Archive for June, 2009

If April is the cruelest month, then June is just one big, unforgiving clusterfuck. I won’t whine too much here, because it’s over and we survived and really, how fascinating can delayed flights and illness and rain actually be anyway? When we perish of the swine flu which I am certain has plagued us lo these past two weeks, you will all undoubtedly admire my restraint. (The husband and the in-laws, in particular, for whom my any mention of “fever” or “respiratory distress” elicited glazed looks clearly indicating they think me a hysterical, paranoid neurotic of the worst kind.)

Though I was too tired to post here coherently, not to mention too impatient to do it via my iPhone (nevermind read everyone else’s blogs on its wee screen of cuteness), I did make good use of the Twitter. Staying connected even in that tiny way to all the other crazed parents out there made my own days of isolated hell more bearable. Don’t get me wrong, my in-laws are truly wonderful people, and they very gracefully put up with a LOT from us this trip, but I think they don’t quite get all the fine, uh, nuances of the insanity that is 24/7 parenting.

What I couldn’t figure out what to do with, however, is the seething resentment about all the effing work Monsieur Shriek had to do on our supposed vacation. Initially it was supposed to be about 3 days out of the ten, then at the last minute it changed to more like five. I was disappointed, but respecting that he’s giving his all to something he now hates and that has drained all sense of creativity or enjoyment from him, but pressing on because he is providing for us… well of course I didn’t want to get snarky about that, and kept it to myself.

But another day he had to go in to the office, and another, and another…finally totaling nine. NINE. Out of TEN. I was pissed. I mean, here we were cooped up out of the rain in a house where there are few toys and the ones we brought had long since lost their luster, at least one kid was sick and feverish at all times, and did I mention rain? You know when even the television bores and you’re using your fakey ISN’T THIS EXCITING voice to coerce the kids into watching yet another episode of SuperWhy that the day is long indeed.

Anyway the husband kept working, I tried my best to keep my grumbling about it to myself, but the whole experience cemented my resolve to never go on another work-related “vacation” again. The fact that he never apologized, until the evening of our last day (when, incidentally, he’d said he’d be done by noon but in fact didn’t even contact me until the dinner hour) is probably what rankled most. At one point, one of the in-laws joked that he was using the stress of work to avoid the stress of family. And even now I don’t care to admit how deeply jarring of a revelation that statement was.

It’s been difficult enough sorting out my conflicted feelings about my own work/time/family matrix, and adding my husband’s to the mix seems nearly insupportable. Clearly it’s not about his actual time working — he does it a lot, nothing new there – but about the attitude shift towards the impact it has on his family. Clearly he isn’t concerned with that, or thinks I’m being huffy, entitled, and dramatic (in no particular order). But the fact that now our son is in full-on NO I WANT MOMMY mode should clue him in to the ripple effect his absence has wrought.

How do I honestly but non-accusingly bring up my concerns about his workaholism in a time where he is lucky to even have a job, albeit one he loathes? When he is feeding, clothing, sheltering, and soon schooling (forthcoming post) us with his labors? Is it wrong of me to ask him to try harder to make time for if not me, at least his kids? It is becoming more and more difficult for me to separate the unfortunate realities and requirements of his job from what I am beginning to perceive as his utter indifference towards me and even possibly our children.

By way of example: I caught the kids’ virus and have been feverish and ill since our return; the first day back I forced myself to get groceries, catch up the laundry, and even make a roast chicken dinner, all while juggling the kids. Did he notice, or ask how I was feeling (clearly rotten, as evidenced by tissues and cough drop wrappers littering my staggering wake)? No. He simply complained that I had stuffed the poultry cavity with lemons. OK then!

This is the part where I start wondering about affairs (hello Argentina!), and the seemingly thin and manageable cracks in our marriage start to look more like a peeling veneer. Granted, he has his issues with me (and I’ll freely admit to several of them even being valid), but even so, some simple interest in how I’m feeling would go a long way on the resentment reduction plan. I make a point to always ask about his day, listen to his tales of workplace woe and frustration, and register appreciation for him sticking with it for our sakes. Even the barest minimum of reciprocity would make me feel valued in my diminished capacity as housewife, child-rearer and sometimes-contributor to our household finances.

When I started this blog it was my intention to charmingly and cleverly discuss my trials and tribulations as a part-time, work-at-home mom, offering refreshing and funny insights into a world that is so familiar and yet so confounding to many of us. What I didn’t intend on doing was discussing anything in the deepest recesses of my marital turf, particularly the unpleasantries, but I’ve since realized I simply can’t do what I set out to without referencing the uglies at least in part. Part of the reason I’ve kept things anonymous is so I could be truthful without the worry of hurting anyone – it’s time to run this stained, white flag up the pole and see if anyone else recognizes it or even better, airs their own issues. And if I end up hoisting myself by my own petard, well, at least I’ll be the only one who knows.

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fraycation, day 9

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times… it certainly was the dampest of times.

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thinky thots thursday

This week’s thinky thots will deviate slightly from the usual format: instead of free-associated silliness from my children (whom I’ve been ashamedly too busy to really listen to, and to whom I’ve “mmm-hmmmed” distractedly when they – for all I know – told me they’d built a time machine in the attic or flushed the entire kazoo collection down the toilet), there will instead be a list of random thoughts I’ve been too disorganized to think properly but have not successfully exited my brain to leave me in peace. So, without further ado (as the preceding was plenty, wasn’t it), here they are, in all their random incoherence, my Thots:

• Firstly, to all the passengers on my United Airlines cross-country flight this coming Saturday, please accept advance apologies for my children’s behavior, which will undoubtedly be their very bestest but still slightly, uh, lacking by your presumably reasonable standards. You can blame it all on Monsieur Shriek, who, breadwinner that he is, had to travel separately and abandon me to the pint-sized Fates.

• LemonWatch 09 will officially go into effect upon our return: what started out as a casual, every-so-often, “of course, help yourself” neighborly citrus picking has become Frequent Entitled Lemon Poaching (FELP) and I now can never find a nice ripe lemon on my own damned tree when I need one. I’m not sure how to politely rectify the situation, but I shall at least Observe and Note when FELPs occur. It’s a start.

• To the mother of the Very Young Child at the pool who let said child go to the toilet by herself: when your Very Young Child makes poo-poo in the only toilet at the pool, and she is not so much with the capable cleanup, and thus smears remains of bowel contents all over the toilet seat, which my child must now sit on (shoutout to the Wet Wipes which are on my person at all times), I think that you must actually be in attendance for this event, rather than yakking about test scores with the other moms whose children are *not* crapping solo in – have I mentioned? – THE ONLY TOILET AT THE POOL. And when your Very Young Child says “I don’t need soap” to my inquiry about handwashing, for godsakes at least teach her the manners to reply submissively to my cheery “OH YES YOU DO, SWEETHEART. LATHER UP.”

• Is using the word “debouched” in a novel three separate times a bit much? I thought so, too.

• If a bathroom cleanser specifically states “No Scrub!” on its label, but dispenses in such a manner that it streaks in vertical channels down the tub sides, no matter how thoroughly and evenly one attempts to apply it, what is one supposed to do with it to, you know, actually get the bathtub clean?

• I don’t suppose losing ten pounds by this Sunday is feasible nor advisable, however if it could be quietly arranged I’d be very happy to fit into my summer pants again for our trip to HotnHumidville.

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liquid aggravation

I’ve been awash here, in flash floods of the mellow yellow variety. It’s a bit puzzling, actually, considering that Shriekeur has been pretty awesome with the potty training the last couple of weeks. He had a very wet first day, but after that was using the toilet for his fluid functions with about a 99.9% reliability rate.

Granted, he was and still is inexplicably phobic of using the throne for solid waste throughput, but he asks for a Pull-Up when he needs one which frankly I find rather thrilling. (His sister, in her day, seemed not to know when evacuation was upon her and for a week or two, a daily bag of filth-impregnated drawers escorted her home from daycare. I cannot describe the misery that rinsing & washing those things induced, which was only compounded by first-trimester nausea.)

But the last couple of days may as well have been titled UNDERWEAR: FAIL for all intents and purposes. “Am I wearing underwear?” has become the tagline of the sudden puddle, accompanied by a woeful uh oh grimace and dripping, spread-eagle stance. At least – following a particularly odious diaper malfunction which deposited stanky liquified feces on the living room rug – at least he has managed to commit these errors on the hardwood floors.

If he hadn’t mastered toilet usage so well initially I probably wouldn’t be bothered at all. Heaven knows a bit of piddle here and there has negligible impact; far worse effluvia can and have been unleashed in any household containing small children. But the fact that he was doing so brilliantly and has now suddenly regressed is what’s bothering me. That and the fact that the timing coincides neatly with a sudden explosion of Fuck You! I’m three! attitude.

Because the last thing we need is for him to decide that appropriate toileting is an us-vs-him battleground. Because everything else with him right now is a battleground, and I do mean that in the apocalyptic, scorched earth sense of things. His stupendous irrationality can only be matched by his unfailing resolve to thwart even the smallest proceedings of the day. So I really want to avoid getting into a literal pissing match with him, because of course I would lose. Moistly and unpleasantly and about twenty times a day.

I really don’t have much more energy to put into this: already I feel like most of my time is spent accommodating the child’s urinary needs. I help with the trousers, I fetch the little step, I sing the happy potty song, I even delicately aim his precious wang into the bowl for him (oh the splashy mishaps we had as I was first learning the proper technique – and speaking of which, does anyone actually use that little peekaboo flap in the briefs? because adding another layer of complexity to the boy novice toilet-user situation strikes me as sheer lunacy).

So, how to get him back on track in a low-key way? We are absolutely not going back to diapers, we cannot risk the trickery and manipulations of bribery, and I suppose a catheter is out of the question. That leaves what, besides resigning ourselves to Frequent Incidents of Dampness or some kind of Clockwork Orange-inspired “therapy”?

Readers, now is the time: suggestions, please.

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thinky thots thursday

What my kids have been saying this week:

“I’m a big boy, because babies don’t have feet.”

“I don’t feeeeeel well, my tummy hur — oooooh! is that ice cream?!”

“If there’s an emergency you can push the baddest buttons that are red.”

“I wasn’t LYING! I wasn’t! I was just… I was… incorrect.

“Hey look! The moon is on!”

“I don’t want to go on the fweeway. Batman doesn’t go on the fweeway.”

“Can you remind me tomorrow to… uh…. to…. uh…. just remind me, ok?”

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all the pulses

My thoughts lately have been steeped in morbidity, and I can’t seem to help perceiving the world as infused with risk and loss. It’s been a few weeks of things going wrong, all kinds of terrible, and instead of summoning the huevos to weather it all with optimism, I’ve found that it is easier to surrender to my natural tendency towards melancholy.

By day I obsess over seat bealts and high fructose corn syrup; by night I dream of being trapped in the car with my family as we suddenly plunge over a cliff, struggling against the sensation of falling to say the words “I love you” to my children and husband, so it will be the last thing they know before oblivion, my boundless love carrying them across to the beyond.

It’s exhausting, this. And I can’t tell what greater purpose it could possibly be serving, this worry, this terror, this constant palpating the aching what-if spot until it weeps with imagined grief. At this moment, Monsieur Shriek is airborne, and it is a certainty that my nerves will jangle unremittingly until my flight tracker app tells me he’s landed. Statistics and probability aside, my body will believe he is in imminent danger as long as he is in a non-earthbound state.

The other night, Shriekeur had wanted to take a toy lemon with him to bed (usually it’s a car, but, kid wants a lemon, fine, whatever works). He’s never been one to mouth anything, so when he started crying it didn’t cross my mind that he would have put the lemon (the non-toxic, hand-painted sustainable wood lemon) somewhere stupid. A minute later when the crying hadn’t stopped, I went to check on him, and just the yellow tip was peeping out his wide-open mouth, his eyes bulging with fear, snot and tears channeling his face in the twilight.

“It’s stuck, huh?” I asked calmly, and he nodded, wailing around the citrus wedged in his mouth. I grasped it and tried to pull, but it was slippery and I couldn’t get purchase. I hooked one finger over his bottom teeth, and gently pulled down on his jaw, reaching around the lemon with another finger and easing it out. He buried his face in my chest and dissolved into hysterical sobbing. “Take it away, take it away from me,” he begged, and it was only then that my heart began pounding and the litany in my head began: “Ohfuckohfuckohmygodohfuck he almost choked, he could have died,” and I held him and we both contemplated the narrow miss.

Even more recently, watching the EKG printout, my first thought was “I don’t see any contractions” until, a beat later, I realized of course I wouldn’t see any contractions. But I’d associated the precise little peaks and valleys of monitor readouts with the obstetrics graphs from my pregnancies, and so, even in the ER, as worried about my husband’s health as I was, my subconscious made a life-affirming leap, rather than a Grey’s Anatomy-style “he’s coding!” interpretation. This pleased me to no end.

And it turns out Monsieur Shriek is fine (hence the current business trip), and I seem to be better too: something in my mental landscape has shifted. I think this is because my grandmother, who is in failing health and whom I don’t see often enough, told me on Sunday that she loves me and loves my children, and that she thinks I’m doing a wonderful job raising them, that they are precious and beautiful and good, that I am a good mother.

Hearing this praise from someone I esteem and respect more than nearly anyone, from someone who has worked and struggled and suffered and still always finds joy and purpose, hearing this just cut through all my fear and bullshit and gave me the thing that matters, the thing that is so obvious, the thing of love triumphing over all.

I don’t know if I’ll see her again. Her heart is all frailty, but in an uncertain sense, and could keep beating for years or stutter out today, no one knows. Perhaps it was the ghost of the last goodbye that prompted her to tell me what she did, or for me to hear it with more solemnity than it was given with, but I don’t really care about that. I believe she knew what a gift she was giving me, and I’m grateful for it.

It’s possible this sense of lightness will fade in time and I’ll revert to my moping, dreary ways, but I hope I can carry her words like a touchstone, and be reminded that whatever comes, I will cope with, and whatever hurts, I will try to heal. That the point of all this is to love. That I can love my children without fearing for them every moment.

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