Monthly Archives: April 2015

You. Have. GOT. To. Be. Effing. Kidding. Me.

The past few days have quite possibly been the most trying of my entire life. I know that’s a pretty bold statement, considering I’ve had my heart broken a few times, lost beloved grandparents, survived taking an engineering physics class, run half of a marathon, biked over major mountains in Vietnam, and birthed three giant babies without pain medication (some of the more trying life events that come right to mind).

I’ll be the first to admit that I get stressed out pretty easily. But I also pride myself on being able to juggle many balls in the air, so to speak, without dropping one. That being said, there has been ball juggling and dropping galore in recent days, and if just one more ball hits the floor, I’m afraid I’m going to need to check into one of those rehab houses used by Hollywood celebs for physical exhaustion, or whatever it is they claim to need help with.

OK. So let’s get into the recent events at our house. Things all began to go south this past Thursday. Liam and I noticed some swelling and redness that had begun to form around the little guy’s circumcision site, which only days before had looked great and seemed to have healed up nicely. I called the pediatrician’s office to describe the blister-like swelling, and they said they wanted to see Rowan, so I made an appointment for later in the day.

Then, while the kids and I were still at home, Frances, our middle child, started with a fever, general crankiness, and complete loss of appetite. And the oldest, Nora, had refused to take a nap. It was shaping up to be a good afternoon.

At the pediatrician’s office, I started to worry when the doctor asked if I minded her getting another doctor with whom to consult and check out the little guy’s bits. Of course, the doc was gone from the room for about ten minutes, which seemed like eternity to me since I had to entertain and distract an almost naked newborn who needed to be held, nursed, and walked around, an ill toddler who was grumpy and also wanted to be nursed and held, and a cranky, chatty, ants-in-her-pants preschooler who was bordering on defiant (this is what no-napping does to her).

While I paced the small office with the little guy, while simultaneously trying to verbally comfort the toddler and shoo away the preschooler, I prayed for patience, peace and quiet, and for the damned doctors to just get the hell in the room already.

When they finally arrived, the tag-teaming duo agreed that our boy will essentially need to have a fresh circumcision performed by a urologist when he turns a year old, since skin had begun to grow on his penis and reattach itself from where it had once been cut. What?!?! This will be done under general anesthesia, they explained. Again, What?!?!

When I asked what had happened, the docs explained that it was just the way Rowan’s body had healed. No fault of ours or the doctor who performed the circumcision. Hmmm.

You might imagine how this all made me feel once I tell you I never wanted a circumcision for our boy in the first place. Why mess with nature? I asked my husband. He won’t look different from other boys. Lots of parents aren’t circumcising their kids these days, I argued.

In the end, I let Liam decide and told him I would support his choice. Grrrr…I tried and succeeded to withhold any I told you so’s when I explained to him what the doctors had said. He offered, “I bet you’re wishing we hadn’t had him circumcised.”

Um, that would be a yes.

Moving on to Thursday night then. Once we got the kids to bed, we started getting ready for bed ourselves. As I was brushing my teeth, I began to feel nauseous. Perhaps it was just the three chocolate Easter egg candies I’d eaten, I thought.

Negative on the candies being the cause of the nausea. Three hours later, around midnight, I began a hardcore puking fest that lasted off and on six or more times until five in the morning. I’m grateful Liam was able to come lay in bed with us to keep an eye on the kids and on me as I alternatively puked and nursed, nursed and puked a feverish toddler and an unsuspecting newborn.

I was worthless Friday, so Liam stayed home from work. Again, grateful. Frances still ran a fever (which she will do, as she refuses all kinds of medicines). Gratefully, she nursed well, so I didn’t have to worry about her continuing to not eat or become dehydrated.

Nora then developed a crazy runny nose. It got so bad, she utterly destroyed two boxes of tissues, and grew a red, raw rash that extended from below her nose and up to her cheekbones on both sides of her face. We gave her some Benadryl, rubbed her face full of Vaseline, and sent her to bed.

I then went to bed hoping that the two bananas and two pieces of toast—all the solid food that I was able to force in my body that day—would be enough to sustain us, the breastfeeding trio, through the night. At least Frances’s fever had broken.

Around one in the morning, Frances got sick. She only puked twice, and it wasn’t nearly as violent or plentiful as my episodes had been. Grateful. And, we didn’t need to change the sheets. Again, grateful. See how I’m trying to find the positives, here?

Saturday morning everyone seemed well enough, but for me. Overnight, I had gotten a migraine headache that was just wicked. I thought my brain might be swelling and my body shutting down, having decided it was depleted, exhausted, and just plain done with life for good.

I chugged some much needed glasses of water and Gatorade, and then, a cup of coffee. Next, I forced myself to eat a lovely meal of spinach and eggs, peanut butter toast, and Ibuprofen (thank you, husband!). I showered, went back to bed, and woke up an hour later feeling like a million bucks, thanks be to God.

It was good timing too, since Liam’s brother and sister had just arrived from Connecticut and Massachusetts, respectively, to meet the baby for the first time.

Gratefully, Saturday and most of Sunday passed without incident. I seemed to be better, though my appetite still hadn’t returned. Frances was still striking on solid foods, but nursing well. Nora’s nose continued to run like a sprinkler, and she developed a loud, hacking cough.

We enjoyed a really great visit with Liam’s family. It was so nice, in fact, I burst into tears the moment after they left to head home. I’m sure my emotional state was made worse by lack of sleep and the stress of the past few days, but it’s hard living away from family and not getting to see them very often. Guess I should be grateful I enjoy my in-laws so much!

Moving right along. This brings us up to last night. Right before bed, Liam started looking pale and concerned.

“Are you feeling sick?” I asked.

“Maybe I’m just hungry,” he said hopefully.

I think deep down, we both knew what was in store. Sure enough, soon after midnight, Liam got sick. And then, Frances had a relapse. Again, we didn’t need to change sheets, only pajamas. I’m not sure I was feeling grateful at that point though, truth be told.

After we got cleaned up, Nora began a hacking fit in the other room, which led me to run the shower on full heat to create a steam room in the bathroom. I grabbed her from bed, even though she was half asleep, and sat with her on the toilet until her coughing subsided.

It was then that I wondered about the superpowers of mothers and all they are capable of doing despite not being totally well themselves, both emotionally and physically. Even when I think I can do absolutely no more, I somehow rise up and do what needs to be done to take care of my loved ones. It’s instinctual. And kind of amazing.

OK. Almost there.

This morning, Frances started with the cough and cold. Only, unlike her older sister, she is incapable of blowing her nose and generally taking care of herself. In fact, she is helpless and hopeless. She wanders around the house trailing Liam and me whining and exclaiming, “Runnies!” every time her nose begins to drip. Or, “Hold me! Hold me!” It is insane how much you can both love and be utterly repulsed by your children in the same instance. When I heard her whining ‘Runnies!’ for the hundredth time today I silently raged, “Will you please just shut the fuck up?!” while simultaneously gently dabbing at her nose and after offering her a genuine hug, full of empathy and all the comfort I could muster.

Liam didn’t head into the office again today, but he’s been working from home. I think the pukes are behind him, but he’s still pretty unwell. And pale.

I am happy to report that as of this writing, I feel ninety-five percent myself, not including the extra postpartum pounds my body is carrying, but you know what I mean.

Sadly, just in the past few hours, Nora has gotten the stomach bug too (insert exasperated emoji face, here).

Before the real deal, she must have run to the toilet fifteen times thinking she was going to be sick. For many of those fake-out times I was in the bathtub trying to relax. I found myself wondering as she cried wolf—I mean, pukes—if and when she finally did get sick, would it be callous and irresponsible of me to continue enjoying my bath through it all? I mean, she’s so mature and capable for her age. Surely she could see herself through the pukes while I continued to enjoy my soak?

In the end, about the fortieth time she came running dramatically—”Aaahhhh! Aaahhh!”—to the toilet, she did let loose all over the rug and her foot, in addition to the inside and outside of the toilet bowl. You’ll be happy to hear I did heft myself out of the bathtub to hold back her hair and gently rub her back, while offering words of comfort and encouragement (though it should be noted I did briefly consider staying put and coaching her from the warm water). Poor girl.

So. What’s left? I’m sure Nora has more in store for us tonight. One time of the vomits cannot be all there is for her. The baby, miraculously, has remained well—apart from the stress of needing a brand new circumcision in a year. I am hoping against all hope that he stays well. Given our luck, though, and the contagiousness of this stomach bug, I am sure we will deal with him soon enough.

At one point today Liam and I just looked at each other like we were ready to give it all up. Throw in the towel.

“Just don’t leave me,” he said, only half jokingly.

I laughed. As if I even had time to consider divorce! Although. Mexico had crossed my mind.

“If we can make it through the next few days, we can make it through anything,” I promised.

The question remains though: Can we make it? Or will one more unlucky event unhinge us both and require the local Children and Youth Agency to come and remove our children from our home? 

Please, everyone, get well. Before the rats catch on that we have food scraps aplenty collecting on plates and other dishes on our counters and tables. Before the film crew from Hoarders shows up at our front door, mistaking our house full of cluttered shit for a house with real issues. Before I run out of clean underwear. Please, get well!

I’m hopeful we’ll get through it.

I’ve decided you can tell a lot about a person by examining her toothbrush.

At a recent trip to the dentist, I expressed some concern over a spot in my mouth where I had felt some pain and sensitivity when drinking cold liquids. The hygienist explained to me that I had very minimal evidence of receding gums. I was shocked. I take excellent care of my teeth. I attend check-ups twice yearly as I should.

“What caused this to happen?” I said.

She asked, “Do you use a soft toothbrush?”

I assured her I did.

“Do you find that you brush and scrub your teeth rather fiercely to get them clean?”

Hmmm…I assured her I did that too.

“Well, there’s your problem,” she went on. “I used to do the same thing. There’s really no need to brush roughly to get your teeth clean. You can be thorough, but gentle. And try out this toothpaste in the meantime,” she concluded, handing me a tube that definitely looked like something my grandparents used at one time or another. Great.

Well, the toothpaste tasted like shit, so I threw it out. But I tried, and still do, to be mindful of how hard I brush my teeth.

I always get such a kick out of comparing the state of my toothbrush at the end of a month’s use with that of my husband’s. His always looks brand new. I swear, if I didn’t see him brushing his teeth morning and night, I’d say that his perfect looking toothbrush is proof he doesn’t use it. 

Mine, on the other hand, has bent and wayward bristles, pointing this way and that, looking like a wild broom that’s swept the cobbled streets of Boston for over a century or more.

How can this be? 

Is my brushing symptomatic of the stress and anxiety I feel on a daily basis? And my husband’s neat little brush a sign of his almost never ending patience, and peaceful spirit?

I think I might be onto something here. Check your brushes, people. How do they look? Strangly and scary? Nice and neat? Somewhere in between? Do they reflect your state of mind?

I’d like to know.

“Where me go? There me!”

Sadly, I’m here to tell you it’s true what they say about second-born children and the lack of photographs of them. At least when compared to those of the firstborn. At least in our house.

Well, let me clarify. We have photos aplenty of our middle child, just no evidence of her on the walls of our home.

And, we love hanging shit on our walls. I just did a rough count, and discovered we have about fifty frames up in our small, small house. More than half contain photographs of family and friends. About sixteen hold photos of our eldest child. Just two are of our second girl. Well, two-and-a-half, if you count the one of our oldest kissing my very round and pregnant belly, inside of which the middle girl was living at the time.

Frances has lately been noticing and admiring all the photos on the walls, especially those hanging in the living room above the couch. And, she likes to report to us who she sees in every one.

“There Nor-nor and Daddy. Nor-nor and Grandma. Nor-nor and Grandpa. There Mommy and Daddy. There Mommy friends!”

This morning, when we woke up in what was once Nora’s bedroom, then supposed to be Nora and Frances’s shared room, but has now become Mommy and Frances and Rowan’s bedroom, Frances looked at a couple more wall photos. 

“There Nor-nor and Daddy. There Nor-nor and Tella.”

Then she paused, rightfully puzzled, and wondered aloud, “Where me go?” 

It broke my heart really. Until she glanced at a photo made on canvas, of her older sister around the same age as she is now, sitting on an ocean dock, gazing out at the sea near Liam’s dad’s house in Connecticut. 

“There me!” she exclaimed proudly and excitedly. 

I just didn’t have the heart to tell her that the little girl in the photo, who looks just like Frances, was indeed not her, but her older sister. 

Instead I beamed and said, “Yep. There’s you!”

We need to get some photos of this kid on the wall, stat. We can’t have her thinking she is a less important or valued member of the family. Especially with an important birthday celebration coming up. 

I’ll just make a mental note to do that this weekend, on top of baskets full of laundry, vacuuming, dusting, picking up toys, organizing art supplies, holding/swaddling/nursing/burping/diapering the baby, showering myself before noon. Seems like there is a petty good chance it will get done. 

Not.

We are currently living with an ant murderer and a shameless, little liar.

I’ve got to get a new strategy for writing. Turns out that if I leave the task until nighttime, it just doesn’t happen. You see, the witching hour begins at our house around 4:00 p.m., right after nap time—when one would think the kids would be well rested, and therefore not whiny, clingy, and claiming to be starving, despite the fact that they refused to eat half or more of their lunch—and ends, roughly, between 7:30 and 9:30 p.m., the range of time during which one or more of the children fall asleep.

And by that point, after many, many consecutive nights of restless sleep, there is absolutely NO chance that I am getting up out of bed to compose anything of any worth. So, sadly, I haven’t even been trying.

The new idea is to get the writing done during the daytime. Right now, as I hopefully type away, my oldest is with the babysitter and her oldest girl, at a swim lesson. I have her younger daughter here at the house asleep for a nap, along with my two youngest. All is quiet, although I am hearing an occasional whimper and moan from both of the bedrooms. Please, please, stay asleep dear children!

It seems the weather has changed for the better around these parts, knock on wood, if one is willing to overlook the tornado watch that went on here for much of the day yesterday. So, we spent a good deal of time out in our yard on Sunday, pulling weeds and raking leaves—getting ready for some spring planting.

While the two younger kids were indoors napping, Nora and I helped Liam with some tasks. She and I set about pulling small weeds from inside the cracks between our patio stones. One weed I uprooted clearly upset an ants’ nest, as the little buggers starting climbing out of the crack by the tens and twenties.

I called Nora over to show her, knowing she gets a kick out of all things bugs. I love how she’s not grossed out by them, and enjoys picking them up and holding them when she can.

For the first couple of summers when we encountered bugs and insects I made a point to tell Nora about how we should be mindful and considerate around them, taking care not to smush them if we can. For the most part, she abided by these measures.

Seems as though we might need to have the talk again, because as soon as she saw all the ants, after she exclaimed, “Oh my goodness, look at all those little guys!” she followed up with, “Mama, wanna see how I kill the ants?”

“Hmmm?” I asked, half distracted.

“Wanna see how I kill the ants?”

Curious, I told her I did.

“Hold on,” she said, and then ran through the back door of the garage to the front porch.

She came back a moment later with a piece of sidewalk chalk, and began to explain as she acted out the steps:

“First, I take my chalk and I chalk them. See? Like this. I chalk them and then they become dead. They become dead,” she repeated, as if I hadn’t heard her clearly enough the first time around.

I returned to my weeding, wondering what had happened to my bug-loving child, only to be interrupted by her steadfast chalking and grunting.

“Got him. Got him. Got him. Got him, too!”

This reminds me of warm summer nights when I used to smush lightning bugs with my cousins in the alley behind our house, on the lids of rusty old trash barrels, just so we could see the brief smear of glowing luminescence when we did. Much as I want Nora to learn to be kind to all living things, I guess bug-killing is right up there with other childhood rites of passage, like learning how to ride a bike, and telling a fib for the first time.

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Speaking of telling a fib, our middle child—Miss Frances—has been in the habit lately of outright lying when she wants something, but one or more adults tell her no. She simply tells whoever is saying no, that the other parent said she could (But mommy said so—or—But daddy said so). She’s not even two yet! Where does this come from?!

Take for example, this little incident:

Yesterday morning there was a little cup of trail mix that Nora or Frances had left out on one of the end tables from the day before. All that was left in the cup were a few peanuts and raisins, as someone had eaten all of the M&Ms from inside it. Frances asked me if she could have more M&Ms, and I told her no. She countered with, “But daddy said so!”

Ha! Daddy was not even home at the time. He was at work, and I knew better.

“Daddy did not say so,” I told her sternly.

“But daddy give me,” she pleaded, hoping against all hope I would say:

“Oh? Daddy give you? Well, in that case, let me go get you some more chocolate.”

Instead, I said, “Daddy gave that to you yesterday. And you’re not eating chocolate for breakfast today.”

At least the baby is not giving us any trouble.

Yet. 

Another year older.

Another birthday has come and gone. I can’t say I feel any older or wiser. Just tired. And cranky. With a lot more gray hairs. And unable to fit into most of my clothes.

This past Friday I turned thirty-seven. My husband had the day off from work. He kept insisting I take small trips away from the house, so I could enjoy some time to myself. Much as I need this and crave this, I wanted to also spend time with him and the kids.

In the morning, we all got to enjoy a homemade pancake breakfast together. Then, I was gifted with a vibrant painting from my preschooler (depicting a trampoline that is “so, so, super huge that a hundred people could fit on it,” alongside a purple tree). She had made it for me at school. When I thanked her for thinking of me at school, and for being so thoughtful, she quickly gave credit to my husband, noting, “Daddy told me I had to do it for you.” Ha!

In addition to my lovely painting, my husband presented me with a gift card for a (much deserved, if I may say so!) spa package, which I plan to use when we all are a bit more settled in our new routines and I feel at ease getting away for more than just a couple hours at a time. Hopefully before I turn another year older!

Then, in the afternoon, while all the kids were napping, I did take my husband up on the offer of leaving the house for a little bit. I stopped briefly for an iced coffee, hit the highway fast at 70 mph, with the windows down, wind blowing my hair, and country radio on full blast. For just a few moments, I felt like a million bucks. A huge smile spread across my face.

Although I was only going to an appointment for an eyebrow wax, I imagined I was in my twenties again. I could have been road-tripping through the south with a great friend, making stops in Atlanta, Memphis, and Nashville, like I did in 2002. Or, I could have been on my way to Farm Pond in Sherborn, Mass., going for a swim, as I often did in 2003. Or heading out for a hike in North Conway, NH during the summers of 2005 and 2006. I was free and flying solo, and for the fifteen minutes of that drive, it felt amazing. And energizing.

Even though my life is really challenging now—figuring out how to juggle a newborn, a toddler, and a preschooler, all while trying to manage to keep my sanity, despite not getting decent amounts of sleep at night—that drive gave me hope for some time in the future, hopefully not too far away, when I will once again be able to reclaim that part of myself that I remembered so well on that ride—the young, free-spirited, spontaneous and adventure-seeking part of me. The part that has faded into the background just a bit, because more important, more urgent life events have come to the forefront.

When I told my husband about how getting away made me feel, later at dinner that night (another birthday treat—thanks to a gift card from one set of of our parents, and the babysitting prowess of another set), I teared up just a little remembering how sweet and fleeting the moment was. He reminded me how important it is to make time to get away, if only for a little bit.

I will try to keep this in mind in the seemingly chaotic weeks and months to come, as we head into Liam’s busy time of the year, when the kids and I will see less and less of him, and more and more of each other.

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Our littlest child. Enjoying some rare awake time in the hands of his father.

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Love how this photo captures the essence of our days together. The baby just sleeps happily away, while the two sillies in the back make their mom nutty. I must remember, we are blessed. We are blessed. We are blessed.

How long would our cloth diaper supply last if my husband followed through on his plan to trash, and not launder, every poopy diaper the middle child makes from this point forward? And other hypothetical questions, like, will she ever eat another vegetable again that isn’t some form of a potato?

Up until our son was born, our middle gal was a strong, healthy, and active eater. She would often eat multiple breakfasts, including most of mine and my husband’s. While our oldest girl is oftentimes skeptical of veggies, the middle one (formerly) wouldn’t think twice about gobbling up some of my eggs mixed with mushrooms, onions, greens, and asparagus. 

Although never a big fan of fruit, even as a baby—which I think is totally bizarre, by the way—she could eat her share and more of many a vegetable. She was especially fond of roasted cauliflower, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts.

I’m using the past tense because after our son was born, my breastmilk arrived. And with it, came the abandonment of vegetables for the middle child—as well as most other foods that aren’t toast, crackers, pretzels, Cheerios, or potatoesand the arrival of the worst poopy diapers ever known to this house. And perhaps, ever known to mankind.

We’ve been cloth diapering for four years now. When we were expecting with our oldest, a friend referred me to this site, where we learned all we could about using cloth. We eventually decided to give it a go. It’s worked out pretty well for us so far.

It has definitely saved us big money. I’ve read that parents can expect to pay around $2,000 for disposable diapers per child. We’ve made less than a $1,000 investment in cloth diaper supplies that will see us through three kids, though we still buy and use disposables when we travel, and to have on hand here at the house for when the laundry just doesn’t quite get done in time.

And there’s the environmental factor, which is nice too. We don’t make as much trash as we would using disposables, although one could argue we waste a lot of water keeping up with the washing of these things.

So, what are the downsides to using cloth? I used to think it was just the high maintenance of keeping up with the three-cycle (cold wash/hot wash/cold rinse), every-other-day washings. And there can be a slight yuck factor, though you get used to it after awhile. Think ammonia smells and dumping and rinsing the occasional dirty diaper.

However, I nowwe now—realize all else has paled in comparison to the recent poopy diapers that have come forth from our breastmilk drinking, white-food only eating toddler. THEY. ARE. THE. WORST. 

We are talking huge portions of soft, mushy, and smelly shite. Huge! The kind of shite that you can’t simply plop off into the toilet and easily flush away, like her diapers of yesteryear. The kind of shite that brings on insta-diaper-rash it’s so nasty.

These new diapers need to be scraped by toilet-papered hand, multiple times to have any chance of being able to be used again, and to avoid ruining our washing machine on account of being totally loaded.

Which is why my husband said recently that he plans on just throwing away the diapers from here on out. Not even bothering to try and clean them. I guess he’d rather buy disposables during this phase or just replace the cloth with new cloth. 

I suppose, now that I really consider it, those choices are far superior to the scraping and dumping and holding-my-breath-so-I-don’t-throw-up option with the giganta-turds we are now seeing at least once, if not several times a day.

If only she were into potty training, this nightmare could all just go away. At least I don’t really have to worry about her nutritional intake as I’m eating well enough for both of us. She’s bound to get lots of goodness from my milk. 

I just hope we can all survive this chapter of the parenting book.