ana stole the show for attention via adoration. Who could resist such a beautiful little girl?

Similar to Enzo, Ana is of a calm temperament but she does fuss a little more than her brother when she is hungry or uncomfortable. With me, she is comfortable often enough but much of the time I have to hold her lying belly down across my forearm. She is picky with me and she lets it be known if she is not content. She had her first shots last week and handled it well but she didn't like it and she let us know. Tami talked to her first in Spanish about what would happen and why it was important to get shots. Then I followed up in English with a similar explanation. When she did finally get the shot she wasn't very happy about it and she was more vocal about it than her brother. Thankfully it only took a minute after the three shots and the mouth drops to cuddle her before she was fine as if all were forgiven. My point of this, besides the update, is that I recognize I don't have quite the knack with my daughter yet as I do with making my son happy and comfortable at any time. Tami of course is a natural. Apparently, so are my Nina, Sylvia and Arlene. Ana was totally comfortable with them holding her yesterday and they didn't have to resort to the forearm-belly hold that I sometimes do either.

My patience in getting to know my daughter's particular tastes is paying off though. More often I'm able to help her be comfortable even if she is a little hungry. Admittedly, the majority of the time that takes the form of me having her for a limited time before handing my daughter over to Tami who always knows what to do. Sometimes Ana just needs to eat and only Tami can do that. The other times, the times when I'm able to make Ana content are happening more and more often, especially as Ana begins to go slightly longer stretches between eating. One of my favorite times together happened this morning while Tami was in the shower. I lay next to my beautiful girl as she woke from a nap and we just stared at each other for several minutes of perfect happy not-hungry or have-to-potty bliss. She is beautiful to look at and to be looked at by.

I think there was a similar progression with Enzo where it took some time for me to know that I could make him comfortable at any time. It's so far from where we are now though. Especially since Enzo can eat solid foods and I'm confident in taking him potty. Only Tami takes Ana potty. I'm not quite ready yet to feel I can hold her securely over her little potty. Tami started taking her potty right away since knowing what to do after teaching Enzo how to go potty. I told Tami I'll wait a little longer before taking her potty so that I can get a better idea of how to support her from watching Tami do it. I'm almost ready now. Of course, Ana can't use sign language to tell us she has to go as Enzo does now and we don't catch either of their needs to go every time.

I regularly remind myself when making observations about Enzo and Ana's differences that I have to compare Enzo of 16 months ago and that he has grown and developed dramatically in that time as has our relationship.

As for the trip. The kids seem to have handled the long drive well, to be enjoying the attention of their family here, and not to be too bothered by the 100+ degree weather we experience between the air conditioned car and the buildings.

It's good to be back in Phoenix. I miss the heat and my family here.

Granted, I have had a few high anxiety episodes on this trip so far and the heat, one of my triggers, has played a part. I remind myself that people live in this heat, that breathing hard and sweating while carrying a load of bags up a hill from the Colorado River is perfectly normal, that you can't actually die or pass out from panic attacks or anxiety, that anxiety spells go away and can not physically last more than several minutes, that I'm ok, that I used to find so much pleasure in road trips and the desert so I need to be aware of the present reality and not miss it by spending my time in anxious thoughts, and that the world is not a constantly dangerous and scary place despite the adrenaline inspired feelings to the contrary as it goes through my veins and reinforces the fearful looping thoughts in my mind.

At the border of California and Arizona is the Colorado River. The KOA campground has a little beach on the California side and we spent a nice long break there playing in the water yesterday. Both kids got their feet into the river, touching water that has been so far in it's travels through time and space, winding through some beautiful land along the way to greet my children's feet with coolness. It was awesome. I have often wanted to stop there and never have before so I was pretty happy to finally do so and with my family. The cool river felt so good on such a hot day. Enzo had a blast and I think he could have played in the river the whole day and been happy about it.

After showering the sand off of him, he took a nice nap as he and his sister rested in the KOA air conditioned play room. For some reason I started sweating profusely around that time and had the highest anxiety episode I have had in nearly two years. It took some time to let it pass and Tami helped me to process through the thoughts. It wasn't fun. Everything up to that was cool, but that episode pretty much sucked.

[Pause in writing. That was written Wednesday and now I'm continuing on Thursday. Kids take away quiet blog time. That's ok.]

Heat and sweat have helped keep my anxiety up. But not at all moments. There are times when I walk out into the hot dry air and I remember how much I love being here. Many other times though, I will notice that I am not having a problem and then feel like that fact, that state of being, is precarious. I am often feeling that I am either experiencing anxiety or am on a temporary reprieve, balanced barely along a precipice. Even thinking that sometimes makes me slide further into anxiousness.

I am also noticing that I am so often having a difficult time being relaxed. I can enjoy playing with my children. I can love hearing my son laugh and play with his mom in the hotel pool. But almost always I am feeling like I am on guard against danger as I need to protect them. Constantly on guard and not relaxed. There are exceptions but they seem too rare. Generally, my happiness comes from being with my children and watching and playing with them and my relaxation comes from knowing they are safely with their mother while I am elsewhere and can let my guard down. Not a sustainable plan. I'm hoping to discover that balance of responsible parenting and alertness without the heightened-threat feeling of being always on guard against imminent danger.

As I said, there are exceptions.

This morning Tami took Enzo down for breakfast and I stayed in the room with Ana. Soon she awoke and we lay together admiring the world. Then we played and walked around the room and enjoyed the morning. It was perfect and I was relaxed and that made it all the better to be able to totally appreciate my daughter. This time together on vacation has been good.

Also, today is Enzo's half birthday. Tami sang to him "happy half birthday to you..." in Spanish and he chuckled as he woke up this morning.

Overall I would say it's good to be in Arizona and I am glad to be visiting family. I'm grateful to have a life where I can spend so much time with my children. Anxiety sucks and this week is among the more challenging in a very long time. It's clouding my thinking a bit but it's the experience I'm having. So be it. Thankfully it's actually getting better, I'm feeling more in the moment today and less caught up in a loop of anxious thoughts. I'm lucky to have Tami here to help me process my anxieties. While my family here in Arizona has their own particular challenges, I am glad to be here and to see them as there is something comforting about proximity and watching my own children interact with the children of, and the family that is, an important part of my memories, values, and development. Even now, being here while they live their lives, listening to Nina, I learn by example.

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