Monday, September 22, 2014

Power Play

Tony and I awoke to a boom on Friday morning at 6:30.  The power had gone out and emergency personnel were swarming the street beyond our backyard.  Due to the early hour, there were no sirens, but there was fire.  A transformer on one of the power poles had blown and caught the pole on fire and it was slowing burning down its length.


You guys!  I didn’t know they could do that!  I don’t feel safe at all anymore, knowing now that transformers can explode and catch their poles on fire!


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We were without power from 6:30 AM to 10:30 PM, a long-ass time if you haven’t showered since Wednesday night, which I hadn’t.  I was planning to shower Friday morning because Tony and I were going to go out to celebrate our ninth (!) anniversary, which was really on Wednesday.  Wednesday was a horrible day for me.  Thursday was better, but that’s a relative term and objectively, it was still really challenging.  I really needed a good day on Friday.


Tony left for basketball pretty much immediately after the power blew, and when the kids got up, I bade them get dressed and then I hauled us all (including a grocery sack full of frozen breastmilk that I intended to save, even if the rest of our freezer turned to lukewarm mush) over to my brother’s house for breakfast.  While there, I was temporarily stymied by his coffee machine.  First of all, I was not in a good place; I had consumed no caffeine, I was sleep-deprived, and like a good mom, I fed everyone else before myself.  I was starting to get hangry, and I needed coffee ASAP.  Second of all, Leland has a combination coffee maker/espresso machine – this was apparently too much for my limited faculties.  I couldn’t open the coffee maker side, so I filled the espresso side with water, put coffee grounds in the little espresso maker part, and made myself world’s largest espresso.  It was like a cup of coffee, but it was a cup of espresso.  Wired!


I credit the caffeine with helping me make it through the day without killing anyone.  Indeed, I almost had a good day, under the circumstances.


Tony rented a generator to keep our freezer going, and I finally foisted the big boys off on a good friend for a sleepover.  Tony, the baby, and I went out after all, having a lovely (unwashed) anniversary dinner at Anthony’s where I indulged in my unholy love of moules-frites.  Freddie was chill at the restaurant for almost an hour, which is all anyone can really ask of a baby.


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When we got back home, Tony hooked the generator up to our tankless water heater for five minutes so I could shower in the dark.  And then, almost as soon as the power was back, I went to bed.


Like an idiot, I kept repeating, aloud, the mantra “lemons out of lemonade, lemons out of lemonade” on Friday.  So now I’ve become the unwashed crazy lady pushing a stroller up a hill, baby strapped to my chest, talking to myself.  Let’s hope there are no more exploding power poles in my future.

Thursday, September 18, 2014


At 9:15 last night, I pulled my children from bed (well, no, I pulled one child from bed; the other hadn’t yet gotten into bed, the stinker), sat them on the couch, hugged them fiercely, and apologized.  I apologized for being such an ogre yesterday, for yelling and losing my temper, and for saying terrible things I didn’t mean (“I don’t want to be mom anymore,” and “Fine.  Don’t sleep in your bed.  Sleep in the dog kennel.  I don’t care.”).  I cried, they cried, and then we talked about how we could all do better today.  I would try not to yell.  I would help them with their tasks instead of just being authoritarian about giving directions.  They would try to follow directions the first time they were given.  They would try not to fight and taunt each other.  They would try to be on time for things or at least move faster when I told them they needed to move faster.


It didn’t work, though it made me feel a bit better last night.  This morning, they were up to their old tricks again, alternately concocting elaborate parkour routes around the house and fighting each other like badgers.  They ignored directions, simple, everyday directions like “please brush your teeth now,” and “please get a jacket, it’s raining.”  They whined.  They yelled.  My ears are still ringing.


But I didn’t yell, so I’m calling it a win for the morning.


And, the baby has only burped up on my once today, so we’re already doing better than yesterday.


It was a tough day yesterday, the kind no one can prepare you for before you become a parent.  And I just felt defeated and depressed.  I had thought I was doing so well, too!  Sure, I’m clinically obese, but I got some new clothes so at least I don’t feel as bad as I look most of the time.  And sure, I’m not getting enough sleep, but I’m getting more sleep than I was, and that helps.  And okay, I can’t keep up with the housework and all my responsibilities at home, but we’re all fed and mostly clean and I kind of have a handle on laundry.  And fine, in trying to be a working mom of an infant, I’m doing a terrible job at both working and being a mom, but the business hasn’t collapsed and the baby seems to be developing all right.  In short, we’re managing.


Except when we’re not.  Or rather, I’m not.  Sometimes, nothing goes your way.  I’m surviving, but I’m discouraged.  I feel like I do everything right, and still incur negative consequences.  I exercised like a fiend and ate healthy all through pregnancy, and I still gained so much weight that I can be classified as “obese” by any chart out there.  I try to be a good mom and limit screen time, read to my kids, cook nutritious meals every night, and give my children fun experiences when we can afford them.  Still, they disrespect me.  I have tried disciplining them in every “correct” way out there, and nothing works.  I don’t have the willpower to resist the couch at night for an hour, even though I should be scrubbing the toilets or mopping the floors or just picking up the junk that accumulates on every surface (our housekeeper, and you KNOW I’m a big advocate of hiring a housekeeper if you can afford it, is out with a knee injury).


It got so bad yesterday that, after being late for boot camp and having to nurse the baby right when we got there, thus being even more late for class, I made the decision after doing only ten modified pushups (because Freddie is strapped to my front and I can’t get down on the ground) to take my screaming, whining, tantrumming kids home.  Jamie couldn’t stop throwing a fit over every. single. little. thing. and Charles was taunting him at every turn.  Boot camp is the only “me” time I have, even though I am exercising while managing three children and I can’t do even a third of the exercises because Freddie hates his car seat and the stroller, so I keep him in the Ergo.  It’s the only thing in my week that makes me feel good about myself – I might not be pretty or thin, and I might be exercising next to the new mom who has already lost all the baby weight at 12 weeks post-birth, but at least I’m doing something productive and I feel pretty strong while doing it.  To have to walk away from that, from my one thing, was heartbreaking.


I suppose we all must go through those times when we feel like the universe is shitting on us.  Thank God that was yesterday, and today is today.  My breast pump broke at 4:30 am, but I’m trying not to see that as an omen for today.  I have already borrowed a friend’s for the short-term and my insurance will completely cover the cost of a new one.  I’m wearing a new shirt and it only has one breastmilk stain on it; here’s hoping it will stay lonely instead of inviting all its friends to party on my shoulders.


I’m hoping, at a minimum, that I can maintain perspective today.  Would I trade my children to be thin?  No.  Would I trade my children’s personalities for complacent, obedient ones?  No.  Would I trade my ambitious husband who is gone all the time for a slacker who is home early?  No.  Would I trade my stressful job for a nine-to-five working for someone else?  No.  Sometimes, it’s not about counting my blessings, it’s about knowing how much the alternative would suck.

Monday, September 15, 2014


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We used to say that if we had had Jamie first, we would have thought we were world’s most amazing parents.  He slept better than Charles, was quieter and more mellow, and was all-around easier (though he wasn’t happier; Charles was either ecstatic or miserable, no in-betweens). 


I’m sure part of the reason Charles was so difficult was because we were first-time parents.  We read all the books and thought that we had to do things the “right way.”  Getting used to getting up in the middle of the night, changing diapers, nursing, eating with one hand, cooking and cleaning and typing with one hand… it was all very difficult.  I didn’t shower enough, didn’t eat enough, and didn’t brush my teeth enough in those days.  With Jamie, I had those things figured out.  The sleep deprivation was just more of the same, so it was no shock.  I gave away all my books about infants and sleep habits.  I already knew how to eat with one hand and I quickly figured out how to snuggle two children at once.  I bought an Ergo so I could do almost anything hands-free.  I let the baby cry in his crib for a minute or two while I calmed down Charles after a tantrum or brushed my teeth; I knew that Jamie wouldn’t die from an extra minute of screaming.


I thought that Jamie was easier because that’s just who he was, and maybe because we were more experienced and less anxious as parents (also, Jamie didn’t have some of the health issues Charles had).  Now, I think I was wrong.  I think Jamie was easier because he had Charles.


Charles helped to give Jamie baths.  He helped pick out Jamie’s clothing.  He wanted to hold Jamie all the time:


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Jamie saying, “Get me away from him!”


Jamie was mellow because he needed some downtime away from all the ruckus that was and is Charles.  Jamie slept well because he was stimulated during all his waking hours by his brother.


Freddie is the easiest of all because he has both Charles and Jamie.  Freddie is constantly talked-to and played with.  He sits with me while I read aloud to Charles and Jamie.  He goes on long walks and has been going to work with me since he was two weeks old.  The secret to my boys being mellow?  Stimulation.


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Kid can’t even have some private time when he’s getting his diaper changed.  Of course, I haven’t gone to the bathroom alone in almost 6 years, but who’s complaining?


I used to say that I felt like my job, as Charles’s mother, was to exhaust him by the end of the day.  Now, Charles and Jamie wear each other out and they clearly wear out Freddie, too.


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Freddie slept for 7 hours straight last night, awoke to get changed and nurse, and went back to sleep.


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If we had had Freddie first, he might have been a lot like Charles.  But since he is last, and has two brothers to bug him all day long, he is mellow, happy, and sleeps like a champ.  I feel pretty blessed, and better rested than I thought I could be with a two-month-old.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Mommy’s Big Boy

Guess who had his checkup yesterday?  This guy:

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I only cried once (shit, I’m saying that a lot lately, as if it’s an accomplishment to only cry once), and that was when the secretary told me that Freddie’s insurance had been terminated and the well-child visit and vaccines would cost $200 or more out-of-pocket.  And then she said, “Well, you should talk to your HR department about this.”  I am HR.  I have no idea what’s going on.


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Digression: Yesterday was TERRIBLE.  It never rains but it pours, you know?  Jamie has started to act out in a distinctly “Jamie” way by adamantly refusing, totally stone-faced, to do anything I ask, plead, prod, or demand that he do, from brushing his teeth to staying in bed at night to getting dressed to finishing his dinner to anything.  I had to take away all of his books yesterday, something I hate doing.  I just wish Jamie hated it half as much – he doesn’t even care about consequences, not a lick.  At least it was a good opportunity to clean out and reorganize the book shelf.


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Anyway, then the insurance thing, which I had to figure out after the doctor’s appointment, so I got to work at 11 AM and immediately got on the phone with the insurer and then started putting out other fires, but starting that late feels like I’m starting the day half over.  Then I went home and tried to motivate myself to do anything, but since Freddie got shots, he was fussy and only wanted to be held.  And THEN, the main computer at work blew up AGAIN, completely incapacitating the office and causing the ball of stress in my stomach to wind a little tighter.


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So yeah, even before the shit really hit the fan with the computer crisis, I was already crying at the doctor’s office.  Which is a small office.  Which prompted the medical assistant to ask if I wanted the appointment after Freddie’s to “talk” with the doctor.  Which prompted the doctor to write me a prescription to “ask for help.”  Is there anything worse than knowing that you’re being irrational and not only not being able to do anything about it but also realizing that other people are noticing and starting to thing you’re crazy or worse?  We discussed how it just isn’t possible, right now, for me to feel good about things.  Tony is super busy at work and he has a class that takes him away from us essentially all day Wednesday, so I am on my own everyday from morning until the time when dinner has to be on the table, except for Wednesday, when I’m on my own until I fall into bed as soon as the baby is asleep, usually 10 or 11 PM.  My housecleaner had knee surgery this summer, so she’s only come once in three months and the house is filthy because I am incapable of sacrificing sleep to clean toilets, and I don’t see my kids enough as it is, so hiring a nanny or a babysitter is out of the question.  Ask for help?  Who can help me?  The best help I could have right now is liposuction, the ability to drink more than half a glass of wine without affecting breastmilk, and an assistant at the office who wouldn’t make me pay him/her to do my job for me while I recover from birthing an awesome kid and trying to integrate him into our lives.


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Oh, right, the baby.  I told the doctor that of all the things in my life that are stressful to me right now, Freddie isn’t one of them.  He’s content, healthy, smiling, mellow, and a good sleeper.


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At two months old, he weighs 14 pounds even and is 24.5 inches long.  The doctor pointed to his computer where he had inputted these stats and they were highlighted in red because the computer program thought they were in error.  Nope, he’s just a big boy.  A big, healthy, happy boy, loved to distracting by his whole family.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Bring Your Baby to Work Day, Everyday

Taking an infant to work is exceedingly difficult.  I feel like I am taking the working mother’s conundrum (because I am not 100% focused on either work or parenting, I’m doing a terrible job at both) to a new level.  During my working hours – about 3 hours a day at this point – I barely get done with my “required for the business to stay operational” tasks while simultaneously feeding, burping, and ignoring Freddie.  We’re going through a big warehouse and office move right now, including significant improvements to our new space, and Freddie’s naps are constantly interrupted by phone calls, meetings, and the creaking of my goddamned squeaky office chair (why the fuck is it so loud?! I never noticed before!).


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Tired mom, tired baby 


This poor kid.  This poor mom!  We’re up at 7 and we first walk Charles to school (1 mile round trip) and then drive Jamie to school before coming into work.  I live in constant fear that I am forgetting the baby as I shuffle kids around.  Is he here?  Did I put the car seat in the car?.  I work until 12:30 or 1 o’clock, come home and let Freddie get a quick, uninterrupted nap while I clean the house, do chores, and prep dinner before driving to pick up Jamie and then walking (another mile round trip) to pick up Charles from school.  Then we begin our evening with either boot camp or activities at home.  I probably don’t have to mention that I am still getting up with a hungry baby three times a night, too.  I’m exhausted, and because I’m a mother and I worry (that’s part of the job description), I fear that my schedule is detrimental to Freddie’s health.  I know it’s detrimental to mine.  I suffer a minor nervous breakdown every other day.


Today, I cried about passwords.  Of all the asinine things to cry about, right?  I have to change all the passwords to the online accounts for the business every three months.  We are switching banks, so I had to get new logins and passwords for the new accounts.  I have numerous logins and passwords for my personal affairs.  And I was informed today that to access medical patient records for my children, I have to have separate logins and passwords for each of them.  And that was the straw that broke the camel’s back that caused the dam to burst and the tears to flow.


I just… I can’t, anymore.  I don’t have the capacity in my brain for another login and password.  I only just recently (finally!) memorized Jamie’s social security number and now I have to memorize Freddie’s.  I’m completely overwhelmed.  When I found out about the passwords for the doctor’s office, I lost it.  The poor secretary on the other end of the phone: I’m sure she never thought she’d be dealing with a sobbing mother upset about online accounts when she got to work this morning.  Apparently, my argument of “but my 9-week-old couldn’t care less about his patient privacy!” was not good enough to grant me an exception to the rule and have all the children’s information sent to my account.  I bet that some prescient genius noted in the mid-nineties, to the scoffing of his or her fellows, that password fatigue could become a real issue if this Internet thing ever took off. 


Maternity leave exists for a reason, but for me, it’s not an option.  I am thankful that I can take Freddie to work with me, but it’s no picnic.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

First Day

On Sunday night, Charles repeatedly and loudly insisted, “I’m not even nervous to go to kindergarten tomorrow!”


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He woke up at 6:30 am, an hour earlier than I usually drag him out of bed.  Excited?  I’d say so.  After about the fourth time that he asked me when we were leaving (apparently, “in an hour and a half” was not a good enough response), I told him that we would leave when the clock read 8:50.  The rest of the morning went something like this:


“Mom!  The clock says eight one five!”


“Mom!  The clock says eight two two!”


“Mom!  The clock says eight three four!”


“Mom!  The clock says eight four one!”


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The school is a half-mile away from our house, so I am now going to be walking at least two miles a day, with the stroller and the baby in the Ergo.  When we’re with Charles (the way there in the morning and the way home in the afternoon), it’s a bit reminiscent of Oregon Trail: Charles sets a grueling pace.  The only “safety” conversation we’ve had to have is one about “not getting too far ahead of mom.”


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I only cried once, when I was giving him a final hug goodbye at his desk; I choked back the tears and told him how much I loved him and how proud of him I was, and I promised that I was crying happy tears.  Then I high-fived him, he turned toward the teacher, and I walked away.


He loved his first day of school.  He’s in a dual-language program and so will be learning in both Spanish and English.  His favorite part of the day is P.E., no surprise, and he loves his teacher, who told the class a funny story about socks (I’m not really sure what the story was about, but Charles was so excited about how funny it was that he sort of gasped his way through the retelling).  He likes recess and he’s already made new friends.

I think it’s going to be a great year.

Monday, September 8, 2014


Multiple times a day I commit the egregious sin of opening the refrigerator door and staring, slack-jawed, at the contents in the vain hope that they will somehow magically assemble themselves into something edible.  It’s not that I am not inspired or no longer enjoy cooking – the baby is even willing to sit contentedly in his rocker or lie on his playmat for a few minutes at a time, affording me the concentrated use of two hands needed to slice vegetables or open the oven.  And my love of food remains undaunted by my depressing revelations about my unsightly body when I stand in front of the mirror.  No, it’s that I am dairy-free for Freddie, and now everything without dairy tastes like the bitter tears of a new mother who cannot satisfy her cravings.


Freddie has grown so fast that I am sure we would both benefit from the calcium in such devilishly delightful dairy products such as yogurt, ice cream, and, oh God yes, cheese.  But his little tummy can’t handle dairy proteins right now, so we’re stuck with probiotic supplements and coconut-milk ice cream bars for the near future.


Worse than the snacks are the meals.  What do I eat?  Peanut butter? Chips and salsa?  Salad, again?  (My poor intestinal tract is having a hard time with the lack of cheese and yogurt, and more salad only makes things worse.)  Tuna?  Soup?  Cereal with almond milk?  Eggs (without cheese!)?  But then dinner comes around and I’m even less creative.  Grilled chicken, again?


And then I come up with something brilliant: Thai chicken skewers with homemade peanut sauce, say, or paella with chicken sausage.  Maybe red curry (not spicy!) with potatoes and broccoli or crock-pot cowboys beans with chicken.  I feel great!  I made something healthy and interesting and delicious!  And the first thing I hear when we all sit down to dinner is a high-pitched whine: “I don’t like this dinner!”


Inevitably, the other child either responds with “I don’t like this dinner, either,” or, if I’m lucky, the child will be in a contrary mood and want to be different than his brother and will exclaim, “I LOVE this dinner!” while shoveling it into his mouth so fast that he chokes.


When we finally start eating things with dairy again (Enchiladas! Ranch chicken! Lasagna!  Cheesy broccoli soup! Cheeseburger casserole!  Nachos!  Pizza!  Potatoes au gratin!  Chili rellenos!  Grilled cheese sandwiches!  Rice pudding!  Ice cream!  Holy Moses, I miss dairy!) it will feel like Christmas, I’m sure.  For a few days, anyway.  Then, one kid will start to turn his nose up, regardless of the cheese content of the meal in front of him, and sneer, “I don’t like this dinner!”  And then I will eat his dairy-licious dinner AND his portion of ice cream.


You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Two Faces

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Freddie remains cute, in case you were wondering.


I’m not really a believer in astrology, but I was born under the sign of Gemini and I can tell you that, regardless of actually believing or not, I have always embraced a sort of dual personality.  I am always at least two people in any given situation, but lately, those two people tend to be the cool, calm, and competent one and the one that is falling apart, drowning, and checking out of life because I. Am. Not. Handling. This.


I think we’ve reached the end of what our summer can handle, turmoil-wise.  Charles and Jamie are flexing their annoyance muscles so hard that my yelling and nagging muscles are popping under the strain.  I kiss owies, I read stories, I clean up, again and again, the spills and smears and dirt until I snap, and then I let out the bitch inside who just wants these children to STOP ANNOYING ME!  I know they don’t do it on purpose, but damn it.  It’s like they’re doing it on purpose!


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Charles is starting Kindergarten in one week, and he’s more apprehensive than he’ll let on.  His behavior, while not bad, has grown a bit touchier the closer we get to the commencement of the school year.  School supply shopping, picking out a back pack, discussing lunches, talking about expectations, scheduling assessments – Charles is like me in that when it all gets to be too much he’ll blow his top, even if every small step in the same direction has been fine and met with acceptance if not eagerness.


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The baby is over-stimulated.


Then there’s the undeniable fact that Jamie will miss Charles.  For years, they have shared their days at preschool, and Jamie counts on Charles far more than I realized until recently.  At preschool, they stuck together.  They played together, sat side-by-side during all meals and snack times and circle times, and doted on each other.  At home, they know exactly where the other one is and what he’s doing and they’re frequently on top of each other (literally).  Jamie, especially, is hyper aware of Charles.  And then Charles moved to the school-age classroom at the beginning of summer and now he isn’t going to be at daycare at all, and Jamie tells me repeatedly, “Mommy, I miss Charles.”


I’m doing my best to comfort my boys about the changes coming in their lives.  I’m also busy at work (we closed on a new property for our business – hooray!) and trying to care for an infant, manage my family, and pick up the slack while Tony begins the most difficult class of his master’s degree.  One minute, I am sweet and kind and generous and caring; the next minute, I’m angry and touchy and impatient and loud.


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Studying is more difficult with a baby.


It’s stress.  It’s the fact that my life is changing, too: my first baby is heading to Kindergarten.  KINDERGARTEN!  My post-baby “life of leisure” (ha!) is coming to a close as Tony will no longer be taking the kids to school starting this week – I HAVE to get up early, regardless of how much sleep I got the night before.  I’m still dealing with (or not dealing with, at least not well) the issues surrounding having one final baby and wanting to squeeze every moment of goodness out of it but also wanting to get through this stage of having a blubbery belly and loose joints quickly.  I’d like to start wearing my wedding rings, and the really emotional, totally stupid and irrational part of me feels as though I am betraying my marriage because I can’t get the damn things over my knuckle.


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Oh, sweet Jesus, those cheeks.


Some parts of each day are really, really good.  I am in love with my children, I have a clean kitchen, and I haven’t looked in the mirror in a while.  Other parts of my day, I feel absolutely worthless.  I’ve yelled at my children (something that never helps the situation and yet, something I continue to do), my back and shoulders hurt, I feel and look fat and slobby, I smell like sour milk, and the house is a mess.  The coin flips, back and forth, back and forth.