Friday, July 29, 2011

How is he gonna play out?

I really wonder how G is gonna turn out.  I (sorta) jokingly say that he will end up in law somehow, either as attorney or criminal.  I like to think I know how to parent my children, but G completely throws me for a loop.

He has the speech issue which has improved immensely since the beginning of the year, although we have back-slid a little this summer due to mom's inability to stay on a mouth-exercise schedule.  But I am wondering about his fine-motor skills now.  When N was his age, she could write her name (it wasn't pretty, but she could do it).  G can barely hold a pencil and make circles.

I know a lot of this is because I had blessed time to work with N on her writing, and that is something I do not have with G.  When N was almost 4, G was a non-mobile baby who was happy to sit in the bouncy for extended periods of time sucking on his fingers.  G has an almost 2-year-old brother.  He and M often nap at the same time, so in the mornings I cannot devote time to sitting with G at the table and working on writing because M will be hollering, pawing at us and providing distraction for G (and, lord knows, it doesn't take much to distract G).  If G doesn't nap, he is borderline catatonic and hasn't the stamina or interest in working on writing.

G knows his letters, knows all their sounds, can count to 20, knows his colors, knows his shapes (except maybe rectangle).  He loves to read and has begun to tell his own made-up stories (last night's was about a volcano with fire and dragons in it which eventually segued into something about dinosaurs eating people up).  When I think about it in terms like these, I think he is pretty on-the-ball.

But he just feels so far behind N at the same age, although perhaps I just do not remember how immature N was at that age.  I do not remember how primitive her writing was, her language skills.

Or maybe it is because of his vexing pester-you-til-you-want-to-die personality.  When I hear stories about my Uncle Jerry, who allegedly bounced off the walls at birth and was the world's biggest tease and general pain in the arse, I think G inherited those same traits.  Or maybe his persistence is simply childhood OCD taking its form (and we know whom he inherited this from.....).

I guess I must plug away, mothering him as best I can, and let time take its course.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Sorta done with some (relief) and sorta not done with others (sniff)

I am getting rid of more and more baby stuff in this next consignment sale.  One of the crib mattresses is being sold, as is the high chair.  (Unfortunately the drop-side crib can't be resold, so I am going to make stuff out of it.....but that's another post for another day).  I haven't done the figuring, but I am hopeful that there is at least $125 worth of stuff to be sold.

Today I took down the baby gates.  M is capable of getting down the steps on his own, and I have had it with G slamming the top gate and then whining for me to open it up (he can unlatch the one at the bottom of the steps but not the top).  The gates' only function at this point is irritating me, not keeping anyone safe. Those will probably end up in the sale as well.

My neighbor asked if I was sad about getting rid of baby stuff, and I said, "Heck no."  I am sick of having infant paraphernalia all over the place.  I am this close to getting rid of the pack-n-play, but there are still some times when I need to put M in it, like when he is clinging to my leg as I desperately try to finish dinner.  Once M is put in, N and G immediately get in with him.  It's kinda funny (as well as somewhat pathetic) how much fun the 7.5 year old and the almost 4-year-old have playing in the pack-n-play.

So that will stay a little while longer.

While I have no qualms about getting rid of baby stuff, including the kids' baby clothes, I am borderline heartbroken that N doesn't want to buy picture books anymore.  Yesterday she and G turned in their summer reading charts at Half-Price Books and received $5 gift cards, and N spent hers on chapter books.  I think it is great that she wants to read chapter books because I know her reading level is "up there," but I still want to enjoy picture books with her.

Well.....I guess since she and G share a bedroom and we read books to them together at rest time and nighttime, we DO read (and enjoy) picture books together.  G would not be able to sit still if all we read were her chapter books, so I always pick out picture books or short readers at the library that I think she will like.  But to her, picture books are a little babyish.  They are what her kid brothers read.

I guess what I really want is for her to be little again and be excited by the wonder that is picture books.  She is almost to my neck.....53 inches tall....and when I see pics of her as a chubby little 3-year-old it sorta makes me ache inside.

I am sometimes out of sorts with this stage she is in, which will likely last a few years (her being in it and me being perplexed by it).  She is eager to be "grown-up," and buy blingy t-shirts with sequins and window shop at Justice, but at the same time asking if I can pick her up and swing her around by the arms, as I do her brothers.  I feel that I am frequently telling her, "N, you are too big," and I hate to say that, but she is physically too big for many of the things she asks me and D to do.

And I feel that because she is tall and halfway through her 7th year there are some things I shouldn't have to remind her of 8 trillion times.  But I do.  Which reminds me that she is still a child, and children (and husbands) need constant reminders of everything.

Being a kid is hard.
Being the parent of a kid is hard too.

Monday, July 25, 2011

What my frugal freak self thinks of the debt-ceiling thang

The only debt D and I have is our home.  We pay off our credit card statements every month.  If we don't have cash in the bank to get something, we don't get it.  So I completely agree that our government must cut spending.

It is fiscally irresponsible to do otherwise.

However, D and I just by sheer luck were born into families who valued education, who helped us with our homework, who provided stable lives for us, and who helped us and supported us as we got our master's degrees.  There are many, many people in the US who weren't that lucky (or who made some unwise choices that forever changed the course of their lives).  So there has to be a safety net for people.

It is socially irresponsible to do otherwise.
(And, yes, I am including the stupid people--the ones who do the dumbest things like allow their homes to fall apart from the inside out, who bastardize the English language, who have 10 babies by 10 different guys, who wear their pants sagging to the ground and who generally fuck up the gene pool.)

If an individual's finances were screwed, he would be told by a financial adviser to 1. cut his/her spending to the necessities and 2. do whatever it took to increase his/her income, be it by getting a moonlighting position, selling stuff on Ebay, going back to work full-time rather than staying home with the kids or only working part-time.

And as far as I'm concerned, since our government is apparently in dire financial straits, we need to take the same course of action.

My biggest problem when I was an economics major in undergrad is that it is tremendously hard to reconcile a firm belief in fiscal responsibility with a firm belief in taking care of those less fortunate.  It can be done but it takes moderate folks to do so.


Friday, July 22, 2011

What buying kid clothes a season ahead and moving away for a new job mean to me

Periodically D goes through what I call employment mid-life crises.  He is only 42 and has had a handful of these since we got together in 1995, so my terminology is far from accurate, but suffice it to say, he begins to think that perhaps the grass might be greener at some other company.

He is very skilled but where we live is definitely no mecca for software engineers.  Neither of us has ever had any desire to move since we have lived here our entire lives (including college) and our entire family is here.  I think I told him at some point that if he ever wanted to move us from here he better get paid TONS of money....because without my parents who help me out considerably I would pay a small fortune in childcare expenses.

The other night, though, he and I talked briefly about the possibility of moving away from here in order for him to find a better job, and by that I mean one that doesn't drive him bonkers and make him irritable and feel trapped.  

As much as I would truly hate to move, I also have lived with him when he has been miserable at his employment and that is no picnic.  

I was truly stunned that I would even broach the subject of moving and it made me think that maybe, just maybe, my medication and self-talk learned through therapy have really had an impact on my brain.  Rather than thinking "No, no, no, it would be catastrophically awful to move away from everything I have ever known,"  I could actually think of some benefits to moving.  (But I am sure a lot of this is because it would be our choice to move, as opposed to a company telling us we HAD to move.)

This evening I wandered around Target, picked up some cheap 5T summer clothes for G to wear next year, and thought about mine and D's discussion from the other night.  As I held next season's clothes in my hands I realized another way in which my anxiety has lessened.  

I no longer pick up clothes for the kids for the seasons into the future and think, "Maybe I shouldn't get this because they might die."  I have concluded that if I spend $11 for two 5T t-shirts and a pair of shorts at Target and G does die, the least of my worries is going to be having spent money on clothes he will never wear.  Life certainly isn't very much fun if you are constantly worrying that your kids might die unexpectedly at a young age and can't even enjoy the joy that is 1.) buying cute clothes for your kids and 2.) savoring cheap deals.  

One of the strangest things about recovery (which I will always be in a constant state of) is how I can be hit suddenly by anxiety out of seemingly nowhere and feel I might be sinking back to the depths through which I once sludged.  And just as suddenly I can be made aware of how far I have come, a process that slips by completely unnoticed because it is organic to who I am.  

I think this qualifies me as heartless (at least in some circles)

I spoke with the vet this morning (not the vet with whom I normally interact).

Despite having been told yesterday by the office staff that Gonzo's blood work was fine, he apparently had an elevated glucose level.  The vet said this may be due to stress (and what animal isn't stressed going to the vet, particularly when the vet was called away during the blood draw and the cat had to sit back there far longer than he otherwise would have).  Or he could have diabetes.

She said to bring him back in two weeks to do another glucose test.  When I asked her what would happen if he does have diabetes, she said I would have to give him insulin shots twice daily.

It was at this point I called D at work and told him that I was not going to give Gonzo diabetes shots.  If the kids had diabetes, I would certainly do whatever I had to do to keep them healthy.  Because they are my flesh & blood.  Because they may live to be, perhaps 75 or 80 years old, and maybe make a wonderful contribution to life on this planet.

Gonzo is almost 80 years old in cat years, and no matter how long he lives he will stay in the basement, sleeping and watching birds at the feeder.  My cat will not find a cure for cancer or heal sick children or keep polar bears from becoming extinct.

That does not mean his life is worthless; it just means that I have to put most of my care and concern (physical, financial and otherwise) into the human lives that have been entrusted to me.

Keep him and Shanks fed, safe, and out of pain.  That is what I'm willing to do.  I try to remind myself that there are many, many humans in this world who would be thrilled with half as much.  

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Back in the day, I used to love my cats

Before I had my kids, I loved my cats.  They were my babies.

And now, they are relegated to the basement.  A very cushy basement it is, but the basement nonetheless.

I spend more time than I'd like cleaning up cat puke from the floor and cat poop from the couch.  Why the hell the cats can't stand in one spot and throw everything up in same spot, I don't know.  They insist on puking, walking 8 steps, puking again, walking 6 steps, puking again, and so on.  Meaning that at any given time I have like 18 damp rags covering the floor trying to soak up the stains associated with cat vomit.

We replaced the carpet on the main floor of the house because there were so many nasty cat vomit stains.  Fortunately, the basement carpet is berber so it hides stains better than the solid beige carpet that was on our main floor.

After M was born, the cats started pooping in my closet and occasionally on our bed.  My medication helps tremendously, but my OCD and poop are not a good combination.  I can barely tolerate cleaning up my kids' poop, especially when it escapes the confines of the diaper/pull-up, so I wasn't having any part of the cat poop, especially with a 5-year-old, a 2-year-old and a newborn in my care.

The truth is the cats are a right royal pain in my ass.  Right now, as I type this, one of them is banging the shit out of the basement door and hollering.  As soon as my human needy, loud children go to bed, my feline needy, loud children start knocking.  I'd be lying if I said I hadn't thought that maybe they would only live to about the 15-year mark rather than the 20-year mark (they are 13 years old).

I took them for their annual physical and shots and ended up paying $300 for the doctor visit, shots and geriatric blood work.  Gonzo has a level 2-3 heart murmur, and I was told they could do a cardiac ultrasound for close to $400.

There was a time when I would have spent that sum for my cats, but that time was before I had 3 young kids.  Lord knows, I don't want my cats to be in pain or suffer (which is part of the reason behind the basement living; cats can only tolerate so many toddlers/preschoolers chasing them....and my boys are relentless in their pursuit of the cats).  But $400 will buy a LOT of diapers or pay for part of N's tonsillectomy bills.

Suffice it to say, Gonzo will not be undergoing a cardiac ultrasound.

The vet had told me to call the Monday after their appointment to see what the blood work indicated.  It has been almost 3 weeks since their vet visit and today I remembered to call.  Everything looks fine but the vet is supposed to call me tomorrow to go over the results.

I expect I will be expected to act like I care.

Part of the reason I attempt to eat somewhat healthy

When I was pregnant with N, I had gestational diabetes, which I think played a HUGE role in my OCD kicking into overdrive and never quite leveling off again post-delivery.

I'm not quite sure if every ob/gyn practice is/was as Nazi-like as the one I went to during that pregnancy, but I got the impression that a pregnant woman with gestational diabetes is given a far more strict diet than a regular person of the non-pregnant variety.  I mean, I was told not to chew sugarless gum.  WTF??

Being the obedient patient who had already been told my baby might have Down Syndrome and who wanted a natural childbirth (but was warned gestational diabetes could make the baby the size of a small cow thereby making a c-section the only option), I followed the diabetes diet to.the.letter.  I never cheated.  I didn't eat cake at my baby showers.  I didn't chew sugarless gum.  If I was told to eat 2 Tbsp of butter a day, I measured out 2 Tbsp of butter and ate it (not by itself, of course, but on some bread).  My "treat" to myself was drinking a diet coke every Friday night.

OCD is a series of never-ending checks-ins.  Checking the car to make sure it is locked.  Checking to make sure you didn't hit a deer (even though you sorta think you would actually remember the impact of hitting a deer).  And gestational diabetes was a never-ending series of glucose and dietary check-ins.  Checking my blood sugar 6 times a day.  Checking my list of acceptable foods and appropriate measurements and ounces per day.  Checking in with the ob/gyn to give them my blood sugar levels for the week.

Even after N was born, I continued measuring my food and exercising for 45 minutes or more a day.  It is a wonder I was able to produce enough breastmilk for her.  In a way, the gestational diabetes kicking on my OCD actually led to a temporary eating disorder.  At 5'7" tall, 117 lbs is really not a good weight. And when I had my nervous breakdown it dropped to 112 lbs.  There is nothing attractive about nervous breakdown thin.

It has been 8 years since that pregnancy, and my A1C number puts me in the "higher risk" category which does worry me and is part of the reason I have tried over the past few months to reduce my sugar (both real and artificial) intake.

I grew up on sweet tea, but now I fix only unsweetened.  And if I get tea at a restaurant, I get half sweet/half unsweetened.  I no longer buy vanilla or fruit-flavored yogurt.  I buy plain Greek yogurt with the lowest amount of sugar grams and then add some chocolate chips and walnuts to it to jazz it up a bit.  I haven't drank anything other than diet soda in years (and I only get that if I go out to a restaurant).  I stopped buying it for home.  I do not buy cookies, except the once-a-year Oreos and Girl Scout cookies, which I put in the freezer and forget about until the following year when we get them out to eat before we purchase more to go into the freezer for a year.  I do buy ice cream, but not low-fat because less fat means more sugar.  But I usually only have a bowl of ice cream once a week.  I cut out orange juice (and all other juices) years ago because of the high sugar content.  I stopped buying dark chocolate (or any chocolate) mostly because I have had like 4 cavities in the past year but also because of the A1C levels.

I hope that these steps can bring down my number by this fall's health assessment at D's workplace.  They dropped by one point between last fall and this spring.  If I can get them into the "normal risk" category, I will feel relieved.

Diabetes is a scary disease, and for me the fear factor is because of what it might mean for my mental health.  It is bad enough to have a physical disease but when it worsens your psychological disease that really, really sucks.  

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

This I Believe (about potty-training)

Back in the spring, I made an attempt at potty-training G.  After about 3 days, I decided that it was simply not worth the screaming and crying and battling.  I have heard entirely too many stories of parents continuing to encourage potty training even when their kid showed no interest, which eventually led to manual removal of poop from said child and a diet of Miralax.

My belief has always been that eventually, EVENTUALLY, a child will decide on his or her own that they no longer wish to sit in their own feces and urine.

Now that G is edging really, really close to age 4, though, I do have my doubts.

Of course, I have to remind myself that while N seemed to pee-pee potty-train easily, she was over 3.5 years before she could go without wearing pull-ups, and she pooped in her pants until she was 4.5 years old  And that's a girl, who are allegedly supposed to do all this potty-training business long before boys.

I know fear was a big part of N's problem.  To this day, she cannot stand the sound of toilets flushing (hence her refusal to flush her own waste yet leave notes to others asking them to please flush their junk).  That whoosh of water and noise weirds her out even now.

I do ask G occasionally if he would like to wear underpants or if he'd like to sit on the potty, but he never thinks those are good ideas.  The other day I asked him if he was scared to go on the potty.  He said that he thinks monsters are going to come up out of the bowl and go into his penis.  (And I can only assume he thinks monsters would do the same if he tried to poop.)

When friends ask me about potty-training in the hopes of getting advice, I tell them they are asking the wrong person.  They are asking the lazy, don't-want-to-do-charts-or-prizes-or-run-to-the-bathroom-16-times-a-day mom.  They are asking the mom who is gonna leave this one up to the kid because really this is something the kid controls.  Like so much else in parenting that we "think" we have control over, but really totally don't.

Just like with horses and their watering holes, you can sit a kid's ass on the pot, but you can't make 'em go.

And I prefer not to spend half my life fighting anymore with the 3-year-old then I already do, especially in a public restroom.

(Although damn, what I could do with that money spent on Pull-Ups....)

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The latest bathroom note

Here was the first note N taped to the powder room wall:

Unfortunately, she is the one who NEVER flushes the toilet.  

Anyway, D wrote a note on the bottom that said, "This includes N."

Evidently, she did not appreciate that sentiment.

Why does mom get blamed for everything???

The emotional drag that is being with children (sometimes)

Yesterday I took the kids to my mom and dad's to swim for a bit and to leave N there for a 2-night sleepover.  She is most assuredly in hog heaven, watching Disney Channel until her eyes pop out (we don't have cable/satellite so she is so deprived) and finagling a visit to the mall to spend at least $20 of her eventual inheritance.

I was already a little "undone" before I ever got to my mom and dad's because of the challenge of wrangling 3 kids and all the frickin shit one must take to the pool with little ones into the car.  Plus, I had N's sleepover stuff to get in.  Plus, both N and G realized at the last minute that they both needed something in the house, and both things required mommy to get them or look for them or conjure them up from thin air.

Once we got to my parent's home but before getting to the neighborhood pool, I'd had to listen to G and M fight over the toy cars.  M is no longer the baby who just lets his brother do whatever he wants.  He now shows his frustration and dismay in the form of very loud porcine squealing which takes only 15.6 seconds to make one's brain bleed.

After the fighting, I had to wrestle both of the boys into their swim diapers and trunks, holler at N at least 3 times to stop watching Phineas & Ferb and put on her swimsuit, and then attempt to cover their bodies adequately with sunscreen.  Oh yes, and dress and lotion myself up.

My parents live one block from the pool, so we walk there, but due to the heat and having to walk and just being a general turd at that moment, G threw a big honkin' fit in the middle of the sidewalk.

Suffice it to say, I was DONE.

My mom seems to think that part of my problem with the kids is my problem, i.e., the OCD and anxiety and mood issues.  And perhaps she is right.  Perhaps because I have such a terrible time controlling my own moods I am extremely susceptible to coming unglued by the inconsistencies and wildness of my children's moods.  Perhaps that is why age 3 is such a challenge for me.

But I think that maybe it is just really, really hard to be in the midst of emotional chaos and fighting all the time.  And that is what it is like when you are with your children day in and day out all year long.  You never get a reprieve unless they are sleeping.  Even though the windows of fighting or tantrums might be only 5-10 minutes long a handful of times a day, they wear me out.

Couple with that the endless giving that goes on all day long.  Getting someone dressed.  Getting someone breakfast.  Getting someone's diaper changed.  Getting someone a drink.  Getting someone's shoes on.  Getting someone into the car.  Getting glue to fix someone's broken toy.  Getting a toy out that someone can't get out himself.  Getting someone down for a nap.

Add to that all the regular work that goes along with maintaining a home and you have one tired, potentially agitated person.  

There are plenty of non-medicated, non-mood-disordered people who cannot tolerate the idea or the act of being with their kids daily because it can be such an emotional/psychological drain.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

19.4% body feels like an accomplishment, but not really

Since around April 2010, I have been taking a fitness class with a personal trainer one day a week.  There have been occasions when I've gone twice a week and occasions when I haven't gone at all (due to illness, mine or the kids).  But more or less, I have been consistent.

I have been hit or miss about exercising at home.  If time and energy allows, I walk on the treadmill.  If I get a notion, I lift weights a bit or do some abdominal work.  Before the boys were consistently sleeping through the night (which has only been just recently), I was too concerned with conserving my energy to make it through the day to even consider expending energy by working out.

My most consistent form of exercise is chasing the boys and lugging their butts one under each arm out of the library for running around like Tasmanian devils and disturbing other patrons.

It had been awhile since I'd checked my body fat with my trainer so after last Thursday's session, I used the little do-flicky that measures body fat and came in at 19.4%, which for my age puts me in the "excellent" category.  And I have to admit I am excited about that.  My arms and legs are way more toned than they have been in years and I feel a certain amount of pride in how my body looks, especially considering I am pushing 40 and have popped out 3 babies.

In my fit of excitement, I posted about it on Facebook.   Some friends said, "Wow.  That's great!" and some friends said, "I hate skinny women," which was a joke, of course.  But it sorta rankles me that if a thin woman gets toned and builds her strength and stamina via working out, increasing her health even though her weight hasn't changed, people say "Where was the fat before?" but if someone overweight loses weight and tones up and exercises regularly, they get hurrahs and standing ovations.  I mean, it is certainly well deserved and I always say kudos to friends who have lost weight and gotten fit,  but shouldn't all fitness and healthy choices be applauded, not just when it is done by heavy folks?

In truth, when I originally started working out my body fat was 22%, which was very good considering I had a 6-month-old baby and 2 other kids.  My dad is 6'4, my mom is 5'7, and both are naturally thin, so genetics does play a role in my size.  Plus, I don't eat a lot of junk food.  I have one hell of a sweet tooth, but I don't drink soft drinks or eat fast food very often or snack on chips and cookies.  In general, my diet is healthy.

Still, I am impressed with myself that due to working out my body fat has decreased by over 2 percentage points.  A positive change is a positive change.

Cross-country? Nope. Ballet? Nope. Piano? Possibly?

N's enthusiasm for cross-country waned considerably (click here for the back story).   I can't begin to know why, but she decided that she would rather take ballet lessons.  My enthusiasm, which was low for cross-country, is non-existent for ballet (click here for the back story on that).

She does Girl Scouts two times a month during the school year, and I have liked to keep her schedule open because it is hard enough to get dinner on the table, her homework done and all the kids in bed by 8:00 when we have nothing going on.  I am usually so exhausted from the 5:00 "crazy hour" that I have no desire to do anything in the evenings except enjoy knowing the children are unconscious.

During this past school year, she did two sessions of "Gymnastics Club" at school, which was perfect because it began right after school let out, was done at the school and didn't require me to reign in the boys while she was busy doing her activity.  I just picked her up an hour later from school than I normally do.  I like the idea of her doing these "short stint" activities because it gives her exposure to things without committing either of us to anything long-term.

I think 80% of the reason N wants to do ballet is because she would get to buy new shoes and cute leotards.  And that is not a good enough reason for me to deal with keeping the boys entertained in a dance studio waiting room AND put up with a completely over-the-top recital at the end of the year.  N likes to dance, but she also likes to watch tv and draw pictures and mail letters to friends.  I don't see her as having an all-consuming passion for it.  Her enthusiasm for shopping at Justice is far stronger than her interest in dance classes.

She and G will be taking 4 weeks of swim lessons in August.  When N was nearly 4, I had her take swim lessons, but once G was mobile (and then M came into the picture), it was just logistical suicide for me to try to continue this.  After a little 6-year-old drowned at a nearby pool this summer, though, D and I decided to finagle the family schedule so I can take both N and G to swim classes two evenings a week.

In my fit of trying to find a way out of ballet classes for N, the idea of piano lessons popped into my head.  I never learned to play an instrument as a kid, partly because I was too into dance lessons and partly, I think, because my Catholic elementary/middle school didn't offer anything useful like orchestra or band the way public schools do.  My parents don't play music, so I never had any exposure.

So due to my own lack of experience as well as my firm belief that learning music can be a valuable learning tool in a variety of other areas of life, I thought that maybe N would be interested in learning piano.  I am interested in learning an instrument and thought maybe if N and I learn piano together, we can spur each other on to practice.  Just as doing exercise with a friend makes one far more likely to continue, perhaps the same is true of piano.

At the very end of college, before I found a full-time job post-commencement, I took guitar lessons and then took a few short sessions when N was a toddler.  I enjoyed it, but I admit to not being a very good "practicer."  I'm now finishing up Malcolm Gladwell's book Outliers, and after reading about the 10,000 hour rule, I am now really understanding how critical practice is.  I mean, I understand the "practice makes perfect," but reading objectively about it and learning about real life results is powerful.

Anyway, I brought up the possibility of piano lessons to N and she said she'd love to take piano.  I think N just wants to do something, and perhaps the boredom of being not fully occupied in July is part of that enthusiasm.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A little beef (aka another vent by the stay-at-home momma)

Even though people tend to think of me (I think) as being really "on the ball," I do have some sloth-like qualities, and these qualities are part of the reason why stay-at-home motherhood is a good fit for me.

First, I hate getting dressed up in anything more snazzy than workout shorts, a top and flip-flops.  In winter, my attire is jeans, a long sleeve t-shirt and my house slippers.  I LOVE the dress requirement of stay-at-home mothering.

Secondly, I am not a terribly hygienic person.  I don't usually bathe every day.  I do change my undies every day, but my clothes are worn until I can't remember how many days I've worn them or they are pretty crusty/nasty.  In this heat, that means I wear them until they stink....which is about 3 days.  I mostly remember to brush my teeth everyday.  Since kids are pretty stinky themselves (sitting in their own urine and poop) and aren't big on hygiene, the stay-at-home mothering arrangement is a big win.

Thirdly, I really like keeping my own schedule, being my own boss as it were.  If I need to clean, we stay home and I clean.  If I am desperate to get out with the kids, we go somewhere.  During the school year, there is a nice blend of structure from N's school (and G's entrance into preschool this September) and chaotic "Who knows what the hell is gonna happen" because you never know what kids are gonna do from one minute to the next.  This need for managed chaos is part of the reason I really loved teaching. There was structure to the day, but I was my own boss within my classroom, running things as I saw fit and seeing where students would go with whatever we were learning.

But in terms of routine and scheduling, what REALLY sticks in my craw is when people act as if my schedule and routine, whatever it happens to be that day or week, really doesn't matter because it's not a paying job.  Like it doesn't affect me at all if plans are canceled or rearranged at the last minute.  Like since a "real" job isn't in play, my plans can just be set on the back burner.

Rodney Dangerfield ain't the only one who gets no respect.

Monday, July 11, 2011

The working momma who pissed me off

I stay home with my kids because it is what I want to do.  I know some moms who work full-time, some who work part-time and some who stay home like I do.  Naturally, I usually feel a stronger connection with the full-time stay-at-home moms because we share very similar experiences and common drudgeries.  I cannot understand the logistics of working outside the home full-time, dealing with daycare issues and still having the responsibility for managing the home and kids.  It gives me a headache to even think about, so I am always astounded that women do it and still manage to speak in full sentences.  I don't think I could do it even half as well.

The other day I took my kids to D's workplace health clinic so I could get my allergy shot.  Always before, I have gone on days when there was just a nurse on site and no patients having office visits.   I got in and out quickly which meant the kids didn't have time to go ape-shit from boredom and bother anyone waiting to see a doctor.  Due to some temporary staffing issues, I had to go during office visit time and that meant a longer-than-usual wait.

Because it had been since before our Disney trip that I received a shot, my left arm (the mold arm) hurt more than usual so I wanted to hang around for a few minutes in the waiting room.

As I have said at least 10 trillion times in this blog, G is my pest child, the mischievous one, the one who I would like to hog-tie on a daily basis.  After my shot, when G began being more pain in the butt(ish) than he had been during the pre-shot wait, I said something on the order of, "Dr. B will give you a shot if you don't settle down...." or something like that.

Just prior to me saying this to G, I had been chatting a little bit with a woman who works at D's company who had her child in the waiting room.  She has three children but only one was with her.

When I made the aforementioned "threat" to G, this lady said something like, "In our home, we tell ours we'll take away a favorite toy.  It works better to be able to act on your threat."  

I felt like telling G to go punk that lady in the eyeball.

I felt like telling her to haul all three of her kids into the clinic and see how they behave.

I felt like telling her that perhaps if she was with her kids nonstop, all-day, since the moment they came out of her womb, she might have effing RUN OUT OF ACTUAL THREATS SHE CAN ACT ON.

I felt like telling that lady to take some of her hard-earned money and visit a salon, you mousy little thing.

Ok, that was low.
But I don't give advice to working moms on how to manage their lives.
So please don't give advice to the frazzled, frumpled stay-at-home mom on how to keep her head from exploding when the 3-year-old does his normal pain-in-the-arse routine.

I cannot imagine the future

I rarely think about how life will be for me (and all of us) when the kids are older, particularly pre-teen time and beyond.  I cannot even wrap my head around this concept.  In my brain, my kids will always be 7, 3 and 1.  I'm not sure if this means I am seizing the moments or simply lacking any trace of imagination.

Because of this, I never think about what the kids' interests might be as they get older.  I never pre-emptively worry about them driving or hanging out at the mall or getting tattoos using the money they worked for all summer long.

My wishes are simple.  I hope they are kind, polite kids who try their best in school.  That they don't get involved in drugs or have to deal with a teenage pregnancy or contract HIV or have abusive relationships.

When I was a teen, there were two HUGE no-nos:  Don't date black guys and don't get pregnant (which to my parents meant don't have sex before marriage).  All hades would have broken loose if either of those things had come to fruition.  I was so insanely boy crazy from about 4 years onward I don't think my parents ever gave any consideration to the possibility that I might be gay, but I'm certain this would have been included in the no-no category.

So where do I stand with my own children?

I don't care who my kids date so long as they are treated with respect (and treat their date with respect).  I don't care whether my kids are gay so long as they are comfortable in their own skin.  I expect my kids will have sex before marriage, and I hope they use protection against STDs and unplanned pregnancies (but I won't be leaving it up to chance....I intend to have discussions with them about safe sex.)

D very often says stuff like "I'll be glad when the kids are older" because IT IS tiring and aggravating to deal with little whiney, completely helpless little tyrants.

But even with all the exhausting physical and psychological aspects of raising little ones, I think this is the "picnic" part of parenting.

Thinking about them dating or having sex or trying drugs or driving gives me the heebie-jeebies.
I'll take poopy diapers and knowing they are all upstairs sound asleep in their beds, safe from harm.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Gone, Baby, Gone brought some PPD OCD memories back

This weekend D and I watched the film Gone, Baby, Gone based on the Dennis Lehane book of the same name.  I cannot stress enough what an excellent film it is.  Two days later I am still thinking of its themes as I wash the dishes or straighten up around the house.  The only Lehane book I have read is Mystic River (saw the movie too), but after reading up on him and learning that Shutter Island (another awesome film) is one of his novels, I think I may have to read a lot more of his stuff.

I liked Gone, Baby, Gone's complexities, the fact that it didn't make a right or wrong statement necessarily but left the audience to wallow in the grey area.  About parenting.  About pedophilia.  About kidnapping.  About murder.  About what love really means and what love can tolerate.    

The part of the film in which Patrick Kenzie encounters a pedophile brought back my memories of some highly unpleasant intrusive thoughts that I first experienced when N was a baby and that still sometimes make a brief resurgence.  Fortunately, my medication, my past reading about PPD OCD and my therapy all help me manage these thoughts when they pop up now.

At one time, though, these thoughts were paralyzing because I thought having the thoughts meant I wanted to act on whatever I envisioned in the thoughts.  And the thoughts, let alone the idea of acting on them, were revolting, repulsive, horrifying.  I would feel full-blown panic set in whenever an intrusive thought would pass through my brain.  

Because of these thoughts (that were of a sexual nature and centered around my child(ren)), I couldn't help but wonder what pedophiles think and feel, and watching this movie brought that question back up.  Is my horrifying intrusive thought over which I have no control similar to what they think?  Are they horrified by an idea that pops in their heads but feel powerless not to act on it?  Or is the idea that pops in their head exciting to them?  Or is the idea not something that pops into their head as an accident or weird brain spasm but a desired idea that they created?  

And if the thought that pops into their head is horrifying to them but an overwhelming urge makes them act on it, is this mental illness or evil?  Or both?  And does this mean that in addition to feeling sickened by what they do to children, is it possible to also feel some compassion because their thoughts might be something beyond their control?

Like Patrick in the movie, the only answer I have is, "I don't know."

Even though I know that my intrusive thoughts were some of my worst fears flashing before my eyes, to this day I have to remind myself of this fact again and again.  Or I might begin to doubt again what kind of person I am.  

Friday, July 8, 2011

Summer reading quandary

I try not to be too terribly anal about summer reading programs, but I admit I have been debating an issue in my head, certainly giving it more time and thought than it deserves.  Because summer reading should be fun, after all.

Back in the 4th grading period, N was reading at a 38, which would be a 4th grade reading level.  My guess is that she is considerably above this level by now although I won't know for certain until school begins in the fall.  Books that would be considered 4th grade reading Henry and Beezus and those from The Magic School Bus series.

However, since she and G share a room and we read to both of them at bedtime, we do picture books unless the chapter book is something like a Franny K. Stein book with pictures and a topic that really hold G's interest.

I don't doubt that picture books are still good for her to read.  They are easy enough that they help her build her reading fluency.  

But here's my confession:   I have allowed her to read a couple super easy picture books and count them for her summer reading programs, and it feels like "cheating."

Ranks me right up there with Casey Anthony in the "unfit mother" category, eh?

I don't let her use the same books twice or multiple times.  If she reads something she can only count it once on one program list unless she actually reads it twice.  And she has to read chapters as well as picture books so that she is doing some higher level reading.  Today she finished her Junie B. Jones and That Mean Jim book.  We're moving onto Ivy + Bean tomorrow, which she began reading eons ago.  (She drives me nuts with her habit of reading 3 chapters into 8 different books and never completing one of them.)

I do have some principles.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

We love Maynard Moose

There is nothing that aggravates me more than people making grammatical errors and devising their own twisted version of the English language on Facebook.

However, when a lovable moose does it in children's books I am all over it.

We recently checked out a book from the library called Rapunzel and the Seven Dwarfs:  A Maynard Moose Tale by Willy Claflin.  It is a delightful fractured fairy tale.

N's favorite part is the "eight or nine seven dwarfs" who are named "Clumsy, Snoozy, Cheerful, Fearful, Hyper, Hungry, Grizelda, Ambidextrous, and sometimes Bewildered."  She has added her own dwarfs to the mix as well:  Shy, Sneaky, Angry, Fast, Big, Responsible, and Respectful.

I think my favorite part is when Rapunzel's hair becomes "distremely filthified---all full of sticks and twigs and little nastified wudgies of glop."

We are so enamored of Maynard that we reserved the audiobook, "The Wolf Under the Bed," which we listened to today and have a couple of Claflin's other audiobooks on the way.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Bottom of the barrel mothering

Recently I read a criticism of the book Go the F*ck to Sleep which was concerned with its violent imagery against children by their parents.  

Now I pretty regularly read Peaceful Parenting and other similar parenting websites because I strive to be a loving, consistent, decent parent.

But sometimes I have a week like the one I have just had and I feel tremendously proud that, unlike the dad in Texas who abandoned his son on the highway, I didn't abandon my children and strike out on my own.  I only felt like doing so multiple times an hour.  

N had her tonsils out this past Monday, June 27th.  She did really well and by 8:00 that evening was eating scrambled eggs.  She has done far, far better than I expected.  All day today she refused her tylenol/codeine medicine but still continued to eat mac & cheese almost nonstop.  She feels tired and is still camping out on the pull-out sofa all day long, and she doesn't talk much since that causes her discomfort.  But I expected to deal with 10 days of nonstop crying and nearly unmanageable pain.    

Still, she is post-op, and I have been worried about her liquid intake and her pain.  The first 4 nights I set the alarm to wake up twice each night to give her the pain medication (12:45 a.m. and 4:45 a.m.).  Even if your child is doing well, until they are acting 99% normally your hackles don't fully settle down.  

I guess my worry bucket has been a little more full than normal.  Couple that with greatly interrupted sleep for almost a week (since it's not like the boys took a hiatus from waking me up while I was playing midnight nursemaid to N), and you have a grouchy momma.  

My worry has not blinded me to the fact that N is a royal pain in the arse when it comes to taking medicine.  She hems and haws until I nearly have to hold her down to force her to take her antibiotic (which was one of the reasons I wanted her to have her tonsils removed....since she was constantly battling strep and therefore I was constantly battling her to take her omnicef).  I very, very quickly lose my patience because it's not like I have to sit in front of her and wait for her to decide she is ready to drink her medication.  

Then there is my son G, who at the best of times I feel like stringing up by his toes.  This week he has been hyped up on popsicles (it is downright impossible to keep a 3-year-old off the stuff when his sister is sucking them down one right after the other) and stuck for most of the day inside the house (since I don't feel comfortable leaving N inside without another adult while she is still recovering).  

Add to that the "baby" who, at just shy of 21 months, is immersing himself fully in the tantrums and head-banging behaviors of toddlers.  

Now combine all that with the fact that I do not do well with lots of time inside the house with my children AND I may be PMSing.

I think in technical terms this is called "the perfect storm."