Monday, August 25, 2014

Seven-Week Itch

With a seven-week-old baby in the house (and office), everything I do I do with one hand or I don’t do it at all: dishes, laundry, meal prep, purchase order processing, negotiations with banks and contractors, eating, typing… everything, really.

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I don’t know how it happened, but we are really, extremely, painfully busy this summer.  Between soccer, preparations for kindergarten (school bar-be-que, evaluations, conferences, oh my!), buying a new warehouse, Tony’s masters classes, and keeping the laundry done and the dinners made, I don’t have a moment to myself.  Oh, yeah, there’s an infant vying for my attention, too.

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When it’s not overwhelming, it’s perfect.  When I’m not struggling exhaustedly to make it through the day, I truly enjoy snuggling my Freddie and smelling his head and his sweet baby breath.  When I’m not weeping about how I will never, ever get to hold a baby of mine ever again after Freddie, I’m smiling about how lucky I am to hold a baby of mine in my arms for the third time.


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When I’m not pulling my big kids apart to keep them from bloodying each other’s noses, I’m marveling at how well they play together.  When I’m not shouting at them for being total assholes, I’m tearing up because they are so loving and sweet.


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Mommy, Freddie LOVES me.”


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Mommy, I’m done holding Freddie now.”


It’s up and down, it’s total chaos, it’s sleep-deprived madness, but we’re happy.  Most of the time.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Mother’s Curse

It is lucky for my children that I am somewhat defeatist because instead of throttling them, I mostly just give up and try to lie down somewhere until they stop driving me crazy.  I sort of go numb, putting myself into this zone where I can almost not hear their screaming or whining or see their kicking or sulking.  It would be an effective method of punishment, this stony silence and glazed eyes thing I’ve got going except that THEY DON’T FUCKING CARE.  I can only hope that when they’re older they’ll come to understand that the moment mom goes silent is the moment they’ve crossed the line.


It’s been one of those days where I could honestly have screamed, to the world at large, at any point, “I’ve had it up to HERE!”  It’s the God-awful combination of children who respond only to spanking but know that mom does not spank and a severe lack of sleep, seasoned with the knowledge that things aren’t going to get better for awhile.  I have to be back at work WITH my six-week-old at the office, I have to do mornings and school drop-off with my bigger kids, I have to run the household, and I have to make sure that Tony gets enough sleep to do the job that pays the bills and has enough time to study for the super difficult master’s class he’s taking from now until December.  I get to bed around 12:30 AM, feed Freddie around 4:30 AM and 6:30 AM and then get up for the day.  If I’m lucky, I get an hour-long nap on the couch in the afternoon.


The most positive aspect of this new normal of being out-of-my-ever-loving-mind busy is that I am unable to obsess as much (which I totally do when I am getting enough sleep) over the fact that in a month Tony and I will have been married for nine years and I currently weight FIFTY POUNDS more than I did when we got married.  I swore I would never let myself go, but lo, it has happened anyway, despite my crazed exercise regime and healthy eating.  Instead of obsessing over the size of my ass, I’m more likely to (as I did today) break out into snotty, weepy tears while gazing at my baby and blubbering, “I love you so much!  You are perfect!  Please, God, let me live long enough to see this baby grow up.  Please, God, let this baby and ALL my babies live long, healthy, fruitful lives.  Waaaaah!”  It’s pathetic.


Hey, want to invite me to a party?  I’m a real hoot.


But then, as much as I love that chubby little face, my other two kids come home and I hardly have time to look in their beautiful eyes before I’m screaming at them to “Get. BUCKLED!” and “Stop throwing things at your brother!”


I ask you this: How many time-outs does it take to raise a child?  I’m afraid I’ll be institutionalized before I know the answer.





My parents were laughing to this video when I was small.  I’d like to know what they did to make me turn out so well.  Surely, I couldn’t have been as infuriating as my own children are.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Jamie’s Day Out

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I fear that Jamie is more prone to “middle child syndrome” than many other second-of-three children might be; he’s quiet and introspective much of the time, which could lead to him being easily overlooked.  I call him my thinker, and as a thinker, he’ll often spend time alone, contemplating God-knows-what, playing with his cars, trucks, planes, and trains, or reading a book.  He doesn’t demand my attention in the same way Charles does, though he’s learning to do so a bit more (just this morning, he insisted on having a story while I was nursing Freddie), and he’s frequently railroaded in conversations that also include Charles.  Hell, in a conversation with Charles, none of us can get a word in edgewise.


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Planes are serious business.  (This is not an unhappy face – it is a “studying” face.)


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Smiling for the camera!


On Saturday, Charles was sick and did not get to accompany me, Jamie, Freddie, Uncle Leland, and Grandpa Roger to the Heritage Flight Museum “Props & Ponies” Mustang show.  I’ve seen a lot of Ford Mustangs in my life, and I’ve seen a very few P-51 Mustangs on the ground, but never before have I seen a P-51 Mustang fly.  There were three that flew during this event (as well as some other planes), and they were amazing.  The sound of those three engines overhead was astounding; my heart was in my throat during each of the several fly-bys.  I kept imagining how awesome it would have felt to see a whole squadron, or several squadrons, fly overhead.


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As Leland puts it, Jamie will be the gearhead of my family.  He loves machines and vehicles of all types and is never happier than when watching a race or a train or a plane.  He would have stayed at the show until the bitter end, but I had been carrying Freddie on my front the entire afternoon (four hours!), it was hot, and my feet hurt.  During the loooong walk back to the car, Jamie inhaled a giant rainbow sherbet waffle cone, so I’m guessing he wasn’t unaffected by the heat or the exhaustion of the afternoon.




Because of his patience with learning about machines, Jamie will probably enjoy a more productive relationship with my dad than Charles will – not that there won’t be plenty of love to go around, but Jamie will more than likely be happy to spend hours with Grandpa in the shop, working on machines. 


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Charles, on the other hand, is more likely to enjoy the action and excitement of being a deckhand for his Grandpa Joe or Tony when he gets older.  When the boys were at the beach a week-and-a-half ago, Charles caught his first (and second, and third) salmon and talked of nothing else for nearly a week.


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It’s part of my job, I think, to help my children grow and blossom in the ways that suit them.  They’re still figuring out what they love, so we can use a shotgun approach to activities (air show, Sprint car races, roller skating, soccer, etc).  Honestly, I didn’t think we would make it four hours at the Mustang show, but now I know that if we want to spend an entire day next summer at the Arlington Fly-In, Jamie will not only be just fine, he will be as happy as a pig in shit.


It’s not easy with an infant in the house, but I hope to do more of these “dates” with my kids individually.  It’s so fulfilling to me to find something they love to do and do it with them.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Weekend Alone

We have almost made it through our long weekend alone.  The weekend included a few small errands (mama needed more salsa to get me through), some working, some visiting with friends, some long walks, a dead car battery, and lots of this:


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In many ways, this weekend was very difficult.  It’s isolating to have a newborn.  Every trip out of the house requires about six million steps and double-checks before we can step out the door and I am out of practice.  I can totally scream “Get your shoes on and get in the car!” while simultaneously brushing my teeth and starting the dishwasher with the ease of long-established habit, but I’m having to relearn the getting out with a baby stuff. 


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Getting up with a newborn in the middle of the night alone is tough, too.  I rely on Tony to change Freddie’s diaper before I get up to feed him so that I have a chance to go to the bathroom and put myself in a loving mindset to take care of my baby for the next 45 minutes or so.  Without him, I forget steps, like putting on my glasses, and that makes things tougher.


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On the other hand, this weekend has been easier than most.  Although I have missed Charles and Jamie terribly, not having to meet their needs has been freeing.  I have focused on myself and Freddie, and that has been truly wonderful.  The laundry is caught up, the dishes are done, and the floor is clean.  I haven’t had to make dinner for anyone but me, and it turns out that all the meals I’ve consumed have been extremely low effort.  Chips and salsa, broccoli salad, frozen cheeseless pizza… it will be tough to go back to cooking a real meal tonight.


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Last night, after dealing with my dead battery and abandoning my evening’s plans (which included a birthday party, such a bummer), I ate some dinner and curled up on the couch.  What mother of three is allowed to take a nap at 6 PM with her baby?  It was perfect.  Even though this weekend included lots of loneliness and tears, I’m happy I got this time alone with my Freddie.


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Saturday, August 9, 2014

Stand up to the Assholes

I remember learning about the Civil Rights movement and the Feminist movement in grade school and thinking, “Really?  People had to fight for this?  It seems so obvious.”  I imagine that my children will feel the same way about homosexuality and gay marriage: why was this even an issue?  It’s human rights.  God loves everyone and we should love everyone, too.  Judge not lest ye be judged.  Treat others as you would have them treat you.  It’s not what’s on the outside that counts, it’s what’s on the inside.  We’re all beautiful and worthy and have a part to play in the human race. 


Why does compassion still have to be taught?


It’s unfortunate that my children will be asking these same questions a generation from now, but I know they will.  Racism, sexism, fear, and prejudice still exist and we are not doing enough to stop it.


My beautiful, innocent children and their beautiful, innocent friends were on the receiving end of some racist comments the other day and that makes my blood boil.


My boys go to a dual-language preschool (and Charles has been accepted into the dual-language grade school in our district, hooray!) and have friends and teachers of all colors and backgrounds: Russian, Puerto Rican, Latino, Caucasian, Black.  We talk frequently about the differences and similarities between people.  I ask the boys about their friends, what they like, how they act, what they look like.  We talk about how some of their friends’ parents grew up in Mexico, how our neighbors moved from the Ukraine.  The boys point out that some of their friends have brown skin.  We talk explicitly about how the color of someone’s skin or hair or eyes does not mean that that person is better or worse or smarter or dumber or nicer or meaner than anyone else.  Charles reminds me, frequently, of something he learned at day camp (vacation bible school) this year: “Even though you’re different, God loves you.”




On Wednesday, Jamie and Charles and their respective preschool and school-age classes from daycare went to the County Fair.  Charles’s class walked there from the daycare center, a distance of about a mile (after reading this article, I am even more grateful for my childcare center’s focus on play and exercise).  The boys got to eat fair food, see farm animals, and even have fun on some of the rides:




They had a great time.  They didn’t hear or didn’t notice the hateful, hurtful comments that followed their groups of kids throughout the fair:



Dirty Mexicans.



Go back to your own country.


These were adults directing racist comments at children.  Beautiful children.  Good children.  Children who are almost all Americans, born in the U.S.A.  Children who will grow up to be waitresses and fire fighters and doctors and business owners and hair dressers and bookkeepers and taxpayers and even serve our fine country in the military.  These are children who are full of wide-eyed innocence and love and potential.  And yet, in our community, a community that is at least 50% Latino, they are discriminated against and the recipients of foul racism.  Even the children.




I wish I had been there to confront these assholes who stooped to spouting their hatred at children.  I understand why the teachers couldn’t engage, but I wish someone had pointed out to these jerks that these children are American.  I wish I could have called them on their racism and pointed out that they were being total douchebags.  I wish I could have reminded them of what my mother always told me: If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.


I’m not perfect.  I don’t know how to navigate racism perfectly, and in all the conversations I’ll have about racism, I suffer the disadvantage of never having been on the receiving end.  But I do know that I have a responsibility as a parent to be explicit about racism to my children so that they can be somewhat prepared for what they will encounter in their lives and so that they never, through ignorance or anger, say something hurtful and racist.  Right now, their best friends are named Miguel, Lorenzo, and Cristian.  In a dual-language school, they will forever have Latino friends.  Because of that, they will continue to experience racism, a fact that nearly brings me to tears.  But I hope, I sincerely hope, that they’ll be strong enough to fight back.  To tell other children who say hateful, racist things that they are wrong.


And, as an adult, I hope I will always have the wherewithal to stand up to racist dickheads.  When the people around these asswipes keep silent, it’s as good as a tacit endorsement of their behavior.  Morons like that need to know that they people around them do not agree with what they’re saying.  It’s the only way we can stop this.


We talk a lot about teaching our kids to stand up to bullies.  We need to teach them to stand up to racist bastards, too.  That’s the only way we can make this a non-issue and keep this sort of thing from happening a generation from now.



Thursday, August 7, 2014

Big Oops

This guy had his first x-rays at the dentist this morning:


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And, regardless of the twice-daily brushings and the daily fluoride, he has eight cavities.  EIGHT.  All of them are in his molars, in the spaces in between.  He has four filling appointments between now and the end of the month.


As you might imagine, this was not news I wanted to hear first thing this morning.


I feel like such a failure.  Here we have limited sugary drinks and emphasized brushing and it didn’t mean a thing.  I floss my kids’ teeth, but clearly not enough.  I was lazy about flossing (even though I floss my own teeth every night and feel dirty and gross when I don’t), and now my son has to go through four agony-filled dental appointments at age five.  And I have to shell out a LOT of money and sit through four agony-filled dental appointments with a baby in my arms the whole time.


It’s (not) funny how one thing, one simple thing like this, will send me in to a spiral and throw everything else that sucks into sharp relief.  Freddie is one month old today, and I was thinking I might spend the day gazing at his chubby cheeks and marveling the speedy passage of time, but instead I am contemplating the abundance of medical and dental bills (it’s expensive to have a child and expensive to prevent having children) and how it feels like we can never, ever get ahead.  I think about how I want so badly to lose the weight I gained during pregnancy but I have so little will power that I bought Double-Stuff Oreos at the grocery store this evening and already ate a third of the package).  I could have taken the dog for a walk tonight but I just wanted to sit on the couch in my pajamas instead.  I will never be thin again.  I think about the mom and wife I want to be and the mom and wife I am, yelling at my kids and snapping at my husband.  I feel like no one listens to me.


And perhaps worst of all, Tony, Charles, and Jamie are leaving me for a weekend.  They leave tomorrow morning and won’t be back until Monday.  Three nights of taking care of Freddie all on my own.  Four days of extremely limited contact with adults.  Four days with no one else to make the coffee, no one else to unload the dishwasher, no one else to give me even a moment’s break from caring for an infant.  Four days of missing my children even though they drive me crazy every minute lately.  Four days of missing out on all the fun vacation things my kids and husband will be doing.  Even my brother is going.


This is life, I guess.  Constant sacrifice.  Seasons when things just aren’t fun.  Times when you have to work extra hard to make up for missteps. 


I just hope things will look up again someday.

Monday, August 4, 2014

I Smell A Rat

It had been a long day: up all night with the baby, up early with Jamie (that kid – it’s like he’s on amphetamines with the way he doesn’t sleep).  Tony took his truck to the shop (it was leaking antifreeze, which now I realize is probably why all the neighborhood cats have been hanging out in our front yard.  Sorry, neighbors, I hope your cats don’t die) early and then went to basketball, coming home after I had fed and bathed and dressed everyone, a feat just short of miraculous and possible only because Freddie wisely slept through the morning chaos. 


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Then began my work as a chauffer, since it was payroll day and I had to go to the office.  First, Tony to work.  Next, kids to school.  Then, me and Freddie to work where we worked for a couple of hours.  Then, to our business’s new building (!) to meet the sellers and discuss some stuff.  Then, me and Leland to the chiropractor (oh, that was so needed – I hadn’t been in a year or more and the pregnancy, delivery, and caring for a baby had taken their toll for sure), Leland back to work, and finally, me and Freddie home where a good (the best, really) friend was waiting for us with lunch.  After lunch, I started the reverse process by taking Tony to pick up his truck, getting the children, and getting everyone ready to go to a birthday party that evening.


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I nursed Freddie twice in parking lots, had a tearful breakdown at daycare, and drank too much coffee while eating too little throughout the day.


We got home from the party full of strawberry shortcake and refreshed by fun conversation with great friends.  As we always do, we pulled the van into the garage and extricated all our children and belongings (babies come with so much STUFF).  Charles barreled past me as I opened the door into the house with the car seat in one hand and the diaper bag in the other and we were immediately hit with a stench so powerful, so thick, my eyes started to water.


“What’s that smell?” I yelled, thinking that one of our neighbors must be grilling some particularly disgusting meat or maybe hadn’t cleaned their grill from the last time they grilled some particularly disgusting meat.


As usual, Buster was excitedly waiting for us at the top of the stairs, wagging his tail so hard you’d think his butt would fly off (“They’re home!

They’re home!  I thought they’d never come back!  They’re home!”).  The sun had started to go down and we hadn’t left any lights on, so Buster was almost a silhouette.  He was so happy to see us.


But he had something in his mouth.


Something dark.


Something with a tail.


“WHAT is in Buster’s MOUTH???”  Charles screamed.


I immediately connected the stupefying stench with the obviously dead creature, which I presumed to be a rat based on the tail girth and length, and screamed for Tony to “Eeeew!  Get it away from him!!!”


The only other time Buster has presented a dead animal to us was on Tony’s thirtieth birthday, six months or so after we moved to Mount Vernon.  I screamed, shooed the damn dog outside, and called Tony to come home and deal with the situation (happy birthday!  Your dog got you a present!).


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God DAMMIT, you disgusting dog.


Turns out that both the squirrel that Buster had six years ago and the rat (or baby opossum or whatever) that he had on Friday were long dead, but that made him no less proud of his prizes.  How he got them in their decomposing states, we’ll never know, but after this most recent incident, I’m beginning to suspect he likes them that way.  Like a fine wine, he catches small animals and then ages them for later retrieval and enjoyment.


Tony, bless his manly heart, somehow got the rotting animal away from Buster and disposed of it while I went all the way upstairs to nurse the baby and gag every time I thought about that rat.  I pleaded with Tony to mop the floor in case their were bits of diseased, decomposed rodent that had dropped off of the thing, just waiting to be ingested by one of the kids when they pick up a dropped spoon from the floor.  I sniffed phantom odors of putrefied varmint meat for the rest of the evening.


Because I must be fundamentally incapable of looking on the bright side, all I can think about now is that, at some point, there was a live rat in my back yard, happily spreading bubonic plague and God knows what else, digging around, having little rat babies, and somehow finding a food source.  I just… I can’t… YUCK.