28 October 2009

Post Pediatrician Ramblings

I took some kids to the doctor today. One had a well-visit. Three had to get flu shots. One had to be checked for wheezing, a follow-up to a visit two weeks ago. That's a lot of stuff, right? Well, that's nothing compared to the to-do list I left with. Check this out:

-- Get eye exam for one kid. (Poor thing bombed her in-office eye exam...just like her momma!)
-- Get chest xray for one kid.
-- Get KUB xray for one kid.
-- Fill prescription -- two different meds -- for one kid
-- Get over the counter meds for one kid.
-- Bring one back in a month.

In the next 5 weeks, four of my kids will have their regular well-visits. Some people think of November and December as the Holiday Season. I think of those months as "Time to Reconnect with My Pediatrician Season." Which is nice, because I have a wonderful pediatrician, and love chatting with her. How many of you are facebook friends with your pediatrician? See, she's just that awesome. In fact, she's so awesome that when she moved her practice to a town 25 minutes away from us, we stayed with her; we make that drive because we can't imagine anyone else caring for our kids. With gas prices as high as they are, this means that you have to be pretty sick to warrant a trip to the doctor's office at my house.

So by the time I picked them up at school, got them all in and out of the doctor's office, got them all fed (I heart In-n-Out), stopped briefly at home to get them changed into soccer gear, got them to their practice field, raced to pick up the little one from daycare, swung by the bank to make a deposit that reaaaaallllly needed to go in today, stopped by the pharmacy to drop off the prescription, I had been in my car for over four hours. Thank you Bay Bridge malfunction for making the roads ridiculous today.

In case you are wondering, if you spend 4+ hours in a car with rambunctious children and too many containers of soda/coffee, here are a few things that might happen to you:

Your 7-year old girl might spill her root beer on your 9 year old son's absolute favorite drawing, the one he did of a monkey in a school desk, raising his hand and saying: "Would you mind repeating everything you said after 'LISTEN CAREFULLY'?" And he might respond with a howl filled with so much despair that the flowers on the side of the road will wilt.

Your 5-year old might dump her french fries on the floor with just the right timing so that the 9 and 11 year old boys will smush them into the carpet when they climb over the backpacks in a headlong effort to get into the back seat.

Your 5-year old might kick your coffee cup while attempting to hightail it out of the front seat, where she is not supposed to be because "I have a cup of coffee there and don't spill it!" The coffee could get all over the diaper bag and all over the Kindergartner's homework assignment.

Your 3 year old might flick a straw full of Dr. Pepper in your face as you are trying to unbuckle her...which means you might walk around the house for 5 or 10 minutes with Dr. Pepper speckles all over your glasses before you manage to clean them.

You might notice, after getting rid of three of them at the soccer field, that a few more of them also spilled their fries in the back seat.

You might yell a lot at your offspring. You might hear yourself saying quite a few things you thought you'd never say, like "You never learn, you never ever learn!" because you've heard that one before, in your own childhood, and could have sworn you were immune from such nonsense.

You might arrive home with no plan for dinner, but an acute awareness of where exactly in the fridge is the last bottle of Pipeline Porter made with 100% Hawaiian Kona Coffee.

Put a fork in me: I'm done.

* * *

26 October 2009

Hook and Eye

Not very many people use hook and eye latches anymore. They're a bit outdated, I suppose. But there are two in my mom and dad's house, and I love them.

Lest you think I have some strange attachment to bits of metal, let me tell you the story of how they came to be on the doors of the two bathrooms in my childhood home, and then you will know why I love them.

* * *

My mom and dad hosted my wedding reception in their backyard. It was a gorgeous June day. Early that morning, the preparations began, with family, friends and workers carting tables and chairs, spreading linens, and readying the BBQ. It was a lively, crowded scene.

Two of our guests, our friends Margaret and Lola, arrived to dress, having driven up early in the morning in more comfortable clothes. Both were in the category of our "older" guests, and because of this, I was especially concerned about their comfort. They were also extremely honored guests; they have both had a profound, wonderful impact on our lives, so I wanted them to both enjoy themselves and feel well treated.

The old, quirky house of my childhood was not built with locks on the bathroom doors. Somehow, this was never a big deal when I was growing up. We all got fairly used to hollering or knocking to establish vacancy. I never recall, even in my intense teen girl years, caring much that the bathrooms did not lock.

But on the day of my wedding, my two dear, older Austrian friends did care; the prospect of having someone walk in on them was, I am sure, horrifying.

The beautiful part of this story, at least from a bride's perspective, is that most of it occurred without my knowing anything about it.

I was at the house, getting dressed, with my sister and other bridesmaids. I was, as was natural, a bit self-absorbed. I had no idea that Margaret and Lola were having "dressing room issues."

But I do remember seeing my dad, all decked out in his classy tuxedo, walking out to his studio, rumaging around, returning with tools. There, amid the flurry of activity, the people running to and fro, guests in the way on the deck, my dapper dad calmly found two hook and eye sets, got the right tools, went into the house and made our bathrooms lock-able. For Margaret and Lola. Before I even knew they were having a minor tizzy about the lock-less bathrooms.

Such a small, simple thing. But on a day when you are hosting 260 people in your back yard, when you've got a million details to see to, I think it takes a special kind of grace to screw hook and eye assemblies into place, especially to do it calmly. He took care of my friends; I heard about it later. But now, whenever I'm at their house and in one of those bathrooms, the hook and eye latch reminds me of my wedding day, my good friends, my lovely father, and the care he and my mother took that day to make everything perfect.

Saturday was Dad's birthday. This post was supposed to have been written and posted that day. As with everything else in my life, it didn't get done until a bit too late. So two days later, here it is, straight from my heart and my memory, to my dad on his birthday. Happy Birthday Dad, and thank you so much for the hook and eyes.

Love, Monica



* * *

23 October 2009

Raising Environmentalists

While I admire your commitment to the creed of "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle," I would much rather have you toss your empty Capri Sun pouch instead of saving it to use as a whoopie cushion.

He does get 10 points for creativity, though.

* * *

22 October 2009

Rain on the Roof

I have learned my appreciation of poetry from my husband.

Being a lover of books and literature in general, I've always liked poetry well enough, but have never really delved into the genre with enthusiasm. That is, until meeting and marrying the father of my children.

He loves poetry. He loves the art, the craft, and maybe most of all, the marriage of sound and meaning. I had never really thought about the sounds of poetry before hearing him wax eloquently about the repetition of consonants or the rhythym of iambic pentameter. I just thought poetry was nice and rhyme-y. Except for the stuff that didn't rhyme, which I admit baffled me a bit.

But Rick has introduced me, and our offspring, to the pleasure of sounds -- and really, sounds do take us places, don't they? I think of the deep delight I take in the sound of rain on the roof while I am cozy beneath blankets...or the rush of the creek next to my girlhood home after a big rain...or the crunch of car wheels pulling up my mom and dad's driveway. Sounds are evocative, and poetry is their expression.

I am thankful to have learned this from Rick. And he is raising our children to hear poetry around them everyday, too.

The other day in the car, my nine-year old opened a glass bottle of carbonated pomegranate cider, and was delighted by the PFFFT-sound released by the twist of his wrist. He told me he liked to close the bottle, let the bubbles build up, and open it again so he could hear that same sound over and over.

Which led us to think about what other sounds we love. The conversation went something like this:

7-year old: "You love rain on the roof, mom!"

9-year old: "I also love that steam-y sound that trains make when they start and stop!"

7-year old: "You love hearing us laugh, mom!"

9-year old: (because we were now in a parking lot, on our way to watch Sam play soccer) "I love this sound, mom!" At which point he put down the drink he was carrying, placed a soccer ball on the ground, backed up, and then kicked the ball using the exact sweet spot on the top of his foot to produce that beautiful "thunk" of a well-placed shot.

This was one of the most fun conversations I've ever had with my kids. I was so delighted to discover that they listen, maybe not to me when I'm asking them to put their shoes away, but to the world around them, to the train going by, to the laughter that makes me smile.

I worry so much about the damage we are doing to our children when we fail, when we yell too much, when we aren't nearly patient enough. I know parents who are able to shrug off this complicated, crazy-making anxiety: I am not one of them. I worry. Because we are all they have in terms of parents, and sometimes, we fall miserably short.

But after conversations like this one, my heart soars because I think to myself that they are going to be fine, even better than fine, because they can hear things around them and describe the sounds they like the best, and because I hear some of the good things we do for them reflected back to me.

Their words and observations are rain on the roof: in the midst of a storm, they help me know that we will all be OK in this difficult and beautiful world.

* * *

19 October 2009

Don't Report Me

Although I am definitely guilty of Blog Neglect, I am throwing myself at your mercy and begging you not to call BPS on me. Blog Protective Services. Those people could revoke my blog-ental rights and possibly even remove my blog from my home!

Look, I know I can do better, be better. Give me another chance. Send me to some classes or training or something. Don't make me talk to a judge, who sees too many cases of Blog Neglect to give bloggers like me a fair shake.

I am better than this. Please let me prove it.

Signed,

A blogger with the firm resolve to, you know, actually blog. Sometime soon. When work slows down. Or the kids grow up and move out. Or the earth moves under my feet. Or I just make the damn time.

* * *

15 October 2009

Support the Public Option

Another cut and paste from MoveOn.org; please join me!

* * *

After months of delay, the full Senate is about to debate and vote on landmark health care legislation. But first, Senator Harry Reid and Democratic leaders have a big decision to make:

Will the Senate consider real health care reform with a public health insurance option, or a watered-down compromise full of giveaways to Big Insurance?

I just signed a petition asking Sen. Reid to include a strong public health insurance option in the Senate's health care bill. Will you join me at the link below?

Click here to sign the petition!

Thanks!

* * *

11 October 2009

It Must Be So Easy to Raise French Children

Today, I asked my three year old to put away her bowl and spoon.

"No" is what I got in return. That and these gems: "I'm not gonna." "La la-la la-la la, you can't make me." "I hate you." Lots of these responses came from an upside-down mouth, as she repeatedly stood on her head (on the couch cushions), and bounced up and down like a crazed squirrel.

There must be very few vocations that require as much on your feet creativity as parenting does: I had to work hard to come up with new and effective ways to get her to carry her bowl and spoon into the kitchen that did not involve using a choke hold, damaging my vocal chords, or promising her a pony.

It was not easy. 15 minutes of my life are now a foggy, misty blur because I sacrificed them to the intense concentration necessary to get what I wanted from her while avoiding the aforementioned prohibitions.

The bowl and spoon ended up where they belong, and I lost minutes off of my total life span for the grief and suffering I endured along the way. I have no memory of what finally did it, what wore her down.

* * *

Cut to dinner time. Once again, dishes needed to be cleared away. It so happened that I served dinner to my three girls (it was a ladies night at our house) with a French accent. The three of them thought this was pretty funny, and kept asking for "That French Guy." Apparently, I can do french, but it's a masculine french.

Anyway, I braced myself for the clean up resistance, also known as the Toddler Liberation Front. But the most amazing thing happened. I made my request in a french accent -- "Pleeeeeze, put zee deeshes away in zee keetchin, mon chere!" -- and the previously recalcitrant three year old complied with glee. She even asked me to ask her to put something else away!

So I guess I will have to get used to sounding like a french dude, if I am to ever get what I want from her. Might be a little strange in public, but if we skirt the whole tantrum thing and I get to keep some of those bonus minutes at the end of my life, I'm all over it.

* * *

Not My Path to Sainthood

Judging by the intense resentment I feel for every single one of my offspring today, laundry-as-devotion will never be my entre into beatification.

But then again, how is it that I can have so little gumption, so little courage, that when I face a day determined to conquer the laundry and the dustbunnies that I last until just after lunch before giving up completely?

At least I lasted until 3:47 before I cracked open a cold one. That has to count for something. Probably not towards spiritual enlightment, but maybe towards being a more bearable mother?

I'll take it.

* * *

05 October 2009

Unlikely Blessings

I have a friend who once told me that she sees laundry as a spiritual exercise.

Yes, you read that correctly.

This comes from a mother of four young boys, who most certainly has a larger-than-most-families laundry case load. And she's not some rose-colored glasses, put-a-happy-face-on-everything mom. She's real, she's gritty, she yells as much as I do, she loses patience like we all do, and she loves her kids truly, madly, deeply.

I think about her laundry prayer often when I am faced by incomprehensible piles of clothes, colassal mountains of dirty dishes, and family life detritus on every conceivable surface. Keeping up with this household feels so burdensome at times.

But I aspire to my friend's brand of devotion to taking care of the things that take care of everyone else. The tasks are truly thankless and never-ending. And yet, they are vital to everyone in the family. If I can do them with some semblance of grace, patience, devotion, presence...maybe they can come to mean more than drudgery.

* * *

I'll let ya' know how that goes.

* * *

02 October 2009

Just Wait

Just wait, you brand new parents, traveling through Safeway in your new baby fog. Just wait until that mushy little bundle is 5 years old and demanding sugar.

* * *

The other day, I took my 4 (almost 5) and 2 year olds to Safeway for a little shoppin'. It was the night before Samuel's birthday, and around here, birthdays are an occasion for sugary cereal. We don't buy sugar cereal except when we have a birthday, and then, the person of honor gets to pick one. He picked Fruit Loops.

So there I was, in the produce section of Safeway, with IT and OTHER IT, who were both, at 5:30 in the evening, a tad wild. Along came the new parents. Mom, looking all glowy and soft, like a clean, downy pillow that has just been punched, fluffed, and smooshed into maximum comfortability. Dad, wearing the baby sling, with Newborn Miracle snuggled contentedly inside. The two (or rather three) of them were strolling through the veggies and fruit, doing that slow, ethereal walk one does when the very miracle of life coming forth is ever present in one's mind and walking through the grocery store feels other-worldly. They had that look.

Plus, they looked clean, if sleepy, and wore that distinctly Berkeley uniform, the one that says "We are progressive, enlightened, comfortable, and organic. We wear 100% cotton, and these shoes are really expensive, but no animals were harmed in their production."

My little girl-terrors love babies, so I pointed out the newby, which elicited the expected cuteness reflex. Then they started running all over the produce section and screaming like banshees. I had one of those moments where you realize that your kids are behaving exactly in a way you thought you'd never tolerate. You balance this with the fact that you're quite happy they haven't upended the apple display. You finish off the musing by calling the excursion successful, so far.

The new mommy and daddy smiled at them. I could be projecting, but I think there was a tinge of "We'd never let this little miracle run rampant like that. Now, where's the organic locally grown celery?"

There was quite a bit of smiling back and forth; their baby was completely adorable. I got lost in a little moment of nostalagia, made more potent by Sam's birthday, the 11th anniversary of my first foray into that squishy pillow stage of new motherhood. My revery was interupted by It and Other It chanting: "FRUIT LOOPS, FRUIT LOOPS, FRUIT LOOPS!" Translation: "Let's get the hell away from all these vegetables and find the freakin' FRUIT LOOPS!"

So off to the cereal aisle. To our great fortune, it turned out Fruit Loops were on sale, and therefore, on an end cap of one of the aisles. With a family of seven, I knew I was basically committed to two boxes of pure HFCS. So when Elizabeth saw the Fruit Loops, started panting and frothing at the mouth, and said: "Can we get two boxes!?!?!?!?!? One for breakfast and one for lunch?!?!!?!", I was ready to say yes.

As luck would have it, cute little ethereal organic newborn family was strolling by right at that moment, in time to hear my crazed daughter ask for two boxes of sugar AND my willing agreement. They floated by the sugar cereal, as I did 11 years ago, certain, I am sure, in their resolve to never, ever buy cereal loaded with HFCS and all manner of crappy crap.

* * *

Time does change things, doesn't it? The best laid plans of mice and moms meet reality as their children grow up and demand Fruit Loops. I remember that lazy, foggy walk through the grocery store of new parenthood. I'm pretty sure I thought I would raise kids without Fruit Loops.

And in reality, it physically pains me to purchase Fruit Loops. But it also gives me great delight to be able to offer my 11-year old the forbidden fruit of sugary cereal on his important day. That's the stuff I didn't count on 11 years ago, the power of making your kid happy.

I couldn't resist. Before they were out of earshot, I said to the girls: "Why don't we go for the trifecta and call it dinner!"

* * *