Monday, August 18, 2014

Preemptive empty-nest thoughts

No one would ever accuse me of procrastinating.  If I could get something done three days before I even realized it needed to be done, I would do it.

So it is no surprise that a full year before my youngest starts full-time school I am already reflecting on and missing what will have been my 11-and-half years as a stay-at-home mom.

This past weekend, in an effort to make more room for new photographs, I began going through our cache of photos on the computer, deleting blurred ones or those in which someone's eyes are closed.

My entire life of the last decade is in these pictures.

Every pregnancy, every birth.
Every MOMS Club event.
Every preschool party.
Photos of N and G playing in the rain with their umbrellas and boots before all the construction was done near our house that eliminated all those fine puddles.
Photos of family walks with the kids decked out in their ball caps and sunglasses.
Photos of visits to a local nature preserve, hiking through its trails, petting the horses, flying kites.
Photos of sledding and snowmen and visits with grandparents.
Photos of babies asleep in their high chairs.
Photos of first smiles, first crawls, first walks.
And I have been here for it all.
I have seen every milestone first-hand.
I have missed nothing.

I don't know if that matters to my children.  They probably take it for granted because I have been around for it all.  Having mom near is just no big thing.  It is the way it has always been.

But it matters to me.  It fills my heart to the tip of its brim to have all these wonderful memories, to have written down all the sweet sayings and milestones and moments in the journals I keep.  To have photos of so many random days, so many simple activities that weren't trips or outings or anything monumental.

It is the best thing I have ever, ever done and will ever, ever do.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

The ear saga continues

I had blogged two weeks or so ago about M's surgery.  He did fine.

After a phone call and email from me, and then another email from D directly to his HR people, we discovered that the children's medical center, which we were told by the insurance company is not in network, is not only in-network, it is the 1st tier so we shouldn't be looking at an outrageous amount of money since we've met our family deductible.

Which is fortunate because it seems our health-care dollars are going to be used for awhile longer on this ear situation.

When I took M a week ago for his post-op appointment he still had infection in the ear.  The ENT said it wasn't much pus and mucus, but it wasn't dry and clear like he wanted it to be.  So he said to do the ear drops (different from the ones we've always used before following surgery) for 10 days instead of 7 and to pick up an oral antibiotic.  And to come back in two weeks for another check.  Dr. B said he was going to keep close tabs on M until this whole thing is good and gone.

Friday was the last night for drops, and his ear is still draining.  He has been on Bactrim since Monday.  Dr. B said if this doesn't do it then we'll have to do ear flushing with boric acid or some such thing, but at the point he told me there was still infection I went directly and without stopping at Go to collect by $200 into panic mode, similar to what I had been in during vacation in Florida.  Anticipating the worst....more surgeries, likelihood of deafness, potential for death.

You know, typical Carrie thinking.

I decided to go ahead and get M tested for allergies, which we'll do this coming Friday.  Four sets of ear tubes in four years, plus adenoid and tonsil removal, and he is STILL having problems.  As much as I hate the idea of allergy testing and shots, I'm also ready to see if that might get us out of our family groove of a surgery every.single.year.  

M is most certainly his mother's son when it comes to Eustachian tube disfunction.  As a kid, I had at least 3 sets of tubes, surgery to repair a perforated ear drum, and allergy shorts for ten years.  As an adult, I think I've been on shots now for almost 15 years.

Of course, while I'm wrangling with all this, stewing with mother worry, I visited with a mom friend who had moved to DC but is now back in my area.  Her toddler has had pneumonia about 3 times since December, had brain surgery, and is believed to have a mitochondrial disease that could put his life expectancy at around 15 years of age.  Oh, and her husband is stationed in a tiny corner of the world.

Hearing about her son's medical issues certainly gave me pause and made me feel thankful that M is as healthy as he is, but I had to stop myself when that voice started to suggest I shouldn't worry, that my problems aren't really real or significant or bad enough to let them bother me.  That I had no right to feel worried because on the continuum of problems mine are minor.

I had to shut the voice down.

I had to remind the voice that my children's illnesses, however minor, are still worrisome to me because they are my children.  That while M is dealing with this ear thing, I've also been dealing with G, his OT, therapist visits and sensory problems and paying for those.   That I have my own underlying anxiety issues that make every stress feel more stressful.  That I feel what I feel.  That other people having it worse doesn't negate my own experience.

That hearing about my friend's son doesn't mean I need to add guilt to my list of feelings of the moment.

That it can offer me perspective.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Terminal depression

There are a many things I hope my kids never get, like Ebola or your run-of-the-mill STD.
But the two things I really, really, REALLY hope they never get are childhood cancer and terminal depression.
Those two diseases are life-threatening, not always easily treatable, and likely to manifest themselves over and over during the course of a child's life.

There is a pretty good chance my kids will never get cancer (at least as children).
Or Ebola.
Or an STD.
But their chances of getting depression are pretty high, especially since their mother has a diagnosed mental health condition, and there have been other episodes of depression (or depressive tendencies) among family members.

I've never been clinically diagnosed with depression, although I suffered from it during my days of untreated anxiety.  Comorbidity is not uncommon when it comes to lots of diseases, including mental illness.  

It is not pleasant to remember those dark days, but I can't help but remember when I went to breakfast with friends when I was being treated, but the medication hadn't reached its full effectiveness yet.  I was more or less non-responsive.  Nothing was funny or enjoyable.  My usual jovial, chatty self wasn't there.  I felt like a shell of a person.

And unlike Robin Williams, I was not a good enough actor to convince people otherwise. 

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Sanibel and surgery

It's funny.
I will talk freely about my antidepressant use and sex and all the realities of parenthood, things that most people generally feel is an invasion of their privacy.
What I feel is an invasion of privacy is for people to be able to track my comings and goings.
Which is why I've been quiet on here.
Also, my children don't give me a single moment's peace in the summer.

We were headed to Sanibel Island, FL at the end of July for a week's vacation, although anyone with young kids knows that what vacation really means is doing almost all the same tiring, monotonous parenting stuff except in a different location.

Still a different location can be refreshing in and of itself, except when your 4-year-old's ear starts draining the morning you are supposed to drive off.

The boys have had numerous sets of tubes so I know the drill.  After two treatments with Ciprodex, their ears have always stopped oozing.

Not this time.  M's ears drained to the extent that I was embarrassed to have the hotel staff see his sheets (big wads of cotton ball in his ear didn't hinder the flow of funk).

They drained so much I took him to a clinic in Florida to get checked out the Monday after we arrived.
They drained so much I called the ENT at home to schedule an appointment upon our return.
They drained so much I wondered whether and worried that he would require yet another surgery to deal with the infection.

Two days ago, on Tuesday, we saw the ENT.  Dr. Brown has always been very laid-back, of the conservative, "I'm ok with waiting and seeing" variety.
On Tuesday, he said, "We need to deal with this infection this week, like tomorrow."
When Dr. Brown, or any physician, is concerned enough to want surgery the following day, any one in her right mind (which I may or may not be) also gets concerned.

But this meant going to a facility that was not in network and where apparently no one knows the "price" of ear tube surgery.
So aside from my concern over my son and his ear and the risks of surgery (however slight), I also have the concern of him having surgery and not having any f*cking clue as to what it will cost us.  Health care is absolutely insane, but that is a post for another time.

So my "vacation," though fun and memorable, was not in the least even remotely relaxing.
And my return to real life was considerably more stressful than it might have been.
And this is the last week before school begins which means I have listened to my kids fight enough and, under the most perfect of circumstances, would have zero tolerance for listening to them anymore.

I found that on the trip I obsessed about the manatees that swam in a canal near our condo.  It gave me something else to focus on besides the ear, I suppose.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Loneliest not-alone time

A friend posted this on her FB wall and tagged me on it.
My favorite is the one by Linda:
Being home with kids all day
is just the loneliest never-alone thing. 
Like living in a cave 
filled with malfunctioning Teddy Ruxpins.

This sums up my summer break.

Whatever stage of parenting one is in, one thinks that is the hardest stage....until one gets to the next stage (or maybe two or three down the line) and realizes how much easier that earlier stage was.  

Sometimes the kids watch our home movies which they can stream on the television.  When I see N as a 5-year-old, G as a two-year-old and M as a newborn, I remember how hard it was, but I also remember the easy parts.  Like how easy it was to entertain a 5-year-old and 2-year-old.  Bubbles, sand box and swingset.  Boom!  The baby had all the entertainment he needed by watching his older siblings.  

There weren't endless argumentative conversations about video games or Cartoon Network shows.  They were so young they didn't have such intense, formulated opinions that they were willing to discuss endlessly in the car.  As mindless as Dora the Explorer songs were, I could turn those on, and the kids were happy as we drove hither and yon.

When N was at school, G and M were on the same nap schedule, so I often had 2 hours a day of quiet, something I sorely miss now that naps are a thing of the past.  The kids went to bed earlier than they do now.  I could distract them by just changing out a toy bin or two.

This summer I have really noticed how much of that easy distractibility N has lost.  One afternoon in June, I made squirtable chalk that the kids could use outside.  N did it once and was over it.  She then got out a lawn chair and read her American Girl magazine in the front yard while her brothers had me reload their squirt bottles until the sidewalk was completely covered.  She has about as much enthusiasm for squirtable chalk as I do.  She is definitely leaving childhood behind.

What I'm finding hard about parenting at this stage is that I am just on stand-by.  The kids are too young for me to leave them alone so I am restricted to the confines of the house (which I've never liked in all my years as a stay-at-home mom).  The kids aren't needy enough to have me hovering, but they are needy enough to interrupt me often whenever I try to get involved in something I want to do.  So I feel like I mostly wander the house a lot.  I piddle.  

One of the pidddling things I've been doing is pulling toys out to consign in the fall.  I've got some big items that will be going and are further evidence of my kids moving out of that easy-to-entertain stage.  The sand/water table is going away.  The Cozy Coupe will find a new home.  These are the last of the giganto toys of early childhood.  

And while I'm not sad to see the items go because I am excited at the prospect of having my house feel less cluttered, it does give me pause.  

My time mothering very young children is almost over.  My bonus baby will turn 5 in the fall.  This will be his last year of pre-school.  I am a year closer to being able to work more, perhaps paint a bedroom in an entire day while the kids are at school instead of it taking a week of stops and starts.  A year closer to being able to go to lunch with friends, to spend more time with my mom. 

I learned my lesson last year when M started preschool.  I was excited!  I couldn't wait for my 6 hours a week of free time!  And the night before preschool I completely and unexpectedly lost my shit.   

Although I am not comfortable being outwardly sentimental, I am nursing a tender space in my heart right now, very much aware of this precious time.  

As much as I am aware of this, I know that the next few weeks of summer break I will struggle with the kids' arguments and whining and requests for snacks and other things that drive me bonkers about being with them from sun-up until sundown.  I will, as usual, be strung between the cherishing of the precious moments of now and the daily, mind-numbing, soul-crushing grind of now.

It made me feel immensely better last night reading the final chapters of Anna Karenina about Levin's soul-searching and spiritual development.  Levin had been musing on his beliefs, his place in the world, and he resolved to carry this fire of spiritual knowledge with him always.  Of course, that same daily grind with which I struggle got the better of him.

"Now, as always, interference made him angry, and he felt sorrowfully at once how mistaken had been his supposition that his spiritual condition could immediately change him in contact with reality."  

But later, as within my own head/heart and on this blog:

"He was glad of a chance to be alone to recover from the influence of ordinary actual life, ewhich had already depressed his happy mood."  

and still more...

"Real life had only for a time overcast the spiritual peace he had found, but it was still untouched within him."  

I sometimes forget that just because I am cranky and unhappy in the moment, that doesn't mean I am unhappy in the grand scheme of things, with the overall trajectory of my life.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Summer Reading, 2014

This summer I have been reading books in preparation for teaching next year.  I'm still working my way through Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy and will have it done by the end of the month.  Then I will read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith.

Since March I have read or re-read the following:
MacBeth by William Shakespeare
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
My Antonia by Willa Cather
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli
Pictures of Hollis Woods by Patricia Reilly Giff
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry
Silas Marner by George Eliot
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
Nothing but the Truth by Avi

The sweet spot has been a book that a college friend recommended titled The Monsters:  Mary Shelley and the Curse of Frankenstein by Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler.  Having taught Frankenstein this past school year, I am finding it hard to put down.  I thought to take it on vacation in a few "beach" read as it were since I am such a nerd....but since I will be done with it by that time, I have decided to read The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom, which will put me back on track with my book club since I took a hiatus to read and re-read the aforementioned books.

My project for G and M this summer was to try to read a slew of Caldecott winners to them, and to have G read as much as possible to keep his skills fresh.  I have tried to have him read a book a day, but due to swimming and other activities he has sometimes been too tired to cooperate at bedtime.  And due to swimming and other activities, I have found it hard to remember to carve out reading time during the day.  Also, all this concierge-like activity has me tired too.

The Stray Dog by Marc Simont
Snow by Uri Shulevitz
The Dark by Lemony Snickett
Pigs Aplenty, Pigs Galore by David McPhail
The DoorBell by Pat Hutchins
My Little Brother by David McPhail
Yo! Yes! by Chris Raschka
Green by Laura Vaccaro Seeger
The Pigeon Needs a Bath by Mo Willems
First the Egg by Laura Vaccaro Seeger
Just Helping My Dad by Mercer Mayer
Actual Size by Steve Jenkins       *Interesting read for him and me
Biscuit in the Garden by Alyssa Satin Capuccilli
Fly Guy v. The Flyswatter by Tedd Arnold
Grandpa Green by Lane Smith  *This is a neat book
Beast by Susan Meddaugh
My Mother is So Smart by Tommy DePaola
Moon Plane by Peter McCarty
Pigs Ahoy by David McPhail
Just Teenie by Susan Meddaugh
Who Loves Me by Patricia McLachlan
Snails by Monica Hughes
Not a Stick by Antoinette Portis
Moths by Helen Frost
Pill Bugs by Monica Hughes

N likes to read, but she is like me....she is too distracted during daylight hours to sit and read for any length of time.  Bedtime reading is her thing, but with late nights and sleepovers, she hasn't done as much as I would like for her to do.

Currently Reading:
Belle Prater's Boy by Ruth White (She and I are reading this together)
Flutter: The Story of Four Sisters and an Incredible Journey by Erin E. Moulton
She is also a bit into a couple of other books but, like her mother, she sometimes has too many partially started books going at once.

Completed Reading:
Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage
Meet Caroline: An American Girl by Kathleen Ernst
Caroline Takes a Chance by Kathleen Ernst
Really, Truly Ruthie by Valerie Tripp
Meet Kirsten by Janet Beeler Shaw
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne, adapted by Ronnie Randall

Monday, July 7, 2014

Summer is interfering with my thinking.....and some semi-amusing kid stories

The daily routine of 6:30 a.m. wake-up followed by 15 hours of kid-speak that is like watching many really bad shows on Cartoon Network is taking its toll on my ability to think and, therefore, write.

I am reading Anna Karenina, which is slow-going but interesting, and I just began a book titled Monsters:  Mary Shelley and the Curse of Frankenstein, that I cannot put down and am even reading at red lights.  So, you see, I'm trying desperately to undue the damage of arguments over inane topics, like who gets the red lollipop since the bank teller gave two purples and a red, which create a mindworm worse than any earworm of songs by Neil Sedaka.

I have been thinking about why I have such an interest in and connection with black church worship and such weird feelings associated with worship in a contemporary Christian setting.  I have also been mulling over the Hobby Lobby decision, but my ability to write about these topics is stifled by the long days, constant interruptions and drop in IQ associated with being around my children  These are things to consider more and write on when school resumes.

What I can write about are those weird and amusing things my children have been doing which, fortunately for them, keep me from killing them with my bare hands some days.

Worst Job Ever---
Near our home is an industrial business area.  At the corner entrance to this area is usually a guy who holds a sign for one of the businesses.  He looks to have something on the order of a mullet and wears a headset.  He also has a habit of "playing" the sign like a large bass.  Evidently, I had a habit of saying, "Worst job ever," whenever we would drive by this guy.  I didn't realize I had this habit, of course, until G said one day, "Worst job ever."  He says it now every time we pass, including yesterday on our way to Mamaw's house for dinner.

Lifeguard Job---
After supper, the kids were "swimming" in Mamaw's little pool.  N had the idea for them to play lifeguard.  She took her turn first, sitting in the chair beside the pool while G and M went under water with goggles on, pretending to need help.  She jumped in, rescued them, and gently pushed on their chests.

Next it was G's turn to be lifeguard.  N went underwater with her mask, waving her hand above the water in an attempt to gain the lifeguard's attention.  G the lifeguard zoned out, completely ignoring his "drowning" sister.  She came up and went under again, once more waving her arm to gain the lifeguard's attention.  Finally, she raised her head above the water and said, "What the heck, G????"

G, stood up, said "I gotta poop," and headed for the house.  What a shitty lifeguard he was.

Butt Kiss---
After swimming, the boys went into Mamaw's house to get changed into their dry clothes again, since we were going to hang out for a bit before lighting sparklers.

I picked up towels and swim masks, and upon walking into the house, the boys decided to "BUTT KISS!," which involves them bending over to touch their toes, stark naked and allow their butts to touch.  No matter how many times we say, "NO BUTT KISS," they do it anyway.  Of course, last night, in the midst of saying, "Don't do that!!!!" they proceeded to yell, "PENIS KISS!"

More Waste Management---
We got them dressed, watched a little tv and waited for the sun to set.  Around 8:30, having both boys on my lap, twiddling my ears and being generally tired and whiney, I decided to move the sparklers up so we could get the kids home and into bed.

When we got outside, M decided he had to pee.  Rather than going inside, he wanted to pee on a tree as G had done in our backyard the night before when we lit sparklers in our yard.  G, in his 6-year-old maturity, had the sense to use his fly for discreet urination near the willow.  Four-year-old M went to the tree in the center of Mamaw's yard and dropped trou, proceeded to scratch his butt while he peed on the ground.

One of the best things about summer and these little amusing snippets of life is when D and I are in bed, reviewing the kookiness of the day before I fall into a coma until 6:30 the following morning.

Last night we considered the usage of the boys' BUTT KISS as our code word for referring to adult tomfoolery (by inserting other body part language), but decided this would be beyond the pale.
Even for us.