Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Sleep Wanted


Before his haircut… clearly, it was time.


Every once in awhile, one of my friends talks about how their child didn’t sleep through the night until he or she was four months old and it nearly killed them.  Like, the parents in this situation nearly died because they were so tired.


I am so jealous of them.  When I think of the things I could do if only I could get enough sleep…


photo 3 (99) Riding at Grandma’s


A couple of weeks ago, after YEARS of sustained sleep deprivation, I texted Tony at about 5:15 PM, begging him to come home from work so I could take a nap.  I did, then I got up around 7 and ate dinner, then went back to bed around 9 and slept until 9 the next morning, except for the three times I had to get up in the middle of the night to nurse Freddie.



Sure, HE gets plenty of naps.


Yes, he’s still nursing.  All night long.




You know, most people get over the “baby brain” thing when their children start sleeping through the night.  It’s no wonder I’m such a scatterbrain all the time; I’ve had “pregnancy brain” or “baby brain” for over 7 straight years.


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It’s a damn good thing that my children are so cute and lovable because mine are trying to fucking BREAK me.  A day in the hospital?  A tantrum about wanting to eat “two halves” of a banana instead of a whole banana?  Climbing onto the chair and rocking until it falls over every time I turn around?  We’ve got it all in this madhouse.


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Especially the climbing, both on and in things.  Climbing everywhere.




I shouldn’t complain.  I mean, just look at these cute boys:


three boys


But I sure would like a little more time to read, maybe even relaxingly enjoy some free time, instead of falling onto the couch in an end-of-day stupor, unable to focus on, well, anything.




I try to imagine my life in a few years, when Freddie is finally sleeping through the night and I have all three children in school.  I can’t, though, because other than on a few isolated vacations, I haven’t had a full-night’s sleep in so long that I can’t accurately predict what that will feel like.  I could be a totally different person!  Maybe, underneath these under-eye circles, I’m the type of person who does the NYT crossword every day!  Or someone who learns to play the piano in her 40s!  Or someone who has time to do volunteer work at the humane society!  Or someone who learns a third language!  Or someone who gardens seriously!


In all likelihood, behind the sleep deprivation is a mom whose voice is a little less shrill, whose patience is a little more consistent, and whose car is a little less dirty inside.  Only time will tell, but I have to live that long, first.

Friday, September 25, 2015

The Worst Kind of Rush

My train derailed at 8:42 yesterday morning.  That was when Charles suddenly started wailing, and I mean wailing, about a tummy ache.


I did the normal mom things (have him drink a glass of water, have him try to go poop), but Charles went from zero to doubled over in excruciating pain in about three minutes.  By 8:45, we were headed to the Emergency Room.  Charles couldn’t walk, so I carried him, all 68 pounds of him, from the couch to the car and the car to the ER, his shoes in my purse.  He screamed like I did when I gave birth.  His hair was sweaty.  He writhed in pain.


Charles Hospital


I thought, for sure, that we were headed for surgery.  Appendicitis?  Bowel obstruction?  Testicular torsion?  The doctors didn’t know either.  After pain and anti-nausea medications were administered via IV, he began the rounds of testing: blood, urine, x-ray, ultrasound, and finally, a CT scan.


I spent six hours alternately praying that he would be okay, holding back tears as I watched him struggle against the pain, and reading Voyage of the Dawn Treader when he was awake (I was hoarse after a couple of hours).


Charles Hospital 2


At 2:45, we got the results of all the testing: mesenteric adenitis, an inflammation of the intestinal lymph nodes most likely related to constipation.  We were instructed to treat the constipation aggressively and the adenitis with pain medication.


The doctor looked at me, somewhat worse for the wear after six hours of adrenaline and anxiety, and stated the obvious because I clearly hadn’t internalized the results yet: “This is a good thing: no surgery.”


The relief was profound.  I left the hospital in a daze.  Charles was able to walk out.  He hadn’t eaten all day and he said he was hungry.  I administered my first ever (and his first ever) suppository and I was still so shell-shocked from the day and the fact that I wasn’t wringing my hands while my baby underwent surgery that I didn’t even bat an eye.


He’s mostly fine now.  I, however, have an adrenaline hangover. 


That’s a real thing, you know, an adrenaline hangover.  I treated it with a giant glass of wine and an early bedtime.  Tony treated it by tending to Freddie in the middle of the night so I could sleep.


Today, I’m simply grateful.  Grateful for the first-class hospital and the first-rate doctors and nurses and other medical staff.  Grateful to God that my child doesn’t have to have surgery.  Grateful for the continued health of my family. 


No surgery.  Those are beautiful words. 

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

The OTHER Response

Sometimes, when the kids talk to me, I have an entirely different conversation with them in my head than what I actually say.




Charles: Mom, what’s that?


Me (what I wanted to say): That’s a type of French cheese called brie, and it is a great demonstration of the virtue of patience.  I bought this round of brie six weeks ago and I have resisted the urge to sample it until now because I knew it needed to ripen in the refrigerator.  See the orange-y tint under the rind?  See the gooey center?  Smell the subtle bouquet?  Taste the complex flavor?  None of that would have been possible if I had been impatient and consumed it a month ago or even ten days ago.  But now!  Oh, how glorious!

Me (what I actually said): That’s a type of French cheese called brie.


Jamie: I want to try it!


Me: Charles, do you want some, too?


Charles: No, it looks gross.


Jamie: I don’t like it.


Me: More for meeee!




Charles: But Mom!  It’s not fair!


Me (what I wanted to say): No, Charles, what’s not fair is the ENORMOUS amount of time I spend reminding you to complete normal daily operations, like getting dressed, brushing your teeth, and putting on shoes before school.  What’s not fair is that you complain about what I make for dinner every. single. night. without fail.  What’s not fair is that I still experience teenage-level acne as a 34-year-old adult.  What’s not fair is that chocolate and wine have calories.


Me (what I actually said): Charles, this is fair.  You made a poor choice, you deal with the consequences.




Charles:  Mom!  I’m bleeding!  There’s blood on my hand!


Me: Where?


Charles: Right here!


Me, barely noticing his tiny wound, a pinprick of blood on the palm of his hand: Oh, no!  Charles is bleeding!  SO MUCH BLOOD!  Call the newspaper!  Call the doctor!  Call the President!


Charles: Mo-om…


Me (what I wanted to say): Honey, I’m on the second day of my period, and it’s like Carrie at the fucking prom up in here.  You have no idea what bleeding is.

Me (what I actually said): Honey, you’re fine.  You don’t even need a bandaid.  Go play.

Friday, September 4, 2015

I Shouldn’t Be Surprised

You know how there’s always that one idiot friend in college who, love her though you do, is always doing stupid shit when she’s drunk?  Not, like, dangerous stupid, but potentially dangerous stupid and just plain make-sure-the-sober-sister-watches-out-for-her stupid.  It’s the girl who insists on insists on attempting feats of skill and strength while inebriated, such as climbing a giant metal sculpture of a horse.  It’s the friend who thinks she’s an amazing dancer (she’s not) and persists on loudly singing her own tune while dancing in the middle of a residential street at 2 am, despite her friends’ attempts to shush her.  It’s the girl who convinces everyone that it is a wonderful idea for someone else to push her around campus in a shopping cart while wearing a motorcycle helmet she found in a res hall storage room.  It’s the friend who thinks she’s hilarious and sneaky when she finds some poor child’s abandoned sidewalk chalk while walking home from a party and proceeds to tag the sidewalk the entire 1/2 mile walk home with illegible Strongbad quotes and sorority symbols.  It’s the friend who wants to make pancakes while totally sauced and begins by placing a bag of flour on a hot burner.*


Toddlers are like that drunk friend (except, of course, that they’re not drunk).  They throw food on the floor.  They are loud at the most inappropriate of times.  And they cannot resist doing stupid shit.



All done, so I’ll throw it on the floor!


Freddie, in particular, likes to stand or sit in things.  Buckets, boxes, bowls… Things with the potential for “in” hold a powerful attraction for that boy and, consequently, I am always pulling him out of the dog dishes or the plants or the toy box.


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The real reason he goes through so many clothing changes each day




And then there’s the stove and any cupboard, but especially those with harmful chemicals, that any of us have been stupid enough to leave open.  He climbs in, on, and over anything and he will do it repeatedly and with gusto if he is told “no.”  Especially if he is told “no.”



I know you said it was hot; I just want to see!


Of course, Freddie has two excellent examples of ridiculous behavior with no attention to consequences.



There was a dirt pile – no other reason necessary.


You think you have escaped the drunk friend when you leave college, but really, she just lives on in her children.  Of course, this time, I’m dealing with them, instead of someone else dealing with me.


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Right before he decided to throw all of the cereal in his bowl at the dog.


*Only one of the “friends” in the anecdotes above was not me.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Delight in the Drudgery

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The boys recently gave Tony a Darth Vader shirt with the words "Number 1 Dad In The Galaxy" emblazoned across the front.  Charles understands the joke, but Jamie just thinks Darth Vader is cool.  Their excitement over seeing him wear it and now calling him “number 1 dad in the galaxy!” at high volume is a good reminder to Tony, too, that our children love him. Not that he doesn't know, but I think he sees them so little and gets to do so few fun activities with them that it's important that he know, and that the boys demonstrate, that they think he's amazing.

I don't envy Tony, though I know many women who are jealous if their husbands. I am simultaneously the "fun parent" and the "mean mom" by virtue of how much time I spend with the kids. Tony is often tired, having worked a nine- or ten-hour day AND studied for his master's classes AND helped with Freddie in the night, so he gets frustrated easily. We all know that small children are nothing if not frustrating.


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Charles didn’t like dinner last night, and he chose to tell me in the most constructive manner possible.


I get to teach those boys to be good citizens, often enduring endless tantrums in grocery stores.  Like today, when Jamie pulled the water bottle out of Freddie’s mouth while we were making our way through a busy Costco and then started screaming when I told him that he had lost his treat (bribery: it works!).  Then Freddie started screaming and Charles started bragging about how well he was behaving. 


The root of all my bad habits is boy children: gross amounts of coffee, chocolate addiction, wine consumption…


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Then again, I get to see them develop their passions.  Charles loves anything physical and is happy when we can spend a few spare moments at the skate park.  Jamie, on the other hand, is so enamored with airplanes that he would happily spend all day watching them take off and land.  Lucky boy got to tour a B-17 last weekend at the Skagit Regional Airport.


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Tony misses out on a lot of fun moments and a lot of difficult moments, but he also misses out on seeing our children deal with setbacks, be kind to their friends, or play nicely with one another.  They’re growing and changing and developing their personalities and it really is a trip to watch those small changes every day.


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Charles, who goes to first grade next week, has come with me to my office all week while his brothers are in daycare. Instead of complaining, he has crept around the warehouse with the airzooka, eaten his weight in pretzels, and constructed books full of "evil plans" out of copy paper for each of my employees.  He's a delight, that kid, and that's not something Tony gets to experience very often.


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Yesterday, I initiated Charles into the fine art of folding laundry. All I asked him to do was fold his shorts an his underwear.  He complained, threw himself on the floor, and got perilously close to throwing a screaming fit, something of a rarity these days.  He'd folded one or two pairs of shorts when I pointed out that most of the underwear in the pile in front of him was inside out.  He was mad and frustrated and he picked a pair of underwear up in anger, pushed it down on his head and over his eyes, then flipped it back up over himself so that it was right side out.  Then he threw it on the bed with an UGH!, crossed his arms, and looked at me defiantly.  I couldn't help it, I burst into laughter.  Then Charles started giggling, too. The ham proceeded to fold all his underwear in this manner, giggling the whole time.


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I am thankful for this time I have with my children, even if I feel guilty for not being at work more.  Perspective, man.  Sometimes it just hits you over a pile of clean underwear.  I might not be the number one mom in the galaxy, but I get to laugh with my kids daily.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

There Is No Competition

I’m having a really tough day/week/month/summer and I feel, every day, as though this might be the breaking point.  What would it be like to go completely insane?  What is it like to have a nervous breakdown?  Is there relief from the anxiety and the stress and the guilt?  Could a nervous breakdown really be so bad?  But who would take care of the kids and the house and the dog?


I’m going through hell, so, as the saying goes, I guess I’ll just keep going.  But it’s awful.  And it’s difficult.  And it hurts.


And then I read the news and see that three firefighters have died in a blaze not far from my hometown and people have lost their homes in devastating wildfires and I think, “What have I got to be upset about?”


The thing is, though, that it’s not a hardship competition.  Someone somewhere, indeed many someones, are having a much worse time of it right now than I am.  There are people starving, people engaged in war, people sick.  I don’t want to seem callous – because I’m not; I care deeply about the strife in the world and do my best to address it in small ways like charitable giving, educating myself and my children, and prayer – but the terrible suffering experienced by others doesn’t mean that what’s going on in my life is any less difficult and painful.  I know I am better off than so many.  AND, I know I’ll get through it, so it seems stupid to whine about it.  I feel guilty for even thinking of asking for help, whether of the tangible variety or in the form of prayers or good juju or whatever.  I worry that I’ll be judged and shamed.  I ask Tony for help but he has none to give, and then I feel even guiltier for burdening him with my agony.


But allow me to write it out again, in big, as much for myself as for anyone reading: THERE IS NO HARDSHIP COMPETITION.  Someone else’s hardship does not negate my hardship.  Having things better than someone else does not mean that I’m not suffering or that it isn’t FUCKING HARD to be me sometimes.


So today I’m putting it out there for the world to see: I’m having a tough time right now and I’d appreciate your help and consideration, in whatever form that takes.  And you, you beautiful person: your troubles are valid.  I am giving you permission to feel the full weight of your burdens without guilt today.


Let’s take the old “everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle” aphorism from the source, The Homely Virtues by John Watson, Courtesy, 1903:


This man beside us also has a hard fight with an unfavouring world, with strong temptations, with doubts and fears, with wounds of the past which have skinned over, but which smart when they are touched. It is a fact, however surprising. And when this occurs to us we are moved to deal kindly with him, to bid him be of good cheer, to let him understand that we are also fighting a battle; we are bound not to irritate him, nor press hardly upon him nor help his lower self.


We all have burdens.  Instead of trying to outdo one another in the arena of suffering, how about we just deal kindly with those around us?

Tuesday, August 18, 2015


Since Charles was about two years old, I have loudly and often declared that my primary job as a parent seems to be exhausting him (and now his brothers) before bedtime.  It might be time to pull back on that.


Did I ever tell you about the time Charles had double-vision for an entire week?  Turns out he was just really, really tired.


The whole story is scarier than that, of course.  He first mentioned it on a Friday, after a long week at school this spring. 


“Mom, when I look at that tree, all the other trees around it are two.”


“They’re two?  You mean, they’re double?  Side-by-side or one on top of the other?”  (I can’t imagine how that question would have made any difference to me, but ask it I did.)




I admit, we were so busy, I just let it go for a bit.  Then he mentioned it again at bedtime.  Then again a couple of days later.  Finally, I got him into my eye doctor for a medical visit.


His vision was completely normal.  Verdict: he was tired.  I took him home and he slept for the rest of the morning, missing an entire day of school just to rest.  It was so totally weird.


Charles is my big, bold kid.  He rides his bike, jumps on his pogo stick, and climbs trees.  Until this past year, he was rarely still.  But occasionally, even he needs a break. 


This summer has been go-go-go.  Without Tony to help much, I’m responsible for getting the kids where they need to be on a daily basis, which means that they all get to go places while one of the other brothers gets dropped off.  Charles has been in camps all summer, outdoors and active for 8+ hours of each day.  Then we try to do fun things, like go swimming or visit the library, every week.  And of course, there are the things that I want or need to do, like exercise or go grocery shopping, plus the family things we try to do together, like go on walks or camping (where no one gets to bed early) or fishing (where no one gets to bed early and everyone gets up early).  When the kids finally get home after these busy days, most of the time they go off to play by themselves.  Solitary activities like LEGOs or reading have taken the place of elaborate games of tag in the front yard.  And I get it – as much as I love to see them be active and play with each other, the boys are around other kids and they’re moving all. day. long.  They need a chance to recharge their batteries.


Recently, Charles was again showing signs of exhaustion.  He chose to go to camp every day last week, but I forced him to sit and watch cartoons on Saturday and Sunday mornings (what an ogre I am!) and go to bed early.  I have decided to keep him home from daycare during his last week of summer next week.  He’ll have to come to the office a couple of days, but for the most part, he can play in an unstructured way.  Maybe he’ll even get a little bored.


I’m obviously still learning how to parent these kids.  Balance, we’re all seeking balance.  I haven’t found it yet, but I’m getting closer.  At least I know to watch Charles for circles under his eyes and to reign in his natural impulse to do it all.  I wonder where he gets that trait?