Monday, May 25, 2009

Leaving on a Jet Plane 4/2009

A year ago I had hoped to go on a work related trip. The timing however, coincided with my children coming home from their lengthy stay in the NICU. My husband was supportive, and told me to book the trip if I wanted to go. It might be good for me to get away for a couple of days. Mind you, I work at home, it wasn’t a long trip, and the flight was only a couple of hours. The time zone was not even that drastic. I waited until the last minute, my colleagues bugging me to know whether or not to expect me. I finally lined up my babysitters, who were still relatively new to us, took a deep breath and booked my trip with mileage.

A few nights later, I had packed and was up late running around stuffing last minute things into my carry on, when I had a full blown melt down. It was 11pm and I was due to leave for the airport at 3am to make a 6am flight. My husband’s aunt was visiting us, and as we sat on the couch, I began to cry. I became a fountain of “what ifs”, spouting one thing after another about what could go wrong while I was away. Things that could happen to me, things that could happen to my babies. The more I talked about it, the more I cried. One of my sons had the sniffles and I extrapolated that into a head cold, ear infection, etc. and worried that if I didn’t stay home to go to the doctor with him, that no one else would be able to explain properly to the doctor what was wrong with him.

I finally decided around midnight that there was no way I could leave. I called the airline, had my mileage credited back (for a whopping $100, ouch), and canceled my hotel and rental car. I went to bed, unable to sleep. That didn’t really matter so much, as we weren’t really sleeping at that point anyway. I managed to close my eyes. A few hours later, I woke up, called the doctor, and babies and Aunt Eleanor in tow, headed to see the pediatrician. As it turned out, my son needed antibiotics, but he was ok. I felt my feelings had been validated, patted myself on the back for being true to my instincts, but secretly wondered if I had given in to fear.

Is this a fear that all parents feel, new parents or not? I have since come to understand that it is, and once I began to get more rest, was able to start dealing with it better. I can’t remember ever feeling so totally afraid and so totally hopeful about life all at once, as I imagine my children's future.

Tomorrow I will get on a plane and go to the same meeting I missed last year. I talked my mother into coming along so I would not be alone. But this will be the first time I have been away from my children for more than about 20 hours. I will be away for THREE. WHOLE. DAYS. I have been too busy to think about it until now. But tonight, my chest filled with that butterfly-anxiety-excitement that I always get before I fly. I know it’s ok for me to go. But I feel like I am stepping off a cliff into a new world. And I wonder . . . will I feel better about it all or more guilty when I return?

This Too Shall Piss 3/2009

In the course of buying supplies for our babies, I discovered that upping the diaper size also means more cost for less diapers per box. And as it turns out, six kidneys a lot of pee makes. My kids are peeing machines. I started to second guess myself at one point on whether or not I fastened their diapers correctly when they woke up damp to the neck on their backsides. I mean, how hard is it to attach a piece of fake Velcro across their hips?? I know I’m new, but gee whiz. Have I lost my coordination?

If we aren’t quick enough, well, let’s just say with two boys, we have discovered the fountain of youth. Once I took the time to marvel at the weight of my son’s pee-filled diaper. He was giggling away (sometimes I wonder what they find funny), and ended up with an impromptu drink from the fountain. Is this what they mean by ‘potty mouth’? Our couch has gotten watered pretty well too, as it resides near the changing table. I keep wondering if it will grow or sprout weeds.

Speaking of potty mouth, I was never big on cussing – in front of other people. Though I grew up in L.A., and learned to drive on the freeways just as the population, and hence the traffic, grew in epic proportions, in my own car and space on the road, I cultivated my inner truck driver to not be so inner. I couldn’t hear my passengers or the radio for the words that swirled in my head and sometimes exited my mouth if someone dared to change lanes – in front of me. What does this have to do with poop?

Well, despite my aptitude in temperamental vocabulary, my husband encouraged me to express my language abilities more freely. He chuckled as I timidly blurted out occasional curse words. Six years and four children later, there is far too much crap flying in our home. Literally. Many a foul word perches on my lips with the threat of escape as I often find myself nauseated by our odiferous disgusting! diaper pail. It makes me want to drop a bomb myself (one that starts with “F”). I hold back a little by nature, so all I can bring myself to say is, “P-U!” My son finds this very, very funny.

Having read (and experienced) your share of “Adventures in Excrement”, I am sure you are all cringing by now. Sorry, but I can’t stop. Everything here is exponential. My husband mocks me that for someone who hates touching toilets and cleaning bathrooms, my ability to wipe asses and help the babies poop without blinking is shocking. Really I just want to get it over with as fast as possible. I told him I hope I never have to do it for him. He stopped laughing.

Mom, interrupted. 3/2009

There is nothing I wouldn’t do for my kids. Sing songs, play games, jump up and down. You name it. Nice mom. Good mom. But sometimes, this other side of me comes out, for various reasons, but mostly lack of sleep, and I just don’t have patience any more. I just want to throw something, anything, at the wall. Bad mom. Weak mom.

As I write this, it is 1:30am, and I sat down to vent so I would NOT throw something and wake up the other umpteen people in my house. One of my sons has woken up repeatedly and it is my turn to get up with him. I used to ponder how much sleep I could squeeze in before the first blood curdling scream. Now I don’t even bother to try to get to sleep early when they go down for their first “night nap”. I clean the kitchen, play on Facebook a bit, and eventually saunter off to bed. Sure enough, as soon as my head hits the pillow, or when I actually feel like reading for a few minutes to distract me from my ever churning thoughts, “Waaaaahhhh!!” He is crying. UH-GEHN.

It is 11:30pm on the nose. At least the kid is consistent. It is a nightly ritual at this point. What the hell?!??! It is such a crapshoot as to whether or not he will go back to sleep. Is it so wrong to want a peaceful night of slumber? We have tried everything from getting him to eat more before bed, less before bed, late baths, early baths, filled bottles, less filled bottles, music, quiet . . . nothing seems to work. If we get lucky and can get him back to sleep before 2am, it feels like winning the lottery. (Ohh, the ear plugs and sound proof rooms I could build with THAT dough.)

Of course, being up at this hour means a quiet house, the TV all to myself, and no interruptions while writing (read: venting). But it also means that come daylight, I will have even less patience when the crying starts. AND. IT. ALWAYS. STARTS. By the day’s end I am so fried from hearing my three little darlings cry that I just want to hide. With seven people in our house, I think that will never again be possible. I adore them, don’t get me wrong. And they don’t cry all day long. It’s just that once in awhile it would be nice to be alone with my thoughts long enough to complete at least one. Even if they are in the same room. Do kids come equipped with built in radar? I can play with them for hours and have so much fun. But if I dare to talk on the phone or get a glass of water, it’s over. It seems they know just when to talk, cry, call out for you and interrupt an otherwise perfectly good moment. Huh, maybe one day they will be good waiters.

Out of the Past, Into the Closet 2/2009

Outofthecloset I like to clean. There, I said it. I get some weird satisfaction out of cleaning and organizing my house. But it’s more than just an obsession. It’s truly a hobby. When I have the time (read: almost never these days), I feel like getting rid of old stuff is a chance to reinvent myself. Hanging on to things from the past reminds us of who and what we were at given points in time. And while it is nice to have bookmarks of my old selves, when I begin to feel weighed down and the need to lighten the load and move forward, I go through my relics and weed out things that no longer need to have a presence in my life (read: overflowing bins in my garage and closets).

Journeying through souvenirs of my past, I find that although I may be attached to the teddy bear I had when I was seven, my dad brought it home for me from a business trip after all, (read: airport gift shop), I am not as attached to the spin art I made in fourth grade art class. Does this represent the fourth grade me? I didn’t think much of myself back then, so why do I still have this? Perhaps because I am different now and it is a gauge of that difference. I would be embarrassed after all if I hadn’t at least changed somewhat in 31 years. But do I still need a gauge?

With four kidlets (plus hubby), I need to make room for their junk. Thank goodness we don’t have pets. My junk seems so much less important as time goes by. I enjoy looking at old stuff less and less as time goes on, and I don’t feel quite as attached to ‘things’ any longer. Is this a common feeling among all parents? Or do most people just keep stockpiling? Despite the items of which I divest our family through eBay, Craigslist or Goodwill, I find myself starting the trend all over again by saving little tidbits of the kids’ milestones to create mementos for them. But will they like what I have chosen to save? Will they care? When my mother cleaned her garage I received some of my mementos (read: countless hefty bags of REALLY old stuff). I was baffled as to why she would save so many of my third grade math tests, ninth grade art drawings and sixth grade history projects. Not to mention the clay figures and pots (now indistinguishable from unformed lumps of pressed together dust), string art, hair bows and paper Christmas trees.

I remember being there. I remember inscribing “useful pot” on a badly formed jar and lid in summer art class. I remember learning how to make an “Ojo de Dios” at camp. I remember making a travel brochure about New Zealand on large orange construction paper (my first attempt at writing marketing lingo). But sorting through it all I felt no real connection to them. I eagerly dumped it all (mostly) in the trash, ferreting out a few mother’s day cards and fifth grade stories I had written.

Then I went into the house, gingerly placed a bag of ribbons, wrapping paper scraps from my baby shower (a year ago), and some baby clothes that no longer fit the babies into my kids’ closet, and shut the door.

Raising Vidiots? Or Baby Einsteins? 1/2009

I was recently with a small group of mom bloggers, and the topic of TV time for children came up. It seems there are many views (pun intended) on this subject. Here’s what I said: “The TV is on in my house all the time. I am ok with that.”

Now, now . . . drop your rocks and listen to the rest. ‘Let ye who is without sin cast the first stone’ and all that. Kids’ screen time is one of those subjects like your drivers’ license weight. There is your real weight, and the one on your license. People say their children watch appropriate amounts of TV, but how much are they actually watching? Screen time for kiddies is controversial. The reality is that we live in an electronic age. That doesn’t mean we must watch TV or be on the computer all the time. But it does mean it is more available as regular entertainment. The University of Washington’s 2007 study specifically slams many infant focused DVDs, claiming a higher chance of problems beginning around age seven. And, of course, there is a lot of judging that goes on between moms, creating intimidation and one-upping scenarios at every local park.

I am a parent of one year old triplets and a 12 year old boy. If I am alone with the trio during the day and they are all screaming and crying, how do I choose? Who do I choose? If a Baby Einstein or Signing Time show can entertain two of them while I feed, bottle, or change the third, it makes my day so much more manageable. They are not watching CSI or Gangland, and they are not alone with the TV ever. They are watching something with classical music, sign language and beautiful imagery. I often leave the main menu on to replay the classical music (which does not have flashing imagery), and I enjoy it as well. Frequently I see my kids bouncing to the beat or trying to mimic the signs when they see hands on the screen. How can this be a bad thing?

I understand the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation on screen time. However, they failed to come to my house and observe multiples and one mom trying to get through the day. I also understand neural pathway development (to the degree that I am not a neurologist), and, admittedly I’m stubborn. “You may not tell me what to do or how to do it in my house, with my family. Don’t judge me.”

Perhaps I am not the norm. I don’t know. And yes, my children watch TV often. However, we do not, nor will we ever, have TVs in any other room but the living room. Our children must watch with us if they are to watch at all. Homework has to be done first (for our 12 year old). How much TV do your children watch?

Parents are marketed to aggressively. Do some products make your kids smarter? The word “Einstein” certainly inspires the perception of intelligence. Who doesn’t want that for their child? Personally, I love Baby Einstein. They are a smart company, with a sincere intention to provide meaningful, authentic programs and products. My children love it. My four and six year old nephew and niece are still fascinated by it when they come over. My sister in-law who has taught kindergarten for 14 years, loves it. My mother has taught elementary and preschool for 40 years. She is a fan.

The real distinction is that no matter the amount of TV, parents must be involved with their children. I know I cannot be everything and teach everything to my children. To the degree that I can, I will. Then there is school, friends, family and life, all from which they will learn much. I have no fear that seven years from now my children will have behavior problems in school. I have no fear that they are being set up for failure. We are involved, intelligent parents. We read to and interact with our kids. After 12 years of TV, our son is in the gifted program, is socially adjusted, and in several instances already had knowledge of historical events which my husband stopped to explain. From where? An unlikely source - parodies on the Simpsons. Surprisingly, he has developed quite a sharp sense of humor as well – and knows how to use it.

What I want for my children in the way of toys and TV, are seeds planted and inspiration of their imaginations, not a room full of too many toys and too many choices. I do not want them to watch violence. I do want them to watch interesting programs, and listen to a variety of music and language. I hope they learn the beauty that is Led Zeppelin, the genius that is Eric Clapton, the great music of the Beatles, Billy Joel, Carol King, Pink Floyd and more.

My babies have social interaction with each other, and we get out occasionally. If I only had one baby, I would likely be able to be more socially interactive with other babies and moms. Maybe we wouldn’t have as much screen time. Then I could be that judgmental mom. “Tsk, tsk. Your child watches HOW much TV??”

My Children’s President 1/2009

I am not a political person. Don’t get me wrong. I have opinions on issues. Admittedly though, they are mostly rooted in emotions. Some might call that ignorant. Perhaps. I am an intelligent person, and I read the news, I pay attention to elections, wars and global situations. I am aware of local problems. But largely I try to pay attention to my own family and my local community.

I can safely say that I did not react to things as profoundly as I do now, before the birth if my children. So when watching the inauguration of Barack Obama, I was both surprised and not surprised to find myself welling up with tears. The ceremony of it all is elegant and compelling. But back to my local community, which now includes my one year old triplets, I realized that though the babies were born under George W. Bush, Barack Obama is the first president of whom they will be cognizant. When they are four years old in 2012, there will be another election. Obama will run, no doubt, and we will discuss it in our house. Being the little sponges kids are, they will hear his name, know the word president, and ask what an election is.

Good, bad and neutral, this is part of my children’s future. I usually only allow them to watch one of two children’s programs on TV. But today, I had the inauguration on, and they were silent. They watched, they listened, and one fell asleep.

Watching the hopeful eyes of so many in the Washington DC crowd, and in Kenya, it would be easy to say they are caught up in the drama of it all. But I do believe it goes beyond that. It’s impossible as a parent not to think about what lies ahead for our children. When Pastor Rick Warren spoke about the freedom by which we are all united, not race, not religion, but by freedom, I have never been more grateful. That freedom allows me personally to have triplets, to have choices, for my children to have choices.

I hope as Obama said, that my children and others “. . . will all have a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness”. Our country chose this man to lead. I have hope that my children's president will be every bit as successful as the hope in all of those eyes.

Sleep Easy 12/2008

I hear all the time about how if you let your children sleep in your bed, you will never get them out. Before having children I had very strong opinions about nearly everything I wanted to do or have for and with my future offspring. Once they were born though, I became a marshmallow overnight. Suddenly the word discipline sounded like it belonged to a foreign language. I laughed at myself thinking that the idea of telling these tiny, precious beings “no” to anything was unthinkable. I told my husband that he would have to take over as the hard ass, that I could no longer fill that role. I was toast.

He laughed knowingly and said I would get over it. I was indignant! How could he say that? How could he tell me how I would feel? Never mind that he has a twelve year old and he’s been through it all already. What did he, or anyone for that matter, know about me and these babies?? Am I na├»ve, idealistic, or both? Likely both. Maybe I will get over it, but I am so elated that they are healthy, I feel as though whatever they can dream up is theirs for the taking. I talk a lot about sleep and lack of it a lot. But you don’t realize how valuable it is until you aren’t getting any.

We couch camped for a long time to be near the kitchen for middle of the night bottles. Eventually we reached our breaking point and finally made it back into our own bed (aaahhh, soooo comfortable!), and were getting the babies used to sleeping in their cribs. Then they all got colds and needed to sleep upright. It quickly escalated to me finding any excuse to sleep next to them. I would hear them crying and go to ‘check on them’ and ‘oops, they need a diaper change’, and ‘oh, they needed a bottle and I wanted to feed it to them’. Anything to pick them up. I know, I know, the ‘experts’ say not to pick them up. Teach them to soothe themselves, among other solutions. My husband would go peek in on them to ‘help’ me not break down and pick them up.

But of course I would find those excuses and next thing you know, they were fast asleep – in the guest bedroom – with me. Is it really that bad to hold them and sleep with them? I find myself craving that cuddle time so often. My poor husband just wants a good night’s sleep. As do I. These tiny humans have me right where they want me. They have overpowered me with their sweet smell (well, most of the time) and wiley ways. With three we have little to no alone time, and believe you me, I am not giving up on that. But if holding them helps the wee ones sleep and we all get some shuteye, how bad can that be?