Monday, April 25, 2016

Searching for Happy

Last week, I honestly wondered if I was having a nervous breakdown.  But then I thought, if I’m aware of the nervous breakdown, is it actually a nervous breakdown?  Or am I just throwing a tantrum?

Jamie is four years old, almost five, and thank you, God, he is starting to show signs of moving out of the Fucking Fours.  I understand the Fucking Fours, though: his emotions outpaced his ability to cope with them.  Well, I think that’s what happened to me during the two weeks that followed spring break; my emotions outpaced my ability to cope.  So maybe Jamie’s not growing out of the Fucking Fours but my ability to empathize is increasing.

Do you know what’s not a good coping mechanism when you’re overtired, overstressed, and overwhelmed?  Texting your overworked, overtired, overstressed husband, “I quit.”  He couldn’t do anything about it.  I probably should have just given in and let everyone eat ice cream for breakfast, lunch, and dinnner for a couple of weeks. 

And then, at the culmination of tax season, we said our sobbing goodbyes to Buster.  He was physically healthy but mentally very unhealthy.  He perceived everyone outside of the family as a threat.  He was unsafe.

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I miss him.  God, how I miss that stupid dog.  He wasn’t a very good dog – he never learned to fetch, he stopped being able to run with me a couple of years ago, his belches could clear a room, and he was aggressive – but I loved him.  The house is rather lonely without him, despite the tribe of rambunctious boys.  It hurts when I think of how he used to be many years ago, when I think of the dog he became over time, and when I remember our last moments with him as he slipped away.

Posting might be light here for a few weeks.  I need to find my happy place, the one inside my head, again.  I laughed with Tony a couple of times this past week, I mean really laughed, and it felt new.  I realized that I hadn’t laughed in a long time.

The thing is, it doesn’t matter how funny the joke is; it matters how light your heart. 

I’ll be back when I can be back, friends.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Legoland Adventure

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I planned our trip to Legoland for spring break ages ago.  I coerced my mom into taking care of Freddie (and Tony) for a few days and I booked the flights, hotel, and park passes.

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And then I sobbed when I dropped Freddie off the day we left.  It was my first time away from him and though I craved the sleep and the opportunity to sever our breastfeeding relationship (the chubby leech has been sucking until he exhausted the milk and started drawing blood every night for the last month), I was loathe to go without him for three nights.  Codependent much, Amelia?

Luckily for me, I had this bedmate while in California (even though he had his own perfectly good Lego pirate bunk):

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Also, this guy watched over me while I slept, so I guess I was well-protected:

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When we arrived, it was almost 8 PM, but the kids were wired.  We stayed up to watch the poolside movie with some hot chocolate (Lego Star Wars, of course).

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The boys were up SO STINKING EARLY the next morning.

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Too early, in fact, for the early-entrance to the park granted to those staying at the Legoland Hotel.  So they did a treasure hunt and built Legos to pass the time.

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The weather was great, as you would imagine.

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We spent the middle of both days at the water park, which meant that we missed the crowds for the rides.  It worked out pretty well.  Isn’t it great when you accidentally do something awesome?

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I cannot say enough good things about Legoland.  The hotel staff was awesome.  The restaurants were perfect for kids.  The buffet was great.  There was an opportunity to embarrass my children every time we rode the elevator: when the elevator doors closed, the disco dance party started and they were mortified, even if no one else was in the elevator with us.  The park itself was perfectly sized and had a wide variety of activities besides just rides.  The water park was fun.  Two days spent there was just the right amount.

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I had no personal agenda during this trip, other than to have fun with my boys.  We did the rides they wanted to do, we played what they wanted to play, we ate what they wanted to eat.  I (sort of) enforced bedtimes and teeth-brushing and that’s it.  I let them have control and there were no fights or tantrums.  It was wonderful.

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The only shaky part was the trip home, and it was entirely my fault.  In a spectacular showing of idiocy, I did not so much look at the map from Legoland to the San Diego Airport (they’re about 40 miles apart) as glance at it.  We left a bit later than I intended, during rush hour (which moved surprisingly well on the freeway – certainly MUCH better than Seattle), and I took an incorrect exit when the freeway split into two freeways.  We went from a little behind schedule to a lot behind schedule.

We made it through customs and to our gate just before boarding, so I herded the boys over to the bathrooms and we took turns sitting with the luggage (all carry-on) while the others peed one last time before the airplane.  We left a bag at the bathroom, but I didn’t realize it until we were in that little tunnel, about to board the plane.

“Where’s the blue-and-white striped bag?  Oh, shoot!  We left it!  Boys, GET ON THE PLANE, I’m going back.” 

And then I left them to get on the plane.  Which was probably a stupid idea, but it all worked out, you’ll see.

I made my way, frantically, to the bathrooms and then back to security.  Luckily, we were in the small terminal at the airport – at the big terminal, I might have just said “to hell with the bag.”  The bag was at security and after a bit of panicked explanation that I was not trying to leave it behind, I was just absent-minded, I retrieved it.  I ran back to the plane and boarded just in time for takeoff.  The boys had their Legos and were playing, totally unconcerned.  The other parents on the plane assured me they had taken good care of them and that everything was okay, God bless them.

What a gift it was to have been able to do this for and with my big boys.  Next year, we’ll stick close to home, but I promised them we’d go back and do Legoland again when Freddie’s four.

Freddie, who only screamed at me for a whole day upon my return.  He wouldn’t let me put him down, but he screamed at me while I held him.  Pour chunk was so angry.  He’s over it now, and he hasn’t breastfed since.

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Thursday, March 24, 2016

Jaws of Steel

The universe is fucking with me.

 

I broke my night guard last week (because no plastic can withstand my stress-induced teeth clenching) and last night Freddie slept through the night for the FIRST TIME EVER.  And I hope to God it’s a trend, but it probably isn’t because I am not that lucky.  I did not sleep through the night because I kept waking to a severe pain in my jaw and teeth because of the clenching and grinding that is no longer prevented by a night guard.

 

That baby is still winning the sleep wars.  He’ll probably stop sleeping through the night as soon as I can sleep comfortably again.

 

I went to the dentist to get a new night guard and was summarily informed that I was now on “The List.”  That is, my dentist has a list of “maybe eight” patients who have broken two or more night guards.  Coincidentally (not), the last time I broke a night guard ($300!) was also during tax season.  The list exists because I have a new source of potential doom to worry about: sleep disorders.  Sleep apnea doesn’t just affect obese middle-age men who snore like freight trains; the stealth sleep apneaics are young, fit women in their thirties who don’t snore and who repeatedly break night guards. 

 

Huh.  That’s me.

 

So I might regularly stop breathing at night.  Or I might just be unreasonably stressed.  Hard to tell at this point, especially since I haven’t had a good night’s sleep in years.  It will probably take months of Freddie and the others sleeping through the night before I finally do – my body is trained to wake fully at the softest of sounds.  Plus, my super barf hearing is ALWAYS on high alert.

 

I’ll get my new night guard in a few weeks because this time the dentist wants to go for the full-jaw big guns instead of the two-front-teeth coughdrop-sized NTI I had (and broke twice) before.  In the meantime, I’ll be wearing a sports mouth guard for maximum fear factor when I get up with Freddie in the middle of the night (come on, we all know he won’t sleep through the night again until he’s four).  I imagine him screaming even louder when I pick him up with an overstuffed mouth full of molded plastic in some garish color.

 

The best part will be leaning over to Tony and kissing him goodnight with whatever mouth contraption I have to sport to keep from grinding my teeth to powder each night.  It’s almost allergy season, though, so soon he’ll have weepy, red eyes and a BreatheRight strip on his nose.  I tell you, as we move toward middle age, we just get sexier and sexier.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Thirsty

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Freddie is 20 months old.  He has many words: car (“dar!”), da-da, doggy, Charles (“Darl!”), truck, cat, roar, frog, fish, night-night, ribbit, woof, choo-choo, mine (“maaaah!”), and outside, to name a few.  Also “agua.”  He knows how to ask for water, he knows where the clean cups are stored, and he knows that water comes from the tap or the fridge.  We have sippy cups full of water scattered throughout the house.  I couldn’t find any clean OR dirty ones a week or two ago, so I bought several new ones.  Right about the time they made it through the dishwasher, I cleaned underneath the boys’ bunkbed.  Apparently, that space is a cozy nest for the kids; it was filled with sippy cups (all only water, thank God), candy wrappers, flashlights, and books.

Anyhow, Freddie knows how to ask for water, but apparently we weren’t listening very well the other night.  We’re busy, we’re tired, normal brain function is inhibited, especially the “interpreting baby’s insistent cries, whines, and yelps” part, and we missed it.  So Freddie did what he does: he found a toilet, lifted the lid, grabbed a handful of toilet paper, dipped it in the toilet, and then sucked the water out of the paper.

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Tony found him in the laundry room doing this, God only knows for how long.  He hauled him up the stairs with the most disgusted look on his face, pulling bits of paper out of Freddie’s mouth.  We are experienced parents who cloth diaper and who have a dog.  We’ve seen our share of disgusting, gross things in the past eight years.  Once, Buster ate some plastic wrap (it probably had some chicken on it) and when he pooped it out, half of it was stuck in his butt.  I had to quash my gag reflex and pull plastic wrap out of my dog’s butt.  Tony has dealt with every monster spider, dead bird, squirrel, or mouse we’ve ever had the pleasure to watch our dog masticate.  The kids have barfed and pooped all over us and the house and the cars.  We’ve done gross in this family, but I honestly can’t remember ever seeing Tony look so horrified as he did when he carried Freddie up the stairs and tried to wash the toilet water out of his mouth.

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Now, if I pick up a stray sippy cup of water in the house, I make sure to place a clean, full one back in that room.  I’d rather have full water cups in each room than a child who drinks from the toilet.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Shoe Leather

I am unbelievably absent-minded when I am tired.  My house, desk, phone, and purse are littered with lists and appointments and Post-Its and notes to remind me to do things and sometimes they STILL don’t get done.  I’ve often wondered how Tony manages on so little sleep.  I also wonder why people insist on dropping off their tax information way into March when it’s pretty much guaranteed that their tax professional is living on coffee and a prayer.  Now, this is just speculation here, and I’m sure that Tony and his colleagues do a great job on tax returns no matter the day, but I think quality must be better the earlier you turn your stuff in.  You know, when the preparer is well-rested and less stressed.  They’re bound to appreciate you more, at the very least.

Last Tuesday, a day of school, work, the housekeeper coming (so I have to scramble to pick up ahead of time so she can get to the floors to clean them), gymnastics class, and my Y workout class, I forgot to plug the crockpot in.  Well, first I forgot to put the corned beef in the crockpot, but I put it in at noon.  Jamie came to work with me because he was still getting over having a bad case of the barfs on Sunday night (why must these things always happen in the middle of the night?), so we went home for lunch and a nap at noon.  I put the corned beef in the crockpot then, turned it on high, and forgot to plug it in.  Turns out it doesn’t work so well when it’s not plugged in (when, oh when, will appliances run on my desires alone?)  Three hours later, I realized my mistake.  Then I forgot that I had such an appliance as a pressure cooker even though my mom was just talking about cooking corned beef in a pressure cooker the day before.  Instead, I tried to cook it on the stovetop, which is a legitimate way to cook a corned beef if you can cook it all day.  However, I refuse to leave the stove on when I’m not at home, so I cooked it for an hour, turned it off, went to gymnastics, cooked it for another half hour, and left for my Y class.

Needless to say, it was as tough as shoe leather when Tony served it for dinner.  That’s kind of the point of corned beef, you know?  It’s a cheap, tough cut of beef that turns edible after hours and hours of slow cooking.  Except now it’s a novelty food served for Saint Patrick’s Day, a holiday that means next to nothing in our family, so it’s not so cheap.  Tony tried to make the kids eat it, regardless of how tough it was, and he’s too nice to say anything like “mom surely screwed this one up, you don’t have to eat it, I’ll make nachos.”  Or maybe he was just too tired to remember how to make nachos.  I wasn’t there to admit to everyone that I made a horrible mistake and we should just have nachos instead, so everybody cried, and Tony sent a paniced text around 7 stating simply, “everyone’s crying and they hate me.”  Been there, my love.

I won’t say all’s well that ends well because it really didn’t that night.  Dinner is not currently an area of success in our house.

At any rate, even without a note to remind me, I’ll probably remember these lessons: turn on the crockpot; remember your pressure cooker; nachos have the power to fix things only if you recognize them as a viable alternative.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Beating Our Heads Against the Wall

Tony and Charles are the same person and it’s driving everyone nuts.  “Like father, like son” is cute and all, but right now this phenomenon has me careening wildly between exasperation and rage.

And Tony, bless his heart, doesn’t see it.  At all.

“He’s just like you,” I say.  “He gets absorbed in what he’s doing and he tunes everything else out.”

“He’s stubborn, and just like you, the more you push, the more he will entrench his position.”

“Tony, you have to cut him some slack, even if you would never cut yourself slack in this situation.  He’s seven years old.

“Kind words, please, boys, KIND WORDS.”

Charles, for his part, has taken to saying, “Daddy’s just grumpy because he has to work all the time.”

Now there’s the understatement of the century.

Is clash of wills a short-term phenomenon or will we have to endure the two of them butting heads forever?  I don’t know, but I can tell you that I do not relish my role as mediator.  I sometimes feel like yelling, “Everybody CALM THE FUCK DOWN!”  Not sure how helpful that would be.

I get it, though.  I understand Tony’s extreme irritation.  I understand why he just wants to throw up his hands and walk away.  That child, our child, pushes us to the brink of insanity every damn day and I’ll tell you what: there’s no quicker way to feel like a failure as a parent than to go a round with Charles.

On Monday, Charles, my little nihilist, decided not to go to school (again).  Why should he, after all, when school is “boring and stupid” and he doesn’t like it?  No reason I give is good enough, that’s for damn sure.  I LOVED school, at least until I realized that I was “different” for loving learning and wanting to be the best.  I was naive and had poor social perception, much like Charles does, so I anticipate him not understanding why some kids don’t like him in a few years.  Then again, maybe it’s cool to be a nerd now.

Refusing to go to school is Charles’s new thing.  It was so bad a couple months ago that four administrators and I couldn’t coerce or even physically pull him from the car.  This time, instead of getting into the car when it was time to go, he hid.  He hid so well that I couldn’t find him for fifteen minutes and I started to panic.  Did he get on the bus (that goes to a different school)?  Did he start walking to school?  Did someone kidnap him from the front yard?  Did he fall off the roof and break his neck? 

He was curled up in a cupboard, as silent as a mouse.  I very nearly cried with relief.

Every day that kid insists that school has no purpose and every day I chirp in my best Pollyanna voice, “Guess what YOU get to do TODAY?!”  And then I extend the carrot that either convinces Charles that it’s worth bothering with school or distracts him from the fact that he must spend the best part of the day in school instead of playing LEGOs or reading or climbing trees.  I don’t give him a reward, but I do highlight the positives in a way that is unbearably cheerful (“Reptile Man is coming today for an assembly!” “Remember!  We’re going to ninja gymnastics tonight!”).  And if things really go south, I break out the chocolate because a jolt of sugar can sometimes bring his mood back to even when nothing else can.

He’s only seven and he’s bored.  From the time he was a baby, he has needed to be constantly engaged, constantly stimulated in order to be happy.  He’s not old enough to talk himself into doing the drudge work to get to the good stuff, so it falls to us to keep him occupied with frequent trips to the library, multiple activities, begging his teachers for more challenging math homework, and the occasional kick in the ass to “go outside and play already!”

There is no easy answer, but grace.  I try to keep my cool.  I’ve resolved to yell less and I’m slowly making strides in that direction.  I can usually identify the look on Charles’s face that tells me he’s about to freak out about school or homework and I try to head it off with chocolate and love and silliness and absurdly happy retellings of the good things to come.  I remind him that his daddy loves him, even though he gets frustrated.  I remind Tony that Charles loves him and looks up to him, even when he pushes back and stubbornly refuses to eat his dinner.

And when they all go to bed, I sip my tea and worry.  How did we make it through another day with such a strong-willed child?  How can I help him to deal with his emotions without crushing his spirit?  Am I neglecting his more easygoing brothers?  When will it get easier?

Monday, February 29, 2016

Get Right Outta Town!

There is a serious issue we have to discuss right now: WHY do children have to pee at the LEAST opportune times during a roadtrip?  I mean, come on kids.  If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times: LISTEN TO YOUR BODY.  Don’t just ignore it until we’ve reached a traffic jam in the Tacoma S-curves and you have to go URGENTLY RIGHT NOW IMMEDIATELY MOM PLEASE I HAVE TO GO.

My kids have peed out the door of the van in rush hour, on the off-ramp at the Ft. Lewis – McChord Army/Air Force Base (forcing me to go through the checkpoint and then be officially turned back around as a soldier stopped oncoming traffic for me and waved me through), in vast numbers of McDonald’ses and gas stations and in bushes by the side of the road.  I don’t think they enjoy such improvised bathrooms, but damned if they’ll change their ways.  This latest trip had us squealing into the parking lot at Krispy Kreme for Charles to run inside while I gathered the others – there are worse places, I’ll admit.  While I didn’t indulge in a donut, I did enjoy smelling the donuts.  Odors don’t have calories, right?  I’m down to one run per week due to schedule constraints, so donuts are off-limits.  Sad face.

I can’t recall being this antsy this early in tax season before.  Tony has been up and gone to the office before 4 am for weeks now and though he doesn’t like to beg, I can tell he wants to ask me for more time to work.  I pulled the kids out of school at noon on Thursday and we hit the road.  We listened to our favorite songs from the Cars soundtrack at least fifty times, had an earnest discussion about Ninjago, and generally made the most of 5 hours in the car together.  It helped that no one farted the whole drive, not even the dog.

This is what weekends at the beach are for:

Eating cake with your hands.

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Hanging out with Grandpa.

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Walking on the beach.

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Playing in the sand.

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Exploring.

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Good friends.

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Watching Victor Borge on the big screen.

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Not pictured: My mommy making me dinner, Jamie handily beating me and Liz at Sequence Jr., that one glorious nap I took with Jamie, that one run I went on (did I mention I’m down to one run a week, even on a weekend away, and it’s KILLING ME), staying up too late drinking wine and watching TV with my dad, and general lazy relaxing during the day because nobody went to bed at a decent time or slept through the night while we were gone.

Does Tony appreciate our absence?  I think so.  Kinda hard to tell because less family time means more working time for him.  In his shoes, I’m not sure I’d relish the trade.  I mentioned to our doctor this morning that he didn’t even shower while we were away and the doc said, “Geez, he’s not in college.”  So now I know that my doctor thought showering was unnecessary in college.  I’m not sure how that makes me feel.