The Itsy Bitsy Duck Farm

Whenever I talk to my sister, she tells me all the sweet songs that my amazing, adorable nephew can sing—you know, typical kid songs (Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, etc).  I realized that the fact that Henry’s repertoire is limited to Britney Spears, many of Kesha’s songs, “Thrift Shop”, and some Brad Paisley isn’t quite as endearing.  So I have determined to sing more playground appropriate songs to Henry.

I started today with Old MacDonald.  I sang a round, and Old MacDonald had some chickens.  For the next verse, I asked Henry to name an animal.  He chose a duck, and with a quack, quack here and there and a rousing E-I-E-I-O, we were ready for the next animal.  Again, I asked Henry to choose the animal.

He chose a duck.  I said, we just did a duck.  Does Old MacDonald have any other animals?

Henry said, “No!  He ONLY HAS DUCKS.”  So we kept singing about the duck farm.  Over and over and over again.

He's going down... he's yelling TIMBER!

He’s going down… he’s yelling TIMBER!… 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Henry was eating his lunch and I sang the Itsy Bitsy Spider to him.  Fitz started fussing, so I picked him up and was dancing him around the kitchen while we sang.  When we went through the song again and I was still holding the baby, I obviously had to change the lyrics.

“The itsy, bitsy Fitzy climbed up the water spout….”

Fitz took a ride up the water spout, fell down (gently) with the rain, and lived to climb another day.

I got baby giggles, toddler cackles, and an arm workout to boot!

The Itsy Bitsy Fitzy...

The Itsy Bitsy Fitzy…

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You Don’t Deserve Your Children’s Love

You don’t deserve your children’s love.

Got your attention?

Well, it’s true.  You didn’t do anything super special to get your kids.  You either had sex—which might have even been great sex, but that was its own reward, eh—or you adopted or fostered or something.  And while the paperwork and all of the hoops you have to go through to adopt are incredibly challenging and time consuming, you still didn’t earn your kids.

But you love them.  You love them unconditionally.  (And if you don’t, well, you can just stop reading because this blog post isn’t for you, and also, what’s wrong with you??)  Even when they’re horrible.  Even when they make terrible decisions.  Even when they hurt you.  Even when you don’t like them, and you’re angry and frustrated and tired and they’re annoying, you love them.

So what do I mean that you don’t deserve them?  Well, I think that we take it for granted that when our kids grow up, they will love us and respect us and our relationships with them will evolve into a mature friendship with mutual respect and affection.  I think we take it for granted that our kids’ love for us is unconditional.

It isn’t.

Now, I’m not saying that your kids don’t love you.  They probably do.  If they’re young, they definitely do.  Even abused kids love their parents and it messes those kids up because the relationship is so wonky.

But your unconditional love for your children is not reciprocal.  They love you, but you can mess it up.  The relationship you have with your adult children is wholly dependent on how you show them love and respect while they are young and when they grow up.  You will have a much more challenging time with an adult connection with your kids if they don’t grow up feeling like you are interested in them and respect them.

Think about it–how is your relationship with your parents?  And what do you remember about growing up, and how do those things correlate?

Parents and their children do not have equal footing or a two way relationship.  Kids don’t love their parents unconditionally… but they do love their own kids unconditionally.  And your parents probably loved you unconditionally.

We are all broken people and we all mess up.  Just like I have to regularly ask forgiveness from Kullervo for the days that I’m irritable and cranky, I also have to ask forgiveness from my kids for the same.  Just as it would be totally rude for me to ignore a friend when they’re talking because I’m reading a book or checking my email, it is also rude to do that to my kids.

I’m guilty.  The other day I was reading with Oliver.  Taking time with each kid every day, individually, to read together is something that I think is really important, and I try to hold as sacred time.  But, and I’ll admit that this is absolutely shameful behavior, while I was reading, I got a text.  I checked my phone quickly, and saw that it was important that I answer soon, so I sent back a quick response.

Then I looked for my place in reading to Oliver and realized something horrible.

I had been midsentence when my phone beeped.  And I stopped reading aloud midsentence.  To check my phone.  Seriously.  I’m so embarrassed, but it’s true.  My phone beeped, and I stopped reading in the middle of a sentence to see what someone else was saying to me.  During my time with my son.

In that horrifying moment, so I thought of so many things.  Immediately, there was rationalization—it was an important text!  It only took a second.  There was also the realization that if Oliver had had a phone and checked a text while we were reading, I would have been So. Incredibly. Annoyed.  I would have gotten angry and probably stopped reading to him.  I would have had my feelings hurt that this device was more important than our time together.  I realized that I was subtly telling my kid that external people were more important to me than our time together.  And, perhaps most humiliating of all, I noticed that he didn’t even bat an eye.  Is this normal behavior for me?

I stopped reading.  I turned to Oliver and told him what I had just noticed.  I told him that if he had done that, I’d be furious.  I told him that that wasn’t how I wanted our relationship to be—where I can be disrespectful of his time and of our relationship, where I can abuse my power and he is stuck accepting what I dole out to him.  I apologized.  I silenced my phone and turned it over so I couldn’t see any lights blinking.  And we continued reading.

One day this kid is going to be a teenager, and then a full-fledged adult.  And how he feels about me, and whether he trusts me is going to be based on all of our history together.  I need to preserve that.  I want to have a good relationship with my teenagers.  I want, when I set boundaries for them, for them to understand that the boundaries aren’t arbitrary, but based on our values.  I want them to trust that I can set good boundaries for them because they trust that I see them as whole human beings with feelings and thoughts and value.

I did not show Oliver that he had value that evening.

I love my kids.  I love them so much.  I think they’re cool, they’re funny, and they’re interesting.  I like hanging out with them.  They are these tiny humans who add so much to my life.

And I need to show them that.

Just like I need to constantly work on my relationship with Kullervo, tweaking behavior patterns to soften our edges, regularly checking in to make sure we’re on the same page, and generally being interested in him, I have to do that with my kids.  And I, the parent, need to be initiating that relationship maintenance.  It’s not their job.

My kids do not love me unconditionally.  They don’t know it yet, but they don’t.  If I play my cards right, if I work really hard, maybe they’ll never realize it, or at least not until they have their own kids and realize that the way that I loved them was so much more than they could have conceived of when they were little.  They’ll be able to tell me about it—want to tell me about it, even–because they will still love me and still trust me and know that I not only love them, but I also respect them as the individual people that they are.

I am not entitled to my children’s love, but hopefully I can earn it.

To Homeschool or Not To Homeschool

If you know us, you probably know that we have been considering homeschooling for our kids, on and off, for about as long as our kids have been in school.  It’s an incredibly complex decision, and not for the reasons that I would have guessed.

Here’s the thing.  We have special needs kids.  They aren’t delayed and they don’t have any of the other issues or problems that people assume when they hear the words ‘special needs’.  But, all the same, they have special needs that a school is going to be hard pressed to meet.  Oliver and Hazel are off-the-charts smart.  Both were reading at age 3; Hazel is in kindergarten and reads on at least a second grade level.  Oliver is in second grade and reads on at least a sixth or seventh grade level.  Oliver intuitively understands mathematical concepts and remembers everything he reads.  Hazel’s writing skills and attention to detail are incredible, considering her age, and her spatial skills are probably better than mine. Continue reading

Helicopters, Freedom, Broken Bones, and Risks

So, I read this article (op ed?) in The Atlantic.  You should read it too, especially if you have kids, even more so if you tend towards being hypervigilant about what they do, when, and with whom.

Oh the guilt!  The guilt!  There’s the actual guilt, the guilt you assume you should feel, the observational guilt, and all sorts of other guilty feelings.  There’s so much guilt that guilt starts to sound like a dumb word.

These are a few of the things that I regularly feel some measure of guilt about:

  •          Not spending enough time with my kids
  •          Spending so much time with my kids that they don’t know how to play on their own
  •          Being nervous when they want to do risky things at the playground
  •          Going camping with them, telling them to go explore and get dirty and do whatever, and have them look blankly at me              like I’ve told them to go walk on the moon
  •          Not enough activities
  •          Too many structured activities
  •          Letting them out of my sight
  •          Not letting them out of my sight

Seriously.  I can drive myself batty going around and around and around with these issues.

I remember being an elementary schooler, walking to the school bus stop alone (a little more than a quarter mile away, if I remember right), and waiting for the bus with a handful of boys (they were all boys!).  I remember snowball fights.  I remember them teaching me to play hockey (sort of).  I remember one boy getting seriously injured because of a snowball (ice) fight.

I remember learning to roller blade with those boys, and going too fast down a really steep hill, and having to hobble home, legs scraped clean of skin.

I remember taking my dog for walks, all alone, to meet the boy I had a crush on so he and I could walk around the neighborhood together.

I remember being in middle school and biking for miles and miles with my best friend.  Her brother’s bike had a radio, and we would listen to music while we biked everywhere.  The library, the school, around her neighborhood.

I remember walking through the woods and getting lost.  I also remember finding shortcuts to the nearby shopping center, and walking to the stores all alone.

I felt so grown up.  I felt like I was taking risks, but I also felt confident about my ability to take on those risks.

I participated in organized sports.  I remember family game nights.  But I spent a lot of time alone as a kid.  And it was okay.

In fact, the times that I actually had the worst, most traumatic experiences of my childhood were actually when I was being supervised by “trusted” adults.

But yet, all of that said, I can’t fathom the idea of letting my kids walk to school alone.  Or go outside and explore the neighborhood unsupervised.  Or walk to a store alone.  Or even run far enough ahead on the walk home that I can’t see them.

Part of that is their ages, I’m sure.  Oliver just turned eight.  Hazel is six.  I think (hope) it’s natural to be more hesitant with your oldest child.  Part of it is that I really like walking to school to pick them up, and I really like hanging out with my kids.  I’m trying to give them more freedom to experience “danger”—Oliver gets to use sharp knives at dinner, not just butter knives.  And I let him help me cut vegetables.  I let Hazel cross the street unsupervised (I was feeding the baby—I didn’t even watch her out the window!).  I sometimes let Oliver stay in the car when I’m running errands (I hope that’s legal).

So, why is our entire society so bent on keeping kids carefully under wraps?  I mean, obviously part of it is fear driven—in our age of the 24 hour news cycle, one Horrible Thing happening to one child affects all of us for days or weeks at a time.  It feels more prevalent than it is.  It’s still a Horrible Thing, but one Horrible Thing happening to someone else, somewhere else makes us hug our children so tightly that they can’t breathe, and we don’t realize that our children are more likely to suffocate than suffer from said Horrible Thing.

I wonder if part of it is also control.  We can’t control if our kid gets cancer, or is the loser at school who gets picked on.  We can’t control if they will be autistic, or bad at sports, or if they will experience Horrible Thing.  But we take on the illusion of control by not letting them out of sight.  By keeping them close.  By making sure their activities are monitored at all times.  By not letting them lose.  We can keep them from having their feelings hurt, their bones and hearts broken, and ever having to deal with whatever it was that made our own childhood insufferable.

Except, of course, we can’t control all those things.  And at what cost do we keep the others under control?

Kullervo and I were heartbroken (me) and furious (Kullervo) when we took the kids camping and while we (Kullervo) set up camp, we told the kids to go explore the campsite.  Find bugs.  Dig a hole.  Have an adventure.

They didn’t know how.

WHAT HAVE WE DONE????

I don’t worry too much about my kids getting hurt, honestly.  The thing that makes me cringe is fingers getting squashed in doors, but that’s small and just as likely to happen regardless of supervision.  I have a fear of falling, so when Henry climbs really high on a playground, it makes my stomach lurch.  My stomach reacts that way to circus performers on the high wire, too, I might add.  I try not to let it affect my kids—I try really hard to look away and let them take those risks.  (Although thinking about that makes me also fear the judgmental looks from other people should my kids fall off the playground equipment.)

So, aside from fear and control, there is the other issue—why do we think we should spend all of our time with our kids?  There’s the guilt factor.  Obviously, we should want to spend all our spare time with our kids, right?  But why do we think that?  I don’t want to spend all of my time with anybody—I’m an introvert and really want to put my head in the sand and avoid all y’all folks and hope you go away and leave me alone.

My kids are fantastic.  I love spending time with them.  I love hearing their ideas—they’re smart and funny and creative and silly, and they help me be smart and funny and creative and silly too.  I love playing games and reading with them.  I love going on hikes and yelling at them to ENJOY NATURE DAMMIT.  And their school day is SO LONG, and their bedtime is SO EARLY, so I actually don’t get a lot of time to just BE with my kids.  We certainly can’t do all the things together that I want to do.  But I also can’t be on all day long.

And they’re still kids—which means that a lot of the things they want to do aren’t interesting and a lot of their jokes aren’t funny (to grown ups).  Cases in point—Hazel just told me two new jokes today:

Knock Knock!

Who’s there?

Daddy!

Daddy who?

Get me a beer.

 

Knock Knock!

Who’s there?

Interrupting table!
Interrupting table who?

EAT YOUR DINNER.

Not funny.  At all.  But yet Oliver and Hazel are currently in our basement cracking each other up with their horrible jokes.  Kids need other kids around because kids get that stuff.  And they need time away from adults to be able to explore all of the horrible jokes they want without annoying anybody.

I’ve also noticed how much my kids gain from me severely restricting screen time.  They had a half day of school today, and came home and immediately wanted to watch television.  I said no.  They wanted to use the iPad.  I said no.  I said they were being too loud (Henry had just gone down to nap), so I sent them to the basement.  They played truth or dare.  They told unfunny jokes.  Now they are playing pretend.  All of which they would have missed out on if they had had the television on.  I’ve watched them take their boredom and turn it into creativity.  I’ve seen them build towers of milk crates (and climb them, and fall down).  I’ve seen them come up with weird games to play in the car on long drives because they don’t have a television in the car.

I want my kids to be kids.  I want to hang out with them, I want to spend time with them, teach them what they need to learn.  But perhaps I need to remember—perhaps we all need to remember—that part of teaching kids, part of raising them, is giving them opportunity to fail and opportunity to take risks and mess up.  It’s certainly easier to help them learn to make good decisions when they’re younger than when they are older and are taking on riskier behavior.  If they are confident that they can take risks, if they know that they can make good decisions without parental supervision, maybe when they are being offered cigarettes or drugs or alcohol, or pressured to have sex, they’ll be able to say no because they will know their limits and they won’t need to take those risks in order to feel like they are more grown up.  Maybe the high they get from living their lives fully will outweigh the high they would get from using drugs.

So, all that said, what do I do to implement this?  There are definitely downsides to kids playing unsupervised—oftentimes, other people’s kids are rotten.  Or is a moderate level of unchecked bullying okay, because it helps our kids develop a thicker skin?  Is the social hierarchy of unsupervised kids harmful, or does it teach kids negotiation skills, political skills, and other skills that (sorry to say it) will be necessary in the work environment when they get older?  And with other parents helicoptering their kids constantly, is it possible to avoid the guilt of giving my kids more freedom (obviously they love their kids more than I do because otherwise I would want to be with them all the time, right?)?  And the guilt of being afraid of the judgment of said parents?

How much freedom do you give your kids?  When do you start giving them more freedom, and what freedoms do you allow?

Milestones

There are milestones.  There are the ones people talk about (First smiles!  First steps!) and the ones that people don’t talk about (First time the baby manages to shoot liquid poop all the way across the room mid-diaper change, spraying your next door neighbor in the face. (That was Henry; sorry, Scott)).

Yesterday/today we had one of the lesser known milestones.

All six of us were bathed in the same 24 hours.

I realize that Fitz is six weeks old, so that sounds sort of gross.  But I will defend our situation, while still being proud of our accomplishment.

Babies don’t need baths every day.  Henry loved taking baths from the beginning, so part of his nighttime routine included one.  Fitz isn’t as wild about them; I bathe him when he smells too much like spit up for Kullervo to want to hold him (he’s lactose intolerant).

Oliver and Hazel don’t needs baths or showers every day.  They’re old enough to not be too gross, and young enough to not be too gross.  They need to get clean two or three times a week.  They need to wash their feet more often.

Henry needs to be washed when changing his diaper doesn’t leave him smelling any better than before.  And after most meals.

Kullervo showers every night before bed (definitely the cleanest and nicest smelling of the lot of us).

I shower when I can.  I have four kids, including a six week old who is pretty sure that if he is not being held constantly that the world might be ending.  (It’s fine if the world ends and someone is holding him, he just doesn’t want to die alone.)  Kullervo is in tax season, so he doesn’t leave work until 8:30 or so most nights, and when he gets home, I finish (start) making dinner, we eat, and we wind up talking so much that we run out of evening.

And I can’t sleep with wet hair.

I’m not a particularly smelly person (don’t tell me if I’m wrong; pretty much my whole existence depends on me not being totally gross without a daily shower).  But I don’t shower every day.  Get over it.  I don’t smell, my husband doesn’t care, my kids don’t care, and I don’t have time.

But, yesterday marked six weeks since Fitz was born.  Yesterday after school, Oliver, Hazel, and Henry all took a bath in the big tub downstairs while I folded laundry with Fitz in the ergo carrier.  After I put the older three into bed, I gave Fitz a bath.  Kullervo showered last night, and this morning I sneaked in a shower while Fitz stared at the side of his bassinet and Henry watched an episode of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood.

Six people.  Clean.  Twenty four hours.

It’s a milestone.

I think Henry and I will celebrate by jumping in mud puddles.

Practicing hopping for maximum splash outside!

Practicing hopping for maximum splash outside!

The First Six Weeks

Since Fitz is my fourth baby, people assume I know what I’m doing.  I ought to know what is normal and what isn’t.  I should remember how long the bleeding lasts, whether that much spit up means my baby is dying, how to function on no sleep.  It’s fine when most people assume that—I don’t need anything from most of them.  It’s unfortunate when the people who are assuming I’m totally on top of things are doctors.  My doctors.  My baby’s doctors.

Tummy time?  I had totally forgotten that that was a thing.  Vitamin D drops?  I have vague, fuzzy memories of forgetting to give those to all of my other kids too.

Here’s what I remember from the first six weeks of each of my kids:

OLIVER

Baby Oliver, one week old

Baby Oliver, one week old

After I had Oliver, the first six weeks were a nightmare of epic proportions.  The hospital force fed him bottles against our wishes, even though I was perfectly able to breastfeed, because they said that my milk should have come in and it hadn’t yet.  I didn’t get to see him until I was able to get up and walk to the NICU.

I remember cracked, bleeding nipples, and a narcoleptic baby who would only sleep if he should be eating, and pumping just to get some relief from the awfulness that was breastfeeding.  I remember Kullervo calling the women from our church to ask them about cracked, bleeding nipples because I wouldn’t call anyone and I just cried all the time.  I remember not sleeping at all because Oliver didn’t sleep at all, and only getting relief from the crying when Kullervo would take Oliver into the tiny bathroom of our tiny New York City apartment, turn on the shower, and we would close that door and the door to the bedroom and turn on white noise so I couldn’t hear, and maybe could get some sleep.

I also remember that I was so thirsty.  All the time.  And the crying.

I remember Oliver being somewhere between one and two weeks old, and we decided to go for a walk.  So we packed a diaper bag, buckled him into his car seat that would snap into the stroller.  Kullervo carried the car seat, the stroller, and the diaper bag down 49 stairs (4th floor apartment).  We didn’t even make it fully around the city block before I was tired and in tears and sat on a bus bench to recover, because it turns out that recovering from a near vaginal delivery and  a c-section takes a lot out of you.

And I remember visitors—my sister, my brother and sister-in-law, my dad and stepmother, friends from church.  People brought us gifts and meals.  I felt loved, and taken care of, and terrified because I was totally out of my league with this awful tiny human who clearly came out broken because he only ever cried and it may never end.

HAZEL

Baby Hazel--one week old

Baby Hazel–one week old

Hazel’s delivery was so much easier than Oliver’s.  By a factor of a zillion.  The people in the hospital were nicer.  Hazel got to stay in my room with me, and that made breastfeeding so much easier.  I remember the second night in the hospital when she wanted to nurse all. night. long.  And I let her (much to my boobs’ dismay).  I remember Kullervo’s aunt and cousin visiting us in the hospital, our dear friends and neighbors (who brought Oliver two new trains—Bill and Ben), and everything being easier.  I also remember calling both my mother and my mother-in-law one evening from the hospital, and both of them were busy, and I cried and cried and felt so alone.  For that, I blame hormones, not them.

I remember the breastfeeding pain.  Oh, the pain!  I had to get a refill on my narcotics post c-section to deal with the nursing pain.

I remember my mother coming to visit, and Oliver squashed his fingers where the elevator doors opened and closed.  Because my cleaning is not up to par for my mother, she cleaned our apartment and criticized my weight (and my inability to stop eating Cadbury Crème Eggs).

And I remember it just being nice—Hazel was a dream baby, Kullervo was in law school, so he was able to be around a lot.  Oliver still went to his nanny’s house every morning, so his routine was stable, and life was good.

HENRY

Baby Henry--one week old

Baby Henry–one week old

Henry was supposed to be about the same size as Oliver and Hazel, who both hovered close to 8 pounds (8lb3oz for Oliver, 7lb13oz for Hazel).  His delivery was the first time that I was really hesitant about the surgery.  It turns out that having a baby yanked out of your belly sort of takes a lot out of you, and I said to Kullervo before we went into the operating room that I didn’t want to have another baby—if we had another, I wanted to adopt (whoops).

Henry was a big baby—9lb6oz, and because he was so big, the hospital staff was anal retentive about his blood sugar levels.  Now, this being my third baby, I knew that it takes a few days for milk to come in, and that colostrum is awesome, and that babies are born full and tired.  Being born is exhausting, and warrants some extra naps.  The doctors, even with their fancy medical degrees, did not agree with me and kept poking him to test his blood sugar levels.  The morning after Henry was born, the pediatrician came into my room.  I had refused to give Henry formula, choosing instead to stick my boobs in his face every time he woke up.  The first words that this pediatrician said to me were, “You are making a big mistake.”

I firmly told her that she could leave my room until she was ready to come back in and say, “Congratulations!  Your baby is beautiful!  How are you feeling, new mama?” and that I wasn’t going to listen to any of her medical advice or admonishments until she treated me like I had just had a baby.  Then I burst into tears when she left the room.  When she came back in and tried to scare me with ‘possible brain damage’, I retorted that she should maybe specify which part of the brain was going to be damaged because if it was the part that would turn him into a sociopath, I would be okay if that part was damaged.

Henry, like Hazel, spent the second night in the hospital wanting to nurse all night long.  And I let him.  I think it stimulates milk production and comforts the baby.  Unfortunately, it does that at the expense of the new mama, but considering that I was going to have a brain damaged baby because I had the audacity to trust my body to keep this kid alive—which it had done marvelously up until this point, I might add, I was scared not to.  I remember falling asleep breastfeeding, and the horrifically mean night nurse yelling at me that I was not allowed to sleep with the baby in my bed.  I just couldn’t win.

The first six weeks with Henry were a blur.  It was close to Thanksgiving, and we had endless company and no time to recuperate.  We had wonderful friends nearby who knew that I would push myself too hard, and who, as a result, wouldn’t let me walk my kids to school or take on too much.  I remember it being a magical time, as three year old Hazel decided that she needed to perfect her cartwheel, so I would watch her do hundreds of cartwheels in our living room while I breastfed the baby.  I remember thinking that we could have another kid; that this was just perfect.  And I remember getting more narcotics because the breastfeeding pain was excruciating again.

FITZWILLIAM

Baby Fitz--one week old

Baby Fitz–one week old

Fitz’s first six weeks aren’t over yet—he’ll be six weeks old on Thursday.  His delivery was different—I could smell them cauterizing (I assume) the scar tissue; I could smell my own burning flesh.  It made me want to throw up.  The doctors were talking about how they couldn’t see anything because of all the scarring; they were worried they were going to cut my bladder.

They don’t tell you how cold it is in the operating room, or how bright.  Grey’s Anatomy lies with its mood lighting; those rooms are BRIGHT.  The spinal block makes me shake, and the cold makes me shake, so I spend the entire time just shivering; it’s exhausting.  Being naked and exposed on a table is not a great feeling either.  I forget that after each baby—how vulnerable-making the whole delivery of a baby is.

Fitz wasn’t a giant; he was 8lb1oz, so nobody freaked out about blood sugar.  He did have some breathing issues, so they took him away and I didn’t get to meet him for five or six hours.  It’s still weird to have a baby and go to the recovery room and the maternity rooms and not have said baby.

The thing that really set apart the recovery from Fitz’s birth, though, was the spinal headache.  It started a couple of days after the surgery, and progressively got worse.  I didn’t know what was wrong with me; why getting up gave me such a headache and so much nausea that I didn’t keep down any solid food the entire time I was in the hospital.  There were a ton of births when I was in the hospital, so I wound up with nurses who weren’t labor and delivery nurses, and that might be why they didn’t catch the headache and tell me how to manage the pain sooner (lie down!  If you ever get one, LIE DOWN!).  My cousin came for the last two days that I was in the hospital, and thank God for her because it meant that Kullervo could stay with me in the hospital that night, and I was so overwhelmed and felt so awful that I needed him there.  We played gin rummy and read and it was a sweet time, holding our sweet, sleeping son while we spent time together.

I had forgotten the sleepless nights.  I knew about them academically—‘oh, yeah, you don’t get a lot of sleep’—but that’s different from living it.  Fitz isn’t a terrible sleeper-if he cosleeps with me, he’ll only get up once or twice a night (usually) to eat.  But still, the amount of tired is crushing.  The amount of mess building up—the dog hair inhabiting the corners of rooms (and all of our clothes), the laundry that is done but hasn’t been put away, the toys that are out and all over the floor… all of that adds to the fatigue, and the fatigue means that I’m too tired to deal with it.  It’s a messy cycle.

I had also forgotten the bills.  It isn’t enough that I am in the midst of shoving a boob into someone’s mouth every few hours, changing incessant diapers and cackling maniacally over each cloth diaper that gets peed on mid-change, and hallucinogenic throwbacks to the 70s from the lack of sleep.  So, of course, the hospital, the doctor, the anesthesiologist, the person who walked into the room on accident all send bills.  Vague bills (one of the line items: miscellaneous charges—seriously).  I have to weed through, figure out if there are mistakes, pay what needs to get paid, argue what is incorrect, and hash some details out with the insurance company.

Then there was the stomach flu.  Let’s face it—there is no good time to spend 24 hours upchucking your insides.  But it seems especially cruel when you also are breastfeeding a tiny human every three hours.  I went an entire day where I did not eat or drink anything—I tried taking sips of water when I’d gone thirty minutes or so without throwing up, but it would just come right back up, so violently that it felt as though my stomach was actually turning inside out.  The upside to my wretched day of sick was that we got a foot of snow that day, which mean that Kullervo’s office was closed and the kids were off school.  There is no way that I could have picked them up from school or been a parent at all—I slept almost all day.  I woke up to feed the baby and stress about whether I was going to run out of milk, or whether the breastfeeding would actually make me more dehydrated.

The first six weeks of a new baby are so hard.  It gets marginally easier with every baby—you become more and more confident that it’s really hard to accidentally kill a baby—but it is still challenging.  Finding the new normal is critical—juggling four kids and all of their individual needs is going to be an ongoing balancing act.  I’m sure that some days I will get it right and manage to spend time with each kid individually, respond with love to their struggles, give them all healthy meals and even get some of them clean.  Some days I will fail, and my kids will go to bed dirty, after a meal of leftover frozen pizza, freezer burned corn, and chocolate chips, all crying because I suck.  Most days I’ll probably fall somewhere in the middle.

Now, the important question:  which of my one week old babies look the most similar?

Baby Fitz--four weeks old

Baby Fitz–four weeks old (gratuitous extra photo)

Writing Fail

I signed up for nanowrimo.  It was awesome.  I started out relatively strong, working hard every day to get writing done in the time I had while Hank was napping.  I hit some snags, however, both unforeseen and totally anticipated.  First, November is a tricky month to get stuff done around here.  We have a birthday (Hank turned two!), we had the end of a marking period for the kids, with the requisite parent-teacher conferences and day off from school, and Hazel and I took a weekend trip to Chicago.  There was also a brief window of open enrollment for our family’s health insurance, so I spent a few afternoons (joyfully) making spreadsheets predicting our health care expenses for 2014 to see which plans made the most sense with my doctor-visit algorithms.  On top of that, we also had pie night (which took Monday-Wednesday to prepare for) and Thanksgiving.  And my sister and her family came down to visit us for the last few days of the month.  So, all in all, I failed to write 50,000 words of my novel in November, mostly because I was too busy having fun.  The 10% or so of my novel that I did write, however, is pretty good, if I do say so myself (and I do).  Oliver read it and wanted me to keep writing so that he can keep reading it.  (Don’t worry—it’s a children’s novel.)

But, not only did I stop writing my novel when I realized that I wasn’t going to get even close to finishing it… I stopped writing altogether.  Whoops.  I felt like if I was writing, I needed to be writing something novel (hee), and thus blogging was out.  Journaling was out.  Making incessant to do lists that I could immediately lose track of was out… eh, that one might have been okay to do without.

Anyway, November is over.  I can write guilt-free, and blog whenever I want to.  I’m still super pregnant, which means that most of the time I’m incapable of expressing myself (or even thinking) coherently, but it’s my blog and I can ramble if I want to.

Some fun facts of the last month:

If you ask Hank how old he is, he’ll respond, “I two!”.  It’s unreasonably cute, and if you know us in real life, you should try asking him.  Seriously.

I two!

I two!  And my mom is making a weird face!

Cute, for cute's sake.

Henry will only wear hats when the temperature is above 50* outside, and thus no hat is necessary.  

 

Hazel has a history of writing letters to Santa asking for weird stuff out of nowhere.  Last year, she wanted a moep [sic] (mop).

Hazel's letter to Santa, 2013.

Hazel’s letter to Santa, 2013.  Mariah Carey would be so proud…

Oliver also started a novel for nanowrimo.  Like me, he started out strong and, like me, he petered out.  He also went running with Kullervo, and can run about two and a half miles without complaining (which isn’t to say it’s easy for him, just he knows that complaining won’t get him home faster). 

Taking a break

Taking a break

Kullervo realized that he is close enough to his hours goal at work for the year to be able to reach it… if he busts his ass all December.  It’s a mixed blessing—if he hits his goal, he is eligible for a bonus (as far as I understand, anyway), but it means that he’s going to have to work a really heavy workload for the whole Advent and Christmas season to achieve it.  Along with that, he’s had some mandatory trainings and will be sworn into the Maryland Bar Association at some point this month, so those are days that he will lose hours during.  But, it also means that HE PASSED THE MARYLAND BAR EXAM!  Woooohoooooo!

And, saving the best for last—my PUPPP is gone!  THANK GOD.  I still itch a bit, but in the normal pregnant way, not the want-to-make-myself-bleed-because-hurting-is-better-than-itching-this-much way.  I don’t know if that means that I didn’t actually have PUPPP, or if it doesn’t always last until delivery, but lasts about a month and most people get it in the last month of pregnancy, so it appears to disappear at delivery, or what.  Mostly, though, I’m glad it’s gone.